Recent Reads: All Our Hidden Gifts & The Left Handed Booksellers of London

Book Description for All Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue

Maeve’s strangely astute tarot readings make her the talk of the school, until a classmate draws a chilling and unfamiliar card—and then disappears.

After Maeve finds a pack of tarot cards while cleaning out a closet during her in-school suspension, she quickly becomes the most sought-after diviner at St. Bernadette’s Catholic school. But when Maeve’s ex–best friend, Lily, draws an unsettling card called The Housekeeper that Maeve has never seen before, the session devolves into a heated argument that ends with Maeve wishing aloud that Lily would disappear. When Lily isn’t at school the next Monday, Maeve learns her ex-friend has vanished without a trace.

Shunned by her classmates and struggling to preserve a fledgling romance with Lily’s gender-fluid sibling, Roe, Maeve must dig deep into her connection with the cards to search for clues the police cannot find—even if they lead to the terrifying Housekeeper herself. Set in an Irish town where the church’s tight hold has loosened and new freedoms are trying to take root, this sharply contemporary story is witty, gripping, and tinged with mysticism.

I found this it be really easy to read. There were times when I found three of our main teens more grown up than their years. Having said that, the author’s shown a lot of growth for the main character – Maeve – who starts of being largely ruled by her emotions and desire to fit in with the so called popular girls of St Bernadette’s Catholic school.

The book effortlessly blends different themes, it’s a spooky/ urban-fantasy/ coming of age story about the importance of acceptance – of self and others. Set in Ireland it also gives as a sense of place, with the old Ireland and new Ireland bumping up against each other. I think readers who find the description appealing are likely to find something that will resonate for them. A key theme for me when reading this was around acceptance – of self, of others and and of change. The themes are current, and the pace jogs along nicely providing a bit of everything.

Book Description for The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

Book Description for The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

A girl’s quest to find her father leads her to an extended family of magical fighting booksellers who police the mythical Old World of England when it intrudes on the modern world. From the bestselling master of fantasy, Garth Nix.

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.

Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.

Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

I found this to be an action-packed adventure that provided the perfect opportunity for escapism. The world-building captured my imagination as did the quirky characters. A nod to several rock bands and the punk scene and the iconic 80s branding for Penguin books (bright orange spines), helped set the scene for this supernatural mystery.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have read two very good books within a week. Thank you to Walker Books for accepting my request for an ARC (advance reader copy) for All Our Hidden Gifts.

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