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Hilary T. Smith
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Bryan Peterson
Lola and the Boy Next Door  - Stephanie Perkins 3.5 starsI am not overly fond of romantic-comedy films. I put this mostly down to what I like to call the “Matthew McConaughey Climactic Love Chase Effect”. You know – where at the finale of the film one of the actors (Note: need not be Matthew McConaughey, although he is a Repeat Offender) realises that the love of their life may have just slipped out of their proverbial grasp, so they grab the nearest bicycle/horse/skateboard/unicycle and frantically race through the streets/fields/rain, over various obstructions, spurred on a dawning realisation of true love, to chase down said object of affection. Cue tearful reunion and heartfelt declarations and kissing and possible cheesy wedding montage. Friends – this is nonsense. It does not happen. I know, because if it had any basis in reality, surely the person of my dreams would have commandeered one of those poor tourist-trap draught horses on Swanston Street, and chased my tram down the road, yelling protestations of undying love. Right? RIGHT?! (No, seriously, please know that I write this with my tongue planted firmly in cheek.) *cough* Anyway. And that’s why I like Stephanie Perkins’ books. (Yes! The point! I finally got there!) Unabashedly romantic and fun, the plots may be somewhat predictable, but the characters are anchored by being relatable. They have heart and personality, and they act like teenagers. The romance feels fresh and not hackneyed or banal. There’s always a sliver of painful truth amid the sweetness. And no Matthew McConaughey on the back of a vespa. Anna and the French Kiss was a “right book at the right time” when I first read it. It was an experience on par with eating a big slice of chocolate cake. And not in a “I’m in a public place, so I will eat this nicely with a fork and my manners” kind of way. I mean, in a “no one can see me, so I’m taking huge bites and getting ganache on my nose” kind of way. I inhaled that book in one long, swoony breath. Reading [b:Lola and the Boy Next Door|9961796|Lola and the Boy Next Door|Stephanie Perkins|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51a8P0ErqJL._SL75_.jpg|7149084] was a similarly decadent reading experience. While the characters have their own personalities and histories, the story is essentially a flip of the scenario in Anna and the French Kiss. This time, it’s Lola who has to be honest with herself about the relationship she’s in, and the relationship she truly wants. Perkins’ characterization is a treat, which is just as well, since the story essentially rides on the reader’s investment in the chemistry and different relationships at play. Lola could have easily veered off into cliché-quirky territory, but she’s given dimension beyond the costumes and wig-wearing with complex family relationships and believable insecurities. I’ll admit that I occasionally felt frustrated with her, that some of her actions were rather selfish.For example, the Marie Antoinette wig incident screams petulant teenager. But Lola grows throughout the story, not changing into someone else, but learning from mistakes and becoming comfortable with who she is.Oddly enough, one of my favourite passages from the book is not part of the romance at all, but rather in one of Lola’s raw, painful moments:”Because that’s the thing about depression. When I feel it deeply, I don’t want to let it go. It becomes a comfort. I want to cloak myself under its heavy weight and breathe it into my lungs. I want to nurture it, grow it, cultivate it. It’s mine. I want to check out with it, drift asleep wrapped in its arms…” Lola girl, I hear you. While I did love Cricket – on paper, he’s much more my type as a love interest – I felt that somehow St Clair had more presence in the former book than Cricket did in the second. I’m not entirely sure why. Cricket was endearing and very sweet, and goodness knows I love a “mathematical equation face”, but I felt that he was a little bit.. diluted at times. Don’t get me wrong, I adored him. But perhaps I just wanted to see him have more agency throughout the story. I enjoyed the plot and the way it played out – Perkins is nothing if not brilliant at building tension through delayed gratification and lots of yearning from afar peppered with small, touching moments. A couple of times, the dialogue and writing bordered a little on saccharine for personal taste, but it was pleasantly escapist while not being completely devoid of reality. And most importantly (see rant above) the finale is cute, without being trite. [b:Lola and the Boy Next Door|9961796|Lola and the Boy Next Door|Stephanie Perkins|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51a8P0ErqJL._SL75_.jpg|7149084] is a book to indulge in, to sink into. It’s the book equivalent of dessert. And if true love comes looking for me, please ask it to wait by the coffee machine – I’m busy reading. Pre-reading thoughts: I am 95% percent that this book will be just lovely, and that I will enjoy reading it, when I finally pull it from my TBR pile. However, please tell me I'm not the only one a little bothered by Lola's stare. I have to keep my copy turned over, otherwise I feel as if her eyes follow me around the room.