Tag Archive | friendship

Review: I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski

Series: I See London, I See France #1

i see london, i see france -sarah mlynowski I see London, I see France
I see Sydney’s underpants.

Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and half weeks traveling through Europe with her childhood best friend, Leela. Their plans include Eiffel-Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers. Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug-of-war.

In this hilarious and unforgettable adventure, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Mlynowski tells the story of a girl learning to navigate secret romances, thorny relationships, and the London Tube. As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera… wearing only her polka dot underpants.


2.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

**I See London, I See France came out July 11, 2017**

Although it may seem like any other fun YA contemporary novel with plenty of European travels, this book had its own moments too. Reminiscent of Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss and Gayle Forman’s Just One Day, this funny (yet still somewhat serious) novel would definitely entertain certain fans – especially since the book actually mentions the aforementioned novels within it as stories the protagonist herself read.

I have both good and not as good things to say about this novel. Being the half glass full kinda person I am, let’s start with the more negative stuff, shall we?

I will be honest. I didn’t like Sydney all that much. I guess it’s more a personal thing but I didn’t connect well with her (minus the fact that she had some anxieties – I will return to this later). She probably would be someone’s nice breath-of-fresh-air kinda character as she was very open about relationships and sex life. But there were other little things and attitudes she had that didn’t really make me feel for her.

Then there was her best friend. She’s flaky. Period. She goes from her ex back to Sydney and then back to her ex. She can’t make up her mind. She’s not dependable overall. And she’s possessive of Sydney in a way that she’ll throw a hissy fit if someone else has Sydney’s attention. Talk about a bestie relationship that needs some fixing.

Oh and then there’s the male love interest. Jackson. I didn’t feel a thing for him. He’s a player (ok, been there, done that), but he doesn’t really evolve past this stereotypical personality. He drinks, he pushes his best friend to do things that’re somewhat extreme, and he doesn’t do relationships at all. Sigh, I’m bored already. I feel like I know you and I don’t like you, Jackson.

So basically all the main characters were kinda eh, personality wise. Let’s leave it at that.

BUT, here comes the positive stuff. Mlynoski didn’t keep this story to just the little fluffy contents of some YA contemporaries. Sydney’s mother was agoraphobic. But more specifically, she was afraid to leave home because of panic attacks.

That floored me. Is this what it would like if someone let their anxieties rule over their lives? Being a person prone to anxiety and panic attacks too, I thought that was a really interesting note to include in such a novel. The author handled it well, I think, additionally challenging Sydney to overcome her feelings of responsibility to her family – to the point of it being something that held her back – as well as her own panic attacks that formed during the trip.

I may not love Sydney but that’s one lesson we can all learn from her.

I breathe. I breathe again. Faster. It’s coming. The end. 

No. No, no, no. 

I am lost. I am overwhelmed. But I am not being chased by a lion…

In and out. In and out. Slowly. Slower still. You are going to be fine, I tell myself. Everything is going to be okay…

I am not going to let the panic spiral. I am not going to let the fear win. 

I am strong and I am brave. 

I open my eyes.

Beyond this, I love the different cities they travelled to. It was unfortunately short for some places, but the locations that were explored for a longer time (e.g. London!!) made it worthwhile. I haven’t been back in London in a long while, but the descriptions made me feel like I was exploring that city again and experiencing it through a different set of eyes.

The author’s prose was easy enough to follow along. Very casual and Sydney’s voice wasn’t particularly boring. Would I recommend this? I’m not sure it’s the kind of book for everyone. I’ll say that it has its merits but read at your own discretion.

NOTE: this book is NOT meant for younger teens. The excessiveness of their pot smoking and sex shows along their travels made even me feel quite funny at my age. It’s not quite graphic, per se, but it doesn’t shy away from anything either. Just some forewarning.

Overall Recommendation:

I See London, I See France did well as a travel type of book. I thoroughly enjoyed getting a taste of Europe. However, it’s far too explicit in more mature themes and it was very hard to connect with pretty much all the characters, love interest and Sydney included. The one upside is how the author addressed mental health and anxiety here, and for that, I gave it a higher rating. Otherwise, this may not be worth your time, even on a relaxing summer day.

Note: all quotes are subject to change when published. 

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

before i fall -lauren oliverWith this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today’s foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person’s life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Before I Fall definitely has that extra something that propelled it into fame when it was first published, where at the heart of it is a girl who learns more about herself and others in death than maybe she ever did in life.

I will be honest with you. I had many chances over the years to read Lauren Oliver’s debut but there was something that always made me hesitant to pick it up. In lieu of the movie that was released not too long ago, I thought it was finally time to do it.

And frankly? I wasn’t disappointed. But at the same time, it was exactly what I thought it would be like and why I was always hesitant in reading it.

Sam Kingston is no nice girl. Not like Mean Girls where the protagonist just kinda fell into the machinations of the popular group but she thrived in this setting for so long. The way she acted towards those she deemed not part of her group, she didn’t think twice about laughing it up with her besties. Now, those girls were all sorts of messed up too. Lindsay’s your typical alpha, although the others seemed to have more say than other stereotypical cliques. Ally isn’t particularly bright but rich, and Elody just seems desperate with the boys. The book is broken down into 7 parts aka 7 repeats of Sam’s last day. The first day was dreadfully long, although I understood the necessity of setting the foundation of what the original day was like.

If the slow pacing wasn’t a killer to get through in the beginning, Sam’s attitude was just a huge turn-off. From wanting to just get it over with, she submits to her unworthy boyfriend Rob to lose her V card that night, to being completely rotten to sophomores and her childhood friend Kent who just wasn’t cool enough for her now. Honestly, I wanted to tell Sam to cut it out half the time.

As the story progresses, I will say that Sam’s character development does slowly change, and at a proper pace. She doesn’t miraculously decide to become an angel after the first time she re-woke on Valentine’s day again. It took looking at these different “days” from different perspectives to start to grasp just how little she really saw of her world. Her classmates’ lives weren’t as simple as she thought they were, or how absent she’d become in her own family. I really enjoyed that part.

It’s a good story when you start feeling for your characters. Even the horrid ones. Although Sam’s group of friends don’t technically change from each rewind, you still see beyond the stereotypical mean girl persona they put up. Each one has their own story and struggles that they hide behind their popular status at school. Everyone had their own fears. And at the heart of it all, Sam was trying to figure out how to move on (or was this how the afterlife should be?).

I will say the friendships and Sam’s strong narrative held the story. Each day and rewind got better. She became braver and less selfish (slightly). She started understanding what her actions led to, and how things should’ve been while she was alive. Even though it took a while, I couldn’t hate Sam even at the start. She wasn’t nice and she wasn’t someone I connected with at first, but I understood she was human and she had her own insecurities, though I’m not condoning how she put down others to lift herself up. I even understood why Sam couldn’t hate her friends after seeing what their summed up actions could lead to in others’ lives. That’s a marker of a true story that resonates with the audience. When you can’t even hate these two-dimensional fictional characters because they’re real enough to you, and you get that people make mistakes, albeit some worse than others.

The romance, if you can even quite call it that, was bittersweet. It’s a part of why I dreaded reading this novel. She finally got to the point where you know that she’s a better person ’cause of the days and moments that passed, but no one remembers it but her after each rewind. Her sweet moments with Kent were erased each time, and of course, she couldn’t stay like this forever. She couldn’t spend more time with her family, or truly find a love that would last. Her moments were now limited to just the one day, repeatedly. And hopefully, that wouldn’t be the sum of her afterlife.

Everything wraps up the way you would think it would/should. It’s as bittersweet as I predicted, but at the end of the day, I can see why it got so popular and won awards, even optioned for a movie. The beauty lay in Sam’s transformation and the everyday lessons she learned along the way. And at the heart of it, it was about friendship and family, and not knowing when that last day will be.

Overall Recommendation:
Before I Fall is everything as I imagined it would be ever since it first came out. Poignant and bittersweet, it follows Sam’s story as she navigates the last day of her life over and over again, picking up on the consequences of her actions and how things didn’t have to be the way it was if only she had made different choices and saw things differently. With a romance that doesn’t take away from the main story, ultimately we get to follow Sam’s journey as she tackles final moments with friends and family in order to move on. It’s a story that transverses the contemporary YA boundary and should resonate in some way with readers.

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

long-may-she-reign-rhiannon-thomasThe Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power.

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown. 


3.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Long May She Reign comes out February 21, 2017**

Rating: 3.5 stars

Long May She Reign was something familiar but at the same time, so very different from what I expected. From princesses to the scientific method, Freya was a girl after my own heart. There are many things to be praised about this book, and I shall endeavour to point those things out.

LOVED:
1. I’m a scientist. It’s not so surprising that a science-lover like myself would be overjoyed to find something so out of place like the scientific method in experimentation in a YA fantasy novel. So of course I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect. Freya was a chemist, tinkering with chemical reactions from different powders and metals. Her curiosity about the way the world around her worked was refreshing. She wasn’t pompous in her assumptions or her worldview because everything needed proof. That was the way science worked.

2. Freya herself was a wonderful protagonist.
She just wanted to be a scientist, to explore the world and create experiments. But when disaster occurred and turned her plans – let alone world – upside down, she left her plans behind to do her duty. To become queen, the last thing she wanted to be. She was afraid, who wouldn’t be? Such responsibility in the aftermath of such a tragic event in the kingdom. But her courage and belief that she could make a difference, make the kingdom better , was admirable.

I loved Scientist Freya, but Queen Freya was just as amazing. She remained down-to-earth throughout the novel, facing each hurdle while trying to remain true to herself even when others were trying to manipulate her to their own image. This leads me to the wonderful character development which is always important. From a frightened nobody to a more confident queen, we get the privilege of seeing Freya learn what was important in managing a kingdom and people who had never given her the time of day before.

3. At the heart of this book was a mystery. A simple who-dunnit kind of question. Who killed all those people at the banquet that put her on the throne? I love a good mystery. Long May She Reign was honestly more of a mystery story than a fantasy. The sole focus was hunting down proof, evidence!, that someone had plotted to kill the court and it wasn’t her (because it looked suspicious it’d be her since she ascended to power). I thought it was a well-done mystery, with red herrings being pointed towards by Thomas, and it wasn’t altogether too predictable due to the motive.

4. Last point of wonder was the few secondary characters placed around Freya. Her best friend Naomi and new friend Madeleine were great examples of strong female characters. Freya herself was too. They didn’t need the prince riding down on a horse to save them from all their problems. Freya proved herself smart and capable with her scientific knowledge and heart for the people. Naomi and Madeleine, likewise, were the strong advocates backing up their queen, giving her the strength and courage to face the troubles coming. I loved that about them.

Of course, there’s still a love interest. Ah, William Fitzroy. He was a fun character. A little clichéd with his injured pride and princely status, albeit an illegitimate one, but he had his vulnerable moments that made me really like him. For Freya, there was no one better (although, that may also be due to the fact that there WERE NO OTHER young men her age to potentially court her anyway).

NOT-SO-LOVED:
1. Of course, this is where I diverge in praise and head into the problems. Rhiannon Thomas is known for not giving her characters happily-ever-after in romantic bliss. Now I can kinda see why in this standalone novel. It’s not to say that Freya and Fitzroy don’t have a chance for the future, but she leaves it in a way that is very ambiguous. Like, yeah maybe they can get over their differences and form something someday. But for now, this is kinda where they stand. Yes, there’s hope, but it’s not the wonderful solid “yes they’re together!” that I love.

2. And the other thing I’d point out is the lack of world building and slow pacing. I love Freya. If I didn’t, this rating may have dropped a little. If you’re looking for something dark and bloody and ridiculously suspenseful, well, unfortunately this is not for you. Long May She Reign is nothing like the fights for the crown that you may expect from TV shows like Reign or from history, like the comical re-telling of Lady Jane Grey in My Lady Jane. Freya goes about things in a logical manner with that scientific mind of hers, and I wouldn’t say there’s even truly a “battle” scene in this story. So if action is a must-have on your list, this may be a problem. The world building wasn’t much beyond the divine beings this land worshipped that later plays a small role in the story, but for a true fantasy novel, it just didn’t really focus much on this aspect.

At the end of the day, this book was wonderful in many ways for me (it brought me back from a book hiatus after all), but it’s not for everyone.

Overall Recommendation:
Long May She Reign hosts a cast of wonderful characters, in particular the protagonist. Freya is a scientist, a girl that I could very well love. With deep character development, Freya navigates ascension to the throne with the help of her fierce girl friends. Add a funny love interest and it’s got the makings of a fantasy story, but personally, Freya ties it all together for me. It’s not a book for everyone as it lacks heavy action and suspense, plus romantics out there may also be disappointed in the outcome of the romance. Overall, it’s a beautiful mystery but it could be a hit or miss for some.