Saturday, December 12, 2015

Abbreviations #18: November Minis

After eleven months of this feature, I'm sure you guys know the drill by now! Today's post includes a collection of mini-reviews, featuring all the novels/novellas/graphic novels that I've read in the last month that I haven't reviewed yet or don't plan to write a separate post for. You'd think that with all the work I've had to do for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I wouldn't be able to squeeze in any reading, but that was not the case. At all. You'll see.

Steering the Stars book cover
Steering the Stars by Autumn Doughton + Erica Cope
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: March 7, 2015
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

I love reading about friendships. Make that friendship a long-distance relationship conducted primarily via email and IM, and you'll get my full attention. I purchased Steering the Stars promptly after reading Rachel's review, and happily, it wound up being a good read. The authors portray the friendship between Hannah and Caroline in a realistic way, with a special emphasis on their love for each other and shared history. They do go through their fair share of ups and downs, including the loneliness of being apart and a misunderstanding because of their limited avenues of communication. It is not only a portrayal of friendship; Steering the Stars shows how friendships can grow and change as our circumstances do. I wish that there had been a touch more family development and a bit more romance (especially for Caroline!), but overall, I really liked it.

Bunheads book cover
Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Publisher: Poppy
Publication Date: October 10, 2011
Source/Format: Owned || Kindle e-book

I remember nothing about Bunheads when I started it, save for the fact that it was about the world of ballet. As a former ballet dancer (and one who seriously considered whether or not to pursue a life of dance), I'm always drawn to stories about ballet. Admittedly, this novel and I didn't start off on the right foot. I wasn't particularly keen on any of the characters or their relationships, nor did I expect how quiet a story this was going to be. But Sophie Flack imbued the performance scenes and the dance rehearsals with such magical descriptions, and I found myself falling in love with her depiction of ballet and the life of a dancer. She captured it perfectly - the severity of the focus and discipline, the competition for limited promotions, the beauty and awe and love that goes into every movement, the choice between whether or not this is something you want to dedicate your life too. As main character Hannah discovers, ballet is a commitment. It requires you to give it your all, and that is a sacrifice you're either willing to make or not. Bunheads allows Hannah's tale to unfold organically, wonderfully, beautifully, the story of one girl's personal growth surrounded by the glamour and magic of the world of ballet. If it isn't obvious, I certainly enjoyed Bunheads!

Now and Again book cover
Now and Again by Jennifer Ellision
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: October 26, 2015
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

If you're in the market for a contemporary new adult novel that reads like a romantic comedy, you should definitely give Now and Again a shot! It is so, so, so cute that, even though the plot is fairly predictable, it is well worth reading. I enjoyed the writing style, the way that flashbacks are interspersed with a present day timeline. I really liked the characters. Em with her high walls and fear of letting go. Cole with his irresistible charm and his sense of humor. And I really just loved seeing their relationship develop, from when they first became friends all the way until they figure out these brewing feelings between them. It was definitely just the type of read I was looking for when I read it, and I really think a lot of readers will enjoy it too!

The Pact book cover
The Pact by Karina Halle
Series: McGregor Brothers #1
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: December 27, 2014
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Here's a second recommendation this month for a novel that reads like a romantic comedy. The Pact will appeal to rom-com fans, and those of you who enjoy stories where friendship eventually turns into romance. Again, especially for a reader like me who indulges in similar stories in all sorts of mediums and has done so for years, the plot is fairly predictable. There are also secondary characters that I really, really, really did not like at all. Even so, it's still a fun read, mostly because the two main characters are great. I liked Linden, silly, sweet, good-intentioned, easygoing Linden, who charmed me the instant I met him. I liked Steph, strong, stubborn, independent, thoughtful Steph, who sounds like she could be someone I'd get along with just fine. These two have a most excellent friendship, filled with banter and fun, even as they are incredibly supportive of one another. It's really no wonder that these two develop feelings for one another! I thought this book was incredibly diverting, and it was just fun to see the story play out.

The Sum of All Kisses book cover
The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn
Series: Smythe-Smith Quartet #3
Previous Books: Just Like Heaven + A Night Like This
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Source/Format: Bought || Paperback

I was craving a historical romance read during the long weekend after Thanksgiving, and so, I turned to a staple author of mine, Julia Quinn. She didn't let me down. The Sum of All Kisses was an utter delight to read, particularly because it's such a fun example of the hate-to-love kind of romance. Hugh Prentice and Sarah Pleinsworth don't really like each other at the start, so to watch their feelings transform from animosity to admiration to friendship to romance is really great. I didn't particularly find myself invested in either as an individual, but I did like their banter and swoony bits as a couple a whole lot! As generally is the trend with Julia's novels, there's a touch of drama thrown in to stir things up. While it does seem a bit over the top, I just ran with it, since I was really enjoying the relationship between Hugh and Sarah by the time it actually hit. This is definitely on the lighter side of historical romances, and the perfect diversion for a few hours of free time.

Ten Things I Love About You book cover
Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn
Series: Bevelstoke #3
Previous Books: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever + What Happens in London
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: May 25, 2010
Source/Format: Bought || Paperback

What did I do after I finished reading my previous Julia Quinn book? I proceeded to read another! I picked up Ten Things I Love About You because I wanted more of Quinn's storytelling style. And that's exactly what I got. Again, this story is on the lighter side of historical romance, though there is definitely drama (including an arsehole man who takes too many liberties). The circumstances of this tale are rather typical, and it does play out in a predictable way, if you've read your fair share of romance novels. But I enjoyed getting to know Annabel and Sebastian, but even more than that, I liked reading their witty conversations at each one of their encounters. These two are both intelligent individuals, and I love that they challenge and amuse each other in equal  measure. There's humor and heart sprinkled in amidst the drama here, and I lapped it right up since I was in precisely the right mood for this sort of thing. While it certainly isn't my favorite Quinn novel, I did find it enjoyable overall.

The Chocolate Rose book cover
The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand
Series: Amour et Chocolat #3
Previous Books: The Chocolate Thief + The Chocolate Kiss
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Every time I read one of the books in this series, I always wind up craving incredibly delicious sounding sweets and a trip to Europe in the mix. The Chocolate Rose is certainly no exception. I really enjoyed both of the main characters. Jolie, determined to keep herself free from heartbreak, stubborn enough to want to make a name for herself as a food writer, loyal to her father in spite of the way she grew up. Gabriel, a man passionate about his cooking, a hard-working chef who fights for the stars awarded to his kitchen, a romantic at heart who just wants to be loved completely. They were simply quite fun to read about, separately and together. I fell hard for their banter, and eventually began swooning over their strong physical attraction and their emotional connection. It's a simple enough story, but it made me smile by the time I hit the end. This is another story I'd recommend for rom-com lovers, as it's right up your alley!

The Perils of Pleasure book cover
The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long
Series: Pennyroyal Green #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 13, 2009
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

I really do love it when I find myself surprised by a historical romance!  The Perils of Pleasure is a book I read simply because it was the first in a series that I had started somewhere in the middle, and I wanted to start from the beginning and read what I'd missed. Little did I know I'd be for one of the most entertaining reading experiences I've had with a historical romance! Right off the bat, I just knew I was going to like this story... and I was right. There's something utterly charming about having two strangers develop a friendship (and something more) after being thrown together by circumstance, and Long really writes that plot well. I adored Madeleine Greenway, headstrong, independent, smart, a woman who could hold her own. And I couldn't resist Colin Eversea, charming, polite, gentleman through and through with just the perfect hint of mischief. Together, they make a formidable team as they try to learn who framed Colin for murder, who set up his rescue (not a spoiler, as it happens right away!) and who tried to kill Madeleine (also not a spoiler, as that's mentioned in the summary). It's one heck of a fun read, and I definitely think it's one I'd return to and recommend to other historical romance lovers! (Just wanted to warn others that the formatting was a bit odd in my Kindle edition, though it may be because I did read it on my phone.)

Like No Other Lover book cover
Like No Other Lover by Julie Anne Long
Series: Pennyroyal Green #2
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 16, 2008
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

I've been reading a lot of romances this month, and I've yet to grow sick of them. It basically means that all of my choices have been on the good side of the spectrum thus far, and Like No Other Lover is no exception. I found it quite delightful, particularly because, again, the two main characters experience the entire spectrum of dislike, attraction, friendship and romantic regard! While initially, I didn't particularly care for Miles Redmond or Cynthia Brightly, their personalities grew on me and I eventually rooted for them to be together, all circumstances be damned. All in all, it's a very engaging tale, and had my attention from start to end. Plus, I love the fact that there's one particular scene that had me laughing my head off for a couple of minutes! It's definitely another hit in the Pennyroyal Green series, and I'm eager for more.

All the Truth That's in Me book cover
All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 26, 2013
Source/Format: Bought || Hardcover

I'm very impressed by All the Truth That's In Me. It's not an easy story to read, and I'm sure it wasn't an easy story to tell either. But Julie Berry manages to make it seem effortless, capturing what happens to Judith with words that evoke a setting, an experience, an emotion.  The story itself is expertly woven, using sparse, well-chosen prose in the telling. And Judith, in spite of being unable to actually speak, has such a distinctive voice. It's one of the aspects of this tale that I loved best, since I felt like I really got a sense of who she was. I cared about Judith, and that made this reading experience all the stronger. I felt so immersed in Judith's world: the people she interacts with, the feelings she has, the memories that threaten to undo her. It was one of the most captivating reads I've encountered this year, not to mention how terrifying and sad and creepy it got. I'm certainly glad I finally took the time to read this one. It's powerful, it's unique and it's well worth a read.

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