By Brianne Reeves
|Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren||The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert|
|When Freddy gets new next-door neighbors who are loud, obnoxious, and maybe a bit magical, she and her siblings are sent on a wild adventure to keep the balance between chaos and order in the universe. Their adventures span time and space and leave them tampering with the gods and with the nature of reality itself.||Alice’s grandma was a cult classics story writer swathed in mystery. But Alice and her mother never talked about her. They only knew they were very, very unlucky. After Alice’s mother disappears, Alice is set on a wild adventure leading back to her grandmother’s estate, the Hazel Wood. Her past is inescapable and things are more fairytale-like by the minute.|
Weave a Circle Round: The best part of this story is the way it captures family conflict and its use of circular and parallel story structures. Freddy’s adventures have eerie echoes of one another that eventually lead to some interesting conclusions. Maaren uses these echoes to engage Freddy with her own problem-solving skills and sense of strength. It’s through that growth that Freddy can embrace her family and resolve the conflicts between chaos and order.
The Hazel Wood: The Hazel Wood has some wonderfully dark fairytale moments. Albert is clearly going for more of a Grimm’s fairytale world than a Disney princess world and has some moments where she truly succeeds. Alice’s story embraces a kind of occult wild goose chase that I found incredibly appealing. Bonus points: the romance subplot is not actually a romance subplot.
Weave a Circle Round: Weave a Circle Round would have benefitted from some clearer plot. Its circular elements have very high points, but also can serve to distract from what Maaren is really getting at with some of her themes. They can be confusing and occasionally leave the reader with a sense of having missed something.
The Hazel Wood: Alice needed more character development. She doesn’t really try to understand others around her and gets very angry, which has its place, but Albert doesn’t really use that to its best advantage. Additionally, some of the occult and mystery elements waiver in the first half of the book.
If you must read one… I’d probably say read The Hazel Wood, but with the caveat that younger audiences will enjoy Weave a Circle Round more. The Hazel Wood is very interesting YA, but Weave a Circle Round is more approachable and traditional adventure fantasy. Personally, I enjoyed the darkness in The Hazel Wood more, even if it could have used some work.
|I’d probably say read The Hazel Wood, but with the caveat that younger audiences will enjoy Weave a Circle Round more. The Hazel Wood is very interesting YA, but Weave a Circle Round is more approachable and traditional adventure fantasy. Personally, I enjoyed the darkness in The Hazel Wood more, even if it could have used some work.|
By Jacob P. Torres
Spoilers abound in this review of Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.
Cover Description: “Discover a shifting history of adventure as humanity clashes over whether to repair their ruined planet or luxuriate in a less tainted past.
In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity’s ancestral habitat. She’s spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.”
Peter Clines’ The Fold is about a team of scientists who have created a successful teleportation machine. How, you ask? They have discovered a way to fold space. But, the problem is that they won’t tell anyone how. After one of the scientists shows up no longer knowing who his wife is, the scientists’ patrons decide to send in a third party to make sure everything is as safe as they say it is.
For those of you with an interest in audiobooks, you can check out a clip of the audiobook.
Thanks to Audible for the sound byte!
I should start off by saying I have a complicated relationship with dimension/time travel stories. I say this for every story even remotely like this, because it frames my perspective on most of the construction and plot issues. The story writes off the technology almost entirely. That strikes me as a bit lazy, but better to not do it than to muck it up or give something half-assed.
I really wanted to like this story. It wasn’t terribly original, but that’s not such a big deal. The problem with the whole story for me was two-fold: The presentation of the main character and his abilities was poor and the humor was totally lacking.
The main character is a high school teacher with extraordinary mental abilities. His potentially is woefully underutilized until his best friend gets him involved in the Albuquerque Door (the aforementioned teleportation project). There, he’s sent in to check stuff out, make sure everything is on the up and up. Why was he sent in? He’s got a record breaking IQ and remembers literally everything he’s ever seen. Ok. I’ll bite.
The problem here comes in when the character’s abilities are mentioned every page. The story doesn’t build because it is constantly being brought up. We aren’t being led to conclusions because the character’s abilities are just *soooo* remarkable that he tells us what’s happened.
Compounding the problem, is that the humorous parts are super repetitive. He’s compared to Severus Snape not once, not twice, not three times, but so frequently it’s not worth counting. He’s named Leland, but goes by Mike. Why? Everyone started calling him Mycroft Holmes– Sherlock Holmes’ intelligent but underachieving brother.
It just was eye roll worthy.
I received this for free in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Laura Wilcox
Publication Date: NA
Genre: Fantasy/ YA?
Overview: Andrew Simmons is a time traveller who has broken two of the biggest laws of time travel: don’t interfere and under no circumstances should you lose your talisman, the means by which time travellers travel. Now, he’s stuck in 1770, trying to get his talisman back. He has five days to find his talisman and get back to his home or he’ll be stuck in 1770 forever and his family will forget he ever existed.
World-Building: The time travelling community is laid out in the novel as extremely self-contained. It’s an ability passed through recessive genes and those who have it are regulated through a shadow government that works more like a noble society than a bureaucracy. This made sense enough to me.
It got a little crazy when Andrew goes back in time. He is stuck in 1770 Boston and the world is foreign to him. There were some very interestingly described scenes that take place in the woods. It felt secluded then, which was appropriate. However, when outside of those scenes there are some continuity issues (at least some things that seemed out of place).
The narration Wilcox uses to construct the world sometimes bleeds into the conversation when a larger narrative passage would do just as well without making the conversations seem unnatural. This isn’t always happening, but instances are throughout.
Character Development: I really liked Daniel and Andrew was fun. I especially liked their interactions and Andrew’s interactions with his best friend. I think there could have been more time building the relationships between characters; it would have added to the overall need for Andrew to get back and the sense of urgency he feels when he realizes that his family will think he never existed.
As an aside, I was surprised Andrew was shocked when he realizes what’s going on with Richard. He seemed to have pointed it out in an earlier scene and then forgets he made the connection.
Plot: The plot moved at a decent pace and, with a couple of exceptions, the events moved well. The last seventy or so pages really picked up speed. The cliff hanger made sense, though I kind of wished Wilcox would have gotten to it more quickly and some of the events were a bit odd. In particular, I thought it was interesting that there wasn’t even a whisper of the time traveller history that Andrew (or the society as a whole) seemed to know about.
Rating:3.5. It was fun, just could have done with some tweaking.
Book Depository Link: NA