Size Doesn’t Matter (92): Down with the Shine; And I Darken

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (92): Down with the Shine; And I DarkenDown with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Published by HarperTeen on April 26, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, Horror
Pages: 355
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-stars

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…

Down with the Shine totally captured my attention. I didn’t really have any expectations, but this book proved totally unputdownable and fascinating.

Lennie’s voice is strong and bitter. Needless to say, I love it. She’s had an abnormal childhood, daughter of an infamous bank robber and murderer, raised by her three uncles who run an illegal moonshine business. Her family has this tradition of “granting wishes” with their moonshine, but she always assumed it was just showmanship. Which is why she grants everyone’s wishes at a house party. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

As I said, I breezed through this book, desperate to find out how the situation would evolve and resolve. Be careful what you wish for is a common theme, but this is a particularly cool example of that little subgenre. The wishes are hilariously teenage and horrifying in their implications. This book gets really gritty and intense. The subplot of Lennie’s mother is intense, and, surprisingly, my favorite relationships were Lennie’s with her mom and uncles. The whole book reads like an acid trip Buffy episode in a really cool way.

However, I did not love the resolution of the book. Everything rolled out really conveniently in an unexpected and unwanted way. I’d have liked to see more lingering consequences, sure, but my bigger problem was all the WTF stuff thrown in and the seemingly dropped plot thread of Lennie’s father. View Spoiler »

With all that weirdness, I still liked the book, but I’m definitely giving it some side eye. I recommend it to readers who love when shit goes totally bananaballs to the wall.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (92): Down with the Shine; And I DarkenAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Length: 13 hrs, 26 mins
Published by Listening Library on June 28, 2016
Genres: Historical, Fantasy, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-half-stars

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he s made a true friend and Lada wonders if she s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against and that Radu now considers home.

Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.

Well, you could knock me over with a feather right now. Kiersten White’s debut trilogy convinced me that her books probably wouldn’t be for me, but I decided to try again because of the overwhelmingly positive reviews. And damn. You guys were so not wrong. White has come a long way from Paranormalcy. It’s actually hard to believe this series comes from the same author.

And I Darken surprised me over and over again. For one thing, I didn’t expect it to be so dark and brutal, because my only knowledge of White was fluffy and cheesy. Then, when the book opened with Vlad Dracul, I thought ah a Dracula retelling, but nope wrong again; yes, I know Dracula was based on an actual historical dude, but I wouldn’t have expected YA fantasy to go that route. My next surprise was that the characters spend about half the book being 13 and under. I mean, there’s no doubt it’s not middle grade because the subject matter definitely isn’t something I’d recommend to the average middle grader, but you usually don’t get that much time with preteens in YA fiction. The childhood scenes dragged a bit, but the rest of the book was aces.

The plot’s totally badass and compelling, especially considering that now that I think about it there wasn’t all that much that really happened. But still it felt like a lot of stuff was happening, so props for that. It’s basically politics on an international scale, and things generally change so slowly but then when stuff changes it’s so freaking fast. That’s kinda how the book reads. Also, the setting is largely a fictionalized version of the Ottoman Empire, which is awesome because I don’t think I’ve read any books set there.

Vlada’s an interesting heroine, all strength, fire and rage. In her youth, she showed almost no softness, aside from her desire to have her dad like her and her caring for her best friend Bogdan and brother Radu. Though generally Vlada spends most of her time pretending she doesn’t care for her whiny, pretty brother. Her character arc is interesting and atypical, in that she does soften a lot in the book, as expected, but ultimately decides that she’s not really built for that. There are times when Vlada’s hard to like because she can be so incredibly callous, but also times when she’s so sympathetic because she clearly looks for that acceptance she never got from her father in Mehmed. The way she’s torn between her home and her heart is so well done. Much as she loves her home of Wallachia, the Ottoman Empire is stronger and better ruled.

Both Radu and Vlada fall in love with Mehmed. I cannot freaking wait for both of them to get over Mehmed in Now I Rise. Bless Kiersten White for having gay and lesbian characters in historical fiction. Now if only she’d give Radu a cute boyfriend. Mehmed’s never going to be what either of them need. Honestly, he frustrates me endlessly basically, because he keeps telling Vlada he’ll do whatever she wants, but it’s such a lie because he’ll never give up his harem or Constantinople. As rulers of empires go, he’s likable, but his romances are ick. He’s nicely representative of how White doesn’t overly romanticize the time period, though.

I will most definitely be reading Now I Rise, and I’m super hopeful that there will be awesome romances for Radu and Vlada. I may even go back and read some of White’s backlist.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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