Saturday, January 23, 2016

Series Review of The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

I have been trying to figure out a way to share all these books I read with you but still include other non-review posts on the blog.  One method I have come up with was to share the reviews for an entire series (or pair) of books in one post.  I will do my absolute best to keep spoilers out of these posts in case you plan to read the books, but there is a slight chance that even the synopsis of a book can give away the result of the previous book. So if you don't want to know anything at all about the later books in a series that might giveaway something in the first book STOP READING NOW!
For this Series Review I have consumed all the books currently released in The Selection Series by Kiera Cass.  The final book, The Crown, is expected to be released in May of this year and I will review that one after that date as well.  So far this series has consisted of 4 full length novels and 4 novellas (one was released online that I did not read yet. These novellas were also released combined in a book title Happily Ever After, but I already had them all purchased and downloaded individually so that is how I read and reviewed them).  I did listen to the audio books of the novels and read digital copies of the novellas.  So lets get started, this will be a long post!
Synopsis: "For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined."

My Review: So I have been planning to read this book for quite a while after seeing so many raving reviews. I downloaded this one (and all the main books) as audio. I planned to listen to one a month until the final book is released in May. Well this book sucked me in like I never expected. I didn't want to stop listening. I honestly can't even tell you why I found it so engrossing. I did like America most of the time, I like that she was rather independent and didn't go along with what the other girls did, but on that same token she was a little wishy washy with regards to Aspen and Maxon. I did thoroughly love Maxon, he is a solid stone of personality throughout the book, I love how every time we see him we learn another tidbit of him. I have a great dislike of Aspen and I have no idea what America even sees in him other than the comfort of the past and all things home. I must say that I am thoroughly engrossed and am jumping into the series with both feet (and ever available reading moment).
My Rating: I found this book totally engrossing and couldn't pin point the reason, but obviously it was an excellent start and way to suck me into the series. I give it a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag.
Synopsis: "Before America Singer's story began, another girl came to the palace to compete for the hand of a different prince….

Don't miss this digital original novella set in the captivating world of Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series. This prequel story takes place before the events of The Selection and is told from the point of view of Prince Maxon's mother, Amberly. Discover a whole new Selection with this inside look at how Maxon's parents met—and how an ordinary girl named Amberly became a beloved queen."

My Review: I really am glad to have this little look into the lives of the King and Queen, and also the past Selection. Honestly, I think it gives a little more insight as to Maxon's father and his attitude than the Queen, but we do learn about her personality too. I am glad the series isn't about her because I would have had to quit reading right away with her weak and submissive personality.
My Rating: This was a great novella to follow the first book, it gave a nice backstory on some of the more elusive characters in the story so far as well as a look at how the previous selection proceeded.  I give it a rating of Four Paws.
Synopsis: "Before thirty-five girls were chosen to compete in the Selection...

Before Aspen broke America's heart...

There was another girl in Prince Maxon's life...

Don't miss this thrilling 64-page original novella set in the world of the New York Times bestselling novel The Selection. Also features a teaser to The Elite, Kiera Cass's hotly anticipated sequel to The Selection."

My Review: I was so happy to be able to learn more about Maxon's past, he is definitely a favorite character for me in this series. I liked seeing him in previous situations and also how he has had to overcome so much opposition already and is using what little power he has subtly in the Selection.
My Rating: Another quick look into the backstory of the royal family, I enjoyed learning how Maxon functions and handles the pressures he is given. I give it a rating of Four Paws.
Synopsis: "The Selection began with thirty-five girls.
Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon's heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?

America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America's chance to choose is about to slip away."

My Review: Again, I can't tell you exactly what keeps drawing me into this series, if it is the book, the characters, or even the narrator but every time I try to stop I can't! I do find America to be really flaky and I can't blame Maxon for his reservations. I absolutely do not like Aspen, for him to continue to tell America she isn't to the level of the prince or the other contestants, that he doesn't think she can do the job etc. I do however like seeing more of the politics and the dynamics of the country as a whole. It is also great to see the characters progressing and developing with each challenge they face. There were definitely some really big shockers in this one and it was nice to add a couple elements and twists to a plot that doesn't seem to be moving all that much. Like I said, I really can't fully explain why I am so drawn in by these books but I am and won't stop reading yet!
My Rating: Again, just like the first book, I was totally drawn in and hooked by the story and the characters. While some of the characters drive me nuts and I kind of want to knock some sense into America it is thrilling to read the progression of the story. I give it a rating of Four Paws.
Synopsis: "The second novella set in the world of Kiera Cass's No. 1 New York Times bestselling Selection series – Aspen’s story!

Raised as a Six, Aspen Leger never dreamed that he would find himself living in the palace as a member of the royal guard.

In ‘The Guard’, readers get an inside look at Aspen's life within the palace walls – and the truth about a guard's world that America will never know.

A captivating view into the heart of Aspen, one of the men fighting to win America Singer's love."

My Review: Thank goodness this was a short novella. While I am thoroughly in love with the series, I am not in love with Aspen and this book from his point of view didn't help improve that opinion. He does have a few redeeming qualities like taking care of his family and his work ethic but they aren't enough to over come other issues. I did like the chance to see more of the inner workings of the royal family too, particularly in the office as well as all the efforts of those to soften blows to the country.
My Rating: This book tries to portray Aspen as a little bit more of a likeable guy but it didn't work for me. I am sure it is just my dislike of the character coloring my opinion on this one but I give it a rating of Three Paws.
Synopsis: "While America Singer's heart was torn between Aspen and Prince Maxon, her friend Marlee knew exactly what she wanted—and paid the price.

Revisit the captivating world of Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series in this digital original novella. Told from Marlee's point of view, this all-new 64-page story returns to the fateful Halloween when Marlee and Carter were discovered, and reveals how that night—and Prince Maxon—changed their lives forever.

The Favorite also features a teaser to The Siren!"

My Review: I have really liked Marlee throughout the series so far and I appreciate seeing things from her viewpoint after she was removed from the selection. I also really appreciated seeing the side of Maxon that you don't get to see in the books and how he is working hard to better the lives of others. While the story was about Marlee and Carter, it really was also about Maxon and a tiny bit about America. I will warn though, read part one between books 2 and 3 but part 2 takes place halfway through book 3 through the end of book 3, so I would hold off reading part 2 until the end of The One (or like I did and bounce between the books as the stories move along).
My Rating: While I loved reading more about Marlee and finding out what life held for her after the events in the Elite, I found it a little difficult since the second half of the book took place half way through book 3 and gave away some spoilers if you weren't careful to stop until you reached that point in book 3.  I give it a rating of Three Paws.
Synopsis: "The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, 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."

My Review: While I know what happens in the end of this book since The Heir is already out, it was still an exciting book to read. It was possibly the fastest moving book in the series with a lot more action and plot movement. Secrets come out, decisions are made, dangers are faced, losses are felt, and more. I think this might be the best book in the series and really enjoyed the development of the characters (especially after reading all the novellas and learning a little bit more about each of the main characters). I would however have liked to know more about Kriss. While I want to follow America and Maxon more, I feel like this could have been a good conclusion, I would have been satisfied with the end here, but The Heir is already out and ready to be read.
My Rating: This book was beyond thrilling and exciting, since we have become so attached to the characters and have been so invested in their stories it was an emotional book. I give it a rating of Four Paws.
Synopsis: "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."

My Review: So I have been thoroughly engrossed in this series, and have been really enjoying the audio books and couldn't wait to dive into this one. I was totally thrown off when the narrator was different but I came to realize that it was good thing since the voice needed to change with the perspective as Eadlyn instead of America, it made it easier to recognize this book as a separate narration. That said I had to push a little harder to get into this book, I had an instant dislike of Eadlyn, which I almost think Cass meant to happen, as the book progresses I found myself tolerating her a little more but still irritated at her arrogance and self centered personality. Upon meeting her selected I instantly fell in love with several of them so I am glad I continued listening. However, the ending was so emotional and so open, I can understand while everyone is on pins and needles waiting for the Crown to be released (and now I am wishing I had waited to start these books until May)!
My Rating: This book didn't suck me in quite the way the rest of the series did, it was a much slower progression, but by the shocking ending I am hanging on every word and cannot wait for the conclusion of the series.  I give it a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.
Series Review: Well this series definitely caught me off guard, I know a lot of people absolutely raved about it and others didn't like it so much. I have found in recent years that I get very frustrated with love triangles and drama filled plots but while this series did have all that in spades it was presented in such a way that it was more exciting, there was more riding on the relationship decisions. The jump to a different viewpoint and time frame in The Heir threw me off for a bit but it was a smart decision to have a different narrator for that book to distinguish how vastly different Eadlyn is from America.
Over all I can't help but give this series a rating of Four Paws.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bedtime Story: Just a Snowman by Mercer Mayer

Synopsis: "Hooray! It is a snow day! And what a perfect time to make a snowman. But Little Sister needs help putting on her boots, Dad needs a hand with the shoveling, and Gator wants to build a fort. Will Little Critter ever get to build a snowman?"

