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 reviews

The Girl in Red

43550676.jpgThe Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Rating: XXXXX

Published June 18th by Titan Books

“She was just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that didn’t look anything like the one she’d grown up in, the one that had been perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.”

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined. 

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods…

You know that author you keep putting off reading? Not in an unkind way, but in an “I WILL get around to reading one of their books” muttered every time you see them because you just know they’re going to be great and you then something comes up and you for whatever reason the thought slips your mind again and again and again. This is Christina Henry for me so when the lovely Julia from Titan Books asked if I wanted to review The Girl in Red by Henry and take part in the Instagram book tour in I jumped at the chance! I love retellings at the best of times but this sounded like a really interesting inspiring take on the Red Riding Hood Story.

I found The Girl in Red to be slightly terrifying, absolutely creepy as heck and wholly addictive. It reminds me a lot of the human element to the earlier episodes of the Walking Dead when you begin to realise it’s not the zombies, or in this case, the cough that are the things you have to watch your back for it’s the survivors, most of who have become desperate or cruel (if they weren’t already) since the crisis. It’s not a unique tale by any means and is a little repetitive and predictable in some places but forgivably so because the real star of this book for me (other than main character Red herself) was the amazing way Henry builds tension. I found I was holding my breath, clenching my teeth and I had trouble reading it in my house alone, at one point my phone rang (a rare occurrence) while I was reading and it was during such a tense moment in the book that I screamed so loudly I woke up my four year old. On the slightly negative side, I did personally find the ending very rushed and a little unsatisfying but the book, even on reflection was no less enjoyable for it.

Red has possibly become one of my favourite fictional characters. She is a fantastic mix of badassery and compassion, she will kill and make tough choices to survive but she doesn’t let herself become dehumanised for it which I found a really refreshing balance, when she has to fatally defend herself she doesn’t relish it, when she has to take supplies she takes what she needs and likes to make sure that there is enough left if someone else needs them etc. Red often overthinks things, often to a fault and often thinks herself round in circles to inaction which is a habit I am also extraordinarily guilty of, so seeing it portrayed in this fantastic character who acknowledged that her obsessive and sometimes paranoid thinking could be debilitating like that felt incredibly eye-opening and has really helped to keep my own obsessive thinking in check by being able to identify it.

Main character Red is also an amputee and obviously, I can’t speak to the accuracy of her experience or identify with it but I found it really enlightening and I hope it helped people who find themselves with prosthetics feel seen and represented as well as hopefully helping to educate others. There is a line that is said in relation to someone question how much Red is capable of due to her amputation and Red replies with “Stop treating me like half a person…I am missing my leg below the knee. My brain is still functioning. I know what I can do and what I can’t.” and this feels SO important and relatable for anyone who is judged, babied and looked down on because they’re differently abled.

The Girl in Red is out in stores and online today!

 

#SixforSunday

S4S – Characters who deserve another/their own book

Happy Six for Sunday day! This weeks prompt, thanks to the ever lovely Steph from A little But A Lot, is “Characters who deserve another/their own book” There are a good few characters I would love to see more about but I made sure the six I picked made sense, some of the choices I had in mind either had a really satisfying end to their story or character arc to the point that I couldn’t see them in another story, no matter how much I liked them or there are sequels imminent i.e Asha from the Last Namsara, most of Squad 312 from Aurora Rising, Issac Sullivan from The Devouring Gray etc.

Remy Silvers from The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

I know The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is a stand-alone book and it works but I would just really love to have a had maybe even a novella about her time after (no spoilers). Until this happens I think I’m just going to read that damn fantastic book over and over again because I can’t get enough of it.

Lucien Vanserra  from A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

I know I mentioned Lucien last week (and I’m not sorry) but I couldn’t not mention him for this prompt because this is a story I desperately want. I like to think I’m quite disillusioned with Sarah J Maas all these years later but honestly, I would throw myself at her feet and buy all these damned random special editions of Throne of glass etc if it meant she gave Lucien his own book.

Ben Solo from Star Wars (as written by Claudia Gray)

Completely disregarding the fact that I’ve been known on occasion to ship Reylo, I find Ben Solo/Kylo Ren an immensely interesting character at times and I would love to see where he came from, what events brought him to the Dark Side and how he feels about all of it. He’s a very conflicted character and I’m not saying there’s no chance he’s just a spoilt over privileged kid with some issues but I like to think there’s more to it, I don’t need justification for his crappy behaviour and I’m not (entirely) seeking out a redemption arc but I do want to understand the character better and after reading Bloodline by Claudia Gray I absolutely think she would be the one to do so. I would have suggested Christie Golden too but I honestly think she’ll just make me cry the whole time.

The Illuminae Group from The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Again, I know mentioned this in last weeks post but it’s too important to ignore, especially now that I’ve read Memento. You could honestly write about any of the characters in the Illuminae Files and I would read the hell out of it.

Ari and Janco from the Chronicles of Ixia/Poison Study series by Maria V. Snyder

I loved this duo more and more throughout the Study books and I would love to see them both in their own adventure!

