Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

House of Ivy & Sorrow 
by Natalie Whipple
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
2014 HarperTeen
Softcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 9780062120182

Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

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.

My Thoughts
House of Ivy & Sorrow is one of those books that had a really good premise, and I was a bit excited to delve into because I thought it would be interesting and fun.  And while I enjoyed the ride, and thought it entertaining, I felt it didn't quite live up to its hype or its premise.

I really liked the humour and the relationship between the three friends, Jo, Kat, and, Gwen. The novel did tend towards the silly at times, but once I got over my initial shock that the novel wasn't going to be the deep, gothic type of reading that I was expecting, and was being advertised, I enjoyed the humour between the characters and liked the silliness.  I also thought the premise was interesting and thought the sacrificial part of being a witch was a nice touch as it really made you think about the kinds of things a witch should be doing with her magic.  If every time you brew a potion you have to sacrifice something of yourself, you might think twice about what you are about to do as you can die if you have to give too much of yourself.  

I thought Jo was an interesting enough character, but to be honest, there was nothing really memorable about her, other than the many references to how much prettier she's gotten over the years.  Really?  That's important?  Jo and her friends were nice and friendly, but there was nothing edgy about them, nothing about their personalities that would make them want to take risks or go on serious adventures.  They were just your typical down-to-earth girls and while I liked the relationship between them, I was a bit disappointed by the character development and the lack of 'oomph' that would make them stand out as characters.  A month from now, I would probably go, "Jo?"  "From Little Women?"  Forgotten about, not memorable.  It's too bad really, as there was definitely a lot of potential in this novel for something really exciting to happen, and I kept waiting for it, only to be disappointed.  

I mentioned that I liked the witchy aspect, and I definitely enjoyed some of the more unique aspects to witch lore that were in this novel.  I wish they had been developed a bit more as I felt they were simplified too much and were for much younger readers.  I get that this is a YA novel, but it was too simple, even for a YA novel.  My eleven year-old daughter really enjoyed this book, but my soon to be fourteen year-old didn't so I'm wondering if it might be more appropriate for the twelve and younger age group rather than a teen novel.  I just felt that things moved along very slowly, and then all of sudden, we've got all of this action packed into the last third of the novel, but things are too easily solved and too pat to be quite believable.

House of Ivy & Sorrow had a lot of potential, but didn't quite live up to it from what I could see.  There were interesting characters, but not a lot of development; the plot was too simple and things were concluded in a way that didn't quite seem believable, at least to me; and lastly, I just felt that it was too simple to classified as a YA novel.  There were a couple of scenes that could questionable for a younger reader, but I'm sure a few of you are familiar with Goosebumps and Darren Shan too, both of whom are listed as children's horror writers, and I don't think this novel compares with some of those books.  What bothered me more about the scenes was the lack of seriousness involved, and the joking that took place while it was going on, something I had to discuss with my own child, so this has me concerned more than the actual content.  Would I read another book by this author? Yes, I think so, but I would like to see something darker and more serious from her when it comes to something like this as I think the potential for a lot more depth is evident in the parts that were well-done. 


  1. Good review. I have followed Natalie for awhile through her blog.

    1. I do too. And I did think the book was entertaining, just a bit simplistic.

  2. Now that I know not to expect a deep story I think I will enjoy it more when I check it out! Would you consider this more as a middlegrade novel?

    1. Yes, it did seem that way to me after I read it. There wasn't a lot of depth to it and like I said, my 11 year-old daughter enjoyed it.