The Darkest Part of the Forest

Author: Holly Black 
Pages: 336 
Publisher: Little, Brown 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for. 

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once. 

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking. 

Until one day, he does… 

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

My Summary: Hazel and her brother Ben have always loved the forest. Born in a town where faeries are a part of everyday life, the two of them have grown up dreaming of knights and bards and princes in a deep sleep. Together, they believe they can protect the town from any faeries that seek to cause harm to innocents.

But things are changing in Fairfold: once a sanctuary where only obnoxious tourists were harmed, the town has become a place where even the townspeople themselves can't protect themselves from the fae.

And just as things begin to take a turn for the worst, the unthinkable happens: the glass coffin is shattered, and the prince is awoken. Nobody knows who could be responsible, either - well, nobody except Hazel....

My Thoughts: Holly Black never fails to impress! I'd heard so much buzz about The Darkest Part of the Forest that I knew I had to pre-order it. I mean seriously, LOOK AT THAT COVER. Gorgeous, no? 

Holly has always been a master world-builder, and this novel showcases her talents on another level. The atmosphere of the forest really added that extra creepy factor to the story - it was almost as if the forest itself was a character. You could feel the love that Ben and Hazel had for the forest, despite the way it terrified them. 

Ben and Hazel themselves were incredible characters, with an amazingly well-written relationship. They had genuine love for one another, and the way they were always looking out for one another was incredibly sweet. I was rooting for both of them throughout the entire novel, hoping that each one got the happy ending they deserved. 

I also loved the changeling element of the story. Jack was hilarious (can I have five of him please?). The twists and turns kept me hooked from start to finish, Holly's stories are always so complex and layered - I could've read two whole books on the Prince's story alone - while also managing to keep me flipping pages like a madwoman. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys paranormal YA, fantasy, and urban fantasy novels, as well as fans of Holly Black's Modern Faerie series. 


The Supernatural Enhancements

Author: Edgar Cantero
Pages: 368
Publisher: Doubleday 
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): When twenty-something A., the unexpected European relative of the Wells family, and his companion, Niamh, a mute teenage girl with shockingly dyed hair, inherit the beautiful but eerie estate of Axton House, deep in the woods of Point Bless, Virginia, it comes as a surprise to everyone—including A. himself. After all, he never even knew he had a "second cousin, twice removed" in America, much less that the eccentric gentleman had recently committed suicide by jumping out of the third floor bedroom window—at the same age and in the same way as his father had before him . . . 

Together, A. and Niamh quickly come to feel as if they have inherited much more than just a rambling home and a cushy lifestyle. Axton House is haunted, they know it, but that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the secrets they slowly but surely uncover. Why all the suicides? What became of the Axton House butler who fled shortly after his master died? What lurks in the garden maze and what does the basement vault keep? And what of the rumors in town about a mysterious gathering at Axton House on the night of the winter solstice?

My Summary: A. and his companion have traveled halfway across the world to collect A.'s inheritance: a huge Victorian mansion and a fortune to match. Most people would be thrilled, but A. is a little uneasy about the whole thing - after all, he never knew his cousin, and living in his house seems kind of strange. To top it all off, there appears to be some sort of presence haunting the mansion - one that doesn't want A. around. 

But angry ghosts are the least of A.'s worries. His cousin seems to have been involved in some sort of secret society - one that may be responsible for his death - and they aren't happy knowing the mansion or its contents are in A.'s control. With time running out before the winter solstice - and the society show up for their mysterious yearly ritual - A. and Niamh scramble to figure out exactly what is going on inside the old house, and determine the cause of his cousin's death. 

My Thoughts: The minute I read the synopsis, I knew I'd be falling head over heels for this book. Two days and a few hundred pages later I was proven right: Edgar Cantero's The Supernatural Enhancements was an incredible read.

I love a good Gothic mystery, and that is exactly what Cantero has provided. Despite some elements sounding a little cliche - a haunted house, a mysterious death, etc - the author was able to twist and turn them into something incredibly unique. 

I adored the supernatural elements of the story, which brought with them their own set of questions: is it right to let someone die, if you have the power and the ability to stop it? I really enjoyed the whole "piecing-the-story-together" thing as well - it kept me glued to the pages and gave the story room to expand and grow in my mind. I liked that I was able to fill in some of the blanks and make it my own. 

This novel was well-written, engaging, and just fun all around. Niamh was probably my favourite part of the story: I did not expect that much depth to come out of such a mysterious character. I loved the element of the secret society; I think fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore will really enjoy it as well.

I also really liked all the twists and turns! I was definitely not expecting that ending. 

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to fans of Gothic lit as well as anyone who enjoys mystery and suspense with a hint of the supernatural. 


All the Bright Places

Author: Jennifer Niven 
Pages: 384 
Publisher: Knopf 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. 

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them.

But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

My Summary: Violet and Finch are complete strangers.

Violet has never been in trouble. She is well behaved, mature, and involved in plenty of extra-curriculars. Or at least she was, before the accident. After, the only thing that fills her days is the grief and guilt that comes with surviving something your best friend - your older sister - didn't.

Finch sees a day without detention as a day wasted. He is the embodiment of lazy, his untapped potential making him act out - or so his teachers think.

But the truth is, both Violet and Finch are struggling with mental illness. And it leads them to the same place: the school bell tower. From the ground, it looks like Violet is talking Finch off the ledge. Only they know the truth: Finch is the one who talked Violet down.

After their dramatic introduction, Finch and Violet begin to spend more time together, seeking out the "wonders" of their state for a school project. And it's on these trips that they begin to see each other for who they really are.

My Thoughts: This book was a punch to the gut and a kick to the emotions all packed into a deceptionally-cheerful package. I mean, come on! Post-it notes? I feel tricked, guys. 

This book was my most anticipated read of 2015 so far. The minute I got my hands on a copy, I raced home to dive in. Four hours later I emerged with a broken heart and a serious case of the sniffles. The resulting book hangover was one for the record books. Violet and Finch were such layered, interesting, real characters that I couldn't help but love them both. 

Jennifer Niven painted an incredibly vivid picture of the struggle to deal with mental illness. Finch's story cut me deeply: you could feel him losing control and trying so hard to take it back. The contrast between Violet's and Finch's worlds - and their respective mental states - really highlighted the difference that a strong support system can make when dealing with any sort of mental illness.

Niven's writing flowed beautifully. Every word and every sentence fit together so precisely that I forgot I was reading - it was as if the narrative was appearing ready-made inside my mind. Needless to say, I didn't put it down once.

Final Thoughts: There's nothing more I can say. You need to get yourself a copy of this beautiful, gut-wrenching novel and read it and cry. Rinse and repeat.