Wordless Wednesday : Notre-Dame de Paris

(click on picture for gallery view!) Paris 2010; Notre-Dame de Paris on 3 different days. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here!

Review : The Selection

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Pages : 327
Genre : YA, Speculative Fiction
Series : The Selection, book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

The whole country of Illéa is on their toes : the Prince is ready to get married. In order for him to find the perfect wife, the Selection is organized : 35 girls from different castes of society will compete for his love (and the crown), until one steals his heart.

It’s almost by accident that America Singer is selected : now she must leave behind her family and, most importantly, her secret boyfriend. Unlike the other girls, she doesn’t want a life in the palace. Then she meets Prince Maxon, and as she get to know him, America starts doubting what it is she really wants…

My Thoughts :

I knew going it that there was a big chance this wasn’t a book for me; The Selection has been mentioned as a “The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games” kind of book. Not being a fan of the first, and being too much of a fan of the second, I really expected the worst. I think it’s why, despite not enjoying the book, I went through it quite fast and actually finished it without feeling disappointed.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the book’s genre. Is it dystopia? Sci-fi? Fantasy? Honestly, hard to say. Though the Hunger Games comparison leads you to believe this will be full on dystopia with pretty dresses, it isn’t exactly the case. The book is so dystopia-light it is almost dystopia-free. There was a mention of Illéa being once upon a time the United-States, the attacks by rebels and then the castes systems (castes numbered 1 to 8, 1 being the royal family and 8 being the poorest of all). That is not sufficient to call a novel dystopian!

It’s possible the author plans on expending on her worldbuilding in the following books; if that’s the case, it really won’t hurt. Until more details were given, I found it extremely difficult to figure out which kind of society America lived in. Taking place 300 years in the future, there were very few mentions of technology or modern items : tv, portable phones, cinema, jeans… Other than that, I couldn’t figure if they lived in an advanced technological world, or if the wars had almost destroyed everything and stopped most progress.

And then there was America. She is pretty, you see; gorgeous in fact. Except that she doesn’t know it (she will tell you many times, that she doesn’t understand why people call her pretty all the time!) She’s also kind, talented at music, witty enough to get the Prince’s attention, simple, humble… gee, no wonder the Prince falls for her! She is so obviously better than every other girl around her! Her only clear fault was her lying – but it’s not her fault, you see, she is so obviously torn between those two guys!

As for the romance… huh. It was so predictable. So, so, so predictable at every turn. The way America and Maxon’s relationship develops, the conversations they have, the misunderstandings, all of this had little originality to it. The fact that I didn’t connect to America, to the Prince or to Aspen (America’s boyfriend back home) really didn’t help. To be honest, I had more interest for the girls America was competing against; I wanted to hear more about their personal stories, the gossiping, vicious plans to destroy each other, etc. There was little of that though, which made the novel uneventful for me.

I really wish I could add some great positive thought here, to balance this rather negative review. Sometimes a book isn’t for me; it is clearly the case with The Selection. But sometimes, too, I feel that it isn’t only about whether a book was for me or not. For instance, all this could have been saved by great writing. Beautiful prose, compelling descriptions, and I would have overlooked a lot of the least appealing aspects of the book. Sadly, the writing wasn’t anything spectacular, and the characters were so flat that I didn’t care what happened to them (except for America’s maids, three girls I really liked and who had more depth than most of the main characters).

I did have some fun while reading it. I kept reading because the writing, though not fantastic, made it easy to do so, and I kept expecting something big to happen. It didn’t but some scenes were fun enough. Also, I had a huge toothache, so the fact that this book was light and predictable felt good at the time. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be getting in line for book 2 when it comes out, but I am sure plenty of readers will appreciate this “Cinderella” story for its romance, the gorgeous dresses and a worldbuilding that is easy to get into.

Series Reading Order :

  1. The Selection
  2. ?

Filling the Shelf – 58

Filling the Shelf is basically Mailbox Monday (this month hosted by Cindy’s Love of Books), but with a title that suits my blog 😀 If you’re interested in joining the fun or seeing what other bloggers added to their shelves, I invite you to visit those two awesome features!

Happy Monday all!

This was such a big week for books! I’m not sure how that happened; I usually try to time them better so that I don’t get overwhelmed with them. However, I did make place on my shelves by parting with some books I couldn’t get into or that I hadn’t liked.

Also, two more books arrived on my doorstep as I was writing this; as I am already late with this post, I’ll include them with next week’s books!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss : I heard great things about this fantasy novel, and the few pages I read at the bookstore really intrigued me.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley : A woman who forgot her identity, a secret organization, supernatural forces, Britain : need I say more?

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta : I heard so much good about that YA fantasy, I can’t wait to see for myself what the praise is about!

Tiger’s Curse by  Colleen Houck : A  300-year-old Indian curse, a white tiger, magic and dark forces. Sounds like fun!

Bunheads by Sophie Flack : Ballet! It’s been a while since I have read a book in the world of dance, which is one of my favorites. Can’t wait to read it!

Perception by Kim Harrington : The sequel to Clarity, which was a fun mystery with a paranormal twist. Plus, pretty cover!

The Selection by Kiera Cass : Already done with this one, review coming soon.

Thumped by Megan McCafferty : I really liked the first book, Bumped, I’m looking forward to reading this one!

What did you add to your shelves recently? Have you read one of these two books?

