The Elite and The One, by Kiera Cass

eliteThe Selection’s The Elite and The One
by Kiera Cass
Pub Date April 23, 2013 & May 6, 2014

In my first post, I wrote about The Selection by Kiera Cass. In my crazy desire to read all sorts of princess stories, I couldn’t forget the next two books in The Selection series. I also had to write about them together since I read the two books in two days- I literally went back to the library on my day off just to get The One after I finished The Elite in one night. I couldn’t put it down until I knew what happened between America Singer and Prince Maxon.

 

The oneFor those of you who haven’t read the series, The Selection is based in a future America where our current government has collapsed and is now a monarchy that separates the population into eight castes, each with a different type of job and social standing, from the top number one being royalty and the bottom eight being peasants. When the prince is of marrying age, a competition is held where 35 girls from different castes and areas of the country are sent to compete for the prince’s hand in marriage. America Singer, a number five caste member, is chosen to compete in the selection for Prince Maxon’s hand in marriage.

Reading these books, I found myself incredibly grateful that dating is not like this in reality, similar to the reality tv show The Bachelor where one guy (or girl depending on the season) goes on dates with multiple people and it is expected that he will kiss, if not all of the candidates, most of them. What a weird dating ritual: hanging out all day long with girls who are competing with you for one guy and all the power and wealth he will share with you. America has to figure out if she truly loves Maxon and if she can be a proper princess before loses Maxon forever.

Honestly, America Singer drove me crazy, which is one of the reasons I truly loved this series. In the tv series The Bachelor, no one really questions whether or not being chosen is a good thing. Yet, America questions it all the time. She is a realistic girl with confidence issues who often compares herself to others. She is confused about what she wants and what she can handle. Throughout the series, you can see her confidence grow, although she is constantly making her relationship with Maxon more complicated. Dangerous revolutions, political intrigue, and secret associations are a constant part of this budding romance, and I could not drag myself away from these books. I am so excited for the 5th book in this series to come out this May.

March Book One, by John Lewis

MarchMarch Book One
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Pub Date: August 13, 2013

I admire the people who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. So when I heard that John Lewis was going to write an autobiography of his life in a graphic novel format, I knew this was a book we needed in the library. It didn’t disappoint. The story describes what the South was like for black people, as well as showing some of the beginning events in the Civil Rights Movement. Graphic novels are such a great way to take history beyond words into something visual. I am glad John Lewis decided to tell his story, and to tell it as a graphic novel.

After reading this, I am sure that I could not have been one of the protestors. The training they went through to prepare to be violently and physically abused was rigorous. With rules like ‘do not strike back or curse if abused,’ ‘do not laugh out,’ and ‘show yourself friendly and courteous at all times,’  I could not have handled violent or tense situations for hours. It is truly remarkable what John Lewis and people like him were able to accomplish through peaceful protest. As John Lewis says, “We wanted to change America—to make it something different, something better.” They certainly did.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to learn about history in a personal way, especially if you have never read a graphic novel. This is a great history book: it’s not dry facts and it’s fast-paced. Also, March is a great book for reluctant or struggling readers.

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

AsylumAsylum
by Madeleine Roux
Pub. Date August 20, 2013

Understand before reading this review, I am biased against this style of book. I do not like scary books, horror novels, or thrillers. I read this book because all my teen reading club voted to read this book. Every one of the teens that read this book came back to tell me how much they liked it. Several have requested for me to buy the next two books in the trilogy. So, while I was not fond of this book, the rest of the group enjoyed it.

In Asylum, Dan is a teenager spending a month of his summer vacation on a college campus to take college-level classes. At first Dan is not excited—he has a weird roommate, has a hard time making friends, and is staying in a creepy converted asylum. Luckily, at the first night’s party Dan meets Abby and Jordan, and the trio becomes instant friends. As a bonding experience, the three decide to explore the restricted rooms of the asylum where they are staying. Inside these rooms, they discover creepy photos, equipment for torture, and patients’ files. Dan, Abby, and Jordan leave the room, but part of the room goes with them.

The story is written with a higher interest level, and a lower reading level. There is not a lot of character development, and the friendship between the three main characters seems forced. I found Dan’s comments about his “new best friends” impulsive and premature. I did appreciate the historical aspect of the story, as well as the clues the author hides throughout the story that aren’t discovered until the end of the book, with a couple clues that lead into the next book in the trilogy.

As far as other aspects, the story only has a little romance with one short kissing scene. There are swear words, and some disturbing images and photos of some of the tortures the patients in the asylum went through. One of the key characters in the story is homosexual, but this is more of a side note than a focus of the story.

Overall, it was a creepy story that was written without a lot of gore or sexual connotation. I would highly recommend it to people with a lower reading level because there is a lot of action, the photos keep a person reading, and it doesn’t have a lot of details or characters to keep track of. I would also recommend it to someone who wants to read a scary book without the sex and violence that seems to be in a lot of other scary stories.

The Astronaut Wives Club, by Lily Koppel

The Astronaut Wives Club Lily KoppelThe Astronaut Wives Club
by Lily Koppel
Pub Date: June 11, 2013

Unless you’ve been pretty much buried under a rock for the last number of months, you’ve probably heard about the best-selling book The Martian by Andy Weir and the new Matt Damon-starring film adaptation coming out this coming weekend. It was one of my favorite books to come out last year, and I highly recommend it, especially if you’re not much of a sci-fi person, because Weir writes his tale so entertainingly you will actually *enjoy* the way he explains science.

But this isn’t a review of The Martian. This is a review of another book to read if, like me, you have developed an affinity for space-age era books that center on the people involved, enjoyed the film Apollo 13, like anything retro, or just want to hear more gossipy behind-the-scenes tidbits about the space program. Continue reading

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart coverSteelheart
by Brandon Sanderson
Pub Date: September 24, 2013

What if Superman and people like him really did exist? Would the world be better?

Steelheart examines the idea that superheroes would use their power for their own selfish reasons instead of constantly saving the world. The protagonist, David, lives in Chicago after something happened which changed the atmosphere so that the sun doesn’t shine and certain people have strange powers, like the ability to fly or the power to create illusions. People with these powers are called Epics, and the most powerful rule different major cities. Regular people live in constant fear that an Epic will kill them or the people they love. The only people who dare to challenge Epics is a group known as the Reckoners—normal people who study Epics and discover their weaknesses in order to kill them.

Steelheart is the most powerful known Epic, and he rules Chicago with an iron fist while also maintaining it as the most powerful and stable community in the world. David, the protagonist, is a young man who watched Steelheart murder his father and then grew up in Chicago under Steelheart’s reign. David wants revenge against Steelheart, so David joins the Reckoners in order to study Steelheart, learn his weakness, and kill him.

I did not realize how much I would enjoy this book. I knew Brandon Sanderson was a great author, but I am not always a fan of science fiction or blow-em-up action-packed books. Yet, this story grabbed my attention and kept it long past the last page. I found myself on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next and how the Reckoners will get out of each scrape. I also loved cheering for regular people working as a team to fight for their freedom against all odds. There is a lot of action, and this action is supported with distinctive characters, strong plot, and a unique premise.

I highly recommend this book for people who like superhero stories, especially since normal people are the heroes in this version. It is also a great book for those who like a lot of action, strong characters, and good surprises with unseen twists and turns. I am excited to read the second book in this series, Firefight, which is already in print.