Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars (Audiobook Version)

Written by E. Lockhart

Narrated by: Ariadne Meyers

Published 2014 by Random House

Runtime: 06:26:33

liars

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

My Review:

I listened to the audiobook version of We Were Liars, narrated by Ariadne Meyers. I really enjoyed this as an audiobook since it was simple to follow and Meyers did a great job with voices.

We Were Liars is a stunning tale of friends who only know each other on the island their wealthy families own. The island is a paradise, and in its description it’s hard not to believe just that. But as the synopsis will suggest, there is ALWAYS trouble in paradise.

The plot was slow to form, but it is clear early on that there is something horrible about the Sinclairs. It’s nothing shocking honestly. The family is filthy rich and battles for inheritance become threat to the threads that hold the family together. But that’s not what this story is about. It was an entertaining part of the novel and in many ways I thought it was going to play a bigger picture in the story. No, this story is about the children. What happens to the kids of a broken, wealthy family?

Drunk on power and the realization of the lack thereof, this novel is a roller-coaster of hope and failure. There is pain that no one talks about and the healing is slow. I was fascinated by the characters in this book. The liars, each beautiful and terrible in their own ways. Not that you can blame them. And then you have the aunts and their constant bickering, and grandad and his dementia. Lockhart creates a family portrait that intrigues readers. All set in the picture-perfect setting of their private island.

Amidst the bickering, there is also romance. I was less impressed with the romance. Of course Lockhart’s teenage love was much more realistic than many other young adult novels.The love felt shallow and constricted although I think we were supposed to believe it was more than that.

As I mentioned above, I thought the novel was a bit slow moving. With a lot of focus on Cadence’s self-pity. It was all worth it in the end when the reader finally understands everything. There is genuine horror in this novel. I was shocked so much that my mind was reeling my entire shift at work. I had the fortunate experience of finishing the book moments before my shift started. It really messed with my head.

I don’t want to give away anything, so all I can say is that I loved the conclusion of this novel. It was a harsh pull back to reality. I highly recommend this book!

4 stars (2)

I give We Were Liars by E. Lockhart a 4 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One

Written by Ernest Cline

Published 2011 by Random House NY

374 pages

ready

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

My Review:

This book was a thrill to read! It’s a nostalgic blast from the past for anyone who grew up in the 80’s or had parents that impressed 80’s culture upon you *raises hand*.

You didn’t have to grow up in the 80’s to enjoy this book though. For any fans of futuristic novels – science fiction and dystopic novels alike, this book has appeal to all nerds, geeks, and totally normal people. Cline explores a future not too different from today, except food is even more scarce and the environment is even more screwed up. Oh, and there’s this virtual reality that has entranced most of the globe’s population.

Before you turn away, know this book isn’t a campaign for sustainability and lack of human integrity or anything.  While Cline does make small remarks to the poor health and uncleanliness of some of the OASIS users, this is foremost a tale of a heroic gamer.   Wade Watts or Parzival as he goes by in the massive online game doesn’t have much of a life on Earth, but in the Oasis he can educate himself and socialize with new people. It is a haven. But with all good things, someone wants to monopolize it and essentially destroy its worth. That’s why the competition for a billionaire’s fortune could mean salvation for so many like Wade. And the only way to win is by knowing the game.

I really enjoyed this book as a light, comic read. It’s a classic hero on quest tale, root for the underdog, that kind of thing. You’ll have a blast following Wade and his friends Aech and Art3mis on their journey through the Oasis and deciphering some cryptic 80’s trivia.

The best part is when the story becomes a mix between real life danger and virtual. There were moments in the story that I forgot were taking place on Earth and not on some planet within the Oasis. Wade’s mission to find the video game’s egg will go as far as putting his own life on the line. With billions of dollars at stake, there’s a high cost to this hunt. And to add on top of the dangers of the egg hunt, Wade seems to have fallen in love with one of his fellow gunters (that’s what they called the gamers who were hunting for the egg). It’s an emotional thrill ride.

Perhaps my favorite part was when the characters are revealed in their real life. Even as a reader its easy to imagine virtual relations in a certain way. Everyone in the Oasis has an avatar, but that doesn’t mean that’s what they actually look like. It certainly levels the playing field. What Cline does with this understanding was the best part and satisfying for the conclusion of the novel.

