loving >> week 153

Hi!

The Love ListI’m loving…

JaneAusten_final_300dpi{via}

1 ♥ Jane Austen Cover to Cover While my list of beloved classics is long and forever growing, Jane Austen’s works, from the passionate and popular romance, Pride and Prejudice, to the hilarious matchmaking tale of Emma, will always hold a dear place in my heart. My Austen adoration is equally matched by my love for a good book cover, so Margaret C. Sullivan’s Jane Austen Cover to Cover, a fascinating collection of the designs that grace Austen’s novels, couldn’t have found a more excited reader. Sullivan’s knowledge on Austen is evident, and her commentary on the covers engages Janeites of all ages {I imagine Sullivan and Austen would bond over their witty styles of writing}. I adored the book, and I happily recommend buying your own copy – I certainly plan to!

The Beehive Cafe2 ♥ The Beehive Café There’s nothing like a few days off from school to make you feel productive, but even then, day trips and a bit of adventure are needed! My family and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather {think sunshine and a light breeze} and explored the Blithewold Mansion and Gardens earlier in the week. To finish off of our daytime jaunt, we stopped at The Beehive Café, a cozy restaurant in downtown Bristol. The food lives up to the adorable name; I ordered the Pearl Couscous Salad, a recipe I can’t wait to recreate at home! I highly recommend stopping there if you ever find yourself in Rhode Island, if not to grab a meal, than to at least try one of their tasty looking baked goods. Where do you like to eat in the summertime? We keep a long list of places to look into :)

Lemon & Line Logo3 ♥ Lemon & Line I’m not a complete “prep,” but, as you could guess from this month’s Style Snapshot, I love a stylish accessory. I was introduced to the Newport-based brand, Lemon and Line, through my friend Paulina’s site, and I’ve been eyeing their cute rope bracelets ever since. I was delighted to receive the bright coral bracelet from their Vineyard collection as a small gift, and I’ve been pairing it with everything in my spring, and soon-to-be summer, wardrobe. Do you like anything on the Lemon and Line site?

Brooklyn Castle4 ♥ Brooklyn Castle I love watching documentaries, but I’ll be the first to admit that I see far too few of them. It was a pleasant surprise, then, when my family suggested I watch Brooklyn Castle, a documentary they recently checked out of the library. I was happy to take on their offer, and, as they hinted at, I enjoyed it quite a bit! The film follows the I.S. 318, a middle school in Brooklyn, chess team, known for their success in nationwide chess tournaments. It convinced me that I should learn how to play chess, but the movie was also such an interesting look into city school systems and the benefits of the game. The documentary was released in 2012 – it’s nothing new – but do give it a try if you come across it in the library. Do you have any documentaries to recommend?

Pocket Princesses{a recent one via Amy’s site}

5 ♥ Pocket Princesses Finally, my week is made whenever Amy Mebberson posts a new edition of Pocket Princesses. These adorable pieces of art feature the Disney princesses in hilarious scenarios, many of which make reference to their own stories. I can’t get enough of them {many thanks to Lulu, my sister, who introduced them to me!}, and they usually leave me wanting to watch Frozen again :) Go spread some love to Amy and her terrific artwork HERE!

Have a fantastic start to your weekend!

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The Winner’s Curse: A Book Review

Hi!

With a new book review ready to go, I thought I would clean up my format a bit. It feels much more pleasing to the eye!

The Winner's CurseTitle: The Winner’s Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4th, 2014 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Pages: 355
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: Yes! Book Two is already out and in my library pile.

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love… 
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart. {Goodreads}

History is one of my favorite subjects in school. Past people, events, and ways of life fascinate me, and each class fuels my never-ending curiosity in the world {I’m a regular reader of historical fiction – can you tell?!}. However, there are periods of history where my growing interest can only be matched by a disdain for humanity: the atrocities of World War II, the cruel segregation of the mid 1900’s, the removal of Native Americans from their homes, or the horrible, inhumane act of slavery. These times are just as difficult to read of as they are saddening to learn about, but when they are written well, they offer the story a powerful punch. Marie Rutkoski’s young adult novel, The Winner’s Curse is not related to the slavery of African-Americans, nor is it historical fiction, but the relationship between slave and master still shapes the plot of this high fantasy. An exceptional read from beginning to end, Rutkoski’s novel forces readers to question the cost of human life and freedom under plots of love, politics, and rebellion.

The novel opens in a bustling marketplace, the first of many settings of the vast Valorian empire. Rutkoski has clearly mastered the “art” of world building, a talent even this novice fantasy reader could note. The land is rich with history, and Rutkoski slowly, but subtly, fills in the details behind the two feuding populations, the Herrani and the Valorians. Although the explanations of Kestrel, the main character, are necessary in shaping the setting, the events of the plot give it depth; readers’ eyes are open to the politics of the land through high society balls, high stakes duels, and high action battles.

The empire may have its revengeful history, but its current state is no stranger to conflict either. The Valorians stop at nothing to gain more power, and the Herrani, once an envied group, now bought and sold as slaves, have had enough. The roots of rebellion can be felt from the first chapter, and Rutkoski runs with the theme throughout. Her talent with words is captivating, as she uses it to transport the audience to scenes of bloody battle or heated meetings on political strategy. Some chapters are high in intensity, but Rutkoski adds in small doses of lighter moments, such as the time Kestrel spends with her good friend, Jess. Above all, it says a lot of an author’s skill when an imagined world of war can sweep readers away into intrigue and retain an unsettling sense of reality at the same time.

Just as the setting and plot are complex elements of the novel, Rutkoski doesn’t hold back in developing her characters. It’s hard to distinguish the hero from the villain in the Herrani and Valorian conflict because all of the people are to blame. It’s this unclear boundary, I believe, that led to my disconnect with the characters. I enjoyed the book immensely, but I finished it feeling no closer to Kestrel than I did with Arin, her slave and the book’s love interest, Jess, her childhood friend and a high-class member of society, or Cheat, a Herrani slave auctioneer with secrets to share. Nevertheless, Kestrel’s growth as a character cannot go unnoticed, and I have no doubt she will develop into a strong heroine as the trilogy continues.

The Winner’s Curse was inspired, as Marie Rutkoski writes in her author’s note, by an economic term that “describes how the winner of an auction has also lost, because he or she has won by paying more than what the majority of bidders have decided the item is worth.” Slavery will never be an easy topic to discuss, but Rutkoski skillfully uses this theory to create a story that’s thought provoking and exciting. It’s not perfect, but it’s strong {and it certainly deserves that gorgeous thing of a cover :)}. I only hope that The Winner’s Crime is just as much of a winner as its predecessor.

Need more convincing? Here’s what other reviewers had to say.
The Winner’s Curse promised us political power shifts, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, spies, forbidden love, and boy, did it deliver. It is everything it promises to be with no disappointments coming from that area” {read the rest of the review at Effortlessly Reading HERE}.

“Overall, I definitely enjoyed The Winner’s Curse. Did the massive amount of hype leave me a tiny bit disappointed? Yes. But I have little to complain about other than that I want more: more romantic development, more politics and scheming, and more time with these characters” {read the rest of the review at Snuggly Oranges HERE}.

“This book captured my heart.  Not only was I drawn into the politics and world building, but watching Arin and Kestrel fall for each other no matter how hard they fought it was incredibly heartbreaking, yet satisfying!  It was brutal to see both of them tormented by such deep desire and loyalty” {read the rest of the review at Book Rock Betty HERE}.

Have a terrific Thursday!

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Style Snapshot / It’s in the Accessories

Hello again!

Thanks for sticking with me in my mini blogging break, friends! It was just what I needed, and I’m feeling prepped and ready to balance blogging, extracurriculars, and school work in the remaining months of the academic year.

Style SnapshotJust as I’ve used the past few days to catch up on homework, blog posts, and a large stack of library books, I’ve given some time and attention to my wardrobe too! I have bought a few new pieces {think printed sundresses and floral tops} to refresh my closet for the warmer months, but smaller items, like scarfs, bracelets, or bags, have been the most helpful in bridging my spring and summer outfits together. With that in mind, I’ve devoted this month’s Style Snapshot to accessories, wardrobe essentials anywhere and at anytime.

When it comes to accessories, I have only one loose rule to follow: the item must be versatile, like the chic leather sandals below, or fun, such as the adorable flip-flop coin purse. Furthermore, it’s important to look for quality, as it’s so easy to fall into buying cheap accessories for the thrill of a new purchase. Fortunately, all of the items below are from some of my favorite brands, and they will surely last you this summer, if not many more to follow! My top picks of the collection? I’m in love with the multi-colored rope bracelet from KJP, and the collaboration between Gray Malin and Sperry had me at first sight. Where do you like to buy accessories?

It's in the Accessories1 >> Splash Out Flip Flop Coin Purse in Geranium from Kate Spade

2 >> Nantucket Rainbow Fleet Bracelet from Kiel James Patrick

3 >> Embroidered Scarf in Snowdrop and Acid Orange from Boden

4 >> Primrose Sentiment Wrap Bracelet from Alex and Ani

5 >> Leather Sandals in Leopard from Boden

6 >> Skinny Headband in Neon Persimmon from J.Crew

7 >> Factory Printed Long Lightweight Scarf in Coral Multi from J.Crew Factory

8 >> Lisbon Umbrella 2-Eye Boat Shoe in Sand from Sperry

Have a terrific Wednesday!

Thanks to Angie Makes for the adorable camera clipart!

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April Hiatus

Hi friends!

April 2015 Blogging BreakI’ll be taking a short break from Ciao Bella posting so that I can catch up and recharge before the final push of the school year. I won’t be gone long – posting will resume next Wednesday, April 22nd – but until then, you can always say hello over at Lit Up Review, Twitter, or Goodreads. See you soon! :)

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Pros & Cons / Honey by Sarah Weeks

Hello!

Pros and ConsWhen I read Pie by Sarah Weeks several years ago, I was instantly captivated by the old-fashioned setting and delightful cast of the characters {the fact that it was yet another children’s book about baking didn’t hurt either :)}. Given how much I enjoyed it, you can imagine my excitement when I came across the companion novel, aptly named Honey, that was released earlier this year; I grabbed my own copy and blew through this short read in one sitting! Once again, Weeks brings animals antics, layered relationships, and charming simplicity, easily securing her a spot on my auto-read list. My full thoughts are below, if you need further convincing.

Here’s the book jacket summary, for your convenience: For a girl like Melody and a dog like Mo, life can be both sticky and sweet. Melody has lived in Royal, Indiana, for as long as she can remember. It’s been just her and her father, and she’s been okay with that. But then she overhears him calling someone Honey — and suddenly it feels like everyone in Royal has a secret. It’s up to Melody and her best friend, Nick, to piece together the clues and discover why Honey is being hidden. Meanwhile, a dog named Mo is new to Royal. He doesn’t remember much from when he was a puppy… but he keeps having dreams of a girl he is bound to meet someday. This girl, he’s sure, will change everything. {Goodreads}

Honey Pros and ConsAround the Web: “Short and sweet are the best words to describe this new middle grade novel from Sarah Weeks. Though there are some sad situations, it is largely a feel-good story filled with hope and gentle humor” {read the rest of the review at Story Time Secrets HERE}.

“This story was just as wonderful as Pie.  It is a delightful little novel with larger than life characters that spring off the page” {read the rest of the review at Read Wonder HERE}.

Let’s discuss! Have you checked out any of Sarah Weeks’ books? Do you love a good food or baking centered novel? Finally, what have you been reading as of late?

Have a fabulous Tuesday!
Bella

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