The Selection Series (Books 1-3)

The Selection, The Elite, and The One by Kiera Cass

**SPOILERS**

I have two quick notes to make before we dive in:

  • First, I want to explain why I’m only reading the first three books in this series. I am only invested in Max and Mer, I do not care what happens after the selection is over. In general, I’m not a fan of when offshoots or spin-offs happen that focus on secondary characters or a new wave of characters. I lose interest in these stories, whether it’s a continuation of a book series, a new series, or even when it happens on TV or in movies. That’s why I’m stopping with the third book, because there’s a focus on a new selection and a new main character.
  • Second, I’m reviewing these books together because they’re short and I binged them so it’s hard to separate the three of them in my mind.

Synopsis:

America Singer (Mer) is a five. She comes from a family of performers and artists, and America is known for her signing and music. Fives don’t have the worst lives, but they aren’t rich either. The caste system Illéa is not fair and certainly not equal. Maxon is a one. His family rules the country of Illéa. The Prince has rarely left the castle and has not met many girls, especially around his age. Every time a new heir to the throne becomes of age, a Selection occurs. The Selection consists of thirty-five girls who compete for the Prince’s heart. Prince Maxon (Max) has to decide to whom to give his heart and whether it will be the best choice for his country. In the first book, the thirty-five girls come to compete. Some are vindictive, some don’t want to be there, and some we barely meet. In book two, we meet the Elite. The chosen six vie for Max’s attention in any way they can. In the final book, we see a change in the Elite. They have become close over the months in the castle. Max finally has to make a decision. But it’s not simple. Rebels have emerged who oppose the crown, Selection, and the caste system. Max must choose between his heart and what is best for Illéa.

Review:

I adore these three books—they’re cute, quick reads. However, they are predictable. But, in books like this, the main characters will always be the primary focus and get what they want in the end.

As far as characters go, I do not like Aspen. I think he is toxic! I have no doubt that he thinks he loves Mer, but that doesn’t mean he’s a good person. He drags Mer down and won’t let her give her whole heart over to Max. Any time Mer gets too close to Max, Aspen pops up and ruins it. I also DO NOT ship Aspen and Lucy. Lucy deserves so much better.

Max tries. It’s obvious he’s a teenage boy without a clue, and that makes him likeable. Mer grew up a little over the course of the Selection. Mer cares deeply for her family and wants to destroy the caste system and turn Illéa into an equal country. She’s smart, she wants to learn about the history of Illéa and wants to avoid making the same mistakes. But, there are still some moments of immaturity. I think this is typical for a teenager.

The King is a total prick. He wants to keep control of Max, wants him to choose a girl that won’t make a fool of the country or crown, and someone who is obedient. The Queen either ignores the King’s tactics or is unaware. Instead, she wants a daughter but is a little afraid of getting invested in the girls only to have the ripped away from her.

Out of the Elite, Celeste is the most surprising. In the first two books, she is vain, conniving, and will do anything to win Max over. But we learn that she’s vulnerable and is someone Mer can trust as a true friend. I was most devastated about her death in these novels. Because everyone else’s seems to have serve a purpose. I know that Celeste was worried about growing older and losing her image, this way she is forever young and has a youthful and beautiful image.

Overall, I do recommend this series. I appreciated the intricate history that Cass has weaved through these books. There is much more to this series than a young romance. The characters are phenomenal. It can be difficult to have thirty-five young girls in the same place and give each girl her own distinct personality. Cass more than delivers! This story is beautiful and heart-warming. I think it’s the perfect read to escape for a short while.

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August BOTM Review: Fierce Kingdom

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

I chose Fierce Kingdom as my August BOTMC book. This was the only book this month that grabbed my attention. I was hopeful. This book sounded different and real. However, I just got bored.

Synopsis (taken from the inside cover):

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and of the zoo itself—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines-transform her into the hero she and her son need to stay a step ahead of danger.

A masterful thrill ride and exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and out human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?

