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Glee - Season 4 [Blu-ray]
Glee - Season 4 [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Lea Michele
Price: £20.46

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worst season of Glee so far ..., 14 Aug. 2013
Fair warning - this review contains spoilers!!!

I really loved the first two seasons of Glee, but the past two seasons - and especially this fourth season - left a lot to be desired. To be honest, season four was my least favorite season so far. This was due to several reasons: the mostly bad writing, the constant neglect of important lead characters like Kurt and Santana, the screwed-up and unbalanced storytelling in the Klaine storyline, and in large part also due to the fact that the uninteresting new characters on the Lima side got way too much focus and screentime (the writers basically shoved them at viewers with a big fat blinking "Love them or else!" sign over their heads, which had pretty much the reverse effect on me - and on many others from what I've heard and seen).

Now, I'm not saying that introducing several new characters is generally a bad thing - other shows have done it successfully, after all. This was not the case with Glee, however. I found all the new characters at McKinley incredibly flat and boring, and their storylines were mostly rehashed plots from earlier seasons. I gave them a chance in the beginning but actually started fast-forwarding through almost all their scenes halfway through the season (and will continue to do so next season as I really have zero interest in anything they do or that happens to them). The choir room dynamic also isn't the same anymore. The new "New Directions" just simply do not have the same spark that the old ND had.

Sadly, the more interesting premise of Rachel and Kurt (and later on also Santana) in New York got very little focus and screentime. Their scenes often felt a bit random and disjointed, and I won't pretend to understand why the writers treated their two most interesting characters (played by two of their best actor/singers) like unwanted stepchildren for most of the season. Kurt barely got any scenes in most episodes, and when he did it was often only to give pep talks to Rachel. Now, Rachel did get a few storylines, but those weren't particularly good. I mean, there you finally have Rachel Berry with all her ambition in the city of her dreams - and the best storylines the writers can come up with are a semi-feud with a teacher, a pregnancy scare, and a boyfriend who moonlights as a callboy? Really, Glee? The NY side definitely needed more build-up and better storylines - something that I hope the writers will fix in season five!

Another thing that bothered me was the way the Klaine storyline was told in season four. I'm not even going to go into how OOC it was for Blaine to cheat on Kurt (and so quickly too), and how little build-up that storyline had (we are supposed to believe that Blaine felt neglected enough to cheat because Kurt was a little busy/preoccupied during his first couple of weeks at his new job? Really? Sometimes I wonder if the writers of Glee have ever been to real life).

The biggest problem was the aftermath - the writers focused almost exclusively on Blaine (the cheater) all season long, while Kurt was mostly only a silent spectator who got to stand and listen while others talked at him. While Blaine got to sing several songs about his pain/feelings, and got to talk about what he wants and feels with several people (including Kurt's father), Kurt did not get to sing about his pain and also wasn't allowed to have even one single serious conversation about his feelings with any of his friends (Rachel, Mercedes or Santana all would have been good choices) or his dad - and one or two talks like that would really have helped makes his actions especially in the second half of the season easier to interpret and understand. In essence, with the sole exception of two or three short scenes (over the course of 18 episodes) Kurt did not really get to show or express his thoughts and feelings at all. Because of this, their storyline was hugely imbalanced and often felt disjointed. And I have to say it saddened me to see that one of the strongest characters on the show was turned into a pale shadow of himself with almost no voice or agenda of his own. By the end of the season it was clear that Kurt and Blaine were friends again, and perhaps even on the road to a reunion - however, it would have been nice if Glee had actually shown us them rebuilding their friendship rather than just present it as a fact.

The music selection also wasn't all that great in season four. Sure, there were some great performances that are definitely memorable - It's Time, Homeward Bound/Home, Being Alive, Oh Holy Night, Come What May (which has possibly the most gorgeous cinematography ever seen on Glee), and The Scientist come to mind - but overall I didn't find the selection very good. This also shows in that I've never bought fewer songs in any season than in this one.

Overall, the bad clearly outweighed the good in season four of Glee which is why I can't give it more than two stars.

My hopes for season five are that the writers will start to slowly shift the focus away from Lima and more towards New York - especially when the current seniors graduate. Some of them (Blaine, Artie, perhaps Sam or Tina) are almost certainly bound for the Big Apple which means that all the fan-favorite lead characters will be on that side eventually. Personally, I'm simply much more interested in seeing Kurt, Rachel, and the other graduates in New York than in watching the boring rehashed storylines with the bland newbies on the Lima side.

The Land of Stories: 02 The Enchantress Returns
The Land of Stories: 02 The Enchantress Returns
by Chris Colfer
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and truly enjoyable sequel to "The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell", 9 Aug. 2013
I just finished reading "The Land Of Stories: The Enchantress Returns" and I still have a smile on my face! I really, really loved this book, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Following I'll share my thoughts with you - there are a few *very* minor spoilers in this review, but nothing I would consider to be especially plot-relevant!

About the story:

It's been a year since twins Alex and Conner Bailey were magically transported into the Land Of Stories and went on a quest to put together the Wishing Spell to find a way back to their own world. A year since they found out that they are children of both worlds, and that their grandmother is the one and only Fairy Godmother.

But adventure awaits the Bailey twins again when their mother is kidnapped and taken to the fairytale world by an evil enchantress who wants to rule over all the kingdoms - and more. Together they travel back to the Land Of Stories, where they soon find out that another quest is in order. Only this time, they're not alone! They are joined by an unlikely quartet, and together this group must find a number of hard-to-collect items in hopes of putting together the Wand of Wonderment - the one thing that might help them defeat the enchantress and save the world!


Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed the first book in the series, "The Wishing Spell", and thought it was good - but I also felt that it still left room for improvement (as is often the case with books by first time authors). Naturally I was excited for the sequel, "The Enchantress Returns", and the book did not disappoint! In fact, I have to admit I actually liked this one better than the first one ... :o)

Chris Colfer has really taken leaps and bounds as an author. I mean, he was a good writer and storyteller to begin with, but I feel that his writing has still improved quite a bit since his first book ("The Enchantress Returns" is actually his third one, with the YA novel "Struck by Lightning: The Carson Philips Journal" - based on his own screenplay - being the second).

The story is more well-rounded, the pacing and plotting tighter, the writing itself smoother, there's more depth to both story and characters, and he manages to effortlessly interweave various subplots and tie them all up neatly in the end. While I felt that the story was a bit slow in the beginning, it soon picked up pace and once Alex and Conner were back in the Land Of Stories there was not a dull moment to be found.

Chris Colfer's vivid imagination and knack for drawing readers into his stories continues to amaze me! His writing is incredibly descriptive and imaginative, and just like with the first book, this one too felt like I was watching a movie in my head (and on that note I have to say that both TLOS books would make really awesome movies!).

He is good at writing scenes for Alex and Conner, but where he is really at his best is when writing his fairytale characters, and especially when creating their back stories. He takes these stories and characters we all know and adds a whole bunch of new layers (and a lot more depth) to them. And more than that - he makes them feel so real they seem to leap off the pages!

There is plenty of humor and witty banter in this book! Mother Goose - or should I say "Mother Booze"? - is hilarious, and I have to say I love Chris for basically forcing Red and Goldilocks to spend the majority of the story in close quarters - their constant open animosity makes for some of the book's most funniest moments! In fact, those two might just be my favorite characters in the series ... :o)

It is really good to see Chris continuously improve as a writer, and honestly? If the three novels he has published so far are any indication then we can expect some really big things from him in the future!

To sum this up, "The Enchantress Returns" is a wonderful and well-written book not just for children - or adults - who love fairytales and fantastical stories, but for anyone who enjoys reading about adventures full of magic, wit and humor. I really hope that there will be more books in the series because I'm definitely not ready to say goodbye to Alex, Conner, and all the fairytale characters yet!

About the audio book: I read the hardcover book first and then listened to it after that. I'm not generally a fan of audio books but Chris Colfer always narrates them himself - and that is an absolute treat! He always manages to give every character a unique voice of their own, and I found his narration to be funny, engaging and often endearing!

The Land of Stories: 01 The Wishing Spell
The Land of Stories: 01 The Wishing Spell
by Chris Colfer
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun and fastpaced adventure full of humor and magic, 1 Aug. 2012
Actor, Golden Globe winner, 2-time Emmy nominee, one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World, singer, screen writer, producer ... and now author? And all of that at just 22 years old? I understand how some people might be a bit skeptical in regards to Chris Colfer's actual writing talents, but the truth is - the guy just seems to be a natural-born storyteller, and it doesn't matter which medium he uses for it.

His first novel, "The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell", is the first book in what will become a series of novels about twins Alex and Conner Bailey.

For their twelfth birthday the twins' grandmother gives them a book that has been in the family for a long time - a collection of fairytales called "The Land of Stories". But as Conner and Alex soon find out - this is no ordinary book! When Alex accidentally falls into the book and Conner jumps after her, the twins find themselves in a world that is at once familiar and foreign - familiar, because they've grown up reading stories about the kingdoms of this fairytale world; and foreign because suddenly they are faced with the aftermath of "Happily Ever After": Goldilocks is a wanted fugitive; the big bad wolf may be dead but his pack is very much alive and hellbent on revenge; and the evil queen that almost succeeded in murdering Snow White has escaped from her prison.

Desperately trying to find their way home the twins start gathering a number of magical items in the hopes of successfully performing "The Wishing Spell". On their journey they meet many of the characters they've known since childhood along with numerous magical creatures. But Alex and Conner are not the only ones looking for the ingredients for the Wishing Spell, and what started out as a kind of scavenger hunt quickly turns into a race against time ...

Chris Colfer has a very vivid and descriptive style of writing that I personally liked very much. Whether he was describing castles, quaint villages or the dungeons of the Troll and Goblin Territory - it all came to life right before my eyes, and I could see every scene like a movie in my mind.

Conner and Alex were both likable and endearing lead characters. Where Alex is a too-smart-for-her-own-good bookworm, Conner is full of sarcasm. Despite their differences and their constant bickering and bantering - which makes for quite a few funny moments - it is clear that they have a close relationship and would never leave the other behind. But the twins are really just two out of a very large cast of characters, many of whom are of course already known to us from various fairytales. Personally, I have to admit I really liked Goldilocks - the girl kicked ass, so to speak ... ;o)

Children will absolutely love this book - in fact, they might want to live in it! - but that doesn't mean that it is only suitable for children. If you enjoy imaginative and fantastical stories full of magic, humor and adventure then you will probably adore TLOS! It really is a wonderful story for anyone who has ever loved fairytales ... and everyone who has remained young at heart!

Reading this book reminded me of how much I loved escaping into the world of books as a kid! Back then I would forget everything around me and just dive into different worlds to have amazing adventures. I could be a princess, a pirate or a rebel; I could travel the world, discover hidden treasures, or solve huge mysteries. In short - I could do or be anything I wanted!

I still love reading books but somehow I now often find it much harder to lose myself completely in a story like I used to do. But this particular book gave me back that feeling I remembered from my childhood - a sense of something magical! It would hold a special place in my heart for that alone, even if it wasn't as good as it actually is!

One thing I also liked was that Chris managed to tuck a few valuable lessons into his story, and he did so in a subtle way that never comes across as preachy. The message that he wants to give his readers is simple and yet so important: There is nothing wrong with just being yourself; don't try to mold yourself into something you're not comfortable with just to please other people; and don't disregard your own talents and capabilities just because they might not be the same as those of others.

Is TLOS a perfect book? No. Nor is it the best book I have ever read. But what it is is a wonderfully imaginative and fast-paced adventure that is very entertaining and definitely fun to read. It is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, and will certainly pick up and read again. The story has a good flow to it, I was never bored for even a moment, and I chuckled to myself (or even laughed out loud) more often than I can count. Yes, some of the scenes could have been elaborated a bit or fleshed out more, and yes - there were a few moments where I felt like the twins got away a little bit too easily, but those are just the little bumps that almost any novel by a first-time author has.

As for predictability - well, sure ... there were a few things that I guessed at pretty early on, but I have to say that there were quite a few surprising twists and turns in the final chapters that I definitely did not see coming! In fact, I think the last 100 or so pages were my favorite part of the book, and it felt like Chris really hit his stride as a writer the further into the story he got - something that certainly makes me excited for the sequel ... :o)

This book definitely proves that Chris Colfer is indeed a talented writer with a wonderful imagination whose storytelling ability will most likely only get better with age, and I for one cannot wait for all the other stories that will surely come out of his creative mind in the coming years!

So to sum this up .... what did I love most about TLOS? Well, I'd say its unique story and humor, the interesting characters - and the magical feeling it left me with ... :o)

Last but not least, one note about the audiobook:

It is read by Chris Colfer himself, and what a treat that is! He really has a unique voice - both literally and figuratively speaking - and his narrative is utterly engaging. He truly manages to give every character their own voice and personality (and that's no small feat considering the large number of characters in this book!), and I must say that I almost loved the audiobook a bit more than the actual printed book (which I read first) - and that means a lot coming from me since I'm not normally a fan of audiobooks at all ....!

The World of Downton Abbey
The World of Downton Abbey
by Jessica Fellowes
Edition: Hardcover

124 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly beautiful companion book!, 30 Sept. 2011
The World of Downton Abbey" is a beautiful companion book to this wonderful television show --- you can see that it was put together with a lot of thought and attention to detail! It is a hardcover book printed on glossy paper, and on its 303 pages it offers a wealth of pictures and information.

The book begins with a foreword by series creator Julian Fellowes and is split into 9 different sections after that:

Family Life
Life in Service
House & Estate
Behind the Scenes

It contains not only tons of background information about the show but also lots of interesting tidbits about life shortly before and during the First World War. There are lots of pictures from the show, of course, but also original photos from the era it is set in as well as war posters, costume sketches, etc.!

In my opinion, The World of Downton Abbey" is one of the most gorgeous and lavishly designed companion books ever to come along!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 26, 2012 10:27 AM BST

Starcrossed: 1 (Awakening)
Starcrossed: 1 (Awakening)
by Josephine Angelini
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea, weak characterization, sloppy writing!, 2 Sept. 2011
I read a lot of very negative reviews about this book but decided to pick it up anyway. That'll teach me! I have certainly read worse books than "Starcrossed" (*cough* Breaking Dawn *cough* ) but this one still does rank pretty high on my "Wish I hadn't wasted time on this" list.

And, you know, the thing is that the basic idea of the story had potential. I could totally see this becoming an interesting story. Unfortunately, a good idea does not necessarily make a good book. It always depends on what the writer makes of the idea, and while I applaud Ms. Angelini for picking something other than vampires, angels or werewolves for her story, it has to be said that she isn't a great writer (yet).

