October 11, 2016

Abbreviations #28 | September Minis

Another month, another post filled with quick thoughts on books I've read in the month before! Check out all the books I read in September that I haven't reviewed yet on the blog, and hopefully, you find something that strikes your fancy. It's a mixed bag in here, but hey, variety is the spice of life, right? What did you read last month that you loved?

The Fate of the Tearling book cover
The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #3
Previous Books in the Series: The Queen of the Tearling, The Invasion of the Tearling
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: November 29, 2016
Source: ARC downloaded from Edelweiss (Thanks!)

I absolutely adored the first two books in this series (even more so after my rereads), so I went into The Fate of the Tearling feeling both excited and nervous to see just how Johansen had written this conclusion. Overall, I found it to be a strong way to end the series. This story has always been one of the rare few where I could not see what lay ahead for the characters, and so I had to allow the author to lead me through – and that was definitely the best way to describe my reading experience. Johansen incorporates a wealth of detail into her setting and her plot, as well as still keeping the characters I love dearly completely consistent. Even though there is much to commend about how Johansen ties things together and finishes them off, I also felt slightly perturbed by a few bits (really, it’s mostly the last part of the book) – though it didn’t end up affecting my overall opinion of the series. It is easy to say that this is my least favorite of the series. But since I did still enjoy it, that’s basically me saying that this series is certainly worth a read. (In particular, it’s best binge read. That way you don’t get overwhelmed by the plot details!)

Be Good Be Real Be Crazy book cover
Be Good Be Real Be Crazy by Chelsey Philpot
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Source: ARC downloaded from Edelweiss (Thanks!)

I had been pleasantly surprised by Chelsey’s debut novel, so I was expecting to like Be Good Be Real Be Crazy, but sadly, that just wasn’t the case. The novel centers around Homer, his genius brother Einstein and Homer’s crush Mia, and the road trip they go on together to get Mia to her new home – at least, that’s the basic premise. Even with the elements of quirky characters and a road trip, and even if I managed to finish it, I just didn’t find it that remarkable. It was cute, sure, and the characters were enjoyable at the time that I had my attention on them. But there were just too many unlikely coincidences, too much going on, and I felt weird distance from the characters (which could have just been me). It wound up falling flat instead of being charming, and thought it pains me to say it, this novel was just not for me.

The Graces book cover
The Graces by Laure Eve
Series: The Graces #1
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

I was a little worried when I picked up The Graces, as there had been a lot of not-so-great comments from people who share my reading tastes. But while I didn’t fall head over heels in love with this novel, I also found that I couldn’t stop reading once I started. Narrated by a character we know only as River, readers are taken along as River worms her way into the Grace family – a family notorious for being witches in the small town they live in. River feels a compulsion to belong with them, and that is the major driving force behind her calculated choices. Whether or not she winds up being one of them, well, you’ll have to read it to find out. Here’s the thing: Laure Eve just has a way with words. She drew me in right away, coaxing out my curiosity about these characters and the magic in her tale. Though I found the characters distant (which might have been intentional) and unlikeable on the whole, though I felt like the pacing was choppy, though I certainly found things weird and creepy, it didn’t deter me from flipping pages. My morbid fascination with how the story would end kept me turning pages, and for that, I’ve got to give Eve her due. It might not be a book I’d put on my favorites shelf, but it was definitely a solid read. 

The Possibility of Somewhere book cover
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source: ARC downloaded from NetGalley (Thanks!)

I have mixed feelings about The Possibility of Somewhere. But before we get into that, let me tell you a little bit about it! Eden Moore might be from the wrong side of the tracks, but she’s smart and she’s determined to find a way to finance for her college education. Nothing will get in her way – or so she thinks. But senior year is still filled with surprises – new friends, a budding romance, complicated family situations, heavy competition for a scholarship – and Eden learns fairly quickly that life sometimes has plans for her other than her own. Anyway, this book is certainly a quick read (I finished it in a couple of hours)! Eden was a character that popped off the page, and the beginning of her story was really compelling. But past a certain plot point, things tapered off into the land of stereotypes and the characters (save for Eden herself) came across differently than they had before. That, my friends, is why I have such mixed up feelings; I was enjoying it for a while and then, suddenly, my feelings did a complete turnaround. Overall, due to my own confused reaction, I have to say that this one wasn’t what I expected. It was cute, sure, but I also feel like it's going to be one of those stories that I don’t remember much about in the future.