I really enjoyed this book and I think it would be a fun read for all ages. Although some of the details from the 80’s pop culture can become overwhelming. It wouldn’t hurt to have Youtube and Google readily available if you’re not familiar with all of the references. The one dislike I have for this story was the predictability. It was difficult to be completely satisfied with the ending because I was already prepared for it. Of course I wanted that ending. I loved it. But I thought it was missing something. For that reason only I deduct one star. Overall, I thought Ready Player One was a refreshing read and I would read it again in a heartbeat.

4 stars (2)

I give Ready Player One by Ernest Cline a 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

Written by Patrick Ness

Concept by Siobhan Dowd

Illustrations by Jim Kay

Published 2011 by Walker Books

216 pages

Monster

Goodreads Synopsis:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

My Review:

Even though I read this book over a month ago I still carry it with me (figuratively speaking), and I think I always will.

The story is potent and bound to draw some reaction or memory from you perhaps long forgotten.

Conor, a young boy who believes the Yew tree in his yard wakes him at night to tell him stories, has a lot on his mind. Too much. There are realities in this world that no mind can tolerate, and to a young, pliable mind such as Conor’s these realities are simply to overwhelming to deal with alone.

The story doesn’t just tug at your emotions, it will wrench them free, so just prepare yourself to let go. Conor knows his fears. Or at least he thinks he does. Throughout the story those fears will be challenged.  Are they just covering up for a bigger fear? Our feelings are fragile. Conor knows this. He can be pushed down and scrape his knee, but that doesn’t hurt. What can hurt Conor? The mysteries swirling inside his mind. The story of a monster. One that calls to him in the night. Stories hurt. Because the stories will tell the truth.

I don’t recommend this book if you’re looking for a light read. If you’re a sympathetic as I am, this book will probably make you cry. Don’t be ashamed of that. Let it open up your veins and bleed from one pain-drenched pain to the next. Okay, that’s a bit extreme. There’s hope too, but not without first staggering imbalance.

Am I being cryptic? Well, I don’t want to give too much away. The main thing to take away from this book is that it is not a happy story, but it may bring you peace. The story itself is brilliantly written in that what isn’t said is the most important piece of the story. This book is a young adult novel and while the themes might seem too mature, they are crafted so that they are understood in full. It doesn’t challenge death or contemplate afterlife, it simply identifies what is. In this way, A Monster Calls is suitable for all ages.

A Monster Calls is about understanding. And that sometimes we push understanding away because it hurts. Following Conor with his life at home – dealing with mum, with grandmother, with dad who lives in America now… it’s an eye-opening experience. One you don’t want to miss out on.

Accompanied with beautiful, dark imagery. This book is a complete journey. I give A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness 5 out of 5 stars.

5 Stars

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series Review

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
series

My Review:

I’ve already written about the first book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone in a previous book review, so I plan to use this review to talk about the series as a whole. The following two books, Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters, will be the focus of this review.

This series is a beautiful epic that deserves a place in literary history. Although the romance does become quite a major part of the series, don’t let it fool you. In no way does it diminish the ass-kickery and epic-ness of the plot at hand. And this isn’t the weak romance filled with love triangles and pointless heartache. Oh, there will be heartache, but it is potent with understanding, decisions to be made, and hard found forgiveness. It will change you.

Since we’re talking about this series as an epic, it plays perfectly into the poetic writing of Laini Taylor. The language flowers and can be quite figurative. This might seem odd during the war scenes, but I think it suits the series perfectly. After all, even hate and loathing are emotions. And Laini Taylor will tug at each one.

The second book of this series (as with most series, really) is a bit of a standing point. It’s the waiting, and more of a slow burn than the other books. That is to say, there’s not as much action in this book… until there is, and it all happens so fast. And so horrifying. In this book there is creation and destruction, and heartache with no resolution. And also, as the series most prominent theme permits, Hope. It was a fun read, but less engaging than the first of the series. It was nice to be introduced to a number of new characters though. One in particular…. Ziri. He’s a Kirin who looks to all the human world of a devil, but is only ever described as pure and kind (hmm… I sense a theme here).

And lastly we have Dreams of Gods and Monsters. This is the book where Karou, the protagonist, becomes less and less of the main character. Mik and Zuzanna become more amazing than they already were, and to be honest, their comic relief was much more necessary to this part of the series. In this book, nearly everything went wrong, and then somehow kept fixing itself. It was suitable to the entire epic idea, but I’ll admit it got a bit tiresome after a while. Once the war came to a conclusion, the cycle ended (well, almost). It was a relief either way. I’ll say one thing for the continuing problem-solution scenario, is it really keeps you on the edge of your reading seat.

And as with most epics, there is magic. This magic develops more and more as the series goes on, and I’ll admit I thought it went a little beyond what was necessary for this story. It got…. overwhelming. It’s important though to the end of the story, so pay attention. The magic plays an key role and it took me a while to realize it was a major point to the story. The magic becomes bigger and more important and more demanding than the war between Chimera and Seraphim ever was. It will hit you blunt on your brain that the whole premise of this story led to this reveal. The war, the pain, the heartache – it all leads to this. And what was it really for? That’s the question you’ll have to answer yourself.

Okay, I just reread that last paragraph, and I was being optimistic about the moral at the end of this series. If I’m honest though, as a reader, the conclusion was a major disappointment. I can be happy with the ending that exists, but if I’m being truthful, it felt kind of cheap. It’s cool how the godstars, which had been part of the novel since the beginning, became a major part of the story. There is definitely something to gain from it as a reader, but I felt cheated out of the story at hand. She introduced new characters at the last minute in order to create this ending, which was abrupt for the last installment of the series

I should offer a small disclaimer. If you hadn’t guessed by the title, particularly the last book of the series, “Gods and Monsters” offers a personalized view on religion. Whether or not it’s the view of the author or one she created for the characters of her book. There is a small amount of religious theory. Again, this really suits the epic, but can offend some readers. Its one view, but it does touch on current political and religious views of the world, particularly the view on angels and demons. Make of it what you will, but be prepared to question religious theory, or just go with it, whichever works for you. It’s fiction, and definitely worth the read.

Sometimes readers tend to fit into one of two main groups, the critical/cynical group and then there’s the over-emotional-everyone-gets-five-stars readers. If I had to class myself, I’m probably in the second group. What can I say; I’m an emotional reader. When I open a book, I WANT it to overtake me. It’s escapism or something or other. Some readers let it happen and anything that doesn’t fit doesn’t matter because don’t-bother-me-now-I’m-reading. Keep in mind when reading my review that this is an honest review about a work of fiction. I could tear this book apart for logic, but that’s no fun at all. And that’s my choice.

5 Stars

I give the series a five out of five stars. And now I’m on to find more of Laini Taylor’s works since I’m a sucker for prose.

Audiobook Review: Grimm’s Fairy Tales

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Grimm’s Fairy Tales

by Brothers Grimm

Narrated by: LibriVox Community

My Review:

I wasn’t able to find anything on the audiobook on Goodreads, but I don’t think a summary is necessary.

We’re all familiar with the lovable stories of Disney such as Cinderella and Snow White, even the non-Disney remakes such as Hansel and Gretel. Grimm’s Fairy Tales are the root of all these stories.

While I greatly enjoyed hearing the originals of stories I’d heard when I was a child, sometimes going back to the roots is just… boring. I feel that I was supposed to enjoy these stories immensely, and it isn’t that I didn’t enjoy them, they just fell short of what I expected. First, I was under the impression that these stories would be more violent, the stories would have more of a punch. I thought they’d be more… grim.

Regardless, the stories were for the most part entertaining. I especially enjoyed listening to the stories as an audiobook. I could listen while cooking, on the bus, doing my nails, or doing the laundry. Audiobooks are really incredible. I think my favorite story was that of the bird who tricked the farmer into getting himself murdered. There were a few surprising moments, but otherwise the stories were mostly predictable.

Unfortunately there isn’t much else to say about the stories themselves. They were fairly standard bedtime tales, mostly happy endings. I will talk briefly about the voice recordings. The most obnoxious thing was the introduction all of the volunteers had to read, but other than that they were mostly good readers. One volunteer that told several stories was a bit monotone, but I remember one story that was read by a mother and son, which was by far the best storytelling. There was some diversity among the storytellers as well, which created a nice variety.

Overall, I give Grimm’s Fairy Tales a 2.5 out of 5 stars. I wish I could have given it more, but the stories didn’t quite leave me satisfied.

2.5 Stars

Book Review: Jenny Pox by J.L Bryan

 

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Jenny Morton has a horrific secret: her touch spreads a deadly supernatural plague, the “Jenny pox.” She lives by a single rule: Never touch anyone. A lifetime of avoiding any physical contact with others has made her isolated and painfully lonely in her small rural town.

Then she meets the one boy she can touch. Jenny feels herself falling for Seth…but if she’s going to be with him, Jenny must learn to use the deadly pox inside her to confront his ruthless and manipulative girlfriend Ashleigh, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all.

