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Posted February 23, 2013
If I'm being honest, I wasn't entirely sure whether or not I would like this book. A lot of it was because of the mood I was in. When I read a book with a plot like this one, I typically have to feel like I am actually up for it. Books like this set me on edge, not in a bad way but more of a I can't stop reading until it's over sort of way. Sometimes I'm just not ready for that kind of commitment to a book but I am so glad I made the choice to read it even if I didn't feel like it. It definitely captured my attention and made me stick with it until the end, even if some of the parts of the story were hard to read.
Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison tells the story of Olivia Tithe as she struggles with the death of her best friend and the incarceration of her mother who supposedly killed him. If only that was the only issue faced by the main character of this novel. She must battle inner demons as she fights between the belief that perhaps she is going insane, just like her mother, and the idea that she still has a grip on reality. Her colorblindness seems to be one of the many symptoms of a psychotic break, at least that's what the people who know seem to think. To make matters worse, she keeps seeing her dead best friend, Stern, who is pleading with her to make everything right. Maybe she is really crazy and then again, maybe she isn't. Will there ever be any relief for a girl who seems to be facing so much trauma? What will she do as the stakes get higher than ever to prove whether her mother is innocent or guilty? Is she really crazy? Does she have any chance at being happy now that her world has fallen apart?
All these awesome questions, of course, get answered by the end of the book which means... you should go read it. Before you think that this is it to my review, it's not. I'm just getting started.
The idea of death and murder seems to be becoming a very popular topic in young adult fiction. That doesn't particularly bother me because I grew up watching Forensic Files and loving the television show Bones. Death fascinates me which is why I like reading books where authors bring out their own opinions on death and the afterlife. It's a topic that is fraught with opinions and ideas, each unique to the person who believes them. The plot in and of itself is unique for me. I haven't honestly dealt with this sort of book outside of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and Hysteria, which cover two separate pieces of death as well. I really loved the plot though even if it touched on similar topics that have been covered in other books. It was well constructed and well written. The plot twists often illuminated the true designs of each character, leaving me guessing about motives or questioning my original opinions of the characters.
Olivia, the main character, is definitely a complex character. She doesn't want to be crazy but she doesn't want to be normal. She can't remember what it really felt like to be happy since the death of Stern and her mom being shipped off to prison. Everyone keeps telling her that once her mother is sentenced things will get better. As if a burden has been lifted or some sort of thing like that. But Olivia doesn't agree. Her mom shouldn't be in prison, her best friend shouldn't be dead, and she shouldn't have lost the ability to see color. In a matter of months, she had lost not only her support system but also her ability to do the one thing she loved: paint. It's hard to do a painting when you can no longer see the colors. All of these traumas caused her not only emotional issues but also trust and relationship issues. She expresses her strength and her ability to move beyond the issues she faces when she begins to show trust. Unlike typical young adult heroines, Olivia shows her strength through her loyalty to those she cares about, her love for the people she can trust, her stubbornness when it comes to things she doesn't agree with, and her faith in the true motives of the people she cares about most.
Stern can be defined, in my mind, as not only the best friend but also the lost love. It was awesome in a bittersweet sort of way that the best friend played more of a love interest for the main character than anyone else. Trust me when I say this, if it would've been possible for Olivia and Stern to be together, I would've jumped on that bandwagon the minute it was made available. Maybe in an alternate reality where he didn't die and she actually had the guts to say what she felt. Typically, a best friend that is a boy becomes a sort of side note, a lost puppy if you will, that remains close to the main character who is oblivious to his affections and he tries to help the girl win the guy she actually wants. It's some sort of horrible cycle of "I just want you to be happy," mentality and trust me when I say this, I do not approve. Even once Olivia sees him again, she still struggles to come to grips with her feelings towards her dead best friend.
If I could pick a team, I would be Team Stern... except for the fact that he's dead and having a relationship with a dead person is kind of creepy. It's like zombie books where a zombie and a human hook up. That is just not natural. Let me amend my previous statement: I am Team Stern, if he is alive. Which he isn't... which is frustrating.
Austin deserves some love too because he is a great love interest for Olivia. Even if I am all for Stern... Anyway, Austin knew her a long time prior to any sort of psychotic break or best friend being murdered. Olivia used to be friends with him before his family's money (and her family's lack thereof) separated them once he began going to private schools instead of public ones. Because of this status he gained from the money he is able to throw around, he, of course, inherited the spoiled rich kid persona and became the epitome of a guy that I would probably punch in the face. You know, when he is acting like he's better than me. It's understandable when Olivia has a hard time trusting him or even rebuilding the friendship that laid in ruins after years of being ignored. Despite the attraction between the two of them, let's be honest because it is there and Austin is gorgeous, it kind of appeared like he was the rebound for her. Which is funny because Olivia never dated Stern. I so wanted to give into his devilishly good looks and charming words which were quite disarming throughout the book but I found it hard not to question his motives.
Raina is what I consider to be the typical best friend for most teenage girls, especially when that best friend is another girl. It's rare to have completely genuine best friends during the angst of high school, trust me. Essentially, Raina is a good person although she isn't the greatest friend. She remains the one person that Olivia trusts and yet, she seems to be more concerned with her status as the most popular, the most funny, the most loved, or the most sympathetic. I kind of like to call this type of person pathetic. But a lot of people clamor for these titles all throughout their teen years, struggling to find themselves and know their place in this world. I think a lot of them don't even realize the harm they are causing to those who they think are in their way. She hates feeling like her status is being challenged by others and Olivia has a hard time noticing what Raina does to her and once she does, the damage just might be beyond repair.
During the beginning of the book, I was actually worried about the role that Olivia's mom would play. I mean, it's not every day that I get to read a book about a mom who is open about her psychological issues because most people are in denial. I like that about her mom, though, the fact that she is so open about the idea that she is crazy and that she most likely will be medicated for the rest of her life. It seems like the only real person who hasn't come to grips with that information is Olivia. There is a lot of dif
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Posted March 13, 2014
Notes From Ghost Town is a mix of different genres, a contemporary featuring a mystery with a paranormal aspect, mixed all together with an intriguing concept to make one fantastic story.
Olivia has a Mother who is schizophrenic, ten months ago she was arrested for the murder of Olivia's best-friend Stern, with only nine days to go until her trial, the ghost of Stern appears to tell Olivia that her Mom is not his killer, of that he's sure, although he can't remember who it was exactly.
So after believing all this time that her Mom was guilty she sets out to investigate and find the truth about who set her Mom up to take the fall, but when she starts to look into it she'll find that the killer will do anything to make sure that their identity is never revealed, even if it means killing Olivia in the process.
While I did guess the killer and most of the motive, there was still a bit that I hadn't figured out myself, but still it made for a very gripping reveal once we do discover the perpetrator and their reasons why.
I do like the fact that we had a heroine with a bit of a disability in the fact that at the start of the book she goes color-blind which she never tells anyone about for nearly eleven months, the fact that she's an artist who was a student at an art school having to cope with that kind of an affliction was a nice touch, especially as she lost her sense of color during the one and only time Olivia and Stern kissed before his untimely death.
So many factors made this such an exciting book to read, amazing plot and storyline and add to that intriguing characters to help the story along.
I hope in the future to discover more of Kate's books, I really enjoyed what I read here and I'd love to read more.
Loved this book, I recommend it to everyone who likes a bit of mystery with ghostly apparitions making an appearance.
Posted February 27, 2014
Posted February 21, 2013
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Egmont USA and Netgalley.)
16-year-old Olivia used to have a bright future, but 10 months ago everything changed. Her best friend (and the boy she was in love with) was murdered, her mother was sent to prison for killing him, and Olivia lost her ability to see colours, and consequently her place at art school. Now Olivia’s life is shades of gray, and she must get her little sister to help her choose matching clothes.
Nobody knows about Olivia’s total colour blindness, she doesn’t want to tell people because she doesn’t want them to think that she’s going crazy like her mother, as her mother has schizophrenia, and everyone tells her that it’s hereditary.
But now it’s Olivia that’s wondering if she’s going crazy, because Stern (the boy that died) keeps appearing to her, and telling her that her mother didn’t kill him, and that his killer is still out there.
Now Olivia’s on a crazy journey, trying to find who really killed Stern before her mother’s hearing in 9 days. Can Olivia find out who really killed Stern? Is she going crazy? And can she save her mother?
This book was really good. There was plenty of mystery, and I really liked Olivia and Stern.
Olivia was a strong character, and continued to try and find out the truth, even when she wondered if she really was crazy. She tried to hold on to the belief that her mother was innocent, and did her best to hold things together.
I felt really sorry for Olivia, not only had she lost her best friend, her mother, and her place at art school, she’d also lost her father to his new fiancé, lost her colour vision, and lost her friends who believed that her mother was a murderer. Things really weren’t easy for Olivia, and seeing Stern was both a blessing and a curse. While she longed to have him back, and to tell him how she felt about him, she couldn’t help but worry that Stern was really proof that she was developing schizophrenia the same as her mother.
Olivia’s colour blindness came on after kissing Stern, but she never got to tell him that she loved him because he died. Other than this one moment, there wasn’t really all that much romance to this story. Stern was a ghost for most of the book, and they couldn’t touch each other because of this, so the romance between Olivia and Stern was pretty limited.
I liked the storyline in this book; I didn’t guess who the real killer was, though like Olivia I didn’t think that it was her mother. I made a few guesses as the story progressed, but I didn’t guess who the killer was, although when the killer was revealed it made sense. I thought that the mystery aspect was done well, although I wasn’t quite so sure about the whole colour-blindness thing.
While Olivia was supposed to be unable to see colours, I kept forgetting that; I’m not sure why. When she kept speaking of ‘The Gray Space’, I wasn’t sure if that was literal or figurative, especially as she said that her mother had talked about a similar thing. As far as I’m aware, her mother didn’t have this same loss of colour vision, so this was a little confusing.
I did like the other storyline plots though – the fact that Olivia can’t paint because of her colour loss, and that Stern was a pianist applying to Julliard.
Overall; I enjoyed this book, and I thought that the mystery element was done well.
7.5 out of 10.
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Posted February 18, 2013
I was extremely pleasantly surprised by Notes From Ghost Town. Originally, I wasn't quite sure were I stood with this one before I read it. There are some books that you know your excited about the instant you come across them, and then there are the others that immediately seem like something might be missing although your interest is still peeked. This one fell in between both feelings; for one (I will admit I'm a cover snob) I was immediately drawn in by the hauntingly eerie cover that screamed out to me in an artfully displayed loneliness. I know they say don't judge a book by it's cover, but to me it's like an important interview where first impressions are extremely imperative to get right. I don't honestly believe that all covers will accurately depict what the book is about or even how good or bad it will be, but I do believe it is just as important as the way the summary is written. To get on with the review though I will save the rest of my thoughts of the age old cover debate for another post at another time. The reason I wasn't sold on this one before I read it was partially the summary, not the cover (in terms of the cover I was already sold). It wasn't that it didn't sound interesting or original, but rather you couldn't quite discern which genre it was particularly taken to. It sounded paranormal in context, but also like it was intended to possibly be a drama where there really is no paranormal aspect just a primary character who is completely out of their mind.
Now, having read Notes From Ghost Town, I would say that this was one of the best elements of the book was the fact you didn't know if what Olivia (the primary character) was feeling/seeing was real or figments of her paranoia and potentially beginning signs of schizophrenia. The teetering back and forth between believing she was crazy and believing something otherworldly was taking place most definitely made this one a quick read you couldn't put down until you knew the truth of her dear friend's death. Kate Ellison did an amazing job with securing her chosen setting, no matter how many times I had to put the book down for work or such, whenever I picked it back up I was immediately snapped back into her world. This was a big deal for me, because I find there are many authors out there that struggle with this area of writing in particular in my opinion, and Kate Ellison is most definitely not one of them. To be specific, her creativeness in capturing a suddenly color-blind world carried for me throughout the entire novel, and I could actually see it in my mind all these gray shades devoid of feeling and warmth crushing the main character's spirit and ability to emotionally heal. It was an extremely emotional journey reading along with Olivia's internal battles.
I'm not going to spoil this intense story by giving away all the juicy details, but I will say that if you read Notes From Ghost Town I truly hope that if you take anything away from the experience, I hope it is the same as what I believe this story is really about... life after death. I don't mean the spiritual aspects of life after death, but the real raw biting truth about dealing with life after experiencing death. Kate Ellison mentions chaos and obtaining order several times, sometimes directly and other times more subtly, throughout her book and I think she nailed it. Olivia's experiences show us how everyone processes death differently as well as their own recovery and ability to live while the ones we love don't. This story will grip your heart and turn it several ways, and you won't envy a single character throughout, but if you have ever lost someone you loved you will most likely understand or at the least relate to some aspects of the story. I strongly advise giving it a chance and I don't believe Kate Ellison will let you down.
I hope this was helpful, and if you read Notes From Ghost Town, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Posted February 17, 2013
Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison was a book that takes a reader deep into the mind of a Schizophrenic. With the knowledge that Schizophrenia is genetic, we witness the effect this knowledge has on main character Olivia Tithe and how every change that she experiences has her comparing it to the early signs/stages of Schizophrenia.
Notes from Ghost Town was both compelling and heart moving. The fact that the story touches base on the loss of her long time best friend and potential boyfriend, as well as the loss of her mother. But not in the sense that you think…Olivia’s mother suffers from Schizophrenia. And her mother has been accused of murdering said best fried/potential boyfriend.
Not only does Olivia now become an art school dropout, but she must now come home to face a town that knows the darkness of her past and her mother. Having to leave the comfort of the only home she has ever known (Oh, Suzanna) due to constant harassment by fellow residents (i.e. spray painting of super harsh words and slogans all over the door/house). And on top of that, Olivia’s father is apparently moving on as well. Planning a wedding of his own with a woman he met at a support group.
So with all of these stressful things happening in Olivia’s life, it’s only reasonable that she thinks she is actually following the same footsteps as her mother. Especially when her eyesight starts to act funky, and she becomes colour blind. AND let’s not forget the part where said deceased best friend/potential boyfriend, Lucas Stern (aka Stern), pays Olivia a visit from beyond the grave.
Whether her mind is playing tricks on her, or she truly is doing down the path towards Schizophrenia, Olivia starts to converse with Stern and begins to believe that her mother had nothing to do with Stern’s death. That she was set up, and the powers that be have allowed Stern the chance for Olivia to find the truth.
But is it really that? Was her mother truly set up to take the fall for Stern’s death? Or is Olivia’s mind so fragile, that the pleas and concerned questions from her friends and family have her so paranoid that she is trying to make this allegation real.
Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison was a fantastic read that had me on the edge of my seat and un able to put the book down. The characters created by author, Kate Ellison, were so real and had so much of their own personality that readers will not find it difficult at all to relate to one of them, or to at least find a special place for them in their heart.
It was truly heart breaking witnessing the pain and suffering that Olivia has to go through with the events that happened in her life. And to even have her one joy, her love for painting, to be ripped away from her due to her “all of a sudden” inability to see colours. It was also very emotional for me to witness Olivia’s interaction with her mother in prison. For Olivia to witness her mother breakdown and crack under the pressure had me teary eyed. I can’t even imagine what an impressionable teenager would feel after witnessing that. How torn up Olivia would feel inside to see a woman that she held so high up on a pedestal…a woman who was so strong in her eyes…to crumble as she did.
I also really enjoyed the mysterious element in Notes from Ghost Town. Kate Ellison does a fantastic job of weaving a mysterious twist into this book. And although I did have my guesses on the who or what, the perfectly placed twist and turn would thwart me time and time again. I loved how I wasn’t quite sure I could trust! I kept doubting the sincerity of the characters in this book towards Olivia. And that made this read even more entertaining for me.
What bothered me about Notes from Ghost Town was that there was a little bit too much of the movie “Ghost” starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved that movie, but the whole part with the piano had me shaking my head. And how yummy is Austin? His cocky attitude, but ye underneath all that he is such a sweetheart! He reminded me a little bit of a richer Jordan Catalano from a little show called “My So-Called Life”. Especially since he kept calling Olivia “Red”, because as you should know, Jared Leto’s character, Jordan Catalano, called Claire Dane’s character, Angela Chase, “Red.
Fans of thrillers and of tales with a paranormal twists will really enjoy Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison.
Posted February 15, 2013
I don't know whether to classify Notes From Ghost Town as a paranormal romance or a psychological thriller. Maybe it is a little of both. I could never figure out if Stern's ghost was really there or if he was just a figment of Olivia's fragile mind. The mind is an amazing muscle with the power to produce the unbelievable. If you don't believe in ghosts you would probably see Notes From Ghost Town as a murder mystery told from the point of view of a girl on the verge of losing her mind. Either from grief and despair or from the hereditary traits passed on by schizophrenic mother.
However, if you are open to the paranormal then maybe Olivia isn't losing her sanity at all. Maybe Lucas really is trapped in the in between with unfinished business. Perhaps souls really can not pass on until they are truly settled with the way their lives have gone.
"They all want to leave the Grey Space, Liv, she'd tell me. They don't realize they're dead until they remember what it sounds like to be alive."
What you take from Notes From Ghost Town is up to you. Ellison doesn't give you a clear definition as to what Olivia is experiencing. I small touch of brilliance on Ellison's part I think. I love that she left this aspect of the story open for readers to come to their own conclusion. It's not as if there is a huge question left unanswered, just something slightly ajar as to open thought and contemplation.
Olivia herself was not a huge favorite of mine. I had a hard time liking her, I think because I had a hard time understanding who she is. She was unpredictable but not enough to make me think that it was on purpose. I would have understood her as a rash girl if it was being played up as part of her losing her mind. Unfortunately, that isn't the impression I got. Instead I felt like Ellison herself was unsure of who Olivia really is.
The mystery behind Lucas' death was only partly predictable. I fingered the culprit pretty early on but the details behind it all where more elusive and trying to come up with all the possible explanations was absorbing.
There is more to Notes From Ghost Town than just a murder mystery. It is the telling of a girl grieving over the loss of a best friend, loss of a love, loss of a mother, home, family, life, color and art. Also, of how you heal from such loss.
Notes From Ghost Town is a read that I can see many YA lovers really enjoying. It's a nice mix of sweet and thrilling and I hope it finds its target audience, even though it fell a little thin for me with the conviction of Olivia.
Posted February 13, 2013
It's been a while since a book gently ripped my heart out and then handed it back to me saying, "life is short, live your life the best you can... as much as you can." The heartache throughout the story was so bittersweet...
Olivia was packing for art school when her life got turned upside down - her best friend kisses her and in that same moment, she goes colorblind... and then a few months later, Lucas is dead. And everyone says that her mother killed him.
Olivia struggles to grieve her losses - having to leave art school and return to a new home with her dad, his girlfriend and the girlfriend's adorable daughter is not what she had in mind. But going back to the 'purple house' was even harder. Between all the memories and the community's outcry, they had no choice but to move into a plain condo on the other side of town.
During one of Olivia's moments of anger, grief and a little drunk, she find herself in a predicament... and that's when Lucas, her Stern, comes to her. Of course her initial reaction is that she is her mother's daughter, that she has all the symptoms of schizophrenia, and that if she tells anyone, they will want to lock her up too.
My heart ached so much for Stern, and his 'Liver'. The connection between these two characters was intense and moving. Their love of life, music and art was not only their life, but it bonded them. It's what tore them apart. It's what helped and healed them too.
The plot is so realistic, this is a story that could, unfortunately, be plucked right out of the newspapers. Every little detail mentioned added so much more to the story, the mystery. I was able to feel the Miami heat, hear the mosquito's buzzing around and smell the ocean breeze. I've never been to Florida before, but I feel like I can say that I have. Kate's description of Ghost Town, the purple house and even the carousel that Olivia worked at was so picturesque and eerie.
This is another author who really knows how to bring in memorable secondary characters -
Raina, Olivia's best friend - I want her to be my BFF! And, I want her gorgeous hair too! She does the best that she can to understand and help Olivia. I probably would have done the same things. It is sometimes hard for others to truly understand what a grieving person is going through.
And then there's Austin. I have to admit, as good as he was as a character and supportive of Olivia, I don't like him much. I didn't really feel a connection between him and Olivia. And I think that has to do with Lucas. My heart is still so wrapped around what Lucas was and could have been, I cannot forgive the things that have happened and give Austin a fair shot. But I'm happy that others did and do. This is a story that I will definitely be re-reading to see if my feelings will ever be fair to him.
Also, Kate Ellison weaves in the paranormal, the ghost, so well - it will make you question whether it is real or not. Is it possible for the dead to come back? Or, can our minds really conjure these type of hallucinations to help us grieve, love and find the truth?
Even though Kate Ellison made me a blubbering mess during this book, I loved it every second of it! And I have definitely found another author to 'fan-girl' over!
I have not read The Butterfly Clues yet! Obviously this will be remedied very soon! I will be following this author wherever she goes - I cannot wait to hear what her next book will be about!