The Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass

The Elite (The Selection, #2) 
Title: The Elite (The Selection #2)
Author: Kiera Cass
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Published by: HarperTeen
Source: An ARC was sent by the publisher in exchange of an honest review
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

What made me a fan of The Selection was the fact that it was a book that I wasn't to take too seriously. It didn't set out to be the next ground-breaking literary work, but it promised an entertaining read, and that it delivered. At least half of it focused on a contest similar to The Bachelor, with thirty-five ladies competing for a prince's heart, and being the reality show maven that I am, I immediately selected my favorite girls, and fervently wishing that those I dislike to be sent packing. America, while not exactly a heroine I immediately connected to, made for a rather enjoyable MC, and while I did roll my eyes at her thoughts and antics sometimes, I still rooted for her to find her own happy ending. So really, can you blame me for expecting The Elite to be along these lines?

So yes, let me spit it out - The Elite isn't what I would consider a breezy read. As a matter of fact, I actually had to put it down a few times because it was starting to get a little too emotional while reading it. There were times wherein I found myself wanting to chuck my copy at the nearest wall because I was thoroughly exasperated with America's indecisiveness, yet at the same time, there were also many instances wherein my heart ached for America and I just wished that I could give her my shoulder to cry on. She's not an easy character to read about, and I honestly can't blame people if they find America's constant flip-flopping between Maxon and Aspen grating, but what stood out to me was America's desire to be loved for who she is, and that just tugged at my heartstrings. I wouldn't exactly say that America's character developed by leaps and bounds in this novel, but she did take some necessary steps into discovering just who she is as a person, and that's enough to make me continue to believe in her.

I was originally a huge Maxon fan, but after reading The Elite, I realized that there is so little that I know about his character. In fact, I would even go as far to say that I ended up disliking him severely in several parts of the book. I had a difficult time gauging his honesty and sincerity, and there were moments wherein his decisions left me both confused and disappointed. In The Selection, I loved how apparent it was that Maxon had America's best interests in heart, but I couldn't see that in this book. He kept on pushing her to choose between him and Aspen (though he still has no idea that Aspen was the other guy in the picture), and when he couldn't force America to make a decision, he immediately sought out the company of the other girls who make up The Elite. In contrary, we have Aspen who's been nothing but patient and respectful, and can't help but compare both guys.

I know, I know, America isn't exactly a saint either, given that her affection switches rapidly between Maxon and Aspen, but America's confusion always proved to be genuine to be me. She honestly had no idea who would be the better fit for her. Maxon, meanwhile, never seemed like he truly cared about the other girls - he simply needed a distraction from the emotional whirlwind that is America, and that's why he started spending more time with them. Also, he clearly liked messing around, and I hated reading about that. Although I have to say that I did like how Maxon dealt with the Marlee situation, so that gets him points in my book.

It was an emotionally exhausting task to read this book, and even writing this review is emotionally draining. I hated up hating most characters at one point or another; I wanted to stab myself every single time America skirts around finally making a decision; my throat actually clogged up whenever I felt America's frustration at Maxon's complete 180, but you know what? I still had a grand time reading this novel, and I enjoyed every bit of it. The drama was enough to keep me hooked, but I also loved how Cass revealed some important details about both the origin of Illea and the royal family. Best of all, I loved reading about America's journey (but what a long, treacherous road it was, and it's not even remotely close to being over) of self-discovery.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway] Playing Hooky by Rita Webb 

Playing Hooky (Paranormal Investigations, #1) 
Title: Playing Hooky (Paranormal Investigations #1)
Author: Rita Webb
Release Date: January 21, 2013
Valentine’s Day.

And my 21st birthday.


Just another college day full of classes and more homework than is humanly possible.

…until Jason, my best-friend-since-kindergarten, shows up to take me out for the day.

Like old times: the two of us on a wacky adventure, playing hooky from real life. With his lopsided grin and tickets to a circus full of misfits and monsters, he introduces me to a whole new world—one full of magic and mystery—and turns my reality upside down.

Except nothing goes as planned, and we end up running through the city to find a missing siren before someone brews a love potion with her blood.

Sirens and love potions, witches and elves, and Valentine kisses. Nothing will be the same for me again.

Since most books falling under the New Adult genre these days are all about romance with that  gasp! oh-so-shocking twists that come from nowhere (and wow I seriously need a break from those), the paranormal aspect of Playing Hooky had me enthralled from the blurb alone, and other than that, I've always been a sucker for stories about best friends, so this whole set-off-in-an-adventure storyline really appealed to me as well. Anyway, it's always refreshing to see more authors tackling other sub-genres of New Adult, after all, because there is so much more to this genre than relationships.

In a nutshell, I certainly enjoyed reading Playing Hooky, and I finished it well under an hour and in one sitting. Despite the fact that this book is relatively short, Webb did a bang-up job with her world-building. I was immersed with the beings and creatures that appeared in her book, and I found myself wanting to know more about them. Moreover, this story is set in Alaska, and this is something new to me. I really loved the parts wherein both characters had to ski off to their next location instead of riding a car or something. Emma is a pretty fun character to read about as well.

Because this is a novella, however, I did have some problems with it, mainly because of the length. I feel that Playing Hooky is a wee bit too short, and I felt like I didn't learn enough about the characters, most especially the male MC, Jason. I honestly believe that his POV didn't contribute anything to the story, mainly because he himself is still rather confused with who/what he really is. Though I'm usually fond of dual POVs, but I think that Playing Hooky would have benefited more from a sole POV - Emma's. It would have been more amazing to see this magical world unfold before her eyes and her eyes only.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I had a relatively easy time solving the mystery of the missing siren. It was just plain obvious to me who the culprit was, and I'm a bit disappointed that the whole revelation was rushed. The culprit's motive was a little too petty for me to take seriously as well.

A fun start to a New Adult paranormal series, Playing Hooky is a light read that you won't regret delving into. Hopefully the sequel would deal more with the characters' backgrounds, and I would want to see more of this fascinating world.

Rating: 3 Stars
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Waiting on Wednesday [18]

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Today's WoW spotlights Golden by Jessi Kirby:


Title: Golden
Author: Jessi Kirby
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Published By: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

I've been hearing nothing but good things about both Jessi Kirby and Golden, and I can't wait to have this on my bookshelf!

[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway] Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

Maid of Secrets (Maids of Honor, #1) 
Title: Maid of Secrets (Maids of Honor #1)
Author: Jennifer McGowan
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Seventeen-year-old Meg Fellowes is a wry, resourceful thief forced to join an elite group of female spies in Queen Elizabeth’s Court. There she must solve a murder, save the Crown, and resist the one thing that will become her greatest freedom–and her deadliest peril.

For Meg and her fellow spies are not alone in their pursuit of the murderer who stalks Windsor Castle.

A young, mysterious Spanish courtier, Count Rafe de Martine, appears at every turn in the dark and scandal-filled corridors of the Queen’s summer palace. And though secrets and danger are Meg’s stock-in-trade, she’s never bargained on falling in love…

Truth be told, I'm not than into historical fiction, be it young adult or not. I've discovered that they tend to bore me, and moreover, I often find it difficult to immerse myself in the worlds of the past. Nine times out of ten, I can barely understand the dialogue, and I can't even begin to imagine the clothes, the coiffure, and whatnot. It's not that the authors don't describe these things - rather, it's because that they describe them TOO much. Paragraphs and paragraphs talking about nothing but dresses and gowns tend to wind me down. Additionally, historical fiction tend to be absurdly long, and even if I find my interest piqued by the initial chapters of the novel, sooner or later, I'll end up bored. So just imagine my trepidation before I started Maid of Secrets - the blurb certainly caught my eye (despite being quite a history ignoramus I am rather fascinated with the reign of Elizabeth I), and I was fervently wishing that my reservation towards anything history-related wouldn't cloud my judgment.

I have no idea how this happened, but the very first page - the very first passage, even, - of this novel had me hooked. And you know what the weird thing is? Those details that had me hating historical fiction in the past are what had me liking this very novel. Sure, the dialogue rings of 'ye olde past' (oh you know what I'm trying to get across), but I had no problem discerning what the characters were trying to say. Moreover, McGowan's vivid descriptions of the the day to day of past England - down to the many pockets sewed into the voluminous skirts of the main character - enriched her storytelling, and allowed me to envision this world that she wanted me to see, and I had no problem doing so. I was thoroughly impressed because McGowan was able to strike a fine balance between showing and telling - she gave me the necessary details I needed to clearly picture Elizabethan England, true, but she never went overboard with flowery descriptions and the like.

Another thing that drew me to this novel was the mystery aspect, and the general plot itself. Come on, five maids especially handpicked by Queen Elizabeth herself to spy for her... who wouldn't want to read about that? These five are quite fascinating characters, most especially our MC, Meg. A talented thief, witty, and possessing a keen talent for mimicry and memorization, being in Meg's head as she goes through some of the most thrilling moments of her life is an enjoyable feat indeed. Meg soon discovers that things are even more convoluted on the inside  - a previous maid was unceremoniously and grotesquely murdered with the killer still on the loose; some peculiar occurrings are causing mayhem in Windsor; and ultimately, some of the Queen's right-hand men are even asking Meg to spy on the Queen herself... Suffice to say that this novel is action-packed, and I never found myself bored!

With spy training, spying on and for the queen - throw in her desperation to return home to her troupe - Meg has her hands full, but a Spanish Count throws the young maid in a loop. Count Rafe de Martine is very much part of the mystery inside Windsor Castle, and Meg has no idea if she should consider him a friend or a foe. One thing's for sure though, there's definitely something brewing between the two, and Meg has no idea what to make of it. I particularly liked how McGowan established the relationship between these two characters - she managed to give their blooming romance enough focus, but not too much that the proper pacing of the plot was cast aside.

All in all, I say with no qualms whatsoever that both McGowan and her series have found themselves a fan in me. I'm excited to see what happens next!

