After Alice by Gregory Macguire

The first book I ever read by Gregory Maguire was Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and it was fantastic. It was a different take on the classic Cinderella story and it was the first time I ever read a retelling. You could say that this is what got me into this genre in the first place. With After Alice, I had the awesome opportunity to buddy read this book with a bunch of bookish friends from my bookstagram account! Every week, we would meet up online to discuss the novel. As someone who hasn’t really analyzed a book since high school, it was nice to get back into that style of reading in an informal setting. Anyways, I’ve been blabbering for too long, let me get onto my review:

Summary (Goodreads):  When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late — and tumbles down the rabbit hole herself.

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Euridyce can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is After Alice.

Review: I actually read this book in 2 formats: physical book and audiobook. I was a bit worried that switching between these two would affect my perception of the story, but I am happy to say that it did not. But let’s get on to my actual feelings about this book.

This was not my favourite book by Gregory Maguire. In fact, I didn’t really like this book at all. I think that the problem I faced with this novel was that it was trying to do too much and accomplishing very little in the process.

This book is all about what happens after Alice goes to Wonderland, and the author decided to look at this in 2 ways: through Ada’s perspective as she goes searching for Alice, and through the perspective of Alice’s sister, Lydia, who is stuck in England and must find her there. The concept was great; we get a full picture of the effects of Alice’s disappearance. But the way the story was told just didn’t work for me.

For one thing, the sections with Lydia didn’t really interest me. I felt like Maguire made her character very unlikable and didn’t give her many strengths. I wish she had had some positives to her because it seemed really unfair that she shouldn’t have something to make her seem better. I also found that the descriptions of life in England, while interesting and historically accurate, were boring. I didn’t really want to read about decorum and debate about societal views and morals. I just wanted to go to Wonderland.

Now, when it came to Ada’s time in Wonderland, I was very intrigued. Ada is a very different character from Alice; she’s much more logical and mature, almost like an adult than a child. Seeing Wonderland through her eyes, and watching how she changes and finds her identity was amazing. I just wish there were more of it. Every time the story took me out of Ada’s chapter and into Lydia’s, I would groan on the inside. Ada’s journey was far more interesting and I liked her practical character very much.

There was also the introduction of another character named Siam. I really liked how the author was able to develop his story even without giving him a voice. But if I’m honest, his character was unnecessary. Siam barely got a chance in the spotlight and including him made me want to read more from his perspective – and left me feeling disappointed when he didn’t really get the chance to do so.

I also had a problem with the language. Now, I like to think that I have a pretty good grasp of the English language… but this book had my head spinning and not in a nice way. The overly flowery and descriptive language made it hard to get through the book and I would find my attention slipping away. Even if you are personifying the Victorian era, there is no need for the writing to be so difficult to understand, especially when there really isn’t anything meaningful being said. My biggest problem with the wording and language style of this book is that the author was deliberately using wordy language in an attempt to sound more impressive – but when you make your way through all that mess, you realize it’s really nothing that impressive at all. I did not like this at all; it felt like the experience was being cheapened for me.

My final thoughts about this book was that it could have been so much better. It was such an interesting concept but the author overcomplicated it by trying to put too many themes and characters in and not fully developing them. There was also the unnecessary language that had the opposite effect of seeming witty. While I enjoyed reading this in a buddy setting and I liked the revelations that we discovered as a group, this is not a book that I enjoyed. I’m giving this a 1.5/5 stars, rounded to 2.

Happy reading ~



The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

There have been so many fantasy novels that have been coming out recently that I’m struggling to decide where to start! I’ve seen so many Instagram posts about this book, and it has such a beautiful cover that I had to select this one! Here is my review:

Summary (Goodreads): When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern King35098412dom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

Review: This was an interesting book, but definitely more on the generic side of this genre.

What I loved the most about this book was the world-building. The descriptions of the setting was gorgeous and I loved that the author took the time to develop an interesting talent system. I wish there had been more emphasis on Maevan culture, as I was curious to juxtapose Maevana with Valenia; the differences that were mentioned sounded more like personality traits rather than actual cultural variations. I wanted to learn more about magic in Maevana, especially since that is kind of what makes a fantasy story, well, fantasy!

I didn’t love Brienna’s character too much because she didn’t really have much of a personality. On the plus side, she wasn’t stupid; she could put together clues and formulate plans. But I can’t really say if there was anything more to her.

I really liked the first half of the story, when Brienna was in school with her friends and trying to get scouted for her talent. It was the only semi-unique thing about the story. However, the rest of the novel was a bit … boring. Nothing really happens for the longest time. She just travels, and then waits around to meet other people, and then continues to do ordinary-ish stuff until it’s time for the real action to take place. At least if there had been more instances of magic or understanding of the Maevan culture, I wouldn’t have been as bored. But there wasn’t.

The ending of this novel was really simplistic. Everything was over and resolved far too quickly for me to be satisfied. It was just blah for me, which was disappointing since it was the scene I was most excited to read. It just didn’t work.

Lastly, I didn’t like the romance in this book. This is a personal pet peeve I have: I don’t like relationships between students and teachers. It feels weird and wrong to me, and I just can’t find it within myself to think of it as sweet or cute. Maybe others won’t be as bothered, but I certainly was!

Overall, this was an okay novel. It had some beautiful descriptions, but the story was generic, the characters didn’t have as much personality as I would have liked, and the ending was just too easy. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~


Mister Tender’s Girl by Carter Wilson

When I found out that this novel was inspired by the Slender Man attack, I was immediately interested. I know that sounds like there is something seriously wrong with me, but I wanted to know how the author would describe it in a fictional setting. This story takes place after the incident and the premise was just too interesting to pass up. Here is my review:


Summary (Goodreads): How far are you willing to go for Mister Tender?
At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn’t exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, created by Alice’s own father in a series of popular graphic novels.
Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger could: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but Mister Tender is never far behind. He will come with a smile that seduces, and a dark whisper in her ear…

Review: I have very mixed feelings about this book. Do I think this is a very unique thriller? Yes, 100%. Did I love it? Not entirely.

If you haven’t heard about the Slender Man trials, then let me give you a little recap: a couple of years ago, there was a lot of hype about this creepy character named Slender Man. 2 girls became so obsessed with it that they stabbed another girl, claiming that Slender Man told them to do it. This was the premise that sparked the idea for this book, but the author took it further than just the incident: in this novel, we read about the victim’s life in the future.

The novel started off great. I loved reading from Alice’s perspective. She is damaged, she is paranoid, but she is strong and refuses to be a victim. The author painted a very realistic depiction of a survivor and I wanted to get to know her. However, as the story progressed, I found I didn’t really like Alice as much as I had hoped. For one thing, she’s a blabbermouth. For someone who should trust nobody, she trusts EVERYBODY. Every other chapter involves her meeting a character, deciding to trust them with her life story, and then divulging every little detail, including things that could be used against her. I wanted to shake her and yell at her for this. YOU ARE BEING STALKED BY A PSYCHO!!! DON’T GO AROUND TRUSTING PEOPLE!!! She even ignores the advice of her dead father, who explicitly told her to not trust anybody. It was something that really bothered me with this story.

That being said, I did like the way the story developed. There were a lot of twists and turns and a lot of mysteries explored. I like that things unfolded in their own time; instead of having the reader try to tease things apart, the author let everything come out gradually. It gave the story a good flow and allowed me to just enjoy the story as it came to me. I liked the identity reveal of Mister Tender and the way things led up to the climax.

But it was the climactic point that failed me. Mainly because there wasn’t one. After all this build up, after all the violence, it ended very easily. It was just too simple after all of the tension that was evoked previously, and I just couldn’t feel satisfied by it.

