We Were Liars

It should go without saying that I read a lot. Some books are good; some…not so much. Last night, I finished a book that absolutely blew me away. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this may be one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to read an advanced copy of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Now, I’ve read other books by this author (Dramarama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks), but those in no way prepared me for this book. Those other books were fairly light-hearted. This one definitely was not.

From the very beginning of We Were Liars, there was a feeling of foreboding. I knew something bad was coming, but I didn’t know what it would be. And when the “bad” was revealed, I was totally unprepared. I quickly devolved into an emotional wreck, and, to be honest, I still haven’t come to grips with what happened.

We Were Liars takes a look at the Sinclair family, a wealthy but broken family that brings to mind the Kennedys. Every summer, the Sinclairs descend on their own private island. The story is told from the perspective of Cadence, and she tells readers all about the rest of the Sinclair family, especially her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and Gat, the nephew of her aunt’s boyfriend, who also spends summers on the island.

Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat are known as the Liars. (I’m still not clear on why they gave themselves that name, but that’s okay.) They do almost everything together, and Cadence and Gat even have something of a romance. During their fifteenth summer, though, everything goes horribly wrong. So wrong that Cadence can’t remember any of it.

What happened that summer? Why is Cadence now plagued by crippling migraines and amnesia? The answer to these questions will shock you–and Cadence–and nothing will ever be the same.

_______________

You may have noticed that I didn’t tell you much about this book. That is intentional. We Were Liars is a book that you need to experience for yourself. It is a very powerful read that I think will leave all readers in a fog long after the last page.

To be honest, my reaction to the end of this book surprised me. No, I was not prepared for what happened, but I thought I would have handled it better. In reality, I had to stop a moment, take my glasses off (because of all the tears), and sob. A few Kleenex later, I continued reading, but then I had to go through that whole process again. That ending hit me hard, and I predict that most readers will feel the same way.

If you’re looking for your next great read, definitely consider We Were Liars. It hits stores on May 13th, and I think it will be a bestseller in no time. It’s outstanding.

For more information on We Were Liars and E. Lockhart, check out the author’s website. You can find links to her many other pages there.

Published in: on May 4, 2014 at 11:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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After All, You’re Callie Boone

Today, I finished yet another of the nominated books for the 2012-13 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.  After All, You’re Callie Boone by Winnie Mack was a quick read–ideal for summer–that really resonated with me.  I identified with the character of Callie, and I think that a lot of other young girls–and even some older readers–will as well.

Callie Boone’s summer is not off to a good start. Her best friend since the first grade has, all of a sudden, decided that she’s too cool to hang out with Callie. Her uncle has moved twelve ferrets into the family garage. At the community pool–one of Callie’s favorite places in the world–she embarrasses herself in such a public and humiliating way that she can never go back there again. Her family is crazy, she has no friends, and she’s the laughing stock of her neighborhood. Will things ever get better?

Well, yes. She’s still got her diving practices with her dad, and Callie is nurturing a dream of becoming a champion diver–maybe even competing in the Olympics someday. Despite her public humiliation at the pool, Callie is determined to be the best diver she can be–even though she’s not even twelve.

Something else is going okay in Callie’s life. A new kid has moved in next door. He’s a little odd–his name is Hoot–but he may turn out to be the best friend Callie has ever had…if she can convince everyone that he is most definitely not her boyfriend.

As her summer progresses, Callie learns a bit about what it means to be a good daughter, a good friend, and a good person. Everything doesn’t always go well, but Callie discovers who she can truly lean on when things don’t go the way she plans. She starts paying more attention to those around her instead of focusing on herself all the time. But what will happen when tragedy strikes and Callie is forced to really trust in those around her, especially her crazy family and her friend Hoot? Will she revert back to her old ways, or will she step up and be the girl everyone thinks she can be? Find out if Callie can make it through when you read After All, You’re Callie Boone by Winnie Mack!

Even though it didn’t take me very long to read this book, I was engrossed from the first page.  Callie’s voice is so relatable that I almost thought I was reading about my own childhood.  Yes, my family can be a bit crazy.  (Anyone at today’s family reunion can probably testify to that.)  But we stand by each other through thick and thin.  That’s something that Callie and I definitely have in common.

One other thing that I identified with was Callie’s relationship with her former best friend.  The same kind of situation occurred in my own life when I transitioned from elementary to middle school.  All of a sudden, I wasn’t cool enough to hang around with the girls I had grown up with.  I didn’t get invited to birthday parties or sleepovers.  It was painful.  (Obviously, I still have a few issues with this.)  I didn’t really care about makeup, boys, shopping, or any of the supposed “girly” things that some of my former friends thought was all-so-important as we moved to middle school.  (And to be perfectly honest, I still don’t care about those things very much.)  I think a lot of young girls probably feel the same way, so Callie definitely gives those girls a character to identify with.

After All, You’re Callie Boone is a short, oftentimes fun, read, but I will warn you that it does pack an emotional punch.  Toward the end, I had to break out the tissues.  I kind of love it when that happens.  After all, tears are a sign that a book has engaged your mind and your heart and truly made you feel something.  That’s true for me anyway.

If you’d like more information about this book or author Winnie Mack, I encourage you to visit http://www.winnie-mack.com/.  Enjoy!

Published in: on June 16, 2012 at 9:12 pm  Comments (1)  
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Insurgent

Warning!  Read Divergent by Veronica Roth before continuing!  (And, honestly, if you haven’t already read Divergent, I’m silently judging you.  Just kidding…but not really.)

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that Veronica Roth’s Divergent was picked as my top read of 2011.  Well, it looks like the sequel, Insurgent, is in the running for the top book of 2012.  (The jury is still out on which book is better.  I’m still trying to decide.)  I finished reading Insurgent yesterday morning, and I was totally blown away.  The ending alone made me utter a few choice words, and I’m still processing a lot of what happened and what it could mean for book three.  This post will likely be a short one—for me, anyway—because I don’t want to spoil things too much for you guys, but I also don’t quite know how to put my feelings on this book into words…but I’ll try.

Insurgent picks up almost immediately where Divergent concluded.  (It might behoove you to reread the final chapter of Divergent before starting Insurgent, or just check out this link to Veronica Roth’s blog for a handy-dandy “guide to remembering stuff before you read Insurgent,” http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/2012/04/but-i-read-divergent-year-ago-your.html.)

  
Tris, Tobias (also known as Four), and company are on the run after the Erudite attack on Abnegation (including the simulation that turned many Dauntless members into assassins).  Tris trusts Tobias with her life and her heart, but she knows that even he is keeping secrets from her.  Tris is crumbling from the inside out, overcome with grief and guilt over the deaths of her parents and the actions that led her to this point.  She wants to confide all to Tobias, but how can she when she doesn’t know how he’ll react to the heavy burden she’s carrying?  Especially since he’s got his own demons to overcome.

As Tris and Tobias are trying to figure out where they stand with each other—and with the remaining members of their factions/families—they must also worry about the war being waged all around them.  Who can they trust with the truth of their Divergence (aptitude for more than one faction)?  How can they combat the Dauntless traitors who have allied with the Erudite?  Can they convince Candor, Amity, the remaining Abnegation, and the factionless to join in their quest to overthrow the Erudite who wish to control everyone and everything?  What if these groups have their own agendas?

War has broken out between the factions, and no one knows who can truly be trusted.  Friends (and family) become enemies.  Enemies become allies.  And secrets are revealed that shake what little foundation is left in Tris’ world.  What does it really mean to be Divergent in this war-torn society, and why is the Erudite leader—and all-around evil genius—Jeanine so determined to wipe them out?  What is Jeanine trying to hide, and can Tris find out before everything she has left is destroyed?  The truth is out there, and it’s up to Tris to bring it to light…no matter what the cost.

I’ve tried not to give too much away here, and I’m pretty sure I’ve succeeded.  This is one book you really need to read for yourself.  Like I said before, the ending alone was enough to send me into a cursing frenzy.  (I just reread it a few minutes ago, and it managed to shock me all over again.)  Totally didn’t see that coming.  In my everyday life, I hate surprises, but I love it when a book manages to surprise me.  It doesn’t happen often enough.  If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Insurgent, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this epic journey will end.  Now, the countdown is on to book three!  The title and cover are still TBA, and I’m assuming we can expect the book to be released sometime in May of 2013.

If you want to learn more about the Divergent trilogy and author Veronica Roth, visit http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/, http://thedivergenttrilogy.com/, check out the Facebook pages at http://www.facebook.com/#!/DivergentSeries and http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Veronica-Roth/108433975887375, and follow the author on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/VeronicaRoth. You may also like this book trailer from Harper Teen (that gives absolutely nothing away).

I would like to add that, even though the majority of them were the bad guys in this book, I still consider myself a member of the Erudite faction (as I’m sure most other librarians would).  I spend most of my life in the pursuit of knowledge, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others…sometimes even when they prefer me to shut up.  If you are a proud Erudite member, you may want to check out the Erudite Faction tumblr site at http://eruditefactionnews.tumblr.com/.

Published in: on May 6, 2012 at 10:52 am  Comments (1)  
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Divergent

After finishing my lastest read, Divergent by Veronica Roth, I don’t know how I can possibly write a post that will do this book justice.  Yes, it was that good.  We’re talking Hunger Games good here.  I was utterly enthralled by this story, particularly having to choose your entire future at the age of sixteen.  (I can’t even remember what I wanted to be when I was sixteen, and I changed my major four times in college–and still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up when I graduated.  Luckily, I eventually figured it out.)  The choices aren’t always clear, and they lead our main character, Tris, into a very uncertain future…

In the not-too-distant future, society is split up into five factions based on particular virtues:  Candor (honest), Amity (peaceful), Erudite (intelligent), Dauntless (brave), and Abnegation (selfless).  Every year, sixteen-year-olds must choose which faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives.  They can stay with their families’ factions, or they can leave everything behind and choose a different faction.  Beatrice Prior, who grew up in Abnegation, doesn’t know what to do.  Her aptitude test doesn’t help her situation, either, as her results were inconclusive (not an entirely normal situation).  Beatrice is told that she’s Divergent, but she must not let anyone know about it.  She’s not entirely sure what this means, but she realizes that keeping her secret could be a matter of life and death.

Beatrice is torn between the family she loves and her own desires.  Can she leave her life of selflessness behind and look to a future without the support of her family?  Beatrice makes a choice that surprises everyone around her.  She leaves her old life behind, renames herself Tris, and works to be the best initiate her new faction has ever seen.  It’s not exactly easy.  Some of the other initiates look down on her because she’s from Abnegation, she’s small, and she’s, quite frankly, making them look bad.  Tris is bullied unmercifully, and an attempt is even made on her life, but Tris remains strong.  She makes some friends and gains the notice of one of her instructors, an eighteen-year-old with the odd nickname of Four.  But Four is not the only one who has noticed Tris…

As Tris and Four grow closer, Tris wonders if she’s found someone like her–a Divergent–someone whose test results were unclear, someone who could belong in almost any faction, someone who would be killed if the secret were discovered.  Can she trust Four with her secret?  And can Tris figure out why divergence is so bad?   What is so dangerous about being Divergent, and why will the faction leaders do everything they can to find and eliminate these threats?  A couple of these leaders suspect the truth about Tris, and they are watching her constantly for signs that she might pose a threat.  But a threat to what?

As Tris learns more about her self, she also learns more about her perfect society.  She discovers that tensions are running high among the factions, and some of those in power are preparing for war.  Tris knows she has to do something, but what?  With everything unraveling around her, what can she possibly do to prevent a massacre of her former faction, Abnegation?  Can Tris use her status as Divergent to save those she loves, or will it cause her to lose everything?  Read Divergent by Veronica Roth to learn how one choice has the power to change a life forever.

I hope this post has whetted your appetite for this book.  It is truly outstanding, and I think it will be very popular with both male and female readers.  It might also be interesting to think about which faction you would choose to be in if you were a part of this society.  I know I couldn’t be in Dauntless (I’m a wuss) or Candor (I lie remarkably well), and I think I’m much too selfish to be in Abnegation.  I could probably fit okay into Amity because I’m kind of a pacifist, but I believe I would be best suited for Erudite.  I love to learn, and a lifetime spent on academic pursuits definitely appeals to me.  (If you read this book, though, please don’t judge me by the Erudite faction members you encounter.  Some of them are just scary.)

If you’ve enjoyed books like The Hunger Games, Matched, The Maze Runner, Delirium, My Beginning, Birthmarked, or The Silenced, I think you will find another winner in Divergent.  The second book in the Divergent series, Insurgent, is scheduled for a 2012 release, and the third book, currently untitled, should be out sometime in 2013.  For more information on this exciting new series and author Veronica Roth, please visit http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/.

Published in: on July 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Kiss in Time

It’s no secret that I like fairy tales.  Beautiful princess, handsome prince, fighting the bad guy, true love…what’s not to like?  There is one, however, that’s never been a favorite of mine–Sleeping Beauty.  I just didn’t see the point.  This girl pricks her finger on a spindle, falls asleep, is awakened by a kiss, a witch gets mad, the witch is killed, and they all live happily ever after.  Not my thing.  Well, my lastest read, A Kiss in Time, is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty by acclaimed author Alex Flinn.  It puts a new spin on this story, and I must say that I like this version a lot better.  When I was reading, I was reminded of Enchanted, the movie where a fairy tale princess is magically transported to modern-day Manhattan.  I adore that movie, and I feel the same way about this book.

Princess Talia of Euphrasia has lived her entire almost-sixteen years in fear of spindles.  At Talia’s christening, a curse was placed on her by the evil witch Malvolia stating that the princess would prick her finger on a spindle before her sixteenth birthday and die.  A fairy modified the curse a bit so that the princess wouldn’t die.  Instead, she and everyone in Euphrasia would sleep until Talia was awakened by true love’s first kiss.

Nearly sixteen years pass, and Talia has been bombarded with talk of this curse.  Spindles are outlawed from Euphrasia to protect her, and she is horribly sheltered.  She can’t go anywhere, and she’s tired of it.  As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Talia can finally see an end to a life full of fearing a curse and always being told what to do.  The curse has not been fulfilled, and she’s almost sixteen.  (The key word here is “almost.”)  Well, guess what?  Shortly before her birthday celebration, Talia is searching for her perfect dress when she happens upon an unfamiliar room.  An old lady is inside with just the dresses Talia is looking for.  The old lady just needs a bit of help from Talia.  Just hold this sharp, pointy thing for a bit…lights out.

Fastforward three hundred years…

Jack is in Europe on a boring trip full of museums and other stuff he’s not interested in, so he decides to escape for a bit.  He and his buddy Travis walk through a dense hedge and find a village where everyone appears to be sleeping, even the horses.  They soon find a castle.  Jack is drawn to the highest tower where he discovers a sleeping girl.  She’s beautiful, and he feels almost compelled to kiss her.  He does, and she wakes up.  Surprise!

Join Jack and Talia as they deal with expectations, customs, and technologies (or lack thereof) of different time periods, parents, ex-girlfriends, running away, a continued threat from Malvolia, and a three-hundred-year age difference.  Can this even be real?  Do Jack and Talia have any hope of getting together under these circumstances?  He’s a slacker; she’s a princess.  Do they even want to be together?  Read A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn to find out!

Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 9:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ten Cents a Dance

Christine Fletcher’s novel, Ten Cents a Dance, explores the world of taxi dancing in Chicago around the time of World War II.  The book follows Ruby Jacinski, a poor sixteen-year-old girl, who is sick and tired of working in the slaughterhouse for next to nothing.  Her mother has rheumatoid arthritis and cannot work, so Ruby has to quit school to earn money for the family.  She eventually comes across what she believes is a solution to her financial woes:  taxi dancing at the Starlight Dance Academy.  Men would pay her ten cents a dance.  The Starlight would get half, and she’d take a nickel for every dance.  Add tips in, and Ruby thinks she’s rolling in dough.  Soon, though, the money begins to run out.  It just never seems to be enough.

After a scary run-in with a customer who loaned her some money, Ruby thinks she’s got a handle on things.  Her mother thinks she’s a telephone operator, and her sister doesn’t seem to know what’s going on.  Ruby’s also got a serious boyfriend, local ne’er-do-well, Paulie Suelze.  He’s helped her out of a few jams, and he always seems to know when she needs a little help.  If only he wouldn’t keep pressuring her to do things she’s really not ready for.

Ruby soon realizes that her world is slowly unraveling.  Her new life has lost some of its luster, she’s lying to nearly everyone, Paulie is not the guy she thought he was, and the world is at war.  Can she straighten things out before her life is destroyed completely?  How is it even possible that she’s sunk so far so fast?  Read Ten Cents a Dance to learn what one girl will do to escape a life she’s not sure she ever wanted.

As someone who is fascinated with the WWII era, I really enjoyed Ten Cents a Dance.  I knew a little about taxi dancing, but this book shed new light on it.  I knew this “occupation” began in the speak-easies of the 1920′s and continued through WWII.  I didn’t know, however, that there are still taxi dancers in some major cities today.  Through this novel, it is easy to see how quickly girls could be drawn in by the money and attention and how easily things could also go horribly wrong.  Readers will root for Ruby to clean her life up and become the person she should be.

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Beneath My Mother’s Feet

My latest read, Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar, is not a very happy book.  In fact, I was mad at most of the characters for nearly the entire book.  That being said, it is a good story about a culture that many American readers know little about.  It also touches on dealing with one’s family expectations and duties while forming one’s own identity.

Nazia is a good daughter.  She always does exactly what her mother asks of her.  Her family lives in Karachi, Pakistan, and, while they are not wealthy, they seem to be comfortable and happy.  Nazia enjoys school and is looking forward to her arranged marriage at the end of the school year.  Things change, however, when Nazia’s father is injured at work and can no longer earn money for the family.  Nazia is forced to drop out of school and work with her mother cleaning others’ houses.  Her older brother steals her dowry, and, even when her father has healed, he refuses to work.  When word of these changes gets to her future father-in-law, Nazia’s engagement is called off.  On top of all of this, Nazia and her family are evicted from their small house and are forced to become live-in servants.

Nazia feels that she has lost the life she once had.  She can see no way out of her current situation.  Who will provide for her mother and two younger siblings if she does not do the lion’s share of the work?  What will become of her if she cannot marry, as is expected of a proper girl?  Read Beneath My Mother’s Feet to learn the story of a girl who is doing all she can to make a better life for herself while still being a good daughter.

When I was reading this book, I reflected on my own relationship with my mother.  Honestly, my mom is a saint compared to the mothers portrayed in this book.  (My mom should probably be sainted for putting up with me anyway.)  I know that culture plays a large part in the mothers’ behaviors in this book, but I cannot imagine a mother seeing her children as workers whose only worth is earning money for the family.  My mom has never shown me anything but love, and I now consider her one of my best friends.  I highly recommend Beneath My Mother’s Feet for any readers, particularly females, who want to examine the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters.

Secret Keeper

My latest read (finished about a minute ago) is Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins.  It is about Asha, an Indian girl in a time of turmoil.  Her father has left India to try to find an engineering job in America, and she, her older sister, and her mother must go and live with her Uncle and his family in Calcutta.  It is a difficult adjustment for Asha’s family.  They don’t have the freedoms they enjoyed when living in Delhi.  But Asha strives to keep some sense of normalcy about her.  She looks forward to hearing from her father, spending time with her cousins, writing in her diary, and talking to her neighbor, Jay.

When tragedy strikes her family, though, Asha must take steps to make sure her family is secure.  She must choose between her own desires and the path that may be best for her family.  Difficult decisions are ahead for Asha.  Read Secret Keeper to discover which road she decides to travel.

While I did enjoy this book once I got into it, I preferred Padma Venkatraman’s Climbing the Stairs.  It is a similar story (set in India about thirty years earlier), and the writing is beautiful and rich.  Also, I liked the main character better than Asha in Secret Keeper.  Both characters are strong females, but I sympathized more with Vidya in Climbing the Stairs than I did with Asha in this book.

Published in: on October 12, 2009 at 3:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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If I Stay

When I heard that Gayle Forman’s book, If I Stay, was being marketed as the next Twilight, of course I had to read it.  I enjoyed the book, but I have to say that I don’t think it has the power to generate the fan frenzy that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga has.  (I’m a Twilighter myself, so I may be a bit biased on this one.)  I think most of the hype for If I Stay has come from the fact that Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke will be directing the novel’s movie adaptation.  Anyhoo, on to a quick look at If I Stay

It’s an atypical February morning in Mia’s life.  A bare dusting of snow has closed schools in her town in Oregon.  The whole family is together.  They decide to go for a drive, and tragedy strikes.   A car accident.  Mia is the only survivor.  She is airlifted to a hospital where the doctors do all they can for her.  Ultimately, though, it is Mia’s choice to stay or go.  She reflects back on her seventeen years, with her crazy, punk-rock family, her obsession with the cello and classical music, her best friend Kim, and her loving boyfriend Adam.  She looks at all of these things and makes her decision.  Will she choose to die and join her family?  Or will she stay?  What would you do?

I went into this book thinking that it couldn’t possibly live up to Twilight.  Well, it did, and it didn’t.  If I Stay was a moving book with a lot of emotional angst, but I can’t say that I was invested in the characters as much as I was with Bella and the Cullen clan.  Was this book well written?  Yes.  Will I recommend it to my students?  Absolutely.  Do I think it’s the next Twilight?  Not so much.  But that’s just my opinion.  I’ll leave you to decide for yourselves.

Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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