Review: Anna and the French Kiss

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Anna and the French Kiss Anna and the French Kiss by
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Published by in 2010
Genres: , ,
Pages: 372
Source: ,

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 Paris - until she meets Etienne 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 Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

My Review:

If I had to think of a word to describe this book it would without a doubt be “cute!” And not in the small children and baby animals kind of way but the “They’re so adorable I might have to squee!” kind of way!

First off, I love the fact that this is not only a boarding school novel but also a foreign exchange novel. I know when I was growing up “foreign exchange” was something people from other countries did to come here. That most certainly is not the case, and I fully support anyone and anything that encourages young Americans to experience other cultures. In a global economy like ours, it is important to understand other cultures, and even make friends with them, and the best way to do that is to experience them for yourself!

But what I really love, love, loved was Anna and Étienne. They have what I would consider the perfect love story. So many novels that involve romance these days are more concerned with the problems that happen after a relationship has started so they have the leading pair fall in love fast and then stay in love through all obstacles. This book focuses on the journey to falling in love instead. It feels so much more realistic to me to have Anna and Étienne be best friends before everything else, and I just loved it!

I honestly cannot find a single negative thing to say about this book no matter how I try. It really is a very fun, cute novel and I’d recommend it to everyone!

Book Review: White Cat

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White Cat White Cat by
Series: Curse Workers #1
Published by in 2010
Genres: , , ,
Pages: 320
Source: ,

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

My Review:

I always seem to forget how unique and entertaining Holly Black’s novels are. I read Tithe and Ironside many years ago and enjoyed them but never got around to reading the rest. Then, after all the hype surrounding Red Glove, I decided I’d better see what all the fuss was.

The first thing that really caught my attention on this one was the setting. Cassel comes from a family of “workers” that live to serve their Mob boss overlords. Even though he’s not a worker and isn’t of any use to the crimelords, everything is about the con for him. He even runs a small gambling pool at school to keep his hand in. Holly Black’s edgy style and modern voice fit this setting perfectly, lending to an extremely interesting Urban Fantasy setting.

I tend to divide the books I read into 3 categories: ones where I can see the ending a mile off, ones where I can see the ending but have no clue how to get there, and ones where I have no clue what’s going on in the first place. They can all be good reads, depending on how well they’re written, but the first can get boring and the last can be frustrating. The most interesting, and yet probably the hardest to write, is the second of the three, and I would unreservedly put White Cat in that category. I could see what had to happen coming but I had no idea how they were going to make it happen without screwing over the future books. I was amazed every time she revealed a tidbit and several times I had to stop and read a section over again.

If you’re still on the fence about reading this book, then I’ll tell you it comes with my highest recommendation. This fantasy is a masterpiece and you won’t regret it!

Disclaimer: Some of the facts I’ve told you about the book turn out to be blatant lies. I just couldn’t bring myself to spoil it for you. The opinions on the other hand, are still and will always be 100% truth.

Book Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope

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The Last Little Blue Envelope The Last Little Blue Envelope by
Series: Little Blue Envelope #2
Published by in 2011
Genres: , ,
Pages: 282

Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny’s backpack-and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.

Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he’s found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure, and Ginny finds she must hold onto her wits-and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.

My Review:

When I read 13 Little Blue Envelopes I was a Freshman in college. I was young and naïve. I’d only ever been overseas on tours with music groups and even then we didn’t do much outside our itinerary. I loved to travel though and the idea of traveling around the way Ginny did really impressed me. I was sure I could never do what Ginny had done, but I sure wished I could.

Oh, how things can change.

4 years later, here I am about to graduate and I have a totally different perspective. I have now spent a year abroad and wonder of wonders, I had my own Little Blue Envelopes trip (though not quite so extreme). I’ve grown as Ginny did, and now I can relate to her again, in a different way.

First stop: Paris. Such a glamorous city! Aunt Peg is right, there is no way you can “know” a city from just one visit. This time instead of being green with envy, I was able to sit back a bit and recognize some of the places I’d been and reacquaint myself with them. I like to think Les Petits Chiens was just around the corner from the Hostel we stayed in, next to the quaint little bookshop I had to visit. You can really tell that Johnson has done this at some point and it is so wonderful that she can share the experience so vividly through her characters’ eyes.

But my perspective was not the only new thing this time. I really loved the addition of Oliver to the cast. He was pleasantly frustrating and mysterious, and his story was part of the reason that I couldn’t put the book down.

View Spoilers »
I was never very sure about Keith the first time around and I am so glad that Ginny didn’t end up with him forever. Oliver seems so much better for her than Keith would have been, even if he did some things I don’t really approve of. We all do things like that sometimes. Ellis was also a nice addition, though her character was used mostly for Keith/Ginny conflict. She seems like the kind of girl I would love to be friends with, even if she was dating the guy I still had a crush on

In the end, this wasn’t just a book about traveling. It’s about creativity and art and finding beauty where you least expect it. As an artist myself this really spoke to me. Two quotes from Aunt Peg really stuck with me and I’d like to leave you with them:

“People always say they can’t do things, that they’re impossible. They just haven’t been creative enough.” – pg. 48 (advance e-proof copy, page numbers may not be the same in finished copy) The Last Little Blue Envelope, Maureen Johnson

“I think something is art when it is created with intention.” – pg. 156 (advance e-proof copy, page numbers may not be the same in finished copy) The Last Little Blue Envelope, Maureen Johnson

Thank you, Maureen Johnson. You inspire me to find my art, no matter what anyone else thinks, and that is the greatest inspiration any artist can have.

Book Review: The Book of Lost Things

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The Book of Lost Things The Book of Lost Things by
Published by in 2006
Genres: ,
Pages: 339

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

My Review:

Wow. This one’s a thinker. I’m still having trouble putting my thoughts in order for it, because it gave me so much to think about.

One of the things I loved about it was how many stories were included. I was trying to think of what it reminded me of as I read and what started out as “OK, so kind of like Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe” turned into “Brave Story meets Alice in Wonderland meets Narnia meets Inkworld meets fairytales meets…” etc. There’s so many elements of other stories that the story itself becomes something new. I suppose some people would say that detracts from the story for them, but I think it fits really well, because of who the main character is.

David is a young(ish) boy who has just lost his mother to an illness. His father remarries and has another son, whom David feels is replacing him. The thing about David though, is that his mother taught him to love books. She taught him that books are living things, and that they want to be read (I love that by the way! Totally makes me talking to my books as I reorganize them acceptable, right? lol) But soon, the books begin to actually whisper to him, and they lead him to another world where the characters of his beloved fairytales are real, even if they are twisted beyond recognition. That is another selling point for me – I love that these beloved fairytales are twisted, but they are twisted on purpose, and eventually, at the very end of the novel, it all makes sense. 

This book, to me, represents everything I believe about stories. Stories are alive, because they shape and change who we are, in the same way that people do. What’s more, we shape and change the stories we read and tell based on who we are. Anyone who has ever studied fairy and folk tales knows that all the ones that were originally told orally may be completely different from the way they started (kind of like in telephone – whatever the person started with comes out as gibberish by the end). The way the fairytales are told in this novel tells us more about the character that created them and enriches our experience of how fairytales might be or might have started. 

Anyway, I recommend this to anyone who loves fairytales and their retellings, and to anyone who is interested in the relationship between stories, their creators, and their readers. Just give yourself plenty of time to think about it while you’re reading.

Book Review: Beastly

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Beastly Beastly by
Series: Kendra Chronicles #1
Published by in 2007
Genres: , ,
Pages: 304

I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

My Review:

This is my second novel by Alex Flinn, and I have to say, the first one (A Kiss in Time) wasn’t exactly my favorite. I thought it was clever, and a really good novel, just not quite my thing. But I’ve been told by many people that Beastly was their favorite, so I thought I’d try it. I’m so glad I did.

I should probably mention that I’m a bit prejudiced, because I absolutely love the story of Beauty and the Beast. It was my favorite Disney film, mostly because I saw myself in Belle and I wanted the Beast’s library so bad! I was excited to read a modernization of this novel, since I’ve read many different versions, but haven’t read one that would really count as “today” modern – the most modern one was during World War I.

The very beginning had me a bit skeptical. The set-up was necessary, but I got a little bored. Now that I’ve finished it, though I’d like to go back and re-read it, just to see if the same is true. At the time, I really wanted to just get past the set-up and get to the good stuff. I was more curious about how she did the “invisible servants” and the Father giving up his daughter (cause in our society that is just not ok).

The wait was so worth it. I got to the “good stuff” and I just could not put the book down. I think I read straight from 7 pm to 11 last night just to finish it. I loved the way Flinn got around the “magic” in modern day, though of course it couldn’t be avoided completely. I loved the characters, once Kyle got past his hoity-toity attitude. Will was especially one of my favorites. I had a very vivid picture of him in my mind, better than any of the other characters, even Adrian.

Interestingly, the imagery was much more vivid for the house and garden. I wanted to be Lindy, discovering the huge library, walking through the gorgeous greenhouse full of roses and playing in the snow at the house in the mountains. Maybe I’m being a little superficial, but the imagery was so vivid that I wanted to be there. I enjoyed the bits I was supposed to enjoy, and I was on the edge of my seat when I was supposed to be. The suspense was held right up to the end, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

My only complaint was that between each section, Flinn broke it up with “transcriptions” of IM conversations between various modern fairytale characters. I would guess that a majority of them are from her other novels, though I haven’t read any other of the characters that were included. I can see why she did it – it’s an easy way to advertise for her other novels, and it keeps the setting firmly in the present. But it bothered me, and by the end I mostly just skipped those couple of pages. I didn’t feel they were necessary to the plot, and I just wanted to keep reading the actual story.

Honestly though, that wasn’t too much of a detriment. I plan on buying a copy of this as soon as I can, and I’m so excited to re-read it someday!

Book Review: Going Bovine

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Going Bovine Going Bovine by
Published by in 2009
Genres: , ,
Pages: 480

Saving the world. That's impossible. Insane. Still. A cure. I could be cured. That's what she said. And some little atoms come awake inside me, swirling into a question I can't shake: "Why the hell not?" I could have a chance. And a chance is better than nothing.


It’s been nearly a week since I finished this one. Honestly, I still don’t quite know what to say. It was amazing, and I hated it at the same time. But I hated it for all the right reasons, all the reasons an author wants you to hate a book.

I picked Going Bovine up on a whim. I’d seen it around on blogger and I really didn’t care all that much (though I didn’t know at the time that it was written by Libba Bray, whom I adore). Then I saw it on the shelf in the library, and for lack of anything else to read, decided to pick it up. The teaser was just enough to catch my interest, but boy was I not expecting what I got. I still can’t decide if it was real or not. Or if that even matters.

Cameron starts out as one of those characters you love to hate. He’s an offensive, sullen teenager that reminds us all of that kid in high school that seemed to have a vendetta against everybody. Of course, in high school, we all just wondered what their problem was and moved on. But Cameron has a real problem. Prions are attacking his brain, making him lose control of his muscles and hallucinate. (For those of you who don’t have a degree in medical science, that’s Mad Cow Disease – makes your brain go all spongified).

After several episodes that make you feel almost sorry for Cameron, he is admitted to the hospital where he meets Dulcie. I’m pretty sure Dulcie is one of my favorite side characters ever. She is so enigmatic and yet normal. When she’s there, she’s supposed to be there, and when she’s gone you don’t notice. (Now that I read that back, it sounds like she’s forgettable. That’s not it. It’s just like, she fits where she’s supposed to. And the sort of there/not-there-ness of her character really fits who she is.)

When I think of how to describe this book as a whole, it reminds me of those Rubeus puzzles you had to do in Elementary school (You know, where they made math equations out of words and pictures and you had to figure out what well-known phrase they meant?). Going Bovine = American Gods – adult themes + Percy Jackson + a tiny bit of Looking for Alaska + Libba Bray’s own original touch. It is gorgeous and I would recommend it to anyone!

Upcoming Reviews:
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
The Shadow Dragons by James Owen

Book Review: Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour

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I am an awful blogger. It’s been nearly two weeks and all I’ve done is the Book Blogger Hop. Sure, it’s the first week of school and my schedule is nuts even without the fact that I haven’t entirely figured it out yet (results for auditions went up last night – I got what I wanted, picc in orch YAY, but that means I now have to actually decide which class I want to drop. See I currently have two courses that are very similar that count for the same requirement, but one of them I couldn’t take if I was put in band because it’s the same time, so I signed up for both, figuring I’d drop whichever I couldn’t take. But now, my schedule will allow me to take both. Therefore I have to decide which I’d prefer. Major dilemma.) But that is no excuse. My pile of books to be reviewed keeps growing – one thing I love about school is all those tiny little 10 minute windows you get to sneak a few pages. So. I am going to post once a day now until I finish reviewing the books on my “finished but un-reviewed” pile. It’s part of my homework.

So, on to what we came for.
Roger and Amy's Epic Detour Roger and Amy's Epic Detour by
Published by in 2010
Genres: ,
Pages: 352

Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself.


One of the things I loved about this book was how different it was from my normal fare. When I received it (as part of Candace’s mini-tour) I was right in the middle of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. Normally his stuff is just fun, fluffy thinkers that take no time at all, but Shades of Grey was really heavy and I needed the break. Within 24 hours of receiving the book I’d finished it. It was a fast, easy read, breaking up the prose with fun “pages” from Amy’s travel diary and Roger’s playlists. After a novel that made my head hurt every few sentences, this was what I needed.

The thing about this book is it isn’t just a light fluffy summer read. I would put this book nearly on a level with John Green’s Paper Towns at least topic-wise. Amy is grieving and handles her grief in a certain way for very specific reasons. The reader isn’t spared from the awfulness of Amy’s past and her memories of the accident. And why should they be? Amy is the same age as her intended audience, and she was not spared (forget that she’s fictional for a minute, k?). Teens have to deal with big issues the same as adults when something like this happens, and it’s unfair to patronize them and say “you can’t handle this, because you’re not old enough yet.” Age has nothing to do with it! I have a grandmother who isn’t mature enough to handle this stuff and she’s going on 85, while I have other friends who have had much worse happen at a younger age and while they’re not fine, they can handle it. (/end rant)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book does what I wish books would have done when I was that age: treats Young Adults as young adults, not as kids.

Sorry that took so long to get up. I’ve just been running around all over the place with so much going on. Anyways, next up, review of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

I am really not good at this whole “Catching up” thing. Normally I don’t have quite so much trouble, but unfortunately this time I got distracted by some new amazing shiny-ness, which I will be reviewing soon. Luckily, I haven’t finished any other books yet, so I’m not technically too behind on this, but I need to get caught up. So on to the next review!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by
Published by in 2004
Pages: 268

A murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger's Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. he hates the colors yellow and brown and being touched. he has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbor's dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.

My Review:

This book was hard for me. Not because of the topics or anything, but because of the style. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I like my grammar etc. right. It grates on my nerves when something is out of place, almost like an OCD reaction. I have this innate need to just fix it. On the other hand, I think the style was some of what made this book great. If the grammar and writing style hadn’t been slightly off it wouldn’t have made sense, and in fact would probably have grated on my nerves more.

I am so glad I didn’t read this book sooner. I’ve had it recommended to me, by various people who loved it, since high school. It wasn’t until I finally was given it for my birthday that I decided I would have to, at some point, actually make time to read it, instead of just telling myself that someday I would get around to it. But, by waiting, I ended up being in the right mind-frame to read it. Though I have nothing against people with difficulties, previous to this year, I always found it difficult to deal with them. I never really understood what was going on (and probably still don’t) but now that I’ve gotten to know two young boys with autism (I babysat for them regularly through the year) I have a better perspective. I have learned to remember that they are just people and the rest doesn’t matter. I think I was therefore able to handle the general style etc. better because I had a better idea of what I was dealing with.

But I think the best thing about the book is the way it makes you think. None of us really know what it’s like to live in a world where people don’t understand the way we think and what is important to us. It is much too easy to just ignore it, as well, and this book will not allow you to do that. Instead it forces you into the mind of someone you don’t understand. It puts you on edge. Some wise philosopher (forget his name now, but we learned about him in Sophomore English – thank you Mrs. Dunn!) said that the only way to learn was “Cognitive Dissonance” or basically, things that make your brain hurt. Well this book will make your brain hurt alright. Even though it is not my favorite book, and I will probably never read it again, I would recommend this book to more mature YA readers.

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