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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Book Review: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35879387-the-price-guide-to-the-occult?ac=1&from_search=true

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

Review:
I saw this book some time ago on NetGalley, but really became interested in it from going to an author forum at the Bay Area Book Festival.  Although I did find the book to be entertaining, there were aspects of it I did not like.

What I Liked:
Book Design:
This is one of the prettiest books I have ever seen!  Along with a gorgeous, embossed cover in black and yellow (with creepy accents of red), the pages are all edged in a bright, blood red color!  
 
Mood & Setting:
The author does take the time to create a setting that is both creepy and realistic.  The coast of Oregon seem to be filled with tiny wind-swept islands that are both a haven for tourists and a place where someone could choose to isolate themselves from a busy world.  There is also a strong backstory that sets the tone of the book.

Characters:
Nor is the main character and I really like her character.  She struggles to understand why her mother was so neglectful (and later, out and out abusive).  She deals with her feelings by cutting herself.  I appreciated that the author made this only part of her personality, and not the most important part.  Nor is also a solid friend, and a caring person to her grandmother and other people who have stepped in to parent her.

Superficially, while she may seem like the "colorful" bestie, there is more to Nor's friend Savvy, than meets the eye.  While everyone else is infatuated with Nor's mother Fern, Savvy takes the time to listen to Nor and understand why Nor is not cheering her mother on. 

Dealing with Cutting:
Nor is a recovering cutter.  This could be a trigger for some people.  But I think the author does a good job of showing why some people do this, and how much of a struggle it is to stop this behavior.  Nor has been through therapy, and hasn't cut herself for a while.  But, like a recovering alcoholic, she must take life one day at a time to not fall back into this behavior.  She knows she still can't be trusted around sharp objects, as stress can easily push her toward her compulsion to cut.  I thought this was a very realistic portrayal of this topic.
  
What I Didn't Like:
Characters:
Nor's mother, Fern, is the story's antagonist, but I didn't feel that there was enough of an explanation for why she was so bad.  Evil people genuinely think they are good; they don't see what they do as wrong.  Or they will try to justify their bad behavior by thinking something is owed to them.  But Fern is just plain evil.

When she does terrible things, Fern says she does it because it's fun.  Aside from an incident where a man she is infatuated with is not interested, there is no real reason for her to act the way she does. This made for a rather two-dimensional character.

Plot:
Although there was plenty of suspense in the story, most of the big action actually takes place off the page.  The reader gets descriptions of what happens, but we rarely see first-hand what Fern is doing (or her mindset).  Nor does dream about some moments where Fern is torturing people, but this reminds me too much of a device used in the Harry Potter books.  This leads to a story where the characters are mostly reacting and not doing much themselves, until the very end of the book.

The island, itself, was such a wonderful setting that I wanted the plot to move forward from things that happened on the island, using the characters that I became attached to.

Pacing:
The book moves at a snail's pace.  While the author takes time to create a very creepy mood for the book, there also isn't much action for the first one hundred pages!  

TRIGGER WARNING for Self-Harm

Rating: 




Release Date: March 13th, 2018

Publisher:  Candlewick Press

Author:  Leslye Walton

Genre:  YA Gothic Fantasy

Page Length:  288 pages

Source:  Bought

Format:  Hardcover book

Recommendation:  An uneven, but entertaining book that uses witches to discuss the aftermath of neglectful parenting. 
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