Notes From Ghost Town | Kate Ellison | Book Review

I’ve decided that I am a fan of the books that come out of Paper Lantern Lit. I loved Venom. I loved Meant To Be. So, it stands to reason that I would end up loving Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison. Unfortunately, I thought that the book did not exactly live up to my expectations. There were some things that Ellison’s sophomore novel did very, very well and other things that leave me feeling unconvinced, if that makes sense. Notes From Ghost Town is many things: a ghost story, a contemporary story, a story of love and loss, a story of family. 

Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison | Good Books And Good Wine

Olivia’s boyfriend, Lucas Stern, is found brutally murdered. Her mother, someone who has a mental illness, is the main suspect. Olivia does not think it was her mother. THEN, Lucas’s ghost shows up and starts giving Olivia hints about his murder, so that she can unravel the mystery of who his true killer is. Along the way, Notes From Ghost Town is about Olivia’s grieving, she’s very, very depressed about what has happened. She also is scared witless because she thinks that she will inherit her mother’s mental illness as she can no longer see in color, but only in black and white. Weaved in with all this internal turmoil is the fact that a boy becomes romantically interested in Olivia – and he’s totally not her type – he’s from a wealthy family and attends prep school. There’s definitely a lot going on in Ellison’s book, but it does not really detract from the book at all. Instead, it just makes the book more interesting.

Olivia is a fascinating character. She is complicated. She is complex. She’s not easy – in that she is deeply flawed and hurt and lashes out. There are times where she is hard to like, but as a main character she does a great job of carrying the book. I found myself hoping she would find her colors again. I found myself hoping she would allow herself to move beyond what is essentially a terrible tragedy.

What did not work for me within Notes From Ghost Town was the romance. I really thought the romance between Olivia and the new, interested guy seemed totally forced. I just did not feel their chemistry and it seemed like Olivia was with him just to be with someone, if that makes sense. It really seemed like she was not entirely over Stern (her nickname for Lucas). And, I understand that it’s really hard to let go, but there were times when his ghost showed up that I was like wahhhh come back to life and well, it’s just interesting that she has way more chemistry with a dead person where there is no possibility there than with a flesh and blood person. I don’t know, I just totally felt meh and none of the tension or the tingles that go along with a well-written romance.

Yet, the book does excel when it comes to writing style. I thought Ellison did setting very well. The book is set in Florida and you can almost feel a stifling sort of humidity waft right off the pages. I loved that I got a real sense of place from reading Notes From Ghost Town. I also thought that the plot and the story felt unique and not like something I had read before. I loved that this book was standalone and firmly wrapped everything up. However, it seems like so much was going on that as a reader, I was overwhelmed. While I did not love Notes From Ghost Town, I think that technically it’s a good book and one that I would not hesitate to recommend to people looking for a good mystery and ghost story.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Other reviews of Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison:

Respiring Thoughts – “ in the end, Notes from Ghost Town did win me over
A Beautiful Madness – “it is that it is full of emotions
The Quiet Concert – “I never really got excited

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I really enjoyed this one but for different reasons than you have listed here. First of all, we definitely agree on Kate Ellison’s writing style. I love the way her language flows and it is really easy to read and I just love it. I thought the merge of the contemporary and ghost story was interesting. But for me, where this book was great was the fact that it was a mystery/thriller that I could read and not get too freaked out. I don’t tend to love that genre very much so I was able to relax and be comfortable in Ellison’s prose without being tense. I think that because I was comfortable with her style right away and never felt tense like I do most often with mysteries or ghost-type stories, I ended up really, really falling for this one.

  2. I was totally scared when I started reading your review that you didn’t like this book at all because I REALLY want to read it and I trust your opinion, but I have nothing to worry about. That’s sad that the romance feels forced, but I totally wasn’t thinking this book was a romance so maybe it won’t bother me? I don’t know. I’m definitely going to read it soon because it sounds creepy and different.

  3. Ooh, I need more mystery/thriller in my life. I might need to pick this one up.

  4. I love a good ghost story. Even though the romance with the living guy doesn’t really work, I can generally get over that. Great romances are hard to find in YA. It seems like, sometimes, a romance is just thrown in there to have it. Like … YAs can’t function without one (or two) going on. I like it when MCs are complicated and afraid of inheriting a mental illness too — which isn’t something I find that often. Great review!