Might come back to this one at another time. Not really feeling it tbh. Don't object to not very likeable characters but just feel a bit manipulated a...moreMight come back to this one at another time. Not really feeling it tbh. Don't object to not very likeable characters but just feel a bit manipulated as a reader by this premise, if that makes sense.(less)
The strength of the voice pushed it up to 3 stars but this was a tough one to like. I have thoughts, so I might actually write a review for the first...moreThe strength of the voice pushed it up to 3 stars but this was a tough one to like. I have thoughts, so I might actually write a review for the first time in a long time...(less)
4.5 stars. Maybe a fraction under 5 stars. A few things that made it not quite perfect, but a great story well told.
Probably won't write a review bec...more4.5 stars. Maybe a fraction under 5 stars. A few things that made it not quite perfect, but a great story well told.
Probably won't write a review because the less you know about this book before you start it the better.
Let's just say I'm I glad I didn't read those last few chapters on public transport. So much snot. So many tears...
Ok, I scratch that. I decided to write a review after all...
When I finished this, I stated on Goodreads that I probably wasn't going to write a review because the less you know about this book before you read it the better. Even though I didn't know any concrete facts, I had heard whispers on the breeze and even whispers can do damage to a reading experience such as this. But then certain books live on in your head long after you've finished them and they deserve to be praised. I've successfully managed to write a spoiler-free review of a book before, a similar sort of book that requires spoiler-free reading and I think I did an alright job if I say so myself. So here goes. If you really, really don't want to know anything else about We Were Liars before you start it, I suggest you stop reading here (but only after I've said you really need to think about starting it very soon)...
I'm rubbish with books that are steeped in hype. I become a very cynical sort and even more judgey than I usually am (not something I'm particularly proud of) but this makes it all the more satisfying when a book does live up to all the praise. Let's start off with the best thing about We Were Liars - the writing. It's sparse, but I like sparse. Why use five words when you can use one? And because this style is so uncompromising, the voice is too and I don't think it needs pointing out that this is a Very Good Thing indeed (but I will anyway - it is a Very Good Thing). Cadence is the perfect character to lead us through the lives of the Sinclair family - revered, but enough of an outsider to show them warts and all.
From my own experience, there is not much to relate to with the wealthy Sinclairs but as with all good storytelling, this didn't matter a jot. This may have been a book about rich white dudes but it was also a book about prejudice and the abuse of power and love, common themes in many novels but here used in a very clever way. It felt very old-fashioned in some ways, perhaps to do with the setting. On starting it, I kept getting flashbacks of scenes from Dynasty, but here there were less should-pads and more shabby-chic preppiness. I guess this is all testament to the strength of the writing again and her amazing ability to build this world of privilege in such amazing and convincing detail.
There were a few things that made it not quite perfect - it slowed down quite a lot in the middle for me (that's all I will say about this because to say anymore would be alluding to those whispers on the breeze mentioned above) and I would have enjoyed a bit more detail about the other Liars at the beginning. This is quite a quick read and we're thrown into the middle of events early on - as a consequence, it took me a little while to get to grips with some of the characters.
But these are minor gripes. We Were Liars deserves all the attention it's been getting. It is a clever, involving story with plenty of mystery, and I'm all for clever stories, especially when they are told this well.
When I read a YA that features a heavy dose of pop culture, I sometimes have mixed feelings - not because it's a a terrible subject to explore, not at...moreWhen I read a YA that features a heavy dose of pop culture, I sometimes have mixed feelings - not because it's a a terrible subject to explore, not at all, in fact. More that I worry about the future. Mostly because I am a worrier in general, but also because I get all concerned about how relevant this is going to be in a few years time. But then, just as I started writing this review and waffling on about this, it dawned on me that reality telly isn't exactly a new phenomemon - how many years has The X Factor been with us? - so does that mean it's here to stay and that I am worrying about nothing? (probably). Anyway, my point in relation to Drummer Girl is that I shouldn't really be worrying at all. Because even though this book is full to the brim with pop culture and TV shenanigans, it embraces it and is all the better for that.
