Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review: "Anna and the French Kiss"

"Anna and the French Kiss" by Stephanie Perkins
First published in 2010
372 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
(image source)

"Anna and the French Kiss" was cute, light, quick and decently written, but to be honest I just can't fathom why it's so popular with adult readers.

It's basically a quintessential teen love story. Against her wishes, Anna's romance novelist father ships her off to boarding school in Paris for her senior year. Anna is angry and terrified -- she misses her friends and family, and she knows no French beyond "merci" and "oui" and barely anything about France.

One of her new friends is handsome, smart and charismatic British/American/
French Etienne St. Clair. He takes pity on Anna, who a couple weeks into school has still not ventured off the school campus. Anna is instantly attracted to St. Clair -- as is every other girl at the School of America in Paris -- but she can't fathom that he would possibly return her feelings. Plus he has a serious girlfriend -- Ellie, who graduated from SOAP last year and is attending an arts university in Paris -- and Anna left behind a budding romance in Atlanta. And to make matters even more complicated, Anna and St. Clair's mutual good friend, Mer, is clearly in love with St. Clair.

As they explore Paris together (food, architecture and films, oh my!) and become best friends, their growing attraction for each other is always lingering in the background. But after several missed opportunities, it seems they just may not be destined to be together.

I really liked both Anna and St. Clair. For a YA novel, the characters were fairly dynamic and interesting. And I think this would be a fantastic book for a teenager -- it's realistic (i.e. sex and drinking and cheating on a test and faithfulness to a partner are all mentioned) but Anna doesn't do anything crazy. She's a virgin, her one night of drinking (which is legal in France) ends rather horribly, and despite what she thinks about herself at times she is a pretty good role model.

I saw this book popping up in several places and decided to check it out but, as I mentioned, I'm really not sure why adults are so enamored with "Anna and the French Kiss." It didn't have any of the broader implications that make other YA books (like "Hunger Games") really popular with adults. It was really just a sweet teen romance. So if that's your thing, or if you just need a fun and fluffy read between more serious books, by all means check it out.

(P.S. Perkins very obviously modeled Anna's author father after Nicholas Sparks. I don't know what the man ever did to her, but apparently she really hates his guts!)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Etsy Wish List: June

I had no trouble filling up my Etsy "favorites" list this month! Here are a few of my finds:

Etsy Shop: dolangeiman
Price: $250
I am just in love with this piece of boxer artwork made of wood and other found objects. Too bad it's just sliiiightly out of my price range!

Etsy Shop: WaterInMyPaint
Price: $31.26 for an 11x14 print
A tiny owl in a tea cup wearing a snorkel mask? What could be more adorable? (Except perhaps a boxer puppy...)

Etsy Shop: eggtoothoriginals
Price: $33
These are so pretty, and it sounds like the charms are made with imprints from actual ferns.

Price: $4.99 for a 5x7 card
Guess I'm all about boxers this month!

Etsy Shop: starlightwoods
Price: $28
This pretty floral necklace is made with a piece of fallen tree branch!

Etsy shop: sarahogren
Price: $20 for an 8x10 print
I'm considering this bird and hydrangea print for the guest room. It reminds me of my mom because her favorite flowers are hydrangeas.

Etsy Shop: crowandcompany
Price: $24.50
Opal is October's birthstone, and I could always use another long necklace!

Etsy Shop: TheCoastalSoul
Price: $12
This handmade suncatcher captivates me every time I look at it!

Etsy Shop: lovelikestyle
Price: $22
These colors are so pretty together -- and as I said, you can't have too many long necklaces!

Etsy Shop: redbrickwall
Price: $28
I don't think I'd ever actually wear this in public, but I LOVE this Groucho Marx quote. I'd never heard it until I stumbled across this t-shirt the other day! (On second thought, I might just wear it to work at the library...)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: "Inferno"

"Inferno" by Dan Brown
First published in 2013
480 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
(image source)

I was disappointed in Dan Brown's latest work, the fourth installment in the series featuring Harvard academic Robert Langdon, a symbologist with a penchant for Mickey Mouse watches and late-night treasure hunts in ancient cities.

Langdon awakes in a hospital in Florence, Italy, with no recollection of how he got there and a row of stitches on the back of his head. Within minutes, a gun-wielding woman forces her way into his hospital room, which he escapes with a pretty, ponytailed doctor named Sienna Brooks. Thus begins Langdon's fourth quest to save mankind from evil villains, this time with an emphasis on Dante's "Divine Comedy."

