Showing posts with label retelling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retelling. Show all posts

Saturday, May 13, 2017

[Review] Never Never - Brianna R. Shrum: Captain Hook goes to Neverland



In NEVER NEVER, James Hook decides to follow Peter Pan into Neverland and leave his family behind.

What intrigued me: I always found Hook more interesting than Pan!

Chapter book writing?

NEVER NEVER tells the story of James Hook. And when I say that, I mean legitimately all of it.

Shrum decided to show us everything from his childhood to going to Neverland to becoming a captain. The novel spans many years and is separated into different parts that each span a different time of his life. This leads to the novel really not reading like a regular YA book. Shrum's writing is very juvenile, reads like an actual fairytale, but in a way that makes you feel like you're reading a children's chapter book. While I do think that Shrum is a fantastic writer whose work is very easy to get lost in, I just wasn't looking for a Middle Grade novel.

This is exactly what NEVER NEVER appears to be for the first 80 pages. There are many other parts of the book that all deal with more mature themes, but if you start your novel like that, it's very likely that most readers who don't like Middle Grade won't even get to the more mature stuff.

I find the mix a little awkward, to span from Middle Grade to Mature/Upper YA and expect the reader to just roll with it. The story isn't engaging enough to even make me interested in all of James' life. I didn't like anything about James' childhood, since everything Shrum tells us about could've just been left out. It's all implied knowledge, a boy choosing to leave for Neverland because he feels neglected, Pan slowly starting to act shady - I felt like I genuinely wasted my time with the first 80 pages. 

Lacks creativity - where's the retelling part?

Huge time gaps are always a gamble, and it absolutely disconnected me from the narrative to have James go from 13 to 18 all of a sudden. I believe the novel would've been better off without all the childhood shenanigans if it's marketed as YA. Shrum's writing definitely fits the MG range and I think she's be marvelous at writing MG.

I just think that NEVER NEVER fundamentally lacks in creativity to the story. Yes, it's told from the a different perspective, the anti-hero/villain if you will, but it might as well could've been any other lost boy. The story Shrum is trying to sell isn't very innovative, captivating, or even well-crafted enough to make this a noteworthy read that I'd recommend. It could've been a gloomy and sad story about a boy who wanted to escape into a dreamland, but instead it's just a very awkward story that's rehashed for the thousandth time with about zero creativity and originality.

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I expected something different. I didn't want to read half of a Middle Grade novel, I wanted to see a new spin on the so often retold story - I didn't get any of that.



Additional Info

Published: September 22nd 2015
Pages: 356
Publisher: Spencer Hill
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9781633920392

Synopsis:
"James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up. When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child - at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children's dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up. But grow up he does. And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate. This story isn't about Peter Pan; it's about the boy whose life he stole. It's about a man in a world that hates men. It's about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan. Except one."
(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like Peter Pan retellings?

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

[Review] The Seafarers Kiss - Julia Ember: Bisexuality and Mermaids

In THE SEAFARER'S KISS, mermaid Ersel falls in love with shieldmaiden Ragna and causes lots of trouble back home at the ice castle.

What intrigued me: I absolutely loved her debut UNICORN TRACKS.

Action-filled intricate world

I knew I'd love THE SEAFARER'S KISS after about five pages. Just like with her fantastic debut UNICORN TRACKS, Ember writes fast-paced and action-oriented - just what I like.

It's absolutely amazing how Ember painted this intricate world with its own customs and little sayings - THE SEAFARER'S KISS doesn't read like paranormal romance or mythology - it truly reads like a contemporary set in a mermaid kingdom. And you guys, this is the best.

I absolutely fell in love with the characters. Especially Ersel's best friend and now king's guard Havamal - the swoon is real. Even though this isn't really a book with a love triangle, I found myself rooting a bit for him and Ersel. You'll ship everyone while reading this book, that's the beauty of everyone being bisexual! The characters are all just so lovely, you'll find yourself wishing that they'd all just get along. It might also be relevant to your interests to know that Loki is genderfluid with they/them pronouns in this and that there is an amputee. The marginalized identities representation is fabulously refreshing and fun to read about. 

The Little Mermaid gone dark


THE SEAFARER'S KISS is a roller coaster of emotions. The first half of the book presents you with super cute contemporary romance fluff and all the feels, and towards the end it gets so dark that you'll find yourself wanting to turn the lights on. The two halves that THE SEAFARER'S KISS is divided into are without a doubt my favorite thing about this book - it manages to flawlessly combine a cute bisexual romance with an exciting fantasy adventure.

