Friday Book Whimsy: Ghosts of Harvard

Twists and turns run rampant in Ghosts of Harvard, a book by Francesca Serritella. The book can’t decide if it’s a mystery, a ghost story, or a teaching tool. Despite a few flaws, I decided it was, in the end, just a good book to read during a quarantine.

Cady Archer can’t come to grips with the fact that her brilliant, but schizophrenic, brother killed himself while attending Harvard University. Against her parents’ wishes, she elects  to attend the prestigious university to find out first hand what drove her brother to jump out his dorm window to his death. Armed with her brother’s notebook that contains his thoughts and unexplained and indecipherable numbers, she sets out to find the answers to her questions.

But before long, Cady begins hearing the same voices that haunted her brother. Is she also schizophrenic or are there actually ghosts that haunt the Harvard campus? The ghosts, however,  don’t slow her down, and she doesn’t give up until she solves the puzzle. She nearly loses her life in the process.

I learned a bit about schizophrenia and what it can do to a person’s life. And not just the person suffering with the disease, but the entire family. I also learned a lot about what life is like at a prestigious and very challenging university with lots of history, both good and bad.

It’s true that some of the book made me roll my eyes. I struggled a bit with the Cady, who is the main character. Perhaps it’s because I am a mother, but I really, really wanted her to stop skipping classes and not studying for tests. But it wasn’t a book that I was interested in abandoning. And I’m glad I finished it, because the ending caught me by surprise.

Ghosts of Harvard served its purpose in providing a break from some difficult times.

Here is a link to the book.

 

Friday Book Whimsy: The Sun Down Motel

Those who follow my reading choices know that I’m a big fan of mysteries. What most people don’t know is that I have developed somewhat of an interest in scary books. Not horror novels like Bring Me Flesh; I’ll Bring You Hell, a book by an author named Martin Rose, of whom I’ve never heard, and whose books I will never read. But a good ol’ gothic mystery novel with a side of ghosts can bring me satisfaction. The Haunting of Hill House, by writer Shirley Jackson is a good example of the type of scary book to which I’m drawn. Hauntingly scary, but no Freddy Krueger popping out of the closet.

So when a book called The Sun Down Motel, by Simone St. James, an author noted for her creepy novels, comes across my computer screen, you can understand why I was immediately hooked. Last year I read The Broken Girls by the same author, and was suitably impressed. And I have stayed at enough motels with signs that looked just like that illustrated on the cover to be drawn in.

Carly Kirk is at loose ends. She misses her deceased mother. She isn’t finding satisfaction in college. And she has always wondered what happened to her Aunt Viv, who went missing 30 years earlier, before Carly was born. So she drops out of school, and heads to the upper New York town of Fell to retrace the steps of her aunt, and make a true effort to find out what happened and why the police were never able to close the case. All she knows is that Viv ran away from home and found work as the night clerk at The Sun Down Motel in Fell, NY.

Carly arrives in Fell, and begins renting the apartment in which Viv lived.  Soon she accepts a job as the night clerk at The Sun Down Motel. In the course of retracing her aunt’s steps, Carly faces some of the same challenges faced by Viv. The challenges include nightly visits from the victims of the serial killer the police and Viv’s family think murdered Viv.

The Sun Down Motel is part ghost story, part romance, but mostly a mystery with an ending that might take you by surprise. I found the novel to be a great escape from the trials around me.

Here is a link to the book. 

Friday Book Whimsy: The Broken Girls

Simone St. James is the author of a series of books, all ghost stories. Ghost stories have never been my cup of tea, but The Broken Girls intrigued me. I decided to turn on the lights to keep the ghosts at bay and give the book a try.

It’s been 20 years since Fiona Sheridan’s sister Deb was found dead on the grounds of a boarding school called Idlewild in a small Vermont town.  Despite the fact that a man was arrested and has been imprisoned for the murder, Fiona hasn’t come to grips with her sister’s death. Something doesn’t seem right. Now, as part of her job as a journalist, she learns that the school—long closed and reportedly haunted—is about to be rehabilitated and reopened.

What Fiona doesn’t know is that 20 years before her sister was killed, another girl went missing from Idlewild, which at that time was a boarding school for throw-away girls: illegitimate, unloved, without parents. So when a body is dug up during the reconstruction, Fiona throws herself into learning the secrets of Idlewild and the truth about her sister’s death.

Part mystery, part thriller, part ghost story, I couldn’t stop reading this book. I’m generally not fond of ghost stories, generally finding them somewhat silly, but Mary Hand—the unsettled ghost who can’t find rest at Idlewild—seemed to enhance the story rather than distract. I found all of the female characters to be strong and interesting. I especially loved the four roommates who kept each other strong in the 1950 story line.

The ending was delivered with a twist, and was quite satisfying. All in all, I enjoyed The Broken Girls very much.

Here is a link to the book.