Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March's "Cheat" Book - The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Disney-Hyperion, 2018

As you know by now, I'm loosely allowing myself one brand-new "cheat" book each month to keep me going during my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge.  I could not resist the gorgeous cover and description of The Belles and knew it would have to be my cheat book this month.

I haven't been copying the descriptions of the books I've been reviewing this year as I've been less interested in formally reviewing them, but check this description out:

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.
(description taken from goodreads entry)

This book sounded amazing. I love when authors examine our concepts of beauty and the regard we hold for them in American society. To have Beauty be equated with true Power.... irresistible. Plus, we all know I love a good dystopian and boy, did this sound like a doozy.

Let's just say I was not at ALL disappointed in this book. Clayton sucked me in right from the first chapter and it was all I could do to put the book down to go to sleep that night. I almost wanted to pull my first all-nighter in years, and I am NOT one to give up sleep willingly. Instead, I happily hunkered down on my snow day yesterday, picked it up and read straight through to the end.

The characters, the descriptions, the world-building, the plot; I found very little fault with any of them. Character introspection occurs, betrayals abound, and morality is questioned throughout. This is one of the best books I have read yet this year and I am now waiting ANXIOUSLY for the next book.

Recommended for readers who enjoyed books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Selection by Kiera Cass. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Prudence and Imprudence by Gail Carriger

Prudence by Gail Carriger 
Orbit, 2015 - owned in personal collection
The Custard Protocol, book one

Okay, if it's one thing that my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge is truly teaching me, is that I NEED to stop auto-buying books, even from the authors that I love the most (such as Gail Carriger or Tamora Pierce)! I am much better off buying the books as I am ready to read them.  It's so tempting to pick up new, shiny books as they first come out, but like these two - books I was dying to read as I knew they were coming out - somehow once I physically owned them, it was much easier to let them fall by the wayside.  There was a comfort that I could read them whenever I wanted as they were nestled safely in my bookshelves, but as you can see I DIDN'T actually take the time to read them until now!

Anyway, unsurprisingly, I enjoyed diving back into the humorous, adventurous steampunk supernatural world Carriger created.  Though Prudence was a little slower to start for me, after I passed the first third of the book, and I trundled along to India with the Spotted Custard's crew, I was inordinately pleased to follow Alexia's precocious daughter into all types of danger. I really enjoyed getting to see Carriger's archaeological background come into play with the historical research necessary to delve into the ancient cultures that her imagined immortal creatures occupied in foreign countries.  While her love of British culture and humor is always evident, it was so interesting to delve into the time period when the Brits colonized India and to see their cultural stories come to live in this book.

Foreign cultures are further explored as we return to Egypt and their world of mythology in the second book, Imprudence (Orbit, 2016). The Drifters we met at the end of the Parasol Protectorate series also returned in this book and we got to learn some more intriguing tidbits about Rue's extended family and their role with the Italian Templars.  Rue's relationship to the supernatural and the way that her parents and now she fit into the supernatural world are explored in this second volume, though I feel we'll learn even more as we move forward into the third, Competence.

Competence, book three
Orbit, coming July 2018
My favorite thing about these two volumes, though, was definitely the humor and romance set amidst the danger and adventure of exploring unknown regions.  Seeing Rue realize that she was actually in love and what she was willing to do to preserve that relationship was fondly reminiscent of experiencing her parents' meeting in the earlier series.  Gail Carriger is a dab hand at writing romantic tension and the way she handled both this relationship and the burgeoning one that Prim is desperately trying to avoid were both laugh out loud funny and sweetly romantic at alternate times.  I look forward to seeing both relationships progress as the series moves forward.  I am hoping that we may even get to see our hopelessly anti-social Professor find his own love...

Recommended for lovers of humor, the supernatural, and steampunk adventures.  Though in order to get the full scope of character relationships and world-building readers should start with book one of the Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless, it is not completely necessary to have read that series to enjoy this one.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

March Challenge Reading Plan

2018 Books I Already Own Challenge
It's the first day of March and here in CT it feels like Spring! I'm trying not to embrace it too wholeheartedly, as tomorrow it may very well snow... ah, New England.  BUT... Spring is actually on its way and that makes me a very happy girl. 

I can't believe that we've gotten through two months of the 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge already! Some days it's a breeze, and others it's a struggle, but I'm still feeling ambitious and so here is my March challenge reading plan.

 What I plan to read in March:
(Audio book)
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

(Print books)
Prudence by Gail Carriger
Imprudence by Gail Carriger
Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Endlessly by Kiersten White

The audio book is one that I own through Audible, but have not listened to yet, and the print books are all ones that I own physical copies of in my home library but have not read. My goal this month is to try to finish up some series that I have at home, and have read all but the final book... All links above go to descriptions on Goodreads.

My planned "cheat book" for March is The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. Again, I just could NOT resist buying this title. It's got a GORGEOUS cover and a very intriguing premise. I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

I also already know that I'll be reading a copy of Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao for the cozy mystery book club that I lead at my Library. I also have two audio book titles, Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst and Cadaver & Queen by Alisa Kwitney that I will be reviewing for Audiofile Magazine. Books that I read specifically for work, or ones I am assigned to review for Audiofile Magazine will not be counting towards (or against) my challenge.

I learned in February that while I'm doing pretty well on this challenge - and stacking my intended reads right next to my bed so I'm not tempted to pick anything else up has really helped - I still struggle with complete commitment.  There are so many great new books coming out at any given time! It's hard to turn them down.  So, I had built in my one official cheat book for each month, but I'm also not going to punish myself too harshly if I slip up again, as long as I come back to the challenge.  Hopefully this way I'll get further into the year before I abandon it completely!! LOL. 

As always, if you'd like in on the challenge, just let me know! We have a private group on both Facebook and Goodreads to give us a place to share, motivate each other, and bemoan having to pass up the shiny new books of 2018... at least for as long as each of us last!!