February Minireviews – Part 3

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

I seem to have a lot of these this month (plus, it’s just been a month of bad weather so lots of extra reading time!) – Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

//published 2016//

Honestly, it’s just been a while since I finished this book, and it isn’t super memorable to me.  It was a decent read that kept me interested, but even after I found out the answers I wasn’t convinced that the villain’s motives made a whole lot of sense.  Still, it was engaging while I was reading it, and while I’m not planning to hunt up more of Kubica’s books, I’m open to reading another one if someone has a recommendation.  For this one, 3.5/5 and kinda recommended.

NB: This book was originally added to the TBR thanks to two separate reviews – one from Cleopatra Loves Books and another from Reading, Writing and Riesling – be sure to check them out!

Psmith, Journalist by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1915// or possibly 1911//

I’m attempting to read all of Wodehouse’s works in published order, but it’s made somewhat extra difficult by the fact that Wodehouse published both in the US and the UK, sometimes at the same time, or sometimes earlier in one place or the other.  Sometimes books have the same title in both countries and sometimes different titles.  And then to keep things really interesting, some books didn’t get published in other country at all, and instead Wodehouse would recycle part of a book from one country and incorporate it into a book that was only published in the other.  Of course now, a hundred years later, I can get all the books no matter where they originated, but pinning down an official and definitive “order of publication list” has been difficult, although I am doing my best.

All that to say that the original list I am working from listed The Prince and Betty as being published in 1912 and Psmith, Journalist being published in 1915.  Except a huge chunk of Betty is actually the entire plot of Psmith.  And it turns out that Psmith was actually published in the UK in 1911 (and in the US in 1915), while Betty wasn’t published there until some time later.  WHY.

But really, that’s all just rambling side notes.  The actual point is that Psmith, Journalist is one of my favorite Wodehouse titles.  I just love this story so much.  A lot of people find Psmith to be obnoxious, but he’s one of my favorites, and this entire story with Psmith helping another fellow run a newspaper makes me laugh every time I read it.  Definitely recommended – “Cosy Moments will not be muzzled!”

The Viking’s Chosen by Quinn Loftis

//published 2018//

This is a book I would never have picked up on my own, but because it came in a book subscription box, I thought I would give it a try.  It ended up being an engaging read that I overall enjoyed, but it ended on such a major cliffhanger that it basically felt like the book had just stopped in the middle of the book.  This probably wouldn’t annoy me quite so much if book #2 had already been published, but it HASN’T so I suppose I will just have to bide my time.

Still, overall an interesting story with decent characters, and a pleasantly not-full-of-sex-and-swearing plot.  3.5/5.

NB: This was published by Clean Teen Publishing, which I had never heard of.  What’s nice is that they actually have a content rating for the book, showing the level of swearing, violence, and sex you can expect in the book.  I honestly wish all books would do this!

The Mystery of the Empty Room by Augusta Huiell Seaman

//published 1953// I didn’t feel like this book had nearly as much drama or terror as the cover led me to believe //

This is an old Scholastic Book Club paperback that has been on my shelf for years.  I thought I had read it once, but reading it this time did not ring any bells, so it’s possible that either had never read it before, or found it completely unmemorable!  It’s not really a book that sticks with you, although it’s perfectly entertaining.  There was a lot of fun and intrigue, but I did feel like a lot of the story revolved around the fact that the characters weren’t actually communicating with one another, so everyone had a piece of the puzzle and things didn’t come together under everyone finally collaborated.  Still, an easy 3.5/5 for a somewhat dated but still pleasant story.

Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki

//published 1903//

I picked up this collection of 22 traditional Japanese fairy tales as a free Kindle book a while back.  I really enjoy reading fairy tales from different cultures, and was intrigued to see what kind of stories would emerge from an eastern culture.  Like all short story collections (and, let’s be honest, fairy tale collections), there were some stories that were stronger than others, but they were all interesting in their own right.  None of them emerged as stories I loved, but I could definitely see some of them turning into longer and more involved tales.

Like most western fairy tales, there were a lot of evil stepmothers (apparently they are universally hated) and a lot of random – and sometimes quite violent – deaths.  Also talking vegetables, children who arrive inside of various pieces of produce, evil badgers, and a dragon king who rules under the sea.

