ARC Review: House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

ARC Review: House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
House of Ivy & Sorrow
by Natalie Whipple

Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Publication date: April 15th, 2014
by Harperteen

Format: eARC

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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.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Before I say anything else, I should start off by mentioning that the shelving of this book is a lie. If you’re looking for a gothic book to read, turn around and leave. This is not gothic. This is chick lit mixed with some paranormal.

I went into this book with high expectations. Yes there were tons of mixed reviews but the cover, the synopsis, and the OPENING of this book all hinted towards something that I would love. Let’s not forget the witches though. This book promised us a different spin on witches. Something scary. Something gothic. But NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE. We did not get crazy old witches that lived in houses covered in ivy, we got friendly old grandmas that were overly protective.

Fear not though, that’s not why I didn’t like this book. That was just the synopsis, shelving, and cover telling me lies. It was a major disappointment to be reading a chick lit-ty book but that was not why I didn’t like this book. There were multiple other reasons why I couldn’t enjoy it.

For the most part though, this book isn’t awful, it misleads you but if you know what to expect you might like it more than I did.

The witches are original (perhaps overly so with the amount of time they spend ripping their body parts off), there are curses, and the teenagers aren’t all that annoying (this completely depends on perspective because rationally, I can see that they aren’t as bad as some but goddamn they rubbed me the wrong way).  The author puts a large amount of emphasis on healthy relationships between females and the love interest. Despite of its being a cliché, it’s actually pretty sweet.

The old lady in this book is actually the grandma of our main character. She is an adorable old lady who puts curses on the guy – who our main character has had a crush on forever – any time he asks her out, smiles at her, or even tries to give her his number.

This book is jumpstarted when a guy, surrounded by darkness, arrives asking for her mother – the mother who died 10 years ago. Something is wrong here and she is right. The guy has been cursed in such a way that it allows the person on the other end to spy on them. The person who cursed the guy is super evil and could possibly be the same person who murdered her mother. It was intriguing enough and the book initially grasped my attention, but then it became the same ole thing where a good idea goes down the drain due to poor execution.

The premise for witches is original. I have to give the book that. Magic does not come from inside the witches but rather from earth/nature. Witches only have the ability to store the magic inside them which is what makes them different from everyone else. I actually enjoyed this spin on witches. I get the feeling I’ve seen this premise elsewhere but it’s still rare enough that I deem it original.

This book reminds me of one I read back in middle school, Once Upon a Curse. The difference is that while both of them are very fluffy and full of curses, I had a lot more fun with Once Upon a Curse than I did with House of Ivy & Sorrow and if I were to re-read it, I’ll bet you, I’d still enjoy it. What House of Ivy & Sorrow fails to is provide us with a good plot. The solutions border on unrealistic and while I understand the conflict, I have no idea whether the characters do.

I think the first time I realized I wouldn’t have a good time was when I was introduced to the love interest, Winn. Now he isn’t a bad guy but then at this point I am too fed up of clichés to even care. He is the most popular guy in school, all girls have a crush on him, he was dating an older girl until they broke up. All that jazz. What makes him different however is the fact that he is a farmer boy. That’s right. Uh huh. Way to throw us off that cliché. Anyway, it’s GLARINGLY obvious that he is hiding something. Even if our female lead spends a huge chunk of time denying that.

The friendships went over the top. Can you believe that’s actually an issue? Aren’t strong/healthy relationships between females a good thing? YEAH BUT NOT IF THEY’RE SHOVED DOWN YOUR THROAT (keep in mind… IMO). I am not sure the fact that they have no sense of self-preservation is a good thing. Her friends readily agree to protect her in spite of the danger involved. They are almost adults, shouldn’t they think things through? Yes, they are best friends, but what they are being asked to do is no minor feat. What is wrong with them? And also, Kat. Kat, goddamn you, girl. Who do you think you are ordering Jo to let Gwen in on her secret? IT’S HER SECRET. YOU DON’T GET TO TELL HER TO SHARE IT. EVEN if the girl is her best friend. Nope nope nope.

With all that said, I realize I have said nothing about the star of our book, Jo. She is perhaps the most beautiful girl in her school and went from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. She is elated when the guy she has been crushing on forever shows some interest in her. I actually don’t have much to say about her. I just find her to be an annoying pain in the ass (some of the decisions she made later on in the book did not sit well with me), but at least she values her friends and family and that is a huge plus in my book.

The other relationships consist of the ones with her family and the one with Winn.

The relationship she shares with her grandma and then later with her dad are definitely the highlights of this book. Without a doubt, it’s absolutely adorable and I love how when she realizes her grandma is keeping a secret, her first response isn’t “OHMYGOD HOW DARE SHE”, she realizes her grandma is probably keeping a secret to protect her and so she doesn’t poke and prod. She respects her grandmother’s decision.  The appearance of her dad was quite obvious.. right off the bat so I wasn’t the least bit surprised by that revelation but I did enjoy watching the two become more comfortable in each other’s presence.

Surprisingly, in spite of the high school atmosphere, this book does not focus on the romance. The relationship between Winn and Jo was already in the works before the book started and it progressed nicely from there. Winn was a sweet guy (sometimes overly sweet) and was always there for Jo even though he could tell she was hiding something. His jealousy wasn’t infuriating and was instead kind of adorable even if it made no sense.

Levi was one of the most interesting characters in this book, he is clearly a good guy but because of what he is, he borders on the edge of bad. He cannot help it, it’s part of who he is and he cannot change that. No matter how much he wants to. He cannot stop that craving.

The idea behind what Levi is is not as solid as it should be, something that happened later on in the book kind of shakes the basis for what he is and it makes no sense to me how one could be bad and the latter turned out to be good (if you’ve read the book you’ll understand, it’s so hard to express myself without being spoilery so I am sorry for the vagueness).

The plot becomes the biggest weakness of the novel. Yes, they were trying to save her grandmother; yes, they were trying to kill the guy. However, I didn’t think our characters understood why they were doing so. Were they doing this for revenge? Or were they trying to protect the rest of the witches from the evil? I don’t think it was clear to the characters either and ultimately that affected how I felt about how the book was wrapped up. The pacing wasn’t that great either. For the first half of the book, nothing really happened. Things speeded up in the second half, but again, the plot was not strong. The conflict was weak and there wasn’t much depth to anything.

The book itself was very fluffy and the atmosphere was very ‘high-schooly’. This book, for me, was another case of wonderful potential but bad execution and really I just wish I would learn not to trust covers because pretty covers lie.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read something about witches but wants something very light and fluffy.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
World-building
Overall: 1.4
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Rashika

Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).

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    • Rashika says

      I want to re-read The Witches now .-. I LOVE everything Roald Dahl. I miss the days when it was ‘age appropriate’ for me to devor everything Roald Dahl in sight. YOU ARE JINIXING ME JESSICA. I command you to stop!

  1. says

    It truly looks like gothic not.. chick lit paranormal O.o Yeah, I think huge expectations don’t really help with avoiding disappointment so if people don’t expect wicked and gothic things then perhaps they will indeed like this more than you did. Lols, the curse thing on the crush seems funny yet a tad adorable. It’s actually more of a real concept for the witches magic if you think about it and I like that. O.o wtf on the secret sharing. So you didn’t really get the motives of the characters? Hmm.. Interesting. This one wasn’t on my tbr to begin with so I’m not like sobbing crocodile tears that you didn’t love it, but I’m sorry you this wasn’t your cup of tea, hon.
    Siiri recently posted…Mini-reviews: Until Fountain Bridge and Castle Hill by Samantha YoungMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      Dammit! you SHOULD be crying Siiri :P Isn’t the cover gorgeous though? like can you tell that it will be misleading?
      Thanks hon… I’ll go grab myself a cup of tea though, I do like me caffeine.

  2. says

    I’m sorry this didn’t work for you, Rashika. I’ll be reading this one in the coming weeks and I’ll keep everything negative about the book you mentioned in mind, so that maybe I can enjoy it a little better. I can tell that Winn is not going to be a winner for me (See what I did there ;D ). He sounds like every other YA paranormal boy with him being popular and hiding something. I do like the sound of the relationship between Jo and her grandma.
    Great honest review!
    Nick @ Nick’s Book Blog recently posted…Review : The Edge of Falling by Rebecca SerleMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      I cannot wait to see what you thought! :D maybe you’ll like it better?
      LOL LOL LOL you so punny Nick! :P
      Thanks Nick!! :)

  3. says

    I sort of felt the same with Alice in Zombieland. I was expecting something else (zombie gore) but I got something totally different (high school nightmare) and maybe if I was properly warned beforehand it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. The blurb and cover of this book certainly gives you the impression of dark, twisty and mysterious and I understand your disappointment when you got chick-lit fluff instead. I mean, I like fluff too but not when I’m expecting a gothic read. I’m sorry this didn’t work for you Rashika, I might read this when I’m in the mood for fluff, maybe I’ll end up liking it!
    Amir recently posted…Mini Review: The Elite by Kiera CassMy Profile

  4. says

    I’m not a fan of witches, so I don’t see myself picking this up. And to add your review with my simple reason, I would definitely stay away from this book. Sometimes a book is mislabeled to mislead our hunger for a certain genré. I’m like, Stop masquerading as a fantasy book, you..you..book..you! :D Awesome review, Rashika!
    Dre @ Sporadic Reads recently posted…Interview + Book Review 147 : The Swan & the Jackal (In the Company of Killers #3) by J.A. RedmerskiMy Profile

  5. says

    Well this book and I finished everything after your first paragraph. I wanted to read this one simply because of it’s supposed Gothic elements. Where should I start. Okay first the whole idea that magic comes from earth/nature not witches is kinda old for me. I have read a good book about it. You’re right at the end. This book might not be that bad if you knew what to expect and not have been mislead. Great review, Rashika :)
    Tanja recently posted…Mini-reviews: Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa MeyerMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      Yeah, even bad books can have relatively good pacing which makes them a whole lot easier to swallow.

      Thanks Janina!! :)

    • Rashika says

      Eeek! Cannot wait to hear what you have to say!! :)

      I think the book attempted at darker undertones and failed :P But yeah, I just felt like it was a huge disappointment and so completely off from what I was expecting that I ended up being disappointed.

  6. says

    Rashika I don’t think you’re the only one whose had a couple of issues with this book, I read a 2 star rating for this book the other day on Goodreads too, which is a shame, as I’ve been hoping to read a decent story sometime soon with witches. The only witches book which comes to mind that I have truly loved is The Witches by Roald Dahl and of course the Charmed TV show lol. I’m sorry that the execution of this novel fell flat, it seemed like the author had decided to tackle a lot of things, but it didn’t really go to plan :( I do like the fact the witches in this book were somewhat original to previous books. Thanks again for taking one for the team. I really hope a brilliant book comes your way soon!
    Jasprit recently posted…Review: Unsticky by Sarra ManningMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      Ha I actually ranted about this with Giselle when she picked it up because she wasn’t enjoying it much either :P I’ve been looking for a decent story about witches too :/ There really need to be more witches out there. Charmed?? that name sounds familiar *rubs her head*… hmph. THE WITCHES WAS AWESOME THOUGH. Yay for Roald Dahl (he’s been mentioned twice here!)
      Thanks!! and well, I am reading Meg Cabot so does that count?

