Mini Reviews: White Lines, Strands of Bronze and Gold, Breathless + free novella!

April 24, 2013 2013, brigid kemmerer, fairy tales, freebie alert, jane nickerson, jennifer banash, mini reviews, paranormal, realistic fiction, Wendy 59

Today’s mini reviews are for books that surprised me in different ways, mostly because the stories or characters weren’t quite what I thought they would be. Sometimes that can be a very good thing.


Title: White Lines
Author: Jennifer Banash
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: April 4, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC provided by the publisher

White Lines by Jennifer Banash isn’t the sort of novel that I would normally be attracted to, so I am really glad that a copy landed on my doorstep. 17-year-old Cat is living a teenager’s dream in the 1980s–she has her own apartment in New York City, which is bankrolled by her neglectful father. By day, she is a fragile creature struggling with infrequent visits from her abusive mother. By night, she loses herself in the frenzied, glittering world of the club scene, where she fends off skeevy characters and succumbs to the allure of heroin.

There are incredibly evocative scenes that capture both the frantic energy of the dirty glam music scene as well as the dreamy stupor of (what I imagine) using drugs feels like.  The writing is powerful and poetic, the emotions a pained jumble, and the story has a certain tragic sophistication not unlike a French novel.  

For awhile, this was almost headed towards 5 stars for me, except that the ending felt a bit rushed, and certain aspects could have been addressed or developed better: the crippling effects of withdrawal, as well as the relationships with nearly everyone aside from her parents, for example. But it’s still a stunning debut, and unlike any other YA novel I’ve ever read before. Recommended for mature teens and adults, and perhaps for fans of Steve Brezenoff’s Brooklyn Burning.


Title: Strands of Bronze and Gold
Author: Jane Nickerson
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Random House
Age Group: YA
Source: egalley provided by the publisher

I was fully prepared to love this book, but alas, I ended up with more of a mild liking instead. The idea of the Bluebeard fairy tale retold tugged at my imagination, and it’s true that the writing is quite lovely in parts, as well as a bit startling in others once the story finally got going in the second half. 

But overall, I was disappointed to find that Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson ended up being a more gentle fairy tale than I would have liked. The dark story of Bluebeard is full of seductive promise, danger, and horror, and this particular iteration only glanced on more serious, weighty themes before quickly shying away from them. The author’s guest post for us makes it clear that she seems to prefer happy endings, and in the end it just comes down to what you enjoy as a reader–and I personally prefer my tales of seduction to be a bit more toothsome. If you’d like to try out a more ravishing and sinister Bluebeard retelling, I’d recommend The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter.

Note: While I like the southern gothic setting, I was a bit troubled by a strange subplot involving the Underground Railroad. The Book Smugglers address that in depth here.


Title: Breathless 
(Elementals #2.5)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC provided by the publisher 

I’ve thought and thought about what to write about this novella, but all you really need to know is that after some teases in the previous Elementals books including Spark, we finally get to know what Nick Merrick’s been hiding from everyone, including himself. This is a must-read for any fan of the series, and after you’ve finished you’ll be beating down the author’s door trying to get your hands on Nick’s full-length novel Siege, which comes out next year.

If you haven’t tried this series yet, by the way, now is a good time to start! I was skeptical when I first read about the premise of four hot guys who could harness the power of the earth elements, but the stories are wickedly fun, with moments of surprising substance and emotion. 

As part of the tour we’re hosting for the new book Spirit, you can download the novella Elemental for free. Use the promo code VCARD to get your free book (though that link only!), which is good through May 31.

My pals Jen from Starry-Eyed Revue and Steph from Cuddlebuggery are also hosting an Elementals Readalong. Sign up here or here if you’re interested.

All of these reviews also appear on GoodReads. Advance copies were provided by the publishers. 


Have you read any of these books, or are you planning to? Let us know what you think!


59 Responses to “Mini Reviews: White Lines, Strands of Bronze and Gold, Breathless + free novella!”

  1. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    Love these mini reviews. The ability to give your opinion clearly and succinctly is something I value, although I have trouble with it myself! I really want to read Strands of Bronze and Gold. Sorry it wasn’t as dark as you’d hoped – I don’t mind HEAs so I’m going to give it a shot anyway. Bluebeard is a fascinating story. I read all about the really evil man it’s possibly based on (from wiki) and it freaked me out. Also, I have GOT to start that Elementals series! I don’t have time at this moment, but I feel like it’s calling to me as everyone else is reading it.

  2. Rachel

    I’m sorry Strands of Bronze and Gold didn’t work out for you, Wendy. I loved it but you know I’m a sucker for happier reads. I thought Bernard was devilishly seductive! :) I don’t know if White Lines would be my type of read being on the grittier side of things, but I’m glad it was a welcome surprise for you. I’m picking up Breathless as soon as I shut my computer, can’t wait for Nick’s story! Lovely reviews, Wendy! :)

  3. Lyn Kaye

    I love realistic fiction. White Lines might be right up my alley.

    I think I’ll be skipping Strands of Bronze and Gold. Too many meh reviews.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, I’m so glad you read and enjoyed White Lines too, Savy! I will have to come look for you review now that you’re back online.

      And yes, do read Breathless…you’re in for a big, big surprise. :D

  4. Karen

    White Lines sounds great, Strands has been getting mixed reviews so I’ll probably give it a pass for now and the Elementals series is on my list after hearing everyone rave about it.

  5. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    You know, White Lines isn’t something that would normally appeal to me either but now I’m thinking that has changed. The writing can make or break that type of read but it sounds like this was a hit! I still need to read the Elemental series! I’m planning to start them this summer though. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Agreed, books like White Lines usually aren’t a great read for me, but as you say, the writing makes all the difference. I hope you get a chance to pick it up sometime! And YES, Elementals, too. It’s tons of fun. :)

  6. LisaFicTalk

    I like that White Lines is set in the 80’s has music included! A big selling point for me is music.

    As for the retelling of Bluebeard’s story I’m not that keen on picking it up. I don’t want to be disappointed.

    And YAY for the Elemental love! Who doesn’t like those brothers????? LET ME AT ‘EM WHOEVER THEY ARE! lol

    Great reviews, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s so interesting to me that so many readers feel that way, Lisa–I rarely care one way or the next about music in books, and actually find incessant talk of it to be something of a distraction. BUT I felt the author captured the feel of music so well here, it wasn’t just random name drops or references that expected the reader to then create his or her own mood, if that makes sense.

  7. LisaFicTalk

    I like that White Lines is set in the 80’s has music included! A big selling point for me is music.

    Great reviews, Wendy!

  8. Sam

    White Lines isn’t the sort of book I’d normally be drawn to either, but the positive reviews so far have me really curious about it. I’m glad you liked it! And you know I felt the same way about Breathless. Nick has always been my favourite Merrick. Although… I did finish Spirit recently and I’m starting to wonder if Hunter Garrity is my true favourite character now. ;)

    Lovely reviews, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      I have a feeling you’d really like White Lines, Sam. It’s not a perfect book for sure, but it really wowed me.

      And hurray for Breathless love! She DOES make the “favorite” choice so difficult. ;)

  9. starryeyedjen

    I was severely disappointed in STRANDS, too. I’ve never read the original fairy tale, but I was expecting this retelling to be much darker and gorier based on what I have heard of the original. Still, I kind of want that cover on my shelf. :) Also, thankyouthankyouthankyou for making me an Elementals Virgin. I am loving these boys (and the books!) and I seriously can’t believe I waited this long to pick up the series. Having sooo much fun with it!

    • Wendy Darling

      See, even without reading the original you felt that way! Just the premise of living on an isolated estate and being seduced by an older man with a mysterious past should lend itself to a darker story. I don’t even mind the lack of gore, if somehow things had felt more tense or urgent or romantic.

      And yay!!! I just KNEW you would love the Merrick boys, Jen. I’m so glad you’re having a good time with them! It’s very fun to live vicariously through your readalong, too.

  10. Melliane

    it’s nice to have mini reviews like that, but well… after you want to read even more books. The cover of Bronze is really nice.

    • Wendy Darling

      That is the trouble with listing 3 books for our readers instead of 1, hah. ;) I do like the Bronze cover quite a bit, too.

  11. Jasprit

    Oh I don’t think I’ve cone across White Lines before Wendy, I definitely prefer my gritty reads, so will be on the lookout for that one. Sorry you were slightly disappointed with the ending to The Strands of Bronze & Gold, I’ve become a little tiresome of happy endings (I know what is wrong with me), so I’m curious to see how things end! And I’m totally with you I need Nick’s full story now! Great mini-reviews Wendy! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I think White Lines might be a Jasprit book. It’s pretty intense and gritty, and the writing is so so good!

      I love HEAs in certain books, but the one in Bronze and Gold (and its overall lighter feel) just didn’t end up working for me.

      And I’m so happy you’re loving the Elementals series, too!

  12. Belle

    I really want to read the Elementals series! So many people seem to like it.
    I have White Lines on my Kindle so I’m glad it’s good, even if the ending is a bit rushed.

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope you get a chance to try Elementals out soon, Belle–those Merrick boys are patiently waiting!

      I’m glad you already have a copy of White Lines. The character is self-destructive and pretty messed up, but I felt pretty bad for her.

  13. Tanja - Tanychy

    I have heard of all of these but haven’t read them yet. I’ve heard only amazing things about Elementals but I hope I’ll enjoy it soon. I’m really interested in White Lies. I’m so happy you liked it. Great reviews Wendy :)

  14. Bookworm1858

    I’ve only read Strands and found it quite dull. I also got a copy of White Lines but haven’t been able to pick it up yet-hope I like it too.

    • Wendy Darling

      That’s not the first time I’ve heard that reaction to Strands of Bronze and Gold, unfortunately. And I understand why you’d feel that way.

      I hope you like White Lines better!

  15. Renae M.

    Sadly, I haven’t yet managed to read any of these, though the first two are definitely on my radar, if just for curiosity’s sake. White Lines has gotten mostly positive reviews, and the concept, as well as the nearly-historical setting are really engaging for me. It a shame, though, that you felt it deserved 5 stars but the ending messed things up. I seriously hate it when that happens.

    Strands of Bronze and Gold I feel like I’m less likely to enjoy, based on some things I’ve read (particularly the Book Smugglers’ review). But I do love the concept, and I’ve heard great things about the author’s prose. Should be interesting, haha!

    • Wendy Darling

      It was the ending as well as a few things that could have been developed more, Renae–although to be fair, they were things I thought about after I finished, and didn’t really bother me as I read the story.

      I wish you luck with Bronze and Gold. I liked it better than the Smugglers did, but I do think that subplot could have been handled much better.

  16. Sarah Johnson

    This are great mini reviews, Wendy! I really like your review of White Lines and I’m looking forward to reading it. I love book with drug addiction in them and this book sounds mystifying! I’ve heard that Strands of Bronze and Gold is good, but a letdown. I honestly don’t see how there could be a happy ending to a story retelling about Bluebeard, but I’m still going to give the book a shot. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      You definitely need to read White Lines, then! It’s so well-written. And good, I’m glad you’re going to give Bronze and Gold a try, sometimes you never know if a book will work for you unless you try it for yourself. :)

  17. Kim (YA Asylum)

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed White Lines. I’ve been hearing mixed reviews on the book, but I’ve found that I generally agree with your opinion on books and it sounds really good (plus I have it) and I was really hoping to like it! I don’t really expect debuts to be perfect (if they are, that’s awesome), so even if it has a few flaws, I’m still going to keep an open mind. Though, rushed endings bother me. Hopefully it’s not too rushed.

    I’ve been hearing similar things about Strands of Bronze or Gold. I love horror and a gothic Southern setting sounds fabulous to me, but … when I read her guest post here a while ago I kind of figured the book wasn’t for me. Happy endings are fine every now and then, but for a horror, I want something a little more gritty. I don’t want to start reading it knowing there’s a happy ending. That’s no fun. I want an ending that makes me go OMG, noooooo like Megan Shepherd provided with her debut, The Madman’s Daughter.

    I love these mini reviews!

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m glad you have a copy of White Lines–it’s surprisingly good! And agreed, it’s good to be understanding with debut authors, and this is truly one of the strongest new writers to appear this year.

      The style and story of Madman’s Daughter, for all its admitted faults, is much more to my taste as well.

  18. Alise (Readers In Wonderland)

    I know exactly what you mean by White Lines not being an ordinary read, so I am glad to hear you liked it, anyway! About Strands of Bronze or Gold-that surprises me I actually love the original Bluebeard tale and was really looking forward to Strands. To hear it is kind of toned down really makes me wonder about this one. I like happy ending as well, but I love a bittersweet or tragic ending even more. I appreciate it when the author doesn’t feel like they have to appease anyone with an HEA ending.

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, there are a few macabre touches towards the end of Bronze and Gold, Alise, but the overall tone was pretty light. And I agree with you about “bittersweet or tragic” trumping HEA, at least for stories like this. I wouldn’t have minded so much if it felt like more was at stake throughout the book, though.

  19. Alexa Y.

    Strands of Bronze and Gold creeped me out. It was my own fault for forgetting/not researching the original fairy tale. So while I was reading it, I was pretty uncomfortable. I liked it, but I didn’t love it in the end.

    • Wendy Darling

      It definitely had some creepy moments in the end, Alexa, but not enough to suit me, hah. “Liked, but didn’t love” sums it up nicely for me, too.

  20. Kara_Malinczak

    Pretty much agree about Strands of Bronze and Gold, Wendy. I think I liked it a bit better than you did, but I had some issues and the way minorities were treated was one of them.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, there wasn’t a whole lot of time or enough thoughtful consideration put into the subplot with the Underground Railroad. I didn’t want to get into it in too much detail here, but I’m glad that the Book Smugglers addressed it in their post.

  21. Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

    I’m definitely going to try White Lines and I need to check out Heather’s link to the author’s post.

    I agree with you on Strands of B and G. The writing was lovely, but the pace was a little slow and I was expecting a darker story.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh yes–please do read White Lines, Jen! I think you’d appreciate the author’s style.

      “Slow” was fine with me for the first, set-up part of the Bronze and Gold, but it became a problem when it was clear there wasn’t going to be too much more to the story. :/ I wish it had been darker, too.

  22. Keertana

    I haven’t been too keen to pick up White Lines, but I’m glad it was so good. I think I’ll have to see if I can squeeze it in because it seems to have gotten a lot of buzz around the blogosphere. I already heard that Strands of Bronze and Gold was disappointing and boring, which is a shame, but hopefully the companion novel will be better. It has such a gorgeous cover and as a re-telling of Tam Lin, I’m interested! Also, so thrilled to hear great things about Kemmerer’s novellas! I’m on the fence about continuing her books since I like them, but not all that much, and with my growing TBR, I really don’t know if I should keep reading them, but maybe the novellas will help me make up my mind. Great reviews, Wendy! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      I think Strands of Bronze and Gold might make you a little nuts, Keertana–hah! I liked it overall, but I can see why some readers have found it boring. I would be VERY curious about your reaction to White Lines. It seems like such an After School Special type of book, but it’s really not–the language is mature and beautifully developed.

  23. Caitlin

    I agree about Breathless. I wasn’t expecting that at all and now I’m so excited for Nick’s story.

    Also, why can’t these brothers just sit down and TALK to one another. Ugh.

    • Wendy Darling

      I wasn’t really expecting that either (well, until I read the blurb for this novella), but how AWESOME is Nick’s full length book going to be? I have a feeling it could be a pretty big deal for the YA genre.

      And hah, they don’t sit down and TALK, Caitlin, because they are BOYS. Punching, shoving, mocking, sure–using words is much more difficult. ;)

  24. readingdate

    I have a copy of White Lines waiting for me at the library so I’m happy to see you liked it! Music and 80s books appeal to me and I’m glad this one is done well.
    And I’m liking the Elementals series so far but I’m not quite up to Breathless yet :)
    Fun mini reviews, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohh, excellent Lucy! I’m glad to hear you will be reading White Lines soon. I’m not always big on the books where music plays a huge part, but everything is integrated well here.

      I had a feeling you’d enjoy the Merrick Brothers, too. ;) Happy to hear you’re progressing nicely, hee hee.

  25. Heather Roddenberry

    I enjoyed White Lines a lot too! Did you see the author’s post yesterday on Forever Young Adult where she talks about her own life as a club kid? She even included a couple of pic’s. FASCINATING stuff!:)

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohh, no I didn’t see that, but I will look for it! Thanks for the heads up, Heather–it did seem clear that the author had some experience with her material one way or the other. Sounds like a great post–and I’m glad you enjoyed this, too!

  26. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I thought you were going for the color theme with those first two books! The story of Bluebeard is very intriguing though now I’m wondering about the subplot in it. I do have one of those novellas for the Elementals series — I guess I should check it out!

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah, I didn’t even notice that! Hmm, maybe I will do a color theme sometime. ;)

      Definitely check out Elementals–it’s totally fun.

      But yeah–that subplot was interesting at first, but sort of went nowhere. It felt hastily thrown in, and it’s never referred to again after a certain point.

  27. Kritika

    I was looking forward to reading Strands of Bronze and Gold – I’m a sucker for retellings, and Bluebeard is such a morbidly fascinating story. After reading your mini-review, though, I might end up reading The Bloody Chamber instead.

    Hmmmm more nudging to read the Elementals series…I think I might read the first book just to see how it goes.

    And I just started a blog last week so here’s my fellow blogger link :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Bluebeard is just hard, because it’s already an inherently more grown-up and dark story, you know? And I expected to be seduced by it, and never really was. There are some good surprises scare-wise later on, but the book doesn’t really commit to them fully, so…if you enjoy darker stories, I’d definitely recommend checking out the Carter.

  28. Liviania

    The ending of White Lines was somewhat rushed, but I loved the rest enough that it was still a five star read for me.

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m glad to hear you loved this, Liviana–it was such a surprise to me! I’m really looking forward to whatever this author does next. Her writing is phenomenal.