The Hollow by Jessica Verday

Abbey and Kristen have been best friends since they were little. They have shared everything with each other – their dreams, their hopes and their enthusiasm for Washington Irving’s legend of Sleepy Hollow. Growing up in the town of Sleepy Hollow, the girls often used to visit the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and talk about the  mystery surrounding the Headless Horseman and Irving’s classic legend.

But when Kristen vanishes one day at the bridge near the cemetery, Abbey’s life changes radically. Everyone in town assumes that Kristen is dead, but Abbey believes otherwise. That’s why the sixteen-year-old is determined to find out what really happened to her best friend. Abbey is aided in her investigations by a mysterious and attractive young man whom she met at the cemetery. However, Abbey’s new friend seems to have something to hide and when the heroine falls in love with him and finally finds out the truth about him, her world falls apart and she begins to question her own sanity.

The Hollow is the first book in a trilogy and it’s a paranormal romance packed with over 500 pages of suspense, mystery and gothic elements. It’s a sweet love story that will move you, as you will sympathize with Abbey and you will feel her pain, anger, grief and frustration. The sixteen-year-old is a likeable character that has to deal with a lot; she loses her best friend, falls in love for the first time and has troubles understanding her overprotective parents. The novel’s themes are therefore modern and they will appeal to young adults, as they will be able to relate to Abbey’s problems. Furthermore, the paranormal elements will attract Twilight fans as they will want to learn more about Abbey’s boyfriend and how their love story will continue.

All in all, The Hollow was a wonderful and engaging tale that left me longing for more. I can’t wait to read the sequel because I want to be transported back to Sleepy Hollow and to enter a fascinating world of intrigue, mystery and betrayal. I loved to learn about Irving’s legend because I haven’t read it before (but I plan to do so very soon). I also enjoyed all the scenes that were taking place at the cemetery because they gave the novel the right touch and thus, the author conveyed a gloomy and dark atmosphere that fit in with the novel’s themes.

This book is perfect for Gothic fiction fans and for those who like to read paranormal romances. I hope you will get the chance to read The Hollow and I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Note: I would like to thank Kathryn Mckenna from Simon & Schuster UK for sending me this wonderful novel!

Andreea

How It Happened in Peach Hill by Marthe Jocelyn

Fifteen-year-old Annie and her mother, Madame Caterina, roam from town to town in order to cheat people and collect their money. Annie’s mother poses as a clairvoyant and she makes people believe that she can communicate with the dead. She has many strategies, but when the duo arrives in Peach Hill, Madame Caterina has a new idea – Annie must pretend to be an idiot. That way, the young girl can gather information about clients and make her mother’s business a success. But Annie is a clever girl who yearns to be normal, to attend school and to make friends. However, her mother doesn’t really want Annie to do all these things, as her daughter is her best weapon when it comes to her shady work. As the story evolves, the young girl dares to break out of her role and learn to tell the truth.

How It Happened in Peach Hill is an entertaining and engaging coming-of-age story; it’s the tale of a young girl who has to make painful decisions and learn what she really wants in life. Annie is a fifteen-year-old who is torn between her duty towards her mother and her desire to be herself. On the one hand, she loves her mother and helps her with her work as a spiritual advisor even though she knows it’s wrong, but on the other hand, she wants to be just like every other teenager and longs to make her own decisions. However, her mother is not really interested in Annie’s happiness. She is a selfish person who sets a bad example for her daughter; she teaches her daughter to deceive and cheat people in order to get rich. Madame Caterina completely ignores Annie’s dreams and beliefs since she sees her daughter as a source of income. When Annie begins to understand these things, she is determined to break free and become her own person. The young girl shows courage and strength and she is ready to do anything in order to be independent, even though it means to part with her mother.

Annie is a great character and that’s why I liked this book so much. I admired her and I shared the thrill with her when she stepped closer to her independence. I also liked the other characters, as they were engaging and well drawn.

Furthermore, I liked the book’s themes because they are effective and important. Although the story takes place in the 1920s, its themes are very modern and the characters’ problems and dilemmas can be found in our every day society. Many teenagers have to cope with selfish parents and it’s hard for them to break free when their parents are too controlling and think they know what’s best for their children even though it may not always be true.

Overall, I was really pleased with How It Happened in Peach Hill because it’s a wonderful story about courage, morals, dreams and decisions. It was very intriguing to catch a glimpse of a clairvoyant’s life and to see behind the curtain of this alluring world. What I also liked about this novel was the fact that there were old wives’ tales at the beginning of each chapter. They are relevant for the plot and I found them really entertaining!

Ever since I read Marthe Jocelyn’s book Folly, I wanted to read more works by this author and I am glad that I read How It Happened in Peach Hill since it was just as wonderful. I am looking forward to the author’s future books!

