The Sidewalk’s Regrets by Kate Larkindale

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Evernight Teen
Pages: 304
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Sacha McLeod isn’t looking for someone to rock her world. But when she hears the boy in the music store play the guitar, the music thrills her and she falls hard for Dylan and his sound.

Sacha finds herself spending less time with her violin and more time with this guy. Her plans for her violin-virtuoso future—and her self-confidence—are shattered when she screws up the audition for a summer music program. Failure isn’t something she’s had to face before, so when Dylan asks her to spend her vacation with him in the city, she lies to her parents, pretends she won a place in the summer school, and secretly moves in with Dylan.

She’s expecting romance, music, and passion, but when she finds herself playing second fiddle to Dylan’s newly acquired drug habit, she realizes despite what the songs say, sometimes love isn’t all you need. 

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author for review

CW: Drug use

I was pleasantly surprised by the direction this story took. It wasn’t the rock and roll summer story I was expecting, though there were a few tropes like instant love which was convenient, but from a “first love at seventeen” approach the infatuation and impulsiveness makes sense. The narrative starts off slow as we are introduced to Sacha and her world of classical music. Her sheltered music life gets a jolt when she hears the music of Dylan for the first time and she is thrown into this rock and roll world. From there the story starts rolling and soon it has a nice flow which is maintained through the rest of the story. It was quite fascinating because the story doesn’t follow the typical route I was expecting, but there are still great moments of tension and drama you come to expect from this kind of story. It’s a story of a band trying to hit the big time, a girl whose dream might not happen, and the lure of fame and the rock and roll life. The three of those things together sound like a story already told but Larkindale adds a new approach and it makes for an engaging story.

Sacha’s mindset and her goals are explored quite well through this and you see how her reasoning and her justifications change with each new experience. It’s one way to see it as her constantly changing her mind, but it makes more sense that she justifies things to herself, especially given her situation and her desire to stay with Dylan. The depiction of drug use is well done and a very apt description from what I have read elsewhere. It is a key part of the story and there are moments where using drugs is described in action and character reaction. Larkindale also shows the gradual descent of usage, the way it starts off small and soon grows into something bigger. It also shows how easy it is to actually fall and how you can go from top to bottom fairly fast.

Even though the perspective is always through Sacha, the rest of the characters felt real. Larkindale has given them a lot of depth into their passions and desires and you understand their motives and actions, even if they seem foolhardy at the time. This is a story revolving around one summer, but Larkindale takes it beyond that as well and you see the characters grow and find out who they are. I loved how the story ends up, the experiences of the characters makes this story and seeing how the story ends is satisfying once you have gone on this journey with them.

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Twilight (#1) by Stephanie Meyer

Published: 5th October 2005 (print)/14th May 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 501/14 hrs and 51 mins
Narrator: Ilyana Kadushin
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
★   ★  ★  – 3 Stars

About three things I was absolutely positive.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

It took me fourteen years but I have finally read Twilight and honestly…it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I can now agree that the movie made this into a much creepier story than it first appears. The first half actually reads like a normal YA novel, there’s a normal sounding girl in a normal kind of situation who falls for the pale, strange boy at her school…who turns out to be a vampire. I have no idea what the movie did to it but they made it much weirder and creepier than the vibe I got from this book. I’m not saying it is perfect, but it was a decent story.

As a character Bella is a bit strange but isn’t that the point? A different girl whose mind can’t be read by the vampires around her. Admittedly she is blasé about a few things which is strange, especially when you think she should have some kind of reaction, but maybe she is just a strange person which is totally within her rights to be.

I have only read a few vampire stories and each one has taken on a completely different approach to the vampire mythology. I liked Meyer’s approach, it is a different take on the traditional expectations which at the time was new. It may not be the blood sucking legends people expect but that is her whole point. This is “real life” and not the centuries of myth that has accumulated.

Edward is certainly odd. He has a curiosity about him in regards to Bella, but he also has a few moments of patronising and dare I say grooming. Despite being seventeen in appearance, he is clearly older mentally and you can see this in his actions. It is extremely creepy and having seen the debate over the years I honestly am no more enlightened why Edward is continuing to be 17 when he can lie and say he is 18 and go and live his life somewhere and not in high school.

Up until this point is was a decent enough introduction into this world, clearly the start of a bigger story Meyer has planned. The final third takes a sudden shift into the strange. Once Bella needs to be hidden it suddenly shifts to no other option than to flee. If they had an agreement with the other vampires why wouldn’t that stand? And of course there are hundreds of other people to feed on, why are they obsessed with this one? Is it only because she was friendly with them and it is deemed unnatural? This might be where Meyer was trying to make Bella into something special but that didn’t come across to me. It was too out of the blue. I don’t think I believed her reasoning for leaving town even despite the danger. I’m glad Meyer addresses this because it seemed to be a huge leap.

The narrator of the audiobook was ok, not great. The voices and tones Kadushin used for the characters didn’t work for them. It made Bella and Edward more soft spoken and breathy than they should have been and even if this was a paranormal and romantic story it doesn’t need to sound constantly dramatic and airy.

I can see the bigger story forming and I’m looking forward to see the few things I have picked up over the years finally in context. They are strange out of context and I have no doubt they will be strange in context as well.

You can purchase Twilight via the following

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My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg

book-bite

Published: 1 February 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  ★  – 3 Stars

 

This isn’t just about me. It’s also about the other people in my life – my mother, my father, my dead sister Sky, my penpal Denille, Rich Uncle Brian, Earth-Pig Fish and Douglas Benson From Another Dimension. These are people [with the exception of Earth-Pig Fish, who is a fish] who have shaped me, made me what I am. I cannot recount my life without recounting elements of theirs. This is a big task, but I am confident I am up to it.

Introducing Candice Phee: twelve years old, hilariously honest and a little … odd. But she has a big heart, the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to ensure everyone is happy. So she sets about trying to ‘fix’ all the problems of all the people [and pets] in her life.

Jonsberg captures Candice’s uniqueness remarkably well. With her voice and actions we get an insight into who she is and the kind of life she leads. She has a unique way of thinking and acting, but while she is odd in some people’s eyes, her heart has good intentions.

The premise of detailing her story through the A-Z school assignment is a clever solution as it allows Candice’s story to be told in full and you can see the interconnecting actions. Jonsberg explores her family situation and the complex history naturally and in due course, we also get to see her interactions with those around her like her friends and fellow classmates.

Underneath the humour and the quirkiness there is a powerful story about family and forgiveness, and the healing nature of love. Candice is a powerful force in her own right and it is cringe-worthy at times when you read about what she is doing, but understanding she is twelve years old, with her own way of thinking, sometimes that is just what is called for.

You can purchase My Life as an Alphabet via the following

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His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

Published: 10th September 2019 (print)/10th September 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Flatiron Books/MacMillan Audio
Pages: 480/14 hrs and 13 mins
Narrator: Various
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Horror/Anthology/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.

My main exposure to Poe has been the Simpsons and the amazing Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Dinner Party series on YouTube. But Poe is such a huge name in literature the references are often found in the most unlikely places. This retelling of Poe’s short stories are an amazing contribution to Poe’s legacy because they bring modernity to his tales while keeping the themes and the unnerving nature of his imagination to new audiences.

I loved the way these authors have retold the original stories. You can see the evidence of the original Poe stories coming through but the unique modern and not so modern settings these interpretations are divine. Some of the stories have a close similarity to the original Poe tales, others have a similarity that is easily recognisable, while others change completely but the theme and intention remains. The horror side is mild otherwise I wouldn’t be touching this, nothing overly grotesque but it is eerie and unsettling which is perfect for any Poe story. There’re sinister intentions and things from out of this world, but each of these authors tells stories that are modern, timeless, and in other realms altogether.

A rarity for an anthology I enjoyed all of these stories. Of course some were more engaging and intriguing than others, but I found that each story had its own curiosities that kept your mind working, especially as you think about what the original story is that they are retelling. Absolute stand outs for me include Happy Days, Sweetheart (The Tell-Tale Heart)The Oval Filter (The Oval Portrait), and She Rode a Horse of Fire (Metzengerstein); and I loved the creativity of The Glittering Death (The Pit and the Pendulum)Changeling (Hop-Frog), and It’s Carnival! (The Cask of Amontillado). But there were so many other wonderful ones like Lygia (Lygia)Night-Tide (Annabel Lee), and The Fall of the Bank of Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher) where each author brought their own styles and imagination into a story that I was amazed the same story could be told but in a completely new way. These authors have given voices to those who didn’t have a voice before. The first person nature of many of these stories allows insight into intent, thoughts, and justification which is fabulous considering some of the deeds depicted in these stories.

The audio version is narrated by each of the authors, telling their own tale to the listener. They also narrated the original Poe story that their reimagining is based on. I enjoyed listening to these authors read their own stories. They had good pace and range of voices which helps you enjoy the stories even more.

I do prefer the new versions, they bring modernity not necessarily in their settings or content, but in their language. Compared with Poe there is a lot less waffling and wordiness (looking at you The Purloined Letter) that is removed while still maintaining the theme and tone of the stories. That is to say some were quite enjoyable, they are dark and sinister, creative and poetic. It is easy to see why Poe’s stories have lived on. These retelling do that wonderfully, even if you don’t read the originals you can still enjoy these retellings, they keep Poe’s intentions alive and the haunting nature of some of these stories is still ever present.

You can purchase His Hideous Heart via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

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Emmie and the Tudor King (#1) by Natalie Murray

Published: 11th June 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Literary Crush Publishing
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult Historical
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

One moment, Emmie is writing her high school history paper; the next, she’s sitting with a gorgeous 16th century king who vacillates from kissing her to ordering her execution.

Able to travel back to her own time, but intensely drawn to King Nick and the mysterious death of his sister, Emmie finds herself solving the murder of a young princess and unravelling court secrets while trying to keep her head on her shoulders, literally.

With everything to lose, Emmie finds herself facing her biggest battle of all: How to cheat the path of history and keep her irresistible king, or lose him—and her heart—forever.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

The premise of an alternative Tudor history drew me straight into this book. What if Queen Elizabeth 1 had children, and what if one of those became King? This is the story Murray has so skilfully created.

Filled with suspense and danger, the unpredictability of a King’s temper and a lawless world, there is a lot to grab your interest. The risks Emmie takes in befriending the King and his court is paramount, but seeing these names and faces as real people and not just words in a history book have emotional effects.

Emmie isn’t presented as a history fanatic who knew every person and event that she encounters, a choice which I appreciated. The common knowledge exists of these figures but there is also the 21st Century advantage of the internet which plays a role in learning more of these characters.

The secrets and surprises revealed in this are amazing and your brain works overtime trying to solve not only the main mystery, but all the other little mysteries as well. I loved that it’s a story nestled in the real Tudor history but is still a story so new and unique on its own. One book in and I am already curious to find out the ongoing effects of this insertion into history, about the future lines and events affected as a result.

It was interesting because while history and the future shouldn’t be changed because what has happened has happened, with this being an alternate history already I almost rooted for history and the future to change because it felt like it didn’t matter as much.

The dark side of historical amusements means there’s such things as bear baiting, cock fights, and public executions that happen with this story, but there is a romantic approach to the era as well which Murray brings out. Something which is no small feat given it’s a bit hard to fathom with the lack of hygiene and proper medicine, foul streets and other Tudor issues. But this is also a world being viewed through the eyes of the court and not the common citizen.

Murray captures the Tudor 16th century clothing and lifestyle without it becoming heavy with content. I understood the mood and the dangers without Murray needing to flood it with references, and the language balances between modern and Tudor. While you can argue Emmie words and language may see her as more out of place and strange, Murray works with this well and Emmie does well to manage, 16th century English not completely foreign to our own language. Though I did feel like Murray lessens the old English a bit as the story goes on.

I am excited to dive into book two because Murray leaves us with an exciting conclusion and after all the excitement that has come before I am keen to return to both these worlds and see where Murray’s imagination will take us next.

You can purchase Emmie and the Tudor King via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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