Book Review: The Crown by Kiera Cass

26074181The Crown by Kiera Cass (The Selection #5)

Page Count: 278

Published: May 3rd 2016

When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Note: If you are new to this series, make sure you start at the beginning: The Selection by Kiera Cass is where it all began. If you haven’t read the other books yet, I don’t recommend reading this review because spoilers.

You have been warned.


I hummed and hawed a long time before finally picking up the final book in The Selection series. I know I am not alone in my disappointment with book four, The Heir. How the daughter of America and Maxon could be so unlikeable was shocking. I think I actually took the blow of Eadlyn’s personality flaws better than a lot of readers, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to read book 5 if there wasn’t going to be a lot of character growth, you know? So I put it off.

But this series is so addictive and I really wanted to know how it all turned out and eventually I fell into one of those reading slumps that can only be cured by a favorite fluffy series. A series that pulls you in and owns you until the last page. The Selection has always fit that bill.

I was so relieved to find that The Crown totally delivers that character growth that Eadlyn desperately needed. She comes out of her comfort zone, grows up a lot and even falls in love.

And here’s the honest truth: I think we all have a tendency to be a little self absorbed and oblivious to the actual world around us, especially as teenagers. And usually we grow out of it and start to notice the needs and feelings of the rest of the world. Eadlyn just happened to be extremely self absorbed and grew up in a life designed to spoil her and coddle those tendencies. So let’s be real – she’s pretty normal. She just lives in the spotlight and you know how we love to judge people in the spotlight.

If anything, this character flaw made for an extremely satisfying reading experience for the last book as we get to see her grow and mature when the stakes are high and blossom into a pretty awesome person. Add to this some family drama, some political intrigue and even better: a love story.

So if you are also sitting on the fence with this one, allow me to reassure you: it’s worth the read! 

Book Review: My Lady Jane

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My Lady Jane by coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

Page Count: 512 (hardcover)

Published: June 7, 2016

I read a lot of books. Some of them I really enjoy, some of them I have to kind of drag myself through for one reason or another. Other books literally consume me from start to finish and I find myself gushing to people about them any chance I can get and I get a little foot stampy until they promise me they will read them. My Lady Jane was one of those books. You may think you know the tragically short story of Lady Jane Grey, but I promise you this book will surprise and delight.

5 Signs This Is a 5 Star Read

  1. It took me only a handful of days to read it despite it’s 500+ page count. I’d say on the whole it takes me about 2 weeks to read a 250-300 page book and I finished this one in about a week.
  2. I read it when I probably should have been reading my book club’s pick for the month. It was so good I couldn’t help myself once I’d peeked inside. It definitely turned me into a book junkie staying up way past my bedtime so I could finish just one more chapter. This was one of those books with so many funny lines and OMG moments that necessitated waking up my sleeping husband so I could dish on what had just happened. I’m sure he loved that.
  3. When I first got the book (through OwlCrate) I stood in the kitchen pouring over every inch of the dust jacket and squealing with delight. Most of my favorite books seem to have those 8 million little details lurking around the outside of the book, letting you know that the author and publisher was just as giddy about the book as you are about to be.
  4. I need a good character to root for and this book gave me at least five of them along with two relationships to ship. I was a little bit concerned after reading the first few chapters because I genuinely loved Jane, Edward and Gifford and I really wanted them to all have a happy ending but wasn’t sure how that was possible. Even the fact that some of the people involved occasionally turn into horses and other less than kissable creatures didn’t deter me rooting for them from page 1 to 512 and I wasn’t disappointed.
  5. There are a lot of elements to this story that sound a little absurd when you say them out loud but when you put them all together magic happens. Fiances turn into horses sometimes. Girls are basically old maids by sixteen and sometimes get married to people they have never met. The book starts out as a historical fiction novel, then goes kind of science fantasy, then goes completely off the rails but somehow ends up back in historical fiction territory as long as you ignore all the middle bits. Everyone manages to fall in love with the right person by the end and the moral of the story seems to be listen to your heart and all your problems will  go away. But despite a really crazy premise and a lot of characters to get to know, it all totally comes together and works and you do the rooting and by the end of it you kind of wish it were a true story. Horses and all.

Have you read this one yet? What did you think?

What’s the last 5 star book you fell in love with?

5 Books for the Reluctant Tween Reader

My friend asked me a few weeks ago for book suggestions for her tween niece – her  words were “something that isn’t Divergent” which is apparently the only book that exists in this girl’s world and I know she isn’t alone even though ::shudders:: it’s one of my least favorite YA dystopian novels. I thought I’d share the books I suggested here and open the floor to you guys – what books would you suggest for a tween who doesn’t read much?

Suggestion #1 : The Dystopian Series

book one of the Lunar ChroniclesIt’s probably not surprising to you guys that my first suggestion was The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer since I can’t go more than twelve minutes without mentioning it to someone. I might have impulsively half shrieked it to her immediately and then, embarrassed, pretended my shoes were fascinating.

But the truth is, this series would be high on my list of suggestions for tweens, teens or adults and I think it’s perfect for the reluctant reader because it’s so effortlessly readable and highly prone to binging. You will devour this world once you enter it. And it was an obvious suggestion for a girl who loved Divergent. This is a similar genre but a thousand times better.

I love that all the main characters are the kind of girls you want your girls to emulate. They are not vapid self centered tweetie girls with nothing on their mind but shoes. They are mechanics and hackers and girls who know how to work hard and yes they are boy crazy like woah but they mostly try to keep those feelings in check and mostly they are just about “Do you think he likes me?” and “I bet he’d be fun to kiss,” and not much more. And if they like the first book, there are a half dozen more and short stories to keep them reading.

If they like The Lunar Chronicles, they should also check out: The Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, The Selection by Kiera Cass, and A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Suggestion #2 : The Sweet Love Story

15749186I was hooked on To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han from pretty much the first page. This one is for the boy crazy niece or the painfully shy girl. The one who eats up romantic comedies like it’s her job. And even though it’s cliched, it also feels fresh. And even though the main character is boy crazy, she’s also wonderfully naive and innocent. So you probably won’t get in trouble with your sister for suggesting it.

One of my favorite things about this book, aside from the sweet romances, was the very strong family dynamic – Lara Jean is really close with her father and sisters and it shows. Also – the food – I don’t know many teenagers who cook as often as Lara Jean and have such a sophisticated palate. I would not mind my daughter picking up said traits.

If they like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, they should also check out: the sequel or any of Han’s other books, anything by Jennifer E. Smith or Judy Blume, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Suggestion #3 : The Series About a Group of Friends

517y761mL0L._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_I’m impatiently waiting for the day I can hand over The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick to my daughter. These are kind of the Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High of the current generation – centered around a group of friends who each have their unique personality type, talents and family issues to deal with – the girls are in sixth grade when the stories start and progress through middle school.

This one is also a great read for the moms of daughters. It’s cool from a mom perspective to see the girls grow and change with each book. And you’ll want your daughters to be like these girls – I’m not saying they never get into trouble but they always mean well – you know? Also the book club mentioned in the title? The girls and their moms start a club to read one classic novel a year with each other and discuss it. At first there are eye rolls galore but the girls all grow to love the club and they READ the books and that often leads to reading other books and the author does a great job at making whatever book they are reading set the tone for the book.

If they like The Mother Daughter Book Club series, they should also check out: The Babysitters Club obviously (check out the new graphic novel format), Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (splurge for a gorgeous edition), Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster (mentioned in one of the MDBC books ; free on kindle)

Suggestion #4 : The Book That’s Really Poetry

11527309This is one for the girl who just really doesn’t have the interest in reading a whole book – but happens to like poetry. May B. by Caroline Starr Rose is actually written in poetic form but it’s not stuffy about it like those awful epic poems you had to read in high school. Beautifully written, it’s also #allthefeels with a Little House on the Prairie vibe. And it’s a quick read so it’s not a huge time investment.

If they like May B., they should also check out: Little House in the Big Woods if they were all about that early pioneers vibe ; Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai if they want more poetry ; The Princess Diaries or I Capture the Castle if they are interested in the whole nonconvential book writing styles thing – these two are written like diaries, or you could call them epistolary novels if you want to give a vocab lesson.

Suggestion #5 : The Books That Aren’t Books At All aka Web Shows Based on Classic Novels

Yes, you can trick your tween or teen into experiencing Pride and Prejudice without picking up a book at all. I know, there are movies that are super, but this web show provides the experience in four minute increments, perfect for the short attention span – and it’s a modernized retelling – and it’s funny – and the cast is amazing – and watching Jane Austen retellings is an excellent way to get your kids obsessed with Jane Austen and often leads to them tripping and falling into the actual books. Studies have shown. Probably. If you are like dead set on this being a books only excursion, get the book based on the web show. But if they are super reluctant to even leave the safe confines of youtube, point them this way. And then watch with them. And prepare to laugh and swoon.

If they like the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, they should also check out: Anne With An E, Emma Approved, the actual Pride and Prejudice or movies that are also modern interpretations of classic novels like Clueless (Emma) or 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew).

OK: Your turn! What books would you suggest for the reluctant tween reader?

Book Review: A Knight in Sticky Armor (Doc McStuffins)

Continuing my new video book review series (or: in an attempt to be fair to my children), here is a review for a book that my daughter, five year old BB, read recently. She would like to tell you more about:

13642690A Knight in Sticky Armor (Disney Junior: Doc McStuffins) by Andrea Posner-Sanchez, Mike Wall(Illustrator)

BB thinks this book is hilarious because every time something touched the sticky part of the titular knight, said thing got stuck to him and it was “really funny.”

Savvy parents will notice that this is a story straight out of the Doc McStuffins tv show series so if you have been forced to watch the series, you probably already know who Doc is and what she’s all about.

For the rest of you, a brief description from Amazon:

Doc McStuffins doesn’t just play with her toys—she heals them! Girls ages 2-5 will love getting to know this super-smart six-year-old doctor with her own backyard clinic. This Little Golden Book is based on the new Disney Junior show, Doc McStuffins.

And now, the moment you have all been waiting for, Miss BB’s review:

In summary: You’re guess is as good as mine.

Have you read this book (or seen the tv show)? What did you think?

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins THE FEELS: liked, suspenseful, gritty, bingeable

For the self proclaimed “people watchers” – everyone who has ever found themselves making up stories about strangers on the train or in the park. For anyone who has suffered from substance abuse or known someone who has. For you over there in the corner who just got out of a long relationship and aren’t feeling entirely “over it” – and for the rest of us who maybe just love a good mystery novel or thriller.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been the media darling “it book” of the last several months. Everyone is talking about it. Due to the crazed hype, my book club decided to read it last month and see what all the fuss was about.

First, a description from goodreads.com:

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

This book was like a roller coaster that a friend talked you into riding and you keep wondering if said friend is possibly going to get you killed. Hawkins does a great job of constantly making you suspect basically everybody. Just like the best crime dramas on tv, she tells you what she wants to tell you, when she wants to tell you – making excellent use of her unreliable narrator, she carefully peels away her story with precision timing.

This book was probably too dark for me. It sucked me in and would’t let me go and was just “realistic” enough that it was easy to find myself relating to characters that I’d rather not. But once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Hawkins’ writing is kind of like cocaine – addictive, riddled with poor life choices and prone to making you jumpy (are coke addicts jumpy? I’m just guessing here, having never been one). You’ll feel like that rubber necker on the side of the road who can’t seem to look away from that horrific accident (much like the main character) even though you should probably knock  it off and get to work already.

Some of my fellow book clubbers were less enamored with this one. I don’t blame them, really. Is the prose stunning? Not really. Are there amazing, heroic characters to root for? Nope. Is there a satisfying and happy ending? Ehhhhh. Life lessons to be learned? I suppose we could call the entire book a “don’t do this” manual for a happy life. i.e. if it’s in the book: Don’t do that. 

In spite of these details, I still over all enjoyed it in spite of myself. I totally understand why it’s getting so much hype and I would cautiously recommend it. If you like mysteries and are game for some seedy behavior – proceed with caution and enjoy.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

bookreview-geekmomgeekkid

When my son, currently eight years old, requested that I read the first book in The Underland Chronicles, a series by Suzanne Collins (yes, that Suzanne Collins), I couldn’t resist. He has become something of a Fan Boy where this series is concerned and pretty much eats, sleeps and breathes it. A kid after my own heart.

gregor the overlander by suzanne collins
FEELS: liked, good role models, obsessable

Gregor the Overlander tells the story of eleven year old Gregor who  falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building in an attempt to rescue his 2 year old sister, Boots, who had crawled inside.

When I say ‘fall’ I mean they both literally ‘fell’ into another world called The Underland which exists directly below our world. In this world there is no sunlight, no moonlight. No real communication with the upside world, except for the occasional overlander that might fall through – a fall that most wouldn’t survive.

Gregor and Boots luckily do survive, only to meet a host of giant versions of pests and creepy crawlers that would make most grown men tremble. Gregor doesn’t love the huge talking rats, cockroaches, bats and spiders initially – nor the human village that has been thriving in the Underland for years – but thanks to his diplomatic two year old sister, an ancient prophecy and a lot of luck, he finds his courage and goes on an epic adventure to help save the Underland from war and get him and his sister back to his family in New York City.

It was hard to read this book and not be coming at it from a mother’s angle. I was often fretting over whether or not Gregor and Boots would ever get home to their poor mother. I cheered whenever Gregor showed bravery or compassion that was well beyond his years – he is a terrific brother and brave when it counts, without being foolish. I loved Boots (everyone loves Boots) and how she might have been the bravest and most impressive character in the story.

I loved the continual theme of not judging a book by it’s cover, not judging an entire race based off one member (or vice versa), on learning to walk a mile in each other’s shoes and the benefits of diplomacy over brute force. There were a lot of great lessons to be learned in this story and it’s a great introduction to fantasy and adventure for kids.

My eight year old is a pretty advanced reader and the kind of kid that will hide under the covers with a flashlight to read into the wee hours of the night so he tends to finish each book in one or two days. I read for about a half hour at night and finished it in about a week.  There are 5 books in the series that each sell for roughly $5 so it’s a decent bargain but if you have voracious readers, they’ll burn through them quickly. We’ve been letting my son get one a month to make it last a little longer.

At the end of the book there are questions with the author as well as a fun code for learning to speak like Boots and a writing exercise so kids (or adults) can create their own Underlands. I’m definitely going to encourage my son to try that out if he hasn’t already!

What is your child’s favorite book right now?