Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

Follow Me Down

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Macmillan

Synopsis:

Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she’s forced to return home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s history is intertwined, Mia will be forced to confront her own demons, placing her right in the killer’s crosshairs.

Thoughts:

This book’s synopsis immediately grabbed me. It won’t be a surprise to many, to know that I really enjoy a thriller. I have read so many in the genre so I feel that every single time I pick up this genre, it has a lot to live up to. I really enjoyed Follow Me Down. I didn’t find it overly predictable or cliche like so many thrillers are becoming.

Follow Me Down centres around Mia who hasn’t had the easiest of childhoods. She struggles with an addiction to pills. Out of the blue, Mia receives a phone call from the police. Her twin brother, Lucas, is suspected of killing a teenage girl. He’s gone missing which certainly makes him a person of interest. Mia is convinced that her brother is innocent, so goes back to her small town to try and clear his name.

I really liked Mia from the start. I loved her determination to prove her brother’s innocence, despite some evidence not being stacked in her favour. I also really appreciated how Mia wasn’t a perfect, flawless character. Mia was carrying a lot of trauma from her childhood and was really trying to make life better for herself.

The reason why I haven’t given this book a four star rating is because it got a little slow towards the middle of the story. Don’t get me wrong, it was easy to read, but nothing really kept me gripped besides my desire to find out whether Lucas was guilty or not. The pace does pick up towards the end, so I would definitely recommend staying with it. I enjoyed Sherri Smith’s writing and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another book from her!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes- 3.5 stars

A decent thriller. It may not be the most fast paced, but it’ll keep you guessing!

Talking About ‘The Trouble With Goats and Sheep’ with Bibliobeth!

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

England,1976.

Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.

And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: I was already pre-disposed to like this book, I had heard really good things about it from a friend of mine and the title was just too good to resist! I almost couldn’t believe it was a debut novel when I first started reading it, it felt like I was reading a book where the author had been established and writing for years. I was initially confused by some aspects of the story – but in a good way, I just wanted to know what exactly was going on and the author is very good at the “slow reveal,” shall we say?

BETH: Who were your favourite characters in the novel and why?

CHRISSI: I really liked Grace and Tilly because I felt like their friendship was incredibly realistic. I found myself excited to read Grace’s point of view because I really wanted to read about her perspective on the whole situation. I love reading from children’s point of view because they can be so honest, be incredibly wise, yet they can be incredibly naive at the same time.

CHRISSI: The cover of this book is quite simple. Why do you think they went for this choice?

BETH: I actually love how simple the cover is. It’s a lovely shade of blue with just a single goat on the front. No sheep though! 😊 The title is actually described quite early on in the book but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the two young girls are trying to find God and they have been told by the local vicar that God prefers his people to be a flock of sheep rather than goats. The story is quite simple in the end, coming down to separating these people into the two categories (or can they really be separated?) so I think the cover is perfect for what the novel is.

BETH: What did you think about the relationship between friends Grace and Tilly? Was it typical of a female friendship at that impressionable age?

CHRISSI: I’ve mentioned in the previous answer that I really enjoyed the relationship between Grace and Tilly. I did like reading about them because it was so realistic. I felt like Grace was the more dominant friend and I do feel that friendship at that impressionable age can be like that. I felt like Grace thought she had to watch over Tilly and I loved that protective quality that Grace had. There are moments when Grace doesn’t treat Tilly well and I think that is true of a female friendship at that age. Children can be insensitive towards others and hurt them deeply because they still have a lot to learn.

CHRISSI: What do you think the setting of the heat wave of 1976 adds to the story?

BETH: The heatwave is almost a character in itself, it is mentioned so often and people are obviously suffering because of it. I think people have heard about the heat doing funny things to people’s characters…making them snap, do odd things etc and I think the heat actually has a huge affect on the characters in the story in exactly this way. Perhaps the heat exacerbates the situation and causes people to over-react where they might not normally do so?

BETH: How do you think the mystery of where Mrs Creasy had gone was played out in this novel?

CHRISSI:  The mystery of Mrs Creasy was very intriguing throughout the story. I have to agree that it’s very much a slow reveal and at times, I did start to lose a bit of interest in the story which is why I haven’t rated it higher. I enjoyed reading about the worry of the secrets that Mrs Creasy had taken with her. I felt like that was more important to her neighbours, rather than genuine concern about where she was.

CHRISSI: Many characters in the story have secrets and regrets – how do you judge the actions they have taken? Does it make you consider how we judge people without really knowing them?