Characters:

Joan is a mother to Lincoln. She loves the quiet moments with her son, but her mind wonders to the thousands of other things that consume her daily life as her son plays. She’s protective and resourceful. She’ll do anything to ensure the safety of Lincoln, even if that means putting herself in harms’ way.

Lincoln is a 4-year-old boy who loves imagining scenarios with his plastic toy figurines. He seems like a normal kid who needs “normal kid things,” like food, attention, and safety. He is aware that a threat is looking but he’s more interested in his surroundings at the zoo.

Kailynn is a teenager who is distracted while doing her job. She’s young and would rather be on her phone, but she’s sensible enough to seek shelter and wait. She’s friendly and talks when she’s nervous, but she means well.

Margaret is an older woman who is caught power walking through the zoo. She is a former school teacher who remembers Robby from one of her classes. She appeals to the young boy in Robby, the one who was helpful to her and quiet in her classroom.

Mark & Robby are opposites but both feel like they have something to prove. One’s a better leader, but neither are the kind to call the shots. The other has a troubled past because he’s different, but there is still some good in him.

Plot:

The plot is quite simple in this novel: Joan, her son, and several others are trapped in the zoo while two men with guns hunt them down. The men—Mark and Robby—go into the zoo with guns and start shooting several minutes before the zoo is set to close. Joan wants to protect her son, Lincoln, and does everything she can to ensure he’s safe and content. Joan is disconnected from the outside world and has no way of knowing whether the offenders are still in the zoo or have been captured by police. Joan has to navigate the zoo, placate a small child, and hope that she and her son and escape unscathed.

Reflection:

The book is slow. It takes place over the span of several hours, but reading this book felt like it took days off of my life. The first half dragged on and I became quite frustrated with the pace of the book. I also did not think that the background information of a lot of the characters was necessary to propel the story. I nearly gave up half way through, but instead decided to skim.

After that, I finished the rest of the book within an hour.

One thing I liked about this book was the way it was written. An omniscient narrator tells the story, but I think it may have been a little more gripping if told from the perspective of Joan. However, I did like that the focus was not solely on Joan the entire time. We learn about other people stuck in the zoo as well as the perpetrators. But again, I felt like there was too much focus on the background of all of the characters. Do we really care why Kailynn had her phone taken away? Does it matter that there’s so much focus on Joan’s memories? The answer should be no. This book would be a fairly gripping movie because those background pieces of information wouldn’t be relevant, as they shouldn’t be here.

I was excited about the premise of this book, but I was let down. This story sounded gripping and promising, but instead I rushed through it just to finish it. I wouldn’t call this book a complete dud, but I also wouldn’t suggest you run out and buy it either. If you have a couple hours of time to spare and don’t mind skimming most of the book, then this will be a hit for you.

Convicted

Convicted: A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and An Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship by Jameel McGee & Andrew Collins with Mark Tabb

“Voiceless…I took his voice away…How many more voices have I stolen? Whose am I stifling now? I pray this book gives [Jameel] back his voice.”

Convicted is a true story of Jameel and Andrew as well as the events leading up to, surrounding, and following February 8, 2006. Both men have made decisions that led to their lives intersecting in many ways. As the title infers, this story accounts a cop determined to convict, no matter the cost, and an innocent man who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Jameel and Andrew learn about forgiveness and letting go in different ways.

Jameel is from Benton Harbor, MI, where the population is predominately black, drugs rule the streets, and there is little trust between the people and their police department. On February 8, 2006, Andrew arrested Jameel for possession of drugs with intent to distribute. Andrew was absolutely sure he caught a notorious local drug dealer and he was sure the conviction would hold up. Andrew had a history of pushing the limits of the law, falsifying police reports, and being a dirty cop. But that didn’t matter because he was “cleaning up the streets.”

