Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Rabmlings: The Liars by Jennifer Mathieu

This book gave me all of the Summer beach vibes, made me long for the soft sand and crashing of waves, but it didn’t make me long for Joaquin and Elena’s lives.

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The Liars by Jennifer Mathieu

3/5 Stars

Published 5th September 2019 by Hachette Childrens Group

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Blurb: It’s the summer of 1986. Joaquin and Elena, two teenage siblings live in a toxic environment with their alcoholic mother on an island off the Texas Gulf Coast.
Elena falls for a new boy who has just arrived from California. Joaquin must wrestle with his decision to stay on Mariposa Island to protect his sister or flee from his mother’s abuse.
As both teenagers struggle to figure out who they are and want to be, they are caught in a web of family dysfunction and secrets from their mother’s past.

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I was sent a review copy of this book by the amazing team at Hachette. I was surprised to receive it, I did request it, but being the author of the popular title, Moxie, I was sure that I would miss out on this one. I am greatful for the chance to read this book.

“The Liars’, was a three star read for me. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, I really did, but because I couldn’t escape the feeling that there was so much missing from the story.

Elena and Joaquin are siblings that are as close as two people can be, they need each other for their own survival. But it becomes clear, early in the book that living like that is only pushing eachother into separate directions. Elena and Joaquin, although they live under the same roof, live dramatically different lives. Joaquin is afforded some sense of freedom, freedom to leave the house, to get a job, to drive a car, to speak up for his beliefs. Whereas Elena, is house bound, forced to keep her opinions to herself, unable to get a job, have friends or to be a teenager. These differences alone, put their lives on completely different tragectories. Joaquin can leave, he can escape the tyrant style life that his mother Carrie is offering, but Elena, is likely to suffer long into adulthood, if not longer.

As you can probably tell from the title, this book is based upon lies, on top of lies. Some subtle, others blatantly obvious, but lies is what makes the world of Mariposa Island turn. Without spoiling this book, I want to say that one lie, the biggest of them all, is so complex and detailed, that it seems impossible for it to keep working, but it does, so much so that everyone, in the end, believes that it is true.  They are so comfortable with lies that when it is revealed that Carrie has been lying to her children, Elena is comfortable with it. As though the lie was necessary, something that was easy to accept. But for Joaquin it was the last straw.

Mathieu has written strong characters, characters that are deep, traumatic and real. They react with a realness that allows the reader to relate to them, no matter the readers gender. There is something in this book for everyone. The writing style will draw you in and not let you go, the pacing is perfect for the setting, when we are on Mariposa Island, it is slower, adjusted to the slow and sunny lifestyle of living in a beach-front town, but when we dart back into Carrie’s history, it speeds up, as though we are having the flashbacks as Carrie would.

The Liars, has all the makings of a fantastic book, but I feel that too much was left out for it to wrap up comfortably as a stand-alone title. There are too many loose ends surrounding Carrie’s history, her current state, what it is that is making her so controlling. Is there more than her need to have people to love and depend on her? We also don’t find out what happens to Elena. Elena is the first character we meet, the first character we really get to know and she is left hanging at the end, with no real positive prospects, just a long school year looming over her, trapped within the confines of her home. I, as a reader, just wish there was more information provided. But I still really enjoyed this title.

As I wrap up, I feel the need to mention that this book touches on issues such as psychological trauma, substance and physical abuse, neglect and bombing.

Is this on your TBR? Have you read it? Comment your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading,

Julie

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: The Runaways by Ulf Stark

I requested this book from the amazing team at Walker books, because it sounded heart-warming and emotionally charged. I have been loving middle-grade fiction lately. I love the way that it broaches tough and controversial subjects with a gentleness that younger readers can appreciate, to be able to understand and process. I am also enjoying the change from the hustle and bustle of Young Adult (YA) fiction. Although, I do sense this book has an underlying sadness, we don’t yet know why Grandpa is in hospital, I sense some tears in my future.

As always, here is your disclaimer, this review may contain spoilers, if you haven’t read this book and are planning to, please head to my spoiler-free, GoodReads review HERE.

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The Runaways by Ulf Stark. Illustrated by Kitty Crowther

4/5 Stars.

Published  April 2nd 2019 by Gecko Press

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The illustrations are gorgeous, the colours are so emotive, the scenes jump out at you, off the page. I am ready to dive in!

Gottfried Junior, the boy in this story, is a fire cracker! I love his enthusiasm and his devotion to his grandpa, especially his attitude towards his grandpa’s grumpiness. Gottfried Junior believes it makes his grandpa interesting, while everyone else thinks it is horrible.

Gottfried Junior has this whole town wrapped around his little finger! But hit enthusiasm is infectious, so it is no wonder everyone wants to help him. Just a boy, with so much love for his grandpa, it makes you want to join his cause.

Grandpa is hilarious, he reminds me of my pop in so many ways, the sense of humour mostly. He represents the whole group of people born in his era, represents all of the grandpas. He is honest and a little rude, but that is okay when you’re a grandpa. I am sensing some underlying sadness though.

Poor grandpa, he misses his wife. This book is hitting me a little too close to home, having a similar thing happen to my family recently. My heart is breaking as I read about this strong old man, wanting to make a jar of jam last the rest of his life because his late wife made it. When we think of loved ones were lost it is funny the little things that you hold on to.

I am so glad that they made it back to Grandpa’s house. But I hate to think of the trouble that they will be in when they return and when Gottfried’s parents learn of his trickery!

The Runaways, is a short and sweet tale of a boy and his grandpa. It shows the power of love, of belief and the importance of family. It is written in such a light-hearted style that really allows the reader to lose themselves in the innocence of the tale. It is fast paced and touching.

The sad element I was sensing, didn’t really come. It was written gently, how grandma was waiting for Grandpa at their house, it was more of a joyous coming home, rather than a sad death, which I think is so important for young readers to see. It may help them with their own loss or losing of a grandparent.

The Runaways was a fast read, the pacing kept pages flipping through my fingers, but not before I had the chance to admire the stunning illustrations. It is written innocently, in such a way that people from all ages will appreciate it.

 

Do you like Middle-Grade fiction? If so, tell me your favourite MG read in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Julie.

 

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

I received this book from the amazing team at Hachette in exchange for an honest review! Thank you, Hachette for sending me a copy of this book! It sounds hilarious and I can’t wait to get into it!

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The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

4/5 Stars

Published 24th April 2019 by Hachette Australia

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Wow is this book funny, I have picked it up and can’t out it down! I love this flat-share idea. Poor Leon is stuck between a rock and a hard place, with his girlfriend Kay and trying to pay for his brothers’ lawyer, but the comes Tiffy and all of his problems are solved… sort of.

How adorable are they, speaking through post-it notes! I love that this is how they interact, I can just see them all over the house, on the fridge, toilet, couch, on books they are reading. It just seems like such a sweet way to communicate, to get to know someone properly without meeting them. A way to be truly yourself without worrying with appearances.

Which is  why I think Leon is so scared to finally meet Tiffy. He is worried that how they look may affect the situation that they have going, and he likes it the way that it is. But come on Leon, Tiffy is a million times better than Kay!

I love how this book is written! It is fun and flirty, it is laugh-out-loud funny but also so real, you could swear it was you or one of your friends going through Tiffy’s breakups and going to the pub with friends. I love that about this book, it is so relatable and the characters are so likeable it is just a true, down to earth book. I am loving the change of pace from what I usually read.

I have under 100 pages left to go and wow am I invested in this relationship. I am loving Leon and Tiffy! They have such a sweet and genuine relationship, I want them to be happy. I also want Justin to go and play in traffic!

Justin, wow. He is such a fantastic character. And I mean that in the way that his type of villain is so underplayed in the writing community, we don’t see enough emotional and psychological abuse type scenarios like this one. It may sound weird, but it is so important for women to see situations like Tiffy is in, to understand that there is help for them, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Justin is psychopathic, he is controlling and manipulative. He has such charismatic presence that he can make Tiffy believe what ever he wants her to, down to making her think she threw out clothes that really he hid, that she forgot to invite him to a party, when really she did and much worse things as well. He is a mastermind at stalking and creating situations that fall in his favour. He is a complete nut-job. It has been a pleasure watching Tiffy get strong enough to turn him down and stand up for herself.

Now, back to Tiffy and Leon. I love how Tiffy complements Leon, so perfectly. He is so introverted, doesn’t let a word out that isn’t necessary and is pretty shy, but Tiffy is the complete opposite, loud, outgoing, brazen and spontaneous. They are the perfect pairing. I also love how wholeheartedly Tiffy invests in Leon’s life, with his brother, his work, his cooking and finding JW. She just takes up his life as though it is hers and he is so blind, that he doesn’t see it until she points it out. They have been in love since the first post-it-note. Little cuties!

But love may be wonderful, but it is also blind. And that is where I am at with this book at the moment. Leon is so blinded by his feelings about Richie’s court case and about how he feels about the shock of what happened with Tiffy and Justin (No spoilers here! Shock I know!) that he forgets that what he has seen and heard may not be the truth. Emotions are polarising, sometimes they push you in the right direction, other times, they force you to be blind to everything other than yourself. I’m hoping Leon can patch things with Tiffy, they have to! This is the feel-good book of 2019!! I need a happy ending!

Well I have just finished The Flatshare! What a fantastic read. It is feel-good, makes you laugh and cry, it also makes you want to jump into the pages and throttle Justin!

I love how Tiffy and Leon overcome so much through their journey. I especially love how quickly Tiffy adopts Leons family as her own, even before they were a couple. Leon’s brother was important to Leon, so he became important to Tiffy. That is just the type of person she is, kind, caring and loving. To a fault.

This book is well written and flows from one page to the next, leaving the reader feeling satisfied from beginning to end. The writing style is fun and relevant, perfect for readers looking for something witty, flirty and fun. The pacing is perfect, mostly it is fast paced, but O’Leary has mastered the slow down in scenes that take more digesting. A perfect book for the end of Summer!

 

As always, thanks for reading!

Julie

 

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: The Price Guide to the Occult By Leslye Walton

Before I start, I want to thank Walker Books Australia for sending me out a review copy of this book! I am so grateful for the opportunity to read and review and work with Australian companies!

This HERE is your disclaimer, telling you that this review does, indeed, contain SPOILERS. So, if you haven’t read this book and are planning to, please stop reading now. Why not head to my GoodReads account and read my spoiler free review, HERE!

 

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The Price Guide To The Occult by Leslye Walton

4/5 Stars

Published September 6th 2018 by Walker Books

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This book is dark and gritty, something that I love in a novel. I love that the magical lore in this book is different to that of any other I have read too, although I would love some more back story.

I particularly like how the Blackburn family has been on the island forever, for eight generations, that their magic bestows ‘burdens’ upon each daughter, suited to their personalities. But what gets me the most is that poor Nor, she thinks she is evil, that she is darkness and all things black magic, because she is the first one since Rona, to possess more than one ‘burden’. Or so she first thought.

I love Nor’s ‘burden’ I wish I had it! The ability to hear the thoughts of animals and plants!? Amazing! I have always been drawn to flora and fauna, finding their company preferable to that of people, so that particular magic, would suit me just fine! We have also seen Nor being able to heal, which is kind of a kick in the guts for her, because she, herself has so many scars that need healing and she can’t heal herself.

This book was particularly slow to start, it took me 90 pages, to really be invested in the plot. I think because the pacing is quite slow at the beginning of the book, it makes it feel like a chore to read, but I’m glad I kept with it, it is picking up now.

I am a little scared about what is going to happen next. The animals and tourists are fleeing the island, and usually that means something bad is going to happen. Something of a massive magnitude. I am also scared because this book seems to have a lot of blood magic in it, so this bad that is coming, must have something to do with blood magic. Everything I have read about blood magic is never good.

I hope we learn more about Gage as the book continues, his family definitely knows something about Nor, more than Nor does and I want to know what it is!

I also want to know what the heck is with these light green fern tattoos!? I realise that they are to do with Nor’s mother, Fern. But why is she doing this, reaching out and influencing them, making them follow her wholeheartedly. What does she have planned?

So, it turns out that Nor is a kick ass, powerful witch! With the powers from the original Blackburn witch herself. It only took most of the townsfolk to be killed, her friends to be maimed, the wild life to flee the island and her to be involved in a love triangle, for her to see it, but hey. Amazing!

The bit that gets me is, that it was love that saved her. Her mother was going on and on and on about being the thing that darkness itself feared, but she couldn’t have been more wrong. Darkness fears light, it fears love, so when Nor came along, against her mother, she was willing to sacrifice herself for her friends, her family and the island, she realised that the darkness feared her. She realised that death and she were long lost pals and that no darkness could be deeper and darker than that living inside her own skin. So, in the end Nor one out.

That being said, it was a rather underwhelming demise to Fern. The all-powerful witch… I was expecting more? I understand that in her lust for power, the blood letting and murder she had taken part in, finally destroyed her from the inside out, the black magic being too much for her human body to handle, so by the time she came to be facing Nor, she was a shadow of her former self. But she just blew away in the wind? Her whole life and story line were surrounded in blood and darkness and she just blew away, piece by piece, in the wind? I’m sorry, but no. That is not how a powerful dark witch dies…

I also feel the need to touch on mentioning the love triangle, that I knew was coming. Apparently, all YA titles need a love triangle, and it kills me! Poor Reed is going to miss out, I have a feeling that Gage will be the winner in the fight for Nor’s heart… I do hope it is Reed though. Not that I have a ‘team’ but I just think that for once, the good guy should get some luck? Maybe Nor will stay with Reed, but have the Blackburn curse, make her spend three days with Gage to create the next Blackburn daughter. Wouldn’t that be a turn of events!

Anyway, I have 11 pages left to go, so I shall return once I’m done!

I knew it! Poor Reed gets shafted because the danger of Nor’s life is too much. Poor Reed, boys in this situation rarely get to make their mind up about whether they think the risk is too much, they just get told, heartbroken and left. Ugh, I knew she would end up with Gage… Also not complaining, but I am complaining… Gage and Nor do have an undeniable chemistry and witty banter, something that Reed and Nor didn’t have. I think Reed and Nor was bred out of their need to be wanted, to be seen. To have someone believe solely in them, to be in their corner. Reed gave Nor her own strength, he gave her courage and love; the one thing that Nor hadn’t received from a boy/man before.

What!? I am shook! Nor doesn’t end up with either of her love interests! Leslye Walton, I am impressed at your ruthlessness!

Well, the ending wasn’t at all like I was expecting, in fact it was open ended in a way that I hope there isn’t another book? I enjoyed this one, but it is perfect as a stand alone, another book isn’t needed.

In the end we see witches in general being hunted and interrogated by the police because of Fern’s fame and misfortune. Because of the terrors that Fern created, the witches, tarot readers, mystics and healers of the world are now under scrutiny and attack. This isn’t how I thought this book would end, naturally I thought something may come of it, but I thought Nor would revamp the shop and give tarot readings or be a physical lie detector, you know? Make a honest living from her talents, but that dream wasn’t to be. Instead she now has to live in fear of the thing that makes her and her family who they are…

This book is well written, although slow paced, it did manage to hook me within the first three chapters. It is slow to start, but it is worth hanging in there, to learn about this magical island and it’s witches.

 

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Firstly, I want to thank MacMillan Australia for sending me a review copy of this amazing book, this was a five-star read for me and I am so incredibly greatful for the chance to read it!

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Sadie by Courney Summers

5/5 Stars

This Edition Published March 26 2019 by Macmillan

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Where do I even begin with this book. I was a little skeptical before I began, usually with books that are this hyped, I don’t enjoy them, or can’t get into them. But this book was different. From the first page, learning about how the book was written, I was hooked.

This book is so incredibly sad, it is honest and raw and keeps you on your toes. It is the kind of book that you NEED to keep reading, even though you know, when you turn the page, your heart is going to shatter into a million tiny pieces.

Sadie is such an incredible character, she shows such strength and is wise beyond her years, but that comes from her upbrigning, she never had a chance to be a child, she was born and thrust into adulthood, then parenthood, caring for her younger sister, Mattie. Then her world was rocked, when Mattie was mysteriously murdered. 

Sadie as a character, in the beginning, I wasn’t a fan, I felt that, as in most YA novels, her average-ness was over-played, making her seem like the perfect, imperfect character. But the more I read, and the more I got to know Sadie, the more I realised that her imperfection was her perfection. Her stutter, although appearing to make her weak in others eyes, gave her strength, it was like a secret weapon. People would constantly underestimate her, when really they should have been worried or cautious. Her sense of humour is amazing, dry and sarcastic, just like mine. I think Sadie and I would have gotten on well.

What breaks my heart the most about Sadie is that she blames herself for Matties murder. Not just becuase she knew what  happened to her, as a child was her fault, but also because she was the one who pushed her over the edge, so to speak. She was the last straw, Mattie was looking for a sister, but Sadie was so used to wearing the role of Mother, that she couldn’t revert to being her friend, anymore than Mattie could really expect her to.

We first meet Sadie early in the book, and a quote from this meeting has sat with me, throughout the whole book, I want to share it with you now:

“I live in a place that’s only good for leaving.” Sadie – Page 11

That has sat with me because from the moment we meet Sadie, we know she is going. We know that she won’t be where we think she is. That she has left for good. 

This book is so incredibly well written, even though some of the content is incredibly difficult to read, to process and to think about, it is written in a way that breaks it down, into manageable portions. I absolutely love the way that a radio show or podcast has been written into this book. It modernises it, it makes it exciting to read and it really makes the pace pick up. This books pages turn so quickly, that it is over, and you are sobbing and can’t work out why there are no pages left to read.

I do think it is necessary for me to note that this book deals with some incredibly confronting topics. So let this be a warning for you, this book contains Physical and psychological abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, drug addiction and abuse, alcoholism, and violence. Just to name a few.

These things, although hard to read about, are what makes this book so amazing. Now, don’t take that sentence the wrong way. I don’t like reading about childhood sexual abuse, but what I do like is, how this book creates a conversation about it. It opens the doors for someone to start talking. That is why this book is so important.

If you haven’t read this amazing book, you seriously need to. It will blow your mind. If you are finding it hard to get into, stick with it. It is emotionally charged, a book that you won’t forget and something that is so important, especially in today’s society.

Read the book.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

Julie.