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 ;)