March 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part Two [Books]

March 2020 2JanuaryFebruary / March Part 1

Here we have part 2 for my long March reading wrap up, a month in which I read 16 books. So here are the last 8 I read in that strange, strange month. I thought April would be a lot less, but checking what I’ve read so far about halfway through the month, I’m currently on 11. So maybe I’ll be hitting my 50 books 2020 goal a lot sooner than expected.

Esme’s Gift – Elizabeth Foster

esmes giftMy Review

This is proving to be an absolutely delightful series. The first book set up the world and characters, and it was a joy to dip back into it and explore it more. It’s a lot of fun to read, and puts the characters in enough danger to keep readers completely engrossed.

Black Mountains: The Recollections of a South Wales Miner – David Barnes

black mountainsMy Review

This was a really interesting book about a Welsh man’s life at the start of the Twentieth Century. Easy to follow, with some fascinating snippets of his life during that time, it’s told a very conversational tone, which made it that much more enjoyable.

Shallow Waters, Volume 3 – Edited by Joe Mynhardt

shallow waters vol 3My Review

This is a fantastic series of horror flash fiction, put out by Crystal Lake Publishing. The fifth is due for release soon, so it’s a great time to pick up the first four and check them out.

Ghost Mine – Hunter Shea

ghost mineReview coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

This was the second Hunter Shea novel I’ve read (the first being the absolutely amazing Creature) and this one didn’t disappoint. I’m not normally one for literature Westerns, but Shea really does something different with the settings and characters, and this book pushed him, for me, from ‘author I like’ to ‘one of my favourites’. I really hope I get to read Slash some point soon, as I’ve heard fantastic things about it.

DisneyWar – James B. Stewart, Narrated by Patrick Laylor

disneywarMy Review

This is a book for people interested in the world of business, not a book for Disney fans. It’s interesting in some parts, but a lot of the boardroom politics got frustrating at points. It felt like listening to a rundown of bickering children. I can see why people would be interested, and it covers turning points in one of the world’s biggest companies. The narration from Laylor also stops it being absolutely boring, but it wasn’t something I particuarly enjoyed.

Charm – Sarah Pinborough
charm

My Review

This is a series I have absolutely fallen in love with, and now I’m upset because I’ve actually finished the third book and there is no more. Charm takes the tale of Cinderella in a really interesting direction, and I love the way Pinborough tells the original story with her own personal twists. My review for the third book Beauty will hopefully come up soon.

Harrow Lake – Kat Ellis

harrow lakeReview Coming Soon

I am so excited to share this review with you. Harrow Lake is an absolutely fantastic YA Horror, and Ellis is clearly a very talented writer. Keep an eye out for it – I’m on a blog tour for this one, so don’t forget to check out my review and the other blogs who will be participating, too.

Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie (Audible Original Drama)

peter panMy Review

The last book I finished in March. I actually finished listening to this on the last day in March, so that was good. It’s a drama version of Peter Pan, and for me it just didn’t hit the mark. There are changes made to the original story, but those changes don’t really affect anything, and the female characters are badly written. The performances, however, were absolutely fantastic.

So there we have it! My March wrap up. And now I have a lot of reviews to write up for April before we get April’s wrap up sometime in May. Look out for reviews coming up on some great books, both here and on Dead Head Reviews.

Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie, Audible Original Drama [Books]

peter panI have to admit, it’s been a fairly long while since I actually read Peter Pan. When this popped up for free on Audible, I snatched it up, I’m finding I really like full cast audiobooks, and I was excited for this version of the story.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really find it that great.

Some of the changes made felt a bit odd. I can understand updating the story a touch, but not if it doesn’t actually affect anything. In this production, the Darling children still live in London, but they live in World War 2 era London, with bombs dropping and their father off to war. To calm them, their mother tells stories, and their favourite is when she got lost in Kensington Gardens and met Peter Pan. In this flashback, she introduces herself as “Mary Darling” to the tree she befriends.

Which is odd, right? Like…as listeners, we’re not hearing her tell the story, we are hearing the actual events. But she has the same surname as the man she eventually marries? It’s a really small thing but it stood out to me.

