4 out of 5 stars
Orla moved to New York to become great. Specifically she wants to become a writer. Instead she's ended up writing for a gossip site, documenting the lasted celebrity missteps or trends. She lives in a tiny apartment that she shares with her roommate Floss.
Floss is determined to be someone, however that may happen, she's destined for the spotlight. No matter how she has to get there.
Together Orla and Floss come up with a plan that promises to benefit both of their goals. At least that's how it starts out. How it finishes is another matter entirely.
Marlow lives in Constellation, a closed-off community in California, where people live their lives entirely on camera 24/7. Their screentime/stories are dictated by the amount of Followers they have and where they can do the most with their brand. When Marlow learns a shocking secret about her family she begins to question the openness of the life she lives, one dictated by a network and corporate sponsors. When she flees Constellation in search of the truth about herself she'll see that there's only so far you can run when everyone knows your face.
Followers was a read that kept building and building upon what we thought we already knew. I know when I started reading, before really getting into the story, I felt like I knew exactly how things would play out just based on the blurb, but I loved that Megan Angelo was able to pull some truly terrifying surprises and that they're not exactly in the way you would expect.
Followers is certainly a commentary about our own use of social media and how much we rely on technology and our online culture that breeds influencers alongside trolls. How the term "friend" is subjective. What makes it truly terrifying is the idea that I could definitely see things come to fruition in the way they do in Followers in the very near future. Some of it certainly feels like it's happening now. I think that was a strong point on Megan Angelo's part in making the story not too far off that we - readers - couldn't see ourselves in the story and experience the impact along with the characters.
I liked the slow-build of the story. It's not pulse-pounding and doesn't really hit the ground running, but all the same, I was drawn into it thoroughly. I wanted to see how the past and the future connected, how we got to the point where we're constantly plugged in and what that really means for privacy. I wanted to find out what else is out there. See other ways that people are forming their paths.
I did feel a little foggy about the dynamics of the world outside Constellation as opposed to the world inside Constellation. We get a clear(er) view of how things work inside via Marlow's experiences, but once she runs there's not much time to build up how others - those whose lives are not constantly on camera - have fared since the 2015 timeline shift. We do get a quasi look, but I don't think it's speaking to the every(wo)man, as the case may be. To be fair, the story on the whole is mainly concerned with the individual journeys of Marlow, Orla and - to a lesser extent - Floss and how their lives have been influenced by technology, and in that regard I think it hits the mark perfectly.
Overall Followers is a very thought-provoking read about how we connect with each other, what we keep to ourselves, and what we decide to put out there for anyone to see, and the vulnerability in what people decide to do with that connection.
Come Tumbling Down
4.5 out of 5 stars
When last we saw twins Jack and Jill at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, Jack had killed her sister after Jill had murdered a fellow student. Jack was taking Jill back through their Doorway to the Moors – where death isn’t necessarily quite so lasting.
But their story has yet another chapter, as Jack is once again brought back to Eleanor West’s in a storm of lightning very fitting for a mad scientist. Jack needs the help of her fellow students in order to keep order within the Moors where monsters dwell and the red Moon oversees all, and if Jill has her way it will all Come Tumbling Down. They’re about to throw that whole “No Quests” rule right out the window.
Come Tumbling Down is another quest entry in the series much like the lovely confection that is Beneath the Sugar Sky which, for me, means that it moves at a quicker pace than I’ve found the prequel stories tend to be more languorous. After all, we’ve already learned Jack and Jill’s history and saw their previous future, so it’s only valid that we would get the ending as well.
I think my review of In Absent Dreams stated that the series pivots around the first book of the series Every Heart a Doorway, but I’d like to amend that slightly by saying that each book revolves around Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children School – like a waystation as they wait for their doors to open once again – but the stories pivot around and have been so influenced, at least up to this point, by Jack and Jill. Without the events that transpired (because of Jill) in Every Heart we wouldn’t have necessarily needed, or gotten, the backstory in Sticks and Stones, and there would have been no quest in Sugar Sky.
I feel like it’s rightful that there’s a finality to their story. Come Tumbling Down definitely provides that, for now. I say for now because really Seanan McGuire could turn all of this on its head in the next book. But it feels pretty final while also showcasing some of our students who have yet to get their own stories told such as Kade, Christopher, and Cora – I’d include the every delightful Sumi, but she already knows where her story is going so she just gets to be along for the sugar-coated sweet ride.
You can’t go wrong with this series ever. Although the past books have been pretty good standalones and technically this one could work too, this time around it’s more beneficial to have all the details behind the Wolcott twins.
Twice in a Blue Moon
3.5 out of 5 stars
Tate Jones meets Sam Brandis when she's eighteen while on a trip to London with her grandmother. Tate and Sam immediately click. I'm talking first love kind of clicking. Tate finds herself opening up to Sam in ways she's never opened up to anyone else. Tate confides to Sam that she's the daughter of screen idol Ian Butler who suddenly disappeared from the public eye after her parent's tumultuous divorce. Sam is one of the only people (minus her grandmother, mother, and best friend) that Tate has felt comfortable enough to reveal this part of her life, a part that her grandmother and mother have always encouraged her to keep secret. So when Sam betrays her and leaks her identity to the press, the consequences are far reaching.
Fourteen years later, after being thrust into the spotlight, Tate is a TV and screen star much like her father, and the role of a lifetime has just landed in her lap. A role that will push the limits of her acting ability and move her past her father's sphere of influence. The problem: the script writer is none other than Sam Brandis. Being confronted with the person who, literally, changed her life, all the conflicted feelings she's had over the years about Sam and what happened between them comes to the surface. Will Tate be able to reconcile the love she felt for Sam before she was betrayed? Or will that betrayal hold over everything they could have together?
It had to happen at some point. With a string of reliably funny, sweet, romantic, and sometimes heartbreaking novels, Christina Lauren has finally released one that didn't work so well for me. Maybe that's not completely accurate, but Twice in a Blue Moon definitely gave me pause before writing this review. I got to the end, and thinking about everything that preceded it, I took time to, hopefully, formulate a review that will stand for a read that, to me, was full of really interesting ideas about family and forgiveness, opportunity and betrayal, but I felt like it fell just short of really committing to any of them.
I mean it's a pretty heavily loaded story. I think possibly more pages would have given more time to flesh out a few of the story threads.
I'm really a sucker for the second-chance romance trope. It's this idea that initially drew me to the story honestly. I appreciated the fact that Christina Lauren took a good amount of time to build up the "Then" portion of the story as it's so important to how things have happened in the "Now". I could feel the connection between young Sam and young Tate. The pangs of first love the tentativeness in every interaction. The sting of the betrayal wasn't as cleanly felt as much of the fallout takes place in the intervening time between the Then and Now and through the lens of older Tate do we truly see the consequences of Sam selling her out to the press.
The story is told only in Tate's point of view so it was readily apparent that she wasn't getting the full story as to why Sam would do something so detrimental to her. Obviously there's more to the story than meets the eye as I think any reader looking at things from the outside will be able to quickly discern.
What really got me for the main idea of the book is how one moment - in this case one tip to the press - can change someone's life irrevocably forever. Tate always secretly harbored thoughts of becoming an actress but we don't know if it would have come to fruition had she not been thrust into the public eye. She was set to start college soon after her return from London, but all of that was derailed the morning the press found out she is Ian Butler's "long lost" daughter. There's also the fact that, despite becoming a star, Tate's personal life has been at a standstill for all these years. With such a huge betrayal in her past, and at such an impressionable time in her life, she finds it difficult to trust. It's maybe this idea of trust that left me unsatisfied in the way the story went forward. I felt like it was almost too quick that Tate was pulled back into Sam's orbit once they reconnected on set. Too quick that the feelings they left behind resurfaced, but I didn't feel like the trust was earned back. And yes, I feel like in this circumstance trust needed to be earned back on Sam's part.
I think what truly left this bad taste in my mouth - so to speak - was the idea that Tate has never been given the opportunity to speak her truth. Except when she spoke it to Sam but look how that turned out. No, Tate has always been required to go along with a narrative. Whether it's playing a role on TV or in movies to the still tense relationship with her father that she must present to the world as close and loving. She's hindered by needing to keep things looking happy and shiny for the public - no scandals here please - in order to be marketable and, I supposed, bankable to the fans. I wanted to see Tate take her own life into her own hands, but I don't think it's something she'll ever be able to do at least out in the open. But that brings up the question of: is Tate's personal life really anyone's business?
The book provides this interesting quandry, but like I said I didn't feel like it really fleshed it out well enough. This is a read that I may come back to at some point because maybe I missed something this first time around, or maybe circumstances in my life influenced how I read and interpreted the story. I think Twice in a Blue Moon is one of the more thought-provoking reads that Christina Lauren has given readers recently and while I like the more somber tone, I just wanted a little something more from the story itself.
I still look forward to whatever Christina Lauren has up their sleeves next. Despite my on-the-fence thoughts in regards to this book, they've always been authors that I can count on to deliver, and if this time they deliver something that sticks with me days after finishing, that has me questioning my feelings about the book, I think they've done their job fantastically.