Category Archives: 2014 Publication

3 Reasons I fell in Love with Anna and the French Kiss Series

So it’s official, I went and fell in love with the Anna and the French Kiss series within approximately 5 hours, after finally (months behind everyone else) jumping on the bandwagon to read. My hands were literally glued to Anna and the French Kiss, which I kept promising myself “one more chapter before bed” and ultimately forgoing sleep to consume the whole book. I read the first two books within the space of a day, and then decided I needed to draw myself away and lasted all of around a week, before succumbing to the calling of Isla and the Happily Ever After. (Oh, and mentally slap myself every time I read Isla phonetically rather than Ey-la – I have problems with saying that name as much as I love it!).

Love-Potion

By the point I reached the end of Isla, this was me; entirely star struck. What on earth had I just undertaken, reading contemporary, fluffy young-adult literature, finding genuine meaning, love, friendship and just all around elation?

So here begins my list of reasons to love the series, rather than composing a review for a set of books most of you have probably read/heard about, and you are honest to god bored of reading another mundane review.

1. THE CHARACTERS

I would literally compare how I feel about all the main characters: Anna, St. Clair, Cricket, Lola, Josh and Isla to how I feel (very nearly) about the Harry Potter characters. They are not perfect, they do have issues and they may not honestly be everyone’s cup-of-tea, however I found them quirky, relatable, fun and most of all likeable. Stephanie Perkins makes real effort to flesh out her characters, give them all backstories and connect them all in different ways, despite the fact that many of them end up living in different cities. Beyond these 6 main stars, she also brings in a plethora of secondary characters to support each individual, add more dimension to their character and make you understand them a little more.

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Just sayin’, six awesome characters here, six awesome characters there..

I can literally probably talk your ear of for a good hour about these characters, but I am going to pick one as my favourite. I have to say it has to be Isla, there was just so many times when I connected with her and understood her.

“Because I thought no one could love me.”

“And why did you think that?”

“Because I didn’t think I was worth loving.”

Hattie takes this in. And then she hits me in the stomach. I yowl in surprise, and she hits me again. “Don’t be stupid.”

Ow.”

“Everyone is worthy of love. Even a dumb sister like you.”  – Isla and the Happily Ever After

YEAH SHE MAY BE A BIT OF A DORKY, INSECURE IDIOT AND YOU WANT TO SLAP HER HERE, but that is okay, I did too and I am EXACTLY the same kind of person. Like seriously, Isla and her nerves (okay, I’m not nearly as bad, but sometimes I do stupid things and make situations awkward). Her doubt of herself, her continual pushing that things are not good enough (school nerd here), and just generally everything about her. Also her inability to handle painkillers – totally me.

“Oh, shit.” I tuck up a leg and smack my kneecap on the table. “Am I acting that loopy?” – Isla and the Happily Ever After

There were so many aspects that I loved, but the part that made me applaud Perkins more was that she made Isla realise who she was without Josh. SHE DID NOT NEED A BOY TO FIND HERSELF. WOOOO FOR FEMINISM. YES. GIRL YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT, GET WHAT YOU WANT AND THEN STILL FIND THE BOY LATER.

Anybody gathering that Isla and the Happily Ever After got five stars from me on Goodreads yet? Winking smile

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”

And I realise…it’s okay. It’s okay if St. Clair and I never become more than friends. – Anna and the French Kiss

Although Isla is not the only book that Perkins does this in, she started it at the very beginning with Anna. SELF-REALISATION FOR THE WIN!

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2. THE SETTING

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“looks like a fantasyland castle – wet sand dripped through fingers, both sharp and soft. Bright construction lights are everywhere, and workers are tinkering around its massive spires in dangerously tall cranes.” – Isla and the Happily Ever After

I mean, I literally visited Barcelona this summer, I saw the amazing Gaudi’s church. (My beautiful photography *laughs* – it’s just so tall and I’m so small, there is undoubtedly neck cramp here. Yes it’s also the background of my blog!). THIS IS WHERE ISLA AND JOSH WERE. I mean, I literally love the fact that I was there, and so were they (I do remember they’re fictional, okay). Barcelona has to be one of my favourite European cities, it is just so beautiful. I think this has to also be why I connected to Isla and the Happily Ever After so much more.

We’re splashing towards the heart of Barcelona. Red- and yellow- striped flags – some with the blue triangle and star of independence, some without – hang everywhere from apartment balconies, soaked with storm. The city’s appearance is distinctly Western European, but it’s also filled with colourful architecture and steep hills. Palm trees and leafy trees. Purple vines and red flowers. – Isla and the Happily Ever After

Not to mention Paris, I love Paris. It has been a long time since I visited, but I have plans to go back next year and the majority of the setting was in Paris. It is such a beautiful, romantic city. Just downright being set in Europe won me over from the start because most YA contemporary teen fiction is set in America, and I don’t mind, but occasionally, I want something different, something European.

3. THE ROMANCE

Oh, Etienne St. Clair where are you? Oh, Cricket, the boy next door and Josh the troublesome artist.

I definitely have to say I found it hard to pick between love interests. As much as I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After, I do not think Josh was my favourite love interest. And whilst I think I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door the least out of them all, I do think Cricket was my love, the nerdy boy next door who cared about Lola and only wanted the best. There was just something so geeky and loveable about him.

I know you aren’t perfect. But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.Lola and the Boy Next Door.

I mean – weeping – somebody come sweep me off that feet with such a line? Perkins just seemed to make it so effortless when she sweeps you off your feet with her beautiful way with words, and carefully crafted romantic proposals.

Perkins does not just craft an easy boy + girl = fall in love and happily ever after. She brings in the fact that people fall in love with people in a relationship and are afraid to leave them when it doesn’t work, but why? She talks about how we might be too afraid to step from our comfort zone. How we might appear to others, but is that truly us? I think despite the fact that this is contemporary romance and at times, fluffy, there are real issues that she tries to deal with subtlety and with love and attention that makes reading these books such a beautiful experience.

“Mademoiselle Oliphant. It translates to ‘Point zero of the roads of France’. In other words, it’s the point from which all other distances in France are measured.” St. Clair clears his throat. “Its the beginning of everything.”

I look back up. He’s smiling.

“Welcome to Paris, Anna. I am glad you’ve come.” – Anna and the French Kiss

There are just far too many quotes to take from all these books (I realise I have taken probably lots from Isla in comparison to Anna and Lola, but there was just something magical about that book for me. 

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How could I resist the charms of these three guys?

Okay, I will admit this series is not perfect and it seriously has its imperfections, but there is just so much to love. So much beauty in her writing.

But I don’t want to give you this broken, empty me. I want you to have me when I’m full, when I can give something back to you. I don’t have much to give right now. – Lola and the Boy Next Door

This is me and how I am currently feeling towards any other book. This is The Absent Historian signing out on a serious book hangover, after falling in love with Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door and then having her heart confiscated by Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Now go read it if you haven’t already.

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Filed under 2010 Publication, 2011 Publication, 2014 Publication, 4 Books, 4.5 Books, 5 Books, Chick-Lit, Contemporary, Dutton, E-book, Romance, Stephanie Perkins, Young Adult

Book Review: The Walled City

The Walled City

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Genre: Young-Adult, Crime, Fantasy, Gangsters

The Review

“There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.”

These are the words that drew me in from the blurb of this book. In all honesty, I was unsure about a book that talked of rape, drug culture, gangsters, crime, death and prostitution, never mind the fact that it is a young-adult book. However, that does not mean to say I feel it is wrong for such a book to be published under the young-adult genre. After all, the term includes ‘adult’, the term only refers to somebody slightly below adult years and we have to enable our youth to learn and be educated through some means, and we cannot continue to hide the world from them. So I think whilst this book is gritty, harsh and at times dark and discomforting, it is a book that holds meaning, honesty and a brutal reflection of what human nature can lead to, and I think it is a fabulous addition to the young-adult genre as not the typical read.

