Saturday, September 3, 2016

Review: The Selection, The Elite, and The One (Books #1-3)

This is a review of the first books in the dystopian young adult series, The Selection by Kiera Cass. First premiering in 2012, these books on the budding romance between America Singer (17 years old), a gifted if temperamental level five commoner from Carolina, and Maxon Scheave (19 years old), prince of Illea.

35 girls. 1 crown. The competition of a lifetime.
The Selection is the first novel in the Selection series. In a far out future, the United States no longer exist. After gaining independence from a foreign nation, North America has been renamed as Illea, after its founder who established a monarchy as the form of government. People are born into a status (Levels 1-8) -- the higher the number, wider of career options (and wealth). Level 1 is the royalty (Illea's descendants). Levels 2-3 are the upper class. Levels 4-5 are the middle class. Families in levels 6-7 tend to be servants ("working poor") to the higher classes. Level 8 are the outcasts living in poverty. Some people do not like the current status system, which is why rebellions have occurred more frequently and violently.

When the prince enters adulthood, the palace hosts a televised contest called the Selection (think the Bachelor for teens) where 35 girls selected from a pool of candidates have the opportunity to escape a life laid out to them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of 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.

35 girls came to the palace. Only six remain.
The Elite is the second novel in the Selection series. The Selection began with 35 girls. Now the group has narrowed down to the six Elite, and the competition to win Prince Maxon's heart is fiercer than ever. America Singer has grown accustomed to the palace, but she still struggles over the decision on where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen? While America feels conflicted, the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want. America's chance to choose is about to slip away.

35 girls entered the Selection. Only one can win.
The One is the third novel in the Selection series. The time has come for one winner to be crowned. When America Singer 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.

I stumbled upon this book series while I was browsing my local Barnes and Noble Booksellers store. I had never heard of this author but I saw positive reviews for this young adult series. Curiosity won over, and I rented the book from my local library. I was deeply engrossed in these books! I love the protagonist, America Singer. She symbolically represents a true American Girl: kind, humble, altruistic, intelligent, creative, attentive, confident, brave, witty, and visionary. She spoke from the heart and followed her intuition. The color of the covers also hint the colors of the American flag (blue, red and white). I cheered for America even though her fear to let go of her past and embrace a once-in-a-lifetime future was daunting to read! I wanted her to make up her mind and admit her true feelings. It is so easy for teen girls to not want to take risks they may regret later but America Singer finally became forthright when she had nothing left to lose. America knew from hear heart whom she loved more. I am so happy that she found her happiness because she deserved it based on her actions during the Selection. I also learned from this series to be strong and courageous in the face of uncertainty. I enjoyed reading this series so far that I purchased the companion, Happily Ever After, which contains all the novellas!

Stay tuned for the next book in the Selection series, The Heir.
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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Review: Dark Debt and Midnight Marked (Chicagoland Vampires #11-12)

A vampire never gets old. But neither do his enemies.

Dark Debt, by Chloe Neill, is the eleventh novel in the Chicagoland Vampires series. Cadogan House has officially become independent of the Greenwich Council and established a new vampire organization in North America--the American Association of Vampires. Merit, Sentinel of Cadogan House, has her hands full making society appearances and protecting the House Master and lover, Ethan Sullivan. However, when an old friend from Ethan's dark past reappears in a provocative debut in Chicago, she does not know whether to treat this mysterious vampire, Balthasar--Ethan's Maker, as a friend or foe.

But the trouble doesn't end there. Morgan Greer, House Master of Navarre House, needs help with paying a serious debt. Worse, this debt is tied to The Triad, a Chicago crime syndicate with grand ambitions for power and control--both human and supernatural. The Triad's connections run deeper than anything Merit experienced. Both Merit and Ethan must race against the clock to figure out what Balthasar is plotting before they lose each other forever.

A vampire's grudges don't stay dead long...

Midnight Marked, by Chloe Neill, is the twelfth novel in the Chicagoland Vampires series. The Triad has grown restless and more powerful. Merit made an enemy with the Chicago crime syndicate who will stop at nothing to defeat her. When their last plan is thwarted, the Triad has declared war on Cadogan House. Ethan has alerted the other Houses to stay on high alert, but their enemy won't stop at nothing until it gets what it wants.

In this deadly game of cat and mouse, the stakes are life or death. Even family are not safe in this war. Merit and Ethan must determine who is the mastermind behind the Triad before the Windy City goes under its evil supernatural influence.

Chloe Neill scores with these back-to-back, action-packed novels. Merit and Ethan face powerful enemies from the past and present to protect Cadogan and Chicago from the brink of destruction. Merit has grown extremely well into her role as Sentinel of Cadogan House. Readers would forget that just a year ago she was a 28-year-old doctoral student in English Literature at the University of Chicago. Her transformation into a fiery, sword-wielding guardian is amazing in its own way. I continue to love this series even when I no longer live in Chicago (the Northeast is currently my residence). It is enjoyable to relive the Chicago references in my imagination. Merit is a character that has grown on me--even given me determination and confidence. I have become a warrior fighting injustice in my own way. For that reason, I cannot wait to read the next Chicagoland Vampire novel.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Chicagoland Vampires series, Blade Bound.
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sailor Moon Crystal Instrumental Music

The third season of Sailor Moon Crystal (2016) concluded last month. I have been a major Sailor Moon fan since its first debut in the 1990s. I loved the magic girl element, good vs. evil plot, and romance. I must say the original soundtrack has exceeded my expectations, especially the first album. I love the instrumental selections -- they fit the mood (tragedy, determination, and the power of love) of Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion very well. In the meantime, I want to share my favorite soundtrack music from the first three seasons. A review of Sailor Moon Crystal is forthcoming.

Love Happens Again ~Ai no Futataki~

A Prayer to the Moon ~Tsuki no Inori wo~

Eternal Eternity (Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus / Ending Song)

Only Eternity Ties Us Together (Tuxedo Mask / Ending Song) Click here to read the rest of this post...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Review: The Glittering Court (Book #1)

The Glittering Court, by Richelle Mead, is a new young adult series. For a select group of girls, the Glittering Court offers a shot at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure. Elizabeth Ruthford, the Countess of Witmore, is from a wealthy family in Osfrid who faces the possibility of a loveless arranged marriage. After a chance meeting with the dazzling Cedric Thorn, Elizabeth poses as her former servant, Adelaide, to join the crop of impoverished girls he promises to transform into proper ladies in the Glittering Court. But her familiarity with upper class life comes with a price: she must hide her identity from her new friends, mysterious refugee Mira and fiery former laundress Tamsin, and most importantly, from Cedric himself--even though she’s falling in love with him.

Everything begins to crumble when Adelaide catches the eye of a powerful young governor, who wants her for a wife. She didn’t leave the gilded cage of her old life behind just to become someone else's property. But nothing is as daunting—or as wonderful—as the potent, forbidden attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. One that, if acted on, would make them both outcasts in a wild, dangerous, uncharted world, and possibly lead them to their deaths.

What a wonderful new series by internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, Richelle Mead! Initially, I was hesitant to pick up this book because it received mixed reviews by readers. The Glittering Court deviates from her previous book series that included supernatural elements. This book fits the romance category but it felt very enchanting! The plot also reminded me of the romantic children's film, Anastasia (1997). Dmitri, a handsome man from humble background, grooms Anya into a respectable princess only to fall in love with her as they become close and miss each other's presence. Anya makes the decision to abandon her royal past and live a life with the man she loves. If you loved Anastasia, you will love The Glittering Court!

I read this book three times (!) because I loved how Cedric and Adelaide (Elizabeth) overcame life-changing obstacles, hidden secrets with major consequences, and rigid social customs to make their relationship work. It shows that love can conquer anything. I am very surprised that Adelaide took a risk to abandon her old life to pursue her own journey of freedom and true love in the New World! She took control of her own life so that she could be happy with herself and not live to impress someone else. Most importantly, her personality resembles mine--assertive, compassionate, inquisitive, and creative. If this is a new series, I cannot wait to read the next book--I love this couple!
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Review: Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)

Mercy Thompson has been hailed as "a heroine who continues to grow and yet always remains true to herslf." Now she's back, and she'll soon discover that when the fae stalk the human world, it's the children who suffer..."

Fire Touched, by Patricia Briggs, is the ninth novel in the Mercy Thompson series. Tensions are growing between the fae and human communities. Fae who once lived in the human world have resettled on reservations in North America. Nonetheless, trouble is always present around coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam. A rampaging troll nearly becomes too much for the werewolves to handle until a mysterious child rescues them.

Mercy and Adam found themselves in a bind when they learn this child is a chanegeling--a human with fae-like powers--with a special secret. He is fired-touched (gifted with the power of fire) and fae would love to get their hands on him. Mercy and Adam and the pack promise to protect the child no matter the cost. In the meantime, they must forestall an out-and-out war with the fae.

Briggs delivered another masterpiece in Fire Touched. Mercy Thompson has certainly grown into her full potential as a coyote shapeshifter and mate to an alpha wolf--Adam and Mercy were made for each other. She feels more confident in her own skin and knows how to stick to her personal convictions. She stands her ground which is what I like about her personality. Whether a child is involved in fae politics or a werewolf is considering suicide, Mercy courageously handles the situation with compassion and determination. She takes on dangerous challenges that seem impossible yet she prevails in miraculous ways. Each scenario makes Mercy grow wiser and braver with age. I cannot wait to read the next novel in the series. Stay tuned for further updates. Click here to read the rest of this post...