While I don’t see myself returning to these stories time and again, they were fun for a one-time read.

An Odd Situation by Sophie Lynbrook

//published 2018//

In this P&P retelling, Darcy is thrown from his horse on his way to Netherfield.  Because he has a head injury and is in a coma, he is moved to the closest house – Longbourn.  Despite the fact that he is an unknown stranger, the Bennetts take him in.  The doctor recommends that he not be left alone, and that people talk to him/in the same room as him because some studies have shown that people with these types of injuries respond well to outside stimulation.  The doctor also tells them that Darcy (at this point a John Doe) may or may not be able to hear what everyone is saying.

Of course, Darcy can hear what everyone is saying, and this story involves him listening to all of the many conversations that swirl around his sickbed.  Throughout, he comes to realize that he’s a bit of a snob, and also comes to value the various members of the Bennett family, even the obnoxious ones.

Overall, this was a pleasant and engaging retelling, although weirdly passive.  The entire story is from Darcy’s (third person) perspective, and since he’s in a coma most of the time, there isn’t a lot of action.  It would have been nice to get some idea of what Elizabeth is thinking/doing as well.  And while I liked the way Darcy has a lot of self-realizations and makes good resolutions to be a better person going forward, the implication is that Elizabeth is already perfect and has no lessons to learn.  In the original, it’s important for both of them to recognize their shortcomings, and a large part of what makes the story so excellent is seeing them both grow as people.  In this version, only Darcy has to change.

Still, a 4/5 for an enjoyable (and completely clean) variation, and recommended to others who may be addicted to these types of stories. :-D


February Minireviews – Part 2

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

I seem to have a lot of these this month (plus, it’s just been a month of bad weather so lots of extra reading time!) – Part 1 can be found here.

The Basket of Flowers by Christoph von Schmidt

//originally published 1823//

I believe that I have mentioned Lamplighter Publishers in the past.  They are a Christian publishing house that finds old, out-of-print books with strong moral/Christian messages and reprints them in absolutely beautiful hardcover editions.  While I think their efforts are praiseworthy, they also frequently choose books that are a bit too simplistic for me to genuinely enjoy, and The Basket of Flowers falls into that category.

The story focuses on Mary, a young woman of strong moral fiber, who lives with her father, James, a gardener.  James is a widower, and does his best to raise Mary up into an upstanding and worthy individual.  When a jealous neighbor blames Mary for stealing a valuable ring, Mary and her father are banished from the region.

There was a lot to like about this story, which had its moments of excitement and interest, but every time anything would happen, James would go off on a long and prosy sermonette, and while I generally agreed with what he was saying, I couldn’t help but think that he made for a rather dull conversationalist.  And really, that’s the way the whole book was.  I agreed with virtually every life-lesson presented, but the author seemed so busy presenting life-lessons that there wasn’t a great deal of time left for the actual story.  I can see this being used as a read-aloud for younger children, but I’m not sure it has enough kick to engage older readers.  Still 3/5 and I did enjoy the melodramatic ups and downs of Mary’s life.

Amazing Gracie by Sherryl Woods

//published 1998//

Just a random chick lit kind of book I picked up somewhere along the line.  This was a pleasantly relaxing but ultimately forgettable story, and not one I particularly anticipate rereading, so it is off to the giveaway box!

Lost States by Michael J. Trinklein

//published 2010//

I love nonfiction books about random topics, and I also love maps.  Lost States incorporates both things!  Basically, Trinklein looks at a BUNCH of territories that almost became states, or wished they could become states, or would  be really cool if they could become states, etc.  He covers everything from random ways to divide the Northwest Territory, to the possibility of some of our current states splitting (California, Maine, and Texas have all considered it in recent years), to current US territories, to western states that didn’t quite make the cut.

While the book is really enjoyable – and also full of color pictures and maps, making it fun to read – it’s also very brief.  Each potential state only gets one (oversize) page, and one page of pictures/maps, so you don’t get a lot of details about anything.  There is also plenty of Trinklein’s snarky humor to go around, but luckily I enjoyed that part, too.

All in all, Lost States wasn’t necessarily the most educational nonfiction read I’ve come across recently, but it was quick and engaging, and gave me a lot of random trivia to pull out during those awkward conversational silences that come up from time to time.  4/5.

