Happily Ever After Review

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Happily Ever After by Kiera Cass ~ 5/5 stars.

This book is a companion book to The Selection series, and it contains a series of novellas, scenes, and other little tidbits to go along with The Selection.  I really enjoyed this book, as it gave a little glimpse into the heads of several of the main characters.  It gave some backstory and helped to create a new perspective on The Selection series as a whole.  I think that, rather than just talking about my feelings on the entire book, I am going to do a separate mini-review for each of the novellas and other sections of the book.

The Queen:  This is a novella written from Amberly’s perspective, set during her Selection.  I really enjoyed this story, because it gave more insight on why Amberly and Clarkson ended up together, despite the significant differences in their personalities that we see in The Selection.  We get to see some of the flaws of Amberly’s character, and also some of the more human side of Clarkson – both essential elements of their relationship that are more hidden in the series.  I also really enjoyed watching as Clarkson’s Selection shaped Amberly’s character.  Amberly experienced many of the same situations and emotions that America went through during her Selection.  Those situations, and the decisions that she was forced to make helped to mold Amberly into the strong and loving queen and mother that she becomes.  It is overall a beautiful story.

The Prince: This is a novella written from Maxon’s perspective, starting on his birthday and continuing through the first few weeks of the Selection.  There is so much in this story.  I really like it, because it shows a lot of the story we have already seen in the first few weeks of the Selection, but it has a completely different feeling as told through Maxon’s eyes.  From America’s perspective in The Selection, Maxon always seems calm and confident – but we see that he was actually terrified at the idea of bringing 35 strangers into his house, most of which were hand picked by his father.  Speaking of King Clarkson, we also see Maxon’s perspective of just how demanding his father is.  Every single action, move, and judgement Maxon makes is scrutinized and dictated by his father.  However, in contrast to this, we see the sweet, loving relationship between Maxon and Queen Amberly.  While Maxon receives love from his mother, he just feels pressure from his father – and there is not a loving relationship between his parents.  One of the small plotlines of this story is Maxon’s first encounter with a girl, before the Selection begins.  Daphne, a French princess, confesses that she loves and always has loved Maxon.  When she doesn’t get the response from him that she wants, she begins to analyze and make judgements about Maxon’s ability to love.  Her conclusion is this: “You have no idea how to express [love].  Your father can be as cold as ice, and your mother hides within yourself.  You’ve never seen people love freely, so you don’t know how…”.  While that is a rather harsh judgement, it is accurate in a way.  And it is with those words in his mind that Maxon enters the Selection.  It is a very engaging story, as we see Maxon’s perspective of several iconic scenes between him and America, and we are given a glimpse of the emotions Maxon experienced as he went through the process of choosing a wife

The Guard:  This is a novella written from Aspen’s perspective, starting the day after Officer Woodwork and Marlee are discovered.  One thing I enjoyed most about this story was the new perspective of the palace.  We get to see the staff – maids and guards and even a stable hand – through the eyes of Aspen, who is one of their equals.  The dynamic in the palace is so interesting, and Aspen discovers that he is much more comfortable in the company of the maids and servants than with the royals.  I was kind of disappointed while reading this, because I thought it would shed some light on Aspen’s relationship with Lucy.  We see the very beginning of something, but nothing is resolved and there really isn’t any completion.  It is a good perspective, but it is not my favorite of the novellas.

The Favorite:  This is a novella written from Marlee’s perspective.  It is such a sweet novella, chronicling the story of Marlee falling in love with Carter Woodwork.  It begins in a prison cell, after Marlee and Carter have been discovered.  Marlee thinks that they are waiting there for a death sentence, and she remembers back to the beginnings of their relationship.  The story stretches through until the very end of The One, describing Marlee and Carter’s struggles and happy memories.  This story is one of my favorite parts of anything Selection related – It was just beautiful seeing Marlee and Carter grown in their pure, simple love.

The Maid: This is not really a novella, but more like a collection of scenes.  And here is where I got the Aspen and Lucy love story that I was waiting for.  It picks up right after Aspen reveals to Lucy that America was his first love.  Lucy is devastated by this news, because she loves America like a sister, really.  And now that she knows about America and Aspen, and their hidden love she thinks that Aspen must still be in love with America.  This makes her very reluctant to be accepting towards him, even though she has fallen in love with him.  This story reveals more about the lives of Aspen and Lucy, and I enjoyed reading it because these have been two of my favorite characters throughout the series.  Yes, I have been and will always been loyal to Aspen, and I was so glad to see that he found a happy ending after all.

The rest of the book contains three scenes from the perspective of Celeste, which aren’t really any surprise.  We see her confidence from the beginning that it was really no contest – that she would be queen.  We see how lonely she became, fighting from the throne rather than for the prince, and there is a really incredible scene between her and Maxon right before she leaves the competition.  The book also includes a small collection of scenes called After The One, and I am pretty sure you can guess the subject of those little scenes.  The final section of the book is entitled Where are they now?, and sheds some light on where a few of the Selected girls ended up after they left the competition.

All in all, this was a fantastic read.  I loved getting into the heads of all of the Selection characters, and there was just such a personal touch from Kiera Cass on every part of the book.  I wish every author would do this, offer more backstory and insight on some of our favorite characters.  If you are a fan of The Selection series, you will love Happily Every After.

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Most Anticipated Releases of 2016 {part 1}

The new year is right around the corner, and I thought I would put together a little list of the books I am most excited about that are releasing in the next couple of months.  Ah they are all just so close.  Yet so far away….

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-The Siren by Kiera Cass, released on January 26th.  This book makes the list simply because of my love for the writing of Kiera Cass.  She just has a way of making stories come to life.  And, as much as I love The Selection series, I am very excited for a new storyline from Kiera.  Also, I think it is just really amazing that Kiera Cass originally self-published this book, and now she is rereleasing it as a bestselling author.

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The Crown by Kiera Cass, released May 3rd.  Well, obviously this book has to make the list as well.  Honestly, I wasn’t as excited as I should have been to see that The Selection had been extended beyond a trilogy.  I liked it as it was, and if it had been extended at all, I wanted it to tell the story of America taking the throne and becoming queen.  But I have since accepted it, and I am very curious to see the outcome of Eadlyn’s Selection.  I’m not a huge fan of Eadlyn herself, but some of the boys in her Selection have won my heart, and I can’t wait to see where this series ends up.

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-Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, released January 5th.  I have never read anything by Alexandra Bracken, but the premise of this book looks really interesting.  It follows a girl named Etta who suddenly travels back in time and finds herself as a passenger on this ship.  She has no idea where she is, or how she ended up there.  Along with a boy named Nicholas who she meets on the ship, Etta travels through time trying to solve an incredible mystery.  The plot and the cover both draw me in and I’m just very excited about this particular release.

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-Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard, released February 9th.  This is the second book in the Red Queen series.  I am halfway through the first book now, and it is fabulous.  The plot is so unique and I’m excited to see where this story ends up.  I think this series is setting up to be a trilogy, which means that I will have to wait even longer for the last book.  This thing with reading new releases is awful.  I hate waiting…

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-The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry, released January 26th.  I came across this author on Instagram, actually – and I was completely entranced by the cover and the title.  Basically, the main character Natalie receives a mysterious, supernatural message that simply says “you have three months to save him.”  And the story follows the discoveries and mysteries that come after that message.  It sounds just so enthralling and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

So, yes – those are some of my top anticipated books for the beginning of the coming year.  I am so excited for all of these for so many different reasons.  I can’t wait to see what these books – and all the other new releases of 2016 – have to offer.

 

 

Winter Break TBR

That moment when you have taken your last final and turned in your last assignment and you can finally go home for Christmas!  I am just so very excited to have three weeks with no homework whatsoever and just read.  Read all the books.

Or, all these books at least.  SO here we go:

-Paper Towns by John Green

-Happily Ever After by Kiera Cass

-Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

-A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

-We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

-Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This list may possibly grow (or shrink.  sometimes I overestimate how long a book will actually take me to finish), but these are the actual books that I have available to read currently.  Also, I’m planning to review each of these books on the blog.  And I already finished and reviewed Paper Towns, so check out my review here!

I hope you all have a fantastic break and a very merry Christmas 🙂

Paper Towns Review

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Paper Towns by John Green ~ 4.5/5 stars   {spoiler free review}

Last night, I stayed up until 2am finishing Paper Towns.  It has been sitting on my TBR shelf forever, and I cannot believe it took me this long to pick it up – because it was stunning.

