Thursday, February 9, 2017

Abbreviations #33: January 2017, Part Two

A new month is here, and you know what that means - a new set of mini-reviews. Here's a look at some of the books I read in the past month (and one book that I read prior to that that I forgot to review - oops)! Here's to hoping you'll find something you want to check out and add to your TBR.

The Forgetting book cover
The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source: Hardcover received in my September Uppercase Box
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

The Forgetting is set in the city of Canaan, a city where every person writes the truth of their daily lives into a book in order to remind themselves of who they are. These are necessary in order to help them remember after The Forgetting, which happens every twelve years. Nadia is different from everyone else though, simply because she's never forgotten anything. Determined to protect her family and her home during the next Forgetting, Nadia tries to unravel all of the pieces of the puzzle of their existence with the help of the glassblower's son Gray. The more they discover, the greater the danger they put themselves in, and Nadia must decide whether or not to keep pursuing the truth. Overall, I wound up really enjoying The ForgettingHowever, it definitely is a story that took me a while to get into, more than half the novel to be precise.The beginning is very slow and not a lot happens in it. However, when the action really starts rolling in, the novel became really compelling and I couldn't put it down! Also, I really enjoyed Nadia as a character, with her struggles and triumphs, and I liked reading about her journey. It was definitely a novel I'm glad I stuck with until the end! I hesitate, however, to give a general recommendation for this one because of the beginning. However, if the premise intrigues you in any way, definitely give this one a shot (and go in forewarned that the slow start crescendoes into something really cool)!

The Sun is Also a Star book cover
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Source: Hardcover received in my November Uppercase Box
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

If you haven’t yet heard of The Sun is Also a Star, well, you’re missing out – and you’re going to hear definite praise from me right now. It’s a novel that centers around two main characters who meet in New York City on one particular day that changes their lives forever. There’s Daniel, a boy who is expected to go to med school and have the bright future his parents wish for him but who really wants to be a poet. And there’s Natasha, a girl who loves science and facts and who is determined to find a way to prevent her family from being deported. It’s such a simple story, but Yoon’s storytelling style and her ability to cajole readers into caring for the characters she writes about really makes this one something special. I really loved her take on how one day, one encounter, one person – those things can shift your life in ways you don’t expect. I also loved her portrayal of New York, because she got it so right, in my humble opinion. While I didn’t 100% love either of the main characters, I still enjoyed this story a whole lot and would happily recommend it to fellow contemporary YA fans.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe book cover
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

I'm really pleased that I finally took the time to read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. It's the story of Aristotle and Dante, who meet at the pool when Dante offers to teach Aristotle how to swim. Their friendship develops from there, and the novel chronicles the ups and downs of their individual lives and relationship. I was surprised by how quickly this one read, which was definitely in large part due to the short chapters. They're short because Sáenz chose to highlight certain moments in their lives with each chapter. While normally this narrative choice might make the reader feel a distance from the characters, that was definitely not the case with this novel. Sáenz does a bang-up job making sure readers know the essence of who Aristotle is, and who Dante is, and I really admired that. I can definitely see why so many readers have loved this story!

If I Was Your Girl book cover
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Source: Hardcover borrowed from the library
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

I finally had the chance to read If I Was Your Girl last month, and I thought it was incredibly well-written. It narrates the story of Amanda Hardy, the new girl in the town of Lambertville. She's concerned with fitting in and making new friends, and romance wasn't in her plans - until she meets Grant Everett. But Amanda is nervous about getting too close to anyone because of the big secret she's trying to keep - and that secret is that she used to be Andrew. I really loved how immersive this novel was, and how it allowed me to step out of my own reality into someone else's. The portrayal of what it's like to be trans - before the transition, during it and afterwards - was so honest and open, and I loved that Amanda felt like a friend that I was really getting to know. I also really enjoyed how universal some themes were - the need to be loved and accepted, the fear of being vulnerable for a secret that people could be judgmental about, the way something major can really affect people differently. The only real reservation I had was how quickly and dramatically the events escalated towards the end of the story, but even that wasn't a major issue for me. It was definitely a story I'm glad was picked up and published, and would highly recommend that other readers check it out.

