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: 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

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings – New World: Ashes by Jennifer Wilson

Welcome to another session of Review and Ramblings!

If you are new to my R&R blog posts, here is a little warning to you, a warning of the spoiler kind. This post will contain spoilers from New World: Ashes and New World: Rising. So if you haven’t read either of these books and you don’t want to be spoiled, look away or click this LINK to go and read my spoiler free review on GoodReads!

 

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New World: Ashes by Jennifer Wilson

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Published June 7th 2016 by Oftomes Publishing

 

Woah, this book is so much darker than New World: Rising. I am 80 pages in and the difference in the total feel of the book is incredible. I am glad we are finally calling Phoenix, Prea, it makes her feel more like a real person, not a fictional character. Which is working in her favour, I’m starting to like her now, if you can’t remember, I really disliked her in book one (You can read my review and ramblings of New World: Rising, HERE).

I am a little sick of being reminded of Triven and Mouse yet having no updates about them. I understand the books are from Prea’s point of view, but I love Triven and want to know how he is surviving. So I am hoping either Prea escapes like she plans to, or we get an alternate point of view chapter.

Also what the heck is up with the minister of the Sanctuary being Prea’s grandfather! I knew there was going to be a twist in there somewhere but I wasn’t expecting that!

The pacing in this book isn’t as off as the first one, so far anyway. It is easier to read, but maybe that is because I am used to the writing style and used to the characters.

I actually hate the way they are conditioning Prea within the Sanctuary. Her grandfather didn’t even try to get to know her, he went straight to ‘breaking’ her, to brainwashing her, stripping her of who she is and trying to find the militant soldier within her that he created when she was a child. What is truly horrific is the way that the guards are forcing her to fight children. Children as young as 10. I can’t imagine being in that situation, but I can imagine how soul crushing and defeating it would be, especially when each child reminds her of Mouse.

I feel a little conflicted, because as much as I hate seeing Prea being stripped of who she is and being forced into doing all of these horrible things, I am loving seeing her come into her own power. She has grown so strong, mentally. Yes she is being worn down, yes she is moving into a state of constant fight or flight. But she is finding herself, finding out who she is and how much she is willing to sacrifice to stay that person.

150 pages in… Is anything actually going to happen in this book? I am honestly over reading about torture, trauma, mental conditioning… It is too intense, these 150 pages have been so hard to read, just one trauma after another. Also what was the point of having Triven and Mouse killed and then having them not dead? Shock factor or just to keep us on our already shaken toes? I am glad to see Triven again, he grounds Prea which is just what she needs now. But was it necessary for us to have to go through all of that torture with her? Was it really pertinent to the story line for her to go through all of that? I guess I will have to wait and see.

Ughh and now there is a love triangle. How totally YA Dystopian… There didn’t need to be a love triangle, it is giving nothing to the story at all… I understand why Wilson thought it would be a good idea, linking Prea and Ryker in more than a childhood friend way. But it makes so much more confusion for no reason. This book is already going nowhere, why add another useless element?

Now that Prea, Triven and Mouse are leaving the Rebel safe house, things are starting to pick up… slightly. I’m still not sure how Prea managed to piece herself back together so quickly after half of the book shows her to be a broken, shadow of herself, then two chapters later she is almost back to her normal self, planning a mission to unite the tribes.

What I am enjoying about this book is the interconnecting parts. We get told so much information throughout the books that it is a little messy. But it is nice to see all of that information meet up eventually and make sense. For example, we have found out, how mouse got her scar, who Gage really is, how Prea got the scar on the base of her neck, why Prea’s parents decided to leave, how Prea lost her mind so quickly within the Sanctuary’s prison. There has been a lot that has been revealed, which doesn’t make this book a little easier to read.

That being said, in 290 pages, nothing has happened. Other than the torture I mentioned at the beginning of this review. I’m hoping something happens in the next 80 pages, or I doubt I’ll read New World: Inferno. Which would be a shame because I have read the first two books, but I also feel like it could have been condensed into one longer title? Like this book didn’t need to be an entire, single novel?

