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.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

GoodReads Summary:
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illumina continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.
Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair is struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.
When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.
But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
Review:
I just finished reading Gemina and I’m 100000% still reeling. How are you going to end a book like this? I’m pretty furious with Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff because it’s super unfair of them to do this to me, their reader. Especially after screwing with my feelings LITERALLY the entire book.

“You wanna know how it ends?”

Get outta here with that shit. OF COURSE, I WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS WHY ELSE WOULD I BE READING THIS BOOK. IM SO MAD RIGHT NOW. I CAN’T EVEN.
I’m legit a bundle of sadness and mad and happy. Somehow all at the same time. This story was (idk how) even crazier than Illuminae. It’s written in the same formatting as the first, which I totally loved. (Check out my review for Illuminae here.) Gemina is told via a series of journal entries, transcribed video surveillance feeds, instant message conversations, and emails. This is such a creative and interesting way to tell a story. I think it really helps the story fly by. This is not a small book, but I read it in two days. (It would have been one, but I have a baby now and I have to be responsible and stuff.)
I was a little sad that Gemina didn’t continue to follow Katy and Ezra because I totally adored them, but I definitely enjoyed our main characters. Hanna and Nik were extremely entertaining. They were sassy and fierce. But also so loyal and caring. They were excellently written characters.
Hanna is portrayed by others as a princess who thinks she’s better than everyone else. She’s got a perfect life and the perfect boyfriend and gets everything she wants. Nik literally calls her “Highness” (which is adorable and sassy.) But the reader gets to know her better than that. She’s super down to earth and knows that she has opportunities that not many others are afforded and she’s grateful for them, even if they’re not how “regular” families do things. She’s a station captain’s daughter, so why shouldn’t she take advantage of the opportunities that are provided. These opportunities are what save her life in this story. Without her military strategy sessions with her dad or the various martial arts that she’s learned she wouldn’t have survived the things she did. She proves herself to be a little pampered but also mostly kick ass. Because that’s absolutely what she did. She kicked ass and took names for every page of this book. Except for the moments she allowed herself to break down because of the horrible things happening around her. I liked this realistic aspect of the book. The world is falling apart, she’s not supposed to be able to just run around and kick ass and not feel anything. She’s climbing through the ventilation shafts with tears streaming down her face because she has no idea who’s still alive and who’s dead. I like this because too many books just skim over the bad stuff and don’t let the character feel what’s going on because it’s heat of the moment or whatever. Anyway, I loved all sides of Hanna Donnelly. She was an excellent heroine.

“You might only get one shot. So shoot. You know who said that? … Hanna ****ing Donnelly. That’s who.”

When it comes to Nik, I didn’t like him at first. That ‘bad boy’ image just didn’t do it for me. But like Hannah, we really got to know him. As we got to know him we learned that he isn’t so tough as he might like us to think. I really liked Nik. I liked learning about his past and seeing him interact with his cousin Ella. You can really tell that Nik would do anything for his family, and has proven that. He also proves that he is someone that tries to hide his feelings via inappropriate jokes (which is basically what his conversations with Hanna consisted of for a solid chunk of the book.) He’s got a great sense of humor.
I just have to mention all of the heartbreaking plot twist and how seriously messed up they were. The authors were really trying to screw with me by telling me this horrible thing happened and then saying, “Just kidding, this didn’t actually happen.” And somehow did this MORE THAN ONCE to us. This book was written so well and I might consider giving my first born child up to get the third book, Obisdio (this is a joke. I only say it because she’s crying while I try to write this really fast.) I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen in this last book, but I can tell you I’m SO EXCITED even though I know Kaufman and Kristoff are going to, once again, rip my heart out, stomp on it and then put it back in my chest, slightly mangled but still beating.

If this sounds like a good time to you, feel free to read these books. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Please be aware that the book cover on this post is a link to purchase this book through Amazon. Feel free to purchase with our link (just click on the book cover) to support us!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

GoodReads Summary:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
Review:
I have been on a science fiction reading spree. I’ve also been trying to catch up on the books that have been super hyped up that I’ve learned about through Bookstagram. It seems that I’ve missed out on a ton of great reads. This one is included. This series seems to almost have a cult following and I’m starting to understand why.

