Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert — Beautifully Horrifying with a Chilling Narrative and Mystical Storytelling

Hi guys! Today I am at the TN All Northwest Honor Choir festival, and this is my SIXTH and final year to be part of such an amazing program. I will truly miss it when I graduate–certainly it’s one of the highlights of each school year. My review today will be about The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, a creepy fairy tale-filled YA debut from earlier this year. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe Hazel Wood

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Book Depository


3 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free finished copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This will not affect my review.

Before I start, let me tell you that The Hazel Wood is one of the beautifully haunting novels I’ve ever read. I read horror very occasionally—it’s not something that I read too much of. However, when I first read The Hazel Wood, I could not set the book down at all. It was so intriguing and suspenseful that I had to devour the chilling narrative and mystical storytelling. I wish I could rate this book higher—I did enjoy it very much—but the ending is what kind of “ruined” it for me. I did not feel very satisfied to be honest. It was as if the lead-up was so mesmerizing with its creepiness and its adventure but then the drop-off was disappointing.

Although I’m not a horror person, the feeling that I love regarding such stories is not being scared but being creeped out. I think that’s why I loved the two stories—“Alice Three-Times” and “The Door That Wasn’t There”—the most. I wish there was more backstory to the novel, though; I wanted more of the stories. Rather than seeing the character of Thrice-Killed Katherine, I wanted to actually know her true story and her true background. Instead, all Melissa Albert includes is just two out of the twelve stories listed and features and alludes to characters from the rest. Honestly, if Albert writes a novel with all of the Tales from the Hinterland, I would read it. Overall, the author’s writing style perfects the eerie tone that makes horror novels both creepy and beautiful. The story definitely gave me chills that I felt right down my spine.

I loved The Hazel Wood until the very end—this is where it began to unravel for me. Firstly, although the author stated that her novel was not intended as an Alice in Wonderland retelling, The Hazel Wood does draw a lot of parallels between their counterparts that share the same name. (I have nothing against this; I just wanted to point it out.) Alice Prosperine’s journey follows the typical “hero’s quest,” but when the climax arrived and Alice reached the self-knowledge she was searching for the entire time, it felt disappointing. Without getting into any spoilers, the revelation was easily predictable—I didn’t expect the realization but I really did not see it coming. I felt it was too predictable from the beginning, like the hints were too obvious and not that subtle. (They were like road signs that say “Hey! Look at me!” but you end up overlooking them.) There were details that I did not like and that I could not reconcile with the rest of the story and world-building. Some events and stories did not have a lot of importance or effect—for example, while I loved the inclusion of the “The Door That Wasn’t There” story, it had very few contributions to the actual plot. I did see how it was “important” to the understanding of some details, but for me, it was not as effective in terms of reasoning behind its addition. (I loved the story and wanted more of it, but I feel like its addition was not that necessary.) While Albert’s writing style is superb from the start, the story structure wasn’t the best.

Overall, The Hazel Wood had a lot of potential with its intriguing premise and its chilling narration, but its execution could have been cleaner. Certainly, until the very end, it was beautifully mesmerizing and horrifying. I think twisted fairy tale lovers and classic horror fans will enjoy venturing into The Hazel Wood


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” — Stephen King

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

All Emoji icons provided free by EmojiOne.

Advertisements

Exclusive Guest Post by Bridget Hodder, MG Author of The Rat Prince, on “Why Fairy Tales? A Theory of Magic”

Hi guys! For the next few months, most of the authors I am going to have on the blog are going to Middle Grade authors. Although I am still going to be very active in the YA community, my heart has lodged itself deeper in MG fiction. I have met so many wonderful MG authors since the New Year has started, and readers of all ages should pick up their books. Today, Bridget Hodder is here to answer the question, “Why are fairy tales so popular?” Her answer: magic.


About the BookThe Rat Prince

AN ILA CHILDREN’S CHOICE LIST STARRED SELECTION

So, you think you know the tale of Cinderella? Think again!

The dashing Prince of the Rats–who’s in love with Cinderella–is changed into her coachman on the night of the big ball. Together, they’re about to turn the legend (and the evening) upside down on their way to a most unexpected happy ending!

A sparkling debut full of magic and adventure, from a fresh new voice in fairytale fiction.

Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Book Depository


Bridget Hodder Header

Why Fairy Tales? A Theory of Magic

My debut novel, THE RAT PRINCE, is a re-imagining of the tale of Cinderella. When I appear at author festivals, give workshops, or visit schools, readers almost always ask me: Why are fairy tales still so popular?

It’s a great question!

What is the reason why people have loved this particular type of story for hundreds of years? Clearly, stories couldn’t stand the test of centuries unless they appealed to something universal inside us. So maybe the real question is: what’s universal about fairy tales?

