Book Review: Escape From Witchwood Hollow

Details:escape from witchwood hollow

TitleEscape from Witchwood Hollow

Author: Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Release Date: October 24th, 2014

Format: eBook

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Myster

Pages: 270

Synopsis:

Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

My First Thoughts:

Shortly before Thanksgiving this year I received a request to give this story an honest review for a free eBook copy. This was actually my first request (also my first eBook), which got me super excited to read the book. The synopsis is interesting enough and the cover appears interesting enough to catch the eye.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Honestly, with this book I’m not quite sure where to begin. I finished this book days ago, yet I waited until the last minute to write the review because I didn’t really know how to write it.

The synopsis is a bit misleading for a few reasons. From the summary, it appears that the story only follows Honoria (which is a very old name that originated from ancient Latin). Instead, the story follows three main characters from three different time periods (1600s, 1800s, and 2000s), two heroines and a misguided female antagonist. I didn’t really mind this; it was just a bit jarring when the story switched from Honoria’s point of view to Lady Clifford and then Albertine without much warning. I’m usually a stickler when it comes to book summaries because they’re there to sell the book, so if the summary doesn’t fit the book, then it makes me feel like I didn’t get the product that I paid for. Honoria didn’t find any lost children, and anything she did discover she did it with the help of her male companion Leon. The citizens aren’t actually in trouble, at least Honoria doesn’t know if they’re in danger, and she doesn’t go on a saving mission, more out of curiosity and solving a mystery. Even solving the mysteries, at least revealing them to the readers, was done mostly by Albertine, who plays a major role in the story yet isn’t mentioned in the summary.

Speaking of the main characters, Honoria, Albertine, and Lady Clifford weren’t terrible. There were times in which Honoria got on my nerves, mostly by her inner thoughts, especially when it came to talking about the ‘country’ people of Arnn. Otherwise, Honoria wasn’t a character that I connected with. As a character, she was fine, but she didn’t appeal enough to me for me to make a connection with her. Instead, I connected more with Albertine and some with Lady Clifford. Albertine, coming from the 1800s, should have been the major main character of the story and mentioned in the synopsis because she does the most in the story. Without her, the story would not have progressed as it did. In fact, the story would have been a lot stronger if it focused around Albertine more; Escape from Witchwood Hollow fits more with Albertine’s side of the story than Honoria’s. As for Lady Clifford, there isn’t much to say other than she was an interesting character and her story, while short, was definitely engaging.

The other characters were alright, they didn’t really have a lot of depth, and some were really stereotypical. Except for Leon, not much else can be said for the minor cast. Leon, while not the most well defined male romantic interest, was actually one of my more favorite of all the characters after Albertine.  He’s the first male character that I have read in a while that loves history, which instantly attracted me to him because I also love history. And for a minor character he also does a lot to progress the story, in fact, I would argue that he did more than Honoria to progress the story.

The last thing that I’ll mention here is the ending, which is what really made me procrastinate writing this review. The ending is not what I was expecting. After the major climax of the story, the last few chapters really hurt the book in my opinion. I was curious as to how the story would end after the climax, but I was not prepared for the ending I read. When I finished the book, I was so shocked that I literally sat in silence and stared at the wall for five minutes, trying to wrap my head around what happened. It’s not a complicated ending, however, if made me think about what was the point of reading the book. In my opinion, the ending not only tarnished the climax but totally destroyed one of the main characters by obliterating their overall potential to grow.

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed the story well enough, but I’m not sure that I read the same story as everyone else. Most of the reviews for this book gave it fantastic ratings, but I believe it to be average, nothing more. Looking back, the cover does not really represent the story very well. The pink hair is what really ruins the cover. While I understand that the color is to draw the person’s eye, especially since the rest of the cover is extremely dark, they could have had the same effect using blonde or even red hair.

