There are generally three things I love to read about; Ancient Rome, magic castles, and Alice’s adventures in Wonderland (be it the classic or a newly imagined take on it). Imagine my delight when I was browsing amazon.com at work (shh) and happened upon Splintered by A.G. Howard. Based on the description it promised to be a fun, slightly sinister take on the Alice in Wonderland adventures. Based on the reviews it promised to be the best book I’ll ever read (not so, but not half bad). What really sold me on it was the author page, er, the author herself. A.G. Howard “hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek out the stories that won her heart as a child.” Great! The Alice stories are classics and every teen should read them without being forced to do so. Any author whose motivation is to aspire people to read more classics is a-okay in my book. Not to mention she enjoys perusing 18th Century graveyards in her spare time. She. sounds. awesome.

It’s also clear that she is a genuine lover of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, Splintered takes some liberties but explains them in such  a way that I’m not sure whose story to believe, Howard’s or Carroll’s. She has done her research and crafted a great story that is somehow whimsical and dark at the same time. I was drawn in by the cover, encouraged by the author (who, based on 2 short paragraphs from her amazon author page, I would like to befriend), and convinced by the second chapter that I had stumbled upon something great.

Splintered by A.G. Howard StarStarStarStar

Alyssa has always been plagued by Alice in Wonderland, rumor has it that her ancestor, Alice, was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s classic story. The kids at school constantly make fun of her for that reason (although I can’t see why) and she allows it to ruin her life (I would personally be quite proud). Her mother, Alison, was institutionalized years ago for talking to flowers and malevolently chasing butterflies – a curse that has been passed down from Alice herself. Now Alyssa lives with her doting father, surrounded by the objects of her crazy mother, and the ever increasing fear that she will be submitted to the same fate. Unfortunately, her fear is justified.

It started when she got her period – with puberty came boobs, boys, and the ability to talk to insects and plant life. That ability is Alyssa’s darkest secret, one she has never told anyone about. Not her dad, not her mom, not even her best friend Jeb (not that he would listen anyway, now that he’s dating the most popular girl in school aka Alyssa’s arch nemesis *sigh*). She has almost convinced herself that the voices are all in her head when she realizes that her mother can hear them too. After that Alyssa finds herself on the trail to Wonderland in effort to set things right and break the family curse.

Moments after Alyssa has stepped through the looking glass Jeb bursts into her room and jumps in after her, very heroic-like, plunging them both down the rabbit hole. There they meet Morpheus, the moth-man that had been haunting Alyssa’s dreams since she was a little girl. He, along with all the other characters of Wonderland (albeit slightly more sinister versions of themselves), accompany Alyssa and Jeb as they travel across Wonderland and attempt to clean up the mess the original Alice left behind. There they encounter the sea of tears, the garden of talking flowers, the tea-party stuck in time, the vicious bandersnatch, and of course the Red Queen (among others), not realizing all the while that someone is using them as pawns in a giant (and not quite metaphorical) chess game.

It was all quite clever the way the author meshed Alice’s classic stories into one terrifying yet beautiful Wonderland. The story itself was very smart, A.G. Howard clearly pulled her inspiration from Lewis Carroll but managed to make it very fresh and a touch more gothic. Overall I really loved the book, I loved figuring out how the classic story provided the backdrop, I loved that the characters were not clearly divided into good and evil, I loved that it made me want to revisit the original stories. There was just one problem: it’s a teen book. It’s filled with teen romance that was more ridiculous and hard to believe than Alyssa’s ability to talk to tulips.

Let’s start with Alyssa, overall I liked her, she shows maturity when dealing with her mother’s mental illness and living with a father who isn’t ready to let go. She has a lot of baggage and she handles it well. However, when it comes to her romantic feelings she may as well be a preteen girl. She acts like this cool skater chick but it’s really only an effort to impress her friend Jeb (something I actually did when I was 13, but definitely not 18). She also hates his girlfriend and doesn’t make any effort to hide it, both girls act super catty and Jeb would probably be better off without either of them.

Unfortunately Jeb has what I like to refer to as Edward-syndrome. He is entirely too perfect; he’s bad-boy hot with a charming good-boy personality, and he always says exactly what Alyssa wants to hear.  It’s glaringly obvious from page one that they’re going to develop feelings, er, act on the feelings they already have (and are doing a terrible job at hiding). When they finally do kiss it’s followed by a lot of grinding and leg-wrapping that goes just a smidge too far. They fill any awkward silences by blurting out really cheesy pick-up lines that were more smirk inducing than they were sexy. Honestly it was a bit sickening.

Weird teenage romance aside, this as a great book with (mostly) great characters, a thought provoking plotline, and a cool flashback to a classic tale.

It’ll leave you wondering which story is the real story. 

Goddess Interrupted/Goddess Legacy

SPOILER ALERT – This is a series, I might make mention to things that happened in the first couple books.

