fairytale retelling · fantasy · review · young adult

The Neverland Wars – Audrey Greathouse

“There is envy in the sky, Peter, and when the heavens are jealous, no good can come of it.”

 

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Blurb: “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.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Everyone knows that I adore Peter Pan. It is my all-time favourite story and I will eat up any adaptation or spin off to do with it. So when I was sent a copy of this book, it was safe to say I had some expectations in place.

The story follows Gwen, an American teenager whose only cares in life are getting through her life and what she’s going to wear to homecoming. That is until Peter Pan takes her sister. Gwen’s world changes as she learns that her father works for a company that deals with magic and there are many cases of the children from those involved in the industry being taken to the magical Neverland she thought only existed in the book. Matters are made worse when Peter Pan returns to claim another victim and this time, he has chosen Gwen and war is looming – a war between Neverland and reality.

What I really liked about this book was that Gwen’s reason for going to Neverland was so her sister wouldn’t be alone. However I was disappointed when the characters get there and the little sister is absent for most of the book. It seemed to make Gwen’s reasoning for going there in the first place just totally redundant. Another thing I liked was the Once Upon A Time TV show style of having fairy-tale characters but their stories exist in books and films in the real world rather than it being something completely new to Gwen. There didn’t seem to be much explanation about the war or much build up to it: the groundwork was laid as to why but the war itself just happened out of nowhere as if they hadn’t planned for it.

The aspect that kept me reading quite a confusing book was the mermaid scenes. They’re my favourite part of the Neverland universe and were so creepy and unnerving.

Overall, it was an okay read but not something I think I’ll return to in the future.

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adaptations

Book To Movie Talk | Pan

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*Warning: this post is not entirely spoiler free*

If anyone was to ever ask me what my all time favourite story is, the answer would without a doubt be Peter Pan. There is something just so beautiful about this place called Neverland, the people who live there, and the adventures you can go on that makes me cling to it with everything I have. The original novel, written by J.M.Barrie, is the reason I decided to become a writer. While this is obviously a book blog, Peter Pan has always been so precious to me that, even though this is a “loose adaptation” it would be silly for me to ignore it.

When I initially heard that this movie was in the works I was so excited because it’s been a very long time since we’ve had a Peter Pan movie. As I waited with bated breath for more information, it was finally announced that the movie would be called “Pan” and would be an origin story. An origin story you say? Surely that hasn’t been done before? Well you would be right, imaginary other half of this discussion. There is no “canon” origin story to Peter Pan. So this had me very interested.

So first, let us take a look at the main cast:

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Peter played by Levi Miller

There’s not really much you can gauge from looking at a child actor. But at 13 years old, he’s roughly the right age for Peter and from what I saw in the trailer it seemed like he was going to be right for the part.

Hugh Jackman

Blackbeard played by Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman is well… Hugh Jackman. He’s just such a fantastic actor. When I first heard he was going to be in the film, I was convinced he was going to play Captain Hook for some reason, but then as more details of the story came out I discovered he would be playing Blackbeard. Also he shaved his head and grew a very styled beard for the role.

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Hook played by Garrett Hedlund

Here we have the actual Hook. This is what made me nervous for the film. Based on the footage of Garrett in the trailer, his accent is just terrible. I don’t know who told him to put that accent on but bad move.

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Tiger Lily played by Rooney Mara 

And finally, we have our Tiger Lily. This was one of my bigger concerns. The Indians in the original story are Native American and suddenly in the trailer pops up Rooney Mara. A white woman.

I’ll come back to what I thought of the cast based on the actual movie later on.

The film has a really pretty opening with a voice over talking about how everything has a beginning and how sometimes not everything is the same as it was at the start: “those who start as friends become enemies, and those who start as enemies become friends.” (A possible link to Hook maybe?) This then cuts to a woman running down a street and leaving a baby outside a door with a necklace. After this brief scene – in which the viewer can identify the actress as Amanda Seyfried- it cuts to a few years later, during World War 2.

Levi Miller finally makes his appearance as Peter, the boy who was abandoned in the previous scene. He’s in an orphanage and the only way I can possibly describe this place is that it’s like the orphanage in the musical film Oliver! Food is rationed, the nuns are nasty, the conditions aren’t great and they’re forced to do work. I half-expected the nuns to start singing when Peter asked if there was any bacon.

Anyway, one night while the boys are sleeping, the nuns put up a pirate flag. A pirate ship arrives and those on board begin stealing some of the orphans. The army sends fighter planes after the ship believing that it is an attack from the enemy. Why on earth you would think the enemy in the 1940’s would use a flying pirate ship to launch an attack, I’m not sure, but I admired the slightly comic scene that ensued.

The ship makes it back to what is assumingly Neverland and this segment of film is what got me really pumped for the rest of it. As Peter looks over the side of the ship he sees thousands of people looking up at him, all chanting, believe it or not, some of the lyrics to Smells Like Teen Spirit. It seems like a cult gathering and the chanting reaches it climax when Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) makes his entrance and welcomes the new arrivals to Neverland. This scene just made me want to grab a sword and start kicking things and stabbing things because it was just such a badass and epic build up.

Initially I thought that the boys getting stolen by the pirates would end up being the lost boys from the original story, especially since Peter’s best friend was called Nibs. However, after the intense chanting scene and seeing how many boys were actually there, it seemed my guess was very much wrong.

Blackbeard tells the boys to get mining and Peter learns that they are looking for fairie pixim (fairy dust). Along this way Hook (Garrett Hedlund) makes his on screen debut as the rather bitter adult who’s all “I’m not your friend, kid” but then ends up being stuck with the kid anyway. Peter is determined to find his mother and believes that she may be on the island and that the natives might know where she is. With the help of Hook, they escape and so the cat and mouse chase begins.

And of course, what would a film be without some ancient prophecy?
The people of the land know of a prophecy which tells of a boy, born from a human woman and a fairy prince, who will come from another world to kill Blackbeard. Also, the boy has the ability to fly.
This couldn’t possibly be our little protagonist now, could it?

So there’s the basic plot laid out for you.

I was very surprised by this film. I expected it to be good but it just went beyond that. There were so many wonderfully clever links to the source material which actually answered a lot of the questions I had about the story such as how Peter can understand fairies, how he actually got the name “Peter Pan” and links to Hook becoming the captain we know.

Going back to Rooney Mara whom I mentioned earlier, I tried really hard to put aside the fact she was white and pay attention to her acting. She was very good in this film. Although I’m sure Tiger Lily is closer to Peter’s age in the book, she took on more of a mother’s role with Peter in this film and it was really lovely to see someone guiding him, and believing in him when he didn’t believe in himself. I still would have preferred someone Native American to take on the role though.

There was one aspect to this film that literally had me eye-rolling so hard you could have probably heard me. When Hook meets Tiger Lily, it’s not really hard to see that she’s rather attractive and a kind of sub-plot was the tedious Hook attempting to flirt while Tiger Lily having no interest but eventually kind of softening to him. It just wasn’t needed at all and kind of detracted away from the importance of what Peter was facing.

Levi Miller was utterly incredible in the main role. Dare I even say it, he may be my favourite Peter Pan to date. I can’t even put into words his acting in this film, but if this boy doesn’t have a long film career ahead of him, I will be shocked.

To top the film off, you have breath-taking visuals of the island, brilliant CGI and the score music , composed by John Powell (known for How To Train Your Dragon scores), just adds that extra bit of magic.

I highly recommend you see this film if you haven’t yet. Or if you have, let me know what you thought about it!

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children's fiction

“A Series Of Unfortunate Events” – The Importance Of Reading As A Child

Recently I watched the movie adaptation of A Series Of Unfortunate Events, based on the first three books in the collection of the same name, by Lemony Snicket.

Film Title: Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events.

While the film was painfully mediocre, it took me back to an important aspect of my childhood: reading.

When I was a child, if I saw a toy I wanted, my mother would make me wait a week to see if I really wanted it. Seven days later, we would go back to the shop and I would have no recollection of what toy I’d got upset over not being able to have, let alone how badly I had supposedly wanted it, However, if it was a book I wanted, she’d say yes. And so began my adventures of reading. The book fair days at Primary school when those metal containers full of books were wheeled across the playground were a bigger event than Christmas to me. Mother would give me a money limit, and I would be let loose.

It was at one of these events that I discovered A Series of Unfortunate Events. The blurb is an example of genius, playing on the whole “saying don’t do it will make a kid want to do it more”:

“Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket”
(Take from The Bad Beginning)

How could any child put the book back after reading that?!

