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Notes from Ghost Town

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They say first love never dies...

From critically acclaimed author Kate Ellison comes a heartbreaking mystery of mental illness, unspoken love, and murder. When sixteen-year-old artist Olivia Tithe is visited by the ghost of her first love, Lucas Stern, it’s only through scattered images and notes left behind that she can unravel the mystery of his death.

There’s a catch: Olivia has gone colorblind, and there’s a good chance she’s losing her mind completely—just like her mother did. How else to explain seeing (and falling in love all over again with) someone who isn’t really there?

With the murder trial looming just nine days away, Olivia must follow her heart to the truth, no matter how painful. It’s the only way she can save herself.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published February 12, 2013

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About the author

Kate Ellison

9 books130 followers
Kate Ellison spent a lot of time as a child, in Baltimore, pretending to be things she wasn't: a twin, a telekinetic, a benevolent witch with a box full of magical stones, a spy, a soccer player. She trained as an actor in Chicago and has walked across the entire country of Spain. She is a painter and jewelry-maker, and has at least one artist friend who really does keep his true name a secret from the world. He told her, but don't ask her to tell you—she's not gonna do it. Kate lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Butterfly Clues is her first novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 301 reviews
Profile Image for Zemira Warner.
1,569 reviews1,043 followers
February 12, 2013
You can find this review and much more over at YA Fanatic.

The story starts of with Olivia and Lucas-best friends, being cute and flirty, which escalated into a make-out session. Olivia ends up color blind, which is a huge deal because she is an artist. Lucas mistakes her reaction as a rejection and he fled the scene. They don’t talk for a week and soon Olivia finds out her mum killed him. After spending months avoiding everyone she sees Lucas’ ghost and he has some new, her mum wasn’t responsible for his death. So Olivia starts investigating to clear her mum’s name.

The main reason I love reading mystery and thriller novels is that they have a lot of spooky, unpredictable scenes. I did like this book more than I did Hysteria, the last similar book I’ve read but there was still something missing and that is the excitement of finally finding out who is the murderer which Notes From Ghost Town didn’t have. Sure, we find out who killed Olivia’s first crush but it wasn’t as gripping as I hoped.

So, first of, the main character is not annoying, which is a huge plus. She does ignore her best friend a lot . Olivia’s stepsister is the most adorable character I’ve come across this year. The new love interest, Austin, a rich an popular guy is also entertaining. For most of the part I think he kept Olivia from spending any more time alone. He got her out of her comfort zone.

I liked the book itself; the writing style was entertaining and didn’t bore me at all. I just wished it had a twist of two. It was a little bit too predictable for my taste. Still, a decent read.

Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,883 reviews5,803 followers
August 13, 2016
**3.75 stars**

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. For some reason, I went into it with pretty low expectations. Maybe it was the title? Something threw me off about it and I wasn't looking forward to reading it. However, it was much better than I expected. One of my favorite things about this book was the author's writing style. I hate YA books written in a pseudo-"youthful" voice. They come across as very fake and they always take me out of the story. This book was right on the money: Olivia came across as mature, complex, and self-aware.

Olivia is a 16 year old art student who goes color-blind for some unknown reason the night she first kisses her best friend, Lucas Stern. That ends up being the last time she sees him: He is found dead on the beach near their house a few days later. Her schizophrenic mother, who was off her medications at the time, confesses to his murder. Olivia is devastated and retreats into her own world until she starts seeing the ghost of Stern who urges her to further investigate his murder.

My main issue with this book was that I could see who the murderer was from 40% of the book on. I mean, the author really spells it out for you. I really, really, really wish she had spent more time on adding characters and suspects to keep the reader guessing. It was just... yeah, a big let down. There were some other plot elements that could have used some sprucing up. My issues are not with the writing but with the simplicity of the story at the end. Another thing that bothered me is that the book got a bit preachy about the importance of love in the final 50 pages. It was just all sunshine and roses, which doesn't really jive with the angsty, emo beginning of the book. I liked that initial vibe much more.

I'm still giving the book a 4 star rating because I enjoyed the reading experience even though it hovered at a 3 star rating near the end. It started off very strong and I would definitely read more books by this author.
Profile Image for All Things Urban Fantasy.
1,921 reviews617 followers
February 12, 2013
Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy

NOTES FROM A GHOST TOWN by Kate Ellison is the second book I’ve reviewed this year about a girl who was haunted by the ghost of her best friend and urged to solve a murder. Both took place in a sweltering hot small town, had a precocious little sister, a well meaning step parent, and a disreputable bad boy who may or may not be redeemable. But those similarities aren’t the most striking ones. What’s shocking to me is that I’m giving both books a 5/5 rating.

The other book I was talking about is PAPER VALENTINE by Brenna Yovanoff, one of my favorite YA books written by one of my favorite authors today. After reading NOTES FROM A GHOST TOWN, I’m going to have to add Kate Ellison to that very short list. Her writing is atmospheric, moody, and completely seductive. Of the two, this is the darker story. Olivia is a desperately broken character. She’s made a lot of damaging choices for a girl so young. Her mother’s schizophrenia has slowly chipped away at all the happiness in her life leaving it totally devoid of color–literally.

There is a real beauty the the language in NOTES FROM A GHOST TOWN. Olivia’s emotions are so vivid and raw and expressed so completely that, as a reader, I slipped completely into her skin and story. And it is a sad story, bereft of all but the briefest glimpses of levity. Even Olivia’s humorous sarcasm hides pain. In a lot of ways, she reminded me of a much darker Veronica Mars. Heavy though it was, I could not put this book down. Full of such lovely despair and tinged with the slightest bit of hope. This is a must read.

Sexual Content:
Kissing. Sensuality. References to sex. Extremely vague references to sexual misconduct
Profile Image for Amanda Thai.
254 reviews44 followers
April 9, 2013
1.5 stars.
You’d think that a book featuring an artist would be vivid and colourful.
You’d think that a book featuring ghosts would be creepy.

Well, it was neither.

Olivia Tithe’s mother was accused of killing Stern, her boyfriend. Her murder trial is nine days away and Stern’s ghost keeps popping up, urging her to find out the truth. Problem is, Olivia is colour-blind and maybe be going insane like her mother.
Tough luck. Do I care? Not particularly.

I don’t mean to sound like an emotionless battle robot but I could not feel anything for any of characters.

I liked the idea of Olivia being an artist but, since she flunked out of art school, it really was an unnecessary detail. She was so bland and boring with no distinguishing personality traits. And, quite near the start, I noted that she was riding a bike with a strapless formal dress on. How does that work? Her skirt will either ride up and show her off to the rest of the world, or get stuck in the wheels. Her feelings about having lost Stern could have been more poignant and less angry, and her reaction when he reappeared could have been more believable but I’ll deal.

The synopsis states that Stern’s ghost is “only through scattered images and notes.” Yeah, who wrote this synopsis? There are no notes or images; Stern appears as casually as normal living person, except with amnesia. He can’t remember the night he was killed or his piano pieces or anything. I’m not one for scary but shouldn’t ghosts be more creepy and elusive? To me, it felt like Stern just waltzed in and out when he pleased. Also, something I found funny was Stern’s nickname for Olivia: Liver. I’m not joking.

I originally thought the whole story was going to be about Olivia mourning, loving and trying to get over Stern. Unfortunately, we get a new love interest by the name of Austin. Far too much of the story revolved around him and he was not well developed or original at all. I really couldn’t care less about him or the other supporting character, Raina, I think her name was.

Now, onto one of my biggest problems. This book has a major case of Disappearing Parent Syndrome. You know, where the parents just “poof” out of the story for some reason letting the protag do whatever the plot calls for? That’s what happened here. Olivia’s mother is in jail and certifiably insane. One parent crossed off. Her father is always working or busy with his new wife, Heather, and is warded off by turning Olivia’s phone off. And that’s not all. Olivia didn’t tell her father about going colour-blind yet he is oblivious even though Olivia’s room has all her clothes colour-labelled. I felt like her dad was just put in the story because it was expected of a YA novel.

The setting I expected to be much creepier or at least less sunny. I think it was set in Miami (I’m terrible with American geography) where there a beaches and palm trees and the sun is always shining. I get that it’s a hot place but the amount of times mosquitoes were mentioned was ridiculous and unnecessary. The “Ghost Town” mentioned in the title is actually just an estate called Elysian Fields.