While "Inferno" was pretty fast-paced, it wasn't as much of a thriller for me as the other Robert Langdon books. In fact, I found this book to be a bit bogged down with long-winded descriptions of various works of art, museums and Italian architectural sites, and I eventually started skimming over them. And I think it might be time for Brown to alter up his very predictable plot formula, which invariably involves a late-night phone call, a foreign city, a female sidekick and a very short time period in which to solve the mystery.

Though I found this to be the least-enthralling of all of Brown's books, it was actually the most thought-provoking. It deals with the issue of overpopulation, and the controversial opinions of brilliant minds on how to control it. You might be surprised at your reaction to the climax.

If you're a fan of Dan Brown, this book is worth a read. You'll learn something and it'll get you thinking. But if you're new to the author, I'd recommend starting with one of his better works -- "Digital Fortress," "Deception Point," or the ubiquitous "Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: "The Book Thief"

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
First published in 2006
550 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
(image source)

"The Book Thief" is a Holocaust story about a German girl who is both ordinary and extraordinary. Liesel Meminger is just 9 years old when she boards a train with her mother and little brother in 1939. They're headed to a small town outside of Munich, where the children will be given to a foster family. Liesel's brother dies en route, and as she's tearfully leaving his gravesite she noticed a small black book nestled in the snow and picks it up. These events will forever change Liesel's life.

Liesel's new parents are the Hubermanns of Himmel Street; Rosa  is a small woman fond of brandishing wooden spoons and swearing, and Hans is a tall, gentle man, an accordionist and a painter.

Unable to read but feeling as though she must know the contents of the book she stole at the cemetery, she asks her foster father to teach her. And almost immediately, when Liesel is still struggling with the simplest of words, a great passion for books begins to flare up in her. Books -- and the occasional stealing of reading material -- become a defining part of Liesel's world, and she develops not only a love for reading but also a respect for the awesome power of words.

"The Book Thief" is not a typical World War II story, and it's not a typical book either. Markus Zusak has penned a truly original tale, told by our unusual narrator, Death. The writing style is completely different from any book I've read before, and it was so masterful and lyrical and beautifully done.

There wasn't much suspense, or romance, or mystery in "The Book Thief" -- it was just an interesting story well-told, and I loved it. You won't regret picking up this tale of a Jew, a promise, a lemon-haired Jesse Owens, stale cookies on a window ledge, a snowman and a young girl who steals books.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review: "Me Before You"

"Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes
First published in 2012
369 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
(image source)

I absolutely tore through this addicting, funny, heartbreaking, wonderful book by British author Jojo Moyes.

Louisa Clark, a twenty-something who lives with her parents in a tiny English town, has just lost her job as a waitress and, after struggling through such harrows as a stint in a chicken processing plant, she ends up interviewing to be a companion for a quadriplegic. Despite having no medical or caregiving experience, she's hired.

Will Traynor was a handsome and very successful financier who lived life to fullest -- traveling, adventuring, doing crazy things like jumping out of airplanes -- until he was hit by a motorcycle on a rainy London morning and was left mostly paralyzed from the neck down with only slight movement in one of his arms.

Louisa and Will could hardly be more different, aside from their wit and intelligence, and they pretty much take an immediate dislike to each other. Contrary to the zest for life Will had before his accident, Louisa is content to just be -- with her cafe job, her long-time boyfriend she's not sure she loves, her parents house in her little village. But when she learns of Will's plan for his future, she's forced outside her comfort zone in a quest to show this once passionate man that life is still worth living.

"Me Before You" is an unconventional love story, but it was gripping all the same. Some reviewers have found Louisa self-centered and unlikeable, but I really connected with both her and Will. As you may have heard, "Me Before You" is a tear-jerker, and I have not cried so voluminously or sincerely over a book since I read the final Harry Potter novel. That's a testament to Jojo Moyes excellent writing -- which caused me to inhale this book in two short days. I loved the characters, I loved the plot, and the overall theme of living a good life really resonated with me

Moyes' novel was the best book I've read so far in 2013 and I definitely recommend it. Her newest book, "The Girl You Left Behind," came out last summer and it's now firmly planted on my to-be-read list.

Happy reading!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books To Read This Summer

The theme for this week's Top Ten Tuesday link-up at The Broke and the Bookish is the top 10 books on your summer to-be-read list. There are several new releases I'm excited to delve into (though there are even more coming up this fall!) and I've also got a few older books to check out this summer too.
The fourth installment in the Robert Langdon series came out in May. I put it on hold at the library a while ago and I'm thrilled that it's ready to be picked up this week! I've read all of Dan Brown's books and I'm sure this one will be a page-turner just like the rest!

