Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Published by: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: January 30, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Page Count: 368

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Indigo Teen

Goodreads | Indigo | Amazon CAN | Amazon US | Book Depository


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.


I won this book from an Indigo Teen’s giveaway, which doesn’t affect my review. Thank you, Indigo Teen and the author.

 

“I remembered less from my own life than I did from the books I read.”

With dark and beautiful storytelling, Melissa Albert introduces you to an eerie fairy tale. The Hazel Wood is a good start to a well-thought-out series. And as much as I wanted to fall in love with the lush writing, I couldn’t. This Alice in Wonderland retelling doesn’t quite capture my imagination.

I truly wanted to like it more. But while reading, I felt that the story dragged on for more than half the book. And once you get to the Hazel Wood and Hinterland, the storyline fractures into pieces that I found too distracting. I knew this book threw off a lot of readers who thought it’s not set in our modern world. So thankfully, I knew that coming into Hazel Wood.

I hate writing negative reviews. So much work goes into creating a book. And I have to give respect where it is due. Melissa beautifully creates a spooky world. And her writing draws you into her storytelling. You see her dedication to her craft. But I didn’t build a connection to the story or the characters. And I was expecting more world building in this kind of novel.

Alice has survived from one bad situation to the next. She never seems to find good luck in her life. As she and her mother live on the road, Alice has always been fascinated by her grandmother, who wrote the infamous Hinterland. I wanted to like this character, and while I loved her sarcasm, I felt that she puts herself and others into certain circumstances that she can’t get out of. She can easily prevent this problem from occurring, but she doesn’t stop to think what the consequences will be before doing said action.

Now I had my doubts about Ellery Finch, a fan and collector of Hinterland. I thought I couldn’t trust him, but I was wrong. Surprisingly, I enjoyed his character later in the story, and I think he might be the reason why I’d read the sequel.

If you’re looking for a peculiar and strange take on Alice in Wonderland, then The Hazel Wood should be your next read. While I loved the design of the book, the fairy tales in Hinterland itself, and several secondary characters, I feel that Hazel Wood may not the book for me. But the storytelling makes up for some of my disappointments. With her writing, Melissa will surprise you.

“And while they’re being told, stories create the energy that makes this world go. They keep our stars in place. They make our grass grow.”

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

27883214Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Published by: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: January 31, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Extent: 401 pages

Rating: 5/5

Source: Purchase


Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.


“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea.”

I reserve a five-star rating for these rare books that seep in and take hold of my heart. Sometimes words can’t convey my thoughts on a book, and right now, I wonder if I can grasp onto my emotions after reading CaravalCaraval is a treat for any YA enthusiast. It tickles your senses, captures your heart, and takes a hold of your wildest imaginations.

Scarlett Dragna, the daughter of a brutal governor, dreams of attending Caraval, an annual performance where the participants take part in the festival. When tickets arrive for her and her sister, Donatella, Scarlett still sees that her hope dies because of her upcoming wedding. Tella has other plans though. She and Julian, a mysterious sailor, snatch Scarlett away. But Caraval is more than meets the eye. Legend, the Caraval master, kidnaps Tella. And Scarlett and Julian have only five nights to find her so they can win the game.

But this story is not just a carnival-themed novel. It blossoms into something more magical than parlour tricks. At the centre of this thought-provoking story is the bond of sisterhood.  I adore Scarlett. She endures many trials in Caraval. Her sister fuels her strength, her courage. She’s willing to give up everything for Tella, and I admire her determination and relate to her pain. She makes me wonder what I’d do for my family.

At first, I thought Tella is brash, reckless, and thoroughly selfish. I was mostly wrong, and rightfully so. Yes, she may exhibit some of these traits. However, she protects her older sister, just like Scarlett does for her. They both offer a unique dynamic, yet it’s an often used one, though. Scarlett is the mature, motherly type, and Tella is the rash one. They must be since their father abuses, threatens, and often uses them against each other. But their strength rises above their pain.

The world building doesn’t stay true to normal books. The reason why is that Caraval takes centre stage here. It becomes the world itself. You don’t see much of the outside world, but I enjoy that detour. Stephanie entwines snippets of Caraval’s and Legend’s history into the story. What is real? What isn’t? Is what you’ve heard a rumour? Or is there some truth within the lie? You don’t know until the very end. But the way Stephanie weaves this story will keep you up throughout the night.

 

“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”

Fate, fear, hope, and choice play heavily in Caraval. Stephanie incorporates these attributes in almost every chapter, and they just make for a beautifully written world. Her work forces you to question what you’re willing to do in this situation and what you’ll give up.

Caraval has captivated me, and I feel as if I cannot fully express my appreciation for it. At the beginning, I was hoping for magic, imagination-filled adventures, and, well, hope for these sisters, but Caraval gives me so much more. It shows me that people can hold onto hope so as long as they believe. So pick it up and jump in. It won’t disappoint.

 

“Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic althogether. Elusive, difficult to hold onto. Not much is needed.”

 

Goodreads | Indigo | Amazon CAN | Amazon US | Book Depository


More about the Author

XnQD3A-0.png
© Matthew Moores and Protégé Films.

Stephanie Garber loves Disneyland because it’s the one place on earth where she feels as if the fantastical stories she loves to write about could actually come to life. When she’s not writing young adult fantasy, she teaches creative writing at a private college in northern California, where she’s known for turning assignments into games and taking students on field trips that involve book signings. Caraval is her first novel for young adults.

Waiting on Wednesday: Caraval

WoW4_edited-3

Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, is a weekly meme that showcases upcoming book releases that readers are eagerly awaiting.

27883214Caraval 

Stephanie Garber

Publication Date: January 31, 2017

Extent: 416 pages

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Goodreads | Indigo | Amazon CAN | Amazon US | Book Depository

Why Am I Waiting?

Circus stories are pretty hot this year. I want to find a new fantasy world I haven’t read yet. And I haven’t went to many carnivals in real life, so this world will definitely be a new adventure for me, and I want to be enthralled by the pomp and the magic that swirls under the red-and-white tent.

I’m also looking for another great story that centres around sisters who protect each other. I wonder how these sister will survive their abusive father. I’m interested on how that family dynamic will play out.

I’m ready to be enchanted by and to head to the carnival!