Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release date: December 2, 2010
Source: For What It’s Worth Book Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Parisâ??until she meets Ã?tienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Annaâ??and readersâ??have long awaited?

First impressions: Anna has a really strong voice that captures your attention immediately. She reads like an authentic teenager without bombarding you with emoticons or a crazy amount of slang. She’s immediately likable in a real way. I want her to be my new best friend.

Lasting impressions: I. Love. Etienne St. Clair. So if Anna was my new best friend, we’d be having some words. Or be engaging in some light fisticuffs. Because Etienne? Is perfect.

Conflicting impressions: Despite the hype and general ga-ga fest over this book, I did have a few issues with it. There were times everything felt a bit too easy for Anna. She moves in, and becomes insta-best-friends with her next door neighbor, who just happens to be the first person she meets. Talk about lucky!

The nasty mean girl character, Amanda, is a bit over the top for my tastes. I don’t mind having a girl who is nasty, but Amanda has no reason to be nasty, and in a school of only 100 people, I don’t think a girl could afford to be that unpleasant. Girls are bratty and cliquish and snobby, yes, but I don’t think they can get away with highway robbery while in the close confines of an incredibly small boarding school. I could be wrong, but in my experiences Amanda seemed not that realistic.

Overall impressions: From start to finish, this is a very solid book. Anna is funny, unique, smart, if not a bit dependent. Her flaws make her more honest to the reader, so I forgave her for being occasionally obtuse and ignorant. I mean, she wants to be a film critic and is obsessed with movies, but doesn’t know that Paris is like film Mecca? Really?

Etienne St. Clair, Anna’s love interest (and pretty much everyone else’s in the book, too – he’s the Mary Sue for dudes), also can be a bit aggravating. He’s in love with Anna from the minute he sees her, yet draaaaaaags out his relationship with Ellie. In the end, we’re not given much of an explanation for why he holds on to Ellie for so long, other than that we needed more obstacles for Anna.

Similarly, Anna runs into some sub-plots that really didn’t do much for me. She overreacts to an incident involving Bridgette, her best friend back home, only to have it resolved in the end with a Big Reveal that ties to every other problem she and Etienne have been struggling with. Oy. She also dates a guy who turns out to be a Big Fat Jerk and spreads vicious rumors about her around school. It was very Skeet Ulrich from The Craft movie, and induced some major eye rolling from me.

What was amazing, however, was how nicely things all came together in the end. Anna really grows as a person from spending time in France, despite her major hesitancy at the beginning. She starts out as a terrified little girl, and grows into a mature young woman. She learns to trust herself as a capable adult who can go out in the world and make things happen, and she also learns to trust her feelings. She has to navigate the difficult world of teen boy, trying to decipher the truth from her imagination.

Seriously, haven’t we all been there? There’s nothing more anxiety-riddled than figuring out if the boy you like does indeed love you back. It’s a hundred times worse when you’re friends, because you don’t know how to reveal yourself without losing him forever if he doesn’t feel the same way. Stephanie Perkins captures that back-and-forth flirting with such ease that I never wanted to stop reading.

Bottom line? This book is an adorable love story between two kids just trying to figure themselves out. It’s funny, sweet, and refreshing. The characters are interesting, the setting is perfect, and it was a blast to read. I think everyone would love this book, and you should RUN to go get a copy.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out the other reviews from the For What It’s Worth book tour.

In My Mailbox (8) and Vacation Announcement

First things first. The next two weeks I am on vacation, and from Wednesday through Sunday this week I’ll be out of town, attending the wedding of my husband’s best friend. Why am I telling you this? Well, because it means I won’t be around. I’m not scheduling any posts after tomorrow until April 1st. I’m coming back with a giveaway, though, so I hope you’ll hang with me. I’ll likely be commenting, and next week if I’m bored enough (or going through withdrawals) I may post an impromptu post or two. Our regularly scheduled programming won’t be back until April, though.

Sunny Florida here I come!


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme devoted to sharing the new books we’ve received, borrowed, or bought. For more information, visit IMM’s fantastic host, The Story Siren. You can visit other blogs that are participating in this weekâ??s IMM here.

Received from Missie at The Unread Reader:

Summary: (from Goodreads) Thereâ??s an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid onâ??and offâ??the football field. And it claims its victims without mercyâ??including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a schoolâ??s salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.

Missie wrote a really terrific review for this book that got under my skin. I think she could tell I was chomping at the bit to read this one, so she offered to send me her ARC, and of course I gladly accepted. Free book! Whee! This one looks like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I’m looking forward to seeing if this book challenges me the way I think it will.

Received from Karen for the For What It’s Worth Book Tour:

Summary: (from Goodreads) Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Parisâ??until she meets Ã?tienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Annaâ??and readersâ??have long awaited?

The hype on this book has been unreal, so when I saw this tour pop up, it seemed like the ideal way to give this book a try. I’m not a huge contemporary YA fan, but I do love all things Paris. I finished this book over the weekend and loved it. My review goes up tomorrow if you’re interested.

Bought from Cheryl Klein:

Summary: (from Goodreads) Whether you dream of writing a book for children or young adults, or you want to take a finished manuscript to the next level, it always helps to get a fresh point of view. Try a little Second Sight.
In this collection of talks, a professional editor offers insights from the other side of the publishing desk on a wide range of writerly topics:

* Terrific first lines and how they got that way
* What makes a strong picture book manuscript
* Why the Harry Potter series was such a tremendous success
* Finding the emotional heart of your story
* Worksheets and checklists for building characters and bolstering plot
* The Annotated Query Letter from Hell
* And an Annotated Query Letter That Does It Right

With its wit, intelligence, and practical tools for analyzing and revising your work, Second Sight will be a first resource for writers of children’s and young adult fiction.

Cheryl Klein is a well known editor who put this book together based on lectures she has done in the past. I saw a tweet about it, and it looked like it had lots of good information for me, so I decided to add it to my personal library.

That’s it for today! See you next week!

Silly Sunday – Sleepiest Cat Ever

This week was full-on crazy town. I was up well after midnight every night, either doing homework, or going out with friends. Finals are over, I have a week off to relax a little and gear up for my last quarter, and I am so happy to have two full weeks off from work.

That said, this weekend I was the sleep monster. Yesterday I could have stayed in bed all day and been fine, but hubs made me get up at noon. LAME. Today he actually made me get up at 8:00 a.m. to go to a SPINNING CLASS. I was literally dragging my feet around the house while preparing for that little gem. Afterwards I rewarded myself with a giant fatty omelet that had bacon AND ham in it. Goooo cholesterol!

This cat video pretty much sums up how I went to sleep every night. I’m going, I’m going, I’m going…crash.

Ugh. I’m still sleepy.

Follow Friday/Book Blogger Hop & Weekly Recap


It’s Follow Friday! Hosted by the always amazing Parajunkee’s View, this is a chance to meet new blogger friends and grow our networks.

This week’s question is “How did you come up with the name of your blog?”

Um.

Do I really need to answer that?

The short answer is that I wanted to stick with my name for simplicity and to build myself as a brand, not just the blog itself. Ta da!

Be sure to check out this week’s featured blogger (and one of my personal favorites) Gone with the Words and the rest of the participants.


Book Blogger Hop
Hosted by Crazy For Books, this blog hop is all about connecting with our fellow bloggers. Each week we discuss a book-related question and hop around to other blogs to see their answers.

This week’s question is “Do you read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?”

I usually read more than one book at a time. I’m almost always reading one or two on my Kindle, and then I have a paperback that sits by my bed. Right now, for instance, I’m breaking up the formal Jane Eyre with the creepy Wicked Lovely on my Kindle, and I’m reading 13 to Life in bed at night. I go through spurts where I’ll focus on one book at a time, but usually I’m too fickle and need to go back and forth between them. The downside is that if I read books that are too similar to one another while I do this, I can confuse the story lines.

What about you?


My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out.

If you’re a first time visitor, or just didn’t get the chance to stop by this week, here’s what you missed:

Features and Memes
Silly Sunday – Bronte Sisters Power Dolls
Watch a funny fake advertisement for some killer literary dolls.

In My Mailbox
A return to the vlog.

Waiting on Wednesday – Crossed by Ally Condie
The much anticipated sequel to Matched.

Reviews

The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald
4/5 stars
I Read Banned Books ARC Tour

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
5/5 stars
Get Steampunked! Challenge

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Leviathan
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: October 6, 2009
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: Leviathan #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected wayâ?¦taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

First impressions: The opening scenes are quite intense, especially since we know the fate of the archduke, Alek’s father. Still, I found this one slow to get into, just because I had to wrap my head around the world and its rules. The payoff of this extra upfront effort was fully realized by the end.

Lasting impressions: My goodness. I would follow these characters in this world to the end of the universe and back. Strange? Yes. Disarming? Oh, yes. But fantastically amazing as well.

Conflicting impressions: I found Deryn to be the much stronger character. We could have dropped Alek’s perspective entirely and I wouldn’t have cared.

Overall impressions: Once I got comfortable in this strange Clanker vs. Darwinist world, it didn’t matter what the story was or where it was going. I can’t remember the last time a fantasy setting so fully transported me as this book did. The Clankers favor steam-powered machines and the Darwinists favor engineered beasts. Both sides use their preferred methods to create huge fighting vessels which they start to use more frequently as World War I breaks out around them.

Deryn Sharp is a Darwinist in Britain who desperately wants to be an airman. The trouble is she’s a girl. Off go the locks and on goes the restrictive and baggy clothes, and voila, a boy is created. She winds up on an air beast called the Leviathan, which is like a large zeppelin…if zeppelins were made out of living things. In this case, it’s a whale.

The Darwinists’ ecosystem machines were a bit hard for me to swallow. It wasn’t that I couldn’t fathom a world where scientists cobble together various life forms to create a new animal that serves their purposes (because really, are we that far off?). No, for me it was the incredulous idea that a large animal could be mutated into some kind of non-sentient creature that wouldn’t mind its body used as an airship. The thought of traipsing around inside of a whale was really bothersome to me. Every time Deryn said “Poor beastie” I thought that if she really felt sorry for the blasted thing she’d stop stomping through its innards. But I realize the point of steampunk is not to break down every detail. I decided to go with it, accepted the beasties as a part of this world, and moved on.

On the Clanker side of things, we follow the Austro-Hungarian heir, Alek, as he escapes his home country and flees to Switzerland in a giant metal walker. His team of mentors accompany him, and there is not much love lost between them. Alek is a haughty, naive, and self-entitled prince, but he is also respectful of duty to country. He is perhaps more complex than Deryn, which meant we didn’t get to know him quite as fully, and the coldness he has with his team didn’t improve his warmth with the reader.

Once Alek and Deryn meet, however, things really start to get interesting. They race to get off a glacier where the Leviathan has crash landed near Alek’s hideout, and by the end of the story these natural enemies are forced to form a somewhat shaky truce. It will be interesting to see how these two accomplish their individual goals while staying loyal to their respective causes.

This trilogy definitely needs to be read together, as this book ends just on the cusp of a new adventure for Deryn and Alek. It felt very “To be continued…” while still wrapping up nicely. That said, I won’t die if I never get around to reading Behemoth. The motivating factor isn’t the plot, here. What ultimately sets this book apart is its incredibly well developed setting, and the glorious dialogue Westerfeld built. My new favorite curse word/adjective is “barking.”

I highly recommend this book to fantasy fans who have an interest in steampunk, particularly if you enjoy YA. I should also point out that the book is beautifully illustrated by Keith Thompson, which enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this review by Books Turn Brains.

Waiting on Wednesday – Crossed by Ally Condie


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we discuss the books we’re anxiously awaiting for release.

I am too swamped for finals week to write anything coherent, so this week I’m skipping my usual Writing Wednesday to gush about the cover and synopsis reveal for Ally Condie’s second book in the Matched Trilogy, Crossed.

Summary from Goodreads: In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky â?? taken by the Society to his certain death â?? only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassiaâ??s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander â?? who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassiaâ??s heart â?? change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

I was such a huge fan of Matched and so I was UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED to see this cover and synopsis reveal last week. I’m not super psyched about the idea that most of the book will keep Cassia separate from Ky, but I am curious about seeing Xander again. I mean, Xander as key to the uprising? Ky to his certain death? An unexpected betrayal? I cannot wait for this book!

I also think that cover is gorgeous. I love that it is a progression from the last cover, with Cassia breaking through the globe that kept her so beautifully contained on the cover of Matched. Ally Condie also confirmed that the green and blue color themes have to do with the pills, so I assume the third (still untitled) book will feature red. Love the simplicity, love the images, and love that they relate back to the books. Gorgeous!

What do you think of the cover? Are you as excited about this book as I am?

The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: The Anti-Prom
Author: Abby McDonald
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: April 12, 2011
Source: I Read Banned Books ARC Tour

Summary: (from Goodreads) Three unlikely allies team up for a night of rebellion, romance, and revenge in a high-stakes dramedy from acclaimed young author Abby McDonald.

Theyâ??ve spent years at the same high school without speaking a word to one another, but thatâ??s all about to change. Popular Bliss was having the perfect prom until she found her BFF and boyfriend making out in the back of a limo. Bad girl Jolene wouldnâ??t be caught dead at the prom, yet here she is, trussed up in pink ruffles, risking her reputation for some guy – some guy who is forty minutes late. And shy, studious, über-planner Meg never counted on her dateâ??s standing her up and leaving her idling in the parking lot outside the prom. Get ready for The Anti-Prom, Abby McDonaldâ??s hilarious, heart-tugging tale about three girls and one unforgettable prom night.

First impressions: I loved that this book didn’t waste any time jumping into prom night. We start smack dab in the middle, actually. No dinner, no limo rides, no photo sessions at the parents’ houses. And the opening scene sure is a doozie, too. Bliss catches her boyfriend cheating on her. Ouch.

Lasting impressions: Like The Breakfast Club and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants had a baby. So much fun!

Conflicting impressions: I didn’t always buy the actions/reactions of the characters. At times it felt overly confrontational and other times it felt too easy for them.

Overall impressions: This story throws three girls together for one crazy evening – prom night. In my experience, prom is always eventful, and this one is no exception. Bliss wants to get revenge on her best friend and boyfriend, who she catches getting hot and heavy together in a limo during the dance, so she seeks out bad girl Jolene for help. When Jolene finally agrees to be a part of Bliss’s scheme, they flee to the parking lot, only to get nearly run over by Meg, who has just been stood up.

Once the three girls agree to help each other over the course of the evening (Bliss with the cheaters, Jolene with her deadbeat dad, and getting shy, uptight Meg to loosen up), the action flies. The girls bounce back and forth from location to location, pulling crazy stunt after reckless escapade, and along the way they start to connect. The moments where the girls learn important life lessons can be a bit over the top, but for the most part their relationships seem genuine.

McDonald captures the high school girl especially well. I thought the dialogue was realistic with all of that angsty stressed out drama that colors it as a teenager. It makes the girls believable despite very little backstory. What could have very easily been pure fluff, however, is tempered with some pretty heavy issues, particularly revolving around Jolene and Meg.

Jolene has been destroying her life in an effort to lash out at her dad and the world she feels does nothing for her. Meg has given up on social life altogether, disappearing into the walls and rendering herself more and more invisible as time goes by. When things start to get really ugly, the girls have to rely on each other, and because of their differences they’re able to speak the truth. Instead of stock phrases and blind support that usually comes with teen girl friendship, these acquaintances don’t hold back, really cutting at the heart of the problem as each new snag arises throughout the night.

This is great fun, while also touching on some deeper issues. I highly recommend to contemporary YA fans, as well as anyone wanting to re-live some crazy prom experiences. 🙂

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want another perspective? Be sure to check out Jen’s review today at I Read Banned Books. Click the button below! She’s also featuring an interview with Abby McDonald and a giveaway!

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme devoted to sharing the new books we’ve received, borrowed, or bought. For more information, visit IMM’s fantastic host, The Story Siren. You can visit other blogs that are participating in this weekâ??s IMM here.

Another vlog! Finally. I even fancied it up for you guys and put on LIP GLOSS. I may have actually brushed my hair as well. You’re welcome.

What I didn’t do was check my facts before speaking. I couldn’t figure out how to add text to the frames that weren’t titles, otherwise I would have supplemented my video with snarky comments. Like when I start blabbing about how The Luxe takes place in a private school (it doesn’t), or when I lamely giggle at myself. Hardy freaking har, loser.

Bought:

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren | Goodreads | Amazon | My Review
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell | Goodreads | Amazon | My Review
The Luxe by Anna Godbersen | Goodreads | Amazon
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins | Goodreads | Amazon
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima | Goodreads | Amazon
Graceling by Kristin Cashore | Goodreads | Amazon

ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster UK and Book Chick City:

The Survivor by Sean Slater | Goodreads | Amazon


Bought for Kindle (not on video):


Dark Lover by J. R. Ward | Goodreads | Amazon
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead | Goodreads | Amazon
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin | Goodreads | Amazon
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr | Goodreads | Amazon
($0.99 with Bonus Material)
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting | Goodreads | Amazon
($1.99 with Bonus Material)

Silly Sunday – Bronte Sisters Power Dolls

I’m hard at work on a couple of papers this week, so I’m keeping things simple today. I started reading Jane Eyre on Friday, so I can try to finish it before I see the movie. In honor of Charlotte Bronte and all of the other 19th century female writers who did what they loved despite a culture that did everything to keep them from it, I give you the Bronte Sisters Power Dolls.

Take that, boys’ club! We women are here to stay!


While you’re here, I’ve got a poll on my left sidebar about commenting. I’d like to know if you would prefer I email you with my responses to your comments. The poll will be up until the end of the week. I would love it if you’d weigh in with your opinion. Thanks guys!

One Lovely Blog Award and Weekly Recap

I’ve been given the One Lovely Blog award by my friend Tabitha! It means a lot coming from her. She’s a superwoman who runs THREE blogs, including the incredible book and writing resource Writer Musings, plus she’s a mom to two kids and an agented writer working on several manuscripts and…I could go on and on. But seriously. Super. Woman.

Thank you Tabitha!

Here are the rules for this award:

  • Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and their blog link.
  • Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
  • Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
  • In honor of Follow Friday and the Book Blogger Hop, here are some of my favorite blogs, and I hope you’ll check them out:

    bibliophile brouhaha
    Books Devoured
    The Lovely Getaway
    Ruby’s Reads
    Small Review
    The Unread Reader
    My Precious
    Gone with the Words
    Paranormal Indulgence
    girl loves books
    Truly Bookish
    aleeza reads and writes
    My Bookish Ways
    Preternatural Primer
    Recovering Potter Addict
    Bloggers, no pressure to pass on the award. I just wanted to spread some love!


    My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out.

    If you’re a first time visitor, or just didn’t get the chance to stop by this week, here’s what you missed:

    Features and Memes
    Silly Sunday – Medieval Times
    I love dinner theater. And Paints.

    Writing Wednesday – The language of Teen Text
    I discussed my aversion to teen text shorthand.

    Challenges
    I joined five more challenges. Because I am insane.
    Also, I announced a winner of my giveaway.

    Reviews
    Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz
    4/5 stars
    YA Series Challenge

    Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
    Review and Interview with Angie Smibert
    4/5 stars
    I Read Banned Books ARC Tour
    2011 Debut Author Challenge