First of all I have to say, though I hate myself for saying it, I LOVED this series. Seriously, I read all 4 in less than a week and now I’m absolutely DYING for the 5th installment (er… 3rd, since two of them were novellas and only count as 1.5 and 2.5). I don’t usually say that about a teen series. 

I originally gave Goddess Interrupted 3 stars, mainly because Henry pissed me off. Kate returns from her summer abroad to a brooding, depressed, distant, and sometimes downright mean Henry. Not the loving, happy husband she left in the spring. She spends the entire books basically groveling at his feet and begging for his affection. He refuses to kiss her or even hug her, and forget consummating their marriage. He disappears for days at a time and she spends all her time moping around the palace looking for him. Her thoughts are consumed by the idea that Henry no longer loves her… or never did to start with. Consumed. This book is more or less 200 pages of a tormented teenage girl’s thoughts on unrequited love.

Things only get worse when, in order to save the world from a recently awakened Titan god, Kate has to turn to the one person she hoped to never meet, Persephone. Henry’s first wife; the girl he loved with all his heart, the girl he still yearns for (openly), the girl Kate could never hope to replace. From the moment Persephone enters the plot Kate feelings nothing but insane jealousy, hurt, and betrayal. And Henry does nothing to alleviate those feelings. He skirts around the problem and refuses to tell her what he knows she needs to hear. He twists his words until Kate can no longer discern how he feels, but everything becomes quite clear when (spoiler) she catches him kissing Persephone. At this point I realized Henry is my ex-boyfriend (except Henry is supposedly gorgeous and my ex-boyfriend, last I checked, looks like a homeless man). At this point I also decided that I hated him and I pitied Kate.

I have been in Kate’s position, I have been the girl who begs and pleads for love that obviously isn’t there. I knew what it felt like to fight what is clearly a losing battle, to do whatever it takes to close the distance that had been forming from the beginning even though every effort just increased that distance. I made all the same mistakes Kate was making and I wanted so badly for her to get some self-respect and stop being so pathetic. I wanted her to stand up for herself and walk away, to ignore all of Henry’s empty promises and heartless pleas for her to stay. And then, after months of clinging to false hope, she finally reaches the end of her rope. And I was so proud, as proud as I could be of a fictional character in a teen series.

Then, of course, (more spoilers) Henry changes his tune and becomes the Prince Charming he should have been all along. Though he still loves Persephone (grumble) he suggests that one day he might learn to love Kate more (grumble grumble). Kate accepts this with a grain of salt, she agrees to stay with him and continues to love him on the off chance that one day he might love her the same amount. Good for them. She then uses her new found independence to venture out in the world in search of Rhea, a Titan god she must convince to fight in a battle against another Titan god (did I forget to mention the battle waging in the background of Henry and Kate’s love affair?) Anyway, in retrospect this book deserves more than 3 stars and it left me yearning for the next installment.

Goddess Legacy turned out to be a compilation of 5 novellas, each detailing the early lives of the Greek gods and goddesses, before we meet them in The Goddess Test. This book gets 5 stars, I don’t think I would have loved the series as much as I did if not for this book. It was beautifully and artistically written, it ties the entire series together in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and it gave me empathy and understanding for characters who wouldn’t have gotten it otherwise. Because of this book, decisions that were made in book one suddenly make more sense, relationships that were strained for no apparent reason now have a reason. The author is either incredibly lucky that everything fell together so nicely or this was a series that was carefully planned and outlined from the beginning. Either way, these are books that deserve more recognition and I would recommend them to anyone.

The Goddess Test

I did it again. I read the reviews for this book before I had a chance to judge it for myself. And let me tell you… the reviews were not good. For that reason I spent the first half of this book trying to hate it. I even came up with a list of reasons it’s a bad book (I’ll get to that later). But it’s not a bad book. In fact, I think it was a rather good book.

I read this book because it was on my nook, I don’t even know how it got there. I was looking for a quick, easy read and teen books are my go-to for quick, easy reads. Also I’m a sucker for Greek mythology. I was sufficiently disappointed by Meg Cabot’s attempt at the Persephone myth and was hoping that Aimee Carter could do better. She can. Also these books just have such pretty covers.

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter StarStarStar1/2

Why did I dislike Abandon so much? The main character was annoying and silly as some teenage girls are wont to be. She spent all her time telling us how terrified she was only to fall for the source of her terror. It’s hard to compare these books because, in a way, they’re so similar, but so different.

Kate’s mother has cancer and was given 6 months to live… that was 4 years ago. Now she is finally nearing the end and has decided to move back to her hometown, Eden, so she can die in peace. Kate is absolutely devastated. She is uprooting the tiny shred of a life she maintained in New York so she can watch her mother die in a small town. She doesn’t know how to live without her mom and she definitely doesn’t want to.

