The One

The One by Kiera Cass (The Selection #3)

The One

 

The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants. (Goodreads)

 

 

 

This is the final book in The Selection series. If you have not read The Selection, or The Elite, you should do so immediately. There are spoilers ahead. And you don’t want to do that! You hate spoilers as much as I do, come on.

This book picks up right after The Elite. In that book, America, Maxon, and Aspen all pretty much act like idiots. Aspen keeps professing his love for America despite the fact that that ship has sailed, man. America loves Maxon, but wait, she’s jealous because he’s sort of playing the game and getting a little lovey with some of the other girls. And certain incidents involving certain contestants getting hot and heavy with the help put Maxon in the role of Bad Guy Who Has to Punish Them. So, it makes sense that America, in her horror over the whole drama, starts to secretly make out with Aspen. I know. What the what? Aspen is creepy. I hated him in that book. And the secret makeouts made me hate America (but I loved that book).

Now, in book three, America has realized her wrongs and she wants to get back in the game with Maxon. She really does love him and…shocker, he loves her too. Any idiot can see that. Papa Maxon (otherwise known as The King) causes some problems because he really hates America and her sassy ways, but Maxon seems pretty devoted. Still, the Selection hasn’t actually been made official yet, so America always wonders about her place. To make matters worse, there are more attacks on the palace and in outlying areas. It begins to feel like even if America wins the Selection and the heart of Maxon, she’ll never truly have her happy ending because there is such unrest and unfairness in the way the caste system is set up.

I enjoyed this book mostly because it was so good to finally get closure. We learn Maxon’s true heart, and we see his final choice. We get to see even more depth as to how difficult it is for him to stand up to his father, and we see even more of what a terrible man the king is. We also learn more about the palace attacks and both the groups trying to plan them, and those trying to stop them. This is an interesting part of the story and I wish there had been more to it. I felt it was built up over the course of the series, and while the story was good, I would have been happy with more.

I’m also happy to say that I really, really liked Aspen in the end. He had a good story and ended up being a great guy. There are actually a few people in this series I was prepared to hate who surprised me in the end. That was refreshing. Ultimately though, there were some good, good moments with Maxon.

I enjoyed this book, but I was also happy to see it all come to a close. It felt a tiny bit like these characters, as much as I enjoyed them and their story, were overstaying their welcome just a teensy bit.

Crush Intensity: 4.0/5 Slow start but a nice, happy ending tied up with a bow. For those who want the story to continue, it does. The Heir is coming out in May.

 

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The Taking

The Taking (Book #1) by Kimberly Derting

 

The TakingA flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own? (Goodreads)

 

The Skinny:

After an argument with her father, Kyra sees a blinding light. She wakes up later behind the local Gas N Sip with no memory of where she’s been. After she stumbles home, she finds out that she’s been missing for five years. In that time Kyra hasn’t aged a day. She has the same bruise she got goofing around with her best friend the night before she disappeared. She looks the same–but she feels different. And worse, her whole life is unrecognizable. Her parents have divorced, her mom is remarried and has another child, and her dad has gone over the edge, drinking and rambling conspiracy theories about alien abductions that sound closer to The X Files than reality. Kyra’s boyfriend, Austin, and her best friend are now twenty-two and away at college,  in love with each other, living the life she was always supposed to live, bought together by the mysterious disappearance of Kyra. Now, her only friend is Tyler, Austin’s little brother. The last time Kyra saw him he was thirteen years old, but now he’s grown, he’s mature, and he’s trying to help her ease into her new life.

 

My Thoughts:

I was really excited to read this because I love Derting’s series, The Body Finder. Or, more specifically, I love Jay Heaton (so I had some high swoon hopes here). Unfortch, this book didn’t do it for me.

I was completely enticed by the whole alien abduction angle. I’m not a believer in that sort of thing, but I’m normally mesmerized by shows like Ancient Aliens and the like–mostly because there is a level of crazy there that is so sincere I have to respect it. I also thought the idea of Kyra coming back to her life five years later–physically unchanged, but her life in total dissaray– was very interesting. And yeah, the whole thing with the boyfriend and best friend hooking up? I’m not going to lie, it caught my attention because it’s so plausible that they’d fall in love from clinging to each other when they believed Kyra was gone for good.

The problem for me is that, while this book had great potential, it fell really short of my expectations. Kyra’s dad has spent her five year absence going crazy and delving into the online forums of those who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens. And when he tells Kyra this, she blanches, of course. But other than reiterating the bright light they both saw the night she vanished, Derting doesn’t really go into detail about what exactly convinced him he was on the right path.  I think I would have preferred to be pulled in to that world. Instead, she focused on Kyra and Tyler. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good romance and Tyler is a solid character (I had a tough time with the younger brother thing, mostly because there is no way I would have ever gone out with my boyfriend’s little brother. Gross), and there are some good moments  between these two. But Kyra, WHO HAS NO IDEA WHERE SHE’S BEEN FOR FIVE YEARS, spends an awful lot of time thinking about Tyler, and grinning like a fool, and thinking about how she shouldn’t be thinking about him, and being mad that her boyfriend and best friend are together, and thinking about Tyler more. I don’t know, I just think that realistically, she might have bigger things going on. Things progressed too quickly with Tyler, especially when, early on, we’re asked to believe that Kyra and Austin are hopelessly in love.

There is obviously a big mystery surrounding Kyra’s disappearance, including two people following her. One is just some random, strange dude, and one is an agent from the NSA. While I found this all to be very cool, it went so slowly (wedged in between moments with Tyler and moments where Kyra wandered around her house aimlessly) and then suddenly, it took off and I felt like I got an information overload.

Funny enough, the agent following Kyra around reminded me of the guys from The Matrix.

The MatrixThat is totally how I pictured him.

In short, I was very disappointing in this book. It had potential, and while it wasn’t terrible (there were moments I couldn’t put it down), it wasn’t great.

 

Crush Intensity: 2.5-3.0/5

Where’d I Get It: The library

 

Being Audrey Hepburn

Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman

being audrey hepburnLisbeth comes from a broken home in the land of tube tops, heavy eyeliner, frosted lip-gloss, juiceheads, hoop earrings and “the shore.” She has a circle of friends who have dedicated their teenage lives to relieve the world of all its alcohol one drink at a time.

Obsessed with everything Audrey Hepburn, Lisbeth is transformed when she secretly tries on Audrey’s iconic Givenchy. She becomes who she wants to be by pretending to be somebody she’s not and living among the young and privileged Manhattan elite. Soon she’s faced with choices that she would never imagine making – between who she’s become and who she once was. (Goodreads)

 

I was really excited to read this because of my background in fashion and well, because of this:

breakfast-at-tiffanys

I don’t think there’s a girl in the world who hasn’t imagined themselves in this dress and known how different they’d feel with it on (that’s the draw of high fashion, right?).

But I struggled with this book. It started out with a bang. It was fun and witty and cute, but somewhere fairly early on, it lost me. Maybe it was some of the family drama with a difficult mom, maybe it was the possible love interest from Jersey (or the one from Lisbeth’s new life), or perhaps how implausible everything felt–but I could not get into this book.

I’m interested to know if anyone else has read it. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mindset and need to give it another go? For now, it’s safe to say, that while I didn’t hate it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

 

Crush Intensity: 2.75-3.0/5

 

Where’d I Get It: An e-galley from Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press.  Thank you!

 

Since You’ve Been Gone

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

 

Since You've Been GoneThe Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.

Apple Picking at Night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…(Goodreads)

 

The Skinny:

Emily’s best friend, Sloane, has disappeared at the beginning of what was to be the most epic, off the charts summer of their lives. There’s no warning, no phone call, no note–Sloane is just gone. Emily tries to reach her, searches for clues as to her whereabouts, but all she finds is Sloane’s family home abandoned and no sign of her friend.

That is, until a mysterious To Do list written in Sloane’s unmistakable handwriting arrives at her door. It’s full of random tasks, the kinds of things you only do at the prompting of your best friend, the kind of things Emily would never, ever do alone. Sloane is the vibrant, fearless, life of the party. Emily has always been the loyal sidekick. But there’s a dash of hope in this list, a belief Emily holds to that if she takes the journey, if she completes each task, perhaps it will all lead her back to her best friend.

With unexpected help of Frank Porter, an undeniably cute guy from school (they’re always cute in YA aren’t they? Love it), Emily dives head first into the list and begins a summer full of changes.

My Thoughts:

First of all, I am so with Emily on this fear of doing anything too crazy. I always felt like more of an accessory than the main event. And with items like “Kiss a Stranger” (no, I didn’t want to kiss people I knew, let alone strangers), and “Steal something” (WHAT IF I GET CAUGHT?), “Break something (I mean, that’s just plain rude), or “Go skinny dipping” (Uh, let me think. No), I felt for Emily.

But with Sloane gone Emily was suddenly faced with a big, empty summer. Life feels less interesting because Sloane and Emily have one of those all-consuming tight knit friendships (except that part where Sloane forgot to mention she was about to skedaddle). Outside of her family, Emily honestly doesn’t have anyone else she’s really close to. She realizes that she’s basically alone. She only attacks that mysterious list because she feels that through it her best friend is sending her a message about how to find her. The enormous courage it takes Emily to do some of these things is what is so enchanting about this book. No, they aren’t tasks that will harm her or truly change her life in any way, but they’re different. She has to take a step outside of the comfort zone she’s been in. She begins by going to the local apple orchard where she runs into Frank Porter, schoolmate and problem solver deluxe. Frank begins to help Emily in her search for clues and the more time she spends with him the more she opens up to the possibilities around her, things she didn’t always see with Sloane standing nearby.

One element I enjoyed about this book was the flashbacks. Matson allows us to see inside Sloane and Emily’s world so much so that even though Sloane isn’t truly present in the current day storyline, as the reader I felt like I knew her (and I was as charmed by her as Emily was). Matson paints a vivid picture of what friendship is like for girls, especially high school ones. There’s a real sisterhood, a bond that runs deep and is felt clearly. And we’re left with the same question Emily had, “Why would she leave without a word?”

I also loved watching Emily grow into an individual. At the beginning, she is Emily of Sloane and Emily. She starts her trek in a cautious, single-minded way, but by the end she views herself as an individual, as someone who matters to those around her (and stands out to them) and she sees the importance she holds.

Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 I loved this book. It was so cute. Morgan Matson never misses. And also, though I didn’t put a ton of focus on him in the review, Frank Porter is adorably crushworthy. Read this book!

Where’d I Get It: Bought this one for my Nook.

Isla and the Happily Ever After

IslaIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

 

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series. (Goodreads)

 

The Story:

Isla has had a crush on Josh–yes, that Josh. The one with his tongue permanently down Rashmi’s throat in Anna and the French Kiss–since forever. When she runs into him at a cafe in NYC  as she’s hopped up on Vicodin following oral surgery, it’s not exactly ideal (though it’s quite charming to read). She proceeds to make a fool of herself, Josh is amused and perhaps slightly intrigued, then it’s over. They don’t see each other for the rest of the summer.

When school starts and the two are back at SOAP in Paris, it takes time, but they make their way from Awkward Cafe Encounter to Awkward Almost Friends to OMG We’re So Adorable. You see, unlike other Perkins books, this one isn’t so much about the will they or won’t they get together, it’s about will they or won’t they make it. They both have issues. Josh’s family is Not Amused with his regular antics and as much as Isla and Josh want to believe they’re in their own little romantic world, real life sort of slaps them in the face. The question for this couple is will they get their happily ever after, the one Isla’s been dreaming about (hint: look at the title)?

My Thoughts:

I didn’t loooooove this book (though I liked it) and I feel sort of terrible saying that. It’s not a bad story, in fact, there are some uber-cute moments. I guess it just doesn’t compare to its near-flawless predecessors, Anna and Lola.

Josh is well-written, flawed and funny, yet still raw and edgy in his complete apathy toward all things regarding school. While I didn’t necessarily crush on him the way I immediately did with St. Clair and Cricket (I’m sorry. It’s so unfair to compare), I saw why Isla liked him.

But Isla. You guys. I had such a hard time with her. I found her to be whiny and completely lacking the humor of Anna or the whimsical charm of Lola (not that she has to be them, she just didn’t have something good that stood out to me the way those girls did). She felt so one-dimensional to me. And the feelings for Josh, like I said, I get it, but she was, forgive me, kind of stalkerish about the whole thing. Then, when they finally got together he was EVERYTHING. I understand that first time love feels like everything but Isla lived as though it was.

But what would a companion novel be without St. Clair (still utterly adorable. I want to kiss his cute little cheeks. Because I want to act like the French, obviously. That’s all). And we see Anna (still strong and funny. Everything Isla is not, actually), and, be still my heart, Cricket (in all his sweet, nerdy awkwardness) and Lola (sucking the air out of the room with her quirky brand of awesome). Their scenes are fabulous. They make the book. And the ending. I LOVED the ending (basically from the time the old characters come in all the way to the very end I was in love. It was perfect). The end of this book is what romance stories should be. Perkins did a beautiful job there.

Crush Intensity: 4/5 Not my favorite, but still definitely worth the read.

Just Call My Name

18607158Just Call My Name (I’ll Be There #2) by Holly Goldberg Sloan

 

Emily Bell has it all. She’s in love with a boy named Sam Border, and his little brother has become part of her family. This summer is destined to be the best time of their lives–until a charismatic new girl in town sets her sights on Sam. Now Emily finds herself questioning the loyalty of the person she thought she could trust most.

But the biggest threat to her happiness is someone she never saw coming. Sam’s criminally insane father, whom everyone thought they’d finally left behind, is planning a jailbreak. And he knows exactly where to find Emily and his sons when he escapes…and takes his revenge. (Goodreads)

Just Call My Name picks up soon after the close of I’ll Be There, the stellar debut novel by Holly Goldberg Sloan. After the emotional, nicely tied up ending of the first book we settle in with the characters we first fell for and find out exactly what happens when they get their happy ending.  The truth is, it’s a lot of work, especially for Sam and Riddle, who’ve never had a normal life, never had stability or security, and have only been able to rely on each other.

In Just Call My Name, the boys are settling into their new lives, Riddle with the Bell family, who have adopted him, and Sam in an apartment nearby (the Bells wanted to adopt Sam as well, but since he was about to turn eighteen they were told it wasn’t necessary). Riddle is learning to read, trying to fit in with the adoptive family he adores (and the new brother who seems a teensy bit jealous of him). Sam is attending college and walks to the Bell family home on a daily basis to visit his younger brother. He’s struggling more with the adjustment process, so used to constantly worrying over Riddle. This new happiness is foreign and he lives as though it may somehow slip from his grasp.

Emily has a job at a local restaurant, joined by the ever-annoying Robb. Don’t call him Bobby. No, no, no. It’s Robb. Two B’s. And he’s every bit as obnoxious as that extra B makes him sound–at first. He still has this odd fixation with Emily that borders on creepy and he just doesn’t get what she sees in Sam. Sam and Emily are treading slowly, but we are able to see that these two seem to have an unshakable bond, something even they don’t quite understand.

But remember that they are, in fact, teenagers. As such, one night as Sam waits outside the restaurant for Emily to finish her shift, he meets Destiny, a girl who works at the boutique next door. Destiny has a pretty rough background and can use the help of a few friends, but she makes Emily uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s so experienced in life. Maybe it’s the way she dresses, or her obvious interest in Sam. Whatever it is, Emily can’t shake the feeling that this girl is trouble.

And let’s not forget Clarence Border, that stealth, arrogant man, so evil and driven in his contempt for his boys and the way they’ve been “brainwashed” by the Bells. He manages to escape prison and sets out get Sam and Riddle back to teach them all a lesson about how traitorous they’ve been.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book. I fell in love with the characters the first time around, and I loved them equally here. Sam is a genuinely tormented young man, balancing the damage done by his father, the changes in responsibilities with his brother (entrusting him to the Bells), and his deep love for Emily,which often confuses him in how beautiful and overwhelming it can be. The closer he gets to her, the more afraid he seems to be of letting her see how damaged he really is.  This is where Destiny finds a slight connection with him. In some ways, they understand each other. Emily is understandably insecure, but she’s still the bright, brave girl we met the first time around. I had mixed feelings about Robb and Destiny (of course I hated her at first because DON’T EVEN), but they both earned my respect in the things they were willing to do for their friends. The star of the show though was Riddle who, through the love of his new family and that of his big brother, has grown more vocal, and has embraced his new life with bright curiosity. I dare you not to fall in love with this kid.

If I have any complaints about this book it’s the fact that Emily’s parents play such a small role. They were such an integral part of the last book and they are the reason Emily is the girl she is, which is evident in the way they’ve taken in the boys (especially considering how awkward it must be to have their adoptive son’s big brother who is an almost-adult dating their daughter). Otherwise, this was a great book and a good follow-up to a story I already felt immersed in.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 I love Holly Goldberg Sloan’s omniscient storytelling style that lets us into the minds of multiple characters. Excellent sequel.

 

Thank you to NetGalley and to Little & Brown for giving me an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Ignite Me (please)

Ignite MeIgnite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh Mafi

 

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her. (Goodreads)

 

Ignite Me. Finally. Even though I read it the week it came out (and fanned myself frequently), I’m finally reviewing it.

Fair warning, if you have not read Shatter Me, Destroy Me, Unravel Me, Fracture Me–first of all, why are you reading this when you clearly have books to read?–there will be spoilers here.  Go. Go read them now because Warner. You’re welcome.

Little Bit of a Recap

Ignite Me is the final book in the Shatter Me series, a trilogy (plus novellas. I don’t know what you’d call that) I have loved every step of the way. Juliette is a fabulous protagonist, one we watched grow from timid to courageous, one who has found her strength in what she originally thought was a flaw. She has a gift so powerful no one can touch her except…wait for it…Warner (I know. Lucky duck). In Unravel Me we discovered that while Adam was at one time able to freely touch her, it comes at great cost and he has to work hard to safely have physical contact with her. This is a struggle because Adam believes he loves Juliette. It’s in Unravel Me that we also discover a shocking truth: not only is Warner able to touch Juliette, he can “borrow” powers from other people. Also he can touch Juliette. Did I already say that BECAUSE IT’S WORTH REPEATING, especially because in Unravel Me we also see how desperately Warner wants to get all up on that.

The Final Book

The big challenge for Juliette this time around is getting her team from Omega Point, one that includes Adam and Kenji, to trust the guy who was enemy numero uno, Warner. They have to join forces, move into Warner’s facility, train together, and build an alliance against Adam and Warner’s father.

In this book we learn more about Warner. We delve further into his past, learn about his mother and his childhood, and begin to understand just where his fascination with Juliette began.

In this part of the story, the love triangle fizzles a bit. One guy turns into a giant jerkhead (completely crazy bananapants) and Juliette, even before that point, makes her heart pretty clear. While I won’t spoil it or say whether or not my choice was the one, I will say that Mafi makes it abundantly clear that there is a guy who wants to help Juliette control herself (while in some ways, be controlled by him) and there is another guy who wants her to unleash herself and fly free. Either way, Juliette taking steps toward one guy over another opens up the romance in a serious way. I’m talking SERIOUS STEAM.

Final Thoughts

Ignite Me is good. I thought it was a pretty epic close to a thoroughly awesome series. The final sequence is particularly good. And leading up to it all are many tingly scenes, so there’s that. Also, Juliette’s relationship with Kenji blossoms and I have to tell you, I could read an entire book about that man. He is hilarious and he’s loyal to Juliette to the very end. I felt as though at the close of the book, I could have kept reading. It feels like there is so much story left to tell because the characters are now on the verge of something huge, but alas, it’s over.  We just have to trust that this ending is a good beginning for them all.

My biggest complaint is one brought to my attention by my dear friend Sandie. In order to resolve the love triangle, Mafi chose to have us more fully see two characters we may have once misunderstood. In one case it was a breath of fresh air to learn that this person was not quite what we thought he was. In the other case, it was sad to realize that the guy was not at all what we thought he was. We see hints of this in the novellas written from each guy’s perspective, Destroy Me (Warner) and Fracture Me (Adam). In the case of one guy, he took such a dramatic turn that it felt like a character assassination.

But you should be the judge. Either way, I really liked this book.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 WARNER OMG

Where’d I Get It: Bought it for my Nook so I could highlight and bookmark to my heart’s content.