In which I talk about my really good week

Readers! It has been very hard to find time of late to work on blog things as reality-based things take precedent. That said, I did want to take a moment to talk about some fun things that happened this week (in no particular order):

  • Many of my most highly anticipated books came out last week (on the same day) and I’m excited to see everyone’s thoughts on them.
  • I reviewed one of my most-anticipated 2012 titles (Because It Is My Blood) and I have a great interview to share with you from the author, Gabrielle Zevin who always sounds really smart. (It’s really hard to review a second book in a four-book series and it’s really hard to interview an author about a second book. That said, I’m really pleased with both and the process of setting them to upload here also reminded me why I love the series and talking about it. (Also I have a link to an excerpt from the audiobook in both posts thanks to Macmillan Audio!)
  • I got to see Maggie Stiefvater and David Levithan at a signing with a friend. It was a lot of fun and I was able to get some books signed (of course). (Side note: I think I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I’m a book hoarder.)
  • I’ve started making a lot of book sculptures (more on that later).
  • I created a new blog called Miss Print Book Club in the hopes of revamping my online book club. (If there is something I could do to make you an active book club member, let me know!) Obviously this is in early days, but it’s coming.
  • I discovered that WordPress has a reader feature which I can use to follow all of the blogs I read and, guys, it’s kind of life changing.
  • I can finally tell all of you that I am once again a Cybils Judge! I’ll be serving as a Round 2 judge for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. While I loved taking part in the YA Fiction judging last year, I’m super excited to be back in the realms of fantasy and science fiction as fantasy will always have my heart. You can see the original announcement of all of the SFF judges (there are a lot of us!) on the Cybils blog. And, of course, I’m particularly excited to about my fellow round two judges because it means I get to find new bloggers and new people to talk to on twitter. (I’ll be posting more about the Cybils once nominations open October first.)
  • If you want to “meet” my fellow round 2 judges, they are:Zac Harding
    My Best Friends Are Books
    @zackidsKerry Millar
    Shelf Elf
    @Shelf_Elf

    Tasha Saecker
    Waking Brain Cells
    @tashrow

    Nicole Signoretta
    booked up

  • Finally, in the realm of really huge enormously exciting news: Miss Print topped 90,000 views this week!!!!!!!! I still can’t quite believe it and, of course, I’m elated. It’s such a wonderful milestone and it means the countdown to 100,000 views can start. I promised I am doing something exciting and marvelous once that happens, so stay tuned!

So, as you can see things have been exciting in the world of Miss Print. Hopefully soon we can talk about my re-entering the world of Pinterest, meeting an author at my place of employ, seeing one of my favorite authors and a regular interviewee at my bookstore, book sculpting, and maybe even what it’s like reading a 600+ page book.

The Curiosities: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

What happens when three talented writers decide to write  short stories and pieces of flash fiction every week to hone their craft and share with each other? If those three authors are Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff you end up with a website called MerryFates.com and, a few years and novels later, you also get a short story collection featuring such oddities as a vampire kept in a box for luck, a small town re-visioning of the Arthurian legend, and school for children to dangerous to be in the real world–because they are demi-gods.

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories (2012) by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff is, as the title suggests, a collection of short stories. But it’s also a lot more than that. Starting with the email exchange that inspired the project, The Curiosities is also a guide through the creative process of three talented writers.

Find it on Bookshop.

Already filled with inspiring stories, The Curiosities takes things one step further with a tantalizing guide through each story. Each story is introduced by two of the three authors. Footnotes, commentary and informative sketches can also be found throughout as the women reflect on their own writing and growth as well as the strengths found in each others’ stories.

Aspiring authors might find the overall package would have been complemented by a fuller explanation of the inspiration for some stories, particularly when a prompt was involved. With notes printed in each author’s own hand, the matter of deciphering who is writing in the margins also takes some time.

The Curiosities is a clever, wry collection that takes standard anthology conventions and turns them upside down. Filled with stories to inspire and amaze, this one is sure to appeal to readers who are meeting the authors for the first time as much as it will to long-standing fans.

In fact, Nicole and I had so much fun reading the stories that we were inspired to start a similar project this month. Little Women Stories is already up and running. You can find stories from Nicole and myself there every month. (August’s stories are already posted and so is September’s prompt if you want a preview of what to expect next month.)

