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Blog Tour! Rogue by A. J. Betts

Firstly I want to say a huge thank you to MacMillan Australia and Aus YA Bloggers, for not only sending me an advanced reader copy of this book, but for also sending me a finished copy of the first book, Hive. I so, so appreciate being able to read and review books, help to build the hype and spread the word, so thank you so much for sending me copies!

I am excited to be on the blog tour for this book, I love the idea of fellow book blogggers, reading the same book then reading our different opinions and ideas. It is such a fun experience and I am so greatful to be given the chance to participate!

A little re-cap, if you didn’t read my review post of Hive, which can be found HERE. At the end of Hive, I was left with a million questions, ones that I assumed would be answered in this book, so here I am, holding onto hope that they will be answered. I enjoyed the writing style of Hive and am looking forward to diving back into that world!

Before I get into my review, as most of you know, my review style is slightly different, treat it as a reading diary, with some technical terms thrown in, therefore, there may be some spoilers. If you haven’t read Rogue yet, I highly advise popping to my GoodReads HERE and reading the spoiler-free review.

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Rogue by A. J. Betts

Published June 25th 2019 by Pan Australia

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This bloggers star rating: 3/5

 

 

 

Okay, so we start where Hive left off, which is promising, no time lost to fill with back-story, which I like. Although I feel like we have been walking around in the wilderness for too long, twenty pages of wilderness walking and nothing happening other than our protagonist having epiphanies about what things are called and hallucinating her not-quite-boyfriend…

Woah, people! Well person. A weird, little camouflaged boy. Wait. Why is he telling her to shoosh? Okay, now I’m worried, why is he so concerned about staying quiet?

Well… I am close to one-hundred pages in, and a whole lot of nothing has happened. Yes, Hayley has found a family, yes they are slowly teaching her the way of the world and where she is, but nothing has happened and I am starting to get a little disillusioned with this book.

Oh, that makes sense, the whole having to be quiet thing. Pretty creepy though, to think that there are people out there, waiting to intercept a human voice, just so they can set sail towards it, to make their new home, seeking asylum.

In a way, this book is incredibly relevant, it is taking current issues, such as asylum seeking and climate change and putting them into a context that teenage (and people who refuse to grow up) will read and understand. Putting them in the forefront of their mind. A great idea.

And bam! Hello Tasmania! I am so excited to see little ole Tassie in a book! I love how Betts has taken pre-existing parts of the world and made them into her own. World building to the max. I also love how there are care takers for the whole of Maria Island, I would love that gig! Although I am fangirling over the location of this book, being a native Tasmanian and all that, I am still waiting for something to happen, I am 125 pages in, and all I have found out is that a hippie man in Tassie stores anti-venom for snake bites, that the Vault Hayley grew up in, was meant to be a week-long retreat for Tasmania’s elite who were hiding from an asteroid and that blood and DNA are what identifies your past and present, that it limits you to where you can live, what job you can have and where you can travel to. So, in essence, things have very barely started to pick up. In all honesty, it is only the location and the originality of this book that is keeping me going. I am desperately hoping for something more, plot wise, very soon.

How convenient, just as Hayley starts to make some friends and is getting along with Petra, something happens to cancel out, all of that normal-ness. I knew Buckley was an interesting sort, but I didn’t think he would resort to caging Pop, and hunting for the girls. I will say, super quick thinking on Hayley’s part, to save the family she loves, but I can’t help but thinking how Petra will feel betrayed, and poor Kid, he is expecting her to come home…

I do enjoy the dogs! I realise that they are a cross-breed amalgamation of breeds and computers, but how cool are they? Smelling your DNA and your crimes through your blood! Yes, I see that there is some element of no-privacy and it is a tad creepy, but also, so cool! Adding to the mystery, is how Hayley controls the dogs. We know she isn’t law, but they listen to her anyway, when they are meant to be computer generated, to follow orders given remotely. But the dog part  of their brains listens to her as though she has trained them from birth. Why? I need to know more, is it because her dot on the map is coloured blue? She isn’t a drifter, legal or the law?  I am intrigued.

I am still loving the location of this book, it is giving me serious bush-walking vibes, making me want to go out and play in my backyard, type vibes. I love that, all of the towns that Betts mentions, I have been to, I can see if I jump in the car and drive for a few hours North or South. I love that Tassie is finally on someone’s Radar! I am 200 pages in, and hoping for some major information about the Vault, about Hayley’s blue dot and more about the DNA system in Terrafirma (Tasmania).

Okay, so the rest of the book felt much like the beginning of the book. I really feel as though not much happened at all, yet we see Haley travelling all over Terrafirma and the Mainland, searching for answers and for Will. It is a strange feeling, feeling that nothing is happening, yet the protagonist is actively traveling. I think I mean, plot wise, nothing really happened until the last two chapters, we just followed Hayley around.

We don’t ever really get any sense of why the DNA system is made or how or how it is moderated. We don’t learn more about the Vault, other than it was a seed bank, never meant to be used for more than a week to survive an asteroid. But w do learn, that the Son or Daughter of the Judge, has been coming up to Terrafirma for years, collecting what the people in the vault need to continue surviving.

Part of me wants another book, in the hopes that there will be more answers, because, just like at the end of Hive, I am left with so many unanswered questions.

I can appreciate Hayley as a character though, her growth is incredible. We see her go from a timid and shy bee -keeper, to a brave, courageous and strong young woman, who fights for what she believes is right. She is such a strong character and one I can see younger teen readers looking up to. I also love how, even though Hayley was so drawn to Will, to get him back at all costs, there wasn’t really a ‘love’ story, they weren’t what you would call typical love interests. It is so rare for a YA book not to have a love triangle, angle in the middle of the action, so I am grateful for that.

To recap a few things that I loved about the book, I loved that it was set in Tasmania and around the coastline and surrounding islands, that for me, added so much to the book, I felt as though I could go to these places and really feel the story taking place. I enjoyed the way that extinct animals were brought back to life, they added such grit to the story overall. I enjoyed the writing style, it flowed freely and lead the reader into the next scene smoothely. The pacing was also perfect, slow for the most part, but it needed to be, for the reader to take in all of the scenery and information that was being thrown at you.

If you are a native of Tasmania, I highly reccommend that you read both Hive and Rogue, it is such a trip! Even though I found this book to lack some information and the walking…. so much walking, it was enjoyable. It felt like going on an adventure. Definitely worth the read!

As always,

Thanks for reading!

Julie

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Cloud Boy by Marcia William

Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to Walker Books Australia, Georgie, specifically. I have read so many amazing titles from this fantastic company this year, and I am so greatful for the opportunity to be able to read some fantastic Aussie fiction.

This review does contain spoilers, if you haven’t read it (and you really should), please click THIS link, and read my spoiler-free Good review!

 

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Cloud Boy by Marcia Williams

Published  April 4th 2019 by Walker Books

GoodReads

This bloggers star rating: 4/5 Stars

 

 

 

 

Let me begin with what an engaging cover! The shorter length of this book is inviting especially as this is a middle-grade book. It sounds incredibly moving and thought provoking. I can’t wait to start!

The second you open the cover of this book, everything is super-cute and fun. I love the cloud illustrations on the title page, giving you the names and shapes of different clouds.

Okay, this is awesome! It is presented as Angies diary! What a wonderful touch, it gives the reader a feeling of being closer to the protagonist, as though we were her trusted friend. I am smiling so much already and I haven’t even started reading yet!

Cloud Boy, is magical. It has so many facets that go deeper than two friends, loving their new treehouse. I am scared, there is already talk of Harry’s headaches and I am not prepared for the sadness of it.

The element of Grandma Gertie is amazing. What a great way to incorporate a touch of history into a middle-grade title! It softly shows the reader about being a Prisoner of War (POW) as a child and how scary it was to live through it. The letters to Grandma Gerties Kitten are a gorgeous touch, making it seem more real and relateable.

I love how this book is written, Angie has such a tremendous energy, her words leap off the page, daring you to read on.

P.S I am so jealous of their treehouse.

This book is breaking my heart. It is so innocent. The emotions you feel while reading about children reacting to and interpreting hospitals, operations and parents is surprising. Reading Angie’s point-of-view is incredibly moving and sad. All she wants is to make sure her friend is okay, she even shaved her head to match Harry, but she feels duped and rejected because the adults in her life won’t allow her to see him…. On that note, I truly hope that Harry is okay, that his parents aren’t hiding him because he isn’t recovering well.

I am really enjoying reading about Grandma Gertie’s letters and her courage during the war. I am a huge history buff, so this kind of thing really gets my happy place, buzzing! I think it really pushes what this book is all about. Courage and friendship, being strong and supporting your loved ones, when things get scary and hard.

I’m even learning about clouds, who knew there were so many different types!

I adore how this book captures the impulsivity and fluidity of childood friendship. How tiny things can cause you to be unfriended but all is forgiven aftger a good night’s sleep.

This book is going to break your heart, just as it has broken mine. I didn’t expect that Harry wouldn’t get better. But for him to pass away, at home, surrounded by his loved ones is a gift that not many people receive. Angie knew at the end. She hid under her bed, hiding from the reality that her best friend wouldn’t be around much longer. Avoiding going to see him. I am almost too scared to read the last twenty-ish pages. My heart can’t take anymore sadness.

Oh… that’s why Grandma Gertie held off on giving Harry the quilt! I don’t think I  have mentioned it, but when Grandma Gertie was a girl, stuck in the POW camp, her and the other girl guides made a quilt using scraps of material and cotton from the hems of their clothing, for their friend, for Christmas. It ended up being quite a famous quilt and it inspired Angie to make one, detailing her and Harry’s frienship, to make Harry feel better. But Grandma Gertie, kept saying it wouldn’t be ready for Harry for Christmas, and I think I know why. She knew that Angie would need the quilt more than Harry would. That Angie would need to be able to look back on all of the wonderful times that she spent with Harry, and their cloud watching in Artcloud (treehouse).

Reading about Angie’s greif is heartbreaking. Not oly is she trying to deal with her own pain, she has to deal with evertone elses as awell. Her greif is manifesting in anger, she is in full destruction mode and can’t help what is in her path. She didn’t mean to destroy Harry’s cloud journals, but they made her feel too much, they made her upset and angry and she couldn’t look at them anymore. But once she destroyed them, she regretted it and she lost the respect and friendship of Harry mum. Which is the very last thing that Angie needed at that stage in her greif.

What a heartwarming ending. Even though she is dealing with her own greif, Angie still has the strength to do something for other people, for Harry’s memory.

I am blown away that the historical element of Grandma Gertie’s quilt was actually based on fact. Just another amazing quality that this book has!

This book is such a fantastic way to teach younger readers about sickess hope, courage and loss. It shows how greif affects people differently and how families cope in different ways. It shows the importance of spending time with people, of facing them, even when you are scared, because you know it will make them feel better.

Angie’s character is incredible. She is a spitfire, filled with life and vigour. I have no doubt that she will grow up to be a glider pilot. Her character is so important because it shows every aspect of slowly losing your best friend, your way of life, and growing to accept it. Angie is smart, strong and emotional and that is what makes her so special.

Cloud Boy will draw you in with a writing style that won’t let you go. It is written as though it is Angie’s diart, which makes it easy to read, but also so easy to fall into the story and really feel what Angie is feeling. The pacing is perfect, at a solid mid-pace. Angie seems to talk/write very quickly though, so the latter sections add a slowness that the tale really needs.

A captivating tale that shows us an earth-moving friendship and the courage it takes to truly love another person.

I can’t reccommend this book enough. It is middle-grade, so you will find it easy to read, but it is amazing and you need it in your life.

 

Thanks for reading!

Julie

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst & Paula Garner

Firstly, I want to say a huge, Thank you, to Walker Books Australia. I am so grateful for each title I have been sent to review. Walker Books is such a fantastic Australian company, so friendly and accommodating. So, Thank you, so much for giving me the chance to read such diverse books, review them and to promote your company in the process.

This review may get a little spoilery, so here is your warning. If you haven’t read this book, please don’t keep reading, click THIS link, to my GoodReads, where you will find a spoiler free review.

 

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Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst & Paula Garner

Published April 16th 2019 by Candlewick Press

4/5 Stars

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My first impressions of this book is that the cover is stunning, it is a book that feels inviting, no matter your age or genre preference. The colours are soothing and the galaxy and title suggest something to do with the stars, maybe space themed?

I found this book a little slow to start, I struggled with the writing style and the language feels clunky. Teens using large and complex words doesn’t seem to fit. But the more you read, the more you grow accustomed to the writing style and it starts to flow.

I’m really starting to connect with Sam and Zoe, they are such complex characters, each with their own burdons. You instantly feel a connection with them when you start to see their friendship bloom. They are the perfect companions for eachother, both knowing what it is like to give yourself 100% over to the care of another person, to avoid truly being you, in order for that other person to thrive. To give up so much, so that you can focus on helping someone else get better. These girls are so strong.

I am in awe of Zoe. So much. Zoe looks after her disabled brother with so much passion and love. She looks after him day after day and yes, she gets tired, but she never complains, she comes home from school early to make sure she is there to help. She knows what he likes, which songs, which food, what his sounds and gestures mean. I work with children with learning disabilities, I know the drain it can have physically and mentally, and to see Zoe, so utterly passionate, each and every day, about caring for her brother, fills me with admiration and respect.

Starworld and Startalk, finally, we see what the title is all about! I am a little weirded out by it, I;m not going to lie. But I understand its importance.

I think that, as much as their Startalk is a way for them to escape their too-hard lives, it will eventually implode. There is too much riding on it, staying the same, staying as something fun and carefree, almost as though there is no room for a real friendship outside of the world that they are creating. Se wee this in that Zoe is pushing for a normal friendship, normal texting but Sam constantly reverts back to the Startalk, it is almost as if she is afraid Zoe won’t like her outside of their special world.

Wow, Zoe has some judgemental friends. Yes, we as humans can be very judgy, but to put down people, things, food etc, that makes yout friends happy, is just spiteful. Putting down others, to make yourself feel better, is never okay. It is no wonder that Cammie is the only one of Zoe’s friends who know, truly, what is going on in her life. Cammie, seems the most sincere and caring of Zoe’s friends.

Oh, it happened. I knew it would happen and now my heart is breaking for Sam. Somehow, Zoe’s friends have seen their Startalk, their dreamy world and they are teasing Sam about it. I don’t know if Zoe showed them or what happened, but they know and Sam is devastated. It may seem small, but this will completely break Sam, I doubt that she will trust Zoe again, or anyone else for that matter. She put so much faith and trust in Zoe, in their private little world and now it is out in the open for everyone to see and judge. Just what Sam couldn’t bear to happen.

A kiss.  I wasn’t entirely expecting a kiss. There has been gentle sub-text hinting towards Sam being attracted to females, but I didn’t think it would escalate into a kiss, when Sam, herself doesn’t really seem like she is ready for it. But oh wow, I can only imagine the devastation Sam will be feeling, The rejection alone, or more imajined rejection is going to debilitate her. I hope this isn’t the end of Zoe and Sam. The end of Starworld.

This situation with Sam’s feelings for Zoe, growing at such a rate of knots, is, although took me by surprise, it was also what I was afraid of. Yes Starworld, for Sam was the same as it was for Zoe. An escape from their real lives, somewhere where they made up the rules, they could change what was happening, it was fun and an adventure, a ‘safe haven’ is what Zoe calls it. But I think for Sam, it was a little more than that. It gave her  the chance to impress, she almost saw Zoe as a damsel in distress and painted her in that light, within Starworld, in order to be able to save her.

I can see so much of Sam’s mum, in Sam. I mean her disorder, Sam is slowly picking up her mum’s ticks and habits, which makes OCD so much more scary. I think we all write it off as someone who needs to be clean and neat all of the time, not someone who is controlled by fear that if they don’t do certain things, a certain number of times or a certain way, that the world will end. Literally. I love that we get to see how Sam is learning or inheriting, her mum’s ways, that OCD can be a learned behaviour, even though you think you are supporting someone who is living with it, you could be enabling or making it worse.

While we are on the subject of mothers, I want to touch on Zoe’s. She is such a selfless woman. She is going through so much of her own, cancer in partial remission, isn’t a walk in the park. But does she dwell on it? No, she takes it in her stride and motivates herself to give more to her children. All of her energies are put into helping Zoe and Jonah, not once does she complain. She even goes as far as supporting Zoe to find her birth parents, because if the cancer takes her, she wants Zoe to be able to find more family to support her through her mothers’ loss. This woman is a saint and we don’t deserve her!

Zoe has such a huge influence on Sam’s life. On giving her the confidence to grow, to speak up and to be who she is. Without Zoe, I don’t think Sam would have gone to London, or flirted with the barmaid, or faced her mother about her illness. Zoe have her courage to be herself, to recognise that she, as a person, is enough, that she matters.

Even through their friendship doesn’t end on the warmest of notes, the residual, mutual benefit from their friendship is incredible. You can feel it in the way that they are always thinking of each other in key times in their lives away at college, how each one has imprinted a part of themselves, onto the other.

 

This book is filled with complex and strong women. There is such a powerful feeling of women supporting women, and I think that is so important in YA fiction. It covers so many different subjects that are so rarely touched on in Young Adult fiction. From OCD through to Divorce, there is something that each and every reader can relate to. This book is a mine-field of emotional attacks and you will feel each and every blast. This book has presented readers with a world filled with emotion, friendship, bravery and strength. A world of imagination and believing in yourself.  Colthurst and Garner have written incredible characters, characters that I know, will stick with me for a long time.

The ending gives me hope that maybe, one day,  when the girls are in their twenties, Zoe and Sam, might revisit Starworld and their friendship. At the moment in their lives, they are content, learning and growing. But there is always room for one more adventure.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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