Review: Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Graynor and Heather Webb

Summary: It’s August 1914 in England, as Evie watches her brother, Will, and his best friend,Tom, leave to fight in the war. Everyone’s convinced that their boys will be back by Christmas time, and Evie dreams of celebrating the holiday with Will and Tom in Paris. But as months and years go by with the war raging on, Tom, Evie and others grow closer than ever through letters, telegrams, newspaper columns and more. Decades later, Tom returns to Paris to read one final letter, with his and Evie’s past history from the Great War in tow.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

lastchristmas2.jpg

My Thoughts:

I’ve been craving books surrounding Christmas this December, and Last Christmas in Paris appealed to two of my favorite things: Christmas and historical fiction. The book centers around World War I, as Will and Tom go off to fight in the war, leaving Evie in England with her best friend, Alice. I found Last Christmas in Paris through the Reese Witherspoon Bookclub, which I am part of here on Goodreads.

I really enjoyed Last Christmas in Paris for its unique format, as the book is primarily told through letters between Tom and Evie, as well as exchanges between other characters in the novel through letters and telegrams. I liked the way that Heather Webb and Hazel Graynor were able to weave and connect multiple subplots within this format. We see Tom and Will love and struggle with life as soliders. We see Evie wish she was at the Front herself, as Alice leaves for the war herself. We see Tom try to run his father’s newspaper from the Front, which allowed me to learn about how propaganda and newspapers were influenced by the British government during WWI. I actually read A Last Christmas In Paris over the weekend I was studying for my history exam on the World Wars, so reading the book was a pretty cool way for me to prep for my final. If only my professor would’ve allowed me to cite it as historical evidence!

lastchristmasread.JPG

So how Christmas-y is Last Christmas in Paris?

On a scale from 1 to 10, I say that Last Christmas in Paris gets a 7 for being Christmas-y. The novel is spilt into 4 parts, which each part designating a year of the war, and before we dive into the letters, we see Tom celebrating Christmas in Paris 50 years after the war has ended. I really liked these narrative sections from Tom because they were quite festive, and they helped glue what we were learning in the letters together. Throughout the letters, we do have the characters talking about Christmas, but more so when the holiday is approaching. I think the book would have had a larger emphasis on Christmas if the book only focused on one year of the war, with Tom and Evie wishing to reunite for the holiday

Overall, I enjoyed Last Christmas in Paris for its unique story on World War I. It took me a little while to get into the format and writing style, but as I mentioned before, I liked how the subplots were able to contribute to the overall plot of the novel (sorry, no spoilers for you!). I didn’t necessarily love Last Christmas in Paris because there were times that the story did drag a bit, and it’s not necessarily a book that will stick with me for a long time—I’ll most likely remember as a quick, historical fiction read on World War I.

Have you read Last Christmas in Paris? Share in the comments!

Advertisements

Review: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Summary: Baking is in Issy’s blood- if not, there’s definitely plenty of sugar and butter! Raised by a baking extraordinaire of a grandfather, Issy can whip up the most delicious cakes and treats. After being laid off from her desk job, she decides to open up her own café. But Issy soon learns that running a business, even one inspired by her passion, isn’t a piece of cake.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

cupcake cafe.jpg

My Thoughts: 

As someone who loves British contemporaries and books featuring baking, I am in shock that I had never heard of Jenny Colgan’s books until a recent trip to the library with my mom. I was perusing through the adult books section of my library, planning out how I was going to read ALL the books during my winter break, when I found Jenny Colgan’s Meet Me at the Cupcake Café sitting on the shelf. I was going to put off this book about baking until my winter break, but I couldn’t help myself from going back to the library later in the week to pick it up. I am quite happy with my decision because I absolutely adored Meet Me at the Cupcake Café.

As you can tell from above, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café has a huge emphasis on baking, as Issy opens her own cupcake shop. The most unique element of the book is that it features recipes of many of Issy’s treats that she makes in the book. They filled me with desire to bake, especially for Christmas ( I may have been looking up gingerbread recipes when I should have been writing a paper), and I really want to try to make the Nutella cookies. They recipes are really special and important to the story because Izzy’s grandfather, Gramps, sends them to her through letters. Issy and Gramps have a super close relationship, as her grandfather raised Issy and he influenced her to fall in love with baking. The most heartbreaking element of the novel is seeing Gramps suffer from dementia, but through it all, he supports Issy’s opening of the café. Issy’s moments with her grandfather often brought tears to my eyes, and by the end of the novel I was full-on crying—the first book in a while to make me do so!

Moving on to the more heart-warming aspects of the novel, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café has such a funny and supportive cast of characters for Issy. Pearl and Helena were my favorite side characters, as they brought a lot of humor to the story, but they also supported Issy the most. What really made me laugh out loud were the interactions between Caroline and Pearl’s son, Louis. The following argument between the two made me laugh out loud:

“ “Caline,” said Louis seriously, leaning over to make his point. “Bad cake, Caline.”

