Thursday, January 14, 2021

Review: Thieves of Weirdwood by Christian McKay Heidicker

by Christian McKay Heidicker
Release Date: April 7th 2020
2020 Henry Holt & Company
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250302885
ASIN: B07PH8PWTB
Genre: Fiction/Juvenile/Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Twelve-year-old thieves Arthur and Wally are determined to steal their way up the ranks of the notorious Black Feathers gang. With loan sharks chasing after Arthur’s father and Wally’s brother’s hospital bill due, they’re in need of serious cash. Fast.

When Arthur spots some wealthy strangers exiting a seemingly deserted mansion, he smells an opportunity for a big score. Little do the boys realize, they’ve stumbled upon Weirdwood Manor, the headquarters of a magical order who protect the Balance between the Real and Imaginary worlds. When Kingsport is besieged by nightmarish creatures, it’s up to a pair of thieves to save their city. Filled with giant tentacle monsters and heroes literally ripped from the pages of adventure stories.
 
My Thoughts
Thieves of Weirdwood is the first book in a new juvenile fantasy series, and I have to say, this was definitely not what I was expecting.  As a kid I would definitely have loved this book as it was a lot darker than I expected and I was definitely drawn to those types of books.  Gosh, what's not to love? You have magic, mystery, ghosts, dragons, monsters, heroes, fantasy, heroes, friendship, family, hope; in fact, there is everything in this book.   

I was actually thrilled when the publisher sent me a physical copy of this book as well as the kindle edition as the physical copy is just wonderful, with lots of beautiful drawings and illustrations.  As an adult, I really appreciated the illustrations and I know, as a kid, I would have loved them, and even tried to copy them myself.  And I just love the cover of this book.  Would it have drawn me to it as a kid? Oh, definitely, and I am not one to usually pick up a book just because of the cover.  However, there is always something unique about juvenile fantasy covers which also includes this one.  

I really enjoyed the characters in this story as well.  The two main characters, Arthur and Wally, each had their own issues, both having loan sharks threatening them and both need money, now.  The two have very different ideas on how to do this, but Wally tends to be more of a follower and we see his character develop throughout the book into one who is more confident and trusting in his abilities.  Arthur tends to be more impulsive, using fantasy/action novels to escape the terrible conditions in which he lives, and as a result, gets into a lot of trouble.  However, his character also develops quite a bit throughout the novel and as a result, he actually becomes ones of my favourite characters.  And then there is Breeth, the ghost.  I adored her character and the author was so creative in how he developed her that I don't really want to give too much away.  I love ghosts, but she is unique and so interesting.  

The plot moves along rather quickly, and you barely have a moment to catch your breath before something else happens.  I like that in these novels as I think younger children need this type of action so they don't get bored.  There is enough background information given about the characters interwoven throughout the plot that you get a really good handle on the personalities of the characters and what motivates them.  The POVs do change from chapter to chapter, but it is clearly laid out and easy to follow.  And while it could sometimes be a bit predictable, that didn't bother me one bit.  However, just because something is predictable does not mean it isn't complicated, and this plot could be very intricate at times, enough that a young child may have to read it more than once. I remember loving to read books over and over again that I loved as a child so I don't think that would necessarily be a problem. 

I really enjoyed the themes running throughout this book; friendship, perseverance, determination, family, and death.  Oh, yes, there is a lot of talk about death.  This is not a criticism, but there are some rather dark elements in this book, and if your young kiddo prefers something lighter, this book is very weird and downright creepy, and yes, death.  I thought the author dealt with all the creepy elements very well, but again, I was the type of kid who thrived on this kind of thing, but not everyone does, so beware.  That being said, the themes are developed in a positive light and would be great discussion points.

Verdict
Thieves of Weirdwood was a wonderful book and I really enjoyed it, actually devouring it in one evening.  I really enjoyed the messages/themes interwoven throughout the book of friendship, loyalty, determination, perseverance, and hope, and thought the author did that extremely well.  The book had a satisfying ending, but did set it up for the next book (April 6th 2021) in the series, Ghosts of Weirdwood, which I can't wait to read (it's already sitting in my TBR pile, and it has another beautiful cover with a DRAGON!). While the book can be dark at times, I thought the author handled it extremely well, but some readers may be sensitive to those themes.  Highly recommended. 



Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Review: Dreamng Death by Heather Graham

by Heather Graham
Release Date: September 29th 2020
2020 MIRA
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778310105
ASIN: B0813579TL
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
Ever since she was a child, Stacey Hanson has had strange dreams—and sometimes they come true. Her skills and experience led her straight to the FBI’s Krewe of Hunters. Now a serial killer is stalking Washington, DC, and people are scared. And it will be Stacey’s first case.

Special Agent Keenan Wallace isn’t exactly thrilled to be teamed up with a rookie, but they’re going to have to get past their mutual friction if they want to stop a brutal killer. The victims are all vulnerable women, though the clues lead to suspects from DC’s powerful elite. Stacey can’t escape her nightly visions, but in trying to prevent them from occurring in real life, she might come face-to-face with a nightmare.
 
My Thoughts
Dreaming Death is the next book in a long line of Heather Graham books that I have reviewed and I think my reviews are all starting to sound pretty similar with regards to this author.  Either woman or man FBI agent meets other man or woman who gets involved with a murder, one or both of them have paranormal abilities although one of them is usually shocked by it, they get together to solve a case, they fall in love, everything works out great at the end.  Predictable, formulaic, done.  And I guess that's why I continue to read these books, because I know exactly what I am getting myself into and I use them to take a break from the heavy-hitters that I read.  
 
One of the things that has always drawn me to these books is the research and historical tidbits mixed in with the story line.  In this case, accounts of Jack the Ripper are intertwined with a slew of recent murders in Washington, D.C., and while I am familiar with the Ripper stories, I know a lot of people who aren't so the parallels would be quite interesting.  
 
The plot line is the usual however, this time a rookie FBI female agent paired with an experienced FBI agent, both of whom have special gifts.  I think it's this paranormal part that always draws me back to these books as well as I am always curious as to how the author will introduce a new concept of paranormal activity which can be quite entertaining.  This time it's through dreams. Ok, I'll bite.  
 
At first, the murder scenarios were believable, but then we descend into the 'suspension of belief' part and that I just couldn't do.  Unless every police office, FBI agent, forensics team member are all inexperienced, there were so many things they missed that I just couldn't buy into it.  How do you miss an entire body? Especially when there is pool of blood?  Nope, can't do it.  
 
And where I have had difficulties for a few books now is the romance between the main characters.  For whatever reason, it just wasn't believable in this book either.  And it has nothing to do with people falling for each other in difficult situations, or rather lusting for each other, I just feel like the author has lost that special magic when it comes to the romantic suspense side of things. There just seems to be something missing that used to be there in abundance.  
 
Verdict
Dreaming Death was an entertaining novel, but is full of blatant coincidences, to the point where suspension of belief is just no longer possible and I just shook my head at the silliness of it all.  I did like the main characters, but no necessarily together and I am intrigued by the different ways the author has been introducing some paranormal elements into her stories lately.  While this book can be read as a standalone, I do recommend starting from the beginning as there are some good stories that started the whole thing, plus I love Angela and Jackson.   

 


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Review: The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson

by Erik Larson
Release Date: February 25th 2020
2020 Crown
Kindle Edition; 464 Pages
ISBN: 978-0385348713
ASIN: B07TRVW6VX
Genre: Non-Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
On Winston Churchill's first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally--and willing to fight to the end.
 
 
 
 
My Thoughts
The Splendid and the Vile was the perfect book to read during a pandemic.  During the Blitz, the British people endured day after day of unrelenting bombing that killed tens of thousands of people and left a like numbered of peopled maimed and injured.  How were they able to endure such a thing and face it with courage and stoicism? Ever since I first learned of the Blitz at the tender age of nine years old, one of the questions I have always wondered was: How were the people able to go on day by day with their daily lives while bombs obliterated their cities, destroyed their food sources, and killed their loved ones? Larson provides a poignant look at those days and attempts to answer some of those questions in this book by focusing on the human aspect behind the government and the throne.
 
