K-Girls, #1 in the Kylemore Abbey Series, by Lydia Little

51QfXiHJMgL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_[1]A Spirited Tale of Irish Boarding School Escapades

Pre-Teen to Adult Readers

Readers of all ages who relish tales of high jinks and adventure with a paranormal twist will enjoy K-Girls. The read will be particularly nostalgic for those such as me who spent their youth in the 1980’s and enjoyed reading Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s and Malory Towers series. It is many a girls dream to attend boarding school  away from the confines of home life, forging new friendships and experiencing exciting escapades and this book does not disappoint in bringing these dreams alive.

K-Girls is the first book in the Kylemore Abbey Series, by author Lydia Little, who was herself once a pupil of the school (scroll down for her bio). It has been released in both digital format and paperback. In K-Girls Alice Stone persuades her parents to send her to boarding school, wanting to have the adventures she always dreamed about and at the same time reinvent herself. She is drawn to the beauty and splendour of Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, a convent school for girls, housed in a former castle.  Alice enters the school as a somewhat nervous first year, nevertheless determined to make her mark and enjoy her life there to the full.

Soon after she arrives she encounters Ruth, the ghost of a former pupil, who died at the school in the 1920’s and whose body resides in the cemetery. Alice has never seen a ghost before, let alone held a conversation with one! For her part Ruth has had a lonely existence since becoming a ghost, being able to observe the comings and goings at Kylemore, to which she is tied, but never having communicated with a soul, living or dead. Alice keeps Ruth and her ability to see and communicate with her a secret from her new friends, Gale and Bessie, and others at Kylemore, lest they think she is losing her mind.

As a first year Alice and her friends are viewed as the newbies by the other girls, especially the seniors and Alice cannot resist embroiling herself in some daring escapades as she strives to prove her worth in challenges set by the older girls. Her success in these ventures is threatened by some enemies she inadvertently makes and she has to rely on Ruth’s assistance and her own cunning and tenacity to succeed, often against all odds.

I enjoyed the two main characters of Ruth and Alice and the friendship and mysrerious bond they formed. Alice is a spunky, confident and likeable heroine, wanting to make her mark and do right by others. She is desperate to prove that she can succeed in the tasks she is set and at the same time not wanting to offend Dame Mary, who runs the school, with her exploits. Ruth is desperate for a friend, having been on her own for so long and sometimes Alice, who doesn’t want her ability to communicate with Ruth to jeopardise her budding friendships with other girls, is a little unfeeling with some of the things she says to her, although she does feel guilty afterwards. I really felt for Ruth as she cannot recall the circumstances around her death and cannot comprehend why she has not passed over. I was interested to learn about her story as her memories start to resurface. Ruth has a strong sense of what is right and wrong, sometimes at odds with more modern sensibilities.

The novel is set in the 1980’s and there are many references to the popular culture of the time. It is clear that the author is familiar with this time period as well as the minutiae of school life at the school she attended and its history. I enjoyed the descriptions of the school and its grounds and the escapades of the girls! There are many humorous scenes, such as Alice talking to Ruth and being overheard talking to herself by others and other scenes where certain characters get their comeuppance.

There are many other characters in the novel, comprising Alice’s friends, Gale and Bessie and other characters comprising older girls and teachers, some of whom do not have Alice’s interests at heart.  The novel also deals sensitively with the usual issues of the making and breaking of friendships and making up, their emotions being perhaps more acute than normal as the girls are away from home and in a secluded environment.  Some of the characters are not all what they first seem and there are a number of plot twists, including a major one at the end, which I did not expect. I will be very interested to find out where the author takes the tale in the next instalment!

I recommend this novel to readers of all ages who like tales of adventure and mystery with paranormal elements, but which also explore the trials and tribulations of pre-teen and teenage girls in their formative years.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

A copy of this book was provided by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

https://www.facebook.com/LydiaLittleKGirl

http://www.kylemoreabbeytourism.ie/

Author Bio: Lydia Little grew up in Kinsale, Co. Cork. Convincing her parents to send her to boarding school, Lydia attended secondary school in Kylemore Abbey School for girls in Connemara from the ages of 12 to 18. Having kept diaries throughout, she still enjoys putting pen to paper, only now her journals are full of plots, scribbles, quotes and new characters, all shouting for inclusion in her new books.

After a stint of sailing, living in the UK and a short life as a hotelier, Lydia has returned to West Cork, where she now lives with her husband, 3 children, 3 dogs and a mad eyed cat named Bowie.

K-Girls is her first novel.

Here are the links to the book on Amazon UK    Amazon US

Ways to See a Ghost by Emily Diamand

WaysToSeeGhost CvrA Fun and Dramatic Young Adult Sci-fi/ Paranormal Adventure (11yrs+)

In Ways to See a Ghost two teenagers, Isis and Gray, are brought together during strange circumstances, in which thereafter their parents start dating. In many ways, as well as being a paranormal adventure, this book is a fun read, with Gray’s father, Gil, believing in many different conspiracies relating to UFO’s and the Government, and Isis’ mother, Cal, working as a psychic! However, Isis can see the ghost of her dead, little sister, Angel, and has been able to do so since the terrible ordeal that took her. Isis has never been able to tell anybody that she can see her sister, but this is all about to change since she has formed a friendship with Gray. The drama heightens when Cal, Isis’ mum, joins the Welkin Psychic Society where the intentions of its leader, Philip Syndal is not as they seem. Isis and Gray begin to piece the jigsaw together but will their parents believe them? Will they be able to prevent the danger that lies around the corner?

The reader instantly feels for Isis. She has lost her little sister in a terrible accident, her mother has taken a downturn because of the distressing situation and to make matters worse, Isis can see her sisters ghost and feels that she cannot tell anyone for fear of being labelled as crazy and/or creating more problems for her mother. In addition to this, Isis doesn’t support her mother’s psychic work and this causes a rift between the two at times.

It was Cal’s psychic work that brought Isis and Gray to meet. Cal was visiting a client, Sondra, for a psychic meeting to try and work out where Sondra’s boyfriend, Norman Welkin, was. Meanwhile Gil, Gray’s dad, worked as a gardener for Norman and had taken Gray with him. Whilst in the garden, Gray came across Isis, sitting on a bench, waiting for her mum. Words were exchanged between them before the raised voices of Sondra and Cal could be heard. Trying to get back to her mum, Gray showed Isis a short cut through the garden, when they discovered the body of Norman Welkin.

This discovery really opens the story out as it was confirmed that Norman had died from natural causes. However, Gil with his theories disbelieves this. How can a man be found frozen in Spring as the temperture begins to rise? Gil automatically believes that there is a cover up and that the circumstances are suspicious. Meanwhile, Cal is invited to join the psychic society that Norman had set up. Cal, although dating Gil at this point, is taken in by Philip Syndal, the society’s leader, and worships the ground he walks on. Isis sees through Philip’s charm and between Angel’s ghost, Isis and Gray they begin to work out why Philip is so interested in Cal!

My favourite character is Gray. I love his sense of humour and the manner in which he explains happenings and the descriptions of people. He is full of wit and so honest – maybe a little too honest at times, but this is what makes him so funny and likeable! If he thinks that something is plain rubbish he says exactly that. A couple of examples, whilst in the garden at Norman Welkin’s house he notices Norman’s girlfriend, Sondra, through a window:-

“…I looked through the window into their living room, but there was only Sondra, his girlfriend. Not like that sounds, because she’s really old, as old as him……..She was as weird as him….”

Gray goes on to explain Sondra’s artwork:-

“She said she was an artist, but she showed me a couple of her pictures once, and they were all…swirly and mixed up. Rubbish, I thought.”

Despite Gray’s honest and sarcastic side, he also shows empathy towards Iris and helps her in times of need when no one else will or can. This is quite a sweet side to him, although I bet he’d hate me to say that!

Although both have their own reasons for being isolated from the other kids, Isis and Gray can, overtime, be sympathetic towards each others differences. Isis didn’t want to open up to Gray as she feared his reaction would be to laugh and make fun of her. And yet as they become closer, Isis does decide to open up to Gray, who ,soon enough, has reason to believe her, making him the only one aware of the full story – Isis and Cal’s angle and his father’s UFO theory. ediamand photo b&wEmily Diamand has approached both characters with the reader feeling quite sorry for them as well as making it fun with Gil and Cal at complete opposite ends. It’s surprising that they got together! The story and characters are exciting and interesting. And it is great how it can be witty and funny one moment, scary and creepy another and then dramatic and sad in other parts.

I really liked two of the supporting characters, Mandeville and Stu The Keeper! Mandeville is a ghost that regularly reaches out to Isis. Even though she really doesn’t want him to, I like the idea that she can see him and other ghosts and the settings in which she can see them at times is brilliant. And Stu The Keeper is a great, fun character. He is a friend of Gil’s who is also very serious about conspiracy theories – even moreso than Gil. He visits Gil from time to time with his anorak on to disguise himself, carrying his laptop that has The Database saved and between them they cross reference their findings and discuss in secret what they believe is happening. It is quite hilarious at times!

Whilst Ways to See a Ghost is planned for release next month, July 2013, there is a sequel planned for 2014. It would be great to see how Isis and Gray’s relationship grows further and leaves me wondering what adventure they will be going on next!

Look out for Tina’s review of Ways to See a Ghost over the coming weeks!

Ways to See A Ghost was received gratefully from Templar Publishing in return for an honest and fair review.

Other works by author, Emily Diamand, are Flood Child (2009) and Flood and Fire (2011)

Cover art by Ben Kovar

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Wraith by Angel Lawson

Wraith (Wraith, #1)What a story! I absolutely loved ‘Wraith’ by Angel Lawson. ‘Wraith’ was received by myself gratefully in return for an honest review. And in all honesty, I found ‘Wraith’ to be a refreshing read with some dark and emotional areas. Aimed at an audience for young adults, this novel suits it’s audience’s needs perfectly, but is also quite a nice read for adults alike.

Not too short and not too long, this novel is just right with some great characters. Jane is the main character. At seventeen she is outcast as a weirdo, a freak, for talking to herself and behaving in a strange manner both in and around school. Little do people know that she is seeing and interacting with Evan, a ghost and her new best friend. Jane spends most of her time with Evan and they have a very close bond. However, when Connor begins Jane’s school she is not the only one who can see Evan. And Connor, having had connections with ghosts himself, is aware that Evan may not only be around Jane for her friendship but also needs her assisatnce to help his spirit move on. Whilst Jane is not ready to accept this, she eventually realises the truth, needing to help Evan’s mum and sisters escape from an abusive partner/stepfather-type, John.

The reader really feels sympathy towards Jane as it must be difficult for a young person trying to make new friends in a new town, at the same time as having to get used to a new school, leaving her old friends behind and being laughed at by her new classmates. Jane is very brave and holds her own reasonably well.

Connor, on the other hand, is familiar with the school as he used to attend it before. He has friends and is quite popular as some would prefer not to say a bad word against him due to rumours of his previous delinquent behaviour. He is seen as the bad boy at school, but a stunner and a charmer all the same. He can be quite sweet and he understands the situation that Jane is in with Evan.

Throughout the novel the reader experiences a great deal of doubt from Jane and mistrust for Connor. These feelings twist from one way to the other. The reader is constantly kept on their toes in regard to Connor. But as he’s so hot you want to trust him and hope that he means well.

Evan is a troubled spirit who is trapped as he hasn’t moved on in the spiritual world. He uses his time looking out for Jane and being a close friend to her. Thus, making company for both of them. However, Evan is worried about the well-being of his mother and sisters. He is a character that needs to be mothered and the reader just wants to wrap him up in cotton wool – if that is at all possible – and show him some affection.

My favourite character is Jeannie, Jane’s aunt. She is an artist and a hippy-type character. She seems very flighty and free. When she sees Jane she notices her aura and is aware that ‘death’ is following her around. Jeannie is definitely a character that could grow with this series and play more of a crucial role in Jane’s life by allowing Jane to confide in her. Jeannie is very spiritual with an elderly mother who shares Jane’s gift. I would love these characters to develop more and possibly add more humour and support for Jane.

There are some dark action scenes in this novel, nothing too graphic or terrifying, as Angel Lawson writes these scenes very carefully to target her attended audience. These scenes were great and intense as the reader can do nothing but hope for a great outcome. John, the abusive partner to Evan’s mum is an awful character as you could imagine an abusive man to be. Without spoiling the story too much, there are a couple of times he follows Jane. I would have liked more detail at these points to confirm how he knew about where and when Jane would be. Maybe I missed this but I felt that these scenes, even though very exciting and tense, come upon the reader very quickly without too much explanation.

I think that ‘Wraith’ is quite original, written well and easy to read. There is one scene, involving a key, that reminded me of the film ‘Ghost’ where Patrick Swayze’s spirit character, Sam Wheat, is able to pick up a penny and balance it on his finger towards his living wife, played by Demi Moore. It is really quite an emotional read in both sad and happy ways. I would like to read the sequel ‘Shadow Bound’ which is available now. So until then “later”!

Angel Lawson’s website: http://www.angellawson.com

‘Wraith’ book cover by kind permission of Anna Benefield & Samantha Marrs. Designer http://www.angstyg.com

Reviewed by Caroline Barker