blog tour, Reviews & Ramblings

Blog Tour Review. Snow by Ondine Sherman.

Before we begin, This is the second book in this series and if you are interested in reading my review for Sky, the first book, click this LINK to go to my GoodReads.

Thank you so much to Aus YA Bloggers and Pantera Press for organising this blog tour.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it!

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Snow by Ondine Sherman

3/5 Stars

Published July 15th 2019 by Pantera Press

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Snow starts where Sky finished, almost to the day. Which makes it extremely easy to follow. Sherman has also taken time to fill in the blanks from the previous book, so if you haven’t read the first book, you could comfortably read this one and not feel as though you were missing out on any major plot points.

In Snow, we see Sky turn sixteen, we see her struggle with learning truths about her father, struggle with friendships, new family ties and working out who she is and what she stands for. A big part of this book is Sky, truly finding herself and what is important to her.

That being said, I did struggle with Sky, as a character. I still feel that she doesn’t act, think or react as a fifteen/sixteen year old would. She feels much younger than the age that we are told. Some of her actions seem a little far-fetched also. Without getting too spoilery, she seems, for the most part to be a little conservative, yet suddenly she has the confidence to hitch-hike and lie and deceive. Actions that don’t feel true to her character.

I also found issue with her as a character in that she speaks of sticking to her beliefs and speaking up for animal rights, yet she isn’t very educated about the animals that she is trying to save. She goes out of her way to endanger herself, where guns are involved and showed very little remorse or accountability for her actions. Although this happens in real life, this is a book aimed at younger readers, so for me this seemed like a scene that may influence negatively.

My last dig at Sky is that she is hypocritical. She constantly is upset by her father not telling her the truth about his job, it gets brought up throughout the book, that him hiding the truth from her was horrible and how can she trust him now? Then we see Sky, herself, doing the same thing to her Boyfriend, Oliver, hiding all traces of Jaxon from him. Which in the end has the exact effect you would expect.

I know it seems I wasn’t a fan of this book, but I did enjoy it. Maybe I am too old to fully enjoy this book, but there were aspects of Sky’s personality that just didn’t sit well with me, as a reader. I can see how she will be relate-able for younger readers though.

Snow, like Sky, is incredibly easy to read, the pages turn so quickly, you blink and the book is finished. Sherman writes scenes that flow with such ease, as well as capturing the beauty of the Alaskan scenery and the depth of the characters emotions.

This book speaks to the child in all of us, holding on to the innocence of animals, the strength of family and the hard decisions that lead us to doing the right thing. I believe that under all the twists and turns, at the heart of this series, is family. We see Sky, struggle so much in this book, yet by the end of it, she realises just what she is willing to do, to forgive, to overlook, if it means she gets to be a part of her family again. That just because she doesn’t agree with someone else’s life choices, doesn’t make it okay to cut them out of her life completely.

I am looking forward to seeing what happens when she returns to Australia in book three, Star coming out in February, 2020.

 

As always, thank you for reading!

 

Julie.

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: Ursa by Tina Shaw

Firstly, I want to say thank-you to Walker Books Australia, for sending me a review copy, in exchange for an honest review. I truly appreciate the opportunity!

As always, here is your disclaimer that this review may contain spoilers, If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend avoiding the spoilers by reading my spoiler-free review on GoodReads HERE.

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Ursa – Tina Shaw

Published April 1st 2019 by Walker Books Australia

3-Stars

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This book is slow to start, I’m about 60 pages in and finding the language to be quite stiff and the pacing, on the slow side. That being said, I am interested to see what happens and where the story Is heading. It does feel familiar, typical dystopian, ‘us’ being ruled by ‘them’, but I’m sensing a twist may be starting to take place.

Noting much is happening. You can tell that there is going to be some kind of a revolt and that Jorzy, is going to be involved somehow, but I wish it would speed up a little bit.                     I’m assuming the friendship with Emee, is going to have an important part to play at some point? I am intrigued and will definitely keep reading, but it really feels like something is missing, like something isn’t quite gelling together.

I feel like we need to know more about Leho’s mum. That would be an interesting story! Why is she so hates? Why are the people she talks to suddenly assaulted brutally in the street? What did she plan that was so bad, she got blinded then locked herself away? I need answers!