The story before the ending is well enough. Sure it was a little bumpy in the beginning, but by the climax the story smoothed out enough to be really enjoyable. It would have been smoother if the author wrote the complete story of one of the three main female characters. I would have enjoyed it more if the story was centered around Albertine, and it would have made the title make more sense. Instead, it was weakened by the hopping around and some of the smaller chapters that briefly followed some flat minor characters. The romance in the story also felt a bit forced by the author, as if it wasn’t present in the original proposal but added in last minute to keep the reader interested. In fact, the romance was flat and totally unnecessary just like the ending of the story. Not every story needs a romance and there are too many that have a romance that only serves to draw in more readers, even if the romance weakens the story as a whole and the characters involved.

Lord, that ending. I will say this again, it is the weakest point of the story. It was a quick, shortcut way to end the novel, one that I believe the author took because she didn’t know of a better ending. That may be harsh, but that ending was a copout and took away any chance of a character to learn, further diminishing the quality of a main character. If I didn’t care much for Honoria in the main part of the story, I cared less about her after it ended.

Rating(s):

Without the ending: 3/5

With the ending: 2.5/5

Why did I give this book two ratings? Well, I didn’t want the ending to lower the overall rating of the book; however, the ending frustrated me so much that I couldn’t just ignore it. So I was persuaded by my boyfriend to give this book two ratings and I’ll explain them both.

The first rating is for the story up until the ending. The story was about average, nothing spectacular but entertaining enough to keep me interested until the end of the climax. The second rating includes the ending, which I’m sure I have ranted enough about by now for you to get the picture. It was like ending a baseball game with a hit that appeared to be a homerun; unit an outfielder makes an insane leap to catch the ball before it hits the ground.

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COMING SOON!

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A Curse of Ash & Iron

A Curse of Ash and Iron

*This is a picture of the book cover and the photo does not belong to me, but the author.

Details:

Title: A Curse of Ash & Iron

Author: Christine Norris

Publisher: Curiosity Quill Press

Release Date: May 21st 2015 (first published September 2nd 2014)

Genre: Science Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling

Pages: 288

Synopsis:

Benjamin Grimm knows the theater is much like real life. In 1876 Philadelphia, people play their parts, hiding behind the illusion of their lives, and never revealing their secrets.

When he reunites with his childhood friend Eleanor Banneker, he is delighted. His delight turns to dismay when he discovers she has been under a spell for the past 7 years, being forced to live as a servant in her own home, and he realizes how sinister some secrets can be. She asks for his help, and he can’t refuse. Even if he doesn’t believe in ‘real’ magic, he can’t abandon her.

Ellie has spent the long years since her mother’s death under the watchful eye and unforgiving eye of her stepmother. Bewitched and hidden in plain sight, it seems no one can help Ellie escape. Not even her own father, who is under a spell of his own. When she sees Ben one evening, it seems he is immune to the magic that binds her, and her hope is rekindled along with her friendship.

     But time is running short. If they do not find a way to break the spell before midnight on New Year’s Eve, then both Ellie and her father will be bound forever.

My First Thoughts:

Steampunk fascinates me. I love science fiction to begin with, but something about mixing old with the new and creating something totally different is amazing. The back reads like a fairytale, specifically like the Cinderella tale with different twists, which I’m excited to find out for myself.

Story Breakdown:

Eleanor Banneker, Ellie, is one of the main characters of this adventure. In this story, she is definitely the Cinderella, but she is nothing like the Disney Cinderella most girls are familiar with. Daughter of the social elite, she is stripped of her identity and the life she would have lived due to a spell that was cast upon her. For seven years she worked as the maid to the home in which she lived, doing her stepmother’s every biding while the world, including her father, forgot about her. Except for her childhood best friend: Ben.

Benjamin Grimm, no not the alter ego of the Thing from Fantastic Four, but a young man born into the lower working class of society, is the only one who can see through Ellie’s enchantment. During the working day, he works in either the bookstore that his mother owns or at the local theater as a simple stage hand. By night though, he tinkers in his shop making all sorts of wonderful designs meant to wow the audience with illusions, because one day he wants to leave Philadelphia and become a famous Illusionist. When he recognizes Ellie, it seems like fate was on her side and she decides to ask for his help to break the enchantments on her father and herself. Though Ben is more than willing to help his childhood friend, he doesn’t believe in all of the magic hoop-la that Ellie does and believes there is a more logical reason for her life’s misfortune. Could he be Ellie’s Prince Charming? Or is there another that plays that role in this story?

One role that is filled for sure is the evil stepmother, who is played by Olivia Banneker. The former governess of Ellie, Olivia has only wanted what was best for her daughter, Rebecca, and herself. When she marries Ellie’s father, she jumps feet first into the world of the social elite, trying so hard to fit in with the people she had once coveted. But how she obtained what she once coveted is a mystery, a mystery that could be explained by magic and secret meetings with an enigmatic stranger.

Then there is Rebecca, the younger stepsister to Ellie, who gets to live the life that Ellie had dreamed of as a child. The younger girl seems quiet and out of place in the world in which her mother so wants them to live in. But inside that quiet mind is a tinker and possibly something more.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

This book took me by surprise. I have read retellings before but this one is fantastic and cleverly written. Ellie is not your average Cinderella, she tackles her curse without the help of a fairy godmother. Instead, her best friend helps her not for money or love, but because of the friendship they had as children. It was wonderful to watch Ellie go from a young girl that just took what was given to her, to a young woman that took her life and problems into her own hands. Ellie was strong, but willing to ask for help and receive it, and she didn’t have a complete bitter and hateful attitude. Ellie had grace and knew when to lash out her fiery tongue.

Ben was a wonderful character. I loved reading about his illusionist projects and how they worked; it was definitely a fascinating read. He was so devoted to helping Ellie, and it was nice to watch his character grow as they worked together to break the curse. Some of the other characters, like Rebecca, surprised me and it was amazing to see how the author had written them into the story.

For a retelling, it didn’t really scream retelling to me while I read. There were some of the major themes that were taken from the original ideas, but other than that the author made it her own story, which is what you’re supposed to do. In fact, it was when I ran across these themes that I reminded myself that this was a Cinderella retelling! The steampunk tones were very well done as well. Some stories that are ‘steampunk’ want to drown the readers in it with all this extra detailing that might not actually be steampunk. In this story, the steampunk is very subtle; actually it’s easy to miss if you are unfamiliar with it.

Norris does a good job recreating this historical world and adding some of her own twists to it without disrupting the flow too much. I will admit, the story was a little slow in the beginning, but after the first few chapters it really picked up and the last hundred or so were a rollercoaster! The story had so many twists but a lot of clues as well, and the author actually left a lot of the mystery up to the reader to figure out before revealing things later on. It was refreshing actually being able to use my brain instead of having the author spoon feed me everything.

Final Thoughts:

If you love history and going back in time, this book may be for you. There’re some tidbits of history thrown in that aren’t common knowledge, but the author actually explains them at the back of the book. Also something rather interesting, the author actually named her characters, at least their first names, after some of her ancestors that she has found. In fact, she was related to a Benjamin that worked at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia.

If you like slow burn romance, or romance that kind of takes a back burner to the story, then you’ll enjoy this one. The love in this story is very slow, and unlike Disney and other stories, Ellie doesn’t jump into it all like a cannonball.

If you like your heroine to be strong, but not a bitch, then you’ll like Ellie. She takes on her problems and tries to fix them in whatever way she can. Ellie is clever and isn’t a crybaby that waits for Prince Charming to come rescue her. She is a woman conscious of her world and the environment around her, and she decides what she will do with her life.

Rating(s):

4.5/5

This was a fantastic book and very well written, definitely one of my favorites of late. The only thing keeping it from getting a full 5 out of 5 is the way the author would switch scenes or point of view between Ellie and Ben. Occasionally, Norris would stop in the beginning of an action or conversation that the reader never experiences later. Personally, I don’t like to end scenes with a loose piece of dialogue, but that’s just my preference. The other thing that hurt the rating was that the author kept every reveal secret until the last possible second, which is fine for the bigger reveals but it got a bit annoying for all the smaller revelations. I’m all for allowing the reader to think for themselves and try to figure it out on their own, but sometimes I want to know word for word what this letter said or who surprised them and such. But other than those, this book deserved every point it got because it was a fascinating Cinderella retelling with some magic and a bit of steampunk!

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