Weekend Words #4

weekend words picWeekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule. While this is a reading/writing centric blog, this feature doesn’t have to be focused on those areas–it is intentionally open-ended to give bloggers a chance to say what’s on their mind.

Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day! Complete instructions can be found on the feature’s page. 

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

live for tomorrow

“Living for the day is beautiful–too many of us don’t do it often enough–but to live life fully, we must life for today and tomorrow…People miss out on so much if they stop living for tomorrow.” — C.C. Hunter, Whispers at Moonrise (Shadow Falls #4)

Rereading the Shadow Falls series has been pretty fun these last few weeks (review to come, once I write them). Though the books are usually pretty light-hearted and casual, this quote stood out to me. I love how it counters the popular notion that living for the present will improve our lives, while also making sure that people don’t live only for the future.

2. A Quote that Inspired or Influenced Me This Week

as mysterious as a cat

“I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.” — Edgar Allan Poe

I love Poe’s writing, especially his poetry, and if anyone gets close to writing like a cat, he is in the top ten. I love the simplicity of this quote, and after writing a horror-esque story this week, this quote felt apropos.

(Also, that’s my cat, Muzgle! Isn’t she adorable?)

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

Though I definitely have introverted tendencies, I’m finally getting better at going outside of my comfort zone socially at school. I’m not about to become Mrs. Social Butterfly, but in these recent weeks, I’ve realized just how far I’ve come since the beginning of high school. For other introverts out there, I guess I just want to say that it’s possible to still be “you” while breaking out of your shell a little.

I hope you’re all having a great weekend! What quotes have inspired you recently?

If you don’t wish for feline writing skills, what animal would you want to write like?

Most Likely To… Book Tag

most likely to tag image

Becca and Books created this tag a few weeks ago and I loved the idea. When I did it myself, I got laughably bad results (you’ll see what I mean in a sec), but it was still a fun experience that put a smile on my face (and helped me avoid homework).

The tag works like this:

1. Put 18 book characters into a jar and shake it up.

2. Have the first three most likely to… categories ready. Pick three names from the jar and apply them to the first three categories.

3. Keep going until you have none left!

MLT r1

And the results…

I had a really hard time with this one! None of these things feel in character for any of these characters. Anyway, here are my results:

  1. Blue’s stubbornness will get her arrested.
  2. Gansey will cry at a movie.
  3. Chaol will have kids first (he strikes me as a romatic).

MLT r2

And the results…

4. David’s geekiness will definitely turn him into a millionaire.

5.  Agnieszka will write a bestseller.

6. And Anna will totally give all her money to charity.

MLT r3

And the results…

7. Celaena will join a cult (let’s be honest, she basically has already).

8. Emiliar will beat Donald Trump with her spunkiness and frank attitude toward authority figures.

9. Bitterblue is totally a closet nerd.

This round really worked. 🙂

MLT r4

And the results…

10. Though it isn’t exactly perfect, I could see Shazi’s glamorous side getting her to have a ton of piercings.

11. I guess Cammie could get a stalker…though that stalker would probably regret it once she caught on and kicked his ass.

12. Does it even need to be said? Lara Jean will open an orphanage. In fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet in the series.

MLT r5

And the results…

I had a really hard time with this round!

13. Because of his trickster nature, I could see Gen becoming an actor (though he’d secretly be a thief instead).

14. Ronan could join a gang. I don’t want it to happen…but I can see it happening.

15. Gemma could open a bakery. I would want her to have a better career–after the rollercoaster ride that she went through for the series–but I could see her enjoying baking.

MLT r6

And the results…

16. Elend would totally go Christmas caroling. He’s a man of the people and all that.

17. I guess Viola could go through a goth phase? I would read that short story.

18. Vin could murder someone. Probably not,  but of this list, she is the most likely to commit murder.

So there it is! All in all, most of the groupings turned out okay, though a few of the results are a bit unlikely. 😉

If you want to do this tag, go for it. It was a great way to blow off some steam…and I got a good laugh in the process.

Short Story: Sticking It to the Man

To say this wasn’t her dream job was to put it lightly.

Abigail was supposed to be a fashion designer in Paris, hanging out in cafes with all of her gorgeous models and smiling demurely at young men in scarves, making them wonder what made her so special. She belonged in the city of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the best fashion houses in the world.

Ending up in the backroom of a sewing repair and equipment shop was not the plan. Returning to her home town of Boring Ass, California, after four brutal years of fashion design classes was not the plan.