My Review: Another great Critter book for the collection. This one is full of winter fun. Little Critter just wants to build a snowman but keeps getting distracted by all the things friends and family want to do. Munchkin had a blast with this book and keeps asking when he will get to play in the snow (it is mid-January and still no snow here). Munchkin also had fun finding little Critter's animals friends in each of the pictures (spider, mouse, puppy, cat).
My Rating: Little Critter is such a classic, but that can still be enjoyed today. We really enjoy both the stories and the illustrations and this one is perfect for those snowy nights preparing for a fun in the snow day.  We give it a rating of Four Paws.

Beginning Reader Review of Splat the Cat: Blow Snow Blow by Rob Scotton

Read for: Early Reader Challenge
Synopsis: "Splat the Cat can’t wait for it to snow. All he wants to do is make a snowcat and throw snowballs! When he can’t wait any longer, Splat decides to take matters into his own paws.

Splat the Cat: Blow, Snow, Blow is a Level One I Can Read book, which means it’s perfect for children learning to sound out words and sentences. Beginning readers will delight at Splat’s hilarious attempts to make snow. Readers won’t even know they are learning as the have fun with the long o sound.

Join Splat the Cat in his excitement for snow in New York Times bestselling author and artist Rob Scotton’s beginning reader."

My Review: This is a great level one book for the early winter (or waiting for a storm to blow out until you can go outside). The sentences are simple with some sight words and illustrations that hint to the sentences. There is also a lot of repeating to help those words be remembered for the future.
My Rating: This is a great one for the beginning of winter to teach some words that relate to winter and the activities of winter. We give it a rating of Three Paws.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

After Dark Review of Club Midnight by Leigh Wilder

I have added After Dark Reviews to my blog as a way of notifying you of a review of a book with Adult themes and scenes. From now on I will keep my reviews of all books I read that have explicit scenes in them for late night posts for those of you who prefer to avoid them or easy to find for those of you who seek them out ;)
Read for: Mount TBR Digital and Series Challenge
Synopsis: "Jamie-boy and Damian are settling into an odd life together, but money troubles force Damian to ask for assistance from his sire. While he's away Jamie-boy is introduced to Club Midnight, a sadistic sex club catering to Daybreak, the anti-vampire group responsible for the destruction of Damian's bar.

What Jamie-boy sees there ignites a passion in him, but there's more to Club Midnight than kinky sex. The leader of Daybreak is cruel and manipulative and the fledgling vampires of New Franklin are in over their heads without Damian. Lives are at stake, but can Jamie-boy and Damian rescue their people, bring down Club Midnight, and still have time to get it on?

Contains: graphic m/m sex, BDSM (bondage, flogging, blood-letting, CBT, toys, spanking, and more), graphic violence and abuse."

My Review: While I can respect this series for sticking to the more violent idea of vampires, I just would prefer that it wasn't all violence. Also, I have almost no tolerance any more for Jamie and his whiny, immature attitude. Also the major break in Damian's personality also threw me for a loop, he was at least the one I could count on to be solid. I will finish this series since there is only one more book but definitely not my favorite.
My Rating: I found this book to be not my favorite at all, I wasn't thrilled with the drastic changes in Damian and the lack of a developing plot line. I give it a rating of Two Paws.

Pen to Paper: Fold and Mail Stationery

Hello all! Hope you are having a wonderful January. Winter has suddenly arrived here in full force with bitter cold, wind and of course snow. Other than reading I can't think of anything better to do on these blustery days than to write to my pen pals.  So far this month I have shown you so fun and creative ways to dress up your pen pal letters by making flip books.  Now I know not all of you enjoy crafting so I have another idea for you today.
Have you ever heard of Fold and Mail Stationery? I remember getting pads of this thick cardstock like paper to write on when I was younger. I hadn't been able to find it the past couple of years, but have discovered it anew recently, and it seems to making a little bit of a come back.  The wonderful thing about this stationary is that it is all in one, you write your letter on one side and then fold it up and seal it, the other side acts as an envelope. All you need is a pen and a stamp.
The wonderful thing is that you can find some very beautiful variations of this stationery.  I recently ordered this set from
You can also make your own by simply using scrapbooking pattern paper with either a blank or light colored side for writing and the brighter pattern can make a beautiful envelope (this pin gives you measurements & instructions).
I am looking forward to using this paper (which should be arriving in the mail today) for quick letters and notes, especially for the upcoming Month of Letters (more on that next week).
Hope you all find something happy in your mail box this week!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review of Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

Read for: the love of this series and characters (and an upcoming requested review)
Synopsis: "Once, only her own life hung in the balance…

When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia.

Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.
As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked.And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive."

My Review: I am so happy to be back with Yelena & Valek! While I did enjoy the branch off series, this is where I am happiest. It took me a while to get back into the setting, remember past plot points and straighten characters out but it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. I really enjoyed the look deeper into Valek's past than we have ever gotten before, though it was a little odd how his memories distracted him so much, that was a little out of character for him. Speaking of characters, we got to revisit so many favorites and they all still shone with their individuality. We also meet a couple of new characters that are very interesting and I look forward to reading more about them. The political intrigue gets very interesting and while I was wondering how long it would take to come to some of these ideas, I am still super happy to see the progression. Oh and the ending! I can't wait to start Night Study!
My Rating: I can't say how happy I am to get back to Yelena & Valek, they are some of my favorite fantasy characters from the past several years. This was a great continuation of the series and it really didn't miss a beat. I give it a rating of Four Paws!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tasty Attempts: Divine Chicken Divan

 I am now posting Tasty Attempts every other Tuesday. The posts will include a variety of recipes, maybe some of them turn out tasty, maybe others are failed attempts.
So I am trying to use more of my cookbooks at home. I have so many I can't even fit them in my cookbook cabinet.  So I pulled out one of my Rachel Ray 30 minute meals (I have 2 or 3 of her books and can't remember which one it was). I found this recipe in the book and it not only made a meal but also chicken for another meal (so that one would be half done too). It looked easy enough and I had a vast majority of the ingredients.
Well I have a bone to pick, not only did this recipe take longer than 30 minutes but it definitely is written by someone who has a staff to prep food and clean up afterwards!
Here is a picture of the aftermath of this recipe
That doesn't include another pan on the stove or the dishes already in the dishwasher! UGH! While I love quick recipes, I can't consider it a quick recipe if it takes longer to clean up than to prepare and eat!
It was tasty (though Munchkin refused to eat it even though it was all things he loves). We also made the Tetrazzini recipe that used the other half of the chicken, it was rather bland and didn't really reheat all that well. I think this was a miss for me in the recipe department.

Review of Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Read for: Mount TBR Print & Series Challenge
Synopsis: "Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there's nothing worse than being a five-foor-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra.

Is she ever in for a surprise.

First Mom announces that she's dating Mia's Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn't have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance?"

My Review: Finally reading this series after watching the movies years ago. I must say that I was a little surprised with how drastically the books and movies are, it is as if the movies took the names and only the basic premise from the books. With that said I am not as keen on the characters in the book, Mia is annoyingly selfish, immature and whiny; Grandmere was a hard nosed, nasty, alcoholic; etc. This series is definitely geared towards the younger to mid-teens with the attitude throughout (I guess now as an adult I don't have the same sympathy for pettiness and teen drama). I did also find it odd how it the formatting kind of jumped in and out of the diary format, it would sound like a diary entry and then it started sounding like a regular book narration. With that all said it is still a relatively enjoyable book and I look forward to the rest of the series.
My Rating: I was surprised how different this was from the movie, Mia is younger and much less mature in these books and there are drastic plot differences.  That said it was a good read, though better if you are younger I suppose. I will still continue the series and hope that as she ages in the books that they become better. I give it a rating of Two Paws and a Stump Wag.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Magic Tree House Monday: Book 3 - Mummies in the Morning

Welcome to Magic Tree House Monday!

Each Monday (other than when special events are planned) I will review one book of the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne.
The third book in the series is Mummies in the Morning.  Jack and Annie return to the Tree House to investigate who the owner is and find out more about the mysterious M. The Tree house once again takes them on an adventure to ancient Egypt to see the mummies in the pyramids that Jack is so fascinated with.
My Review: This book was better than the previous book, it has some new words that Osborne does a great job of integrating the explanation into the story. I do like how these are fun adventures for those budding readers but also educational. In this one Annie and Jack not only learn about the pyramids, Egyptian burials, mummies and hieroglyphics.
My Rating: Now that I know a little more on what to expect when reading these books it didn't bother me as bad that they didn't spend as much time with the mummies. I found this one to be really informative as well as quite the adventure. I give it a rating of Three Paws.

Monday Reading List

Its Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at Book Journey. Share what books you have finished in the last week, are currently reading and what might be coming up next!

Reviews Posted Last Week:
Links will take you to my review

Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborn (Magic Tree House)
Star of the Morning by Lynn Kurland (Re-Read)
Addicted to the Bite by Leigh Wilder (After Dark)
Splat the Cat: Blow Snow Blow by Rob Scotton (Early Reader)
The Little Snowplow by Linda Koehler (Bedtime Story)
How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch (Graphic Novel)
Gwendolyn's Sword by E.A. Haltom

 Books Finished Last Week:
Reviews will be posted at a later date

The Heir = 3pts
Gwendolyn's Sword = 3pts
Just a Little Love = 1pt
Magical Snowman = 1pt
Winter World Vol. 1 = 3pts
Mummies in the Morning = 5pts
The Ferry Home = 5pts
Shadow Study = 3pts
Currently Reading:

 Books to be Read Soon:


Total Points Earned
 90 points + 24 points earned - 30 points spent = 84 points

Total Points Earned this Year: 114
Total Points Spent this Year: 30

Pages Read/ Time Listened
32:02 Hours Listened (8:48 this week)
3,408 Pages Read (1,141 this week)

Books Added to Shelves

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell - 5points spent
Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder - 10 points spent
Christmas with Tucker by Greg Kincaid - 15 points spent

Interesting Tidbits on the Web:


We are slowly on the mend here, Munchkin is doing much better and while I am still in the big walking boot I am hoping to be done with it late this week or early next week, we will see.  With that said it was another good reading week!  This is the one thing I love about winter, it is dark early and cold out so there is nothing to do but snuggle under a warm blanket with a book.

I hope you enjoyed the new Tea Time Tuesday from last week, I am looking forward to sharing some of the tea related things I have learned.  Also, I forgot to mention, I have been keeping up with my photo a day of things that make me happy but instead of posting on Flickr (which I was horribly intimidated by the quality of pictures posted there) I am instead posting on Instagram as @EasternSunset9 in case you want to follow along.

I am finding it a little difficult to keep up with reading and posting reviews, and I apologize for missing my Wednesday post (I posted the review of Gwendolyn's Sword that was supposed to go up that day for yesterday instead). I promise as I get ahead in my reading I will also get ahead in my posting.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Review of Gwendolyn's Sword by E.A. Haltom

Read for: Requested Review/ Netgalley
Synopsis: "Cornwall, England, 1193. Eleanor of Aquitaine, the indomitable dowager queen, has ordered all of England onto a war footing while her son King Richard languishes in a German dungeon. When Gwendolyn de Cardinham happens upon mercenaries from Prince John's rebellion, she draws her sword and defends her home as well as any knight could have. But more of John's mercenaries are coming, her sister-in-law claims Gwendolyn’s husband has died on crusade, and the local prior has absurdly informed Gwendolyn that King Arthur’s fabled sword is destined to be hers. Self-educated and martially trained, Gwendolyn gave her husband her oath to guard and protect their estate of Penhallam while he fought in the crusade. Gwendolyn travels to London with her constable to present herself to the dowager queen. But Gwendolyn has a secret that could put all of Penhallam—and herself—at risk if the queen discovers it."

My Review: I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I have always loved any Arthurian Legends and especially new twists and re-tellings. This one had a very historical feel, like it almost could have been real, this was due to the diligent research by Haltom and the use of actual events and real historical people (this was explained in an afterword in the book which was great, I love seeing what was actual truth). I did find the name choice for the heroine to be a little cliché, almost to blatant of a nod to the original story, but I was able to get past it. The story moves rather slowly and may discourage some readers but it was worth it for me. I really did like picking out the various plot lines, events and characters that hint back to the original legend, for the most part they were woven nicely into the story. It was definitely a unique take and expansion on the legends and was entertaining to read.
My Rating: Like I said it is a little slow moving but I really enjoyed that aspect, it gave me time to acquaint myself with the characters, time period and setting. It is my understanding that the author is in the process of writing the next book so I am really curious as to where she takes the plot line.  I give this one a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.