Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Published: 4th February 4th 2020
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six: The band’s album Aurora came to define the rock ‘n’ roll era of the late seventies, and an entire generation of girls wanted to grow up to be Daisy. But no one knows the reason behind the group’s split on the night of their final concert at Chicago Stadium on July 12, 1979 . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ‘n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road. Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. 

I was caught up in the story from the beginning as it moves from introducing these famous rock figures years after their initial success to their lives in the band and the highs and lows of the music lifestyle. The use of the interview format was not only clever, but it is streamlined so succinctly and seamlessly I could see these characters sitting down being interviewed which Reid should be commended for. It really goes beyond an interview transcript – I could see this playing out before me in my mind.

There are twists and surprises and it felt like a rock and roll story. The pain and anguish these characters go through feels real and through the whole thing you were connected to their lives. Every experience, triumph and downfall comes through with Reid’s amazing storytelling. This is a fictional account of a fictional band (but based on a real band) but I have never wanted a fake band to be so real. The way the characters discuss music and lyrics, the creation and reaction to songs I wanted to hear them, I wanted to listen to the final edits. There are lyrics included at the end of the book which was a great surprise and a great chance to see how all that talk of words and meanings came together in the end. Though, I feel this would also ruing the magic a bit. Actually hearing the music probably would take away how I imagine is playing and how Reid has masterfully described it being played.

The change of view between band members, producers, managers and others shows how the same event is experienced differently from person to person, and how someone might perceive themselves isn’t how the world is actually seeing them. Reid’s creation of these characters make them own people and they are fully fledged and formed, but when you look at it as a fictional account based off a real band then it’s even more captivating because while so much is manufactured, there are true elements as jumping off points and it’s what makes this such a great read.

This is a story that takes place in the 1970s rock and roll scene so there are characters drinking and doing a lot of drugs. This topic is dealt with in a few ways with excess and abuse but also attempts at redemption and getting clean. There is a lot more to this story than the rock and roll lifestyle. Through the interviews we hear about the character’s hopes and dreams, their pain and their joys that are deep, personal and bittersweet.

Every time I picked this book up I was drawn back into these musicians and their lives and with each new chapter, each reveal, twist and surprise I became more invested. Even if this had no basis on any real band this reads like a real account of real lives and the power Reid has in her words to create such a response from a reader and world creation is impressive.

You can purchase Daisy Jones & The Six via the following

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Green Lizards and Red Rectangles and the Blue Ball by Steve Antony

Published: 02 Mar 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hodder and Stoughton
Illustrator: Steve Antony
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The green lizards and the red rectangles have finally learned to live in harmony together … but what happens when a blue ball appears from nowhere?

A timely story about celebrating diversity and learning to get along, told with style and simplicity.

Antony shows us the world is greater than red rectangles and green lizards with the arrival of a blue ball to the now peaceful society. The blue ball is an outsider to the harmonious society created by the red rectangles and green lizards and therefore is an enemy and must be banished. A literal wall is built to keep it out – once again raising questions about the red rectangles sentience – separating the blue ball from the others.

I love Antony’s use of colours because they are bright and bold, and solid so there is only red, green and blue to work with. Also making the objects and animals sentient they are “alive” and can tell a story and have a message without needing a complex world or storyline behind them.

Once again the illustrations help raise the story as the blue ball’s imposing size on the red rectangles and green lizards shows difference and fear of the unknown. Another strong point is there are no reasoning behind the prejudice. It isn’t mentioned that the ball’s size, shape or colour are what make it exiled, it’s just different so it must go. This simplifies the story to its main points and brings the message home that it isn’t one reason that the rectangles and lizards object to.

Like in the previous book, Antony shows us that it sometimes only takes a couple of individuals to make a stand and change things for the better – the loudest voices of hate can be drowned out by the majority of people standing up for what’s right. This is a great story about how different isn’t always bad and how growing and accepting can be beneficial for everyone.

You can purchase Green Lizards and Red Rectangles and the Blue Ball via the following

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The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Published: 4th May 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Text Publishing
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Two sisters. An unputdownable story.

Cee woke up on the shores of an abandoned island three years ago with no idea how she got there. Now eighteen, she lives in a shack with an ageing android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and she has to escape to find her.

From the safety of the eco-city floating above Earth, now decimated by natural disasters, sixteen-year-old Kasey mourns Cee whom she’s sure is dead. She too wants to escape: the eco-city is meant to be a sanctuary for people who want to save the planet, but its inhabitants are willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Is Kasey ready to use technology to help Earth, even though it failed her sister?

Cee and Kasey think that what they know about each other and their world is true. Both are wrong. If you loved We Were Liars or Black Mirror, you’ll love The Ones We’re Meant to Find, a clever, inspirational scifi thriller with a dash of Studio Ghibli.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher

Having not seen Black Mirror my only hint about this story going in was We Were Liars which I loved so I entered this knowing it was dystopian and there will be The Unexpected. I’m pleased to say He delivered on both fronts. Even the Studio Ghibli reference made sense in the end, I’d even throw in a little Wall-E. The story told is one about love, hope, technology, and humanity – both its failures and its hopefulness.

The futuristic dystopian world is well constructed; it is rich and detailed and despite there being a lot to process and uncover it makes sense and there is depth and history that gets explored through the plot. As we follow Kasey we gain an understanding of the past, the present and the system and failures that led humanity to their current lives.

The story is full of surprises and suspense, and there is a great mystery throughout that branches out into so many other plot points and I loved how He brought this all together. The alternating chapters offers two side by side storylines that reveal so much and so little. The tiny revelations throughout add more to the mystery but as we start to piece it all together He stops us in our tracks by throwing to a different POV and forcing us to interact with another experience and delay finding answer to cliff hangers and huge revelations. It is masterfully well done and beautifully frustrating.

Kasey’s life of trying to recover from her sister’s disappearance and also bear witness to the destruction of humanity is a powerful perspective to read. Through her eyes we experience the present and how society is full of technologies that help day to day life, but at the same time the literal world crumbles around them or poisons them if they aren’t privy to the securities other have. The merit based class system was an interesting concept and it was fascinating to see how humanity shifted from rising sea levels to a city in the sky and the different rights people are afforded.

Cee on the other hand, is trapped on her island with no memory and only one thought of finding her sister. I loved her chapters because while Kasey’s gave us the wider story, Cee’s experiences were individual and her challenges and growth was enough to capture my curiosity and set my mind working about what was happening and where she was. As the story goes on, Cee offers more in way of plot but the stark contrast between a dying world and a tranquil deserted island was amazing and watching them blend together was fascinating.

The two different points of view are superb contrasts and the tiny details and minor references have huge meaning behind them. It’s through these that you try and piece together this world He has created. The little details could mean something or nothing, my own theories ran through my head trying to conjure up scenarios for What It All Means.

Overall this is a fantastic story. It’s complicated and important, and it has a message but manages to not be preachy about it. The creativity and the intricacies of the story are divine and He has told a beautiful story about human capabilities and the lengths they’ll go to with the right motivation.

You can purchase The Ones We’re Meant to Find via the following

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Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

Published: October 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen and Unwin
Pages: 242
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

On her eighteenth birthday, Lady Truthful, nicknamed “Newt,” will inherit her family’s treasure: the Newington Emerald. A dazzling heart-shaped gem, the Emerald also bestows its wearer with magical powers.

When the Emerald disappears one stormy night, Newt sets off to recover it. Her plan entails dressing up as a man, moustache included, as no well-bred young lady should be seen out and about on her own. While in disguise, Newt encounters the handsome but shrewd Major Harnett, who volunteers to help find the missing Emerald under the assumption that she is a man. Once she and her unsuspecting ally are caught up in a dangerous adventure that includes an evil sorceress, Newt realizes that something else is afoot: the beating of her heart.

In Newt’s Emerald, the bestselling author of Sabriel, Garth Nix, takes a waggish approach to the forever popular Regency romance and presents a charmed world where everyone has something to hide.  

Having not read the blurb beforehand and diving straight in simply because it was a Garth Nix book, this wasn’t at all the story I was expecting. That isn’t to say it wasn’t wholly enjoyable. I learnt about the regency, historical, and magical elements as I went. It wasn’t until the end that I realised exactly what it was but this didn’t dampen my enjoyment at all.  The story is full of real-life history but is laced with magic and fantasy as well. I love that one of my rare experiences to a historical regency romance is through Garth Nix and his elements of magic and fabulous storytelling.

I loved this style of regency romance. I am sure it isn’t the way a historical regency romance is meant to be but the story was funny and enjoyable and I was pulled along through the pages. The story was compelling, and the characters were complicated and unique with relationships, histories, and grudges. I’ve taken a shine to regency stories with a touch of magic and supernatural of late and this is a great addition.

I loved the disguises and the subterfuge, the fact Newt has plans while also having no real plan at the same time is fantastic. There are tongue in cheek moments, the story is light and not overly complicated but detailed enough to set the story which is all I needed.

The story ends with a grand masked ball which is what you want from your regency stories. Plus all the flirting and bickering and secret disguises makes it even more enjoyable. This is a fantasy in a regency setting, not a classic regency which, knowing nothing about the genre, I think it means Nix can do whatever he pleases and the story will be magnificent regardless.

You can purchase Newt’s Emerald via the following

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The 130-Storey Treehouse (#10) by Andy Griffiths

Published: 20th October 2020 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Pan Australia
Pages:
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Andy and Terry have added 13 new levels to their treehouse and now it’s even more out of this world than before! There’s a soap bubble blaster, a GRABINATOR (it can grab anything from anywhere at any time), a time-wasting level, a toilet paper factory (because you can never have too much toilet paper), a super long legs level, an extra-terrestrial observation centre and the best bookshop-in-a-treehouse-in-a-tree-in-a-forest-in-a-book in the whole world!

After nine previous incarnations of this book it’s always interesting to see how the story never gets old despite the fact it is so formulaic. Having said that though, with 13 new storeys there are a myriad of new adventures waiting to be had, and while the previous 117 storeys go largely forgotten each time, it’s always a curious endeavour to see what Andy and Terry (and Jill when she’s involved  – which is never enough in my opinion #MoreJillContent) get up to.

With so many wild adventures possible, it’s always a nice change to have a simpler story that doesn’t involve too much chaos. This is one of those stories and it was a refreshing change, Griffiths balances his books out well so the series includes both styles so you don’t get burnt out on too much activity but there aren’t too many simpler and less action filled ones either.

As much as I enjoy the antic of Andy and Terry and the incredible complex and creative ways Griffiths weaves together all the various levels and chaos of the treehouse into a story, it is also nice when the adventures can be exciting without being busy. This is a fantastic story filled with excitement, mystery and suspense but it’s linear in a way some of the previous stories are not. There’s action and consequence but without things coming in from left field all the time steering the story off course – which have their place and are incredibly fun – but I did notice this had more of a straight line story. There’s journeys into space, enjoyment in a time wasting level, and a not so subtle reference about toilet paper which are only part of the fun.

I’ve done a lot of the previous books as audios but this one was a paperback and it was nice seeing Denton’s illustrations again. The tiny details and the small friends that live and hang out in the treehouse alongside Andy and Terry are fun to look at as they embark on their own antics and getting to visualise the various storeys and what they involve is wonderful.

You certainly do not have to have read the previous books in order to enjoy the story, which goes for all of the books in the series. Part of the formula is that Andy introduces everyone and the treehouse each book so every time can be someone’s first time. Despite having this structure to work around it’s still fun to marvel at how creative the story can be in-between, even when defying physics and logic, laws of space and time or general sensibilities.

You can purchase The 130-Storey Treehouse via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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