Review: Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer

A pink gloved hand holds up the bright green cover of Into the Heartless Wood in front of a snowy backyard and fenceline.

Alexis:

I finished my first book of the year on the first snow day!

Into the Heartless Wood follows Owen, a 17-year-old burgeoning astronomer who lives with his father and baby sister. They live by the edge of the woods, where a witch and her tree siren daughters, who lure humans to their deaths, live…and where Owen lost his own mother. 

But when the witch’s youngest siren daughter, who calls herself Seren, finds herself saving Owen’s life instead of ending it, their lives become intertwined. 

Everyone knows I’m a sucker for a book that focuses on creepy woods. And this book had all of the elements I was looking for: atmospheric vibes, lyrical writing, and dual POVs.

The story is both beautiful and brutal. Happy and sorrowful. The ending was tragic, yet I loved it! It’s slow-paced, and the writing is dreamy and full of beautiful forest imagery. Seren’s POV is written in verse, and I thought it worked really well for her character.

My only main critique is that I wish Owen and Seren had a bit more chemistry on the page. It’s also worth noting that even though I tend to gravitate towards slower-paced novels, the main plot didn’t appear until halfway through.

Despite this, I really enjoyed this one, and it was the perfect read for a snow day paired with a mug of hot chocolate.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Alexis:

“The forest sticks to me.”

Happy day after Christmas, everyone! If you celebrate, I hope you had a wonderful day despite this very strange year.

Now, I’m always down for a story with a spooky forest.

Winterwood follows Nora, a seventeen-year-old girl who comes from a long line of Walkers: women with witch-like powers who live next to the creepy Wicker Woods. Nora finds a lost boy named Oliver alive in the woods despite a massive snowstorm, and works to unravel the mystery of how he survived. 

Things I liked:

I love Ernshaw’s writing. It’s lyrical and enchanting, reminding me of a dark fairy tale. It perfectly fits the lovely, cold, and haunted aesthetic of this book.

I loved the setting. Nora’s house sounds homey and witchy, and I enjoyed the descriptions of it, alongside the forest, from Nora’s perspective. 

Things I didn’t like as much:

Besides Nora, I never felt like I got far enough below surface level with the other characters, and sometimes I couldn’t pin down motivations. Usually, I love dual perspectives, but I felt like Oliver’s perspective didn’t reveal enough about him for me, and his amnesia didn’t help.

I loved the magic, but I wanted it to be talked about/explained even more. I never really understood how it worked, even with the many pages dedicated to the Walker ancestors.

While I loved Ernshaw’s writing, it was too repetitive sometimes. Even though it fits the nature of this story (by the end), and I usually love repetition, I think it was utilized just a little too much.

Lastly, I guessed one of the main plot reveals very, very early on, and it’s already a slow-moving story. On top of that, the book’s conclusion felt a bit like a cop-out.

Despite that, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I sped through it. I love Earnshaw’s writing, and I look forward to reading her future books, where hopefully the plot and characters will be a little more refined.

VERDICT: 🌲🌲🌲/5

Review: Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Anna:

You know when you start a book, and you think you know what’s going to happen? And most of the way through, it’s just as you expect. But then BAM something happens that changes everything and it isn’t what you expected at all? That’s exactly what reading Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller was like. This is a spoiler-free review!

Peggy lives in London with her parents. Her mother is a famous pianist and her father  hangs around men who call themselves survivalists. One day when Peggy’s mother is away, her father takes her from their home. They travel far into the woods to a dilapidated cabin. There’s a horrible storm, and the next day her father tells Peggy that they are the last two surviving people in the world. Peggy lives in the cabin with him for nine years. The narrative perspective switches between young Peggy in the woods and Peggy nine years later.

I’ll admit I mostly read this because I’m really eager to read Bitter Orange by Fuller. This book isn’t perfect, but it has all the right elements that kept me engaged and satisfied- great writing, a slower, character driven plot, and a big twist at the end. It also reminded me of a fictionalized version of Educated, which I loved. There’s something endlessly fascinating about cults, survivalists in particular.

It’s difficult to discuss this book without revealing the twist at the end, which I don’t want to spoil. Here’s what I will say— this is an interesting blending of fairytale and reality that explores the boundaries of love, the effect of music on the mind, and the blurriness between truth and lies. This is a book that will mess with your head and stay with you.

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books