Audiobook Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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.

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My Review

I’ve had The Hazel Wood on my TBR since I saw Canterbury Road Co had a candle based on it, which I bought and it smelled amazing but that’s a post for another time. I finally got around to reading it and, while I had a physical copy, I went ahead and listened to the audiobook copy of it because of two things — I didn’t have another audiobook to listen to on the way to and from work at the time and it’s performed by a narrator I’ve enjoyed in the past. I also had The Hazel Wood on my list of books to read for the Fox and Wit March Reading Challenge so I was hoping to finish it during the month of March. Anyway, let’s dive into the review.

The characters were all really well developed and I have no trouble imagining them all as real people. I actually have quite a bit more trouble imagining them as just characters instead of being real people. While I maybe didn’t agree with all of the choices Alice made, I really liked her as a main character and I feel like her arc was really well done. I also liked the side characters, though there were a few times I’d love to have slapped some of them.

The world building in The Hazel Wood is positively stunning and thoroughly immersive. Some of the story takes place in the real world, some of it takes place in the Hinterland, and some takes place in the spaces between. There wasn’t a single time during The Hazel Wood that I felt outside of the world of it at all and I love it all the more for that.

The idea behind The Hazel Wood is absolutely brilliant. Having had some time to digest it a bit, I feel like the flow of the plot itself could have been a little smoother. It’s been just long enough since I listened to this one that I can remember the way the story went while being able to analyze the good points vs. the bad points but too long to formulate it nice and pretty the way I would usually like to. Excuse me while I attempt to anyway. *Ahem*

What I enjoyed most about the plot was the dangling information. It was a near constant ‘here’s the answer to that one question you had, but it also makes you realize that you need the answer to this other, seemingly unrelated question’ and that kept the book in my hands, which is obviously a huge writing goal. I also really, really enjoyed the plot twists. I saw them coming from a mile away, but they were the type of twists meant for the character, not the reader, and they worked very well in that way.

I also really liked the fact that this is one-hundred percent a standalone novel. It stands perfectly on its own two legs and doesn’t require any other novels to round anything out. The loose strings are all wrapped up before the end and all the questions I had were answered. There is a bit of opening left at the end like we see in some novels where the author leaves an opening for the reader to imagine the character and story continuing – to imagine life continuing – after the novel has finished. I honestly prefer it that way because, one, I can imagine the characters continuing on and wonder about their stories and, two, it leaves the author an opening for a potential off-shoot novel.

The only thing I can say I didn’t much like about the plot was the way it flowed. It flowed really well in some places, but then it sputtered and screeched to a halt in others. It was a bit jarring and a little annoying sometimes, but not enough to make me want to put the book down so obviously it wasn’t too bad. And, yes, if the plot dies and doesn’t revive itself before I get bored or annoyed with it, I will drop an audiobook just as fast as a physical or digital one. Life is too short, blah blah blah. That’s another post entirely though so…. let’s move on!

The Hazel Wood is narrated by Rebecca Soler, who also narrated The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I already knew I really liked her narrating style going into this and I was excited to be able to hear her work again. She definitely did not let me down with The Hazel Wood, maintaining her standing as one of my favourite narrators. Her storytelling style is fluid and clear, adding inflection and depth to the story as she brings it to life. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more of her work.

I really enjoyed this story and the characters in it. I enjoyed Melissa Albert’s writing style for the most part and how well she paints images with words. I definitely look forward to reading more from her and seeing how her style changes and improves as she gains more experience.

Overall, I rate The Hazel Wood 4 out of 5 bookworms. Don’t just take my word for it. Add it on Goodreads and enjoy it for yourself!

Remember to live one page at a time!

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Um… What Happened? April 2018 Edition

Hey there, bookworms! So… I kind of disappeared from the blog a couple weeks ago. I honestly did not intend to disappear. I suppose this is another shining example of intentions versus action? Dunno. Anyway, it all boils down to something so incredibly simple and dull: I’ve just had way too much going on. Let me explain.

I’ve been prewriting my posts for a while, but I knew that at some point I might not be able to keep up with the level of output I wanted. I still really enjoy blogging and reviewing and I want to keep at it but OH MY GOSH where is the time???

