Review | I See London, I See France | Sarah Mlynowski


I See London, I See France

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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.

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.

First of all, I’ve gotten a lot of new subscribers in the last week or so, and I just want to say thank you and welcome! I’d love if you could tell me in the comments how you found this blog so I know how to reach even more readers!

This novel was a really fun ride from start to finish. Think Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes meets Euro Trip. Sydney and her best friend Leela are no strangers to boys, but when the book starts it has been a while since Sydney let herself have much fun. She’s taken on the burden of her mom’s agoraphobia and allowed it to distance herself from her friend.

I liked that Sydney and Leela’s friendship felt deep and genuine right away. There was no need to set it up or provide much backstory because their chemistry and the way they interacted spoke volumes. I also liked that Leela’s codependent personality revealed itself in stages which simultaneously allowed the reader to feel towards her the same way that Sydney did, at the same pace. For example, it’s not as if she was written to be really annoying but the reader finds her that way before Sydney does. Instead, as the reader I found that my feelings for her changed and developed as the character developed, which is really strong writing in my opinion. 

There are, of course, boys, and lots of them. While it was fun to watch Sydney explore various dalliances and play with romance, nothing was super steamy or exciting. Even when the main love interest gets on the scene, I wasn’t desperate to flip the pages to get more of him. Not that he was written badly or even boringly–I just didn’t get the tingles when I read about them.

The book also lacks in setting description. Sydney and Leela are travelling through all of these incredible places across Europe, but there are no visual details provided. I felt very much like Sydney had tunnel vision, focusing mainly on Leela, the boys, and her phone. I wanted to snap my fingers in her face and say, “Look up, lady! I want to know what London looks like!” It was definitely a weakness that resulted in me feeling somewhat removed from the story.

However, the pacing is very fast and the characters are well developed. It definitely has the feel of being the first of a series because you are left with a few unanswered questions and what I would call “problems” that still need to be resolved by the characters. For example, I don’t think Leela and Sydney’s friendship is going to last if Leela doesn’t grow up a little bit. I also NEED to know more about Kat. Honestly, I hope the sequel focuses solely on Sydney’s upcoming school year; her adventures with Kat were hinted at and I want to see that in detail, and I want to see how she navigates her new long-distance relationships. Plus with her mom on the road to recovery and her sister possibly going down a self-destructive path, there is so much story to be read there! I’m really excited. I’m sure she doesn’t need it, but if the author ever wants someone to bounce ideas with, I’m here.

I definitely recommend it and hope you will all grab yourself a copy. A great start to my 2018 Reading Challenge for sure!


Goodreads     Indigo


Review | Slam! Vol. 1 | Pamela Ribon & Veronica Fish


Slam! Vol. 1

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In the fast-paced, hard-hitting, super cheeky, all-female world of banked track roller derby, two young women will have to decide if their budding friendship is stronger than the pull of a team when a win is on the line.

When life starts coming at you like a freight train, you have two options: run away screaming or lean into the hit.

From the first day of Fresh Meat Orientation for the Eastside Roller Girls, Jennifer and Maisie knew they’d be fast friends. But when they’re drafted to different teams, the pull of competition — and their increasingly messy personal lives — threaten to drive them apart. In roller derby you take your hits, get back up, and learn how to be a better jammer, a better blocker, a better lover, and a better friend. Derby can heal your heart . . . but it might break a bone or two in the process.

Bestselling novelist, screenwriter, and retired Los Angeles Derby Doll Pamela Ribon (Going In Circles, Why Girls Are Weird) joins artist Veronica Fish (Archie, Silk) for a tale of friendship, heartbreak, and truly epic jams.

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that cover art. It’s saucy, sexy, rebellious, and so much fun. Want me to read your graphic novel/book? Put a cover like that on it.

I’m officially hooked on this series. I finished Slam! in one night, and the next morning went to get Volume 2 but it wasn’t in-stock at my local Chapters. Poop. I’m still on the lookout for it and I cannot WAIT to read it!

The novel profiles two women in their early twenties (yes, I’m surprised it’s been shelved as YA too) who take up roller derby as a way of dealing with the different stressors in their lives. For Jenn, it’s her Master’s degree and for Maisie, it’s that she’s just been cheated on and subsequently dumped by her boyfriend of three years. Right away roller derby introduces them to a new way of life and they form new and stronger identities and senses of self because of it. For example, Maisie learns that she has worth; Jenn’s outcome is a bit rockier (I think we see that she’s someone who struggles to find balance in her life) but ultimately I think that her personal changes aren’t bad. The reader sees this inner struggle happen for both characters where roller derby brings out the best in both of them yet they cling to their past—or it clings to them.

