The Selection (The Selection #1)

The SelectionBy Kiera Cass

Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Source: Publisher

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 the palace and compete for the heart of the 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.

Goodreads Summary

My review may be more spoilery than usual because I’m going to get a little ranty down below and some of what I’m upset about are general things that happen throughout the book. I’m not going to go into specifics unless you’re a good guesser, but be warned anyway.

When a Prince of Illea reaches a marriageable age, the cattle call goes out to the kingdom – if you’ve got a daughter of a certain age, ask her if she’d like to sign up to try to win his hand. Rich, poor – it doesn’t matter what social standing you have, they’re all eligible as long as they fill out the form and have their picture taken. Then the best 35 of the bunch are announced on television and sent to the palace to try to impress Maxon into proposing.

America and her family are artists – painters, singers, sculptors – and they’re poor. Being chosen to be part of the Selection would mean a huge check and likely a big boost in their family’s status. She doesn’t want to sign up though, because she has a secret. She’s in love with a boy who’s even poorer than they are, a match they’d never condone. But she gives in and is shocked to hear her name announced as one of the 35.

Now under a lot of circumstances, I could like a character like America. She’s feisty, loves her family and is intensely loyal to her boyfriend. But Cass took things way too far and made America an absolutely perfect caricature of a character – she’s beautiful and unique but doesn’t know it, kind to everyone, intelligent enough to offer economic advice to the Prince, sweetly humble, the Queen loves her despite having never met her, etc., etc. I’m sure if she wandered into the woods, butterflies would alight in her hair, birds on her finger and deer and rabbits would gather ‘round her skirts.

I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of The Bachelor, but my guess is Maxon is pretty close to those guys, just dressed up as a Prince with some palace sekrits he only shares with America. He’s not terribly deep, talking mostly about how much he hates not being taken seriously as a Prince by his dad one moment, complaining about how boring meetings are not long after that.

So the characters bothered me and oh, there are more issues coming. But even if I liked them, Cass’ writing style drove me crazy at times. If ever there was a perfect example of telling and not showing, this is it. Especially for the first quarter or so of the book, it was non-stop telling. The author also has a tendency to use the characters’ names over and over in close proximity – I guess she doesn’t like pronouns? In one paragraph, in the retelling of an incident between two characters, each character’s name was used twice, a pronoun once. In one paragraph.

I don’t rant, not really. And this is going to be pretty tame because it’s tempered by the fact that overall, the book wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read. But there were some things that just made me angry in ways that I can barely figure out how to fit them into the review in a coherent way. So I’m just going to throw them out there.

This was not a dystopian. Was the label slapped on there because the palace was attacked a few times by some literally unseen Northern or Southern troops? They either bombed from afar or invaded, and while everyone cowered in a secure room, they ransacked bedrooms and were driven off by the guards. Really? As far as the caste system, that hardly qualifies. So there are rich people who have money and there are varying social levels of other people who have less, down to people who have trouble finding work and education and occasionally steal to eat. And this is different from our current society how?

The depiction of the girls is so stereotypical, it’s offensive. Cold, rich, bitchy girl who wears too much makeup, clings to the guy and sabotages the other girls? Check. Little mousey girl who’s small, quiet, timid? Check – her name is even – wait for it – Tiny. There’s the smart geek who’s afraid to interact with anyone, the super-friendly middle class girl who befriends America because she recognizes a kindred super-friendly spirit. While not part of the Selection group, there are America’s three maids who of course include one girl who was traumatized and once America soothes her, she earns their eternal devotion. So we have America as just “one of the girls” with her maids.

Prince Maxon all but declares to America that she’s the one he plans on pursuing. If she wasn’t totally oblivious, she’d have seen it, but okay. So his first kiss is with her and it’s very sweet. And the next day? He’s kissing someone else? It seemed like there was some confusion about what qualities make an attractive hero or heroine. Maxon and America are both faithless and loose with their affections.

The ending was the most exasperating type of coy little teaser meant to keep a breathless romantic biting their nails until the next book. Look, I am a breathless romantic and under a lot of circumstances, I would be one of those people but I was so offended by the behavior of all of the parties involved, frankly they all deserved each other and I don’t care who “wins” who.

My Summary: So I didn’t love this, I think you can tell. Even if you take out the plot areas that made my blood boil, there were the storytelling problems and if you take out the style problems, you have the hair-burning issues, so I feel pretty secure with my opinion. It didn’t get an F because in spite of everything, I couldn’t help but keep reading, even though I hated myself and was cursing the entire time. I’d like to take the cover off and frame it so I have at least something pleasant to refer to when I think of this.

My Rating: D

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Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1)

Masque of the Red DeathBy Bethany Griffin

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/Steampunk
Source: Publisher

Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

Goodreads Summary

It’s possible that I was initially drawn to this by its cover. Maybe. But I loved the synopsis and it’s inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe story so I was sold in triplicate. I’ve had it sitting here for a couple of weeks now, taunting me and to be honest, I’ve been sort of afraid to read it because I’d been anticipating it for so long. I can stick it on my reread shelf now, since I got it done and it was the keeper that I’d hoped.

If Araby Worth had more courage, she might just end her life. Instead, she separates herself as much as she can from the real world in her parents’ luxury apartment or with her friend April and trips to the Debauchery Club behind her porcelain mask to protect her from the deadly plague. When her normal defenses don’t work, Araby looks for escape in drugs, not particularly caring who she scores from or even what they are.

It’s through the club that she meets Will and Elliot. They’re practically polar opposites: Will is dark, tattooed and poor while Elliot is blonde, refined, wealthy and April’s brother. Araby lost someone very close to her and had vowed never to kiss, hold hands – fall in love – with anyone because he wouldn’t have that chance either. Both boys rouse emotions she’s tried to suppress – romantic interest, hope for their crumbling society and renewed fears and worries about her family. There isn’t really the dreaded Love Triangle, although there’s romance. I know that’s sort of contradictory, but within the story and all the turmoil, the push and pull of the guys and Araby, it doesn’t come off as any kind of triangle at all. So…breathe out. Heaven knows I did.

Araby narrates the story, so obviously the city and people get translated through her. In the beginning, she’s doing everything she can to be detached and other than some brief flares of extreme emotion, she does seem pretty disaffected. Griffin writes with a slightly staccato style and it suits Araby perfectly. Later in the story, the writing gets looser as Araby’s emotions start going haywire. I think some people might find Araby dull or a little stupid with some of the decisions she made but I think given her age, the state of society and her desire to make things right, I understood her and even liked her. Even if she made some horrible choices, in a city where breathing bad air could kill you within days, she did make those choices instead of hiding and did things that put herself at risk when she didn’t have to because she thought she was doing the right thing.

Even in its lighter moments, this is still a grim story. The threat of death hangs everywhere, from the despot leader, Prince Prospero and the maniacal revolutionary Malcontent to the Weeping Illness and the Red Death. Every moment, everyone has to ask themselves – should they ever take their mask off and where, who can they touch, what do you do if you cut yourself? People who can’t afford the expensive porcelain masks don’t leave their houses or they risk using a flimsy fabric mask and possible death. Historic incidences of the plague are a sort of macabre interest of mine and Griffin really did her homework for more than just the emotional despair. I was torn between being fascinated and a little grossed out by her detailed descriptions of the latter stages of the disease and its mutated cousin. Grossed out is meant to be complimentary.

I’m not going to give away the ending, only say that Griffin knocked the wind out of me with it. I don’t know if I just was enjoying the story so much that I wasn’t paying attention or she just threw something in there that that hadn’t had any clues dropped about, but it completely wiped out the conceptions I had about nearly all of the characters. It was a devious, cruel, torturous twist that delighted me in a completely warped way since I normally hate those, “you figure it out,” endings with a passion and now I’m so anxious to read the next book, it’s crazy.

My Summary: I’m starting to open books with so-so expectations right now, and even though I had really been waiting for this, I tamped down my hope and just started reading – and was engrossed almost immediately. The dark world controlled by disease, the contrast of the disaffected, passionate and forgotten people and the suspense storyline hooked me. 2013 seems very, very far away for the next book.

My Rating: A

Pandemonium (Delirium #2)

Pandemoniumby Lauren Oliver

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Source: Publisher

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Gooodreads Summary

I’ve been impatiently waiting for Pandemonium to be released from the time I read the last word of Delirium. I remember flipping through the pages at the end of Delirium thinking that there has to be more, that the author wouldn’t really leave me hanging like that. But leave me she did, and the year in between books lasted for what seemed like eternity.

Pandemonium is a hard book to rate for me. I absolutely adored the book, but the author put in a few plot twists that I ended up disappointing me. But those elements aren’t specific to this book, and are more personal preference than anything else. Unfortunately, said plot elements are kind of spoilery, so I’ll put those in spoiler text at the end of the review. I have a burning need to discuss what the heck happened, so if you’ve read the book already.. those hidden paragraphs are for you. And if you haven’t read Pandemonium yet, don’t worry, I won’t give anything away. You’ll have to be shocked, dismayed, overjoyed and whatever else you might feel on your own. Don’t say I don’t love ya’.

Pandemonium is divided into two timelines: Now and Then. Now, Lena is working for the Resistance undercover. She is attending an all-girls academy and is tasked with observing the DFA (Delirium Free America) organization, and specifically the organization’s golden boy, Julian Fineman. She is to stay close to Julian at all costs, and while not knowing why, she obeys her orders and does her job. Lena attends a rally held by the DFA, which ends up getting attacked by Scavengers and Julian is whisked away by his bodyguards in underground tunnels to keep him safe. Lena follows close behind, and she stumbles upon a small group attempting to kidnap Julian and they both end up being taken. Locked in a small cell with no knowledge of where they are or how long they’ll be down there, Lena and Julian can’t help but interact, talk and connect.

In Then, Lena is running. Running from the life she was supposed to escape with Alex and the image of him falling, shot and possibly dead. Injured herself, she runs until her legs physically can’t carry her anymore and she collapses, wishing for death if it means she can be with Alex again. She is saved by a small group of people who live outside the wire, and she is slowly brought back to life. Lena is now faced with a life she was never supposed to live alone, in a place far away from anything she ever knew. Still grieving Alex, she’s left the old Lena behind and a new Lena has had to take her place. A Lena that knows the raw edge of hunger. A Lena that has to work, earn her place and learn to live on scraps and whatever she can scavenge. A Lena that has to learn to live without Alex, the love of her life and the sole reason for leaving her life behind in the first place.

Delirium was one of my favorite books last year. I was blown away by the exquisite writing, the idea of a world without love or passion and a girl who was willing to risk it all for the boy she loved. Pandemonium left me in awe. Everything good in Delirium was carried over into this book, and made even better. I was intrigued by how each chapter was divided between Now and Then, and when I was firmly entrenched in the Now, the author would yank me out of it and thrust me back into Then. Or vice versa. There were little cliff hangers throughout the whole book, and I felt like I raced through it even faster because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

Lena really stole the show for me in this book. She left everything behind to be with the boy she loved, who she now thinks is dead but isn’t quite sure and has to learn to live this new life without him and just survive. If I was Lena, I’m pretty sure I’d be a big pile of goo and would cry myself to sleep every night. Lena has an inner core of strength that I couldn’t help but admire and respect. Her personal growth in this book is wonderful to watch. Lena struggles with finding herself in this new world and discovering that’s is okay to pull bits of Old Lena, New Lena and Resistance Lena together to make a stronger and better Lena. One that is sure of her values and what’s important to her. One that will stand up for what she believes in even if it’s not the most popular ideal or way of thought.

Big spoiler – hidden behind white text and definitely highlight and read at your own risk:

I LOATHE the love triangle that Oliver introduced in this book. I feel like it kind of cheapens the love that Alex and Lena shared in Delirium. Don’t get me wrong, I like Julian, he’s a nice guy. But he’s not Alex. And I died at the end when Alex showed up while Lena and Julian were having a “moment” and you could see how hurt and shocked he was. And then… it ended. What. the. hell. You can’t keep doing this to me Lauren Oliver! It’s killing me. Alex escaped prison, traveled all that way to find her and Lena is freakin’ involved with another guy. Aggh! She has to end up with Alex. She has to. I’ll feel bad for Julian, but.. it’s Alex and Lena. Nothing else makes sense. And now I’m left hanging.. again. And now I have to wait a whole year that will seem like an eternity.. again. Gah. GAH!

Okay, I feel better. I just had to get that off my chest.

My Summary: Pandemonium is definitely a must-read. It doesn’t fall into the dreaded second novel trap where it becomes a filler book just to keep the series going. Stuff actually happens, character development definitely occurs and it’s completely and utterly addicting. I admit, I ignored pretty much everything – and everyone – while I read the book. Lauren Oliver is just that talented. Even though a few things happened that I personally wish hadn’t, I’m sure there’s a reason and that the author will fix everything and make it all better. I can overlook those personal preferences though, and whole heartedly say I loved this book and would highly recommend the series it to anyone.

My Rating: A+

Under the Never Sky

Originally posted January 3, 2012

Under the Never SkyBy Veronica Rossi

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 2, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Source: Netgalley

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love – one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

The first book in a captivating trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s enthralling debut sweeps you into an unforgettable adventure.

Goodreads Summary

I just want to get this out of the way before I say anything else: I loved this book. It was utterly captivating and I stayed up way too late because I couldn’t put my Kindle down. It was like my hands had become permanently attached to it the moment I began reading this book and wouldn’t let go until I finished. It was just that good.

Aria is living alone on Reverie after her mother left to continue her work in another pod, but they always meet weekly in the Realms. Her mother has missed their last few meetings, and Aria is afraid something terrible has happened. Desperate for news, she decides to become a groupie to the golden son of one of the men on the Reverie council. What should have been a harmless escapade outside of the pod turns ugly, and Aria glimpses her first Outsider, who saved her life. The golden boy’s father wants to keep their little adventure a secret, and Aria is kicked out of Reverie and left for dead.

Perry lives in a small village near Reverie, and has broken into the pod to find any resources that could help his struggling village survive. Perry’s brother is the village leader, and tensions between the two reach a boiling point when Perry’s nephew is kidnapped by pod soldiers and Perry’s brother (and the boy’s father) refuses to go after him and get him back. Perry sets out to rescue his beloved nephew and finds Aria wandering around the desert, waiting to die. Knowing she might be his only chance to save his nephew, the two strike a deal and they set out to find Perry’s nephew and what happened to Aria’s mother.

Perry and Aria’s love story is one of those epic ones that I’ll always remember. They couldn’t stand each other in the beginning, but over time the attraction grew and they found themselves in love with a person they never could have imagined. The story is told from both of their point-of-views, so I felt a strong emotional connection with both characters. Aria is thrust unwillingly into a world she knew nothing about and with Perry’s guidance, she overcame her fears and found true happiness. Perry is your classic strong, silent type. He doesn’t say much, but when he does you know it’s important and should listen. Their conversations at the beginning of their journey made me laugh out loud, and I loved all the bits of humor thrown in.

While Perry and Aria were the main attractions of the book for me, I also enjoyed the world that Veronica Rossi created. It’s a quirky mix of dystopian and sci-fi, and Rossi really made it work. Perry and Aria’s world isn’t all daisies and sunshine, and the two really have to rely on each other to survive. Rossi described everything in such a way that it was easy to follow and picture everything that Perry and Aria went through. Rossi may be a debut author, but she is one that I will definitely be following.

My Summary: Have I gushed enough for you? Under the Never Sky is definitely a book you shouldn’t miss out on. I bet that when you read it your hands will be glued to your Kindle/book too. 😉

My Rating: A+

 

Eve (The Eve Trilogy #1)

EveBy Anna Carey

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: Oct 4, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Source: Netgalley

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust…and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

Goodreads Summary

The dystopian genre has exploded over the last year or so, which gives us readers an abundance of material to choose from. Publishers are consistently giving us exciting end-of-the-world type books to devour read that make us want more and more. On the heels of completely epic novels/series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, Enclave and Delirium, Eve had some pretty big footsteps to follow in.

After having watched her mother die from the deadly virus that has visicously killed most of the world’s population, newly orphaned Eve was sent to an all-girls boarding school to live. The following years were spent learning decorum and a new, warped version of history and literature where men are evil. Eve and her classmates have finally made it to graduation day, where they will cross the river to the big building in the distance and train to be productive members of society. Eve stumbles upon a fellow classmate – her nemesis, really – attempting to escape and is faced with the truth about her boarding school life and what her future will really entail. Following her classmates example, Eve escapes as well and heads off into a world she knows nothing about and is not equipped to survive in.

There were a few things off about Eve. First, Eve herself was a bit odd. She may have been top of her class at school, but she is inept outside of it. She jumps from one scrape into another throughout the whole book and always relies on someone else to save her. While she may have shown strength initially in escaping the school, it didn’t stick through the rest of the story. If other characters hadn’t shown up at exactly the right time, I’m positive that Eve wouldn’t have lived to see another book. I’m not saying that every heroine has to be a kick-arse, fighting chick that can take on anyone. I did, however, need to see a little independence and some ability to take care of herself in Eve. I found her to be kind of a wimp, truthfully.

I also wasn’t very clear about why the boarding school tried to brain wash the girls against the male gender. It felt awkward and out of place, especially considering it had no real bearing on what happened in the rest of the book. Maybe it will make sense in future books, but I was left scratching my head and saying “huh?” to myself in this one.

My Summary: Eve had the makings to be a really great read. It isn’t quite there. Almost, but with the other amazing books written in this genre, it needs just a bit more. Eve (the character) needs to be a bit more. The ending was sort of cliffhangeringish (I totally just made that up), and even with the odd bits I still want to know what happens next. I will definitely be reading the next book, and I sincerely hope it only goes up from here.

My Rating: C+

Cait

As I Wake

As I WakeBy Elizabeth Scott

Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: September 15, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopian
Source: Purchased

Ava is welcomed home from the hospital by a doting mother, lively friends, and a crush finally beginning to show interest. There’s only one problem: Ava can’t remember any of them – and can’t shake the eerie feeling that she’s not who they say she is.

Ava struggles to break through her amnesiac haze as she goes through the motions of high-school life, but the memories that surface take place in a very different world, where Ava and familiar-faced friends are under constant scrutiny and no one can be trusted. Ava doesn’t know what to make of these visions, or of the boy who is at the center of them all, until he reappears in her life and offers answers . . . but only in exchange for her trust.

Goodreads Summary

Ava awakens in a bed – at least she thinks it’s a bed – in a strange place she doesn’t remember. She doesn’t know who she is, where she is and it’s only as she starts to wander around, does she even remember the names of the things around her. There’s nothing medically wrong wither her according to the doctors who run a battery of tests, but she still doesn’t know the woman who says she’s her mother and this life that’s supposed to be hers feels wrong. She keeps having flashbacks to a very different place and sometimes when she looks at certain people, she sees them in layers, like there’s another person underneath who’s talking to her.

Those feelings of belonging someplace else increase as her flashbacks come faster and she’s reunited with several people that she thinks she’s known from someplace else. A boy keeps showing up both in the present and in the images that keep flowing in her head. The other place she keeps remembering is dark and oppressive and there’s something she knows she needs to remember that’s dangerous – if she was supposed to be somewhere else, someone had to betray her to send her where she is now.

I wanted to like this and I tried to like it over and over while I was reading it. This story just wouldn’t let me – it was confusing, unfocused and unfortunately it overwhelmed all of the characters.

The beginning of the book was promising. I liked the small flashbacks, the little bits of scenes that started to tell the story of where Ava might have come from. It was beginning to make some sense, this alternate, militant world where there was an organized spy network. The longer the flashbacks got though, the less they made sense. The structure of this alternate world crumbled and I couldn’t picture it anymore because Scott didn’t give me anything to focus on. Each time she revisited this alternate place, something changed and she lost me again. The alternate Ava acted differently and it didn’t make sense for the place.

Present Ava was barely better. She seemed robotic, wandering from scene to scene just informing everyone that she couldn’t remember or letting people remind everyone else that she couldn’t remember anything. She didn’t participate in anything – scenes just passed by, information flowing through. There were only a couple of times when she showed emotion and they were both very dramatic scenes involving types of “deaths” or letting go. They were well-written scenes that grabbed me and even had me tearing up – but they didn’t fit anywhere with this character or even in this book. They told me the author has talent but not that this is the right story for them.

My Summary: This was an ambitious idea for a story that I think needed either a lot more room than it was given (269 pages) or some serious editing to make room for character development. The alternate place that Ava was from was too nebulous for me when it really could have been the powerhouse of the book, a sinister force hanging over the story. Ava herself was such a non-entity that this didn’t really feel like a story about her, just a telling about two places and the people who lived in them.

My Rating: D

Barbara