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.

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book reviews, spoiler free

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe Review

32601841.jpgThe Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 7th 2017 by Walker Books

“Love takes so much energy, and it just leads to pain. I think it’s probably best for people to be self-sufficient. If I was strong enough to be independent, then I wouldn’t be so desperately lonely. I’m sure of it,”

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.

But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

I stumbled across this beautiful book at YALC in 2017 on early sale at the Waterstones stand and although to me it looked like it was probably just a contemporary, maybe set in space? (I know contemporaries can be good too, I’m just not usually as interested in them). After I read the blurb I figured it was maybe a cross of Fangirl and the lake house somehow? Either way, I couldn’t say no to that shiny, sparkly cover. That and on behalf of Walker to celebrate the books release I’d just had a sparkly makeover so figured the least I could do was to check out the book they were promoting (and that sweet sweet cover). I had no idea that The Loneliest Girl would end up being one of my absolute favourite books. Two years later and now eagerly awaiting Lauren’s new book “The Quiet at the End of the World” which is out in early March, I decided to revisit the book that started it all for me, “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.”

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The first time I read The Loneliest Girl I found out far too late that this book is a thriller. It starts off fluffy and light, very much in the vein of Fangirl, despite the darker sides to Romy’s backstory and her situation it feels like boy meets girl but are thousands beyond thousands of miles away from each other, cute emailing ensues etc. When I realised it was a thriller it was far too late to turn back, I was utterly hooked and terrified at the same time. I want to say that it’s different the second time around but to be honest it still pulls you in, lulls you into a false sense of security and makes you complacent so that when it really gets going you still feel like you’ve hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs when you were convinced there was one more step. This book is a wild ride that will not let you go, as the story goes on you recognise that feeling when you know something bad is going to happen but you can’t stop looking anyway and it is WORTH IT.

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Romy is a fantastic character, she’s realistic and relatable despite living her entire life on a spaceship she is wracked with anxiety and real fears and wants that just really hit a note with me and from having spoken to others who have read this she has the same effect on them as well. There are only a small number of characters in this book and I think in a lot of other books I might have found that boring but it works so well with The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, it adds to Romy’s isolation and you feel how important any kind of communication between the small number of characters really is and makes you appreciate them all the more which I imagine is the same case for Romy. This is one of my favourite aspects of the book because it really puts you in Romy’s shoes and heightens so much of the story.

The science is fantastic and fairly easy to wrap your head around instead of the pages of confusing words that don’t actually make sense together or sound ridiculous like you find in some Science Fiction books, strangely especially the adult ones… I now realise after having read Lauren’s other books that this is always a defining feature as well as featuring female scientists in prominent roles which gets a huge thumbs up from me! I actually found out after reading this book for the first time that it was inspired by a physics calculation Lauren was tasked with completing while at university! How cool is that?!

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If for some reason you haven’t checked this book out yet I highly recommend you do so, it’s only a short read and you can even buy a personalised and signed copy from Lauren’s Etsy store (it’s a dangerous place) there are pin badges and different versions of the books of which I now own all of…my personal favourite is the doodle in my US copy of a space cat because I like space. and cats. You get the idea. Don’t forget you can also preorder The Quiet at the end of the World, I just read the prologue and I HAVE CHILLS.

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book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

Adrift – Spoiler Free Review

35959734Adrift by Rob Boffard

Published: June 5th 2018 by Orbit

Rating: XXXXX

“Sorry.” Stop saying sorry. She tries again, still failing to bring up the main menu. “It’s my first day.”

In the far reaches of space, a group of tourists board a small vessel for what will be the trip of a lifetime – in more ways than one…
They are embarking on a tour around Sigma Station – a remote mining facility and luxury hotel with stunning views of the Horsehead Nebula.


During the course of the trip, a mysterious ship with devastating advanced technology attacks the Station. Their pilot’s quick evasive action means that the tour group escape with their lives – but as the dust settles, they realize they may be the only survivors . . .

Adrift in outer space, out of contact with civilization, and on a vastly under-equipped ship, these passengers are out of their depth. Their chances of getting home are close to none, and with the threat of another attack looming they must act soon – or risk perishing in the endless void of space.

So I have a really bad habbit of spending a lot of time browsing Net Galley when I have other books to read and then something catches my eye and I need to have it, Adrift was one such book. I had just finished The Illuminae files and I was hungry for more SF, this was a little different to the hordes of YA I’ve been reading lately as it’s an adult book (with a lot of varried aged characters) but it peaked my interest and I requested it. A little while later my request was accepted and I dove right in and I’m so glad this book caught my eye.

This is such a well balanced book, the writing was interesting and engaging, chapters were perfect snappy beats with a few longer ones slotted in when neccesary and the language not only helped move events along, create tension and evoke emotion when needed but also helped world building elements to feel natural and organic.

The story itself is mysterious and is covered pretty well in the blurb above, I love a book where you don’t really know who you can trust and at some point you end up suspecting pretty much everyone and this is no exception. I like to learn things piece by piece and enjoy stepping back and looking back at the big picture at the end and thinking “oh yeah!”

There are multiple narrative points of view which I found really interesting as they were all very different from each other. We had Corey a ten year old boy, Hannah a teenager on her first day working as a tour guide, Jack, a hotel reviewer with some baggage, Lorinda an eldery widowed ex miner and the mysterious Roman. Each character has a distinctive voice and style to them making the POV swaps very easy and not jarring at all. In addtion to the events they witness on board we also get insightful glimpses into each ones backstory and things that have helped shaped who they are now and how they react and deal with situations. In some circumstances the past events would probbaly feel like filler but they helped to develop a bond and understaning with each character and I found them to be a great addtion.

Overall although the story is great I think its the characters that really made this for me. It was nice to see (as we seem to more often in SF – possibly why I love it so much) a couple of same sex relationships featured in a normal off hand way as well! Without going into spoiler territory I would like to say also that I was fairly happy with the ending, especially for a stand alone which I’m begining to love more and more. We do have a a small part that is missing however and although I assume this was done for effect I was a little confused and dissapointed at first and wrote it off as lazy writing, it doens’t detract from the over all enjoyment of the book and is something I’ve seen happen in films and the occasional book before, I just hadn’t anticpated it at the time.

Adrift by Rob Boffard is available today and well worth checking out if you love SF and like a little mystery/thriller. Thank you to Orion books and Net Galley for my digital advance copy.