The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall

By: Mary Downing Hahn

  • Age Range:10 – 12 years
  • Grade Level:5 – 7
  • Paperback:160 pages
  • Publisher:HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (September 6, 2011)

 
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Amazon Book Summary:

When twelve-year-old Florence boards the crowded horse-drawn coach in London, she looks forward to a new life with her great uncle and aunt at Crutchfield Hall, an old manor house in the English countryside. Anything will be better, she thinks, than the grim London orphanage where she has lived since her parents’ death.
But Florence doesn’t expect the ghost of her cousin Sophia, who haunts the cavernous rooms and dimly lit hallways of Crutchfield and concocts a plan to use Florence to help her achieve her murderous goals. Will Florence be able to convince the others in the household of the imminent danger and stop Sophia before it’s too late?

Character Believability:

The characters in this book are for the most part, fiercely one dimensional. While some of their traits come across smoothly and with incredible believability, the flat stubbornness of the characters brought the believability down to a 3 out of 5 for me.

Flow and Pace:

The flow was choppy in several places, but the pace was well set. While it could have been smoothed out a little more, I felt this book had a good set up and movement for its intended middle grade audience. I gave this category a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Reader Engagement:

The storyline and plot twists kept me engaged, despite the predictable events and flat character personas.

I enjoyed the glimmers of a great story that shone through and even had a couple of moments in which my spine was tingled. I gave this category a 4 out of 5 possible stars.

Reader Enrichment:

I walked away without feeling enriched at all. I honestly have nothing that I felt boosted my mind in any way and give this category 2 out of the possible 5 stars.

Reader Enjoyment:

This was a quick, decent, and fairly enjoyment read for me. I believe that the intended audience of middle grade students will have a great enjoyment in this book. I am giving this category 3.5 out of possible 5 stars.

Back Copy:

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The back cover copy, which is almost identical to the summary listed above, feels choppy and not very intriguing. 3 out of 5 stars for the Back Copy.

Front Cover:

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The picture on the front cover works well. It goes with the story, is intriguing and a little creepy, and would work even better as the first thing to pull in a reader if there wasn’t a large red splotch over the female character’s head. I understand that this story is about a ghost and the way she died would lend itself to this macabre addition to the image. However, the red blot actually takes away from the creep factor of the book. 3 out of 5 stars for this image as well.

Overall Rating: 3.14 Stars.

Healthy Mind Review

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A collection of more than 120 recipes formulated to optimize brain health, boost memory, improve mood, sharpen the central nervous system, and more.

Feed your mind.

Depression, ADHD, memory loss, agitation: These may seem like inevitable byproducts of modern lives spent multitasking, not getting enough sleep, and operating on digital overload. But while much of the brain’s work still remains a mystery, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the food you eat directly affects how well your brain functions. Brain health also plays a significant role in staving off diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

In The Healthy Mind Cookbook, Rebecca Katz has harnessed the latest research on the brain to identify the foods that can improve the brain’s ability to control cognition, emotion, and physical function—all of which dictate memory and mood. She then translates the very best of brain science into the kitchen, using delicious nutrient-dense foods as a tool for promoting a healthy mind from childhood through the golden years.

With a culinary pharmacy listing the benefits of key ingredients, complete nutritional details for each dish, and flavor-packed recipes for every meal of the day, including Avocado and Citrus Salad, Sweet Potato Hash, Turkish Lamb Sliders, and Chocolate Cherry Walnut Truffles, The Healthy Mind Cookbook will help lift the fog of everyday life so you can reach your full physical and mental potential.

The Healthy Mind Cookbook

By Rebecca Katz

                With Mat Edelson

 

The book jacket and interior photographs are glossy, well set, and mouthwatering. The hard cover itself is very classically designed and reminiscent of the type of retro cookbooks one might find in Grandma’s kitchen.

The book blurb is well written and uses a few scientific phrases to really sell the idea of eating correctly for mental and emotional health.

The book itself has beautiful images, well written recipes, and chapters full of essays explaining how each food can affect things such as memory, mood, and even ADHD.

However, due to the heavy use of scientific phraseology and recipes that did not veer toward the norm for my area (there were few recipes that included ingredients that could all be found in my town, let alone my own pantry!) I am giving this cookbook a total of 3 out of 5 possible dragons.

