The Hazel Wood: A Review

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

This is a dark fantasy YA book. I didn’t realize just how many dark fantasies I would be drawn towards this year. But I definitely give this one 4.5 stars. Not quite one I would pick up again, but I did thoroughly enjoy.
Alice is the main character. She and her mother have been traveling from place to place for most of her life. She has never met her grandmother, an eccentric recluse who is best known as the author of a book of dark fairy tales (which is a book Alice has not been allowed or able to read). They find out that her grandmother has died on her estate called The Hazel Wood. Shortly after, Alice’s mother is kidnapped and sends Alice a message not to go to The Hazel Wood. Alice goes after her, with the help of a fellow student, Ellery Finch, who is a huge fan of her grandmother’s fairy tales. Using the stories as clues and insight, Alice finds herself getting closer and closer to The Hazel Wood, and more truths are revealed.
The measure I use for character assessment is whether or not I care about the characters. I definitely got caught up in the stories of Alice and Ellery. The transformation and growth that Alice goes through are really well done. Ellery, not so much, but is still a character I wanted to know more about. The rest of the characters, which I don’t really want to go into without spoilers, are not quite as complex, some being used to move the story along, but I liked how they were used.
The plot has twists. Some I figured out pretty quickly. But even the ones that were predictable, I liked where the author took them.
The writing at times could get convoluted, but it was absolutely beautiful. The imagery was harsh and gorgeous at the same time. Weaving fairy tales into real-life situations made the whole story seem like a fairy tale, itself. And I loved the concept of using the fairy tale structure, especially towards the end. Also, some of the dark stories that were written by the grandmother are shared in the book. I thought that was pretty neat as well.
There is profanity in the book, particularly with one supporting character. I don’t know if it was absolutely necessary or not.
There is not much in the way of sexual content. I didn’t feel like there was a strong romance in the book. Alice is briefly kidnapped as a little girl, and people who find out tend to ask whether he touched her (which he didn’t).
There is a lot of violence, being a dark fantasy. The fairy tales that are shared are violent. Alice has a gun pulled on her. There are deaths and mentions of death. But part of the story is actually fighting that violent nature.
Overall, I would recommend with the caveat of the amount violence and profanity. Though I felt like the profanity is minor, and the violence is necessary to understand the plot and character development. Really entertaining read.
I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

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Everless: A Review

EverlessEverless by Sara Holland

Everless is a YA fantasy adventure by Sara Holland. To be honest, I was drawn to this book because I have a friend with the same name as the author, but I was also drawn to it because I thought the premise was also interesting – turning blood into time and used as currency.

Jules and her father used to live at the palace at Everless, but after an accident, they are forced to flee. Since then, they have lived in poverty and on the run. But now that Jules is seventeen, she has an opportunity to return Everless as they prepare for the wedding between Roan and Ina. Liam, Roan’s brother, has always been mean and cruel, and when she returns, Liam is no different. However, there are a lot of unseen dangers for Jules, and the more secrets she uncovers, the less she realizes she knows about herself and those around her.

The characters are basically divided between the rich/royalty and the poor. Jules grew up around Roan and his brother Liam, part of the wealthy Gerlings who are the lords of their land. Roan is set to marry Ina who is the Queen’s adopted daughter and heir to the throne. I felt like the characters could be a little more three dimensional. I didn’t feel connected to a lot of them, but they have potential.

The writing got better when the plot began to move in the last ten chapters. But I found the folklore about the Sorceress and the Alchemist a little hard to follow. The rest of the storyline was pretty easy to follow, but the lore is actually a foundation for a lot of the plot twists that occur. So, it got problematic at times. And because the folklore was convoluted, the big revelations felt like meh…

As far as theme, there was a lot of repeating the idea of how callously the upper class used the blood-irons that the lower class suffered to make. Since Jules lived among the lower class for so long, it seemed to be all she focused on when she was among the upper class. But they weren’t mean, just didn’t understand how much privilege they wasted daily.

I don’t remember there being any distinct profanity used in the book. There was one kiss in the book, and I think there was a hint of infidelity, but no sexual content. Considering you pay for things with blood-iron, which is made by draining blood, there’s definitely some violence, some death, but none of it seemed too grotesque.

The book was okay. It definitely felt like it will be part of a series because it came with a bit of a cliffhanger at the end. But I don’t know if I will read the next book. I just didn’t feel invested in a lot of the characters or in the lore. It was a solid three stars for me.

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

The Cruel Prince: A Review

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Cruel Prince is a YA fantasy adventure by Holly Black. It takes place mostly in the Fairie Realm. I recognized a lot of the lore from what I have read in traditional Fey stories, even some Shakespeare, which I thought would be interesting.

The story surrounds a girl named Jude. Other major characters include Caden, the prince to the High King, and his friends Valerian, Nicasa and Locke, Jude’s twin sister Taryn and their half-sister Vivienne, Magnus the General to the King and also Jude’s paternal guardian. The story is told from Jude’s perspective which is very affected by her understanding that the Fey and the Fairie world for that matter are beautiful and dangerous. From the moment she gets there, she is taught how to protect herself, what not to eat, what to do to keep her from getting manipulated or “glamoured” by the immortal Fey who don’t have a very high view of mortals, especially mortals without extraordinary skills of some kind of art. So, to me, the characters are limited in the way they are developed because it is all from her perspective which is highly prejudiced on these facts. Some of the actions of others aren’t really explained or understood, it’s because “that’s just the way it is” as Jude sees it. Jude’s violent past and present also affect her perspective.
Jude and her twin sister Taryn and half-sister Vivienne are taken to the Fairie world after witnessing the murder of their parents. The murderer then becomes their father (Magnus) and raises them among the high court fey because he is the General of the Army to the High King. Because of his status, they are educated among the basically rich kids who look down on their mortality. Caden and his friends, especially, torture Jude and Taryn. And the two sisters have different reactions to that bullying. The current High King Eldred is stepping down to give the crown to one of his children, and Prince Dain seems to be the front-runner. Jude is hoping to become a knight for Prince Dain, essentially giving her power to protect herself from her enemies. As the coronation nears, there is a lot of intrigue and deception, and Jude must choose who to trust.
One of the themes is having power and using power and desiring power. And also how power can corrupt and betray.
The writing flows pretty well. I’m not a big fan of the entire scene or what everyone is wearing being described, and there was a good bit of that in here. I’m very plot driven and character driven, which I think is done well in this book, but I found myself skimming the paragraphs that described everyone’s clothes. There is a lot of foreshadowing, and I didn’t fully trust everything Jude saw because the prejudices were pretty clear, so some of the twists were not surprises to me, but I did like how everything connected in the end. When things were finally revealed to Jude, the author had some secrets that I didn’t catch right away that played into the plot.

There is some profanity in the book, mostly towards the end with one character. Most of the language was very lore based so it didn’t have as much traditional profanity. I feel like that one character use of profanity signified their rejection of the Fairie world and the longing of the mortal world.
There is a reference to the “greening of the gown” which is a euphemism for sex, there is one scene where a character strips off their clothing, but most of the actual content just includes kissing. There is some romance and it does play into the plot or subplots, but I felt like this was more of an action adventure than a romance, so the sexual content was at a low.
There is a lot of violence in this book. I mean, the story starts with the descriptions of Jude’s parents being murdered. The Fairie world is very violent and Jude becomes very violent as a result. There is a lot of blood and fight scenes and murder scenes throughout the book.

Overall, I think the book was well written, though slow at times. It’s going to be a trilogy and I am interested in where the author will take the story from where it ends in this book. Of course, the next book is not slated to be released until next year, so I’m not sure if I will remember to get the next book at that point. I would recommend late teens early twenties for this book just for the amount of violence. Jude does learn how much violence and the desire for power can corrupt, but believing she is far too gone, relies heavily on these things to try to do what is best. So I would be aware of that. I give it three and a half stars. It wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve read, but it’s good for its genre.

What have you been reading lately?

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding: A Review

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding (The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding #1)The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this would be the best book to delve into around Halloween, but because of my current energy levels, I read it throughout the month of November.

The basic story is about a boy named Prosper Redding. He comes from a very successful family in a small town. But he doesn’t quite share the successful gene. Come to find out, he has a demon (or malefactor) hiding inside of him, ready to break free on his upcoming 13th birthday. All of their success stems from a contract that their ancestor made with this malefactor around the Salem Witch Trials. And the ancestor tricked the malefactor, causing him to become trapped until now.

This is all revealed during a ritual and the family begins to attack Prosper. He escapes and finds refuge with his estranged Uncle Barnabas and his daughter, Nell. Nell is a witch, and they plan to use a spell to take care of the malefactor once and for all, but the demon grows stronger every day.

There are a lot of moving parts to this story. I think the author did well keeping the balance, though it did get a little chaotic at times. There is a major cliffhanger at the end of the book for an obvious sequel, if not series. And I liked the overall themes of power and how it can corrupt as well as being a good, authentic friend.

There were a few action-packed scenes of escape, plus the whole “my family is trying to kill me” kind of violence at the beginning. It’s meant to be a little spooky and scary. I liked the malefactor’s reaction to the modern world during Halloween. It was a cute scene.

I don’t know when the next book will come out. I might get it from the library. This is definitely geared towards middle school age kids. It’s pretty clean despite the spooky and creepy. Nothing too scary. I would definitely recommend it to that age group.

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

Braving the Wilderness: A Review

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand AloneBraving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Overall, I enjoyed the book. My favorite piece of this particular book was her acronym BRAVING which she uses in each of her Practices chapters, making them a more dimensional and practical. I’ve read Brown before, and this book is similar to her other books, almost a continuation from Rising Strong. But in this book, she addresses the issues of communication in a polarizing culture.
The example that stood out most to me was the conversation she had with a woman about gun control after the Newtown shootings. Brown’s beliefs about the issue were more nuanced than the woman wanted them to be. The woman was looking for an either/or camp. Which side was Brown on? Slight spoiler, Brown was on her own side.
And that’s pretty much what the book is about. How to be patient in listening, not quickly putting people in one camp or the other, being generous and allowing people to have complex thought, not immediately needing to always have an answer, being okay with delaying that answer or hearing more of what the other had to say.
The only criticism I have for the book is that a lot of her values match a lot of my values or at least a lot of my friend’s opinions on social matters, so the book doesn’t seem very off-putting and I am able to get the gist of the content. But, I could see someone else reading this with a more conservative background and having a hard time with the examples. It seemed like only people who did not have a conservative view actually experienced the wilderness, which may not always be the case. I’ve seen instances around me when I’m around my more liberal friends that when a conservative friend speaks up, it’s harder for them in that setting to do so. But I think this content would benefit anyone who is frustrated with the social circles around them, with the lack of healthy communication. Also, I think this book coming out just a few months before the holidays is almost perfect timing.
No matter what “camp” you feel you fit into or don’t fit into, I would highly recommend this book for anyone that needs some encouragement while trying to navigate the very divided country we are living in at the moment. Not only does it give tools to communicate, but also to listen.

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

Eleanor and Park: A Review

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started reading this book, I didn’t think it was YA, considering all of the profanity and the adult nature of Eleanor’s situation. Despite those two things, the book was really good. It was crass and uncomfortable, which aptly describes the two main characters. Park and Eleanor didn’t quite fit in at school for different reasons. Park was half Korean in the middle of the mid-west, which made him feel like he stuck out. Eleanor came from a very dysfunctional, abusive family, and she felt like she was huge and fat compared to other girls her age.
I really liked the switching from Eleanor’s perspective to Park’s perspective throughout the chapters. How they viewed each other was quite different than how they viewed themselves, and their place in society.
It was interesting to see the contrast between Park’s parents and Eleanor’s mom and stepdad. Even the difference between how Eleanor viewed life before her parent’s divorce. The relationships were complex, and I didn’t catch on to the mystery of the words written on her cover until it was revealed (which I won’t spoil, but it’s an awful reveal).
For any parents wondering if this would be a good book to read, I would recommend that they read it before giving it to their teen. It definitely deals with some pretty heavy material, but I think it deals with it well.

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

 

What Should I Do With My Life? Review


What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question
by Po Bronson

Written in a series of short stories, this book details the lives of people of different backgrounds and passions as they wrestle with this question. Some of the stories end with the people finding a peace in their life’s choices while other stories are left open-ended. It is inspiring, but more in the realization that life is messy and sometimes it can take a while to realize where you want to go, instead of a step by step way of how to figure out your life.

Some of the stories were very dry and hard to get through, despite only being a few pages long. There were stories I could relate to, and others I couldn’t understand very well. Still, I learned through these stories that once you identify your values and what drives you, you will be able to see your own big picture so much clearer. Even if those values and drives aren’t what are deemed acceptable in societal circles.

I like the fact that the people in this book don’t have it all figured out, that they make big mistakes that they don’t bounce back from and that some of them achieve their contentment much later in life. I’ve always felt like I didn’t have that one thing in my life that drives me, and that made me abnormal and weird. But this book celebrates the not knowing. You can have no idea what you want to be or do, but the most important thing is to keep trying to figure it out. Keep trying. Keep failing. Keep figuring.

I would definitely recommend this book, but with the caveat that it is very dense with information. Some of the stories and people are entertaining and relatable. Some are dry and unfortunate. Still, there are some amazing excerpts and quotes that have inspired me, and this will be one book I add to my collection.

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You can see more info on the above book here: http://amzn.to/2fj8yOt