The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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.
The Belles (The Belles #1)Review:
The Belles is a book that I borrowed from my library in anticipation of the NoVaTeen book event. I’m going to this at the end of March and Dhonielle Clayton is one of the authors that is going to be there. My goal for March is to read at least one book by each of the authors attending the event. I have heard so many mixed reviews for The Belles. I know some that absolutely loved it, some that thought it was average and some that didn’t like it at all. I am of the group that is in the middle.
My problem is that it was so slow for the first half of the book. The ending was exciting and full of action, but the first half was full of what was supposed to be world building but was not very good world building.
The things I liked were the characters. Camillia was fiery and feisty, always breaking the rules and pushing the limits. I liked this. Except that when it got to a point where she SHOULD be pushing limits, she lets herself get pushed around. It was a little annoying. I really liked the concept of the Belles, Camillia and her sisters. But I would have appreciated more information. Camillia is slowly telling another character all the Belles secrets, but I still felt like we never actually learned anything about how the Belles came to be (aside from the origin story) or how their abilities actually work. I was disappointed in the world building because we didn’t learn more about their abilities, we didn’t really get much in the way of setting. The characters really carried the stories, except that even there we didn’t get more from any of the characters aside from Camillia. We are given enough for them to be interesting, but not enough for me to be invested in them. The only exceptions are Camillia and Princess Sophia.
I would like to add that there is a very diverse cast of characters. There are female/female relationships, a diversity of skin colors (including some with the color of the night sky with stars included). And the book brings a good conversation about unrealistic beauty standards to the table.
There was considerable potential here for this story, but I feel a bit disappointed. I overall enjoyed the story. I had an enjoyable reading experience, but I wanted so much more. I liked it enough to pick up the second book in the series. I need to see if my library has it or will be ordering the ebook.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

GoodReads Summary:
A thrilling and original coming-of-age novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.
He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.
At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.
Review:
I found this book available as an ebook from my library. I’ve been getting ebooks from my library on my phone ever since I had a baby because reading on my phone is the best for those late night breastfeeding sessions. I was planning to spend time with my Kindle, but it’s a bit hard to hold while trying to keep the baby in the right position to feed so I mostly read on my phone. Because of this, I have found a few new books that weren’t on my TBR list. The Magicians was one of those. I did want to read this eventually because I wanted to read it before I watched the Netflix show. I’m excited to watch the show now that I’ve read the book and see what the differences are.
This book is totally not what I expected. It was way more detailed and the story was way more in-depth and involved than I was anticipating. The Magicians follows our main character, Quentin, on his journey to find happiness. On this journey, he finds magic, love, and some interesting adventures. Much of this book focuses on a book series that has stuck with Quentin for his whole life. It’s a series that reminds me of The Chronicles of Narnia in a few ways. He dreams of visiting this far off world one day and going on a quest to save the world. Quentin ends up on several different adventures of his own, though none of them are what he expected at all. The storyline of this book was a little bizarre to me. We spent so much time following Quentin through his schooling and the copious amount of time he spent drinking and not nearly as much time on the crazy situations that he finds himself in. I spent more than half of the book wondering where the story was going and what the real plot of the story was. I definitely didn’t predict what ended up happening in any way.
As for Quentin, he annoyed me many times. He’s so stuck in his depression that anytime he gets what he thinks will make him happy it never lasts long. He finds out he’s a magician and that’s not enough to keep him happy despite the fact that he’s learning new things every day and he’s found himself in this incredible new part of the world that he never knew existed. He finds a good group of friends that he has fun with and that’s not enough to keep him happy. He somehow manages to get a girlfriend who is smart and caring and loves him but still, that’s not enough. It was honestly just annoying. Instead of doing something or trying to figure out why he’s never happy he just accepts that he’s not meant to be satisfied or happy no matter what he has in his life. It was an interesting addition to the story, the whole idea that maybe magicians aren’t meant to be happy and all that (there’s more to this idea). But Quentin was just a little annoying in his misery.
The supporting characters added a little extra to the story. While they could have been a little further developed with more backstory and maybe their own personal development aside from being students with Quentin and learning magic. I liked their personalities but they were a little shallow as their own characters. They had personalities, but they weren’t fully developed. I think they could have been done better.
Overall, this story was totally not what I was expecting. I liked the story well enough. It was certainly interesting; though I think certain parts of the story could have been done a little differently it was a great read for sure. I would have liked more development for the supporting characters and a little less of Quentin complaining about being unhappy. The storyline was creative and kept my interest.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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