Filled with plot twists, THE SEAFARER'S KISS explores the moral shades of gray between good and evil while being an absolute page-turner. Ember managed to get me with every single twist. I saw none of them coming and am thoroughly impressed with the way she magnificently managed to make this The Little Mermaid retelling absolutely 100% her own.

THE SEAFARER'S KISS stuns with intricately developed character relationships, a fantastic world, and an action-filled plot that'll probably tempt you to binge-read this in one sitting.


5/22/17 Note:
Rating suspended until the book is revised.

There are discussions about the representation in this going on right now, specifically related to the trans rep. I know it's in the process of being changed, and up until then I'll leave the rating blank. Should the revision still show issues, I'll change the review, but right now I don't feel like I'm an authority on the rep, so I won't comment on it.

Read this review for more info on the issues.


Rating:

pending

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE SEAFARER'S KISS is the bisexual Norse Little Mermaid retelling you've been waiting for. Trust me, you want this. I think I have a very strong contender for new favorite LGBT+ writer. Julia Ember's one to watch.

See note above.


Additional Info

Published: May 4th 2017
Pages: 230
Publisher: Duet Books
Genre: YA / Mythology / Norse Mythology
ISBN: 9781945053207

Synopsis:
"Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies."
(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite mermaid book?

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

[Review] Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) - Marissa Meyer: Cyborgs and Cultural Appropriation





In CINDER, cyborg Cinder gets mixed up in royal business and a conspiracy when her stepsister catches the Plague.


What intrigued me: I'm the last person on this planet that hasn't read this.

A horrific lack of... well, everything?

Bland is probably the most fitting word to describe the world of CINDER. What initially got me interested in this novel was the so highly-acclaimed and praised imaginative world. I was expecting top-notch world building and a lot of creativity. I was surprised to find neither in this novel. 

Meyer applies a very amateurish technique when it comes to establishing her world - throwing around words with no meaning and expecting the reader to buy this. Nod and smile. The Lunar people who are barely in this book yet make up a huge chunk of the blurb, aren't explained at all. Why are cyborgs outcasts? How do Lunars get their power? How did humanity colonize the Moon? CINDER fails at even establishing the most basic questions about this world.

Following this trend, the plot isn't even worth mentioning, neither are the characters. Instead of a retelling, I'd simply call this a reproduction of the original, throwing in the cyborg thing. It's predictable, and the characters have an astonishing lack of personality. The only character that I found remotely interesting is Queen Levana, who is basically the YA equivalent of a Disney villain that's evil for evil's sake. Yawn.

People of color are NOT your aesthetic

Aside from the sheer boringness of the plot the one thing that upsets me, offends me, and makes me quite sad that people don't talk about more is the fact that CINDER simply uses Chinese characters, imagery, and culture for aesthetics.

You can absolutely tell that there went no thought and no research into developing New Beijing, aside from creating a generic Chinese town. The characters have Chinese names, there are bits and bobs you've probably recognized from every Hollywood movie set in China ever, but not a hint of Chinese culture. The characters aren't Chinese, they are white people dressing up. Meyer's characters are wearing a POC costume, just for the sake of being able to say that this is a diverse book. This is not a diverse book. 

This is not the kind of representation people of color want, care for, or appreciate. This is cultural appropriation actually. Of course there are always people who'll say "hey, it's fiction, let her do what she wants", which I consider absolutely irrelevant to the point. Had Meyer bothered to add an ounce of actual Chinese customs and culture in this, even tried instead of just throwing Chinese names around thinking that's enough for world building, I wouldn't have been so harsh.



Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CINDER is an absolute disappointment. The blatant use of a "foreign" culture for aesthetics is simply appalling, only surpassed by the boring characters and lack of world building.

Link to a review by an Asian reviewer who basically said the same thing.


Additional Info

Published: January 3rd 2012
Pages: 390
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA / Dystopian
ISBN: 9780312641894

Synopsis:
"Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
 "(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read CINDER?

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Recommendation: Vinegar Girl - Anne Tyler: Marriage and Greencards

In VINEGAR GIRL, Kate's scientist father is trying to set her up with his lab assisstant Pyotr so he doesn't get deported.

What intrigued me: The Taming of the Shrew is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.

Quiet and Hilarious

VINEGAR GIRL is part of a series of retellings originally published by Hogarth Shakespeare. It very clearly is inspired by Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, though you don't have to be familiar with the original or even like it to enjoy this. VINEGAR GIRL is a clever and entertaining story that can easily stand on its own because of the brilliantly original characters and storyline. Especially the dialogue is so flat-out hilarious that I'm so enamoured and will definitely pick up more of Tyler's books.

VINEGAR GIRL is a quiet story at the core but has its funny moments that were ultimately the reason why I had such a great reading experience. A little over 200 pages this is quite a short novel but Tyler doesn't rush through the storyline.


Brilliant original characters

I fell in love with every single character. From the starry-eyed protagonist Kate, her naive sister Bunny, to the dorky love interest Pyotr. They're all people I have surely never read about before and this truly makes for such an interesting dynamic.

VINEGAR GIRL isn't a romance per se, if you're looking for swooniness and romance this isn't the right pick. Pyotr and Kate don't necessarily fall head over heels for each other, I'm not even sure if I'd even call this a romance. Nonetheless the story is just so fascinating and fun to read, simply because of the fantastic cast of characters and the fun dynamics.


Rating:

★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

VINEGAR GIRL is the surprise of the year for me. A must-read for everyone who loves The Taming of the Shrew and everyone who'd like a retelling with a different spin on the classic play!



Additional Info

Published: 11th October 2016
Pages: 224
Publisher: Knaus
Genre: Adult / Contemporary
ISBN: 978-3-8135-0655-6

Synopsis:
"Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.  

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?"(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read The Taming of the Shrew?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

[Review] Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge: Insta-Love and A Shadow As A Love Interest


In CRUEL BEAUTY, Nyx is sacrificed as a bride to the evil demon prince Ignifex, and intends on killing him to end his reign of terror over their kingdom.

What intrigued me: Was in the mood for a swoony high fantasy romance thingy.

Very awkward writing and world building

The first thing that struck me and kind of lowered my enthusiasm for this is writing. It does read like Hodge is trying to write archaic and ancient-sounding, but isn't quite able to deliver. The result are awkward sentences that are unintentionally hilarious. Generally this does read like a corny historical fiction romance-type of story. It took a lot of getting used to the way she writes and it definitely does not compliment the premise.

The story itself is promising, the premise is interesting (despite being only a retelling), and Hodge does manage to put her own spin on the story. However, I'm not a fan of her approach. The whole idea of getting Nyx into the Ignifex's castle absolutely reads like a mere set up for a love triangle. I was absolutely disappointed to see the novel take this direction, because it has quite the interesting world, with hermiticism, an element of Greek mythology, being the main influence on it. As in, just a side element to fill up the story and give the illusion of actual world building.

I do love a good Greek myth-inspired story and was excited for this, but it just doesn't feel right. The entire "world building" feels like an easy excuse to write about the romance, and I'm not a fan of this.

Insta-love, a love triangle, and zero appeal

I knew what I was signing up for when I started CRUEL BEAUTY. What I didn't sign up for is having this story play into every cliche ever that you've seen in YA. Literally everything. From guys consisting just of eye colors and snark, to the inevitable love triangle, to instant love. 

I have seldom encountered such an unfortunate way of starting a love triangle - it takes two pages between Nyx meeting the second love interest and kissing him. Even more unusual is that the love triangle is between the demon Ignifex and his shadow. It sure reads a little awkwardly and weird, and the plot twist is extremely predictable. I was rooting for Nyx to be a cold-blooded hate-driven killer, I knew she was going to fall in love with the beast, but not easy like that! It took about 3 pages for her plan to vanish into nothingness because of a pretty boy... eh... shadow...cursed human...thing...ish. 

Like this, CRUEL BEAUTY unfortunately lost all its appeal to me and paired with awkward writing and clumsy world building this is not my kind of story.


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

My expectations were too high (mainly because of the hype). CRUEL BEAUTY tries to create the illusion that it's different and new, when it's just your average romantic retelling.

There are better Beauty and Beast retellings out there, and there certainly is better high fantasy out there that doesn't feel as awkward as this. 



Additional Info

Published: January 28th 2014
Pages: 352
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA / Fantasy / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780062224736

Synopsis:
"Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love."(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite fairytale retelling?

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