When I Was YA: The Jessica Darling Series

Once upon a time, in the early 2000s, the YA genre was pretty limited. We had decades old Judy Blume books (which I am not knocking FYI), the saccharinely tragic love stories of Lurlene McDaniel (I never got to read them because they were always checked out) a few soapy series that put Gossip Girl to shame, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, (which wasn’t even shelved as YA at the time) and the magically pretentious works of Francesca Lia Block.

I read them all—except of McDaniel—with abandon, but I never saw myself on those pages. All of the teens were too worldly, too pretty, too troubled, too tragic etc. I never saw honestly rendered awkwardness, or anxiety, or anyone who ever seemed even a little bit real in those YA novels. That is, until I met the awesome Jessica Darling.

I recently started rereading these books and while, if I stumbled across them today there is a distinct chance that I wouldn’t like them (they’re kind of problematic…or like really problematic), I read them first at a time when I deeply connected with Jessica Darling. I mean I too had a best friend move away in high school, leaving me to form superficial connections with far inferior “social survival friends”. I also had a Marcus Flutie type dude who top up too much of my brain. But mostly I felt a kinship with Jess because like her, I overthink everything. In short the premise of the books was relatable AF.

The Jessica Darling series written by Megan McCafferty, (who’s also written the pretty interesting dystopian YA series Bumped/Thumped) introduces the world to Jessica Darling a clever, funny, moody, and definitely not always nice sixteen year old dealing with the devastation of her best friend moving away right in the middle of high school, the ups and downs of her feelings for her complicated first love, and her endlessly frustrating family.

I loved (and still love) Jessica because she’s real to me. She’s not “troubled”, but she is deeply flawed and tartly funny. Her problems are the same ones that many teens/young adults go through. It’s her approach to the world that makes her special rather than her circumstances. Her “adventures” are commonplace and everyday. Her friends and family are exaggerated in such an honest adolescent way which makes them hilarious and charming to the reader.

Very little in this series rings false which is why it’s such a powerful time machine for me. As a relic of the early 2000s it lacks the ubiquity of cellphones (Hope and Jessica email each other quite a lot, but very little if any cellphone action) we see today, that and references to Y2K really remind me of my teen years. But ultimately it’s the honesty and humor of the writing brings me back to when I was that age and that time in my life.

McCafferty treated her devoted readers to five installments that took Jessica from a teen in high school to a young adult dealing with her first job out of college. All the while she struggles with her family, friends, relationships and life in general in a way that while familiar is fun and engaging.

Today young adults and teens have a wide variety of unique characters and interesting impactful stories to choose from, but take it from one of your elders (me… I’m an old): READ THIS SERIES.

Seriously, go read… You, Yes You.


5 Haunted House Novels to Read when You’re Home Alone

I have always been a sucker for a good old haunted house. I have and will continue to watch haunted house movies, take haunted house tours, read haunted house books and secretly harbor the belief that my own house is probably a little haunted. In my mind there is nothing more terrifying than the feeling—however fleeting—that something has violated your safe space and turned it into something menacing. That being said I LOVE that shiver of terror. A haunted house, while scary, is such an elegant monster.So without further a-boo (see what I did there?) let’s countdown my Five Haunted House Novels to Read When You’re Home Alone!


White is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. Lily is gone and her twins, Miranda and Eliot, and her husband, the gentle Luc, mourn her absence with unspoken intensity. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. Generations of women inhabit its walls. And Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. She is leaving them slowly -
Slipping away from them -
And when one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story.
”Miri I conjure you ”

I’m in love with this novel. I love that the house itself is one of the narrators (the cruel, terrifying one). It draws from the Gothic tradition in many familiar ways (family curse, motherlessness, haunted, isolated house, tormented young woman) and deviates or innovates in others (multiple narrators—including the house, LGBT+ themes and again THE HOUSE is telling its own story). Oyeyemi is an artist when it comes to drafting that unsettled feeling at the base of your spine (see Mr.Fox and Boy, Snow, Bird for prime examples of her elegant unease).

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Past the rusted gates

And untrimmed hedges,

Hill House broods and waits…

Is Hill House haunted, or is it just Eleanor? True to form, Jackson gives us a tale where the answer to that question lies tantalizingly out of reach. The Haunting of Hill House has all the hallmarks of a classic haunter house story: unexplained noises, doors that shut by themselves, isolated and disorienting grounds, a nasty reputation among the locals, and that unshakeable uneasy feeling of something not quite right in the air. All that and more draws a scholar of the occult and his team of volunteers (his assistant, lonely Eleanor, and Hill House’s heir) to the foreboding Hill House. As unexplainable events unfold and fear grips and releases the guests one of them is affected more than the others and the house—or rather Ms. Jackson—toys with the reader as to what the source could be.

Reading Shirley Jackson is a perverse joy. I am obsessed with the fact that even her most haunting and terrifying stories don’t draw their real terror from the supernatural, but rather from the monsters lurking inside of us. I’ve read The Haunting of Hill House four times, and I’m still not sure who/what is really doing the haunting. And that definitely gives me the chills. 

 Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse have just moved into the Bramford, a stately old New York apartment building, with a bit of a reputation, but old buildings are full of history and not all of it can be good. Undeterred by its sinister image and its strange elderly residents, the Woodhouses tackle the ups and downs of being a young married couple. Namely, Rosemary sets up house, and Guy attempts to get work as an actor in a city with no shortage of talents leading man types. But things take a turn when Guy gets friendly with their senior neighbors Roman and Minnie Castavet; Guy lands a great part, and Rosemary get pregnant. With Guy off at work, Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated with only her eccentric neighbors for company and a growing sense of dread about their interest in her baby.

So, yes I know. It’s not technically a haunted house story, but Rosemary’s Baby draws on that theme of the sacred space being violated by sinister forces. In this case both the safety of Rosemary’s house and her body become compromised by forces she cannot control nor truly understand without going mad. I love this book because it makes me feel unsafe, which I think is a great thing for a book to do. I worry terribly for Rosemary, I know that nothing is going to save her in any way that won’t scar her forever. It’s riveting, and every time I read it I am transported back to my original terrified reading as I sat on the floor of MY haunted apartment building’s laundry room floor.

Time Windows by Kathryn Reiss

The new cover of this book might inadvertently scarier than the novel itself.

It’s been an incredibly long time since I read this book, so long in fact that I can swear it had a different title when I read it in elementary school. I don’t have a brilliant enough memory to come up with an original plot description so I have to rely on the back of the book.

When Miranda moves with her family to an old hose in a small Massachusetts town, she discovers an antique dollhouse the duplicates her new home in miniature. Looking through the dollhouse windows, she is shocked to see scene from the tragic lives of the real hose’s past inhabitants. She soon realizes that her home is exerting an evil power over the women who live there. And even worse, Miranda’s own mother is succumbing to its influence! Miranda must find the key to unlock the past and so release the house from its spell. But doing so means Miranda must relive one of those terrifying dollhouse scenes.

I don’t remember much about this book, accept that I was terrified. I remember the very real fear I felt reading it during a thunderstorm by flashlight. I have read many books since then and can remember many of their plots and characters, but very few do I solely remember by emotional recall.

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

From the Dover Thrift Edition: Built over an unquiet grave, the House of the Seven Gables carries a dying man’s curse that blights the lives of its residents for over two centuries. Now Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon, an iron-hearted hypocrite and intellectual heir to the mansion’s unscrupulous founder, is attempting to railroad a pair of his elderly relatives out of the house. Only two young people stand in his way — a visiting country cousin and an enigmatic boarder skilled in mesmerism.

I had every intention of writing this entire post about The House of the Seven Gables, but everything I wrote came off sounding like one of my old grad school papers. So, I scrapped it. But this is my all time favorite haunted house novel. I love it because not only do I love a good creepy read, but I love Nathaniel Hawthorne and how his works often reach back into the real past of America’s early days only to come back with filthy hands. Hawthorne himself was haunted by his family’s involvement in the Salem Witch Trials (his ancestor was Judge John Hathorne, the only Witch Trial judge not to repent his role in the deaths of 20 innocent people. Hawthorne even changed his name—adding the ’w’—to distance himself from said relative) nearly 200 years after the fact. The House of the Seven Gables among many of his other works deals with the long shadow that ugly chapter casts in the United States. It is not only a story of spectral ghosts and magic curses, but of the ghosts of the cruelty normal human beings are capable of that poisons the wells of history for generations. It’s chilling in a very real way, because under the surface it’s absolutely real.

So there you have it, a whole neighborhood of my favorite haunted houses, feel free to trick or treat there this weekend!

Let me know what your favorite haunted houses are in the comments, on facebook, or instagram

Unboxing: September Uppercase 

As you may remember, Owlcrate’s September box theme (Mythical Creatures) didn’t appeal to me at all and I opted to skip this month with them. 

But I didn’t want to go a month without a box…especially my birthday month (more on that later) so I opted to try out Uppercase this month, and I was not disappointed!

First of all, how effin’ cute is the packaging?! It’s not bulky and doesn’t take up space in the way other boxes do. I mean I can’t be the only one who for some reason takes forever to throw out boxes, can I?

Inside the cute bag are delightful little treasures!

  • A signed copy of Warcross by Marie Lu
  • A Warcross button
  • Hogwarts house crest coasters
  • An Uppercase exclusive “Book Queen” keychain 
  • An ALA Banned Book Week sticker 
  • A Reading Experience bookmark 

For the price (it’s one of the most affordable book subscription boxes) it’s a great buy! I’m really pleased with it, and actually can’t wait to read Warcross!

I’ll be back on Owlcrate next month for their “Meet Me in the Forest” theme, and I’m debating trying out LitCube’s “It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus” box.


So, I was supposed to write about my trip to seeing Moby Dick at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago… but time got away from me and all of a sudden it was July 31st, Harry Potter and JK Rowling’s birthday, and what kind of book blog would this be if I didn’t mark the occasion?

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Books and Movies

1. Favorite Book? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban I’m a sucker for the Marauders… especially Sirius and Remus so this book is my jam.

2. Least Favorite Book? Harry Potter and The Order of Phoenix I have reasons (Hagrid’s Tale, Sirius’ Death, Dumbledore, Cho Chang etc.) and I just… ugh I love so many parts of it that the bad parts make me angrier.

3. Favorite Movie? Deathly Hallows Pt 2

4. Least Favorite Movie? Prisoner of Azkaban


5. Favorite Quote? “When in doubt, go to the library.” …I may or may not be wearing a Harry Potter Alliance t-shirt that says just that at this very moment…

6. Favorite Weasley? Molly. No question. Molly Weasley is everything.

7. Favorite Female Character? Three way tie between Minerva McGonagall, Luna Lovegood and Molly Weasley

8. Favorite Villain? I don’t know if this counts, but Tom Riddle (not Voldemort) in Chamber of Secrets always gave me chills, a seductive, alienating villain. He was really well crafted. Umbridge is one for the ages… she’ll go down as one of the great villains of literary history.

9. Favorite Male Character? Another tie… four way Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Neville Longbottom and Arthur Weasley

10. Favorite Professor? McGonagall… hands down, no question

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Would You Rather?

11. Would you rather A) wash Snape’s hair or B) spend a day listening to Lockhart rant about himself? I’d rather listen to Lockhart rant about himself.  Snape is gross. And I could laugh about Lockhart later.

12.  Would you rather duel A) an elated Bellatrix or B) and angry Molly? Please… Bellatrix. Never cross Molly Weasley.

13. Would you rather travel to Hogwarts via A) Hogwarts Express or B) Flying Car? Why is this even a question? HOGWARTS EXPRESS! Harry and Ron didn’t want to take the flying car, they thought they had to. The Hogwarts Express is so cool! Magic, hanging out with friends, sweets trolley… so cool

14.  Would you rather A) Kiss Voldemort or B) give Umbridge a bubble bath? Give Umbridge a bubble bath… she’d probably be very uncomfortable with it… and maybe she might accidentally drown if I’m not paying close enough attention to her.

15. Would you rather A) ride a Hippogriff or B) ride a Firebolt? Neither. I’m scared of heights.


16. Is there a character you felt differently about in the movies? Yes. Hermione. I love book Hermione but the way she’s written in movies and  Emma Watson’s performance kind of ruins her for me. Ginny also suffers a similar fate. I actually like Seamus Finnegan more in the movies.

17.  Is there a movie you preferred to the book? Maybe Order of Phoenix depending on my mood.

18. Richard Harris or Michael Gambon as Dumbledore? I would have liked to see what Richard Harris would have done with the role if he had lived. But I think Gambon did a great job with a few exceptions (HARRYDIYOUPUTYERNAMEINTHEGOBLETOFFIRE)

19. Your top thing (person or event) that wasn’t in the movie that you wanted there the most? Well… SPEW would be high my list.  Meeting Neville’s parents would be another…um… I would have liked to see Potterwatch come into play more. I can’t really think of many off the top of my head because I think for the most part the movies are pretty good adaptations that cut what they did for reasonable reasons.

20. If you could remake any of the Harry Potter movies which would it be? Prisoner of Azkaban. 


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21. Which house was your first gut feeling you’d be a part of? Ravenclaw. I held no delusions about being in Gryffndor. I knew what I was.

22. Which house were you actually sorted into on Pottermore? Ravenclaw. Obviously.

23. Which class would be your favourite? Transfiguration, maybe History of Magic

24. Which spell do you think would be most useful to learn? Accio… or Lumos.

25. Which character do you think you’d instantly become friends with? Luna or Neville or both.

26. If you could own one of the three Hallows, which would it be? Cloak of Invisibility. If I had access to the Hallows I think I’d know the story and know which one didn’t end up with me dead.

27.  Is there any aspect of the books you’d want to change? I would love to see Hermione be canonically black, and a lot more explicit, obvious diversity at Hogwarts. Also, Harry… do NOT name your kid after Dumbledore and Snape… any of his father figures or friends deserve the honor more Remus, Arthur, Rubeus, Neville… hell even Dobby showed him more love, loyalty and friendship… name your son after Dobby.

28.  Favorite Marauder? Well, logically, I say Remus, because he is good and kind, and smart… and a lot of honorable wonderful things. But I’m always going to be Sirius Black’s girl…

29.  If you could bring one character back to life, which would it be? Fred. Come on, now. Fred didn’t deserve to die and the Weasley’s didn’t deserve to lose him.

30. Hallows or Horcruxes? Hallows… I’m not interested in murdering anyone.

There you have it! Happy Birthday JK and Harry, thanks for all the magic!

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Book Quirk Confession: Favorite BOOK

This is a preface to a longer bit coming tomorrow about my trip to see Moby Dick at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago.

I’m the kind of girl who has a favorite edition of her favorite book. The 2003 Dover Giant Thrift Edition of Moby-Dick is my favorite one to read. It fits my hands perfectly, the type isn’t too small, the paper is sturdy, I love the color blue it is. I wrote my first draft of my MA thesis using this book. It’s been across the country with me. I own MANY copies of this book, but this is the one I read and reread. I love it.

Getting to Know the Girl in the Garret aka The Newbie Book Blogger Tag!


Real Name: Katy Alice
Favorite Books: Moby-Dick,American Gods and The Night Circus

Explain the Blog’s Name: Well, as I mentioned in my first post I took the ‘Garret’ idea from Jo March’s attic hideaway in Little Women. As for why I chose the ‘Girl’ part when I am more of the age to be called a “woman”… well it’s because it’s alliterative and rolls off the tongue better. Also, I have no problem with the word girl. I know that makes me controversial in some of the feminist circles I run in, but you see, I don’t see anything inherently pejorative or wrong with being a girl and therefor I don’t see anything wrong with calling myself a girl regardless of my age.


While I’m not exactly a fresh hand at the old book blogging game, this is my first real attempt at running one on my own. So, I figured I’d give the tag a try. Without any further ado, let’s get to it!

Image result for belle in the bookstore
           Why did you start this blog?
Because my blogging home of two years closed at the end of May, and I’ve grown accustomed to having a voice in the online book community. Also, I don’t have many people in my immediately social circle with whom I can chat about books, and I like having an outlet for my ramblings. Also, I just got a job at a public library and I need to tune up my RA skills (that’s Readers’ Advisory) with a little one-sided bookchatting.
        What are some fun and unique things you can bring to book blogging?
Well, I tend to bring a slightly more academic feminist read to popular fiction than the casual blogger based on my education background–it’s more of a bad style habit than anything else… I never learned to turn the student part of my brain off. And I am not shy about sharing my honest opinions of books in reviews even if they are not flattering. But if I’m being REALLY honest the only truly unique thing I bring to book blogging is me, my perspective and particular love of books and the bookish community.
 What are you most excited for about this new blog?
I’m excited about  just getting to be the primary voice on this blog. While I loved blogging for The Bookish Blog, I was part of a staff and that meant keeping with a certain tone. I was never told to keep my politics and beliefs to myself, I felt compelled to because the tone of the site in general was pretty light, and I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. But THIS is my blog and I’m the only one I have to answer to… so that’s pretty exciting.
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Hermione Reading before Bed by Lincevioleta.deviantart.com on @deviantART
 Why do you love reading?
Geez… that’s a loaded question. What’s not to love about reading? I guess I first loved
reading because I learned how to very early and was always praised for it, so it became kind of my thing. I was the bookworm of my family/neighborhood/friend group. I was Belle and Jo and Matilda and Hermione and that identity meant and means a great deal to me. I continue to love reading because I’m a touch socially awkward and overly cautious in the real world, but in my books I can be absolutely anyone, go anywhere and do anything. Reading takes me away from me, but it also teaches me about myself in surprising ways. It’s just my very favorite thing.
         What book or series got you into reading?
My mom read Little Women with me when I was five (she read it to me when I was home sick for two weeks with scarlatina aka Scarlet Fever which isn’t a genius idea if you’re familiar with that particular novel, but that’s another story for another time), but I probably really fell in love with reading when I read Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume, Matilda by Roald Dahl, and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I liked books about bold girls because I wasn’t and I learned how be brave from them… I sometimes think I should go back to those books and relearn some of those lessons.
         What questions would you ask your favorite authors?
How do you do it? How do you focus the ideas and make them come out story shaped? Do you ever lose your voice? How do you find it again? And I guess I’d asked them how they would write me as a character.
         What challenges do you think starting a blog will be the hardest to overcome?
Keeping up with it when I get busy or blocked. It’s the same thing that has plagued me every time I’ve tried to blog in the past. But in the past I’ve done kind of general lifestyle/personal blog things, so I think the specific book focus should help with that… that and I’ve got a backlog of old reviews/posts I can reshare when I’m feeling stuck.
         When did you start reading?
I learned to read when I was three (little things and picture books, I didn’t get into chapter books/novels until I was five or six) and it became part of my daily routine around that time.
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         Where do you read?
Anywhere, everywhere. I keep a book with me at all times. But I guess my favorite reading spots are in my bed and in the corner of my couch… I prefer quiet places.
       What kind of books do you like to read?
I prefer fiction of most stripes… I don’t really dig fantasy or Science Fiction. I also go through phases where all I want to read is Nonfiction. Soooooo I guess I read all kinds of books.


Well there you have it, a little bit about me! I’d love to learn about you, feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments!