Book Blitz: The Neverland Wars – Audrey Greathouse

The Neverland Wars
Audrey Greathouse
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: May 9th 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Retelling, Young Adult

Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

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A flash of lightning electrified the sky, shooting light through the forest with a jarring pang. The boom of thunder followed immediately after. The sky was grey and the clouds shifted like a swarm of dark fish in a pond. Gwen feared she would be caught in a storm, but not a drop of rain had fallen yet.

All at once, Gwen found herself in a meadow. She had never been here before; she knew that. Wildflowers cropped up in sporadic clumps, and the long, green grasses were uncut at her calves. The tree line had suddenly broken. One minute, she was racing through the forest, the next, she was floating here. Pausing to catch her breath, she ironically felt safer in this open area than in the claustrophobic security of the forest. She landed gently, unthinkingly. Turning her head to the sky, she saw the faint grey clouds blowing and rolling away. Darker clouds seemed to be coming to take their place.

On the other side of the meadow, Peter burst into the clearing. Bramble was leading him, guiding the boy to poor, lost Gwen. If Gwen had understood the fairy language, she would have already known that.


“Peter?” Gwen shouted. She ran to him, and between her bounding strides and his quick flight, they met in the middle of the meadow, cornflowers and lilacs growing up around them. Perhaps if he had been on the ground initially, she would have hugged him. Peter lingered in the air for just a moment though, and by the time he landed, the impulse to hug each other had melted away into urgent discussion. “What are you doing out here?” His voice carried the sort of anger that only accompanied concern.

“I got lost in the woods; I was trying to come back. Is something wrong, Peter?”

Bramble flitted back and forth, pacing in the air, objecting to Peter and Gwen having this conversation now, rather than when they were safely underground.

“The opposition, they’ve launched an attack. We’ve got to get to cover.”

“What? No, it’s just a storm.” Gwen didn’t understand what Peter was telling her, but she had already made up her mind that she didn’t believe it.
“Gwen-dollie, we’ve got to go. There’s—”

The sky was suddenly drained of light. The thin, grey clouds that had blocked the sun were eclipsed by darker, brooding storm clouds, and as the daylight faded, small, grey flecks began to rain down. As they drifted softly, Gwen knew it wasn’t rain. Her attention was as captivated as Peter’s was, but she did not understand what it was the way he did. “Snow?” she asked quizzically, looking at the grey and dirty powder as it started to fall around her.

Peter held out his hand and caught a flake of it, crushing it in his hand. It left a smoky residue on his palm. “Ash.”

The winds picked up, and more of the ash furiously fluttered down. It became larger, and Gwen could hardly comprehend the charred flecks of paper that were plummeting down. Peter zipped up into the air, jumping more than flying, to grab a large square of it. He came back down immediately, a look of horror on his face.

“Peter, what is it?” Gwen pled, hoping that her fear was born of her unknowing, that if she only had answers she wouldn’t be afraid, but from the look on his face, she knew that answers would only bring more fear.

The invisible hand of the wind grabbed the paper from out of Peter’s hold. It blew straight to Gwen. Catching it, she realized it was a page from out of a newspaper; the title read—ISIS ATTACK ON ERBIL; HUNDREDS DEAD.

She had seen newspaper headlines before, but this news did not belong here. Not in Neverland. It was too dark, too terrifying of a thing to read amid the lilacs and cornflowers. Again, she begged, “What is this, Peter?”

The page was torn out of her hand by the vindictive wind. Peter answered her, with a word she had never feared so greatly. “Reality.”

Author Bio:

Audrey Greathouse is a lost child in a perpetual and footloose quest for her own post-adolescent Neverland. Originally from Seattle, she earned her English B.A. from Southern New Hampshire University’s online program while backpacking around the west coast and pretending to be a student at Stanford. A pianist, circus artist, fire-eater, street mime, swing dancer, and novelist, Audrey wears many hats wherever she is. She has grand hopes for the future which include publishing more books and owning a crockpot. You can find her at

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ARC Review: A Thousand Nights – E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights – E.K. Johnston

21524446Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

Release Date: October 6th, 2015

Thank you to Cuddlebuggery and their Little Blogger, Big Ambition project and Shelly at Read.Sleep.Repeat for sending me the arc! Cuddlebuggery is one of my favourite YA book blogs and, having briefly chatted with her on Twitter, Shelly seems like a total sweetheart (I swear they didn’t pay me to say this).

I’ve seen a lot of reviews comparing this book to The Wrath and the Dawn, but, since I haven’t read The Wrath and the Dawn yet (I know, what am I waiting for?), I figured I’d go into it without any preconceived notions.

Unfortunately, I read this book in between Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight which was silly of me, because Laini Taylor left me on such a book-high, very few things could have compared to it. So the timing was poor on my part, but I also just couldn’t get into this story.

What I liked:

-the writing. It had the right tone for the story – nothing modern or jarring, it was poetic and lovely and there were some nice descriptions.

-I LOVE that the strongest relationship in the book was between two sisters. As someone who is exceptionally close to her sisters myself, I could relate to that feeling of wanting to protect your older siblings because you can’t stand to see them hurt.

-there were some chapters from the demon-spirit-thing’s point of view, which was cool and added a touch of darkness, but the typeface killed my eyes and made it hard to focus. But maybe I’m just old, I don’t know.

-I appreciate some good old magical realism every now and then.

What I didn’t like:

-I understood that she was Doing a Thing by having the majority of her characters remain nameless, but it felt awkward, especially when the sisters were talking to each other. It was also quite cumbersome to refer to older relatives as her “father’s father’s father”, but I suppose it’s more traditional?

-I’m still not entirely sure how she saved the day. And since there was no romance, I really didn’t understand her decision at the end.

-my biggest problem: where were the stories? I’m not an expert on the tales of Scheherazade or anything, but I expected some stories. Legends or myths or straight-up nonsense – not brief snippets of conversation, usually revolving around her sister (not that there’s anything wrong with telling stories about your siblings, I do it all the time!). I did like that certain things she said seemed to come true, but since it wasn’t saving her life, it was a little bit of a letdown.

Overall, I just couldn’t get into it. There were a lot of pages, but it didn’t seem like much was happening, and I felt like it took me a lot longer to read than it should have. I’m sure there are people who will appreciate the more meandering pace of the novel. Also, the lack of romance was both refreshing and disappointing, and I’m not sure how I feel yet.

That being said, I’m really interested in E.K. Johnston’s forthcoming novel, Exit, Pursued By a Bear, and I’ll probably give that a chance since I liked her writing style.


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Anne & Henry – Dawn Ius

Anne & Henry – Dawn Ius

In this wonderfully creative retelling of the infamous—and torrid—love affair between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, history collides with the present when a sizzling romance ignites in a modern-day high school.
Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved.

Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life.

Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him.

Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both?

Inspired by the true story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, Anne & Henry beautifully reimagines the intensity, love, and betrayal between one of the most infamous couples of all time.

I won a hardcover copy of this in a giveaway, so thanks so much to Christina at The Paperback Princesses and Simon & Schuster!

Instead of breaking it down to what I liked/what I didn’t like, I wrote down some thoughts about it (some mild spoilers ahead):

  • What the heck is the timeline for these events? When did Arthur/his dad die? How long has it been since Anne’s mom remarried? How long were Henry/Anne together? So many questions.
  • When will YA books realize that a “different” piercing (i.e. not your ears) does not make you “bad”? I mean, yeah, Henry thought it was hot, but I think he said that in the same breath as “she looks like trouble” or something along those lines.
  • There was a lot of emotion in the book but it seemed like it was just thrown in there without buildup: one minute Henry was worried. Then he was angry. Then he was drooling all over Anne. All in the span of two minutes.
  • At the same time, most of their emotions felt superficial. If I had to read “s/he is hot” one more time, I was going to lose my head mind.
  • Henry was such a dick. I’m sure Henry VIII was also a dick, but at least he was a king and you could understand why all the ladies were okay with being used by him. This Henry, though, is the school president, and too much of a tool to be attractive (sorry). I don’t know why Anne (or Catherine, for that matter), put up with him.
  • I kinda liked the spin on Mary Boleyn, but it could have been really interesting if Henry had known her before (like in One Tree Hill when Nathan realizes how he knows Hayley’s sister Taylor *wink wink*).
  • Key historical figures not included that could have made the book more scandalous: Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. Also George Boleyn.
  • Anne was the most developed character but then she went from “badass who doesn’t care” to “falling all over herself for her toolbox of a boyfriend” when she could have been powerful. Everyone else felt two dimensional and disingenuous (like they were being forced to talk/act a certain way), plus some of them disappeared halfway through before being brought back for the culminating scene (Sam and Charles, I’m talking about you).
  • The horse on the beach. I just…I don’t know what to say.
  • I did like the way they dealt with Anne’s “beheading” and the introduction of Jane Seymour.
  • Stylistically, there were some sentences that were
  • broken up
  • like this
  • and I found it annoying. But that’s just me! Maybe other people think it’s fun or creates a certain emphasis or tone? I don’t know.

