Genre: Contemporary

Falling in Love with Books: Anna and the French Kiss

Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

We have a real treat today: My New England blogger friend, Andi from Andi’s ABC, is guest posting for Falling in Love with Books! She’s sharing a book that is perfect for Valentine’s Day, and yes, she wants you to fall in love with:

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. Enjoy!

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When Katie was doing sign-ups for this she tweeted me and said she hoped I signed up because she knew what book I would do. Anyone that knows me knows which book I would do. I’m pretty predictable when asked to do a guest post about a book I love and want other people to love. I consistently pick the same book and I’m not the least bit ashamed by this. What book is it you ask?

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I first read Anna back in December of 2010 as a suggestion from a friend. To say I fell in love is a huge understatement. I devoured the whole book in about a day and it just made me feel good. It made me smile and it made my heart ache and it made me yearn for that kind of crush and that kind of friendship and that kind of love. It transported me to Paris and made me feel like I was a part of their lives and I am so grateful to Stephanie Perkins for that.

Since that first reading I have read Anna in print and audio a total of 10 more times.

It is oddly gratifying to find a book that you love that much, that can make you feel that much. Honestly I love a good reread. It’s something I have done for years, but I have to really truly love a book to want to read it as much as I read this one. I have to feel something to really want to immerse myself in the world again and again and Anna and the French Kiss does that to me and I think it will do that to you too. Between the characters, the romance, the setting and the story telling you will fall in love it. I can almost guarantee it.

And to show you just how much I love it, here is a look at my current collection:

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Thanks, Andi! Now that sounds like a book worth falling in love with! I adore Andi’s collection, and my collection of Anne of Green Gables editions is growing…I wonder if I might reach this standard of excellence…

Have you read Anna? Are you planning to? I have to admit that I am going to start reading this book on Sunday…It will be my first read! And it’s going to be freezing here on Valentine’s Day so I anticipate reading, sipping coffee, and maybe eating chocolate cake…

What Katie Read

ARC Illumination: Everything, Everything (2015) by Nicola Yoon

ARC Illumination: Everything, Everything (2015) by Nicola YoonEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Published by Random House Children's Books on September 3rd 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Love & Romance, Family, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.

Happy August, readers! The blog has been on a bit of a hiatus due to my pretty busy teaching load this summer, but I’m happy to say that I’m gradually returning back. I have loads of books to tell you about, and I’m sure you’re also anxious about getting Part 2 of my ALA recap! I’m eager to post it. More updates coming soon, but first, I must tell you about Everything, Everything!

What an impressive and beautiful book. Many of my friends on Twitter and Goodreads had been raving about this one, and the unique premise (along with the cover) really drew me to this debut. I was thankful to pick up a Print ARC at ALA, and I was almost jumping for joy at getting a matching tote. Upon arriving home, this is one of the first books I picked up, and without further ado, let’s get to my thoughts on this September release YA!

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What I Loved:

The creative narrative structure: Drawings, e-mails, air quality reports, and chat room dialogues pepper the narrative of Everything, Everything and I loved it! I think this creativity added a depth and richness to the story that wouldn’t have been achieved without these unique additions.

The voice of the MC: Maddy is endearing, curious, and sometimes fearful. But she’s willing to take a risk on her next door neighbor, Olly. And the fact is, “He’s not safe. He’s not familiar. He’s in constant motion. He’s the biggest risk I’ve ever taken.” Of course, we cheer Maddy on, and though this isn’t a thriller, I feel like I was on the edge of my seat waiting for this couple to get together. Would Olly brave the air lock room and the decontamination in order to see Maddy, who’s allergic to almost everything in the outside world? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out…

The depiction of conflict: Every relationship, if it’s an authentic and close one, will endure conflict of some sort. That’s what happens when people are real with one another. Whether it’s between Maddy and her mom or Maddy and Olly, the dialogue, emails, and chat transcripts in the book illuminate the ups and downs of these connections. As Maddy is growing up, and eventually trying to hide her connection with Olly from her mother, she inevitably drifts apart from her mother in order to make her own way in the world. It’s astounding, in some ways, thinking about how much Maddy is missing in her life just due to the fact that she is confined to a very small space, and isn’t allowed outside. Or…she might die. Her mother and her “nurse” are the two people she mostly sees everyday. Until Olly comes along—the boy next door. Then, everything changes. Everything. But this change is good. Even though the changes that ensue are painful at times, they prove to be the best kind of changes that happen for Maddy.

Illuminations of Spirituality:

Madeleine gradually opens up to the idea of love in her life—romantic love, that is, and it takes an immense amount of courage for her to do so. But Olly is such a sensitive friend to Madeleine, and he seems to understand her fears and trepidation. I think this reflects a spiritual aspect of the book in that it highlights the way people make room for our weaknesses and fears—true friends will understand that sometimes it’s a journey for a relationship to blossom. Nurturing has to take place, and when we’re in tune with the spiritual part of our selves—that aspect that is in tune to other people’s unvoiced fears, we can be more sensitive in our connections and interactions. The book really dives into the characters—Madeleine, her Mother, Olly—the result is a beautiful character driven story that illuminates the power and magic of love. Also: of growing up. Growing up is an essential part of life, and for Madeleine, it brings some pain. Especially in relation to discoveries she makes. No spoilers here, but there are some painful points in the story. It’s realistic in that it depicts the ups and downs of figuring out who you are and what you want right in the middle of some of the most confusing years: the teenage ones.

“Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love.”

“You can’t predict the future. It turns out that you can’t predict the past either. Time moves in both directions – forward and backward – and what happens here and now changes them both.”

Spoiler alert: Love is worth everything. Everything.”

Who Should Read This Book:

Readers who enjoy young adult contemporaries would most assuredly enjoy this novel featuring a protagonist with a unique medical condition. It’s character driven, yes, but there are plenty of significant interactions, even a tropical vacation, what’s not to love about Maddy and Olly? I know I’ll be thinking about these characters for a long time, and that ending was just perfect!

The Final Illumination:

One thing I love about this book (among other things) is the cover! Isn’t it stunning? What a wonderful choice on the part of the cover designers because it seems (to me) to encapsulate part of the story’s theme. Where once life was dull with very little change and variety, new relationships can open up dimension and depth and detail and color…

What did you think of Everything, Everything? Are you planning on reading it when it releases in September? Drop by my Twitter account where I’ll have a Preorder Giveaway going on for the book!

five-stars
What Katie Read

Mini Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (2015) by Stephanie Oakes

Mini Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (2015) by Stephanie OakesThe Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Published by Penguin on June 9th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Physical & Emotional Abuse, Religious
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

A hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in yourself The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too. Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.Gorgeously written, breathlessly page-turning and sprinkled with moments of unexpected humor, this harrowing debut is perfect for readers of Emily Murdoch's If You Find Me and Nova Ren Suma's The Walls Around Us, as well as for fans of Orange is the New Black.From the Hardcover edition.

This book is definitely one of my favorite reads for 2015 so far. It’s a gripping story about seventeen year-old Minnow Bly who has just emerged from a cult in the woods—the Kevinian cult (named after the Prophet who founded it, Kevin).

Minnow is in a juvenile detention center for attacking a boy she encountered after she left the cult. However, she is one of the only people who knows how the Prophet died and what happened that last night in the community (which burned to the ground).

That’s why an FBI agent begins visiting her, in an attempt to piece together what happened. But will Minnow reveal anything? That’s a question readers will be wondering about throughout the narrative, a story that is compelling, beautiful, and tragic, but ultimately hopeful. 

I read a huge chunk of this book on a plane journey, and it’s the perfect book for a long road or plane trip because you will want to keep reading in an attempt to find out what happened that last night with the community of the Kevinian cult.

A few things I loved about this book:

Stephanie Oakes, the Wordsmith: The prose of this novel is gorgeous! It’s no surprise to me that the author has an MFA in Poetry—you may find yourself re-reading passages, reflecting symbolic language that features gaps where meaning can be mined. Trust me—there are so many passages in this book you’ll want to highlight and return to later.

The Spirituality: So, it makes sense that a book focusing on a girl emerging from a cult would feature talk about spirituality and religion. It’s clear that the cult Minnow’s family was a part of was abusive and terrible in so many ways (let’s not talk about Minnow’s hands getting cut off—don’t get me started!) but that doesn’t mean that Minnow stops wondering about the existence of God and who made the stars and how God works. There are multiple points in the story where Minnow is talking to others or thinking about the big questions of meaning so many of us don’t ask or think about often enough.

The Hope: There are a lot of dark and sad events in this book—I won’t lie. That includes events that happen prior to the beginning of the book, and are featured through flashbacks of Minnow. Some majorly intense happenings took place within the cult community, and it might make you really mad. But in spite of the twisted beliefs and actions of those in the Kevinian cult, Minnow still manages to keep an open mind, and an underlying hope (as much as it sometimes doesn’t seem like she does). Minnow is coming to grips with the fact that the world may not look the way “The Prophet” said it did. God may be different than who he was constructed to be within the cult. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that the narrative is seeped in hope, even in the midst of some very difficult circumstances for Minnow and others.

Quotes I Loved

“Everybody around me was in pain, I realize now, but none of them ever poured it out of themselves into another person. Jude taught me what love was: to be willing to hold on to another person’s pain. That’s it.”

“We have to be happy to keep searching and not knowing all the time.”

“If it’s possible to have a soul, mine was steel-plated and invincible that night, and I think that’s what love does, makes you strong. Makes you think nothing can bring you down.”

This books get all the stars—a solid 5. I’ve already recommended it to multiple readers, but what about you? Did you read Minnow Bly’s story? What did you think?
five-stars
What Katie Read
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