book reviews

Heartstream

43151477._SY475_Heartstream by Tom Pollock

Rating: XXXXX

Published July 4th by Walker Books

I just wanted to see you. Before the end. A taut psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror. Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star. But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie. Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable. But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time. Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want? Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.

This was my first Tom Pollock novel, I had heard of him before but I had no idea what kind of books he wrote or much of anything about him. Walker Books contacted me and asked if I would be interested in an early finished copy for review and after reading the synopsis I was sold. I’ve started reading a few more thriller and psychological horror books over the past year or so, having not read anything like that at all until The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James but there are some absolute gems and Heartstream is one of them.

Heartstream is told from two different points of view, always alternating back and forth with each chapter which was equal parts infuriating (in a mostly good way) and absolute genius. Often there would be a revelation of some kind of things will just start heating up and you’re dreading the end of the chapter because you know it’s going to switch to another part of the story. It creates a whole load of tension on its own, that paired with Pollock’s fantastic tension building and writing style is a winning combination, especially as things begin to develop throughout the story.

The characters were interesting but instead of being focused on them I found I was more focused on the things that were happening to them in a terrifyingly personal way, I can remember their hair colour or details about them and they’re not bad characters but in a very fitting manner for a book featuring a software that allows you to experience others emotions first hand for yourself, the main impressions I have from them are their emotions. When the book released last week I described Heartstream as being “Slightly traumatising” one reason for this is that each emotional beat feels like it leaves a mark on you and a lot of the feelings are very intense.

For me personally I find it difficult to cope with situations where I feel there is no way out or that are seemingly hopeless and/or the main character is helpless to control things around them in any degree, (I’ve never actually seen the end of Face-Off because I decided it was a no way out thing) which are things our two main characters definitely confront throughout this novel. Some parts really terrified me in a helpless kind of way and absolutely hit some nerves for me as a mother as well, it was a little like watching a horror film in that I felt scared/freaked out but in an almost enjoyable way? It definitely lives up to the description of a psychological thriller for sure.

Tom Pollock is an incredible storyteller and Heartstream is a bold intricate tapestry with a striking red thread of tension woven in and throughout the stories of both Amy and Cat, binding them together.  It captures the toxic, obsessive, abusive and entitled side of fandoms we are beginning to see more and more of lately as well as a hauntingly accurate and intense look at cyberstalking and harassment. Heartstream is gripping, yet moving, an addictive ride that will have you feeling like you’re “streaming” from the characters yourself throughout.

Have you ever experienced any fandom related moments that you felt were just too much or too far? Years ago I met with a group of other fans of “My Little Pony” and was shocked and appalled after witnessing them loudly tearing a display apart, arguing over blind bag figures and being confrontational with the staff in a toy store. I actually stopped watching the show after that and since tend to distance myself from a lot of communities since then.

book talk, spoiler free, Uncategorized

Rant: I like Twilight and I hate fandom toxicity.

29134673_10155124376386581_820367603_nYes you read that correctly. I like Twilight. The books and to some extent the films as well. It’s true I haven’t read them in years but I haven’t read Harry Potter for a while either I hate to admit. A lot of the books I like I talk about frequently and it’s quite well known in my friend group the books I enjoy. Twilight is not one of them, not unless you go far enough back. Back when I was in college and had reread The Vampire Diaries books for what felt the thousandth time in a row and I was bored. I had free time between classes and didn’t know what to do with myself. I chanced a trip to my local bookstore on one of my free classes and wandered around waiting to see what would catch my eye. It was actually New Moon that made me stop, I figured it had to be about werewolves and I liked the simple looking cover and font. Thankfully the super helpful bookseller mentioned it was a sequel book (and she’d loved the first) and helped me find a copy of the first book. Twilight.

I read Twilight cover to cover in a matter of days. A feat I hadn’t achieved in years despite working in our school library in secondary school, the summer holidays and six months of college had been blur of too full of music concerts and staying out late with my friends, a new boyfriend, a new girlfriend and a new boyfriend again and I hadn’t had what felt like a spare moment to pick up a book. I moved onto New Moon a day later after spending a day somewhere with family yearning to get stuck into the book I’d stupidly left at home and I ate all my meals in my room that day and I cried. A lot. I know to a lot of people this already sounds ridiculous, I’ve been told for years how toxic and harmful the relationship between Bella and Edward is and I’m not disagreeing, well I wouldn’t if they had been real human people but as it turns out one of them was a vampire and they were both fictional characters. So I cried because Bella was hurt and I was young enough to remember being hurt and left alone by people who I thought cared about me and it felt to get that out. I was awkward like Bella, I didn’t really like other people and I was unbelievably clumsy as heck so as lame as it sounds I related to her. A lot of people complain that Bella is too weak but to be honest I can’t say that at her age I wouldn’t have done anything different, in fact she might have handled it better than me! Not forgetting that by Breaking Dawn and on occasions before that although she isn’t conventionally “kick ass” she shows that she can be strong. She is literally willing to die to keep her family safe and I love the character she becomes.

Time went on, turns out Eclipse was already out or came out not long after and I eagerly awaited the release of Breaking Dawn and made sure I got a special edition version and then it was announced they were making films and everyone was reading and talking about this book series that I loved. By this point I’d seen Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, two of my other favourite series brought to the big screen and was beyond excited for these films, especially when they announced that Catherine Hardwick, a female director would be in charge of the first film! I followed every piece of information I could get, i reread the books and I loved the film. I still have all the reference books about the making of the film that I brought after seeing it and the directors handbook filled with notes and sketches etc from the director is still my favourite.

As time went on and more films came out the franchise gained more and more fans. Other kids at school would recognize my Twilight keyring on my bag, the quotes on my notebook and my favourite replica bracelet with a heart and a wolf which was nice. Pretty soon though I discovered a darker side of The Fandom were you weren’t a big enough fan or if you didn’t read the books first you weren’t allowed to like it because you weren’t a real fan and there was some real bullying going on which all sounds absolutely absurd but sadly still happens among some fandoms today, especially in comics it seems. Soon fans of the franchise were dubbed as “Twihards” and gained a reputation for being sad, obsessive, screaming teenagers who would kill each other for a lock of Taylor Lautner’s hair etc and I didn’t correct anyone who said otherwise. I kept my enjoyment of the franchise to myself after then afraid I would be lumped in with the few that gave the other fans a bad name.

Fan reputation for Twilight just got worse over time with people verbally abusing fans because of the material itself, people who hadn’t even read the books going on about how badly written they were and how laughable the idea of sparkling vampires are, how disgusting imprinting is (that was rarely as they would have to read/watch past the first book /film) and don’t forget the plethora of necrophilia and beastiality jokes anyone even breathing a mention of Twilight were subjected to. Don’t get me wrong, they are not especially the best written books, some of the plot points are silly and in a “real world” circumstance a lot of the behaviour would be harmful and worrisome but please give me some damn credit to know what is a fictional world and people and what is not.

I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I really do but for love of the written word please just let people enjoy things! As long as they’re harming themselves or anyone else let them love what they love, let them be free to express their enjoyment of fiction, Twilight or otherwise. I’m not saying you have to like things everyone else likes but don’t make the mistake vice versa. Some of my favourite films are considered trash but as I fast approach thirty I’m rapidly finding I couldn’t give a hoot but other people, younger people especially will be hurt and feel ridiculed and that’s not okay. Much like in my “Why I read YA” post, let people be free to read what they enjoy.

So yes. I like Twilight. No I’m not obsessed with Edward Cullen and can tell the difference between him and Robert Pattinson (I’m more of a Team Alice fan anyway to be honest). Yes I read the books before the films came out and no it doesn’t matter one bit. You like them as well? That’s awesome! I’m always here to chat about them if you want. Don’t like them? No problem! Still here to chat about them if you’re interested in that kind of friendly discussion. Also yes I own more than one copy of each book (three or four of New Moon I believe – Yes I may have had more money than sense as a teenager but to be fair I own just under ten copies of The Hobbit and three of City of Bones). No I do not own a Team Edward or Team Jacob shirt (It’s totally fine if you do, I personally have a Team Charlie one – I kid you not. Twitter picture evidence).

I also read an awesome post by new blogger Silver Wolf Reads entitled “Why liking Twilight shouldn’t be a curse” which you should totally check out as well!