Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa AlbertThe Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) by Melissa Albert
Published by Flatiron Books on January 30th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
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.

Ever read something so delightfully dark, strange and magical that you couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty you loved it so much, even with all the bloody parts? Though I confess I didn’t feel one bit guilty about loving all the gritty bloody parts of The Hazel Wood. My little black heart relished in all its grisly glory.

It’s about time we finally have a fairy tale that isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. That doesn’t necessarily end in “happily ever after” or with anyone being “saved”.  A fairy tale that is reminiscent of the long forgotten Grimm tales. Before they were all “Disney-fied” with a whoosh of a wand by a benevolent fairy god mother. Well friends, The Hazel Wood is the book for you!

Welcome to The Hazel Wood, where nothing is what is seems. Alice is enthralled with her elusive grandmother Althea Proserpine, the writer of an infamous collection of dark fairy tales called Tales from the Hinterland. Ella (Alice’s mom) is determined to keep Alice away from her grandmother or stepping foot in The Hazel Wood, Althea’s enigamous estate. Yet this never deters Alice from collecting bits of news story on her grandmother whenever she can get her hands on it.

Ella keeps them on the run; drifting from place to place trying to avoid the “bad luck” she is so adamant is always following them.  Now that Alice is older, she can’t help but wonder if all this moving has anything to do with her grandmother and the fairy tale world she created.  Soon enough Alice gets her answers when a note appears stating that her grandmother is dead, and soon after Ella goes missing.

 

Alone for the first time, Alice turns to the only person she feels can help her, a school mate named Ellery Finch who happens to be an uber-fan of Althea’s book.

Together they set off to find Ella, who Alice is convinced (due to mysterious  and grim clues left for her), has been snatched away to The Hazel Wood by the characters of The Hinterland.  Little does Alice realize how treacherous and bloody their journey is about to become.

This is not an Alice in Wonderland retelling. I’ve heard a few readers mentioning this, and though I found some similarities, I allotted that to how my own mind works.

Although, while reading I did keep thinking about how Ellery Finch reminded me of the White Rabbit leading an unknowing Alice down the void of the rabbit hole and straight into the hands of a variety of fairy tale characters. While not all of them are “mad” or “bloodthirsty” the possibilities for peril are always there.

I thought Twice-Killed Katherine (one of my favorites) reminded me of The Queen of Hearts, but instead of chopping off heads she just sucks you dry of your vitality and life. Even the Spinner could be seen as a combination of the mischievous Cheshire cat and the wise yet confusing smoking Caterpillar.

Then there is the stepping through “portals” from the mundane “reality” into the wondrous and ravenous world of the Hinterland.  Which is a bit like stepping “through the looking glass” but I also found it very similar to Belle crossing the invisible barrier in the forest that allowed her to discover the Beast’s castle. Or even hiding in a wardrobe and pushing so far in that you end up in Narnia.

The moment Alice finally finds and enters The Hazel Wood/The Hinterland is one of my favorite scenes from the book. I love how the author captured this moment, and made it her own.

I really liked Alice, though I could see where her “icy-ness” could rub some readers the wrong way. However before judging her too harshly keep in mind Alice has been through a lot. She has no stable home or friendships. She’s a teenager with lots of unanswered questions. To me, the hidden rage just below her surface is expected and what made her “real”.  I liked her fierceness, intelligence and independent nature. I also love all her book and pop culture references through out the story.

Another favorite part of The Hazel Wood were the tidbits and peaks of the stories from Tales of the Hinterland. These strange, ominous and creepy tales NEED to be a actual book one day.  The “stories” /characters from the Hinterland were intriguing and I really hope we get to find out more about them.  (PRETTY PLEASE MELISSA!!!)

For readers who want a bit of a “trigger warning” this book does contain unsettling, macabre and graphic violence. When I said earlier that this story is dark, I was not joking. No rainbows, sparkles, sunshine or pretty ponies. Okay? Enter at your own risk (::whispers creepily:: Do it….the dark side has cookies…or at least some type of booze/food at the pub found deep in the Hinterland where the “stories” hangout….).

The Hazel Wood has kept me mesmerized for almost a year now. I found the author’s take on the ever changing genre of fairy tales to be refreshing and brilliant. Melissa Albert crafts a fascinating tale filled with complex stories within a story that is haunting, unique and unforgettable.

If you want to find yourself lost in a magical moon-lit forest filled with “stories” that can lure you to your bloody end or all sorts of other mayhem,  enter The Hazel Wood. You won’t regret it.  I highly recommend it, and rate it 5 stars+.

