I am disgruntled today, and it is because I stayed up until after 3 a.m. to finish reading your wonderful debut novel, Anna andDear Stephanie Perkins:
I am disgruntled today, and it is because I stayed up until after 3 a.m. to finish reading your wonderful debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss. It is entirely unfair that your story was just that good at hooking me into the novel that I couldn't quite muster the willpower to put it down. It is extremely wrong that the writing was so terrific that my brain staved off ordinary sleepiness AND the two Tylenol PMs that I took to help with arthritis pains. I took those Tylenol at midnight, by the by, and they usually have a soporific effect in about 20 minutes, so more than three hours of additional alertness is unusual.
Any disgruntlement (is that a word?) is, however, completely overbalanced by the complete joy I have over reading a contemporary YA romance novel that gets so very many things right. Maybe it's the lack of sleep talking, but I didn't find anything wrong in there. Wait - I know there was this one sentence where I questioned the phrasing, but seriously, that was it. (And hey, you have a phenomenal editor, so it's probably I who is mistaken. Also, it's a sentence kind of like that, and now I'm wondering if "is" should be "am". *headdesk*)
I loved Anna. I loved her voice and her spirit. I loved that her father was Nicholas Sparks James Ashley, who churns out stories (that become movies) about people who fall in love, get cancer, then die, and that she's appalled by him and his books. I loved that she was so fiercely devoted to her much-younger brother, Sean, and that she proved to be that way with friends like Bridgette (at least until Christmas) and Meredith. I loved that she was so funny. I loved that she made horrifying mistakes in judgment and was too blind to see what every. single. person around her knew all year, because it rings so very true to life, and that she was willing to do what she could to put things right.
And I love Étienne St. Clair, the beautiful boy with the fabulous hair who turns out to be Anna's hero (in more ways than one). Wanna know where I fell in love with this book? (Not with Anna or Étienne, but with your book?) It was this bit from page 16:
The beautiful boy gives an amused grin. His teeth are lovely -- straight on top and crooked on the bottom, with a touch of overbite. I'm a sucker for smiles like this, due to my own lack of orthodontia. I have a gap between my front teeth the size of a raisin.
"Étienne," he says. "I live one floor up."
"I live here." I point dumbly at my room while my mind whirs: French name, English accent, American school. Anna confused.[Italics are mine.]
Yeah, right there - while I was teetering before then, that last bit clinched it for me, and henceforth and forevermore I was in love with your book. But I digress.
I should be saying more about the beautiful Étienne, who is kind and smart and so obviously into Anna that it's hilarious that she wonders if he likes her or not, and yet any girl in her position would be wondering exactly the same thing. I really like that one of the things that Anna likes about him is his hands (and not just because the MC in the novel I'm working on happens to have a thing for the guy's hands, but that is probably part of it - heck, the fact that I'm working on a contemporary YA romance with a guy who obviously likes the girl and a girl who wonders whether he likes her or not (and who first meet by slamming into one another) predisposes me to love Étienne St. Clair and this story - but again, I digress. And if you're wondering, this is exactly how I write letters when I write them - lots of parentheses and digressions. Eep.)
I'm so very glad that Kristina Duewell, your cover designer, got the guy just right. Not that you can see his beautiful face (which would be nice), but his hand is perfect - he has the hand of a man, not a boy, and that is one thing on which Anna remarks more than once, and seeing it done right on the cover made me pleased beyond belief. It's the small things, I guess.
I could tell from the start that this was a romance, so I expected the book to have a happy ending (and it had a most satisfying happy ending indeed). And I knew that it was going to take the whole school year to get there because hey, poor Anna was shipped off to boarding school so obviously the school year was our established time frame for story development. And I predicted a couple of the plot points - such as the exact cause of Anna's split from the boy she left at home - but I'm good with that, because while I saw it coming a mile away, Anna didn't. See, I was reading a romance novel, but Anna? Anna was just living her life, and she didn't see it coming at all, and I found that entirely plausible.
I loved how details and behaviors came into play. Early on, Anna is reminded that her dorm door locks automatically behind her - and sure enough there comes a time when she gets locked out of her room. Even though I'm dying for Étienne to ditch his girlfriend Ellie, I love how he's such a steady guy that he regularly schleps across Paris to visit her at her college. I also love that he's afraid of heights, and how all those things come back later in the book.
So, to sum up, Stephanie, I loved your book. And we should totally be friends. If you want. No pressure.
Thank goodness for Michelle, the YA librarian at my local library. She ordered this book, you see, and I'm very glad she did because I completely enjoThank goodness for Michelle, the YA librarian at my local library. She ordered this book, you see, and I'm very glad she did because I completely enjoyed reading it. I laughed aloud in many places, and I cringed (oh how I cringed) at others - not so much at the horrible muddle that resulted when Hank (a teen musician with Asperger's) spilled a terrifically embarrassing secret of Liana's (a teen scientist with a bit of a reputation) in public, but definitely at other places - most of them involving Liana's conduct, really.
