THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab
Summary: The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
THE NEAR WITCH opens with a looming sense of darkness, an undefined eeriness that draws you in. Sort of like sitting around a campfire, listening to the beginnings of a well-told ghost story. Except Schwab's ghost is a mysterious wind and the songs of the past--whispers of witches, betrayals and revenge. There's also an edge of sadness because of a loss, but it's not too bitter as it's reined in by Lexi's unrelenting spiritedness, presenting a sharp contrast to the emerging gloom. As the story progresses, the mystery that sprouted at the beginning takes a dark turn when children begin to disappear.
And then you hit page 40.
What had been before just a darkness in the distance, a mystery that begged to be solved, suddenly becomes a danger to Lexi. The mystery becomes a threat--even if Lexi doesn't fully realize it at first. But you do. I think I spent the better part of this book in a constant state of shivers. THE NEAR WITCH is a book that sucks you in and has you thinking/saying things like, "Lexi, check the charm! Make sure it's still there!" It's a book that makes you feel fully invested as a reader. Not just in the mystery, but in the characters themselves--and in the romance. The difficult circumstances within the story heighten the romantic tension, making it feel at times bittersweet.
But one of the most impressive attributes is the paranormal element. It's not that witches haven't been done before, but Schwab took them a new direction, creating such an original twist. Even the setting felt completely new--not modern and not fully old, not fantasy and yet not conventional. Some of the typical conventions of witch stories are employed, but Schwab also created some new rules--which means no expectations for a reader. The best stories are the ones you can't predict, creating something entirely new out of the old. THE NEAR WITCH is a remarkable debut--original and truly gripping.
For now, how about a couple more ARCs to win? I've got a lot of these guys. So many coming out in August and September, so some of my reviews may be a little more condensed. But you'll likely be seeing more reviews than usual. Only so many Thursdays...
Today, I'm offering:
(Click on images for Goodreads summary in a pop-up window.)
by Carrie Jones and Steven E Wedel
MY CONDENSED REVIEW: Told in alternating points of view, AFTER OBSESSION is a riveting paranormal romance about demonic possession. Very spooky. It's a compelling read with hints of humor that help to dispel that darkness. So often alternating POVs feel really similar, but this one had two very distinct voices, likely because of the two authors. It was refreshing. A great read, especially for fans of dark paranormal romance.
[Signed] PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES by Jonathan Auxier
MY CONDENSED REVIEW: I haven't read a lot of middle grade, but I fell in love with the voice in this. It's different from anything I've ever read. A certain dry humor which I found really absorbing. There's a dark undertone there, too, but it's subtle--if you really think about the reality of what's being hinted at, you realizes how gloomy it is. But there's overall a very light feel to it meshed with the darkness--sort of like the first Harry Potter. It's an adventure story, very fun. Would appeal to both boys and girls. Highly recommend it for fans of adventure middle grade.
THE BEGINNING OF AFTER
by Jennifer Castle
MY CONDENSED REVIEW: A beautiful story that is both heartwrenching and sweet. There's the potential for some serious tears, though, as it's a story of one girl's grief journey. The greatest heartbreak occurs very early on. But unlike some of the other grief stories that are out there, it's not a constant emotional battle. There are a number of happy moments to relieve the tension. Moments of laughter. Overall strong characterization and voice. A memorable contemporary.
So, up for grabs: AFTER OBSESSION, PETER NIMBLE, and THE BEGINNING OF AFTER
Click Here to Enter to Win my Three ARC International Giveaway
Giveaway ends Saturday, July 23, 2011, Midnight EST. Open Internationally. Must be 9 years to win PETER Nimble and 13 years to win AFTER OBSESSION and THE BEGINNING OF AFTER. Under 18's must have parent permission to enter. If you win, you will need to provide an address for shipping.
Thanks so much for entering. Good luck!
Finally, I wanted to tell you guys about a wicked fun middle grade that has just released.
BORN TO BE A DRAGON
by Eisely Jacobs
Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup…
This is what Lord Edric wants you to believe. He will do anything in his power to see that humans never come in contact with dragons again. However, he doesn't plan for Meia, the foster child who dreams of dragons, believing they are real. Or Deglan, the ten-year-old dragon who bears the ancient mark that threatens everything Lord Edric has worked for.
Join these two unlikely friends as they discover the truth behind a legend so extraordinary it will alter each of their lives… forever.
Super cute middle grade! A dragon action adventure that features an unlikely bond. Some great touches of humor, as you might expect if you've been following Jacobs' Twitter. I loved her dragons and the special friendship that holds the book together. The book also features fostering as well as themes of family and loyalty. A memorable read for kids that will appeal to boys and girls.
Check out LK Gardner-Griffie's blog for a thorough, emotional review of BORN TO BE A DRAGON.
GIVEAWAYS: EiselyJacobs is hosting a huge scavenger hunt giveaway with daily prizes including two polos that feature Deglan, a dragon from her book as well as a NOOK at the end of the giveaway! Stop by Heather McCorkle's group blog Critique Sisters Corner to enter to win a copy of BORN TO BE A DRAGON.