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

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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: 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 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: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion

I was sent a copy of this novel from the lovely team at Hachette in exchange for an honest review and to take part in the blog tour for it. It isn’t something that I would usually read anymore, funnily enough when I was younger (18-20) I loved books like this, but lately and for the last seven years, Young Adult Fiction has been my poison of choice. So, reading this book feels like a blast from the past.

As always, even though this review is part of a blog tour for this book, this review may contain spoilers, if you haven’t read this book, please head over to my GoodReads for a spoiler free review, you can find it HERE.

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The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion

Published February 12th 2019 by Hachette Australia

3/5 Stars

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I have just finished the first chapter, and already I can sense so many complex emotions surrounding the house in Cork. I am getting a little confused as the point of view changes without any warning and I often have to go back to the page break and work out who it is, speaking. I also am getting overwhelmed with descriptions and thoughts, this book is very heavy on telling you everything that you might, maybe need to know. I’m sure that some of it will be helpful further in, but for the moment, it is slightly annoying.

I am enjoying it, especially the Australian-isms in Ellen’s chapters. I love that this book is set in Australia and Ireland, it feels like the right combination. I also feel a connection to Ellen, in that we first see her on Anzac Day, paying her respects, then heading straight in to breakfast, that for me hits home in that, that is our tradition too. Anzac Day, Dawn service, followed by breakfast with the family. I love already, how much there is in this book to relate to.

This book is 391 pages long and the book itself is massive, so it feels like this book may take longer to read than usual. Usually I can knock-out a 300 page book in a day, but as the pages of this book are probably a quarter bigger than the smaller sized paperbacks I am used to, I’d say it will take me a bit longer. Not that this will affect my review or my enjoyment of the book, just an observation. I like to be able to sit down with a book and finish it, so I’m not left thinking about what will happen all day at work. Are any of you like that? Or do you like to drag out the books that you are really enjoying? Make them last longer?

I’m getting a lot of back story as I continue my read of this book. I am about 100 pages in and nothing has really happened, other than the introduction of new characters and getting to see the house and starting to understand the characters and their connections to each other. I love Aidan’s character. He feels the most real so far. I also love how it is a man with self esteem and weight issues, not a female character. But I don’t love the way they were brought up, he thought his weight wasn’t noticeable, but people are telling him not to take second helpings, to walk the neighbour’s dog and to so the female population a favour and “lose a few stone”. So I am feeling a little bit for Aidan at the moment.

I’m also with Aidan on the renovation front. Colette wants to completely modernise the 1800’s built farm house (from the title of the book) whereas Aidan wants to renovate, but leave it with its rustic charm, keeping to the original feel of the house. I am so on Aidan’s side. There is so much of history being wiped out through modernisation. It just seems like such a shame to lose another piece of history, just to sell a house. Or as Ellen wants, to rent rooms.

This book is well written, I am slowly starting to engage with the characters and making sense of the developing plot. I am still finding it a little overly wordy, but I can see past that now that the story is developing. I think Ellen and Gerry are a couple? Waiting for Gerry’s Visa to be approved for him to move to Australia? I also can see how Colette and Aidan may end up together, again. They do say opposites attract? Colette brings to the table a whole new level of confidence to Aidan’s shy and quiet demeaner. I just hope that Aidan doesn’t lose himself if they do end up together.

I am trying to work out the pacing, it feels like it is taking a long time to read, but I think that it because not much is happening? Perhaps the pacing is a mid-pace type scenario. It is just fast enough to keep pages turning, but not fast enough to keep things free flowing? I do love me a fast paced book, so the change is a little off putting.

I am around halfway through this book now, at page 200. And things have picked up slightly. For example, Aidan has taken up swimming and has realised that he is indeed, a dog person. Colette has realised that Aidan isn’t just a chubby builder, he is friendly, honest, reliable and has a heart of gold that is the size of a planet. And that she likes him.

Colette is a complex character, she has been through some horrible traumas and has come out the other side of it, surrounded by self-built brick walls that no one gets to see through, let alone knock down. She puts on this cold and hard front, but deep inside, she just wants to be loved and appreciated. To be safe and wanted. And Aidan would give her that in spades. I can’t wait to see how their story pans out.

I am a little confused about why we are getting so much back-story about secondary characters? Is it to gap-fill while we take a break from the main plot? Is it to make the book a little longer? I find myself wanting to skip the paragraphs and sometimes pages of unnecessary back-story of characters that aren’t even main characters. It may just be my opinion, but there is so much being told, that doesn’t need to be, like why Grace decided to stay home when she found out that she was pregnant with twins. Yes she is Colette’s sister, but I didn’t need to know that she stayed to be close to her family, much to the dismay of Ben’s (her husband), family. The pacing is still quite slow, but I am enjoying the change of pace and genre.

I have just finished this title, and woah did the last 60ish chapters blow my mind. There was so much drama and action and pure emotion! I think they were the best 60 pages in the entire book. I do wish that there was more about the house that Aidan and Colette were working on. A little more history about the place, more details on the renovation and interaction around it, as the book is called The House of Second Chances…

As I have said countless times, this book is well written, mid-paced and emotionally charged. It is filled with characters that you can’t help but love and it gives you all of the information and back-story that you could possibly need. It is set between stunning Ireland and Australia and it has an incredibly home like feel about it.

I am so greatful to Hachette for sending me a copy of this book, it was the perfect sea change, so to speak!

Thanks for reading

Julie

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: YOU by Caroline Kepnes

I decided to start reading this book because I saw it had a Netflix adaptation. Also because Penn Badgely was tweeting about how people are romanticising his character and they were fools to do so. So naturally I needed to read it.

As always, friends, here is your disclaimer stating, if you haven’t read this book or watched the Netflix adaptation, look away now, or head to my spoiler free review on GoodReads HERE

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YOU – Caroline Kepnes

Published September 30th 2014 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

4/5 Stars.

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Woah, this book is the ultimate creepfest, but I am loving it. I love how it is written from the point of view of the stalker, how he knows exactly how he may look to people on the street, to the girl he is stalking and to us, the readers, he is constantly aware of every move he makes, calculating their impact and risk.  I also love how we see all the different channels and paths that Joe takes to find Beck, to discover everything about her life and slowly just implants himself into her world. He makes it seem so easy, a little too easy for comfort. Especially in todays technological society where everything is online for people to see!

I am about halfway in, and I think the dynamic is finally changing. Before, every chapter started with YOU, now they are starting to start with I’M or ME or something singular, relating to Joe. I also can see Joe starting to resent Beck. Starting to see her inconsistency as an attack, personally on him. How she keeps choosing Peach over him, how she lied about her father being dead, about how she wants to be a writer, but spends all of her time drinking and watching movies with Peach. The feel of the book is taking a deadly turn. Which is ironic because Joe has already killed someone, and it wasn’t climactic or brutal. He just got rid of him, to make his life easier.

I have a feeling that Joe may kill Beck in the end. I can see his obsession with her growing from love, to something a whole lot more sinister. I am intrigued though, will he kill her before he gets to sleep with her? He seems to covet sleeping with her at the moment, more than he does, wanting to be with her. It is fascinating to see his motives change as a direct reaction of what she is doing or saying.

I am so fascinated by this book. I haven’t read anything like it before, I have read plenty of crime fiction, thrillers, psychological thrillers, but they have all been from the ‘victim’s’ point of view. Never from the stalkers, and honestly, it is so refreshing. I think that is what makes this book so much better than the others. It is raw, gritty and creepy as all heck.

Joe is super intelligent, he thinks out his actions before he performs them, he never worries about getting caught because he as played all of the scenarios in his head and knows he is safe. But everyone looks down on him, because he didn’t go to college, he works in a book store, he is a recluse of sorts, not the norm in society. Yet he fits in, in high-class parties, can hold conversations with intellectuals and has read more books that Beck’s professors. He is an intellectual himself, and that paired with his obsession is what makes him truly dangerous.

Beck is an interesting character all of her own. I tend to push her into the back of my mind, her story doesn’t feel as important as Joe’s. But she is sloppy and unmotivated, cares too much what the world thinks of her, yet leaves her windows and curtains open whilst masturbating or having sex, in order to exhibit her private life. She craves attention, she needs to tell the world what she is doing in order to feel validated. I think her relationship with Peach is another of her needs, a life long friend who has money, influence and power is always helpful for an attention seeking, aspiring writer (no offence to aspiring authors out there). I find her character to be rather boring, a base-model if you will. She has all the makings of a deep and interesting character, but at the moment, we are only seeing what Joe wants us to see, as he is the narrator. I wonder if my impression of Beck would be different if there were alternate chapters for each of the characters…

So the last 100 or so pages have been rather dull. Just glimpses of Joe being Joe, doing life, seeing a psychologist, Becks psychologist, seeing someone new. It is boring, get me to the juicy bits now please!

Joe, she knows! You finally got the girl and you were sloppy! You left her old phone in your clothes at her house and she found it and knows you have been stalking her, reading her e-mails and drafts… Of course I don’t actually know this, but I know it!! Why else would there be no e-mails for a week, why else would she be starting to push him away and freeze him out!? She knows! That can mean only bad news for poor Beck!

I feel myself feeling for Joe? Like I want him to be happy? What the heck Julie, he is a psychotic murderer! Good on you Caroline Kepnes for writing such a likeable villain! But at the same time, I can see his crazy coming out. His constant need to know what Beck is doing, where she is, who she is with, what she is wearing or thinking. He can’t function without knowing what she is doing, or knowing that she is still interested in him.

I have just under 90 pages left, and as I mentioned above, I am pretty sure that she has just found him out, so I’m guessing it is only a matter of time before he kills her. He killed his last girlfriend, that he stalked, when she tried to leave him. He drowned her in the ocean… So I hate to see what happens to Beck when she does the same thing!

Wow, I didn’t see that one coming! I just thought she found Joe out and was pulling away from him so she could leave his stalkerish arse! But no! It turns out she was having an affair with the psychologist Nicky! The one person that Joe didn’t kill! Oh the irony!

Okay, so she did find him out, she found ‘The book of Beck’, where he printed out all of her e-mails, her used tampons, her underwear, sunglasses and year book. And honestly, she had every right to freak out, what the heck Joe! Keeping a used tampon!? Gross! And yep, okay, he is definitely going to kill her, he just put her in the cage.

You know, for a minute there, I thought everything would be okay, she seemed to be confessing all of her sins (so to speak) and telling the truth and they seemed to be working their problems out, maybe a little Stockholm Syndrome-ish but I thought Joe was going to let her live. But then she double crossed him, damn it Beck, you literally signed your death warrant.

10 pages to go and I am eagre to see what Joe does now he has killed Beck, I know we learnt about his previous love interest and he killed her also, but I wonder how killing another person he ‘loves’ is going to affect him in the end.

Okay, totally not how I imagined it ending, but somehow it is also the perfect ending? The ending is so incredibly Joe, he is mourning the loss of Beck, but then a new girl enters his world, Amy is the perfect distraction she may not be ‘you’ but she is here now. And I quote ‘you are gone forever, and she is here now’.

I really enjoyed this book, it has a completely unique way of telling the story, which I love. It is raw and gritty and crazy. It makes you see the world from how a serial killer/stalker sees the world. It lets us in, lets us see how Joe justifies his actions, his stalking, his collecting. And that in it’s own way is so psychologically thrilling, let alone the addition of the plot.

Well written and engaging from the first page, this book has been a thrill to read.

Thanks again for reading!

Julie