The Month of Westerfeld | Week One: “So Yesterday”

“So Yesterday” was one of my favorite books of all time when I was in middle and high school. This was my first experience reading Westerfeld, and it was the first book I’d ever read that felt like something I could have written, that felt accessible and written from the same fast-wit and punchy disposition. It was edgy, but the fun edgy, like an adult writing cultural observations gleaned from twitter hashtags. I carried the same copy in my backpack from seventh grade through high school and read it until the cover fell off. The copy I read for this review was actually my original! Fun fact, I found a four leaf clover pressed into Chapter Fourteen. But more on that later. 

The story follows Hunter, a high-school aged guy who is a “cool hunter”; an underplayed way of saying he’s a precursor to an Instagram Influencer. While on a hunt, Hunter meets Jen, and adventure ensues. Hunter, seeking his missing boss Mandy, and Jen seeking adventure in the bleak landscape of early oughts New York. They meet a group of people determined to undermine the trends and bring down the trendsetters that make them big, thereby finding Mandy. Through twists and failures of everyone involved we return to the same park, and the same bleakness. Two people brought together by shoelaces. 

“So Yesterday” is written like a treatment for a movie which lends itself to being read in one sitting, something I’m guilty of even for this past read. The story is fast-paced and the reader is quite often smacked by new doors opening within the plot. The characters are all vaguely relatable, but also a really cool mixture of characters that I loved being able to project on when I was a kid. This book was also ahead of its time in a lot of ways, including very early on bringing up a problem that still persists today. Using Jen as his mouthpiece, he brings up the “Missing Black Woman Formation” (Westerfeld 14). This is described as a phenomenon where in any group of people, there is never a black woman, only black men. It is also eventually shrugged out of the room by other characters after a brief “hoo-ah” of agreement, much like it is in media today. 

Another interesting thing Westerfeld employs is a healthy smattering of well-researched and well-executed mental fuckery. At the magazine launch party Hunter experiences various types of manipulation, between being fed copious amounts of alcohol and the seizure-inducing promotional cameras, all designed to embarrass the trendsetters in attendance at the party. These things contribute to the unraveling of the mystery and cultivate a really neat sense of wonder at how we are subliminally advertised to or directed towards decisions. The characters were relatable in that “cool older kid” way to middle school me, and in that “oh kids these days” way to adult me. In all this is an excellent quick read that has aged really well. One of the greatest injustices is that the tv/film option didn’t pan out before the book became “unreal” to the target demographic. 

The four-leaf clover was a real treat though. It was pressed into Chapter Fourteen, which is sort of significant because the chapter opens with main character Hunter walking into the house in his new, improved, incognito look. His parents understandably overreact because he is seeing a new girl and coming home with new haircuts, but they also accept him and don’t chastise him, and that’s something I always wished for as a kid. It was a real treat, and at some point deserved the honor of pressing a four-leaf clover into.

Thank you so much for reading! I do apologize for the lack of substance in this initial essay, but it was the first selection of four, so I didn’t have much to work with yet. There will definitely be more said about this in the wrap-up following week four! How do you feel about this selection? Have you read it? Let me know in the comments below!

House of Salt and Sorrows Review

To quote “The Secret Garden”; “High on the hill sits a big, old house with something wrong inside it”. 

Spoilers abound, you have been warned. 

“House of Salt and Sorrows” is by far the best things I’ve read all year. The story follows Annaleigh who believes her family to be cursed from the day her mother died. Her sisters keep dying, often under mysterious circumstances that are so easily explained away by the town as the “curse” or the aftereffects of mourning. 

Meanwhile, the Thaumas family is upsot by their step-mother’s sudden announcement of a pregnancy. She calls for an end to the constant mourning that has been in place since the death of Ortun Thaumas’ first wife. The remaining daughters plead with their father, and are granted the permission to keep on living, rather than keep themselves shrouded. This culminates in a coming out party for the triplets, who have recently turned sixteen. Lavish dancing shoes and dresses are ordered, the estate is thrown from its shroud into vivid color and decoration. The ball does not go as planned, however, as no suitors wish to touch the “cursed” girls. They are reasonably disappointed in this and wish they could escape the small island chain’s whispers and hopefully find love above this curse nonsense. 

Throughout this time, the youngest  and supposed source of the curse, Verity is subject to terrible visions of how her sisters perished, including those who passed before she was even born. She is haunted by the ghosts of these girls and draws her visions in disturbing clarity in a sketchbook, which she shows to Annaleigh. Shortly after being exposed to this Annaleigh begins seeing the ghosts too, as well as other terrifying apparitions. 

Still longing to find love and leave the Estate, the sisters and their childhood friend Fisher hatch a plan to find a secret door within the shrine to Pontus, the island’s deity. Upon entering this door Fisher finds himself in a faraway land that he’d been thinking of as he stepped through. He comes back with invitations to a ball, an offer too bright for the girls to resist. 

The girls begin using this door to transport themselves to faraway lands and spend the nights dancing at parties so decadent that they believe none could outshine the last. Each morning they awaken exhausted, believing that they’d danced the night away. Their shoes, a whimsical delicate leather slipper made for the coming out party begin to deteriorate. Undeterred by this, they begin to wear out any shoes they can get their feet into, including shoes belonging to their mother. 

Annaleigh begins to feel uncomfortable with this evening practice, and begins abstaining from the dancing, leading to her being visited more than ever by the ghosts and other unpleasant visions. As the winter solstice and the Churning celebrations approach, only Camille, the oldest and heiress, continues attending. 

The Churning dawns and brings with it a slew of men eager to take a blessing for a kind winter. Enter Cassius. Cassius is this tale’s tall, dark, and handsome Prince Charming. Having met Cassius earlier in the story, and encountered him a few times in the interim, Annaleigh is surprised to see him attending. They fall in love over the course of the story, despite her wondering if this mysterious, beautiful man is the source of their family’s grief. 

During the Churning celebrations Cassius finds Annaleigh trapped in the solarium, chased there by her nightmares, and they vow to find out what’s haunting the family before any of the remaining sisters can be harmed. Annaleigh accompanies Camille to another ball, hoping to find the answers to the mystery there. Instead what she finds is that these glamorous parties and elaborate feasts are just farce. The glamor peels away as she stands there horrified, seeing a layered cake turn to a dead sea turtle, the punches turned to chum. 

But when she awakens from this nightmare, a new one begins. There was no door in the shrine, there were no parties, just girls possessed and dancing in their rooms. The mystery unravels and Annaleigh is thrust into a race against time to keep the curse from spreading and taking every last one of the family. Tragedy strikes leaving only Annaleigh and the remaining five sisters to start their lives anew on the island. 


All in all, this book was a fantastic read. Though it was a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, it read like a marriage of the YA of old, like Meg Cabot’s “Mediator” series, with touches of the darkness found in Holly Black’s “Modern Faerie” Trilogy and staple tales like “The Secret Garden”. 

The romance was believable and the love interest helped the protagonist towards her goal instead of impeding it, or stomping on her ideas in favor of his own. Despite his being a demigod, he is still limited in many ways by his mortality and I think it was done well up until the epilogue. But even then, while that is an element of YA fantasy that I am not fond of, others are. It was written for them, and I respect that. 

Each character is lovingly written in a way that allows you to imagine them interacting with each other outside of the narrative just the same. The storylines between them unfold so naturally that you are often just as shocked by plot developments as the characters themselves. The icy cold feeling of betrayal as Annaleigh realizes that Morella was the source of their nightmare from the beginning is just so visceral. The strength and restraint Annaleigh shows in not granting Morella a swift death, it just makes me shake my fist and go YESSS!

The landscapes of this book are all so well thought out, again, you could paint a mental picture of them so clearly that you could taste the salt and feel the sand. It is truly a wonderful book. It well exceeded any of my expectations, and I look forward to reading this author’s future works. 

If you’d like to purchase your own copy of this book, check your local indie, or use my affiliate link here.

To Subscribe to Owlcrate, where I received this lovely book from, click here!

August 2019 OwlCrate Review

For those who do not know, OwlCrate is a monthly curated YA book box. They bring you bookish goodies, one signed and often special edition copy of the book, and a slew of really cool extras like bookmarks and letters from the author. 

This month’s theme was “The Storms and Seas”, and both the book and the goods were well worth the $29.99 subscription fee. 

I went into this box really not knowing what to expect because I have conflicting thoughts about the state of YA at the moment. I figured I’d get stuck with things I didn’t want a la the Lootcrate Fiasco of 2014-2016. From the moment I opened the box, however, I was in LOVE.  Spoilers ahead for the August 2019 OwlCrate! You have been warned!

The box came packed so well that not a single bit of tissue was out of place and each and every thing in the box was gorgeous!

Let’s start with the enamel pin. This month’s enamel pin was sourced from Laserbrain Patch Co, a lovely company with a subscription service of their own, or a slew of purchasable goodies for those who don’t want to commit to surprises. The pin features the crest of the family in the theme’s book “House of Salt and Sorrows” as well as a glow in the dark lighthouse! This pin is absolutely stunning in-person and has a locking back, which is a perk for me because it will be adorning my partner’s nerdpunk vest. 

Next is a tin pencil case based on Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Scorpio Races”, which is just a lovely treat. It snaps really tightly closed and I think it will make an excellent addition to my travel crochet/cross stitch kit. 

The next item is a very cool engraved wooden bookmark that is almost too pretty to keep hidden in a book. I’m currently using it as a shelfminder when I take out books. The design on the bookmark is based on “Daughter of the Pirate King” by Tricia Levenseller

OwlCrate also included a really cool stamped metal lantern which can hold a single tealight. I am a bit of a mess when it comes to using those, so I’ll be opting to put a battery operated tealight in mine. 

This next inclusion was a bath salt mix that was straight out of my wildest dreams. I have always coveted things on The Soap Librarian’s website, and this was a perfect introduction to her product. It is an absolutely divine beachy mix of florals and savory notes that really make you want to soak in it for hours. 

Now you may notice something from the first picture is missing. That would be the absolutely amazing Sea Witch tea from Riddle’s Tea Shoppe. This tea was so fantastic that my partner and I polished it off on the first day. It was such a robust blend of spices and bergamot, which gave it so much body that it was almost like drinking a scone.

The real showstopper in this month’s crate is the book. This book is FANTASTIC. As of writing this I am only about 50% through it, but so far it is absolutely gripping. I was not familiar with the source fairytale, but that has not impeded my enjoyment of this story in the slightest. I will pen a proper review when I have completed it, because I do not believe I am far enough to give a constructive review that isn’t just blubbering about how much I love it. 

The book itself looks absolutely stunning. The exclusive cover is a shade brighter than the retail one, which to me adds a touch of whimsy. 

All in all I find myself completely satisfied with the contents of this month’s OwlCrate. Each item has a place in my home and my life that isn’t shoved aside or hastily gifted to a friend, and each piece adds to the mood and ambiance of the book. The accompanying pieces also gave me a few new recommendations for my TBR. 

If you’d like to get your hands on this month’s crate, head on over to OwlCrate

If you’d like to sign up, do your friendly neighborhood witch a favor and use my referral link here