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The Selection Stories: Here’s to America Singer!

It’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Week according to Goodreads. So allow me to recommend one of the most whimsically bold fantasy reads I’ve ever had the privilege of enjoying in the world of YA fantasy… Kiera Cass’s The Selection, a trilogy that later expands into a five-book series, beginning with the adventures of one-of-a-kind heroine America Singer – a Five in an eight-caste system and, you guessed it, a singer – as she reluctantly enters a nationwide competition for the heart of Maxon Schreave – a One given his Royalty status – along with the other ladies of Illéa.

Of course, America would rather be with her soulmate Aspen Leger, but she joins the Selection anyway to save money for a married life with Aspen. What follows later is her unforgettable journey at court that makes all the novels worth savoring like a delectable chocolate cake.

At a glance, the glossy, enchanted covers make The Selection look like just another bland fantasy, despite their elegance. That was actually my initial opinion, but thankfully my BFF Cindy found it refreshing and encouraged me to give the series a shot. And she was right. I was so charmed that I ended up sticking with the series all the way to Eadlyn’s reign – featuring an all-male Selection full of smart, desirable guys and the first of its kind.

The Selection explores a variety of topics such as friendship, intelligent romance, female independence, Illéan history and family relationships. The whole explanation of the caste system gives the story a dystopian touch. You’ll meet a cast of characters that are varying in personalities, from the kind-hearted Prince Maxon to the determined Aspen but also complex ones like Celeste, who fits into the role of a mean girl really well but as the plot progresses, a deeper layer within her is revealed. Marlee as Miss Perfect who becomes fast friends with America also has a hidden life. Plus King Clarkson and Queen Amberly’s story are worth following, as are America’s three maids Anne, Lucy and Mary with their own subplots. Separate novellas are available as companions, providing us with the POVs of most of the cast (Maxon and Aspen in The Selection Stories and almost all integral characters in Happily Ever After that’s also filled with grand-looking sketches).

The delicious world of The Selection isn’t complete without America herself, who’s very much like Katniss Everdeen in the way she approaches everything. Even though she looks like a carbon copy of Katniss herself, I do enjoy the fire and drive in her character, and she never backs down from throwing a punch in defense of her friends and loved ones. Now that’s honorable!

Collect all of The Selection, The Elite, The One, The Heir and The Crown along with The Selection Stories and Happily Ever After and treat yourself to a royal feast. Here’s to America Singer!

Fun fact: The Selection was adapted into a pilot for the CW Network, but the show failed to get green-lighted. Hopefully it’ll see better days in the near future. It’s much too great and queenly not to make it on the silver (or big) screen.

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Marcella Purnama’s Debut Novel: “What I Wish I Had Known & Other Lessons You Learned in Your 20’s”

Are you a part of the 20-Something Club like I am? A high school senior who are looking forward to college? Or do you simply crave a nostalgic trip to that fast life in your 20’s? Then What I Wish I Had Known is the one non-fiction book you should pick up by debut author Marcella Purnama, who happens to be a friend of mine and fellow writer.

With a raw, simplistic style of writing that’s easily digestible like delicious croissants in the morning, Marcella offers a glimpse into her life as a University of Melbourne student, a writing intern and later a working professional before returning to Australia to pursue a Masters in writing and editing. All the chapters presented in the book highlight the major experiences in her academic adventures and career, from her first day of classes and exploration of a new city all the way to her blogging life (what a superstar!) and the offer she got to publish this gem of a novel. Slices of her relationship with her family and friends are also included with her dad providing most of the encouragement – and her mom being patient and hopeful despite all her doubts – as she set out on her own path towards her dream career that’s pretty much the opposite of her older sisters’ choices.

You can definitely get a sense of Marcella’s passion and natural talent for writing. She is blessed with a gift of storytelling and weaves her writing in a way that captivates the readers, inviting them to her wonderful world and sharing with them aspects of her life as a 20-something career woman. With the inclusion of quotes and references to pop culture like her association with Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games (how she wants to always be herself despite all the successes that will follow), the chapters hold a massive amount of intrigue. One of my favorite parts revolved around her presentation on how customers would flock towards online stores that sell the cheapest books, but a fellow student in that lecture room who worked at an independent bookstore got very vocal about people still wanting to grab the priciest copies if excellent service is offered. That was both entertaining and informative (personally, I’d still go with the cheapest price available).

As a Communication major, I find What I Wish I Had Known super relatable, even though my experiences in Melbourne have been different with an easier immersion into the local scene. However, you don’t need to be in Communication to be able to enjoy it. If you’re in senior high, then this book can serve as a window to your future, filled with insights that can help you plan ahead so you can make the most of your college and internship experiences. But if you’re no longer in your 20’s, there’s still something nostalgic out of it that makes you want to reminisce the good times. The truth is it’s always positive to approach life with a 20-something mind, as we don’t stop learning even if we’ve reached adulthood.

Make sure to pick up a copy of Marcella’s work at your nearest bookstore (or at Gramedia Online) and be inspired to reach your fullest potential. Visit Marcella on her official site and come say hi.

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Signed, sealed, delivered! My personalized copy of What I Wish I Had Known from Marcella herself.

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