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

Interview with Artist Nathalia Suellen


We all know that you can’t judge a book by its cover but I’m not sure it’s possible to avoid doing just that when you see a cover that is breathtaking. I know that I’ve taken covers for granted even though I fall deeply in love with them. I wanted to change that and find out who was behind them and a little about the industry. Most importantly I wanted to learn about the artists and their inspirations and artwork aside from what they do for the covers.

Nathalia Self Portrait

Nathalia Self Portrait

What better place to start than with Nathalia Suellen the artist behind Splintered and Unhinged.

After visiting her website I was completely amazed with her talent and creativity. I knew that I had to interview her and honor her work on my blog.

Thank you Nathalia for agreeing to take the time to answer my questions.

Concerning Cover Art:
What book series have you produced cover art for?
Oh there are so many series, I don’t think I could say all of them but to name a few:  Otherworld Assassin by Gena Showalter ,  The Last Year by Trisha Leigh , The Grisha Trilogy (uk) by Leigh Bardugo, Splintered by A.G. Howard among others.

As for the process: what knowledge do you have prior of the storyline? Do you get to read the book, talk to the author or are you given requirements for elements that have to be included?
I don’t read all the books I work for, that would be really exhausting for me.  That was not different with Splintered, I had no contact with the book story and not even with the author.  I knew roughly about the story through the art director and of course I had some requirements to comply but nothing too specific. I remember of starting the first sketches thinking in three essential things: bugs, strangeness and eye-catching colors.

Many of you don’t know, but the very first Splintered sketch was a full body Alice with gothic clothes, striped socks, windy hair and a scenery full of bones, mirrors and bugs around (the model was insanely beautiful too). We spent a month or so in this first idea but things got too nice and serious that they decided to move the whole idea for a close up Alice, which I think now was one of the most important things for achieving this “special” thing, it somehow turned the cover more powerful and movie-like.

Do you have to offer multiple conceptual covers for them to choose which to pursue or do you get free reign?
We basically do things together. My clients guide me, they show me exactly what they want and I try to make it as close as I can to what they imagine.  Of course, I can’t do everything I want like in my personal works; we need to work as a team and I need to respect the story and their idea before anything.  Sure, if they give me some freedom, I try to make it even better, always.

Are you a fan of young adult fiction?
Strangely enough I’m not the kind of girl who loves to read, I have the necessity of feeding my eyes with pictures and movement all the time, maybe that’s what keep me creative.  (I can’t even read magazines; I’m just like a child who just looks at the book drawings and then close it.)  However I would say I love anything that drives me out of reality for a period of time. Being a book or not, I love fiction.

I recently had the opportunity to meet Anita Howard and thought that your image of Alyssa on the cover of Splintered resembled her…is that intentional?
Not at all. That’s another big coincidence… you know, it’s happening very often with me, so damn weird.

I love your interpretation of Morpheus on Unhinged, what inspirations did you draw on to create him?
While creating Unhinged, I had to keep in mind that Morpheus was NOT the Mad Hatter and my very first task was to find out the differences between the characters.

Steampunk was the first thing that came to mind regarding Morpheus’ style before knowing he was such a GOTHIC and strange “guy”. I got some inspiration from the author’s Pinterest, and I was shocked how different he actually was when compared with the Mad Hatter. I mean, Morpheus is way more gothic and MUCH more mysterious and strange.  My duty was to show as much as I could on the second book: He is NOT the mad hatter!

General Art Questions:
How long have you been expressing yourself with art?
Professionally, almost 6 years.

It appears that there is photography involved in your artworks, are you a photographer too?
No, sometimes I take my own photography but just for fun.

I was absolutely amazed with your collection of work on your website; I read that you are self-taught. How did you get started in the industry?
I started as anyone else, promoting my art and working HARD. In a beautiful day, God blesses your effort and you get discovered. I still have lot to learn and to improve but you know, I really love what I do.

Giveaway:
I am giving away ONE (1) 7×10 art print of one of Nathalia’s gorgeous works. This is an international giveaway if Society 6 ships to your local. Visit HERE to see which prints to choose from and if they ship to you.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Favorite Debuts So Far 2013

2013 is half over and I’ve read some incredible books and a lot of them have been debuts. I wanted to honor my favorites–the ones already out and the ones I’ve been lucky enough to read that will be available later this year.  (not in any sort of order)

Favorites that are out now:
RebootArclightIn the After
Reboot by Amy Tintera, Arclight by Josin L. McQuien, In the After by Dimitria Lunetta

ItSoBSplinteredSome Quiet Place
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, Splintered by A.G. Howard, Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

Favorites that will be out later this year:
All Our YesterdaysThe Bone Season
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (releases September 3rd), The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (releases August 20th)

 What have been your favorite debuts this year so far? Which are you most looking forward to later in the year?

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

 

Interview with A.G. Howard Author of Splintered (and giveaway)

Today I have the ever fashionable and creative A.G. Howard visiting the blog to talk to us about her books, Splintered and upcoming Unhinged. In this series she takes Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and adds her own unique and dark twists.

SplinteredAnita HowardUnhinged

The most obvious question is what drew you to Wonderland?
I’m a huge fan of Lewis Carroll’s genius. The actual idea came to me when I went to see the Tim Burton & Disney Alice adaptation. The cinematography was so vivid, techno-colored, and evocative that I didn’t want to leave the setting when it was over. So I started playing out Wonderland continuations and scenarios in my mind. I decided to write a follow-up story about the world, making things a little darker and a little funkier, but I needed it to be contemporary and different than it had ever been done. Then I saw the book Alice I Have Been and everything clicked into place. I could have my contemporary heroine be a descendant of Alice Liddell, the girl who actually inspired Carroll to write his story to begin with! Once that fell into my lap, I started the process of writing.

Alyssa, your main character, has an interest in insects because they speak to her. I personally have a fascination with Entomology and was impressed with your knowledge and descriptions. Where did your idea of her artwork and incorporating our smaller, less understood companions in your novel?
I wanted her to be able to converse with bugs and flowers, because the talking flower scenes in Carroll’s two books, the Disney cartoon, and the Tim Burton/Disney rendition, were some of my favorites. Also, I always remembered the scene from Through the Looking Glass when Alice is riding a train through the countryside and has a conversation with a gnat. Those were such quirky and indelible images, that I just had to incorporate them somehow. For Alyssa, it’s more survival tactic than inspiration that leads her to kill and preserve bugs and flowers. It’s the only way she can keep their whispers from clouding her thoughts. She feels guilty for cutting their lives short, so tries to do something constructive with their bodies … something that brings other people happiness.

Your character descriptions (along with their attire) are described in exquisite detail. As I read I couldn’t help but imagine you sketching characters as they came to you because art has such a presence in your work. Do you sketch your characters, their attire or do you do a written description or both?
I used to try to draw some when I was younger, but I didn’t stick with it. Maybe someday I’ll give it a shot again. But right now I’m too busy painting pictures with my mind. 😉 In my teen years, I dreamed of being a fashion designer, so that’s why fashion plays a huge role in my books. A mix between my daughter’s closet and mine actually contributed to Alyssa’s outfits. I love anything lacy and Victorian, and my daughter is all about the gothic and punk.

Morpheus is such an enigmatic character, is there anything you could tell us about him that we might not know (that wouldn’t be spoiler-ish)?
He doesn’t like not being in control. And once you read Unhinged, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to. 😉

I was ecstatic to see him on the cover of the next book, Unhinged, do you think you’ll ever write from his view point?
I might do a short story one day in his and Jeb’s POVs. It’s still in the brainstorming phases, but it’s something I’m considering.

Do you create your characters or their setting first?
Every book I write starts with the character(s). Then I build their world around them.

I imagine after spending so much time creating characters that they take on a life of their own. Do your characters ever do things that surprise you?
Absolutely. In Splintered, all the characters had a few surprises for me along the way, but especially Morpheus. And especially at the end…

After Unhinged what’s next for you?
With the genre “New Adult” becoming popular, my agent and I are hoping to submit one of my other finished MSS to some publishers. It’d be nice to have books in both YA and NA.

Now to some random questions:
What are you presently reading?
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters. It’s WONDERFUL.

Is there a character or story you wish you had written?
Jane, from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. She had so much quiet strength and intelligence. She didn’t need a man to complete her, but it didn’t keep her from opening her heart to love. She was a kick-butt heroine before her time.

Now for a teaser from Unhinged:

“Alyssa,” Morpheus murmurs. “We were children together. I’ve waited for your return more years than your mortal knight has even known you existed.”

Check out what Morpheus would look like as a Lego

I got to meet A.G. Howard at the Teen Book Con and had her sign a hardcover copy of Splintered for one of you to win. Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway