Thursday, May 05, 2016

Everland

Everland. Wendy Spinale. 2016. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Everland is a dystopian, steam-punk retelling of Peter Pan.

If I was giving stars for premise, it would be five stars for sure. The premise is surely the most interesting and captivating thing about Everland. Gwen Darling is the heroine. Since a virus/plague killed off most--if not all--of the adults in England, Gwen is responsible for her younger siblings, Mikey, the youngest, and her sister Joanna. When Gwen is out scavenging one day, Joanna is kidnapped by the Marauders, the Marauders are led by Captain Hook, though Hook is just a nickname. His initials are H.O.O.K. Fortunately for Gwen, on the same scavenging trip, she caught her first glimpse of Pete and Bella. These two come to her rescue. Pete eagerly and generously. Bella with much protest and grumbling. Pete hopes that Gwen is truly IMMUNE, the one human on earth who is immune to the virus, the one whose blood or antibodies in the blood may hold the cure for saving those left alive. Pete takes Gwen and Mikey to the underworld--the underground remains of Everland, or London. She'll join the Lost Boys. Bella is the only other girl. Jack and Doc are two Lost Boys that seem to stand out from the rest.

So, as I mentioned earlier, the premise gets five stars from me. Unfortunately, I found the world-building, the storytelling (narration, plotting), and the characterization to all be lacking.

The world-building seemed all-surface and not much depth. Like flimsy props on a set that could potentially be tipped over leading to disaster. I never once forgot myself in the story or got lost in the story. And that's what you want in fantasy: to be swept into a whole new world, to become absorbed in it, fascinated even. It isn't that the world created doesn't have potential or promise. It does. But I don't want potential-fulfillment, I want actual fulfillment. One thing that bothered me was the depiction of this "war" between England and Germany. The German bad guys--led by the oh-so-evil Queen that we never once meet--didn't come across to me as well-executed.

The narration was an almost for me as well. I really did not enjoy the alternating narrators. Chapters alternate perspectives between Gwen and Hook. If I had to have alternating characters, I'd much rather have gotten to know Bella or Pete or if it absolutely had to be a bad guy, Smeeth. Seeing Captain Hook through Smeeth's eyes would have likely been more entertaining than being stuck in Hook's head. Still, I think readers didn't get to know Bella enough, and, it would have been great to have alternating chapters between Gwen and Bella. It would have made for a lively, tension-filled read. Because Bella seemed fierce, strong, stubborn.

The plot itself was okay, but, it was the little things that annoyed me. For example, the "need" to represent pixie dust leading to the gold dust powder that somehow, someway enables all the characters to see in the dark. That's just one example of how the need to represent as many details as possible from Peter Pan led to a weaker story. That being said, the surprise introduction of Lily was very much necessary. Now that I think about it, LILY would have made a good alternate narrator. What I was not thrilled with was the "instant" romance between Pete and Gwen.

The characterization. I personally found it on the weak side. If the premise wasn't so strong, would anyone really keep reading? Or, would I have kept reading?! (That would be the fairer question). Gwen, Pete, Bella, Hook, all the characters really felt like paper dolls. Some readers prefer action-driven novels. Some readers prefer character-driven novels. I happen to prefer character-driven novels. And I like my action novels to have a certain depth to their characters. I think the best villains should be fleshed-out villains. Even though we were in Captain Hook's head, I never once really thought of him as being a developed character.

Think of LOST. Tons of characters, plenty of action and drama, plenty of tension and suspense, plenty of mystery. Yet what hooks me is the DEPTH of the characterization. Every single character is fully fleshed out--past, present, everything in between. You may or may not "like" a character. But every action, every word seems to come from within a character, staying true to that character. The same could be said of Once Upon A Time. And that show put a WHOLE new spin and then some on Peter Pan and Captain Hook!!!!

Would a rereading at some point persuade me to reevaluate this one, and "like" it more??? Perhaps. After all, such has occurred before. But I'm not eager to do so now.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

How To Be A Pirate

How to Be a Pirate. Sue Fliess. Illustrated by Nikki Dyson. 2014. Golden Books. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ahoy, landlubber! Come with me. Board me ship upon the sea! Not a pirate? Don't know how? Ye can learn to be one now! Come in closer--I don't bite. A pirate ye shall be tonight!

Premise/plot: The title says it all, this book "teaches" how to be a pirate.

My thoughts: I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. I like the rhythm and the rhyme of it. It gets that part right at least!!! The plot is simple enough, and, in a way it's predictable enough. There is just something joyful and fun about this one.
Rules for pirates?
Let's just say...
ye can throw all the rules away!
No more toothpaste!
Farewell, bath!
once ye choose the pirate path.
Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Children's Homer

The Children's Homer. Padraic Colum. 1918/1982. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

I really enjoyed reading Padraic Colum's The Children's Homer, a retelling--originally published in 1918--of the Iliad and the Odyssey. You should know from the start that it is a prose retelling.

The story opens by introducing readers to Telemachus, the now grown son of Odysseus. When Telemachus was just a baby--just a month old--his father went off to war, to fight in the Trojan War. The war took ten long, agonizing years. But it's been over for just as many--ten long years. Telemachus and his mother, Penelope, need to know: Is Odysseus dead or alive? If he's alive, where is he? Why hasn't he come home yet? They are not the only one curious. Plenty of men want to know too. But. They're hoping that Odysseus is dead and not alive. Why?! They want a chance at Penelope. They've come to "woo" her. That and to eat and drink a lot at the estate's expense. Telemachus wants it to stop. It angers him to see so many men about the place anxiously trying to become Penelope's new husband. So what can he do about it?

For one, he can set out on a quest of his own to see if he can find traces of his father's story. Because Telemachus has at least one or two gods or goddesses on his side, he is somewhat mostly successful. He hears ALL about the Trojan war. Not just about his father, but, about many men--many soldiers. Including Achilles and Hector and Paris. He also learns that his father survived the war and is trying to come back home.

The second half of the book is about Odysseus' journey back home and how he handled or resolved the situation with all those men chasing after his wife. It is mainly if not exclusively from Odysseus' point of view. Readers see a couple of happy reunions along the way.

Plenty of action and adventure happens in both sections as the war and its aftermath is recounted. It is an interesting read. Parts of it felt very familiar to me. Overall, it was just a pleasant, enjoyable read.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, May 02, 2016

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins. P.L. Travers. Illustrated by Mary Shepard. 1934/2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

If you want to find Cherry-Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the cross-roads. He will push his helmet slightly to one side, scratch his head thoughtfully, and then he will point his huge white-gloved finger and say: "First to your right, second to your left, sharp right again, and you're there. Good-morning."

Premise/plot: The Banks family is in need of a nanny. The children's idea of a 'perfect' nanny is far different from their parents idea. Mary Poppins is the practically-perfect nanny that transforms a family though this transformation is not overnight and without struggle. Each chapter is an adventure of sorts.




My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. It wasn't the first time I read it. I've reread it a few times even. Some chapters I love and adore. Other chapters I merely like. But if you haven't read it, I think it's one you should consider reading! It is really different from the movie and live musical.
 
My favorite song from the live musical is Practically Perfect.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Manifesto for May

  • I will read what I want to read when I want to read it regardless of length. 
  • I will not allow the "need" to have a certain number of reviews to post keep me from reading the long books that I love and adore.
  • I will let myself abandon books that I'm not liking even if--maybe even especially if--they are review copies. (Why do I feel the need to keep reading?!?!)
  • I will be sensible at the library and not bring home twenty new books each weekend. I will try.
  • I will not automatically renew everything that is on my library card. I will be sensible and try to return the items I'm not going to be reading within two weeks.
  • I will make time for people and be thankful to be in the moment.
  • I will prioritize sleep over reading and blogging. Or try to at least.
  • I will create more top ten lists for the blog.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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