Book Review – ‘School Spirits’ (Hex Hall Companion) by Rachel Hawkins

The Hex Hall Extended Universe…

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 297

From Goodreads:

Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy’s mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who’s always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt? 

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Another great addition to the Hex Hall Universe. This time our protagonist is Izzy Brannick, Sophie’s younger monster-hunter-in-training cousin.

This was cute and in the same vein as the other Hex Hall novels. Izzy is struggling to prove herself, stumbling along and trying to hone her skills… as well as keep her cover as a regular high school student when she is anything but regular. Izzy has no idea about friendships, classes, and a plethora of other typical teen girl things. It was a fun, clumsy fish out of water story that dripped clues along the way in order to solve the mission Izzy had been tasked with.

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI have to say that this novel feels a bit messy – only because it’s basically a standalone, but reads as the start to a new series. Not all plot points are tied up. Rachel Hawkins has stated that she is not writing any more on this collection, but it felt like she had a different intention when penning ‘School Spirits.’

I was also hoping there was going to be more presence of Sophie as well. The cast in ‘School Spirits’ is fairly compact. Izzy, her mum, Torin (the mirror enslaved warlock), and the three school friends all of whom are members of the P.M.S. (Paranormal Management Society.)

Still with all the aspects that I love about Hawkins writing: twists and turns in the plot, an ending I did not easily predict, fun interesting characters that hint to many hidden secrets waiting to be uncovered.

It saddens me that this the end to the Hex Hall collection. I felt like I was just starting to really get into it and then it ended… abruptly. With too many things left up in the air.

Fun easy read, I devoured it in a day accompanied with a bowl of cookies and a several cups of tea. Perfect for an autumn weekend.

Overall feeling: Got my motor running…

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Spell Bound’ (#3 Hex Hall) by Rachel Hawkins

The final book in the Hex Hall trilogy brings all the gouls to the yard.

Spell Bound (#3 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 327

From Goodreads:

Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

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Still loving this trilogy, the humour, the sass, the magical goings-on. We still get a few unexpected twists, but for me this conclusion wasn’t as quite as fantastic as I thought it would be. It was still Hawkins’ phenomenal writing, and the epic battle scene was amazeballs, but it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye after a massive build-up. It was all kinds of crazy and culminated in epicness.. but it still felt like it was missing something. Maybe I was expecting more of an emotional note? Am I getting spoiled for choice in my reading habits and continually raising the bar in what amazes me? Who knows exactly. While I loved ‘Spell bound’ and found it thoroughly entertaining and clanged the bells for all things YA that I lurve, there was that little something when I finished that whispered in my head that I was needing something bigger…

Spell Bound (#3 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgOur protagonist Sophie was her usual sarcastic self, and I LOL’d many times at her witty one liners, though you get a sense of her beginning to put the humour-masking-fear reaction aside by the end of the novel, showing some of the growth her character is moving through. I did feel that some aspects of her story were rushed, and it felt like we jumped around a bit – location wise and narrative wise. Yes, the story was broken into three parts, but ‘Spell bound’ didn’t have the cohesion its predecessors had.

Cal felt a bit more like a prop in this story… he slowly blended into the background, as did Jenna, Sophie’s vampire best friend. But I can’t fault Hawkins – there was so much going on and the plot blasts forward so quickly that having these two more prominent in the narrative would have been detrimental to the story. The four of them (five if you count Elodie the ghost) formed the best little Scooby gang. I enjoyed this series more than I did the Rebel Belle trilogy.

We get all the answers to the mysteries, and then some. Snippets of backstories are brought to light in a very organic way. But there is still some elements of the mythology that are left floating in the ether, but on the whole this novel wrapped up the trilogy nicely. There is a companion novel, ‘School Spirits,’ which I am definitely going to purchase next. I’m interested in Izzy’s story and hopefully get some more exploration on the Council and Prodigium’s history in the Hex Hall Universe.

I was really impressed with Hawkins writing style, the quips, the description, the pacing. It felt compact, relevant and full of pop culture. I’m kinda wishing this was a longer series because I fell in love with all the characters so much. Maybe Hawkins will revisit Hex Hall again with another great adventure for our misshapen band of teen heroes?

I wonder is Hawkins had every intent to continue with this Universe with the addition of ‘School Spirits’ and much left unsaid – but nothing new has been written since the latest book was published in 2013. But highly recommend this collection, its fun, quick-paced, and quippy YA at its best.

Overall feeling: Fills me with 90’s nostalgia and all kinds of paranormal adventure.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Demonglass’ (#2 Hex Hall) by Rachel Hawkins

Flip the script on Harry Potter and it could read very much like Demonglass.

Demon Glass (#2 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 359

From Goodreads:

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch. That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (a.k.a. witches, shape-shifters, and faeries). But then she discovered the family secret, and the fact that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world-the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will either destroy her powers for good-or kill her. 

But once Sophie arrives, she makes a shocking discovery. Her new housemates? They’re demons too. Meaning, someone is raising demons in secret, with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Archer to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?

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After a surprisingly enjoyable debut with ‘Hex Hall’ we get another well-paced, unexpected adventure with ‘Demonglass.’

Our protagonist Sophie felt a stronger character for me compared to her depiction in ‘Hex Hall.’ Growth in trusting herself and her instincts, in her growing relationship with her estranged Father, I was really invested in her story. And the sarcasm was a delight. I LOL’ed many times. ‘Demonglass’ was a joy to read.

The murky feelings that I had for love interest Archer faded and were transferred to the other challenger for Sophie’s affections, Cal – although I liked the fact that they respected her enough not to impose their feelings on her, there was still a bit of passive aggressive behaviour that annoyed me. Plus a love triangle trope… I was hoping it would get a little bit more interesting and original.

Cal started to turn into the brooding love interest trope, but I liked how he managed to brush his bruised ego aside when it counted.

Archer was dreamy. I was always invested in his story, and his pairing with Sophie…. keen to see where this goes, he’s starting to prove his true intentions.

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I was never bored, and compelled to continue reading. The pacing is great. Hawkins writing style felt a little more on trend, there was plenty of snarky banter and teen slang that added that something extra to the narrative.

The plot twist was masterful. I had no idea what was coming and was totally engrossed. Though it does end on a cliff hanger, and many plot points aren’t resolved – you kind of need to jump right into the third instalment ‘Spell Bound.’ I’m really excited to see what comes next. Especially given Hawkins talent for plot twists that show up out of the blue.

Definitely recommend this one!

Overall feeling: Sassy, snarky and so entertaining

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Hex Hall’ (#1 Hex Hall) by Rachel Hawkins

A paranormal plot with punch.

Hex Hall (#1 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 323

From Goodreads:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

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For some reason I did not connect that this was the same author that had written the ‘Rebel Belle’ trilogy – more stupid me! I had a lot of fun reading that Palladin adventure, and so too did I enjoy this witchy-demon-magic boarding school romp through the grounds of Hecate Hall.

I’d seen this book pop up in my recommendations repeatedly on several different sites – but something about the cover art, and it being a witch-based tale had me dismissing it. But because I was looking for some quick reads to help reach my reading goals back in 2017 (futilely) ‘Hex Hall’ fit the bill… and I was pleasantly surprised. This was not some mass produced paranormal romance I’d predicted. While still in the YA wheelhouse of tone, our protagonist Sophie had some wit and humour that kept me engaged, and I never felt bored for a moment. With a murder mystery entwined into the storyline, a romance, a fish-out-of-water arc, I was always waiting to see what would unfold on the next page. Needless to say this novel was a wonderful surprise and an engaging read. I’m definitely looking forward to adding the rest of this collection to my library as soon as possible.

Hex Hall (#1 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleHex Hall’ has a Harry Potteresque feel. A prodigy magic user/outsider protagonist with a mystery to solve about their past. A magical boarding school with spells and student hijinks. A bully, some beasties and ghosts, wacky teachers and classes, and of course a library. But Sophie stands on her own – there is no Scooby Gang with a like-minded Hermione or Ronald, she does her own research, practices and develops skills and uncovers answers solo. I felt there could have been a bit more establishment of her character for me to connect with her quicker, and there are many tropes that gave this a I’ve-read-this-before vibe. But still, I was entertained and armoured by Sophie and her stumbling existence at Hecate Hall.

Qudos to Sophie’s roommate/vampire/best friend Jenna, by far my favourite character from the novel. She was sarcastic, juxtaposing and quirky… just as a best friend should be. I’m eager to see where this friendship will go in the series.

The writing style lends to an easy read, the tone is very teen-girl, I wanted a bit more sophistication, but it would have not hit its target market and confused readers. Hawkins writing is bang on for the demographic. And as a huge lover of all things YA, was charmed by this story. As there are new challenges and clues mixed with humour constantly scattered every page or so, it keeps the pace and tension building right to the end, and can quite easily be completed in one sitting, however I broke it in two, consuming it over lazy afternoons accompanied by a hot cup of tea.

There is enough of a mystery solved and plenty of resolution to feel like you get a pay-off at the end of the novel, even though this is a debut to a series. Plus, there are enough good teasers to leave you wanting to read on and get your hands on the next book. I’m definitely eager to dive right into ‘Demonglass’ as soon as possible. A super fun read and something I’d recommend to lovers of YA, and light witchy-toned books!

Overall feeling: Wowzer!

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Favourite YouTuber’s that help me write

I try not to watch a lot of YouTube – you can get caught up and suddenly the day had whizzed by and all you have been doing is laughing your guts out from hilarious dog or cat videos.

I like to get my movie trailers, book talks and reviews, some nonsensical comedy stuff, and lots of k-pop music videos when indulging in some downtime off YouTube. But there are a few channels that help my journey along while writing a novel – either with providing useful information, or sharing a similar story to my own, or just entertaining me without taking up too much of my time (so I can get back to writing.)

My favourite, hands down is Jenna Moreci. She’s witty, informative, and not afraid to tell it how it is. Cyborgs rule!

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polandbananasBOOKS sometimes has something worth watching, but I generally find Christine over-animated and shrill. But on days when you are down and low on energy, her effervescence can pick you up.

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ProblemsofaBookNerd – CeCe is pleasant and insightful, and focuses a lot on diverse reads. And while she doesn’t talk about writing per se, her critical eye on the novels she reviews gives valuable insight on aspects to look out for in my own writing. The same can be said for PeruseProject; Regan likes to read a lot of fantasy and historical fiction, and has some great insight into character development and story structure in her book reviews.

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Epic Reads do some fun skits that keep me entertained and positive – nothing like a good bookish joke to keep you in the mood for writing. Plus, you get to see news about new releases and authors.

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Little Book Owl, Catronia does book reviews, but also posts about marketing and publishing as she goes through her University studies. She has been publishing less of late, but is one of the more intelligent booktubers out there.

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Both Australian Writers’ Centre and Author Learning Center upload new content sparingly, sometimes interesting and informative, but with a more serious tone from a career writers point of view. We also get other authors giving talks and factoids about their writing journey.

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There is probably a lot more out there, but I tend not to spend too much time searching and watching videos. My resources are more through print and personal connection (and ultimately less distracting – no click bait!)

Do you have any great Channels to share that have helped you in your writing journey… I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments section 🙂

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.