Book Review: Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

Unhooked.jpegTitle: Unhooked

Author: Lisa Maxwell

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: February 2nd, 2016

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?

Summary from Goodreads.com

My Review:  I picked this book up because I am a huge fan of Once Upon a Time and the way that Hook is portrayed on that show, so when I saw a book that also has a “Hook” that has redeeming qualities I was very excited.  The book starts out with Gwyn settling into a new place to live after her mother has uprooted her again.  She is trying to adjust to her nomadic life and not really doing very well with it.  I thought that the first couple of chapters moved very slowly and I found myself putting it down to go do other things quite a bit.  I know there needs to be some set-up for the plot, but this one just seemed to drag a little in the beginning.

One aspect in this book that I found intriguing were the two stories that were going on simultaneously.  At the beginning of every chapter there was a small snippet of a story being told about a boy and his brother.  I actually found myself much more interested in that story in the beginning then the story about Gwyn.  I knew the two would intersect at some point, and I really love how they did, but I did find myself wanting more of the tale of two brothers rather than what was going on with Gwyn at some points.  Following along that same line, the chapters were very short, which can be a good at times, but I felt like sometimes they would break at points in the story that did not make sense.  Many of the chapters could have been combined into larger ones that would have helped the story flow better.

As for the characters, I loved Rowan, he was a perfect Hook and I loved how he was portrayed.  I was picturing a younger Hook from Once Upon a Time most of the time when he would appear on the pages and the mystery that clung to him contributed to his appeal.  I wanted more of him throughout the novel and in the final chapters. I liked Gwyn most of the time, but she did get a little whiny at points and it would grate on my nerves.  I know she was thrust into a new world, but I felt like she needed just a little more backbone at some points and I would have loved her more.  Maxwell portrayed Pan very well, which made for an interesting twist on the whole Peter Pan tale.  I love a good retelling, but this was more a reimagining of the stories we know and love, which appealed to me even more.  So much so that I wanted more from the ending.  The climax was great, but the resolution of the story fell flat for me.  I wanted more pages to wrap up a couple of things, more time spent in Neverland exploring this strange world, or even another book.  I don’t think this tale was quite complete and since Maxwell has no plans as of now for a sequel I was left unsatisfied.

The book is classified as a Young Adult and while that did fit, I wish the boundaries had been pushed a little more to make this a New Adult or even and adult book.  The characters needed more room to push the boundaries and I felt like Maxwell needed to make it just a tad darker in some places to push the book from good to great.  There were also strange descriptors in Unhooked, such as “The green-gold scent of the jungle”.   The scent of green –gold?  Not really sure what that is supposed to smell like.  It was moments like that, that took me out of the story that I wish were more polished.

I know it sounds like I am being really hard on this book, but I did actually like it.  I just did not love it and I wanted to love it so badly!  It had everything I look for in a book, it just needed to be more.  I enjoyed the authors’ style and I will look for more of her work in the future, but I am not itching to get into a new book by her anytime soon.  I will always remain hopefully that there will be a sequel to Unhooked, maybe that will answer some of my questions and satisfy me with how Gwyn’s and Hook’s lives turned out.

 

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Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

an ember in the ashesTitle: An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Release Date: April 28th, 2015

Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My Review: An Ember in the Ashes is a book that I am going to have a very hard time summarizing. A friend of mine read it and highly recommended it, but I looked at the 446 page count and was not quite sure I wanted to take that on, but I am so glad that I did. Those pages flew by and I never once looked to see how many pages I had left or felt for one moment that anything was dragging.

The book switches between Laia and Elias’ perspectives which gives you are really good understanding of everything that is involved in this world and the people within it. It takes place in almost a Roman like society and is very brutal. The author did not pull her punches emotionally in this book and I was brought to tears a couple of times. It was harsh, cruel and probably very realistic of what a society in this world would look like.

I loved both of the characters, and the way they slowly worked their way to each other. There are small little snippets of romance, but the main plot focuses on the two characters finding their own definition of freedom.

It was heartbreaking, fantastic, non-stop plot and a book that has stayed with me long after I read the last page. I cannot wait to get started on the sequel and will definitely be keeping an eye on this author in the future.

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Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crowsTitle:  Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo 

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: September 29th, 2015

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Summary from Goodreads.com 

My Review:  I know the term “book hangover” can seem strange to some people, but I am convinced it is a real thing and this book has given me a huge one. I have read a little over 10 books since reading Six of Crows, and it is still fresh in my mind and consumes a lot of my thoughts, haha. I work as a librarian and every student who comes in searching for a good book, this is the first one I recommend to them. I cannot even really describe it to them, I just say it is a mix of Ocean’s Eleven heist scheme, some fantastic characters that all live in some awesome fantasy world. That is a poor summary I know, but there is so much to this book, and so many complex and amazing characters, I have a hard time putting all of it into a simple summary. I do know that I am not wrong with my excessive love for this book though because every student or person I recommend it to comes back loving it and often one of their friends wants to take it and check it out in their place.

Then there is Kaz Brekker. He is probably my new favorite character, ever. I love everything about that shady guy and can easily see why he can get a team of people to follow him, maybe right into their own dooms. He alone is worth reading this book for.

I have not read the other books by Leigh that take place in the same world, so I am not sure if there are crossovers or anything like that from that series, but I know I loved this book without having to read them at all. Now that I have though and I have to wait for months (sobs) for the second book to come out, I will probably go ahead and give Shadow and Bone a shot just to try and hold me over until I can get back to Kaz and the gang again.

Cannot say enough good things about this book, love, love, love it and am excited for Crooked Kingdom this fall.

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