Book Review: “Where the Woods Grow Wild” by Nate Philbrick

It doesn’t surprise me that Nate Philbrick is a fan of Lloyd Alexander. I noticed similarities to The Book of Three as soon as I started reading Where the Woods Grow Wild. But the pig keepers and runaway barnyard animals in Philbrick’s tale carried me into another forest for a new adventure I was glad to take.

Nate Philbrick’s YA fantasy novel is the story of Martin and Elodie’s adventure in the dark and fantastic wood that grows across the river from their village. A dangerous wood that most villagers keep at a safe distance. But a terrible accident draws Martin and Elodie closer to its borders until eventually, they find themselves lost in the dark, wild wood.

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Three reasons I loved this book.

First, the characters. There were so many fun and quirky characters that just made me smile. I love having what I call “gentle” reads to help me wind down at night, and even though there were some high energy scenes in this story, the characters made it warm enough to qualify for my night read category. Along with fun and quirky, the story also had some steady, mature characters who elevated the flow of the story with their wisdom.

Second, setting. Philbrick has a great ability to paint a scene, and with a book that takes place in such a fantastic world, it was especially fun to be drawn deep into the forest while the author’s pen hemmed me in with trees.

Third, and most important, themes. I loved how Philbrick’s story included a character with a physical handicap, and how he showed the character’s struggles to cope with the everyday hardships that came along with it. The story talked about supporting one another through suffering, overcoming trials, and honesty in relationships.

I highly suggest scooting over to his website to check out his novels, as well as his fantastic artwork (he designed the cover of his novel himself!). He’s also pretty fun to follow on Twitter.

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Book Review: “Dividing Eden” by Joelle Charbonneau

I noticed recently that I haven’t been reading a ton of Young Adult books as of late, I seem to be on more of a Middle Grade kick, but the book trailer for this novel really caught my eye.

I went online and immediately got in line to borrow this book from my library. I did it quickly enough that I was only 4th in line, not like Into the Water which I am currently still at waiting for at 46th.

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Note the soft fuzzy blanket and tissues. I had a bad cold when this was taken.

When it came, I cracked it open only to remember within the first chapter why it was that I took a break from YA books.

The premise of this book appeared unique. The tagline at the top of the book reads:

Two siblings. One crown. A battle that neither can win.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuunnnnnn…

I thought it would be a departure from the usual STRONG INDEPENDENT GIRL SHOVES OFF OPPRESSIVE MALES TO DESTROY ALL THE BAD GUYS that seems to be the thing in YA right now. Sibling rivalry over a throne? I was excited. Until about two pages in, when I discovered that Carys, one of the siblings, was a STRONG INDEPENDENT GIRL BEING HELD CAPTIVE BY AN OPPRESSIVE MALE SOCIETY. Locked in dresses. Hiding her ability to wield a knife. I sighed heavily and thought to myself, I wonder if she’ll destroy all the bad guys? A few pages later I met her twin brother, Andreus, who was the SUPER HANDSOME HAS A WAY WITH ALL THE WOMEN trope. All that was left was for me to meet whoever it was that was going to form the necessary love triangle, and I was set to go for another typical YA dystopian fantasy. *gives two thumbs up*

The first few chapters dumped a lot of confusing and random information. I think the author was trying to keep you up to speed on the relevant past of the characters, but she dropped these factoid bombs so suddenly that I felt like I was tripping over a new one whenever I’d begun to get involved in the story. The political intrigue I hoped for was minimal to lame. The world was a mishmash of a lot of elements I’ve seen done better in other books. The majority of the characters were forgettable or underdeveloped.

Ironically, the only character I found myself liking at all was the STRONG INDEPENDENT GIRL, because the author gave her a decent and believable flaw to struggle with. The development of this part of the plot did improve my enjoyment of the story, so despite my blah to negative feelings about this book, the author did manage to make me care enough about Carys that I may still read the next book in the series when it comes out.

I suppose that was her ultimate goal anyway, because in all honesty, this book read like a 300 page introduction to a series. The last couple chapters were, to me, the most interesting, but everything was left hanging with me hardly knowing or understanding most of the characters. Still, if she can hook you on just one thing, that’s all she needs to get you into the next book, right?

The next installment appears to be a novella with a release date of October 10, 2017. Only time will tell if my interest will hold until then.