Beginning January 1, 2013

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Monday, October 29, 2012

First Frost by Liz DeJesus

First Frost by Liz DeJesus
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (274 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Fairytales aren’t real…yeah…that’s exactly what Bianca thought. She was wrong.

For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.”

Gathered within museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist.

She’s about to find out how wrong she is.

Bianca is about to find out just how much magic has already changed her life.

I’m a big fan of the original fairytales, so when I read the blurb for First Frost, I knew I had to read this book. Once I started reading, I was immediately swept up into Ms. DeJesus’ world of magic. I especially love the concept of the magical world existing alongside the contemporary world. The references to current events really anchor the story in reality and make the magical aspects of this tale feel realistic.

Bianca is a very realistic character who came to life in my mind almost immediately. I could clearly picture Bianca struggling with the vacuum cleaner and longing for a life outside the family business. Bianca’s world is turned upside down when she learns that not only is magic real, but she just might have some in her blood. I do think that Bianca accepted the idea of magic and fairytales too easily. One minute she is certain that nothing in her mother’s museum is real. The next minute, she’s completely willing to cast aside her previous convictions and embrace a strange new world. I would have expected Bianca to be more skeptical before finally accepting the truth of it all. However, I will concede that the pacing of the story doesn’t allow Bianca much time to adjust. Before she knows it, Bianca and her best friend Ming are swept up in a quest battling a witch with a devious agenda.

I really enjoyed watching Bianca’s relationship with Terrance blossom. When they first meet each other in the magical world of Everafter, the attraction between them is immediately apparent. Terrance is hesitant to become involved with Bianca not just because they come from two different worlds, but also because he has something in his family history that he’s deeply ashamed of. When Bianca learns Terrance’s secret, will her feelings for him change?

Terrance’s best friend, Prince Ferdinand, is definitely the most amusing character in First Frost. Although the prince is the stereotypical self-absorbed royal, he injects some much needed humor into a very serious story. I found myself smiling and laughing nearly every time he opened his mouth.

I’m very intrigued with the ending of First Frost. Nearly all the loose ends were wrapped up when Ms. DeJesus threw in a wonderful twist at the last minute that had me thinking about Bianca long after I finished reading. I’m hoping that Ms. DeJesus writes a sequel to First Frost because I’d love to read more about Bianca and her adventures.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to read First Frost. Ms. DeJesus has taken classic fairytales and given them a modern feel while remaining true to the original stories. Anyone longing for a little magic and adventure should definitely pick up a copy of First Frost today.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (269 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

The Age of Miracles is a story that grabs you from chapter one and has you in its hold until the very last word. It’s told in the first person from the viewpoint of Julia, an eleven year old girl who is not only dealing with growing into a young woman and all the problems that come with it, but also the breakdown of her parent’s once idyllic marriage.

These dilemmas in themselves make for a wonderful read, but this story is more than just a coming of age novel because these two problems are interwoven with yet a bigger one. It quickly becomes a sci-fi novel about what happens to us, society, and the world when the earth slows.

Ms. Thompson Walker did a wonderful job showing us what would happen if the days and nights grew longer. Not only its impact on the environment but relationships with one another, neighbors, and society as a whole.

Each character is well crafted and overall this makes for a very compelling read. Although it’s listed as a young adult novel, (and I know lots of young adults will love it), don't let the listing put you off reading it if you're an adult, or at least borrowing it from your offspring. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Case of Fatal Attraction by K. Dawn Byrd

A Case of Fatal Attraction by K. Dawn Byrd
Zoe Mack Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (61 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Zoe is thrilled when she lands her first paying case until she learns she'll be going undercover at a local blood bank. The fact that she faints at the sight of blood makes working there more than difficult. Who would steal blood and what would they do with it? Is her creepy vampire-like coworker using it in a cult ritual?

When Zoe learns that Nate will be working undercover with her, she's overjoyed. She soon finds that the gorgeous Rikki's attraction to Nate is too distracting and considers throwing him off the case. Zoe questions his loyalty even as Nate proclaims that she's the only girl for him.

