Chasing Eveline by Leslie Hauser

BLOG“She said, ‘People don’t know what they like until they hear it. And that is the magic of music. Every song is a possibility, and all it takes is the right chord or the right beat and the heart is hooked.”

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins has been dealing with the absence of her mother for two years, ever since she walked out on her and her father. This had a deep impact on Ivy as well as her dad who had to find a way to carry on on their own. But with the passing of time, Ivy’s connection to her mother begins to fade as memories and past moments become more blurred and distant. The one thing she and her mother shared was a love of an 80’s band called Chasing Eveline, which at one time helped Ivy get through the loss and now serves as her one remaining connection. It is a connection she fears to lose, and feels the only possibility of finding her mom would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. The only problem is that the Irish rock band has been broken up since 1989, and the odds of a reunion are very slim. With the help of her best friend, Matt, Ivy sets out to do the seemingly impossible in reuniting the band for at least one more performance.

Chasing Eveline is a sweet and touching novel that really grabbed me as the story unfolded. Ivy and Matt are pretty typical teenagers with a strong and supportive friendship that felt really nice and genuine. There are parts of the novel that focus mostly on their attempts at creating buzz for the band and earning money, with varying success, which provides a humorous element to the story. However, where the story really shines is as it unfolds further and we begin to experience the connection between Ivy and her dad as she is struggling to maintain a connection to her mom. There are lighthearted moments, and moments that delve deeper. The use of music throughout is very well done, and the way the author describes songs and lyrics as they are being listened to perfectly encapsulates the experience of the characters. Chasing Eveline is an enjoyable, endearing story, and a great option for music fans.

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

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

BLOG“But they don’t tell you the pain comes with you. They don’t tell you that hurt travels at light-speed too.”

Emmett is among a group of young people recruited for a space mission by the mysterious Babel Corporation. The reason behind his recruitment is unknown to him, but the one thing he knows for sure is that it is an offer he cannot refuse. The dollar amount offered along with added benefits would change not only his life but the lives of his family and those he treasures most. With this in mind he sets out into the unknown, and soon discovers that it is not as easy as signing on the dotted line. Instead he will have to compete against the other recruits and fight for his spot. Those successful in securing a spot will travel to a hidden planet, which is only known to Babel, and mine a substance called Nyxia. But soon it becomes apparent that there is more happening than they have been led to believe.

“Wanting something and actually making it happen are two different things.”

This is the first book in a new YA science-fiction trilogy (The Nyxia Triad). The plot is interesting, the pacing is on point, and I couldn’t help but be completely drawn into the story. There is plenty of action and competition as the training of the young recruits progresses and interesting dynamics arise. The only thing that really fell short for me was the tiny bit of romance involved, which felt awkward and didn’t really click for me. I would have liked to know more about the hidden planet and its inhabitants, but that is sure to follow in the next release. Nyxia is an entertaining read and a great setup for what looks to be a very compelling series. I look forward to the next part of the adventure.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

IMG_4769“There are monsters in the sea.”

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk feels most at home in the online world, specifically in the fandom of the popular webcomic she created, Monstrous Sea. The story is massively popular and has gained a following of millions; people that eagerly await the weekly publishing of new pages and chapters in the saga. When a new student at school turns out to be a Monstrous Sea fan, it leads to friendship that slowly takes Eliza more into the outside world and challenges her in new ways. But when her identity as the webcomic creator is revealed, her reality is turned upside down and affects her in a deep way.

“There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt.
The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster, though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.”

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Eliza and Her Monsters is a wonderfully compelling novel that charms while dealing with some important issues. Many moments made me smile and Eliza is an endearing protagonist who is very relatable, from her relationships with those around her to her escape into the online world. Her struggle with anxiety is portrayed in a realistic and easy to understand way, particularly when it comes to the pressures of creating and the expectations that come with online success. Eliza and Her Monsters had me eagerly turning the pages, which included screenshots and graphics from Eliza’s Monstrous Sea. A thoughtful and highly enjoyable novel.

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.

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.”

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

IMG_4416“How can I expect people to empathise with a sickness they can’t see?”

“You don’t expect anything. You talk, you teach.”

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is the story of Norah, a teenage girl who suffers from agoraphobia, anxiety, OCD, and depression. All of this came about when Norah was thirteen and she has been homeschooled ever since, only leaving her home for weekly therapy sessions, which causes a great deal of anxiety for her. It is all very difficult to deal with and something she has to face on a daily basis. However she is not alone, and has the support of her mother who is there for her through everything. When a new family moves in next door she has a few interactions with Luke, and they slowly develop a friendship. Now Norah is dealing with a whole new set of feelings, and questioning whether she will ever be able to let someone in and experience a regular relationship.

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“See, anxiety doesn’t just stop. You can have nice moments, minutes where it shrinks, but it doesn’t leave. It lurks in the background like a shadow, like that important assignment you have to do but keep putting off or the dull ache that follows a three-day migraine. The best you can hope for is to contain it, make it as small as possible so it stops being intrusive. Am I coping? Yes, but it’s taking a monumental amount of effort to keep the dynamite inside my stomach from exploding.”

There are many aspects of this novel that work really well, but there are a few that did not particularly click for me, which left me with some mixed feelings after reading it. Norah’s story is based on the author’s own experiences and struggles, which she does a stellar job of portraying and bringing across. I have a great deal of respect for her story, and sharing it in this way can undoubtedly reach and potentially help a lot of people to not feel alone in their own struggles. Norah’s feelings and frustrations are described and related in an effective way, and you can’t help but feel and understand those frustrations and limitations.

As I was reading, I did get the sense that the story had no clear direction and was unsure of where it was going. It’s not something I would have particularly minded, because I did very much like the characters and was happy to just go along with whatever their journey ended up being. However, the story itself goes in a rather strange direction and one that begins to feel like a different kind of book altogether, all of which leads to an abrupt ending. For me, the story as a whole doesn’t really come together, but as I said there is a lot that does work, the main one being the mother-daughter relationship, which was the highlight of the novel. Not the best novel of this genre, however it is one that is definitely worth reading.

“Sometimes things are going to happen and the only way out is through.”

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

IMG_4357“Inside a dream.
Within a lost city.
In the shadow of an angel.
At the brink of calamity.”

Lazlo Strange has spent most of his life dreaming of the lost city of Weep; a city that has turned into myth. As the years pass, his dream of finding the city that has become an obsession, gradually begins to feel like an impossibility. He is no one of importance after all, but a junior librarian and orphan who found his home among books. One day, a man known as the Godslayer and a group of legendary warriors provide a once in a lifetime opportunity, one that will answer all of Lazlo’s questions and uncover a long lost mystery.

Strange the Dreamer is a wonderfully crafted, page-turning read. From the opening paragraph to the very last sentence, the beautiful writing is downright captivating, as the story and characters are brought to life. There is a dreamy quality to Laini Taylor’s storytelling that transports the reader to the fantastical world she has created. The characters are interesting, each consisting of great depth and complexity, which brings up thought-provoking issues of morality and justice. It also explores complex emotions given the circumstances and situations the characters have encountered.

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“And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.”

“So they layered cynicism atop their longing, and it was something like layering laughter over the darkness — self-preservation of an uglier stripe. And thus did they harden themselves, by choosing to meet hate with hate.”

There are a number of layers to this novel, all of which work wonderfully: the story of Lazlo’s life growing up, the mystery surrounding the mythical city of Weep, the story of gods and goddesses, the intriguing characters, the magic, and of course the dreams of a dreamer. This is the first book in what is to be a duology, with the second book expected to be released in 2018. Now I wait. 🙂

“It was impossible, of course. But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming?”