ARC Review - The Hazel Wood

Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Series: The Hazel Wood #1
Published: January 30, 2018
Source: e-ARC for review
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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.


This book has been on my goodreads shelf for over a year now because from day one it sounded like it was going to be right up my alley.  Something about "pitch-dark fairy tales" just called to me, and let's be honest, that cover is gorgeous so I was pretty much guaranteed to read it if I had the time.  Thankfully I did, and I'm really glad.

The best thing about this book, hands down, was the writing.  Not everyone is gonna love it, but I'm a huge sucker for those lush, lyrical books that wrap around you and make you want to pull quotes from them to write on your walls or ink on your skin (or maybe that's just me).  Albert has definitely joined my ranks of Laini Taylor, Taherah Mafi, and Lauren Oliver with her writing skills and how they seem effortlessly beautiful.  This is a story about fairy tales, in fact, one could argue it is one itself, and it certainly lives up to it in the writing department.

Along with the writing, the other thing that I think really worked for this book was the story.  I don't want to give too much away so I'm gonna be a little vague here, but I very much enjoyed the path this story went down.  It had an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, story-wise, what with it being about a girl who ends up in a world that's not quite right, but the twists and turns that it included, along with the fact that the Alice in this story actually meant to find her Wonderland, managed to keep it fresh.  

There were a few things that kept me from really loving this book, though.  I was talking with a friend trying to pinpoint what it was exactly and I think I finally figured it out.  First I want to note that the pacing of the story was a little odd.  It took almost 150 pages to actually get to anything resembling Wonderlander (or in this case Hinterland), and then we only got about 100 pages inside of it.  That being said I think my main problem was the characters.  They were perfectly fine characters, but they seemed a little flat, and we really only got to know Alice, but even then we didn't really get to know her.  I also noticed that there were things, characters and situations, that were introduced and then never addressed again. 

Overall this was a magical debut that I definitely enjoyed.  It was exactly as advertised; a lush fairytale with bite that kept me entertained from start to finish.  While there were a few little bumps in the road for me this is still a book that I would recommend to people looking for a new fantasy to fill the wait for something else, and I'll certainly be checking out what Albert writes in the future.  I'm gonna be honest, I'm not really sure where book two in this series is going to go because despite what I mentioned about a handful of things that were introduced and never given a resolution the story really does seem to stand on its own as a finished arc.  I'll be curious to see where Albert ends up going with book two, and while I may or may not check that one out, depending on what it will be about, I'm pretty sure I'll check out the collection of stories that will be released the after that that's supposed to be the fictional book of stories this one revolves around.

ARC Review - Everless

Title: Everless
Author: Sara Holland
Publisher: HarperTeen
Series: Untitled #1
Published: January 2, 2018
Source: e-ARC for review
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In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.
No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.
But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.


When I first heard about this novel my interest was piqued enough to add it to my TBR shelf on goodreads but I have to admit I wasn't sure if I really had any intention of reading it anytime soon.  That changed when I saw that the author was coming to my city for an event, so I decided to download the e-ARC from Edelweiss and give it a go.  While it was, in fact, an interesting read I didn't end up loving it as much as everyone else seemed to.

First, lets talk about the things I really did like.  The premise was fantastic.  The only thing I could even think of that came anywhere near the basic idea for this book was the movie In Time, so as far as ideas go it's pretty darn unique.  It's not just the idea of paying for things with time, it's how they pay, extracting the time from blood and turning that into coins that then appear to be consumed.  Everything about the world was just fascinating and for a debut novelist, the entire thing was not only well thought out but well executed. 

Along with the premise and the worldbuilding, the other thing I liked was the female characters, particularly their relationship.  There's something called the Bechdel test, which basically asks if two female characters talk about something other than a man, and this book passes with flying colors.  In fact, I don't even think there's more than a page cumulatively between the main female characters where they discuss men.  The friendship that forms is great, and seeing something like that in YA makes me really happy, especially in a fantasy novel.

Like I said above there were some really great things about this book, but there were also some things about it I had some major problems with.  I mentioned above that there wasn't a ton of talk about the men in the book, and while that was great it kind of seemed like the love interest was just kind of stuck in there because all YA fantasies have a love interest. The main thing that really drove me up the wall though was the fact that the ENTIRE story would never have happened if someone had told the main character what the heck was actually going on.  You know what's not helpful?  Telling the main character to "leave now because it's dangerous" but then refusing to tell them what is dangerous.  Cryptic messages to scare people you care about into doing something when there appears to be no reason you can't tell them the truth make no sense.

Overall I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this book.  While there were pieces of it that I didn't care for the good seemed to outweigh the bad enough for me to want to keep reading, it just wasn't a home run.  It was by no means a bad book, and obviously there are a number of people who really enjoyed it (it just made the NYT list, too), so in the end my thoughts boil down to this; think about if the things I mentioned are a deal breaker, but either way if it's something you might be interested in read a couple of chapters and see what you think.  I'm not sure if I'll read the sequel or not, there was certainly potential there, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see.  Either way, I'll certainly be looking for Holland's next series because while this particular story might not have been a winner for me the next one very well could be and I'll be interested to see what she comes up with next.