The first roughly 100 or so pages of "Starcrossed" were bad. Ridiculously, cringeworthy, eyeroll-inducingly bad. Nothing in those pages made sense, the characters were completely flat and all behaved very immature, and I did at some point wonder whether this book was written by a 12-year-old. And yet I kept reading because it was so bad it was actually entertaining. It was like driving by an accident --- you know you don't want to see it, but you can't stop yourself from looking, either.

Anyway, it got better after that. Marginally. See, it seems that after those 100 or so pages Ms. Angelini finally remembered that characterization should actually be part of a book. Any book. So she tried to give her characters more depth --- which worked to a degree. I was able to relate to the characters a little more but they still did remain pretty one-dimensional throughout the entire book.

The main protagonist in "Starcrossed" is a teenage girl named Helen Hamilton who lives with her father on the beautiful island of Nantucket. She's tall, blonde, and very beautiful. Over the course of the beginning of the book we find out that Helen has quite a few abilities --- she's super strong and super fast, she has incredible hearing, she can fly, she can generate lightning ... oh, and did I mention that she can't be hurt by *any* weapon??? Really, it was just a *little* too much for my taste.

Now with all those abilities you'd think Helen would be one tough, confident, kick-ass girl, but no --- she's actually weak and childish and full of insecurities.I didn't dislike her exactly, but I didn't really like her, either. In fact, half the time I just found her really annoying. She is also very accepting of anything and everything. Whether it's the fact that she is stronger and faster than everybody she knows, or that she can fly, or that she is one of the Scions --- descendants of the mythological Greek gods --- she always simply accepts everything as reality without so much as the bat of an eyelash. There is barely a moment of disbelief or anything. Unfortunately it's like that for the entire book --- she almost never questions anything that she is told or that happens to her!

Helen is also a very impassive character. For example, when Cassandra tries to kill her because that's what she saw herself doing in one of her visions, all Helen thinks is that if Cassandra foresaw her death then there would be no point in fighting back or resisting anyway. So she does nothing. Really? Seriously? She just sits there while she waits for Cassandra to behead her with a sword? Any normal person would have panicked and run away or fought back ... or at least thought about running or fighting back. But Helen goes for "sacrificial lamb" instead.

Then there's the male lead character --- Lucas Delos, a gorgeous boy who has just moved to the island with his family. The first time Helen sees Lucas she starts feeling uncontrollable hate, runs towards him and tries to throttle him or something like that. When she meets him again for the next time near his family's home she barrels right into him as soon as she sees him and they start fighting. Again, she never questions the instant hate she feels toward Lucas and the other members of the Delos family, or the "Why" behind the fact that she wants to kill him. Somewhere around page 100 or so they suddenly stop hating each other --- no real explanation for this is given by the author. I guess she expects her readers to be like Helen and just --- can you guess? --- accept it ...!

Lucas and Helen are supposed to be these tragic starcrossed lovers, but really ... there was nothing in the book that made me think "Oh yeah, those two are meant to be together ...". They go from instant hate (at the beginning of the book) to instant attraction (a little later). There is no base or reason for their love, though. You know how some books have really beautiful love stories that make you smile and sigh and basically make your toes curl? This isn't one of them.

And, you know, talk about sending mixed signals! After they get over their initial hatred for each other Lucas constantly holds Helen's hand or hugs her, he gives her smoldering glances ... there is one occasion where he lies with her IN HER BED (her under the covers, him on top ... sound familiar?), and he's holding her and kissing her neck ... but basically the moment she tries to touch him he says "We can't" ... while still nuzzling her neck, of course. In another situations she tells him that she's mad at him for leading him on (which he did) and then he gets mad at her for saying that ... Hello?

Let's move on to Helen's best friend Claire --- her reaction when Helen tells her that she can fly (and do other stuff) is absolutely ridiculous! So we're supposed to believe that Claire has know about all of this for a good 10 years and never mentioned it to anyone -- even Helen herself? That a 7-year-old girl would push her best friend of a roof and try to cut her with a knife simply to prove her theories?

The Delos family itself had a few mildly interesting characters but they did remind me a little too much of the Cullen family in "Twilight". Halfway through the book I realized that the character I liked best of everyone in this story was actually Lucas' psychotic cousin Hector. Well, he was really only psychotic in the beginning. But really, after a while I noticed that he was really the only one with a good head on his shoulders, the only one whose thoughts went in a reasonable direction.

I hate it when YA paranormal romance books automatically get compared to "Twilight" but in this case there is really no avoiding it. Did Ms. Angelini get inspired (read: steal) from the "Twilight" series? You bet she did. There are too many parallels for it to be otherwise. She merely exchanged vampires and werewolves for Greek mythology and the descendants of Greek Gods.

Here are some examples of the writing and my thoughts while I was reading the book:

"One of the terrible side effects of feeling as if she somehow already knew Lucas was that she was starting to idealize him, making him more perfect than was humanly possible." ... followed by ... "Which was uncomfortable because she also still wanted to kill him."
--- Why does she feel like she already knows him? And why does she want to kill him? She has only seem him twice and hasn't even talked to him yet!