I won't say more about what caused me to cringe, since it would be terrifically spoilery of me, but I will say that I am shocked - SHOCKED, I tell you! - that I hadn't heard about this book before I scooped it off the "New Releases" shelf in the YA department.
The chapters alternate between Liana's and Hank's perspective (starting and ending with Liana, actually), but I'll be darned if I can say for certain that they were written that way, since Hank sounds just like Hank and Liana sounds just like Liana regardless of which of them is the narrator (although, of course, you get the benefit of insight and thoughts and emotions when you're in a particular person's head).
The book is full of musical detail - in part because music (and the sort of trivia found in liner notes and such) is a big deal for Hank - and full of space-related science information too, since Liana is taking a summer AP course in Advanced Planetary Science, trying to discover why it is that stars twinkle. From the moment that Hank bursts into the Ladies Room, Hank and Liana have an interesting dynamic to their relationship - one that shifts and changes as they spend more time together and start sharing their secrets, and one that affects how they interact with their families at home, too.
This one has stuck with me, and the more I think about it, the more I love it. ...more
**spoiler alert** Hathaway sisters plus Romany Gypsies in the time of Queen Victoria? Yes, please!
Mine Till Midnight tells the story of Amelia Hatha**spoiler alert** Hathaway sisters plus Romany Gypsies in the time of Queen Victoria? Yes, please!
Mine Till Midnight tells the story of Amelia Hathaway, the second eldest of five children, who is doing her damnedest to round up her elder brother and save him from himself. This is actually the first of the Hathaway novels - I already read and reviewed the fifth and final one, Love in the Afternoon - and we learn that Leo Hathaway unexpectedly survived a bout of scarlet fever, but he's been wishing himself dead ever since, having lost his fiancée to the ailment. The middle Hathaway sister, Win, also survived, but is now an invalid. Amelia is the sturdy one on whom everyone relies. She's assisted in this by Merripen, a Romany Gypsy taken in by the Hathaways when he was only a teen.
Amelia meets her love interest, Cam Rohan, when she arrives at a gaming house in search of Leo. Cam is half-Rom, half-Irish and 100% foxy, complete with earring and gold rings on his hands - including his thumb. He helps Amelia find Leo, then claims a kiss - and one of the cherry red ribbons on her bonnet. *swoon* He turns up quite unexpectedly in Hampshire, where he is visiting the Hathaways' new next-door neighbor, and he quickly sets out to win Amelia's heart. I confess that I like him quite a lot, and I like their romance quite a lot, and the book made me happy happy happy....more
Hathaway sisters plus Romany Gypsies in the time of Queen Victoria? Yes, please!
Seduce Me at Sunrise tells the story of Winnifred, who has been in lHathaway sisters plus Romany Gypsies in the time of Queen Victoria? Yes, please!
Seduce Me at Sunrise tells the story of Winnifred, who has been in love with Merripen ever since she was a little girl. She leaves England to go to a spa in France in order to recover her health, and returns two years later (with her doctor in tow) to find that Merripen has become a competent property manager and a very hard man indeed. Merripen has always been in love with Win as well, but he feels he's not good enough to deserve her - not only because he's a Rom, but also because he was raised to be a brutal fighter - the human equivalent of a mistreated pit bull, really.
I quite liked the way the relationships between all the Hathaways were further developed in this book, and the way that Leo's true character started to creep in, even though he's not the focus of this title (his romance is book four in the series). Leo manages to get through to Merripen when nobody else can, and a sexy abduction results, followed by a really terrific scene in which Win has to deal with the doctor (no spoilers here, but that scene made me all kinds of happy) and secrets are disclosed and I was nearly inspired to dance the mamushka (okay - so that's the dance they did in The Addams Family; so sue me).
Incidentally, you should see the stepbacks on these books. They're delicious. Also, I've already read the other two books in the series, but they'll wait their turn for review. And now, I'm probably going to scare up the books in the Wallflower series, since some of the happily marrieds who drift into the Hathaway books come from there. *grins*...more
I believe this may be my first Lisa Kleypas novel, although I'm certain it won't be my last. Love in the Afternoon is (I believe) the final book in aI believe this may be my first Lisa Kleypas novel, although I'm certain it won't be my last. Love in the Afternoon is (I believe) the final book in a series of five, detailing the marriages of the Hathaway children, and I am now eager to read about her siblings as well.
This novel has some of my favorite tropes in it:
1. A feisty heroine with less-than-ladylike proclivities. Beatrix is keenly interested in nature and in particular the animal kingdom. She tends to rescue and nurture injured animals, which is how she ends up in possession of a three-legged cat and a pet hedgehog.
2. A woman in drag. Beatrix tends to wear trousers when chasing after goats or working with dangerous horses. Anyone who's read my blog for any period of time knows that I do love a woman in drag in my historical novels, and Beatrix fits the bill.
3. Reading other people's letters. Just as you probably knew I like feisty women in drag, you may have known how much I like a good epistolary novel. There's something absolutely wonderful about actual letters, and the voyeur in me enjoys peeking into relationships by reading correspondence, whether it's doing actual historical research (as when I read Austen's letters for the Jane project) or reading fictional letters (as here, or in The Guernsey Literary Society, or elsewhere).
Not that this entire novel is told in letters, but early on there is quite an exchange of letters between Beatrix and Captain Christopher Phelan, younger brother to John Phelan, a neighbor of the Hathaway's who is married to Beatrix's friend Audrey. Only Christopher Phelan doesn't realize it's Beatrix with whom he's corresponding.
Off to fight in the Crimean war, Phelan writes to Prudence Mercer, the belle of Hampshire County – and Prudence shares the contents of the letter with Beatrix, who finds herself feeling compassion for Captain Phelan's situation, a formerly pampered, spoiled man suddenly part of the Rifles, an outfit always at the front. Despite having once overheard Christopher Phelan saying that she belonged in the stables, Beatrix volunteers to respond to his letter after Prudence indicates that she has no intention of writing back to a man who wants to talk about things like the war. Cyrano-like, Beatrix undertakes a correspondence with Christopher, signing Prudence's name to eight months' worth of letters, and falling head over heels in love with man she comes to know along the way. On realizing that she's completely in love with him, Beatrix terminates the correspondence, sending one last letter:
I can't write to you again.
I'm not who you think I am.
I didn't mean to send love letters, but that is what they became. On their way to you, my words turned into heartbeats on the page.
Come back, please come home and find me.
Needless to say, when Christopher Phelan returns from the war, things get interesting. His older brother has died while he was away, leaving him the heir apparent to an estate he's unprepared to run. He's desperately in love with the Prudence of the letters, and highly uninterested in the peculiar Beatrix, who comes from a family of oddballs. And he's suffering from what we now call post-traumatic stress syndrome, but which then was something nameless and largely unmentionable.
This book made me all kinds of happy as I stayed up (far too) late reading it last night. And I haven't quite forgiven it for putting this song in my head. But I am looking forward to a more leisurely re-read of it at some point in the future, and to reading about the rest of the Hathaway siblings as well. ...more
I think I may have pulled a muscle. In my throat. See, I was reading the book late at night, and something got particularly funny - so funny that undeI think I may have pulled a muscle. In my throat. See, I was reading the book late at night, and something got particularly funny - so funny that under usual circumstances I would have been howling with laughter, only it was after midnight, and people were sleeping, so I settled for clutching my abdomen and wheezing in a rather animated manner.
Such is the magic of Katie MacAlister's romance novel, The Corset Diaries, which had me from the time I read the cover. The front of the cover, which says "He was so handsome she could barely breathe. Or maybe it was just the corset ...." That the back provided an excellent premise was a bonus. Turns out that our heroine has been roped into flying to England to spend one month pretending to be a duchess during the Victorian era for a reality television show, filling in at the last minute for a woman named Cynthia who backed out of the role for reasons we don't learn until roughly 3/4 of the way through the book. Our heroine is a tall, plump 39-year old widow who gets paired with a taller, completely hot 34-year old divorced Englishman. I'd say that sparks immediately fly, but in fact, it is chunks that immediately fly when Tessa throws up on Max's shoes as they are introduced. And all I can say about her second meeting with Max is that she is very lucky there weren't any sparks in the vicinity, since she'd had beans on toast for breakfast, then been laced into a very tight corset, then bent over to pet the dog. If you think I'm implying that she, um, dealt it, then you are correct. (Fortunately, I read that scene the other night and at an early enough time that stealth laughter was not required. I guffawed for at least a full minute and had to wipe tears from my face afterward.)
The humor in this book was a complete gift, and I'm extremely glad I found and read it. I have a few quibbles with it, mind - there are at least two passages where Max and/or Tessa engages in rather detailed discussion of what they'd like to do (or have done) sexually that I found strained my credulity (really, I don't think that people go on like that under the particular circumstances in which they engage), and I'm still not entirely certain why the characters fell in love, really (Tessa believes in love at first sight, and Max seems put out at having fallen for her - perhaps it's her charming American ways?), but if one is in the mood for a light, humorous romance, this is your book.
