Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

ARC August Review: Full Circle by Regina Timothy

37706656Summary: Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, Samia-Al-Sayyid an Iraqi immigrant is living a quiet life in New York City after she fled her home to avoid imminent death.

She works hard for her cold, heartless, high-strung boss, loves her seventeen-years-old-son, and cherishes the close friendship she has formed with her best friend Susan.

Nothing can go wrong, or so she thinks – until the estranged brother she left back in Iraqi shows up on her door step. Then she finds herself in a cab, on her way to the hospital to identify her son, a terror suspect who has blown the city, and with it her boss’ husband, and her best friend’s son. With everything lost, she is forced to flee to Iraq where she confronts her past. Will she make peace with her past? Can she get forgiveness for all the damage she has caused?

Full Circle is a contemporary fiction tale of friendship, family, and hope. It explores the devastation of loss, the great capacity to forgive and the lengths our loved ones will go to protect us.


*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review!*

My Thoughts: This is a powerful story.  I went into this book with no idea what to expect, and I was surprised by how invested I became in these character’s lives.  The story follows Samia, an Iraqi immigrant living in America with her son, her best friend Susan, who is maneuvering life as a single mother after the loss of her husband, and their boss, Melisa, a fashion mogul with a brother fighting in Iraq.  The story begins 8 years after the 9/11 attacks in NYC, and we see how the aftermath of this event has affected the lives of these three very different women.  What I loved most about this book, was that it showed all sides of the conflict and didn’t shy away from anything.  It showed a very realistic picture of society and the tense relations in such a turbulent time.  Samia lived a rough life, and I felt sympathy and anger for her situation immediately.  It was a very interesting perspective to read from, especially since I don’t know much about the Iraqi culture.  Some of her story was difficult to read, and definitely brought out some strong emotions in me.  Melisa was not a likeable character at first, but throughout the book you get glimpses into what makes her tick.  Does it make how she treats people acceptable? No, but you understand her pain and it gives her a lot more depth.  Susan’s story is really sad, and just shows how much strength she has.  I know that I would not have had the strength to react to everything in the way Susan does.  I can’t imagine going through what any of these women deal with in this book.  The ending doesn’t tie up the way I expected or wanted for these characters, and I admit that I was a bit frustrated with the way things turned out, but it is haunting and I can understand why it ended this way.  While I loved the plot and was fully engaged in the story and the characters, the writing was a little choppy for me which took me out of it at times.  There were a bunch of grammatical errors and a couple continuity discrepancies that I noticed as well, but overall it was a haunting, different, and emotional story that I fully enjoyed.

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Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

ARC August Review: Strange Secrets by Mike Russell

38815196Summary: Discover the mystery of the two-headed rose and many more Strange Secrets in this new collection of extraordinary stories by Mike Russell. ‘It can’t be real.’ ‘But it is.’ Strange Secrets invites you to discover the magical and the marvellous. Startlingly inventive and constantly entertaining, these unique, vital and vividly realised stories will take you to places you have never been before. Strange Secrets is Mike Russell’s third short-story collection.


*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review!  Thank you StrangeBooks and Mike Russell!*

 

My Thoughts: Strange Medicine by Mike Russell was the first review request I ever received after starting my blog a little over a year ago, and I loved it.  It was super weird, emotionally engaging, thought provoking, funny, and sad all at once.  I was really excited to get back to this kooky world of Russell’s when they reached out with Strange Secrets.  Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with this collection of short stories as much as I did with the Strange Medicine.  The stories were interesting, and I love Russell’s voice and writing style, but for some reason I couldn’t get as invested in them.  Most of the stories were a little too strange for me to fully grasp, and I definitely feel like I missed something important.  My favorite story was “Missing Persons” which is about a young girl finding out about death in a society that refuses to talk about it and considers dying to be a shameful act.  I thought it was such an interesting concept and held a harsh mirror up to our society and the things we are taught to value.  Mike Russell is such a special and unique voice and I would love to understand how his brain works and where he comes up with the ideas for his short fiction.  Once again he has opened my mind to a different type of literature from what I normally read, and even though this one was harder for me to connect to, I still got something positive out of the reading experience.

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Monthly Wrap-Ups

July 2018 Wrap-Up

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How is it already AUGUST!?  I can’t wrap my mind around it.  July was a busy month for me.  I started a new job at a fitness studio, which means I am now working two jobs, auditioning, and blogging.  The glamorous life of a NYC actress.  Because I have been so busy, this month went by SUPER fast.  I’m enjoying summer in the city (thank god for my air conditioning unit), and I am really excited for my TBR this month.  I have a lot of fun ARC’s that I am excited to get to on my new Kindle Paperwhite, as well as a bunch of back listed books that have been sitting in my room just staring at me for months 🙂


Books Read:

Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane 

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi 

Wrong in All the Right Ways by Tiffany Brownlee 

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton 

The It Girls by Karen Harper 

The Daughter of the River Valley by Victoria Cornwall 

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part 1 by Audrey Davis 

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part 2 by Audrey Davis 

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part 3 by Audrey Davis 


Favorite Book of the Month:

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Currently Reading:


Challenge Updates:

Goodreads Challenge: 48 of 50 (SO CLOSE)

A to Z Challenge: 13 of 26 (S)

Classics Club Challenge: 4 of 50 (didn’t read any books for this one this month…)


Broadway Book Chat: Joey Simon

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July Reviews

Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane • Fallen by Lauren Kate • Wrong in All the Right Ways by Tiffany Brownlee • Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton • The Daughter of the River Valley by Victoria Cornwall • The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part 3 by Audrey Davis •

July Posts

Cleaning Up My TBR- Down The TBR Hole #2 • Top 10 Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read in 2018 So Far • The Summer Reading TagTop 10 Tuesday: Books With Sensory Reading Memories • Top 10 Tuesday: Popular Books That Lived Up to the Hype •

 

Reading Challenges

My First ARC August Sign Up and TBR

ARC-August.pngI have been feeling overwhelmed by my TBR lately, JUST in time for this year’s ARC August hosted by Read. Sleep. Repeat.! ARC August is a month-long reading challenge to help and inspire us to get through our pile of Advanced Reader Copies and Review Requests.  This is the first ARC August that I am participating in, and I am hoping that it will hold me accountable and help me get through my list!  I’ll be posting updates, and participating in the Bookish Bingo and readathons (even though the idea of a readathon stresses me out… AHHHH) that they have for this month as well.

My ARC August TBR

 

Wish me luck!

Top Ten Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday: Popular Books That Lived Up to the Hype

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I have a love/hate relationship with hyped books.  A lot of the time I read them and agree with the hype, but there are a few times where I am extremely disappointed.  This week’s theme from That Artsy Reader Girl, is all about celebrating the books that DID live up to the hype.  Check them out if you haven’t yet, because I think all of these are worth the chance!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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I have so many books left in this series, but after the first two books I am obsessed.  It is such an incredibly vast and developed world and I love how complicated and bad ass the characters are.


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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Another Sarah J. Maas series, because shes amazing.  I was skeptical to read this with all of the hype surrounding it, but it was so worth it and gave me one of my biggest literary crushes of all time.


Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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This story just SCREAMS for a film adaptation.  It is such a dark concept and I live for it.  The three queens are all amazing, and the twists had me on the floor… not exaggerating.


Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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I STILL CANNOT GET OVER THESE BOOKS!  I just finished the last one, and I’m a little dead inside now.  The unusual format, which I wasn’t sure I would like at first, adds so much to the story.  SO intense, so amazing.


Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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I couldn’t put this book down.  It was such an interesting and beautiful form of magic and the characters are super vivid and real.  I cannot wait to find out what happens next.


The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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I loved this one.  I was nervous that it would seem cheesy, but it definitely lived up to the hype.  I was completely enamored with the world Clayton created, and I’m annoyed that I have to wait so long for the next one!


Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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This book was super hyped when I first started blogging, and I put off reading it because I was nervous it wouldn’t live up and then I started seeing some mixed reviews, so I put it off even farther.  Well, I finally read it and I am so glad I did.  It was fascinating and slightly sinister, which I loved.  I’m reading the sequel right now, and I like it just as much, if not more.


The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

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I am obsessed with this series, and the third one comes out so soon!  It reminds me of a futuristic Gossip Girl, and I ate up every bit of the drama.  I also really care about the characters and cannot get over how clever the version of this future NYC is.


Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

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I have been hearing about this book forever, and I finally read it.  I understand now.  It is a gripping story, and a perfect dystopian/fantasy mix.  It also has one of the best, and most complicated villains I have read in a long time.


Harry Potter by JK Rowling

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Do I really need to explain myself?

 

 

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ARC Review: The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part 3 by Audrey Davis

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part 3

Check out The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part 1 and Part Two here!

HH3finalcoverSummary: Nothing lasts forever … Could it be that Gary’s time on earth is coming to an end? His visits are less frequent and his visibility is fading fast. But Gary still has a mission to accomplish, which involves Hattie and her ability to pass on a heart-rending message. And there’s something else he needs to do, but spirit guide Clarence isn’t proving very helpful.

Hattie’s best friend Cat’s ex-husband is determined to prove that he deserves another chance, but do leopards really change their spots?

Times are tough for Hattie’s mother Rachel, but where there’s life, there’s hope …
Meanwhile, is there someone already in Hattie’s life who can help her move on when it’s finally time to say goodbye?

Get your tissues at the ready – both for laughter and tears – with the final instalment of a trilogy that has been hailed as ‘brilliant’, ‘hilarious’, and ‘a great feel-good read’.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!*


My Thoughts: This three-part story is absolutely lovely.  I had so much fun reading it, and I fell in love with the characters more and more in every installment.  I surprisingly loved the format of having three quick novellas continuing the story of Hattie and her husband, Gary.  The character development in such a small amount of time was fantastic, and I really cared for all of them and their relationships to one another.  They all felt very real and I wanted to be friends with them.  The way Davis has written the dialogue and  the character’s inner monologues is so witty, fun, and engaging that I could not put the books down.  I found myself laughing out loud at moments (in public on the subway… not even a little embarrassed about it), and at other times feeling near tears.  It is such an easy story to connect to, from so many different points of view, and I think it was such a clever way to show how people deal with grief.  Part 3 definitely tied up all of the loose ends, but I could have read about these characters for so much longer!  I was not ready for the story to end!  I highly recommend this trilogy of novellas to anyone who is looking for a speedy dose of the warm fuzzies.

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Purchase The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part 3 (UK)

Purchase The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part 3 (US)


 

About the Author: Audrey Davis

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Audrey Davis survived secondary school on the West coast of Scotland.  Rubbish at 2017-04-13 19.43.40science but not too bad at English, she originally wanted to be an actress but was persuaded that journalism was a safer option.  Probably wise.  She studied at Napier College in Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland at that time to offer a journalism course.

Her first foray into the hard-nosed newspaper world was as a junior reporter in Dumfriesshire.  Duties included interviewing farmers about the prize-winning heifers to reporting on family tragedies.  She persuaded her editor to let her launch an entertainment column which meant meeting the odd celebrity- or just the downright odd.  From there, she moved to the loftier rank of senior reporter back in her home patch.  Slightly more money, fewer farm animals but a higher crime rate.  As Taggart would say: “There’s been a murrrder!”

After stint in London on a video magazine- yes, she is that old- Audrey moved to Singapore with her fiancé.  She tried valiantly to embrace the stinking heat. humidity, and lack of jobs, although she did work briefly on a magazine which was banned by the government for ‘artistic’ use of naked men’s bottoms.

Next on her adventures was a land Down Under where her main focus was raising Cost Centre One (aka firstborn) and coming to terms with the imminent arrival of Number Two.  Still, she loved the Aussie way of life- BBQ’s, beaches and bring your own booze to restaurants- so it came as a blow when OH announced a move back to the UK.  Not a job between them, the climate a possible deal breaker and an Exorcist-style vomiting infant on the flight home didn’t bode well…

Always a survivor, Audrey sought out similar-minded friends (i.e. slightly bonkers), got the children into a good school and thought about taking up writing again.  Sadly, thinking about it was as far as she got, unless you count shopping lists.  Then, hubby drops another bombshell.  Switzerland.  As in- it’s packing time again.  Off to the land of cheese, chocolate, scarily efficient trains and a couple of teeny-tiny issues.  Like driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and speaking a foreign language (French). The former was conquered fairly quickly (we’ll skip over the wall demolition in week two), the latter remains an ongoing battle of the hopeful against the hopeless. At least she provides amusement for the local workforce.  

It wasn’t until 2016 that Audrey rediscovered her writing mojo with an online Writing Fiction course. From there, her first novel – A Clean Sweep – was born, although it took a bit longer than nine months from conception. A short, darker prequel – A Clean Break – followed, and in November 2017 she published the first in a novella trilogy, The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part One. Part Two is published on 21 March 2018, with the conclusion following in July. After which she might have a wee lie down …

 

Book Reviews

Blog Tour: The Daughter of the River Valley by Victoria Cornwall

The Daughter of River Valley

TDORV_FRONT_RGB150dpi (1)Summary: Cornwall, 1861

Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …

Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she’s been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.

Fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest? As they learn to trust one another, the outside threats worsen. Are they linked to the man with no past? Or is the real danger still outside waiting … and watching them both?

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review!*


My Thoughts: It has been a long time since I’ve read a good romance novel, and this one was great.  I love a good historical fiction romance, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book and how well developed the story and characters were.  Victoria Cornwall’s writing was beautiful.  There were a bunch of layers to the plot that all worked really well together, without seeming overwhelming.  Our main characters, Beth and Joss, had a ton of chemistry, and the progression of their relationship was very endearing.  I absolutely love this time period, and seeing Beth struggle against the societal norms and class structures of the time was both fun and frustrating.  I really rooted for her and felt for her situation.  The mystery surrounding Joss’ identity was compelling, and I loved the reveals that we got.  There was an additional mystery added with Tom, Beth’s best friend’s son.  I thought it was a very interesting and nontraditional addition, to deal with his mental illness/disability at a time when no one knew how to diagnose, or really deal with it.  The pacing of the story was really nice, and the ending was sweet and made me feel happy.  I was expecting some more explicit love scenes that are typical of some romance novels, but I was pleased with the heat that we got and enjoyed the focus on the romantic love.  Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it gave me warm and fuzzy feels.  I will definitely be checking out Cornwall’s other books, whenever I am in a mood for another heart warming romance.

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Purchase The Daughter of the River Valley (US)!
Purchase The Daughter of the River Valley (UK)!

About the Author

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Victoria Cornwall can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.  Victoria’s writing has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.  Victoria likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.  She is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association.

Website:http://victoriacornwall.com

Blog: https://victoriacornwall.com/news-blog-2/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/victoriacornwall.author/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickieCornwall

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16069968.Victoria_Cornwall

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/vickiecornwall/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victoria_cornwallx/

 

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Broadway Book Chat

Broadway Book Chat: Joey Simon

Broadway Book Chat

As an actor, every job you do, you make a new family.  There is something special about theatre and it’s ability to bring people together in a way that is unlike any other.  I have made so many amazing friends throughout my career, and many of them share my love of books and literature.  Since theatre brings stories to life, I thought I would feature some of my favorite performers (my fabulous friends and castmates) and see what their bookshelves look like! Welcome to my Broadway Book Chat!

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Joey Simon

Currently performing in Anything Goes at Westchester Broadway Theatre!

instagram: @joey.a.simon


What are you currently reading?

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren.  It’s different from what I usually read, which is fantasy, but it’s always refreshing to read a book with a love story that could have actually been about me.

What is your favorite book series?

Such a tough and loaded question.  I consider Harry Potter to be in a category all its own, so outside of that I would have to say Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.  It’s rare to find fantasy books outside of the original high fantasy archetypes that are written so well and meant for adults.  It is also such a huge part of Stephen King’s life, and is so unbelievably developed and planned.  Honorable Mention: Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles.

Who is your favorite author?IMG_0909

I don’t really have one.  I don’t really follow authors, and the author doesn’t affect my interest in a book.

What book inspires you and why?

Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, as weird as that sounds.  Maybe it’s where I am at this moment in my life, but they inspire me to seek out things that I would normally take for granted.  They definitely make me want to travel more, love harder, and take risks.  Also being a vampire would be fun.

Which literary character would you like to play?

Vincent from The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman.  First off, I want to be a witch, and secondly, I love how complex he is and that he has a darkness inside of his goodness.  I also found that I really related to his character and his struggle to accept his sexuality.

If you could be friends with any of the characters you have played, who would it be and why?

The nun I played in Spamalot.  She was wild, your honor.

What book would you like to see made into a musical/play/movie?

I want Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake to be a movie, I want Carry On by Rainbow Rowell to be a musical, and The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman to be a play.

What is the next book on your reading list?

