Kiera Cass- The Selection

the selection


Kiera Cass’s novel, The Selection, is like ABC’s The Bachelor, but in a YA common girl meets prince format. Basically a must read for anyone who enjoys reality shows and YA novels a.k.a. me! I think Cass’s idea is brilliant and I wish I had thought of it…

America Singer, named after “the country that fought so hard to keep this land together,” and her family are Fives on a One to Eight scale, with One equaling royalty and Eight being the dregs of society. Being a Five is not ideal, but America is blessed in a number of ways: she’s an extremely talented musician, she’s beautiful & charismatic, (even if she doesn’t think she’s anything special, others do), she loves her family and vice versa, and she’s in love with Aspen, who loves her right back. The problem is, Aspen is a Six, and marrying down would disgrace America’s family. In addition, Aspen is hesitant to propose, because he’s convinced that America is too good for him and he’s afraid that she’ll regret a life with him. In fact, when The Selection starts, Aspen breaks up with her.

America wants no part of The Selection, which is the opportunity to live in the palace with Prince Maxon, with the potential of being crowned princess. However, with Aspen pummeling her heart and her mother’s insistence, she signs up and is ultimately chosen. She promises to stay true to herself, no matter what happens at the palace. “I’d rather have Maxon send me home for beign myself then keep me for being like someone else.”

At the palace, America becomes Prince Maxon’s confidant. He promises to keep her until the final three and she promises to teach him about the world beyond the palace. The problem is America and Prince Maxon develop feelings for each other beyond friendship.

America explains, “In my experience, true love is usually the most inconvenient kind.” She also says, “Maxon, I hope you find someone you can’t live without. I really do. And I hope you never have to know what it’s like to try and live without them.”

America isn’t only torn between two men, but two very different live paths. Now that she’s sampled the best of the best, can she return to a so-so existence?




Ruta Sepetys- Out of the Easy


After reading Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, I couldn’t wait until her next novel, Out of the Easy, came out. Check out my review of Between Shades of Gray at the end of this post.

Josie is the daughter of Louise- a semi-upscale prostitute. In 1940, when Josie was seven, her and her mother moved from Detroit to New Orleans. Willie Woodley, owner of a brothel, re-employed Louise and became a quasi godmother to Josie. Fast forward ten years, and Josie has graduated from high school, and is gainfully employed as a maid at Willie’s house and as a clerk at Marlowe’s Bookshop. Josie dreams of leaving New Orleans and her selfish mother, finding her father, & attending SmithCollege; but she soon finds out how improbable these dreams are. Josie’s current situation is tough to say the least, but her days darken after her mother’s abusive, mobster “boyfriend” nicknamed Cincinnatti comes to town, a wealthy man named Forrest Hearne is murdered soon after leaving the bookshop, and Charlie Marlowe’s health deteriorates. (Charlie is like a father to Josie). Will Josie ever make her way Out of the Easy?

I absolutely adore this novel for so many reasons. For one, the characters are so colorful and distinct. I immediately rooted for Josie- a girl both street and book smart, despised her cruel mother, was intrigued by the tough but compassionate Willie, educated, charming Patrick and rebellious, sweet Jesse- the two men who vie for Josie’s attention….

For another, the writing is gorgeous. For example: “I’d never have a chance to be normal. Willie said normal was boring and that I should be grateful that I had a touch of spice. She said no one cared about boring people, and when they died they were forgotten, like something that slips behind the dresser. Sometimes I wanted to slip behind the dresser. Being normal sounded perfectly wonderful.”

Out of the Easy is the kind of novel I dream about writing one day & is easily one of the best novels that I’ve read this year.

Between Shades of Gray Review:

New Departures: Write By the Rails Anthology


New Departures is a collection of poetry, fiction, and memoir by members of Write By the Rails, a group of writers affiliated with Prince William County, ManassasPark, & Manassas, Virginia. I’m a member of this group as well but didn’t contribute to this anthology but I should have, because it’s excellent!

I thoroughly enjoyed every poem and story in this anthology. Here’s a smattering of my favorite excerpts (isn’t smattering a great word? It isn’t used nearly enough):

* Cindy Brookshire’s poem “Write By the Rails.”

Threaten editor effigies with voodoo pins

Pluck words as if from a cornucopia

* Robert Bausch’s Excerpt from his novel In the Fall They Come Back, “A Kind of Rescue in the Snow”

“A snow day is like a gift from heaven- as if the gods have said, “take the day off.”

* Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt’s poem “Cure”

Trill your years

Match pitch with decades

Tone with seasons

* Cindy Brookshire’s story “Trains and Sex” This image is great:

“its colossal sign, perched like a cheese cube on a 65-foot toothpick”

* Leigh Giza’s poem “You Don’t Look Like a Bird”

You don’t look like a star

Your light is dim and

Your points are dull

*Leigh Giza’s poem “She Sat on an Egg”

It was then she decided

She was not going to be

A mother and instead

Give birth to poetry

To Purchase New Departures:

Danielle West- All Change Please


All Change Please follows Ophelia, Kat, and Elise, Londoners in their late twenties, after the sudden death of their friend Laura. Her death serves as the catalyst that these three women need in order to reevaluate their lives.

Ophelia describes life as “A constant and unbiased force that carried on like a powerful locomotive running to its own universal timeline.” In fact Ophelia, Kat, and Elise are all on the verge of a quarter life crisis.

Ophelia is missing passion from her life- her job is blasé, her love life is non-existent. Kat is stuck in a dysfunctional marriage, partly due to the fact that her in-laws are horrid and her husband doesn’t stick up for her. Elise is a struggling artist who happens to be the black sheep in her family.

There are many humorously dark sections in this novel. For example, Elise attempts to encourage her flat mate to find a part-time job in order to give him something to write about. James responds with, “So I get a Mcjob and then spit out WutheringHeights? Hmmm, I’m just not seeing it.”

In addition, there are numerous tender moments between the three friends. At one point, Elise says to Kat, “This is one of thousands of decisions you make in your life. It won’t define you and this will eventually fade into your past. They don’t know you and have no right to judge you. Keep your head high.”

This novel really speaks to adults in their twenties and thirties who are struggling to break the monotony of their nine-to-five lives. Ophelia says it best, “Just as school felt like a purgatory where they busied themselves colouring, reading, revising, and testing, her career was more of the same. It was never meant to be her holy grail of purpose or source of happiness. It was one aspect of her life…”

As an FYI: after reading the first chapter, which ended mid-sentence, I thought the e-book hadn’t downloaded correctly, therefore I checked Amazon and “Clicked to Look Inside,” and realized it had downloaded correctly. After reading chapter two, I realized that Ophelia, one of the main characters, had been dreaming during the first chapter.

* I reviewed this book for Book Hub Inc.,an independent book and ebook publishing, marketing, and distribution company. If you’re interested in reviewing books (and in exchange receiving the free ebook):

A. S. King- Ask the Passengers


Astrid Jones is good at keeping secrets. Some of those secrets include: Astrid’s best friend Kristina is gay. Kristina’s “boyfriend” Justin is gay. Her father smokes pot. She lies on a picnic table in her backyard and sends love to airline passengers. She has faux conversations with Socrates. But she holds the biggest secret from herself…

“Every airplane, no matter how far it is up there, I send love to it. I picture the people in their seats with their plastic cups of soda or orange juice or Scotch, and I love them.” – Astrid

I love the idea of sending love to airline passengers and the possibility that they’re sending love right back. I have a feeling that I’ll send love the next time I spot an airplane.

Astrid also sends silent- snarky-love to people who say silly things. When her parents are pressuring her to give them a “yes or no” answer, she thinks, “I can give you a leave me the hell alone why does it matter so damn much and it’s none of your goddamn business. Love you.”

Astrid’s snarky-love reminds me of the “Thankful Lists” my friend Chera and I write. We’ve been friends for like thirteen years, and pen pals for most of them. Most of our letters include a “Thankful List” but it’s one-hundred-percent snarky. For example: I’m thankful that my seat belt buckle sensor cost $250 which I had to pay for so my car would pass inspection. I’m thankful for my in-laws. (My step dad calls in-laws out-laws) I’m thankful for Monday morning because I missed work so much that I was tempted to break in on Saturday….

Astrid’s silent- snarky- love to her mother: “Claire, I am not sending any love to you because you are a horrible person right now. Who made you eat bitch for lunch? Who poured you a tall bitch beer float? Who sprinkled bacon bitch on your salad?”

It’s impossible to not like Astrid. She reminds me so much of me when I was a teenager and still am as an adult – sending-silent-snarky love…

Shannon Thompson- Minutes Before Sunset


“Minutes Before Sunset,” the first book of the Timely Death Series, flips the “Dark is Evil/ Light is Good” archetype.

Seventeen-year-old Shoman (known as Eric to the surrounding humans) is a Shade, a descendant of the dark side, and his eighteenth birthday is fast approaching. But instead of cake, ice cream, and balloons, Shoman will fight Darthon, the descendant of the dark, and only one of them will survive.

To complicate matters, Shoman meets a mysterious girl who he assumes is a Shade, and he can’t seem to stay away from her even though: “Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificate selfishly and without control.”

Shoman and the nameless Shade fall in love slowly and naturally. According to Shoman, “I loved how she curled up under my arm, how she seemed to fit into the space as if it was meant for her.”

I won’t give away the ending but I will say that it reminds me a bit of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” which is one of my favorite movies.

I can’t wait to read the sequel, “Seconds Before Sunrise,” (Fall of 2013).

Check out Shannon Thompson’s insightful blog:

Hanna Rosin- The End of Men and the Rise of Women


“In this bold and inspired dispatch, Rosin upends the common platitudes of contemporary sexual politics with a deeply reported meditation from the unexpected frontiers of our rapidly changing culture.” –Katie Roiphe, author of The Morning After and Uncommon Arrangements

Some interesting points from The End of Men and the Rise of Women include:

  • In the US, for every two men who will receive a BA this year, three women will do the same.
  • Women earn almost sixty percent of all bachelor’s degrees.
  • In the middle class, the discrepancy between men and women is the greatest.
  • The attributes desired today in the workforce are more naturally female traits. They include: social intelligence, open communication, and the ability to sit still and follow.

According to the BEM Sex Role Inventory, (developed by Dr. Sandra Lipsitz Bem, 1971) which is based on gender stereotypes, each of us fits into a category including masculine, feminine, androgynous, and undifferentiated. I answered the sixty-question and wasn’t surprised by the results. 66.667 % of my personality traits are considered masculine.

As a counselor at a large middle school, I attend a lot of parent-teacher conferences and I can honestly say that the majority of our conferences are for male students. Common school issues for male students include: staying organized, remembering to turn in homework and class work assignments, keeping their lockers clean, focusing, raising their hands instead of shouting out in class, staying in their seats, bringing materials to class (especially pencils), studying, and writing their assignments in our school issued agendas. Female students struggle with the same things, only to a lesser extent. Each Thursday I offer five organization groups (one for each of our sixth grade teams). I currently have 33 boys and 3 girls who attend.

Regardless, some things that seem to help male and female students are:

*Studying in the same place (and if possible at the same time) each day. A lot of students prefer completing homework at the dining/kitchen table because they feel distracted in their bedrooms.

*Having all of the necessary supplies nearby. (And no cell phones).

*Quizzing parents/siblings, etc. instead of the other way around. It seems to help for students to teach their parents/siblings.

*Writing things down several times (for example vocabulary words)

*Speaking out loud and/or pacing (It sounds strange but this strategy helped me so much during high school and college!)

*Kitchen timers work well, especially in 25 minute increments. Then after each 25 minutes, there should be a 3-5 minute break.

I’d have ______ review his/ her notes and/or read each evening for a half hour to an hour, when he/ she doesn’t have any homework.

Hanna Rosin is a senior editor at The Atlantic and a founder of DoubleX, Slate’s women’s section. She’s also written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ, The New Republic, and The Washington Post.

Wendy Higgins- Sweet Evil & Sweet Peril Book Reviews

Anna Whitt is unusual to say the least.

For one, she sees people’s emotions in color form, which is an extension of her ability to sense other’s feelings. (Positive emotions are bright, negative emotions are black, envy is green, pride is purple, red is lust…)

For two, she’s drawn and yet repelled by drugs and alcohol & she can sense when others have addictive personalities, like her friend Jay. At a party she explains that, “The colors of someone’s emotions blurred when their bodies were under the influence. That guy’s were fuzzy at best.”

For three, she doesn’t have a cell phone, has never been kissed, and doesn’t care in the slightest about being popular.

Even though Anna knows she’s different, she doesn’t know how different until she meets Kaidan Rowe, a bad- boy musician who also happens to be the son of the Duke of Lust. “Good gracious, he was sexy- a word that had not existed in my personal vocabulary until that moment. This guy was sexy like it was his job or something.”

On a road trip to meet her biological father (the Duke of Substance Abuse), Kai fills Anna in on what they are- Nephilim; a by product of a demon & a human. But Anna isn’t a typical Neph either; she’s half demon & angel, and it’s time for her to embrace her dark side.


In “Sweet Peril,” Anna Whitt is tougher, less naïve, and less innocent. She’s also a party girl, but not by choice. She must follow in her father’s footsteps and promote substance abuse, even though doing so disgusts her. “I appeared to be having a blast. Funny thing, appearances.”

Her best friend Jay thinks that Anna is suffering from “good girl syndrome” which is when a good girl tries to change a bad boy but instead the good girl turns bad. And in a way she is, but not entirely by choice.

Even after Kai abandons her, she can’t stop obsessing over him. “All I could think about was the boy I loved and his empty gaze, lost to me.”

Kai plays tug of war with Anna’s heart strings. At one point, he pleads with her to stay with him. “And that soft plea did something to me. Like pinching a lit candle’s wick, what was left of my anger turned into a smoky, sizzling residue.”

Anna struggles to suppress her feelings for Kai while simultaneously recruiting fellow Nephs to one day wage a war against their fathers, the 12 Dark Angels, and with the biggest boss of all- Satan.

* I highly recommend these novels! They’re un-put-downable!

* Check out my post from Wendy Higgins’ “Sweet Peril” Book Launch:

“The Great Gatsby” Book & Movie Review

Image Image

In 1998, senior year, my friend Stephanie and I chose to read and present “The Great Gatsby” to our English class. We passed out candy cigarettes/cigars and sparkling grape juice in plastic cocktail glasses, hung colorful balloons, and played jazz music. Clearly our focus was on the superficial party aspect of the novel. Regardless, from that moment on, I was a Fitzgerald fan. I’ve read “The Great Gatsby” several times over the years; most recently a few nights ago. After I closed the book, I said to my husband, “I don’t remember the book being so sad.” He replied, “It means different things during different times in your life. All great art allows you to relate to it as an observer. The meaning changes depending on what’s going on in your life.” I love his take on it!

I think Richard Roeper, a Sun-Times Columist says it beautifully as well:

“As is often the case with that other slim and brilliant American novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” we are given the assignment of reading “The Great Gatsby” when we are too young to appreciate all that is happening, on the pages and between the lines. Read those books again when you’ve lived some life and felt some real pain, and it’s like you’re reading them for the first time.”

In a nut shell, I love the novel and I love the movie. The main difference is that in the movie, Nick Carraway tells the story (and ultimately writes it) of Gatsby to a psychiatrist during his stint in a mental asylum. In my opinion, this difference did not distract from the novel.

What I loved the most:

  1. Stunning Cinematography: Director Baz Luhrmann (Also directed “Romeo and Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge”) Over-the-top but brilliant. As the film progresses, the colors lose their brilliance, just as Gatsby’s hope of rekindling the past diminishes.
  1. Phenomenal Cast: Leonardo Di Caprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan (My favorite part of the movie is when Gatsby sees Daisy for the first time in five years; for this is where he sheds the great Jay Gatsby persona and reverts back to James Gatz- an awkward but genuine boy from the Midwest.
  1. Gorgeous Soundtrack: Some of these songs tug at your heartstrings. In fact, as the credits rolled, the audience sat in silence for several seconds; as if all of us needed a moment to process the beautiful heartbreak of the film. (I believe it was the song “XX” by Together)

Here’s a sample:

Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful:”

“Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful? Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul?”

Beyonce feauturing Andre 3000: “Back to Black.” Remix of Amy Winehouse song. Super sexy, slowed down version.

Florence and the Machine “Over the Love”

“There’s a green light in my eyes and my lover on my mind”

The White Stripes “Love is Blindness” (cover of U 2 song)

“Love is blindness, I don’t wanna see.”

Sia “Kill and Run”

“My brain doesn’t want to silent call for you.”

For a track by track review, check out:

If you’re a fan of “The Great Gatsby,” I recommend the movie “Midnight in Paris”



Adele Griffin- All You Never Wanted


“I’d take all those beautiful things in Alexandra. Her dreaminess, her eyes. Then I’d add your fun. Between the two of you is the perfect Parrott. And you know what? I’d marry that girl.” –Alex’s boyfriend Joshua to Thea

Alex and Thea Parrott are sisters who love each other deeply despite their differences. Alex is older, prettier, and more popular. Thea is younger, funnier, and more intelligent. Both however, were happier before their mother married a ridiculously rich man. Before he entered their lives, they were content with each other and their mother’s undivided attention. I can relate to their situation (although my mother did not marry a rich man) because there was a time after my parents separated that it was just the three of us- my mom, brother, and me. To this day my mother calls us “The Three Musketeers.”

Both girls start to unravel like a poorly knitted scarf. After a humiliating internship, Alex can barely eat let alone leave the house. She withdraws from her boyfriend Joshua, her girlfriends, and Thea.

Thea tries to overcompensate for her sister’s disappearing act by flirting with Joshua, talking to Alex’s friends, and sitting with the popular girls in school. Thea believes that the only way they’ll accept her is if she entertains them with fabricated stories. She lies so much that she doesn’t even know the truth anymore.

At the end of All You Never Wanted, one Parrott sister will rise and the other will fall.   

This is a captivating story about betrayal- it demonstrates how betraying yourself is just as detrimental as betraying others.