Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Only A Breath Apart by Katie McGarry

I was lucky enough to be approved for an ARC of this title, from both the amazing author Katie McGarry and NetGalley. I accepted the ARC in exchange for an honest review, which is what you are reading now! As always, here is the disclaimer, this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t read the book, I suggest looking away now, or head over to my GoodReads HERE for a look at my spoiler-free review!

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Only A Breath Apart – Katie McGarry

Published January 22nd 2019 by Tor Teen

4/5 Stars

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I wasn’t sure that I would like this book, after reading the first chapter, but that is because they are written from the points of view of the main characters, when they were seven and eight years old. They were hard to read, not because of the content, but because of the characters age. But once I got into chapter 3, Scarlett’s chapter, I was immediately reminded of how amazing Katie McGarry’s writing is and I became captivated.

I am intrigued by the idea of ‘the land’ and how it protects people, how it allows them to see things, to talk with angels. I can’t wait to learn more about that aspect of this book.

I feel that before I get too far into this post, I need to say that this book deals with some rather intense things. These things are physical and psychological abuse, victimization, all within the family setting. So if you have any issues relating to the above aspects, I would advise not continuing on with reading this post or with reading the book. The father in this book is quite intense and it can be uncomfortable to read.

I am about 30% in and I am enjoying it. I feel that this book may be a little more intense than McGarry’s previous works. The intensity of Scarlett’s father is incredible. To the point where it is hard to read the scenes where they are interacting. The tension between them fills the air like water, making it hard to breathe and to read. He is such an intense man, in general. I can sort of understand where his controlling obsession comes from, losing his sister when she went off to college has driven him crazy with worry that something will happen to his daughter, if he doesn’t keep her safe, only he is killing her, smothering her with each demand he makes, with each verbal attack.

He put a tracking app on her phone without her knowing, he won’t let her go to the college that offers the course she wants to do because he can’t control her if she is in Kentucky. He won’t allow her to gt a job, because he wants her to focus on school, even though she is a straight a student, set to graduate early. And he sure as heck doesn’t want her spending time with Jesse. He never has. This relationship is so toxic, not just Scarlett and her father, but her mother and father as well. This is where I feel the most uneasy within this story. Watching her mother take the abuse, verbal and physical and justify it, making it seem okay, when it clearly isn’t. I totally understand that McGarry is trying to shed some light on family violence, but I wasn’t ready for the magnitude of it within this book.

Let’s talk about Jesse. What an interesting young man. Finally we get some insight into why he pushed Scarlett away. It wasn’t because of anything she had said or done, it was because of the family curse. There is folklore that Lachlins are cursed, the people that they love will all die around them, and it has been happening all of Jesse’s life. So rather than risk Scarlett’s life, he pushes her away. It is so easy to see how much he cares for her, no matter how horrible she is to him, he just wants to help her. To see her happy and to succeed.

Jesse is in a bit of a pickle though. I can’t imagine being 17, having no family left and wanting to take over a farm. Taking on the responsibility of the farm as well as finishing school, and all of the growing up that comes with being 17. It is actually hard to see him as being that young. He comes off as being much older, more like 25. But I think that is the point, for us to see him as mature, as wise and knowledgeable about the choices he is making. And it all goes back to how his mum told him to never leave the land. Jesse even talks of how he can’t breathe, but walking on his land takes the pain away. I am still waiting to learn more about the folklore and magic of the land.

I am worried that Jesse and Scarlett are going to fix their friendship… relationship? And then Scarlett is going to think that Jesse only started working to patch things up because he needs her to vote for him to keep the farm. And even though in the start, I think that is exactly the reason that he started talking to her again, he loves her.

Crisis averted, he told her about needing her vote and Scarlett took it in her stride, she didn’t flinch. She knows as much as he does that he belongs on that land. It is as much a part of him as he is of it.

