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Daphne (Winged Reviews) (London, UK)

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The Goddess Legacy (Harlequin Teen)
The Goddess Legacy (Harlequin Teen)
by Aimee Carter
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For fans of the series, 31 July 2012
I am always hopeful (perhaps naively so) about the Goddess Test books, because I love mythology retellings. However, the first two books were disappointing due to poor characterisation and predictable plots. The latest offering, The Goddess Legacy, includes five short stories from the point of view of the other gods and goddesses and delves deeper into their histories and character. While I was frustrated by more of the same from Aimée Carter, some of the stories made me feel emotions other than frustration, and I took that as a good sign.

The first story was about Hera (Calliope), her love for Hades (Henry) and how she reluctantly ended up married to Zeus (Walter) instead. It was predictable, falling for a man who committed to change himself but didn't, but I really sympathised with Hera, who only wanted to rule on her own terms as a daughter of Titans should. In fact, I liked her much more here as opposed to the outline of a villain that she was in the first two books. It was nice to see her as a strong personality who stood up for her ideals, instead of being motivated purely by unrequited love. One small detail did bother me, which was the fact that everyone seemed aware of her feelings for Henry, yet we're supposed to believe no one was suspicious of her as the culprit in the first book? You would think immortals have longer memory spans than that.

Both Aphrodite (Ava) and Hermes (James) were also portrayed well in their stories. Aphrodite learned something about the different types of love offered to her, caught in a love triangle with Ares and Hephaestus. Hermes, who hurt Hades by cheating with Persephone, learned about love and the pain of loss. His story also attempted to explain why the gods/goddesses now go by different names. Again, I expected a little more about the revelation, but it was another case of the concept being more interesting than the execution.

On the other hand, the other two stories were perfect example of why the series frustrates me--characters like Persephone and Hades (Henry). Persephone was whiny, self-righteous and utterly selfish. She judged Hermes and Aphrodite for `cheating' on her, but seemed to forget that she did the same to Hades. Her immaturity and hypocritical behaviour (not unlike Kate) was unbearable and my distaste for her grew from the last book. On the opposite end of the scale was Hades, who, for a powerful god and ruler has absolutely no backbone. He is a coward, for choosing the easy way out and being unable to move on from Persephone. Man up Henry, get on with your reponsibilities and have some courage to try to find love, instead of fading and being a simpering idiot.

So all in all, I rated it slightly higher than the first two books because I liked some of the characters better as a result of these stories and probably because of the lack of Kate. A great read for fans of the series, but for those that didn't like it you could probably do without.

Tris & Izzie
Tris & Izzie
Price: 9.28

1.0 out of 5 stars Seriously?! Frustratingly terrible, 27 July 2012
This review is from: Tris & Izzie (Kindle Edition)
I was initially drawn to this book because I am huge fan of Arthurian legend and the heartbreaking tale of Tristan and Isolde. The original story is timeless and has inspired famous tragedies Romeo and Juliet and the Arthur-Lancelot-Guinevere legend. It has been immortalized as an opera by Wagner. It is probably one of literature's first love triangles. That said, nothing about this book is timeless or classic, and that's putting it lightly. If I only had one word to describe this book, it would be superficial which applies to Tris and Izzie in so many ways.

The story is narrated by popular Tintangel High student Izzie. She has the perfect boyfriend, captain of the basketball team Mark, and a slightly less attractive best friend Branna. Everything seems to be going smoothly for her and her worst problem is solving Branna's woes by finding her a boyfriend. Enter new student Tristan, who transfers to the school after the death of his parents. He's a fast runner and speaks in a slightly archaic style of English (which is about as interesting as he gets). Izzie, superficial, self-centered girl that she is, decides that Tristan and Branna would be perfect for each other and that she going to personally ensure they happen.

Suddenly, we are hit with the appearance of a magic wine bottle, the fact that Izzie's mom is a witch and that the obvious solution to Branna's problem is a love potion (or philtre, to be accurate). The fact that the entire book now revolves around magic was introduced so randomly it was jarring. In fact, that is an accurate description of how I felt throughout the book--jarred. Like the story was one long bumper car ride whose only resemblance to the original heartbreaking tale are the names. If you think the idea of a love potion is bad, it only gets worse.

The plot manages to be transparent but shocking at the same time, in a bad way. Take for example Izzie `accidentally' drinking the love potion she prepared for Branna. Couldn't she have dropped the bottle instead? I realize that a love potion is the catalyst in the original story, but who would purposely drink a potion that would make them fall for someone else, fully aware of its permanent effect, even though they had a boyfriend they loved?

All the relationships and interactions in the story were just as inorganic and forced like the love potion--I felt absolutely no chemistry between any of the couples at any time. All the characters were underdeveloped, like cardboard cutouts made to walk and talk. The only personality trait they had was the ability to infuriate me. I didn't once feel any sympathy or even empathy towards them. The love rectangle was so forced and I didn't buy Tristan and Izzie's feelings at any point in the story. It just happened, like they both just woke up and were suddenly madly in love. It wasn't even a real love potion! There was no build up to the relationship, which is the part that makes us as readers care. Izzie tells me they were tensely, madly in love before I had a chance to form an opinion about it.

That said, my main complaint about the book (and you can see I've already had quite a few so far) is its treatment of magic. All other books of a similar genre I've previously read builds a world and sets out clear rules of how magic fits into it. Whether it is wands, or different abilities, or the presence of certain magical creatures, races or occupations, there is a perspective and a history of what magic is and how it works in the world. There are also magical limits and levels of difficulty, like the time and effort it takes to conjure a spell or potion, or the training someone has to go through to master their powers.

None of this was established in Tris and Izzie. Instead, every magic cliché felt randomly thrown in. There are magical objects, potions, elemental magic, magical creatures, magical places, but most of it is poorly explained and doesn't enhance the story. Izzie's mom is a witch and potions maker, Izzie is an elemental sorceress, Tristan is an alchemist from a magical island, Branna's grandmother may or may not be able to see into the future, but not once in the book does it describe what all of it means beyond the very basics.

Going back through the notes I made, the phrase "Seriously?!" was used so often I felt like I was reading a script of the Gilmore Girls. Events happen with no explanation and then resolved with little to no effort. Izzie, with no formal training, is simply told by her mom she actually has elemental powers and suddenly she's throwing fireballs left, right and center. Tristan's magic sword defeats a two-headed dog, and then they both kill a giant that is chasing magic. Most ridiculous of all, Izzie defeats the main antagonist (a tyrant of a giant serpent) using the power of its `true name' which she learns in a flashback of her dad shown to her by the giant serpent himself! The concept, commonly found in Egyptian Myth, was just another thing thrown into the mess of a world the story inhabits. When Tristan is blinded during the final battle, I felt a small glimmer of hope, but he is healed instantly by one of her mom's potions. It's like any attempt at depth in the story ignored. Every resolution is a deus ex machina. It is all just a pile of absolutely ludicrous hodgepodge.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Price: 4.98

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed the boat, 27 July 2012
I picked up this book on recommendation from a lot of friends and in anticipation of the upcoming movie adaptation (my interest was piqued by the strong cast). While I enjoyed it, I think I'm past the point in my life when reading it would've made me feel infinite.

Perks is a set of letters from the main character Charlie to an unknown `friend' (presumably us, the reader), about his freshman high school experience. The book starts on a fairly sombre note, with Charlie telling us about the suicide of his best friend Michael and the loss of his favourite Aunt Helen much earlier in his life. It goes on to describe the rest of a tumultuous year, focusing mainly on time with two new friends he makes early on, step-siblings Patrick and Sam. It tackles heavy themes, such as homosexuality, abuse, social awkwardness, drugs, teenage sexuality and much more.

I have to admit, at first I thought I missed a trick about who Charlie was writing to, but I ended up liking that the letters were written anonymously. It gave me a sense of voyeurism, the enjoyment of reading about someone else's adventures and scandals and knowing just enough to keep it interesting. The writing style which the author uses to represent Charlie is appropriate, but doesn't flow well. Charlie, we find out, likes to ramble on and sometimes I do get lost in his long sentences and mixed thoughts.

I enjoyed the characters, and even knowing as little as you do about them, all are well-defined and had distinct personalities. They made me care about what was happening to them, which in a novel that was just over 200 pages is a tough ask. As far as tackling the issues, I thought the book did very well in presenting and resolving them. What I wasn't too keen on was Charlie himself, really. Firstly, I couldn't understand if he was just socially awkward or if he had an illness. Then when you start unravelling his life, you begin to understand that he has had to go through a lot of struggles that normal teenagers wouldn't normally. However, he does make great friendships, has a great mentor and is loved by his family. He is invited to parties, has a girlfriend, gets straight-As. I found myself not really knowing why I was supposed to feel wholly sorry for him and in the end I couldn't bring myself to.

Either way, I found the book thought provoking and an altogether easy read. There were some very poignant moments that I really enjoyed, like when Charlie is describing how beautiful Sam looks through a photograph. Perhaps I would've enjoyed this book more if I read it in my teens as I feel like some of the shock factor is now lost on me. I will definitely go and see the film, but as for the book, sadly I think I missed the boat.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 9, 2014 8:13 PM GMT

Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, Book 1)
Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, Book 1)
Price: 4.71

3.0 out of 5 stars Really funny paranormal YA!, 27 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I avoided this book for a long time because of the cover. The cover invoked a certain mood, and I was sure the book was going to be dark, slightly depressing tale with a lovelorn heroine. And I wasn't really in that mood. I think it was the odd expression on the cover girl's face that really turned me off.

However, after going on sale for 99p in the Kindle Christmas sale, I was extremely pleased to find that inside instead was a humourous, paranormal story about Evie, a girl working at the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA). Adopted by the Agency, her main duties involve `tagging' paranormals--werewolves, vampies, the odd hag--as she seems to be the only person with the ability to see through their glamour or disguises. Evie was a great heroine, completely realistic in her self-preservation instincts and fully teenage in her need to break free and be normal.

Encountering the different paranormals was part of the fun. There was so much variety in the characters and what they were, I can't wait to see what others appear as the rest of the series goes on. I love that Evie's best friend was a mermaid and they managed to have a great relationship even though they could only interact through glass. I found Evie's fairie ex, Reth, just the right combination of handsome and creepy. Most of all, I really liked Lend.

Evie and Lend's relationship is really refreshing. It was very natural (in this supernatural world), just spending time together, then slowly falling for each other. No love at first sight, it was just a regular teenage crush that eventually developed. I liked that he could shape shift, but she's the only one who can see through it to his `real face'. It was poetic and sweet.

However, I was frustrated by the fact that many things weren't fully explained by the end of the book. Although I understand there are two more books in the series, I think it ended quite abruptly. Characterisation was also a little light, and while I liked most of the characters, I didn't love any of them. I would've enjoyed a little more development in the rest of the supporting cast. It felt a little unfinished but it did keep me wanting to read more, so will definitely picking up Supernaturally. A solid, fun read.

The Kissing Tree
The Kissing Tree
Price: 4.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Sweet southern story for true love enthusiasts, 27 July 2012
This review is from: The Kissing Tree (Kindle Edition)
I was drawn to the synopsis of this historical romance because I was in the mood for something sweet. I loved the idea of ending up with your childhood crush, because it's one of those idealistic concepts that is great in theory but almost never works out. I'm also a big fan of the happy ending and this book delivered on all these counts.

Georgiana was a lovely heroine and she was so down to earth. She was definitely a woman of her time, with all the proper manners and priorities, but she also managed to be spunky and independent. Ridge was charming, ruggedly handsome and head over heels for Georgiana. The chemistry between them was palpable and my favourite moments between them where when Ridge teased Georgiana, who reacted flustered but pleased.

Georgie did have a tough choice to make between the man she thought she should marry (Dawson, her handsome, well-bred suitor from New York), and the one who simply just had her heart. Although you knew it was always going to be Ridge, I liked how the author managed this without making Dawson unlikable. In fact, liked him because he was just as equally head over heels for Georgiana, not someone that she was arranged to marry or felt entitled to her. I have to admit, part of me wished that Georgie could've picked them both.

Other great characters included Georgie's grandfather, with his Irish charm. Her grandfather was Ridge's number one fan and I liked the subtle meddling he did from time to time. Georgie's best friend Samantha was also great, and a wonderful example of real female friendship. I liked how she welcomed Georgie back with open arms, and was always supportive of her choices and opportunities, not jealous of them. It was nice that Dawson and Samantha's story line was wrapped up the way it was, even though it was all a bit too neat.

I enjoyed the writing and the tone the author created. Everything was described in such great detail that it felt like I was really in that time period. When I read the book, I imagined them all speaking with thick, Southern American accents, which may or may not have been due to the copious amounts of Hart of Dixie I had been watching at the time. That said, it all enhanced the story for me and made it feel more real.

Despite all this, I thought the story was slow in parts. There was some shifting of narration and flashbacks, which I felt wasn't handled too smoothly. Also, there was some action towards the end which I thought was an interesting twist, but it was so different from the tone of the rest of the book, that it felt disconnected. The ending was sweet, but as I mentioned previously, it was almost too neatly wrapped up and slightly predictable.

Otherwise, I still enjoyed the read. If anyone is looking for some light, feel-good romance, then this is definitely one to pick up. Prudence Bice is also an author to watch, because even though the story fell a little short, her writing and the way she developed the setting and characters was great. Thank you to Cedar Fort for providing a copy for review.

Geek Girl
Geek Girl
Price: 4.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Contemporary Read - Highly Recommended!, 27 July 2012
This review is from: Geek Girl (Kindle Edition)
To be honest, I'm a sucker for popular guy/unpopular girl love stories (see Nathan and Haley from One Tree Hill, most John Hughes movies, and the recently adorable Jenna and Matty from Awkward), so I thought it would be fun to see the She's All That concept in reverse.

At first glance, Jen is your typical goth girl, while Trevor is a handsome geek. The idea was clichéd, but to be honest, I adored this book so much I read it in one sitting. While the premise may have been familiar, the book ended up being much more than I expected--it was a well-rounded story about trust, first love and self-discovery. The chemistry between Jen and Trevor was so palpable that I couldn't contain my excitement and devastation through the ups and downs of their relationship. Everything about it was so real and natural and it had me absolutely hooked.

There were little touches that gave the story a lot of depth. Jen is a foster child, and her past is slowly revealed giving us a great insight into why she is the way she is. The book deals with other sensitive teen issues, like drugs, celibacy, abuse, adoption and drinking, which enhanced the story and added great insight to the characters. It was eye opening to see Jen's deeply distrustful outlook on life and it was heartbreaking to see her disbelief in happy endings almost sabotage getting everything good she deserves.

When I enjoy a relationship in a book, it's usually because I have developed a not-entirely-appropriate crush on the guy. This wasn't the case with Trevor. He was everything you'd want in a boyfriend, but it was never about how much I liked his character and always about how good he was for Jen. I was rooting for them from the minute she asked him to dance, and kept rooting all the way to the end. I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop during their deep conversations, dates, arguments and witty banter, refreshingly unlike the `love at first sight' premise that a lot of YA books would have us believe is the norm. I liked her awkward discomfort when she was in `his world', then her slow realization that she actually enjoyed family time, bowling and volunteering at an old folks' home. I enjoyed Jen's voice and thought her sarcasm and dry humour was very endearing. The slightly-off sci-fi pop culture references she used with Trevor were very cute and a very real way to portray her growing feelings. Best of all, Jen and Trevor's relationship always felt equal. They never forced each other to be anything more than who they were, but tried their best to adapt to each other's world. In the end Jen's development from rebellious teen, to geek girl, to finally finding her happy middle was truly believable.

If I had any complaints, it was that some of the supporting cast was under-developed and that Jen and Trevor felt slightly off-character as the book was rushing towards an ending, although it probably had something to do them being apart and struggling with themselves because of it. Even so, lines like, "Trev, all you had to do was breathe to make me want you" made me grin like I was 17 again. Even though it's been a long time since I've been to high school, I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to laugh and cry along with two very different teenagers who fell in love, and worked it out in the end.

Something to Howl About
Something to Howl About

3.0 out of 5 stars For those who like fairy tale variations, 20 July 2012
This novella is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. In this version, the wolf and the grandma are the same, with Red discovering that her grandma, who has taken care of her since her parents died, is a werewolf. After a bit of adjustment with this new revelation, they discover another new werewolf in the woods and team up to investigate who it is.

It was a short, easy read. The author tries to replicate the same writing style as a fairy tale, with succinct, almost childish language and characterisation. It works in one respect, giving the story an almost lyrical feel, however lessens the impact/relevance of the mature content. In this respect, I don't think the style matched.

That said, it was a fun read, ideal for those that like variations on their favourite fairy tales.

The Selection (Selection 1)
The Selection (Selection 1)
by Kiera Cass
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like bad reality TV, 11 July 2012
I'm absolutely mystified that I finished it and managed to somewhat enjoy it.

The premise of The Selection seemed really fun. 35 girls out of all that applied in the nation would be picked to compete to be the new wife of Prince Maxon and become the future queen. I love bad reality TV and thought this was right up my street. Unfortunately, the premise is pretty much where the fun stopped.

For something billed as a dystopian novel, the world-building was tenuous at best. There is a caste system in place, from 1-8. The heroine, America Singer, is one of the lower castes, 5, full of artists. We are told that her family are just above poverty, but she not only has a roof over her head but she has her own room, a meal (with leftovers) every evening and and even a treehouse. From what I gathered, they don't have cakes and make-up. What a sorry existence.

America then gets guilted into applying for the Selection by her society-climbing mother and her too-manly-to-be-burdened-by-guilt boyfriend Aspen. As timing would have it, Aspen breaks up with her for being able to provide for him (this guy has serious caveman issues). So she enters the Selection single, and moony over Aspen. However, she does end up getting to know Prince Maxon and discovering he's got a little more substance and slowly becomes his friend, then falls for him. As luck would have it, Aspen somehow also crawls his way back into her life, and you have here a very standard love triangle.

The writing is terrible. It's a classic case of telling not showing. When appearances are described, it's very amatuerish and emotions are portrayed too obviously. If someone is sad, it's almost like they come out and say "I'm sad". This gives the impression that all the characters are caricaratures and they lack the depth and complexity that makes you want to care about them. And I find that I don't really care about America, Aspen, Maxon or who ends up with who.

There also wasn't very much plot to the book. Girls leave the Selection, but you don't find out enough about them to care why or be sad that they did. There is a particularly horrible girl, who is supposed to be the antagonist, but the best she could do was rip a sleeve off America's dress. There are random attacks of rebellion by some unknown outside forces (the North and South), but it was very sporadic and disconnected with the rest of the story. I think we were supposed to feel the girls were in danger (I didn't), and I'm still not really sure why that was even included, except to make the book "more dystopian". It also ended very abruptly, and it as a short book as it was. I felt like the author is saving up for the sequels, but I think a little more could've actually happened in this book, if only to make me care a bit more about what happens next.

Oddly enough, I do, though. Like those bad reality shows, I kind of want to see how it all pans out, even though everything has been utterly predictable so far. I think morbid curiosity is the best thing to describe how I feel about the book. I'm hoping Cass throws some twists and spends more time developing the characters so we can be truly invested in their inevitable departures.