Lucy and Linh book cover
Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

I’m always excited to dive into a story with an Asian main character; Lucy and Linh was no exception. It’s about a girl named Lucy, who’s just received a scholarship to attend a prestigious school that feels worlds away from her broken-down neighborhood. She’s worried about not fitting in amongst her peers, but soon finds herself adopted by the Cabinet, who are among the most influential girls in school. Lucy finds herself in the middle of her two worlds – her former life and her new life – and that’s what this story explores. Now, with comparisons to Mean Girls and Fresh Off the Boat, you can bet your fern that I went into this with expectations – and this book didn’t exactly live up to them. It was definitely compelling, and I liked reading about Lucy’s culture, home life and experiences at private school. But this novel didn’t wind up hitting the precise note that I personally would have liked it to (especially in terms of character connection), so it just wasn’t as memorable as I hoped it would be. Still, it’s a story told from a fresh perspective you rarely see in books, so just for that, it’d be worth checking out.

Overexposed book cover
Overexposed by Megan Erickson
Series: In Focus #4
Previous Books in the Series: Trust the Focus, Focus on Me, Out of Frame
Publisher: InterMix
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Source: ARC downloaded from NetGalley (Thanks!)

I've been reading the In Focus series from the very beginning, and I have definitely enjoyed them all. Erickson has a knack for writing quick reads with great characters and just the right amounts of humor and heart, and Overexposed is no exception. In this novel, Levi (who you may remember from Out of Frame) is set to hike the Appalachian Trail all on his own. He's dealing with grief over the loss of his sister to the war being waged overseas, and he thinks this would be a way to move on and to honor her memory. But then he crosses paths with strong, silent Thad, and suddenly, they become companions on this hike. I'm sure you guys can see where that's going, so let's move on to what I thought. First of all, I adore Levi. He's fun, he's outgoing, he's chatty and friendly and all sorts of wonderful, and even when he's grieving, I just enjoyed him as a character. Loving him already made it all the sweeter to read about him falling in love. And I enjoyed the Appalachian Trail as the backdrop of this love story too, as I've never really read anything about it! So, yes, this book was entirely enjoyable, really quick to read and a charming finish to a very cute M/M romance series.

The One That Got Away book cover
The One That Got Away by A.J. Pine
Series: Kingston Ale House #1
Publisher: Entangled: Select Contemporary
Publication Date: April 18, 2016
Source: Purchased Kindle e-book

I really like the idea of friendship-to-romance, and I’m a sucker for picking up romance novels that center around it. The One That Got Away intrigued me tremendously because not only did it have the aforementioned friendship-to-romance, but it also had a road trip! It centers around Jamie Kingston, who has been in love with his best friend Brynn Chandler since they were in middle school. While they did share a kiss at the end of their senior year of high school, the romance fizzled out and they’ve had an unspoken understanding that nothing will happen… until Jamie realizes it’s his last chance to let Brynn know how he feels and for Brynn to do the same. Sounds cute, right? And it turned out to be adorable, even though it definitely took me longer than I would have wanted to get invested in the story. Honestly, there is a touch too much miscommunication between the main couple and there were a lot of moments when I wanted to knock the two of them together. But I still thought it was a pretty good read, and I definitely finished the book with a smile on my face.

Shiny Broken Pieces book coverShiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
Series: Tiny Pretty Things #2
Previous Book in Series: Tiny Pretty Things
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Source: Purchased hardcover from Barnes & Noble

Shiny Broken Pieces is the second novel in the Tiny Pretty Things duology, and it was such a satisfying read. Readers get a chance to reconnect with Bette, June and Gigi, and witness how the events in the first novel have transformed their lives and their attitudes. It is so messed up, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page because I just had to know what would happen. Even though it still featured a lot of over the top dramatics and some really terrible moments (I cringed at all the crazy things these girls did to one another, just as I did with the first one), I actually really like how these authors wrapped up the stories for all three of the girls we had been following. I liked this even more than I did its predecessor, and if you’re into bad ballerinas and some crazy drama (equal to the level of the drama of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars), then this duology might be something you’ll find to be an interesting read.

