ARC REVIEW: The Little Red Wolf – by Amélie Fléchais

Title: The Little Red Wolf
Author: Amélie Fléchais

Genre: Picture Book, Retelling, Fantasy
First published: October 3rd 2017
Publisher: Lion Forge
Finished reading: August 3rd 2017
Pages: 80
(Originally written in French: ‘Le petit loup rouge’)

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


Every once in a while I start craving something completely different, and the best way to scratch that itch has always been picking up a graphic novel or picture book. I was having exactly that feeling not that long ago when I was browsing Netgalley, and my eyes went wide when I saw the cover of The Little Red Wolf. I immediately fell in love with the cover art and the promise of more lovely illustrations inside, so I hit that Read Now button so hard I almost broke my keyboard. I opened The Little Red Wolf not long after and I wasn’t disappointed by what I found. Such gorgeous illustrations! This little story has actually been published in French in 2014 and is now translated to English so more of us can enjoy it. As the title already hints, The Little Red Wolf is a wonderful retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood and told from the POV of a little wolf cub. The adorable and highly detailed drawings will appeal to young readers and parents alike and will bring a joyful experience discovering all the little details on each page. A little warning though, because this story is both whimsical and tragical at the same time and more sensitive children might not appreciate especially the second part of this picture book. I would personally recommend it for the age of six and up because of that. The Little Red Wolf has a mix of pages with just illustrations and others with more text, but I liked the balance between the two and the pages without text can be used perfectly to interact with young children. The moral of the story is a strong one as well: to show that things can easily be misinterpreted with terrible consequences… Hence the darker and tragic part of the story and a little warning to evaluate beforehand if your child could be affected negatively by that. That said, I personally absolutely loved this little picture book and its wonderful illustrations. Just what I needed!


A young wolf is sent to his grandmother to bring her a fresh rabbit. His mother has warned him to stay on the path and keep safe from the hunters, but the little wolf is distracted by the wonderful things in the forest. He soon finds himself lost, and then a nice girl appears who offers him help. But is she really as nice as she appears?


Just give one look at that cover and you will get a pretty good idea of what is waiting for you inside. The illustrations of The Little Red Wolf are absolutely gorgeous and will make you happy by just looking at them. They are very detailed as well; full of little drawings inside drawings to discover the longer you look at each page. The story itself is a mix of typical fairy tale and something a bit more darker and haunting, which is why I don’t think it’s suited for the youngest readers… But age 6 and up should be ok depending on how sensitive the child is to tragic themes.


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BOOK REVIEW: Unhooked – by Lisa Maxwell


Title: Unhooked
Author: Lisa Maxwell

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: January 22nd 2017
Pages: 352
Rating 3qqq

“Hers might never be calm or easy paintings, but those canvases are the way she keeps herself centered. She needs to create, or she will lose herself bit by bit to her fears and delusions.”


I had this book by Lisa Maxwell on my radar for a long time, so I was really excited when I saw it was offered as one of the free reads at RivetedLit. I read a sample of Unhooked some time last year and remember being thoroughly impressed by the beginning of this Peter Pan retelling. I was more than excited to be finally continuing this story, but as things advanced and the revamped Neverland worldbuilding was revealed things fell a little flat for me. The beginning was without doubt the strongest part of this book even though it has a minimum amount of ‘magical’ elements. The rest just didn’t live up to expecations… It might be the hint at a love triangle, it might be the whiney main character, but I didn’t enjoy Unhooked as much as I thought I would. The writing style was very enjoyable to read in general; the pace was fast in the beginning, but slowed down considerably later on despite the action scenes. In fact, it took me a lot longer than expected to read it and I barely finished it on the last day the book was available. Such a shame, because it sounded so promising!


Gwendolyn Allister has been on the run her whole life, all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. This time her fear has brought them to London, far away from the life she had trying to build for the last two years, but luckily she will still have her best friend Olivia with her for the summer… Their vacation won’t be what they were expecting though; both Gwen and Olivia end up being kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world that cannot be real. Has Gwen’s mother been right all this time after all? Gwen finds himself in Neverland, but it’s nothing like the original stories. Will she find a way to rescue Olivia and go back to her own world before it’s too late?


I have to admit, both the cover, blurb and preview had me literally ‘hooked’. I was really looking forward to continue reading Unhooked, but unfortunately the story started to fall flat for me as I continued reading and discovering more about the revamped Neverland. It’s not that I don’t like the mixed up ‘good’ and ‘bad’, but both the romance and some of the main characters were really starting to get on my nerves. The ending wasn’t really satisfying either… What was a very promising and enjoyable start with a spark, soon started to sizzle out and didn’t manage to convince me in the end.


