Publisher: Simon Pulse

August 5, 2017

Review | Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

Review | Unhooked by Lisa MaxwellUnhooked by Lisa Maxwell
Publisher: Simon Pulse, February 2016
Pages: 342
Format: Hardcover
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For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.

But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

Unhooked is not the Neverland you know. In an age of fairy tales reimaginings, Maxwell’s twist on the classic Peter Pan is unsettling and addictive. Peter is no longer the slight boy who whisks Wendy and her family out of their bedroom window; instead, Gwen and her friend Olivia kidnapped and taken into another world: that Neverland that leaves you slightly unsettled and on the edge of your seat.

Not your typical fairy tale.

Many fairy tale retellings merely repeat their namesake stories and add a few twists here and there. Don’t get me wrong – those have a place in my heart. Maxwell’s Unhooked on the other hand throws an entire tornado into the classic tale’s plotline and turns the world upside down.

It was these powerful plot twists that kept me reading through Unhooked. I had expected something along the lines of the Disney movie I watched every night growing up but quickly realized that Maxwell wasn’t one for adapting to others’ ideas. Instead, she tore apart the characters, from Hook to Peter to Wendy, and recreated them from the ground up. It was fascinating.

This is not the Neverland you are looking for.

The plot and characters weren’t the only ones that underwent a significant shift to the dark side. Neverland itself was built into this beautiful, mystical world with virtually a mind of its own. More dangerous than expected (by Gwen or me), it quickly evolved into its own character and occasionally took the story by storm.

But the timing…

While I loved the character twists and plot – let’s be honest here, those aren’t twists – hurricanes, it felt like the narration occasionally got distracted or ran away with too many details. I wanted to know what was happening with the characters, not how the – admittedly fascinating – atmosphere was setting the scene.

Regardless, the unexpected re-visioning of this well-loved story unexpectedly drew me in. It was fun, twisted, and just a touch too dark. Perfect for those who loved Drown and other darker fairy tale retellings.

3 Stars

Posted August 5, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments

March 30, 2016

Review | Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

Review | Blackhearts by Nicole CastromanBlackhearts by Nicole Castroman
Series: Blackhearts, #1
Publisher: Simon Pulse, February 9th 2016
Pages: 384
Format: Ebook
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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.

In a world full of fairy tale retellings, Blackhearts stands out. Not only for it’s powerful narrative, imaginative characters – it stands alone as a retelling of Blackbeard.

Anne Barrett may be only a kitchen maid in the house of the merchant Drummond, but she has dreams of getting out of service, out of Bristol, and traveling to Curaçao, her mother’s homeland. Teach, Drummond’s son, wants nothing more than to head back to the high seas: he returns to his impatient, spoiled fiancee (ironically) named Patience but dreams of the seas and how he’ll convince his father to let him drop the life of a merchant’s son and become a sailor.

From the moment they fight over a barrel of shrimp on the wharf, there’s a spark between them. Anne’s vibrant personality and determination to make it in the world doesn’t fit into her role as a maid, same as Teach’s yearning to drop the mask of the merchant’s son and head out on an adventure doesn’t fit with his father’s plans for him.

Even though I’m not as familiar with Blackbeard as some other fairy tales, I fell in love with the world Castroman created. There’s a dark mystique that underlies the societal courtesies of 1800s Bristol: the social hierarchies must be obeyed, creating a wonderful sort of tension fans of period dramas know all too well. The constraints of Anne’s role and Teach’s position made their romance all the more spectacular.

Blackhearts was, however, a bit of a slow start. I didn’t connect with Anne and her motives, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from Teach after the scene at the wharf. He was, without a doubt, the Blackbeard character, but not knowing how his character would develop made the first chapters a bit slow.

Luckily, Patience and her wacky, if not annoying, family made an entrance soon after, and the pace quickly began to pick up. Their presence in the Drummond house made everyone, including the staff, on edge, forcing the characters to play their hands and show their true nature.

Blackhearts is a surprising, enchanting debut from Castroman. The strong narrative and enchanting characters bring an overlooked tale to life and reveal that Blackbeard’s heart is anything but black.

4 Stars

Posted March 30, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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