Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Love and Muddy Puddles" by Cecily Anne Paterson

Love and Muddy Puddles
by Cecily Anne Paterson

Love and Muddy Puddles is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Thirteen year old fashionista Coco Franks has finally made it into the popular group when her dad decides to move the whole family to the country so they can 'bond'. Social death is looming, her shoes are covered in mud and all Coco wants to do is get herself back to her city friends. After all, things can't get any worse, right?

Over the next few weeks I perfected the look that I called The Half Roll, where I opened my eyes as wide as I could, looked from side to side and did a slight downward roll of my eyeballs. It wasn’t enough to get me into trouble with Mum who had a thing about rolling your eyes—it usually merited a toilet clean—but it was just enough for me to say, Really? Are you kidding me? Is this the way it’s going to be? I’m definitely better than this.
I did the half roll when I saw the shed that was going to be our new house. Seriously? This is disgusting. Gravel on the floors, no proper walls—just corrugated iron—with a ‘kitchen’ that was nothing more than a portable stove and a camping fridge attached to a noisy little generator. I did the biggest half roll I could do when Dad set up my ‘bedroom’, which was basically a bed behind a shower curtain. I didn’t even have enough room to put my suitcase out permanently. Every time I wanted to get dressed I had to hoick it on to my bed, choose my clothes and then put the thing away again.
The only thing I didn’t make a half roll face for was the pit toilet. Yes, it smelt, but there was no mud, stinging nettles or leeches, and I guess I had to be grateful for something. I still made sure I checked for brown snakes (actually, for snakes of any colour—it’s just that the brown ones can kill you) every time I went though. It would have been earth-shatteringly embarrassing to have ended up in hospital with a snake bite on my bottom.
Plus, I was trying to minimise the risk of dying in a place where I would probably have the most unfashionable funeral ever. Knowing Dad as I now did, it would be quite likely that he would bury me in a field somewhere and forget all about me. There would be no headstone with an elegant quote, no quietly sobbing people in black hats, no flowers and no yearly visits from my grief-stricken friends coming to lay memorial bottles of nail polish and rolls of sushi on my grave. No. If I was going to die I would have to wait at least 12 months until I got back to the city where I could do it properly.
Josh and Charlie took to the new life like they had been living it forever. They chopped firewood, helped Dad clear space for the house and explored the property with the kind of energy that you get when you put a brand new set of batteries in a set of slot cars. Vrooooom.
I was left with the run-down, mismatched dodgy batteries. The bargain bin, no-name ones with rust and grit on the ends. I hardly had enough energy to get out of bed.
“Come on, Coco,” Charlie said to me every morning. “Let’s go check out the creek/back paddock/olive grove,” or whatever it was that day that was taking her interest. “What’s the matter?”
“I don’t really feel like it,” I said. “I’ll just stay here.”
She looked at me concerned. “Are you sure? Do you want me to stay with you?” I shrugged and smiled at her, but it was a weak smile. “I’m okay here.”
She stayed for three minutes but then her curiosity got the better of her and she was off. “I’ll be back later. Promise.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’m just tired.”
It was mostly true. Everything was an effort. With no electricity in the shed, I couldn’t believe how much work it was to do even a simple thing like take a hot shower. You had to pump the water from the tank into a drum, build a fire underneath it to heat it up, wait three hours while it heated and then fill the camp shower with buckets of hot water. After that, if you got three minutes you were lucky.
Dad showed me how to do it in the first week. I gave him the half roll and even went to a full roll (out of sight of Mum of course) when he told me that he expected me to do it myself after that. But I couldn’t imagine living without a shower at least once a day so I went through the whole rigmarole every day for a week before finally giving it up as a joke. There are limits to how much work I will do—even if it’s to keep clean and maintain standards. I admitted defeat (but only to myself) and stuck to a simple face and hands routine with a bowl of warm water in the morning and a weekly shower and hair wash.
Life was ridiculous, difficult and grubby. I mean, this is the 21st century, right? As I told Charlie almost every day, people invented electricity and toasters and hairdryers for a reason—because life is better with them. But there was no convincing Dad. He was hopping around every morning like an excited bunny, talking to builders and making plans and marking and measuring and sticking rods in the ground and reading books and talking to Josh about farming and other stupidly boring things that made my head spin. At night he was holding his hands out in front of the fire, sighing and saying, “Oh, now this is living. This is how it’s supposed to be.” Half roll. Please. Charlie was talking about horses, and could she get one eventually, wearing muddy gumboots, jodhpurs and cowboy hats and sitting on fences like she’d never seen a city in her life. Even Mum, who I thought for sure would have cracked once she realised she’d either have to wash the clothes by hand or take huge loads to the Laundromat a half hour’s drive away (and that’s after she’d made it up the driveway from hell) seemed to be enjoying it.
The days sorted themselves into a routine of food, chores, schoolwork, more chores, more food and more schoolwork. I did the half roll when Mum first pulled out books and pens and things. “Why even bother?” I muttered under my breath. “If we’re going to live in Middle Earth, I don’t think we need algebra. I’m sure that hobbits didn’t learn biology.”
As it turned out, there was a benefit to doing school at the farm. For one thing, it didn’t take so long. I spent three hours doing stuff we took six to get through at school, so I was definitely saving time. The question was, though, for what? There was no TV, no internet, no electricity, nowhere to go and nothing to do. There was also no one to talk to.
Or so I thought.

Some Favorite Lines
"We're the top of the pile. I'm not being arrogant. I'm just stating a fact. We know we're at the top and we're going to stay there."
"Before that minute I'd never understood books or poems that talked about things like hearts melting or people going weak at the knees, but as soon as I saw that photograph I felt both of those things at once. If I hadn't been sitting down, I might have fallen over."
"I needed to have another cry. A serious cry. Forget about the mascara - my face was over for the day."
"They looked at each other with dewy eyes and then, urrrgh, they kissed on the lips. Spare me, Mum and Dad. That's disgusting. Parents should not kiss."
"That time I didn't care about the mascara streaks on the pillows. Black marks on purple satin are tiny problems when the rest of our life is ruined."
"Give a girl a manicure, a good haircut and some bronzer and she's good to go. No character required."
"I thought horses were supposed to be nice, sweet things with ribbons in their manes and ridden by little girls, but let me tell you, that's a complete myth invented by the publishing industry who just want to sell pony stories."


By Lynda Dickson
Coco Banks and her best friend Samantha want desperately to be part of the cool group in school. However, just when everything starts working out for Coco, her father makes a surprise announcement that will change her life - and not for the better, in her opinion. Never ask is things can get any worse; they always do. But when Coco meets the neighbors, that's the beginning of a new chapter in her life. Coco finally finds something she loves and someone to love. And she finally finds her way back to her family.
Coco is an annoying whiny brat concerned with the purely superficial. You can see the author is setting her up for a big change in personality after her move to the country. So the ending is kind of predictable, but the journey is great fun. Coco has a fabulous natural, self- deprecating voice, and I love her snarky asides. Hilarious episodes have us laughing at her expense. I think the author had great fun putting Coco through all her ordeals; I can picture her laughing out loud as she wrote some scenes. On the other hand, there are some extremely painful moments as well. This book reminds us of what it's like to be a teenager. How every little thing is so important, how everything hurts so much, and how we feel like it's the end of the world when things don't go our way.
I love the author's writing style and the fact that the chapters end with little teasers so you have to keep reading. I look forward to reading more by this author.

About the Author
Cecily Anne Paterson desperately hopes that someone will develop a self-cleaning house soon so that she gets more time to write. She should probably also teach her four children to cook for the same reason. Cecily creates true-to-life stories for young teenage girls, mostly because she never really grew out of being a young teenage girl herself. She grew up in Pakistan, went to boarding school in the Himalayan mountains and now lives a much quieter life in country New South Wales, Australia.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a paperback copy of Invisible by Cecily Anne Patterson (US/Canada only). Plus everyone can get a FREE ebook copy of Invisible.