Showing posts with label greek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label greek. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

[Review] Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge: Insta-Love and A Shadow As A Love Interest

In CRUEL BEAUTY, Nyx is sacrificed as a bride to the evil demon prince Ignifex, and intends on killing him to end his reign of terror over their kingdom.

What intrigued me: Was in the mood for a swoony high fantasy romance thingy.

Very awkward writing and world building

The first thing that struck me and kind of lowered my enthusiasm for this is writing. It does read like Hodge is trying to write archaic and ancient-sounding, but isn't quite able to deliver. The result are awkward sentences that are unintentionally hilarious. Generally this does read like a corny historical fiction romance-type of story. It took a lot of getting used to the way she writes and it definitely does not compliment the premise.

The story itself is promising, the premise is interesting (despite being only a retelling), and Hodge does manage to put her own spin on the story. However, I'm not a fan of her approach. The whole idea of getting Nyx into the Ignifex's castle absolutely reads like a mere set up for a love triangle. I was absolutely disappointed to see the novel take this direction, because it has quite the interesting world, with hermiticism, an element of Greek mythology, being the main influence on it. As in, just a side element to fill up the story and give the illusion of actual world building.

I do love a good Greek myth-inspired story and was excited for this, but it just doesn't feel right. The entire "world building" feels like an easy excuse to write about the romance, and I'm not a fan of this.

Insta-love, a love triangle, and zero appeal

I knew what I was signing up for when I started CRUEL BEAUTY. What I didn't sign up for is having this story play into every cliche ever that you've seen in YA. Literally everything. From guys consisting just of eye colors and snark, to the inevitable love triangle, to instant love. 

I have seldom encountered such an unfortunate way of starting a love triangle - it takes two pages between Nyx meeting the second love interest and kissing him. Even more unusual is that the love triangle is between the demon Ignifex and his shadow. It sure reads a little awkwardly and weird, and the plot twist is extremely predictable. I was rooting for Nyx to be a cold-blooded hate-driven killer, I knew she was going to fall in love with the beast, but not easy like that! It took about 3 pages for her plan to vanish into nothingness because of a pretty boy... eh... shadow...cursed human...thing...ish. 

Like this, CRUEL BEAUTY unfortunately lost all its appeal to me and paired with awkward writing and clumsy world building this is not my kind of story.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

My expectations were too high (mainly because of the hype). CRUEL BEAUTY tries to create the illusion that it's different and new, when it's just your average romantic retelling.

There are better Beauty and Beast retellings out there, and there certainly is better high fantasy out there that doesn't feel as awkward as this. 

Additional Info

Published: January 28th 2014
Pages: 352
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA / Fantasy / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780062224736

"Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love."(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite fairytale retelling?

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

[Review] The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson #5) - Rick Riordan: Cluttered and Halfheartedly written

In the last book of the Percy Jackson series, Percy and the Gods of Olympus are preparing for the final battle against the Titan Kronos.

What intrigued me: There's no reason for me not to pick this one up! I loved the third and fourth novels. Unfortunately, it could only go downhill from there.

A Very Chaotic, Messy Storyline

THE LAST OLYMPIAN needs a lot of time to get the story started. What I loved about the previous books is that there was a straight storyline they were following and you knew exactly how close the heroes were to their goal at all times. This one doesn't have that. 

I feel like Riordan is just trying to give a storyline or cameo to all of his characters, so they can all have their moment of glory in the last book. It's cluttered, and it's full of unnecessary halfheartedly-written side quests that weren't really enjoyable to read. I didn't really understand why the characters were doing anything, they seem to be rushing from scene to scene, preparing for battle or trying to convince someone else to help them. 

With all those mini side quests comes also a frequent change of scenery that throws you off track and leaves you wondering what they were doing there in the first place. Riordan really lost himself in trying to make this battle epic and trying to cram as many characters and mythological concepts in this as possible. Because the heroes have dealt with Luke and Kronos in the previous book before, having these two as the final battle antagonists is repetitive and boring to read. 

