Title: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Performer: Rosie Jones
Length: 13 hr, 2 min, 45 sec
Series: The Belles, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Blackstone Audio
Review: This book knocked my socks off. I have been eyeing it for some time due to the beautiful cover art, but kept passing it over in favor of other fantasy novels. That was my mistake, because this book blew me away with it’s originality and spectacular character development. Camellia is not by any means a perfect heroine, and this makes her all the more relatable. The antagonist of the story made my skin crawl, and was a total psychopath. This made for a very interesting story chock full of political intrigue, manipulation, and mystery.
What I find truly fascinating about this book, and what really sets it apart in my mind, is the author’s commentary on beauty through the story. Beauty standards are fickle and ever changing in today’s world, and it is no different here. All over the world people are obsessed with achieving impossible standards of beauty, and are never satisfied because beauty is perceived differently by everyone. This is reflected in the world Clayton has created, where physical appearance can be changed in a matter of minutes, but at great personal and financial cost. People are constantly changing their appearance to match changing beauty trends and endure a great deal of physical pain to make it happen. The parallels this draws to real life make this a wholly believable story despite its fantastical elements.
I deducted a half star from my rating because there were a couple things that I did not feel were fully explained, but these minor plot hiccups may very well be ironed out in the second book in the series. I have already requested it from the library and look forward to listening to it.
The performer for this story was perfection. She easily ranks as one of my top favorite readers after listening to this performance. I can’t wait to hear her in other works.
Author: Alexandrea Weis
Page Count: 397
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 14, 2019 by Vesuvian Books
Review: I first off want to state that although the cover art for this book is gorgeous, it is highly misleading. Roxana was not in any way a warrior princess. In fact, it was quite the opposite. She spent most of her time sequestered away in baggage caravans and palace quarters. Her entire life was mostly dictated by others, and though a lot happens in the background, not much actually happens to her until the end. I will, however, say that this book was well researched. Some creative liberties were taken, but it seemed that for the most part, the author adhered to what experts speculate happened to the real Roxana and her family. For some reason I was not really expecting this and thought that this would be a looser adaptation of historical events. In a way this was a pleasant surprise, because I learned more about an intriguing woman from the past, and it made me interested in conducting a little bit of research on my own. History buffs will really enjoy this book, but those looking for a thrilling adventure will probably find the pacing to be too slow.
Author: Anna Todd
Page Count: 582
Series: After, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 21, 2014 by Gallery Books
Review: This book is incredibly difficult to rate. As many reviewers before me have noted, there are so many things that are problematic with this book. The dialogue is whiny and repetitive, the relationship between Hardin and Tessa is borderline abusive, and the twist at the end was not at all original…and yet it kept me up reading late into the night. I can’t really explain it. It cast some sort of weird spell over me. Maybe because the plot is a smutty amalgamation of two of my favorite 90’s flicks, or maybe because the “hot bad boy falling for the good girl” formula is catnip for the avid romance reader. Whatever it is, it kept me turning pages, all 582 of them. I generally read 2-3 books at a time, but all the other books I am currently reading were set aside to finish this one. I have already told myself that I need to finish the ARCs I am currently reading before I even think about reading the next book in this series, but like Tessa and Hardin, I may not be able to resist.
Title: We Set the Dark on Fire
Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia
Page Count: 384
Series: We Set the Dark on Fire, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 26, 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
Review: I enjoyed this book and I can see a lot of potential in this series. This book was mainly setting the stage and the characters for the overarching storyline, so it doesn’t feel like a lot happens, but it is clear that there is a lot more action yet to come.
This book draws a lot of interesting parallels with current events, and I thought that the mythology aspect was very expertly woven into the threads of the story. The author did an excellent job establishing the conflict, and I am excited to see where the story goes from here. Also worthy of note is that all the characters are Latinx and there is an LGBT romance that is central to the story.
Title: The Lost City of Z
Author: David Grann
Page Count: 352
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2009/Doubleday
Review: I will read anything and everything written by David Grann. He has such an amazing writing style, so it’s very easy to get caught up in his work. In the Lost City of Z, he talks about Percy Fawcet and his multiple trips into the Amazon and then goes and tries to recreate the route he was taking when he disappeared. The book alternates between both tales: the past and the present, meaning you aren’t stuck too long on one specific part of the story.
I quickly got swept up in the exploration of the Amazon and the charting of the unknown, and it’s easy to see why Grann frequently writes about people obsessed: he can get into that mindset himself and tell their stories in ways that make the reader feel it too. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever suffered from wanderlust and loves to explore.
Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Page Count: 325
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 14, 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Review: This book has been at the top of the NY Times Bestsellers List for awhile, and I have had several patrons ask for read-alikes, so I decided to see what all the fuss is about.
This book started out slowly and kept a steady pace. The author did an excellent job crafting the setting. I could practically feel the marsh; the languid air, the movement of the water, the teeming abundance of life. It was absolutely gorgeous in every sense, and I felt deeply connected to the land, the animals, and the “Marsh Girl.”
Owens has created incredibly unique characters, and truly captured the sentiments of small town living. There are many layers to this book – race, gender, social class, and sexuality to name a few. All the elements are very well crafted and it is easy to see why this book has been so well received.
The reason I am not giving this book five stars is because I was extremely conflicted about the ending. To be honest, a big part of me wishes I had not read the final chapter. There is a certain amount of power in the unknown, and I think I would have been more satisfied not knowing what precipitated the mysterious death of Chase Andrews. Perhaps this will seem like an odd sentiment to some, but I truly feel that in this case, I would have preferred to be left speculating about what happened on that fateful night.