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.

You can purchase The Sidewalk’s Regrets via the following

Book DepositoryDymocks

 Wordery | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Giraffe Problems by Jory John

Published: 25th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Random House Books
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Pages: 42
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Can you guess what’s making this giraffe self-conscious? Could it be…HIS ENORMOUS NECK Yes, it’s exactly that–how on earth did you figure it out?

Edward the giraffe can’t understand why his neck is as long and bendy and, well, ridiculous as it is. No other animal has a neck this absurd. He’s tried disguising it, dressing it up, strategically hiding it behind bushes–honestly, anything you can think of, he’s tried.

Jory John is back with another fabulous book. Giraffe Problems is a brilliant book that much like Penguin Problems, has a giraffe who is unhappy with his absurdly long neck. This seems to be his only problem, but John explores this singular issue with humour and style.

The narrative is hilarious. The short sentences and the quick words sound just like the complaints of the key character, all beautifully presented in and around Smith’s illustrations. There are no rhymes, but you don’t need them as John writes a great story that reads like a funny list of complaints and grievances by Edward and the annoyance as he interacts with those around him.

There are more words to the story as it goes on and you see how this poor giraffe has tried to cope with his long, long, super necky neck. There are beautiful moments too and I loved the interactions with all the various animals he comes across.

Smith’s illustrations deserve attention on their own. The dark earthy colours on the page bring out the feeling of nature and the expressions and actions on the animals are realistic but have a comical tone as well. The design of each page enhances the story because it makes you move your eyes around to follow the words, or rotate the book or open a flap. It adds another level of interaction beyond only reading the words on the page.

I loved the surprises at the end, sweet but still having that humour seen throughout. It is a wonderful example of understanding the benefits to being different and what may be a problem for you, may be a solution to someone else. I love Penguin Problems and I am a huge fan of Giraffe Problems as well. I am looking forward to seeing what other ideas John comes up with because I’m sure it will just as delightful.

You can purchase Giraffe Problems via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 26th February 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Australia
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

Lily is a producer on a successful cooking segment for a daily morning show. The new chef has just arrived on set and he is drop dead gorgeous. And despite everything – the sabbatical that Lily and her flatmate Simone are taking from men, the fact that Jack is a work colleague – Lily falls head over heels for him.

And while Lily battles her feelings, her flatmate Simone breaks their pact and starts dating some guy from her wholefoods shop. That guy turns out to be Jack. Up close, Lily bravely watches on as romance blossoms between Simone and Jack. Or does it? They don’t seem to have much in common, apart from their striking good looks. And Lily and Jack just seem to get each other. Is that the same thing as falling in love? And could she ever dream of betraying a friendship? Lily has to make some difficult decisions about work and home, and realises that if she doesn’t take life by the scruff of the neck, she is the one who’ll be picked up, shaken and dumped. 

I really loved this book. I had it sitting on my shelf for years and I finally got around to reading it in 2017 and I have to say I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was made into a TV show but I can’t bring myself to watch it because based on a cursory glance at the first few episode summaries it clearly changes a few things I absolutely loved about the book so I haven’t watched it. I’m sure it is still good in its own right but I want to preserve my book memories.

The blurb makes the story sound more like unrequited love than I believe it initially to be. Naturally, after having sworn off men, the perfect one walks into Lily’s life, but what I loved was that Lily and Jack’s relationship doesn’t start off perfectly. She takes a while to warm up to him and their friendship and work/life banter is much more enjoyable than having them get together. Yes Lily starts to get a crush on Jack, but it doesn’t consume her or become to focus of the novel, her determination to further her career is the focus of her days and Foster balances her work and her downtime really well so Lily’s whole life is encapsulated without having every tiny detail and event laid out.

I loved that Foster didn’t go the jealous friend/unrequited love route she could have done. Yes it is there in the tiniest instance, but Lily is so in denial over her feelings for Jack initially she never pines over Jack being with someone else, nor does she obsess over him like a lovesick puppy. It was really refreshing and I loved the different approach to having her feelings be the be all and her job and life be brushed over while she spent her time thinking about him.

So much of everything is done wonderfully in this. The right balance of fun, seriousness, and romance. I love Lily as a character, she is young but growing up, she knows what she wants and has a goal in mind, but she also has a little fun as well. I definitely think a reread of this is in order because I remember it being such a wonderful read filled with the surprises and delights to entertain while also feeling real and having an emotional impact.

AWW 2020 Challenge

Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

A new year brings another chance to participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Riding my high from my win last year I am starting my goal strong; to read 40 books and review 35. I think this is a huge challenge because I think I got lucky last year but I am also hopeful I could use this opportunity to read more Aussie women in a bid to hit this mark.

If you have always wanted to try this challenge or are looking for a new reading challenge to partake in, then head to the Australian Women Writers website and sign up. You do not have to dive in to reading 40 books if that’s daunting, the set levels start as low as reading four books by Aussie women, or if you like you can set your own goal. The AWW community is wonderful and filled with support and if you are ever in need of ideas or new titles to find then it is a wonderful place to start.

The challenge runs from 1st January to 31st December so there is plenty of time to complete your goal whatever number you pick, and you can sign up at any time during the year until the end of November.

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