On My Wishlist – 40

On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Cosy Books and runs every Saturday. It’s where we list all the books we desperately want but haven’t actually bought yet. They can be old, new or forthcoming. Click on the link to Book Chick City, sign the Mr. Linky and join the fun!

* * *

Two more upcoming books I’m looking forward to. Even though I haven’t read these authors before, I’m really curious about what they have coming for 2012!

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

On Goodreads :

Reese and David don’t remember what happened to them after a bird flew into their headlights on the Extraterrestrial Highway–not the resulting car accident and certainly not a bit of the 21 days of care at the military hospital in Nevada. It’s a good thing, the doctors and colonels tell them, that they crashed on a military base, but they won’t tell Reese and David what the extent of their injuries were, or how they were healed. They do tell them they’re not going home, though, until they sign a confidentiality agreement.

When they get home, Reese can’t help but find everything a little weird. Worldwide bird strikes resulting in plane crashes have grounded air travel, David won’t talk to her, and she could swear she’s seen her military doctors around the neighborhood. It’s only when she meets Amber Grey that things in her life begin to really fall apart, and the mysteries of the bird strikes, the military, and her own treatment come together. Reese realizes that she must find out what they did to her in that hospital, but her search for the truth threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret. What if we aren’t alone in the universe? What if the alien is inside us?

* * *

One Moment by Kristina McBride

On Goodreads :

This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie’s life. Now it’s the one she’d do anything to forget.

Maggie Reynolds remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party the night before. She remembers climbing the trail hand in hand with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can’t she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below – dead?

As Maggie’s memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?

What is at the top of your wishlist right now?

Artsy Shelf – 38 – Dressed in Black

Last year, there seemed to be a trend of covers with gorgeous red dresses and beautiful white ones. While these trends are far from over, 2012 seems to be the year of the black dress. It’s something we had seen a lot on the covers for the Fallen series by Lauren Kate – and in fact, some of these covers look like they could belong with the series – but I’ve noticed a lot more of them in the recent months.

Here are a few of YA releases coming in 2012, featuring girls dressed all in black :

I was a bit indifferent to the cover of Defiance by C. J. Redwine, until I took a closer look at it and realized two things : first, the girl is not wearing a dress but a beautiful black cape. She looks more like an adventurer, an assassin or a spy than like a beautifully dressed girl in need of saving. I really like that, and from the summary on Goodreads, it seems the cover is a good illustration for it! The second thing I noticed when looking at it is the castle/city at the bottom of her cape. It’s a nice touch!

Do these covers work for you? Are you getting tired of the stunningly dressed young women on the covers of YA fiction? Do you, like me, wish we could have girls a little less passive, or do you prefer the more evocative poses?

Review : Across the Universe

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Pages : 416
Genre : YA, Science-Fiction, Dystopia
Series : Across the Universe, book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

The plan for Amy’s family was simple; cryo-sleep aboard the Godspeed ship, to wake up on another planet a few centuries later. Only, something goes wrong, and Amy wakes up alone, too soon.

Before long, Amy discovers something bad is going on Godspeed : other sleepers get murdered and the ship’s ruler, Eldest, isn’t friendly towards the new girl. As she tries to uncover the truth and protect her family, Amy has to decide whether she can trust Elder, next in line to rule the ship.

My Thoughts :

The first thing I thought about when starting to write this review was “Should I really tag it as dystopia?” Because in truth, Across the Universe is more science-fiction than anything else. Even the romance, which the cover hints at strongly, takes a backseat to the mystery, the ship and the characters’ own personal issues. As for the dystopian aspect, it’s a part of the plot that is not clearly revealed from the beginning, but I did feel the hints were big enough that this is not a spoiler in any way. So, yes; Across the Universe is a slightly dystopian futuristic novel with an intriguing premise.

I’m not sure why the book sat so long on my shelf. When I finally decided to read it, I got hooked to the story instantly. While the narration itself didn’t particularly stand out, I was curious about Amy’s situation. Being put to sleep sure didn’t look like fun! However, I was disappointed by the dual narration. Nothing against Elder, but his voice wasn’t particularly different from Amy’s. I think I would have preferred to discover the ship and the future only though Amy’s eyes.

I also had a few problems with the technological side of the worldbuilding. Maybe it’s because I’m currently reading Physics of the Futurebut I couldn’t accept that the technology used on the ship wasn’t more advanced, more sophisticated. Parts of it were; but some parts of it were too easy, too similar to the technology we already use. Sadly, there was no explanation in the worldbuilding to justify that.

I do wish the characters were more dimensional, too, and less stereotyped. As a villain, Eldest had very little depth, but this is something that could be said of other secondary characters, too.This being said, I do think the strong point of the novel was the story itself. Even though it felt predictable and I could tell, mostly, who did what and what would happen, the pace and the twists kept me reading.

I also loved that, while Amy and Elder had a certain attraction for each other, the novel wasn’t about the romance itself. It was something happening on the side, and that never truly developed into something more. To be honest, I wouldn’t even be surprised if the author introduced another love interest for Amy, since her interest for Elder seemed to be more about curiosity, loneliness and friendship.

Across the Universe sure differentiated itself from all the dystopian stories coming out these days. I’m looking forward to reading book two, A Million Suns, which is already waiting on my shelf.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Across the Universe
  2. A Million Suns
  3. Shades of Earth (coming 2013)