Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko (ARC Review)

Information

Goodreads: Ghost Girl
Series: None
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Publication Date: August 10, 2021

Official Summary

Perfect for fans of Small Spaces and Nightbooks, Ally Malinenko’s middle-grade debut is an empowering and triumphant ghost story—with spooky twists sure to give readers a few good goosebumps!

Zee Puckett loves ghost stories. She just never expected to be living one.

It all starts with a dark and stormy night. When the skies clear, everything is different. People are missing. There’s a creepy new principal who seems to know everyone’s darkest dreams. And Zee is seeing frightening things: large, scary dogs that talk and maybe even . . . a ghost.

When she tells her classmates, only her best friend, Elijah, believes her. Worse, mean girl Nellie gives Zee a cruel nickname: Ghost Girl.

But whatever the storm washed up isn’t going away. Everyone’s most selfish wishes start coming true in creepy ways.

To fight for what’s right, Zee will have to embrace what makes her different and what makes her Ghost Girl. And all three of them—Zee, Elijah, and Nellie—will have to work together if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.

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Review

Ghost Girl is a creepy middle-grade novel that will appeal to fans of Small Spaces. When a new principal comes to town and promises everyone their deepest desires, only Zoe seems immune to his charms. But she has seen the supernatural dogs roaming the graveyard, and she knows that the people and the things the principal is conjuring cannot be real. However, the lure of having what one wants most can be stronger even than the truth. Ghost Girl does not particularly stand out from similar spooky middle-grade titles, but may appeal to tween readers who enjoy thrills and chills.

The premise of having a trickster-like character who promises one thing but delivers another is, of course, a very old one. As such, it does potentially have instant appeal–the character has been around so long for a reason. However, the familiarity of the concept can also make it difficult to make it feel new. In the case of Ghost Girl, the plot is a pretty standard one: the trickster comes to town, is recognized for what he is by a child, and then defeated by the rules of his own game. The signature sparks that make the tale feel original? Unfortunately, they are mostly lacking.

Great characters could have made this book really come alive. However, Zee also feels a bit standard as a protagonist. She is the odd girl at school, the one who prefers spooky stories and the world of the imagination to the horrible feeling of reality–her dead mom, her missing dad, her classmate bullies. Her main trait of originality is that she can actually be rather mean and dishonest, despite her complaints about the way others act. This mean streak, however, sometimes work against Zee, making it difficult to root for her. Her friend Elijah and her nemesis Nellie add a bit more of interest to the story, but their sudden romantic interest in each other feels forced, arguably ruining what could have been a fine tale of budding friendships.

The writing style also worked against the story for me. While it can be difficult at times to pinpoint exactly what about a writing style is grating, merely the fact that I noticed the writing style, instead of seamlessly falling into the story, is not a good sign. If I had not felt compelled to finish the book in order to write a review, I likely would have stopped several pages in, from the writing alone.

Despite my reading experience, however, I recognize that the tween audience for which the book is intended might not be as concerned about originality as I am, and that many might even enjoy seeing another outsider character. Middle school, after all, can be rough, and many young people often feel that they do not belong, either. They may enjoy the book as something new, when I cannot, since I have read many similar titles. And they might relate to Zee in a way I do not, again having seen too many similar characters. Ultimately, the reading experience was solid enough, if not extraordinary.

3 Stars

Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab

Bridge of Souls

Information

Goodreads: Bridge of Souls
Series: Cassidy Blake #3
Source: Library
Published: 2021

Official Summary

Where there are ghosts, Cassidy Blake follows … unless it’s the other way around?

Cass thinks she might have this ghost-hunting thing down. After all, she and her ghost best friend, Jacob, have survived two haunted cities while travelling for her parents’ TV show.

But nothing can prepare Cass for New Orleans, which wears all of its hauntings on its sleeve. In a city of ghost tours and tombs, raucous music and all kinds of magic, Cass could get lost in all the colourful, grisly local legends. And the city’s biggest surprise is a foe Cass never expected to face: a servant of Death itself.

Cass takes on her most dangerous challenge yet…

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Review

I started the Cassidy Blake series with high hopes. A travel series with a supernatural twist? Sign me up! Unfortunately, however, I have found all three books to be perfectly capable, but also perfectly mediocre. Victoria Schwab does not really deliver anything new here, nor are the stories particularly creepy or even particularly evocative as travel narratives. They possess all the right ingredients, but somehow those ingredients never combine to make something memorable. Bridge of Souls suffers from the same issues apparent in the first two books–a standard plot combined with lackluster characterization–and ultimately fails to justify all the buildup given it by the previous installments in the series.

As the (presumably) final book in the trilogy, Bridge of Souls probably should also be the scariest. Despite the threat of Death itself, however, the book fails to deliver a plot that feels significantly sinister. Rather, the Emissary of Death appears to pop up at very convenient times. He is then evaded each time fairly easily by a young girl who does not know anything about what she is doing. One expects more from a being allegedly never before defeated by humans. The climax of the book does not really solve this problem. Rather, readers get a pretty confusing scene where the Emissary is evidently defeated by, well, (spoiler alert) falling into a river. Why this works is unclear, but the protagonists seem convince this is enough, so I guess readers are meant to be convinced, as well.

The other main plot point should have involved Jacob’s growing solidity, which as been hinted at several times throughout the series so far. However, even though readers might have expected a heart-wrenching scene in which Cass has to decide between keeping her best friend or unleashing unspecified but terrible effects upon the natural world, this does not happen. My best guess is that Schwab is leaving the series open for an expansion, so she did not want to deal with this problem in this book. However, as it is, the book simply ends with what can only be called a reset of the status quo, with nothing addressed and nothing resolved. This feels extremely unsatisfying, especially as Cass and Jacob’s relationship as so far been the strongest point of the series. Evading the necessary hard choices feels like a cop out.

The travel aspect of the series has had the potential to make the books stand out a little more than other similar titles. However, thus far Schwab has failed to engage meaningfully with this aspect. The scene setting often feels like a list of street names and tourist attractions, with a signature cultural dish thrown in for good measure. The books never really make me feel like I have been to the places described, or that I have a good sense of the people or culture. Perhaps it does not help that Cass spends most of her travel time chasing ghosts rather than interacting with the towns and their people, but I think a book that wants to be a travel narrative should evoke the feeling of a particular destination more than these books do.

Altogether, this series has been pretty lackluster. I have kept on reading with the hope that the books might improve, but the supernatural worldbuilding remains only semi-developed, while the characters failed to grow in this book, largely due to the authorial decision to avoid addressing the issue of Jacob’s growing solidity. Nothing about the series really stands out. Should a book four ever be released, I doubt I will be reading it. There are more gripping supernatural middle grade books out there.

2 star review

Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne

Beetle & the Hollowbones

Information

Goodreads: Beetle and the Hollowbones
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

Beetle longs more than anything to be a sorcerer, but her grandmother keeps her practicing goblin magic. So Beetle is excited when her old friend Kat comes back to town after attending a school for sorcery. But Kat’s aunt has plans to tear down the local mall–the place where Beetle’s best friend Blob Ghost is tied to for eternity. Now Beetle and Kat have three days to figure out how to release Blob Ghost before they are destroyed forever.

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Review

Beetle & the Hollowbones is a beautifully-drawn graphic novel that evokes a spooky, autumnal feeling even as it tells a feel-good story about finding one’s self and standing by one’s friends. The deep orange and blue hues draw readers into Beetle’s Halloween-esque world, a world where goblins, skeletons, and ghosts all mingle–sometimes doing things as normal as going to the mall, sometimes fighting each other with magic for survival. Readers who enjoy middle-grade fantasy comics will love Beetle & the Hollowbones.

The juxtaposition between the everyday and the macabre is part of what makes this story so unique. Our heroine Beetle is a goblin who wants to perform sorcery, but she can’t attend school and her grandmother is committed to teaching her goblin magic instead. Beetle spends most of days hanging out at the local mall, where her friend Blob Ghost lives. They do things any teenager would do, window shopping, getting snacks, and so on–but always with a slightly spooky twist that makes it fun to see what will happen to Beetle and Blob Ghost next. It is only when Blob Ghost’s existence is threatened by the demolition of the mall that Beetle and her friends have to band together to figure out what is keeping Blob Ghost from leaving.

The actual plot of the book is somewhat simple. Even the reasons for the destruction of the mall remain nebulous–maybe something to do with family heritage, maybe a family secret that must remain hidden. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Blob Ghost is in danger and Beetle would do anything to help her cute, shape-shifting friend. Their relationship lies at the heart of the story, along with Beetle’s friendship and budding romance with longtime friend Kat–an undead skeleton. They will have to work past self-doubt, jealousy, crush drama, and teenage angst to solve the problem. Their journey is both engaging and uplifting. I think readers will fall in love with all three of our heroes.

Beetle & the Hollowbones is an enchanting middle-grade novel that is darkly atmospheric but more charming than scary. Readers who like autumn and all things Halloween will want to pick this one up, but so will readers who enjoy character-driven stories with lovable protagonists and a feel-good ending. Let’s hope there is a sequel to come!

5 stars

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Ghost Squad

Information

Goodreads: Ghost Squad
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

Luna can see ghosts–the spirits of her ancestors that mostly appear as fireflies in a tree in her yard. But then her ancestors start getting restless, saying something dark is approaching. Can Luna and her friend Syd save Luna’s family by reciting a spell to waken the dead? Or will they only make things worse?

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Review

Ghost Squad was one of my most anticipated reads of fall 2020, so I was disappointed to discover that the book is badly in need of editing. From seemingly missing scenes to illogical plot points to numerous internal contradictions, the book just does not make a lot of sense. It may satisfy readers looking for a mindless spooky read, but I think there are better selections out there for fans of scary middle grade.

Initially while reading, I thought I must have missed something or misunderstood something, because I kept reading things that did not make sense. Eventually, however, I realized that the extent of the oddities I was noticing meant it was not just me. Here is a selection of a few of the inconsistencies and illogical plot points I noticed (possible spoilers):

  • Syd mentions that she knows the bridge to her grandmother Babette’s place has been enchanted to look old and unstable. But later on, she and her friend Luna both seem to think that Babette just sells fake stuff for tourists. Towards the end of the book, however, we learn that Syd has been begging to be taught how to be a witch. Does Syd know about Babette’s powers and their true extent or not?
  • Luna can see the spirits of her dead ancestor–they mainly hang out in her tree as fireflies, but can take on human form to do things like eat. They are all eating Luna’s dad’s food, even though her dad is running short on cash and might have to sell the house. He hopes to make extra money on his ghost tour business as Halloween approaches. But, even though he has a family full of real ghosts–and we know that people can see them moving objects even if they can’t see the ghosts–he relies on Luna to hide behind tombstones and play a tape recorder to make tourists think the city is haunted. His dead ancestors seem kind of responsible for his money problems?
  • Luna’s ancestors inform her an unknown evil is approaching. They don’t know what it is. But then Luna receives a vision of her ancestor ghosts fighting a monster and winning. This seems to be the same evil now approaching–but they don’t know what it is anymore? They also inform Luna that her family has a long tradition of being a powerful group that protects the city. But then they tell her they don’t know what to do about the monsters approaching and that she’s on her own. So what were they doing all these years to protect the city if they are actually both clueless and powerless?
  • The ghosts tell Luna an evil is approaching. But then Syd and Luna read a spell that supposedly wakens the dead. They think they’re the reason for the evil threatening the city–even though it was already being threatened? Luna’s ancestor tells Luna the spell is not responsible. Syd’s grandmother Babette tells the Luna and Syd that the spell is responsible and that they have to reverse it by finding the counter-spell. Where did the evil actually come from?
  • (Spoilers for the ending!) Syd’s grandmother says Luna and Syd must read the counter-spell to reverse the original spell and save the city. They can only find the first two lines, however, so they just make up the rest. Why wouldn’t they have made one up in the first place, then?
  • Babette says she’s part of an ancient order of witches and she can call on them and their powers to help protect the city. Why didn’t she do that in the first place? Why did she wait until the last minute when everyone was almost doomed?

These are just a few of the problems I found within the text. It also has a tendency to reference things that I didn’t remember happening or to assume knowledge I somehow didn’t have. For instance, several times, Luna and Syd go on a great ghost hunting expedition with homemade ghost catchers and it’s all a little random since they seem to be fighting both monsters and ghosts, and it’s not clear what the difference is or why they thought a catcher would work in the first place or why they thought they needed one. I still don’t understand fully what was happening in the plot, the role of Luna’s ancestors, how magic works in this world, or anything else.

On a positive note, I thought the familial relationships were strong. I like Luna’s dad and her grandmother, as well as Syd’s grandmother and her no-nonsense attitude. Unfortunately, these bright moments were overshadowed for me by a truly confusing plotline. I think an editor should have made suggestions for revision, but that doesn’t seem to have happened here.

Ghost Squad has a great premise and an endearing cast of characters, but the confusing plot line makes this one a pass for me. I think readers would do better to look for supernatural fare elsewhere.