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BOOK REVIEW: Furthermore – by Tahereh Mafi


Title: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Magic
First published: August 30th 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 16th 2016
Pages: 416
Rating 3,5qqq

“Why must you look like the rest of us? Why do you have to be the one to change? Change the way we see. Don’t change the way you are.”


I have been wanting to read Furthermore ever since I first heard about it. I admit I haven’t read Tahereh Mafi‘s popular Shatter Me series yet (mostly because of the mixed reviews I’ve seen out there), but this new story seems to be totally unrelated to it. Furthermore is a typical middle grade story that reads like a fairy tale and is full of adventures and a worldbuilding that is both creative and well executed. In fact, both the new world Tahereh Mafi created where color is currency and the plot itself are probably the strongest features of this book. The main characters are ok, although they did feel a bit underdeveloped at points. I loved the symbolism behind Alice though. As for the pace of the story: the beginning was quite slow and didn’t grab my attention right away, while the ending felt quite rushed. In other words, Furthermore lacked the right balance in pace and I would have liked to see a better ending. The story is well written though and I can see why middle graders would enjoy reading this story full of magical adventures. The chapters are not too long either, which makes it a great read to read out loud as well.


Ferenwood is a world where color is currency and the sign of magic as well. The more colorful the inhabitants are, the more powerful they seem to be… And that’s why Alice Alexis Queensmeadow doesn’t seem to be popular at all. She was born all white from top to bottom, and even though she desperately wants to fit in, everybody seems to treat her indifferently. Well, everyone except for Father, but he disappeared three years ago and nobody knows where he went. Alice is determined to find Father, and one day she gets help from an unexpected source. It turns out she will have to travel through the mythical and dangerous Furthermore to find him, and it will take all her wits to fulfill her quest.


Maybe my expectations were set too high, but while Furthermore was a very entertaining read I did have some minor problems with it. The biggest flaw might be the pace, which was too slow in the beginning and felt way too rushed in the end. The adventures itself were cute enough and I simply loved the worldbuilding and the idea of color as magic. I would have liked to see a bit more character development, but I liked Alice and I have no doubt it would be a big success in the target group.

BOOK REVIEW: The Neverland Wars – by Audrey Greathouse


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
Rating 2qqq

“People think that only the serious is important. They forget how essential it is to remain whimsical.”


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.


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.


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.

BOOK REVIEW: As Red As Blood – by Salla Simukka


Title: As Red As Blood
(Lumukki Andersson #1)
Author: Salla Simukka
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: February 20th 2013
Publisher: Skyscape
Finished reading: July 4th 2016
Pages: 274
(Originally written in Finnish: “Punainen Kuin Veri”)
Rating 2,5qqq

“Do not seek power for revenge. Seek power in order to avoid situations that would make you want revenge.”


After talking to a good friend of mine the other day (she’s Finnish), I remembered I had this book by the Finnish author Salla Simukka on my TBR shelves. I decided to pick up my copy of As Red As Blood on a whim even though I had heard mixed things about it, and the beginning definitely had me hooked. A few fairy tale references, the main character Lumikki named after Snow White, lots of action and suspense… The start of As Red As Blood had all the signs I was going to enjoy it. BUT: as things slowly got out of hand, I started to doubt the credibility of Lumikki and the plot in general. This novel is not a fantasy story, but the plot sure sounds fantastical at times. Lumikki is able to do and understand things only a ‘superspy’ could without no real explanation how she got those skills.. And why would she agree to help those three in the first place if they are not even friends? She also had too many ‘close calls’ for the story to be credible… I mean, she is just a teenage girl with a complicated past after all. I think this all would have bothered me less if there would have been more fantasy elements and it might just be that something was lost in translation, but I personally didn’t enjoy As Red As Blood as much as I hoped even though it was a fast read.


When Lumikki Andersson walks into her school’s dark room and finds a stash of wet, blood-stained money drying, she knows she found trouble. The thousands of Euros splattered with someone’s blood left to dry can only mean one thing: someone with access to the schoolgrounds either is a murderer or mixed up with the wrong crowd… But when she goes back after the first period to decide what to do with the money, it’s gone. She doesn’t want to get involved, focusing just on studying and graduating and ignoring the rest, but the blood-stained money changes everything. She follows one of the students to a bar, and when one of the trio recognizes Lumikki she soon finds herself right in the middle of a chain of chaotic events. Events that turn out to be even more deadly and dangerous after there are signs dirty cops and a drug kingpin are involved…


One of the things I liked of As Red As Blood is the setting: my friend used to live in Tampere as well and the descriptions made it feel like I was walking the streets myself. The pace of the story is fast and there is a lot of action involved, but unfortunately I can’t say the plot and character were really credible. I will still try to read the sequel at some point though!

