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Posted November 7, 2009
BY: Tom Weston
PUBLISHED BY: tom weston media
PUBLISHED IN: 2008
Ages: Teen & Up
Reviewed by Billy Burgess
Author Tom Weston brings us an old fashioned ghost tale in First Night. The story begins with Sarah Pemberton who has caught the small pox. A family friend, Captain John Ayres, gives her an ivory bracelet to wear. Sarah dies.
The story skips to the present day. Alexandra O'Rourke and her younger sister, Jackie, are spending their New Year's Eve with their aunt and uncle in Boston. They're California girls and rather be home partying than spending their vacation in Boston.
Their aunt and uncle let them go out on their own and explore Boston. They come across a teenager wearing a 1600's dress. Her name is Sarah Pemberton. The same Sarah who died many years ago of small pox. The Court of Spirits have accused her of being a witch and release her into our world to find a lawyer.
Alexandra and Jackie think nothing of it because they're in the historical part of Boston. They change their minds when Sarah runs through Alex.
With time running out, Sarah takes Jackie back to the Court of Spirits to help defend her soul. Alexandra stays behind and searches for the Devil's Book.
Tom Weston has written a fun, original novel while blending in some historical facts and locations about Boston. Alexandra and Jackie are believable teenage characters with cleverly written dialogue. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good ghost story.
Posted October 13, 2009
"First Night", is a spirited story of two sisters, Alex and Jackie, which are spending New Years Eve in Boston with their Uncle and Aunt. Soon, the two reluctant tourists find themselves in the middle of their own ghost story. Having breakfast at the Parker House, they witness whom they believe to be a historical reenactor behaving as though she's lost her mind. After leaving Parker House, that same girl runs in to or rather through Alex. Declaring herself to be Sarah Pemberton, a Puritan, they come to the conclusion that she is indeed a ghost. Sarah finds that she in now trapped in a Boston that so little resembles her own, and now is accused of witchcraft. Needing to find an advocate to represent her at her trial, Jackie steps up to the bar. The O'Rourke girls now find themselves on a journey to places unknown. Traveling through historic Boston a well as place and time, Alex, Jackie, and Sarah now race to save themselves in a battle of wits. Encountering everything from the ghost of Sarah's parents, the ghost of Cotton Mather, and dinner with their Uncle Jim, Aunt Anne, and the ghost of Sarah Pemberton. Will the O'Rourke girls be able to seek the knowledge in which they need and save Sarah, or will it be to late.
Tom Weston takes you on an unforgettable journey through out Boston as well as place and time with his unforgettable novel "First Night". Complete with historic quotes and black and white photos. Chocked full of amazing history of a place that shaped our Nation, not only is "First Night" an entertaining story it is also a fantastic history lesson. After reading this I'm sure you will be planning your own trip to Boston. One only hopes that Alex and Jackie will soon find another adventure to share with us.
Posted August 23, 2009
History comes to life in Tom Weston's "First Night." San Diego sisters Alex and Jackie O'Rourke are stuck in Boston with their aunt and uncle for New Year's while their parents are off on a cruise. Alex, 16, is not happy about it, while Jackie, 14, is trying to have a good time. Their world collides with Sarah Pemberton's, a seventeenth century ghost accused of being a witch, rejecting the Kingdom of Heaven and challenging the Natural Order.
Sarah comes before the court of Magistrates to address the charges against her and requests the help of an advocate. The court grants her request and she finds herself in the Boston of today trying to find an advocate and to make sense of all the changes made to the city since she last saw it, about 300 years earlier. She literally runs into Alex and the O'Rourke sisters decide to help her, with Jackie as Sarah's advocate.
The girls make their way around Boston, searching for clues in their quest to refute the charges against Sarah. But time is running out because it's First Night in Boston and Sarah must appear before the Magistrates again before the night is over while Alex and Jackie need to join their aunt and uncle in New Year's Eve festivities. It takes all of Alex's wits to make sense of events and orchestrate a happy ending for all.
This is a fun Alex and Jackie Adventure. I felt both girls were likable as was Sarah Pemberton. Author Weston's resolution was inventive and warm-hearted. Writings from the seventeenth century are used by Weston to begin each chapter and he also includes photos of Boston throughout the book. I would like to read more Alex and Jackie Adventures from Weston.
Posted August 3, 2009
Thomas and Hannah Pemberton know their daughter, Sarah, will never recover from the small pot virus. Captain John Ayres stops by and gives Sarah an ivory Inuit bracelet. After Sarah puts the bracelet on, she closes her eyes and passes away peacefully. Thomas and Hannah bury Sarah two days later. A few hundred years later Alexandra (Alex) and her sister, Jacqueline (Jackie), O'Rourke are spending New Years with their Aunt Anne and Uncle Jim in Boston. Both Anne and Jim have to work on New Years Eve, so they turn let Alex and Jackie loose in the city. The girls eat breakfast while they plan their day. Sarah Pemberton wakes up and attends the Court of Spirits-where her own parents accuse her of being a witch. She is released from court because she has no lawyer. Sarah is then thrust into present day Boston and can not find her way home. Back at the café, Alex and Jackie are still trying to decide what to do with their day. Jackie spots a girl dressed in 1600's clothing, but the sisters don't thing it's unusual because of all the historical sites in Boston. Alex and Jacking leave the café and start walking down the street. Suddenly a girl comes running in the opposite direction. Alex knows the girl will run into her and braces for the impact. But the collision never happens. Alex and Jackie sit down with Sarah and explain everything that has happened since her death. Sarah, in turn tells the girls of her life in the 1680's. As the girls walk through the city, Sarah slowly begins to realize that nothing is left of "her" Boston. Sarah tells Alex and Jackie that she is being accused of being a witch. Jackie makes a joke of it and suddenly she and Sarah are enveloped in blue smoke. After the smoke dissipates, Jackie and Sarah are gone. The two girls are transported back to the Court of Spirits, where Jackie must act as Sarah's lawyer. After court is released, the girls find Alex exactly where they left her. The three head to the library to research the accusations against Sarah. Alex and Jackie take Sarah to dinner to meet their Aunt and Uncle. After eating dinner, they have to ditch their Aunt and Uncle by saying they are helping with the festivities. Jacking and Sarah are pulled back to the Court of Spirits. Alex is left to do more research for her sister. That's all I can tell without giving away the ending.
First Night is such a great story and everyone should read it. It's a strong book about sisterhood and the power of friendship. Unfortunately most people wouldn't run across it easily! I would recommend this book to everyone because I enjoyed it that much!
The second book in the Alex and Jackie series comes out this year sometime. I know the publishing date is too far away for me.
Posted July 25, 2009
As an avid reader, I relish when a book I wasn't quite sure about reading turns out to be the reason I'm still awake come the early morning hours. Tom Weston's First Night was such a pleasant surprise! Targeted at older teens, this novel provides the suspense and mystery needed to keep such readers intrigued. Not to mention that it is also full of historical information about early American life and Boston itself. This information is presented in a way that readers won't realize they're learning and enjoying themselves at the same time. However, the incredibly beautiful writing and complex plot make the book just as enjoyable for adults as well.
First Night takes place on New Year's Eve during Boston's First Night celebration (hence the title). Alex and Jackie O'Rourke are sisters who would much rather be home in California with their friends than stuck with their aunt and uncle in the New England cold. However, the girls get more excitement than they bargained for when they befriend the ghost of Sarah Pemberton, a Puritan girl who has bigger problems than being over three hundred years old. She has been called before the Court of Spirits and accused of (you guessed it!) witchcraft. She must prove her innocence before the night's end if she ever wants to leave the limbo in which she is imprisoned. Jackie and Alex put themselves at risk in order to help their friend. There's plenty of time travel, graveyards, and ghostly apparitions thrown into the mix to keep even the most die-hard fans of the supernatural entertained.
Not only is the storyline itself enticing, (come on, who doesn't like a story about a good witch hunt?) but the writing is also very impressive. The language flows effortlessly and the vocabulary is quite challenging. I must admit that there were several words I had never seen before, so I think it's wise that this book is intended for young adults sixteen years and up. I know for certain that while the eighth graders I teach would be interested in the story, they would definitely struggle through the vocabulary. As an educator, I have read many books intended for young adults and it bothers me to say that most of the writing is elementary, at best. Somewhere along the line, authors got the message that older kids like it simple, à la "See Jane ride a bike down the street." This is definitely not true and I'm glad Weston had the sense to write something that challenges that belief. I was blown away by the imagery of Weston's words from the very first paragraph, which reads:
"The cold and detached wind blew in over the Cape and Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, like an unwelcome guest with a gift basket of rain and sleet and misery. In the harbor, littered with hump-backed islands, the sleeping ships lay snoring at anchor as the sea strove in vain to turn them on their sides."
First Night is an original story that will paint a picture of Boston in such a vivid and impressive way that you might even consider packing up your stuff and becoming a permanent New Englander. Alex and Jackie are fun, lovable characters whose ghostly adventure will leave you feeling satisfied, if not a little envious as well.
Posted April 9, 2009
Alex and Jackie, two seemingly stereotypical California blonde teenagers, are visiting their aunt and uncle in Boston for their winter break. Reluctantly, Alex accompanies her sister to the city's traditional New Year's Eve festivities, called First Night. Before they can take in a single show, the sisters get caught up in a puzzling mission when they encounter the ghost of Sarah Pemberton, a Puritan girl who died in 1688. The girls go on wild adventures in an effort to help this lost soul, who is on trial for witchcraft by the Court of Spirits. On their quest, the girls visit many historical landmarks in Boston, such as the Granary Burying Ground, The Old South Meeting House, and The Union Oyster House, in an effort to untangle the web surrounding Sarah's predicament. How will these two modern girls succeed in defending poor Sarah Pemberton in order for her spirit to be laid to rest? That is the mystery at the heart of First Night.
Weston utilizes the girls' adventures in an effort to impart a great deal of historical facts about the Colonial American era to young readers. The author's affection for Boston's landmarks shines through this tale, and the hope is that the readers become caught up in his enthusiasm. However, at times the story gets bogged down in ancillary historical details, and risks losing the readers' interest along the way. Nevertheless, his placement of this mystery within a historical context is a great vehicle for learning about the past in an entertaining fashion. Readers can't help but to learn plenty of facts about life as a Puritan as well as contemporary Boston geography when reading First Night. The great photographs of Boston add to the appeal of this book as well. In addition, the author's passion for his topic certainly makes one want to take a special trip to Boston in order to attend the next First Night celebration.
The sisters, Alex and Jackie, seem to go through an evolution of sorts as they mature from superficial and ambivalent girls in the beginning of the story into serious, dedicated friends willing to risk everything for a friend by the tale's end. Over the course of the story, the girls learn an appreciation for history as well. But even more importantly, they also learn to have faith in their personal capabilities and gain increased belief in themselves. That said, I wish the author had provided more depth to his characters' personalities. The voices of Alex and Jackie feel stilted and lack verity and detail. Also, Weston has the girls make references to popular culture that is decades before their time. For example, he has these contemporary teenagers referring to Perry Mason and Humphrey Bogart. Even if Jackie is described as an old movie buff, the readers of this book most likely won't relate to the references.
The first pages of First Night read, "Everything is connected.Figure out the connection later." Indeed, young readers might enjoy connecting the dots on this mystery from history.
Quill says: First Night presents a tricky mystery in an historical context for pre-teen and teen readers.