Category: eBook reviews

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – Review

glass-sword
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – ReviewGlass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #2
Format: eBook
Pages: 469 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard is the second in the Red Queen series and continues the story of Mare Barrow and her struggle to end the oppression of the non superpowered Reds by the Silvers.  

When we left Mare at the end of Red Queen she was not in a good place, both in a practical sense and emotionally.  She feels betrayed by those she cared about and many of her allies are lost or alienated.  Nevertheless, she focusses herself on the goal of rescuing those who, like Mare, are of Red heritage but display Silver abilities.  

Although that is the goal of the book, the focus is far more on Mare’s psychological distress as she attempts to come to terms with what she has experienced as well as what is expected of her.  The title is clearly a metaphor for Mare; she is a weapon, but is very fragile and could easily be shattered.  In this respect, Glass Sword is faintly reminiscent of Catching Fire or Mockingjay which also deals with the protagonist’s PTSD.

What I liked

Vulnerable protagonist.  I enjoyed that the main character is struggling to deal emotionally with the situation in which she finds herself – it feels more realistic and relatable that young teens who seem to breeze through their crises.  Mare’s psychological trauma was well written and was a natural and logical progression of her circumstances.

Some interesting plot developments.  There were a few plot developments in the novel which were unexpected and reengaged my attention at times when it was flagging.  

Strong premise.  I really enjoyed the main premise and worldbuilding in Aveyard’s world.  The Red/Silver conflict and the addition of the newbloods made for gripping reading.

What I didn’t like

Bland characters.  Yes, I know I said that Mare’s vulnerability made her more interesting, but despite that, the characters in Glass Sword are still rather bland, typical YA heroes/heroines.  Perhaps I am being unfair here; I have just started A Gathering of Shadows by Victoria Schwab and within a few paragraphs, Lila Bard had already leapt out of the page and had me completely engaged in her story in a way that Mare never did. 

New characters not fully developed.  Some interesting new characters were introduced in Glass Sword such as Nanny, Cameron and Nix, but none of them were given enough page space to be developed fully.  That is perhaps due to the first person point of view and Mare’s own emotional struggles, but I would have liked to have seen it handled better.

Despite these issues, I did enjoy Glass Sword and gave it three and a half stars out of five.  I will probably read the final book whenever it comes out.

three-half-stars

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – Review

passenger
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – ReviewPassenger by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 496 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken is a young adult fantasy novel, the first in a duology, marketed as a treasure hunt through time.  It focusses on the characters of Etta, a young 21st century woman and Nicholas, a black man from the 1700s, both of whom have the genetic ability to travel through passages in time and space.  They embark on a journey through time to locate the astrolabe, the series McGuffin, in order to prevent its falling into the hands of the Ironwoods giving them power to change history.

What I liked

The time travel system.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.  It was very well thought out and the rules and limitations were well explained.  Often in fantasy it’s the limitations on magical powers that make them most interesting and generate the most interesting stories.  At the risk of spoiling the novel I won’t say too much more, but this aspect was very well done.

The character development.  Writing believable and consistent characters is one of Bracken’s strengths.  I could easily believe the characters actions and reactions based on what they’d already experienced.  

The social commentary. Having two characters whose race or gender has historically deprived them of power and placing them in situations where that is emphasised was inspired.  It leads to some scenes that are both funny and poignant.  

The writing and the pacing.  This was excellent – the story kept moving along at a brisk pace with the tension managed expertly.  It’s amazing what a deadline can do for plot pacing!  Of course, I hadn’t expected anything less from the writer of The Darkest Minds series.

What I didn’t like

The romance.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the relationship between Etta and Nicholas.  What irritated me though was the fact that they allowed it to overshadow everything else.  They were on a very tight deadline and yet they still took a lot of time out to enjoy each other’s company.  Focus, people!

Bland characters.  I will say I enjoyed the situations in which the characters found themselves more than the characters themselves.  Yes, they did have a few moments of awesome, and yes, their character development was realistic, but I wasn’t particularly engaged by them.  

All in all I really enjoyed this book and gave it four out of five stars.  I look forward to Wayfarer, the conclusion of the story.

As an aside, if you enjoyed Passenger, I would strongly recommend you check out Kerstin Geir’s Ruby Red trilogy. This explores a very similar premise of time travel, but the heroine is much more fun and sassy than Etta.

four-stars

Heir of Fire/Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas – Review

Heir of Fire/Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas – ReviewHeir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Series: The Throne of Glass #3
Also in this series: Throne of Glass, Empire of Storms
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 20 hrs and 18 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

OK confession time;  I couldn’t wait to start reading Queen of Shadows before writing my Heir of Fire review, so this is going to be a joint review of both books.