The plot didn’t keep me interested, evoking several periods of skim-reading. But I knew I wasn’t going to like this book from the very beginning. We start off with a prologue about Olivia and how she would freeze a moment in time if she could. Then we flashback and, on page 10, she is kissing Stern, her now dead boyfriend. I’ve known him for 9 pages. Do I care if he and Olivia have been friends forever? No. Do I feel anything towards their sudden romantic involvement? No. Because there is no build-up.

On the other hand though, the little details came together quite nicely when the murderer was revealed. Things like Ghost Town, Stern’s piano piece and Medusa were all well tied together to form the truth.
The writing wasn’t too shabby; there were some notable phrases on order and chaos but by that point, I was so exasperated with the story I just skimmed them.

And design-wise, I’m not a fan of the font used for the text. It was fine for the cover but inside it just looks wrong. Of course, this is just a small thing but font-freak-me just had to mention it.
I’m not pleased with the cover. I originally thought the girl’s hair was brown but when I received the book, it was red and stood out far too much against the blue-grey of the water. A more suitable cover would have been all greyscale except for maybe the girl or a ghost boy in full colour. Maybe some watercolour brushstrokes…

I liked the idea the synopsis promised, but the story just really wasn’t what I’d expected. Like the blacks, whites and greys Olivia sees, this book was bland and dull, not suited to a theme that should have vivid colours and emotions attached to it.
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews546 followers
February 9, 2013
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales.

Quick & Dirty: This is a great murder/mystery book that has good romance, heartbreak, and isn’t too scary.

Opening Sentence: Think about a moment, a little centimeter of time you’d happily exist in forever, if time could be laid out along the spine of a ruler.

The Review:

Olivia is 16 years old and has just recently flunked out of art school. A year ago her best friend was brutally murdered. Her mother is the one accused of murdering him, she is a schizophrenic that went off her medication and they say she didn’t know what she was doing. Lucas Stern and Olivia grew up together and were pretty much inseparable. Olivia was big into art and Stern was an amazing piano player. One week before Stern was murdered Olivia realized that she had more than friendship feelings for Stern but she never got a chance to tell him how she felt. The last time she saw Stern they shared a sweet moment together but it left her colorblind and now she can only see the world in shades of Grey. That’s why she dropped out of art school. How can she be an artist if she can’t see colors. Her life has pretty much turned upside-down and she doesn’t know how to move on from all the bad that has happened.

It has almost been a year and her mother’s trial is only ten days away. She gets a surprise visit from Stern’s ghost and he tells her that her mother didn’t kill him. Olivia needs to find Stern’s real killer and the only clues she has are the inconsistent memories that Stern has from being alive. Together they try to piece together what really happened to him on that horrible night, before it’s too late for her mother. Along the way Olivia has to confront her feelings about the boy she lost forever and can never really get back.

Olivia is a pretty average teenager. She likes to flirt and drink a little too much, but she feels like she might be going crazy at times. She was a fun character that has a lot of depth to her. You get to see her try to deal with everything that has happened and the author does a wonderful job of making you feel and see the pain that Olivia is going through. She tries to cope the best way she can but the only way to find peace and move on is to find the truth. I really liked her as a character and felt that she was easy to connect to.

Stern is an interesting character. You get to see two sides to Stern. His ghost and then memory’s that Olivia has of him. The ghost Stern doesn’t really remember much from his life, but he remembers Olivia and a few clues they need to solve his murder. In Olivia’s memories he is a sweet boy that she did everything with. He was her best friend and it’s cute to see how their relationship developed through their lives. He is a good guy and I liked getting to know him.

This book was a great read. It really caught my interest and kept it the whole way through. I did figure out parts of the plot pretty early on, but there were also some twists that caught me by surprise. It had a great pace and was very well written. There was sweet romance, and some very heartfelt moments throughout the book. The ending was perfect because it left you satisfied and I would love to read more by this author. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a good mystery.

Notable Scene:

“Stop freaking out,” he says, gazing down at me, a little crack in his deep voice. “I meant it: I think your painting is beautiful, Olivia.” I realize by the heat in my cheeks that I’m blushing like crazy. And so is he. Cheeks vibrant pink, almost electric. He’s moving his big hazel eyes over me like he’s never seen me before. We stay like this, heat pressing against us from all sides. And then, tentatively, he moves his hand to my cheek and draws me toward him, touching his lips to mine, so soft. I feel his fingers through my hair, his big hand cradling the back of my head; a hot rush, a pulse, fills my whole body as I press into him, kissing him back. I let my eyes shut as he presses even closer into me, and I stop noticing the heat. I stop noticing anything but a vague, vibrating dizziness pulsing through me—my body melting and trembling into his. Stern. This is Stern.

He pulls away for a moment and when I open my eyes to look at him my stomach drops out from beneath me, hard, like on a roller coaster. His eyes.

His hazel eyes have turned gray.

I scuttle back, dizzy, blinking hard—his eyes won’t change back. We kissed and now his eyes won’t change back. The world seems to tip, pulling me with it. I can’t get steady, can’t make sense of it. His skin isn’t tan anymore; it’s the color of old newspaper.

FTC Advisory: Egmont USA provided me with a copy of Notes from Ghost Town. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for Joy (joyous reads).
1,490 reviews290 followers
March 6, 2014
I struggled with this book; it turns out, I don't have the capacity to be patient when the book I'm reading contains a much more evolved mystery. And boy, did this book ever tried my patience.

Quick Story:

Notes from Ghost Town is a story about a girl whose realization that she was in love with her best friend came a little too late. Because a week after they kissed, he was murdered. As if that's not enough to push her into a tailspin of emotional and mental chaos, the accused murderer (and admitted guilty party) was her mother.

Olivia Tithe is a talented painter; but when a sudden onslaught of colour blindness took away her ability to paint, she lost interest in everything else: food tasted bland and everything turned grey. A week or so before her mother's sentencing, she starts seeing the ghost of Lucas Stern, her best friend. Proof that she's well on her way to insanity. She's always known it's in her blood; after all, her mother is suffering from Schizophrenia herself, and why she admitted to being guilty of killing Stern. But Olivia knows her mother is innocent. She could never kill a boy whom she'd loved as though he were her own son. She has nine days to prove her innocence, but with everyone dissuading her from delving further, it will be difficult to find a someone who would sympathize. Time is running out for her mother, and for Lucas, who is slowly sinking into a realm where the restless dead exist without peace.

My Thoughts:

I didn't think it would be possible to grow bored with a mystery novel. It's supposed to keep you flipping the pages until you unravel all its intricacies. At first, I was genuinely vested in the story. But as time goes by, my interest started waning.

I know a good mystery novel does not reveal its secrets until you get closer to the bitter end. Notes from Ghost Town certainly accomplished that. But for an impatient reader like me, it became a painful practice in the art of waiting - waiting for the story to unravel; waiting for the characters to reveal their true selves.

Herein lies the frustration I have with this novel; which, to be honest is probably the same reason it works for fans of this genre. It was stingy with clues; it gave no hints, and gave away no suspects. Oh don't get me wrong, the author threw me a bone; but if clues were bones, she gave me a stirrup (smallest bone in the human body). As such, it wasn't substantial enough for me to bite. It took away the enjoyment of solving the mystery in the midst of reading, and as a result, I grew bored.

Olivia, while she was a fantastic actualization of a girl on the cusp of possibly losing her mind, was a little hard to reach. She didn't appeal to my sense of empathy, to be honest. She was a mixture of a lot of things but nothing definite.

The grey space that Olivia found herself was something I didn't enjoy reading. I don't know how a kiss could bring on such a dramatic change to her world. Was the kiss that good that it spurred on such a drastic/traumatic reaction? Not to mention it's the equivalent to an injury suffered by a blunt force trauma to the head? Perhaps it's to add on to the sense that she's completely losing her mind? However, it felt unnecessary to me. As if seeing Stern's ghost is not enough to warrant a trip to her therapist's couch.

The novel itself seems a little disorganized, and lacking - from its characters to the small arches that encompasses the entirety of the story as a whole - I felt dissatisfied over all.

If you're a true lover of mystery novels in a Young Adult milieu, this book is probably more your forte. I'm not saying I don't enjoy a mystery novel from time to time, but it has to sustain my interest throughout.
Profile Image for Adela Cacovean .
253 reviews538 followers
September 26, 2014
Read the full review on my blog, in both English and Romanian.
http://vanillamoonblog.com/2013/02/09...

I have been reading a lot lately, and this made me become stricter and more selective with my books. But every once in a while, I come across a book that enages and inspires me so much that it becomes one of my favourites of all time. This was the case with “Notes From Ghost Town” by Kate Ellison. For some reason, I find it harder to express my feelings about books that I absolutely loved. There are so many thoughts I have about this book, I hope I am coherent in these following lines.

The book deals with a series of very delicate issues: mental illnesses, death, divorce, losing all that is dear to you. The protagonist herself feels like she’s losing it, especially because her mother’s mental illness is hereditary. The fact that she suddenly sees everything in black, white and shades of grey (literally) doesn’t help either. Or the fact that Stern appears in her life as a ghost, insisting that her mother wasn’t the one who killed him. You can see how complicated the whole situation is, and how Olivia copes with all this is trully remarkable. She keeps telling herself that she might be crazy like her mother, but exactly the fact that she is having these thoughts shows that she is actually not. I love characters who are in a constant fight with their thoughts and emotions!

The action is slow-paced at the beggining, with a focus on the main character’s feelings and thoughts, and I must say I love this kind of books. It reminded me of the British classics written by female authors I love so much (like the Bronte sisters) with all those inspirational phrases. I don’t usually highlight very much on my Kindle, but for this book I have 8 Kindle pages of highlights, and not just simple senteces, but whole paragraphs or pages from the book.

I have been so immersed in the book from the very first page that I found myself thinking about it during the time I was not reading it. “Oh Susannah” was playing in my head and I actually sang it out loud while I was dressing or brushing my hair, like Olivia heard it in her mind right before Stern’s ghost appeared. I find it so sad, losing your best friend before having the chance to tell him you actually loved him. That’s probably the most clear lesson this book teaches you: don’t leave any unspoken feelings and thoughts.

“Notes from Ghost Town” managed to fully engage me in its story. The whole tension and mystery in the book envelopped me and I couldn’t help but read page after page. Time stopped and I felt like I was living everything that Olivia did. Her smile was mine, her sorrow was mine, her tears were mine… literally. I can’t remember when a book last made me feel like this.
The author did great not only in creating this unique story, but also in portraying the characters and making even the idea of Stern’s ghost seem realistic. I particullarly liked the idea of the Gray Space, the place that Olivia’s schizophrenic mother describes as a place of anti-art, antifeeling.

I recommend this book to readers in search of something new. It’s not a typical thriller, not a typical romance and certainly not a typical paranormal book. It’s a very unique combination of the three and if you are a fan of one of these genres, and also like books that focus on feelings, you are sure to love this book too.
Profile Image for Henrietta.
207 reviews24 followers
February 22, 2013
Lucas was a piano student of Olivia’s mother. When he was found dead with Olivia’s mother crouching besides him, the authority locked the woman away after she confessed she had killed him. Feeling miserable, Olivia had a hard time coping with what had happened. With her mom’s trial a few days away, Olivia started seeing Lucas and hearing his voice. Could this be her mind playing tricks on her or was she really seeing the ghost? And when Olivia started following the suggestions from the ghost to find out what really happened on the night when Lucas died, a part of her wondered if she was actually going crazy. But if there were new evidence proving the innocence of Olivia’s mother, who was the wicked murderer?

I wasn’t sure if I could completely relate to what Olivia was going through. Her mother had mental illness and she was afraid she could be the victim of the same genetic disease that her mom suffered. She wanted her mother to be healthy and she wanted her father to care about them just like before. But her father was moving on. He was going to marry another woman and start a new family. So, you could see why Olivia felt devastated. With so much on her mind, she resolved to numb herself with unhealthy habits like drinking and so, while she sounded sane, I couldn’t quite tell if she was really seeing the ghost of Lucas or her mind was compromised by her drinking. I guess when a person was in despair, she’d try to do anything to stop her mind from churning depressing thoughts but I’d say drinking was never the answer to her issues. Anyway, I could see how Lucas was always the one who had a positive influence on her. Whether it was really the ghost coming back or her mind flashing fragments of memories to help and guide her through difficult times, I like that she started to look for things that the police might have overlooked. It was nice to see her focusing on finding the truth and not staying paralyzed in fear.

I’d say the murder mystery was okay – it wasn’t particularly interesting. With only so many characters present in the book, it wasn’t hard to deduce who was the guilty one but I like that the story wasn’t just about solving a crime. There was friendship. There was love. There was forgiveness. There was hope. And when all was revealed, I like that there was a much deeper bond of trust being established among the core characters in the story.

When I first read the title and book summary, I sort of assumed that the story was going to be somewhat creepy. After reading it, I wouldn’t say the level of creepiness is high but even though it’s not a particularly thrilling read, I like that I’d spent a few hours reading a story that’s quite enjoyable.

--
Originally posted on Leisure Reads.

A copy of the book was provided by publisher for review purposes.
Profile Image for Adele.
542 reviews108 followers
May 28, 2016
Somehow, Notes from Ghost Town was everything I thought it was and more. This book definitely has its sad moments. But with what follows these sad moments, comes the happy moments. And it really does seem like this book was sad in the beginning. The story was a happier story nearing and during the end.

The beginning of the book is strange to me. I don’t think I’ve read a book that has started out like Notes from Ghost Town has. The start is unique, and is actually why I read the rest of the book honestly. The start is both heart-breaking, and horrific in a way that you don’t think would happen. Like, to get the ball rolling Ellison wrote the introductory to this novel in a dramatic way that isn’t dramatic at all. The beginning of Notes from Ghost Town is just matter of fact, and in that, leads to the rest of the story.

As much as this story is about loss, this story is even more so about love.

'You remember it is important to be alive because there is love, even if you cannot touch it with your hands or lips. There is love.'

There is so much love in this novel, and with me grabbing the book to the last few pages and randomly reading that quote I realize how much this book is just filled with love. It’s everywhere.

I’m bummed out that I had predicted the big reveal in this book. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to discern who did what. In the beginning of the book, it really seemed like that I wouldn’t be able to tell who did the big-bad-thing, but ultimately… I did figure it out, and I’m just bummed by that.

“They don’t realize they’re dead until they remember what it sounds like to be alive.”

The story of this book seems to be focused on the what-ifs of Olivia’s life, but I really think that the purpose of this book is to learn how to move on after any amount of grief.

I really liked how the story wrapped up. There was definitely a sob moment for me, but I managed to hold back! The last few pages to this book; the ending, really seem bittersweet. On one hand it’s a great ending. On the other hand, I just wanted to dive into this world and hold onto everything so it would stay the same. — The way that this story has ended, and the way that everything is wrapped up…everything is completely boggling my mind.

“For a second–a second that lasts infinite seconds–he turns his face away from the wind to meet my eye. He smiles, he smiles without worrying about the gap in his teeth, he smiles in a way that I know: he is free.”

QUEUE THE CRYING.

That’s all for my review of Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison!

Thank you for reading!
Adele
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,895 reviews
February 12, 2013
4.5/5 stars.

Emotionally charged book. Very good.

This book takes the reader on an emotional journey. It is a YA book with a bit of mystery. And a strong subject matter. But it pulls you in.

The narrator is Olivia Tithe. She is a 16 year old artist whose best friend Lucas Stern (a piano prodigy) is murdered. And her mother is the prime suspect. Her mother suffers from schizophrenia and Olivia sees the ghost of her friend. She wonders if she is going crazy too.

The book has mystery (Olivia tries to figure out if her mother really did kill her best friend). It has romance (don't want to spoil this but there are a couple of love interests). It has a bit of paranormal (the ghost). And it has relevance. The topic of schizophrenia is a difficult topic for a YA book. But it is handled really well.

The book deals with a lot of interesting issues. Besides Olivia's mom's schizophrenia, Olivia's dad is remarrying. And she is not happy about this development. In addition she pushes her friends away.

Also, since the last time Olivia saw her best friend alive she can no longer see colors. Everything is shades of grey to her. So she has to deal with this problem as well.

