Ghost novel review: Ghost Orchid

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The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman

Ballantine Books, 336 pages

Source: Pleasanton Library

 I read a favorable review of this book on the Haunted Travels website and decided to check it out. After I was thirty pages in, I realized I had read this novel before. Here’s the interesting part: I enjoyed it more the second time. I think it’s because I wasn’t trying to figure out what would happen, and I could just relax and enjoy the flow.

The protagonist Ellis Brooks has been invited to the historic Bosco estate, now an artist’s retreat, to finish a novel based on tragic events that transpired here more than a hundred years earlier. Ellis Brooks is writing about the original 19th century occupants, Milo and Aurora Latham, who had invited psychic Corinth Blackwell to Bosco to contact the spirits of their dead children. But Corinth unexpectedly encounters people from her past, and the séance request is not as straightforward as first appears. And then tragedy strikes again.

In an author’s sleight of hand, it turns out that the present day author Ellis sees dead people, one of whom leads her to uncover the mysteries of Bosco and Corinth. And if these plotlines are not enough, there’s Abenaki mythology braided into the mix. Confusing, huh? Rest assured, the author (the real one), leads you through the labyrinth with a sure step.

This is a book filled with lyrical language. Here’s a sample: “…she spears the death certificate to the muslin curtain, where it flutters like an impaled moth” (109). Lovely, yes? There is lush description to satisfy the most discerning landscape architects, especially those interested in fountains and statuary. The ghost orchid pictured above (isnt’ it eerily beautiful?) has its own mysterious place in the story.

As a writer, I enjoyed observing the angst-ridden fictional author write portions of her novel—both because of the derision of her colleagues and because of the ways she wove historical details into the text. Then, of course, we have the real author Carol Goodman juxtaposing in ingenious ways Ellis’s novel with the lives of the historical characters Ellis imagines. That wowed me the most, I think, this tight interweaving between what “really” happened (remember, this is fiction) and what the fictional author surmises.

In some ways, this sort of meta fiction reminded me of a Margaret Atwood book The Lady Oracle.  Lest you ask, no, I am not related to Margaret Atwood. Alas.

Recently, I read an interesting post by Roz Morris in which she discusses authors tying up loose ends at the conclusion of novels–as in how much is too much. If there is one flaw of The Ghost Orchid, it is that the author meticulously ties and triple ties (just to make sure) each of the multiple story threads. I thought if one more red-tipped blackbird feather fell from an overhead branch (reader beware: symbol alert) as it does in a triptych of conclusions,  I would expire. And then there would be one more forlorn apparition wandering the woods of Bosco.

Writer Resource: 55 Ways to Promote and Sell Your Book

It’s what we writers want, right? To have bright readers, well, flock around us?

For today’s episode of Writer Unleashed, I’m going to let you in on a handy dandy resource to help you gather fans. It’s a book called 55 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Book on the Internet by Bob Baker.

I came across an excerpt of this book as a free download promotion from BookBaby and liked it so well I bought the company.

Actually no, I bought the book. (How many of you are old enough to know that old Remington commercial with Victor Kiam? A commercial so old, you can’t even find it on the web. Yep, I tried.)

But I digress.

We were discussing 55 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Book on the Internet, which I heartily recommend. And no, I’m not getting a piece of the action. Would that I were.

It’s a fast read with clear, easy-to-follow objectives. (Another digression—speaking of it’s, the misuse of the word it’s/its in the text did drive me a little nuts. Also, you’re/your errors. Suggestion to the editor for the next edition, perform a search for these words and make necessary corrections. You’re or is it your? readers will thank you.)

So here’s the thing. I don’t yet have a published book to promote and sell. Soon, we hope. Still, as all authors and aspiring authors know, it’s never too early to put your name out there. Bob Baker’s book provides specific resources and no-nonsense advice.

Instead of the general instruction you hear on every street corner: Find like-minded bloggers and form connections blah blah, Baker tells you how to do that in tip #45.

Using the author’s links, I finally found some sites to follow and interact with. One of these, Stainless Steel Droppings, I have mentioned before, and I am now connecting both with the site and with others connecting with the site—a sort of inverted pyramid. The good news is that after taking this step, visits to my blog really increased—up 29 % in October. Of course, October is the month to read ghost novel reviews. But so far, November is not looking too shabby either.

Tip #51 provides more good information about generating traffic to your blog, including sending an email to anyone whose online work you reference. This one is a little hard for a self-deprecating-humble-good-girl such as myself, but I’m going to do it. In fact, I will write to the 55 Ways man himself. As soon as I sign off. I promise.

Those are just two of the 55 tips, leaving 53 more for you to explore. Who says writers can’t do math?

Check out this book. And get yourself flocked.

R.I.P. Challenge Wrap-up

Sadly, the annual Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge has met its inevitable demise.

I feel so fortunate to have found this reading challenge in my first year of blogging. It was great fun, and I’m already looking forward to next year! Best of all, I will continue to peruse the posted R.I.P. reviews in my quest for the quintessential ghost story.

To check out the hundreds of other reviews in the realm of the creepy at Stainless Steel Droppings, click here.

By reviewing four books, I officially achieved the first level. Hurray! These are the books I reviewed during the challenge period:

Black Rose by Nora Roberts

The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

My Memories of a Future Life by Roz Morris

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

I also read the following novels during the challenge period. Watch for my discussion of these books in the coming weeks:

The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman

The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

Until next time, keep the reading lamp burning! If nothing else, it may keep the ghosts away.

Book Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes

by Ray Bradbury

How apropos to read and review this novel the week before Halloween. The story takes place—you guessed it—the week before Halloween.

Will Halloway and James Nightshade are small town teens, reversed mirror images. Think light/dark and good/not-so-good juxtapositions, and you’re on the right track. Will’s father, a reluctant hero, fears the ebbing of his days.

Meanwhile, a carnival of dark magic comes to town with paranormal forces aplenty–a skeleton, a demon, a witch and a few formerly living folks–willing and able to exploit that bit of depraved darkness that resides within each of us. Hint: Jim “Night”shade succumbs, but “Hallow”ay has the “Will” to resist. Clever, yes?

Our reluctant hero summarizes this dark force with his thematic statement, “Evil has only the power that we give it.” I won’t forget that line. Ever.

Speaking of thematic statements, I highly recommend this National Book Award novel to teachers for classroom study. It’s like a hearty stone soup containing every morsel you could possibly desire: allusions, themes, figurative language. Stunning similes and magical metaphors. Take a look at this rich sentence: “Shades slithered, doors boomed, keys rattled their bones in locks, people fled with hordes of torn newspaper mice nibbling their heels.”

If you are ready for good to battle evil, and if you love the play of multi-layered language, then this just might be the Halloween book for you.