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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

#CJSReads REVIEW: Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
Publishing TODAY 4/25/17

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The major new novel from New York Times bestselling suspense writer Jennifer McMahon.

Eva grew up watching her father, Miles, invent strange and wonderful things in the small workshop behind their house on the river that runs through their old mill town. But the most important invention of all was the one that Miles claimed came from the mind of Thomas Edison himself--a machine that allowed one to speak with loved ones long passed. Smuggled out of Edison's laboratory, the blueprints were passed down to Miles, and he's been using them to protect Eva, her mother, Lily, and her brother, Errol, ever since.

Then, one night when a storm is raging and the river is threatening to flood, the machine whirrs to life on its own. Danger, it says. You're in terrible danger. The next thing Eva knows is waking up on the side of the river and seeing her mother's grim face. Eva's father and brother are dead, their house has been washed away and an evil man is searching for them both. They need to hide.

Eva changes her name to Necco--a candy she always loved--and tries to put everything in her past behind her as she adapts to her new life off the grid. But when her boyfriend is murdered and her mother disappears, she knows that the past is starting to catch up to her.

What really happened the night of the flood? As Necco searches for the truth, her journey unites her with two women who are on desperate quests of their own. And as the trio follows the clues to solving the mystery of Necco's past, they discover that sometimes it's the smallest towns that hold the strangest secrets.

Jessica's Thoughts:
5 / 5 Stars

Witnessing his mother's murder by a man in a chicken mask. Talk about quite the opening to a book! Miles grows up to marry Lily and have two kids, Eva and Errol. Eva is his little helper in the workshop as he begins to assemble one of Thomas Edison's blueprints (stolen by his father from his laboratory). This machine would allow him to talk to the dead. On the night of a huge storm, it comes to life on its own with a grim message, Danger. The man has caught up to Miles and his family.
Talk about quite the opening to Jennifer McMahon's new book, Burntown. This all happens within the first 30 or so pages! It had me hooked from the beginning and I couldn't put it down! It's so hard to keep talking about this book without giving away major plot points or spoilers. So I'll leave it at the intro and that Eva ends up changing her name to Necco (her favorite candy growing up) and moves far away. Years later, she finds that her past is catching up with her and she must face deep buried secrets in a small town. 
I have yet to read McMahon's other books, but now I have to! I love her style of writing and how her story got going right away. It kept my attention and didn't quit. The characters were well-developed and you could feel what they were feeling. The whole invention stolen from Edison was very intriguing! I loved everything about this one.

Follow Jessica on Goodreads or Instagram

Sam's Thoughts:
5 / 5 Stars

I was not quite sure what to expect when I started Burntown by Jennifer McMahon; I had heard notable praise for McMahon’s work but had never read any of her novels before.  After reading, I have come to realize that if her other work holds any resemblance to Burntown, then I have been making a serious mistake!  This book was captivating, original and had me gripped. 

I am not entirely sure how to proceed with my review as this novel blended and bended any resemblance of genre.  It had elements of the paranormal and a classic thriller; it also had coming of age elements and reminded me a little bit of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels.   Fantasy mixed with a feel of science fiction; truly, this novel ended up with a little bit for every reader.

Truly, this plot is too complex, interwoven (and, honestly, a little complicated) to give a true synopsis, but I’ll do my best to give you a general gist.

The novel opens with a story of a young boy (Miles) who witnesses the death of his mother; as he grows, and raises his own family, he begins focusing on building a machine that is the family legacy; a design of Thomas Edison that allows it’s operator to speak to the dead.    After a devastating flood, Miles and his son (Errol) are dead and his wife (Lily) and his daughter (Eva) find themselves displaced.  
Years later, Necco, a young girl with a reputation of “eating fire” is living in the backwoods of town.   When she runs into Theo and their paths connect, they begin to dig into Neccos’s past and discover a plethora of family secrets and a connection to a family that makes her question everything she has ever known.

Sound a little confusing?  You’d be correct in thinking so, but do not let the complexity of the plot put you off; McMahon is a master at weaving the story and answering all questions. 

This novel did not disappoint and I would recommend it to any reader who is looking to bend their mindset and are open to a completely different type of thriller; I, for one, welcomed this eccentric read.  5/5 stars.

Follow Sam on InstagramTwitter, Goodreads and her Blog!

My Thoughts:
4 / 5 Stars

Miles watches his mother get murdered by a man in a chicken mask and runs him off by launching an arrow from the bushes. As he grows older, he meets Lily, who is the only one he can trust with his secrets. He marries her and has a daughter of his own, Eva. Eva is his little helper in his workshop where he creates various inventions - his biggest one being from the plans of Thomas Edison himself. He's terrified to turn it on as it is supposed to allow you to speak to the dead. All he wants is to speak to his mother one last time to find out who killed her. During a storm, the machine turns on and warns of danger. The chicken man has caught up with him and now he has to fight to protect his family. And that's just the first 30 pages. 

BAM! The author just pulls you in straight from the get go. We get introduced to a variety of characters - from the Fire Eaters that Eva's mom becomes a part of to Theo, a high school drug dealer to Pru, the high school cafeteria worker with a secret life. Throughout the journey, we begin to learn why they need each other, how their friendships get forged and what they do to protect each other as the chicken man gains momentum in finding Eva. The past comes back and she realizes that her mother wasn't just spouting nonsense. 

I am struggling to figure out how to write this without spoiling anything. There is no question as to McMahon's ability to weave a tale and suck you into a story that keeps your nose in the book, eyes wide open, finger at the ready for the next page. I love the characters in this book and the first half really grasped me in a way that I had to pry my fingers from the book so I could get some sleep. There are spirits of fantasy, the supernatural and thrilling suspense. I was in it for a full 5 stars but then it went in a different direction than I anticipated. Want to know more that MAY be a teeny bit spoilery? Go to my individual review here.

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