No and Me

No and Me by Delphine de ViganNo and Me by Delphine de Vigan
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Number of pages:  256
My copy: ebook, from Amazon Kindle Store

Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life—and that of her parents—all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No’s presence forces Lou’s family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No’s own past comes back to haunt her?

* * *

I stumbled upon No and Me by Delphine de Vigan from Nomes, who gave it a glowing review on Goodreads. I was looking for a translated book to read for my TwentyEleven Challenge and this seemed like a perfect one, seeing as it was translated from French to English. Plus, I have learned to trust Nomes’ taste in YA contemporary books, so I decided that splurging on an ebook of this is worth it.

Lou Bertignac is a smart kid, youngest in class with some OCD tendencies. She’s also painfully shy, so she lives in her own world, admiring popular guy Lucas from afar, and hiding the fact that things at home were not okay ever since her mom sank into depression. During one class, Lou was asked to come up with a project idea and she blurted out “homeless teens” without much thought. True enough, on her way home, Lou meets No, a homeless girl living in the streets. Pressured by her project, she gets to know No, and as their friendship grows, Lou finds the courage to ask her parents if they could “adopt” No. To Lou’s surprise, her parents agree. Lou and No promise to be there for each other forever, but when No’s secrets come haunting her again, can this promise hold them together?

There’s this local TV show that’s been airing here since I was a kid, one that creates a reenactment of some real life experiences that people sent to the network through letters. No and Me felt like a perfect story that can be submitted to this TV show. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the book, really, except that it was a contemporary read. So maybe I was expecting some kind of family talk, not a lot of romance, but certainly not something…well, almost sad.

Not that I’m complaining, of course. It wasn’t what I expected, but hey, shouldn’t I have known by now that expectations in life are rarely ever met? (As a good friend once told me, “The key to happiness is lowered expectations.” But I digress.) But what No and Me lacks in happiness and lightness, it makes up with its characters and the charming writing. Lou is such a character, and even if we’re so different, it was easy to get into her shoes and see things her way. I really and truly felt for her, especially when she was determined to stick with No even at the expense of defying her parents. I felt her frustration when she can’t say the words she wants to say, or when the things she wants to say turn out wrong. She’s young and strong in her own way. Other people say that Lou reminds them of the autistic kid protagonist of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It is partially true, but I thought Lou was easier to get into.

And the writing. Nomes was right: it was very, very charming. Maybe the charming factor came from how it was translated from French? I read this while I was on the train from Vienna to Geneva, and in my mind I was comparing how different French and German sounded to my ears. It was then I fully realized how charming the French language sounded, and I’d like to believe that that charming factor managed to cross over when No and Me was translated to English.

No and Me is not exactly a happy book, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. I liked it a lot, and it gave me that feeling of wanting to be Lou – wanting to believe in the best of every person, even if they have disappointed me a few times. If Lou truly existed, I’d like to believe that she still continued to hope even after all that had happened to her. I’d like to believe that she heeded what her teacher told her: “Don’t give up.”

Rating:

Other reviews:
inkcrush

Revolution

Revolution by Jennifer DonnellyRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Number of pages:  472
My copy: hardbound, Christmas gift from KD

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

* * *

I read and loved Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light earlier this year, and I looked forward to reading her second (?) YA novel, Revolution after I got a taste of her writing prowess. There were only two things that stopped me from reading it: (1) I still shy away from historicals and (2) the book looked so daunting with its size and length. I didn’t think I would be able to read it for Required Reading last month as I’m jet-setting all around, but I’m really, really glad I found a way to read it!

Andi Alpers is an angry girl. After her brother’s death, everything in her family fell apart and all Andi could think of is thoughts of suicide. When her school calls her dad with a threat of expulsion, he brings her to Paris for her winter break to work on her senior thesis. Living with her dad’s friends, Andi finds a diary hidden in the guitar case given to her. There she meets Alexandrine Paradis, an girl who lived two centuries ago who dreams of being a popular actress but whose life is forever changed when she meets a young (and doomed) prince of France. Andi finds comfort in Alex’s diary, until a night at the catacombs of Paris brings her face to face to what just Alex was going through.

Like I said earlier, Revolution looked daunting because of its length — the table of contents lists 80+ chapters! I was kind of worried that I didn’t have much in me to invest in something this long. However, I found that the book was extremely readable. I was never bored with any chapter, and it was really more contemporary than historical. Andi’s anger and grief radiates through the pages, and I felt really, really sad for her. I think out of all the books I’ve read with grief, this book had the rawest and angriest form, and the first time I read about someone willingly self-destruct because she couldn’t find the strength to face the days living with the grief.

Despite that, I found Andi’s anger and her going around a little too tedious, and it took a long time before Alexandrine was introduced. When she was, however, I found myself stuck further to the pages. I found myself engrossed in Alex’s diary just as much as Andi was, and even if I knew how it would probably end, I felt the same fear and longing for the story to end differently, for the Alex to make it through.

I think a reason why I loved this book more than I thought I would was because I was actually in Europe while I was reading this. The moment I got to Paris, I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds and the familiar names that I was just reading in the book. Bastille, Palais-Royal, River Seine, Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur. The book definitely came alive to me because I was at the setting, and I could imagine Andi running through the streets of Paris in the cold, playing in the park. I can imagine Alex in Palais-Royal performing some songs for money with her guitar (I think she’d be awesome on piano, too, pounding away on piano benches) It was such an awesome thrill to see the places I only read about with my very eyes. It was just too bad I had no time to visit the catacombs. :D

The ending, while it was wrapped up nicely, was just a tad too unbelievable, especially with the seemingly time-space-warp thing that happened. Still, I think Revolution is another solid book from Jennifer Donnelly. It’s intense and gripping and wonderfully colorful despite its bleak atmosphere. Music lovers and historical fiction fans should definitely pick up this book, but if you’re neither and you like contemporary YA novels, then you may enjoy this one very much, just like I did.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Guardian
Love YA Lit
Steph Su Reads

Libros, Livres, Bücher

One of the many things I was looking forward to with my big trip a week ago is visiting bookstores in other countries. I got the idea from Janice, who took lots of awesome book-related vacation photos from her cruise early this year. Then I got the idea from Chachic to get a foreign edition of some of my favorite books like she did on her trip to Bangkok (more about this in a later post).

Unfortunately, almost all days of my trip had a full schedule, so I had very limited time to visit book stores until the end of my trip. That, and apparently I was the only one who was totally crazy about books in our group. Oh well. I was still able to go to some bookstores, but just not in all countries that I went to. I still managed to take a ton of photos though and behold, I share them below! (Warning, photo dump!)

I decided to bring my Kindle to my trip instead of other books so I won’t have to lug extra stuff in my suitcase (and have room in case I decide to buy books overseas :D). I started reading Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly on the 12-hour plane ride from Manila to Amsterdam. I just had to highlight that line. :D

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly – on my Kindle

This was the first bookstore I saw in the Amsterdam Schiphol airport:

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

I didn’t have time to go to it, though, since we only have an hour layover before our flight to Madrid, and we still had to look for our gate.

On our first day in Madrid, after the WYD Day 1, I spotted this sign along Gran Via:

Along Gran Via in Madrid, Spain

I’m pretty sure that means “Bookstore.” :)

Like I said, I wasn’t able to visit bookstores much until the last day because of all our activities and other non-book-related shopping (clothes, shoes, souvenirs, buy step stools), so there’s not too many photos of it while we were at the height of our trip. Oh, but I spotted this independent bookstore near our host home one night as we were on our way home after dinner:

Libreria!

Sorry for the blurry image, but the glowing sign there says Libreria, which, incidentally, is also the name of the bookstore in Cubao X where we Filipino Book Bloggers love to hang out. I was supposed to drop by here on my last day of Madrid, but alas, I arrived during siesta time, so it was closed. And I had no time to go back. :(

Continue Reading →

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton’s Children
Number of pages: 384
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

* * *

The thing I like best about reading contemporary novels is how easy it is to relate to the story. Without the magic and any other fantasy or sci-fi elements in the story, it’s easier for readers to put themselves in the characters’ situations. You don’t need to understand or figure out any underlying symbols in the story, and you feel that whatever happens in the story can also happen in real life.

However, I found that I’ve been increasingly picky about the contemporary books I’ve been reading this year. Contemporary novels is my first love in the YA genre, but lately I felt the same thing I feel about paranormal YA: what’s new? Everything I read sounds the same, give or take a little details, so…what else is there to read? Why even bother reading some if it’s the same as the last one?

So Anna and the French Kiss wasn’t high on my want list because of this, thinking that this is just one of those hyped books that everyone gushes about. Maybe I would read it, but it wasn’t in my priority list. It took Angie’s review to convince me to get it, especially when I got read this part of her review:

…Fortunately, her next door neighbor Meredith takes her under her wing and introduces her to her small  circle of friends, including smart Rashmi, her goofy-but-talented boyfriend Josh, and one Étienne St. Clair–known to one and all simply as St. Clair. Anna has it pretty bad right from the start…the two of them hit if off immediately. But there is a fly in the ointment. Naturally. He also has a longtime girlfriend at a nearby college. And their mutual friend Meredith is in love with him. Which rather clearly spells steer clear for poor Anna.

From that moment, I knew I just had to get this book. I downloaded the Kindle sample, read it and enjoyed it before I slept and then bought it as soon as I was awake enough the next day. I’ve been itching to buy an ebook lately but I was hesitant to do an impulse buy, until Anna and the French Kiss, that is.

And I tell you: the impulse buy is absolutely worth it.

I can’t decide what really did me in the story as there’s just so many wonderful things inside. I liked how the book was set in Paris but it wasn’t focused on the Eiffel Tower but on other attractions that are normally forgotten in other books set in that city. I liked how real everything was in this book, how easy it was to be immersed in Anna’s world like I was actually there. I liked the little complexities in the plot and how it didn’t focus solely on the romance between the two major characters but in other very real issues as well: family issues, cancer, absent friends, and independence, just to name a few. These issues were addressed in a very smart and optimistic way without feeling like the book was trying to accomplish so much in so little time. While the exciting parts of the book weren’t really that surprising in the sense that you know it was bound to happen eventually, the pacing was perfect and the relationships were built on very solid foundations that you know that whatever happens, thing will be okay in the end.

Another thing about contemporary novels is no matter how real they are, I couldn’t really relate to them 100% because I could only find very small parts of myself in the heroines, or the situation they are in isn’t something that I would be in. Sure, I have never been to Paris or have been in another country for that long to study, but Anna’s relationship with St. Clair reminded me of something that happened to me a few years back. I won’t elaborate, but I will share a quote that could summarize it all:

I don’t want to feel this way around him. I want things to be normal. I want to be his friend, not another stupid girl holding out for something that will never happen.

Straight through the heart, right? I couldn’t stop seeing similarities between myself and Anna, and I think I lost count at how many times I could relate to her. I wished that I had read this book way back then because I bet this would have been my best friend. Although I am over that part of my life already, I cannot help but wish for a friend like St. Clair. He’s far from perfect, but he’s someone I’d want to be really good friends with. :)

There is so much I can write about this book, but really, it would be better if you just go find a copy and read it to see for yourself. I’ve been looking for a book to blow my mind after I’ve gone through some “okay” books in the past few weeks, and this one blew my mind (and my heart!) in a totally unexpected way. If Anna and the French Kiss was food, it would definitely be chocolate: the kind you cannot get enough of from the first bite so you keep on getting more, but you try to slow down to savor the taste and to stop it from running out too soon. I devoured the book in a couple of days, and I enjoyed every single word of it. I haven’t said this about a book for a while now, but I am not ashamed to say it for this one: I loved this book. :)

Rating:

My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle store

Cover and Blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Angieville
Persnickety Snark
Steph Su Reads