Monday, June 13, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss

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?

I've been following Stephanie Perkins on Twitter for a while now, and after reading her tweets as well as those of her fans, I decided I needed to check Anna out for myself. I was definitely not disappointed. Anna's story was at times deliciously funny, but heart-wrenchingly sad at others. As someone who has lived in Europe (and is dying to go back as soon as humanly possible), I appreciated the exotic flair of the setting. The book also reignited my interest in the French language (I really need to brush up on, now).

One of my favorite parts of the book by far was Etienne. I loved that he was short! Most YA books have cookie cutter guys in them. They're always tall, with dark hair and piercing eyes and perfect teeth, and honestly, it's frustrating. There's such a wide range of people on this earth! Make use of them! Etienne is unique because he's short, and has crooked teeth, and bites his nails. He's a real guy, brought to life by Perkins' writing. I loved watching him evolve as he explored his relationships with Anna and his friends.

Anna herself was a wonderfully witty young woman, and her story was a delight to read. I recommend this book to any and all of you looking for a light read at any time of the year. If nothing else, it'll allow you to pretend like you're getting away to beautiful Paree. :P


Darkest Powers Trilogy

I won't post a picture or a synopsis for this one, since I'm reviewing the trilogy as a whole. I'll sum it up myself! :P Basically, the books revolve around a 15-year-old necromancer named Chloe. She's sent to live in this group home for crazy kids, but finds out that there are others with supernatural powers (there are several different types of supernaturals, including sorcerors, witches, and werewolves). Chloe and her friends discover some pretty shocking truths about their caregivers and the adventure rolls in pretty quickly.

I LOVED these books. Seriously, I could not put them down. There are three books in the series, and I blew through them in two days. They're light and clever reads, and they're so fast-paced that it doesn't even feel like you're reading at all. Now that you know how I feel about the plot (so spectacularly done it's disgusting)... :P

The characters were interesting as well. Chloe's voice was convincing and quirky. She was an incredibly lovable character that I found myself attached to right away. Her supporting cast was just as well developed. All four of the main kids go through major changes over the course of the series, and while Tori was a girl I loved to hate in the beginning of the series, she was actually one of my favorite characters by the end of it.

I can't believe I waited so long to pick these books up. If you haven't read them, please, do yourself a favor and dive right in. I promise you won't regret it. :)


PS As an after thought... I probably wouldn't let a sensitive child read these books. There's a substantial creep factor that I thought added a little extra awesome to the story, but some younger readers may not be ready for it. Necromancers do raise the dead, after all.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I have a review of Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers trilogy that I need to post, but I'm going to do that tomorrow. Tonight, I'm going to gush about the author signing I went to tonight at Changing Hands in Tempe. It was wonderful! :) It was a panel of ladies consisting of Veronica Roth (Divergent, which I already reviewed), Aprilynne Pike (the Wings series), Ellen Schreiber (the Vampire Kisses series), and Josephine Angelini (Starcrossed).

Let me start out by mentioning that I didn't even know about this event until 3 o'clock this afternoon. I found out through Veronica Roth's Twitter (she tweeted me!), and decided I was going to do everything in my power to make it. I've never been to a book signing before and was desperately craving the experience. It was totally worth it.

All four women were smart, funny, and willing to answer any and all questions. I learned some valuable tips and tricks for writing, discovered some new books to read, purchased said books, and got them signed. I was freaking out internally the whole time, because it's always exciting when you get to meet people who've been successful in the field you're pursuing. Luckily, I managed to keep it together and not look like a total freak. :P

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I can't wait to devour the new books I got. I received some much-needed motivation and will be getting back to my novel shortly. I so want to be a part of the YA community, and I'm going to do everything in my power to make it happen.

Off to admire my autographs some more! :D


Monday, June 6, 2011

Oh, Wall Street Journal...

I'm sure most of you have already heard about the atrocious "article" the Wall Street Journal published Saturday. You know the one, where the author claims that YA books are awful, depressing, scary things that shouldn't be read by their target audience? If you still haven't read it, you can find it here. There have been a number of responses to the article, some poignant, some hilarious, but all wonderful. There was even a Twitter frenzy with the hashtag #YAsaves (and today, there's a mock one under #YAkills...hysterical if you haven't seen it).

Many others have already voiced my views on this article. I think there are just as many happy books as there are "dark" or "edgy" books in the YA section, just like in real life. Despite what parents want to believe, life isn't all butterflies and rainbows. We don't always get the things we want in the time frame we want, and life is painful/messy/heartbreaking/HARD more often than not. But rather than break the article down and counter everything the author said with my own views, I'm simply going to tell you what YA books have done for me in my life.

I grew up in a military family. We moved at least every three years, if not more often, from the time I was born until my dad retired when I was 18 (and even since I turned 18, I've moved every year since then). Keeping in touch with friends is hard when you're in middle school and you live in separate states. I still have a few friends from elementary and middle school that I talk to on a regular basis, but for the most part all I'm left with are my memories. Through all of that, I had the consistency of my novels.

I've been an avid reader since I was born. My parents created a strong reader's culture in our house, and I taught myself to read at the ripe old age of two and a half. I have a vast collection of books that I've read anywhere from once to hundreds of times. They've become like friends over the years. I'm secure in the knowledge that I can visit Tortall or Narnia or any other world I've visited, and my friends will be right where I left them, ready and waiting to start up their adventures yet again. It's a wonderful feeling when your environment is constantly shifting around you.

YA books also helped me explore aspects of my personality that I wasn't necessarily comfortable addressing out loud. The strong female characters in many of my favorite young adult novels helped me through my body image issues and insecurity (because really, who doesn't go through those stages as a teen?). Even now, as a 23-year-old reading YA (yes, it's still my favorite genre), I'm learning and exploring facets of the human psyche that I never even imagined. I recently read Laurie Halse-Anderson's Wintergirls (check the archives for my review), a book about anorexia. The Wall Street Journal would deem this as one of those "edgy" books that deals with destructive behaviors, and would say teenagers shouldn't read it for fear of them copying Lia's behavior. I beg to differ. The book made anorexia real, in a way that was terrifying. I would never dream of imitating Lia, because I could see how miserable she was, and I don't think any teenager would read that book and suddenly decide to become anorexic. Give your kids a little more credit, people!

The real issue is this: parents don't know what their children are reading, and so can't help their children confront these issues in a safe and healthy way. In my house, I didn't read anything my mom hadn't already read. If I found something I was interested in and she hadn't read it yet, we read it together. Now that I'm old enough to handle books on my own, I recommend books to her, but we still read the same things. It helps foster discussion, and it helped me make sense of some very difficult subjects as a young child and as a teen. I hope to recreate that environment and relationship with my own children someday. I don't want them reading trash, but I'm okay with them reading tough books. I'll even read with them if they want me to.

Rather than censoring their children, parents just need to take a more proactive stance with reading. When I was a bookseller, a woman came in and asked me if the Gossip Girl series was appropriate for a thirteen year old. I told her my honest opinion: that I wouldn't recommend those books for anyone under 17, because there's a lot of sex, drugs, and partying while parents are away with little to no consequences for those actions. I don't approve of the message of those books. That's not to say that I don't approve of books with those topics, but the way Gossip Girl was executed drives me away. I can't tell anyone what to allow their child to read. I can only encourage parents to read WITH their children. Pick up the book on their bedside table or bookshelf and devour it yourself. 9 times out of 10 you won't be disappointed.