3.26.2011

Diana Wynne Jones

I want to write something beautiful or magical in memory of this wonderful lady. But I really just can't. I feel horribly inarticulate, like I can't express anything correctly. I feel like whatever I say is going to come out warped, not quite coming across as it should. I'm too sad--so incredibly sad.

Diana Wynne Jones is and always will be my favorite author. She's the reason I read. Her books are what made me believe in fantasy, in writing, in reading, in the world.

I want to write so many things about DWJ; paragraphs about every book I loved by her, sentences about the sense of wonder she instilled in me, lines about those countless hours I spent re-reading every word she ever published. I want to somehow capture what she means to me as an author. I'd like to express how much the news devastated me.

I wept when I heard. I haven't ever met her, but her books--oh, they're just everything to me.

Diana Wynne Jones is prolific and wonderful. She needs to be known and read. The best way to honor her is to love her works.

I hope I am honoring her. I wish I had more words in me for this post, but today, they've failed me. I know I can say with certainty that my life would not have been the same without her books--it would not have quite as much magic in it, quite as much hope.

Thank you for that, Diana Wynne Jones. I will never stop reading your books, and I will never stop loving them.

RIP.

3.13.2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

I woke up today thinking, holy smoley, I need to write a blog post. What happened to my New Year's Resolution to post nearly daily? What a blogging fail.

I think life is moving too quickly for me (whaaa? I'm going to graduate from high school soon? I'm going to college?!), but also horrifically slowly (why do the days drag by slower than snails?).

I really should blog to fill that time up.

Anyways, a few weeks ago I was hyperventilating over Anna and the French Kiss. Reviews were uniformly glorious. I hopped to Book Depository, ordered, and it soon showed up on my door step, wrapped and bundled up. I read it last week.

Which brings me to this present day. Lately I've been feeling a bit deflated because, *drum roll* I gave up chocolate for lent. WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF HOW COULD I GIVE UP MY TITULAR LOVE? NOOO000oooo!!!. So far, this has NOT been going well. *is in chocolate withdrawal*

*rolls around in pain and heartache*

*soul cries out*

Ahem.

Review time.

Book Summary:

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 √Čtienne St. Claire: 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?

My Opinion:

Anna and the French Kiss starts out slow. In particular, the first three chapters drag by at a glacial pace, as the narrator busies herself with filling in backstory. However, the novel soon picks up speed, and by the end manages to overcome most of its flaws and standout as one of YA's funnest romance reads of the year.

I am jealous of Anna. Oh, how I wish that my parents had packed me off to boarding school in history-soaked Paris, bakery goods and beautiful architecture everywhere, the ambiance of another country to fill my days. An experience like that would have quite honestly made my life, so at first I could not relate to the homesickness and resentful moping Anna felt as she acclimated to her new environment. Of course, many teenage girls would feel the same way as her and all in all, Anna is a pretty realistic character, which is the most important thing. I appreciated that she had a real passion--film--in her life, and ambitions to become something when she was older. I appreciated that her dialogue wasn't stilted or forced, that she thought like a teenage girl, that she had insecurities and flaws that added to her characterization. Above all, I found her relatable and likable, if a bit humdrum.

I'm not so sure about the other characters though. I know that Etienne is supposed to the ultimate love interest, but I didn't really care for him. He seemed a little too, I don't know, perfect. How many teenage boys exist like him? I really think they're a rare, if not extinct, breed. But I guess a suspension of belief on my part is needed, and the fact that he seems like a relatively caring, sweet person really negates a lot of the realism problems. The thing is, though, that as the story progressed, and Anna fell more and more in love with him, to the point of blind devotion, I couldn't help but wonder how unreliable Anna is with her observations of him. We're presented with this perfect semblance of a teenage guy: nice hair, an English accent, extremely intelligent, caring. Yet, his actions are anything but. If you pause and really think about him objectively-- fuzzy descriptions aside-- he's actually quite a jerk. He strings Anna along (a later explanation of continuous misunderstandings didn't really convince me) for much of the book. He flirts with other girls. He basically is leading Anna on, while he has a serious girlfriend that he won't break up with. I have to ask, isn't that cheating? Isn't breaking up with the girl you're not in love with anymore the decent thing to do before you start gallivanting around town?

I don't know, that just strikes me as a horrid thing to do, whatever Anna tells me.

This book posed a few interesting questions for me as a reader. Am I just not a romance reader, since I often find such issues with the idealized guy? Am I just cynical? Is the devotion Anna has in anyway similar to the devotion paranormal main characters have for their immortal boyfriends that I find so troubling? How do you differentiate between love and obsession?

I think I mostly got the impression of love out of Anna and the French Kiss. What really saved the book was the gradual development of the relationship, the fact that they were friends first, that Anna helps Etienne through a hard time because she cares about him, not because he's got a pretty face. I think what separates this book from most YA romance is the fact that the relationship is mostly based on the two's actions for each other, not how hot or physically attracted they are to each other.

And that makes all the difference.

The one thing I thought was unrealistic: the college application process described. The timing was way off for when Anna got her acceptances, unless she got early notification, and it really wasn't explained at all, or explained vaguely. I found it strange that Anna kinda underhandedly decided about the whole thing without telling the reader about it. I mean, if you're going to move from Paris across to the other side of the country that you're normally from, I think that'd factor into your thoughts during senior year. At least a little bit, I'd hope.

Ultimately, as much as a I complain, I can't deny that I had a wonderful time reading the book, and was caught up in the romance and most of all, her experience in Paris. Perkins has a gift for making her main character really develop, though many of the secondary characters did not come to life and were not as well-formed as Anna. I loved that Anna grew out of her hermitly ways and really blossomed. It was quite a nice thing to read about, and the relationship portrayed was endlessly complicated and interesting.

My Rating: 8.25/10. A good book, overall. I appreciated the many barbs against Nicholas Sparks types (ie Anna's Dad), too.
ETA: I think most readers will enjoy it more than I did, so yes, I do recommend it :)

3.04.2011

life as a book sniffer

I have a confession to make.

I sniff books.

Please, don't judge. Don't look askance. Stop raising your internet eyebrows in judgmental ridges, I say!

I can't help it. And may I ask:

HAS BOOK SNIFFING EVER HURT A SOUL?

I say no. (Unless of course, someone was allergic to a ink printed on a page and died tragically as they inhaled. )

It's an innocent enough act, once explained.

THE MECHANICS OF BOOK-SNIFFING

1. IN THE MIDST OF READING

I will be sprawled on the couch or perhaps lying on bed, with a good book in hand, scanning the lines, letting them wash over me in waves of language.


2. ONE OR TWO FATES WILL INEVITABLY THEN OCCUR:


a) My eyes will close, my arms crumple, and the weighty tome falls haphazardly comes to rest on my nose, whereupon I breathe in the musty scent of an inky-splashed book sniff delicately at the spine.

b) I come to the end of the chapter, and feel the need to spring nimble as a lame deer (i.e. fall) to my bookshelf, and sniff, just to see if the area surrounding my bookshelf is yet acquiring that bookstore-eque SMELL. That of thousands of pages nesting close together with stories winding through them.

My disappointed verdict, as always: Nope, doesn't smell bookish yet.





3. SMELLING EUPHORIA

I think a particularly good book tends to smell better than others. But all books smell--beyond their material scent, of their contents. Move beyond the mundane ink and paper descriptions and transcend your nasal limitations!

Doesn't Harry Potter smell a bit like, uhhh, MAGICAL WONDER?

Doesn't Hunger Games smell a bit like FRENZIED ACTION?

Doesn't I am the Messenger smell a bit like, uhh,COMING-OF-AGE?

Doesn't The Road smell a bit desperate and dusty (oh, wait, that might just be because of the two-feet dust layer over my room...)

I say thus to you naysayers: smells absolutely should be nonsensically conflated with feelings and ideas. Yes.


*A CONCLUSION IN WHICH THIS POST BRIEFLY MAKES SENSE*

In some strange way the scent of books is comforting. (:

I do really love that new book smell of bookstores, though. Always makes me pause when I step through the threshold of Barnes & Noble. *sigh*

Do you too enjoy the scent of books?