A Tale of Two Endings (Double Book Review)

If I might open with a complete non sequitur (which, given that the phrase is Latin for “it does not follow”, I guess I legitimately can’t…), just letting you know I got to be the featured author on the J. Taylor Publishing blog yesterday. ^_^ So click here if you want to read my musings on daydreaming. I’ll wait for ya.

*waiting music*

Now onto the post proper.

I semi-recently read a couple of books, and while I didn’t want to go too in depth with either one of them, review-wise, I did notice a parallel in my reading experience for both: In the end, it all came down to…well, the end.

Book the First: “Unhinged (Splintered #2)” by A.G. Howard.

Unhinged cover pic

Genre: YA Fantasy

Blurb (as lifted from the book’s jacket flap): In Splintered, A.G. Howard’s dark reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, Alyssa Gardner was crowned a Queen in Wonderland. Yet she chose to leave her subjects so she could live in the human realm. For a year she’s been trying to be regular Alyssa again, with her boyfriend, Jeb, her newly returned Mom, her friends, the prom, and the promise of a future in London.

But Morpheus, the seductive, manipulative netherling who haunts her dreams, won’t let her leave her legacy behind that easily. Neither will Wonderland, which appears to be suffering from her neglect.

Alyssa is between two worlds: Jeb and her human life…and the intoxicating wildness of Wonderland – and Morpheus. When those worlds collide and Wonderland starts to invade her “real” life, Alyssa must find a way to keep the balance between the two realms or lose everything she loves.

My Thoughts: While Splintered largely managed to stay on my good side (see my review of Book One here), most of Unhinged irritated and bored me. Far from trying to find a balance between her human life and her Wonderland queenship, Alyssa seemed to do little but waste time trying to turn her back on Wonderland altogether. Why, Alyssa? Yeah, I get it, your part-human/part-netherling life is mad as all get-out, and that goes double for many of the key players in it. But don’t we all see the inevitability here? You’re going to have to deal with these problems, so just suck it up, be a queen, and look for solutions! I betcha that would keep the plot moving faster. Also, I felt like not enough people were being straight with each other. I expect as much from Morpheus, ‘cause that’s the way he rolls, but when it’s coming from all sides, I get overwhelmed and just wanna give up on everyone.

Right up until the final chapter, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t bother with the next installment in the series. But then I reached the last chapter’s last half, and the game changed. I won’t say how (spoiler-free zone, up in here!), just that it happened, and now I actually really want to see how the third book will play out. So, well played, last few pages; I wouldn’t say it redeemed the whole book for me, but it did rope my interest in the trilogy’s conclusion.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Speaking to my past self, “Just skip to getting Book 3 from the library once it’s out, ‘kay? I doubt you’ll consider all that stuff in the middle to be necessary.”

Book the Second: “Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story” by Diane Setterfield.

Bellman and Black Cover

Genre: Literary Fiction

Blurb (as set forth on the author’s website): As a boy, William Bellman commits one small cruel act that appears to have unforeseen and terrible consequences. The killing of a rook with his catapult is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. And by the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, he seems, indeed, to be a man blessed by fortune.

Until tragedy strikes, and the stranger in black comes, and William Bellman starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, he enters into a bargain. A rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.

My Thoughts: Having much enjoyed Setterfield’s eerie debut, The Thirteenth Tale, when I spotted this new work from hers at the library, I grabbed it to see whether she would make a good second impression on me. She did. While the narrative style sometimes veered a little off, for me (as it seems literary fiction often does; I’m not sure what rules these highfalutin books are playing by), William Bellman’s life story pulled me swiftly along. Much of that, I think, had to do with the character of Mr. Bellman himself, a vigorous man of business who moved at an obsessively efficient pace I somewhat envied. (Would that I could be half so productive!) The rest had to do with the looming mystery of the ominous Mr. Black; with curiosity and dread, I raced ahead to put an end to my delicious suspense. Ultimately, however, the resolution left me feeling… unresolved. Maybe ghost stories are like that, sometimes, but I’d been hoping for more. I made my way through the last few pages with a lingering sense of a letdown.

Until I read the final line. It wasn’t a big deal of a line, really; nothing that one mightn’t have seen coming. Yet it made a huge difference for me, lifting my spirits and restoring my good opinion in an instant. And now I’m over here like, “Somebody give me bookstore money so I can own this book.”

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): That is entirely dependent on your personal taste. I’m frankly a little surprised I liked it so much. Who knows what Reader Me will decide she’s in the mood for? Nobody, that’s who. So play it by ear like I do, and see what ends up finding a place in your affections by the end – or, perchance, because of it.

Anybody out there have any opinions on either of these books? Or on other books where the ending made or broke it for you? If so, this is your personal invitation to share in the comments.

6 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Endings (Double Book Review)

  1. Wow, I was hoping more from Unhinged. I enjoyed Splintered for the most part and was looking forward to Unhinged; however, yours is not the first “cool” review I’ve read. I might still give it a try once I get past more intriguing reads on my TBR list.

    • Aye, alas, it didn’t work for me as well as “Splintered” did. But as always, others may feel differently. So if you’re still inclined to give it a go, by all means do so. Mayhap it will please you more. (:

    • So, kind of the opposite of my “Unhinged” experience. ;D I’m interested to see how things resolve in Book 3. …It is just a trilogy, right? *suddenly unsure*

  2. I haven’t read either of these, but it’s kind of crazy how fast your opinion can change because of a good/bad ending! Even, as you said, a single line can make a huge difference…which is ludicrous when you say(type) it, but is so true!

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