I’ve been working between five and six days a week for months. I am not by any means complaining about that because I honestly LOVE my job so much and I often have trouble imagining how I managed to be so lucky as to get it… But. Being at work for 9 hours a day those days plus the time it takes to get to and from… I’ve found plenty of time to read during that because audiobooks are a blessing and you cannot tell me otherwise, but writing up reviews for those? Not so much.

On the days that I’m not working, I often have loads of appointments packed in so they’re not really days “off.” Then we have to take into consideration the whole single mom thing and…. Can you say overwhelmed? Because I feel so incredibly overwhelmed. And then I finally found some time to sit and write out a review or two….and here I am writing this instead. My focus is off. Lol.

Also! When reading a series, I usually try to make myself write the review for a book I just finished reading before starting to read the next book. However! I kept having no time to write the review for the first book in the series I’m reading and I really wanted to keep reading it and now I’m accidentally binge reading it so…. There will likely just be a series review for it, I guess? I’m sure I’ll write individual reviews on the reread. Because, yes, there will be a reread OH EM GEE!! *flails* Props to Kav for always insisting I read it. They were so right. Everyone needs to read it.

I feel like I’m just rambling a bit now so I guess I’ll attempt to write a review or something before I lose my ability to form full sentences in text format. Happy reading and thanks for understanding! ❤

Blog Tour: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

The instant I received the email about this blog tour, I knew I had to be on it! I’m so super excited to be able to participate! Keep on reading this post for my full review and a giveaway! But first, let’s have a look at what this gorgeous book is about!

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…
and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

 

I’m sure you understand why I needed to be part of this tour now, right? 😀

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My Review

I’ve had Ace of Shades on my TBR list since Katie started ranting about how excited she was to read it. I was so excited to be able to read a digital galley of the book for this tour! I’m also glad that I decided to wait a few days before thinking about how to write this review after having read it because I made the mistake of reading reviews on Goodreads before formulating my own review. Now that I’ve had a few days to process both the book and their reviews of it, I feel like I’m more capable of fully expressing my thoughts and opinions on it. Here’s hoping I’m right!

The characters were all relatively well developed. I’m not quite sure how I feel about Enne and her thought processes, but they were all laid out well enough that she was quite three-dimensional and easy enough to imagine as a real person. I liked the occasional switch to other character points of view while still maintaining Enne as the main point of view character. It allowed for a greater development of some of the characters that we might not have gotten from only her perspective.

Ace of Shades is set in the North side of the City of Sin, where street gangs and mafia families rule. The world was built up really well to the point of being immersive. Amanda Foody obviously took great care in building up the rules of the world without being blatantly obvious about it because I was able to fully understand them without realizing I had learned them.

The plot itself was interesting, though it did start off slightly slower than I was anticipating. I was having trouble wanting to read a digital book when I picked it up, so the fact that it took about two chapters to pick up was irritating to me at the time. In retrospect, that seems a bit unreasonable but there you have it.

The story kept me hooked from that point on though and I ended up staying awake and finished reading it around 1:30AM, which was horrible when I was at work the next day. There were beautiful plot twists and the ending wrapped up at least most of the loose ends while leaving enough room for the next book in the series to start from. Not quite a cliffhanger but not fully satisfying either.

One thing I saw a lot of in other people’s reviews was that the cast and world were too similar to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and I feel like I should address that here. I can say that while there are definite similarities, I feel like Ace of Shades stands on its own very well. While I don’t feel like seeing the similarities between the two novels is a reach, I can say that it’s likely just genre similarities. It’s a perfect example of “If you liked this, read that.” So, honestly, if you enjoyed Six of Crows, Ace of Shades is definitely a series you’ll want to pick up.

I really did enjoy reading this novel though. I definitely understand the hype surrounding Amanda Foody’s writing because her style flows really well. If I’m being completely honest, I’m already ready to preorder the next book in the series. I can’t wait to read more of this world and these characters!

Overall, I rate Ace of Shades 4 out of 5 bookworms. Don’t just take my word for it. Add it on Goodreads and enjoy it for yourself! A few places you can order your copy from are:

 

About the Author

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Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY is her first novel. Her second, ACE OF SHADES, will follow in April 2018.

Giveaway

As promised, this lovely blog tour includes a giveaway! You could win one of five (5) finished copies of Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody! Note: This giveaway is for US and Canada only. (Sorry, international bookworms!) The giveaway ends on April 19th, so enter while you can!

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

 

Follow the Tour

Want to see more fun posts and have more chances to win? Follow the tour where! You can find the full tour schedule here.

 

Thank you so much to Amanda Foody for writing such an intriguing novel and for allowing me to read it for this tour!

Another huge thank you to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for allowing me the privilege of participating in this blog tour!

Keep living one page at a time!

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The Next Chapter: April 2018 TBR & To-Do

So, having my wrap up and TBR/to-do lists separate has really been working for me so far and I figure you shouldn’t fix something that’s working already so here we are continuing the pattern. I can’t believe it’s already about to be April? What happened to the first three months of 2018?! *sigh* Let’s have a look at what I’m hoping to accomplish during the month of April.

Books I Hope To Review In April

I’m going to do what I’ve done so far and keep my TBR for April modest. I figure I can always read more than my TBR but if I read less I feel horrible so this works for me just now. This month, I’d like to read and/or review:

Other Things I’m Hoping To-Do In April

I’m definitely going to be continuing my Bookworm of the Week spotlight because it brings me an unexpected amount of joy to be able to rant a bit about the amazing bloggers and vloggers in the online bookish community.

I’m going to try to not drown in work. I swear the next person to tell me I’m lucky because librarians just sit and read all day is getting a book thrown at them. One I don’t like obviously, but a book will be flying all the same. Also, I am lucky because my job is so incredibly fulfilling but LOL I do so much more than sit and read all day. *facepalm*

I’m going to lighten/bleach my hair at least once more and then it’s going to be purple! I’m trying to give it time to rest and recover from the first round of lightening/bleaching because it’s (still) angry with me, but I definitely am hoping to have purple hair by the end of April! 😀

I’m going to try to be better about regularly posting. My work schedule has gotten a bit draining and I haven’t made the time to write blog posts and reviews like I want to. I think it’s mostly a matter of scheduling it like an appointment? I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out during the month of April though, won’t we? 😉

I think that’s it for this TBR/To-Do list, bookworms. What are you hoping to read or do during the month of April? Keep living one page at a time!

Turning the Page: March 2018 Wrap Up

Is it that time of month again? Let’s wrap up March so I can start April out fresh and ready!

Books I Reviewed In March

March has been a very productive reading month. Like… wow how did I even? I don’t know. During the month of March I read more books than I reviewed and I still managed to review quite a lot! Here’s what I reviewed during the month of March along with ratings and links to the full reviews themselves.

Other Things I Did In March

I participated in the Fox & Wit Reading Challenge on Instagram. You were meant to select a book to read for each prompt and post a photo of them when #currentlyreading and then post a wrap up style photo at the end. Here’s what books I did for each prompt (with links to the photos):

I wrote another series review for the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. Spoiler: I loved it!

Hair update: I cut about two feet off my hair. I’ve been thinking about doing it for a while and decided it’d be better to do it before I start colouring it again instead of after. Less hair, less dye, less money spent! I also did round one of lightening/bleaching my hair. It’s very orange-ish blonde at the moment but I’m waiting a few more weeks before giving the lightening another go as my hair is quite angry with me just now.

I continued doing Bookworm of the Month posts because I really love them and there are so many amazing bloggers and vloggers in the community that I honestly don’t think I’ll ever run out. So far, I’ve spotlighted

Bookworm of the Week: 30 March 2018

Bookworm of the Week is a spotlight started here on Vicarious Bookworm where each week a different book blogger or vlogger and their platform(s) are highlighted. It started as a way to help bring more attention to book bloggers and vloggers within the online book community.

This week’s Bookworm of the Week is:

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Fadwa is a wonderful human and her blog is absolutely gorgeous. She reads and reviews Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Magical Realism, and Thriller or Mystery books on her blog. She also has one of the clearest rating systems I’ve ever seen and I feel kinda guilty about the vagueness of mine when I look at hers and how specific it is…

I also love the fact that she reviews and showcases mainly diverse books and books by diverse authors. Having someone as uplifting as her be such a strong voice for diverse authors and books makes my little bookish heart soar. I love that she showcases diverse book bloggers as well in her #DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss series! (The one linked does not have any listed trigger/content warnings, though there are some that do. Please to remember to practice self care! <3)

Also, I have to take a moment to explain why my TBR glares at me every time I visit Fadwa’s blog. She has an ENTIRE SECTION dedicated to giving book recommendations. That’s right. An entire Recommendations section. I love it. My TBR gets murderous when I look at it. It’s all good.

