Book Review: Followers

FollowersFollowers by Megan Angelo

An electrifying story of two ambitious friends, the dark choices they make and the profound moment that changes the meaning of privacy forever.

Orla Cadden dreams of literary success, but she’s stuck writing about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Orla has no idea how to change her life until her new roommate, Floss―a striving, wannabe A-lister―comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they so desperately crave. But it’s only when Orla and Floss abandon all pretense of ethics that social media responds with the most terrifying feedback of all: overwhelming success.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything, even horrible things, to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.

Review:
This is such a timely novel with a great premise — about how social media influencers are made and maintained, how social media could be in the future, and how it would be different if it were controlled by the government.
I love books that speculate on our future by making one change, and this book does that. What if the internet were hacked and the government took it over?
The book follows Orla, a blog type reporter, and her roommate Floss, who becomes a social media influencer in the present. It also follows Marlow in the near future who lives live-streamed in a constructed town in California.
I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the present and the future in this book and the exploration of the “what ifs”. I also liked how the story lines converged. However, something was a bit off for me. Perhaps it was because, although I found the characters fine, I had a hard time actually liking any of them. I’m not quite sure. Maybe it was the pacing of the book. However, I did find it thought provoking and find myself thinking about it still.
Thank you to Netgalley and Graydon House Books for the review copy.
Share this:

Book Review: Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Get a Life, Chloe Brown

(The Brown Sisters #1) by Talia Hibbert

Talia Hibbert, one of contemporary romance’s brightest new stars, delivers a witty, hilarious romantic comedy about a woman who’s tired of being “boring” and recruits her mysterious, sexy neighbor to help her experience new things—perfect for fans of Sally Thorne, Jasmine Guillory, and Helen Hoang.

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamourous family’s mansion. The next items?

Enjoy a drunken night out.
Ride a motorcycle.
Go camping.
Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Review:
I loved reading Get a Life, Chloe Brown. I do not often read romance but this one caught my eye — namely because it involves the types of characters that are often underrepresented in books.
The main character is Chloe Brown, who has an invisible disability and is in constant pain. She struggles to do things that most people would find easy or normal. After being in a situation where she could have been killed, Chloe decides to get a life and makes a list of things she wants to do.
I love Chloe and feel that her character was really well done. Her illness felt authentically portrayed and I loved her strange tenacity, for example climbing a tree to save a cat when it really was the last thing she should have done. It is interesting to watch her grow as she tries to get out of her comfort zone and do things that many people take for granted.
Red, the handyman at the apartment building she lives in, is also an engaging character with a past of his own. He is elusive about himself, and with good reason as he is suffering from a trauma of a different sort.
Even though there are some big issues being dealt with, the book is told in a romantic comedy type of way full of traditional tropes and sexual tension. In fact, the book is quite steamy.
This is an interesting take on traditional romance and I would highly recommend it if you like explicit sexual romance that is both light and inclusive. It is difficult to balance humour and big issues and inclusiveness, but Hibbert does a great job.
Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Share this:

Book Review: Ellie and the Harpmaker

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

In the rolling hills of beautiful Exmoor, there’s a barn. And in that barn, you’ll find Dan. He’s a maker of exquisite harps – but not a great maker of conversation. He’s content in his own company, quietly working and away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right.

But one day, a cherry-socked woman stumbles across his barn and the conversation flows a little more easily than usual. She says her name’s Ellie, a housewife, alone, out on her daily walk and, though she doesn’t say this, she looks sad. He wants to make her feel better, so he gives her one of his harps, made of cherry wood.

And before they know it, this simple act of kindness puts them on the path to friendship, big secrets, pet pheasants and, most importantly, true love.

Review:
I enjoyed Ellie and the Harpmaker. It was a good, easy read, most of the time.
Ellie is married to overbearing, to the point of being controlling and abusive (in my opinion), Clive. Ellie is a complete doormat and it is hard to like a doormat, though I did want her to get out of her marriage. Ellie thinks she’s happy but clearly isn’t. She has no self esteem, which she blames on her mother, and nothing in her life except for her husband, one friend he doesn’t like, a sister who lives far away, and writing bad poetry. Clive has made sure she has nothing else and must rely on him for everything. I found this part of the book hard to read because I so wanted Ellie to stand up for herself and see what was going on. I wanted her friend and her sister to say something. Everyone knew how horrible Clive was but no one did anything.
But, maybe that’s realistic and why it’s so hard to read about?
Ellie discovers a secluded barn one day where Dan, a (probably) autistic harpmaker lives and works. Ellie is in love with the harps and wants to learn. She feels the music so deeply, but her husband (of course) won’t let her have one. So, she goes to Dan’s while Clive is at work and learns to play the harp.
Dan is an interesting character. It’s not said, but he is clearly on the autism spectrum and is very rountined. He is a brilliant harpmaker and his sister takes care of the business aspect for him. He is observant, clever, and innocently wise. It’s easy to like him and get pulled into his observations about nature, stones, the sky, trees, etc. Some of these descriptions are wonderful.
Another great addition to the book is Phineas, a pheasant who is saved by Dan. The pheasant actually adds quite a bit to the book.
There is great tension in the book about the harp lessons and how/when Clive will find out and how he’ll react. There is also a budding attraction between Ellie and Dan.
Like I said, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it for a light, summer, kind of romance read. The writing is great and the descriptions are fantastic, especially of nature, music, and harpmaking.
Thank you to Netgalley and Bantam Press for the review copy.
Share this:

Book Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

Review:
I really enjoyed this book. Nina is a fun, quirky character, full of flaws and anxiety, but also a passion for books and trivia. It’s a fun book for bookish people to read because it is full of book and pop culture references.
Nina grew up with no family around, raised by her nanny. She loves her structured life, it feels full to her and she’s organized herself to minimize her anxiety. One day, everything gets turned upside down when a lawyer comes into the bookstore and tells her that her (absent) father has died and that she has a whole herd of family. She also realizes that she’s falling for a man on the opposing pub trivia team and the bookstore where she is working is threatening to close.
Nina doesn’t react well to all of these changes to her carefully structured and well thought out life. It was interesting to watch her reactions and thoughts and see her develop and grow. At one point she has a serious panic attack and I thought this was dealt with really well.
Overall, this is a fun, light read. Nina is a quirky character and I was totally invested in her, wanting her to figure out a way to resolve her inner conflicts. I loved the pop culture references, the descriptions of her bookshelves, and how she grows as a person. This is a great book for book lovers looking for a summer read.
Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Share this: