Posts tagged ‘france’

April 2nd, 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Revolution

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Published: October 12th, 2010

Number of Pages: 496

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis:

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.

Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart. [From Goodreads]

Quote (and because I can’t resist, you get three quotes!):

I don’t like hope very much. In fact, I hate it. It’s the crystal meth of emotions. It hooks you fast and kills you hard. It’s bad news. The worst. It’s sharp sticks and cherry bombs. When hope shows up, it’s only a matter of time until someone gets hurt.

There is only one thing I fear now-love. For I have seen it and I have felt it and I know that it is love, not death, that undoes us.

Cry your grief to God. Howl to the heavens. Tear your shirt. Your hair. Your flesh. Gouge out your eyes. Carve out your heart. And what will you get from Him? Only silence. Indifference. But merely stand looking at the playbills, sighing because your name is not on them, and the devil himself appears at your elbow full of sympathy and suggestions. And that’s why I did it….Because God loves us, but the devil takes an interest.

Review (which I encourage you to read, though the quotes above are evidence enough that you should read the book):

I received a copy of this beautiful book last October, just days before the release date. You’d think I would have read it already – after all, who can resist something so obviously focused on France? – but the size of this thing! It was daunting. However, after all the fabulous things I’ve heard about Revolution in the past few months, I couldn’t pass it on my way into my room without stopping, picking it up, and apparently, devouring it.

Revolution is a striking book. It exceeds expectations in almost every imaginable way. The setting, the premise, the mystery, the characters, the complex relationships and wild range of emotions – every aspect of a good book is magnified, improved, steroidal.

First of all: FRANCE.

Yes, in all caps. FRANCE.

This book has a lot of it. Not the language, really, but the feel, the atmosphere, the setting, foods, and history – it’s all so very French. I learned so much from this book without feeling like I was being taught. I eagerly looked forward to every bit of historical information. This book gives you the French Revolution so up close and personal you can see the blood staining the guillotine.

The main character, Andi, is phenomenal. I loved that her deep misery and biting attitude took root in something worthy of such terrible aftershock. Once I understood what she and her family had gone through, I could comprehend and sympathize with her general instability and the different ways her family members grieve. Her past literally haunts her, but that terrible past also does just what it was meant to – it molds her. She might be desperate and miserable at the beginning of the book, but it soon became evident that the horrors she struggles through have a purpose. Andi’s such an intricate person, and I found she’s incredibly likable for someone so rugged.

Relationships are the core of Revolution. All sorts of them. Father-daughter, siblings, friendship. There’s reluctant love, dutiful love, lack of love, romantic love, and just about every other type you can come up with. It’s such a dark and mysterious book, so I was surprised to think back and realize that it really does revolve around love. Andi’s relationships are so strained you’re waiting for them to reach their limit and snap – heck, you’re waiting for her to snap. There’s such contrast between, say, her relationship with her father and that with her little brother, but both of them play crucial roles.

Honestly, though, it wouldn’t be fair to focus solely on Andi, her story, and her relationships because this book is as much about Alex, the doomed teenage girl of the eighteenth century, as it is about Andi. Alex’s story begins with the end. You know instantly that she’s walking a tight rope while wind is crashing against her. She doesn’t have much time left, yet she’s bursting with the need to write down all that she’s gone through, particularly her relationship with Louis-Charles, or the lost prince of France. Alex is Louis-Charles’ companion and is charged with keeping his spirits up by the queen herself. Alex’s story takes place during the French Revolution, so clearly being charged with the happiness of the prince isn’t in her best interests.

Though Alex’s story is the more suspenseful of the two and I’m sure I was meant to be completely enthralled, her story is actually the only thing I had trouble with. I was definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY interested. Her diary is stuffed with gloriously fascinating bits of French history, retellings of horrific events, cunning people, and a beautifully told love story (not a romantic one). I wish I could tell you what it was that simply didn’t cut it for me, but I can’t. Alas, all I know for sure is that I found myself occasionally waiting her entries out, excited to get back to Andi. I have no idea why this was the case, but it was.

(I’m looking at the word count of this review now and freaking out. How on earth can I include everything I want to? A super long book requires a long review! Bear with me, please.)

The most delectable thing about Revolution is the way it’s all done. This book would have amounted to so much less in the hands of someone else. Jennifer Donnelly’s prose and style transform this book from an interesting story to a magnificent one. There are lines that I couldn’t resist reading to my mother. There are lines that made me stop and reread. I love it when I come across a book that just wows me and reminds me why I love words with the passion that I do. They have impact. They have force. They can make you feel and experience things you’d never have felt or experienced otherwise.

I’ll admit that the fact there’s some time-travel in the book escaped me. I suppose I knew it at one point, but I was definitely taken by surprise when Andi suddenly wound up in 1795. Not the sort of thing you expect after four-fifths of the book has passed with her snug in the twenty-first century. However, it was a sweet surprise to have the book take an unexpected turn so late in the game. My favorite character was suddenly in my favorite era! It was a little odd, but definitely a fun little romp. (That was the understatement of the week.)

Oh my goodness! Have I not yet mentioned there’s a love story (a romantic one this time)? What? No! My bad. Those of you who were losing interest due to the lack of mushiness, come back! There is indeed a love story, and it is, indeed, awesome. It’s simple, relatively smooth, and is everything you’d want it to be. The romantic plotline does include the only super predictable and cliché moment, but I think every book should be allowed one. The boy also has a really neat name (bonus!).

Revolution is, well, revolutionary. I reveled in every moment. Beautiful passage on top of beautiful passage, heart-wrenching moment on heart-wrenching moment, Jennifer Donnelly has constructed a story – wait, no, two stories – so captivating that 472 pages feels like 150.

December 29th, 2010

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephenie Perkins; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Anna and the French Kiss

Author: Stephenie Perkins

Published: December 2nd, 2010

Number of Pages: 384

Rating: 5/5

Quote-that-Is-Super-Long-Due-to-Infinite-Goodness:

Oh my. He’s English.

“Er. Does Mer live here?”

Seriously, I don’t know any American girl who can resist an English accent.

The boy clears his throat. “Meredith Chevalier? Tall girl? Big, curly hair?” Then he looks at me like I’m crazy or half deaf, like my Nana Oliphant. Nanna just smiles and shakes her head whenever I ask, “What kind of salad dressing would you like?” or “Where did you put Granddad’s false teeth?”

“I’m sorry.” He takes the smallest step away from me. “You were going to bed.”

“Yes! Meredith lives here. I’ve just spent two hours with her.” I announce this proudly like my little brother, Seany, whenever he finds something disgusting in the yard. “I’m Anna! I’m new here!” Oh, [Gosh]. What. Is with. The scary enthusiasm? My cheeks catch fire, and it’s all so humiliating.

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.

He raps twice on Meredith’s door. “Well. I’ll see you around then, Anna.”

Eh-t-yen says my name like this: Ah-na.

Synopsis:

Anna is 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. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited? [From Goodreads]

Review:

Let me tell you – this book took the abilities of my innards to the extreme. I believe my gut twisted, wrenched, flipped, pirouetted, and did all sorts of flexible things its usually incapable of doing. My grief at the idea of having to go to bed before finishing was so great that I begged my mother to let me finish (it was after midnight). It was either begging or having to confess and halfheartedly apologize the next day!

Anna and the French Kiss is a book that I’ve had my eye on for months, after having heard about it on Kiersten White’s blog. Knowing me, I probably would never have given it a chance if it weren’t for Kiersten, SO THANKS TO KIERSTEN. And, also, thanks to my dearest little brother who happened upon my wishlist post and then proceeded to buy me the book.

The moment you start reading, it’s clear that you have a clever, funny, and relatable main character. Anna is without a doubt someone I would want to hang out with, and I had no problems whatsoever cheering her on, despite some decisions that made me cringe. It was like she was my avatar and I was living through her, and the only way that could possibly be is if I were unusually comfortable with her. She’s the sort of person who’s willing to learn and grow, yet she’s not just a hunk of Play Doh – She won’t be changed by people stepping all over her. I was pleased that she was the sort of girl who actually seemed deserving of the love interest.

Étienne St. Clair. The romance in this story isn’t the sort that’s just fun. You don’t want them to be together because you know that’s what’s supposed to happen. St. Clair is not just a pawn in another love story, really only significant because there has to be a guy somewhere. He’s St. Clair. (You can tell I’m dazzled when I start emphasizing the obvious in italics.) This is the sort of guy that makes people swoon for all the right reasons, who would be perfect even if he wasn’t gorgeous, who is perfectly imperfect. He’s three dimensional, clever, intelligent, and, overall, loving. I was so glad to see that he was flawed and just as mortal as the rest of us. He can be wounded and stupid and make really dumb decisions more than once, but still struggles to be a good person, a better one. And now that I’m done writing that paragraph, it’s painfully obvious that I’ve failed to express how purely awesome he is. Please, just read the book.

The supporting characters, namely Rashmi, Mer, and Josh, are all crucial to the story. They say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done, be what they need to be, but they manage to do it with a flare that is entirely theirs. Rashmi is kind of a harsh and “I don’t put up with crap” sort of person, but I absolutely loved her. She was strong and sensitive. Stephenie Perkins should create a guy version of her for her next love interest (a British guy version of her). Mer was sweet and precisely what the group needed to soften them all up and keep them in line, and Josh was adorable and funny.

Who am I kidding? They were all funny. This book made me laugh out loud, sometimes to the point that I couldn’t read. Most books don’t reach that degree of hilarity. Speaking of which, this book made me do a lot of odd things. For example, it’s been a long time since I panted in panic at the thought of having to go to bed before finishing.

The book did pass into a sort of chick-flicky territory near the end (perhaps the last quarter of the book). I was upset and definitely disappointed, but there was no way I was going to quit reading. The characters made some stupid decisions that I simply couldn’t get behind, but I kept reading – I wasn’t there to hold grudges, I was there to see them make things right. I tend to tweet thoughts as I read, and here’s one that I tweeted last night:

You can’t go all chick-flicky on me, ANNA! You & I are too close for this kind of betrayal. (But I still love you. We can get through this.)

Ultimately, this book was amazing. In regard to my five star rating, I said:

If only because it takes a lot for a book to drive me THAT crazy.

So, while there were things that got on my nerves, there is no doubt whatsoever that this book is unique, hilarious, and will make your heart pound. I am not exaggerating. I probably squirmed when I read particular scenes. For example, there’s a scene in a movie theater, and I couldn’t get rid of the jitters for at least five minutes.

So please, dear readers, read Anna and the French Kiss, if only for the gift of living within such an enticing story and admiring all that makes it special – the writing, the voice, the people.

If you’re still having doubts, don’t take my word for it – take John Green’s…

realjohngreen: @maureenjohnson have you read ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS? It’s like you and me and Sarah Dessen had a really sexy baby.