“You deserve every star in the galaxy laid out at your feet and a thousand diamonds in your hair. You deserve someone who’ll run with you as far and as fast as you want to. Holding your hand, not holding you back.”

Illuminae is written in an interesting format. Rather than being written in the traditional style of a novel, this story is told through a series of interviews, instant messages, emails, transcribed video surveillance and materials retrieved from inside the artificial intelligence that ran the Alexander spacecraft. I think this is a really inventive way to tell this story. It shakes up the story and definitely kept me enthralled in the story. I think this formatting also gives the illusion (or maybe it’s not an illusion) that I’m reading the book faster. I feel like I flew through this story trying to get to the ending.

The way this story is told I think also allows the readers to get to know the characters in a unique way. Traditionally the reader is inside the characters head learning who they are, but with Illuminae we get to know Katy, Ezra and gang through their actions and how they treat one another rather from any inner thoughts or ideas. I loved Katy. She’s a fierce female lead and I loved that she was brainy and nerdy but also had a sensitive, vulnerable side that she let us see here and there. Ezra is totally my newest book boyfriend. I love how things turned out with him because I definitely almost cried at certain points in his story. I liked Ezra because he complimented Katy in an interesting way. They both push one another to do the best thing for the most amount of people, even if that means sacrificing themselves. I’m interested to see where Ezra’s story goes especially with the ending of the book.

AIDAN is the artificial intelligence that pilots and runs the Alexander spacecraft adds a very interesting aspect to our story. I was totally creeped out by AIDAN for many reasons.

“But what I do is not murder. It is mercy.”

Alright, you psycho computer. Having artificial intelligence turn evil and take over the world is honestly one of my biggest irrational fears of how humanity / the world will end. So AIDAN’s role in story totally added a creepy and dark aspect to this otherwise thrilling book. I’m incredibly impressed by these authors because by the end of the book I didn’t totally hate AIDAN. Somehow they gave this computer some unimaginable character development. Somehow AIDAN grows and learns and loves Katy. I grew to like AIDAN and get excited for what he (it?) might do next.

Overall this story absolutely lived up to all the hype that I’ve heard from the bookish community. I cannot wait to get my hands on the second and third books in the series. I adored Katy and Ezra and even AIDAN. There were also some wonderful supporting characters that added so much to the story. This book was full of action and adventure, suspense and mystery, menace and intrigue. There were characters to love and also characters to hate. I recommend this to any and all lovers of science fiction. This will for sure be a book that I will read again. I might even have to go out and buy the series so I don’t have to wait to get it from the library every time I want to read it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Please be aware that the book cover on this post is a link to purchase this book through Amazon. Feel free to purchase with our affiliate link (just click on the book cover) to support us!

WWW Wedneday

Hey, bookworms! It’s that day of the week again where we participate in the wonderful bookish post that was formerly hosted by Should be Reading and was recently taken over by Taking on a World of Words. To play along just answer three questions to give an update about what you’re currently reading, going to read next and have read recently. Feel free to leave your answers in the comments or link your post!

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What are you currently reading?

Amanda- I’m in the middle of an ARC from NetGalley, Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa. I’m reading this one slowly so I don’t miss anything. It’s full of Japanese Mythology and super good. I’m also listening to an audiobook, I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman. I never used to be able to read more than one book at a time, but I think because they’re different formats I’m able to do it. I say this because along with the ebook and audiobook I’m reading a physical book that’s from the library that I need to finish today so I can return it on time! Roseblood by A.G. Howard is the library book I’m trying to power through.

Antonia- I’m actually between books right now but I’ll elaborate on that a little more in the next two answers.

What did you recently finish reading?

Amanda- I recently finished reading Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. Keep an eye out for my review sometime next week! I also just finished listening to Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel which was amazing and I loved everything about it.

Antonia- I just finished The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn. It was funny and romantic and ridiculous. I loved it.

What do you think you will read next?

Amanda- I have so many books on my TBR list. The Diviners by Libba Bray that I still haven’t managed to start. Along with the nine books that are on my July TBR list that I know I’m not going to get through.

Antonia- Next I’m thinking either Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg or Wintersong by S Jae-Jones. I’m not sure which one I’m in the mood for yet.

What are your W’s this week?