"You just helped me, and I'm grateful. But I still really, really want to kill you." ... and then he says "This is hard for me, too, you know"
--- No, why should she know? They don't know each other at all, after all ...!

"Lucas was like her. The thought made her stomach heave. How could she be anything like someone she hated so desperately?"
--- Ah, right. And how does she know she's like him again? For that matter, how does she know what he's like anyway?

Imagine Lucas saying this *right* after he and Helen had been fighting to the death: "Damn it. They can't find you here or you're dead. Go!"
--- Wait, a moment ago he wanted to kill her, and now he wants her to run away so she *doesn't* get killed? Make up your mind, already ...

"The furies wanted her to kill Lucas, that was clear ..."
--- Really? Why is that clear? And why isn't she the least bit bothered by the thought of killing someone she doesn't even know?

"Helen had no doubt he (Lucas) wanted to kill her ..." and a little later "An ancient, supernatural force ewas compelling her to kill Lucas."
--- And yet she never even asks herself why ... personally, I would have demanded quite a few answers from someone at some point ...

"If paper could cut her but a spear couldn't, could you make a spear out of paper and kill her?"
--- Need I comment this one? A spear made out of paper ... right ...

This coming from Helen after hovering in front of her best friend's bedroom window and thus "coming out" to her with her new ability: "I just flew in your window. Why aren't you more surprised?" ... followed by Claire saying "I've known you could fly since we were kids. I even pushed you off your roof once to make sure."
--- Really? I don't even know what to say to that one ...

Basically, I quickly lost track of how often I raised my eyebrows and asked myself "But WHY???" --- it happened a few times on every page! Anyway, like I said, it wasn't the worst book ever, but it wasn't good, either.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 11, 2011 6:01 PM BST

Mortal Kiss
Mortal Kiss
by Alice Moss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shallow and clichéd!, 18 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Mortal Kiss (Paperback)
How did this book ever make it past an editor??? That was my first thought after I finished it. This book made me want to rant and rave. It is just so utterly, ridiculously, laughably bad!!!

Imagine the following scene:

Ms. Moss spends a cozy evening in front of the television watching a double episode of "The Vampire Diaries". At some point she thinks to herself "Hmmm ... I could probably write something like that! I'll just change the name of the town from Mystic Falls to Winter Mill. And my protagonist will be called Faye instead of Elena.She should be a brunette, too, and she could live with her aunt --- just like Elena. Faye's mother could be dead and her father ... oh, I know --- he's an archeologist who's travelling all over the world all the time. That way he'll be out of the picture, too. And how about I make the mother of Faye's best friend the town sheriff? No, wait, that's what they did on "The Vampire Diaries". Okay, I'll just make the best friend's father the sheriff then ... Oh, and there have to be two boys who have just moved to town. One should be confident and extroverted ... kind of a flirt. And the other should be more quiet and mysterious. Now, what could I call them? Damon and Stefan? Nah, Lucas and Finn are much better. They can't be vampires, though ... that would be a little too obvious. Maybe werewolves --- at least one of them, and I'll figure out something for the other one, too. Of course there has got to be some mysterious connection between them ... oh, and they both have to fall in love with Elena ... no, wait ... Faye. Oooh, and how about I write the story so that Elena ... ugh, no ... Faye looks *exactly* like Katherine ... no, damn .. Eve --- the former girlfriend of Stefan? Shoot, Finn I meant ...."

What I mean by this is that Alice Moss certainly "borrowed" a little from the first season of the tv-show "The Vampire Diaries". Now, I realize that in this genre most authors do not exactly bring anything new to the table so that alone wouldn't have been so bad. And, you know, Ms. Moss did try to put a few ideas of her own into this book ... they just weren't all that good ...

The style of writing is very simple and predictable --- there are no surprises, and not a hint of complexity or anything like that. The dialogue often seemed a little wooden and not very believable. I do not know whether the bad dialogue was just because of a mediocre translation (I did read the German version which I got through Amazon Vine) or if it is as bad in the original version.

Throughout the book things happen that the reader is led to believe will have an import on the story ... only to then never be mentioned again. For example, a dead body is found in the woods at the beginning of the story. The police warns everyone not to go into the forest, and there's a lot of talk about it all. Then, suddenly, the body is never mentioned again --- apparently it doesn't matter anymore who he was or why and how he died.

Then there is the way Faye's aunt Pam reacts after being told that werewolves and various creatures from hell really do exist. I mean, there are dozens of possible reactions to something like that -- wild laughter, crying, screaming, fainting ... possibly just total disbelief. But aunt Pam simply says something like "Oh, imagine something like that coming to our sleepy little town" ... Say what? Somehow I don't think that would be a very probable reaction ...

Ooooh, and let's not forget that Darth-Vader-Luke-Skywalker-I-am-your-father-type-moment around page 240 or so ... at that point I seriously considered not reading the rest of the book. But some bit of morbid curiosity made me read on ... and let's just say that the rest of the book wasn't any better than what came before. In fact, it might have gotten worse --- hard to say, really.

Let's move on to characterization. Or, rather, that's what I would say if there had actually *been* any measure of characterization. Unfortunately, there is not. Faye, Liz, Lucas, Finn --- all of them stay shallow and lifeless, and except for Finn maybe I didn't find any of them to be particularly likable. In fact, I really disliked Liz --- she's childish and immature and very annoying. There is one scene where she throws a tantrum and yells at Faye because she dared talk to Lucas at a party (Liz accuses her of flirting with Lucas) --- after Liz had asked her that *very same day* to be nicer to Lucas. Speaking of Lucas, he comes across as spoiled and arrogant in the first half of the book, although I have to admit it gets a little better during the second half. Then there's quiet and rather introverted Finn. You see, I can't really say much about the characters because there just isn't much to say beyond the fact that all of them had me rolling my eyes more than once.

The author doesn't really waste any words on trying to tell (or show) her readers *why* her characters think or do the things they think or do. And believe me, some of those things were so stupid or downright-dumb that I wanted to smack their heads together or shake some sense into them. That's probably one of the reasons why they stayed so flat and one-dimensional. I really don't have any tolerance for brainless characters ...

Liz and Faye spend large parts of the story thinking about clothes and make-up, they go shopping or get ready for parties. Sure, normal things for teenage girls to do. BUT ... if that is suddenly more important than the fact that more and more people around them are behaving strangely, or the disappearance of one of their friends then that doesn't ring true for me. Hey, my dad's walking around like a zombie and our friend has just disappeared without a trace, but you know what? Let's get ready for the band festival first ...! Seriously, there are scenes where the two of them talk about something strange or bad that has happened, and then suddenly they change the subject to the cute shirt one of them wants to buy.

There are some books by first-time authors that are so well-written and engaging that it's hard to believe they haven't written at least a dozen books before. And then there are books like "Mortal Kiss" where it is painfully obvious from start to finish that the author lacks writing experience. I also sometimes thought that Ms. Moss couldn't really decide what kind of a story she wanted to tell. I'm sure it all made perfect sense in her head, but it didn't make all that much sense to me ...

To be honest, "Mortal Kiss" felt to me a little like a first draft of a book that could have had potential --- after it had been corrected by an editor and then thorougly overhauled by the author.

I really can't give this book more than a 1-star-rating. I'm sure there are people out there who will like "Mortal Kiss" but I'm not one of them. A few "borrowed" ideas combined with a slightly interesting myth and wrapped up in mediocre writing and implausible dialogue ... that's just not enough for me!

The Legacy
The Legacy
by Katherine Webb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and well-written family saga!, 15 Aug. 2011
This review is from: The Legacy (Paperback)
I really enjoyed reading "The Legacy"! It's a very well-written sweeping family saga that never has a boring moment! Once I had started this book I found it very hard to put it down again. In fact, there was a moment once when I was reading on the bus on my way to work where I actually missed my bus stop because I was so immersed in the story ... ;o)

About the story:

When sisters Beth and Erica Calcott inherit Storton Manor from their recently deceased grandmother Meredith they decide to spend some time there to help them decide what to do with it. When they were children, Beth and Erica spent their summers at Storton Manor where they could play and roam about the gardens and adjoining forest. Until one day when their 11-year-old cousin Henry disappeared without a trace ...

Now grown up, Beth is a divorcee with an 11-year-old son of her own. She suffers from depression and seems withdrawn from the world. Her younger sister Erica, on the other hand, is a confident and inquisitive young woman who still has nagging questions about what really happened that summer day when Henry disappeared. It is not only the return to Storton Manor after so many years but also a chance meeting with Dinny - a childhood friend - that stirs up memories for Erica. She is sure that that Beth and Dinny know more than they have said about that fateful day ...

But Henry's disappearance is not the only secret left at Storton Manor. When Erica finds a photo of her greatgrandmother Caroline holding a baby while she is cleaning out the attic, she is bemused. According to the writing on the back of the photo it was taken in New York in 1904 --- one year before Caroline met and married Erica's greatgrandfather, Henry Calcott! When she also finds old letters hinting at a possible scandal about Caroline's life in America Erica's interest is piqued and she wants to find out more about her greatgrandmother's life before she came to England.

Caroline is also the lead character in the other part of the story which follows her life as a young woman in America. We first meet her in 1902 when she is an 18-year-old heiress living with her aunt Bathilda who raised her after her parent's deaths. At a ball in New York Caroline meets a young rancher named Corin Massey whom she marries against her aunt's wishes. After her wedding her new husband Corin goes back to Oklahoma without her, leaving her only with his promise she can follow him a month later.

Once Caroline does get to Oklahoma she experiences her first disappointment --- it is not Corin who is waiting for her at the train station but a man named Hutch who works on Corin's ranch. Her illusions of living in a small but growing city are dashed as well when she learns that her new home is 35 miles outside of Woodward. It quickly becomes clear that Caroline is in no way prepared for life as a rancher's wife. She is afraid of animals and of the Native Americans living on the ranch and she has no idea of how to keep house. On one hand I could understand the latter because she did grow up pampered and in a rich environment --- she had servants who waited on her and never needed to concern herself with things like cooking or cleaning. On the other hand I did find her antics a bit annoying at times.

What I really liked was the wonderful way in which Ms. Webb brought the Oklahoma of the early 20th century to life. From everyday life at the ranch to the boisterious moods of a new year's party she really makes her readers feel like they're part of it all. I could almost see the open plains in front of my eyes and feel the ever-present sand and dust on my skin ... ;o)

The parts of the story that are set in the present time are just as well-described as the ones that are set in the past. Ms. Webb has a wonderfully fluid and descriptive style of writing that made me feel like I was wandering through the rooms and halls of Storton Manor myself. The story is atmospheric and and always enthralling, and I never got bored with it at all.

I kept asking myself the same questions that Erica asks herself --- what happened to Caroline in America that was so very bad? Who was the child in the picture? Why did Caroline come to England and why did she never tell anyone that she was married once before she met Henry Calcott? What happened to Henry that summer day in 1986? And how were all these stories connected?

The story keeps going back and forth between the different times --- Caroline's life at the beginning of the 20th Century, Erica's memories of the summer in which Henry disappeared, and the present. In some books that might be confusing, but Ms. Webb does a really great job at never making her readers feel "lost".

I would recommend "The Legacy" to anyone who has enjoyed the novels of Susanna Kearsley and Kate Morton!

Texas Gothic
Texas Gothic
by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Snarky, sarcastic, spooky ... and definitely fun!, 15 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Texas Gothic (Paperback)
When Amy Goodnight and her older sister Phin agreed to house-sit for their aunt Hyacinth while she is on a trip to China they thought the biggest trouble they could come across was runaway goats. But when workers digging up the foundation for a new bridge on the land of the neighboring McCulloch ranch come across old human bones Amy gets caught up in a ghost hunt despite her wishes. The fact that handsome-but-infuriating Ben McCulloch tries to thwart her at every turn doesn't really help. And when more strange things happen on Ben's land Amy starts to think that maybe the source of it all isn't quite as ghostly as people seem to believe ...

This book and I had our ups and downs. The beginning was great, but then the story just sort of tetered out and got a little boring ... only to get interesting again around the middle, and from then on I just breezed right through it ... :o) ... So, overall, I'm happy to give "Texas Gothic" 4 stars! The writing was really good most of the time, there was lots of humor ... and, well, then there were the characters. And they were great!!!

Amy (Amaryllis) Goodnight comes from a family of "kitchen witches" and psychics ... even though she'd rather forget about that. You see, Amy doesn't hold much with spells and ghosts and such things. Sure, Uncle Burt --- her aunt's deceased husband --- is still around and that's okay, but other than that Amy would rather be normal. She considers herself the voice of reason in her family, the one who is the link between her family and the rest of the world. I really liked her dry humor and sarcastic voice.

Amy's sister Phin (Delphinium) is the Goodnight family's equivalent of a mad scientist. Phin is obsessed with building devices that can measure paranormal activity, and it sometimes feels like she's living in her own world. She's notorious for never answering her phone, and she doesn't even realize when a cute guy is hitting on her (and not in a subtle way). She's also very literal which may be the reason why she sometimes reminded me of Temperance Brennan on the tv show "Bones" .... ;o)

Then there's Ben McCulloch, the guy living on the ranch next to that of Amy and Phin's aunt Hyacinth. Ben is a responsible no-nonsense type who doesn't believe in magic, witches, ghosts, or anything like it. From the first time they meet Ben and Amy manage to rub each other the wrong way. They annoy the hell out of each other, but as we all know opposites do attract, and it's not long before sparks fly between the two of them. But not to worry --- this book doesn't have another case of "insta-love" ... it actually takes Ben and Amy a really long time to own up to their feelings. But then that might have had more to do with both of them being unwilling to be the first one to give in rather than anything else ... ;o)

At first Ben thinks that Amy must be as crazy as her aunt (crazy according to Ben's idea of normal, that is). You can't really blame him for the thought , either, considering that when he first meets Amy she is standing in the frontyard of her aunt's house yelling at a bunch of goats --- in her underwear!!! After that I had a pretty good feeling that I was going to like this book, and I did (for the most part).

The supporting characters --- like Amy and Phin's psychic cousin Daisy and the various students working on archeological dig --- were also well-drawn.

I am not sure if "Texas Gothic" was written as the first book in a series. It certainly works well enough as a stand-alone book, but I have to admit I'd kind of like to see Amy, Phin, Ben and the others again sometime ... ;o)

by Cynthia Hand
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally an angel-themed book worth reading!, 21 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Unearthly (Paperback)
Wow! I mean, really, just *Wow*! What a great debut novel ... :o) And to think, I almost didn't pick this one up simply because the other angel-themed books I read (Becca Fitzpatrick's "Hush, Hush" and Lauren Kate's "Fallen") were so very disappointing ...! But "Unearthly" is different in that it gives us likable characters (that feel real instead of flat) as well as a solid plot and really good writing.