The story follows Margo and Quentin during their senior year of high school.  They grew up next door to each other, and when they were younger they were good friends – but as they have grown up, they have also grow apart.  Margo is one of the popular girls in school.  And while Quentin has a solid group of friends, he exists on the lower end of the social order in their school.

Despite the fact that Margo and ‘Q’ (as Quentin is referred to) have not been close since they were young, Margo comes to Quentin randomly one night, and asks for his help in accomplishing a list of various revenge seeking/good deeds/slightly illegal things around town that she has carefully planned out.  As the story progresses, we discover that Margo has a purpose for every single Margo thing that she does – but at the time, Q thinks that their night of adventure is just Margo being spontaneous,  and he is kind of confused about the whole event.  Why did she come to him after they have barely spoken for years?  What is really going on in her head?

One of their many stops of the night is to the SunTrust building in downtown Orlando.  From the top of the building, you can see the whole city.  They stop to look out over the city – they can see their houses, and their school, and Disney World.  Q remarks that everything looks beautiful and more impressive from far away.  Margo disagrees – saying that from up high, you can see the big picture of how fake the town is.  She says that “All the things [are] paper-thin and paper-frail.  And the people, too.  I’ve lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters.”  This is the point in the story where Margo begins to reveal who exactly she is.  She is someone who thinks bigger thoughts and dreams bigger dreams than everyone around her.  She isn’t content to just graduate high-school and go to college and get a job and have a family and live in what she calls a ‘paper town’.  She wants more.

The next day, Q is prepared for life to shift, now that he has discovered this new friendship with Margo.  But she doesn’t show up to school.  And after a few days, the news gets out that she has run away.  This is not really anything new for Margo, as she has run away several times in the past.  And, whenever she runs away, she leaves clues about where she is going.  But she always comes back.

This time is different, though.  Because Margo hasn’t come back.  And when Q starts finding clues that she left for him, he decides that it is up to him to find her before it is to late.  So, he recruits some friends – which end up being an interesting mix of the popular and unpopular crowd, because both Q’s friends and Margo’s care about finding her – and they start out on a journey to puzzle out Margo’s clues and find wherever it is she is leading them.

One of my favorite elements of this story is the strong, unlikely friendships that are formed during the course of the search.  In the end, the main group consists of Q, Ben (Q’s best friend), Radar (another friend of Q’s), and Lacey (Margo’s best friend).  But the most solid friendship that is formed over the course of the book is between Q and Margo – yet the strange (also brilliant) part about it is that Margo is missing for the great majority of the book.  She isn’t present, but she is at the same time.  Through all of her clues, Q becomes closer to her than he has ever been.

Q becomes convinced that the only way to find Margo is to learn who  Margo, the real Margo is.  At one point in the story, Q comes up with yet another theory about why Margo left, and Lacey comments that it doesn’t sound like something her Margo would do.  This starts Q thinking about all the different Margos that there must be.  His Margo, Lacey’s Margo, Margo’s parents’ Margo….  “All of us looking at her reflection in different fun-house mirrors.”  Once Q discovers that Margo isn’t really any of the versions of herself that others have created, he finally begins to understand who she truly is.

The majority of the books is the journey to find Margo, mixed in with the everyday life of high school seniors – prom, finishing classes, graduation.  It is an emotional roller coaster for sure.  John Green has created such a brilliant story, and a fabulous main character in Quentin.  I feel like I haven’t read a book from the POV of a guy for a while, and it was so well done.  As Q is discovering that the real Margo isn’t the Margo that everyone sees, the reader is sort of finding that same thing out about Q.  There are several scenes where Q is alone with his thoughts, and the real Q is revealed – if only for a moment.  He is such a pure, strong character.  And every emotion that he feels, the reader feels deeply as well.

Paper Towns is just such a fantastically put together story.  The only reason that I am not giving it the full 5 stars is because of language.  I mean, I realize that everything in the book is realistic to a high school situation – but honestly, I felt like the story could have been just as good (and authentic) without so much of that.  And I feel like I can’t recommend it without making that clear.  But, that said, it is an incredible story and a rather quick read.  It is one of those books that just pulls you out of your own reality and completely immerses you into the world of Margo and Q and the rest.  So yes, I highly recommend Paper Towns. 🙂