Cover Image: Whiteland

Whiteland

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Eighteen-year-old Kira is used to being a de facto third parent for her wild and emotionally unstable older sister, Romy. Romy’s been through several psychiatrist diagnoses, scrapes with the law, and disappearances. But during a family vacation in the Swiss Alps, Romy survives a night in the freezing Alpine forest that should have killed her—and comes back all wrong. Kira braves the mysterious and ominous woods in a last-ditch attempt to save her sister.

Whiteland is Rosie Cranie-Higgs’s first novel, and although the setting and certain moments of it are creepy, reading the novel feels a bit like losing track of a trail than being transported to another world. The first chapter sets up a miasma of a sentient, malicious Other that threatens anyone who wanders too far into the woods, and its protagonist doesn’t make a serious attempt at finding it until halfway through the novel. The biggest problem with this work is that, although it markets itself as a suspenseful horror/general fiction book, the plotting is extremely uneven. Several times, events begin to happen much faster while Kira and Callum explore the woods, but it’s extremely confusing; rather than cut out extraneous dialogue that doesn’t add to the story, the context of where the characters are, and what the landscape is like around them, is missing. Without the scene-setting of that context, events like Kira and Callum realizing the forest is changing, or that the characters are lost in a landscape with dangerous wildlife, falls flat instead of inspiring dread.

The first chapter also feels more exciting than most of the book, partially because it’s written from Romy’s point of view. Romy is depicted slightly stereotypically as a person with mental health issues, but she has agency, a backstory, and a lot of conflict in her life in the one chapter she features in. After that, the book is mainly written from the perspective of Kira who actively avoids conflict whenever possible, only does things when forced to, and has very few character traits that aren’t related to being a stand-in parent for her sister or resentful of her parents. While it’s understandable and believable in the context of a dysfunctional family, any development to her character is extremely slow, and she spends an inordinate amount of time bantering with Callum, a Scottish young man who finds Romy and befriends Kira. While the conversations and time with Callum take up a LOT of the page count of Whiteland, they aren’t witty or revealing enough to be memorable after they’re over, and very rarely are crucial to the plot.

Callum also feels a bit like a cardboard cut-out, and it’s difficult to describe him, apart from being sarcastic and knowledgeable about the area near Kira and Romy’s hotel. More interesting characters fall to the wayside, and yet I can’t name anything Kira or Callum actually like, hope to do, or have a sense of what they would be like before the events of the novel. The novel actually feels a bit like a cookie cutter young adult horror novel, with how much of it focuses on a budding fondness between its two leads, and how often Kira complains about her family. I actually had to double-check that she wasn’t fifteen or sixteen when it became clear that Callum (who is more obviously an adult) was interested in her. While the idea of a horror novel set in Scandinavia, with creatures that aren’t often seen in other works, intrigued me and originally drew me to the novel, I couldn’t help but feel that Whiteland could have been a much stronger book if it were much shorter, and a bit more mindful about its audience.
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I was excited to get to review my first NetGalley book and was honestly excited about the premise of the book.  That being said, I just could not bring myself to finish the book.  Although it started strong and had a great "creepy" factor, the book just didn't continue to move at the pace you would expect with a thriller.  After that I seemed to get a little lost and my interest was just not maintained.  Writing a debut novel is tough and I think the plot had promise, but the execution just was not there for me.
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I think that had I not kind of been burned by a couple 'dark fantasies posing as horror stories' already this year, I'd have been a little more okay with WHITELAND, but as it was, when it definitely shifted from a promising horror tilt to something different, I was pretty frustrated. That isn't to say that there isn't promise here, because I think that there is. Cranie-Higgs has taken a unique (at least to me) folklore inspiration and turned it into the start of a fantasy series that may appeal to people, but when you reference EVIL DEAD in a promotional material, I expect you to deliver some serious folk horror with a bit of nasty edge. WHITELAND doesn't have that. Throw in some story telling that feels like it's going in circles, and it just didn't gel for me. 

I do think that fans of dark fairytale stories will find something to like in WHITELAND, so I'm not going to write it off completely. But don't go in thinking that it's going to be a horror story, because you will probably be disappointed.
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“Anneliese.”

What is in a name you say? Depends on who you ask. For some, it is the name of a murderess. For others, it is the name of a beloved mother. 

A holiday for the quintessential modern family turns into a nightmare with a step into the woods and an ending that you will not soon forget.

Going to Switzerland for Christmas was meant to be fun, not end up with a visit to Narnia meets Alice In Wonderland. When Romy is brought back in the arms of a young Scot named Callum after going on a near death excursion to the woods at midnight, she isn’t the same. Although always dark and brooding, this just wasn’t the same! Is this really Romy or someone pretending to be? Kira needs to know and goes on a quest that would take her to a place she would never imagine, not even in her wildest dreams. To Whiteland. 

On this journey she meets the unimaginable and sees things she can never unsee or forget. Will she find out who Anneliese is? Why is she so important and more importantly, why is she so important to Kira and her family?

With subtle hints of Scottish wit and dry British humor, this is a book that will keep you coming back for more and make you question whether an ending is ever the end.
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Whiteland was as much of a surprising book at the beginning as it was at the end. I felt like it left me asking more questions then answering them.  I enjoyed the new twist on the Norwegian folklore of whiteland and the three princess but I had to do my own research on how they were connected, and the main character left me frustrated with her lack of character development.
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I was enjoying the first part of the book, however, as it went on I became disinterested due to it being repetitive & slow. The base story  is good and there is a good creep factor going on.  The lack of pace resulted my disengagement & also reduced the intensity of the horror feelings. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me, however, please read other reviews or just pick up the book, as I think I may be in the minority on this one.
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This has such a great and strong beginning, then about 35%-40% through it peters out. I almost DNF, but kept on and then it DID pick back up and I cannot believe how great it got!!  

It definitely isn't horror to me, I'd say more thriller than anything, but still worth a read and I recommend it.

Thank you  Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC. All opinions are my own.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was looking forward to a good scary book -- the cover was cool and the description was interesting. However, when I got into the book it was not at all what I thought. I had many issues with this book, and unfortunately, I don't really have anything positive to say about it. I wish I did, but sadly, there was nothing in this book that would convince me that this was a final draft.

The problems start with the writing, which, while isn't horrible, just feels very juvenile. I like prose filled writing, but the writing in this book was so stitled and awkward, as was the dialogue. It made reading the book very, very difficult.

The other issue is I was bored during this book. So very, very bored. I wanted to be invested, but I didn't like the characters, I didn't like the plot once we got into it. And this was only at 13%! But I decided to give the whole book a go in hopes there was something redeeming. At 30% and then 60% there was nothing that was redeeming. In fact, the whole book felt very disjointed overall. Nothing worked, nothing was cohesive. It was one big mess.

This was not a good book -- it wasn't for me, and I could not recommend it. There were just too many issues.
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An innovative mix of horror and fantasy drawn from Scandinavian folklore.  Elements of a dark fairy tale that will appeal to teens and young adult. The writing style is a bit different than I've encountered reading other horror novels, A promising start that fades into a slow burn; areas of repetition burden the plot at times. I do recommend this book but its appeal may not be for everyone. Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to review this ARC.
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A teenage girl wonders off into the woods and comes back to the hotel where she is staying with her family in Switerland. She should be dead, but instead, she is trapped in a world known as White Land, and she acts like she doesn't want to leave, but you can tell she is trapped and silently crying for the help of her sister. The book was interesting at the beginning... 
Until I lost interest... I really tried to get into this book as I am a fan of horror, but all the fantasy mixed in did not interest me in the least. Landscapes that change? Scary horse type creatures? Birds with lighted wings? Ferry type creatures who whisper "Hello"? This was all really too much for me and I was not able to finish this book. I got about halfway through before I finally gave up.
Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to give another honest review.
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The initial chapters offered great promise, but overall this novel was quite a disappointment.  

To be brief, as I feel this calls for this particular brand of brevity, this folklore-ish read will grab readers at its start only to drag them along for some time. The dialogue is rather off-putting and stilted, and it all feels very Alice and Wonderland without the wonder. Perhaps with more work and in fine-tuning the details, this book could transform into a cohesive and more readable story, but for now, I will rate it at 1 star.
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The narration seemed to have a very staccato rhythm that gave the writing an extra momentum and the scenes and setting extra eeriness.

I would recommend this to readers that want to move with the main character through the story.
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Unfortunately I was unable to finish this book. The start of it was very good but I lost interest. When I read the synopsis I was very intrigued and excited, but it just wasn’t the book for me. Thank you for letting me read this!
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Thank you NetGalley and BHC Press for an arc of this book in exchange for my honest review! I wanted to love this book. So bad. Described as "one of the most unique horror books ever written," the story is certainly a good idea--if you can understand the writing and actually follow what's going on, that is.

Whiteland is compared to "Imaginary Friend by Steven Chbosky and aficionados of Sam Raimi’s cult classic movies The Evil Dead and Drag me to Hell," but it's more of a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (creepy movie version) meets Alice in Wonderland in the snow. It's not scary and only a bit creepy. My problems are less with the story than with the writing, however:

This book reads like no third party outside of the author's social circle ever honestly critiqued it; like it was run through a word processor for grammatical errors but never through a reader's honest gaze to point out weird language, plot holes, and other issues. The writing includes very strange quirks like too many phrases/fragments, dialogue broken by description through a whole paragraph so that the reader has to reread whole paragraphs to follow a conversation, referring to the parents by their first names rather than Mom and Dad so that I was wholly confused for the whole beginning as to who was who, and broken/nonlinear setting descriptions that left me lost trying to picture the story in my mind's eye. The timing is off and unclear which is especially not helpful because time is "off" in Whiteland vs "the outside." The author uses way too many pop culture references that aren't explained and feel out of place and distracting. Because the author is English and I'm American, some of the ways she used words was confusing and I wasn't sure if it was cultural or just the author's style because I've read countless modern and classic British books without feeling so confused by the language. The author uses way too many metaphors using tangible things for intangible feelings but in such a way that I often wasn't sure if something actually happened or if it was indeed a metaphor. Like, fear feeling like being punched in the chest and bleeding, but it wasn't clear whether or not she DID indeed get punched in the chest because of the scene. Does that make sense? It was very weird.

In fact, there's so much description of all the wrong things that the book should have been 150 pages shorter. There's endless description for the fear the protagonist feels but hardly any about what the characters look like. I couldn't picture the village at all. Teenagers are at one point described as "women" and an older woman is described as a "girl," which isn't wrong necessarily but combine that mis-description with all the other strange writing quirks I've mentioned and one can understand how this was very hard to understand. 

I liked the characters enough, but the main characters of Callum and Kira seemed like the same person. Their dialogue is cheesy and forced. The sarcasm wasn't written well enough for the reader to easily follow the banter. The plot is fun, but it definitely reads like it's trying too hard to be Alice in Wonderland: cranky characters, which way do we go?, birds, other birds?, weird lights, suddenly wolves, horses, a mist monster that's way too much like the smoke monster from LOST, religious fish. Unfortunately, it was trying way too hard and ultimately was not successful. There were a few symbols that are never explained. Characters that are never properly introduced. 

I wanted to stop reading this book at so many points because the writing is poor and strange, but the story is genuinely interesting and I had to see how it wrapped up. The ending? I have no idea what happened. I do not understand the ending at all. I think it's supposed to be a big cliffhanger for the next book, but I don't actually know what was going on. A new-ish character is kind of introduced. The second-to-last scene is not at all wrapped up. I think some of the characters died? One of them was lost, was that character found? Confused!!!!!! 

I loathe writing negative reviews. This book really needs more work and has so much potential. It's such a bummer to see that my opinions are echoed in so many other reviews. I hope the author and publisher consider working more on this book before publishing. It's such a shame and waste if not. I usually rate books 1 star when I really dislike them, find something offensive and unhelpful to our culture like gore-porn or something, and think the book should never see the light of day. Whiteland gets 2 stars because it's really a great idea; I don't hate it, it just needs a lot of work. But I don't recommend it.
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The premise sounded fantastic. Unfortunately I was unable to finish this book. The writing style did not sit well with me, and although it picked up a little I just wasn’t engaged enough in the story to continue.
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I really enjoyed this book. It was full of Intrigue and I was so gripped. I really enjoyed something a bit different because I usually like a romance novel.

This book is exciting and keeps you involved right from the beginning.

Whiteland is a brilliant book and I think the concept of it is so interesting, nothing like I've read before.

The twoing and froing between Kira and Callum is quite amusing in parts and I was looking forward to seeing what was going to happen with them

When Kira is in her dreams I feel like I'm there in her dreams with her, its so we'll written.

I really enjoyed the references to Game of Thrones and Lord of the rings.

Lastly I loved at the end of the book at you find out Whiteland is based where the author lives. It sounds both spooky and beautiful.
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I unfortunately could not get into this book and managed only a few chapters before I gave up. The writing style just wasn't for me, or maybe I'm not in the mood for something of its kind. There is an almost a surreal feel to it, like a fever dream and I'm sure someone else will most likely love this book. I will attempt to read it again at a later date.
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I really enjoyed the beginning, I loved the beginning. But, after the first start I had a harder time enjoying the book. The book was still a good read but the author did a lot of repetition. A good amount could have been taken off the book and still have the story.
Kira is on a holiday with her family, when her sister disappears twice so Kira teams up with Callum to find her. The people or characters that they meet on their adventure remind me of a mixture of the grims brothers fairy tales and narnia kind of characters. I think that this is a new ground for me because while I have read Stephen King books but I really haven’t read anything Fantasy Horror. I love the creepy eerie feelings, while I do have a lot of hope for the trilogy I think this book has a lot of potential and I am definitely looking forward to finishing the next installment in this series.
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I thank NetGalley for offering me the opportunity to read this before it’s release date. However, I have to DNF it at 30%. The overall concept of the the story is incredible and I really wish I could have continued. There’s something about this writing style that was just not sitting well with me. It appeared to be trying to be poetic or snarky. But, the constant bamboozoling of thrown in random sayings kept completely pulling me out. For example, there’s a point where one character is seeing one thing and another seeing something else. The one not seeing the thing says, “stupid monkey. Stupid stupid monkey”. There was absolutely not context for this. The character has never once referred to themselves as a monkey or referenced a monkey. It was just too distracting and had no relevance to the story. I do like that fact that I could tell the author is a huge fantasy genre fan. There were several references to books and movies and that was incredible. If there wasn’t random saying and concepts lined every paragraph or two this would have been hands down a winner, to me.
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I struggled with this one because it started off really well and grabbed my attention but then became too repetitive and bogged down with details that didn’t seem necessary. I know there are people out there who like that kind of detail, but it wasn’t for me. That’s ok though because this author is definitely talented and has great potential.
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