The One: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review (and a series sendoff!)

The One by Kiera CassThirty-five girls entered the Selection where they would have a chance to win the prince’s heart and one day rule Illea beside him as queen. Of those original girls, six became the Elite–their lives forever altered as they joined a higher caste and came even closer to the end of the Selection.

When America Singer arrived at the palace she never thought she would make it so far. She never realized she would want so badly to be the one Maxon chooses. Now, with the Selection nearing its end, America knows exactly what she wants. She hopes that Maxon feels the same. With pressure mounting for him to make a decision, America is still unsure if Maxon’s affections run as deep as her own.

Meanwhile attacks to the palace are growing in frequency with more and more threat of bloodshed as the rebels threaten to the Illean monarchy apart.

It is only now, with everything she wants so tantalizingly close, that America truly realizes how much she has to lose and how hard she will fight to earn it in The One (2014) by Kiera Cass.

The One is the final book in Cass’ Selection trilogy. It is preceded by The Selection and The Elite. It is also very much a third book–don’t bother starting the series here. Read from the beginning.

All of the entanglements from the earlier novels in the series are neatly dispatched as the story progresses to its natural conclusion. Although this series has never quite qualified as a pure dystopia, Cass delivers more world building here to create a better picture of Illea. Even knowing how the main characters feel, the tension is still high making for a page-turning novel that is both exciting and romantic.

While much of the story felt rushed in places (particularly the last fifty pages) Cass manages to maintain the unusual balance of romance and action that has become a signature of this series. The focus remains where it should for this story: squarely on America and Maxon’s relationship. Readers also learn more about both characters as they negotiate what it means–and what it might cost–to want to spend their lives together.

That the premise works, and holds up, throughout this entire trilogy proves Cass’ expertise. The memorable, self-aware characters in this series are ones that will stay with readers. The One is a splendid conclusion to a much loved series that hints at even better things to come from Cass’ future writing endeavors.

Possible Pairings: Crewel by Gennifer Albin, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Bachelor

Exclusive Bonus Content: I also have to say I love, love, love the covers. This series is just so well packaged. The covers are consistent while giving very different vibes. I also like the nod to America’s name as it were with the red, white and blue of the books. Also the crowns embossed on the covers. So well done. I’m going to miss this series.

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The Elite: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Elite by Kiera CassThirty-five girls came to the Palace to compete in the Selection to win Prince Maxon’s heart (and a place beside him on the throne ruling Illea).

Six remain–having earned newer castes as Threes and still with a chance at becoming the one.

When America Singer first arrived at the palace she thought her choice was obvious: get thrown out, go home, marry her childhood sweetheart Aspen.

After being in the palace and getting to know Maxon, America isn’t so sure. She cares for Maxon, but is she really what Illea needs in their future queen? Can America become as fiercely competitive as the other girls? Does she even want to when a future with Aspen is still possible?

Rebel attacks are becoming more frequent. Within the palace, America is learning uncomfortable truths about what it means to be a monarch and how her country came to be formed. Things are changing but America isn’t still sure what that means for herself or her country.

Everything America wants seems to be within her grasp–provided she can make a choice before the decision is made for her in The Elite (2013) by Kiera Cass.

The Elite is the second book in Cass’ Selection trilogy. It is preceded by The Selection.

The Elite is another fast-paced, marvelous addition to the Selection series. With the parameters of the competition (and the world) established in book one, Cass spends more time here on the characters. While America’s wavering and doubting was frustrating it did feel realistic.

It’s still hard to classify the series but The Elite makes it easier to assert that the story is, in fact, a Dystopia with some other interesting elements thrown in such as the added dimension of world building as America learns more about the history of the country. Illea has a messy, sinister past and a lot of secrets. Yet this isn’t a story about a character intentionally trying to tear it all down or discover the truth or start a revolution. Even though, in some ways, that is exactly what America ends up doing. It feels very natural and very authentic and makes for a great story.

Being a middle book in a trilogy, some things are left unresolved. That said, The Elite is an excellent story with just the right amount of summary of past events and new information. This book is a great continuation of America’s story and also the promise of even better things to come in the conclusion to this series.

Possible Pairings: Crewel by Gennifer Albin, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent by Veronica Roth

12 for 2012

It was incredibly hard to pick just twelve books for this list. (Even limiting myself to just 2012 publications was difficult as I read so many wonderful books this year.) My original list included 19 titles–all of which I did really enjoy. But, there can be only twelve (until 2013 anyway!) so, without further ado here are . . .

My Twelve Most Favorite books from 2012 (in alphabetical order):

  1. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: In addition to being one of my favorite books from 2012, this was also one of my most anticipated. I’m so excited that it’s finally out so everyone can start talking about it with me!
  2. The Diviners by Libba Bray: 1920s mystery/thriller with supernatural elements and romance set in New York City? There was never a chance of this one being less than a favorite for me.
  3. The Selection by Kiera Cass: One of the most surprising books I read this year. I went into it expecting something silly and unsatisfying. I got a nuanced and unlikely blend of The Bachelor TV show and The Hunger Games. I still can’t pinpoint the details but everything about this one just makes me very happy when I think about it.
  4. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley: Another very anticipated title. Cath Crowley can do no wrong in my view. Filled with references to modern art, musings on love, multiple viewpoints, poetry and such beautiful writing. If I could bottle how I felt after finishing this book, I’d be rich.
  5. Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst: I love Sarah Beth Durst and was so happy to hear about this one. A fantasy with gods and goddesses, storytellers, tricksters, magic and a mysterious journey! And a book that manages to turn the original story upside down without ruining everything and a love rhombus? Trust me, it’s as fabulous as it sounds. (And bonus points for the diverse cast!)
  6. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: As a reader I grew up on high fantasies. With a complex world filled with subtle language and politics (and dragons) all its own, this one fits right in with the fantasies of my childhood. The writing is beautiful and the story is exciting but I think my favorite part was Seraphina’s journey throughout the story as she learned: “We were all monsters and bastards, and we were all beautiful.”
  7. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: Regular readers will know of my love affair with Robin’s series for younger readers: Nathaniel Fludd: Beastologist. So when I heard she was writing a YA series I was all over it even when the series premise did not sound like my usual fare. (Assasin nuns? In Brittany? In 1485?) I was so wrong to worry. With wild machinations, a protagonist who questions authority and nods to familiar mythology by another name, this one had everything I want in a book.
  8. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: This book (along with #12) are probably the books of BEA 2012. Aside from being much anticipated, this one completely blew me away. A post-apocalyptic retelling of Persuasion with sci-fi elements is bound to be cool. I was so pleasantly surprised when I found it was also simply stunning.
  9. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan: A gothic tale that flips gender roles, riffs on imaginary friends, and features a plucky girl reporter? And it’s by Sarah Rees Brennan? Enough said.
  10. The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski: I went into this one knowing nothing about the book itself or its author beyond the basics. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I found a book about parallel universes, alternate history, and family all wrapped up in a wish by the author to write a novel similar to Pride and Prejudice with “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and art as continued motifs. Be still my heart.
  11. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: It’s not The Scorpio Races but very little is. In a lot of ways this is a quiet start to a series but I’m so in for the rest of the quartet and learning more about Blue and Gansey. So. In.
  12. Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin: There are few authors I love as much as Gabrielle Zevin (and not just because she recognizes me at signings sometimes!) and few series that excite me as much as her Birthright books. There is, in fact, so much I like about this series that it’s hard to distill my thoughts on this second installment for my list except to say I love the backdrop almost as much as I appreciate that the series features a romance without being about a romance.

You can also find my list on Pinterest if you want to see all of the lovely covers.

Honorable Mentions (the books that didn’t make my main list but have kept me thinking all year):

  • Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: This might be the last book I finish in 2012. I put off reading it for a long time because I didn’t know what to expect and I think I was afraid it wouldn’t be what I wanted. But it was everything I wanted. Dimensional and beautiful and so much more than a retelling.
  • Frost by Marianna Baer: This one was a lot of fun and I’m still very sorry it didn’t go all the way in last year’s Cybils. Alas. While it doesn’t quite stand up to a really close reading it is a lot of fun with spooky twists around every corner.
  • The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron: I hardly know where to start with this one. This book completely snuck up on me but with steampunk elements and a Victorian setting it’s not surprising that it became an instant favorite.
  • Fracture by Megan Miranda: Every time I think about giving away my copy I look at the writing and realize I can’t. I loved this one and because of it’s Les Mis references I’ve been thinking about it a lot with all of the Les Miserables movie trailers turning up on TV.
  • Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood: Such a fun read! I’m so excited for the sequel and love seeing Jessica on Twitter. Definitely a deceptive cover for a book with a lot of depth. And feminism! And alternate history!
  • Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg: Eulberg is always aces in my book. Taking this one off my main list was an agonizing decision which is why it needed an honorable mention. In terms of personal moments this was also a big one since I got to interview Elizabeth Eulberg, one of my favorite authors (and imaginary BFF *cough*) about this title–and hopefully it won’t be the last time!
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith: This one was a fun fast read but it really got me thinking. I feel like with lists like this there is always a bias favoring books read later in the year because, well, it’s easier to remember recent reads. That said this is one of the most effervescent books I’ve read (not just in 2012). It also easily has one of my favorite covers of 2012.

Buzzworthy Titles (the ones everyone else is talking about):

  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore: After having problems with the earlier books in the series, I’m still pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one (and Giddon–though that is probably much less surprising).
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: I still haven’t read it! I know, I know. But every time I try to pick it up I remember at least one character is probably doomed and I just cant do it. Soon.
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Honestly I read this so long ago I forgot it was a 2012 title! I enjoyed it and I love the attention it’s getting but I’m honestly a bit surprised it had enough staying power to maintain this level of attention from its pub date to the end of the year. Then again, it’s a Cinderella retelling with cyborgs and aliens–why wouldn’t people still be talking about it?!

The Selection: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Selection by Kiera CassAt seventeen years of age, America Singer already knows exactly what life she wants. She also knows, without doubt, that taking part in the Selection will do nothing to help her get that life. While every other girl in her province dreams of being chosen as one of the girls to compete for Prince Maxon’s affections and the chance to be Illea’s next princess, America is desperate to avoid the Selection altogether.

But with her mother desperate for America to have a chance at becoming a One instead of a lowly Five and her boyfriend insisting she will regret not entering on his account, America’s own wishes go overlooked. Worse, America’s hope of the Selection passing her by proves impossible when America is chosen as one of the lucky girls Prince Maxon will be courting while the entire country watches.

At the castle, it isn’t as easy for America to remember exactly what she wants. In her new surroundings she finds unexpected friends and a life she never dared to imagine. Circumstances beyond America’s control brought her to this point. Now, America will have to decide for herself whether or not she wants to stay in The Selection (2012) by Kiera Cass.

The Selection is the first book in a trilogy. It is also already being adapted into a television series.

Cass brings together the unlikely elements of a dystopian setting and a Cinderella-like fairy tale story in this delightful story. America’s narration is frank and candid providing excellent details about Illea’s past and its rigid caste system as well as more personal details about her family and the Selection itself.

Superficially The Selection is a story with a love triangle and beautiful settings. However its artfully developed characters and a compelling world built with just enough details to pique interest and make way for lots of revelations later in the trilogy, The Selection becomes a novel with more depth.

Well-paced and immediately engrossing, The Selection has already gotten its fair share of buzz. With its clever world and appealing characters,The Selection is also a would-be fairy also with some definite staying power.*

*And a really neat cover that, for me, really captured America.

Possible Pairings: Crewel by Gennifer Albin, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Bachelor

Exclusive Bonus Content: I felt a bit strange compiling the “possible pairings” for this one since it felt like I was just throwing every recent dystopian at it that I could think of and waiting to see what stuck. But, truly, I think the pairings work. This is a great read for anyone who loved how Catching Fire focused on what happens after a Tribute wins the Hunger Games. It’s as much a Cinderella story as Cinder. The caste system is very similar to Divergent’s factions. Hopefully you get my point. And it is definitely, strikingly appropriate for readers who want a read alike for Princess Academy but with older characters.