Splintered by A.G. Howard

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 371 pages.
Read from April 24 to May 07, 2014.

I was torn between giving this novel two or three stars but I decided to go with three because the real fault with this book is that it just isn’t written for someone my age.

Splintered is a gothic and modern rendition of Alice and Wonderland. The protagonist, Alyssa Gardener, is a teenage girl who, from the time she hit puberty, is able to talk with insects and plants. All of the women in her family are inflicted with this ‘curse’ and her mother and grandmother have been institutionalized for these abilities. This curse, along with the abilities, is long rumored within Alyssa’s family to be in relation to the story of Alice in Wonderland, as Alice is apparently one of her great grandmothers.

Alyssa is keeping her abilities a secret from everyone but especially her institutionalized mother who hasn’t been home for most of her life. Between the stress of her family, tensions rising with her crush Jeb who is overprotective and the uncontrollable chatter of the critters around her, Alyssa is faced with a choice to end the curse that has plagued her family and save her mother. She takes the leap down the rabbit hole with some unexpected company and memories to a world that’s very different from the tale Alice depicted.

This Wonderland is a scary place, almost vicious, like that of a horror. The White Rabbit is actually rabid and missing some it’s skin due some inflicted punishment from the one of the Queens. The Mad Hatter doesn’t have a face but rather its head is literally a hat making mechanism. The Cheshire cat had its head cut off and half of his body has been eaten by a large and terrifying creature. The Walrus is some awful octopus hybrid called the octobenus and has an insatiable and cruel appetite. These horror-twisted characters are truly awesome and the reader can envision them perfectly with the author’s descriptions. It was a world, I wish I could have explored more. Instead, so much of the book’s focus was the weird romantic tension between Alyssa, Jeb and the netherling, Morpheus. I can’t ever recall as a teenage girl ever craving cheesy romance in my books but if this is what girls are into these days when it comes to novels then maybe I need to stop reading young-adult books.

This book had such amazing potential with its innovative setting but I felt it was ruined with lame-ass teenage romance. In my opinion, if this book had been written for adults and it ended up focusing more on the setting and Alyssa’s adventures instead of her love interests, it could have a been a really solid book! With that all being said, I didn’t dislike the book. I just wish it could have been formed differently.

The Tyrant’s Daughter – J.C. Carleson

4/5 stars.
(ARC) ebook, 304 pages.
Read from January 20 to 29, 2014.

Thank you Netgalley for inviting me to read this novel, as I may not have come across it otherwise. This book is a gem in the YA genre and one that every young person living in this post 9/11 world needs to read. With all the hype that has come with America’s war on terror it’s easy to forget that there are two-sides to every story and while this novel is fiction it depicts the emotional side of the other story.

Laila is a teenage girl who was living like royalty in a middle-eastern country run by her father, that is, until he is assassinated.  Overnight Laila becomes a nobody and she is moved with her family to the USA which, is a world and a lifestyle none of them are familiar with. Laila has more worries and concerns than most US teenage girls do and while she does her best to fit in, her past has left her with unanswered questions. Her mother is up to something, scheming with people that they would not normally associate with and Laila wants answers. She is afraid of the truth but she has to know if the way her family is being portrayed in the American media is true and if she knows her family as well as she thought she did.

This book is riveting and, on an emotional level, so realistically depicted. It makes you take a look at the war that is being waged and the consequences it has for the people who are suffering through the ordeal first hand. It makes you wonder if we are really ever able to grasp what living in a world like the middle-east would be like? We are so unbelievably safe here and have practically all of our basic needs met. How could any of us possibly understand the culture and times of countries that have none of these things? Laila offers us an inside to this world and her struggles in coming to terms with who she is and where she is.

I think the only compliant I have with this book is that I highly doubt that the American teenagers depicted in this book would be as kind as they are described to Lalia, knowing her origin. I think in the real world, if these kids knew who she was and where she came from they would be unrelentingly cruel to her. I would suspect violence from teenagers and potentially other adults. Despite this potential falsity, the emotions felt and portrayed by Lalia in the book make up for this fact. Her inner turmoil and bravery are truly what make this book great.

A highly recommended read for any North American.

Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

3/5 stars.
ebook, 161 pages.
Read from January 09 to 15, 2014.

I picked this book up in anticipation of the movie coming out called The Seventh Son. I have heard that the movie is invariably different than the book and the book series itself which makes me a little bit sad but that is usually the case with book to movie interpretations. The book series, called ‘The Last Apprentice’ or the ‘Wardston Chronicles’ contains 12 books.

As a young adult novel, this story is not only extremely exciting but very dark at the same time making this story appealing to variety of age groups, which I think is what the movie creators saw. Thomas Ward is the seventh son of the seventh son and like all boys in this birth position he is sent off at to apprentice to become a ‘Spook.’ A Spook, is the person in charge of managing all of the evil and supernatural in the area, such as witches, boggarts and ghosts. The seventh son of the seventh son is sent for this position as they are born with special intuitive gifts that keep them in tune with the supernatural. The downside to all of this is that the work is very dangerous and lonely. Spooks are not well liked and all of the apprentices prior to Thomas have not lived to see themselves become the next Spook. Thomas finds himself in a pinch when he inadvertently has to deal with a very malevolent witch early on in his training.

There are a lot of different details in this book that make me want to continue the series: I have questions about Thomas’ mother and the strange friendship that Thomas builds with a young witch he encounters. Additionally, the writing appeals to readers of all ages as the author plays with the grey area between good and evil, where most us find ourselves in, adding that extra moral dilemma for the characters and the reader.  Also, the author, while making Thomas the hero, still manages to keep the physical and emotional age of Thomas in proportion. This makes the story more enticing and exciting as Thomas is facing obstacles that no boy his age should be but the author ensures that he reacts appropriately for his age in these experiences.

Overall, a solid young-adult fantasy read . I am looking forward to the next book in the series and the movie, even if it does end up being a bit a different from the book.