At the end of the day, when you take away the historical context, it’s nothing but a petty high school drama with a massive dose of insta-love. The stakes aren’t as high for teen-Henry as they were for his kingly counterpart (did teen-Henry have to leave the church and form his own church just to get out of a relationship? No, he just had to make up his mind).

Nevertheless, there’s something compulsively readable about Anne & Henry. I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters, but I still wanted to find out what happened next.

I imagine it will appeal to fans of Gossip Girl and the like (I’ve never read a Gossip Girl book, but I’ve watched the whole show). If it hadn’t been for the historical ties, it’s not something I would normally be into. And the more I think about it, the more annoyed I feel.


ARC Reviews – July 2015

This round-up is a day late because I honestly forgot about it until late yesterday. Either way, this month wasn’t terribly productive in terms of ARCs, but they were all decent. It was also the first time I conducted an author interview, so that was exciting!

  • A Whole New World – Liz Braswell: “It’s YA, but it feels like the young end of YA – more 12-14 than 14-16 – which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but don’t go in expecting something scandalous, even if there are some surprisingly violent scenes.” (3 interrobangs)
  • A Curse of Ash and Iron – Christine Norris: “I felt like it was lacking something. It was a decent story and it had some really fascinating elements, but my inability to connect with the characters made it a hard read.” (2.5 interrobangs)
  • The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl – Ishbelle Bee: “The writing continues to have a lovely lyrical quality to it, even when she’s writing descriptions of a massacre.” (4 interrobangs)
    • I also got the chance to interview the lovely Ishbelle Bee, which you can read here.
  • Placid Girl – Brenna Ehrlich: “I liked the concept, and I think it serves as an excellent cautionary tale.” (3 interrobangs)

ARC Review: A Curse of Ash and Iron – Christine Norris

A Curse of Ash and Iron – Christine Norris

20691458Benjamin Grimm knows the theater is much like real life. In 1876 Philadelphia, people play their parts, hiding behind the illusion of their lives, and never revealing their secrets.

When he reunites with his childhood friend Eleanor Banneker, he is delighted. His delight turns to dismay when he discovers she has been under a spell for the past 7 years, being forced to live as a servant in her own home, and he realizes how sinister some secrets can be. She asks for his help, and he can’t refuse. Even if he doesn’t believe in ‘real’ magic, he can’t abandon her.

Ellie has spent the long years since her mother’s death under the watchful eye and unforgiving eye of her stepmother. Bewitched and hidden in plain sight, it seems no one can help Ellie escape. Not even her own father, who is under a spell of his own. When she sees Ben one evening, it seems he is immune to the magic that binds her, and her hope is rekindled along with her friendship.

But time is running short. If they do not find a way to break the spell before midnight on New Year’s Eve, then both Ellie and her father will be bound forever.

Release Date: May 21st, 2015

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

I didn’t realize right away that this is a Cinderella retelling because apparently the cover distracted me from actually reading the synopsis.

What I liked:

-the cover!! Gorgeous. It reminds me of the Gail Carriger novels that I really want to read.

-the plot. I love fractured fairy tales or retellings, and, even though I think the best Cinderella retelling ever is Ella Enchanted, I’m always down to read another version.

-it’s not quite steampunk, but I found the inventions interesting, especially the historically accurate description of the Exhibition.

What I didn’t like:

-the characters. I feel terrible saying this, but I didn’t really care about any of the characters, except maybe Rebecca, but even she had a sudden personality shift.

I couldn’t understand how she and Ellie spent seven years being indifferent to each other and then Rebecca was all “you’re the best sister ever, I wanna help you”, and I was like “it’s a little late for that, isn’t it?”. But they ended up having a really sweet relationship at the end, which I liked.

-the “love triangle”. I didn’t feel any chemistry between any of the characters. And talk about insta-love: Ellie talks to Hamilton Scott for all of ten seconds before she walks away thinking “I’m in love!!”. No, Ellie, I’m pretty sure that’s just lust because you thought he was hot. Which I suppose is what happens in the original Cinderella story, but one of the reasons I loved Ella Enchanted was because of the relationship between Ella and Char (I still get emotional at the end).

Ben was no better. I didn’t particularly care for him, and I could see where his story was going, but it didn’t stop it from being annoying to watch Ellie toy with him (even if it was unintentional).

-the dialogue. While it was mostly realistic, it sometimes seemed forced and unnatural. It wasn’t so bad that it detracted from the story or anything, and it was a personal quirk, but I preferred the exposition to the dialogue.

Overall, I felt like it was lacking something. It was a decent story and it had some really fascinating elements, but my inability to connect with the characters made it a hard read.


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Northanger Abbey – Val McDermid

In third year, I took a Jane Austen course. It was delightful (I recommend any English lit course with Dr. King who is basically a legend), and I came away from it thinking “Pride and Prejudice is great, but I like Persuasion and Northanger Abbey better.”

This week, I read a modernized “retelling” of Northanger Abbey.

“Cat Morland is ready to grow up. A homeschooled minister’s daughter in the quaint, sheltered Piddle Valley in Dorset, she loses herself in novels and is sure there is a glamorous adventure awaiting her beyond the valley’s narrow horizon. So imagine her delight when the Allens, neighbours and friends of her parents, invite her to attend the Edinburgh Festival as their guest. Armed with a sunny personality, show tickets every night and a few key wardrobe additions, Cat begins to take Edinburgh by storm and is taken into the bosom of the Thorpe family, particularly by eldest daughter Bella. And then there’s the handsome Henry Tilney, an up-and-coming lawyer whose family home is the beautiful and forbidding Northanger Abbey. Cat is entranced by Henry and his charming sister Eleanor, but she can’t help wondering if everything about them is as perfect as it seems. Or has she just been reading too many novels? A delectable, note-perfect modern update of the Jane Austen classic, Northanger Abbey tells a timeless story of innocence amid cynicism, the exquisite angst of young love, and the value of friendship.”

First, let’s talk about the things I loved:

-It took place in Edinburgh. I’ve never been to their Festival (though I would love to go), but I’ve been to the city so it was relatively easy to imagine.

-Henry Tilney has always been my favourite Austen-hero*(since taking that course a few years ago), so imagining him with a Scottish accent made him absurdly attractive in my head.

*This might be because I loved him in the 2007 movie. He was wonderful.

-Catherine Morland is a fantastic heroine because – no matter which version – I can relate to her: a bookworm who prefers fiction to reality and has a hard time separating the two aka a synopsis of my life.

-The fictional “Hebridean Harpies” series, which I wish was real because they sound fabulous and I would read them so flippin’ fast.

-I could still feel the Austen vibe, despite the modernized language and plot elements.

Things I didn’t like:

-Apart from the “Hebridean Harpies” books, the only other book Cat constantly referenced was Twilight. On one page she compared the sleek interior of Northanger Abbey to the Cullens’ home, but then 20-30 pages later, she made almost the exact same reference. Because we all know Twilight is the only young adult vampire series to exist in the entire world. *rolls eyes*

-Bella and John Thorpe…though to be fair, I hated them in the original too. There were some Bella moments that brought back bad memories of a failed friendship so I was impressed about how realistic she was (and also a little discomfited).

-I don’t want to sound condescending or ageist or anything, but I’ve noticed that when authors of an older generation write in the “younger” voice, they ALWAYS use stereotypes. Their characters always text in abbreviations (that I can barely understand because I never used them myself); they always have to mention social media in multiple forms (i.e. “Don’t worry, you can check Twitter and Facebook later” “I’ll be on Twitter and Facebook all the time” “No wifi means I can’t check Twitter and Facebook”); and the pop culture references are always (I’m going to sound like such a hipster, I’m so sorry) mainstream (such as the aforementioned obsession with Twilight). It might just be a personal pet peeve, though.

I’m not sure what category this retelling falls into (it could technically be YA, but because it’s a classic, is it considered something else?), but I did really enjoy it. If you’re a fan of the original, I definitely recommend it.