Review of A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

ACuriousTaleoftheInBetweenA Curious Tale of the In-Between
By: Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: September 1st 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Pram Bellamy is special–she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.

Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.

My Thoughts:
I’ve read a good amount of DeStefano’s books and A Curious Tale of the In-Between was my favorite of them all…and I’m not even a fan of middle grade fiction for the most part. This book was beautifully executed and unique.

The pacing was even and the story captivating. The characters were so likeable and I absolutely adored each of them (ghosts and human alike). I loved DeStefano’s take on ghosts and the afterlife. I thought she made such beautiful points and my favorite line of the book was,

“Death isn’t a punishment,” Pram said, repeating what Finely had told her. “It’s just what comes next.”

I recently lost my grandfather and this line was a balm to my soul. It hurts to lose those we love and the pain is a physical and emotional ache that does ease as time passes but it is always there. This line meant so much to me and really eased some of my own personal pain.

We follow Pram’s story and early on you know she’s not a typical little girl. She can see and befriend ghosts. To her, they are as much apart of her life as the elderly that she lives with in her Aunt’s home for older folks. I loved the elderly Pram was surrounded by and found them to be such a great addition to the story. Pram’s oldest friend was, Felix, a ghost. I thought the dynamic of their friendship was so sweet and beautiful. Really, you’ll be seeing the word, “beautiful, a lot because it just fits this book so well.

Pram had one living friend she meets at her first experience in school (she’d been homeschooled) named Clarence who was just as wonderful as the rest of the cast of characters. Really, each character had something unique and wonderful about them. Even the villain of the story pulled on my heart strings a teeny tiny bit (at the least she was intriguing).

Pram has lived with her aunts her whole life because her mother passed the day Pram was born. Her aunts have kept what happened exactly a secret and Pram had many questions and some guilt about what occurred with her mother. This book focused some on Pram’s discovery of her mother’s past as well as learning about the reasons why she can see and talk with ghosts.

Final Thoughts:
Even if you aren’t typically a fan of middle grade fiction you really should read A Curious Tale of the In-Between regardless. I believe this is DeStefano’s strongest work to date because of it’s ability to touch the heart and introduce characters you’ll not soon forget.

Extras:

  • I interviewed Lauren about the Internment Chronicles and A Curious Tale of the In-Between here

Review of Shutter by Courtney Alameda

ShutterCoverShutter
By: Courtney Alameda
Release Date: February 3rd 2015
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

My Thoughts:
That cover is SO CREEPY. I had to turn the book over as I read because that face staring at me was not working. I found Shutter to be a somewhat creepy read that I enjoyed though didn’t love. I had a bit of a disconnect with the characters though I did like them. I think I would have been more scared if I had been more emotionally attached. Regardless, the story’s pacing and action sequences did work for me. There was a countdown aspect to the story- only so much time to solve the case or DEATH- and this did add tension (obviously). I enjoyed watching the soulchain curse grow on the character’s bodies…I’ve noticed lately I really delight in the character’s pain. Not sure what this says about me?

The story was told from Micheline’s point of view. I enjoyed the character’s unique skills that allowed them to excel in ghost hunting and thought it was especially wonderful to include an analog SLR camera as a weapon against spiritual entities. I’m a photographer (for fun) and so I had an easy time connecting to this aspect of the story. Trapping ghosts on film and then developing said film? Awesome! I loved the visuals of watching the images show up while alone, in a dark room. Where my disconnect came was with the secondary characters as well as the romance.

There wasn’t anything wrong with the interactions between characters I just had trouble really feeling the chemistry between them. I think with additional books I’d come to love the characters more? I hope so.  The romance was well done but it didn’t sweep me away and honestly was a tad forgettable. That’s sort of my problem with the book–the characters didn’t stick with me. I will say that some of the ghost scenes did. A month or so after reading I still remember many of the ghost interactions and think they were done so incredibly well. For me, that was the highlight of the book.

Final Thoughts:
Shutter was well worth the read and brought some fun aspects to the horror genre (there needs to be more in YA). If a sequel is released I’d want to read it since I feel these characters have great potential. I connected very well to the horror and action aspects but never had the emotional draw to the characters that I’d have preferred. Regardless, this was an entertaining read that had great ghost imagery and action sequences.