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden - Book 1)
The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden - Book 1)
Price: 4.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing take on vampire genre, 26 Jun 2012
I have to start this off by saying that Julie Kagawa blew my expectations away. In this saturated genre, I never expected such a refreshing take on the vampire story, and I truly enjoyed this book.

The Immortal Rules takes place in a dystopian future where vampires rule over cities and humankind have been all but wiped out by the Red Lung disease. Humans have little choice--either become a marked as a registered 'pet' used for feeding, or choose to be free but have to fend for yourself. Allie Sekemoto is one of these unregistered humans, constantly living in hunger and facing the harsh realities of life in New Covington. She's tough, she's street smart and she would rather starve than take a vampire's mark.

One night when Allie wanders out of the city walls to find food, she is attacked by Rabids (zombie-like vampires who cannot control their hunger) and left for dead. A mysterious vampire comes and offers her a choice--either die or become like him. I really admire Allie's self-preservation instinct here, even though she knew she would struggle living as something she hates. It's refreshingly different from so many other heroines that want to throw themselves into danger, not appreciating the value of their lives or thinking about the consequences.

Kagawa excels as always at world-building, this time by adding her own twists to vampire and zombie lore. There is nothing romanticised in this book in the slightest. The environment is extremely harsh and it's survival of the fittest where it matters most--in the real world. Despite a few slow-moving sections in the middle, the majority of the book was paced well. There were so many plots and reveals throughout the story that I couldn't put the book down. I just had to find out more about the intriguing future they all lived in.

The book follows Allie's journey of discovery as she learns more about why things are the way they are in her world. She is an extremely well-developed heroine. We see her dealing with her internal struggles, such as coming to grips with her morality versus her need to survive and learning cruel lessons about leaving her past behind. She's flawed, brave and you can't help but root for her all the way through the book. The supporting cast is equally great.

I am also extremely satisfied with the ending. To me, the story wrapped up nicely, but left other things in the air to keep you wanting more from the sequels. Which I definitely cannot wait for. Overall, a fantastic read.

Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl
Price: 4.49

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For your inner child, 11 Jun 2012
This review is from: Artemis Fowl (Kindle Edition)
I wish my 12-year old self had books like this when I was growing up. Or really, I wish my 12-year old self had wanted to read books like this when I was growing up. I read a lot of serialised girl fiction, like Sweet Valley and The Babysitters Club and not quite enough `boy books'. I realised now that while I learned a lot about gossip, boys and friendship, I missed some really important lessons, like adventure, or blackmail.

Artemis Fowl Junior is a well-spoken, criminal genius, who happens to be twelve. He tries to restore his family's riches through the easiest way possible--discover the fairy races' secrets, kidnap a fairy and blackmail them for gold. It's too bad he runs up against Captain Holly Short, the only female retcon officer and the entire LEPrecon unit who will not stop until they rescue one of their own!

The story is told from the point of view of both Artemis and Holly (and LEPrecon). Artemis starts out quite stern, but slowly develops a concience and sympathy. He ends up feeling bad for Holly and throughout the book, you can see a little of his dry humour start to come through. Holly is feisty and determined, always having to prove that she's a good officer, but she's also smart and empassioned and I found I liked her a lot. Although they are on opposing sides, I was rooting for both, and I liked how the lines were blurred between protagonist and antagonist.

I think the best thing about the book was the great supporting cast of characters. There's kick-ass Butler, Artemis'...butler, whose family the designation `butler' actually originated from; grumpy Commander Julius Root, Holly's commanding officer; tech-genius centaur Foaly, in charge of all of fairy's impressive technology and 007-like gadgets; and my personal favourite, the irrepressable Mulch Diggums--dwarf, kleptomaniac, burp machine.

The story itself and how it unfolds is really fun and there are lots of twists and turns, which keeps it interesting. The author breaks the barrier several times and the writing is witty and humourous. The action is also paced well and it kept me wanting to read more. I would've loved this book a whole lot if I was 12 and I recommend it to anyone whose inner child wants to read a good story.

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