The Hollow Girl

The Hollow Girl Will Give You All The Feelings

The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan

Published by Delacorte Press: scheduled for Oct. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Horror

Pages: 272

WOW! So I didn’t know what to think going into this. I almost didn’t request it, because it seemed just on the border of something I’d be comfortable reading. I am still honestly so confused about my thoughts. Which I think is natural, given the situation. The author wrote both an amazing forward and an end note, and in the end note she explained that her editor said she loved and hated the book equally, which I think sums up my feelings nicely.

The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monohan

All the Wrong Chords Book

Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.

One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.

She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.

The hollow girl

I will say the premise intrigued me while it also had me very concerned. We have a young girl who has been raped, and who now is willing to go to crazy lengths to bring her friend back from the dead. So many trigger warnings, so much that could be done with too little tact, and I almost didn’t request it.

I am glad I did, though. While I will say that the very idea of this is quite obviously not for everyone, I think it does what it sets out to do with incredible grace.

The Writing

Is very interesting! There were aspects of it I really, really enjoyed. Everything scene with magic is written just beautifully. And while there is a definite trigger warning for a rape, the scene itself is mostly off camera and written incredibly tactfully.

I do feel there was a pacing issue. We spend a fair amount of time before the story gets started getting to know Bethan and gran and Martyn, and it’s a bit slow (especially because we’re growing accustomed to the Romani and their ways). And then boom, the inciting incident happens already halfway through, and the rest of the book feels rushed. The horror scenes, the gruesome justice we crave, all happens so quickly that it’s hard to feel particularly excited about the wrongs being righted.

The Characters

This is an interesting one here. I love Bethan’s gran, who teaches her everything and guides her through the aftermath of her assault. She’s such a fun woman, very different from so many warm grandmothers in stories.

Martyn, Bethan’s friend who she is trying to save, is great. I do enjoy that we get to know him fairly well before the incident. He’s very funny, and his dynamic with Bethan is wonderful.

I don’t know if I like Bethan? Which is fine. I do empathize with her, and I care for what happens to her, and I suppose that’s really what’s important.

I also genuinely hate the antagonists, the boys involved in Bethan’s rape (duh, right?), but I mean there was a lot of build up so you hate the boys thoroughly even before that.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I think it’s great that we have a Romani story, especially an own voices one, that tackles such an important issue.

This speaks so much to rape culture. We have boys who actively participate in a rape they don’t agree with, because their friend tells them what to do. It speaks so much to hive mind and how when people aren’t held accountable for their actions, they can go to these horrible lengths to get what they want.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

 

 

 

 

When I cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

When I Cast Your Shadow: The Strangest Read of the Year

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Published by Tor Teen: scheduled for Sept. 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal

Pages: 384

OH MY GOD. I’m floored, y’all. This book is so wonderfully fucking weird. The weirdest thing I’ve read all year, and I adored it. I do want to say I think this book is very clearly not for everyone, but I want to lay out why I love it so much so you can see whether it is for you!

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

All the Wrong Chords Book

After her troubled older brother, Dashiell, dies of an overdose, sixteen-year-old Ruby is overcome by grief and longing. What she doesn’t know is that Dashiell’s ghost is using her nightly dreams of him as a way to possess her body and to persuade her twin brother, Everett, to submit to possession as well.

Dashiell tells Everett that he’s returned from the Land of the Dead to tie up loose ends, but he’s actually on the run from forces crueler and more powerful than anything the Bohnacker twins have ever imagined…

The Writing

Is absolutely stunning. It’s first person, present tense, and switches between almost all points of view! That is so, unbelievably hard to pull off, but it works so well in this case. Each character sounds and feels different, and were you to read a chapter at random, having known the characters, I think you would know quite easily whose voice you were reading.

In addition to that, the craft is just beautiful. I was legitimately enamored of Porter’s phrasing throughout. The descriptions of everything are so thorough, while not being distracting. The world-building is insane, especially the parts in a place that is like purgatory? If purgatory were terrible and terrifying. I couldn’t wait for more chapters in this area, just to see how weird and gross it would continue to become.

 

The pacing is perfect for me. Had I had time, I could have easily read this book in one sitting.

The Characters

This is one of those phenomenal books where the characters aren’t likable, but I still care so much about them and what happens to them. MAD props to an author who can make me care about a book with no likable characters.

We have Ruby, one of our narrators. I can honestly say I did not like her for even one second, but I rooted for her and felt for her and wanted the best for her the entire time. Her poor little torn soul is so sad, so overwhelmingly pathetic.

Everett is Ruby’s twin, and the one character I could say I kind of like. He cares so much for Ruby, and tries to do right by her and everyone he meets, really, and he’s just beautiful.

Dashiell is the other main player, and his character is amazing because we see him in so many forms. We see him possessing Ruby, possessing Everett, independent of either, and he is so different in each form while remaining so manipulative and his motives keep us guessing.

The side characters are mostly weird, creepy-as-hell ghosts, and they’re completely, disgustingly delightful.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Is this: there’s a lot here that could be really disturbing. We have a very icky brother-sister relationship, we have a lot of family hurt and betrayal, we have a drug overdose/seemingly suicide. If these are triggers for you, you may want to stay away.

I love it for its oddity. This is, for me, such a completely new take on ghosts, which I was ecstatic about. I had never seen a concept even close. I LOVE sibling stories, even when they’re as fucked up as this one. The dynamic here is different and nasty but the whole story really is about these three kids coming to terms with life and death and their relationship.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

The Lost Causes novel

The Lost Causes: Not Cliche, Super-powered Teens

The Lost Causes by Jessica Koosed Etting & Alyssa Embree Schwartz

Published by Kids Can Press, expected September 2017

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller

Pages: 344

The Lost Causes has so many of my favorite tropes wrapped up in one book. I’m such a sucker for ensemble casts, like three or more main characters and I’m in. I love teen powers as long as it’s not “This one kid is the chosen one!” And I love friendship stories, especially unlikely friendships! This book doesn’t disappoint.

 

The Lost Causes Novel

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

They’re the kids that no one knows — or no one wants to know. The rich depressive, the OCD chick, the hypochondriac, the drug abuser, the athlete with anger management issues. All chosen for intensive group therapy because they’re out of other options. They’re lost causes, the therapist tells them. She promises this support group will help them heal. 

There’s only one problem. She’s not a therapist. And that water she offers? It contains a dangerous serum that gives each of the kids a psychic power. 

Suddenly, they can think clearly, speak to ghosts, see the past, even move objects with their mind. Their earlier problems have vanished, but their new freedom comes with a price. 
Sabrina, Gabby, Z, Justin and Andrew are to help the FBI solve the grisly murder that has rocked their small town. Their new powers will help them uncover clues and follow leads that have eluded the authorities. Their outsider status gives them the perfect cover. 

But the same traits that make them top investigators also make them vulnerable. As they close in on the murderer, they expose a much larger conspiracy that puts them directly in harm’s way and makes them wonder who — if anyone — they can trust.

The Lost Causes nvel

Are so fun! This to me has a Heroes vibe (before the show became unbearable), or even more accurately, Misfits (also before it became unbearable). I LOVED Misfits, and this is like a book version of that! So cute.

I also think the powers given to the kids are cool. I was surprised by one being able to see ghosts, for example. It seems almost out of place, even for a story about kids with powers. But I think it works really, really well here.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Are so great. I love them all. Each of the five self-titled “Lost Causes” has their own distinct background and reason for being a kid whose parents have given up on them.

I thought the kids would blend together, or become too much like set archetypes, but they all broke the mold pretty quickly! I knew their names/backstories/powers within the first few chapters, which for me says a lot because I have trouble keeping it straight with ensemble casts unless everyone is really different.

The teens feel so realistic. They often behave in annoying but so teenager-y ways and I love it.

I rooted for both romances in the story, even squealing out loud when one came to fruition.