Unlike many heroines in recent books of this genre, Clara is not annoying, whiny or dumb. She doesn't go around thinking about how she's not pretty enough or asking herself why some hot guy would be interested in *her* instead of all other other more beautiful girls out there. Clara's not perfect, but she's someone I could relate to. Her thoughts and problems felt real, and I just really, really liked her!

Likewise, her love interest is *not* the broody-tortured bad-boy type who treats her indifferently most of the time. No, in this case her love interest is actually a really nice guy --- a guy who is polite and respectful and well-mannered. And if you think "booooring" now then I can assure you'd be wrong in thinking that because Tucker is actually sexy and funny and charming and sweet! I just adore him!!! Seriously, I'd marry him in a second ... ;o)

As for Christian ---- we don't really learn all that much about him in "Unearthly" (I have a feeling that we'll get to know him better in the next one, though) but he seems like a nice guy. I have to admit had his "big secret" figured out pretty early on, but I really didn't mind. I just wasn't quite so surprised by the final twist in the book.

Is there a love triangle in this book? Well, kind of. Or rather, there is a hint of a probable future love triangle in it (there isn't one yet, not really). Because, while "Unearthly" certainly has a fair bit of romance, it doesn't hit you over the head with it. There is no instant love. Attraction maybe, curiosity definitely, but not more. This is not one of those books where a girl meets a boy, they confess their undying love for each other by page 50 (despite only having known each other for a couple of days or so), and then spend the next 400 pages making goo-goo eyes at each other.

No, in this book the whole "falling in love"-thing is slower, and much more realistic. And I thought it was great that Clara didn't actually fall in love with Christian --- the boy from her vision, the one who is so perfect and "god-like" --- but with a "regular" boy instead. So, for once, it was the boy-next-door who won over the heroine, the one who is nice and popular --- and yes, good-looking, too --- but in a normal, non-perfect way. Their romance is toe-curlingly good! It's sweet, and funny and had me sighing so often I lost count.

So, as you might have guessed ... definitely "Team Tucker" here ... ;o) I mean, Christian seems nice and all, but Tucker ... *sigh* ...

Anway, let's get back on track. The writing was really good --- there was a flow to it, it felt very vivid and I found it very easy to visualize everything. Nowhere in the book did I feel the urge to cringe at the dialogue (always a plus). The characters were all nicely fleshed-out, and I felt that I got to know them better and better the further I read (character development --- Woohoo!!!!). And, you know, it's not just the main characters (like Clara and Tucker) --- the secondary characters are also crafted very well.

"Unearthly" isn't perfect, but it's very, very good and *definitely* a cut above most books in this genre! It's a book that will grab you, pull you in, and not let you go until you've turned the final page. And then it will make you crave for more ...:o)

I for one can hardly wait for the sequel, "Hallowed", which is currently scheduled for a release in January 2012.

Die For Me: Number 1 in series
Die For Me: Number 1 in series
by Amy Plum
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Die For Me, 14 Jun. 2011
Hmmm. Not sure what to say about this one. After all the rave reviews I read I expected a book that would absolutely blow me away. Well, it didn't. Mind you, it was a fairly good book, but not great. And not really memorable at all.

"Die For Me" is your typical run-of-the-mill YA PNR --- yes, the "revenants" are a new and unique idea (and certainly an intriguing one ... a mix of zombies and guardian angels), but apart from that there wasn't really anthing to differentiate this book from most others in the genre. Girl meets boy, boy has dark secret, girl falls for him anyway, boy is willing to give up everything for her even though he has just met her, girl wonders why this insanely handsome guy wants to be with plain-old-her, etc.! Sounds familiar? You bet it does.

Still, I liked the characters and the humor in the book. Kate was likable and relateable (is that even a word???). Vincent seemed a little too perfect in the way that he just didn't feel real at all. He is the kind of guy that every teenage girl probably fantasizes about --- but who doesn't really exist in real life (and I'm not even talking about the "undead" factor ... !). As for the secondary characters --- there were some really good ones, especially Charlotte, Ambrose and Jules.

There were some things in the story that I found hard to believe. For example, there is a scene where Vincent takes Kate to the mansion where he lives with the other revenants. Because she is very exhausted they decide to let her sleep there, and he sends a text message to her grandparents stating that she is sleeping over at a friends house. Despite the fact that she'd only just moved to Paris a little while before and hadn't actually made any friends yet, no-one (meaning her sister and grandparents) seemed to find this at all peculiar. In fact, if I recall correctly it is never mentioned again.

There were other happenings that seemed a little bit improbable to me. I'm not going to go into it, though, because I don't want to put any spoilers in this review. The ending felt kind of anti-climactic. Somehow, I expected something more.

One thing that has to be said, though, is that the cover of this book is absolutely stunning!!! Not just "nice" or "pretty" but truly gorgeous ...!

Overall, "Die For Me" was a pleasant way to pass a few hours, but I have a feeling that neither the story nor the characters will stay in my head for very long ...

Will I read the next book in the series? I might ... I actually haven't decided yet.

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