Posts tagged ‘starcrossed’

June 8, 2014

Josephine Angelini: “Goddess”

Goddess  Goddess

YA Novel
Pages: 421
First Published: 2013

Synopsis: Can you change your fate?

The gods’ thirst for war already has a body count – and Helen is plagued with visions of destruction. She must find a way to imprison them once again, or risk unleashing immeasurable chaos.

Her powers are increasing – and so is the distance between Helen and her mortal friends. Uncertain whether to fear or revere her, the once-solid group divides.

To make matters worse, the Oracle reveals that a dangerous Tyrant is lurking among them … and all fingers point to Orion. Still unsure whether she loves him or Lucas, Helen is forced to make a terrifying decision, for an all-out war is coming to her shores.

Starcrossed and Dreamless are international bestsellers. Now Josephine Angelini delivers a thrilling conclusion to this epic trilogy of love, hate, revenge, and fate. With worlds built just as quickly as they crumble, a goddess must rise above it all in a final battle to change a destiny written in the stars.

My Spoiler-Free Thoughts: Goddess is the third novel in the Starcrossed trilogy, which I’ve been reviewing here because it kind of sort of uses the story of the Trojan War as a base from which to launch its own story. When I read Starcrossed, the first book, I was baffled by its popularity but kind of amused by all its blatant similarities to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. I thought the second book, Dreamless, was more original and more interesting, but I was frustrated by Lucas’s violent treatment of Helen as well as by the fact that most of the story only happens because of a lie that the readers know is a lie. Reading Goddess, I think I passed through bafflement and frustration and reached a point where this series genuinely makes me angry. Because … it’s terrible.

As usual, I must confess that there were a few things I liked, and here they are: Matt’s first few scenes. Morpheus’s two appearances. Some of the more fantastical settings that ensure that, if the rumoured movies do get made, they should at least be nice to look at. And … that’s about it.

This book reads like a hastily written first draft. Every action and every line of dialogue is overexplained; like both books before it, cutting out all the unnecessary exposition would make the book at least a hundred pages shorter. Plot threads are left half-finished. The main characters are unlikeable. There are too many characters who contribute nothing to the plot. Important scenes focus on characters the readers barely know and don’t care about. None of the main characters ever face any real risk or consequence. The original mythology is simultaneously vague and overcomplicated. The Greek mythology is changed so much that I’m not sure why it was used. The tone and register are all over the place. Characters frequently do things they were adamantly opposed to doing no more than a chapter before, with no reason given as to why they changed their mind. Characters develop powers out of the blue and then never use them. The narration awkwardly jumps from the mind of one character to the mind of another for no good reason. And – my least favourite point of all – an abusive relationship is portrayed as the truest of true loves.

There are some good ideas buried below all the first draftiness of this book, and a ruthless edit and rewrite could have improved it immensely. I have no idea why this series didn’t receive that treatment – surely this book had an editor, right? what did she even do? fix typos?? – but the fact seems to be that it didn’t. As it is, then, I don’t recommend Goddess or either of its predecessors at all.

My SPOILERIFFIC!! Thoughts: Let’s explore some of my above criticisms through examples from the text.

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September 28, 2012

Josephine Angelini: “Dreamless”

Dreamless  Dreamless

“Want to fight me, foolish Sky Hunter? Caution! I invented war. War, little beauties, I invented it.”

YA Novel
Pages: 496
First Published: 2012

Synopsis: 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.

Josephine Angelini’s compelling saga becomes ever more intricate and spellbinding as an unforgettable love triangle emerges and the eternal cycle of revenge intensifies. Eagerly awaited, this sequel to the internationally bestselling Starcrossed delivers a gritty, action-packed love story that exceeds all expectations.

My Thoughts: So I hope you guys aren’t trying to avoid reading spoilers for this book, because this entry is full of them.

