Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

This book is officially my new favorite young adult contemporary romance novel. It is the absolute cutest and most exciting read I’ve had in a while, so let this review be your wake-up call to go and find yourself a copy.

Anna Oliphant’s normal childhood in Atlanta, Georgia has been torn away from her ever since her father became a bestselling author. Sent away right in time for senior year, she now has to spend her last year of high school at a boarding school in Paris, France. Thus, leaving behind her best friend, Bridget and to-be dreamy boyfriend, Toph. This was the year she was going to finally get all the right people in her life, but now she has to start all over.

At the beginning of the book she finds herself in her new dorm at the School of America in Paris (SOAP) watching her parents walk out of the door. They leave her behind and abandon her to this foreign city where she can’t even speak French! However, as Anna has her first breakdown, Meredith, a girl from the dorm adjacent to hers, comes by to check up on her.

Meredith and her whole friend group are the people Anna hold close through her first few days at SOAP, and they soon become her best friends there. There’s Rashmi and her boyfriend Josh, but no one quite compares to Étienne St. Clair. When she first meets him he looks like a dream. The most perfect hair and devilish grin, his English accent and witty remarks. All the girls fawn over him, and for good reason, but there’s one thing that isn’t quite right. His flaw, his one letdown is that he already has a girlfriend.

So, as our emotionally-wrecked Anna longs for home she also finds herself appreciating the beauty of Paris. Late nights walking the streets, days spent at the movies, lab partners with you-know-who, the worst tragedies, and the most hurtful of betrayals, Anna truly experiences it all in the most romantic city on Earth.

I adamantly and seriously believe that anyone who even has the slightest interest in reading a rom-com turned book/epic boy-meets-girl should at least try to find a copy. When I tell you this book is phenomenal, it is phenomenal. It’s so phenomenal that I finished it during a 5-hour flight and could not put it down. It’s really that good. So, thank you author Stephanie Perkins for bringing this book and these characters into my life! Happy reading!

-Katherine L.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

A fast-paced novel, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is a young adult fantasy novel that is the first book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Creating a whole universe, Bardugo immerses her reader into the Grishaverse, a world where some have powers that allow them to practice the Small Sciences.

Those who possess powers are called Grisha, and they are split further into orders: Corporalki, Etherealki, and Materialki. The Corporalki can manipulate the human body. Because of their power, Corporalkis are the most feared type of Grisha even though they can both help and harm a person. Mainly known as summoners, the Etherealki can manipulate natural elements. Being able to manipulate wind, air, and fire, these Grisha are crucial in any fight. Lastly are the Materialki, or Fabrikators. These Grisha can manipulate materials like metal, glass, and chemicals.

So, in Shadow and Bone, the majority of the events happen in the war-torn Ravka. Ravka has been plagued with war for years suffering the loss of citizens and patriotism. However, this war with their northern and southern countries is not their biggest problem. Long ago, an ancient Grisha Shadow Summoner ripped a gap in the center of Ravka, thus creating the Shadow Fold.

The Shadow Fold stretches from the northern to southern borders of Ravka, splitting Ravka into west and east Ravka. An ugly scar on the map, the Shadow Fold is pitch-black and filled with lethal monsters called volcra. When the Fold was first created, a prophecy mentioned the only thing that will destroy the Fold is a Sun Summoner. More detrimental than the war, the Shadow Fold prevents the full might of Ravka from coming together to restore power, peace, and patriotism.

With all of the background information covered, the main character can now come into play. Drafted into the military, Alina Starkov is a cartographer at the beginning of the novel. Along with her life-long best friend Malyen “Mal” Oretsev, they both plan to make a crossing through the Shadow Fold. However, when they enter the Fold and a volcra attacks Mal, Alina lets her true light shine, literally. To save her friend, light explodes out of her, burning away the volcra. Stunned at what just happened, the Etherealki bring the skiff back to east Ravka and take Alina to the Darkling.

Hearing of this impossible light, the Darkling drags Alina to his tent to receive an explanation. A descendant of the Shadow Summoner who created the Shadow Fold, the Darkling commands all Grisha. When the Darkling coaxes the light out of Alina once more, Alina, the Darkling, and Mal realize that they have the prophesized Sun Summoner in their midsts. From this event, the rest of the trilogy kicks into gear, and Alina’s adventure never stops.

