A friend recommended The Selection series by Kiera Cass with the premise of “it’s like a combination of The Hunger Games and The Bachelor.” Okay, so I don’t watch The Bachelor, but I am a twenty something living in America, so I vaguely know what’s up. Also, as you probably remember I was absolutely obsessed with The Hunger Games. I’ll admit, THG holds a high spot in my heart, so I was a little weary going into this one, but my goodness was I wrong. Cass weaves an intriguing story, mixing romance, friendship, loyalty to self and country all into a web of addicting pages. America Singer is a teenager leaving in a future country long after what we know as America doesn’t exist anymore. Illea is ruled by a monarchy, and it’s time for Prince Maxon to find a wife for him to rule the kingdom in the future with. They use a process called The Selection where women are chosen from each region, to come and live in the castle and go through a dating process very similar to The Bachelor. It was never really part of America’s plan to actually be a contestant in the Selection. She thought she’d continue her life in her caste as a 5, singing at lavish parties, and marry her childhood best friend. Of course, life has its own unexpected twists and turns. I don’t use the word addicting lightly. As soon as I finished The Selection, I went online and saw the e-library had The Elite available and downloaded it immediately. Basically, my obsession continued through the rest of the series, along with the final two of the five that take place after a time jump.Cass writes so vividly that I could easily see this series being adapted for a television show, (which I think it was a while ago.) I would also throw in, if you’re a fan of Reign you would probably also enjoy these. If you’re looking for something fun to read that will keep you on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend this series.
If you’ve been reading Meg Says posts for a bit, you probably already know what a fan girl I am of Ruta Sepetys. Between Shades of Grey and Salt to the Sea were both incredible books. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, that I finally picked up Out of the Easy at the library. Of course, I’m smacking myself wondering why it took me so long. Sepetys always finds a way to beautifully intertwine stories of history, family, coming into one’s own, and friendship,p and she did it again with Josie Moraine in Out of the Easy. Josie lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950. Her mom has her own struggles, so Josie has mostly been fending for herself the past several years. Josie works hard, and she has dreams to leave New Orleans – to go to college, to experience a life bigger than the Quarter. Out of the Easy is filled with so many tender moments that tug on your heartstrings, funny moments as Josie’s genuine character comes to life on the page, and that reminiscent style that reminds you no matter what decade people are living in, young girls experience a lot of similar rollercoaster emotions. With a mysterious death in this story, I’d say it lingers on a bit of mystery – which is great, it adds to the dimension of the story. This is also a prime example, of not being able to choose the family you’re born into, but the bonds and relationships you create with the people around you are what matter most in life – those people become your family. I basically read Out of the Easy in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what happened, and even when my heart ached for Josie in some chapters, I knew she’d rise above her circumstance. If you’re familiar with New Orleans, it’s fun to imagine the places we see now about 70 years ago, too. I could imagine the busy streets, and hear the hum of the music, and picture the wild parties in those grand southern mansions. If you’re not familiar with Ruta Sepetys work yet, I’d recommend reading all of her books this weekend. If you’ve already read the first two I mentioned, go ahead and dive in to Out of the Easy.
In 99 Days we find out early on that Molly’s mom has done the unthinkable – used the love triangle of her own daughter’s (disastrous?) adventures in love – as the plot for her best-selling novel. Because who isn’t going to read about the sweet girl betraying the boy she grew up with, her first love Patrick, by getting together with his older brother Gabe? Dramatic, I know. So what does Molly do when this story lands itself on the cover of People magazine? Run off to boarding school out of state, of course. Even with a year hiatus from the town holding the secrets of her past, she can’t stay away forever. So, the summer before going off to college in Boston she finds herself back at her mom’s place. Of course, Molly does what any teenager practicing avoidance and any kind of social interaction would do – lays in bed eating Red Vines and watching Netflix documentaries. Not surprisingly, though that’s a comforting activity, it gets old fast. So, Molly unexpectedly finds herself with a new job to busy her self, (helping with the re-opening of a restaurant at the country club,) and slowly tries to mend the pieces of her broken friendships.
Cotugno tells Molly’s story of learning forgiveness (extending it to others, like her mom and looking for it with her friends by owning up to mistakes she’s made.) We all know I’m a sap, but I felt Molly’s struggle of trying to listen to her heart screaming to her about someone she knew like the back of her hand, and someone new who was fun and present and real, and seemed open. Cotugno also delved into the meaning of family – with Molly’s relationship with her mom but also her relationship with Patrick’s family – she used to be like one of their own.
While yes, this has a great pace for an indulgent read by the pool or at the beach – don’t dismiss it as a fluff read. 99 Days is heartfelt, emotional, funny at times, and it’s true to life. Maybe you see yourself in Molly, or one of her friends. It’s a refreshing take on coming into your own from the throws of teenage-hood, and growing up.
If you haven’t read this one yet, check it out!
There’s a reason All the Light We Cannot See won a Pulitzer Prize. It took me a few weeks to work my way through this one. In early January, one afternoon it was a surprise waiting for me in the mailbox from one of my favorite teachers. Over the weekend I was bound and determined to find out how this story wrapped up. Sometimes while reading, I had to take breaks because my stomach was in knots and my thoughts would wander (not out of boredom, quite the opposite – this book gave me so much to think about.) The story alternates view points, and points in time throughout the novel, later adding on to the character’s perspectives you’re seeing through, and eventually (as may have been expected), intertwining these character’s lives. There is so much to digest here, so much to take away. We have Marie-Laure a young blind girl living in occupied France during WWII. Marie-Laure’s father Daniel LeBlanc is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. You have orphan Werner Pfennig living in a children’s home in Germany with his sister Jutta, with their kind care taker Frau Elena. As you can imagine in war-time, all of these character’s locations change and their stories expand and they encounter more people who become essential to their stories. I’m intentionally being vague because I would hate to ruin the beautiful way this story unravels. I think some of the key points I was reminded of is the way art, music, books, and imagination can be threads of hope in the darkest of times. I was reminded that although we know what’s right and wrong, people who do bad things, are still capable of doing good things. Recently, I saw a tweet that said “Historically, ‘I was only following orders’ has not been a solid defense.” How true this is, and some people only come to the realization after so much damage is done. Friendship can sprout from curious places. Fear makes people do evil things. It’s never wrong to do the right thing, even if it means you’re going against the current. Doing the right thing takes a tremendous amount of courage sometimes. People can be very impressionable, it’s important to remember to think for yourself and not be a follower. We have a responsibility to maintain a knowledge of the past, so we don’t repeat history’s mistakes. This story tugged on my heart strings, and these characters will stay with me for years to come. If you haven’t read this novel yet, I highly recommend you do so immediately.
So more about what Extraordinary Means is actually about. Seventeen year old Lane has been sent to special school, kind of like a boarding school, kind of like a summer camp – except here there is one link that bonds all the students together, and it’s not s’mores and kumbaya. All the kids at Latham have TB, albeit different strains so different levels of the way this diagnosis takes its toll on their bodies. On their good days the students might seem like normal teenagers, but whether it’s a fitful night of coughing that results in bloody pillowcases, or just the lack of energy and dark circles around their eyes – these kids are no longer able to lead something similar to their pre-TB lives. Away from their family and friends, sports and activities with no cure in sight their futures are uncertain.
Although what they considered “normal” lives are disrupted, and they can’t even continue a regular study path of school work – Lane and his new found friends have found a way to make the most of their time, and add some fun to their days. Who would have thought he’d find a familiar face at Latham? But why does this person seem to be so cold towards him? Even with a rocky start Lane will soon have new relationships develop, friendships evolve, and a spark of romance. The scary thing is no one ever knows how much time they have left – but Lane and his friends are cramming a lot of life in their days. Extraordinary Means is a heartwarming story that’s a reminder of the frailty of life, and the power of friendships in any circumstance in life. Schneider has shown us once again what a gift she has to leave such an impressionable story on the hearts of her readers.
(Image from Goodreads.)