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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! 

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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?

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BOOK REVIEW: THE ONE BY KIERA CASS

fangirlingjen

the one by kiera cassI first read The Selection back in July 2013, in nearly one sitting. It was a feverish love affair from the start and I think it took me less than three days to finish it. I downloaded the following book, The Elite and her novella, The Prince before even finishing the first book and devoured them in quick succession. I then basically had to sit on my hands and pout for almost an entire year before finally getting my hands on a copy of the final book in the series (not including a novella or two), The One.

I am not alone in my struggle to wait patiently and I was totally like a kid at Christmas when I finally purchased and began to read the beloved and much awaited final installment. Before I get to my review, here’s a quick description from goodreads:

For the four girls who remain at the palace, the friendships they’ve formed, rivalries they’ve struggled with and dangers they’ve faced have bound them to each other for the rest of their lives.

Now, the time has come for one winner to be chosen.

America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown – or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the competition approaches its end and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realises just how much she stands to lose – and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.

So. A year later and nothing has changed for me. Like the previous books in this series, it was addictive and completely sucked me in. Not only did I literally set aside the book I was currently reading for this one, I stayed up way too late and ignored a few chores during the day to enjoy it. There is just something about Cass’s writing style that lends itself to binge reading. It’s not a matter of long flowy descriptive chapters to make English majors swoon or complex plot developments though there are a fair share of those. It’s more like that incredibly compelling show on tv that you wait for all week and love in a nearly guilty pleasure kind of way.

The thing that truly makes these books succeed is the character development and the compelling plot. Cass does a great job making you truly CARE about these people and their futures. It has a compelling love story (or two) and enough tragedies and intrigue and action to keep you coming back for more. And it boasts a dystopian story that manages to feel fresh and avoid seeming over done and cliched. I’m sure on a number of levels that it does play off of other dystopian stories but it doesn’t feel that way while you’re reading it.

In some ways the end of the book felt a little too easy, as though half the obstacles facing the characters throughout the series just sort of magically worked themselves out so that everything could be tied neatly with a bow. But overall I think this is actually fitting. Sometimes when one thing comes together, everything else falls into place and frankly some story lines and struggles don’t necessarily merit the same amount of follow through – the book might have felt cluttered and overdone if Cass had taken the time to hash everything out.

One thing I was struck by was the feeling of hope and optimism that radiate from this story, which is rare for a dystopian story but I think much needed. Though America and the rest of the characters certainly deal with their fare share of tragedy, heartbreak and a bit of teen angst, they seem to come back to a feeling of hope and a belief that they truly can change the world which I think is much healthier than “everything sucks and everyone is corrupt eventually” – a sentiment that I’ve felt pretty firmly in a lot of the other dystopian books lately.

In short: LOVED. LOVED. LOVED.

This review is cross blogged at Jen’s personal blog.

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books

Book Review: Eleanor and Park

fangirlingjen

eleanorandparkI just finished reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, she of Fangirl fame (see my review of Fangirl here). Actually she wrote Eleanor & Park first so most people in the know probably know her for this book first and foremost and then consequently also Fangirl. Also I’ve spent way too much time thinking about how to begin this review.

A lot of people before me have emphatically praised this book. After readingFangirl / basically devouring it whole, I was anxious to read this one, but also a little nervous that it somehow wouldn’t live up to the hype and wouldn’t be the same.

My conclusion after finishing it: It wasn’t the same but it definitely lives up to the hype. “Wasn’t the same” by the way, is a compliment. This book stands firmly on it’s own and doesn’t really beg to be compared to her other books. It’s just as well written with another cast of perfectly imperfect characters for you to root for relentlessly. But it doesn’t feel like a Rainbow Rowell formula where she inserts A + B, adds C and divides by X, you know?

Here’s a quick description of the book courtesy of  goodreads.com:

“Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.”

Set in the 80’s and telling a story of two misfit teens who fall reluctantly in love – this book has the ability to make readers nostalgically remember being just like Eleanor or Park once. Unless you are a teenager right now while reading it and then you’ll just go “OMG, me, too Rainbow!” At least where their basic personalities and normal teenage lives are concerned.

Like Fangirl, this book is also more than just a cute little teen love story. These characters are dealing with some serious stuff, most of which I can’t really relate to but emphasized with deeply. Like sometimes when I was not reading because life, dinner, grocery shopping, small needy children, etc. I found myself almost worried about the book – like if I didn’t start reading again soon, lord only knows what might happen to Eleanor while I’m gone. I found myself quickly wrapped up in their story much the same way I was with Fangirl to the point of finally just giving into the urge to sit around reading all day until it was done.

Which means I’m now in bookish withdrawals so send cookies, a mix tape and a good book pronto, kay?

WHAT’S THE LAST GREAT BOOK YOU READ?

This was cross posted at Jen’s personal blog.

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books

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirlingjen

fangirlI am fangirling you could say over Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Everyone who is friends with me on Facebook saw that made abundantly clear when I spent 24 hours absolutely lost in the book, only coming up for air long enough to spazz out about it online for a few minutes before diving back in (okay and a few times I fed my children and acknowledged my dog, briefly).

This is a pretty appropriate book I think to respond this way to as the subject matter is all about being so hooked on a book that you would choose it over reality, but it’s also about SO MUCH MORE.

I feel like this book was tailor made for me – like the author looked into my soul and spilled the contents out on paper through the narrative of one Cather Avery, a girl with severe social anxiety, who is utterly devoted to the fandom of the Simon Snow series which will sound very much like Harry Potter to basically everybody.

When she’s not busy being a twin sister and shutin, she’s writing legendarily famous fanfiction that many people claim is better than the original. Oh also – she just started college to be an English Major and is kinda scared out of her mind at the prospect of living somewhere new and not sharing a room with her more outspoken, fun loving twin. And did I mention the social anxiety? It’s a fairly crippling problem throughout the book for her.

In many ways, this is your fairly standard coming of age story / love story. Certain aspects read as predictable in the way that if the author didn’t write it that way it simply wouldn’t work because this is how it goes. But the characters are so original and soooooo modern and so deeply formed that you can’t help but root for them, especially Cath. And I have left out SO MUCH about the plot because if I told you all the amazing, I’d basically be sitting here telling you the whole story.

This book reminded me of what it’s like to be a college student, a teenager, a girl in love for the first time, a writer, a daughter, a reader, a nerd, an often extremely anxious person – luckily not to the extreme of Cath, but enough that I read her struggles and totally “got” it and felt I understood her deeply. This book also taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know and opened me up to worlds and ideas I hadn’t yet considered. And it made me want to read some  fan fiction, like, immediately.

This book makes me want to blather on incessantly and shove copies of the books in peoples faces and just stamp my foot and wait for them to be done reading so we can all collectively go, “I know, right??????” together and then probably all retreat back into our own respective corners and over think whether or not we’ve made enough eye contact and how many minutes has it been since we spoke and did we lock the car door? I can’t remember but I’d probably better get up and check just to be sure…

Anyone else fangirling hard over Fangirl? Squealing and commentary totally welcome in the comments section.

This was cross posted at Jen’s personal blog.