Anna & The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Book Review

I gave this book 4 stars.

After reading Lola & The Boy Next Door, I was a little skeptical about the hype surrounding Stephanie Perkins’ novels. However, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised in reading Anna & The French Kiss.

Anna is a rising senior from Atlanta, Georgia who’s father sends her off to spend her last year in high school at the American School of Paris. Crazy as it sounds, Anna is UPSET that her father would do something as wonderful as give her an all expensive paid YEAR in Paris! So grudgingly, she enters her final year of high school in a distant land where she doesn’t speak the language. However, once Anna is there, she meets a group of amazing friends and starts off a year full of new beginnings. There’s just one problem….she ends up falling for a boy who is already taken.

While Anna’s’ character is somewhat cliche, her storyline isn’t overly unbearable. Perkins adds depth to the storyline by pairing Anna’s trials and tribulations with different viewings of cinema or books that the character studies in school or goes to see in her free time. I really enjoyed this maneuver by Perkins because unlike in Lola’s story, Anna’s dream of becoming a film critic are acted on subtly instead of drastically. This allowed me to not feel overpowered by the extraness of Anna’s character. The interweaving of movie knowledge within Anna’s story also gave me something to draw comparison’s to in Anna and St. Clair’s (i.e., her French crush) encounters.

In addition to this, I enjoyed the fact that Perkins’ novel was set in the romantic atmosphere of Paris, but she didn’t try to beat readers over the head with too much romance too quick. She spoonfeeds her readers Anna and St. Clair’s story in a way that isn’t tedious or too overbearing. ***SPOILER*** Yet, I was a little peeved that one of Anna and St. Clair’s other friends was hurt in the process of the two becoming a couple. I would’ve preferred if Perkins didn’t insert an extra girl for Anna to have to compete with within her own circle of friends to date St. Clair. This just seemed extra brutal in terms of the standard rules of friendship do’s and dont’s.***SPOILER***

This being said, while this book isn’t fully original in plot or theme, I did truly enjoy it. I would definitely reread and recommend this book to others. I’m seriously really looking forward to Isla & The Happy Ever After to come out in September after reading this novel.

If you’re a lover of Netflix’s Emily of Paris tv series, you’ll love Perkins’ novel!

This book was finished on April 13, 2013.

#BookReview of “Crick Crack, Monkey” by Merle Hodge

“𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘰𝘹 𝘰𝘧 𝘦𝘥𝘶𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘴 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 – 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘢𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘤𝘪𝘰𝘶𝘴, 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘹𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘤𝘪𝘦𝘵𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩 𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘦𝘥𝘶𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥.” ― James Baldwin

What was the last book you read that reminded you of yourself?

When I was in high school, my parents paid for me to go on a class trip to Europe. On the trip, I had my first real taste of a world that was culturally different from my own. 

Cover of Crick Crack, Monkey by Merle Hodge. Photo taken by @IntrovertInterrupted on Instagram.
Cover of Crick Crack, Monkey by Merle Hodge

Upon my return home, I couldn’t stop talking about this trip, & I found some way to always tie the conversation back to what I had seen while I was away. Fed up, my father finally told me, that he hadn’t sent me there to come back & question he & my mother or the life they were providing for me. 

I was stunned. In my mind, I’d only been sharing my observations about the vastness of the world. But to my father, I had presented my observations in juxtaposition to the life he & my mother had provided me, & this was akin to blasphemy to my proud African-American parents. This experience mirrors Tee’s awakening in Crick Crack, Monkey by Merle Hodge.

Author, Merle Hodge
Author, Merle Hodge

Published in 1970, Hodge’s novel is celebrated as a significant work in the Caribbean Literature canon. Set in Trinidad, Hodge’s story is a coming of age story of Tee, a young girl who is shuffled between two aunts’ houses. Tee’s Aunt Tantie and Aunt Beatrice represent the working & upwardly mobile classes of Trinidad & Tobago, respectively, & both vie for a chance to raise Tee & shape her views on the world.

While this novel is not “action-packed,” it made me think of how forcibly “whiteness” gets thrust upon Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. We as minorities often never question ourselves or our cultural traditions until we’re sent to be educated in White spaces or come in contact with a White person who strips us of our humanity.

Watching Tee’s views of places she loves unravel as she‘s forced to try to move closer to an ideal of wealth & whiteness that‘s ever present on her island helped me began to understand why my father rebuked me waxing poetic about Europe so long ago. 

Until We’re Fish by Susannah R. Drissi #BookReview

Thank you to @RandomTTours and Mrs. Rodríguez Drissi for my finished copy of Until We’re Fish!

Blog Tour Dates for Until We’re Fish

In a virtual talk with Harvard Book Store, Susannah Rodríguez Drissi says of her title, Until We’re Fish, that “fish are bounty…they speak of potential.” For her, the loose translation of her title means “until [the characters] are able to claim a space for [them]selves and feel like [they] belong,” they will always feel like “fish out of water.” And nothing can be more accurate for the three main characters, Elio, Maria, and Pepe, as the reader follows them on their journey into adulthood over a span of thirty years in Cuba. 

Cover of Until We’re Fish by Rodríguez Drissi

Set from 1958 to the 1990s, Until We’re Fish by Susannah Rodríguez Drissi, is a coming-of-age story. Elio, Maria, and Pepe grow up during the tumultuous years of the Cuban Revolution. As the novel unfolds, each character is forced to make hard choices as they wrestle with the futures they desire for themselves while living in the unfair world that the revolution creates.

As a girl, Maria dreams of freedom and moving to Chicago after spending years reading the Sears catalog. However, Elio, her neighbor, only dreams of Maria and owning a Schwinn bike. In direct competition with Pepe, his friend and rival for Maria’s heart, Elio holds out hope that Maria will be his.

Author photo of Rodríguez Drissi

Rodríguez Drissi’s prose is distinct as she narrates the lives of her characters. This author’s descriptive portrayal of Cubans trying to fight to survive succeeded in drawing me in as a reader because I could picture revolutionary Cuba during the 50’s going forward. And as a lover of languages, having the author use rich references and imagery to her home country and the novel, Don Quixote, helped build suspense about what choices her characters would make regarding their lives and fleeing Cuba. However, it also drives home the point that the Cuba mainland Americans imagine pales compared to the world that native Cubans inhabit or for the world those who immigrated left behind.

Until We’re Fish is an authentic tale about survival, love, and coming of age in a world where nothing is a sure thing. Lovers of Chanel Cleeton’s When We Left Cuba and Next Year in Havana will enjoy returning to Cuba from the perspective of Cubans who were left on the island or chose to stay as revolution broke out.

Through The Voice of the “Other:” Book Review on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 “I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”  – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I’ve been struggling to write a review for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book, Americanah for the past week due to mixed feelings about it. Upon finishing it, I was equal parts content and frustrated with the book. While it met my expectations in a way, I was also let down by certain aspects of the novel. I end up giving this book 4 stars due to a lackluster ending and the general feeling that Adichie only meant her characters to be mouthpieces to voice her feelings on different cultural and political topics.
 

At its heart, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a book about various immigrants who are trying to work their way through discovering what it means to be a part of the countries they’ve immigrated to while also holding on to their original cultures. Adichie’s story is told through the perspective of Ifemelu, a Nigerian blogger who has lived in America for thirteen years and Obinze, a wealthy Nigerian business man who still lives in Nigeria. From Ifemelu and Obinze’s perspective, the reader learns about different race issues that go on in America, the way the Nigerian government works, and hears the stories of different people who have settled abroad or come home to live in Nigeria after living abroad.

Comment below if you’ve read this book!

As the novel begins, Ifemelu is set to return home to Nigeria after her hiatus in America and decides to reconnect with her childhood sweetheart, Obinze. The two previously lost contact once Ifemelu went to America to finish college. By the time that Ifemelu reaches out to him, Obinze has moved on with his life and is married. Adichie makes it very obvious to the reader that the two characters have built separate lives from the ones that they once lived as carefree children who were oblivious to the ups and downs of Nigerian politics.

The pacing of this story was fairly good. The author was able to say a great deal about the Nigerian culture while also providing adequate details about each of the main characters’ lives. There were times in the book where the background history about Nigeria became long winded, but it never got to the point where I felt the need to put the book down. One thing that hindered the overall pacing of the story, though, was Adichie’s habit of adding different blog post from Ifemelu’s blog at different intervals in each chapter. While some of the post were interesting and thought provoking, others just seemed awkward in their placing or unnecessary altogether.

In terms of characters, Adichie creates solid ones to tell her story without making them seem overly preachy. Ifemelu’s character is pegged as someone who “tells it like it is” and isn’t afraid to call others out on their BS. Behind this character’s tough exterior, there is also an inquisitive nature that helps give her the initiative to voice her opinion about race relations in America and Nigeria and confront different issues that plague African immigrants and African-Americans. This bluntness in the character as she tries to gain an understanding of racial groups who are deemed as “the other” in America can also cause readers to label Ifemelu as a callused individual. Yet, Adichie makes it a point to eventually peel back this character’s layers and expose her reasoning behind each negative assessment of American and Nigerian culture.

On the other hand, Obinze is a character that is a dreamer at heart and is initially hell-bent on making his way to America to live out his fictional dream of “making it.” Mentally, he believes that life can only begin once he makes it to this glorified Mecca.  Obinze is an individual who also scrutinizes the immigrant’s life, but unlike Ifemelu, his character makes it a point to do so from the role of an unbiased onlooker opposed to a blunt critic. It would seem that his longing to become a part of the Western world keeps him from being overly harsh in his judgement of “the other’s” role in society in places like England and America.

With the building of Ifemelu and Obinze’s character, Adichie creates a storyline that holds the potential to be electric once it hits its climax, but it ends up falling flat for me due to its lack of originality. To me, this is extremely sad because for a good 3/4 of her book, Adichie makes powerful statements about race relations in America and politics in Nigeria. However, when it comes time to wrap up the loose ends of Ifemelu and Obinze’s love life, she creates a weak generic ending that feels dry and so unlike what her reader’s expect of her characters. In this way, I feel as if Adichie did more telling than actual showing in her book. I was truly interested in the cultural topics she spoke about, but by the end of the book, I got the feeling that she could’ve condensed the actual love story of Ifemelu and Obinze into a mere 150 to 200 pages and written another book about her feelings on race in America/ Immigration laws in America and England/ Nigerian politics.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Nigerian culture or who wants to learn what the American or English culture looks like from a non-white immigrant’s perspective. However, if you aren’t interested in hearing a lot of back history to either of these culture’s, I would recommend reading something else.

As of September 2019, there has been word that Danai Gurira of Walking Dead and Marvel’s Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame fame is adapting the film as a limited 10-episode series for HBO Max. Gurira’s television series would include heavy hitters, such as the Oscar winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o, from Twelve Years A Slave fame and the Emmhy award winner, Uzo Aduba, of Orange is the New Black acclaim. If you’re excited about this adaptation, drop down below and leave a comment!

Cheers!

Going To The Edge Of Crazy: A Book Review On "32 Candles" by Ernessa T. Carter

I gave this book a solid 5 stars!!!

Ernessa T. Carter’s book, 32 Candles kept me entertained from start to finish.

Davidia Jones is an outcast at her school and unloved by her mother. Growing up as a dark-skinned African-American girl in her southern Mississippi town, she learns to fold in on herself and become numb to others’ taunts about her skin tone. Add to this the fact that Davidia refuses to speak at all, and it’s a recipe for disaster. However, once she reaches high school, the unthinkable happens……..she falls in love with James Farell, the newly arrived small-town football player and resident rich boy.

While James fails to acknowledge her presence, Davidia takes matters into her own hand and uses her Molly Ringwald-playbook to win James’ love. Unfortunately, James’s sisters have something else in mind and set off to make Davidia’s life hell. Fleeing from her small town after a prank goes too far, Davidia hitchhikes to Los Angeles with a female trucker. Here she changes her name to Davie Jones and becomes a sultry lounge singer. Seventeen years later, James walks back into Davie’s life and this time, she’s ready.

Davidia/Davie’s character is one of those characters that worm their way into the reader’s heart and forces them to become invested in the character’s story. Davidia’s character is well constructed and feels authentic to the reader. Even when she exacts her revenge on the Farell family, the reader has sympathy for her and may even want to help her payback the rich snobs who caused Davidia pain in high school by bullying her.

The author’s pacing for this story helps drive the story’s action. This is helpful in building the story steadily to climax and keeps the reader interested. The storyline also felt well though out and was easy to relate to whether you were popular in high school or an outcast. While the novel does span over a time period of roughly twenty-eight years, the pacing of the story never has the reader feeling the urge to hit fast forward on Davidia’s story.

Carter’s novel is definitely one that I would recommend to anyone who wants a taste of revenge or who just loves a good novel about a girl coming of age in the 80’s. However, I would caution that this book is meant for a mature audience since there are some heated scenes within the novel that may not be appropriate for a younger audience.

Cheers!