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Book Review: The Siren by Kiera Cass

Title: The Siren

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: N/A

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Love is a risk worth taking. Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again. Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. And though she can’t talk to him, they soon forge a connection neither of them can deny…and Kahlen doesn’t want to. Falling in love with a human breaks all the Ocean’s rules, and if the Ocean discovers Kahlen’s feelings, she’ll be forced to leave Akinli for good. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart. -Goodreads

The Review:

No one is more surprised than me how much I freaking loved this book.

Cass and I have a bit of a hit or miss relationship where I’m either 100% on-board fangirling… or throwing the book in disgust. Luckily, The Siren fell into the former category – something I wasn’t led to expect based on some brutal early reviews I read for the book. I have a theory as to why it caused such harsh reactions for fans of Cass’ work:

The book is less about the romance, where the main love interest is kept on the periphery for most of the book, and more about the relationship girl has with her sisters, mother ocean, and (most importantly) her heart. It’s a book filled to the brim with inner conflict as Kahlen struggled to come to terms with her lot in life and find her place in the world. I can see how most readers (misled by the romance-heavy nature of her previous series) might have gotten bored with the plot as it drifted further and further from the love story. As someone who is kind of sick of seeing the same recycled romance in YA, The Siren screamed to me something profoundly different and I enjoyed the shit out of it.

I think this is one I might actually want to reread. Certainly it deserves a spot in my collection (coveted and limited space at the moment). I don’t think it’s a book I could recommend with confidence because it’s a very specific, atypical YA that doesn’t fit the mold, but it definitely fit the bill as the refresh I needed in the genre.

Recommendations: I wouldn’t recommend this necessarily for fans of Cass’ other work because it satiates an entirely different craving. Instead I’d probably hand it to the lovers of those tragic “girls in pretty dresses in a slightly dystopia era” series (which I call “elegant dystopia”). I’d also hand this to someone expressly tired with typical YA romances.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Crown by Kiera Cass

Title: The Crown

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #5

Genre: Teen Fiction/Dystopian-ish

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone. Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined. –Goodreads

The Review:

As a whole, I’ve had a TON of fun reading this series. It has that magical “it” factor that made me love the awesome moments with unparalleled ferocity while conveniently ignoring its rather glaring shortcomings… up until The Crown, anyway. Despite my love/hate relationship with this final book, I am genuinely sad to see the saga come to an end.

Before picking up The Crown, I read a review from a fellow blogger who bluntly called the book “silly.” I found myself bristling immediately – how dare she call any part of my favorite series silly? I mean, it’s not perfect, but there are so many amazing moments that surely it deserves better than that!

And then I read The Crown, and… I agree. The book was a bit silly.

As with the first three Selection books, the brilliant bits came pretty loaded up front with each girl’s story. The Selection was easily the best of America’s stories, and The Heir was the best of Eadlyn’s. While The Heir focused primarily on the romance and Eadlyn’s relationship with the boys (which is the magic of the story), The Crown focused more on politics, world building, and broader conflicts – all elements I’ve never thought the author handled particularly well. The relationships and interpersonal interactions are what make her series so special, and I found myself constantly wishing for the focus to turn back to them throughout. It left me wanting. Hard.

I don’t usually rant in my reviews, preferring to be more professional and subjective, but I’m feeling sassy today, so here goes… Also: Spoiler Alert!

Before I dive into why I found the final book so eye-rolling, let’s have some boy talk! My vote was for Erik to win right from the start, mostly because the relationship was organic and unforced, but also because Kyle seemed too obvious a choice. So, needless to say I’m satisfied with that outcome, but did every other relationship have to get wrapped up so conveniently? Come on! Where’s the conflict? One of them was gay, one of them wanted to pursue other things, one of them was suddenly afraid to be king, and one of them bowed out nobly so his friend could have the girl – there seemed to be perfect little solutions for every relationship. Even in amped-up competitive relationships, that’s just not how things work. I mean, have you seen how many rejected people on the Bachelor bawl their eyes out on camera after being sent home? Rejection hurts, and in a competitive setting like the selection, people don’t usually volunteer to “lose.” I think the contestants’ exits could have been a bit more dramatic had the author made the relationships the primary focus of Eadlyn’s struggles. Instead, she focused on a conflict with a bogus wannabe king and her dreaded lack of positive public opinion (get over it already!). I think it’s clear that I feel The Crown focused on all the wrong things.

