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The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

Apparently I’ve had a draft of a review for The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand sitting in my dashboard for the past few months. I dusted it off and tweaked it just in time for Amour et Florand this weekend. It’s always a pleasure to read a book by one of your favorite authors. The Chocolate Temptation is part of the Amour et Chocolat series and the books can be read out of order because they stand well enough on their own. However, the characters in The Chocolate Temptation were earlier featured in The Chocolate Heart so I think it would be a good idea to read the latter first. I was intrigued by Patrick in The Chocolate Heart so I’m delighted that he got his own book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Chocolate TemptationShe hated him.
Patrick Chevalier. The charming, laid-back, golden second-in-command of the Paris pastry kitchen where Sarah worked as intern, who made everything she failed at seem so easy, and who could have every woman he winked at falling for him without even trying. She hated him, but she’d risked too much for this dream to give up on it and walk out just so he wouldn’t break her heart.

But he didn’t hate her.
Sarah Lin. Patrick’s serious, dark-haired American intern, who looked at him as if she could see right through him and wasn’t so impressed with what she saw. As her boss, he knew he should leave her alone. The same way he knew better than to risk his heart and gamble on love.

But he was never good at not going after what – or who – he wanted.

He could make magic out of sugar. But could he mold hate into love?

Out of all the Amour et Chocolat novels, The Chocolate Temptation stands out because one of the main characters is a female pastry chef. I know how male-dominated the industry is since I have a cousin abroad who works in that field, so it’s pretty interesting to get a better idea of what things are like from Sarah’s point of view. I think Sarah is a great character. I love how brave she is in terms of changing career paths. She’s an intelligent person, with an engineering degree from Caltech. She could have been living comfortably in the States while working as an engineer and yet she chooses to throw that away to pursue a culinary career. I admire her guts and her passion for what she feels is the right path for her. Patrick is also very passionate about being a pastry chef. He was once a foster child but he has risen to the top of the culinary ladder and is now one of the best pastry chefs in Paris. I liked Patrick’s easygoing nature and how he’s constantly being likened to a beach bum/surfer guy. What a contrast to the demanding and hectic workplace that they thrive in. He also has a terrific sense of humor, which he uses to relieve the pressure that everyone feels in their work environment. I also loved the dynamics between his relationship with Luc, especially after getting Luc’s POV from The Chocolate Heart.

Sarah thinks of herself as the lowly intern and she obviously looks up to Patrick as her mentor. Being attracted to each other, without knowing what the other person is feeling, gives their relationship tension that stretches out over the months of Sarah’s internship. They both feel that liking the other person is inappropriate – since Patrick is essentially one of Sarah’s bosses – and yet they can’t help feeling that way. I loved this bit of comparison of their romance to their creations:

“This thing between them was like this beautiful fairytale of a dessert constructed out of work and caution and risk and whimsy. Leaping and twirling, full of color and taste, a wrong breath could break it. And yet night after night, in the kitchens, they made such fragile magics and waiters got that fragility all the way to the tables they were meant for.”

Such a beautiful way of describing what began as a tentative romance that slowly developed into something deeper. Given how passionate they are about their work, it’s not surprising how strong their feelings are for each other. I’m not usually a fan of workplace romance but Laura Florand handles it so well. I had such a lovely time reading about Sarah and Patrick – from how they started getting to know each other outside the workplace to how much they’re willing to sacrifice to make the other person happy. At this point, I feel like I’m a broken record because I keep recommending Laura Florand’s books. But that’s only because they’re SO GOOD. Go forth and read them.


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Wildlife by Fiona Wood

I read Six Impossible Things years ago and I remember enjoying it but unfortunately, I couldn’t remember details of the story now. I would have loved to reread it prior to reading Wildlife but my copy is in Manila, I’m not even sure which friend has it at the moment. I have been looking forward to Wildlife ever since it first came out and I saw Aussie bloggers raving about it. I was able to get a copy last year when a friend from Australia passed by Singapore on his way to Manila. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it!

Wildlife in the wild

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.
A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard.
And I kissed Ben Capaldi.

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

Note to self: do not start reading books late at night if you have a feeling they’re going to be good. I spent a good chunk of one weeknight reading Wildlife and stayed up until 2:30am to finish it. Yes, I needed coffee to survive work the next day. Narrated from the points of view of two characters, Lou and Sibylla, this Aussie YA novel is an engaging read. My heart went out to Lou because of her loss and the grief that she’s still coming to terms with. It’s understandable how closed off she is at the start of the novel. Sibylla is a likeable character, very low-key and cares deeply for her friends. We didn’t get to see his POV but another character I really liked was genius and quirky Michael, who is also very loyal to his friends. I also found the setting refreshingly different, high school students spending a term out in the bush. It’s like a combination of boarding school and camp, away from the city and family homes. I can imagine how difficult it would be for a teenager to adjust to that kind of set-up. Constantly surrounded by others and absolutely no privacy. I find that living on such close quarters like that can either strengthen or destroy relationships. People can either become very comfortable or very annoyed with each other’s quirks. It was interesting to see how the dynamics between the characters changed as the book progressed.

I have to be honest, there was a point in the book when I got frustrated with Sibylla and how passive she is with her relationship and friendship. I was all, “C’mon girl, learn to push back a little.” But it’s not like she’s not aware of the situation she finds herself in because she definitely is. She knows that the balance is tilted in Holly’s favor when it comes to their friendship and she’s also aware of the nuances of dating a popular guy like Ben. It then occurred to me that Sibylla is still in the process of getting to know herself, she hasn’t fully settled into her own skin and as a result, she’s also not sure of how to react to and interact with those around her. It’s a very truthful and realistic portrayal of teenage life. Looking back on my own experiences, I have to admit that not all of the relationships and friendships that I’ve had were healthy or good for me but that’s just how life is. We all make mistakes and that’s how we learn and become better people. So even though I was initially annoyed by some situations, in hindsight, I loved the accurate descriptions of relationships (both romantic and platonic) in Wildlife. It’s all messy and complicated and confusing and feels very real. This is one of those books that I would gladly give to my teenage self because I know I will be able to relate to it. Wildlife reminded me of how brilliant Aussie YA is and I’m so glad I still have a couple of Aussie YA titles in my TBR pile. One of my favorite reads for this year, I recommend Wildlife to fans of realistic young adult fiction.

Other reviews:
Inkcrush
Chasing Words


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Open Road Summer

I have seen several rave reviews about Emery Lord’s debut novel Open Road Summer. Based on what I’ve heard, it seemed like a YA contemp with a sweet summer romance. It is eternally summer here in Singapore (and also in Manila) so I felt like I could read Open Road Summer anytime I was in the mood for it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Open Road SummerAfter breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind… and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

Reading Open Road Summer was a case of the right book at the right time for me. I made the mistake of starting it late at night and stayed up until 2am to reach the halfway mark. I wanted to go on but I had to get some sleep to avoid being a zombie at work the next day. What I loved about this book is that it is in equal parts a story about two best friends who have supported and loved each other for years, and also a sweet summer romance. I loved how strong the friendship is between Reagan and Dee, they’ve been there for each other throughout all the problems that they’ve had. They also don’t let their relationships come between their friendship. It just feels like such an honest and true friendship between the two of them. They planned Dee’s summer tour as the ultimate road trip which will let them spend as much time together and hopefully will heal their broken hearts. Their friendship reminded me of how thankful I am to have good friends in my life. I may not have a specific best friend like Dee and Reagan but I have girl friends who help keep me sane.

Another aspect of Open Road Summer that I really enjoyed was the romance. Oh boy, such a good slow burn romance! Sparks flew the moment Reagan and Matt meet but they couldn’t act on the attraction for reasons that you will find out when you read the book. Given how much they’re thrown together because they’re traveling on the same tour, they try to get to know each other as friends instead. Reagan has made some bad decisions in her life but she’s choosing to follow a better path. Over the years, she’s learned to develop a prickly nature as a defense mechanism for all the issues that she’s faced. Matt is quite the opposite in the sense that he’s an easygoing, friendly guy who has had the support and love of his family his whole life. Reagan and Matt have led such different lives and yet they feel a connection right after they meet – not just attraction but the recognition that someone understands life the same way you do. Because they both have experiences with loss and grief and just had different ways of coping. Because of this, it felt like the author highlighted how important it is to have friendship as the foundation of a relationship.

The tour reminded me of summers back home in the Philippines, which usually means road trips and beach trips with friends. Taking it easy, hanging out with friends and doing what you love. For Dee and Matt, that means focusing on their music – performing and writing songs. While for Reagan, it’s photography and capturing moments using her camera. A little detail that I liked was that Reagan has a Diana camera, yay for lomo! I’m always a fan of characters who are passionate about the things that they love so I think it’s great that these three characters are actively pursuing their goals and dreams. As with any book where music is a big part, I wish there was a way to hear the songs included in the story. I think it would have been perfect if there was a playlist at the end of the book, like similar songs to the ones featured within it. Open Road Summer was such a good read for me, I’ve added it to my best of 2014 list. Recommended for fans of Saving June by Hannah Harrington, Such a Rush and Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols.

Inspired by Open Road Summer, I made a collage of past trips with girl friends

Inspired by Open Road Summer, I made a collage of past trips with girl friends

Other reviews:
Alexa Loves Books
The Perpetual Page-Turner
Ivy Book Bindings


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The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse came to my attention when my good friend Nomes mentioned that it’s one of her favorite reads for this year. For some reason, this title flew under my radar when it first came out. I think the cover doesn’t really represent the story very well and might be one of the reasons why I wasn’t initially curious about The Winner’s Curse. I tried reading a couple of chapters just to see if it’s something that I would be interested in and I was fully absorbed. I was surprised at how easy it was to get into the story.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Winner's CurseAs a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him — with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

The Winner’s Curse is set in a make-believe world but has no magic or mythical creatures in it so it has more of a historical fantasy feel to it. Kestrel is the daughter of a well-known general, which is a pretty big deal since their society holds the military and warfare in high regard. The Valorian empire is already huge and yet it still continues to extend its reach and enslave the nations it conquers. The story is set several years after the Valorians have conquered the Herrani people. While Kestrel loves her people and she knows that slavery is part of their culture and their way of life, she doesn’t really approve of it. When she unexpectedly buys a slave at an auction, she has no idea what to with him. But she recognizes Arin’s strength of spirit and admires that. A friendship slowly develops between the two of them. Kestrel is bound by the constraints of the Valorian society – she only has two choices when she comes of age: to join the military or to get married, neither of which are very appealing to her. She’s not a good soldier even if she keeps training and she’s not interested enough in any guy to marry him. She’s great at military strategy, which is why her father keeps pushing her to enlist, but she’s not passionate about that kind of thing. What she loves is music, something which Valorians believe shouldn’t be taken seriously. A snippet to show how Kestrel feels when she plays the piano:

“Music made her feel as if she were holding a lamp that cast a halo of light around her, and while she knew there were people and responsibilities in the darkness beyond it, she couldn’t see them. The flame of what she felt when she played made her deliciously blind.”

I wish I felt that strongly about music but I don’t have the skill or talent for it. Instead, I will liken Kestrel’s passion to how I sometimes feel when I read – entirely focused in the world created by the author, paying no attention to other tasks that need to be done. Which is exactly what happened while I was reading The Winner’s Curse. To be honest, I have a hard time pinpointing why I enjoyed this book so much. I suppose it’s mostly because I like Kestrel, I like Arin and I like how their friendship developed. They’re both intelligent characters who slowly learn to respect and trust each other, in spite of their differences and the enmity between their nations. I also liked the setting and the contrast between the Valorian and Herrani cultures. How one was all about gaining power by expanding its borders, and one was a more peaceful culture centered around the arts. I was engrossed by The Winner’s Curse and yet I also feel like it could have been a stronger book. Let’s put it this way, this is a good introduction to the series and the story arc wraps up nicely but I feel like by the time the sequel comes out (maybe next year?), I would have forgotten most of the details in this one. It wasn’t mind-blowing but it was a pleasant and enjoyable read which I recommend to YA fans, even those who don’t usually read fantasy.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Good Books and Good Wine
Ivy Book Bindings
Shae Has Left the Room
The Bookish Manicurist
Alexa Loves Books


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The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

I have heard such good things about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and I’ve been curious about it for a while now. After reading We Were Liars, I thought it would be a good idea to give E. Lockhart’s other books a try. I started reading Frankie when I felt that I needed a fun book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Disreputable History of FrankieFrankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is an immensely readable contemporary YA novel. I started reading it one afternoon and was able to reach 78% before I went to bed. I then finished the whole thing the next day. Frankie is such a brilliant character – she’s academically smart, active in extra-curricular activities and diabolically clever. I loved how she wanted to shake things up and wasn’t willing to settle for the status quo because she demands to be treated with respect, both within her family and in her school. That’s something that will resonate with a lot of us. She didn’t want to be known as the family’s Bunny Rabbit, always the young girl who needed to be protected. She also wanted her boyfriend (and his friends) to see her as more than just a pretty girl. It is Frankie’s determination that makes me feel like this is a book that I would gladly recommend to my teenage self and say, “Read this and remember not to settle for anything less that what you deserve.” I really liked that while there was romance in this book, it wasn’t really the focus of the story. To be honest, the romance felt a bit thin and I wasn’t even really rooting for Frankie’s to be with Matthew.

I really enjoyed reading this and even highlighted several sections of the book in my Kindle. But I kind of feel like the overall tone is a bit young for a YA novel. Granted, Frankie is only 15 years old and is a sophomore instead of the usual junior/senior main characters in YA. It’s just that I feel like this story wouldn’t have that much staying power with me – I know I really like it now but several months down the road, I probably wouldn’t remember what happened in the book. Then again, that’s the case with a lot of contemporary novels that I enjoy reading. Usually the ones that linger are the emotionally intense novels. I probably would have liked this one a lot more if it was a little longer and the ending was stretched out a bit. I was wondering if there was more to the story after I got to the final page. I might be getting ahead of myself only to discover that Frankie will stay with me longer than I expected, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I definitely recommend this one to fans of contemporary YA novels with smart female MCs. I’m really curious now about E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series.

Other reviews:
Angieville
See Michelle Read
I Like It Dog-Eared


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It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

I love Julie James‘ books. They’re just so much fun to read with all the banter between the male and female leads. It’s so comforting to curl up with one of her books because they read like a favorite chick flick. Something that fills you up with good vibes. I had known about It Happened One Wedding months before it came out and I read it as soon as I could get my hands on a copy. I was supposed to do some things one Friday night but I just couldn’t stop reading so I gave in and stayed up late to finish the book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It Happened One WeddingSHE KNOWS BETTER THAN TO SAY “I DO”

After a humiliating end to her engagement, investment banker Sidney Sinclair is done with commitment-phobic men. But when her sister winds up engaged after a whirlwind courtship, she’s thrown in to close contact with exactly the kind of sexy playboy she wants to avoid — the gorgeous best man. She’s stuck with him, for better or worse, until her sister walks down the aisle, but that doesn’t mean she has to give in to his smooth advances, no matter how tempting they are…

BUT HE MAKES IT HARD TO SAY “I DON’T”

Special Agent Vaughn Roberts always gets his man on the job and his woman in bed. So Sidney’s refusal to fall for his charms only makes him more determined to win over the cool and confident redhead. Only what starts out as a battle of wills ends up as a serious play for her heart. Because the one woman who refuses to be caught may be the only one Vaughn can’t live without…

Julie James’ contemporary romance novels are consistently funny. Several scenes had me smiling or laughing while I was reading them. Sidney and Vaughn verbally spar while they keep denying that they’re attracted to each other. Aside from their banter, I also enjoyed how their friends – Sidney’s best friend Trish and Vaughn’s best friends Cade and Huxley – tease them and give them a hard time. Here’s a snippet that I really liked:

“What was that?” Trish demanded to know, in a hushed tone.

Sidney tried to play innocent. “What was what?”

“That look between you and Vaughn,” Trish said. “I can’t decide if you two should box a few rounds or go screw each other brainless in the pantry.”

“My god, Trish – his mother is standing right over there.”

“In that case, I’d strongly suggest locking the pantry door should you choose option B.”

I think it’s great that the focus of the story isn’t just on Sidney and Vaughn but also on how they interact with their family and friends. I’ve noticed that this is something that’s also present in her other novels. I really liked that the plot revolved around the wedding, where both Sidney and Vaughn played major roles as maid-of-honor and best man. I think weddings are fun so I like reading stories about them. If there’s one minor thing that I can complain about Julie James’ books, it’s that all of her heroes and heroines might seem a bit too perfect – amazingly good-looking with really successful careers. But that’s not a big issue for me since the characters in her stories are fully fleshed out, complete with insecurities and problems so I feel like that balances the scale. In It Happened One Wedding, Sidney feels pressured to find Mr. Right because she’s worried that her biological clock is ticking. I also feel like Julie James does her research when it comes to providing background information on her characters’ occupations. While I’ve never worked in investment banking or private equity firms (or the FBI, for that matter), I’m familiar with some aspects of Sidney’s job and the descriptions felt realistic. I felt a bit lost after reading It Happened One Wedding because I enjoyed it so much. I couldn’t decide what to read next because frankly, I just wanted another Julie James novel. Can’t wait for the next one to come out next year! It will be interesting to see who the lead for that will be.


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Retro Friday: Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

The news of Mary Stewart recently passing away reminded me that I’ve been meaning to read more of her novels. I have a few of her romantic suspense novels in my TBR pile, one of which is her first novel Madam, Will You Talk? When I found out that this book is set in Provence, I was immediately curious and I wanted to read it sooner rather than later.

Madam Will You TalkHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Charity had been looking forward to her driving holiday through France with her friend Louise – long, leisurely days under the hot sun, enjoying the beauty of the Provencal landscape. But very soon her dreams turn into a nightmare, as Charity becomes enmeshed in the schemes of a gang of murderers.

While I do read cozy mysteries from time to time, I can’t say that I’m a big fan of them. But there’s something about Mary Stewart’s writing that just draws me in. There’s a certain charm in her books that lets me see what life must have been like at that time. I like that her heroines are smart and capable ladies, even if they don’t believe they are. Madam, Will You Talk? is about Charity, a young English widow who goes off with her friend Louis on a summer vacation to the South of France and unexpectedly gets involved in a murder mystery. This is how she feels when she runs right smack into trouble:

“I was alone. Any help I got now would only come from myself, and I was well aware that I am not the stuff of which heroines are made. I was merely frightened and bewildered, and deeply resentful of the situation in which I found myself.”

I believe Charity handles herself very well for someone who was supposed to be on a holiday but ended up being chased all around the country instead. I love how Charity’s excellent driving skills come in handy and a powerful car becomes her weapon:

“I laughed. I was as cool as lake-water, and, for the moment, no more ruffled. The feel of that lovely car under my hands, in all her power and splendour, was to me like the feel of a sword in the hand of a man who has been fighting unarmed.”

I wish I could drive like that! The setting of the book starts in Avignon and explores the surrounding areas including Nimes and Marseilles. Mary Stewart’s descriptions made me want to visit Provence and all the places that Charity went to. One of the reasons why I enjoy this author’s romantic suspense novels is because each book is set in a beautiful and vibrant location. It says something about Mary Stewart’s writing that she can make these places come alive. She also has a way of keeping readers in suspense all throughout the story. I feel like I was right there with Charity, while she was being chased by a suspected murderer. I was cheering her on while she zoomed her car through all those French highways. I kept turning the pages because I wanted to get more information. I was very curious about how the mystery will be solved and how the romance will develop. As with all other Mary Stewart mysteries that I’ve read, Madam, Will You Talk? ended on a satisfying note. Another good romantic suspense read. I look forward to reading the rest of her books.

Other reviews:
Miss Darcy’s Library
Quirky Bookworm
Gudrun’s Tights
Bookwitch


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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I’ve been meaning to read E. Lockhart’s novels for a while now. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the release of We Were Liars and since it’s a standalone novel, I thought it would be a good introduction to the author’s work.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

We Were LiarsA beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends — the Liars — whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

We Were Liars is a quick read. It starts off strong, with a description of the Sinclairs as a proud, old money type of family. The Sinclairs own an island where they all spend their summers together, living in their own private little world. I couldn’t really relate to the Sinclair’s wealthy lifestyle but I liked Cady well enough. My favorite thing about her is that she loves to read. I thought it was pretty cool that she’s a fan of both Diana Wynne Jones and Jaclyn Moriarty, seeing those authors’ names in there reminded me that I also need to read more of their books. I read a couple of chapters of We Were Liars one night and then finished the whole thing the night after that. I know the format will probably not work for all readers – some sections make it feel like a novel in verse and there are several fairy tales included here and there. I liked how unique it was and I thought E. Lockhart’s writing was beautiful. A snippet that I really liked:

“It was love, and it hit me so hard I leaned against the screen door that still stood between us, just to stay vertical. I wanted to touch him like he was a bunny, a kitten, something so special and soft your fingertips can’t leave it alone. The universe was good because he was in it.”

This is the type of story where it’s better to go into it without knowing anything about the book. If you haven’t read the book, I suggest skipping reviews. It’s the type of story that shouldn’t be spoiled because it would ruin the reading experience. I wasn’t spoiled but prior to going into the book, I saw people talking about the ending and how surprising and unexpected it was. I felt like that influenced my experience because I went in expecting something to happen. I could see where the story was going fairly early on and was not the least bit surprised towards the end of the book. This is where I think the divide will be in terms of reader reactions, those who figured out what was going on will probably be indifferent while others will be amazed by the turn of events. Even though I didn’t love We Were Liars, I think it’s a good book. It’s a story about family, friendships and first love. It made me curious about E. Lockhart’s other novels.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Good Books and Good Wine
Alexa Loves Books


3 Comments

Thorn by Intisar Khanani

At the beginning of the month, I was working on my monthly recap for April when I realized that I only finished reading one novel for the whole month. Instead of doing a recap, I thought I might as well just write a review for Thorn by Intisar Khanani. Thorn is one of those titles that I would never have discovered if it hadn’t been recommended through the blog. I was immediately curious when I found out about the premise of this book since it’s a retelling of The Goose Girl fairy tale. The only retelling of The Goose Girl that I’ve read prior to this one was Shannon Hale’s which is one of my favorite books so of course, I wanted to find something similar.

ThornHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she’s never had… until she’s betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies – and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

I read Thorn in bits and pieces, while traveling from one place to another. I can’t tell if it was because of this that I didn’t enjoy Thorn as much as I was expecting. I wonder if I would have liked the book better if I was able to read it in one go. I thought the writing was beautiful, I felt that it had a fairy tale feel to it. I also liked Thorn as a character and I was curious about her and what would happen after she loses her place as a princess. In spite of that, I felt that I wasn’t as invested in the story as much as I would have wanted. None of the other characters, except maybe for Falada the talking Horse, stood out for me. I would have wanted to care more for the prince and maybe even the king. I definitely wanted more of the thief Red Hawk. Maybe there were too many characters in the story, which made me feel that there wasn’t enough character development for most of them. The tone of the book is also a bit bleak and dark, with several characters having to endure so much but I was fine with that since the original story isn’t exactly a light and fun read. I just felt that some of the problems weren’t properly addressed towards the end of the novel. Maybe I’ll have a more positive reaction if I get to reread Thorn. I’m glad I gave it a try since The Goose Girl retellings are hard to come by. I would still be interested in checking out the author’s other books.


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A Rose in Winter by Laura Florand

No Place Like HomeA Rose in Winter by Laura Florand is a novella in the No Place Like Home anthology. It’s set during Christmastime in Grasse, in the south of France. I read and loved it last December but wasn’t able to review it. I recently reread it on my flight back to Singapore because I wanted to be reminded of Aix-en-Provence and this is the closest that I could get because I haven’t read any novels set in Aix. At least Aix and Grasse are in the same region!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Allegra Caldron knew the rule never to talk to strangers. But on a cold winter night in Provence, she breaks that rule – and more – with an irresistible man. Raoul Rosier seems thrillingly dangerous, yet why does Allegra feel so safe with him – even when she believes he’s a thief?

If Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series is all about chocolate then her La Vie en Roses series is all about perfume. Each of the La Vie en Roses books feature a Rosier cousin. The Rosier clan own and control a significant portion of the world’s perfume business through their company. A Rose in Winter is Raoul’s story. Raoul has spent several years in Africa, establishing his family’s foothold in that region, and is itching to settle back home in Provence where the familiar scents of lavender, rose and jasmine will calm his restless soul. Laura’s writing style paints a vivid picture of the settings of her stories. She makes Grasse seem like such a charming and beautiful place. It’s not surprising that Allegra fell in love with it and decided to stay a while. Given that A Rose in Winter is a novella instead of a full-length novel, the romance gets developed pretty quickly. After all, Allegra’s mom said it best:

Quote from A Rose in Winter

What was Allegra supposed to do when she meets someone she can’t resist? I still felt that there was enough character development in the short span of time that Allegra and Raoul got to know each other. It wasn’t just their attraction that was the focus of the story but also their insecurities and how those affect their budding romance. I loved the Christmas setting of the story and how we get an idea of what a traditional Provencal Christmas is like. I liked how santons, terracotta nativity scene figurines that are only available in Provence, play an important role in the story. I also enjoyed seeing a little bit of the Rosier clan during their Christmas dinner. A Rose in Winter is a delightful installment in the La Vie en Roses series. I really can’t wait to read the next books and find out more about the other members of the Rosier family. Similar to Laura’s other books, there are hints of a particular fairy tale included within the story. Part of the fun in reading Laura’s books is trying to determine what fairy tale is being alluded to so I’ll let the rest of you discover that for yourselves. Prior to reading this, I wasn’t aware that Grasse is the perfume capital of the world. Now I want to visit the place and immerse myself in the world of artisan perfumeries. I ended A Rose in Winter on a happy sigh, dreaming of flying back to France to visit Grasse this time. I would probably end up buying several bottles of perfume if that ever happens.

Aix-en-Provence - santons

Santons in Aix-en-Provence

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