Posts Tagged ‘Publisher- Amulet Books’

Odd and True

Cat Winters
Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.
In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

What are your overall thoughts?

This is my first Cat Winters book so I had no idea what to expect when I requested Odd and True to review. The cover is what immediately drew my attention, it put to mind some well-mannered ladies who are just as comfortable taking tea as they are kicking arse, a kind of 1900’s Buffy.

What I got was a much subtler, but no less enjoyable, character driven story of two sisters reconnecting after a period of enforced separation, untangling the threads of truth from their fantastical childhood recollections of their shared past and the more recent experience of their separation.

I enjoyed the shared storytelling. Truncheon’s provides the first person present tense observations, while her elder sister Odette gradually reveals the sisters shared history, from childhood through to present day 1909. I found myself as equally invested in each narrative and would get to the end of each chapter, not wishing for that perspective to change only to be quickly absorbed in the story of the other sister.

What was your favorite aspect of the book?
I really enjoyed the inclusion of a diverse character in a historically set novel, I this incidence it was the inclusion of Trudchen’s disability. I loved that Trudchen was the heroine of her own story, not in spite of her physical limitations, or by overcoming them, but because of her strength of character, the culmination of her life experiences and empathetic personality.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Tue- Despite being physically less able than her order, self appointed protector sister, she brings her own strengths to the partnership- strength of character, a strong moral center and bloody minded determination- all of which stand her in good stead when she travels across the country with her sister searching for strange beasts, finds herself fighting for the under dog and in a position to be a positive role model for a vulnerable young girl.

Would you recommend this book?
Yes, I would recommend it for people that like slow building character driven novels about female familial relationships and the many different strengths of young women.

Verdict: Sisters seeking the supernatural armed with a suitcase full of shared history find themselves and each other.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Amulet
Publication Date: September 2017
Format: ebook
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Supernatural
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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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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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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In The Shadow Of Blackbirds

Cat Winters

shadow of backbirdsDoes proof of the spirit world exist?
It’s 1918. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, the government ships young men overseas to the front lines, and neighbor accuses neighbor of spying for the enemy. In this stew of fear and confusion, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and “spirit photographers” for comfort. She has never believed in ghosts, but during her bleakest moment she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love – a boy who died in battle – returns to her as a spirit. Why has he returned? And what does he want from Mary Shelley?
Illustrated with haunting early-twentieth century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a time eerily like our own.

The story begins with a long train journey from Portland to San Diego. Mary Shelley is moving to live with her aunt because her father was arrested and her mother had passed away some time ago. The train stinks of onions (widely believed at the time to prevent flu), and everyone is hiding behind their masks, mortally afraid of every cough and sneeze. Mary Shelley passes the time reading letters from her sweetheart Stephen, who has gone to war in Europe. As an opening chapter, it’s a well thought out way to set the scene and atmosphere of paranoia without heavy exposition.

As the book continues, we meet her Aunt Eva, who lives with her pet magpie, Oberon, works in the local shipyard and seems to spend the rest of her time making onion soup to ward off the flu. Eva likes Stephen’s older brother Julius, a spirit photographer who Mary Shelley already clearly dislikes and believes is a fraud. Mary Shelley meets Mr Darning, another local photographer who specialises in debunking spirit photography, though has so far failed to find any trickery in Julius’ studio.

After getting to meet the characters, we learn that Stephen has been killed in battle, and this is where the book really gets started. As the back cover says, Stephen starts to appear as a ghost to Mary Shelley, seemingly terrified of birds. The rest of the book depicts Mary Shelley becoming increasingly more determined and desperate to help Stephen to rest in peace, with some decent twists and turns along the way. A lot of the characters turn out to be not who they seem at first, and the final revelations are not ones I could have guessed.

When I first read the back cover, I half expected this book to be a silly romance between a young girl and the ghost of her boyfriend, but I’m happy to report that it’s far more interesting and worth reading than that. It draws interesting parallels with modern life – the irrational beliefs people have in placebo remedies for fatal illnesses; how shellshock, or post-traumatic stress disorder as it is now called, is seen as something to be ashamed of, rather than a mental illness that needs proper treatment and support.

One thing that isn’t so convincing in the book is the ages of Mary Shelley and Aunt Eva. Mary Shelley seems far too mature for her age of sixteen, whereas Eva reminds me of my Nan, not a woman in her mid-twenties as the text states. Perhaps people become more mature in desperate times of war and illness, but I’m not completely convinced by the book’s portrayal. That’s not to say they’re bad characters though.

The novel is apparently aimed at ages 12 and up, though I’d say it’s a little too gruesome for that age. It feels more like an adult novel to me than what would normally be in the YA category.

Reviewed by Keith

Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 416
Genre:Historical fiction, Mystery
Age: YA
Reviewer: Keith
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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League of Strays

L B Schulman

This suspenseful debut follows a group of teenage misfits in their delicious quest for revenge on those who have wronged them at their high school. When a mysterious note appears in Charlotte’s mailbox inviting her to join the League of Strays, she’s hopeful it will lead to making friends. What she discovers is a motley crew of loners and an alluring, manipulative ringleader named Kade. Kade convinces the group that they need one another both for friendship and to get back at the classmates and teachers who have betrayed them. But Kade has a bigger agenda. In addition to vandalizing their school and causing fights between other students, Kade’s real intention is a dangerous plot that will threaten lives and force Charlotte to choose between her loyalty to the League and her own conscience.

Set in an average all American high school this story definitely focuses on the darker and more difficult side of school life and adolescence. Many people experience troubles at this particular time of life but the teens in this story all have a little extra to contend with. Between them they have faced bullying, been neglected by their parents, been their parents carer, faced physical abuse and generally have been hurt maybe more than average.

Our protagonist, Charlotte is a good girl. She has moved to a new school in a new place and has no friends. She plays the viola and is headed to music school after graduation. She is very sheltered and incredibly naive. But when she receives a note asking her to a strange meeting she sneaks out to find out what it’s all about. Here she meets Kade Harlin, who she finds very attractive, and three others that Kade has invited to be a part of the league of strays.

Charlotte does want friends and her desire to spend time with Kade leads her to join the group despite some mis-givings. From here she goes on a journey she could never have imagined as Kade’s real agenda begins to surface. Charlotte’s conscience is always whispering in her ear but she begins by switching it off and trying to turn away from the good girl she has always been. Her eyes are opened to the suffering in the lives of others and she does find some kind of friendship with them. But her relationship with Kade develops and the excitement of being with him blinds her to his faults. This is typical of many a teenage girl but Kade’s faults are pretty bad! Eventually Charlotte is forced to confront her fears and the consequences of both her actions and those of the group.

The others in the group are an interesting group of characters. I didn’t like Nora who has a real mean streak, but Zoe’s handling of her mother’s alcoholism has a strong ring of truth about it. These needy young people are ripe to be taken for a ride and Kade pulls all the strings he can to achieve this. Kade gave signals of his true nature right from the beginning but no-one wanted to see them, their need for each other was too great. He chose well for his task, but under-estimated them in the long run. It felt like the pranks the Strays played could really happen as kids egg each other on, and do. But the fact that these pranks (some are worse than pranks!) were all planned out gave it an edge. As the ideas become more vicious it is easy to see how Charlotte feels trapped into the group and into doing things she feels are wrong. It is so difficult to walk away from a gang and to stand up for your own beliefs, it’s even worse if the punishment involved could ruin your life.

Verdict: This is an interesting read, the characters engaged me and I wanted to know if Kade would get his comeuppance! It succeeds in showing how difficult it can be when you get in over your head.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: October 2012
Format: ARC
Pages: 288
Genre:Thriller, Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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