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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: ghosts, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 136
1. The Time of the Fireflies - a review

I was actually searching for a fantasy book, but stumbled upon a good old-fashioned ghost story instead.

Little, Kimberly Griffiths. 2014. The Time of the Fireflies.  New York: Scholastic.

Larissa Renaud doesn't live in a regular house. As she tells it,

"My parents moved us into the Bayou Bridge Antique Store—a fact I do not brag about. It's embarrassing to admit I share the same space as musty, mothball-smelly furniture, dusty books, and teacups that dead people once drank from."
Sometimes she wishes they had never come back here from Baton Rouge, but her family has a long history in the bayou town, much of it is tragic.

When Larissa receives  a mysterious call on a broken antique phone, she's got a real mystery on her hands.
"Trust the fireflies," 
the ghostly girl tells her, setting Larissa on  a strange and eerie path of discovery. Can Larissa right the wrongs of the past to save her family's future?

Though it highlights rural poverty, bullying, and new sibling issues, The Time of the Fireflies is at heart, a ghost story with a remarkably likable and resourceful protagonist.

To avoid giving away too much, I'll merely mention that readers may see some similarities to Rebecca Stead's Newbery Medal-winning, When You Reach Me. The spunky Larissa and author Kimberly Griffiths Little will draw you into the rich world of the Louisiana bayou until you too, are carried away by the fireflies.

A link to The Time of the Fireflies trailer is here.  I'm not posting the trailer here because, honestly, I think the book is better than its trailer.

(My copy of the book was provided by the publisher as an Advance Reader Copy.)

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2. Book Review: Unmarked by Kami Garcia

Kennedy Waters lives in a world where vengeance spirits kill, ghosts keep secrets, and a demon walks among us-a demon she accidentally set free. Now Kennedy and the other Legion members-Alara, Priest, Lukas, and Jared-have to hunt him down. As they learn more about the history of the Legion and the Illuminati, Kennedy realizes that the greatest mystery of all does not belong to any secret

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3. Tacoma’s Haunted History

Hitting stores on September 15, 2014 is Tacoma’s Haunted History, co-authored with my dear friend and ghost hunter, Ross Allison. Special thanks to Ross for believing in me enough to work with him on this project. We had several fun hours spent together pouring through history at the library!

Book Description:
Tacoma hides in the shadows of Seattle, but what hides in the shadows of Tacoma? The city’s paranormal history is riddled with Native American culture, spiritualists, mysterious deaths, tragedy, and curses that dwell in the dark. Much of Tacoma is built directly on top of sacred lands, and many natives to the area can attest that the city is haunted by its past. Desecration of graves can leave troubling results. Hexed citizens can perish. An untimely death can leave behind a soul. These unfortunate circumstances bring forth tales of the strange and unexplainable. Are we alone in Tacoma or accompanied by ghosts of the past?

Author Bio:
A.G.H.O.S.T. was founded in 2000 by Ross Allison. With more than 25 years of worldwide investigative experience, Ross shares his knowledge by writing books, appearing on national television, and teaching classes. He can also be found wandering the streets of Seattle as a tour guide for his business, Spooked in Seattle Ghost Tours. Teresa Nordheim is the director of research for A.G.H.O.S.T. and is a self-proclaimed research addict with a passion for the paranormal field. She has written more than 30 articles for various publications and conducted interviews with celebrities and distinguished professionals in the paranormal and scientific fields.

Pre-Order today from Amazon and see a free preview!

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4. "Going down the steps with a gun in his hands" - A murderer's blood runs in my veins

A few years back, I found out the secret my grandmother had hidden all her life, a secret that explains all about the kind of woman she was - and maybe about the kind of writer I am. Perhaps I should have guessed there was a secret. As a writer, I know that the way a character acts can be traced to backstory.

EffieMy grandmother, Effie Satterwhite, was a bitter, mean woman.  But I never thought to wonder why, to think that people don't start out that way.  I never thought to question why she didn't marry until she was 32, in 1920, at a time when many of her peers were probably becoming grandparents.  If I did give any thought to it, I must have chalked it up to no one wanting to marry such a judgmental person.

Then, four years ago, in an idle moment of Googling, I found her name in an Arkansas State Supreme Court decision. It upheld a lower court's ruling that found my great-grandfather guilty of assault with intent to kill.

According to the court records, when she was 17 and living in Hope, Arkansas, Effie started seeing a man named Jim Wallis. One night they went to an “entertainment,” and returned at 11 pm.  The following is from the court transcripts.

"She put her hands against him and pushed him away"
“She started to go in the house, but was stopped by Wallis who reached out his hand and drew her to him and kissed her. She put her hands against him and pushed him away. They walked to the end of the porch, and stood there talking until the clock struck eleven. Wallis looked at his watch and then turned and kissed her again. He then left the house.”

Effie went inside, heard a door open, and then saw her father “going down the steps with a gun in his hands.” She heard the shot, and tried to run to Jim. Her father grabbed her, and said it was all her fault.

Finally he let Effie go to her boyfriend, who lay bleeding in the street. Jim told her that he was sure he was dying.

"Relieve her of her virtue"
At the trial, Effie’s brother testified that a year earlier he had seen Effie and Jim together “in a very suspicious attitude, conducting themselves in what he thought a very unbecoming manner on the front porch.” Gus ordered Effie inside, and told Jim to never come back.  But Jim did, the next day, and told  Effie’s brother that he loved her.  They continued to see each other until the night he was gunned down. He lingered for months, finally dying in a Texarkana hospital.

My great-grandfather’s defense was that he was sure Jim “was trying to seduce his daughter and relieve her of her virtue.”  But the jury found that the two intended to marry.  
Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 1.04.47 PM
Effie lived with her parents for many more years. How did her family treat her? Her town?

I'd like to do a story that reunites the lovers in present day.  A ghost story. Which is different than anything I've done before.

But Grandma Effie's spirit calls to me.

Do you see a family resemblance?

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5. MY LAST KISS by Bethany Neal

"Review My Books" review by Angela  MY LAST KISSby Bethany Neal Age Range: 12 - 18 yearsGrade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (June 10, 2014)  Goodreads | Amazon What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy? Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend

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6. Review: Bleach Vol 2 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol. 2

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Immediately after checking into the Kurosaki Clinic with a mysterious scar on his back, the muscle-bound Chad goes AWOL. Accompanying Chad is a talking parakeet imbued with the soul of a young boy named Y?ichi. It doesn’t take newbie Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki long to surmise that a Hollow must be involved. By far the strongest spirit he’s faced to date, Ichigo is about to discover that not every soul is bound for the Soul Society, especially if it’s tainted with innocent blood


I loved this volume of Bleach!  Picking up right where the first volume left off, Chad  is in oodles of trouble because of a possessed parakeet.  Housing the soul of the a young boy, Chad has promised to keep him safe, unaware that a Hallow is hot on their heels.  It’s a good thing that Chad is a strong, sturdy fellow, because the evil spirit does its level best to thoroughly annihilate him.  Rukia tries to race to the rescue, but without her Soul Reaper powers, she’s even more helpless than Chad and the parakeet!  Ichigo is temporarily out of the picture.  His sister Karin is very ill, and he’s been tasked with seeing her home safely.  Will he get to Rukia and Chad in time to save the day?

I thought this story arc was very entertaining.  It revealed that Chad has some spiritual energy, and even though he can’t see the Hallow, he can pummel the heck out of it, holding it off until Ichigo’s arrival.  While creating a tense and exciting action sequence, Tite Kubo manages to sneak in some humor to the heightened emotions and make the action even more memorable.  I think that’s what I like best about the series; while things are fraught with stress and impending doom, the mood is altered ever so slightly with quick bursts of humor.  The opposite happens when the mood is light and Rukia and Ichigo are joking around.  The reality of their responsibilities intrudes, if just for a moment, causing a complete shift in tone.  The emotional roller coaster makes this a very engaging read for me.

During the battle over the little boy’s soul, we also learn what happens to people who were evil when they were alive.  Ichigo’s  zanpakut? can’t cleanse their souls of the evil they carry, and they are dragged down to Hell.  Wah!  That’s pretty scary!  Some of the Hallows weren’t decent people when they were among the living, so it’s somewhat gratifying to see them get their just rewards in the afterlife.

This volume also introduces one of my favorite characters, Kisuke Urahara.  He doesn’t seem like much here, other than a shifty merchant peddling in questionable Soul Society goods, and one all too ready to take advantage of Rukia unfortunate circumstances.  There’s also the hint that things in the Soul Society are not all rainbows and unicorns.  Experiments with dubious moral implications are just the start.  I like how these tidbits are scattered like so much bird seed throughout the chapters.  Both Rukia and Ichigo have a lot to learn about what’s really going on in the Soul Society.

This series is highly recommended if you enjoy action, gripping storylines, and likeable characters.   Yes, yes, the fact that it’s at 60 volumes and counting is a little daunting, but on the plus side – you won’t run out of new story for a long time!

Grade:  A-

Review copy provided by publisher

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7. Haunted Houses and the neighbor across the street


I know it’s the day after Halloween, but I still have haunting on my mind.

I’m convinced the house across the street is haunted.

Let’s look at the facts. Since I’ve lived in my home, about three years or more, no one has stayed in that house for more than four months. There is a constant turnover with moving vans coming and going. Sometimes there is a playground set in the front yard, and other times, the swings are dismantled. There is always the landlord coming through cleaning up the yard, throwing out garbage in large quantities into a dumpster in between inhabitants. Something is scaring them away.

Haunted houses fascinate me. I went googling this morning on the subject and found some fun links for you to visit.

8 Haunted Houses in New Orleans That Will Scare Your Pants Off (Road trip!)

Here’s a list of haunted places in Arizona

My favorite haunted house as a kid: The Haunted Mansion

Hands-down my favorite link, How to Buy or Sell a Haunted House

Have any haunted house stories?

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8. The Path of Names: Ari Goelman

Book: The Path of Names
Author: Ari Goelman
Pages: 352
Age Range: 10-14

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman is about a girl named Dahlia Sherman who loves magic tricks, does NOT want to go to Jewish summer camp, and ends up unraveling a 78-year-old mystery involving a Yiddish rabbinical student and the ghosts of two young girls. There are camp skits, mazes, and (minor) sibling rivalries. There's a creepy camp handyman, a posse of mean girls, and a boy with the potential to be a friend (and the inclination to be more). In short, The Path of Names has a little something for everyone.  

Dahlia is a strong character, a girl who doesn't care that much that the popular girls think she's weird, who likes math, and who just wants to understand things. She's at that age where she's resisting the boy-girl stuff, even as it swirls around her. She is delightfully furious when she finds out that her friend Rafe is letting people believe they are dating. I like that she uses her brain and tenacity to solve the mystery, despite making mistakes along the way.

Most of the book is told from Dahlia's limited third person viewpoint, but intermittent chapters are from the viewpoint of David Schank, a 17-year-old yeshiva student in 1940's New York City. A few sections are also told from the viewpoint of Dahlia's older brother, Tom, a counselor at the camp. Dahlia is the one that readers will relate to most of the three, through David's story is the more suspenseful one. Shifting the viewpoint between Dahlia and David will keep readers turning the pages, driven like Dahlia to understand what happened to the young student. 

The camp setting and details seemed authentic to me, though I never went to sleepaway camp (Jewish or otherwise). It is certainly not an idealized portrayal - there are details that strongly indicate the author's personal experience in a camp setting. Like this:

"Dahlia went up the stairs to the cabin. It smelled familiar from visiting Tom all these years: the musty scent of old wood, mingled with the smells of clean laundry and dirty shoes and nylon sleeping bags. She had sort of liked the smell when they visited Tom, but the girls' bunk smelled different, more girly. Had someone really brought perfume to summer camp?" (Page 9)

There is also quite a lot of information in The Path of Names about Jewish history and culture, kabbala, Hebrew words, etc. All of these things are central to the book's storyline. I found the details fascinating, and I think kids will too. Goelman does a nice job of broadening the reader's perspective, while still keeping his focus on plot and character.  

I do think that The Path of Names is more a book for middle schoolers than for elementary school kids. This is partly due to content (there is a small amount of drinking by the older kids, and there are deaths), but mostly due to the mystical themes, and the relatively grown-up perspective of David. Certainly, despite having a girl as the primary protagonist, The Path of Names is also boy-friendly (ghosts, mazes, magic tricks, pranks). Recommended for mystery and adventure fans, or anyone who likes the idea of seeing ghosts at summer camp. 

Publisher:  Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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9. School Spirits - Review

Publication date: 13 May 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN 10/13: 1423148495 | 9781423148494
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Category: Young Adult Fiction/Fantasy
Keywords: Paranormal, High School, Ghosts, Witches
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Source: ARC from Publisher


Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

Kimberly's Review:

Izzy Brannick is strong and trained to fight monsters. And the one thing she is scared of? High School.

Izzy has been homes schooled her whole life. So when a case requires her to go to high school, Izzy bunkers down, watches a lot of high school television and hopes for the best. But nothing could prepare her for a best friend, a crush and a ghost. A really strong ghost.

Can Izzy's new friends accept who she is and help her defeat this ghost?

I'm a big fan of the Hex Hall series so I was really excited to read School Spirits. Izzy appears in the last book Spell Bound, and she takes front and center in School Spirits. Izzy is smart, strong and achingly awkward. I love how she's never been to a high school pep rally, basketball game. I love how she's learning everything there is to know about high school by watching television. The story introduces us to some "normal" teenagers like her new best friend Romy who is equal parts awesome fun and rainbow unicorn. And sweet Dex who makes Izzy a little bit dizzy.

In typical Hawkins fashion, there's a lot of fun one liners and witty dialogue. There's some romance, and ghosts and witches and danger. But best of all, there is Izzy who is really sweet and a bit sad.

The story moves quickly and while I would have liked more description, more twists, stronger motivations for the characters, I still breezed through it quickly in only two days. Enjoying the ride and wishing there was a sequel I could dive into right away.

It's a standalone after the Hex Hall series, but you should read the series first to fully enjoy School Spirits. I really hope this is the start of a spin off series.

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Visit the author online at www.rachel-hawkins.com and follow her on Twitter @LadyHawkins

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. For more details, please see our full disclosure policy here

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10. Apparition, by Gail Gallant | Book Review

This YA paranormal mystery/romance is a page-turner all the way. Told in the present tense, the action always feels immediate. The author captures Amelia’s grief over her mother, self-doubt over her paranormal abilities, and conflicting pulls of love for both the dead Matthew and the living Kip.

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11. 20 Years Gone, 10 Years Found

Tomorrow marks twenty years since Kurt Cobain's death, but this is less about him and more about me because with that anniversary comes another one that is harder for me to explain, a personal turning point that is just as significant—no, maybe more significant.

