Book Review: The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill


★ ★ ★ ★

The Beginning Woods is Malcolm McNeill’s debut novel, a peculiar story that is full of magic and wonder. The Vanishings are a mystery that no one can solve — people disappearing into thin air without any trace left behind aside from piles of clothing. Max was the baby no one wanted, abandoned in a bookshop. As Max grows up, he is haunted by memories of his real ‘forever’ parents, and sets out to find them no matter what it takes. What is to come when Max believes there is a connection to finding his parents and putting an end to The Vanishings? Meanwhile, the number of people disappearing is increasing rapidly, and scientists have yet to discover the cause of what is going on, let alone how to fix it.

While it is marketed towards children, I would find YA more suitable because it is a chunky book with 448 pages, and I think that would be too long for some young readers on top of that it is a fairly dark story with fantasy elements. I think that adults would enjoy The Beginning Woods, too,  and be able to appreciate the philosophical aspect that is throughout the story. It does at times become complex and can be a bit confusing, and while there are also parts that seemed to drag on, I did often pick it up to read a couple chapters then set it down again–I feel like it was a bit too long, and wouldn’t be such a heavy read at times if it were cut down in length.

This is a dark fairy-tale with such rich world-building; unexpected characters like witches, dragons, fairies, ‘cold’ people that we know as ghosts; and endless adventure. Anyone who picks this up will find their imagination is as vivid and weird as this story was crafted. My thoughts on this are still settling, but I do know that while at times I took breaks in-between reading, it was a wonderful, whimsical read, and this is one of the few books I will be rereading in the future.



The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.


Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings.


To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.

But can he bear the truth – or will is destroy him?


Greater than your dreams. Darker than your fears. Full of more wonder than you could ever desire. Welcome to the ineffable Beginning Woods…

Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 1st 2016 by Pushkin Press

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.


Book Review: The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy


★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Telling was one of those books that pulled me in at the very beginning, even though I seen the ending coming. Set on an island near Seattle, Lana is trying to come to terms with the brutal murder of her step-brother, Ben, who was killed by an unknown man with a red painted face. The only witness to the crime is found dead, and Lana is the one who pulls the body out of the water. Lana and her group of friends are the likely suspects to the police, knowing that Maggie is Ben’s ex-girlfriend, and hated by Lana. The further they dig for the truth and to prove their innocence, more people connected to Lana are killed. Soon Lana starts piecing together the stories Ben used to tell her as a child to the way the people are being killed.

Is Lana committing the crimes and blacking out? Is she being framed for the murders? Is Ben’s ghost seeking revenge?

Those answers I did not know. I typically do not read YA, especially YA mystery/thriller, but The Telling is exceptional. While it is a contemporary mystery, it is about bravery, discovering one’s self, and come the end, being honest with who you are. Despite knowing who the killer was early on, that did not lessen the enjoyment I got from reading this book. It is twisted, dark, and crazy. If you are expecting a horror novel, this is not it – it is a YA mystery that dips into thriller closer to the ending. The world-building and character development is natural and rich with progression throughout the story, and you can tell it was well thought out and crafted. It is a book that will be hard to put down, and in between reading you will be talking about it to anyone willing to listen.


Lana used to know what was real.

That was before when her life was small and quiet.
Her golden step-brother, Ben, was alive, she could only dream about bonfiring with the populars, their wooded island home was idyllic, she could tell the truth from lies, and Ben’s childhood stories were firmly in her imagination.

Then came after.

After has Lana boldly kissing her crush, jumping into the water from too high up, and living with nerve and mischief. But after also has horrors, deaths that only make sense in fairy tales, and terrors from a past Lana thought long forgotten: Love, blood, and murder.

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.