Review: The Piper’s Price

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: The Piper’s Price
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Release Date: February 2017
Length: 309 pages
Series?: The Neverland Wars #2
Genre: Fairy Tale, Retelling, Fantasy, YA

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Peter is plotting his retaliation against the latest bombing. Neverland needs an army, and Peter Pan is certain children will join him once they know what is at stake. The lost boys and girls are planning an invasion in suburbia to recruit, but in order to deliver their message, they will need the help of an old and dangerous associate—the infamous Pied Piper.

Hunting him down will require a spy in the real world, and Gwen soon finds herself in charge of locating the Piper and cutting an uncertain deal with him. She isn’t sure if Peter trusts her that much, or if he’s just trying to keep her away from him in Neverland. Are they friends, or just allies? But Peter might not even matter now that she’s nearly home and meeting with Jay again.

The Piper isn’t the only one hiding from the adults’ war on magic though, and when Gwen goes back to reality, she’ll have to confront one of Peter’s oldest friends… and one of his earliest enemies.

my review

The Skinny

Peter Pan must save Neverland! Grown ups in Reality have upped their game, and these are no longer idle threats. The War is near, and Peter cannot win it without more children. In order to gain the following Neverland needs, Peter needs the Piper’s help. Except they are nearly arch enemies. Then there’s the problem of some puzzling tokens that must be found to summon the Piper.

Since Peter can’t go himself, he sends Gwen back to Reality to hide with an old Native American friend. Peter’s perfect pairing is no surprise – Tiger Lily will help Gwen along the way and keep her safe from the Anomalous Activity Department. While gathering intel, Gwen is reunited with a friend of her own. Once returning to Reality, Gwen has no one besides Tiger Lily. Except there’s Jay – the boy she is crushing on – and whose party she literally vanished from at the end of the first book. He can keep a secret, but her magic might give her away.

Gwen also meets an interesting group of ladies while waiting for her moment to meet and lure the dangerous Pied Piper into Peter’s plan. Once it arrives, Gwen is thrown for quite a loop. Luring the Piper is much more difficult than she ever imagined – and the stakes are high.

 

The Players

Gwen – 16 years old, struggling with growing up and remaining innocent

Peter Pan – 14 years old, struggling to find the Piper and protect Neverland

Lasiandra – the blonde mermaid who developed a friendship with Gwen, despite mermaids not being trustworthy

Tiger Lily – a grown woman now, living in a trailer

Jay – Gwen’s crush, good at keeping secrets

Dawn – Tiger Lily’s friend, she agrees to help Gwen find one of the puzzle items

Piper – the magical pipe-playing man who lures children away,

 

The Quote

“This isn’t about you or your children. It’s about the greater issue of children’s autonomy and Neverland’s right to exist.”

 

The Highs and Lows

  • Plot. Unlike the first book that had an unclear plot line, there is a clear and strong plot that pulls in many characters and presents new situations and new information for readers that continue to make the war Peter is fighting more real. This book picks up a short time after the end of the first book when Gwen and her sister fled Jay’s party with the black coats of the Anomalous Activity Department on their heels. They want to strip Neverland of magic forever. The bombings are becoming more frequent and dangerous in Neverland.
  • Overarching Conflict. To preserve Neverland and prevent the grown-ups in Reality from stealing Neverland’s magic, Peter needs to recruit an army of children. For once, Peter has a plan. Unfortunately, it involves dealing with the devil: the Piper. Peter and Gwen must solve a riddle and bring the required tokens for the Piper to appear. Solving the riddles proves quite difficult and requires the help of others.
  • Lasiandra. The blonde-haired mermaid is more than meets the eye. While mermaids are not to be trusted, she somehow gains a glimmer of trust from Gwen. She and Gwen develop a friendship that is mutually beneficial. While Lasiandra is helping Gwen in the short term, she will reap her rewards in the long run. She provides Gwen with important information and also gifts her a mermaid scale for future use to call her when Gwen should need her.
  • Gwen’s Dilemmas. Gwen experiences a series of dilemmas throughout this installment. It made her more real and believable as a character. First of them all is the fact that Gwen is now 16 – the oldest of the Lost Boys of Neverland. For her, it is harder to engage in Neverland. In fact, she is losing the ability to fly. It is becoming cumbersome to play along with the Lost Boys and their games. Then there is the fact that Peter sends her away – back to reality, hiding out in Tiger Lily’s trailer. While Peter claims she is helping and doing the important work to finding the Piper, Gwen can’t help but wonder why Peter wanted to send her away from Neverland. Was she the right person for this job? Was this mission even real? Does Peter trust her? Is he going to follow through? Her doubts are real and even more real for a teenage girl. She doesn’t feel that she belongs in either place – Neverland or Reality.
  • Tiger Lily. Who knew she’d been living in Reality all this time? She is living as an actual Native American, leading a relatively quiet life. Apparently she, along with her friends (princesses?), were part of the MRP, Magic Relocation Program, and have denounced all things magic since. Most of them want nothing to do with magic – or Peter – anymore after all these years. Tiger Lily and her friend Dawn are the most helpful to Gwen. While Gwen hides out at Tiger Lily’s, she acts sort of like a surrogate parent, but more like an older, wiser friend. And she’s the only one who openly will help Peter, causing me to question what Peter had done in the past to these Neverland migrants.
  • Peter. Again Peter seemed one-dimensional and elusive. I was expecting him to have greater exposure in this book and to show character growth. The closest he came was his reassurance to Gwen about choosing and trusting her above all.
  • The Piper. He is revered as notorious and sinister. After solving the token riddles and presenting the Piper with them, Gwen soon finds she is in over her head. Acquiring the Piper’s assistance is not as easy as handing over a pirate patch and other baubles. His price is much higher: the crown of Princess Charlotte of Wales, a root cutting from the Never Tree, and of course his pipe. Ultimately, the Piper wants to be finished with the mermaids, whose magic can always find him thanks to the stars. So he needs something more powerful than them from Neverland – the Never Tree cutting. It could be the most damaging thing of all to Neverland.
  • Jay. I thought we saw the last of Jay when Gwen fled his party at the end of the first book, but her crush on him seems to have a hold over her. While contacting him at all was extremely risky, Jay seemingly knows how to keep secrets – and big ones. I found it hard to believe that he wouldn’t spill the beans and give away her presence – especially to her parents – but I suppose that shows the distance and disconnect they had before she disappeared. What did Jay really know about Gwen anyway? They obviously weren’t that close. I did find it ironic though, that Gwen was the one with the crush on him, but anytime she told him to jump, he asked how high…or rather, what hour of the night and which remote location to meet at. There was more to Jay, though. He actually listened to and supported Gwen, unlike her parents or even Peter.

 

The last two-thirds of the book really rocketed the tension and the danger Gwen and Peter and all of their friends are in. While they secured the Piper, it comes at an additional cost, and the dark side of adulthood that Peter has pronounced all along is finally seen in itself. I hope this increased anxiety and action flows through into setting up another great plot line to come next.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

6545831Audrey Greathouse is a Seattle-based author of science-fiction and fantasy. Raised in the suburbs, she became a writer after being introduced to NaNoWriMo during her sophmore year of high school. Since then, she has drafted more than a dozen books, 100 sonnets, and 800 other poems, and a handful of short stories and one-act plays.

After dropping out of her university and beginning training as a circus performer on the aerial silks, she returned to school to study at Southern New Hampshire University College of Online and Continuing Education to earn her B.A. in English Language and Literature, with a minor in Computer Information Technologies.

Audrey Greathouse is a die-hard punk cabaret fan, and pianist of fourteen years. She’s usually somewhere along the west coast, and she is always writing.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: The Neverland Wars

27396942Title: The Neverland Wars
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Release Date: May 2016
Length: 302 pages
Series?: The Neverland Wars #1
Genre: Fairy Tale, Retelling, Fantasy, YA

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

REVIEW

The Skinny

This fairy tale retelling retains many of the classic elements of the original Peter Pan, but as this is a coming-of-age story told from Gwen’s POV and set in today’s modern world of technology, it has some variations and twists to the relationship of Peter with the outside world.

In this version, Gwen is a 16 year-old teen worried about trivialities like homecoming when her younger sister, Rose, goes missing. A special police force investigates and determines that none other than Peter Pan could be behind Rose’s disappearance.

The following night, Peter and Rose return to convince Gwen to traverse to Neverland because she is such a good storyteller. While Gwen faces the dilemma of staying with her parents and going with her sister, she ultimately goes with the intention of returning in a week with Rose.

The Players

Gwen – AKA The Wendy, 16 year old struggling with growing up

Rose – Gwen’s younger sister, she receives more attention from their parents

Peter – he is much the same as in the original, only slightly older

Hollyhock – AKA Tinkerbell minus the jealous

Bramble – a fairy prone to gorging on food

Dillweed – a fairy prone to drink

Bard – the oldest girl, very motherly

Cynara – the brunette mermaid

Eglantine – the red-headed mermaid

Lasiandra – the blonde mermaid

The Quote

There was the inescapable sense that she was being forced in a direction she did not want to go. It was not that the transition into adulthood was hard because it was a transition, but rather because it was hurtling her toward something unpleasant and irreversible.

