Posts tagged ‘french’

March 21st, 2011

Novels Are Better Than Textbooks

by Madeleine Rex

Novels are better than textbooks.

I’m fairly sure I’m safe saying textbooks are painfully boring. I apologize to the one person who someday comes across this post that actually finds them riveting. Forgive me and go read a novel.

Textbooks are necessary and useful, certainly, and many would argue that it’s from them that people gain knowledge of the world – both the past and the present. However, as I’ve taken history classes and learned about the histories of particular subjects in other classes, I’ve found that novels have a way of helping us attain knowledge without our knowing it. This concept applies especially to historical fiction but can be found in just about any book.

I’ve experienced this more than ever this year. In English, for instance, we were discussing the time period during which William Shakespeare lived. Who was it that had some bit of previous knowledge regarding religious persecution in England at this time? Me! And all thanks to a book I read years ago, The Secret of the Rose by Sarah L. Thomson. Even better, I already had certain ideas about the state of theater and women’s rights during this period because the book happens to be about a girl dressing as a boy so that she can get a job assisting a playwright at the Rose theater.

Look how nicely that worked out!

Similarly, I was one of the few who knew a bit about the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and other features of World War One when my class dove in a few weeks ago (thanks Leviathan and Rilla of Ingleside).

I’ve spent the last half hour or so working on French vocabulary, and I ran into even more examples of novels lending a hand in my learning. For example:

Belle – Beautiful (Thanks, Gone With the Wind)

Bonne – Good (Thanks, Nancy Drew computer games – and yes, I’m still crediting this to Nancy Drew in general)

Vieil – Old (Thanks, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. If you’re lost and have read the books/seen the movie, I remember this because Sirius dies by literally passing through the veil. People tend to die when they’re old, although I’ll admit this scenario doesn’t fit perfectly. Whatever.)

And then you’ve got jolie (pretty), which I remember because of Angelina Jolie. Oh, well.

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.