Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BOOK REVIEW - THE FIRST THIRD by WILL KOSTAKIS - PENGUIN AUST - 5 HEART & SOUL STARS!

By: Will Kostakis
Published By: Penguin Aust
Released: Available Now
Details: Paperback for review from publisher, 248 Pages

RATING: 5 HEART & SOUL STARS!

Blurb: Goodreads

Life is made up of three parts: in the first third, you're embarrassed by your family; in the second, you make a family of your own; and in the end, you just embarrass the family you've made.

That's how Billy's grandmother explains it, anyway. She's given him her bucket list (cue embarrassment), and now, it's his job to glue their family back together.

No pressure or anything.

Fixing his family's not going to be easy and Billy's not ready for change. But as he soon discovers, the first third has to end some time. And then what?

It's a Greek tragedy waiting to happen.



BOOK REVIEW by Michelle:

I was fourteen when my grandmother taught me about love and the difference between moussaka and lasagne.
I was fifteen when I fell in love with lasagne. 
I was sixteen when I met moussaka. 
And I was seventeen when I realised it didn’t matter. Lasagne or moussaka, being on the other side of love hurt.

What an emotion filled read!

I laughed out loud, I cried and I did that weird giggle/cry combo.

Will Kostakis did for me what, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, did for me. 

I got pure enjoyment from his story and some lessons learnt along the way.

Will brought real characters to the page that resonated so well with me. He made me stop and think about my part in being the ‘glue’ for my family. Maybe I need to stop and think about doing some gluing myself. When I think about it, my nan was the glue, without realizing she was glue. She has passed on, no doubt as we speak, conducting a Scrabble tournament with somebody.

Will took me through an almost Greek Seinfeld story of laughs...and some tears.

One scene in particular had me swallowing down the lumps. The learn how to ride a bike scene. It was more than Bill not having been taught how to ride a bike because his father was absent in his life. It was what his friend did for him. Very touching. It was one of those weird giggle/cry combo’s for me.


‘It’s a dad’s job to teach you to ride,’ he said. ‘Consider this a loan.’
Mr P walked me and the bike onto the road.
‘I’m expecting tumbles, by the way,’ Sticks added. ‘You flipping over the handlebars at least once.’ 

.... ‘Thanks for this,’ I said, before he turned away.
‘The helmet? It’s no big deal.’
‘No, I mean, for coming to teach me.’
Mr P shrugged it off. ‘No worries.’
‘Stop bonding and start falling!’ Sticks called from the curb.
Mr P flipped him the finger. ‘You want to have a go?’
‘At flipping him off? No, I do it all the time. Oh. At this. Yeah, okay.’

....’There. Easy, isn’t it?’ he asked. ‘Now, you’re going to pedal.’
‘Don’t let go.’
‘I’m not going to let go.’
‘Okay.’
I pedalled forward slowly. Mr P walked with me. The bike swayed.
‘Just focus on pedalling. Don’t worry about your balance, I’ve got you,’ he said, raising his hand off the back seat and placing it on my back. ‘Go faster.’
‘Don’t let go,’ I warned him as I quickened the pace.
‘I won’t.’
‘I know your game. I’ve seen this on TV,’ I said, voice laced with panic. ‘You push them while they’re riding and you say you’re going to hold on, then secretly you let go and see how far they get.’
‘I would never,’ Mr P said, releasing the handlebar and giving me a push. 

‘Wait! No! You shifty-‘


I felt like this book was an omen for me to read, just with all the things that resonated in it for me. I got a lot from it.

I did chuckle at the places the characters visited or lived , they all meant something to me. Rockdale, I used to call it Rock-a-dale( my version of an accent) when I lived in Brighton Le Sands before I moved to Oatley. I was waiting for Oatley to pop up...sadly it didn’t. Hubs worked in Bexley and I now live couple hours from Brissie aka Brisvegas aka Brisbane. Ha! Not that any of that meant anything really. Just thought I would tell you.

Will has such honest humour that it sometimes had me crossing my legs in laughter and sometimes I put my hands on my hips ( figuratively speaking) and stated out loud , ‘Will’ in a mum type admonishing voice. But guys are guys and they see things in a guy way. I must say Will, you have permanently recorded in my memory bank some of Bill’s visual thoughts on his Yiayia and mother’s physical appearances. 

That would be when I put my hands on my hips, figuratively speaking.  I still laughed out loud, but felt a bit naughty doing it. Ha!

In last night’s cocktail dress and makeup, she looked like a re-animated corpse at a fancy dinner party.


Mum was standing in her underwear and heels. That close to naked, her body frowned.

‘What do you think?’
I was honest. She looked like a bin liner.


WILL!!



Sticks, is an awesome character. He has Cerebal Palsy. I loved how Will wrote his character.

Honestly.

Totally endearing.

A friend you would want for your son. Sticks aka Lucas rocked the Kazbah with his attitude. 

If there was one thing that the past couple of weeks had taught me, it was that no matter how heavy and weird life got, Sticks was a constant.

You really only see Sticks down when it comes to finding a boyfriend. He is a realist when it comes to what people see in him before they can see past his crutches, his sticks.


‘Why not just put it straight into my phone?’ Dean asked.
‘This gives you the chance to throw it away,’ Sticks said.
He smirked. ‘Why would I want to?’
Sticks didn’t reply.

.... On the way out the door, I looked back. Dean slid the coaster off the table and scrunched it into a ball.



Bill and Sticks have an awesome friendship. Nothing stands in their way. They are each others wingman.

We weren’t the exact same person, he was three times four and I was two times six. We both equaled twelve; we were just made of different parts.


I had Stick’s advice. I had to go slow, not swirl my tongue, open my mouth as much as she opened hers, be gentle, breathe through my nose and close my eyes.

Piranhas. Eating. Me. Alive.


This was one of my fave lines that had me all sniffly:

‘He really is the greatest guy you will ever meet,’ I said. ‘Sure, you’ll have to walk a little slower when you’re with him and stairs are a total bitch, but he is one in a million.’



I learned many things from Will’s story about a boy named Bill who may or may not be his alter ego and a family that may or may not be his alter..err...family.


I loved Yiayia. She is a gem of a character. She was so real to me. The whole lunch-meets Jenga was hilarious and I could so see it happening in a hospital room.

It was lunch-meets-Jenga, one wrong move and it all fell down.

I couldn’t help but go down memory lane with my nanna while reading this book. It was impossible not to. We affectionately called her, little nanna, for obvious reasons. She was little. I was her Scrabble opponent, I took her on her first ever holiday at 72 yrs of age. We did Cairns, The Daintree Forest, Port Douglas, Palm Cove and Daydream Island like we owned them. There was a fifty year age gap at the time, but that didn’t stop us rocking the Kazbah. We rocked it at nan’s pace, but none the less we rocked it. I became very familiar with her over-shoulder- boulder-holders, aka the brassiere. It was a monster. She could get it on, with a special spin it around, fasten the beast and then spin it back to where it should be. Well, it wasn’t quite a spin, but you get my drift. It was in the unfastening, I became intimately attached to that chore every night while on vacation and the nights I slept over spooning nan when we visited her regularly at her small house.  It was one of those thousand hook beasts. You burned up a sweat unfastening it.


My parents still have the same Croatian neighbours for the past 34 years. Yiayia reminds me of Maria ( my old neighbour) . The way she spoke in that short English. I was fifteen and being offered slivovitz, it is an apricot liqéuer, tastes like rocket fuel. Well, to a fifteen year old it did.

My point is, when reading Will’s story, you can’t help stop and think about your life, your family, where you are all at. Peter made me think about my sixteen year old son who has become emotionally detached from the family. I was waiting for some pearls of wisdom on how to deal with this in the book. Maybe I need to make Lasagne with him? Or maybe I will give this book to my middle son, he can read it and give it to my eldest son and maybe it could work like moussaka and something will click.

If Simon was a bushfire, then Peter was a lit cigarette - all smoke and no pleasant.

And, those sheets! I laughed until my face leaked. I was pulling quotes for hubs to listen to and he was chuckling ( I wrote giggling but that didn't sound very manly) at the sheets.

‘The best though,’ I said, standing back and relaxing into it, ‘is when my grandmother goes shopping for sheets. She calls them “shits”. But she doesn’t just walk in and say she wants “shits”, no, it’s always “high-quality shits”, “comfortable shits”.

But even those 'shits' that I was laughing so hard at, well, Will had a way of making you realize that the things you find funny and endearing about your grandmother, can also hurt their feelings.


‘I want new shits,’ my grandmother said. ‘High quality shits.’
Yes, I could have just helped her find them, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make at least one member of the floor staff feel incredibly uncomfortable.
‘I’m sorry?’ he stammered.
‘Shits. Where I find the shits?’ She exhaled and turned to me. ‘Yiti yelas?’ She wanted to know why I was laughing.
‘Sheets,’ I said.
‘Yes, shits.’ She couldn’t hear the difference.
‘No, sheets.’

.... ‘One day,’ Yiayia said, shaking a fistful of fabric at me, ‘someone will laugh at you and you no feel good.’

... ‘In first part,’ she said, ‘your family embarrass you. Then - pff - they die.’

... ‘In number two, you find agape, you find love, you make baby, you want to have family like before.’

... ‘Then , one day, you old. You try to give, and your family,’Yiayia shrugged, ‘they embarrassed. And then-pff-you die.’

And then you are pulled up by your tighty whities and you remember all those things you used to laugh at that your nan did, and it makes you wonder, did it upset her? Those times I got the giggles when she would put a foot on a step while climbing on the bus and let rip a fart and she told me to stop giggling and be quiet, but I couldn't help it. It was funny. I was young.

