Tag «retelling»

Series Review: A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Thousand Nights (from Goodreads):

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Canadian Author
Series: A Thousand Nights
Author: E K Johnston
# of Books: 2 (A Thousand Nights, Spindle)

There is a FREE short story, #1.5 called The Garden of Three Hundred Flowers

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes — I think
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2015 – December 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Like most people, the cover is what drew me to this series. They are gorgeous!

But A Thousand Nights was everywhere the year it came out, gracing a ton of lists for one reason or another. It is also a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights–a story I’m still not acquainted with despite reading The Wrath and The Dawn last year and noting that I probably should read it because it is a popular base tale for retellings.

The Concept / The World:

It’s hard not to compare two similar things and I’m going to do my best to stop comparing A Thousand Nights to The Wrath and The Dawn before I even begin this review.

This series is a world layered with a darker power. Whether that power actually exists or not: I’ll discuss that in The Writing Style section below. You have a king murdering women for some unknown reason and people are suffering because of it. There is this air of mysticism to the story and it makes the circumstances so much grittier as a result. You truly get transported to this other world within the first chapter and that was definitely a highlight for me

The Writing Style:

I think you will either love or hate E K Johnston’s writing style. It has an old fashioned feel to it often seen in your classic stories; the words flowing like you are reading an epic.

It took me awhile to get comfortable with her style because books just aren’t written like this nowadays (or at least what I usually read isn’t). Personally, it’s a touch wordier than I like, though I found it had a great flow.

But I think my biggest issue was the fact that I couldn’t tell what was real vs what was just allusion. What I’m trying to say is that I had a hard time deciding whether the magic of it all was actually happening or it if was just the result of the narration. As a result, I often had a hard time understanding the progression of events and that in turn caused me to lose interest at times.

The Plot:

I was really disappointed in the plot for A Thousand Nights. I truly felt like nothing was happening until the last 50 pages or so. It seemed to be more stories about the Heroine’s life back home and I just didn’t care–that wasn’t the story I wanted to read. I wanted to see how she was going to save the king. Instead, you spend most of your time reading about stories within the story and that just has no appeal to me. I needed a little more stimulation and the book just seemed to drag.

Spindle started off a little more promising but it lost that momentum around the 45% mark. I’m not a huge fan of adventure stories and this one felt like that at times. Again, my interest waned and I found myself skimming the last half of the book. It just couldn’t keep my attention.

The Characters:

I think this is one of those rare cases where the worldbuilding overshadows any character development. Johnston spends so much time weaving tales of this land that she fails to really build up her characters. Yes, you get their histories thanks to the various stories but because you spend so much time in the past, their growth in the present is lackluster.

I also think because of the writing, I felt distant from the characters. You weren’t getting a lot of inner monologues because not a lot was happening in the present.

The Romance:

As a romance fan I like it in my stories and it really isn’t present here. That isn’t a bad thing but when you don’t have much going on, it would have served as a nice distraction.

The Novella–A Garden of Three Hundred Flowers:

This is supposed to be a bridging novel of sorts between the two stories and it does serve that purpose. I really found it to be more of an extended epilogue of A Thousand Nights so I like that it brought me some closure in that respect.

It is a free eBook so if you like this series I do recommend you pick it up before you read Spindle.

Series Rating: 3/5

A Thousand Nights 2.5/5 | [A Garden of Three Hundred Flowers 3/5] | Spindle 2/5

overall

If you are a fan of worlds filled with stories and love the weaving of tales, you’ll enjoy this series. But if you like action, romance and adventure in your retellings, look elsewhere.

Read if You Like: story telling, retellings
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action
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Fresh Fridays: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Other books in the series:
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Synopsis for My Lady Jane (from Goodreads):
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

breakdown

Series: My Ladies Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
# of Books: 3 (My Lady Jane, My Plain Jane, My Calamity Jane)
Book Order: Standalone Retellings
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Humour, Parody, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 7, 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This novel was everywhere in 2016! And I’ll admit, I didn’t know much else about it other than it was a retelling of Lady Jane Grey who was somehow connected to the British throne and it was supposed to be funny. I’ve also read series by all three of these authors in the past and enjoyed them. Sounded like a winning combination to me!

So I went in without reading any other reviews in order to not raise my expectations too high. I was hoping for a fun and entertaining read–and if I learned something about the British Monarchy, bonus!

The Concept / The World:

Years ago, I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and really enjoyed it. So I am completely open to magic/supernatural changes to a classic story or history. But I really wasn’t expecting the animal shifter storyline we got here. It took me a long to time get comfortable with it.

I also think part of the problem was that I’m not entirely familiar with English History. It was a similar problem to when I picked up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer–I don’t know American history and so I couldn’t make the little connections between the parody and actual history and that diminished my reading experience.

I really didn’t know who Jane Grey was before I picked this up.  So I read Wikipedia a lot to find out who all the players were and what actually happened in history just so I knew what the authors were trying to do.

Once I made the connections between history and this fictitious story, I started to appreciate it a lot more. The writing here is smart. The conflict between shifters and nonshifters here and its parallel to the religious conflicts of Jane Grey’s time (for example) is fantastic. It’s those little things that make this story interesting to read overall.

The Plot:

I really found the first half of this book to be slow–so slow that I almost contemplated DNFing. Yes, I did love the humour but the animal shifting really threw me off and I wasn’t sure if I liked how the story was progressing. But once I got familiar with the history and got comfortable with the world, I started to enjoy it a lot more.

Plus, I really wanted to know how it was going to end!

And I have to say, that once I got to the halfway point, it really started to pick up. It got a hell of a lot more exciting and I started to get won over by the characters and the plot.

The Characters:

What I liked about this story was that it was told from Edward, Jane and Gifford’s POVs. Not only do you get to learn more about these characters through their POVs, but I find multiple POVs help keep the story moving even when it doesn’t feel like it is.

All of these characters have their little quirks which makes the narration a lot of fun to read. So even when the plot was slow to get somewhere, the characters kept me entertained.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge part of the story but it is pretty cute. The romantic in me was happy with the little spurts we got throughout the novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m curious to see what will happen next and what these ladies have in store.

 

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

My Lady Jane 4/5  |  My Plain Jane TBR  |  My Calamity Jane TBR

overall

I’m in the minority with this book I think because I know a lot of people who LOVE this novel. If you go into it knowing that it doesn’t take itself seriously and has magical elements to it, you’ll enjoy this a lot more.

Read if You Like: humour, historical novels, retellings
Avoid if You: dislike parodies, want a serious retelling

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Series Review: The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Wrath and the Dawn (from Goodreads):

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: 2016 Fav
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
# of Books: 2 (The Wrath and the Dawn, The Rose and The Dagger)

There is also 3 novella short stories. Full Reading Order here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling
Heat Rating: warm *more implied than anything*
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2015 – April 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s a bit of a weird story. I always thought that I had The Wrath and The Dawn on my TBR (ie Goodreads) because it was around quite a bit on the blogosphere when it was first released and it sounded like a story I would enjoy. When I saw it again at the bookstore, it’s cover (the one I added below) caught my attention and I thought it was a new book. But as soon as I read the synopsis, I realized that I already had marked this book as TBR. So imagine my surprise when I checked on Goodreads to see that I hadn’t even added it! I think I just added it to my library wishlist and left it at that.

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

The revenge trope is one of my favourites; especially when there is an assassination involved. Perhaps that is a little morbid, but I find stories with that “I must kill my enemy” element are grittier and have that (obvious) element of danger to them. The stakes are higher and that makes every subsequent action even riskier and more thrilling. Forbidden love is so much sweeter when you fall for your target.

The Concept / The World:

I’ll be the first to admit, I know nothing about A Thousand and One Nights nor The Arabian Nights. I’m sure I would get more out of the retelling if I was more familiar with these works but it really isn’t necessary.

The world here is beautiful! I loved how Ahdieh was able to create this magical world that was so easy to see and emerge myself in without copious amounts of detail. The pages weren’t littered with unnecessary descriptions and so I never felt lost or bored while reading.

Oh! Also, there is a glossary! There were a few terms that I had to Google because I couldn’t find the glossary when I first looked for one. But don’t let that scare you! It’s not like there are a ton of terms you have to learn to enjoy this.

The Plot:

What I really loved about this series is that it wasn’t unnecessarily complicated. It struck that perfect balance between world building, character development and dramatic plot.

The Wrath and The Dawn has a great suspense to it. Why is Khalid killing his wives? Will Shazi really fulfill her need for revenge? I loved watching all that unfold before me. It really hooked me into the story–in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time. I really just wanted to sit all day and read this compelling work.

The Rose and The Dagger also had a suspenseful plot but more for the political aspects–which I absolutely adored. It just had that hint of danger to it that had me glued to the pages. And the twists were fabulous!

The Characters:

I think Shazi can be a hard character to like initially. She’s hurt and jaded and she gives off this aura of selfishness that makes it hard to root for her. But she really grows throughout the series and I really appreciated that. And it wasn’t long before I was on her side, wanting her to succeed.

As for Khalid, I really liked him. As much as he is the catalyst for the story we get, the story really is about Shazi and how she deals with everything. And because of that, his development takes a bit of a backseat. But he really is a fascinating character to uncover as the series progresses. I always love a good, mysterious male counterpart.

But one of the highlights of this series is the strong secondary characters. I really fell for the rest of the cast as the story progressed.

The Romance:

This was lacking a bit for me in The Wrath and The Dawn. Despite the fact that it was easy to see why these two would fit together as a reader looking in, I just wanted their sparks elaborated on more. The romance was more implied than I would have liked; more show and tell than watching it unfold. But I still enjoyed it and liked these two together.

And I think that’s why I enjoyed The Rose and The Dagger more. Everything there was just emphasized that little bit more and the romance was definitely amplified there. Here, it was obvious why these two felt the way they did and it was a joy to watch as a reader.

The Novellas:

Well, to call The Crown & The Arrow and The Mirror & The Maze novellas is being generous. They are merely deleted chapters totalling 9 pages and are free on eBook sites. However, I do recommend reading The Crown & The Arrow before The Wrath and the Dawn for some context. Same with The Mirror & The Maze before The Rose & The Dagger. Nevertheless, you could get by without ever reading them as well.

The Moth & The Flame is an actual novella that is probably best read after The Wrath & The Dawn because it is a little spoilery about some side characters.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

The Wrath and The Dawn 4/5 | The Rose and The Dagger 5/5

overall

The entire series is crafted beautifully. From the characters to the drama to the romance; it’s everything you want in a solid YA series.

Read if You Like: retellings, forbidden love, duologies
Avoid if You: want more action, dislike more romance-based stories

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Movie Mondays: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Movie Mondays: On the occasional Monday, I will review a book series or novel that has been made into a movie. I will then answer the question that everyone asks: which is better, the movie or the book? Here is this edition’s offering:

Book: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen (2009) | Movie: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Which did I read/see first? the BOOK

Book Cover | Movie Poster

Series: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Author: Seth Grahame-Smith
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Horror, Action, Zombies, Retelling
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Source & Format: Own–Paperback

thoughts

I had just finished Pride and Prejudice (PP) when I picked up this zombified version. I’ll admit, I was more interested in this horror version than the classic simply because I had heard really good things about it. But I wanted to be familiar with the original story (not just what I watched in movies) and so it served as good motivation to pick up the classic novel.

The two books are very, very similar. The best way I can think to describe Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PPZ) is PP with new scenes added to include the zombie aspect. Of course, certain things are reworked to account for the fact that all the Bennet girls are warriors but lots of scenes are word-for-word the Austen writings–which is why she is listed as an author on this novel.

As a girl who likes action in her stories, the zombie slaying battles were a lot of fun to read. It (ironically) adds a little life to the story and makes such a well known story fresh and exciting. Not that PP isn’t great on its own, it’s just cool to see a different spin on a story we know so well.

And dare I say, it actually made me really like the Elizabeth and Darcy pairing even more. Their love-hate relationship really works well for this zombie version. You could see why they liked each other so much and how great of a pair they were for each other.

overall

I think fans of the classic novel will enjoy this fun take if they don’t mind zombies. I also think it will appeal to people who want to read the classic but might find it on the drier side. It serves as a great introduction to the classics of Jane Austen and will hopefully ignite a love for her work.

Rating: 5/5

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First, it took me wayyyy too long to watch it! I wanted to see it opening weekend but it wasn’t playing in my local theatre on my Reading Week break and by the time I got back to a bigger city a week later, it was gone! So I had to wait forever to get my hands on a copy!

Were My Expectations Met?

I just wanted to have fun watching this movie and I definitely did! While I love the other PP movies, this one lacked the more sombre and seriousness of those presentations. This one exaggerated characters more (like Mr Collins) and had great action sequences so it moves at a fast and exciting pace.

All the Bennet girls kicked serious ass; especially Lizzie. She’s still that strong and stubborn heroine who doesn’t give up a fight–only in this case it is literally!

How Close is it to the Book?

I read the book ages ago so I’m not sure how close it truly was. While I know the PP classic story very well, I don’t really recall all the action and zombie scenes all that much. But everything seemed to be the same to me or if it was different, it was all in the same vein so I truly didn’t notice.

Did I Like the Cast?

I’m a huge Lily James fan. Don’t ask me why exactly; I think she just does a great job at playing strong heroines. I know that Natalie Portman was originally tapped to play Lizzie but I think Lily was the much better choice.

glitter zombies pride and prejudice and zombies jane austin

Sam Riley will never be Collin Firth’s Darcy in my eyes (the standard for all Mr Darcy’s past and future), but he really did a fantastic job. He’s got the whole stiff and proper vibe going on and it works.

mr darcy colin firth

But you know who really stole this one for me? Was Matt Smith as Mr Collins. He was just hilarious! His character adds a lot of humour to this story which can be pretty depressing at times (I mean, they are killing undead people they sometimes know). In other adaptations, I always feel sympathetic to Mr Collins and how he gets tossed aside as a husband; but here he is the Shakespearean fool and it makes it easy to see why he isn’t that much of a catch.

Image result for matt smith gif pride and prejudice

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I think we can all agree that the original novel by Austen is the real winner. I mean it’s a classic that is adored by generations and is one of the most well known romances in history.

But I think it depends on what you want when it comes to PPZ and its forms. The book rings more true to the classic novel simply because it shares a lot of the same passages. So if you want a retelling, perhaps the book is your pick. But if you want to be entertained with a loose adaptation, the movie is just a lot of fun. It has the action and it has the romance and it’s simply a joy to watch.

Do you agree? Leave a comment below!

Synopsis for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (from Goodreads):

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.

Trailer:

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DNF Series Review: Death in Neverland (Neverland #1) by Heather C Myers

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Death in Neverland (from Goodreads):
In the Neverland, people don’t grow up. Because they’re dead.

Remy Cutler dies, and somehow escapes certain death. She returns to the land of the living with nothing but a ripped gown and a fear of heights.

Two years later, she plans to escape her arranged marriage by stowing away onto a ship in hopes to leave her home with no one none knowing. However, she is found out, and the sailors aren’t happy. Before any damage can be done, she is yanked from her predicament back to The Neverland, a place where death resides – the very place she escaped from years ago. Souls are ferried by her savior. To her, he’s known as Nick, but to The Neverland, he’s the slippery Nicholas Grey.

The more time Remy spends with Nick and his crew, however, the more she realizes he’s shockingly misunderstood. Pirates aren’t all bad the way gentleman aren’t all good. One such gentleman goes by the name of Peter, and he has nothing but power on his mind and revenge against Grey in his heart. And then there are those that are completely indiscernible, like James Hook, a Viking and ruler of The Other World, whose sole ambition is attaining more souls to rule over, no matter what the cost.

This dark retelling of Peter Pan infuses familiar characters created by J. M. Barrie with new characters and Greek mythology. It is the first in a trilogy.

breakdown

Series: Neverland Trilogy
Author: Heather C Myers
# of Books: 3 (Death in Neverland, Love in Neverland, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 3 has yet to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Mythology, Retelling, Dark, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: November 2014 – ongoing
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

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thoughts

I DNF’d Death in Neverland at 26% (just before Chapter 7). Find out why…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Peter Pan retellings have always fascinated me, especially the ones were Peter Pan is evil. It’s such a radical change from the Peter Pan of my childhood (the number of times I have watched the Disney version, I can’t even begin to count) who is a childhood “hero” to all kids. So when I saw this book had a dark twist on an otherwise light story, I was more than intrigued.

What I Liked:

–The Concept–

The idea that Neverland is the Underworld is one that is really interesting to me. It was like a hybrid of Elsewhere meets the Everneath Trilogy to me. I was eager to explore this dangerous world and see the parallels between mythology and Peter Pan. Unfortunately though, I never got to get into it and see how it all plays out.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Overly Descriptive–

If you like rich descriptions of EVERYTHING in your novels, you will probably love this novel. But my mind needs to be stimulated if I am going to read something and because of the descriptions, I constantly found myself wandering. I don’t need to know every single detail of a characters appearance nor do I need to know the exact layout of the ship. Sure it helps, but they are mindless details I will forget by the next chapter that I probably don’t need to know for the sake of the story.

–Remy–

I couldn’t decide if Remy was a dull heroine or an annoying one. Her elitist attitude was annoying for sure but she also didn’t seem to have much personality otherwise. I also got confused regarding her motivation and perception of Neverland. Spoiler: Earlier in the novel she mentions she remembers dying and that her motivation for leaving her arranged marriage is because she has experienced death. Yet when she gets to Neverland again, she doesn’t seem to want to be there. I just didn’t understand what her thought process was. |

–Didn’t Seem to be Going Anywhere–

I have no idea what the actual plot of this story was going to be. Where does Peter Pan come into it or even  Captain Hook? They are briefly mentioned in an early chapter than disappear. I get the need for exposition and setting up the story but this just seemed like nothing was going to happen anytime soon. There was just too much description of the setting, too many characters introduced as once and not enough plot line to keep my attention.

Will I Finish It?

At this point, no. I even read the synopsis of Love in Neverland to see where this plot was heading and it only left me more confused. Where this story is heading, I will never know and I am A-OK with that.

Series Rating: DNF

Death in Neverland  DNF | Love in Neverland  N/A  | Book 3 TBR

overall

This book simply wasn’t for me. I’m picky with my mythology reads. I need a strong heroine I can get behind and a world that captivates me from the get-go. I also feel like this book just needed that little bit of polish to make it flow better. If you like descriptive books that a mythology retellings, than this is the perfect read for you!

Read if You Like: descriptive books, slow plots, mythology
Avoid if You: want a straight retelling of Peter Pan, want a fast plot, dislike description

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Series Review: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Blackhearts Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Blackhearts (from Goodreads):

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Read 2016, New Must Watch Author, Sad to See Go 2017
Author: Nicole Castroman
# of Books: 2 (Blackhearts, Blacksouls)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance, Retellings
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2016 – April 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book was EVERYWHERE when it first came out. But before I saw it gracing my WordPress Reader feed, I first read a review on Bookishness and Tea in early January and Ava’s review convinced me to read it.

But, I admit, the hyped scared me a lot and so I was a little hesitant to pick it up when it was actually released. Until, I noticed my library’s eCatalogue had one last copy left to read one Tuesday. I figured it was fate and picked up the book despite the numerous other novels I should have been reading.

The Concept / The World:

The best thing I got from Ava’s review is that this story isn’t a “pirate” story like Never Never or the like. I think she explains it best below:

Before you go into this book, know: it is NOT a pirate book. The author has called it a “pre-pirate book”, and that is entirely accurate. The book mostly revolves Teach and Anne’s romance, which means it is slower, but not non-enjoyable. It’s more of a historical fiction than a pirate book.

~Ava @ Bookishness and Tea

It isn’t some swashbuckling pirate novel taking place on the high seas and I think if you are expecting that, you will be disappointed. It’s a story about two people trying to find their place in the world and them finding each other while they do it.

So essentially, it is an historical romance.

The Plot:

Despite the fact that there isn’t that much to the story when it comes to the plot, this story is highly addicting. This story has a “less is more” attitude about it. It doesn’t try to overload you with too much conflict or unnecessary drama. It keeps the story focused on Anne and Teach by making their character development the main focus of the story. And the bits that are added to keep the plot moving do exactly that; they add a little layer at a time to make this story rich for the reader…and super addicting.

The Characters:

Anne and Teach really are the story for this one. On their own, they were both very intriguing characters. They each had a complexity to them that makes them seem so real and full of life. I found their reactions to events were natural and I never felt like their character development was strained as the story progressed. They also had great chemistry together and that really is what drives the story.

The Romance:

The slow burning romance really is the heart of the story (pun soooo intended). Anne and Teach are one of my favourite couples because they matched each other so well! They had their differences but they also had this kindred bond of understanding that draws them together. I thought Teach was so swoon-worthy in some of his actions to show his affections that I honestly melted at times. Totally a new book boyfriend.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

When I first read this book, the sequel had not been announced. I talk about my reaction in tomorrow’s SERIESous Spoilers but I’m going to brief and say that I am very, very happy there is a sequel. I can’t wait to return to this world and see what happens next!

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–June 2, 2017– Book #2: Blacksouls

This was easily one of my most anticipated reads of this year. I had no idea what to expect but I was dying to find out. Which is probably why I spent most of the book feeling like this:

I’ll admit that the first quarter of this book was slower than I wanted it to be. I wasn’t as into it as I had hoped but that quickly changed a few chapters later. I found that latter have of this book to be very captivating and I could’t put it down. It reminded me why I adored that first book so much and that’s exactly what I want in a sequel and grande finale (?).

Series Rating: 5/5

Blackhearts 5/5 | Blacksouls 4.5/5

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It really is important to know that this book has nothing to do with pirates! It’s a prequel in every sense of the word. I actually think it is best described as an “origin” story for Blackbeard. But I will be the first to admit, I am loving this YA pirate trend that is starting to happen this year!

Read if You Like: retellings of history, historical romance, slow burn romance
Avoid if You: want a pirate focused adventure book

similarreads

  • Victoria and the Viscount by Meg Cabot
  • Never Never by Brianna Shrum

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Single Sundays: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwall

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Mechanica (from Goodreads):
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn’t want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

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Author: Betsy Cornwall
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Steampunk, Romance, Magic, Faeries
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Source & Format: Netgalley–eBook  Thank you very muchHoughton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group!

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I first got my Netgalley account, this book captured my attention for its title and cover. And then when I read the synopsis, I really wanted to requested it. I love fairy tale retellings and a steampunk retelling of Cinderella? That’s just a major bonus!

Needless to say, I was really excited when I requested, got approved and finally picked it up.

The Concept / The World:

The steampunk application to the traditional (ok, the Disney Animated version of Cinderella) was really well done. I liked how mechanical creatures replaced the mice and how the magic was replaced with the machines Nicolette had made. It gave the story a gritter feel than the medieval story Cinderella is usually told in.

I also thought it was explained very well. There are lots of pages dedicated to Nicolette describing her mother’s work–too much if you ask me, but it helped me to get a good idea of the world this story was taking place in. However, that kinda fell apart at the end but that might have just been me reading the book to fast to fully grasp what was happening.

The Plot:

This is where the book fell apart for me. Nothing really happens for 200 pages and that makes it hard to get into. Which is a shame, because I was definitely enamoured with the world we are presented in the first 50 pages. Those pages flew by as I learned more about the politics, the faeries and the mechanics (literally) of the world. But then, it just kept going and I felt like too much time was spent in the past recalling Nicolette’s tough childhood. It really isn’t until the last 100 pages (FYI, my PDF eBook was 306 pages in length) that we get an actual story happening but at that point my interest was waning (which is a shame because I loved the approach it took for the ending).

If things were paced better, and the focus was more on certain plot aspects and less on others, this book would have been great! Because all the right gears were there, they just weren’t aligned properly to keep this flow going (see what I did there? :P).

The Characters:

I really appreciated Nicolette’s determination to fix her own problems. She isn’t some damsel in distress waiting for someone else to save her. Traditionally, (again, Disney animated version) Cinderella is just too nice to do anything about her situation (ie she’s a bit of a doormat) and thus relies on others (aka her fairy godmother) to solve her problems. Nicolette really doesn’t rely on others in the same sense. When she sees an opportunity, she goes for it and I really admire that. So much time is spent recalling her past, you do feel for her and want to see her succeed.

As for the rest of cast, they were exactly what you would expect and get very little air time.

The Romance:

I have mixed feelings about this. I kinda liked that the romantic side of things wasn’t the main focus of the story. You know, for the longest time I even forgot that there was a romantic plot in this story because so much time is spent watching Nicolette grow as a character.

But at the same time, I was hoping the romantic story would save the otherwise dry plot and give me something to be interested in.

My Rating: 2.5/5

overall

This is a classic example of a book simply missing its mark and it is a real shame! There are so many great take-away messages in this book: that it is ok for girls to fight for their own destiny; that you don’t always need someone to save you and that it is OK to be interested in fields usually “reserved” for the opposite gender. All these messages are winners in my eyes and ones that girls SHOULD associate with a story like Cinderella.

Read if You Like: fairy tale retellings, steampunk, coming of age stories
Avoid if You: don’t like slow paced books, want a faster/exciting plot, want more romance

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Series Review: Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

Series: Juliet Immortal
Author: Stacey Jay
# of Books: 2 (Juliet Immortal, Romeo Redeemed)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Supernatural, Shakespeare, Immortals
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person

Thoughts:

I’m a sucker for anything Shakespeare so when I see books that are retellings of Shakespeare or involve his stories in some way, I am so there. So it’s no surprise I would pick this book up as soon as it was released.

I enjoyed Juliet Immortal but not as much as I hoped. It was good and had a cool spin on the whole story but I found the spin was a little confusing at time. I didn’t totally understand the immortal part of the books so I found that a little frustrating. I’m not sure if I just read it too fast causing me to not understand it or if it was the way it was written. Either way, I felt a little in the dark at times. I also didn’t totally love Juliet as a character. She had her moments where I really liked her and then moments where I didn’t. I also found it hard to reconcile the fact that Romeo and Juliet were “enemies” and not love-struck fools.

I actually enjoyed Romeo Redeemed a lot more. Again, it was a cool spin and I found it easier to follow along with it. I also like the message of the story a lot more and the characters. The romance was better in this story I thought which made me like it more.

Conclusion:

An interesting and refreshing spin on the classic tale that Shakespeare and supernatural fans will enjoy.

Rating: 4/5

Similar Reads: Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Synopsis for Juliet Immortal (from Goodreads):
The most tragic love story in history . . .

Juliet Capulet didn’t take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn’t anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she’s fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she’s forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume.”
—Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Single Sundays: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Review:

I initially read the synopsis for this story based on the striking cover. The title also gave a hint that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast so that also grabbed by attention. It wasn’t until I noticed that author’s name that I realized I had read her series Juliet Immortal and had enjoyed the retelling she did there. So with so many things seeming to align, I decided to put my name on the hold list.

Truth be told, I almost stopped reading this book. The first 20 pages or so were really tough to get through. I think most of it had to do with the setting and the descriptions of the characters. I had a hard time visualizing the world that was being described and that always turns me off a book. I always like to have a firm grasp of what the world and characters look like when I am reading and I wasn’t getting that here. So I decided to act on my 50 page rule–if I didn’t like what I was reading or didn’t care about what was happening after 50 pages, I was dropping this book.

I couldn’t even tell you what page I was at when I realized I was starting to like this book. It just snuck up on me and before I knew it I was 100 pages in and excited to see what was happening next.

I think what happened was that the focus of the book shifted from appearances and instead focused on character and plot development. I think it is important not to go into this book expecting an exact retelling of Beauty and the Beast because that isn’t what this book is. Sure there are elements of the story present here but it isn’t what is driving this story. This story focuses on finding yourself in a world of restrictions and learning to love others–which you will argue is the point of Beauty and the Beast, especially the Disney version but that is where the similarities between the two end. I find the Disney version focuses more on the romance between Belle and the Beast while this book focuses more on independent growth and breaking the curse.

Also, the story can get very depressing at times and is set in a world of desperation and no hope. It’s very dystopian in its approach and often sad but I think it really works here.

Irsa and Gem really mature as the book progresses so while they aren’t my favourite literary heroes of all time, I can respect their characters.

What I really liked about this book was the mystery Irsa uncovers about the curse. The curse development really helps push this book and gives it something more than character development. Learning more about what the curse is, how it was created and how you can break it was really interesting to me and I think that is what kept me reading.

Conclusion:

This book starts off a little slow but once the characters get invested in saving their respective people the story starts to pick up. Those who don’t mind a bit of fantasy mixed with dystopian settings will really enjoy this. Not for everyone but if you like trying something new or like different takes on fairy-tales, you will like this!

Rating: 4/5

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Fairy-Tale Retelling
Recommended for: 17+

Similar Reads:

  • Beastly by Alex Flinn (Kendra Chronicles #1)
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (Under the Never Sky Trilogy #1)
  • Devoured by Amanda Marrone

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Series Review: The White Rabbit Chronicles by Gena Showalter

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Series: White Rabbit Chronicles
Author: Gena Showalter
# of Books: 3  4 (Alice in Zombieland, Through the Zombie Glass, …)
Complete?: No, A Mad Zombie Party will be released September 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Heat Rating: really warm *Spicy YA*

Thoughts:

Alice in Wonderland isn’t my favourite book or movie ever. It’s ok but I’ve always found it a little odd and I struggled to read the original book. I never bothered picking up Through the Looking Glass because I just couldn’t handle another round of weirdness. I like odd stories as much as the next girl, but Lewis Carroll is just that little too much over the edge for me. So I think it’s obvious to say that a retelling of Alice wasn’t too appealing to me. But what was appealing to me was “zombies”. My exposure so zombies isn’t that great to be honest. I don’t watch or read The Walking Dead but zombies are a paranormal creature that have always fascinated me so I decided to give this book a shot. Plus they seemed like a lot of fun in Shaun of the Dead 😉

I’m really glad that I did grab this series because I enjoyed both books immensely. They are filled with romance, paranormal creatures, action and feature smart AND mature high school students. I know that last part is a little shocking and it shocked me when I read Alice in Zombieland too.

First, I’ll start with Alice. I really liked her as a heroine. She was strong, brave and while she does suffer from lead-heroine sacrifice syndrome (ie she always has to be the one to save everyone even if it risks herself) I didn’t find it overly annoying. I think it helped that she seemed very mature for her age as did her companions in the book.

The maturity of all the teenagers really stood out to me in this book. This book is definitely for the older young adult crowd, especially Through the Zombie Glass. There are lot of more sexual situations present in these books that often get glazed over in other books–if they are even brought up at all. I would almost classify this book as New Adult except for the fact that all the leads are in high school. (Though when they have normal conversations, they do seem a little odd but I chalk that up to being a parallel to the original Alice in Wonderland with all its oddness)

Speaking of sexual situations, most of those happen to be courtesy of Cole. He is every young adult bad boy fantasy wrapped up into one. I really, really liked his character. I thought he was funny, tough and charming all at once. He has great character development throughout the series as do the other characters. I have to say that by book 2, I was just as invested in the secondary characters as I was in Alice and Cole.

I think what I like most about these books is the layers involved. The romance between Alice and Cole (and the other characters) is one of the main aspects I love but the paranormal aspect of everything is really interesting. While each book has its own plot that begins and ends within that book, there are aspects we learn about the zombie world that carry into the next books that keep you coming back. It goes without saying that these books are non-stop action and something is always going on that causes you to never want to put the book down.

Through the Zombie Glass was even better than Alice in Zombieland in my opinion. So many things came together in this book that I just couldn’t put it down. I didn’t know what was going to happen and what I love about Ms Showalter’s writing is that she isn’t afraid to go places you think she isn’t going to go. Both books have a lot of shocking reveals but Through the Zombieglass went in a direction I wasn’t expecting and one I am super excited to see where it goes in the next book, The Queen of Zombie Hearts.

UPDATED (November 14/14): The Queen of Zombie Hearts was a great way to end the series. It was action-packed, featured lots of twists and turns and was a lot of fun to read. Again, this series went in a direction I wasn’t expecting and I loved the unpredictability. Fans of the series will be happy with how it all wraps up!

Conclusion:

You don’t need to be a fan of Alice in Wonderland or even know the basics to enjoy these books. If you like paranormal action series with bad boy heroes and strong female heroines, grab these two books!

Rating: 4.5/5

Similar Reads: Starling by Lesley Livingston (Starling Trilogy #1)

Synopsis for Alice in Zombieland (from Goodreads):
She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real….

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….

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