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review 2016-11-20 20:44
Ensnared (Splintered #3)
Ensnared - A.G. Howard

The first 25% of this novel is fantastic. Why? Because there is adventure, cool plot twists, an actual clearly defined plot (take notes, Book Two!), Wonderland creepiness, and a blissful lack of the two male sides of the love triangle. Then Morpheus shows up and, interesting though he is, things start to go downhill. Then Jeb shows up with his asshole factor dialed up to unbearable levels, and I was once again trapped in YA Love Triangle Purgatory until everything wrapped up in an are-you-kidding-me anti-climax.


If I had a dollar for every time Alyssa moans in this book about how her heart is literally and figuratively tearing in two, I could probably afford a trip to London to search for the Rabbit Hole. If you adore books about virginal borderline Mary Sues who love two different assholes and can’t imagine life without either of them, you might love this series. It does have a cool premise and an awesome backdrop. For me, it was just okay. And I’m taking the second short story collection off my to-buy list. Howard’s Wonderland is spectacular, but I am so done with these characters.

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review 2016-11-15 23:18
Unhinged (Splintered #2)
Unhinged - A.G. Howard

This review contains spoilers for Splintered. If you haven’t read it yet, proceed at your own risk.


Second book syndrome rears its ugly head. Howard’s writing is still good (blah first-person-present notwithstanding) and her descriptions of all things Wonderland are still delightfully creepy, and that’s pretty much the end of my praise.


This book has no plot.


It is chock full of Alyssa sticking her fingers in her ears and singing “la la la” to avoid her queenly responsibilities. It’s got even more wishy-washy geometric romance and dick measuring contests than book one. It’s got more of Alyssa’s outfits described in minute detail (because it’s essential we know exactly what she’s wearing every single time she changes clothes). But what it hasn’t got is a solidly defined plot. It is 100% set-up for book three, and at least 90% of that is unnecessary filler. I don’t mind if an author uses romantic tension to drive a plot, but romantic tension by itself is not a substitute for plot. This book just meanders for a good 90% and it is so. Damn. Boring.


Jeb is still an asshole. Morpheus is still a much more interesting and complex asshole. Alyssa in book two has turned into Taelor, the girl we’re supposed to hate because she hates Alyssa. She is needy, whiny, possessive, and jealous, and she blames it all on her netherling side instead of, you know, maybe questioning whether she’s just a hypocrite. The only redeeming feature this book possesses other than the delightfully creepy Wonderland stuff is the insight into Alyssa’s parents’ history, which would have made a much better book by itself than this ode to girls who can’t make a decision and stick to it.


Book three promises a return to Wonderland, which is more or less the only reason I’m not removing it from my Kindle unread. I couldn’t care less who Alyssa ends up with in the end, be it Jeb or Morpheus or both or neither, but a journey through AnyElsewhere sounds promising.

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text 2016-11-11 11:12
Reading progress update: I've read 31%.
Unhinged - A.G. Howard

As excited as I was to see where this series would go, I'm having trouble getting into this book. It doesn't help that I haven't had much time for reading this week, or that the story hasn't gone much of anywhere. I'm nearly a third of the way through and so far all I've gotten is too much romantic angst, some high school wangst, and some super-heavy-handed foreshadowing.


I also feel like the quality of the storytelling has gone down a bit. Everything's so darn telegraphed. Alyssa gets her skirt caught in the seat belt and the seat belt jams. She decides not to ask for help fixing it. Then she decides to drive home along a route that involves crossing train tracks. With her skirt still caught in the jammed seat belt. OH GEE. WHATEVER COULD GO WRONG.


Oh, and then there's this gem when Alyssa starts driving a Mercedes-Benz Gullwing:


I press the gas harder. The bar on the speedometer snaps from twenty-three m.p.h. to sixty-seven in under a minute.


Now, I know next to nothing about cars, but I'm pretty sure even my parents' rickety old '70s station wagon with the faux wood trim could do that. :P

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-11-04 06:16
The Moth in the Mirror
The Moth in the Mirror - A.G. Howard

This review contains spoilers for Splintered. If you haven’t read it yet, proceed at your own risk.


Despite what the title might lead you to believe, this novella is less about Morpheus and more about what kind of assholery Jeb got up to in Splintered whenever he and Alyssa got separated. In between a brief intro and outro featuring the interesting and complex Morpheus, the reader is “treated” to such scenes as Jeb being an asshole and torturing a sprite for information, Jeb being generally useless and reflecting on his insecurities and having yet another dick-measuring contest with Morpheus, and Jeb being an asshole even when he’s trying to be noble and self-sacrificing.


I think I know what Howard was going for when she showed us how Jeb came to the decision to sacrifice himself to save the Ivory Queen and, by extension, Alyssa. To me, it made him look more selfish than selfless as he doesn’t even think of his own family (who depend on him emotionally and financially) at the pivotal moment. To be clear, I still think Morpheus is also an asshole, but he’s an interesting asshole. Jeb’s too two-dimensional despite Howard’s attempt to give him layers.


Other than the brief insight we get into Morpheus’s character, this story’s only redeeming feature is that it’s written in third person past instead of first person present. It gets two stars from me, one for the fifth of the story that actually featured Morpheus, and one for the much-improved narrative style. If you like Jeb, you’ll like this story a lot more than I did. If you think Jeb’s an asshole, you can help me think up more appropriate names for the story. Like Asshole in Wonderland. Or The Douche in the Mirror.

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review 2016-11-04 01:02
Splintered - A.G. Howard

Confession: I bought this book, as well as books two and three and a novella, on the strength of the cover and description alone. And I don’t regret it . . . yet. Howard’s version of Wonderland is every bit as weird and beautiful and twisted as the cover promises. (Hooray for a cover that isn’t a heart-breaking deception!) The descriptions are vivid and captivating. The denizens of Wonderland are creepy and off-kilter in the best way. The plot is really interesting, presenting brilliant new takes on Lewis Carroll’s original stories and characters, and there’s even a good twist near the end. It kept me engaged and entertained.


Can you feel that inevitable “but” coming? Yes. Yes you can.


BUT . . . the first person present narration is meh. It never felt natural and did nothing for me. It might as well have been in past tense. And then there’s the geometric romantic element, with characters pining for other characters in a clichéd triangular fashion. It felt completely unnecessary. The story would have been strong enough without the romance, which seemed more like a crutch for character development than anything else. I came away with the impression that Jeb, who is an asshole, didn’t even need to be in the book and it would have been better without him. Morpheus is also an asshole, but at least his role is necessary. He’s a terribly interesting, complex character when he’s not engaged in dick-measuring contests with Jeb. Super spoilery musings under the spoiler tag:


It’s almost like Howard herself acknowledges Jeb’s uselessness when he’s literally erased from Alyssa’s Wonderland past and yet she still arrives at the same point, having accomplished the same tasks without him. She could have crossed that chessboard on her own without all of that boring romantic angst, and Alyssa’s relationships with her mother and Morpheus could have provided all the necessary fuel for her character growth. And I’m not just bothered by this because I prefer plot-driven stories to romance-driven stories. Jeb is a frickin’ useless asshole.

(spoiler show)


All in all, the cool stuff outweighs the meh stuff for me and I’m excited to see where the story goes from here. I know it’s too much to hope that Alyssa will dump Jeb’s dead weight on her next trip to Wonderland, but hopefully she’ll at least find more sensible shoes.

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