{Book Review} The sad case of a HUGELY anticipated book that disappoints.

isla and the happily ever afterBefore I start my review for Isla and the Happily Ever After, I have to say that I still love, love, love Stephanie Perkins! Her first book, Anna and the French Kiss, is one that I could read over and over again, and don’t get me started on her book boys — Etienne and Cricket are some of the BEST book boys!

If you read Isla and loved it, you might want to skip over this review because it’s definitely not in praise of the story — even though I wanted it to be.

I had been looking forward to Isla and the Happily Ever After for a long, long time. I think that’s something that led to my disappointment as I was reading. When I read about Anna and Lola, I laughed, I cried, and I fell in love with them. There was something about Isla that was just so off for me. She didn’t seem to have any ambition, whereas Anna and Lola were full of it, and she just seemed so … down … for the majority of the story.

Then there’s Josh, who is supposed to be a swoonworthy character, but I kind of saw him as an actor, who could put on a show for whoever he was trying to impress. He didn’t have that same charm that Etienne and Cricket had, he didn’t have that same unique personality that they each had.

Was I comparing too much while reading this story? Probably, but I couldn’t help it. Stephanie Perkins’s first two books are ones that I could continuously read and read and read and when I finished this one, I just didn’t feel the same way. I didn’t want to revisit Isla’s world again because honestly? It just depressed me.

Even if I didn’t enjoy the characters, I would’ve loved to say that the story redeemed itself, but it just lacked the focus that the first two books had. The whole book was just about two people — two sexually charged teens — who just want to get together to get it on, basically. I thought it was a story that dragged on, mainly because everything happens right at the start. Isla loves Josh for her entire life and then they get together. There was just no build up that made me want these two people to get together because once I got to know them, I just didn’t like them at all.

There was also a lack of humour in the story. Again with the comparisons, but I found myself laughing out loud so much while reading about Anna or Lola. They were both so quirky and funny that they made me want to just keep reading. But Isla? There was not a lot of humour, at least nothing to make me bust a gut, and she was just kind of a ‘meh’ character the whole time.

And lastly, there’s the scenery. We’re back in Paris! We go to Barcelona! But instead of feeling like I was right there with the characters in the story, it was just a bunch of name dropping of locations. The atmosphere was just lost on me.

I’m sad to say, but this was just such a disappointment for me. I wanted to love it. I wanted to swoon. I wanted to fall in love. And in the end, I feel like it was the pretty colours of the cover that I loved the most and that was it. I know I had read somewhere that when Stephanie Perkins wrote the first two books in this series, she wrote it during the pressure of NaNoWriMo. Maybe the fun of writing those stories in such a short amount of time is what led to their charm? Maybe she mulled over this one for too long of a time? I guess we’ll see what the next book holds.

Have you read this book? Have you ever highly anticipated a story and been disappointed? 

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{Book Review} Am I just regretting not going away for school and subconsciously picking books that feature it?

the principles of loveWhen I started reading the next book in my NetGalley queue (a list of books that doesn’t seem to be going down, no matter how many I read!), I had to laugh at how it had the same idea as the book I read last week, Roomies. THIS book, The Principles of Love by Emily Franklinhowever, didn’t have anything to do with going away for university, but instead living on campus for high school. Is that a thing? I’ve never heard of living on campus for high school before, so it was kind of a strange idea for me.

This book wasn’t exactly about freedom, though, since the main character, Love, lives with her dad, the principal. Since it’s high school, there were strict rules when it came to cutting classes and leaving campus — even in your spare time. At any rate, it was hard to really absorb myself into the book with the characters only being 16 years old.

I’m not even really sure how to go about reviewing this book because while I loved the first half of it, the second half fell flat and the ending felt extremely rushed. In the beginning, I loved Love — the character — because she was kind of hilarious in her head and it was fun seeing her fall head over heels for random hot guys around campus. Towards the middle part, though, she started to get really, for lack of a better word, stupid and I don’t know if it was her or the writing, but I felt like I knew the ending of the story right there. Certain ideas were set up as mysterious, but were just way too obvious to me as the reader. And if Love is supposed to be a super smart girl with a good head on her shoulders, then I felt like she should have seen half of these things coming.

I also thought it was a little weird that part of the book surrounded Love emailing another musician, DrakeFan, but we never really saw their interaction except for a few things that Love would say about it. I wanted to see some of their emailings back and forth. I kind of felt that I was robbed as a reader that I was missing out on them!

This book did have some good potential, but I felt like some of the storylines introduced were done for effect, rushed, or not really explained in the end. At first I was really excited because Love was a musician, but a lot of her musical endeavours were just kind of thrown into the story (like her ad singing on the radio). HOWEVER, I did really enjoy the open mike parts. Being a musician myself, I felt like that brought back good memories of getting up on stage in front of a room full of strangers, feeling the anxiety and nervousness coarsing through my veins.

Maybe this book was just writting for a younger audience because I felt like it just didn’t translate well to me being an adult. In fact, being the adult — and a new parent — I kind of cringed at some of the “freedom” that Love got from her father. Trips to New York with a BOY? Spending the night with a boy and not getting the ultimate in grounding? I mean, she’s only 16 and this wasn’t a book about university or anything, so I kind of thought that some of the situations were a little too grown up for the characters. Even some of the dialogue and social situations were a little too grown up (while others were definitely spot on).

In the end, I feel like this book might work out better in some of the other books in the series. It’s the first in the series, so perhaps Love grows up a bit and the story evens out as the story goes on? I was a little miffed that the whole thing kind of ends on a cliffhanger — we get a great opportunity for a full ending (at which point I figured the next books must be companion novels), but then we’re thrown right into this crazy cliffhanger of life choices that Love has to make.

I can’t say that I’ll read the next books in the series, but at least this one did have some humour in it (a few laugh out loud moments, that’s for sure!) and a few likeable characters. There was also a lot of references to music throughout the story. I only wish that it had resonated more with me.

(Added: As I was finishing up this review, I flipped over to the synopsis on Goodreads to see that it was called to be “The Gilmore Girls meets The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” Thinking about this, I can see undertones of The Gilmore Girls, especially as Rory navigated dating, though I doubt I could compare the actual characters of Rory to Love since I felt like Love lost her common sense somewhere along the way.)

Thank you to Open Road Integrated Media and NetGalley for providing me a review copy of this book! 

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Do you feel like some YA books are too “grown up” for the audience they’re intended for? Have you ever felt miffed by a cliffhanger ending? 

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{Book Review} My mixed feelings when it came to going away for university

roomiesWhen I decided to go to university, I had a few options. Both were quite obvious:

Live at home, or stay on campus. 

I was (and still am) quite the shy person so the thought of leaving home and staying somewhere foreign terrified me. One of my brothers did it and he loved it, while my other brother lived at home and went to a closer university. Based on both of their personalities, they chose well. But not only am I shy, I’m also quite reserved. I like quiet, I like alone time, I like being able to sit by myself with my music playing, rather than being surrounded by tons of people.

That’s pretty much why I decided to go to university close to home. It was only a half hour commute, which was fine. But I still can’t get over the fact that I might have been missing out on something because of that lingering fear that I wasn’t cut out to live on campus.

You never know until you try, right?

I think that’s why I loved reading Roomies so much. And it’s not even a book about actually living on campus. Instead, it’s a book about two people who get their roommate assignments for university at the beginning of summer and decide to start emailing one another. A friendship forms and the book pretty much ends very similar to the end of Gayle Forman’s Just One Day, with the opening of a door. I loved the openness of that, the fact that these two people pretty much communicated with one another across the country, never meeting. There’s something magical about wondering what happened next.

One of the benefits of having two authors for a book like this is the fact that, as a reader, I was constantly wondering how they went about writing the book. Did they go by letters to construct the story, emailing back and forth, then filling in the gaps? Did they each take a main character and write a chapter? I was so curious because each of the girls seemed so well fleshed out and I could relate to each of them in some way or another. It was neat seeing the two girls navigate life before university because it is such a big step in life. What happens to your friendships? Your relationship with your boyfriend? Your parents? Your family?

I feel like both authors really did the book justice with all of those questions. I was both smiling and tearing up at the end because it was just such a sweet story. It was such a real story. There were real scenarious that had me wondering, “Did they really just write that?” And I loved every minute of it.

On top of that, there was also prominent parents on both sides — and they played a very important role in the story! It was nice to see that the girls didn’t come from perfect families and that they both had their own problems to work through before they left home. Not only did the girls have to work through their own inner dilemmas and their outside relationships before they went to university but, perfect family or not, they still had issues right inside the home to deal with. One dealt with a mom who made less-than-favourable choices, and the other dealt with living with a big family and wondering how to separate from it.

I think this is one of the reasons that I’ve been trying to completely avoid Goodreads for any indication that other people didn’t like a book before I start and while I am reading — I don’t want anything to taint my opinion. It was fun for me to read it and think back to almost fifteen years ago when I was put forth with the decision of what to do for university. It brought back some good memories — and maybe even a few regrets.

A perfect light read for the summer!

Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada and NetGalley for the review copy of this book! 

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What did you do for university? Did you stay at home or stay on campus? Do you regret your decision, or are you still happy with it? 

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