Reality, however, wasn’t playing along with her dreams. In fact, it seemed determined to crush them.

There were no elegant men to flirt with, only the jocks and geeks that she hadn’t wanted anything to do with even in high school. The only café was the local Starbucks, packed with noisy students who naively championed collaboration as an excuse for a social hour. There were no fashion houses, only George’s Sewing Notions and Repair, Family Owned Since 1972.

And instead of designing avant guarde gowns for Parisian runways, Abigail was stuck cleaning neglected sewing machines, explaining the difference between ballpoint and jersey needles, and trying to convince novices that bridesmaid dresses and Halloween costumes were not one-day projects, even for the best. The only interesting task she got to do—the only task that in any way validated her college degree—was building the shop’s specialty: custom dress forms.

At least the shop didn’t service vacuum cleaners. Abigail probably would have gauged her eyes out if she had to stoop that low.

Building dress forms was the calmest part of the day. It got Abigail out of the main room, away from the clutter and clatter that was the retail business. The sewing required was not the type she had imagined herself dedicating hours to, but it used a needle and thread, and at the end of it, she’d created something. Most of the time, that was enough to keep her self-destructive thoughts at bay.

Then came the day when Susan Baker ran into her in the street and sneered at the high-minded girl with the nerve to think she was better than the rest of them, and laughed at her inevitable return to the gutters.

Abigail was back in high school, clutching brochures for fashion colleges on the other side of the country, trying to get her guidance counselor to help her with her applications, trying to keep Susan and her clique from seeing the logos. The insecurity and bitterness that Abigail had shoved away for so long came rushing back, but four years of college had changed her—even if Susan couldn’t see it.

She didn’t cower or hide from Susan’s abuse.

She just brushed past the lip-glossed bully, cutting a piece of her cheaply dyed hair with the tiny sewing scissors she always carried in her pocket.

Susan never noticed. Abigail, deciding she could go without another cup of coffee, headed back to George’s, straight for the back room.

Abigail’s roommate, Cassy, had been from New Orleans, an eclectic girl from an entrenched family that had thrown at fit when their youngest daughter left the city in favor of the Big Apple. But Cassy hadn’t left her heritage entirely behind, or it hadn’t let her escape. After two semesters of prickling sensations on the back of her neck and shadows flickering in the corner of her eyes—and after a night of drinking that shut up common sense—Abigail worked up the courage to ask her friend just what exactly her family business was supposed to be.

Abigail had promised to keep Cassy’s gifts a secret—but she didn’t have to tell anyone about slipping Susan’s hair into the stuffing of her latest project and muttering a few ancient chants under her breath. No one would know—no oath was broken—except for Susan, the first time someone stuck a pin in the dress form, and Abigail, who would smile whenever she imagined it.

Tossing and turning in bed that night, Abigail didn’t relish in her victory. She couldn’t shake a memory of Susan crying in the junior high girl’s bathroom when her dog died. Red-eyed and regretful, she hurried into work that morning only to discover the dress form had already been boxed and shipped.

She puked in the bathroom and swore to never do it again.

She kept her promise for six whole months, until Chad Walker got one two many beers in him and ruined Abigail’s night off. He left the bar woozy and rejected. She left the bar feeling violated, with a clump of his beard in her pocket.

George’s rarely received orders for male dress forms, so she held onto the tangle of hair until one showed up. It took two weeks, and by the time she tucked the sample between her stiches, Abigail had made up her mind. It was premeditated. It was just, she told herself, ignoring her clenching stomach.

A month later Ella Kwong yelled at her child in the supermarket. Her daughter was sobbing so loudly that Ella never noticed the faint snip of Abigail’s scissors. Two weeks passed before Abigail gave in to the temptation of her scissors, punishing Father Washington for his hypocritical sermon against adultery, when it was common knowledge that he was not faithful to his wife.

More and more dress forms were sent across the country with custom measurements and secret punishments. Abigail swayed between the heady sensation of power and the sickening fear of her own immoral character. She was the Hand of Justice, the righter of wrongs, she assured herself.

She was the devil on earth, prideful enough to think herself separate from the complexities of human ethics, her conscience whispered back.

A year and a half after that doomed encounter with Susan Baker, Abigail read the story in the newspaper: Local Woman Commits Suicide After Bouts of Inexplicable Pain. She read half of the article before she stopped, the words blurring in front of her eyes. Rushing to the bathroom, she threw up the breakfast she had managed to eat, and called in sick to work.

