Saturday, January 16, 2016

Abbreviations #19: December Minis

I can't believe it's been a year since I first made these mini-review posts an official part of my blogging calendar. I'm not going to lie - it's been great! I love that it opens up extra room for fun content, and that I get to remember all the books I've read in this small way. Check out all the reads from December that I haven't yet reviewed.

Thicker Than Water book cover
Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: December 29, 2015
Source: ARC from the publisher (Thanks!)

When I initially finished reading Thicker Than Novel, I couldn't figure out how to rate it, or even how to talk about it. I was carried along by Brigid's writing and the momentum of her whodunnit plot for the first two thirds. Sadly, the last third just fell flat for me. I appreciate that she was trying to do something a bit different from her other series (which I really liked, by the way, so you should check those books out!), but it just did not work. The more I think about this story, the less I like it. The characters all felt underdeveloped, and I wasn't a big fan of Charlotte (who I thought was way too naive) or Thomas (who was just plain puzzling). The mystery itself was all too easy to piece together, and the twist (which I also guessed) was just plain odd. Though this premise had potential, though the story could have been tense and exciting, it just didn't work for me.

A New Hope book cover
A New Hope: The Princess, The Scoundrel and The Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Star Wars Illustrated Novels #1
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Source: Purchased in hardcover

I fell in love with the Star Wars franchise all over again after re-watching the films this year, and it's a love that's deeper than it has ever been before. So when I learned that one of my favorite authors (and human beings) Alex Bracken was going to be penning a middle grade retelling of A New Hope, I was really excited about it. And I really enjoyed it, for what it was! It really is the entirety of the first Star Wars film ever told in novel form, so the plot is nothing new. But what made this one special for me is how Alex goes a little more in depth when it comes to these characters. I'm a huge Han Solo/Leia Organa fan, so getting to spend more time with both characters, and to feel like they really came alive was wonderful. I'd highly recommend this one, particularly for younger kids new to the Star Wars franchise. It's a great introduction!

A Mad, Wicked Folly book cover
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 23, 2014
Source: Won a hardcover from Debby

I can't believe I waited so long to read A Mad, Wicked Folly! It's certainly well-written, as Waller successfully combines Vicky's desire for the freedom to pursue a career in art, Victorian sensibilities, Edwardian developments and the suffragette movement into one cohesive story. It never felt too contrived, but the suffragette movement and Vicky's own journey often became mirrors of one another in terms of emotions, and I really liked that! The details of that time period, the suffragette movement and the art & literature were so very interesting. And Vicky was a delight, even when she was running headlong into trouble or doing something frustrating. I really like that her journey, while specific to this era, is also one that many of us can relate to: the desire to make our own way, to do what feels right for us. (I also really like Will. I would totally have developed a crush on him too!)

The Shadows book cover
The Shadows by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #13
Previous Books in the Series: Dark Lover, Lover Eternal, Lover Awakened, Lover Revealed, Lover Unbound, Lover Enshrined, Lover Avenged, Lover Mine, Lover Unleashed, Lover Reborn, Lover At Last, The King
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Source: Purchased as Kindle e-book

This is going to sound strange, but when I think of The Shadows, I immediately start thinking about how the basic premise of the story reminds me of a Nicholas Sparks novel. There are sacrifices that need to be made, circumstances that are beyond anyone's control, and romance that burns bright in its brevity. That being said, it was obviously not a Nicholas Sparks novel, as the many supernatural elements that creep into the tale will remind the reader. I really liked being back in Caldwell, among the members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. It really does feel like being around family, and I settled in comfortably to join them for the next bit of their story. While I wasn't too keen on the pacing, or even on the actual plot, I just loved being back among my friends, and seeing what is happening in all their lives. And because I'm so invested in these guys, it stands to reason that I would find myself feeling things keenly as I continued to read. It was a good addition to the series, allowing readers to reunite with familiar faces and to learn more about the Shadows, Trez and iAm, especially. I really am glad I was able to read this one before the end of the year, and I'm already looking forward to the next one!

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor book cover
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #1
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: October 26, 2010
Source: Purchased in paperback

I honestly wish that Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor were longer, because it would have meant more time with these characters and in this setting. While I really did like it, I felt like the character development and plot pacing suffered from the novel's length. It's a shame, as I feel like I would have felt even more positively about it if I had been given more time to get to know Mark, Maggie & Holly! Still, there's something magical about this tale. I love that it portrayed the significance of found families, of embracing the magic all around us, of dealing with the unexpected hand that life might deal us. It was so heartwarming, and a lovely little diversion that made me feel all warm and fuzzy once I finished reading it. (P.S. Christmas is barely mentioned in this one.)

Lost Lake book cover
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Series: Lost Lake #1
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 21, 2014
Source: Owned in hardcover

Lost Lake is the second charming contemporary novel I'm talking about today! This story was my first experience with Sarah Addison Allen's writing, and I really don't think it's going to be my last. It did take me a little while to really warm up to her style of storytelling. But it did click for me eventually, and I wound up incredibly interested in these characters, Devin & Eby in particular. But what I really liked best of all was the nonchalant way Allen weaves magic into her story. It's so well done, and so organic, and I never really felt startled by its presence! The magical elements, the complex characters and the intricate plot all came together, providing me with an ending that left me feeling really satisfied. I'm curious to check out Allen's other novels, though I really feel like I have to be in the right mood.

Station Eleven book cover
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source: Purchased as Kindle e-book

I'm seriously impressed by how compelling Station Eleven is. It definitely lies on the quiet side of the adult fiction spectrum, since the story is primarily driven by the characters and their complicated personalities. But once I picked it up and read the opening chapter where Arthur Leander dies of a heart attack, I was immediately hooked. Mandel carefully unravels her story, revealing different character perspectives at different points in time (prior, during or after the Georgia Flu epidemic). It's a beautifully crafted puzzle, where the reader is challenged to put together the pieces of these lives into one coherent whole to make sense of all the connections. It's also an emotionally devastating novel, as the consequences of the deadly epidemic are terrifying in how real they feel. I can certainly see why so many people recommended this one, as it's powerful, smart and really well-written. If you like character-driven tales, this adult novel might be one you'd enjoy. (P.S. Just a warning - I found myself quite anxious reading parts of this story, so if you're the kind that worries over the possibility of epidemics, or the future, you might want to tread carefully.)

Loud is How I Love You book cover
Loud is How I Love You by Mercy Brown
Series: Hub City #1
Publisher: InterMix
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Source: ARC downloaded from NetGalley (Thanks!)

I've started reading more new adult novels in the last two years. I'm generally picky about which ones I read, but I took a chance on Loud is How I Love You. Happily, it paid off! I didn't expect to get completely sucked into this romance between Emmylou, the prickly-slash-vulnerable-slash-complicated mess of a guitarist/lead singer for Stars on the Floor (I love this band name!), and her band's guitarist Travis. To be honest, I wasn't particularly fond of how Emmy handled her feelings (and wanted to talk some sense into her more than once), especially when she and Travis found themselves in this never-ending cycle of will-they-won't-they-why-can't-they. But because I loved reading about the band and the scene they were a part of, and because the way sparks flew between these two was crazy, I couldn't put it down. I was pretty impressed by Brown's debut, and will most likely be picking up the next book (especially after the preview that I got to read!).

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