I went into We Were Liars one cocky son of a biscuit eater, feeling above it all right from page one. I'd seen this book talked about so heavily by otI went into We Were Liars one cocky son of a biscuit eater, feeling above it all right from page one. I'd seen this book talked about so heavily by other bloggers and how some never saw the twist coming or how others totally saw that twist coming. All the while, I was sitting on the sidelines with my shades on, posted up with my arms folded, saying, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hot potato." That's not to say I didn't want to read this book, because I did. I even had an ARC sitting on my shelf for the longest time, but due to a lot of the hype, I kept putting it off. Plus, I'm one of those people who usually can easily figure out a plot twist and I didn't want to dive into something where a lot of people already mentioned figuring it out.
But one thing did nag me a little in the back of my mind was that my Bookish Twin, Blythe from Finding Bliss in Books, LOVED it. I highly value her opinion when it comes to books, because we almost always agree. So when I happened to get my hands on the audiobook, I thought, "What the hell? I was supposed to read and review this anyway, right?" Let me tell you... WHOA.
***First off, I just wanna say that I don't know how the print compares to the audio and that it's possible I loved the book more than others because of the excellent job of the narrator. I can see how the fragmented sentences could be a pain to read, but this might be one of those cases where it sounds better out loud. That being said, I if you haven't read this book, possibly check out the audio version first.***
Anyway, I was feeling very blasé about the first half. It felt like a really random story about a rich, white girl and her white girl problems, crying her white girl tears and I felt myself unsure about what the point of it all was.
And maybe that makes me sound extremely heartless, but I couldn't relate to the main character (no, I'm not even going to tell you her name because I want you to go in blind). But somewhere along the lines, I started to become intrigued with the story because it became this strange, wild thing that I couldn't piece together.
Lockhart uses a very odd narration with fragmented sentences and strange descriptions, but I thought it was beautiful and unique. It added a very creepy layer on top the the existing oddness. It makes you question the main character, her account of the incident and the entire book. She's not very reliable and has the habit to cut off mid-sentence. I'm not sure if that was used as a way to distract the reader or if it was to used to make us question her sanity. Maybe a little bit of both. Either way, it worked on me.
As things started to heat up and I reached the cusp of the climax, the narrator's voice increased in intensity. She began talking faster, became very emotional, then suddenly on the verge of tears!
And I started thinking to myself, OH GOD NO. WHAT IS HAPPENING.
And then IT was revealed and I was all, "WHAT IS THIS LIFE? I REJECT EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS ENDING. NOOOOOOO!!!!"
So, naturally, I had a good cry and needed someone to hold me.
I know this review might not be the most helpful in the world, but it's true what everyone says about We Were Liars. You should absolutely go in blind, with no expectations and let this book take your feels as it sees fit. If you are a fan of psychological thrillers like Stephanie Kuehn's Charm and Strange or Complicit, than this one may be up your alley. I'll be here to hold you when you're finish.
I've debated on what I should write in this review space. Usually I'm a pretty sarcastic person, flinging jokes left and right to entertain during whaI've debated on what I should write in this review space. Usually I'm a pretty sarcastic person, flinging jokes left and right to entertain during what could be a really dull review. But for this, I'm less inclined to since I'm close to the source material, witnessed the production of this book and contributed two pieces.
This is a non-profit book, so none of the contributors are making any money from this production. You can buy it for $.99 (it's the lowest price LuLu let us set it) or you can read it for free here.
So I'll just ramble about my Random Off Topic Feelings.
I've been dealing with Goodreads/author drama for two years now. And I remember when I first joined Goodreads, I didn't know that authors were even on this site, let alone reading reviews. My thought was, "WHY? Why would a person want to read my insignificant thoughts on their book?" At the time, my reviews existed only to entertain myself and my very small group of friends. It was fun and exciting to find people who loved to read as much as I did, so it's no surprise that Goodreads quickly became my favorite Internet place to visit. But then the drama started, and little by little I found my joy for reviewing dwindling.
I don't review or read as much as I used to, which has me feeling some kind of way. I'm ashamed to admit that I've struggled writing reviews. I second guess words or phrases. Will the author flip out over this one star review? Will the author send his/her band of loyal fans to downvote my review on Amazon? Is this review too controversial? Will someone accuse me of bullying someone? It's maddening. It's gotten to the point where I cringe sometimes when I see a notification on certain reviews. There were already too many fucking people in my review space... and now there's Goodreads too.
I won't lie that I feel personally betrayed and hurt by how Goodreads has done a few things. Some of that stems from things that aren't publicly known (and they'll stay that way, so don't even begin to ask me) and some of it from the part of me that is just fed up with being singled out. It's happened a little too often for my liking this year and I'm just so over the bullshit.