I am in love with the bodily strength that is portrayed here. All of the women are big—muscular, curvy, heavy-set. The skinny characters purposefully eat gargantuan amounts to put on weight and make themselves a physical force to be reckoned with on the track. The pages are covered in what would never be considered North American society’s “ideal” female body image and it’s so gorgeous and refreshing. I also loved the racial diversity spread across the pages, but would have loved it even more if BOTH MCs were non-white. Basically, this graphic novel is presenting some wonderful things to the young adult audience: girls eating—a LOT; big, strong, round bodies; and women discovering and asserting themselves. Insert heart eyes!

Now, I am questioning why it’s considered YA. It’s pretty tame for a graphic novel, but it does cross over into territory that I would consider too mature for the YA audience. Bearing in mind that the term “YA” is generally targeted at 12-18 year olds (I’m talking marketplace here and I am very much aware that adults read YA), I was surprised that the characters were as old as they were and dealing with what they were. Maisie, specifically, had concerns about her wedding plans going to shreds when her boyfriend leaves her. She is also pretty open about her sex life, which is fine in itself and I’d love for girls to be more comfortable with their bodies and exploring their sexuality, but I don’t think anyone below the age of 15 or 16 should be reading what is in this book. I also don’t think many girls 18 and under are planning their weddings. Maybe that’s just me.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel. The artwork is droolingly gorgeous, the writing is so amazing and entertaining, and there are so many great messages contained within the pages that I can’t even. Please let me know if you added it to your to-read pile! I really want people to read this one.


Goodreads     Indigo

Review | I Hate Everyone But You | Allison Raskin & Gaby Dunn


I Hate Everyone But You

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Dear Best Friend,

I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.


Ava Helmer

(That brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.

Stop crying.


So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out, and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

I Hate Everyone But You, the debut novel by two emerging major talents in YA, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn, is a story about new beginnings, love and heartbreak, and, ultimately, the power of friendship.

I’ve been getting into certain audiobooks lately. My fiancé and I are in the middle of a huge renovation and move, so it’s been very hard to balance my free time to allow reading for pleasure. Then I get dragged down and feel stressed, and while at work I feel even worse. I turned to audiobooks as a middle-ground: I’m not getting to hold a physical book in my hand, but I do get to listen to a story while I accomplish my other tasks.

A few weeks ago I promised a review of the audiobook of The Sin Eater’s Daughter but…that never happened. I still want to because I LOVED it, but honestly speaking I might not get around to it. Sorry! Instead, let me share with you my review of the best audiobook I’ve ever listened to, which I had the pleasure of enjoying this past week. It’s I Hate Everyone But You performed by the authors, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn.

If you’ve never watched the YouTube channel Just Between Us and you identify as feminist, I’d recommend you head on over to YouTube and take a look. Allison and Gaby play versions of themselves where their quirks and/or flaws are ultra-heightened and the result is hilarious. They are a great comedy duo, their writing is qualitatively spot-on, and so I knew when I heard they were writing this book that it would be great. Then I picked it up in stores, discovered that it was a novel composed of texts and emails…and was promptly put off. I can’t stress enough that I hold a strong disdain for diary, letter, or text-style novels. I can’t stand them. So I didn’t pick it up. But then I learned that there was an audiobook and that Allison and Gaby perform it together. I thought, this might work. AND IT SO DOES!

Gaby voices the character Gen, who I imagine to be a younger version of the Gaby portrayed in Just Between Us. Likewise Allison voices Ava, a younger version of JBU’s Allison. However, both Gen and Ava are toned-down versions of the characters in JBU. The listener follows along as the two characters part for their first year at university on opposite sides of the country, navigate self-exploration, expression, and romance, and, like an old married couple, work out the kinks in their newly long-distance relationship. Allison and Gaby’s performance is imbued with warmth and a genuine care for the characters and each other that I think would be, potentially, missed in the printed versions. They both have excellent comedic timing and perform the novel in such a way that I truly believe the audiobook is the only way this novel should be experienced. I loved it so much that I plan on listening to it again and again until the disk breaks. The story is timeless, relatable, and genuine. I can’t recommend it enough.


Goodreads     Indigo

Review | Leia, Princess of Alderaan | Claudia Gray


Leia, Princess of Alderaan

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The never-before-told story of how young Leia Organa comes to join the rebellion against the evil Empire, from best-selling author Claudia Gray.

Find it on Goodreads.

As I wrote on Goodreads, it is my opinion that Claudia Gray doesn’t understand Leia’s character as we see it in the Star Wars movie franchise. Leia, as I have come to understand her since I watched A New Hope when I was two, is a head-strong, rebellious, ambitious, independent, and good-hearted person with a resilience of steel. She is not the type of person to easily fall in love, not because she’s been heartbroken before but because, in her eyes, the rebellion comes first and love is just a distraction. She is the type of person who accepts loss as part of the fight against the empire and doesn’t let her emotions get in the way (when Alderaan is blown up with her entire family and all of her people on it, she doesn’t shed a tear). She is also the type of person to call it like she sees it, telling Han Solo when she thinks he’s being an idiot or shaming cowardice in crisis situations.

In Leia, Princess of Alderaan, we are given an entirely different character. With only two years (or less) between this novel and A New Hope, we see instead a petulant child who can’t understand why her parents aren’t doting on her; a girl who falls head over heels for the most obvious guy who is also the complete opposite of Han Solo, the man who will become the love of her life; a princess who values her crown and her role as leader of Alderaan too much for it to make sense that she would resist getting emotional over the destruction of her planet; and a person too soft to yell at someone for putting the lives of the rest of the rebels at risk (as we see her do in the movies). And, at the conclusion of the novel, there is no indication that this petty, frivolous, and immature girl will change to become the Leia we know in the movies.

Those complaints aside, Gray’s writing of the secondary and tertiary characters also falls short. The characterization and writing was actually laughable! Until about halfway through, every character is Jar-Jar Binks-esque; all are caricatures of who I think Gray intended them to be but failed to make them become. You have the male love interest who is your classic good-guy to the extent of being annoying and knowing he’s going to get killed because he’s way too soft, not to mention the fact that he is a monotone, blank page; there is nothing interesting about him at all and I wanted to slap Leia for falling for him. Then you have the hippie-chick who is a female humanoid version of Jar-Jar Binks in her entirety. You have the snarky bad guy who is “bad” because he’s snarky…and that’s it. You have a snake-like alien creature who is just kind of hovering in the periphery and contributing nothing to the story. And, of course, you have Bale and Breha, but an extremely opaque version of them. They are weak and pitiable–a stark contrast to the way Bale is characterized in the movies and other Star Wars Universe books.

Giving this book three stars was generous of me, and mostly contributed to the fact that the audiobook reader was pretty good and made the experience of listening to my first audiobook pretty enjoyable. Still, I would have preferred a reader with a deeper voice to closer resemble Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Leia.

At the end of the day, I can’t believe anyone would give this book 5 stars, and I am certainly not reading other Claudia Gray books in future. 

Review | Me Before You | JoJo Moyes


Me Before You

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They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

This is my kind of romance: love and sappy feelings without the tendency to poor writing and editing. I recently tried to read a romance that was so cheesy and so poorly edited that I couldn’t even get fifty pages in. I had to put it down and call it a day. It seriously irked me.

Anyways, while JoJo Moyes is an excellent writer, it did take me a very long time to get into this book (about five months). The first half of the book really drags on, and there’s a hint of the romance that you know is going to happen, but nothing to heavily suggest or solidify it. Then, once you get to the middle, everything picks up. It took me five months to get through the first half, and four days to get through the last half. And boy was that last half good. It’s heavy and deep, and also very high stakes. I knew that somebody was going to get their heart broken and so it was hard to watch that unfold, but it also kept me on the edge of my seat. Needless to say, I was not at all disappointed with this novel overall and just wish it had hooked me sooner.

I loved the cast of characters. Lou’s family is complicated but also really loving and tight-knit. At the end of the novel, dynamics with her mother shift and I’m eager to read the next one to see how that plays out; this was to be expected given the moral questions that arise from assisted suicide! I also ended up really liking Will’s parents even though they are at first presented as icy and cold from Lou’s perspective. I came to see that his mom was super fragile, and his dad was sort of lost. They were also two very brave individuals, putting up with what they were. Lou and Will are complete opposites that, to be honest, I don’t think would have ever ended up together had Will not been confined to a wheelchair. They even point that out in the book. But these two characters who started out as two blocks of wood grinding uncomfortably against each other soon became complimentary. However, we don’t actually learn a lot about Will’s past except that he was ambitious and adventurous. I wonder if we’ll learn more in the sequel(s)? We do learn about something dark that happened to Lou which I absolutely did not see coming and which is one of my favourite aspects of the book; I loved how it was written into the story, how Lou came to terms with it, and how Will reacted. I think this is a really great talking piece for any book club because it shows that both Lou and Will are damaged, in arguably equal but different ways, but the effects are totally opposite; Lou shines brighter because of her experience while Will’s life has lost meaning.

I would recommend reading this and bear in mind that you have to get to the middle! It might help if you watch the movie first; I don’t know, as I haven’t seen it. But I will be now for sure!

Buy Links     B&N

Review | The Winter Crown | Elizabeth Chadwick

winter crown

The Winter Crown

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It is the winter of 1154 and Eleanor, Queen of England, is biding her time. While her husband King Henry II battles for land across the channel, Eleanor fulfils her duty as acting ruler and bearer of royal children. But she wants to be more than this – if only Henry would let her.

Instead, Henry belittles and excludes her, falling for a young mistress and leaving Eleanor side-lined and angry. And as her sons become young men, frustrated at Henry’s hoarding of power, Eleanor is forced into a rebellion of devastating consequences. She knows how much Henry needs her, but does Henry know himself?

Overflowing with scandal, politics, sex, triumphs and tragedies, The Winter Crown is the much-awaited new novel in this trilogy and a rich, compelling story in its own right.

Every now and then I am lucky enough to come across a true gem in my reading pile that makes me feel as if, until that moment where I turn to the next page and realize I’m immersed in something really special, I have been plagued by mediocre stories and sub-par reading material. The Winter Crown is one of the books that did that for me.

How do you “review” a book that you loved and basically inhaled? You don’t. You talk about it instead. I’m sitting here racking my brain, trying to come up with anything negative to say, and there’s nothing. My brain becomes a blank. Everything about this book was enjoyable and well worth the $15 I spent on it.

For those of you who don’t know the history: Eleanor of Aquitaine was first married to Louis VII of France at a very young age; she bore him two daughters, but no sons. Eventually their marriage was annulled based on the fact that they were deemed to be too closely related (everyone married their cousins back then!) and Henry II of England asked for her hand in marriage, which would secure England Aquitaine through marriage only–one of Eleanor’s many conditions to her marriage to Henry was that she would maintain sole rule of Aquitaine. She also had to give up all communication of her two daughters and basically act like they never existed at all. And here this novel begins.

It’s important for you–my audience–to know that I didn’t read the prequel to this novel, nor did I need to. As the Goodreads description says, this novel is a perfectly good story in its own right, separate from its trilogy, but now that I’ve read it I do want to go back and read the first one, and then eventually get my hands on the third. In addition to reading everything else by Elizabeth Chadwick, of course! Oh, her writing is so good. This single novel covers twenty years of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life but it never feels rushed. At first, when you’re not even halfway through the book and Eleanor has birthed five children, it might feel a bit fast, but upon reflection I feel that Chadwick gave each detail the appropriate amount of time to tell the story interestingly and successfully. Condensing the twenty or so years that Eleanor was married to Henry II into one novel in fact serves to strengthen the image of Eleanor as one of the strongest queens in English history, and a role model for myself. She accomplished so much during her time as queen! When I look at the size of the novel and think about all that it contains, I’m astounded that Chadwick was able to fit so much history, personality, and regality onto such few pages. Truly, truly remarkable–and here I refer to both Eleanor and the author.

One of the aspects of Chadwick’s writing that I found most interesting was that she actually never delves too far into any character’s headspace–meaning we don’t hear much of Eleanor’s day-to-day thoughts–but simultaneously manages to write vivid, complex, and surprising characters. I’d always thought that it was necessary to constantly be deep inside a character’s head to truly get to know them but Chadwick has taught me that isn’t the case. It’s very hard to describe the way in which Chadwick writes the characters and their descriptions…without quoting directly entire pages from the novel as an example. But let me say that it was something both odd, because I wasn’t used to that form of character building, but also insanely interesting. There was a reason I kept reading, everybody!

I can’t believe I’m finished reading it already. I really enjoyed my time with this book. Something I would also enjoy would be if the author went back and wrote more books that took particular moments in history from within this novel and wrote them in lengthier detail. Not necessarily from Eleanor’s perspective because that might feel redundant, but perhaps from Eleanor’s best friend Isabel’s perspective, or even Henry’s. Luckily Chadwick has dozens of novels for me to dive into when I need to quench my thirst for historical fiction!

Buy Links          B&N