The Hidden Oracle (Rick Riordan)

The Hidden Oracle (Rick Riordan)The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mythology
Pages: 376
Source: Library

How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus's favour.

But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go... an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★

My sister is a big fan of Rick Riordan, so every now and again I get the urge to read a few more and understand a little more of her obsession.  I read the original Percy Jackson books years ago, then started the Heroes of Olympus back in 2016, finishing those and then the Kane Chronicles in 2018.  I then hit a bit of a standstill – do I read Magnus Chase yet? Trials of Apollo? Does anyone really know?! Finally I bit the bullet and decided to start with The Hidden Oracle, mostly because it was available through the library.

The Hidden Oracle is the first Trials of Apollo book, and funnily enough it follows Apollo himself, who has recently been turned into a mortal following the events of Blood of Olympus.  Stuck as an unattractive, unskilled mortal isn’t a huge amount of fun for Apollo, who’s used to be being adored and firmly believing he deserves nothing less.  Now, he’s desperately trying to regain Zeus’ favour and stuck helping Meg McCaffrey; a demigod who’s not in the slightest in awe of him, through all the usual chaos and disasters we expect from a Riordan book.

Apollo is, to start with at least, intensely arrogant, whiny and unlikable. Honestly, I had to re-write that sentence more than once to make it family friendly, I found him pretty much unbearable at first.  His ego is like a small planet (anyone else’s brain just go off on a minor Guardians of the Galaxy 2 detour?), and he seems to have nothing to justify that – sure he’s lost his godly powers now and they would have been something to admire, but his personality hasn’t changed and that is distinctly unpleasant.  Having said that, he does grow throughout the book, becoming both less self-obsessed and more funny.  His growth is a bit predictable and borderline-saccharine at times, but then, this is a children’s book after all, and I’m sure if I’d read it when I was younger I wouldn’t notice so much.  The supporting characters, as I’ve noted more than once with Riordan’s books, are almost of more interest to me.  While Meg is interesting, I don’t feel any particular attachment to her yet, but I was thrilled to see some characters from earlier books reappear – Nico DiAngelo, Will Solace, someone-else-I-can’t-mention-because-they-don’t-appear-until-the-end, Chiron, Harley….

The Hidden Oracle feels slightly younger than the Heroes of Olympus books did, which is a little disappointing because the slightly older feel was one of my favourite things about the Heroes of Olympus series. It’s still a very enjoyable, quick read though, and I’ve already reserved the second book, The Burning Prophecy, at the library.  I look forward to getting to know more about the new characters and getting more attached in the next book, as has so far happened with every Riordan series I’ve read!

Buy it? This is one I’d be happy enough to buy and add to my shelves permanently.
In a nutshell: Light, fun read with new characters I’m not yet attached to but sure I will be, and featuring returning characters I love!


One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Skitter (Ezekiel Boone)

Skitter (Ezekiel Boone)Skitter (The Hatching #2) by Ezekiel Boone
on January 1st 1970
Genres: Horror, Post-apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Format: Hardback
Source: Library

Tens of millions of people around the world are dead. Half of China is a nuclear wasteland. Mysterious flesh-eating spiders are marching through Los Angeles, Oslo, Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, and countless other cities. According to scientist Melanie Guyer, however, the spider situation seems to be looking up. Yet in Japan, a giant, truck-sized, glowing egg sack gives a shocking preview of what is to come, even as survivors in Los Angeles panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are trying to invent a spider super weapon, but it’s not clear if it’s too late, because President Stephanie Pilgrim has been forced to enact the plan of last resort: The Spanish Protocol. America, you are on your own.

SPOILER ALERT: As this is book 2 in The Hatching series, there will be spoilers for The Hatching throughout this review.

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★

I was addicted to The Hatching, so I went into Skitter with high hopes – and sadly, the book didn’t live up to those at all.  Looking at the goodreads reviews, I’m definitely in the minority with my opinion, so you might love it, but I thought it was a classic case of middle book syndrome.  The Hatching was great – the problem started seemingly small, and rapidly expanded.  We saw what seemed like mostly unrelated characters discover the problem and try to cope with it, revealing their possible connections in the process.  It was fast-paced, it was creepy, and it went straight onto my list of instant-favourite-post-apocalyptic books.

And then came Skitter.  I don’t even really know where to start reviewing this, except that to say that somehow for a dramatic book, I feel like this was a case of running in place without getting anywhere.  I feel like the only purpose of the book was to take the big disaster of book 1, and make it a HUGE CATASTROPHE ready for book 3.  Aside from a few fun interactions between characters, I felt like basically everything in this book could have been accomplished just as easily with a time-jump between the first book and the last, cutting this one out altogether.  Instead, we had a book that felt mostly like filler, and given how much I loved the first one, it was very disappointing for this one to feel like, to be frank, a bit of a waste of time.  I’ll still be picking up book three, but I do feel like perhaps Mr Boone/the publishers felt this had to be a trilogy because that’s what sells, when really it would have been a fantastic duology.  On the plus side, it’s a quick read, I just didn’t feel like I got much out of it.

Review: Am I Normal Yet?

Review: Am I Normal Yet?Am I Normal Yet? (The Spinster Club, #1) by Holly Bourne
Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd on August 1st 2015
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 434
Format: ebook
Source: Library

All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

I don’t really remember when I first spotted Am I normal yet? but the series has been on my radar for a long time now.  I have to admit, the cover for the second book in the series, How Hard Can love be? definitely put me off a bit.  I don’t read a lot of contemporary – although actually, every time I say this I realise I read more than I thought I did (nearly 10% of my read so far this year!).  It’s definitely not a favourite genre though, and I’m pretty picky about what I pick up, and How Hard Can love be? made me think of a very light, very romance-heavy teen drama, which isn’t really my favourite thing, so I kept putting it off.  I then ended up with a proof of What’s a Girl Gotta Do which I couldn’t resist starting and ending up loving (review to come!).  Having been suitably impressed, this year I’m finally getting around to going back and reading the earlier books in the series.

This book left me with a lot of feelings.  Evie’s story hooked me pretty much straight away, and I finished Am I Normal Yet? the same day I picked it up, which is a pretty good indicator of how much I enjoyed it.  I found Evie immensely likable, and believable.  Although I couldn’t really see what she liked about Guy, I did find her feelings believable, and I liked how it wasn’t the standard ‘girl falls in love with first boy she dates and then they all lived happily ever after’.  It was very refreshing to see a story – particularly a teen story – with more interesting and complicated relationships than either a) just one love interest where everything works out perfectly, or b) a brief paragraph at the beginning that vaguely mentions having a past relationship before the ‘real’ love interest is introduced and then everything works out perfectly.  I liked the messy, realistic, chaotic teen relationships in this a lot more!  I also loved the way Evie’s OCD was portrayed and talked about – the recovery diary entries, the counselling sessions, the medication dosages, the Bad Thoughts (and Worse Thoughts), all really helped you to understand what Evie was thinking and feeling and how she was dealing – or in some cases not dealing – with things.  I felt like Holly Bourne really nailed getting you into Evie’s head, because for me at least this was the kind of book that literally took you on an emotional rollercoaster, from giggles to tears and back with a whole lot of other emotions on the way.  I did feel a little emotionally wrung-out afterwards!

While I loved Evie, the mental-health representation and the relationships, the book definitely wasn’t perfect.  While I liked Amber and Lottie too, their incessant bitching about Jane did begin to grate after a while.  I also occasionally felt like their feminism was a bit too forced, with Lottie just giving these big info-dumps, and with an ongoing underlying message of ‘you can’t be a feminist and still like boys’, which I didn’t enjoy.   There were also a couple of comments that just didn’t quite sit right from where I’m sitting like “periods are what make us girls“.  Not particularly inclusive…

Having said all that, while there were things I didn’t like, I ultimately did really enjoy the book, and it is one I’d happily read again, so it just about squeaks through to the four stars.  Anna’s review where she says “Bourne told us about feminism, but she showed us about mental illness” is absolutely spot on I think.  Ultimately it was Evie, her OCD and the way we go through the emotional wringer with her that I loved about this book, and while the feminism side was okay, it wasn’t on the same level, and ultimately weakened the book a little.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Review: A Taste Of You

A Taste of You: The Epicurean Series Book 1 by Sorcha Grace
Published by Everafter Romance on May 17th 2013
Genres: Erotica, Love & Romance
Pages: 374
Format: eARC
Source: Library

A young food photographer's appetites are awakened when she is swept off her feet by a handsome billionaire gourmand. Beautiful and talented Catherine Kelly is starting over as a food photographer in Chicago. With her painful past buried in California, she's focused on her career and is hungry for little else. Until she meets a wealthy bachelor with arresting blue-grey eyes filled with enough tragedy to match her own. William Lambourne is rich, powerful, and gorgeous--and as talented in the kitchen as he is in the bedroom. From the moment they meet, William is determined to discover the perfect recipe to unlock Cat's resolve, awaken her senses, and make her his own. Book 1 in The Epicurean series, A TASTE OF YOU will leave you hungry...for more!

Although I generally don’t like the idea of guilty pleasure books – from where I’m sitting, if you’re reading, who cares what it is?! – I can’t ever seem to stop myself from feeling a little guilty about the occasional erotic romance I pick up.  I feel about them the same way I do about ready meals – I feel like I should want to pick up something more nutritious, more healthy, less processed and yet some days, I just want to eat the ready meal (actually this isn’t a great analogy because I frequently want to eat the ready meal and only occasionally get drawn in by the erotic romance, but the idea is the same).

I pretty much knew when I decided to start A Taste of You that it would be very formulaic – insecure woman meets rich, mysterious, secretive man, and the two get involved in a controlling relationship which alternates between awesome sex and terrible communication.  I know the stories are often repetitve, but I just can’t help but pick one up every now and again, and although A Taste of You follows that basic formula, I think it’s one of the better ones.

It thrilled me to think that this man wanted me.  It made me feel sexy and powerful, even though I was completely at his mercy.

Cat Kelley is interesting: she has hobbies, passions, friends.  She has a history.  She’s had relationships – successful relationships – before she ever meets William Lambourne, so she sees the red flags just as we do, instead of being totally naive.  William Lambourne fits the same mould as Christian Grey etc, although we get to see a little bit of personality shine through towards the end of the book which I liked.  Their will-they-won’t-they relationship kept me engrossed, even though some of Cat’s moments of insecurity did make me want to shake her occasionally.  Their back stories are both interesting, the sex-scenes are steamy, and the food descriptions both in and out of the kitchen are evocative, adding an extra dimension to help A Taste of You stand out.

A Taste Of You delivers exactly what you expect and I flew through it in a couple of days.  It was enjoyable enough, but even with the cliffhanger ending (which sadly, I thought was very predictable!), I probably won’t be reading the sequel unless I can find it at the library.

Divergent (Veronica Roth)

Divergent (Veronica Roth)Divergent Series: Divergent #1
on 7-11-2013
Genres: Dystopia
Pages: 489
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★

My opinion:
I picked this up because I’ve heard a lot about it (particularly in comparison to The Hunger Games) and I like dystopian fiction.

There are definitely similarities between this and HG; dystopian world, female protagonist, personal growth, romance and the scene set for an uprising.

HG Difference: Tris chose to leave for another faction, (arguably selfishness), whilst Katniss chose to save her sister (selflessly).  I think that makes Tris a believable character – how many of us have never made a selfish decision?

“We should think of our family…But.  But we must also think of ourselves.” Pg 36.

Some readers object to the five factions as arbitrary segregation and unbelievable. However, the logic behind the factions (revealed very briefly later on) is as believable as the HG concept, I think.

Negative reviews also object to the ‘brave’ acts committed by the Dauntless – many are simply stupid.  This is one criticism I absolutely agree with, however the story suggests Dauntless has deviated from the ideal: stupid thrill-seeking is not the aim, but is plot-relevant.

I enjoyed Divergent, but I don’t know if it’ll make my Top #10 Reads this year.  Probably the Top #20 though.

Buy it? I’d buy it on a deal – 2 for £7, buy 2 get 1 free etc.
In a nutshell: A quick, easy, enjoyable read, worth a look given the hype.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star