This is getting rather depressing, so I'll make my point. Seeing the production of this book has reminded me why I love the people on Goodreads when I was starting to forget. To see first hand the determination and dedication from people who I've followed and admired for years was incredible. Their drive and motivation to continue on and power through when I felt my own waning is inspiring. These are my people with their flaws, controversies, passion, sophistication, crude humor, sarcasm, irrelevance, brilliance. In true Pitch Perfect flavor:
REBECCA FUCKING LOWMAN. Ihad to get that off my chest.
Say What You Will and I were getting along great for the most part -- yes, even despite my disliREBECCA FUCKING LOWMAN. I had to get that off my chest.
Say What You Will and I were getting along great for the most part -- yes, even despite my dislike of this narrator -- until the main character, Amy, decided she didn't give two shits about anyone but herself. Matthew goes out his way for Amy and cares for her, helps her when no one else does. And what does Amy do to repay him time and time again? She insults him, cheats on him and still expects him to show up when she is at her lowest. I just hated seeing a character used so much. It bothered me to no end. Make no mistake, Amy was a Mary Sue with a walker. Her only flaw besides just being a shitty person was her cerebral palsy, which she uses to her advantage. When she's called out on this by Matthew, she brushes him off.
I don't think I've ever read a story about cheaters. I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision or if it was for fear of it remiActual rating: 3.5
I don't think I've ever read a story about cheaters. I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision or if it was for fear of it reminding me of that corny reality TV show that's somehow STILL airing. (WHY? TELL ME WHY.) Plus, there's always the issue of actually sympathizing with the cheater, not an easy feat. But While You're Away surprised me. I was able to connect and understand the main character, Sarah Westlake, and her reasons for her infidelity. That doesn't mean I'm agreeing with her decision at all, far from it. (I want you all to know that I just resisted a Cheater-Cheater-Pumpkin-Eater reference despite it's non-relevenace.)
What I liked best about While You're Away is Sarah's down to earth voice. She reminds me of my teen self in some ways with her shyness and social awkwardness. At least one of those blasted traits has lingered with me through adulthood, proving that some things never change, but I digress. Sarah's perfect boyfriend, Dave, is the opposite. He's outgoing, a flirt and everywhere he goes, he feeds off of a crowd's energy. This works well for his and Sarah's band, Dasa, but often leaves Sarah lonely and put-out from seeing him flirt with so many girls. That doesn't discount Sarah's love for Dave because she does genuinely care for him as he does her. However, it gives Dave's character a flaw in his seemingly perfection. Sarah doesn't blame her infidelity on him, which I was happy to see, but you can tell that this factor of lack of attention does play into it.
Then we have bad boy Will. He's new, thrilling and completely off-limits to Sarah. Not only does she have sweet and caring Dave, but Will is also taken. Yet through one weird moment at a party, in Sarah's loneliness, she ends up making out with Will and later hiding it from Dave. And while she does feel bad about the betrayal, a part of her is intrigued with the connection she felt with Will.
Finally, I really enjoyed the Holbrook's writing style as I am a sucker for pretty writing. It's not flowery or poetic in the way you'd find Lauren DeStefano's or Tahereh Mafi's. It's more straightforward realism with Sarah's conflicted feelings particularly when Holbrook describes her feelings about Will and why she's so drawn to explore the connection further.
"I felt split in pieces, and none of them matched. It turned out that it was possible to feel guilty and elated at the same time. To be ashamed and emboldened at once. Though it had been wrong to even try it, I wanted another taste of Will."
If there were one thing I would have loved more of, it's more back story between Dave and Sarah. We are shown how they met and why they decided to start Dasa, but the reader is primarily introduced right into the infidelity scene. Though, it's entirely possible that more will be revealed as this story wears on since there are a total of six pieces. I usually prefer reading a book from cover to cover, without interruption, but I do think in this case, it works out well when you're able to leave readers on small cliffs like this gem:
"This felt like the beginning of something. A seduction that dared me to imagine what might come next. I felt like I'd been waiting for this. Needing it, even without knowing."
Because of this, I'm left internally cringing at Sarah and Will's choices, secretly rooting them on and shaking my head at the can of worms they're opening. It's funny how that happened. When did I become both the demon and the angel on Sarah's shoulder? So I think it goes without saying that I'll be continuing. Like Sarah, I'm in too deep to stop at just part 1.
e-ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you!
Ava Lavender’s family has a history of tragic love stories. Her great-grandmother, Maman; grandmother, Emilienne; and m
"Love makes us such fools."
Ava Lavender’s family has a history of tragic love stories. Her great-grandmother, Maman; grandmother, Emilienne; and mother, Viviane’s stories are all told through this generational saga exploring themes of love and love lost.
And then there is Ava, the girl born with wings, where the story truly takes shape. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is magical realism at its best.
“Older” Ava, our narrator, opens with a powerful prologue that instantly hooked me and set the perfect tone for the novel. She navigates through her family’s history—along with her own—with a lyrical prose that maintains a whimsical and traditional fairy tale feel despite the sorrowful themes. She tells multiple stories of not only her family, but of others who indirectly crossed paths with the women of the Roux/Lavender family, adding to the surreal experience. There are disappearing people, ghosts, birds, and a subtle magical thread weaving it all together that never feels logical nor out of place. There are times where I wasn’t sure if what Ava was telling me were true or fabrication, but it held an addictive quality that urged to me continue turning page after page late into the night.
The theme of love was an interesting one because while it does include stories of men and women, Walton, focuses primarily on the women of the Roux/Lavender family and the long term effects their failed relationships and mistreatment of men had on them. I’m not entirely sure if this was intentional or not, but my mind couldn’t ignore the common situations many women in real life go through depicted in the novel: loveless marriage, single parenting, sexual abuse, etc. For each of the women, naïveté is both their charm and curse. It’s their hope, willingness to give their hearts freely and complete trust that leads to their heartbreak. Ava is different from the other women since she appears to be more cautious due to her sheltered upbringing, however, even that ultimately leads to her downfall.
The villain felt both literal and metaphorical for me as a reader and where I feel the novel shines the brightest. There is a physical antagonist in the form of an evangelical stalker obsessed with Ava and her wings. But on a deeper level the villain also manifests as the women’s own sorrows and their inability to heal and move on from the past situations that led to so much pain. It leaves them broken, isolated from the community and guarded even from each other. It isn’t until “Younger” Ava’s tragedy that we start to really see a change in that aspect.
If I have one form of criticism it’s that I was hoping to find out more about “Older” Ava. Much of the novel involves relating “Younger” Ava’s family history all the way until after the climax, but we never really have a glimpse into what becomes of “Older” Ava. The prologue asks the question of where she came from she is since she’s born with wings and I was searching desperately for that answer, but it never came. Or at least in the way that I thought it would. But that’s just part of the novel’s charm—its answers always slightly out of reach, constantly maintaining the air of mystery. Perhaps there wasn’t an answer to actually give or it was just another metaphor for the family’s struggles. Or maybe what I really need to do is re-read the book because clearly Walton’s novel is not yet done with me.
Overall, I’m both impressed and dazzled by Leslye Walton’s debut. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a novel that has so many layers that it demands your attention. Written with the finesse of a seasoned writer, it’s stunning, magical, strange and, of course, very beautiful. Highly recommended.
The best part about Waldo books is that they are so iconic. As much as I loved them in childhood, I love them even more as an adult, especially sinceThe best part about Waldo books is that they are so iconic. As much as I loved them in childhood, I love them even more as an adult, especially since I can now share the ultimate frustration of trying to find a certain character with my own kids.
I always get excited when I see a Waldo book being released. How many different ways can I find the characters? What new frustrations await me? In Where's Waldo? The Magnificent Mini Boxed Set, all the drawings are tiny and you get a cool magnifying glass! The difficulty level has definitely increased and I found myself having a little trouble locating Waldo even though these are the same scenarios from the previous editions.
I would recommend this edition for veteran Waldo finders, as younger children may get easily disheartened at not being able to find the characters as fast as they could with the other Waldo books. My 5-year-old in particular quickly gave up in her search on her own and only showed slightly more patience when I helped her. The magnifying glass, on the other hand, was a huge hit with my kids!
However, for those looking for more of a Waldo-finding challenge, this is a great book to get your neurons working! It's the perfect activity for a rainy day or if you are craving a bit of nostalgia.
A copy was provided for review from the publisher via YABC....more
I read Random early because it was right after I’d finished Fault Line and I was hoping for a book to give me similar feels. I was drawn in by the oriI read Random early because it was right after I’d finished Fault Line and I was hoping for a book to give me similar feels. I was drawn in by the original cover, which featured a cell phone cord in the shape of a noose. Since I’ve been on this contemporary kick, I thought this would be right up my alley. It wasn’t. So much potential wasted! The sad part is that I was hooked right until the final reveal. I’m shocked that the author dropped the ball so late in the book, though, it’s only 200 pages, so a relatively quick read.
(view spoiler)[WHAT IN THE HELL: The whole point of this book was to show the main character that her actions had led to the suicide of one of her classmates. But the way this was done… ugh. It’s the night before her trial and her brother, best friend and the boy friend of the dead teen decide to trick her into staying up all night. How do they do this? By making the boyfriend call her and pretend he’s going to jump off a cliff if she doesn’t try to help him. HUH? (hide spoiler)]
The worst part is that the main character learns nothing by the end and I was left wondering what the point of the book even was.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more