Review of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Summary from Goodreads:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE

First off, I want to say that I loved E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks when I listened to the audiobook years ago. I was really eager to get my hands on We Were Liars, because it seemed like a cool, contemporary teen book that I would really dig.

Nope.

I almost put the book down at the very beginning because there were way to many characters introduced. I didn’t know Cadence (Cady) at all, so trying to get me to know who everyone was in the family seemed a little too pushy for an introduction. Luckily, they didn’t matter anyway. Gat was the mysterious boy, the Heathcliff character, who Cady was in love with. The scenes with the two of them were cool but everything else was basically filler. I ended up skipping the fairy tales that Cady wrote just because I knew they would bring nothing to the plot. In fact, there wasn’t a plot. Stuff just happened. I noticed myself skimming through sections and getting through the book quicker than usual (one day) because it was just boring. I liked the idea that the family was wealthy and the mother was a nut job who told Cady to “act normal” whenever she got upset by anything and telling her that just because she was crippled by migraines, she still had “family obligations” (because if anyone in this book is a villain, her mother should get first dibs at that title).

The whole big thing about this book is that there’s a twist and I can tell you, that is the only reason I stuck with 67% of the book before I just wanted to know what the “twist” was so I could get on with my life.

I know people hate spoilers, but luckily, someone on Goodreads explained it in a review. I ended up going back to the book, and skipped ahead to the last section of it (there are five parts to the book – nothing happens in any of them.) I didn’t even read the whole end section either because I just did not care. You don’t get to know the characters; they’re just there. If that’s the whole point of making selfish, rich kid characters who aren’t interesting and who sit around at a beach house doing nothing then, fine, but I need a little more to be invested in their story.

And what was this whole thing about her being a “drug addict?” She had migraines that kept her in bed for days that needed medication. She couldn’t function because of the headaches, so because she wanted relief from pain that was prescribed to her, she’s an “addict?”

Anyway, I didn’t mind the semi-prose because it reminded me of Ellen Hopkins a bit (and prose novels are a thing now too) and I liked that the book was in 1st person. (I can’t really get into books that are 3rd person at all.)

So, bottom line is, I am not a fan of this book. As always, I appreciate that people are raving about it and that E. Lockhart has a smash hit, but I just didn’t get the “wow” factor in this at all. I totally give the author credit for trying to add some nice, literary elements into the passages, even if they did come across as confusing. It could have been a novella, eliminated the boring, useless scenes, focused on Cady and Gat, and been a much more satisfying read for me.

Also, as everyone else mentioned: why are they “Liars?” If they were shady, crafty, b.s.ing rich kids who didn’t care at all about deceiving one another and the people around them (which is what I thought the book would be about, honestly) that would have made more sense.

 

Happy Reading!

Blog Blitz Tour – Nantucket Red (Nantucket #2) Review

Goodreads summary:

Cricket Thompson’s lifetime of overachieving has paid off: she’s headed to Brown University in the fall, with a spot on the lacrosse team and a scholarship that covers almost everything. Who knew living in the dorm cost money? An Ivy League education seems to mean living at home for the next four years. When Cricket is offered the chance to earn enough cash to afford a real college experience, she heads back to Nantucket for the summer. But the faraway island challenges Cricket in ways she hadn’t anticipated. It’s hard to focus on earning money for next year, when she finds her world opening up in entirely new ways-to art, to travel, and, most unexpectedly, to a future completely different from the one she has been working toward her whole life. A friendship blossoms with Ben, the gorgeous surfer and bartender who encourages Cricket to be free, even as she smarts at the pain of seeing Zack, her first love, falling for her worst enemy. But one night, when Cricket finally lets herself break all her own rules, she realizes she may have ruined her carefully constructed future with one impulsive decision. Cricket must dig deep to fight for her future, discovering that success isn’t just about reaching goals, but also about listening to what she’s been trying to ignore-her own heart.

