First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy

“First we were four. Now we are three.”

What a line! Could there be a better way to begin a book? I was immediately caught up in Alexandra Sirowy’s young adult thriller, First We Were IV, when I read this opening passage.

A group of teenagers, best friends, form a secret society. They are outsiders and want revenge for the girl they found dead 5 years earlier. The police looked away back then, but not this time. This time, the police and the town itself will pay attention because the society will make sure of it.

Before starting the society, Izzie, Graham, Harry and Viv felt powerless and unheard. Now they’re taking the power back. By fighting the authority, getting revenge, and making an unbreakable vow to one another they feel more alive than they ever have. Unsurprisingly, it goes too far. The power of IV grows as others adopt the symbol.

I haven’t read a young adult book in awhile and I almost forgot how quick the pace can be. I really liked First We Were IV and the focus on relationships, what it means to be a teenager, and the danger of too much power.

“Still, those kids, those snakes, whispered stories and secrets in the way the dying confess, anticipating forgiveness.”

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

America is a bad place for gods in American Gods by Neil Gaiman. In modern day, a war has broken out between the old gods and the new. This is where Shadow finds himself – standing in the middle of a troubling war he doesn’t fully understand.

Shadow has been in jail for the last three years and as soon as he’s about to be released, his wife Laura dies in a car crash. Unexpectedly, Shadow meets the odd and all knowing Mr. Wednesday, a leader of the old gods, who offers him a job. With nowhere to go and nothing to do but grieve, he accepts Mr. Wednesday’s offer.

We soon learn that Wednesday is rallying the old gods to join him in the battle. Shadow plays a larger role in this than he could have ever imagined.

Through this story, Gaiman shares a vivid history of America. It’s a really interesting idea, this war of the gods, and it’s very fantastical and full of mythology. The story is definitely thought-provoking, but the pace was slow for me and some of the transitions from one scene to the next were difficult to follow.

I loved Gaiman’s book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and while American Gods was also good, it was very different. It’s clear that he’s a very talented writer!

These quotes stood out to me:

“’This is the only country in the world,’ said Wednesday, into stillness, ‘that worries about what it is.’”

“Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world.”

Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

What would you do if your best friend called you the F word? In Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, F refers to Fat. One morning, Janey is ambushed by her best friend and business partner when he tells her that she needs to lose weight to stay in her position as CEO of their wedding dress business. Understandably Janey is hurt (and pissed).

Over the next three months, Janey goes to great lengths to lose weight. $50 (or more) workout classes. $30 juices. The clay diet. A weeklong fitness retreat. You name it, Janey tried it. It’s clear that this “healthy” lifestyle is anything but being healthy.

Fitness Junkie is entertaining and ridiculous at times, but underneath the silly exterior are very real issues like eating disorders, poor body image, and unrealistic expectations. I appreciate a book that can shine a light on important issues in a way that’s easy to absorb.

Janey’s (fictional) wealth allowed her to take part in all of these extreme and expensive health trends, but many times it veered too far towards the excessive. The fact the Janey could pay for all this extravagance (in NYC no less) without much consideration was a little bit too unrealistic (at least for the majority of people) for me.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Fitness Junkie and recommend it!

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Imagine a cruise ship sailing in the middle of the ocean, no land visible in any direction. It’s a dark and dreary night. There’s a small cramped cabin on the boat. This is where Lo Blacklock finds herself staying on the inaugural sailing of the Aurora.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware shares the story of Lo, a travel journalist about to set off for her first big story covering a high-end cruise. Just before the trip, her apartment is broken into and she’s left very shaken. While on the ship she’s still very anxious and wakes up in the middle of the night to a mysterious sound from the cabin next to hers, cabin 10. Then, unbelievably, she hears a large splash… No one on board believes her – could she be losing her mind? Lo is determined to find out what happened in cabin 10.

I liked the pace of The Woman in Cabin 10 and the eerie cruise ship setting. The thought of being trapped below water is horrifying! I also thought that this book is better than Ware’s first book, In a Dark Dark Wood, because the storyline was more unexpected. At the same time, there were aspects of the book that felt disconnected and too coincidental, i.e. unlikely to happen.

Overall, I recommend this one for a quick, engaging mystery read!

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton has been sitting on my bookshelf for almost 18 months and now I wish that I’d picked it up sooner. This unexpected story is compelling, unsettling, and hopeful at once.

Yasmin, brilliant and slightly cross, and her deaf 10-year-old daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska to meet their husband/father, Matt. Once they’ve landed at the airport, they learn that the small village where Matt was staying suffered a terrible fire. When police tell them that no one could have survived, Yasmin and Ruby refuse to listen and instead set out on a wild and wicked journey to find him.

What they find at the end of their journey is shocking, but what they learn along the way is just as compelling, if not more so. We learn that Yasmin desperately wants Ruby to speak with her mouth while Ruby wants to speak with her hands. It’s touching as the pair begins to understand each other.

“It wasn’t that Yasmin wanted Ruby to speak so much as she wanted her to be heard.”

The story shifted between Yasmin and Ruby’s perspectives and I loved this aspect of the book. Both points of view were true to character and provided really contrasting views of the same situations.

I enjoyed The Quality of Silence very much and hope that you’ll pick it up as well!

Falling by Jane Green

Emma has never felt at home with her family in England so when she had the chance to move to New York City for her finance career, she took it. 5 years later, she’s sick of her stress-filled life and decided to quit her job and move to a coastal town in Connecticut. Throughout Falling by Jane Green, Emma attempts to get in touch with who she is and what she wants.

It turns out that her handsome landlord and his cute young son may be the answer to what she’d been looking for, but hadn’t been expecting. At its core, this book explores what it means to be a family.

While the book had a fun and playful tone (the writing style was light and straightforward), it was also unexpectedly sad and I didn’t see that coming. Some aspects of Falling were a little cheesy, but the emotions shared were real.

I enjoyed the New England setting and the playful tone of the book. On the other hand, the main character, Emma, tended to dramatize situations and those sections of the book dragged. Overall, Falling isn’t a book I plan to read for a second time.

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

A river runs through the town of Beckford and within that river, there’s The Drowning Pool. The pool lives up to its bleak name when a mother and a teenage girl are both found dead within the water’s depths one summer. There’s a large cliff above that leads to the question: Did they jump? Paula Hawkins’ latest release, Into The Water, shares the story of the women who’ve been lost to The Drowning Pool.

When Nel Abbott died, her daughter is left alone in a large creaking house with an estranged aunt who she’s never met. It turns out that Beckford, like many small towns, is filled with underlying connections and affairs. Throughout the book it seemed like half the town was looking for answers as to how these women died while the other half was keeping secrets.

My feelings about Into The Water are mixed. On the one hand, I was fascinated (and horrified) by the idea of The Drowning Pool and the myths that it’s a place where “troublemakers” are “taken care of.” The writing was infectious and I didn’t want to put the book down (similarly to Hawkins’ previous book, The Girl on the Train). On the other hand, the book is told from at least 10 different perspectives and all of the switching back and forth between characters took away from the depth of the story. I was lucky enough to attend an author event with Paula Hawkins a couple weeks ago and these alternating perspectives was an aspect of the book that she experimented with while writing.

Overall, I recommend reading Into The Water, but I also recommend having a pen and paper handy in order to jot down quick notes of each of the characters mentioned.

Standout quotes: 

“Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.”  

“It must take a strange sense of entitlement, I would have thought, to take someone else’s tragedy like that and write it as though it belonged to you.”