Sunday, October 28, 2012

Joint Review! The Selection by Kiera Cass

We both read The Selection by Kiera Cass and spoiler alert, we did not like it. Below is a quick summary followed by a late-night IM discussion of what we couldn't stand.

Genre: YA, young adult, castles, princes, dresses, pretty covers, dystopia, love triangles

Set in a dystopian future with a caste system, royalty, and something to do with a rebel force, The Selection is the story of America Singer, a whiny teenage girl in one of the lower castes in love with a boy in an even lower one. Drama! It gets even more dramatic when the kingdom holds a competition for any eligible young lady to compete to win the princes hand. America enters to spite her boyfriend who breaks up with her because he “wants a better life for her” and… *SPOILER ALERT* she becomes one of the “The Selected” to marry the prince. Now, a silly decision has her roped in to all sorts of activities that she’s just not interested in. She could care less about the prince, but changes her mind once she meets him because he’s just so darn nice and understanding. Who will she chose!? This is the first of three-part series by Kiera Cass.

Casie: So Laura. To start, what are your biggest issues with The Selection

Laura: I don't even know where to start. The writing was terrible; the plotline seemed hot glued together. Ah! My biggest problem was how much I hated the main character, America.

C: Agreed. She was a lot like Bella Swan in a lot of ways to me, an empty shell of character that somehow I was supposed to relate to, despite her being a nothing-person.

L: She had no discernible character traits, but she continuously disliked and spoke down to and about the other female characters, even the ones that were supposed to be her friends. She struck me as a really negative character.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Terrible news, readers!  Someone has released the first book in a Series of Unfortunate Events online for FREE!  This terror is available on Facebook, if you dare to test your bravery on such a woeful tale. 

Lemony Snicket's series is personally one of my favorite book series of all time.  It's filled with humor, wit, literature references, horror, and true sadness and pain.  I think it is one of the most creative literary projects, with the author and narrator becoming another character in the series and taking this character past the series.  If you're interested in one of the most fun reading experiences ever, log on to Facebook and start reading!

Click here to read THE BAD BEGINNING.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars 
By John Green
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Coming of Age, Tearjerker, Sad Stuff

The first thing that you need to know about this book is that it’s a Cancer Kid Book. I know the genre fairly well- I went through this whole Lurlene McDaniel phase. I don’t want to talk about it. Anyway, the Fault in Our Stars is about a young girl who meets a young boy at a cancer support group. There is a whole lot of cancer in this book. It’s initially what made me not want to read about this book, but I am such a fan of John Green’s video blogs that I decided to give it a chance. (I should point out I haven’t read any other of John Green’s novels, so I have no idea how similar/dissimilar they are.)

Sixteen-year-old Hazel suffers from thyroid cancer, despite the fact that her tumors have been “miraculously” shrunken. She goes to a cancer support group where she meets super dreamy one-legged Augustus Waters. They become close and talk about life and death and books. In particular, one book called An Imperial Affliction by a reclusive author who lives in Amsterdam. Hazel and Augustus travel to Amsterdam to ask their favorite author questions, and get closer in the process.

The best part of The Fault in Our Stars is the writing. It’s funny and witty and incredibly sad. There are wonderfully written phrases and realizations as Hazel thinks about books and life and love. One of my favorite lines in the book is written by their favorite author: “Witness also that when we talk about literature, we do so in the present tense. When we speak of the dead, we are not so kind”.

 The characters in the book are so much fun despite of all the sad going on around them. Hazel has familiar traits- watching endless hours of reality television, adoring and resenting her parents at the same time, crushing on and being confused by a cute boy, obsessing over a novel and what it means to her. Like so many kids I know, she integrates part of her favorite book into her life: quoting it, adapting its ideas, even dressing like the main character. Augustus is funny and flawed. Hazel’s parents are funny and kind but they are still frustratingly parents. Isaac, Augustus’s best friend, has his own illness, but he also has overwhelming teenaged angst that drives home the point that these are just teenagers. Sure, he has cancer, but his teenaged problems are no less painful. And this is one of Green’s strongest messages in this book: Cancer Kids are still kids. They’re still teenagers. They’re not magically wiser or deeper or “better” than other teenagers because they’re sick. They make mistakes, they say the wrong things, and sometimes they’re annoyingly angsty.

There are problems in this book. No matter how hard Green tries to avoid it, no matter how much Hazel calls out Cancer Kid Books, this remains a Cancer Kid Book. The plot is predictable and you can see the twists coming a mile away. It gets melodramatic, it gives you the same Cancer Kid Sad Moments. Despite this, despite knowing what I was getting into from the first time I read the bookflap, I still cried when those familiar punches were pulled. Green definitely faults in his attempts to reinvent the genre in his hip, ironic way, but the book still hurts.

This book makes mistakes. It has errors and flaws and it is by no means perfect. At the same time, neither are the kids in this book. Neither was the girl it was dedicated to, Esther Earl, a real-life teenaged friend of Green who had joy, angst, and cancer. This book is painful and it is hopeful and it makes a point to say that it is okay to be both things at once.

The Fault in Our Stars is a well-written and touching novel about being a teenager with cancer, but ultimately fails to surprise.

4 out of 5 stars

review by laura

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gone Girl
By Gillian Flynn
Genre: Thriller, Horror, Mystery, Fiction

I know, I know by now we've all read it, but for the few that haven't gotten hit by Gone Girl's intense marketing and publicity campaign, this is for you...

Gone Girl fell into my lap after my mom INSISTED I read it so we could talk about it. I was just about to go on vacation, in need of a fun read, and the cover didn’t have a shirtless dude with flowing hair in the embrace of a corset-clad damsel (hey, there’s nothing wrong with a good romance, just not for discussing with your mom) so I decided to give her recommendation a chance.

So if you haven’t already heard about the sensation that is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, it is a thriller, one that circles around the relationship of a young couple, Nick and Amy. Amy is a true Manhattanite, she’s brilliant, beautiful, and your typical fast-paced New Yorker. Nick is a sweet, country boy from Missouri who falls for Amy because of her wit, determination, and all the things that make her, her. They meet in NYC, fall in love, get married, and that’s when things start to go to shit. They both lose their jobs and Nick's mother is diagnosed with cancer, so they relocate (from a cute Brooklyn brownstone I'd consider kidnapping someone for) to Nick's hometown in Missouri (aka Nowhereville).

Things aren't going great, marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be, and on the morning of their five-year anniversary, Nick comes home to find Amy missing. Everyone is suspect, especially Nick who hasn't been winning any awesome-husband awards. As Amy's parents, Nick, the police, and the media start to investigate and delve deeper into Amy and Nick's personal lives, more and more is found out what kind of people they really are and if Amy is going to be found before it's too late.

NO SPOILERS I PROMISE. I'll keep it brief and stick the front end of the story. I had a BLAST reading this book. I thought it was so much fun, a perfect beach read, and yes, appropriate for talking about with your mom.

Gone Girl is divided into three parts, the first of which has a divided point of view. We have Nick's point of view (in the present) from the day he comes home to find Amy missing intercut with selected entries from Amy's diary (ranging from the day they met to her disappearance). Slowly we learn about Nick’s character, through his reaction to Amy’s disappearance and the police investigation. We also start to get pieces from Amy’s point of view, and learn more and more about how Nick and Amy meet and how their relationship has evolved and eventually dissipated over time. Flynn's style is really great, without losing her own authorial style she's able to switch pretty flawlessly from POV to POV. One minute we are really worried about Amy, who is just a girl who got married and is doing all she can to be the perfect wife. The next we're thinking, Nick is a shitty husband who has some dark secrets but not bad guy, we really hope that he’s not a murderer. It’s only as Nick investigates more and more, that we start to learn Amy’s dark secrets.

But the really great thing about this book is how quickly Flynn can switch all of that up. Even before Part 2 (if you start to lose steam, trust me just make it to Part 2), we see a character turn a surprising corner that really makes you reevaluate the character that you just started to understand. These switch-ups make it a really interesting reading experience, because it takes most of Part 2 and a lot of Part 3 just to adjust. Once you get to know someone (or THINK you get to know someone) it’s really hard to go back.

The characters, detail, and climactic buildup really drives this story, but I feel like Flynn loses some steam after the apex. Part 1 is really brilliant, but also the lengthiest section. It’s got some serious awesome character development, but I feel like we lose some of that once we move into the more action-packed Part 2 and Part 3. I would argue that the ending gets a bit glossed over, but I'm all about character development and putting the words where it matters so I liked it in the end anyways.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a mystery-horror thrill ride about a missing woman made interesting and compelling by excellent writing, structure, and characters. While it has its slow points, it is definitely recommended for vacations, the beach, and for my single ladies (and gents) out there who want proof of why rethinking marriage is a good idea.

3.5 out of 5 stars

review by casie