Book Review: Neverland by Shari Arnold

neverland

Favourite quotes:

“There should be a rule universally accepted when it comes to kids, like an age restriction. Nothing and no one should harm a child during the time they are too young to fend for themselves. I get that life isn’t fair. But it’s far worse when you don’t understand what is happening to you. When you’re too young to even make sense of it. The death of a child hoes beyond unfair. It feels like a punishment”.

“Love isn’t selfish. It may be unkind and it will definitely humble you, but never will it demand what it can’t give back”.

“There’s this feeling I get sometimes, that I’m displaced, like I’ve fallen and no one has noticed yet. If I stay real still they’ll avoid me, put up pylons around me like I’m a large pothole in the ground. Yes. That’s what I am. I’m a pothole. And until someone comes along and fixes me, I am dangerous. I am broken. I am not a part of this life and yet I’m still here”.

 

Is anybody else missing “Once Upon a Time” like I am? March is still weeks away 😦

In the meantime,I suggest you enjoy this gif of my favourite character:

killian

and this review I wrote of a lovely, albeit not too well-known, retelling of “Peter Pan”.

 

Livy Cloud’s little sister Jenna died of cancer four months ago in Seattle Children’s Hospital. Ever since then, Livy spends most of her time there, reading stories to sick kids, hoping to make their stay there at least a little bit more bearable. She can’t bear the thought of any kid going through what Jenna had gone through, and hopes that by being there, she can at least help somewhat. Besides, it’s better than being at home, with her father who’s been locked up in his study since Jenna’s death and her mother whose sole focus is her Senate campaign. The children, especially Jenna’s best friend Jilly, love listening to Livy’s stories. However, they don’t seem to help Livy herself. She is unable to move on, to stop holding onto Jenna, to move past the denial and depression stages of grief. One day, she meets a mysterious teenage boy named Meyer in the reading room. He doesn’t answer any questions about himself – all he seems to want is for Livy to go on adventures with him and his mysterious friends all over town. Adventures are obviously the last thing on Livy’s mind, but little by little, she remembers how to have fun. Until a tragedy that was Meyer’s fault nearly takes away her best friend. Livy pushes him away and focuses her efforts on saving Jilly’s life – she is a match for a bone marrow translplant and if she couldn’t save Jenna, saving Jilly is the least she can do. However, her new tutor James H. makes her question things, encourages her to broaden her mind, reconsider many issues. Can Livy survive the operation and if not, what awaits her afterwards? Who is Meyer really and why does he seem to know James? And can Livy ever really move on from Jenna’s death and be happy again?

 

I was intrigued by the idea of a Peter Pan retelling taking place in a modern hospital, so that’s how “Neverland” made its way to my TBR almost a year ago. I did expect it to be quite an intense read – most loss of innocence stories are. What I didn’t expect it to be is an amazing tear-jerker that pulled me in right away. Nor did I expect to have such a hard time pausing when life got in the way.

Indeed, “Neverland” was both a sad and beautiful tale of family love, loss of innocence (like most of the Peter Pan retellings) and overcoming grief, and a mystery. The main mystery – for Livy, not for the reader – was Meyer. She is a girl from our world, and naturally she doesn’t believe in Peter Pan, Neverland, mermaids and all that magical stuff. There is little magic left in her life now that Jenna’s gone, so why is Meyer trying to convince her that it exists? Both Meyer and James are making her view Jenna’s passing in different lights, and yet they shed little light upon themseves. And whilst I realised whom they were supposed to represent pretty much right away (James Hook is not someone I’d ever miss), I was very intrigued by the direction the story was taking. Seemingly occurring in our world, it had touches of magical realism that were weaved into the contemporary setting by a skilled pen, as though they belonged here.

The characters and tropes are an integral part of “Neverland”. I have to admit, whilst I saw the glimpses of the seemingly intended love triangle, it didn’t bother me as much as it normally does. Nor did the insta-love between Livy and Meyer. I usually scoff at insta-love because most of the time, it is written in a very unbelieavable way, but I could see it happening to someone who’s gone through what Livy has gone through and I could certainly believe that she had fallen for Meyer. Another trope is loss of a young family member being a catalyst for character development. Jenna was a lot more than a plot device, but her death sets the events of “Neverland” in motion and thus serves as a prism for Livy’s character development. Livy has always been a good person, but it is through that prism that we see how selfless and loving she really is, and how, despite the devastating loss and the grim atmosphere of the hospital around her, she has retained a zest for life. Meyer was just a way to bring it back out – it’s always been there. Her romance with Meyer is important to the overall story, but it does not distract from the rest of the book, which is essentially Livy-centric. That’s not to say that the background characters are underdeveloped or boring. For example, the James Hook twist was definitely a new one and yet I could so see it.

You know that an author is talented when they write things that the reader believes and gets. “Neverland” is not Shari Arnold’s debut novel – it’s not even her first self-published novel. And reading it was an amazing experience. My rating is 8.5/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Neverland” if you liked:

“Never Ever” by Sara Saedi

“Nora & Kettle” by Lauren Taylor

“Alias Hook” by Lisa Jensen

“The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” by Leslye Walton

 

Have you read “Neverland”? What are your favourite Peter Pen retellings? Drop me a line in the comments! 🙂

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Book Review: Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

alias hook

(Guys, I opened an Etsy charity shop! Check it out and help stop human trafficking!)

Most of you know that I’m a big fan of this guy:

killian

 

you’re welcome for the GIF ladies and gentlemen 😉 I’ll try my best to not mention OUAT in this review, but no promises

As can be discerned from the title, this is a retelling of “Peter Pan”. Except it’s from James Hook’s point of view. You know I’m a sucker for a good villain’s story, as I explained in my review of “Wicked”. But to be honest, I have always been more of a Captain Hook fan than Peter Pan’s – that kid is really creepy if you think about it. In “Alias Hook”, James Benjamin Hookbridge is a handsome, witty, educated gentleman from Bristol (I miss Bristol so much) who, thanks to a combination of several quite unfortunate events and his misplaced smart mouth and “pillaging and plundering”, gets himself cursed into Neverland in the XVIII century and is doomed to relive the plot of “Peter and Wendy” for eternity, without the possibility of death. Until one day, in 1950, Neverland’s routine is interrupted by an adult woman. Stella Parrish is a governess from London who’s lost her entire family, and thus begins to dream of Neverland, of a chance to be like a kid again. What she fails to realise, however, is that Neverland is not quite the magical place JM Barrie wrote about, and there is a lot more to Captain Hook than meets the eye. Will Stella become James’ path to salvation or death? Or are they one and the same?

 

When I began to look for a Peter Pan retelling where Hook is more than just a villain, I found “Alias Hook” almost right away. The title made me believe that James Hook was written as some sort of a “spy” who had to use an alias for a mission to Neverland.

I was wrong. This is not a spy novel featuring a handsome and noble Byronic hero – this is a romance novel featuring a handsome and noble Byronic hero. You could even say it’s a “pirate and princess” story. Except the princess in this case isn’t Wendy (I liked that the author made no allusions to the fact that Hook could be Wendy’s father – I’ve always hated that interpretation), but a governess summoned to Neverland by mystic forces. The fact that she was at some point called “Saviour” made me laugh – Hook does have a type doesn’t he?

Given what I have told you in the above paragraph, it would be a lie to say that the book met my expectations. It is a very personal thing, but I am not a big fan of instances when I expect a novel to be <insert any genre but romance here>, and it turns out to be a romantic story. So on the one hand, “Alias Hook” was different from what I expected, and not necessarily in a good way.

Romance may be a genre of which I am not fond of, but I must confess that I am a little bit in love with James Hook (I’m not talking about the Disney version that I’ve never seen). While I thought that the romance between him and Stella was slightly rushed, with them going from allies to lovers in a disturbingly short period of time, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the sex scenes that featured James (with Stella, as well as others). Shallow as it may sound, James Hook is a very handsome man (even according to J.M. Barrie), and the scenes were very erotic and sensual, without the usual “mush” I’ve encountered in many a romance novel. The ending was not what I expected, and usually I would hate that kind of an ending in a romance novel, but it works in this instance, even though it did made me tear up!

“Alias Hook” it is an excellent retelling of “Peter Pan”. Lisa Jensen’s view of Pan is similar to mine – he is a figure that is a lot more disturbing than most people view him. As Hook says, “he is sorrow, guile, death“, not “youth and joy and innocence“. Neverland is Pan’s disturbing world, where he is King and Hook is his plaything. Everyone on his crew can die, but him. Jensen has certainly captured the essence of both Hook and Pan masterfully – they are both incredibly interesting characters in the original book, and she has done them justice. Hook’s tragic hero persona is what drew me to him in both “Once Upon a Time” and “Alias Hook”, not to mention the original story. He is very relatable to me, for many reasons, and Jensen’s portrayal of him did quite a lot to make my Jamie-loving heart miss a few beats! The backstory fitted quite well with my ideas for his past, and his character development made perfect sense, considering everything that happened to him. Jensen’s writing is very beautiful and is in tone with the eras in which the story takes place. Hook’s ability to verbalise beautifully, with an occasional “Bloody Hell” thrown in, is an integral part of his character, and is a big reason why I love him, so I was happy to see that the author agreed with me on that. The writing and the characters are, I have to say, the best part of the book, and are the main reasons why my rating for “Alias Hook” is 7/10. 

 

Favourite quotes

A better world exists, some place where the grown-ups haven’t got to yet. I’ve seen it in my dreams. I know it in my heart. This book ends, as books must do, but there’s always more to the story”.

“The world needs magic, now more than ever. If there is no safe place for children to dream, how will they ever dream themselves a better world?”

Perhaps one has to grasp at life as lustily as I once did to appreciate the majesty of death. I neither expect nor require a good death for myself; it may be as hideous as he likes so long as it is permanent”. 

 

Dreamcast (no OUAT cast in this one, sorry!)

James Benjamin Hookbridge (Captain Hook) – Henry Cavill

Peter Pan – Asa Butterfield

Stella Parrish – Jill Flint

Proserpina – Melanie Nicholls King

 

Recommendations

You might like “Alias Hook” if you liked:

“Scarlet” by A.C. Gaughen

“Neverland” by Shari Arnold

“Once Upon a Time”