Despite some of the negative aspects of this story, I think that it gives a lot of food for thought about sensationalism and victim fetishism. The story is about how everyone is obsessed with getting to know Alice, understanding her and seeing how she lives her day after her horrific incident. In a way, the reader is a part of that: I am drawn to the grisliness of her story, I’m fascinated by her character and how she behaves. It’s easy to see how I could become another “fan” of Mister Tender… except I would never stoop to that level of depravity and violence. In a sense, this theme of sensationalism also touches on issues with privacy. With the internet, there really is no such thing as having privacy and through Alice’s struggles, we see how hard it can be to remain anonymous. This novel also looks at abuse in a very unique way. There are so many different types of abuse that this novel considers and it is worthwhile to note that abuse doesn’t just manifest itself through physical violence; it can come from a loved one, too, and have disastrous consequences on one’s mental and emotional well-being.

Even though there were things I really didn’t like about this novel, I’m still giving it a fairly high rating of 3.5/5 stars. This is a very unique psychological thriller, with plenty of twists and turns to keep readers interested, so if you are looking for something new in the genre, consider this book.

Happy reading ~

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerhill

One thing I need to learn to stop doing is jumping at a book because it has a gorgeous cover. Take, for instance, Ever the Hunted. Look at this cover and tell me it isn’t pretty:


I saw this cover and immediately wanted to read it. It promised to be an interesting story. It was not.

Summary (Goodreads): Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

Review: Everything you expect to find in a stereotypical YA fantasy novel is in this book. And that’s why it didn’t work for me. I like to see variation, something unique … and there was none of that.

In the beginning, the story showed some promise. There was a bit of excitement as the story started off with a bang. I could sense the desperation of Britta as she found herself in a dangerous situation.

But this excitement didn’t last too long.

I quickly grew tired of Britta’s character. For one thing, she repeats the same thing over and over again. Another thing is that she is seriously not smart. I hate when the author makes the main character unable to figure out even the most basic clues. Strong and intelligent protagonists are not a bad thing! In any case, Britta was unable to put anything together. She also seems incapable of thinking about anything other than romance because every other sentence was about how she had feelings for Cohen and whether he reciprocated. I mean, considering the seriousness of her situation, this may not have been the perfect time to wonder if he liked you.

And then came the special snowflake effect. Britta is a special snowflake. So, not only is she unintelligent and ridiculously infatuated, she is also special. And that’s supposed to make the readers connect with her.

I also thought the romance angle was nothing great. I know I’m someone who generally doesn’t like romance, but the last few books that I’ve read in the fantasy genre have had great romances. This book was not one of them. It was generic, featuring your stereotypical hot guy friend who the protagonist has a crush on. It didn’t do anything for me.

But the other major problem with this book is that there was barely any world-building. There is a war between two countries. But there is no detail into how this came to be, what the conflict is about, the political climate and the differences. The world in this novel was described with the bare minimum needed for the story to move along. And this is such a shame because fantasy novels really need to have great world-building for the story to shine.

Needless to say, I was not impressed with Ever the Hunted. It didn’t give me anything new and it was disappointing to see all of this potential go to waste. I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~



Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

I read Seraphina a while back and I fell in love. It had dragons and court life and great world-building. It was definitely very different from most fantasy stories I’ve read but I enjoyed it immensely. When I saw that LibraryThing was hosting an Early Reviewer giveaway for Tess of the Road, I immediately jumped at the chance, and was delighted to receive a copy. From the synopsis, I was aware that the book took place in the world of Seraphina and I was excited to get back into it. Here is my review:

Summary (Goodreads): 

33123849In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.
Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl–a subspecies of dragon–who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

Review: Getting back into the world created in Seraphina through the eyes of a new character was really exciting for me. That being said, I would HIGHLY recommend that you read Seraphina before this one; this novel draws on many terms and concepts from Seraphina and the author doesn’t really take the time to explain it again in this book, so readers might find themselves lost.

When I started reading this novel, I was surprised to find that it was quite slow. Based on the premise, I think I was expecting a faster pace to the story. I also found Tess’s character to be … well, not to my liking. She is quite selfish and a little too impulsive. However, as I was thinking this, I also found myself liking this choice for a protagonist. I have always favoured flawed main characters to perfect one – and Tess is definitely in the former category.

As the story continues, there is an allusion to an incident that Tess was involved in that has made her undesirable and given her a bad reputation – and it is connected to a sexual encounter. The mystery surrounding this incident immediately made me want to know more, and it served as a pushing force for me to continue with the story. At the same time, I was surprised that the author wanted to discuss sex and sexuality; I hadn’t pegged this as the direction for this novel.

One of the major problems I encountered in this book was that it had very slow pacing. Not much happens in this story. Tess goes on a journey to escape life in a nunnery – and to escape the judgmental attitude of her family and friends. There are bouts of adventure but for the most part, there was just a lot of walking and talking and philosophizing. Now, I’m not really a fan of philosophy so I found some of these talks to be a little tedious to get through but I found that they were important for setting the stage for some of the moral issues the author explores.

Because while Tess was going through a boring outward journey, she was going through a rigorous inward journey. This novel was all about Tess’s ingrained views on sexuality and proper behaviour (as she was taught by her mother) and the way her experiences and the views of others’ challenges these beliefs. The reader gets to see how Tess has been bullied and shamed into feeling inferior and how she rises from this and starts to love herself again. I think that this theme is a really important one to cover and I think that, while the author had a shaky start with it in the beginning, it all came together quite well in the end.

This is a book that won’t work for everyone. The slow pacing and the initial un-likable-ness of Tess can be offputting for a lot of readers. But if you push through, you’ll see that this novel has its merits. It’s all about self-love and taking care of oneself. It’s about different ways to think about sex and sexuality, and the issues of being judged by traditionalist views on a female’s role in the bedroom. I like how the novel challenged these issues through Tess’s character and for that reason, I’m going to give this a 3.5/5 stars. The reason I can’t give it a higher rating is because the pacing was difficult to deal with and there wasn’t really much of a plot.

This is a novel I would recommend for fans of Seraphina and for those who are looking for a novel that looks into morality through the genre of fantasy.

Happy reading ~

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Over the years, I have become a big fan of Alice Hoffman. Regardless of the genre, she manages to produce a story that will leave a mark on the reader. Of the 4 books I’ve read in the past, every single one has been absolutely stunning. I approached this novel excited to see how she would tackle the contemporary genre.


Summary (Goodreads): Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Review: Once again, Alice Hoffman has written a story that tugs at the heart. But compared to her other novels, this one fell short for me.

The story starts off post-tragedy, and we are introduced to post-tragedy Shelby, a girl who is grief-stricken by this event, which ruined her best friend’s life. Shelby shoulders all of this grief and hurt, but most importantly, she stops loving herself and thinking of herself as a good person. And thus, starts our journey with Shelby as she hesitantly moves through life, changing and adapting – and maybe finding it within herself to let go of the grief. I know I’m saying something that might be a spoiler… but it’s really not. The blurb pretty much gives it away.

Here’s the thing: I liked the journey. I liked the growth. I loved the opportunity to connect with Shelby and understand her. But the story lost me quite a few times. The plot meandered many times, and I found my interest slipping when that happened. This is not an easy story to read because it deals with difficult topics of guilt, loss, love, and self-love. But it took a long time to get to anything conclusive. I feel like Hoffman was trying to emulate real life through her progression of time and events in the book. And that’s great. But it just strayed away from the central plot too much to keep me interested.

This is a great story that explores grief and forgiveness and love. It mirrors real life by depicting realistic situations and time frames. But I think it was this realistic nature of the story that didn’t work for me. There was a point where some “miracles” were introduced – but it was quickly explained away. I wish this had been explored more because I was excited by the potential for some magical elements in the story. I think that this novel would appeal more for those looking for a very realistic portrayal of grief and the ability to move on from traumatic events. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~


Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Although I’ve heard of Laini Taylor, I’ve never read anything by her. I’ve seen loads of posts about her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, and while I’ve been intrigued, I just haven’t found the time to get into it. However, I couldn’t resist this novel. The cover was gorgeous and the synopsis was too good to pass up. So, here is my review:


Synopsis (Goodreads): The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.


I’m trying to figure out how to put my thoughts into words and I’m struggling so much because all I can thinks is woah. It was that good of a read! I know that this book has been hyped up a lot, and I’m usually someone who finds that hyped reads aren’t as great as they are made out to be. BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE HERE. This book lives up to the hype and then some!