Wedding Date Rescue by Sonya Weiss

//published 2017//

This was one of those random Kindle books that I got for free or possibly 99¢.  It was a perfectly happy little romance that involved both a fake relationship trope and friends-to-more trope (two faves).  However, the last 15% of the book felt weirdly rushed.  There was a lot of time setting everything up and exploring the reasons that the pair were hesitant to make their relationship real, and then all of a sudden all their problems were solved in like five minutes and everything was sunshine and rainbows.  It felt abrupt, and I wasn’t convinced that they had legitimately worked through their problems.  Still, a 3.5/5 for a book that basically relaxing fluff.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

//published 2017//

I actually totally loved this book.  It had a very likable protagonist, a crazy madcap character who reminded me of Jackaby, and some super fun world-building.  While the story was an easy 4/5, it ended on a complete and total cliffhanger without really resolving any of the main plotlines.  The next book isn’t due out until sometime this year, so that always aggravates me.  Still, I will definitely be continuing this series as it appears.  It was so nice to read a children’s book that I felt like I could actually hand to children!

February Minireviews – Part 1

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

Last Christmas in Paris by Elizabeth Gaynor and Heather Webb

//published 2017//

This book is a collection of letters written between several different individuals during World War I.  The majority of the correspondence is between Tom and Evie – Evie is the younger sister of Tom’s best friend, Will.  It’s pretty obvious that Tom and Evie are going to end up together, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story.

I really loved this book for about the first 3/4 of the way.  The letters were delightful, the characters engaging, and the voices different enough to make it really feel like I was reading letters from and to different people.  Epistolary tales can be rather narrow, but because we have letters between people besides the two main characters, the story felt fairly well-rounded.  It definitely had a Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society vibe about it.  I really liked the upbeat sense to this book.  It was serious, yes, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom and there were no plot twists were someone turned out to be gay.

But then Evie goes to France also, and the story just kind of fell apart.  The correspondence became disjointed, and the characters no longer felt like they were being true to themselves.  There were also a few instances where I was uncertain of the continuity because of weirdly long gaps between letters.  It was very strange to me that for the first three years, they write letters all the time, then suddenly in 1917 and 1918, there are only a handful of letters, which I think added to the feeling of disjointedness.

In the end, a 3/5 read for a book that started very strong and then just sort of petered out.

Something Fresh (AKA Something Newby P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1915//

In my quest to read all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, I have waded through over a decade’s worth of school stories and short story collections.  While all of them have been readable and even enjoyable for a one-time read, there have only been glimpses of what I consider to be genuine Wodehouse magic.

But the title of this book is definitely appropriate, as this is the first book that really begins to collect all the bits of what will later be the Wodehouse formula. Plus, it introduces one of my all-time favorite Wodehouse characters, Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle.  While this book may still not be up to the standards of some of Wodehouse’s later works, it was still a delight from beginning to end.

After reading a collection of Wodehouse’s correspondence back in late 2016, I sometimes refer to A Life in Letters to see if Wodehouse himself had anything interesting to say about my current Wodehouse read.  I was intrigued to find that even he thought that Something Fresh was a new and better direction for his writing as well.  Was it because he found and married the love of his life a few months earlier?  I like to think so.

Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry

//published 1953//

As I’ve mentioned before, Henry was one of my favorite authors growing up, and I devoured all of her books.  I collected a lot of them in cheap paperback editions published by Scholastic, and although I’ve upgraded a lot of them through the years, I still have a few of those paperbacks with my name scrawled in painful 2nd-grade cursive on the flyleaf.

I could look at his illustrations all day!

It had been a really long time since I had revisited this title, and while it was a decent story (and the illustrations by Wesley Dennis were magical as always), it really wasn’t one of my favorites.  In some ways, the story feels very choppy.  It’s about a little wild burro who lives in the Grand Canyon at the turn of the century (Theodore Roosevelt is president, and is even in the story!).  The problem is that Henry tries to tell both the story of Brighty’s everyday life + how he helped make the Grand Canyon the park that it is today AND the story of an old prospector who was murdered and how Brighty helped bring the killer to justice.  Except… the murder part feels very strange in a children’s book, and it also takes like ten years to solve the mystery, which makes no sense because why is Jake still around after all this time???  The murder mystery was definitely the weak part of the tale.  If it had been jettisoned and more focus had been made just on Brighty’s life in the Canyon, I think the book would have read better.

