HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins is best described as a smash-up between British TV series Hex (new witch in school, lesbian roommate) and The Worst Witch (new witch in school, means well but can’t control her powers), with just a dash of Harry Potter/Luke Skywalker (we’re not always who or what we believe ourselves to be).
So what does HEX HALL have besides a slightly recycled premise with a Disney imprint? Wit, intelligence and charm, a fast moving plot with a unique spin and a protagonist you can’t help but love. When a spell meant to help a friend goes awry, Sophie Mercer is sent to a reform school for prodigium (“Just a fancy Latin word for monsters.”) Sophie’s self-deprecating humor, intelligence and good intentions are irresistible. The ancillary characters are just as real. Pretty strange when you consider they’re shapeshifters, fae, vampires and witches. This is the first in a series by Hawkins. Can’t wait for book 2.

★★★ Next up, THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. I’m not sure what to say that hasn’t already been said. THE BOOK THIEF is a book about life, and who better to narrate a tale about life, than Death? Set in Nazi Germany, it is the story of orphaned Liesel Meminger, book thief, lover of words, humanist, friend. Food is scarce, there are daily bombings, and Liesel’s foster family risks everything, to hide a Jew in their basement. THE BOOK THIEF is about struggle, about doing what is right, but it’s also about books and their power to lift us and offer solace. Zusak’s writing is magnificent. His characters breathe on the page, so much so that when the worst happens … well, let’s just say I was moved to tears more than once, and I’m not the weepy type. But there is much joy here, too. I’ve added THE BOOK THIEF to my list of favorite books, the first addition in nearly eight years.