UPDATE: THERE WILL BE MORE BOOKS!!!! The Hazel Wood will have a  second book and Tales from the Hinterland will also be a book!!! Every part of my  soul was dancing with happiness when I heard this news.

I can’t wait to return to this bewitching world in 2019 and 2020 when Albert will be releasing book 2 and Tales from the Hinterland.

A very special THANK YOU to Flatiron Books (Thanks Sarah!!!) for providing me with an ARC of The Hazel Wood in return for an honest review. As well as Melissa Albert for writing this delightfully wicked debut. 

 

Middle Grade Book Review: The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine by Frank L. Cole

Middle Grade Book Review: The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine by Frank L. ColeThe World's Greatest Adventure Machine by Frank L. Cole
Published by Delacorte Press on August 8th 2017
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

An adventure novel about four lucky kids and a mysterious, but thrilling ride for fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Jurassic Park! CastleCorp and the famous Castleton brothers are unveiling the World's Greatest Adventure Machine! The roller coaster is an experience like no other, and four lucky kids have won the chance to be the first to ride it. There's Trevor, whose latest stunt got him in trouble at school again. There's Devin, whose father is pushing him to be the next Internet sensation. Nika's wealthy grandfather isn't too pleased about her participation. And Cameron, he'll be the first to tell you, is a certified genius. The whole world is watching. But as the kids set off on their journey, they begin to realize that there is perhaps more to their fellow contest winners than meets the eye. And the Adventure Machine? It might just have a mind of its own. Join the contestants on their wild ride if you dare. Your adventure starts now!

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine is about to launch, and four lucky kids have won the right to ride on the maiden voyage. Our four riders are all very different from one another. Trevor is the troublemaker/mischievous one. Nika is super rich, and very guarded (with good reason). Cameron is as smart as they come, and Devin is a social media star.

One of the things I liked best about the story was the uniqueness of each character. As you read more about them, you can’t help but want to know more. It was very interesting to see how they each handled their own struggles and secrets. Even more so, how they work together and discover more about themselves as they share the experiences on the ride.

As the adventure unfolds, each of the four winners has their first impressions of their fellow participants. However, these impressions are all based on their exterior and will soon change. This important message is very well executed by the author, as well as the concept of working as a team. It is so important to teach our young readers that first impressions aren’t always right. As well as teaching them the importance of teamwork and collaboration.

The pace of The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine is fast and wild. Every moment was filled with something exciting, entertaining and unexpected. As the reader, you will be constantly be guessing what will happen next. Not to mention what is real, or virtual. Middle graders are sure to enjoy all the twists and turns in this story, which will keep them turning the pages.

Along with great humor, engaging characters and a fun, fast paced tone The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine is unforgettable! Middle grade readers are sure to love the exciting plot and adventures within the pages. There is something for everyone from mystery, humor, and thrills. It will leave you wishing you could ride The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine too.

 

*Thank you to Delacorte Press for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.*

four-stars

Blog Tour: Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things by Simon Van Booy : Review & Playlist

Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Goodreads
four-stars

Welcome to the blog tour for Gertie Milk and The Keeper of Lost Things by Simon Van Booy. Today is my stop of the tour and I will be sharing with you my review, along with a playlist inspired by the adventures Gertie goes on throughout the book.  Make sure to check out the rest of the tour stops too for other fun content.

 

Gertie Milk and The Keeper of Lost Things

BY: Simon Van Booy

PUBLISHER: Razorbill

PUB DATE: OCT 3rd, 2017

AMAZON|GOODREADS

 

MY RATING: 4 Stars

 

 

 

Synopsis

This enchanting middle-grade adventure follows twelve-year-old Gertie Milk, who washes up on the island of Skuldark, and finds that all of her memories are gone. Home to helpful Slug Lamps, delicious moonberries, and a ferocious Guard Worm, the island is full of oddities, including a cozy cottage containing artifacts from every corner of history.

It is there that Gertie discovers she has been chosen as the next Keeper of Lost Things, tasked with the mission of returning objects to history’s most important figures right when they need them most. With the help of a time machine disguised as a vintage sports car and the guidance of her fellow Keeper, Kolt, Gertie dodges an elephant army in ancient Alexandria, crashes a 1920s flapper party, and battles a ruthless Zhou Dynasty king.

But soon, Gertie encounters an enemy that threatens everything the Keepers stand for: The Losers, villains who don’t want to keep order but destroy it. Now, Gertie must uncover the truth of her own past if she wants to stop the Losers and set history back in place.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Simon Van Booy is the best-selling author of seven books of fiction, and three anthologies of philosophy. He has written for the New York Times, the Financial Times, NPR, and the BBC. Simon enjoys building robots, model airplanes, and off-road vehicles—which he likes to crash. He has an impressive umbrella collection, a Bowler hat, and carries a green thermos of tea everywhere. His books have been translated into many languages. In 2013, he founded Writers for Children, a project which helps young people build confidence in their literary abilities through annual awards. Raised in rural Wales and England, Simon currently lives between Brooklyn and Miami with his wife, daughter, Robot Rabbit Boy, and a fully-grown sheep.


 

MY REVIEW:

Gertie Milk and the Keep of Lost Things is a charming and whimsical new middle grade book by Simon Van Booy. Within its pages we are introduced to an array of interesting characters, thrilling adventures and the enigmatic world of the Lost Things.

Gertie wakes up on the island of lost things with no memory of who she is, or where she comes from. Gertie at first is afraid, but soon she meets Kolt who tells her that she is now a Keeper of Lost Things. Kolt tells Gertie that Keepers are responsible for returning random lost objects to important people throughout history.

As Kolt fills Gertie in on her new responsibilities, he takes her for a tour of all the rooms in cabin that hold a variety of lost objects. Kolt explains that they do not get to choose where they go, but the B.D.B.U (a magical book) will “summon” them and give them the details once it is time to go return something.

This ultimately leads to Gertie and Kolt having a variety of wild and fun adventures as they work to keep order throughout history. However, there is a group of people who would like nothing better than to cause chaos in history. These are the Losers, and they will do anything to keep Gertie, Kolt or any Keeper from fulfilling their duties.

Gertie Milk and The Keeper of Lost Things is a delight to read. I loved the concept of how one simple lost object has the power to alter the outcome of history. Along with the B.D.B.U my most favorite thing about the world of Lost Things is The Sock Drawer. The Sock Drawer is a huge room filled with lost clothing from throughout time (basically a costumer’s dream closet).

Along with the world building the author also does a great job of making the story approachable and fun. It flows really nicely, and constantly throws new and fascinating things at the reader to keep them engaged.

I like that the story advocates a positive message about friendship, loyalty and finding yourself even when you feel lost and confused. Gertie barely knows anything about herself, but she doesn’t let that hold her down. Instead, she moves forward and handles her struggles beautifully.

Gertie Milk and The Keeper of Lost Things is an imaginative, educational and fun read. Readers of all ages will find something to love about this story, and the characters. I am looking forward to reading more about Gertie’s adventures and hope more books are on the way.

 

MY PLAYLIST:

 

 

four-stars

YA Book Review: WARCROSS by Marie Lu

YA Book Review: WARCROSS by Marie LuWarcross (Warcross, #1) by Marie Lu
on September 12th 2017
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

WARCROSS is such a thrill ride! The story reads so quickly I had to reign myself in from reading it in one sitting. However, Warcross had other ideas, and soon I found myself more than 2/3rds done with the book. Capturing your attention from the very first chapter, the book immerses you into the story, just like actual virtual reality.

WARCROSS is set between New York and Tokyo in the not so distant future where virtual reality is a “normal” part of daily life. In this world, everyone is obsessed with playing WARCROSS, a virtual reality game created by Hideo. Our heroine Emika Chen is a rainbow-haired code/hacker wiz trying to make ends meet by hunting down criminals in the cyber world/Dark web.

When Emika gets hired by Hideo Tanaka, I was pleased. He clearly appreciates her brilliance, and respects her for her abilities. Hideo himself is mainly a mystery to everyone. However, he does let his guard down when he is with Emika. The romance that sparks between them seems genuine, and a bit awkward as both characters have a hard time letting down their emotional firewalls.

Marie Lu does a lovely job executing her characters and giving them so much depth. I love what a badass gamer Emika is.  Usually people dismiss girls as being legit gamers. Which is why it is important that Emika can code, hack and is pretty much a cyber genius.

I love the world that Marie Lu creates in WARCROSS. It isn’t too far-fetched or even completely impossible to think that this could be our actual “real” world one day. With how technology is progressing it might even be closer than we think. I am curious to see where the next book might take the world building.

WARCROSS does have a few plot twists thrown into the story, and though one I pretty much guessed from the start, the second I did not see coming at all. The cliffhanger at the end had me going WHAT? NO! WHY??? OMG…I need to know what happens next!!!

Between the fantastic world building and the “life” that Marie Lu puts into her characters, WARCROSS is a book that all genders can truly appreciate and enjoy reading. Needless to say, I will definitely be reading the next book in the series.

WARCROSS is a fast read, jam packed with action and a super cool virtual reality world. I highly recommend it to lovers of YA and science fiction books.

four-stars

Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour: Trick or Treat Costume/Cosplay Ideas

Welcome to the Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour! Today is my turn to showcase something fun in honor of the upcoming release of Kerri Maniscalco’s second novel Hunting Prince Dracula. After reading Kerri’s first book Stalking Jack the Ripper, I couldn’t wait for the next one. When I heard the new book in the series revolves around the myth of Dracula, I already knew I would love it.  The last time I participated in the tour for Stalking Jack the Ripper, I did a special peak into Audrey Rose’s closet (click here to check it out). Taking inspiration from that post, I am going to provide you with some ideas for potential cosplay/ trick or treat costumes for dressing up like the characters in Hunting Prince Dracula.  Make sure to out my review for Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula.

In the book, our main characters Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell start off on the Orient Express on their way to Romania. Here are some ideas for what they might be wearing.

 

Audrey Rose Travel Dress:

 

 

 

Audrey Rose Cape (for staying warm on sleigh rides with Thomas):

 

Audrey Rose Castle Grounds Exploring: 

 

Thomas Cresswell:

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While at Bran Castle, Audrey Rose would probably try to wear less “frilly” attire, so here are some ideas for the perfect dresses to attend lectures and handle body parts.

 

Audrey Rose Lecture Attire:

1973.590a,b_recto_image1_CAM

 

 

 

Thomas Cresswell/Other Male students at the Academy:

 

Daciana Cresswell (Thomas’s sister!)

 

 

Audrey Rose Christmas Ball Attire (Inspired by the Yellow dress Audrey Rose admires in the village):

 

Thomas Cresswell Christmas Ball Attire:

Victorian Gowns and costumes are elaborate works of art, but with a little imagination, revamping or heading to a good rental costume store you can accomplish pulling off these looks and many more. Here are a few “modern spins” on Audrey Rose’s Victorian fashions…

 

But if you really want to be authentic, I would recommend finding a costume store that rents more elaborate costumes, or even go on Ebay or Etsy if you can afford to buy it.

 

Make sure to check out the rest of the tour and remember that Hunting Prince Dracula goes on sale on September 19th, 2017.

 

 

Title: Hunting Prince Dracula
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Publication date: September 19, 2017
Pages: 448
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

 

 

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

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.

 

 ***

PRAISE FOR HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA

“There are plenty of suspects and red herrings as well as tense escalations….A scenic, twisty mystery.”

Kirkus Reviews

 “Readers of the previous mystery will be thrilled to have more of this likable duo. [A] delightful romp into an 1888 Gothic mystery with a hint of romance.”

School Library Connection

 

ABOUT KERRI MANISCALCO

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Her first novel in this series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It incorporates her love of forensic science and unsolved history.

Follow Kerri on Social media links:

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website | Tumblr | Pinterest

 

TOUR DATES

Week One

August 21: Paper Cuts: Hunting Prince Dracula Playlist
August 22: Literary Legionnaire: Review of Hunting Prince Dracula
August 23: Books & A Cup of Coffee: Character Mood Boards
August 24: Artic Books: Hunting Prince Dracula Playlist
August 25: 21st Century Once Upon A Times: A “Drink Your way through SJTR: Tea Edition”

Week Two

August 28: Hiver Et Café: History of Prince Dracula
August 29: Justice Reads: Review of Hunting Prince Dracula
August 30: Nicole’s Novel Reads: Travelling Etiquette and tips for Victorian Women
August 31: Sophie Reads YA: Favourite Stalking Jack the Ripper Fanart
September 1: LILbooKlovers: Top Ten Quotes from Stalking Jack the Ripper

Week Three

September 4: One Way or An Author: Hunting Prince Dracula Phone Backgrounds
September 5: A Blinding Book: Hunting Prince Dracula Aesthetic
September 6: Rants & Raves: Review & Snacks
September 7: Rattle the Stars: Hunting Prince Dracula Playlist
September 8: A Gingerly Reviews: Hunting Prince Dracula Review

Week Four

September 11: The Plot Bunny: Hunting Prince Dracula Trick or Treat Costume Ideas
September 12: Blame it on The Books: Hunting Prince Dracula Review
September 13: The Reader & the Chef : Hunting Prince Dracula’s Menu
September 14: Books, Tv, and More…Oh MY!!: Top Ten Favourite Traits of Audrey & Thomas
September 15: Unquenchable Reads : GIF, GIFS, and more GIFS

Week Five 

September 18: Rattle the Pages : A Glimpse Back in Time: Vlad The Impaler edition
September 19: Beyond the Book Reviews: Character Wears of the 21st Century
September 20: The Heart of a Book Blogger : Hunting Prince Dracula Mood Board

 

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