Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Rules For Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Wow, what a ride this book is! I started getting teasers from Walker Books Australia, with links to files, physical files, transcripts from the book and from those teasers, I was hooked.

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Photo taken by @Bookish.Intoxication

This review is spoiler free, so feel free to read through if you haven’t read Rules for Vanishing yet!

Blurb: In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?

It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.

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Photo by @Bookish.Intoxication

 

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Published September 24th, 2019 by Walker Books.

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For this reader, this book was a 4 Star Read.

 

 

 

 

‘Little Lucy, dressed in white

Gave her mother such a fright

Walked into the woods one day

Where she went no one can say

Down a road that no one found

Or are her bones sunk in the ground?

How many steps did Lucy take?

One, two, three, four…’

 

If that doesn’t pique your interest in this book, I’m not sure what will.

Rules for Vanishing is unique, not only in Marshall’s way of creating incredible folklore, characters and plot twists, you won’t see coming, but also in the way it is written. It is delivered in interviews, audio transcriptions, text messages and video transcriptions. It makes the book read much faster than a traditional style and keeps you interested.

This book was a creep-fest, I did expect maybe a little more on the scary side, but the descriptions, the worlds and the spirits/elemental feel to the book, made the overall creepiness rise to a whole new level, some of you may not want to read this after dark.

We originally meet Sara, who is an outcast, we see her as a sad teen who is desperate to believe that her sister is still alive, after she went missing a year prior. Sara is strong, witty, honest and raw, she is the character you will come to love and respect. That being said, this book is filled with characters that are relate-able in one way or another. Strong female characters fill this book to the brim, which I love. I also love how even though Jeremy is clearly the jerky jock, he doesn’t mind being called on it and adjusts his level of cocky jerk, accordingly.

I think what gives this book it’s creepiness is that ‘The Road’ exists within the real world. It is somewhere that you could accidentally stumble across and never return from. It is also creepy because it is all folklore, based on a nursery rhyme-sounding, children’s rhyming game. How many of us sang and danced to ‘Ring around-a-Rosie’, without knowing its origins? This feels the same as that, like an innocent children’s game turned sinister.

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The level of psychological drama woven into the pages of this book is incredible, there are so many twists and turns you struggle to trust the narrator, struggle to believe what is real and what is purely fictional. Which only makes this book so much better. The plot twists are so hard to see coming, the plot itself is so unique, I haven’t read anything like it before.

The ending for me seemed a little rushed, and like the entirety of the book, we don’t really get any closure, yes, some ends are tied, but it definitely gives off the vibes that this book could be part of a duology or series. I have questions and  I need answers! That doesn’t mean I didn’t love the book, because I did. I love how unique and chilling it is.

Rules for Vanishing, will take you on an adventure you didn’t know you needed, if you can, hold off reading this book until it is Halloween, or add it to your October TBR, this book is perfect for that. It throws Halloween vibes, like it is nobodies business.

Well written and captivating from the first page, this is a book that will keep you on your toes and your mind racing to sort through the imagery within. The unique style in which this book is put together will keep pages flying through your fingers, it is so easy to read. Characters who are well rounded, yet have such normal flaws, there is a representation for everyone within these characters, which I think is fantastic, some are a little stereo-typical, but it doesn’t take away from the book itself.

An amazing read and I am so greatful to Walker Books, for sending me out a review copy. I have seen Rules for Vanishing all over Bookstagram, it is getting incredible reviews and I am so excited that I could be a part of that process!

 

Thank you for reading!

Julie

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: HeartStream by Tom Pollock

Firstly, I want to thank Walker Books Australia, for sending me an advanced reading copy of this title. It was just the book I needed to get out of a slump and I am eternally grateful for any opportunities I receive to work with publishers. Thank you!

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Heartstream by Tom Pollock

3/5 Stars.

Published September 1st 2019 by Walker Books

Goodreads

Goodreads Review

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, when I started reading this book. I expected some psychological elements, a lot of technology and some drama, but what I got, was so much more.

I was immediately drawn to Amy’s character, her chapters were filled with loss, pain and technologies that we can only dream of. Her voice is one that I can hear in my life, as though she is a friend.

I found Cat to be a little on the annoying side, she was too eagre to please everyone else, she wanted people to like her, and in the end, that is what she criticises others for doing. Yes, I recognise that she was incredibly wronged and it is disgusting what happened to her, but she feels hypocritical. In the beginning, it was as though she wasn’t her own person, as though she would rather be the person that people expected her to be, than be herself for the fear that people wouldn’t like her. Which is sad in itself.

At first, I wasn’t sure what I was reading, with this book. I couldn’t pick the path of where it was going. It did dawn on me that this book could be read as a precautionary tale about the dangers of the internet. As our lives are getting broadcasted more and more onto the internet, we are sharing more about our lives, our homes, our friends and family, the more ammunition we give people to tear us down. This book can be seen as a warning, most of what these women went through was a direct response from their lives in the public eye, having thousands and millions of followers on their social media accounts, for Cat it resulted in horrific physical damage to not only herself, but her family and home. I am not, by any means saying ‘stay off socials’, or ‘the internet is bad’, what I’m saying is, that you could read this book as a warning, that sometimes giving too much of yourself to your followers can result in losing yourself.

I also think that Cat is a creation of her generation. She was encouraged to believe that the more followers she had, the more likes and retweets or re-blogs she received, the more popular she was. The more important she was. Her whole selfworth was created by having millions of people think that she was special.

I wish that there was more about Heartstream, the app, in this book. It sounds like an incredible piece of technology, creepy, but incredible. The ability to share your feelings with others, not though telling them, but showing them. Allowing them to feel exactly as you are feeling in any given moment. I think there was room for more information on the topic. I would have loved some backstory maybe?

The way that these two women are connected is mind blowing, I have seen this situation play out in different ways before, but I didn’t see it coming in this book (No spoilers, don’t panic). From the beginning, it was obvious to me that they were going to be connected in some way, I guess it was poetic in the end.

Tom Pollock has created a dark and twisty novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Your head will twist in circles trying to work out the connections, what is important and what is put there to make you think you’re on the right track, but you aren’t. The pacing in this book is fantastic, it reads as the characters think, Cat’s chapters read erratically, they speed up to a pace that you can imagine her thoughts are travelling at. Whereas Amy’s chapters start out slow, her sadness saturating the flow of her thoughts and actions, then they increase as her situation escalates.

A great read, if you are looking for something to make you think. I did have a sense of unsatisfaction when I finished though. The ending felt a little open ended, wahich I can understand considering the intensity of the novel, but I wish there was a little more closure.

This title is intense from the first page and will keep you guessing until the very end.

Thanks for reading.

Julie.

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: The Runaways by Ulf Stark

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

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

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The Runaways by Ulf Stark. Illustrated by Kitty Crowther

4/5 Stars.

Published  April 2nd 2019 by Gecko Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Thanks for reading!

Julie.

 

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst & Paula Garner

Firstly, I want to say a huge, Thank you, to Walker Books Australia. I am so grateful for each title I have been sent to review. Walker Books is such a fantastic Australian company, so friendly and accommodating. So, Thank you, so much for giving me the chance to read such diverse books, review them and to promote your company in the process.

This review may get a little spoilery, so here is your warning. If you haven’t read this book, please don’t keep reading, click THIS link, to my GoodReads, where you will find a spoiler free review.

 

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Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst & Paula Garner

Published April 16th 2019 by Candlewick Press

4/5 Stars

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Book Depository

 

My first impressions of this book is that the cover is stunning, it is a book that feels inviting, no matter your age or genre preference. The colours are soothing and the galaxy and title suggest something to do with the stars, maybe space themed?

I found this book a little slow to start, I struggled with the writing style and the language feels clunky. Teens using large and complex words doesn’t seem to fit. But the more you read, the more you grow accustomed to the writing style and it starts to flow.

I’m really starting to connect with Sam and Zoe, they are such complex characters, each with their own burdons. You instantly feel a connection with them when you start to see their friendship bloom. They are the perfect companions for eachother, both knowing what it is like to give yourself 100% over to the care of another person, to avoid truly being you, in order for that other person to thrive. To give up so much, so that you can focus on helping someone else get better. These girls are so strong.

I am in awe of Zoe. So much. Zoe looks after her disabled brother with so much passion and love. She looks after him day after day and yes, she gets tired, but she never complains, she comes home from school early to make sure she is there to help. She knows what he likes, which songs, which food, what his sounds and gestures mean. I work with children with learning disabilities, I know the drain it can have physically and mentally, and to see Zoe, so utterly passionate, each and every day, about caring for her brother, fills me with admiration and respect.

Starworld and Startalk, finally, we see what the title is all about! I am a little weirded out by it, I;m not going to lie. But I understand its importance.

I think that, as much as their Startalk is a way for them to escape their too-hard lives, it will eventually implode. There is too much riding on it, staying the same, staying as something fun and carefree, almost as though there is no room for a real friendship outside of the world that they are creating. Se wee this in that Zoe is pushing for a normal friendship, normal texting but Sam constantly reverts back to the Startalk, it is almost as if she is afraid Zoe won’t like her outside of their special world.

Wow, Zoe has some judgemental friends. Yes, we as humans can be very judgy, but to put down people, things, food etc, that makes yout friends happy, is just spiteful. Putting down others, to make yourself feel better, is never okay. It is no wonder that Cammie is the only one of Zoe’s friends who know, truly, what is going on in her life. Cammie, seems the most sincere and caring of Zoe’s friends.

Oh, it happened. I knew it would happen and now my heart is breaking for Sam. Somehow, Zoe’s friends have seen their Startalk, their dreamy world and they are teasing Sam about it. I don’t know if Zoe showed them or what happened, but they know and Sam is devastated. It may seem small, but this will completely break Sam, I doubt that she will trust Zoe again, or anyone else for that matter. She put so much faith and trust in Zoe, in their private little world and now it is out in the open for everyone to see and judge. Just what Sam couldn’t bear to happen.

A kiss.  I wasn’t entirely expecting a kiss. There has been gentle sub-text hinting towards Sam being attracted to females, but I didn’t think it would escalate into a kiss, when Sam, herself doesn’t really seem like she is ready for it. But oh wow, I can only imagine the devastation Sam will be feeling, The rejection alone, or more imajined rejection is going to debilitate her. I hope this isn’t the end of Zoe and Sam. The end of Starworld.

This situation with Sam’s feelings for Zoe, growing at such a rate of knots, is, although took me by surprise, it was also what I was afraid of. Yes Starworld, for Sam was the same as it was for Zoe. An escape from their real lives, somewhere where they made up the rules, they could change what was happening, it was fun and an adventure, a ‘safe haven’ is what Zoe calls it. But I think for Sam, it was a little more than that. It gave her  the chance to impress, she almost saw Zoe as a damsel in distress and painted her in that light, within Starworld, in order to be able to save her.

I can see so much of Sam’s mum, in Sam. I mean her disorder, Sam is slowly picking up her mum’s ticks and habits, which makes OCD so much more scary. I think we all write it off as someone who needs to be clean and neat all of the time, not someone who is controlled by fear that if they don’t do certain things, a certain number of times or a certain way, that the world will end. Literally. I love that we get to see how Sam is learning or inheriting, her mum’s ways, that OCD can be a learned behaviour, even though you think you are supporting someone who is living with it, you could be enabling or making it worse.

While we are on the subject of mothers, I want to touch on Zoe’s. She is such a selfless woman. She is going through so much of her own, cancer in partial remission, isn’t a walk in the park. But does she dwell on it? No, she takes it in her stride and motivates herself to give more to her children. All of her energies are put into helping Zoe and Jonah, not once does she complain. She even goes as far as supporting Zoe to find her birth parents, because if the cancer takes her, she wants Zoe to be able to find more family to support her through her mothers’ loss. This woman is a saint and we don’t deserve her!

Zoe has such a huge influence on Sam’s life. On giving her the confidence to grow, to speak up and to be who she is. Without Zoe, I don’t think Sam would have gone to London, or flirted with the barmaid, or faced her mother about her illness. Zoe have her courage to be herself, to recognise that she, as a person, is enough, that she matters.

Even through their friendship doesn’t end on the warmest of notes, the residual, mutual benefit from their friendship is incredible. You can feel it in the way that they are always thinking of each other in key times in their lives away at college, how each one has imprinted a part of themselves, onto the other.

 

This book is filled with complex and strong women. There is such a powerful feeling of women supporting women, and I think that is so important in YA fiction. It covers so many different subjects that are so rarely touched on in Young Adult fiction. From OCD through to Divorce, there is something that each and every reader can relate to. This book is a mine-field of emotional attacks and you will feel each and every blast. This book has presented readers with a world filled with emotion, friendship, bravery and strength. A world of imagination and believing in yourself.  Colthurst and Garner have written incredible characters, characters that I know, will stick with me for a long time.

The ending gives me hope that maybe, one day,  when the girls are in their twenties, Zoe and Sam, might revisit Starworld and their friendship. At the moment in their lives, they are content, learning and growing. But there is always room for one more adventure.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Firstly I want to say a big Thank you to Walker Books Australia, for sending me a review copy of this book. I am so humbled each and every time I am sent a book to review. Thank you so much!

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Malamander – Thomas Taylor

4/5 Stars

Published May 2nd 2019 by Walker Books

GoodReads

 

 

 

If you haven’t read this book, I would reccommend popping to my GoodReads HERE for a spoiler-free review. This review isn’t too spoiler-y but I don’t want you to have even the tiniest bit spoiled for you!

First impressions of this book had me thinking that this was going to be a fun read. The cover is bright and eye-catching, for a middle-grade book, that is what you want, to draw your reader in. The blurb sounds so exciting and fast paced.

I am thirty pages into this book, and I am hooked. I love the writing style, it is fast paced and flows smoothly. It is funny, quirky and I already love the characters and their depth of who they are. I can’t wait to read more! I am also intrigued by the Malamander. What is it? Why is it? I am loving this book so far!

I am absolutely devouring this book. I love how everything connects, how every little tid-bit of information has purpose and meaning. This is such a fun read.

At the heart of this fast-paced, middle-aged book, is a young girl with a broken heart, searching for her lost parents, but each clue she turns over, sends her one step closer to the infamous and legendary Malamander. The half man, half fish beast, who patrols the beaches, searching for its egg.

I love the relationship between Herbie and Vi, he is quiet and introverted, happy to stay in his cellar of lost things, whereas Vi, wants to be out adventuring, finding clues and getting answers. They are the perfect pairing for this book. Herbie has the knowledge of the area and Vi has the cunning and courage to lead him into trouble!

The way that family is centred in this book makes it feel even more special, even though, by rights, both Herbie and Vi are orphans, this book shows the importance of making your own family, each person that we meet, has a story to tell about Herbie, or knows something about Vi’s family. They are all connected in some way.

I am still intrigued by the Malamander, I think there is going to be a twist somewhere along the line, it feels too grumpy and too visible for it to be just a legend brought to life, there must be more to its story!

What a gorgeous read, I was fully engrossed in this book from start to finish, so much so, that I devoured it in one day. It is full of laughter, friendship and courage. But you can’t avoid the notes of loss, sadness and fright. This book is about so much more than a monster, it is about people and what people hold in their hearts, about what is truly important to them and what they will do, or won’t do, to achieve what is important.

The ending to this book was more than perfect, everything was set back to how it was meant to be, no one was lonely or sad or hurt. It makes a nice change, from the other books I have been reading.

This book is aimed at a middle-grade audience, but older readers will appreciate its simplistic writing style and the feeling of sentimentality that washes over you whilst reading. Fast paced, so much so that pages will be turning and before you know it, you will have finished the final page. The writing style allows the reader to truly get lost in the world of the Malamander.

I highly reccommend this book!

As always, thanks for reading!

Julie