Even though this fantasy world seems complex, Bardugo’s ability to simplify and condense information allowed me to fly through these books in a couple of days. This trilogy leaned more towards the easier side of reading, but the plot lacked no excitement or surprises. I would most definitely recommend this book series, along with her other Grishaverse books, Six of Crows duology and King of Scars series. These books provided me with some of my favorite characters to date, and I hope people at least try them out! Happy reading!

(Only if you’ve read the series) Which team are you on, the Darkling, Mal, or Nikolai?

-Katherine L.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book vs. TV Series: Shadow and Bone

In this book vs. TV series, we’re going straight back to the Grishaverse. Recently having her debut novel, Shadow and Bone, become a screen adaptation, there’s a lot of buzz around Leigh Bardugo right now. The Shadow and Bone Trilogy is the best introduction to the Grishaverse, so this is the base of the action for this screen adaptation.

Streaming on Netflix, Shadow and Bone is based on the first Grishaverse book and some parts of Bardugo’s novel Six of Crows. It explores the plot and character of the book Shadow and Bone while also introducing characters from Six of Crows. While having dual plotlines, they both interweave in ways that are only hinted at in the books.

Firstly, the main plot of the TV series is with Alina, Mal, and the Darkling. There are fantastic book reviews in previous blog posts, so definitely check those out to get a deeper understanding of these characters. The series spaces the events out wonderfully while also adding in some details that add to character development and suspense. Both the book and the TV series’ first season end at the same point in time for all characters. So, it is simple to follow along according to each book.

On the other hand, with the addition of the Crows, the overall plot becomes a little bit more complicated. Not all of the Crows from Six of Crows are involved, but I would argue that the ‘main’ ones are. When I say ‘main,’ I’m referring to the characters who would require the most backstory and would therefore be a hindrance in flashbacks were they to explain along the way. So, I believe that the producers made an excellent decision in aligning the timelines of the flashbacks that occur in Six of Crows to the events in Shadow and Bone. Six of Crows takes place two years after the final events of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy. So, this simplifies the timing of events for the audience who haven’t read the books.

With the timeline being well-executed, I also thought that the TV series did a brilliant job connecting all of the characters. Having read all of the Grishaverse books, I know that each character knew of one another. But, in the show, they seamlessly have characters from the Shadow and Bone Trilogy meet characters from the Six of Crows Duology. When Kaz, Inej, and Jesper end up getting a job to capture Alina, this is where their plotlines interconnect, thus leaving their adventures bound to get tangled. Also, at the same time, are the adventures of two other future Crows, Nina and Matthias. Throughout the first season, they are having their backstory explained.

Overall, I adamantly believe that this TV series was very well executed. It brought to life all of these charismatic characters while also revealing the magical world that Leigh Bardugo put together. It introduced characters from the Six of Crows Duology, which is a significant indicator that we will be getting more Crows screen-time. And, hopefully, there will be enough seasons to explore the true might of what these Crows can do. I would highly recommend reading these books and watching the series after; it’s honestly incredible how talented the actors, producers, and directors of this series can do.

-Katherine L.

The Debate Between Libraries and Bookstores

I have recently written an essay on the prompt, “Are libraries still necessary?”. Just from the question itself, I was a little bit offended. But, it proved to be a passionate topic that I could write my essay on. Now, a different and perhaps better question to ask would be, “Which is better: libraries or bookstores?”

First, let’s just establish what each one is. Without the fancy dictionary.com definition, I would say that a library is a place that allows for people to borrow from a collection of books, resources, films, etc., usually meant for a community. It can also be a quiet place for working and studying. Now very similar, bookstores are everything libraries are, however instead of borrowing their resources, they have to be bought.

Now into the finer details of each; imagining a bookstore like Barnes and Noble, I walk into this massive store. It has shelves and shelves of perfect, freshly printed books. They all have the classic “new book” smell and minimal to no damage. But, the store is lacking in character.

On the other hand, when someone says library, I imagine passed-down hardcovers wrapped in the iconic plastic to protect its dust jacket. I picture hundreds of books with multiple copies and different editions lined up on shelves that categorize them by genres. I see a kids/middle-aged section, a romance-filled young adult section, and the ever-so-imposing adult section. The books themselves show their years of dutiful use on their cracked spines, small bends, and tears from being tossed around in a backpack. So with each book that I pick up, I get to glimpse at what each reader’s journey with the book was like. Through its physical condition, I have been able to laugh, cringe, and wonder what exactly happened to this book before it got to me. Whether it be spaghetti sauce stains or hilarious side notes, a library book really gave me two adventures instead of one.

Though bookstores do a fantastic job at presenting their products for customers to buy, personally, nothing can beat the feeling that overwhelms my senses when I walk into a library. I grew up going to libraries at least once a week to study or pick up another round of books, so I may be biased. But, one thing I know for sure is that sometimes it’s better to have the used book: it reveals more than any new book could.

-Katherine L.

TV Review: Ginny & Georgia

Recently dropping on Netflix, Ginny & Georgia has quickly become very popular amongst teens around the world. Packed with witty comments and hysterical jokes, it climbed to Netflix’s top ten list within 24-hours of dropping.

This TV series follows a teenage girl, Virginia “Ginny” Miller, and her mother, Georgia Miller. When Georgia’s very wealthy husband suddenly dies in a car accident, Georgia moves her two children, Ginny and Austin, to Wellsbury, Massachusetts. Finding some stability in the town, Ginny and Georgia use this town to leave their past behind and to truly get a fresh start.

Starting with Ginny, this television series emphasizes her character in ways many other shows have not. Ginny is one of a couple biracial characters in the show as her father is Black and her mother, Georgia, is white. Since she grows up primarily with her mother, she can’t fully grasp which culture she is supposed to fit into. Although she seems a little lost with her own self-identity, her beliefs and morals are steadfast and unwavering. Within the first twenty minutes of the show, Ginny shows her unwillingness to be a bystander to racism and underrepresentation in her education. Overall, Ginny is a strong 15-year-old lead who depicts not only the problems in society but also a relatable teenage life.

Next, is the famous Georgia Miller, or maybe infamous. Georgia is the definition of a strong woman who does not rely on anyone. She flaunts her beauty and Southern accent not only to attract men but to get what she wants. Georgia will stop at nothing to give Ginny and Austin the childhood she never had, even if her children don’t recognize it. Throughout the ten episodes that have dropped, her character has been developed through scenes from the past and present. The constant flashbacks make every aspect of her present life clear, and this is what makes Ginny & Georgia such a phenomenal show.

Lastly, I just wanted to add that this show is one of the closest representations of a high school teen’s life. I recommend it to anyone at least sixteen years and older because it does have topics and scenes on the more sensitive side. So, please make sure that you are a part of the appropriate audience/age to watch. I only touched on two of the characters, but there are so many personalities and underrepresented aspects of life within this show that it would be a mistake not to give it a try.

-Katherine L.

How to Remedy Reading Slumps

I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but sometimes I just don’t want to read. I absolutely love reading, but sometimes I just can’t bring myself to sit down with a good book. Most of the time I can’t focus on a book because something else is drawing my focus away. When this is the case, I have a dry spell of not reading, and by the time I actually have the time to read, I have forgotten the previous chapter and can’t get back into the book.

Now I’ve been through my fair share of what I call “reading slumps” and there are a few things that I like to do to get back into my reading groove.

The first thing I like to do is set a time that I’m going to start reading and commit to it. Usually, this means the upcoming weekend, very late at night. I find that when I read late at night, it reduces the number of distractions I have. My family is usually off watching TV or asleep, and the notifications on my phone are a minimum.

The second thing I do is pick the right book. I may be right in the middle of a great book, and in that case, I’d continue reading it, but sometimes I’m in a lull in between books. So, to help get me back into reading, I would reread an easier book. I would pick books that I already know that I’ll love and could fly through and enjoy them. Some quick recommendations would be Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan if you wanted some Greek mythology/fantasy. For a simple and charming young adult romance, a fantastic series is The Selection by Kiera Cass. And for a more contemporary book, any Nicola Yoon book is amazing!

Finally, the last thing I do is make sure that I have a comfortable spot to read. Whether you enjoy reading at a desk or in your bed, make sure that you are comfortable! This is because the less you are worried about external factors, the more you can focus on your book. Oh, and a bonus would be to sneak in a couple of snacks to munch on throughout your read.

I hope some of these tips help you come out of whatever reading slump may occur. Happy reading!

-Katherine L.