January 10, 2017

Abbreviations #31 | December Minis

It's a brand new year, and a brand new month, and you know what that means... I have a brand new set of mini-reviews to share! In case you're new to the blog, I like to do these posts to let you guys in on my quick thoughts on the books I read in the last month that I don't share full reviews for. It's an overview of how I felt, what I thought and if I think you should check a book out, and I hope it comes in handy. Without further ado, let's get on with the reviews!

(Also, I'm a Book Depository affiliate! It would be lovely if you used my referral link if you wanted to buy a book, as I get a very small commission from it and will be putting that cash towards giveaways and other blog-related things.)

Spindle book cover
Spindle by E.K. Johnston
Series: A Thousand Nights #2
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

The simplest way to describe the plot of Spindle is to tell you that it is inspired by Sleeping Beauty, only with a spin that connects it to the previous novel in this series. Weaving the story of a group of spinners, a cursed princess and a stubborn demon into one narrative, it is a solid companion to its predecessor. If I'm being completely honest (which I always strive to be), I have mixed feelings that make it hard for me to determine my actual reception of this story. I was, at one point, thoroughly invested in the outcome of the story and what would befall the characters, and I really, really loved the way Johnston integrated elements of the original fairytale. However, the pacing felt off to me, and I didn't particularly love the way it wrapped up either. Still, I would certainly urge you to read this one if you're interested in the premise, enjoyed the previous book or want a (very subtle) retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale.

Princess Jellyfish, Vol. 1 book cover
Princess Jellyfish, Vol. 1 by Akiko Higashimura
Series: Princess Jellyfish 2-in-1 Omnibus #1
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

Princess Jellyfish is an entirely ridiculous manga. But I certainly found it amusing in spite of that! It centers on a young lady named Tsukimi Kurashita, who loves jellyfish and lives in Amamizukan, a safe have for girl geeks. Thanks to her attempt to save a jellyfish who might have died in a pet shop, Tsukimi crosses paths with someone the residents of Amamizukan tend to avoid - a beautiful, fashionable girl! This chance meeting brings on an unexpected friendship that changes Tsukimi's life, and the lives of her fellow geek girls too. As I said earlier, it was a truly ridiculous story with a lot of familiar tropes that you might have encountered in anime, manga or Asian drama series. But it was fun. I loved all the geek girls with their various interests, and how they all came together to be there for each other no matter what. I loved the new girl who appears, not only for her story but also for how she wreaks (good) (and maybe not-so-good) havoc on the lives of Tsukimi and company. Really, this was the perfect comedic break after reading a ton of fantasy, and I definitely think I will continue reading the series (especially considering all the things left unresolved at the end of this story)!

Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 1 book cover
Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 1 by Bisco Hatori
Series: Ouran High School Host Club #1
Publisher: Viz Media
Publication Date: July 5, 2005
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

I am extremely annoyed that (1) I only borrowed the first volume of this manga series, (2) I waited so long to read it and (3) I don't own the series already. I seriously loved Ouran High School Host Club when I binge watched the anime, so it's not surprising that I adored the manga. This is the story of Haruhi, a scholarship student at an exclusive high school, who breaks a $80,000 vase that belongs to the school's "host club". This club is comprised of six super-rich (and gorgeous) guys, who do their best to charm their clients with varying attractive offerings in the form of themselves. In order to pay them back, Haruhi is forced to work for the club. But the more time she spends with the boys, the more she learns about who they really are and how crazy their world is. If this premise sounds really funny and also slightly crazy, I assure you - it is. It's really fun to watch and to read! I can't tell you what a first time reader might make of these boys, since I already knew them from the anime and I'm really attached to everyone. But reading the manga was a fun way to relive the experience of the anime! It still made me laugh, lovingly roll my eyes and fall in love with these characters all over again. I certainly can't wait to keep reading the manga (especially since Kristin has informed me that there is more story to be read).

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches book cover
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, Vol. 01 by Miki Yoshikawa
Series: Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches #1
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

It seems like every single manga I'm featuring in this set of reviews has a ridiculous premise (in the best way), and that includes Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. Ryu Yamada is a bad boy, class troublemaker and prone to getting into sticky situations. He accidentally falls down a staircase and knocks into star student Urara Shiraishi before losing consciousness. When he reawakens, he discovers that they have switched bodies - because they kissed when they fall. The two team up to make use of this new ability for their advantage, but how long will it take before someone finds out about their secret? Like I said, ridiculous premise. But it was really entertaining! It's such a simple situation for both these characters to be in, but it makes for some interesting encounters and mishaps and all of those are perfect for comedic relief. While there is an excess of emphasis on boobs, and while the characters do feel a bit like stereotypes, it's still ridiculously entertaining and I definitely think I'll read more of this series.

