We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, a Review

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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 the story of the lives of a wealthy American family who own a private island somewhere near Martha’s Vineyard. The protagonist, who is part of a close knit group of cousins (and one non-relative), who spend their summers in this isolated haven of privilege. The usual YA themes are there- misunderstood teens who want to make the world a better place, a tragic accident, young love, family secrets…. But what sets this novel apart is E. Lockhart’s execution and a seriously interesting plot twist. Lockhart’s writing is solid, and she does an admirable job of capturing the protagonist’s teenage POV in a way that isn’t too grating on an adult reader. She also throws a nice curveball that adds velocity to the plot in the right place.

If you read reviews about this book, you’ll see a lot of people who say they sobbed their way through this one. Maybe I wasn’t the target audience, but I found certain aspects of the book to be too predictable to generate that type of emotional response. Highlight for spoiler: However, I will say that as a dog lover, I definitely let out an audible sob around the three-quarters area.

Finished this off in one late night sitting. Definitely addictive, despite writing that I found occasionally to be a bit repetitive. In my mind the perfect book gives you just enough detail to disappear into the plot, but not so much that it becomes tiresome (after all, isn’t that what imagination is for?). Perfect for avid readers of the YA that are looking for something that is of higher-quality than your average teen summer novel, but perhaps not compelling enough for those that dabble in the genre.

Available for pre-order on Amazon and on shelves in May 2014.

xo The Book Bird

Disclaimer: An advance copy of this book was provided by the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead, A Review

819IPcfXWpL._SL1500_The key to enjoying Maggie Shipstead’s “Astonish Me” is to not question the plot or the characters that are presented to the reader. Do not try to love the characters, because you won’t; don’t try to guess where the plot is going, because you’ll probably figure it out. But like her previous novel, “Seating Arrangements,” there is something enjoyable about just embracing the story for what it is. Shipstead’s writing is clean, and flows nicely, allowing the reader to gently float along with the narrative.

As I mentioned before, I found the novel to be predictable and slightly contrived, but to quote the oft used phrase– for me, “Astonish Me” was less about the destination and more about the journey. Told in small vignette style chapters, the book captures the perspectives and stories of a group of acquaintances whose lives become entwined, collide, and then separate over a period of about twenty years. While the art of dance and study of ballet plays a considerable part, I appreciated that Shipstead avoids making “Astonish Me” a novel purely about ballet. It nicely compliments the storyline, and in many ways contributes a certain thread of continuity that ties everything together.

Overall, I definitely would recommend adding this one to your Spring reading list. (On a side note, can we talk about how pretty the cover is?)

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com, this novel hits shelves on May 8th 2014.

xo The Book Bird 

Disclaimer: An advance copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Rustication by Charles Palliser – A Review

17573664A solid 3.5 out of 4 stars.

I can’t believe I almost skipped out on this one. Had requested it before it hit shelves via the local library, and after picking it up and re-reading the inner cover was on the fence; very glad I decided to give it a try this past snow Saturday. The word rustication can mean two things: a trip to the country, or in the UK, “the suspension of a student from university.”

In the case of this novel, both definitions are appropriate. Told through the journal entries of former Cambridge student (and sometimes opium user), Richard Shenstone, Charles Palliser’s novel, Rustication, recounts the strange events that occur upon his expulsion from school when he returns to live with mother and sister. Recently widowed, Richard’s mother has been forced to relocate back to a dilapidated familial home in a rural town set upon a pretty miserable sounding marsh.

Upon his arrival home, Richard is surprised to find himself more unwelcome than he had expected; his mother is a shell of her former self, and his sister is clearly somehow involved in some neighborhood intrigue. The neighbors are far from welcoming, and it becomes clear that while at university there has been much kept from Richard. When mutilated animals start turning up, and village folk receive menacing letters accusing them of horrible things, fingers start getting pointed toward Richard…

While not the most reliable narrator, and let’s be honest, kind of a pervert, Richard keeps things interesting as he tries to unravel what is going on around him. Probably one of the more true Gothic novels I’ve read this year, it’s dark and moody, and I finished it off in a day. Pacing-wise, things move at a solid clip, but I found the last 20 pages or so to be a bit tiresome. Definitely a must for those who like atmospheric novels and don’t mind overlooking a few plot weaknesses.

Available from Amazon.com.

xo The Book Bird 

 

It’s the final countdown….

Can’t believe that the end of 2013 is just around the corner- it seems like just yesterday I was plotting out my 2013 book list plan of action. Overall it’s been a good year, while some books were total misses (I’m looking at you, Lottie Moggach’s “Kiss Me First”– see my review here), there were some that are going on my an all-time favorites list (Marisha Pessl’s “Night Film” is a definite). With 5 more books to go to hit my goal of 80, I’m getting a little bit nervous, especially as this time of year always gets a little crazy with work and holiday festivities.

Here are the five reads that are going to bring me across the finish line:

For sure: 

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These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman
: This year has kind of been a miss when it comes to YA for me, so I’m hoping that this novel can turn that around. Boy from the other side of the tracks meets girl who is way above his social standing, together they overcome he obstacles, futuristic world; you know the deal.

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The Vanishing by Wendy Webb
: I received a copy of this novel via NetGalley and am about 30% through it. The plot it is a little bit far-fetched, but I’m doing my best to just accept the situation presented and enjoy the story for what it is. Of the gothic novel genre, it features a mysterious estate in the middle of nowhere and some sketchy residents.

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The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook: I eagerly anticipated this novel for so long, and actually ended up buying it instead of trying to get it out of the library. So far? A serious case of mehhh. Feel obligated to finish it, but I’m on the fence about this post-WWII novel of reconstruction Germany.

 

Maybe:

Empress of the Night by Eva Stachanik (another early 2014 release)
The Siege: 68 Hours in the Taj Hotel by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy
The Engagements by Courtney Sullivan
The Yonahlosseee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiScalfani (Bought it, started it… haven’t progressed very far)
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (see above)

I’m on the fence about the following but giving some serious consideration to:

Have you read any of the above? Thoughts? Last minute recommendations?

xo The Book Bird