Monthly Archives: August 2014

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

17453983I know it’s terrible to judge a book but its cover, but I’ll be the first to admit… sometimes I do. If I see a cover that I find attractive, I am more likely to pick it up and read the back of the book or the jacket for more info. And if I don’t like the cover? I skip it. This works well for me. Because the kinds of covers I skip over tend to be the formulaic supernatural thriller series young adult novels.

Yawn. I feel like if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all.

The other kinds of books I skip over are books that appear to be a part of a series. I’m not opposed to a series or trilogy, but that is the popular thing right now, and it is so overdone if you ask me. What happened to a great book standing by itself? I don’t want to get sucked in and have to keep buying the next book and the next book.

Stephanie Perkins’ book Anna and the French Kiss is a weird combination of these two things. I was a) drawn to the cover and b) not thrilled by the fact that (judging by the covers) the book was part of a what appeared to be a trilogy (Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After being the other two books). But oh, those covers.

Bold, bright colors.

Titles that paralleled each other in structure.

Cover writing in a crisp, white, sans serif font (oh, I love a good sans serif).

The cover sold me.

And then the book sold me on reading the other two (which I found out are only loosely a “series” with the other two; there’s some character crossover, but it’s minor and each story can stand alone without the others, so that scores Perkins some bonus points).

Anyhow. On with the review. Anna has a great life at home in Atlanta: a guy who’s almost her boyfriend, a job she really likes, a best friend she really loves. And then her famous father decides that Anna should spend the year in Paris at SOAP, the School for Americans in Paris. Just like that, she’s taken from her known world to the unknown. But she makes friends. Meredith, her neighbor, takes her in and she befriends all of the kids in Meredith’s group: Rashmi, Josh, and St. Clair. Very, very attractive St. Clair. St. Clair who’s got a girlfriend. How will Anna’s story unfold during these nine months in Paris?

Ok, first up, I’ve just got to say that one of the things I didn’t like about the book was how unreal it felt for Anna’s dad to send her to school in Paris. Anna’s mom appears to have primary physical custody because the dad is a famous author who travels a lot, so it’s a little absurd that she would just willy-nilly agree to allow Anna to go to study abroad for the year. That really irritated me.

But that aside, I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s a total summer-at-the-beach-or-pool read, the kind of book you devour in a few hours because you’re anxiously turning the page to find out what happens with Anna and St. Clair. It’s the kind of book that makes you wish that you attended a boarding school in Paris when you were a teenager (or even in college). It’s a fun, light read, and sometimes you just need one of those. And it’s not horrible the way a lot of “fun, light reads” are. The characters have some kind of depth and are likable and not totally gross.

I will say that this novel is definitely chick lit for teenagers or adult women looking for an escape from reality for a bit. But that doesn’t make it bad. Sometimes you just need that, and I’d rather read some compelling chick lit with characters I enjoy than some crappy fan fiction-based “romance” novels. Give me Anna any day!

And now, it’s back to powering through the last 200 pages of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

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#boutofbooks Spell It Out Challenge

So far I haven’t participated in any #boutofbooks challenges — I’ve had a really busy week, and my focus was on reading reading reading! But it’s 12:01 on Saturday morning and my commitments today are pretty minimum, so I thought it would be fun to take up the Spell It Out Challenge hosted by Kimberly Faye Reads.

I am going to be spelling out my twitter and instragram username: @kristaonpurpose! (This was surprisingly difficult because I have a bunch of books in storage and the only ones I could find that start with a k are from the Babysitters Club series!)

IMG_6775k — Kristy at Bat by Ann M. Martin
r — Roots by Alex Haley
i — I Will Carry You by Angie Smith
s — Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
t — The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
a — All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
o — On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah
n — Night Road by Kristin Hannah
p — Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
u — Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes
r — Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
p — Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
o — On Writing by Stephen King
s — Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
e — The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

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Book Review: Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes

untilyouremineListen. Sometimes you just think you’re going to not like a book and then you’re reading it and it’s almost 1 am in the morning on a day you have to wake up at 6 and you know you’re not going to sleep all that well anyway but the book! The freakin’ book!

That is Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes.

I think I was really nervous about it because as a blogger for Blogging for BooksI’ve read and reviewed two of their books previously: The Martian by Andy Weir and The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. Loved the first, totally did not like the second. And of course it’s easier to remember the dislike than the like.

All that said, Until You’re Mine is the story of Claudia Morgan-Brown, a social worker with two wonderful stepsons, a husband in the British Navy, and a baby girl on the way. Her life is pretty much a dream come true, and because her husband is gone so much for work and because she wants to keep her job as a social worker after the baby is born, Claudia hires a live-in nanny, Zoe Harper, to care for her sons and soon-to-be daughter. Her references are impeccable. She’s trained. She’s experienced. Her boys love Zoe and she jumps right in to her job. Yet there is something that leaves Claudia unsettled about Zoe, and it definitely doesn’t help that two pregnant women are viscously attacked and left for dead.

This novel is told in multiple perspectives, mainly Zoe and Claudia (first person) and the detectives on the case of pregnant women who are attacked (third person). This is a totally awesome technique because it amped up the suspense part, especially during Zoe and Claudia’s sections. It added so much tension as we heard Claudia’s thoughts on Zoe and Zoe’s thoughts on Claudia and the detectives as they piece together the bits and pieces of the crime… and as you waited for all of these random pieces to intersect.

Samantha Hayes is a very strong writer. She had a good mix of narrative and dialogue, of description and suspenseful action. This novel could have gone horribly wrong if not balanced well, and Hayes hits the nail on its head as she weaves together all of these twisty worlds and people.

Speaking of twisty worlds… I have got to say, for a novel that’s just a hair over 350 pages, I could not believe how many crazy plot twists were revealed/came together at the end — and done so well. Again, this could have gone wrong and felt too contrived, but because of the careful groundwork laid throughout the book, especially the sections told from the points-of-view of Claudia and Zoe, it works so well that you cannot help but be shocked. At one point, I was reading in my car waiting for a friend to meet me for dinner and I reached the end of a chapter, reveling something I didn’t see coming, and I honestly wanted to stay in the car and keep reading because it was such a good twist. (Whatever you do, do not accidentally read the last line of the book as you look for the total number of pages because you will get a feeling about some, but not all, of the twists and figure them out! If you do this, however, don’t worry, because there are lots of things that will still surprise you!)

My only criticisms of the book are relatively minor. First of all, I fell like the entire story with the detectives’ daughter Grace was only there to move their plot along, and it didn’t really mesh well with the rest of the story. It felt like a burden to read those parts and it didn’t really fit in to the story overall. I think Adam and Lorraine’s story could have done well without Grace.

My other criticism is that while I think Hayes is a fabulous writer, the writing as a whole felt too tight, like she was trying too hard to craft something that bordered on literary. I would have liked to see her relax a little. Not relax the detail and tightness of the plot itself, because those were perfect, but just the words and syntax and structure in general to give it a little more fluidity.

All in all, this was a solid, satisfying read and I will be reading more from Hayes in the future!

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher’s Blogging for Books in return for a fair and unbiased review. I wasn’t asked to give a positive review, just an honest one!

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