Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Happy Book Birthday Review & Interview: Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

Hello, my lovely readers. Today I'm posting to wish a very happy book birthday to Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan, which releases today from Disney-Hyperion! Hillary was awesome enough to stop by and answer some of my questions. So, without further ado, let's get bookish!


Thanks so much for taking time to answer some questions! Mary: The Summoning is a book that weaves together history and the present to make a ghost story come to life. Did a lot of research go into the writing of this book?

To a point, especially since the first iteration of MARY was historical. The original story had five chapters of present time and then Mary dragged Shauna through the mirror into Mary's time and world. The letters are essentially the cliff notes version of that draft.

One thing I remember from writing the original story was learning how to defeather a chicken. You boil the chicken corpse to loosen the feathers so you can shuck it. It's apparently the worst smell in the world. Who knew?

You see? Who says you don't learn things on Bitches n Prose. Now, Mary thrives on the fears of her victims. What is your biggest fear?

I am terrified of snakes and heights, but mostly snakes. Whenever I'm anxious, I have nightmares of enormous snakes that are fifty trillion feet long and bitey. It's unpleasant!

I'm with you on heights- in airplanes especially. If I'm reading correctly, Mary: The Summoning is your debut YA novel. What other genres do you write? Was it hard to transition to writing for a younger audience?

I started with a younger audience and have lingered there. I was a voracious reader as a kid so I write what I would have loved. My next book, THE AWESOME, is another YA that's paranormal comedy (under the name Eva Darrows and out 5/26.) I find my bread and butter are two extremes—scares or laughs. I like those reactions that come from our reptilian brains.

Shauna and her friends don't really believe in the Bloody Mary story at first. Do you believe in ghosts?

I think so? I really want to but I have a skeptic's brain that tells me it's silly. I did live in a house that was built in the 1700s so if anything makes me slant toward yes, it'd be that house. We had to clean out the urns in the attic the first week we moved in.

Mary approaches her hauntings by making herself known in mirrors and reflections. Is there a specific item that you would want to haunt?

Well, if we go with the trope of haunting our best-loved stuff, I'd probably inhabit a basset hound or a computer. That makes me a fairly ineffectual ghost.

Ineffectual, maybe, but that at least you would be adorable. The four girls that make up the main characters in this book are each unique, but still remain friends. Are any of these characters based on people in your life?

Anna's the most like me, and the character of Kitty was loosely based on someone who'd annoyed me when I'd written the first iteration of the book. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to admit that part or not.

It's okay. I won't tell them. One of the adventures these girls face is visiting an old church. Have you ever visited somewhere that was thought to be haunted? What did you experience?

My old house had some very odd things happen. Weird noises, the dogs used to sit at the foot of the stairs and growl up at nothing on the second story. It didn't help that the woman who inhabited the house before my family left an audio recording telling us that if we heard footsteps or children laughing in the night, not to worry—it was just Mrs. Keeler coming back to the home she always loved.

It scared the hell out of me as a kid.

Funny aside with that? She's buried in the same cemetery as my grandparents. When we went up to attend to my grandfather's headstone, we stopped by Mrs. Keeler's plot and her epitaph is "Goodbye, For Now." She was pretty much the creepiest!

My inner-East Coast is going to come out for a second. That is wicked creepy. And speaking of things that go bump in the night, it's a dark and dreary October night, one that is perfect for staying in with some popcorn and a movie. What's playing on your TV?

Behind the Mask, The Rise of Leslie Vernon if I want some spooks and laughs. If I just want to climb the walls and be terrified? The Exorcist, The Ring, or the Japanese version of The Grudge.

*shudder* the Japanese one is so much creepier. Were you always interested in horror stories? Is there a favorite ghost story you used to share, or a favorite spooky read that you remember?

I read a whole lot of Christopher Pike when I was a wee Hillary. A well-loved copy of SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK occupied my shelf. Then I made a massive leap over to Stephen King with THE SHINING and it was all downhill from there. I've had a love of the genre since I can remember.

