Tag Archives: Fantasy

Review: The Island of Lost Children by Kim Batchelor

THE ISLAND OF 
LOST CHILDREN
Book 1
REIMAGINING THE STORY OF 
PETER & WENDY
by
Kim Batchelor
 
Genre: Middle Grade / Fairy Tale / Fantasy
Publisher: Luna y Miel Publishing
Date of Publication: November 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 188

 

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Peter is still the boy who doesn’t grow up. Wendy is a girl who had to grow up too soon. And Wendy’s brother, Michael, has autism and a connection to The Island of Lost Children, a book for readers 8-12 and any fan of Peter Pan. When Peter leaves his island home, it’s to search for pick-up soccer games and mock sword fights. Wendy spends her evenings looking after her two brothers—sometimes bratty JJ as well as Michael—while her parents work nights. In the midst of several unusual events including the disappearance of her classmate, Lily, at odds with her adoptive mother, Wendy doesn’t realize that Peter’s pirate nemesis is keeping an eye on her. Everything changes for Wendy and her family when a peculiar fairy named Bellatresse helps Peter find the girl whose stories he once listened to outside her bedroom window. 
With its quirky humor and occasionally touching moments, The Island of Lost Children is about children creating their own stories, families, and communities, all while swashbuckling, navigating mystical rivers, riding child-made roller coasters, and, of course, sailing high through the open skies.
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There are so many great things about this book. Where to begin? First off, I LOVE reimaginings. Even when they’re not entirely successful, I still appreciate the creativity needed to see a different angle of such well-loved and well-known stories. Up until now, the only reimagining of Peter Pan that I’m familiar with, if you can call it that, is the movie Hook. So please excuse that some of the comparisons that I make are more with that movie than the original text; which I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember in great detail.

The cover is beautiful and the style of it gave me the impression that maybe the ethnicities of the characters would be played with. I don’t know if it’s the cocoa color of Peter’s skin and the dark hair, or maybe even just the style of the artwork that gave me that idea. As if to answer my unspoken question, the opening scene features a family praising their son Miguel as he plays soccer.

This is where I get confused for the first time. I knew that Wendy has two brothers, Michael and John. So I thought for a few pages that Miguel was Wendy’s brother, so there would be a Juan and whatever the Spanish equivalent of Wendy, right? Oops, I outed myself for stereotyping. Miguel is not Michael. The ethnicity of the family is ambiguous. I was a little let down by that, but the other types of diversity to be revealed made up for it.

The Darlings are a more realistic family in this version. The parents are quarreling over money and careers (hey, that’s sort of what happened in Hook, too), Wendy is having to play mom to her two younger brothers because their parents work all the time, and Michael has a cognitive disability. Also, poor Nana runs away when Mr. Darling tries to take her to an animal shelter. These Darling children have more reasons to want to run to Neverland than the originals, that’s for sure.

I don’t want to ruin the story but I will share that how Captain Hook enters the story is an interesting choice. His target for revenge didn’t make much sense to me though, and when everything gets more or less resolved, I don’t understand why someone isn’t arrested or interrogated at least. I guess because this is supposed to be a children’s story? Okay, I’ll chill.

I like the added dimensions to Lily (although I wonder if people would prefer she had stayed Native American), and not to mention the number of girls in Neverland! It always bothered me that Tiger Lily and Tink seemed to be the only girls in the original. Well, mermaids too if you count them (I didn’t). Batchelor topped Hook with that addition. However, the invisible feast and rollercoasters sounded a lot like Hook. Unless that stuff was in the original, too, and I just forgot. My apologies if they are.

I really liked the tender moments between Wendy and Michael, and how Michael had his peaceful spot in Neverland. I imagine this could open up dialogue about being sensitive to individual needs. Also, finding joy and hope in milestones reached. I closed this book feeling like I understood Wendy and Michael. Sadly, JJ fell by the wayside. Typical middle child, I guess.

What are my favorite moments? I think that Batchelor pokes fun at the Tinkerbell character, Bellatresse, by emphasizing her erratic behavior and thinking. Peter and Trudy pretty much say that the fairy does things for no apparent reason and that they’re not sure whether she really likes them or not. Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe she’s just supposed to be bipolar. Or all the sugar just made her cray cray.

And Peter thinking he’ll miss Wendy because she’s like a sister? Pffft. Let’s not let our reimaginations run away now.

Kim Batchelor writes books for children and adults, stories both real and fantastical, foreign and domestic. She has been published in the Texas Observer, The Best of Friday Flash, and local literary journal, Contexas. She teaches creative writing to incarcerated women and lives in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas, with a spouse, two dogs, and way too many cats. One of her prized possessions is a busted tambourine given to her by Eddie Vedder. Okay, he tossed it to her in a dark stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, but the real story is never as interesting as the one she makes up.

 

  

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11/7
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11/9
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The Burning by D.E.L. Connor

The Burning
Spirit Warriors Book 3 
by D.E.L. Connor
Genre: YA / Fantasy / Coming of Age
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Date of Publication: September 21, 2015
# of pages: 357

In the third book of D.E.L. Connor’s magical coming of age Spirit Warriors series, Emmeline and her friends find themselves still reeling from the loss and pain caused by the evil spirit, machayiwiw- but the danger is far from over. As Emme, Charlie, Bets, Ollie, Jack and their beloved Spirit Animals prepare for the final battle against the machayiwiw, Emme struggles with a battle within her own heart. She longs for the beauty and softness she feels around Charlie, but she can’t deny the burning passion that consumes her with Jack. Will she finally let Charlie go and give her heart to Jack? Enthralling and passionate, Spirit Warriors brings the vibrant American West to life once again and whispers its ancient secrets of love and friendship.

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Praise for the books:

“There is something special about a book/series when you feel like you’ve come home to family/friends in the first chapter. That is how I feel when I begin each new book in this series. I find I care more about each character as the series progresses.” – Amazon Reviewer

“I have been a huge fan of this series. After the second book I wasn’t exactly sure how this one would develop. Hands down it is the best book of the series so far.” – Goodreads Reviewer

“The Concealing is one of the best books that I have read in a long time…You will fall head over heels in love with all of the characters and the plot as well in The Concealing.” – The Avid Reader

“I was glued to the book from the moment I began reading it and was sad when it ended, because it ended. I can very easily visualise this book as a film, the descriptions are detailed enough to make it a great opportunity for a film. Amazing.” — Cookie Book Reviews 

“A great young adult series along the formulaic values of the “Twilight” series. Also a wonderful book for adults who want to immerse themselves in a world full of youth and American Indian heritage.” — Respect the Books

Enter to win: a signed copy of 
The Concealing, Book 1 of the Spirit Warriors Series, 
a $25 Amazon Gift Card, and some Swag!

Della Connor (D.E.L. Connor) was born in South Dakota and raised in Southeastern Montana where she acquired a keen appreciation for Western and Native American culture. She moved to Texas as a young adult and acquired her honorary Texan status. She became a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner and eventually earned her PhD in nursing. She still works as a nurse educator and as a nurse practitioner. Her nights and weekends, however, are filled with her stories and books. Her first book, Spirit Warriors:The Concealing, was published by Booktrope Publishing in November of 2014. The second book in the series Spirit Warriors: The Scarring published on July 21, 2014 and Spirit Warriors: The Burning rolled out on September 21, 2015.The Spirit Warriors story evolved from a short story she wrote for a college English class in the early 1990s. The professor read it, loved it and asked her to stay after class and discuss it. During this discussion, he told her that a “dark” story like hers, which was written for older children, would be unmarketable and unsaleable. The story kept floating around in her mind. Finally, J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyers and others stepped forward with amazing “dark” stories to create a new genre called Young Adult. The time was finally right for her book. She wrote book 1 in two weeks. It took another year and a half and about a 150 queries all with a “not interested” for her to find a publisher.

Review

If I’m to be brutally honest, it took me several chapters to find a comfortable reading rhythm with this book. That’s not to say that Connor’s writing is lacking in some way, but rather a testament to just how intricate the storyline is. I can only imagine just how much happened in the first two books. There are historic flashbacks, premonitions, and soul flinging amidst the already riveting plot lines. Embarrassingly, it took me a few re-reads to realize that a character was an animal instead of a human. And trying to figure out which animal went to who made me slow down for a few chapters. You would think that a girl who watched shows like Voltron and Pokemon as a kid would have a better handle on this.

The characters are beautifully written, but I wish there was more explanation about the Charlie and Emme issue. (And how Jack falls into the equation, while we’re at it.) I know that this is book three, but I feel like things should be clearer in case someone didn’t read the other two. Connor does a fantastic job of filling in the backstory of Emme’s brother and mother, and especially Lilly. At the expense of sounding all Team Edward, Team Jacob, I wish I knew more about the love triangle.
Unless the other two books are pretty vague too, I would have liked to know more about the prophecies as well. What were the previous prophecies and were they fulfilled exactly as they imagined? Why does everyone seem to have a different version of this latest one? And are Emme’s nightmares explained in the other books?
Because I don’t know the Jack backstory much, the engagement while still in high school feels a bit meh to me. But I get it. Bella wanted to hurry up and marry Edward so he would turn her into a vampire already. Jack wants to marry Emme because they all think they’re going to die soon. I know that’s the literal case here, but I have to wonder if it can also be a metaphor for young adult emotions. Like, “I’m going to die if Brad doesn’t ask me to the prom” and “My life is so over because I didn’t get into Yale.”
Overall, this was definitely a fun read and unlike any Young Adult fantasy that I’ve read. (And I’ve read many!) I hope that you’ll pick up the rest of the books in the series too.
Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!
 

1/31       Blogging for the Love of Authors and Their Books– Promo
2/1         My Book Fix Blog  – Promo

 

2/2         All for the Love of the Word – Guest Post

 

2/3         A Novel Reality – Promo
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