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review 2018-08-06 02:42
A Unique and Inventive Universe
The Belles - Dhonielle Clayton

I knew from reading the synopsis of this book that I would immediately love it. The concept and plot of this story is superb, while its development is slow and steady. We meet our main character, Camellia, immediately and it’s through her naïve eyes that we are carried through the story. Since Camellia is essentially an outsider and separate from the bulk of society on account of her gifts, I believe that she worked as a great protagonist since readers are able to accurately and realistically learn about this creative universe through her perspective as she herself learns. Her slow character development led readers in a natural direction that was easy to follow. I absolutely fell in love with the mystery behind the true nature of this magical, fictional New Orleans.

 

My only complaint concerning this story is its writing style, which is technically only a matter of taste. I spent the first several chapters forcing myself to read rather than enjoying myself. However, once I became used to the writing style, I eventually came to love and enjoy it.

 

Overall, this is a completely original and thoroughly unique story which conveys a clear message that the author skillfully intertwines with the plot and heart of the story. Such a message is not thrust down reader’s throats, but told in a fashion that allows readers to develop their own perspective of the matter. The story works almost as an interpretative, symbolic piece representative of the struggles each and every individual likely feels each time they look in a mirror. I’m definitely anticipating book 2 of this series!

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review 2018-06-22 23:45
Shiny Broken Pieces Audiobook
Shiny Broken Pieces - Sona Charaipotra,Dhonielle Clayton

See my review for Tiny Pretty Things here.

 

It wasn’t great.

 

It wasn’t terrible.

 

It was kind of ‘meh.’

 

What I did enjoy was the depictions of actual dancing, of the ballet classes themselves, of the class getting ready to perform Swan Lake. I’ve read another ballet book where the dancing is described in terms of the physical actions taken, not a lyrical description, and I think the authors pulled off the feelings of what it is like to dance from the point of view of three characters whose lives revolve around ballet.

 

One of the reasons… ok the ONLY reason… I decided to read this book was to find out WHO had pushed Gigi into an oncoming car in the previous book. Tiny Pretty Things left this as a cliffhanger, which I despise, and I was pretty much OK with that for a long time. In Shiny Broken Pieces we find out pretty early on who it was definitely NOT… but then find out who it definitely WAS about halfway through. It seemed kinda early-ish for me, but then the rest of the novel focused on this massive Swan Lake performance.

 

One of Gigi’s defining characteristics is that she’s black, and in ballet, that’s really rare. However the authors couldn’t decide if everyone always stared at her or if she managed to blend in with the other ballerinas. I guess she could do both, but I found it wavered from one extreme to the other depending on what looked better to the plot without any consistency. Gigi was stared at A LOT, almost as if the students of a New York school had never seen a black girl before… I thought it was strange, but I do not study ballet nor do I live in New York City, so perhaps I’m not the best authority on that. In contrast, people did not stare at June, or Bette, the other two protagonists, however Bette is the epitome of the beautiful blonde white girl and June was half Korean and one of her primary characteristics was that she blended into the background.

 

I mean, whatever! I thought it was inconsistent but maybe that’s how people actually act. I don’t even know anymore. What is literary criticism anyway? *existential crisis*

Although I really liked the presentation of June’s anorexia and bulimia, I was a little confused how one teacher could indicate that June is too fat and everyone else was concerned she was too thin. Consistency was also an issue in Tiny Pretty Things, so maybe it’s just these authors.

 

Another thing I found grating was Gigi’s narrator. She had this really annoying delivery in a kind of monotone where she sounded really depressed, but then when she did dialogue she inflected much better. Her general narration annoyed the funk out of me. I don’t think Gigi was actually depressed, just bent on revenge, so was not pleasant to listen to. In contrast the other two narrators of Bette and June didn’t sound like they were uninspired and just reading from a script they hated in a job they hated, they actually delivered some entertainment.

 

I also want to say that I didn’t particularly like any of the characters in this novel, but I don’t think it’s a requirement in enjoying a book to like characters who are awful to each other as the main plot point (see Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books BECAUSE I hate the characters).

 

I will mention that I’m not comfortable with how it ended. There was one of many characters seeking revenge for acts committed against them and they ended up losing everything while other characters who instigated the bullying kind of got rewarded? Like, I get that ballet is a cut-throat biz but I felt really sorry for the character, who was only twisted up because someone had bullied them and they was seeking revenge. The other thing that irked me was that the people who did the really bad things in Tiny Pretty Things (pushing Gigi in front of the car, glass in the shoes, killing the butterflies) were all LGBTQ characters. Like, the victims got screwed over and the biggest bullies got everything they wanted.  So yeah, not cool. I like Mean Girl books because they get their comeuppance, and I didn’t feel satisfied with how everything ended.

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review 2018-05-04 14:29
Semi-Cute
Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet. - Katharine McGee,Jennifer L. Armentrout,Dhonielle Clayton,Katie Cotugno,Huntley Fitzpatrick,Jocelyn Davies,Nina LaCour

Your mileage may vary with this collection of short stories, for me though, I just found only a few of the stories, 5 star worthy. The rest were all over the place. I think the biggest issue is having a collection of short stories by 14 different authors definitely showed who can craft a well thought out short story and those who cannot.

 

According to Urban dictionary:
"Scenario in which two individuals are brought together in some unlikely, zany, destined-to-fall-in-love-and-be-together-forever sort of way (the more unusual, the better)."

 

"Siege Etiquette" by Katie Cotungo (2 stars)-No sorry. The first story in this collection did not start off strong at all. And I would argue barely met the definition of a meet cute. You had the two teens in this story one of which is named Wolf. At that point I was worried I had stumbled into some sparkly vampire nonsense, but nope. We just read how the main character in this story (Hailey) is part of the super popular crowd or used to be until something happened. It takes a long time (for a short story) for the reveal to happen. That said, Hailey and Wolf already knew each other since they had been in elementary school with each other. I didn't really even get the sense that she had plans to talk to him again after they finally got out of their "siege" situation.

 

"Print Shop" by Nina LaCour (3 stars)-This does meet the definition of a meet cute to me. We have the main character (Evie) who goes to work in a print shop because of reasons. There's a mention of her breaking up with her girlfriend and her obsessively checking her ex's twitter or was it Instagram. I don't know. Either way she ends up fixing a print shop order gone wrong and meeting someone new. It was alright, didn't blow my socks off or anything.

 

"Hourglass" by Ibi Zoboi (3 stars)-This whole story pissed me off. I felt like it needed a stronger ending too. The main character is an African American girl named Cherish. Cherish has a selfish asshole friend named Stacy. The biggest issue for me is that I don't think the character of Cherish realizes how wrong she has been done by Stacy. Stacy ends up choosing to be with a boy who has gone after Cherish due to her race. At that point I would be popping smoke and telling Stacy to shove it. I just ended up feeling frustrated by Cherish still obsessing over telling Stacy everything that has gone on with her. 

 

"Click" by Katharine McGee (3 stars)-Shrug. I swear I feel like I have read a similar story to this one before. This story takes place in 2020 and we have a new dating service called Click. It floats back and forth between two characters, Alexa and Raden. There were no real surprises here, I can't lie though, I could see this as a total rom-com. 

 

"The Intern" by Sara Shepard (1 star)-Sorry, this was among my least favorite of these stories. I was not engaged during the entire story-line.

 

"Somewhere That's Green" by Meredith Russo (2 stars)-I swear, this was another storyline that ticked me off while reading. We have one girl (Lexie) who attacks a transgirl (Nia) at her school and talks about safety and a variety of other things that is about her not being allowed to use the bathroom. And somehow this turns into a thing where Lexie is fighting against who she really is or something. 

 

"The Way We Love Here" by Dhonielle Clayton (5 stars)-This was so good. I loved the fantasy elements incorporated into this story. I loved the various ways that you can see how the characters (Sebastian and Viola or Vio) lives can change and how it is left open-ended to see what path they may take knowing what can happen between them. 

 

"Oomph" by Emery Lord (4 stars)- I thought this was an adorable meet cute taking place at an airport. I liked how the story was set up and the ending. 

 

"The Dictionary of You and Me" by Jennifer L Armentrout (1 star)-Sorry from beginning to end this story just didn't work for me at all. It just felt unfinished somehow. And I never want to read the word "zazzy" again. 

 

"The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love" by Jocelyn Davies (5 stars)-You get some math/stats and a young girl determining how likely is it that she is going to see a guy she viewed via another train window. I loved the discussion of soul mates (her parents were hilarious) and how the story is developed. 

 

"259 Million Miles by Kass Morgan (3 stars)-Okay story, after the last one though it was a let down.

 

"Something Real" by Julie Murphy (2 stars)-I know I read this, but I still had to go back since I couldn't even recall this one. It felt like there was too much going on with this one. Okay story, just didn't really enjoy it as much as I did the others.

 

"Say Everything" by Huntley Fitzpatrick (3 stars)-I was surprised I didn't like this one more since I loved this author's book "My Life Next Door."

 

"The Department of Dead Love (5 stars)-This was so good. This is another fantasy short story where people can go and determine why the love between them and another person died. You get interviewed by Heartworkers who diagnose you. Don't want to spoil, but I loved the entire idea about this story. 


So I realized that I tended to like the fantasy/sci-fi elements short stories more. 

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review 2018-04-05 21:10
The Belles - Dhonielle Clayton

For the year 2018 I thought I would step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to read a genre new to me.  Not knowing where to turn or how to begin this new journey, I took to Youtube and Bookstagram for inspiration and after watching many book hauls, book reviews and lurking on many Bookstagram pages, I chose fantasy.  I mean, I enjoy watching movies of magic and mystical powers and enchanted universes, why not read about them.

 

To kick-off my new adventure I chose a YA fantasy, The Belles by Dhionelle Clayton.  I'm going to forego the synopsis because I'm sure many of you have already read it, so I'll begin my review.

 

TWs: sexual assault, gay killing, body shaming.

 

One of the reasons I wanted to read this novel was because of the captivating cover.  Beautifully detailed, I was anxious to begin reading.  The vibrant map on the inside of the cover is an extra bonus.

 

The author poured out her heart and soul on every page.  From the picturesque surroundings, to the kaleidoscopic garments, mystical creatures and delectable cuisines, I took pleasure imagining all that was taking place.  However, many times throughout the book the descriptions were overpowering and the moment dragged on.

 

Powerful characterization from the author and with each character's mannerism, I experienced a different emotion.  Annoyance, anger, empathy just to name a few. I'd love to have read more building up of some characters and less of others.  

 

Although the plot was interesting and intriguing, it didn't draw me in right away.  It was a slow start due to the overly detailed paragraphs and I didn't become involved until the middle of the book.  At times the story lacked balance.  Some parts of the story dragged and some parts were rushed.  The subplot was a nice added a touch of mystery.

 

I'm glad I chose Dhonielle Clayton's YA fantasy novel, The Belles, as a new genre for me to explore.  Inside there's magic and fascination, but the author also touches on body shaming,  how one perceives beauty and the depth people endure to achieve it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-03-02 14:19
What Does it Mean to be Beautiful?
The Belles - Dhonielle Clayton

I really did enjoy the first book in "The Belles" series. I have not previously read a book by Dhonielle Clayton before, but will be on the lookout for the next book in this series, as well as any other works out there she has. She does a great job of blending fantasy elements along with mythology and fairy tales we already know (Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Persephone, Venus) and molding it into something new for the fictional world of Orleans where the action takes place. 


Told in the first person, we follow a Belle named Camellia and the rest of her "sisters" when they are presented before the court. They wait for the Queen to name one of them favorite, with the remaining girls being sent out to tea houses in order to give beauty to the fellow inhabitants of Orleans. 

 

When Camellia is not named favorite, she is taken to a tea house to perform beauty treatments. When something happens that causes her sister Amber to fall out of favor, Camellia is back in court, doing whatever she can to be loved by the Queen and Princess Sophia. 

 

I think some readers may get a bit tired of Camellia though. She's so focused on being the favorite and the best she pretty much ignores how badly Princess Sophia is and doesn't even realize that a love interest (that I did call not being on the up and up) was not really into her at all. Thank goodness there is no dreaded love triangle though. One of my least favorite things in young adult books.

 

Though Camellia is naive, you do get to see her start to question what is the purpose of the Belles and realizing that all that glitters is not gold. You have young women who are slaves. Yes they are dressed up and bathed, and perfumed, but they are not allowed to say no. They are merely there to make others beautiful and be used up and tossed away. Even though the Queen has a good reason for having Camellia help her, she doesn't really care when Camellia is attacked by a prince and almost raped. 

 

The other characters you get a glimpse of though Clayton does spend more time on developing some of the secondary characters like Amber, Edel, and Remy. Hopefully in the next book they get even more fleshed out. 

 

I really did enjoy the writing. The world-building is not explicit in this one, but I think if you have read Greek myths and are familiar with fairy tales like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty you can see echoes of that in Clayton's writing. 

Some of the descriptions of what happens when Camellia is using the arcana made my stomach hurt. It's unnerving and gross to read how many women and men go through significant pain in order to be beautiful. And ultimately that is what Clayton is attacking in her works. You read time and time again how attractive many of the young girls, women, and men are that come out and seek beauty, but they don't see it. Instead they keep demanding more and more to be done to them to make them truly beautiful. Princess Sophia is the worst and I started calling her Snow White's Wicked Stepmother after a while. She's obsessed with being the most beautiful (fairest) and she's going to do whatever it takes to stay on top.


The flow was a little uneven in the beginning, but gets better the further along you get into the book. The chapters were fairly short so that keeps the story moving. I do want to have more details provided in the next book about the Belles and their creation. There's enough there to tease you with while reading, and I don't need or want an info-dump, but I hope that now that Camellia and others are out in the world, they can find out the truth. 

 

I will give kudos to the cover and the illustrations in the book. Since I got this as a hardback copy via the library I was able to see the chapter headings and loved the illustration that was at the top. The book also contains illustrations of the world of Orleans and locations that are mentioned like "The Fire Isles, The Silk Isles, etc. It's always fun for me to see how books go beyond just the written word. 


The ending I thought worked. Clayton does a good job with ending the arc in this first book and now we are going forward with another arc it seems with the Belles fighting back. 

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