And maybe it would have been okay had those other things been done well… 

I have such a hard time buying into a king and queen (specifically, America and Maxom, whom I thought I knew pretty well) being totally okay passing the weight of the kingdom onto an adolescent’s shoulders just so they don’t have to worry about it anymore. First of all, I never got the impression they were that irresponsible or selfish throughout America’s story. Second of all, that’s just not how things work. There’s no way the infrastructure of a royal house would allow for the royals to decide they just don’t want to do it anymore. It would garner way too much instability. I’ve heard of royals dying prematurely, by nefarious means or otherwise, but I’ve never heard of them quitting. Sigh… Cass’s world, Cass’s rules, I guess. It just didn’t scream well-thought-out to me. And don’t even get me started on the citizen “meetings”… ugh. And, to beat the horse to death, she didn’t have to fill the pages with all of those senseless conflicts if she’d just kept the focus on the romance. This is one of those books I’m rewriting in my head for sanity’s sake.

Anyway, it’s clear I’m a mixed bag of feelings with this last book, leaning more towards negative than positive. In all of the past books, I overlooked the things that could have been bothersome because I was enjoying all the other bits so much. In regards to The Crown, there just wasn’t enough magic to keep me occupied, so I got annoyed. The only reason for the somewhat decent rating is that I liked Eadlyn’s relationship with Erik. Overall, I will look back on this series with a mixture of adoration and frustration, but I just might try to forget how some things ended in The Crown.

 Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: The Crown by Kiera Cass

The Crown by Kiera Cass

Title: The Crown

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #5

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: May 3, 2016

The Overview: Twenty years have passed since the events of The One, and America and Maxon’s daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own. Princess Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.

Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Breaking the Spine

I love this series… so much. There are a few key elements to these books that Cass presents brilliantly (relationships, fun characters, and engaging competitions) that it honestly doesn’t matter to me if other things are neglected (world-building and societal dynamics). And the covers… I LOVE the covers. Anyway, I’ll probably drop everything to read this one when it comes out!

What book are you waiting on?

 by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Heir by Kiera Cass

 The Heir by Kiera Cass

Title: The Heir

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #4

Genre: Teen Dystopian [sort of]

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she’d put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess’s life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can’t escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn’s heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.

The Review:

The Heir is one of the few titles that was a non-negotiable “I have to read it the day it comes out” type of book, as I’d been geeking out about it since it first cross my radar in late 2014. Thank goodness for nook digital downloads at midnight, because I was able to dive right in at 12:01 am (sleep be damned, it was SO worth it – The Heir was every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be). It almost seems irrational to me how excited I was, but The Selection was such an experience, and it really hurt my heart to see it come to an end. I can’t describe the joy I felt when I realized I got to visit that world again, and with Maxon and America still around to boot! That might sound soooper cheesy, but I don’t care – I freaking love this series!

Can we talk for a minute about how incredibly appealing it is to watch one girl pick from a whole bunch of eligible bachelors? And how fundamentally more exciting that is than the other way around? Well, maybe not more exciting, but different, that’s for sure. I think it was really smart on the author’s part to give us a new twist on the story we all fell in love with (even though she didn’t have to stretch too far on the creative scale, I’m still impressed). The jury is out until I read all three books, but I’m already predicting I will like Eadlyn’s journey better than America’s. Here are a few reasons why:

In America’s journey, we only got to see her side of things, and I always wondered how the process was for Maxon (in fact, one of my favorite moments was in The Prince novella where we got to experience their first meeting through Maxon’s perspective). It had to be difficult for him to juggle all of those girls while trying to make a decision that’s best for both his country and his heart. Even though we got the best bits, we missed out on a lot of the details that I’m sure I would’ve found fascinating. What this new story did was allow me to become completely immersed in the process… and I ate up every page. It was so much fun seeing all of the boys interact with Eadlyn, and I had a blast trying to psychoanalyze all of them to figure out which boy would be the best match for her (which I didn’t get to do with America’s journey because, Duh! – she was totally the best match). The fact that Eadlyn didn’t want anything to do with the selection process bugged a few of my friends, but it didn’t bother me too much – I knew the boys would eventually start to win her over.

That’s another thing I liked – that Eadlyn was definitely her own person and a very distinct character from America (although you could see many similarities in their personalities – they are both stubborn and resilient people… the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree). I also loved that America and Maxon were heavily involved in The Heir and maintained the same personalities we fell in love with in the first trilogy (it’s a pet peeve of mine when parent characters we met as children morph into a “parental” mode and lose all personality. That definitely did NOT happen here – Yay!). There was also a neat dynamics between Eadlyn and her siblings, who added a ton of depth and charm to the story – I’m definitely looking forward to reading more about them.