She also provides a much needed service by Sensitivity Reading for various marginalizations and languages in a variety of genres. I haven’t used her services yet, but if you’re going for authenticity in your novel and you’re looking for a sensitivity reader, you could do far worse than the wondermagic that is Fadwa.

Basically, follow her and give her all the love. You can find Fadwa on:

Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Redbubble | Goodreads | Pinterest

Review: Traitor’s Prize by Thaddeus White

One man’s treason is another man’s loyalty. The crown itself may be the traitor’s prize.

William Penmere dispatches his bodyguard Sir Hugh to rescue a woman claiming to be Sophie Hurstwood, the woman he was meant to marry. But with the enemy pillaging Hurshire, can Hugh reach her before Stuart Esden?

The Usurper’s son has been tasked with crushing dissent in Hurshire, and brings sword and fire to the earldom. Robbed of glory by being sent south instead of confronting Black Will, Stuart quenches his wrath in a bloodbath of his foes.

Meanwhile, William is trapped in Norshire. Cut off from retreat and reinforcements, he must destroy an enemy far more powerful than himself, or lose his throne. And his head.

Armies are mustered and cities besieged, but it’s the smiler with the knife who makes the nobles tremble.

 

My Review

I’ll go ahead and say up front that I received a copy of Traitor’s Prize from Thaddeus White. He and I have a relatively longstanding working relationship so he’s one of the very few who I’m okay with approaching me with a review request even though I’m currently closed to requests. Traitor’s Prize is the second book in the Bloody Crown Trilogy. You can find my full review of the first book of the trilogy, Kingdom Asunder, here. I did make the mistake of beginning reading Traitor’s Prize during a slump and had to go back and restart it once the slump started to ease off, but I’m really glad I did. Before we dig in, there are a few Trigger/Content Warnings I want to add to this one:

  • Mentions of rape
  • Attempted rape
  • It is a historical fiction/fantasy novel about war so there are quite a few graphic violence and blood scenes.

The characters were probably my favourite part of Traitor’s Prize. Most specifically, Karena. I mean, what a freaking badass! She’s ambitious and intelligent and queer and reading her character just makes me so happy. The characters are all developed well enough that I had no trouble differentiating them from each other, which is a huge task when the cast is as large as this one. The characters that carried over from Kingdom Asunder also received a good bit of development during Traitor’s Prize, which was really enjoyable for me as a reader. I really feel like they all have individuality and the main characters have that extra something that breathes life into them.

I feel like it would have been really easy for Thaddeus White to lay off the world building in this novel because of how thorough he was at it in Kingdom Asunder, but he didn’t at all and the result was glorious. Each new, and even the existing locations, gained an additional level of depth creating a world that was incredibly immersive. I also liked learning a bit more about how the politics of the world function through the bits and pieces given throughout the story.

The story itself… Oh. Em. Goodness. There was so much that happened in so few pages that I’m not sure I’d have been able to process it fully if I had read it faster than I did, so in this way my reading slump really worked for me. As with any second book to a series, I worried that Traitor’s Prize would be a bit slower and act as more of a bridge between books one and three than be an entertaining book in its own right. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Traitor’s Prize does not fall into that category. The plot moves a lot during the story, yes. But. It’s also honestly good enough that I feel like, aside from the plot knowledge gained from reading Kingdom Asunder, this novel could easily stand on its own and do well. It’s definitely part of the series in that without having read the first novel, there is missing information and parts that wouldn’t make sense, but it’s also written strongly enough that if someone stumbles upon Traitor’s Prize without having read Kingdom Asunder, it would still be enjoyable.

I really did enjoy reading Traitor’s Prize, though it took me a shamefully long time to do it and an even longer time to bring the words out to write the review for it. This is one of the few Adult series I’ve been reading recently and I am really looking forward to the final book in the Bloody Crown Trilogy! Here’s hoping it’s as bloody and wonderful as the first two. And also that Karena survives and ends up on top because I need this to happen.

Overall, I rate Traitor’s Prize 4 out of 5 bookworms. But don’t just take my word for it. Add it on Goodreads and enjoy it for yourself!

That’s all for me this post, bookworms. I’m off to (im)patiently await the final book in The Bloody Crown Trilogy. Keep living one page at a time!