Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

BLOGEric Thorn (@EricThorn) followed you”

Follow Me Back is a young adult mystery novel that tells the story of a girl struggling with agoraphobia, a famous pop star, and a connection that develops over Twitter. Tessa’s agoraphobia has confined her to her room, the one place she truly feels safe. She finds escape and solace in the fandom of pop star, Eric Thorn, and has developed a sizeable following on Twitter (@TessaHeartsEric), which she has dedicated to her love of the singer. Eric Thorn feels trapped by his fame and general lack of freedom, especially after the murder of a fellow pop star by a crazed fan, he is frustrated with the intense online fan world. His impulsive decision to troll Tessa’s Twitter account one evening leads to an unexpected connection of mutual understanding. However, their plan to finally meet in person takes a dangerous turn with a night neither expected.

This was an addictive little read. The book takes turns telling the story from Tessa and Eric’s perspectives, and interspersed throughout are police transcripts of the night in question, along with tweets and direct messages. All of this builds the suspense as to what happened and works well with the overall story. I did find that at times the timeline jumped forward too much, and with those jumps we miss what would have been great opportunities to really develop and relay the connection between Tessa and Eric. Also, the introduction of a particular character about sixty percent into the novel was a bit of a head-scratcher. With that said, this is one enjoyable, suspenseful, and fun read. It looks like Follow Me Back will be a part of a two book series, and with that ending I am hooked and ready for the next one.

*ARC provided by NetGalley. Publication date: June 6, 2017.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

IMG_4707“Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.”

In her follow up to The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins is back with a story about two mysterious deaths in a town that is itself shrouded in mystery. A woman is found dead in the town’s infamous river, leaving behind her fifteen-year-old daughter. The fact that a young girl met the same fate not too long prior to this, raises many questions. But these are not the first such deaths, as there are stories of a number of women meeting their end in that river. Through the perspective of a handful of characters that are either connected to the deceased or part of the investigation, the story slowly unravels, revealing many long buried truths.

“No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women; they drank it every day.”

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As someone who was a big fan of The Girl on the Train (could not put it down), I was excited to see what Paula Hawkins would release next. I didn’t go into this new book with any particular expectations, just the hope of a good book and an interesting read. I was definitly not disappointed. There are certain aspects of this novel that are similar in  nature to The Girl on the Train, such as multiple character perspectives, unlikable characters, and the unreliability of memory. However, Into the Water has a very different feel and stands on its own. Each chapter provides the perspective of a different character, and as the novel progresses you really begin to get a feel for this small, unsettling town and its tragic history. Even though there are a number of characters introduced, I never felt lost or struggled to keep track of everyone, and piecing together all the ways everyone is connected was part of the initial intrigue.

I wouldn’t say this book is gripping or suspenseful, but rather more laid back and methodical in the way it slowly assembles the pieces and unravels the mystery. Into the Water provides an intriguing mystery, memorable characters, and a chilling and eerie tone that sets the stage for an enjoyable read.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

BLOG“She’s not exactly ill. Your only duty will be to watch her.”

Lib Wright is a nurse who worked alongside Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War. Her distinction as a Nightingale Nurse is what leads to her being hired for a two week assignment in a small Irish village. She does not know the details of the case and is in for a shock when she arrives at her destination. Upon her arrival she learns that her sole duty for the two week period is to watch over an eleven-year-old girl who will not eat, and has not eaten anything in four months, according to her parents. Many believe this claim to be a hoax, while many others look to the girl as a miracle. Over the two weeks, Lib is determined to discover the truth as the days pass by and the girl’s condition deteriorates.

The Wonder is a novel with a very intriguing premise. The mysterious circumstances regarding eleven-year-old Anna’s condition is what carries this story forward, and the author creates an eerie, Gothic atmosphere that is quite captivating. I did find the overall pacing of the novel to be slow… very slow. This made getting through the story a bit of a challenge and I found my attention wearing away from the words on the page. It is a unique and interesting premise, however I do wish the story itself had captured my attention as much as the initial description. Ultimately, The Wonder did fall a bit short for me.

*E-copy provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

IMG_4589“Difficult questions, simple answers. What is a community?

It is the sum total of our choices.”

This new novel from Fredrik Backman may be his best yet. Beartown is a thought-provoking and emotional story of a small town that is on the verge of disappearing, with businesses closing, jobs dwindling, and trees slowly taking the place of abandoned structures. But the one thing Beartown does have, is the love of hockey. For the first time in many years, their junior hockey team has a shot at the title, and this possibility may be the opportunity Beartown needs to get itself back on the map and prosper. Their hopes and dreams rest on the shoulders of a team of young boys, which includes two rising superstars. When a shocking event and violent act leave a young girl traumatized, the small town is in chaos, leaving no resident unaffected.

“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.”

