Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Paranormal, Historical
Length: Full Length (180 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

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?

Anything can happen when someone gets lost in the woods.

Ms. Elizabeth did an excellent job of blending multiple genres together into one storyline. It was equally a ghost story, a mystery, and a science fiction novel. I honestly couldn’t narrow it down any further than that because of how all of these elements of the plot worked together to show what happened to every character who accidentally or purposefully found themselves in Witchwood Hollow.

While it was incredibly interesting to see how the town of Arnn had changed from one century to the next, I do wish that I’d been able to get to know the characters better than I did. It was confusing to move between three different time periods. Each one of them had a fairly large cast of characters to introduce to the reader, and they all had complicated plots to unravel as well. I met several unique characters in each era, but I felt like I never had the chance to learn more than pretty basic basic information about their personalities and origins. It would have been nice to dive into their lives more deeply.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was how it explored grief. All of the characters had been through some kind of trauma or loss, and all of them were working through the long-term consequences of that. It was fascinating to see how people in different eras thought about their grief and what kinds of coping skills they used to get through it. These scenes were as poignant as they were beautiful.

Escape from Witchwood Hollow should be read by anyone who is in the mood for something thought provoking.

Untaken by J.E. Anckorn

Untaken by J.E. Anckorn
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (260 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

It turns out that a real alien invasion is nothing like the Sci-fi shows 14-year-old Gracie loves. Not when it’s your own family who are swallowed whole by those big silver ships. Not if it could be you next.

In her search for her family, Gracie meets Brandon, a high school dropout who would never have been caught dead hanging out with a dork like Gracie before the world ended. Gracie isn’t too crazy about Brandon either, but he has one thing she doesn’t: A plan.

Brandon’s uncle has a cabin up in Maine, and If Gracie and Brandon can survive long enough to get there they can hide out until the Space Men pack up their ships and leave.

Until the army guys come to rescue them, says Brandon.

Brandon is big into army guys.

Gracie has to admit that Brandon’s Awesome Plan probably would have worked out great if wasn’t for Jake.
They found 5-year-old Jake, laying half-dead under the remains of someone’s ranch house. He’s a good kid, even if he won’t-or can’t- talk.

But Jake has a secret, and when Gracie finds out what it is, the fragile new life they’ve started to forge looks set to break apart.

When the people you’ve been counting on to put the world back together start hunting you down, alien invaders are the least of your worries.

The end of the world is no place for keeping secrets. If only Brandon and Gracie knew how to uncover all of them before it’s too late.

It took a little while for the narrators to describe what the aliens look like and why they’re so dangerous, but it was definitely worth the wait. The aliens were incredibly scary creatures, and I only grew more frightened of them as more details about their species were revealed. They were really well done antagonists.

The beginning included lengthy flashbacks to what Gracie and Brandon’s lives were like before the aliens attacked. While I appreciated the character development that happened in these sections, they did slow down the pacing considerably. I was expecting something much more action-packed than what happened in the first third or so of this book based on how it was marketed to readers.

The transitions between the narrators were quite smooth. While each one was labelled with the name of the person who was remembering a particular series of events, their voices were so distinct that I could have easily figured out who was speaking without this. It was nice to have such a variety of perspectives on what was happening. This is a good example of how to include more than one narrator in the same story.

There were a few plot twists that never made sense to me. They involved certain individuals in this universe doing and saying things that should have been completely out of character for someone in their position. These actions were so unexpected and unpredictable that they pulled me out of the plot altogether. Having more information about why those characters acted that way would have been helpful as I was never sure what those scenes were supposed to be communicating to the audience.

A smart ending is important. While I had a good idea of how this novel might end, it managed to slide a few surprises into the last few scenes that made it hard for me to stop reading. They made sense given everything that had happened to Gracie and her friends early on, but seeing everything come together the way it did kept me on my toes.

I’d recommend Untaken to anyone who enjoys science fiction tales about alien invaders.