Lovesome by Sally Seltmann

lovesome.jpgTitle: Lovesome

Author: Sally Seltmann

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: An offbeat and beguiling story of finding your own happiness.

My warm breath makes a beautiful fog in front of me. It’s times like this when I feel most alive. I feel free, and at one with the world and everything around me. It’s an invigorating version of euphoria. But I don’t want to arrive home to no one; I want someone to come home to.

It’s 1995 and 21-year-old Joni Johnson is fresh out of art school and loving her life. Working at Harland, a French restaurant, makes her happy – it’s as romantic as she is herself. Harland’s owner, Lucy, and chef, Dave, make her evenings both entertaining and complicated. By day, Joni sets up her easel in her backyard bungalow, turns on her music, and paints.

But when Joni’s best friend, Annabelle, arrives on the doorstep one night ecstatic in love, everything changes. The life Joni has built for herself seems lacklustre in comparison to Annabelle’s rising star. And when Annabelle makes a beeline for the one man who seems interested in Joni, it looks unlikely that their friendship will survive.

Tender, funny and romantic, Lovesome is a triumph.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseI received Lovesome as a surprise book – and it was one that I decided I’d give a go. Joni Johnson is twenty-one in 1995. She is an artist, painting by day, and waitressing by night, going through the motions of her life in her early twenties, following her dream but also working to support herself, while her best friend, Annabelle, is living overseas in London as a singer. When Annabelle re-enters her life, it is like a tornado has landed – a tornado where Annabelle moves from excitement and hyperactivity about her current boyfriend coming to Australia, to a tense disagreement about James, the photographer for an article on Annabelle. When Joni and James show interest in each other, Annabelle’s jealousy flares – so used to having men fall for her instantly, it seems that their once stable friendship might be falling apart.

Part romance, part literary and part coming of age, Lovesome is the kind of novel where the people you thought would fall in love, don’t, and where the falling in love happens when and where you least expect it to in the storyline. The first half to a third is Joni exploring her life and trying to work out who she is at twenty-one, having finished art school, and aiming for an art career, she finds herself working at eclectic Harland, where each room has a different theme for diners, and where the enigmatic and complicated Lucy, runs the restaurant. Each character is flawed – Joni seems to doubt herself at times, Lucy is all over the place, or so it seems until quite late in the book, where she reveals secrets to Joni she perhaps has not revealed to anyone else, and Annabelle comes across as selfish at times, interrupting Joni to talk about whatever is on her mind, leaving Dave, the head chef, as Joni’s confidant.

At first I wasn’t sure what to expect or think, but it is a coming of age story that reflects the way some young people find themselves and their passion, and the relationships that they are in and out of, platonic and romantic, family and work. It was a rather quick read, and at times quite compelling – i kept wondering which way things would turn, and how it would work out. As such, I felt it wasn’t the typical love story that it might be seen as – rather, a unique one where the love interest pops up quite late, and although it happens quickly, didn’t feel rushed at all, unlike some I have read – it felt natural, and worked well for Joni. The friendships between Joni, Annabelle, Dave and Lucy were just as strong as just as important – they showed that love can happen in a variety of ways for different people, and that it isn’t always romantic. Showing that friendship is just as important, if not more important, than a romantic relationship, as shown by Joni and Annabelle’s friendship, is a great thing to see in novels.

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Blog Tour: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson

differently normal.jpgTitle: Differently Normal

Author: Tammy Robinson

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 30th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 345

Price: :$29.99

Synopsis: Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is about first love and the sacrifices you’ll make for the ones you hold close. For fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jojo Moyes.

For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her sister with autism happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love.

Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.

DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are . . .

‘A funny and poignant tale about first love. Tammy Robinson is a natural storyteller.’ Nicky Pellegrino

~*~

Differently Normal 4Differently Normal is the story of first love, but also about the love of family and what people are willing to do for each other. Maddy Baxter’s life is about routine: the routine of work, and the routine at home she and her mother have to follow to keep her younger sister, Bee, happy and safe. Bee’s autism and epilepsy have meant this rigid schedule has left little time for much else. Bee loves her horse riding though, and a special stable that helps kids like Bee has just taken on a new worker: Albert, saving to leave home and start a new life away from a turbulent family where he doesn’t feel like he fits in. This is where Maddy and Albert meet, and a friendship begins, slowly at first, and but soon blossoms into something else. Maddy soon finds herself allowing Albert in – cautiously at first, to protect her family. When she sees how he genuinely cares for Bee and unlike other people Maddy has known, is willing to help to put Bee first, she finds a way to be happy.

Differently Normal has elements of friendship and romance, of family love and of sacrifice. It does not shy away from the difficulties of life with a disabled family member, and Maddy’s experiences of the past colour her reactions to Albert. Albert’s relationship with Maddy and her family is a caring one – and through the novel, he consistently puts Bee’s needs ahead of his own, understanding Maddy’s need for routine and the absence of the unfamiliar. Whilst the romance element wasn’t the most important aspect for me, it felt more realistic than some others I have read, and allowed for Maddy and Albert to be who they were, and allowed for their characters to evolve together and apart. The goal wasn’t the romance – it was more about the journey and their romance that was a part of the journeys that they had to take.

What I liked about this book was that the focus wasn’t the romance between Maddy and Albert, that they were also allowed to be their own people and show vulnerabilities, and strengths to each other, but also the showed the sacrifices made for family, such as Maddy’s sister, Bee and her mother. The perfect love does not necessarily happen in this book, and that is perhaps why it resonates more – because life is not perfect and things don’t always work out the way we want them to.

In the end, it is a touching story about family to me, and what it means to live with disabilities that affect the person with them, and the way the family lives their lives. The romance between Maddy and Albert was a nice touch, but I found that Maddy’s story intertwined with her sister was more enjoyable, though all strands were in some way relatable and will be in different ways to different readers. Perhaps this is what makes it a unique story of first love – the focus isn’t the romance, there are many different focuses and each reader will get something different out of it that works for them.

AUTHOR BIO

 

Tammy Robinson is a contemporary women’s fiction author from the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. After years spent working her way round the world, Tammy settled back in New Zealand with her husband, their two girls and a newborn baby boy. She has published six novels through Amazon, and DIFFERENTLY NORMAL was her first novel with Hachette New Zealand. She is currently working on PHOTOS OF YOU, which Hachette will publish in 2019.

Differently Normal 56

AUTHOR LINKS

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TammyRobinsonAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TammyRobinson76

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6907993.Tammy_Robinson

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tammyrobinsonauthor/

 

Find information for Differently Normal here:

GOODREADS LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37955669-differently-normal

MAIN LINK: https://www.hachette.com.au/tammy-robinson/differently-normal

PURCHASE LINKS – paperback and e-book

AU
https://www.booktopia.com.au/differently-normal-tammy-robinson/prod9781869713720.html
https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/differently-normal-by-tammy-robinson-9781897136898/#.WmfxpaiWaUk

NZ
https://www.whitcoulls.co.nz/differently-normal-6323082

Kobo
https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/differently-normal-2

iBooks
https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/differently-normal/id1317276850?mt=11

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Tammy_Robinson_Differently_Normal?id=RilADwAAQBAJ

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Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One by Paige L. Christie

Draigon Weather cover_for promotion (1).jpegTitle: Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One

Author: Paige L. Christie

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Prospective Press

Published: 3rd October, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: AU$32.75 (Booktopia) US$15.95

Synopsis: The brutal, drought-bringing heat that arises from the colossal, near-mythical Draigon, is a fell portent, heralding the doom of a bad woman.

When Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve the terrible drought, Leiel is marked by the shame brought to her family. She must leave school, relegated to a new life of servitude.

Cleod, the woodcutter’s son, is Leiel’s closest friend. To avenge Leiel’s mother, he vows to rise above his station and join the Ehlewer Enclave, an elite society famed for training men to kill Draigon.

The friends’ lives take different paths. Cleod struggles with divided loyalties as he learns he cannot be a Draigon hunter while remaining a friend to a tainted woman. Leiel seeks forbidden knowledge and old secrets, placing herself in danger of sharing her mother’s fate.

When Draigon Weather returns to the land, Cleod has the chance to fulfil all his promises—both to Leiel and to his new masters, the Ehlewer. But as the rivers choke on their own silt and heat cracks the earth, the choices the two friends made begin to catch up with them, for what plagues Arnan is more than just a monster.

~*~

A copy of this book was sent to me by the author for review.

Leiel Sower is a girl in a place threatened by what they cannot understand – educated women. She attends school, despite disapproving looks, and is educated at home by her mother, Ilora. For several years of her childhood, Leiel is happy, she has a friend, Cleod, and they both have dreams. Until the day the Draigon Weather comes, and Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve a drought that has plagued Arnan for too long. In the years that follow, Leiel and Cleod’s lives take off on different paths. While Cleod trains to be one of the few who can fight the Draigon, Leiel’s life becomes one of servitude to her brothers, Gial and Klem, and her father. The return of Draigon Weather brings Cleod back, hoping to fulfil his promise to Leiel to make sure she doesn’t meet her mother’s fate – but they must face more than just the Draigon that plagues Arnan.

I love a good fantasy story, and one that focuses on friendships between women and between the main male and female characters is always of great interest. Showing these relationships between Gahree and Leiel, Leiel and Cleod and Elda, Torrin and Leiel play a large part in the story, and how Leiel relates to her world and her family, and what drives her. Leiel is a character who does not let her circumstances and status in her family and society define her. She fights against it, subversively, and makes her voice heard, even though it is often overruled, she finds comfort and power in making herself heard, even if her brother, Klem, refuses to listen to her, she has a partial ally in Gial and a friend in Cleod, and the other women in her life, \who understand the struggles she is facing.

The world of Arnan is also complex, where certain classes and men are valued over other classes and women, and where everyone seems to publicly accept the rules, but subversively, and within the rules of the world around them, try and rebel and change it from within. It is a world of tradition, but tradition that needs to be broken apart and rebuilt, in a world where certain behaviours mean you’ll be sacrificed to a hungry Draigon.

I was contacted by the author to read and review this book after she found my blog and was asked to read and review this book. I gladly did, and I enjoyed Leiel and Cleod’s story. I particularly enjoyed the focus on friendship and platonic love over romantic love, and the strong female characters who don’t let anything keep them down and stay true to themselves. It is a story about the power of friendship, and the subversive powers that society sees as a threat and challenge to the status quo of Arnan, not realising what the people that the Council looks down upon can contribute. The bonds of friendship throughout this novel were strong, and enduring until the end, and the last pages gave a nice set up for what is to come in book two.

This is a very enjoyable read for lovers of fantasy, dragons, and those who like their relationships between all characters to unfold and develop into friendship and bonds that cannot be broken. I hope the questions Cleod had at the end will be answered soon.

 

 

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The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett

The-Tides-Between-300x450.jpgTitle: The Tides Between

Author: Elizabeth Jane Corbett

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Publisher: Odyssey Books

Published: 20th October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 300

Price: $23.95

Synopsis: In 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairy tales to the far side of the world.

When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark double meaning.

As they inch towards their destination, Rhys’s past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairy tales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.

When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Celtic Club, writes reviews and articles for the Historical Novel Society and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com. In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, Silent Night, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. An early draft of her debut novel, The Tides Between, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award. Elizabeth lives with her husband, Andrew, in a renovated timber cottage in Melbourne’s inner-north. She likes red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far, far away.

~*~

Bridie Stewart’s life is about to change forever. Aged fifteen, she is about to embark on a journey with her mother and stepfather that will take her half-way across the world to the colonies of Australia, far from what she knows. Adamant she will never forget her father, Bridie smuggles a notebook, her final gift from him on board, where she meets Rhys Bevan and his wife, Siân, and with Rhys, she begins to fill her notebook with Welsh fairy tales. These stories help them on their journey, both of them loved by their families but at the same time, feeling alone. And so, a friendship forms between Rhys, Siân and Bridie, as they write stories together along the arduous journey from England to Port Phillip. Along the way, there will be magic, woven through the words and music of the stories Rhys shares with Bridie, and over time, she will grow up. As they enter the waters of Australia, there is trouble and tragedy to come, that will hit them all and cause immense pain.

Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s novel takes place almost entirely on the fictional emigrant ship, The Lady Sophia, bookended by the departure and destination in the opening and final chapters. Through Bridie and Rhys, in third person, the novel moves easily between their perspectives and has a shroud of mystery about it, where details about the characters and their histories are revealed at exactly the right time. The fairy tale feel of this novel is what makes it unique and magical, and makes what would have been a very arduous journey in the 1840s bearable, at least for a while.

It is a lovely story of friendship and the power of fairy tales during hard times and tragedy, and how stories can shape our world and the way we see it. The stories are what begin to heal Bridie, leading up to the climatic tragedy that brings several surprises to those aboard the ship, and realisations from characters who had once shrugged Bridie and her family, and the other steerage passengers off, such as Doctor Roberts. Each character has flaws that they come to recognise, or not, as the novel progresses, and relationships between some have changed by the end of the novel.