To start, I liked Dreamless rather better than Starcrossed. Helen’s nightmare trips to the Underworld were my favourite parts of the first book, and I was stoked to see them featured prominently in the sequel. Angelini’s writing is never beautiful, but it’s much better in the Underworld sequences than anywhere else, and her creativity is put to better use. There’s an early scene I enjoyed where Helen finds herself trapped in a dusty old house with no exit, and it was good and creepy. Another thing that was expanded to good effect here is the fighting between Lucas and Hector; it was also given more emotional weight. And I can even say that I liked most of the new characters, the easily likeable Orion and the sadistic and creepy Ares especially. The sequence that features Ares’ first appearance is easily my favourite of the series so far.

But.

Dreamless has fewer similarities with Twilight than its predecessor, but it is still most definitely this series’ New Moon, in that the super perfect love interest breaks up with the protagonist and a new guy steps in to start a poorly handled love triangle. Is it weird that I feel I have to give Dreamless some sort of credit for allowing its protagonist to continue on with her life instead of sinking into a horrible, months-long depression upon learning that it’s over? Unfortunately, New Moon might still win this round, because where Edward gives a reason for the break-up, Lucas just starts yelling at Helen (at what must seem to her like) out of the blue. They still have to see each other to discuss Helen’s quest, so he spends most of the book trying to push her away by doing such things as knocking her (and his cousins) off a bench and onto the floor, screaming at her that she doesn’t “have the RIGHT to sit next to” him, hitting his father and injuring his mother in front of her, using his demigod power of flight to carry her up so high above the earth that she can barely breathe, and throwing her to the ground so hard that “she cried out as she twisted her wrist.” Oh, and he’s still following her and sneaking into her house at night without her knowledge. The entire time, the audience is told that he loves her and is acting this way for her supposed benefit, but if you think that makes it okay I am going to have to strongly disagree. NONE OF THIS BEHAVIOUR IS OKAY. The fact that Helen unquestioningly takes him back without ever even commenting on his actions is, to put it mildly, extremely frustrating. That the third book will undoubtedly feature a love triangle is absurd. Still, I will be surprised if the story isn’t set up so that Helen has to make a choice between Lucas, who’s hurt her – on purpose – both physically and emotionally, and Orion, who … has not. And, with Lucas as the Paris character and Orion as the Aeneas character, I will also be surprised if she doesn’t choose Lucas, although it will be AWFUL when she does.

The cherry on the top of all this is the reason why Lucas pushes Helen away. In Starcrossed, we are told that Lucas and Helen can’t be together because it would unite their demigod families, thus breaking a truce with the gods and starting a new Trojan War. Okay, cool. That’s a pretty good reason to avoid a relationship. Later in the book we learn that this doesn’t apply to their current situation, BUT they still can’t be together because Helen has been told that Lucas’ uncle Ajax is her real father, making them first cousins, and the children born to demigod cousins always go insane. (The example given for this is “Oedipus’s daughter, Electra,” leading me to believe that the characters are lying every time they claim to have read the Oresteia.) The huge problem I have with this is that the audience knows that it’s a lie. It is mentioned multiple times throughout Starcrossed that Helen is seventeen and her supposed father died nineteen years ago. And just in case you didn’t realize for yourself that Ajax can’t be Helen’s father, a character says it out loud. And just in case you missed it there, in Dreamless Helen’s mother tells us again. A full half of the plot of this book is based on a lie that the audience knows is a lie, and the only thing stopping the characters from figuring out that it’s a lie is that, despite all the angsting they do over Helen and Lucas being cousins, not a single one of them has taken a second to subtract seventeen from nineteen. It’s completely ridiculous, and the idea that anyone involved with this series could think it makes for suspenseful reading actually makes me a little angry.

And now, a selection of passages I hated.

Claire … undid the misaligned buttons on Helen’s pesky jacket and then redid them correctly. “You look like a dyslexic five-year-old.”

Apparently dyslexia affects your ability to dress yourself now?

For the first time Helen could remember, Castor used an English curse word, and a foul one at that …

“Foul curse” is what Angelini uses in place of anything more offensive than “damn.” Every time someone swears in this series I feel like they’re putting a hex on someone.

“Claire and I didn’t join PETA’s most wanted list for nothing, you know.”

A Myrmidon is stalking Helen. They refer to it as her “ant problem.” And … PETA keeps a list of people who have killed ants?? Get it???

“And we should know [the number of people who’ve walked on the moon]! We’re Americans!”
“Well, officially I’m Canadian.”
“Close enough!” Helen said, waving an enthusiastic hand in the air.

Orion is Canadian and this Canadian blogger was down with that until this happened. HELEN HAMILTON CARES NOT ABOUT YOUR ACTUAL NATIONALITY

“You know what, Matt? You’re becoming quite a badass.”

You keep using that word.

Pumpkin pancakes were a favorite of Jerry’s and Helen’s, but around Halloween, which was only about a week and a half away, anything with pumpkin in it was on the menu. It was sort of a competition between the two of them. It started with roasted pumpkin seeds and went all the way to soups and gnocchi. Whoever found a way to sneak pumpkin into a dish without getting caught was the winner.
The whole pumpkin thing had started when Helen was a little girl. One October she’d complained to her dad that pumpkins only got used as decoration, and although she loved jack-o’-lanterns, it was still a big waste of food. Jerry had agreed, and the two of them resolved to start eating pumpkins instead of just carving them up and then throwing them out.
Unfortunately, they found that pumpkins on their own are so bland they’re practically inedible. If they hadn’t gotten creative with the cooking, they would have given up on their Save the Pumpkins crusade after the first year.
There were a lot of nauseating creations, of which the pumpkin popsicles were by far the worst, but the pancakes stood out as the biggest success. They instantly became as large a part of the Hamilton family tradition in October as turkey was on Thanksgiving.

WE GET IT ANGELINI YOU LIKE PUMPKINS

There is more that I might say about this book, but it’s easier for me just to tell you that I don’t recommend it.

And now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go find a book that recognizes the value of a beautiful line of prose.

Buy it at: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca

Hell didn’t need lakes of fire to torment.
Time and solitude were enough.

September 17, 2012

Josephine Angelini: “Starcrossed”

Starcrossed  Starcrossed

Cassandra’s demeanor suddenly changed. She went from being the dark, fiery messenger of the Fates to being a very vulnerable teenager.
“I saw something, Helen,” she said desperately. “Then I saw it again, and again. I’ve been so ashamed and frightened that I haven’t told anyone else what I saw. And I am so sorry if I’m wrong – for all of our sakes. But I have to do this … because … this is what comes next.”

YA Novel
Pages: 488
First Published: 2011

Synopsis: How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is — no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood … and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together — and trying to tear them apart.

“Of course I care for you,” he said intently. “The only thing I wouldn’t do to be with you is cause innocent people to die. And that’s pretty much it.” He moved on to his back again, jabbing a hand in his hair. “But apparently that’s enough.”

My Thoughts: First, I should probably note that this is a Trojan War novel in pretty much the same way that Harry Potter bringing back Cedric’s body in Goblet of Fire is a reference to the ransom of Hector, but the only reason I forced my way through this book was so I could review it and so review it I shall.

Second, I know I already talk about Twilight too much on this blog, and I’m sure that I’m far from the first person to notice this, but oh my goodness is Starcrossed basically Twilight. Look at how absurdly easy it is to write a summary of both books at once (with a little bit of New Moon and Breaking Dawn thrown in for good measure):

A socially awkward American high schooler living with her single dad becomes suspicious of the ridiculously wealthy and ridiculously good looking family that has moved to her small town. Soon after going online to research their connection to mythology, she discovers the new residents are impossibly strong and impossibly fast supernatural beings who also have individual powers such as the ability to see the future or the ability to detect lies. Following a number of arguments, the main character falls in love with the most ridiculously good looking son, though he refuses to sleep with her because of his supernatural-ness. There is a larger group of supernatural beings – based in Europe – with whom the family has a bloody disagreement on an issue fundamental to their supernatural-ness, and the family must protect the girl from them even as they must resist the urge to kill her themselves. When the girl gains access to supernatural powers of her own, everyone is shocked by how powerful she is, and she soon becomes the bestest best supernatural creature that ever did supernatural creature.

Oh, and members of the family go to her house and listen to her sleep without her knowledge. Dear YA fantasy novels: I don’t think this means what you think it means.

Another thing Starcrossed has in common with Twilight is its horrendous writing, which features awkward phrasing, unrealistically verbose characters, no sense of suspense, no attempt to show instead of tell, exposition dumps all over the place, and an obsession with the word “gestured.” I think what I found most irritating, though, was how so much of this book was overexplained. Every action comes with an adverb or a phrase to explain how or why the character performed that action, even when it is perfectly obvious. This book would have been vastly improved (and at least a hundred pages shorter) if someone had realized that these all desperatedly needed to be cut.

And now, a selection of passages I hated.

Claire Aoki, aka Giggles, was a badass.

… what.

“You certainly do heal fast. But you’ll still have some impressive bruises, so if I were you I’d avoid your father for the rest of the night.”
“I’ll just tell him you abuse me,” Helen said with a shrug. She jumped off the examining table.
“And I’ll tell him you like it,” he teased back, his voice rich and slow.

Oh yes, this is exactly the sort of dialogue I want to hear in an otherwise unquestioned ~*~GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TOLD~*~ relationship. Allow me to spare you the passage where a woman the antagonist murders is described as “lovely in terror” and “waiting to be kissed.” The dead women are beautiful and sexually available trope, my least favourite trope of all!

Helen’s vision stabilized again, and she watched his bare back moving away from her. The last cobwebs clearing from her eyes, she decided that if Lucas was gay then she was going to have to get a sex change operation. He would be so worth it.

According to my Kindle copy, those last two lines have been highlighted by 46 different people, and I am hoping against hope that it’s because they all reacted with a “WTF?!?” I mean, I’ve heard tell that sex change operations are long and stressful and unpleasant processes and when people decide to undergo them they usually have rather stronger reasons than an attractive classmate …

Yet another way Starcrossed bothered me is by having its characters constantly misremember what happens in the Iliad, even as they believe it to be historical fact of the utmost importance. An especially frustrating passage comes when Helen decides to read “as much as she could” of the Iliad. The narration continues on to tell us “how much she disliked Helen of Troy,” unable to “understand why she didn’t just go back to her husband. People were dying.” Helen of Troy’s role in the war is first brought up in Book II, and her first appearance comes with the first battle scene (the first scene where people die for reasons other than plague) in Book III, so I figured Helen Hamilton would have read the first couple Books at least, but then we get: “She was up to the part where Achilles … started sulking in his tent over a girl.” Soooooo not even to the end of Book I? How does that make any sense??

I shall now reluctantly admit that this book was not entirely horrible. Helen’s nightmares were well-written, and the Furies were properly creepy. There were a couple funny lines. Once I got through the first few chapters, which were especially terrible, I found the story at least compelling enough to finish the novel. But I cannot overstate how awful the writing is, and how baffled I am by the number of positive reviews this book is getting – not to mention how confused I was to find that it inspired a song and a music video. I’m genuinely embarrassed to say I’m tempted to read the sequel, even if it’s just to see how long it takes Helen and Lucas to realize that the only thing keeping them apart is their inability to do basic math.

BUT THERE HAD BETTER BE SOME VAMPIRE SCION BASEBALL, because I mean seriously. At least Twilight is entertaining in its awfulness.

Buy it at: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca

As she searched, she looked down at the fallen architecture and read the names graffitied on its sides. … For what seemed like days she ran her fingers over the names carved into the fragmented bones of ruined loves, stepping around the broken pillars of unkept vows and dusting the headstones in the graveyard of love with her hands. Every kind of death had a resting place in the dry lands.
She walked until her feet bled.