Smut book cover
Smut by Karina Halle
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: May 16, 2016
Source: Purchased Kindle e-book

I’ve liked majority of the Karina Halle novels I’ve read so far, but alas, Smut was just not my cup of tea. It revolves around Amanda and Blake, classmates in a college writing course who wind up being partners on their final project. Each of them has preconceived notions about the other that are slowly reconciled to be false the more they work together. When they discover that they click as writing partners, it doesn’t take long for them to become co-authors… for smut. Throw in a dash of hilarity, a hint of humiliation and sweet romance, and that’s what this book is all about. Now, I really liked the initial set-up for the main couple’s relationship and quite enjoyed how it developed slowly over time. Amanda and Blake were both interesting individuals to read about as well. But I felt like the second half of the novel, particularly towards the end was really rushed. In addition, I didn’t love the way romance and erotica came across either, because it felt too harsh and judgmental a lot of the time. Still, Smut was a fitting diversion for a quick genre break between fantasy reads, and I can’t say I actually regret taking the time to read and finish it.

A Monster Calls book cover
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Source: Paperback bought at Barnes and Noble

I have been meaning to read A Monster Calls ever since I first heard many (and I mean many) of my friends sing its praises. It basically tells the story of a troubled young boy dealing with his mother’s terminal illness, and the appearance of a nightmarish monster outside his window one night. And while those elements are certainly unassuming, let me tell you this: it is an impressive tale. It has two sides to it, really – reality (where Conor is dealing with the emotional turmoil of his mother’s illness and complicated family situation) and fantasy (where Conor meets the titular monster late one night). Patrick Ness really knows his stuff, and flawlessly combines both of these into one really compelling narrative. The details I’d known about beforehand were exactly as I’d expected; the new-to-me things were really surprising. I was totally drawn into the story, and finished the entire thing in one sitting – and I can see why so many readers have loved this story. I would highly recommend checking out the novel (the illustrated version is a great idea, by the way, as I loved the illustrations a whole lot and they added a fair bit of atmosphere) for yourself, particularly if you’re keen on seeing the film when its released next year.

P.S. I Like You book cover
P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Publisher: Point
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Source: Hardcover received for review + in Uppercase Box

If you enjoy a nice, fluffy contemporary every now and again, then P.S. I Like You is undoubtedly the book for you! It tells the story of a girl named Lily, an aspiring songwriter who has the habit of daydreaming and doodling in class. When her teacher threatens to take away her beloved notebook, Lily doodles straight onto the desk… only to be surprised to see a response from someone else written under it the next day. The exchanges quickly turn into longer letters, and as Lily starts to form an attachment to the letter writer, only one question remains: who is she writing to? It is the perfect set-up for this romantic comedy read! While it does play out predictably, West does an excellent job fleshing out side characters and situations to make this novel all the more enjoyable during the read. Really, my only reservations are Lily herself (because she could get really frustrating at times, though I simply had to remind myself she was a teen) and the fact that I wish we got even more time with her family and her best friend. But all in all, this is an adorable little YA contemporary that will leave you grinning ear to ear when you turn the very last page.

The Goal book cover
The Goal by Elle Kennedy
Series: Off-Campus #4
Previous Books in the Series: The Goal, The Mistake, The Score
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: September 26, 2016
Source: Purchased Kindle e-book

I have so much love for the Off-Campus series, and have officially declared that it is my favorite NA series ever. This declaration, of course, comes after reading the latest and last book The Goal when it dropped in September. The novel is about Sabrina James (a hard-working gal determined to get out of her impoverished circumstances) and John Tucker (a sweet auburn-haired Southern hockey player), and the insanely cute (if complicated) romance that develops between them. I was really nervous going into this one because I’d already formed impressions of them based on the previous novels, and I also knew the main plot of the book (since it was dropped in The Score). I really had no need to fear, however, as Elle Kennedy once again demonstrated her master storytelling ability with this novel. I was immediately drawn into the story from the very beginning, and learning more about Sabrina and about Tucker really made me fall in love with them both. I laughed a lot, I raged a lot, I cried a bit and I just really had a tremendously fun time while reading this book. It was just so wonderful to have a great story to close out this series, and my only real complaint is that I don’t think I will ever get enough of this world and these characters ever. (I guess that means it’s time for a reread.) Anyway, to put it simply, I would 100% recommend reading the entire Off-Campus series because it is amazing, and smart, and funny, and all kinds of wonderful.


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