Tag Archives: books

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Standard


This book is adorable. And rather hard to put down. Anna is a fun character with a bleached streak in her hair and the unusual goal to become a movie critic. We meet her on the eve of being shipping off to boarding school in Paris. She’s less than thrilled. This was a tough moment for me, since I would be jumping up and down like a mad thing if I got the chance to go to school in Paris. But I totally get that she’s mostly mad that she didn’t get a choice, and also pretty scared about being on her own in Paris at 17. She’s leaving her disfunctional-but-loved family, her best friend Bridgette, and her almost-maybe-boyfriend-guy Toph.

When she gets to Paris she is pretty timid, and refuses to go out by herself or order food in French. But she quickly gets absorbed by a wonderful group of friends who help break her out of her shell and get her to love Paris. There’s her neighbor Meredith, soccer (sorry – football!) nut and chocolat chaud lover. There’s the couple, Josh and Rashmi…and then there’s Etienne St. Clair. The beautiful boy with the British accent, the perfect hair, and…the girlfriend.

Anna is instantly smitten, but talks herself down time and time again, knowing he is in a serious relationship. They become great friends, and spend a lot of time together exploring Paris. Etienne seems attracted to her, but still spends time with his girlfriend Ellie, which confuses Anna to no end. Etienne tells her that she is beautiful, and he relies on her heavily when his mom is diagnosed with cancer. They are the only ones in the dorm for Thanksgiving break, which leads to all sorts of wonderful moments – this was a highlight of the book for me. They are so sweet and confused and innocent. Like I said, adorable. However, even after their amazing Thanksgiving together, Anna and Etienne are still confused and awkward. Ellie is still in the picture, and Anna is getting frustrated and decides to revisit the idea of dating Toph. Even with the tension between them mounting, Anna and Etienne talk constantly while they are apart for Christmas break. Etienne is the one Anna calls when she finds out that her best friend Bridgette has started dating Toph. Anna and Etienne seem on the verge of something great, but it all falls apart when they get back to school.

Anna has reached the end of her patience with the Etienne/Ellie situation, and she has a sort of breakdown. She makes some bad choices, and does a lot of yelling. It was a low point for the character, but I was also proud of her for telling Etienne that she was upset with his choices and telling him what she wanted. I alterenated between being all “oh, honey no, don’t do that…” to cheering for her in the next chapter. All in all, pretty natural teenage reaction.

I won’t spoil the end, but this is a romantic book, so I’ll leave it at that.

All in all, pretty sugary, but I loved it. Loved the Paris setting, really enjoyed the characters, both main and secondary. The situation and reactions were realistic. Very cute. Good for Sarah Dessen fans. Looking forward to reading Perkin’s other book – “Lola and the Boy Next Door”. I read that it’s a companion novel, I’m interested to find out how – there was no Lola character in “Anna”.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Standard

This was an epic, haunting, mythological story. Karou is the main character, a high school student living in Prague (though she has not always lived there). She attends a fabulous high school for the arts that I am supremely jealous of. However, her life is strange, even for an art student. She was raised by a strange creature called Brimstone, who might possibly be a demon. He calls on her at all hours to run weird errands all over the world (through magic portal doors – I want one!). He requires teeth – human and animal, and the payment is wishes. Karou doesn’t really question this – after all, she grew up with it, but she does have a lot of questions about her origins, and these errands are starting to overwhelm her. Her best friend is a wonderful, feisty character called Zuzana who keeps Karou rooted in the real world. While Zuzana has seen Karou’s sketches of Brimstone and the other strange creatures in her life, she assumes they are fantasies.

Karou is starting to feel a bit put-upon and rebellious towards Brimstone, when suddenly an errand goes terribly wrong, and she ends up in a fight for her life with an incredibly beautiful angel. The angel, Akiva, is working with a group of angels called The Fallen to close the magic portals and get rid of Brimstone and the other Chimera.

However, even as the portals burn, Akiva finds himself leaving his fellow Seraphim and going to find Karou. They are drawn to each other, but soon Karou discovers they are mortal enemies in a supernatural and ancient war. Regardless, they fall in love. Such a good love story. Can’t say too much or I’ll spoil it, but this is not your run of the mill Romeo and Juliet story.

This is the first in a series, which I didn’t know until the end of the book came like an unexpected wall in the dark. I was so swept up in the gorgeous writing and the epic plot, then WHAM. Over. I think I actually gasped a little when I realized I wasn’t getting any more answers. This whole world opened up, and you just get a glimpse, and then it’s gone until the next book.

Karou is a fantastic character. She’s smart and sarcastic, but genuine and loyal to the people she cares about. Her apartment is decorated with finds from markets all over the world. One of her wishes from Brimstone gave her bright blue hair without needing dye. She jaunts around the world like it’s no big deal, having had these portals since childhood – she actually grumbles about having to go to Paris. Lucky girl. I just loved her, and I want to be her.  And the writing – oh, it’s beautiful. Classic Laini Taylor. There were sentences I just had to read again and again to savor the words. So lyrical and unusual.

I can’t say enough about this book! So many stars! It’s so unusual in such a good way – the setting, the characters, the language – it’s nothing we’ve seen before, thank goodness! In a world full of copycat books, this is a pure original.

The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt

Standard

This was a quick read, but very touching and real. Drew is a quiet 13-year-old with no true friends besides her mom and her pet rat, Hum. She helps out at her mom’s gourmet cheese shop in a city in between LA and San Francisco. Drew keeps to herself, pondering the weird world of Jr High and reading “The Book of Lists” – a notebook written by her father, who passed away when Drew was three.

Then one day she meets Emmett Crane, a boy who is constantly hungry, and bears mysterious scars. They are drawn to one another, but it takes a few rocky starts before they trust each other enough to divulge secrets. Drew finds out that Emmett has run away from home, and is seeking a miracle. He plans to find a hot spring that was in a legend he was told as a child. This hot spring is supposed to bring healing for the people you love. Emmett’s brother never learned to talk, and they have no money to get him help. Emmett is willing to risk everything to help his brother, and Drew quickly gets swept up in helping him reach his goal. She has to make some big decisions, and risks damaging her relationship with her mother in order to start breaking some rules to help her friend.

I loved this book – it felt so real. Drew and Emmett are such great characters, and their friendship is great. They’re 13 and 14, so there is plenty of awkwardness and tension, but also just real, genuine friendship. I loved that they were a boy and a girl who were just friends – the author didn’t feel the need to pair them off, send them to college together and live happily ever after. They share one sweet kiss, then part ways.

I also loved the mother-daughter relationship. Since it’s been just the two of them for so long, they have a fun and trusting relationship, but Drew is classically 13 – pushing boundaries and feeling misunderstood, yet missing all the struggle her mother is going through. Drew never sets out to hurt her mother, but ultimately puts her through a lot of worry. On the other hand, her mother doesn’t really take the time to listen to WHY Drew is suddenly breaking rules. In general, very realistic and believable.

Loved it. Go read it!