I am so, so happy that the first book I finished for 2022 was The Bewitching of Aveline Jones! I have been waiting to read this book after I read The Haunting of Aveline Jones last year, and just like that first book, this wonderful sequel did not disappoint.
In this book, Hickes brings back Aveline and her friend Harold into another dark and haunting mystery. However, instead of just an angry ghost to contend with, they have to deal with witches too. Now that was a great combination of paranormal plots!
As usual, I loved the haunting and paranormal elements that Hickes wrote. I also loved the folklore elements that he brought into this sequel – about the witches of England and the ways people used to ward against them (some of which I had only heard about recently from the Lore Podcast!). There are other elements of folklore that are included that I cannot mention (spoilers), but every single bit of folklore adds wonderful things to the story.
As always, I loved Aveline as a character. She reminds me so much of myself when I was around her age – always eager for the supernatural and the macabre. But The Bewitching of Aveline Jones also shows her ability to be the best of friends, and to be compassionate to those who are in need. She is a wonderful character, and I wish I had known about her when I was her age.
I do wish we had seen a bit more of Mr. Lieberman and Aveline’s aunt, I really enjoyed them in the first book. But this book featured Harold a lot, and I quite enjoyed his part in the story. What a knowledgeable lad!
I can predict that this is already going to be my top book for 2022, it was so good. This book and the first are easily two of my favorite books of all time. What a way to start the year!
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The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes is a story about a girl, Aveline, who goes to a seaside town to stay with her aunt while her mom is visiting her grandmother. In this town, Aveline, a firm and eager believer in ghosts, finds an old bookshop with a book of local ghost stories. However, this book unearths a mystery and a haunting past that Aveline is not prepared for.
I absolutely loved this book. It’s the type of story I would have loved at Avenline’s age, and that I love now at 28. It has all the combinations of adventure, ghosts, atmosphere, and folklore that keep me enthralled and on the edge of my seat. It is a short and very simple story, which does appeal to me, though I know many people would want something more complex and involved. I’m a simple gal and this story was perfect for me.
The atmosphere was perfectly spooky. Put aside the ghosts, this book takes place around Halloween in a stormy seaside town with an antique bookshop and some dark, local folklore. Can it get any better than that?
The characters were also very well-written. None of them annoyed me, and I only felt endearment towards even the ones that were supposed to be annoying.
I think one reason I related so much to this book is that Aveline reminds me a lot of myself (and several other girls I knew as a preteen). And, while I haven’t been exactly in her shoes, my love of the paranormal is a complete match. Though now that I am very much a grownup, I think I’m starting to relate more and more to characters like Mr. Lieberman, the owner of the bookshop.
Another reason this book was so good, in my mind, is that it reminds me of a lot of well-known ghost stories (Turn of the Screw/Haunting of Bly Manor, The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton, The Haunted Bookshop, and others), but Hickes makes those ghostly themes entirely his own. And it is no surprise, since Hickes himself grew up the same way and next to a graveyard no less! Hickes is a supremely talented writer and I am looking forward to his next book in this series, which I believe comes out later this year.
The Haunting of Aveline Jones was a wonderful read, and I might just read it again next Halloween! I recommend this book to anyone who loves spooks and a good ghost story.
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Kiki’s Delivery Service is about a young witch named Kiki who, at the age of thirteen, leaves home for a year to train and come of age. She leaves home with her black cat Jiji and finds a town by the sea, where, after some trials and tribulations, makes friends, starts a business, and leads a happy life.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is my favorite Studio Ghibli film, and it was only last year that I discovered it was based on this book! So of course I immediately bought it, but took my time in reading it. While the film will always be closer to my heart, this book was a cozy and wholesome read.
Some key differences between the book and the film:
The book talks more about the culture of the witches and Kiki’s family, explaining more why the witches have to live away from home after a year.
The book is much more episodic, with each chapter acting as a different sketch during each season Kiki lived in her seaside town. She makes many more friends than are shown in the film, including a girl just her age. I think that was important to include, especially after Tombo tells Kiki, basically, that she isn’t like other girls (and she finds it really weird to say). The other characters are very quirky and fun and give the reader a greater sense of the town’s character.
I am happy to say that Jiji is just as snarky as in the film, and as all black cats should be.
While this book is targeted towards a younger audience, I recommend it to readers of all ages. It is the perfect, wholesome coming-of-age story, filled with magic and learning how to be a person.
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Those Who Run in the Sky is a middle grade, fantasy novel about a young Inuk man, Pitu, who learns that not only is he to be the next leader of his igluit, his village, but also is to become a powerful shaman. But when he is swept into the spirit world, he has to struggle with more than he bargained for.
This novel is, to my unlearned mind, a great first representation of Inuit culture and mythology, told by an author who is herself Inuk. She also uses this story to teach Inuk words, which is part of the reason I enjoyed and plan on keeping this book. The other reason is that the story, while not so plot-oriented, is full of imagery, culture, and tons of character development, making this the ideal coming-of-age story. I could see the Northern Lights in the sky, and imagine the harsh cold of the arctic winter. I could feel the emotion as Pitu becomes lost in many ways.
I have only a few criticisms of this book. The main one is that the writing and language tend to be a bit juvenile, but that is expected in many middle grade books. The other, less prominent criticism is that there are no real turns or climaxes to the plot, making the story feel more like a journey than a singular, linear tale. Which is not a bad thing, just different from what I am used to.
I recommend this book to everyone, even if it’s only to learn some Inuk words.
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The Mozart Girl by Barbara Nickel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Mozart Girl by Barbara Nickel is an excellent introduction into the life of one of history’s most obscure composers – though thankfully now she is becoming less and less obscure, thanks to historians and writers like Barbara Nickel. Nannerl Mozart, older sister of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is one of my favorite historical figures, especially since I have also been a young lady musician for most of my life. I am always looking for works written about her, whether they are biographical, epistolary, or fiction like this book of Nickel’s.
Even though I knew what was going to happen to her from what I know of her history, I nervous and excited, and, I must say, pleasantly surprised while reading The Mozart Girl. I was compelled by young Nannerl Mozart’s dreams of becoming a famous composer and musician. In her actual history, Nannerl did not become nearly as famous as her brother Wolfgang due to her position as a woman in 18th century Europe, and I was very pleased with the changes Nickel made to Nannerl’s successes in this retelling of her early life. I will not say what these changes are, but know going into the book that they are quite satisfying.
Nannerl goes through struggles not only because of her position as an adolescent girl, but also because of how much her brother stole the spotlight. I think many older siblings go through some jealousy over the attention a younger sibling gets, even if that sibling is not a prodigy like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Many young readers of this book will empathize with this particular struggle of Nannerl’s, and her struggles to fit into the world around her.
The Mozart Girl is a compelling story that readers, young and old, will enjoy. I especially recommend giving this book to young and aspiring musicians.
I also reviewed this book for NetGalley.
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