Thursday, May 10, 2012

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (Little Blue Envelope, #1)

"I liked you because you were mad. And you're pretty. And pretty sane for a mad person."

Maureen Johnson was another author I decided to check out because of John Green. (The other was Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss.) Funnily enough, it isn't the first book I've picked up by her, but it is the first I've finished. That's not to say that she isn't a great author, but the other book, The Name of the Star, was a little too spooky for my taste. I will probably get around to finishing it eventually for the sake of having a review of it up here.

Anyway, because of John Green's recommendation and because she will be at LeakyCon this year, I wanted to give another of her books a go and I'm incredibly glad I did.

13 Little Blue Envelopes is about a girl named Ginny. After her beloved aunt dies, Ginny gets a package from her deceased aunt containing thirteen letters with directions to complete the task on one before proceeding to the next. These directions spur Ginny into the adventure of a lifetime. Her travels take her all over Europe, introduce her to some wonderfully crazy characters, and teach her to experience life to it's fullest.

This book was quite good. The plot had me hooked from the start and nothing about this story is predictable. This fact in and of itself has you feeling like all of this is really happening, like you're really on this adventure with Ginny. It's a wonderful testament to her writing ability and how relatable she makes her characters. It was definitely one worth reading.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

[Click here to see my review of the sequel: The Last Little Blue Envelope]

Sometimes, Gin, life leaves you without directions, without guideposts or signs. When this happens, you just have to pick a direction and run like hell.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Remember what Professeur Cole said when he was talking about the lack of translated novels in America? She said it's important to expose ourselves to other cultures, other situations.

What can I say? I adored this book!

I was first introduced to this title when I was still living in Paris. I heard about it via John Green (one half of the Vlogbrothers and the author of The Fault in Our Stars). He talked about it being very well-written and incredibly witty, so I decided it was necessary that I read it.

Yet every time I spotted it on the bookshelf, I couldn't bring myself to buy it. I just couldn't get past the cheesy title and the almost-as-cheesy cover. Yes, I know I shouldn't judge books by their covers, but I can't help it! It just looked so overwhelmingly girly and stereotypical and even the summary made me think that I had the entire story already figured out. So when I made it back to Texas, I decided I'd just get it from the library so I wouldn't have to spend money on it.

Let me tell you, when I finally cracked this book open, I tore through it. No seriously. I started reading it yesterday around nine and finished it at approximately noon today. Yeah, it was that good!

Anna and the French Kiss is about a girl who gets flung into Paris by her well-meaning, but very-much-a-tool father who thinks it will be good for her to go to a boarding school where she will become cultured and sophisticated. She enrolls in the American school there (a school my own dad considered putting my brother and I in while we were both in high school) and quickly joins a small group of friends that includes the most handsome, charming British-American boy she has ever set eyes upon.

But there's more to all of this than meets the eye. The moment she meet St. Clair, she knows he's off-limits. He's been dating Ellie, who graduated last year and now seems to be too good to associate with anyone in their circle of friends besides her significant other. As the school year continues, Anna starts having mixed feelings for St. Clair. Not only is he swiftly becoming her best friend, coming to her defense on all occasions and helping her adapt to the French culture around her, but the undercurrent of mutual attraction between them is steadily on the rise.

As they say: What's a girl to do?

I was honestly surprised with how much I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was all-around wonderful and every bit as clever and witty as John Green said it would be. Stephanie Perkins captures the "City of Love" quite well. (Though I'll admit that there ought to be a tad more of the strangers that accost you on the street and rude people if she wanted to make it entirely realistic.) I loved every second of the book and it made me miss Paris even more.

Anna and the French Kiss was an incredibly lovely book despite it's cringe-worthy title. I encourage anyone who wants a good read to snatch it up immediately. I'll be buying myself a copy of this book as soon as possible so I can have it on my bookshelves. It shall be money well-spent.

And when I go back to Paris this Christmas to see my family, I will most definitely find Point Zero (which I didn't know about until I opened this book) and make a wish.

Rating: ★★★★★

"You say that I'm afraid of being alone, and it's true. I am. And I'm not proud of it. But you need to take a good look at yourself, Anna, because I am not the only one in this room who suffers this problem."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

"Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool."

If you pay even the slightest attention to the media, you very likely are aware that the movie adaptation of The Hobbit will be in theaters this December. Because of that, I decided it was about time I stuck my nose into a J.R.R. Tolkien book and, let me tell you, I'm quite happy I did.

Going into this, I had rather expected Mr. Tolkien's writing to be a bit, well, stuffy. This was generally because I had heard that his writing was hard to get into and was all too descriptive to follow well. Perhaps they were speaking of a different book, because this certainly was not the case when it came to The Hobbit.

An adventure tale for the ages, this book was incredibly well-written and I was invested in the story from the outset. Being a big fan of C.S. Lewis, a personal friend of Tolkien, I was still surprised to see the similarities in their narratives. They have a similar writing style that really draws you in -- as if you're sitting by the fire listening to that wise old uncle of yours tell you a grand adventure you only dare to believe because he is the one telling you of it.

The Hobbit is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a comfortable little hobbit with more adventure in his blood than most other hobbits. Even still, it takes a good deal of convincing and coercion before Mr. Baggins finds himself on a quest for treasure, the "burglar" in a company of thirteen dwarves. He was specially chosen for the mission by Gandalf the Grey. At first, neither he nor his companions can understand why Gandalf thought he was worth bringing along, but there is more to Bilbo than meets the eye and, soon enough, he may become their only hope of accomplishing their task at all.

Overall, The Hobbit was a fantastic book. I enjoyed every moment of the journey, both "there and back again" and it has made me even more excited for the movie's release. I would definitely suggest this lovely story to anyone who enjoys Tolkien's other works or enjoys any books with a bit of magic threaded through the pages.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.