I LOVE stories about friendship, and I especially adore stories about unlikely friendships. It’s my favorite thing about shows like Misfits, and it was what saved One Of Us Is Lying for me. Here, I really enjoyed watching the kids get to know each other. There isn’t cattiness or jealousy among the girls, because they’ve wanted a friend so badly and now they have each other. I love it.

Also worth noting, especially the farther we go along, we get a humanization of the villains, and I always find that so spectacular. I love having an antagonist I simultaneously hate and feel bad for.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

The pacing is spot on. I started the book this morning and finished this afternoon, taking breaks here and there to play with my dog and talk to my kiddo, but the book was never far away, and I would have been truly disappointed if I’d had to walk away from it for any prolonged time today. The kids really draw you in, and the plot unfolding holds interest.

I think the powers are written really well, especially the ghost scenes which are nice and creepy! I would have been freaked out if I’d been reading at night, and that’s really all I want from a ghost scene.

The end was tied up a little too neatly for me, but then the last few sentences are a cliffhanger so yay! I would love to read another in this series.

The Lost Causes novel

Is really cool, I didn’t see it coming. Really, it’s a series of twists and turns and it’s so delightfully unsettling. I love not knowing who to trust, and I love that for the last third or so of the book, I was totally out of my element with no idea what to expect!

And the cliffhanger especially, oh boy. I am so stoked for whatever is coming.

Is that considering I didn’t know what to expect (books like this can really, really go either way), I really enjoyed this! I read it more-or-less in one sitting.

Also, it’s not important to me, but it may be to you, this is a decently clean read for a YA about misfits. No cursing, no sex. There is some reference to drug use, but only very early on.

The Lost Causes novel

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/balloon animal artist. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.



 

4 Middle Grade Series to read with your kids

4 Middle Grade Series to Read with Your Kids

Reading with your kids is an amazing experience that will enrich both of your lives. It should be super fun. A lot can go wrong, though. It’s hard to find kid’s books that are both exciting enough to keep a kid’s attention, and not make you want to gouge your own eyes out.

Here are four series (and two stand alone books) that both you and your kids will love!

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

I know, I know, everyone is talking about these. I promise the rest of the list will be a little more obscure.

The series surrounds the Baudelaire children, who have recently lost their parents. They now bounce from guardian to guardian, while seemingly every aspect of their life goes awry.

These books are hilarious for adults and children alike. The kids are adventurous, intelligent kids (I think we can all agree we’d like our kids to see more protagonists like this). The antagonist, Count Olaf, is also just genuinely great.

The books are super short, and it’s a plus that the show just came out on Netflix. Finish the books, then watch it together! Compare and contrast the differences with your kids.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl II is a 12 year old criminal mastermind. The first book in the series entails his capturing a fairy and holding her ransom to exploit the Fairy People.

These are smart reads, I recommend them for kids in the 10-12 range. They are so fun, and you will love them too.

The covers are also gorgeous, if that matters to you. (No judgement; I appreciate a beautiful cover.)

The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch

The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch

I died the first time I stumbled upon these. No seriously. Pseudonymous Bosch. That kills me. (For everyone who is not a super art history nerd, Hieronymus Bosch was an old school, super weird painter.)

The Secret Series involves three kids in a secret society. Each book is centers around one of the senses. For instance, This Book Is Not Good For You is all about chocolate, which is obviously taste.

The 39 Clues by Rick Riordan (and others)

39 Clues by Rick Riordan

Everyone knows Riordan for the Percy Jackson series, which is also fantastic. This, I think, is aimed at kids a little younger.

The Cahill children, a brother and sister, have been invited to participate in a treasure hunt that their deceased grandmother explained in her will. The children race around the world, looking for the 39 clues.

These books are witty, which is fun for adults. The adventure, travelling, and treasure-hunting is fun for the kids.

 

And two stand-alone novels worth mentioning:

The Egypt Game by by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Egypt Game by by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Egypt Game is about two girls who realize they’re both obsessed with Ancient Egypt. The girls set up a meeting place, and hold the Egypt game.

I’m all for any book that can help a kid’s interest in a subject that could be considered educational. My kid did sooo much research on Ancient Egypt after having read this!

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tolbooth by Norton Juster

Milo travels to the Kingdom of Wisdom, and goes on a quest to help two princesses, Rhyme and Reason.

I mean! SO fun. This book is so punny and delightful for everyone involved.

 

What About You?

What books do you like reading with your kids?



 

hexed book by michelle krys

Hexed: Another Teen Witch Story Is Less Than Magical

Hexed by Michelle Krys

Published by Delacorte Press in 2014

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Supernatural

Pages: 384

Let me start by saying it gives me no pleasure to give the kind of review I’m about to give for Hexed. I wish I could love every book. I wish I could say great things about every book. Unfortunately, it’s just not the case.

The Goodreads Description:

If high school is all about social status, Indigo Blackwood has it made. Sure, her quirky mom owns an occult shop, and a nerd just won’t stop trying to be her friend, but Indie is a popular cheerleader with a football-star boyfriend and a social circle powerful enough to ruin everyone at school. Who wouldn’t want to be her?

Then a guy dies right before her eyes. And the dusty old family Bible her mom is freakishly possessive of is stolen. But it’s when a frustratingly sexy stranger named Bishop enters Indie’s world that she learns her destiny involves a lot more than pom-poms and parties. If she doesn’t get the Bible back, every witch on the planet will die. And that’s seriously bad news for Indie, because according to Bishop, she’s a witch too.

Suddenly forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers, Indie’s about to uncover the many dark truths about her life—and a future unlike any she ever imagined on top of the cheer pyramid.

The Characters Are Terrible

Nearly every single one. We have our narrator, Indie, who is every shitty mean girl you normally love to hate. There’s a reason that shitty girl isn’t usually our narrator. We don’t like her. We don’t root for her. She has terrible, bitchy friends who treat her like garbage. Her boyfriend treats her like garbage.

So she opts instead to pine after a literal stalker. (It’s okay to be a stalker if you’re super hot). The stalker, Bishop, get this, treats her like garbage. Are we sensing a pattern, here? Indie surrounds herself with shitty people. Indie is a shitty person.

The one decent person in the story is Indie’s neighbor Paige, whom Indie uses and abuses because she can. The one person who is always there, who treats Indie like a human being worthy of love and friendship, Indie can’t stand. Indie manipulates Paige at every given opportunity, and then Paige all but disappears from the novel once she has given the mean girl everything she has.

The Magic is Mediocre

If I’m reading a book about witches, I want it to be about witches.

We wait over half the book for Indie to find out she’s a witch. Almost the entire other half for her to learn to use magic. Of course, she never learns magic well, (basically she levitates some shit and flies for three seconds), meaning she has to rely on her stalker to be, well, a stalker, and save her ass over and over and over. Which leads me to…

The Painful Plot

The cat and mouse in Hexed is just ever so fucking annoying. We run into the bad guys five, six, seven, eight? times. I’m not even sure. Always Indie and her stalker manage a narrow escape. Always the encounter is anticlimactic. Even the climax is anticlimactic.

I’m hesitant to even call it a climax, even though it involves an actual dragon that had me very briefly but actually excited.

The Writing Leans on the Author’s Wit and Humor

which are pretty engaging. There is no denying that Krys is a funny woman. That was the one upside to a novel I’m realizing should have gone into my DNF list, but I really, really have to hate a book for that to happen.

So, my most important final thought:

WE HAVE TO STOP SELLING STALKING AND VIOLENCE AS LOVE. IT’S DISGUSTING. FUCKING STOP IT.

What About You?

Did you like Hexed more than I did?

What tropes are you just done with?

 

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may hate a book. May want to kill it with fire. I may say a book is the worst thing to happen to me since the Odd Thomas movie adaptation. None of these things mean it is objectively bad. I recognize that. You may like a book I hate. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.