Overdrive by Dawn Ius

Summary:
Jules Parish has screwed up.
After three years of boosting cars, she got caught. She’s too good to get caught, but she lets her (ex)-boyfriend talk her into a questionable job. Now she and her little sister, Emma, will be kicked out of their foster home, left to survive on the unforgiving streets of Las Vegas alone.
Unless…
Eccentric, wealthy Roger Montgomery wants to open up his mansion to Jules and Emma. The only catch? Jules must steal seven of the rarest, most valuable muscle cars in the world…in seven weeks. Even worse, she’s forced to put her trust in three complete strangers to help her do it.
First, there’s Chelsea, the gorgeous redhead with a sharp tongue and skill for picking locks. Then there’s Mat, who hasn’t met a system he couldn’t hack. And finally, there’s the impossibly sexy car thief Nick, whose bad attitude and mysterious past drive Jules crazy.
With nothing in common and everything to lose, can Jules and her amateur crew pull off what could be the biggest car heist in history? Or will things spin out of control faster than Nevada dust devil?

Review:
I found Overdrive by Dawn Ius at the library when I went to sign up at my new local library. I’ve mentioned in our new feature (Library Book Haul) that each time I visit the library I will be picking one book based on the authors last name – choosing a letter that we don’t have any reviews for on our master review list. This book was that selection for my most recent library trip.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book. It was a random find that I thought sounded a bit interesting. I ended up reading the entire book in four hours (whoops). This story is told in the first person point of view, which is my favorite. I like stories that are told like stories by the main character. Our main character Jules was interesting. I didn’t like her at first. She was overly paranoid to the point where it was annoying. She was constantly afraid that everyone else was out to get her and lying to her. She’s a young girl that’s taken to breaking the law so that she can support her sister and try to help them have a better life. It made her relatable, yes she’s doing the wrong thing, but for good reasons. She’s doing what she needs to for those that she loves, that’s something that most people can relate to. The only thing I didn’t like was that Jules was so easily offended and super defensive about everything. I get that she’s had a hard life and doesn’t trust easily, but you’d think that would give her thicker skin and she’d let stuff just roll off her back instead of taking offense to every little thing.
Once we’re introduced to the rest of the characters in our story we start to see their relationships developing. This was probably my favorite part of this book. The character development was phenomenal. Each character played a role in the main story – boosting seven cars in seven weeks for their foster father – but they also each had their own story that was being revealed as we learned about them and they learned about one another. The development of these characters was written very well. We’re given just enough information to understand that they’re just a group of kids that have made some bad choices and are trying to be better and get away from their past mistakes. As we learn the stories of the secondary characters, Chelsea, Mat, and Nick, we also get to see them learning more about themselves from one another. Throughout the pages of this story, they become a family, albeit a dysfunctional one. The group is a well-functioning machine, each member playing an important part toward their end goals. But regardless of their individual end goals that each member is working toward, they all come together to do what’s best for Emma, Jules’ little sister. Emma becomes the surrogate little sister to everyone and they all want to look out for what’s best for her. I liked this aspect of the story. These big bad rebellious teenagers all seem to have a soft spot for a little girl. It’s just a nice touch.
The opening and the climax of Overdrive seemed like they were rushed. I liked them well enough, but I just think they could have been written a bit better, maybe with more detail. The opening scene is when Jules is getting caught boosting a car. It was alright but left the impression that it was a filler scene – something that needed to happen for the story to go to where it needed to. That the author was just giving us the necessary information to keep things moving forward. The climax, however, appeared rushed. Ius told us what was happening rather than showing us (this is something I’m working on myself having recently learned about it in my college writing courses). I liked how she ended the story, I just didn’t love the way that it was written. The idea behind the conclusion was solid, but the writing was not. I feel the same way about the “six months later” epilogue at the end of the book. I definitely could have read more about where they all ended up. I’m not saying it was bad, just that it could have been better.
Ultimately, I liked Overdrive by Dawn Ius. I liked the storyline, it was interesting and unique. I adored the characters, they had excellent character development. This was a good, fun, quick read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Please be aware that the book cover on this post is a link to purchase this book through Amazon. Feel free to purchase with our affiliate link (just click on the book cover) to support us!

Libary Book Haul

Hi lovelies!