Most of the book focuses on the events taking place after Jameel’s arrest. We follow Jameel’s trial and time in prison. In prison, Jameel is forced with a tough decision—should be carry on the way he always has? Or should he let people in and share his story? On the other hand, we follow Andrew’s climb to being the top narcotics detective in the city, the choices Andrew made, and his inevitable downfall. However, we also get to see each man make the best of the hand they were dealt and how they overcame the men they were in the past.

Andrew and Jameel’s lives intersect in Benton Harbor in multiple ways. Both men have to decide whether revenge or a clear conscious is the better option. The growth of both men is evident over the course of the several years this novel spans. In finding and listening to God, each man learns that forgiveness is the best course of action and that both men have something to offer Benton Harbor.

Personally, I had some issue with some of the events in this book. For reference, I have a background in legal training. I am a recent law school graduate and have interned in law offices. Seeing someone push the bounds of the law was infuriating at times. I was annoyed by false police reports, stealing from the county, how much attorneys did not zealously advocate for their clients, and how the legal system failed Jameel McGee. There is a lot of distrust in certain communities of police departments and the judicial system, and I hope this book does not further press that issue. Instead, I hope people recognize that those who push the law, whether or not they’re in uniform, are breaking the law and will have to face the consequences.

In this story, we learn of forgiveness and how far love and understanding can take us. I highly recommend this book. It is both eye opening and heart-warming to know that two men who were on the opposite sides of the law, one guilty of committing crimes and the other innocent, have woven two separate stories that come together in an unexpected way. I am impressed with the writing style and the set up of this book. I love seeing both Andrew’s and Jameel’s perspective of the same pivotal event and how each man deals with the fallout from the choices each made.

 

If you would like more information about this book or to learn more about the author, please follow the links provided. This book goes on sale 9/19.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Food for Thought: Failure Doesn’t Define You

I hate the people who subscribe to the notion that failure is not an option. Scratch that, I hate the people who promote this idea and push it on others. We don’t plan to fail, sometimes it just happens. Sometimes things are beyond our control, sometimes we mess up and failure is accidental, and sometimes we psych ourselves out or didn’t put in enough effort. No matter what, we don’t deserve to have someone tell us “failure is not an option.” Duh, dummy. But it can be someone’s reality.

My biggest failure was not passing the Ohio bar exam the first time…or the second. At first, I cried my heart out. I had spent three years in law school studying this stuff and then another three months re-learning. When I failed the first time, I let that failure consume me. My anxiety and depression took over. But I knew everyone expected me to try again, so I did. The second time around, I was more determined. I studied harder, did extra practice essays and exams, and lost myself in the studying process. However, I failed again. I was less than 2.5 points from passing. This time, I was livid. I had mixed feelings about taking the bar exam a third time. It’s an expensive process, but obviously something wasn’t working.

Something changed in me the third time around. I began to question whether or not this was a life path I wanted to pursue. In law school, I always said I never intended to be a practicing attorney. Maybe failing helped guide me in a different direction. I still don’t know if I passed the July bar—results will not be released until the end of October. But I know this time, that failure doesn’t define me.

My advice to you if you do fail: let it happen, absorb it, deal with it, and then let it go. Because our failures help shape us into the people we are or want to become. No one is perfect, despite the front they put up.

I’ll admit that I kept quiet about failing a second time for so long because I thought the world would judge me. There are numerous fantastic attorneys that failed the bar once or more. At the end of the day, a bar license is a bar license, no matter how long it took to receive it.

Unsolicited advice about going to law school and taking the bar: law school is stressful. You might be lost your first year, but it gets better. Find something you love. For me, it was joining moot court, writing appellate briefs, and competing in national competitions. The bar exam may ruin you, though. You spend three months focused solely on studying the law. But remember to take breaks every now and then. You cannot stress yourself out too much or wear yourself too thin. And in the last two weeks leading up to the exam, you will be miserable. I’m sorry. No one tells you how hard the bar exam is when you’re applying to law school. No one tells you all the minute details you’ll need to remember from your 1L year. But, believe in yourself and your capabilities. And if you can’t, I’ll believe in you.

If you hung on this long, thank you. I’ll get back to my original point. I spent months in despair because I thought failing meant that I was not good enough. But you are more than your failures. When you get bogged down with the worst, think about all the things you’ve accomplished to date. Nothing is too small.

I was afraid to reach out to people and talk to someone, because I was embarrassed. I hope no one else feels this way, because it’s horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I didn’t realize that I needed support. Instead, I was just tired of hearing things like “you’ll get it next time,” “you’re smart, you’ll do better next time,” “I heard it’s a hard test, doesn’t everyone fail?” When people who have no idea what you’re going through try to comfort you, they usually only make it worse. And you’ll grow agitated with them or exhausted because you’re over hearing about it. But know, they mean well.

No one experiences failure the same way. We might fail some of the same things—exams, life changing tests, marriages, a job. But no one knows exactly how you feel. How defeated you are, how deflated your ego is, how bad your depression gets. Even if you haven’t hit rock bottom with your failures, don’t let the fear of trying again hold you back.

I’m just trying to remind you that failure doesn’t define us wholly, it’s not my or your only quality in life. And no matter what, you at least have one person who is willing to hear you out or even cry with you—me—no matter how big or small, reach out and I will listen.

The Wild by K Webster: Spoiler Free Review!

The Wild was published earlier this month and has thrown social media into frenzy. I have seen debates and friendships ruined just by expressing interest in The Wild. First, I want to state why I chose to read this book: it’s controversial! Any time there’s a book that causes distress and debate, I want to snatch it up! The book was pulled from Amazon ebooks, I again checked today, and it is also listed as unavailable in paperback format. This is weird because I bought this book from Amazon on August 8, but now it says “out of print—limited availability.” But I think this has to do with the limited quantity of books the publisher (K Webster, btw) had available on amazon. The controversy around this book is crazy to me!

I didn’t read any reviews before reading this book because I didn’t want to have it spoiled for me. I only knew that it was dark and taboo. I do not want to spoil this for anyone else who wants to read it but hasn’t had the chance.

Caveat: I have not read many romance novels, so I don’t have anything to compare this to. Maybe that’s why this book does not faze me?

Synopsis:

I brought them to the wilderness because we couldn’t cope with our reality. The plan was to make a new life that didn’t include heartache. No people. No technology. No interference. Just us. A chance to piece together what was broken. But the wilderness is untamed and harsh. Brutal and unforgiving. It doesn’t give a damn about your feelings. Tragedy lives there too. No escaping the truths that won’t let you go. All you can do is survive where love, no matter how beastly, is the only thing you can truly count on. Confusing. Wrong. Twisted. Beautiful. Sick. Love is wild. And we’re going to set it freeauthorkwebster.com.

Characters and Plot:

For risk of giving spoilers, I’ll be brief. The main characters are the ­­­­a troubled family. Reed decides to move his family from San Francisco, CA to the middle of nowhere Alaska in hopes of starting over and bringing his family back together to what it used to be—functional and happy. But along the way, readers learn about the true nature of the familial relationships and how they have come to be. The story focuses primarily on Reed and Devon and their fight for survival.

Review:

Overall, I do not think this book is well written. I truly think Webster would benefit from cracking open a dictionary because “very” is not a good adjective. The more I sit and think about this book, the more I hate it. And it has NOTHING to do with the subject of the book. The sex scenes aren’t sexy because they’re unimaginative. It reads like a male’s wet dream, not some grand romance. And the warning at the beginning! Are we really cowards and close-minded if we chose not to read this book? I don’t think so. Maybe that’s why I went into this book defensively. I have always considered myself open minded. So the darkness in this book doesn’t bother me. It’s not a very twisted book. Instead, it’s a badly written novel that is entirely predictable.

Here are my other brief qualms and comments about this book:

  • Is all the cursing necessary? It feels like too much
  • The transition trees are cute
  • Did you seriously park your RV ON A CLIFF!!? For real? Idiots
  • I’ve recently gotten into the whole chapters going back and forth on perspective thing, so I do like in here as well
  • The age of consent in Alaska is 16 fyi, so why’s everyone mad?
  • I think Webster had a lot to do with this frenzy—labeling it a banned book, pulling it from alternative websites, I truly do not believe this book is as dark and taboo as the author wants us to believe.

Personally, I think you can skip this book. But if you want to read it, go ahead. There’s nothing incredibly dark, just poorly written scenes and undeveloped characters. I’m not even going to dignify rating this book because it’s not worth it.

 

August TBR

Here’s attempt three at sticking to my reading list! Personally, I find it easier to keep my TBR’s short so that it gives me more time to choose a random book in between the books I’m making myself read. That’s why this month, I’m cutting it down to two books that I must finish.

These books are The Start of Me and You and A Court of Wings and Ruin.

 

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

This book is going to be my vacation read. I’m taking a short beach trip with my sister and this one made the cut. On average, it looks like most readers have given this book 4 stars, which sounds promising. I didn’t even read the description on the back of the book before I bought it. I just love Emery Lord’s writing style and found it on sale for $6 at Target last month, and thought, “well why not?” It’s already packed up in my beach bag. Here’s to hoping it’s as engaging as Emery’s other books!

Synopsis:

“It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?”–goodreads.com

 

 

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

I’ll admit, the first two books in this series ruined me (in a good way). I read A Court of Thorns and Roses over the span of three days. I fell in love with Feyre and I was hooked on her and Tamlin’s love story until the end. I felt a change when Feyre did. Surely, becoming a High Fae changes a woman. The second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, had me up all night determined to finish it in one sitting. My feelings for Tamlin were certainly cemented in hatred. And I became a full member of Team Rhysand. Feyre was becoming a warrior, not some girl locked away in a home because she needed to be “protected.” Following Feyre into the Night Court was beautiful and vivid. Now, I am excited to find time to sit down and read the third book in this series. I’ve had it since the day it came out in May, but I had to finish the other books first. Hopefully, this one keeps me hanging on the edge like the last two.

Synopsis:

“Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places. In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.”–Google Books

 

 

What are you reading this month?

Final Girls/July BOTM Review

 Final Girls by Riley Sager 

**SPOILERS!**

 

I chose this book as one of my July Books of the Month from the BOTMC. And thankfully, I was not disappointed this month! As a preface, I am usually not one to gravitate towards psychological crime thrillers.  But this was an easy and compelling read.

Okay, I’ll admit it. This book fooled me. I did not predict the killer this time. I fell for the trap and assumed it was Sam/Tina. I was shocked in the final chapters. I’m not sure if that’s the reason I liked this book so much… But there definitely are flaws with some of the characters and storyline.

 

The Characters:

Quincy Carpenter is a Final Girl. She was the only survivor left from the Pine Cottage murders. Quincy’s friends were murdered about 10 years ago and Quincy had to learn to survive and move on. The moving on is easy for her–she can’t seem to remember most of the events from that night. Her memory is repressed. Because of this, the readers are left in the dark as well. To help, there are chapters in the book that reflect back on what happened in the cabin. I liked these chapters. They slowly fill in the gaps instead of everything rushing at once. It keeps the suspense coming. And it helps us understand Quincy a little more. However, I don’t understand Quincy’s need to steal things and keep a drawer of these possessions. This character flaw is not explained even though it’s alluded to more than once.

Jeff. Poor Jeff. He’s Quincy’s boyfriend and a Public Defender. He’s delicate but determined. He may not love his job, but he does what he has to. He also supports Quincy. He doesn’t see her as a victim. Jeff and Quincy were building a normal life together. I was rooting for Jeff. Sure, he sometimes seemed safe and boring. But he tried and cared for Quincy.

