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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.
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