The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles #1)

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“The Belles” by Dhonielle Clayton

4 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“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.”

From the very start, “The Belles” had an entrancing quality to it. I could feel the textures, see the colors, and experience the sounds of Clayton’s novel from the first chapter of Camellia’s story. I instantly connected with the rich and fluid quality that Dhonielle’s storytelling style seemed to possess, and I really love how “très français” the begging of this book felt while I was reading it. Between the opulence of the court, the fashion, and the absolute need and desire for beauty and power, I felt like I was reading about King Louis XIV’s court. It has been a long time since I have read a book that has so instantly drawn me into its story, and I was both enthralled and disgusted by the opulence and excess of the broken world that Dhonielle portrayed in “The Belles.” Dhonielle Clayton is a very impressive author to elicit so spontaneously both positive and negative emotions; the beauty was alluring in this book, but then I would pause to think about how vicious and truly disturbing the heart of the “culture” of Orléans was. With this book, I appreciate the fact that I felt so strongly opposed/drawn to the world that Dhonielle had created for her heroine. I was also pleasantly surprised that Camellia was not a born rebel, already prepared to usurp the authority of Orléans, when I was “introduced” to her.

Camellia was a follower. She was obedient, subservient. Most people might have issues with that aspect of this character’s personality, but I rather liked it. Sometimes I feel like YA novels get more than a little too formulaic with the development of their heroines and heroes. Somehow these girls and boys are just born rebels, unlike anyone else in their culture or society, and that their “perfectly” devised rebellion against the rules is exactly what all the world needs. I’m tired of reading the same type of characters recast with new names. So for me, Camellia was a breath of fresh air. This poor girl was unique by her society’s standards due to the fact that she was born with the gift of beauty, but she was otherwise the opposite of a rebel in the beginning of this book. What I so enjoyed about “The Belles” was how it took trials, experiences, and seeing the ugly truth behind the elegantly constructed façade of her world to make Camellia think about the consequences of such a cruelly stratified society. Gradually, she began to see what needed to stopped, what needed to be changed, and learned to be brave enough to do what was right. Camellia was not born with the tools that so many other heroines are given in their own books, but Dhonielle did such an amazing job of writing the struggle between Camellia’s desire to only see and create beauty for her society, while also wanting to be free of the confines of the Orléans’ toxic culture. I loved that Camellia’s character development was a slow-burn; she still has a long way to go in the next book, but I am really looking forward to seeing Camellia grow more fully into who she has the potential to be.

A unique aspect to this book was how the tone of the novel changed as Camellia began to discover what made her world keep spinning. I know that many books get darker as they go along, or they become grittier as the characters uncover what’s going on or who needs to be stopped. But with “The Belles,” it felt almost artful in how the tones were fluffy, elegant, and airy while Camellia was enamored with the court of Orléans, but as she became aware of what others were doing to gain power and beauty and that she was just a pawn in their game, the tone became darker, almost grayish in hue. I know that most books attempt to do this as its hero or heroine evolves, but the writing style in “The Belles” made the transition and change in tone feel so fluid and elegant that I did not notice the contrast right away, because I was so engrossed in the story. Dhonielle’s writing style didn’t lose its fluid descriptiveness even as it maintained a sense of gravity that was appropriate for the situation and the parallels it was drawing between this book and our current society.

Oh, the parallels! Honestly, I just loved how Dhonielle put societies’ standards of beauty, past and present, on display in “The Belles.” The culture of Orléans was built off of the idea that you are only good or valuable if you maintain the ever evolving standard of what it is to be beautiful. Sound familiar? Fallow the trends, or else you’re an outcast. Ostracize those who do not fit into your groups based on how they dress or how you look. Block the less pretty people/accounts from your instagram because they’ll “kill your image.” I saw in “The Belles” so much of the current generation of what beauty is, what men and women do to themselves to obtain it, because beauty is power, right? It is a tale as old as time, and I admit that I have been guilty of this same behavior at times in my life, just like everyone else. But to me, I loved the fact that Dhonielle brought these parallels to the forefront of her book, not to accuse, but to encourage people to stop that kind of behavior, and to not let others’ ideas of what beauty is to make you hurt yourself or change how you look, just to make them comfortable enough to accept you. I thought her message was poignant considering the swipe right and instagram generation we live in. There’s nothing wrong with being beautiful or wanting things to make you feel pretty (I love my makeup and pretty clothes!), but what makes it wrong is when that desire becomes an obsession that consumes and hurts you, driving you into a mindset that leaves you unhappy.

