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Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (releasing 1/30/18 from Flatiron)

**I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation**

Goodreads Summary: 
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.

My Review: 
I'm not usually drawn to YA fiction but when I received this book, the summary sounded very intriguing. (Plus, gorgeous cover!) Reclusive grandmother who is an cult-classic dark fairy tale author?? Hello, count me IN! The book opens with a 1987 Vanity Fair magazine piece titled "The Queen of the Hinterland". Within that half of a page, I was already hooked! Don't believe me, read it for yourself (plus the book's first chapter) HERE. I really did devour this book and had a hard time putting it down. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because there were some stretches that were a little confusing. I recently learned the term "world building" and I think my problems were with how this world worked. Lots of physical descriptions throughout the work but I wanted to know more about some of the characters, especially toward the end of the book. There were also a few curse words (swear word, cussin', whatever you want to call it) in the book, and while I personally have no problem with this language, it felt a bit forced to make a character seem "cool" or "edgy". Overall, I'd definitely recommend this to any fiction lover. 

Review: Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer

Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer releases 1/23/18 from Skyhorse

Publisher's Summary: After two intense, dead-end relationships, serial monogamist Alison finds herself confused, lonely, and drastically out of touch with the world of modern dating. Refusing to wallow, she signs up for a popular dating app and resolves to remain open-minded and optimistic as she explores the New York City singles' scene. With the click of a button, her adventures begin: On one date, she's dumped before the first kiss; on another, she dons full HAZMAT gear; she meets a tattooed folk singer turned investment banker, an undercover agent who tracks illegal exotic animals, and dozens of other colorful, captivating personalities.

My Review: This was silly and funny to me, probably because I've never dealt with digital dating. My husband and I have been together since 2002 so I missed out on this particular dating struggle.  Even though (and probably because) I haven't experienced it for myself, I loved experiencing digital dating through Alison. She was very smart, witty, and had a great group of friends. I also enjoy all forms of epistolary novels so the texts and e-mails sprinkled throughout the book were super fun to read. If I *had* to make a complaint, I'd say that Alison's adventures were a little PG for a woman who actively dates for an entire year. 

photo courtesy of Goodreads
About the Author:
Amanda Stauffer is a graduate of Yale and Columbia Universities who works as an architectural conservator, restoring historic landmarks across the country. When she grew frustrated with New York City’s dating scene, Amanda headed to match.com. Even though no successful relationships came out of it, her experiences provided her with a lifetime of warm and fuzzy memories, a few friends, and an abundance of material should she ever decide to pursue a career in comedy. An erstwhile expat who has lived in Bangalore, Sicily, and Paris, Amanda currently lives in Manhattan, where she is busy writing her second book.

Review: The Girl on the Velvet Swing by Simon Baatz

The Girl in the Velvet Swing by Simon Baatz releases 1/16/18 from  Mulholland Books

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. 

First of all, let's judge this book by its cover. Ripped headlines of "sex, murder, and madness at the dawn of the twentieth century" pasted over a black and white photo of a beautiful girl. Well, this definitely has my attention! After a little reading into the summary I learned that in 1901, sixteen year old chorus girl, Evelyn Nesbit, dined alone with 47 year old architect Stanford White, the foremost architect of the day. After drinking a glass of champagne, Evelyn lost consciousness and awoke to fin that White had raped her. She told no one about what had happened and even continued to spend time with White. She later confided in her husband, Harry Thaw. In 1906, at a performance in Madison Square Garden (a building designed by White) Thaw shot White as an act of revenge. Shocking! But the story doesn't end there! That maybe covers what the first 1/3 of the book consists of. The remaining 2/3 of the book gets totally wild with Thaw's multiple trials. Evelyn Nesbit's testimony was so shocking that Anthony Comstock and Teddy Roosevelt tried to get the newspapers not to print it! Add to this state hospitals, payoffs, prisons, and a game of hot potato between several states and Canada with who was in charge of holding Harry Thaw! This book was fascinating in giving its glimpse into a time when New York was booming and massive fortunes were able to buy *almost* anything. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to read about freedom of the press, the Comstock laws, the intricacies and problems of an early 1900s trial, and a decadent era in United States history that was far from boring. 

Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekanen

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekanen releases 1/9/18 from St. Martin's
***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Goodreads Summary:
A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love. When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement. You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves. You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her. You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships. Assume nothing.

My Review:
The summary tells you to "assume nothing" so I was simply enjoying my mildly confused state until I finished Part 1. Then my head exploded. Whaaaaaaaaat???!!!! I did NOT see that coming! And I love when that happens. There was no way I was putting this book down after that revelation and I sped through the rest it in a single day. Grab this one up and settle in for a creepy marital thriller that will have your jaw dropping. 

Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin releases 1/9/18 from G.P. Putnam's Sons 

Inside Front Cover: 
If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.
Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

My Review:
You've heard the question before and maybe even given it some serious consideration: "If you could know the date of your death, would you want to know it?" Maybe the date of your death was tomorrow and you would want to make the most of every moment today. Or maybe your date is 50 years from now and you decide to go skydiving tomorrow because have a renewed sense of safety in all that you do. The Immortalists begins with four children being told the dates of their deaths and the novel unfolds to show what they do with that information. 

Author Chloe Benjamin has written an enjoyable novel about controlling the quality of your own life. You will find yourself reflecting on your own life at various points in the book and you are bound to be drawn to one of the characters more than others due to their diverse story lines. I think this would be a great book club choice because there is a lot to discuss about the characters as well as big ideas like fate, personalities, and family bonds. This was one of the Editor's Picks at Book Expo and I was intrigued by a storyline surrounding the "would you want to know" question. I'm not sure I would have chosen it myself and while I enjoyed reading it, I would rate it as "ok" or "average" (not bad, but not great either). 

Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Goodreads Summary: 
What did she see? It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside. Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My Review:
The editors panel at Book Expo was raving about this book, but I thought "January 2018 release date...that means I have plenty of time to read it." ***Hahaha and all the book bloggers laughed and laughed*** In all fairness, the release date on my ARC says 1/18, but it released yesterday, 1/2. I was finishing the book last night and I found myself contemplating my review because I was very torn. I loved the writing style and the book's format--very short chapters, awesome job creating an unreliable narrator, and I loved being given the main character's parallel internal and external dialogue. However, I figured out about 90% of the "twists" before they happened. I don't know if this is just me and another reader would be shocked or if the author has deliberately placed the bread crumbs to follow or what. I would definitely recommend this book to others but I didn't love it like Emma in the Night or The Wife Between Us