Right away - loved the cover. If you see it in person, the cover actually reflects light and looks like it's glowing. The drawing is a perfect likeness to Olive, the main character. Each illustration is a mix of creepiness and adorability.
I am amazed by Jacquline West and her ability to pack in multiple story lines, adventure and several twists with a few heapfuls of angst in 241 pages. She tells the tale of Olive Dunwoody moving into her family's first home - the McMartin mansion. This is no ordinary creepy old house - it's a keeper of secret portals disguised as paintings. Olive discovers a pair of enchanted spectacles that allow the paintings to come to life when she looks through them and even enters them. Olive meets a distraught boy, Morton, in a painting of her own street and works to free him. Olive battles the evil that lurks in the paintings in a way that parallels Christianity. In order to explain that comparison I'd have to spoil the story so I'll just leave the ending for you to discover.
I loved Olive's spunkiness in this story. When she battles evil old Aldous McMartin, she stubbornly tells him, "I am not afraid of you," and later "Is that supposed to be scary? Because it isn't." Even when he induces the feeling of spiders covering her body, causing her stomach to lurch, she simply tells herself This isn't real, this isn't real, this isn't real. In today's world of catastrophes and powers that be, who wouldn't want to be like Olive?
The best part of the story was how she threw in twists early into the story line as well as in the middle and end. The story never sagged and was full of surprises. Olive's predicament is resolved, but not the entire big picture, leaving the door wide open for a sequel but not to the extreme that it weakens the book. The only thing I didn't care and took my by surprise was the dark elements of witches discussed by the cats. The sequel gives a hint to potions and such. I may decide not to read the sequel if it's based on dark arts, but will be anxious to check out any works by Jacqueline West.
I would recommend this book for upper-middle grade because of the scary elements.
I give this book ***** 5 stars