A brisk, nuanced story of supernatural sightings and adolescent tribulations.

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THE GHOST OF JAMIE MCVAY

In Ziemer’s debut YA tale, a teenager believes he’s seen a ghost from his town’s folklore.

Brian Krueger’s life is a struggle after the death of his paternal grandfather. The teen’s dad responds by drinking heavily, prompting his unemployment. So Brian’s mom finds a job, which takes the family from Chicago to just outside Winston, Illinois. Their new neighbors, the Vincenzis, include teenage “Pete the Pyro,” a bully who loves building huge bonfires but clearly doesn’t like Brian. Luckily, Brian has a friend in Sharon Rice. They have English class together at Winston North and team up on a research paper. Their topic is the reputed ghost of Jamie McVay, a local legend. Brian’s interest is personal: One night, he sensed the presence of a speeding train in the same spot, he later learns, of a fatal train accident decades ago. He also saw a red signal light evidently belonging to McVay, the conductor reputedly on the doomed train. Research dredges up secrets surrounding both the wreck and McVay himself. Brian, meanwhile, already has his share of problems: his alcoholic father, constant bullying from Pete and his cronies, and Sharon’s new social status, which may sever their friendship. It all culminates in a Halloween night of shocks and revelations. Despite supernatural elements, Ziemer’s novel is consistently subtle. For example, the red signal light typically indicates McVay’s presence, in lieu of a more overt ghostly image. Likewise understated is Brian and Sharon’s relationship. While potential romance between the teens is apparent, their steadily developing friendship deepens organically, and their mutual attraction is obvious, though neither explicitly addressing it. There’s minimal suspense with regard to the restless spirit of McVay. The scariest parts are generally more relatable, involving such things as Brian’s inebriated dad behind the wheel (with Brian in the passenger seat) and Pete’s rather unnerving fondness for flames. The author’s tight prose helps the story retain a swift pace all the way to a climax that, even if readers see it coming, is wholly gratifying.

A brisk, nuanced story of supernatural sightings and adolescent tribulations. 

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-215-1

Page Count: 237

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2020

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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