I've tried on many occasions to put what Kurt Cobain and Nirvana's music meant to me into words. I think my story is similar to a lot of Nirvana's fans no matter when they discovered the music—in the thick of when it was all happening, like me, or a decade or so after Kurt's death. I was lost, broken, and angry. I'd been bullied, and even though I had a few good friends, I was so depressed that I still felt like an outsider, an alien. Above all, I felt voiceless. And then along came this man, this band, who understood all of that, who knew what it was like to be trapped in school with no recess, to "miss the comfort of being sad," who channeled it into noisy, distorted guitars and gave those difficult feelings a voice. That, in turn, gave me the courage to use my voice because if Nirvana could do it and change the entire world, surely I could do it to empower myself.

Then April 8, 1994 happened. The day we learned that Kurt's depression and addiction had won out over his voice, silenced it with a shotgun blast. I heard about his suicide from the girl who'd been my best friend since third grade and she delivered the news is a nah-nah-nuh-nah-nah sort of sing-song. She didn't like Nirvana, saw them as one of the new differences that had been cropping up between us. And I would learn later, she was pissed at Kurt, thought him a selfish coward for taking himself away from his family on purpose when just a year earlier, cancer had taken away her grandmother, her family without giving anyone a choice. I was pissed, too. I called him selfish in my journal, asked him how he could do it to his wife and his baby. I didn't write, but I remember thinking, "And how could you do it to me?"

Me in my bedroom at 14, November 1993
This is probably where my story differs from other Nirvana fans. My story is so tied to the fact that I was fourteen when Kurt killed himself and I was a pretty fragile/angry/depressed fourteen. His suicide flicked a switch inside of me, it dialed my self-destructive, "oh, fuck it" feelings up to eleven. It made me want. Desperately want. I wanted a tribe. I wanted mosh pit bruises. I wanted to taste and try everything. I wanted to live. Not all of this was bad. It was time for me to come out of my shell and when I did many of the friends I found were amazing and so was the music and the shows and those mosh pit bruises. But since self-destruction lurked underneath it all, there was a lot of ugliness, too. A lot of mistakes. A lot of pain. A whole fuck-ton of anger. I emerged with scars and foggy memories as well as crystal clear ones I wished I could erase—especially that day almost exactly a year after Kurt's death when a boy who idolized him taught me that saying yes once means saying yes forever. (God, why do so many boys who idolize Kurt get it so fucking wrong? "He's the one who likes all our pretty songs... But he knows not what it means...")

In my early twenties, I started to come out of that.... Well, I started trying at least. I was still drinking too much sometimes, still in a fucked-up codependent relationship, still feeling married to my past. I'd taken a bit of a break from Nirvana in my late teens; sadly, they reminded me too much of that asshole boy. But when I was ready to crawl out of that bloody, angry, booze-drenched hole I'd dug myself into After Him, I turned to those songs again. Kurt's howl reminded me that I could howl and I needed that more than anything. I became obsessed. I spent hours on message boards, talking to other fans, trading bootlegs and memorabilia, trolling eBay for the limited edition vinyl and mint copies of the magazines I'd cut up and collaged my bedroom with as a teenager:

A piece of the Nirvana collage between my windows that I started in eighth grade

In retrospect, I think I was trying to go back and fix it. I still didn't have the strength to get out of my alcoholic codependent relationship, so instead I avoided it by locking myself in my office and trying to time-travel back to 1994. Maybe with enough bootlegs, enough vinyl, enough magazines I could do it. Maybe in alternate 1994, Kurt wouldn't die, or even if he did, I would do a better job of living through it, of surviving high school, of being punk and artsy and weird without being destructive. I would just have a bunch of really cool friends, which is what I did find on the message boards. More specifically, I found them on the Hole message board because that's where the girls were and I didn't really want to talk to boys about Nirvana. I'd spent real 1994 listening to boys talk about Nirvana. It was old. It was boring. And half the time, thanks to my 1995 boyfriend, I didn't trust male Nirvana fans. I wanted to talk about them with girls. Girls like me who heard something in the music, heard the respect they'd never gotten from male artists before and turned it into self-respect, heard a voice that made them feel understood, that made them feel invited to create and did create something—something far more interesting than all the boys who picked up guitars to emulate Nirvana. ("I like the comfort in knowing that women are the only future in rock and roll."- Kurt Cobain)

Even though so much of my obsession seems silly now, like some weird version of therapy that I feel uncomfortable talking about most of the time (the fact that I'm blogging about it now might seem to indicate otherwise but I'm basically pretending this is my journal), I don't care because those months—no, those years, really—locked in my office trying to time travel back to 1994 brought me my girls, Jenny and Eryn, two of my very best friends in the entire world:

Jenny, Eryn, and me at Viretta Park, Seattle, April 5, 2004

After exchanging emails, letters, and packages, Eryn and I started talking on the phone. She's a couple of years younger than me, but her heart broke like mine had when she heard about Kurt's suicide, and like me, she'd watched the news coverage of the vigil in Seattle and wished she was old enough to go. She'd promised herself that she would one day. I had too at some point, but I'd forgotten about it and while talking to her, I wondered if maybe that forgotten promise had fucked things up for me. Maybe if I made the pilgrimage, I could let go of my teenage baggage. So Eryn and I started planning our trip and recruiting people to accompany us to Seattle in April of 2004 to pay homage to Kurt on the tenth anniversary of his death.  This was the beginning of a real transition for me—from trying to time travel to trying to find closure.

I was home sick a couple of weeks before we were to meet in Seattle, me coming from Chicago, Jenny and another friend of hers from St. Louis, Eryn from Denver with another friend of ours from the message board who'd come all the way from Australia. While zoning out on the couch to the bootleg Nirvana videos that were my greatest comfort then I realized how significant the trip was. Ten years. A part of me had needed to do this for ten fucking years. So if I was going to do it, I should DO IT all the way. I pulled all of the Nirvana biographies I owned off the shelf. Heavier than Heaven by Charles Cross was the most detailed, giving exact addresses or solid descriptions of locations. I tore up tiny pieces of paper and marked each important mention: childhood homes, recording studios, concert venues, shady motels where Kurt escaped to shoot heroin, the morgue where he was cremated. I wanted to see it all. I NEEDED to see it all. I took the book upstairs, shut myself in the office and painstakingly Mapquested everything. Yeah, Mapquest. These were the days before Google maps with street view and integrated public transportation schedules, before GPS and smart phones. Or at least before I could afford them. I was still in college and had saved for a year to go on our week-long trip. We were renting a car for a day, but reliant on public transit for the rest, so I went back and forth between Mapquest and the King County Metro transit website trying to locate everything and fit it all in to our schedule. Eventually I came up with a full itinerary. Eryn was as excited as I was. The others might have been a bit freaked out by the depth of my obsession, but they didn't show it. Jenny, who'd volunteered to drive the rental car, exhausted herself so we could do it all: the bridge and the childhood homes in Aberdeen, Hoquiam, and Montesano, the site of Nirvana's first show at a house party in Raymond, the Pear Street apartment in Olympia, and even McLane Creek where Charles Cross described Courtney, Wendy Cobain, and Frances spreading some of Kurt's ashes.

Me under the Young Street Bridge, Aberdeen, Washington

Jenny, me, and Eryn at McLane Creek, Olympia, Washington

Last week, Eryn sent me a link to a New York Times article by a dude who had gone to all of these places and wrote an ultimate guide. Not gonna lie, I was a little bitter. We did that ten years ago back when Aberdeen was not into celebrating Kurt Cobain at all—when there was no park by the bridge and people at gas stations misdirected you because they didn't like Kurt or his fans. I pitched the story of our journey to every major publication I could think of, but had no takers. Maybe ten years wasn't long enough. Maybe the interest in Nirvana is extra high now because of their impending induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe I didn't have enough writer cred yet. (Okay, I definitely didn't; I was still four years away from publishing my first book and seven from writing for Rookie.) Maybe writing about Nirvana has long been dude territory and no one wanted to hear a woman's point of view on Kurt Cobain and how he transformed her life twice—once as a junior high misfit and again when she went to Seattle at 24 to retrace his footsteps and light up his name.

Our tribute to Kurt at Viretta Park on our last night in Seattle, April 10, 2004

But that's okay because I wrote it anyway and for an essay site created by a woman named Hillary Carlip, who'd inspired me as much as Kurt did when I was teen. Hillary helped me shape it into the thing I wanted it to be: less of a Nirvana travel guide, more of the story of a personal journey. Go ahead and read it if you want because I don't really want to rehash it. It was a huge moment for me, the moment I finally started to let go of my past, but it happened ten years ago. That's why after a little bit of bitterness and venting that someone else got to write the piece I'd researched, lived, and wanted to write ten years ago, I quickly realized that I didn't care. Now any Nirvana fans, old and young, who still need to go on that journey have a guide and that’s a good thing. Hopefully it will lead them where it led me: to blaze their own path.

This brings us to that other anniversary, the one I am far more focused on than the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. Ten years ago around this time I found the place where I belonged and something clicked inside of me—maybe that self-destructive switch turning off?—and I started to set myself free. It was definitely a process. Even though I had the giant “It was” revelation on April 10, 2004 that I documented in my “Ten Years Gone” essay, disentangling from ten years of damage wasn’t that simple. I didn’t go straight home, break up with my alcoholic boyfriend and move to the city I’d fallen in love with on my ten-day trip. In fact, I stupidly bought a house in the city I knew I didn’t want to live in anymore with the guy I knew I shouldn’t be with. But I was changing on the inside. I was thinking non-stop about Seattle—not about Kurt, but about my experience there. That was and still is the hardest part to explain, the way I fell in love with Seattle and drew strength from it sort of in the same way I did from Nirvana’s music. Sort of but different. I did my best to explain it here and also here and now I explain mostly in pictures on my Tumblr. I have to admit that I feel self-conscious sometimes about its connection to Nirvana. It’s not just because the depths of my obsession in my early twenties was strange and personal, but because that makes it less mine somehow.... Or worse, it keeps me tied to my past, and my love for Seattle, my moving here, is not about my past—quite the opposite. When I fell in love with Seattle, I started fighting to live in the present and to give myself a future.

My trip to Seattle in 2004 was the farthest I’d gone from home on my own, without the boyfriend, without any link to teenage me (well, besides the Nirvana fandom). The girls I was meeting up with were new friends, internet friends. They became best friends, people who knew and understood me as well (and better in some ways) as those who’ve known me most of my life, but that bond was forged during our trip. In some ways that week was more intense than spending four years of high school or four years of college together. And though Nirvana brought us there, our friendship was so much than that. The shit that we’ve gotten each other through and that we’ve celebrated together over the past ten years proves it.

Me, Eryn, and Jenny on my wedding day, October 3, 2009

My relationship with Seattle is quite similar. Nirvana may have brought me there, but the old venues where they played or recorded, the house where Kurt died and the park next to it is not what made me fall in love with it. Much as I loved grunge and 90s music, I’d never thought of the city as some sort of Promised Land—that’s probably why I’d forgotten my fourteen year-old promise to go there someday until I talked to Eryn. It was just a faraway place, a rainy and gray place from what I’d heard. Just a place. Except from the moment I arrived at the waterfront, I knew it wasn’t a place. It was the place. My place.  

My first glimpse of the Seattle waterfront, April 3, 2004
But like I said, it was a process to get there—a process that involved a lot of visits. I took my boyfriend there in December of 2004, partially because I already missed Seattle so much after six months and partially as a test. If he saw the city the way I did, maybe our relationship would be worth salvaging. He didn’t. The two of us finally broke up after I took another trip to Seattle with Eryn in April 2005. It quickly became a tradition for the two of us, sometimes Jenny joined us, too, and once we went with a couple of other message board friends and one of my best friends from college. That was the fifteen year anniversary of Kurt’s death, so we did Nirvana-themed things then, but for the most part my trips with Eryn or Eryn and Jenny had changed—we went in June or August instead of April, we always visited Viretta Park, but we spent most of our time exploring the rest of the city, especially the parks and beaches, the places I had nothing similar to back in Chicago.

I stopped hanging out on message boards and collecting. I’d found my girls, and once I’d started ridding myself of the damage and baggage from my past, I didn’t need it anymore. Actually, I didn’t have room for it anymore. I was too focused on my own art and building my first healthy romance with a guy I would eventually marry. I did still buy the music—the reissues of Bleach, Nevermind, and In Utero as they came out, and I had to have them on vinyl. The music will always be my everything and to paraphrase Britney, one of our diarists at Rookie, when your favorite band is no longer, has been no longer for more than a decade, and will never create anything new because the frontman is dead, you take what you can get. You listen closely to remastered songs to hear something new, you relish lives tracks and the scraps of partially written songs. (I’m sure that Britney actually said this much better. She writes insanely insightful diaries for Rookie. You should read them.) But aside from the music and a recent impulse buy of a special edition commemorative Nirvana Rolling Stone, I’ve stopped collecting.

I didn’t even see Hit So Hard, the documentary about Hole’s drummer Patty Schemel until it had been out on DVD for a while, and when I did, I reacted to the old video footage of my teenage idols in a surprising new way. Instead of wishing I could time travel back to the early 90s and live forever in the period before everything went wrong, instead of being pissed at Kurt for leaving behind the baby girl he clearly loved and the people who clearly loved him, I felt that empathy he'd written about over and over again in his note. I remembered being 24, still grappling to understand teenage me, something he must have been grappling with too and during his meteoric rise to fame. I remembered being 26, right after that long, codependent relationship finally ended and struggling to find the ground beneath my feet. Even after I found it, I still battled depression. Hell, at 32, just a couple months before I watched Hit So Hard, depression and severe artistic blocks combined in such a way that I was regularly writing journal entries wishing for my own death. If this has happened to 26 or 27 year-old me, I might have picked up a shotgun (or my version of it, which would have been a razor blade and a cocktail of pills) but instead I picked up a phone and made an appointment with a sliding-scale, feminist therapist who helped me remake my life. I survived. It was surreal for 33 year-old survivor me to watch 26 or 27 year-old Kurt, the man I’d always thought of as my savior, and want to go back and tell him that it would be okay. It could have been okay. He could have survived. Not for me, not for his art, but for the people who loved him. Yes, outliving and outlearning your idols is a very strange experience indeed.   

Right around that time April 2014 became a different sort of anniversary in my mind—my ten-year anniversary with Seattle. In late 2012, I started to grow anxious. I told my husband that I felt pathetic for wanting to live in this place for almost ten years, but not being brave enough to go for it. I had to be there by the ten-year anniversary. Had to or I’d feel like I failed myself. This is when the biggest change in me happened, bigger than “It was,” bigger than my break-up, bigger than publishing my books and becoming an artist in my own right. It’s still so fresh that I haven’t been able to fully unpack it yet, though I tried in this Ms. Fit Mag series. All I can say is that I feel like a fully-formed person now, one who let go of fear and self-imposed limitations to become brave and assertive enough to go after what she wants and live how she wants to live. I am new in this new city. I am the person that I dreamed of being ten years ago when I was still trying to time travel to fix it. Time travel wasn’t necessary. Fixing wasn’t necessary, processing was and I did that through cross-country travel, through friends, and through art.

It’s still a work-in-progress. It was only a couple of months ago through a conversation with Anaheed Alani, one of my brilliant editors at Rookie, that I realized how connected to my past I remain in my art. I expect that settling here in Seattle, living fully in the present and dreaming of the future, will change that immensely over the next ten years (or hopefully over the next year or two!). It’s a little bit scary, seeking inspiration in new places, but mostly it’s exciting and hopeful.

So what does tomorrow bring? April 5th, 2014, the twentieth anniversary of the death of my teenage hero, the man who sort of brought me here, the man who I outlived, what does it mean to me now? It’s been a little bit bizarre because ten years ago and especially twenty it felt like it meant as much if not more to me than it did to the rest of the world, but not this time. There’s been a frenzy of stories—the creepy, crying statue in Aberdeen, the newly released photos from the suicide scene, all of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame hoopla, and that New York Times piece that briefly stirred my writerly jealousy. I’ve clicked on them, skimmed, and then closed the browser window and glanced out the real window at the Seattle sky that I consider mine now.

A Seattle morning as seen from my house
What tomorrow brings for me—what tonight brings actually—is my girls. Jenny and Eryn as well as my college best friend Jenny and Lynn, a message board friend turned real-life friend when she came to Seattle the first time five years ago. We will go to Viretta Park and I’m sure I’ll bring flowers and light a candle to pay tribute and say thanks because I’m still very grateful for what Kurt and his music did for me. He helped me find my way to this path. I do still wish he could have found his way to one that helped him, but mostly I'm just grateful that I did survive. I made my way here to this beautiful, healthy life that is fully mine and I don’t need to retrace footprints, I’m leaving my own and so are my girls. That’s what we will really be honoring and celebrating this weekend and I think Kurt would have appreciated that.

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12. SEA OF SHADOWS by Kelley Armstrong {Review}

Reviewed by Andye SEA OF SHADOWS Age of Legends #1 by Kelley Armstrong File Size: 773 KB Print Length: 417 pages Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0751547816 Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (April 8, 2014) Mark on Goodreads Buy on Amazon Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author, takes an exciting new direction with this big, breathtaking blend of fantasy, romance, horror, and

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13. April News

April has been a busy, crazy, fun, busy, poetical, busy, bunny business month--and it's not over yet.
So before it gets any crazier, I'll share what I've been reading, doing, writing...

Who says libraries are just for books? Not the Lorain, Ohio children's librarians! They are encouraging kids to explore their creative side in fashions with "Sew Lorain Kids." A long time ago I worked in a couple of libraries in the Cleveland area. I'm so glad to see that the librarians there are continuing to be innovative. There are so many great craft how-to books in libraries, but why not give kids a chance to actually put the lessons into practice. My hats off to all of you in Lorain!!!

 I've been working on a variety of writing projects--one of them is an easy reader narrative nonfiction book on stars. So I was delighted to see a new book by Kathleen T. Isaacs which highlights picture books dealing with nature: BUGS, BOGS, BATS, AND BOOKS. Young readers--as well as their parents--often need help in finding age-appropriate books on various nonfiction subjects. This title also including science activities relating to various topics in the book. Look for this book at the library or ask your librarian to help you find some delightful nonfiction books to share with your children.

Kuddos to another librarian--this time with the focus on poetry. Thinking totally outside of the norm, Cathy Jo Nelson, a South Carolina educator, blogs about "The Unexpected Perks of Poetry." She and a teacher collaborated on a poetry assignment--encouraging the students to create poems from words in book titles: spine poetry. Ms. Nelson elaborates in her blog about the many bonuses of this activity for both students and faculty. Poetry always seems to expand the world for us.

I'm writing the rough draft of chapter book with a poetic ghost in it. Although the story didn't start out with a lyrical ghost, she just appeared out of thin air--so to speak. And who am I to tell her that she doesn't belong in this story. I might be haunted for eternity...so I continue writing.

 Apparently April is also NATIONAL HUMOR MONTH. Although I was unaware of this, I have been reading some humorous picture books of late. A couple of favorites are CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown. Here is a video by the illustrator explaining how he envisioned the sneaky carrots. My two-year-old grandson loves this books. We've read it over and over again. I've even made him his own creepy carrots with real carrots and a black sharpie. Beware biting into that next crispy, orange carrot! There may be many more lurking in the shadows--just waiting to pounce!!!

The other fun picture I've been studying of late is WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore, illustrated by Howard McWilliam. The author uses the "what if" storyline to create an elaborate beach day fantasy complete with fire-breathing dragon. And the illustrator brings the creature to life with humor and charm, sure to entertain children of all ages. But of course, there is the dilemma--once a dragon moves in how do you get him to move out??? Rather like the moles in my backyard, I'm afraid. :)

So here's hoping April is poetically humorous--and beware of carrot-eating dragons, or something like that!

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14. THE DARK WORLD by Cara Lynn Shultz

Reviewed by Elisa THE DARK WORLD Dark World #1 by Cara Lynn Shultz Series: A Dark World Novel (Book 1) Hardcover: 384 pages Publisher: Harlequin Teen (May 27, 2014) Goodreads Amazon Paige Kelly is used to weird—in fact, she probably corners the market on weird, considering that her best friend, Dottie, has been dead since the 1950s. But when a fire demon attacks Paige in detention, she has

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15. The Children of the King (2014)

The Children of the King. Sonya Hartnett. 2014. Candlewick. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Children of the King is set during World War II. And it's set in ENGLAND during World War II. There is every reason in the world, why I should love and adore this one.

Cecily and Jeremy and their mom evacuate to the country; since London is fast becoming much too dangerous, they've evacuated to the family's country estate, Heron Hall. They will live with Uncle Peregrine. On their journey, they see hundreds of other children also evacuating. Unlike Jeremy and Cecily, these kids are going to live with strangers. Cecily resents that they're on the same train. "While she pitied the evacuees, part of her wished they had been on a different train so she wouldn't have had to see them and be weighed down by their plight. She had troubles of her own." (17) But oddly enough--unless you've cheated and read the jacket--Cecily decides by the end of the journey that she just HAS to have ONE of these children. She WANTS to choose herself. She examines the children carefully and slowly. She settles on the one that--by appearances at least--will suit her best. She chooses a girl named May.

May, Cecily, and Jeremy. Three kids that, for the most part, are so different from one another. Sometimes their worlds touch: they interact well with each other and seem to enjoy one another's company. And other times, it's selfishness times three.

Jeremy is fourteen. He is ANGRY and scared and perhaps ashamed that he's scared? He feels he has something to prove. He does NOT want to be in the country. He does not want to be stuck with Cecily and May. They may need the safety and comfort of the country. But not him. He's a man, well, almost. Surely, Jeremy is brave enough and strong enough and stubborn enough to think and act independently.

Cecily. Is she simple or complex? I just can't make up mind. On the one hand, she's selfish and bossy and inconsiderate. On the other hand, what she says may not reflect how she feels. She may be hiding how the war is effecting her. Her fears and doubts might be to blame. I did not really like her very much.

May won't be bossed around for long. Cecily may have picked her out like a pet; Cecily may think she's the boss, but, May is more than capable of standing up for herself and doing exactly what she wants. When Cecily and May accept one another as somewhat equals, there is some peace. But instant friends they are not. Still Cecily and May spend over half the novel in each other's company. It is Cecily and May who spend all their time investigating "Snow Castle;" Cecily and May who discover the two strange boys living in the castle ruins. Cecily and May who keep a secret from all the grown-ups.

I will be honest. I didn't exactly "like" any of the children. I did enjoy, however, Uncle Peregrine! He seems to be just what these three children need. He seems to be the only adult there who understands the children deeply. Peregrine is a storyteller. He tells these three children a story. This story takes weeks to tell. He tells just a little at a time, always leaving them wanting more. He does have a way with words.

For better or worse, the story Peregrine tells is of Richard III and the princes in the tower. He does not call the man in the story, Richard III, he calls him Duke. But to adult readers especially, it is clear how his "story" fits into history. Peregine's story, unfortunately, is ambiguous in all the wrong ways. Richard III is clearly the murderer. (Boo, hiss!) In his ambiguous telling, he offers the possibility that the boys were saved, after all, that they were taken to the country to hide for the rest of their lives. And since these two princes match up oh-so-closely with May and Cecily's strange new friends living in the ruins, readers are led to believe this is where their ghosts dwell after all.

I would have much preferred Hartnett to be ambiguous with the identity of the murderer, to at least consider that others had equally strong motives. If Richard himself had hid the children away in the country, it would have been a more enjoyable ghost story.

I typically like World War II stories. I don't usually like ghost stories. Does the fact that the ghosts are the princes of the tower make me change my mind? I'm still thinking on it.

I do appreciate the juxtaposition of these two stories. How Hartnett trusts readers to reach conclusions and find common themes: how children rarely, if ever, have power or a voice; how sometimes children are caught in situations out of their control, are caught in chaos and uncertainty. That war is war, and war can be cruel and ugly.

So in many ways, I can like this one, at least from a distance, but did I love it? I'm not sure I can stretch it that far.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Interview with Sean Cummings, Author of Poltergeeks

Sean Cummings dropped by the virtual offices to chat about his new release, Poltergeeks. Check out what he has to say!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Sean Cummings] Middle-aged introvert with obsessive compulsive tendencies. Life long cat person who is morphing into the crazy old man on your street.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Poltergeeks?

[Sean Cummings] Poltergeeks is book with a strong female protagonist who is snarky, fearless, loyal to those closest to her and who is desperate to prove herself to her over protective mother. It’s a book that is brooding vampire-free where there are romantic elements that differ from a lot of the love triangle formula you see in many young adult books these days. Julie and her best friend Marcus are quintessential geeks (Marcus, more so) who are quite happy about their social standing and comfortable in their own skin. There’s a bit of high school in the book but most of the story takes place on the streets of my hometown of Calgary. The reader is introduced to some very eccentric characters and Betty Priddy tops the list – she’s a blast to write about and the fact that she’s an immortal spirit who steals bodies at death’s door so she can manifest in the mortal plane creates a couple of interesting choices by which she pops into Julie’s life. This is a fun and funny story that gets very dark, very quickly. It’s non-stop action because the clock is ticking for Julie if she plans to save her mother’s life.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Sean Cummings] The book started with the title, actually. The word POLTERGEEKS just popped into my head and I started jotting down ideas. Given that it’s been nearly thirty years since I was in high school I took a gamble when I decided to write something aimed at young adults and I wanted to make the characters as genuine as possible. So there’s mother-daughter angst. There’s a protagonist who wants very much to prove herself. There’s a missing piece to my protagonist’s life in that her father died when she was very young. All of this started to gel once I sat down and worked on an outline and the actual plot took shape very quickly once I sat down with a sheet of paper and a pencil. I wanted to write something different than a lot of urban fantasy featuring teenagers, so I adopted a mindset very quickly that my characters, though low on the social scale at school should still be quite comfortable with their standing in life. In Julie you have the hero’s journey. In Marcus, you have the Watson to Julie’s Sherlock Holmes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Julie?

[Sean Cummings] Feisty. Fearless. Irresponsible at times. Grounded in her friendships. Extremely loyal. Extremely self-sufficient. Comfortable in her own skin. She’s also a very, very powerful witch – more so than other witches her age. And finally, she’s snarky. A good female protagonist in an urban fantasy needs to be snarky, and Julie’s level of snark jumps right off the page.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Marcus would never have in his pocket?

[Sean Cummings] That’s a good question. He would never have car keys in his pocket because he’s all about saving the planet. He wouldn’t have a Starbucks gift card because he hates evil corporate entities save for McDonald’s. He wouldn’t carry lip balm unless he’s analyzed its chemical components first.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Julie’s single most prized possession?

[Sean Cummings] The faint, wispy memories of her late father who died when she was four. He’s the missing piece in her life – his non-presence has shaped the person that she’s becoming. His legacy is coming back to haunt her in a very dark and dangerous way.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Sean Cummings] Comic books top the list. Anything written by Alan Moore because he re-imagined what a comic book can possibly be with Watchmen. Stephen King, obviously, but also authors like Robert R. McCammon, John Saul and Simon R. Green. Believe it or not, Buffy didn’t influence me, though I did enjoy the show immensely.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Sean Cummings] 1) Silence. I need absolute silence. 2) Coffee. I need that kick start first thing in the morning. 3) Early morning. I can’t write after twelve in the afternoon. I’m a morning person and my creative juices are always flowing when I’ve crawled out of bed to begin pounding away at the keyboard.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Sean Cummings] The one that stands out the most is BLACKBIRDS by Chuck Wendig. I believe that in Miriam Black, Wendig has completely re-written the rules for what’s possible in dark fantasy with a strong female protagonist. Like, completely and utterly demolished them. No, I’m serious. He hopped his ass into a Sherman Tank and bloody well smashed through them with his main cannon firing. Miriam Black is unbelievably damaged goods – she touches your skin, she sees your death. BOOM! How can that NOT mess your mind up? How can you NOT smoke a three packs of cigarettes a day or guzzle whiskey to numb everything. It’s gritty, frightening and at times downright hilarious. This is the first book in a long time where I don’t have a bloody clue the direction the main character is going to go because Miriam doesn’t really have a clue where her life is leading her either. BLACKBIRDS is the best book of the year – hand’s down. I expect you’re going to see a lot of authors writing books with similar style characters because they’ve been influenced by Wendig’s writing. God knows, I have.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Sean Cummings] Oh that’s easy. WHEN THE WIND BLOWS by John Saul. It’s the first "adult" book I ever read and the irony is that its main characters are children. All of Saul’s books deal with themes that can resonate with someone writing young adult. The setting is always a small town where everyone knows each other. There’s always something dark and terrible in that house two blocks away from your house. There’s always something evil lurking in the shadows and it usually revolves around young people.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Sean Cummings] I’m a massive English football fan. Love love love the game! So I watch it on the dish Saturday and Sunday mornings at an obscenely early hour when I should be writing. I like to hang out with my son. I read, obviously. I watch a lot of science fiction and fantasy with the better half. I basically immerse myself in being a happy middle aged man who lives in a nice neighborhood (finally).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Sean Cummings] I’m on Twitter (saskatoonauthor). My website is sean-cummings.ca. I’m on Facebook. My email is info AT sean DASH cummings DOT ca.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Poltergeeks from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below

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Join the Party! Jeff Gunhus is wrapping up a 3 week tour with a Twitter Party on Friday, December 21 from 6 pm to 8 pm EST Use the hashtag #JackTemplar to join the party. Missed the tour? Check out the entire tour schedule for great reviews, guest posts, and interviews!…………………………………………. MONSTER HUNTERS ~~AND ~~ [...]

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18. In the Shadow of Blackbirds - a review

There is no easy segue from yesterday's Captain Underpants review to today's In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I primarily review children's books.  This one is definitely for young adults.

Winters, Cat. 2013. In the Shadow of Blackbirds. New York: Amulet.
Advance Reader Copy supplied by NetGalley.

Through the windows, I watched the boys proceed to a line of green military trucks that waited rumbling alongside the curb. The recruits climbed one by one beneath the vehicles' canvas coverings with the precision of shiny bullets being loaded into a gun. The trucks would cart them off to their training camp, which was no doubt overrun with feverish, shivering flu victims. The boys who didn't fall ill would learn how to kill other young men who were probably arriving at a German train station in their Sunday-best clothing at that very moment. (From Chapter 2, "Aunt Eva and the Spirits")

The year is 1918, and 16-year-old Mary Shelly Black is on her way from Portland to San Diego to stay with her widowed 26-year-old aunt. Her mother is dead. Her father has recently been arrested - swept up in the anti-German immigrant frenzy that's sweeping the country.

The sign in front of the eatery claimed the place specialized in "Liberty Steaks," but that was simply paranoid speak for We don't want to call anything a name that sounds remotely German, like "hamburger." We're pro-American. We swear! (from Chapter 13, "Ugly Things")

Young men are eagerly enlisting to fight in the trenches of Europe, and amidst it all, the "Spanish flu" ravages the population - their flimsy gauze masks are no match for the deadly virus.

The businessmen in smart felt hats rode with me, probably on their lunch break. They buried their gauze-covered noses in the San Diego Union, and one of them felt the need to read the October influenza death tolls out loud. "Philadelphia: over eleven thousand dead and counting - just this month. Holy Moses! Boston: for thousand dead." The use of cold statistics to describe the loss of precious lives made me ill. (From Chapter 17, "Keep Your Nightmares to Yourself")
The bleak situation is made all the worse by her recent discovery that her dearest Stephen, the only bright spot in her sad existence in San Diego, has enlisted in the Army, not because he desires to fight and kill German soldiers, but to show love for his country and free himself from living under the same roof as his brother, a drug-addled, "spirit photographer,"

So this is war. The declaration changed Coronado and San Diego overnight. The men are all enlisting and everyone is hurrying to make sure we all look like real Americans. One of our neighbors held a bonfire in his backyard and invited everyone over to burn their foreign books. I stood at the back of the crowd and watched people destroy the fairy tales of Ludwig Tieck and the Brothers Grimm and the poetry of Goethe, Eichendorff, Rilke, and Hesse. They burned sheet music carrying the melodies of Bach, Strauss, Beethoven, and Wagner. Even Brahm's "Lullaby."
In the Shadow of Blackbirds takes a decidedly darker turn when Mary Shelly learns of Stephen's death in the trenches of Europe.  She attends his funeral, but something is very wrong.  She can hear him, she can feel his torment.  His spirit is not at rest; and amidst the horror of war and the flu pandemic, something else is terribly, terribly wrong.  Spirit photography and séances are commonplace as millions across the country yearn to connect with loved ones lost to war or disease; but Shelly is a girl of science, of rationalism - raised in a house of reason and education.  But how can science and reason explain the anguished pleas of her deceased love?

In The Shadow of Blackbirds is gripping historical fiction and Mary Shelly Black is a tragic yet strong protagonist. Containing some of the same themes as Avi's dark, Seer of Shadows (Harper Collins, 2008) (spirit photography, rationalism vs. spiritualism), In the Shadow of Blackbirds examines these themes as well as romantic love and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The setting (San Diego and nearby Coronado Island) and the juxtaposition of love and war, disease and science combine to offer a dark and gritty debut novel.  The descriptions of trench warfare and everyday life during the massive flu pandemic are gritty and graphic, reminiscent of Mary Hooper's novel of Europe's 17th century plague, At the Sign of the Sugared Plum (Bloomsbury, 2003). The fear of death is almost palpable, made even more so by the reader's knowledge that garlic amulets and gauze masks are powerless against the killer flu. To read In the Shadow of Blackbirds is to be immersed in a grim period of American history that at times, bears resemblance to our own.

From the Author's Note,

...the influenza pandemic of 1918 (this particular strain was known as the "Spanish flu" and the "Spanish Lady") killed at least twenty million people worldwide. (Some estimates run as high as more than one hundred million people killed." Add to that the fifteen million people who were killed as a result of World War I and you can see why the average life expectancy dropped to thrifty-nine years in 1918 - and why people craved seances and spirit photography. 

Note: If you've ever watched the classic Academy Award Best Picture, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), this warning from Mary Shelly to her love will foreshadow and haunt,

 "Please stay safe. It's not everyone who has the patience to photograph a butterfly."

Period photographs of life during the influenza pandemic of 1918 availabe at these sites:

There are great resources of all kinds (music, vintage video footage and photos) at Cat Winters' site.

Here's the trailer, just released today at the Mod Podge Bookshelf. I wish it hinted at the book's rich historical detail.

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19. Thursday Poll Question: Have you seen a ghost?

Thursday Poll

We are having a lively discussion over at the Talking to Angels and Ghosts class about ghost sightings. For a new, fun thing, Thursdays are fun poll days. Let’s hear from you…

Take Our Poll

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20. Review: Forget Me Not by Carolee Dean

Forget Me Not
by Carolee Dean

Published by: Simon Pulse
Released on: October 2, 2012
374 Pages

    Forget Me Not is deep, twisting around life, hidden secrets of reality, and the truth.  We meet Ally who isn't quite what you would suspect. Yes, she is an average girl, but when she meets the others in the hallway at school that is off limits, she finds herself learning more and more, all the while ending up more confused with the riddles and games the others around her like to play.

   It's Elijah that might be able to make a real difference in Ally's life. He's been in that hallway and has escaped it and the evil that resides there. He knows first hand what Ally is about to give her life to. He knows that she's about to make the biggest mistake ever. Elijah is her only hope of survival, but she has to want it.

If you love novels that are written in verse, this one's for you.

Received for review purposes from the publisher.

1 Comments on Review: Forget Me Not by Carolee Dean, last added: 4/23/2013
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21. The lowdown on Ghost shows

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 8.56.09 AM

I’ve completed the research on ghost shows, so you don’t have to.

Ghost Hunters

I used to be a huge Ghost Hunters fan. I collected and bought every season they had, and then life got busy and judging by my bookshelf, I stopped at Season 5. I watched the show the other day, and I still have fun with it, but I’m a little bored. I’m not sure if I overdosed on Ghost Hunters all those years, or it was negative experiences I had actual ghost hunting with a team for a television show (kinda disillusioning). I was pissed when they lost Grant, as the Jason and Grant combo really worked — they would have the most ghost-hunting experiences to report on the show. Some things did grow to be annoying — when a ghost hunter would cry out, Did you see that? Since of course, we did not, we could only guess what they saw or heard vs. real evidence. Overall, though, I enjoy the personalities of the show. They have become old friends from watching back in the day when the show began.

Paranormal State

A team of college students investigate hauntings in this show. The show is now over, as I imagine, most the students have long graduated. I liked the research end of the show but there was such a darkness that pervaded each episode that gave me a headache. Everything was devil this and devil that and then they would bring in Lorraine Warren and it was ALWAYS some demonic entity doing the haunting. A big yuck for me as I prefer to focus on the more light-hearted side. The plus side on this show is I loved when Chip Coffey would come in as medium. That’s when my juices really flowed and I related to his findings or at least to his technique.

Ghost Adventures

A bunch of strapping, good-looking investigators are locked into a haunted location for the night. Being claustrophobic, even the idea of this doesn’t appeal to me. There’s very little intuition going on in the show, so it doesn’t hold my interest as much. They also seem to have many experiences where they are touched or scratched, and I find that just plain nasty. Would you want to be around living people who scratch you for no reason and are abusinve? Much less get stuck in the room with them for hours. It’s like a bad party, or most of 2009 for me.