2 star review

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

Dead Voices

Information

Goodreads: Dead Voices
Series: Small Spaces #2
Source: Library
Published: 2019

Summary

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are headed to the mountains for a week at a ski resort. But when a snowstorm traps them in the lodge, spooky things start to happen. Ollie is having nightmares about a girl looking for her bones. And all three of them are seeing ghosts. The girl warns Ollie not to listen to the voices. But Ollie is determined to contact her dead mother, and she is willing to endanger everyone to get what she wants.

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Review

Dead Voices reunites readers with Ollie, Coco, and Brian as they head out of town for a week at a new ski resort. However, they soon learn that the lodge was once an orphanage with a shady reputation–and it is believed to be haunted! Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mom do not believe in ghosts. But a mysterious ghost hunter offers to help the children find out the truth. Whom can Coco and her friends trust as they begin to hear different voices? And will they ever find their way out of the lodge alive? This is a thrilling sequel to Small Spaces, perfect for readers looking for a ghostly read as the autumn leaves begin to fall.

Dead Voices works well as a sequel because it brings together a beloved cast of characters for another creepy adventure, but it makes that adventure feel entirely new. The children have left town, of course, so they get to explore a new location, but they are also facing a rather different foe. Instead of the smiling man and his scarecrow allies, they are facing ghosts–ghosts who seem to have control over the ski lodge where they have been trapped by a winter storm. Some seem friendly, but others do not, and the children will have to stake their lives on choosing the right ones to trust.

Though I did not find the story particularly remarkable, it is a solid ghost story for middle grade readers. It contains plenty of action and adventure, along with a hint of mystery, but never becomes too scary to bear. Tween readers will rest content in knowing that the children have the wits to figure out the rules of the game, and that they have a fighting chance to make it out alive.

Dead Voices is the second book in a project four-book series that presumably will cover each season: autumn, winter, spring and summer. Readers who enjoyed this installment have plenty more adventure to look forward to!

3 Stars

Eleanor, Alice, & the Roosevelt Ghosts by Dianne K. Salerni (ARC Review)

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts

Information

Goodreads: Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts
Series: None
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Published: September 1, 2020

Summary

There are three types of ghosts that can come back to haunt a house: Friendlies, Unawares, and Vengefuls. When a new ghost erupts in the home of Aunt Bye, the authorities designate it as Friendly. Cousins Alice and Eleanor Roosevelt, however, are not so sure. The ghost is acting strangely, manipulating the people in the household and growing ever more menacing. Can the cousins put aside their differences to uncover the history of the house and destroy the ghost for good?

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Review

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts by Dianne K. Salerni is a chilling supernatural adventure set in an alternate history where spirits routinely haunt houses and no one bats an eye. Cousins Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt are very different–Eleanor is bookish and retiring, while Alice has a reputation for running wild. But, when ghosts start attacking their family, the two must work together to uncover the secrets of their family past and defeat the ghosts for good. This ghostly thriller will appeal both to readers who enjoy a deliciously creepy mystery, and to those who revel in imagining a different type of past.

I always enjoy a good alternative history, and I was immediately drawn to Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts because it focuses on a part of the past not many historical novels cover. Like any great alternate history, the book is based on real historical facts, but it takes those facts and adds an entertaining twist. In this case, the twist is basically Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt: Ghost Hunters. Talk about a fun time! It is a concept perfectly suited to current interest in the occult and ghost hunting shows, but also one that will attract readers who loved books such as Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series. In short, it’s a concept that feels sure to succeed.

A book cannot succeed on premise alone, of course, but Salerni delivers a fast-paced and entertaining plotline along with compelling characters. Protagonists Eleanor and Alice are very different from each other. Eleanor is somewhat meek and unsure of herself, while Alice is outgoing but also looking for love and acceptance in her own way. Readers will likely relate to one or the other, but their real strength lies in the way they learn to appreciate each other’s qualities and work as a team. This is a duo I would love to see return in a sequel.

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts is one of those rare middle grade books that feels almost magical. The premise, the plot line, and the characters all combine to create an engrossing story that is hard to put down. If you love supernatural mysteries, alternate history, or just a good ghost story, you will love Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts.

4 stars

Sheets by Brenna Thummler

Sheets by Brenna Thummler cover

Information

Goodreads: Sheets
Series: Sheets #1
Source: Library
Published: 2018

Summary

Thirteen-year-old Marjorie Glatt’s world fell apart the day her mother died. Now, her father can barely leave his room, and Marjorie is left to run the family laundry business by herself. And the detestable Mr. Saubertuck won’t stop sniffing around, trying to sabotage the business so he can have the property.

