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Saturday, September 28, 2013
Hi guys!

I know I haven't been active for a while (…again…) because university is a lot more stressful than I imagined and I needed some time to adjust before I started getting involved in blogging more than I thought I would. I do plan to get back soon, I promise, barring anything weird or unforeseen.

But I've been thinking about some things lately, and while I don't normally do discussion posts like this, or at all, I thought I wanted to today. Feel free to ignore it, or whatever, especially since as you probably guessed by the post's title, this (shortish) post is about classics.

But Annabelle, you might be thinking. Isn't this a YA/MG/NA/occasionally-adult book blog? And contemporary? Whyever would you make a post about classics (that probably like 2% of people will even read)?

Well, firstly, if even a single person reads this post all the way through, I've done something. As to why I am speaking of classics at all, that you'll have to read on to find out.

I know that probably most of you aren't interested in classics. There are all sorts of various reasons, I'm sure–you have to read too many for school, they're boring and more focused on characters than on plot, they're irrelevant and outdated, etc. Believe me, I've heard all of these and felt them too. My parents were always trying to get me to read more classics and I ran through pretty much every excuse you can imagine.

But classics are gorgeous. I'm not saying they don't have issues, particularly social ones. It doesn't make them awful books, and it doesn't mean they're not worth reading. The main problem, from what I've seen, is people now like plot-based books–myself included. But if that is all you ever read, you're missing out on so much.

Almost everyone I know knows how much dislike Ernest Hemingway's books from the small sample I have had–The Old Man and the Sea made me both angry and sad at the same time and The Sun Also Rises bored me to tears. After being forced to read those two books in school, I thought that I would never read another Hemingway book by choice again. And yet.

And yet.

Despite my reservations and prejudices, I picked up A Farewell to Arms because it was very important to someone close to me. His favorite book, actually. (By the way, if you're not willing to read a book that is important to someone close to you for almost any reason, I'm judging you. I never judge, but that's the exception.)

And, you guys, I have never loved a book so deeply and so painfully and so wonderfully and so intensely and so wholly to the point where by the time I had finished I was absolutely sobbing and literally falling apart at the seams. Oh my god, I had never experienced anything like that. I had never felt so raw, or so ripped apart, or so emotionally drained. You think I am exaggerating. I am not.

A Farewell to Arms is one of my five favorite books of all time. And all because I was willing to give it a chance, despite everything. This happened over three years ago now, but the memory of finishing the book for the first time is as clear as if it happened yesterday. Every time I read it now, I am reminded of how lovely it is. And I would give so much if I could go back and read it again for the first time. That's how much I loved it.

What I'm trying to say in probably the most confusing and roundabout way possible is that you should pick up a classic every once in a while. Maybe it's not what you want to hear, and most of you probably still won't, and that's okay. What you read is your business. But, from my heart, I want to remind you that it doesn't hurt to try something different once in a while.

Until I see you again, my dears!


Thursday, August 22, 2013
Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose, #2)
Fiona Paul
Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Source: Publisher
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!
In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancĂ©, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.
So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.
Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?
Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

I am a huge, huge fan of Venom. Everybody knows that, because I literally Never. Shut. Up. About it. Which is fine by some of you. It probably annoys others of you, but you love me anyway. It was a fantastic, wonderful book, and in my humble opinion Belladonna was even better in more ways than one. The writing has improved immensely, and I found the plot much more entertaining. The characters are also more mature and developed and overall it was a wonderful sequel that did not seem to suffer obviously from Second Book Syndrome.

I don't make a secret of the fact that I thought Cass was really, REALLY immature in the first book. I liked her, but part of me couldn't get past her naivety. Her behavior was also really anachronistic. To be fair, it still is, but if it wasn't we wouldn't have a story, so, you know. I get why it's necessary. Anyway, I really felt that Cass matured in this book. She's stronger, and a lot less whiny, and though she's still impulsive she's also grown up a lot and better knows how to control her feelings as well. She does take one action in particular that I didn't like at all, but sometimes that's just how it is!

I love Luca because he's sweet and protective but he also has secrets of his own. He has definitely made mistakes, and I don't like that he hid the truth before, but he's somewhat more forthcoming in this book, and yet he still has that brooding aura I adore. He's also a lot more than I realized in the first book, and his character depth really increases. He's no longer just the old fiancé, but he has a personality in his own right.
At lease one person will come after me for this, but while I did love Falco at one point, I'm kind of over him now. I don't like his behavior in this book at all, and I just think that there is absolutely no excuse for it. He does some things that I find absolutely despicable. I want to keep this particular review spoiler-free, so I won't put any of those actions here, but they were awful enough to permanently turn me off of him. I suppose there is a slight chance he could redeem himself, but it's highly unlikely.

I liked the plot of Belladonna better than that of Venom, actually. I'm kind of an adrenaline junkie, so I loved the rush and more thriller-like feel of this book as opposed to the first one. Where Venom moved a bit slowly for my taste, this book moved quickly enough that my heart definitely pounded from anticipation more than once.

I didn't like the way some of the transitions were. I like when books move quickly, but I don't like when they gloss over things that I think should be included, like some moments that felt awkwardly short or cut out entirely. To be fair, I didn't come across a lot of these, but they existed. But this is really the only fault here, so I wanted to get it out of the way.

One thing I love a lot about this book was Cass's independence. Not just that, but the way she really exemplified and used that independence. There are other people around her who are important to her, and yet while she works with them and needs them on occasion she also isn't afraid to do some things herself. She really pulls herself together in this book and learns that she has to do what needs to be done, and that really is what moves the story along.

There was also a relatively realistic feel to it. It felt more like it could have actually happened in comparison to the first book, and I like that in historical fiction. I liked the details, too, that really helped to develop the story.

There was also a (relatively, arguably major) death that I wasn't expecting and left me feeling a bit disoriented. But I think it was a very good place for a character death, because it's super annoying when there's supposed to be a danger in a book and nobody on the "good side" dies. I'm not kidding. It's like the thing I hate the most.

There's a lot of distinguishing between different types of love in this book. Cass loves Falco, but he's gone, and so she's starting to open her heart up to Luca. I like the way she flashes back and remembers, but I appreciate even more than that the way she's not completely hung up. Without being too spoilery, I like the way Cass really matures in her romantic life and makes a choice that I truly believe is right for her, regardless of my personal feelings. The romance in this book is among my favorite, and maybe one of the best executions of a love triangle I have ever seen.

Also, that one scene where Luca is in prison. Hot. Easily my favorite scene in the entire book. Make of that what you will.

Fiona is one of my favorite writers for many reasons, but the greatest of these is her ability to completely transfer me into a completely different time and place. I am able to feel like I am tromping around Europe with Cass, getting into tough messes and running from the people who always seem to be one step ahead. The world-building is absolutely gorgeous, and I love the touches of Italian the book has. It gives it a little extra something special.

This might actually be one of my favorite endings ever, and it almost makes me wish the series was a duo logy, because I would be really happy with that as an ending. At the same time, I want more, so I guess I'm happy it's not actually the ending. But still, I am torn between my desires. Well, what I want doesn't really matter because there will be a book three anyway regardless of whether or not I would rather have one. But I digress. I especially appreciate the ending's emphasis on new beginnings, because that's a really important thing to me. I also like the way the storyline of book two wrapped up nicely while leaving enough material for book three.

And now for the age-old question: would I recommend this? Absolutely. Venom has my highest recommendation too, but even if you didn't want to read that, read it just so that you can read Belladonna. You might think I'm joking but I'm actually totally serious. It's that good. So good, in fact, that I'm almost hesitant to read Starling (book three) because I'm terrified it will mess up my perfect ending. (Actually, if it does, I will be annoyed for more reasons than one, because I hate it hate it hate it when characters are "sure" of a decision and then change it. I realize this can happen in real life but it still ticks me off.)

*****FINAL RATING: 4.65 STARS*****

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hello, and welcome to my first Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by the lovely Jill at Breaking the Spine) since my hiatus! Today I have a book I'm anticipating very highly to advocate, so without further ado, let's go!

This Wicked Game
Michelle Zink
Publisher: Dial
Release Date: November 14, 2013

Claire Kincaid’s family has been in business for over fifty years.
The voodoo business.
Part of the International Guild of High Priests and Priestesses, a secret society that have practiced voodoo for generations, the Kincaid’s run an underground supply house for authentic voodoo supplies. Claire plays along, filling orders for powders, oils and other bizarre ingredients in the family store, but she has a secret.
She doesn’t believe.
Struggling to reconcile her modern sensibilities with a completely unscientific craft based on suspicion, Claire can’t wait to escape New Orleans – and voodoo – when she goes to college, a desire that creates almost constant conflict in her secret affair with Xander Toussaint, son of the Guild’s powerful founding family.
But when a mysterious customer places an order for a deadly ingredient, Claire begins to realize that there’s more to voodoo – and the families that make up the Guild – than meets the eye.
Including her own.
As she bands together with the other firstborns of the Guild, she comes face to face with a deadly enemy – and the disbelief that may very well kill her.

So, why am I waiting?

First off, I adore Michelle Zink. I've literally read everything she's ever published, and loved everything. She's an enormously talented writer who can use different styles and voices, and her characters truly come to life for me.

I also love voodoo, and it's a subject that isn't written about nearly enough to satisfy me. It needs to be in more books, but since it isn't, I must get my hands on every book that it is.

Plus, there's romance! And knowing Michelle, I bet it gets steamy at some points. It better. But even if it doesn't  I'm sure I'll love it.

I'm so looking forward to reading this book, and I hope that you are too!


What are you waiting on this Wednesday?
Link me up! :)
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