Book Review–The Selection by Kiera Cass

brotw

This is the 79th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Published April 24th, 2012

 

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

—-

***The following review MAY contain slight spoilers***

I was really hesitant to read this not only because of all the drama surrounding it, but also because of the negative reviews. But it sounded interesting and yes, I do judge books by covers (hard not to when you are an artist and this one is absolutely gorgeous) so I decided to give it a shot.

I ended up really liking this one. The writing isn’t spectacular, but it was easy to read and had nice descriptions and dialogue. The characters were mostly well developed, especially the main character, America. However, I really dislike her name. I know her name is supposed to have all this great meaning behind it, but I still don’t care for it. I can live with it, though.

The plot itself is good. Cliche, but good. I’m always a sucker for stories in which someone poor finds themselves in a rich setting, with a chance to become wealthy. Cass did an okay job with the world building, it also left me with a lot of questions. I’m hoping that all of my questions will be answered within the next books. I especially want to know what happened to Halloween.

I liked the relationships between America and her family, Marlee, and her maids. They felt genuine. I also hope that Marlee sticks around for a while because I liked her and want to know more about what she’s hiding.

The love triangle in this wasn’t bad, but honestly felt a bit weak. Maybe it’s because I didn’t warm up to Aspen. He kind of came off as jerk to me throughout most of the book. I loved Prince Maxxon, though. He was sweet and thoughtful but also wasn’t perfect. The slow chemistry between him and America is much more enjoyable than between her and Aspen.

The synopsis compares this book to The Hunger Games and The Bachelor. I have never seen The Bachelor, but the book did have a Hunger Games feel to it that I enjoyed. I’m looking forward to reading the next two books, plus the novellas. If you like stories about royalty, princesses and princes, romance, rich surroundings, poor characters who have a chance to become rich, and fairytales, you’ll probably like this.

 

5stars

 

jncname

Book Review–One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

brotw

Apologies for the delay, guys. Had difficulties getting to my computer over the holidays. I hope that you had a safe and wonderful holiday! Going to try to get all my reviews caught up by the 31st so bear with me!

This is the 78th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Published May 10th, 2012

 

Twelve-year-old Carley Connors can take a lot. Growing up in Las Vegas with her fun-loving mother, she’s learned to be tough. But she never expected a betrayal that would land her in a foster care. When she’s placed with the Murphys, a lively family with three boys, she’s blindsided. Do happy families really exist? Carley knows she could never belong in their world, so she keeps her distance.

It’s easy to stay suspicious of Daniel, the brother who is almost her age and is resentful she’s there. But Mrs. Murphy makes her feel heard and seen for the first time, and the two younger boys seem determinded to work their way into her heart. Before she knows it, Carley is protected the boys from a neighbourhood bullly and even teaching Daniel how to play basketball. Then just when she’s feeling like she could truly be one of the Murphys, news from her mother shakes her world.

—-

I knew from the first few chapters that I would end up liking this book–became a fast, enjoyable read. It revolves around a twelve-year-old girl who is put into a foster family until her mother, who is in the hospital from an abusive situation, gets better.

I haven’t read many books dealing with this situation, but it seemed to be pretty accurate, especially when it came to the main character’s reactions. It was easy to sympathize for poor Carley. Even when she was being bratty, I could still understand that she was reacting this way out of pain. I really liked her character’s development. I almost teared up near the end.

The Murphys were portrayed as the family that Carley never had, but who still had their own issues. I particularly liked Mrs. Murphy and the two youngest boys, though I did like the relationship between Mr. Murphy and Carley’s friend (it was amusing). Carley and Toni also had an interesting relationship that I enjoyed seeing change.

I have to admit that I’d hoped the ending would be different, but it still ended on a good note. It makes me wish that this book had a sequel or was part of a series–it would be cool to see Carley as she ages.

A great book for young readers that explores what it really means to love unconditionally.

4stars

jncname

Book Review–Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden: Summer of 1994 by Otessa Marie Ghadar

brotw

This is the 77th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden: Summer of 1994 by Otessa Marie Ghadar
Published December 2012

 

You know that summer, right… the summer where EVERYTHING changed? Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden (OJBG) is that summer. And Bishop’s Garden is the place where it all happens. It’s the summer of ’94 and naive and rebellious teens are engaging in all kinds of underage tomfoolery. Think grunge, Doc Martens, raves, the invincibility of youth, and epic first loves.

This book details the lives of a group of teenagers navigating high school and growing up in DC during the 1990’s. It’s all about teen magic– creating new and marvelous mischief with best friends, listening to mix-tapes and reading Sassy magazines, missing the last Metro, and getting stuck miles from payphones. Accompany the young heroine, Sarah, as she gets herself into idle summer misbehaving, love triangle betrayals, and friendship fallouts. This is a story about what her life is like before school’s truly over and she knows it’s all going to change for good. It’s about the friends she’ll never forget, those first mistakes, and her childish dreams not yet polluted by reality. She and her friends will engage in typical teen idolatry of hot musicians and renegades. They’ll set each other up and tear each other down. They’ll crash house parties and realize that sometimes in life, there are no ‘do-overs.’ They’ll steal cars, candies, and hearts. They’ll make you wish you were a teen again.

This book contains the full collection of scripts from season one of the oldest and longest running teen web series, “Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden.” And it’s the prequel to the epic romance between two teen girls that has become known as “The Sarah & Gwen Experience.” The love story develops in season 2 and spans to season 6. It’s part recollection, part urban legend, and part pure fiction, and completely inspired by the author’s memories of growing up in DC and the enchantment of her youth. The author, Otessa Ghadar, captures teen life as it is lived–dramatic, filled with self-discovery, and the pain of growing up. Together, as a whole, the stories and the characters ring true. Read the book and you’ll realize you’ve either been– or known– one of these characters before.

Venture into Bishop’s Garden and remember what it feels like to have your whole life ahead of you! Best part is, when you’re done reading, you can meet the characters by watching the webseries adaptation online (www.ojinbg.com)

 

—-

The author of this asked me to read and review this book.

This book is different from most books I read because it’s written in screenplay format. The only other time that I’ve read a book like this is Stephen King’s Storm of the Century. The scripts are for the web series by the same name, which I tried to find on the website they listed, but the first season appears to be available for purchase only.

I gave up on trying to keep up with the exact specifications of the characters. If this had been a physical copy, I could have kept referring to the first page immediately, but it’s harder to do on a Kindle. But even though I didn’t remember everything about these characters from the beginning, their dialogue and actions began to paint vivid pictures in my head.

The plot itself isn’t bad and the dialogue seems pretty realistic even though I was still a kid in the time period this show/script is set in. It definitely has a 90s feel to it, though, based on other things I’ve watched or read from that time period.

The only thing I really disliked was the plot with Sarah-Maggie-Jake. It just seemed kind of lame to me because Maggie was obviously blowing things out of proportion. BUT I also know that teenagers can be quite petty about things, so it works out.

I liked Sarah, Kris, Jake, and Beth as characters. The only character I truly didn’t like was Maggie, but we’re supposed to have characters we dislike.The screenplay writing seemed to be well done, though there were a few parts I didn’t completely understand. Maybe those parts play out better in video format.

Overall, I liked the script and hope to catch the web series someday as it looks intriguing.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

3stars

 

jncname

Book Review–Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

brotw

This is the 76th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl (Illustrated by Quentin Blake)
Published 1970

 

Nobody outfoxes Fantastic Mr. Fox!

Someone’s been stealing from the three meanest farmers around, and they know the identity of the thief-it’s Fantastic Mr. Fox! Working alone they could never catch hi; but now fat Boggis, squat Bunce, and skinny Bean have joined forces, and they have Mr. Fox and his family surrounded. What they don’t know is that they’re not dealing with just any fox-Mr. Fox would rather die than surrender. Only the most fantastic plan can save him now.

—-

I loved Roald Dahl growing up. Even though I saw the movie for this, I’d never read it. It was a pretty short read, but it was a clever story and I loved the irony in it. Mr. Fox really is fantastic!

 

4stars

 

 

jncname

Book Review–Seeds of Plenty by Jennifer Juo

brotw

This is the 75th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Seeds of Yesterday by Jennifer Juo
Published May 28th, 2013

 

Sylvia Soong, a young Chinese woman, finds herself in a rusty-tin roof town of West Africa, where the jungle meets the savannah and spirits cavort in baobab trees. In 1972, she marries Winston Soong, an aid worker on his way to Africa. But life in Africa is not the adventure she imagined. Instead, Sylvia spends her days in their white tiled house trapped behind compound walls.

Even though she longs for companionship, it arrives in an unwelcome form. She soon discovers she is not alone: spirit children prey on her newborn’s life, and when her daughter is bitten by a snake, she meets Ayo, an African-English doctor who provides a window into a world previously out of reach. While Sylvia is increasingly drawn to Ayo, Winston travels the countryside bearing miracle seeds that promise to triple harvests. Yet as he works with village farmers, he begins to wonder if the seeds do more harm than good.

When a juju witch casts a spell on Winston’s life, he is caught in a trap, and the forest canopy suddenly seems claustrophobic. As the country becomes increasingly violent, dangerous forces threaten all of their lives. Set against the troubled and mesmerizing landscape of Nigeria, SEEDS OF PLENTY paints a vivid portrait of a country in transformation, rooted in a magical and menacing past full of bush-souls, python-mermaid spirits, military coups, juju black magic, airport pirates, and sacred forests. Chinese and West African spiritual beliefs collide in this richly imagined story about love that crosses oceans, identity that spans continents, and well-intentioned development aid gone wrong.

—-

I won a signed copy of Seeds of Plenty from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program. Many thanks to the publisher/author for giving me the chance to read and review this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.

This one sounded really intriguing from the synopsis, and I was not disappointed. The story captivated me from page one to the very end. But, really, it’s really the characters that make this story awesome.

The story is told from alternating POVs of Winston and Sylvia, a Chinese married couple who move to Nigeria so Winston can make a difference. The author did a great job at making the characters three-dimensional. I enjoyed reading from both point-of-views because it did such a great job at telling the story. I really liked that the couple genuinely tried to help others less fortunate than themselves. I especially liked Sylvia, Patience, and Simeon.

The culture and customs are very rich in this book–I feel like I’ve learned a lot. It all felt very realistic. I like that the author used dialect to make it feel more real to readers. I really enjoyed the setting–t was so well written that I sometimes felt like I was there. The writing itself is fantastic. I did happen to stumble on a few errors, but nothing that detracted me from the story.

The only thing that I disliked about this book, really, was the overall ending of the book. It just felt a little off to me.

Other than that, I recommend this one, especially if you enjoy learning about other cultures or want a book that will touch your soul. I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by this author.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

4halfstars

jncname

Book Review–Dangerous Girls by R.L. Stine

brotw

This is the 74th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Dangerous Girls by R.L. Stine
Published May 1st, 1998

 

Destiny Weller and her twin sister, Livvy, return from their summer vacation with an overpowering thirst –– an inhuman desire to drink blood.

Have they turned into vampires?

How will they keep their horrifying secret from their family and friends?

And can they find a way to become human again … before it’s too late?

 

—-

I’ve been a fan of R.L. Stine and his work since I was nine years old. I’ve been a vampire fan even longer. I finally got around to reading this one.

I liked this, but I didn’t love it. The characters themselves are okay, but a little two-dimensional. The writing was definitely Stine’s, but there were also some problems with it. Mostly with the dialogue. It seemed that the characters said one another’s names way too much, enough that it felt unrealistic.

The story itself was interesting, though I would have liked to know even more about Renz. I did like the twin aspect as well as the twists at the end. It was also neat (and at the same time, strange) to see Stine giving the book a more modern feel with the teens–I don’t ever recall him using curse words or mentioning drugs, sex, and alcohol.

Overall, I enjoyed this. There are plenty of faults, but for a vampire story, I liked it. I may even check out the sequel now.

 

3stars

jncname

Book Review–Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

brotw

This is the 73rd book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Published April 2003

 

The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new ­partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple-murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance.

As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades—with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is remotely what it seems.

 

—-

I saw the movie first, but fortunately it’s been a while so I didn’t really remember too much of it and forgot most of the big plot twists.

Far from my favorite read, but I did enjoy it. The story was interesting, as were the characters, and the writing was good though a bit heavy on the dialogue at times. I also liked the setting–it was different. The twists are pretty cool, too.

I felt bad for Teddy at the end and like how all the characters ended up surprising me. Especially Cawley.

Probably not something I’d read again, but I’d recommend reading at least once, I might check out more of the author’s work in the future.

3stars

 

jncname