Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Abbreviations #21: February Minis

February is the shortest month of the year, and one of the dreariest weather-wise (at least where I live). Even though it's shorter than all the other months, and even though I officially dropped my Goodreads challenge number, and even though the Love-a-Thon kept me preoccupied, I still managed to get a lot of reading done! Here are my quick thoughts on some of my February reads.

The Radiant Road book cover
The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Source: ARC from the publisher (Thanks!)

It's difficult to explain exactly how I felt about The Radiant Road. I was quite a fan of the poetic style Catmull employed to evoke a sense of wonder and mystery when it came to describing the magical aspects of the tale. I couldn't help reading certain lines more than once before I could move on with the tale, which speaks volumes about how much Catmull's writing appealed to me. However, I wasn't such a huge fan of any of these characters, as I didn't feel any sort of connection whatsoever since I felt like we were only granted the barest surface glimpse at their true nature. Even worse, the pacing felt like it was all over the place. It would rush through moments throbbing with action, and then linger in moments of inaction; it just made me feel confused about how invested I was in the story. I did wind up finishing this one after a couple of days, and it did end on a pretty solid note. But I don't feel like this is a book I could recommend to all readers; it is, rather, a novel that will only appeal to those willing to "work" at their reads.

Hidden Huntress book cover
Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #2
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Source: Kindle book gifted by the publisher (Thanks!)

Normally, I’d start out by telling you a little bit about what Hidden Huntress is about. But since this is going to be in the same post as its predecessor, I really can’t for fear of spoiling future readers. Suffice it to say that this is obviously the continuation of Cecile’s story after what happens in the first book, and it’s a damn good sequel. Since I was more familiar with all the main players in this game of subterfuge and power, it was really easy to slip into this story and love it even more. I really like that readers get a chance to witness the characters we met previously in new circumstances. It forces them to act (and react) accordingly, and that definitely means further development for them. While I wasn’t necessarily a fan of all the decisions made (Cecile’s in particular), I did like seeing how they all played out (consequences or results, depending on what happened). Plus, there were a few moments that really managed to surprise me! And plus, any book that can make me yell about character safety is usually one I’m invested in. I thought it was a great sequel, and I’m definitely looking forward to the last one! (Spoiler Note: I knew the big twist beforehand, which I discovered totally by accident. However, it didn’t particularly stop me from enjoying myself.)

The Crimson Thread book cover
The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn
Series: Once Upon a Time #13
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June 17, 2008
Source: Bought the paperback

Here's a funny story for you, and one that will also be a dead giveaway about my feelings for The Crimson Thread. I got a third into this novel before I realized I'd actually read it years and years ago, when I was still living in the Philippines. Clearly, this novel didn't really leave much of an impression - and that's still true now. Before I talk about my feelings, let me tell you a little bit about this story! Bertie has just arrived in New York with her family, as they relocated from Ireland. They struggle to make ends meet, but their fortunes change when Bertie is given a position as a seamstress in the house of a textile tycoon. Her father tells a little white lie about her skills to impress her boss, and the only reason she's able to do so is because she has the aid of Ray Stalls, a mysterious gentleman skilled with a spinning wheel and needle. I'm sure you see where this is going, so no need to continue! Suffice to say that, for its intent in retelling a famous fairytale in a way geared towards a younger audience, it works out well. I thought it was uniquely done, and I liked being able to draw parallels between this and the original. But since I've read so many other fairytale retellings or fairytale-inspired since the first time I read it, I was sadly let down. It simply felt average to me, and not all that memorable, and I honestly will probably not remember reading it the more time that passes.

Once Was a Time book cover
Once Was a Time by Leila Sales
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source: ARC sent by the publisher (Thanks!)

Let's take a moment to simply admire how wonderful the illustration on the cover of Once Was a Time is. Okay, now that we have that over and done with, let's talk about this novel. This is the story of a girl named Charlotte (called Lotte), who has a father trying to crack the secret behind time travel for the British government and a very best friend in Katherine (called Kitty). The girls lead pretty ordinary lives, with active imaginations, only to find themselves in a situation where Lotte is forced to make a difficult choice - and time travels away without anyone. Once she realizes that she's alone, Lotte is determined to make the most of her situation and find her way back to her family and Kitty. Now, Once Was a Time is pretty cute, and I certainly think the target age group will find this one to be quite enjoyable! But as a reader who is a little older, I felt a little more critical. It certainly wasn't what I expected it to be, particularly when it came to the pacing, the setting and even Charlotte herself as a character. It is nice to find myself surprised when I'm reading, and that's definitely the case with this story. But overall, this story just wasn't what I had been hoping it would be, and that left me feeling a little disappointed. Still, I read it really quick and I actually like how it was resolved, so it does get some credit for that. All in all, even though it's definitely written for a younger audience, it still turned out to be pretty pleasant in the end.

The Girl You Left Behind cover
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Source: Bought the paperback

For a little while, I was actually concerned I wasn't going to like The Girl You Left Behind. But Jojo Moyes is an undeniably skilled writer, and there finally came a moment when I was fully invested in the outcome of this story. This is a dual timeline novel, both times connected by a particular portrait of a girl. One timeline is in 1917 France, following Sophie LeFevre, a young woman living in a small town during the German occupation and who does her best to protect her loved ones. The other is in 2006 London, following Olivia Halston, a young widow who fights for her legal right to retain a painting that has sentimental, powerful meaning to her. Both timelines follow women who have strong wills and determination; both show the woman in question being tested severely by her circumstances. But I honestly preferred the historical time period, really interested in Sophie and the outcome of her actions. I admired her gumption, and her determination to be with her husband again; I admired her bravery and her love. It was quite jarring for me to get thrown abruptly into 2006, and I resented Liv just the tiniest bit (even though that's obviously nonsensical). Eventually, I grew to care about Liv as well, and it made me happy that Moyes managed to wrap up both timelines really well. This was definitely yet another masterfully written novel from Moyes, though it isn't one I would necessarily call a favorite.

A Study in Charlotte book cover
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Series: Charlotte Holmes #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Source: ARC downloaded from Edelweiss (Thanks!)

I'm honestly still waffling a bit on how I would rate A Study in Charlotte, but I suppose the bottom line is that it was an enjoyable read. This novel is about Jamie Watson - sixteen year old boy, aspiring writer, great-great-grandson of the John Watson, and a new student at a Connecticut prep school. Not only is he now living an hour away from the father he's estranged from, but he's at the same school as Charlotte Holmes, great-great-granddaughter to the Sherlock Holmes and a girl he's imagined meeting for as long as he can remember. They're thrown together when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances straight out of a Holmes tale. As the prime suspects, these two have to team up and work together to investigate the murder and figure out who's trying to frame them. Honestly, the only reason I'm really unsure of how I would rate this overall is because of my initial difficulties connecting to the characters or adjusting to the pacing. But once the murder mystery really came into play, the style slowly started to come together for me - and I was hooked. I definitely felt like the main plot was compelling, as I really wanted to see how the mystery would be solved. (And I had no doubts that it would be!) But I also found the secondary plot, the relationship between Watson and Holmes, pretty fascinating as well because it was just so complicated. In any case, in spite of my rough start, I can say that I finished this one feeling quite satisfied. It's cleverly written, with nods to the original literary Sherlock, and I certainly think that was well done.

Because of Miss Bridgerton book cover
Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #1
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Source: ARC received at ALA Midwinter 2016 (Thanks!)

I cannot even tell you all how delightful it is to be reading a novel featuring the Bridgertons front and center once again. Yes, it's an entirely different generation, specifically the one prior to the family many of us have already fallen in love with, but the shenanigans are just as entertaining and the personalities are definitely just as lovable! Because of Miss Bridgerton is the love story between Billie Bridgerton (clever, unorthodox, hard-working) and George Rokesby (loyal, quiet, proper), and by golly, it was a romance that made me smile a whole lot. These two have known each other all their lives, but have the worst impressions of one another - until a chance encounter throws them together, and they realize there is more to the other than meets the eye. It's fairly predictable that the antagonism that formerly existed between these two will morph into love, but getting there involves a fair bit of banter, some level of misunderstanding, some meddling from family, a touch of pride and even a game of Pall Mall. It was just so fun to read! It's definitely on the lighter side of historical romance, but I didn't mind that at all. This novel was charming and funny and sweet, and I enjoyed it from start to finish. I can't wait for more stories about the Rokesbys and the Bridgertons!

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