Book Review: Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

‘Someone or multiple someones are intentionally rewriting history,’ Alice says. 
‘And keeping the Titanic stuck in time before its sinking,’ Susannah says.” – p. 249

Haunting the Deep (Knopf, 2017) is the sequel to How to Hang a Witch by #1 NYT bestselling YA author, Adriana Mather. In Mather’s second YA paranormal thriller, we pick up six months after the ending of How to Hang a Witch. It’s spring time, and Samantha Mather has been avoiding magic and the Descendants of the Salem witches, ever since they were all almost hanged to death.

…they’re descended from the accused Salem witches and I’m descended from the stodgy Puritan minister, Cotton Mather, who hanged them.” – p. 6

But the Descendants need Sam as part of their circle now, especially since Alice and Susannah have been receiving psychic warnings about something bad about to happen in Salem – again. This time, it accompanies Salem High’s upcoming Spring Fling dance, which is Titanic-themed. At the same time, and perhaps not coincidentally, Sam begins receiving mysterious packages by a long-dead relative who survived the sinking of the Titanic. When she touches the enchanted objects, she is transported to a strange alternate replica of the ship on the days before it sank, where the doomed passengers are all enjoying themselves, and Sam herself begins to forget who she really is.  Only when Alice points out that these enchantments not only endanger Sam but other people does Sam finally agree to join their circle and embrace her magical gifts to help save the day once more.

The best part about this book, in my opinion, is that we got way more of the teen witches: Alice, Mary, and Susannah. I felt they were a bit underutilized in the previous book, so I was delighted this book centered more on them and their coven sisterhood with Sam. We also finally get to meet Sam’s father, and Jaxon’s character takes a backseat to some strange magic while we have the return of the seventeenth-century spirit whom Sam’s in love with, Elijah. But the second-best part about the book are the enchanted objects and the creepy revisits to the Titanic, where Sam plays the role of an Edwardian young lady courting a young man. IMO, Mather should really try her hand at writing full historical fiction (with paranormal elements, of course), as the historical scenes were thoroughly engaging and – dare I say? – even better written than the contemporary ones.

I adore how Mather gave a voice to the immigrants and third-class passengers who didn’t survive the ship’s tragic fate. Also, I love the way she wrote their Irish accents; I could hear them so clearly in my head. The idea of putting on a dress and being transported into another iconic time and place is such a fascinating concept to me; I could read a whole series about that alone. Given everything I loved about it, there were a few things I would’ve wanted a deeper explanation for. Namely, it wasn’t entirely clear why the perpetrator (not spoiling who!) wanted Sam to stay on the Titanic with them. I get why they needed her to summon someone else (again, no spoilers), but why try to keep Sam there, deluded, on the ship forever too? That part didn’t seem to be explained. But maybe it was and I was just reading too fast because I was too excited to see what would happen next.

Above all, the world-building in this series so far has made me a fan. The many ways spells can work in this world, such as through potions, writing, ritual, or enchanted artifacts, keeps the stories creative and fresh. I really hope Adriana Mather is working on a third book in this series, as I can’t wait to see where she’ll transport us next. I’ll be the first in line to go with her!

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Memorable Quotes

“‘…stop judging magic and get over yourself.‘” – Alice, p. 43

‘You’re not allowed to try to fix me. I’m not broken.’” – Sam, p. 234

I’m here worrying about having to go to the Titanic as a first-class passenger with tea and parasols; meanwhile, some of those passengers have probably been locked in steerage for the better part of a century.” – p. 242

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This YA book was not what I was expecting! At least not when it started. I’d seen it on shelves for years, but I think I was expecting a haunted orphanage, third-person sort of fairy tale. When I began reading, I wasn’t prepared for as lovably flawed of a narrator as Jacob Portman, a wealthy Florida teenager who’s trying to get fired from his job. The writing was excellent and the book was, to steal a word from author Aimee Easterling, unputdownable. I was addicted to the story about the strange photographs of creepy children Jake’s grandfather kept, and how Jake witnesses his grandpa’s grisly and mysterious death, and especially his therapy sessions with Dr. Golan, after which Jake and his dad agree to visit the Welsh island of Cairnholm where Jake’s grandfather had once lived as a WWII child refugee.

Riggs’s writing is some of the best I’ve read. The book is enhanced by dozens of strange photographs procured by the author, which help the story unfold and come to life. In the second act, things take a turn for the wackier when Jake discovers a time loop in a cairn and is transported back to September 3, 1940. There, he meets Miss Peregrine -a Minerva McGonagall type of headmistress – and the same peculiar children, all with superhuman powers, from his grandpa’s photographs. This includes the feisty Emma, who was once his grandpa’s sweetheart, but who now has eyes for Jake. The witty dialogue, old-fashioned figures of speech, and U.K. slang really stood out among the new cast of characters, to the point where I felt I could really hear the kids speaking in their accents, each in his or her own unique voice.

I was fairly obsessed with the majority of the novel, until I came to the third act, and it began to play out more like an average YA fantasy novel. I had been more intrigued when Jake was straddling his real, present world and the time-loop world; but once we plunged into the full-fledged peculiarverse, I was ready for a resolution. I don’t plan on finishing this series soon, but I can see why this book is so acclaimed. Ransom Riggs writes with phenomenal skill!

Memorable Quotes

“‘They may love you,’ she whispered, ‘but they’ll never understand.'” – p. 263

“Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize that we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries – but not until now had I realized how full of them earth was.” – p. 338