Book Review: WinterWood


Enchanting is not an overstatement as a broad description of the prose in this book. Nora is the latest in a long line of witches that live in Wicker Woods. The connection with the Woods goes so deep they predate the very trees inside the forest. One day Nora runs into Oliver Huntsman in the woods. He went missing from the Camp for Wayward Boys two weeks ago, but here he is freezing in the woods as the most significant snowstorm of the winter season cuts them off from the small town nearby. Oliver should be dead after all that time in the woods alone. Why isn’t he? What happened out there?

The atmosphere in this story is just perfect for a winter read. I mean, all the answers are there at the start, but the reader doesn’t know it until the ending. During the story, you are just immersed in this woodsy winter realm, thinking that you know where the story is leading you. Maybe you get it at the start? Most likely, you’ll be surprised as I was to see it all come together at the end.

I truly felt like I was stranded in a mountain valley in the middle of winter, with an ancient perhaps malicious forest to one side and a bottomless lake to the other. If you like magical YA, this book is terrific. I’d compare it to The Hazelwood– which I also loved. If you want a plot with a slow burn- this is for you. Sidenote: Pretty sure this is the November OwlCrate selection.

November New Releases!

I’m linking to Goodreads for all these new release books. The main descriptions are courtesy of the publishers’. If I read an ARC I added my comments in bold.

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major-league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him. 

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys’ coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner-hero and win back the trust of his wife.
I loved this light, fun romance.
Be careful of the dark, dark wood . . .

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.
Winterwood is a fairy tale reminiscent of stories from long ago. I loved it!

Here are the books that I’m eagerly awaiting and so I copied the publisher blurbs for you:

The Guinevere Deception
There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?
It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.
The Toll
The publisher was militant about keeping the ending spoiler-free, hence the description itself not saying much at all.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.
The Starless Sea
I loved the writing in The Night Circus and so I have high hopes!
The dreamers walk among us . . . and so do the dreamed. Those who dream cannot stop dreaming – they can only try to control it. Those who are dreamed cannot have their own lives – they will sleep forever if their dreamers die.

And then there are those who are drawn to the dreamers. To use them. To trap them. To kill them before their dreams destroy us all.

Ronan Lynch is a dreamer. He can pull both curiosities and catastrophes out of his dreams and into his compromised reality.

Jordan Hennessy is a thief. The closer she comes to the dream object she is after, the more inextricably she becomes tied to it.

Carmen Farooq-Lane is a hunter. Her brother was a dreamer . . . and a killer. She has seen what dreaming can do to a person. And she has seen the damage that dreamers can do. But that is nothing compared to the destruction that is about to be unleashed. . .
Call Down The Hawk
The thrilling conclusion to The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black.
Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, comes the highly anticipated and jaw-dropping finale to The Folk of the Air trilogy.
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
The Deep
All’s fair in love and anarchy…

The epic conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s thrilling Renegades Trilogy finds Nova and Adrian struggling to keep their secret identities concealed while the battle rages on between their alter egos, their allies, and their greatest fears come to life. Secrets, lies, and betrayals are revealed as anarchy once again threatens to reclaim Gatlon City.
I just read Renegade so I’ve got to read Arch Enemies before I pick this one up.

Book Review: PumpkinHeads

Better than candy. Well, maybe not peanut butter cups. This short and sweet graphic novel takes place at a Pumpkin Patch, where Josie and Deja work each Halloween season. If you are trying to grab on to the last bit of Halloween magic, this is precisely the right book.

Next year they’ll both be at different colleges, but on this last night, they spend their time doing all the things they always meant to do together at the Farm.

It’s such cute and wholesome while at the same time effortlessly representing diversity, bisexuality, male/female friendship, consent, etc. as it should be.

The story is nothing that you can’t guess, and that’s part of its charm. It’s two teens at a Midwestern pumpkin farm doing the things teens do. It’s both touching and comical.

The art is fantastic, and you should read it with some spice cake and a Pumpkin Spiced Latte.

ARC Review: Safe Harbour

Safe Harbour is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year. Do I always say that? I feel like I say it too much, and yet if there is a cap to favorite books, I’ve to exceed that number.
Harbour’s story was both believable and heartwrenching. Even though things did not turn out as bleak as I had imagined, I still cried at the end. Fourteen-year-old Harbour is in Toronto with her dog alone. Her Dad dropped her off there and left her with some strict instructions to follow until he got back. He tells her that the government is looking for them and so she has to be extra cautious and suspicious of everyone she meets.
As you can imagine, she meets both good and bad people while she is living on the streets. The good being a librarian who helps her get a card and a kind social worker at a shelter. The bad are realistically bad, a guy who seems nice, but who is probably a sexual predator and some mentally ill homeless dudes. The story doesn’t gloss over the real problems of the homeless. Harbour and her street friends eat out of dumpsters and spend some cold nights outdoors.
The ending has a Box Car Children type ending, which, although it isn’t an ending that most teens would encounter, made a great ending for this fictional tale. All the loose ends were tied up — all in all, a book that will tug on your heartstrings. And maybe make you grateful for what you have.

You can pre-order it now prior to it’s November 16 release date.

Book Review: His Hideous Heart

This book appeared just in the knick of time. I planned an American poetry unit for this Winter and hoped to add something more- current? To our Poe readings. This collection is so much better than anything that I thought I was looking for. This anthology includes so many talented writers that I feel obligated to list them all in this review:

Dahlia Adler  (Editor), Kendare Blake  (Contributor), Rin Chupeco  (Contributor), Lamar Giles (Contributor), Tessa Gratton  (Contributor), Tiffany D. Jackson  (Contributor), Stephanie Kuehn  (Contributor), Amanda Lovelace (Contributor) , Marieke Nijkamp  (Contributor), Emily Lloyd-Jones  (Contributor), Hillary Monahan  (Contributor), Caleb Roehrig  (Contributor), Fran Wilde  (Contributor)

Both of the reimagined and original tales are both printed in this book. I think we’ll read the new version and then the original and do a compare/contrast type thing during our Literature Study.

All the stories stick the original horror type premise in a newly imagined sometimes modern twist. This is a high school book. I wouldn’t use it as a read-aloud for grade-schoolers unless you’ve previewed it ahead of time. It is excellent for older teens, though, lots of diversity and inclusion in the characters of these sometimes terrifying stories. My favorite was The Oval Filter (The Oval Portrait) by Lamar Giles. In this story, a college football star’s dead girlfriend shows up in his Instagram feed, which is scary enough. But also, she’s trapped in an oval filter that appears to be suffocating her behind the screen. The stories touch on some heavy themes, such as, Animal death, homophobia, suicide, implied transphobia, torture, misogyny, and substance abuse.

Most of the stories would fit perfectly into Black Mirror episodes. This book would be an excellent gift for the holidays. Teens/New Adults in your life will probably never pick up a book of Poe Tales unless it’s this one. I checked it out of the library and then promptly purchased it to keep in our home library.

Book Review: Spell on Wheels

This is another title that I chose after watching an OwlCrate Video. Those gals and I seem to have similar tastes in books. Luckily, it was available online from my library with no wait, and I was able to get immediate gratification. It’s the last of my non-Cybils reading for awhile.

Anyhow, if you are looking for a quick, fun graphic novel read that’s seasonably themed- look no further than this slightly, spooky title. This trade paperback collects the first five issues of Spell on Wheels. The story features three witches ( Andy, Jolene, and Claire)- normal girls with a healthy sense of boundaries as well as excellent fashion sense. 

We learn about the trio, their relationship with one another, and their magical abilities as we follow them on their journey.

The story begins with their house being burglarized, and then they go on a mission to get all their magic belongings back.

The thief is selling their stolen items. And their quest leads them all over as they track each piece down. At each location, they get more hints as to who the thief is and why he targeted them. The people they meet along the way are memorable in and of themselves. 

There are no throw-away characters here. We meet people from all walks of life. They are diverse in almost every way. There’s also feminist themes, a lot of humor, and it takes a dig at an emotionally abusive relationship while it supports positive relationships. 

After all the awesomeness in the storyline, it almost seems like you wouldn’t also get great art- but you do. Bonus points for realistic body types.

This title would be a great way to introduce a teen to graphic novels.

You can pick up a copy of this just about anywhere. Plus, there is a sequel which will be out in 2020!

Book Review: The History of the World in Fifty Dogs

I knew I’d love these essays. I’m a big fan of dogs and history, so I was enthusiastic about this book from the get-go. Then I got to this line:

“Good bois were all over Egypt- it’s Unde-NILE-able.”

I enjoy the right mix of internet punning with my history. Don’t be fooled by the cartoon appearance; this book is for teens. It turns out you can mix cute art, funny banter, and history in a book that YA readers can use as part of their studies.

We borrowed it from our library on release day. By the time I was halfway through reading it, I knew I’d be adding it to our homeschool reading list. The fifty essays are only a couple pages long each, but they are full of facts about dogs, the people who took care of them, and the period of history. I’d love to include this book as a spine for a World History course. It’s not quite enough on its own. But, paired with a good world history encyclopedia and some other interest-based nonfiction titles, and you could have a year of high school history.

The first chapter contains the origin of dogs’ domestication and ends with an essay about some breeds that are extinct now. Just about every significant civilization utilized dogs in some capacity and the way this reads, history comes alive through the dogs that we all love. What better way to get teens interested in historical events?

I’d give it one million stars if I could- engaging nonfiction is hard to find.