So finally, Jesse and Scarlett have finally kissed, it just felt like it was meant to be, it felt right for the story too. He gives her a strength that she needed to make it through her home life. He lets her be her true self, no judgement, no pressures, just kindness, honesty and love. I love their connection with the land, how they can feel it breathing, feel its movements and its power. I’m also enjoying the spiritual element, I was hoping that there was a little more of it throughout the book, but it is cool that there is a psychic element included with the talk of curses and magic in the earth.

I am about 70% in and I am so worried that something terrible is coming. This is because, nothing remotely chaotic has happened yet. It has all been back story and context building, it has been amazing. And all amazing things must come to an end, in fiction anyway. I am so scared that something other than Jesse and Scarlett is going to pull them apart, that Jesse will lose the farm and Scarlett may lose her family.

Okay wow. This guy is an arsehole. He is actually charging Jesse with kidnapping… what the heck. He can’t even stop for a second to listen to his daughter long enough to see how she is feeling or what she wants, because he is so obsessed with control that he can’t imagine that she would do something like, get in a car with a boy, of her own free will. This man is scary. I am sitting here, almost too scared to read the next few chapters, I can’t see how this will play out. I do feel like it was a little cliché having the policeman find Jesse and Scarlett kissing in his truck, with their tops off. It did have a feel of every other teenage movie or book, but seriously, leave Scarlett to have one tiny piece of happiness that is her own!

Holy horse apples, it isn’t Scarlett who has a vote on the tribunal for Jesse’s land. It is her arsehole father! The same abusive man who got Jesse locked up for ‘kidnapping’ Scarlett, the same man who refuses Scarlett to have a life outside of what he can control. My hopes for Jesse to get his dreams are fading. I can only hope for some form of miracle turnaround. But I don’t like the chances.

Glory is such an underrated character. She is the glue that is holding the town together. She knows everyone’s secrets, she knows everyone’s truths, but all she wants it for justice and happiness to prevail. She is honest, clever, witty and smart. She is mystic, untamable and just as wanting of love and acceptance as Scarlett is. I wish we had more time with Glory, or even better yet, a whole book about her, growing up and finding herself. That is something I’d be into!

Sooo Jesse definitely isn’t going to be keeping his land, unless he wants to break Scarlett’s heart, there is no way for him to stay on it. But maybe change is what he needs. A push in a new direction?

It is so close to being the end of this book and it is so unlike so many other books I’ve read lately. Even though ends are starting to tie up, they are also messy and sewn up with a thread that catches and leaves gaping holes in the fabric. It isn’t one of those stories that everything is neat and tidy, and I really like that about it. The whole story has been intense and messy, so if it had a traditional YA ending, I think it would have felt fake and made the whole story seem less than it really is.

I feel a little thwarted by Jesse leaving now. After all of that trauma and hassle with Scarlett and her family, overcoming their differences and their own traumas, he just decides to up and leave her, when she needs him the most, when they can finally start their own life together. I understand that everyone needs time for personal growth, but this is one that I am not for. Boo Jesse. You suck mate. Ughh and he is saying the ageless excuse, I am doing this for us. Mate, I was in your corner, until now. I can’t put my finger on what exactly is irking me the most about this, can I call it a plot twist? It just feels wrong, Jesse is explaining it so well, but it feels wrong on so many levels. I just can’t work it out in my head. Yes I get he needs to leave, to see what life is like away from the land, but I assumed he would just move to Kentucky with Scarlett and maybe take some classes at the college while he was there? Not leave.

Okay so of course my anger was pre-mature apparently. Jesse somehow got into the University of Ketucky fo the agriculture programme… So now it is all happily ever after for Jesse and Scarlett.. I get Jesse had to go away to work on a farm and to learn how to do things with the councils and stuff, but it was a rather dramatic side-step. I feel like it was unnecessary. He could have gotten some help from somewhere else? I feel like their magical fairy tale ending is slightly tainted now. Him leaving just put a sour taste in my mouth?

I did love this book though. It is different to so many other YA titles out there at the moment. Their story is deep, traumatic and filled with the desire to be wanted, accepted and loved. I forgot how easy McGarry’s writing style is to read, the scenes are free-flowing, they stream from one moment into the next, there is no choppy change-overs. The characters are all complementary and add something to the book. There are no characters that are there for useless filling, they all give something to the story. I think my favourite element to this book is the inclusion of the connection to the land that Jesse has. The way that he has a deep, natural connection, to know what is wrong with it and how to fix it. The way he is in tune with the earth.

I knew nothing about this book, going in. Katie McGarry is an auto-buy author for me, so I just knew I had to read it. I do wish I had read the synopsis before reading, I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the book, but it is a fantastic read. As always McGarry has created characters that feel as though you have known them, your whole life. They are deep, multi-dimensional and feel real. They make you feel for them, want the best for them. Even if you can see that their motives may not be pure.

I ended up devouring this book in one day, in one sitting. It takes over and doesn’t let you go until you have read all that there is to read!

Definitely pop a comment below if you have read this book! Let’s chat!

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 and Ramblings: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

As always, here is the disclaimer, telling you that this review and ramblings post will be filled with spoilers, feels, points of view and things you may not agree with. Here is your trigger warning also, this book and review contains triggers for parental abuse, religious abuse, foster homes, sexual abuse and divorce. So please look away if any of those things are going to make you feel anxious or unsafe.

My spoiler free review can be found on GoodReads HERE

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More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

Published March 6th 2018 by Bloomsbury Children’s

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I have been a fan of Brigid Kemmerer since I read the Spark series, her writing style is right up my alley and I love how she works in controversial subjects with grace and ease, yet lets them be as weighted and raw as they need to be. I am desperately hoping that this book is no exception to her incredible writing style.

I only learned after I started this book that it was a sequel to Letters to The Lost, so hopefully it can be read as a standalone and I don’t miss too much back story.

This book is so deep and emotionally loaded, but it is also incredibly raw and real. I thought maybe it would feel forced, like Rev and Emma’s stories were being thrust in our faces, then their romance would bloom and it would end up being something light and fluffy. Boy was I wrong.

I love Rev as a character. He is raw, and is filled with confusion and longing for some sense of normalcy. But he is also incredibly caring. The introduction of a foster brother doesn’t give him dis ease, it makes him want to help. Even though he has suffered so much growing up, and has made a family for himself, he wants Matthew to relax at his home, to feel safe and to feel accepted. I think that speaks volumes about Rev.

I also like Revs’ past. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I don’t like that he suffered abuse at the hands of his father. But I do like how Kemmerer has made his fathers abuse, not just a drunk who beats up his kid, she has made him completely religious and so firm and totally wrapped up in his beliefs, that he sees his words and the gospels themselves. I like this because it adds depth to Rev, it allows us to see into his character more and see how he can be so confused when it comes to his father and working out what is right and wrong.

Emma’s character however feels a little more cliché, although her issues are not light by any standards. She is facing a career in a male dominated field and is already copping abuse and threats on the daily. Her family is splitting up and she is drifting away from her best friend. Emma’s problems may seem to pale in comparison to Rev’s, but hers are the problems that we are more likely to hear about in our day-to-day lives.

Their controversial comparisons are what makes this book so emotionally charged. There is something for everyone to relate to within this book. It is well written and easy to read, the pacing is just right, allowing the reader to process the horrors of Rev’s child hood, but then speeding up for the scenes at school. This book has been so carefully written.

I am loving Emma and Rev’s relationship, in that it is purely innocent. Yes, each of them are telling the audience that they are feeling sparks, but neither of them are acting on it yet. They are learning to trust each other, learning what they need from each other. Taking the comfort that the other is giving. They are such a good fit, Emma pushes Rev to speak out about his problems, to face them head on. Rev makes Emma see that she doesn’t need to feel alone, that she has people in her corner that she can trust.

No Ethan! You will not ride on in here on your white horse! I’m not having it! This book is already so loaded, we don’t need a love triangle too! And yes, Ethan seems like a good guy, but he is no Rev!

Oh no, it’s happened, their individual baggage is causing them to implode. We see Emma so desperately wanting Rev’s support, his comfort, but she just pushes and pushes until he can’t stand it. He is such a kind and compassionate soul, watching the happiness leave him is painful to read.

Rev’s adopted family are so amazingly supportive and perfect. They are the family that everyone dreams of. They are exactly what he needs. Geoff gives Rev just the right amount of freedom but knows when he needs him to push back. He knows Rev so well that he knows what he needs, before Rev admits it.

Declan. This guy is my hero. What a strong and caring guy. He is there for Rev at all hours of the day, takes care of him, comforts him and never asks for anything other than friendship in return, he is gentle and kind and everything Rev needs. Even when Rev is protecting Matthew, gets worked up and accidentally punches Dec and gets suspended. Declan doesn’t get pissed off, he gets worried and goes to see Rev to make sure that he is okay. Rev has so much support in his life, so much good. I am a little bit jealous!

Holy shit, poor Matthew, this book is ruining me, I am literally a sobbing mess. These kids have to deal with so much, and they are just kids. Learning who they are and what they want to do with their lives, while dealing with the physical and mental trauma of their childhoods. What a horrible thing to experience. Those of us who are lucky enough to have grown up in safe and loving homes take it for granted that’s for sure.

Aww the little cuties, Rev and Emma finally fixed their implosion and made up. Literally. Rev says it himself, Emma makes him want to be brave. She gives him the courage he needs to face his reality. Their kiss scene wasn’t awkward, nor did it feel forced. It felt natural and so innocent. Emma goading herself for her suggestive language, Rev not wanting to hurt her with his jui jitsu. Too cute!

Woah, Rev is really doing it. Going to see his dad. I can’t help but feel some foreboding about it, like his dad is going to get inside his head and Rev will end up hurt or being kidnapped or something equally as horrible. But then I think of the man he is now and maybe he will have the strength to stand up to him, to tell him who he is and just what kind of a man his dad truly is…

No, no, no ,no. I have a terrible feeling about Ethan… I am totally with Rev on this one. Emma doesn’t even know who he is! Why is she telling him where she is and to come and get him! I know her world is falling down around her, but come on girly, be safe! Stressing to the max!

Oh I usually like to be right, but not in this instance. Oh Emma what have you done! We are constantly warned about people we meet through the internet and here you are completely forgetting all of the things! He is a crazy psycho! He went from all round good guy to absolute psychopath in 3 lines! Come on Rev, you’ve gotta find her!

And of course he found her and of course he was incredible and dreamy and so heroic! But as always Rev put Emma first, he was doing something for himself, ending his long and traumatic relationship with his father. But when he knew Emma was in danger, everything changed. He needed her to be safe, she has become his safe place. The person he values more than himself.

I love the growth of Matthew, we see him change from a vulnerable walking foster kid cliché, into a wonderful, honest young man who just wants a family. His own people to care for. He and Rev have such a special relationship, based on mutual experiences and being able to relate to each others pasts.

This book, although as I mentioned above, is a sequel to Letters to the Lost, it is completely fine as a standalone. If anthing it has made me want to read LTTL more. This book is about Rev, and LTTL is about Declan, so naturally I want to know more about the boy next door!

This book was an emotional rollercoaster, It had me laughing, crying (well, sobbing) and in states of shock. It covers everything and you will feel everything. Incredibly well written, engaging and moving. This book is confronting, so please be aware of that, but it is definitely one of my favourite reads for 2018.

Have you read this beauty?

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As always, thanks for reading!

Julie