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DollbabyFrom Goodreads: A big-hearted coming-of-age debut set in civil rights-era New Orleans—a novel of Southern eccentricity and secrets
 
When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throws in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been—and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum—is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets.
 
For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Uptown mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places.
 
For fans of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The Help, Dollbaby brings to life the charm and unrest of 1960s New Orleans through the eyes of a young girl learning to understand race for the first time.
 
By turns uplifting and funny, poignant and full of verve, Dollbaby is a novel readers will take to their hearts.

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I don’t really know where to start with this one. It’s a very well written novel, but I struggled to see where it was going, what it was focusing on. With a title like Dollbaby, I expected the novel to infact be about the character Dollbaby, but it’s not. Instead, the novel centers around Ibby, a young white girl thrust into a life in New Orleans with her eccentric grandmother, Fannie. As Ibby attempts to navigate life and her feelings of abandonment, she comes to rely on the help, both Queenie and Dollbaby, to understand her grandmother’s past and to begin to live for her future, but the novel didn’t seem, at least to me, to have a precise direction.

It’s the 1960s, and the civil rights movement is in full swing, but the novel isn’t really about that, and it’s not really about Fannie, or Ibby’s coming of age, even. Truthfully, I had a hard time pinpointing the purpose of the novel as I read. It moves slowly along, like I’d expect life in the South to move, and while vivid and, as I said, very well written, I just couldn’t get over the fact that the novel is called Dollbaby, and Dollbaby is indeed a secondary character who doesn’t drive the plot. She is occasionally thrown in as attending a demonstration or consoling Ibby, but that’s about it. In truth, I found that not much drives the plot line of this story—I guess it’s more of a coming of age story of sorts in which readers learn about Ibby as she grows up in New Orleans, putting together the pieces of her family and edging into the sad and dark secrets kept by those around her. But, I wouldn’t even say the novel is about those secrets, either. I just felt like this was a historical fiction story with snippets of happenings here and there thrown in. I never grew attached to any of the characters, and while parts were interesting in their own right, I have to say the novel on the whole just isn’t my style.
While the end brought everything together in terms of the title, characters, and even a few events, something I’d been looking for the entire time I read, it was too late in the storyline to really hit home with me. Had the novel moved faster and tied together events in a way that made sense to me, I think I would have enjoyed it more. As is, it’s just too slow a pace for my tastes. I think someone who really enjoys historical fiction might like this novel, perhaps. Two and a half stars, for me, though.

2.5 stars

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.  This title releases today.

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Hollow CityFrom Goodreads: The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London the peculiar capital of the world. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. Like its predecessor, this second novel in the Peculiar Children series blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reacting experience.

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I was a little bit disappointed in Riggs’ latest novel, Hollow City. Not only did it take three years to write, much too long to keep my vigil going without a new gem to devour, but it also was a bit bland. While there are events happening, there wasn’t enough to really keep me preoccupied or glued to the pages, and I found myself repeatedly having to stop and look up characters to remember who they all were. As the novel picks up right where the first ended, this would be a great read for someone who hasn’t yet read the first book if they were planning to read them back to back. I really enjoyed Miss Peregrines…, but for me, this middle novel fell short. I am really hoping it doesn’t take another three years for Riggs with write book three, because Hollow City ends on a cliffhanger, just like it’s predecessor, and I would like to know what happens next, but I think another huge long wait will sink the novel for me before it’s even out, which is a shame. I liked this second novel enough to finish it, but it just didn’t have the flare or novelty effect that the first one did, and I can’t figure out why. If you’re like me and a huge wait time for cliffhanger novels just isn’t in the cards, then I suggest picking up this entire series when it’s complete, because book one is great and definitely worth the read, and I’m hoping book three is just as good—perhaps Hollow City met with that dreaded middle book syndrome that happens sometimes. Three stars.

3 stars

I purchased this novel from Amazon.

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We Were LiarsFrom Goodreads:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

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While the premise behind this novel is indeed very good, I personally found it a bit slow. The main character, Cady, jumps between flashbacks and the present, which is usually one of my favorite types of writing styles, but this time, it fell a bit flat for me. I really just felt like this was a story about some cousins who visit an island every summer, only to watch their parents fight with one another over money and other superficial things. The story itself didn’t really move, and while the kids are friendly and they have a few fun excursions, I must have completely missed the segment that explained how, exactly, they were known as the liars—they didn’t seem to do anything, let alone talk to one another.

Gat is a friend of the family and soon becomes Cady’s crush, but there is no development there aside from her pining for a boy she can’t have, so the romance aspect was a little bit of a bust for me as well. Truthfully, I could have done without it, since it didn’t go anywhere, and much of the grumbling on Cady’s behalf became monotonous fairly quickly for me. In terms of characterization, Cady isn’t a character I like, and though not much time was spent on the other characters, I didn’t really care for them either. Because of this, I think I struggled a little more than usual trying to connect with the character, and hence, I wasn’t a fan of the story overall.

The last few pages of the novel reveal a surprise I didn’t see coming, and I liked it very much, but by that point the novel was basically over, so it was a short-lived revelation for me. I think, had the novel had a little more action and characters that meant something to me, I would have enjoyed this story so much more, but as it is, it just isn’t for me. However, a lot of my friends absolutely loved this novel, so I highly suggest you check out other reviews and give it a try because I may be the odd man out on this one. As is, though, I can only give it two and a half stars.

2.5 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Random House Children’s and Delacorte Press have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley.

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