Nothing is as it seems and Zoe has no clue who can be trusted. Who's stealing the blood? Is it the director? The vampire-like guy with the fangs who wears all black? Or, her gorgeous co-worker who has a thing for Nate?

Can Zoe really be objective where Nate is concerned?

Zoe is thrilled to have her first official case until she finds out she’ll be facing one of her worst fears: blood. On top of that, Rikki, one of Zoe’s prime suspects, flirts shamelessly with Nate. Nate doesn’t think Rikki is guilty. However, Zoe is sure Rikki is up to no good, but is her judgment clouded by jealousy? Can Zoe overcome her fear and remain objective long enough to solve the case before someone gets hurt?

I truly enjoyed getting to know Zoe in the first book and reading the second installment was like visiting an old friend. Zoe is still the same spirited girl who dreams of being a detective. With her grandpa opening a detective agency, Zoe is one step closer to making that dream a reality. Zoe knows she’ll have to work hard to build up a reputation, and I admire the fact that she perseveres with her investigation at the blood bank even though she is terrified of blood. She’s one tough cookie. Zoe also takes a few more risks this time around, which I imagine is a necessary step forward in her chosen career. However, there is one time in particular when Zoe took a serious risk that had me shaking my head and racing through the pages wondering what would happen next.

Zoe and Nate’s relationship continues to blossom in this story, but the road they travel has a few bumps. Zoe’s jealousy of Rikki is completely understandable and makes her an even more realistic character. Zoe isn’t afraid to call Nate out when he’s made a mistake, but sometimes she comes off a bit harsh. However, Zoe is also mature enough to realize when she’s being unreasonable. Nate is more than a match for Zoe’s strong personality. He listens to what she has to say, but I like the fact that he stands up for himself as well. The honest communication between Zoe and Nate keeps their relationship free of misunderstandings.

I truly pity Zoe where her parents are concerned. Her father seems like a nice man, but her mother is a snob in the truest sense of the word. Zoe’s mother strongly disapproves of Zoe’s relationship with Nate and makes it clear she doesn’t think Nate is good enough. This leads to a brief, intense, and heartbreaking confrontation between Zoe and her mother. It would be easy for Zoe to simply acquiesce to her mother’s demands, but Zoe is nineteen and more than capable of making her own decisions. Zoe demonstrates amazing strength of character when she stands up to her mother without disrespecting her. She’s certainly a young woman of admirable principles.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Case of Fatal Attraction. While this is the second book in the Zoe Mack series, it is a gripping romantic suspense that can stand on its own. I’m definitely looking forward to solving more mysteries with Zoe in the future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wisteria by Bisi Leyton

Wisteria by Bisi Leyton
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Dystopian Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (191 pgs)
Age recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

Sixteen year old Wisteria Kuti has two options—track the infected around the Isle of Smythe or leave the only known safe haven and face a world infested with flesh eating biters. But even with well-armed trackers, things go wrong and Wisteria ends up alone facing certain death, until she is rescued by the mysterious Bach. Uninfected, Bach is able to survive among the hordes of living dead.

Eighteen year old Bach, from a race known as The Family, has no interest in human affairs. He was sent here to complete his Great Walk and return home as a man—as a Sen Son. The Family regard humans as Dirt People, but Bach is drawn to this Terran girl, whom he has never seen before, but somehow knows.

Hunted by flesh eaters, cannibals, and the mysterious blood thirsty group called Red Phoenix, Wisteria and Bach make their way back to the Isle of Smythe, a community built on secrets and lies.

I was shocked to find a ‘glossary of terms’ before the opening of a work of fiction, but must admit that Wisteria’s glossary is intriguing in and of itself. Just a quick glance through has you imagining all sorts of things about the coming story.

Wisteria brings us into a whole new realm. We step across the threshold into a completely unpredictable tale. There are points that we recognize–it’s a contemporary city with ordinary motorways and the like. The pharmacy, school and sidewalks make this a place we can visualize. Other points, like ‘biters’ with their faint echo of vampire/zombie-ism and the Isle of Smythe are new ideas and places invented for our travels.

For teenager Wisteria Kuti, its important to learn survival skills; she joins a patrol, and even moves up to tracker. Teams are important – friends and family all rely on one another in a near-professional way, just to stay alive. Even with the endless fear, precautions, and hopes, a lot about Wisteria is still a normal teenager. Other kids are other kids, and it's nice to befriend another kid in need, like Amanda. While nothing in life is ‘normal’ it’s nice to see Wisteria still has hopes of the normal. When she finds herself in need – a whole other community comes to her aid. Bach is a wonderful alternate type person, and .... but I don’t want any spoilers here!

It’s enough to say that this is a super read. The action is fast and frequently suspenseful. Conversation is believable – making the whole story more believable.  I do think fantasy fans will enjoy this book.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Curse of King Ramesses II by Victoria Roder

The Curse of King Ramesses II by Victoria Roder
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (57 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

One fateful night, Mia and her best friend Jody stow away in the Bradford Museum to investigate the mysterious mummy exhibit from the Cairo Museum. Rumors of the Curse of King Ramesses II have surfaced. It's believed that due to the king's tyranny the Egyptian people vowed to rise up against him. In revenge, Ramesses II vowed he would never rest until all of the perpetrators against him and their ancestors were brought to justice.

Now, spend the night in the dark, deserted museum. Experience the roar of the dinosaurs, the cold blast of the arctic, and always run past the wall of skulls. Be prepared for a night of heart-racing action as the girls dare to solve the ancient Egyptian curse of King Ramesses II. Will Mia and Jody survive the investigation or will the mummified king's revenge be fulfilled?

There’s something a little creepy about displaying mummies in museums. How can the dead find rest under fluorescent lights and the curious stares of the living? Mia is just as uneasy around mummies as am I and she’s sure something funny is happening on the third floor of the museum where her mother works.

Thirteen is a tough age. It’s too old to get away with acting like a child but is not quite old enough to blend seamlessly into the world of adults. One often desperately wants to grow up but does not yet have the life experience or wisdom to understand things the way you will in a few short years. Jody and Mia were written so realistically that I experienced a flood of memories from that time in my life.

The mystery of what is actually happening with King Ramsesses II’s mummy and personal possessions drew this reader even deeper into the plot. Every chapter introduced new clues and I found myself quickly discarding old theories and adopting new ones. The ending turned out not to be much of a surprise for me but it was well-written for the age group for which this story is intended.

I would have preferred to see a more detailed explanation of how Mia and Jody evaded the security system in the museum overnight. It seems unlikely that two teenagers with no special training could pull something like this off. Wouldn’t most modern security systems be equipped to automatically notify the proper authorities when unexpected movements or sounds are recorded?

Have you ever wondered what happens after hours at your favorite institution? The Curse of King Ramsessses II is a playful romp through the Bradford Museum and is the perfect book for anyone wanting a peek at what might be going on behind those velvet ropes.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Michaela’s Gift by Cordelia Dinsmore

Michaela’s Gift by Cordelia Dinsmore
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (135 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Michaela Cochran still believes in enchanted mountains and fairytale castles, but her happily-ever-after will never happen if she can’t convince her mother to accept the magical gift Michaela has inherited.

Michaela Cochran and her family make the trip to her father’s ancestral home every year, but this year is special. Michaela is now twelve, the age when every girl in the family receives a special gift. When Aunt Sharon explains that Michaela’s gift is a magical ability to bring one of her drawings to life, Michaela begins making plans. What she wants most is a castle high on the mountain, where her family can live together. But if she can’t figure out how to resolve the growing hostility between herself and her mother, her gift is meaningless.

“Twelve is a magical age for every girl. You’re no longer a little girl, but you’re not quite a woman.” Michaela is just as mystified by this process as everyone else who has been through puberty. She has one foot planted in the innocence of childhood and is stepping into the next phase of life with just a little trepidation.