“No, yummy cake, Louis,” said Caroline tightly.

“No, Caline,” said Louis. Issy hastily got in the middle before it turned into a genuine argument between a forty-year-old and a two-year-old.

There is a bit of romance in the novel, as each woman in the novel deals with their own relationships. I didn’t mind the romance, with the exception of Issy. Her relationship with her on-and-off again boyfriend, Graeme, frustrated me to no end, especially since she had a much better suitor throughout the story. However, the romance really doesn’t affect my opinion or rating of the novel that much because the baking and storyline made up for it immensely. I just fell in love with Issy’s story, the people in her life, and of course, the cakes. Although it’s an adult novel, if you love the baking aspects of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I Loved Before trilogy and want a book with even more of an emphasis on baking, pick this one up immediately!

I want to read ALL of Jenny Colgan books now, especially the ones that have to do something with baking and food! And she has so many books centered on Christmas, including the sequel to Meet Me at the Cupcake Café!

Do you enjoy books about baking? Have you read anything by Jenny Colgan? Share in the comments!

Review: The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

Summary: Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweetings has done everything according to plan in her life, until now. She’s made an unthinkable mistake that’s bound to ruin her career at one of England’s top law firms. Instead of waiting to find out, Samantha flees London on a train and ends up in a small village. As she asks for help from a couple in town, she’s mistaken for an interviewee and lands a job as a housekeeper. While Samantha’s housekeepers don’t know she’s a lawyer, Samantha doesn’t know how to turn on an oven, let alone run a household. As she adjusts more and more to life as a housekeeper, Samantha questions if she’ll ever be able to return to her old life.

My Rating: 4.5/ 5 Stars

undomesticg

My Thoughts:

I am a firm believer in that everyone needs a Sophie Kinsella book in their life. I absolutely love British contemporaries, and The Undomestic Goddess is sure to please for my fellow British contemporary-loving readers. One of my favorite aspects of many  British contemporaries I’ve read is seeing our main protagonists transition from city life to village life. Samantha’s life is consumed by her job as a lawyer, and I loved seeing her really embrace life as Trish and Eddie’s housekeeper and being part of village life with Nathaniel.

One of the biggest recurring parts of the novel is the fact that Samantha has no idea what it’s like to be a housekeeper. It was really comical to read her mishaps—thank gosh that girl has a credit card—and I especially enjoyed the scene where Nathaniel saves her from her burning chickpeas and flour-infused gravy. I really loved seeing Samantha grow closer to Nathaniel and to his mom, Iris. Iris’s cooking lessons with Samantha were among my favorite scenes in the novel—I love to eat food, I love to read about food!

I flew through The Undomestic Goddess in two days—I admit that it would have a bit faster if it hadn’t been for Thanksgiving prep and time with family- and I simply couldn’t put it down. It was so funny to see Samantha’s shenanigans play out with Trish, and I loved her relationship with Nathaniel and the Greigers grow more and more. It was a bit frustrating, but funny to see Trish and Eddie unaware of Samantha’s true intelligence. I also wanted her to abandon any idea of going back to her life in London. What else could she need beside free rooming, a cute gardener, and bread baking lessons?

My only complaint about The Undomestic Goddess is that we could have gotten to the ending a bit sooner, as Samantha debates if she’ll go back to London and work in law. I also wish that we got see more of Samantha’s life after she makes her final decision.

Have you read The Undomestic Goddess? If you have, I highly recommend picking up Sophie Kinsella’s latest book, My Not-So Perfect Life. Share your thoughts & feels in the comments!

 

Review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Summary: Princess Diana wants to prove herself to her immortal warrior sisters and mother, and when she finally has the opportunity to, she can’t tell anyone because it will likely lead to her exile. Mortals aren’t exactly welcomed on her island of Themyscira, much less ones who are shipwrecked there like Alia. Alia thought a semester at sea would be the perfect way to get away from her controlling brother and would allow her to get away from all the unfortunate things in her life. When her arrival causes trouble in Themyscira and the mortal world,  Diana and Alia must work together to prevent war.

My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

wonderww.jpg

My Thoughts:

I’ve been looking forward to the DC Icons series throughout 2017 and my anticipation will extend to 2018, with Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker and Sarah J. Maas’s Catwoman: Soulstealer , and of course, Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer. Not only are these authors all-stars in the YA world, but they’re among my all-time favorite authors!

I went into Wonder Woman: Warbringer not knowing too much about the plot other than teenage Diana having to team up with a mortal girl, Alia. If you are not the world’s biggest Wonder Woman fan and maybe have only seen Wonder Woman, the 2017 film, no worries; Leigh Bardugo does a great job of introducing us to the world of Diana and her home of Themyscira, an all-female island for immortal warriors.

My favorite setting in the novel was New York City, specifically for Diana’s reaction. I loved seeing her experience the World of Man and outwit guys on the subway. However, as much as I liked seeing Diana in the mortal world, I wish that we spent some more time in Themyscira before things started hitting the fan. I enjoy world building, okay??? I liked exploring Diana’s relationship with her sisters and her mother, as Leigh Bardugo displays that Diana isn’t exactly the Wonder Woman that we all known in her home.

Being a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology, I wasn’t surprised at all with how much I enoyed Wonder Woman: Warbringer’s cast of characters. Jason added some mystery to the novel with his information on Alia’s origins and the family company, and Nim and Theo were absolutely hilarious. I loved this gem from the pair: 

“ “We have a driver,” Diana said, new hope surging through her. “Now we just need to find a car.”

“You know this means I get to choose the radio station,” said Nim as they set out across the field.

Theo whimpered. “How about I just let you run over me?” ” (242).

While I really enjoyed the book overall, there were a few elements that weren’t my cup of tea. The ending of the novel really dragged on to me, even with all of the action scenes. We spend a lot of the novel building up to a certain moment that Alia and Diana must face, which I figured wouldn’t go exactly to plan, and it took so much time to get to a resolution. Some of the chapters in the beginning of the novel were also a bit long, and I felt that they could’ve been separated into shorter sections. A few of the chapters in the rest of the novel are also long, but they seemed to go faster with the dialogue between our cast—there are plenty of funny Nim and Theo moments!

Have you read Wonder Woman: Warbringer? Share in the comments?

Review: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Summary: From the moment Lucy met Gabe when they were seniors at Columbia University, she knew that she had feelings for him. And Gabe felt the same way for her. Lucy couldn’t imagine being in love with anyone could feel this good, and she wants nothing else but a life with Gabe. But Gabe wants something else in the form of a photojournalism assignment in the Middle East. Choosing to pursue her career in New York than follow Gabe, Lucy is left heartbroken. As years go on and Gabe comes in and out of her life, Lucy’s own life begins to take shape with her career, her friends, and a stable relationship with a new guy. Through it all, she questions if she’ll ever be able to find the same kind of love that she had with Gabe.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

lightwelost

My Thoughts:

It took me less than four days over a school week to read The Light We Lost. Yes, some finals prep may or may not have been out on the backburner for a bit, but I was completely absorbed by Jill Santopolo’s writing style. We’re introduced to Lucy from the day she meets Gabe and we travel well into their adulthood. Lucy narrates the entire novel, narrating as if she’s directly talking to Gabe, often referring to Gabe as ‘you’. I love books that really carry the audience through a character’s life and relationships. If you’re a fan of Cecelia Ahern’s Love, Rosie or Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Reid After I Do, The Light We Lost is sure to please.

My favorite aspect of the novel was seeing Lucy grow more independent, even if she’s in a relationship. I liked how she told Gabe that she wouldn’t follow him to the Middle East because she wants a career. If I were in the same situation, I would 100% do the same. Darren also annoyed me in the sense that he wanted to Lucy to sideline her career for his goals. Seeing Lucy put her foot down in that similar situation made me so happy as well. Jill Santopolo did a great job of showing throughout the novel that women are entitled to having a career as much as men are. When it comes to the relationships in the novel, I thought her and Gabe had a great relationship and you easily learn why Lucy loves him so much, but I wanted her to fully embrace a life with Darren. I understand that a piece of Lucy would always love Gabe, but I wanted to see her really move on.

While it became a bit predictable at times, I loved how cozy The Light We Lost made me feel. I just wanted to stay in with a cup of tea and read more about Lucy’s life—I needed to know how the book ended ASAP. I really liked seeing her build a life with Darren, and as much as I wanted to see her move on, I liked how Gabe continued to play a part in her life. It might have been frustrating for Darren, but he just couldn’t understand the comfort that Gabe provided Lucy. I recommend reading The Light We Lost if you’re looking for a contemporary read that you won’t want to put down—a perfect rainy day read!

Have you read The Light We Lost? Share in the comments!

Review: A Short History of the Girl Next Door

Summary: If high school freshman Matt Wainwright’s life were a movie, things would be going a lot more smoothly. He would be able to dedicate more time to the amazingness that is Mr. Ellis’s English class, writing poetry and analyzing fart scenes. He’d be a varsity starter on the school basketball team. He’d be able to confess his true feelings for his best friend, Tabby. But as much as Matt’s mind acts like it’s a film director, Matt’s life is far from a movie in this debut, emotion-filled novel from Jared Reck.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

shorthistory.jpg

Cover Lust?: Yes! I want a print for my wall please!

My Thoughts:

A Short History of the Girl Next Door was a really refreshing young-adult read for a multitude of reasons. I often don’t read books told from a male point-of-view and I enjoyed Matt’s narration. We get to really know Matt and our other characters before anything too climatic happens. I will say without going into too spoilery of details that there is a tragic turning point within the novel, which caught me off guard. I figured something ‘big’ would happen, as the book’s blurb hints at, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting- kudos to Jared Reck for leaving me unsuspecting! I alsofound A Short of History of the Girl Next Door to be the perfect length- the finished copy clocks around 270 pages- and by no means would I shorten or extend its length.

A huge reason why I gave A Short History of the Girl Next Door a 5 out of 5 stars is because I had such an incredible experience reading it. I read the book over one weekend, and it felt great to be able to read a book over 2 days—I might’ve ignored some finals prep by doing so, but I haven’t been able to do this since the summer! I just found myself so invested in the story that I didn’t want to put it down. I also received an ARC copy of A Short History of the Girl Next Door at Book Con 2017, and let me tell you, this is one of the nicest ARC/paperback copies I own—the book just feels nice to feel, guys! Anyways….

Overall, I loved A Short History of the Girl Next Door for its incorporation of family, friendship, love, school, sports, everyday life, and tragedy. It’s a lot to unpack and Jared Reck does an amazing job of pulling it off. You really get a feel for the characters and find yourself laughing and crying alongside them. I often don’t cry when I read, but one particular conversation between Matt and Mr. Ellis brought tears to my eyes. A Short History of the Girl Next Door is a book I could easily see being implemented into high school English classes, especially for first-year students. I think it’s a very well written, coming-of-age novel with a lot of great moments for analysis, as well as aspects that young-adults could readily relate to.

Have you read A Short History of the Girl Next Door? Share in the comments!

 

Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Traditionally here on Fangirl Fury, I like to give you guys a quick summary of the book I’m reviewing. However, I find that its best to go into Turtles All the Way Down without knowing too much. I found that in its preliminary hype days it was promoted for its billionaire-gone-missing mystery element, but that’s definitely not the entirety of Aza’s story. While Turtles All the Way Down highlights friendships, family, romance, and the life of the American teenager, it most of all sheds light on mental health and what it’s like to live with mental illness.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

jgbooks.jpg

My Thoughts:

There are three things I am most definitely proud of myself for doing when it came to Turtles All the Way Down:

  1. I bought a signed copy of the book (bonus points for supporting my local indie bookstore)
  2. I AVOIDED SPOILERS! Almost all of the bloggers that I follow on social media have read Turtles All the Way Down before me, and kudos to me for not clicking on John Green’s reddit for questions and answers about the book
  3. I read the book within a month of its release! Yes, I read throughout the busy-ness that is my university life , but I thought I would pick up Turtles All the Way Down during winter break where I could really devote time to reading it. But after picking up a copy and seeing many positive reviews, I knew I had to read the book ASAP.

Since it was my goal to avoid spoilers while reading, I am going to keep my thoughts on the book as spoiler-free as possible! As you might be able to tell from my 5 out of 5 star rating, I absolutely loved Turtles All the Way Down. I really like John Green as an author (there’s only two of his books that I haven’t been crazy about) and as a person. Like many, I am so happy that he has a new book out in the world.

Like I said above, Turtles All the Way Down incorporates a variety of elements, but the most important of them all is the focus on Aza’s mental health. Aza lives in fear that she’ll contract C. diff and this fear affects how she goes about her life and routines. One of the most successful aspects of Turtles All the Way Down is how through Aza’s narration, we are able to experience what it’s like to live with mental illness. I think what really aided this aspect was how real Aza’s life feels: she’s a high school student (there are many moments in the book where she’s texting her friends or actually doing schoolwork), she has a great female-to-female friendship with her Chuck E. Cheese employee of a best friend, Daisy, and the two spend many nights at Applebee’s talking about school and Star Wars (let’s be honest, I was sold on this book once I read that Applebee’s was Daisy and Aza’s go-to spot). We do have the whole billionaire-gone-missing element and Davis, but I thought that side of the storyline provided a nice juxtaposition between Aza and Davis. Yes, they come from different class backgrounds, but they often share similar feelings. Also, sidenote of appreciation for Davis’s blog and Daisy’s fan fiction!

While it may seem a bit mundane considering how large of a role mental health plays in the book, my favorite aspect overall was the fact that Aza’s last name is Holmes. AND SHE’S SORT’VE SOLVING A MYSTERY, SHE’S SHERLOCK HOLMES!! I haven’t read too many interviews with John Green about the book, but I really want to know if her last name had this intention.

I think The Fault in Our Stars will always be my favorite John Green book, but Turtles All the Way Down is definitely in my top 3 favorites of his. Have you read Turtles All the Way Down? Share in the comments!