The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

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In the days of the deadly Blitz on London, Kat and her younger siblings are sent to a country boarding school to escape the danger. Housed in an ancient and mysterious castle, the school is unconventional to say the least, and the children immediately begin to notice inexplicable happenings. Strange noises haunt the nights, and the children are locked in their rooms at night to keep them “safe”. What’s more, Kat finds evidence that the school may be housing a German spy. Though completely unconvinced of the ghost story theories put forth by the other children, Kat has trouble explaining much of what happens at Rookskill. Working together, the children will have to solve the complex mystery of the castle, before it’s too late.

This one is a mix of historical fiction, supernatural fiction, and sci-fi, and it’s amazing! I’ll take a story about a haunted castle any day, so I was more than excited to read of the children’s adventures in the spooky hidden rooms. The book also does a nice job with the historical fiction aspect. It isn’t difficult to understand what is going on with the history, and it certainly isn’t boring. I can’t say too much without spoiling the plot, but suffice it to say that if you’re looking for a ghost story with a bit of unexpected sci-fi mixed in, look no further. My one complaint about the book was that the author arguably had too many plot twists going on, but that also made for an exciting read!

Rating: 4.5/5

 

 

The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

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In the second installment of the Lockwood and Co. series, George, Lockwood, and Lucy are enjoying the success of their venture with the Screaming Staircase. However, though they have a steady number of contracts, the trio still isn’t taken seriously by the rest of the ghost-hunting world. When the team stumbles upon a mysterious grave and artifact at a haunting site, George’s curiosity is peaked. But, in his investigation, George awakens a malevolent spirit bent on revenge. Before the spirit completes its mission, the Lockwood team must stop the phantom and uncover the real mystery of the haunting.

I can’t lie — I expected a lot more from the second Lockwood book. The first one was just so good! And, this one isn’t bad, it just didn’t live up to my hopes. To me, the plot read rather weakly, and I wanted much more from the mystery. However, while the story itself was lacking, there were some bright spots. Many of the characters are great — I especially liked Flo and the Whispering Skull. There are also plenty of scary/suspenseful scenes. If you liked the first Lockwood, give this one a try. You may love it!

Rating: 3/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

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Science has finally invented a substance, Solu, that, when consumed, will help people lose weight and keep it off. Naturally, Solu is much-anticipated by the general public, but will be available first only to the lucky passengers aboard the Solu cruise. While at sea, passengers will get to try Solu, and will hopefully leave the seven-day cruise wearing a smaller clothing size. Laurel, whose best friend, Viv, begged her to go on the trip, is skeptical of the sweetener, and believes she and Viv shouldn’t be obsessing about their weight. Tom, the “host” of the cruise is also more interested in staying fit than taking drugs for weight loss. As the cruise begins, passengers express their enthusiasm for Solu and its effects. But, as the days pass, it appears that Solu is not all that it seems to be. Laurel, Tom and the other passengers must fight to survive as the weight-loss cruise turns deadly.

Wow! This book was so much better than I thought it would be. I was expecting a mindless, cheap-thrill (and it was), but it was much more! The premise had me hooked — a sweetener that keeps people skinny? Then you release that sweetener during a cruise and (dun dun dun) bad things start to happen? I’m in. What I liked best was, besides the action and drama, there were some important issues buried in the book. What does it say about our society that we’re SO obsessed with body image we would do ANYTHING to be thin? Should people who make addictive substances (i.e. sugar), be held accountable for their actions? It’s a lot to think about, but don’t worry — there’s plenty of suspense and blood (so much blood) to keep things interesting.

*Lonestar book, 2016

Rating: 4/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

 

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

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At just 17, Darcy Patel has written a novel and secured a book deal. Now the only problem is convincing her parents to let her move to New York and write for a year instead of going to college. In New York, Darcy is nearly lost in the city and the world of writing, desperately trying to find her inspiration and write the next of the three novels she promised. Along with Darcy’s story, readers also get to read Darcy’s book, the story of Lizzie, her brush with death, and her romance with a mysterious death god.

I was surprised that I liked this book, but I did! The organization is extremely unique, but it may be a bit confusing when you first start reading. Keep going, though, because things really start to pick up as the book progresses. This book is interesting because you get realistic fiction drama with Darcy in New York and fantasy/supernatural drama and suspense when you read Darcy’s book. Pick this book up if you’re looking for a new and different read!

Rating: 4/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

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Separated from their parents, Molly and Kip are Irish immigrants who struggle to survive on the streets of England. When Molly finds employment at an old manor house, she believes their fortunes may have finally changed. But, upon arrival, the house is not all it appears to be. Dilapidated and crumbling, it’s clear from the house that its owners may not be the wealthy landowners they claim to be. What’s more, when cleaning the house each morning, Molly finds the same set of dirty footprints tracking the floors — footprints that couldn’t belong to any of the family members. Molly and Kip soon find that there’s more to the house than they bargained for, and they must do everything they can to escape their situation with their lives.

If you like spooky ghost stories, this one is pretty good. BUT, it’s not the best I’ve read. To me, it seemed like the plot dragged a bit, especially after the big secret reveal. There’s plenty of action, though, and the characters are all really well done. Pick this one up, especially, if you’re a fan of historical fiction. It’s a good one — just not my absolute favorite.

Rating: 3.5/5

*ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2015

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

 

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

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Britain has a ghost problem. Beset by spirits once the sun goes down, the people of England employ teenage ghost hunters in order to be free of their nightly visitors. Lucy Carlyle is one such hunter. Having lost her position at a high-ranking ghost-extermination firm, Lucy finds herself working for the eccentric and reckless Anthony Lockwood. Unfortunately, after accidentally burning a client’s house down, the firm finds itself in financial (and legal) trouble. Lockwood and Co. needs a case, and a big one, in order to save their reputation and continue hunting ghosts. Luckily, one such case comes along. Unluckily, everyone who has attempted to solve the case has died in the process.  

I loved this one! Think British Ghostbusters with teenagers. It’s got great ghost stories, plenty of scares, an excellent mystery, and is just all-around awesome. What really impressed me was that this book managed to pull off being so entertaining without having a love story. So, if you’re not a fan of “mushy” books, give this one a read for sure. Though the storyline can occasionally lose focus, the mystery is interesting enough that it makes up for the meandering. The ending is a total cliff-hanger as well, so, if you love it, make sure you reach for the next in the series. I definitely will!

*Lonestar List, 2014

Rating: 4.5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Book 1) by Ransom Riggs

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All his life, Jacob has been told his grandfather’s unbelievable stories: invisible children, women who turn into birds, an entire world filled with magical possibilities. Jacob never believed the stories were true, but, when his grandfather is killed in a tragic accident, Jacob has no choice but to believe the unbelievable. The problem is, the rest of Jacob’s family thinks he’s gone crazy. Faced with family who believes he’s suffering from stress hallucinations, and grappling with an unfathomable truth, Jacob must get to the bottom of his grandfather’s fanciful stories. Will he find the world his grandfather described, or is he really lost his mind?

In the mood for a mystery/thriller with a spooky twist? Miss Peregrine’s is for you! Though it wasn’t the scariest book I’ve ever read, there were definitely some solidly scary parts, and the mystery is solid. Also amazing are the old pictures inserted throughout the text — these were really cool to look at, and they added a lot to the story. If you’re feeling in the spooky/scary spirit, but don’t want something too scary, give this one a try. Don’t forget that it’s a series, so keep reading if you love it!

Rating: 4/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.