Entering the Creepilicious Hazel Wood

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the squeals of glee you’re about to see is all me*

hazel woodI mentioned last week that I had a few ARC reviews coming and in case you didn’t know, I loved them all. However, even though I gave the other two all the bananas, this book was basically a glorious banana cake of awesome (that’s monkey speak for “I saved the best till last!”). Now, when I first saw this book it was pretty much love at first sight- because just look at that cover!!! And most of the reviews were super positive as well… and then came all the negative reviews. I have to say they dampened my enthusiasm somewhat- and THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT. My expectations being much lower ended up making this all the more rewarding. Then again, nothing about this book is to be expected.

I will admit straightaway that I get why people some people don’t like this– the way the story’s told, the style and the structure are bound to be hit or miss. BUT one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that the most divisive books are usually the most brilliant. They’re the books that, when they work for me, make the biggest impact- and boy did this book work for me.

From the my first tentative steps into the world of this novel, I knew I was in for quite the journey. The writing made me shivery with glee. It’s probably a good thing that this was an ARC because otherwise I’d have clogged up this review with quotes- heck, judging by how highlighted my kindle version is, I’d basically be uploading the entire book. I wrote tons of notes as well, which can all be summarised: wow, this lady can write! I was endlessly impressed with the unsettling tone, the trickery of the luxurious language and the underlying genius of the ideas.

put your hands together.gifOne thing I noticed, quite quickly, was that Hazel Wood is a bit of a genre straddler. I wouldn’t personally classify this as magical realism (though I’ve heard a few people labelling it as such)- to do so would be to miss the large signposts to all the great gothic and fairy tale traditions at every terrific twist and turn. Now, a lot of people know that gothic books and fairy tales are two of my *absolute favourite* genres. Since this book *put those hands together* (so to speak) I couldn’t have been a happier monkey to find how well this worked. It reminded me so much of the finest works in both genres. Rather wonderfully, this tied in with its theme of falling in love with a story. I couldn’t help but be reminded of personal favourites- especially as they were referenced so well. To say this was rooted in literary references would be an understatement. It tunnelled down into the collective psyche of some of the world’s oldest stories.

The basic plot was simple and yet highly effective: it is a story of taking a trip into the woods, losing yourself and then having to discover a way out. I love tramping through Mirkwood-esque settings and uncovering uncanny secrets- and Hazel Wood was remarkably good at capturing that unsettling feeling that more was going on under the surface. Indeed, there were hints at psychological themes lurking. With a steady build up, the narrative crept towards a crescendo where everything began to make sense (and also raised tons of questions 😉 ).

The world of the book felt like a dreamscape and much of the messaging felt like an allegory for mental health and real world trauma. And that right there was another of the reasons I was often jumping up and down saying This. Is. Such. A. Good. Book. Because, much like the grandmother in the story, who is the author of a fairy tale collection, is described as being like a “war reporter”, this narrative brought brutal truths. The harshness of the main character’s life delivered a slice of reality to go with the story’s unreality; the unnerving creations had me wondering what was real in the book at all. Much of the messaging felt like a code for something deeper. Like I said, this was no ordinary book.

A significant way the book achieves a sense of raw realism was through the family relationships. They’re not cookie cutter and they’re not always monstrous- they felt grounded in genuine experience. I appreciated the slow build of connections and the fact that they didn’t always turn out how you might want. But then, this is not a book of wish fulfilment and that aspect worked for me. I also loved the prickly edges to the main character and found myself relating to her– even if she could be practically the embodiment of irritation at times- though I understand why a lot of other readers couldn’t get behind her.

By the end, the storytelling aspect took a meta turn and all the threads came together. I don’t want to spoil anything, yet I don’t know if I could- for Hazel Wood refuses to be pinned down. All I will say is that there are layers of mystery to this book and it will certainly make you think… and then think again. It is most definitely, my kind of book.

Still, I do have a bone to pick with the author: this book was *too* damn good. It was more exciting than I anticipated and I had wayyy too much trouble putting it down. So, thanks for contributing to my insomnia and preventing me from getting work done, because, while I was reading this all I could think was “ach forget it, I need to get back to the Hinterland!” I was simply swept away by the magic of this book and hope you will be too.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

small bananasmall bananasmall bananasmall bananasmall banana 

One supremely satisfied monkey…

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So have you read this? What did you think of it? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

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71 thoughts on “Entering the Creepilicious Hazel Wood

  1. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    Oh brilliant review for this book, and I’m so glad you enjoyed this one as well. The second I read the blurb for this one I was hooked, and the US cover is gorgeous so I can certainly see why it attracted you as well. I did enjoy this one but it wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped it would be, for me the main thing I was disappointed in was that we did get to the Hinterlands and the Hazel Wood until really late in the story, but I guess it was really good the negative reviews you saw lowered your expectations so you were able to love this one.
    Again great review! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vera says:

    I’m so happy you got to enjoy all of those books. I love these wonderful streaks of greatness.
    And your drawings are just… AMAZING! Love the satisfied orangutan at the end. 😊👌
    I haven’t read this book but may give it a go. I enjoyed your review and am quite curious now. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Winged Cynic says:

    Agghh I’m so glad to hear you loved this book! I personally found certain aspects of it not as much to my taste, but I ultimately came out feeling quite positive about it for the very reasons you covered here: the writing, the raw creepiness, the psychological aspects to it, and particularly Alice; I was disappointed that so many other people didn’t seem to like her, but I found her delightfully irritating. 😉

    Awesome review! I can totally see why you gave this book a 5-star rating. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. alilovesbooks says:

    Fantastic review and glad to hear you loved it so much. I had a couple of issues with some of the relationships but other than that I agree with pretty much everything. I particularly loved the dark fairytales within the story, soooo creepy. I kind of want a whole book, just of those.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nicole says:

    Oh, exciting! I got pulled in by the synopsis and the pretty cover and then got saddened by the negative reviews. While I will still not be rushing out and buying this one as quickly as if I hadn’t read the reviews, at least I have hope that I will still enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Zezee says:

    Great writing, “felt like a dreamscape,” “taking a trip into the woods, losing yourself” = all that makes excited and eager to read it. I have it on hold at the library, so I should get it soonish. I hope I’ll love it too.

    Like

  7. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    Creepilicious indeed, that’s like the perfect word to describe this book. I loved it wholeheartedly until we got to the end where a certain development made me kind of sad/mad (which I won’t go into it in case of spoilers) but I still really enjoyed myself! Let’s just say I’m really looking forward to the next book where hopefully my gripe will be resolved 😀

    Like

  8. Carrie says:

    Haha “a glorious banana cake” that’s certainly a creative way to rate.

    But I’m with you, I did like this one too. Another of my the cover looks interesting what is this shiny thing then get done and thank goodness it was actually worth the read. LOL

    Like

  9. Nel says:

    Great review! I’m glad monkey got a banana cake cause cake is just great with a great book. I love the cover art and I’m glad you enjoyed this as much as you did. Sounds like there should be a sequel so hopefully you aren’t disappointed on part 2. 🙂

    Like

  10. thebookwormdrinketh says:

    I’ve been looking at this book for a little while! Good to hear that you liked it. I’ll definitely have to check it out since you said that you had so many things highlighted!! I’m OBSESSED with a good quote!! It was totally the cover that lured my in too. 😍😍💖🍻

    Like

  11. Marie says:

    Fantastic review! I am so happy you are part of the people loving this book! I understand where the mixed reviews are coming from, but personally, I loved it. I thought it was quite unique and I really liked the writing style as well, it made me feel so immersed into the story overall 🙂

    Like

  12. midclassanxiety says:

    It’s a very good review. Haven’t read the book so neither agree nor disagree. If I happen to find a copy in the bookstore, it’ll be really hard for me to ignore those 5 bananas. And the cover of course!

    Like

  13. auroralibrialis says:

    Wow, this is a glowing review! I’ll admit that all the negative reviews I’ve been seeing put a damper on my excitement for this one, but I’m so happy to see such a positive review, cause the book sounds amazing. I love fairy-tales, especially the dark ones and Gothic settings too, so hopefully I’ll love it as much as you did 🙂

    Like

  14. Aimee (Aimee, Always) says:

    Oh, wow! I’m so glad you enjoyed this! That kind of writing style will only work for me in certain books, and I’m HOPING this will be one of those books. I’m excited to get into these magical woods, and I’ll admit you’ve gotten me curious about the heroine’s personality as well. Awesome review!

    – Aimee @ Aimee, Always

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lydia Tewkesbury says:

    Oh my gosh! How hadn’t I heard of this one? It sounds like everyone is talking about it. Well, from your review alone this sounds like one that I have to read. I enjoy an unlikeable narrator – I think we put too much pressure of characters (esp. female characters) to be likeable when really it isn’t a necessary ingredient to a story, and sometimes it’s fun to hang with someone who is a bit morally grey for a while.

    Also, yes, that cover is SO PRETTY.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks says:

    I haven’t read this one, but I’ve certainly heard all sorts of things about it, good and bad 🙂 glad you liked it! You give really good reasons for why you did as well. I love the whole collective psyche and the literary references! And I also love your usage of bolded sentences 🙂 great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Book Admirer says:

    Love your review! I have heard mixed reviews about this book, which stalled my book club from reading it. However, reading your review, I want to put it back on my immediate TBR and decide once and for all.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Kat Impossible says:

    I am glad this was a hit and not a miss for you, but I can also see how the negative reviews and the lowered expectations probably helped haha I am so bad with hyped books, they never quite click with me the way they would have if there had been no buzz beforehand.
    Anyway, this was a beautiful review and I love when there are just tons and tons of quotes to love from a book. Makes me really curious about the writing. I have more than enough reads for myself for now, but I will keep it on my radar should a new buying spree come up 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you! And yes, I do think this was one I’d have liked regardless, but I also like going into a book with open eyes, especially so I could think more about why others wouldn’t love it. But some books are just completely ruined by hype. Thank you so much!! Fair enough- I really hope you love it if you get to it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. LizScanlon says:

    Oh my goodness 🙂 I truly truly love the reviews which tell me how much you loved a book… I mean, your reviews are all cracking but for the books that swept you away, I can just FEEL the love oozing off the screen and the excitement is so contagious! 😀
    All of my blogging buddies who have read it have loved it and this alone, topped off by your wonderful review gives this book a shining seal of approval. I need to keep my eye out for this one! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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