Conversion by Katherine Howe // Witches and Mystery Equals My New Thing

  Conversion, by Katherine Howe        Publication: July 1, 2014, by G.P. Putnam’s   Sons BFYR                                         Genre: Young Adult Fiction,                                Contemporary,  Mystery                                           Pages: 402                             Format: Hardcover                 Source: Borrowed                                   Rating: Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PM

It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

Michelle’s Thoughts:

Conversion, despite all of the expectations I’ve ever had, turned out to be mind-racing. It’s a novel I’ve been meaning to read for ages, but I never had gotten the chance to head out and borrow/buy it, but now when I have read it and given it an honest rating based out of my opinion, I’m so glad that I gave it the change right at this instant. Not two months ago, not in another year. Today, this experience, was better, the most greatest.

Witchcraft? Ivy League? Freaking prestigious schools? That’s something I’m into. And if you have or haven’t been informed by the Salem witch trials before, this will be a new experience for you, alongside an epidemic that is mysterious and may or may not have the name “PANDAS.” Not those white and black furry animals who eat bamboo. It’s an illness that picks on random girls that seems to do crazy stuff, like making people bald or having some choke up metal. It’s a legit thing. And if you read the Author’s Note and where this came from… You’ll find yourself so inspired.

NOT INSPIRED TO DO MAGIC, IS NOT WHAT I’M SAYING. You’ll find yourself so enchanted by the story that you’ll have no other route but then to not be allured by it. Although Howe’s tale is quite difficult to get into at first, especially with dealing with two complete different perspectives told in different places, you’ll adore it eventually. I’m also quite excited to pick up Howe’s future works and read a whole new story, because hey—standalones are pretty awesome, too.

St. Joan’s Academy is prestigious, and a lot of young women find themselves getting accepted to any university they wish to attend. For Colleen, being the best at everything is all that matters, and she wishes to get into Harvard or Dartmouth. When some of her classmates fall dangerously ill randomly (and at the worst time), she strives to figure out what’s behind it all, because an illness that had absurd symptoms cannot just appear out of the ordinary. Does magic have to do with it?

Of course I’m not going to spoil the whole story for you, but I’ll tell you this: You won’t forget it. It’s pretty difficult to forget about a book that stood beyond the expectations, and beyond the ordinary. Howe’s writing is interesting, exciting and racing, my heart felt like it was going to explode at times. Flipping between contemporary and historical times with two main characters who basically saved and ruined the day, I’m sure there’s something to love in every single bit of the story. Katherine Howe isn’t your average storyteller: She’s a magnificent writer whose stories you’ll never want to get out of you.

Colleen, the contemporary setting protagonist, is a fighter. She reminds me tons of myself, with that overachieving attitude but someone who obviously has a good heart (not that I’m bragging, heh) but it was good to read about someone who you could relate to. She has so many issues in life and they keep piling up onto each other, as everyone periodically feels their lives become, and things can literally go upside down for them when they wouldn’t really like it to. She was the main highlight of the story. And there wasn’t too many hints of romance, either. It was like a ghost story that focuses more on the spooky aspect of things.

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Conversion will literally convert you into (A) a literary buff, if you already aren’t one and/or (B) someone willing to read anything by this author over and over again. It have a few cons as for story development and the way the story turned out in the end as well as the beginning part, but I’m sitting here with tons of compliments towards it. You’ll really love this, if you haven’t read it already. Pick it up, it’s already waiting for you to devour and enjoy it!

how much patience are you willing to give for a book? are you easy-going with boring plots or are you a tough bud like i am? do books usually surprise you with suspense and a rapid change of movement in the plot?

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Mosquitoland by David Arnold // Not As Good As the Ratings Promised

Mosquitoland, by David Arnold              Publication: March 3, 2015, by Viking Children                                               Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary   Pages: 336                            Format: Hardcover               Source: Borrowed                                    Rating: Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PM

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, “Mosquitoland” is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

Michelle’s Thoughts:

Hype in contemporary novels are either: my thing or totally not my thing. David Arnold’s debut, Mosquitoland, initially seemed to be the perfect book for me, and one of those that deals with mental illness and NO ROMANCE! whatsoever. The thing is, I disliked it more than I would’ve liked to enjoy it. It’s more about what kind of book you usually enjoy in the contemporary genre. Maybe it’s just me, wishing that there was a cute romance in between the pages of the book that would actually last. Because this time around, it seemed that it wouldn’t ever show up.

It’s all about a road trip, people. What are some of the best road trip novels you can think of and put together? John Green? Morgan Matson? Yeah, those are the pros. These kinds of books usually give me the summer feel and give me that feeling to jump into the car and head to wherever the roads will take me to kind of relax and forget about all of the troubles and stress that hit us teenagers continuously, alongside the pressure. I WANT THE DESTINATION STUFF, not just the amount of miles left in the journey.

It was about that, and Mim’s journey to getting over everything she has overcome in the past. It is a compelling novel at first, but I actually did find that it turned out to be too much. Hmmph. I’ve been finding that I’ve been making horrible decisions when choosing the right book to read, and this is out of the more worse outcomes. I WISH I ENJOYED THIS AS MUCH AS OTHER READERS HAVE!

