We Were Liars - Aly

We Were Liars

Disclaimer: This review first appeared on my Goodreads profile

 We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
My full name is Cadence Sinclair Eastman.
I live in Burlington, Vermont, with Mummy and three dogs.
I am nearly eighteen.
I own a well-used library card and not much else, though it is true I live in a grand house full of expensive, useless objects.
I used to be blond, but now my hair is black.
I used to be strong, but now I am weak.
I used to be pretty, but now I look sick.
It is true I suffer migraines since my accident.
It is true that I do not suffer fools.

It's not often that I am left dumbfounded by a book. By the time you hit your 20s, and you've been reading for years, you think you know every story line, twist and cliffhanger there is to know. You think, after years of reading, there there is absolutely nothing that can surprise you. You think there's nothing that can shock you.

Well, you're wrong. 

So very, very wrong.

We Were Liars is not your typical book. It's twisted with secrets, bitterness and a dank, hazy past which you desperately try to understand. It's a lyrical piece of work, the writing poetic and beautiful, the sort of book that, if it impresses you, may very well stay with you for a long time.

Three stars means "I liked it". It's not a bad rating, but it's a rating I use for stories I'm not too sure of. Although I've said it's a great book, it didn't really impress me for the first 70% of it. In fact, I quickly grew bored and irritated with Cadence's petulant whining and woe-is-me act.

Yes, Cadence, you had an accident, you hit your head, whatever, who cares. Must you remind us every five sentences? You come from a rich background and family, excuse me whilst I don't fall over myself with pity and sympathy for you. Those were my thoughts when reading this book.

Of course, now I feel really bloody awful, but you won't understand why until you read the book.

The summary:

Cadence Sinclair has had an accident. 

For two years, she has lived in a state of remembering/not remembering and details of her accident have disappeared. She doesn't know what happened or how, and no one will tell her.

One thing's for certain: she needs to go back to Beechwood Island, the place she had spent all her summers growing up, along with her cousins Jonathon and Mirren and, later, their friend Gat. She's sure that, if she returns to the island, her memory, also, will return.

One night, late in July of summer fifteen, I went swimming at the tiny beach. Alone.
Where were Gat, Johnny and Mirren?
I don't really know.
We had been playing a lot of Scrabble at Red Gate. They were probably there. Or they could have been at Clairmont, listening to the aunts argue and eating beach plum jams on water crackers.
In any case, I went into the water wearing a camisole, bra, and underwear. Apparently I walked down to the beach wearing nothing more. We never found any of my clothes on the sand. No towel, either.

The characters:

Oy very. This is where it gets tricky. Although I liked reading Cadence's narrative, she has to be the most self-centred, shallow narrator I have ever encountered. Sure, she's confused a lot of the time, she can't remember much of what happened in the past, but the way she handles everything, so dramatically, had me grinding my teeth in irritation.

This is the scene where I rolled my eyes the hardest:

My father put a last suitcase into the back seat of the Mercedes (he was leaving Mummy with only the Saab), and started the engine.
Then he pulled out a handgun and show me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed. Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound,
then from my eyes,
my ears,
my mouth.

Stop. Just stop. It's a painful, sad moment but really?! That's how you're going to handle it? By saying your father shot you in the chest and basically killed you? 

I don't understand the drama of it. So many authors have written harsher, more painful scenes than this without being over-dramatic and silly about it. If it happened only once, I could understand, but it didn't. It happened every other page or so.

Cadence could be an incredibly likeable character if she weren't so selfish. She represents #whitegirlproblems and #richgirlproblems to a T. Stop whining. I felt quite bad for her mother.

The other characters, unfortunately, we didn't see much of. They were mentioned as though in passing or in conversation. Most of Cadence's narration is based on memories and what she thinks of them, so you don't really get to know the other characters. Very little is said about them, in general, up until the end where it comes in such a rush, you don't remember half of it anyway.

The setting:

I absolutely love beach summer novels. School's out, all the friends are together, and plots move more smoothly than if it were based during a school year. So when I saw the words island,summersecrets I was intrigued.

The setting didn't let me down at all. Beechwood Island, as described, seems beautiful and peaceful, the perfect summer holiday destination. It didn't let me down throughout the book, either, which is always a good point in my book. If the setting becomes disjointed and boring, I lose the feel of the characters.

Insta-love or insta-hate?

Yep. It happens. Insta-love within the first five pages. Bore. Gat, our boy, isn't even interesting. Half the time, I wanted him to shut up and the other half I wanted push him into the ocean. He's one of those characters: do-gooders, in-your-face, presumptuous and a pain in the ass. Frankly, Cadence and Gat deserve each other. They both made me want to gouge my eyes out with their soppyyou are my everything's and I can't live without you's. 

Cry me a fucking river.

Overall, three stars. Although I didn't like the narrator or even the other characters, the story was executed so well, it whips you off your feet. The writing was lyrical and poetic and just plain beautiful. A good read that will leave you asking many, many questions at the end.

My Life Next Door - Aly

My Life Next Door

Disclaimer: This review first appeared on my Goodreads profile.

My Life Next Door (My Life Next Door, #1)

"Mmm-hmm?" He lifts up on one elbow, his face barely visible in the twilight.
"You have to kiss me," I find myself saying.
"Yeah." He leans closer. "I do."

Well holey-moley, as far as chick lit's go, this one isn't all that bad!It's got pretty much everything a chick-lit needs for it to work - compatible, likeable heroine, hot, sweet love interest and some funny quips to make it a light, enjoyable read.

So why the three stars?

I have a very particular rating system when it comes to chick-lits. I love them and they're my go-to books when I want something light, fluffy and sweet. Something to relax me after a day of work, or something to take my mind off the last book I read. My Life Next Door ticked the following boxes:

-An abundance of fluff  
- Likeable characters 
- Flowing writing 

However, there were some things that didn't quite sit right with me, and that starts with the summary:

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

Let's analyse this, shall we?

Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

I despise it when people fit types of families into their own categories. None of the families in this book are considered 'perfect'. Jace, our love interest, comes from a huge family of ten people. They're loud, messy, and disorganised -- like most big families are, I can imagine. Samantha, on the other hand, comes from an even less perfect family - her mother is running for State Senator, which means she's never around, her sister even less than average and they don't have a father.

Personally, I would consider these families less than perfect, and I can't stand it when someone or something is considered 'perfect'. It's a very strong word to use. It would've sat better if it said'Which imperfect family will save her?'.

Another point: Or is it time she saved herself?

From the offset, you're predisposed to thinking that Samantha is a weak character with no backbone, purely for that one sentence. I, for one, thought exactly that before reading the book. However, that's not the case. For the situation she is face with, she's quite a strong person. It might come off as #whitegirlproblems or #richwhitegirlproblems, but it's far from that. Throughout the novel, we're shown time and time again Samantha taking situations into her own hands and sorting the problem. Alcoholic drug abuser friend? She sorts him out with a job and a friend that will take care of him. Cheating-on-tests-for-years best friend? She does the right thing and confronts said friend. Again, the summary could've been worded better.

The 'plot-twist':

Fitzpatrick did well with giving the relationship between Jason and Samantha some build-up before getting together. It spans over two/three months, and she handles all the characters incredibly well. The only complaint I have is the 'twist': we're given so much of Jase&Samantha lovin' that by the time it happens, it's almost a bother. Also, the way it's handled so quickly and no real drama happens, I think Fitzpatrick could've dealt with it better and maybe giving us more time to adjust to it. But no, the twist is over and done with in three very short chapters, and it adds nothing to the story, apart from the overused theme thatlove defeats all.

The writing:

It's a mixture of Sarah Dessen meets a screenplay. The paragraphs and chapters, although flowing nicely, reads very much like a TV show. It jumps from one scene to the next, like you'd expect in a TV drama -- there's no cut to adverts but there might as well be. In one scene, Samantha is at work and the next she's at home making out with Jason. Although it fits well around the book, it can get quite annoying, especially when you want more out of a scene.

The characters:

The characters are great! I absolutely loved Samantha and Jason, as well as Jason's huge family.

Especially little George, who is a bundle of laughs:

George backs out of the room, but not before saying, "His bed's really comfortable. And he never pees in it."
The door closes and we both start laughing.

There's Patsy, the baby:

George and Harry, my loyal fans, rave to their mother about my accomplishments, while Patsy immediately bursts into tears, points an accusing finger at her mother, and wails, "Boob!"