Every single one of these books terrified me. I had horrible nightmares and used to hide the books in my wardrobe. Despite how scared I was, I continued reading book after book in this series out of a different kind of fear: if I wasn’t there for the characters, who else would be?
Now, would I have had this kind of mentality if I was a budding reader? Probably not.

To this day, A Series of Unfortunate Events was the first book series I ever read. And little me carried that as a badge of honor because I pushed through that fear to “protect” the characters until the very end.

Watching this film made me think about other books  I devoured in my childhood years.

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I’m pretty sure everyone from my generation read Roald Dahl at some point. But here is another example of my childish fears coming into play. I had the animated version of The BFG on video tape and used to watch it, truthfully, more than I sat re-reading the books. The giants terrified me. Specifically one sequence when Sophie and the BFG have to get past the nasty sleeping giants.

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Though these scenes were watched cowering behind my hands, I still had that mentality of “I can’t turn it off, I can’t abandon Sophie and the BFG!” As if me persevering with the film or books in general that made me uncomfortable had some affect on the story.

One fear I haven’t been able to shake is spiders.

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I remember being given this book. Thankfully I was too young to understand parts of the story (like Fern’s dad planning to kill Wilbur) but the spider just terrified me and I remember getting upset thinking that my mother had named me after a creepy crawlie with eight legs. While this didn’t teach me to face my fears, it did teach me the importance of friendship and embracing the differences between you and your friends.

Bedtime stories, if read by my mother were always the same:

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A wonderful collection of stories following the animals in the hundred acre woods. Again teaching me about the importance of friendship and courage. I still have my original hardbacked edition kept safe.

One day, my mother came home from work, called me over and placed a copy of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S.Lewis.

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This book/series opened me up to worlds I didn’t know existed. The possibility of going on adventures to uncharted, unknown places. Narnia: with talking animals, magic, kings and queens. It revolutionized my reading and made me want to read more about places that existed beyond the boring regular world.

This is where the children’s book industry fell down. They focused on producing the books, but not maintaining the readership. There was no “if you liked this, you might like this” to provide a pathway to other books that are similar.

So I floundered for a while until another day those metal containers were wheeled into the hall of my primary school. Eagerly scanning those shelves, I came across a book that would not just shape my childhood, but become a significant part of my life.

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I read the Harry Potter series in a strange order to begin with: 2 – 3 – 1- 4 to 7
This was just based on how I found them. While not the same as Narnia, the idea of a magic school and an array of creatures, and adventures to be had, had me hooked instantly. This was the first time I came across myself in a book: Hermione Granger – a girl who loved learning, constantly correcting people’s mistakes and always had her face stuck in a book. She was me! I am part of the Harry Potter generation. As Harry grew up, so did I. I feared when he faced Voldemort, smiled when he spent time at the burrow and laughed out loud when Lavender was pursuing Ron.

My most prominent childhood memory in terms of reading, that I can still remember vividly to this day, is sitting in class for the reading period. My teacher announces that our hour begins and every single person in the room, including the teacher, pulls out a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and begins reading.

Now if that’s not an example of a generation of children loving reading, then I don’t know what is.

While other books showed me that it was okay to be afraid and that you can get past the thing you’re afraid of, these books showed me that it’s okay to be afraid. What’s important, is acting in spite of that fear: the way Harry stands up to Voldemort in the graveyard after just witnessing Cedric’s death, the way he gives himself up to Voldemort at the battle of Hogwarts to prevent another life being lost. It taught me about the beauty of friendship and courage and love, not to be prejudice to others about the things they can’t change. These books will stay with me forever.

Another book that has stayed with me is this:

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This is the book that made me want to become a writer. My imagination was constantly filled with adventures I had in Neverland battling pirates, swimming with mermaids, dancing with the Indians.I adored this story. I adored the way it made me feel and I wanted to re-create that feeling for someone else. If I manage to do that in my lifetime as a writer, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do.

More recently I looked after my cousin’s soon to be three year old and she wanted me to read her a story. The picture book she picked out was this:

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I read it to her…. more than enough times and she always got scared by the bear. When I spoke to my cousin about it, she said that Faye started having nightmares about a bear coming to get her. My cousin spoke to the people at the nursery and it turned out they’d read her this book. My cousin’s solution? She bought Faye the book and read it to her, and told her that the bear only wanted to be friends with them. When I read it to Faye and she asked me why the bear looks sad at the end, I said the bear just wanted to be friends but had to go back to the cave otherwise you wouldn’t be able to tell the story again. After I explained this, she started to pretend to be scared and would giggle afterwards.
My cousin explained that when she came up with this “bear wanting to be friends” idea, Faye’s nightmares stopped.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is: reading is important. 

A child who reads will grow up with some much imagination and creativity. A child who reads will know that being scared is okay sometimes because *insert character’s name* was scared when they did that brave thing. A child who reads will have courage and value friendship.

Reading is beautiful and if I ever have children, I will make sure that they read.

Let me know what books you read as a child that stand out to you!

book tag

Disney Book Tag

The Little Mermaid – a character who is out of their element, a fish out of water

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Carson Phillips from Struck by Lightning is in his final year of high school and in the process of applying to University. To make himself stand out more on his application he tries to set up a Literary Magazine at the school. But there’s one problem – he isn’t exactly at the top of the social food chain. He uses his outsider knowledge of the populars to try and get them to write for his magazine the only way he knows how: by blackmailing them.
Cinderella – a character who goes through a major transformation

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Pip in Great Expectations goes through one of the biggest transformations I’ve read. He starts off as a lower class orphan boy helping out in his sister’s husband in the forge. When given the opportunity to meet with the mysterious Miss Havisham things for Pip start to take a turn in a brighter direction, and soon he is heading off to London to learn how to become a Gentleman.

Snow White – a book with an eclectic cast of characters

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If you haven’t read Harry Potter then return to the rock you’ve been living under and never speak to me again! For me, it’s frankly impossible to NOT pick this book series for this one. The cast is just so eclectic from the muggles to wizards to squibs to the houses to the animagi and various species.

Sleeping Beauty – a book that puts you to sleep

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As someone with a love of literature who extended that passion on to a university degree, I’ve had to muddle my way through a lot of classics. By far the worst has been Pride and Prejudice which I’ve had to re-read a lot of times. I just find the story so boring and the characters don’t really do much to save the plot. Not to mention Mr Darcy is awful and I can’t understand why anyone could possibly want someone like him.
The Lion King – a character who had something traumatic happen to them in childhood

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The Book of Lost Things follows David, a boy who loves books -especially fairy tales – and loves reading them to his ill mother. Sadly, she dies. Twelve year old David suffers badly from this loss and my heart just went out to him. I wanted to climb into the pages and give him a hug.
Beauty And The Beast – a beast of a book (a big book) that you were intimidated by, but found the story to be beautiful

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Anyone who knows me, will know that I can read a 400 page book in two days if I just sit down and read. I came across this book not long after its release and heard it was a beautiful book (just like the cover!) so I bought a copy. It’s a monster of a book and took me over a month to read because it’s rich and well written. The writing is unbelievably beautiful and I don’t think I will ever find a book as beautiful as this one.
Aladdin – a character who gets their wish granted, for better or worse 

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One specific event in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer really sticks out at me for this one which is what I refer to as “the dog incident”. One day when Mara is coming home from school she finds a dog chained up in someone’s garden. The dog is clearly neglected and when she stands up to the owner, a not very nice man, she walks away wishing that something bad would happen to him. A few days later he is found dead in his home and the dog gets taken away to a better place.
Mulan – a character who pretends to be someone or something they’re not

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This book follows Tris, a sixteen year old who has her choosing ceremony coming up in which she must decide whether to stay or move factions. Each faction operates under a certain personality type and to help decide where you fit best you have to take a test prior to the ceremony. Tris’ results reveal that she fits into three of the five factions which makes her “Divergent.” These types of people are dangerous to society and slowly being killed off. So Tris has to hide the fact she’s Divergent and try to fit in.
Toy Story – a book with characters you wish would come to life 

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Peter Pan is my all-time favourite book and the reason I decided to pursue a life as a writer. If I could have any collection of characters come to life it would be the ones in this story. I can think of nothing better than flying through the sky with Peter Pan and fighting pirates with the lost boys.
Disney Descendants – your villain or morally ambiguous character

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One of my favourite “villains” is Camille Belcourt from The Mortal Instruments series. She’s just so sassy and evil and yay for vampires. She messes things up between Alec and Magnus but I love everything she does in this series.
For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings