Cassi aka Snow White Haggard's Reviews > The Little Woods

The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman
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's review
Jul 11, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: galleys, read-in-2012
Read from July 08 to 09, 2012

2.5 stars

Reading The Little Woods felt like watching a battle between the good and the bad. There is so much potential in this story, but sadly the poor execution is impossible to ignore.

The story itself was actually quite good. Cally goes off to St. Bedes boarding school. She gets a scholarship because 10 years ago her sister mysteriously disappeared while visiting the school. According the police, her sister died in a fire but since they never found the bodies Cally has always been skeptical. St. Bedes is a creepy boarding school bordered by a spooky forest known as "The Little Woods." When Cally learns that another student went missing right before she arrived, she begins investigating. As she investigates the disappearance, she can't help but wonder how it's connection to her sister's death. The pacing was nice, slowly building a believable mystery, with tension and clues scattered throughout the novel.

But the writing and characterization is where this book fell apart. By the 15% mark of my e-galley there were already 8 people who had been described as abnormally beautiful (or alarmingly beautiful or disconcertingly beautiful, you get the gist). At that point I remained hopeful, thinking maybe there was a supernatural reason for their beauty. Nope. Apparently the students at St. Bedes are as attractive as they are intelligent.

The overdescription was painful to read. I know they tell you creative writing classes to use all your scenses. But honestly, who smells everyone they meet? When you're using scent or taste it should feel natural, not intrusive. Here's an example of the purple prose:

"Up close, he was ridiculously toothsome, and he smelled so good--like fresh cut grass mixed with the mating musk of some exotic ungulate--it made my face ache."

I had to google "ungulate" and if you're wondering it means "having hoofs" which just makes the whole sentences even stranger. I'm sorry, the mating musk of horses and goats doesn't do anything for me. Another example of the overdescription:

"She was black with a cherubic face and a statuesque body. She seemed to be all curves and her her hair poofed away from her head in a magnificent mass of black curls held back by an emerald green bands. Her eyes curved up at the corners like a cat's and her brows arched finely above them."

You can make one character ridiculously good looking and you can over-describe them. But when you get eight overly longwinded description of characters you've taken away all the impact from your description. By the way, if you're wondering it the girl in the above passage smells like lilies.

The main character was underdeveloped and not very likable. She was rebellious without direction, dressed like a 12 year-old-boy, rude, judgemental, but the hottest boy in school starts flirting with her immediately when she arrives. There would be internal dialogue about how she's so socially awkward, then she'd make a clever joke to her crush. The pieces of Cally didn't add up to a character that made sense. So yes, she's a Mary Sue. She also offended me with a idiotic comment about anorexia.

"When I walked in, he was flirting with a skittish redhead who was clearly quarterbacking the St. Bede's anorexia squad."

Thanks for perpetuating misinformation about a dangerous disease. As someone who was A. teased for being skinny her whole life and B. has had friends with eating disorders, this offhand comment shows an ignorance that someone should have caught before this book reached even ARC publication.

There are a lot more complaints I could list, from the main character communing with a heron to the brief unnecessary love triangle that helps solidify her Mary Sue status. Hidden beneath the over description, poor characterization and offensive comment there's actually a good little story. The pacing, atmosphere and even for the most part the plot was there. With a little bit more editing and some more time spent working on the main character this book would've been quite good. Unfortunately it's not.
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Reading Progress

5.0% "So far at least 3 people have been described as ridiculously good looking. There better be a reason for that or I'm gonna be annoyed."
6.0% "Wait make that at least 5 people. I don't really like over-description of people."
7.0% "And now the main character is judging people at first glance. BTW jokes about somebody quarte4backing the school's anorexia squad aren't funny if you've ever known somebody with an eating disorder." 4 comments
7.0% "GUYS I'M GOING TO START DESCRIBING THE SCENT OF EVERYONE I MEET. This guy he smells like fresh cut grass and some kind of mating musk. Writing teachers always told me to use my senses but this is ridiculous."
10.0% "6th person who is described in ridiculous detail as good looking. Cut out the description and the judgmental attitude and this seems like an enjoyable novel thus far. That will make reviewing it tricky."
14.0% "Talk about how socially awkward you are then 2 pages later make a clever joke to the cute boy you're stalking. Yep I totally believe that."
14.0% "Well we have somebody else who is "terribly good looking." Is that #7 now? Seriously there better be some creepy supernatural explanation for all the pretty."
15.0% ""She was oddly disconcertingly beautiful in a way that made no sense." #8 beautiful person.
Now I feel obligated to keep count of all the pretties."
25.0% "Of course the hottest guy in school is interested in our somewhat mopey and mousey main character. Yep. Of course."
31.0% "Everybody else parties. The main character goes to bed instead.

Also, I'm considering confiscating the thesaurus of this author. You are making it too easy to snark."
31.0% "Everybody else parties. The main character goes to bed instead.

Also, I'm considering confiscating the thesaurus of this author. You are making it too easy to snark."
40.0% "Unless someone is a faerie I don't like the descriptor "fey smile" also I find it odd that a seemingly straight (read: dating & kissing a female character) would call someone "an equal opportunity hottie" in front of his gf. If it wasn't him then it's poor attribution but I think it was him."
55.0% "These rebellious "intelligent" rich kids sure seem comfortable with drug use."
57.0% "GREAT we're going down the love triangle path now. We all know how TOTALLY INTO THAT I AM."
58.0% "This girl has a tendency to scream that's kind of annoying. She saw a drawing and screamed. Then almost screamed running away from the drawing."
63.0% "She has sex for all the wrong reasons (because she's angry at the world and just wants it to disappear) then shaves her head. I'm not sure I follow the logic jump."
71.0% "Just a question: Has she tried to decode the message using the creepy note as the key text yet?"
86.0% "All her friends hate her so Cally is now communing with a heron. For reals." 4 comments
11/04/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2)

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message 2: by Tish (new)

Tish Good review, Cassi. I like how you were very specific about what you liked and didn't like and gave examples. Very helpful to potential readers as well as to authors. And editors.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard Tish wrote: "Good review, Cassi. I like how you were very specific about what you liked and didn't like and gave examples. Very helpful to potential readers as well as to authors. And editors."

Thanks! Since the book was so mixed I felt giving examples was the only way to really illustrate where it went wrong.

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