Anna and the French Kiss

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It’s funny how things work out. Almost immediately after I posted about Just One Day, i received the fabulous and amazing news that I will actually be traveling to Europe this summer!! It’s crazy to think that I’m going to be able to explore Edinburgh and Dublin. I’m literally so excited. And speaking of excited – let’s get the review started!

Blurb:

Anna can’t wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?

Goodreads score: 4.17/5

Review:

If you’ve ever had the desire to run off to Paris and live your life, then this is the book for you, although I doubt you and Anna would get along. Anna and the French Kiss is a charming young adult novel about falling in love and exploring the city of love. Yes, the plot may be a little contrived (and there are times when the main characters deserves a good smack on the head) but its just such a fun look at falling in love as a teenager. Only in Paris.

French Kiss covers the entirety of Anna’s senior year in high school, beginning with her first day, where she is absolutely dreading moving to Paris (which. What?) through to her graduation. It also encompasses the story of her friendship with St. Clair, the handsome boy she meets and falls in love with. (Side note: I think the name Etienne is gorgeous) The interactions between the two characters are what really sold the novel for me. Perkin’s manages to imbue their conversations with sparkling wit, all while balancing that awkward line between friends and … not-friends. St. Clair and Anna’s tentative foray into romance is just such a sweet story, if rife with ups and downs and some hypocrisy on both their parts. They are just such believable teenagers, and reading French Kiss made me laugh out loud, groan, go squirmy and finally cry.

I’m not going to say this book is perfect – Anna’s definitely got some character flaws, one of which is her unbelievable stupidity about Paris. I nearly put the book down at the beginning, because I was so irritated by the fact that she seemed to know literally nothing about France. Yes, there is a sticky situation concerning infidelity that isn’t handled so gracefully and yes, sometimes the problems that Anna faces just seem so contrived. But the thing is, this book managed to hit me where a lot of other young adult romances haven’t. French Kiss is a book about being stupid and young and falling in love in one of the best cities in the world.

I think that there is a lot to say for a book that you can pick up and feel happy reading again. Stephanie Perkins has actually become one of my favorite Young Adult writers – Anna and the French Kiss is just the first part of trilogy. Each of her books manages to create a deeply flawed – but extremely human and likable – main character. The thing about reading her books is that I know an Anna, or Isla, or Lola. Maybe sometimes I am one. The point is that people aren’t perfect – but that doesn’t mean that their stories aren’t lovely to read.

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Just One Day

Just One Day – Gayle Forman

How gorgeous is this cover?

You never know what you are going to find in the recesses of your computer files. A couple of days ago I was sorting through everything – deleting old documents, trying to figure out if I seriously needed to hold onto that one photo of a cat in a teacup (answer – yes) – and I found this review that I did before starting college. You can find my opinion below – I haven’t actually read the book since, but my review definitely brought back memories.

BLURB:

 From the New York Times bestselling author of If I Stay
Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.

REVIEW:

You know how there are some books that stay with you? This is absolutely one of them. Written by Gayle Forman (the author of the If I Stay series, which are also fantastic) Just One Day is a coming of age, a slow burn growth and exploration of youth and how events can change people’s lives. After meeting Willem on a train, Allyson makes the impulsive decision to spend the day with him in Paris. What happens next leads to an entire year of waiting and introspection.

This was definitely a hard book for me to review – even though it is one of my favourites. What exactly made me love it so much however? It follows a pretty standard plot device. However when I read it I was instantly sucked into Allyson’s world. Her confusion, her heartache, her hope. Maybe it’s because she’s so relatable – everyone can remember that feeling of helplessness before college and during. When you don’t know where you are going or why. It’s such a moving thing to watch Allyson grow into herself and accept the events of the day that changes her.

An interesting thing about this book is that I found the second part of the book much more emotional than the first. While the beginning is arguably more action packed (Day in Paris, etc) I thought that Allyson’s emotional story was far more relatable and touching. It was just so realistic – her struggle to become who she wants to be. And of course, by the end, I was on the metaphorical edge of my seat watching her track Willem down. But the great thing about this book is the open ending – we as readers follow Allyson’s story. We really don’t know Willem at all, which means that we can fill in his character and the end of their story.

While I would have loved to have had a more satisfying sequel (which is from Willem’s perspective and is so lackluster to me that it doesn’t merit a review) there is no doubt that Just One Day holds a special place in my heart. It’s a classic tale of growing up and falling in and out of love. I’m not arguing that this book is perfect however – Allyson has a tendency to look down on nearly every female character in the book, and it really irritated me in the beginning when she kept whining that the cities she was travelling around (London! Rome! Paris!) didn’t look like the movies. I was sitting there thinking: Um, OK, get over it. Apart from that however, I really truly love this book.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

Y’know, reading this review, I was reminded of how nervous I was beginning school. The parts about reading her life in college really stuck with me apparently. Now that I’m nearly done with freshman year, i can completely identity with Allyson’s feelings of isolation and depression. I think college is such a time of downs and ups that her feelings are completely valid, and I know that I have definitely felt the same way at times. It’s such a reward when Allyson decides to go after what she wants, and I think Just One Day is more than the romance it’s advertised as. It’s a very powerful story of a young girl trying to  figure out what she wants and going for it – who amongst us doesn’t want the same? I’m wondering what I’ll think the next time I pick up the book – I’ll be in the same place as she was (and how exciting is that!)

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Life After Life

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Blurb:

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Ursula’s world is in turmoil, facing the unspeakable evil of the two greatest wars in history. What power and force can one woman exert over the fate of civilization — if only she has the chance?

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.

Goodreads Score:3.74/5

Review:

I was somewhat disappointed by this book, to be honest. After hearing raving reviews from friends, and intrigued by the plot (time travel? WW2? Y’all know that’s my jam) I decided to pick up Atkinson’s latest work and give it a go.

It was…long. I don’t remember really enjoying anything about the book. I just remember thinking that I had to work my way through it, because there had to be a reason that everyone loved it so much. Now – don’t get me wrong. Atkinson is extremely gifted with the written word, and her lyrical prose is probably what kept me trying to read on. There are several chapters that were like honey to my eyes (which is a weird sentence) and I liked the recurring theme of the snowy night, but overall her book was lacking for me, plot wise. The end just had nothing to it, which was frustrating after such an impactful beginning. I felt like I had literally clawed my way through this (frequently depressing and confusing) story only to wind up even more frustrated. Because I am not ashamed to admit it. I just didn’t get the ending.

I thought that the biggest hang up for this book was the time travel element. The characters were all so fragmented (even the sister, who is ostensibly a main character) and I couldn’t get a feel for the main character. Likewise, some of Ursula’s lives were far too long, whilst others were too short. I felt like half the time I was reading something that could have been edited out and I would not have missed it. All in all, not a great thing for me to think while I’m reading a book.

Life After Life is simply an interesting idea that was poorly executed. While Atkinson’s lyrical prose definitely save this book, the dead characters and meandering chapters don’t help the floundering plot line.

The Sapphires

20131122162310the_sapphires_posterDirector:Wayne Blair

Actors: Chris O’Dowd

Deborah Mailman

Jessica Mauboy

Shari Sebbens

Miranda Tapsell

Tory Kittles

Eka Darville

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

Synopsis: In 1968, four smart, gutsy young Australian Aboriginal women become unlikely stars by singing for the U.S Troops in Vietnam. With the help of an R&B loving Irish musician, Dave Lovelace, they transform themselves into a sizzling soul act and set out to make a name for themselves hundreds of miles from home. Inspired by a true story, The Sapphires is a celebration of music, family and self-discovery.

Review:

You can’t just ask someone why they’re not black. But you can, however, ask them to sound more black. Which is one of the first problems facing The Sapphires, a 60’s aboriginal girl group born down under.

The Sapphires is the true story of a remarkable group of women who managed to put together a girl group and travel to Vietnam. Co-written by one of the sons of the real-life singers and directed by Wayne Blair, this movie packs a punch and a amazingly good soundtrack.

The movie opens up with two stark facts. 1. Until 1967 Aborigines in Australia were not considered humans by the government and 2. The government had the authority to remove the light-skinned native children from their families to make them a part of white community.

We meet the future Sapphires as children, about to put on a show for their families. Halfway through, however, the light-skinned cousin is taken away to become a part of the stolen generation. It’s a powerful, painful beginning.

A decade later, the three sisters – Gail (Deborah Mailman) Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) decide to enter a singing competition. Braving the racism of the croud, they sing an American country western song. The accompanist (Chris O’Dowd) is a washed-up mess who nevertheless recognizes their potential and helps them form The Sapphires. They reconnect with their stolen cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), switch from country to Motown and pass the audition to go perform for the US troops in Vietnam.

Once there however, it’s not an easy road for any of them. A girl group with four members means a lot of opportunity for romance, drama and power struggles. Luckily, the Sapphires manages to avoid falling into a Behind the Music hole by matching fabulous 60’s soul songs to the real life drama happening off stage and on. It’s a hard journey for them, dealing with the valor of the GI’s, the still present racism, and the death and horrors happening around them.

The Sapphires is a movie with a lot of heart (I was going to say soul, but Ugh). Form the get go it’s packed with tension and hurt and love. The actors do an incredible job of balancing the frustrations felt along with the joys. Its not an easy movie to watch at times (especially as Gail and Kay deal with the fall-out of the stolen generation) and Mailman does such an incredible job with her protective ferocity.  In addition, the soundtrack manages to add even more oomph to an already great movie. Seriously – these ladies can sing. Anyone who enjoys Motown – I Heard it through the Grapevine, Super Pie Honey Bunch, and other hit classics are performed- will love this movie.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was equal parts sad and funny, uplifting and depressing. It’s a new look at race issues that still impact the world today, and manages to neither harp on nor ignore the seriousness of the issues that the girls face. However, the Sapphires is more than that. It’s a celebration – of family, of good music and life. It’s an amazing movie based on amazing people. Fitting, no?

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P.S. While the issues of the stolen generation is an important part of this movie, an excellent film that really delves into those issues is Rabbit Proof Fence. I would highly recommend that movie as well.

Perks of Being a Wallflower

Perks of Being a Wallflower

 

Film Poster

WOOHOO! Time for a Perks of Being a Wallflower review – because I’m apparently on this kick of watching things that are two years or older. I also have to admit that I’ve never read the book…so this is purely a film appreciation post!

 

Director: Stephen Chbosky

Actors: Logan Lerman

Emma Watson

Ezra Miller

Mae Whitman

Kate Walsh

Dylan McDermott

Joan Cusack

Paul Rudd

Genre: Drama

Run Time: 102 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Grade: 85%

 

Summary” Freshman Charlie is a perpetual wallflower until he falls under the spell of the beautiful, free-spirited Sam and her fearless stepbrother, Patrick; together, the trio navigates love, loss, fear, hope – and the quest for the perfect song – in this unforgettable adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s beloved novel.

 

Review:

I’m 99% sure that this book is mandatory reading for angsty adolescents.  Stephen Chbosky’s famous novel about an alienated high-school freshman who is befriend by a group of non-conformist older kids is a classic for anyone who has ever felt like a ‘wallflower’. Good news – if you liked the book then you’ll most likely love the movie as well. Perks is directed by Chbosky as well, and he has managed to adapt it near perfectly to the big screen. It’s always great when the writer has direct input – just look at The Fault in Our Stars. Or 50 Shades of Grey. Never mind….

Set in the 90’s, freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman) begins writing a series of letters to his friend. Charlie is the quintessential loner – awkward and uncomfortable around his peers, it’s an exercise in discomfort to watch him navigate this dangerous new world. Welcomed by Sam and Patrick, Charlie is quickly absorbed into a group of seniors who embrace their differences. The crowd is artsy – and more importantly, outsiders. They teach Charlie how to embrace himself and he learns about sex, drugs, drinking and friendship. It’s pretty much every teenagers fantasy of finally finding your people, and very relatable.

It’s an important movie about embracing your differences. Nearly everyone can identify with Charlie, who is so deeply unsure of who he is and where he belongs. Struggling with the suicide of his only friend and the death of his aunt, Charlie is mired in the depression and ‘dorkiness’ of his life. It’s a heartfelt and sincere performance by everyone, with Lerman and Miller shining in particular. Watson’s American accent wobbles at times, but delivers  a solid performance with a quirky, slightly damaged Sam. Perks is a film with a heart, and it’s all about working through people’s damage with the help of friends – and music.

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PS. Is anyone else sick of that ‘we are infinite’ quote?