There's so many in the Garrett family that it's hard to keep track of who's who and how old they are and sometimes Mama Garrett will say someone's name and you'll forget who they are, but it works well for the messy, loud, large family they're supposed to be.

Overall, 3 solid stars. It's not a bad rating. It's my I-liked-it-and-will-probably-read-it-again rating, but the book just lost its momentum around 80% and didn't climax the way I hoped it would.

The Liebster Award


The Beautiful World of Books has been nominated to take part in the Liebster Blog Award!

What is this award? You may ask.

What is the purpose of this award? You're surely thinking.

First of all, if someone nominates you for an award, do not question it. It's a good thing... or so I'm told.

Inge, over at Bookshelf Reflections, nominated me to take part. From my understanding, it's a way for not so well known blogs to talk about themselves and forward it to other blogs. A bit like those chain-mail things we used to get when we were kids and had all our school friends on MSN. (Don't lie, you know exactly what I'm talking about!)

The Rules

1. List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions asked by whoever nominated you.
3. Nominate 9 bloggers with less than 300 followers and leave them a comment saying they’ve been nominated.
4. Ask 11 new questions for your chosen nominees.
5. You cannot re-nominate the blog that nominated you.

11 Facts About Me:
1. I was born and raised in Rome, Italy by my chef father and housewife mother. I have two sisters, a brother, a half brother and a half sister and we're those big, loud families people tend to try and avoid. I'm the oldest (not counting my half siblings) and I pretty much raised my brother and sisters because of the nature of my dad's job. Being a chef meant we travelled a lot and he opened restaurants all over the country. We used to spend our three-month long summers all over the country, which was incredibly fun. 
2. I love to travel. Up until a year ago, I used to go away every month or so to different parts of Britain for a weekend. Ideally, I travel alone, with nothing but my phone, a notebook and a change of clothes. When I travel, I never know where I'm going to end up until I get there. It's expensive, but rewarding. In a year, I managed to travel from one end of Britain to the other, starting off in Bournemouth and ending up in Sterling, Scotland. It can get lonesome, but there's nothing like hopping onto a train and living an adventure all on your own.
3. I live and breathe books. I began reading in English at the age of eight years old and taught myself the language, quickly passing it on to my siblings. As we travelled a lot, it was much easier for them to pick it up when we finally made the big move to England. I'm a writer and over the years I've built up a collection of short stories and incomplete novels which, I hope, one day I can finish and publish.
4. My hair is six different shades of brown. It's never been dyed, which is something my friends ask a lot. It changes with the weather, as corny as that may sound: if it's hot and sunny, it will go blond at the tips and ginger up top and during the winter, it darkens to an almost black. 
5. I'm a job-hopper. No matter how hard I try, I can't stay in the same line of work for too long; I get bored easily and restlessness ensues soon after. I've worked many jobs: waitressing, aquarist, Court Supervisor, administrator, barman (or lady) and now I currently work/train as an assistant accountant. I don't know how long this job will last, but I hope that whatever happens, I can use the knowledge and experience in future jobs.
6. I'm an idiot. 100% stupid. I say and do the most ridiculous of things which people, thankfully, don't take to heart and laugh about. I can brighten any situation mostly because I am able to trip over my own two feet and make a fool out of myself in front of a huge group of people.
7. Up until a year ago, I was a hardcore party girl. Although I didn't party every weekend, I was close and, although I don't regret it, I'm thankful I stopped. Alcohol may make some nights fun but it's not worth the horribleness of the next morning. It fuelled a lot of arguments, fights and last minute decisions I wish I'd never taken part in. I now refuse to drink alcohol unless I'm at some sort of event, and I'm much happier and feel healthier.
(I've just managed to make myself sound like an alcoholic, but I promise that was not the case).
8. I'm a hugely opinionated person and I don't always think before I speak. When I read a book, I rip it apart to get to the very core of the story. If I didn't like it, I will say so. If I did like it, I will praise it until the stars themselves fall from the sky. My opinions cause a lot of clashes in life, but I don't back down unless I know I'm wrong. Chances are though, if I'm arguing so aggressively about something, it's because I 100% believe in it and/or I know I'm right.
