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.

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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

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Book Review: Lost on the Water by D. G. Driver — A Creepy Ghost Story Perfect for the Summertime or around a Campfire

Hi guys! Today is the last day of August, and to celebrate, I am sharing with you all a review of a spooky summertime read. A month ago, I read Lost on the Water by D. G. Driver, a local author who not only lives in Tennessee but set her latest novel there as well. It’s definitely a quick and easy read, yet it will get your heart pounding! I hope you enjoy!


About the BookLost on the Water

One girl’s daring adventure turns into a long frightful night lost on the water.

Against her wishes, Dannie has to leave the California beach behind to spend the summer with her grandma in rural Tennessee. Things look up when a group of local boys invite her on an overnight kayaking trip. When her grandma refuses to let her go, Dannie finds an old rowboat hidden behind the shed and sneaks off to catch up to her new friends. It seems like a simple solution… until everything goes wrong.

Dannie soon discovers this lake is more than just vast. It’s full of danger, family secrets, and ghosts.

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4 StarsDisclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of horror and ghost stories. While I think they’re really interesting, sometimes I just get too creeped out by movie trailers or book synopses. I did love D. G. Driver’s The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy, so when she reached out to me about her latest novel—a ghost set in my home state of Tennessee—I could not resist. Lost on the Water is a creepy and chilling tale filled with secrets, mystery, and intrigue. It is a very quick and easy read that will suck you in after just a few pages. The story might seem a bit innocent at first, but be warned, there’s more secrets and scares than meets the eye.

While I am not an expert in ghost stories, I can say with certainty that a good one must be able to spook you. Lost on the Water did send many chills down my spine as it creeped me out. It is one of those stories that is perfect to narrate around a campfire in the middle of the night or to read in your bed while staying up past your bedtime. I finished Lost on the Water in just a few sittings, and I found myself intrigued and mystified by the possibility of a ghost plaguing Dannie and Center Hill Lake from the start. This book will get your heart pounding, your blood pumping, and your senses prickling.

I think the part that I enjoyed the most was the whole setting. As much as I love reading books by local authors, what’s even better is reading books set in my beloved home state of Tennessee. Lost on the Water takes place in the quiet town of Smithville (which is real and I have passed by it), home to Center Hill Lake, which may or may not be haunted. To see all of the references to Tennessee life and culture made me so happy—small details like the freeway being referred to as an “interstate” and people drinking really really sweet tea filled me with joy. Certainly, the author got Tennessee life in a small town right. In addition, she truly transports her readers into nature, making them feel as if they were paddling on the vast lake or stumbling through a dark forest. Driver’s prose was very well-written, and I commend her greatly for that.

Lost on the Water is a great read for both the summer and the fall. It’s a spooky tale that is one thrill of a ride—a journey that will take on the waters of a lake that may seem serene but is haunted by the memory (or possibly more than that) of a terrible accident. Dannie’s adventure will have readers feeling goosebumps and wanting more after each chapter.


About the AuthorSAMSUNG

D. G. Driver is an optimist at heart, and that’s why she likes to write books about young people who strive to make a difference in the world. From her teen environmentalist in The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy, a young girl teaching her friends autism acceptance and to stop bullying people with special needs in No One Needed to Know, a princess who desires to be more than a pampered prize for a prince in The Royal Deal, to a boy who learns that being genuine and chivalrous are the ways to win a girl’s heart in Passing Notes, Driver hopes to write characters that you’ll want to root for. When she’s not writing, she is a teacher in an inclusive child development center in Nashville, and she can often be found strutting the stage in a local musical theater production.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Lost on the Water? Do you like ghost stories?

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

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Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour: Top Ten Quotes from Stalking Jack the Ripper + Giveaway

Hi guys! Today I am on a 5-day weekend because of parent-teacher conferences and Labor Day, so it’s going to be a break full of catching up on a bunch of stuff including studying, extarcurriculars, and reading! Today I am so glad to be a part of the Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour, and I have a physical ARC (yes, I have an actual physical ARC!) at home I’m so excited to dig in soon! To help you convince you to get both Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula, I am doing my Top 10 Favorite Quotes from Stalking Jack the Ripper!

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Title: Hunting Prince Dracula 33784373(Stalking Jack the Ripper #2)

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Pub. Date: September 19th, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown & Company

Format: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 448

Synopsis: In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

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Pre-Order Hunting Prince Dracula here!

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Also, Kerri is hosting a pre-order giveaway where if you send her proof of purchase, you can get a Stalking Jack the Ripper novella that is set in Thomas’s point of view! You do not want to miss Meeting Thomas Cresswell! Check out the details here!

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