Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall

by Mary Downing Hahn
(September 6th 2010, Clarion Books)

Book description:

Following her parents’ death, Florence Crutchfield lived years of hardship and want at Miss Medleycoate’s Home for Orphan Girls. That is, until her wealthy great uncle adopts her and she is sent to live at Crutchfield Hall.

Florence is grateful for the care and kindness her great-uncle shows her, but her cruel great-aunt and the boredom of having no one to play with (her cousin James is bed-ridden) and nothing to do make her depressed.

Then Florence starts to see and hear the ghost of her cousin Sophia, who died less than a year ago. Sophia has strange powers and an even stranger effect on Florence. Soon, Florence learns that Sophia has malevolent designs for James, but no one will believe her. Will Florence be able to save James? Will she be able to stop the undying Sophia?


The ghost of Crutchfield Hall is a perfect example of a well-calibrated children’s ghost story, scary enough to be fun but not so much to be disturbing. The writing is masterful, evoking the setting and spooky events perfectly.

Hahn has been writing children’s horror from a long time and it shows. Everything from the suspense to the characters is deftly constructed and interwoven into the tale.

I really liked both Florence and James. They were sweet, good-hearted kids who felt empathy for Sophia (the main antagonist) even till the end. But Sophia was definitely the main attraction, alternately childish and maliciously sly.  Despite her cruelty, I could really understand why she was doing what she was doing.


I really wanted there to be a more closure for Sophia. What became of her was a bit too vague. I would have liked for her to have found peace, or at least redemption.

I also think that Florence could have been more proactive when it came to resisting Sophia. In quite a few instances, Florence’s character development was sacrificed for the sake of furthering the plot.


Though it is nothing new to the genre, The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall is a simple, well-written ghost story that has enough scares and intrigue for its target audience.

Rating: (7/10)

Get it on Book Depository

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Myth to the Night

by Cora Choi 
(February 27th 2014, published by Cora Choi)
Note: We received a copy of this book through Net Galley.

Book Description:

A Myth to the Night is the story of a nineteen-year-old ghost called Hugh Fogg who died in a Massacre in 1615 on the fictional island of Stauros. 

Hugh is a monk in the Stauros abbey and a scholar spending most of his short academic life trying to find the Slayer of the Shadow of Fear. The Slayer is meant to destroy the Shadow of Fear, a demon bent on mankind’s destruction, and restore balance to the world. 

But when Hugh and the rest of the Order of the Crane are brutally murdered by the Order of the Shrike, Hugh vows to remain a ghost until he finds the Slayer.
For over four hundred years it seems that the Slayer is no more than a myth, till Hugh meets Drev, a young college student, and strange things begin to happen. 
After all this time will Hugh finally be able to fulfill his destiny?


The cover was the first thing that drew me to A Myth to the Night. It’s beautiful and well-drawn and is one of the better aspects of the book.

The premise is also interesting and there are some very creative ideas here. I especially liked the idea of personal fears being the hardest demons one has to overcome.


There a several problems with A Myth to the Night, but some of the most hindering are definitely the bad description and world-building. The author has a tendency of describing minor things in great detail, yet leaving out important setting descriptions.  This left the reader unsure where the characters were and what they were exactly doing.

The writing wasn’t much help, either. Both awkward and stilted, it was often silly and unintentionally funny.

The plot, though not completely bad, was very underdeveloped with too much backstory stuffed into the beginning and a jumpy narrative that pulled you out of the story at pivotal moments. The cardboard characters and info-dumpy dialogue only made matters worse.

But my biggest problem with the book was the superficial and undermining way violence and death are dealt with. Most of the deaths that happen are throwaway and unimportant and the author spends no time showing the reader the consequences of these horrific events.

Also, there are some drug references and a lot of explicit language that was included for no real purpose and only made the book seem, frankly, lame and silly.


With an intriguing premise and some interesting ideas, A Myth to the Night should have been a promising book, but weak writing and poor execution never allow it to live up to its potential.

Rating: (3/10)

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Monday, July 28, 2014

MMGM: Still Life (The Books of Elsewhere # 5)

by Jacqueline West with illustrations by Poly Bernatene
(June 17th 2014, Dial)

Book Description:

Elsewhere is in danger again and twelve year-old Olive Dunwoody must put a stop to Aldous McMartin’s evil plans once and for all. She, along with her friends new (Rutherford, Mrs. Dewey and Walter) and old (Morton and the cats), must find a way to stop Aldous from coming back to Elsewhere. 

But this isn’t the only problem in Olive’s way. She wants to reunite Morton with his family, but needs to find them first. Worse yet, she discovers a secret that could be the undoing of Elsewhere itself.  


The most striking thing about Still Life is the beautiful writing: poetic, atmospheric and fluid. It works in perfect tandem with the lovely black and white illustrations by Poly Bernatene. 

Our main protagonist, Olive, who is exceptionally normal, is a brave and likeable heroine. She goes through a lot here and comes out the better for it. 

There is a large and funny cast and West handles them well, from fun-loving Harvey to mysterious and bossy Horatio. There are also quite a few intriguing characters introduced and some returning from previous books. Aldous McMartin, the main villain, is truly menacing and his motives and actions are well thought out.

Once the story gets started, the action never lets up. There is a real feeling of suspense and danger, and a few twists and revelations that I didn’t see coming. The stakes are higher than ever, and it isn’t only about stopping Aldous McMartin anymore. The fate of the whole of Elsewhere rests in the balance.

The ending is excellent. All loose ends were tied up and West found a resolution that was inventive and feel-good without being saccharine. 


The beginning is slow, nearly a fifth of the book passes before anything interesting happens. Also, Olive comes to certain conclusions without there being any clear reasoning that leads to them.

Despite being quiet good, Still Life isn’t enough of a standalone to be fully enjoyed by someone who hasn’t read the previous volumes in the series.

Another point that might bother readers is that Olive’s parents are too clueless and negligent to be believable.


Though it may not be suited for new readers, Still Life is a rewarding and satisfying end to a great series. It’s full of magic, fun and danger and populated by a cast of characters that will win you over from start. 

Rating: (8/10)

Get it on Book Depository
For more excellent MG book recommendations, go to Shannon Messenger's blog.

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