Feels – Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

2016-05-05 21.14.54

Published 2014

Genres: Fiction / Suspense

 

“Samantha: Parents do tend to judge each other. I don’t know why. Maybe because none of us really know what we’re doing? And I guess that can sometimes lead to conflict. Just not normally on this sort of scale.”

School dramas are not always isolated to the playground. The Kindy Mums at Pirriwee Public School are starring in a soap opera of their own making, with gossip, finger-pointing, cliques, and general bitchiness a daily occurrence. But some of them have secrets too. And when the truths start to come out, tensions will culminate in the death of a parent.

 

Janelle says…

FINALLY I have gotten around to reading Liane Moriarty, something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, and now I can’t wait to read more of her work. This book floored me. I had so many feelings while reading it. I laughed, I cried, I sizzled with anger, I squirmed with discomfort. And I was right there with the characters, cheering for the ones I loved, booing for the ones I despised. Even when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about the characters, wondering about them and how their story would unfold, as if they were real.

We follow three lead characters in this story – outspoken, loud, fun-loving Madeline; quiet, uncertain, plain Jane; and classy, nervous, beautiful Celeste. Each of these three friends leads very different family lives, and each has their secrets and worries. Their children and the school are the glue that brings them together, as well as the intermittent scandals of the other bitchier school Mums.

A warning – this is no catty, gossipy Mum drama. This book can get intense at times, and deals with some dark issues. There is teenager trouble, domestic violence issues, bullying and harrassment, self-image worries, sexual abuse…..and as mentioned above, death. But it deals with it all in such a real way, the internal murmurings of the characters dealing with these problems are honest and what I imagine would be true-to-life in those situations.

We find out early in the book that a parent has been killed, but we don’t know how, why, or even who, and the narrative eludes to the possibility of another parent being involved in the death but we don’t know any details for certain. There’s an added layer of suspense throughout the whole story, as we go back to the beginning and work our way towards the event in which a parent dies, learning facts as we go and trying to piece together the puzzle.

This was a wonderful piece of suspenseful fiction, which I feel does fit under the umbrella of literary fiction despite the plot being packed with events along the way. But I think you will get even more enjoyment from this book if you are a parent yourself. Your compassion, horror, disgust, grief, and solidarity with the characters will be all the more rich for having that in common with them.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy read – Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

February 2016 – Janelle’s choice

Horrorstor

by Grady Hendrix

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Published 2014

Genres: Fiction / Horror

“During the day, Orsk was a building like any other, a sensible container built with modern materials to house furniture and people. But after eleven o’clock, when no one roamed its aisles, when its back offices went dark and the last customers were escorted out the front doors, when its entrances were dead-bolted, when its final floor partners went home, it became something else.”

That quote pretty much sums up the premise of this book. Inexplicable things keep occurring overnight in an Ikea-copycat store. A group of staff decide to sleep over in the store one night to figure out what’s going on (as you do). Gory and creepy things ensue.

 

Janelle says…

Ikea only opened here in our city a matter of months ago, so I thought it was the perfect time to buddy-read this book with Mel! I assumed that it would be a bit of suspenseful, nail-biting fun, nothing too terrifying or scarring, and I was absolutely right.

There’s no great social or political moral or message here. I wouldn’t read Horrorstor if you’re in the mood for a book to really sink your teeth in to, or if you feel like having the crap scared out of you. But this is perfect for those times when you just want a break from heavier reads, and you’re after something quick and enjoyable but with a hint of squeam.

“Amy screamed. She thrashed and struggled, bruising her shoulders against the sides of the box, but it was no use. She could barely move. And the less she could move, the more she needed to move, the more she needed to get out right now.

That’s when she felt the water.”

I adored the format of this book, which was reminiscent of a store catalogue. Each chapter was named after an individual product found in the store (and some only found after the lights are out – oooooooo!), complete with sales taglines to persuade you that your life won’t be complete until you buy said catalogue. The store floor plan at the front of the book was a nice touch too, and made it easier to follow the movements of the characters as they ran around between the furniture displays.

