Category Archives: Young Adult Fantasy

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 of The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Lost Prince

Author: Julie Kagawa

Release Date: October 23rd, 2012

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

Summary from Goodreads.com

My Review: Julie is own of those authors that I will automatically buy whenever she publishes a book. I fell head over heels in love with her Iron Fey (The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight) series and was ecstatic when I heard she was going to do a spin off series in that world.

In The Lost Prince we follow Ethan, Meghan’s brother, who is trying to get through life without drawing the attention of the Fey. The last time we saw Ethan, he was being rescued by Meghan and was very young. So seeing him now, as a teenager, was quite an adjustment. I think it was a brilliant way for Julie to keep us engaged in this world, because we really did have great resolution with Meghan’s story, but the world Julie created was too magical to not write about more. Ethan was a great character to spin off with considering he had a large role in how this series began. With his traumatic entrance into the world of the Fey, there is no way he would leave it unscathed and The Lost Prince explores that.

While Ethan does share similar characteristics with his sister, his dealings with the Fey and barely there sister, have left him with a harsh outlook on life. His friend Kenzie calls him on it:

“Anyway,” Kenzie continued, “we’re still on for that interview, right? You’re still planning on showing up, I hope. I’m dying to know what goes on in that broody head of yours.”

“I don’t brood.”

She snorted. “Tough guy, if brooding was a sport, you’d have gold medals with scowling faces lining the walls of your room.”

Who can blame the guy though? He has had a hard life and no one to talk to about it or vent out his frustrations. Even though he keeps everyone at arm’s length and feigns the “tough guy” attitude, he is lonely. I loved getting to know Meghan when she was on her journey and I enjoyed getting to know Ethan just as much. His sarcastic nature and quick wit had me laughing numerous times throughout the novel.

While he has been trying his hardest to stay out of Fey affairs, he get sucked back into it when a friend of his goes missing. He tries his hardest to keep a low profile, but cannot ignore all the strange things happening around him. Though he is not happy about it and comments about it to a familiar “friend”:

“Dammit, I don’t know why I’m here. Why am I here? I was hoping I’d never see this place again.”

“Please,” the cat said in that annoyingly superior voice, eyeing me over its leg. “Why are you even surprised, human? Your last name is Chase, after all. I was expecting your arrival any day now.”

As you can see, Julie did have some familiar characters make cameos in The Lost Prince and I was so thankful that we got to catch up on how life in Faery has progressed since we last visited. The book is still focused on Ethan, but the characters we have come to know and love still play a part in that and I appreciated Julie incorporating them into Ethan’s story. I thought I would miss all of them and not like Ethan as much, but the opposite was true. Julie nailed the male point of view and as a result Ethan really grew on me.

One of the secondary characters I was particularly interested in was Kierran. If you have read this series before, his name might look familiar with you. I was happy that he appeared on the page so many times and we got to know his character more. I was a little disappointed with some of his decisions towards the end, but I think those will make the next book very interesting.

As for the plot, something very strange is happening in Faery and there is not too much I can say without ruining the story. Julie has an amazing ability to come up with interesting and engaging stories that keep me glued to the pages and The Lost Prince is no exception.

The Lost Prince has a unique plot with memorable characters that will keep you coming back for more. The world Julie has created is mesmerizing and I enjoy every trip I take to Faery when I read one of her novels. I am looking forward to future books in this series and seeing where Ethan’s life will take him next.

FTC: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with Vessel Author Sarah Beth Durst

I am so incredibly excited to have author Sarah Beth Durst here with me today to answer some questions. Her latest novel Vessel (review here) was amazing, just like all her book are. So let’s get onto the questions and learn more about her and the worlds she creates.

A Bookworm’s Haven (ABWH): Can you tell us a little bit about Vessel for those who might have read it yet?

Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): VESSEL is a sweeping epic adventure set in a harsh desert land where serpents made of unbreakable glass fly through the sky and wolves made of only sand hunt within storms. Liyana is destined to be a vessel, to sacrifice herself so her clan’s goddess can inhabit her body… but her goddess never comes.

ABWH: The mythology in Vessel was absolutely amazing! All of those stories telling the about tribes traditions and history gave the story a very distinctive touch and really helped us get to know the characters in a unique way. Did you draw on stories you already knew to create those or were those stories your own creation?

SBD: I drew on the essence of myths — the universal themes, the archetypes, the feel of an ancient storytelling tradition — but the stories themselves are mine. So happy you liked them!

ABWH: Do you have a favorite scene from Vessel? I loved Liyana’s strong will and determination, especially when she finally meets the Emperor.

SBD: I loved writing that scene:

“You do realize that you are addressing the emperor of the Crescent Empire.”

“And you are addressing a free woman of the desert. You are not my emperor. Therefore I am your equal.”

(She says this while in the heart of a massive encampment of enemy soldiers.)

I also really loved writing the scene when Liyana first meets Korbyn, the trickster god. He walks out of a sandstorm to save her, and she threatens to skewer him with a knife.

ABWH: If you could describe Liyana, Korbyn and the Emperor in just three words each, what would they be?

SBD: Liyana: brave, determined, practical. Korbyn: clever, passionate, fun. The Emperor: serious, responsible, compassionate.

ABWH: If you could choose to belong to one of the clans in Vessel which one would you chose and why?

SBD: Liyana’s clan, the goat clan. Her family truly loves one another. Plus I really like goat cheese.

ABWH: The world you created in Vessel was brilliant and had vibrant characters that lived within it. Which comes first for you? The character’s story or the idea for the novel?

SBD: I knew I wanted to write about a desert. A couple years ago, I wrote about the Arctic in my polar bear novel, ICE, and I lived inside a frozen world. This time, I wanted to immerse myself in sand and sun. So I researched the Gobi, the Sahara, and other deserts, and I meshed them together and added magic: sand wolves, sky serpents, monstrous worms, gods and goddesses that inhabit human bodies… Liyana danced her way into this magic desert in a dream. One night, I dreamed about a barefoot girl dancing on the sand in the moonlight. She was dancing joyfully, yet she knew that at the end of the dance, she’d die. And that was it to the dream, but it was enough to fuel the entire novel.

ABWH: Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in a book or a movie?

SBD: I picture myself inside virtually every fantasy world that I read or see. As a kid, I used to routinely check my closet for a gateway to Narnia. As an adult, I know that the gateway is through a book.

ABWH: What types of books do you like to read in your free time? Are there any authors/series that you must have when they come out?

SBD: I read exactly the same kinds of books that I write. Really, I believe the old adage “write what you know” should be “write what you love.” I love fantasy. I love stories that sweep you away on an adventure and leave you feeling that the world is a bit more wonderful than it was before. My one must-have author is (and has been for years) Tamora Pierce.

ABWH: What things do you have to have with you when writing?

SBD: I write best if I have my computer. (I type a lot faster than I can write long hand.) Also, I like to have a glass of water on hand. And a bathroom nearby. Other than that, I don’t need much. Except maybe chocolate. Chocolate is my muse.

ABWH: Is there anything you are working on now that you are really excited about?

SBD: Yes, I have two new projects that I’m really excited about: SWEET NOTHINGS (coming fall 2013 from Bloomsbury/Walker) is a YA thriller about a girl in the paranormal witness protection program, and THE LOST (coming fall 2013 from Harlequin/Luna) is the first in a trilogy for adults about a woman who is trapped in a town full of only lost things and lost people.

ABWH: Do you have anything you would like to add?

SBD: Thanks so much for interviewing me!