Wendell is a ghost who cannot accept his own death. He runs away to the land of the living, trying to find himself. When he meets Marjorie, however, his presence might mean the end of the laundry for good.

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Review

I tend to enjoy graphic novels that are brightly-colored and have more of a cartoony style. Think Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl, for example. So initially I was hesitant about Sheets, mainly because of the subdued color palette–a mix of greys and blues– and the sketchier art style. The ugliness of the coloring seemed to mirror the ugliness of Marjorie Glatt’s shrinking world, and I was not sure I was prepared to dive into that. I wanted something upbeat. Still, I gave Sheets a chance, and ended up pleasantly surprised.

Sheets tells the intertwined stories of Marjorie, a teenager running her family’s laundry business while her dad shuts himself in his room after his wife’s death, and Wendell, a ghost going to death counseling because he cannot accept that he is no longer living. When Wendell runs away back to the land of the living, their lives collide. Marjorie initially sees Wendell as just another threat to her business. Wendell, however, sees an opportunity for friendship.

The premise of the book is undoubtedly weird. I admit I was skeptical. Over time, however, I began to feel sympathy for Marjorie and Wendell, both of whom were attempting to navigate major changes with either little or ineffective help. Marjorie still hopes her mom can come back and save her. And Wendell is struggling to find meaning, when all his therapy sessions seem to want to do is make him relive the past. Ultimately, Sheets is a story of love and loss, and moving forward.

Sheets is not your typical ghost story. It does not attempt to scare readers or even build suspense. Really, it’s a story about friendship. And one of those friends happens to be dead. So if you want something just a little out of the ordinary, but still heartwarming, Sheets is a good place to start.

4 stars

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab

Information

Goodreads: Tunnel of Bones
Series: Cassidy Blake #2
Source: Library
Publication Date: 2019

Summary

Cass and Jacob continue their paranormal adventures as they leave Edinburgh and head off to Paris so Cass’s parents can continue filming their new ghost show.  However, a dark spirit haunts the Catacombs and, if Cass cannot figure out a new way to defeat him, all of Paris will soon be in trouble.

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Review

Like City of Ghosts before it, Tunnel of Bones proves a largely uninspired middle-grade paranormal adventure, in which a girl befriends a ghost and then finds out it is her purpose to travel beyond the Veil in order to send restless spirits on.  The concept of ghostly friendships has been a staple of middle-grade contemporaries for awhile, and the idea of ghost hunting is obviously very common, as well.  To set her book apart, Victoria Schwab really needs something special–a new twist, an engrossing world, unbelievable characters.  Schwab, however, does not deliver anything special.  Tunnel of Bones is a pleasant, if unmemorable, middle-grade ghost story.

Part of what makes Tunnel of Bones so unmemorable to me is the lack of strong characterization.  Readers have little sense of who Cass’s parents are, except that her dad is a skeptical historian and her mother is a believer.  They exist mainly to take Cass with them around the globe so she can find new ghosts.  Lara, Cass’s expert on paranormal affairs, comes to life a little more since she has an acerbic personality, but she exists largely to forward the plot, as well–she is literally just on speed dial to help Cass find new leads on ghosts.  Secondary characters prove just as lackluster.  In Tunnel of Bones, readers meet Pauline, a woman who says she does not believe, but who seems to fear ghosts nonetheless.  This ought to have made her an interesting characters, but readers never receive her backstory and so never receive an opportunity to dig deeper into who she is and what makes her tick.

The one redeeming feature of the series so far has been the friendship between Cass and Jacob.  Their dynamic is interesting because Cass says she feels strongly about their friendship, and this does seem to be the case.  At the same time, however, she regularly ignores Jacob’s fears, his wants, and his advice because she believes she knows better and must do anything–even risk death–in order to fulfill her “purpose” and send ghosts on.  (One can understand Jacob’s reluctance to accept such a purpose, since it suggests Cass ought to send him on, as well–something Lara repeatedly reminds Cass.)  It is easy for Cass to ignore Jacob since he is a ghost and no one else can see or hear him.  So it is fascinating to see Jacob’s loyalty to Cass regardless and his protectiveness of her.

I had hoped that the ending of Tunnel of Bones would lead into more of the drama surrounding Cass and Jacob’s friendship, and whether Cass should, indeed, send Jacob on.  Instead, readers receive a rather boring set-up for the next book–boring because so vague that I can not be bothered to feel spooked by it.  My only thought is that Schwab does not want to go too deeply into the Jacob issue yet in case there are more books than three to be written for the series.  So, ho hum.  Tunnel of Bones is a nice middle-grade book, but very standard and very uninspired.  Younger readers not familiar with better books with the same concepts may enjoy it more.

