With Malice by Eileen Cook – REVIEW

Before I start this review I feel like I need to address the fact that I haven’t posted on here in ages even though it was one of my new years resolutions to do so AND I AM SORRY OKAY. Moving on to the review:
So I had pretty high hopes for this book, considering Ariel Bissett over on YouTube (whom I love) included it in her favorite books of 2016, it’s been getting a ton of good reviews and the synopsis was hella intriguing. If you have not heard of this book before, I’ll include a little bit of the synopsis here:


“Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last six weeks should be. She discovers she was involved in a fatal car accident while on a school trip in Italy. A trip she doesn’t even remember taking. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident.”


So I ended up giving this book a 3 stars on Goodreads, maybe 3.5 but I’m really indecisive malice_coverabout it, and that was because despite the fact that I really liked the concept something about the book itself left me feeling a bit eh. I just felt like it was moving a bit slow for me, personally, and the writing was average (nothing special). I also listened to the audiobook and the narrator’s voice was … kinda whiny? Is it just me who thinks that?

But then that’s just my problems with the book, I’m not hating on it because I actually ended up enjoying the story. There was a lot of suspense and I was so frustrated and stressed out for the main character, Jill, because she couldn’t get herself out of this awful situation. It’s sort of like those movies that you watch late at night to give yourself a thrill without having to watch a horror movie.


SPOILERS:

So first off, I feel like Jill handled the whole thing pretty well, I mean I would’ve definitely lost it if I had been in her situation. And it honestly was upsetting for me as a reader to gradually find out things about the “crime” like the knife with her fingerprints on it. I mean, that was just a shock because when you are reading a book from first person, it creates such a personal connection between you and the protagonist and I don’t think a lot of people reading this book would’ve imagined that Jill could have stabbed Simone.

I also really  enjoyed that the story isn’t just told through Jill’s point of view and we get those little snippets from the police interviews, which gives us an idea of what everyone else is thinking about the accident. For example, Simone’s parents. It made me so mad, knowing how mislead they are about their daughter but that just further instilled in my mind how much I dislike Simone. I mean of everything that we’ve been shown about her, I can’t say she’s done anything remotely kind for Jill, instead she trolls her blog, lies to her parents and blames Jill for everything and just bleh.

The book really did show how much the media can manipulate people and change everything about a situation. Like all the stuff on the Justice for Simone blog abut “chilly Jilly”. I think that’s the most interesting part of this story. I brought this book up in my English class the other day regarding how closely memory and identity is associated, so I guess if you choose to analyze this book it is rather fascinating.

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – REVIEW

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Alright, my opinion on this book is actually very interesting considering how many times it changed from when I first heard of it to when I finished reading it. Around the time of this book’s release there were a hella lot of booktubers talking about it because I think it was the book of the month for a few subscription boxes. The synopsis of this book gives us the idea that it’s about triplets who have to fight to the death to see who claims the throne. And there’s also the fact that one of them can control the elements, the other is a poisoner and the third is a naturalist, meaning she can bloom flowers and stuff. It just sounds like a pretty awesome political fantasy right?

I wouldn’t say that the story was completely different from what I expected but it did disappoint a bit. However, I did definitely end up loving it a lot, because this is one of those books that are very character driven and we all know I love me some characters.

I will say that it did move very slowly for about the entire first half or more of the book. A lot of the book is just character introductions and preparation for the big festival where the queens show off their skills. There are also A LOT of side characters which aren’t awful but it just really confused me. I will say that there is also a random love triangle that just sort of happens?!?! I just felt like that was so unnecessary and it all just felt very forced, I don’t think the book needed that at all.

But that’s about all that I really found wrong with the book. I’ve grown so attached to the characters that I keep talking about them to everyone – specifically, Arsinoe, the naturalist queen. I suppose she is my favorite but this book is unique because there is no bad queen or one of the triplets who is particularly despicable all of them seem very genuine and we get to follow each of them at different points in the story so you’re pretty much rooting for all three and that really does add a lot of tension, at least it did for me as a reader because I knew that two of them were going to die. Plus, I don’t think I’ve read a book with a matriarchy before and that was very much appreciated.

All in all, it was a super fun read and I really look forward to the second book because THAT END THOUGH.

SPOILERS INCOMING

So let’s start off by talking about Katherine for a bit. I think in terms of character arc, hers was the most well done, because it’s really hard to see character growth in such a short photo_2017-01-14_21-30-02_burnedamount of time without it seeming ridiculous and in Katherine’s case I think we got to see her slowly grow out of being the weak and easily fooled queen because she grows extremely confident and basically just toughens up. I guess a lot of this is thanks to Pietyr but I refuse to give him credit because I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE ANNOYED BY A CHARACTER (except for maybe Joseph but more on him later ugh). I just felt like he was so manipulative even though we’re meant to believe that he eventually loves Katherine. It just felt like he was using her and Katherine is naive and I doesn’t know better and I just wanna protect the poor thing from him. NOT TO MENTION HE PUSHED HER DOWN A CLIFF UHHH WHAT.

And next we have Mirabella. She’s probably my least favorite which in no way means I photo_2017-01-14_21-29-54_burneddon’t like her, it’s just that I liked the other two slightly more. And perhaps the reason for this is that annoying ass love triangle. Although it wasn’t exactly her fault initially because ugh just Joseph is such a tool, either way she kept going with it. For what exactly? What frustrates me more is that he’s made out to care about both Jules and Mirabella even though he’s playing with both of them. I was really on board with the Jules and Joseph ship until he screwed up and I just feel like his relationship with Mirabella was very lusty.

When we’re first given an idea of how powerful Mirabella is, I thought I was going to hate her and she was going to be absolutely full of it. Although that wasn’t the case at all, because Mirabella turned out to be extremely compassionate towards her sisters, at least as compassionate as she can be. I also really liked her close friendships with Bree and Elizabeth.

And finally, we have my personal favorite, Arsinoe. THIS LITTLE BADASS, I SWEAR. I just felt so much for Arsinoe because she deals with a lot through the book. All her injuries and scars from dealing in low magic to the bear attack, as well as the fact that she has to deal photo_2017-01-12_11-44-35_burnedwith so much taunting for being the ‘weakest’ queen since her gift has not come. And yet, she remains very opinionated and puts up with it all. She defies the rules and that’s always nice to read about. I also really really love her relationship with Billy, I think it was my favorite friendship in the book. Partly because we see them grow closer and it always remains a constant that Billy has so much respect and admiration for her. LIKE THAT PART WHERE HE ONLY BOWS TO HER OH MY GOSH I DIED. I hope they’re friendship remains platonic because I feel like it’s a rarity in YA books and also I don’t want things to change between these two.

And of course there is that plot twist that Arsinoe is actually the poisoner queen. When I read that bit, it occurred to me (after I gasped for a bit) that a lot of the book was leading up to this. I don’t know if it means that Katherine is the naturalist queen and there was some sort of mix up, or something else entirely. Either way, I really enjoyed how this book ended.

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New bookish year!

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Well, it’s a new reading year, everyone. I was initially gonna make this a long rambly and stressed out post about how I can’t finish my Goodreads goal but I DID IT. I read a total of 51 books in 2016 (my goal was to read 50) and while it was incredibly relieving and satisfying to have read that many books, I’ve decided not to make myself got through that again.

I usually always set my goal to 50 books, mostly because I can never seem to complete that challenge but since for the first time I had, I was kinda stumped. I mean do I keep it at 50 or do I raise the bar higher and aim for 60? In the end, I decided and have now set my Goodreads challenge to (wait for it, guys) 30 BOOKS. Now I can just imagine you all being all confused and disappointed like ‘what Nushu? Only 30?’ so lemme explain.

It’s almost become tradition now: every year as school closes for mid term breaks and everyone is getting reading for the holidays I am filled with the inescapable feeling of EXTREME STRESS BECAUSE I’M STILL BEHIND IN MY READING CHALLENGE AHHH. So to photo_2017-01-02_17-48-27_burnedavoid that, I’ve decided to set my goal much lower. Now, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I’m going to just read 30 books and stop there, hell no. I actually think that without the stress of having to complete this challenge I’ll be able to read even more than I have in previous years (usually around 45 -50). I’ve simply decided to focus more on the quality of the books I’m reading rather than the quantity.

The other goal, I have set for myself is to read more diversely. And by that I don’t just mean reading all genres of books, I also mean reading books with characters of varying and ethnicity and sexuality. I want to branch out and read more own voices books. Not only to make myself more aware but to also encourage you guys and the rest of my audience to shine a light on own voices authors and really support their writing so that the YA genre is not just, as whittynovels puts it, a jar of mayonnaise. Maybe soon it can be all the condime28458598nts. I talk a little bit about this in my Diversity in YA post.

Two own voices books that I am really looking forward to this year are When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I think both of these books are extremely important and significant steps forward in the #ownvoices movement. When Dimple Met Rishi focuses a lot about the importance of arranged marriages in Indian culture while still sounding really modern and very 32075671much like a rom-com which is just perfect in every way. Whereas The Hate U Give focuses on the Black Lives Matter movement and tells the story of a sixteen year old African-American girl, whose best friend is shot by the police and she is the only witness. Both of these authors seem incredible and are doing amazing things for YA so I recommend you go check out their books.

I am also going to post a lot more on this blog this year where I almost entirely neglected it. Hopefully, get a little more involved in the bookstagram community as well – even though I posted regularly last year, I didn’t really interact with others and now that I’m doing it, it’s really fun and I’m making a lot of new friends. So I’m planning to branch out in that area, try my luck at a few rep searches, hold a giveaway maybe, who knows.


So that is all for this post, everyone. Just a quick run-down of my plans for the year. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any reading resolutions of your own or if you have any diverse book recommendations!

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FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2016

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THIS WAS A FUN FUN READING YEAR.

Well. No. That’s not entirely true. I wish I’d read more this year but the reading slump hit and stayed for like 5 months?!?! Either way, I read a lot of incredible books this year so let’s talk about them shall we? In no particular order:


BEST SCI-FI

Defnitely, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I’ve read the first three books this year and there’s literally no way I can just pick one as my favorite.

HOW ON EARTH HAVE I WAITED SO LONG TO START THIS SERIES?!? Honestly I’m just 12139510glad I finally did because I loved everything about it, like there was never an instance where I did not enjoy these characters and this world. It has become one of those series that I can just escape in to, completely immersing my mind in it, and that hasn’t happened to me in so long with a book. I mean it’s what we all look for in a book right?

I gave all of these books (minus Winter because I haven’t read it yet *sob*) 5 stars. Without hesitation. It’s just that good. I loved Cinder and Kai. And then I loved Scarlet and Wolf. And then I loved Cress and Thorne. And I just continues to love every character as I went along through the series and just AHHH so so good. My favorite character is definitely Thorne though, I just love how confident and snarky he is without being arrogant. It’s very much a character driven series and I  don’t mind that at all because I’d pick characters over plot any day.

HONORABLE MENTION: 172 Hours On The Moon by Johan Harstad.

 

12860573.jpgThis book really pleasantly surprised me. I only picked it up because it was close to Halloween and I wanted to read something creepy yet fast paced for Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. So basically I stayed up all night (literally ALL NIGHT) reading this book and I was terrified. It isn’t straight up horror, there’s a lot of different elements in this book that really did add to the story and I really like the way it’s paced. I’m not gonna talk too much about what happens because I recommend you go in to this completely unaware of the contents.

BEST FANTASY

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Tayor. I mean, if you know me this won’t be a shock at all. Laini Taylor is one of my all time favorite authors and I think Daughter of dreams-of-gods-and-monsters.jpgSmoke and Bone was actually my favorite book of last year. I finally finished the trilogy this year and honestly these books are heavenly. They just get better and better as the series progresses and all the reads were easily 5 star reads for me. But ah, this finale to the series was so good. The epic battle just left me gasping and hyperventilating and there was so much detail in the writing and just it was all sorts of perfect. Not to mention Zuze and Mik got more time and I LOVE THEM SO SO MUCH.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

20983362Passenger by Alexander Bracken would have definitely won the number one spot if it hadn’t been for the excellence that is Laini Taylor. But either way I enjoyed this so so much. Unlike most of my favorite books, I liked this one for the plot more than for the characters. In all honesty, I wish the characters had a bit more depth but the story and the time traveling aspect as well as Alexandra Bracken’s beautiful writing had me in love with this story.

My second honorable mention is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern but I’m not gonna talk much about it because I have a full, rambly review for the book which I will link here. But all I will say is: Magic. Circus. Mystery. A dash of romance. 4.5 stars. Absolutely excellent.

BEST CONTEMPORARY

I usually read way more contemporary books than any other genre and this year was definitely no exception. I read a lot of excellent contemporary books this year but the best definitely has to be one I read just a few days ago actually and that is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

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HOLY FLAMING POTATOES, GUYS. This book blew me away. It was just so beautifully written and Ari’s narrative felt so real and honest. It wasn’t overly pretentious in the way a lot of these popular contemporary books are (just being honest here) and I think that’s the reason I enjoyed it so much. And I liked being able to watch him and Dante grow up and it wasn’t like they were the perfect best friends, they had fall-outs and they grew apart and fell back together and it was all written and represented so beautifully.

Also quick little note: I do not own a physical copy of this book, I listened to the audiobook that was narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda and I’m not entirely sure if my undying love for this brilliant man enhanced my reading experience but I’m sure that even if I had read the book and not listened to it, it would’ve still made it on this list.

HONORABLE MENTION: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

This book genuinely surprised me, I mean I really wasn’t expecting to love it as much as it did. I have read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and while I enjoyed it tremendously, I probably enjoyed this more (*audience gasps*).

I just thought it was such an interesting concept and the character growth that you see throughout the book, not only for Ed but for his friends as well, was so fun to follow. And of course, a story as amazing as this one paired with Markus Zusak’s mind blowing writing style definitely deserves to be on this list. I cannot recommend this book enough.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL

Something very exciting that appeared in my reading life were graphic novels! I’m slowly nimona.jpgfalling in love with them. Now, I read nowhere near a lot of graphic novels but Nimona by Noelle Stevenson has earned it’s place in my heart as one of my FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME. That’s right, folks. It’s that good. I read this back in September and finished it in one sitting. It really isn’t the kind of book you can put down.

First off, THESE CHARACTERS. I loved all of them. If you haven’t heard of Nimona before (where have you been?!?!) it’s about this girl called Nimona who just one day randomly shows to be a sidekick for a villain called Ballister Blackheart. And at first he’s annoyed because he didn’t want a sidekick to begin with but as the story progresses we see them grow closer and form a friendship. And they go around causing mischief and it’s very fun to read about. There is also this knight (?) called Ambrosius Goldenloin who is the ‘good guy’, it is just one of those rare books where the characters and the plot are both equally good and go so perfectly together. Not to mention, Noelle Stevenson’s art is so adorable.

HONORABLE MENTION: LUMBERJANES

Lumberjanes is a comic series written by Noelle Stevenson (I’m really in love with her art, guys) and a bunch of other amazing authors, following a group of these 5 kickass girls at summer camp. And there’s a lot of mysterious and fantastical elements in their adventures that I was not expecting honestly.

I just picked up the first volume of this series just about a week ago as a way to complete lumberjanes_covermy reading challenge for the year but I have completely fallen in love with these girls, and I just finished the second volume last night. It is excellent in every way.

Me and my sister are actually reading the series together at the moment, because I really think it’s a great series for middle schoolers as well. I mean, there is such a diverse range of characters and the detail that’s been put in to each one of them is great because like I said, I love character depth. Did I mention it’s LGBTQ+? Yeah. It’s amazing.


And that’s it for my favorite reads of this year, folks. If you’ve read any of these books or read some REALLY good books this year then please do let me know in the comments.

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Let’s talk about diversity in YA #ownvoices

So this has become a very consistently discussed topic in the book community as of late, and rightly so. And I do not know a whole lot about this topic in detail, I’m newly 18 and still just learning and figuring all this out, and I understand that it’s a rather controversial topic but I’m just gonna tell you all a little bit about my experiences with diversity in books.

First off, I’m gonna let you all know that I’ve been reading YA since I was about 11 years old so it’s been a good 7 years of my life devoted to this category of books that I love and enjoy. I’ve grown to love and adore so many series and characters. Does this mean that I find a character whose ethnicity and sexuality is the same as mine in every book I read? No. Heck no. And the worst part is I didn’t realize this was a problem until people started talking about it and I thought “oh that’s a good point”.

I am Maldivian; therefore South Asian, as well as Musliml. I mean I am basically a mix of (correct me if I’m wrong) the most rarely represented characters in young adult fiction. For the longest time, I enjoyed reading about these straight, white, cisgendered protagonists (and I still do) not really realizing that it was a problem. It was fiction, and I just had this idea that that’s what it was and that’s how it always had to be which I realize now, is absolute crap. This is something that is slowly changing and still needs to be talked about a whole lot more for us to really make it the norm to pick up a book with an accurately represented gay or hispanic main character.

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When I actually started reading books with diverse characters, I really did see a difference in how the story was represented and it felt refreshing. As an example, I’m just going to draw your attention to a wonderful book that I read this year called Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah. It’s a book that follows a Muslim girl, who is the only one in her school (?) in Sydney, Australia and she decides to wear the headscarf. More than ‘normalizing’ our religion, for me reading this, it felt familiar in a way that made me very happy. Now, I don’t wear a hijab (a lot of the women in my family do though) and I was lucky enough to grow up in a community of Muslims so there was nothing odd or threatening about wearing a headscarf in public but the representation of her family in this book was so nice to read about, because she was like me. She was Muslim and at the same time she liked to listen to the Spice Girls (this was released in the early 2000s) when she was sad, and she had a crush on a boy at her school and she went shopping with her friends. Randa Abdel-Fattah, being a Muslim herself did not alienate the character of Amal.

It in no way is an absolutely perfect novel with breathtaking writing. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. However, this book made me think “why aren’t there more books like this?” which is something that more of us need to be thinking regarding correct representation in books.

Recently there was someone on twitter who was claiming that by asking for representation and asking for clear portrayal of diverse characters is in some way eliminating progress to make us all ‘people’. To not see color is not something we can so easily do, we need representation because we live in a world where everyone is labeled with a stereotype based on the color of their skin or who they love or a majority of other reasons. To right these backward beliefs and not have those people looked at through a white lens is not only important but comforting as well. It makes us stop and think “oh hey she/he’s like me”.

Now I’m not even going to try and explain everything wrong with representation in YA fiction because that’s far too vast and I cannot possibly accurately talk about what other minorities must be feeling. If you are interested in finding a bit more about this, whittynovels on YouTube made a collaboration with a bunch of wonderful booktubers discussing diversity and #ownvoices which I will link here.

This is just a short post talking about my thoughts. If you have any points to add or if I’ve made any incorrect points please kindly let me know in the comments of this post. Also if any of you know a YA book where there is a south asian main character who is portrayed accurately please please let me know!

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS BY ERIN MORGENSTERN REVIEW

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Format: Audiobooks

Goodreads rating: 4.03/5 stars

My rating: 4/5 stars

I don’t know how I have not yet written a review of this book yet oh my gosh it completely slipped my mind but here we are. Let’s head back to the circus for a little bit shall we?

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

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The Night Circus happened to be the first audiobook I’ve ever listened to so there was both the experience of a new book and the experience of listening to it being read that was all just very new to me. I do not own a physical copy of the book, I plan to one day but right now I don’t and I don’t know if I’m missing out on something in terms of the reading experience. Regardless, I really really enjoyed it.

The story itself, felt to me like an adventure. It’s been a while since I have actually been able to completely immerse myself in a book and occasionally forget that I am reading (I feel like any reader would understand how epic that feeling is) and this book did that for me. The detail when it came to all the descriptions of the circus just blew my mind, I honestly felt like I was there and finishing the book felt like I was leaving and I didn’t want to leave. There were this brief chapters here and there that were in second person which I absolutely adored.

Some people describe this book as a love story and honestly, I can’t say I agree. Granted, there is romance but it is just a small aspect of the story and nothing more. The real story is more about the circus and us, as readers discovering it’s mysteries as we move from chapter to chapter. The reveal that Tsukiko was one of Alexander’s students actually made me pause the book for a second because whoa.

The variety in all the different characters was actually very fun to read about. My favorite character is hard to pick honestly because I was really attached to almost all of them. The Murray twins definitely stand out though, and I felt like I was actually watching them grow up and it felt right that they should grow up to take on the circus seeing as they were practically born for the job. And I really really loved Bailey, he is just this precious little human.

The competition between Marco and Celia honestly confused the hell out of me, I guess that was the intended effect but either way. Speaking of which, there was so much direct focus on the competition and setting it up that got blurred and lost in the circus itself, later in the story. At some points, I forgot there was even a competition at all. Other than that and the fact that it was rather slow paced, I don’t have any complaints.

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The Crown by Kiera Cass REVIEW (and a little goodbye to The Selection)

Format: Paperback

Number of pages: 278

Goodreads rating: 3.82/5 stars

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

Alright, folks, I was all set to finish off this book today and then write a vague annoyed review about it but godammit this book made me cry and here I am with a hot mug of tea, not 5 minutes after I put down the book so you better prepare for some emotions.

Let’s just begin with just the book before we get to other sentiments. Overall, it was good (good good *sobs*). I gave it a 3.5 stars and I think that is a pretty good rating considering that I was all set to give it a 2 star rating. I mean, these books have earned the place in many people’s hearts as ‘guilty pleasure’ reads, much like reality tv. And the writing is in no way phenomenal, the main character, Eadlyn, is an annoying little snob most of the time and I wanna shove her, but regardless I enjoyed it.

I like the fact that Kiera Cass included not one, but two gay suitors in this book (a statistic that she had unintentionally overlooked in the past four books). Although it was sort of stereotypical for one of them to be the one that was interested in fashion, it was sort of made up for by the fact that he discovered himself and honestly, it surprised me. I thought Hale would be the winner of The Selection, I honestly did. And for that I applaud you, Kiera Cass. You managed to surprise me in an otherwise very predictable book.

Speaking of predictability, this book definitely had it. I mean, it’s about a princess, what did you expect? She ended up with the man she loves and everything ends up almost cartoonish in it’s perfection. I’m not kidding, the bit at the end where Madrid shows up all ‘this won’t be the last you’ve heard from me’ reminded me of a disney movie. Regardless of all that, I had fun reading this. This book. This series.

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Now on to the sappy stuff. I started this series when I was 14 and I just finished it a few days after my 18th birthday. I didn’t plan for it to be sentimental, I honestly just wanted to finish my Goodreads reading challenge. And I didn’t ever think of The Selection as a series I had a grown with but it has become that.

This is not even in the top 5 of my favorite series. Not even close. But these annoying ass characters and these predictable plot lines meant something to me when I was 14 and although it’s not the same, they still mean something to me now. So yeah, I cried a little over the end of this series and that’s always kinda nice (don’t get me wrong, I’m emotional, NOT heartbroken. I do not want to know about Eadlyn’s married life and children, Kiera Cass. You did good)

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