Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: Splintered

Splintered by A.G. Howard 
Release: Jan 1, 2013 
Source: e-galley from Publisher

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.

From the very first lines, I could tell Splintered would be a darker, and perhaps more disturbing tale, than the original Alice in Wonderland. And while I enjoyed Splintered in many ways, I never fell in love with the book.

Splintered is the story of Alyssa Gardner. She is a descendant of the original Alice Liddell. Her mother was considered “mad”, just like every Liddell female that followed Alice. And Alyssa is no exception, when she begins to hear bugs and flowers talking to her. Alyssa ends up going down the rabbit hole, with her crush (Jeb), and there they find Alyssa was lured to fix the messes Alice made that resulted in the family curse.

Naturally, Alyssa wants to do all she can to reverse the curse and “save” her mother and herself from a lifetime in a psychiatric unit, where they’d be subjected to treatment after treatment.

For some reason, though, I never connected with Alyssa. She seemed selfish, and at times, too timid and trusting. Granted, she becomes stronger in the end, but I still continued to feel disconnected from the story.

Save for Alyssa, only two characters are worth mentioning: Jeb and Morpheus. Jeb is the best friend she’s been crushing on for some time. When they travel to wonderland, I was annoyed with how overprotective he was. He grew on me, though, as he began to see Alyssa change from someone meek and mild, to someone with strength and determination. His reaction, his motivations, were all understandably human.  Then there is Morpheus, a Wonderland resident, full of intrigue and mystery. I can see why he has his admirers.  He’s absolutely charming, and yet…the lies…the deceit…

The fact that Morpheus doesn’t reveal all his intentions at first, made Splintered, an interesting read. However, while the twist at the end was stellar (I could have never guessed it in a million years), I felt it came a little too late to really grab my attention.

I think the biggest issue I had may not have to do with the novel itself, but its inspiration. Alice in Wonderland is a tale filled with a nonsensical plot with little control and/or direction.  Splintered has more direction, but I found it difficult to wrap my mind around all the events that were happening. It is nonsensical, but fun, and this book will definitely have many fans.

Simply put, this book is crazy. I like crazy and I like imagination, but I kept finding myself lost and confused. I found myself, for whatever reason, disconnected from the story and that prevented me from loving it like I had hoped.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: Scarlet

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Release: Feb 5, 2013
Source: ARC via trade

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

With Cinder, Marissa Meyer introduced readers to a fascinating futuristic world. I mean, come on—a Cinderella cyborg? It’s also fair to say that Cinder ended in an awful cliff-hanger: MY HEART.  It’s for this reason that I found myself desperate to get my hands on Scarlet. When I did, though, I became hesitant because Scarlet begins by introducing us to a new main protagonist instead of continuing where Cinder left off.

But readers, do not worry. Scarlet is an equally captivating protagonist. Practically orphaned and raised by her grandmother, we’re introduced to a young girl in search of answers. Where is her grandmother, and who took her? She’s equally fierce and determined, and a far cry from the little timid red-riding hood we know in the original tale.

In addition, Cinder’s story is not forgotten. Meyer writes about Cinder’s escape, her adventure with the hilarious (and charming) prisoner, Captain Throne. Both story arcs are different, but Marissa Meyer skillfully interweaves both of their stories in ways that is sometimes predictable and sometimes surprising. No, the romance between Kai and Cinder doesn’t disappear, but it stays stagnant in light of recent events (which include the Ball and Queenn Laviana). This lack of romance between Kai and Cinder doesn’t mean that there that romance is absent.

Wolf is dark, dangerous, and used to be a part of a violent Clan. Their members, their purpose, are all a mystery until the end. He agrees to help Scarlet in her quest to find and save her grandmother. Their mutual goals bring them closer.

One of my biggest complaints with Cinder was that I found it very predictable. Scarlet had some rather unexpected twists and turns that had me nodding my head and saying ‘Yes, Marissa Meyer is a genius’.

And Marissa Meyer is a genius.

I think Scarlet was a far stronger story than Cinder, and the romance far more interesting. My only concern is that, if Marissa chooses to write Cress and Winter from different perspectives, the narrative will become too cluttered to become invested in the new characters we meet. Hopefully, this won’t happen, and she’ll find a way to masterfully weave all four stories. 


Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Shadowlands

Shadowlands by Kate Brian 
Release: January 8, 2013
Source: Southern Blogger ARC Tour

Rory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived… and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection with her father and sister, Darcy, leaving their friends and family without so much as a goodbye. 
Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children, but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. But just as they’re starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again?

Confession: I don’t do scary stories. It’s not that I scare easily, I just don’t like being scared. I like tension, I like suspense, but I tend to stay away from the horror genre. Shadowlands isn’t horror, but it is downright scary at times. The book begins with shy, plain, Rory being attacked by a serial killer. Miraculously, Rory escapes. But the man has never missed a target in all his years of crime. And he isn’t about to let Rory go now.

Rory and her family go under the witness protection program and travel to a little island vacation town. People come and go all the time, and Rory begins to feel safe in her new surroundings. Then people go missing, and the nightmare starts all over again.

What I don't get is why FBI never accompanied Rory, her sister, and her father to their secret destination, to assure they arrived safely. It was a glaring issue that prevented me from really enjoying the book. Yes, Shadowlands is quite a page turner. It had my heart racing, and it was incredibly difficult to put down. Unfortunately, despite its readability, Shadowlands failed to meet my expectations. 

Rory was an interesting character, but frustration with her grew as the story progressed. She was too timid, too. Then there is Darcy, carefree and generally only concerned about parties and having fun. I hated her, and felt no sympathy towards the end. I also failed to understand the point of the tension presented in the beginning between the sisters and Darcy’s ex-boyfriend, Christopher.

In addition, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like the explanation that Brian gave for all the mysterious disappearances and the town's oddities. The ending threw me for a loop, and left me unsettled. Will I read the sequel? Probably (if I have the time). However, I honestly don’t think I like the direction this story is going. I was expecting a simple thriller, but got something with possible paranormal undertones towards the end. Don't get me wrong--it's an intriguing story, but not the kind of book I usually read.