Notes from Ghost Town is an enjoyable book that will make you feel. It does deal with a heavy issue. But that shouldn't scare people away. It is a really heart-warming story that follows a few YA trends (mystery, paranormal, and dealing with important issues). I really liked this book.


Thanks to netgalley and Egmont USA for allowing me to read this book.
Profile Image for Maria.
4 reviews
March 6, 2013
“Think about a moment, a little centimeter of time you’d happily exist in forever, if time could be laid out along the spine of a ruler. Maybe it haunts you in that blue inch of half consciousness just before you’re fully awake.”

The synopsis of this sounded very promising so i decided to dive into it, i don't regret it one bit.
The book started with Olivia reminiscing 10 months into the past, before everything hit the fan. Her best friend was coming to visit her before she went back to art school, and Olivia wishes she can freeze that moment of forever, because right after that moment everything goes wrong. Olivia and Lucas, or "Stern", end up kissing that day and soon as she opens her eyes from the kiss, his once hazel eyes are a shade of gray, and everything around her are in black and white, and gray. She's terrified, this is familiar to her. Her mother calls it "the gray space", The place of no art, no creativity, no life. Her mother has schizophrenia, so she's panicking that she might be going crazy like her mom. From the look of terror on her face Lucas gets all nervous and says it's a mistake and runs off.
Olivia is frozen in her terror, not able to explain without sounding crazy. Not able to say anything. She decides to give it a few days and tell him everything, confess she loves him, he'll say it back, and then everything will be right in the world. The color will return and everything will be right. There's a little, no, massive flaw in this plan, though....one Olivia could never see coming.
In one week, Stern is dead. And Olivia's mother is hauled off in the middle of the night, placed behind bars....accused of murdering Lucas Stern.

Basically everything is taken from Olivia in that one week. Losing her vision is like paralyzing to her, because Olivia is an artist. How can someone who can't see color continue to be an artist? Her best friend is now dead, and her mother is behind bars.

The story starts 10 months after the murder, with the trial for her mother's sentencing looming 9 days away. Olivia has flunked out of art school due to her lack of seeing color, and is currently back in Miami where everyone knows about her mother and everything that's happened. She hasn't told anyone about her loss of color, out of her own fear that she's going crazy like her mom. You can practically feel everything Olivia's feeling, and this girl is going through a lot. She doesn't really have anyone's support, she feels resentment towards anyone who's trying to "help" her. They're all telling her to see some professional help, and after a bad therapy experience at 12, Olivia doesn't want anywhere near that.

If the color blindness wasn't enough, out of nowhere, Stern appears and she thinks she's really losing it. He appears and tells her he doesn't remember much, but he remembers her, and most importantly he remembers that her mother didn't kill him. Olivia recalls the things he's saying and thinks this is "wish fulfillment", among other things she has learned in psychology class, during Stern's first few visits. She dismisses it as not real at all, hallucinations. Then, he proves it to her that he's real. He tells her to get her mothers things and look for a black box with music notes on the side and tells her there's caramel chocolates inside, which Olivia's mother hid specifically for him after piano lessons, so Olivia or her father won't get to them. This, among other things, Olivia doesn't know about, so how can it be wish fulfillment or a hallucination? Stern encourages her to dive into the case despite what everyone is saying around her.
Everyone is saying to let it go, that her mother did it and that there's no use looking into the case. Hope swelling inside of her, Olivia can't believe it. Her mother, who has never even killed bugs, couldn't murder someone. So from nothing and no clues to build on but Lucas's small memories he gets every once in a while, it's really hard to believe that Olivia is going to find out the real killer within such a short period of time. Especially since her mother has confessed.
With Stern's visits, she has a love hate thing with them. She so desperately wants him to be there, but then she doesn't because it isn't real, and i think it makes the pain of his death more fresh for her, seeing him there, but not really there.

His visits just left me with incredible sadness. In his brief visits i really loved his character and would have loved to see much more of him. What could have been, the love and relationship that could have happened if he hadn't been in the wrong place at the wrong time, the incredible future he could have had, I mean - JULLIARD! He could have been something big! It's just even more saddening when you find out the real killer and motivations.

I think at one point, it was more of a mystery to finding out the why's, than a murder mystery. It would have been much more of a murder mystery if there were more characters to suspect. There was only the mom, and then a character thrown in there to distract you from the subtle signs pointing towards the real killer.
The suspect thrown in, Marietta Jones.... was just to obvious to be the killer. The thing was, she was also a pianist trying to get into Julliard and found out her and Stern were playing the same piece so she openly threatened him about it. Olivia's mother composed a letter to Julliard's administration to have her eliminated because the threat went against a code in the handbook.... Olivia and Stern found this in her piano when they went there to play a piece to see if Stern could remember anything. This definitely seems like motivation, but it doesn't completely add up because Stern is a Junior and isn't really in competition to get into Julliard yet (he just wants to do the audition to do it, prepare himself better for next year, when he auditions as a senior) So he's not really competition against Marietta. So what's the deal? though it's the only piece of solid evidence so far so of course you're going to hold onto it.

When Austin Morse starts showing interest in Olivia, it's suspicious. He's this jerk guy from private school who thinks he's better than everyone else, is completely gorgeous, and must have a ton of prep school girls fawning over him, so why the sudden interest? This interest also shows more of another character, a long time friend of Olivia's family, Ted Oakley. When Olivia's dad's job (Construction, i think) fails due to bad marketing, Ted pays for this condo complex to be built and sweeps her dad into the business. Perfect, rich, friendly guy..... someone who would never in a million years be a suspect because of what society thinks of them? Yeah, that's usually the killer... i had huge suspects about him but what in the world would his motivation be? why would be kill a young aspiring musician and pin it on a lifelong friend?

After that little trip to Marietta's house and you find out her acceptance to Julliard got revoked because she broke another pianists fingers and hid another kids inhaler just because she didn't like them? Her and her sister have to do ANYTHING to be perfect for their parents? She sounds psycho enough and has the motivation but it still doesn't add up, she's too obvious and my suspicion against Austin and Ted is too strong at this point.

Suspicions against Ted without knowing anything yet:
"Perfect" friendly guy to society, will never guess someone like him would do such a thing (usually the killer in books like this)
The first lawyer thinks the case is going good and see's so much hope, then all of a sudden quits the case, leaving all of the money to a schizophrenia research hospital and then off's himself
The second lawyer is found by TED himself, and then all of a sudden the mother is so guilty and you should abandon all hope
He completely flips out when Olivia mentions her investigating the case at the dinner
His son showing sudden interest in Olivia (I was thinking he was involved with it in some way)

Honestly, the night when Austin took Olivia to ghost town to one of the empty condo's i felt so freaking scared. I thought he was going to kill her.
Olivia sees the text on Austin's phone about "keeping an eye on her" and i definitely know for a fact Ted's involved. Definitely, no doubt about it.
Olivia goes home angry, hurt and confused. Austin was showing interest for a new CAR? Wow, so what else did his father tell him to do? she's thinking.
She ends up digging out her stuff she packed from art school and finds the CD Stern gave her the last time she saw him, and something is off... Olivia notices a note is off. Stern shows up and notices a lot of the tape is off, and Lucas Stern is NEVER off. It must have been the piano, and it wasn't Olivia's mother's because hers was always tuned, so what piano was it? Olivia thinks of ghost town, and the piano in the entrance. Stern gets little pieces of memory, that he snuck in there, he remembers lights in the windows (headlights) and two people arguing. Did someone kill him because he heard something he shouldn't have? Hmmm.....
So Olivia and Stern decide to go to ghost town and investigate, see what clues they can find. Her key is gone, so with desperation she texts Austin and asks "him" to leave the door open, making an excuse that she might have left her bra behind. I dreaded this, knowing something was going to go down. She's in an office and Ted walks in. He's infuriating with all of his calm and confusion when Olivia is accusing and such, making her look like a nut. Then he breaks down the psycho he is, and is crying, confessing, clutching Olivia and saying she doesn't understand, he has a family that would be ruined if he didn't kill them. (I so damn wished there was a tape recorder recording all of this!) So then, since Olivia knows too much now he sets the office on fire and locks the doors. Olivia, being really smart puts the fire alarm back together and manages to get out of there with not too much damage. The little mother effer Ted, pretends it was an insurance scam, and he didn't know Olivia was in there. Yeah, okay dude.
Olivia tries to tell all she knows at this point and her father is thinking she's in a delusion, him, heather and Wynn staring at her in pity.
If i was her i would have started to scream with frustration by then, but she stays quiet and goes home, with only one day until the hearing.
When at home again, she's angry and throwing things around, and stumbles upon what Medusa, the local "crazy" homeless lady gave her when Olivia defended her against a group of teens throwing things at her. At the time it seemed like a dirty coin, but now Olivia cleans it and sees her mothers initials, it was her mothers, she remembers it. She also remembers her talking about the shadow man, and Medusa's warnings and decides to visit her (From the beginning i had a pretty big hunch that she saw something but never in a million years thought anyone would take her word) but, Olivia goes to see her, she tells Olivia what she saw, and surprisingly she is stable to talk to the police about what she saw, as well. Then during the demolition of ghost town they find bones there and it's confirmed that it's Tanya's body. Solid proof against him, finally. They also did a search of his house and he was involved in selling drugs. Wow.

So Olivia's mother is cleared, but instead of going home she goes into a mental facility. Meeting her, stable, she was a really nice woman. She loves Olivia and her father, and just wants them to be happy. Instead of being angry about him marrying another woman and all that, she chooses to be happy for him because he's happy with her and all that. She's really pleasant overall and it seems she's healing and the place is doing well for her. 1000% better than the Miriam we met behind bars. Then, in a moment of complete love between the two Olivia's color comes back! (I noticed it went away and came back in two moments of complete love) I did wonder if it would ever come back for her, and was really pleased with that.

I do really really wish we could have known more though, like what happens with Ted... what about his sentencing? What happens with his family?
Also, how does Olivia end up forgiving Raina? She painted her as this two faced biotch who always wants the spotlight and i was pretty convinced this was true when Olivia shows up at the Stern's house for the Unveiling and she's telling the Sterns about how Olivia saw Stern's ghost. Like, she told her that in confidence, how could she tell his PARENTS? telling them Olivia is crazy and all that... that doesn't sound like a best friend at all.

Plus i think the end was a little too sunshiny. It was all happiness and love, going off to the wedding like all is good and amazing in the world. I understand a big weight was lifted, that her mother was cleared and the case was solved and now Stern is free, not in that nowhere place anymore. (Did i mention how heartbreaking that scene was in nowhere, where Olivia wanted to stay and he's all like how she needs to live, and he needs to die, and how Olivia confesses her love, and he says he's loved her since they were 4, and all of those other heart crushing things? Yeah, my heart broke there, JS) but... it just seemed too happy and things were still unresolved. I felt like it should have been a little tainted with bittersweetness.

"I realize, right now and forever, maybe: so what if i am a little crazy, if ghosts are real, or if they're not. I got to tell him i loved him. I got to say it. Who knows if it was real for him, if he felt it, if we were there together in some other place entirely. It was real for me, real as anything else, a thing that burned inside of me and found release"
Profile Image for Asheley T..
1,337 reviews118 followers
January 10, 2013
This excerpt is taken from my Three-Things review on Into the Hall of Books. Read more here: http://www.intothehallofbooks.com/201...


As I began to read Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison, the first thing that really struck me was the language and writing of this author. This book flowed so well, with such lovely words. It felt romantic and it felt emotional. Ellison's use of language worked well to set the mood of whatever scene was taking place, and I appreciated that so much as a lover of a beautifully crafted words and as a person that gets a bit nervous with thrillers. In the hands of this writer, I did not too feel nervous about what was taking place in the story because the elegance of her words carried me.

I also felt this overwhelming sense of romance and loss throughout this mystery story. Liv has such strong, beautiful feelings for this boy that she has lost. She feels his absence so deeply, in every single aspect of her life. Liv also feels the weighty absence of her mother in every way - it's not because her mother is no longer living, but because her mother is in prison (wrongfully imprisoned, Liv believes). Because these two things are connected, the emotion and the weight that they carry in this story is heavy and strong, and I soaked that up as a reader. No matter what part of the story I was reading or which characters were in the scenes, I was always aware of Stern and Miriam out there somewhere, because the effect they had on at least one of the characters in each of the scenes.

Notes From Ghost Town is a character-driven book, and there are more than just a few great characters. Besides the obvious - Liv and Stern - each character adds his or her own flair to the story. As is often the case, some are good guys and some are bad guys - we just don't figure out which are the "bad" guys right away. There are a couple of scene-stealers thrown in there that are worth looking for: Austin Morse is a handsome and wealthy prep school boy with his eyes on Liv. He tries to win her heart even though her heart still belongs to Stern. He's certainly one to watch and he makes the book very interesting. Another fantastic addition to this cast is a homeless lady named Medusa. Medusa lives in the dunes, among the piers, wherever she chooses - but she sees and watches everything and speaks very little. She is one of those people that - when she does choose to talk, you better pay attention.

Another thing that I loved about this book is the use of color. The color grey is a huge, huge recurring theme since Liv is colorblind for much of the book. Liv talks about or mentions color often because she has trouble discerning it and because she misses it so. As an emerging artist, color would have been a huge love in her life, so when she becomes colorblind (near the beginning of the book), she feels the loss of color tremendously. I love the details of color that are written in - the color of an article of clothing here, the color of a house there, and so on - because they are reminders of this part of Liv's life and personality that are missing, just like Stern, just like her mother. Her colorblindness begins to affect other parts of her life - for example, she doesn't eat because grey foods aren't appetizing, so she loses weight.

I don't want to give the impression that there are not thrilling parts in the story, because there is one doozy of a thriller section tucked away in there at the end. It had me reeling for a second - it's where the big reveal took place and WHOA, it was kinda big. Once it got going, I realized I had figured out the WHO (high fives to me!) but I never would have figured out all of the circumstances around the murder, like the why and all of that. But that one scene: crazy.

Notes From Ghost Town is a book that has so many emotions on the inside for the type of book that it is - there is heartbreaking sadness and sorrow, but there is also hope as the book progresses and comes to an end. There are parts that did indeed have me wide-eyed and wondering who killed Stern, but the road to getting there is one that was very enjoyable for me. There are a few details that are a little bit confusing and I wonder why they were included - To be honest, I do find myself feeling this way often when I read stories in this genre so I am not sure if this will be a common feeling with this book or if it is just me. I think that in terms of mystery stories, this reads better than most - perhaps better than I've read before - and I think that this has a lot to do with the fact that it has a lovely language and that it feels very contemporary in its delivery.

Ultimately, I am happy that the book ends on a positive and hopeful note. Most of all, I am thrilled that Kate Ellison made me realize that books in this genre can be written beautifully. I won't say that I am cured of my nervousness about mystery/thriller books, but I will say that I'm gonna give the Ellison's other book, The Butterfly Clues, a read very soon.

I recommend this book for fans of romance and first love stories, mystery/thrillers, YA paranormal with ghosts, and people who enjoy reading books about mental issues.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
337 reviews123 followers
February 6, 2013
Review originally posted at Gypsy Reviews.

Reading the summary, I was expecting a mystery, a thriller that would send shivers down my spine upon reading this and even from the title I expected something that would get me scared but unfortunately, this was nothing like I had hoped it would be.

The book begins with Olivia Tithe and her best friend, Lucas Stern, who is helping her pack up her things before she goes to Art School. Olivia’s parents are recently divorced and her father is moving out. Olivia’s mother has been teaching Stern how to play piano since Stern was little and playing the piano is a way that Olivia’s mother, Miriam, uses to cope with her schizophrenia. However, one week after this, Stern is murdered and Miriam is arrested for his murder. 10 months later, with Miriam’s murder trial in just 9 days, Olivia suddenly sees Stern as a ghost and he tells her that her mother didn’t murder him. Olivia sets to find out who is the real murderer.

Okay let’s start with Olivia. I could not connect at all to Olivia during the entire story. There was little character development and Olivia was pretty unlikable, she kept pushing people away from her and thought everyone was going against her though they sincerely wanted to help her. She kept thinking everyone thought she was crazy just like her mum and acted like a brat. I was also very confused as to why she only had all these feelings and emotions about Stern and her mum 10 months later when the murder trial is about to begin. What about the 10 months? To me, if she had felt this way right after she found out Stern was murdered and her mother was arrested it would have been understandable. The timeline just didn’t make sense, what was she doing in the 10 months? Did time stop?

Next, her relationship with Austin, it felt too rushed and too little development to actually be true. I could see why Austin liked Olivia but Olivia never showed any signs of having feelings for him other than it being physical desire. She admitted herself that she was just using Austin to take her mind off Stern and everything but yet when she finds out that Austin isn’t 100% sincere about why he agrees to spend time with her, she gets angry with him. But she never intended for it to be serious or anything at all, why was she so angry?

If you follow or have added me on Goodreads, I complained twice that the pace was very slow in the book and it was. A book’s story is a journey and there are bumps which make you happy and squeal in delight and some make you scream and cry but this book just felt flat. I was tempted to stop reading halfway if not for the fact I wanted to find out who the murderer was. I actually kept expecting something big to happen, something that would scare me or give me that thrill when I read mystery or crime books but never did I feel anything whilst reading this book. There wasn’t enough story and a bit too much unnecessary description about Olivia’s feelings or the surroundings and with the lack of progression in the story, I got bored very quickly. The language was, however, very well-written and it was quite easy to visualise what the author was trying to write about.

Notes from Ghost Town fell short for me, it might have been that my expectations were too high because I was expecting something entirely different from what it actually was but it definitely is not a typical crime, thriller or murder book so if you’re looking for that in this book, you’ll be disappointed by the lack of it.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,744 reviews1,306 followers
January 20, 2013
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Egmont USA and Netgalley.)
16-year-old Olivia used to have a bright future, but 10 months ago everything changed. Her best friend (and the boy she was in love with) was murdered, her mother was sent to prison for killing him, and Olivia lost her ability to see colours, and consequently her place at art school. Now Olivia’s life is shades of gray, and she must get her little sister to help her choose matching clothes.

Nobody knows about Olivia’s total colour blindness, she doesn’t want to tell people because she doesn’t want them to think that she’s going crazy like her mother, as her mother has schizophrenia, and everyone tells her that it’s hereditary.

But now it’s Olivia that’s wondering if she’s going crazy, because Stern (the boy that died) keeps appearing to her, and telling her that her mother didn’t kill him, and that his killer is still out there.

Now Olivia’s on a crazy journey, trying to find who really killed Stern before her mother’s hearing in 9 days. Can Olivia find out who really killed Stern? Is she going crazy? And can she save her mother?


This book was really good. There was plenty of mystery, and I really liked Olivia and Stern.

Olivia was a strong character, and continued to try and find out the truth, even when she wondered if she really was crazy. She tried to hold on to the belief that her mother was innocent, and did her best to hold things together.
I felt really sorry for Olivia, not only had she lost her best friend, her mother, and her place at art school, she’d also lost her father to his new fiancé, lost her colour vision, and lost her friends who believed that her mother was a murderer. Things really weren’t easy for Olivia, and seeing Stern was both a blessing and a curse. While she longed to have him back, and to tell him how she felt about him, she couldn’t help but worry that Stern was really proof that she was developing schizophrenia the same as her mother.

Olivia’s colour blindness came on after kissing Stern, but she never got to tell him that she loved him because he died. Other than this one moment, there wasn’t really all that much romance to this story. Stern was a ghost for most of the book, and they couldn’t touch each other because of this, so the romance between Olivia and Stern was pretty limited.

I liked the storyline in this book; I didn’t guess who the real killer was, though like Olivia I didn’t think that it was her mother. I made a few guesses as the story progressed, but I didn’t guess who the killer was, although when the killer was revealed it made sense. I thought that the mystery aspect was done well, although I wasn’t quite so sure about the whole colour-blindness thing.
While Olivia was supposed to be unable to see colours, I kept forgetting that; I’m not sure why. When she kept speaking of ‘The Gray Space’, I wasn’t sure if that was literal or figurative, especially as she said that her mother had talked about a similar thing. As far as I’m aware, her mother didn’t have this same loss of colour vision, so this was a little confusing.
I did like the other storyline plots though – the fact that Olivia can’t paint because of her colour loss, and that Stern was a pianist applying to Julliard.

Overall; I enjoyed this book, and I thought that the mystery element was done well.
7.5 out of 10.
Profile Image for Manon.
Author 6 books33 followers
September 26, 2013
Si choisir un livre parce qu'il a une belle couverture est très souvent une bonne idée. Parfois ça l'est un peu moins. Comme c'est le cas ici. Parce que la couverture est vachement belle et poétique. Et le résumé est quand même prometteur...
Mais qu'est ce que je me suis ennuyée.



Globalement, au milieu de cet ennui, il y des choses que j'ai apprécié. Et d'autres moins. Reportage.

Ce que j'ai aimé

・Le premier chapitre. Alléchant et prometteur.
・Le mystère autour de la mort de Stern.
・Le mystère lié à son fantôme. Vrai ou faux? Folle ou pas?
・Les personnages secondaires et leurs histoires, qui méritaient d'être un peu plus approfondies.
・Le jeu de séduction entre Olivia et le dernier point de l'esquisse d'un triangle amoureux. Austin est un garçon que j'ai bien aimé, son humour et son sarcasme rendait ce qui va suivre un peu plus supportable.

Ce que je n'ai pas aimé

・Olivia - héroïne et narratrice. Une fois trop réfléchie, elle pense à toutes les conséquences possibles et imaginables, de telle ou de telle confession, qui la pousse à se taire. Trois fois pas assez réfléchie, elle agit de façon têtue, sans penser aux conséquences de ses actes.

Olivia est aussi super bizarre dans ses relations avec son entourage. Bien qu'elle dit "les aimer", elle se sert plus des gens qui l'entourent qu'autre chose :
Tiens, je vais envoyer un texto à ma BFF que je viens d'envoyer chier pour lui demander une faveur.
Tiens, et si je demandais une faveur au type amoureux de moi, trois heures après l'avoir jeté comme une merde parce que je suis incapable d'écouter ce qu'on me dit. Il ne peut pas me dire non!
Tiens, et si je prenais la voiture de papa, alors que je viens de le décevoir profondément.

Est-ce que j'ai précisé que personne ne lui avait dit "non"?

・Le daltonisme d'Olivia était un élément très lourd. Beaucoup plus que la schizophrénie de sa mère, du meurtre qu'elle a peut-être commis, de la mort de son meilleur ami et être aimé. J'ai eu l'impression d'étouffer dans cet univers gris, gris et re-gris.

・Certains éléments de l'enquête était très futiles et incompréhensibles. Mais qu'est ce que ça foutait là? Aucune idée. Trop de questions sans réponse, des paragraphes et des paragraphes inutiles.

・L'auteur fait très mal passer les émotions par son héroïne. Les émotions sont énumérées, comme un fait, une vérité, mais dénuées de sentiments. Je ne me suis attachée à aucun des personnages, je n'ai été touchée par aucun de drames que traverse Olivia. Je n'ai même pas eu la gorge nouée. Le roman m'a semblé brouillon. Je n'aurais pas été étonnée de voir des paragraphes gribouillés et réécrits juste en dessous.

Pour finir

Si je n'ai pas abandonné, c'est parce que la semaine dernière, je n'ai pas terminé un roman, et que je culpabilisais déjà suffisamment d'avoir abandonné.
Le point positif de cette lecture est que j'ai appris à lire en diagonale. Ce roman est une déception, mais je ne dis pas ça de façon objectif. Je suis convaincue que ce roman peut en convaincre plusieurs, être aimé, voire adoré. Mais la recommandation ne viendra pas de moi.
Profile Image for Heather.
482 reviews44 followers
March 1, 2013
This was a beautiful, heartbreaking story about Olivia and Stern, two gifted teens. Olivia or Liver as Stern called her was a painter and Stern, Lucas Sternum, was a pianist, a prodigy. Olivia's mother was Stern's teacher, that is right up until the night she confessed to murdering him. And the last time Olivia saw Stern he kissed her, called it a mistake and she lost her colors. She could only see black and white and shades of gray. How does a painter paint without color? She doesn't and gets kicked out of art school and sent back home.

The story was only the tiniest bit sluggish in the beginning and a little bit confusing as Olivia is at a party at Ghost Town, her father's building project, attending a reception. She hates the prep school boys there, her father's business partner's son most especially Asher Oakley, but I didn't really understand why. After that, I was so engrossed in the story, and you'll see why, that I couldn't put it down.

Olivia is angry at the world, her mother for killing her best friend and the boy she loved and never got to tell. She hates her father's soon to be wife, Heather. She hates that her other best friend Raina has new friends on the swim team. She just hates it all. But she won't admit any of it to anyone. And she's really afraid that she's going crazy, like her mother because her mom has schizophrenia. She's a likable character even if you can't relate to what she's going through. And I admired her determination.

The story is almost like a love story to Stern and to Olivia's mom. Olivia searches for the real truth of that night and even though everyone thinks she's just not dealing with the impending sentencing, she knows she's not crazy. What happens are a series of events that are too related to call coincidence, too scary to call pranks and too brazen to call an accident. Getting someone to believe her is the hardest thing Olivia has to do.

Kate Elliston is a great story teller with just the right mix of suspense and longing to keep you going. Her mix of bittersweet with reality was perfect. The thriller aspect of it took my mind off the undertone of sadness and gave my mind something else to focus on. I really enjoyed this one and look forward to reading more from her. I think I'll pick up The Butterfly Clues and give it a try.

Forgot to tell you, I was given a copy of Note From Ghost Town free of charge for review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated for my review financially in any way.
Profile Image for Katie.
534 reviews11 followers
December 13, 2015
I don't know how likely I am to go back and re-read this book. It wasn't bad, and I was entertained. I just don't know that it's entirely what I expected. I was drawn in by a synopsis that doesn't seem to actually fit what occurs, and the title doesn't seem to fit well either, come to think of it. But it was interesting and it did pull me along.

I think the author does a wonderful job of letting the reader feel a bit suspicious of Olivia's issues, even though she's the protagonist. Most of what she goes through could indeed be written off as the beginning of schizophrenia. But, of course, we know it isn't.

As far as the mystery goes, I identified the murderer before I felt as though the clues were laid out. Maybe it's because it just seemed too neat, too tidy for how things happened - as Olivia herself points out much later. The rich, family friend just so happens to swoop in to save the day every time something goes wrong? Really? I had the wrong motive - I was convinced he was going to also set up Olivia's dad for some financial scandal. But I had the right person.

I did find it funny that the insurance scam idea came up later, though, as Ted's excuse for setting the fire. How completely perfect. Prior to that, these were my thoughts: "If the fire alarm is missing from a constructed area that presumably has passed code...how is that an accident? In what way? Especially when the use of an accelerant is detected. Perhaps Ted meant it would look as though Olivia set the fire in paranoia, and died by accident trying to get out. Yes, he was against the wall and not thinking logically whatsoever - clearly - but it just also took me out because I could think of many ways that fire would be interpreted."

And of course, the proof had to be in the piano. That's why the scale sounded off in the recording. Something had to be there. Or so I thought. But it was never touched on - just a red herring, I suppose.

I still don't understand why Olivia's vision went to gray when Stern kissed her, either. I feel as though it would make more sense if things went gray when he died. Unless the confusion and upheaval of her world was truly that traumatic, in which case I have other concerns about her.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jenny.
931 reviews188 followers
January 20, 2013
WOW! I have chills right now from this book! In fact I had chills through most of the story! As well as laughter and tears! This is one of the best murder mysteries I have ever read! I can't believe it was a YA!

So Olivia's best friend and secret love, Stern is murdered 1 week after their first kiss and she goes away to her art boarding school. The synopsis leaves out who is the main murder suspect: Olivia's mother, who is schizophrenic, and whom everyone believes has a major crazy episode. Her mom is also Stern's piano teacher, and was helping him on a recital piece to get him into Julliard.

Its now a year later, and its 10 days until Olivia's mom's hearing. At this point, its just a formality--everyone is sure Miriam (Olivia's mom) did it. Meanwhile, Olivia has gone color blind since Stern's murder, and hasn't told anyone. She thinks she might turning into her mother. But then she gets a surprise appearance from Stern, who can't really remember anything from his life--except Olivia, and that he is sure Miriam did not kill him.

At first, Olivia thinks she must be going crazy, but eventually things start to happen, and she questions what is really going on. But the clock is ticking for her mom, and no one seems to want to help her at all. It was so frustrating at times to read! I was so totally in Olivia's head from page 1 of this story. It was a great first person narration. And the characters all felt so ALIVE! Even Dead Stern!

The suspense was incredible! I had no idea what was going to happen next. At times, Olivia really was acting crazy, and at other times I didn't really know if what was going on was all in her head, or if she was the only smart one to look at things twice. It really was a great mystery. I had a hunch on the killer, but I had no idea WHY. Nothing was making much sense until the end!

If you love a good murder mystery, and also a good ghost story, you need to go and buy this book when it comes out on February 12th! It is so worth the read!
Profile Image for Jessi.
319 reviews43 followers
March 7, 2013
The phrase that just popped into my head randomly while reading this book is "beautiful sadness." The prose in this book is so beautiful that it basically feels like a lengthy poem full of striking images and metaphorical phrases. The emotion in places was just overwhelming while not even once being overstated.



I love that the reader is left guessing about the true nature of what is going on. Is Olivia succumbing to schizophrenia like her mom, her world turning gray and Stern reappearing and guiding her ever more paranoid steps? Is she just grieving and her imaginations and wishful thinking are taking on a more visual quality than those of an average person? Or is Stern, in ghost form, really guiding her toward finding out the truth about his death? Olivia herself doesn't know the answer to this as she searches for the truth.

This book also has not one but two lovely boys. Although living Stern plays a very short role in the book, the connection that he and Olivia have is so poignant and real that her heartbreak over losing him feels extremely real (and devastating). On one hand I really wanted her to never forget about him and never think about anyone else ever again, but the living Austin seems alluring as well, though his motives and character are unclear.

The way Stern's murder affects the relationship that Olivia has with her family is also extremely well done. She by turns tries to understand and ignores her mother, wondering why (and if) she did what she did. She's further puzzled by her father's newfound happiness in his fiance, Heather. Her relationships with her friends suffer as well, as she is afraid to open up about the secret world she is dealing with.

This is an intriguing, beautiful read. I found myself reading so quickly, hoping to uncover the truth of everything, and then I would have to go back and re-read what I just read because it was so beautifully written I didn't want to miss anything.
Profile Image for Charlie.
Author 4 books263 followers
February 19, 2013
Love triangles, flaky friends, distracted parents, mental illness and murder. Notes From Ghost Town has it all, so what's not to love? Although this book is a murder-mystery, it addresses the stigmas, social attitudes, paranoia and misunderstanding surrounding mental illness. From Medusa (character in the book) to Olivia's mother, to her own struggles with hereditary possibilities, the impact, effects and treatment of the mentally ill are portrayed, not in some grandiose call to action, but rather depicted in an every day town, in an every day setting.

However, it gets even more complicated by the fact that Olivia is sensitive to the paranormal, specifically, her dead friend Lucas. Often intuitives are mistaken for being mentally ill or misdiagnosed and vice versa. The stress of this complex burden is communicated effectively through the development of the story, and it is easy to see why Olivia struggles with trusting anyone with what is happening. In a way, the fact that she can't talk or confide in those she loves, is more maddening than what is actually occurring.

The only drawback is the shift that occurs after the climax. The conclusion comes so darn fast and although explained, misses the opportunity to relay some important detailing following the murder-mystery build up. When all is revealed, a jump in time occurs. It's a bit of the brushing the dirt from the hands and moving on approach. I got a 'problem-solved, next!' kind of feeling. There is a tidy wrap up concerning Olivia's relationship with the family, but the suspense portion of the story (double murder-mystery and wrongful imprisonment) is over, abruptly. All is well in the end, which given the complexity of the novel up until this point, left me a bit disappointed. Nonetheless, I liked the overall story and was drawn in to the sort of damaged, but mostly happily-ever-after ending.
Profile Image for Jenna.
635 reviews83 followers
February 2, 2013
Hmm...it was a nice mystery murder story. I think this will interest young readers in the sense that it's not gory in details (the murder) and the mystery is not that complicated. It didn't rise up a lot of effort for me to guess who the murderer is, but I pretty much guessed who even before I was halfway through the story. I loved how it was written though, and how unsure the genre is because it's on the brink between mystery murder and paranormal. While reading, you will always wonder if it's just insanity or if it really exists. What I like about this kinda of soties is the ambiguity whetehr what's real and what isn't. Unlike some other novels where the paranormal really exists, thus it's normal, and you know feom the start that it's paranormal.

I also like Olivia. (This name is always coming up in the books I read) she's tough and honest and very brave and inependent. She basically has all the right characters and attitudes each great girl MC must have, in my opinion. Plus, the presence of Austin in her life was not overly excessive. It. was. Just. Right. And I like her relationship with Raina. All the more,, I adore her relationship with her father and mother. His father was a good man and the kind of father that he is is not always seen in the novels I've read so I was really touched whenever her issue with her dad is brought up.

The story in itself was okay but very engaging. In the end though, I felt like things were too easy and comfortable. But anyway, that's how endings are supposed to be. It was a good read and it might also stir up your hearts a little bit. Mine did
June 1, 2013
I had read Kate Ellison's other book, the Butterfly Clues, a while ago. I went to the bookstore a while ago and had the guy working there look up to see if she had any other books. He told me about this book, Notes from Ghost Town. I didn't even read the inside or the back. I just went ahead and bought it. The Butterfly Clues is one of my new top favorite books. I was impressed with her style of writing and the story line was unlike any other. Because her other book had stolen my heart, I figured this one would too. And oh not, did it! The story line, again was quite.. Odd. Yet, it's so fascinating and very interesting. She writes in such great detail and I imagined everything along with the book. I felt that I was really able to get inside the characters minds and I felt that I really knew them. I had come to fall in love with them and especially, Stern and Austin. It was just so great. I finished the book today after having started it a day ago. Ellison is one of those authors who writes such good books, you cannot put the book down. She has a not-so-typical writing style. Meaning that its different from the normal style of writing that the popular writers inherit. It's... Different. But I like different and she definitely has it. This book was so good. I hope that everyone else can enjoy it as much as I have. I highly recommend this book as well as Ellison's other book, The Butterfly Clues.
Profile Image for Vanessa (bookfairy95).
791 reviews105 followers
April 5, 2018
3.5*

“And not one of us is immutable, or predictable, or immune to the chaos out of which the entire universe spun out. Chaos is what we are made of, and we will return to it, again, and again, and again. Our hearts will beat for it while our brains will search for order, and find that, almost always, it is elusive.”

“Order is what we make happen – an instinct hammered into our lizard brains to help us stay upright, even when everything around us is chaotic, tilting, trying to buck us off its back, back into bottomless Nowhere, back into the Gray Space.”


Going into this book I expected an easy romance. I had no clue this was going to be a somewhat paranormal thriller. And it wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve read, but I liked it. It was good!
I liked the conflict that was implied with the Grey Space. The connection between losing someone that's dear to you and all of a sudden the entire world (seems) to turn grey around you. And finally, the moment you are able to continue on with your life. I really liked how this was conveyed to the reader.
I liked the way the feelings of our protagonist were communicated how she and Stern worked together.
And of course I liked the little murder mystery and how it turned into sth bigger than expected.
I honestly have nothing negative to say to this book. However, the reason for the relatively low rating is that it didn't blow me away. It was good and I genuinely enjoyed it, but it wasn't amazing.
Profile Image for Lu.
500 reviews110 followers
September 23, 2013
Olivia’s story is heartbreaking, her mother murders her best friend and possibly the first boy she ever loved. Through the pain she tries to understand what happened and tries to forgive her mother. But things are not that easy, as she has gone colorblind, which doesn’t bode well for a painter. And to top it all off, she starts to see the ghost of her murdered friend. Together they try and piece together what happened to him.

Olivia was a very easy character to like. Her story is so heartbreaking and interesting that you can’t help but be hooked! Then there are the flashbacks to her life with Lucas and their beautiful friendship. Olivia’s relationship with her father was also very interesting and not to mention her step-mother! The range of emotions that Olivia goes through is also very understandable, and anger being the most prevalent isn’t a surprise. Characters that were truly written to feel real and a lost romance that will stay with me for weeks to come.

I love the cover and title of this book. Both give an air of mystery and the cover is a beautiful as the story. There is something about this book that felt easy and comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very sad story, but the writing flowed easily and I kept turning the pages to figure out the mystery!
Profile Image for Magic Shop .
574 reviews
November 16, 2013
I saw this book on Goodreads and thought it looked interesting. Ghosts, a mystery, love who wouldn't like it. It was really interesting and all through the book I was like WHO DID IT!!!!!! I so badly wanted to know!!! The plot was suspenseful and interesting. I liked it! It did stretch on for bit to long, but it was worth it to get to the end. I liked the characters to. I understood what Olivia was feeling. Her mom was just about to be tied for murder in court and everyone was telling her to let it go and move on while her father was preparing for his wedding. I felt bad for her because she was color blind and kind of losing her mind and she didn't even tell anyone while the ghost of her best friend and past love is back trying to get her to find the real killer. She had a really bad life. I liked Austin and thought that he liked her to. The chemistry between them was just really sweet and I wanted them to be together already. Lastly, the ending was great. The last page was really sweet and was perfect. I felt happy for all of them because they finally were able to fix it all. Well, hope you enjoy this book!!!!
Profile Image for Kate.
Author 15 books838 followers
January 2, 2014
Olivia has only just expressed her feelings for her childhood friend Stern when Stern turns up dead and Olivia's schizophrenic mother confesses to the crime. Now, months later, Olivia is trying to pick up the pieces of her life as her father prepares to remarry. When Olivia gets involved with the son of a real estate mogul (and her father's boss) Austin, she begins seeing things... things like the ghost of Stern. Now Olivia must race against time to prevent her mother being locked away for a crime Olivia believes she didn't commit.

Liv's struggle with wondering if she is schizophrenic like her mother added to the unwillingness to believe what she was seeing. Liv's artist's eye, and her sudden colorblindness, made the visual descriptions in the book very vivid and moody. As she found more clues, the pace of the story picked up and raced toward the end - although the beginning of the story was just as interesting. Although there weren't a lot of options for who the killer was, I still thought the mystery was well-done.

Parental advisory: language, underage drinking and drug use.
Profile Image for Traci.
916 reviews39 followers
January 3, 2014
As much as I loved The Butterfly Clues, I can't say the same for this second novel from Kate Ellison. Olivia isn't nearly as strong a character as Lo, and the romance here wasn't "sweet" to me like a lot of other reviewers on Amazon. Part of the problem, too, is that Lucas is dead when the story starts, so we don't really get to know him as Olivia does - we just know him as the ghost that she knows.

Also disappointing was that I had the mystery figured out quickly, the whodunit part, anyway. The why of it all wasn't entirely satisfactory, either - felt like a very stereotypical sort of why, but with no real clues about it beforehand.

Overall, the only relationship I enjoyed in this book was the one between Olivia and her soon-to-be stepsister, Wynn. That felt very real and also very sweet, and I would have liked to have seen more of that on the page. Very sad that this sophomore offering from Ellison is just sort of there, very predictable, and not really what I think of as a good book.
Profile Image for Sherrie.
1,514 reviews
June 12, 2015
Notes from Ghost Town tells the story of Olivia Tithe who is facing some serious struggles. Her best friend, Lucas Stern, was killed in a gruesome murder, her mother has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and Olivia has just flunked out of art school. On top of all that she's dealing with her father's new love interest, Heather. When Lucas' ghost begins to reveal himself to Olivia she discovers that his murderer may not be the person who was charged. Using clues left by Lucas, she works to find out the truth behind her friend's death. This book was on track to be a 4-star read but I was disappointed in how obvious the killer was. I saw the solution a mile away and while the book was well written the lack of suspense left the ending feeling lackluster. Great writing but dull resolution.
Profile Image for Jenny.
472 reviews109 followers
February 13, 2013
Notes from Ghost Town is one of those reads that lets us know from the first page that our hearts are going bear a few new scars once it’s done with us, our knowledge of Stern’s death thanks to the synopsis and prologue made an even heavier burden to bear given he’s alive briefly in the first chapter. Those few precious moments with him–a young man full of color, life, and love for his best friend–makes the abrupt transition from life to death all the more painful, the color we could have sworn we saw on those few pages we spent with him suddenly a stark black, a haunting echo of Livie’s own colorblindness...

Full review available at: http://supernaturalsnark.blogspot.com...
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