Monday, November 29, 2010

And the winner is...

Congrats to April X for being the winner of my Gratitude Giveaway! She wins an audiobook copy of The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks.

Thanks to Inspired Kathy for hosting the Gratitude Giveaway blog hop and thanks to all of my new followers!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankfully Reading Weekend Wrap-up

So I didn't get as much reading done this weekend as I had hoped, but I did finish at least one other book, which I'm not sure I'm going to review. The book I finished was The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy and I am totally confused about my reaction to it. On the one hand, my literature teacher-self enjoyed all the symbolism and saw right away that this was an allegory. On the other hand, it was a little too sorority for my liking - but that's my own prejudice entering the reading experience.

At times I thought the story was too simplistic, and at others it felt too contrived and complicated. These contradictions, however, keep the story interesting and certainly kept me turning the pages.

I'm interested and intrigued enough to read the next installment.


During Thanksgiving, most of us stop and give thanks for the blessings in our lives, but I'm someone who likes to do that on a daily basis rather than just once a year. I feel like prayers of petition are not worth God's time if we never stop to give Him thanks and praise for the good in our lives.

I am thankful for my wonderful husband, the roof over my head, a job that I love... the list goes on and on...

But participating in this weekend of reading and walking into at crowded library at 5:00 on a Sunday evening helped me to think of even smaller, more specific things I'm grateful for:

  • I'm thankful that I live in a community with an abundant, active library.
  • I'm thankful for my worn out library card from said library.
  • I'm thankful that I work in a school where my principal lets me teach reading and writing the way I want to teach it and not the way some standardized test wants me to teach it.
  • I'm thankful for my zeal for learning and only hope that I'm imparting it on my students.
  • I'm thankful that I was born in a country and into a family that values education - even if we don't always get it right.
  • I'm thankful that I can sit here on my couch with my computer on my lap and write about my opinions without having to worry about anyone beating down my door and throwing me in jail.
  • I'm thankful for books and the authors who write them. We'd be a race of neanderthals without them.

So, besides the obvious, (food, shelter, family...) what are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

IMM (6)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Through reading many different book blogs, I discovered the wonder of NetGalley this week and I am smitten. I requested a bunch of eGalleys and downloaded a few to my iPod:

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill
Lost and Found in Russia: Lives in the Post-Soviet Landscape by Susan Richards

Purchased for my classroom library at my library's used book store:
(I'm only providing links to these and not covers since there's so many!)

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen
Whisper My Name by Ernest Hebert
Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
The Goats by Brock Cole
The Egypt Game by Ailpha Keatley Snyder
Center Court Sting and Football Fugitive by Matt Christopher
Walking Out by Ann Elwood and John Raht

Improvising is my favorite method of cooking

When I started getting really into cooking about 6 years ago, I was very much about following the recipe to the letter: exact measurements, no substitutions, follow every instruction precisely. But that quickly became tiresome - mostly because that sort of perfection and precision does not match my personality. I'm more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of person - even in my classroom. I find that sudden moments of inspiration keep me excited and motivated to keep at it.

So lately I'm finding myself following fewer and fewer recipes than what I used to. I'll look in the fridge or the pantry, see what's available and think to myself, "This would taste great with that, and oh, I'll put some of this in for some nice crunch."

Yesterday for lunch, I did just that, and I realized while I was making the dish that it was a modified version of Giada DeLaurentiis's Orecchiette with Toasted Breadcrumbs. I've made this dish a couple times before, but it was a very long time ago - and, dare I say? my version was better than hers!

Here are the ingredients: (measurements are approximations)
  • 1 lb. dried orecchiette
  • 3 slices prosciutto
  • 1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs (not the ones from the store that have the texture of sawdust)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 C shredded white sharp cheese such as Vermont cheddar or Gruyere
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 2 T chopped chives

1. As much as I love prosciutto, I have noticed that it can sometimes have a metallic taste to it depending on the quality. One of the ways to mask this is to crisp it up in a nonstick saute pan. Using nonstick prevents you from having to add any extra fat to the pan, so all you're doing is adding a crispy texture and a salty bite.

2. While prosciutto is crisping, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.

3. Using the same pan as you crisped up the prosciutto, add butter and EVOO. Once butter has melted, add garlic and shallot. Saute until fragrant. Add breadcrumbs and distribute evenly through the fat. Add the cheese. Take the pan off the burner and let the cheese melt just through the warmth of the breadcrumbs. Add chopped chives to top of breadcrumb mixture.