The thing is… I even already forgot what the protagonist’s name was until I reread the summary again. This book didn’t really give me any feels, except the rare giggle and smile. I liked the coming-of-age aspect of it all, but that’s just about it. Nothing else got me excited except for the fact that the beginning of the novel, about 100 pages, were fast-paced and racing. I probably would’ve given the book a 4 star rating if it ended up that way.

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David Arnold is a great writer, really. His choice of words are very lyrical and if he ever wrote a book of poetry, I would definitely go for it once more. Mosquitoland wasn’t really for me and I would’ve been better of DNFing it, but it might be fantastic for you, and I really do hope you pick it up, because it’s great literature. Maybe it’ll end up as a YA classic one day, who knows? This would be your first pick for a mental health month read for teenagers, and for anyone of any age.

what do you look for when you’re trying to find a good coming-of-age story? do you enjoy romance in every book you read? (because i kind of do, except instalove. take that thing out of writing, please. unless it’s necessary, of course.)

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Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit // This Was So Weird.

  Anna and the Swallow Man, by Gavriel        Savit                                    Publication: January 26, 2016, by Knopf   Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Historical   Pages: 240                                         Format: ARC                   Source: BEA/Publisher                           Rating: Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.12.37 PM

Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.

Michelle’s Thoughts:

Is it possible for someone to imagine reading a WWII-based book that is weird? I mean sure, we read eerie, peculiar books all the time. That is the reality of being a blogger and reviewer. A few times a month, I encounter novels that were boring, weak, stupid or the scary factor: all of the above. I went literally bananas for this book at BEA last year, and there were a few reasons why. I loved the idea of some kind of Swallow Man or spiritual literary guide for the main character, Anna. Little did I know that this would turn out to be one of the weirdest books in the history of books. It wasn’t bad, but extremely confusing, and I am still not sure if some poets or philosophers would be able to distinguish the hidden message between the lines that Gavriel Savrit implies. It’s either that I’m too dumb, or that this was written without any sort of clarity.

Sometimes when I write for English class, I realize that my main message is not clear. I have problems with that from time to time—I am a bright person who constantly has so much to say and it occasionally is difficult to put it into words. That kind of happened with Savrit’s debut YA story in this case. Anna and the Swallow Man is such a short book, too, which leaves me confused with what was the issue to write more? I would have loved more emphasis and more bizazz on the real themes of Anna’s story. This is not your typical WWII story either. I would call this story a mix of fantasy (think of the title, I don’t think birds really make any sense) and philosophy, but that’s just my take on it.

“It’s their failure, my little Anna, not yours. Men who try to understand the world without the help of children are like men who try to bake bread without the help of yeast.” (39)

I know that this story is not meant to be creepy whatsoever, but I kind of felt this confused, creeped-out vibe coming from Gavriel’s writing. To this very instant, I am still utterly confused with who the Swallow Man is. This book did not do any justice for me. Is he part of Anna’s imagination? Is Anna hallucinating or something? Is she violent? Is she mentally ill? (I wouldn’t deny it because she’s a kid in the midst of a terrorizing World War). Or do we take this in a literal context and just call the Swallow Man a creepy dude who decides to take Anna out from her ordinary society and go out on the run with her? This kind of does not make any sense, and you’re probably wondering and believing that the book was supposed to answer those questions for me. It did not, at all.

I loved the setting of this book, though. “YAY, POLAND!” I first exclaimed when I picked this one up on a gorgeous May morning in 2015. My heritage is Polish, so I have tried many times to understand its history from YA books, but it’s never really happened well. Most WWII books take place in Germany or in The Netherlands, which is just for the situation since a lot of the events occurred there, but Poland was terrorized as well. Sadly, we did not get much of a view on the war per se, but on an emotional journey of a character as she strives to survive on her own with the influence of some dude. That’s all. No biggie. *sarcasm*

I wouldn’t say that there is a reason that this book should be classified as YA fiction. I don’t remember how old she is in the book, but I know she’s not as old as I am. She’s around ten, am I wrong? Yeah, there are bombs, but I have seen/read worse. Maybe children would enjoy the light-fluffy theme of this story, but it kind was just strange for me.

“A friend is not someone to whom you give the things that you need when the world is at war. A friend is someone to whom you give the things that you need when the world is at peace.” (104)

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Anna and the Swallow Man stunned me. Not because of its gorgeousness or well-writtenness (yes, that is not a word), but because of how different it was compared to other stories I have recently read. It is not a favourite for me and I will probably forget about most of it, but there were interesting, smart phrases, quotations, passages and chapters that made me look at things a little differently than I am used to. Take weirdness, mix it in with a cute little girl protagonist, add a creepy man who has birds and there you go: Anna and the Swallow Man. I must say that it is a pretty complex formula.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher via BookExpo America in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is the weirdest book you have read (recently or ever)? Would you take this one into consideration after I told you about its weirdness?

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