‘The Hazel Wood’ by Melissa Albert

hazelDark fairy tales and adventure and a page-turner is what I thought awaited me with Melissa Albert’s “The Hazel Wood.” Unfortunately, I came away disappointed.

Albert’s is a unique writer with a fantastic imagination, but much of the book fell flat. It’s the story of a teenager named Alice Proserpine who flees with her mother from city to city, bad luck and danger always in their heels. Alice has never met her grandmother, Althea, but upon hearing of her death, Alice’s curiosity is reignited. Althea is the author of a famous book of dark fairy tales Alice has never been able to read in full, and the mystery surrounding her grandmother has always captivated her.

The reader follows Alice as she learns more about Althea and falls deeper into her story – almost literally.

The start of the book is slow, with Alice and classmate Ellery Finch venturing out to find Althea’s estate, The Hazel Wood. The fairy tale telling takes its good time in coming, with awkward pacing leading into it. I enjoyed some of the “Alice in Wonderland” illusions, but found myself wanting to spend more time there and for the world of Althea’s stories to be fuller.

Alice also isn’t a very likable character, and even if she doesn’t have to be, the reader should still want to root for her in the end. And I didn’t.

Alberts has so much promise as a writer, but I think there are a lot of moments in this book that miss the mark. There’s just so much more I wanted from this story, and the fairy tales within.

Three stars out of five.


Back again!

This blog once again was abandoned for quite some time, but this go-around feels different. I’ve been reading more widely and diversely the past couple of years, I’ve formed a community of book lovers in D.C., and reading has become even more part of my identity than before. I want to make a commitment to keeping this blog updated, and sharing reviews and #bookstagram posts.

I hope you’ll follow along and that I might convince you to read a book you may have not picked up and inspire you to read even more.

If you want to follow me on Instagram I’m at @kmdbookworm!

Happy reading!

Home is where…

Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept “home” a lot. About place and belonging.

My parents are moving from our house in New Jersey of 22 years to head down south. A house that is filled to the brim with memories of my childhood will soon be “home” to a new family.

It’s bittersweet. My parents are looking for something new and different, and I know that they need new sights and new sounds and a new adventure. But to never lay my head down in my sunshine yellow room is something I cannot even fathom right now.

Over 4th of July weekend I went home for the last time. I sat on our deck under the shade of the trees, walked the quaint Main Street of our town one last time, and said one last goodbye to the garden my dad and I planted in every year. A yellow sign in the yard of my neighbor’s yard showed I’m not alone in this. In these goodbyes. This feeling of nostalgia and sentimentality.

Now I don’t know what to call home. When I go see my parents down south, I can’t see myself saying I’m going home. I’ll simply be going to visit my parents.

Is the state I currently reside in home? I think Virginia could be home, someday. But right now it feels impermanent. I have no plans to necessarily stay here. I don’t own property or land or have a place I call my own (living that renter’s life).

For now my home is wherever the people I love are. I have homes scattered across the northeast and south.

At the same time, I’d like a place I call my home. Somewhere to put down roots, to really know and love the community. To tread familiar paths and feel like I truly belong.

I’m not sure where that place will be yet; I’m still searching for a home that I can call my own.

Change of mind

As of Friday, I was going to brace myself and read Harper Lee’s new book “Go Set A Watchman.”

Then I woke up Saturday morning and hopped onto Facebook and Twitter, and the few tweets and posts I did see made my heart drop into my stomach.

It seems that in “Watchman” Atticus Finch may not be the man we thought he was. I didn’t click on any of the reviews or links, but the little I did see in my feeds had me quickly deciding that no, I would not read this book.

As my mom put it “I want to love Mockingbird just as it is.” I don’t want something Lee wrote 55 years ago, and before she penned Mockingbird, to taint my favorite book.

I don’t know that this means I’ll never read “Watchman,” but right now is not the time for me to read it.

So I’ll continue with Judy Blume’s “In the Unlikely Event,” which is great. I will also be wandering the shelves of D.C.’s Politics & Prose on Monday with some coworkers to see Don Winslow speak and will probably pick up another book (or two or three) then.

Any suggestions for a summery read?

On Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set A Watchman’


I’ve debated for the past week whether to read “Go Set A Watchman.”

But I know I probably will.

And I won’t love it, but I am scared I’ll hate it.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is my favorite book, and has been for a long time. I named my cat after Scout, and my well-worn copy is re-read every year when the temperature spikes toward the 90s (after all, “summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.”)

And now, more 55 years later, Lee’s first-ever novel is set to hit shelves. “Go Set A Watchman” follows a grown-up Scout as she returns to Alabama from New York to visit her father, Atticus.

This novel was not published previously because at the time she wrote it, Lee’s publisher told her to go back and write something focusing on Scout’s childhood. From that request “To Kill A Mockingbird” was born.

The manuscript for “Go Set A Watchman” was pushed aside, forgotten among other documents of Lee’s for the next 55 years. Then after her sister, Alice, who was in some ways also Lee’s protector, died in November the manuscript was found. Now it will be published.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the publishing of the novel–this includes the timing of the novel being found (so quickly after Alice’s passing) as well as Lee’s health (she is almost 90 years old, hard of hearing and has poor eyesight).

Those issues aside, the question in my head at this point is: Was this novel supposed to be published?

I’ve seen reports from literary agents at Harper Collins saying the book only needed light editing. Lee was not in the position to do any re-writing or heavy editing herself. This manuscript being rejected is the reason we have Mockingbird today.

Maybe this novel was never supposed to be found. Never meant to land in the hands of millions who have loved and adored Mockingbird. Of course, right now I can’t say. I can’t judge a book too harshly I have yet to read, even if some part of me feels like there’s something wrong about it.

I know I have to read it. I can’t let social media and book blogs and water cooler talk define this book for me. Like it or hate it, I’ll have to make the decision on my own.

And after I turn Watchman’s last page, no matter my feelings about it, I have to remember that Mockingbird can still stand on its own as a beautiful, yet harsh, look at the American South, childhood and growing up.

Review: ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay

This little blog o’ mine isn’t the only place I have been writing reviews. Recently, I started to write some for the Washington Independent Review of Books. My first one is a review of Roxane Gay’s wonderful “Bad Feminist.” The beginning of the review is posted below, and you can check out the whole thing hereContinue reading “Review: ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay”

International Literacy Day

Today is International Literacy Day. 


According to UNESCO, the literacy day will be celebrated worldwide with a main global celebration in Dhaka. Also in Dhaka there will be an international conference on “Girls’ and women’s literacy and education.”

What a wonderful thing to celebrate!

There are so many people who are unable to read and write, right here in the United States. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute of Literacy, as of April 2013, 32 million adults living in the U.S. couldn’t read.


And added to that, between 1992 and 2003, the number of illiterate adults in the U.S. has barely budged.

As a country of such prestige and power, there is a severe problem if so many citizens are unable to read. This prevents those 32 million people from being able to be educated and make informed decisions when voting; to advance their careers and find jobs; and to fully take part in society.

Hopefully days like International Literacy Day can draw more attention to this problem.