Tag: society

Book Review: Little White Lies, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

little white lies
Image belongs to Disney Book Group/Freeform.

Title:   Little White Lies
Author:  Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre:   YA, fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Sawyer Taft grew up on the wrong side of the tracks with a mom who was unreliable at best and the knowledge that her mother’s family kicked her mom out of the house when she got pregnant in the middle of her debutante season. Now 18-year-old Sawyer is an auto mechanic who’d love to go to college but sees no way to get there.

Until her autocratic grandmother shows up, offering her half a million dollars if she’ll move into the family house and participate in the current debutante season. That’s a whole lot of money to put up with a prim-and-proper crowd with certain expectations and a penchant for the phrase “Bless your heart,” but Sawyer thinks she might be able to solve the mystery of who her father is, so she agrees.

And finds herself in a world of glittering dresses, unending rules, and people with more secrets than she ever imagined. Not to mention the devious minds to keep those secrets and manipulate Sawyer and her new friends. And one of the best-kept secrets is just who Sawyer’s father is—and why he doesn’t want anyone to know.

I read a few of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ books years ago and enjoyed them, but kind of forgot about her until I saw this one. I’m so glad I picked this up! The glittering world of the debs is far beyond my experience, but it came to life on the pages of Little White Lies. Sawyer is a great character:  she does not fit in with this society and she unsettles everyone around her, but she is intent on doing what’s right—and she’s smart. This is an attention-grabbing read, and it was nice that it wasn’t filled with romance like a lot of YA series-openers are.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes was a Fulbright Scholar at Yale, and also holds a Ph.D. from Yale. Her newest novel is Little White Lies.

(Galley provided by Disney Book Group/Freeform in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton

the belles
Image belongs to Disney Books.

In the world of Orléans, people are born damned. Gray. Above all, they want Beauty. It is only with the help of Belles, who control Beauty, can they be made beautiful.

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. All her life, Camellia has wanted to be the favorite, the Belle chosen by the Queen to live in the palace and work with the royal family. The most talented Belle.

But at court, Camellia and her sisters learn there’s far more to this world of beauty than they ever imagined, and there’s more to their powers than they know. When the Queen asks Camellia to help the sick princess, Camellia must decide whether to help the Queen—and risk her whole world—or to continue to be the favorite Belle, the one who does everything that’s expected of her.

So, this book is more than a fairytale/fantasy epic. Orléans absolutely reminds me of the Capitol (from The Hunger Games), with over-the-top costumes and obsession with appearances and popularity. So much. But this book is really a commentary on issues we face in society today—and not just vanity—with layers and layers of reality and mystery twined together. On the surface, a book obsessed with beauty isn’t my cup of tea. But the world is richly-detailed, and the characters are complex and driven, and I can’t wait to see where the author takes them next.

Dhonielle Clayton is an author and the COO of We Need Diverse Books. Her newest novel is The Belles.

(Galley provided by Disney Books in exchange for an honest review.)

The Tea Planter’s Wife, by Dinah Jeffries

tpw
I do not own this image. Image belongs to Crown Publishing.

Dinah Jeffries was born in Malaysia but moved to England at age nine. Her newest novel is The Tea Planter’s Wife.

Gwen arrives in Ceylon full of anticipation and fear:  newly married after a whirlwind courtship, now she joins her husband, Laurence, on his tea plantation. Ceylon is so much more than Gwen ever imagined:  a lush, other-worldly paradise filled with racial conflict and secrets. Lots of secrets.

Like the hidden grave she finds near the house. And the trunk of old baby clothes. Laurence won’t talk about these secrets, and soon Gwen is wrapped up in her pregnancy and a secret of her own. These secrets put up a wall between Gwen and Laurence, one that leads to more secrets, lies and manipulation, and a tragedy of the worst sort.

Some books leave you speechless and emotionally reeling. This was one of those books. Ceylon is so vivid and brimming with life I could almost smell the flowers and the tea. Gwen and Laurence are flawed and frightened, but love each other so much and so deeply as their relationship grows. Their secrets haunt them both through every page of the book. This book is a phenomenal, emotional rollercoaster!

(Galley provided by Crown Publishing.)

The Regulars, by Georgia Clark

 

 

The-Regulars-Georgia-Clark
This image does not belong to me. Image belongs to Atria Books.

Georgia Clark is from Sydney, but now lives in New York City. She has been in a band, worked as a freelance journalist, and as a copywriter. The Regulars is her first adult novel, and she has young adult novels on the shelf as well.

Evie, Krista, and Willow are best friends living in New York City. They are regular twenty-somethings with average looks and typical problems, like making rent, online dating, and making a difference in a job that makes a mockery of what they believe.

Until they come across Pretty, a magical potion that makes them beautiful, giving them a chance to discover what looking like a supermodel can give you in life. Pretty opens unexpected doors for them, but it has a darker side, too. Soon the friends must decide the answer to the question, “What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?”

Evie, Krista, and Willow are regular girls—girls all women can relate to, and they have real problems and real struggles. The Regulars is about these problems, but about larger problems as well, like the objectification of women and lies and manipulation in the dating world. There are some funny moments in this book, but it made me think about life—and about society and its faults. Don’t read this thinking it will be light and fluffy, this books deals with much deeper issues, and the characters are believable, people we would all enjoy being friends with.

(Galley provided by Atria Books via NetGalley.)

When Fiction Mimics Reality

This morning, I finished reading one of the books for my American Women Writers class, The Coquette, by Hannah W. Foster.

the coquette
(I do not own this image.)

Have you read this book?  I had never even heard of it before seeing the reading list for this class. It was written in the very late 1700s, and is about a woman trying to choose between two men: a minister who wants to marry her, and a rake. She ends up alienating the minister, who marries someone else, and so does the rake. However, she ends up pregnant from an affair with him, and dies alone in childbirth. The tale is told in a series of letters between the characters, giving a good view of the characters true emotions.

And here’s where I had a problem with this story, because some of the letters are written from the rake’s point of view, and he’s a complete and total jerk, who refuses to take responsibility for his own actions.

He makes a concerted effort to come between Eliza and her other suitor. When that relationship goes down in flames, he marries a heiress, and says she can’t blame him for his actions, because she knew how he was. What? He pursues Eliza unmercifully, and when she eventually gives in, he blames her and loses all respect for her. The pregnancy is all her fault. When his wife finds out and leaves him, and he loses everything, still he doesn’t want to accept blame. He does seem remorseful after Eliza dies, but still doesn’t really own up to his faults.

I enjoyed the book somewhat, but this character drove me mad. Deliberately hurtful, selfish, greedy…everything was her fault, even though she repeatedly rebuffed him. When tragedy struck, he still wasn’t fully ready to accept blame. I found him entirely unlikable and criminal.

And to be honest, his attitude and behavior is quite reminiscent of some of the prevailing attitudes in society today.  That girl in the provocative clothing who was the victim of sexual harassment, abuse, and/or rape?  That was all her fault, for dressing like that.

What?

Since when are people not responsible for their own actions, including hurting other people?