Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Watercolor in Stages

I've been so focused on writing for the past few years. I'm finally bringing out my watercolors and brushes. It's not the only thing I've put aside until I can finish the books I'm writing. I've also put my music on hold. Hosting and singing the Singers' Session Jam at Zinc Bar for the last four years, every week, became too much. Sometimes we gotta hit one thing at a time. Because, sometimes, there is too much of a good thing. 

I'll get back to singing and writing tunes. It's a part of who I am.  I practice my vocal exercises every day, and I try and paint on the weekends.  When my kids (teens) allow me have the apartment for a few hours. Oh, and yes, I need a studio. If you know of one in NYC, that's not too pricey, please leave a comment.  

I really thought I'd have fresh paintings to hand out for Xmas. If I find a decent printer I may have prints before the end of the year. 

Pencil (i don't usually )
I like this stage, when it's a little raw.

shaping her personality
went with this expression
If you'd like to follow my painting progressions on Instagram : karenleespree  -- is where you'll find me.

Monday, December 1, 2014


All Four StarsAll Four Stars by Tara Dairman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eleven-year-old, Gladys Gatsby has kept her cooking a secret for years. Until the day her parents come home early from work and discover she’s torched the kitchen curtains.
Gladys simply wanted to caramelize the crème brûlée she’d made. If she had the proper tools it would never have happened. Now she’s banned from cooking altogether, banned from the Planet Food channel, even from cook books for the next sixth months.

Her parents want Gladys to do “normal” kid things, like play more computer games, or go to the mall, and make more friends in general, instead of this cooking thing, which they don’t understand. Her parents’ idea of cooking is to not follow the directions, and throw everything into a microwave. Everything! Even chocolate chip cookies. Though most nights her parents would rather just stop at Pathetti’s Pizza, Fred’s Fried Fowl, or Sticky burgers. Gladys fears she’ll starve over the next sixth months.

Her Aunt Lydia, who lives in Paris, has been the beacon of good food in Glady’s life. “On any given day she might offer her niece a dried persimmon dipped in chocolate, a lavender-flavored sandwich cookie, or a pretzel coated with a green powder called wasabi . . .” When Glady was seven, she secretly brought Gladys into New York City to taste what a real restaurant was like. Gladys’s life changed.

It’s a new year. Glady’s enters the sixth grade, and dreams of pho bo—the Vietnamese beef and noodle-filled breakfast soup she cooked in fourth grade. She keeps notes in the food journal her aunt Lydia sent. But Gladys would never tell the kids at school about her gourmet tastes or talents—they’d only think she was even more of a freak.

Gladys’s new teacher Ms. Quincy wants the class to write an essay for the New York Standard about what they want to do in the future. One will be chosen to represent the school. Gladys is hesitant because she doesn’t want the kids to know that ever since she read her first dinning section of the New York Standard--the newspaper banned by her town--she’s wanted to write food reviews for them. Gladys struggles to write the essay. She doesn’t want to be singled out by her classmates--and if her parents find out what she really wants to do they’d “totally freak” and probably extend her sentence.

But the new boy next-door, Sandy, pushes Gladys to write about what’s really in her heart. A twist of fate turns the tide, and Gladys finds herself the position she’s only ever dreamed of. She will be challenged, and she’ll have to figure out a way to make her dreams happen on her own. I loved this story. This is an ideal book to give to any young budding chefs, or foodies.

Warning: You will become very, very hungry while reading this book. It inspired me to get back in the kitchen and cook up something exotic and delicious. And was so much fun to read. ALL FOUR STARS gets five stars by me.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Garden Meditation.

A garden for rest, respite, and revisiting thoughts -- or having no thoughts.
The flowers whisper with me; be still as the wind bows down, a whiff, and a lighter, heart-felt song of a stringed tempest.
A past that is at once familiar: A window opens then shifts before my body-self can understand.
It’s all right. Everything’s as it should be. The tempest came as I called it (just now), tickling me. I feel love wrapped in awe. Everything’s alive.
Thoughts are most crucial and must be guided.
I guard, and my guardian guards me, ancestors of the past?
I recall these things as I sit in this garden, the flowers speak to me: watch and listen, they show me. They do not “tell” me.

