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.