For those of you unaware, Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows are the third and fourth books respectively in Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. It is  YA fantasy series with a kickass heroine and great worldbuilding.  If you’ve not yet started it, I highly recommend checking it out.

I listened to both books within a fairly short space of time and loved both of them.  Because Queen of Shadows builds upon and develops characters and plot points raised in Heir of Fire, they are excellent to read together.  Many of the cliffhangers in Heir of Fire are also resolved, which is very satisfying.

What I liked

Character development.  We see lots of wonderful character development in our main character, Celaena. When we rejoin Celaena at the beginning of Heir of Fire, she is in a pretty dark place emotionally, reeling from the events of previous book Crown of Midnight.  Throughout Heir she along with new character Rowan works to get her mojo back.  This is a significant chunk of the book.  Such a wonderful character arc.

Her success is expressed in the change of name from Celaena to Aelin in Queen – she has accepted her identity, her past and her powers and is going to use them to kick ass.  Incidentally, I had no issue whatsoever with the name change – Maas has written the character consistently and her “voice” remains the same whether she is “Celaena” or “Aelin.”

Given how much she has progressed in Heir, Aelin’s character development does stall a lot in Queen – the focus is more on kickassedness and achieving the goals she set for herself at the end of Heir.  Personally, I was actually far less engaged in Aelin’s story in Queen because of this.

In Queen, the character development is expressed far more through the character of Manon, and I absolutely LOVED her chapters.  Given the choice between reading about Manon or Aelin in Queen I was far more involved in Manon’s struggles.  I loved how her relationship with her wyvern, Abraxos and with her Thirteen and Elide, caused her to rethink the values and attitudes with which she has been raised.  The Manon we leave at the end of Queen is not the Manon we meet at the beginning of Heir and it was beautiful.  I fully expect to see Manon work to bring down the Matron in the next book.  

Strong female friendships.  There are some pretty cool female characters in the Throne of Glass world; Aelin, Manon, Lysandra, Elide, Asterin to name a few.  Each of these are strong women in their own right, but when they get together thrones will fall, names will be taken and asses will be kicked.  Our characters are stronger and are changed for the better (cue Wicked medley) because they knew each other.  Things would have turned out very differently if it weren’t for the bonds between these women and Maas writes these friendships beautifully.  

Promises delivered.  In Heir, Maas set out some very clear expectations about what was going to happen in Queen and she delivered.  What we expected to happen did happen, which adds up to a very satisfying book.  It didn’t always happen the way we expected, and often there were many unexpected obstacles in our protagonists’ path, but the expected confrontations took place, goals were achieved and people were saved.  

Intriguing minor characters.  We met some new and interesting minor characters.  I was particularly touched by Asterin’s story and I’m really interested to see where Elide’s path takes her.  I have very strong suspicions about young Evangeline and her “citrine” eyes.  It appears yellow eyes have some power over the Valg, so I’m curious to see what part she plays.

What I didn’t like

Promises delivered.  Yes, I know I had this in my what I liked list.  In some ways though, I felt too many loose ends were tied up.  Our characters, other than Dorian, are in pretty good shape.  I was almost left with the feeling that, if the series were to end here, I’d be quite content.  Certainly there are a few open plots for the next book, but nothing that had me thinking I have to have book five NOW.  I’m not certain that that’s altogether a good thing given there are two more books to go.

The Aelin/Manon confrontation.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved that Aelin and Manon finally met, and I loved the developments that came out of their confrontation, but I just didn’t buy how it ended.  Aelin’s thought processes just didn’t ring true. Sorry.

Despite these slight misgivings, I loved both Heir and Queen.  I gave them both 4.5 stars out of five.

five-stars

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – Review

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – ReviewLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Format: eBook
Pages: 386 pages
Genres: Cutesy romance, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins is a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss which I reviewed a while ago.  Lola focusses on a different character who forms part of the same social group as Anna, the protagonist from the first book.  Like Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door is a cutesy YA romance novel with great characters.  It is an easy, fun read and I really enjoyed it.

What I liked

The character.  Lola is an engaging protagonist and I enjoyed reading about her emotional journey.  The challenges she faces were well portrayed and I liked how she overcame them.  The supporting characters were also well developed, particularly Nora, and gave a good foundation for Lola’s romance.  Although I didn’t enjoy the love triangle, it was consistent with Lola’s growing self understanding in the book.

The writing style  Perkins’ writing style is very fresh and immediate and easy to read.  I fairly flew through the book.

