The one by Kiera Cass
And....this season of The (Dystopian-ish) Bachelor is now concluded.
I finally have my answer...Aspen or Maxon? Maxon or Aspen? Which dude does America end up with? And now I know. But you shall find no spoilers here...and don't go peeking at the end of the book to find out, either - it will definitely take a lot out of the story ('cause let's face it...the decision between the two is pretty much the whole story).
So, other than finally knowing who America ends up with...this was an ok book. Not my favorite of the three...I think I enjoyed the first book the best. I enjoyed the different characters floating in and out of the first installment. This final installment is (obviously) focused on wrapping things up and bringing the story to its conclusion. As it should. But there were parts that seemed flatter than I would have liked...lots of talking and whining (if I had a nickel for every time Maxon whined/wavered/wimpered, I would be a rich lady. Or I'd have a few bucks at any rate...enough for a frappucino at least...). Not as much plot movement in my opinion. Oh, a lot happens...it just wasn't as layered as maybe the first one was.
The One is still immensely readable and absorbing, just as the first two were. I enjoy Cass's writing style - it makes for a quick, fun read. I found myself wanting to know a little bit more about the conclusion than was written. The conclusion was satisfying, but I think it could have been fleshed out a bit more (especially with certain characters) to where the ending seemed all the more complete than it already was...and maybe tie up a loose end or two. I really can't go into detail lest I let something slip.
One thing I wish was tackled more in the trilogy as a whole (and definitely in the final installment) was the issue with the Northern and Southern Rebels. The potential was there to really delve into the worldbuilding and the politics, but we were given just enough to make it a plot point and then we moved back to the Selection. I understand...the trilogy is about the Selection, not the Rebels...but I think it could have added more depth to the story and given it an actual dystopian feel. As it stands, it's categorized as dystopian fiction, but without an emphasis on building the dystopian world it really just turns into a literary version of the Bachelor.
Which I am obviously ok with...because I devoured these three books. But still...the world building could have been more structured and detailed.
So, four stars for this one.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This was an epic, epic book. Ready Player One is pretty much an anthology of all the pop culture references from the 1980s.
I tackled this book in a hybrid form. I snagged the audiobook from my online library without really knowing what it was about - I just knew the book was everywhere. What made me go ahead and pick out the audiobook was because it was read by Wil Wheaton.
Let me just say - Wil Wheaton did a fantastic job with the audiobook. Your enjoyment (or lack thereof) of an audiobook can really hinge on the narrator. Wheaton really was excellent.
So, when I started the audiobook I had no clue what the book was even really about other than the title sounded "gamer-ish". Imagine my surprise when a book chock full of 1980s nostalgia with an engrossing plot emerged.
And when I say the book is chock full of nostalgia...I mean it's crammed into every page, paragraph, and sentence. Cline would throw one reference at you...and then you'd get backhanded by another reference. There were moments it was almost too much. Almost. Cline does a masterful job of combining the 80s nostalgia with the overarching plot...so, the book doesn't devolve into a 1980s trivia game, but rather each piece of nostalgia is part of the whole story. It really is well done.
Unfortunately, I am the world's slowest audiobook listener (this audiobook probably took me a solid 4 weeks to get through) and I ran out of time with the library. But by that point my eyes had been opened and I realized this was definitely a new favorite - so I added the print copy to my library and finished it off within the day.
So what's the book about? I'm going to let the publisher's blurb do the talking on this one. Definitely add this one to your reading bucket list.
Here's the blurb for you:
"It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune--and remarkable power--to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved--that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt--among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life--and love--in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?"
The Guard by Kiera Cass
Whelp...this was just ok. The Guard is a short novella detailing some of the events from Aspen's point of view. It's an uber quick read and, to be honest, didn't really give a whole lot of new information or character development. I know that Cass has to make it standalone so as not to put those who don't read it at a disadvantage...but on the same token, I do wish we had learned a little bit more about Aspen. Instead, it was just him pining after America while we re-read what already happened in the second full-length story The Elite.
I guess I was hoping for some new content (even if it's totally unrelated to the overall plot), rather than just a rehashing of the last portion of The Elite
I really enjoyed the earlier two full-length installments in The Selection trilogy, but Aspen was never one of my favorite characters. (Which, btdubs, if he ends up getting the girl in the final book, I may be a little miffed. Not that my opinion will sway the book's final outcome...but yeah.)
I'm still looking forward to The One...mainly because I'm curious as to which guy America will choose. Only a few more months to go!
World After by Susan Ee
So, I raced through the second installment of Penryn & the End of Days. World After is the sequel to the immensely popularAngelfall which I read last week (was it last week? I think so...with Christmas and time off of work the days seem to blur together).
World After starts out shortly after the end of Angelfall. Paige has been rescued but something is just not right about Penryn's little sister. Penryn struggles to not only accept Paige in her new form, but to also accept that Raffe is gone and may never return. One thing leads to another and Paige is missing again with Penryn hot on her trail to try and rescue her little sister. Again. Will Raffe return? If he does, will he get his angel wings back from Beliel? And what's with those scorpion things? All questions that are answered in World After.
I enjoyed this installment better than the first one. It was just as quick of a read as Angelfall, yet I felt that Ee explored Penryn as a character a little bit more and the story didn't seem so rushed. The angels seem rather two-dimensional...for the most part they're arrogant, chauvinistic warriors. Raffe seems to be the only angel with any depth at all. I'm still rather "meh" about the romance between Penryn and Raffe...just doesn't seem believable yet. Hopefully as the series goes on I'll become more invested in the romance (if the romance continues? It probably will, but you never know...).
All in all, an enjoyable book and a solid continuation of the series. Let's see where this series goes!
Endless Knight by Kresley Cole
Endless Knight picks up right where Poison Princess leaves off...almost like it's part of one giant book that they cut in half at the end of a climactic chapter.
This second installment in The Arcana Chronicles is excellent...maybe even better than the first book. Endless Knight delves deeper into the world After the Flash and introduces the reader to more Arcana Cards ready to do battle.
I wonder if I liked Endless Knight better because you see less of Jackson in it? Oh, Jackson (or "Jack" as he's suddenly called in this book) is still there, no worries...but the focus is definitely on Death - when will Death show up/who is Death/what will Death do to Evie when he gets her/etc? Cole did a great job of creating a sympathetic figure...Death seemed to fall into the gray area of bad, but not quite bad.
While we're at it...let's point out the elephant in the room. Evie definitely has a type she goes for, doesn't she? This shouldn't be a huge spoiler since you can see the cover art and all...but inPoison Princess it's all about Jackson...now we are intoEndless Knight and she's easily distracted by Death and their previous history.
Yep...Kresley Cole has implemented the tried and true (and tired?) trick of young adult love triangle. So, let's go ahead and pick teams now...are you Team Jackson or Team Death? I know a lot of people are sick of the YA Love Triangle, but it doesn't seem to be a weary plot point in this story. Both guys are sympathetic enough that you can root for either of them and still feel bad that the other guy is going to lose out.
I'm curious to see where Cole will take The Arcana Chronicles. This next bit might be a spoiler so stop reading now if you aren't interested in my hypothesis...
Seriously - you've been warned - potential spoiler ahead.
Ok - so I did notice the one line thrown into this book about the Card that doesn't know he/she is a Card until he/she kills another Major Arcana. Pretty sure that will be Jackson. And I think Jackson will turn out to be the Sun Card. Evie as the Empress is attracted to Death because he is her antithesis...yet, the Sun is what would make the Empress (ie. life) grow and flourish...so the Sun seems like it might be the right choice.
I guess we shall see. Going to give this one five stars because it was a great read that stuck with me even after the last page was read. Can't wait for number three!