I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
Published by HarperTeen on April 15th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, YA
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Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.
You know those dogs that are so ugly they’re cute? This book is kind of like that. It was so ridiculous, that it became entertaining in its absurdity. I went into this expecting a more Gothic kind of witch read, and what I got was more Sabrina the Teenage Witch kind of fantastical (except Sabrina did it well!). I mean, if you go into this with the right mindset maybe you’d like it better?
The witch lore starts out intriguing with some interesting aspects. I liked how there’s no good vs evil or white vs dark, it’s all black magic and the way you use it is what matters. That’s how far my liking of this book went, unfortunately, as the more pages I turned, the more nonsensical it all got. To give you perspective, we have a talking cat with an attitude, spells that require items like bear-hearts and cub stomachs they just happen to have in their cellar, a grandma fighting evil with a lion-jaw dagger. At one point a ghost appears, the protagonist gives it a baggie with pig eyes and it happily goes back inside the book it popped out of. You’re thinking it too, right? IT BROUGHT PIG EYEBALLS IN PLASTIC TO THE AFTERLIFE!!
When we learn more about spells and magic, we also learn how much it encourages self mutilation, and most annoyingly, how easy this is made out to be. These characters pull their own teeth (is this even possible?), fingernails, flesh, and hair, without much difficulty. This girl gets up and rips off a handful of her hair in one quick motion for a spell. Like it’s just this everyday thing she does. Then another girl pulls out her own fingernail to prove she’s the bestest BFF ever with nothing more than yelp and a couple of ice cubes. Uhuh. Though intelligence in general is not a prominent characteristic in these characters so maybe they were too dumb to feel pain.
Lets back up a bit though so I can tell you more about this protagonist of ours. Josephine used to be this awkward, bucktoothed ugly duckling kid, then from one day to the next (literally!) she looked into the mirror to realize she was pretty! Every day since, she’s been getting prettier until she was the most beautiful girl in town! (Are you barfing yet?) Naturally, the hottest boy at school is now interested in her, causing all the girls to give her jealous eyes when they see her with him. Everybody either wants her or wants to be her. Obviously, the universe is her bitch!
“He doesn’t have to say anything, because I can see it all over his face. There’s no denying he wants me.”
Clearly, she is the shiz! And who needs a brain when you’ve got beauty? My eyes were rolling so much I thought they would fall out! Like when she arrives at some guy’s house and after he opens the door all sweaty, she asks herself if he’s sweaty because he’s been dancing… because that’s the obvious conclusion. Or when she finds her teenage nemesis at this old witch’s house and immediately assumes he’s there to seduce her. Wait, what?
“And then I’m laughing, because “ridiculous” sounds hilarious. Which rhymes! I think.”
About the ending… keep your eyes peeled because if you blink at the wrong time, you might miss the climax. Though it might save you from seeing how easy and illogical the solution is.
And what’s with all of the freaking pudding?
Time to go remove a toenail so I can magically purge this book from my mind. I hope it doesn’t tickle too much!
1 Cold Espresso