Pink slides romantic notions, yellow and gold, the sun’s glory unfolds, deep pink in longing and desire. Green heals; it absorbs and gives nourishment, ideas, and inspiration.

White bleeding hearts dip languidly, peacefully; everything around me, coalesces, more swirls form, again, a tempest spins into this spot I sit in the garden.

Monday, September 29, 2014

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

100 Sideways Miles100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book began with a curious statement about a boy, who isn’t exactly sure where he comes from. And he’s not the only one to believe he came from his father’s work of fiction. The story he wrote about a boy, named Finn, just like his son, who was an epileptic, just like his son, with clipped wings –unlike his son. Though Finn does have markings from the childhood accident that left him with vertebrae pins and a dead mother when a horse fell from a bridge—100 Sideways Miles on top of them. It doesn’t help that the human eating aliens in his father’s book have the exact scars Finn has on his back. Finn has to remind everyone it’s just a story. Fiction. Get over it. But Finn cannot.

Sixteen year-old, Finn Easton carries the weight of believing he is the character in the pages of his father’s book. But he wants to write his own story. Like many adolescents who fall under the weight of their parents’ beliefs, and life styles, we try and break free. It’s only when we become adults and move away from our parents that we can charts our own course, and see our own free will in action. Until then, we struggle to map our individual identity.

And Finn has a good buddy Cade Hernandez, to help on his journey, the extrovert, and Cade looks after him. Finn, the introvert, idolizes all the crazy antics Cade does and is. Cade Hernandez was like a God. He had the ability to make anyone do what ever he wanted. Including Finn. I couldn’t help thinking about the similarity of the friendship between Gene and Phineas in the classic, Separate Peace by John Knowles, with how much Gene idolized Phineas. Cade and Finn are complete opposites, the yin and yan of each other, and have been good friends since Finn was ten years old. Though Finn’s father doesn’t care for Cade, because he’s everything he doesn’t want his son to become. Cade is brash, and reckless, outspoken, and speaks in some pretty graphic dialogue. The dialogue rang true for teen boys (I have two teen boys), messing around. And Cade, the prankster and joker, messes with everyone.
There’s a lot of quirk in this story, which I love. Finn believes distance is more important than time. Twenty miles per second, which is how fast the Earth is spinning. I love Finn’s internal dialogue, the way he thinks. How everything is on a much grander scale than what we see. The poetic lens he sees through.

The smell of sweet flowers, always signal to Finn he’s about to have an epileptic seizer. He usually wakes up from these episodes, covered in urine, angry, and empty of all thoughts, until his life returns, until he can remember where he is.

One day, after his father, and the only Mom he remembers, leave for New York City, Finn collapses at home.
Naked and soaked in urine, with his ever faithful dog by his side—he is discovered by the “most beautiful girl he’d ever seen” Julia Bishop. She’s new at school and turns out she lives up the canyon from him.

So between Cade and Julia, they help show Finn a way to write his own story. Adventure ensues. Love blossoms. And the boys become heroes in the process. I enjoyed this book very much, and I think my sixteen year old will find many truths he can to relate to.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Open Letter to the NYCDOE

Today is the day many kids wait for with eagerness and a little anxiety. Today, and the days leading up to it have been filled with tension and pockets of hope for our family as we navigated the New York City High School process.

My eldest son didn’t have to go through this. He stayed in the high school that was a part of his middle school. A new school with knocks and pangs, but the issues smoothed out, and he did wonderfully there.

The high school process begins at the beginning of the 8th grade, with tours, auditions, essays, and dreams. And slowly erodes into the maybe, the okay, and this could ruin my future.

Our son, bright, kind, contentious, had an 86 average, throughout his school career. Always scored 3-4 on NYS tests --until the pivotal year of 7th grade. He scored lower. It looked like another kid’s.  But the SYSTEM only accounts for the 7th grade. Not the whole child, not how he’s preformed over the years, or whom he is, only judging from one test.

We were assured that our choice schools wouldn’t look to higher scoring kids, but when faced with the choice, they threw out their words and picked the kids with the highest scores and grades. Who could blame them? However, we lost spots, made ill-informed decisions with placing hard to get spots first on our list. Our middle school guidance told us “it happens”  --if your score is close enough, go ahead and try, since they take 85 and above. Boom–boom--our top two spots shut down. Spots three and four wouldn’t take us, because we didn’t put them first on “the list”.

This is NYC there is always a list to get in.

So today I sent my son to a school we’ve never toured, know little to nothing about. In a huge over-crowded building that took forty-five minutes to get past the metal detector. This was another case of an ill-informed decision when our middle-school guidance said to put more than one school choice on the second round—or we wouldn't get an appeal. Our appeal is valid. But it didn’t pass the guardian’s at the gate of the DOE.

Today I wait in trepidation for my fourteen-year-old to return home. Last night he was ready to end his school career. He comes from top performing schools and is now in a struggling school.  Thanks DOE, you didn’t just leave this child behind, you may of ruined his continued success.

As sychronicity runs strong through my life, last weekend I hear about Nikkole Salter's play of what many working/stuggling families are going through:

Nikkole Salter's Play:  LINES IN THE DUST

When Denitra loses the charter school lottery for her daughter, she must find another way to escape from their underperforming neighborhood school. The answer seems like a risk well worth taking but may end up requiring a bigger sacrifice than she ever could have imagined. It's been exactly 60 years since Brown Versus The Board of Education. Lines In The Dust questions how far we've come and more importantly, where we go from here.

Where do we go from here? How can we make the changes our kids need?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

What Do You Do In-between Manuscripts?

Here I sit, at an impasse. Finished two novels and querying one, somewhat, with the other on hold. I have a NaNoWriMo rough draft I'm just dying to revise on my fancy Scrivener program. It's going slow with Scrivener being a huge learning curve for me. I'm unsure of what's  in store for my two "revised" manuscripts and should probably hold off before I begin another.  Maybe?  So in the meantime . . .

I’m playing around with Scrivener and learning its features by writing short stories. I usually enter writing contests or flash fiction, to keep the ol' brain muscle flexible. I like to jump around genres and POVs with each story, figuring this is a good exercise. Write about people I've never been, or want to be, people who scare me, or I don't understand, situations that change us, dreams of a better world. Valid reasons to tell a tale I suppose. 

If I write everyday I’ll develop into a better writer, one that gets published. Right? That’s the mantra I repeat every morning. That’s when my internal world will finally see the light of readers. If I’ve touched their hearts as much as my own—then it’s the ultimate dream to reality.

I write mostly at the day job, lucky to have a place that's quiet enough (except for the kids’ chess camp). In the mornings I can usually clock in a few hours, before the bustle. Did I mention we have espresso on tap? 

Anne Lamont says the joy is in the writing itself -- and it is.  It's a lifesaver for me. When the world and my family -- and their problems, become too much, I'm happy to have an escape. It's a personal journey, one most writers long to share with readers. Of all the arts I love and experienced: singing, painting, sculpture -- writing a novel has been the most fulfilling. I feel most connected to the world somehow. I may open a page and pick up writing where I left off, and find myself surrounded by the scene in some way similar to what I’m writing.  An example is when I wrote a hospital scene for a book, years ago, and found myself in the hospital (comp book in bag) writing a scene in a hospital. Those were the days I used to carry a composition book around with my little two boys in tow. Writing wherever, and whenever I could squeeze in a few pages.  I’ve come a little further on this journey. I have a set writing schedule. This is huge. I can organize myself much better. . . and in time, who knows. 

So, what do you do when waiting for beat readers to finish with your manuscript? Or waiting for editors notes, or just waiting?  I’m going to work on the short stories of wild and crazy ideas I love to entertain -- and if I’m lucky, if it’s pertinent, I just might get one published.  Keep writing. 
-- ( it's the fun part) 

* Had trouble finding Ann Lamont's exact quote. But here's a slew of some of the BEST quotes on Writing and they're from Ann Lamont. 
Thank you, Ann!  We need these. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

YA Book Review: COMPULSION by Martina Boone

"The sense of place is the first thing that takes hold of you. The visual descriptions set you into the dreamy, hot and steamy southern charm of Charleston, South Carolina. Drawing you into a compelling world of oak and cypress woods, Spanish moss, and sprawling southern plantations. Where disturbed characters, unspoken family secrets, and a dark curse hooks you. You won’t want to leave Watson Landing. "

Read more on the Kidliterati Blog:

My Review of COMPULSION by Martina Boone:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Beginning of June and Flowers are Everywhere

EVEN HERE . . . 


There are more flowers . . down the internet path -- on my illustration page

Flowers inspire me. They allow me to drift into their fragrance and beauty and dissolve into a dreamy escape. I paint them, sinking deep into the petals, imagining that if I lose myself they may whisper their secrets. A time for listening to quiet things. Nature and my inner nature. My inner voice. 

*I just learned that it's Allen Ginsberg's Birthday today -- as I was creating this post. 
Here's a poem I came across by Mr. Ginsberg. I thought it was a fitting accompaniment to my post.  

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Now perhaps . . . you howl.

You howled. That is how I knew you. My neighbor, close, and far from eternity—spirit and souls. Our journey, our pace, quickened – and passed unnoticed, by you, I would guess.

A box of book left at the bottom of the steps, I was sure I found your fiction: your diction message from the Gods. Only a glimmer then, but I knew the future, past, and present, weaving into my life. I held firm to my creative path and muse so I could catch up.

We strive as poets to lift each other. Humanity and grace wraps her wings around in hints and quantum jumps, foreshadowing in flashes—nothing is trashed, all energy resuscitates. All energy is here, now.

A little dream -- only a whisper then, was an intellectual chord, nudging me, igniting the path that I must travel.

Today (June 3rd) is Allen Ginsberg's Birthday: 

 Brain Pickings blog link

"In December of 1969, Allen Ginsberg(June 3, 1926–April 5, 1997), one of the most beloved and influential poets of the twentieth century, recorded a strange and wonderful LP, setting William Blake’sSongs of Innocence "and of Experience to song." 

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Hop

Middle Grade writer Ronni Arno Blaisdell tagged me in this Writing Process Hop. Though I mentioned I was drowning in revisions and couldn't and wouldn't have the time--Ronni was very convincing.  She asked then sent me the link. Momma always told me--you have to make the time. Glad I did.  

What? You don't know Ronni Arno Blaisdell and about her book RENEE REINVENTED coming out by Aladdin, Simon & Schuster (Fall 2015)
 GoodReads When 12-year-old Renee learns that her supposed BFFs are only friends with her because her parents are famous celebrities, she finds a place as far from fake and phony Hollywood as she can get: a Maine boarding school.  I read an early draft. I loved it. LOVED it. It's a great story!

Interested in my writing process, are you?  

What am I working on?
Finishing up revision edits on a MG Light Sci-Fi/ Fantasy from last year's July CampNano. Working Title: Cltr+Alt+Delete: Boy genius, eleven-year-old Oznot, and his neighbor, nine-year-old, Theo, send ten kids into the world of FacePlace using the Top-Secret Polerizeroid machine. Theo must get everyone out, including his sister-- before they disappear, before they’re out of time. Then proceed with plan B. 
I can't wait to type up last year's NaNoWriMo YA Historical Suspense draft. It's still in still in comp books! ~ agh.  

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

Well, my last MG, which was more teen, or Upper MG --I say was  because she is resting very comfortably nearby in a dark drawer. That manuscript is a realistic fantasy, or magical realism. I guess I like writing stories that blend the lines between what is real and something beyond us; unreal things, events, that might really happen. The possibilities. As far as this MG, I've never heard of a story about kids clamoring to get into an online social site and then clamoring to get out. 

Why do I write what I do?   
I've been writing since grade school. Then in my late teens and twenty's I wrote mostly poetry. ( A quick fix) I spent most of my time raising my teen boys, and spending much, too much time around kids. (I LOVED it--kids are the best. Ever!) I began with an image of deer in the woods calling to the MC. I wrote the story from the middle then backwards. Writer friends encouraged me to complete the manuscript. It became my longest commitment to paper at 80k words! 
My oldest son had dyslexia, so my husband or I, read to our boys every night.  A little sad when it stopped. I was thrilled this week, when son #1 asked me to read Macbeth to him for school. Ah, sweet bonding with my teen. It's been hard to come by lately. OK, next . . . 

How does your writing process work?  
I get up as early as I can, while the fog of sleep fools me that I'm still dreaming and write. When my boys were younger I brought my composition books around  to the pool or the playgrounds. Until I could revise on a computer and rest easy knowing the paperwork was safe. These days I run the family cafe, get in early, set up, and write. If it's not too busy, I can sling some words. I have an ideas folder for ideas that pop-up. I just tuck them away in a folder for later. I say "down girls (the muses)--let me finish what I'm working on first".
Sometimes I begin with a a scene, just to set the mood. Then I might list a few bullet point ideas, or a flexible outline. But so far, ever story I've written has had a little different process. I enjoy trying new POV structures, voices, and genres. In between beta reads I often enter short story contests to keep my mental muscle fluid. ~ Then I settle in. . . and write, and write. 

Let me welcome children's author Christina Daley. You can read all about her  Writing Process next Monday: here.

Christina Daley made her first book with neighborhood friends when she was four years old. They "wrote" out some semblance of lettering with crayons, cut up a cardboard box for the cover, and bound it all together with clear adhesive tape. It was brilliant.

Quite a few years later, Christina is trying her hand at writing "real" books. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with a pet plant named Herb.

And while I'm at it --Go and check out the writers of our group blog: The Kidliterati You will leave inspired and nourished, filled with ideas to get your kids writing and reading --along with helpful nudges to get yourself writing --even MORE.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Middle Grade Book Review! ~ The Wig in the Window.

The Wig in the WindowThe Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I read the blurb for THE WIG IN THE WINDOW, Kristen Kittscher’s middle-grade mystery with its premise: two seventh-graders, midnight steak outs, spying, suspicious neighbors, walkie-talkies, secret codes, and mistaken identities, all rolled into a humorous and creepy mystery, I had to read this.

I loved this book! The humor of the mc, Sophie Young, together with her best friend, Grace Yang, as they turn into self-appointed agents, Young and Yang— slayed me.
The girls become tangled up in a caper after spying on their creepy neighbor, who is also, Sophie’s middle school guidance counselor, “Dr. Awkward.”

But is what Sophie and Grace saw true, or a case of the girls over active imaginations? The school counselor sure gives Sophie reason to believe it.

The pressure of the situation wears on the girls and tests their friendship. Assumptions are tested. But the girls never let the case go—and for good reason, because there are a couple plot twists before it’s all over. The plotting, and the details woven into this mystery are so well done, I’m still thinking about them. I also love how Sophie uses quotes from military general, Sun Tzu, as her philosophy throughout. She’s a smart cookie, that one, and I loved her. I enjoyed many of the characters, especially Sophie’s grandpa, who adds kindle to her imaginative fire.

This is a book I wish I had in middle school. I would have acted out the scenes with my friends, over and over. This book is so much fun, intriguing, surprising, and the friendship, heartfelt, I’m adding it to my top MG picks for this year.

~ karen

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Friday, February 7, 2014

The Dream That Never Gave Up. . . my journey to the city of dreams

I was seven years old when I announced to my mother “I’m moving to New York City.”
I think this realization happened while watching a television movie where an artist walks passed garbage-laden streets into factory apartment that revealed a retreat of art and style. Somehow that hooked me. I held onto that image. An image powerful enough to imprint itself on my brain until I found the right combination of elements that would bring me to New York City.   

