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 | Watermelon | Marian Keyes



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A hilarious and bittersweet tale of baby-blues and fruitless men.

At twenty-nine, fun-loving, good-natured Claire has everything she ever wanted: a husband she adores, a great apartment, a good job. Then, on the day she gives birth to her first baby, James visits her in the recovery room to tell her that he’s leaving her. Claire is left with a beautiful newborn daughter, a broken heart, and a body that she can hardly bear to look at in the mirror. So, in the absence of any better offers, Claire decides to go home to her family in Dublin. To her gorgeous man-eating sister Helen, her soap-watching mother, her bewildered father. And there, sheltered by the love of her (albeit quirky) family, she gets better. A lot better. In fact, so much better that when James slithers back into her life, he’s in for a bit of a surprise.

Think Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Gilmore Girls with a dash of Kristen Wigg from Bridesmaids; that’s what you get when you enter into Claire’s head the day her daughter is born and her husband leaves her for another woman. Marian Keyes uses something akin to stream-of-consciousness writing to turn something really tragic into something also heartwarming and hilarious. I felt the plight of Claire’s broken heart while also laughing out loud at the ways she deals with it. I’m sure anyone can understand why she would spend the next month or so rotating through the motions of sleeping, drinking, feeding her baby, forgetting to bathe, and refusing to change out of her mom’s neck-to-toe nightdress—but then she climbs onto the stationary bike in said nightdress at three in the morning and I couldn’t help but smile imagining it.

Anyone who’s grown up with sisters will also love Claire’s family dynamic when she returns home to Ireland to live with her parents at the very beginning of the book, after her husband has left her and she has a newborn daughter to care for. Helen is absolutely hilarious—and awful in the best way—and I can’t wait to read the novel that is from her perspective. I’m sure we’ve all met someone that one of the characters in this novel will remind you of. Hopefully one of those people is Adam! Oh, Adam. So handsome and wonderful, and another one of the aspects that makes this novel hilarious. I related so hard to the way Claire felt around him, and the difficulty she had in trusting another man since her husband left her! I think any romance fans will love that thread of the novel.

My one and only complaint is that, when we finally do meet James (the adulterer husband), I can’t understand what Claire ever saw in him in the first place. He is downright awful! He honestly triggered so much anger and anxiety in me that I couldn’t wait for him to disappear from the novel again. This character could have been killed off and I would have thought, “Right. Good riddance.” Anyone who reads it will know what I mean. He is abusive and manipulative and everything I have worked so hard in my romantic life to avoid that I wanted to throw the book at the wall whenever this character opened his mouth. Little Kate, you are better without him!

I am now reading the next in the Walsh family series, which is Rachel’s Holiday, though I have taken a break to read a holiday story, The Afterlife of Holly Chase (Rachel’s Holiday is way better, though). What novels do you all like to read around the holidays?



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 | A Little Something Different | Sandy Hall


A Little Something Different

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The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….

Here’s the thing: this romance is super cute and the way the story is told really is “a little something different.” But I would go so far as to say that the story is TOO cute. There’s not much substance here, to be honest. For example, two of the viewpoints come from a squirrel and a bench, and it’s kind of ridiculous in a roll-your-eyes way. Then you have the fact that all these different characters are basically the same: they talk the same ways, they think the same things, they feel the same about stuff. Even the one character, Victor, who is supposed to hate Gabe and Lea (our couple) doesn’t actually hate them. (The author tells us over and over that he does but then he’s as obsessed with them as everyone else and it makes no sense.) It’s a prime example of telling, but not showing, and it is–quite frankly–weak writing. 

I would argue that Hillary has the potential to be one of the most unique characters and yet her parts are very short, AND Sandy Hall does her a HUGE injustice by slotting her into the “blonde bimbo” trope. I mean, COME ON.

In second place is Danny (yeah for LGBTQIA!) but he has the least amount of sections (boo!), and again, he is slotted into a few stereotypical “gay college boy” tropes.

In third place is Charlotte, who starts off as a character I could like but then turns into all the other characters (they are honestly the same–take away their names and you wouldn’t know the difference). AND everyone’s obsession with this couple for sure crosses into creepy. My frustration for this book bubbleith over.

Not to mention that there’s nothing about Gabe or Lea that is particularly likeable. Not that there was anything wrong with them; I liked them both just fine. But they are tertiary character material at most. While everyone is going gaga over their supposed romance, I’m sitting here as the reader going, “But why?” Honestly, they’re so boring! And everything that happens between them is SO. BORING. Another prime example of the author going, “Oh, they’re so cute, they look great together, we love them” and providing zero actual substance for these assertions. The author was shoving this down my throat and I was choking on it going, “BUT YOU ACTUALLY HAVEN’T PROVEN ANY OF THESE THINGS!”

So much potential. So do not recommend.

MRS. HOUDINI by Victoria Kelly

Mrs Houdini

3 out of 5

In her debut novel, Victoria Kelly revives Harry Houdini’s incredible mystery. The reader is transported in time between the rise of Houdini’s career alongside his wife Bess and the years after his death in which she attempted to communicate with him in the spirit world. Two parts love story and one part detective fiction, Mrs. Houdini is an interesting rendition of the couple’s life both together and apart.

Kelly’s strength lies in her writing of the intense love between Harry and Bess, and it is a great loss that she failed to explore that thread more; the portions of the plot detailing Bess’s search for the spirit of her husband felt haphazardly pieced together, lacked spark, and were logically ambiguous. I carried on reading for the love story, although I experienced discomfort in reading Kelly’s fictional portrayal of Harry’s “secret.” It felt akin to slandering the dead and I am left feeling unsure as to why Kelly chose this route. That being said, I encourage readers to pick this up for Kelly’s mostly loving depiction of the couple and am interested to read Kelly’s next work.



4 out of 5

Marquette takes the reader on a journey through a modern interpretation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a spunky, lesbian twist. Working towards being a CEO at Frost Enterprises, Robin, in her own words, has turned into a bit of an asshole in her climb up the corporate ladder. The Bureau of Holiday Affairs decides to pay her a visit, and Robin’s journeys into Christmas Past, Present, and Future—with a butch surfer girl, a drag queen, and none other than Mr. K. Rampus himself as guides for each—give her the chance to make things right. Her biggest opportunity presents itself in a meeting with her former lover Jill, and it is this very mature and well thought-out relationship that becomes central to the plot. With a badass and endearing narrative voice, and a surprising touch of relatability to the characters and storyline, the adventure that Marquette takes us on is exciting and full of holiday warmth. While the novel drags on a bit (I strongly believe that this should have been a novella), Marquette exudes writing savvy. The Bureau of Holiday Affairs will make you crave more of her work, and will perhaps leave a little less of the Scrooge in us all.

-Ember Book Reviews

[ARC provided by Netgalley and Book Enthusiast Promotions in exchange for an honest review.]

Check out this book on Goodreads.




1.5 out of 5

[ARC provided by Paper Lantern Lit in exchange for my volunteer position as a VIP Trendsetter.]

All aboard the Destiny, a cruise ship hosting a high school music competition where the winning group receives a $25,000 cheque. Liza is the only one who knows how desperately her band needs it, and her one goal as she boards the ship is to win the prize and keep her marching band afloat.

A huge mishap involving an out-of-bounds bowling alley and a stray bowling ball throws the entire competition in jeopardy, and Liza finds herself putting all the blame on the school’s quarterback, Russ, on the trip as a form of detention. Serving as the band’s—and thereby Liza’s—lackey, Russ only causes more harm than good in Liza’s eyes. To top it all off, Liza is sharing the cruise not only with her arch nemesis Demi, but with her crush and son of the band director, Lenny. She can’t afford any distractions, but one little kiss wouldn’t hurt…

It’s rare that I finish a novel and ask myself what on earth just happened, but that’s what I did upon finishing this. The Trouble with Destiny lacks the charm of Morrill’s Meant to Be and is a severe let-down in terms of plot, character building, and writing style.

Let me start off by saying that the opening was good but very long; there is not much action until about a quarter of the way in. That being said, the plot is predictable, and the writing and pace are both flat. There is way too much going on and not enough space devoted to properly developing relationships or the varying storylines in order to make the outcomes believable. For example, there was zero chemistry established between Liza and Russ. Therefore the shift in Liza’s characterization and tone, particularly towards Russ, is so sudden that I was experiencing whiplash. It takes about a paragraph for Liza’s entire personality to change, with no decent reason or warning.

Additionally, as someone with seven years of concert band experience, the band setup seemed very unrealistic to me. For example, the sheet music for Pirates of the Caribbean or Star Wars isn’t that difficult for a band with experience and skill (I’ve played both pieces in band at the senior level), so it seems unlikely that they would win a competition using such simple music. With this in mind, it is quizzical to me why someone headed for Juilliard would be wasting their time with a band that plays such lower-calibre pieces.

Overall, The Trouble with Destiny is incredibly, incredibly disappointing. Definitely steer clear of this one, but bear in mind that Morrill has done better. I look forward to seeing her next novel and hope it demonstrates the quirky skill that I know she has.

-Ember Book Reviews

Check out this book on Goodreads.