    • Rashika says

      I did like Transparent a whole lot better but this book was even more of a disappointment than Transparent was :/ I love fluff but.. sometimes.. you just don’t want it :P

  7. says

    Gosh, what a train wreck! I was offered an ARC of this one and declined it, not knowing anything about the novel or its author, but later grew to regret it as the author seemed to be quite well-liked. Well, I’m definitely glad I didn’t read this one because I know I’d struggle with the same issues you did, Rashika. I mean, friendships shoved down your throat not to mention weak plot lines and characterizations? Um, no thank you. Anyway, thanks for such a thorough and detailed review – I hope your next read is far more satisfying!
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…ARC Review: Going Over by Beth KephartMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      you lucky you *shakes fist*. I got it off of edelweiss because of the pretty cover. I admit it :P
      Thanks Keertana! :)

    • Rashika says

      …. well I am looking forward to your rant either way (which will be heaps better than this book ^_^).. or maybe you’ll luck out and like it :P

  8. says

    Ugh…I hate when books are utterly disappointing. That’s been the majority of books for me this year but slowly but surely I’m finding stories again that excite me. I hope the next book you read knocks your socks off! Great review! ;)

    • Rashika says

      I haven’t read a 5 star so far and it’s bringing me down :/ I want to read a mind blowing book and I cannot seem to find them anywhere :/

      Thanks Cristina! :)

  9. says

    Oh no! That’s a shame! The reviews I’ve seen for this one haven’t been super positive, but I can definitely see why. It’s always annoying when there’s no explanation for a major event that occurs in the story. Surely the characters would have known why they were killing this guy.

    Anyway, I think this will be a miss for me as the issues that bothered you sound like they’d get on my nerves as well. Thanks for sharing though Rashika, and, as always, brilliant review! Hopefully your next read is better! :D
    Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf recently posted…AshfallMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      They do know WHY but they go on and on about protecting the other witches and that doesn’t quite happen O_O. :/

      Thanks Zoe! I hope so too! :)

    • Rashika says

      So have I.. we both need to find better reads. :/
      But perhaps this will work better for you if you know that it’s not going to be gothic? :)

      Thanks Mel!! :)

  10. says

    NOOOO bummer! The blurb sounded SO promising. But I get what you mean, it definitely sounds like it’s selling you a completely different book. For me, I don’t really feel like the witches were very original. I’ve read about witches that draw their powers from the environment before, so it’s just like ‘oh…good for you’. Hahaha :P

    I really dislike when both the plot and characters are underdeveloped, it’s what really breaks a book for me. :( Sorry you didn’t enjoy this more Rashika, hope your next read is much better! xx
    Joy @ Thoughts By J recently posted…DNF Review: Betrothed by Wanda WiltshireMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      IT IS ISN’T IT? The first para actually made you think that the book will actually offer what it says it will. DAMMIT! Am I the only person who hasn’t heard of a book that does that with witches or am I forgetting? :P (old age.. bad memory.. you know, the usual)

      Thanks Joy! :)

    • Rashika says

      That happens too often doesn’t it? Although admittedly, some of my favorite books had misleading synopsis’ but… it worked in favor for them because… well the misleading synopsis was actually worse than what the actual book was like.

      Thanks Rachel! :)

  11. says

    I gave up reading almost every ARC I got sometime around when this book was posted on Edelweiss – I just can’t get into the stories about 16 years old paranormals anymore. I notice too many things that annoy me. If I do decide to read YA. it’s mostly contemporary or dystopia.
    Great review, Rashika.
    Glass recently posted…Mini Review – Unravel by Calia ReadMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      HA I am stilling holding out hope for finding amazing paranormal again. 2 years ago I had wonderful luck but I seem to have ran out of luck. Someday someday maybe. Dystopia has not been working out at all for me lately although After the End was interesting to say the least.

      Thanks Glass!! :)

  12. says

    Dang, even I was misled. I was thinking it would be something for me to pick up, but I don’t think so. :/ Based on the characters, I don’t think I’ll enjoy it too. I like my characters to have sense, and I’m getting a bit tired of the popular guy in school. Or the loser in school who wins the most popular girl. Come on, there are other kids besides them.
    Goldie @ My Book Musings recently posted…Review: Wicked Little SecretsMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      You’re my hero. SOMEONE GETS IT. There are generally other kids. Not everyone is popular or a loser. There are also the in between kids.. who’re just ‘normal’.

    • Rashika says

      EXACTLY! There is nothing wrong with this being a chick lit! But don’t package/promote it as something it wasn’t. :/