Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Title: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Published: April 2012
Published By: HarperTeen
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: YA Lit, Dystopian, Romance
Date Read: April 29 2015
Rating: 5/5

Set in the fictional country of Illea, Kiera Cass’s The Selection is being compared to the reality television show The Bachelor, but with a royal twist, in a dystopian world. In a country that has its population divided up into numbers, called castes our main character America Singer, a musician is considered a 5. Although her family has had their struggles, she is content with her life and eager to make a future for herself and beau Aspen despite the fact that he is from a lower (more poor) caste than she is from. However when it is announced that the Prince is looking to marry, the opportunity is open for all girls of a certain age to join the competition of The Selection. Apsen insists that America sign up in hopes for a better life for her and her family and in turn breaks up with her once she has been chosen to represent their hometown. America’s life is turned upside down as she makes the move, along with 34 other girls to the palace. Very much broken hearted and unsure of her future she and Prince Maxon build a friendship together as the number of Selected get smaller. 

I have been hearing so much hype about this series, since it was first released and I was intrigued by the idea of a royal Bachelor competition. However once I learned that it was also set in a dystopian time period I was a bit put off. The reason for this is because that type of genre really doesn’t interest me. When The Selection was picked for April’s book club pick in one of the GoodReads groups I belong to, my curiosity got the better of me. In a bid to participate more in discussions I picked up a copy from my local library. However I must say that I was very leery going into the story because I didn’t think I would like it.

Now after just finishing the final page, I am so thankful that I took the opportunity to give this book a shot. Why, you ask? Because I loved it! I just couldn’t put this book down. Going in with such low expectations, I didn’t expect to love it so much. 

Set in a dystopian time period, I was worried that there would be more of a science fiction aspect to the story, with perhaps aliens or robots. But there wasn’t. I was surprised that I found myself interested in what America’s world looked like. Yet at the same time I think that it was good the author didn’t go too far into detail on this because it might have put me off from enjoying the rest of the story. 

As a teenager I was a big fan of Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries Series, so I believe this is one of the reasons why I enjoyed The Selection so much. It took an ordinary young woman and gave her a glimpse of royalty. The descriptions of the palace and its gardens were beautiful, despite the ruins throughout the country. Reading of the makeovers the girls received and their glamorous wardrobe is a dream for many. I couldn’t help but get sucked in. America’s love triangle between Prince Maxon and Aspen was interesting and the rebel attacks kept the story exciting. 

I had read (or watched) reviews of The Selection where other bloggers found America to be extremely annoying, but I didn’t find her to be so bad. Sure she forgot herself and wasn’t as respectful of the Prince as she could have been, but I think she was just typical for her age. 

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy chick-lit for young adults. For those who may not be interested in the dystopian genre, I’d say for them to give it a shot. I did and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve very much looking forward to reading the next books in this series.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Title: Wedding Night
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Published: April 2013
Published By: The Dial Press
Format Read: eBook, Kobo
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Chick-Lit, Humor
Date Read: April 26 2015
Rating: 3.5/5

When Lottie’s boyfriend Richard invites her to a nice intimate restaurant with a surprise for her, she immediately assumes that he is finally going to propose. Past the age of 30, she is more than ready to walk down the aisle and start a family, something she thought he would want too. Unfortunately when the surprise turns out to be a holiday, Lottie is crushed and ends their relationship right then and there. Meanwhile after hearing the news of the breakup, Fliss (Lottie’s older sister) prepares for her meltdown. You see, Lottie is known to make drastic decisions after a bad breakup, anywhere from joining a cult to regrettable piercings. This time, Fliss didn’t know what to expect. Then one day not long after ending things with Richard, Lottie is reunited with a blast from her past: Ben an old boyfriend from a summer 15 years earlier in Greece. He reminds her of an agreement they once made: if they were still both unmarried at 30, they would marry each other! As Lottie and Ben prepare for their big day, Fliss and best man Lorcan are trying to do everything in their power to stop the marriage. Even if it includes following the couple back to Ikonos Greece and the place they met. 

Wedding Night is a fast moving novel that alternates between the two sisters perspectives. It is a typical Kinsella story that is realistically unrealistic, yet humorous enough to allow for the reader to find it enjoyable. There were several laugh out loud moments, most specifically when Fliss makes a hot air balloon for her son’s school project using a condom and several mentions of “putting the sausage in the cupcake.” Those examples still have me giggling days later. The setting in Ikonos Greece sounded absolutely beautiful, a perfect place for a honeymoon or a summer abroad. 

I am beginning to notice that many of this authors characters are very much alike or at least they have very similar characteristics and personalities. I don’t think that this will stop me from reading more of her novels, but it would be nice to have some variation. 

Now that I am looking back on the previous Sophie Kinsella books I’ve read, I realise that I haven’t rated any of them over 3.5 stars. Although they aren’t my absolutely favourite books, I would rank her among my favourite authors and would recommend them to others. Strange isn’t it? One thing about this author is that whenever I see a book with her name, I pick it up or add it to my TBR list. I do this because I know that regardless of its plotline, I will be entertained. Although they won't blow you away, Kinsella's books are worth reading.

I would recommend Wedding Night to chick-lit lovers, looking for a quick beach read.

Friday, April 24, 2015

In the Company of Secrets (Postcards from Pullman #1) by Judith McCoy Miller

Title: In the Company of Secrets (Postcards from Pullman #1)
Author: Judith McCoy Miller
Published: April 2007
Published By: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: Kindle for PC
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Date Read: April 25 2015
Rating: 2.5/5

In an attempt to get away from a chef who tries to sexually abuse her, Olivia Mott a poor scullery maid decides to flee to America to start over. When the Earl of Lanshire’s daughter, Lady Charlotte learns of Olivia’s plans, she demands to go as well. What the Earl and Countess don’t know is that their daughter is with child, after a romance with a visiting guest Randolph Morgan. An investor and stockholder for the Pullman company, Charlotte believes he is living in the town of the same name, so she and Olivia set off for Chicago.  Armed with a forged letter of reference Olivia secures a job working in the kitchen of The Hotel Florence under Chef Rene. Throughout the book she wrestles with the shame of lying and her faith. While Olivia is bedazzled with the town of Pullman, believing that its creator has his employee’s best interests in mind, Frank (a new friend and love interest) knows otherwise. Readers learn that those who rent and live within the town have more job security than those who work for Pullman, but live elsewhere. Basically money being paid to the employee’s is just being circulated back through the company in a capitalist system. Control means profit. Even the library is only available to residents after a mandatory yearly donation is made. Meanwhile Olivia is being wooed by another suitor: Mr Howard, the very man who hired her. Although she is falling for Fred, she is reluctant to turn down Mr. Howard as she fears the loss of her job.

In the Company of Secrets had all the makings of a book that I would enjoy: a historical setting, an interesting synopsis and characters I would imagine to be strong willed and determined. Unfortunately this first book in the Postcards from Pullman series missed the mark. 

In any other historical fiction book I’ve read where the characters emigrate from their home country to another, they were hopeful and eager to start a new life for themselves. I didn’t feel this excitement with Olivia. Clearly she was from a lower class, previously being a scullery maid, so I would imagine that the housing situation she obtained in Pullman was better than she could have ever afforded before. She didn’t seem thankful of her new circumstances, only a nervous wreck about the web of lies she and Charlotte had spun. It seemed as if the author spent more time trying to convey Olivia’s paranoia than she did developing the plot.

Olivia’s charade would have gone a lot smoother had she been a good liar. However before I reached the half way mark, I was getting pretty annoyed with her. I didn’t feel as if the reader got a sense of who she was beyond all the lies. 

Just when I would think that something exciting will happen or that all her lies will come out, she is let off and the effect fizzles out. Other conflicts were resolved far too quickly to make any impact. With such a strong opening, where Chef Mallard is accosting Olivia, I thought that this darker plotline would continue throughout the book. Instead it became as naïve as its main character. 

Aside from the historic time period, I did find it interesting learning about the town of Pullman. I had previously heard of Pullman railcars before, but until I read In the Company of Secrets, I did not know that there was a town created by the company. The corruption mentioned by Fred and hinted at throughout the book could have been an opportunity for the author to make the storyline come across as more sinister, in turn adding some spice to the plot. 

The ending left many loose ends, however this paves the way for the second installment which is called Whispers Along the Rails. After reading the reviews on Goodreads, it seems as if Olivia hasn’t evolved much and is as naïve as ever. Although the mention of  “sinister” happenings at Pullman and the union organizations interest me, I don’t think that I will continue on with this trilogy.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Disney Princess Book Tag

The Disney Princess Book Tag is brand new and was created by my blogger friend Soudha over at Of Stacks and Cups. 

Growing up I loved Disney movies just like everyone else. My absolute favourite Disney movie (to this day) is Pocahontas, a film I used to watch over and over again. Although it isn’t my all time favourite soundtrack (that award goes to The Lion King), it still ranks high on my list. I can still remember the huge Pocahontas poster I had hung on my bedroom wall.
However I admit that I am a bit behind on watching some of the newer released Disney movies. I have yet to see The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Brave or Frozen, but this tag just might be the kick in the butt for me to make the time to watch them. 