Rating: 5 Stars

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Release Day Launch: Game.Set.Match. by Jennifer Iacopelli 
 (Check out the rest of the stops HERE.)

Game. Set. Match. (Outer Banks Tennis Academy, #1) 
Title: Game. Set. Match. (Outer Banks Tennis Academy #1)
Author: Jennifer Iacopelli
Release Date: May 1, 2013
Published by: Coliloquy, LLC
Nestled along the coastline of North Carolina, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the best elite tennis training facility in the world. Head Coach, Dominic Kingston has assembled some of the finest talent in the sport. From the game's biggest stars to athletes scraping and clawing to achieve their dreams, OBX is full of ego, drama and romance. Only the strong survive in this pressure cooker of competition, on and off the court.

Penny Harrison, the biggest rising star in tennis, is determined to win the French Open and beat her rival, the world’s number one player, Zina Lutrova. There’s just one problem, the only person who’s ever been able to shake her laser-like focus is her new training partner. Alex Russell, tennis’s resident bad boy, is at OBX recovering from a knee injury suffered after he crashed his motorcycle (with an Aussie supermodel on the back). He's hoping to regain his former place at the top of men’s tennis and Penny’s heart, while he’s at it.

Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. Her parents have seven Grand Slam championships between them and she’s desperate to live up to their legacy. Her best friend is Teddy Harrison, Penny’s twin brother, and that’s all they’ve ever been, friends. Then one stupid, alcohol-laced kiss makes everything super awkward just as she as she starts prepping for the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.

The Classic is what draws Indiana Gaffney out of the hole she crawled into after her mom’s death. Even though she’s new to OBX, a win at the Classic is definitely possible. She has a big serve and killer forehand, but the rest of her game isn’t quite up to scratch and it doesn’t help that Jasmine Randazzo and her little minions are stuck-up bitches or that Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and oldest brother, is too hot for words, not to mention way too old for her.

Who will rise? Who will fall?

As a huge sports fan (and I do mean huge - I follow a LOT of sports), I remember being incredibly delighted when I chanced upon this novel. I've read  heaps of books about both American and European football, swimming, hockey, and figure skating even, but this would be my very first look into the world of professional tennis as told through a Young Adult or a New Adult novel. You should have heard my shriek when I received my ARC, and it took me next to nothing to finish it.  Let me cut to the chase - Iacopelli's debut novel - the first of this series - didn't disappoint. I would even go as far as to say that it blew my socks off (you know, if I were actually wearing any... but you get my drift).

What impressed me the most about Game.Set.Match. is definitely the writing. Though the novel switched between the POVs of the three MCs, I'm happy to note that Iacopelli was able to establish her characters successfully. None of them sounded alike, and they each had their quirks and habits that made them relateable heroines. I had no trouble distinguishing between their voices, thoughts, and characteristics. Moreover, Iacopelli somehow made all three similar (given the fact that they are all serious athletes) yet so individually unique. Usually, having multiple POVs in a single novel is a tough feat for an author to overcome, but Iacopelli had no problems whatsoever. It was so apparent just how attuned she is to her characters - I never felt like I was simply reading through an author's printed words. I honestly felt like I was reading through the throughts of three young women. They almost seemed like my friends, in a way.

It was so obvious to me that Iacopelli is a huge fan of tennis. Not only is this book impeccably researched, I could feel her love for tennis through her characters. I loved reading the different parts in the novels where the different matches take place - Iacopelli struck the perfect balance between keeping things technical but still making sure that she can capture the excitement of her readers (both those who are and who are not fans of the sport). My heart was pounding like crazy during the more intense moments of the matches - Iacopelli had no problem recreating the atmosphere of tennis' most exciting duels.

In recent memory, I have never quite liked a female MC as much as liked Indy, Jasmine, and Penny. (Yes, I actually loved reading about three of them!) I loved how serious they were about their sport, and reading about their lives outside the sport was pretty interesting as well. Sure, there were moments when I rolled my eyes at their antics and their choices, or I just wanted to scream at their hard-headedness, but ultimately, everything the three did contributed to the growth and development of their characters. Nothing felt forced. Nothing felt out of place. I didn't think it was possible but I ended up loving all three characters more at the end of the book.

All in all, Game.Set.Match. is the perfect example of what New Adult should be about. We have strong, relateable main characters, for one. We also have perfectly paced love stories (Ugh I adore Jack!). Moreover, even though it deals with more mature topics, it's still realistic (because plot twists that come out of nowhere simply don't make sense most of the time), yet it also tells of a story we don't see everyday. I can't wait to see where Iacopelli will take her story next!

Rating: 5 Stars

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Spring Fling Giveaway Hop [INT]

I think it's about time I do another giveaway...

  • This giveaway is open internationally. As long as The Book Depository ships to your country, you're good to go!
  • You must be at least 13 to enter this giveaway.
  • You can win any book of your choice.
  • This giveaway will end on 8th May, 12:00am.
  • The winner will be given 48 hours to respond to the email I will be sending out. If he/she does not reply to my email, I will be forced to choose another winner.
  • This is a giveaway hop, so make sure to check out all the other blogs participating HERE!

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