June 26, 2015

Review: The Heir by Kiera Cass

Love did nothing but break down defenses, and I could not afford that. 

The Book Rest - YA Review - The Heir by Kiera CassTitle: The Heir
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre:  YA Romance
Rating: B+
Recommended For: Fans of The Selection series, fans of bubblegum YA romances
Source: Library e-book

One-sentence review: For a book I really don't think was necessary to be written, I was very heavily entertained by this addition to The Selection series even if I thought the main character was terribly annoying. 

TBR It: GoodReads
Buy It: Amazon

*This review contains spoilers for The Selection series*

I kind of feel like Kiera Cass needs to write something new already. I know I'm going to get so much hate for saying that, but The Selection has been done, it's over, it was cute, so move on. That was exactly my thought process getting into this book and I can't say that reading it has made me change my mind too much, but I'll admit I need the next book in this series ASAP. Oh Kiera Cass, look what you do to me!

While The Selection and its two sequels followed America on her journey through the Selection to become Queen of Illea, The Heir follows the same journey of her daughter, Eadlyn only on the opposite end of the competition about twenty years later. Illea is now caste-free but the new generation is angry for some reason about it. Even though the Selection as a mandatory way for the heir to find a spouse has been eradicated, America and Maxon ask their daughter, the future Queen, if she would be willing to participate in order to distract the country and make them happy. Eadlyn very unhappily agrees and finds herself in the middle of something changing her in all the ways she expected and wanted to resist.

First off, I really dislike Eadlyn. She is so selfish, self-righteous and self-absorbed that I could never truly sympathize or care about her. If this were a movie I think she should be played by Kendall Jenner or another Kardashian/Jenner because then viewers will be used to the whole poor-little-spoiled-girl routine. Fortunately, I think Cass meant for Eadlyn to come off as not-so-nice, especially in contrast to her mother, America's Selection story. But this cold, selfish heroine act definitely affected the way I read the story. She's just so out of touch with reality and unaware of how spoiled she is that I found it difficult to cheer for her happy ending.

Different from the original Selection, there isn't just a love triangle, there's a whole love-octagon... or whatever shape has as many sides as Eadlyn has potential love interests. I definitely have my favorite and runners-up, but it's actually pretty difficult to see who the front runner is for the winner of the Selection. Which, if you haven't realized, means yes - there will be more Selection books. The Heir does not end with a winner or any sort of conclusion. I can hear the cheers and groans alike.

Regardless of whether the new generation of characters is worth reading or not, fans of the original Selection will be pleased to see all of their beloved favorites interact. My favorite was seeing Aspen and Maxon in one touching scene, and Aspen and America during some exchanges. I will say it is extremely satisfying to at least have that sort of epilogue regardless of the rest of the content.

The rest of the content is not all bad and obnoxious though; quite the opposite if you can get past Eadlyn. Many new characters, especially the rest of America and Maxon's kids, are colorful, rich with depth and, as always with Cass' characters, have hilarious interactions and dialogues with each other. Eadlyn's twin brother might be one of my favorite characters Cass has created and I look forward to seeing if he will play a major role in the next book. The relationships Eadlyn builds with the boys in the Selection are filled with all of the fun character building elements that Cass is exceptional at and always makes her stories fun and enjoyable.

If you liked the original Selection trilogy, you will surely appreciate all of the similar elements in this continuation, even if it's still annoying that this story won't end. As for me, I will keep this series as my guilty pleasure that continues to ultimately entertain more than it annoys.

June 12, 2015

Review: What I'd Say to the Martians by Jack Handey

If you're an ant, and you're walking across the top of a cup of pudding, you probably have no idea that the only thing between you and disaster is the strength of that pudding skin.

 photo 2092146_zpsr29rupis.jpgTitle: What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats
Author: Jack Handey
Genre: Humor Short Stories
Rating: A
Recommended For: fans of BJ Novak's One More Thing
Source: My library (well, my husband's)

One-sentence review: Jack Handey's particular brand of sarcastic, ironic and often exhausting humor is not for everyone but I can guarantee it's funny and you'll find yourself laughing through this book no matter your comedic style.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

I've been in a sort of reading slump lately. Can you tell by my lack of reviews?! I am so disappointed in myself for missing my first review in close to 3 years! I'm surrounded by great books but I've been too busy or exhausted from being so busy to really enjoy them. I was complaining to my husband about it and he recommended one of his favorite authors, Jack Handey, but he teased that I probably wouldn't like his work. When a serious reader is told what they will not like, they almost always accept the challenge to prove said provoker wrong. So, of course, I accepted my husband's challenge. He bet me $20 I wouldn't really read it.

Jack Handey's What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats is his first compilation of short humorous stories that highlight the brand of comedy Handey is known for cultivating. Best known for his signature Deep Thoughts comedic one-liners which were featured on Saturday Night Live, Handey brings the same absurd humor to this collection (which actually includes his favorite Deep Thoughts). If you're not familiar with Handey's style of comedic style, perhaps breaking down some of my favorite and least-favorite selections from this book will give you an idea of what to expect.

My favorite story is called "My Third Best Friend" in which Handey explains that his wife is his third best friend. I'm sure this is my favorite because my husband recommended this book to me, so now I always ask him if I'm his third best friend. The story is ironic because obviously the narrator's wife is way more devoted to him than his first and second best friends; his first being his co-worker and his second being his college roommate he doesn't even talk to anymore. He tells an elaborate and hilarious story of how his wife saved his life (one of many times) and yet she still only ranks third. If you're trying to decide if Handey's humor is right for you, I recommend reading this story and gauging your reaction.

Similarly, "My Nature Documentary", is another of my favorites. The narrators in all of Handey's works have very little sense of self-awareness which is the basis for most of the humor. This story in particular is basically a narrative storyboard of a nature documentary in which a giraffe and a monkey are separated best friends. The story is cute, but made hilarious with the stage direction. For example, one of the notes about a scene where the giraffe must laugh states "(choke giraffe and dub laughing sounds)". In a scene where a monkey is supposed to be praying, the stage direction says, "(glue monkey's hands together to show praying)". It's this over-the-top detailed humor that really makes Handey's comedy particularly special.

There are also some chapters on Handey's infamous "Deep Thoughts" which are another area you might want to read to gauge whether you will appreciate his writing or not. I made the intro quote above one of his Deep Thoughts mentioned in this book so you can see if you think it's funny or not.

My least favorite stories all had the same thing in common: there isn't a real story line or succinct concept that was able to hold my attention. "Lowering My Standards" was probably my least favorite in the book, I was bored reading it. Similarly, Handey's To-Do List featured was incredibly excessive albeit funny. But that's probably why Handey is so funny: he's excessive and he goes all the way with his humor, carrying it for much longer than the average comic writer. In many cases this brand of humor is wonderful, but for me sometimes it became daunting.

Overall I really enjoyed this book of humorous stories and I won't shy away from Handey in the future. I'm anxious to read his novel, The Stench of Honolulu, to see if his humor will translate well in a longer format!

Oh, and Tyler? You owe me $20. ;)

June 5, 2015

Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Do not find peace. Find passion. 

The Book Rest - YA Book Reviews - The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle HodkinTitle: The Retribution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Genre: YA Psychological Thriller
Rating: A
Recommended For: Fans of light horror, fans of the rest of this series!
Source: Local Library

One-sentence review: An absolute roller coaster of emotions bring this crazy (pardon the pun!) story to a gripping conclusion that satisfies romantically but leaves so many questions unanswered!

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

This review contains spoilers for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin!

All I can assume after finishing the Mara Dyer series is that Michelle Hodkin loves to torture her readers. In The Retribution of Mara Dyer, Mara wakes up in a Horizon's testing facility after her face off with Jude. She doesn't know if any of her friends are alive, she doesn't know if Noah is alive. When she's given an opportunity to escape by none other than Jude, Mara takes it despite having to do some gruesome things to get out of Horizons alive. She reunites with some of her friends and they work to solve the mystery of what they are, who has answers, and if Noah Shaw is still alive.

There were times when I couldn't put this book down, there were times when I was too emotionally spent to continue; there were times when I wanted to throw the book across the room and times when I wanted to hold it close and cry for Mara. I cannot articulate how incredible Michelle Hodkin is at getting into her readers' heads which is truly apropos for the psychological aspect of this book. Mara's personality is one of my favorites as verbalized in her narrative and this is partially due to the fact that I can't really trust her. The comedic undertones of her sarcasm and the way she handles everything juxtaposed with her unreliability is highly entertaining throughout the entire series and it is only reinforced in this book.

Similarly, Jamie is one of my favorite characters in all of YA literature. I'm always so impressed when authors can craft characters with such quick wit and laugh-out-loud banter, especially for multiple characters maintaining consistency throughout a book or series. The characterization in this series is part of what makes it so lifelike and enjoyable despite the difficult content.

More specifically about this book, I found the first half pretty difficult to get through. It was structured almost like a road trip story, which is fun but given the content it also got old because very little answers are found quickly. I became exhausted following Mara and her friends search for answers when they had very little to go on anyway. It was still entertaining, but emotionally draining, especially with Mara's need to find Noah. I can't really explain when I felt the story pick up the pace because it would give spoilers away, but I do find it worth the read despite this complaint (especially if you've read this far into the series, duh! ;)).

The conclusion (which I won't spoil) was so difficult for me. Cristina at Girl in the Pages told me that the end of the series left her with so many unanswered questions and I have to agree with her so much! It wasn't like Hodkin just ended the story or it felt like a quick tie up (cough-Allegiant-cough!); I could feel that she definitely thought out and crafted the ending. Parts of it were absolutely stunning (let's just say I thought Tahereh Mafi wrote the best steamy romance scenes, but Michelle Hodkin gives her a run for her money!). But overall: my questions far outnumber my compliments!

While I can't say this is my favorite series necessarily, I can say that Michelle Hodkin has easily become one of my favorite writers. Her ability to balance Mara as trustworthy and yet possibly insane was something few others could execute as flawlessly. And I promise you that the letter in the first book I was so concerned about definitely comes into play. While I would recommend this book to anyone who loves light psychological thrillers, I will still wait for Michelle Hodkin to write us an epilogical novel to satisfy all of the unanswered questions.