Tag Archive | romance

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


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: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Series: Flame in the Mist #1

flame in the mist -renee ahdiehThe only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.


4 Drink Me Potions


Flame in the Mist was steeped in gorgeous Japanese lore that made the story both unique and enticing. While it wasn’t always moving at a fast pace, I can see why this book has been raved about. Because it’s very very true.

I haven’t read any of Renee Ahdieh’s other works yet but I’m not surprised that I enjoyed this novel. There was a lot of background work, I’m sure, to set this novel in such a setting and time. Although I was a little wary, to be honest, about how well this kinda YA book could be executed, I was delightfully surprised.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s like stepping into the Japanese culture and the way of the samurai. It never felt like the author only briefly did her homework and called it a day. She sold me on the genuine authenticity feel to this book.
  2. Intriguing things being laid out in the story’s background (for the next novel). There were little tidbits throughout that made me wonder if such events would become relevant later and things were tied well together in the end, no matter the cliffhanger-ish ending.
  3. The ability to weave a story with 2 main guy characters and not have a love triangle to keep things interesting. Okashi, the Wolf, was by far Mariko’s preferred choice, no matter that Ranmaru was so much more likeable at first.
  4. Mariko. Just Mariko ❤

To elaborate a bit more beyond those brief points, Flame in the Mist had a cast of characters and plot events that genuinely seemed to portray the Japanese culture. From teahouses to geishas and the lay of the lands, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Japan like this in a YA novel.

The one negative thing I would note is that the beginning is rather slow. It takes time for Mariko to even find her way to the Black Clan camp, and then she’s stuck there for a while doing nothing exciting at all. Except for mundane tasks. But once you get past this bump, it will surprise you as things develop more quickly.

Overall Recommendation:

Flame in the Mist shouldn’t be a surprise to fans of Renee Ahdieh’s books. She has weaved a beautiful story steeped in Japanese culture that still fits so relevantly in YA fantasy. Although it was slow to start, Mariko as our protagonist and the two mysterious guys leading the Black Clan will capture you in their story until the very last pages.

Review: Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble

Series: Rock Harbor #6

beneath copper falls -colleen cobleUSA TODAY bestselling author Colleen Coble returns to her beloved Rock Harbor—but both danger and romance hide in this idyllic small town.

Dana Newell has just moved to Rock Harbor to take a job as a sheriff’s dispatcher and is settling in next door to Bree and Kade Matthews. The abusive relationship she left behind seems a distant memory in this perfect place.

Her first day on the job, Dana receives a call from her friend Allyson who screams “He’s going to kill me too” before the phone goes dead. Dana immediately dispatches a deputy, but it’s too late. Allyson’s death is ruled an accident, but Dana just doesn’t believe it. She knows Allyson—an investigative reporter—was researching a new story. Did someone want to keep her quiet?

Dana continues to look into the accident with the help of Bree and also Allyson’s cousin Boone. Romance quickly blooms between Dana and Boone but the game is much more complex than either of them imagined. When Dana’s ex-fiance locates her, she’s caught in the middle. It’s a game of cat and mouse as she and Boone fight to catch one killer while evading another.


3 Drink Me Potions


Thank you NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Beneath Copper Falls comes out July 11, 2017!**

Ah, another mystery set in Rock Harbor. I will confess. I’m a huge fan of Colleen Coble and while that still remains true, I always found myself enjoying her historical fiction works a little more than her contemporary ones. Even still, I wanted to see how her latest story back by popular demand in the town of Rock Harbor would do.

And it didn’t necessarily disappoint (which is a win!).

Dana is an emergency hotline operator. That’s one tough job, but apparently the story trope of witnessing a tragic murder while on the line isn’t all that uncommon anymore. Nevertheless, Colleen Coble made this her own story.

As I was saying, Dana was a good protagonist. She was relatable, albeit not too memorable. She faced similar challenges as I do, trying to speak up when you’re afraid of rejection or being reprimanded by others. With the challenges she had to face due to the murder of her friend Allyson, it gets somewhat overlooked in the grand scheme of things, but she does grow a little in character. I think her character mostly shone through with the craziness that came from her ex chasing her around the country. I will get back to this later.

The romance was predictable. Boone has faced rejection from a previous relationship and didn’t want trust women, yada yada yada. But of course, Dana’s goodheartedness and inner beauty made him change his mind. Okay, it didn’t quite sound so simple, but it kinda felt that way. I wanted to believe in their blossoming love, but I felt it was all a little too cliched and it just didn’t hit me in a way that made me say “aha, my heart is hurting with them”. ‘Cause of course that’s the sign of true love in my eyes 😉

So maybe the romance wasn’t great with the typical strong male character wanting to save the girl who gets in trouble. But the mystery made up for it.

Except for the fact that I guessed who the unlikely culprit was before the halfway point. I was thinking to myself, “hmm, why do I get this crazy feeling it’s *insert name*? No, that can’t be right….”. And guess what?

I was right.

But I’m sure most of you won’t see it coming (I blame it on reading too many mysteries growing up – and the amount of crime shows I binge watch). So that aspect should still be suspenseful and exciting for most readers. I enjoyed the way the pieces fell together. I was hoping it would be a little bit more creepy – like Colleen’s Abomination – but alas, it wasn’t quite as psychologically twisted as I initially thought it would be.

Other little things made the book better. Appearances by fan favourites Kade and Bree put them in roles – particularly Bree – beyond cameos in this story, and the familiar feeling of being back in Rock Harbor was pleasant. The plot was a little all over the place following different POVs, such as the killer’s and Boone’s and Dana’s, but it wasn’t to the level of chaotic so it felt like a good mix of omniscient narrative for us readers.

To sum it up, the romance wasn’t the best, but the mystery was still Colleen’s best. I liked being back in Rock Harbor, and I’m sure many more diehard fans than I am would really enjoy seeing familiar sights and characters. I may just be a bit picky (although I do love her historical mysteries!) but I believe this book falls in line with all the other works in this series and make for a good addition to fan favourites.

Overall Recommendation:
Beneath Copper Falls was a present to diehard Rock Harbor fans and I think Coble did a decent job with this new book. Witnessing the murder of her friend over the line, Dana was a relatable character who struggled with her own past relationship abuse while trying to figure out who killed her friends before the killer got to her. The budding new romance with Boone could’ve been better – he was a little cliched in personality and backstory – but that’s okay as the mystery more than made up for it. Mostly suspenseful (no matter if I predicted it a little early), this book is bound to satisfy some Rock Harbor fans and also make some new ones.


Know of any other good mysteries similar to this storyline?

And if you read this, do YOU think the culprit was predictable or not? I feel like I’m just an anomaly, but I could be wrong.

Next up: reviews on I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski, and Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh; and my June book haul ❤ Until then, lovelies.