Probably The Great Hunt from the epic Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  I just ordered it on Thriftbooks, a long with a bunch of others, and I am so excited to get back to that world.

What show are you currently in who did you play?

I am in Anything Goes at Westchester Broadway Theatre and I am in the ensemble, where I mostly am a tap dancing sailor.  Gay boy dreams come true.

What is your favorite show you’ve been a part of and why?

Probably Spamalot at Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  I grew up watching Monty Python, and it was an absolute riot to jump into that world and make audiences laugh every night.  Also everyone in the cast was incredible, and just such wonderful people.

Check out Joey and the rest of the cast of Anything Goes at Westchester Broadway Theatre!

I feature a new performer every month! I would love some suggestions for questions you would like to ask, or things you want to know!  Leave them in the comments and I will add them to future interviews! Thanks to my amazing roommate Joey (who I talk about all the time in my posts) for sharing with us! ❤

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday: Books With Sensory Reading Memories

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I missed last week’s Top Ten Tuesday, but I’m happy to be back with this week’s fun theme: Books With Sensory Reading Memories. Defined by our lovely host That Artsy Reader Girl as “These are the books that are linked to very specific memories for you: where you were, what time of year it was, who you were with, what you were eating, what you were feeling, what you were seeing, etc.” So many books come to mind for this, but here are my top ten.


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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

I remember exactly where I was when I read about Sirius.  I was on a plane home from The Outer Banks, North Carolina with my family, crying to my little 15 year old self- not even the least bit embarrassed about it.


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Rumors by Anna Godbersen

I was obsessed with The Luxe Series by Anna Godbersen, and I have very distinct memories of reading this one backstage at my dance recital.  I was so engrossed that I would bring it into the wings with me before each number. (*cough literally Reading in the Wings Cough*)


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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I read this whole series while working at a theatre over a summer, and we had two sets of the series between the girls in the cast.  We would pass them around and all freak out over what was happening, and it was really fun- an epic buddy read.


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Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer

I loved the Twilight Saga.  Loved it.  And I couldn’t wait until the release of the 4th book.  I was in Door County, WI with my best friend at her lake house.  We biked 7 miles into town to a tiny bookstore to pick up our copies and then stayed up all night reading it on their porch.


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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I will always associate Little Women with Sonic.  I was reading this on tour, and I have very distinct memories of reading it on the bus and then stopping for Sonic for our lunch break.


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Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

The Gossip Girl books bring me right back to my middle school choir room.  Before our choir teacher took them away from us and banned them from the school….


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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I read Uglies in one sitting, in a cabin on a boat in Lake Michigan.  I was in middle school, and the adults were being boring so I just read the entire time.


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The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I have such a distinct feeling when I remember this book.  I finished it in bed with the window down and listening to the rain outside.  Add a book hangover and it was just the best feeling.


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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I had an extra day of vacation in St. Marten after my family left, which is when I started Red Queen.  I remember reading it at the hotel restaurant while listening and looking at ocean.


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Princess Forever by Meg Cabot

I have a very vivid memory of reading this book underneath by desk in French class…. Sorry Mademoiselle.


Book Reviews

Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

23197837Summary: Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.


My Thoughts: I loved this book.  Dhonielle Clayton created a fantastic new world, and I am completely invested in it.  The concept of “The Belles” was immediately fascinating to me and I couldn’t wait to figure out how everything worked and the mystery surrounding them.  There was such a sinister undertone throughout the entire story, which was juxtaposed by the frilly, pink, and sweet surroundings and way of life of the people in Orléans.  The way they view beauty is disturbing, and yet relatable, which is even more disturbing.  It worked so well and the atmosphere made this story addicting.   Our heroine, Camellia, was a fantastic main character and narrator.  The world view from her eyes was captivating, and I thought her character arc was really wonderful.  I loved how imperfect she was, and seeing her struggle against the things she was brought up to do was really relatable and engaging.  Princess Sophia was an awesome villain.  It was both entertaining and horrifying at the same time to watch her unravel.  In fact, all of the characters were really well developed and complicated.  The plot was gripping, and there were a few twists that really threw me for a loop.  By the end I was screaming at my book, and the last chapter was entirely satisfying.  This book would make an INCREDIBLE film, and I really hope someday we get to see it on screen.  My only complaint is that I have to wait until 2019 to find out what happens next.

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