The Walled City was unexpected in so many ways. It focused on three youths, Jin, Mei Yee and Dai. They all had secrets, all had a past and the alternate POVS throughout the novel slowly began to unravel their lives, their pasts, their hopes, dreams and needs and I really connected with all three of them. Personally I felt the strongest connection with Jin who is out in the Walled City to find her sister. She is young, but she is determined, feisty and frankly I would not want to mess with this young fireball. She is an absolutely brilliant character and my heart throughout the novel was firmly rooting for her. That is exactly what I want books I read to do too, have me rooting for the main character and living the story with them.

Dai is a mystery, and not exactly the one I expected. He is a likeable, rather tortured character, but underneath the first impression of a prickly, mysterious and rather untrustworthy exterior, he also found a place in my heart.

Mei Yee is the character I connected least with, however I feel that is because we got to know her least. By the end I could see her as an equally strong individual as Jin and Dai, but she faced her own struggles, being sold into prostitution at an early age by her father and being locked in one building for her future, it does appear that she lives a dismal life. There are no real explicit descriptions of the prostitution or lewd events in the brothel, however there are a couple of rather sadistic moments of brutality from a customer and the master to be aware of.

Throughout the novel Graudin is challenging how human nature has allowed this ‘Walled City’ to be created which is a place untouched by the laws of society and police force so that drugs, crime and death can continue. It challenges how human nature can become so depraved. Despite all of this, underneath it are shining moments of friendship, determination, a genuine care for others, doing the right thing and family.

There is a small amount of romance in the novel, but honestly it is not the dominant aspect, in fact it is entirely limited in terms of the plot. This is one of the other reasons why I really enjoyed this novel, because it was a somewhat refreshing look at the young-adult genre without the dominant aspect being romance. It was about friendship, family and trusting others with not just emotions, but your life. Having said that, the romance was entrancing, well-written and it was genuinely built up to. I thought it fit into the narrative with a fluid ease and was not forced in the slightest.

When I finished this novel and found out Graudin had based her novel in part upon a place called Kowloon’s Walled City in Hong Kong which in some ways made her question the type of people that would be there and the happenings, it made it all seem more realistic and heart-wrenching. Obviously the novel is fictitious which leads to the kind of fantasy element, because I would struggle to label this city as ‘contemporary’. Although the genre labelling is one topic that I struggled with when it came to this novel. Despite all this, Graudin is making a clear statement against human trafficking and I appreciated the message of the novel.

Overall, The Walled City was a novel that sent my emotions into turmoil, tugged on my heartstrings and had me racing through the last part of the novel. I almost certainly applaud Graudin on tackling such a sensitive topic, not being afraid to delve into the grit and darkness of humanity and coming out the other side successfully with 5 shining stars that shows human nature is not all bad. An absolutely phenomenal addition to the young-adult genre, and so splendidly written that every word despite being full of grit and tension, was quite beautiful to read; I recommend it to you all!

Survival Chances: 87%

Expiration Date: 2095

Favourite Quotes *quotes taken from an earc subject to change on publication

But there are still more wishes in my soul than there are stars. I wish I could hold Jin Ling’s hand in mine, I wish Sing never tried to run. I wish the boy didn’t make my chest burn, make my thoughts soar like a phoenix. I wish every girl in this brothel could be one of the lucky ones. I wish, like the boy, I was somewhere else. Someone else. And on and on and on.

“I work alone,” I say quickly. I do everything alone: eat, sleep, run, steal, talk, cry. It’s the curse of the second rule: Trust no one. The cost of staying alive.”

We stay like this for a long time. Skin to skin under false stars. The ones that never fall.

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

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Filed under 2014 Publication, 5 Books, Crime, E-book, Fantasy, Little, Brown and Company, Ryan Graudin, Young Adult