ARC REVIEW: The Fire Child – by S.K. Tremayne

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Title: The Fire Child
Author: S.K. Tremayne
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
First published: June 16th 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Finished reading: July 26th 2016
Pages: 400
Rating 4,5qqq

“Maybe nothing could extinguish the yearning of human love; maybe it travelled on for ever, through the darkness. Like the light from dead stars.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and HarperCollins UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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The Ice Twins was on my list of most-anticipated 2015 releases, so as soon as I found out S.K. Tremayne was publishing a new psychological thriller I just knew I had to read it as well. And I have to say, The Fire Child didn’t disappoint. In fact, this story turned out to be even better than her first novel! There is no doubt S.K. Tremayne is excellent at setting a spooky atmosphere for her chilling and dark psychological thrillers. The descriptions of both the Cornish setting, the house and the events themselves really make it seem like as if you were right there with the main characters. And those months/days before Christmas definitely become spookier by the minute! The main characters are all well developed and I especially liked Jamie and Rachel. They are not perfect and not reliable either, but their stories are without doubt intriguing and work perfectly for many surprising plot twists. The plot itself is quite simple, but it’s the characters, excellent descriptions and spooky atmosphere that make The Fire Child into such a great psychological thriller. Trust me, you won’t see the ending coming! If you enjoy reading the genre, make sure to consider both S.K. Tremayne‘s thrillers. They’re worth it!

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It’s easy to say Rachel has had a difficult childhood, but everything seems to be falling into place when she marries dark, handsome and rich David. She went from a small flat in London to living in a huge and beautiful house in Cornwall… A house that has been in David’s family for a thousand years and even has its own name: Carnhallow. David still works in London, and only travels to Cornwall during the weekends to be with his new wife and his son Jamie. Rachel seemed to be getting along well enough with her new stepson in London, but things changed when she moved into the big Carnhallow house. Jamie’s behavior changes and Rachel’s perfect life slowly begins to unravel. He doesn’t seem to be over the death of his mother Nina (and David’s first wife) and both claims to see her ghost and makes disturbing predictions. Is it Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel for taking his mother’s place, or is he more traumatized that she thought? When Rachel starts digging into the past, she starts to suspect her new husband wasn’t telling the whole truth about what happened to his first wife…

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Now I’ve read both thrillers, I can easily say S.K. Tremayne is one of my favorite newly discovered authors. She is without doubt excellent at setting a spooking atmosphere, creating characters that are both intriguing and unreliable and describing the setting in such detail that it almost feels like you are right there in Cornwall. The Fire Child is well written, has well developed characters and is filled with many surprising plot twists. If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers, I can definitely recommed this one!

BOOK REVIEW: Rot & Ruin – by Jonathan Maberry

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Title: Rot & Ruin
(Rot & Ruin #1)
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Genre: YA, Horror, Dystopia
First published: September 14th 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: July 25th 2016
Pages: 468
Rating 4qqq

“Often it was the most unlikely people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably always there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best.”

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Zombie stories are normally not really for me, but I’ve become less prejudiced after I finished and loved The Girl With All The Gifts earlier this month. So when I was browsing Riveted and saw I could read Rot & Ruin for free (until August 1st), I decided to jump right in. Especially since I have had this series by Jonathan Maberry on my wishlist for a long time in the first place. I’m glad I decided to give Rot & Ruin a go, because I ended up really enjoying this story despite my reservations for zombie stories. The dystopian worldbuilding is interesting and I liked the idea of the separation between the relatively safe town and the ‘wild’. The descriptions of both the zombies and the world itself are well done; the zombies are slightly humanised (especially by the older brother Tom) and that was certainly refreshing. There is a lot of action (and shouting!) involved in the story, making it into a fast-paced read and without doubt entertaining. Another bonus: there is almost no romance in Rot & Ruin, which is rare in a YA fantasy/dystopian series. Although I’m having the suspicion there might be more in the sequel… Because there sure were some pretty obvious hints at possible romantic developments and even a love triangle. I’m glad there wasn’t any in the first book though and the ending was quite satisfying (even though the final fighting scenes were not that credible). All in all Rot & Ruin is an interesting, entertaining and fast-paced zombie read that will appeal to fans of the genre.

