Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Book Description:
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.

My Thoughts:
The Selection was not the most amazing book I've ever read, but neither was it the mess I've heard rumors about. It follows It reminds me of a younger version of Pride and Prejudice, especially this concept of young woman being the 'way out' for a family from poverty. There is something to be said of the concept of marrying up in life. It is an old fashioned tradition, but the book was made to mirror more 'old-fashioned' ideas. There was something here, I just wish it had worked itself out differently. I was looking for more substance, and this isn't that type of book.

The world-building was lacking, I really don't like Aspen, one of the main love interests. The rebel attacks that are meant to add danger just felt like a smoking gun that never resolved itself. The pace and timing of events made it feel like it was running really place. We're still at the Selection. America still don't know which guy she's going to choose. It felt less like a cliffhanger, and more annoying. The book is done, and guess what. I didn't learn anything that wasn't already on the back cover! 

Forbidden Love. Prince. Selection.

There is no resolution in this book. I have to say, that is a first for me. Leaving room for a second book is okay, but setting up a sequel so the precursor is unnecessary to read just seems like flawed writing. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman

I received Savage Girl in a Goodreads Giveaway, and for the most part, it was a great read. I love stories that keep me guessing, although there were few clues that would have enabled me to sort out this mystery until the very end. It was a interesting twist, especially for a historical fiction. The events are fabricated, but the world is lush, full of details, and the prose is wonderful and well executed. While I am not an expert of the 1870's, the story was still easy to follow and the unfamiliar vocabulary wasn't distracting like it can be in some novels.

The one thing keeping me from a ten-star rating was the formatting in the 'present'. While Hugo is telling the story of Savage Girl to his lawyers, it is a page-turning, engaging work. But the actual action in the opening, transitions and ending are difficult to get through. I had a problem with the complete lack of quotation around conversations in these sections. Everything just ran together, it just made those passages difficult to read. The heavy use of asides in the opening is also annoying. I hope some of these problems get fixed in later drafts. Because this was an advanced copy, some leeway could be given to problems like this. 

The plot was interesting, although the ending left me wanting a bit. I like mystery novels that make me go back and look for clues, but I'm not sure there were any to be found in this book. There are a few slow sections in the middle, but there are plot elements that help carry you through those. 

Overall, I think this novel is promising and I appreciate Zimmerman's writing style. I look forward to seeing the final release and future works.

Firebolt by Adrienne Woods

If you took Harry Potter, I Am Number Four, and threw in some Anne McCaffrey, you'd have a recipe for the Dragonian series. A boarding school in a mystical land with a heroine trying to learn her true potential, this is a budding new novel that could delight many young readers. Tragedy, romance, action and fantasy, there is enough to captivate an audience. While it's not without it's flaws, I am looking forward to the next book, and can't wait to see more of the mysteries unravel.

Firebolt is the first novel in the Dragonian Series and I found it engaging from the beginning. The action carried the story and the early mysteries presented help keep the reader in the book. The characters were captivating as well. Elena is strong without being invincible, and while there are things I felt she took too easily, for the most part she shows balance and growth as a character. 

One of my main critiques with this work is there are some really awkward transitions in the story line. There are also some word choice problems that could be cleaned up along the way, other instances where words are just used too close to one another, and organizational problems at times with sentences. Most of these things are little editing problems that could get polished out in later drafts, but they slowed me down a lot in the beginning. Once you get farther into the story they seem less noticeable, but there was a point in the middle I was 'turned-off' as a reader because there were too many problems popping up.

Luckily, the rest of the book overcomes these little things. I like learning more of the history of Paegeia, and the farther I got into the book the more I liked it. The conversations felt less forced, the characters got more dimensions, and the page-turning quality kept me up until 3am trying to get to the last page. It made me wish I was a little younger when small things like sentence structure wouldn't have mattered. Regardless, I think this book is a gem and was well worth the read.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

A princess sent to wed a foreign prince; magic, talking animals, and mystery; a threat of murder, and betrayal; Goose Girl has all of this, in a surprisingly engaging tale for all ages of readers. While marketed for the young adult market, I happened to find this appealing paperback in a thrift store, and decided to give it a chance. I was happily surprised by this heart-wrenching tale about a girls painful journey towards finding her place where she truly belongs, after losing everything she ever cared about.

The story quickly draws you in with the main character Ani, who is gifted with the ability to talk to birds, yet forbidden to use her gifts. Misunderstood and alone, she struggles to belong in a kingdom that refuses to accept her, even as a princess. After her father's death, Ani is told she is being sent to a foreign land called Bayern where she is to wed the kingdom's prince. Yet on her journey to her new home, her escort is attacked, and Ani flees for her life in the nearby woodlands. As Ani tries to make a living tending to geese, the mystery of the attack on her life expands, and she must try to save her new home before it's too late. 

Heart-wrenching, well-written, and engaging, Goose Girl is a beautifully crafted fairy tale that leaves you eager for more. Strengths-of this story are its unique plot twists, and clever way of keeping the reader involved in the story. Flaws-of this story are its overly done 'arranged marriage, princess to pauper' style story. While well done, this story is clumped in a genre of princess loving tween-age girl readers.