The town was gray with mourning. Abigail could not go outside without making eye contact with a former classmate of hers and Susan’s. She would flinch and dash away, back to her house, away from the penetrating gazes that surely, surely could see the evil corrupting her soul.

Did she even have a soul left to corrupt?

Yes, she realized, shoving away another plate of food and closing her blinds tighter. If she lacked a soul, surely this would not hurt the way it did.

When she showed up to work a week later, her manager was shocked at how pale and gaunt her face was. Abigail avoided crowds and started at loud noises; she wouldn’t look anyone in the face. Her manager pitied the young woman for the obvious toll her grief had taken on her spirit and offered to give Abigail another week off to recover. With a look of horror, Abigail refused, rushing to the back room and grabbing the stack of orders from which to choose her next project.

Even in the backroom, the chitchat of the shop reached Abigail’s tortured ears. All anyone was talking about was Susan’s death. Some raged at incompetent doctors; others reduced her to an attention-whore with mild aches. One of the town’s grandmothers was certain that Susan had arthritis, while a young grad student swore that the pain was the psychosomatic result of some trauma received earlier in life.

Was it possible?

Could Susan have died from something other than Abigail’s vengefulness? Could Cassy’s magic be nothing more than the grimmest of fairy tales?

There was one way to find out, only one way to give Abigail what she deserved if she had actually caused the death of her former classmate.

Before she could think about her actions, Abigail reached behind her head and clipped a snippet of her hair. The dress form she build around the cutting was her fastest project to date. It shipped that night, and Abigail lay in bed, unable to sleep under the threat of self-inflicted pain.

She must have fallen asleep at some point in the early morning, her guilt-ravaged body taking refuge in sleep long into the afternoon. Possibly, Abigail would have slept forever had she not been awakened by a sudden stabbing pain.

Jolting awake with a scream, Abigail got her answer.

Whew! I haven’t written a short story in a while, but I’ve been playing around with this idea for a few weeks now and I decided to go for it. Hope you enjoyed! (It isn’t my favorite thing that I’ve ever written, but I like the mood I created.)

A special thanks to my sister for teaching me about this sewing lingo (or forcing me to learn it by being in the same house as her sewing exploits) and for letting me take the dramatic picture of her dress form featured in this post. You can check out her sewing blog here.

Top Ten Series I Haven’t Finished Yet

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. 

Today’s topic is supposed to be a freebie, but considering that I completely dropped the ball last week, I’m just doing last week’s topic this week (also, I’m awful at coming up with topics for freebie weeks).

Top Ten Series I Haven’t Finished Yet–let’s be honest, this list could be a lot longer than 10. I’m narrowing it down by only considering series that are over or that have multiple books out that I haven’t read, and to series I actually intend to start up again and finish.

The green outlines are for books that I have read, no outline for books that I haven’t read. I didn’t include novellas because it was simpler without them, and I don’t usually read them anyway.

1. The White Rabbit Chronicles by Gena Showalter

TT white rabbit chronicles

I loved Alice in Zombieland but lost track of the series…suddenly there are four books and I want to pick it back up again. 😉

2. Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

TT across the universe

I loved the first book of this series, and liked the second book. I own the third book but haven’t picked it up yet, mainly because I don’t love the direction the plot is going.

3. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

TT lunar chronicles

I wasn’t wild about Cinder, to be honest, but with all the buzz this series has created, I feel like reading the rest of the series would make me enjoy it more.

4. The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

TT shatter me

This series is an emotional roller coaster that I haven’t been up for. I’ve seen a lot of reviews for the series recently, and I kind of want to pick it back up. The story is definitely special.

5. The Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin

TT mara dyer

I started this series really recently, and I planned to read the third book, but I never ordered it, so I read other things, and kind of forgot about the series…whoops.

6. The Selection Trilogy Quartet by Kierra Cass

TT selection

This is the only series on the list that I honestly might not finish. When there was only The One left to read, I thought I might get through the melodrama that is the series, but then they came up with a fourth book?! I’ve almost given up.

7. Burn for Burn Trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

TT burn for burn

This series is strange for me. I liked the first book but didn’t love the ending. That being said, the first book set up so many conflicts and characters that I would like to revisit that I can’t rule out revisiting the series.

8. Rebel Belle series by Rachelle Hawkins

TT rebel belle

I don’t think this series is over yet (I hope not), but it made the list anyway. I own both books, and I have been saving the second one for when I need a pick-me-up to put a smile on my face.

9. Seraphina series by Rachel Hartman

TT seraphina

Seraphina was gorgeous and magical and incredible, and the only thing that’s kept me from reading the second book is that both of them are really long and I’m a wimp.

10. The Diviners series by Libba Bray

TT diviners

Another series of two very long books. Again, I own both of them, but I haven’t read Lair of Dreams yet because I want to reread the first book before I start the second.

Have you read these series? Which of them would you finish? Were any of the series on my list on your lists last week?

Happy Tuesday! 🙂

Book Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I started out bored by this book, grew to like it, and got annoyed by the ending. In terms of books I’ve read for English classes, it was actually pretty good, even if suffered from sloppy storytelling.

3/5 stars

cover the scarlet letter

Goodreads Description

Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne’s concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided.

My Review

I cannot make up my mind on this book. Parts of it I enjoyed, parts of it I hated. I guess it all averages out to three stars.

Hawthorne’s writing is beautiful but tiring. His use of metaphor and imagery is amazing; he understood how to make a point with rhetoric. (His habit of shoving any analysis that existed in his reade’s face was a tad bit annoying, but I’ll live.) His love of winding sentences and superfluous punctuation, on the other hand, can be exhausting to read. TSL is extremely quotable, but those quotes will end up being pretty long. (As I learned when I used two quotes for my Weekend Words meme.)

Looking back on the text, I come down in favor of his writing style–because, let’s be honest, it’s incredible to read, and as a long-winded comma-lover myself, I appreciated his dedication. (We won’t comment on how I would have answered this question while I was doing my reading homework at ten at night.) I’m glad that I’ve read this book…I’m just not sure that it couldn’t have been a novella.

The plot of The Scarlet Letter is…interesting. Hester Prynne was sent over to a Purtian colony in the 1600s ahead of her husband; her husband didn’t show up for two years, but Hester was pregnant. Accused of adultery, Hester was forced to wear a scarlet letter on her chest for the rest of her life–a punishment that ostracized her from the rest of the sin-fearing society. The plot focuses on discovering who she adultered with and how raising the child of her adultery (Pearl) affected Hester’s personality. Her husband also eventually shows up, hiding his identity from all but Hester, and becoming a symbol of revenge.

The plot had it’s dramatic and touching moments, but for the most part, is was slow-paced and on the cusp of being boring. Hawthorne has a habit of saying the same thing over and over again, which resulted in chapters being longer than they really needed to be for the amount of forward progress the plot underwent.

I was impressed by the characters in this book. Hester, our adulteress, is a fascinating mixture of characteristics: she is submissive and demure at times, but she has a bold, rebellious streak that she passes on to her daughter. Pearl, the aforementioned daughter, was hands-down my favorite character: she’s elfish and creepy, almost un-human, with both precocious and childlike mannerisms–she brought life to the story. I would not want her as my daughter, but I loved reading about her, and I would read a spin-off book about her life after TSL, no question. The two male characters–her husband and her adulterer–(unnamed purposefully) were realistic and strangely un-likable. The side characters were one-dimensional but added to the message and tone of the story in their own ways.

What frustrates me most about this book is its identity crisis. Since I read this book for English class, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to find a focus of the plot, but Hawthorne kept contradicting himself. He hates the Puritan society, but ends up endorsing their morality (at least partially). As a transcenentalist, he’s supposed to champion nature, but nature is shown as a corrupting force (in some scenes). While this makes the book more complex, as a student, it was frustrating.

I would recommend this book to fans of classics, people who can derive pleasure and not headaches from Old-Timey sentences. TSL would appeal to fans of subtle plots and vivid characters. People who long for dialogue or rapidly paced plots will probably be disappointed, but everyone can relate to or be affected by some part of the books’s numerous themes.

Weekend Words #3

weekend words picWeekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule. While this is a reading/writing centric blog, this feature doesn’t have to be focused on those areas–it is intentionally open-ended to give bloggers a chance to say what’s on their mind. Quotes can just be typed, or they can involve graphic design or drawing.

Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day! Complete instructions can be found on the feature’s page. 

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

This one is fairly self-explainitory. Share a quote from a book that you are either reading or just finished. Avoid spoilers (of course) but other than that, anything goes.

quote ground of happiness

“She assured them, too, of her firm belief, that, at some brighter period, when the world should have grown ripe for it…a new truth would be revealed in order to establish the whole relation between man and woman on a surer ground of mutual happiness.” — Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Yep, another The Scarlet Letter quote. What can I say, I’m not in love with the plot, but it’s super quotable.

I love this quote, not because of its place in the book, but because of its implications for modern feminism. At the time of this book’s writing, feminism was a far off concept, barely glimpsed in this quote, but I believe that now, today, the “world is ripe” for more equal and positive gender relations.

2. A Quote that Inspired or Influenced Me This Week

This quote can deal with life, writing, reading–honestly anything.

quote crowded with angels

“They ran into the fire to help get people out. Ran in to the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes.” — “20 Hours in America: Part 1,” Aaron Sorkin

This quote is from one of the most moving The West Wing episodes ever. With the 9/11 anniversary, I couldn’t help but think that this quote–while it wasn’t written about the tragedy–is especially relevant this weekend.

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

This is a chance for you to share the little thoughts that you had that weren’t big enough for a blog post (or that don’t exactly fit the theme of your blog), but that you want to put out into the world.

It’s the little joys that make long weeks bearable. Feeling self-conscious about those little joys (such as okay-ly written paranormal books that I first read as a freshman), is just plain stupid…so I’m trying to avoid that.

Since this feature is still very new, I’d love some feedback on how to format it to make it as user friendly as possible. Do you guys like the quote written out under the image (or is annoyingly repetitive)? What about the images I’ve been making for each quote–do you like them?

I hope you’re all having a great weekend! What quotes have inspired you recently?

Book Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

I. Do. Not. Know. What.  To. Think.

Seriously, I can’t even give this book a star rating. I’m too conflicted.

Release date: September 15, 2015

cover the dead house

Amazon Description

Three students: dead.
Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.
Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, “the girl of nowhere.”
Kaitlyn’s diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn’t exist, and in a way, she doesn’t – because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.
Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It’s during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.
Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary – and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.

My Review

I’ve started jotting down a quick Pro/Con list after I read a book that I later expand into a review to post. Problem is, for every pro I wrote down, there was a corresponding con. I honestly cannot decide if I loved this book or hated it. When I went to give the book a star rating, I literally write I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO THINK instead.

I’m breaking this down into matching pros and cons. You can decide if you think the pros or the cons win.

Pro: This book is hands down the creepiest thing I’ve ever read.

I don’t watch horror movies. I don’t read thrillers or horror novels. But when I was asked if I wanted to read an ARC of The Dead House, I decided I was game to try out a new genre.

Holy crap. I would have read this book in one sitting, except that I honestly had to put it down every few hours. It was too dark to absorb in large quantities. Everything about this book is creepy–the paranormal angle, the mental illness angle, the characters, even the format (diary entries, transcribed interviews and video clips) became disturbing.

In being a scary-AF book, The Dead House succeeded. A++

Con: Monotone creepiness.

As I said, everything about this book was creepy. Which, unfortunately, made the creepiness somewhat monotone. There was no rise or fall, no happier moments where I could take a deep breath that could later be knocked out of me. It was scary 100% of the time, which “weakened” the scariness. I wanted happy moments, not just to give my soul a moment to recover, but so that the creepy moments would be more impactful.

Pro: The Carly/Kaitlyn premise was so cool. 

I loved the two souls in one body (or two personalities in one body, if you’re a psychologist) idea. From the first page, I loved and empathized with Kaitlyn–the girl stuck in the dark. The dynamic between Carly and her was starkly human: both of them love each other like sisters even though they’ve never met, but Kaitlyn is also incredibly jealous of her sister for being the “real” one. They were both struggling to hide Kaitlyn and keep themselves out of the loony bin, but they were also permanently separated, and thus they could never have a transparent relationship. There were secrets from the get go, and they only continued to mount as the story went on.

Con: Carly was never a part of the story.

Since the story is driven by Kaitlyn’s diary entries, Carly is actually a minor part of the plot. Notes she leaves for Kaitlyn and a few diary entries of hers are included, but that is the only contact the reader gets with Kaitlyn’s other half. Carly’s fellow students mention her second-hand, but I still felt that there was a Carly-shaped hole in the story. I never “met” her, I never connected to her, and I never fell in love with her, so ensuing plot lines were weakened because my heartstrings weren’t as tied to Carly as they were to her sister.

Pro: Dossier format was interesting and Kurtagich “pulled it off.” 

The book is a dossier of evidence collected about the case–Kaitlyn’s journal, footage from Nadia, and various interviews conducted by the police–as well as commentary from the dossier’s compiler and from psychological experts. Everything is organized chronologically and weaves together to tell a masterful story.