4. Once pasta is drained, mix together with breadcrumb mixture and then crumble crispy prosciutto on top. Enjoy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankfully Reading Weekend

I despise Black Friday. I refuse to go out and dodge crowds and have to deal with a homicidal stampede of people just to save $100 on a big screen TV. The holiday season has become all about how much you must go into debt so your family can acquire more stuff. We are trying to fill some sort of void with possessions rather than looking internally to see what our lives are lacking.

I boycott Black Friday every year. And this year I'm going even that much further to drive a stake into the heart of consumerism by spending today in my PJ's doing nothing but reading.

Jenn's Bookshelves is hosting a Thankfully Reading Weekend, and I for one fully support this reading challenge since it's encouraging sitting at home rather than feeding into the dystopia that is Black Friday.

So this is what I have planned for my weekend:

Just finished:

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Currently reading:

The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

Currently listening:

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

On deck:

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Vera Dietz is beside herself when her estranged best friend Charlie dies before they have a chance to make amends. Now she has a difficult decision to make: does she clear his name of a crime that people think he committed or does she allow her own anger and fear to keep her silent?

Describing the plot of this story is very simple. Describing the emotional impact this story will have on you once you read it is more difficult. Vera immediately draws you in with her story. When you're first introduced to her, you make a judgment about her: that she doesn't care about school and that she's turning into an alcoholic.

This judgment begins to fall apart once you continue reading and realize that despite working a full-time job, she gets straight A's in school, enjoys doing her homework, and is only drinking to numb the pain from her best friend's death.

There are no flowery descriptions or poetic passages in this book. The writing itself does not sustain the story. What keeps you reading is the author's ability to put personality and heart into a character. Vera feels like a real person. You want to be friends with her. You want to give her a hug when and then smack her upside the head for some of the decisions she makes.

Rife with symbolism, this book is the antidote for high school teachers to put away some of those dusty classics and try something fresh that today's students will be able to relate to. YA lit today has just as many lessons and talking points as classical literature - if not more.

My only frustration with the book is that one very important part of the story was left unresolved at the end and it was a part that I REALLY wanted to know what happened. But I continue to remind myself that not all books have to end neatly. All in all this is a very satisfying read and one of the most memorable of 2010.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Pages: 326
Published: October 2010 by Knopf
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: YA

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Don't tell me middle schoolers aren't fun to be around

When people first meet me and hear that I teach middle school, they often scrunch up their noses like they just smelled something sulfuric and proclaim, "Junior high? You couldn't pay me enough money to teach that age."

I think middle school kids get a bad rap. There's no doubt that many students can be extremely trying of your patience, but I think that is true of any age. Yes, their minds and bodies are changing faster than you can send a text message, but they're also learning to think abstractly and make sense of the adult world that they haven't been invited into, yet they feel they know more than you do about it. It can be extremely entertaining if you look at it from that perspective.

Attitude and selfishness abounds at this age, but they still have moments of fun and silliness as well. Yesterday a pair of 7th grade girls (who were my students last year) came up to me in the hallway and said, "Mrs. S, can we borrow one of your pillows? We need it for a presentation we're doing next period." When I told them they could, a few seconds later they emerged from my room carrying FOUR pillows. I stopped them and said, "Hey wait a minute! You asked if you could borrow A pillow. Not FOUR pillows." They looked at me and said, "Oh. We meant one for each member of our group. Can we please borrow all four of them?"

I had no intention of telling them no. I just wanted to give them a hard time.

A couple periods later, after my prep, I walked into my room and saw this display sitting on my desk chair:

I'll admit it. At first I was mad. I thought to myself, "Those girls had me last year. They know exactly where those pillows go. Why did they put them on my chair?" But the closer I got to my chair, the more ashamed I felt that my initial reaction was one of anger because on top of the four pillows, was this adorable note that one of the girls wrote:

I know it's a little hard to read, so I'll recreate it for you:

Dear Mrs. S,
I am sincerely grateful for your generous gift of pillow. It was the key ingredient to the success of our fair show. Happy belated birthday. Give your pugs our most endeering love. Thanks again for your gracious gift! Lilly B.

Yes she spelled endearing wrong and she probably could have rewritten the note rather than given me a scribbled out copy, but the sentiment was absolutely adorable, and made me think to myself, "It's moments like these that make me remember why I teach junior high." I don't think I would have ever received such a funny, ridiculous note from any other age group than middle school. When they try you, they try you, but when they make you laugh, it is real and true.

How to get to Hogwarts

So I'm sitting here on my couch catching up on my blog reading, when I come across this awesome picture on The Flying Scribble.

Who'da thunk you could get to Hogwarts via the New York City subway? :o)

Want a Free Nook?

Mary over at Sparkling Reviews is giving away a free Nook Color to one lucky reader once she reaches 1100 followers. Head on over there for a chance to win. The contest ends once she reaches 1100.

This is definitely one of the most generous blogger giveaways I've ever seen. Thanks Mary and thanks to your generous donor for providing such an awesome prize!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

The Story Siren is hosting a 2011 Debut Author Challenge for middle grade and young adult books. If you're interested in joining, check out her FAQ.

This will be my first year participating in a Debut Author Challenge so I'm really excited!

The purpose of the Debut Author Challenge is to read at least twelve books from new, up-and-coming authors.

These are the books I'm hoping to read in 2011:

January debuts:
The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Choker by Elizabeth Woods
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Timeless by Alexandra Monir
The False Princess by Eilis O'Neil

February Debuts:
The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
Haven by Kristi Cook
Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison
Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

March Debuts:
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

May Debuts:
The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor

I'm sure there will be more, but there's not a lot of info about the books coming out after June, so I'm sure this list will get longer as 2011 progresses.

IMM (5)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

I had an awesome crop of books show up for me on my hold list at the library this week. I hope I can read them all in the next three weeks because I'm sure I won't be able to renew many of them given their popularity:

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer

Science Fiction Stories chosen by Edward Blishen
GoD and DoG by Wendy Francisco


Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

In My Mailbox:

Being Polite to Hitler by Robb Forman Dew
(ARC requested and received from publisher)
Publish date: January 6, 2011

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gratitude Giveaway Blog Hop

In honor of Thanksgiving, Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer is hosting a Gratitude Giveaway Blog Hop.

My giveaway is the audiobook of Nicholas Sparks' The Last Song

Seventeen year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Miller’s life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alienated from her parents, especially her father… until her mother decides it would be in everyone’s best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie’s father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church. The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story about love in its myriad forms.

Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Giveaway ends on November 28, 2010 at 11:59 PM EST.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

IMM (4)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

Library Loot:

Picture Books:
Chalk by Bill Thompson
Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World by Mac Barnett
The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers

10,000 Steps a Day to Your Optimal Weight: Walk Your Way to Better Health by Greg Isaacs

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

Lots of stuff in my mailbox this week since it was my birthday on Wednesday and I always ask for books for my birthday:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron
The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley
51 Wacky We-Search Reports: Face the Facts with Fun! by Barry lane
The Giggly Guide to Grammar: Serious Grammar with a Sense of Humor by Cathy Campbell
The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood/Illustrated by Renata Liwska
Dracula in Love by Karen Essex (received in a giveaway from Ibeeeg at Polishing Mud Balls)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Happy Haul-idays

Chronicle Books is giving away a very generous gift for the holidays. Create a wish list of their books on your blog and one lucky blogger will win up to $500 worth of their books. Head on over to their Happy Haul-idays website to get started!

Comment on this entry, and if I win, one lucky commenter will also win my wish list, too.

At Home with Michael Chiarello: Easy Entertaining: Recipes, Ideas, Inspiration
Chicken Big by Keith Graves
D.I.Y. Delicious: Recipes and Ideas for Simple Food from Scratch by Vanessa Barrington and Sara Remington
The Book of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks: A Celebration of Creative Punctuation by Bethany Keely
Photobooth Dogs by Cameron Woo
Never Bite When a Growl Will Do by Michael Nastasi
Feel Better Little Buddy: Animals with Casts by Julia Segal
Tapas by Joyce Goldstein
Anna Getty's Easy Green Organic: Cook Well - Eat Well - Live Well
You Know You're a Writer When... by Adair Lara
A Pig in Provence by Georgeanne Brennan

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers. - from Goodreads

This book picks up the discussion where Speak left off. It's really meant to educate young men that a lack of the word "no!" does not equate to a "yes."

You see the purpose of this book on p. 103 when the main character Alex, says the following:
I've thought about rape before. I pictured it happening to me. A dark alley, some rough guy I don't know who's five times my size grabs me and forces me to my knees, a knife to my throat. Sometimes I'd picture it happening in my house while everyone was asleep. He'd come in through my window and hover above me. I'd be startled awake, pinned down in my own bed, everything I know that's right in the world ripped out of my chest.

That is rape.

I know rape is something else too. It's just I always thought of it in a very specific way - with a very specific kind of attacker - not in a way I'd have to defend, not in a way where I'd have to preface everything with "I was drunk, really drunk."

This book is rife with great discussion points and was inspired by Whitney's personal experience in college. It would be an awesome book club selection and an even better in-class read for high school students.

I do have one criticism of the book, which is that the Mockingbirds' sense of justice, while fair and understandable given the circumstances at the school, did not feel plausible to me. At the same time, the plausibility of The Mockingbirds was not the purpose of the book. The discussion that it spurs and the new understandings that it will bring to a generation of teens is far more important than whether or not The Mockingbirds' mission could ever happen at a real boarding school.

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
Published: November 2, 2010
Pages: 352
Genre: Realistic fiction
Audience: YA

Friday, November 12, 2010

Drive : The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Forget everything you thought you knew about how to motivate people--at work, at school, at home. It's wrong. As Daniel H. Pink explains in his new and paradigm-shattering book, the secret to high performance and satisfaction in today's world is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does - and how that affects every aspect of our lives. He demonstrates that while the old-fashioned carrot-and-stick approach worked successfully in the 20th century, it's precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today's challenges. In Drive, he reveals the three elements of true motivation:

# Autonomy - the desire to direct our own lives
# Mastery - the urge to get better and better at something that matters
# Purpose- the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a bold way forward. - from Goodreads

This book was mainly written for people in the business world, but the research presented here has direct, sobering implications on education as well. My hope is that many administrators, CEOs, upper-level managers, and anyone in leadership positions will read this book. The old model of external motivation that Pink refers to as "If/then Rewards" ("If you do this, then you'll get this...") is found consistently again and again to subvert motivation and actually prevent us from doing our best work.

Yet businesses and schools across America continue to use this old model of motivation (Motivation 2.0 as Pink likes to call it... Motivation 1.0 is merely cave-man survival) in an attempt to keep us compliant.

Compliance will no longer get the job done. We must do better. We must create autonomy in our work environments rather than managerial control over minions. Drive gives us the knowledge and tools to make that happen. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, when you know better, you do better.
Let's hope many people read this book so they can know better to do better.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates
Us by Daniel H. Pink
Published: December 2009 by Riverhead Hardcover
Pages: 256
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Adults in business or education

Thinking About Christmas Cards

I had a dream last night that my husband and I were in Moscow, admiring the wonder and beauty of Red Square. We snapped a self-portrait of ourselves in front of the awe-inspiring St. Basil's cathedral I turned to him and said, "This is going to look awesome on our Christmas cards this year. We'll title it 'From Russia with love.'"

So I was actually bummed when I woke up this morning and realized I won't have that cool picture to put on our Christmas card this year.

At least Shutterfly is willing to hook us all up this year with awesome holiday card designs on the off chance that none of us have that awesome bucket list photo that will make us the envy of our friends and family. This way at least, you'll be the envy of everyone with the best looking design, even if the picture itself won't turn them green.

Shutterfly is one of my favorite websites for ordering photo cards or photo gifts of any kind. Their designs are sleek and classy and often go beyond just the basic 4x8 photo card that you can get at the one-hour photo kiosk at the drug store.

Choosing the card I want to use this year has taken me many hours of perusing the Shutterfly website. I'm still not sure which one I will use in the end, but so far I'm leaning toward this one:

The final decision, however, has yet to be made.

Interested in using Shutterfly for your holiday cards this year? Get 50 free cards by mentioning them in your blog.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

One More Reason Why You Tube is Made of Awesome

I saw these guys on Rachael Ray on Friday and it is one of the coolest YouTube videos I've ever seen. Who knew you could play in a band with just an iPhone?

Win a free gift subscription to National Geographic Traveler

I subscribe to many different travel magazines, but my absolute favorite is National Geographic Traveler. The articles are informative and are targeted for all types of travelers, not just the ones with mounds of money or just the budget traveler. The pages also have a pleasant, easy-to-follow layout.

Every year around this time, magazines offer free gift subscriptions with the renewal for your own subscription. I thought I'd offer up my free gift subscription to National Geographic Traveler here on my blog.

If you're interested, fill out the form at the bottom and then post a comment sharing one of your favorite travel memories. For US residents only. Please respond before 10 PM EST on November 12, 2010

One of my favorite travel memories is of walking along the East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany. It's the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall that's still standing and is the longest outdoor art gallery. Along this stretch of wall was a little souvenir stand where you could pay a euro to get your passport stamped with a former East German checkpoint stamp. Every time I open my passport and see that stamp, all of the wonderful memories of my time in Berlin come flooding back to me. It is, to this day, my favorite city on earth. It has the most exciting energy of any city I've never visited (that includes New York) and yet, even with all that youthful vibrancy, it still firmly holds hands with the past.

Tomato-less Tabbouleh

I am a huge fan of the middle eastern parsley and bulghur salad known as tabbouleh (that my brother no-so-affectionately refers to as "mowed grass"). There's just one problem: I hate tomatoes and tabbouleh is always rife with them. So I decided to make my own - omitting the tomatoes. The problem with omitting the tomatoes though, is that it lacked a punch of color. So I replaced the green onions for red onions. The results were delicious and this will be the recipe I always use to make tabbouleh from now on:

Beth's Tomato-less Tabbouleh - adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat

1 cup medium bulghur
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup EVOO
1 cup parsley
1/4 cup mint
1/2 cup minced red onions
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the bulghur in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain.

2. Put bulghur in a serving dish and pour over lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

3. Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley and mint.

4. Throw herbs into the dressed bulghur and stir in minced red onions. Toss and add more salt, lemon juice, and/or oil if needed.

IMM (3)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Received with my Scholastic Bonus Points:
Slob by Ellen Potter
Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford
The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs by Cynthia Defelice
Ghostopolis by Doug TenApel
Murder at Midnight by Avi
The Red Blazer Girls by Michael D. Beil
Swindle & Zoobreak by Gordon Korman
The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts
Civil War Spies: Behind Enemy Lines by Camilla J. Wilson
Night Fires by George Edward Stanley
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Library Loot:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (audiobook)
Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences by Kitty burns Florey
Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School written and illustrated by Mark Teague
John, Paul, George, and Ben written and illustrated by Lane Smith
Flotsam illustrated by David Wiesner
Tuesday by David Wiesner

Purchased from my library's used bookstore:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
The Power of Un by Nancy Etchemendy
Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibboston
The Grey King by Susan Cooper
Specials by Scott Westerfeld
Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery
Listen! by Stephanie S. Tolan
Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez
Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop

In My Mailbox:
The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thorton (received from author)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna was 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. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris — until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend. - from Goodreads

There ARE good romance novels out there. They're not all trash and cliches. I just want to give Stephanie Perkins a big hug for writing a smart, worthwhile romance that will still make young teenage girls swoon with delight, yet also help them understand that relationships involve work along with give and take, not just a complete sacrificing of yourself for the vampire with the perfectly chiseled face and skin as cold as marble. *coughcoughTwilightcoughcough*

The story had the same vibe of a beloved When Harry Met Sally type of romance but with a little French Kiss thrown in for good measure.

I adored all of the characters in this novel and wished they were real people so I could be friends with them. The dialogue felt so free and easy and not the least bit contrived. I especially loved the development of Anna and St. Clair's relationship and how it starts with friendship and blossoms from that rather than just her drooling over his golden locks and beautiful face. That's not to say that there isn't a fair amount of swooning over looks in this book. It's just done so in a way that enhances the relationship rather than making you feel like that is the only thing their relationship is built upon.

I also really loved how perfectly accurate Perkins portrays the experience of someone moving overseas and the feelings that go along with it - starting with homesickness, self-consciousness over not being able to speak the language, then evolving to the return home and the expectations that things will be the same only to be disappointed that people didn't put their lives on hold for you and then look down on you because you've changed. I experienced all of the same things Anna experienced when I lived in Germany for two years so I fully appreciated how real that aspect of the book was.

This was a brilliant debut from a hugely likable new author. I can't wait to read more of her books! That's always the hard part of following an author from the start of their career: you have to wait a really long time to read more of their books.

My mark of an awesome book is the entire time you're reading, you're ticked off at yourself for not thinking of the idea for the story first. And that is what I was thinking as I was reading. All I could think in my head was, "Awww man! I so wish I would've thought to write this book first!"

If you need a feel good book that won't make you gag (even the romance haters), then run out and purchase Anna and the French Kiss on December 2nd!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Publish Date: December 2, 2010 by Dutton (ARC requested from publisher)
Pages: 372
Genre: Realistic fiction/chick lit
Audience: YA