Published by HarperTeen on Apr 15, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, YA
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
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.
House of Ivy and Sorrow starts off with a line about an old witch who lives under the bridge of a freeway who can foresee your death for a lock of hair and make someone love you for the small price of a pinkie finger, and it just gets more and more engrossing from there. The book has its own personality and style, which made it easy to get caught up in the story.
Jo, the main character, has a funny, quirky voice and I really liked being in her head, which was a big plus since the book’s in first person. She’s a super special strong witch from a strong witching family, which was a little annoying since I feel like every time I read a YA book the main character just has to be the strongest, specialist, bestest thing ever, but Jo’s specialness isn’t referenced all the time so it didn’t really bother me.
I loved that Jo actually gets to solve problems on her own, and has her own agenda. The story shows her being a strong witch and piecing together clues, it doesn’t just tell us that she’s particularly badass or smart.
Winn, the love interest, it pretty well developed and I did get a sense of his personality in the story. The romance overall is really sweet, and they’ve known each other for a while before they start dating so the story avoids the instalove trope, which is really awesome. There were a few times where I just wanted to smack them because their problems could have been solved if they’d just talk to each other, but as a whole I liked their love story.
Jo’s two best girlfriends also show up a lot in the book and their personalities also get to develop. It was really nice to see a book feature strong friendships between girls, and the drama between them isn’t because of a boy but because of Jo’s magic, a secret one friend knows and the other doesn’t.
I could go on and on about the characters, like Jo’s Nana, because there are a lot of good ones, but I’ll just finish up by saying that I liked Levi, a maybe bad guy maybe good guy, a lot and his arc in the book is really interesting.
The system of magic is interesting. It’s pretty hard core (for example, pull out your own tooth as payment for a spell) and at times it really had me cringing, but that’s good because it ups the stakes in the book, adds to the tension, and makes the tone a lot darker, so when the villains show up they actually feel dangerous.
But overall the best thing this book has going for it is the plot. There’s never a dull moment, and by the end I really couldn’t stop until I knew what happened. I’d give it four out of five stars.