Sunday, September 24, 2017

Review: The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski

The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Pub. Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Source/Format: Library/Hardcover

"Do not travel from the paths. Do not linger after dark. Do not ignore the calling." Winter Parish is a descendent of a long line of guardians, whose duty is to protect the mystical wood behind her family's home from wandering travelers––people who step through thresholds in time either by accident or with the intent to reach another time altogether. Without the guardians, these travelers are in danger of becoming lost in a time that is not their own, or worse, being consumed by the wood itself. Winter's father has been training her since she was ten to become the new guardian in the Parish family line, but when he mysteriously disappears, Winter is left alone to guard the wood, all the while agonizing over what could have happened to her father. Two years later, Henry, a young man from eighteenth-century England, appears in Winter's wood with one purpose: to travel through the time thresholds to uncover what happened to his own missing parents. When it becomes clear that the disappearance of Winter's father and Henry's parents may be connected, the two work together to find their loved ones and defeat the growing evil that plagues the wood.

The Wood is an interesting contemporary fantasy novel linking time travel with a fairy tale–esque magical forest. I did enjoy the characters, especially the relationship between Winter and Henry, although they definitely did not have the whirlwind, passion-fueled romance you see in most YA books of this sort. I especially liked and even laughed out loud at Henry's reactions to modern technology, clothing, lingo, etc. As far as plot goes, though, I was little ... bored. The story takes place over the course of only a few days––with some flashbacks to when Winter was a young guardian-in-training––and everything seems to wrap up a little too neatly, and the "villain" is defeated a little too easily. I would've also liked it if the book had gone deeper into the folklore and origin story of the wood and also the Old Ones, the fae-like creatures who help the guardians in their mission to keep the wood safe and prevent travelers from interfering with the space-time continuum. It felt like we were given just enough information to make that fantasy world plausible but not enough to really make it come alive. Maybe I'm just not used to the pace of standalone books anymore, considering the majority of the books I read now are part of longer series, which gives the author more time to expand the plot and drum up suspense. While I enjoyed parts The Wood, it's probably not a book I'll come back to or one that I'll be shoving in people's faces and demanding that they read.

I'm trying something a little different with my rating system this time around, so we'll see if it sticks! I got the idea from a book journal my mom got me for my birthday this year, which, in addition to giving you space to write down your thoughts about the book and favorite quotes, has a section where you can rank different aspects of the book. I've chosen the three that have the biggest influence over whether a book becomes an instant fave, is just okay, or doesn't click with me.

If you've read The Wood too, I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My Fall TBR

There are so many awesome books I'm looking forward to reading this fall! 

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson – Eeep, this book comes out one week from today, and I am so excited, you guys! I have been absolutely dying to read AEOR ever since first seeing the gorgeous cover art by Charlie Bowater (who has done some equally fabulous art for the ACOTAR series, in case you didn't know). The premise sounds so magical, and I am totally ready to be swept up into another faerie fantasy world!

Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire – I've never read a Gregory Maguire book before, despite the popularity of Wicked, but I am really intrigued by Hiddensee, which promises to be an origin story of the toymaker Drosselmeier and the enchanted Nutcracker. I love The Nutcracker ballet––it's been one of my favorite Christmas traditions since I was a little girl––so I can't wait to read a new, perhaps more grown-up, version of that story.

Berserker by Emmy Laybourne – So many of the fall new releases this year have gorgeous covers, and Berserker is no exception. Even though this one sounds like it's a little outside my normally preferred genres (I'm not a huge fan of stories set in the Wild West), the mash-up of that world with Viking mythology certainly sounds original!

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston – I absolutely loved BBC's Victoria miniseries that was on TV earlier this year, so this alternative history novel about a descendant of Queen Victoria sounds pretty cool!

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli – I just added this book to my TBR today; up until now I'd avoided it because honestly ... I just really, really hate the cover. And for better or for worse, I am definitely a person for whom the cover plays a major factor in determining whether or not I pick up the book to read the summary. I know, I know, it's bad! But I'm old and set in my ways, haha. I probably wouldn't have looked into this book at all if I hadn't seen a giveaway for the ARC by chance on Twitter (they totally should've gone with the ARC cover; so much prettier!). Anyway, seeing the ARC was what finally made me decide to read the summary, and oh my gosh, this sounds so good!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – I finally snagged a paperback copy of this while checking out Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh before the Tower of Dawn event a couple weeks ago. It's been on my TBR list for a while, and I'm excited to read it, especially since I've been on a fairy tale retelling kick lately.

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody – I got this book as part of the July Unicorn Crate, but of course I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. But maybe that's for the best, because a story about a dark traveling circus sounds like the perfect October read!

The Falconer by Elizabeth May – Yes, the majority of the books on this list are about faeries. Your point? :P

The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins – ... or they're fairy tale retellings. Oh well!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell – Picked this up over the weekend when I went out to grab a copy of Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor. It was an impulse buy, because this book really hadn't been on my radar, but after reading the summary and finding out it was about time-traveling magicians, I decided to give it a try.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: What I Read as a College Freshman

For this week's topic, I had to do some digging through my Goodreads shelves to find out just what I was reading back in 2009 and 2010. The topic title is a bit misleading, as this list really encompasses some of my most memorable reads from the end of my senior year of high school through the end of my freshman year of college.

Oh, the fall of 2009. The Vampire Diaries had just started its first season, New Moon had just come out in theaters, and my obsession with YA paranormal romance was in full swing. Maggie Stiefavater and Cassandra Clare ranked high on my favorites list at the time.

To be honest, if it hadn't been for Stephenie Meyer, I probably never would have picked up The Hunger Games. Even after reading her praise for it, I was still pretty skeptical about whether or not it would be my kind of book. Boy, was I proven wrong! I read it over summer vacation before leaving for school and was hooked. The Road was another book that ended up surprising me with how much I enjoyed it ... though I'm not really sure enjoy is the right word. Can you really say you enjoyed a book that scared the absolute hell out of you? It was one of the books I read for my freshman intro to fiction class, one of the first classes I took that counted toward my English major, and it's stuck with me (not to mention given me nightmares) ever since.

As you can see, my last three picks don't fit neatly into one category. In between all the crazy dystopian and mythical creature-ridden worlds I was reading about, there were occasionally some that were more familiar. Going into freshman year of college, it had been my plan to major in English with a concentration in creative writing. So, in my attempt to learn more about how other writers did it, one of the books I read was Stephen King's On Writing. It's an interesting look into not only his writing process but his life as well, and I recommend it even if, like me, you're not a Stephen King super fan. I'm still haunted by his description of the procedure his doctor performed on him as kid to try to rid him of ear infections. *shudders*

When I wasn't reading about vampires, werewolves, or demon hunters, you could usually find me reading a Jodi Picoult book. I loved the way she wove so many characters' stories together, and I read quite a few of her books the summer before I went off to college. Once of the last books I read and loved that summer was Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. I was looking for a beachy summer read to get me ready for our annual family vacation to Florida, and this was the perfect pick.

That's it for me! Are there any books from your freshman year of college, required reading or otherwise, that have stuck with you, or any favorites from that transitional summer leading up to your first time away from home?