Bodice Rippers & Erotica Book Reviews: Stephanie Perkins

For more, check out Stephanieís website.

Lola and the Boy Next Door
Anna and the French Kiss

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins Book Cover of Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Read by Natalie October 2011

Natalie recommends this as the perfect companion novel, so real and so sweet!

Lola and the Boy Next Door is the delicious companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss. This time our story is set in San Francisco, which incidentally is where Anna and Etienne both go to school, so yes you do get to see more of them! However the focus of this story is Lola, who just happens to work at the same movie theatre as Anna and Etienne. Lola is a quirky character who likes to think of outfits as costumes that shouldnít be repeated, ever! Choosing to express herself through her crazy dress sense which include wigs, glasses, glitter and so much more, she seems to have it all with her two loving fathers and her gorgeous rocker boyfriend. However all that is shattered the morning the dreaded Bell twins move back in next door.

Having been gone for 2 years, Lola thought she was rid of them forever. Now happily involved with Max, the much older rocker boyfriend, who puts up with the grillings at Sunday brunch with her dads so he can be with her, she thought she was over Cricket. However Lola is forced to confront them both when the twins move back in, including the bitchy Calliope who ditched her when they were young and the huge crush she had on Cricket, which she thought was reciprocated, only for it to end in disaster. Despite thinking she is over him, she is thrown for a loop when she faces the new and improved Cricket. Not only is he more gorgeous (and tall) than ever, but he has learnt from the past and is no longer shy about telling Lola how he really feels about herÖstill. But, ever the gentleman, when he finds out Lola has a boyfriend, he settles for being friends with her even though itís clear both of them feel something more. As Max becomes more and more suspicious and jealous and Lola becomes more and more secretive about her time with Cricket and confused about her feelings for him, things get even worse when her drug addict birth mother shows up looking for a place to stay. As family tensions reach new levels, Lola lashes out at all of those around her and makes some stupid decisions along the way. Finally, after a heartfelt chat with Etienne who alludes to his own path to self-discovery with Anna, Lola realises what it is she has to do.

Just like its predecessor, this book is truly sweet and so refreshingly different from the usual chick-lit out there. Whatís so nice about it is that itís just so real. All of the characters have their flaws. None are perfect, yet to steal a line from Stephanie herself itís peopleís imperfections that make them perfect for someone else. Thatís what this book is. There are no classically gorgeous looking boys and girls, instead you have characters who are confused, angry, short, have gaps in their teeth, wear glasses and so much more. Cricket is adorable as the boy who having learnt his lesson in the past, now choses to wear his heart firmly on his sleeve for all to see. This only adds to Lolaís confusion about how she feels, causing her to make silly, but perfectly realistic mistakes. Whatís even better is that when Lola finally wakes up and works out what she wants, her break up with Max is far from perfect and she doesnít instantly jump onto Cricket, realising instead she needs time to heal so that she can deserve him and become herself again. Having been friends with him for years, it is nice to see that reconnection between them again after their separation and the development of that into a real relationship. Itís also sweet to revisit Anna and Etienne and see how much they are still in love, which is so gorgeously much! There are hints that the four of them could actually end up on a trip to Paris together, which would be the perfect lead in to the third companion novel Isla and the Happily Ever After which features Josh from the first novel. Out in 2012, I canít wait to get my hands on it.

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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Book Cover of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Read by Natalie August 2011

Natalie recommends this as tres bon, jíai adore!

Seventeen year old Anna is livid when her father ships her off to the American School in Paris for her final year of school. Despite getting to live in Paris without her parents, it means leaving behind Atlanta, her best friend Bridgette, her baby brother, her beloved job at the movie theatre and Toph, the boy who might be about to become more than just a friend. Arriving in the city, Anna finds herself with no friends and unable to speak the language. However she is quickly befriended by Meredith from the room next door, who immediately includes her as part of their group, along with Rashmi and Josh and the gorgeous but unavailable Etienne St Clair. Anna is immensely grateful and despite her attraction to St Clair, she knows he has a girlfriend and is happy instead to be friends with him, knowing that Meredith also harbours a secret crush on him too.

As Anna settles into life in Paris, she finds herself not only having fun and enjoying everything the city has to offer, but also growing closer and closer to St Clair. He shows her the sights, dragging her from the dorm and helping her with her French. He watches and enjoys movies with her and he defends her when others at school pick on her. As the two of them become virtually inseparable, Anna is confused by the feelings she is having. She knows St Clair has a girlfriend and she knows she still harbours feelings for Toph back home. Yet Anna and St Clair's chemistry is palpable and it sometimes seems as though they are more than just friends, even those around them can see it. When they spend an amazing four days alone in Paris over Thanksgiving, Anna is not sure what to think. But St Clair starts to runs hot and cold, apparently confused by what he wants and still having the pesky little problem of a girlfriend! After Annaís disastrous trip home at Christmas, things go from bad to worse when drunken confessions from both St Clair and Anna hint at what their true feelings are. As a lack of communication between them threatens to derail any relationship before it has a chance to start, will Anna ever get her French Kiss with St Clair or are they destined to remain friends, despite the fact that both of them seem to want more

This book is truly sweet and so refreshingly different from the usual chick-lit out there. All of the characters are developed and they all have a role to play. No one is perfect and there are deeper reasons for some of the behaviour and feelings. Yes it features a love triangle, but itís only sort of a triangle and it is nowhere near as painful as others out there (think Twilight). Also, there is no ridiculous love at first sight, canít live without you stuff Ė Anna and St Clair are friends first, then become best friends because they actually have a lot in common, can talk and make each other laugh, and finally admit to feeling more for each other. Itís believable, itís realistic and itís very, very sweet. Plus, Anna and St Clair are hilarious, both with each other and in their own actions, but thankfully, they are also flawed and not your typical gorgeous male and female lead. There are two companion novels to this, the next being Lola and the Boy Next Door which is set in San Francisco (hint Ė Anna and St Clair go on to university there, so youíll get to see them again!), followed by Isla and the Happily Ever After featuring Josh from the first novel. Having enjoyed Annaís story, I am definitely picking up the next in the series. Do yourself a favour and read this book for a very real and refreshing look at young love, it will leave you with a big smile on your face and begging for a year abroad in Paris!

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