Aha, yes, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Thoughts on recently-read books, some more detailed than others.
Stephanie Perkins – Anna and the French Kiss
This debut from Stephanie Perkins is adorable, and funny, and sweet, and painful, and deeply deeply romantic. Anna is spending her senior year of high school at an American boarding school in Paris (Paris!) but despite appreciating that it’s, you know, Paris, she’s also nervous about being in a new city alone, without speaking the language, and wishes she’d been given a choice. Very quickly, though, she makes friends, including the delicious Etienne (actually British, despite the French name), who she very quickly falls for. Trouble is, he has a girlfriend. The will-they-won’t-they plot is handled beautifully, woven in throughout Anna’s other friendships and relationships (both in Paris and back home in Atlanta) and her exploration of Paris. I loved that Etienne was a history nerd (not the exact phrasing used in the book, but, oh, gosh, he so is, and it’s delightful), and afraid of heights, and so very much not perfect. Theirs is a very messy but very authentic and sweet story, and one that’s definitely worth reading. (Plus. Boarding school. In Paris. These things make me happy.)
(Also – there is a bonus scene on the author’s website in which Star Trek is discussed. Oh my.)
David Levithan & Rachel Cohn – Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares
Another collaboration between Levithan and Cohn, a he-said she-said romance which travels around New York and mentions The Strand bookstore an awful lot. I loved reading this – it’s full of the usual quirky, insightful teen characters that you’d expect from these two, but it also let me live vicariously through them and do Christmas-in-New-York. Worth reading.
Melissa Hill – Something From Tiffany’s
This was another book with a Christmas-in-New-York part, strangely enough, though it concentrates on the less bookish corners. After an accident, two Tiffany’s boxes get mixed up, and widower Ethan, who’d been planning to propose to his new girlfriend, instead finds a charm bracelet. Meanwhile, restaurant co-owner Rachel can’t stop herself from peeking in her boyfriend Gary’s Christmas shopping – and when she finds a ring she’s absolutely delighted. The mix-up scenario, and the fall-out from it, is made plausible, and there are a few extra twists and turns along the way. Highly enjoyable.
Melvin Burgess – Kill All Enemies
To be honest, every time I’d heard about this book it had been linked with the London riots, so my impression of it before reading was that it was some kind of dystopian nightmare. It isn’t – it’s the story of three teenagers in PRUs (pupil referral units) in England, the acting-out types who all have reasons for it. Much more optimistic than I was expecting, and well worth checking out.
Ella Griffin – Postcards from the Heart
Fun, readable and moving chick-lit from a debut author. Really enjoyed this and looking forward to her next book in 2012.
Orla Tinsley – Salty Baby
I found this fascinating – a life of illness and campaigning but also much more generally about growing up in Ireland and having passions and interests and being stubborn. I know other people have noted this, but it would have been so easy to present a sanitised, polished, glossed-over life here. Instead it’s incredibly honest. Tinsley doesn’t always come across as the nicest, saintliest person, but it makes for a much more interesting read this way.
Cecelia Ahern – The Book of Tomorrow
The first Cecelia Ahern book I’d ever read – particularly drawn to this one as it has a pretty cover and is about a teenager rather than a proper grown-up. Tamara’s father has just died, and she and her mother move to the country to live with her aunt and uncle, near the ruins of a castle. The take on Celtic Tiger Dublin is really well handled – in some ways I’d have loved to see this as a realistic teen novel rather than chick-lit with a magical twist. Tamara finds a book, a diary, that reveals what’s going to happen the next day, but that device is less important than all the secrets lurking beneath the surface of the family and the castle. The ending felt like a little too much, pushing the bounds of plausibility even as far as the story’s world was concerned, but until then it was an interesting read.
Maria Duffy – Any Dream Will Do
Very cool to see Maria Duffy’s first book out so quickly! Jenny Breslin has Twitter friends on their way to stay with her – but she’s never met any of them in real life before and is a little concerned how things might go. Rightly so, as it turns out – they’ve all got secrets of their own, things they haven’t been 100% honest about on the internet. Fun, funny and fast-paced – a great holiday read.
Jennifer Weiner – Then Came You
The story of a surrogate pregnancy as told from the points of view of the rich mother, the egg donor, the surrogate, and the half-sister. There’s a rich backstory for everyone involved and it all comes together beautifully in the end. I’ve heard so many great things about Jennifer Weiner’s books – will definitely be reading more of them after this one.
Leigh Fallon – Carrier of the Mark
Paranormal romance centred about an American girl who comes to live in Ireland. Picked up mostly for the setting – there are a couple of nifty scenes in Trinity, especially.
Jeff Kinney – Diary of a Wimpy Kid #6: Cabin Fever
Funny as ever. It’s holiday season, and Greg’s looking for a way to make money. Disaster inevitably ensues.