Excellent authors. I loved Christopher Pike when I was younger too, the one I remember most being Chain Letter. The Summoning is only the beginning. Can you tell me a little about the next book? Do you have any other projects in the works?

The next book takes the characters back to Solomon's Folly to uncover the last of Mary's origin and to "handle" Mary permanently, for better or worse.

Ahhhh I'm so excited. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me and I cannot WAIT to read the next book!

Synopsis via Goodreads:

There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her.

Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them--Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna--must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go.

A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: "Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY." A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror.

Once is not enough, though--at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary's wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered.

A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary--and Jess--before it's too late?

You can buy a copy for yourself by clicking here.


Title: MARY: The Summoning (Bloody Mary #1)
Author: Hillary Monahan
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 2, 2014
Source: Netgalley & Disney-Hyperion


Five stars.


I have to say, I positively adored this book. I am a lover of all things creepy and crawly, especially when it comes to young adult books. I am happy to say that Mary: The Summoning offered everything I look for in a ghost story, wrapped up in one little book.

Before I even get to the meat of the text, I have to mention how much I love this cover. It's what initially drew my attention in, and I have to say it really captures what the book is about. I would hang that poster up on my wall (and then forget it was there, and promptly give myself a heart attack).

This book follows closely a group of four friends who accidentally summon Bloody Mary. What really made me enjoy this book was in fact the character. Each of the four friends has a distinct personality. They all had strengths and weaknesses and their own agendas, but they all gelled when they needed to. I thought that the friendships seemed genuine and true-to-life. And then there's Mary. Holy hell, Mary. I'm trying not to swear *too* much as it is a kids' book. but Oh. My. God. She is creepy. She's also got her own history to her that we learn based off of letters she wrote to her sister. Being a history nerd, I loved this aspect, and I really liked learning how Mary got shaped into what she is.

Now let's talk about the creepy factor. It wasn't the kind of scary that made me stay up for days. However, it was the kind of gory, squeamish kind of scary that throws me back to the good ole days of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series. There's a lot of blood, oozing sores, crawling black beetles, and murky dark water with lord knows what living inside of it. As I mentioned earlier, Mary only manifests in reflections. THIS IS A LOT OF THINGS YOU GUYS. You think, oh, okay, so no windows or mirrors. But there is so much more than that. When I was reading this, I had to walk down the dorm hall to the community bathroom my floor shares. There are shiny things everywhere. From shower heads to the handle that flushes toilets and the key panels on my door and the super waxed floors. Wow guys, Mary could haunt us something fierce. I admit, I may have tried to get a glimpse more than once.

The pacing was good and the descriptions were remarkably vivid to all of the senses. You could see, taste, and smell what Shauna was going through, and believe you me it is not always pleasant.

I mentioned that I liked the realism of the four friends. I also liked the relatable premise of the plot. And no, I don't mean that we all have almost died at the hands of the ghost. But I do know that in at least my childhood, playing Bloody Mary was super common at sleepovers. It's right up there with Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board and Ouija boards. It's just a game that makes no sense and that no one really wants to play except for the cool girl (Jess in the book, Brittany in my own life) and so you play it because you want her to think you're way cooler than you are and even though NOTHING HAPPENS AT ALL you are still afraid of your shadow for a month.

....Or is that just me?

I loved this book. I think it's a great book for the young adult age group, provided the reader can handle the blood and ghosts. Fans of the Goosebumps series I feel would really enjoy this one. This is book one, so there's a bit of a cliffhanger ending. Be prepared for that. Thanks so much to Netgalley & Disney-Hyperion for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


  1. I loved the interview here, what a great book birthday celebration! I definitely need to get my hands on a copy for myself, it looks right up my alley!

  2. Damn! I knew this book would be good. I should have requested it too! Thanks for the lovely review and interview. *goes to buy the book*

  3. Love this interview. I am terrified of Bloody Mary. Partly because she was the subject of the scariest episode of Supernatural ever.

    1. Ahhhh yes, I remember that. I was actually in a video parody of it once in high school lol