The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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The Hazel Wood
By Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250147905
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale


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 seems to have generated a lot of buzz this year. There is this great divide between the love and dislike (hate is such a strong word).  I started off eagerly adding this one to my TBR with great enthusiasm that slowly began to waiver as reviews rolled out. Fortunately, in my case, my fears were unwarranted and this was a success! I lean heavily into the group of readers who embrace this darker tale with open arms.

Alice is a 17-year-old girl who has spent her entire life on the road with her mother Ella.  A life clouded with bad luck, they hurriedly pick up and relocate each time things go wrong. She also happens to be the granddaughter of Althea Prosperine, an author known for an elusive and famous collection of dark fairy tales entitled Tales from the Hinterland. But after her mother receives notice that Althea has passed and then mysteriously vanishes, Alice soon discovers that there is much to her grandmother’s collection. With the help of a young fan and classmate Ellery Finch, she sets out for her grandmother’s estate, The Hazel Wood, in search of her mother. But she finds more than she could ever bargain for.

I will be the first to admit that The Hazel Wood unfolds at a somewhat leisurely pace for nearly 70% of the book. Character development is slow and challenging. We are presented with a protagonist that is difficult to like but not hard to appreciate. While I struggled to “love” Alice’s rough attitude, I also found myself unable to fault her. I found the fact that she referred to her mother by name to be irritating and also often felt she was overly aggressive. But when reflecting on her disheveled life and lack of roots, it was still relatable or at least understandable at its core. It works. You do not have to like characters for them to be viable and rewarding. Alice is a prime example of this. I also found great appreciation in supporting characters such as Ellery and those she encounters during their journey that offered a complimentary balance to Alice’s flaws and shortcomings.

The storyline was where I found complete satisfaction with The Hazel Wood. Albert’s decision to incorporate the stories from Althea Prosperine’s book into the narrative was brilliant and countered the pacing issues I was facing. I thoroughly loved reading the dark and twisted fairytales. I think I may have favored them over the actual plot though so I can see how some found disappointment within depending on expectations. For myself, I was entirely okay with this fact and the brief tales drove me to want to explore Alice and her mother’s disappearance more. They were cleverly placed throughout, providing the necessary momentum and turning what might have otherwise been another YA fantasy into something special, a new collection of fairy tales.

My love he wooed me
My love he slew me
My love he buried my bones
His love he married
His love I buried
My love now wanders alone 

The writing is engaging and detailed while remaining plot oriented and forgoing the typical frivolities. The fairytales unfold with a poetic prose. There is an admirable lack of the normal tropes one would expect to encounter, and the end experience is hauntingly smooth and lingering. It has been a week since I completed the book, and I do not find myself struggling to review it. It remains as vivid now as the very night I completed it. That alone speaks volumes. Fans of those traditionally bleaker fairytales who enjoy a good mystery will want to sink their teeth into this one.

*I would like to thank the publisher for my copy. The above review is my own, honest and unbiased opinion.

tea cupPairs well with a nice cup of oolong and ginger.

Purchase Links: Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Book Review

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Children of Blood and Bone
(Legacy of Orïsha #1)
By Tomi Adeyemi
Available 3/6/18
Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9781250170972
Pages: 448
Genre: YA Fantasy



Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.


Children of Blood and Bone was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018. It easily delivered all that was promised with a few additional and welcomed surprises!

Zélie Adebola is a young descendant of the maji clan; IKU. Her mother was a Divîner, once wielding the power of life and death. When a maji comes of age, it is said that those born with the white hair are Divîners. Touched by the gods, they hold specific powers. However, all of that was lost when the King targeted and killed all Divîners of age and stripped their world of magic, leaving Zélie and her brother Tzain motherless. The survivors are left to face harsh laws, ridiculous taxes and  labor camps when they are unable to pay their debts to the monarchy. Many will die slaves and the people of Eloirin face a terrible fate. But when a trip to the city of Lagose in efforts to sell a rare fish that could save her family sparks a chance encounter between Zélie and the King’s daughter Amari, she soon discovers she just might save something greater. She is given a chance to free her people and restore magic. But first she must learn to accept and wield her own powers while embracing new and unexpected allies.

Children of Blood and Bone serves up an exquisite dish of diversity on multiple fronts. Boasting a wide array of characters that hail from opposite ends of the social spectrum, the reader is supplied with varying perspectives that explore relevant topics such as institutional racism and the division of upper and lower class citizens. Zélie is fierce and defiant with a strong desire to rise against the injustice she witnesses daily. Often her willingness to stand leads to irrational behavior and sporadic decisions. Amari has been sheltered, living behind the palace walls of a father who has spoon fed her lies intended to spark fear and hatred. But her heart tells her there must be something more, something better. When the two girls collide and discover they must work together if they hope to ever succeed in returning magic to the land, the monarchy is not the only obstacle they face. They must accept what they have been raised to fear and hate, each other. What unfolds is a beautifully complex relationship that is both challenging and rewarding.