My Review:

To start, this book is not for the faint of heart. It was in several instances, graphic and horrific. Second, it’s fiction with a sharp edge. That is to say the author, Mr. J.L Bryan, has some ideas about humanity, life and the afterlife, that that not all readers may agree with.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jenny Pox. It had several jaw-dropping, completely mind-shattering moments that I couldn’t have predicted. It covers all topics of the teenage dilemma with complete casualty – sex, drugs, romance, peer pressure, fashion, even death.

Jenny, with her sickly touch, is terrified of her power. The only other person who knows her secret is her drunkard father, whom she loves deeply but has never even touched. Now imagine for a moment the devastation of zero human contact, knowing that if you did touch someone, even for a second,their skin would erupt in hideous boils that ooze and burn. Imagine being ostracized from society. Imagine knowing your mothers death was your own doing. Now imagine all of this and going to high school. What J.L Bryan does best is captures the complexity of Jenny’s situation and the heartbreak she copes with every day.

Things become interesting when you learn that the antagonist, Ashleigh, is evil and intelligent – a deadly combination. Ashleigh seems to have a power much more wicked than Jenny. Her manipulations are getting out of hand. It seems almost impossible, ironic if you will, that Ashleigh, the dear golden child with the bright smile would be the villain to this story. She is loved. Jenny is not. And yet that love turns sour, and the entire town will pay the price. The juxtaposition of Jenny and Ashleigh, the reversal of light and dark, is what makes Jenny Pox a complex and twisted story that will make readers fear what has always been known to be true.

To add to the already confusing mix, we have Seth. Coming from the popular, golden side that Ashleigh rules, he’s not to be trusted. But as the story progresses, readers will realize he is the first character with completely pure intentions. He is selfless, and perhaps his struggles are far heavier than those of Jenny, whom we already developed a deep sympathy for. The romance between Jenny and Seth isn’t awkward. It seems unnatural in the beginning due to reader suspicion and the looming wonder of Ashleigh’s pending chaos. But Jenny and Seth are matched for each other in ways the reader doesn’t even fully comprehend, not yet anyway. It’s not long before you are rooting for them. And then the gut-wrenching realization. And all hell breaks loose.

Jenny Pox was a captivating story with a riptide of teenage emotions and more. While I didn’t agree with all of the views expressed by the author (though not explicitly stated), I enjoyed the complexities of the characters, the challenge of traditional roles, and the strength of the Jenny, particularly the fact that as a female protagonist in a high school drama, she wasn’t completely overtaken by romance or reliant on others to make decisions for her.

I give Jenny Pox by J.L Bryan four out of five stars.

4 stars (2)

 

 

 

Book Review: Breathers

Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament

by S.G. Browne

Published by Three Rivers Press

310 pages

Breathers

Goodreads Review:

Meet Andy Warner, a recently deceased everyman and newly minted zombie. Resented by his parents, abandoned by his friends, and reviled by a society that no longer considers him human, Andy is having a bit of trouble adjusting to his new existence. But all that changes when he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting and finds kindred souls in Rita, an impossibly sexy recent suicide with a taste for the formaldehyde in cosmetic products, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car-crash victim with an exposed brain and a penchant for Renaissance pornography. When the group meets a rogue zombie who teaches them the joys of human flesh, things start to get messy, and Andy embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will take him from his casket to the SPCA to a media-driven class-action lawsuit on behalf of the rights of zombies everywhere.

My Review:

A friend actually recommended this book a few years ago and it was amazing. I remembered how much fun I had reading it, so I picked it up again.

S.G Browne writes one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Its dark comedy thats loaded with guilt, yet completely entertaining. If anyone understands the plights of the undead, its definitely S.G Browne. Breathers: A Zombies Lament is gory and delightful, if you’re comfortable with those two words being in the same sentence then this book is probably perfect for you.

Andy is just a typical neighborhood member of the undead, and he’s trying to cope. Of course, it isn’t easy when everyone in the neighborhood is throwing old food at him and trying to steal his limbs. All Andy wants is the same human rights he had when he was alive, but maybe blending in is the only way for him to be truly happy. That, and the sexy zombie Rita is definitely helping him cope.

This book was a quick, exciting read that offered a whole new twist on zombie novels without ruining all the things we still love most about zombies to begin with. It will honestly make you question your morals and maybe wonder why you feel so deeply for the zombies. Or maybe not. The undead are people too.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. I’ve really enjoyed the books I’ve read lately, and this one is no different! It deserves all five stars.

5 Stars