Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Firstly I want to say a big Thank you to Walker Books Australia, for sending me a review copy of this book. I am so humbled each and every time I am sent a book to review. Thank you so much!

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Malamander – Thomas Taylor

4/5 Stars

Published May 2nd 2019 by Walker Books

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If you haven’t read this book, I would reccommend popping to my GoodReads HERE for a spoiler-free review. This review isn’t too spoiler-y but I don’t want you to have even the tiniest bit spoiled for you!

First impressions of this book had me thinking that this was going to be a fun read. The cover is bright and eye-catching, for a middle-grade book, that is what you want, to draw your reader in. The blurb sounds so exciting and fast paced.

I am thirty pages into this book, and I am hooked. I love the writing style, it is fast paced and flows smoothly. It is funny, quirky and I already love the characters and their depth of who they are. I can’t wait to read more! I am also intrigued by the Malamander. What is it? Why is it? I am loving this book so far!

I am absolutely devouring this book. I love how everything connects, how every little tid-bit of information has purpose and meaning. This is such a fun read.

At the heart of this fast-paced, middle-aged book, is a young girl with a broken heart, searching for her lost parents, but each clue she turns over, sends her one step closer to the infamous and legendary Malamander. The half man, half fish beast, who patrols the beaches, searching for its egg.

I love the relationship between Herbie and Vi, he is quiet and introverted, happy to stay in his cellar of lost things, whereas Vi, wants to be out adventuring, finding clues and getting answers. They are the perfect pairing for this book. Herbie has the knowledge of the area and Vi has the cunning and courage to lead him into trouble!

The way that family is centred in this book makes it feel even more special, even though, by rights, both Herbie and Vi are orphans, this book shows the importance of making your own family, each person that we meet, has a story to tell about Herbie, or knows something about Vi’s family. They are all connected in some way.

I am still intrigued by the Malamander, I think there is going to be a twist somewhere along the line, it feels too grumpy and too visible for it to be just a legend brought to life, there must be more to its story!

What a gorgeous read, I was fully engrossed in this book from start to finish, so much so, that I devoured it in one day. It is full of laughter, friendship and courage. But you can’t avoid the notes of loss, sadness and fright. This book is about so much more than a monster, it is about people and what people hold in their hearts, about what is truly important to them and what they will do, or won’t do, to achieve what is important.

The ending to this book was more than perfect, everything was set back to how it was meant to be, no one was lonely or sad or hurt. It makes a nice change, from the other books I have been reading.

This book is aimed at a middle-grade audience, but older readers will appreciate its simplistic writing style and the feeling of sentimentality that washes over you whilst reading. Fast paced, so much so that pages will be turning and before you know it, you will have finished the final page. The writing style allows the reader to truly get lost in the world of the Malamander.

I highly reccommend this book!

As always, thanks for reading!

Julie

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Hive by A. J Betts

I want to say a big thank you to both MacMillan Australia and Aus YA Bloggers, for sending me out a review copy of this book! I have been wanting to read it for a long time, and I am so grateful for having this beauty sent out for me to read!

 

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Hive by A.J Betts

3/5 Star Read

Published June 26th 2018 by Pan MacMillan Australia

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STOP! If you haven’t read this book, here is your warning. This review, contains SPOILERS! So stop reading and head to my GoodReads HERE for a spoiler free review!

 

First impressions are that this may be a little cringey for me, not because of the content, but because bees… I am not a fan of things flying around my head, so any of that and I turn into a shoulders affixed to my ears type of person. That aside… What a stunning cover, that draws you in immediately, the gold foiling is stunning and the midnight blue background creates a striking contrast! This book is shorter than I would usually go for, I didn’t realise that it was only 262 pages. This length I can devour in under 3 hours, so it is a nice little snack sized read! I am looking forward to diving in!

This book was a little slow to start, and didn’t really pique my interest until page 50. This being said, what a curious world, this book is set in. One where these people never see natural light, or animals other than bees. Their days are timed with the changing colours of ‘growlamps’. I am so intrigued! The fact that they are such devout Christians, worries me. Not because I am not for religion, but because it has such a profound cult-ish feel, it is giving me the heebie-jeebies.

I am starting to enjoy the writing style also. It took a little bit to get into the flow of the futuristic language and the fact that so many words aren’t known to the people that I’m reading about. It blows my mind that some words have been completely erased from this world. Like they never existed.

I also want to know more about this ‘madness’ to me it sounds like having creativity, having an active imagination? That it is being awakened with minor headaches, a thing that has been suppressed for generations. Apparently, creativity and individuality is frowned upon. But I want to know more, to know why this is such a bad thing?

I came across something that makes me sad…

                “Solitude wasn’t a sin, but to desire it was a cause for suspicion.” Page 92

This makes me so incredibly sad, and scared. Solitude is something we all, as human beings, at some point or other, seek. We all need time to charge our batteries, away from other people. From the looks of it, there is no part of Hayley’s life, that she will spend on her own. Perhaps that is where her “head pains” are coming from? Needing solitude.

I am getting a sense of DNA alteration from this book. Like there have been certain personality, physical and mental traits that have been ‘bred out’ if you will. Like there has been some selection of perfect people then those people have babies and the cycle continues. This vibe hit me as soon as The Judge mentioned that there hadn’t been anyone allergic to bee stings for years… That maybe allergies have been bred out of the population…

Okay, so this book was weird. I enjoyed the last 50 pages, more than I enjoyed the book as a whole. I loved seeing Will find his way back to Hayley, after she was deemed ‘mad’. Which I was right (partially) about, by the way. She asked too many questions, was a free and radical thinker, therefore, she posed a problem and boom, deemed mad. Anyway, I digress, I loved seeing them discover the outside world. How their world was created in order to save the population, as a place to hide and repopulate before returning to the outside world. But communication was lost and the people that knew how to use the technologies all died. The old ways were stopped being taught to the next generations and soon the cycle continued.

I enjoyed the writing style and the pacing was great, it was slow in times of lots of technical parts, parts that were created for this book, specifically, yet it sped up in action scenes, which really elevated this book as a whole. I do feel a little bit ‘what did I just read’, though, as I feel the whole book, up until the last 50 pages, were just for nothing? I understand why we got to see how this world works and how it is all intertwined and how their society and culture work, but it feels unnecessary now I have finished the book.

I did enjoy it, but I definitely need the next book, Rogue, in order to have some ends tied and some closure. Is there another world? What happened to Will? What is Hayley going to find and what is she going to do with this information? Why is the Judge and the Priest hiding everything from their people?

 

So many questions left unanswered!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Julie

 

 

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

I received a copy of this book from the amazing team at Walker Books Australia. Thank you so  much for sending me a review copy! I am so grateful for each and every book I am sent to review!

I tried so hard to keep this review spoiler free, but it just couldn’t be done, there was too much going on for me to stay quiet on the spoiler front. So, this is your warning, if you haven’t read this book and are planning to please head to my GoodReads HERE for a spoiler free review.

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The Quiet At The End of The World

4/5 Stars

Published March 7th 2019 by Walker Books

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Firstly, this book is written amazingly well, it jumps straight into the plot, no lead up, just straight into action and I love it! The protagonists are great, I can already see that they are deep and motivated and I want to learn more about them.

How amazing is this world that they are living in? The future sounds incredible, you know, other than the population being sterile and these are the last two kids left alive on earth… But how the technology advanced, how robots became a part of every day life and how although they survive pretty normally without them, they replaced people like chefs, life guards, shop tellers and supermarket attendants. I also find it rather thought inducing, to think that they are using social media accounts to get a feel for the past. The past that is our current reality. It makes you think about what kind of legacy you are leaving, what kind of footprint are you leaving for future generations to see and remember you by?

Already I am so into this book, I want to know more about this virus, about where it came from, who made it and why? I love books like this, with some kind of chemical warfare that changes the world. Dystopias are my favourite, as long as there is no love triangle…

Okay, so wow, this book is really good. But what I like the most about it, is that it is so thought provoking. The reader is constantly being reminded that these two kids, Lowrie and Shen are the last two people on earth… yes they have families at the moment, but when they die, they will be the last two people, and if for some reason they are able to conceive a child or two, then those children will be the last ones ever… scary thought!

It is heartbreaking to watch Lowrie and Shen come to the realisation that they are going to watch all the people that they know and care about die, just vanish from the world and leave them alone with the robots. I can’t imagine what that would be like.

What. Hang on. Hold the bus. Lowrie’s last name is Mountbatten-Windsor Lowrie is a gosh darn royal! What the heck! No wonder she lives in such a fancy house with so many servant bots and an incredibly rich family!

The way social media is used in this book is scary. I think I touched on this earlier, but Lowrie and Shen are using it as historical research, to see what the world was like before the sterility. It is terrifying to think that, that may happen to our current social media accounts. Is what we are sharing with the world today, what future generations will find and think that it is a perfect representation of how we lived?

I am just over halfway now, and things are starting to get rough… I am almost too scared to read on, I don’t think I am ready to see these teens suffer from the pain of losing their parents. I just hope that it doesn’t happen like this..

What the actual heck is going on here? The parents all have electrical boards in their heads… I was trying to write this review, spoiler free, but I just can’t. Too much is happening and I need to rant!

So Lowrie and Shen have just deiscovered that their parents are all robots, all with electronic boards in their heads, where their brains should be… but that isn’t the creepiest bit. The creepiest bit is that we have been reading updates from a person called Maya, and her partner Rizz, through old social media updates and we have been seeing a new app called Baby Grow. A simulation baby application, it started out innocently enough, but now there are baby dolls being made, to sync with the app, they move and make sounds like reall babies… but the extra scary thing is that their ‘bodies’ can be upgraded as they age… Are you with me?

Lowrie and Shen’s parents are Baby Grow robots, grown up, and somehow they have gotten their hands on two real-life human children. This is all speculation, but I really feel like I am on the right, slightly creepy (very) track… Wow, not the direction I expected this book in taking at all! Mind blown.

Ughh, you know what, I just wish Lowrie would man up and tell Shen how she feels, he clearly feels the same way for her! Also I want to know what the heck is going on with the whole Mountbatten-Windsor thing. Did the queen make a baby grow baby to keep her blood-line going? I need answers!

Wow, I just finished this masterpiece, I can honestly say, that this book exceeded my expectations. I was expecting something futuristic, a little sci-fi and dystopian, but it is so much more than that. I love the way that robots were integrated into the world, it is a little scary to think that they were able to make them so human though. But at the same time, how amazing is that technology! Lowrie and Shen had no idea that their parents were robots and they grew up with them, they also grew up with Robots… But I digress, I just really enjoyed the fact that people were suddenly sterile, we never find out what caused this to happen, btw. But yes, they were sterile from a disease like the flu, and in desperation to have children, they created the Baby Grows and the rest is history.

I am a little disappointed we never got filled in on Lowries royal lineage, other than her being a clone from someone living in the past. Maybe the surname was a little dig? I like it anyway, I am a bit of a Elizabeth II fan, so any nod to her makes me happy.

This book is so well written, it captivated me from the first page, I was unable to put it down. The writing style is fantastic, so modern and easy to read.  The story flows from one page to the next and the pacing is so perfectly set that you will keep turning pages much faster than you would like.  The characters are so perfectly human, each with their worries, goals, flaws and feelings, they feel like real people, the last two people on earth.

You will find yourself loving all of the characters in this book and hard pressed to find one that you don’t like. There is no clean-cut villain in this book and I love that, it makes the novel feel like there is more to the world than goodies fighting baddies. I also love that there is no gosh darn love triangle. That would have completely ruined this book for me.

I feel like this book has a deeper message, just than these two teens have saved the world and now they are enabling robots to inherit the earth. This book is incredibly thought provoking around just what we, as a society are leaving behind, as well as the power of social media.

Have you read this book? What did it make you think about while you were reading?

As always, thanks for reading!

 

Julie

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: How It Feels To Float by Helena Fox

Firstly, thank you so much MacMillan Australia for sending me a review copy of this book. I was so surprised when I received it!

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How It Feels To Float – Helena Fox

3/5 Stars

Published April 23rd 2019 by Pan Macmillan Australia

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I have just finished part I, and although I am definitely invested in this book, I feel like nothing has happened other than re-living my highschool experience. Girls are horrible. I do not miss the whole ‘He said you slept with him, so now you are a s**t..’ or even worse, being labelled a s**t, for not sleeping with the boy. It makes no sense. Anyway, I digress, this book feels like the first part was more back story, it was letting us get to know the characters, to get into their minds. I am hoping it picks up in the next part, as I want to see the characters grow, I can already tell that this book is incredibly wrapped up in mental health and its affects on the people it hurts and the people around the individuals. I just want to see how it is incorporated into this story.

I love how this is set in Australia, in towns that I have been to and have known of my whole life. It really adds an element of familiarity to the book.

Wow, I feel for Grace, she made one silly mistake, got drunk and wanted revenge on her dick of an ex-boyfriend, who dumped her for checking in on her best friend… (again, insert eye-roll for teenage angst). Grace made a mistake that ended with her being taken to jail for a scare and then being sent away to Wagga Wagga to live with her dad. I feel for her because she chose her best friend over having a group of friends, she chose the person who supported her and was there for her, and it got her nowhere, it got her sent away and punished.

I really want to know what happened to Biz’s dad. I am guessing that it had something to do with mental health, perhaps a suicide, as she keeps saying eyes wide open, whenever she refers to him. And I guess that would explain some of her tendencies to withdraw and self-doubt and the anxiety around what is expected of her and what others are thinking.

I am at Part III now, and I am still not entirely sure what is happening, or what I am meant to be experiencing with this book. I understand we are following Biz through some hard times in her life, that we are seeing her grow and battle with her mental health. We are seeing her become stronger and honest and opening up to people, we are seeing her mum change and her twin siblings grow into teenagers. We are seeing Biz and Jasper form a solid friendship after them both assuming they hated each other. So, I know what this book is about on the surface, but underneath, I am not sure where it is going or why it is going there.

I do love the way it is written though, short chapters that you can devour quickly, page breaks when the content gets a little heavy, interesting ways to break the dialogue as well, all add to the multi-layering of this book.

I just wish something monumental would happen, so far, Bix got bullied, had a run in with the police, lost her best friend then hit rock bottom mentally and dropped out of school. I understand this happens, but it feels a little… strange? Like it was all so convenient?

As much as the storyline is something I am just not grasping, I am enjoying reading Biz’s voice. She is honest and raw, almost gritty. Her edginess really comes through the text. She is someone who we can all imagine knowing, she has traits that we all know someone with. I think it is so important to be reading books about mental health, like this one, today, when mental health is becoming less taboo and more accepted. Especially in the Youth today, helping  them to recognise signs of what they are feeling and how it may be more than just a feeling of dread, a feeling of sadness for no reason, anxiety every time they go a certain way or hear a certain noise, it is all relevant. It is all something that can be helped. This is why this book is so important. It doesn’t shun psychology it embraces it. Now, if only I could work out what was happening, under the surface of this book!

I have 100 pages to go and I am struggling, I feel like the climax to this book and its ending are one and the same, because I am seriously on struggle street to keep reading… So, I am here, procrastinating instead… I understand that Biz needs to do what she is doing, to heal herself and to finally be able to move on, but it is so infuriating and cliché and I am really struggling with the concept of how someone so close to their mum can just switch and decide to cut off communication, knowing what it would do to her.. But being 17 and having all of that teenage angst pent up inside, mixed with depression and anxiety probably takes its toll on the whole decision-making part of the brain… But I digress, I shall return and churn out the last 100 pages and hope for some kind of ‘ah ha!’ moment!

What the heck is happening to Biz? Is she really misinterpreting things that are happening? Is she seeing reality in a way that Jasper isn’t? She thinks she is texting her mum, but Jasper says she called her… What is happening?

Okay, so the paragraph above, now makes sense, poor Biz was on her way to a breakdown. Which was completely unpredictable. I didn’t expect it, I did expect some kind of sadness and anxiety around going to her fathers home, but not this. This, in my opinion was pointless, a jump into metal illness that wasn’t needed? I can understand and appreciate why it was done in this way and kudos to the author, but I still feel as though nothing really happened, nothing was achieved. But maybe that is the point. Maybe it is meant to be a nothing, to show that recovery is a life long task, you have to constantly work at your mental health? I don’t know, but this book just wasn’t for me.

That being said, I really loved the writing style, I found it easy to read, full of Australian-isms that made me smile. The pacing was great too, fast for the most part and then slow though the harder to read moments.

If you have read this book, comment below, tell me what you think? Or link me to you review!

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Juliea

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

I was lucky enough to be contacted by Hachette, to read, review and be a part of the blog tour, for this books’ release! I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with Hachette and to read fantastic Australian authors!

This review and ramblings post is a little different to my usual posts, there will be absolutely NO spoilers! Shocking, I know!

Let’s get started!

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The French Photographer by Natasha Lester

Publishing on  March 26th 2019 by Hachette Australia

4/5 Stars!

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Immediately, I love the writing style, the almost lyrical way Lester describes the environment which her characters are in. It flows and really allows the reader to picture it in their mind.

Lester has creatively and beautifully captured what I must have been like to be a war correspondent, a war time photographer, not to mention, being a female one. Depicted perfectly is the way that women in this time were treated, not with admiration, but contempt, sexualisation, and the overwhelming belief that they weren’t capable of doing the job. Out Protagonist Jess, soon showed, not only us as readers, but also the men in this tale, what it means to be passionate about what you are doing, to be compassionate towards other humans on the other side of the world, no matter the horrors that you may see and experience.

This book is set in two eras, in 2005 and 1942, it is amazing to see the connections made between the times, between the women and between the photographs that become so important in the ‘modern’ era. It felt so real, the way that photographs can connect so many people, in the way that the horrors captured were actual people, fighting for their lives.

The more I read, the more I wanted to see these areas that Jess travelled to, to visualise the places she was visiting. Google was my friend! I am a huge history buff anyway, so many of these places are familiar to me, but being able to look at a visual while reading this book, added to the overall emotion of the book.

D’Arcy Hallworth, our 2005 protagonist, is a curator, someone who looks in at history on a daily basis, someone who knows the significance of a well taken photograph taken at a horrific moment in history. D’Arcy is strong, intellegent and unafraid to express her knowledge, whit and prowesse. She is inspirational and knows exactly what she is talking about when it comes to photography.

This book knows no bounds when it comes to strong, brave and independent women. It shows that if you are truly passionate about something, you do you. You hang on to that passion, that fire, because one day it may mean more to someone else than it did to you. It may give someone else hope, or shine a light on something terrible. The women in this book are incredible. In the face of adversity, they carry on, heads held high, doing what they love. Making a difference.

Lee Miller, the inspiration behind the characters in this book is such an interesting person from History. When I started this book, I had no idea that the characters were influenced by a real person. The author notes in the back of this book were what alerted me to Lee’s prowess. If you are into history and especially the female element during war time, I highly recommend you jump onto your search engine and have a look at Lee Miller.

This book is something that I wouldn’t usually pick up, but when I was contacted, I jumped at the chance to read something that is outside of my comfort zone. I found it to be both uplifting and incredibly confronting, but it really struck a chord with me, with the realness presented when we saw Jess come home from the war front. How it took her time to readjust to life in a safe zone. We hear it about soldiers, about men who battled and came home and couldn’t find their feet in a world where they didn’t need to be on alert all the time. But to see it from a woman who was over there, showing the world what was actually happening, is heart breaking. The way she is constantly expecting to see people covered in blood or riddled with abrasions, and when she doesn’t she thinks she is dreaming, or in some kind of trance. I can’t imagine what that would be like.

Incredibly moving, emotionally loaded and a novel that will leave you thinking, long after you have turned the final page. This is definitely something that you should read!

 

Thanks for reading!

Julie