I was amazed at how effectively random pieces of paper could convey a story. Jumping back and forth between different forms of evidence was never distracting or confusing. The way the dossier was compiled added to the aforementioned creepiness of the story.

Con: The dossier format kept me “out” of the story. 

Nothing in the dossier is truly reliable. Kaitlyn wrote her journal entries after the things happened, and no one forced her to write down every detail, or the cold hard facts–just her impressions. Nadia’s footage obviously couldn’t record everything. The other transcripts and interviews rely on people being honest and the interviewer asking the right questions–neither of which happened.

I felt like I was never connected to the real story. Everything felt second hand and untrustworthy. The dossier format was interesting, but it also separated me from the story; we never got any scenes that were happening “live,” never got to fully connect to the story.

It also struck me as unrealistic that Kaitlyn would write down everything that she did in her diary, and that Nadia would record everything that she did. The two most prominent forms the story was told in often came across as a stretch.

Pro: This book is POWERFUL. 

You can tell how ramped up this book got me. In that sense, I have to love this book. Any story that makes me shake with half-formed thoughts (*activating fangirl mode*) is a good one. This story hit me in the fact over and over, grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. If you like being emotionally and mentally pummeled by the books you read, pick up this book right now (or in September, when it hits the shelves). I know I won’t be forgetting this book for a looong time.

Con: Some parts of the plot missed the mark.

The romance was a big part of the plot that didn’t work for me. I liked the love interest (Ari) in the beginning, but the more intimate their relationship became, the less I cared for it. A major cause of this is that dossier format. It’s not like Kaitlyn is going to write down minute details about her relationship with Ari, because she’s  the one living it, and videos of their time together don’t give the viewer a sense of the emotions each is feeling. I was told of their love, not shown it by the story, and subsequently I just didn’t care about it that much.

The deaths in this book lacked ceremony. While I understand that the point was that the circumstances surrounding the deaths were vague and unknown, it still bothered me that deaths were announced in pasted-in notes. If a character’s death is going to affect me, it has to take up more than a sentence of the novel.

Pro: The paranormal aspects were unique.

Scottish voodoo. You read that right. This book surrounded a type of magic that I’d never even heard of. The paranormal elements that grew out of this were unique and compelling. It was refreshing to see a YA plot surround a mythology that isn’t Greco-Roman.

Con: I didn’t follow the paranormal plot line very well.

To be honest, all of the paranormal bits in the plot were confusing. There’s a house, a girl, a snake. Then the magic workers have like five different names, which were never explained clearly enough for me to remember the nuances (and the nuances were important). I understood the broad strokes of what was going on–enough to enjoy the story–but I wish more of the paranormal elements of the plot had been slowed down and explained. The story could have been richer if I’d been able to follow it.

Pro: I don’t know what to think.

This book is a constant battle between conflicting views of the “Johnson Incident.” The police and psycologists consulted in the dossier believe that everything can be explained by various characters suffering from various mental illnesses. The characters themselves, however, believe that everything is caused by paranormal occurances, namely Scottish Mala voodoo.

Both sides are supported during the dossier. Neither “wins.” And it drove me crazy. I’m still thinking about it. I don’t know what I think (as you can tell).

The Dead House is a giant questionaire: what do you think happened? And it does an A+ job asking that question and leaving the reader unable to answer it.

Con: I don’t know what to think.

I like closure. I like it when books ask questions because I can trust the answers will be surprising. This book doesn’t have answers–or really, it has too many answers to choose from. I wanted to be thrown a bone that pushed me toward one side or the other, and while a few pieces at the end could have been considered “evidence” for one side, I was still left unsatisfied. The Dead House is built of questions–ever increasing questions that leave the reader absolutely sure that there will be an incredible answer that ties everything together.

I’m still waiting for that answer.

Enjoyment of The Dead House comes down to one simple question:

Do you like unanswered questions?

If you like it when a book drops you off a cliff and leaves you with the sensation of falling and grasping for answers, then this book is great. If you have a lifelong struggle with closure and crave explanations and definite answers, this book might drive you insane.

I’m on the fence.

Is a book about the journey or the destination?

The journey–the majority of The Dead House–is captivating, chilling, and powerful. The ultimate destination–answers to the questions that the journey posed–is murky, and doesn’t really exist.


And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a mental breakdown trying to figure out where to put this book on my bookshelf (which I organize by how much I enjoyed each book).

I received an ARC of this book for free from Hachette Publishing at SDCC. (THANKS!) This in no way influenced my review.