Tag Archive | travelling

Review: The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

Series: Charlotte Holmes #2

the-last-of-august-brittany-cavallaroIn the second brilliant, action-packed book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Jamie and Charlotte are in a chase across Europe to untangle a web of shocking truths about the Holmes and Moriarty families.

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers.

So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


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

**The Last of August comes out February 14, 2017**

Rating: 3.5 stars

You know a story was tumultuous when you flip over that last page and realize you’ve hit the Acknowledgements section. The Last of August actually managed to surprise me in this manner. And that says a lot ’cause I wasn’t feeling it for this book for like, the first 75% of it. Can I just stop for a sec and say “O. M. G…what just happened in the last 10%?

I will try to break down my rather hard decision to rate this book at where I’ve placed it, especially compared to its prequel, A Study in Charlotte.

The Plotline

Unlike the prequel, this book was located in multiple locations in Europe. From London to Berlin to Prague, I rather enjoyed seeing our young descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson take on the “bigger” world and its mysteries, compared to the rather limited school campus-restricted affair we got to see earlier. Brittany Cavallaro did a good job, I think, of setting the scene and really showing us what was going on with art forgeries investigation.

However, what the prequel did WAY better was really rack up the suspense. I didn’t feel that Charlotte and Jamie were in danger most of the time, not like the first one did. Frankly, Holmes and Watson were barely talking sometimes because they were constantly fighting so it’s kinda hard to focus on the actual MYSTERY at hand. Honestly, it felt like some TV drama half the time because the mystery was swept off to the side as we focus on their relational problems.

And I thought this was a SHERLOCK based story.

Anyway, when dangers did seem to creep into the story, it wasn’t as exciting as it could’ve been because I was just SO CONFUSED. The foundation of the mystery was all over the place. Was it mostly the gang looking for the culprit behind the art forgeries? Was it trying to figure out where Charlotte’s uncle Leander disappeared too? Was it figuring out how the Moriartys tied into all of this? (After all, their little truce seem to be over between the Holmes and Moriarty families).

I can’t give you a definitive answer. I’d say it was probably a bit of everything. Which actually sucks for an answer. So it wasn’t very focused and half the time I felt like I was just waiting for the big reveal from Holmes in order to get my AHA moment. I was hoping a lightbulb would just click in my mind when I finally reached the ending. Didn’t quite happen like that.

The Sherlock Holmes-yness in the plot

So, where was the Sherlock factor into all of this? This is a retelling of sorts on the famous detective. And his brilliant descendants – like ALL of them. Boy, must be some heavy genetics they maintained in the family line.

Anyway, this was a tough one for me. If you can’t tell from the above rant, there wasn’t a whole lot of room to even develop the mystery. Holmes went off with her plans with Jamie always trying to catch up with her thoughts process (if that’s even possible). And since we see most everything through his eyes, we’re mostly left in the dark too.

I say mostly because we get the privilege of 2 WHOLE chapters from Charlotte’s POV. Here’s where the most “sherlock-y” it gets in this book. It’s still confusing, don’t get me wrong, ’cause we’re still not given all the details of what’s going on in that mind of hers, but at least it felt more reminiscent of what Sherlock would be saying and doing. It wasn’t solely focused on the romance. And Charlotte can be quite hilarious in an unintentional way.

“Honestly, I was pleased that [the boys] were for the moment gone. Democratic decision-making had failed us so far, as a team (was that what we were?). Things ran more smoothly when I was their benevolent dictator.”


This was probably where the book started going more uphill for me. The middle portion? Solid boredom. Even the beautiful scenery couldn’t shake my funk.

The Romance…

Anyone can see that I’m not a huge lover of the….more-than-platonic-but-not-quite-romantic tensions underlying Holmes and Watson’s relationship. I tolerated it in book 1, and tried not to grit my teeth through it here. Well, let me just say, if you ARE a fan of this “interesting” dynamic between the two, you will be more delighted that Cavallaro explores that side of their relationship more here.

While I am much more satisfied when they’re working alongside each other like best friends who occasionally fight (’cause that’s what friends do – doesn’t have to always be from other tensions causing it), I will say that I DID enjoy her writing prose in those scenes. For a Holmes, showing emotions isn’t easy – or even relevant for the most part – but it made the scene even more poignant because we know it was both Jamie and Charlotte meeting halfway for each other to even get to that point where civil conversation was possible (and some other steamier things).

There’s no love triangle, not even hints of one (much to my disappointment ’cause it would’ve juiced up the constant tension in this book), but maybe it was for the better this way.

I might not be on board for anything beyond platonic for the two (or this stasis point they’ve reached), but I do love how Jamie shapes Charlotte for the better. And Cavallaro describes it beautifully.

“If August was my counterpoint, my mirror, Jamie was the only escape from myself I’d ever found. When I was beside him, I understood who I was. I spoke to him, and I liked the words I said….If August reflected me, Jamie showed me myself made better.”


That ending though….

Without giving too much away, the first thought that popped into my head after it finally settled into my mind that I had indeed reached the last page – no, my ARC had not malfunctioned on me and cut me off from all the important details – was “crap is going down like, NOW.” I did not love this book. It was hard to get through at times, as mentioned above, but now it’s like, I HAVE to read the next one just to satisfy my curiosity at what occurred here. It’s not so much what a traditional cliffhanger may leave us with, but more like you know the big, exciting moments are just around the corner and you don’t want to miss out on the wreckage flying in front of your face (yes, we humans tend to like to stare when bad things happen to OTHER people).

The epilogue was touching in ways that I couldn’t imagine it would affect me in. After all, I was on cruise mode for the majority of this book. Apathy reign supreme. But for the last 10%, I am willing (and maybe even excited) for what may come.

Overall Recommendation:
The Last of August was not mystery heavy, with a plot that was strewn all over the place and had no focus. For lovers of a potential relationship between Charlotte and Jamie, this novel really explores, teases and strips that dynamic apart in a brilliant way, whether or not you’re shipping them. I would’ve loved to see more of Holmes’ special deductions in this one and understand more of what was happening WHILE I was reading it, but the ending explosively threw me a bone that I just cannot let go of. With both heavy pros and cons, this sequel was worth it for fans of book 1, but keep in mind that 80% was confusion and maybe 20% could get your heart pumping.

NOTE: all quotes may be subject to change

Review: Her Accidental Husband by Ashlee Mallory

Series: The Sorensen Family #2

her accidental husband -ashlee malloryPayton Vaughn’s trip to Puerto Vallarta for her friend’s wedding was her big escape from her ridiculously overbearing mother–oh, and that little matter with her cheating fiancé. Now, her flight’s been cancelled, and she’s crammed into a tiny car with the gorgeous-but-irritating best man.

Viva la road trip from hell…

Cruz Sorensen doesn’t have time to babysit some spoiled socialite, even if she is the future daughter-in-law of the man who could change the fortune of his family’s company. He has no business getting to know her better—not even for all the tequila in Mexico…until they wake up with grande-sized hangovers as man and wife.

Now Payton and Cruz must decide if they’ve reached the end of their journey…or the beginning of a new adventure.


4 Drink Me Potions


Her Accidental Husband features two people who have made big appearances in the previous novel, Her Backup Boyfriend. I had seen these two as a potential match even then, and preferably, I enjoyed their story a little more.

Payton fits the stereotype of a rich, socialite girl who has everything yet feels restless. However, I totally sympathize with her as she’s got a dragon for a mother. Controlling, conniving and completely intolerable until you let her get her way. Payton’s better than that. She’s actually a brilliant girl who wanted to study law and chose her own friends, like Kate, not based on their trust funds and bloodlines.

Cruz is also another well-known member of the Sorensen family. He’s quiet and brooding, the typical guy to offset the more bubbly personality of his potential match. Although their characters were a little stereotypical, I still enjoyed who they were and how they interacted with each other. Stuck on a road trip through Mexico to reach a wedding that’s important to them both, they learn that there may be a very fine line between love and hate.

The one downside to it all is the completely unnecessary misunderstandings that pile up nearer to the end. Whether it be her fault one second or his fault the other, it felt like they just kept missing the other, not totally understanding what the other meant when they said or did something out of hurt or complete ignorance of the consequences. It dragged it out a little too much in my opinion. I felt that Mallory could’ve made the ending more sweet and less abrupt (like the epilogue she threw in) if she cut out one or two of the misunderstandings that kept the couple apart.

All in all, it was a sweet and adorable story about two people who couldn’t be more different but found they had more in common than they thought.

Overall Recommendation:
Her Accidental Husband was a sweet and amusing story following two familiar characters who thought they despised each other on a very long road trip through the beautiful backdrop of Mexico. The premise has been done before and the characters lean a little more into the stereotypical, but the way the story was conducted kept it fun and enjoyable as we watch them turn their less-than-happy feelings for each other into love. Minus the excessive misunderstandings between them that occur nearer the end of the book, this story makes for a lovely summer afternoon read.

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3

isla and the happily ever after -stephanie perkinsLove ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.


5 Drink Me Potions


Where should I start? There is just so many things to say about this book.

I guess I’ll just have to keep it sweet and simple.

Isla and the Happily Ever After was the romance book I’ve been waiting for. Where its predecessor Anna and the French Kiss was frustrating with its protagonists struggling to decide who to be with, and the other predecessor Lola and the Boy Next Door was extremely slow with its romantic chemistry, Isla and Josh made the best pair of love-torn protagonists I have yet to read.

It starts off right where you may have imagined it. You guessed it. Isla pining away for Josh, as she’s done for the last 3 years of high school. They’re seniors now and she REALLY needs to make her move. Girl, you should’ve done this ages ago, like pre-Rashmi (Josh’s ex).

Anyway, Isla was a nice, albeit a little similar to other protagonist voices I’ve read. She’s shy but sweet. She can be sassy, but she doesn’t make new friends as easily. However, as the story progresses, she gets bolder in her actions while still maintaining a bit of her old shy self in there too. Josh, on the other hand, is….I don’t have the proper adjective to describe him. I really got to know him through this book, another aspect of him that wasn’t clearly there in Anna and the French Kiss. Yes, he’s an artist and he’s drawing a graphic memoir of himself. I find that darn cute. And we get to read it! Sort of. To see how his high school life had gone, and what he hopes it’ll be like now. It really gives us the chance to see who he is and how he came to be this way. My goodness, it makes me want to smack and hug him at the same time. But of course, I still love him.

The romance picked up fast this time (for once). Unlike Perkins’ two previous works, neither protagonists had someone they were still dating/holding onto like their sole source of oxygen. All in all, it made their growing feelings for each other so much sweeter to read about, with the odd comical moments that any great couple have.

I–well I can go on and on about this book, but like I said. Sweet and simple. READ IT! With gorgeous settings like Manhattan, Paris and Barcelona, and the cutest couple as our protagonists, it’s like the perfect combination to falling in love with a book.

Overall Recommendation:
To keep it sweet and simple, this book takes the romantic storytelling to the next level. With two very different yet very complex and beautiful characters, it’s like unravelling a fairy tale as Isla and Josh fall for each other, and following the ups and downs of a real relationship as the every day drama tries to tear them apart. Oh, and of course, what’s cooler than reading about the love interest than in the form of a comic book story?
Seriously. It’s too cute for words. Please, read it. I swear it takes the best parts of Perkins’ previous works and mashes them into this gorgeous book.

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1

anna and the french kiss -stephanie perkinsAnna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near – misses end with the French kiss Anna – and readers – have long awaited?


5 Drink Me Potions


Romance, romance, romance galore!

I put off reading Anna and the French Kiss for a long time. I’m not sure why. Hype I guess? And even though there are a number of cliches in this story, and of course, a predictable plot line, the path of Anna and Etienne’s romance was unique and extremely adorable.

Anna isn’t quite like any girl I’ve read before. She’s not necessarily a shy girl, but she isn’t in the popular group at school. She’s not afraid to put herself out there when need be, loyal to her friends, and apparently quite attractive (so not the cliche of extremely handsome boy falling for a plain girl). Etienne is probably the most unique male counterpart I have yet to see. He’s American, yet has a British accent and a French name. He’s not very tall (there goes that cliche) but his presence and inner charisma is what draws others to him. Oh, and yes, can’t forget about his gorgeous hair!

The protagonists fit well together. I just didn’t love how long it took for their confused feelings to get it together and realize they had something special right in front of them. However, through their struggles, it brought out the emotions and strength of their friendship, which quite frankly is more important at times than the initial physical attraction which made fade.

And the setting was in Paris! Oh la la. What better place to have a beautiful romantic story in? It was depicted so well that it made me long to go back to the City of Lights. I could picture many of the attractions they visited, and could clearly imagine myself doing it with Anna and Etienne.

Overall, a job well done, Stephanie Perkins! She took an ageless plot line and made it into something of her own.

Overall Recommendations:
Anna and the French Kiss may have high expectations but the romance and friendship of the 2 protagonists are worth the ride as they navigate the budding feelings they have for each other. Through the highs and lows of their senior year, and set in the gorgeous City of Lights, what more could a romance story have? It is a whole deal package that no one should miss out on! A definite 5 stars!

Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

the geography of you and me -jennifer E. smithLucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.


4 Drink Me Potions


It took me a long time to get into the story. However, my suggestion is to stick it out for say, the first third to half of the book, because The Geography of You and Me most definitely won me over by the end of it.

The beginning was slower than I had thought it would be. Sure, the boy-meets-girl moment happens almost immediately but I wasn’t feeling much for it. AT FIRST. But wait! As the story took its course, there were moments where I had to sit back and just pause to smile at the pages before me.

Owen and Lucy are rather normal characters, as main protagonists go. I wouldn’t say they’re unlikeable, ’cause for sure they are likeable enough for me to continue reading their respective stories, but they’re not excitingly memorable/unique. Each have something to deal with at the beginning. For Owen, it was dealing with the move to NY and over losing his mom. For Lucy, it was being left alone a lot, with her brothers away for school and parents always travelling around the world. I loved that over the span of the book, they both changed and grew from these experiences.

The romance was cute. It was also slow coming, but eventually I felt that irresistible pull they had on each other just as they were discovering it for themselves too. Long distance relationships are hard, and it requires a lot of commitment to one another. I loved that it explored the ups and the downs in any relationship like that.

Maybe my 4 stars are a bit generous, but how could I not be? The Geography of You and Me has some of my very favourite things in it. A beautiful starlit sky where our protagonists first felt the magic; travelling/exploring beautiful cities around the world; and a romance that conquers the distance between them. Sighhh, it’s just too cute for words.

By the way, I absolutely am grateful that Jennifer E Smith kept the ending realistic. It didn’t take away any of the magic of the relationship, maybe even added to it. The writing still melts my heart as I think back on it.

Overall Recommendation:
What started off slow and almost too boring to continue, The Geography of You and Me holds more promise to it than that if you just dig deeper. With sweeping descriptions of gorgeous cities in Europe and America, any traveller who’s been there (like I have!) or wishes to will enjoy the imagery. Just imagine yourself there along with them! And how could anyone resist a relationship that knows no bounds? Distance may just soften the heart.
I recommend this sweet story to anyone who loves travelling and cute relationships!