I would like to thank Casey Lloyd from Random House for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

Andreea

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

After her mother’s suicide in India, sixteen-year-old Gemma Doyle is sent to the Spence Academy in Victorian London. There, she feels lonely and out of place, and she tries to make sense of the visions that have been haunting her since her mother’s death. Furthermore, Gemma tries to understand why she is followed by a mysterious and attractive young man who warns her against her visions.

As an incident occurs at Spence, Gemma is immediately accepted into the circle of the school’s most powerful girls and she is glad to finally have found some friends. But when the girls begin to play with supernatural powers, they put themselves in danger. Moreover, they discover that Gemma’s mother was involved with a dubious group called the Order. As the sixteen-year-old tries to find out more about this shady and dangerous group and about the true cause of her mother’s death, she discovers some shocking and frightful things, but she also learns a lot about herself and the destiny that awaits her.

Packed with 400 pages of suspense, gothic and supernatural elements, passion and jealousy, A Great and Terrible Beauty is a fascinating and intriguing novel that captivated me from the beginning. This is the first book of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and it tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is unconventional and insecure and who tries to understand who she really is and what’s happening to her. At times, she is spoiled and likes to rebel because she doesn’t like society’s rules and thus, she refuses to submit to them. She doesn’t have impeccable manners and she doesn’t always think before she speaks. Still, she is a very likeable character, especially since she is so flawed. Her friends are also great characters and they have their own problems. These problems are very typical for the Victorian age, as women at that time had to fulfil a certain role, a role that didn’t allow them any freedom and independence. And that’s why I liked this book so much, because it touched upon these themes. Although A Great and Terrible Beauty is set in the Victorian period, the novel still felt very modern to me because it deals with things that are present in today’s society – the girls have to cope with rivalry, jealousy, trust, acceptance and self-knowledge – things that teenage girls have to face every day. And I think that’s what makes this novel so attractive to young adults, because it deals with matters that they understand and can relate to, since they go through the same things.

A Great and Terrible Beauty was an engrossing read that left me longing for more and I am desperate to read the sequels, as I want to know how Gemma’s story will continue. The last sentences of this book definitely make you curious about the next two books:

“I’m running because I can, because I must. Because I want to see how far I can go before I have to stop.”

I want to find out more about Gemma’s destiny, about the Order and about the realms and I hope the sequels will satisfy my thirst!

Note: I would like to thank Casey Lloyd from Random House for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

Andreea

The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

In 1853, twelve-year-old orphan Mary Quinn is struggling to survive on the unsafe streets of shady London by committing crimes. But one day, she is unwary and is caught housebreaking and therefore, Mary is sentenced to hang. Luckily, she is rescued by a mysterious woman, who is dressed as a prison warden. The woman turns out to be Anne Treleaven, the head teacher at Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls and she offers Mary an exceptional education at her school. There, she is able to acquire fine manners and other special skills. After finishing her education, Anne reveals to seventeen-year-old Mary that the academy is in fact a cover for The Agency – a top secret female investigative unit. Acknowledging Mary’s intelligence, bravery and good skills of observations, Anne encourages Mary to join The Agency and thus, put her hard training to the test.

Mary is intrigued by this new opportunity and therefore, takes up this thrilling challenge with great expectations. Her first assignment as a female investigator is to infiltrate the Thorold household in order to collect information on Mr. Thorold’s missing cargo ships. In the guise of a lady’s companion, Mary must work fast and find out the truth about Mr. Thorold’s business. But in the Thorold household, nothing is quite as it seems and Mary must be careful in deciding whom she can trust. Everyone seems to have dark little secrets: Mrs. Thorold acts rather suspiciously, her daughter Angelica is spoiled and seems to hide something and Mr. Thorold’s secretary Michael Gray flirts with Mary. And then there’s also James Easton, an arrogant, yet very attractive young man. His brother George is one of Angelica’s suitors and they have met several times. But why is James always behaving so strangely and why does he follow her everywhere? Can she really trust him or will she put herself in great danger by cooperating with him? And why is Mary trying to avoid talking about her past and parents?

The Agency: A Spy in the House is a delightful novel set in the heart of Victorian London, where shady and dangerous things are taking place. Y.S. Lee has written a compelling tale packed with suspense, action, mystery, intrigues and romance. Readers will enjoy accompanying Mary on her dangerous journey through the dusky streets of Victorian London and witnessing how this young and clever detective discovers secrets and fights the demons of her troubled childhood. I really loved this captivating tale and I wanted to read more about Mary and her fascinating adventures! The Agency: A Spy in the House is Y.S. Lee’s first novel and it’s part of a trilogy. Therefore, there will be a second novel in the Agency series, called The Body at the Tower and it will be published in August in the States. I can’t wait to read the promising sequel!

For more information on the Agency series, please visit the author’s website here. There, you can also enter a contest to win a copy of The Agency: A Spy in the House and other prizes.

Note: I would like to thank the author and her publicist Tracy Miracle from Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this engaging book!