April 17, 2019

Abbreviations #87: Ballet Shoes, Next Year in Havana + Again the Magic

Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil are three little girls who were adopted (under different circumstances) by a man who loves to travel and is interested in collecting all sorts of fossils. Under the guardianship of the man’s great-niece Sylvia and the care of their Nana, the three girls flourish. But as they get older, the money for provisions is slowly beginning to run out. This means a lot is going to change for the Fossils… including the arrival of new boarders to share their home and their enrollment into a school of acting and dancing in order to learn and eventually get theater work when they’re old enough.

I’ll be the first to admit that this was a total cover buy for me after seeing it at Books of Wonder one day. But I’m happy to be able to say that Ballet Shoes turned out to be just as lovely a tale as its cover would suggest! I started reading it on a whim, but it was all too easy to get hooked on this book. It’s a tale of three very different sisters who love each other, their family and their home and will do what they can to help preserve their situation… even if it means having to sacrifice to make things happen. The plot is as straightforward as I’ve described it, and while it was very good, it was really the characters that made this one a great reading experience for me. I really liked all three girls a lot – Pauline, the eldest who feels responsible for the rest and who can inhabit any character onstage like she was born to do it, Petrova, who often escapes into a book or to a garage to work with cars, and Posy, the youngest who has dancing in her blood. And their support system – at home and at school – consists of secondary characters who come to life off the page too. I had a wonderful time devouring Ballet Shoes from start to finish, and I can genuinely see why it’s considered a classic. Looking forward to reading more of this author’s work in the future!

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild | Series: Shoes #1 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | Publication Date: November 6, 2018 (first published 1936) | Source: Owned the hardcover

After her beloved grandmother Elisa dies, Marisol travels to Cuba in order to fulfill her grandmother’s last wish: to have her ashes scattered in the country of her birth. Cleverly weaving together Marisol’s experience in present day Cuba as a first-time visitor eager to learn more about her roots and witnessing the fallout after the Cuban revolution and her grandmother Elisa’s experience embroiled in the political unrest of her country when she falls in love with a revolutionary, Next Year in Havana is the story of two incredible women as they bear their circumstances with extraordinary passion and strength.

I picked up Next Year in Havana after Rachel gave it a rave review. I’m so glad she encouraged me to add this one to my TBR, because it’s very, very good. As you may surmise from the summary, Next Year in Havana offers readers perspective when it comes to Cuba (in the past and present). The way Cleeton accomplishes this feat is exceptionally clever, in my opinion. She uses her fictional characters as the observers and the mouthpiece for narrating this story, which makes it seem even more personal to the reader regardless of whether they have a direct tie to Cuba. And it also really helps that her characters are vibrant and passionate, coming to life off the page as you come to care about who they are and what circumstances they face. My only reservation? It took me nearly ten chapters before I felt myself clicking with the characters and their story, which is a little longer than I’d have liked it to be. But overall, Next Year in Havana was a well-written, compelling book, and I’m glad I read it! 

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton | Publisher: Berkley | Publication Date: February 6, 2018 | Source: Purchased the paperback

Aline and McKenna grew up together, and it seemed inevitable that they would fall in love. But with their circumstances being vastly different – McKenna a mere stable boy, while Aline is the eldest daughter of a wealthy family of the peerage – Aline’s father eventually demands their separation. Aline hasn’t seen McKenna or heard from him in years, so it comes as a complete surprise when he returns to the estate as an accomplished business partner to an American. But McKenna appears to be hellbent on making Aline suffer the way he did when things fell apart. Will they be able to work out their differences and give their romance a second chance?

I finally picked up the ‘prequel’ to the rest of the Wallflowers series, which centers primarily around Aline (who is sister to Marcus, the love interest in It Happened One Autumn) and her second chance romance with her first and only love, John McKenna. It was cute, though I wouldn’t consider it a necessary addition to the series, nor do I feel like it has an equivalent level of charm to the main four titles. I did like that Aline and her younger sister Livia were fiercely independent, determined to do the best they could with what they had and that they had more modern sensibilities in some ways. And seeing all three siblings (Aline, Livia and Marcus) together was a delight! It was also hard not to find myself swept up in the tumultuous emotions that this romance brought on. What did decrease my level of enjoyment was my frustration over certain aspects of the story, from the miscommunication and deception that plagued the main romance (which I don’t normally mind, but this felt like a little too much) to the speed and lack of proper build-up for the secondary romance. It was incredibly frustrating, and certain a little eye-roll worthy at times… but I still ended up devouring this story quickly. So, would I recommend reading this one? If you feel like ‘completing’ the series, then yes, do pick it up. Otherwise, I’d still recommend checking out other Kleypas titles over this one.

Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas | Series: Wallflowers #0.5 | Other Books in the Series: Secrets of a Summer Night, It Happened One Autumn, Devil in Winter, Scandal in Spring, A Wallflower Christmas | Publisher: Avon | Publication Date: January 1, 2004 | Source: Paperback gifted by Hannah


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