There are several things that a book reviewer covers in a book: Plot, setting. characters, conflict/resolution, style, and grammar. Some books can receive quite high marks even if it fails in one area IF the rest of the areas are strong. Some books can receive an okay rating if it doesn't reach expectations in two areas but is strong in the other areas. Naturally this is subjective. After all, you come to this website to see what I think. If you generally agree with my assessments, you will return. I don't generally break each of these categories out in a review but I do stress areas where the book succeeds and give warning where the book fails. Today, however, I am going to break down 'Secrets of Ghosts' by Mardi Orlando because I think it will be helpful to both you, as the reader, and to the author.
A Secret Society An Abandoned Church And a Shadow Brought together by their mysterious gifts, seven teenagers have been stranded in no-time by their Secret Society. In an abandoned church they find a gathering of ghosted orphans, trapped for over one hundred years. To free these ghosts they will need to discover each of their identities, and to do that, this group of misfits will need to face the secrets that have haunted their own lives. It is the only way they will survive. And time is running out. A haunting fantasy, Secrets of Ghosts will intrigue those of us who like to seek amongst the shadows.
About the story:
Seven teenagers with very special abilities find themselves on a bus bound for what they think is a special school. Little do they know they are headed for a place lost in time. Worse, Madame Glizsnort, who greeted them on the bus, tells them nothing of their real mission and in fact abandons them soon after they arrive. With Santu as their impromptu leader, the team begins to understand that they have to save ghosts who are caught in this land of timelessness. Meanwhile, the team is forced to fight the great shadow which threatens them all.
Going from strongest to weakest attributes, let's look at Orlando's 'Secret of Ghosts'.
Setting: The setting was a perfect fit for this story. The church and graveyard as well as the original town was developed completely. Good job!
Style: I enjoyed the style of writing so much that it was hard to put the book down. I found the back and forth between present day and the past especially interesting. Her way of turning out a sentence, paragraph and chapter had me reading when I should have been doing other things. I liked the way the history eventually ties into the present in more subtle ways as well as into the major plot line. When I figured that out, I was waiting to see how the fire and the bombing happened. It was a nice touch. I read this on a Kindle which is not friendly to newspaper clippings and graphs. I missed so much of Orlando's interesting side points, which I regret. Orlando does tend to write too many words when fewer would do but then I tend to like a good, full read. Others may not.
Characters: Orlando does a good job of introducing us to a wide range of characters with enough back story for us to understand them. I cared about most of them, particularly Jake. But the twins were little more than important background for me. Still, we tend to attach ourselves to characters we identify with and I believe other readers will find other characters such as Blaze and Daffodil much to their liking.
Plot: This plot is quite interesting but slightly disjointed. While I think the plot deserves at least a 4.5, I found the execution weak. There are too many questions with too few answers. Answer those questions and eliminate what seems to be a few continuity errors and the plot becomes unique and great. But there are just too many holes that are never filled in for me. How did the teenagers get on the bus? How did they 'just return home' without questions? If Madame Glizsnort had the power to bring them together in this place, why couldn't she do what needed to be done by herself? How did she bring them together anyway? And where did Daffodil get all that stuff when so much was taken from them before they got on the bus?
Conflict/Resolution: Each small conflict was handled well with a resolution that left me feeling complete.The overall conflict was a little weak mostly because there were too many unanswered questions. Why these teenagers, why their particular abilities, why not Madame Glizsnot, and where do they go after this? I felt the main conflict needed more substance, more conflict, and more resolution.
Grammar: While some may lump grammar with style, for me they are two very different things. Grammar refers to the execution of the written word - spelling, proper tense, proper word usage, and correct punctuation. Style refers to the way words are slipped together to form an idea, plot, or character then locked together to elicit an emotion from the reader. This is another weak point of this book. Yes, we are getting used to seeing errors even in some top publishers' books. A function of the electronic medium I fear. However, this book had just too many of them. A good line by line editor would have caught many of them.
These the major things I look for in a book. The last things are a bit more subjective. How did the book make me feel? Did I feel satisfied at the end of the book? Did the book keep me engaged and if it did to what extent? And the very biggest factor in making a book a top notch book; are there scenes or characters that stay with me long after the book is finished? Now you know what goes into my reviews and what goes into most good reviewers' pot to develop the opinions they dish out.
Now to my recommendation. Frequent readers know I don't assign a set ranking. I rather like to suggest who I think might like the story. For this book, readers who are into teenage protagonists and the paranormal may find this book interesting. If you are more interested in the characters and the paranormal than the grammar and complete resolution, you may like this book.
One final thought. A book that I can't read past the first 50 pages is a '1' and a book I finish only because it was promised is a '2'. All other books range from a weak 3 to 5. The only exception to this is when a book is good all the way through but dies in the conflict/resolution phase or lies to the reader or contains huge plot holes. 'Secrets of Ghosts' would rank a weak 3 though Orlando has a great imagination and only has to learn to execute her plot better and find a good line editor. It will be interesting to see how she develops as an author.