Author Review: Kiera Cass

This is the first Author review I have ever done. I thought it would be fun to take a look at an author who has a very successful young adult series, and look at her other work as well. I don’t typically get stuck on an author, but it does happen. I’ve read 2 Rainbow Rowell books and I can’t wait to read her others, and I’ve been a fan of Stephenie Meyer for longer than I care to admit.(I own most of her books, I’m not ashamed.)

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Last year I got into The Selection Series by Kiera Cass. I can only describe the series (the first 3 books in the series) as The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor. It’s dystopian young adult, with lots of fluffy romance, just enough angst and feels to keep it addicting, and isn’t super long so it goes quick. I completely blew through the first 3 of the series, omitting 4 and 5 and the novellas because they followed new characters and I liked the original characters. America and Max’s story ends in The One as far as I’m concerned, and feel the next 2 books which are about another character, should have been separate, but I digress.

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I heard about Cass’s The Siren after I read The Selection Series. A book about a siren?  I love mermaids and sirens, I’m OBSESSED with the mythological lore and all the surrounds it. I’ve been into mermaids as long as I can remember, and naturally I discovered the myths of sirens along the way. One of my favorite books of all time, is a book called Sirena by Donna J. Napoli. I read it when I was just  a kid, about 12 years old. The story is about a mermaid/siren named Sirena who lures a ship full of sailors to their deaths and falls in love with one of the men who survives. It’s a beautiful tail, (see what I did there…get it, tail? haha…I crack myself up) and it is honestly a great young adult novel.

I can’t say The Siren is bad by any means, because it was definitely interesting to say the least. The story follows Kahlen (which is another reason I wanted to read the book, not many times you hear my name in a book) who is supposed to die in a shipwreck, but she wants to live and so the Ocean takes her as a siren. As a siren Kahlen will be in the debt of the ocean for 100 years, then will be able to resume her life as human and live in peace, forgetting her time as a siren. The Ocean in this novel is both a villain and something similar to a mother figure. The Ocean takes lives to balance out the lives that live,  and her sirens aid her in her need to consume. This was a really interesting concept I thought, as was the bond between the sirens.

I went into reading The Siren with the idea it was going to be like The Selection Series, but it was not.  The Siren  is described as a romance- kind of like a modern day retelling of the The Little Mermaid, but it isn’t really the kind of romance you think your going to get, especially if you are familiar with The Selection Series. These 2 stories could not be more different.  While The Selection Series is full of romance front and center, The Siren’s romance is a fraction of the story. We spend more time with Kahlen pining over her romantic partner than we spend actually building up the romance or involved in it at all.  Kahlen falls in love with Akinli after a day or so, and total the “couple” only spend a few days together. It’s enough to throw it all away on though, apparently.

Cass isn’t the only one to ever do the “insta-love” trope, but I have seen it done better. I just didn’t buy into it as much as I wanted to,  and that was mostly because the meat of the story centered around Kahlen’s passive-aggressive relationship with the Ocean as a paternal figure, and her  socially disconnected relationship with her sisters. There’s a heavy bit of self-loathing as well from Kahlen, who despite doing this for 80 years, just can’t enjoy her life because of the lives she takes bringing her so much guilt.

I went into reading The Siren with the hopes it would be as fluffy and escapist as The Selection Series was and it was not anything like what I thought it would be for a Kiera Cass book. That’s both good and bad depending on how you look at it. On one hand, it could be good that Cass can write books that are so different, but it can be a bit off-putting if you are expecting cohesiveness in the plot.

In my opinion, I’d like to see some more of Cass’s work, to better make a comparison, but I can say this- Cass has proven she can do a variety of things, and her writing style and world building are both good enough that I’d still pick up another book by this author. The Selection Series by far is the standout, but I wouldn’t say The Siren was a bad book at all, its just different.

 

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Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

 

I don’t know what it is about Rainbow Rowell’s writing, but it sucks me in from the first page.

I wanted to kick the new year off right, with positive vibes and definitely some fluff. I’d just finished Scott O Dell’s classic Island Of The Blue Dolphins, which is about a woman stranded on an island for 20 years. I needed something fun and lighthearted, and Carry On definitely delivered.

In Rowell’s novel FanGirl, ( which I LOVED) Cath writes fan fiction of a Harry Potter-esque novel series. She’s grown up with Simon Snow, and her and her sister are bonded over it, and very into shipping the two fictional main characters, Simon and Baz. In FanGirl, Cath’s magnum opus is her final take on the story( she’s writing it all through the book, and trying to put it out before the last Simon Snow novel comes out). Through FanGirl, we see bits and pieces of Cath’s fanfic so we are familiar with the characters Simon and Baz, as they are a pivotal part of Cath’s identity for her adolescent years. Carry On IS that story, a fictional character’s fanfic of a fictional story. So unbelievably meta, I know.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room- Harry Potter. You should be sitting down for this…

I’ve never read Harry Potter past the halfway mark of Goblet Of Fire. I have not seen all the movies, either. I know you are probably wondering how in the bloody hell that happened, right? It’s not like it doesn’t have the makings of a book series I’d be into or anything. In fact, in all seriousness- I can’t quite grasp what it is that keeps me from reading further, other than some validation that Goblet Of Fire is hard to get through, and the least “appealing” of the series.  In most cases when I’m reading a book that is a parody or satire or a book that draws influences heavily from something else, usually I read the source material first. I did not take that approach with Carry On, mostly because if I had to wait until I read the whole Harry Potter series to read it and compare, I’d never do it; but also because I’d never be able to look at Carry On as a standalone story, which it ultimately is. If I read Harry Potter FIRST, I’d compare Carry On to a series that is termed a masterpiece and one of the greatest books ever written.

Still, I know enough basic knowledge about Harry Potter, that I couldn’t help but reference it in the very beginning, but the book quickly picks up and stands on its own.  Is Simon Snow like Harry Potter? I don’t think so. Is Baz like Draco? I don’t think so. J.K. Rowling doesn’t OWN the wizard genre or anything, and I think  not really knowing how much it’s borrowed kind of helps me. If Harry Potter was written anywhere near the way Carry On is, I’d read it in a heartbeat. But it’s a different kind of drama, and Carry On isn’t really taking itself seriously for obvious reasons.

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One of the things I loved about Carry On, is the way the romance is handled. It’s believable and the characters are very well developed, and they feel real. The dialogue is cheeky, fun and even downright humorous. I loved the questions posed, the world of Watford, and I absolutely could not get enough of Simon and Baz. I loved their relationship, and how it was treated. It had that certain “magic” if you will for me.  Just enough angst, just enough fluff and not nearly enough kissing.  The characters themselves were all flawed, but loveable and Rowell sets us up with really intriguing plotlines and a really great pay off. I don’t want to give too much away, because much like FanGirl, the buildup may be slow, (a total slow burn for you all fan fic readers out there) but the pay off is really, really good. If reading about 2 dudes making out and getting all sorts of feels bothers you, this is NOT the book for you. I have stated before, I am an incurable romantic and when it comes to reading books, if theres love involved I am a sucker for it. No matter what. I am not a stranger to books with same sex couples either.  While I typically read books with straight romance triangles or squares, I have been known to get all squishy over slash pairings. For God’s sake have you SEEN Winter Solider? Steve and Bucky are MORE than just friends. Just saying.

 

This is the second book I’ve read by Rowell, and I don’t see myself stopping.  Rowell writes romances in a real, attainable and believable way weather it’s a guy and a girl who get together,  two guys who  give in to their feelings, or even the platonic relationships between best friends and siblings. The interpersonal connections between all of her characters, coupled with wonderful world building is what makes Rowell stand out as an author for me.  You can bet I’ll be checking out her other books as well.

Carry on then.

Book Review: Making Her His by Lucy Leroux

Parts of this review have been posted on GoodReads on Jan. 29. The rest is a retrospective review on the novel, since I have delved further into the romance genre.
Honestly, this was my first  romance only novel. I have always been a fan of romance in my  books, but aside from Fifty Shades of Grey (which I LOVED) I haven’t  really delved in to the world of romance novels.
I mean I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with a title like “Making Her His”. Until reading this book, I didn’t even know Alpha Male Romance was a thing.  I’ve got a soft spot for possessive, obsessive, controlling male love interests ( That’s why I love Stephenie Meyer’s books and the ever popular Fifty Shades of Grey) that goes back as far back as Labyrinth (come on, if you didn’t think Bowie’s Goblin King was sexy as hell  and obsessive about Sarah we clearly didn’t see the same movie) and my original controlling, obsessive and possessive masked man, The Phantom of the Opera.
It’s kind of hard to judge for me personally, since this really is my first forte into the romance genre as a whole, although at the time of writing this review for the blog- I have started actively reading more romance books.  What do I have against romance you ask?
Nothing really; I love romance because I am an incurable romantic- the only issue I have if you want to call it an issue to begin with is that I feel the genre is too broad, and sub-genres are not represented well.
Couple that with terrible titles and covers, and it’s easy to see why I was so hesitant to try a romance novel, despite my own romantic nature. I am not entirely new to the genre,  but the last “romance” books I read where Harlequin books back in middle school, and I thought they were awful then.
I’ve learned since reading this book, that some titles are classified as romance when they should be classified as erotica, new romance,  or dark romance., or other such as paranormal, fantasy, and so forth.  This is what makes it a little difficult for me to dive in.  When I read a book classified as romance, I have NO IDEA what I’m really going to be reading.  This was the case for Making Her His. I knew there was going to be sex, I was prepared for that- but looking back on it now after reading titles like The Bonding by Imogen Keeper, it feels kind of tame and even more contrived and stereotypical in context.
I don’t have a problem with sex in books, but for me at least I feel that the fact I read Fifty Shades of Grey FIRST kind of ruined me for reading this. I know Fifty Shades gets a lot of flack and hate, but at least it was somewhat believable in its storytelling. As in, maybe not the situation but more the dialogue and conversational exchange. Even the psychological context into WHY Christian was the way he was, and Ana’s own personal choice to be with Christian despite his baggage was something I could actually buy into.
I felt like this book was something of a watered down cross between Fifty Shades and Cruel Intentions. I like both of the aforementioned, but somehow I had trouble buying that Elynn ( who I didn’t know how to pronounce her name if it was Ellen or Eelynn) was totally into the idea of having sex with her step-brother, given her past issues with men. Elynn’s male baggage includes almost being raped because she innocently didn’t realize some douchebag’s intentions that he wanted to bang her, and thus she doesn’t really understand she gives off mixed signals and doesn’t really have any desire to date.  I did like Alex’s character, where he was actually really sensitive to her needs because he understood them (you know being her step-brother and all)  and he relented and worked with her.
Another main issue I had was the dialogue. It felt forced and at times really really cheesy. I’m no prude by any means, but the C grade porno dialogue just makes me cynical and I can’t take it seriously. There is even a scene in which Elynn sees Alex’s schlong and being the virginal 25 year old she is she widens her eyes and gasps “is it going to fit?”… I rolled my eyes and laughed out loud because as far as I know no one actually talks like this in reality. It’s stereotypical and dumb.  The scenes felt so rushed once we got to the plot of Elynn and Alex sleeping together, and although you can see the plot move as Alex changes his ways, there is an err of predictability to it all, which I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I like uncertainty, that’s what pulls me in to the story to find out what happens. If I know how it’s going to end, what’s the point in continuing to read?
I did NOT like the ending either, even though I knew where it was going.  They get married, and live happily ever after and Alex changes to a family man. Gag.  I hate traditional tropes like this.
I think in one of the sex scenes he gets turned on at the idea of impregnating her. I wanted to throw up after reading that, and the ending.  I get some women have that fantasy in real life- wanting to change a man into wanting domestic bliss and have a family- but I am not that woman.  I have my own issues with the concept of having kids, and I’m sure that influences my distaste for the generic happily ever after, but more so I  feel left out as an target audience. Don’t assume because one is a woman and reads romance, that every woman that reads romance wants to end up  married, in a relationship with kids.
I also assumed that since this was #1 in the series, that the rest of the books were about them (before I finished the book, that is). I was wrong.  The story wrapped up so quickly, that upon finishing the book, I realized this was the end of their story and I was kind of bummed.
I gave this book  2 stars on GoodReads, because it was ok. I read it in one day, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it, but I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy eating vegetables instead of cake.  It’s not bad, but it doesn’t taste as good as the cake. Still I didn’t want this book to be the only representation I had for the romance genre, so while I didn’t like it as much, I did not let it deter me from trying more books in the genre.
I plan on doing a genre review not in the near future, but once I have read a good bit of romance books.  So far I have read about 5 books, from different authors, and I have downloaded about 7 or 8 books from bestselling  authors in the genre with classifications in the sub genres of dark romance, new adult romance, paranormal romance, and a few others.  I want to do this genre review because I feel personally that my preconceived notions about the genre in general make me a better fit than someone who is inherently interested in the genre. It’s harder to win over someone who doesn’t traditionally read a particular genre, and at the same time I can objectively look at the structure and progression of plots and character development and concepts because I’m not emotionally invested.
Thanks for reading this review, and as always keep checking back for more reviews!