Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book review: Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

A beautifully rendered retelling of Peter Pan, the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Warning: You may end up pretending that this version is the original story you’ve grown up with.

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell(first published in 2016 by Simon Pulse)
Summary:

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home. Her mother believes they are being hunted by brutal monsters, and those delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. Gwen’s only saving grace is that her best friend, Olivia, is with her for the summer.

But shortly after their arrival, the girls are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and dragged to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey. And Gwen begins to realize that maybe her mother isn’t so crazy after all…

Gwen discovers that this new world she inhabits is called Neverland, but it’s nothing like the Neverland you’ve heard about in stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through your fingers.

As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and tries to find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the captivating pirate who promises to keep her safe.

Caught in the ultimate battle between good and evil, with time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to finally face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But can she save Neverland without losing herself?

Review:

What an unbelievably lush, gorgeous and thrilling retelling of Peter Pan.  I’ve never heard of Lisa Maxwell before, but after reading this book? I’m definitely going to be looking out for more of her work.
 
Peter Pan has long been one of my favourite fairy tales and I’ve long been looking for a book that captures the whimsy of Neverland, while also offering a glimpse into a world that’s more than the one we’ve come to know from our childhood.

The best thing about this book so far is that it plays out the results of a question I’ve always contemplated: what if there was more to Hook than we ever thought and what if he wasn’t the villain that we’ve always been led to believe?

And boy, are my questions answered in the best and most satisfactory way possible!

Not only is the world a shape-shifting miasma of contradictions, but Lisa’s characterisations and writing amalgamate perfectly to form a beautifully drawn out tapestry of a world that is both enchanting and deadly.

I won’t go into details about the characters (you should really experience them yourselves), but I will give you a brief little teaser.

Be prepared to meet one plucky and feisty heroine in Gwen (who may be far more than she seems), a charming and roguish pirate who will make you swoon, deadly fey creatures whose alliances you’ll constantly find yourself questioning and, of course, the boy who started it all: the suave, beguiling and enigmatic Peter Pan.

You’ll be immersed and drawn into a fantastical setting vividly brought to life with the skilful brush of Lisa’s writerly hands and creative mind.

It’s a world that’s filled with all manner of monsters, but also one that cleverly plays into the idea of appearances being deceiving. Brimming with magic, heroic deeds and all manner of mischief, Unhooked is a nod to the old tale of yonder, but also a new and darkly beautiful treat for those who have yet to discover the wonder of Neverland.

The best thing (or perhaps most frustrating, depending on your point of view) is that Unhooked has somewhat of an open ending. There’s enough to give you as the reader closure, and yet, there’s more than enough room for the possibility of a sequel – one that I would really, really love to see being materialised at some point in the future.

Either way, Unhooked has definitely earned itself a nod as one of my first favourite reads of 2016.

Go out and get a copy – this one’s a corker of a read.

P.S. I loved this one so much that aside from the e-galley, I actually purchased a physical copy of the book as well.

Source: Review copy received from the publisher via Netgalley.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Book review: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

This is the story of twins coming together, falling apart and rebuilding what is left when the planet they’ve been circling has thrown them both out of orbit.

Disclaimer: Review originally appeared on Women24. A copy of the book can be purchased via Raru.co.za.


I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (first published in 2015 by Walker Books)
Jandy Nelson has been a favourite of mine ever since she first wrote The Sky is Everywhere. She casts a spell with words, weaves them together and paints a world mired in linguistic art.

The years between Jandy writing The Sky is Everywhere and I’ll Give You the Sun was interminably long; Jandy certainly seemed content to keep her fans waiting while she churned out yet another masterpiece.

You know what though? The wait was completely worth it.

I’ll Give You the Sun is an exquisitely written novel with a seemingly simple premise.

Jude and Noah are twins who’ve always been close. From sharing the sun, the planet and the stars (metaphorically speaking), to having a telepathic bond and being able to feel each other’s emotions (as some twins are wont to do), these two have always been orbiting around the same planet since they’ve been in their mother’s womb.

When their mother dies in a car accident, the world around them changes and everything they’ve lived for and loved dies with her.

Exploring themes of grief, loss, familial relationships, I’ll Give You the Sun is not so much a novel about death than it is about a journey to re-finding the beauty in living again following the pain that death brings.

It’s a book that’s hard to review because not only is it an encompassing treatise on art and using it as a medium for self-expression but it’s also a novel that explores what happens when the impact of grief destroys that creative outlet.

It’s a little purple prose heavy, but once you get used to the writing style, you’re quickly swept into a novel that is filled with moments of philosophical beauty and searing heartbreak.

It’s about beauty and tragedy, art and chaos, harmony and dissonance, all rolled into one.

Read it for the beautiful characters and read it because it explores teenage sexuality, love and finding your place in society even if you feel as if you’re living on the fringe.

Mostly though, read it because it’s an unforgettable novel that reminds you that it’s okay to fight, flail and fall through the unbearable agony of grief, all before you find your feet again. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Book-to-movie review: The 5th Wave

The book has made waves on an international scale, but just how does the film adaptation of The 5th Wave compare?

Disclaimer: Review originally appears on Channel24, one of Women24's sister websites.

This review should really be titled: “I watched The 5th Wave so that you don’t have to.”

As a book lover, I suffer from the eternal delusion that somehow, somewhere, someone will perfect the art of adapting a book to screen.  This fantasy of mine is a curse because I really should know better by now.

Yes, I’ve seen glimpses of brilliance on the odd occasion, but overall, many a book lover (myself included) would tell you that THE BOOK IS ALWAYS BETTER. 

And never has it applied more to a movie than this instance.

In light of this, here’s my advice:

If you are going to watch the movie, read the book first (check out my review here) .  If you’ve read the book, don’t watch the movie (unless you’re very curious, in which case even then, you should wait till it’s out on DVD). 

I know. It’s a bit of a double-whammy, isn’t it?

Here’s my problem with it though.

What should have been a raw and brutal dystopian tale of survival and perseverance comes across as being nothing more than a limp, insipid and uninspired movie filled with unenthusiastic teenagers trying to survive and save the world in the midst of devastating alien attacks.

I’m not sure what screenplay writers Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner were thinking when they first adapted Rick Yancey’s best-selling novel for the big screen, but what they’ve given us is a watered down and almost censored version of a book, that by all accounts, is one of the best written sci-fi novels for young adults.

It doesn’t help that the acting is rather subpar.

Chloƫ Grace Moretz delivers a luke-warm performance in the role of Cassie.

She certainly has a few action-filled moments and provides us with glimpses of her potential as a badass, butt-kicking heroine, but that’s unfortunately marred by choppy scenes that change perspective and location too quickly, and often don’t always make sense within the context given to us (This is why I think it’s better going into the movie having read the book).

Nick Robinson makes for a rather dull Ben Parish, whose role as the teen soldier who was rescued and recruited to fight against the invaders, can best be described as lacklustre. 

Most disappointing of all is Liev Schrieber who is all bark and no bite in the role of the vicious, cold and calculating Colonel Vosch (whose book persona is a hell of a lot scarier than the feeble and underwhelming commander whose role is greatly reduced in the film version).

I can argue the case for Alex Roe, whose role as the mysterious Evan Walker was played with at least some degree of authenticity, but like Moretz, he too, fell victim to bad filming decisions and not having his character being as developed as it is in the book. 

A real pity, if you ask me.

You know how you can say that with some films, they make you want to read the book? This is unfortunately not one of them.  

And that breaks my heart because the book is such an incredible read.  What I watched was definitely not what I read, and while I understand that there will always be changes that are made when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations, surely it’s not too much to ask for it not to be stripped of its essence while offering nothing but the bare bones in its stead?

What a waste.

I hope the rest of this trilogy is left alone.