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NEVER series by Lesley Livingston

Hi readers, here’s a review round-up for you! This time featuring a throwback YA fantasy series featuring time travel.. but this time our characters travel back to the time of Boudicca and Druids, Celts and Romans, and more.

Clarinet Reid is a pretty typical teenager. On the surface. She’s smart, but a bit of a slacker; outgoing, but just a little insecure; not exactly a mischief-maker … but trouble tends to find her wherever she goes. Also? She unwittingly carries a centuries-old Druid Blood Curse running through her veins. Now, with a single thoughtless act, what started off as the Summer Vacation in Dullsville suddenly spirals into a deadly race to find a stolen artifact, avert an explosive catastrophe, save a Celtic warrior princess, right a dreadful wrong that happened centuries before Clare was even born, and if there’s still time— literally—maybe even get a date.

This is the kind of adventure that happens to a girl once every … never.

Title Once Every Never
Author : Lesley Livingston
Series : Never (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 312
Genre : YA fantasy / paranormal / historical
Publisher : Penguin Canada
Release Date : July 1, 2011

Hollis’ 3.5 star review

As part of my unhaul project, I’ve attempted to pull a few old favourites off the shelf each year to see if they were worth keeping or if, well, they were destined for the unhaul pile. Like many readers these days, YA isn’t quite doing for me what it used to and most, though not all!, of my rereads/retries haven’t quite held up. So far though.. this series is doing good things!

The basic premise is a girl, banished from Toronto to the UK for the summer for reasons, ends up discovering a unique and unexpected ability to travel back to a specific past when she touches certain ancient artifacts. At first she isn’t able to speak to or interact with those around her, and her trips are brief before she’s flung back to the present, but eventually she finds herself connecting with those in conflict and, despite them being long dead, trying to help them. Maybe even.. change the future?

Considering just how old this series is (2011! my god..) this really held up well. It’s not without a little silliness (some of Clare’s word vomit to the Celts was just painful and there were some other moments that veered towards OTTness but oddly enough only in the adults) but honestly less in the dumb way and more in a fun way. The historical element, the specific time this details, it’s all really interesting. And I really enjoyed the limited conditions in which Clare was allowed to influence, and interact with, the past. Adding to the good was her fantastic bestie slash sidekick and all their great banter and there was also a nice little romance at play.

From what I remember I’m pretty sure book two is Allie, said bestie’s, turn at a time travel adventure and considering I did like her more than Clare, I think the next reread might do even better than this one.

It’s happening again!

Despite their vow to each other at the end of Once Every Never, best friends Clare and Allie once more find themselves in trouble—and travelling in time. Indulging in a low-key vacation at Glastonbury Tor, taking part in an archaeological dig while soaking up the sights of summertime England, the girls have promised each other: no time travel shenanigans; no involvement with dangerous Druids or villainous museum thieves; and definitely no weirdness about the fact that Clare is now seriously dating Milo, Allie’s super-genius hottie cousin!

But when Allie makes an unexpected discovery at the dig site—a skull—the grisly artifact sends her spiralling back in time to a Roman encampment besieged by rampaging Celts. Caught between the Legions and the war band, Allie is rescued from certain death by Marcus, a young Roman soldier with a secret. As she struggles to survive in the past, Clare and Milo race desperately against time in the present to bring Allie home…before she loses her head OR her heart.

Title Every Never After
Author : Lesley Livingston
Series : Never (book two)
Format : physical
Page Count : 256
Genre : YA fantasy / paranormal / historical
Publisher : Penguin Canada
Release Date : March 12, 2013

Hollis’ 3 star review

Okay, I realize it’s been seconds for you between my hope for better for book two and the writing of said review. Not that it’s been all that long on this end, I’m literally bingeing the last two books the day after reading the first, but. Somehow this wasn’t at all what I remembered it being. I had no review to look back on but I did rate this higher (highEST! it was a five. oh precious bb Hollis..) so I expected something great.

And.. I mean, I wasn’t wrong. Allie, the bestie, does get her chance at time traveling, this time in a different manner, with different parameters, than Clare, but.. other than the fun of who she runs into, and thus has a romance with, this one felt chaotic.

The whole trilogy is basically focused around the same things, with the same characters, and that’s made even more clear by the cliffhanger in book two. So while we get to see how some things piece together in this middle instalment, and there are a lot of pieces — some still unresolved or unclear — it’s just also a lot. There’s so much going on at the end of this one, and it gets very timey wimey wibbledy wobbledy (though that bit is mostly fun), that it sorta feels unsatisfying.

Also, I don’t know if it’s the slightly shorter runtime or the general chaos but the aforementioned romance just doesn’t come across convincing. I would’ve liked less of that, more of a promise of it to come, then how it played out but then again.. this is one of those YA issues I have these days. Not that adult romance is any better at times!

So yeah, lots of questions and confusions still abound, and more time travel adventures still to come, so I’ll just dive right in and hope we can really bring it all home in the finale.

Past and present collide on the high seas when Clare and Allie hurtle back in time once more in a perilous attempt to retrieve Marcus Donatus—Allie’s blast-from-the-past crush—and put an end, once and for all, to the Time Monkey Shenanigans. But when Clare and Allie unexpectedly find themselves temporal stowaways on a Roman warship full of looted Celtic gold, sailing straight for the heart of a magic-fuelled maelstrom, there’s not much they can do but hang on for the ride—and hope Milo can tap into the Druid lore trapped in his genius brain to help bring them home, before it’s too late. The only thing that’s going to save Clarinet Reid and Allie McAllister now is if they join forces with old enemies, new loves … and unexpected friends.

Title Now and For Never
Author : Lesley Livingston
Series : Never (book three)
Format : physical
Page Count : 280
Genre : YA fantasy / paranormal / historical
Publisher : Penguin Canada
Release Date : May 27, 2014

Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Okay, this was pretty fun. Did it blow my mind? Maybe not. Is this series going to stay on my shelves? Also no. But it was, in the end, a little better than book two. And I’m glad I made a point to revisit these because they do hold up, they do some neat time travel-y things that aren’t quite the usual format, and well.. it’s pretty fun. It’s also not a huge time investment as these are easy to breeze through as opposed to some of the more chunky fantasies.

While the England setting isn’t all that unusual for this kind of story, the when of it all is. In this one we have a Roman vessel, and governor along with his legion, finding their way to North America in 92 AD and boy does that get complicated. I appreciated the very real historical awareness woven into this series and this was only one example of that. Throw in all the complicated paradoxes and whatnot, well. Clearly Livingston is a smart cookie.

If the YA lover in your life is keen for adventure and hijinks, history and romance, and enjoys a good quirky and smart ensemble, this might be one to fit the bill. And the bonus is it’s a backlist series and there’s no need to wait ages for the next instalment!


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