Janet Evanovich is one of my favorite authors and I'm looking forward to the first book in her new series, co-authored with "Monk" writer Lee Goldberg. Incidentally, this book comes out today.

I really loved Jeanette Walls' "Half Broke Horses" (read my review here -- it got a very rare 5 stars!) and I'm excited to read her new book, which was released last Tuesday.

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I'm a huge fan of Donna Andrews' cozy mystery series. Her latest book comes out in July. (Read my review of the most recent book in the Meg Langlsow series here.)
"Where'd You Go, Bernadette" caught my eye back when I worked at the library in Hawaii. I finally checked it out while I was at work (at my new library) over the weekend.

Judging from the past few weeks of Top Ten Tuesday link-ups, I'm the only person on the planet who hasn't read the YA romance "Anna and the French Kiss." (Hopefully its popularity means that it's a great read!) So I also grabbed this while I was at work Saturday. Working at a library has its perks!
"The Bone Season," which comes out in August, is getting some major hype and will supposedly be beloved by fans of Deborah Harkness. The first in a series, the book is set in 2059 and involves supernatural elements.

One of my good friends from Hawaii read this YA dystopian series and really enjoyed it. I finally decided to check it out, and I've got the first book, "Matched," on hold at the library.

This novel takes place in 1920s New York City.

The next book in Philippa Gregory's historical Cousins' War series comes out in July. 
I couldn't limit myself to 10!
#11: I just finished reading Jojo Moyes' "Me Before You" and absolutely loved it. It was the best book I've read this year for sure! So I was thrilled to see Moyes released a new book last summer, "The Girl You Left Behind." Hopefully it will be just as riveting, enthralling and fascinating as "Me Before You"!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Furry Friday

Conan has a new collar! I'd been keeping an eye out for the perfect collar for a while, but when the receptionist at the vet mistook the red on Conan's old collar for pink and called him a girl I decided it was time to just pick one! I got this patriotic pawprint collar from veryvintage on Etsy, which sells loads and loads of handmade collars. I think Conan looks quite handsome in his new outfit, don't you?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review: "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"

"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley
First published in 2009
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
(image source)

Flavia de Luce is one of the most unusual -- and one of the most likeable -- narrators I've ever encountered. For one thing, she's the most mature 11-year-old on the planet. For another, she's full of spunk, remarkably intelligent, an aspiring chemist, and an amateur sleuth.

"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie," the first installment in Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce cozy mystery series, takes place in the English countryside in 1950. It involves a murder in the cucumber patch, stamps, a custard pie and Flavia's trusty bicycle, which she has christened Gladys.

I closed the book with a feeling of satisfaction -- mystery solved, all is well, and Flavia is just as clever as ever -- but I didn't entirely love everything between the covers. The middle in particular dragged for me and at one point I was reading just to get the book finished and not because I was entranced by the plot.

But still, overall it was an enjoyable read. Any lover of cozy mysteries should give Bradley's series a try -- it's got all the charm of the genre but a completely and wonderfully different main character.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

7x7 Wardrobe Remix

When I saw that my favorite fashion blogger Audrey from Putting Me Together was participating in a 7x7 remix link-up, I decided to join in too! I've taken a hiatus from What I Wore Wednesday at The Pleated Poppy and I thought it'd be fun to have a reason to spend some time in my closet.

A 7x7 wardrobe remix involves selecting 7 items of clothing (including shoes, in this case) and using them to create 7 different outfits. The point is to help you see your clothes in new ways and come up with outfits you might not have thought of otherwise. I decided to include two brand-new, never-before-worn purchases in my remix to make it even more productive.

The cast of characters:

The Outfits:

Look #1:
Target shorts +
Old Navy chambray +
Kohl's flip flops

Look #2:
Target shorts +
Kohl's tank top +
Kohl's flip flops

 Look #3:
Target shorts +
Banana Republic striped shirt +
Kohl's flip flops
 *Sidenote: I absolutely love this soft, comfy shirt with its cute three-button detail at the shoulder. It's the most versatile top in my whole wardrobe! (Plus it was on clearance for around $10!)
Look #4:
Seven For All Mankind jeans +
Banana Republic striped shirt +
Kohl's flip flops

Look #5:
Seven For All Mankind jeans +
Banana Republic striped shirt +
Old Navy chambray +
Kohl's flip flops

Look #6:
7 For All Mankind Jeans +
Kohl's tank top +
Macy's sweater +
Kohl's flip flops

Look #7:
Seven For All Mankind jeans +
Banana Republic striped shirt +
Macy's sweater +
Kohl's flip flops
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