Pros & Cons / Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Hi!

Pros and ConsI choose books based on a variety of reasons, but the one that first led me to Rebel Belle, by Rachel Hawkins, was the gorgeous and intriguing cover. From the title treatment to the contrast between the knife and pearls {weapon-wielding southern belle? how could you not pick this one up?!}, I was hooked. Thankfully, the story didn’t disappoint – I’m already planning to read more of Rachel Hawkins’ novels based on my enjoyment of this one! It’s fluffy, fun, and oh-so entertaining, so I suggest moving this one to the top of your to-be-read list.

Here’s your quick summary, as always: Harper Price, peerless southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts. Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth. {Goodreads}

Rebel Belle Pros and ConsLet’s discuss! Have you read Rebel Belle or any of the novels in the Hawkins’ Hex Hall series? I haven’t come across many YA books that use the southern belle storyline; the only few that are coming to mind are this one and the Belles series {reviews here, here, and here}. Finally, according to Goodreads, the second book in this trilogy, Miss Mayhem, will come out next April. I’m extremely happy and quite excited to read it! :)

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S’mores Cookies

Hi!S'mores CookiesMy love for s’mores should come as no surprise, given the number of tasty recipes I’ve shared featuring their signature ingredients {really, though, if you haven’t whipped up a batch of S’mores Brownies before, you’re missing out}. Today, I have another recipe to add to the mix – and it’s a good one! I’ve been meaning to make these treats ever since I saw them in the July/August edition of Country Living, but a broken oven and hot weather delayed my baking plans for a bit. However, the wait was entirely worth it. Topped with melted chocolate and marshmallow fluff, these cookies are indulgent, messy, but, most importantly, oh-so tasty. The cookies themselves are a great base – I can’t wait to try them with a chocolate chip addition – and the topping practically begs to be eaten. There’s nothing to lose by making a batch, so let’s get right to it! :)

S'mores CookiesS’mores Cookies Adapted from the July/August 2014 issue of Country Living {available online here!}

ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup dark chocolate baking chips
  • 1 jar marshmallow creme {also known as Fluff}

to make

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flours, graham crackers, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until smooth and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and eggs. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients. Dough should be incredibly sticky.
  4. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of cookie dough, and place on baking sheets in four rows of four. Use your hand to flatten balls of dough to 1/2 inch thick.
  5. Bake for fourteen to fifteen minutes, or until cookies are light brown around the edges. Let cool on a wire rack.
  6. Once cookies have cooled, melt chocolate chips in thirty second increments in the microwave. Stir as needed, and let cool for two minutes before using.
  7. For each cookie, scoop a dollop of marshmallow creme onto the top of it; use a small spatula to spread it in a neat circle. Using a spoon, sprinkle melted chocolate over the marshmallow creme. Place it back on a parchment paper lined baking sheet to harden for at least thirty minutes. Repeat for the rest of the cookies.
  8. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful rest of your day!
Bella

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Making the Grade / Absolutely Almost

Hi!

Making the GradeLisa Graff instantly made my author “auto-buy” list after I finished and LOVED A Tangle of Knots last year. Furthermore, I confidently recommend her to middle grade fans all the time, so you can imagine my high expectations going into her newest novel, Absolutely Almost. Thankfully, she didn’t disappoint with this wonderfully written, incredibly realistic, and often bittersweet story {who knows what I would do if I didn’t like the book?}. I share my full thoughts below!

Making the Grade Absolutely AlmostSummary: Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he’s not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself. {Goodreads}

Main Character Development {A+}: Oh, Albie. There are some characters that just get to you the moment you begin reading, and such was the case when I started Albie’s story. He isn’t extraordinary. He is no genius or superhero or child prodigy. He has no special talent, which goes against what the middle grade genre often relies on – kids with impressive powers or skills to set the background for the story to happen. Yet Albie is still someone with a range of emotions deserving to be heard, and Graff tackles this idea perfectly. On top of this, he’s portrayed in such a realistic light as a fifth grader trying to find his place in the world {Did I also mention that he fits the bill for diverse characters in kids’ books?!}. For Albie’s development alone, Lisa Graff will forever be a favorite author of mine.

Supporting Character Development {A-}: Whereas Albie’s development is above and beyond what I originally expected, the supporting characters are just what is needed to move the story along. This isn’t a bad thing, but when you compare the two categories, the secondary characters don’t shine as much as Albie does. I wish that Graff delved deeper into a few of their stories, especially with such interesting topics at hand {for example, reality television and how it affects a family}. However, the most important supporting character – Calista – shows many layers, and I think she will hit different feelings for parents and kids, and the same goes for Albie’s own mom and dad.

Engaging and Well-Paced Plot {A}: What I find most difficult about realistic fiction for this particular audience is keeping the reader interested. With stories about magic, adventure, and mysteries abound, contemporary books have to grab the attention of the reader and maintain it for them to keep reading. Lisa Graff does this, despite what may at first seem like a bland story. The short chapters flow together well too; the story moves right along at a good pace.

Interesting and Consistent Voice {A+}: This goes right back to Albie’s character development, because in creating such a layered and complex character, Graff also manages to write Albie’s story with a unique voice. An easy A+ right there! :)

Vivid Writing and Language {A+}: I don’t write down my favorite quotes from novels, nor do I mark up books, but gosh, I was close with Absolutely Almost. It may seem like an easy read, but a closer look will tell you that it takes a talented writer to craft such an outstanding novel. I have loved following Lisa Graff’s works over the years, and if her past few works are any indication, she is getting better with each one!

Memorability/Lasting Impact {A+}: Overall, Absolutely Almost left me feeling happy, upset, frustrated, surprised, but most importantly, satisfied. As much as I would have loved to read more about Albie, I think Graff left the story on the perfect note. Definitely recommended – you won’t regret reading it.

Final Grade: A+

Have a lovely rest of your day!
B

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loving >> week 127

Hello!

The Love ListI’m loving…

BiblioCraft1 ♥ BiblioCraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects I picked this book up on a whim {nicely designed covers will do that to you}, and after reading a good chunk of it, I am so pleased that I did! Jessica Pigza is a rare book’s librarian {a cool-sounding job, no?} who enjoys crafting and creative activities; she combines her two passions in this non-fiction guide, which is divided into two parts. The first half explains library jargon, shares various library resources, and names well-known libraries across the country. This part alone makes the book worth picking up – Pigza does a terrific job capturing the beauty of libraries! The second part has step-by-step instructions for a large number of crafts, all of which were inspired by different types of books. Even if you have no intention of making anything, do check out BiblioCraft. It’s a good one!

Sorry Board Game

2 ♥ Sorry Board Game When it comes to hot, humid summer nights, my sister and I agree that board games can be awfully handy to have around. We’ve played plenty of rounds of Bananagrams, pulled out the Scrabble board a few times, and most recently, have had lots of fun playing Sorry with one another! It’s always good to play the classics :) Do you have a favorite board game?

Girls' Life August September 20143 ♥ Girls’ Life 20th Anniversary Issue I have been subscribing to Girls’ Life for several years now, so receiving their 20th birthday issue made my day. I thought it was incredibly well-done, and as a longtime fan, I was happy to see that many previous articles and editions were referenced throughout. If you too have the issue, you may recognize a few of my favorites below!

  • Plaid Academy {I am ready for the plaid/check trend to hit this autumn! I love the pattern on jackets and skirts the best.}
  • Baking the Grade {There’s so many new recipes to try – I have my eye on the Coffee Chocolate Chip Muffins and the Oreo Marshmallow Brownies. Yum!}
  • The Myth of the Well-Rounded Girl {I enjoy reading and researching the “perfection pressure,” so I was happy to see that GL tackled the issue.}

Motivational Monday4 ♥ Motivational Monday I am totally into motivating oneself for the week, but what I love most about my newest blog find is the gorgeous lettering done for each inspiring quote! Motivational Monday’s goal is simple: help others to push through the “least favorite day of the week,” all while showcasing creative designs and artwork. It’s perfect for artistic inspiration – the colors, type, and overall look of the project are spot-on. And, really, how could you not feel ready to take on the day {whether it’s Monday or Friday} with one look at the site?!

Citrus and Mint Pink Cake{via}

5 ♥ My Birthday Finally, I am super excited for my birthday next week, especially as it allows me to try one thing on my summer list this year: baking a cake! It isn’t until Thursday, but believe me, my countdown started weeks ago. I plan to keep my special day fairly low-key; spending time with family and friends, opening gifts, and eating a favorite meal sounds best to me! :) How do you like celebrating your birthday?

Have a terrific weekend!

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Pivot Point: A Book Review

Hello!

Pivot PointTitle: Pivot Point

Author: Kasie West

Published: February 12th, 2014 by Harper Teen

Pages: 343

Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy and Science Fiction

Source: Library / Hardcover

Series: Yes! Learn about the second book that came out this year HERE.

Summary: Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through… and who she can’t live without. {Goodreads}

My Thoughts: I have been meaning to read a book by Kasie West for a long time now, and after reading and hearing such glowing reviews of Pivot Point, I knew it was the book of hers that I had to start with. I had a feeling that it was going to be good, but I had no idea that I would become sucked into the story so quickly! Kasie West has made a terrific first impression on me, and I can’t wait to get my hands on her other novels. If you haven’t read Pivot Point yet {let’s work on that!}, you can add my review to an always growing list of reasons to read it NOW.

Addie lives in a world called the Compound, where a group of people with a range of mental superpowers, such as detecting liars and controlling emotions, live. Addie’s power? She has the ability to “search” the different paths she can take when faced with a decision. Her ability may sound useful, but when she has to choose between her parents, it’s anything but. After her mom and dad announce their divorce, Addie can choose to stay in the Compound with her mother or venture into the world of “Normals,” or regular humans, with her father.  Complicated story? Yes. Hard to follow? Not at all. Kasie West manages to not only keep readers engaged, but also prevent any confusion that could arise out of such a layered and complex story. Despite the number of details, the plot never felt too heavy; if anything, I would describe it as a light and a fun read. I think it shows a lot of West as an author to write a story that shows both creativity and focus.

One of the best aspects of Pivot Point was the setting. Although one half of the story is set in “our” world, it felt entirely different viewing it from Addie’s perspective. Even better was reading the story set in the Compound. Although very similar to the regular world, it is the subtle differences about the Compound that truly develops both settings. I love how football is a common element weaved throughout the two possible worlds Addie could choose; attending a game and supporting your school seems like such a simple high school “ritual” that the story came off all the more believable. I honestly can’t ask of anything else of a fantasy novel.

I couldn’t end this review without mentioning the love triangle {however unusual it may be}. I thought that the author pulled it off perfectly, with just enough charm and secrecy from both Trevor and Brandon to keep the reader guessing. If I had trouble throughout most of the book picking a favorite, I can’t imagine living with Addie’s ability! :) On a similar note, while she wasn’t perfect {and really who is?}, I appreciated the friendship between Laila and Addie. I hope to see it further developed in the sequel, and speaking from the synopsis, it looks like it is.

Overall, I’m disappointed in myself for pushing Pivot Point off for so long! It is an incredibly fun and addicting read, and although not my usual taste, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I have high expectations for Split Second, which was immediately added to my birthday wish list – fingers crossed it’s coming to my bookshelf soon!

Pros: The author does a terrific job capturing the attention of the reader with an unusually set-up story. The two different “worlds” Addie can choose from are another strong point of the book.

Cons: As much as I love many of the characters in the book, I do realize that a handful of them would benefit from more development; the secondary characters outside of the Compound, particularly, fell a little flat for me.

Heads Up: The plot does get a bit intense near the end as more details about the murder are revealed, but on the language/romantic side, it is fairly clean. Addie mentions sexual abuse as part of one of her “searches,” but she does not go into deep detail about it.

Overall:  I give it 4 1/2 stars {**** 1/2}, and I recommend it for ages 13 and up.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!
B

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