Author: Deb Atwood
Publisher: New Potato Press
Published: August 13 2012
Source: Received from the author
in exchange for an honest review
Read: November 10-12 2012
In A Few Words: Unique and detailed
My Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads: Add This to Your TBR Shelf
Once she brings the doll home, Kendra pays little attention to misplaced objects or her beloved dog’s fear. That is, until one terrifying night forces her to question her very sanity. Soon, the ethereal, brooding NanJu manifests herself, and Kendra begins her travels through time to 16th century Korea into a history of conflict and intrigue. For Kendra is about to discover the dark past of her ghostly visitor.
Now it’s up to Kendra, with Hiro by her side, to interpret the past and prevent murder. Everything depends upon Kendra’s success, even—she discovers to her horror—her own life
A few months ago, Deb Atwood stopped by Melissa's Midnight Musings to talk about the lessons we can learn from ghosts. After reading Moonlight Dancer, I can see that these lessons can sometimes be pretty painful, but also liberating in a way.
Moonlight Dancer isn't quite what I expected it to be. I thought it was going to be a straight time travel story, but it's much more than that. It's historical fiction, romance, and paranormal all rolled into one.
The story starts out with Kendra, a seemingly typical college student browsing a storewith her friend, and finding herself drawn to a doll she sees on the shelves. That's not quite all she's drawn to, though, as the shop assistant, Hiro, also catches her eye. For some strange reason, Kendra cannot stop thinking about the doll she sees. So, she goes back to the store. She decides to spend her upcoming semesters' tuition money on this doll. She takes the doll home, and at first, it's just a doll. But then, things start happening. She narrowly misses being in a fatal car accident because the doll traps her in the house. Then, she starts getting unusual visions of a distant past, she starts observing the life of a 16th century Korean woman named Nanju. These visions hit her hard, and land her in some serious trouble, including a brief stay in a psychiatric facility. She must go on a journey not only to save herself but also to bring peace to the ghosts of the past.
The time travel element in this is really well done. The fact that Kendra is experiencing these images of the past while remaining in the present is an aspect that I really liked about this book. It works really well to weave the past and present together in this way, and sets up the events in the book nicely. I'm glad that it was set up this way rather than just having Kendra get pulled into the past and having to find her way back by the end of the novel.
The romance between Hiro and Kendra is nice too. It's not insta love, which I appreciated. It also has ups and downs. Hiro and Kendra fight, and disagree, and while they do end up together, it's done in a way that isn't overly cheesy. They play the cat and mouse game at times, each of them playing a bit hard to get, finding reasons to see each other. Then they bond over the myriad of experiences regarding the doll, some of them really dangerous. It's interesting to watch how their relationship ebbs and flows around what's happening with Nanju's spirit. Hiro is initially intrigued by the idea of the ghost, and tells Kendra to help her, to bring her peace. Then as things start to get dangerous he gets nervous about her involvement, but she's committed to finding out what happens, and they argue over the situation. Hiro thinks its' too dangerous because Nanju's spirit is taking over, and he wants her to stop, but Kendra has become too involved, too attached to stop and so they part ways for a time. In the end, Hiro ultimately supports Kendra in what she has to do to bring peace to Nanju's spirit.
There are some inconsistencies with Kendra's personality and how her and Hiro's relationship progresses, which I didn't quite like. For instance, she tells him that she was drugged at a party and presumes that something might have happened to her, so she's sworn off men. Then, within the next few scenes, she ends up kissing Hiro and they end up in bed together.
I do have to say that the scenes involving intimate moments are very tastefully written. I also have to say I appreciate the authors view on safe sex, and incorporating that into the story. It's as simple as "Hiro takes a condom out of his wallet and..." And that's all that's needed really. It's just not often that you see scenes like that written into books, a lot of the time it's left to the reader to assume.
There is a great deal of information about Korean culture embedded in the storyline of this book. I learned a lot while reading, and it shows that the author did her homework. There are a lot of scenes involving Korean culture and traditions, which are very detailed and easily imagined as you're reading. The only thing that I wish there had been in regards to this is a glossary of the Korean words at the back. There were some translations immediately following the words, but some were left out, so a dictionary at the back might have been helpful. Reading this also made me want to look further into the concept of automatic writing. Kendra does this when Nanju's spirit takes over, and it seems like a really cool concept, that's definitely worth looking into.
The setting was slightly familiar, as this is set in the California Bay Area. I grew up in the Bay Area so seeing familiar town names and imagining locales for some of these places was fun to do while I read.
Kendra's growth as a character has more to do with her letting people in than anything else. Since the death of her father she has held herself closed off to people, and forming relationships, because people always leave her as she says, specifically men. It takes a while, but she does learn to let Hiro in completely (not just in the physical sense) so that is nice to see. And Hiro, even with his troubled past is able to let go of some of his control to let Kendra in, so they really balance each other out nicely.
This is a book that is richly steeped in culture, relationships and love.