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Benny Imura grew up in this zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America and doesn’t know any better; his biggest worry being his need to find a job before his time is up and his rations are cut in half. His older brother and zombie hunter Tom does remember the time before the First Night though… As he saw their father turn into a zombie in front of them and had to run with little Benny. Benny still feels Tom is a coward and when Tom offers him to be his apprentice, Benny refuses. But he cannot seem to get another job that interests him, so it seems like he will have no choice but to accept his boring brother’s offer. But when he goes outside for the first time to see how his brother does his job, he encounters a whole different reality. Benny realizes he has been wrong about a whole lot of things in life, including his brother…

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It kind of came as a surprise, but Rot & Ruin turned out to be another exception to the rule and I really enjoyed this zombie and action-packed story. It’s well written and the worldbuilding is interesting, and I liked the fact that the zombies are slightly humanised and the bounty hunters are the actual bad guys. The fact that there is almost no romance involved is a huge bonus as well… At one point I thought this was going to be a repeat experience of The 5th Wave (cheesy romance scenes ruining an excellent story), but I guess I was wrong. If you enjoy reading the genre, I can definitely recommend Rot & Ruin! The sequel is already on my wishlist.

ARC REVIEW: Environmentally Friendly – by Elias Zanbaka

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Title: Environmentally Friendly
Author: Elias Zanbaka
Genre: Thriller, Short Stories
First published: March 5th 2016
Publisher: E.Z. Entertainment
Finished reading: July 24th 2016
Pages: 19
Rating 3,5qqq

“They could’ve done this when he was still a guest at the psychiatric ward, rather than waiting for him to escape and unleash this shit storm on the city.”

*** A copy of this short story was kindly provided to me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I always enjoy a good action-packed thriller even if it’s a supershort one like in the case of Environmentally Friendly. This short story written by Elias Zanbaka has only 19 pages, but has action scenes for a novella at least ten times that size. In fact, the plot would work great as a full length novel as well and the story left me wanting for more. The idea of this kind of ‘extreme’ therapy is definitely intriguing and I liked both the title and the ending. Enviromentally Friendly starts with a bang and you are right in the middle of the action from the beginning. It takes some time to figure out what the story is about, but there is no doubt that this short story has an impressive amount of action, suspense and plot twists. The prose is well written, very descriptive and almost graphic; it was almost like watching a movie instead of just reading it. There isn’t a lot of character development, but that is mostly because of the size of the story. Schaefer has a lot of potential though! All in all it’s a very entertaining, fast-paced and action-packed thriller with an interesting twist.

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After a traumatic experience, a war veteran has declared war on Mother Nature and plans to bring it to its knees. He is determined to destroy what caused his mission to fail in the past, and he is now chased by the LAPD in a great man hunt throughout Los Angeles. The veteran is dangerous and he is the number one target that night, but what the veteran doesn’t know is that he is actually part of something a lot bigger. Something that might help him finally complete his mission… And officer Schaefer is determined to do just that.

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While Environmentally Friendly is supershort, it does offer a lot for its size. This short story is fast-paced, well written and full of action; it’s detailed descriptions making it feel as if you were watching an action movie instead of reading it. The idea of ‘extreme’ therapy is intriguing and I would love to see a larger story focusing on that! But this short story is definitely worth reading if you enjoy action-packed thrillers.

Friday Finds #97 – July 29th

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FRIDAY FINDS is originally featured at Babs Book Bistro and showcases the most interesting books I’ve encountered during the last week and have added to my neverending TBR list on Goodreads. Below a selection of my newest additions; click on the book descriptions to go to its Goodreads page! 😀

My finds:

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Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: The Hired Girl – by Laura Amy Schlitz

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Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Religion
First published: September 8th 2015
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Finished reading: July 23rd 2016
Pages: 400
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“But I think the most important thing those books gave me was a kind of faith. My books promised me that life wasn’t just made up of workaday tasks and prosaic things. The world is bigger and more colorful and more important than that.”

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The Hired Girl was my latest TBR jar choice and quite a fortunate pick, since I already planned to read it for the When Are You Reading? Challenge anyway because of its historical 1910s setting. I normally really enjoy reading historical fiction, but unfortunately I wasn’t impressed by this story by Laura Amy Schlitz. Most people seem to love The Hired Girl though, so I guess this will be yet another unpopular opinion review… First things first, I can’t deny the historical setting is well executed and I liked that the prose matched the era. The descriptions and prose in general show that the author has investigated the era thoroughly and used the terms appropriate for the 1910s. This was probably the strongest feature of The Hired Girl, because the rest didn’t manage to convince me. While the first part is interesting enough (even though the first chapters are a bit dull) and the descriptions are great, the story takes a strong religious turn later on. I don’t mind religion in a story as long as it doesn’t have a strong presence, but in The Hired Girl it was just too much for me to enjoy. The fact that I didn’t like the main character in general didn’t really help either. I know a lot of people seem to love Joan, but she was too naive and later on even whiny for me to grow closer to her despite her love for books. During most of the book this unlikeable character still wasn’t too much of a problem, mostly because of the interesting historical setting. Unfortunately the last part of this story was full of strongly religious dialogue and cheesy romance; ending up ruining the reading experience for me. I know I’m in the minority for not enjoying The Hired Girl though, so you might enjoy this historical fiction story a lot better than I did.

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After her father decided that his fourteen-year-old daughter Joan can attend school no longer because she is needed at home, Joan has no longer an escape from the hard work at Steeple Farm. Her mother died years ago and her father and brothers don’t exactly treat her well; the dreams of her mother (and Joan herself) for her to become a teacher seem to have evaporated. How will she ever escape the neverending and dull work at the farm? Miss Chandler used to be a teacher and gave her a diary, telling her she should write to practice. Joan pours her heart out into the diary and decided to seek a new and better life for herself despite better judgement. Maybe escaping the farm, traveling to the city and working as a hired girl cleaning and cooking for a family will finally help her improve her chances of a better future?

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The historical setting and well researched descriptions and prose are without doubt the best feature of The Hired Girl. I especially liked the Rosenbachs and what they added to the story; the descriptions of their household were really intriguing. I can’t say I liked the main character Joan though. I understand she is still really young, but instead of endearing I found Joan mostly annoying, naive and even whiny at points. And then I’m not even talking about the romantic blabbering and strongly religious dialogue in the last part… I really wanted to enjoy The Hired Girl, but this novel just wasn’t for me.

WWW Wednesdays #101 – July 27th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’ve only just started When We Collided by Emery Lord, but I have heard so many great things about it that I can’t wait to continue reading! I won’t be having a lot of spare time this week, but hopefully I will be able to finish it before the weekend.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first book I was able to finally finish was The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse. I can’t say I really enjoyed it. The first part was quite slow and I had problems with the prose. I also wish the story would have focused on the war itself… The Neverland descriptions were really entertaining to read though.
* I then read the Dorothy Must Die novella Ruler Of Beasts by Danielle Paige. This one was probably one of my favorite novellas of the bunch… Mostly because Ozma played a big role in the story and a new interesting character (the Nome King) was introduced.
* Next up was The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel, which made it to my list of favorite 2016 reads. Such a powerful and well written story! I can definitely recommend this one.
* I then finally finished The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz, a book I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would. I normally love historical fiction, but I didn’t like the main character Joan and there was too much ‘strong’ religious dialogue and cheesy romance in the last part of the story.
* Next up was the supershort, but action-packed story Environmentally Friendly by Elias Zanbaka. Without doubt an interesting and fast-paced read!
* I then read Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry for free at Riveted. Check out the website if you haven’t already; each two weeks or so they offer four new free titles to read online! (This one is available until August 1st). Rot & Ruin turned out to be a very good read, which I’m still surprised about because I normally don’t really like stories with zombies… But it’s well written and I like that there’s almost no romance (at least in the first book).
* The last book I finished is The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne, which turned out to be even better than her first novel. Well written prose, great descriptions that set a spooky atmosphere and many many plot twists… Recommended!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I will probably read my last pending ARC first: the Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection by Barbara Venkataraman. It definitely sounds like an entertaining read! I also want to read The Bird And The Sword by Amy Harmon, but I might try Thunderlight by Adrienne Woods first. I really enjoyed the first book and since I’m in the mood for a dragon story this one sounds like a great choice. Secret Letters by Leah Scheier is still my newest TBR jar pick.

Teaser Tuesdays #104 – July 26th: The Fire Child

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TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme originally featured at Books And A Beat. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

After I enjoyed reading The Ice Twins earlier this month, I’m really excited to be reading S.K. Tremayne‘s newest thriller The Fire Child. And so far the descriptions are just as good as in her first book! She is definitely excellent at setting a spooky atmosphere and I love the Cornish setting. I can’t wait to find out more about Jamie and Rachel.

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My teaser (23%):

“The sense of loss throbs, in this study, like a reopened wound at the heart of Carnhallow. And I feel like I am the shard in the flesh. Renewing the hurt.”

What are you reading right now?

ARC REVIEW: The Summer That Melted Everything – by Tiffany McDaniel

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Title: The Summer That Melted Everything
Author: Tiffany McDaniel
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: July 26th 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: July 21st 2016
Pages: 320
Rating 5qqq

“The heat came with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat had not. It should’ve been expected, though. Heat is, after all, the devil’s name, and when’s the last time you left home without yours?”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Wow. It doesn’t happen often, but this book left me speechless. The reviews were definitely right; this debut by Tiffany McDaniel is simply brilliant! I have to be honest and say I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me, because I normally don’t really like stories with a ‘strong’ religious touch… But The Summer That Melted Everything turned out to be so much more than that. I still feel overwhelmed by this story and the feelings it managed to provoke; the prose is just THAT strong. In fact, both the excellent writing, the hint of magical realism and the discrimination/intolerance theme turned The Summer That Melted Everything into one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Through the eyes of the main character Fielding Bliss and that dreadful summer of 1984 in the town Breathed, Ohio, we get to see a whole different version of the ‘fairy tale’ 80s. Racism, discrimination, AIDS, intolerance… The heat brings out the worst in the inhabitants of Breathed, and not just because of the rumor that the devil has come to town in the form of a black boy. Each chapter starts with a quote from Paradise Lost and alternates between an older Fielding and the young Fielding during that summer in 1984. And both Fielding and the other main characters are without well developed and intriguing characters! There are many different elements to the story, but Tiffany McDaniel did an excellent job of interconnecting them (the increasingly unbearable heat being a great symbol for the rising tensions). In short, I can say The Summer That Melted Everything is without doubt a must-read for any fan of contemporary and literary fiction with a touch of magical realism.

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During the summer of 1984, the lives of those living in Breathed, Ohio, have changed forever. It all started when Autopsy Bliss, the local prosecutor, invited the devil in an article and not soon after a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy showed up out of nowhere claiming to be the devil himself. Fielding Bliss is the one that found him and when he brings Sal home, he is welcomed into the Bliss family assuming he is a runaway. But not everybody is happy to welcome Sal into their town. In fact, more and more people seem to suspect his claim to be the devil, especially after an unbearable heat wave rolls into town at the same time Sal showed up. The increasing temperatures only make tensions rise even further, and when strange accidents start to happen, the town starts pointing their fingers to that strange black boy; believing that Sal is exactly who he claims to be and that he has to be punished. Will the heat drive them to do something terrible?

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This book turned out to be even better than I hoped. Not only is the prose simply brilliant, but it also addresses quite a few important themes in such a way that it can definitely be called an eye-opener. These themes are mixed with a touch of magical realism that only made this story that much more original; the intriguing and well developed characters and the descriptions making it really easy to enjoy this book. The Summer That Melted Everything will be published tomorrow and is without doubt worth the read!

BOOK REVIEW: Ruler Of Beasts – by Danielle Paige

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Title: Ruler Of Beasts
(Dorothy Must Die #0.6)
Author: Danielle Paige
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: February 16th 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: July 20th 2016
Pages: 84
Rating 3,5qqq

“You are not Wicked, dear Lion. But sometimes you put what you want over what is good for Oz.”

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Although I still think the novellas are not as good as the actual series, I do think Ruler Of Beasts is one of the most entertaining prequel short stories of the bunch. Unlike some of the other novellas, this one actually adds a whole new possible angle to the actual story. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed the Nome King will make another appearance in the actual books, because his character is without doubt an interesting one! Like with the rest of the series, Danielle Paige‘s prose turns Ruler Of Beasts into a really easy and fast read. The beginning is a bit slow and Glinda is annoying, but I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this particular novella so much is the huge part both the Lion and Ozma play in the story. Lion can become a bit whiny, but he does know how to spice up a story. If you have read the previous novella, you will surely enjoy this one as well. I can’t wait to finally start the third book though!

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When the Cowardly Lion first started his journey with Dorothy and the others, he wanted to have courage above all else. The Wizard gave him what he has always wanted, and now we find out what happens afterwards. The Lion’s wish has finally come true, but his life is not how he had imagined it. Sure, he is the courageous ruler of the forest and the beasts, but with Ozma ruling and Oz this peaceful, the Lion is bored. He misses the days of his adventures with Dorothy, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow, and now he is desperate to find something to liven up his day. Then Glinda shows up on his doorstep with a mission, and even though the Lion is not sure if it’s wise to accept, he jumps at the chance to do something exciting anyway.

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I think Ruler Of Beasts is one of my favorite novellas so far. I really enjoyed the fact that Ozma played an important part in the story and the Nome King surely is a great new character! I’m keeping my fingers crossed he will make another appearance in the future, because it will definitely add a nice plot twist to the main story. Like I said before, if you enjoyed the other novellas, definitely make time for this one as well. It’s not a must-read, but Ruler Of Beasts is without doubt entertaining.

BOOK REVIEW: The Neverland Wars – by Audrey Greathouse

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Title: The Neverland Wars
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: May 9th 2016
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Finished reading: July 20th 2016
Pages: 302
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“People think that only the serious is important. They forget how essential it is to remain whimsical.”

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I have to confess I’m confused. Did I miss something and The Neverland Wars is actually the first book of a series? Because I really had the feeling the actual story was still missing after I reached the final page. I mean, for a book that is called the Neverland WARS, there isn’t much explained about this supposed war between the children and adults… And the story kind of ended right when it was starting to become interesting. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really impressed by this book, and even thought of DNFing it once or twice. The first part had quite a slow pace and the prose/tone really bothered me. For a teenager not wanting to grow up, Gwen sounds awfully dull and ‘adult’. Just to give an example:

“Absorbed in their own antics, the young children did not much care as Gwen slunk away from the table. They continued boisterously, but she crept through the forest, stepping softly with her bare feet.”

Tell me I’m wrong when I say this doesn’t sound like YA appropriate prose. And definitely when it’s supposed to be about a teenager that doesn’t want to grow up… The tone just feels all wrong and the prose is ‘distant’ and doesn’t seem age-appropriate.  I agree things become better once they are in Neverland, but it didn’t stop bothering me. I wasn’t really a fan of Gwen in general, although I liked the general idea behind The Neverland Wars of an older Peter Pan and a teenager being torn between average teenage life and Neverland. I just wish the plot itself would have made more sense; less cliche teenage life and more Neverland magic, and of course more focus on the war itself. I kind of hope there will be a sequel focusing on the war… Because that truly was the most interesting part of this retelling.

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Gwen is just like any normal sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a crush on the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t really want to grow up, but doesn’t really believe in magic either… And she definitely didn’t know her little sister Rosemary could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that magic does really exist. Because that is exactly what  did end up happening, and Gwen soon finds herself chasing after her little sister so she can bring her home safe. But Neverland is without doubt a magical place, and Gwen is starting to like it there even though she feels out of place as a teenager. And her sister doesn’t seem to want to leave either. Gwen will have to make the difficult choice whether to stay in Neverland or return to reality, and the war isn’t making things easier.

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I was really looking forward to this Peter Pan retelling, but unfortunately The Neverland Wars didn’t live up to expectations. I enjoyed the part that was set in Neverland and the descriptions of the fictional place, but I wasn’t too convinced by the plot itself. I wish there would have been more about the war and less about Gwen and her cliche teenage life… Because that is what would have made this read truly interesting. And I think I have already made it clear I wasn’t convinced by the prose/tone either.