The Highs and Lows

First, I’ve never read Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. I have seen Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) and the live-action 1960 version starring Mary Martin, as well as Hooked.

  • Similarities. There are several elements that remain synonymous from the original telling. There are still mermaids, Indians, pirates, the crocodile, the Lost Boys, “I believe,” the shadow, and the fairy. The concept of coming-of-age and struggling to straddle the odd and difficult time of being a teen, stuck between wanting to remain a child and being forced into becoming an adult, is very present.
  • Differences.
    • Peter. In this retelling, Peter is older due to all the trips back and forth from Neverland. Age has caught up with Peter, which was not accounted for in the original. It’s not quite clear exactly how old he is, but he is at least fourteen. He appears to be closer to Gwen’s age.
    • The original was set in the mid-1950s (ish) with quite a focus on decorum and expectations (for Wendy, mostly)  from the parents. This retelling is set in the modern-day technology-fueled world and while Gwen does have some heat from her mother, it is not comparable.
    • While in the original there was Tinker Bell, in this retelling there are several fairies. Peter’s near constant companion is Hollyhock, although she does not exhibit the jealous aspects as her original counterpart. Instead, she is just a rather curious fairy. Another important fairy to the story was Dillweed.
    • While the pirates were not actual characters, they existed in a story retold while Gwen was in Neverland. There was no particular character that correlated to Hook. This aspect of the original was very glossed over and generalized, and only existed to show how unreliable Peter is in that he changes the reality of his stories with each telling, as children are wont to do.
    • There are only three mermaids, and they are as conniving and vicious as they seemed before, except there were some discrepancies. Peter tells Gwen to never get too close to them, but also that they cannot tell a lie. Anything they says is the truth. Peter seeks them out because they know things. Lasiandra sort of befriends Gwen in a frenemy way.
    • Gwen is the reproduction of Wendy, in today’s time. She is slightly older than previously portrayed, and thus she exudes more common sense and introspective thought on the entire matter of remaining in Neverland versus returning. She is also able to understand the difference between staying in Neverland for herself and staying for Rose, and allows Rose to make the choice for herself. One important aspect to point out is that Gwen isn’t brought to Neverland to be the Lost Boys’s mother – they already have one.
    • Bard exhibits as the Lost Boys’s mother. She has been in Neverland quite a time, and is very good at realizing the needs of the children. When Gwen first arrives, Bard takes care of her.
    • The Lost Boys are not only boys! They are a mix of girls and boys of all ages, who have been in Neverland a varying amount of time. Unlike in the original where the Boys were easily escalated to bickering, antics, and shenanigans, in this version the group was more cohesive and meshed well. They got along and supported and helped one another. While their personalities seemed to meld and blend together in the original, each of the Boys had a distinctive story and personality in the retelling – and they are hilarious!
    • Second star to the right is only one way of getting to Neverland, and Peter explains to Wendy that they cannot go that route because “they” are watching. It’s like the front door to Neverland, and they have to go in the secret back way.
  • The Twist. The strange “police” force that shows up after Rose’s disappearance prompts Gwen’s father to have a sit-down with her to explain some things, like why it was ingrained in her to always keep her bedroom windows closed. The world is run on magic, and of course only adults are conscientious enough to know how to use magic wisely. It is a secret kept from the children of the world and hoarded by particular groups. While Gwen thought her father was like a CPA, his job is drastically different. This moment in the book reminded me of when Harry and Ron learn the truth behind Mr. Weasley’s job at the Ministry of Magic. But there’s more: all of the innovations of the world have been powered by magic, until the world could catch up to the technology (usually about a 20 year delay). It was unclear, but there seemed to be a limited supply of magic, so it is very important for the world to catch up and lessen their use of magic.
  • Neverland. While Neverland is the primary setting of the book, I’d say for 90% of it, we don’t see very much of it. It is as standard as the island depiction in the Disney cartoon movie. I was hoping for more development of the island, more depth to explore in this retelling.
  • The Plot. The plot was weak. It didn’t seem to hold a lot of depth, complexity, or real progress. The story was not plot-driven, despite having action vignettes. In fact, it was hard for me to tell where the plot was really going. At the end I could see bits and pieces and kind of start putting things together with what I’ll explain below, but it was really difficult because there wasn’t much given to us as readers.
  • The War. The entire concept of the use of magic in the world is sort of explained to Gwen, but not where it originates from, which I am assuming is Neverland (although I don’t know how) BECAUSE Peter is forced into protecting Neverland from attacks. It’s not really explained how magic works in Neverland and in the world. Neverland had suffered an extensive attack before, and another serious one while Gwen is there. There isn’t much explanation about the war, how or why it started. It’s just an afterthought in the background. I believe this will come into full effect in the second book for a couple of reasons, but we aren’t given much to go on, and the lack of clarity makes it a little confusing and dilutes the enjoyment of being in Neverland. If this element of the plot was fully developed, I think it would have made the pacing of the book (and an actual plot) move along quickly with more action and less stories.
  • The Villain. In the classic, Captain Hook is the villain. He is constantly ragging on Peter, but not in this version. Instead, the adults of the world are the villains. The entire adult machination with magic adds a different perspective. Given the parallelism between innocence and growing up, this fits perfectly into that framework. When Rose disappears, there is talk about her being “stolen” by Peter.
  • Gwen. While this is a coming-of-age story, I didn’t expect Gwen’s character to have such character growth. She is truly struggling with retaining the innocence of childhood (in a technology-driven world) when she is of the age with adults forcing adult-like expectations on her. While she is trying to discern the right thing for her, as well as Rose, ultimately she realizes she cannot make the decision for Rose to return.
  • Peter. His character was woe-fully underdeveloped. With as character-driven as this retelling was, the focus was solely on Gwen. The perfect placement for progressing the plot and the entire notion of the war would have been through Peter’s character: how did he come to be in Neverland (was he born there? brought there? by whom?). While Peter was whimsical and anti-adult, for a retelling with a plot that bodes of such complexity, he was underdeveloped and fell flat.
  • The Foil. Gwen and Peter are relatively the same age, but they act, process, and perceive things in such different ways. Wendy is already on the tail-end of childhood, on the very brink of being an adult, while Peter acts as a foil to her character and he is unaffected and puerile.
  • The Shadow. At the end of the book Gwen is at a party. A pivotal moment happens and I thought it would end on a cliffhanger with Gwen and company running from the “police,” but something else happens involving a shadow and an attack. It is ambiguous as to where Peter and Gwen go, as well as the identity of the shadow. Who is the shadow? Who is he working with? Why does he attack? Does Peter know the shadow? Why hasn’t it appeared or been spoken of before? The Shadow just leaves more questions than answers, lending heavily to the fact that the book did not have a resolution. I understand that Greathouse is planning on this being a trilogy, so this unsettling cliffhanger can flow straight into the second book, which I hope will do a better job of shedding light on these Neverland Wars and the magic within them.
  • Oddities. There were some very out-of-place, or rather disconnected, pieces to the story that just seemed there for no reason, like Gwen’s budding relationship with Lasiandra the mermaid, and the underwater journey she takes Gwen on. And what she says to Gwen! What does that even mean?! Gwen told a random story about eating a star, and later Peter actually had her eat a star…and it didn’t have any meaning or proufoundness to it. What was the point? Usless words that slowed the plot down and made me disinterested. The story of the pirates? Was there a point to it? Something Peter learned that he’ll need to know for the future? The story of the two Indians? There was a lot of nonsensical thrown in that made the story go all over the place for no reason, and really disconnected me from the story.

The Take-Away

I wish there had been more development overall – and particularly to the plot. It seemed almost like this was a gently revised first draft without the crucial use of a developmental editor. I felt the real story wanting to be told suffered and struggled to shine through, but I am nonetheless looking forward to the next book and to see what happens.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Borrow. At first I had planned on using one of my giveaway winnings to buy this book, but the blogger suggested I not, and I’m glad for it. This isn’t one I would plan on keeping around on my shelves, or for a re-read.

 

About the Author

6545831Audrey Greathouse is a Seattle-based author of science-fiction and fantasy. Raised in the suburbs, she became a writer after being introduced to NaNoWriMo during her sophmore year of high school. Since then, she has drafted more than a dozen books, 100 sonnets, and 800 other poems, and a handful of short stories and one-act plays.

After dropping out of her university and beginning training as a circus performer on the aerial silks, she returned to school to study at Southern New Hampshire University College of Online and Continuing Education to earn her B.A. in English Language and Literature, with a minor in Computer Information Technologies.

Audrey Greathouse is a die-hard punk cabaret fan, and pianist of fourteen years. She’s usually somewhere along the west coast, and she is always writing.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Magelica’s Voyage –The Rescue

Title: The Rescue
Author: Louise Courey Nadeau
Publisher: Magelica Inc.
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 48 pages
Series?: Magelica’s Voyage #2
Genre: Children’s

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

When Magelica dreams of the prince lost on a deserted island, she realizes that it could lead to his rescue. She returns to the Isle of Dreams to tell Queen Raya what she knows. Can they save Prince Will before it’s too late? Will the power of laughter and love be enough?

* Available in English / French / Spanish *

***** Book Preview *****

***** Review *****

The Players

Magelica – a green-haired, winged girl; on a journey to save Prince William

Gri – Magelica’s loving caretaker

Tris – Magelica’s pet dragon

Odin – messenger of the Isle of Dreams

Wally – the wizard of the Isle of Dreams

Queen Raya – ruler of Isle of Dreams; kind to Magelica; searching for her lost son

Prince William – Queen Raya’s son; missing for 9 days

Thoughts

This second installment in the Magelica series continues to build upon the first book. The chapters have gotten a little longer, but are still manageable for young independent readers beginning the transition into chapter books. The illustrations are just as beautiful as in the first book.

The story also builds upon itself. At the end of Magelica’s Voyage, Magelica returns home knowing one day she’ll go back to the Isle of Dreams. Who knew it would happen so soon?

Through a dream, Magelica realizes Prince William is lost and stranded. She and Tris quickly return to the Isle of Dreams to convene with Queen Raya. It is the beginning of a rescue plan, but all of the people of the island will need to be reminded what it is to laugh and love again.

Magelica’s bravery leads her closer to her own personal quest to find out who she is.

***** About the Author *****

Louise Courey Nadeau

Passionate about empowering and inspiring children around the world, Louise Courey Nadeau, born and raised in Montreal, Canada, and mother of two girls and two boys created her first fairy tale Magelica’s Voyage, with the second book in the series, The Rescue, launched June 2015.

“Through life’s trials and tribulations, I always believed I could. With theMagelica book series my goal is to take young girls and their parents and teachers on empowering adventures and to inspire and encourage them to believe that they are amazing just the way they are, and to discover the power of love, positivity, and believing in themselves.

Magelica’s Voyage is inspired by my life, my family, and the special people and places I love”, says Courey Nadeau. “All of the characters in the story, including Magelica are reflections of the person I am- the wacky part, the funny part, the philosopher, the teacher, the caretaker, the chosen mom, the giver, and of course the dreamer. What would Magelica do, I often ask, and I get the answer. When you fly with Magelica, the possibilities are endless and there is magic all around.”

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Magelica’s Voyage

Title: Magelica’s Voyage
Author: Louise Courey Nadeau
Publisher: Magelica Inc.
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 48 pages
Series?: Magelica’s Voyage #1
Genre: Children’s

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Who ever heard of a girl being hatched from an egg the colour of sapphires? Magelica doesn’t know where she came from or who she really is. But when she’s transported to the Isle of Dreams in a flying bathtub, she launches into an adventure of discovery, and learns that wonderful things can happen when she uses her imagination, believes, opens her heart and trusts in love. Come fly with her and discover for yourself the power of imagination, gratitude, believing in yourself, and love! In this special first voyage, fantasy, adventure, magical illustrations, empowering messages, and a wonderful cast of enchanting characters come together as Magelica takes young girls and the special people in their lives on a fun, inspiring voyage about making your life magical.

* Available in English / French / Spanish *

***** Book Preview *****

***** Review *****

The Players

Magelica – a green-haired, winged girl hatched from a sapphire egg; wears a feather necklace; wonders where she came from

Gri – Magelica’s loving caretaker

Tris – Magelica’s pet dragon

Odin – a purple fuzz ball with crazy eyes from the Isle of Dreams

Wally – the wizard of the Isle of Dreams

Queen Raya – ruler of Isle of Dreams; kind to Magelica; searching for her lost son

Thoughts

The chapters are extraordinarily short – a couple pages (with full illustrations) at most. This is structured perfectly for a beginning independent reader getting ready for chapter books.

Magelica is a beautiful character, in illustration and heart. She wonders about her origins, and as always, Gri is open to telling the tale of how she was found in her sapphire egg by the Gatherers twelve years before. She wears a feather necklace, made out of a feather that she was found with.

One night while taking her bath, Magelica and Tris are whisked away in the flying tub. The magical feather is the key to Odin finding Magelica. He whisks her off on an adventure to save the Isle of Dreams, and Magelica learns it is the magic of fairies and that she must get Turtle moving to find the prince.

Magelica is kind and sensitive to Turtle’s feelings, and learns a wonderful lesson of what she needs to do to make of herself. She knows she will once again return to the Isle of Dreams.

I loved Magelica’s character. She is open and kind and sweet. Even when upended, she makes the best of the situation.

The illustrations are superb and flow with the story well.I particularly like the character forms of Magelica, Tris and Odin. Magelica’s illustration reminds me of a younger Odette from The Swan Princess. –>

This is the beginning of a beautiful coming-of-age story. Magelica discovers that wonderful things can happen when she uses her imagination, believes, opens her heart and trusts in love.

***** About the Author *****

Louise Courey Nadeau

Passionate about empowering and inspiring children around the world, Louise Courey Nadeau, born and raised in Montreal, Canada, and mother of two girls and two boys created her first fairy tale Magelica’s Voyage, with the second book in the series, The Rescue, launched June 2015.

“Through life’s trials and tribulations, I always believed I could. With theMagelica book series my goal is to take young girls and their parents and teachers on empowering adventures and to inspire and encourage them to believe that they are amazing just the way they are, and to discover the power of love, positivity, and believing in themselves.

Magelica’s Voyage is inspired by my life, my family, and the special people and places I love”, says Courey Nadeau. “All of the characters in the story, including Magelica are reflections of the person I am- the wacky part, the funny part, the philosopher, the teacher, the caretaker, the chosen mom, the giver, and of course the dreamer. What would Magelica do, I often ask, and I get the answer. When you fly with Magelica, the possibilities are endless and there is magic all around.”

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: Ella, The Slayer

Ella_Banner

Welcome to my stop for Ella, the Slayer by A.W. Exley. Ella, the Slayer is an Edwardian retelling of Cinderella with an undead problem. It is an upper young adult novel. The tour runs August 10-21 with reviews only, so check out the tour schedule and all the reviews about Ella.

ELLA-ebook-200x300Title: Ella, the Slayer
Author: A.W. Exley
Publisher: R
Release Date: June 2015
Length: 200 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Retelling, YA

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

The flu pandemic of 1918 took millions of souls within a few short weeks.
Except it wasn’t flu and death gave them back.

Seventeen-year-old Ella copes the best she can; caring for her war-injured father, scrubbing the floors, and slaying the undead that attack the locals. ‘Vermin’ they’re called, like rats they spread pestilence with their bite. Ella’s world collides with another when she nearly decapitates a handsome stranger, who is very much alive.

Seth deMage, the new Duke of Leithfield, has returned to his ancestral home with a mission from the War Office — to control the plague of vermin in rural Somerset. He needs help; he just didn’t expect to find it in a katana-wielding scullery maid.

Working alongside Seth blurs the line between their positions, and Ella glimpses a future she never dreamed was possible. But in overstepping society’s boundaries, Ella could lose everything – home, head and her heart…

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Ella is still a teenager, but charged with running her father’s estate and slaying the undead with her katana. She ensures no more living become infected while trying to maintain the identities of the slain. All while enduring the pointed barbs of her stepmother and stepsister about her intelligence and station in life. Ella copes with it all by leaning on her fellow friends, who are also servants in the household, and detailing the day’s events each night with her father. Seth, the new Duke of Leithfield, has returned home to Somerset and from the war. He is charged from the War Office to investigate and control the vermin in the area. He doesn’t even know where to start, until he discovers what Ella can do and has been doing to protect the people of Somerset.

The Players

Ella – daughter of Sir Jeffrey and the housekeeper; scullery maid

Alice – the upstairs maid; Frank’s girl; Ella’s friend

Henry – Ella’s childhood friend

Father – Sir Jeffrey, Ella’s father

Elizabeth – Lady Jeffrey; Ella’s stepmother; values social status

Louise & Charlotte – Elizabeth’s daughters

Seth – Duke of Leithfield returned from war

Frank – Seth’s valet and friend; dating Alice

First Impressions

I again suffered from cover love. THAT DRESS! I will not deny that I want the dress. There was just something about that staircase and the way she was standing on it. I suppose it reminded me nostalgically of Titanic, which sparked an interest in me. After reading the synopsis I was pretty sure we were talking zombies, which I do not like at all, but I was willing to give it a try.

Second Thoughts

The book is set in England directly following the World War I. Exley does a fabulous job setting the scene in terms of historical relevance for several of the characters.

Back then death only had one meaning: your life snuffed out, never to rekindle. Then came the Great War, and we learned of a new type of death. The ‘walking dead,’ we call them. Men who returned with shattered minds, unable to grasp the horrors they saw of the deprivations they had suffered. 

This is the case with Henry and Sir Jeffrey. It is a state which Ella describes vividly in the first chapter. This also sets the scene later for Ella’s explanation of the vermin, which we would reference as zombies. Alice and Ella both work hard to bring Henry back into the land of the living. Ella also does the same with her father, who sits and stares out a window each day.

The first thing I really noticed about the writing style was Ella’s voice. Although this is a piece set in 1919 Britain, Ella’s internal language does not reflect that. She speaks as a modern contemporary would, and she’s funny.

He stepped forward and took my hand, placing it in his larger one for a firm handshake. 

“Yes, your grace,” I muttered, staring at where our flesh touched. So warm, it spread up my arm like an escaped fire. 

When I looked up, he was still smiling as his gaze searched my face. “And you are?”

Mortified. 

At first I didn’t realize this was a Cinderella retelling even though all the signs were there. They just aren’t over-the-top. Ella’s stepmother, Elizabeth, is a woman from hell. I wouldn’t be able to control myself if I had been Ella, but she keeps her cool and calm.

When the undead returned from their graves, Ella was the first to take action. Given the highly religious focus in the community, Ella has set herself aside from the others. Her soul is damned, and that is how she becomes the slayer. It is not a job she enjoys, but it must be done.

Seth was an interesting character in that he is titled, returning home from the war with great responsibilities in this whole vermin business, but has no desire to find a wife. He struggles with his own demons and finds a kindred spirit in Ella. He is the only person who can see the pain it causes Ella to be the slayer, and those battle experiences give them a common ground.

This idea and reality that is shared between Seth and Ella speaks about the humanity of the time. Ella was very conscientious about trying to treat the undead as people. She wasn’t ruthless, as some described her. She was doing the best she could in the situation, and her thought to maintain records of the vermin ends up being extremely useful for Seth’s work.

Alice and Frank have a relationship that helps Ella and Seth as individuals and to bring them together. They are quite the cunning pair. Henry relies heavily on the support of Ella and Alice after returning from the war. The girls do their best to bring Henry back into the land of the living. Elizabeth, the stepmother, has no other purpose than to elevate herself at her daughters’ expense. It was not a surprise some of the things she stooped to doing, except the very last one. That one completely threw me.

The undead were not as bad as I thought it would be, for someone who does not like zombies. It was pretty mild up until the end. It wasn’t over-exaggerated or underplayed. The plague and vermin are a significant focus in the book and the thing that ties the entire plot together.

One of my favorite scenes was how Ella and Seth met. I also loved the scene when Seth is setting up his work and Ella sees the big picture and they start realizing the impacts of the plague and the vermin. It was a turning point in trying to move forward with solving this issue.

I did cry at one point in the book, where it seems all is lost for Ella. It was truly a heart-wrenching scene and each moment I thought Seth would show up and whisk her away, but that was not to be. I just could not fathom the depth of crazy that Ella suffered.

This isn’t your typical fairytale retelling. There is no glass slipper or fairy godmother. I don’t think this is being made into a series, although it could be done fairly easily – and I wish it would be! Ella is such a strong, intuitive and yet vulnerable character. I would recommend anyone to read her story.

***** About the Author *****

AWE-200x300Books and writing have always been an enormous part of A.W. Exley’s life.

She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

$50 Amazon Gift Card
Signed paperback of Ella, the Slayer by A.W. Exley
Open Worldwide
Ends August 26th

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

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Review: Princess Nell ~ The Best Ball Gown Ever

Title: Princess Nell: The Best Ball Gown Ever
Author: Barbara Shagrin
Publisher: VitaMamaOnline.com
Release Date: February 2014
Series?: Princess Nell series
Genre: Children’s Lit

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

In a series of funny and delightful mishaps, Princess Nell’s beautiful new gown for the Grand Palace Ball is ruined.

Afraid of upsetting her parents, Princess Nell and her friend Rose learn that that “there’s always a way” as they use their ingenuity to come up with a unique solution.

Princess Nell: The Best Ball Gown Ever is a beautifully told children’s story that empowers and educates all at once.

***** Review *****

Princess Nell is all set to attend the Grand Palace Ball. She is so excited to show her friend Rose that she takes a carriage to visit her.

Little does Nell know that Rose is ready for her own costume party! Nell tags along, in her beautiful gown, and enjoys the delights of the costume party but ruins her dress in the process.

The girls try a few things to repair Nell’s dress back to its original state and must come up with some creative solutions.

Little do they know, their creativity sets a fashion trend!

There is also a free bonus included in the purchased of the ebook! There is a free Audiobook of Princess Nell: Never Enough Stuff, which is the first book in the series.

Review: The True Princess

Title: The True Princess
Author: Angela Elwell Hunt
Publisher: HuntHaven Press
Release Date: November 2014
Length: 32 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Children’s Lit, Fairytale

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

A Parable in the truest sense, this story teaches children the meaning of Jesus’ words, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant”. The concept of royalty pervades the Bible, and this book offers an opportunity for parents and teachers to teach children about being royalty in God’s family. Full-color illustrations.

***** Review *****

The young princess is sent off with her Nana, a servant, after her father is called off to take care of royal duties. There are those in the kingdom who would see the young princess taken and dethroned, so her father sends her into hiding in plain sight: as a servant with Nana.

They go to set up a bakery shop and the young princess must un-learn how to be a royal. She learns humility through her time in the bakeshop, which were all of the things the king wanted her to learn during her time away from the castle.

***** About the Author *****

Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who expect the unexpected in novels. With over four million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 125 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to non-fiction books, to novels.

Now that her two children have reached their twenties, Angie and her husband live in Florida with Very Big Dogs (a direct result of watchingTurner and Hooch and Sandlot too many times). This affinity for mastiffs has not been without its rewards–one of their dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest canine in America. Their dog received this dubious honor after an all-expenses-paid trip to Manhattan for the dog and the Hunts, complete with VIP air travel and a stretch limo in which they toured New York City.

Angela admits to being fascinated by animals, medicine, psychology, unexplained phenomena, and “just about everything” except sports. Books, she says, have always shaped her life— in the fifth grade she learned how to flirt from reading Gone with the Wind.

Also in 2006, Angela completed her Master of Biblical Studies in Theology degree. She completed her doctorate in 2008 and was accepted into a Th.D. program in 2009. When she’s not home reading or writing, Angie often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences. And to talk about her dogs, of course.  She is also an avid photographer, using her photos to help find homes for her local SPCA’s shelter animals.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: The Wishing Spell

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Title: The Wishing Spell
Author: Chris Colfer
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Release Date: July 2012
Length: 438 pages
Series?: The Land of Stories #1
Genre: Middle Grades, Fantasy, Retelling

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

The Land of Stories tells tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about.

***** Review *****

I picked up this book because I thought it would be interesting. I had no clue who the author was until after I had finished the book. (What? I don’t watch TV.)

However, Chris Colfer’s acting career aside, the man can write. He’s taken the classic and beloved fairy tales we grew up with and thrown in some interesting quirks and some very interesting twists. AND he’s done it with a heap of humor.

Alex and Connor, twins, have suffered a devastating loss in the last year: their fairy-tale and story-loving father. They even had to move out of their house. After their grandmother comes to visit, she leaves them with their father’s book, The Land of Stories. Alex is consumed by the book, and it lands the twins not only in big trouble, but big danger, too!

“I was just thinking,” Conner said. “Alice went to Wonderland after she fell into a rabbit hole. Dorothy’s whole house was scooped up by a tornado that dropped her off in Oz. The Narnia kids traveled through an old wardrobe. . . and we ended up in the fairy-​tale world by falling through a book.”

“Where are you going with this, Conner?” Alex said.

“I’m just saying, it’s kind of lame compared to the others,” Conner said with another sigh.

Alex is a very sentimental, caring and kind young girl. Connor, on the other hand, is slightly obnoxious and quite funny, and there were many times I agreed with some of his thoughts and comments.

They discover there is a spell that will grant any wish, so after getting their bearings in this new fairy tale world they set off in hunt of all of the items from the book. They know that the spell has been used once before, and it can only be used twice, and it is their only hope of getting home.  It’s not going to be easy, though, with a land so vast!

TheLandofStories_MAP

Unknown to them until encounters with various fairy tale characters, someone else is after all of the items for the Wishing Spell as well…and she will do anything to get them.

I LOVED this book….so much so that the week after I finished it, I saw the second book at my school’s book fair and snatched it up!

I highly recommend this book to anyone. It is an incredible story with a few twists to fairy tales as we know it. I am hoping to somehow incorporate this book into my classroom.

***** About the Author *****

4919495Chris Colfer is an Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actor best-known for his portrayal of Kurt Hummel on the FOX television series “Glee”.

He is also a New York Times bestselling author whose books include the first three novels in the “Land of Stories” series (“The Wishing Spell”, “The Enchantress Returns” and “A Grimm Warning”) as well as “Struck By Lightning: The Carson Philips Journal” which is a novelization based on the script he wrote for the film “Struck By Lighting” (Colfer also co-produced and starred in that movie).

Find the author:  WebsiteTwitter | Goodreads