And as for updating it, I don’t know why they did. The actual characters are the same, and Neverland is very much the same place people will be familiar with from previous versions. Tinkerbell is still a mean spirited fairy, nasty to Wendy. Wendy is a total drip throughout, and over and over again it’s emphasised how ‘girls are weird’ because both Tink and Wendy become overly possessive of Peter. This is clear when we get more of the Lost Girls.

This was an update I could appreciate – understandably, some aspects of the story do need to be updated, especially when it comes to Tiger Lily. And when her and the Lost Girls were mentioned, I got excited. But they’re barely in it, and only mentioned in counterpoint to Wendy, how she is motherly and perfect, and they are not.

Honestly, I know this is aimed at kids, but it still feels like it’s sending the wrong message. For every step they take to avoid problematic content, they rope in something else that undermines the attempts. The female characters exist for the male characters. The women are jealous and nasty to one another, with their main goal being to look after the boys. Even the Lost Girls, in their brief appearance, are shown to be not as effective as the Lost Boys.

A note on the voice acting. The actual acting was really good. There are very talented people involved in this production, across the board, and it’s a shame the writing just wasn’t up to par.

I would suggest picking up the Twisted Tales Straight on Till Morning instead, a story which keeps the core of these characters, but gives them more depth than can be found in this production.

Straight on Till Morning – Liz Braswell [Books]

straight on till morningAnyone who has been following this blog for a while knows of my love for the Twisted Tales series, by Disney. There are currently three authors involved – Liz Braswell, Elizabeth Lim, and Jen Calonita. These books involve taking the stories we know and love, and adding a single twist that can affect everything. So far, there have been books based on Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Mulan (my favourite), Snow White, Frozen, and now Peter Pan.

While Reflection remains my favourite of the series, Straight on Till Morning has without a doubt nabbed the second place spot. In this version, Wendy doesn’t go to Neverland with Peter Pan. Instead, she is left behind to grow up, taking care of the house and her brothers, forced to watch them attend school while she can do nothing but learn to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Everyone around her dismisses her stories of Peter Pan as rubbish childish fantasies, and if it wasn’t for the strange shadow she keeps in the old nursery, Wendy might believe them.

Desperate not to be sent to Ireland by her parents, Wendy makes a deal with Captain Hook: she will give him Peter’s shadow, in exchange for passage to Neverland.

This is a book about stories and their power, about facing the responsibilities of growing up and realising it doesn’t always mean putting everything childish away, but accepting there are bigger things in the world to take note of than just what’s happening in your own house.

The focus once Wendy gets to Neverland is not on Peter, but on Wendy and Tinkerbell, and the friendship between the pair. They don’t start on good terms, but soon grow fond of one another, working together to find Peter and save Neverland. One aspect done well is how Wendy is aged up. While Peter remains his boyish self, never growing up after all, Wendy is sixteen in this story, facing more of the pressures of adulthood, and able to view Neverland and its dangers with more mature eyes.

The setting might be familiar, but with Hook planning something big, it’s hard not to feel the tension as Wendy goes from place to place, trying to rally the people of Neverland. As the story progresses, Wendy’s understanding deepens, and she begins to question whether never growing up is a good idea after all.

I really enjoyed this book, and I loved the focus on Wendy and Tinkerbell over Peter and the Lost Boys. There’s a strong message here, reinforced when Tinkerbell gets a little jealous of Wendy, as she is prone to doing. But the pair work really well together, and it was great seeing them get this chance to shine.

Braswell is fantastic at deepening these characters we already love, and presenting them in different situations that allow their strengths to really come to light. She’s done it with many of the previous Twisted Tales books, and this is no exception.

One thing about this series: if you’re looking to dip your toe in, you don’t have to read them in order. I’ve read every one so far, and some I’ve loved more than others, but responses on all of them are varied, which is great. Each book offers something different. And with each book the authors produce, they seem to get that much better. Braswell was the first involved in Twisted Tales, and she continues to produce fantastic stories. I would definitely recommend picking up Straight on Till Morning, whether you’ve read the rest of the Twisted Tales series or not.