Possible Pairings: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012

Seraphina: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman Seraphina Dombegh has been surrounded by lies for most of her life. Everything from her patron saint to her own parentage has been altered and hidden beneath layers of half-truths and deceptions. With a new position at court and her musical gifts gaining more notice than is strictly wise, Seraphina’s time for hiding may well be over.

Seraphina’s home, the kingdom of Goredd has had peace with the neighboring dragons for four decades. They walk among the Goreddi in their human forms, they share knowledge. But that does not mean they are equals. Tensions are always higher when the treaty’s anniversary is near. This year, with a prince murdered under suspiciously dragon-like circumstances, relations are particularly strained.

Without meaning too, Seraphina soon captures the attention of the court with her musical talents. Worse, she captures the attentions of Prince Lucian Kiggs, captain of the Queen’s Guard, as well as an adept investigator. Working with Kiggs to unravel the secrets surrounding the murder and a conspiracy that could shake the foundation of their entire kingdom, Seraphina fears that her own secrets might be as easily discovered. As she works to find the truth, she will have to decide if she can survive having her own secrets brought to light in Seraphina (2012) by Rachel Hartman.

Seraphina is Hartman’s first novel. Seraphina’s story continues in the sequel Shadow Scale.

There is also a prequel called The Audition available to read on Scribd at this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/97577759/Seraphina-Prequel-WEB

As far as fantasies go, Seraphina really hits all the marks from a complete glossary and cast of characters at the back of the book to an immersive setting replete with inter-kingdom tensions and political machinations. While there are dragons who can take on human forms, the fantasy in this story is more of an underpinning for Hartman’s masterfully written world.

Seraphina is a sweeping story that draws readers through Seraphina’s life and straight into a court full of intrigue and plotting. Readers who like their fantasies with a bit less magic and more surprises will find a lot to enjoy here. Some, including this reviewer, might be very surprised by this novel’s dynamic and unpredictable conclusion.

Though its length (a bit more than 450 pages, hardcover)–and the initial denseness of the text as Hartman introduces new characters as well as an entire kingdom and its history–can be off-putting, readers will be satisfied by the evocative prose, dramatic story, and especially Seraphina’s journey as she tries finds her own place both in her family and her country.

With characters that can make you laugh even as they break your heart* and a narrator who is as witty as she is unique, Seraphina is a clever introduction into a truly original fantasy world that promises even greater things in future installments.

*I’m looking at you, Orma.

Possible Pairings: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Fire by Kristin Cashore, A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine, The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu, Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, The Girl King by Mimi Yu, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

You can also read my exclusive interview with Rachel Hartman!

Bunheads: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bunheads by Sophie FlackNineteen-year-old Hannah Ward is not a ballerina, not yet anyway. A dancer with the Manhattan Ballet Company, Hannah knows this is her year to finally land a coveted promotion from corps dancer to soloist. It has to be. Recruited by the Company when she was fourteen, Hannah has been working toward this singular goal for her entire life.

On a rare night off, Hannah meets a pedestrian–a non-dancer–named Jacob. A free-spirited musician, Jacob’s life is everything Hannah’s is not, filled with freedom from the regimen and commitments being a professional dancer entails.

As Hannah spends more time with Jacob and moves closer to her ballerina dream, she starts to wonder if ballet really is enough. It always had been before, but now Hannah isn’t so sure. Ballerinas are supposed to dedicate themselves to dance, but Hannah might be ready to dedicate her life to other pursuits in Bunheads (2011) by Sophie Flack.

Find it on Bookshop.

Bunheads is Flack’s first novel. It was also a finalist for the 2011 Cybils in Young Adult Fiction.

As a novel, Bunheads falls short in several areas. Informed by her own experiences as a professional dancer (Flack danced with the New York City Ballet from 2000 to 2009) much of the novel feels indulgent and more like an exercise in wish-fulfillment on the author’s part than an actual story.

Hannah and Jacob’s immediate connection never feels authentic which raises questions about both character’s behavior throughout. Combined with a meandering, slow-paced plot the book often lacks the verve to keep things interesting.

With Hannah and her friends being wholly consumed by dance, there is little room for character development. There are even fewer opportunities to make the characters distinguishable from each other as all of the dancers, Hannah included, feel interchangeable for much of the novel.

Where Bunheads really shines is in setting the scene for Hannah and her world. Flack brings a professional eye to the story, expertly conjuring the narrow world of a corps dancer that is filled both with grueling monotony and brief moments of wonder found on the stage.

Bunheads is a moderately entertaining reminder of both the passion andthe commitment that being a professional dancer demands. It is easy to admire the glitter and tutus of a ballet. This book reminds readers to remember the stamina and strength that makes every ballet look effortless on stage.

Finally, and perhaps unexpectedly, Bunheads is a beautiful example of the bravery it takes to dedicate years to a specific plan only to choose a completely different path leading into uncharted territory. A must read for ballet enthusiasts, athletes, and anyone trying to strike out on their own–even if they don’t know exactly where they will be striking just yet.

Possible Pairings: Tumbling by Caela Carter, So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti, Pointe by Brandy Colbert, The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman, Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June, Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten, Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Stupid Fast: A Review

Stupid Fast by Geoff HerbachFelton Reinstein is not stupid funny much as he would like to be. Even people who like him don’t laugh at his jokes, forget the people who don’t like him. Until his voice dropped and he hit a major growth spurt, Felton wasn’t anything special.

Then he started growing. The he got fast. Felton Reinstein is not a fast name. But Felton is stupid fast all the same.

In the span of one surreal summer Felton has a chance to remake himself. He can stop being the kid with the weird mother and the prodigy-piano-player little brother. He can stop hanging out with the Peter Yangs of the world and show everyone (especially that jerk Ken Johnson) what he’s really made of.

Maybe Felton can even impress the beautiful girl he finds on his borrowed paper route. He might even be able to find his place in his miniscule town and his own family. This is the summer Felton Reinstein finally knows he’s fast. This is the summer Felton Reinstein goes from joke to jock in Stupid Fast (2011) by Geoff Herbach.

Find it on Bookshop.

Stupid Fast was a finalist for the 2011 Cybils in Young Adult Fiction. It was also selected as the winner for the 2011 Cybils in YA Fiction by myself and my fellow judges.

This is one of those books that has the potential for strong appeal along with a unique voice. The atmosphere of the book is top-notch conveying both a sense of small town pride** and team camaraderie that, I imagine, is what a sports team is supposed to look like.

Unfortunately, it also took a really long time for the story to actually start. Felton talks a lot in the beginning about growing hair and growing taller. Instead of the emphasis on that it would have been nice to get right to the plot soon instead of having Felton tease readers with foreshadowing or coy asides.

Felton and the plot pull themselves together during the second half of the story, but whether that is enough to hold a reader’s interest is a matter of personal taste. I’m still not sure I would have been invested enough to finish had I found this book on my own time.

Stupid Fast really does have a lot going for it though. A sports story told by a boy who doesn’t think he’s an athlete* this book never gets lost in sports jargon. The book remains approachable even when the focus shifts to football during key scenes. Felton is a fun narrator with his own quirks and occasional charms. Stupid Fast has a lot of heart after its rocky start.

*Despite the raw talent, Felton does not actually know how to play football. Shh, don’t tell the coach!

**Eventually, granted.

Possible Pairings: Bunheads by Sophie Flack, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go by Kristin Bartley Lenz, Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Everybody Sees the Ants: A Review

Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. KingThere are some things you need to know about Lucky Linderman.

First: His mother is a squid. She swims more than two hundred laps every day. No matter what. Even when Lucky has some new bruises courtesy of Nader McMillan or her husband once again flakes on his familial duties.

Second: His father is a turtle. Lucky’s grandfather never came home from Vietnam and Lucky’s dad never recovered. He spends all of his time hiding in his shell or working at the restaurant instead of actually being a father.

Third: Lucky doesn’t smile. Ever. Not since asking one stupid question for one stupid project in Social Studies (the class actually isn’t stupid–Lucky kind of likes it). He is definitely not going to smile since that one stupid question brought him nothing but trouble and the renewed hatred of Nader McMillan.

Fourth: Ever since Lucky was seven he’s been having strange dreams. Now the dreams are his only refuge as he spends each night in the war-torn jungles of Laos trying to finally bring his grandfather home from the war he could never leave.

But even dreams that seem as real as Lucky’s can only last so long before it’s time to really wake up in Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King.

Find it on Bookshop.

Everybody Sees the Ants is King’s follow-up to her Printz Honor book Please Ignore Vera Dietz. It was also a finalist for the 2011 Cybils in Young Adult Fiction which is how I came to read it.

There are certain books that I enjoy upon first reading them. But the more I think about them, the more I really look at all of the little details, the more problems I have. Everybody Sees the Ants was that kind of book.

