Wednesday, August 20, 2014

100% Adorable:: Isla and the Happily Ever Afters by Stephanie Perkins

My Summary::
Isla has had a crush on Josh for as long as she can remember. After an awkward run-in with him over the summer, she returns to school (they go to boarding school in Paris btw) to discover that the dynamic between them has changed- all of a sudden the boy of her dreams might finally like her back. What Isla isn't prepared for however, is what to do after she gets her happily ever after. Set in Paris, but also New York City and Barcelona, Isla must find her own courage to believe in herself, in order to believe in love.

My Review::
This book is so beautiful I can't even handle it. I basically read it all in one sitting (with the exception of eating dinner). I could not put it down for the life of me and ended up being up till 4:30 AM finishing it. The books is very well-written, especially the details of the cityscapes that Isla and Josh inhabit. One of my favorite lines of description was when they look down at Paris, "The serpentine river and crumbling cathedrals and sprawling palaces an everything, yes, everything is visible from here." Perkins creates these over the time, cinematic moments- first kisses with fireworks, late night escapes in museums, and a swoon-worthy trip to Spain. This contrasts with very realistic teenagery language and delightfully awkward moments that keep the story grounded in the real world. I completely adored the way it was written, which I think is one of the novel's strongest points.

I also really loved Isla's character. She reminded me a lot of myself- sweet, a little shy, bright, and loyal. At times Isla would be over dramatic in how she saw the world and their romance, which actually also reminded me a lot of myself. In all, Isla's character felt very real and unique to me. I feel like she isn't the traditional YA heroine, which I think is why she really jumped out to me. Josh seemed wonderfully complex- full of plans for the future, but can't take school seriously, yet is the son of Senator. I enjoyed discovering him different facets alongside Isla.

My only critique might be that the novel takes place over a relatively short amount of time for drama and romance that it seems to carry. It makes me doubt the longevity of Isla and Josh's relationship. I had the same feeling about Anna and St. Clair (from Anna and the French Kiss) and they seemed to turn out just fine (btw they are in this book too and will make you squeal with happiness).

I definitely recommend this book, especially if you love Europe and romance. It is adorable, but also witty, beautifully written, and smart.

Perfect if you loved:: The Fault in Our Stars (especially if you liked the part they go to Amsterdam- Isla and Josh's trip to Spain was reminiscent of that), 13 Little Blue Envelopes (European travel, romance, ect), Anna and the French Kiss (it is based on two minor characters from this book, but you don't have to have read it in order enjoy this)
My Rating:: 26 out of 30

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Living the Dream:: Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

My Summary::
Australian journalist Sarah is finishing up a year spent in Europe by traveling to Bucharest, Romania where she meets Frederic. He invites her to spend a week with him in Paris, but instead, she decides to spend the rest of her life with him. As Sarah takes a chance on love and adventure, but soon learns that life in Paris so different than her former life in Australia. Through her lovely and thoughtful memoir Sarah tells the story of being part of two countries and cultures.

My Review::
This books is really lovely. It is told in little vignettes of life in Paris, especially compared to life in Anglo-Saxon areas (specifically Australia). As a journalist stationed in Paris, Sarah lots of chances to experience lots of very "french" things for the sake of journalism- she goes to haute couture fashion shows, she dines at one of Paris's most celebrated restaurants, she takes her dog to a puppy salon. At the same time, she has many normal human disasters, homesickness, and faux pax. There are lots of details, often showing a side of France we normally don't get to see- the homeless and weird building regulations.

I wish the book had included more of her and Frederic's relationship. I guess I can understand that since it is non-fiction, she might not want to tell all- but I felt as if they went from strangers to a practically married couple so quickly. I really wanted the love story behind it- like the moments she fell in love with him or drama they experienced. I also thought the pacing was a little strange. I had expected it to read more like a story, but it would jump forward rather quickly from one spot to another, which made it more dream-like (which I suppose one could argue is how memoirs should be).

In all, I enjoyed the book. It really takes you to Paris. The book is over 10 years old now though, so I wonder how the city has progressed since then. It is a perfect book if you are traveling to France as a way of understanding the culture better, especially in comparison with your own.

Perfect if you loved:: A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
My Rating:: 19 out of 30

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Classics Double Feature: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and A Room With a View by E.M Forster

For those of you who don't know, I have spent the last 6 weeks working at an overnight summer camp. Unfortunately that doesn't make much time for blogging or reading, so here is a catch up post on my thoughts of the books I read while the campers were napping.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

My Summary::
Henry is an American serving the Italian Army as an ambulance driver. Catherine is charming English nurse he meets during World War I. They quickly fall in love and try to navigate their relationship through the War to End All Wars. But in an event as hideous as war, can love, can anything really, survive?

My Review::
I really, really loved this book. It is heart breaking, iconically so. It is also very beautiful as well. I really love Hemingway's writing style- his dialogue seems so real and clear. I especially loved this novel because we got to see this romantic side to him- the love story between Henry and Catherine is so classic and so raw as well. Maybe I'm just a sucker for WWI era romances, but I really loved every scene they shared together and really savored every moment of it.

There are some things I didn't care for. There were a lot of scenes of "men talking men stuff." I ended up just skipping some of these parts because they were very boring. I also am not a huge fan of long descriptions of battles, but many site that as one of this novel's strong points, so although it wasn't my favorite part, it was certainly notable.

This book is a classic and rightly so. It has romance, adventure, love, loss, war, and lots of reflection on all these aspects. And of course an ending that will rip your heart out- because that is, after all, what war does.

Perfect if you Loved:: Crimson Road- a new BBC series about love and loss at a WWI field hospital
My Rating:: No rating for classics :)

A Room With a View

My Summary::
On a trip to Italy with her cousin, Lucy Honeychurch witnesses a man being stabbed. Like all good early 20th-Century heroines, she promptly swoons- luckily right into the arms of George Emerson. It becomes clear as her trip continues that George has feelings for her, but Lucy's cousin disapproves and she finds herself whisked out of Florence, never to see George again. That is until a few months later, when he reappears, but this time Lucy is engaged. In a beautiful tale of progress and true love, Lucy find the courage to live the life wants.

My Review::
This story is adorable. It is a very classic forbidden love, "will they, won't they" type story- but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. The characters and romance are so real, it is hard not to forget that they are living almost 100 years ago. I am a huge Downton Abbey fan and it felt like this story could have easily fit in there, especially the second half which takes place at an old estate.

My only complaint is that the writing can be a little old and verbose sometimes. Of course, working at a summer camp with crazy kids often made me tired and I found myself falling asleep on this book more times than one. I still enjoyed and found it a pretty quick reading, given that I only had like 10 or 15 minutes a day to read.

Perfect if you loved:: A Summer in Europe by Marilyn Brant which is a loose modern retelling of this (I didn't realize this until after finishing A Room with a View)
My Review:: No review for classics ;) 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Behind the Pilot:: The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

My Summary::
When Anne Morrow joins her family for Christmas Vacation in Mexico City where her father is an ambassador, she finds that her family is surprisingly joined Charles Lindbergh. The young aviator has just flown his landmark flight from New York to Paris and now the hero of the nation. So what a surprise it is to Anne when Charles takes an interest in her- taking her on private flights, before proposing to her. Anne has always dreamed of marrying a hero and who is a bigger hero than Lucky Lindy. As Anne accepts her role at aviator's wife, she begins to explore her identity- a wife, a mother, a writer, and as a woman.

My Review::
In all honesty, I am quite mixed about this book. I recently read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain which I very much enjoyed, so I thought I might try this one. I didn't enjoy this book as much at The Paris Wife. The Hemingway marriage only lasted 4 years, so the story was more intimate and succinct, whereas this novel attempted to span the entirety of the Lindbergh. The problem with this is that it needed to cover a long amount of time from their courtship in the 20's to Charles' death in the 70's. Because of this the story got tedious at times. It wasn't a book that I wanted to read in a few sittings, but spanned out over a week or so. I also disliked the way that Benjamin wasn't loyal to fact. I like leaving a historical fiction books with a deeper and richer understanding of the people involved, however with this book I'm not sure what was fact and what was fiction, which makes me a little uncomfortable.

There a lot of huge positive things about this novel, that shouldn't be discredited. Anne is a wonderfully complex character, perhaps mostly because the real Anne was a very complicated woman. I was impressed with the way that the author wove together the different facets of Anne: a daring aviatrix, an aspiring author, a fiercely protective mother, a loyal wife- into one cohesive person. Charles himself was just as complex, though never really likable. The characters and story were intriguing and it is only now that I'm finished reading that I realize how much I will miss their world.

Perfect if You Loved:: Historical books about strong and complex women (I can't think of a specific book that I would link with this)
My Rating (out of 30):: 16

Friday, June 20, 2014

All The Books??

Hi Everyone,

I've been looking at other blogs and realized that a lot of them keep a list of the all the books they've read that year. I read a lot of books for my university, not just for my English major, but for other classes too like french and education ones. So my list of books looks a little different than most other book lists (which I why I kinda hesitated to post this). Anyway, a link to this list will always be under the "All The Reviews" tab at the top and you guys are definitely free to discuss any of the books on there with me. I've marked ones that were rereads and ones I read in other languages.

All The Books (2014 Edition)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday:: Books to Read this Summer

The Broke and Bookish run this weekly meme where bloggers post their top ten in any category!

This week's theme is "Books I Want to Read this Summer." I might not read these all this summer, but I'll hopefully read them soon. I tried to include a good mix of YA, Adult Fiction, New Releases, Classics, and Non-Fiction

1- Almost French by Sarah Turnbull- I've been wanting to read this since I first started flipping through it at the library a few months back. It's a non-fiction story of an Aussi who gets invited by this random French dude to visit him in Paris and ends up marrying him and living there. Can't wait to read it, especially since I'll be living Paris next spring! :)
2- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway- Since I studied this book in high school during Quiz Bowl, I've always wanted to actually read it. The power of love and enormity of loss seemed so powerful. Now that I've been on a Hemingway kick this summer, I figured I'd try to finally read it.
3- A Room with a View by E. M. Forester- I read A Passage to India earlier this year in a lit class, and I've been wanting to read another by him. I've also been interested in reading something about Florence, since I learned about Stendhal Syndrome in my creative writing class. And there are old country estates, which always are my fave so this book seemed like a good choice.
4- Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald- I'm like weirdly obsessed with the Lost Generation and I really want to read Zelda's only novel.
5- Londoners by Craig Taylor- It's a series of non-fiction essays by people who live in London about what it is like to live there. I've never been to London, but I've always wanted to. This way when I am traveling in Europe next spring I can go there and be prepared.
6- The Penderwicks by Jane Birdsall- I've heard this compared to one of my all time favorite series "The Casson Family." I utterly adore books about quirky families with cute kids!
7-  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell- I loved Fangirl and I've heard a lot of great things about this book too. I definitely want to read it if I get a chance.
8- Ilsa and the Happily Ever Afters by Stephanie Perkins- I am still not over how much I loved Anna and the French Kiss and this companion takes place in France and seems deep and interesteding and gah I need to read this!
9- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthoney Doerr- This WWII novel takes place in St. Malo, a really cute seaside town in France that I visited a few months ago when I was last in France. I'd love to go back through this book, which just came out and is highly rated.
10- The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin- I'm about 200 pages through this- so hopefully I'll finish and review this soon!

What are you reading this summer? Have you read any of the books on my list? Leave me some comments, lovelies :)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Not Actually Downton Abbey:: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

My Summary::
Elise Landau is a Jewish daughter of an opera singer and a novelist, living among the bourgeois in Vienna. On the brink of WWII, her family sends her off to England to work as maid, in hopes it will keep her safe. She is hired at the house at Tyneford, a great old house, occupied by Mr. Rivers and his 21 year old son, Kit. At first Elise is thrown, she barely speaks English, she's never had to take care of herself- much less others, and she constantly worries about the family she has left behind. Elise's unique position of being both upper and lower class allows her to change Tyneford forever.

My Review::
I saw a lot of mixed reviews for this, but I figured I'd give it a try. The premise of the book seemed so interesting that I figured it couldn't be that bad. It was.

The first 1/3 of the book seemed promising, the second 1/3 was still okay, but after that it got weird and boring. I obviously don't want to give the plot away for those who choose to read it, but I found the ending uncomfortable and boring (as well as a little confusing). The plot had so many interesting possibilities that could have made it a fascinating novel, but instead, it was awkward and disappointing. Once I figured out how this was ending, my interest in the book faded and I had to really push myself to finish it.

There were a few high points (though the icky plot detracted from it). The writing is lovely and it has lot of descriptions of the English countryside, but there are SO many that I ended up skimming most of them. The characters seem complex. I loved Kit, he felt so real and like someone who I might know. Elise, however, it seemed like the author tried to make her so "flawed" that she seemed unlikable.

In general, I don't recommend it. I love Downton Abbey and the cover said that it would appease Downton fans, but it didn't really seem anything like it at all.

Perfect if You Loved:: Atonement by Ian McEwan (though it isn't nearly as good, but it has similarities with it)
Rating (out of 30):: 9