Posts Tagged ‘A G Howard’

TTT: Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the wonderful, list making gurus, The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they publish a new Top Ten list and invite their fellow book bloggers, bloggers and bookworms to join in.

I’ve done one Top Ten Tuesdays and like to think I didn’t completely botch it so here’s my second attempt!
I tried to put on my mentor/teaching hat. When teaching my students (and I do genuinely have students) I aim to be honest, fun and enthusiastic. So with this post I’ve made a mixture of things that would be just for fun, thought provoking, educational and all 3 put together. Here’s hoping a disaster did not come of it!!

1 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Yup I’m going old school!!! This amazing woman and her literary achievements need no introduction. The style of writing is one that is sadly being lost, especially now with increasing texting and shorthand with stuff such as OTT, TBH and (my personal favourite – not) OMG!!! Aside from the fact that the story itself is wonderful, full of characters that reflect a truthful representation of the time, and there are several themes aside from the most obvious romantic one; the choice of words and language is simply beautiful and something I would like more to appreciate. The woman uses no swear words and yet her tongue is sharper than any string of profanities, her wits are fast and cunning, ruled by a cool and pensive mind that thinks before acting something that too many of us have long forgotten by speaking before ensuring the brain and mouth are properly connected! I think a lot could be learned and it is a masterpiece that should not be forgotten.

2 – Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling

I believe this series equally needs no introductions. Who hasn’t heard of Harry Potter, and who wouldn’t happily write an essay on it dissecting any number of characters, themes or just let the imagination run wild!!!
I remember a school friend of mine, with whom I was not in class with sadly, who actually had Harry Potter on her syllabus and I was sooooo jealous!!!!
I would also like to point out that I could rather easily use each Harry Potter book to fill this Top Ten Tuesday post but I won’t. Just saying though :p

3 – Splintered series by A.G.Howard

Ok well it’s no secret that I love this series very much, all you need do is read my previous Top Ten (Tuesdays) Fairytale Retellings. And not just from an amazing plot line point of view. I think this series has a lot of potential from both a literary point of view as well as storyline. I cannot praise A.G.Howard’s genius, style of writing, narration technique enough and the effort that went into planning the words as well as the characters and their thoughts. This series would make a fantastic adventure for any class to dissect any which way they like from any point of view!

4 – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Yes my English teacher would be very proud of this choice of mine. This is a book that when I first bought it for my own syllabus at school I thought I was going to get bored stiff. And to be fair initially I did. This is a book that I never would have picked up of my own accord off of any shelf, in any bookstore. But my very own amazing English literature teacher made me appreciate it and the narrative depths and themes it reached in the creepy dystopian world not fair away from our own, created by Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale holds a special place on my syllabus and bookshelf, not only for the endless theme possibilities and narrative stances any reader can take, but because of what it represents to me. Being able to turn a book that I would have never picked for myself, into one that I thoroughly enjoyed analyzing and appreciating on a literary level, is a rare gift for most literature teachers, and I would hope that someday I can achieve this.

P.S. I now hold this book in high esteem and care for it a great deal. I highly recommend it for those who want more than just another dystopian novel with a good story, it’s for those of view who wish to read into every colour, every expression, every gesture all the possibilities of what Margaret Atwood was actually meaning and hinting at.

5 – Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

I’m taking another leaf out of my teacher’s classes (in case you hadn’t noticed, I loved reading and dissecting themes, narration styles and passage analysis from the word go lol). I picked this book for the simple reason that I thought the difference between it and it’s screen counterpart would be a good example of the variations between the two, and how little changes can drastically alter the bigger picture and significance to the story. Zombies who can fall in love raises a variety of themes ranging from religious, to social etc but throw in a few varying twists and well you have a whole new set of delivered meanings! I felt Isaac Marion was trying to give us more than just another zombie story. I think perhaps an underlying gentle reminder to enjoy life, and that love is what fills us and separates us from the insensitive cold empty corpses. But that’s just my opinion. Watch and read, and you may come up with a whole new theory of your own. Discuss…

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6 – Do No Harm: stories of life, death and brain surgery by Henry Marsh

Ok I’ll be honest I haven’t read this book yet but it’s almost at the top of my TBR pile and fast climbing. I figured that aside from adventure, drama, period drama and paranormal I should have some in depth emotional reading going on. And I thought this would do the trick. Written by a brain surgeon and with each chapter a particular case that hit him strongly, made him stop and think, I thought this would be perfect. I’m a total sucker for Grey’s Anatomy so I was totally sold! I thought this would be the perfect read for some emotional searching and philosophical inner turmoil.

7 – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Eeeeeeer I have a confession to make about this one. I kept thinking about what I would want to be on my syllabus and this book kept popping back into my head no matter how many times I pushed it aside. I studied it myself right at the beginning of secondary school and I’m not entirely sure why but it struck a chord with me. Something about the particular dysfunctionality and polar opposite characters who somehow though manage to survive together and make it work got me hooked. I’ve done several passage analysis on this novel and there’s always something to be found hidden among the language styles, scenes, actions and choice of words. It’s hard to explain but I felt this book deserved a spot on my list. For those of you who have read it hopefully this will make more sense to you :p

8 – Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I thought we were overdue for a not-so-serious choice lol!
I discovered stardust initially as a film and absolutely loved it!!! And when I then found out it was based on a book…. well the love just deepened.
Stardust is an amazing and thrilling story that has something in it for everyone. Some magic, some scary parts, adventure, pirates, fighting and romance. And if that none of that appeals to you, well then the chance to imagine and see Robert DeNiro in a pink tutu should be reason enough!!!
I loved this story in both forms and picked it because I thought every student reader could find something in it to fall in love with and relate to.

9 – The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

Well I figured we were due a little more darkness and horror. I’m trying to be sensible and keep romance, adventure and horror equally balanced here :p
The Picture of Dorian Grey is a very interesting tale and each reader will find his own interpretation of the curse, it’s purpose or lack of and indeed the mystery behind it all. This is a novel that has left authors and readers alike puzzled for a longtime and to be honest there is no right or wrong answer. One of the few lessons I truly learnt in literature is that no opinion or interpretation is incorrect or wrong so long as you can back it up.
So bring it on. What’s your interpretation of Dorian Grey and his creepy (I think we can all agree it is creepy) picture? Thoughts anyone? You there at the back speak up!

10 – Finding Sky by Joss Stirling

I thought I should finish on a high note and on something that I personally identify with, something that represents me. I have fallen for a lot of books and their tales (all of the above included in varying different ways) but this is one of my all time favourites that I simply cannot get away from. This story is basically me in a book essentially. It’s simple, sarcastic, short and sweet and with some magic.
I picked it as my final choice because I think it’s important that whilst you’re learning that you don’t forget who you are and what opinions are your own, ensuring that others do not rub off on you simply because you’ve heard it enough times. I would encourage all readers, students and learners to stick to their guns, thoughts and opinions.
Learning is serious, but it’s also about having fun and staying true to yourself.

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And on that note I wanted to add a little bonus. Being the amazingly cool teacher that everyone wants *cough cough modestly cough cough* I would let every pupil pick a book of their own choosing that they feel resonates the most with them, that they relate to or that they just simply enjoy time and time again. They can make this choice provided they can justify their reasoning and attempt to put into words what it is that keeps drawing them back for another read.
And with that….. Classed dismissed!!! :p

Posted by Prudence

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Ensnared

A.G.Howard

ensnaredAfter 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?

As this is a review of a sequel it may contain spoilers

Before I type up my review of this amazing book (I wish there was a better word than amazing but I can’t find it right now) I need a moment to piece myself together because it was, as previously said, amazing and I need to do it justice, or atleast try to.

*zen position assumed to gather my thoughts that are still reeling from awesomeness*

Ok here goes.

Ensnared is, unfortunately, the final book of what has been a fantastic rollercoaster ride of a retelling of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and although I can by no means speak for Lewis Carroll I think I can safely say A.G.Howard has done an amazing job of taking his story and bringing it to a whole new level whilst staying true to the spirit of the world he’d created.
Once more I plunged into A.G.Howard’s novel except that this time my journey started in AnyElsewhere a world in equal parts dangerous, beautiful and crazy as Wonderland if not more, as this is the home of the rejects. And if wonderland didn’t want them, you can only imagine what they’re like!

Alyssa and her father are on a mission to save her mortal and netherling knights, and to end Red’s tyrannical existence that sows death, pain and destruction once and for all. But the tasks at hand are harder than what they appear. Morpheus is unchanged and eager to save his beloved Wonderland but Jeb is not. All two volumes worth of adventures, emotional blackmail, torture and near death experiences in this deliciously creepy world he cannot call his own have finally taken their toll. Both the knights of Alyssa’s heart demand her attention, undying devotion and love, and both stake a claim to her heart. And although Alyssa is desperately trying to give just that to both in fair and just fashion, Wonderland’s undoing by Red’s hand declares and demands her immediate attention as both a netherling queen and a human with a conscience and a sense of responsibility.

This tug of war triangle increases with emotional and physical strength throughout the book with rapid pace until it spirals out of control and the ultimate price is paid.

But dear readers do not forget the most important thing of all, this is a story taking place in a world where madness and genius are two blades of the same sword that can take life, as it can give it. You need only but let go of sense. Afterall to quote the brilliant mind behind this enticingly dark novel “netherling logic, and therefore the solution, resides in the hazy border between sense and nonsense”.

The final chapter in this deliciously dark and yet vividly coloured novel that dances on the fine line between insanity and reason, plays out on Alyssa’s heart. The heart of this book is hers and it is equally the battlefield where the final verdict for herself and wonderland will be decided. And although the common enemy is Red, the remaindering opposing sides are none other than Morpheus and Jeb. They will be Alyssa’s undoing and her salvation, for what can tear apart can equally reunite. Netherling logic is at work readers and only by walking this incredibly tortuous path, forsaking sanity and clarity will you truly understand the true beauty of this novel.

A.G.Howard’s narrative techniques and style of writing clearly showed her skill in not only creating a fantastic storyline but also utilizing language and themes that further enhanced and brought to life the world that she was creating, a skill unfortunately not many use. Creating the story is half the battle, but it takes a lot of talent and dedication to carefully pick words, language and metaphors that stick to the storyline, are faithful to each character whilst generating the feeling of a dark, dangerous world so vividly coloured that you’d want to step into despite everything you know.

This was a simply beautiful and amazing ending to a fantastic series that I will be sad to see end, but that I will not hesitate to revisit. I cannot help but feel that I have been infected with netherling logic where every “act of madness is driven by the voice of reason”. Afterall the two are so closely entwined they are virtually one and the same, it just depends which side you choose to look from.

Verdict: High praise to A.G.Howard from a humble book worm who is now a little insane, but then again all the best people are 😉

Reviewed by Pruedence

Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: January 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genre: Fairytale retelling, fantasy, romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Prudence
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
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Finish It February 2015: Week Three Round Up

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Personal Target: Finish/get up to date with four series

Books read this week: Half

Total books read: Two

Series completed for challenge: Two

General feedback: With the bigs off for half term I was expecting this week of the challenge to be a struggle. As a result I am actually really pleased that I managed read half a book.

Having taken the last three weeks in to consideration, I know that I am unlikely to meet my personal target of four books. While I am really excited to read This Shattered World by Kaufman and Spooner I have decided to prioritise Ensnared by A G Howard. Finishing this book will allow me to “cross off” one of my outstanding series.

If I do happen to have any additional time this week I will try to finish some of my half written reviews from last years reading and reviewing slump.

Meanwhile, for those of you who are interested, my Downton obsession is still going strong and I am just about to start season three.

Currently reading: Ensnared by A G Howard

Faye’s week:Faye shares her Finish It February update post over at her personal blog (here). I am excited to see that Faye is currently reading C J Redwine’s Deliverance and I can’t wait to sit down with her and discuss it over coffee.

Other Participants:Debbie of @Snugglingonsofa fame is speeding through this challenge with seven books read!

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
unmadePowerful love comes with a price. Who will be the sacrifice?
Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.
Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.
This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.

Sarah Rees “I feed on the tears of my readers” Brennan’s The Lynburn Legacy trilogy turns me in to a two year old. One minute I’m smiling and laughing and clapping with glee, then in the next I’m shouting, stomping and flinging myself and my toys (the book) on the floor*. Like any fickle toddler I’m easily distracted by shiny things and guided back to the cooing happy version of myself** before, with very little warning , I’m repeating the cycle again.

What I am essentially trying to communicate is that SRB has a way of leading you in to a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under you. Her use of sparkling dialogue, laugh out loud quips and loveable*** charismatic characters make you wish that you could visit Sorry-In -The -Vale, become a member of the Scooby gang and fight blood thirsty sorcerers. Despite having experienced SRB’s own brand of evil genius before (in the first two books) I was unprepared for each gasp of shock, cringe of horror and snot bubble of sadness. I felt so emotionally involved with the characters, that at one point I actually had to take a break from the book.

I loved this series and will be seeking out more of SRB’s books in the future.

Verdict: A series for people who like their angst sprinkled with snorts of laughter.

*Ok I didn’t actually throw the book across the floor. I would never do such a terrible thing to one of my beautiful, beautiful hardbacks.
** No I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this analogy either. I blame half term and a continuous child filled week.
*** Also despicable. She writes despicable very, very well

Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: September 2014
Format: Hardback
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: Finish It February

Posted by Caroline

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Finish It February: Caroline’s Goals

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I really loved co hosting the inaugural Finish It February, A month-long event dedicated to reading unfinished books and series.

I found the whole experience, from co creating the challenge, publicising it through social media and discovering new blogs through to prioritising my TBR for me, rather than for publication dates, very positive and invigorating as a blogger and reader.

Last year I read four books and finish three series, making a small but satisfying dent in my personal TBR pile. Given the recent changes in my personal circumstances my goal for Finish It February 2015 is to (exactly) match this modest success.

Read Faye’s personal goals for the challenge over at A Daydreamers Thoughts (here).

To sign up for this fun-filled event, all you need to do is add your link to the linky post below. If you wish to write a sign-up post, we would be incredibly grateful but it is not mandatory to join the event. You do not have to have a blog to participate, feel free to link to your twitter (#FinishItFeb) or facebook!

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Unhinged

A.G.Howard

unhingedAlyssa 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.

Ok before I attempt to review this book I would just like to say that it is 02:00 am, I only finished reading it a few hours ago and am still basking in it’s awesomeness. And to now be asked to try and put all the mixture of amazing thoughts I have running through my head into words is perhaps a little too much. Infact it may be almost impossible and crazy. As netherling crazy as it would be to harness the power of a smile. But hey if our dear Alyssa could do that in Splintered, then who am I to not attempt this task mere human that I am.

I started reading Unhinged and all it took was a few sentences for me to once again tumble down the dark rabbit hole that A.G.Howard created, only this time the fall was darker, deeper, scarier, far more dangerous and by far one of the most thrilling and riveting rides I have ever been on. This fantastic author was quick to throw me back into Alyssa’s reality and into Wonderland.

We left Alyssa with a seemingly temporarily solved situation, with two worlds more or less under control (as much as you can control a world that does not respond to logic), with a choice made as to where she wanted to live her life and who she wanted to spend it with. It has now been a year and all the lines drawn by those choices are beginning to blur, as the dark tendrils of netherling insanity creep through the cracks of broken mirrors and rabbit holes into our light and rule abiding world. The world Alyssa chose, the half of herself that she decided to live by. But can you really choose a half when both are just different sides of the same coin, the same soul? Alyssa is confronted with overwhelming decisions of the heart, the mind and for the kingdom that she can no longer ignore.

Each page, each sentence was laced with bright clashing colours that despite their light showed a darkness and insanity to them but in a non threatening way. Every aspect of this book was perfectly written to suit the characters and the tone of this thrilling read. Every comparison and description was done using the most absurd and yet perfect means delivering at each and every turn just the right picture, feeling and sensation to make me feel on the brink psychosis but without having completely lost track of where I am or what’s going on. The entire book dances and skirts on the edge of pure genius and madness, flirting with one whilst bluffing to be the other, when actually the whole time it was both all along and when you realize it it’s already too late and events have occurred. All the while the bigger picture is one step ahead of you, because to reach it would be to reach pure madness, or genius depending on which side of the line you’re on.

The best way I can depict to you this book is by quoting a line from the book itself: Unhinged is a truly awesome story with it’s “logic wrapped in nonsense”, that only a partially unstable but brilliant mind can unravel.
I fell in love head over heals with the vivdly coloured, darkly mysterious, dangerous and yet enthralling and enrapturing Splintered. And I was afraid that the sequel would fail to reach the very high set standards. But I can draw a sigh of relief and can tell you all that it is just as brilliant as it’s predecessor, and now all I want to do is dive back into this fantastic world and never come back. And you know what? It may be 02:00 am but I just may very well re-read the whole thing because it’s all so delicisouly dark and devious, and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a little mad. All the best people are 😉

Verdict: I highly recommend this series to you all. Take a tumble down the dark brightly coloured rabbit hole, play with devious and alluring Wonderland creatures and put your mind to the test and see if you want to resurface from this read.

Reviewed by Pruedence

Publisher: Amulet
Publication Date: January 2014
Format: ARC
Pages: 394
Genre: Retelling, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Pruedence
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Splintered

A G Howard and Rebecca Gibel (Narrator)

splintered audiobookThis stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. 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.

Puberty is a difficult time for any girl, your body is changing, you are under the influence of raging hormones and plagued by acne, bloating, cramps, the voices of bugs and plants…. Nope, me neither. For Alyssa, her transition into womanhood also heralds the onset of her families curse. Ever since the Alice Liddel scrabbled out of that rabbit hole her female decendents have be stricken with serious mental health problems and fixations with Wonderland.

Having grown up witnessing her mothers descent in to madness and her resulting treatment within an asylum, Alyssa has learnt to disguise her anxiety about her cruel birthright and ignore the incessant voices. But a shocking incident at the asylum forces Alyssa to reconsider everything she thought she knew about her mothers condition, and instead of hiding from her heritage, Alyssa actively seeks out answers

From the very first paragraph we learn that Alyssa is no wall flower, no bumbling ditzy girl next door. She is fierce, strong, and in the words of her father, level headed and together. Taking creative revenge on her multi-limbed and be-winged tormentors Alyssa isn’t one for sit around bemoaning the hand she has been dealt, hoping that someone will save her. Instead she takes action, throwing herself down the rabbit hole to face her fears and save her family.

It’s not unusual for a YA book to suffer from a glut of love interests, sparking many a team X verses team Y debate, with each group zealously defending their selected beau. Many times I have found myself rooting for a particular outcome or a particular coupling. With Splintered A G Howard has me completely torn, with no clear choice.

On the surface these men couldn’t be any more different in appearance, manners and temperament. Scratch the surface however and our good boy and bad have much more in common than initial appearances would lead us to believe. Both have dark pasts, history with Alyssa, and both see and accept Alyssa for who she truly is, even before she recognises it herself. They even share the same almost paternalistic, over protectiveness of Alyssa, although the motivation and the manifestation of this fault is uniquely their own.

I adored how A G Howard took a world familiar to many of us, and didn’t so much re-imagine the story but create a spin off series to complement the original. I loved layering my experience of Splintered over my knowledge of the original Alice story. Comparing my childhood memories of the books and Disney movie with the naive and innocent recollections of a traumatized young Alice Liddel. Then discovering, along with Alyssa, the darker, uglier truth of Wonderland and its inhabitants. Familiar and yet unique, I couldn’t help listening to just one more chapter, anxious to discover where Howard would take her story next, never foreseeing where the next twist or turn would redirect us.

The record quality was consistent with no skipping, repeats or weird changes in tone or volume. Narrator Rebecca Gibel did a fantastic job bringing the characters to life, capturing the creepiness and otherworldliness of the many supporting characters and performing the main characters consistently, each clearly defined by a unique voice, allowing the conversations to be followed without confusion. I particularly enjoyed the Billy Idol like British accent she created for Morpheus, it certainly added to his mischievous bad boy persona.

Verdict: A book as captivating as its stunning cover.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Audiogo
Publication Date: May 2013
Format: Audiobook (unabridged)
Duration: 11 hrs 20mins
Genre: speculative fiction, fantasy
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Debut Author

The Hardback of Splintered was published in January 2013 by Amulet Books

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