In fairness, Henry was basing Brighty on a real burro, who, in real life, did discover a clue that lead to the capture of a murderer – but still.  Brighty had plenty of other adventures.  Still, a very readable little book, and the illustrations really do make it a joy.  3.5/5.


Mountain Pony series // by Henry V. Larom

  • Mountain Pony
  • Mountain Pony and the Pinto Colt
  • Mountain Pony and the Rodeo Mystery
  • Mountain Pony and the Elkhorn Mystery

//published 1946//

I’ve collected these books over the years, but had never actually sat and read all four of them together.  Elkhorn was a very recent acquisition, so I had actually never read it at all, and the other three hadn’t been read in years.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well these stories held up from my childhood memories.

// I now have the Famous Horse Stories edition, but originally I had this one, with Andy punching the villain in the face! BAM! //

Once again, these were published as Famous Horse Stories.  Larom is definitely one of my favorite authors from that collection.  While his stories are still kind of outlandish, they’re great fun and the characters are drawn well.  These books focus on Andy, a teenage boy who is from New York but has traveled to Wyoming to visit his uncle, who owns a ranch in the mountains.

While the main players are done well (Andy, Uncle Wes, Sally), the background characters are very background, and some of them don’t even exist – for instance, we never meet Andy’s parents – not in four books!  In many ways this book is more about the setting than it is the people, and there is a real sense of time and place – the wilderness of the Rockies in the 1930’s, when things were still a bit wild west-ish.

//published 1947//

Andy is quite the “dude” when he first arrives, and within a week he recklessly purchases a horse because the horse’s current owner is abusing it.  Luckily for Andy, Sunny turns out to be an excellent purchase, and the little sorrel cowpony is as important a character as any in these stories.

//published 1949//

While Sunny is quite intelligent, he is still a horse, and I liked the realistic feel of these stories.  Andy makes plenty of mistakes throughout the tales, but he grows and matures as well, and isn’t afraid to admit it when he does something stupid.  Each book covers a different summer, and by Elkhorn, Andy has actually purchased his own ranch – albeit a small, ramshackle one.

//published 1950//

Sometimes these books got a little bit ridiculous (especially Rodeo Mystery, which spiraled a bit out of control credulity-wise), but overall they actually read well, and were just enjoyable, wholesome tales that made me yearn to buy my own ramshackle ranch in Wyoming.

While these aren’t immediate classics, they are definitely books that would be enjoyed by fellow horse-lovers, or by young’uns who love cowboys.  Overall, a 4/5 for this series, and one that I’m glad to keep on the shelves.


Dreamtreader Trilogy // by Wayne Thomas Batson

  • Dreamtreaders
  • Search for the Shadow Key
  • War for the Waking World

I didn’t realize until I got these books from the library that they are published by Thomas Nelson (Christian publishing house), so I wasn’t initially expecting the strong religious message in these books.  However, they still had a decent story to tell, although Batson at times seemed uncertain of how to weave religion into the tale.  Overall, I enjoyed these as a one-time read, but they definitely weren’t books I see myself returning to.

//published 2014//

In the first book we meet Archer, our unlikely teenage hero who has a mysterious power and heavy responsibility – he is one of only three Dreamtreaders – people who have the ability to control their dreams and thus work to keep the Dreamworld separate from the Waking World.  Each Dreamtreader is responsible for a different portion of the Dreamworld, and spends his time there searching for and repairing breaches in the fabric that keeps the Dreamworld separate from our own.  Within the Dream, the Dreamtreaders have all kinds of powers to create and do things they could never do in the Waking World.

However, there are dark forces at work within the Dreamworld.  The Nightmare Lord runs around making everyone’s dreams terrible, and also wants to destroy the fabric between the two worlds – if he can escape from the Dreamworld, he can wreak even more chaos and destruction.

//published 2014//

It took me a little while to really get into this story, and I seriously considered not finishing about halfway through the first book as things were still quite slow.  But the pace picked up and things did get more interesting.  However, it overall felt like these books could have used one more round of editing.  There were parts throughout that were choppy and disjointed, and also some minor continuity issues that aggravated me now and then.

On a personal level, I was really, REALLY over Archer’s favorite exclamation of “Snot rockets!”  I mean… seriously?  There has GOT to be a middle ground between swearing and absolutely juvenile exclamations like snot rockets.  It really grated on my nerves and felt like it brought down the overall maturity level of the story.

//published 2015//

I’m completely fine with fiction teaching a lesson or using a story as an allegory or whatever, but it has to be done well.  In these books, the religion aspect felt a little clumsy, like Batson knew what he wanted to say but wasn’t completely sure how to work it in.  Sometimes it was basically like THESE ARE ANGELS AND DEMONS HELLO and then other times everything was really vague.

There was also Batson’s habit of using the word “quipped” in very serious situations.  To me, “quip” is a word that suggests wry humor/sarcasm, but for instance at one point Archer is on trial for all these serious crimes and the judge “quips” when what the judge is saying isn’t remotely funny or sarcastic, but completely serious.  It was little things like that that sound really picky but somehow made these books not as enjoyable for me.

While these weren’t bad books, they were basically just a 3/5 read.  I can see the adventures (and exclamations of snot rockets) appealing to a middle school audience, but in my mind they lack the depth that make them appealing to a wider audience.


January Minireviews

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just don’t have a lot of things to say about.  Sometimes it’s because it was a super meh book (most of these are 3/5 reads), or sometimes it’s because it was just so happy that that’s about all I can say about it!  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

Copper-Toed Boots by Marguerite de Angeli

//published 1938//

This was a sweet, gentle children’s book with beautiful illustrations (by the author).  There really wasn’t much of a plot, other than Shad wanting boots and various adventures along the way to his earning them, but it will still a pleasant story.  4/5.

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Conner

//published 2008//

I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book.  It’s told from the perspective of 12-year-old Addie, who lives with her mother.  At the beginning of the book, she and her mom are moving into a small trailer.  As the story unwinds, we find that the trailer is owned by Addie’s step-father, who isn’t actually her stepfather anymore since he and Addie’s mom got divorced.  But even thought Dwight ended up with the two daughters he and Addie’s mom had together, he is not blood-related to Addie and couldn’t get custody of her, despite how unfit of a mother Addie’s mom actually is.  The overall book is just about Addie’s life with her neglectful mother – “she’s all or nothing” Addie says, and when she’s “all” she is fun and entertaining and exciting, but when she’s nothing – she’s gone.

My problem really wasn’t with the story, which was genuinely poignant and told very well.  I just don’t a single middle-schooler who would enjoy it or really take much away from the story.  So much of it is told in a sort of euphemistic kind of way that it felt like a book that would need a lot of explaining for a kid to really understand what’s happening – and that feels like it sort of defeats the whole purpose of Addie’s innocent voice telling the tale.

The event (in the backstory) that led to Dwight getting custody of his two daughters is when Addie’s mother left Addie (at the time age 9) and her two half-sisters (a toddler and a baby) unattended for three days.  What I found almost impossible to believe was that Addie wasn’t put in foster care/in her grandpa’s home at the time.  I just can’t believe that a judge would give Addie back to her mother without any kind of probationary period.  On the other hand, I have firsthand experience with just how jacked up the whole system is, so maybe they would.

All in all, while I wouldn’t say that Waiting for Normal was a pleasant read, exactly, it still was a good one, and one that I would recommend to adults, if not to the theoretical target audience of the book.  3.5/5.

The Cat and Mrs. Cary by Doris Gates

//published 1962//

I used to check this book out of the library when I was little, and then, later, I actually found that same copy as a discard on the library’s booksale shelf.  The funny part is, I really can’t explain why I like this book.  It’s not really a book that gives me lots of warm feelings, or one that I have strong emotional memories attached to.  It’s just a fun and happy little book.

Part of it may be that it really isn’t a typical children’s book in that it isn’t particularly about children.  The main character is actually an elderly widow, Mrs. Cary, who has recently moved into a small cottage in a small coastal village.  I think one of the other things that makes me love this book is that when The Cat first talks with Mrs. Cary, she is only momentarily stymied.  From there forward, she’s basically just like, “Huh, talking cat.  Okay.”  And then she rolls with it!

There’s a bit about smugglers that keeps things interesting, too.  It’s just overall a fun story with some nice characters, and everything comes together in the end very well.  The Cat is very cat-like, even when he talks, and never fails to make me snicker.  This book is very fitting for its age – for instance, we never do find out what Mrs. Cary’s first name is!  (Even her nephew refers to her as “Aunt Cary.”)  All in all, this is a 4/5 read for me, one that I still enjoy and do recommend.

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes

//published 1913//

This is a classic thriller that I picked up thanks to a review by FictionFan last year.  The story is about the Buntings, and older couple who used to work in domestic service but now have their own lodging house. However, they’ve had quite a bit of bad luck and all of their money is gone.  They’ve been forced to pawn things they never thought they would pawn, and to give up every bit of pleasure, like ha’penny newspapers and a nice smoke.  Things are looking quite dark for them when a strange man appears on their doorstep and rents their rooms – a full month in advance!  Like magic, the money problems are gone – as long as Mr. Sleuth is kept happy.  Luckily, he’s really a very undemanding man, even if he is a bit odd (and arrived without any luggage).  Meanwhile, out in foggy London, women are being murdered by a mysterious man who leaves a scrap of paper on the bodies with his name: THE AVENGER.

There really is a lot of tension built up in this story, and I was completely engrossed.  Lowndes doesn’t make it obvious as to whether or not Mr. Sleuth is also the Avenger, and in fact gives us a perfectly reasonable bit of muddy water around the fact.  On one hand, Mr. Sleuth does have a lot of very strange habits.  On the other – most of these really can be explained by him being rather shy and eccentric.  The Buntings are now completely dependent on their income from Mr. Sleuth, so much of the story is about their moral quandary – should they report their suspicions?  If Mr. Sleuth is innocent, they will be on the verge of homelessness yet again.  But if he’s guilty and they say nothing – does that mean that they are partially responsible for the continued deaths?  It all plays out very, very well, and I honestly had no idea what I would do in Mrs. Bunting’s shoes.  (Well, other than try to not be quite as grumpy.  Mrs. Bunting was a rather cranky character.)

While this book is an easy 4/5, it lacks that final star because it did get a smidge repetitive in the middle and because I felt like the ending was a little rushed.  Still, I was completely engrossed in the Buntings’ dilemma.  Lowndes draws their situation so incredibly well that I felt strangely sympathetic towards literally everyone.  An excellent read and recommended.  (NB I read this as a free Kindle book, which can be found here.  There were also editions that cost money, so I actually had a little trouble finding the free one originally.)


Thornhill // by Pam Smy

//published 2017//

I saw this book recommended somewhere or other and thought the formatting looked quite intriguing.  This story follows two timelines.  Mary’s story is set in 1982, while Ella’s is set in the present (2017).  Mary’s story is told through her diary entries, while Ella’s story is told entirely through illustrations.  This method worked very well, and also made the book read quite quickly.  I loved the way that the sections were divided by two solid black pages each time.  All the illustrations are in grayscale as well, which adds to the atmosphere of the story.

The two tales are connected because Mary is living in a children’s home in an old, large house called Thornhill.  Her diary entries talk about how the home is going to be closed and she isn’t sure what is going to happen to her.  In the meantime, she is suffering a great deal because of a terrible bully in her life.  In 2017, Ella moves into a house whose back yard backs up to Thornhill, now abandoned.  Ella sees strange goings-on in the abandoned house and starts to explore what is happening.  Ella’s mother is not in the picture (presumably dead), and her father is buried in his work, leaving Ella alone a great deal of the time.

From the beginning I realized that this was supposed to be a sort of creepy/horror book, but it’s also a children’s book.  To that end, I felt like this book’s ending crossed a line that shouldn’t have been crossed.  More details concerning the ending (so, big spoiler) below.

While I found this book completely gripping while I was reading it, and was anxious to see what was going to happen next to both girls.  But the ending just ruined this book for me, so I ended up only going 2/5 and not particularly recommending it.  I loved the formatting, but just couldn’t get behind the story’s message.

Spoilers below.

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