Without further ado here is my response to The Disney Princess Book Tag:

Snow White: Name your favourite classic

Heidi by Johanna Spyri: A book I read several times as a child in two different formats: The Little Golden Books and a longer novel version. Heidi is the classic story about a young orphaned girl who is sent to live in the Alps with her grandfather. 

Cinderella: Name a book that kept you reading well past your bedtime

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah: Winter Garden is the first book I’ve read by this author and it certainly wouldn’t be my last. It was quite slow and cold (like its title) to begin with but the more I learned, the more I was sucked into the story. This book follows two sisters whose father’s dying wish was for them to listen to their mother’s Russian “fairy tale”. 

Aurora: Name your favourite classic romance

Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery (Anne and Gilbert): I admit that I haven’t read and loved too many classic books, so this pairing probably wouldn’t win my most favourite romance of all time, but they would be certainly be included.  From the early days when he called her “carrots” to their “house of dreams” and eventual brood of children, this love story has been a favourite for generations. 

Ariel: Name a book that’s about making sacrifices and fighting for your dreams

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Skeeter): Sacrificing her safety and social standing, Skeeter works with alongside the local help (African American maids) to tell their story of working in the homes of prominent Mississippi white families and raising their children. This book is set during the turbulent civil rights movement in the early 1960’s. I’d also like to add that although I enjoyed the book this is one of the very few examples were the movie was even better.

Belle: Name a book with a smart and independent character:

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (Aminata): Kidnapped as a child and shipped from her home in Africa to the American south, Aminata is sold into slavery. Suffering loss and hardships that seems never ending, she eventually becomes free. With her literary skills that she secretly obtained, Aminata works to help other freed slaves start a life in Nova Scotia before returning to Africa and working for the Abolitionists. The strength and perseverance of this character is something I won’t soon forget. 

Jasmine: Name a book with a character who challenged the social conventions of his or her world:

Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann (Olive):  In the early 1900’s when a woman was expected to marry and start a family, not begin a career in a world run by men, Olive sets out to make her own way. After the death of her father she is determined to become a buyer for a New York department store, meanwhile she can’t even keep a room at a hotel without being in the company of her father or a husband. In addition to this character, my previous responses of Aminata (The Book of Negroes) and Skeeter (The Help) would fit into this category as well. 

Pocahontas: Name a book whose ending was a roller coaster of emotions:

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks: I admit that most of the Nicholas Sparks books I’ve read leave me blubbering like a baby and Dear John is no exception. A couple being separated by war after the events of 9/11 was heartbreaking. Without giving anything away, the ending left me throwing my hands up in the air and saying “WHHHHAT?!”.

Mulan: Name a book with a kick-ass female character:

Fanny: Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones by Erica Jong (Fanny): It has been a few years since I read this book, but if female pirates doesn’t scream kick-ass, I don’t know what does. 

Tiana: Name a book that features a hardworking, self-made female character:

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (Georgia): In an attempt to earn some money before the birth of her daughter, Georgia begins selling her knitted creations. This would eventually lead the single mother to open her own yarn shop in the heart of New York City. Even though this novel wasn’t a particular favourite of mine, I can’t help but admire this character for her independence. 

Rapunzel: Name a book that features an artist:

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (Lena): It isn’t until the third book in the series (Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood) that Lena’s art begins to take a lead in her plotline. Even though her parents want her to take a different path, she is determined to attend art school. 

Merida: Name a book that features a mother-daughter relationship:

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (Dorothy and Laurel): This book tells the story of an actress named Laurel Nicholson, as she tries to uncover the secrets of her dying mothers past. Laurel's curiosity stems from an incident she witnessed over 50 years before involving a man Dorothy (Laurel's mother) once knew.

Anna and Elsa: Name a relationship that features a great relationship between siblings:

Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin (Elin, Kirsten and Sofia):  After the death of both parents, Elin Carlson feels she must protect her younger sisters from the advances of their uncle and leave their beloved farm in Sweden. With the help of another uncle, Elin arranges for the three young women to immigrate to America, in hopes for a better life.

Well that was more challenging than I thought it would be. I second guessed myself on almost all of the questions and went over my goodreads shelves over and over again. I had fun doing it though because it gave me a chance to reminisce over books that I read several years ago.
Don’t forget to check out the original posting of this tag on Soudha’s blog here.
I would like to tag anyone who takes the time to read my post. Don’t forget to link back to the original and leave me your link in the comments. 

Check out my new facebook page:

Disclaimer: I do not own or claim to own any of the pictures included in this post.
Disney pictures from:
Book covers from: