Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

queenofheartsAs Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

It has been a long time since I’ve read a novel where I genuinely dislike almost every character.  I understand why this was necessary in a novel like Queen of Hearts as it is the story of a villainess becoming who she is meant to be by the time Alice arrives in Wonderland.

However, I couldn’t quite get past the feeling that all these characters needed a good slap.

Seriously.  Not only is Dinah hardly likable until the events at the end of the novel, but she is a spoiled brat who has some serious daddy issues.  Now if this had been done in a way to make her more sympathetic as a character, then I would be fine with it.  But it is almost as if Dinah is all hard edges and no smooth curves.  The King of Hearts is just as bad, a petulant adult still steaming from a past transgression and taking it out on his oldest daughter and doting on his illegitimate offspring despite the traditional lineage of the throne.

(^^^Seriously, the cover is absolutely gorgeous and it really does look like it could be the companion to the limited edition Queen of Hearts doll by Disney.)

Speaking of Vittiore, she is about as flat as a cardboard cut out and it was fairly obvious from around halfway through that she was simply a plot device and another way for Dinah to be enraged.

I think the only characters that really redeemed anything about characterization in this novel was her younger brother, the Mad Hatter character, who suffers from a sort of mental illness rather than mercury induced mania that Victorian hatters were known to succumb to.  Harris, the white rabbit character, I also found endearing, but he was very simply the same embodiment of the follower that he would be in the original novel.

I think the world building was the strongest point in this novel, as I really enjoyed the different aspects of the Court of the Hearts and the different rankings of Cards (which served as Security, Torturers, Accountants, and Soldiers), and the Black Towers.  That was the only part I found to be significant to the plot, as the rest of the novel sometimes felt like Dinah was just complaining to her long-time crush, Wardley.  Who, by the way, is so obviously uninterested that it made Dinah seem more like a mooning preteen than a teenager and future Queen.

The entire novel really just felt like it could have been a prequel short story in a lot of ways, or maybe a short novella.  However, as I am a giant Alice in Wonderland fangirl, Oakes can count on me reading the next installment, out January 2017.

I’m going to give it around 3 Bards as I found it average but with potential.

threebards

http://www.amidsummernightsread.com/2717-2/

The Re-Read Frenzy

So, now that Summer has rolled around and changes are hitting the Midsummer team (Jess is starting a new job and Olyvia is moving to Texas) we have both been caught up in re-reading some of our favorites. Re-reading can be something that can make you feel comfortable and as if you are hanging out with an old friend.  There is also something to be said about how re-reading can encourage children to continue to discover new novels and stories similar to those they already love.  In fact, I really think that re-reading was a huge influence on how much I adore reading today.

Although, to be fair, the first book I liked to re-read was The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss and I didn’t so much read it as I had it memorized and would randomly flip the pages to make it look like I was reading! (I was a precocious kid)

Another benefit of re-reading favorites is that you will always find something new.  I’m yet to re-read a novel and be unsurprised by a small detail I’ve never noticed or even had a specific sentence or scene jump out at me in a whole new way.  It’s so fun.

From two book nerds to you: here are some of our favorite re-reads and why we enjoy taking time out of our busy reading schedule to sit back down and remember why we loved them in the first place.

Olyvia: It helps when I’m in a reading slump, but also when I can’t choose what to read next, if I go back to my favorites I’ll usually pick something new but similar.

Olyvia’s Go-To Re-Reads

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
Anything Libba Bray.

Jessica’s Go-To Re-Reads: 

Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

What are some of your favorite re-reads?  What book do you always turn to in time of reading slump or indecision?

If anything, you can take this from our post: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is definitely a series you should pick up, read, and re-read.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: November 8, 2016

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: December 15, 2015

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

The headlining short story, Six Impossible Things, takes readers into Alyssa’s future, via new and deleted scenes, to offer a deeper understanding of the decisions made at the close of Ensnared. It’s an extended, detailed version of the epilogue and beyond. Two bonus stories, The Moth in the Mirror and The Boy in the Web, delve into the past.

Together, this collection provides a “director’s cut” glimpse into the past and futures of your favorite Splintered characters.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: 2015

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 sadistic netherling outcasts.

In the final installment of the 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 even if everyone succeeds and comes out alive, can they all truly have their happily ever after?

 

Top Ten Tuesday

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted for us book blogger types by the Broke and the Bookish. They provide a topic, and all of us participants post our answers on our blogs and we hop around checking out one another’s answers! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Favorite Movies

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

2. Heathers

damage

3. Alice in Wonderland

4. Clue

5. The Princess Bride

6. The Polar Express

7. Across the Universe

8. Frozen

9. Shawn of the Dead

10. 10 Things I Hate About You

What are some of your favorite movies?! Maybe we have some in common!

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: September 30, 2014

I have a plan.

We’ll either destroy them for good, or they’ll destroy us.

Either way, only one of us is walking away.

In the stunning conclusion to the wildly popular White Rabbit Chronicles, Alice ‘Ali’ Bell thinks the worst is behind her. She’s ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, the leader of the zombie slayers; until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends. It’s then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters; and the worst has only begun.

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies and she isn’t the girl she thought she was. She’s connected to the woman responsible for killing and turning Cole’s mother. How can their relationship endure? As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.

Book Review: Unhinged by A.G. Howard

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.

Holy amazing sequel, Batman! Quick, check out my review of the first novel, Splintered.

Let me preface this by saying that Alyssa was still a strong protagonist, but my goodness she doesn’t really think of the consequences of her actions before doing anything. I really just wanted to tell her:

But I suppose that Howard was really channeling Carroll’s original characterization of Alice as an impulsive child with no thought for consequences or the words that she says in front of the different creatures in Wonderland.

Howard’s story picks up an entire year after the events in Splintered, which I thought was a bit long, but after reading the entire thing I could see why it was important for a certain passage of time to occur.  Alyssa and Jeb are together and very in love, and of course Wonderland and Morpheus are out to change everything.  Or rather, that is how Alyssa sees it.  I truly don’t believe she appreciates her position in both worlds.

Speaking of, I was specifically annoyed by Jeb in this novel.  Perhaps that is because I favor the wildness and quizzical Morpheus.  He has a certain quality that reminds me of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, the tragic lovelorn hero with a dark side that never gets what he wants. Except I really want Ivory’s premontion to be true so he doesn’t follow in the depressing end of Heathcliff, (in which the only ever after that he and Catherine get is being buried side by side).

Again Howard used some extraordinary language and descriptions to really make the tulgey wood absolutely terrifying and to reignite my fear of clowns. So thanks for that, A.G. 🙂

Overall this book and Alyssa’s narrative really exemplifies the quote from Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes; “At every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss.”

Please go pick up a copy of Splintered and Unhinged as soon as possible.  You won’t regret it!

4.5 Bards

four.fivebards

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