Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Author: Leslye Walton

Page Numbers: 301

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is as the title promises – both strange and beautiful. Ava is the narrator, beginning with her grandmother’s birth and subsequent immigration with her parents and 3 siblings to the US at the turn of the century. What follows is a sorrowful tale where Ava’s grandmother and great aunts and uncle are all incredibly unlucky in both love and life, and Ava’s grandmother vows never to let love pierce her heart again.

Ava’s mother also learns the same lesson at a young age; a brief encounter with her young love results in the birth of twins. Strange, silent Henry, and Ava, a girl born with the feathered wings of a bird. Ava and her brother are kept separate from the outside world, sequestered in the family home on the hill, where Ava watches the world go by. Her story is one of isolation; her grandmother and her mother are both steadfast in their resolve to not let love in, lest it hurt too much, and so Ava and her brother grow up with attention but not so much in the way of affection. Her only friend is the neighbour’s daughter, who dares her to try to fly, in more ways than one. As the years pass, Ava grows close with the brother of her friend, and the three of them venture out into the world to participate in normal teenage events. It’s on one of these outings that Ava stumbles across a man who will change her life in horrible, unspeakable ways.

The story of Ava and her unusual family is beautifully told, using lyrical prose and gorgeous descriptions. The ending is left ambiguous; you’re uncertain as to the exact events, but left with a sense of hope, that perhaps her life will no longer be so sorrowful. Ava and her mother both learn lessons about love and the futility of holding on to things you shouldn’t for far too long. Overall, it’s a beautiful, magical tale that will stay with you long after you’ve finished

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Beach run

At dusk, a boy and his dog run on the beach at low tide.

A cool gentle breeze ruffles hair and fur as they fly over damp sand, huge beaming grins erupting on both their faces.

‘C’mon, girl!’ the boy calls over his shoulder. ‘Let’s go!’

The dog bounds up beside him, her ears flapping, her legs moving in perfect unison. She cannot remember ever having more fun than this, in this wonderful moment with her boy.

The early morning sunlight glistens on the blue sea like diamonds, and the salty scent of  water and weed fills their nostrils. The beach seems to flow on forever in one continuous sandy stretch – both boy and dog long to reach its end, to find out what lies at the tip of the boundary of both their worlds. But, nature has made them fallible.

The boy stops, out of breath, and rests his hands on his knees. The dog comes to a rolling stop at his feet.

‘Sorry, girl,’ he says, as he gently scrubs at her ears. She peers up at him, panting, her pink tongue flapping out of her face.

‘I just don’t have as much energy as you.’

After a brief moment of rest, the boy turns back to the dog.

‘What do you think, girl? Race you home?’

Tail wagging, with the boy’s laughter splitting the sky behind her, the dog races away back towards the beach’s entrance, water lapping at her paws.

As always, she’s the first one home.

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Book title: Artemis

Author: Andy Weir

Page Numbers: 384

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

I really enjoyed this one, but I wasn’t utterly blown away like I was with the Martian.

The world building was interesting and well done, although I would have liked it to have been expanded a bit more. I really enjoyed learning about how the first and only city on the Moon worked, and the unique culture that was developing as a result. I liked the idea that the Kenyans were responsible for the first city on the Moon because of their proximity to the equator – I just thought that the overall feel of the city could have been more African than American. Just as with the Martian, I found the science mostly fascinating – particularly the medical issues that people on the Moon face, such as having to return to Earth when pregnant, because fetuses can’t properly develop in the womb on the Moon (heh) or that you can’t move to the Moon before the age of 12, or it may permanently affect your growth and development. I wasn’t overly fond of all the welding stuff, and some of Jazz’s dialogue doesn’t really sound much like how women actually think or speak.

I did miss the humour and the wonderful characterisation from the last book though. Jazz just wasn’t as likeable as Mark Watney. Mark was utterly adorable, and every page sang with his personality and his wonderful sense of humour. Jazz was tough, mean, and kinda bitchy. Her sense of humour felt more… 12 year old boy. She didn’t seem to form relationships with people easily, and her methods of making a living were shady at best. I did enjoy Jazz’s email-based friendship with Kelvin, and her growing relationship with Svoboda. Her moral compass was shaky but generally seemed pointed in the right direction.

Overall, the book was well-written and interesting, but I feel like it was lacking something vital that would have made it a 5 star read.

Book Review: Lost Boy by Christina Henry

Title: Lost Boy

Author: Christina Henry

Page Numbers: 318

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I loved reading this story. It ties in so well with J M Barrie’s classic kids lit masterpiece. The idea of Peter Pan as a cruel, malevolent being – a true sociopath, really – was fascinating, as was the gradual realisation of the identity of the narrator, and his horrible fate. I was hooked (heh heh) from the very first sentence.

The Neverland island setting was at once magical and malign. Fantastic beings and creepy monsters mixed with pirates, sandy beaches, lagoons, and hollowed out trees to create a landscape that is both familiar and alien. The characters were also brilliantly rendered. I adored the narrator, and how he regained his humanity through his brotherly love of 5 year old Charlie and strong, steadfast Sal. The plot was cleverly done and well executed, and my heart broke for them all at the end.

After the glorious retelling of Alice and now this story, I will definitely read anything Christina Henry writes.

Summer breezes, beachy days

I adore this time of year. Not just because of Christmas, though I love that too. But because summer is back. I love beach dresses and sunglasses, and the act of packing a bag with a towel, a $5 note for ice cream, and a bottle of sunscreen, and just wandering aimlessly down to the ocean for a leisurely dip. It’s refreshing, both physically and spiritually – after just an hour spent in the sea, I feel as if my cares and worries have been cleansed, and I emerge from the ocean sparkly clean and vibrantly new.

I have lived along the seaside my entire life, but since moving to a little sand island just north of Brisbane 16 years ago, I’ve fallen more in love with the beach and everything it embodies. The colours are fantastic – the bottle greens, the vibrant turquoise water that we are lucky enough to experience this far north of the city, the deep blues, and the creamy white sand. I also love the animals – the sea birds, of course, but the turtles and the dolphins. Everything seems at once playful and relaxed, which is just the way I like it. I feel as if I could spend every day by the water’s edge and never tire of it, though my skin might.