Saturday, June 28, 2014

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins

Genre:  Young Adult
Published: 12/2/2010 by Penguin Group
Pages:  384
Format:  Hardcover

My rating:
3 out of 5 stars

This is a light and breezy YA book about Anna, a high school girl who is sent to boarding school in Paris for her senior year.  Once there, she makes some new friends, learns about a new city, culture and language and falls for a handsome British boy who also has a girlfriend.

This story is exactly what you would expect from the title and the cover.  Nothing surprising. It was sweet.  It was easy to read and fairly enjoyable.  Although it was also a little annoying at times.  I realize that I, as a thirtysomething mother of two, am not the target audience for this book.  But there was just a bit too much teen angst going on for my liking.  If Anna would have questioned one more time whether or not St. Clair liked her or not, I might have thrown the book out the window!  I felt like the author had to work too hard to keep Anna and St. Clair apart.  There was just not enough conflict to drive the story through to the end.  It got stuck in the cycle of "he loves me, he loves me not" for far too long.

However, despite my complaints, I did find this to be a fun book to read.  I picked it up when I just needed something to keep me reading and keep me distracted.  And this book did exactly that.  If you are a 15 year old girl looking for a nice romance or if you are a 30 year old like me looking for a distraction, this isn't a bad choice.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Elite

The Elite
by Kiera Cass

Genre:  Young Adult
Published:  4/23/13 by Harper Collins
Pages:  323
Format:  Hardcover

My rating:
2 out of 5 stars

The Elite is book number two in The Selection series by Kiera Cass.  This teen dystopian romance is about a girl named America who is chosen (forced) to be a part of The Selection, a Bachelor type program run by the king and queen used to choose the country's next princess.  Prince Maxon is charming and the apple of all the girls' eyes, including America.  However, America is torn between the charming prince and her childhood love interest Aspen, who just happens to be stationed as a guard in the palace (and right outside her room too, how convenient!).

I thought the first book in this series, The Selection, was a lot of fun to read in a guilty pleasure sort of way.  It is a combination of The Bachelor and the Hunger Games and pretty much every other dystopian teen romance out there.  Fun, but nothing overly original or thought provoking.

But this book, The Elite, was just not that fun or good.  I found it to be really obnoxious, as America spends the WHOLE book debating whether she loves Maxon or Aspen and questioning whether they return her affections, confused as they may be.  Did anything even happen in this book???   I think not. As far as the plot of the story, I felt like book two ended with everyone in pretty much the same place as book one.  

I am curious to read the final book, The One, just to see if anything is ever going to happen to move this plot forward.  My feeling is that The Elite was just a filler book, biding time until the final book was released.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Reading Guide

I love giving book recommendations.  It is one of my most favorite things!  So if you are looking for a good book to read this summer, I've put together a big list of ideas for you. 

Summer Beach Reads
If you are in the mood for something fun, fluffy and not too heavy!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
This story is about a woman who hits her head in an accident and suffers amnesia, which causes her to forget 10 years of her life...including her three children!  

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
The tone of this story, about an upper class Seattle mother who just might be a little crazy, is witty, sarcastic and funny.  Such a fun book! (My review here)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
I'd say this one is similar in tone to Where'd You Go, Bernadette, only this story is told from the male perspective.  And this particular male is a genetics professor conducting a scientific experiment to find the perfect wife.  

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall
A little white girl and a black woman are thrown together on an unexpected journey through the deep South in the early 1960s.  This story has earned comparisons to The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird.  While I don't think it is QUITE as good as either of those books, this is still a great read!

Page Turners
If you are in the mood for a book that will keep you up reading late into the night.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
This book!!!  It kept me up nearly all night as I just had to finish it, and then once I finished, I was up the rest of the night thinking about it.  It's a love story about a parapalegic and his caregiver.  It really struck a strong chord with me, and it is a story that I won't forget. (My review here)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This is a twisty, turning thriller that I could not put down.  It's a crazy book, but such a fun ride!  (Warning:  there is some crude language and content, so reader beware)  (My review here)

Room by Emma Donoghue
I read this whole book in nearly one sitting.  It is told from the perspective of a boy who is kidnapped with his mom and held in captivity for the first five years of his life.  His voice is very unique, and some people might find it annoying.  I found it captivating and could not stop reading until I found out what happened to him.  

Smart Books
If you are in the mood to think while enjoying a good book.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
This book won the 2013 Pulitizer Prize for fiction for good reason:  it is an amazing story and extremely well researched and written.  Following the journey of a North Korean named Pak Jun Do, this satirical novel takes the reader inside the dangerous, crazy and often ridiculous world of North Korea under the rule of Kim Jung Il. (My review here)

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
This is one of the most unique ideas for a book I have ever read.  Ursula Todd dies in the first few pages of this novel, only to start her life over again.  Then she continues to live and die in various ways all through the book.  It is a big commitment to read this book, but the concept is so interesting that I found it worth the effort.  (My review here)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
At 660 pages, this one is also a commitment!  Aside from a few strange moments, this story about twin boys born in Ethiopia to a British surgeon and his Indian nun mistress is captivating.  As the boys grown into men, betrayal and abandonment separate them from each other and their father until they are finally reunited in a dramatic ending.  It's an epic story.  If you persevere, it will keep you thinking long after the pages end.

Young Adult
If you are in the mood for great stories written for teens (and good for adults too!)

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
This is another book I read in nearly one sitting.  It is one of those books that you don't know what is happening until the end.  It's a unique writing style, but I found that it worked well for telling the story.  I won't tell you anymore; you will have to read it for yourself!

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
If you like slightly creepy romances with a side of paranormal activity, this is the book for you!  I'm still holding out my final judgment on this book and the whole series until I read the final book (to be released in November).  Yet, I have read this first book twice and it is intriguing.  I'm not fully sure I know what is going on even after reading it twice, as there is a lot of crazy stuff going on.  But it's definitely a pageturner and if you like this genre, I would highly recommend it.  (My review here)

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
This is just a great story about friends and family and life.  It's about a group of kids in a boarding school which is known for its "territory wars" between students.  As the groups from different territories began to interact though, they forge unlikely friendships and lifelong bonds.  I have read a couple of Melina Marchetta's books, and she is one of my new favorite young adult authors!  (My review here)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Speaking of favorite young adult authors, here's another one.  I just love Rainbow Rowell's style.  Her books are cute and witty, smart and fun, without being overly cheesy or sappy. Fangirl is about Cath, a college freshman who is venturing away from home for the first time.  She spends much of her life writing fan fiction about her favorite book series, and college proves to be challenging as it forces her to live in reality and deal with her real problems. (My review here)

If you are in the mood for a story that has stood the test of time.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The voice in this book reminds me so much of L.M. Montgomery's Anne Shirley.  It is whimsical and romantic and imaginative.  Just a lovely book about an eccentric family living in a rundown castle in England.  (My review here)

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This is a classic love story with much more suspense than romance.  The first chapter is rough.  Skim it, skip it, whatever.  But keep reading because it gets so much better as the book progresses.  The story is told by the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter who is haunted by the eeary presence of the deceased first Mrs. Maxim de Winter (Rebecca) and the live presence of the chilling housekeeper Mrs. Danvers.  

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I need to add this one to my summer reading list because I would love to read it again!  It's a coming of age tale about Francie, a little girl who is trying to make the best of her family's poverty and place in life.  It's a beautiful story of determination and hope and living your dreams in the midst of hardship and struggle.

So, time to start reading!!  If you read any of these books, please come back and share your thoughts.  I also love to hear what other people think about my recommendations.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant

The Secret Life of Violet Grant
by Beatriz Williams

Genre:  Fiction/Chick Lit
Published: 5/27/14 by Penguin Group
Pages:  448
Format:  ARC

My rating:
3.75 out of 5 stars

I'm fluctuating between 3.5 and 4 stars on this book, so I guess I will just settle for a middle rating of 3.75!  I received an advanced copy of this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant is the story of two women:  Vivian Schuyler who lives in Manhatten in the 1964 and her aunt Violet Grant, a scientist in Europe in 1914.  The novel alternates between these two women's stories chapter by chapter.  Vivian receives a package in the mail containing a mysterious suitcase, which leads her on a journey to discover the secrets of Violet's past (enter the murder mystery).  And in the process, she also happens to meet the love of her life (enter the romance/chick lit).  

This book is hard for me to categorize.  It reads like chick lit, with a little bit of (slightly trashy) romance, murder mystery and historical fiction thrown in as well.  For the most part, I really found myself enjoying the story.  And I really loved the character of Vivian, especially her bold, spunky, sarcastic dialogue!  She may not be for everyone, but I found her interesting, perhaps because she is the exact opposite of me in every way!

I read a lot of novels that use this style of writing with the story alternating between two characters and time periods.  Generally, I don't enjoy this style as I tend to only care about one story/time period and not the other.  However, in The Secret Life of Violet Grant, I genuinely was interested in both Vivian and Violet, and I never groaned in disappointment when the chapters switched.  So that's definitely a plus!

Thinking of the negatives, I felt the plot to be contrived and unbelievable at times.  There is a love at first sight storyline that just didn't work for me.  If I stop to think about the whole story, especially the ending, I'm not sure that the whole thing holds together soundly.  I didn't love the ending.

I think this was a decent summer beach read; a fairly light read with a mystery involved that adds some suspense and intrigue.  (To some of my friends who may be reading this, I will warn you that this is not a wholesome read.  It is a bit graphic at some times, especially with some parts related to sexual abuse).