BOOK REVIEW: Through The Woods – by Emily Carroll


Title: Through The Woods
Author: Emily Carroll
Genre: Graphic Novel, Horror, Paranormal
First published: July 15th 2014
Finished reading: October 7th 2015
Pages: 208
Rating 4qqq

“It came from the woods. Most strange things do.”


I have to confess: this is the first time I’ve read a graphic novel. Sure, I’ve read a few comics and stuff when I was younger, but I guess you can say that otherwise I’m pretty much a graphic novel virgin. As soon as I saw the cover of Through The Woods though, I knew I just had to read it. The illustrations Emily Carroll created are just so beautiful and really made this read something special. With the five short stories being delightfully creepy and the drawings matching the haunting atmosphere just right, this is what you call the perfect Halloween read. Not all five stories are equally terrifying, but I enjoyed reading every single one of them. I liked the illustrations of A Lady’s Hands Are Cold the best, The Nesting Place the scariest and to my surprise in My Friend Janna one of the characters my name! Not only doesn’t that happen that often, but it also appeared during a pretty creepy scene.


In short, if you enjoy reading creepy graphic stories with beautiful illustrations that you can stare at for hours, Through The Woods is an excellent choice.


This is a collection of five spooky graphic stories that are basically fairy tales gone wrong.

In Our Neighbor’s House you can travel to your neighbor, but it’s not certain you can return home…
In A Lady’s Hands Are Cold a newly married couple lives in a house with a terrible secret and the wife starts to hear creepy voices…
In His Face All Red two brothers go into the woods to kill a monster, but one of them is tormented by jealousy…
In My Friend Janna two friends pretend one of them can speak to ghosts, but their tricks come back to haunt them…
In The Nesting Place a girl visits her brother and new fiancé, but the woman has a terrible secret…


I do think not every plot is that strong, but the illustrations of Through The Woods more than make up for it. They are just so beautiful and make a perfect match with the haunting stories. Each story is scary in a different way and I really enjoyed reading all of them. The first one, Our Neigbor’s House, works perfectly as an introduction and the last one, The Nesting Place, is the scariest story by far. All in all this graphic novel by Emily Carroll is the perfect Halloween read!

BOOK REVIEW: The Wrath And The Dawn – by Renee Ahdieh


Title: The Wrath And The Dawn
(The Wrath And The Dawn #1)
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: May 12th 2015
Finished reading: August 13th 2015
Pages: 404
Rating 3,5

“Love is a force unto itself, sayyidi. For love, people consider the unthinkable…and often achieve the impossible. I would not sneer at its power.”


l have been debating for the last week on how to rate this novel. I cannot deny I enjoyed the second part of The Wrath And The Dawn, but it took me a really long time to get a proper feel for the story. I had a hard time remembering all the foreign names and places and it was just hard to get into the story in general. I actually started reading this novel by Renee Ahdieh three times before actually deciding to continue and finish it… This surely isn’t a good sign. I’ve thought about giving it a lower rating, but I don’t think it would do justice to the quite impressive worldbuilding, interesting characters and prose. Once you get used to the world The Wrath And The Dawn is set in, it is truly a delightful A Thousand And One Nights retelling. The only minor drawback of the second part would be the cliffhanger at the end… With the expected publish date for the sequel set in May 2016, it sure is a long and painful wait to find out what happens next to the main characters. Would I suggest reading this one? Probably, although it might be better to wait until the sequel is published…


Khalid is the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan and many people think he is a monster. Every night he takes a new bride and every dawn he kills them with a silk cord wrapped around her throat without explanation… After Shahrzad’s best friend becomes one of his victims, she decides she wants to kill Khalid to avenge the dead women… And she volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined to stay alive and end the suffering of the people of Khorasan. She enchants the king with her stories when he comes to her chamber night after night, knowing that each dawn could be her last… But it seems that Khalid isn’t quite the monster she had imagined him to be. What will happen to them? And why did Khalid kill his brides in the first place?


I have to be honest and say I finished The Wrath And The Dawn mostly because I joined Bibliophile Gathering‘s read along this month; I don’t think I would have continued reading to the point I started to enjoy this novel otherwise. The Wrath And The Dawn has a really slow start and the many foreign names and places make it hard to get a proper feel for the story. I’m glad I decided to continue though, because I really enjoyed the second part. For those who are struggling to start this novel: try to give it a chance, it does get a lot better after a while! But it definitely wasn’t as good as I was hoping for…