While not actually a mystery, Everybody Sees the Ants is structured in such a way that readers do not initially get a linear story nor do they get the full story. Anyone looking for a puzzle to put together will enjoy the multiple angles of this book. Lucky is a shockingly authentic* narrator with a voice and story all his own. King’s writing is painfully intense and quirky as Lucky drags readers through dense Laos jungle and the even deeper problems of his own life.

Unfortunately these strengths are not complemented by the book’s plot which is filled with numerous holes and seemingly random details that added little to the plot itself. Without delving into specifics, King never fully explains the nature of Lucky’s dreams which creates a fundamental problem with the structure of the book. Similarly, readers never really understand why one teenaged boy is able to not only bully but literally terrorize an entire town with absolutely no intervention from any adults or the authorities.** Other moments were easily predicted or simply heavy-handed as King was at pains to make certain points about Lucky’s relationships with his parents and the world at large.

If you aren’t looking for a book that needs to answer all of your questions or stand up to a close reading, Everybody Sees the Ants might still appeal.

*Unlike me, you probably already knew that King was a female author. I didn’t know that while reading the book and was completely floored to find out A. S. King was not a man. That’s how authentic Lucky’s voice is in this story.

**I maintain my stance that Nader should have been institutionalized as a psychopath long before the events of this book started.

Possible Pairings: Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Exclusive Bonus Content: One of the biggest problems I had reading this book is one most readers will not have. Fantastical things happen to lucky throughout the course of the story. These things are called elements of magical realism but, for me, they pushed the book firmly into the fantasy genre. While judging this book as a potential winner in the Cybils’ YA Fiction category, that became a problem for me. I struggled with whether something fantastical was really happening or if Lucky was just delusional. Because if Lucky is really that delusional, how can a reader believe anything else he says? If you expect an answer to that kind of question this is not the book for you.

Leverage: A Review

Leverage by Joshua CohenDanny knows he’s small. He knows in terms of the pecking order at his school he falls near the very bottom (but above the Cross Country Runners at least). Doesn’t matter. He has a plan. Sure everyone makes fun of the boy’s gymnastics team–especially the varsity football players. They can laugh all they want when it gets him a full scholarship to a college of his choice. Danny is going places. All he has to do is keep his head down and stay out of the way of the football giants until he graduates. Easy.

Kurt Brodsky doesn’t care about high school politics. When you’re as big as Kurt is, you don’t have to. Classes, friends, sports. Doesn’t matter. As long as he can lift weights to stay strong and try to keep his past buried, it’s fine. No one is going to hurt him ever again. If part of that means joining the Oregrove High football team, fine.

Except nothing about the football team is simple. Not when the players keep taking questionable “supplements.” Not when the players can stomp anyone who looks at them funny in the halls. Not when the rivalry and tension between the football and gymnastics teams escalates to something violent and ugly.

Danny and Kurt should have never started to talk. They sure as hell shouldn’t have liked each other. But they did. That happened. If they can find the courage to work together maybe they can make this violent, ugly thing better. They can’t fix it or change it. But maybe they can make some things right in Leverage (2011) by Joshua C. Cohen.

Leverage is the first novel by Cohen who, before writing, parlayed his own high school gymnastics training into a professional career. Leverage was also a finalist for the 2011 Cybils in Young Adult Fiction which is how I came to read it.

Told in chapters alternating between Danny and Kurt’s narrations, Leverage is a book with great characters and strong writing. Cohen captures two authentic, distinct voices with Kurt and Danny while shedding light on what being a high school football player or gymnast really feels like.* I just wish the book had a different plot.

This is a gritty, brutal, painful story about a school being torn apart by something that is supposed to bring people together: team sports. While Cohen provides an unblinking look at some harsh realities, the execution is not ideal with gaping plot holes, unanswered questions, and an ending that pushes the limits of believability on almost every level.**

Leverage is a strange, tense read. Although it is filled with authentic details, the story has erratic pacing and ultimately lacks any real sense of resolution even after drawing readers in and making them care so much about these characters for the entire 425 (hardcover) pages.

The book will no doubt appeal to sports fans and athletes as well as anyone looking for a book that doesn’t flinch from the harsher side of reality. It will not work as well for readers who like every question raised in a story to also be answered.

*I read this book a month ago and the idea of a school gymnastics team still blows my mind. It never occurred to me that such a thing could exist. (I went to a really small, non-sporty school.)

