Book Review: The Hazel Wood

Book: The Hazel Wood – Author: Melissa Albert

Genre: YA, Mystery, Fairy Tales

Description from Goodreads:

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.

My Review:

Where to begin!?! This book was amazing. I absolutely love innovative fairy tale books; ones that create their own fairy tale world and then force “regular” people to interact with them. This author imagined several completely new tales and managed to integrate them into the world in a way that was entirely believable.

As to the characters…I will admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Alice, the main character, at first. Kind of cranky and stand-offish, she took some getting used to. Though, her personality does end up getting completely explained and, by the end of the book, I was totally rooting for her.

On the other hand, I completely adored Ellery, Alice’s somewhat unwanted sidekick, from the get-go. I think it’s because he reminded me so much of myself. Completely smitten with a fictional world and rather awkward in this one, Ellery is determined to find a way into the Hazel Wood and escape the drudgery that is his “real life”.

And the stories…sigh. How I loved the stories. Jam packed with devastation, just like the much-loved original Grimm tales. The villains are horrific beings from long ago, the type that would rather eat you than help you. No “fairy godmother” in this book…or well, not a nice one anyway. There was real danger in this novel. It gripped me tight and didn’t let me go until it reached its conclusion.

I highly recommend this book for people who love old-school fairy tales. The ones where you aren’t entirely certain your favorite character will make it out alive.

Similar Book(s):

The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly


Sweeping the Shelves #12

Howdy folks! Welcome to another installment of Sweeping The Shelves, the (usually) weekly blog post where I attempt to persuade myself to part with a few of my beloved TBRs.

Last week we had a big snow storm and I wasn’t able to get to the StS. 😦 Next week, I will be at Niagara Falls (yea!), so I probably won’t post one then either. So I figured, I’d better at least get one done today! Let’s get started…

The Alienist (Caleb Carr)

alienistDescription from GoodreadsThe year is 1896. The city is New York. Newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned by his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler—a psychologist, or “alienist”—to view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy abandoned on the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge. From there the two embark on a revolutionary effort in criminology: creating a psychological profile of the perpetrator based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who will kill again before their hunt is over.

Final Verdict: Someone in the reviews described this novel as “blending a Sherlock Holmes type investigator and a Hannibal Lector/Jeffrey Dahmer like serial killer”. Sounds intriguing… — KEEP

Gorgon: The Monsters that Ruled the Planet Before Dinosaurs and How They Died in the Greatest Catastrophe in Earth’s History (Peter Ward)

gorgonDescription from GoodreadsBased on more than a decade’s research in South Africa’s Karoo Desert, this remarkable journey of discovery and real-life adventure deep into Earth’s history is offered by a renowned scientist.

Final Verdict: Heck of a title, considering the wimpy description. I’ve had this book with me for over 10 years and still haven’t read it. Reviews on Goodreads seem to be pretty mixed, but I don’t know that I can part with it after so long without at least attempting to read it! It’s also pretty short, so I guess I can save it for when I’m on a non-fiction kick. — KEEP

Ruins of Gorlan – Rangers Apprentice #1 (John Flanagan)


Description from Goodreads: They have always scared him in the past — the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied…

Final Verdict: Hm, I guess I can understand why I bought this one, especially if I was on a Middle Grade book kick at the time; it does sound kind of interesting. But I’m just not feeling it now. Besides, my library has pretty much this entire series. — DONATE

Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)

waterforelephantsDescription from GoodreadsWhen Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her. 

Final Verdict: …this is a romance book isn’t it. Why did I buy this one? Maybe I was curious about the elephant? I dunno. — DONATE

The Winter People (Jennifer McMahon)

winterpeopleDescription from GoodreadsWest Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

Final Verdict: Oooo….. — KEEP

Today’s Count: Keep = 3, Donate = 2

Overall Count: Keep = 37, Donate = 23

Sweeping the Shelves #11

Hello all! Welcome to the 11th installment of Sweeping the Shelves; the weekly blog where I attempt to diminish my ever growing pile of TBRs. I’m running a bit late with this week’s post, but I didn’t forget! 🙂

Alexandria – Marcus Didius Falco #19 (Lindsey Davis)

AlexandriaDescription from Goodreads: In first century A.D. Rome, during the reign of Vespasian, Marcus Didius Falco works as a private “informer,” often for the emperor, ferreting out hidden truths and bringing villains to ground. But even informers take vacations with their wives, so in A.D. 77, Falco and his wife, Helena Justina, with others in tow, travel to Alexandria, Egypt. But they aren’t there long before Falco finds himself in the midst of nefarious doings—when the Librarian of the great library is found dead, under suspicious circumstances. Falco quickly finds himself on the trail of dodgy doings, malfeasance, deadly professional rivalry, more bodies and the lowest of the low—book thieves! As the bodies pile up, it’s up to Falco to untangle this horrible mess and restore order to a disordered universe.

Final Verdict: Ok, so I accidentally bought the 19th book in this series. Oops! I discovered the mistake pretty quickly, though, and bought Book 1 to read first. I liked it decent enough, but I think I need to be realistic about the fact that I will likely never read all the way up to the 19th book, lol! — DONATE

The Glittering World (Robert Levy)

glitteringworldDescription from GoodreadsWhen up-and-coming chef Michael “Blue” Whitley returns with three friends to the remote Canadian community of his birth, it appears to be the perfect getaway from New York. He soon discovers, however, that everything he thought he knew about himself is a carefully orchestrated lie. Though he had no recollection of the event, as a young boy Blue and another child went missing for weeks in the idyllic, mysterious woods of Starling Cove. Soon thereafter, his mother suddenly fled with him to America, their homeland left behind.

But then Blue begins to remember. And once the shocking truth starts bleeding back into his life, his closest friends—Elisa, his former partner in crime; her stalwart husband, Jason; and Gabe, Blue’s young and admiring co-worker—must unravel the secrets of Starling Cove and the artists’ colony it once harbored. All four will face their troubled pasts, their most private demons, and a mysterious race of beings that inhabits the land, spoken of by the locals only as the Other Kind…

Final Verdict: Oh…that is an intriguing description. Now I remember why I bought this one at full cover price. — KEEP

The Sword of Summer – Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1 (Rick Riordan)

magnuschaseDescription from Goodreads: Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. 
The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision. Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die…

Final Verdict: Yeah, this one isn’t even in question. I already have it on my list for my reading challenge this year. I LOVE Rick Riordan and would probably never get rid of one of his books without at least reading it first. 🙂 — KEEP

Reliquary – Pendergast #2 (Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child)

reliquaryDescription from GoodreadsHidden deep beneath Manhattan lies a warren of tunnels, sewers, and galleries, mostly forgotten by those who walk the streets above. There lies the ultimate secret of the Museum Beast. When two grotesquely deformed skeletons are found deep in the mud off the Manhattan shoreline, museum curator Margo Green is called in to aid the investigation. Margo must once again team up with police lieutenant D’Agosta and FBI agent Pendergast, as well as the brilliant Dr. Frock, to try and solve the puzzle. The trail soon leads deep underground, where they will face the awakening of a slumbering nightmare.

Final Verdict: I actually do also have the first book in this series and the description sounds really interesting, so I think I’ll hang on to them for a while. — KEEP

Wild Ride (Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer)

wildrideDescription from Goodreads: Mary Alice Brannigan doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Nor does she expect to find that Dreamland, the decaying amusement park she’s been hired to restore, is a prison for the five Untouchables, the most powerful demons in the history of the world. Plus, there’s a guy she’s falling hard for—and there’s something about him that’s not quite right. 

But rocky romances and demented demons aren’t the only problems in Dreamland: Mab’s also coping with a crooked politician, a supernatural raven, a secret government agency, an inexperienced sorceress, an unsettling inheritance, and some mind-boggling revelations from her past. As her personal demons wreck her newfound relationship and real demons wreck the park, Mab faces down immortal evil and discovers what everybody who’s ever been to an amusement park knows: The end of the ride is always the wildest.

Final Verdict: I dunno about the rocky romance part, but the rest sounds really cool! I think I’ll give it a go. — KEEP

Today’s Count: Keep = 4, Donate = 1 (Oops. 😉 )

Overall Count: Keep = 34, Donate = 21

Sweeping the Shelves #10

Look! I made it to #10! 😀

For you new folks, Sweeping the Shelves is a weekly blog in which I pick 5 of my innumerable real-life TBRs and decide whether I want to keep them or donate them.

A Conspiracy of Alchemists – The Chronicles of Light & Shadow #1 (Liesel Schwarz)

conspiracyofalchemistsDescription from GoodreadsIt is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural. Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret. But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible. 

Final Verdict: I love me some steampunk, but why does the female protagonist ALWAYS have to run into an “annoyingly irresistible” foe? I mean, really? — DONATE

The Ghost and the Haunted Mansion – Haunted Bookshop Mystery #5 (Alice Kimberly)

ghostandthehauntedmansionDescription from Goodreads: Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure didn’t believe in ghosts–until she met the spirit of hard-boiled 1940s detective Jack Shepard. And when Pen’s friend and mailman, Seymour Tarnish, gets into deep trouble, Pen not only believes in her ghost–she also thinks he can help…An elderly lady of leisure has been found dead on posh Larchmont Avenue, her will recently, and suspiciously, revised to name Seymour as heir to her mansion. Just as eyes turn to him as the murderer–and Seymour gets busy settling into his ritzy digs–the mansion’s ghosts begin plaguing him. So he hires a team of parapsychologists to exorcise all the spirits from the town of Quindicott–and that includes Jack Shepard. Now Pen must act fast–because losing Jack scares Pen more than rattling chains and cold spots…

Final Verdict: Well, this sounds cute, but Book #5? How did that happen? ::checks library:: Oo, looks like my library has the first book in the series. Maybe I’ll start there instead. 😉 — DONATE

On Stranger Tides (Tim Powers)

strangertidesDescription from GoodreadsAboard the Vociferous Carmichael, puppeteer John Chandagnac is sailing toward Jamaica to claim his stolen birthright from an unscrupulous uncle, when the vessel is captured . . . by pirates! Offered a choice by Captain Phil Davies to join their seafaring band or die, Chandagnac assumes the name John Shandy and a new life as a brigand. But more than swashbuckling sea battles and fabulous plunder await the novice buccaneer on the roiling Caribbean waters–for treachery and powerful vodun sorcery are coins of the realm in this dark new world. And for the love of beautiful, magically imperiled Beth Hurwood, Shandy will set sail on even stranger tides, following the savage, ghost-infested pirate king, Blackbeard, and a motley crew of the living and the dead to the cursed nightmare banks of the fabled Fountain of Youth.

Final Verdict: Huh, sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it? Looks like Disney snagged some plot points for the 4th Pirates movie from this book. While I did enjoy the movie, the book sounds way more interesting AND it would fit one of my categories for my reading challenge. — KEEP

Shakespeare’s Kitchen (Lore Segal)

shakespeareskitchenDescription from GoodreadsIlka Weisz has accepted a teaching position at the Concordance Institute, a think tank in Connecticut, reluctantly leaving her New York circle of friends. After the comedy of her struggle to meet new people, Ilka comes to embrace, and be embraced by, a new set of acquaintances, including the institute’s director, Leslie Shakespeare, and his wife, Eliza. Through a series of memorable dinner parties, picnics, and Sunday brunches, Segal evokes the subtle drama and humor of the outsider’s loneliness, the comfort and charm of familiar companionship, the bliss of being in love, and the strangeness of our behavior in the face of other people’s deaths.

Final Verdict: Hmm, I’m torn. I’ve been really into general fiction lately, but I know that phase will likely come to an end soon and I don’t know if I care enough about this one to squeeze it in before hand. — DONATE

The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)


Description from Goodreads: The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

Final Verdict: Sounds creepy! I remember, I stumbled on this one while looking for The Moonstone and it intrigued me. It still does. I have the Kindle version too, but there’s just something about holding the book in your hands that draws you more into the story and it sounds like I’ll want to be fully invested in this one. — KEEP

Today’s Count: Keep = 2, Donate = 3

Overall Count: Keep = 30, Donate = 20