Book Review: The Eternity Key by Bree Despain

Book Review: The Eternity Key by Bree DespainThe Eternity Key by Bree Despain
Series: Into the Dark #2
Published: April 28, 2015
Format: ARC (368 pages)
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Source: For Review

Fan-favorite author Bree Despain continues her modern-day romance trilogy inspired by the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades with this second book in her Into the Dark series.

Haden Lord, the disgraced Prince of the Underrealm, has chosen love over honor and will do everything in his power to protect Daphne Raines, the human girl he was supposed to bring to the Underrealm. Haden’s choice is put to the test as the Skylords and a figure from his past arrive in Olympus Hills with a plan that could destroy all of the realms.

Embracing her destiny as the Cypher, Daphne begins to understand the immense power of her musical ability to control the elements, but she must come to terms with her feelings for Haden and what she must sacrifice in order to protect him and her friends.

Believing the Key of Hades is the only thing that can stop the Underrealm Court from releasing the monstrous Keres on the mortal world, Haden, Daphne, and their friends set out to find the Key before Persephone’s Gate opens again on the spring equinox.
4 Stars

Slow-burning romance.  Fun, modern retelling of Greek myths.  Epic, cliff-hanger ending.  Twists.  Famous rock star father sold your soul.  All the things you need for the perfect novel to lose yourself in for a while.


The parental dynamics in the book are refreshing.  There are no clueless, barely existent parents that act unrealistically.  Oh no.  The parents in this book CAUSE the problems by selling their children’s souls.  That understandably gives Daphne, the main character, some trust issues.  Daphne’s dad, Joe, made a deal with the devil and deeply regrets it.  I liked Joe because he genuinely tries to become a better person.  One of the most tender and emotional moments is when they finally mend their relationship.

I liked the pace of Daphne and Haden’s relationship.  It was beautiful, deep, and slow-burning.  Since they hadn’t just gotten together and made out really fast in the first book, their relationship still had somewhere to go in this book.  I didn’t feel like their relationship was being artificially sabotaged for “reasons.”  Daphne not admitting her love for Haden was heart-breaking but it I bought it.  She says that it’s because the future is in uproar and I guess that’s true, but with her character I felt like it had more to do with her trust and abandonment issues from her dad.  She has a plan for the future and a guy is not supposed to be in it because she wants to be independent.  I was biting my nails because I could totally understand where she was coming from but I know she’s going to realize the error of her ways but will it be too late?!?!

My favorite twist at the end – and there were a lot of them so don’t worry I won’t tell them all – was finding out that her uncle is Cupid/Eros.  I really didn’t see it coming, but then it made me smile when I thought about the fact that he loves Valentine’s Day and works at a flower shop.  Maybe that’s a little obvious foreshadowing, but I was so focused on her mom being Demeter that I forgot to think about who her uncle would be.  I also probably let it slide a little since I love Valentine’s Day and I’m in the minority like he was. Anyway.  His arrows were awesome!  Who knew Cupid could kick butt! He was like a guy Katniss with arrows of evil and love.  Such an unexpectedly cool character.

The cliffhanger.  All I have to say is that if book 3 wasn’t happening I would be extremely upset.  Angry.  That’s quite the mess they got into by the end.  I loved how Daphne kind of mirrored Orpheus’s story but the genders were swapped.  The Persephone myth was woven in as well with a little reference to Cupid and Psyche.  So much awesome mythology to geek out over and I loved it!

Content Rating: Medium, for one kissing scene and some mild violence and some mild swearing.  Pretty clean for a YA book.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  I received this book for review in exchange for an honest review. I was not told what to say, I was not paid to write this review and all the opinions expressed are my own.  I read an Advanced Reading Copy for this review. 

About Bree Despain

Bree Despain

Bree Despain is the author of the Dark Divine trilogy and the upcoming Into The Dark trilogy. Bree rediscovered her childhood love for creating stories when she took a semester off college to write and direct plays for at-risk, inner-city teens from Philadelphia and New York. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband, two young sons, and her beloved TiVo.


Book Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard

Book Review: Splintered by A. G. HowardSplintered by A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #1
Published: January 1, 2013
Format: eBook (371 pages)
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

This 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.
2 Stars

Splintered starts out as an awesome retelling of Alice in Wonderland with a gothic twist. Alyssa, the main character, goes on a journey fixing what Alice broke in Wonderland, which I thought was a clever idea. The middle suffered from way too much info-dumping. The end never quite recovered from that loss of momentum from the slow middle.  The story turned into a shaky quest to get this thing so she could get that thing then the other thing and I easily got lost which made me stop caring about the story.  I sadly didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.


I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.

– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 1)

What an opening line! It’s so cool! This girl, Alyssa, is slightly crazy but so relatable and likable that I kind of over looked it.  She kills bugs as a way to deal with hearing their voices and then makes beautiful/creepy art out of them.  It’s such a strange but fascinating way to deal with the struggles she has.  The fact that she does her best to deal with them instead of ignoring them is what makes her so easy for me to like.

I tapped the bee hard enough to stun it. Then I whisked the flowers out of the water and pressed them between the pages of a spiral notebook, to silence their chattering petals.

– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 4)

Chattering petals.  I just love that.

When Alyssa does go to Wonderland, she meets some flower zombies (which is an awesome idea all by itself) and then tries to fix all the things that Alice ruined in Wonderland to fix a curse that has plagued her family (who are descendants of Alice) ever since.  What a cool way to retell Alice in Wonderland! She soaks the ocean of tears up with a sponge and defeats a creepy gothic version of the walrus.  Oh. My. Gosh. I am so on board with this.  I’m having the best time!


Alyssa goes to Morpheus’ house.  He’s the “grown-up” caterpillar meaning he’s a moth/human thing of some sort.  So cool.  But at Morpheus’ house we run into the major issue I had with this book.  What started as a journey to fix a curse is getting twisted into a story about Alyssa getting crowned Queen because she’s actually a descendant of the Red Queen (and so not cursed but a half-breed, solving that problem nicely).  We obviously don’t know that at this point in the book (which was almost exactly in the middle), but to foreshadow such a big shift like that takes a lot of info-dumping.  Buckets and buckets of tedious, boring information.  It took so much setting up to have the twist at the end that *gasp* Alyssa is the new Red Queen (!) that I had lost interest by that point.  I kept getting impatient with the middle of the book waiting for things to happen again.  Some of the info-dumping was about things I had already guessed, like her mother was not really insane. Duh.  It’s hard to keep interested in a story when 30 pages of it goes something like this:

“After Queen Red was exiled to the wilds, she was never seen again. Her stepsister, Grenadine, married the king and became Queen— a woman so forgetful, she could never handle wearing the crown. And now her king wants to give her two.” Morpheus drags a glittering diamond tiara from the bag. “I’ve a spy stationed in the Red castle. When the White Court came to me with news of Ivory’s fate some weeks ago, I sent word for my contact to steal the jabberlock box. I’m harboring Ivory here, along with her crown, to keep them safe from Grenadine and King Red. If they control both the Red and White portals, good luck ever getting home.” He tucks the tiara away again. “All this will be ameliorated once Alyssa finds the vorpal sword. It’s the most powerful weapon in Wonderland. I can use it to force them to grant Ivory’s freedom. Her portal will be open to you then.”

– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 201)

It’s too much all at once.  I want to experience events as much as possible and be told about past events as little as possible.  One instance of info-dumping isn’t so bad.  It happens sometimes in stories.  But so many stories like this were told right in a row that it slowed the story down.  We get info-dumps about her boyfriend’s past issues and info-dumps about how Alyssa has looked extremely different the entire time she was in Wonderland.  Say what.  I’m baffled that this guy would keep Alyssa’s altered appearance to himself.  For what reason does he do this exactly? No guy would mention it that late in the game if they had even noticed a change in her appearance at all.  But because he decided to keep it to himself, we get another glorious info-dump.

“You’ve been like this the whole time. I noticed it when we first stepped out of the rabbit hole. I thought your makeup had smeared. But then, after the ocean, you still had it. I didn’t make the connection until I saw Morpheus without his mask a few minutes ago.” Jeb pauses, looking like he might be sick. His thumbs rub the edges of the black designs. “They don’t wipe away. And the glitter all over your skin? That’s not salt residue. You’re starting to look like my fairy sketches, for real.”

– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 188)

The theme of insanity was well done and one of my favorite things about the book.  I enjoyed the quotes that came up about sense and logic and how relative those terms really are.  When Alyssa goes to a dinner where they have to hunt down and kill what had, at first, seemed like a dead and roasted bird, I love how Morpheous explains that just because it looks insane, doesn’t mean that it is.

“You understand the logic behind the illogical, Alyssa. It’s in your nature to find tranquility amid the madness. And that’s what we’re doing here. We’re giving our food a fighting chance.”

– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 211)

I don’t mind sensuality when it adds something to the story.  When two characters are falling in love, it works.  I felt like there was a lot of pointless sensuality in Splintered.  The vomit inducing sensuality didn’t add anything to the story besides my vomit.

Then she turns to Jeb. “Elfin knight, do you wish for pleasure on your quest? I can provide it, if you so desire.”

– A. G. Howard, Splintered (p. 145)


The romance.  Jeb draws pictures of Alyssa all the time but he has a girlfriend. Ok. All Alyssa can think is, “He’s going on a dangerous adventure with me and he almost kissed me. Clearly he likes someone else.” Ok. I just really didn’t get it.  Then they make-out some more.  End romance.

I wished I had liked the ending, but it was even more confusing than the romance.  Stuff happens and Jeb loses his head. Literally.  It was one of those things where it’s so crazy that the only way to fix it is with magic.  Alyssa fixes this problem by going back in time and making it so Jeb doesn’t come this time and therefore doesn’t lost his head.  Weird magical time jumps should not just magically fix things.  But maybe that’s just me.

Then we get to a possessed toy graveyard and by this point I’m just really sad.  I’m really sad for all the toys I’ve ever thrown away and I’m really sad that there are now characters that weren’t in the original Alice in Wonderland.  I don’t really get why these spider/woman things are even in the story other than stopping Alyssa from getting the latest thing.  I think it’s a sword right now.  I’m also really sad that the love I had for the first quarter of the book is gone.  I wish the rest of the book could have been that awesome.

When I finished, I don’t I understand why this book is a series.  The ending seemed pretty wrapped up.  For some reason, Alyssa is a queen in Wonderland but decides to go home.  Seems like a lot of work to go through to become queen if all she gets out of it is going home.  Maybe she couldn’t find the ruby slippers.  I don’t know.  Morpheous got eaten by a pig but I don’t really care that much.  To be honest, there’s nothing that is pulling me into the next book.  I love retellings and while I liked some things about this gothic rendition that was inspired by Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland, it just didn’t click with me liked I hoped it would.

Content Rating: Medium, for sensuality some of which seemed unnecessary and a few make-out scenes that were a little too graphic for my taste.  Mild language.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About A.G. Howard

A G Howard

A.G. Howard was inspired to write SPLINTERED while working at a school library. Her pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening, and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.

SPLINTERED & UNHINGED, books 1 & 2 of her urbanized /gothic Alice in Wonderland series, are now available from Amulet Books. Book 3, ENSNARED, launches 2015.

Author photo by

Exclusive Teasers from The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain

The-Shadow-Prince-by-Bree-Despain-Paperback-BannerExclusive Teasers from The Shadow Prince by Bree DespainThe Shadow Prince by Bree Despain
Published: April 14, 2015
Format: Paperback (512 pages)



I loved The Shadow Prince when I read it last year, and I’m so happy to be on the blog tour for the paperback release!  The Shadow Prince is like Percy Jackson for YA.  It’s a Greek mythology retelling of Persephone and Hades with a feminist twist and swoon-worthy romance.  If you haven’t read it yet, check out these exclusive teaser quotes from the book!


Check back next week for more teasers and a giveaway!  What do you think of the new cover?

About Bree Despain

Bree Despain

Bree Despain is the author of the Dark Divine trilogy and the upcoming Into The Dark trilogy. Bree rediscovered her childhood love for creating stories when she took a semester off college to write and direct plays for at-risk, inner-city teens from Philadelphia and New York. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband, two young sons, and her beloved TiVo.


Book Review: Stray by Elissa Sussman

Book Review: Stray by Elissa SussmanStray by Elissa Sussman
Series: Four Sisters #1
Published: October 7, 2014
Format: eARC (384 pages)
Genres: Fairy Tale, Romance, Young Adult
Source: For Review

Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.

When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.

But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.

After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?
3 Stars

After reading the acknowledgements by the author, I could see the Into the Woods inspiration.  Stray follows the sappy fairy tale stereotype and gives it a darker undertone especially about it’s control towards women. If you kept Cinderella almost the same but made it slightly darker with forbidden magic you might have something like Stray.

This fairy tale was all about controlling women and how they aren’t valued in this world even though they are technically powerful.  I know it was supposed to be a satire but sometimes it was difficult to read about the extreme rules for them all towards the goal of getting married.  The girls act ridiculous and when one of them eats before going to a ball I couldn’t get the image of Scarlet O’Hara reluctantly stuffing her face and wondering why you have to be so ridiculous just to catch a husband.

The world building just wasn’t very strong.  While I liked the plot, it felt hard to imagine the world because it was a little confusing.  The biggest problem for me, though, was the question of why these girls would even put up with all these crazy restrictions or where they came from in the first place.  That thought pulled me out of the story a lot because it was never really answered very well.

The writing was ok for the most part.  A few cheesy lines here and there with the cliche “breath she didn’t know she was holding.”  I’m so glad she figured it out in time or she might have died.  And my favorite “Suddenly” was in there more than I prefer. But it had some good writing too.  Just not terribly consistent.  I liked the characters and their relationships. The villain gives speeches about having fun with the poor, powerless protagonist and it made me roll my eyes.

I didn’t like the beginning.  It throws me into an action scene right away but I’m not sure why I should care yet.  I’m not a fan of when authors do that.

And to be very, very nitpicky – she doesn’t use the term “artless” like I’m used to Jane Austen using it and it irked me.

Overall, it was a different take on fairy tales that had an interesting plot but the world building wasn’t my favorite.

Content Rating: Medium, for some violence.  The language was pretty mild if there was any.  It’s been a while since I read it so I don’t remember for sure.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  I received this book for review from the publisher, Harper Collins, in exchange for an honest review. I was not told what to say, I was not paid to write this review and all the opinions expressed are my own.  I read an Advanced Reading Copy for this review.  

About Elissa Sussman

Elissa Sussman

Elissa Sussman is a writer, a reader and a pumpkin pie eater.

Her debut novel, STRAY (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins), is a YA fantasy about fairy godmothers, magic and food. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and in a previous life managed animators and organized spreadsheets at some of the best animation studios in the world, including Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks and Sony Imageworks. You can see her name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TANGLED.

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their rescue mutt, Basil.

Book Review: Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Book Review: Among the Nameless Stars by Diana PeterfreundAmong the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #0.5
Published: June 4, 2012
Format: eBook (60 pages)
Genres: Dystopian, Novella, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

Before Kai joined the Cloud Fleet, he wandered… AMONG THE NAMELESS STARS

Four years before the events of FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, the servant Kai left the North Estate, the only home he’d ever known, and Elliot North, the only girl he ever loved, in search of a better life. But the journey was not an easy one.

Featuring narrow escapes, thrilling boat races and at least one deadly volcanic wasteland.
2 Stars

Among the Nameless Stars was a prequel novella for one of my favorite novels, For Darkness Shows the Stars.  The writing in this novella didn’t seem to be the same quality that I loved in the novel.  The story was ok but not terribly interesting.  I feel like if there’s going to be a prequel it should be about something mind-blowing or amazing and the simple plot about the boat race was not enough to keep my attention.  I just didn’t see the point of this novella.  I didn’t get any new insights into the story.  It fills in details about Kai but I already knew where the plot was going.  It might be that it’s just been too long since I’ve read For Darkness Shows the Stars that made it feel like I didn’t learn anything new or interesting.

Even though I wasn’t a fan of this prequel, you should definitely still check out For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Content RatingMild, for very brief non-graphic mentions of abuse.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Diana Peterfreund

diana peterfreund

Diana Peterfreund has published eight novels for adults and teens, including the four-book Secret Society Girl series (Bantam Dell), the “killer unicorn novels” Rampant and Ascendant (Harper Teen), and For Darkness Shows the Stars, a post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. In addition, she’s written several critically acclaimed short stories and a variety of non-fiction essays about popular children’s literature. Diana lives in Washington D.C., with her family.