The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)by Published 30 Jan 2018
|The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1).pdf|
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.
"The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)" Reviews
Did her insides match her outsides? Was the way my life dripped off me like water, barely leaving a mark, normal?
Okay, so this was not a book for me. I really wish I hadn’t received an arc of The Hazel Wood and had instead waited for more reviews to roll in first.
The blurb makes it sound exactly like the kind of dark fairy tale goodness I love, but if someone had - more accurately - explained that this is a book about a girl called Alice who gets sent to Wonderland the Hinterland where she meets tweedle dee and tweedle dum many colourful characters who talk in riddles, and she finds herself doing bizarre and random things like attending an unbirthday party singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Landslide” in a Tudor-style pub… well, I’d have passed. I’ve already read Alice in Wonderland. Once was enough.
I know this will be much more suited to a specific type of reader who likes dreamy, nonsensical prose, heavy on the metaphors. Perhaps those who enjoyed books like Caraval. Those who are more forgiving of no one saying what they actually mean and talking all mysterious for no other reason than “shh, this is the rule of fairytales” because we all know it's more magical if nothing makes sense. For me, it was honestly irritating to have characters withhold important information just ‘cause.
The book opens with a bit of background about Alice, her mother Ella, and her reclusive grandmother Althea Proserpine - an author of a dark fairy tale collection, Tales from the Hinterland, that gained a cult following some years back. Alice has never met her grandmother, but Ella has constantly insisted on the two of them packing up and moving again and again, running away from bad luck that clearly has something to do with her grandmother and the book she wrote.
When Ella disappears, seemingly kidnapped, Alice teams up with long-time Althea fan, Ellery Finch, and uses his knowledge of the stories to find her grandmother's secret estate - The Hazel Wood.
This first half(ish) seemed very slow and longer than necessary. It is mostly a road trip where the characters rely on fairy tale logic along the lines of if it wants you to find it, you will instead of smarts and deduction to keep the story moving. A romance develops but, to the author's credit, she never allows this to become a romantic book overall.
I found a lot of the story really hard to get through. Maybe because I struggled to form a connection with any character. Alice herself is cold and bitchy, without the depth and complexity needed to make these traits interesting. Ellery Finch is super hipster and must gaze at the moon and quote Shakespeare every few pages in order to keep functioning. He has a tattoo of a Vonnegut quote, of course. And the problem is these two are the only really valuable or memorable characters in the book.
The second half basically is Alice in Wonderland. Which may or may not sound appealing, but my tolerance level for random weirdness isn't that high.
My favourite parts were the Tales from the Hinterland fairy tales within the story, which were deliciously dark and creepy, but I disliked it every time we came back to "reality" with Alice and Finch. I kinda wish the author had written a book of short stories instead and let me skip out on everything else. I could definitely see myself enjoying a creepy short story collection from Albert.
So, yeah, definitely not for me, but I would recommend this for those who like Wonderland retellings, and those who enjoy really lyrical prose over characters and/or plot.
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Thoughts tk at some point when I have time, sorry!
UP DAMN DATE!
Here is the Fairyloot Box. I told y'all I would have both of my subscription boxes with the same book. As usual, look for the link under the picture.
BOOKISH STUFF FROM FAIRYLOOT
This OWLCRATE picture is crap y'all. Don't ask, but as usual, click on the link below picture to see the unboxing & some other surprises ♥
Well, there are not that many great reviews for this on my friends list. So let's see how it goes!
I think I jinxed it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just wasn't feeling it and that makes me sad =( But, we can't love them all.
I did enjoy the character of Finch, he was my favorite!
"Hi," I said, flustered. I was on my way home from work. My shirt was covered in scone crumbs and my hair was spiked with sweat.
"You smell like a coffee bean," he said when we reached the corner. "It's awesome." He glanced back at the restaurant, his face so full of regret I almost laughed. "Okay, I better get back."
"Back to stabbing your dessert."
His smile reached his eyes then, just for a moment. A flicker of light on dark water. Then he swung around and walked back up the sidewalk.
I'm sure more people will love the book. There seems to be a ton of people on Amazon that love it already so there is that.
Anyway, on to the next!
MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
ARC provided by Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.
“Once upon a time there was a beautiful queen who thought words were stronger than anything. She used them to win love and money and gifts. She used them to carry her across the world.”
Let me just start this off by saying that I normally only one star something if it has very problematic content. This book only has one element that made me uncomfortable (that I will talk about later on), but the main reason I’m giving this one star is because it was so ungodly boring.
Next, and this could be completely my fault, I feel like this is marketed as a YA Fantasy, when it takes the reader almost 250 pages, out of a 360 page book, to even get into the fantasy aspect and by that time I couldn't care less about some pseudo Alice in Wonderland. This reads like a YA Contemporary Mystery and that is not a genre that I enjoy reading in the slightest, so maybe that is the main reason this didn’t work for me.
So the basic premise of The Hazel Wood is that a seventeen-year-old girl named Alice has been on the run with her mother, Ella, for as long as she can remember. They go from city to city, house to house, sometimes sleeping in their car, always on the run from the “bad luck” that follows them. Alice’s grandmother, Ella’s mother, is a very famous author who wrote a collection of short stories that are incredibly hard to find in today’s world. The short stories are very dark fairytales, that have netted her grandmother a very cult-like fanbase that totally gave me some Nightfilm vibes if I’m being completely honest.
Alice has never met her grandmother, and she’s never visited the exclusive estate she lives on called the Hazel Wood. But after Alice’s mother is kidnapped, she is desperate to find any means possible to finally visit the mysterious estate and to get her mother back once and for all.
