Book review: Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Source: Purchased

Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts. 

I had seen a lot of hype for this book when it first came out and when I saw the author signing at a book festival I went to last year, I figured I might as well buy it. It was probably the most awkward encounter I’ve ever had in my life, which I don’t fault the author for since it just illustrates what happens when you throw two introverts who’ve never met before together and expect them to interact. Anyway, it took me a while to finally pick it up, and… I have some thoughts.

First of all, Tessa is not like other girls and Eric is always taking off his shirt to show off his six pack, so it’s basically the same two characters as every other YA book that’s come out over the last decade. Sure, there are some differences. Tessa is agoraphobic and Eric is famous. They mostly converse through Twitter, and Tessa doesn’t know that the person she’s been talking to is actually her celebrity crush.

I didn’t think that I’d have a problem with the premise, but I kind of do. I don’t necessarily mind that a celebrity is hiding his identity when he talks with a fan for the first time. I get that. But Eric lets it go on for so long and he doesn’t seem to understand that it’s not okay to lie about who he is when he and Tessa become close enough to consider meeting in person. Eric also had such an attitude about his fans that I found it surprising that he would even entertain the idea of befriending one of them, especially a superfan like Tessa.

The side characters in the book are absolutely ridiculous. Tessa’s mother is a blatantly horrible person. (Like most YA parents, I guess.) Her therapist is awful. The person from her past that she’s so scared of? Something was definitely missing because that whole story didn’t make a bit of sense.

The “cliffhanger” at the end is actually painfully obvious if you’ve paid attention at all to what’s happened throughout the book. I even went ahead and read some spoiler-filled reviews of the sequel to confirm that this story ends exactly as I expected it to.

I can’t think of anyone I’d recommend this book to. I’m glad it’s off my shelf, but it’s already in my donate pile.

#killingthetbr: ten months on shelf

Have you read Follow Me Back? What about the sequel?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: You by Caroline Kepnes

You by Caroline Kepnes
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 24, 2017
Source: Borrowed

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

A terrifying exploration of how vulnerable we all are to stalking and manipulation, debut author Caroline Kepnes delivers a razor-sharp novel for our hyper-connected digital age. You is a compulsively readable page-turner that’s being compared to Gone GirlAmerican Psycho, and Stephen King’s Misery.

I feel like I’ve been in a slump forever. I’ve read a book here and there that I’ve enjoyed, but overall, nothing has given me that feeling that I’m used to, where I’m just counting down the minutes until I can pick up a book again. Nothing until You, that is.

Let’s start with why I read this book. I’m not really a thriller kind of person. I mean, sure, I’ve read a few of them. I’ve enjoyed a few of them. But thrillers are usually something I read when they’re recommended by someone else, not something I seek out on my own. This one was recommended by Daniel, who hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

I could tell, from the very first page, that I was going to like this book. From the first line, it has this really creepy vibe that somehow makes it impossible to put down. Joe is so intense, so creepy, so completely convinced that Beck is in love with him and just unwilling to show it. He stalks her, breaks into her house, and steals from her. He should be the least likable protagonist in recent memory, but he’s not. Joe is, somehow, a sympathetic character. Even as he’s doing horrible things, you can’t help but feel at least a little bit bad for him.

I’m so afraid of accidentally spoiling anything in this book, so I’m going to be brief and vague. This book was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever before felt such a mix of emotions while reading — it’s not often that I find myself quoting Lena Dunham, but I 100% agree with what she said about this book: “I am RIVETED, AGHAST, AROUSED, you name it.” It was a wild ride and I enjoyed every minute of it, even when it made me want to triple check that all my doors and windows were locked.

I’m trying to decide if I want to watch the Netflix show or not. In some ways, I think it would be fun to compare the two, but in other ways… reading the printed words was enough. I’m not sure I want to see everything in this book acted out.

#romanceopoly: murder mill
#mmd19: a book recommended by someone with great taste

Have you read You? Have you watched the show?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini DNF reviews: Why We Sleep & The Last Time I Lied

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Rating: n/a
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source: Borrowed

The first sleep book by a leading scientific expert—Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab—reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep, explaining how we can harness its transformative power to change our lives for the better.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive.

An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating book.

The synopsis of this book is going to be longer than my review because…

DNF @ 1%.