This book is so beautifully written. It is poetic, and magical, and everything you imagine when you think of fantasy. Regardless of whose perspective we read, the writing is haunting and emotional; there were so many instances where the words and the emotions they evoked tore at my heart. I was spellbound and couldn’t stop myself from reading this book.

The characters are fantastic in this book. They are unique and whimsical, yet easy to connect with. The relationships between everyone and the conversations were so believable and natural that it felt as if I was right there listening to it. I loved Lazlo and his goodness, his research skills, and his love of Weep. His simplicity made me smile and he quickly became a favourite character.

The plot for this novel is just so good. There is depth, there is complexity, and there is the right balance of action and world-building. I was able to predict the revelation that occurred in the end of this book, but that just made me even happier with the story; I don’t always need shocking twists and turns to keep me happy, just a well-developed story.

Overall, I couldn’t be happier with my experience of this book. It was fantastic and I am so glad I gave in and read it. I cannot wait for the next book in the series! I would recommend this novel for anyone who loves fantasy, and I’m giving this a 5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~




The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco – The Bone Witch #2

When I first read The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, I absolutely adored it. I love that it reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha – but with a fantasy twist! I was excited to see where the author would go with the second book, considering that The Bone Witch ended on a cliffhanger … so here is my review:


Summary (Goodreads): No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

Review: Considering that it had been a while since I had read the first book, I struggled a bit to recall the different elements of the story and the connections between the different characters. But once I refreshed my memory, I was able to really enjoy the story.

This novel was a lot more action-packed than the first book, which would please a lot of people who had struggled with the slower pace of The Bone Witch. I liked that the story expanded beyond the Memoirs of a Geisha flow because it allowed me to connect with the characters in a different way than before and let me see them in action. However, there was a downside to the faster pace: I had gotten used to the detail-oriented storytelling from the first book, and having a faster pace meant that there wasn’t as much detail or world-building. With The Bone Witch, I fell in love with the world that was created. And while I fell in love with the plot and character in this novel, I still wanted more descriptions of this gorgeous universe that the story was taking place in.

Not only was the pace faster, the plot was also really engaging. I loved the action, and the fighting and the way the different characters had to work together to resolve the problems at hand. I also loved all of the romances that took place, which is a rare compliment to hear from me! My favourite parts of the story were the excerpts from the Bard’s perspectives because they showed the present situation, whereas the rest of the story told episodes from the past (but in present tense), and they allowed the reader to see Tea, the heroine, as a complex person struggling with the battle between good and evil. At times, the Bard’s passages were confusing, but it all came together beautifully to tell an intriguing and exciting story.

Overall, I think I quite enjoyed this book almost as much as The Bone Witch. It had a beautiful cover, and an exciting story with a great cast of characters. I’m glad I stuck with this series and that the sequel lived up to my expectations. I cannot wait to read the conclusion to this trilogy as I’m sure it is going to be just as fantastic as this book! I’m giving this a 4.5/5 stars!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Sourcebooks Fire for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

Amber Alert by Dan Lawton

I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

I am always happy when an author gets in touch with me and asks me to read their work. It’s not easy to write and publish a novel, and I definitely want to support writers wherever possible! I was super excited to receive this novel, which sounded like a very cool thriller! Here is my review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): Time is running out.

Nine-year-old Chloe Janis is abducted.

Abby, her mom, is now faced with revealing her dark past, hidden these last seventeen years, or losing her daughter forever. A cryptic message from a man she’d shoved into the dark recesses of her mind forces her into an impossible situation—revealing secrets best kept hidden or losing her daughter forever.

Secrets, deception, and betrayal surround the small town of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. All eyes are on the community, threatening to split open as yet unhealed wounds are probed. Fates will be rewritten and careers redefined. Everyone involved will confront their pasts if there’s any hope of Mifflinburg becoming a town at the heart of redemption and forgiveness.

Review: The plot for this story was quite strong and I really liked the direction that the story took. However, I thought that the writing style wasn’t the best fit for this story.

A child being abducted is not necessarily a unique story … but the way the author presented it here made it stand out in my mind. It was easy for me to follow along with the events that unfolded, and I got caught up in the thrill of it all. I liked that the plot had depth to it and kept you guessing as to the motives behind this kidnapping.

I also really liked the characters because every single one of them had something to contribute to the story. There were no useless characters, and I’m so happy about that because that is one of my biggest pet peeves. All of the characters had a backstory and the author definitely had them all fleshed out. I will point out that I didn’t like the main detective’s character. He had an off-putting personality, and while that may have been done on purpose, I thought that some of his actions and remarks were uncharacteristic of a police detective and that didn’t really work for me.

The one issue I had with this novel was with the writing style. Oftentimes, I felt I was being told rather than shown what was happening. When the character was giving their backstory or their inputs, I would much rather have not been told it straight to my face; I like to be led to the conclusions, not given them. When I’m told rather than shown, I find that it takes me out of the rhythm of the story and it can be hard for me to get back into it. I think that if the writing style had been edited to be cleaner in these aspects, it would have made the story even better.

Overall, this was a very interesting premise and a well-developed story. However, I don’t think the writing style was a good fit for this novel. Nevertheless, this was a solid effort, and I’m giving this a 3/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

I have been so excited for this book! Ever since I saw the cover reveal for it, it has taken everything I have to wait patiently for the book to be released. Now, I finally got the chance to read the book! Here is my review:

Fell in love with this beautiful cover ~

Synopsis (Goodreads): 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.

Review: I have conflicting thoughts regarding this book. While I finished it in just a few days, this wasn’t a perfect story for me with an equal portion of things I liked and didn’t like.

First of all, I absolutely loved the premise. It was so dark and it played perfectly with my love of dark faerie tales.

But this story took a LONG time to get going. The story begins with Alice telling us how she and her mother, Ella, have never had a stable home because they’ve been running away from this bad luck that keeps following them. When Alice’s mother gets kidnapped, Alice is determined to find her. While this is a very noble endeavour, I was bored out of my mind. There were all of these creepy hints about the Hinterland, but nothing really full blown for the longest time. It got to a point where I was ready to pull my hair out if Alice mentioned one more time about how she and her mother were always on the run. The journey she took here was far too long and could have been shortened to make the plot more interesting.

Of course, a long journey means that Alice has to have a trusty sidekick – and in this case, it is Ellery Finch. I know a lot of readers of this book love Ellery, but I did not. I couldn’t connect with him because he just seemed too forced in his behaviour and I didn’t feel like I ever got to know him. Maybe this was because the reader’s view of Ellery is coloured by Alice’s perception of him (since the story is told entirely from her perspective) but he just didn’t live up to my expectations of the sidekick.

And while I’m speaking about characters, I also didn’t like Alice for a large part of the story. All she does is get angry over nothing and complain. Oh, and judge Ellery for being rich, even though his wealth is what is aiding them in their search for Alice’s mother. Eventually, this anger issue gets resolved but it took way too long and was really not that necessary.

I know it sounds like everything I have to say is negative. But there were some things I really liked about this story.

There were moments when we got to actually hear some of the fairy tales from the Hinterland. That was hands-down the best part of the book; I love reading dark fairy tales and the author definitely delivered. I only wish there had been more of these stories scattered throughout the story because it would have made it all so much more interesting.

When Alice actually gets to the Hinterland, I found myself enjoying the story a lot more. There was some really cool world-building, and you really needed to focus in order to figure out what exactly was going on. The story started to get whimsical and creepy, and it was what I had been hoping for from the beginning.

By the time the novel ended, I was feeling quite happy …. but I don’t know if it was necessarily enough to negate my feelings from the beginning of the book.

Overall, I think that this was a novel with a very interesting premise. I liked the dark fairy tales and the creepiness of it all. I do think that this novel ran a bit too long, especially in the beginning and it would have been more enjoyable for readers if that had been cut down. I’m going to give this a 2.5/5 stars, rounded to 3 …. but I am curious to see if there will be a sequel to this novel, and would be interested in reading more by this author.

Happy reading ~