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Book Review: School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

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Title: School Spirits

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Series: School Spirits #1

Genre: Teen Paranormal Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: 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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The Review:

Arguably, my favorite thing in the final Hex Hall novel was the introduction of the Brannick family. I thought it added a great new dynamic to the story, and if I could’ve chosen a character to do a side story on, it would’ve been Izzy (lucky me). She and her sister grew up in their own little world and had mastered the art of monster slaying while most girls held tea parties. Overall, they are strong personalities with a fascinating background, and I am excited Hawkins chose to tell their story.

I hold this author in high regard for creating relatable, yet cheeky main characters. Sophie was delightfully awkward, yet strong spirited, and I love the fact that she could laugh at herself. Izzy, on the other hand, is more reserved… but I actually find her more relatable as she struggled to make it in a rather non-magical high school. This author definitely writes great protagonists, but I also love that she surrounds them with friends that are just as well-rounded and interesting. The sidekicks in School Spirits were especially quirky – I don’t know that I’ve seen their like in any other series, and I found that refreshing.

Another thing I praised in the first trilogy was Hawkins’ ability to turn the setting into almost a character within itself. As this story takes place at a normal high school in a small town, it pales in comparison to the mystery and wonder of Hectate Hall. Because of this, I thought the story lost a little bit of the magic it maintained throughout the first three books. It did, however, make up for it a bit through cool bits of supernatural (anybody remember the man trapped in the mirror in the third Hex Hall book? I really want to know even more about him).

This book also had a couple layers of mystery working for it, but I did’t find them as complex or compelling as the first series… But it’s only the first book, so I’ll definitely give it more time to develop. I have a feeling there is a lot more in store for Izzy then Hawkins is letting on at this point. 

Recommendations: overall, this was a delightful spinoff series that would work pretty well as a stand-alone, though I would strongly recommend reading the first trilogy to experience this author at her finest. I would suggest this author to people who like their high school romance books with just a hint of supernatural (and a lot of fun).

Other books you might like:

The Sweetest Dark Review   •   The Selection Review   •   Touch of Frost Review

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

11454587Title: Spell Bound

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Series: Hex Hall #3

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: 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.

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The Review:

As I’ve already beat you over the head a couple of times with how much I enjoyed this series, I’m going to keep today’s review on the shorter side. This third and final book in the Hex Hall trilogy was actually my least favorite of the three, but only by a little. There was an element of predictability that stole a bit of momentum, but that is the only thing I didn’t like. Everything else added up to a great conclusion – I was really sad when it ended because these were a ton of fun to read.

My favorite part of Spell Bound was the exploration of three conflicting societies that were only alluded to up to this point; and also the introduction of a few new characters who added a new complexity to the story. I love learning about stuff in books, especially if it’s fantastical – so exploring these secret societies and their role in the supernatural world was a lot of fun. As for the new characters, they were just interesting. Hawkins really has a knack for creating relatable characters, and I can’t think of a single one I didn’t like at least a little.

I believe I mentioned in my review of Demon Glass (book #2) that my favorite part of this series was the love story. I liked both love interests equally and therefore felt more invested in her conflict of which one to choose.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining series and is one of the best ones I’ve read this year. I like them enough that I will most certainly be rereading them one day.

Recommendations: I recommend these to any teen paranormal fan who has already read the Vampire Academy books. They are the ultimate “fun” read, and I consider them in the top five must-reads for the genre.

Other books you might like:

The Selection Review   •  The Sweetest Dark Review   •  Touch of Frost Review

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Demon Glass by Rachel Hawkins

8428064Title: Demon Glass

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Series: Hex Hall #2

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The OverviewSophie 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.

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The Review:

There are times when you read a sequel that’s so different you wonder how it’s even part of the same series. That was definitely not the case here. Everything I loved about the first book continued on in Demon Glass and, if anything, got better! Even though the plot gets a little more serious, the book is still the ultimate “fun” read.

There is a new setting in this one, a colossal mansion in the countryside of England, and I felt Hawkins did an excellent job making it just as fun and interesting as Hex Hall. It could’ve been a risky choice, as the school was such an important element of book one. The second location had to be just as special for it to work, and I believe it did. The mansion was just as otherworldly and interesting as the school and it really gave the story a new life and direction.

I have to say my favorite part of this book (and, subsequently, the first one) was the love story. Usually when there is a love triangle I give full support to one of the “choices” right away and root for them for the rest of the series. This is the only series I can think of where I found both of the love interest to be equally appealing. Since I liked them both so much, it was even more fun to find out who she was going to pick.

Overall, this series shaping up to be one of my favorites. I love the characters, the humor, the plot, the… everything. They’re great, and I think others agree – I have yet to read a negative review.

Recommendations: I would recommend this to any teen book lover in the mood for something light and fun – it would make an excellent beach read! It’s also perfect for lovers of the paranormal who have already devoured the Vampire Academy books.

Other books you might like:

The Selection Review   •  The Sweetest Dark Review   •   Touch of Frost Review

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

a2jhkkTitle: Hex Hall

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Series: Hex Hall #1

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The OverviewThree 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.

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The Review:

This is one of those books that I’m kicking myself for not reading sooner. One of my best go-to girls for books recommended it to me like three years ago when it first came out, but it wasn’t until I got an arc of Hawkins’ latest, School Spirits, that I finally got motivated enough to pick it up. Stupid. I loved it! It was fun without being cheesy, dark without being depressing, and all-around a delightful book.

Here’s another reason why I’m kicking myself: I love books that take place at schools. Give me a school for anything, basket-weaving, sword-fighting, dog-sledding – you name it. If it takes place at a school I want to read it. What I liked about this Academy in particular was how much of an impact it had on the story. Everything from the location of the school to how the students felt inside it transformed Hex Hall from a setting into a character. Hawkins used a lot of great imagery when describing it setting the mood for the entire book.

The overall “feel” for the book is probably my favorite part. While the school had a tremendous impact on that, it wouldn’t have been near as memorable without such a lovable protagonist. Not only is she fluent in sarcasm but she also maintains a quiet strength in the things that make her different from everybody else. And she was funny – I cracked up several times throughout the book. What’s more, I enjoyed all of the side characters just as much… particularly the love interest. ;)

Overall, this book delivered a memorable setting, great protagonist, a fun mystery, paranormal creatures, and a compelling love story. It blew my expectations away and has quickly become one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Recommendations: if Vampire Academy and Bloodlines are on your favorites list, you should definitely give this book try. It’s perfect for those who like paranormal and want a fun and memorable mystery/love story. If it’s already in your TBR pile, pick it up now – you wont be sorry!

Other books you might like:

A Touch of Frosts Review  •   The Selection Review   •  The Sweetest Dark Review  •   Bloodlines Review

by Niki Hawkes