*I was sent this book by the publisher and Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions provided therein are of my own formation.*

Magic Under Review

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Magic Under Glass

By: Jaclyn Dolamore

  • Age Range:12 and up
  • Grade Level:7 and up
  • Paperback:256 pages
  • Publisher:Bloomsbury USA Childrens (May 24, 2011)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1599905876
  • ISBN-13:978-1599905877

Summary (From Amazon.com)

When a wealthy sorcerer hires Nimira to sing with a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life. But at the sorcerer’s estate, rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman, and fairies that are tortured for sport. When Nimira discovers-and falls for-the spirit of a fairy gentleman trapped in the automaton, she will also find the fate of the magical world in her hands

 

Character Believability:

The three main characters that populate this book are well written, multi-dimensional, and manage to still exhibit ‘normal’ emotions and reactions to the proceeding of the plot. Typically, that’s all you can really ask for in a quick read novel like this: fantasy, steampunk, pseudo-historical…these elements tend to combine to bring us 1 or 2 dimensional characters that would fall flat if brought away from their specific world and work.

Jaclyn Dolamore, however, skipped over that particular ‘norm’ and gleefully provided us with secondary and tertiary characters, twists, and exciting discoveries that all obviously believed her when she pretended the story was about them. These many facets come together to bring us a world that makes perfect sense and characters who, mostly, feel as though they might live down the street from their readers.

I’ve given this category a 4 out of 5 possible stars because a few of the characters, though well written, seems as though they were a) written in a rush and added in and/or b) were incredibly predictable.

Flow and Pace:

I have given the flow and pace of Magic Under Glass a rating of 4 out of 5 possible stars. While the majority of the book is, in my opinion, excellently maneuvered for both the flow of the story, and the pace of the plot, there are a few places in which I felt the pace slowed a bit too much and that the flow seemed to stutter and confuse itself.

For example, Nimira (our main female character) and Erris (our automaton) first meet in a scene that really slows the feel of the story for me. Conversely, the final two chapters stutter and feel rushed, in my opinion, so that the ending winds up with an information dump. However, I did enjoy the overall flow and pace of this book and think it will work wonderfully as a decently quick read for middle and high school students.

Reader Engagement:

This book did a wonderful job of capturing my attention. The first inkling of what was inside came when I spotted this book on the shelf at the Scholastic Book Fair on one of my substituting days…the phenomenal cover art, followed by the back blurb, lured me in. By the time I got around to cracking open the front cover I was already hooked.

I remained interested, engaged, and intrigued through the story. I am giving this category 4.5 out of 5 possible stars and have already placed the follow up novel, Magic Under Stone on my wishlist/TBR/somebody please buy it for me lists.

Reader Enrichment:

While I truly enjoyed the world and wonders of Magic Under Glass, I have only given this category a 3.5 out of the possible 5 stars. The fact is that, while I was excited for the addition of trouser girls and an automaton, this seems to be mainly a mixed-up Beauty and the Beast re-telling (My FAVORITE fairy tale, fyi). As a retelling or on its own, the story is beautiful. However, while my imagination sparked a bit in a few places, I walked away feeling as though I had spent a delightful afternoon reading a well done story…but didn’t take anything away from the experience with me. So, with a sad and slightly pouty face, I am giving this category a 3 out of possible 5 stars.

Reader Enjoyment:

I cannot begin to describe in enough detail how much I truly enjoyed this book. I adore fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast being my all-time favorite, and this book has several subtle takes from that beloved story. I have also been getting very interested in the steampunk movement lately, so this fairy tale magic automaton mixture was absolutely perfect for me to wade into those worlds with.

If it had not been for a couple (literally, TWO) places that made me think that I had perhaps skipped a line or fallen into a plot hole, this category would have jumped the half point for 4.5 to 5 stars. However, 4.5 out 5 possible stars just ain’t too shabby anyway!

Front Cover:

The front cover photograph, copy written in 2010 by the talented Ali Smith, was what originally drew me to the book. When I saw it sitting there on the book fair table I just needed to know more about that character.

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The only reason this category is being given a 4.5 out of 5, instead of a perfect score, is that I felt the text font should have been more consistent with both of the As being the same for the title, instead of the ‘A’ in Magic being specialized while the ‘A’ in glass was plain.

Back Copy:

I agree whole heartedly with the back copy assertion that fans of Libba Bray and Charlotte Bronte will probably enjoy reading this book. The author has created a wonderful world to sink into and discover.

