Book Review

May God Bless America

The Selection (The Selection, #1)The Selection by Kiera Cass

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s been two years since I’ve read The Selection, so I apologize for my very late review. Even though a lot of time has passed, my fondness for this ex-trilogy is as strong as ever. This is most probably because it was actually one of the series I explored in my undergraduate thesis.

I humbly admit that I am occasionally judged for loving this series, given its feminine covers that should ideally (or stereotypically) repel male bookworms like myself. My brothers, for instance, have shot me bewildered glares when they saw me read this book. Now, although I felt slightly emasculated by their reaction, I was comforted by the realization that the content of The Selection was in fact more appropriate for males, because it teaches them (us) not to undermine the power of femininity (Yes, I am a Feminist).

I know my sentiment sounds too deep or erudite, so let me explain. Haha. In this first installment in the currently five-book series, Kiera Cass introduced us to a dystopian twist of The Bachelor. We met America Singer, a beautiful readhead who was “obliged” to compete with 34 other girls for the hand of Maxon, the handsome Prince of Ilea. One would normally conclude that this scenario depicts females in a negative light, since the Selected were practically Prince Maxon’s personal collection of disposable dolls.

However, let me assure you that America is far from being objectified, or in Feminist terms, Othered. How so? She managed to turn the tables by starting her own Selection in the palace. This time, Prince Maxon and her stubborn ex-boyfriend named Aspen were the competitors. Both dudes were unaware that they were actually caught in a love triangle. America, using time as her weapon, insisted that she had yet to decide whom she truly wanted to be with. Surprisingly, neither Prince Maxon nor Aspen could resist her charm, oblivious to the reality that she was treating them like safety nets.

Furthermore, despite her physical weakness, America’s character is something to behold. Unlike the rest of the Selected, she was not overly concerned about making herself beautiful for the sake of the male gaze. Her makeup was light to the point of insignificance, and she disliked wearing choking dresses and debilitating high heels. With that in mind, America was an advocate of natural beauty, and it totally worked to her advantage as Prince Maxon and Aspen learned to love and respect her for her authenticity.

Finally, America’s political empowerment is nothing but outstanding. In spite of her supposedly inferior status as a Five, America was not eager to use Prince Maxon as a means to climb the social ladder. Moreover, she refused to be bedazzled by the extravagant comforts of the palace; she did not allow the temptation of wealth to blind her to the harsh realities of her society. It is interesting to note that she was actually more politically knowledgeable than Prince Maxon himself, trained as he was to rule the kingdom someday. Without America, he wouldn’t have realized the corruption of the caste system.

With all that said, I hope that I have adequately defended my love for The Selection. It could take dozens of paragraphs just to fully express my feels, but the bottom line is this: by deploying the right theories of literary criticism, this superficially shallow or misogynistic book can be viewed as a tribute to femininity. Thus, I implore you not to judge me when I say that this book is perfect for boys like me who live in a world which is downright sexist.

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

Author Interview

Q & A with Amy McNulty

Last month, I requested a book from Netgalley, entitled Fall Far from the Tree. I enjoyed it very much, as indicated in my review. I was even more delighted when the author emailed me and granted my wish to have an interview with her. I immediately relayed the good news to Dessa (my blog partner), and we had a wonderful time thinking about meaningful questions that would satisfy our bookish curiosity. Now, without further ado, we happily present our interview with Amy McNulty, with the hope this would encourage other bookworms to read her outstanding novels.

  1. What is your inspiration for each protagonist in FFftT? And do you love each character equally?


“Rohesia was the first character I came up with and she’s probably my favorite (don’t tell the others!) because I love stoic, kick-butt characters, particularly when they’re women! I especially love what little emotion she shows around Sherrod, her toady of a ‘guardian/assistant.’ She’s not a great person, though, because she does some pretty evil things, but I love morally ambiguous characters. There’s more to her than she’d like people to know. She doesn’t want to have emotions, but she can’t help but have a few.


“I wanted a playboy/huge flirt who could lighten the mood of any scene he was in and that was Fastello. There was more depth to him in the end than I originally planned, but that’s definitely a good thing. Playboys aren’t always as confident as they appear on the surface.


“Cateline had to exist because I knew Rohesia wouldn’t be receptive to Fastello. (Rohesia is asexual in my mind.) I wanted a girl who might be open to falling in love with Fastello, but it couldn’t be that easy, so she had to be prejudiced against him to begin with and stubborn to a fault. Her relationship with her religion made for an interesting way to show how evil can even masquerade as good, as she’s basically been brainwashed into accepting the bad parts of her religion and can’t view them objectively.


“I created Kojiro to have someone respond how I’d probably respond to being raised by evil—anxiety and terror. At the same time, part of him wants to prove himself because he’s been told how worthless he is his entire life. I already did a European-ish medieval fantasy setting for my The Never Veil Series, so I wanted to add a fantasy setting inspired by another culture to FALL FAR FROM THE TREE. I’ve been fascinated by Japanese language and culture for decades, so that’s why Hanaobi is (mostly, but not entirely) inspired by medieval Japan.”


  1. Religion plays an important part in your book. With that in mind, what inspired you to explore the dichotomy of the Sun and Moon?


“I’m one of those weird people who’s happier when it’s overcast than when it’s sunny. I feel more alert after nightfall. So I thought it’d be interesting if one of the characters stays awake all night and sleeps all day, and that’s how Cateline’s religion came about. (She doesn’t, of course, stick to that schedule for long once the events of the story begin.) I had to think of a reason why her religion asks its practitioners to stay awake at night, and it seemed like worshipping the moon and the stars was the ideal reason. Plus, with Hanaobi being based on Japan and the importance of the sun in Shintoism and Japanese culture, it made sense to have Cateline’s religion in direct opposition to what Kojiro’s people believe in.”


  1. What’s the hardest part of writing and publishing a book?


“For me, it’s writing the first draft. I go months without writing fiction at all, which is not something I want to happen, but it’s just so hard for me to get in the groove. Once I get over the hurdle of the first 20,000 words or so, I can usually (but not always) finish the manuscript. It’s just a matter of getting there. That’s why something like NaNoWriMo in November really helps me, but I can’t currently write 50,000 words a month throughout the year.”


  1. How is your reading life? What are your favorite books? Do you have any peculiar reading habits?


“I love YA, especially fantasy, but I’m sadly years behind most of the hottest books. (I have 5 Sarah J. Maas books on my shelf to read, for example—and I’ve yet to read a single page of any of her works! Yet somehow I knew I’d love them enough to collect that many…) I’m a slower reader than a lot of my friends and only manage to read for fun between 20 and 60 minutes a day on average and I usually read in bed before going to sleep. My favorite books ever are the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series (but I know those are common choices!), all the works of Jane Austen, almost all the works of Diana Wynne Jones, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.”


  1. The characters in your book generally have despicable parents/guardians. With that in mind, what message do you want to convey about the concepts of family and parenthood?


“The book was inspired in part by Marvel Comics’ Runaways, which I found compelling—it’s also about teens whose parents are all villains. (In the case of Runaways, their parents are all in an evil league of supervillains together.) There’s not a single good (living) parent among any of the four main characters’ parents in FALL FAR FROM THE TREE, so I don’t mean to make a message about family and parenthood in general. However, when it comes to abusive parents and toxic families, I think these characters represent some of the ways abuse can be overt and some of the ways it can be more subtle—and the conflicting feelings children raised in these environments will have, especially as they near adulthood and could potentially break free more easily. They couldn’t view their lives objectively before this because they’ve never known any different. The title is not just a play on the idiom “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” it’s an instruction to these four characters: “Do fall far from the tree.” Break away from the rotten roots of your parents. You may be stuck, but at least try to get as far from what’s expected of you as you can and maybe someone will come along and pick you up and offer a helping hand.”


  1. What advice do you want to give to aspiring YA novelists?


“Read a lot of YA books (which you’re all probably already doing!) to get a feel for the genre. Write as much as you can, but also don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t stick to a schedule like writing every day. Write when you can and don’t expect every draft to be brilliant. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words before I finally had a finished book I could be proud of.”


Book Review

Snow White 2.0

The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire, #1)The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me 16 days to finish this novel, and I’m so happy it took that long. Seriously, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it otherwise; each chapter was worthy to be savored like an ice cream cone in a hot summer day. I’ve been on a fantasy binge since April, and this novel was a great way to satiate my literary hunger.

I became quite attached to the protagonists, who were basically the epitomes of selflessness. Throughout the story, both Lorelai and Kol never hesitated to sacrifice their happiness and well-being for the sake of their respective kingdoms which were on the verge of destruction. I also enjoyed the sweet and innocent romance between them, although I thought it was practically a minor addition to the plot. I really admired how Lorelai and Kol did not allow their physical desires to cloud their judgement or jumble their priorities.

As for the antagonist, Queen Irina, she was naturally so infuriating. I absolutely relished hating her for all the physical and emotional suffering she bestowed on everyone for the sake of placating her overwhelming sense of self-entitlement. There was not a time that I expected her to attain a happy ending. When true love knocked on the doors of her stone-cold heart, she proudly ignored it and instead hearkened the call of power and corruption. Overall, Queen Irina was very similar to Queen Levana of The Lunar Chronicles, so I could not help but look forward to her inevitable destruction.

Now in regards to the entirety of the plot, I found it to be very gripping, refreshing and well-paced. The only part of the book I wanted to be rewritten was the scene wherein Lorelai was stupidly unable to stop a peasant woman from killing herself and her children. Really, Loreali should have been bright enough to snatch the knife from the said lunatic.

All things considered, I absolutely enjoyed this stand-alone novel. It gave me what every bookworm deserves: a wonderful and worthwhile reading experience. I can hardly wait to read its sequel, which is still in the making. Cheers to epic fairy tale retellings!

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

Book Review

A Magical Disappointment

Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Are you aware how stupid you’ve been? Bravery doesn’t forgive stupidity. —Professor McGonagall

Haters gonna hate! I did not expect that I would dislike this play so much. I refuse to place it in league with the actual seven books. I nearly marked this as DNF, were it not for the fact that my boss at work had graciously lent it to me.

I believe that I’m not being objective right now because irritation is clouding my judgement. All I know is that Albus Severus Potter never failed to fill my heart with scorn and contempt. His decision making process was remarkably pathetic at best and downright infuriating at worst. There were so many times that I wanted—yearned—to throw this ridiculously expensive text across the room, through the window, and onto the gritty pavement outside.

Please believe me that I did my best to enjoy the story. Unfortunately, I was overwhelmed by this feeling of detachment towards the characters. It was hard for me to reconcile their dialogues to the people they were 19 years ago. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were just…there, and I really wasn’t invested in their story anymore. I now realize that other readers were right to describe this play as fan-fiction; there were indeed so many conveniently executed plot holes involving Cedric Diggory, Voldemort, and those blasted Time-Turners.

As my rant comes to a close, I hope that I can redeem myself by saying—with a small smile—that I liked Scorpius. Honestly, he was my only ray of sunshine, my rare source of comfort and fanboy feels. His pedantic demeanor and love for books inevitably reminded me of my adoration for Hermione, and I particularly admired his willingness to express his affection for Albus. Scorpius basically changed my opinion of the Malfoy name for the better, and for that I am grateful.

All things considered, I am not satisfied nor happy with how the story turned out. It would probably be better if I didn’t read it at all. Nevertheless, I assure you that my love for Lady Rowling and her wizarding world remain unscathed. In fact, I shall begin reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to purge myself of remaining toxic emotions.

Book Review

Potterhead Feels #3

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m now inevitably on the verge of a book hangover. I need to get my hands on the next book ASAP. I can hardly wait for payday!

Our Lady Rowling’s writing seems to become more powerful as the series progresses. She just has this subtle way of evoking such positive emotions in her readers, bedazzling them with an awesome fictional world, an addictive storyline, and totally best-friend-worthy characters.

I had a delightful time witnessing Harry, Ron and Hermione’s transition into young adulthood. It was clear that the hormones were finally kicking in because they had many arguments in this novel. Ron and Hermione in particular often got on each other’s nerves for reasons both shallow and significant. As for Harry, I was grinning from ear to ear when he had finally met a girl that made his stomach drop in the best possible way. With all that said, the interactions between these beloved characters made me reminisce about my late teenage life, evoking in me feelings of longing, happiness, and even gratitude. And if I must say so, my admiration for Hermione grows stronger by the book.

Honestly, I probably enjoyed this book so much also because I watched the movie adaptation beforehand (4/5 times). It was nearly effortless for me to imagine all the intriguing events that were happening, which was practically a huge bonus to my reading experience. Furthermore, I was actually delighted to spot the differences between the movie and book; although I already knew the story by heart through the movie, I still experienced moments of blissful enlightenment.

In conclusion, I would like to apologize for putting this book on hold for almost a month. I would’ve finished it sooner if I had less than ten books in my currently-reading list. Tee-hee. This is my favorite Harry Potter book so far, and I won’t be surprised if the next books throw me off my feet as well.

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)