Friday, January 31, 2014

Mini-Reviews & Giveaway: Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke & Amber House by Kelly Moore


Title: Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea (Between, #1)

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Rating: 2.5 Stars

...that's it? Are we all sure I received the right book in the mail, because I'm just a little bit confused. Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea became a blogging sensation when it first released a few months back and, ever since, I've been curious to try it out for myself. When my copy first arrived, I got through about half the book before turning to other pressing ARCs. Now, having finally found the time to settle back into this story, I've wound up disappointing. For some reason, I expected a lot more to...happen. *scratches head, still confused*

Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea excels as the gothic mystery it is marketed as. Not only is the writing beautiful, painting an atmosphere of chilling nights and howling winds, but the imagery Tucholke forces us to conjure, of little children holding sticks and hunting the devil, are spine-tingling. With the exception of this lyrical prose, however, this novel has little to offer. Its protagonist, Violet, is much like any typical heroine who plans to resist the "bad boy" but fails spectacularly. Moreover, I didn't appreciate the manner in which our feelings for Violet are intentionally manipulated. Violet's twin brother, Luke, is a rude misogynist and his girlfriend, Sunshine, essentially exists as a foil to Violet. Both Luke and Sunshine do little to develop the story, but their existence makes Violet seem like a much better alternative character. Frankly speaking, though this method is used by many authors, I'm not a fan of it merely because it doesn't offer many reasons to like the protagonist for who she is, which seems like cheating to me. If you only like the protagonist in comparison to those around her, do you really even like her at all?

River West, the mysterious boy who rents the guest house behind Violet's huge house, is essentially a creep. And an insta-love machine. Although he has never fallen for a girl before, of course he falls for Violet. Why? I still have no clue. And Violet too, who is a sensible teenager (supposedly), takes one look at River and instantly falls for him as well. *gag* While I really liked the moral questions that River's presence brings up - after all, can you really love someone if their actions go against your moral code? - ultimately that wasn't enough to save this novel for me. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is very similar to most paranormal reads, but its writing style sets it apart, giving it a gothic feel that I really enjoyed. When you strip that away, however, this is nothing but a slow-moving novel with characters that are just a little too familiar.

Title: Amber House (Amber House, #1) 

Author: Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed, Tucker Reed

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Despite its unremarkable beginning, Amber House is a promising start to a new series. In many ways, this novel reminded me of The Dark Unwinding for both books feature a mysterious old house, even more curious tenants, and hidden mysteries. Where The Dark Unwinding relied upon steampunk machines, an "insane" uncle, and unknown towns to further its plot line, this novel features strange twists of time, hushed-up family secrets, and long-forgotten abilities.

Amber House is dull, at first, rather boring and difficult to get through. Once the novel hits its stride, however, it soon delves into an intriguing tale. Sarah, the protagonist of our tale, can see the past. And in Amber House, a building known to preserve echoes of its history, Sarah's abilities thrive as she witnesses pieces of her ancestry come together to reveal truths she never knew about her family. One of the highlights of this novel is the relationship Sarah sustains with her family members. With her autistic younger brother, Sam, she is unfailingly caring, but with her mother, her relationship is tenuous at best. Moore and the two Reeds explore this rift between the two in a complex manner, giving us insight into Sarah's mother's past, which therefore sheds light on her present behavior.

Unfortunately, there is a rather irritating - and unnecessary - love triangle at play here. In fact, it only detracts from the story and causes Sarah to forget her usual sensibility. Quite thankfully, however, the love triangle is resolved in this first installment and will - hopefully - be absent from the sequel. With such a rushed ending, one that leaves behind more questions than answers, I am glad to have the sequel already on hand. Needless to say, I won't be wasting much time to find out just where Sarah's journeys take her next.

Win a Gothic Romance Bundle of Books! 
In preparation for the month of February - the month of romance! - I will be picking two winners and each winner will choose a Gothic Romance Bundle of their choice from the list below:
Bundle #1: Of Old Houses
ARC of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Brand New Hardcover of Manor of Secrets
Bundle #2: Of a Series
ARC of Amber House
Brand New Hardcover of Neverwas, sequel to Amber House

US ONLY
Ends 2/10
a Rafflecopter giveaway

19 comments:

  1. Oh, that first one sounded so good but eh

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  2. I was really looking forward to The Devil & the Deep Blue Sea but I'm not so sure now. A likeable only by comparison protag? Doesn't sound very likable to me. Insta love isn't usually my thing either. YA seems to be such a disappointment for me lately!

    I did enjoy Amber House as well, Keertana. I agree, the love triangle was unnecessary and it really didn't inspire any strong feelings at all.

    I AM totally enjoying Gunmetal Magic! I'm listening to the audio but I keep reading ahead in my e-Copy, too. :)

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  3. I'm finding a lot of books lately that have gorgeous, atmospheric writing but don't quite deliver. For me anyway.

    Also - I see you're reading Chasing Shadows - hope you enjoy it! I liked that one.

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  4. Oh I can see why you didn't love the first one as much. Still, I want to read it. What can I say, the title still pulls me in. However, knowing it isn't that different, I don't think I'll hate it as much.

    I think the second one would bother me more. I don't like the sound of that triangle. :P

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  5. That's such a shame that you weren't able to enjoy Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, as much as you'd hoped Keertana, I really was hoping that it would be a decent gothic mystery, but the quick relationship that you've described between River and Violet doesn't sound like my cup of tea at all. I know that Rachel really enjoyed Amber House, so I'm glad to see that you're eager to dive into the next book. Also *high five* for the love triangle being resolved in this book. Lovely reviews as always!

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  6. I've put off reading BtD&tDBS and reading your review makes me feel a lot better for not having attempted it. There's a lot that already bothers me, but mostly the insta-love and the "special" main character. Ugh. I can't stand those anymore at this point.

    I haven't heard much about Amber House but it looks good. I love books where family relationships are portrayed in a realistic way and Sarah seems to have interesting relationships. I'll keep in mind the slow start, so hopefully it won't affect me as much. But you did mention love triangle though. I'm trying to stay far far away from them because I'm so mentally exhausted of them. I've had enough of them. At least it's resolved in this first installment itself.

    Lovely reviews, Keertana.

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  7. I was really looking forward The Devil & the Deep Blue Sea and then I started seeing not such great reviews for it that's why it is buried somewhere on my Kindle. I need to get to it. I really want to try it.

    I haven't seen Amber House before but it sounds like a really nice story. I mean the beginning not so much but still it seems worth reading.

    Great reviews, Keertana :)

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  8. It didn't take much for me to add Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea to my TBR. I saw the magnificent cover with an equally alluring title to boot, and I was sold. Though now, I'm re-thinking this decision. I could possibly ignore the insta-love thing if the plot was a little more exciting and less familiar, as you put it. But now, I'm unsure. I'll wait to see what others make of the sequel before deciding to jump into this series full on or not. Do you plan to give the sequel a shot?

    Like others who have commented before me, I've never heard of Amber House before. You mention it's a promising start to a series --which is great! I look forward to your thoughts on the sequel. Enjoy!

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review

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  9. Oh, bummer that The Devil and the Deep rubbed you the wrong way, Keertana! I really enjoyed it--but I do get that some people would find the chracters annoying and unlikable (especially River and Luke) and they do "fall" for each other pretty fast--but I loved how you never knew which way was up with River--and that essentially he's a pretty terrible guy (though he does have some reasons) and Violet was forced to come to terms with that and still decide if she wanted to be with him. But everyone interprets books differently:) Thanks for the giveaway--I'm entered!

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  10. I liked Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, but didn't think it was as great as the hype. I would probably lean more toward Amber House though. Based on your thoughts, I would probably enjoy it more.

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  11. @Marlene: I actually am not planning to give the sequels of either of these books a go. Obviously because I didn't enjoy Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea and as for Amber House, I felt rather lukewarm about it. I have so many other books to read these days that when I don't feel the pressing urge to pursue a series, I just drop it which is what I'm doing in this scenario. *shrug*

    @Heather: Ooh, Heather I really liked those moral conundrums in Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea but I don't think it was enough to have me satisfied. Also, my connection with the characters wasn't strong enough for those ethical dilemmas to make much of an impact on me, I'm afraid. :/ Still, I definitely see why both you and Lauren adored this one!(:

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  12. I really liked Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and I will fully admit to getting completely caught up in the gorgeous language and gothic setting. But you make some great points about the romance and the characters. Still I'm excited about the next in the series. I think it's a duet.

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  13. I just know my sister will love these books!!
    Dede

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  14. I am a huge fan of anything Gothic, and Amber House just happens to be one of my favorites! I would absolutely have to choose that pack if I am lucky enough to win! Thanks so much for the giveaway!

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  15. I don't think you're the only disappointed by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. A lot of reviewers whose opinions I respect have been lukewarm about it.

    I'm excited to read Amber House! My library's copy was lost or I would have gotten to it by now. :)
    -Franny

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  16. Keertana,
    I had the same thoughts on Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea! I thought the atmospheric writing was beautiful. It's the only reason I finished the book. I am from, and grew up in Maine and it reminded me of some of the places I've lived and visited. But I did think that the characters were lacking in likability and the way Violet talks about other people-particularly her brother and grandmother, was creepy. (And not in a good way!)

    Also, I have been following your reviews on Goodreads for a few years but never commented. I love your writing, I have read a few books because of you! So, thanks. :)

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  17. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea did have a lot of flaws. I agree with you on a lot of things you brought up. I disliked how Sunshine was just ploy and it really pissed me off at the ending when Violet just left Sunshine at the hands of pain and didn't even try to help but ran away. It was quite aggravating. Great reviews, Keertana!

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