BETH: Yes, yes, yes. I don’t think any character really comes out and apologises for their behaviour outright but you can definitely sense the guilt, the regret and a cooling of tempers, especially to the object of most of the characters anger. It felt very much when I was reading it sort of like a mob mentality with each character being “egged on” by what another would say/feel or do. This kind of behaviour becomes very dangerous when multiple people jump on the bandwagon so as to speak, as we can see from the events that occur.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes! I can’t believe that this book was a debut. It seemed incredibly accomplished! I enjoyed this book.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

Talking About ‘Baby Doll’ by Hollie Overton

Baby Doll

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth.

Synopsis:

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.

This is what happens next…

…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.

CHRISSI: Hollie Overton is a TV scriptwriter- does this show in the way that she has structured this thriller?

BETH: Yes, I definitely think it does! It’s a fast paced, exciting thriller that had me on the edge of my seat but in the way it was written, it was almost like seeing a film in my head as each scene unfolded. I could picture every character and every moment so completely it was like the images were right there in front of me.

BETH: Discuss the relationship between Lily and Abby before and after her disappearance.

CHRISSI: I actually felt that the relationship between Lily and Abby was quite intense. I don’t know if it’s because they were twins, they had an even stronger connection than ‘normal’ sisters. I felt that their relationship became even more intense after her disappearance. It was clear to me that Abby felt so much love for her sister. She would do anything for her and was eager to protect her. My interpretation was that Abby felt more strongly for her sister, I felt that Lily could potentially be a little manipulative…

CHRISSI: We read a LOT of books in this genre. Do you think that this book stand out in a such a populated genre?

BETH: We certainly do. I think it’s one of our favourite genres to read but there is a risk that the market can get over-saturated with novels that all read like the same book. With Lily being captive for eight years and having had her jailer’s baby it felt very much like Room by Emma Donoghue and I was slightly worried that it was going to be the same thing. Then I was worried that it would have a lot to live up to being compared to Room (which is one of my favourite books ever) and wasn’t going to compare well. Luckily, Hollie Overton throws in many different plot devices and characters that kept it from being too similar. Especially with the ending!

BETH: What do you think Rick’s reasons were for capturing Lily and how do you think his attitude was to women in general?

CHRISSI: Rick honestly made my skin crawl. Just thinking of him now creeps me out and he’s a fictional character. I feel like Rick had an idea of what his perfect, young partner would be and that was Lily. I really disliked his attitude towards women. The fact that he was a teacher as well just didn’t sit right with it, it being my profession. I think he saw women as an object he could just manipulate. Ew. Didn’t like him.

CHRISSI: This book is as much about the consequences that a crime like this can have on a family as it is about the crime itself. Discuss how the different characters react to what has happened.

BETH: Lily’s poor family definitely go through the mill when she is captured and kept hostage for eight years in a basement. They have no idea whether she is alive or dead and their lives are ruined. Her father ends up passing away although the relationship between father and mother appears to be fraught and difficult just after Lily’s disappearance and prior to his death. After that, her mother has casual relationships with a few different men but doesn’t seem to be able to settle down again. Probably the worst affected though is Lily’s twin sister, Abby who blames herself for what happened to Lily, becomes depressed and suicidal and a bit of a “wild child.,” as she struggles to cope with what happened to her sister.

BETH: You’ve given this book quite a high rating. Was there anything about it you disliked?

CHRISSI: Apart from Rick? Ew. I thought that there were some unnecessary scenes in the book. I also didn’t think the relationship between Abby and Wes was overly believable which is why it didn’t get a 5 star treatment from me. I was actually quite surprised that this book has such mixed reviews. I couldn’t put it down!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, did you predict the ending?

BETH: No way! The author really surprised me, to be honest. I expected this novel to be a bit predictable but right at the end she throws in a major plot twist which I totally wasn’t expecting and which I was delighted by. I had found some parts of the book a teensy bit unrealistic/unbelievable but how she chose to end the novel really altered my opinion of the entire book.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Definitely! I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course! 4.5 stars

 

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

How did I get it?:
I received it as my third book from Mr B’s Emporium’s Reading Year

Synopsis:

When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up and begins to read.

But as she turns the pages she is horrified to realize she is a key character, a main player.

This story will reveal her darkest secret.

A secret she thought no one else knew…

Thoughts:

I was sent this book as my third book in my reading year which was purchased for me by my sister Beth from Bibliobeth and my mum. I get a book a month sent to me from the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium. This was one of their picks for me and I was very impressed with it. I think most regular readers of my blog will know that I’m quite a fan of psychological thrillers and this one immediately gripped me.

It centres around Catherine Ravenscroft who seems to have it all. She is married to a devoted husband, Robert and they both have successful careers. They have one son, Nicholas, who has recently moved out of home. He hasn’t lived up to what they want for him, but he is still living an independent life. We read about different periods of time-Catherine in 2013 who is loved and respected but who finds a book on her bedside where she appears to be the main character. The story is about an incident which happened years ago. Catherine is now terrified as she thought she had concealed what had happened to her in the past. As well as Catherine’s perspective, we hear from Stephen Brigstocke, who is a retired teacher and appears to want to destroy Catherine’s life for what happened in the past.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because it would ruin it. That’s why it’s always so tricky to review a psychological thriller. No-one wants to be disappointed by a spoiler! There are characters who you’ll hate in this book, but boy, I loved to hate them.

I really didn’t know who to trust in this story. There are so many twists, turns and curveballs in the way. I was intrigued to see who was going to be telling the truth and what Renee Knight might throw into the plot next. There were some points of the book that really turned my stomach. It certainly is a wonderful psychological thriller because you really don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful psychological thriller- well worth reading!

Talking About ‘The Muse’ with Bibliobeth!

The Muse

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

The Miniaturist 

Synopsis:

A picture hides a thousand words . . .

On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .

CHRISSI: How does The Muse compare to The Miniaturist?

BETH: The Muse is Jessie Burton’s second novel after the roaring success of her debut, The Miniaturist which I thought was great but I actually enjoyed this one more. Physically speaking, they are both beautiful specimens with some gorgeous art but more specifically, they are both works of historical fiction that tell their stories from the perspective of strong women. In The Muse, we actually follow the stories of two women in different countries and time periods but who are strikingly similar in some aspects. There is a link between both stories which is brought together towards the end of the novel but part of the fun of this book is watching it all being brought together.

BETH: There are a number of supporting characters in this novel. Which one was your favourite and why?

CHRISSI: Ooh interesting question. I think my favourite character would have to be Cynth. I really liked their friendship and thought it came across really well in the beginning. It is their friendship that immediately hooked me in the story. I wish we would’ve seen more from her!

CHRISSI: The story is split between London in 1967 and Spain in 1936 – what parallels do you see between the two stories?

BETH: There are a lot of parallels between the two, one being as I mentioned above is the similarity between Odelle and Olive’s strength of characters. Both stories also feature a love interest that at some point in both narratives causes the women some concern for different reasons. Odelle and Olive are also both artists – Olive in the literal sense of the word is a very talented painter and Odelle is a writer. In both narratives they struggle with their art, being in both the thirties and sixties as something not many women did.

BETH: Discuss the character of Marjorie Quick and her relationship with Odelle.

CHRISSI: Marjorie Quick is an incredibly interesting character. I found her really intriguing right from the start. I think she saw something in Odelle right from the start which was really intriguing. Majorie really was an no nonsense character. She seemed incredibly protective over Odelle and I wondered why she was so keen to stifle the interest in the painting. She also seemed cautious over Odelle’s relationship. I found her to be an incredibly complex character and their relationship too seemed complex!

CHRISSI: Jessie Burton evokes two very different settings in London and Spain – how does she create the sense of place and time for both these storylines?

BETH: First of all, I loved that we got two such colourful stories with a multitude of intriguing and diverse characters. The author evokes the sense of London perfectly, from the fashions that were worn to places that were mentioned. It was quite a contrast between sections to be transported from a cold, dreary London to a hot, tempestuous Spain but the author’s use of descriptive prose meant that each setting was available in glorious and vivid detail.

BETH: Did you find any parts of this book difficult to read and why?

CHRISSI: If I’m honest, as I got further into this book I began to lose interest in it. I find Jessie Burton’s writing to be quite flowery and sometimes that doesn’t capture my imagination as much as I want it to. Don’t get me wrong, she is a brilliant writer, she’s just not my cup of tea.

CHRISSI: What was your favourite part of this book?

BETH: That’s such a hard question as I really loved every single minute from start to finish. There wasn’t even a narrative that I preferred, both were perfect and equally fantastic. If I had to choose though it would be a certain scene in Spain when a certain shocking event occurs that I was NOT expecting. (no spoilers!)

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I don’t think so. A great writer- sure, but not one that I’ve connected with during both of her books.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Without a doubt!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Banned Books #30- My Sister’s Keeper

Banner made by Luna @ LunaslittlelibraryWelcome to the last Banned Books of 2016, where we read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

My Sister's Keeper
Synopsis: 

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate — a life and a role that she has never challenged…until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister — and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

My Sister’s Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child’s life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? Once again, in My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
First published: 2004
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2009 (source)
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexisms, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: First of all, I can’t believe this book is now over ten years old. This book is a huge favourite of mine, actually one of my all time favourite books and again, it’s one of the more recent releases on our list so I don’t believe opinions have changed much in the past decade or so. No I don’t understand OR agree with ANY of the reasons for this book being challenged/banned when it was first published. Just look at the reasons, for goodness sake! I’ll go into a couple of them here and a couple of them in the next question because I feel like I’ve got a lot to rant about.

Let’s start with homosexuality. My memory must be failing me in this but I can’t actually remember any homosexual activity in this book – are we talking about the same story? Please, if anyone can correct me on this, I’d be happy to be corrected but I don’t recall anything homosexual at all! And, even if there was, (I think you know what I’m going to say), is that a good reason for challenging a book? We should all be aware of all the different types of people in this world and saying that a person’s sexuality is a reason for challenging a book is just all kinds of wrong.

Religious viewpoint. Again, struggling to remember when religion was forced down my throat in this novel which I finished a few hours ago. Because it wasn’t. I’ve read a couple of “preachy” books in my time and this book definitely does not fall into that category. If anything, it makes you think about your own morality and make your own decisions.

CHRISSI: I’m laughing a little bit at Beth’s passionate response to that question. Not because it’s funny, but because she feels so strongly about it and rightly so. I actually was so confused when we found this book on the banned or challenged list. I guess it does call into question what is morally right, so that might have some impact on religion, but I definitely don’t think religion was shoved down my throat. I am NOT a fan of books like that, so I think I would pick up if the book was like that at all.

In my eyes, this book isn’t an easy read but should it be challenged? No. It should be praised because it’s making people think. It’s pushing boundaries, it’s raw and it should be read in my opinion.

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! So, the other reasons for challenging this book. Sexism. (??) I’m a bit of a feminist myself and nowhere in this book was I offended or thought that the role of women or men was being undermined. Sexually explicit? Where exactly was the explicit sexual scenes? I mean honestly…. are we reading the same book? Finally the last reason I’d like to talk about – violence. There is a very upsetting scene near the end of the novel but it’s not something I would call violence. This book does deal with very controversial topics as a whole (and is the first book I bawled my eyes out to) but I really don’t see this as a reason for challenging/banning it. I think it’s a great idea for teenagers to be exposed to it and who knows, it may encourage interesting debate and start them thinking about their own morals and ethics.

CHRISSI: Definitely not. I think this book does push some boundaries but boundaries that should, in my opinion, be pushed and talked about. It doesn’t hurt to question and think about our own morals and that’s what this book does for me at least!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I think it’s quite obvious from my over-long, rambling answers (sorry!) how passionate I feel about this book. It was the first Jodi Picoult book I read and remains one of my all time favourite novels. I was quite scared about re-reading it again as I hadn’t read it in about ten years and I didn’t want any of that old magic I felt back then to be spoiled. However, I needn’t have worried. I loved it just as much and it affected me just as deeply as it did the first time.

CHRISSI: This is my second time reading this book as well and I found it just as addictive the second time around. I wouldn’t say I felt as passionately about it as Beth does, but I’m inspired by her re-reading a favourite and still enjoying it. It makes me think about whether I should reread my favourite….

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Join us again in 2017 when we will have a fresh batch of banned books to talk about – we can’t wait to get started! Happy New Year everyone!

Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

Thoughts:

Furiously Happy had been doing the rounds on the blogosphere for a while and I was intrigued. I decided to pick up a copy and read it as soon as I could. I always feel slightly iffy going into reading a book that I know is about mental health. I’ve had a long term battle with anxiety and often feel books don’t represent it as well as they could. So what better than a memoir/non fiction book? Yes. Furiously Happy is fantastic. It’s funny. I really appreciate that. Anxiety isn’t always doom and gloom and there are definitely funny things that have happened to me due to my anxiety that I may not feel like laughing at during the time, but often look back and laugh or roll my eyes.

I was really impressed with how Jenny Lawson wrote about mental illness. She really portrays her anxieties wonderfully. I imagine that people that haven’t experienced it themselves or experienced a close family member with anxiety might think her thoughts and stories are far fetched. However, Jenny makes each and every one of her stories relatable, especially to those with a similar mindset. There may be a little bit of hyperbole but I think that makes it even more believable.

I don’t want to spoil this book too much. I just implore you to read it. It is a random book. It is a little strange. It is a little weird, but it’s a good weird. I promise.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course! 4.5 stars

A fantastic read about mental illness!