Saying the plot is fast-paced does not do it justice - within the space of a few chapters, friendships have been shattered and reformed, a band has been pulled together, we moved from London to LA and we haven't even begun to touch on the tales of romance, addiction, underdogs, and glamour. But what I loved about Drummer Girl the most was the girl that held it all together - friendship. Even though action was most definitely the key factor, this is a book about friends and I don't think there's enough YA books where this is the driving force behind the story. Romances are very much on the periphery and it was all the more refreshing because of that.
The one thing I wasn't too sure about was the inclusion of a certain scene right at the start of the book. I wasn't going to mention it but now I've just realised that it features in the synopsis so I'm not really spoiling anything. I still can't make up my mind whether my knowledge of Harper's fate was necessary - on the one hand, I was desperate to find out how it came about, but on the other, would I have preferred to see more a twist at the end? I'm still undecided. Anyway, the book doesn't necessarily suffer from it and it's an interesting way to structure the story. And another thing worth mentioning is the dialogue. Occasionally, when UK characters feature in US novels, they either talk like they've just stepped off the set of Mary Poppins or they sound like they're trying to channel their inner Jason Statham, but the exchanges between the girls here ring true.
This book is gloriously addictive. I was halfway through it when we were struck by a power cut and I had to turn our flat upside down looking for an industrial-sized torch because I couldn't see any of the pages by candlelight.
And I really wanted to see those pages.
This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. (less)
I had a lot to say about this one, but it's been a while since I finished it and as time goes by, it becomes a bit more difficult to articulate all th...moreI had a lot to say about this one, but it's been a while since I finished it and as time goes by, it becomes a bit more difficult to articulate all those feelings in blog form. But in short, I loved it. It's so refreshing when a book manages to explore 'issues' without making it obvious that it's exploring the 'issues' - when the story and the characters take precedence over the 'issues' but never belittling their importance in the process. This deals with the after-effects of 9/11 in a bittersweet way - an interesting take on grief and present-day attitudes to race and religion with a authentic and utterly convincing voice. My only criticism is that it was a bit too long, but other than that, highly recommended for slightly younger readers. (less)
I was looking for some YA written in letter or diary format but this one didn't work for me at all. This storytelling device combined with the plot ju...moreI was looking for some YA written in letter or diary format but this one didn't work for me at all. This storytelling device combined with the plot just left me feeling very frustrated. Also, not entirely sure how I feel about the death-row angle.(less)
It's feels very strange to be writing a review of this book, because, honestly the best advice I can give you before you read this book is not to read...moreIt's feels very strange to be writing a review of this book, because, honestly the best advice I can give you before you read this book is not to read anything about this book before you start this book. Seriously, stop reading this review. NOW.
...Only kidding. You know I would never partake in any of the spoiling of the clever story without huge amounts of prior warning. But that doesn't take away from the fact that this is going to be a tricky one. Hmmm...
Let's just start with the things I loved about this one then, shall we? Well, for starters, Jody. Such a loveable character in desperate need of a hug. I can't imagine any teenager who wouldn't identify with Jody on some level or another. Even though their particular dilemma could appear very specific on the surface, we all been there - falling in love with completely the wrong person and developing a slight obsession with River Phoenix....haven't we?
And this is properly funny stuff, we both Jody making a very amusing and informative narrator as well as some cracking and vivid supporting characters. One particular gag, courtesy of Jody and Jolene's mum, was a right corker that made me guffaw into my brew. But I won't spoil it for you here, adding to the list of yet another thing I won't mention about this book. In fact, I loved all the supporting characters and it's not too often that a contemporary YA gets the whole dialogue thing spot on, even old lady speak...
"If they took Tony Blair and Barack Obama and the ayatollah and that tiny little Frenchman with the big heels and that hunky Russian prime minister, Vladimir Rasputin and put them altogether in my front room with a great big pot of tea and a jar of ginger hard-bakes, you'd have every one of the world's problems sorted out by the end of the day. You mark my words!"
Have any truer words even been said? No, they haven't. Tea Rocks. End of discussion.
Right, there's no getting around it. You may or may not have guessed that there is a bit of a twisty twist lurking amongst the pages. Ok, a lot of a twisty twist. And I'm not usually a fan of twisty-twists because most of the time they're not that twisty. But this one of proper...corkscrew perm twisty. Yes, THAT twisty. It's ace.
But now I shall distract you from the twistyness with one of the many brilliant facts that are littered throughout this book. It's no secret that I love contemporary YA, especially contemporary YA set in my lovely home city of London. And this is a proper London book, complete with references to buses that pass through my neighbourhood. So lets leave it to Jody to give us a fact about London...
"I read on the internet that 7,172,091 people live in London. That's more than seven million people. They all wonder down Willesden High Road at some point."
It's true you know. I'm one of that seven million and I have wondered down Willesden High Road. We were going to a gerbil breeder's flat to collect our new gerbils. True story.
Move along now. No twist to see here....
(Just remember to read the book though because it's rather brilliant) (less)
When I was devouring This is Shyness a few weeks back (ok, maybe months), this song was being played on the radio quite a lot. I don't think there has...moreWhen I was devouring This is Shyness a few weeks back (ok, maybe months), this song was being played on the radio quite a lot. I don't think there has ever been a better book/song coupling. Unfortunately, when I was reading Queen of the Night, I was either on a train or staying at my mum's and her taste in radio station differs slightly from mine. Ranty DJs with suspect opinions wasn't quite the soundtrack I had in mind when I started this one. But it mattered not a jot. Well, maybe a tiny little jot. I never say no to a bit of atmospheric music to accompany my getting lost in a rather brilliant book.
So, Queen of the Night. Like the first book, it's still a bit of an enigma and one that's difficult to catagorize (which we all know are the very best sort of books), but because of of my familiarity with the world, this felt just that little bit more like a conventional love story, but still very much with a Shyness slant to proceedings. So still completely unconventional in most respects.
There was a different feel to the first book - the time frame, other characters being given a bit more to do and the juggling of a few more plot strands, although the driving force of the story is given a great resolution and the build up to that resolution is excellent. Yes, I'm talking about Wildgirl and Wolfboy. I shall say no more...
But some of the other changes were less satisfactory - I would have loved to find out more about Amelia, for example, seeing as she was so pivotal to the story. When I finish any fantastic book such as this I'm always left wanting more, but this time it was because I was certain we hadn't seen the end of these characters - this one felt a bit unfinished and I still had a whole heap of questions. However, *bit spoilery* when I took a sneaky peek on Leanne Hall's website, (which is gorgeous, by the way) I discovered that she has no immediate plans to write another Wolfboy and Wildgirl tale. NOOOOOOOOO! One particular story felt so quickly, and slightly unconvincingly, tied up that I was certain that it was just a rouse. But no, it was just very quickly tied up.
The thing I love most about both the Shyness books - if you're in a bit of a creative rut, like I've been for a few weeks, then reading these will get your brain buzzing in the best possible way. They're so brilliant and unusual - dipping into them is like drinking a tonic of words and colours and delicious darkness.
Now I'm just going to sit here with my arms crossed waiting for that elusive third book... (less)
I've read a couple of Jenny Valentine's books in the past (Finding Violet Park and The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight) and a few things have struck...moreI've read a couple of Jenny Valentine's books in the past (Finding Violet Park and The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight) and a few things have struck me...
1) She is very good at plot. I'm always a bit sceptical when picking up a book labelled as a 'mystery' because I am invariably disappointed. Having been brought up on a rigorous diet of Agatha Christie, I have very high mystery standards and quite like my mysteries to be very mysterious. Jenny Valentine has won me over before by being successfully mysterious on two previous occasions.
2) The covers of her books are very misleading. They seem to be either very light-hearted comic-strippy things or pastelly with lots of swirls. If I was the sort of person who used the word 'fluffy' them I might call them that. But her writing is not. A lot of the subject matter is very dark indeed. Yes, maybe in a slightly wry and humorous way, but dark nevertheless. Which means I end up looking at her covers with a scrunched up forehead most of the time.
So,The Ant Colony...well, the dark stuff is still here. It quickly becomes apparent that one of our narrator's, ten year old Bohemia, has a pretty grim existence, but manages to put her own optimistic take on it. And the mystery is here to, with the background of runaway Sam shrouded in MYSTERY until the very end. So yes, I did keep staring at the bizarre cover and thinking WTF?? quite a bit. This wasn't as plot-heavy as some of her other books, but felt more focused on how these characters interact. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Quite a good thing in fact.
And her writing is just so bloody good. Just the most gorgeous turns of phrase that made me dog-ear so many pages of my copy.
"A little boy at the window of another train, crammed in, surrounded my arms, the sleeve of a quilted jacket squashed flat against the glass like someone pulling a face."
And I think my favourite thing about this book is how she writes London. How she makes it feel like a living, breathing whole, in equal parts exasperating and exhilarating.
"Mum and Dad moved away from London before I was born. They always said that city people who move to the country are never at home. Wherever they are, they miss they love about wherever they're not. You fall in love with the spaces and the air, while you pine for the crowds and the movement. You learn four hundred and fifty new shades of green but everyone's skin is the same colour. You crave the lights and the speed and the noise that when you get there are too bright and too fast and too loud."
I found this video on the Guardian website where Jenny Valentine talks about London and books and London books. Watching it makes me feel very proud and lucky to live here (although some days, not so much). Anyway, it might give you an idea about how important the city is to this book, how it works as one of the main characters.
So, back to the point I made at the start concerning the covers. Well, I loved this book. Up to a point. And I shall explain why, or try to without littering this review with too many spoilers. Although there is a bit of a spoiler, sorry...
Light-hearted cover = dark subject matter. So why, when I got to the ending, did I end up wishing that the cover didn't match the book at this point? Does this make sense? For a book that seems to spend 90% of it's time wallowing in the complexities of life, why does it choose to have a very cut and dried conclusion? I love a happy ending as much as the next person, but this just did not feel right and put a bit of an ironic dampner on proceedings for me, I'm afraid.
But I heartily recommend this one. I can see adults enjoying it just as much as younger readers and it has so much to say about so many things - community, why people choose to disappear, the things that go on under our noses that we choose to ignore. I just wish real-life endings were as happy as this one.
( I just had a look at the US edition of Cassiel Roadnight. It's called Double and they've made it look like a typical YA thriller, although this doesn't feel right either. I KNOW. THERE'S NO PLEASING ME)
(BUT, I do like the cover and title of US Finding Violet Park)
Now I have this little thing that stops me from completely, one hundred percent, enjoying a heck of a lot of books that I pick up. No matter how lovel...moreNow I have this little thing that stops me from completely, one hundred percent, enjoying a heck of a lot of books that I pick up. No matter how lovely, astonishing, heart-breaking or mind-blowing they are, if they have even a slightly dodgy premise, then I just can't let THE FEELINGS completely takeover. This is especially the case with contemporary YA - I have to buy into it to fully invest in it, if you get what my drift.
So, when I read the synopsis for Shooting Stars, my sceptical muscle began to flex. Teenage paparazzo? Really? REALLY? I thought, no matter how skillful the plot and the writing, that I was going to have a few problems with this one.
Well, I'm pleased to say that, thanks to a rather wonderful main character, I got over that particular hurdle pretty quickly. In fact their wasn't really a hurdle to get over. So I was running with it all the way. (sorry). I really loved little Zo Jo. As well as wrongly assuming she was not going to cut the mustard in terms of a convincing character, I also assumed she would be intensely annoying. I guess I should stop making assumptions (it makes an ass out of...ok, I'll stop now). She had a lovely wisecracking, cynical edge, balanced with a sweet nature and she really worked. I am now very sure the streets of LA are teeming with tiny little wheeling and dealing paparazzi, god love 'em.
Her voice was brilliant. It reminded me of an old fashioned gumshoe detective trying to crack a case wide open -
"There wasn't a code of conduct and some people liked to play rough. Especially the full-timers; they hated the part-timers who liked to pap outside of their day jobs, even if their day job was school. I was new, I was female and I was a kid. Let's just say no one was splitting their lunch-box Twinkie with me."
There was a nice little dollop of romance too. My only complaint would be that I would have preferred a little more in terms of sizzle - there wasn't quite enough kissing for my liking, but the lip-locking that did take place was more than satisfactory.
A couple of surprises here - the first I won't mention, because, well, it's a surprise and shall remain so. The second surprise won't get me shot for spoiler-spilling (I hope) - the story takes an unexpected serious turn and starts to explore some deeper issues that you wouldn't necessarily expect from a book with such a light-hearted tone. I welcome angst with open arms on most occasions, and this didn't change here. I just felt that once Jo's big reveal had been revealed, everything was a bit rushed after. I would have maybe liked to see more time at the retreat and just a little more more exploration of Jo's issues. Although, saying that, the ending does provide the reader and the character with a satisfactory sort of closure.
I just have to mention, how brilliantly the way her relationship with her father was written. A strong example of hands-off parenting, if ever there was one, but there was still a very strong impression of a loving relationship and mutual respect. Writing from my own perspective, this is a very convincing father-child dynamic and was very well done.
I really enjoyed Shooting Stars - a light-hearted, romantic read with surprising hidden depths. And a magnificent main character. And I now know I have a real problem spelling paparazzo (that just took me three attempts).
Loved it. Nick Cave came on the radio just as I was finishing. Felt rather apt....
When I was about halfway through this book, I decided that I wasn't...moreLoved it. Nick Cave came on the radio just as I was finishing. Felt rather apt....
When I was about halfway through this book, I decided that I wasn't going to review it. Not because it was bad or boring or anything. Very much the opposite, in fact. I don't review every book I read, mainly because if I write a review, I want to make sure I have something interesting to say about the book. And with This is Shyness, I just felt that is was so unusual and interesting that there wasn't anything I could say that could do it justice. It would be impossible to explain so I should just say READ IT and let it be brilliant and interesting for new people to discover and appreciate it's brilliance and interesting-ness.
But then I finished it and I thought what the heck, I might as well attempt to write an interesting review because, like I said, it is a brilliant book and brilliant books deserve to be shouted about. So, how do I explain this This is Shyness - a (possibly) paranormal book in contemporary clothing? That's about as close as I can get I'm afraid. Although, then again, if you're going into it looking for a paranormal read, I don't think you'll find what you went out looking for. BUT you might be pleasantly surprised...
On the face of it, this book contains more than a few YA cliches - slightly gobby girl who doesn't quite fit in, a moody and mysterious fellow with a PAST, an on-foot miniature road trip...yet, it is so much more than this. This is packed full of awe-inspiring ideas and images and the two main characters are convincing teens yet completely out there all at once.
For me , there were a few lapses where my attention waned, especially at the point when their journey takes a different turn, but there are more than a few genuinely creepy and slightly horrifying moments as the story gathers pace again. As much as I loved Wildgirl and Wolfboy, I wish I'd had just a bit more of an emotional connection with them, but this will come in the sequel, yes? YES!
So if you want YA with traditional elements yet is like nothing you have ever read before, then yes, believe it folks, there is such a book (it's this one, in case you're wondering).
So was that an interesting enough review?
Oh well, I've written it now, so there.
(and thank you to Jo for lending me her copy...ages ago. And apologies to her also for not reading it for a criminally long time)(less)