The only point that brought this book down for me at the time was the repeated moments of characters making really dumb decisions. Yes, this is a plot that sees characters in some scary situations, and if you were in a similar situation your rational decision-making mind might be a little off its game, and you would never be in a situation like the one in this book anyway because it’s fiction and it’s outrageous….but stillllll. It just irks me when as an observer of a book or movie, you find yourself shouting in frustration – “What?! You IDIOT! Why would you DO that?” But thinking about it now, if we didn’t have those moments, the book or movie would probably be pretty boring I guess….

So my general consensus on Horrorstor is that, while it wasn’t quite good enough to score a 5/5 “AMAZING” rating, it was still a damn entertaining book and I had a great time reading it.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Mel says…

When I first collected this book from the library, I was excited, as the layout of this book is mimicking that of an Ikea catalogue. It isn’t the usual novel size, nor does it follow a traditional layout throughout. These aesthetics were the start of my excitement to read this book.

The moment I began reading, I almost devoured the entire story in one sitting, if it weren’t for previous social plans *shakes fist*, I would have.

Right from the start you know that the fictional store, Orsk, is eerie and that there is more to the furniture store than initially meets the eye. After a few “situations” that involved soiled furniture stock, manager Basil approaches store partners Amy and Ruth-Anne to cover a night shift to see exactly what was happening in the store after hours. This is where the fun begins!

There were a few moments that I found I would groan in annoyance at the characters and their occasional stupidity, but there was also many times I found I was covering my eyes with my free hand and reading between my fingers. There is one such scene that made this claustrophobe very uneasy, to the point I had to place the book down and have a tea break before continuing. If that doesn’t hint at good writing, I don’t know what does!

Horrorstor is full of ups and downs and takes you through a world of supernatural fun. The only let down for me was the characters themselves. I didn’t form a connection with any of them, but the exciting plot outweighed this negative.

A trip to Ikea will never be the same, once you read Horrorstor!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy read – Bird Box by Josh Malerman

December 2015 – Janelle’s choice

Bird Box

by Josh Malerman

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Published May 2014

Genres: Fiction / Horror / Thriller

“How far can a person hear?

Rowing blindfolded is even harder than Malorie had imagined. Many times already, the rowboat has run into the banks and got stuck for a period of several minutes. In that time she was besieged by visions of unseen hands reaching for the blindfolds that cover the children’s eyes. Fingers coming up and out of the water, from the mud where the river meets the earth. The children did not scream, they did not whine. They are too patient for that.

But how far can a person hear?”

Something is happening out there. The news is reporting an increasing number of frightening incidents of murder and suicide from all over the world. People have started shielding their faces with their hands when they are outside. Others are nailing blackout curtains or cardboard to their windows to keep out the light. There are rumours that the people who killed themselves, or others, saw something before they died, but nobody knows what that something is.

When the story opens, the world has been this way for four years already. Malorie lives alone with her children, the children who were born inside her house and have never laid eyes on the outside world. And Malorie is about to make their escape. Together, they will set out to flee this place. Blindfolded. With only their other senses to guide them, and to keep them safe from whatever it is that they must not see.

 

Mel says…

When Janelle recommended Bird Box for our December joint read, I had no idea what it was about and had never heard of the author, Josh Malerman. But for the sake of keeping things interesting, I put in a request at the local library and waited patiently for my copy to arrive.

Upon beginning this book, I was hooked by about, hmm…page 5.

The way that Malerman has written this book is perfect for the thrills and suspense that he so perfectly executes. Each chapter alternates between the past and present, with each so easily flowing into one another. I found myself asking eager questions about certain characters and events, and just as if Malerman had read my mind, these questions were soon answered within a few pages.

If you are like me and a tad afraid of the dark, imagine living in a world where you can no longer go outdoors with your eyes open, as there are things?/creatures?/stuff? that if seen, you will go insane and kill yourself and possibly others. So to live, you must always be blindfolded outdoors, have your windows covered over, so not to get a glance of whatever the heck is lurking outside. Creepy, am I right?

Bird Box is a must read for anyone who loves a good page turner. If it wasn’t for Janelle insisting that we read the second half of this book together, at one of our famous reading parties (more on that later), then I would have devoured Bird Box in a day. Definitely a library book that I will be purchasing for my own collection.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

It was everything I ever hoped and dreamed.

I have been waiting SO LONG to read this book. And then my sister had to go and have a pregnancy-related reading aversion. AND THEN she had to go on a month-long overseas holiday. And still I waited. Because I knew this would be the perfect book to read together!

I almost don’t know what to say about it, because I don’t think I can do it justice. If you love horror or thrillers or both, then you must read this book. If you don’t like either of those genres at all, then this is probably not the book for you, because it is an all-out horror/thriller/suspense-FEST!

The thing that first reeled me in with this book was the concept of a monster or threat that you can’t see. You don’t know what it is, you can’t even look at it….but you know it will kill you. I could see the movie version of the book playing in my head while I read this, in which half of the movie is just a black screen and we’re forced to rely on our hearing and touch to keep us safe from the evil thing that is, quite possibly, right behind us at any given moment.

AAARRGGHH! What was that?! Something just brushed my shoulder! What was it? Get away! Get awaaaaaay!!

Mel wasn’t impressed when we started the book and then I made her stop halfway until we could have a reading party, so we could read alongside each other and gasp in shock at the same moments. But I don’t care! It was so much fun! I want to read it again!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Wise – Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

by Amy Poehler

amy poehler yes please

Published 2014

Genres: Non-Fiction / Memoir / Humour

 

“I stood onstage in my blue checked dress, Toto in my arms, and looked at the audience of parents, teachers, and students. I breathed in….and I had a huge realisation. I could decide right then and there what the next moment would be. I could try something new. I could go off script and give something a shot. I could say whatever I wanted.”

 

Janelle says…

This is just what a memoir/autobiography should be – a good balance of personal history, life lessons and advice, gossip and humour.

It’s also just what an audiobook should be. There’s so much content you don’t get with the printed version. There are special guest appearances, from Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart, Seth Meyers, and Amy’s parents. There’s snippets of extra narration from Amy along the way. She even performs a sweet little song. There’s even a haiku read by Patrick Stewart!

Amy goes into detail about her early life, her stand-up/improv/acting career to this point, and the people who have influenced her along the way. She also tackles divorce, female self-image, and most interestingly to me – parenting.

“I loved being pregnant, I loved being at work and still feeling vital and busy while this extraordinary thing was happening inside of me. I never felt alone. I always had a companion.”

This is EXACTLY how I felt when I was pregnant, especially the first time, and I remember saying basically the same words to my husband.

Amy is so honest and heartfelt in her thoughts on being a mother. At one point she speaks a lot about “mother-on-mother crime”, which is absolutely a real, sad and ridiculous thing. I love her saying, “Good for her! Not for me” – this viewpoint really needs to be adopted by mothers in general, it would save us all a lot of judgement and hurt!

This review is already a little quote-heavy, but I just can’t resist slipping in one more – in my opinion, the most hilarious moment in the book. Enjoy – and get yourself a copy of this on audio! You will laugh and nod and it will make you happy!

“But take it from me, no one knows the biz like I know the biz, I love the biz. Hollywood’s a crazy biz, and I know the biz, cause the biz is in my blood. Some say I’m a biz-wiz. Either way, show-business is my business, so you better get busy with the business I know.”

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Read together: August 2015 – The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

August 2015 – Mel’s choice

The Farm

by Tom Rob Smith

The Farm

Published February 2014

Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

“Had I chosen blindness, I’m quite sure Hakan would’ve celebrated my choice, delighting in my surrender and rewarding me with a host of friendships. But blindness is not an easy path. It requires commitment and dedication. The price was too high: I would become an imitation of Elise. Perhaps she was imitating a woman before her, perhaps this pattern of blindness was generations old, women forced to empty their heads of questions or criticisms, playing a part that was as old as these farms – the part of loyal devotion – a role that would bring me acceptance, maybe even happiness of a kind. Except when I was alone. I’d hate myself. It’s how we feel about ourselves when we’re alone that must guide our decisions.”

Daniel believed his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden, the country of his mother’s birth. But with a single phone call, everything changes. 

Your mother…she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. In fact, she has been committed to a mental hospital.

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad…I need the police…Meet me at Heathrow. 

Daniel is immediately caught between his parents – whom to believe, whom to trust? He becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury. Presented with a horrific crime, a conspiracy that implicates his own father. Daniel must examine the evidence and decide for himself: who is telling the truth? And he has secrets of his own that for too long he has kept hidden…

Mel says…

I read a couple of reviews on The Farm and from those reviews, I immediately wanted this book in my life. All the reviews said the same thing, read this now! 

From the first 10-odd pages of this book, I was captivated. Within sentences, the author has this adventure off and running. The main plot focuses on a series of events, told to Daniel by his mother, Tilde. During the chain of events, I found that I was wanting to jump into the book and play detective, right beside Tilde.

As the story progresses, I found myself concocting all kinds of possible outcomes and reasons for the series of events. I knew there would be more to each event than was being presented, and wanting to find these reasons out as soon as possible pushed me to zoom through this book faster than any other in a long while.

By the time I finished the book, I was bewildered and shocked. I love books that take many twists and turns to end up in a place you had no idea existed. This book is a must read for anyone who enjoys an unpredictable storyline and outcome. For anyone who is looking to discover that not everything is quite as it seems. Get on down to your local bookstore or library and pick The Farm up today!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

When Mel suggested this book for our next joint read, I actually hadn’t heard of it. So I looked up the summary on Goodreads, and I believe my reply to her was something like, “Holy cow! Get this book in my face right now!”

I knew it was going to be suspenseful, I would be plagued with questions the whole time, and I would not want to put it down. And it delivered!

The Farm wastes no time getting down to business. You’ve barely learnt the names of the main characters when BAM! The rollercoaster begins, and it feels like with each turn of the page you change your mind about who you believe, who is in the wrong, and who needs saving.

The overarching themes here, are secrets and trust. Secrets from people who you’re not supposed to have any secrets from. Secrets that threaten to hurt or destroy. Secrets that are too unfathomable to be believed. Questioning the long-held trust you’ve had in your loved ones. Not knowing who to trust in desperation. Not knowing if you can trust yourself.

I really did blast through this book at speed, but the one small thing that let it down for me was its style. The majority of the book is written from the POV of the mother telling her complex story to her son as a chronological order of events, in the hope that he will believe her story if she has shown evidence and clear facts to substantiate her claims. But there was something about the language, it felt far too formal for me to believe it was a mother speaking to her son, even if what she was relaying was a detailed series of events, rather than just casual chit-chat. The language she was using was more conducive to a job interview than speaking to a member of her family. I couldn’t naturally envision the scenes in my head as I was reading, and it irked me.

Having said that though, that is no reason to overlook this book. If you enjoy suspenseful thrillers (like me!), with a little emotional trauma and dysfunctional family dynamics thrown in, then I think you’re gonna love The Farm.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Joining in with The Weekend Rewind with Maxabella Loves and friends

Read by Janelle: August 2015 – Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

Stone Mattress

by Margaret Atwood

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Published 2014

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Short Stories / Suspense

You believed you could transcend the body as  you aged, she tells herself. You believed you could rise above it, to a serene, non-physical realm. But it’s only through ecstasy you can do that, and ecstasy is achieved through the body itself. Without the bone and sinew of wings, no flight. Without that ecstasy you can only be dragged further down by the body, into its machinery. Its rusting, creaking, vengeful, brute machinery.”

Janelle says…

Stone Mattress is a collection of 9 short stories – 3 of which are connected. Within this collection you have suspense, murder, revenge, themes of ageing and self-examination, and a lot of imagination and a hint of crazy. I love stories that take a seemingly everyday scenario, and then throw in a completely fantastical element to turn everything on its head. That’s what this collection does.

In the first three stories, we follow Constance who is learning to depend only on herself and examining her worth after the death of her husband, Gavin who is Constance’s ex and appears to be having some kind of mid or late-life crisis, and Jorrie, a former fleeting affair of Gavin’s who answers to no one but is about to be stopped in her tracks. All three characters are in the last phases of their lives and questioning their decisions of the past, including the ones relating to each other. Even in their old age, many years since they were closely connected to each other, they are still affecting one another in different ways.

Then we have “Lusus Naturae”, the sad story of a young girl with vampire tendencies that cast her out from her family and community.  “I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth” was probably my least favourite story in the collection. It’s a story about relationships and friendships and the two “ships” colliding. For some reason I just didn’t connect with it as much as the other stories.

In “The Dead Hand Loves You”, a celebrity horror-novel author broods over the unwise, snap decision he made over the distribution of profits from his book sales. In the title story “Stone Mattress”, an aging seductress crosses paths with someone from her disturbing past who she would rather forget, while on an adventure cruise holiday. Consequently, she takes her revenge. And in “Torching the Dusties”, we watch from the POV of a visually-impaired elderly woman as a raging protest mob surrounds her retirement village and barricades the residents in, in order to carry out their evil intentions.

My favourite story of the collection is probably “The Freeze-Dried Groom”. The idea of it is just so crazy, you could almost imagine seeing it as a headline on the nightly news. It’s the kind of bizarre “what-if” scenario I create in my head all the time, and then quickly dismiss as being totally outrageous. I really should start writing them down, there could be good material there.

Basically, in The Freeze-Dried Groom an antiques dealer goes along to a storage locker auction, with a shady ulterior motive of securing a particular locker that’s related to some dodgy criminal stuff he’s involved in. He wins a number of lockers at the auction, and later when he is looking through them all, he finds the contents of one to be just slightly disturbing. I’ll let Margaret explain…

“He’s getting a very odd feeling. He squeezes in past the dress. If what he’s thinking is right, there ought to be some champagne: there’s always champagne for weddings. Sure enough, here it is, three crates of it, unopened. It’s a miracle it hasn’t frozen and burst. Beside it are several boxes of champagne flutes, also unopened: glass ones, not plastic, good quality. And some boxes of white china plates, and a big box of white napkins, cloth, not paper. Someone has stored their entire wedding in here. A big-ticket wedding.

Behind the cardboard boxes there’s some luggage – brand-new luggage, a matched set, cherry red in colour.

And behind that, in the farthest, darkest corner, is the groom.”

That’s right, he finds THE GROOM in the storage locker too! WHAT KIND OF CRAZY WORLD IS THIS?? I love it. I’m not going to share any more with you, there is more to the story but you’ll just have to find out for yourself if you really want to know what happens. You do, don’t you? Why is the groom in there? Who put him there? What happened to him? WHYYYYY?

More than one of these stories ends in an utterly unfinished fashion, leaving you staring at the pages in disbelief that there is no more to be found, but leaving your own mind to decide how you would best like the story to continue.

I have read various occasions that Margaret Atwood doesn’t waste a word. Having now had my first Atwood experience, I would agree that that is an absolutely accurate statement to make about her writing.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Linking up with Maxabella Loves for The Weekend Rewind

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Read together: July 2015 – Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

July 2015 – Janelle’s choice

Annihilation

by Jeff VanderMeer

annihilation

Published 2014

Genres: Fiction / Sci-Fi

“The air was so clean, so fresh, while the world back beyond the border was what it had always been during the modern era: dirty, tired, imperfect, winding down, at war with itself. Back there, I had always felt as if my work amounted to a futile attempt to save us from who we are.”

The biologist has joined the twelfth expedition to Area X – an area uncharted and lost to the rest of society, affected by an unspecified environmental disaster we know only as The Event. With no clear objective, only vague details of the landscape, and an awareness of the ill-fated eleven expeditions before them, the four expedition members are wary of their surroundings and one another. They soon discover things existing in this desolated place that none of them have ever come across before. What has happened in Area X? What happened to the members of the expeditions before them? And can they trust each other?

 

Janelle says…

I found the writing to be report-like a lot of the time, which made sense as it was written as one of the character’s field journals. But with the language being somewhat clinical at times, this caused me to zone out at times and I had to read some sections over repeatedly before I was clear on what was being said.

“The recurring data points found in the journals that related to repeating cycles and fluctuations of seasons of the strange and ordinary were useful in establishing trends.”

See what I mean?

This meant it wasn’t a fast read, even though the book is under 200 pages! I wasn’t drawn in until about a quarter of the way through the book. Strange things start to happen, but as you’re following the story through the biologist’s eyes, you’re just as clueless as she is.

You don’t find out where Area X is in relation to the “real” world. You don’t find out what happened in Area X to set it apart. You don’t find out why The Southern Reach are sending expeditions in to Area X. You don’t find out any logical explanations for anything that happens or anything that is seen in Area X. You don’t even find out the names of any of the characters mentioned in the whole book.

Sounds like there are a lot of holes? There are, but that’s half the fun of the book – trying to put two and two together, coming up with your own theories….it becomes a puzzle to solve. Although I don’t think I got close to solving it. Maybe it can’t be solved? I’ll just have to read the other two books in the trilogy to find out.

I found underlying themes in this book of overcoming grief and loneliness, how we can be hindered by these states and how we can be helped by them. But mostly, it’s just an interesting piece of sci-fi fun, I don’t think there are aspirations for literary greatness here. I haven’t read The Hunger Games series, but having seen one of the movies, I thought this story was vaguely reminiscent. HG fans might like to give it a try. You’d also like this book if you like stories that have you trying to solve riddles and connect dots.

I did enjoy this book, I thought it was just the right size, and I’ll be continuing on with the next book in the series to learn what happens next in Area X!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Mel says…

To be honest until Janelle suggested this book for our second joint review, I had never even heard of the author, Jeff VanderMeer. The initial description of this series sounded intriguing and I was honestly excited about reading this book. Then I started reading…

I found this book so confusing and frustrating. I didn’t understand who was who as the characters don’t go by their actual names, but by their specialised area, for example – The Biologist, The Psychologist, The Surveyor, The Anthropologist and The Linguist. If you are like me and have bare minimum science interest/knowledge, these titles and ways in which the characters were described will go straight over your head.

By page 40 I was struggling to scrape the desire from the bottom of the barrel to pick the book up and continue. Ok, that is a tad harsh, but you get the point.

On a positive note, there were parts of the book that I found interesting, but then it would revert to science-speak and I would be lost all over again. I am not a fan of sci-fi and honestly struggle to understand the lingo, so I struggled to finish this book. Sorry folks, this one was a flop for me!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Linking up with I Blog on Tuesdays at Essentially Jess, and The Weekend Rewind with Maxabella Loves and friends

Read together: June 2015 – The Fever by Megan Abbott

June 2015 – Mel’s choice

The Fever

by Megan Abbott

the fever

Published June 2014

Genres: Fiction / Thriller / Young Adult

‘You spend a long time waiting for life to start – her past year or two filled with all these firsts, everything new and terrifying and significant – and then it does start and you realize it isn’t what you’d expected, or asked for.’ – Deenie Nash.

The Fever follows the story of the three Nashes; Tom, Eli and Deenie. They live in the quiet town of Dryden, where Tom is a teacher at the Dryden High School and Eli and Deenie attend as students. It doesn’t take long for things in this quiet town to start falling apart when two of Deenie’s close friends are the first to fall victim to a mysterious illness, or The Fever. But what is this affliction, and why is it only affecting girls?

Mel says…

My initial feeling for this book began with an excitement. The synopsis on the back cover described a story full of mystery and enticement. The first few chapters started off describing the first victim of the mysterious “fever” and it felt like the readers were in for a very interesting ride. It wasn’t until I was roughly half way through the book that I began realising that the story was waffling back and forth between reasons of this mysterious illness, yet nothing exciting had yet occurred within the plot. The story was very slow to build, and even now that I have finished the book, I am not entirely sure if there was a build at all.

The plot ran back and forth between reasons for this mysterious “fever”, but not delving into much of a storyline for either reason. The character development also felt disjointed. I did not build much of a rapport with any of the main characters, as I felt their back stories were rushed. I did get a sense of the teenage angst that I feel Megan Abbott was trying to get across, through the characters of Deenie, Lise, Gabby and Skye. The moods that were described for the characters did portray this however, there was not enough context around these characters to get a full sense of their back stories, which would lead to these current feelings and events. Gabby, in particular, had a very tragic back story however, apart from having a brief description and then touching on her tragedy in various other parts of the book, this back story was rarely mentioned as her characters demise in the end.

This brings me to victims of the mysterious illness. The story eventually describes how the first victim, Lise, came to be so ill. When I say eventually, I actually mean this is described in the final 30-odd pages of the book. Not a lot of space to provide any interesting and exciting cliffhangers or resolutions. Sigh!

All in all, this book had a lot of potential. I think Megan Abbott needed an extra hundred or so pages to build on her characters and the ending. The briskness of description in this book has been the let down here.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

I was stoked when Mel picked this book for our first joint read, it was also right up there on my own list of books I wanted to choose!  Oooh, maybe it’s some kind of weird sister ESP thing or something…..

The Fever is about growing up, and trying to understand how you and your world are changing as you cross that blurry line between childhood and adulthood. That phase of life can be scary and awkward, just like this story. Puberty is a place filled with intense emotions and confusion, generally a place best forgotten once we’re past it. As I was reading, I could feel that familiar teenage state coming through in the characters as they tried to understand what was happening in their little part of the world – relationships are over-analysed, games are played, nothing else in the world is as important as what is happening to you and your friends right now. In The Fever, we’re shown how dangerous decisions can be when they’re made in times of extreme emotion and without proper judgement, as decisions made in puberty sometimes are. Beware of hormonal teenagers!

I found at most times the pace of this book was too slow for me. The chapters consist of lots of smaller sub-chapters representing different characters’ points of view. While being handy for those moments when you only have time to read a short snippet, it meant that the story was jumping around constantly between characters, sometimes twice or more over the course of a double-page spread. You might think that this would have the effect of speeding the pace up, and it probably would have, if the story didn’t get stuck on the never-ending speculation of what was happening to the girls, why it’s happening, and the same old theories being thrown around again, and again, and again. And oh look – again! It seemed to be at a stand-still a lot of the time, and it didn’t take long for me to feel frustrated by the lack of anything happening.

I think the way the chapters were formed could also be the reason for why I didn’t feel very connected to any of the characters. You’re with one character for a few paragraphs, and then suddenly their view stops and you’re back with someone else. But then again, most of the characters are teenagers and are very obviously still figuring themselves out, so in a way it didn’t feel completely unreasonable to not fully understand who they were.

There was a point about 2/3 of the way through where the story seemed to pick up intensity and suspense, and I felt like it was finally speeding towards something. But I have to say, I was underwhelmed by the ending. All in all, I had high hopes for this book because I’d read some good reviews but I was disappointed, and disappointed to be disappointed because I think it could have been something amazing!

Read this if you’re a teenager yourself, you will probably empathise with the personal struggles that the younger characters are dealing with. Don’t read this if you’re expecting a gripping, dark YA thriller like I was, it’s halfway there but doesn’t fully deliver.

If you do want to read a review of this book that delivers on the funnies though, check out this on Goodreads.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Linking up with The Ultimate Rabbit Hole at The Annoyed Thyroid

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