However, I am giving the back copy a 3.5 out of 5 possible stars because, after reading the book, I realized that the summary is actually incorrect in three separate places. THREE PLACES! Now whether that was an intentionally misleading copy to make sure the readers were not expecting certain aspects of the story (and the things that led me astray from the back copy are actually not that important to the story) or just some odd oversight from the editors, publisher, and author, I still do not ever appreciate being maneuvered in that way.

The back copy is still intriguing, however, which is why I didn’t drop the score down even lower.

 

Overall Rating:

4.0 out of 5 possible Stars and Dragons.

This book is well written and worth a read, whatever age level you currently claim (or actually are)

I very much look forward to the next one!

Author Interview – Alli Marshall

Welcome to this week’s fabulous rendition of Author Interview Friday! I am proud to bring to you the insight of Alli Marshall, the author of How to Talk to Rock Stars. 

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  1. Tell us about the first time you realized that you were an author or were going to be an author.

I think I realized I actually could be a writer when I went to Goodard College for my MFA. I don’t believe that everyone who wants to write needs to get an MFA, but for me that focus cemented the idea. That, and paying back                                                                                                        the student loan!

2) What genre(s) do you write in, and why?

I write literary fiction that’s often inspired by real-life events and personal narrative. I kind of wish I wrote pithy mysteries, but that’s not what comes out when I write. I imagine it’s kind of like being a songwriter — you might want to be an Etta James but if, at the end of the day, you’re actually a Zooey Deschanel, you have to work with what you’ve got.

  • What genres are your favorites to read? Why?

I love literary fiction, some memoir, and the occasional mystery.

3) Tell us about your two all-time favorite characters: 1 that you wrote and 1 that someone else wrote.

I’m sort of fickle. I love a character until I discover a new one who I love even more. I recently read “The Paris Wife” and loved the voice of Hadley. Theo Decker from “The Goldfinch” stayed with me — I still think of him sometimes!

Among my own characters, I think my favorite is Tobias Bridge, a musician from my novel, “How to Talk to Rockstars.” He’s very in-the-moment and alive — kind of over-the-top but he has a good heart and a great sense of style. I’ve wished more than once that I could hang out with him in real life.

     4) There is a lot of controversy about allowing books to be made into movies (especially when they cut or change large portions of the plot). Would you be willing for your books/stories to become a movie? Why or why not?

I’d certainly consider it. I think that if that opportunity ever presented itself I’d follow in the footsteps of one of my favorite authors, Ron Rash, and be very hands-off about it. I don’t think I’d try to control the screenplay or view the film as an extension of the book. The two are usually very different projects.

         5) How do you handle writer’s block?

I’m a writer and editor for my day job, so I really don’t get writer’s block. Some days the ideas are better than other days, but I can always write something. The same is kind of true for working on fiction — I can’t always write a lot, and sometimes I get stuck on what should happen next or if the story is even working at all. But there are always other ideas to work on, essays to write, little sketches and, if nothing else, my journal to turn to.

I think that may be the key…always have more than one thing going on at a time!

 6) What inspires you?

Great books, antique stores, vintage clothing shops, travel, rainy days, old movies, small beach towns, weathered barns, skeleton keys, and pretty much any song by Gregory Alan Isakov.

I love this list! I want to do a very retro “RIGHT ON!” for you. 

 7) How do you respond when people ask what you do, then make that face if you say “I’m an author”?

I’ve never had anyone make the face! But I live in a very artistic town where everyone is involved in some kind of creative pursuit. If I was, say, an investment banker in my free time, people might give me a strange look.

I would look at anyone strangely if they told me they were an investment banker! 

8) Finally, tell us where to go to find you:

Web: http://alli-marshall.com

Facebook: http://facebooks.com/allimarshallauthor

Twitter/Instagram: @alli_marshall

Publisher: http://logosophiabooks.com

Distributor: http://www.spdbooks.org/Producte/9780981575780/how-to-talk-to-rockstars.aspx

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/How-Talk-Rockstars-Alli-Marshall/dp/0981575781/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1440534006&sr=1-1

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-to-talk-to-rockstars-alli-marshall/1121534517?ean=9780981575780

My favorite local bookstore, Malaprop’s: http://www.malaprops.com/book/9780981575780

Thank you Alli! We appreciate you taking the time out to talk with us today.

Remember, if you want to be featured in your own interview, let me know! I might just be able to make that happen…Happy weekend All!