First of all, much credit has been given to Churchill and his war cabinet, and despite the things that didn't go quite so well, there is no doubt that his courage, his optimism, and his eloquent speeches gave his people hope during such dark days.  I have listened to some of his speeches many times and I am in awe of what he was able to do and how he was able to inspire hope in people.  I think part of it had to do with the fact that he was never afraid to tell his people the truth, but with that truth always came optimism and hope and the conviction that his people would succeed in the end.  Because he believed it, his people did, and they never gave up, despite Hitler's frustration otherwise.  
 
What I really enjoyed in this book was the portrayal of Churchill's idiosyncrasies and his flaws.  Larson made this larger than life figure human, and I really enjoyed that aspect of this book, even laughing out loud a couple of times at some of the uncomfortable scenarios in which his advisors found themselves. I can't imagine anything more uncomfortable than having to advise your prime minister and finding him stark naked in his room, smoking a cigar, while you have to give him news.  And Churchill was known for doing work in his bathtub and spending long hours in there for rest and relaxation.  
 
The story follows Churchill's first year in office, through the Blitz, portraying his desperate plea for Roosevelt's aid against Germany, especially after France fell in June 1940.  Larson, using extensive research through personal journals, archival notes, documents, intelligence documents, diaries, and other primary and secondary sources, gave the reader an inside look at his daily life, both personal and public, as well as his family and the people who surrounded him on a daily basis.  The stories of his daughter Mary (which I personally loved), his wife Clementine, his daughter-in-law Pamela, his personal assistant Colville, and others, provided a more personal look at the events during this time period.  While I have read a lot of biographies and non-fiction books about this time period, they can be a bit dry and focus so much on the political nature of this time period, while Larson really focused on the human interest stories and how the daily bombings affected people's lives.  Yes, the subject matter can be grim as they were in the middle of a war and desperate, so I really appreciated those stories that demonstrated the courage it took to survive almost two years of struggling alone in a desperate situation.
 
Verdict
The Splendid and the Vile was a wonderfully researched book about the struggles Churchill faced during his first year at PM during World War II and the unflinching courage he took to face Hitler and encourage his people to never give up during such desperate times.  I loved how the author told the story from the perspective of those around him, never flinching from the realities of what happened, but showing the human interest stories that existed that really made this time period come alive.  I really savoured each moment; Larson certainly has a gift for making history seem alive and I could picture everything in my head so easily.  Do I think the book has too many details and should be edited more to get rid of those details?  Hell no, it is those details which make this book so great to read and Larson truly has a gift for making you empathize with what was happening rather than just writing descriptions about the events.  I have an extensive knowledge about the war (I teach it) and enjoyed this book tremendously.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Churchill and the Blitz.  
 

 


Saturday, January 9, 2021

Review: Bunheads by Misty Copeland and Setor Fiadzigbey (Illustrator)

by Misty Copeland, Setor Fiadzigbey (Illustrator) 
Release Date: September 29th 2020
2020 G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
PDF Version; 32 Pages
ISBN: 978-0399547645
ASIN: B085N3YP9G
Genre: Fiction / Children
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Misty is so captivated by the tale of Coppélia and its heroine, Swanilda, she decides to audition for the role. But she's never danced ballet before; in fact, this is the very first day of her very first dance class!

Though Misty is excited, she's also nervous. But as she learns from her fellow bunheads, she makes wonderful friends who encourage her to do her very best. Misty's nerves quickly fall away, and with a little teamwork, the bunheads put on a show to remember.
 
My Thoughts
Bunheads is a charming tale of two friends who support each other as they try out for the leads of the ballet Coppélia their ballet school is putting on for their yearly show.   The story does touch on self-doubt, friendship, determination, and perseverance, but there were some elements over which I was perplexed as well.

What I really liked: I liked how excited the girls were to go to dance class every day and how everyone supported each other and pushed each other.  The story was charming from that perspective and showed that if you worked hard you could achieve your dream. I also really liked how the story included a famous ballet and summed it up so succinctly for young readers to enjoy and understand.  Coppélia is one of my favourite ballets so it was nice to see it included in this book.  

The illustrations were charming and fun to look at and I think a young reader would enjoy looking at them.  They are bright and colourful, and I especially liked the ones depicting the ballet Coppélia.  I was bothered a bit by the fact that all the girls portrayed in the book were one body type, especially at that young age, and I do think a better representation of a ballet class would be better served.  

And while I enjoyed the story, I couldn't get over the fact that the main character, Misty, was attending her FIRST day of class.  And while I know Misty herself was exceptional, even she didn't go on pointe shoes her first day of ballet class.  I don't think it would be possible for someone to understand and do all of these complicated steps no matter how talented on the first day of class, and then suddenly be up for the lead in a major ballet at their studio, especially Coppélia.  I'm not really sure this is a realistic introduction to young children into the world of ballet and might even give them the wrong idea; ballet is incredibly hard work and you will not be able to do these things the first day of class.  I thought at first I misread the timeline of the book, but nope, I didn't.  
 
Verdict
Bunheads had really gorgeous illustrations and demonstrate energy and enthusiasm, although I wish they were more representative of a ballet class at younger ages; I mean this wasn't a dance academy, at least by the book.   I did think the book ended a bit abruptly though, and I thought it missed a golden opportunity to inspire young girls to be ballerinas through a realistic portrayal, not a fantastical one. 

 


Friday, January 8, 2021

Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

by Richard Osman
Release Date: September 3rd 2020
2020 Penguin
Kindle Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0241425442
ASIN: B0755D5TH7
Genre: Fiction / Murder / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
 
 
 
My Thoughts
The Thursday Murder Club was a delightful murder mystery set in a retirement village that was about to undergo some major new developments. With a plethora of local committees to keep the residents active, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron form their own club, The Thursday Murder Club, a club that delves into old murder cases and tries to solve them.  Each of them is equipped with a unique skill set that enables them to look at the crimes with fresh eyes to see if the police missed any clue.  Naturally, their club is interrupted when a modern day murder occurs before their very eyes.
 
I adored the characters in this book.  They are each delightful in their own way, but the author was pretty clever as he didn't really reveal as much about them, and their pasts, as I would have liked.  I loved how each of them used their age to their advantage, pretending to forget or to be feeble when necessary in order to get what they needed or wanted.  It was actually quite funny to watch all of them manoeuver their way around the police detectives as well as other people, especially when you, as the reader, were getting a pretty good idea as to how smart these four people actually were, and were also getting more and more glimpses as to what their professions were before they retired.  It made me think about my own parents and grand-parents, and if they ever used that trick on us.  
 
The enterprising Elizabeth was my favourite character, and she was definitely the leader of the group, organizing the activities, including who to interview.  She apparently has this huge network of sources on whom to call, a network that even the police seem to envy, and I am really curious to learn more about her in future books.  There are tantalizing glimpses, but they are only teases; I just loved how she switched from strong, independent woman to manipulative older lady. It was pretty hilarious how she worked the police and I laughed out loud a couple of times.
 
Joyce is the newest of the compatriots to join the club, and it is through her journal that we learn more about the club's activities and their thoughts.  An ex-nurse, she seems to be the quietest, but you can never underestimate the quiet ones, as she also has connections in the world, just in a different way than Elizabeth. 
 
Ibrahim, a retired psychiatrist, is one in whom I am most interested simply because less information about his past was given and I am simply curious.  Apparently he's famous, but how and why, I don't know.  Ron is also famous as he's known as Red Ron in the media; again, not as much information is given about him so I am hopeful more will be forthcoming in future books.  The two of the together play off each other and they are pretty funny.  I love how Ron, for example, drinks beer just to appear the strong man in front of his son, but actually prefers wine.  Something my husband would do.
 
This book is far more character-driven than plot-driven, but it was fun nevertheless.  I think the only negative thing that happens when a plot is more character-driven is the real suspense of what happens takes a back seat, so I wasn't really flipping pages anxiously trying to find out what happens.  I did figure out who the culprit was of the main crime fairly early on, although the author did work quite admirably at throwing some pretty good red herrings and I did second-guess myself as couple of times. I did really like how the author included other things in this story other than just focus on the mystery as when you write about the elderly I really feel you should include the other issues that go along with that, and the author meshed those into the story seamlessly.  

Verdict
The Thursday Murder Club was a thoughtful and intelligent murder mystery and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I thought the author developed his characters quite a bit, but left the reader also wanting to learn more about them, teasing them a bit too.  The mystery is definitely different and offbeat, but that is why I liked it so much.  Happy to learn there is a second book coming in this series.  I think this book will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading murder mysteries. 