It isn’t easy to create a character who personifies this period in life without portraying her in an overly sentimental or emotional light but Ms. Dinsmore struck the perfect balance with Michaela. I truly enjoyed getting to know this character as she unravels a mystery that is at the heart of the disharmony she feels with her mother.

What surprised me the most about this book was how much I liked the secondary characters as well. Her older brother Sean provides a few instances of much-needed comic relief and her warm relationship with her grandparents and Aunt Sharon gave me glimpses of certain aspects of Michaela’s personality that her nuclear family probably doesn’t see regularly.

I was confused when one of the characters has an abrupt change of mind about something that was a repeated source of conflict earlier in the plot. Readers weren’t given a great deal of information about why or how this took place and as much as I enjoyed seeing the matter resolved I would have preferred to see more time spent discussing what made this individual change her mind.

Michaela’s Gift reminded me of all of the emotions and experiences I encountered for the first time at twelve. Even though my adventures were not nearly as exciting as Michaela’s my inner preteen felt a sincere kinship with her. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in seeing the world through the eyes of a twelve-year-old whether it is as a reader living through that age for the first time or someone who wishes to relive old memories.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Wrong Sword: Book One by T.M. Mendelssohn

The Wrong Sword: Book One by T.M. Mendelssohn
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy
Length: Full Length (280 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

For a thousand years, Excalibur has been the sword of heroes. Unfortunately, its new owner isn’t one.

Ever since he arrived in Paris, Henry the Rat has made a pretty good living selling “magic” swords to gullible knights. But when Henry sells one to Geoffrey Plantagenet, brother to King Richard, his happy days are over for good. Geoffrey forces Henry into a dangerous, uncomfortable quest for the most famous magic sword of all time, Excalibur, even though Henry is certain that it’s just a myth.

Then Henry actually finds Excalibur - and his troubles really start: For Excalibur is not just the sword of heroes…it’s also the sword that won’t SHUT UP. It communicates with its owner, it knows what kind of owner it deserves, and Henry doesn’t even come close.

To keep Excalibur and the world safe from the appalling Geoffrey, Henry will have to masquerade as a knight, crash a royal wedding, rescue a princess, break a siege, penetrate the secrets of the Perilous Brotherhood, and find Excalibur’s rightful bearer, all while trying to reach an accommodation with a snotty, aristocratic hunk of steel that mocks him, takes over his body, and keeps trying to turn him into the one thing he hates most…a hero.

Henry is the most reluctant hero in the world.

Henry is a very interesting character. He’s been living on the streets practically his whole life due to the tragic destruction of his home when he was a very young child. Right from the start, it is clear that Henry is smart and extremely clever. Unfortunately, he uses his talents to devise schemes to cheat others out of their money. I couldn’t help but wonder what Henry could achieve if he put his mind to better use.

Henry goes through some interesting changes as the story progresses. At first, he is all about his own survival. Though he has a small group of people he cares about, his own personal well being remains his primary concern. Once Henry finds Excalibur, his perspective gradually begins to change. Bearing Excalibur comes with all sorts of responsibility that Henry didn’t ask for, and I had serious doubts as to whether Henry could handle them. He seemed to want nothing more than to get rid of Excalibur as quickly as possible. When it becomes clear that Henry needs to keep the sword out of the hands of men who would misuse it, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Henry is up to the task. Underneath the guise of the slippery street rat, Henry is a good man who ultimately chooses to do the right thing.

Excalibur is also a vivid character. Not only does the sword have magical properties, but she has a very strong and opinionated personality as well. To say that Henry and Excalibur clash is a huge understatement. Excalibur wants Henry to be a hero, and Henry has no interest. Their snippy banter is very entertaining. Though they had a rough beginning, by the end of the story Henry and Excalibur had grown on each other and were well on their way to becoming friends.

