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

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes

I won this title in a giveaway from Penguin Teen Australia, thank you so much Penguin Teen, I am still shocked that I actually won something!

As always with my review and ramblings posts, here is your disclaimer that this post does contain spoilers. If you haven’t read this book and you don’t want to have it spoiled, my spoiler free review is up on GoodReads and can be found HERE!

Okay, lets get to it!

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Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes

Published January 3rd 2019 by Penguin Random House Children’s UK

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Firstly, the language used in this book is throwing me off a little bit. It is very… I’m trying to write this without offending anyone, how movies tend to show hillbillies? I don’t know how else to describe it.

I love how we are just thrown into the story, no lead up, just bam, straight into Ele and her Others. I’d love to know how old Ele is, she seems quite young, maybe 10? And what in the world are these Others? With their pointy fingers that are great for picking locks!?

Ele continually makes sure the reader knows that she isn’t an ‘Other’, that she came from the outside, which makes me think that she was kidnapped? Along with Zeb? Was Zeb her brother? All I know about Zeb so far, is that he died and I am assuming it was from a gun shot because we have just learned that his brain exploded all over a wall. Wow, graphic!

I’m back to a point about the language, it is making it hard to read as quickly as the pace is encouraging me to do, I am often finding myself having to go back and re-read pages to fully understand what has happened. I am slowly getting used to the style, but it is a little off-putting. I love how fast the pace is, it really keeps the pages turning, throwing you deeper into this creepy tale!

Well, she finally made it outside. The others must have killed Him for her to be able to escape, but I still am dying to know who the Others are? Did ‘He’ kidnap them too? I have so many questions that need answers to make this book make more sense. I am still struggling with the language style, but I am keen to read on and see how Ele goes now that she is outside. I am a little worried because we are only 60ish pages into a 270 page book, so this can’t be the peak. What else is going to happen to this poor messed up girl.

I have also learned that maybe Zeb isn’t dead. I previously thought that he was shot in the head, but now I’ve learned that he was carried out of the room? Maybe he meant more to ‘Him’ than the others. Maybe Zeb and Ele are his own children!? Who knows!

So, Ele escaped… But what gets me is that the family she runs into, takes her in, and asks no questions. Willow has an incredibly interesting relationship with his father. He is upset because Ezra (his father) is growing a relationship with Ele, a relationship that he wishes he has with his father. I am wondering how much longer Ele will stay with Ezra and Willow, will they let her stay? Will they talk to the police and try to work out where she came from? Will the Others and the ‘him’ be saved or prosecuted? I want to know! But I am at page 190 and I don’t know how this is going to wrap up?

I am still confused about this book. Yes it is emotional and moving to see a young girl have no idea about the world because she has been held captive for as long as she can remember. It is confronting and shocking, but nothing else has happened, we saw the ‘inside’ now Ele is outside with a family, and they have taught her so much about what life is like. But what now? There is barely 80 pages left, so I am a little worried that this nothing-ness will continue through the rest of the book…

Sooo somehow Ezra (the dad) knew exactly where Ele came from, and that alone is shining some horrors on this book. It turns out Ele is the daughter of someone called Colt. Colt is the ‘him’ that Ele is scared of. The ‘him’ that took off his clothes and layed on top of her and made her hurt. The ‘him’ that has her locked up with the ‘others’. It actually is making me scared to think that perhaps the ‘others’ are his children as well? If he is willing to sexually abuse one daughter, why not others. But why does he have them all locked up? Another thought I had, was maybe these ‘others’ aren’t live people at all, Ele describes them as having pot bellies and no lips, that they sleep in a pile, what if they are pigs or some other animal like that? I am almost too scared to read on to find out.

This book is finally going somewhere, I have 25 pages to go and I am trying to prepare myself to find out the truth about Ele. The writing style is unique and free-flowing and making the chapters shorter makes this book much easier to read, as I am struggling with the language a little (I now know that it is set in Scotland). It is so different to anything I have read recently, it is refreshing, but also terrifying. It gives me hope to see kind people like Willow and Ezra, kind people whojust want to help. Even if they did seem a little naïve to trust blindly and take her in, but it is wonderful to see that people still want to help those who are less fortunate.

The spam breakfast scene though! Poor Ele, she just wants to apologise and to make things up to them for getting angry and running away!

Oh wow, poor Ele, there were no others, there was only her and her brother. Her father, Brian Colt murdered their mother and then locked the twins up in the stables. What a horrific tale. But how brave and strong was Ele, to keep on, to manifest the ‘others’ in a way to keep her sane.

 

I found this book to be something so completely different from what I have read before. I struggled with the language style, the cadence of it also, but the writing style was fantastic, keeping me on track and keeping the pages turning. I also loved the shorter chapters. They were just long enough to give you what you wanted, but short enough to not overwhelm you.

Being overwhelmed happens easily within this book. You can tell from the first few pages that something isn’t quite right and your mind just keeps spinning to work out what it is.

I also found that this book didn’t really take off until the last fourty pages. Once Ele escaped from the Inside, nothing really happened until the final few chapters. It felt empty and hollow. But Maybe that was the point, to show us how differently Ele would see the world.

This book is well written and engaging, it does take a little while for anything of interest to start, and is incredibly strange, until you get used to the theme and the language use. I did enjoy it and I am so grateful for the chance to have won it!

This book was hard for me to give a star rating to, all the way through I was feeling a solid 3 stars and at the end, I wanted to give it more. But for me, the whole thing felt a little underwhelming, as I mentioned above, I did enjoy it and I will recommend it, but it isn’t a style of novel that I would usually go for, and I had to really work on reading it, when the language style got a but much for me.

 

As always, thanks for reading!

 

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

As always, here is your review and ramblings Spoiler disclaimer. This post includes spoilers for both Letters to the Lost and More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer. I highly recommend you look away now if you haven’t read either of these books, these are such deep and complex novels, you don’t want them spoiled! My GoodReads, spoiler free review is HERE if you are interested.

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Letters To The Lost – Brigid Kemmerer

Published April 4th 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

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So, This is book one in a stand-alone series. Meaning that you can read them on their own or as a series and they will still make sense. They follow the lives of different characters within the books. I actually read More Than We Can Tell (Review and Ramblings HERE), before Letters To The Lost, something that people keep grumbling at me about.

I love Kemmerer’s writing style, it is always easy to read and to get into. But I already think Rev’s story (More Than We Can Tell, MTWCT for short), is better? I’m only 30 pages into this book and I just feel like it hasn’t really taken off yet and we don’t’ know much about Declan either. Other than he is a creepy grave letter reader and writer. I am so torn on the subject of him picking up a letter written to a person who has passed away. I realise if he didn’t then we wouldn’t have this book, but it feels so disrespectful? Like he has taken Jules’s private mourning and turned it into a game to make himself feel better? I’ll see if my impression changes as I get further through the book.

I’m a little more invested in this book now, it has really started to pick up and now, after seeing more of Declan and feeling his pain, I understand why he read and replied to Jules’ letters. He needs them just as much as she does. I still think it was a horrible thing for him to pick up the letter and read it, but if he didn’t, both of them wouldn’t be getting stronger or braver. They wouldn’t be starting to heal.

Oh wow, she thinks the person writing the letters is Rev, I soooo hope that she doesn’t say it out loud, or worse, ask Rev if it is him, in front of Declan. They are both giving so much of themselves away in their e-mails, but Jules isn’t looking deep enough at what Declan is saying.

I think it is a little cruel that Declan knows who she is, yet Jules is completely in the dark. At the same time though, I think it taught Declan a valuable lesson, that he is doing to people, what he hates people doing to them. That he has to look deeper than the façade that everyone is putting up in public.

I still adore Rev’s character. I am learning so much more about him in this book. What a kind and giving soul he is. Which is surprising after what he suffered as a child. I read More Than We Can Tell first, and it made me completely obsessed with Rev, he is one of my all time favourite characters. But in this book we see almost another side of him. The side that his friends and family see, rather than the Rev he wants us to see? Pushing a foster baby around the neighbourhood in a pram so that she will stop fussing and have a sleep so his mum can do the same thing, helping strangers jump start their cars, being an honest and reliable friend to Declan. He is such a deep and complex character. I almost want another book just about him!

Declan’s character development from start to finish is incredible. He was always a smart, educated and strong guy, but in the beginning we just saw him as he wanted to be seen, a thug with a criminal record and a death wish. By the end, we see the smart student, the caring child and to be sibling. We see the love he has for his mother and for Rev. We see him wanting to succeed, to help people and to help Juliette be the best person she can be.

I had 50 pages left of this book and I thought to myself, that I didn’t find this book as emotionally charged as More Than We Can Tell, but then I finished it, and found myself crying. I am still trying to work out what it was that gave me this emotional reaction. If it was Declan’s strength, to overcome his fears and confront Allan, to speak up to his mum, to be brave enough to take on working on other people’s cars as work. Or if it was his realisation that he wanted a life, he wanted to do well in school, wanted to live with his mum and step father, wanted Rev to be proud of him, wanted Juliette to know who he was, who he really was.

I didn’t find myself very reactive to Juliettes story line. I understand how it will be confronting and moving for a lot of people who have had to deal with similar things. I can’t even imagine losing my mother, let alone in such a difficult way. But she seemed to be like the antagonist of the book. Always pressing, over-reacting, acting as the victim. I’m not judging, she was suffering and probably highly traumatized. I just found it hard to like her.

I went into this book with high expectations, I am a huge fan of Kemmerers work, and I wasn’t let down. Well written, easy to read, fantastically complex characters. The pacing is perfect, Kemmerer really knows when to slow things down and speed them up. She knows the right amount of sarcasm to use to hide pain, to hide truth and to show a characters sense of humour.

I didn’t enjoy it as much as More Than We Can Tell. But it was still a wild Ride!

This is a shorter Reveiw & Ramblings post, than usual. Shorter than I’d like, but I was camping while reading this and didn’t have access to anything to jot my thoughts down as I was reading. I like to write them as I read, as a diary as well as a review.

Thanks for reading!

Julie

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January TBR

Welcome to 2019! I am finding that as I get older, years tend to go much quicker. Which makes me feel as though there isn’t enough reading time. EVER.

I am currently on holidays from work, and although that sounds like it will be filled with book reading, reviewing and blogging, you’re wrong my friend. I signed up for an online professional development course, which I am loving, but it is feeling a little like work. So I decided that this would be the perfect brain break!

I am strapped for time, for this post so my reasonings aren’t as long as usual. But I still wanted to share my goals for January!

This month, I’d like to read 5 books, starting with:

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Fire And Blood by George R R Martin

Yes, I am a Song of Ice and Fire girl, I’ve read all of the books so this one, as much as I am excited and NEEED to read it, is also a bit of a kick in the guts. I say this because Old Mate George can write a whole history of the Targaryen’s but he can’t finish Winds of Winter!?

 

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What The Woods Keep by Katya Da Becerra

I loved the look of this book, and it was on my December TBR, but it just didn’t get read. So It is back this month, so hopefully I can get to it!

 

 

 

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Calm The F**k Down by Sarah Knight

I requested this beauty from Hachette and they kindle sent it to me! I am so excited to read it, it is about controlling anxiety, hitting it head on. But the thing I like the most about it, is that it is written in a way that anyone can understand. It has hand written styled pages and pages with dot points. It doesn’t read as a self-help book, which makes it so much more appealing.

 

 

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King of the Seven Lakes by A. B. Endacott

I have read the first book in this amazing series by Alice, and I NEEED to finish it! Her writing style is so easy to read, and I need to know what happens for Gidyon and Ellen-ai next!

 

 

 

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The Ruthless Land by A.B. Endacott

This is the third book in the series by the lovely A. B. Endacott and like I said above, I need to finish them! I want to get back into this incredibly complex world!

 

 

 

I also want to tackle as many of my NetGalley ARCS as possible. I have fallen back into the old habits of requesting and not reading immediately when they are accepted. I even wrote a blog post on how to keep on top of your NetGalley ARCS, yet here I am, falling into bad habits! The Post is HERE if you want to have a look see!

As always,

Thanks for reading!

Julie