Hex Hall

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

When Sophie’s love charm goes horribly wrong at prom, she is sentenced to Hex Hall, a reform school for witches, shapeshifters, fairies and vampires.  Having been raised by a non-gifted mother, Sophie knows little about the magic world which gets her into trouble at Hex Hall.  In her first day, she is rooming with the controversial vampire, Jenna, she has angered three powerful dark witches, and she has a hopeless crush on one of the dark witch’s boyfriend.  Could it get any worse?  Throw in detention time spent cataloging garbage in a cellar, a strange spirit who won’t leave her alone, and family secrets and you have a wild ride of a book that is sure to please.

Hawkins has managed to write a story filled with witches, magic, vampires and other fantasy elements but also not to take herself too seriously.  The writing has a lot of humor, much of it pitched directly at current fantasy novel tropes.  Sophie herself is a character filled with sarcasm and a biting wit.  Without this writing style, the book could have suffered from the over dramatic and serious tones of many of these novels.  Here the lightness works well, creating a very funny and readable novel.

At the same time, the book is not just light.  There are dark themes here, real dangers and delightful diversions.  I quite enjoyed the mix of light and dark, humor and tension.  It kept the pages turning quickly.

Recommended for fans and non-fans of Twilight, both will find reasons to enjoy this novel and to look forward to the rest of the series.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Tempting Persephone, Whimsical Whamsical Whumsical, My Life Uncensored, Wondrous Reads, Frenetic Reader, The Compulsive Reader, Beyond Books, and many more.


Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve

Polly Peabody knows that her family’s rhubarb farm is something special, even something magical!  They grow Giant Rhubarb that is helping close the hole in the ozone and chocolate rhubarb that tastes like a sweet but is a vegetable.  They have a lake that you can’t drown in no matter how long you hold your breath, a castle to live in, and gems sprout from the ground.  And every Monday at 1:00 pm exactly, it rains.  But then one Monday it doesn’t.  And other things start to go wrong on the farm.  The rhubarb begins to wilt even though it is being watered by hand.  The umbrella ride fails when people are riding it.  A strange fog is starting to cover some of the farm.  It is up to Polly to find out what is causing the damage and save their farm.  To do that she will have to face her fears, uncover family secrets and trust in the magic of the farm.

This enticing tale is a pleasure to read.  Van Cleve has created the farm of childhood dreams filled with dessert that is healthful, carnival rides, friendly bugs, animated plants, and much more.  She writes with a light friendly tone that never gets bogged down in elaborate descriptions or overwriting, which is a fear with books of this sort.  Instead, she allows the magic to shine and the imagination to soar.

Polly is a great protagonist who is painfully shy, bullied at school, and yet one of the most fascinating people you could meet.  As she learns that she is much braver and more skilled than she ever dreamed, Polly begins to let others into her world and make friends.  Yet it is not that simple, and her struggles with self-reliance, family secrets, and friendships make for great coming-of-age story material.

A large part of the book’s appeal is the tension between the magical and the mundane.  Polly has to face school and all of its pitfalls as well as the desperate situation of her home and family farm.  While magic is involved, it actually makes Polly’s personal life outside of the farm more difficult.  The tension of classmates, news reporters, and magic make this book very special.

Highly recommended, this book is perfection for fans of Savvy by Ingrid Law.  It would make a wonderful classroom read and will be happily devoured by children who enjoy a lot of chocolate with their rhubarb.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

Check out Kathleen Van Cleve’s website.