Henry meets a lot of other interesting people in his travels, but none of them are nearly as developed as Henry. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed following Henry on his mission, it would have been nice to get to know some of the secondary characters better, especially Percy, a knight who devotes himself to Henry’s service. Percy’s character seems very one dimensional at first, but Mr. Mendelssohn hints that there is more to Percy than meets the eye. Perhaps I’ll learn more about Percy in the following books in the series?

One of the things I like most about The Wrong Sword is that the action is very believable. Henry has absolutely no experience in combat and yet he finds himself wielding a powerful sword and fighting against Geoffrey and his army. Henry doesn’t always succeed in his efforts and he gets himself into plenty of scrapes. However, no matter how many times Henry gets knocked down, but he always gets back up and tries again. This gives Henry’s adventures a realistic feel and made it easy for me to immerse myself in the story.

I also enjoyed the tone of The Wrong Sword. It is a medieval adventure yet it has a distinctive modern flavor displayed mainly in the attitudes and language of the characters. I found this to be a very interesting combination. It is clear that Mr. Mendelssohn definitely has fun playing with history and the legend of Excalibur.

The Wrong Sword is a wonderful twist on the legend of Excalibur. It is filled with enough magic, humor, and danger to satisfy the most adventurous spirit. Fans of young adult fantasy should certainly give The Wrong Sword a try.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Becoming the Butlers by Penny Jackson

Becoming the Butlers by Penny Jackson
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (142 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Quince

When Rachel Harris's mother runs off to Spain with the super of their New York City apartment building, Rachel's life takes a bizarre turn. Her eccentric father becomes obsessed with George Vasquez, the man who stole his wife: He wears George's clothes, he shaves with his razor, and, to top it off, he moves George's family into their apartment. The poignant and often funny journey Rachel and her father take to Madrid to hunt down her mother further cements her desire to shake her more than unusual family situation and find a new identity.

And who has a more perfect life than Olivio and Edwin Butler? So gorgeous and popular, they don't really have friends, just hangers-on. And though Rachel doesn't remember ever having spoken a word to them, her resolve becomes clear. She must find a way into the Butlers' home and into their family.

In this marvelously compassionate first novel, Penny Jackson deftly depicts a young girl's search for family - and her discovery that family is a state of mind.

Can a destroyed family be replaced with a new, perfect one? If wrecked car can, then a family surely can as well. Following this idea, author Penny Jackson showed that the other people also have their problems. And that even if they seem perfect, their life may not be.

I really like to read straight contemporary YA novels in which the author is dealing with the serious issues (e.g. dysfunctional families, bullying, being different, etc.). I also like the books that have strong and intelligent heroine. Becoming the Butlers had all of the above mentioned. The main character is fourteen-year-old Rachel Harris with whom I empathize through the story. Her parents were always a little bit eccentric and not very happy with their lives. Because of the wrong decisions they made in the past Rachel suddenly found herself in the situation where she was the one who was acting mature, while her parents continued to act like selfish and spoiled little kids. I really liked her proactive approach in trying to resolve the problems and the conclusions that she reached in the end.

Unfortunately Becoming the Butlers, also has a few problems. The author raised a lot of issues, but some of them were not resolved while, on the other hand those resolved ones were resolved too easily. In both cases what was missing is the process, which left the story with a few loose ends and made the happy end a bit unrealistic.

Regardless of these shortcomings, the author succeeded to follow the main idea of the book. The characters grew and changed, and in the end they became better versions of themselves. Although the issues raised here were difficult ones (alcoholism, dysfunctional family, child negligence) this is not a dark book and the story flows nicely. All in all, Becoming the Butlers was a satisfying read that I would recommend to all of you who like straight contemporary YA books.

Final Note: the first edition of this book was published in 1990, this is not a revised version, and because of that contain some scenes that some readers may find unbelievable, like for example, smoking on the plane.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

We’re Done by Judy Irwin

We’re Done by Judy Irwin
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (90 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rated: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

What if it turns out that YOU'RE the bully - and you didn't know it?

Things aren't going very well for thirteen-year-old Luke Mitchell. He's been kicked out of his posh private school, Heyworth Academy; his best friend Jon has just dumped him; and the tough guys at his new school have chosen him for their next target.

For a guy who used to be the king of the campus, it's hard to adjust. His upside-down world at Carlyle gives Luke a whole new way of looking at things. Can he recover from losing his school and his best friend, and find new friends and a way to fit in at Carlyle?

Luke Mitchell sees himself as a funny guy. Really funny – and he’s quite sure other people find him funny as well. He’s also star athlete at Heyworth Academy; a top swimmer, and captain of the soccer team.  What's not to like?

We realize, long before he does, that he’d be described somewhat differently than he thinks of himself. Even his friends know he’s a jerk, how come he doesn’t?

Irwin’s character Luke isn’t really all that likeable right off the bat, but… somehow, we readers can’t quite stop ourselves from reading more. He’s one of those rare main characters who we don’t want to like – yet – we know something is going to happen to him and we can not stop reading.

No spoilers here: stuff does happen to Luke, more stuff than you might guess, but he sure didn’t see coming.

This is high school, and everything matters. Friends matters, your parents matter, and it seems like everyone else has more control of your life than you do. Its realistic and sometimes painful, with humorous moments and then also the moments that you have to acknowledge just aren’t funny. People can be shallow and also, just plain mean.

We’re Done takes on some big questions, like what it means to be a friend – and what it feels like to lose a friend. Consequences figure pretty enormously here, and in spite of it all, you do kind of start feeling for Luke. Fitting in can be tough for anyone – even a tough guy. Not everyone has his view of humor… and we wonder, constantly, if he ever will consider looking at things from a different perspective.

This book will make you think; but don’t read it because of that. Read it because Luke could be a guy in class, a brother of yours, or some other kid in class. You might know a Luke, or you might be surprised by looking at the world through his eyes.  Well done.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ghost Writer by Vala Kaye

Ghost Writer by Vala Kaye
Published by: MuseItUp
Genre: contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (57 pgs)
Age Recommendation 14+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

Sixteen-year-old Malden Montgomery leaves New York City anticipating nothing but boredom when her artist/mother insists she come along on a two week vacation to a family inn in rural Virginia. What Malden doesn't expect is that the owner’s seventeen-year-old son, Jackson, will be totally to-die-for cute or that her room at the inn will be haunted by a young woman named Emily, who died there in 1865. When Emily somehow begins to communicate with Malden via an Internet chat room, she and Jackson have to find a way to help Emily's ghost come back home or risk a spirit’s wrath if they choose to leave her lost in the darkness forever.

The Young Adult and Paranormal genre these days can mean anything from mild magical abilities to foes like killer zombies, so I am pleased to report that the novella Ghost Writer is ultimately a believable teen tale.

Malden is a typical (contemporary) teen, being dragged along on a typical mom’s type getaway to a backwoods location. She has no expectations of anything worthy of interest, and less hope of meeting anyone worth meeting. Exactly how bad it will be is brought home when her mom assures her it’ll be like a ‘living history lesson: Civil War era.”

So Jackson, the “To-Die-For bellhop” is a very pleasant surprise, although of course one positive thing isn’t going to change Malden Montgomery’s outlook.

No, it’s Emily – who she is warned about – and Emily’s plea for help that changes Malden’s outlook.

Scenes are set so perfectly; the creepy feeling room, approaching storm and the flickering-lamp type classic ghost references, are offered right alongside more serious analysis (are people truly energy?) I want to call this a ghost story, but it’s the sort that gives you pause. If ghosts could exist…

Believable conversations (and concerns!) keep this story moving right along. Malden has the typical teen electronic attachments, e-chats and whatnot, but that ability to connect at a distance will serve her in a surprising way.

Ghost Writer is an unpredictable story with a nice little mystery wrapped around a sense of empathy – a sense that will try to stretch across centuries. I’d have to call this novella the perfect Halloween present: A real indulgence with no calories!