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Beartown is an incredibly well crafted novel that drew me in from the first page and completely captivated my attention throughout. What first caught my eye with this novel was that it centred around hockey, which I am a fan of and the description on the book really spoke to me. Everything surrounding the hockey aspect was portrayed brilliantly, but there is so much more to this novel. Ultimately it is not a book about hockey, but rather a story of a small community, of hope and courage, and the choices we make. Through writing that is thoroughly engaging, the author brings to life each character, each emotion, and the town itself. Quite simply, Beartown does what great books do; it makes you feel.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

BLOG“We remember a time of such clarity. We were Beast, we ran with wolves and hunted prey, we lived on the wind and breathed the forest. We wanted nothing but to be, to run, to endure. Want didn’t exist.

And we remember another time, too, a time of longing and desire, where we existed as nothing but want… always the next unattainable thing. There was no joy in what we had, only in what might come.”

Yeva has always felt most at home in the forest, and most at peace while hunting with her father. But as she gets older, the expectations to be a lady of high society and to marry a wealthy gentleman have led to days of polite chatter with baronessas and taken her away from the solitude she cherishes. When her father loses his fortune and she and her sisters have to move to a cabin on the outskirts of the forest, Yeva is secretly glad. Relieved to be back in the environment of the forest, with all its mysterious and unspoken magic. But this new way of life may have cost Yeva’s father his sanity, and when he disappears she sets out to find him and hunt down the creature that her father had become obsessed with tracking.

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

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Hunted is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. I love a good retelling and Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favourite story for this. This take on the well known story is wonderfully done and I ended up happily spending the day completely engrossed in the adventure. There is depth and nuance to the characters that made me care about their situation and their fate in what was to come. The relationship between Yeva and her sisters is quite touching and was one of my favourite parts of the novel, along with the way the author perfectly encapsulated very complex emotions. With memorable characters and compelling writing, Hunted is a wonderful escape into a new take on a tale as old as time.

“The song wanted. It wanted in the way Yeva had always wanted, wanted not so much a thing as everything, something beyond naming, something more than, different, deeper.”

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

IMG_4487“I came to realize that good and evil were out of my reach, that time was the only thing I had any control over. I could buy time, create intervals. I could not truly make the world a better place, but I could make part of it a better place for a short while.”

Waking Gods is the second novel in the Themis Files series, and a follow-up to the popular, Sleeping Giants. Rose Franklin discovered a giant metal hand when she was a child, and dedicated her scientific career to uncovering the mystery of what she found that day. With answers, come even more questions. Now, the world is under a massive invasion and the question of why it is happening must be solved in order to discover a solution.

Sleeping Giants was a big surprise for me, and a novel I thoroughly enjoyed. However, I wasn’t sure what to expect from its follow-up, or how it could maintain the qualities that made Sleeping Giants such a page-turning read. The great thing is that it absolutely does. Waking Gods has all the intrigue, profound questions, and sarcastic humour of its predecessor that had me completely swept up in the story and eager to see what would come next. The characters we came to know are back, and we get to see what their lives are like now, as a new threat takes hold. It is told in the same format, through interviews and journal entries, which is done very well and moves the story forward at a great pace. Waking Gods is a truly great sequel and a novel that does not disappoint.

The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable

BLOG“Physician Bess Codman has returned to her family’s Nantucket compound, Cliff House, for the first time in four years. Her great-grandparents built Cliff House almost a century before, but due to erosion, the once-grand home will soon fall into the sea. Though she s purposefully avoided the island, Bess must now pack up the house and deal with her mother, a notorious town rabble-rouser, who refuses to leave.”

Michelle Gable is the author of one of my favourite books of 2016, I’ll See You in Paris. Her newest release, The Book of Summer, takes us to Nantucket and tells the story of a family and their summer home, from present day struggles to the people and events of the past. In present day, Bess is back on Nantucket and dealing with the events surrounding the slow demise of Cliff House due to erosion, and her mother’s battle to save their cherished summer home. The novel also flashes back to Bess’ grandmother, Ruby Packard and her life as a young newlywed and navigating life at the start of WWII. Also throughout the novel are entries from a guest book kept at the Cliff House, which Bess and family had come to refer to as The Book of Summer.

There are many aspects of this novel that are quite appealing, and there is a charm and likability to a number of the characters throughout. The issues surrounding erosion on Nantucket along with the history of Cliff House and the significance of this home to Bess’ family is what captured my attention the most. I did find it difficult to connect to any of the characters, which kept me from truly engaging with the stories throughout. As I mentioned, there is definitely a certain charm to these characters, but that does get kind of lost in the dialogue, which is full of expressions and lingo that I assume is of that region and also time period in regards to the 1940’s era. The book is very dialogue heavy, which is not something I typically enjoy, so that combined with the content of the dialogue itself kept taking me out of the story and made the characters feel far too unbelievable. Unfortunately, The Book of Summer simply did not work for me.

*ARC provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review. Publication date: May 9, 2017.