I was truly surprised and impressed by Clayton’s refreshing approach to her heroine, and her book’s progression and message. I also found the other characters like Ivy, Rèmy, and her sisters to all be very interesting, despite not getting as much time to get to know them as I had wanted. I feel like “The Belles” was really about setting up the world, revealing the villain, and beginning Camellia’s true journey, rather than throwing too many other dynamics into the mix. It was a fairly complex book, but I can definitely tell that there is going to be a LOT more going on in the next book. I hope that Rèmy and the sisters get a bit more page time, because I felt like there is so much more to all of these characters, and I am curious to see where Dhonielle intends to take her story.

This book was a big win for me!

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Down the Rabbit Hole…or, Rather, Back from the Rabbit Hole

Well, I guess I am back and writing on this poorly kept blog again. It is seriously hilarious how life this past 9 months has totally and completely kept me away from my blog; honestly, what happened to time for my hobbies? What happened to making time for those hobbies?! These past few months I felt a bit like I was the ogre of the book blogging universe, standing still, watching all of these lovely bloggers read mounds of book, post vlogs and writing lengthy reviews, while somehow managing several social media platforms, their own social lives, all the while working (most of them) full-time. Oh, yeah, and some of them are authors in addition to all of that. *sighs*

I accomplished a lot this past year and coming into the first half of 2018, but between working full-time, moving, and finishing my degree, writing on this blog was the first thing to get thrown out of the proverbial window. It was reading or blogging on the chopping block, and since I need books like I need air, blogging was logically the first one to go. Also, I needed to be reading in order to even write reviews, so….

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All of that meaningless fluff being said, I do intend on picking back up this old hobby of mine, and I hope to have a few reviews to post fairly soon.

I hope you stick around to see what’s to come in my little corner of the book world. Honestly, who knows what might happen…

Lucky in Love by Kasie West

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“Lucky in Love” by Kasie West

5 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Can’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?”

“Lucky in Love” was the YA contemporary novel that I have been looking for since “The Fill-In Boyfriend”! It has been very difficult to find a YA contemporary novel that I enjoyed this past year/year and a half, and the only one that truly stuck out to me this year so far was “Geekerella,” which was several months ago. But now the wait is over, and Kasie once again delivered a fantastically adorable and light-hearted contemporary novel that I absolutely loved reading.

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Kasie West is the best at writing contemporary fluff pieces that always feel like coming home or like comfort food. Whenever I read one of her novels, I know that I am going to have a smile on my face the entire time I am reading it, and that I am going to get a couple of great laughs out of Kasie’s amazing comedic timing. Most of the time contemporary novels are a hit and a miss for me, but with Kasie West I can pretty much be guaranteed a good time, and “Lucky in Love” was no exception to the Kasie standard.

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“Lucky in Love” was just one of those books that I could finally sit down and enjoy, even after an interminably long reading slump. It was adorable like all of Kasie West’s contemporary books, but it also felt a little different and had a flair of its own that made it stand out next to the other stories that Kasie has already told, The whole concept of an newly eighteen-year-old winning the lottery was a charming and funny idea to begin with, but Kasie made it pretty hilarious and even cuter than I had anticipated it would be, and it was her characters who were at the heart of the adorable awkwardness and fun.

Maddie was such a cute and relateable character! I loved reading from her perspective because she did not have a diva attitude, she definitely did not have her life or family situation figured out, and she had some great friends. I think we can all predict what might happen when someone, especially an eighteen-year-old, wins the lottery. Despite that fact, though, I felt like Kasie did a great job of keeping me as a reader engaged in the story, even if I could see something terrible that was going to happen from a mile away. Maddie was just so endearing and likeable, so between that and her newly acquired money, “Lucky in Love” was as cute as it was comical!

Besides just Maddie being great, I also really liked Seth, who was her co-worker/kind-of-friend/love interest. Seth was super cute and endearing in “Lucky in Love,” and I liked how their relationship slowly evolved over the course of this book. Honestly, all I wanted was for Kasie to have Seth in this book more because of how great a character he was. Kasie West has a knack for creating likeable and unique characters, and I just adored Maddie and Seth together. They were supportive of each others’ dreams and they had very cute dialogues, so I was completely on board with their relationship! Now all I really want in a book about the college years! ;-D

Besides it be all fun and games, I feel like Kasie did a good job of pointing out all of the disastrous things that can happen when someone comes into a lot of money suddenly. Even though Maddie was a complete sweetheart, she fell victim to the curse of the lottery, as well as her family. The family dynamic between Maddie and her sibling and parents was pretty interesting and accurate for a struggling middle-class family, and it’s no wonder that they went a little crazy when Maddie won the lottery, despite her best intentions for how the money should be shared and used. For how light-hearted and delightfully fluffy most of this book was, I think that Kasie did a fairly good job of addressing Maddie’s family’s issues, as well as leaving her readers with the feeling that many of those problems had the potential to get resolved eventually.

If you are looking for a sweet treat for the summer, you definitely need to give “Lucky in Love” a try. It was a light, quick read, but it still had depth and substance, which I always appreciate in a contemporary novel. The only thing I might warn you of is that, if you should choose to read “Lucky in Love,” you might want to quit your current job and go work for your local zoo. Or maybe that’s just me…

Thank you again, Kasie West, for not disappointing!

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A New Book for You and Me…

You might have been wondering if I still roamed this earth (or blogerverse, depending on how you want to look at it), since it has taken me nearly four months to get back to my blog. *sighs* Well, I got lost to life, work, and college, but I was reading that entire time, and I hope to start writing on this blog again soon.

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Although, I am not back writing a review on my blog today, I did want to remind you all that “Blacksouls” by Nicole Castroman came out yesterday, and that you all should read “Blackhearts” as soon as you can so that you can be prepared for Nicole’s latest book. Here’s my review of “Blackhearts” by Nicole Castroman, in case your on the edge about reading it. I am very excited to read “Blacksouls” despite wishing that it was a one novel story, and I am anxious for my copy to come in the mail to see what is going to happen to Anne and Teach!

*waiting for my mail to come*

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If you like historical fiction with a twist, I definitely recommend “Blackhearts,” and if that does not tempt you to read Nicole’s books, I also heard that some piracy is about to make an appearance in “Blacksouls”…

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Les Petits Bonheurs #32…

ed7a8fc26f21a06c8b58e9fd2212069f(I found this fanart on: https://readatmidnight.com/2016/01/07/read-at-midnight-designs-six-of-crows/)

So, I’m late again this week with a post, but, hey, at least I’m here! So I just wanted to post this lovely fanart, which was created by a fellow blogger (readatmidnight), in celebration of having enough time to read “Crooked Kingdom” by Leigh Bardugo! I adored “Six of Crows” when it came out, and I have been anxious to find out what will happen to Leigh’s characters ever since finishing it. It has been a mild form of torture to look at that gorgeous book on my shelf for the last three weeks and to not have enough time to pick it up. But today that changes, and I am super excited to do a quick read of “Six of Crows” to freshen my memory of the events leading up to Leigh Bardugo’s explosive finale!

Thanks for visiting today! Bonne journée, tout le monde!

Les Petits Bonheurs #30…

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Bon anniversaire, mon petit blog!

I woke up this morning to a wordpress notification that I have had my blog for four years now. It is crazy that this little blog started out as a high school assignment for my English class, and then gradually turned into a hobby and passion. I know that my blog is tiny (and a little sparse as of late concerning reviews) in comparison to the other book blogs out there, but I just want to say thank you to everyone who has stuck with this blog since the very beginning, and also to those who joined in on the journey a little more recently. It’s a miracle you’ve survived my book rants and weepy gif posts for this long, and I hope you’ll be willing to stick around for some more reviews, a few more rants, and many more gifs! ;-D

Bonne journée, tout le monde!

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