Review: Seas (Wendy Darling #2)

Book Title: Seas (Wendy Darling #2)

Book Author: Colleen Oakes

Book Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

Published: September 20, 2016

Synopsis: “Wendy Darling: Seas finds Wendy and Michael aboard the dreaded Sudden Night, a dangerous behemoth sailed by the infamous Captain Hook and his bloodthirsty crew. In this exotic world of mermaids, spies, and pirate feuds, Wendy finds herself struggling to keep her family above the waves. Hunted by the twisted boy who once stole her heart and struggling to survive in the whimsical Neverland sea, returning home to London now seems like a distant dream—and the betrayals have just begun.

Will Wendy find shelter with Peter’s greatest enemy, or is she a pawn in a much darker game—one that could forever alter not only her family’s future but also the soul of Neverland itself?

Colleen Oakes’ twisted re-telling of Peter Pan continues in this adventurous sequel to the first installment.  While the first book in the series was good, I definitely prefer this follow-up.  Seas was much more exciting and the plot line seemed to move along much more smoothly.  The story picks up exactly where the last left off: With Wendy Darling and her brother Michael being taken on to Captain Hook’s ship after escaping from the sadistic Peter Pan.  Wendy and Hook become unlikely allies in the fight against Peter Pan, and they each begin to share with each other their knowledge of Pan in the hopes that they can eventually find a way to defeat him and escape Neverland.

One of my favorite things about Oakes’ books are the wonderfully detailed descriptions that she paints with her words.  I could see Neverland…I could felt as though I could sense the rocking of the pirate ship, feel the pearlescent sands of Port Duette under my feet, and there were even moments when my heart pounded with suspense.  As I mentioned before, I felt that this installment had much more action than its predecessor, and I enjoyed watching Wendy develop into a strong woman willing to do whatever it takes to protect her brothers and herself, and to find their way back home.

Like its predecessor, this book ends with…not really a cliffhanger, but a surprising turn that will leave you wanting more!  I can’t wait for the last book in the trilogy to be released later this year!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

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Review: Stars (Wendy Darling #1)

Book Title: Stars (Wendy Darling #1)

Book Author: Colleen Oakes

Book Rating: ☆☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

Published: October 12, 2015

Synopsis: “Wendy Darling has a perfectly agreeable life with her parents and brothers in wealthy London, as well as a budding romance with Booth, the neighborhood bookseller’s son. But while their parents are at a ball, the charmingly beautiful Peter Pan comes to the Darling children’s nursery and—dazzled by this flying boy with god-like powers—they follow him out of the window and straight on to morning, to Neverland, a intoxicating island of feral freedom.

As time passes in Neverland, Wendy realizes that this Lost Boy’s paradise of turquoise seas, mermaids, and pirates holds terrible secrets rooted in blood and greed. As Peter’s grasp on her heart tightens, she struggles to remember where she came from—and begins to suspect that this island of dreams, and the boy who desires her—have the potential to transform into an everlasting nightmare.

This is actually the second Peter Pan retelling that I have read this year, the first of which was Neverland by Shari Arnold. This retelling was much less modern, and more closely resembled the classic fairy tale that we all know.  I have read and enjoyed the first two installments of Colleen Oakes’s other fairy tale series, based on the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, so I was very eager to read her spin on Peter Pan.

We first meeting the Darling family in early 1900’s London.  Wendy is a sixteen year girl with a blossoming romance with the local bookseller’s son, Booth.  When Wendy’s father learns of this romance, he forbids her from seeing her love ever again.  Utterly heartbroken, Wendy is easily lured one night from her bedroom to Neverland by the mysterious, flying Peter Pan, with her younger brothers (John and Michael) in tow.  While at first Neverland seems like a magical, wonderful place, it later becomes very clear that there are some very evil things lying just under the surface.  The truth about Neverland was slowly revealed (maybe a bit too slowly?), and Wendy becomes desperate to save herself and her young brothers from its horrors.

The story kept me engaged, and the descriptive writing was beautiful, however, the dialog left a lot to be desired.  I thought more than once that the conversations seemed very awkward and strange.  Overall, I think the best way to summarize this book would be to imagine the original Peter Pan story, add a dash of Lord of the Flies, with a generous helping of angsty YA romance.  And while this book didn’t completely live up to my expectations, I will definitely be reading the next installment in the series…Oakes has set the series up to take a very interesting turn.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

Review: The Book of Speculation

Book Title: The Book of Speculation

Book Author: Erika Swyler

Book Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (5 out of 5 stars)

Synopsis: “Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a bluff that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards and seldom calls.

On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes, and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm. Why does his grandmother’s name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family, and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her–and perhaps himself–Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past.”

I just first want to note that this author sounds pretty awesome.  When she was preparing her manuscripts of this book to be sent out to various publishers, she hand bound and tea-stained each copy to give each of them that “old book” look, similar to the book that Simon receives at the beginning of this novel.  You can read all about the process that Swyler used here.

This book is basically two stories in one: Simon’s story and then the story of the book that he has received.  I usually have mixed feelings about those types of novels, as I always seem to like one part of the story a lot more than the other, and I feel like I’m skimming through the parts I don’t like as much to get back to the parts that I do like. In The Book of Speculation, each of the parts were strong in their own right.  I have read a few other reviews of this novel that have compared it to The Night Circus, and while I agree that they both have some of the same elements, I enjoyed this one quite a bit more.  Everything about this book was perfect to me, I connected with all of the characters, the descriptive writing was stunning, and all of the other little details (like the original drawings sprinkled throughout) were the icing on the cake.

The book begins with Simon, a young-ish librarian who lives in his family’s home on the edge of an ocean bluff.  The house is in complete disrepair, and looks as though it could slide into the sea at any moment.  Simon’s job doesn’t allow him the disposable income needed to make any proper repairs to the home, but he can’t bear to sell it, as it is one of his only remaining ties to his deceased parents.  When Simon was a child, his mother committed suicide by drowning herself in the ocean, and his father later died, seemingly of a broken heart.  Simon was left to care for his younger sister, Enola, who is now an adult herself and works for a traveling circus reading tarot cards.

Simon receives a bizarre book in the mail from an elderly book seller that contains his grandmother’s name.  As Simon researches how this book is connected to his grandmother, he is alarmed to realize that all of the women in his family have worked as traveling performers, and all have drowned on July 24th, including his mother. Is this some sort of terrible coincidence, or could there be a curse on his family?  And if there is a curse, is his younger sister next?

Seriously, mark your calendars.  When this book is released on June 23rd, you won’t want to miss it!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.

Review: The Mermaid’s Sister

Book Title: The Mermaid’s Sister

Book Author: Carrie Anne Noble

Book Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

Synopsis: There is no cure for being who you truly are…

In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions. By night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favorite story tells of three orphan infants—Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O’Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree.

One day, Clara discovers shimmering scales just beneath her sister’s skin. She realizes that Maren is becoming a mermaid—and knows that no mermaid can survive on land. Desperate to save her, Clara and O’Neill place the mermaid-girl in their gypsy wagon and set out for the sea. But no road is straight, and the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening mermaid.

And always, in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?

Clara and Maren were both left in the care of their “Auntie” as infants, and have been raised as sisters their entire lives.  When the sisters turn 16, Maren begins transforming into a mermaid; her fingers are becoming webbed, her feet are turning into fins, and she has new scales appearing all over her body almost daily.  Clara must sadly accept that she will soon have to say goodbye to her sister, and doesn’t know how she will ever be able to let go.  Outside of this little family and two close family friends, Scarff and O’Neill, no one else in their village is aware of Maren’s “condition”, and it is kept a closely guarded secret to protect her.  As Maren grows ill, Clara realizes that she must find a way transport her sister to the ocean, in the middle of a harsh winter.  Clara and O’Neill set out on their own, with only a wyvern and a raven in tow to keep them company, to bring Maren to the ocean. Their journey takes a horrible turn, however, when their carriage is attacked and Maren is captured. And they must quickly find a way to rescue the young mermaid before it is too late.

This was a beautiful little story that I could see appealing to a wide range of age groups, but would probably be most enjoyed by middle grade readers.  The highlight of this fairy tale was the close relationship between Maren and Clara.  It was refreshing to read something where the focus was NOT on a romantic relationship, although there was a bit of a romance in this story as well.  Most of the writing is very descriptive in nature, and there are many chapters where not much happened to keep the plot moving forward. So my only complaint is that the pacing of the book was a bit slow, and I think that this may have worked even better as a short story. Other than that, this was a very enjoyable read.

Review: The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1)

Book Title: The Girl at Might (The Girl at Midnight #1)

Book Author: Melissa Grey

Book Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

Synopsis: “Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.”

This is one of the most promising young adult debuts that I have read in a long time.  Magic and the paranormal are typically not genres that particularly interest me.  To keep me engaged, the world-building has to be just right in those types of stories.  This book impressed me.  Not only with it’s world-building (which was incredible), but also with its vivid imagery and lovely prose. There’s also plenty of action and adventure to hold your interest and keep the pace of the story steady.

Echo is a young girl who lives alone inside the public library in New York City, and is used to stealing whatever it is she needs to survive.  When she meets The Ala, a leader of the Avicen, she is taken into their clan and is introduced to a world where magic is very real. The Avicen are stunning human/bird hybrids, who have been at war with the Drakhan (human/dragon hybrids) for centuries.  There are rumors of a firebird that has the capability of ending the war and bringing peace.  Members of both clans, including Echo…who knows how to find whatever it may be that she’s looking ford, work to locate the firebird…although little is known about it.  In fact, save for its approximate location, no one even knows what the firebird looks like.  Their journey in this book doesn’t end with a major cliffhanger, which I appreciate, but I am still interested in reading the next installment.

There wasn’t really much about this book that I didn’t like, but there was one silly thing that I thought was sort of over-the-top.  There is a spell cast on Echo’s door to her home, and every time she comes home she has to prick her finger and rub a drop of her blood on the door to get it to open.  All I could think after I read that was, “That would get really old, really fast.”  I’m also not a fan of love triangles, but at least this one didn’t feel as forced as most others.  I haven’t read any of the other popular fantasy series that this book has been compared to, so I can only give my perspective of this without comparing it to anything else, and it is a really entertaining read.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley.