Over the Woodward Wall by A Deborah Baker // Book Review

Over the Woodward Wall by A Deborah Baker // Book Review

If you’ve read Middlegame, then you probably already know about A Deborah Baker and Over the Woodward Wall. But if you’re not aware, it’s the pen name for Seanan McGuire for a book that’s mentioned within the pages of Middlegame. From the book’s reference, Over the Woodward Wall was a children’s series written by A Deborah Baker to explain the more complex phenomenon between Rodger and Dodger, their abilities, and what these children may look like and act. However, you don’t need to know any of this to read Over the Woodward Wall. It’s almost a bonus for those who already know the context of the story. Get ready to enter The Up-and-Under. Thanks to Tor dot com for the gifted book.

Here’s more about Over the Woodward Wall

Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.

Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.

They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.

On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.

And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.

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My thoughts

I have to admit, I was so excited to read Over the Woodward Wall after finishing Middlegame. I love it when authors get creative with their stories and then write subsequent stories to bolster it. Honestly, it’s always a treat when an author continues to share more stories from a universe they’ve built. And like I mentioned, this book doesn’t require you to have read Middlegame before you’ve read it.

I’m always surprised by how much story can be told in such a short book. In the 200-page novella, Seanan McGuire really captures the world within the Up-and-Under introducing a myriad of characters that I hope to follow throughout the series and providing some interesting story line to help us root for the children and boo at the villains.

It reminded me a lot of Wayward Children series where the kids leap over a mysterious wall in the middle of their neighborhood and enter a world where owls talk to them, girls can be made up of a murder of crows, and the kings and queens have nefarious dealings throughout the lands they rule. It’s got Alice in Wonderland vibes, Wizard of Oz vibes, and all the vibes of any other story where children are transported to another world that’s a bit topsy-turvy.

The narration of the story felt like you were sitting at story time with a bunch of kids. It would probably be a really good audiobook to get into because the way its written really feels like you’re being told a story rather than actually experiencing it. The way it’s written makes you think this is a fairy tale with all the possibilities available to Zib and Avery. They start off so plainly and then as they travel through the Up-and-Under, they learn about themselves, each other, and what really matters to them. They start off as unassuming kids at the beginning, but what they learn while they’re forced to survive in a world without parents or authority is something most of us only learn when we become adults.

I will say that the ending is a little bit abrupt, but it’s also a longer series so I have no doubts that the next one will be better. Overall, this was such a magical journey that I really loved and appreciated. I’ll definitely be getting into book 2 once it’s out.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow // Book Review

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow // Book Review

When I first picked up this book, I thought I was about to dive into another Sleeping Beauty retelling, but from the first page, this book has already exceeded my expectations and really blew me away with its creativity. Thanks to Tor dot com for the gifted book.

Here’s more about A Spindle Splintered

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

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My thoughts

I can’t believe I started this book thinking it was going to be just another fairy tale retelling. It’s not. It’s so not and I’m actually a little glad for it. The moment I read Zinnia pricking her finger on the prop spindle at her 21st birthday that transported her to another world, I knew I would be hooked and I absolutely loved it.

The world itself was your typical fantasy world with castles and royalty and an evil fairy who casts the spell on Primrose, but what I also loved is the perspectives from the evil fairy. Always with these stories we never see what the other side of the story thinks and seeing that perspective really made you understand that sometimes destiny is cruel and unusual. I also loved the other little nods like Primrose acting like a royal princess. I’m not talking about spoiled or vapid, but actually raised to be a leader and demanding a certain level of respect. It was interesting to see.

I think my favorite character was Charm with her can do attitude and her willingness to help Zinnia in the situation she found herself in. It was weird that Zinnia was still able to text Charm (and a little irresponsible that she didn’t text her family where she was), but I loved that Charm is one of those thick and thin friends who aren’t mad at you for long and will help you out of any situation.

I absolutely loved the multiverse and multiple Sleeping Beauties aspect to it. Although, their time in the book felt a little truncated and it would have been cool to get to know all the different version of Sleeping Beauty and how they can help each other overcome the destinies they’ve been handed. But I did love seeing them all in the same room with the same goal to help Primrose from her fate and help Zinnia get back to her real life before her medication ran out.

And that part I loved. I loved the whole message of taking hold of your own destiny. Zinnia being a terminally ill patient has always felt like she had no control over what will happen and it made her live a sort of zombie life. It makes me so happy that she finds purpose by the end and realizes that despite destiny, you can rewrite the story and make it work for you.

The only part that really nagged at me and probably won’t nag anyone else is the explanation for the multiverse and how Zinnia was able to travel through them. I wish this was a bit more explained just because there are so many ways this is used in stories and knowing how it’s used in this one would help me really envision Zinnia moving from one space to another.

Overall, this was a pretty epic story in a very small package. I just read that it’s a series, so I can’t wait to see what other stories Alix E Harrow rewrites!

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire // Book Review

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire // Book Review

Have you ever looked for a door to another world? I still find myself trying to find a doorway in almost every apartment I live in. In fact, there’s a tiny door in my reading nook that I immediately opened when I moved in. Sadly, it’s just a door to the HVAC system. However, if you’ve ever been curious about those doors or always wanted to find one for yourself, then I think you might really enjoy this book.

TW: child death, blood, missing body parts, and acid dissolving.

Here’s more about Every Heart a Doorway

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost
.

My Thoughts

I had only read one other book from the Wayward Children series and it was a bit later. It was a cute story, but I didn’t like it all that much. However, after reading this story (the first in the series), I kind of want to go back and reread it with the context in mind about this entire series.

I could gush about this book for forever. It was funny and dark and sweet and filled with magical ideas and gruesome endings. It was everything I really love about a good fantasy story; a little magic, a little dark, and extremely beautiful. I’m also surprised with how little book there is and how much story was told. I love it when a short book packs a punch!

While the book follows one character, Nancy, you also get an idea of the other characters that live in the Home for Wayward Children. I loved each student on their own because of their different personalities, experiences, and sadness. Because there’s definitely a lot of sadness in this book, especially since the kids have all been abandoned by their parents to try and re-acclimate to life after their travels. The one thing that each of these students have in common is that and their want to return to the worlds they visited.

Also, it was interesting to see how Seanan McGuire incorporates gender identity and sexual identity conversations into the story. I remember the other book I read also included it, but I didn’t realize it was a running theme in the books. It was really awesome to see the inclusion in this one as well!

The worlds themselves were also intriguing. Some were filled with dark and scary things and others were filled with silly and beautiful things, but the beautiful part is that each world is there for each of the kids. If the kid was living a strict life of rules and boredom, they may be sent to a world filled with no rules and you never get bored. I loved that the worlds were so specific to the kid and filled the massive holes they had in their hearts.

You also end up rooting for a lot of them hoping that they do get their happy ending and return to the worlds that they came from. But things start to get real when students start to die. The mystery component of the story was probably the least favorite part, but didn’t take away from the rest of the book. I was so intrigued by the students, their stories, and wanted to see if they were able to get back to the worlds they came from. Honestly, I had such sadness for the ones who wouldn’t make it back.

Definitely not a book for the faint-hearted, especially since there’s a few children dying and there’s some processes taking place that were a little out of a horror movie. They don’t bother me, so I wasn’t grossed out by it, but I can also see how these things can upset you if you’re not into it.

Overall, fantastic story that really reignited my imagination and made me dream big of a world beyond the walls. I’ll definitely be checking out more from this series.