But this book was so incredibly slow. I had to bribe myself with chocolates to even finish it. This is a 360 page book, and it took me SEVENTEEN days to read it. That’s a little over 20 pages a day. And that’s honestly all I could do, because I was so uninvested. And it’s actually mindboggling to me that this book is even 360 pages long, because I feel like everything could have taken place in 150-200 pages, too.
And Alice is such an unlikeable main character that isn’t supposed to be an unlikeable main character. She’s so rude, and self-centered, and unable to recognize her privilege because she can’t get over the fact that she grew up poor. She talks over people, and is demanding, and refuses to acknowledge her mistakes. I could never and will never connect with her, and it was honestly miserable to be inside of her head.
So, the problematic element is the treatment of the biracial side character who Alice spends most of the book with. Finch is the only person of color in this book, and Alice constantly remarks on how unattractive he is, and it feels really bad. Then, when they get into an altercation with a police officer, Finch tries to explain to Alice about racial profiling and how he feels uncomfortable being around cops and being noncompliant around cops, while Alice just completely disregards his very valid feelings by saying he’s rich and privileged. Like that negates the color of his skin and the racism he faces every single day because of it, because she grew up poor and on the run with her mom. On top of the fact that Alice will never let Finch speak, because she’s always interrupting and talking over him. It just reads badly and made my very uncomfortable while reading. Also, Alice even got physically abusive a couple times and I just wasn't there for it at all.
The other minor thing that just made me feel a little uncomfortable while reading was that this book kind of romanticizes kidnapping. Like, Alice has very fond memories of being kidnapped when she was six and it feels almost like glorifying it. Maybe this just rubbed me the wrong way because I was always deathly afraid of being kidnapped as a child, but I didn’t enjoy reading her memories on kidnapping whatsoever, either.
And the last thing is that the deus ex machina in this book is very strong. So many things just so conveniently happened, especially at the end of this book when we are finally in a fairytale land, to wrap up this story.
The only thing I truly liked about this book were the two chapters that were stories that Finch was retelling to Alice from inside her Grandmother’s book, Tales from the Hinterland. Both of these were honestly great, and I enjoyed them immensely and it showcased that the author does have talent for writing. Unfortunately, this is only two chapters of a thirty-one chapter book. But both of those short stories were good and I enjoyed each one more than the rest of this entire book combined
Also, have you seen the finished copy of this? With its foil sprayed pages? Holy moly, it’s honestly one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever laid eyes upon. But you all know what they say about judging books by their covers…
This book just wasn’t for me or my tastes. We aren’t even in 2018 yet and I can tell you that this will 100% make my most disappointing publications of 2018 list. And from all my friends’ reviews, I truly think this is going to just be a polarizing book! People are going to hate and dread picking it up, or they are going to be completely engrossed, love, and devour it. And you guys know that just because I disliked this book, it doesn’t mean that your feelings are invalid. If you liked this book then I am truly happy for you, but this book just really didn’t work for me. And if you do decide to pick this one up, I hope you find way more enjoyment within its pages than I did.
Content warnings for underage alcohol consumption, drug use, self-harm, talk of suicide, and mild violence.
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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.
Buddy read with Jenn! ❤
This was in the February 2018 OwlCrate box!
3 Stars. Not my favorite book I’ve ever read, but still enjoyable.
I don’t have particularly strong feelings about this book. The writing was fine. The characters were okay. The world was probably the most interesting element of the story, but nothing amazing in my opinion. I really enjoyed how the story takes place in modern day New York City and the fairytale elements are hidden beneath. I found the fairytales/whimsical elements of the story to be it’s strongest point. I genuinely enjoyed my time listening to this story on audiobook, but I don’t feel it has many incredible aspects. Additionally, I did lose focus nearing the end of the story. Stories became jumbled and it left me feeling as if the ending has less impact than it intended to.
I find one of the biggest critiques of this novel is that the main character, Alice, is immensely rude, disrespectful, hyper-critical and ill-tempered which is 100% true. That being said, her personality/behavior is integral to the story and does have a purpose, so it didn’t bother me all that much. Given, every time Alice made an effort to point out her “rage issues”, I totally rolled my eyes, but it didn’t make me significantly more frustrated than other unlikeable main characters. I understand the valid criticisms of how Alice treats the only person of color in the story because that was a bit more off-putting than her other traits. There is a scene where Finch, a biracial character, tries to calmly explain why Alice provoking a police officer in his company can be dangerous and Alice completely brushes off his concerns, trivializing the racism he experiences because he comes from money. (It was obvious to me that this scene was intended to be a lesson in privilege and we were meant to side with Finch, but as it is from Alice’s perspective and there is no correction of her behavior on her part, her voice is more dominant so I can completely see the flaws in execution of this scene. It was just messy.) I will also mention that I actually enjoyed the fact that this story followed a main character who grew up in poverty and without a stable home – Situations like this are not common in YA and it was nice to see a character who constantly moved from place to place, have been kicked out by people they stay with, always on the road and have a parent who is always working odd jobs to make ends meet. Alice isn’t the worst main character I’ve ever read about (though she’s pretty close to the bottom), but I don’t feel much affection for her. Finch was by far my favorite character in the story (though there aren’t many others to choose from) and I really wish he had gotten more development instead of being constantly pushed off to the side. He had great potential, but it didn’t really follow through.
I did enjoy The Hazel Wood but it’s not a very memorable book for me. I think the synopsis was so strong and there was so many possibilities for this book to be amazing, but I don’t think it followed the strongest route. It’s just one of those books that I didn’t love or hate either, that I had a good time reading, but have more distinct critiques than positives to share.