Isla and the Happily Ever by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After was one of my highly anticipated releases for this year since I really enjoyed reading both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Those titles are quite a mouthful, aren’t they? I kept seeing other bloggers post pictures of their review copies of Isla and this just made me want to read the book more. Also, I’m still bummed that Stephanie Perkins visited Manila and I wasn’t able to attend the event (so many authors have visited the Philippines since I moved to Singapore). I was so excited when I finally got a copy of Isla so of course, I read it as soon as I could.

Isla and the Happily Ever AfterHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

I really enjoyed reading Isla and the Happily Ever After and I think I like it just as much or maybe even a bit more than Anna and the French Kiss. Isla and Josh are both great characters. I liked how there’s so much more to them that what was previously shown in the first book. I found it interesting that Isla is named after an island because “isla” is the Filipino word for island (pronounced is-lah instead of eye-lah though). I always think it’s awesome when of the characters in the book I’m reading is a reader herself. I could understand Isla’s thirst for adventure and how she satisfies that thirst by reading books. Also, how cute is it that Isla and Josh bonded over Joann Sfar? They made me want to read his graphic novels even though I’m not much of a graphic novel reader. I could really relate to Isla and her insecurities about not having a clue about what she wants to do in terms of her career – heck, I’m a decade older than her and I’m still figuring things out. I could also understand how she’s so forgiving of others but so hard on herself, to the point where she questions whether she’s worthy of being loved. I loved her friendship with Kurt and how she had to learn how to balance having a guy best friend with having a boyfriend. On a counterpoint to Isla’s ambiguity, Josh is very passionate about his art and he knows that he wants to pursue a degree that would enable him to focus on this field. My artistic talent is limited to stick figures so I’m always in awe of artists. I enjoyed reading about Josh and his art and would have loved to see samples of them if that was possible.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is partially set in New York, Paris and Barcelona. I’ve never been to New York so I can’t really say anything about the scenes set there. But having read Laura Florand’s vivid and detailed descriptions of Paris, I feel like Stephanie Perkins’ imagery pales in comparison. Isla mentions that she’s comfortable enough in Paris for it to feel like home but I don’t think she was able to portray that in a believable way. I did love the Barcelona scenes since they were from the perspective of tourists, with both Josh and Isla visiting the city for the first time. It reminded me of my own trip there earlier this year because we visited the same tourist spots, mostly the sites of Gaudi’s work.

I think Stephanie Perkins excels in portraying realistic teenage romance. She gets how awkward it is to have a serious crush on someone. And how tentative things are at the start when the two parties realize that what they feel might be mutual and there’s just all this tension between Isla and Josh. Then it transforms into a new-found relationship that makes both of them giddy with happiness. Even the issues that they they had to deal with felt authentic. I was really rooting for them and the way they changed and matured throughout the course of the novel was satisfying. I had so much fun reading this book and would recommend it to any fan of YA contemporary.

Here are some pictures from my Barcelona trip that are related to the book. Casa Batllo is probably my favorite Gaudi-designed house:
Barcelona - Casa Batllo Barcelona - Casa Batllo (2)

The awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia:
Barcelona - Sagrada Familia1 Barcelona - Sagrada Familia

On top of the world a.k.a. the view of Barcelona from Parc Guell:
Barcelona 2014 - view from Parc Guell

Europe 2014: Barcelona Update

Hola! After Paris, the next leg of our trip was Barcelona. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really excited to visit Barcelona because I hadn’t heard a lot about the city. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised at how vibrant the city was. It’s a place where we found delicious food (all those Spanish dishes like tapas, jamon and paella), architectural masterpieces, lovely artwork and warm, friendly people.

A book I’ve read set in Barcelona:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A book set in Spain that is in my wishlist:
Small Damages by Beth Kephart

I would gladly go back to Barcelona just for the food:
Barcelona - tapasBarcelona - pintxos Barcelona - paella Barcelona - jamon

There were so many creative and original art pieces all over the city and I was tempted to get some as souvenirs but decided not to since I don’t really have a place of my own to display them in.

Barcelona - graffiti Barcelona - portrait Barcelona - original ar

Plaça de Catalunya is a lovely park for tourists and locals:

Barcelona - Plaça de Catalunya Barcelona - Plaça de Catalunya (2)

A post about Barcelona would not be complete without talking about the architect Gaudi. I wasn’t familiar with Gaudi’s work prior to our trip in Barcelona but I’m impressed by his style. I like how he was inspired by nature and how there’s an almost whimsical aspect to his designs, making them seem like objects out of fantasy novels. Some shots from Casa Museu Gaudi:

Barcelona - Casa Museu Gaudi Barcelona - Casa Museu Gaudi2

Casa Batllo, probably my favorite Gaudi-designed house:
Barcelona - Casa Batllo Barcelona - Casa Batllo (2)

And of course, the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia, which is still under construction after more than a hundred years:
Barcelona - Sagrada Familia1 Barcelona - Sagrada Familia2 Barcelona - Sagrada Familia Barcelona - Sagrada Familia

Have you been to Barcelona? What were your favorite aspects of the city? Have you read books set in Barcelona or Spain that you think I will enjoy reading?

I’m Off to Experience Life as a Laura Florand Heroine

Eiffel at Night

Photo from my friend who was in Paris recently.

Yes, I am going to the city of the Amour et Chocolat novels, Anna and the French Kiss and Just One Day! I’ve always dreamed of going to Paris and I still can’t believe that I will be able to do so this coming weekend. This is going to be my first time in Europe! I’m flying from Singapore (with a stopover in Dubai) and I’m meeting friends who will be flying from Manila. I’m leaving tonight and I’ll be back on the 27th. We will be going to Paris, Barcelona, Aix en Provence and Milan. It’s taken us months to plan for this trip, what with the visa application and everything else. I know that it’s a once in a lifetime kind of experience (although of course, keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to come back to Europe and hopefully visit other countries) so I am super excited for this trip.

I’m writing this post to let you all know why you wouldn’t be seeing any new posts on the blog in the coming two weeks. I’ll post an update about the trip (including pictures) when I get back. I will be bringing my Kindle with me because I’ll probably be able to do a lot of reading while waiting in airports and train stations and in the flights and train rides. However, I won’t be able to blog since I’m not bringing a laptop with me.

See you all when I get back!