Disappointing Character Development (or lack thereof)

Riordan's biggest strength in this series has always been Percy's voice to me. Percy is funny, a sweet and loveable guy, and just overall a wonderful protagonist. It's remarkable how spot-on Percy's voice is and has been for the entire series, however judging by this being the last book - he hardly went through any character development at all. While it was charming and relatable to have this oftentimes super oblivious main character before, after five books it really gets annoying to have Percy realize even the most obvious things last. He's not a leader and it hardly seems realistic to have anyone follow him into battle. Annabeth in a heartbeat, but not him.

In general I have never been a fan of the character development in Riordan's books, and never really thought any character aside from a handful of Gods and side characters (Apollo, Artemis, Zoe, Nico) was even remotely developed enough for me to actually care about them. 

In other reviews I've often read about how everyone loves the relationship between Annabeth and Percy- which I find is pretty much non-existent (Enlighten me please if you disagree). I was hoping to finally get behind the fascination that these two seem to have for everyone - but no, I'm still confused. This didn't make the novel better or worse for me either way, but is simply proving my point that even after five books I still feel like most characters remain blank slates for me.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

A very disappointing conclusion to the series. I personally found it lacked structure and was very drawn out, and I wish I just hadn't read this and pretended the series ended after the fourth.

Additional Info

Published: May 5th 2009
Pages: 361
Publisher: Puffin
Genre: YA / Mythology / Greek 
ISBN: 9780141321288

"All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos's army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan's power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it's up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time. "
(Source: Goodreads)

Have you seen the Percy Jackson movies or read the books?

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

[Review] Dreaming of Antigone - Robin Bridges: Greek Plays, Drugs, and Manic Pixie Dream Boys

In DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, Andria's twin sister Iris died of a heroin overdose. Andria has been suffering life-threatening seizures all her life and is counting down to getting declared seizure-free for six months by her doctor, so she can get her driver's license.

What intrigued me: The absolutely stunning cover.

A little over the top

DREAMING OF ANTIGONE is one of those typical coming-of-age novels that try to hook you with a side of romance and a deep topic of choice - in this case poetry. The whole novel has sprinkled in parts of poems that Andria and a mystery person in her school scribble on their desks. The premise isn't necessarily new, I've read books about similar scenarios before. The boy she's communicating with is of course her late twin sister's ex-boyfriend, a Manic Pixie Dream Boy Deluxe. And of course they fall in love.

I just didn't connect to the characters at all, which is probably also because they don't seem like real people. Bridges tried to spice the story up by splattering in bits of highly sensitive topics. From heroin addiction to child abuse to suicide - you'll find everything in this. And frankly, it's just too much. Things like this don't happen in high school and even if they did, you'd think that the parents would at least comment once on it. Or that the children would be more aware of it. Despite Andria's twin sister recently having died, there is virtually no grief in this. Frequent clumsily written, cryptic dreams, but not actual grief. I just didn't buy it.

Lack of plot

I think DREAMING OF ANTIGONE would have been better off if it had been written with a different audience in mind, maybe as a work of Literary Fiction. Like this, it just reads like Bridges tries too hard to hide the fact that there is nothing to the novel, there is absolutely no story, and the little we get is very, very predictable. I do like the chronically ill main character, but something just didn't sit right with me, Andria's narration reads very detached, very devoid of emotion. Again, she doesn't feel real, none of the characters do.

The little nods to the Greek Play were more exhausting than a nice addition. Bridges didn't manage to show Andria's fascination with Antigone, and all the similarities to her own life just feel forced. I caught myself skimming halfway through all passages summarizing Antigone, and I just didn't feel like it's necessary.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

DREAMING OF ANTIGONE just wasn't for me. If you like coming-of-age stories and don't mind the occasional poetry excerpt, maybe you'll feel differently.

Additional Info

Published: March 29th 2016
Pages: 304
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781496703545

"Every star has its own path… 

“I can’t ever be the blazing star that Iris was. I’m still just a cold, dark satellite orbiting a star that went super nova.”

Andria’s twin sister, Iris, had adoring friends, a cool boyfriend, a wicked car, and a shelf full of soccer trophies. She had everything, in fact—including a drug problem. Six months after Iris’s death, Andria is trying to keep her grades, her friends, and her family from falling apart. But stargazing and books aren’t enough to ward off her guilt that she—the freak with the scary illness and all-black wardrobe—is still here when Iris isn’t. And then there’s Alex Hammond. The boy Andria blames for Iris’s death. The boy she’s unwittingly started swapping lines of poetry and secrets with, even as she tries to keep hating him."(Source: Goodreads)

Do you like stories inspired by Greek plays?

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

[Review] The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson #4) - Rick Riordan

In THE BATTLE OF THE LABYRINTH Percy and his friends have to travel through King Minos' maze to find its inventor Dädalus before Luke.
Previously (The Titan's Curse): The Titan Atlas teamed up with Percy's arch enemy Luke, a son of Hermes. Atlas could ultimately be defeated by Artemis and Percy, but Luke is still in the process of trying to reawaken the remaining Titans to re-build the rivaling city to the Olymp - Othrys.

After absolutely loving THE TITAN'S CURSE I couldn't wait to finally read this one. I wasn't disappointed. About six months have passed since book three, Riordan starts the story similar to the third one, with an encounter with mythological beings. I was very sad that Riordan decided to kill off Zoe Nightshade, because I loved her as a character. With Rachel Elizabeth Kane, the mortal that can see through the veil and that Percy met briefly in THE TITAN'S CURSE, we have another interesting side character joining the crew. I love that Tyson plays a bigger role in this novel again, I missed him in the third. His approach to problems is always amusing and refreshingly different.

Annabeth functions as a leader in this novel and I'd rather have her swap roles with Percy. What's so interesting about the Percy Jackson series is that Percy is technically the main character, but is never the chosen supreme leader that has all the strategy down. Percy mostly mindlessly walks into situations and just wins out of sheer luck and/or stupidity. It's impossible to dislike him. I just love how Riordan uses Percy's lack of knowledge about Greek myths to explain them to the reader through other characters. While I think I do know quite a bit about Greek mythology, Riordan references really obscure myths that I'm pretty sure only a small portion of readers have encountered before. I was very grateful for the little glossary of mythological beings at the end of the book.

Unfortunate Pacing to Introduce More Mythological Beings

One of the things I have to criticize is that there are too many cameos of the Gods in this one. I hardly think that they would have the time to descend to Earth to help Percy and his friends every few chapters. You might argue that it's only because the Olymp is at war and Percy and his friends play a significant role in that, but - I just don't buy it.

Unlike in the third I felt like the plot was a little dragged out. The main storyline is the heros' quest to find Dädalus, but they are distracted by other mythological beings all the time. The way they found him towards the end feels like a cheap solution that they could've figured out way earlier if they'd just been persistent and kept asking the Gods. Or maybe used rational thinking. Therefore this novel doesn't read as easily and quickly as the third. I just wanted them to finally find Dädalus and take care of the bigger problem. The fight with Kronos has been going on since the first book and at this point they're just stalling. I'm still excited for the fifth and final book, but I don't think that the fourth was really an essential part of the whole. However, it's still a good read.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

I was tempted to skim pages at some point, but I ended up reading everything patiently. The story just sucks you in and Riordan's writing is brilliant. I'm still not a huge fan of Annabeth, but Percy makes the waiting worthwhile. I can't wait for the fifth novel. I guess I recommend.

Additional Info

Original Title: The Battle of the Labyrinth
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: 1st April 2009
Pages: 362
Medium: Hardcover
Genre: YA / Mythology / Greek

"Percy Jackson isn't expecting freshman orientation to be any fun. But when a mysterious mortal acquaintance appears on campus, followed by demon cheerleaders, things quickly move from bad to diabolical. 

In this latest installment of the blockbuster series, time is running out as war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half-Blood grows more vulnerable by the minute as Kronos' army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. 
To stop them, Percy and his demigod friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth-a sprawling underground world with stunning surprises at every turn. Full of humor and heart-pounding action, this fourth book promises to be their most thrilling adventure yet."(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite Greek mythology read?

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Monday, March 9, 2015

[Review] Dreamless (Starcrossed #2) - Josephine Angelini

In DREAMLESS, demi-god Helen has to use her ability to descend into the Underworld to kill the Furies in order to stop all different demi-god families from wanting to kill each other.
What intrigued me: I've read the first novel.

Logic, what is logic?

After it has been revealed to our protagonist Helen that her love interest/ex-boyfriend is actually her cousin, they are both trying (and desperately failing) to keep a distance. Even though it's pretty obvious that she can't be the daughter of someone that died 19 years ago if she's 17, everybody rolls with it. Now here comes the actual problem: For the Delos family the quarrel isn't even that their son is heading for an incestuous relationship, but the actual problem is that if those two decide to have children, these children would cause the House of Theben and the House of Atreus to go extinct, because... the heir can only be claimed by one house.

It's very difficult to keep track of the different mythological objects and rules that Angelini brings into this. We have:
  • "The Face", which basically means looking like the steeped-in-legend Helen of Troy
  • "The Cestus of Aphrodite", which makes the wearer invincible
  • The concept of "blood guilt", which I don't fully understand until this day 
  • The "Twig of Aenas" which can only be used by a son of Aenas to descend into the Underworld without being a descender 
... and a bunch of other things that you have to keep in mind if you want to make sense of the story.
Angelini doesn't even bother to explain everything again in detail (which you always should in the second book if you've got so much complicated mythology!), which leaves you there pretty confused.
I was glad to have a little dictionary with characters and gods and all their traits at the end of the novel, which I really actively had to use to understand who's who and who's able to do what.

It's NOT a Twilight fan fiction anymore!

I had a hard time getting into DREAMLESS, especially because of the mythology. It's not easy to keep track of everything and you really have to think and remember everything that happens if you don't want to end up confused and angry. There's a lot of mythology that's not even accurate- or, let's say, different from the original lore. This does not mean that it's bad- Angelini just took a different spin on some of the things, which I encourage! I loved how she made Ares, the mighty God of War, a complete nutcase for example. Or Cerberus, who's usually a Dobermann or a Pitbull, a giant wolf.

I got the notion that in this one, the Starcrossed Series really stopped being just a Twilight fan fiction and started to become a story on its own. In the first novel the whole scion and blood shed issue just seemed like a bad excuse to justify the hot boy falling for the average shy girl. In the second, the characters grow and the plot lines start making sense in the bigger picture.
Even though I understood why Angelini made the decision to alternate between point-of-views, I would have loved some consistency. The main narrator still remains Helen, but there are sometimes random throw-ins from the POV of other characters. It all seems necessary and I fully understand why it makes sense to do it like this- still, either alternate consistently and go with multiple narrators from the start or make it a one-time-thing.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

I had a rocky start with DREAMLESS and after about seventy pages I even contemplated giving up because I didn't understand what's going on anymore. Maybe it's different if you've read the first one right before, but for me it was a struggle to push through. After about hundred pages it hit me and I was diving deep into the story and needing to know what happens next.

Additional Info:

Published: Mai 2012 
Pages: 512
Genre: YA / Fantasy / Mythology / Greek Mythology
ISBN: 978-3-7915-2626-3

"Can true love be forgotten?
As the only scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.
Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out. A ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies' cry for blood is growing louder.
As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen's sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos."

Did you read the series and what did you think of it? 

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