I will be looking for other books by Katie MacAllister, who appears to specialize in contemporary romances that combine various role-playing sorts of scenarios. (E.g., Hard Day's Knight takes place at a Renaissance Faire, and Men in Kilts at a mystery conference.) I am looking forward to reading more of her stuff. You know, as soon as my throat muscles feel up to it....more
The thing about Twitter is that it's possible to eavesdrop on other people's exchanges. And so it was that I saw Barry Goldblatt recommend this titleThe thing about Twitter is that it's possible to eavesdrop on other people's exchanges. And so it was that I saw Barry Goldblatt recommend this title to Jenn Laughran when she was in a Regency sort of mood, and I made note of it and scored a copy for myself shortly thereafter. It is (as I believe Barry may have described it) an Austen novel with glamours.
Kowal obviously has read her Austen, and the book pays tribute to several of her stories. Our heroine, Jane Ellsworth, (besides being named Jane) is 28 - one year older than Anne Elliot in Persuasion, with the same good nature, usefulness and (hidden) romantic nature as Miss Elliot. Jane has a younger sister named Melody who is reminiscent of Marianne Dashwood (especially in being somewhat melodramatic and self-absorbed), but rather more mean-spirited than Miss Marianne.
There's a neighbor girl named Beth Dunkirk, who proves to be a bit like Marianne Dashwood mixed with Jane Fairfax, and her brother, Mr. Edmund Dunkirk, who appears at first blush to be the sensible sort of neighbor that an Austen heroine might wed - an Edmund Bertram, perhaps, or Mr. Knightley (Jane Austen's two favorite of her own heroes). He is admired by both of the Misses Ellsworth, although Melody later sets her cap at the dashing Captain Henry Livingston, as do any number of other young ladies in the neighborhood.
Jane Ellsworth may be plain (or, depending on whom you ask, positively homely), but she is extraordinarily talented in her ability to manipulate glamour. Jane is too scrupulous to use her skills to improve her own appearance, knowing that at some point, people would see her without the glamour, and preferring them to know her true appearance. She can, however, manipulate glamour better than almost anyone in the neighborhood. That is, until Lady FitzCameron hires a professional glamourist to create a glamural in her dining room.
Mr. Vincent is as off-putting in his way as Mr. Darcy is in Pride and Prejudice, although rather than refusing to dance with Jane Ellsworth or declaring her "not handsome enough to tempt me", he seems insulted by and/or angry at her ability with glamour. I immediately starting shipping the pair of them, hoping that Jane's hopes for a match with Mr. Dunkirk would come to naught. I shan't tell you if I was right or wrong, but I shall say that I grinned my fool head off throughout this book and am looking forward to a second reading.
For Janeites, it includes sly pseudo-references to Austen's novels (at least, I assume they were intentional nods to the novels), such as this bit about Mr. Ellsworth, found on the very first page of the novel:
The Ellsworths of Long Parkmead had the regard of their neighbours in every respect. The Honourable Charles Ellsworth, though a second son, through the generosity of his father had been entrusted with an estate in the neighbourhood of Dorchester. it was well appointed and used only enough glamour to enhance its natural grace, without overlaying so much illusion as to be tasteless. His only regret, for the estate was a fine one, was that it was entailed, and as he had only two daughters, his elder brother's son stood next in line to inherit it. Knowing that, he took pains to set aside some of his income each annum for the provision of his daughters.
Compare this with the deceased Mr Dashwood, whose estate was entailed to his son (from his first marriage), leaving his wife and children without a home, or with Mr Bennet, who not only had an entailed estate, but also often wished that he'd set aside an annual sum for the provision of his wife and children, or with Sir Walter Elliot, who had to lease out his estate in order to "retrench", having overspent his own income. There are other similar instances, where something in Shades of Milk and Honey echoes or reverses something from an Austen novel. For instance, there's a scene where Mr. Dunkirk and Captain Livingston seek to outdo one another by discussing their horses and pointers - in an Austen novel, such conversation would mark the both of them as somewhat foolish characters, for it's only the foolish gentlemen (such as Sir John Middleton from Sense and Sensibility or Charles Musgrove from Persuasion) who fixate on "sport". And Mrs. Ellsworth, like Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice or Mary Musgrove from Persuasion is completely hypochondriacal, often engaging in something approaching competition with her neighbor, Mrs. Marchand, over which of them has the worse ailment or case of nerves.
Oh, the romance! The manners! The Regency details - plus magic! And the romance of the gift of a journal! And (call me crazy - I'm sure I would) the echo of Little Women in the description of Mr. Vincent - and, in some ways, in his interactions with Miss Ellsworth. I am all aflutter. And absolutely, blissfully happy that I happened to be on Twitter when this book was mentioned.
I bought the hardcover, which I had to order online as it was no longer in local stores; there's a paperback edition due out in June....more