Amy Goodnight has her hands full taking care of the goats and dogs at her aunt's farm, along with her sister Phin. The two girls come from an unusual...moreAmy Goodnight has her hands full taking care of the goats and dogs at her aunt's farm, along with her sister Phin. The two girls come from an unusual family of witches and psychics, although Amy has tried to distinguish herself as the most normal of the group, saving her family from utter embarrassment. She can't prevent embarrassment, though, when she's caught chasing cows and goats in her undergarments and galoshes by the hot neighbor cowboy. The summer takes on a more sinister turn when old skeletons are discovered nearby, and Amy begins being visited by a ghost. Stories of a violent ghost spread through the town, and Amy needs to find out if it is her ghost attacking people, or if there is something much more dangerous at work.
Texas Gothic was a breath of fresh air--a paranormal mystery that doesn't follow the usual formula. Instead, the paranormal aspects are out in the open from the get-go, and there is a very solid, very real story that doesn't rely on the paranormal goings on. In fact, you could take the ghost and the witches out of this book and would still have a compelling read. The otherworldly features are merely icing on the cake for those of us who enjoy something a little out of the ordinary.
The mystery isn't too much of a, well, mystery, but the subplot of the ghost added another dimension to the discoveries the protagonist makes. The book frequently references Nancy Drew, but I never read those books, so instead I was reminded of Scooby Doo.
Amy and hot cowboy Ben have a fun back and forth going on. As I was reading, I kept thinking of the lyrics to the swing tune "Something's Gotta Give." Other songs that would go well on a Texas Gothic playlist: "Witchcraft" Marty Robbins' "Stampede," "Cottonwood Tree," and "Feleena" Gene Autry's "Yellow Rose of Texas" and "Dear Old Western Skies" Roy Rogers' "Bury Me Out on the Lone Prairie"
I guess what I'm trying to say is that Clement-Moore's writing really evokes being out on a Texas ranch, and was a ton of fun to read. It's a welcome change from carbon-copy YA paranormal fiction. Also recommended for those who have a love of archaeology, as much of the book involves working on a dig!(less)
When they were young, Gretchen and Ansel were out in the forest with Gretchen's twin sister when Gretchen's twin was snatched away. Gretchen remembers...moreWhen they were young, Gretchen and Ansel were out in the forest with Gretchen's twin sister when Gretchen's twin was snatched away. Gretchen remembers intense fear as the red-eyed "witch" took her sister. Ever since then Gretchen and Ansel have been dealing with the guilt of having lost her, and their family fell apart because of the tragedy. With both parents now dead, their step-mother has kicked them out, and they wander lost. That is, until they stumble upon a small town and the sweet, beautiful Sophia who runs the chocolatier candy house where they begin to stay. The town has a dark secret, though--teen girls have been disappearing after going to Sophia's chocolate festival, and town residents suspect Sophia has had a part in it. Ansel and Gretchen may be in danger, and it is up to Gretchen to get over her past tragedy and do something before more young lives are lost.
If you can't tell from the above plot description, Sweetly is a modern-day retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Just as she did in Sisters Red, Pearce has transformed the fairy tale into a gritty fantasy set in the modern world. While Sweetly isn't a sequel to Sisters Red, it does seem to take place in the same universe, within the same mythology, and acts as a companion book.
Of the two books, I enjoyed Sweetly more. I was able to relate to Gretchen's guilt and concern, but also loved seeing her grow as a person. Gretchen goes from being a victim to a person of action, a heroine who risks her own life to save others. At the same time, we spend the entire story wondering if we're supposed to like Sophia or fear her. There's definitely a mystery that surrounds her, and while I wish it would have unfolded a bit more quickly, it was nice to be kept guessing whether or not she was good or the evil witch in the candy cottage.
Speaking of candy, this story was dripping with it. Reading the descriptions of things like candied lemon peels and chocolate covered orange slices made me drool with longing. It was great fun to read about, but if I gained weight while reading, I blame Jackson Pearce.
Sweetly was a fun rehashing of a familiar tale, made all the sweeter by the confectionery setting and dark tones.(less)
Residents in the town of Near are distrustful of strangers, to the point of it being dangerous to be a new person in town. This distrust stems from a...moreResidents in the town of Near are distrustful of strangers, to the point of it being dangerous to be a new person in town. This distrust stems from a legend told to children, the story of the Near Witch. Now, a mysterious boy has arrived without announcing himself to the town, and residents have become concerned. As if that weren’t enough, young children begin disappearing from their beds at night, and townsfolk suspect the new stranger of being involved. Only Lexi seems to have enough sense to puzzle out the recent events of the town, and to try to save the new stranger and close down the town’s lingering fear of the Near Witch, all while rescuing the missing children.
The Near Witch is an atmospheric story that feels like it takes place on the edge between wakefulness and dreams. I loved that it took place in a world that is not our own modern society. Instead, the town feels like an old-time township, without modern conveniences, but where things like magic are a part of the culture and history. The legend of the Near Witch was also intriguing, and I love reading books that create a mythology for their world like they did here.
The story includes aspects of danger, romance, and righteousness. Lexi is a tough protagonist, and she seems to be the only person in the town whose eyes are open to the hypocrisy and foolishness of the town council’s actions and intentions. There are also two old sisters who are witches that live at the town’s edge, and they give another layer of atmosphere to the events that unfold.
Overall, The Near Witch was a great read for when you want a book that feels like it is just on the edge of reality, or a dark fairy tale.(less)
First, I want to say that, in general, I love stories about plagues and disasters. The Way We Fall really fit the bill. There is a strange new illness...moreFirst, I want to say that, in general, I love stories about plagues and disasters. The Way We Fall really fit the bill. There is a strange new illness, numerous victims that seem to get sick at random, quarantine, and the madness that follows when it seems like the entire world is lost to the disease. If you are a fan of books like Richard Preston’s The Cobra Event, but want it in a quick-to-read YA form, this is the book for you.
Crewe’s protagonist, Kaelyn, speaks in the first person, telling the story through a series of diary entries. This made the book really remind me of Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Kaelyn’s voice is of a girl who is more kid than woman, who is full of insecurities and worries, but finds strength in her desire to help others. I often feel like the protagonists in YA books sound too adult and too prescient, but Kaelyn’s voice was very believable.
The only issue I had with this book was the ending. Crewe leaves things very open and unresolved. I don’t know if this is because there will be a sequel, and I hope there isn’t. The book works so well as a standalone that a sequel would detract from the power of the original story. Still, I’d have liked a bit more closure.
While at once a horror story and a tale of hope, I really enjoyed this latest from Megan Crewe. Poignant scenes stuck with me after I put the book down, and every once in a while I feel a little worried about the itch on my arm.(less)
On Christmas night, Katelyn dies in the bathtub, electrocuted by an espresso machine. Her death is ruled accidental by the authorities, mostly to save...moreOn Christmas night, Katelyn dies in the bathtub, electrocuted by an espresso machine. Her death is ruled accidental by the authorities, mostly to save the family further grief, but most people think it was a suicide. Twin psychics Hayley and Taylor get a weird vibe about the death, though, and think that something larger was at work. Either Katelyn was murdered, or she was driven to suicide. Either way, the twins want to use their peculiar powers to bring justice to their former friend.
The blurb on the back of the ARC describes this story as inspired by a “ripped-from-the-headlines” crime. I actually remember reading the story it was inspired by when it happened. What is at work here is cyberbullying, and the pain and trauma it causes victims today. The original true story involved a mother and daughter who created a fake teen boy Myspace page, and used it to bully a young girl into committing suicide. The story isn’t exactly copied in this book, so you may still be surprised by what transpires, but it is equally sad and terrible.
While I liked this book, I felt like it somehow never quite gelled for me. This is Olsen’s first attempt at writing a young adult novel, and it showed. It seemed like at times it tried too hard to use current lingo and teen references, and they didn’t quite sit right. Olsen has been a true crime writer, and the pacing and storytelling really reflects that background. Throwing in the extra paranormal subplot overpowered the message of the book at times, and was sometimes distracting from the larger plot at play. I actually think this would have been a more solid novel sans the paranormal aspects, but it seems that the twins’ powers will be a throughline in the rest of the series.
I will more than likely continue reading this series in the future, and I think that Olsen will be able to hone his YA writing skills to result in a book and style that is more true to the genre, and sounds more authentic. I recommend this to fans of true crime, or people who have an interest in bullying and cyber crime.(less)