3 Stars

The Little Grey Girl by Celine Kiernan

Information

Goodreads: The Little Grey Girl
Series: The Wild Magic Trilogy #2
Source: Library
Publication Date: 2019

Summary

Mup and her mam have defeated Mup’s grandmother and driven her from her castle.  Now, Mup’s family is moving into Witches Borough.  But not everyone is happy to see them.  Some fear the return of the old queen, and refuse to pledge loyalty.  Others are not impressed by the new ruler’s refusal to admit  her royalty or her willingness to forgive the witches who once terrorized all those who stood against them.  And one lonely grey girl is determined that the wrongs of the past should never, ever be forgotten.

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Review

The Little Grey Girl is an odd sort of middle book.  It is not quite a bridge book–a story that merely connects the events of book one and book three in a trilogy.  Nor is it quite a story of its own.  Rather , The Little Grey Girl is a reflection.  A reflection on the events of the previous installment of The Wild Magic Trilogy.  A great evil has been defeated and a new day seems to be dawning.  But who is worthy of forgiveness?  What should the future look like?  And should the past ever be forgotten? These are the questions that trouble the inhabitants of Witches Borough and these are the questions readers are asked to consider in The Little Grey Girl.

One  might have expected a different sort of book in a fantasy trilogy.  Mup’s grandmother, after all, is still out there somewhere, and ready to cause trouble.  Many authors would have focused on her attempts to reclaim the throne, giving readers plenty of fighting and a big battle scene at the end.  The Little Grey Girl still has fighting.  But it asks: at what cost?  Battles here are not glorious, but sad and troubling and wrong.  They are terrible wastes of life.  They are not something present just to create some drama to entertain the readers.

Not often do fantasy novels reflect on the nature of war and the ways in which a nation must struggle to overcome its past.  It is not always very interesting to consider practical questions once all the magic and the swordfighting are done.  It is, however, important, and Celine Kiernan highlights that fact as her work focuses on the question of memory.  How does a nation remember the wrongs of its past? And, if it does remember the pain and the sorrow, how does it move forward?

The Little Grey Girl is not the type of book to appeal to readers who desire nonstop action in their fantasy.  It is, however, the type of book to appeal to readers looking for hidden gems, those books that are just a little bit different and a little bit special. It’s the kind of book that settles in your heart.

3 Stars

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Information

Goodreads: City of Ghosts
Series: Cassidy Blake #1
Source: Library
Publication Date: 2018

SummarY

Cassidy Blake’s parents hunt ghosts.  But Cassidy is actually able to see them, ever since the moment she drowned and a ghost named Jacob dragged her back.  Now her parents are off to Edinburgh, Scotland, to film a ghost show.  But an evil spirit haunts the city and she’s determined to steal Cassidy’s life.

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Review

City of Ghosts is a pretty standard supernatural middle-grade story.  The characters are not particularly developed and the concept is not particularly original.  Rather, the story seems to rely on the travel aspect, combined with ghosts, to keep readers interested.  Readers new to this type of story will likely enjoy it more than those who have read their fair share of books featuring ghosts as best friends.

The problem with reviewing City of Ghosts is simply that it is not a very memorable story.  The idea of having a protagonist who has a ghostly friend and who fights other, evil ghosts is not exactly novel.  So City of Ghosts  faced the dilemma of making itself stand out from any other number of supernatural books.  However, it largely fails to do this–probably because Cassidy and her friend Jacob are barely fleshed out as characters.  They cannot bring a unique flavor to the tale because they really feel like they could be any character.  Who they are is not important to the story.  What matters seems to be simply that they can go through the motions to make the plot happen.

The plot, however, is really standard.  Cassidy can see ghosts and, while sightseeing, she stumbles upon a particularly nasty one who wants to steal her life force to gain power and do evil ghostly things.   This is the basic premise of a good number of ghost stories.  With no new angles and no interesting characters, it’s really just kind of nice.  A nice way to pass the evening reading.  A nice choice for a spooky fall read.  A nice middle-grade novel.  But it’s not going to end up on many “best of” lists.

If you’re looking for a middle-grade story featuring ghosts, this will suit your needs.  It has the added benefit of not being particularly scary, if that is what you want.  However, it lacks any real “wow” factor, so, if you are choosing between this and another supernatural title, the other title just might be the better bet.

3 Stars