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Thornhill by Pam Smy

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Thornhill by Pam Smy Thornhill by Pam Smy
Published by Roaring Brook Press on August 29, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Middle School, Ghost Story
Pages: 544
Format: eARC
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Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a Ella unravels the mystery of the girl next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it's shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill's shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines Mary s through intimate diary entries and Ella s in bold, striking art Pam Smy's Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, and a suspense-filled story.

Thornhill is spooky and heart-breaking. Ella is sad and lonely, but when she glimpses a girl in the window of the Thornhill Institute, she becomes obsessed with finding out who she was and what happened to her. Mary lived at the Institute in the 1980s, also a sad, lonely girl who is bullied and terrorized by the other girls.

Thornhill is at heart a ghost story. We know from the beginning that Mary’s a ghotst, but her diary entries made me cry. Her life at Thornhill was miserable, and few of the adults around her seemed competent or truly caring. Ella’s story is just as sad. I assume her father loves her, but he’s never home and her mom is gone, presumably dead. Her side of the story is depicted in black and white illustrations that are striking and add to the dark atmosphere of the novel. We know something happened to Mary, but not what.

I think this is one of those stories that a middle-schooler would enjoy. It’s just spooky enough and the ending was dark and and an appropriate, if sad, conclusion. I was talking about it quickly with my daughter and she said kids in middle school like sad books, and i’ll have to take her word for it. Thornhill It deals with big issues like bullying, revenge, and suicide, and there were adults that could have helped, but didn’t.

It’s an engrossing story, but to be honest, I wish I hadn’t read it. For me it was a depressing book. I cried through half of it and I’d like to give it 1 star for that reason. However, I gave it 4 starts because it is engrossing and relevant.

About Pam Smy

Pam Smy studied Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, part of Anglia Ruskin University, where she now lectures part-time. Pam has illustrated books by Conan Doyle (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Julia Donaldson (Follow the Swallow) and Kathy Henderson (Hush, Baby, Hush!), and her own, among others. She lives in Cambridge.

The Visitant by Megan Chance

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Riptop

The Visitant by Megan Chance The Visitant: A Venetian Ghost Story by Megan Chance
Published by Lake Union Publishing on September 22, 2015
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Ghost Story, Historical Fiction, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 310
Format: eARC
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After she nearly ruins her family with a terrible misstep, Elena Spira is sent to Venice to escape disgrace and to atone by caring for the ailing Samuel Farber. But the crumbling and decaying Ca’ Basilio palazzo, where Samuel is ensconced, holds tragic secrets, and little does Elena know how profoundly they will impact her. Soon she begins to sense that she is being watched by something. And when Samuel begins to have hallucinations that make him violent and unpredictable, she can’t deny she’s in mortal danger.
Then impoverished nobleman Nero Basilio, Samuel’s closest friend and the owner of the palazzo, arrives. Elena finds herself entangled with both men in a world where the past seeps into the present and nothing is as it seems. As Elena struggles to discover the haunting truth before it destroys her, a dark force seems to hold Samuel and the Basilio in thrall—is it madness, or something more sinister?

I don’t usually read ghost stories, but this seemed like a perfect fit for RIP X and I do love Venice as a setting.

To me, The Visitant had three parts: the setting, the ghost story, and the romance. The story is set in Venice but most of it takes place in the Basilio palazzo. It’s the perfect setting: a crumbling old mansion, too cold and grey, in a city that, while romantic, is also decaying. The servants are hostile to Elena and the aunt is just flat out odd. There is a lot of time establishing the atmosphere. Elena is hoping to see Venice but seems trapped in this house. the setting is probably my favorite part of the story.

The ghost story was not scary enough to keep me up at night, but progressed well. The ghost was clearly angry, and, unlike Elena, the reader knows it’s a ghost from the beginning – the title tells us. It doesn’t take long to know who the ghost is, either, but the question is why is she still there, what has her so full of anger and jealousy and hatred. And she is quite dangerous.

The romance – eh. There were a couple of sexy scenes, but overall Elena should have been smarter. On the other hand, she is who she is, a  passionate, trusting woman, which is why she is in the situation she is. And she chose the guy I didn’t like as much, but you’ll have that.

The story moved slowly. It’s about atmosphere and uncertainty. At 60% I was wondering if it was worth finishing, but the pace picked up a bit and I really liked the ending. The story wrapped up well for me. Overall, it’s a good seasonal read.

About Megan Chance

Megan Chance is the critically acclaimed, award-winning and bestselling author of several novels. The Best Reviews has said she writes “Fascinating historical fiction.” Her books have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices program and IndieBound’s Booksense. A former television news photographer with a BA from Western Washington University, Megan Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters.

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