The Seer Of Shadows – Book Review

The Seer of Shadows by Avi

The Seer of Shadows

Written By: Avi

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Summary:

Horace Carpetine does not believe in ghosts.

Raised to believe in science and reason, Horace Carpetine passes off spirits as superstition. Then he becomes an apprentice photographer and discovers an eerie—and even dangerous—supernatural power in his very own photographs.

When a wealthy lady orders a portrait to place by her daughter’s gravesite, Horace’s employer, Enoch Middleditch, schemes to sell her more pictures—by convincing her that her daughter’s ghost has appeared in the ones he’s already taken.

It’s Horace’s job to create images of the girl. Yet Horace somehow captures the girl’s spirit along with her likeness. And when the spirit escapes the photographs, Horace discovers he’s released a ghost bent on a deadly revenge. . . .

 

  • Age Range:8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level:4 – 7
  • Paperback:202 pages
  • Publisher:HarperCollins; Reprint edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0060000171
  • ISBN-13:978-0060000172

 

Character Believability:

The main character, Horace Carpentine, is a 14 year old scientifically minded boy. His boss, Enoch Middleditch, is a ‘society’ photographer and a flighty money grubber. They live in New York during the year 1872, when spirit photography is becoming popular.

Mr. and Mrs. Fredrick Von Macht are upper class society members who attempt to seem soft, sweet, and full of grief. However, they are eventually unable to hide their true personalities…which are not very nice.

Pegg, the Von Macht’s black servant girl, helps Horace with several things, including the main problem of the story, and they become great friends and allies.

Eleanor, the Von Macht’s dearly departed daughter, is starting to crop up in more than just the hushed conversation and covered paintings. She isn’t pleased with her ‘family’ at all.

As much as I wish I could tell you these characters are fully developed, multi-dimensional characters…I cannot. However, I have given this category a 4 out of 5 stars because, even as only one or two dimensional characters, they are well developed and definitely believable. This was written as a Middle Grade novel, however, and I do so wish the characters had been fleshed out just a smidgen more.

Flow and Pace:

Once I got into the story, I felt the pacing went at a very nice clip for the feel of the story. The first two pages did move a little slowly for me, but overall I felt that the pacing was very well done.

The flow is slightly choppy in place or two, as though they got into a situation or segment and then weren’t too certain how to get out of it. However, this is also mostly well done. I have given the pacing and flow 4 out of 5 stars as well.

Reader Engagement:

I think I would have found the story a bit more engaging earlier on if the characters had been made to be more in depth. However, the storyline was woven well enough, and the pace moved quickly enough, that I almost gave this category a rating of 4 instead of the 3.5 out of 5 that it wound up with.

Reader Enrichment:

The author includes some interesting information about the art of early photography. There are also a few historically accurate and very cool facts about the old practice of so-called spirit photography. I found these snippets and odd facts to be incredibly fun and mentally stimulating. I always love finding fiction that includes awesome information like this for the audience.

The book also included Literature Circle Questions and Activity ideas, which are wonderful enrichment resources. With the added bonus of these questions and activities, The Seer of Shadows can easily be used with small book clubs, literature circles, or larger classes without having to change much, if anything, about the enrichment. I have given this category 4 out of 5 stars.

Reader Enjoyment:

I found this book to be a quick and fairly enjoyable read. Though I did have a few small issues, as I pointed out previously, I felt that on the whole it was very well written and a great read for the intended audience of middle grade students.

In fact, there may possibly have been a place or two in the story that sent shivers scurrying up and down my own spine. I have given this category a 4 out of 5 stars as well.

Cover Art:

 I absolutely love the cover art, taken and copy written in 2009 by Mark Tucker, MergeLeft Reps, Inc. I felt like the photograph was absolutely the perfect touch for the book. 4.5 out of 5 stars for the cover art.

Back Copy:

I feel that the back copy is interesting, well written, and pulls at the potential reader to know more. Any back copy that makes you want to pick up the book and read is a good thing! 4 out of 5 stars for the back copy.

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 stars overall for The Seer of Shadows by Avi.

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Thankful

Welcome to another Writers Quote Wednesday! Like the rest of our posts, this week is brought to you by Silver Threading and Ronovan Writes.

This week I want to talk to you about a few random things that we as writers, or even just you normal people, might be thankful for.

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This is a quote from my current NaNoWriMo project. Lenora, the character who says this, goes on the say she didn’t even know the connection was missing until her friend ‘liked’ the post…but then it is a piercing relief to be thankful for. 

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Writers can be thankful for the ability to write memories and create stories that they, their readers, and the future audiences can all find those memories within. 

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Be thankful that, as a writer, writing becomes a part of you. So that you will always have ideas and sentences floating around within you. 

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Having a bad day? Hers was worse…and yet writing allows for any bad day to disappear for a bit. You can be reborn in every story, your sorrow can be cast off…you write your own stories and emotions here. 

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I am always, always thankful that my propensity for creating new (or formerly not used within my own society) words is something that writers are allowed to do. Lawyers and doctors have to stick with their own linguistics, I get to make it all up if I want to!

Are there other things that I’ve missed? Tell what you’re thankful for down in the comments!

Have a blessed Week!!

The Stone Dragon Saga

Hello everyone! I have been asked a time or two to do a quick overview or guide to my MG/YA Fantasy Series. So I Finally did it! Please forgive the fact that I am in the middle of a raging cold, still slightly awkward in front of the camera, and that I’m goofy enough to stand by that ending! 😉

I hope you a) watch it (please, pretty please, pretty pretty pretty please?) b) enjoy it (PLEASE PLEASE?) and c) leave me a comment or two telling about your watching and enjoyment…or asking questions, making suggestions, etc.

Have a great Day!

 

Author Interview – Lisa Richesson

Welcome to another great week of Author Interviews! Today we have Non-Fiction author Lisa Richesson visiting with us to answer our 10 questions. Let’s get started!

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1)    What name do you write under? Is this a pseudonym?   Do you use more than one name when you write?

Lisa Richesson. (This is not a pseudonym, nor does she use any other names in her writing career)

2) Tell us about the first time you realized that you were an author or were going to be an author. 

I was fourteen and had just finished reading John Lennon’s In His Own Write.  I suddenly knew deep down to my bones that I was a writer deep in my soul.

3)  What genre(s) do you write in, and why? 

Non-fiction and memoir because, as Christopher Isherwood said, “Why invent when life is so prodigious?”  For me, the lives and memories of people are much more interesting than fiction.  You can’t make this stuff up, right?

4)    What genres are your favorites to read? Why? 

I enjoy reading memoirs, history, oral histories.   Because for me, reading memoirs and history helps to ground me in the present.  By knowing how the world has evolved and how historic events have shaped our lives today, everything makes a bit more sense.

5)  Tell us about your two all-time favorite characters: 1 that you wrote and 1 that someone else wrote. 

This a hard one to answer as any favorite character I have will be a real person or entity of some sort.  Given that train of thought, my favorite character/entity is London.  As far as a character that I’ve written, I’m still working on it!

6)  There is a lot of controversy about allowing books to be made into movies (especially when they cut or change large portions of the plot). Would you be willing for your books/stories to become a movie? Why or why not?

Sure.   A movie would get my work out to a lot of people who don’t necessarily look at books to buy on Amazon!

7)    How do you handle writer’s block? 

I set a goal of writing 1,000 words a day.  If the words just won’t materialize I either go for a walk or read or plop in front of the TV until I feel refreshed.

8)  What inspires you? 

Reading.  Movies.  Talking with folks.  Reading.  Art.  Museums.  Reading.  Travel.  Reading.

9) How do you respond when people ask what you do, then make that face if you say “I’m an author”? 

I’ve never gotten that face.  Rather I get, “Oh really?  What do you write?” or “Published yet?” or “How nice.”  “Or I’m (or my cousin, aunt, uncle, mother, father, best friend) is a writer too.”  “Oh wow!  Are you in a writer’s group?  Wanna start one?”  My response would be:  I write memoir and non-fiction.  I just published my first book on CreateSpace.  How nice you (or a relative/friend) is also a writer.  And thanks, but I’m not entirely interested in a writer’s group; however, I’d like to hear your ideas about one.”

10)  Finally, tell us where to go to find you:

My book, White Lady, Black Sons: a memoir of adoption, abuse and awakening is available on Amazon and Kindle. 

Full Front Book Cover

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LRichesson

Twitter @LisaRichesson

Blog at  www.lisarichesson@wordpress.com.

Thank you Lisa for those insightful answers, and thank you everyone for joining us today. If you would like to be featured in your own interview (author, illustrator, agent, publisher, etc) please contact me and we’ll get you set up! Have a fabulous weekend!