My Review:

This is a good, light, fun, romantic summer read. The setting is definitely one of the highlights, and following Cricket around makes you feel like you’ve living the island life. I enjoyed Cricket’s character and I was interested in what was going to happen between her and Zach, Jules, Amy, and Ben, the Guitar Guy. It’s quick and easy to get into and I do recommend it for anyone who’s ready to ditch school and head to the beach.

However, this is not a stand alone book. Not having read Nantucket Blue, the first in the series, I could not follow a lot of the characters and their relationship to Cricket. I was left with a lot of unanswered questions because the characters where not explained. There are a lot of characters in the book as well, so I will definitely have the read Nantucket Blue now. So, before you pack up your summer books, please include this and it’s prequel, otherwise you’ll be totally lost like I was.

Main questions for me: Why did Cricket have to choose Zach or Jules? She doesn’t seem that interested in either of them if she willingly pushed both of them away. And is Jules Zach’s sister? Why would Nina (Jules’s mother?) have such an impact on Cricket?

I looked up some information on Goodreads to try and catch up with the story, so it is definitely not something you can dive into without having read Nantucket Blue.

The covers are very intriguing and the setting, again, is beautiful. I was a bit put off by how much the word “Nantucket” is used – sometimes twice on one page and for a while it was on every page. I honestly don’t know anything about Nantucket (I had to look it up on Wikipedia), so a lot of the references to the name itself fell flat with me. Some scenes also just seemed to have stuff going on that was either confusing or unimportant to the story. But, again, it’s an entertaining book and the more I read, the more I was curious how Cricket’s life would turn out. I really do love the time frame that Cricket is telling the story. It’s interesting to see her transfer from a high school senior to a college freshman with new people and new problems to deal with.

About the Author:

LEILA HOWLAND loves to read, explore L.A., and engage in funny and meaningful conversations with her friends and family, especially her brother who calls from Washington D.C. whenever he’s waiting for the bus. A lot gets discussed in those phone calls, but they tend to end abruptly when the bus shows up. She can really cut the rug, but wishes she could sing without people covering their ears. A graduate of Georgetown University, Leila spent five years acting in New York where she was a company member of the award-winning Flea Theater in Tribeca. It was a lot of fun and she often talks about “getting back into it.” The closest she has come was a stint as an extra on The Young and the Restless in 2010. Leila now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two dogs. She teaches high school English and blogs for HelloGiggles. NANTUCKET BLUE is her first novel. Visit her online at www.leilahowland.com and at http://twitter.com/leilahowland.

Happy Reading!

Review of The Princess Diaries: Book #1

What? A princess
Me Yeah, right.
Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there’s nothing worse than being a five-foot-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra.
Is she ever in for a surprise.
First Mom announces that she’s dating Mia’s Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn’t have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance?

I can’t tell you how much I liked The Princess Diaries. Well, I guess I can.

As I mentioned before, I got this book as my first audiobook on Kindle through the library. I needed something to listen to in the bath, and since this is one of those books that everyone is supposed to have read, I really wanted to give it a try. I was honestly surprised at how much I liked it. Anne Hathaway reads this so well and shows the character of Mia the way she was intended. That’s the best part of this book; the character of Mia. While this is just the start of her journey as a princess, the voice of Mia was really endearing. She’s funny and clueless and overdramatic and you want to keep reading her diary. She’s a good role model too, so she’s definitely a positive female lead in a novel, even though it’s a pink cover and about a princess. I love books written as a journal or epistolary style as well – they just give you a nice, strong sense of who the character is and what they’re going through.

I know that it is a little predictable for Josh Richter, the cutest boy at school, to end up being a tool, and Lilly ending up being her best friend again after she sees what kind of crap Mia’s been going through. And Michael being the real object of Mia’s affection was totally obvious, but I loved that anyway. It had all the charm of a typical teenage movie. I have seen bits of the movie with Anne Hathaway, but I’ll have to watch it on Netflix this week to see if it really did the book justice.

A lot of fantasy books I’ve read are basically this whole idea of a young girl discovering she’s a princess. This is just done so much better than the books who sort of force you to feel bad for them, since they’ve inherited some magical kingdom or something. It’s no secret that I don’t love high fantasy, so a cute, contemporary, young adult novel really pleases me. I would most definitely read more of The Princess Diaries books in the series.

Review of The Future of Us

The Future of Us by Jay Ascher and Carolyn Mackler

Josh and Emma are about to discover themselves—fifteen years in the future.

It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long—at least, up until last November, when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since then, but when Josh’s family gets a free AOL CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto Facebook. but Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. Josh and Emma are looking at themselves fifteen years in the future. Their spouses, careers, homes, and status updates—it’s all there. And every time they refresh their pages, their futures change. As they grapple with the ups and downs of their future, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right—and wrong—in the present. – from Wikipedia

I have to give this a slightly less than perfect score of 4 & 1/2 stars for a specific reason – Dave Matthews.

Look, if Josh is a skater, he’s not going to be into a girl who likes Dave Matthews. And no one in the 90s would make a mix tape of Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews, and Pearl Jam! That’s not even in the same category. The 90s were about breaking into new genres that was all "alternative," but that wishy-washy, radio-friendly stuff was not good. 1996 had so much more to offer than that, for crying out loud! Smashing Pumpkins had released 1979 as a single, for instance, and Rage Against the Machine had Bulls on Parade. That will always outshine Dave Matthews, I don’t care if some preppy misogynist character like Cody Grainger tries to convince us that a bootleg copy of Crash Into Me has some amazing guitar work. No, just no. Not even close.

Granted, not everyone’s 90s experience or musical tastes are the same, but only middle of the road people at that time wouldn’t have a strong connection to a ground breaking band. I can’t like Emma because she likes Dave Matthews. A lot. It’s discussed way, way too much in the book. I’m guessing that one or both of the authors really, really like his music and may have never given Lollapalooza a try.

Plus, were we supposed to think that Emma was ironic or just plain boring for not liking Wayne’s World?

Some other reviewers said they didn’t like Emma being such a spoiled brat who didn’t change at all through the whole book. I quite agree. I didn’t hate her, but she didn’t seem good enough for Josh. The plot was predictable, but I still found it engaging. It took me a day & 1/2 to finish because it was easy to get in to. I think it speaks to a very certain age group. I graduated in 1994, so the book was pointing just past the Nirvana era. I think that’s why I was a bit critical of the stereotypical push to discuss the 90s with the over-use of Dave Matthew-isms. It seems less authentic than if they had been all over the shop with 90s references instead of sticking with the same, boring thing.

My other main criticism that I also agree with from Goodreads, is just how the idea was executed. Would two kids really be able to accept the technology so easily? Would 16 year old care about their future that much? They’d have to be less angsty, focused on school, then aim for their future college, life, etc. I mean, the book references Back to the Future, but Marty was dealing with saving Doc, his family, and the whole town. Most 16 year olds wouldn’t be that apt to plan out their future.

Unless they listen to Dave Matthews, I guess.

I liked Carolyn Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt…, but I didn’t dig Jay Ascher’s Thirteen Reasons Why because of the back and forth switch in narrative. (I hear it’s easier to listen to on audiobook, so I’ll try that later.) But both authors are older than me, so I’m going to assume that they’re taking researched information on a 16 year old’s 1996 experience, and making it mild because it will connect to a wider audience.

All in all, I liked the book, but I didn’t feel really emotionally moved by it. It was a quick read, which makes it good in its own right. Great book, it just had some glaring problems that I couldn’t get past. I’d still recommend it to teen readers (then I’d hand them a decent 90s mix tape.) I also appreciate the fact that I bought the print version of this, just to feel old school.

And one last thing:

Marvin the Martian on a skateboard is from Clueless, if no one else noticed.

Review of “Gossip Girl #1”

“Oh, don’t be a spoilsport. Gossip is sexy. Gossip is good. Not everybody does it, but everybody should!"

von Ziegesar, Cecily. Gossip Girl #1: A Novel. Poppy, New York, 2002. ISBN: 978-0316910330

Teenager Blair Waldorf sneaks away from a party to have sex with her boyfriend Nate Archibald, however they are interrupted by the return of Blair’s old friend Serena van der Woodsen, who was away at boarding school. When Serena was around, Blair felt as if she were lost in the blue, so she is not thrilled that Serena has returned. She is also unhappy to find out that Nate and Serena had sex the summer before Serena left. She tries to keep Serena out of the loop and encourages others to ignore her. Not understanding why she is getting the cold shoulder, Serena decides to try new activities and tries out for the school play, and is rejected. Later she tries out for Vanessa Abrams’ short film being in Central Park, however Vanessa grows jealous over her best friend, and secret crush, Dan Humphrey’s reaction to Serena and chooses someone else. Undeterred, Serena decides to make her own film and enlists the help of Jenny Humphrey, Dan’s younger sister. Throughout the story, the various characters regularly visit "Gossip Girl," a popular, anonymous blog that spreads rumours and gossip about them. [Wikipedia]

What this book reminded me of, was a less edgy version of Less Than Zero. However, in Gossip Girl, all the kids are basically interested in doing the same things without any kind of reflection or remorse. The girls do discuss having to prepare to get into college, but being in a school play is not going to be a big deal if you’ve been kicked out of boarding school, would it? I don’t know.

This is just the poor little rich girl story retold. None of the kids are supervised so they run around New York City drinking and smoking pot and having parties. Because, you know, that’s fun! There’s a lot of mention of dancing in their underwear and partying that involved all the characters. It’s their way of life, which, as many people pointed out on Goodreads is just not something that young girls should aspire to.

But there are worse books out there and at least Serena isn’t planning her life around a boy. She’s an interesting character that I’m sure becomes a little more rounded as the series goes on. Anyway, the book is quick and easy to read but there’s not a lot of meat to it. I can see girls loving to read about a perfect girl (Serena) being admired and hated by the rest of her former friends. But that’s about it. I mean, the clash between Blair and Serena is good and I’m sure that’s going to be the main tension throughout the series and the rest of the characters will all develop more. I would go as far as to read the two GG novels that I own already but I’m into them like I was/am the Pretty Little Liars series.

My rating: (3/5)

Review of “The Lying Game”

“At least she had a clear picture of what the Lying Game was now: Girl Scouts for psychopaths.”