Clove and Ella from The Last Begining by Lauren James

Although I hadn’t initially been too keen on Ella I really enjoyed the short story Another Begining which really warmed me to her and made me want to read more about them together. I know technically Another Beginning IS their story but I feel it’s also very much about unwinding Kate and Matt’s story and I’d love to see more of Clove and Ella’s adventures throughout time.

What do you think? Would you be interested in any of these? What characters would you like to see get their own books?

book talk, spoiler free

Harley in the Sky Cover Reveal

It’s been SO difficult to keep this secret the past couple of weeks but as a member of the Harley in the Sky Street Team I was lucky enough to see the cover for Akemi’s newest novel a little earlier and I’ve been in love with it ever since! Harley in the Sky is the next book out by author Akemi Dawn Bowman, award-winning author of Starfish and Summer Bird Blue follows a multiracial teenage girl who dreams of quitting school to become a trapeze artist in her parents’ Las Vegas circus, against their wishes, prompting her to join a rival circus. There, she grows close to a handsome musician and performer—while untangling her family’s complicated past and present.

Would you like to see the cover?

 

 

Are you sure?

 

 

61404185_10156636841672607_243521020730802176_n.jpg

I love the mix of yellow and bronze, the silhouetted figure, that absolutely gorgeous font and the beautiful stylised pattern in the background that just SCREAMS circus tent to me. You can add Harley in the Sky to your want to read on Goodreads RIGHT NOW. 

spoiler free, tbr thursday

TBR Thursday – June

It’s the first Thursday of the month so it’s time for TBR Thursday where I reveal the books I intend to read this month (hopefully!). It’s not a huge list this month and very subject to change as I’ve applied for some ARC’s that I’m hopeful I’ll be accepted for, I’m also not quite halfway through The Dark Phoenix Saga by Stuart Moore and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett which I’m reading at the moment and I think six books in a month might be a little hopeful for me but we’ll see!

The Girl In Red by Christina Henry
As mentioned in yesterdays WWW Wednesday post this is a retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood tale with a twist. I’ve heard great things about it and this is my next read for sure, I’m so excited to get into it!

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie
I fell in love with this book the moment I saw the arcs going out and read the synopsis, it sounds amazing and I think Tabby will almost certainly be a character I can identify with. Anxiety and book clubs? Sign me up.

Ghosts of the Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Kelly Link and Robin Wasserman.
Despite my, not exactly falling out of love with Shadowhunters, but more my becoming less excited by I’m still eager to check out the short stories contained within the Ghosts of the Shadow Market collection. The past two Shadow hunter anthologies have been really enjoyable and I’m hoping maybe this will reignite some of my love for the series. This book may, however, get swapped out if I’m chosen to receive any of the ARC’s I’ve applied for.

D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer
I don’t often read a lot of books heavily featuring animals because I worry that something bad will happen to them (thanks Marley and Me and the Warrior Cats books) but something about D-Day Dog just called to me, especially the absolutely beautiful cover by Tom Clohosy Cole. 

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare
I NEED TO FINALLY FINISH THIS DAMNED BOOK. I started reading QOAD when it was released LAST YEAR. I found the physical book far too big and clunky to read so opted for the audiobook read by the lovely James Masters and…it’s not a bad book exactly it’s just so drawn out. It’s obviously a long book and some bits have been brilliant so far but some of it just drags so much. I have about an hour and a half left to listen to which I’m determined to get done this month no matter what!

There are so many books I’m trying to restrain myself from buying this month that I cannot explain. I’m also at an event on payday halfway through the month so need to restrain myself (hahahahahaha) as we’re also off to Legoland at the end of the month!

Are there any books on here you’ve read that you enjoyed? What are you hoping to get read this month?

spoiler free, WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday – June 3rd

Its time for my fortnightly WWW Wednesday post! I’m slowly slogging through this months TBR (full post to come tomorrow!) but feeling positive I’ll get there, especially after rearranging and tidying my bookcases yesterday! If you want to join in with WWW don’t forget to send over a big thank you to Sam at Taking on a World of Words for keeping WWW alive and kicking.

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

The Dark Phoenix Saga by Stuart Moore. As mentioned in my last post, this is a retelling/novelisation of the Dark Phoenix arc from the X-Men comics. I remember falling in the love with the animated X-Men series when I was younger and other than Rogue, who I adored, I really fell in love with Jean and her story as the Phoenix. I got a little older and looked into the comics more and devoured the whole story arc multiple times. I’m so glad to now get to relive it all over again in this new Marvel novel, not to mention the film coming out very very soon.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Despite meaning to read this for a while now, as soon as I saw that they would be making a show in-fact and I’m now finally getting around to it. I read the first 50 pages so that I could watch the first episode of the show and now I’m hoping to carry on and finish it so I can watch the rest of the episodes because that first one was absolutely brilliant.

What did you recently finish reading?

Memento by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. As a pre-order incentive in the US, the US publishers of Aurora Rising offered a copy of a new and exclusive Illuminae novella when you submitted your preorder receipt. This novella is an 82-page prequel about AIDAN. I was gutted to realise this was US only but the lovely Good Choice Reading who is based in the US and does virtual signings were offering the incentives with your signed book! The postage was a little painful but it was totally worth it. I read Memento the day I received it and I made a reading reaction video which you can check out here.

Nexus by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings. The sequel to their first book Zenith, I was pleased to find Nexus was a HUGE improvement over its predecessor and was really enjoyable, I’m actually pretty gutted that it’s only a two book series. You can check out my review for Nexus here. 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry.  I’ve been fascinated with the idea of Christina’s fairy tale retellings for years and The Lost Boy is on my TBR and now I’m lucky enough to be taking part in the Instagram tour for her newest book The Girl in Red, the tale of Red Riding Hood (in this case more of a red jacket than an actual hood) and the decimated world riddled with quarantine camps, death, destruction and disease.

Have you read any of these? If so what are your thoughts? What have you read lately and what do you think you might read next?

book reviews

Nexus Review

43257123Nexus by Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg

Rating: XXXX

Published: May 7th 2019 (Kindle Version)
June 13th (Paperback version) by HQ Young Adult

“There was only one person who might have the power to free the galaxy from Nor’s rule – and yet completely unaware that the lives of millions now rested in her hands.”

From the #1 New York Times bestselling authors of Zenith comes the dazzling finale to the Androma Saga, where stunning betrayals and devastating secrets expose an embattled galaxy to the ultimate nightmare. 

Her ship is gone, her crew is captured and notorious mercenary Andi Racella is suddenly a fugitive, ruthlessly hunted across the galaxy. The bloodthirsty Queen Nor now rules most of the galaxy and she’ll stop at nothing to destroy her most hated adversary. Andi will risk anything, even her precious freedom to stop Nor. However as her crew fight to regain their freedom, Andi and her unlikely ally Dex discover a threat far greater than anything they’ve faced before. Only by saving their mortal enemy can they make one last desperate strike to save the galaxy, unaware that a shattering, centuries-old secret may demand the most wrenching sacrifice of all.

Despite being a little disappointed in the first book, Zenith I had high hopes for its sequel, Nexus. I requested it via NetGalley a few weeks back and was pleased to be approved quickly so I could get to reading it during my sci-fi binge. Thank you so much to YA HQ for providing me with this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Zenith had some great ideas and character outlines but fell short for me, it just seemed lacking in too many areas and I mourned that lost potential. Nexus, however, seems to have thrown off any shackles placed upon it by its predecessor and is a much better, interesting and enjoyable read. A warning that this review will probably be comparing the two works because the difference is so pleasingly apparent. I would say, despite this being a sequel you don’t absolutely need to read Zenith beforehand because it recaps the events that have unfolded previously although it does make it a little easier to know what’s happening from the get-go; that being said although this review will be spoiler free for Nexus there will be spoilers for Zenith.

Although I missed having the crew around for a larger part of this book than previously I think it actually really worked and I found Lira much more interesting in Nexus while she was away from Andi, the same goes for the Bloody Baroness herself who also was much improved. In Nexus, Andi is still very (understandably) focused on her friends devoutly it feels much more in the right place here and I think giving Andi a much more direct purpose she cared for really worked out well as well as giving her a legitimate reason that made sense as to why she’s so important in the fight against Nor. Her space pirate persona is, thankfully, much less overhyped this time around, even with there not being a huge amount of action involved and don’t even get me started on Dex becasue I actually liked him in Nexus which was a nice surprise, I think the events of Zenith really caused him to see what’s important and to grow a bit more of a spine without making him too overconfident to a fault. All the characters in-fact were much improved and although characters don’t have to be likeable for them to be good I think it is preferred that we understand their motives which we got in truckloads during Nexus and I couldn’t be happier about it.

There is a little romance in Nexus but it isn’t a huge plot point and I enjoyed it all the more because of that. Romantic scenes didn’t feel out of place or as flat or frustrating as it had done previously and I actually enjoyed them and the paring as a whole.

The writing was much improved which makes sense, whether it be a result of the collaborating authors working together better after already writing one book with each other or perhaps experience over time? I found there were a lot less clunky sentences and I didn’t find myself having to reread parts to make sense of them which I experienced in Zenith. Apart from a small part in the middle, the pacing was spot on and towards the end especially I found myself reading frantically, desperate to know what happened, there was some good tension building for sure. I really enjoyed the ending despite having worried that I was getting perilously close to the end of the book with no clue as to the outcome (a good thing, it just makes me anxious!).

Overall, Nexus was a good read and one I would be happy to recommend, I absolutely loved reading it and would say it’s definitely worth giving it a try even if Zenith fell short for you as you may be pleasantly surprised! Nexus is out now on Kindle and releases on paperback in the UK on June 13th.

(Extra note that isn’t at all relevant to the review at all but I’m meeting Sasha later this month and I’m SO excited!!)