Review: Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop

Alexis:

I hate giving a book 2 stars, but this one just wasn’t doing it for me.

I liked the overall idea, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the food. 

However, the writing style was stiff and didn’t have any variety to it; it felt like every sentence was the same length. It was very much so “She said this. They did this.” 

I found the dialogue and characters to be the same. The dialogue sounded very unnatural, and it didn’t help that all of the characters talked the same way. There was no subtext to the dialogue; it was all, “I’m sorry Auntie. I didn’t mean it.” “That’s okay. I still love you, Vanessa.”

Besides that, there was a lot of name dropping. There’s a scene in the Louvre where Vanessa and her love interest dissect every piece of art. Vanessa constantly talks about how fancy her aunt is, and name drops designers left and right. At times, it felt overly elitist. 

The romance in the book was also pretty weird, including insta-love that just didn’t feel genuine to me. 

And finally, whenever the background characters heard one of Vanessa’s predictions, they always accepted them as truth. I found this odd. I’d be very weirded out if I heard a prediction about my life come out of a stranger’s mouth, and I expected there to be more conflict from this. 

I was hoping this book would be a nice, easy change of pace, but I just found it a little disappointing. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐/5

Review: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Alexis: While I didn’t enjoy The Little Paris Bookshop as much as The Book of Dreams by Nina George, I still really enjoyed reading it!

Summary: In Paris, a fifty-year-old man named Monsieur Perdu runs a bookstore on a barge, which floats on the Seine. He calls it the Literary Apothecary, because he treats books as medicines to cure people of their broken hearts. But Perdu is harboring twenty years of heartache, after the love of his life left him without any explanation, except for a letter, which Perdu hasn’t been able to bear to even read. Until one day, when he finally reads the letter, and decides to finally start living his life.

What I liked: I loved Perdu’s journey. While he physically journeys down the Seine in his bookshop, he emotionally breaks out of the depressed funk that he’s been stuck in for twenty years. His character arc was perfect.

I enjoyed George’s lyrical writing style, and how the book veers towards magical realism in some parts. For example, Perdu is always able to somehow read his customers and understand what book they need. 

The overall bookish feel of this book was wonderful, and you can really feel George’s love of books seep into Perdu’s character. 

The secondary characters are vibrant and oftentimes outlandish. I enjoyed reading about Perdu meeting them and finally creating connections with people after all his years of loneliness.

What I didn’t like: I really wasn’t a fan of Manon’s character. Her diary entries gave me a good glimpse into her character, and I figured out early on that I didn’t like her. She just seemed so immature and erratic, and sometimes the way she talked about Jean felt too manipulative. What I did enjoy about her diary entries were her descriptions of Jean, because it showed what Jean was like when he was young.

Overall, I loved reading about Perdu’s journey. This book is about love lost and love found, finding yourself, and the power of books. 

VERDICT: 4 starsZ

The Little Paris Bookshop

Alexis: Yesterday, I went to a secondhand bookshop called 2nd and Charles. My mom and I both had three bins full of books we wanted to sell or donate, so we sold as many as we could!

But while we were there, I wanted to find one book to get that I’ve been meaning to read. And that book was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.

Earlier this year, I read The Book of Dreams by Nina George and I loved it! It was a five star read for me. I can’t wait to read The Little Paris Bookshop next week before grad school starts.

Review: Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Alexis:

Grim Lovelies is my kind of fantasy: weird, dark, twisted, and magical, complete with (sort of) shapeshifting animals and a gothic feel.

Anouk is a beastie: an animal who was turned into a human by a witch. She and her fellow beasties are slaves for a powerful witch named Mada Vittora. But when Mada Vittora is murdered, Anouk and the other beasties must find a way to stay human before Vittora’s spell wears off. 

I really enjoyed this book! It reminds me of a Frances Hardinge novel mixed with The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. Shepherd’s writing flows well, and her dialogue shines on the page.

As with most books that I read, I loved the first half and liked the second half. I was worried that witches, spells, and goblins would feel too recycled, but I found the first half very original. 

I liked the cast of characters, though I had a hard time visualizing some of them. Unless I missed it, Shepherd didn’t even write a full description of Beau until the end. My favorite character was Cricket, as she had the most stand-out personality. 

I’m giving this book 5 stars because I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was done well, but like all books, it isn’t perfect. I really enjoyed Anouk’s character arc, and I loved her dynamic with the other characters. Shepherd also did a good job with worldbuilding and explaining the magic system. 

I enjoyed how Shepherd weaved the Pretty world and technology with the magical world, and I liked the overarching theme of what it means to be human.

My only real critique is the way Shepherd handled the gay characters; their gender identity felt thrown in there just for the sake of it. I hope she handles the characters with more care in the sequel.

I also liked the ending, though I’m not sure I’ll like the sequel based on the description. I hope it proves me wrong!

VERDICT: 5 stars 

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Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Alexis: Read 1/25/19

I couldn’t help but compare The Gilded Wolves to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. The heist plotline and the similarities in the gang of characters made it impossible. Prepare for a long review; I have a lot to say about this book!

Pros:

The Gilded Wolves is packed with detailed information. The story is set in an alternative 1889 Paris in which certain people can Forge, or magically manipulate objects, metals, and/or plants, etc. I have to admit Paris is not one of my favorite cities, but I really enjoyed the setting for the book. Chokshi did a great job of exploring the city’s history, both the good and the bad, and I thought she described the city well. Her descriptions of the Eiffel Tower, mostly from Zofia’s point of view, were unique and interesting.

I enjoyed reading the snippets of Séverin’s past. Overall, Zofia was my favorite character because of her uniqueness. Plus, it was refreshing to read about a woman scientist and mathematician.

This book is an interesting mix of history, science, and mythology. I really enjoyed the mythology, as the book explored Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. I loved the diversity of the characters; it painted a more accurate portrayal of Paris in 1889 and helped give the characters unique backgrounds and perspectives. I also enjoyed Chokshi’s descriptions and appreciated that she tackled themes of racism, prejudice, and identity.

Cons:

Though the voices of the characters were each distinct, I only really started caring about Zofia and Enrique once I reached the halfway point of the book. They felt the most real to me. There was a death at the end of the book, and, unfortunately, I didn’t find myself caring about it as much as I wanted to.

I wasn’t really a fan of Hypnos. Though I appreciated the diversity his character brought, he felt like a stereotypical gay character to me, and I had a hard time understanding his motives and his character.

Though I loved the blend of topics, sometimes this book felt more sci-fi to me than historical fantasy. I also felt like the book wasn’t as deep as I wanted it to be. I almost wish Chokshi will write a prequel to this; a lot of events happened before the start of this book.

I have to mention that it took me a while to get into the story. The beginning was a little too chaotic, and I found myself having to re-read paragraphs to make sure I understood what was happening. The Order confused me. I also felt like the climax of the book was a bit rushed. Though I enjoyed Chokshi’s writing style, the overabundance of adverbs irritated me (that’s my English major coming out!) “‘You lied to me,’ she said loudly.” “‘Ready?’ she said brightly.” “‘I know,’ said Hypnos solemnly.”

Despite my issues with the book, I did enjoy reading it, so. . .  

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books