Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto

Title: Ghost House
Author: Alexandra Adornetto
Pages: 313
Published: September 2014 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Source: Publisher

Synopsis (from publisher):

'Alex is more real than anyone I’ve ever known. And him being dead ... really doesn't change a thing.'

After the death of her mother, Chloe Kennedy starts seeing ghosts again. Spending time at her grandmother's country estate in the south of England helps Chloe deal with her grief and the spirits that haunt her. Until she meets a mysterious stranger. Alexander Reade is 157 years dead, with a secretive past and an alluring force that draws Chloe more strongly than any ghost she's encountered before. But the bond between them infuriates the vengeful spirit of Alexander's past love, Isobel. And she will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who threatens to take him from her.


Ghost House begins with Chloe’s mother’s funeral, immediately drawing you into Chloe Kennedy’s ghost-ridden world. It’s a dramatic start and I was interested to see how this tragic event would weave through the novel, as often grim inciting incidents fail to have a knock-on effect with the rest of the plot. But I was happy to discover that her mother’s death is not immediately forgotten as soon as Chloe steps foot inside Grange Hall and meets Alexander, Isobel and Joe. The death has a lasting influence on Chloe's actions and decisions, without darkening the overall mood.

Ghost House is not too macabre or jump-out-of-your-seat frightening, but rather a foreboding tale of mystery and suspense. The setting of the novel, Grange Hall, is mystical and gothic, and the dreary English countryside is a perfect setting for a scary story. I liked that the backstory of Alexander and Isobel unravels slowly and the payoff is equal parts creepy and surprisingly moving. While the ghosts are classified as “good” or “evil” in the beginning, more complex layers of motivation are revealed as time goes on, further fleshing out the ghostly characters.

I was enthralled by the mystery of Grange Hall and the beguiling ghosts that haunt its walls. Perhaps it was the impending darkness that I wanted to avoid, persuading me to devour the novel in two sittings—uncertain I could face the chilling chapters without reassuring daylight. Whatever the cause, I couldn’t put Ghost House down.

I enjoyed the authentic relationships between Chloe, her brother and grandmother, although I would have liked more “screen time” with Grandma Fee. I couldn’t help but wonder what Grange Hall was like without Chloe’s presence, or were the ghostly encounters only awakened when someone with the “gift” walked through the front door? I felt there was more history hidden within the walls, more depth that could have been uncovered. I particularly enjoyed the flashback scenes to Alexander’s time and was disappointed there were not more journeys back in time for the reader.

While I enjoyed Ghost House, I was surprised I didn’t enjoy the romance between Chloe and Alexander more—which is the core of the novel. I preferred discovering the mystery behind Alexander and Isobel’s deaths and the dark history of Grange Hall. Alexander and Chloe’s relationship seemed a little rushed at times, and would have benefited from more time to develop their connection. The relationships between Isobel and Alexander (in the past), and Chloe and Joe (in the present), felt more organic and believable.

I hope that the sequel Ghost Hour will delve further into Chloe’s abilities and how they work, and include more details of Adornetto’s ghostly mythology.

Overall, I enjoyed Ghost House as a suspenseful, entertaining read. After finishing the novel, don’t be surprised if you start checking your wardrobe for malevolent spirits!

*Many thanks to HarperCollins Publishers for the advanced reading copy.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Finding inspiration through music and daydreaming

Last Saturday, I attended Kate Forsyth’s Winter Writing Workshop. It was a fantastic day and—like all of Kate’s classes—full of inspiration and magic. The first session for the day was on how to find inspiration, something that all writers, and artists, are keen to unlock the secret to. Kate detailed her creative process for finding inspiration including: allowing yourself sections of the day for daydreaming, which Kate sees as a kind of meditation. She also writes in her diary every day and keeps a memory book, to help delve into the thoughts and recollections of times gone by.

Like Kate, my inspiration comes from different places, but I find daydreaming the most successful for generating creative ideas. Most of my ideas arrive in the form of visual snippets, either a scene or an image. From this, I write the chapter or section of the novel that pertains to this scene or image. If the image isn’t clear, then I don’t write that section, and continue brainstorming the idea.

When I recently travelled interstate, I discovered that flying provides the optimum environment for daydreaming. I had no music or books to help pass the time, instead I brainstormed my novel and characters. Being stuck in my seat, with nothing else to do but to stare out the window, allowed my imagination to flow freely. Unfortunately, this is a rather expensive way to tap into your imagination and is unlikely to occur on a regular basis!

I also follow many author blogs and websites for writing tips and tricks for accessing your imagination and I've discovered that music features heavily in many authors’ creative processes. Often authors will post the songs they were listening to at the time they wrote specific chapters or even a complete playlist that captures the mood of the novel. However, this is one process that I’ve not been able to relate to.

Unfortunately, I require absolute silence when I write; any music or noise is a distraction. I’ve often heard a few songs on the radio that remind me of my characters or part of my novel, but this has been after I’ve written the story and has not inspired the work.

The other night, however, I heard a song that captured the feeling and atmosphere of my story in such detail that listening to it was like stepping into the pages of my novel. Almost like a film trailer, I could see the story unfolding in my mind’s eye. The beautiful and haunting melody embodies the feelings I want to evoke in the reader. And I now find myself playing this piece before I start writing.

I want to share this piece of music with you, to provide a taste of the mood I’m hoping my novel will achieve. Although, I’m hesitant to share music as everyone has different tastes and the song might conjure different thoughts and feelings for you, but hopefully you’ll enjoy the piece as much as I do. Please let me know what you think in the comments!

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