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 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 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 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