Thursday, 14 February 2013

Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered by AG Howard
This reimagining of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is just as freaky, scary and wonderful as expected.

Title & Author: Splintered by A.G. Howard
Published: 2013
Pages: 371 (Amulet Books, 2013)
Read: 3/2/13 - 13/2/13
Series: N/A
Challenge(s): 2013 Debut Author Challenge
Source: Owned book

Synopsis: 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 Goodreads)

Loved/liked: Loved.  This was actually one of the January debuts I passed over when I did my initial list, which now seems mad as this is so good.  I'm glad it was picked as the Debut Author Challenge's book club book for February or I might not have read it, which would be a shame as I really enjoyed the read. 

I have to admit, one of the things that made me a tad wary was the love triangle.  It's right there in the synopsis and I was sure it would irritate me but no!  I actually liked it, mostly because a) it made sense, b) it didn't dominate the whole damn plot, and c) I agreed with the outcome, which didn't feel forced.  It was what I was rooting for throughout, which was nice (usually I pick the 'losing' guy).

The writing is gorgeous, the reimagining of Wonderland superb, and the characters all well-rounded. I liked Alyssa and rooted for her, and her evolution from freaked out teenager to total badass is believable and awesome.  Both guys - Jeb and Morpheus - are great, and while I won't say which one I wanted to 'win' the love triangle I didn't feel that either didn't deserve to.  Plus, Morpheus has various hats to suit his mood and/or the occasion, which is something I adored.

Basically, I loved this book and am finding it a bit tricky to put that into words without potentially ruining the whole dame plot.  It's the sort of book I want to babble about to someone who's also read it, to point at favourite bits and discuss the sheer wonderful weirdness that was this take on Wonderland.

Problems/issues: None.  The length of time it took me to read it was entirely my own fault; whenever I read the book I couldn't put it down.  It's only not a 10/10 because, as much as I liked it, I didn't love it as much as I love my favourite books (which is, again, entirely on me).

Extra Awesome: Court intrigue, flying, hats for every occasion, weirdness everywhere.

Do I want more? Definitely.  This isn't a series - though there is the potential for a sequel at the end, it's just something mentioned in passing - but I will be reading A.G. Howard's next book for sure (whenever that is *peers at Goodreads author page*).

Do I recommend it? Yes. Especially if you like darker, twistier fantasy - I'm thinking Holly Black and Melissa Marr, the sort of books that occasionally make me go "oh, that's nasty"...but not so nasty that I stop reading.  Also, there are hats for specific events which is something I need in my life.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Review: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
This swashbuckling tale of derring do, gambling, drinking, getting money off your mistress because you've spent it all on the gambling and drinking, challenging people to duels, dashing to England and back, and generally being a total seventeenth-century badass is, in short, a fantastic read.

Title & Author: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Published: 1844
Pages: 720 (Penguin, 1982)
Read: 13/01/13 - 23/01/13
Series: The D'Artagnan Romances #1
Challenge(s): Project Fill in the Gaps
Status: Owned book

Synopsis: One of the most celebrated and popular historical romances ever written, The Three Musketeers tell the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman D'Artagan and his three friends from the regiment of the King's Musketeers - Athos,Porthos and Aramis.

Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honour of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, and the honour of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of seventeenth-century France are vividly played out in the background. (from Goodreads)

Review: I have to admit, much of my knowledge of this book comes from the adaptations of it, especially the cartoon Dogtanian (what?  It was a favourite of mine as a kid.  And my friend who is Dumas obsessed says it's probably the most faithful adaptation she's ever watched).  So while I knew the gist of the story going in I wasn't prepared for how dark the book would get - the ending if more tragedy than comedy - or how daft the Musketeers frequently were when it came to anything involving money.  They may have been living the lives of seventeenth century heroes, but they could have at least tried to have some money set by for (picking an example purely at random) buying the equipment they'd need to go to war.  Seriously, guys, think ahead.

The plot itself will be familiar to most: D'Artagnan, a young hot-headed Gascon, travels to Paris to seek his fortune as a member of the King's Musketeers.  He finds out that he can't just wander in and become a Musketeer, and in the course of discovering this he ends up challenging three of the other Musketeers to consecutive duels.  These fights don't actually come off because the four of them are attacked by the Cardinal's guards and I thought the 1970s adaptation (with Michael Yorke as D'Artagnan) was exaggerating how many sword fights these guys get into but it is constant.  Anyone who so much as looks at them funny is challenged to a duel.  I think it's possibly this that helps them all become friends, though part of it is probably also the aforementioned inability to save money when they could be out drinking and gambling.

A vast chunk of plot was unfamiliar, however, and this is the part that makes the book so good: Milady and her machinations.  The Cardinal isn't as sinister as I was expecting, but Milady is (as the book frequently puts it) a fiend from hell.  The Musketeers may challenge those who slight them to duels; Milady simply kills anyone in her way, usually with poison or by getting someone else to do it.  She is devious and tricksy and fabulous, and there are so many awesome revelations about her that I'm just going to say you need to read the book because I am not spoiling.  The end is dark and reminded me of the darker moments of The Count of Monte Cristo - I genuinely didn't expect it to end that way, or that brutally.

The Three Musketeers is one of those books that I thought I knew, but I was still surprised by it.  Well worth reading for the swashbuckling romance alone, it's also a fantastic story that - as usual with Dumas - keeps you turning the pages so quickly that it's size feels less daunting.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 14 January 2013

Bout of Books 6.0: Wrap Up

Bout of Books 6.0 has come to an end and I'm going to detail my achievements.  My goals are here and my progress here (I didn't update over the weekend so it has that information newly added).

My goal was to read 5 books, which I did (pretty much).  There's a graphic novel in there, and I did also reread a book so my total is technically 6 although I was thinking that I should read 5 new books.  I'm counting my final score as 5.

Books Read
1. Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
4. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
5. Astonishing X-Men #5 vol 1: Gifted by Joss Whedon

Total pages = 1,333

Also Read
- The first 125 pages of The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han.  I wasn't really in the mood for this book so officially paused it on Saturday.  I do want to go back to it, but it wasn't right for me at present.
- I reread Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett just because.  I always have at least one reread on the go, even when I feel like I should be sticking to new stuff (286 pages).

Including these = 6 books read; 1,619 pages

I really liked doing Bout of Books, and will definitely do the next one when I will participate more.  Twitter chats, yay!

Friday, 11 January 2013

2013 Tudor Reading Challenge

Tudor Reading Challenge 2013

The Tudor Reading Challenge is being hosted by Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR.  I am signing up because I love me some Tudor reading, and because this will give me a kick to finish a series I love that has just been sitting there on my shelf for months.  There are different levels and I'm going for Henry VIII (Defender of the Faith): 10 books. While we don't need to list our books beforehand, the ones I have in mind to (re)read and review number 11 so that seems like a good level to aim for.

I'll be listing books read with links to their reviews below.

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