Lola’s non traditional family.  It’s fair to say that Lola is growing up in a rather non traditional family.  I appreciated the way Perkins portrayed this as just a variation of contemporary family life, despite the challenges it sometimes caused for Lola.

What I didn’t like

No School of America in Paris.  I really loved the setting for Anna and the French Kiss and was a little disappointed that the setting for Lola and the Boy Next Door is back in the States.  Ah well.

The love triangle.  It was rather too obvious and predictable.  In fairness though, the book was more about Lola’s character development and how it impacted her romantic life than the triangle itself.

I would certainly recommend Lola and the Boy Next Door as a fun, easy, cutsey read.  I will certainly be reading the third in the series, Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Lola and the Boy Next Door earned four stars from me.

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four-stars

His Fair Assassin Series by Robin LaFevers – Review

His Fair Assassin Series by Robin LaFevers – ReviewGrave Mercy, Dark Triumph, Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin
Format: eBook
Pages: 1434 pages
Genres: Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Robin Lafevers’ His Fair Assassin series is a young adult historical fantasy series set in sixteenth century Brittany.  It tells the stories of three young women who are affiliates of a convent dedicated to Mortain, god of Death.  Yup, we’re talking teenage nun assassins.  In old Brittany.  With supernatural powers.  LaFevers has blended historical fact into her fictional world, most notably the struggles of Anne, Duchess of Brittany, and her attempt to keep Brittany free of French rule.  Each of the three novels focuses on and is told from the viewpoint of one of the young nuns and each of books progresses the overall plot.

I picked up the first book, Grave Mercy, while I was in the midst of a reading slump and had already picked up and rejected several good books.  Within a chapter I was hooked.  LaFevers’ narrative style, world building and characters drew me in right from the start.  I ended up marathoning all three books in the series one after another – I just couldn’t put them down.

What I liked

The historical setting.  I really enjoyed LaFevers’ basing her world on real historical facts and people.  I felt this gave a very strong, solid base for her more creative world building. I found the mythology of the old Gods and the convent gripping.  Within a very short time I was completely sucked into the world of His Fair Assassin.

The characters.  Our three main protagonists are all very different in character; each has her own emotional baggage and journey.  They were all very well written and I loved getting to know all three.  All of them were a lot more self aware than many more modern teen protagonists.  Each is also very kickass in her own particular way. I really liked that each of them ended the series feeling much more comfortable in her own skin than when she started – they all underwent a real journey.

The romances.  In a young adult book, boy meets girl romance is almost inevitable.  This series is no exception and each of our three girls meets her man.  The romance was very nicely handled though.  The romantic tension didn’t overshadow the political and magical tension in the books and I appreciated that all three had a rather sensible attitude to their romances.  There was little of the willful miscommunication that seems to plague some teenage novels and no love triangles, thank goodness.

Aspects of death.  Each of our protagonists highlighted one particular aspect of Death.  One shows the mercy in death in relief from suffering, another death’s justice another his humanity.  Nicely done

What I didn’t like

Although I loved the series I did have a few minor gripes

Not enough time in the convent.  Fairly early on in all three books the protagonists leave the convent of Mortain and set off on a journey.  I found the brief snippet of day-to-day life we see in the convent exceptionally interesting and there wasn’t enough of that for my taste.

Dropped plotlines.  There were times when I felt that some plotlines were leading somewhere and they didn’t.

The audiobook narrators.  I picked up both the Kindle books and Audible books for each of the three books and HATED the narration.  For me in all three audiobooks there was a serious mismatch of narrator and character.  Please don’t misunderstand me; the narrators did a good job, but for me personally the voices chosen were completely wrong for the characters portrayed.  The characters are from sixteenth century Brittany and LaFevers has gone to some trouble to describe their worldview as being very different from that of a modern teen.  So why, for the love of Mortain, choose narrators with American accents sounding more like Divergent’s Tris or Hunger Games’ Katniss than our nun assassins?

Despite these issues I adored the series.  Each book easily gets five stars.  Did I mention teenage nun assassins? Go check them out.

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five-stars

Endgame – The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Endgame – The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-SheltonEndgame by James Frey, Nils Johnson-Shelton
Series: The Calling
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: two-stars

Endgame by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton is a YA novel in which a group of young people, known as Players, have to fight for the survival of a section of humanity in Endgame.  For generations, certain bloodlines have been privy to a secret; Endgame is coming in which humanity will be judged and culled by a mysterious group of aliens.  Only a subset will survive.  Which groups will survive will be determined by the winner of Endgame.  I understand that this book contains real-life puzzles for readers to solve which will lead to a real world prize.

I will start by saying that this book ended up in my didn’t-finish pile.  I thought the concept was interesting, but I had several issues with the execution.  I read around 50% and then found that I was really struggling to pick up the book to finish.

What I liked

The concept.  This is what drew me to the book.  I found the idea of a group of people battling for the survival of their ethnic group intriguing.  I liked that humanity in general is unaware of its pending destruction and only those who are chosen to represent their groups and their advisers are in the know.  The fact that each of the Players has a different attitude towards Endgame was well done.  Some are horror struck that they must take on this responsibility and kill or be killed, others are excited to put their years of training into practice.  Some of them choose to ally themselves with others, while many are out only for their own survival.

What I didn’t like

The writing style.  The book is written from a multi character viewpoint, with very short chapters switching between the characters.  These are interspersed with what I assume are the real-world puzzle part of the book.  The narrative is written in a very immediate, choppy style which I really didn’t appreciate.  The short paragraphs switching between characters made it very difficult for me to engage with any of the protagonists.  For me it might have been better to have longer sections with each of the protagonists.

Too many protagonists.  There are about 12 or 14 Players and at least up until I gave up they were all being given equal page time.  I found it very difficult to care for any of them because I didn’t feel we spent enough time with any of them to get to know them better.  Also, they are frequently referred to by the ethnic groups they represent.  Although there was a list provided, for me at least I found it difficult to connect the character with the ethnic group, and each time I had to pause to work out which character was being referred to, I had been thrown out of the story. Perhaps that might have got better if I’d stuck with it, but for me personally, the little enjoyment I was getting from the book was not worth the continued effort.  I also didn’t see these aspects improving for me as the book went on.

Obvious themes.  At the point i left it, there was a divide amongst the Players between those who were willing to work with the others and those who would kill their fellow Players on sight.  I think I’m pretty safe in saying that the the series will reveal that the point of Endgame is not to survive but to prove to the mysterious judges that humans are capable or working together in peace.

All in all, I can’t give Endgame more than two stars out of five.  You may find that it appeals to you more than me, however.

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two-stars

Epistle by Max Thompson – Review

Epistle by Max Thompson – ReviewEpistle by Max Thompson
Format: eBook
Pages: 113 pages
Genres: Autobiographies/Biographies, Humorous
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Epistle by Max Thompson is the latest in a series of fun cat memoirs written by handsome feline Max, aided and abetted by his human caregiver Karen.  I follow Max’s blog and love reading his musings on life as a house cat.  I was excited this morning when he announced that the digital version of his latest book was now available from Amazon – hard copy to follow soon – and immediately picked it up and devoured it.  This particular instalment was written as a letter by Max (who is now a senior kitty) to his younger self giving his kitten self tips and tricks.

What I liked

The format.  I felt this works very well.  The letter to Young Max gives a cohesive structure and approach to the book.  It contains a mixture of amusing and practical tips for Young Max, often ways of “persuading” the humans in the household to give him more food, as well as more philosophical thoughts on human nature.  I am certain my cat has been talking to Max on the sly as she uses many of the same tricks.  He also attempts to educate Young Max in his new role as a house cat – he is responsible for looking after the physical and emotional wellbeing of the humans.  I’m not 100% convinced that this is truly altruistic – he does remind Young Max on more than one occasion that humans are needed to open the cans of stinky goodness.

The introduction from Buddah Pest.  Max’s feline partner in crime, Buddah Pest, is a major part of Max’s life, yet we’ve heard very little from his point of view.  It was really fun to hear from him in the foreword.

The humour.  Max is hilarious.  He has a unique way of looking at the world and I snorted several times reading his musings.

What I didn’t like

Repetition.  Many of the events to which Max makes reference were already familiar to me from his previous books.  Ah well.  I suppose there are only a certain number of major happenings that can happen to one well loved kitty.  Fortunately, the structure of explaining these to Young Max did add a bit of variety.

I would recommend Epistle – and Max’s other books to all cat lovers.

I gave Epistle four stars out of five

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four-stars

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan – Review

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan – ReviewBlood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
Series: Heroes of Olympus #5
Also in this series: House of Hades
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Nick Chamian
Length: 14 hrs and 26 mins
Genres: Children's, Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan is the fifth and final book in the Heroes of Olympus saga.  In this book the seven demigods of the prophesy finally have their confrontation with Gaea.  I listened to it in audiobook format – perfect for a sick day from work where you don’t feel like doing much.

If you enjoyed the previous books, it’s very likely you will like this one, too.  It’s more of the same, with resolution of lots of plotlines.  It seems this is the final book in Percy’s world, at least for some time – Riordan is moving onto a series on Norse mythology (sign me up for that asap) – so it is nice to get some closure on these characters with whom we have spent five and in many cases 10 books.

What I liked

The writing style.  A Rick Riordan novel can be characterised as a mixture of humour and adventure, and Blood of Olympus is no different.  I often found myself chuckling out loud at a particularly amusing turn of phrase.  Riordan’s books are definitely a quick, fun read.

The resolution.  Riordan resolved the main conflicts efficiently and pretty much as predicted, throwing in a few character resolutions in as well.  I particularly enjoyed Nico’s and Leo’s character arcs.  There is some suggestion of what the future might hold for our favourite demigods, although sadly there are no more books to see if they are able to follow through with their plans.  As the main character of the new Norse series has the same surname as one of the Percy Jackson series main characters, maybe there will be some crossover.

The narration. Nick Chamian did the narration for Blood of Olympus.  I enjoyed it, but would characterise it as proficient rather than awesome.

What I didn’t like

Lack of narrative tension.  Despite the fact that this is the last book in the series and the fact that at least one death was prophesied, there was no point at which I actually felt one of my much loved characters might not make it.  Admittedly, the series is aimed at younger readers which might explain this.

Efficiency rather than brilliance.  Throughout the Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan has been laying the foundations for this final conflict with Gaea, and it followed pretty closely the pattern he set.  There are no unexpected twists or turns at this stage in the game.  Most of the heavy lifting in terms of character development has also been done by this point.

So in summary, while I enjoyed Blood of Olympus, I didn’t love it.  I gave it three and a half stars out of five.

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three-half-stars

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith – Review

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith – ReviewThe Silkworm by J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith
Series: Cormoran Strike #2
Format: eBook
Pages: 455 pages
Genres: Mystery
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith follows the mystery surrounding the disappearance of writer Owen Quine.  Strike and Robin are hired by Quine’s wife to find out where he has gone.  As Quine was on the point of publishing a new novel thinly disguised as a tell-it-all peak at the world of London’s literati, the suspects in his disappearance soon add up.

I have to admit I wasn’t feeling very inspired when writing this review.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book – I did – but I feel I have very little to add to my review of the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling.  In other words, if you enjoyed the first, you will almost certainly enjoy the sequel.  As in its predecessor, I enjoyed the writing style and the brisk pace set by Rowling.

What I liked

The developing friendship between Strike and Robin.  I found myself a little frustrated by their misunderstandings, but that was only because I felt invested in their relationship. I appreciated the fact that they both really respect and appreciate one another.  This continues to be explored and deepened in this second book.  I liked that their relationship remains platonic – at least this far – although I suspect we may see that change in future books.  I’m kind of on the fence on that one.  It’s refreshing seeing a pair who respect each other without the will they/won’t they tension that is all too common.

What i didn’t like

The perpetrator is pretty obvious towards the end.  Now mysteries are not my usual field and I’m usually very surprised at the endings.  However, I found I did identify whodunnit fairly easily.

I would certainly recommend The Silkworm – it’s a decent mystery and I find myself becoming more and more invested in the lead characters.

I gave The Silkworm four stars out of five.

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four-stars

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – Review

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – ReviewAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Format: eBook
Pages: 400 pages
Genres: Cutesy romance, New Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is the first in a loose trilogy of contemporary, cutesy young adult romance novels.  It is followed by Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After.  It tells the story of Anna Oliphant who is spending a year studying in Paris at the fictional School of America in Paris.  She makes friends and has a romance with Etienne St Claire a young Londoner also studying at the school.

What I liked

The setting.  I adored the setting.  The school sounded fantastic and I loved Anna’s and Etienne’s strolls through Paris.  I’ve only spent a couple of days in Paris myself, and I would have liked to have spent more. Perkins really brought out the sense of the city in her writing.

The character development.  I loved seeing how Anna grew in self confidence during her stay in Paris.  The Anna at the end is a very different person from the one who spent her first evening in the school crying into her pillow with homesickness.  I also felt that the development was earned.  Her experiences in Paris and the friends she makes there allow for such a progression to be possible.

The cutesy romance moments.  These were squealably cute.

What I didn’t like

The romantic development itself.  I know that is kind of contrary to my last comment, but let me explain.  I loved the cute date moments Anna and Etienne spent together, but I felt that they were their own worst enemies in terms of their romance.  All their problems came from their own actions and lack of communication.  I felt if they’d sat down at the beginning and really communicated, there would have been nothing coming between them, which really frustrated me.  All too often I wanted to bang their heads together.

I did enjoy Anna and the French Kiss, but I didn’t adore it as much as many reviewers seem to have done.  I will read the other two in the series at some point, though not immediately.

I gave Anna and the French Kiss four stars out of five.

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four-stars
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