Continue reading “Exclusive Guest Post by Bridget Hodder, MG Author of The Rat Prince, on “Why Fairy Tales? A Theory of Magic””

Exclusive Interview with Merrie DeStefano, Author of Fairytale Christmas

Hi guys! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! I know I did, especially since I had five days without any school. Now officially it is the Christmas season! Woo hoo! To celebrate Christmas coming upon us so soon, I am inviting Merrie Destefano, author of multiple YA novels–including Lost GirlsFathom, and A Dark and Twisted Heart–to talk about her latest book Fairytale Christmas. I am so glad I was able to talk to Merrie after the YA Halloween Book Bash a few weeks ago, and I fortunately won a copy of this gorgeous book! I hope you enjoy this interview!


About Fairytale ChristmasFairytale Christmas

“Three thousand years ago, a war began between the immortals and the mortals. It’s a war that continues to this day…

Before history began, a legendary queen battled a foreign army, braved the death of her husband, and faced betrayal at the hand of someone she trusted. This is the story of Eire, Queen of the Faeries, the Immortal One, and the leader of the Tuatha de Danann.

To this day, her homeland, Ireland, bears her name, and this is the story of the war that drove the Immortal Ones into exile. It’s also the tale of how she found help from an unexpected place, leading her to a love like she had never known before.

Fairytale Christmas is a story that spans thousands of years. It’s also the beginning of all of our fairytales and legends; it’s where mortals and immortals survive because they love one another, proving that love is the greatest gift of all.

This is the first installment in the Saga of the Fair Folk, a journey that lasts until the end of time.”

Fairytale Christmas is releasing from Ruby Slippers Press on December 4th!

Goodreads


Merrie

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

First, thank you very much for inviting me here today, Kester! I sincerely appreciate it. Now to answer your questions: Writing is my way of escape. I started writing when I was fairly young; I focused on it pretty heavily in junior high, abandoned it for awhile, but started it up again when I was about 22 years old. I’ve always struggled between art and writing, trying to balance them, but one has almost always won and overshadowed the other. I studied Fine Art in college, and I worked as a graphic designer/illustrator for many years. But I honestly think that today I’m a much better writer than artist.

Fairytale Christmas2. Your latest book Fairytale Christmas is releasing from Ruby Slippers Press on December 4th, and it tells the tale of Eire—the Queen of the Faeries—as she fights in a war that led to the exile of her people. Since this book is set in Ireland, were there any parts that were inspired by Celtic mythology? What are some of your favorite Celtic myths or legends?

I was absolutely inspired by both Celtic legends and Irish history. I went back to the original legends, so not that many people are familiar with them, which surprised me. The Tuatha de Danann were most likely a real tribe of people who lived in Ireland and may have been more advanced than the people who lived there before them—hence the legends that the Tuatha de Danann were gods. I wrote another book based on Celtic legends too: Fathom. That time, I wrote about Selkie legends.

3. Have you ever had the chance to visit Ireland? If so, what were some of your fondest memories and places you’ve been to? If not, where would you like to go?

Sadly, no, I’ve never been there! I’d love to go though. I don’t care which part I got to see. In my mind, every inch of it is gorgeous.

4. What are some of your favorite traditions that you and your family celebrate for Christmas?Lost Girls

I’m currently living a sugar-free life, but before that every Christmas had to have fudge and lots of it! I have a handful of Christmas movies that I need to see every year. They include The Bishop’s Wife, Christmas in Connecticut, Home Alone, and While You Were Sleeping.

5. Who or what would you say sparked your passion for reading and writing?

I think I was inspired by the SciFi/Fantasy books I read as a teenager. Anything can happen in a book like that. I love to be surprised and to go somewhere I’ve never been.

6. As a veteran author with ten novels and three art books under your belt, how has your writing process evolved from your first book to your current book?

I’ve learned to accept my process, which at best is chaotic. I no longer criticize myself for not outlining or for hitting a blank wall or for throwing out thousands of words. If that’s what it takes to get to the heart of my story, then that’s what it takes.

7. For over 20 years, you’ve worked in the publishing industry as a writer, editor, publicist, photo shoot director, jacket copy designer, and more. How has your background helped you as an author today? What are some of the most valuable lessons about publishing, marketing, editing, and writing that has greatly impacted you over the years?

FathomIt has all helped me because I’ve learned to look at a book or a story from every angle. I love that there are so many aspects to a good book, from cover copy to blurb to cover design to the actual story itself. Every part of it is crucial. Also, working as an editor has taught me to read my own writing with a critical eye. It helps me to see the flaws in my characters and my stories.

8. Out of all the books you have written, which one was the hardest for you to write, and how did you overcome your challenges?

Feast was definitely the hardest. First, I hit a wall half-way through the book and started over. Much later, I read those pages and saw that they were very good. I just didn’t know where to take the story next. In the end, that book was written and rewritten and rewritten. It was written in first POV, then third. It went from about 12 POVs to 5. It kind of drove me nuts! And it all came from my own inability to fall asleep. Hence, I created creatures that steal our dreams—you know those dreams you can’t remember when you wake up? Those were stolen.

9. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I prefer SciFi/Fantasy and mystery. As a teenager I adored the classic writers: H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Tolkien. Now I love Holly Black, Laini Taylor, and Michael Connelly. Books like Pines, Doll Bones, and Lips Touch Three Times are like poetry to me.

10. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

I also work as a magazine editor for Victorian Homes magazine, Haunted: Myths and Legends magazine, and Zombies magazine. So that is my ‘day job.’ I also love designing book covers, but only for myself. Writing is one of those things that I can’t stop, but it is not an 8-hour-a-day job.

11. What can we expect from you in the future? Could you give us any secrets about your upcoming works?A Dark and Twisted Heart

Well, I have a great YA SciFi series coming from Entangled in 2019. I don’t know the date yet, but whoa, is it a good story and the characters are amazing. I can’t wait to get a cover for the first book, because I want to show it to everyone. In my self-publishing, I have a sequel coming to Fairytale Christmas in early 2018 called Wolf Haven. I’m almost done with the third story in my Dark Heart Chronicles. I also have a YA Post Apoc novella series starting soon—I really love that one too. It’s called the Outrunner Series.

12. Do you have any special advice or tips for any aspiring authors or writers who are currently reading this interview?

Don’t give up. Really, just don’t. It may take awhile to get published or you might publish your first book fairly quickly. But every story and every book that you write will help you to improve your craft. Learn from your mistakes, grow and study writing like the fine art that it is. Read a lot! And don’t just read books in the genre you’re writing. Read everything.

Thanks so much, Merrie, for coming onto the blog! It’s so great having you!


About the AuthorMerrie Destefano

CURRENTLY A FULL-TIME NOVELIST and magazine editor, Merrie Destefano’s next novel, LOST GIRLS, releases on January 3, 2017. Her other novels include AFTERLIFE and FEAST, both published by HarperCollins, and FATHOM, which was self-published. The editor of Victorian Homes magazine, she has also been the editor of American Farmhouse Style, Vintage Gardens, and Zombies magazine, and was the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine.

With 20 years experience in publishing, she worked for a variety of publishing/broadcasting companies that include Focus on the Family, The Word For Today, and PJS Publications (now Primedia). Besides editing and writing, her background includes print buying, writing/producing radio promos, directing photo shoots, developing new products, writing jacket copy for books, creating sales media packets and organizing direct mail campaigns.

Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Buy her books on Amazon!

Fairytale Christmas Lost Girls A Dark and Twisted Heart Fathom


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Fairytale Christmas? Have you read any of Merrie’s books?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

E-ARC Review: Ballad of the the Beanstalk by Amy McNulty – An Interesting Prequel for Jack and the Beanstalk

Hi guys! I got another review for you, and today’s book is Ballad of the the Beanstalk by Amy McNulty! Now first, I want to make a few announcements.

  1. We have an Instagram now, which is going to be 100% controlled by Cayli. Go follow us @LILbooKlovers (and make sure you also follow our Twitter where you can find my latest ramblings about stuff). She’s going to provide some pretty photos and updates there, so you don’t want to miss it!
  2. I am suspending Weekly Quote-Flection for the summer because I have so many author guests on the blog from Summer of Authors and I’m limiting myself to post 2-3 times a week (Monday, Friday, and Sunday). I know, I did one, and I stopped. But by then, I’ll have a ton of quotes to pick from and write about once the school year’s here!

Hope you enjoy the review!


About the BookBallad and the Beanstalk

As her fingers move across the strings of her family’s heirloom harp, sixteen-year-old Clarion can forget. She doesn’t dwell on the recent passing of her beloved father or the fact that her mother has just sold everything they owned, including that very same instrument that gives Clarion life. She doesn’t think about how her friends treat her like a feeble, brittle thing to be protected. She doesn’t worry about how to tell the elegant Elena, her best friend and first love, that she doesn’t want to be her sweetheart anymore. She becomes the melody and loses herself in the song.

When Mack, a lord’s dashing young son, rides into town so his father and Elena’s can arrange a marriage between the two youth, Clarion finds herself falling in love with a boy for the first time. Drawn to Clarion’s music, Mack puts Clarion and Elena’s relationship to the test, but he soon vanishes by climbing up a giant beanstalk that only Clarion has seen. When even the town witch won’t help, Clarion is determined to rescue Mack herself and prove once and for all that she doesn’t need protecting. But while she fancied herself a savior, she couldn’t have imagined the enormous world of danger that awaits her in the kingdom of the clouds.

A prequel to the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk that reveals the true story behind the magical singing harp.



Disclaimer: I received a free electronic ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Overall Thoughts: I really liked the premise of the book. How did the Harp in Jack and the Beanstalk get there? It was a very interesting and unique “prequel” to Jack and the Beanstalk, and I finished it in two days. It was a quick read that keeps you hooked from the beginning! I stayed up one night just to finish the book, and I couldn’t put it down until the end. I remember I was reading another book as I was starting this one, and I was like “I just want to read this one.” Now was this a 4- or 5-star book for me? Not really; I didn’t like it and I wasn’t as emotionally connected to it as I wanted, but fairy tale lovers will like this book!

Continue reading “E-ARC Review: Ballad of the the Beanstalk by Amy McNulty – An Interesting Prequel for Jack and the Beanstalk”