This is my first DNF in probably at least a year and I don’t even know if I got far enough into this book to really consider it a true DNF. I was listening to the audiobook and the narrator was spouting off all these statistics about how if you don’t sleep enough, you’re going to get cancer or die in a car accident or just generally shave years off your life… and it was too much for me. I have such trouble sleeping and it stressed me out so much that I had to stop. Five minutes in. Sorry but also not.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Rating: n/a
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Source: Book of the Month

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

DNF @ page 75.

In case you didn’t know, I work in a dermatology office. The main thing we do is skin cancer removal, so we get a lot of cranky elderly people coming through the door. One day, a few weeks ago, I was covering the front desk because someone was out sick. I was checking out a very cranky woman who’d just finished a several-hour-long surgery to remove skin cancer from her ear. As I often do when someone is cranky, I tried to make polite conversation.

Me: “Oh, you’re reading The Last Time I Lied! I got that book a couple months ago but haven’t read it yet. How is it?”
Cranky Patient: “IT’S TERRIBLE!!!”
Me: “I’m so sorry to hear that! What don’t you like about it?”
Cranky Patient: “It’s TERRIBLE! It’s slow and repetitive and TERRIBLE!!!”
Me: “Hmm, wow. Okay.”

So, needless to say, I was a little nervous to start reading this. I wanted to love it because first of all, it sounds good, and second of all, the author is from my town! And my town really isn’t that big, so I could see him every week at the grocery store and not even know it. He could be the mysterious neighbor that I’ve never seen even though I’ve lived in this house for a year and a half. Who even knows.

But you know what? That cranky patient… she was kind of right. The book is slow and repetitive and, honestly, kind of terrible. It took me five days to get to page 75 and absolutely killed my love of reading. I might pick it back up at some point, but for now… I’m done.

Have you read either of these books? Should I give them another try?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: People Like Us by Dana Mele

People Like Us by Dana Mele
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.

People Like Us was my most anticipated YA thriller of 2018. I love boarding school books, I love books about cliquey mean girls, and I love reading debut novels. The plot of the book gave me some real Pretty Little Liars vibes, and let’s be honest, I was so into that show that it’s actually a little embarrassing. So what did I end up thinking about this book? Not a lot, actually.

If anything, the book is a little too PLL for my tastes. It feels like it would make an awesome CW show, but as a book? I don’t know. It’s a little disappointing. I was entertained and I would never call this a bad book, but I never really got a sense that Kay was all that concerned about the threatening website or that she really cared too much about being blackmailed. I also tend to dislike books with love shapes, and this was more of a love… hexagon? I don’t even know. It’s a tangled web, that’s for sure.

I appreciated the representation and that nobody really made a big deal over Kay’s sexuality (or anybody else’s, for that matter), but that wasn’t enough for me to love this book.

#mm18: vacation reads

Have you read People Like Us? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz


She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . .

The duo who captivated millions of readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest join forces again in this adrenaline-charged, uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

I read the first three books of the Millennium trilogy when I was in college, back when it was still a trilogy and before the news that David Lagercrantz would take over. I actually bought The Girl Who Played With Fire first. It was an impulse buy based solely on the cover and I didn’t even realize it was the second in the series. Imagine my surprise when I got the syllabus for that semester’s lit class — lo and behold, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was assigned reading.

The tables turned a couple weeks into said lit class. We were assigned slots for 75-minute presentations and I was assigned The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I have a lot of anxiety and am, in general, very bad at public speaking, so I proceeded to have a bit of a meltdown as I tried to come up with 75 minutes of things I could say about that book. I did it, somehow, though I don’t remember a single sentence of what I said. Presumably, I did just fine, seeing how I passed the class. It probably helped that I really enjoyed that book.

I flew through the rest of the series and was thrilled when I heard that it would be continuing on through David Lagercrantz. I got this book for Christmas in 2016… and avoided it for the next year and a half or so. I’ve (obviously) finally picked it up and I’m just disappointed.

I’m not sure if it’s because I read the other books seven years ago. I’m not sure if it’s because of the change in author. I’m not sure if I’m maybe just not that into Swedish crime fiction anymore? But I was so bored while I read this book that I had to force myself to keep going. I kept zoning out and then I’d get to a part where it’s like, “THEN SHE TOOK HIS TROUSERS OFF AND TOLD HIM I’M GOING TO CUT YOU WITH A KNIFE” and I was like… Wait… What just happened…? How did we get here again?

There were a lot of characters in this book. Of course, I remembered Blomkvist and Salander. I didn’t remember a single other character. Or maybe the other characters weren’t in the previous books? Regardless, there’s a lot of time spent on characters that I cared very little about and hardly any time spent on the actual heroes of the story. Another issue that I had was that so much time was spent describing the scenery or the intricate details of Millennium’s operations that there was little time left over for the plot. This book felt so long, but what really happened? Not too much.

I’m glad that I can finally take this book off my TBR, but unfortunately, I have zero desire to read The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

#mm18: book to screen (the movie is set to release later this year)
#killingthetbr: one year, five months on shelf


Book review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

⭐ Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Imogen Sokoloff has disappeared.  She’s known as a flighty heiress, so nobody’s really all that surprised that she’s jetted off to some glamorous resort or tropical country. Everybody misses her, or do they? Her best friend Jule searches for her, or does she? In this twisty mystery, what’s true and what’s a lie?

Genuine Fraud was one of my most anticipated books of 2017 and I was so excited when it finally showed up in my library. I loved E. Lockhart’s books when I was in high school and when I read We Were Liars last year, I enjoyed that too. Unfortunately, this book just didn’t do it for me.

Lockhart’s writing is, as always, beautiful. I love her writing style.  Her dialogue always sounds natural. She’s also really great at building an atmosphere. The plot was… a concept, for sure, but I’m mostly just confused at what the heck I just read.

The most important thing to keep in mind about this book is that it’s told in reverse chronological order. This is fine in theory, and I love alternative formats, but the whole “five weeks before this” and “three days before that” type of chronology got to be very confusing. I wished there had been some kind of clear timeline at the back of the book so that I could’ve sorted everything out in my mind.

Now, I appreciate what Lockhart was going for. This book just wasn’t for me. I wanted to know what the motivation was. I wanted to know what happened in the end. Without those two things, I just wondered what the point was. (I know this is very vague but I don’t want to spoil the twists.) I think that maybe, in trying to be edgy, the book lost track of itself. I’ll still be happy to read Lockhart’s next book.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

Book review: One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Accused of the cardinal sin of bringing their cell phones to class, five high school students end up in afternoon detention. There’s Bronwyn, the brain, Nate, the criminal, Addy, the princess, Cooper, the jock, and Simon, the… gossip. When Simon goes into anaphylactic shock and dies in the middle of detention, the other four students become prime suspects in what’s now considered a murder. After all, everyone had something to hide, and Simon’s notorious gossip app surely would have made all their secrets public.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book for months and I finally got the chance to read it. I’d only seen glowing reviews, so my hopes were pretty high that I’d love it. The book was entertaining enough, but I just kind of liked it. (I definitely didn’t love it.) This was, I think, partially a case of my expectations being too high and partially due to some problems I had with the book itself. It’s going to be hard to keep this spoiler-free, so apologies in advance for how vague this review is going to be.

Let me start with the good:

  • The book is easy to read.  It flows nicely with even pacing.  I was interested from the first page to the last.
  • I’d never read a murder mystery quite like this one, so bonus points for that.
  • It relies pretty heavily on the tropes of The Breakfast Club, which is one of my favorite 80s movies, so it got some nostalgia points as well.
  • Addy, the princess, starts out as your stereotypical pretty, popular girl. Her character development was by far the best of the bunch and she finishes the book as much more than a cliche.
  • Nate, the criminal, was the one character whose life felt absolutely real, and my heart broke for him. He’s been dealt some terrible cards in life and I loved how he was given a backstory that doesn’t necessarily excuse his actions but does at least explain them.

Now for the bad:

  • I figured out the murderer literally as the murder was happening. I don’t even read that many mysteries and thrillers, so I was kind of disappointed when I ended up being right. There are a number of red herrings as the book goes on, so I did question myself a little bit, but honestly, my assumption was the only one that made sense.
  • One of the big twists involves a character’s sexual orientation and I felt it was handled poorly. I can’t really get into this without getting into spoilers, but the reveal was very sensationalized and it took up more of the plot than the actual murderer reveal.
  • Again, it’s hard to keep this spoiler-free, but it seemed that every girl who was shown to be sexually active was vilified for it. Either she cheated or she was too promiscuous or something. Meanwhile, we have a prominent male character who carried on a long-term affair and it’s only mentioned in passing.
  • The mental health representation left a lot to be desired.

All in all, One of Us is Lying is an entertaining book with some pitfalls to keep in mind. I’d recommend it as long as you’re okay with the caveats above.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