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Book Review: Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

Down With The Shine by Kate Karyus QuinnDown with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Published: April 26th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 355 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Magic, Horror, Murder, Funny
Rating: 3 stars
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Make a wish…

Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.

At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.

The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…

Young Adult Book Review

Talk with your kids about their secret wish granting powers, people. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn started out strong but lost its edge as it progressed. The dark and macabre mood we start out with is soon lost amid out of place humor and slapstick. Down with the Shine flip-flops between the two and ends up being kind of annoying with the different atmospheres. If you are going to be dark, then be dark. Same thing with silly. Mashing the two together just leaves me unsatisfied and unsure which way to go. The elements that were dark; Lennie’s psychopath father, murdered best friend, and string of accidently granted wishes that turn out rather horrifyingly, were all great, but sort of fell to the wayside as Down with Shine focused more on comedy in the middle portion. There were so many juicy elements to explore and we’re just let down.

The wishes that Lennie unknowingly grants at the party are played for laughs and the whole thing comes off as a comedy sketch with her uncles running around trying to contain teenagers suddenly stuck with bat wings, who were turned into Thumbelina, or turn everything they touch into Cheetos. Then there is the ridiculous drama of the budding romance between Lennie and Smith. I was frankly uninterested about those two. Dylan’s murder, mutilation, and decent into the dark side are unexplored. The disturbing kiss between Smith and his mother is left dangling. We’re left wondering about Lennie’s father. There are just so many interesting elements in Down with the Shine that aren’t focused on because of the humor. It’s like there are two stories going on here and both suffer from lack of focus. Pick one; dark or silly, and stick with it.

I’m especially disappointed by Dylan. The resolution at the end saves her life, granted, but then the underlying issue of why Dylan acted as she did, pretending to be Lennie and meeting with strange men, is not dealt with. Our main character, Lennie, is your basic sarcastic outcast character that I am frankly tired of in YA books. I love the premise and the majority of my enjoyment in this book was from the interesting storyline and magical elements. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn could have been dark and gritty and fantastic but feels watered down.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares bigGirl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Published August 7th 2012 by Tor Teen
Length: 332 pages
Genre: Paranormal, fantasy, Romance, YA
Reading Level: Teen
ISBN 0765328666 (ISBN13: 9780765328663)
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It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake was my second favorite book in 2012. I always enjoy paranormal fiction books and Anna and Cas were excellent characters. I often don’t care for the love story in YA books but the unusual and creative pairing managed to avoid being annoying and other literary offenses that frustrate me. I was very excited to read the sequel Girl of Nightmares, even though I dropped the ball and it’s taken me months to get around to writing up the review. Bad blogger! Unfortunately, Girl of Nightmares doesn’t live up to the legacy of the excellent first book.

There is a phenomenon in YA books that I like to call “the sequel syndrome” or “the sequel slump”. (I like alliteration.) This is where the sequel to an awesome book turns out to be just meh. It’s a big letdown. Girl of Nightmares ended up suffering from sequel syndrome. The first half of the book was slow and frustrating to read. It’s basically the characters wondering what to do and I can’t stand that type of stagnate whining in books. Plot needs to keep moving forward to be interesting and that’s just not happening in the first half of the book. Things only pick up once they cross the pond and go to England to find Gideon.

Anna is almost nonexistent for most of the book. Why Blake would choose to write a sequel where the most popular character, the title character and the main driving force in the story, is barely present I don’t understand. The introduction of a new female character feels like the author is trying to fill a gap. This new character’s only saving grace is that she’s not overly irritating and Cas does not appear to be interested in her and continues to be focused on rescuing Anna. My favorite moment in Girl of Nightmares involves a character that I didn’t like very much in Anna Dressed in Blood; Carmel. I found Carmel to be a bit ridiculous and stereotypical in the first book but she does something very human and appropriate in the sequel; she has second thoughts. People aren’t able to handle the prolonged tension of being in constant danger (and seeking that danger out knowingly) and when Cas and Thomas continue to hunt ghosts, Carmel tries to separate herself from them, to return to being normal. Her actions feel very appropriate and real for her character.

I was hoping that Girl of Nightmares would continue the excellent writing I saw in Anna Dressed in Blood but the book fell short. Most of the book was uninteresting and slow and it’s only the last 1/3 that really has any action. The main opposition is that the adults won’t help the teens and I hate that Cas and Thomas are suddenly unable to do anything because the adults won’t help. They lost the competence I saw in them in Anna Dressed in Blood. The ending makes me want to throw things. It’s overly moralistic, saccharine, and tidy. It lacked the grit I saw in the first book and left me feeling unsatisfied.

Rating: 3 out 5

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