**Not to mention being largely predictable. If you’ve finished the book you’ll probably see what I mean.

Possible Pairings: Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King, Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, Fury by Elizabeth Miles, Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales, Between by Jessica Warman

Frost: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Frost by Marianna BaerLeena Thomas is thrilled to be starting her senior year at boarding. Although she is nervous about what her future away from the close-knit community of her school might look like, Leena is ready for a memorable year in the school’s best dorm ever: Frost House.

Instead of dealing with the ugly, impersonal dorm buildings Leena and her closest friends will have Frost House to themselves; it will be their own little refuge away from the pressures of school and the uncertainty the future holds.

Then Leena finds out about a surprise change of roommates. Instead of a semester with a room all to herself, Leena has to deal with Celeste Lazar the school’s resident eccentric–not to mention the center of her own little drama-filled world. Exactly the kind of thing Leena hoped to avoid by living in Frost House.

Celeste’s presence brings the added bonus of her cute brother David hanging around. But Leena isn’t sure a cute guy is enough to make up for her derailed plans, strained friendships, or listening to Celeste’s insane talk about a threatening presence in Frost House.

As Leena struggles to rediscover the refuge she knows Frost House should be, she finds herself gravitating more and more to the closet in her room and the calming presence she feels there. Something is clearly wrong in Frost House but the closer Leena gets to the truth the harder it is to see whether the problem really is a mysterious threat, Celeste herself, or something else entirely in Frost (2011) by Marianna Baer.

Frost is Baer’s first novel. It was also a finalist for the 2011 Cybils in Young Adult Fiction.

With equal parts thriller and ghost story Frost is a suspense-filled journey through Frost House and Leena’s own troubled world. Baer expertly spreads information throughout the story to keep readers guessing as their understanding of both the house and Leena herself constantly change.

The tension between Leena and Celeste mirrors the tension of the narrative itself as Frost works up to its shocking finish. This tension works well here adding an eerie ambiance to the story with Leena’s ominous foreshadowing throughout the narrative and the constant push and pull between the logical and the fantastic in the story.

While some of the characters are under-developed, Baer more than makes up for it with a fully realized setting that brings Frost House to life on the page. The writing here exemplifies what a creepy, atmospheric story should look like.

This book is ripe for discussion and open to many interpretations depending on how the story is perceived. The beauty of that, and the best example of Baer’s masterful prose, is that every interpretation is correct. Frost is a mysterious, sometimes sinister read guaranteed to hook readers and keep them guessing.

Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, The Tragedy Paperby Elizabeth LaBan, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, Dark Souls by Paula Morris, Bliss by Lauren Myracle

Between Shades of Gray: A Review

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta SepetysOn June 14, 1941 Lina Viklas is taken by the Soviet secret police. Along with her mother and her younger brother, Jonas, Lina is forced to leave her home in the middle of the night to board a train to be deported from Lithuania with thousands like her.

As they are taken farther and farther from Lithuania, all hope seems lost. Lina’s father has been separated from the family to be sent to a prison camp. Lina’s dreams of one day attending art school or falling in love are dashed. With nothing but the clothes on their back and a few precious possessions, how can they survive? Will help ever come?

Refusing to lose her sense of self along with everything else, Lina clings to what she does have: her memories and her art. While dreaming of her past, Lina uses her talents to document the atrocities she and the other deportees are forced to endure. Lina may be far from everything she once knew, but she will survive. Any other options are too horrible in Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

Find it on Bookshop.

Between Shades of Gray is Sepetys’ first novel. It was also a finalist in the 2011 Cybils for Young Adult Fiction which is how I came to read it. Since its publication Between Shades of Gray has garnered a fair amount of accolades and even critical acclaim in the form of a finalist spot for the 2012 William C. Morris YA Debut Award.

Sepetys,  herself a daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, brings light to one of history’s darker (not to mention lesser known) moments when the nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia disappeared from maps in 1941 as thousands were deported and sent to labor camps and prisons. These countries did not reappear until 1990.

Because of its content and its deft negotiation of this bleak subject matter, there is no doubt that Between Shades of Gray is an important, valuable book. It will undoubtedly be added to many history class curiculums and will raise awareness about Stalin’s cleansing of the Baltic region.

Unfortunately, being an important book does not make Between Shades of Gray a book without its flaws.

Both the story and its narrator, Lina, are difficult to connect with. The story has a linear narrative of Lina’s journey with the other deportees interspersed with flashbacks and memories of Lina’s old life in Lithuania. While the memories illustrate all that Lina has lost, they also appear abruptly and at little to the plot’s forward momentum. The ending is similarly abrupt not only having a a fifty-four year gap between the last chapter and the epilogue but also a gaping hole in terms of what happened to many of the characters.

Although Lina becomes a strong character as the story progresses, she spends much of the novel as a petulant girl who enjoys rash behavior and jumping to conclusions with little to no evidence to support any of her seemingly random assumptions.

So much emphasis is placed on Lina’s art but the book as a whole provides very little payoff in that department. Granted, Between Shades of Gray isn’t that type of book but I can’t help but wish that readers had been able to see Lina’s actual drawings after hearing so much about them.* If any book could have benefited from illustrations to add another dimension to the story, it’s this one.**

Between Shades of Gray is already a beloved book for a lot of readers. It will likely reach many more. The story and the characters are brimming with a potential that, in a lot of ways, was not fully realized. While Sepetys has created a story with many beautiful, compelling, important parts the sum of those parts never quite added up to a flawless read.

*Or at least to see a little more about what happened to some of the drawings Lina sent out into the world.

**Seriously, after you read the book, think about it for a second. How cool would that have been?!

Possible Pairings: The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick, Alan and Naomi by Myron Levoy, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Traitor by Amanda McCrina, Tamar by Mal Peet, Maus by Art Spiegelman, Hitler’s Canary by Sandy Toksvig, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Anna and the French Kiss: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Anna Oliphant expected to spend her senior year in Atlanta with her friends. Her mom and her little brother are in Atlanta. Her car is in Atlanta. Her job and the coworker she’s been crushing on for months are in Atlanta.

But thanks to her father’s delusions of grandeur Anna is no longer in Atlanta.

Instead her wannabe-sophisticated-noveau-riche dad has exiled Anna to boarding school. In Paris.

And yes, it’s the City of Lights and of course that’s exciting. Except for being in a completely foreign city, not speaking French, and having no friends.

Anna still can’t speak French but soon she finds some friends and Paris starts to reveal its secrets–including the funny, charming, gorgeous Etienne St. Clair. Etienne is the perfect friend as Anna adjusts to Paris life. He’s probably the perfect guy period. Except for having a serious girlfriend and being completely off limits.

As Paris begins to feel more like home, Anna and Etienne have a lot of near-misses and close calls that bring their friendship to the verge of being something more. Even while Etienne is very much still taken. But anything seems possible in the City of Lights. Maybe Anna and Etienne really are meant to be, maybe Anna will even learn some French in Anna and the French Kiss (2010) by Stephanie Perkins.

Find it on Bookshop.

Anna and the French Kiss is Perkins’ first novel.*

First things first, it has to be said: This book has a silly title. Go ahead, get the giggles out of the way.

Despite its deceptively saccharine title, Anna and the French Kiss is a book of quality. Anna is a first rate narrator with her own unique slant on Paris and boarding school. She is likable, funny and ultimately just plain old authentic. While not every has a father who is a quasi-Nicholas-Sparks writer to send them to a Parisian boarding school, everyone will find something essentially real and true about Anna and her numerous adventures (and, yes, misadventures) in Paris.

Etienne is a fine foil for Anna throughout the novel with his charm and humor. Though some of the other peripheral characters are less developed, the tension and chemistry between Anna and Etienne more than makes up for it. In addition to being a love story, Perkins packs in a variety of other themes and topics including the interesting idea that the place (or person) someone calls home can change over time.

At 372 pages (hardcover) the only real problem with this book is that the last quarter of the novel drags with nail-bitingly frustrating suspense as readers wait for Anna and Etienne to finally realize they are meant to be together. (They both have perfect hair so obviously they are meant to be together.**)

With beautiful descriptions of Parisian sights and landscapes, crackling romantic tension, and tons of humor, Anna and the French Read offers a refreshing combination of depth and effervescence all in one delightful story.

*Perkins recently published her second novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, which is a companion to this book. A final companion book, Isla and the Happily Ever After is due out in 2012–I’m really, really excited about that one for reasons that cannot be revealed in this review because they are spoilers.

**I say that with complete seriousness. It was one of my favorite motifs in the book. No joke.

Possible Pairings: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen, So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti, In a Perfect World by Trish Doller, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills, Snowfall by K. M. Peyton, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney