The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: The Beautiful Ones
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Series: N/A
Pages: 327
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: October 24th 2017

      “In a world of etiquette and polite masks, no one is who they seem to be.
      Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society. Under the tutelage of the beautiful but cold Valérie Beaulieu, she hopes to find a suitable husband. However, the haphazard manifestations of Nina’s telekinetic powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.
      Yet dazzling telekinetic performer and outsider Hector Auvray sees Nina’s powers as a gift, and he teaches her how to hone and control them. As they spend more and more time together, Nina falls in love and believes she’s found the great romance that she’s always dreamed of, but Hector’s courtship of Nina is deceptive.
      The Beautiful Ones is a sweeping fantasy of manners set in a world inspired by the Belle Époque.

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“Hector raised his hands, the candle flames rising with them, and with one movement of his arms they merged into a prodigious ball of fire that he then snuffed out with a clap of his hands, causing several spectators shriek because, for a moment, it seemed like he was about to scorch himself.”

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s The Beautiful Ones is a character-driven novel that combines fantasy and romance in a eloquent story rapt with emotion. Antonina “Nina” Beaulieu has been invited to stay with her cousin in Loisail for her first Grand Season. The city is a far cry from Nina’s home in the country, but she can’t help but see its appeal when she meets the mysterious Hector Auvray. A gifted telekinetic, Hector has risen to prominence performing for audiences across the globe. When Hector begins courting Nina, she’s convinced that they are meant to be. Hector, however, has a ulterior motive, one that will bring Nina’s world crashing down.

Moreno-Garcia juggles three perspectives and does a masterful job of fleshing out each character, making them feel real to the reader and allowing each to have their strengths as well as their faults. Nina is more comfortable trying to catch beetles and butterflies than a potential husband. Not the kind of young woman that suitors line up for in a city like Loisail, Nina finds rules regarding etiquette to be stifling. It doesn’t help that her telekinetic ability often manifests at inopportune times. While those in Loisail can appreciate such a talent as a means of entertainment, it is not something suitable for ladies to display. Nina is markedly younger than the other two characters and it very much shows. Hopelessly romantic and naive about the world, Nina is easily taken in. She believes the very best about people because she has never been exposed to those who would use others for their own gain. Her inexperience opens her up to plenty of heartache. Though her openness was one of the first things I admired about her, her growth as a character made me appreciate her even more. I loved that Moreno-Garcia took the most humble of the three characters and allowed her to develop and show strength unparalleled.

Hector is not a character that you immediately fall in love with. Yes, in some ways, he can be seen as simply a tragic figure. Coming from nothing, Hector has managed to accumulate the kind of wealth that people in Loisail are either born with or marry into. While trying to recognize this dream, he ended up losing his first love in the process. His choice to court Nina only as a means to get close to another instinctively made me bristle. That being said, his is a really rewarding character arc as he is forced to confront his own naivety. Even as a grown man, he still has a lot to learn. Hector learns to see the past and present how they are and now how he wishes them to be.

At times I wanted to dislike Valérie wholeheartedly, but Moreno-Garcia has created such a complicated character that it’s difficult not to admire her in some way. Valérie was pressured into marrying Nina’s cousin Gaeten in order to save her family from financial ruin. But lest you think she is some tragic figure, Valérie is also vain, resentful, and prone to jealousy. She often regards Nina with disdain because, unlike her, Nina has more freedom to choose who she marries. Nina also has the love of her cousin, something Valérie doesn’t necessarily want, but which her proud personality demands. She’s an incredibly manipulative person who is much more comfortable being cruel than sentimental. For her, loving someone means they have power over her and she refuses to be under another’s thumb. There’s no way to justify Valérie’s every decision, but because she is such a well-developed character, I understood why she did the things she did and this ultimately made her an exceptional antagonist.

The Beautiful Ones showcases just how versatile and gifted a writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia is. The world she builds is very easy to fall in love with and my only criticism is that I wanted to see more of the telekinetic aspect. Still, there are few books that leave me feeling completely satisfied and The Beautiful Ones is one of them.

5/5

★★★★★

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The Friday 56: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“I tried to tell you these stories at bedtime when you were young,” said Mom. “You never wanted to listen back then. But here goes…”

I thoroughly enjoyed F.C. Yee’s The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. Genie was a funny and relatable protagonist and the book was so action-packed. If you’re looking for something different in the fantasy genre, consider picking up this one. You can read my review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code.
      But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tale and penchant for peaches.
      Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.

Valentine’s Day: Book Recommendations to Make You Swoon

Wishing everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day. I know many people either hate or love this holiday, but either way, I want to wish you a wonderful day regardless. I’m bringing back a Valentine’s Day themed post as last year I seemed to have forgotten to put one together. I have a very truncated list of book recommendations to share with you today. In the past, most of the romances I consumed came from fantasy books, but I’ve rather recently renewed my love for contemporary books. This year I’m sharing with you some of my favorite contemporary novels with love stories that are just so hard to resist. Covers are linked to Goodreads.


1. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Ask me any day of the week and I will tell you that I am not a fan of insta-love. The whole idea of being able to fall in love with someone so quickly gets my cynical side all worked up. That being said, I fell head first in love with Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star. She found a way to make the trope work and although I still scoff at the idea of insta-love, this book will always be an exception for me.

2. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

If there is ever a trope that I am powerless to resist, it’s the You’ve Got Mail one. I don’t even know what this trope is properly called, but I associate it with the movie where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet online and build a relationship without knowing the other one’s identity. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum follows a similar sequence, though the protagonist’s anonymous pen pal (email pal?) knows who she is. We, along with the protagonist, get to play the guessing game. Be warned, this trope will appear multiple times on this list.


3. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Sometimes finding love can be really clumsy and no one exemplifies this more than Desi Lee from Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love. I loved that we got to see a protagonist who was completely lost when it came to love, but made a plan to get it anyway. This book had me smiling so much. If you ever need a pick me up, this book will surely have you laughing by the time you finish. Be aware though, you’ll probably experience a ton of second-hand embarrassment.

4. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I told you the You’ve Got Mail trope was going to make another appearance. Have you ever finished a book and it just left you smiling for a week? Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda was like this for me. Simon is probably one of the sweetest protagonists you’ll ever meet and his online relationship with Blue had me begging for a reveal. It’s a good time to read this one if you haven’t yet as the movie is set to be released in March.

5. The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson

Another trope that I have a hard time resisting is hate to love. I am always at the ready to watch two stubborn characters bicker chapter after chapter until finally facing the truth that they like each other. And no one does witty banter better than Lily Anderson. It is an utter delight seeing the progression of Trixie and Ben’s relationship in this one. I should also mention that The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, if that sweetens the deal. It is an utter delight seeing the progression of Trixie and Ben’s relationship in this one.

6. P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Kasie West has been my go-to contemporary author for some years now. Her books are always light and fun and can be finished in one sitting if that’s your thing. Of all her books I’ve read, P.S. I Like You is my favorite. It contains not one, but two of my favorite tropes: You’ve Got Mail and hate-to-love. I actually think of all her novels, this is the one that actually gives readers an equally complete characterization of the love interest as well as the protagonist. I’m still hoping that one day Kasie West will write a novel with dual perspectives.


7. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This list couldn’t possibly be complete without me mentioning another of my favorite romance tropes and that’s the fake relationship. It might be one of the most predictable tropes, but I eat it up. Also, Lara Jean from Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one of my favorite contemporary protagonists. She reminds me a little of myself in high school and I can’t help but feel really protective of her.

8. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

This is actually a last minute addition to this list. I just finished When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon earlier this month and fell in love with both leads. If you’re looking for a fun rom-com that manages to also be multi-layered when it comes to its characters, this is the book you ought to be reaching for.

Bonus: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Because I need to cheat just a little I’m giving you a bonus recommendation that isn’t contemporary. Silvia Moreno-Garcia made me absolutely swoon with her latest novel, The Beautiful Ones, which combines historical fantasy and romance. I was absolutely taken with this novel from the very first page and hope you will be too.

What contemporary (or otherwise) novel would you recommend to those looking for a good romance? Have you had the pleasure of reading any of these novels? Happy Valentine’s Day!

Top Ten Tuesday: Popular Romantic Movies I’ve Never Seen

Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is “Love Freebie (Romances, swoons, OTPs, kisses, sexy scenes, etc.).” So I’m going to do something way different this week and I’m listing popular romantic movies that I’ve never seen. I’m including the things I do know about these movies which isn’t much. Prepare to be shocked. I am shockingly clueless. Also including a few random gifs of these movies and my reaction.

1. Dirty Dancing – I know there’s dancing and that one famous line “No one puts Baby in a corner,” but that’s pretty much it.

Dirty Dancing gif reaction: Kind of looks like fun.

2. Notting Hill – Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant star in this one. It takes place in the U.K?

3. Love, Actually – There’s that one scene where Rick Grimes is holding a sign.

4. The Notebook – This movie is the reason so many find Ryan Gosling attractive. I have never seen it, so it may explain why I don’t find him very attractive.

The Notebook gif reaction: This…I…don’t think this is a good idea.

5. Moulin Rouge! – There is music in this one and Nicole Kidman. Also, didn’t know there was an exclamation mark until I looked up how to spell it.

6. Two Weeks Notice – Sandra Bullock is Hugh Grant’s personal assistant? She doesn’t feel appreciated and gives him her two weeks notice, but he then discovers he’s in love with her? I don’t know, sounds like he doesn’t deserve her in the first place.

7. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days – Both leads are trying to make the other break up with them. I’m pretty sure this is accurate.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days gif reaction: I know who wins. It’s about winning, right?

8. The Time Traveler’s Wife – There’s time-travel. They somehow fall in love despite him traveling in time unexpectedly. This doesn’t sound ideal for a relationship.

9. Step Up – Another dancing movie. That’s all I got.

10. Definitely, Maybe – Little girl doesn’t know who her mother is, so Dad decides it’s a good idea to tell her stories about each of the women that could be her mother, further compromising this girl’s emotional stability. I think I made that up.

Definitely, Maybe gif reaction: I like her.

Now’s your chance to convince me to watch or not watch any of these movies. Any popular romantic movies you haven’t seen? Leave me a link to your own TTT post in the comments, so I can visit.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Title: History Is All You Left Me
Author: Adam Silvera
Series: N/A
Pages: 294
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: January 17th 2017

      “When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.
      To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.
      If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

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“Is it weird to envy him for that, for witnessing something I would never want to see with my own eyes? I have all this history with you, Theo, but he has pieces of your puzzle that would destroy me if I ever had to put them together, and yet I still want them.”

Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me is an roller coaster of emotions. As Griffin tries to cope with the loss of his first love, readers are taken on a journey that alternates between the past and present: from the Griffin and Theo’s first kiss where the future held nothing but happy possibilities to the devastation Griffin experiences losing the one person who understood him. Once upon a time Griffin and Theo were inseparable, but life got complicated when Theo gained early admission into a college across the country. Despite how much he loved Theo, Griffin broke things off. Time passed and while Griffin still held on to hope they would be together again, Theo moved on with his new boyfriend Jackson. When Theo dies unexpectedly, all that hope and the ever-present memories of the two of them together become unbearable. Now Griffin must deal with his loss and every mistake he made that led him to where he is, but no one seems to quite understand like Theo’s boyfriend Jackson. As the two grow closer, Griffin is forced to confront the memories of his first love, both the good and the bad.

There are novels that punch you in the gut by surprise and others that you go into knowing the punch in the gut is a catalyst for a broader story. Silvera hits readers with a freight train in the very first few sentences. Every chapter devoted to the past that is filled with love and hope is bittersweet to the reader who knows where the story inevitably ends. Chapters set in the present are heavy with grief, an abridged version of the truth as it needs the past to put things into context. Griffin spends a lot time thinking about alternate universes. This is not only a callback to conversations he had with Theo, but a way Griffin copes with Theo’s death. He imagines that in some different world, the two of them are both alive and happy together. Silvera excels at making the reader care about his characters through all these mediums, expertly weaving through the ups and downs, and never letting up until the very end.

Griffin is in an incredibly vulnerable headspace from the very beginning of the novel. It isn’t hard to see how much Theo meant to him and how the loss has made his whole world seem like it has imploded. It’s easier for him to retreat from those around him than to let them help him grieve. Jackson shares his grief  and even though there is a lot of resentment on Griffin’s part, there are still drawn together. Jackson will always represent an obstacle to Griffin and Theo’s hypothetical reunion. He will always hold precious memories of his ex-boyfriend that Griffin will never have himself. Whether he wants to admit it or not, Theo and Jackson were happy together. Griffin and Jackson’s connection is wrought with hurt and confusion. While it’s important for Griffin to work through his feelings, he tends to be self-destructive and this flaw hinders his own healing. Still, I found it really refreshing to read about a character who is allowed to be broken, misguided, and self-centered while working through his pain.

History Is All You Left Me is an emotionally complex novel about heartache and grief. Silvera continues to create multilayered stories and characters that the reader will not soon forget.

4/5

★★★★

The Friday 56: An Enchantment of Ravens

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“Dazzled by the moon shining directly into my eyes, I found myself marching after him across the yard toward the shoulder-high wheat. My legs moved in fits and jerks, like a marionette’s legs controlled by a puppeteer.

Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens was a beautiful fantasy that I’m really surprised hasn’t gotten better reception. I ended up falling in love with the setting and Rogerson’s writing and am really looking forward for more projects by her. You can read my mini-review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
      Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
      Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.