Side note, how amazing is the medicine and technology in this trilogy? It blows my mind that there is a serum that can repair broken bones, heal burns, cuts bruises and any other bodily harm that you can think of. But it also makes the characters sloppy, they know they can train or be hurt but they won’t die of infection or of their injuries. It takes away their fear of getting hurt, which makes them insensitive. It also makes the soldiers much more violent and unforgiving.

The last 40 pages of this book were amazing, they were the only thing that bumped my review up to a 3 star level. The action picked up, we saw some of the amazing relationship between Prea, Triven and Mouse again and we saw Prea coming to realise that Ryker is actually a true friend. The pacing speeds up incredibly in these last few pages, making them go too quickly.  We see Prea as her true self again, racing along rooftops, searching the skyline for landmarks, sensing movement and wrongness in the air before impact. These last 40 pages really saved this book for me. It is such a shame it took 340 pages for it to get good.

As I said in my GoodReads review, I wasn’t going to read the next book in the trilogy, New World: Inferno. But now I think I owe it to myself and to the author to complete the trilogy. I have invested in the first two novels, and I am somewhat curious to see how it all wraps up. There are a lot of unanswered questions that will need answering in the final book, and after reading this one, I am unsure if those answers will be revealed.

What the heck was the ending though!? I get it was designed to act as  a cliff hanger, but it just cut the best part of the book, short. It made it feel false and as though everything our trio worked for, was for nothing.

Also the connotation of Ashes is not what I was expecting. I didn’t expect it to be literal. Or human. Those scenes were so hard to read, as many of them were within this book.

I want to know more about Ryker, I know previously I wrote how I don’t want a love triangle between Ryker, Prea and Triven, and I still maintain that. But I think it will be an incredible shame to see Ryker snuffed out so soon when I think he could be the one thing that helps Prea remember who she was before she left The Sanctuary. He also seems like a top guy, even if he has to live two lives in order to survive and help the Rebels to create a new and better world.

All in all, I guess the last 40 pages really lifted my opinion of this book. Which is annoying because we can see that Wilson can write incredible scenes, but they happen right at the end of the book! The writing style is fantastic as is the language used, it is easy to read and you definitely can’t say that this book is lacking in plot. I am hoping, with everything crossed that Inferno keeps up the pace we saw at the end of Ashes…

Have you read this trilogy? Thoughts?

 

Julie

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Reviews and Ramblings: New World Rising by Jennifer Wilson

As always, if you haven’t read this book please look away now. This post contains spoilers. If you want a spoiler-free review, please pop over to my GoodReads, the link to my review is HERE

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New World Rising by Jennifer Wilson

Published January 5th 2016 by Oftomes Publishing

Rating: 3/5 Stars

 

 

Firstly, lets talk about the first thing we all noticed about this book… What a stunning cover! It immediately draws your eye to it and makes you want to pick it up. Green Is one of my favourite colours too, so it sang out to me from the shelf! From the cover alone, you sort of get a feel for this book (other than what you get from the title alone).

Okay wow, page 2 and we are seeing our protagonist go through some serious child hood trauma! Watching her parents get murdered is horrible enough, but watching her father bleed out while her mum gets raped then killed is a whole other lot of horrible. How did the Ravagers not kill her? Why did they let her live when they found her hiding in the drain?

The writing style is easy to get into, the pacing seems a little slow to start and I am finding the language a little stiff. But I am intrigued by the protagonist. I am 4 chapters in and still no mention of her name (Yes I know what it is from reading the blurb/synopsis, but no mention in the text as yet), only that she was 11 when her parents were murdered and she was forced to live on the streets on her own. She is savvy, sneaky and incredibly brave. I want to know more about her.

I’m not sure that I am enjoying this book, I am at the 50 pages mark, the point where I decide whether to read on or not. I think it may have something more to offer as the plot thickens, so to speak. I’m going to soldier on, I am intrigued and I do want to know more about the background of the protagonist.

Finally, we are told her name is Phoenix. I get it, she chose that name as a way of becoming the person that she needed to be, in order to survive the tribes.

Hello Subversive! Woah, this place is crazy! It is like a whole different world underground, both scared and liberated and wanting revenge and freedom. Those combinations can be deadly.

Okay, hello there Triven! He is such a total sweet heart, everything about him screams good-guy, even his whole-hearted love towards Phoenix after knowing her for such a short time. His trust and belief in her shows how much more he can see of the world. He holds a lot of power though, yes he may be the leaders son, but in some ways, he outranks her? She makes a decision and if Triven doesn’t like it, he over rules her. I’m worried that this power is somehow going to impact upon his and Phoenix’s relationship.

I love the dynamic between Phoenix and Mouse. Phoenix constantly talks about not wanting friends or any one to care about because it makes you weak and gives people something to hurt you with. But here she is, protecting this child, seeking her out, to make her happy. To make Mouse’s life a better one than Phoenix herself ever knew. Their relationship is so pure, Mouse only wants to see Phoenix smile, to feel her presence near her, she makes her feel safe.

Okay, side note…What the heck is with the weird names in this book. I know it is a dystopian novel, but geez, lay off the hard to pronounce names! I spend the first 150 pages calling Arstid, Astrid! It isn’t a fun time!

I am still not sure about the writing style and pacing of this book. I am liking where the book is going, and it is keeping me on the edge of my seat, but I am also a little bored with it. I’m also feeling like nothing is happening, and I think that is due to the odd pacing. It is rather slow-paced for a book with as much action in it. I will definitely keep reading though, I need to know more about Triven, more about Phoenix’s parents, more about the sanctuary.

Phoenix is getting on my nerves, everyone is treating her like she is the only one who can save them and show them where to go, where as in the beginning they hated her and wanted her executed. Phoenix herself is appearing more annoying than ever, it really feels as though she is showing off? Like she is trying to say hey, look how amazing at all of these things I am? And bloody Triven isn’t helping that situation one little bit, like how he constantly praises her for her safe houses, for her swiftness, for her survival skills. Yes, I get it, you think she is great, but is she really? She gives off a selfish air , and yes I know she had to survive on her own for the last 6 years, but still, she feels ignorant of the people around her.

I mean, she kisses Triven, and is into it and is starting to want to be there for herself, and then she over hears a conversation and tries to leave. When Triven catches her before she goes, he begs her to stay and nothing he can say will get her to stay, other than using Mouse against her, and in the end Phoenix stays, for mouse. After Triven and herself kiss and create a closer relationship, she stabs him in the heart, basically saying, no you aren’t good enough for me, I’m going. Then she says she will stay for Mouse. Once again, I am irked by this protagonist.

So I have under 100 pages left, and I honestly feel as though nothing has really happened, I need something amazing to happen before the end of this book, to warrant me reading the second book in the series…  Ugh Chapter 17, I get that there was going to have to be a flashback to her parents murders at some point, but this one feels so forced. Like of course the only place that they could possibly hide, is in the sewer drains. And of course she once again, witnessed someone being killed, felt their blood on her face from the gunshot…. Aaand then the chapter goes from Phoenix’s repressed pain to the only other person she cares about being in danger. I get what Wilson has tried to do with this chapter, to up the stakes, quicken the pace and really get the reader emotionally involved. But for me, it fell flat, it really feels forced and that takes away the emotional charge that Wilson is trying to create.

So the ending picked up the pace! We were thrust into a never-ending action sequence, where we see all of our ‘favourites’ go through some seriously dangerous stuff. Which would have had my heart pumping, if I had formed a bond with any of the characters. The end definitely was a highlight, the pacing finally picked up, we saw Phoenix caring more for others than for herself and we saw Phoenix, Mouse and Triven become the family that we all wanted them to become. The final scene with Phoenix asking Triven to save Mouse was the most emotionally laden part of the whole book, for me. Like she finally realised just what it means to have a family, that loving other people isn’t a burden, it makes you stronger, it gives value and meaning to your life. We see Phoenix start to realise this, and then it is all taken away from her.

I definitely will be reading the next book in the series, I do want to see how Phoenix swings this bad luck around, she always seems to be able to get herself out of these things with minimal effort. I am also hoping that we learn a little more about her parents and what they did before they escaped.

All in all a good read, for me it is a 3/5 stars.

On another note, I am so happy that I actually got to read something off of my December TBR! You can find it HERE to see what else I may be tackling this month!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

 

Thanks again!

Julie