Lisa is the first Final Girl. She’s a survivor of a sorority house massacre. And most of the story is devoted to Lisa in memory. We’re told fairly early one about her death. First, a suicide. Then ruled a homicide. Quincy is angry and doesn’t understand why Lisa would commit suicide. She stressed being a survivor and doing something with your life. When the news of the homicide breaks, Quincy is again angry. There is not much evidence to determine who killed her. And most of the evidence points to Sam.

Sam, the second Final Girl is the survivor of the “Sack Man” and the incident at the Nightlight Inn. Sam supposedly changed her name to Tina Stone shortly after surviving. Now she’s in Quincy’s life. She’s concerned about Quincy and shaken up about Lisa’s death.

Officer Franklin Cooper has been in Quincy’s life since the night of the murders. Quincy ran into his arms and Coop periodically checks in on her. We aren’t told much about Coop’s life outside of living several hours away in Pennsylvania, Quincy has never been able to extract a lot of information from him. Their meetings focus on Quincy–how she’s doing, where her life is headed, whether or not she has moved passed the Pine Cottage murders because she’s a survivor. However, it’s a giant lie. Coop is “in love” with Quincy, and has been since the night he saw her outside of the cabin. He has a murderous itch he always felt the need to scratch, and his body count is only revealed in the final chapters. Looking back he just feels like a creep and you feel gross for ever sympathizing with him.

 

The Plot Line

Quincy is intent on leading a normal life. She’s the survivor of an event that killed her closest college friends. She was the only one who survived. But why? Her wounds were not even remotely fatal. Some doubt Quincy’s story. She’s conveniently forgotten the details of the murders. Did she kill her friends? Was it the mysterious boy that Janelle invited into the cabin with them? Someone else entirely?

We’re not told the the real killer until the end of the novel. But we are introduced to a name fairly early on. Joe Hanman. But Quincy is reluctant to say it. She comes up with an excuse, that he doesn’t deserve to be named. But it also looks like she’s terrified of remembering. She has repressed these memories for 10 years. Joe is dead. Why should his name be mentioned again?

Quincy and Sam are friends, in a loose meaning of the term. Sam pushes Quincy’s anger, and gets her to act out. Quincy starts questioning who she is and even what she’s capable of. After all, she went after Sam with a knife after a spurt of extreme anger. And Sam is mysterious. She doesn’t give Quincy a lot of information. And she doesn’t divulge any information that Quincy doesn’t already know about the Sack Man and the Nightlight Inn. But Quincy can’t talk about the Pine Cottage, so she doesn’t press too hard.

Quincy slowly starts to realize that something isn’t right with Sam. She doesn’t fully trust her. And she’s eventually told that Tina and Sam are two different people. She’s terrified of who is living in her apartment. But Tina’s motives are not all horrible. Tina does stupid things to push Quincy into remembering-kidnapping, returning her to the cottage, holding a knife to her neck. But it worked!

Quincy’s memory comes rushing back to her. She realizes that Joe could not have overpowered some of her stronger male friends. She remembers crucial information about Coop and Joe until she remembers.

I think I’m most frustrated with Coop. I understand he is in love with Quincy and that’s why he spared her all those years ago. But you can’t have her memory fully return and expect her to be in love with Coop. I was aggravated. Coop treated her as a possession and ensured that Quincy always needed him. He’s sick. And not just because he’s a murderer. Thankfully, Quincy is a fighter. All of that pushing from Tina showed her that much. And Quincy ultimately accepts that she’s a Final Girl but that doesn’t mean she needs to act like a victim. Instead, the Quincy we see in the final chapter is a Quincy Lisa would be proud of.

 

Reflections

Overall, I liked this book. I finished it in two days because I couldn’t put it down. I was invested in Quincy. I needed to know what happened to her ten years ago. I needed to know what was going to happen to Quincy next.

I chose this as my BOTMC book because it was different. I was stuck in a rut of solely reading YA and wanted a change. This book surely delivered.

Rating: 4/5

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