Monday, September 11, 2023

REVIEW: Leigh Howard and the Ghosts of Simmons-Pierce Manor by Shawn M. Warner

Leigh Howard and the Ghosts of Simmons-Pierce Manor
My Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Leigh Howard is simply a wreck after the murder of her parents sent her on a downhill spiral. Orphaned, she's sent to live with distant cousins at Simmons-Pierce Manor, a large sprawling estate, where she's welcomed into the family by her "aunt" and "uncle", her ebullient cousin Myra, and an ancient ghost with a personality disorder. Unfortunately, not much is known about the circumstances surrounding Leigh's parents murder, and as Leigh struggles with her grief, she's determined to find the answers herself since the investigation seems to be going nowhere. But just what can a 16 year girl with a mental health condition accomplish on her own... or with the help of her new friends? The answer might surprise you!

I simply had to read this after all the fuss, so here's my thoughts:

The story itself was interesting and entertaining! It had a good premise and strong characters. I appreciated that Leigh was headstrong and determined, despite being a bit emo due to her seemingly insurmountable depression, and her cousin Myra was the perfect counterpoint to that. The relationship between Leigh and Myra was sweet and loving, with Myra being a loyal companion to Leigh from the start.

The ghost, or ghosts in this case, also made for quite a bit of fun. Especially Little Bodie who was as mischievous as any 11-year-old boy.

It started off a bit boring and cliché, and the writing style was a bit hard to get into. Perhaps it was because I'd just finished a book by Sarah Waters prior to this, her writing style so very emotive. But here, I felt the author was continually telling—she saw, she felt, it was, it looked like, etc.— instead of showing or describing. But alas, this is the hallmark of many newly published authors, so I attempted to overlook this when I could. Hopefully Mr. Warner can tighten up his style as he continues to publish because he has a good story here; the writing of it could just use a bit of polish.

While I hate to dwell on the negative, I also didn't think that Leigh really sounded like a 16 year old girl, especially one who just attempted suicide. I believe this is the author, an older gentleman, attempting to project how he thinks a 16 year old girl thinks and talks, but he was pretty far off the mark in many respects. Some of her thoughts sounded as if she was 20 something, while others like she was 12. Again, I attempted to overlook it as I read.

I believe this book should've come with a trigger warning. Suicide is a very serious mental health issue, and I don't think it was handled properly in this story at all, kind of blown off as if it's something every 16 year old has done or attempted to. At the very least, a warning at the front of the book and a public service message at the end with a number to call. As this book is directed to teens and young adults, the author needs to keep in mind that there are impressionable young minds reading it too.

Overall, I'm glad I read this, despite my misgivings stated above. Every author has to start somewhere and I believe this is a promising start, and that with proper guidance, Mr. Warner's fanciful imagination can conjure up some great stories!

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