She begrudgingly attends the local high school where she meets James, the outcast, Dylan, the jock, and Ava, the most popular girl in school… and Dylan’s jealous girlfriend. When Dylan expresses interest in Kate (ie: made eye contact with her) Ava lures her out into the woods and leaves her stranded by a river. Unfortunately, as Ava attempts to flee the scene, she bashes her head on a rock in the river (seriously, bashes, blood and brains and everything). Kate rushes to her rescue but quickly discovers it’s no use, Ava is dead. Enter Henry.

Henry is scary but in a mesmerizing way. His eyes are pools of silver that manage to look sad and intrigued and guilty and hopeful all at once. He is, of course, gorgeous. He asks what Kate would give to bring her “friend” back to life.


Kate then unknowingly promises to fulfill the Persephone prophecy. To live with Henry in his mansion for 6 months every year, to rule beside him as his queen of the underworld. This is, if she passes the goddess tests.

Here’s what I came up with when I was still trying to find reasons to hate this book:
1. Everything was a bit exaggerated and moved a little too fast. For example: Ava is unbelievably mean to Kate the second she meets her, Dylan then shows Kate to her class which provokes Ava to lure her out into the woods and leave her to die. Ava’s brain then basically implodes when she bonks it on a rock. Throughout this entire scene I was thinking, “Okay, there’s no way a girl would do that… there’s no way that would happen.” Along the same lines…
2. Everyone believes just a little too easily. Henry comes along and magically puts humpty dumpty back together again and Kate is… less shocked than she should be. He then comes to her house and tells her he wants her to rule the underworld with him and she doesn’t bat an eye. Neither do her friends. Everyone instantly accepts this clearly impossible situation. (Granted, this is explained later).

Those are weak reasons to dislike a book and, in this case, they are both explained later on in the novel anyway.
Here are the reasons I liked it:
1. Kate is a likeable character and her actions make sense. She agrees to live with Henry not because she thinks he’s sexy or because she’s afraid of him, but because she has nothing to lose and she knows he can help her… and she thinks she can help him.
2. She is both selfish and unselfish. Though this is a obviously a fantasy, Kate’s emotions remain very human. She’s just a teenage girl. She isn’t special. Her entire life has revolved around her mother’s disease; she hasn’t dated, she hasn’t made friends, she hasn’t lived for herself. She knows what it feels like to lose someone and she has a serious bone to pick with death. She will do whatever it takes to keep her mother alive, even if it is just because she isn’t ready to say good-bye, but will sacrifice almost anything for the happiness and well-being of others.
3. It isn’t a stupid romance. I immediately expected Kate to fall for the handsome yet terrifying god of the underworld because… that’s what girls do in teen books. I expected her to get caught in a love triangle where she has to decide between life as a mortal and life as a goddess and it’s so hard to decide because both guys are just super good looking. It doesn’t quite play out that way, she’s more concerned with her mother and her friends and the goddess tests than she is with falling in love. While there is a love a triangle, it’s not what you’d expect.
4. The ending was surprising and tied the entire book together. It was a little odd and I had to consciously decide whether I liked it or not, but it worked.

Sure, there were a few plot holes and some questions that weren’t even asked, but overall an enjoyable story and I actually look forward to reading more from this series.

Mystic City

First of all, I have been SLACKING on my blogging. I’ve read Life of Pi by Yann Martel, in preparation for the movie, which I give 4 stars – the first 100 pages were a little rough to get through and I found myself thinking “Isn’t there supposed to be some sort of shipwreck at some point?” And then it happens. And suddenly you’re thrust into the middle of the ocean with a boy and a tiger in a lifeboat. And from that point forward I couldn’t have put the book down if I wanted to. Highly recommend!

I’ve also read Juliet by Anne Fortier. Also 4 stars. The only reason this book didn’t get 5 stars is because I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to like it before I read it. The ending seemed a little convenient and honestly the main character was a little hard to love. But the story was interesting enough and had everything I normally look for in a historical(ish) novel – flashbacks between past and present, an ancient yet lingering curse, deep dark secrets hidden within deep dark tunnels… it was all very Indiana Jones. I would definitely recommend it, but I wouldn’t put it on a pedestal.

LUCKILY I’ve read some really good books recently because Mystic City was a bit of a flop. Here’s why.

Mystic City by Theo Lawrence StarStarStar

The premise of this book is actually very interesting; it’s set in the not-so-distant future where global warming has increased to the point that all of Manhattan is under water and it’s residents have taken to the skies. Literally. The elites live in the Aerials, tall skyscrapers that tower above the city, and they never leave. The poor and impoverished live in the Depths where they’ve constructed rickety walkways above the ever rising water. For the most part these are normal people and, despite their futuristic setting, their technology hasn’t really increased too much (granted they get everywhere and pay for everything with a swipe of their finger but, big whoop, my dad has a finger swipe on his laptop). However, there are Mystics in the city – people with magical powers who are forced to live in the Depths, in what used to be Central Park. The “mayor” has demanded that all Mystics register with the city and be drained of their powers twice a year… enter Aria.