I’m back with another library book haul! Last week my husband kicked me out of the house and told me to go do something fun, something just for me. So obviously I went to the library because really what else would I do?

This library adventure was a little harder because I wanted to find a book that would work for the Tome Topple Readathon that just started. I also didn’t want to get too many books because I haven’t finished all of the books from my last library haul yet.

So without any further delay, this weeks library haul!

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Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – This book I snagged off of the library’s “Pride Month” feature. It sounds super interesting. And the cover is super pretty too.

The Diviners by Libba Bray – This book is this visits choice because of the authors last name. Libba Bray will fill a slot in the B category in our master review list, which is one of a few letters that we have no reviews listed under. This series sounds super interesting and also fits the bill for the Tome Topple Readathon. So look out for my review in the new few weeks.

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray – The second in The Diviners series. These books are giant and I mostly just couldn’t stop myself.

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray – The third and most recently released book in the Diviners Series. I doubt I will get through all three of these books for Tome Topple, but a girl can have dreams right?

This is my library haul for this week! Too many books, as usual. Have you read any of these books? Is there anything you think I should be grabbing from my local library? Keep an eye out for my reviews of these stories within the next few weeks.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme formerly hosted by Should Be Reading and was revived by Taking on a World of Words. To play along, answer the following three questions and share a link to your post in the comments on her page. Enjoy!

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What are you currently reading?

Amanda – I’m currently reading Overdrive by Dawn Ius. This was a library find. I actually picked this one by going to the section of books with author’s last names starting with I because we don’t have any reviews on our master list under that letter. I mentioned in my library haul post that I’m going to pick one book this way each time I visit the library.

Antonia – I’m currently reading The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan. I blew through the first four books in this series and absolutely can’t wait to see how it ends.

What did you recently finish reading?

Amanda – I finished reading The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg over the weekend. Keep an out for my review, it will be posted on Friday.

Antonia – I just finished The House of Hades by Rick Riordan. It was fantastic and you’ll see my review of it soon.

What do you think you will read next?

Amanda – I’m honestly not sure. I have like thirty books that are currently in the mail on their way to me. (If you haven’t heard of Book Outlet you need to look into it now. Books for super cheap.) So I have quite a few to choose from. I will probably try to finish my library books before I get into the new books I ordered. So either Roseblood by A.G. Howard or As I Descended by Robin Talley.

Antonia – I have no idea. You can check out my Top Ten Tuesday post to see my TBR list but I’m really not sure what I’m in the mood for yet.

These are our W’s this week, what are yours?

Libray Book Haul

Hi lovelies!

Antonia and I have decided that we’re going to be posting book haul posts (once in a while.) We don’t usually buy books too often because books are expensive and we both have bills to pay and what not. So I came up with the idea to do Library Book Hauls!

So, we will be starting to post this new feature. I hope you guys all like it because I’m super excited to share with you my library finds! I just got settled after moving across the country. So finally I had time to find my new local library and sign up for a library card. Boy, was it exciting! My new library is so big and beautiful and everyone that works there was super friendly. I’m happy to have found such a great library.

Okay, who wants to know what I found this week?

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – I grabbed this one because my sister told me I should read it. She doesn’t read often, so I don’t always listen to her. I also wanted to see what all the hype was about and read this before I end up seeing the movie.

As I descended by Robin Talley – I picked this one up off a “Pride Month” feature. It sounds a little spooky but in a good way.

Roseblood by A.G. Howard – I read (and own) the Splintered Series by this same author. This one is supposed to be a Phantom of the Opera kind of story. I never saw the movie, but I liked this author’s last series so I figure I’ll probably like this book too.

Overdrive by Dawn Ius – While I was walking through the shelves  of the young adult section wondering if there were more books on my TBR list that I should look for I decided not to add to my ever going TBR, but instead to pick a book with an author who has a last name that starts with a letter we don’t have filled in for our master review list. I was close to the authors with the letter I and saw this book. The description sounds interesting so I went for it. If I like this book, I’m going to do this every library visit, pick one book with an author whose name will fill an empty letter on our list.

This is my library haul for this week! Have you read any of these books before? If so, let me know what you thought of them! Are there any books you think I should pick up at my next library visit? If so, let me know in the comments!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.