Woah, hang on, on top of being starving, living in ghettos and treated as a lesser people (hello Holocaust connotations), there is also a rape. I was not prepared for there to be rape and quite frankly it doesn’t really fit with the story. I understand it is there to show the brutality of the Travestors, to show how the Cerels are the lesser people and that they can be treated as though they aren’t people. But I also feel it was pointless in this case. I don’t think it needed to be Leho’s sister, it could have been a rumour, heard by the kids, not someone so close to Leho, unless there is a plot line for it. I just hope it wasn’t rape, for the sake of rape, it didn’t really have a big ‘wow’ or shock-factor, so I am interested to see where this line goes.

I have under 100 pages left and still, very little has happened. This is going to be one of those books, where everything happens in the last 50 pages, and although I am looking forward to the action finally happening, I am also tired of nothing happening.

I think it was way too easy for Leho to get a job, working in the directors’ garden. Firstly, he lied to get the job, there were no checks, people just accepted that he was there and who he said he was. It felt too easy, too convenient.

I am slowly losing patience with this book. I am eagre to lean what Leho will do, how far he will go to impress his brother, or will he choose to try to save his family. I just hope, whatever he does, he does it soon.

I think I have just hit the turning point. Emee’s world is starting to turn. Of course, the Travestors had no idea that Cerel men were being forced against their will, into work camps. I wonder what Emee does with this new information, or if she will ignore it.

It is hard not to compare this book to the Holocaust. The Cerels are the ‘lesser’ peoples, forced to live in ghettos, not having access to enough food, or any health care. They are excluded from entering certain shops, with signs plastered to walls telling them where they can and can’t shop. The Black Masks, showing such random brutality towards any Cerel on the street and the most similar is the removal of all men and their placement into work camps. I’m not sure if it was the intent of the author for the similarities, but I can’t un-notice them.

Okay, allow me to get back on the Marina and her rape, rant train. As I mentioned above, I completely understand the reason that Shaw wrote in a rape, the brutality of the Black Masks, had to be shown to be completely brutal and horrific, but there was no real plot for this horror. As it happened to a pretty significant character, I expected there to be something more. We know that Cerels are banned from having children, which leads to Marina having to leave to hide her pregnancy, but that is all we got, following up the horror. I am crabby about the use of rape when it didn’t add to the story line and it didn’t have any follow ups. I think it could have been hinted at in different ways.

All of the action took place within the last 20 pages. Yet, I still am questioning Leho’s motives. It really feels like he just wanted to impress his brother, not make a change to the horrific world that he lives in.                                                                                                              This book was written well, in a style that kept the pages turning. It was interesting to see this world, two classes of people, one of poverty and one of privilege.  Can’t help but draw similarities to the Holocaust, to the horror that people had to face. Yes, Ursa is a horrific place to live if you are a Cerel, but it feels a little like something was missing, like we weren’t given enough information.

The book finishes on a revolution and a funeral, yet nothing is truly resolved, and I don’t think there is another book coming. It all feels rather pointless.  Leho’s character felt very naïve, I realise that he is quite young, but he has to live through such horrors and to literally fight to put food on the table. But he throws good things away to impress his brother, not because he, himself wants change.

This was a 3-star read for me. It had its moments of wonderful writing and snippets of information that really lifted the plot, but I just think that there were too many things missing for it to be truly enjoyable. I think we needed more back story, more information on the Government and on Leho’s parents. If there had been more information provided, instead of following Leho around the countryside (for most of the book), I think it would have taken this book to another level. A good read, just something was missing for me.

 

If you are still here, thanks’ for sticking around!

Have you read Ursa? What did you think?

 

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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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: Hive by A. J Betts

I want to say a big thank you to both MacMillan Australia and Aus YA Bloggers, for sending me out a review copy of this book! I have been wanting to read it for a long time, and I am so grateful for having this beauty sent out for me to read!

 

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Hive by A.J Betts

3/5 Star Read

Published June 26th 2018 by Pan MacMillan Australia

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STOP! If you haven’t read this book, here is your warning. This review, contains SPOILERS! So stop reading and head to my GoodReads HERE for a spoiler free review!

