ARC REVIEW: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade – by Miriam McNamara

Title: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade
Author: Miriam McNamara
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: June 19th 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Finished reading: June 11th 2018
Pages: 336

“All that water, bits of land – so many places she could be in this new world. But for all of Anne’s geography lessons, Mary was still hopeless at figuring out where exactly she might fit in it.”

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

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I love a good pirate story and the blurb of The Unbinding Of Mary Reade sounds just as fantastic as the gorgeous cover, so I’ve been really excited to finally read this one. And with its f/f romance, I thought it would be a perfect story to read during pride month as well. Alas it seems like it wasn’t ment to be. I didn’t check the reviews before starting this one, or at least I would have been warned… Because The Unbinding Of Mary Reade unfortunately turned out to be quite a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the idea behind this book, the possibilities of the setting, the f/f romance, the characters… But the execution was just completely off for me. I will try to explain why this book didn’t work for me below. First of all, I struggled with the writing style, which felt halted with dialogues that didn’t seem natural. The use of ‘bad grammar’ in the dialogues only distracted (aka annoyed) me instead of adding the right historical atmosphere. Also, the constant switching back and forth in time was really distracting and made it hard to stay focused on the main plot. Especially since the chapters set in London basically didn’t add anything substantial to the story and were extremely dull. In fact, I found the story in general quite boring, and how is that possible for a story with gay pirates in it?? For a book about pirates, there were almost no action scenes or even scenes on a boat included in the plot. And that was quite a disappointment, since there was basically nothing of note to fill this huge hole of lack of action. Ok, characters. The characters in general lacked development and were rather bland. Anne almost felt like a caricature and while Mary had all the potential of being a fascinating character, she mostly fell flat for me and I wasn’t able to believe either of their feelings or actions. This lack of credibility extends to the other characters as well. Also, trigger warnings are in place for homophobia, transphobia, (sexual) abuse and sexism in general. I get that we are talking about an 18th century setting, but this was just too much. In short, while I still love the idea behind this story, the execution was rather poorly and The Unbinding Of Mary Reade turned out to be a rather chaoticly written, dull and not credible love story. Did I expect this reaction? No, but unfortunately I can’t change the way I feel about this one.

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When Mary was really young, her mother saw no other way to keep their mouths fed than to disguise her little girl as a boy and pass her off as her dead child Mark. Mark has a wealthy granny that will take care of her only grandchild and heir… So there is no place for a girl in Mary’s world, and she has to be Mark at all time to not see her life fall apart. This gets harder as the years go on and she falls in love with her childhood friend Nat. And when she is discovered, she flees London with Nat and boards a Caribbean merchant ship as a sailor. But what will the future bring?

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I keep repeating: I still love the idea behind this story and I truly wish I could have enjoyed The Unbinding Of Mary Reade better. Unfortunately, I found the execution lacking in various ways, and I had a hard time finishing this one. Between the chaotic writing style that didn’t flow, a rather dull plot, bland characters, lack of action and a not so credible display of emotions, I can’t say I was impressed. Where were the pirates, were was the action? Why did we have to read so much about Mary’s past in London, if her life on the Caribbean Sea is what really counts for this story? Why wasn’t there more focus on Mary and Anne? Why the excessive amount of sexism, homophobia, transphobia and sexual assault? The tone for this supposedly YA rated story was completely off, especially since Mary felt younger than the age group during most of the story. All in all not the story I was hoping for.


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BOOK REVIEW: A Gathering Of Shadows – by V.E. Schwab

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Title: A Gathering Of Shadows
(Shades Of Magic #2)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: February 23rd 2016
Finished reading: April 27th 2016
Pages: 512
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“The world is neither fair nor right, but it has a way of balancing itself. Magic teaches us that much.”

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You know a book is good when you’ve been trying to write a review for the past two weeks and still can’t get anything constructive on paper that doesn’t sound like you’re just fangirling over the place. So don’t say I didn’t warn you… Because this is exactly what has been happening with the first two books in the Shades Of Magic series. Both A Darker Shade Of Magic and A Gathering Of Shadows are without doubt brilliant books and I still can’t believe it took me this long to discover V.E. Schwab‘s writing. This woman literally turns into gold anything she touches and I can’t wait to read more of her work… See, I told you this review was going to be a complete mess! Let’s see if I can finally say anything coherent about A Gathering Of Shadows…First of all, the prose and worldbuilding are just as excellent as the first book and it makes me wonder if she is able to write anything bad. If I have to pick a favorite, I think I liked the plot of the first book slightly better, but the tournament is still really entertaining to read about. And those plot twists! I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but there will be quite a few surprises waiting for you as you read this story. The ending is in one word painful; while the first book had a clearly marked ending of their adventure, A Gathering Of Shadows ends with an infamous cliffhanger. And with the expected publish date for the third book A Conjuring Of Light recently set in February 2017, it sure will be a long wait to find out what happens to my new favorite characters. The only thing I wasn’t so sure about and made me cut off half a star of the final rating was the appearance of a few romance scenes. I was kind of already expecting (read: dreading) it, but this series is no longer completely romance-free. I knew it was too good to be true… Still, this series is a must read for any fantasy fan.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

It has been four months since Kell met Delilah Bard, had their adventures, saved the day and last saw each other. Kell had to give up his smuggling habit and his travels are limited to Grey London since White London is still too dangerous to visit. He feels like he is trapped inside a cage… Lila on the other had has been following her dream of freedom and owning her own ship one day and disappeared from the docks those four months ago. What Kell doesn’t know she has been on board of a certain pirate ship all along, and soon they will most likely meet again… Because Red London is preparing to host the Element Games; an international competition of magic both to entertain the masses and strenghten the ties between the neighboring countries. It seems like the competition will have two ‘unknown’ participants fighting as well, but will they be able to keep their true identity a secret? And what about the fates Black and White London?

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Those who follow my blog will already know how much I loved A Darker Shade Of Magic, and this sequel is just as good. The only reason I haven’t given A Gathering Of Shadows the full five stars as well is because I was slightly disappointed by the fact that the story was no longer romance free (even though I kind of wanted them to be together) and I liked the plot of the first book slightly better. The character development in A Gathering Of Shadows is a bit more complex though and the prose is just as brilliant as the first book. In short, if you enjoyed A Darker Shade Of Magic, you will love this book as well. And if you haven’t read this series yet, I strongly suggest you do!

BOOK REVIEW: Treasure Island – by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Title: Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Genre: Classics, YA, Historical Fiction
First published: 1883
Finished reading: May 24th 2015
Pages: 190
Rating 2

“It was Silver’s voice, and before I had heard a dozen words, I would not have shown myself for all the world. I lay there, trembling and listening, in the extreme of fear and curiostiy, for, in those dozen words, I understood that the lives of all the honest men aboard depended on me alone.”

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I wanted to like this classic pirate story by Robert Louis Stevenson so bad. A children story about pirates and a treasure hunt sounded like the perfect read, but unfortunately I ended up being quite disappointed by it. I was unable to warm up to the main characters and there is a significant lack of action during the whole novel. I mean, the story is supposed to be about a treasure hunt, but they all seem to talk more than they actually ‘hunt’. To be honest, I cannot see why Treasure Island would actually be considered children literature… I felt bored during most of the story (not counting the final chapters), so I wonder how children will be able to pay attention for so long. I didn’t mind the prose; that is what you expect when you start reading a classic written in the 19th century. Plus, with my kindle I was able to look up any old-fashioned words quickly anyway. But I did mind the characters and their sometimes less convincing actions. Taking Jim Hawkins for example: he sure is entitled to survive a lot of dangers for a boy his age! I know a lot of people love this classic and my opinion won’t be popular, but Treasure Island really just wasn’t for me.

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Jim Hawkins is a very clever boy who ends up outsmarting a whole gang of dangerous pirates. When he gets his hands on a treasure map, he and local Doctor Livesy decide to go look for the treasure before the pirates that killed the original owner show up again. But the squire that works for the doctor doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut, and soon they are in more trouble than they can imagine… As they board the ship that will take them to the island the treasure is hidden, the three don’t realize that half of the crew is made out of the same pirates they tried to run away from. Looking for the treasure won’t be as easy as they had originally planned…

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I feel almost bad for not enjoying Treasure Island, but to be honest I had a hard time finishing this classic. I found especially the first part of the story quite boring and the characters didn’t exactly convince me. It could have been because I was expecting something different or because I had really high expectations, but I know one thing for sure: Treasure Island won’t be making it to my favorite classics list.