I enjoyed that this novel focussed more on the friendships and family relationships, and Bridie’s individual character than a romantic relationship, something that is quite refreshing in literature and in Young Adult novels, showing that there is more to life than romance – it shows that other relationships can have the same degree of love, but in a different and perhaps more important way to some people. Bridie was a delightful character, full of life, wonder ad kindness towards those around her. The ending was sweet and realistic, showing the impact that the journey and her friendship with Rhys had had on the two of them. A wonderful novel that can be enjoyed beyond the Young Adult age group.

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Rain Fall by Ella West

rain fall.jpgTitle: Rain Fall

Author: Ella West

Genre: YA Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 2nd January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A tense, engaging read that will have you racing through the pages.

I’m not running late like I usually am. Maybe that’s why I look in the river, maybe that’s why I stop when I see it. A dark-coloured raincoat, the arms spread wide, floating, hood-first down the river. 

And then it starts to rain.

Fifteen-year-old Annie needs to get to her basketball match, but the police have cordoned off her road. Is her neighbour, who she grew up with, still alive? What has he done to have the police after him?

A murder investigation brings new people to Annie’s wild West Coast town, including a dark-haired boy riding the most amazing horse she has ever seen. But Annie is wary of strangers, especially as her world is beginning to crumble around her. In setting out to discover the truth Annie uncovers secrets that could rip the small community apart.

~*~

Ella West’s new novel, Rain Fall, takes place in a small town in New Zealand – Westport, where the coal mines have long been a source of employment for many there, until recent closures and lay-offs start to gnaw at everyone. Annie, the main character and narrator, is on her way to school, prepared for an important basketball game when she is turned back, with a street blockade preventing her from leaving home as they wait for her neighbour, in trouble with the police, to emerge from his home. Pete is alone, and accused of theft and possibly murder. When his house explodes, the police are propelled into action to try and find him, or find out what happened to him under the shadow of the loss of one thousand jobs at the local coal mine.

As Annie’s life gets back to normal, or as normal as possible with big city police in the town, she encounters a new friend with a love of riding just as she has – and the mystery of what happened to Pete grows throughout the novel, and Jack, Annie’s new friend, soon turns to her for help with something she never thought she’d ever be helping with. In a small town where everyone talks, it seems not many people are very chatty about a potential murderer hiding in their midst.

Rain Fall is an intriguing novel, and a good introduction to the mystery genre to teenage readers who might be encountering it for the first time. Annie is an interesting character, and following her love for horses, basketball and the rain gives insight into her and what to look for in the story. The rain throughout the novel, right from page one sets the scene and foreshadows the mysteries and events to come as the novel picks up pace right from page one, and keeps the action going as you turn the pages.

The mystery and the loss of jobs in the town form the backbone of the story, with Annie and Jack’s relationship evolving as the story goes on, allowing character development and the plot to happen nicely. It is a fairly quick read, and teenagers should enjoy it as a refreshing break from romance driven YA, allowing characters to exist without having to change who they are to be accepted.

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Ava’s Big Move by Mary van Reyk (Surf Rider’s Club #1)

Ava's big moveTitle: Ava’s Big Move (Surf Rider’s Club #1)

Author: Mary van Reyk

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books Australia

Published: 12th September, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 129

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Join the girls as they take on the world, one wave at a time!

Meet five very different girls with one thing in common: they’ve caught the surfing bug!

Ava has grown up in a big city. But everything changes when her parents decide on a sea change – they’re moving to the small town of Beachcrest to open a cafe. Ava will be starting high school that year, and now she has to say goodbye to her life in the city. Her new school is very different and Ava misses her friends. When she hears that surfing is going to be offered as a sport for the first time, Ava uses her snowboard skills to give it a try. Not everyone thinks she can become a surfer but Ava is determined to prove them wrong, and she’s making new friends along the way!

Ava, Alex, Bronte, Janani and Molly form the Surf Riders Club to help each other practise, but it quickly becomes much more than that. Whether it’s learning how to get barrelled, problem parents or annoying boys, the Surf Riders Club are there for each other, no matter what.

~*~

aww2017-badgeWhen Ava’s parents decide to move to a coastal town, Ava is distraught at the thought of leaving her school and her friends, and having to start over in a place where she’ll be the outsider. She has always been close to her older brother, Shane, who spends the summer teaching her to surf and body board at the local beach before school starts, prompting her to join the surfing sports club at school with a group of girls who immediately pull her into their circle: Alex, whose bubbly nature and kindness is instantaneous, Janani, whose Sri Lankan parents run a restaurant, and is part of the circle as a body boarder, Molly, whose mother is vehemently against her taking up a sport and would rather she spends her time on the piano, and Bronte, with two older siblings and parents who own the local surf shop, Ava finds friends, even though at first, she is unsure about Bronte until the girls start hanging out at Ava’s parents cafe and spending their weekends surfing together.

Aimed at children ages seven years and older, it is written for readers of all reading levels, from those who may need help to those who can read alone, and deals first and foremost, with friendship and acceptance. The surfing comes later, and whilst it forms the backbone to the friendship group, it is not the be all and end all, which is nice, as it presents opportunities for exploration of characters and relationships.

It is simply written, so it’s easy for readers starting to read alone to get through, but also a good book for not so confident readers to test themselves out on and learn to read longer books than they might normally be reading. For someone like me, who has been reading much longer books since I was quite young, it was a quick, two nights read. The surfing aspect wasn’t as interesting to me as it will be to some readers, but I did like that it had themes of friendship and acceptance, regardless of who you are and where you are from. It dealt with the idea that girls shouldn’t surf, perpetuated through some of the secondary characters, but will hopefully encourage girls who do want to surf that they can do it, and overall, I think sends the message that anyone can do anything they desire, and they shouldn’t allow people to put them down.

An enjoyable novel for young girls aged seven and older, and especially for those with an interest in surfing.

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Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

moonriseTitle: Moonrise

Author: Sarah Crossan

Genre: YA

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st September 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: The astonishing new novel from Carnegie Medal, CliPPA Poetry Award, YA Book Prize and CBI Book of the Year Award winning author Sarah Crossan.

They think I hurt someone.
But I didn’t. You hear?
Cos people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.

Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think …

From one-time winner and two-time Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this poignant, stirring, huge-hearted novel asks big questions. What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye?

~*~

Moonrise is the latest extraordinary offering from Sarah Crossan. Another novel told in verse, something Sarah pulls off extremely well, it tackles another story of the underdogs, the ones who are disadvantaged by a justice system, and other systems skewed in the favour of others and those who hold the fate of innocent people in their hands. Through the eyes of Joe, in poems that occasionally flashback to a childhood before his brother went to jail, and the years in between his journey to Texas to save his brother, Joe tells the story of what it was like growing up with a mother who didn’t care, a brother and sister who did, and who did everything they could to keep him safe, and an aunt who, after his mother left, refused to help his brother, Ed. It is a story that has few rays of hope and happiness within it, showing the gritty reality of a broken justice system that shackles and condemns people without proper investigation, and that varies from state to state, as Joe says in one of the verses, that the crime his brother had committed in Texas and earned him the death penalty would have carried a life sentence in another state.

Throughout the novel, which is solely seen through the eyes of Joe, we catch glimpses into his family members and how he responds to them. He is closest to Ed and his sister, Angela, whilst his mother has gone off. His aunt cares but in a harsh way – in a way that at the time, Joe sees as repressive and cold. She brings religion and a strict nature into the house, ensuring Joe and Angela will not end up in the same place as Ed, but as Joe relates through his poetry, people still associate what Ed has supposedly done with them, and they become isolated.

It is a poignant novel about the injustice of a justice system that serves to punish based on circumstance and misfortune of a casual link to a person, without evidence, leading to an inevitable conclusion that the reader hopes won’t happen. The grim reality that the Moon family face is something that many families face in America, and Sarah Crossan has done a sensitive job taking on a challenging topic that may not be understood by those not affected. Through the eyes of a teenager, she has shown how something like this can not only change the life of the accused, but the life of a family, and those who come to know them and who try to help them.

It is a powerful story that does have an effect on the reader, making your mind tick over about the issues dealt with in the book. To date, I have read two of Sarah’s books told in verse, and in both she has taken characters who are not fully accepted by society and not properly seen, and has told their story, opening up a world beyond what many readers might know, and evoking empathy and sympathy for those less fortunate, and those whose lives are affected by events that not everyone will experience. Telling it in verse makes it all the more powerful, and though it is a quick read, you still get the gist of the story, and the emotions that drive it.

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