Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

By Stephanie Perkins
Published by Dutton Books, a member of Penguin group, in 2010
Format: Hardcover (372 pages)

Anna and the French Kiss

How I heard about this book: Several friends on twitter/blogs
How I got a copy: From the library
Why I wanted to read it: I’m trying to read more YA books, and several people whose opinion I trust raved about how fantastic it was.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars (I’m buying my copy this week!)

Intended Audience: Young Adults
Genre: YA/chicklit
Themes: romance, infatuation, doubt, discovery, friends

Parental Warnings: Sex is mentioned a few times, but it isn't part of the story. There are several instances of drunken behavior. One very strong curse word is used several times near the end of the book.

First Line: Here is everything I know about France: Madeline and Amélie and Moulin Rouge.

I can’t remember the last time I stayed up all night to finish a book, but I couldn’t put this one down. I finally closed the covers just after 5:30 am and managed to get about three hours of sleep.

The author does a fantastic job of capturing the voice of Anna, a senior in High School sent to boarding school in France for her final year. You hear her tone and cadence. You feel her uncertainty and doubt. She does not want to be in Paris. She left behind her brother, her best friend, her great job at the multiplex, and the cute boy at the multiplex…all because her Dad wants to impress the people in Hollywood (he’s a big time writer whose books have been turned into movies). She’s alone and scared and living in a city where she doesn’t speak the language.

But she makes friends quickly. The second person she meets is the wonderfully handsome and eternally likeable Etienne St. Clair. She falls head over heels for him, but he has serious girlfriend. How will she juggle her feelings and their friendship? And what about the boy back home? Anna isn’t perfect, but who is, especially at seventeen.

The Latin quarter of the city and her life at school are breezily laid out. At times, her inner monologue is melodramatic as she analyzes every possible meaning of something that was said or done. (I totally remember being that way). The dialogue is flirty and funny and effortlessly cool. I laughed out loud so many times, and I lost count of how many favorite passages I had. Although the story is predicable, it doesn’t detract at all from the storytelling. This was such a fun, easy read. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I really enjoyed it. The YA/chick lit/lite romance isn't my typical genre at all, but I would recommend this to any girl out there.

Do you want another point of view? This review and others can be found at

My thoughts on the cover: It's all right, but Etienne is too tall. And although the Eiffel Tower is THE landmark for Paris, it's only mentioned once in the book. Notre Dame would have been better, even if it's less recognizable.

1. 2011 YA Reading Challenge from Jamie's Bookshelf
2. The TwentyEleven Challenge from Bart's Bookshelf (To YA or not to YA)

   The TwentyEleven Challenge

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review: Packing For Mars

PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
By: Mary Roach
Published By: W.W. Norton & Co in August 2010
Format: Hardcover (318 pages, excluding Acknowledgements & Bibliography)

How I heard about this book: On twitter (I think)
How I got a copy: From the library
Why I wanted to read it: I love science, especially space

Intended Audience: Adults, Science Geeks
Genre: Non-fiction, Science
Rating: 3.75 stars (out of 5)

Summary: Descriptions of how astronauts prepare for outer space and what it would be like to live there. 

First Impressions: I was confused when I first started reading for two reasons. First, there wasn't a real introduction to what the book was really about. Yes, it's inside the front sleeve of the book jacket, but I consider that a summary, not an introduction, which I felt this book needed. Why? Because of the second reason: it wasn't what was expecting. What was I expecting? Based on the title, information on what it would be like travel in outerspace (which the author covers fantastically and with much detail), the dangers and obstacles of travelling to Mars (it's a long way away and takes a long time to get there and come back), and the preparations needed to make such a voyage safe and successful (both of which were only touched on very briefly).

Final Impressions: Once I stopped tripping over my expectations, I really enjoyed the book for what it is. I'm a science nerd (especially when it comes to space and astronomy), and I appreciate all of the research that went into writing such a detailed book. It covers how NASA prepares it's astronauts for space, including a lot of testing and studies to understand the impact space will have on the human body and how to cope and survive. It discusses hygiene, weightlessness, motion sickness, eating, bone loss, and more. It has first hand accounts from astronauts about some of the pleasures and difficulties. It definitely strips away the glamor of being an astronaut, but it still left me in awe.

This past Thursday (2/24), the space shuttle Discovery was launched on her final mission. She docks with the ISS today and will be there for a week. There are two other flights planned (Atlantis & Endeavor) and then NASA's shuttle fleet will be retired. The focus will then shift to building a craft that can fly beyond the moon, possibly to Mars.

A favorite quote from the book: "According to more than one astronaut memoir, one of the most beautiful sights in space is that of a sun-illuminated flurry of flash-frozen waste-water droplets. Space doesn't just encompass the sublime and the ridiculous. It erases the line between. (pg. 19)"

Do I recommend this book? Yes, especially to people who enjoy science and space.
Would I read another book by this author? Yes.

Do you want another point of view? This review and others can be found at

2011 Non-Fiction Challenge by The Broke and The Bookish (Category: Science/Nature)