My biggest criticism of the first trilogy was the world building/external conflict. I thought it was nowhere near as well developed as it could have been (although the things the author did well were so awesome it almost didn’t matter), but am happy to report that I think this time around the world building was a little stronger. Similarly, I caught a few plot holes within the first few books, but all the ones I thought I caught in this one the author eventually addressed – awesome! 

Overall, if you love to the Selection Trilogy as much as I did, there’s absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t love The Heir just as much. :-)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: The Heir by Kiera Cass

the heirTitle: The Heir

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #4

Genre: Teen Dystopian (sort of) / Romance

Release Date: May 15, 2015

The Overview: 20 years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won Prince Maxon’s heart. Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her Selection to be anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story. But as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she always thought.

Hosted by Breaking the Spine

The Selection is easily one of my all-time favorite books. I remember the experience of reading it for the first time and how completely engaged I was throughout the entire thing. It was delightful. Even though the second and third books weren’t quite on the same level for me, I am hoping The Heir will bring back some of the more lighthearted elements that made The Selection so much fun. I would like to admit that even though I am a huge fan of the Bachelor  (and competition shows in general), I actually love the Bachelorette even more. Come on – twenty-five men vying for the affections of one women – what’s not to love? Anyway, my point is, I am looking forward to this book perhaps even more so than The One. I absolutely love that Cass continued on with this angle and can’t wait to see the flip side of the selection process! Is it May yet? 

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The One by Kiera Cass

The OneTitle: The One

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #3

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: The Selection changed the lives of thirty-five girls forever. And now, the time has come for one winner to be chosen. America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the competition approaches its end 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. From the very first page of The Selection, this #1 New York Times bestselling series has captured readers’ hearts and swept them away on a captivating journey… Now, in The One, Kiera Cass delivers a satisfying and unforgettable conclusion that will keep readers sighing over this electrifying fairy-tale long after the final page is turned.

The One 2

The Review:

Even though The One was the book I was most looking forward to reading in 2014, I stalled on picking it up for almost 2 weeks after the release date. You see, I was terrified it wasn’t going to live up to my high expectations, and was also concerned I’d forgotten elements from the first two books. Luckily, I’d saved reading The Selection Stories (novellas) until right before this one came out. Not only did they remind me about what was happening in the story, but got me all fired up about this series and how much I loved the characters and writing style. It also so happens that my Escape Reality Book Club voted The Selection as May’s Book-of-the-Month, and I knew I had to kick myself into gear to read The One before our next book club meeting – the chance that someone could accidentally give me spoilers of this much-anticipated book was too horrifying to consider! Needless to say, I finally got brave enough and picked up The One… And was completely enthralled from the first page!

Oh my gosh, this story pulled at my heartstrings in every which-way possible. There were just so many places where my heart ached for these characters, and I was so invested I couldn’t put it down. There are very few books that can make me truly lose myself. I’m almost always conscious of how far I am and how many more pages I have to go. With every book in the series, I lost track of all time and place. I fully intended on pacing myself through this book, savoring it, but ended up devouring it in half a day (so much for that plan!). Because these are among the few books that can affect me so profoundly, they will always be among my favorites… even though this final book didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

This series definitely has a few issues with the broader conflicts – the entire segments revolving around the rebels requires a “just go with it” mindset and weren’t nearly as well-imagined as they could have been. I know that’s bothered a lot of people, but it never bugged me too much because the narrower, interpersonal conflicts were so well done – I’d go so far as to say they’re among the most interesting of any series I’ve ever read. So even though this series lacks that rich world building usually present in dystopian novels, it more than makes up for it through engaging writing, fun characters, and fantastic internal conflicts.

I do have to say that as much as I was anticipating the ending, I didn’t totally enjoy it. Without delving into any spoilers, I feel like the story lacks a little conflict resolution and there were a few key points that I thought could’ve been done differently. After finishing it, I sat there for a good long while thinking about the a few simple changes the author could have made that would have significantly changed how I felt about the ending. Since I’m sure Cass isn’t planning on rewriting it just to satisfy me, I decided I’m just going to pretend it ended the way I thought it should and leave it at that.

So, even though The One didn’t totally live up to my expectations (sigh), this series is still one of the most engaging stories I’ve ever read and I will always hold the first book on a pedestal. While I didn’t enjoy the rest of the series nearly as much as I enjoyed The Selection, I’m still incredibly glad I read them and will probably delve into them again in a few years.

I hope you have enjoyed this last week’s tribute to The Selection series! :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes