Monday, September 16, 2013

BELLE EPOQUE by Elizabeth Ross

A novel of beauty and betrayal

Belle Epoque hooked me right away with an amazing concept: the beauty foil.  Basically, rich people hire unattractive people to make them seem more attractive.  Genius!  The premise is something I'd never heard before, realistic b/c it plays on society's vanity and the need to be beautiful.

Maude, our heroine, has no idea that her job interview is actually for a repoussoir (from the French verb "repousser," meaning to repulse).  Even though she needs the job to survive, her pride and self-worth are shaken.  Is she really like these other girls?  Can she bare listening to people point out her flaws and thinking her outer appearance is the only thing that matters?  Can she remain in the shadows and let her companion shine brighter?

Here's the summary that convinced me I had to read:
When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect foil.

But Isabelle has no idea her new "friend" is the hired help, and Maude's very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.

I loved that Maude was strong enough to escape Brittany and the fate her father had planned for her.  I loved that she was brave enough to set out on her own, move to Paris with an uncertain future and do whatever it took to survive.  And I also loved when she finally realized that Isabelle--who becomes her true friend throughout the book--is just like her.

Despite their social standings, Isabelle and Maude are both struggling for independence.  Isabelle was one of my most favorite characters in the book.  She was strong-willed, stubborn, and intelligent.  I loved that she had lofty ambitions, and I loved that she helped Maude find her passion for photography.  Both girls had actual interests beyond the "love interest."  And I think that was a beautiful thing to see J.
And the summary doesn't even mention some of my favorite characters: Marie-Josee, an accomplished repoussoir who instantly befriends Maude and helps her through her trials at the agency.  Paul Villette, the bohemian musician, who sees Maude's beauty even when she can't see it herself.  Although Maude makes a few mistakes that had me wanting to smack her upside the head, she really redeems herself in the end.  I enjoyed this historical YA and the compelling story of the repoussoirs.

Happy reading,

Ninja Girl

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Hi there! Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  So yeah, there's this lady named Megan McCafferty that wrote what is probably one of the best YA contemporary series EVER, and I didn't know about it until a good friend let me read her copy of Sloppy Firsts.  The end result...

List of books:  Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
                         Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty
                         Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty
                         Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty
                         Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

I had to get them all.  Jessica Darling's voice is undeniably appealing--in a snarky, smarta** kind of way that only teens in YA can get away with :).  But seriously, how have I lived so long without this series????  Hope you got some great books this week as well!

Ninja Girl

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Hey there, "Waiting on Wednesday" is a meme hosted over at Breaking the Spine, featuring those books that you wish were out. Right. This. Second.

Won't be out until 2014.  This one sounds crazy good!

Goodreads summary:

Bones meets Fringe in a big, dark, scary, brilliantly-plotted urban thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end.

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon—she'll be next.

It reminds me of Brenna Yovanoff's Paper Valentine--which I loved!  Can't wait till this one comes out.

Have a great week,

Ninja Girl

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

DUALED by Elsie Chapman

I've been putting off writing this review.  *sigh*  Dualed was one of those books I was sure I'd love based on the concept.  I was completely taken in; it sounded like another great sci-fi/dystopian to add to my bookshelf.  Alternate versions of people?  A society where one must die and only one can live?  Sounded awesome!  It's also a part of my DAC Challenge, hence the review.

But I have to say: This book just wasn't for me L.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get into the story.  One of the characters I really liked died within the first few pages, and the way it happened left a bad taste in my mouth.  I hadn't grown attached to anyone, not even West, the MC, and all of a sudden BAM!  Brutal death scene--which I'm sure was meant to show how awful the society and its ways are--but I felt like that character could've been the heart of the book.  For me, this death didn't serve its purpose.

Then there's the readability factor.  In this type of book (in any book really), I like the story to be fast-paced with a good flow.  But I found myself having to go back and read passages again, more than a few times.  It could've been the sentence structure, or I could've just been having an off day.  It happens.  But when I had to stop and re-read, it really messed up the flow for me.

As far as the main characters go, West and Chord were okay.  Their romance was one of the things I liked best about the book.  I liked how Chord cared so much about West and tried to help her even when she refused his help.  I also liked Baer--a hardened, straight-talking teacher who gets very little page-time, but who I'm sure will play a role in future books.

My other main problem was with West.  Once she got her assignment (a virtual map to her alt's location), she didn't immediately seek her out.  This would've been fine.  I'm one of those people who believes that heroes don't kill people unless they're cornered and absolutely forced to do so.  And even then, they don't usually kill people.  So what happened next baffled me.  West was unwilling to kill her alt, like I said, but she goes out and becomes a striker???  Strikers kill their clients' alts for money.  So, basically, West becomes an assassin and yes, she does kill people.  Several people.  She does this with no remorse, and doesn't look at them as human beings but as a job--even though she's unwilling to kill her own alt and secure her survival.  I didn't get it.  And if it was about not being able to face yourself or kill your other self, I didn't buy it.

I had such high expectations, and this one fell flat for me.  Good attempt, just not for me.  Dualed was book 1 in a series, and I'm sorry to say I won't be getting book 2.

Happy reading,

Ninja Girl

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Hi there! Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  I got a new book this week :).  Just one...but it's a great one!

List of books: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
This is the sequel to Throne of Glass, and I'm so, so, SO excited to read!!  Can't wait to see how everyone else made out this week.
Ninja Girl