Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered by A.G. Howard.

Splintered #1.
Page Count: 371.
Published: January 1, 2013.
Published by: Amulet Books
Source: Special Edition finished copy received at BEA from publisher. Thanks, Amulet!

Goodreads Synopsis:
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

My Review:

The blurb for this novel claims "grotesque madness" and on that it certainly delivers. Howard has taken the classic story and given it a new side that further explores the dark elements of the original tale while also giving it its own life and conflicts. I must say that I didn't love every aspect of this re-imagining, but there were plenty of elements that I did enjoy.

I was greatly impressed by the twisted version of Wonderland Howard has created. The imagination this world clearly took is astounding, as Howard has come up with many interesting elements. Her take on having Alyssa "undo" the things that the original Alice left wrong was creative and a fun play on the original story. The imagery created was absolutely wonderful to read, as it was richly described and really quite exciting to follow. This was probably the aspect of the novel that most drew me in and kept me entertained because I thought the creative twists and the world Howard created were the strongest elements.

When it came to characters, I quite enjoyed Alyssa and Jeb. They both felt like genuine, emotional characters with strengths and faults, wants and fears. Not only was their friendship/something more pretty enjoyable to watch unfold, but Alyssa's family complications were also very explored in a very interesting way. Her strained relationship (almost non-relationship) with her mother was captivating and heartbreaking to watch, but well developed. However, in terms of the last main character, I was not impressed by Morpheus until near the end (though many others love him deeply, so this is largely personal preference). He really just came off as more creepy and invasive than appealing and seductive, which I think is what a lot of others see in him. I don't see the attraction at all, nor did I love his character for most of the book. I did come around on the "interested" side by the end, but still not the "attracted."

I also felt like many of the minor characters, while often extremely interesting, were not developed enough to leave a lasting impression beyond the strange way they fit into Wonderland. I understand that in a story like this, a large cast of characters certainly makes sense and fits well, but I often felt like I was just getting to know a few interesting side characters when suddenly their parts were finished and they were gone from the story. I'm definitely hoping that some of this wide cast makes further appearances in the next two installments because they added a certain something fun and creative to the story and I'm very interested in seeing more!

Overall, this was certainly an imaginative and wildly creative Wonderland re-imagining. While I didn't love all the aspects and completely don't understand the appeal of one of the points of the love triangle, I did enjoy the main character, the complex and well developed world in which she lands, and the crazy side characters that make it so unique.
3 stars.


Waiting on Wednesday #48: Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore.

Expected Publication: January 28, 2014.
by: Point/Scholastic.

Goodreads Blurb:
The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems . . .

Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance. 

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn't sure she possesses the courage -- or the means -- to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

Why I'm excited:
I know, historical fiction two weeks in a row. But I need it! It feels like there isn't much of it publishing in 2014 YA, so I'm REALLY excited about what is! not to mention how much I already adore Katherine, so to see a new book coming? I can't wait!

What are you waiting on this week?


In Which I Cry Not Wolf, but School

So I've been a terribly lame blogger lately. I know. Let me explain a bit. 

I'm in my second year of university and that's tough enough as it is. But I'm also playing catch-up because at the end of last year, I decided to change majors to open up for myself the career opportunity I only recently discovered I want to pursue. In addition, I do an extra-curricular or two and am now a part of a Student Association on campus. Needless to say, it's busy around here. I've been able to do what I consider a decent job at keeping this blog going for most of the school year, but then November came. 

November and March are undoubtedly the busiest and most school-heavy months of the year for me because they are the months before final exams. They are the months in which all the professors plan to test us one last time before finals and collect our papers on everything they hope we've learned so far. My calendar for November has something for school written in almost every single day's square. This is why I haven't been blogging or reading as much. And because I was working so much this past summer, I didn't have a plethora of pre-written reviews to fall back on. 

So my apologies for being pretty absent this month. I have some really fun stuff planned for December with lots of authors involved. As that plays out and finals wrap up, I'm going to work really hard to pre-schedule lots of content for the blog so that in March I don't disappear again. 

Just know that I'm still here, I've just been swamped. But hopefully you'll enjoy all the awesome people I have coming on the blog next month. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. Thanks for sticking around!


Waiting on Wednesday #47: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller.

Expected Publication: January 23, 2014.
by: Viking Juvenile.

Goodreads Blurb:
Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

Why I'm excited:
More historical fiction!!! I love me some historical. Also, a girl who wants to be an artist but is stuck in a disapproving high society? Cue rebellion! Count me in!

What are you waiting on this week?


Waiting on Wednesday #46: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Defy by Sara B. Larson

Expected Publication: January 7, 2014
by: Scholastic Press

Goodreads Blurb:
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Why I'm excited:
I've been meaning to read more fantasy, so I think this one could be really great! And Kristin Cashore has been mentioned around this book, so we'll see if it has some of her qualities in it. The whole "thrilling love triangle" has me a bit skeptical, but hey, at least they're warning us ahead of time! I'm definitely looking forward to giving it a try.

What are you waiting on this week?


Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter

Pawn by Aimée Carter.

The Blackcoat Rebellion #1.
Page Count: 346.
Published: November 26, 2013.
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Source: Requested from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Harlequin Teen, for the ARC!


For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. 

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. 

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

My Review:

I was interested in Pawn right from the first time I heard about it. A lot of people are "dystopianed out," but I'm still looking for the original stories that stand out among all the others. I'm happy to report that for me, Pawn was indeed an interesting and well executed novel that didn't feel like a repetition of other books at all.

Carter takes what is certainly an intriguing plot idea and turns it into something unexpected and surprising. What starts off as a seemingly straightforward idea quickly proves to be much more developed than it first appears. There are plot elements in Pawn that are common to the genre but I didn't feel like the book was following any sort of formulaic storyline and I was constantly surprised by new information or intentions being revealed. While I probably should have seen some of the twists coming, I was so engrossed in my reading that I just wanted to keep absorbing instead of sitting back and criticizing. The entire situation with the Harts becomes much more intense and inwardly focused than I expected and I thought it was a great way for the plot to play out. It was genuinely enjoyable both from a general reading perspective and from the thought-out, interesting story side.

One thing I'm especially impressed with is Carter's characterization and they way she slowly reveals who her players truly are. I kept thinking I had everyone figured out until someone surprised me, revealing something new. It's always interesting when you believe you understand a characters' goals and motivations, especially in a book such as this that has such politically driven plot lines, but they turn out to be hiding something you never expected. I'm not going to name any names because that will spoil some of the story, but the character development and "unfolding", if you will, was very well executed. Carter makes you think it's all black and white until suddenly you're surrounded by grey, an aspect that I truly enjoyed.

There was a lot about Kitty that I really enjoyed, including her balance of selfless but careful and aware, as well as her determination and her distinct humanness. She is not a flawless character, which was refreshing and made her much more appealing. However, I will admit that there were times I got a little frustrated that her motivation seemed to revolve solely around Benji. I saw other factors at work but it was like Kitty had blinders on and Benji was all she could see. I can absolutely appreciate a good connection and wanting to do everything you can for the one you love (which is what their relationship is like), but this was a complex situation and I wanted to see that reflected a little more for Kitty. I did like that the rest of the characters did seem to see the complexity and that helped to really add layers both to them and to the plot.

I do want to note that I am a visual reader and there were moments in which Carter's writing didn't entirely cater to that. I really like to picture the scenes in my head as I'm reading, but I couldn't always get enough visual detail from the story to do so. I feel like some of that may have had to do with a little less worldbuilding than I would have liked, but I also do acknowledge that that is a very personal, subjective factor. It wasn't an issue throughout, though, and will certainly not hold me back from reading the next in the series.

All in all, I was definitely impressed by the way Carter brought a fresh and interesting take to a genre that is, I'll admit, starting to feel a little overdone. I really enjoyed getting to know her characters and am very interested to see where the story goes next.
4 stars.


Waiting on Wednesday #45: Shadowplay by Laura Lam

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Shadowplay by Laura Lam.
Pantomime #2.

Expected Publication: January 4, 2014.
by: Strange Chemistry.

Goodreads Blurb:
The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great
magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates. People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus--the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he's perfecting...

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

Why I'm excited:
I know I just featured this yesterday in my Top Ten Tuesday, but oh well. I wants it!
I really, really enjoyed Pantomime and I was so excited to hear that there was going to be a sequel, so you can bet I'll be getting my hands on this one as soon as I can! I can't wait to see where Micah's journey heads next, especially after the way the first book ended!

What are you waiting on this week?


Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Get My Hands On

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Get My Hands On. So, in no particular order, here are the sequels I'm dying to read.

The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab.
The Archived was one of the most impressive and original novels I read this year so I am definitely, DEFINITELY excited for its sequel. Especially because of all the Wesley that is apparently in it. Eep!

Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter #2) by Megan Shepherd.
I really enjoyed The Madman's Daughter and after the ending Megan Shepherd left us with, I can't wait to see what comes next!

Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer.
Technically this one shouldn't really be on my list because I already do have my hands on it, but I haven't been able to pick it up yet, so I'm leaving it here (and yes, it's a #3 not a #2, whatever. It's not the only one on the list so too bad). But yes. So excited. Because CRESS.

Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh Mafi.
I'm really quite nervous about what's going to happen in this one, but I'm sincerely hoping I like it (Sorry not sorry but Juliette, as the girl she is now, does not belong with Warner. Also please give me more Kenji). I'm still very excited to read it, but so hoping it doesn't get spoiled for me early.

Rebel (Reboot #2) by Amy Tintera.
I really liked Reboot and I'm excited for more Wren and Callum! I'm definitely hoping there's more swoon for them in this one because their relationship was moving fairly slowly in Reboot (which, hey, totally fair... I just ship them and would enjoy the swoons). I'm a little wary of the dual POV though, both for its plot implications and for the quality of its execution. I'm not loving the Tris/Four dual POV in Allegiant, so here's hoping this one impresses me more.

The Worlds We Make (Fallen World #3) by Megan Crewe.
I'm a big fan of this series and I can't wait to read the ending, even though it means it'll be over. I'm excited to see what happens to the gang (please let Gav survive) and the Canadian landscape is totally an awesome bonus.

Shadowplay (Pantomime #2) by Laura Lam.
Pantomime really surprised me and I enjoyed it a lot, so I'm certainly looking forward to its sequel. Especially after the crazy ending, though. Oh Micha, what trouble will you get into this time?

Born of Deception (Born of Illusion #2) by Teri Brown.
Another one that I really enjoyed (Born of Illusion), so reading the sequel sounds like a given. I'm especially curious about the ongoing mysteries surrounding Anna and though I'm really bummed to hear that she and Cole get pulled apart, I'm still interested in seeing what a change of location to London holds for her.

Shadowscale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman.
I have no idea what's going on with this book because there's still no cover and it looks like it has been pushed back to 2015. 2015, guys! *weeps*

Untitled sequel to Pawn by Aimée Carter.
I was actually really impressed by Pawn, especially because everything remotely "dystopian" and revolutionary seems to be the same now and this one wasn't like that and was pretty enjoyable. My review goes up very soon, but for now I'll just say that I'm definitely curious to see what comes next!