 


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Review: Hidden by Laura Griffin

by Laura Griffin
Release Date: August 25th 2020
2020 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 328 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593197325
ASIN: B08274GMW4
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
When a woman is found brutally murdered on Austin's lakeside hike-and-bike trail, investigative reporter Bailey Rhoads turns up on the scene demanding access and answers. She tries to pry information out of the lead detective, Jacob Merritt. But this case is unlike any he's ever seen, and nothing adds up.

Bailey has a hunch the victim wasn't who she claimed to be and believes this mugging-turned-murder could have been a targeted hit. When she digs deeper, the trail leads her to a high-tech fortress on the outskirts of Austin where researchers are pushing the boundaries of a cutting-edge technology that could be deadly in the wrong hands.

As a ruthless hit man's mission becomes clear, Bailey and Jacob must embark on a desperate search to locate the next target before the clock ticks down on this lethal game of hide and seek.
 
My Thoughts
Hidden is the first book in a new series, but it was definitely not my favourite book by this author.  I have enjoyed many books by Griffin, and usually love the blend of romance and suspense she creates in her stories.  I thought the storyline was fine, but just didn't feel that connection between the two main characters that elevated this story into romantic suspense that usually takes her books into a whole other level.  
 
Jacob and Bailey, the two main characters in this new series, are quite interesting in their own way.  Bailey is a firecracker of a reporter, demanding answers to questions she has about the crime and about the safety of the community.  I liked her personality and enjoyed her spirit as she definitely doesn't give in to those around her and is quite persistent.
 
Jacob, the lead detective in the case, is the opposite personality wise, much quieter and deeper, but I liked him quite a bit as well.  He is also very persistent and determined to get to the truth no matter what his higher-ups prefer.   I enjoyed learning more about what made him tick.
 
What I didn't like was the two of them together romantically, it just didn't work for me.  I thought they worked really well as a 'team', but it seemed like the author suddenly remembered she was writing romantic suspense and would add these scenes between them to add spark and sensuality between them, but it fell completely fall in my estimation.  I started to just skip over those scenes as I didn't believe in their 'romance'. Sorry, but the connection just wasn't there. The author just didn't flesh out her characters, and the story line, enough for me to believe they would find romance with the other. 
 
The other issue I had with this book was the investigation.  Usually I am caught up in the story line to the point I can't put one of Griffin's books down, but I had to force myself to continue reading this book.  I found it predictable (I even looked at the cover page to make sure I was actually reading a Laura Griffin book), and to be honest, a bit boring.   Don't get me wrong, the police procedural aspect is solid, with plenty to sink your teeth into, but it's simple, and sort of 'light' when I usually expect something dark and heavy and complicated. Maybe that's the problem as I wasn't expecting something like this from this author.

Verdict
Hidden is one of those books that stays on the light side of some pretty dark issues without fully exploring the ramifications of those issues, something over which I was disappointed as I expected more.  I liked the two main characters, but they were definitely not fully fleshed out or developed and the romance between them didn't make a lot of sense.  Hopefully the next book in the series will be more up to her usual standards, but this one definitely fell a bit flat for me.  It was still interesting and I think a lot of people will enjoy it. 

 


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

by Riley Sager
Release Date: June 30th 2020
2020 Dutton Books
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1524745172
ASIN: B07Z2TY6HV
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.
 
My Thoughts
Home Before Dark is one of those books where my review is going to differ from more popular opinion, but I have to say, for the last half of this book, I was honestly disappointed about where I could see this story was headed.  I was hoping fervently that I was wrong, but when it ended, there it was. Having read this author before, I was expecting a bit more than what I got. 
 
What I liked: Well, you always get me with creepy haunted houses, and this one definitely had that.  I love old houses with secrets, lots of secrets, hidden passageways, things that go 'boom' in the night, stories of hauntings and previous misdeeds, lights that mysteriously turn on and off, creepy rooms, and so on.  The town itself was set in the Vermont hills and I am always down with small towns with mysterious circumstances, ever since I was small.  There is something deliciously creep about that type of setting, with old haunted houses, surrounded by creepy woods, and things that go bump in the night.
 
I even liked the way the book was written, with alternating POVs, The author is a strong writer and has this ability to sweep you in, even if you are suspicious as to the direction the book may be going.  This is probably the only reason why I kept reading as I was hoping there was going to be this big twist at the end and scare the pants off me.  Didn't happen. But even with the strong writing skills, the subject matter itself got a bit boring by the middle and I found myself drifting off and had to re-read some paragraphs which is why I had to put the book away, read something else, and come back to it later.  I think part of the problem is that I wasn't invested in the characters; there wasn't a lot of character development and I just didn't empathize with any of them. Which is too bad because I thought the book had one of the strongest starts compared to his other books. 

And now I come to the actual plot.  Unlike a majority of the reviews I read, I wasn't scared witless.  I have read a huge amount of horror and scary books as well as watched a huge array of horror films,  and this one just didn't do it for me.  For me, the whole Gothic feeling of the big, creepy, haunted house just wasn't there and I didn't get that 'hair on the nape of your neck' feeling when I am scared as I am reading and rushing through the pages to find out what is happening. I really wish it had and was disappointed that it didn't happen as I was looking for a good scare.  So many of the 'scares' used in this book were pretty standard haunted house tropes and I was really looking forward to something new and different, but it didn't happen. I think I could sense where this book was heading, hoping fervently it wouldn't go there, but that ending was ridiculous.  

Verdict
Home Before Dark was a fail for me in the suspense/horror department although I still do think this author is a strong writer and the potential is there for a really good scary Gothic book.  The book started off quite strong and I had high hopes which were dashed by the middle of the book.  And that ending was ridiculous, to say the least. This book didn't wow me at all, and I would recommend reading something else by this author first before tackling this one.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Review: The Ghost Who Lost Her Boo! by Elaine Bickell and Raymond McGrath (Illustrations)

by Elaine Bickell, Raymond McGrath (Illustrations)
Release Date: August 18th 2020
2020 Philomel Books
Kindle Edition: 32 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593202159
ASIN: B081Y3HYJH
Genre: Fiction / Children
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
'I've lost my boo! I've lost my boo! Where has it gone? What will I do?' Little Ghost has lost her boo, but she is determined to get it back, so she heads out to look for it. On her night-time hunt she meets a number of her friends, Owl, Pigeon, Rooster and Cow, and asks each of them if they've heard her boo. None of them have but they are all very kind and offer Little Ghost their own sound instead. But none are as good as her own scary boo so she keeps on looking. In the end, it's the reader who finds it for her!
 
My Thoughts
The Ghost Who Lost her Boo! was such a sweet little children's book.  With captivating illustrations and a fun rhyming story to go with those illustrations, this is a book that little ones will devour.
 
Elaine Bickell has written a cute rhyming story that incorporates a number of animal characters that Little Ghost encounters as she searches for her lost boo.  On the surface, this seems like a fun search, there is a much deeper message here as Little Ghost explores a host of different sounds from the other animals, but realizes those sounds don't quite work for her and is not willing to just accept them and trade her missing boo for just any new sound.  She really liked her own personal sound and is not willing to compromise so will continue to search until she finds it.  There would be a lot to discuss with a young child regarding this concept and that appeals to me quite a bit.  
 
Another theme running through this story is one of determination, where you don't give up until you find what you are looking for, and sometimes you may need help to find it.  I really liked that theme, and again, it would be an important theme to discuss with children when reading this book.  As a teacher, I was even going through a list of questions and topics I would discuss with children after presenting this book to them.  
 
What I really adored in this book though, were the illustrations.  You have this relatively dark background full of mysterious things, and if you look closely, there is a lot to look at, something to which a child will pay a lot of attention.  Then you have these eye-popping colours of the animals which makes them stand out which I loved.  And Little Ghost was all in white, so explosive on the page.  I spent a few minutes checking out each page before continuing, admiring the illustrations, which is why I still read children's books to this day.  
 
Verdict
The Ghost Who Lost Her Boo! is a clever little story although I do feel the illustrations overwhelm the actual rhyming story, and I was content to just look at those beautiful pictures.  I even read the book twice just to look at them again.  I would highly recommend this little gem to any little child as there is a lot to discuss, plus the illustrations are beautiful.