And... Will made me stop and think for a minute...again.

I could so see this book on the big screen. A very honest story that read like it was straight out of Will’s life. If we all looked to our own families we may have a story in us we could write that is full of heartfelt moments and laughter, but Will actually did it.


When all said and done, this is quite a powerful read injected with much humour along the way.

I totally, highly , absolutely recommend this contemporary read about a Greek boy who has been given a bucket list by his Yiayia, a simple list at first glance, not so easy to put into practice. I have had one of those for a long while now, they are quite fun. Yiayia chose him , not his brothers to complete the list. To fix what needed fixing in Yiayia's eyes.

Watching Bill try to complete this list for his much loved grandmother was as much entertaining as it was filled with heart squeezing moments.

Along the way Bill is looking for that first kiss, that first girlfriend, all those things boys think about and need their wingman for. Listening to hormonal Bill was hilarious. What guys think when looking at a girl they are interested in, well you really have to read this book.

I stared at the spot past the curtain where the freckled girl had been. I’d fallen as deep in love as I could in ten seconds.

Bill is a smart, funny, loyal character on several missions for his Yiayia, there are hormones flying about and family issues in Will’s story.

I personally am saying NO! taking a stand against ever in the future using chicken fillets or speed dating at the over 40’s RSL night if anything ever happened to my much loved hubs and my children thought it was time to get back out there. If it is meant to happen, it will. That just sounds frightening.

The chicken fillets are just wrong, ha! I will also be seriously thinking about doing a hundred sit ups a day from now on so that my body never frowns. Gahhhh! Also, stretch marks, need I say more, gahhh! 

The last page...well it gave me hope, and it made my face leak...again.

A story that touched me emotionally in all the right places, and it made me miss my nan all that much more.

Will has written a story with a lot of heart and a lot of soul. A true gem of a read.

‘You spend the first third getting embarrassed by your family. When they pass away, you spend the next part trying to make a family like the one you had. And then you’re old, you just embarrass whatever family you’ve made.’


Michelle

8 comments:

  1. What a long but lovely review, Mich!

    What you said that I loved the most was, "...but guys are guys and they see things in a guy way." And I'm glad coming from you, as a mature woman, that you understand that guys have different minds than to girls, we describe and see everything around us in a different light. (This is what I'm actually going to write a blog post on soon because I'm seeing way too many female readers comment negatively on thoughts and sayings by male narrators - like how breasts sag, or how shrivelled an old woman looks, etc. ) Off my rant.

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    1. Hey Braiden,

      Aww thanks Braiden I loved your review too. It is hard not to get personal in our reviews when reading this book and reviewing it as it does hit some points in our own lives.

      I have two sons and I totally understand how guys see things differently. I just LOVED this book. Shhhh! lol! 'mature woman'. With age comes looking at things differently. I did see some reviews and I did wonder if I would like Will's book, but I always go with the policy of finding out for myself.

      I am so glad I did. I can see this book becoming a movie. It has something for everyone. I have told hubs he is reading it and Liam my nearly 14 yr old I am getting him to read it. Hopefully then my 16yr old will read it.... hopefully. He is my Peter even though his name is Jesse .

      Mich :D

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    2. Ha ha! My son is only 3 (will be 4 in Nov) but I'm already hoping that he'll pick this up in 10-12 years time, LOL... I think that's just another sign of how great this book is and I really think it will most probably stand the test of time :)

      He is definitely being groomed as a Reader (yep, with a capital R, ha ha ha)

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    3. Good on you Tien for getting your little man into reading. I slip my 14 yr old some books I think he will like. He used to let me read all the Harry Potter books to him, cover to cover. I had a load of different voices for all the characters. I would be hoarse by the end of a reading session. He stopped letting me read to him a few years back, but now he is casually asking me about any books he thinks he might like. So I go to my rather large selection and rip out some Darren Shan, Lemony Snickett ( he actually read that not long ago).... I will give him this one to read.

      I think I will be a stinky goats lunch if this book doesn't get made into a movie.

      :D

      Mich

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    4. oh, yes, that's another one I can't wait on - reading out HP to him!!! That would just be an awesome experience all around ;D

      'a stinky goats lunch' eh? I don't know what's worst, the stinky goat, the stinky lunch, or both? Ha!

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  2. I did do a rather awesome Professor McGonagall, or however you spell that name and Professor Trelawney. :D

    I have The First Third up there , totally confident it will be made into a movie . I only pull out the stinky goats lunch when I am over confident, hehe!So far I have yet to be proven wrong and been eaten :D

    Mich

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  3. LOL this book sounds hilarious!

    The quotes are frickin funny! I want high qly shits too!


    Braine

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    1. I think we all do matey! And comfortable shits!
      HA!

      Miss B I am highly recommending this one to you!!!!!!!!! Funny and a whole bag of emotions.

      :D

      Mich

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