School Spiritsis the first in a spin-off series from the Hex Hallbooks. And though I own the Hex Hall series,I was worried when this showed up in mySchool Spirits is the first in a spin-off series from the Hex Hall books. And though I own the Hex Hall series, I was worried when this showed up in my mail that I wouldn't be able to read it, since I haven't actually read Hex Hall even a little bit. Being completely buried in books right now, and heading into what is inevitably my busiest month of the year, combined with the fact that I haven't read HH, I figured the best thing would be to set this on a shelf and let it languish for a bit while I responsibly go about the things I need to get done...which is why I opened up to the first page "just to see" and then proceeded to finish it. [Don't look at me like that, I know I'm not the only one who does this.]
Since I haven't read HH, I guess I can't talk about how School Spirits compares to that, but I can certainly say that it makes me more eager to read it. Though this may not go down in history as the most memorable or most original book I've read, it was pure fun throughout, and I think I may come to find Hawkins' style a perfect funk-breaker. There are those authors or works that I always recommend when someone tells me they're in a reading rut (or when I, myself, am) because they're breezy, effortless style doesn't make you work at enjoying reading. These types of books make a great break when you're stalled in something that you just can't seem to finish, because they remind you that reading can be fun; an author can be have a sense of humor; a book can be quick and light and exactly what you needed to jumpstart you when you're in a slump. I have a list of such books to use as go-to recommendations, which includes things like Kiersten White's Paranormalcy, Jana Oliver's The Demon Trapper's Daughter. I have a feeling School Spirits will be added to that list.
That's the type of book School Spirits was. It's begging to be on "beach reads" lists, or "curling up in a hammock with the sun on your face reads" lists or "OMG I'm done with finals, give me something fun!!1" lists. It was breezy and cute (not cutesy), with just the right amount of fluff to it to make it quick and compulsively engaging, but keep it from being a throwaway. The story is pretty standard paranormal fare, but Izzy - and a number of the other characters - are so engaging that they make the story shine. Hawkins has done a really good job of setting up the series, giving us all the basics to dive into the world, engaging characters to lead us through it, and enough mystery and openness to keep us coming back for those unanswered questions. And because two - at least - of those questions are pretty big ones, I have a feeling that the tension in this series is going to build quite nicely, and make each book stronger than the last. (At least, I can hope!)
So if you're in a rut and in need of a funk-breaker, or just love a good damn fun book, School Spirits might be just the one to pick up. And if you're like me, and still have Hex Hall sitting on your shelves, unread, then you may just want to have a summertime Rachel Hawkins binge......more
Whyyyyyyy is this review just now going up? I vlogged about it in DECEMBER. (Well, technically January, but it was my December Rewind). OH I REMEMBER. I was going to put my review of Pure up at the same time Fusecame out...which was last week. Thanks, Brain.
Alright, so: I was really pleasantly surprised by Pure. Not that I was expecting to be disappointed by it, but there's just been such a glut of dystopias and post-apocalyptics for the last few years, and I've learned not oto expect to much... (which is really hard, as it's my favorite genre and I can't help but add these books to my TBR - even when I have suspicions they're going to be crap.) But I've begun pretending to myself that I don't have high hopes anymore (lie), and as I had heard both really, really good and really not so good things about Pure before picking it up, I was curious how I would react to it. As it turns out, it very nearly made it into my top reads of 2012 chat, so clearly I needn't have worried.
I think the first thing that really impressed me about Pure is that Baggott analyzed things the way I do. The little, seemingly inconsequential bits of everyday life, and how those would change in a post-apocalyptic setting, generally go ignored in PA books, and this bothers me. It may sound like the most absurd, nit-picky thing ever, but I have been waiting for an author to think these tiny things through, and Baggot did. Silly little phrases we use now have lost meaning for the new generation in Pure, as they have no frame of reference. So, when an older character uses one of these phrases, the younger characters are puzzled by them, or flat-out just don't know what they mean. I'm really not exaggerating when I say I've been waiting for this. It's something I've always kind of focused in on with dystopian/post-apocalyptic books, and I can't help but be irritated when a character uses a really anachronistic phrase or word that just doesn't fit with what their world is now. Things should lose meaning. This is not our world. Sure, some phrases and words will stick around even when all context for them is gone (we have those types of phrases now); but at some point, people just aren't going to say things that make no sense in their world. Because Pure has an abrupt shift in world paradigm, it makes sense that the younger characters are going to be confused by phrases they no longer have a context for. Baggott points this out (subtly) and I could have cheered/cried with the at last-ness of it. It makes the world so much more believable in a really understated, logical way.
The other thing that impressed me is that this book is really weird. It's super dark and bleak. It's really, really bleak, and not like it's trying too hard to be dark, but just like it is. This world is dark, that's just the way it is. (I mean, it's post-apocalyptic, so...) And it is hella weird. If you haven't read the premise, basically the characters live in a world where, after a catastrophic event, survivors were molecularly fused with anything in too-close a proximity. Things become a part of you, you become a part of things. There's no way to fix it, no way to reverse it. One instant, you're you; the next, you're you plus the pretty little kitty cat you reached down to pet. This is your life now... The main character has a doll's head for a hand, and she can make its eyes blink. (shudder) There's a boy with birds wings flapping on his back. People fused to other people, people fused to animals. People fused to mothereffing dust, I kid you not. They're like a human sandstorm, and it is CREEPY. All of this takes a HUGE willing suspension of disbelief, of course, but it is totally worth it if you're able to just go with it. All of this really dark, bleak weirdness made Pure unlike anything else I've read. It's inventive and unsettling, and I really have to hand it to Baggott that she was somehow able to make this work.
I did feel, though, that it falls apart a little at the end. Most of the book is very slow-burning and almost dense; it certainly wasn't something I flew through, even though I consistently enjoyed it. But at the end, when the giant human-dustball snowball's at its apex and about to come barrelling down on you, things sort of fall apart. Baggott just can't quite handle when the shit hits the fan, and things become a little bit muddled. Everything suddenly becomes too easy and happens way too fast, and there are too many characters and motivations and things in too short a span. The storytelling is a little overwhelmed by it all - which is especially jarring after this very slow-building, very not-easy story. Also, personally, I didn't need any little bit of romance in this, but alas... At least it wasn't too all-consuming. The story is still impressive, though, and I'll certainly be reading more of the series.Though it's a little too convenient in its "local" scope (everyone needed or important is pretty easily at-hand), it is very impressive in its story-scope and its bleakness. The far-reaching breadth of the story, the way Baggott touches on the factors of our society that led up to this cataclysmic event without being heavy handed or didactic, these things all really worked. Baggot doesn't beat the reader over the head with anything, but all of these little tidbits are there for readers who like to suss them out; they're just there, they just are, and I was really impressed by that. Highly recommended for those who are looking for something different and darker than what's generally found....more
Err, I didn't realize the third book was out. Scratch that, I didn't realize there was a third book; I still haven't read the 2nd. As much as I lovedErr, I didn't realize the third book was out. Scratch that, I didn't realize there was a third book; I still haven't read the 2nd. As much as I loved book one, I need to get on that....more
I mentioned at the end of my quirky little interview with Alyssa that this book is perfect for those looking for a good time. Um. That sounds like sometI mentioned at the end of my quirky little interview with Alyssa that this book is perfect for those looking for a good time. Um. That sounds like something you'd find written on a bathroom wall.* I don't mean that kind of good time. (Probably.) I mean, Austensibly Ordinary is super fun and engaging; the tone and voice were excellent, the main characters were lively, and Alyssa's writing was cheeky, flirty and hilarious. No matter the plot, no matter if the word "romance" makes you cringe, I think characters you connect with are what sell a book - people will put up with just about anything when the characters are lively and engaging, and Cate absolutely is. Exactly what you want when you're looking for a good-time book. And a romance that doesn't take itself too seriously is certainly something I look for, and it's rare that I find it, so that sorta makes me want to sing its praises.
And speaking of things rarely found in romances that makes me want to dance around like a fool sing praises, this actually kept me guessing, which is INCREDIBLY rare for me in general, but especially in anything of the romance variety. It's almost unheard of. (I mean, a romance that actually surprised me on multiple occasions? WHAT IS THIS WITCHERY?) Now, some of these surprises might stretch credibility a little too far for some readers, but really, for any absurdities or lack of believability in the story, I never - not once - cared. Like, for real, at all, couldn't have cared less because I was enjoying myself. This book is just too damn fun to be bothered by any plot points that might usually give me pause, or any obvious wish-fulfillment. And isn't that was this type of book is all about anyway? It's a Jane Austen adaptation, for god's sake - of course there's a healthy dose of wish-fulfillment. But this isn't the cheesy, eye-rolly kind; it's the mmmm, why didn't any of my teachers look like Ethan Chavez? kind - Cate's adventures as her alter-ego, Cat Kennedy,** are the pinnacle of conscious wish-fulfillment, and it was delightful.
One of the things that surprised me was that this has a tinge of magical realism to it, but not in the traditionally weighty way. There's no grandoise meaning; I also hesitate to call it paranormal, or anything like that, though those elements are there. But Goodnight uses a soft touch with these elements; they're a means to an end and a way to enhance the fantasy of the story, but they're not the focus, and so the story doesn't get bogged down in them. At its heart, this is just a good old fashioned romance, pulling in Jane Austen's Emma to great effect, but balancing it with a good dose of pop culture and - of all things - spy fic, and tying it together with a pretty magical realist bow. It's ridiculous how well it all works. (I mean, Jane Austen and Alfred Hitchcock? And it somehow makes sense together? Again, WHAT IS THIS WITCHERY?) All of this adds to the lighthearted, quirky tone of the story, but beyond that, it makes the book appeal to a broader audience, kind of pulling everyone in along the way, and I liked that.
All in all, the book is peopled with interesting, fleshed-out characters, a good sense of place (Austin, TX), a fun mash-up of elements, and a fantastically fun voice. And the healthy dose of
doesn't hurt, either... Highly recommended for fans of Austen adaptations, fun contemporary romance, or those in need of a good funk-breaker book.
*For a good time, call Alyssa Goodnight. Or maybe call Cate-as-Cat? Definitely call Ethan; so say the ladyparts. ** Yes, I know. It adds a whole other layer of hilarious to read about the sassy exploits of a character who shares a name with someone you know... Though I'm sure Kat would approve of Cat's sass....more