Still made me laugh. And I think I may have read it more than a couple of times as a kid because I found myself reciting bits before they'd even happe...moreStill made me laugh. And I think I may have read it more than a couple of times as a kid because I found myself reciting bits before they'd even happened.(less)
Although this book is set in 1934, I'm not going to put it in my Past on Paper feature because it just feels all wrong calling it historical fiction....moreAlthough this book is set in 1934, I'm not going to put it in my Past on Paper feature because it just feels all wrong calling it historical fiction. Even though it's historical and a work of fiction.Yes, the voice very much depends on this particular time period but (and there's massive clue in the title here) this is very much in the realms of the mysterious for me. It pays homage to both Agatha Christie and her ilk as well as classic boarding school stories but somehow manages to be something else entirely.
First admission: the crime element wasn't the page-turner I thought it was going to be. Maybe it was the 'school girl investigators' angle because this subsequently put a bit of distance between the main characters and the other players or just that the plot didn't unfold quickly enough for me. Not really sure, but the book made up for it in other ways...
The cover design and synopsis gave the impression of something light-hearted - apart from that whole murder thing - and even though the tone was upbeat, it surprised me with an underlying darkness, not to do with the murder (maybe partly to do with the murder *resists urges to say MURDER in Taggart-like fashion*) but with the relationship between Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells, our two detectives. Hazel is the put-upon 'secretary' of their secret society who records everything in her casebook and describes the frustration and occasional upset the actions of her best friend cause. Daisy is definitely manipulative, possibly slightly sociopathic (can someone be slightly sociopathic?) but never boring. What kept me turning the pages was their 'friendship' - a very realistic depiction of how one personality can dominate another and it gave the book another dimension.
A good voice can make a book and here it never falters. Hazel is a very sympathetic character and the combination of her keen observation and naivety make her a great storyteller - I would have loved to hear more about her life in Hong Kong but hopefully this might be developed further on in the series. And even though this is Hazel's story, I hope Daisy and her background get featured in future adventures, especially after that little taster at the end...
Despite being the tiniest bit disappointed in the actual crime (although I applaud the clever resolution), this was a surprising mystery in more ways than you might think... (less)
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 best thing by far about this book was the premise. It's an exciting story, only told in a not-very-exciting way by a main character who doesn't re...moreThe best thing by far about this book was the premise. It's an exciting story, only told in a not-very-exciting way by a main character who doesn't really shine as much as some of the supporting characters. That ending though....(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)
Quick warning: the odd spoiler on the horizon folks...
That Burning SummerWith that amazing title and a synopsis that strongly hints of a secret warti...moreQuick warning: the odd spoiler on the horizon folks...
That Burning SummerWith that amazing title and a synopsis that strongly hints of a secret wartime love affair, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this book is an out-and-out romance. Ok, it is a bit of an out-and-out romance, but as much as I adored this particular relationship and the mammoth objects put in its path, the thing I took away was a different sort of fire - having the strength to cope with the day-to-day realities during some of the most difficult and tense events in history.
As with her previous book, Syson's writing takes a particular point and place in the past and opens it up in a way I don't think I've come across in YA before. All the research and attention to detail is evident, yet it never feels like you're sitting through a history lesson. Or maybe just like you're experiencing the best history lesson ever. This book not only sheds light on the contribution of Polish pilots to the war effort, but also the story of those who chose to stand by their pacifist principles in the face of overwhelming pressure and the ripple effects this had on their families. I was initially a bit apprehensive about the large part Peggy's younger brother Ernest appeared to be playing in the story ( just wanted to get to the kissing bits to be honest), but his journey and how this tallied with Henryk's experiences, ended up being my favourite part of the book. This is a tale about a different sort of war time bravery - of coping with overwhelming mental as well as physical hurdles as well as standing up for beliefs in the face of public opinion and convention. But with all the complex issues floating about, there is still a strong and powerful chemistry between Peggy and Henryk that was a joy to read. Some of the scenes actually made my page CRACKLE, I swear.
As with all the best historical fiction, this provides a new perspective on a period that has been depicted on paper many, many times before. It's a very welcome addition to the growing number of YA books set during this period that I've had the pleasure to read in the last couple of years. Not only does it make you think AND swoon, but there's also does a rather good sideline in suspense too. Oh, and the cover's ace as well. Seriously, what more could you want?