The magic system is equally complex and distinct. The magi consist of 10 different clans, each stemming from their own deity and therefore possessing various powers.  Marked by their white hair, the Divîner’s blood contains ashê, enabling them to call their sacred gifts forth. These powers range from controlling life, death, mind, spirit and dream to a range of elements and even time.

The setting is ever evolving as Zélie, Tzain and Amari traverse the land (Orïsha) on their journey. We are exposed to various landscapes, some physical and some otherworldly. The possibilities feel unlimited and easily submerge the reader into an intoxicating atmosphere shrouded in the unknown while slowly divulging more of the maji history and culture along the way.

Tomi Adeyemi’s writing practically reads itself. There is an instant connection established that refuses to let go. While the plot is laden with elements of magic and fantasy, the characters feel incredibly viable and specific moments tangible. This is an incredibly large story that is carried effortlessly with brilliantly timed, alternating narratives and even pacing.

Perhaps the real magic hidden within is the unexpectedly powerful message portrayed with stunning grace and clarity. Children of Blood and Bone transcends traditional ya fantasy, delivering an emotionally charged adventure that I am tempted to call perfection. Must read!

Fun Fact: Children of Blood and Bone is soon to be a major feature film with Fox 2000 Pictures.

*I would like to thank the publisher for this advanced copy. The above review is my own, unbiased opinion.

Untitled designDevoured over multiple cups of roobios tea with almond and vanilla.

Purchase Links: Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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Author Interview with Erin Jensen

EJ Author InterviewI am excited to have Erin Jensen, the author of the Dream Water Series, back on the blog today for an interview and to share the latest installment in her series, Dream Sight.


1. Dream Waters was a truly unique and beautiful experience for myself as a reader. Can you describe where your drew inspiration for the story from or how the idea first came to you?

Thank you, Danielle. It’s always touching to hear a reader say that my story my story spoke to them. I work as a pharmacist by day, and my career has given me the opportunity to converse with mentally ill individuals at many points along the spectrum of sanity — from the unmedicated schizophrenic to the well-adjusted, high functioning properly medicated patient. In every conversation I’ve had with these individuals, no matter how coherent, I’ve looked into their eyes and seen a soul struggling to connect—to be understood and respected. These poor souls carry such an immense burden, living in the same world as the rest of us and yet perceiving it as something entirely different. It’s heartbreaking to witness. I suppose at it’s heart, DREAM WATERS is my completely fictional attempt to comprehend why mental illness exists.

Originally, DREAM WATERS was meant to be Book 2 in my series. It was going to be the backstory for one of my side characters (Charlie), who was the cousin of one of my original main characters. A few chapters into the writing of my original Book 1, I felt the need to step aside and write a bit of that backstory to get a better feel of where Charlie was coming from. Several chapters in, my husband asked when I was going to get back to writing Book 1. That’s when I realized that this was Book 1. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to that original story one day—although, I suspect it’d need a massive overhaul because my writing has matured quite a bit since that original project.

2. Charlie felt incredibly familiar as a protagonist. I found myself establishing a connection with him almost immediately. Was his character or traits influenced by anyone in your life?

No, Charlie just sort of came to me. He’s not modeled after anyone real. Although, I always picture my books playing out like movies in my head. In fact, when I create a character, I almost always pick an actual actor to play the role in my mind. When I describe their physical traits and mannerisms, I am usually describing that actor. I’ll often watch YouTube clips of their movies and interviews before sitting down to write to keep their mannerisms fresh in my mind. Charlie has always been played by Rupert Grint (minus the red hair) in my mind.

3. Has the experience of publishing your first book in this series changed your writing process with the 2nd and 3rd books in anyway?

Absolutely! There is definitely a learning curve to every step of the writing, editing and publishing process. I’ve learned (and continue to learn) what works best for me along the way. It’s a much smoother process once you develop a rhythm. To be truthful, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing the first time around. Now, I almost always begin with a rough outline, written on index cards. Each scene I envision becoming a part of the book is jotted down (just a brief sentence or two) on a card. That makes it easy to rearrange the order of events, just by rearranging the cards, adding and subtracting new chapter ideas as I go along. When I’m not sure what should happen next, I can flip through the cards to decide what direction to take in the next chapter. I’ve also found a great group of beta readers to give me feedback on my first drafts. And once the manuscript goes to my editor, I start right in on the next book.

4. I obviously hold Charlie very close as far as protagonists go. Who are your favorite character(s) in the series and why?

I do have my favorites, but I don’t share them because I don’t want to give anything away to readers who haven’t read all the books yet. I love all of my characters (with the exception of Frank. He’s not very lovable). My favorite chapters to write are the ones from the point of view of characters who are nothing at all like me. There’s something thrilling about slipping inside the mind of a villainous character or a crotchety old man and telling their tale. Every character is a product of their circumstances and life experiences. There is always a reason for the rage or hatred or whatever sort of passion drives them. I find it fascinating to unravel what makes them tick and what drives them to do the despicable things that they do.

5. If I understand correctly, there are at least 4 books planned for this series. Do you have a conclusion in mind at this point or are you sort of just seeing where the story takes you?

Yes, there will be at least four books in the series, maybe more depending on how long it takes to cover everything I intend to. The conclusion will be a little of both. There are some plot points that are set in stone, and have been from the beginning—but even stone can be smashed. Sometimes the characters have a mind of their own and when I sit down to write, their veer off in an entirely different direction than I intended. Sometimes you just have to go where the story (and the characters) take you. I suppose that’s only right, considering it’s their story.

6. The cover art for the series is gorgeous! Could you share a bit with us about the process and how it came into existence?

Thank you! I adore my covers and their designer—who also happens to be my husband.
I originally hired a professional designer for my first book cover. After months of anticipation, he sent me a cover that was a complete disappointment. I’m pretty picky about my cover art because that’s what first grabs the reader’s attention. They always say “don’t judge a book by its cover” but let’s be honest, everyone does. If the cover doesn’t catch your eye, you’ll never even pick up the book. Fortunately, I discovered that my husband is amazing at bringing my visions to life. He always gives me the credit because the concepts are mine, but capturing the feel of the book in an eye catching way is an impressive skill. I’m lucky that we make a pretty great team!

7. I know you have a family and work as a pharmacist also. What has been your biggest challenge as a writer?

Time!! Finding the time to write, edit and promote my books is always a challenge. But I squeeze it in whenever I can because it’s absolutely worth it to me. I rarely sit down to watch television before eleven o’clock at night — and more often than not, I fall asleep ten minutes into whether we’re watching. I spend most free minutes during the day doing something bookish. If it isn’t writing or editing, it’s promoting my books on social media or answering interview questions or—my current project—tying ribbons on bookmarks to hand out at signings. If I could add a few extra hours of uninterrupted writing time to my day, I definitely would!

8. Have you written or are you working on or planning any titles outside of the Dream Waters series? What’s next?

Yes, I have been working on an unrelated book lately. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but the concept for the book was inspired by a character from the show Supernatural. I recently posted a picture of the characters on Facebook with the caption “Random question: Do any of my FB friends watch this show?” because I was hoping to find some Supernatural fans to beta read and it turns out, a ton of my friends watch the show. My favorite response to the FB post was a reader who said “My youngest son is named Dean Samuel!” The book is still in its infancy, but I’ll be sure to share more details with my readers later on!

9. What is the most important thing you have taken away from your experience as a writer?

I would have to say self confidence. I have a lot more self confidence than I started out with. It’s a terrifying step to put yourself out there and share your labor of love with the world. I didn’t even tell most people in my life that I’d written a book until shortly before I released DREAM WATERS. The response from everyone I know—coworkers, friends, family, former fellow students, pharmacy customers, etc.—has been overwhelmingly positive. I am so glad I worked up the courage to share my stories with the world because there is nothing I would rather do.

10. Last but least, I always ask: Do you drink tea and if so, what is your preferred cup?

I do drink tea, although I am more of a coffee drinker. My favorite is chai tea with a splash of milk.
Thanks for the interview, Danielle! As always, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you!

dreamsightbk 1
Dream Sight (Dream Waters #3)
By Erin A Jensen
Publisher: Dream Waters Publishing
ISBN: 9780997171273
Pages: 496
Genre: Adult Contemporary/Fantasy



The clock is ticking for Emma Talbot—if her dormant memories don’t resurface soon, her past will be forever lost to her—but that’s the least of her worries. Abducted from her home by her husband’s worst enemy, Emma is running out of time in more ways than one.

No longer bound by any limits—moral or physical—the Dragon King sets off on a rampage to discover the whereabouts of his missing wife and retrieve her from the monster who took her. And any creature who is fool enough to stand in his way may well condemn himself to a fate worse than death.

As the royal family’s crisis escalates, Charlie has his own struggles to deal with. The weight of the world now rests on his shoulders and although he is physically capable of shouldering the burden in his emergent form, his ability to control the bestial urges that accompany his newfound power might be another story.


dreamwatersDream Waters (Dream Waters #1)
Purchase: Amazon  iTunes  Barnes&Noble  Kobo



dreamworldDream World (Dream Waters #2)
Purchase: Amazon  iTunes  Barnes&Noble  Kobo




Erin Jensen is the international best selling author of the Dream Waters series. A part-time pharmacist and a full-time creator of imaginary worlds, she lives in upstate New York with her ridiculously supportive husband, two sons (who are both taller than her) and a Yorkshire terrier who thinks he’s the family bodyguard. She once vowed to get a dragon tattoo when her books reached a milestone number of reviews, but she no longer divulges that number— for fear that she might actually reach it and have to go through with it!

Follow Erin: Website  Twitter  Goodreads

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Erin for her time today and also a huge congratulations for making the best-selling list!

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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