Aria is the main character, she is a member of the richest family in Manhattan. Aria is also naïve and a liiiiittle bit slow (in my opinion). Aria is told that she overdosed on Stic, a drug made from drained Mystic energy. She is told that her overdose caused her to lose part of her memory. She is told that she is in love with Thomas (a member of the opposing political family) and that they will be married right after the big election in which Thomas’s brother will become mayor and the two families will unite to rule with an iron fist. And, against her better judgment, she believes them (even though the truth is right in front of her). Enter Hunter.

Hunter is a rebel Mystic; he has never registered with the city, he has never been drained, he still has magic powers… which he uses to save Aria’s life several times as well as appear mysteriously on her balcony. Something about Hunter seems so incredibly familiar to Aria… but she just can’t place it. While everything about Thomas feels so wrong, everything about Hunter feels so damn right. She spends basically the ENTIRE book trying to figure out this mind-bending mystery. *rolls eyes*

Throughout the entire book I found myself getting increasingly more angry at all the characters for being so dang stupid. Hunter uses his magic powers to get out of a jam ONE TIME. Which would be great if he wasn’t getting himself into a jam in every other chapter. “Come on!” I would think. “Use your powers! You could escape so easily!” But no. In the meantime, while Aria is trying to figure out where her memories went, she is ignoring the obvious solution. In fact she waits until all hell breaks loose (which is partly, if not MOSTLY, her fault) to finally do the right thing. The thing she should have been doing all along.

However, I realize that easiest solution does not make for a good story. Despite my frustration and resentment towards the characters, there were some interesting and thrilling plot twists. As with every other teen book Mystic City promises to become a series. Perhaps, now that Aria has her head back on her shoulders, the second book will be more action packed and less… irritating. Go ahead and read it, even if only to prepare for what I hope will be a better sequel.

The Replacement

Another paranormal teen book, I think I’m in a rut. In my defense I picked it because I was on break at work, in need of a quick read, and this book is only 170 pages. Without further adieu:

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff  StarStarStar

I wanted to give this book 2.5 stars – not great but not bad – but I gave Anna Dressed In Blood 2.5 stars and this book was slightly better than that one. Mainly because the main character is tolerable, even likeable… he’s sympathetic if nothing else. The plot was disturbing but in a good way – it takes place in the town of Gentry; a town where babies are stolen from their cribs and replaced with castoffs, a town where monsters live and dwell among the humans, a town that teeters on the brink of good and evil. The people of Gentry don’t quite accept the monsters that live among them but they’re content to turn the other cheek, they accept the “things” that are left in their babies’ cribs but they never truly love them the same. Mackie is one of those things. He can’t touch steel and he can’t stand on consecrated ground, he’s always felt out of place but his sister, Emma, has loved him unconditionally and his family has done all they can to be welcoming.

Emma was there the night that the real Mackie (aka Malcolm) was taken and replaced with something else, she was 4 and she was unafraid of the nasty thing that had been placed in her baby brothers crib. Now Mackie is about to discover exactly where he came from… and it ain’t pretty.

The thing I like most about this book is that it’s somehow believable. These paranormal, undead creatures live in this town (er, under it), they walk among the humans and they take their children, yet the people of Gentry have come to accept them as an unavoidable evil. They play pretend (as Mackie so nicely puts it), they see the monsters but choose to ignore them, perhaps believing that ignoring the weirdness will make them normal. However, as much as they try to normalize the demons, the town will never forget that they are in fact demons.

It reminded me of the movie Edward Scissorhands – a Mary Kay consultant, having no luck within the town, decides to approach the big scary castle at the end of the street. The castle is dark and foreboding against the cheery pastel color scheme of the surrounding neighborhood and it clearly doesn’t belong. In the castle she finds Edward, an inhuman creation with lethal fingers. Rather than run away screaming (something I would be wont to do) she invites Edward to come live with her. The neighbors eagerly and easily accept Edward as a new addition to their society… despite the fact that he’s obviously not quite human. The ability of the characters to accept something and someone who is so out of place makes the whole situation seem somewhat plausible. What do they call that? Suspension of disbelief. Or something.

Back to The Replacement, I also like how sympathetic the characters are. I feel for Mackie, he’s guilty (having replaced the real Malcolm), he’s lonely (being that he’s not really human), he’s embarrassed and confused and lost and in the midst of all that he’s a teenager who likes girls and wants to fit in despite the impossibility of “fitting in.” I think the author portrayed that very well. However, there were times when his innermost thoughts got so deep and completely “emo” that I couldn’t even tell what he was thinking or what was happening for that matter – it was almost poetic. Almost.

Unfortunately this is another TEEN book that freely drops the f-bomb. At this point I’ll be more surprised to get through a book without coming across that word. I don’t have anything against the occasional curse word – I get that it’s being thrown around more freely these days, I get that teenagers use it like it’s going out of style, I get that it’s probably appealing to young readers (for some reason) – but I still don’t think it’s appropriate to pepper throughout a young reader novel. This book also includes some pretty strong suggestive themes… at one point Mackie gets some sort of weird handjob in the middle of a cemetery. Ew. Authors: please respect your book, you do not need cuss words and intercourse to spice up your story (unless of course you’re E. L. James).

My only other complaint about this book is that I wish it was longer, I would have loved to read some more backstory or history of the House of Mayhem, the demon dwelling place. I would have enjoyed knowing more about the history of Gentry and it’s strange occupants, both human and non. I have decided that I will likely read the sequel simply because I want to know more.

Anna Dressed in Blood

I am a self declared weenie. I’m scared of the dark, I avoid scary movies at all costs (if I’m being really honest – I can’t even watch previews for scary movies), I absolutely do not participate in Halloween, and I can’t read scary books unless the sun is high in the sky and I know for sure I’ll be spending the night with my boyfriend. That being said, I LOVE scary books. When I was younger I would stay up late reading Nancy Drew mysteries, I especially loved the ones that involved some sort of haunted castle or ghostly apparition.  This was essentially torture, even after the mystery was solved I would still lie awake in bed, remaining as still as possible, sweating profusely but refusing to leave the safety of my blankets which the ghosts could not penetrate. Not much has changed. I picked up this book knowing it would terrify me but reading it anyway. It was scary, I couldn’t read it at night and even then I couldn’t sleep alone, it thrilled me as I knew it would but frankly, it wasn’t a very good book.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake StarStar

To be fair it might be closer to 2 1/2 stars. Here’s why:

1. The main character, Theseus Cassio, or Cas for short, is a jerk.

He’s a ghost hunter following in the footsteps of his father who was killed when Cas was 8. Naturally Cas wants some revenge, he’s been killing the most deadly of ghosts across the country in preparation for the ghost that killed his dad. However, Cas is still in high school, so he forces his mom to move every other month in order to track down these deadly demons. In fact, he’s not very nice to his mom, or anyone else. He makes it very clear that he won’t allow anyone to get between him and his mission. Because of this he doesn’t really have friends… and he certainly doesn’t have girlfriends – which is unfortunate because, according to Cas, girls want him like fat kids want cake. “Girls… have always come easy. I don’t know why that is exactly. Maybe it’s the outsider vibe and a well-placed brooding look… or maybe I’m just damn easy on the eyes.” He’s arrogant and self-centered and a little mean. Overall not a very likeable character. But he has to be hard-headed to kill the ghosts, I get that, whatever.

2. F-bombs.

Another teen book that drops the f-bomb twice within the first few chapters. I get that that’s how teens talk these days, but is it entirely appropriate to put in a teen book? Cas’s thoughts are vulgar and overall unpleasant (back to that “not a nice guy” issue) – at one point he calls a group of guys assholes because they nod at him instead of shake his hand. “They all nod at me like total assholes except for Will Rosenberg, who shakes my hand. He’s the only one who doesn’t seem like a complete douche.” Yeah, Cas doesn’t seem douchey at all. If I wanted to hear the uncensored musings of a teenage boy with an attitude problem I’d hang out with my little brother and his friends, a group of boys that spends most of their time sleeping outside, but even they have more manners than Cas.

3. Scary movie stupidity.

You know when you’re watching a scary movie and you’re like “don’t go in the house!” but they do it anyway, or when they narrowly escape with their lives but then they go back for some reason and you’re like “don’t go back in the house!” but then THEY DO IT AGAIN. That pretty much sums up Anna Dressed in Blood. Cas can’t resist when he hears about Anna. He wants to kill her. She was murdered in the late 50’s right before her first school dance, she was dressed in a simple white dress that was stained entirely red with her own blood, now she haunts her old house and kills anyone who enters. Naturally Cas, and a few of his new friends, decide to go inside. That should end well. *hint* it doesn’t. Of course then they decided to go back, and again, and again. Never ends well.

4. The story was a little bit ridiculous.

Albeit scary as hell. Anna is terrifying and she can do terrifying things. She is deadly white and covered in black spidery veins, her eyes are like drops of oil and her dress is still wet and dripping with blood. She hovers slightly above the ground and her jet-black hair whips around like she’s in the midst of a wind storm. She is freakishly strong and known for ripping apart her victims and doing gruesome things with their remains (all of which is described in detail). The house itself is equally as scary as it’s occupant. It’s black and foreboding and filled with an eerie grey light that seems to leak and ooze from it. Overall a place I would stay VERY VERY far away from. Luckily Anna is contained to the house… so naturally Cas goes inside it at every chance he gets, and only at night. The guy is fearless, but I guess you get that way when you’ve been hunting ghosts your entire life.

Anyway, Cas and Anna actually begin to form a friendship. He visits her every night and they talk about school and friends and family, then Anna shows him some horrible things she’s done and he comes back the next night to pick up where they left off. Cas is enthralled by her, the goddess of death, he finds her terrifying but terrifyingly beautiful. And then he falls for her. Wait… what?

The ending was weird and a little too far fetched, even for a ghost story. Anna’s relationship with Cas goes too far… I think the author forgets she’s a ghost by the last chapter. Aside from Cas’s overall surly attitude and the absolute lack of regard for safety, it wasn’t a bad story. Scary, disturbing, upsetting (everything a ghost story should be) but satisfying and somehow reminiscent of  a “happily ever after”… if happily ever after means getting sucked into hell through the floorboards. I’m undecided as to whether or not I’ll read the sequel.

Magic Study

It’s hard for me to review sequels without giving away the entire plot-line, but I loved Poison Studyso much and I had such high expectations for this book that I feel I owe it to myself and my followers (all 14 of you) to explain  why it only gets 3 stars. I’ll try my best to avoid spoilers.

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder StarStarStar

Magic Study picks up exactly where Poison Studyleft off. Yelena and her band of magicians, having saved the day in Ixia, are now headed into Sitia where Yelena will reunite with her family before continuing on to the Academy where the head magicians will train her in the art of magic (I like to think it’s a Hogwarts sister-school). Unfortunately there are still a few people that want Yelena dead (her brother, an angry Ixian rebel, the First Magician, and an evil, power-stealing rogue magician… to name a few). Luckily, Yelena has become an unstoppable ass-kicking machine who is perfectly capable of taking care of herself and everyone around her. Not bad for teenage girl who is often described as short and scrawny.

Everything that I loved about Yelena in Poison Study – her selflessness, her eagerness to learn and train, her ability to fend for herself – is amplified in Magic Study… but not in a good way. Frankly, I’m not sure how this girl is still functioning. She gets beaten within inches of her life multiple times, she is constantly fighting life-threatening exhaustion, she’s tortured and kidnapped and chained up every time she leaves her room… and she flat out refuses help from anyone. I’m not sure there’s a single page in the entire book that describes Yelena as feeling good and not within the short reach of death. She’s a headstrong teenage girl who could probably use a good time-out and some strict parental guidance.

Of course she manages to get herself out of every situation she finds herself in and saves the day several times over without any help from anyone… and I’m just not buying it. At one point she finds herself manacled and chained to the ceiling in a barn somewhere while her captor ponders over which torture device to use first. She manages to call for help telepathically (a new trick she’s picked up along the way) but when the rescue party arrives she tells them she’s got everything under control and they wait for her in a nearby field. Here she is, hanging from the ceiling, bleeding, trapped, about to be tortured,  and they’re not going to do anything about that? Yeah, right. But then she does escape and they clap her on the back and give her a high-five and do some chest bumps, and she spouts off some sarcastic remarks, and her arrogance is so annoying that I almost wish she did get tortured a little bit before she Houdini’d herself out of there.

She blatantly defies her teachers, her parents, her boyfriend and her friends to throw herself into life-threatening situations where she will most likely get killed and therefore supply the rogue magician with the final power source he needs to take over Sitia… but she does it anyway. And she doesn’t even leave a note.

Yelena is no longer a realistic person or a likeable character… I probably wouldn’t want to be her friend, but the plot was well written and put-together. All the things I liked about Poison Study – the adventure, the mystery, the revelations, the unexpected friendships – are present in Magic Study as well. I enjoy this series and I will without a doubt read the final installment, but I almost wish Poison Study was written as a standalone book.

Poison Study

I mentioned in my last post that I had been stuck on a 20+ hour car ride which resulted in my reading not one but two entire books. My destination was a small town in Minnesota with no internet access and little to no cell phone service. This has resulted in my reading not one but two more books in the span of several days (I’m in heaven). However, I’m reading faster than I can blog! (#firstworldproblems). Without further adieu:

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder StarStarStarStarStar

I LOVED this book. It’s a book that I’ve picked up and set down for several years now and I’m kicking myself for not picking it up sooner. I read it in one sitting (granted my other option was to play color Sudoku with my grandma for several hours) but I think I would have read it in one sitting regardless.

Yelena was held prisoner in a dark and dank dungeon for almost one year before she finally saw the sunshine again… on her way to the execution block. However, the king is dead and the Commander has taken over the land – and he is in need of a new food taster. It’s protocol to offer the job to the next person in line for execution and Yelena accepts. Her trainer, Valek, (the Commander’s right-hand-man) teaches her how to taste and detect every known poison… and how to survive them. He tricks her into eating Butterfly’s Dust, a poison that will kill her unless she drinks the antidote every morning, thereby trapping her in the castle. But to Yelena anything is better than death, even if it means living on the brink of death.

Yelena was imprisoned for killing Brazell’s only son Reyad. Brazell is the general of one of the military districts in Ixia (after the takeover the lands were divided up by district… much like The Hunger Games, in fact exactly like that). In Ixia there are no excuses; no pleas of self defense, no accidents. Murders are executed. Yelena knows the rules and she accepts her punishment gracefully. However, she lives in constant fear of death and has some serious trust issues. Rightly so.

She refuses to allow herself to grow close with anyone, even those willing to befriend her. She is guarded around her “friends” and even more so around Valek and the Commander. One wrong move could send her straight back to the dungeon or, even worse, back into Brazell’s grasp and the twisted orphanage he and his son own… er, used to own. But Yelena is hiding something; a certain power that bubbles out when she’s in trouble, a power that is expressly forbidden in Ixia, a power that would get her killed on the spot if she was discovered using it. Yelena has to protect herself against Valek and his cabinet of poisons (not to mention anyone who tries to poison the Commander), Brazell and his disgusting guards who have been ordered to kill her, and a clever magician who is out to kidnap or kill Yelena by all means necessary. When so much of the world is out to get her she is forced to turn to the most unlikely person to help get her out alive.

*sigh* I was so sad when this book ended, so sad that I immediately bought the sequel the second I got within wireless range. I NEVER DO THAT. This book had it all, it had action and adventure that kept me reading from start to finish, it had unlikely romances that I completely reveled in, it had twists and turns that I never saw coming. The characters were so nicely developed – they had personalities, they had morals, they were strong and they were allowed to GROW. Yelena was such a refreshing main character, she never morphed into an empty shell or allowed the afore mentioned unlikely romance to change her. Rather than wait around for someone to swoop in and save her she recruits some soldiers to teach her to fight, she holds her life in her own hands and she never forgets it. She never stops looking for ways to better herself or help others… even in world where she owes nothing to no one. Buy it. Read it. Love it.


I have long been a lover of historical fiction, this is largely due to Philippa Gregory and her knack of bringing historical figures to life. In high school I read The Other Boleyn Girl and then I read it again, and again. In fact (besides Harry Potter, obviously) it may be the only book I’ve ever read multiple times (I have too many books on my “to read” list to waste time re-reading). At one point I even sold it to a secondhand bookstore only to re-buy it less than a month later. Anyway, thanks to that book Philippa Gregory instantly became one of my favorite authors. I own almost all of her novels and I’ve enjoyed each and every one of them. It goes without saying that I was looking forward to this novel (despite it being a teen book with paranormal undertones) and it did not disappoint.

Changeling by Philippa Gregory StarStarStarStarStar

I usually avoid teen books (who are we kidding I don’t avoid them anymore) because they’re poorly written with thin characters and even thinner plot lines. While Changeling isn’t nearly as in-depth as Gregory’s adult novels it’s still apparent that she knows her stuff and has done her research. I liked the characters, I enjoyed the plot (even when it seemed to veer into paranormal territory*) and it kept me reading from cover to cover (literally… but that might have had something to do with the fact that I was stuck on a 24-hour car trip at the time).

*To be clear, I have nothing against paranormal genres, in fact I actively seek out books that have some sort of paranormal aspect. However, paranormal teen books usually end up being entirely silly – Changeling was not so.

The novel is set in the 1400’s and switches between the perspectives of Luka, a teenage boy suspected to be a changeling, and Isolde, a beautiful, golden haired Lady. Luka was brought to a monastery when he was only 11 after the disappearance of his parents. While on his way to priesthood it becomes apparent that Luka has a knack for numbers and an insatiable curiosity. He is yanked from his bed one night and dragged across town where he is sure he’ll be sentenced to death for committing heresy. When he finally faces his captor Luka is not only pardoned from his heresy but asked to join a secret order, The Order of Darkness. He is required to travel the country and inquire into Christian fear and signs of “the end of days.” His first assignment sends him to a covenant where the nuns are falling to madness.

Isolde has always lived in the castle with her father and brother. Her father raised her to rule the world; he allowed her to study (when most women were not able), he promised her the castle and all it’s land, and he taught her to lead. After her father’s death Isolde is forced out of the castle by her backstabbing brother and made to join the covenant. Her arrival signifies the beginning of the covenant’s descent into madness.

Luka must solve the mystery of the madness and exorcise any demons that haunt the covenant, even when those demons are not as they appear.

I may be biased but I truly loved this book. I loved the characters, I thought they were very well developed and had distinct personalities. Luka was often frustrating to read – he’s supposed to be so smart and clever but he sometimes can’t see the solution right under his nose – however, he always pulls through and makes the right choice (although his companions sometimes have to help him get there).

Isolde is fiercely obedient – as any Lady of her time would be. Obedient of her father (even after his death), obedient of her brother (despite his evil intentions), and obedient of the vows she was forced to take upon her arrival to the covenant. However she never loses her strong and independent personality. True to Gregory’s style Isolde is a Lady more than capable of taking matters into her own hands.

The side characters are equally as enjoyable. Luka’s companion Freize provides excellent comic relief, he’s always ready with a sarcastic or witty remark. He sees the world through rational and understanding eyes, this, paired with his natural connection to animals, helps the group escape on more than one occasion.  Isolde’s friend Ishraq is dark and mysterious but always full of wisdom and displays a loyalty that cannot be challenged. However, none of the characters are entirely trustworthy. They, and the reader, must always be on their toes and watching their backs.

The plot can be compared to an episode of Scooby Doo, “the gang” hears of a strange occurrence and has no choice but to investigate. The spooky paranormal anomalies are rationally explained which kept the story from being silly and retained the historical accuracy. I spent the entire book wondering “who-dun-it” only to be shocked by the reveal. The authors note explains that the novel was based on true historical events – witchcraft, magic, and madness were real fears in the 1400’s and it wasn’t uncommon for people to be plagued by any one of them. As Gregory explains “these were deeply superstitious times. People genuinely believed there was another, unseen world.” I was pleasantly surprised that Changeling did not turn out to be a typical teen paranormal romance but rather a historically accurate (to an extent) psychological thriller.


I’ll be honest, I did not like this book. When I decided to start doing book reviews I told myself I would never post a BAD review. However, a few days have passed since I closed the cover on this book and I’ve managed to get over my initial disdain… at least I’m over it enough to post an honest review…

Hourglass by Myra McEntire StarStar

Before we get into this, and before anyone gets offended by that rating, I should mention that I am way too old for this book. By way too old I mean I’m 23 and this is a book meant for teens. I’ll even admit that I probably would have loved this book in high school (just like I loved Twilight in high school) when I was still boy crazy, naïve, and in the process of coming into my own. However, as a 23 year old, the “romance” was silly (and at times totally inappropriate for a teen plot) and the main character was an insecure shell of a girl with total self esteem issues who made rash decisions based on what would most likely impress her new band of boyfriends.

Let’s start with her: Emerson starts out as a pretty cool girl, she’s witty, pretty, she’s into baseball and martial arts, and she see’s dead people. Her parents died when she was young which sent her spiraling into major depression that eventually ended up getting her committed and sent to special boarding schools (not to mention her little ghost problem). Not surprisingly Emerson has horribly low self esteem, almost no friends, and *gasp* has never been kissed. She constantly refers to herself as crazy and considers herself to be a total outcast from society. Her older brother Thomas and his wife have taken her in and raised her through her teenage years. Thomas has always been understanding of Emerson’s strange visions but he’s constantly hiring shrinks and psychics to “fix” her. Meet Michael; Emerson’s newest mentor.

Michael is sexy. We know this because Emerson makes mention of it on every single page. His lips, his muscles, his smell, his eyes, his hair, his totally awesome car. The second she meets him she becomes a total doormat. When she’s around him she can think of nothing but him (and not in the cute “you’re all that’s on my mind” way, in the creepy, obsessive “can’t think for herself” way). She is constantly tuning out to think about how hot he is and how much she wants to touch his lips… and other various parts of his body. In fact, when they do touch, there’s such a magnetic, chemical reaction that they actually create electricity and blow out the nearest light bulb. Oh, and Michael sees dead people too. So they have that in common. However, he makes it clear from the beginning that their relationship is purely professional (but continues to constantly seduce her), successfully breaking Emerson’s fragile little heart.

From there it’s about 200 pages of Bella Emerson acting like a jealous, immature, insecure shell of herself – and Edward Michael acting like a macho, secretive, jealous prick. He refuses to tell her the whole story which forces her to follow him everywhere and eavesdrop on all his private conversations. She acts out when she discovers his possibly ex-girlfriend and he throws a fit every time he discovers her spending time with his best friend Kaleb (who is also conveniently drop dead gorgeous and happens to fall in love with Emerson after about one minute of knowing her… life must be so rough). Emerson then makes totally rash and life threatening decisions to save the day and show everyone how totally cool she is. However, even in the heat of battle she doesn’t forget to mention Michael’s luscious lips or Kaleb’s deep blue eyes… as if we could forget. She is constantly reminding the reader how short she is and introduces every other female character as stunningly beautiful with 10-mile-long legs. She basically makes it clear that she is not worthy of Michael’s love or capable of competing for it. Yeah, that’s the message we should be sending teenage girls. Fortunately for her the boys of Hourglass are interested only in Emerson… despite her short stature and surly attitude (not to mention her desire to punch and hit everyone within a 10-foot radius). Honestly, I’m not sure why either party is interested in the other.

“Romance” plot and self esteem issues aside, McEntire had a really cool and original idea. Michael is not some sort of immortal vampire or angel or whatever else teenage girls are into these days, he’s just a guy who happens to see across time, just like Emerson. Together they can change history – literally. The ending worked like a puzzle, they had to find all the pieces and correctly put them together before they (or the reader) could see the big picture. I would have truly enjoyed this book if the story wasn’t so saturated with teenage melodrama.