Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

I was instantly attracted to The Hazel Wood by its dark foreboding cover and intriguing blurb so was pleased when I was given an advanced copy to review by NetGalley and the publishers Penguin Random House UK.

The Hazel Wood cover

 Title    The Hazel Wood

Author  Melissa Albert

Publisher Penguin Random House UK Children’s Penguin

Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a 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 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. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .

My Thoughts

Fairy Tales have always intrigued me. Not your saccharine sweet Disney versions but the dark, complex tales passed down the generations by the spoken word before they were captured in print by Perrault and The Grimm Brothers when they provided entertainment lessons for the community.

The Hazel Wood has the elements of these original stories which create a unique dark YA novel. It has all parts of a book  I tend to fall hopelessly in love with – mystery, secrets, dusty bookshops and a book central to the plot with a twist of magic. It may not have grabbed me as much as I hoped (my expectations were maybe too high) but I enjoyed this well written, quirky novel. It was easy to fall into the adventure with Alice as she followed clues with the aid of Finch, a huge fan of her Grandmothers works to search for her mother. Alice’s nomadic childhood has been blighted by a string of bad luck which has made her have an extremely close relationship with her mum, Ella and it is this bond that holds the plot together. Alice is not the most pleasant character with a tendency for uncontrollable anger leading me to question her actions at times but they are in keeping with her personality. There are many unique characters dotted throughout the story, linked together by the fairy tales written by her grandmother.  It is surreal read especially part two which I found reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.

Would I recommend?

I enjoyed it so would recommend it to those who love Caraval by Stephanie Garber or darker YA tales.

Food Glorious Food and Books

I don’t know about you but when I am reading my brain makes connections between characters and objects that are impossible to break. For example, bumble bee tights will always be associated with Louisa Clarke, red shoes are Dorothy’s unless they are ballet slippers and then they belong to Hans Christian Andersen’s ballerina. Sometime it is places, the Yorkshire Moors will always conjure up images from The Bronte sisters but most of all it is food.

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Food plays a large part of my bookworm life. Not only are there cookery sections on shelves to tempt me, fiction is littered with references to it. It is a dieter’s nightmare. No one writes about being ecstatic over a carrot  except Eric Carles in The Hungry Caterpillar but he was excited to eat everything. While reading, my taste buds tingle, my mouth salivates and my stomach grumbles along with the characters until my will power shatters. I have been known to eat cheese on toast, bacon butties and cake at midnight purely because of a book I was reading. I am glad I live in a tiny village with no open takeaways otherwise I will be eating chips too. It adds a whole new dimension to the eating and reading experience. To feel the velvety texture and warmth as chocolate melts in your mouth at the same time as your current heroine is divine. Or to rip into a freshly baked loaf while indulging into the adventures of Polly Waterford in the Little beach Street Bakery . Some authors are more responsible for my unhealthy eating habits than others and have perfected the art of food descriptions to a tee. Eating is a multi-sensory experience and talented authors capture that so turn the pages into a scene from Nigella Lawson cookery programme. They make me taste, feel and smell the food. No wonder I find my diet impossible to stick to.

Sometimes it makes me more adventurous,  to try something new.  I remember as a teenager fantasizing about Twinkies (I tried them last year and sorry they weren’t as nice as I imagined) and being fascinated by fried chicken, cornbread and potato salad that would always be taken to barbeques on 4th July, especially in Nora Roberts books. While I can leave the chicken and cornbread potato salad has become one of my must-haves in the summer now. Every Autumn I buy a pumpkin insistent this will be the year I find a pumpkin pie recipe that lives up to the mind-blowing experience described in many books.

Fried breakfasts in cafes always remind me of Diana in The Discovery of Witches where she is served mounds of it after a rowing session. Pouring loose leaf tea from a pot reminds me of Marthe in the same series. Jelly Tots will be forever linked to Lily from Sunflowers in February and although hot chocolate is a favourite of many,  it will always associated with Taryn Leigh’s description in Perfect Imperfections. The way she makes it is heaven. Baking occurs in many books for its relaxing properties and business opportunities and I am always grateful to kind authors who supply recipes in the final pages. I have not made many but there is a sense of comfort knowing if I want to I can indulge, just like character x on page 45.

 

The Joy of Baking

 

Authors and books that tingle the taste buds

  • Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson
  • Chocolat by Joanne Harris
  • The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
  • Jenny Colgan – all of her books. Visits to the traditional sweet shop visits will always be connected to Rosie’s Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams.
  • Isabella May tempted me with cake in Oh What a Pavlova and now she is delving into the world of cocktails with The Cocktail Bar which is out this month. I need to stock up on the Blue Curacao.
  • Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey for its tempting Cornish apple turnovers
  • Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland – chips at Whitby are bliss.
  • Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Definitely not The Twits nor George’s Marvellous Medicine.

When I think of my own WIP, food connections are lacking unless you count the warm spicy Parkin baked for Amber’s dragon hunting adventures or Mrs M’s cookies left on the side as a treat. No one would suddenly crave rabbit stew or fried Ellfaenian grubs so maybe in my next project,  food should play a central part. Researching woud be fun.

What food do you connect with characters? Does the mention of food enhance your experience of the book?

Happy reading!

 

 

Reading update: Jan 2018

 

Welcome to February

A new month and a step closer to Spring. I love winter for the excuse of snuggling under the duvet with a good book but I long for sunshine and cheery flowers now. Rather than weekly updates on the books I am reading, I have decided to do monthly ones – hopefully, they will be easier to keep track of and more time to focus on writing.

Last books I read in January

Life got in the way of updating last week but I finished reading:

Books on my February TBR list

These are the books I would like to read this month

  • Write a Novel in 30 Days by Megg Geri – I am excited to read this. I will update progress on my Instagram account.
  • Still Me by JoJo Moyes – how can I not read this when it called to me from the bookshelf while shopping? Some books are irresistible and the library list is too long. I have missed Louisa Clarke.
  • The Truth of Ella Black by Emily Barr
  • Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick – the illustrations are outstanding.
  • Catch up on books to review for upcoming blog tours on Duvet Dwellers Books

And finish Jennifer Gilmour’s Clipped Wings

It will a busy month.

What are you reading this month?

Weekly Update: 15th Jan Books 

It’s the beginning of another week and more books are being lifted from my TBR pile. After last week’ s reading of The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan, and Jennifer Gilmour’s Isolation Junction these are the books I plan to read:

  • The One by John Marrs. This has been out a while but I have patiently waited my turn on the library reservation list. I first heard about it on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Book Club and the premise of dating based on DNA testing had me hooked.
  • Clipped Wings by Jennifer Gilmour. After reading Isolation Junction, which is a fictional account of domestic abuse (eye-opening, worrying and uplifting book) I decided to try her second book. This is a collection of survivor’s stories on their experiences of domestic abuse.
  • Forget her Name by Jane Holland, in time for next week’s blog tour.
  • Write Smart, Write Happy by Cheryl St. John. I am jumping into this after receiving a digital ARC from NetGalley. Will I be a happier writer and will my technique improve once I have finished it? I will find out soon. 

What books are you opening this week?

Happy reading!

Blue Monday, Domestic Abuse and Free Book – Isolation Junction

Christmas is over and bills are hitting the door mat in anticipation for Blue Monday. It can be a hard time for everyone but it also causes the risk of domestic abuse to escalate. Domestic abuse happens behind closed doors but the statistics are eye opening. In 2015/2016 affected 1.2 million women and 651,000 males*. It can happen to anyone. It is not dependent on age, class, race or gender.  Author Jennifer Gilmour has popped over to talk about  why she is offering her debut, Isolation Junction, free for 5 days at this time of year and how it came about.

Jennifer Gilmour speaks about why she is giving her novel away for FREE

Author Jennifer Gilmore

My name is Jennifer Gilmour and I am a survivor of domestic abuse, I have published two books both with a focus on raising awareness about domestic abuse at their core. Whilst both aim to raise this awareness one is written as a work of fiction whilst the other is a compilation of survivor stories and therefore non-fiction. Both work in different ways to educate and raise awareness of this insidious and unacceptable behaviour.

Over Christmas, incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police rise. Assault and domestic murders increase 25% during the festive period with a third of them been on Christmas Day itself. Bombarded with images of the perfect nuclear family gathered around the gold baubles of a Christmas tree, it can be easy to forget that Christmas is a time of coercion, punishment and violence for many women** and men.

Now I know it isn’t Christmas anymore but January can be just as bad be-cause all those credit card bills come in alongside your usual direct debits. There is even a day in January called Blue Monday and this year its on the 15th. The date is generally reported as falling on the third Monday in January, but also on the second or fourth Monday, or the Monday of the last full week of January.
The formula uses many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action.
Can you imagine this formula and applying it to an abusive relationship?

For 5 days my debut novel, Isolation Junction is going to be FREE on Amazon Kindle, this is the first time ever to happen. It’s the week before Blue Monday, I wonder if those reading will be inspired to take action?

I ask you all to share the link and break the silence surrounding domestic abuse.

 

UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LX4HLT0

US link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LX4HLT0

 

Synopsis of Isolation Junction

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?

Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

 

If you need support you can contact National Domestic Violence helpline on 0808 2000 247 or check out Jennifer’s page http://jennifergilmour.com/support/

** https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/12/it-s-hardest-time-year-why-domestic-violence-spikes-over-christmas