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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Classic fairy tales set in the modern day are usually a good time. Jackson Pearce's 2nd novel is a twist on Hansel and Gretel set in the 21st century. Think the Brothers Grimm tale and add in guns.

When they were little children exploring the forest, Ansel and Gretchen had their sister kidnapped from them by a witch. At least, they think it was a witch. All Gretchen saw was a pair of yellow eyes. Now that they are older, their father and mother are both dead and their stepmother has just kicked them out of the house. They head down to Live Oak, South Carolina to start over. Everyone is the town seems cold and unwelcoming except Sophia Kelly. She's a beautiful young woman who runs the local chocolate shop. Her candies are almost magical. They give people hope, strength, and courage. Gretchen and Ansel move in with her and life seems just about perfect. But then Gretchen meets dark stranger Samuel, who tells her not to trust Sophia. Gretchen soon learns the scary truth: the witch is still around, and won't go away until it's been fed.

I've always liked the story of Hansel and Gretel, so this book has been on my to-read list for a while. I found it thoroughly entertaining. It's told from Gretchen's perspective, and sometimes I thought Ansel was pushed in the background. Gretchen is the one doing all the cool stuff. It's set up like a big mystery. The plot keeps twisting and turning out new details piecing together just who the witch is and why it is the way it is.

I read the majority of Sweetly in one day. It gets a little weird. The ending was pretty whacked up. The whole story is this huge buildup to a big reveal only to reach it's gruesome, disturbing demise. It was a bittersweet ending, and I wasn't a huge fan of it. But it kept me reading, which is what counts. As for the characters, Gretchen proved to be quite tough. I liked Samuel a lot. Ansel kind of seemed like a wuss. And it's blatantly obvious that Sophia can't be trusted.

As for predictability, the story wasn't too bad. Sure, it isn't hard to guess who the witch is in the end, but there's more to it then that. It will keep you guessing.

Sweetly is a gritty, modernized retelling of Hansel and Gretel. It was better than okay, but it isn't phenomenal. Overall I enjoyed it. Read it on a rainy day, it's one of those books.
3.5/5 stars

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Selection by Kiera Cass

A young girl lives in a dystopian future where the world is torn apart. Her family is poor and hunger stricken. She has the opportunity to leave her bleak lifestyle when she gets chosen for a contest unlike any other. The competition is fierce, and if she wants to win she'll have to fight hard. Then the opportunity for true love is right in front of her, but that might mean leaving the boy she loves back home behind forever.

No, I'm not talking about The Hunger Games, I'm talking about The Selection by Kiera Cass. I try not to compare every book I read to The Hunger Games but with a story like The Selection, the comparisons are unavoidable. If the reality show The Bachelor threw up on Suzanne Collin's smash-hit series, The Selection would be the final product.

In a post WWIII U.S. divided by caste, teenage America Singer and her family are Fives, struggling musicians and artists. In love with Aspen, a Six, America is headed for a life of servitude and hunger, until she is chosen for the Selection—a contest through which Prince Maxon will pick his princess. The Selection brings America instant notoriety and prestige, but also thrusts her into a ring of jealous, desperate girls all trying to win the prince’s heart. America is unlike any of the other girls in the Selection. She doesn't want to try to win over a stuffy prince...until she actually meets Maxon. They form a fast friendship, and soon America is questioning who truly holds her affections, the prince or the poor boy back home?

As someone who likes to read books before they explode into popularity (CW is making a TV series based off of this book) I grabbed The Selection at first opportunity. The lack of originality was annoying and was probably my main problem with it. However, I still enjoyed it, and the pages flew by. I read it in a day. It's a lighter read compared to all the other dystopian YA picks out there. However, it isn't all ballgowns and romance. The castle proved to be somewhat dangerous and prone to rebel attacks, which added and improved on the whole story. I thought the world building was solid and overall realistic.

Did I like the heroine, America? I'm not sure. She is rational and good at heart, but her whole "I'm too good to be at this castle" thing got old for me fast. It's fine that she wanted to be different and not try as hard as the other girls to win over Prince Maxon. He appreciated how real and honest she was. But her pondering between Maxon and Aspen made me almost frustrated. Probably because I really liked one of the boys and didn't care for the other. I'll admit, I got into a love triangle, something that doesn't normally happen!

I feel like Kiera Cass could have wrapped up her story in one book. I just hate it when you flip to the last page, only to find "To Be Continued" printed there. To me it is obvious what boy America should choose. The mysteries of the rebel armies probably could have been cleared up in this book, and not dragged out to a sequel. Then again, I don't know what the author has planned, and maybe more books are required to tell the story she wanted. Fine by me. This was a good enough read to hang on for Part 2.

A fun and fluffy dystopian romance. Though it lacks originality and is dragged out for the sake of drama, Kiera Cass has a winning formula on her hands by putting a fairy tale spin on a scary, possible future.
3/5 stars