Every year I’d tell my mom “I’m moving to New York City with Donna. I’m moving to New York City with so and so.” I went through each school year with the visions of being a fashion designer, living it up in a penthouse apartment on Fifth Ave. It was the dream that helped me get to sleep on many nights, living impoverished in South Florida, with my single immigrant mom. 
Nothing held the intrigue of Manhattan life. I wanted to be there. I had to live there.
I grew up, went to college at my father’s alma mater, but I wasn’t happy there and soon left. I moved back to Florida and lived with my mother to sort this out.
But my dream of being a fashion designer clung to me and this directed most of my unhappiness—because I wasn’t doing what was in my heart. I bid my time in South Florida, got a job, and started saving money, and soon met seventeen year old, Shannon. She had dreams, too. Shannon thought moving to New York City was a grand plan, a great idea, and she had an idea to go with it: her sister could drive us in her brand new car. 
Michelle loved the idea and was desperate for adventure.
It was set. We’d drive to New York City with our savings, find an apartment and get jobs. Yes, I was on my way to becoming a famous fashion designer. Nothing would stop me. Only my grand total savings was $400. That was it. What could I do in New York City with only four hundred dollars?
My father said, “New York City is going to eat you alive.”  I ignored it.
I didn’t tell my mother how little I’d actually saved. She was the one who had to listen to me all those years. “How can I stop you,” she asked. I was twenty-one, after all. I had a plan, I had the means, and we had the vehicle.
1987. We drove north, stopping once, and 21 hours later I’ll never forget the image of skyscrapers when they came into view as we drove over the bridge. Tears rolled down my face. Shannon turned to me as I sat there crying. She knew why.
It was a dream, the dream I made come true. The skyscrapers materialized out of the ether, just like the dream I’d always imagined. Because I never stopped believing they would. When the dream seemed impossible, I pretended harder. I held tight to the vision of living in NYC until it became real.
We arrived with no formal plans, with a place to stay for three nights, but that was it.
We had to hustle and find a home. The thrill of those early days covered any sense of worry in not finding a place to live. We just knew we would. We were young, energetic, and over the top with our confidence and assuredness that everything would work in our favor. And you know what?
Good fortune opened its doors to us. Michelle had a friend who got us temporary work, and the employer also had an apartment. The three of us moved into our one bedroom apartment. We had arrived. And one month later, we were kicked out of that apartment.  The landlord sighting that his “mother” would come and live there. Since he was also our employer, we found ourselves without a job. Thus began the cycle of moving, and changing jobs. This is the New York City rhythm I grew to learn: look for an apartment, search for a job, look for another apartment and find another job. It’s a cycle many New Yorker’s know too well. I’m certain that my constant uprooting and moving, changing schools all my life had made me quite an adaptable person.
Eventually, the three of us found work in the Fashion District. A couple apartments later, the two sisters moved on and moved away and far from New York City.
I’m still here. I love this City, it was the dream I made come true.
I stopped working in the Fashion business after I realized I wanted something deeper. I wanted to write poetry. So I wound up working as a bartender, so I could spend days writing. I wanted to sing and write songs. These were dreams that tagged along with me in my visions—but could they be real? Did I have the confidence to actually be a writer? A Poet? A Jazz Singer?   This is where I am today, writing every day and singing.
I host a collective of Jazz Singers at Zinc Bar every week. I’m living my hearts desires.
Maybe our aspirations anchor themselves in our psyche and drive us to meet our destination. We hold the map of our dreams by keeping them in our grasp until we eventually arrive —so long as we don’t discard that dream. Ever.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My YA Book Review for Kidliterati.

The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, #2)The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2) Maureen Johnson.

A YA paranormal. With secret police!

Rory Deveaux, the Louisiana girl in London, is back at Wexford Academy after a fixed twit of fate. Her crew Boo, Callum, and Stephan reunite to try and stop the madness that lies underneath London town. Rory’s new skill plays a huge roll in the current challenge she must face that lurks beneath the cracks in the pavement. She’ll need to trust those skills and use them before all hell breaks lose. Enemies come from unexpected places, and Rory will have to learn for herself, who to trust. An exciting adventure of teen ghost sleuths.

I read The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1) where Rory goes after a modern Jack the Ripper, albeit a ghost. I love Rory’s voice, her crazy family history and her quirky over-talkative nature, especially when she became nervous. A trait I could definitely relate to.  Rory has to deal with a lot since the first book, and this second addition to the series lives up to the first and pumps it up a notch.

The pressure and separation from all that is normal in Rory’s life is excruciating as she takes you through it. You feel her pain. But Rory has a lucid sense of humor. I love Maureen Johnson’s writing, very lyrical and real. Her characters are well drawn, with the simplest descriptions, making the story feel very much alive. Every character breathes life—even the ghosts.

Rory spends much of the first part of the novel trying to figure out what to do, and if she’s making the right choices. He schoolwork becomes over bearing; the weight of her problems, heavy, and she must make choices. She meets new people, some of which offer surprising alternatives to the life she’s leading. There are some wham-bam surprises that left me reeling, and heartbroken.

I’d recommend this book to all young adults who love ghost stories--with secret police! Those who enjoy reading books where the teens get the work done and dispel the world of disruptive, lingering ghosts, for the guys higher up who hide behind suits. This series is a little like Scooby Doo, for big kids. Which, I really, really like. I CANNOT wait to dig into The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3), and mend my sorrow.

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