Sword Art Online: Girls' Ops, Vol. 1 book cover
Sword Art Online: Girls' Ops, Vol. 1 by Reki Kawahara + Neko Nekobyou (Visual Art)
Series: Sword Art Online: Girls' Ops #1
Publisher: Yen Press
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

I'm so happy I finally got a chance to read this particular manga. I fell in love with Sword Art Online when I binged the first season of the series last year, so it was fun to be back in that world - but with a totally different angle. Instead of the virtual world being a death trap, it's become a fun, adventurous escape for Liz, Silica and Leafa. The three team up to go on a quest for a magical ring, but encounter really tough opponents. They wind up being saved by a black-clothed swordsman... who turns out not to be Kirito, the guy they all know and love, but a girl with a broken heart. Together, these three set out to help heal this girl's broken heart and it takes them on an adventure they could never have imagined. Honestly, I didn't love these three in particular from the anime, but after reading this manga, they've gained their own space in my heart. I really liked seeing them on their own, apart from Kirito, and I loved how their story was all about adventure and friendship. It's a really strong start to a new spin-off series set in this world, and I certainly look forward to more.

Brightly Woven book cover
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication Date: March 23, 2010
Source: Hardcover bought online

Brightly Woven is Bracken's debut fantasy novel, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. It centers around talented weaver Sydelle Mirabil, who is whisked away from her village by a young wizard named Wayland North to be his assistant. Sydelle is more than reluctant to leave her family and her village behind, especially under the mysterious circumstances North took her, but she also longs to go an an adventure. As she joins North on his journey to stop the war that will tear their country apart, she meets brilliant folk, experiences danger and deceit, and discovers that North is keeping secrets from her... I think I'll stop with the summary here. Suffice to say that I was truly nervous going into this novel. I've read and loved Bracken's The Darkest Minds series, and also read and loved Passenger, so I was hopeful (but still worried) about how I would feel. Turns out, I need not have feared - I did wind up enjoying this novel. There are definitely a lot of familiar fantasy elements that call to mind other stories. But as always, Bracken wound up winning me over with her characters. Sydelle is a brilliant, brave girl who is determined to stay strong and do the right thing, no matter what the cost to herself. I admired the fact that she was willing to assert herself and be independent, and her growth by the end of this story was excellent. North, as well, was fun to read about. He did frustrate me as much as he did Sydelle, but it was entertaining to see him tease Sydelle, awe-inspiring to see him fight and really interesting to watch his story unfold. Because I cared so much about the outcome of each of their stories, and about how they would keep the country from full-on war, I was intrigued all the way to the end. I'm so glad I finally gave myself some time to read this one, and I only wish I had more novels about these two to read!

Night book cover
Night by Elie Wiesel
Publisher: Hill and Wang
Publication Date: January 16, 2006
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library

I was so deeply moved by Night, which is basically a candid autobiographical account of how he survived as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. I've read a little bit of Holocaust literature, both fiction and non-fiction, but this piece struck me right in the heart. It's brutal, it's honest, it's utterly terrifying - and it's a very important novel to read in order for those of us who were not there to understand the horror that was unleashed upon the world at that time. It allows us to really feel the terrible inhumanity of what went down during the Holocaust, and it really emphasized (to me) how important it is for all of us to work together to prevent it from happening again. Using the sparsest language to describe his memories, Wiesel truly has written something incredible.

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies book cover
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies by J.K. Rowling
Series: Pottermore Presents #1
Publisher: Pottermore by J.K. Rowling
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Bought Kindle e-book

I’ve got a weakness for anything related to Harry Potter, apparently, and so, I downloaded all three of the Pottermore Presents e-books when they were released. I finally had the chance to read them all recently, and I’m pleased to say that they are interesting looks at various aspects of the wizarding world. In this particular volume, readers are treated to a more in-depth look at the lives of Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Sybill Trelawney and Silvanus Kettleburn. It’s a delight to revisit these characters, and to get a better look at their lives, particularly McGonagall and Lupin, who has always been two of my favorites.

Series: Pottermore Presents #2
Publisher: Pottermore by J.K. Rowling
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Bought Kindle e-book

I’ve got a weakness for anything related to Harry Potter, apparently, and so, I downloaded all three of the Pottermore Presents e-books when they were released. I finally had the chance to read them all recently, and I’m pleased to say that they are interesting looks at various aspects of the wizarding world. Of the three, this volume is my least favorite. That primarily has to do with the subject matter, as it’s not necessarily about any of my favorite parts or characters in the series. It focuses heavily on Dolores Umbridge, the Ministers for Magic, Azkaban and a bit of Horace Slughorn’s life. Anyway, in spite of the fact that I wasn’t too keen on what I was reading about, I still found it interesting to explore more of the wizarding world with these short stories.

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide book cover
Hogwarts: A Complete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling
Series: Pottermore Presents #3
Publisher: Pottermore by J.K. Rowling
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Bought Kindle e-book

I’ve got a weakness for anything related to Harry Potter, apparently, and so, I downloaded all three of the Pottermore Presents e-books when they were released. I finally had the chance to read them all recently, and I’m pleased to say that they are interesting looks at various aspects of the wizarding world. It’s unsurprising that I absolutely loved this volume! I have always loved Hogwarts, and always dreamed of attending the school myself. So, personally, it was really fun to learn more about its history, inhabitants and some of the objects within its walls. I definitely feel like this is the volume many Potterheads will like, just because it makes the reader feel more well-versed about the school.

Perijee & Me book cover
Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source: Gifted by Katherine (Thanks!)

Caitlin is a lonely little girl who lives on an island with her mom and dad (though he constantly travels). On the very first day of vacation, she comes across a tiny alien on the beach. She befriends him, names him Perijee, teaches him about her world, and treats him like her little brother. But when Perijee is threatened and starts growing into a monster, Caitlin is the only one who stands a chance of convincing everyone else that he’s anything but that. While I knew the basic premise of Perijee and Me before I started it, I was pleasantly surprised! It was a delightful story that, at its heart, is about friendship. About how appearances can be deceiving. About how beings that seem different from us might share the same feelings that manifest in an unexpected way. It gets the point across in a wonderful, whimsical way, and I was pretty happy with how the author chose to tell this story.

You Don't Know My Name book cover
You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando
Series: The Black Angel Chronicles #1
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to a life of changing identities, being ready to leave town on barely any notice and training in mortal combat and weaponry. She’s being groomed to become a Black Angel, an elite top-secret agent just like her parents. She’s faced with the choice of living a normal life (with friends and a possible romance with the boy next door) and a life of secrecy and risk, and things only escalate when the stakes get higher for her family. Now, I haven’t had much luck with the Swoon Reads novels I’ve tried to read in the past. So, it was certainly a pleasant surprise to find that I really enjoyed You Don’t Know My Name! Orlando did a really great job developing the story, and I particularly like how she handled the combination of Reagan’s regular life and the life her family leads as part of that agency. She also managed to do her characters justice, particularly Reagan and her internal conflict over how she wants her life to be. While the climax and all the things that lead up to and away from it are slightly too clean, convenient and very nearly impossible, I overall thought it was exciting and fun to read all about Reagan’s adventures. It’ll definitely be interesting to find out what happens next!

The Girl in the Tower book cover
The Girl in the Tower by Lisa Schroeder
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Source: Hardcover sent by the author (Thanks!)

Violet and her mother have been locked away in a tower for the entirety of Violet’s life, a cruelty enacted by the evil Queen Bogdana. Bogdana desires beauty, and Violet is the key to her being able to have some for herself. When Bogdana decides that Violet should be trained to become a real princess, it seems like things are taken a turn for the better. But all is not as it seems, and Violet must use her cleverness and her spirit to fight for her family’s happily ever after. If you’re the type to enjoy a middle grade story that reads like a fairytale, then The Girl in the Tower is the book for you! It’s definitely got the makings of classic fairytales. But in spite of the lingering similarities, the author definitely puts her own spin on things. It was wonderful to experience the wonder and magic of Violet’s very own fairytale, and I'm glad I finally had the chance to read this.

The Amateurs book cover
The Amateurs by Sara Shepard
Series: The Amateurs #1
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thanks!)

It’s been a really long time since I’ve picked up a Sara Shepard novel. But when I was sent an early copy of The Amateurs to read, I thought I’d give it a shot. Seneca Frazier is really into the Case Not Closed message boards, a place where people can come to discuss cases that were never solved. She comes across a message from Aerin, sister to Helena Kelly who disappeared from her backyard never to be heard again, who is desperate to learn what happened. Together with Aerin, her CNC friend Maddy and another CNC user Brett, Seneca attempts to learn the truth. But the killer doesn’t want anyone figuring out what actually happened… So, it looks like Sara Shepard is just not an author for me. Having read a good portion of her Pretty Little Liars series previously, I did feel like her writing style was pretty much the same as before and just not my personal cup of tea. Now, I’m not denying that I was pretty invested in the whole mystery, as I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to discover the ending. But the characters, their sleuthing (and conveniently discovered connections and clues), and the way that this novel ends – all of it just felt pretty run of the mill to me.

The Book Jumper book cover
The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Source: ARC sent by the publisher (Thanks!)

When Amy and her mother return to her mother’s childhood home on the island of Stormsay, Amy has no idea what awaits her. It’s there she learns that she is a book jumper, an individual with the capability of leaping into a story and interacting with the world within a book’s pages. Even though she’s thrilled by what she gets to do, it’s also dangerous – one wrong move can completely alter a story forever. When Amy discovers that someone is stealing from the books, she teams up with fellow book jumper Will in an attempt to solve the mystery and retrieve what was taken – no matter what it costs. Overall, I thought The Book Jumper was a pretty great diversion for the few hours I spent reading it. The premise was what drew me in, and I thought it was really cool to see Amy do her thing and jump into books. But the plot and the character were pretty riddled with clichés, and it resulted in a frustrating mix of predictability and lack of development. While I was able to look past that and finish reading the book, I can see other readers potentially having issues with it. So, if the premise at all intrigues you and you are thinking of giving this one a read, I’d say to go into it bearing in mind that it’s not necessarily the most original tale you’ll ever read in this genre.


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