Review of Untamed by A.G. Howard

UntamedUntamed
By: A.G. Howard
Release Date: December 15th 2015
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:
A post-Ensnared collection of three stories—available in both print and e-versions.

Alyssa Gardner went down the rabbit hole and took control of her destiny. She survived the battle for Wonderland and the battle for her heart. In this collection of three novellas, join Alyssa and her family as they look back at their memories of Wonderland.

In Six Impossible Things, Alyssa recalls the most precious moments of her life after Ensnared, and the role magic plays in preserving the happiness of those she loves. Alyssa’s mother reminisces about her own time in Wonderland and rescuing the man who would become her husband in The Boy in the Web. And Morpheus delves into Jeb’s memories of the events of Splintered in The Moth in the Mirror, available in print for the first time.

This collection expands upon Ensnared‘s epilogue, and includes some deleted scenes to provide a “director’s cut” glimpse into the past and futures of our favorite Splintered characters.

My Thoughts:
I was really excited that they took all the novellas and published them in hardcover. I hadn’t read any of these prior to receiving the book so it was all fresh and new for me. I immediately dove in and was transported right back into Alyssa, Jeb and Morpheus’ world.

I think this compilation was a wonderful way to get that last Wonderland fix and gave me insight into each of the characters as well as what happened after Ensnared. I wouldn’t say I had a favorite of the three because each really touched on aspects I loved. As always Howard’s writing was descriptive and immersive. I found each story to be a quick read.

The first story follows after Ensnared and gave us some insight after the story ended. I was always less inclined towards Jeb so some of this was a tad slower just because I was like…where’s Morph! Although, it really did make my heart warm and I did find myself rooting for Jeb and Alyssa so there’s that. Which, says a lot since in the first book I pretty well hated Jeb. Somehow Howard has warmed me up to him. I’m impressed.

I had always wanted to read more about Alyssa’s parents because their backstory seemed so interesting and here was my chance! I loved venturing into their past and really getting a feel for what Alyssa’s mother had been through as well as her dad. Wow, that poor man really took on a lot. I loved seeing where Alyssa gets her strength and it does really shine light on her mother’s actions in previous books. Also, we get to see a bit of Morph we’d not seen before.

The last story was maybe my favorite? As I said, I never really loved Jeb but seeing his point of view with Morpheus somehow grabbed me. I think some people might have had reservations on how Ensnared ended and this really delved into that (the first and third story both do).

I don’t want to give too much away because the joy of these stories (beyond the gorgeous cover) was falling back into these characters and their story. It felt like a tribute to the characters and fans and was a pleasure to read. Any fan of the series must add this to their collection.

If you’ve not read these prior books I suggest reading them FIRST. You’ll spoil yourself if you pick this one up first.

Extras

Review of Ensnared by A.G. Howard

Ensnared (Splintered, #3)Ensnared (Splintered #3)
By: A.G. Howard
Release Date: January 6th 2015
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
After surviving a disastrous battle at prom, Alyssa has embraced her madness and gained perspective. She’s determined to rescue her two worlds and the people and netherlings she loves. Even if it means challenging Queen Red to a final battle of wills and wiles . . . and even if the only way to Wonderland, now that the rabbit hole is closed, is through the looking-glass world–a parallel dimension filled with mutated and violent netherling outcasts. In the final installment of the wildly popular Splintered trilogy, Alyssa and her dad journey into the heart of magic and mayhem in search of her mom and to set right all that’s gone wrong. Together with Jeb and Morpheus, they must salvage Wonderland from the decay and destruction that has ensnared it. But if they succeed and come out alive, can everyone truly have their happily ever after?

My Thoughts:
The difficulty of writing a review for the last of a series…it’s always such a challenge to write a spoiler free review that adequately explains how I’ve felt reading the ending of a series I enjoyed so thoroughly. I had a good amount of expectations going into Ensnared, the first two books were a blast to read with their exquisite details, vivid landscapes and a romance (or two) to swoon over.

This last installment went a tad darker than the previous two but kept me riveted. I’ll admit, after finishing I sat staring at the back of the book trying to fully digest my feelings. With any series finale there will be some that will not approve of the ending. I love that as readers we get so invested in the characters and story we are completely immersed in our personal desires and hopes for the story. I feel that this novel was ended the way that Howard had always intended.

It’ll come as no surprise that Alyssa was pulled in multiple directions not only between her human and Wonderland side but also her feelings between the two men that encapsulate these aspects of her being. I’ve been a full on Team Morph fan from the start and so I revel in every interaction between Alyssa and Morpheus. This book provided me with many heartwarming and wonderful scenes. Some of Morpheus’ dialog was to die for. There was a particular line I had to read multiple times because it was so perfect.

From the start I’ve had a tough time ever liking Jeb. I was shocked to find I was actually able to like him in this book. We see a darker, deeper side to him that I adored. His artistic abilities were forefront again and I absolutely loved where Howard took his part of the story; I felt it was expertly done and so incredibly imaginative. And, yes, I hate to admit it, but I was actually able to ship Alyssa and Jeb for the first time ever. A tip of the hat to Anita for being able to turn me around in the last book of a series. I thought it was impossible to get me to enjoy Jeb.

Of course, Alyssa has a lot of soul searching and discovery to find out about herself and her motivations. Her journey was not an easy one and the final showdown between her and her advisory, Queen Red, was intense and very dark. I adored all of Howard’s lush descriptions and her unending imagination. I had thought that Wonderland was a creepy place but Howard went even further in the looking-glass world. Her description of the denizens of this alternate reality caused revulsion yet the inability to stop reading about the horrifying and twisted inhabitants.

I really don’t want to give away any details about the storyline because anyone that has read the first books of the series has to read this conclusion and those that haven’t started the series should.

Final Thoughts:
I felt that Ensnared was gripping and horrifying though Howard was able to relieve the reader from the gruesome with swoon-worthy moments that will appease fans of both Jeb and Morpheus. I felt that the characters and story have been on this path since the start and it was a pleasure to read the conclusion that the author has had planned for her world and creations. I am thrilled to know that Howard has teased about writing another novella and possibly a spin off? We can only hope and dream that these become a reality because I will miss her unique and mesmerizing take on Wonderland.

Extras:
Review of Splintered
Review of Unhinged
Interview with A.G. Howard
Interview with Nathalia Suellen (cover artist)
Lego Cover of Unhinged

Review of Unhinged by A.G. Howard

Unhinged (Splintered #2)Unhinged (Splintered #2)
By: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet
Release Date: January 7th 2014
Purchase:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

An arc was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

My Rating:
star

This is the sequel to Splintered. There are spoilers from the first book.

Summary:
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she’s always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

My Thoughts:
When I finished Splintered I was desperate for more of Howard’s Wonderland and its creepy residents.  The moment the sequel was announced I knew I’d be reading it as soon as possible. When I laid eyes on the Unhinged cover and saw that Morpheus was prominent I was ecstatic since he is my favorite character in the first book. Thankfully, Unhinged did not disappoint even though less time was spent in Wonderland and the story focused more on Alyssa’s human side.

Unhinged starts a year after Alyssa has made her decision to live in the human world and with Jeb. Howard did a wonderful job showing Wonderland and Morpheus dripping into her day to day life even though she has chosen to reside in the human realm. The imagery is even creepier than in the first book (a toy clown anyone?) and to me, the descriptions and general aura resonated darker than Splintered.

Howard kept up a fast paced adventure that delved deeper into family history and secrets as well as showing a girl who’s heart is torn between two men and realities. I’m not usually much for a love triangle, but in this case it didn’t bother me due to the separation of worlds. I know that when the cover was released many Jeb fans feared that he would not star prominently in the book. I didn’t feel that he was absent and I was actually surprised with how large a part he played.  In Splintered I had some problems with his character and veered on strongly disliking him.  Again in Unhinged he wasn’t a character I felt drawn to and questioned his loyalties and priorities.

Personally, I will always be more intrigued and drawn to Morpheus due to his darkness and depth of mystery. I felt that his character was further developed and I enjoyed every scene he made an appearance in. I think it is a testament to Howard’s writing ability that she has created a character that manipulates and twists other’s motives and actions yet retains immense likeability. The fact that he teeters between good and evil but I still feel sympathetic to him is impressive.

One of the aspects I enjoyed most about Unhinged was the focus Howard took in Alyssa’s mother and father. Her mother has been released from the asylum and is regaining her life and relationships. We get to learn more about how and why she was put in the asylum to begin with. I found this entire story arc to be fascinating.

Final Thoughts:
Once again Howard has taken me on an adventure through dark and light and I loved every moment of it. I love her interpretation of Wonderland and those that inhabit it and seeing them venture into the human realm was a treat. The cliff hanger she left me on was painful but a pain I gladly take though the wait for the next installment will be painful.

Extras:
LEGO Morpheus
Interview with A.G. Howard
Interview with the cover artist Nathalia Suellen
Review of Splintered

Blocks Unhinged

Following the creation of our Blocks Behind the Blog comic we thought, ‘how cool would it be to see all our favorite covers in Legos?’ The first cover is for Unhinged the next book in Splintered series by A.G. Howard (check out my interview). Morpheus needed to be seen as a Lego…so here you go. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Look forward to more of these in the future.

Blocks Unhinged

 

Showcase Sunday #10

Showcase Sunday banner
Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea where you show what books you’ve purchased, gotten from the library, received from giveaway, as gifts or for review.

For Review (via NetGalley):

Parasite (Parasitology, #1)

Parasite by Mira Grant

Gift and Borrowed:

Collector’s Edition Splintered ARC with sample chapter of Unhinged
Thank you Stephanie at Read, Rinse and Repeat for grabbing this for me at BEA.
Read my review of Splintered by A.G. Howard

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas: Thank you Stephanie for letting me borrow your copy!
Check out my review for Throne of Glass book one in the series.

Which books did you get last week?