A Haunted, Historical House (Tailored Book Recommendations book reviews)
Updated: Mar 19
WHAT IS TBR (TAILORED BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS)?/HOW I FOUND IT
I was introduced to this service by one of my favorite Youtubers Kayla from BooksandLala. Essentially, you fill out a survey about your favorite books and what you like/look for in books, etc. They then match you with a bibliologist (mine this time was Aurora) who recommends you three or four books to read.
I will be in-depth reviewing the books I was recommended on this round with Ophie's Ghosts being the one I'm reviewing here. I will link my other reviews of the service at the bottom. I will also link the service (I have no affiliation with them and don't profit from this even if you yourself sign up for the service. I am just a paying customer like everyone else).
WHAT IS OPHIE'S GHOSTS ABOUT?
This middle grade historical fantasy/mystery set in the early 1920s is about a young girl (the titular Ophie) who has the ability to see ghosts. After the tragic loss of her father she and her mother move to Pittsburgh where they are employed at a creepy old manor full of ghosts.
CHARACTERS The titular protagonist is a lonely child who longs to return to school and loathes working at Daffodil Manor. This, and her love for reading, gives us the idea that she is a studious child. Her desire to help the ghosts despite the danger it poses to her, meanwhile, displays her kindness and compassion. She's a good character, but the novel is a lot for her to carry and she does it largely by herself.
Ophie has a lot of relationships within the novel, but they really just scratch the surface which is a shame given some of them had great potential. Ophie's relationship with her mother is stilted as her mom is distant from her grief. Her relationship with Mrs. Caruthers, her employer, is largely negative as the older woman is crotchety and racist. There was potential in a mentor/mentee relationship with her great-aunt Rose who also sees ghosts but it was wasted. Even her friendship with the ghost Clara was underdeveloped.
The thing I most applaud Ireland for is that she didn't gloss over tough but relevant to the time the novel takes place in topics. The novel's protagonist loses her father to an act of racial violence, and her great-aunt and late great-uncle are former enslaved persons (a term I learned from Not Your Mama's History, a Youtube channel you absolutely MUST checkout). Additionally, there are racial slurs used by white characters against black characters. These may make the reader uncomfortable, but they are undeniably a part of U.S. history, however terrible. If we don't acknowledge them and teach children about them then how can we ever hope to be better? A book like this might inspire a young white reader to want to learn more about racism and how they can be better accomplices (a term I learned from The Black Friend by Frederick Joseph, a nonfiction must read for my fellow white people) to POC which is a good, positive outcome.
The novel is told from the third person perspective of Ophie. The story is interspersed with chapters which utilize anthropomorphism in which various locations throughout the novel are given their own perspective. This is something I very rarely see done and I found it rather charming. It gave a lighter ambiance to an otherwise somber novel.
The novel plays with genre in that it is historical (taking place in Pittsburgh in the early 1920s), a mystery (what happened to the ghost Clara/how did she die?), and a fantasy (Ophie sees ghosts). The only thing I have to compare it to is Splinters of Scarlet which combined the same genres. As a writer myself (and a reader too) I always admire authors who can so seamlessly mesh genres together. It's a great way for someone to expand outside of genres they're comfortable because they know that they already enjoy at least some aspect of the novel.
One critique I have of the world building is that I didn't quite understand how the ghosts functioned. Some seemed to be tied/drawn to a certain location, but at the same time they exercised at least a degree of free will. Others, meanwhile, were stuck repeating the same activity over and over. I wondered what distinguished the two because it wasn't clear.
FINAL THOUGHTS/WAS THIS A SUCCESSFUL RECOMMENDATION?
I specifically mentioned wanting to explore more middle grade but not knowing where to begin so I was pleased to see a middle grade among my recommendations. It has cemented for me that middle grade is an age genre that I want to continue to explore in books. This one was almost as good as the first one TBR recommended me. The writing and genre mixing was something I rarely see and it addressed difficult topics in a way that didn't sugarcoat for its young audience. All these things made it a book that I myself would recommend to readers of all ages.
FINAL RATING: 4 ⭐️
My First Review of the Service: https://www.haleysbookhaven.com/post/i-used-the-same-book-recommendation-service-as-my-favorite-youtuber-tbr-round-1
My Review of The First Book of Round 2 (Lobizona): https://www.haleysbookhaven.com/post/a-whimsical-tale-of-werewolves-and-witches-tbr-round-2-part-one
Not Your Mama's History (Channel mentioned in review): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEVpwIpE7PpD2rt1SGtAkJw
The Black Friend (my review): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4139516424?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
Splinters of Scarlet (my review): https://www.haleysbookhaven.com/post/enchant%C3%A9e-vs-splinters-of-scarlet-which-historical-fantasy-is-right-for-you
BooksandLala's First Video on the Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUN1Zx2N86M&t=1094s
BooksandLala's Second Video on the Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUeIHULoMQ8&t=35s
The Service (TBR): https://mytbr.co/dashboard/tbr-profile/
Support Black Owned Businesses: https://www.websiteplanet.com/blog/support-black-owned-businesses/
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (Available 24/7)/https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for free (Available 24/7)/https://www.crisistextline.org/