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Scared to Death by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards

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Scared to Death by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards Scared to Death by Matthew Costello, Neil Richards
Series: Cherringham #27
Published by Bastei Entertainment on October 1, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Pages: 158
Format: eBook
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When classic horror movie star Basil Coates becomes the victim of a series of scary pranks, the local police put it down to a crazed fan. Just pranks, after all ...

But with Halloween only days away, the spectre of murder suddenly visits the ghostly Coates mansion on the hill outside Cherringham - and Jack and Sarah find themselves caught in a mystery worthy of Basil’s spookiest roles ...

Set in the sleepy English village of Cherringham, the detective series brings together an unlikely sleuthing duo: English web designer Sarah and American ex-cop Jack. Thrilling and deadly - but with a spot of tea - it's like Rosamunde Pilcher meets Inspector Barnaby. Each of the self-contained episodes is a quick read for the morning commute, while waiting for the doctor, or when curling up with a hot cuppa.

Scared to Death was my first visit to Cherringham, but I’m sure it won’t be my last. It’s a novella, as are most of this series and I really enjoyed it.

Sarah and Jack are well-known for solving local mysteries, so when someone is “playing pranks” on Basil Coates, an elderly man who was once the horror film star, his still enchanting wife, a former star herself, calls on the duo to find out what’s going on.

It’s a quick story, but self-contained. We get a good feel for who Sarah and Jack are, although I’m not sure if they’re just friends or if there’s a potential for more there. I’m hoping the former. The authors also do a good job at fully developing the secondary characters, the Coates househould. There are a couple plausible suspects and Sarah and Jack do a good job at following upon the clues. There was one choice Sarah made that I wish she hadn’t, but women amateur detectives seldom seem to have the best sense of self-preservation.

It’s a perfect Halloween read, spooky and fun.

About Matthew Costello

Matthew Costello was born in 1948 and writes novels and nonfictional works as author and coauthor. Some of his books have been adapted into film versions and he wrote for some TV channels like the BBC. He also scripts and designs videogames.

About Neil Richards

Neil Richards has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including The Da Vinci Code and Starship Titanic, co-written with Douglas Adams, and consults around the world on digital storytelling. His writing partnership with NYC-based Matt Costello goes back to the late 90’s and the two have written many hours of TV together. Cherringham, the crime fiction series set in the Cotswolds, is their first crime fiction as co-writers.

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The Dream Dragon by Kathryn England

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The Dream Dragon by Kathryn England The Dream Dragon by Kathryn England
Illustrator: Valeria Issa
Published by Xist Publishing on February 19, 2015
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Picture Book
Pages: 32
Format: eBook
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A dragon protects a child’s dreams from nightmares in this picture book perfect for bedtime. Bedtime stories inspires a series of dream protectors for a little boy. The dream dragon keeps the nightmares away and is joined by dinosaurs, pirates, super heroes and more in the quest to keep nighttime safe.

I should maybe quit reading kids books. I picked up The Dream Dragon because it looked cute and I try to keep an eye out for books my nieces/nephews would enjoy. And it was a fine book, I just felt a little sad for the dragon.

The dream dragon protects the boy’s dreams. He scares away the bad dreams, but he also pushes the good dreams to the edge, because he wants to be the dream the boy remembers. Then, a t-rex comes along and defeats the dragon. It is the new protector, but then comes along a superhero, then a pirate, and each, in turn, stars in the boy’s dreams.

I like how the book first shows than not all monsters are scary. It also connects what we read about or learn about in real life to our dreams, which I think can be helpful for kids. At least it was when Amber was little. Knowing why she dreamed about something scary sometimes made it a bit better.

I felt a little sorry for the dragon though. In the end, he does show up in the girl’s dream, though, so I guess it’s okay.

The illustrations are simple, but cute. They’re colorful, mostly darker shades – browns, greens, blues, dark oranges.

Overall, it’s a nice bedtime story.

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.

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