Psychic Kids

I’ve mentioned this before on this blog that I loved that show. Talking to and validating the experiences of intuitive kids? How fabulous a premise is that! They even EDUCATE the kids on how to handle their psychic ability, which is even better. I think I learned a thing a two for myself. Why don’t they make more of these shows?

Haunted Collector

I watched this show last night about a father/daughter team who investigate haunted objects. It runs like most ghost shows, the same format, but the hauntings originate from some antique or object, rather then a spirit haunting, which leaves the show feeling a little emotionless and detached for my taste. I like a good story regarding a person. The last episode I watched involved a boxer spirit who was attached to a medicine bottle. I found that to be a vague connection. A bottle? That didn’t sit right. I think he was more attached to the boxing ring that was still there on the premises. It’s still an entertaining show, but I can’t connect to things like that.

Girly Ghost Hunters

Sorry, Ladies. I really didn’t like the episode I watched. There was one episode where the ladies are discussing the next case while riding their ghost hunter bus, and they giggle and comment, and it’s just plain awkward. It reads like a bad home movie. I was uncomfortable watching it. At least with some of the other shows, I feel the detectives have experience and vast knowledge on the subject. This feels like a bunch of girls grabbed some cameras one night on a drunken dare. It’s a “no” for me.

I’m guessing most of the shows are scripted in some way, and when they go through the editing process, they aim for the more sensationalized effect over authenticity.  If you can overlook that and just have fun watching, these shows are entertaining and enjoyable. My recommendation would be stick to the more light-hearted ones with the good stories. The darker ones will only leave you with a headache.

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22. Listening for Lucca, by Suzanne LaFleur

"I'm obsessed with abandoned things." So begins LaFleur's quiet and enchanting book about friendship, family, choice, ghosts and history.

Siena's family is about to abandon Brooklyn for the beaches of Maine.  Siena doesn't really mind.  There's not much tying her to Brooklyn anymore.  Her once deep friendship with Kelsey has fizzled since Kelsey no longer seems interested in Siena's dreams or imaginings.  And honestly, Siena is a little frightening about what has been happening to her lately.

She has always had vivid dreams, but now these dreams are creeping into her waking hours.  Scenery seems to shift and she finds herself viewing history, when she should be seeing what everyone else is seeing.  Maybe Maine will help?

The move is not for Siena, however, but for her little brother Lucca.  Lucca used to be a run of the mill little kid...sticky and loud.  But now Lucca is silent.  Siena's mom is desperate for anything that will give her son a voice again.

Once Siena is in the new house, she just knows that there are ghosts.  What's more, is that Lucca seems to sense them too.  She has no sooner unpacked her collection of abandoned things, when her vivid dreaming and visions start again.  Only now Lucca is scared, and Siena promises him that she will get to the bottom of things.

When Siena finds an old lost pen high up in her closet, pieces of the past come forward and help her to understand not only her dreams and her visions, but her family as well.

This is a lovely slow reveal of a book that will delight detail oriented readers.  LaFleur weaves the story together with invisible strings that form a delicate pattern that becomes clear in due time.  Each character is fully developed and the past and the present storylines never compete with each other; rather they complete each other.

Simply captivating.

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I have to say I love patterns, so when asked to do a halloween illustration, all I could think about  was  the scenario and patterns. So here is my offering, the ghosts are friendly and handing out treats to the little treat or treaters.
With patterns... Read the rest of this post

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24. Review: Bleach Vol 1 by Tite Kubo


Title: Bleach Vol 1

Author:  Tite Kubo


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


Hot-tempered 15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki, the hero of the popular fantasy-adventure Bleach, has the unsettling ability to see spirits who are unable to rest in peace. His sixth sense leads him to Rukia, a Soul Reaper who destroys Hollows (soul-devouring monsters) and ensures the deceased find repose with the Soul Society. When she’s injured in battle, Rukia transfers her sword and much of her power to Ichigo, whose spiritual energy makes him a formidable substitute Soul Reaper. But the orange-haired teenager isn’t sure he wants the job: too many risks and moral dilemmas.


Bleach is one of my favorite series, and I realized with a great deal of dismay that I am far, far behind in my reading of this title.  I don’t think I’ve reviewed many of the volumes, so I opted to take advantage of a comp copy through Vizmanga.com to reacquaint myself with Ichigo, Rukia, and the rest of the gang.  This is a very fun series that features a ton of action, surprisingly touching emotions, and fan favorite protagonists in both Ichigo and Ruikia.  If you enjoyed The Ghost and the Goth or The Curse Workers by Holly Black, I think you should give Bleach a try.  Admittedly, the length of the series is daunting, and it’s still being published, but there are enough volumes released in English that you can read it in manageable chunks by utilizing online sales and trips to the library. 

Ichigo Kurosaki is 15 years old and he can see ghosts.  His sisters can too, though all they can see are faint outlines.  Ichigo can see, touch, talk to, and channel these pesky spirits that he thinks are a pain in the butt.  He just wants to be left alone to mind his own business but NOPE!  That’s not happening.  Ichigo also has a high moral obligation to help anyone in trouble, even those troublesome ghosts.  When an evil spirit threatens to hurt his family, he’s forced to borrow Soul Reaper powers from Rukia, a Soul Reaper who was badly injured saving his bacon.  Too hurt to fight, she offers to lend Ichigo half of her dark powers so he can save his family.  She’s dismayed to discover that he’s so spiritually powerful that he steals all of them, and now she can’t get them back!

I love the relationship between Ichigo and Rukia.  Their back and forth banter is humorous and full of snark.  While Ichigo isn’t exactly disrespectful, he doesn’t understand the need to put himself in danger, fighting the Hollows, regardless of the obligation he acquired when he snatched away all of Rukia’s power.  When the chips are down, though, her forceful prodding  makes him realize how important a Soul Reaper’s duties are.  If he doesn’t take care of the restless spirits, they will eventually turn into Hollows, and once they become these evil monsters, they lose their last shred of humanity.  There is no going back, and the Hollows have an insatiable need to feed on souls.   Rukia put her life at risk to save Ichigo and his family, so he acknowledges that he has a duty to help Rukia until she can figure out a way to get her powers back.

Ichigo is one of my favorite characters because he can’t stand to see an injustice and not want to correct it.  He and One Piece’s Luffy have a lot in common. Both of them will give their heart and soul, not to mention their life, to defend those needing help.  They are white knights in attitude.  Ichigo can’t turn his back on bullying, or just stand by when someone is about to get hurt.  He’s not perfect, and there are many times when he should learn to keep his mouth shut, but he can’t do it.  He is fiercely devoted to his friends and family, and he won’t let anyone hurt them.  Now that he’s a Soul Reaper by default, he can’t ignore when a soul is in danger, either.

The first volume of Bleach is fast-paced, brimming with frantic action, yet it doesn’t let the characters and their interactions take a back seat to all of the fighting.  That is what I enjoy most about Bleach.  The character come to life for me, and I so badly want Ichigo to master his new powers so he doesn’t come to harm.  It’s hard watching such a likeable guy getting the crap beat out of him, even though I have few doubts that he’ll always persevere.  That assurance is the main appeal of manga for me.  I know that even as the protagonists are facing certain doom, they will eventually find a solution to all of their problems.  Reading along as they figure that out is what makes reading them so rewarding.

Grade:  A-

Review copy provided by publisher

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25. Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco | Review

This should be a sad tale but instead is up-lifting. Much of that is due to the protagonist’s wry voice: Twelve-year-old Bee (short for Beatrice) is an orphan and works for a traveling carnival, living in the back of a truck with nineteen-year-old Pauline.

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