Thursday, December 8, 2016

Abbreviations #30: November Minis

It's that time of the month again when I share brief thoughts on the novels that I read in the month of November! I like condensing these reviews so that you guys get an idea of what I read and what I thought, and I hope you'll find a new book to check out.


Marrying Winterborne book coverMarrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Ravenels #1
Previous Book in Series: Cold-Hearted Rake
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Source: Paperback purchased from Amazon

I really enjoyed Marrying Winterborne. This is the second novel in The Ravenels historical romance series, and it centers around Helen Ravenel and Rhys Winterborne. Helen is the eldest Ravenel, a demure gal with a backbone of steel who doesn’t have much experience in society, while Rhys is a self-made man who own a large (and popular) department store in London. These two individuals are nothing alike, which is what makes their romance unlikely. But the feelings they have for one another are real, and as with any historical romance novel worth its salt, there will be folks and secrets that are going to try to keep them apart. Now, the strongest aspect of this novel is in its characters, main and secondary alike, because Kleypas does have an eye for an excellently written character. Second to this, I really liked the writing – I laughed out loud (seriously, I giggled like crazy), and I totally swooned at certain points. But in terms of the plot, that, my friends, is where this novel fell short. It just felt entirely too much like other stories I’ve read in this genre, and it definitely made me like this story a little bit less. Still, as always, Kleypas has written a quality piece of historical romance fiction and I’m truly glad that I was finally able to read it!

A Man Called Ove book cover
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (translated by Henning Koch)
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Source: Paperback received from the publisher (Thanks!)

A Man Called Ove has basically cemented my love for Fredrik Backman. It is the third of his works that I've gotten around to reading, and I enjoyed it just as much as the other two. This is Backman's debut novel, and it settles around an elderly gentleman called Ove, who happens to be a curmudgeon and a stickler for everything to be done properly. His orderly life is brought into disarray when a new family moves in next door, and, well, his life changes forever. Man, I loved this novel. I would have given it a full five stars, were it not for the fact that I found Ove a bit hard to like until well into the novel. But otherwise, it was lovely. It is a simple story, centered heavily around an interesting, delightful cast of characters and their relationships with Ove for the most part. Somehow, Backman manages to convince readers to love these guys and become emotionally invested in this story - and it certainly worked for me. So thrilled that I got a chance to read this one, and I definitely would recommend you check out this novel and all of Backman's other works too!

Alterations book cover
Alterations by Stephanie Scott
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Source: e-galley downloaded via NetGalley (Thanks!)

I really wanted to like Alterations, but it just wasn't for me. This is the story of Amelia Blanco, a girl passionate about fashion and about her long-term crush on Ethan Laurenti. She gets the opportunity to spend a summer at a fashion internship in New York, where she really comes into her own as a person and in terms of her dreams. When she returns home, she finds herself teaming up with Ethan's brother Liam to help with his fashion app. As she and Liam get closer, Ethan suddenly starts to make romantic overtures on Amelia... even though he has a reality TV star girlfriend. And from there, the drama ensues... Now, as far as I understand, this novel is basically Sabrina in YA form (and it actually made me want to watch the film). The concept was super cute, and I thought I was really going to like it! Sadly, everything felt underdeveloped, the pacing was not so great and the main romance wasn't even one I could pull for. If I hadn't been reading this book to distract myself during election week, I would likely have put it down. Still, what might not have worked for me might work for someone else, so if it sounds like a contemporary you might like, it's worth giving it a shot.

A Shadow Bright and Burning book cover
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

Before anything else, can we take a moment to admire how striking and simple this cover is? Anyway, let's get on to my actual thoughts on the pages behind the lovely cover of A Shadow Bright and Burning. This novel tells the story of Henrietta Howel, the first female sorcerer in a very long time. She is prophesied to be the chosen one, and is taken back to the city of London for training. As time wears on, she starts thinking that perhaps maybe her superiors are wrong about her role. But war looms on the horizon, and Henrietta has to figure out what to do. Okay, so thinking back on this novel now, I actually find myself a whole lot less enthused by it. It was fun to read at the time, and it certainly managed to snare my attention, so for that alone it deserves the stars. But it really falls short of my own preferences when it comes to storytelling, as well as character and world development. I didn't find the plot original or the characters memorable, so unfortunately, this meant that I thought it was simply okay.

The Secrets of Wishtide book cover
The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders
Series: A Laetitia Rodd Mystery #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source: Finished copy received from the publisher (Thanks!)

When Erica from Bloomsbury tweeted about The Secrets of Wishtide, she said it was perfect for fans of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries - and she immediately had me interested. (In case you are wondering, I loved Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. You should watch it.) Anyway, this novel is about Mrs. Laetitia Rodd, an elderly widow who lives with her friend and confidant Mrs. Bentley and makes a living as a discreet private investigator. Frederick Tyson, her brother, brings a new case to her attention, one involving the song of a well-connected peer and Laetitia goes up to pose as a governess and solve the mystery. However, she soon discovers that there's more to this mystery (and this family) than meets the eye. Now, I've not read a lot of cozy or Victorian mysteries, but if they are anything like this, I will expect them all to be interesting, clever and very readable. I liked the cast of characters, particularly Laetitia and Mrs. Bentley, and I definitely feel like Saunders laid a great foundation for the series that she's building. All in all, it was a very diverting and surprisingly fast read, and I look forward to more of Laetitia Rodd's cases in the future.

Fate of Flames book cover
Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley
Series: Effigies #1
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

The reason I initially decided to read Fate of Flames was because one of the comp titles for it was Sailor Moon, and I had loved that anime series to pieces. The parallels are certainly there - a group of girls destined to gain powers and to save the world from total annihilation, as well as secrets upon secrets upon secrets that threaten to thwart them. The novel specifically centers around Maia Finley, the newest of the Effigies and unsure of her actual capability to be one of her long-time heroes' equals at fighting the phantoms that plague the world. But there is more to the story than just Maia's journey in becoming the Fire Effigy and coming to terms with her destiny. A sinister secret, tied in with the succession of the Fire Effigies, is starting to come to light, and Maia can't handle it alone. Together with the other three effigies, Maia is determined to figure out just what the hell is going on and how they can keep the world safe from the threat looming over it. Off the top of my head, I really liked the construction of the world and the Effigy system, the action scenes and the occasional spots of humor. On the flip side, I wasn't overly fond of the very vague romantic overtures, the fairly predictable plot or the lack of further development for each of the main characters. But all in all, this was still a pretty enjoyable read, and I think I might even give the sequel a shot, if only to see what happens next.

Scrappy Little Nobody book cover
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Source: Hardcover picked up at a subway station (Thanks Books on the Subway!)

Let me preface my thoughts on Scrappy Little Nobody by saying that I fucking love Anna Kendrick. She's always come across as down to earth, funny and someone I would totally get along with in real life, should we ever have the chance to meet. So, obviously, when I heard that she was publishing a book of autobiographical essays, I knew I had to get my hands on it! This collection of anecdotes and observations and reflections is funny and frank, equal parts entertaining and thoughtful. But what I adored was that Anna's voice truly shines through in her writing, and it made me love her even more than I already did. If you love Anna Kendrick as much as I do, then I definitely consider this book a must read.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth book cover
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Source: Hardcover borrowed from the library

I totally picked up The Encyclopedia of Early Earth because I had been hearing so much about it on BookTube. And while I don't think I loved it as much as everyone else did, I am glad I picked it up to read. This is the story of a young man who has traveled from his home in the North Pole all the way to the South Pole, where he meets his true love. Alas, due to the unusual polarity of Early Earth, the lovers can never touch and so instead, they tell each other stories. The young man chronicles his journey for his bride, and that is what readers will get a taste of. Now, my favorite thing about this graphic novel was the illustration style. It is absolutely lovely, and I spent loads of time simply admiring the amount of detail Greenberg included. As for the stories themselves, they were pretty interesting to read as they allow the reader to really get to know all about Early Earth. But they also felt a bit disjointed, as there were sometimes stories within stories. Still, it was definitely worth the time I spent reading it, and I can recommend giving this one a go if you are into graphic novels (though I will say the content is pretty adult).

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