Ghost Novel Review in Honor of Read an Ebook Week: Ghost Island

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Ghost Island by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Kindle e-book

So, you’ve been hearing a lot about ebooks and are wondering if you should try one. But wait, you’ve also heard ebooks are sophomoric, self-indulgent, self-promoting drivel by authors who couldn’t get a traditional publisher’s attention if they handed out manuscripts clad in red spike-heeled pumps and see-through raincoats.

Let’s talk about it.

Normally, today’s post would be Writer Unleashed, but in honor of Read an E-book Week (March 4-10), I’m shuffling the schedule to bring you a ghost novel review of an e-book entitled Ghost Island.

Check out this cool banner courtesy of Piotr Kowalczyk of Ebook Friendly.

Now, let’s proceed to the ebook, shall we?

Livia, the heroine of Ghost Island, hails from a foster home in Emeryville, CA and is embarking on a cruise with other high school students to Catalina Island. Her father is in jail for killing her mother, but Livia is convinced her mother is alive and assumes the burden of finding said mother.

Once on the island, Livia intends to rest, recreate, and enjoy the respite from foster care. Of course, she sees ghosts, but that’s nothing new for her. What is new is the form these island ghosts take, and the mystery and unrest surrounding their needs and desires.

Soon, Livia notices everyone in her group exhibiting strange behavior. It seems students and teachers alike enter a dream world in which the dead visit and play out the unfinished business of loved ones, taking the dreamers on dangerous quests.

Livia must discover who the dead really are—and, in fact, are they really dead? Is their purpose benevolent or malevolent? And why do some of her fellow cruisers appear to be undergoing personality transformations?

And then there’s the mysterious, beguiling Aaron who fades in and out of her own life on the island. Is he real or another of the yearning undead?

This is classified as a young adult novel, probably based on the ages and interests of the characters. I think adults can enjoy this book alongside their teens and preteens. In fact, this would be a good mother-daughter book group read as issues of authority vs. adolescence, honesty vs. responsibility will provide much fodder for discussion.

And, for those who have been waiting to try an e-book but have heard the quality and grammar of such books is suspect (and this criticism is not without merit), Ghost Island should prove the doubters wrong.

Ghost Novel Review: Midnight Bayou

Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 352 pages.

This book encapsulates Roberts’ strengths as a writer: eerie setting, mysterious mansion, endearing characters.

Declan Fitzgerald renounces a glam, power-packed lawyer’s existence for decaying Manet Hall on the edge of New Orleans. Of course, New Orleans with its French Caribbean history is the perfect locale for all things surnaturel. And, in fact, ethnic and class conflict is the basis for the murder that preceded the hauntings.

Declan, in the midst of much sawdust generating and antique purchasing, manages to pursue the lovely but (naturally) elusive Angelina who shares both a resemblance and family connection to one of the ghost victims. It is up to Declan and Angelina to uncover the past tragedy and put its wanderers to rest, all the while eating great Orleans fare, buying more vintage stuff and renovating the decrepit mansion.

Clearly, Roberts loves renovation projects, landscape excavation and buying stuff. And she did a good job of weaving these elements into the novel. Readers can enjoy the fun of rehabbing and the joy of discovery with nary a broken fingernail.  The present day characters are engaging, although Angelina’s protestations of cold feet (as in she can’t commit to love) grow a little wearying.

As Nora Roberts renovating-derelict-mansion-haunted-by-mysterious-past narratives go, this is not her finest. I recommend first, Black Rose; and second, Tribute. Both of those novels do a better job of reconciling the yearnings of troubled souls with present day adventure seekers.

The trouble with Midnight Bayou is that the ghost storyline is not resolved. Who were the ghosts exactly? How are they now at rest? The explanations are lackluster. In the end the ghosts just drifted off the page sans denouement like so much phosphorous.

Author Deadlines Are Good for You

Here’s the thing about deadlines.

Deadlines are good because they force you to do stuff.

I picture myself called to the principal’s office to account for my conduct. Below are the tasks I vowed to accomplish in the last Writer Unleashed post. Egads! Did I really use the word vow in my post? I did.

  • Finish my budget
  • Upload more reviews to Goodreads
  • Attend my beta group meeting
  • Create my author page at Amazon

So, I accomplished three out of four.

I finished the budget, which we’ll take a look at next time. I updated my Goodreads reviews. (Okay, I updated it this morning in time for this post. See what I mean about deadlines being good for you?)

By the way, here is a link to a great post by publishing maven Jane Friedman on the value of Goodreads for all authors. (If you are not already receiving Jane Friedman’s blogs, you’ll want to hop on over and sign up.)

I went to my beta group meeting—a little nervous, if you must know—and it was so worthwhile. Overall, the group seemed to really like Moonlight Dancer. They tossed out those heart-warming words that turn writers into mush. Page-turner. Creative. Never read anything like it.

Good stuff. Stuff you want to hear.

Then we started in on the areas of confusion and inconsistencies. Otherwise known as mistakes. For example, I featured

  • A character riding to the hospital in an ambulance, but then driving his van home. Begs the question: How did the van get to the hospital?
  • A character who grew up in the Bay Area doesn’t know that the Tenderloin district of San Francisco is trouble. Problem: she’s too naïve.
  • Same character’s mother lives in Shanghai. The group wanted weekly phone calls or Skype conferences between mother and daughter. I had thought about doing this, but decided I didn’t want to use the word space. Now I’ll think again.
  • The group questioned another character’s recovery from comatose state to walking with a cane. Too abrupt, they thought. I thought I had planted clues that this recovery was occurring off stage. I’ll take another look.

And on it went. Small things, but things I can fix for the most part. My only regret was that we didn’t spend more time discussing larger topics and character interactions. I had given each reader a pile of post-it notes to jot down minor inconsistencies, but as one reader put it, “I was too engrossed in the story to take the time to write notes.” I guess I can’t argue with that.

Now, true confessions. I mentioned I accomplished three out of four tasks.

The fourth was to set up my Amazon author page.

Okay, I failed.

I guess I just felt a little silly creating an author’s page when my book was not ready. I imagine throngs of accusing readers (Ha! Throngs. One should be so lucky). She’s an author? So, where’s her book? What kind of author doesn’t have a book?

Solution: Get over yourself, Deb.

Ghost Movie Review: The Woman in Black

The night finally arrived when I set out accompanied by daughter Manda to view the movie The Woman in Black. We found ourselves in a state of high excitement.

We were not alone. The parking lot was packed. The theater was filled to capacity.

I had predicted, after reviewing Susan Hill‘s novel The Woman in Black in an earlier post, that I might prefer the movie version of this story. It’s a close call, but I think I do prefer the movie. As Manda pointed out, film, as a medium, just lends itself to a scarier ghostly experience than does the printed page. There were a couple of moments of visual supremacy–a handprint on a window followed by a superimposed ghost image viewed from outside–that would elude the form of a novel.

And this ghost-viewed-from-without scene in the film drives a type of dramatic irony in which the audience knows something the character does not. Impossible in a book without employing a clunky, antiquated omniscient viewpoint. I can tell you the audience loved this deliciously chilling image.

That brings up another point–the audience. This movie will be most enjoyable viewed in a theater. The collective gasps and nervous laughs added to the experience. Sort of like Paranormal Activity–way more fun in the company of others. At one point, a vulnerable Daniel Radcliffe was imperiled by the looming ghost, and an audience member shouted, “Use your wand, Harry!”

You had to be there.

Although this movie doesn’t line up with my three favorite ghost movies–The Sixth Sense, What Lies Beneath, The Gift–I definitely recommend The Woman in Black for a fun night of thrills and chills.