More Happy Than Not book cover
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Source: Hardcover borrowed from the library
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

I finally read More Happy Than Not, and I'm kicking myself (mentally) for not reading this sooner. I really enjoyed it! It's about Aaron Soto, a boy who is trying to come to terms with his father's suicide with the help of his overworked but loving mother and his girlfriend Genevieve... though the scar of his wrist prevents him from forgetting the grief completely. All that changes when Aaron becomes really close with a new guy named Thomas. As his feelings for Thomas grow and things become more complicated, Aaron considers undergoing the memory-alteration procedure offered by the Leteo Institute in order to straighten himself out. Now, as with every author that's new to me, it takes me a little while to get into the storytelling style... especially if the life being portrayed is totally different from my own reality. But More Happy Than Not wound up being incredibly immersive, with a compelling sci-fi aspect in the form of the memory-alteration procedure and a lot of really thoughtful commentary on life and love and grief. It was a damn good story all in all! I'm so glad I read this book, and I look forward to reading Adam's other novels in the future.

The Inside of Out book cover
The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Source: Hardcover received from the publisher (Thanks!)
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

I was incredibly excited to receive The Inside of Out as a surprise in the mail last year. I had read and loved The Wrong Side of Right, so I was pretty hopeful that I would like this one too. And yes, it was a good book. As with her previous release, I found Thorne’s writing incredibly readable and zipped through this story in no time at all. It also had me reflecting on a few real life things, which is something I’m rather fond of encountering in books I read. My main reservation really lies in the fact that I never really felt a connection to main character Daisy. She often frustrated me with her choices, but as Tiff pointed out, that’s probably a part of her character’s growth over the course of the novel. Still, a connection to the main character really matters to me, and so the lack of it really affected my overall reading experience. To sum up my feelings: it was a good story, but I just personally didn’t get as invested in it as I would have liked to be.

Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra book cover
Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra by Kevin Panetta & Paulina Ganucheau (ill.)
Series: Zodiac Starforce #1-4
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Publication Date: March 9, 2016
Source: Paperback borrowed from the library
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound

If you've ever enjoyed Sailor Moon, it's likely you'll find Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra fun! It's about four girls - Emma, Molly, Savannah and Kim - who are gifted with magical abilities inspired by their zodiac signs, and work as a team to protect their world from the monsters that threaten it. The beginning finds them in the middle of their own personal journey as a team - they've successfully defeated a great evil, but the team hasn't gotten together for ages afterward. There are plenty of personal conflicts that have enforced this separation... until another big bad villain shows up to bring them all together again. It's a fairly simple story, and it's not something I haven't seen before. However, I enjoyed the characters a lot, and that made all the difference. Learning about who they were, what they had been through and seeing them come together - totally gave me Sailor Moon feels and was a fun ride. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next!

Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song book cover
Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Source: Audiobook purchased via credit on Audible
Buy the Book: Book Depository | Amazon | IndieBound
Buy the Audiobook: Audible

I have always really liked Sara Bareilles, and her music has definitely been on rotation for me at one point or another. (Gravity, for instance, is a song that I'm always revisiting, because it's so beautiful and it means so much to me personally.) Anyway, Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song is a collection of essays Sara wrote, each one inspired by a specific song that evokes a particular time in her life. As a Bareilles fan, this is serious gold. It really lets you into Sara's life, starting from when she was a child up until the period of time she was working on Waitress. I loved getting the chance to learn more about her, her creative process, and her real life! Plus, it turned out to be inspiring in ways I could not have foreseen before I started it, which is always a wonderful thing. It was also a real smart decision on my part to listen to the audiobook as Sara narrates and sings, and it is incredible to listen to. It made me feel like we were in conversation over coffee! I'd highly recommend the audiobook, though I'm also planning to pick up a physical copy that I can tab the heck out of. If you're a Sara Bareilles fan, you need this book!

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