 

First impressions are that this may be a little cringey for me, not because of the content, but because bees… I am not a fan of things flying around my head, so any of that and I turn into a shoulders affixed to my ears type of person. That aside… What a stunning cover, that draws you in immediately, the gold foiling is stunning and the midnight blue background creates a striking contrast! This book is shorter than I would usually go for, I didn’t realise that it was only 262 pages. This length I can devour in under 3 hours, so it is a nice little snack sized read! I am looking forward to diving in!

This book was a little slow to start, and didn’t really pique my interest until page 50. This being said, what a curious world, this book is set in. One where these people never see natural light, or animals other than bees. Their days are timed with the changing colours of ‘growlamps’. I am so intrigued! The fact that they are such devout Christians, worries me. Not because I am not for religion, but because it has such a profound cult-ish feel, it is giving me the heebie-jeebies.

I am starting to enjoy the writing style also. It took a little bit to get into the flow of the futuristic language and the fact that so many words aren’t known to the people that I’m reading about. It blows my mind that some words have been completely erased from this world. Like they never existed.

I also want to know more about this ‘madness’ to me it sounds like having creativity, having an active imagination? That it is being awakened with minor headaches, a thing that has been suppressed for generations. Apparently, creativity and individuality is frowned upon. But I want to know more, to know why this is such a bad thing?

I came across something that makes me sad…

                “Solitude wasn’t a sin, but to desire it was a cause for suspicion.” Page 92

This makes me so incredibly sad, and scared. Solitude is something we all, as human beings, at some point or other, seek. We all need time to charge our batteries, away from other people. From the looks of it, there is no part of Hayley’s life, that she will spend on her own. Perhaps that is where her “head pains” are coming from? Needing solitude.

I am getting a sense of DNA alteration from this book. Like there have been certain personality, physical and mental traits that have been ‘bred out’ if you will. Like there has been some selection of perfect people then those people have babies and the cycle continues. This vibe hit me as soon as The Judge mentioned that there hadn’t been anyone allergic to bee stings for years… That maybe allergies have been bred out of the population…

Okay, so this book was weird. I enjoyed the last 50 pages, more than I enjoyed the book as a whole. I loved seeing Will find his way back to Hayley, after she was deemed ‘mad’. Which I was right (partially) about, by the way. She asked too many questions, was a free and radical thinker, therefore, she posed a problem and boom, deemed mad. Anyway, I digress, I loved seeing them discover the outside world. How their world was created in order to save the population, as a place to hide and repopulate before returning to the outside world. But communication was lost and the people that knew how to use the technologies all died. The old ways were stopped being taught to the next generations and soon the cycle continued.

I enjoyed the writing style and the pacing was great, it was slow in times of lots of technical parts, parts that were created for this book, specifically, yet it sped up in action scenes, which really elevated this book as a whole. I do feel a little bit ‘what did I just read’, though, as I feel the whole book, up until the last 50 pages, were just for nothing? I understand why we got to see how this world works and how it is all intertwined and how their society and culture work, but it feels unnecessary now I have finished the book.

I did enjoy it, but I definitely need the next book, Rogue, in order to have some ends tied and some closure. Is there another world? What happened to Will? What is Hayley going to find and what is she going to do with this information? Why is the Judge and the Priest hiding everything from their people?

 

So many questions left unanswered!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Julie

 

 

 

Reviews & Ramblings

Review & Ramblings: The Price Guide to the Occult By Leslye Walton

Before I start, I want to thank Walker Books Australia for sending me out a review copy of this book! I am so grateful for the opportunity to read and review and work with Australian companies!

This HERE is your disclaimer, telling you that this review does, indeed, contain SPOILERS. So, if you haven’t read this book and are planning to, please stop reading now. Why not head to my GoodReads account and read my spoiler free review, HERE!

 

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The Price Guide To The Occult by Leslye Walton

4/5 Stars

Published September 6th 2018 by Walker Books

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This book is dark and gritty, something that I love in a novel. I love that the magical lore in this book is different to that of any other I have read too, although I would love some more back story.

I particularly like how the Blackburn family has been on the island forever, for eight generations, that their magic bestows ‘burdens’ upon each daughter, suited to their personalities. But what gets me the most is that poor Nor, she thinks she is evil, that she is darkness and all things black magic, because she is the first one since Rona, to possess more than one ‘burden’. Or so she first thought.

I love Nor’s ‘burden’ I wish I had it! The ability to hear the thoughts of animals and plants!? Amazing! I have always been drawn to flora and fauna, finding their company preferable to that of people, so that particular magic, would suit me just fine! We have also seen Nor being able to heal, which is kind of a kick in the guts for her, because she, herself has so many scars that need healing and she can’t heal herself.

This book was particularly slow to start, it took me 90 pages, to really be invested in the plot. I think because the pacing is quite slow at the beginning of the book, it makes it feel like a chore to read, but I’m glad I kept with it, it is picking up now.

I am a little scared about what is going to happen next. The animals and tourists are fleeing the island, and usually that means something bad is going to happen. Something of a massive magnitude. I am also scared because this book seems to have a lot of blood magic in it, so this bad that is coming, must have something to do with blood magic. Everything I have read about blood magic is never good.

I hope we learn more about Gage as the book continues, his family definitely knows something about Nor, more than Nor does and I want to know what it is!

I also want to know what the heck is with these light green fern tattoos!? I realise that they are to do with Nor’s mother, Fern. But why is she doing this, reaching out and influencing them, making them follow her wholeheartedly. What does she have planned?

So, it turns out that Nor is a kick ass, powerful witch! With the powers from the original Blackburn witch herself. It only took most of the townsfolk to be killed, her friends to be maimed, the wild life to flee the island and her to be involved in a love triangle, for her to see it, but hey. Amazing!

The bit that gets me is, that it was love that saved her. Her mother was going on and on and on about being the thing that darkness itself feared, but she couldn’t have been more wrong. Darkness fears light, it fears love, so when Nor came along, against her mother, she was willing to sacrifice herself for her friends, her family and the island, she realised that the darkness feared her. She realised that death and she were long lost pals and that no darkness could be deeper and darker than that living inside her own skin. So, in the end Nor one out.

That being said, it was a rather underwhelming demise to Fern. The all-powerful witch… I was expecting more? I understand that in her lust for power, the blood letting and murder she had taken part in, finally destroyed her from the inside out, the black magic being too much for her human body to handle, so by the time she came to be facing Nor, she was a shadow of her former self. But she just blew away in the wind? Her whole life and story line were surrounded in blood and darkness and she just blew away, piece by piece, in the wind? I’m sorry, but no. That is not how a powerful dark witch dies…

I also feel the need to touch on mentioning the love triangle, that I knew was coming. Apparently, all YA titles need a love triangle, and it kills me! Poor Reed is going to miss out, I have a feeling that Gage will be the winner in the fight for Nor’s heart… I do hope it is Reed though. Not that I have a ‘team’ but I just think that for once, the good guy should get some luck? Maybe Nor will stay with Reed, but have the Blackburn curse, make her spend three days with Gage to create the next Blackburn daughter. Wouldn’t that be a turn of events!

Anyway, I have 11 pages left to go, so I shall return once I’m done!

I knew it! Poor Reed gets shafted because the danger of Nor’s life is too much. Poor Reed, boys in this situation rarely get to make their mind up about whether they think the risk is too much, they just get told, heartbroken and left. Ugh, I knew she would end up with Gage… Also not complaining, but I am complaining… Gage and Nor do have an undeniable chemistry and witty banter, something that Reed and Nor didn’t have. I think Reed and Nor was bred out of their need to be wanted, to be seen. To have someone believe solely in them, to be in their corner. Reed gave Nor her own strength, he gave her courage and love; the one thing that Nor hadn’t received from a boy/man before.

What!? I am shook! Nor doesn’t end up with either of her love interests! Leslye Walton, I am impressed at your ruthlessness!

Well, the ending wasn’t at all like I was expecting, in fact it was open ended in a way that I hope there isn’t another book? I enjoyed this one, but it is perfect as a stand alone, another book isn’t needed.

In the end we see witches in general being hunted and interrogated by the police because of Fern’s fame and misfortune. Because of the terrors that Fern created, the witches, tarot readers, mystics and healers of the world are now under scrutiny and attack. This isn’t how I thought this book would end, naturally I thought something may come of it, but I thought Nor would revamp the shop and give tarot readings or be a physical lie detector, you know? Make a honest living from her talents, but that dream wasn’t to be. Instead she now has to live in fear of the thing that makes her and her family who they are…

This book is well written, although slow paced, it did manage to hook me within the first three chapters. It is slow to start, but it is worth hanging in there, to learn about this magical island and it’s witches.