Emma has lived in foster homes her whole life, but when she finds a video online that depicts a girl who looks exactly like her being killed, she searches for her long-lost twin. After seemingly being lured to Tucson by her twin, Sutton Mercer, Emma finds out that she got the raw end of the deal. Sutton grew up with everything a girl could ask for: parents, a sister, popular friends, a boyfriend, and anything monetary her heart desired. Except Sutton is dead, so Emma assumes Sutton’s identity. When Emma tries to explain what is going on no one believes her. No one, that is, but Sutton’s killer. In order to keep herself from being the next, dead sister, Emma has to play along with The Lying Game until she can solve the mystery of what happened to Sutton.
First off, before anyone starts harassing me over a review (seriously, that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of – book bloggers shouldn’t have to deal with that stuff!) I seriously love Sara Shepard.  I read the first four books of Pretty Little Liars (which I still need to review here) and I was hooked immediately. When I picked this book up, I was really intrigued by the first page, so I was excited to begin reading it. However, like some of the other reviews I’ve read, I just didn’t get into it as much as I did with PLL.
Some people said they didn’t like the point of view that went between Emma in third person to Sutton in first person. I understood that Shepard was trying something new and that was fine but, I agree, I don’t think it did much for the story. If there had been small chapters here and there told in Sutton’s point of view (as does A. in PLL) we would have gotten the gist that Sutton is dead and she’s watching all of this as a ghost.
While the story line sounds innovative and interesting in theory, it just wasn’t. I got really bored of it quickly. It picked up in the middle when Emma was starting to figure things out and the killer had come back to threaten her. But there was just too much that I couldn’t believe about the whole situation to make me like any of the characters.
I agree with whomever said “Why couldn’t Emma just call someone from her hometown who would vouch for her?” I mean, technically, she is still not 18 so she’s under child protective custody until her birthday at the end of the book. Also, if Emma has been dirt poor and without a world of privilege, wouldn’t she be way more impressed with the gadgets and designer clothes she has? Plus, and I mentioned this on Twitter, how does she know to go to Trader Joe’s to buy Brie? And why would she be irritated with an old woman who holds up the line by paying with a check? If she’s getting into her diva role now that she’s assumed Sutton’s identity, I get that, but she wouldn’t just know these kind of things off-hand if she’s been in poverty the last 15+ years.
And Becky. So that’s their mother but Sutton never knew her but Emma lived with her? I guess that’s part of the mystery too.
One other small thing: Sutton? Is this a hip thing, to name kids after random London boroughs? I kept wanting to call her Mutton Surfer. I get that she’s a spoiled little rich girl who loves to pull deadly pranks on people. She gets her car impounded and she has a police record but she’s still living a charmed life. I can almost understand that but I’m not rich and I don’t shop for Brie at Trader Joe’s so I’m not sure.
Anyway, I doubt I’ll read anymore of the books, but I didn’t realize they’d made a TV show for it, so I can look for that next month.
All in all, it’s not a terrible book at all, I just wasn’t overall thrilled with it. If it weren’t for Shepard’s writing style, it wouldn’t have been interesting at all. Most teen readers would probably be into it since the mystery story is pretty intriguing. I’m just not sure they’ll love it as much a PLL. I do, however, give Shepard massive props for starting a totally different project though. As she said in the acknowledgements, it is really hard to start a new series.
My rating: (3/5)

Review of “The Help”

“All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.”

Aibileen and Minny are two of the many African-American maids working in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. Skeeter is a young white girl who wants to be a writer. When Skeeter hears that her friend wants to put in a separate toilet for her maid, she starts wondering how these maids feel about being treated this way. While it is extremely risky, the maids agree to tell Skeeter their story for a book that may be published. The problem is for Aibileen, Minny and the other maids – the consequences of their actions could be deadly.
I absolutely loved this book even though it took me so long to read it. Going through three main characters’ stories was time consuming but enjoyable just the same. I guess I didn’t want the book to end. There weren’t any dull parts or anything that wasn’t sincere about this book. The story was written in the best, most candid way a white female writer could have done. I appreciate Kathryn Stockett adding to the end of the book, her personal account, just as Skeeter did about Constantine. She addresses the criticism that comes from her writing from her perspective too:

What I am sure about it this: I don’t presume to think that I know what it really felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi, especially in the 1960s. I don’t think it is something any white woman on the other end of a black woman’s paycheck could ever truly understand. But trying to understand is vital to our humanity.

I think that is enough of an explanation to give the writer credit for trying to teach us something about our own human experience – and that is what makes for good literature. Reading for entertainment is fine but when you understand yourself and the world around you makes the experience that more impactful.
I’ve also heard someone say they hate narration written in dialogue, which makes me assume they don’t like many quality writers either. The big names such as Dickens, Twain, Hurston, and Faulkner write in dialect because it would be ineffective and unauthentic if they didn’t capture the voice of the characters. I’ve also heard that the book is funny which is true, in parts, but the overall tone of the book is so sad. But sad in a good way because you take something from that emotion – you feel for the characters, and, again, that’s what makes for a good book.
Anyway, I’ll have to watch the movie now and I did what I could to not think of the characters as the actresses I saw on the red carpet not long ago, but I assume the movie will be very good as well. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 76% which doesn’t mean much to me anymore since they gave Prometheus a 73% when it’s the biggest sci-fi film of the decade. But for students in class being able to compare and contrast with a novel like To Kill A Mockingbird would be a good idea for high school literature classes. It would especially be nice to tie in their history lessons on the Civil Rights Movement as well.