Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Abbreviations #10: May Minis

Here's the May batch of mini-reviews! Starting this month, I'll be sharing brief thoughts on all the books that I've read in the past month that I haven't yet reviewed or don't plan to write a full review for.

Before I Go book cover
Before I Go by Colleen Oakley
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Source/Format: Borrowed from Hannah (Thanks!) || ARC

Before I Go is one of the most honest approaches to terminal illness I've ever read in fiction. Oakley paints a portrait of a woman that is completely heartbreaking, but also impossible to tear yourself away from. It showcases the complex emotional range that a person experiences when faced with the knowledge that they only get x amount of days left to live, everything from reveling in the present joys to the complete sorrow of knowing there's a time limit. Readers get to witness firsthand the thoughts and feelings that spiral around in Daisy's head; it's raw and it's real and it's guaranteed to shoot straight at the center of your heart each time. This honesty is easily this novel's best quality, followed closely by well-written characters and dynamic character relationships. Before I Go might be a quieter novel, but its emotional resonance and memorability are undeniable.

Nowhere But Home book cover
Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry
Series: Thunder Road #1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen 
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Source/Format: Borrowed from Rachel (Thanks!) || ARC

Nowhere But Here is the perfect series starter, introducing the reader to Emily, Oz and the world of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club & family. This is the story of a girl who finds her comfortable life suddenly in upheaval because of a visit + prolonged stay with relatives she never knew she had. This is the story of a boy who finds his straightforward path suddenly zigzagging as new possibilities crop up along the way. It is a story of lies and truths, friendships and romances. It is a story where people face their fears, uncover secrets, learn to love and recognize the importance of all sorts of family. If you've read a McGarry novel before, then the combination of the themes and dramatic circumstances, as well as telling her story through chapters that alternate between two main characters, is going to be familiar. But there are also new things - characters, relationships, histories, and setting. The combination of McGarry's signature storytelling and an entirely new world to explore? It totally worked for me. Definitely looking forward to book two!

Happiness for Beginners book cover
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Source/Format: Bought || Paperback (rec from Estelle & Hannah)

Happiness for Beginners tell the story of Helen, a divorced woman who signs up to participate in extreme wilderness survival course in the hopes it will change her life. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? And while in many ways, this novel is exactly what it professes to be, it is also more. It is about how beautiful the world is, if only we really take the time to look. It is about discovering the joy in life every single day. It is about how shifting your perspective can change how you see others and yourself. It is about staying strong in the face of adversity, and how you can be so much braver and stronger than you think you are. It is about opening yourself up to friendships. It is about being vulnerable and selfless enough to love someone. Helen's journey - both as a person and in the actual wilderness - was captivating in its honesty. Her emotions are what made her experiences so accessible, and as a reader, it helped me get truly invested in her story. Add to that some amazing secondary characters (Jake! Beckett! Grandma GiGi! Duncan! Windy!) and some witty quips and thoughtful statements too! Happiness for Beginners is diverting and thoughtfully written, and it's a story that's well worth a read.

Saint Anything book cover
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks!) || ARC
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the contents of my review.]

It's always the familiarity of her writing style that first hits me when I start a new Sarah Dessen novel. Saint Anything was a welcome return to her work, complete with familiar elements, with just the slightest differences setting it apart from her previous releases. It took the story a little time to gain its footing, but there came a point where Sydney's story had me completely sucked in. I really think Dessen has a special talent for capturing truthful teen emotions in every single story, and in many ways, I could easily relate to Sydney's own feelings. While I think Saint Anything is one of her best stories yet, there were two things in particular that I felt could have been addressed better, and even perhaps given more page time (and I can't quite mention them since they could potentially be considered spoilers). Still, I can definitely say that I enjoyed this novel, particularly because I liked Sydney, Mac and Layla. (I also really love that you discover the connection between the cover art + book title with the story as you read.) I'd definitely recommend reading this one, both for veteran Dessen readers and newbies to her stuff.

Moonlight on Nightingale Way book cover
Moonlight on Nightingale Way by Samantha Young
Series: On Dublin Street #6
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Source/Format: NetGalley (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the contents of my review.]

Moonlight on Nightingale Way did not have the best first impression, as the first couple of chapters felt too contrived for me. It was niggling at me so much that I very nearly set it down... but I didn't, and I'm glad about that. Logan and Grace wound up having such a charming romance, in spite of all the complications and angst that surrounded them. Apart from enjoying Logan and Grace's relationship, I liked meeting the other characters too! In fact, it's made me so curious about the other couples that I might have to read the previous books in this series just to "meet" them again. Though it's not an earth-shattering tale, Moonlight on Nightingale Way does have its own charms (in the form of well-written relationships, romantic, familial and friendly) to make this story worth a read.

5 to 1 book cover
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source/Format: NetGalley (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

5 to 1 is certainly a welcome addition to the dystopian genre. Using elements of Indian culture in little details, the novel is a quiet, thoughtful commentary on society, choice and freedom. Bodger uses two points of view to tell this tale - that of Sudasa, a girl destined to marry and breed more girls, and Kiran, a boy who must take part in the Tests in order to win her hand. In spite of being unable to fully form an emotional connection to either character, they come alive just enough to make the reader curious about what will happen by the end of the book. Does Sudasa make the right choice? Does Kiran get what he wants? Alternating between Kiran's full prose chapters and Sudasa's sparser verses, 5 to 1 is a quick, smart read.

Because You'll Never Meet Me book cover
Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks!) || ARC
[I received this from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

I had my doubts about Because You'll Never Meet Me, but after Lili made an excellent case for it, I wanted to give it a shot. And I'm really glad I did! I have a soft spot for novels written epistolary style, so that was already in its favor. In fact, it reminded me a little of P.S. Longer Letter Later, which I read over and over when I was younger. But this story has got its own unique charms, and the twists to their story are definitely for an older reader. Ollie and Moritz are both fascinating as individuals, and it's interesting to learn more about them and their budding friendship through the letters! In order to really get into this one, you'll have to suspend your disbelief just a bit and just go with it. It's an unusual tale, filled with the unexpected and exaggerated, but all of that just makes it more interesting for the reader. If you're interested in the premise, definitely give this one a shot.

The Wrath and the Dawn book cover
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source/Format: Bought || Hardcover

The Wrath and the Dawn has been getting a lot of hype. There's word of a ship-worthy romance, excellent secondary characters, elegant details and beautiful writing. And while all of that does have a note of truth, it didn't quite live up to all the expectations I had going in. I enjoyed it as I was reading it, particularly the last fourth of the tale; but overall, looking back at it, I was a little underwhelmed. It probably didn't help that I didn't find any way to connect with any character; if I'd been able to cultivate an emotional tie to Shazi, or even Khalid, it might have left a more favorable impression overall. Still, I'm curious to see where Ahdieh is taking her story (particularly as it's very different from A Thousand and One Nights, and has pretty much expanded on a very basic premise), and will likely give the second one a shot.

Aimee and the Heartthrob book cover
Aimee and the Heartthrob by Ophelia London
Series: Backstage Pass #1
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

If you've ever read or written fan fiction, particularly about your favorite boy bands, then Aimee and the Heartthrob is a novel you need to check out. It seriously brought all the memories back for me (and I actually wound up reading one of my fan fics when I finished). The writing isn't the greatest, and the plot is fairly predictable and filled with the dramatic circumstances you'd expect. But it's just so fun! Even though each one was a little over the top, there were happy moments and swoony moments sprinkled all throughout. I definitely enjoyed the way it brought me back to the days of my tween/teen fantasies, and think it's a fun read!

7 comments:

  1. Katherine @ Neon Yeti ReadsJune 3, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    So many books I'm looking forward to in this edition! Saint Anything is at the top of my TBR pile because it's Sarah Dessen, although I have heard some mixed reviews. I'm a little bit wary of Nowhere But Here because with each of the books in the Pushing the Limit series, I liked them less and less. I'm hoping Nowhere is better though. I just recently heard about 5 to 1, but the Indian culture sounds really cool, and I'm always up for a great contemporary like Aimee! It sounds like you had a busy reading month, but lots of good books!

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  2. Danielle @ Love at First PageJune 3, 2015 at 2:40 PM

    Great reviews, girlfriend! I liked Nowhere But Here too - the motorcycle setting is one I'm still getting used to, but it was smart of Katie to introduce that world to us through Emily's eyes, who is also an outsider.
    Saint Anything and The Wrath and the Dawn are on my TBR, and Happiness for Beginners Sounds Lovely. :)

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  3. See! I hate when books get over-hyped. Has me worried when I finally do get around to Wrath. I liked Nowhere But Here, but didn't love it like I was hoping. However, I LOVED 5 to 1 and I need more! Can't wait to read Moonlight, sucks you didn't like the beginning, but glad you stuck with it.

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  4. Oh, I'm glad you like it! And I'm glad you're enjoying The Wrath and the Dawn. It didn't wind up being as great as I'd hoped, but I do find myself a bit curious about how it continues.

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  5. You should wait until the hype for Wrath dies down in your brain! And I think it's because my expectations were a bit low that I wound up loving Nowhere But Here so much.

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  6. Yes! I liked the new setting and characters in Nowhere But Here. And I hope you enjoy Saint Anything and give Happiness for Beginners a shot! Both are really good.

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  7. Saint Anything is one of my top three Sarah Dessen reads, if that helps you decide to read it sooner. And Nowhere But Here is refreshing and great and has the same magic of Pushing the Limits to me!

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Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

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