[Book Review] Marysvale by Jared Southwick

Book Review of Marysvale by Jared Southwick

Jared Southwick


“John Casey was ten years old when his mother was murdered…and ten when his father hid the truth from him. Without that knowledge, he has no idea of the enemies that lie in wait. Now grown up, John lives a solitary life, in a world enslaved by ignorance and superstition, when anyone unusual is treated with distrust and even killed…and John has some very unusual gifts. When he is accused of witchcraft, John does the only thing he’s ever done–Run! That is, until he meets Jane who lives in the bleak, imprisoned town of Marysvale. Life outside the safety of the town walls means certain death from the brutal monsters that hunt there. However, life inside, under the rule of a tyrannical leader, means no life at all. As the love between John and Jane grows, the dangers of Marysvale unfold; and for the first time in his life, John discovers that there is something worth dying for.”

My Review:

I really liked this book. I like Mr. Southwick’s style of writing. It is fast-paced and keeps you on your toes. I couldn’t just stop at the end of the chapter, I’d have to keep reading, which turned into some very long nights. I really liked the character development in this book. I felt connected to each of the main characters, and even to some of the characters that only appeared once or twice, like the man who saves John when he is running from the town authorities. The descriptions Mr. Southwick uses to describe the characters make you feel as if you are actually face to face.  I liked the story line even though I sometimes have trouble relating to “monsters.” In this book the “monsters” seemed plausible and were scary. I read a lot at night when I can’t sleep, and can usually read on the couch, but with this book I had to read in bed with my husband next to me because it kind of freaked me out in the dark.

I liked that there was none to very little language in this book. I can’t remember any profane words, but there may have been one that I can’t remember. There is violence, and some of it is scary and graphic. There is a lot of “monster” killing, and fighting. There is a section that talks about human slavery, which I didn’t really like, and thought it was graphic, but it only lasts a page or two. There are deaths in this book, and it can be dark at times, but there are also light-hearted and tender moments. There is some romance going on with kissing. One part that was quite disturbing was when John had to listen to two of his girl friends (not girlfriends) be tortured. You find out that it was only physical, not sexual, but during the scene it is almost implied. That scene was disturbing.

Overall I really enjoyed the book. There is a theme going on about how people will choose to lose their freedoms in order to be safe. I know this argument goes on every day here in the United States of America, and it was interesting to see why these people chose to give up their freedoms, and then how they wished they had them back, but it was too late.

Rating: PG-13+ (almost R) No language, but violence and death. There is the scene where the women are being tortured and there is also a scene about human slavery. It is also scary. At least it had me freaked out during some scenes.

Recommendation: I’m going to have to say maybe 15 or 16 and up. My 9 year-old who has read all the “Harry Potter” books asked if he could read it and I said no. It’s not because of language, it’s just that there are some scenes that I think would be too much for that age group. I don’t want him reading about women being tortured and people being sold into slavery. I know that happened in history, but seeing it through Mr. Southwick’s descriptions made me cringe. And, I don’t want him coming into my room with nightmares of the “monsters.”

I highly recommend this book. I hope I didn’t make it seem too bad. It’s not, it’s just those couple of scenes. I loved it. I loved the tension, the scariness, the characters, the twists and turns, and the writing style.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

*Note* I originally published this review on 8/9/11, updated on 10/29/14 and 10/31/17.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 
  Ransom Riggs

“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of peculiar photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its decaying bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive.”
My Review:
Months ago my book group decided to read this book in October for Halloween. At that point I got on the library’s website and there was a very long waiting list for this book. I managed to get the book a few days before book group, which I was really excited about. Then I got sick. And I did nothing but read and sleep for two days. I missed book group, but I finished the book. I love the uniqueness of this book. I love that it’s based on real collections of old photos. When I started reading this book I didn’t realize that the photographs were real. These photos are old, and peculiar is definitely a good way to describe them! I enjoyed looking through the photos; that was one of my favorite parts of this book. The writing is well done; it is easy to read, flows well, and is interesting. There are twists and turns along the way that keep you turning pages. As you read you become involved in the lives of each of these different characters and you begin to care about them. You begin to be scared, happy, and worried about them. Jacob is a good kid. He witnessed a horrible scene and was thrown into a world that he didn’t even know existed. I liked him as a character and thought he was well written. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s a little dark, a bit depressing, and very peculiar, but at the same time it speaks of loyalty, friendship, and taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. 
Rating: PG-13+ (There is some profanity. There’s not a ton, but the words used are a little harsher than just the “normal” ones. There’s no “intimacy” besides the hint of romance and some almost-kissing. There is some violence. Animals are slaughtered and several characters die in graphic ways.)
Recommendation: 16 years-old and up. ( I have a 15 year-old son, and I didn’t feel comfortable with him reading that profanity, so I decided to make him wait a year or so longer. I know he hears profanity at school, but that doesn’t mean I feel comfortable having him read it.)


Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


“‘I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.’ A summer evening’s ghost stories, lonely insomnia in a moonlit Alpine room, and a runaway imagination–fired by philosophical discussions with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley about science, galvanism, and the origins of life–conspired to produce for Mary Shelley this haunting night specter. By morning, it had become the gem of her Romantic masterpiece, FRANKENSTEIN. Written in 1816 when she was only nineteen, Mary Shelley’s novel of ‘The Modern Prometheus’ chillingly dramatized the dangerous potential of life begotten upon a laboratory table. A frightening creation myth for our own time, FRANKENSTEIN remains one of the greatest horror stories ever written and is an undisputed classic of its kind.”

My Review:

I have read this book a few times, and I reread it today because I realized that I haven’t ever reviewed it, and I thought it would be perfect for Halloween. This is definitely a classic. I love the language and the rich vocabulary in this book. It does take awhile to get back into it, after reading many current novels, but I love it. Mary Shelley did a great job with this book. Although it is well known, the current trend is to call the monster Frankenstein, when in reality, it is the scientist that is named Frankenstein. The creature is never given a name, except for Fiend, Monster, and Creature. This book is morbid, if you think about it. And, even though technology may eventually be to where we could possibly create life, I hope we never do. The creature that Frankenstein creates is a very interesting character. He begins his life with hope and joy and innocence. The more humans that revile him, the more angry and fiendish he becomes. At times you feel sorry for him and at other times you are repulsed by him and his behavior. There are many human traits discussed in this book, and many of them are still with us today. This book is well written. The characters are very well developed and come to life on the page.

There are a few swear words, but they actually aren’t really used as swear words in the book. There is no “intimacy,” but there are several murders. There is also the ethics of giving life to a monster. I actually really do like this book, even though it is morbid.

Rating: PG 13+ (Several characters are murdered)

Recommendation: 14 and up

It’s Halloween

It’s Halloween by Jack Prelutsky
There are lots of children’s picture books for Halloween, but this one is fun because it’s a little longer and even has chapters! It’s great for the second/third graders who want to read something a little more than a picture book. It’s written in lyrical form, which is so fun, and it’s all about the kids on Halloween. There are ghosts and goblins, jack-o-lanterns and witches. There are some tricksters, some goblins, and even a scare or two. The illustrations are cute and fun, and it’s a story all the kids will love.
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone (Silent Read: End of first grade, second grade, third grade)

The Dark

The Dark by Lemony Snickey

I didn’t know Lemony Snicket wrote picture books until I picked this one up at the library. It’s a cute story about Laszlo, who is afraid of the dark. He knows that sometimes the dark hides in the closet or behind the shower curtain, but it is always hiding in the basement. Then, when night comes, the dark comes out of hiding and spreads out around the house. One night the dark visits Laszlo in his bedroom. What happens after that helps Laszlo to not be so afraid. It’s a well written story, it’s clever, and the illustrations are simple yet well done. This story would be great for a child who really is afraid of the dark, and it’s fun for Halloween as well. It has a good twist that teaches some valuable lessons.

I enjoyed this story, and my kids love it. I’m sure it is one of those books that we will check out and recheck out often.

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone

The Halloween Play

The Halloween Play by Felicia Bond
This is a cute little story. Roger’s school class is putting on a Halloween play. They practiced, sent out invites, and were ready to perform. Roger had an important part in this play and he was a little nervous. He had to wait a long time, and then it was finally his turn! This is a short book but it is cute and fun. The kids like it. Kids who have been involved with school performances will definitely relate. The illustrations are well done and tie the story together nicely. This is a fun book to add to your Halloween stack.
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone

[Book Review] The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book 
Neil Gaiman


“It takes a graveyard to raise a child. Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy–an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack–who has already killed Bod’s family.”

My Review:

I had never heard of this book until my book group decided to read it this month. I really didn’t know what to expect, and you know me, I do NOT read the backs of the books or summaries about the books I read, before I read them. I like to be surprised and I like to be taken on a journey. Well, this book did both. It definitely surprised me, and I was definitely taken an an incredible journey. I was a little hesitant about reading it when a family is murdered on the first page. The descriptions of the murders and the murderer have enough detail that you know it’s awful and you know you never want to meet the man Jack, but thank goodness it doesn’t go into too many gory and gruesome details. It’s bad, don’t get me wrong, but this is a middle-grader book, so it could be worse. From a mother’s point of view, this part was horrible to read. Thinking about that baby made me sick to my stomach. And then even when he was out of immediate danger, really thinking about the logistics of what was happening still made me sick to my stomach. Luckily, the characters in this book save the day. As the reader you know that the baby is safe and that he will somehow be taken care of, and that is enough to immerse you in this world that Mr. Gaiman has created. The characters are so well developed. There is a hint of mystery to all of them, especially Silas, and it is just enough to make you wonder……Mr. and Mrs. Owens, Josiah Worthington, Caius Pompeius, Mother Slaughter, Scarlett, Mr. Pennyworth, Liza Hempstock, and Miss Lupescu each have their own places in this story, and they fit perfectly. This book is written and crafted very well. It does kind of jump from one random situation to another sometimes, but it doesn’t take away too much from the story and it’s not difficult to figure out what is going on. I really enjoyed this book. It’s so different and unique, and so well crafted, that it’s hard to put down. The graveyard becomes a well known and familiar place, and I will definitely think about graveyards differently when I pass by them now. The cemeteries around me are a little different because they aren’t too old or creepy, but I went to Boston years ago and went to a graveyard that had a couple of the Founding Fathers’ gravestones in it, and it was a little more spooky.

There isn’t any language or “intimacy” in this book, but there is a family that is murdered, and there is a murderer on the loose that wants to murder again. It is a graveyard, so there are ghouls and ancient scary guys. There are a few situations that may be scary to some readers. I love how Mr. Gaiman puts all the different elements and characters together; his use of language is very creative.

Rating: PG+ (A family is murdered and the murderer is on the loose, graveyard characters and situations that could be scary to some readers.)

Recommendation: 6th grade and up (I would not go younger than 11 years-old)

[Book Review] T. Rex Trick-or-Treats by Lois G. Grambling

T. Rex Trick-or-Treats 
Lois G. Grambling

My boys were crazy about dinosaurs when they were little. We have tubs of dinosaurs. They don’t get played with very often any more, and it’s crazy, but I miss it. This book is cute, but I think I love it more because of the sentimental value. It reminds me of those crazy-fun dinosaur days. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and so much fun. The characters’ expressions are great! The fonts are fun and different, and there are even different colors! I love the idea of the book that T. Rex wants to be something scary for Halloween. Hahaha…….is there anything scarier than a T-Rex dinosaur? T. Rex’s friends try and help, but they end up taking all his ideas. So what does T. Rex end up being for Halloween? You’ll need to read it to find out! The kids love this book! I love that there are repetitive phrases and words that even little kids can say, and I love that it reminds me of my cute little boys who loved dinosaurs. Even though they are big now (13 and 11), they will still sit with me and listen when I read this story. My girls (9 and 6) enjoy this book too! This Halloween book is definitely a keeper!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone!

Skeleton Hiccups

Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler
“What’s the best way to help a skeleton get over his bone-rattling teeth-chattering belly-laughing hiccups?”
This book is so fun. We have had it for a few years, and every Halloween this is the one the kids want me to read the most. We read it over and over. The poor skeleton and his friend ghost try everything to rid of his hiccups, and nothing works. When you’re reading it you have to say, “Hic, hic, hic” many times, but I usually make the kids say it, and they think that’s fun. The illustrations are great and well done. My kids love this story. It’s different and fun for Halloween. 
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone