Book Tag – Bookish Academy Awards

So I don’t know about you guys, but I not only read a lot of book blogs, I watch A LOT of BookTube.  For the uninitiated, BookTube is basically the amazing little corner of YouTube where book people reside. Although probably the most subscribed channels are YA centric, there are BookTubers out there for you no matter what kind of reading you like to do — classics, adult books, mysteries, whatever! I love watching book reviews almost as much as I love reading them, to be honest.  And one really cool thing that BookTube has that we bloggers haven’t really gotten into as much are Tag Videos.  Basically, a tag video is when one person comes up with a bunch of bookish questions, answers them, and then tags a few people to also answer them.  All of a sudden, all of the people you are subscribed to are answering questions about books, and not just reviewing specific books, which I actually think gives you a really cool insight into their likes/dislikes generally and provides a new way to talk about books – which is what we are all here to do, right?!

Recently I was watching Regan on Peruse Project and she did a really awesome tag called Bookish Academy Awards.  The tag was originally created by Kayla at BOOKadooodles and I just freaking loved it.  After watching Epic Reads do the *Book Shimmy* awards and getting super excited for the actual Oscars coming up in March, I personally couldn’t wait to weigh in on this tag.

All of my winners come from the 135 books I read in 2013; not necessarily books published in 2013.  You can see all the eligible nominees on my Goodreads page here.  Hope you all enjoy!

Welcome to the 2013 Bookish Academy Awards!

1.     BEST ACTOR / BEST MALE PROTAGONIST 

theif

 Hands down, my favorite male protagonist that I discovered in 2013 was Gen from The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. Originally published in 2005, this series follows Gen, who has a reputation for being able to steal anything.  Until, of course, he gets caught. He is released from prison in order to retrieve something for the King and what follows is a really fun adventure tale that keeps the reader guessing. Gen is hilarious, clever, devoted, and oh-so-fun to read.

2.     BEST ACTRESS/ BEST FEMALE PROTAGONIST

 easy

Ok, you guys.  This one was almost impossible. I met so many amazing females this year through my reading.  Some very, VERY close contenders included Alanna from the Song of the Lioness quartet,  Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles quartet, Eleanor from Eleanor & Park, Mary Russell from the wonderful Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series… the list seriously goes on and on. But my heart has to rule and this one goes to the wonderful (and overlooked in the blogosphere, I think) Josie Moraine from Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.  Josie was one of my favorite female characters in a really long time.  She is the 17-year-old daughter of a prostitute who was raised and lives in a brothel in New Orleans in the 1950s.  She was so intelligent and independent, but also stuck in this terrible situation. I think Sepetys did a really amazing job with her character’s voice – she seemed absolutely real to me and stuck with me long after I finished reading.

3.     BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY/ BEST PLOT TWIST

 locke

Oh how I adore The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.  This was a re-read for me this year, but that didn’t lessen the fun of trying to figure out what was going to come next. This book is described by the blurb as “part Robin Hood/part Ocean’s Eleven,” and in many ways that is a great intro into what the book is about. But it misses the heart of the novel, which is falling in love with the hilarious, kind-hearted, brilliant Gentlemen Bastards.  How the heist will come out is a twist in and of itself, but all kinds of things about this book kept me guessing until the very last page. Don’t read it if you don’t like cursing, but otherwise, run to your local bookstore and check it out ASAP!

4.     BEST COSTUME DESIGN / BEST BOOK COVER

emperor

 The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson.  I feel like this one speaks for itself.  DAT COVER!!  I love how perfectly it fits the story as well.  You miiiight be seeing this one pop up again in a future category, so for now I’ll leave it at that.

 5.     BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS AND ACTOR / BEST MALE AND FEMALE SIDEKICK

 seige

 Ok, I’m making this one a bit more of an ensemble award. I really love all of the side characters (basically, read as, anyone other than Alina) in Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo, which is the second book in the Grisha Trilogy.  Never has a fandom been so torn on the appropriate love interest for a main character, seriously.  Between the Darkling, Mal, and oh-my-goodness Sturmhond, this book is chock full of really fun-to-read guys. I call them all side characters because no one male character is really at the center of the story.  And as for females, I really adored Tolya, who was a kick-butt female and a really strong point of the novel for me.

6. BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY / MOST UNIQUE PLOT/WORLD 

fairyland

 This one absolutely has to go to the gorgeously realized Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente.  I actually read all three of the books that are currently out in this series this year, and all three just build upon each other so well.  Fairyland is a modern-day Wonderland and I want to go there immediately.  Not to make too many comparisons to Alice in Wonderland, but reading these novels is truly like falling down the rabbit hole.  I start and I read and I am completely lost to the real world and so thoroughly enmeshed in Fairyland for the entire time that I am reading the book – it is really unlike anything else I have ever read.

6. BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY / BEST BOOK-TO-MOVIE ADAPTATION 

 night circus

Ok, this is where I admit that apparently I did not read a single book in 2013 that has been turned into a movie that I have seen.  Whoops!  And I don’t really keep track well enough of movies that I watch to recall whether there was a movie I saw this year that has also been a book that I read at any other point in my life. So, barring that, I will share the book that I would most LIKE to see a book-to-movie adaptation of, and that is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I think this book was so visual in the telling that it would be amazing to see it come to life on the big screen. I think it’s also possible that the few things that annoyed me about the book (insta-love and slightly draggy) could be cleaned up by a screenplay, so win-win!

7. BEST ANIMATED FEATURE / BOOK THAT WOULD WORK WELL IN ANIMATED FORMAT

fairyland

I’m trying not to repeat books to often here, but Best Animated Feature really has to go to the Fairyland novels again.  I almost can’t even imagine an effective live action adaptation of these novels. It is such a fantastically drawn, beautiful world that would be the most amazing animated feature.

9. BEST DIRECTOR / AUTHOR YOU DISCOVERED FOR THE FIRST TIME

jellicoe

2013 was an amazing reading year for me and for discovering new to me authors.  Some very close runners up included A.S. King, Merrie Haskell, Laini Taylor and Rainbow Rowell.  But the award really has to go to the incomparable Melina Marchetta, author of one of my absolute favorite novels of 2013, On the Jellicoe Road.  Marchetta’s writing is just utterly perfect to me.  I have since read a few of her other novels and writings and every time I have been legitimately sad that I will never again be able to read those books for the first time.  Jellicoe Road absolutely wrecked me.  It was lyrical and absolutely pitch-perfect when it came to writing teens in the process of learning who they really are.  Highly recommended.

10. BEST VISUAL EFFECTS / BEST ACTION IN A BOOK

steelheart

 Perhaps because this book was so superhero-ish in tone, I can totally imagine Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson as a movie with some amazing action scenes.  There were a few really big, memorable action scenes in this book and they were all written really well.  I felt like I could completely picture what was going on and how it all fit together.  Adding a superhero element to any novel is going to immediately make it seem more epic, but this book particularly made it feel like the reader was right there in the middle of it all.  The grand final battle was so visually written and just perfection.

11. BEST MUSICAL SCORE / BEST MUSIC IN A MOVIE-TO-BOOK ADAPTATION

fire and thorns

 Again, this is going to be a bit different because I haven’t actually seen any movies of books I read in 2013.  However, Epic Reads posted a really amazing playlist curated by Rae Carson meant to go with her novel, The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  It’s available on Spotify, and I listen to it all the freaking time.  SO GOOD!

12. BEST SHORT FILM / BEST NOVELLA

emperor

 This will surprise exactly NO ONE who has listened to me talk at all about novellas or books or Brandon Sanderson anytime in the last year or so, but my absolute favorite novella of last year (and possibly all time?) has to be The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson.  And this actually won the Hugo Award for Best Novella last year, so it’s not just me saying this, people!  Sanderson tackles in under 200 pages what makes a person himself. And he managed to throw in a really awesome, well-conceived magic system, and a novella that seemed sweeping despite almost entirely taking place inside of one room.  If you like any Sanderson at all, and especially if you’ve never given his novels a chance, try this one.  It’s less than 200 pages, you can read it in a night.  DO IT!!

13. BEST PICTURE / BEST STANDALONE

 e&p

Ok, this one was also really difficult.  If I wasn’t trying not to repeat too much, it’s possible this one would have gone to On the Jellicoe Road. But man, oh man, did I also really love Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Eleanor and Park were both amazing, painful, wonderful characters to read. Their fledgling love story was so natural and perfectly written.  I got so invested that I was completely tempted to peak at the end, which I NEVER do. This novel was in turns beautiful and painful; jubilant and heartbreaking.  It is definitely one of my top reads of 2013.

14. BEST DOCUMENTARY / BEST HISTORICAL FICTION OR NON-FICTION

bodies      lionheart

 I have avoided ties anywhere else, but in this category it couldn’t be avoided.  I just really don’t have the opportunity on this blog to gush about my second true love – great historical fiction – that often.  And last year I read two really wonderful pieces of historical fiction that I definitely recommend you check out. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel is actually the second book in a series following Thomas Cromwell.  Both this book and its predecessor, Wolf Hall, won the Man Booker Prize.  I personally loved the second installment slightly more than the first.  Mantel showcases the softer side of Cromwell in a way that is so well-researched but still highly readable. You really get lost in the time period and are right on the edge of your seat the whole time, despite obviously knowing what ends up happening to Anne Boleyn at the end.

My other favorite historical fiction this year was Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman. This one follows Richard on his Third Crusade. Like all of Penman’s works, they are just gorgeously written and perfectly researched.  If you’re new to her writings, I would actually start with The Sunne in Splendour, but you really can’t go wrong with her work.

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And that’s a wrap!  I hope you enjoyed this and maybe I will keep my eye out for some other fun tags to bring to the world of book blogging.  If you’d like to do this yourself, I’d love to read it – please link it below and I’ll come check out your winners!

 

 

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Book Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

saving francesca

Book Summary

From Goodreads: Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys’ school that’s pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom.  Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player.  The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, along, and without an inkling who she really is.  Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.

Review: 5 out of 5 Stars

It’s official – Melina Marchetta is a must read author for me. While this book was so different from and less grand than my beloved On the Jellicoe Road, it was its own breed of perfect.

This novel centers on Francesca, a high school junior who is starting a new school and will be one of only 35 girls in an all-boys school. It starts on the first day of her mother’s nervous breakdown and follows her throughout this year as she has to face (and find?) certain truths about herself and her family.

I actually don’t think the Goodreads (or my) summary do this story justice.  It is about high school and friends and boys and family, but it’s somehow about more than that as well.  I called it less grand than Jellicoe Road, and it is, but it also tackles some tough concepts really well – mental illness and the stigma surrounding it being the mostly obvious example. I thought Marchetta’s treatment of this subject was just so good; she managed to incorporate both some great reactions and terrible reactions to the mother’s breakdown, in a totally non-judgmental way.

I also thought the relationship development was spot on.  It develops organically and in a way that makes you remember your own first serious love interest and all the butterflies that came along. And the beautiful writing on friendships and how important finding a group of true friends is to your life was just perfect.  There was bickering and misunderstandings and gossip and just pure love and it was amazing.

But what this author does as well as or better than almost anyone else I’ve read lately is she just writes teenagers perfectly (and, thus, painfully sometimes). Francesca here is discovering some important things about her family and herself and who she can be, and Marchetta writes that moment of self-discovery and all the turmoil that comes with it just perfectly.

In fact, what I love about YA – and what I think Marchetta did so well here – is that really good YA focuses on a really tough point in a person’s life where she (or he) is really choosing what kind of person to be. The late teen years are tumultuous at best and really great writers can make so much out of that time in life – whether set in a contemporary, or dystopian, or yes, even well written paranormal romance setting. I think that what really good YA does is gives teen readers permission to feel, to find inner strength, to fight the odds, to see themselves in someone who is not many years older. Do I think a great deal of it has to do with marketing choices? Of course. But I do think it’s about more than that.

And since everyone has at one point been a teenager and remembers those turning points, I think YA has the ability to really speak to readers of all ages. This novel, particularly, is just a great example of pinpointing that moment when you start finding a glimpse of your true self.  I thought it was just beautiful.

I loved this novel and I cannot wait to get my hands on more Marchetta immediately.

Bottom Line

I absolutely love both this novel and this author.  If you’ve been shying away from contemporary YA, I recommend you dig in to some Marchetta.  You won’t look back.

Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Print

Book Summary

From GoodreadsFirst, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire – and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

Review: 4 out of 5 Stars

This book was a perfect example of needing to read something at the right time. I have tried reading it 3 or 4 times previously and the soporific effects reached near Austen-like levels for me. But I picked it back up on a whim a few nights ago and could not put it down!

In this novel, supernatural creatures (most notably werewolves and vampires) exist openly in society and are, more or less, accepted. Alexia is a preternatural, which here means she has no soul and her mere touch can bring the supernatural creatures back to a mortal state as long as she remains in contact with them. Her love interest, Lord Maccon, is a werewolf and head of a supernatural police force charged with policing its own kind. He is the Alpha male of his pack (oh, and Scottish…) and he and sharp-tongued Alexia match tempers as often as affections. Oh and also steampunk.

The two get caught up in a mystery relating to disappearing vampires and werewolves.  Maccon is the head detective for the supernatural set and Alexia keeps showing up where people are disappearing.  The two obviously have some history, but at first their interactions are more on the hate side of the love-hate scale.  As the book progresses, the love story heats up.  It was very rewarding and oh-so-Victorian, though worth at least a PG-13 rating.  I particularly like that it seems that there will be no love triangles or will-they/won’t-they drawn out over the entire series.  I am a fan of commitment, and also I think it is more true to the time period in which the book is set.

I loved the alternate history in the novel and thought it added not only to the story itself, but to the telling of the story. You can tell that the author took care with her setting, and not only with the plot and characters.  Alexia’s narrations and Victorian sensibilities were often hilarious. I grew a bit tired of the repeated reference to her looks and love of food, but generally thought she was a great character.  I also loved the characters around her – her flamboyant vampire friend Lord Adelkama, her prudish best friend, and Maccon’s second-in-command were all well-drawn and fun to read about.  It has been awhile since I wanted to jump into a book and befriend everyone in it, but this was definitely one of those books.

The mystery part was also great. I could see a few of the twists and turns coming, but not all. There was plenty left to surprise me at the end.

Bottom Line

Overall, this was a very fun and unique read.  The steampunk Victorian setting was so well written, and Alexia and Maccon are a super fun love interest. I can’t wait to read more of these adventures.

 

Bout of Books 9.0 Readathon: Sign-up and Goals

Bout of Books

I have been having a great 2014 reading-wise thus far and I want to keep the train going with my first Bout of Books participation!  For those that don’t know, here’s the official Bout of Books description:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 9.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Goals

I think for this readathon I will be focusing on shorter novels, in order to feel some sense of accomplishment in what I am able to read in a week.  That said, I do have some books from the library that are about to be due back and a few more coming soon that I know I’ll want to get to ASAP, so I need to clear that TBR pile quickly!  I would like to read at least 5 novels during the readathon.

I am going to choose from this stack of books, but reserve the right to add any that come in from my hold list!

rose under fire saving francesca rising asia jepp white night etiquette

Updates

Monday, January 6:

  • Pages Read Today: 420 pages
  • Total Books Completed: 1
  • Thoughts: Today I completed Jepp, Who Defies the Stars by Katherine Marsh – 384 pages – (review to come) and thought it was a very interesting read.  I also started up on Earth Abides by George R. Stewart – 345 pages, which is a February book club read.  That one is on my Kindle, so my pages are estimated, but I made it about 10% of the way through.

Tuesday, January 7:

  • Pages Read Today: 370 pages
  • Total Books Completed: 2
  • Thoughts: Today I completed How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid – 230 pages – (review to come).  I enjoyed this one very much, even though it was pretty far outside my normal reads.  I picked it up on a recommendation from John Green’s Twitter and was not disappointed. I also got to about 50% complete with Earth Abides.  I would probably have been able to get a bit further today, but both my son and husband are knocked out with the flu, so I had a ton of running around to do today.

Wednesday, January 8:

  • Pages Read Today: 345 pages
  • Total Books Completed: 3
  • Thoughts: Today I completed Earth Abides.  I likely will not review this one, but generally I did not really enjoy it. It was an older novel basically about the end of civilization as we know it following a disease sweeping the world and killing off most people.  For me, it just didn’t hold up. There were too many offensive, older ways of thinking included and I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I also started Immortal In Death by J.D. Robb, which is the third in the In Death series, and got about 50% of the way through.  Also, I broke 1,000 pages today!  Hoorah!

Thursday, January 9:

  • Pages Read Today: 738
  • Total Books Completed: 6
  • Thoughts: Ok, I kind of went reading crazy yesterday.  I finished three books – the last 50% of Immortal In Death, all of Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, and  Entwined by Elizabeth Naughton.  I think it is mostly because Saving Francesca was such a good book, I just flew through it.  But also partially because I just could not sleep!  Either way, who is going to complain about more reading!  But that means I’m upping my goal to 8 books for the readathon.

Friday, January 10:

  • Pages Read Today: 25
  • Total Books Completed: 6
  • Thoughts: I guess I was a little burnt out after yesterday because I barely read at all! I just started White Night which is the 9th book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. And that was about it! I still feel good about where I am, but that 8 book goal looks slightly out of reach now.  We shall see!

Saturday, January 11:

  • Pages Read Today: 382
  • Total Books Completed: 7
  • Thoughts: Ok! Back on track!  I finished up White Night and really loved it.  The Dresden Files books just keep getting better.  If you are at all interested in urban fantasy and somehow have missed this series, I highly urge you to correct this and power through the first three books.  It is all worth it!  This brings my pages total to 2,280 and 7 books read for the week.  If this is the end of what I achieve, I am still SO thrilled! Plus, they have mostly been great books.  Such an excellent week!

Sunday, January 12:

  • Pages Read Today: 559+ a graphic novel (not counting those pages)
  • Total Books Completed: 9.5, including the graphic novel
  • Thoughts: Today I needed a bit of a brain break, so I started out with Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff.  This was a fun adventure story graphic novel with a great female main character.  Highly recommended – gorgeous art, fun story, I want more!  Then I settled down and powered through Winger by Andrew Smith. When I first saw this novel, I thought no way would I be able to finish it in one day.  But I just could NOT put it down!  Such a great read.  And then I read the first half of Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb, which is the fourth book in the In Death series.

Wrap Up

I had such an excellent time in my first Bout of Books!  I managed to read 4/6 of the books I started out wanting to read.  I read 9.5 novels and managed to power through 2,839 pages, plus the graphic novel.  I fully participated in two of the chats and at least stopped by to say hi in the third.  I didn’t get to comment on as many blogs as I wanted, or participate in the challenges.  That will definitely be part of my goals for next time.  All in all, I was so thrilled with how this readathon went and will DEFINITELY be looking for more very soon!

Book Review: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reality Boy by A.S. King

reality boy

Book Summary

From Goodreads: Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

Review: 5 out of 5 Stars

I loved this book.  But it wrecked me.

Gerald is just about to turn seventeen years old.  When he was five, a reality television show came to his home to “help” his parents with discipline.  As part of his acting out, Gerald took to defecating around his home. Apparently this was very popular viewing twelve years ago, and lives on through YouTube, and so Gerald has grown up in his home town known as The Crapper.  You can imagine how that has been for him.

After a very violent and angry period in middle school, Gerald has spent a lot of time trying to stifle any emotion that could possibly lead to anger. But that’s tough since his biggest trigger – your psychopathic sister – is still living in the house with him and still tormenting him. This book was an examination of what it is like for Gerald to grow up after being in that fishbowl of reality television and how he is succeeding at unmaking the “reality” that was edited for him all those years ago, both in his mind and in the minds of others.

I read a lot of Young Adult literature, and one thing that is always fascinating for me as a person who is no longer a young adult (and, in fact, is teenager number of years away from being one) is re-living the pain that comes with being a teen.  You are just on the cusp of figuring out who you are and experiencing life away from home and all that comes with that, and in some ways you feel completely ready, but you are not quite there yet.  And that can sometimes be a suffocating feeling.

Great YA is often about these moments when as a teenager you get glimpses of your real adult life, and the self-discovery that comes with that.  This book was no exception.  As Gerald meets the girl who will become his girlfriend, and forces himself to put words to his history, he is finally able to catch glimpses of his true self. That self-discovery was written so beautifully, and so painfully.  A.S. King is a master of this kind of writing.  She is a forever champion of the underdog and writes those kinds of characters with pitch perfect accuracy.

But reading this as a parent of my own three-year-old son was almost impossible.  I had to put the book down many times because of the pain that was radiating off the page.  I have a really hard time now reading about characters that are just wrecked by their parents, especially their mothers. And Gerald’s family was a doozy.

One scene in particular, early in the book, nearly broke my heart.  Gerald is working at a hockey game and a woman comes up to him to recognizes him from the show. Gerald is on edge when he realizes this, but all she wants is a hug.  And to apologize.  And Gerald realizes that this is the first time he has been hugged in his memory.

I also wanted to jump into this story and give him a hug. And more therapy.  And another hug.  I wanted to go back in time and wrap up that little five-year-old and protect him from life. It just felt so utterly painful and real.

With this book King succeeded not only at writing this beautiful story about Gerald, but also – hopefully – at making us question our society’s fascination with “reality” television and the need for fame. We become fascinated with these people without really knowing any single unedited thing about them.  It’s such a crazy thing and one that King explores in a very intelligent way here.

If I had any little complaint, it’s only the ending which slightly put me off, and the fact that Gerald seems to be relying so heavily on his girlfriend to effectuate his self-discovery. I appreciate that his relationship allows him to speak so many of his truths for the first time, but I also hope that down the line he is able to find this love from himself and not necessarily only externally.

Bottom Line

As you can tell, I highly recommend this novel. A.S. King writes excellent, complex characters, who begin their story cocooned in pain, but eventually emerge into something beautiful. Gerald was a great character and his story will definitely stick with me. I can’t wait to devour more of her novels immediately.

Book Review: School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

school spirits

Book Summary

From Goodreads: Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy’s mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who’s always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt? 

Rachel Hawkins’ delightful spin-off brings the same wit and charm as the New York Times best-selling Hex Hall series. Get ready for more magic, mystery and romance!

Review: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this new installment in the Hex Hall universe from Rachel Hawkins. This spin-off focuses on Izzy, who was a side character in the third Hex Hall novel. It follows Izzy and her mother as they settle in a small town in order to investigate a crime seemingly committed by a ghost who is haunting the local high school. As part of the investigation, Izzy – for the first time – enrolls at a public school and has the opportunity to make some friends and see what non-Brannick life is about.

Because our main character is not herself strongly supernatural, we didn’t have as many paranormal doings in this novel. In fact, while there was a ghost (and Torin, the ever-present warlock in the mirror), the real heart and soul of this novel was about Izzy figuring out what it means to be a teenager. My absolute favorite parts of the novel were not supernatural at all, but were Izzy figuring out what it means to be a “normal” teenager.  I loved her mental checklists of things she had to watch or read in order to learn about teen life (note: teen mags and rom-coms are not the way, Izzy!).  She stumbles upon a really excellent friend group, and I loved all of those characters, particularly Dex.  But I also really loved the female friendship shown in this novel.  I’ve said here before that it saddens me to see so many YA novels overlook the power of a great female friend, and I was glad to see a true friendship in this one.

The love story was great, of course – this is Hawkins, after all.  It was as much of a slow-burn romance as you can get in a 250-page novel and when the kissing kicked in, it was totally worth the wait.  Dex was a fun character, and it was awesome to see a not-so-stereotypical love interest for Izzy.

My main complaint about the book is that it really wrapped up super neat and tidy in the last 30 pages without much warning. Perhaps Hawkins is concerned that the next installment won’t be picked up by Disney Hyperion? I think she wrote it so that it would stand alone without too much issue, but there are plenty of unanswered questions.  I demand another Brannick book!  Hope someone out there is listening!

Bottom Line

If you loved the Hex Hall books, you should definitely go ahead and read this one. It’s a strong 3.5-4 star quick read with fun characters, focusing on friendship and finding out who you want to be in life. If you haven’t read Hex Hall, I wouldn’t start here because there are some spoilers for the rest of the series.