9. I love my family, some say unhealthily. We've been through a lot, more than the average family should ever put up with/go through and it's made us stronger. It's difficult for me to make decisions without consulting them first. If they think it's a bad idea and I shouldn't do something, then I probably won't. When it comes to stuff like that, my family looks at the big picture whilst I concentrate too much on the here and now.
10. Chocolate and cats are my more favourite things in the world. If I'm sad, I will cuddle my cat until she starts growling, and then I'll eat an abundance of chocolate, which I will regret after. Because pimples, ew. Many friends (online and in real life) know that to make me feel better or make me smile or laugh, all they need to do is show me a video of a cat doing something awesome and I will love them forever.
11. I love meeting people. Online and in real life. I'm pretty shy at first, but once we strike up a conversation I probably won't shut up. I don't have many close friends, but those I do have I know I can trust with my life. People who betray me or bitch about me are quickly cancelled from my life without a second thought. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Questions asked by Inge
If you had all the money in the world, where would you go?
Everywhere. My first stop would be Alaska, quickly followed by Canada. They're the two places in the world I am just dying to see.
If you could read only one book for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Alice in Wonderland, without a doubt. It's the book my mother read to me every night until I was 6 and a story I love so much, no matter how screwed up it is now that I think about it.
 We all suffer from the-book-is-better-than-the-movie syndrome, but are there any film adaptations that were better than the book? If so, which?
Definitely! The Devil Wears Prada is one. The book is blech whilst the film is just amazing. Another one is the LOTR trilogy. I know, I know. However the books dragged and even though Tolkien wooed me with a beautiful world, setting and characters, it was much easier to see it all come to life when watching the movie.
 Name five characters of any book, dead or alive, with whom you’d like to hang out with for a day.
Damn. Ron Weasley, Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), Bilbo Baggins, Meda (Cracked) and possibly Katniss Everdeen.
 Who is your ultimate literary crush?
This is an impossible question to answer. I'm a book slut. I may have a crush on Clay from Bitten one day and the next, I'm drooling over Levi from Fangirl quickly followed by Akiva from Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
 Do you prefer hardcovers or paperbacks, and why?
I always buy paperbacks when I'm reading something for the first time. Paperbacks are cheaper and easier to carry around. However I tend to buy hardbacks of books I love, mostly because they're much prettier (I know) and look so much better on my Ultimate Collection shelf :D Yes, I have one. Don't judge me.
 Do you let yourself be influenced by the cover of a book when you decide to read something? In other words, do you judge a book by its cover?
Absolutely. If I'm book shopping, it's the cover that catches my attention first and foremost. The book might be a total gem, but if the cover is bland or not eye catching at all, chance are I won't look at it twice. I might regret it later, because covers can trick you. A lot of books I've read this year have had beautiful covers but the stories were bland. But yes, I do sometimes (a lot) judge a book by its cover.
 When and where do you prefer to read?
I don't have a designated reading place. I read whenever and wherever I can. It's why I'm so attached to my Kindle -- it means I can read even when I'm walking without causing me to trip over something unseen. I read on the bus, at work, whilst walk to and from work, on the beach, at home on the sofa, in bed, in the bath. Everywhere. Very rarely you'll see me without my book or Kindle.
 What are your favourite themes when reading fiction? What about non-fiction?
I'll give anything a shot. However, the recurring theme I sort of always look for in a book is romance. If it's written well, then I will quickly fall in love alongside the characters. With the whole instalove thing happening at the moment, it's making me rethink it though. 
Ugh, non-fiction. I've tried and tried again to read non-fiction and it just doesn't grab me, so I tend to avoid it. If someone were to give me a non-fiction book and tell me that I absolutely must read it, then I will give it a go.
 Have you learned any valuable lessons when reading certain books? If so, tell me one.
A lot. I've learned many lessons from books. From the blandest 'do not give up ever' to the 'fight for what you believe in', I always try and find the 'lesson' or 'moral' in a story, even if there isn't one.
A couple of years ago, I lived next door to a published author called Mal Peet, and he gifted me an autographed copy of his best-selling novel Tamar. Based in two different times, Tamar follows the story of WWII in England and how it's affected the past and present; the story of Tamar's grandfather and of Tamar herself, following clues her grandfather left her all over the country. It taught me to never take anything for granted and to never give up on what you want to achieve.
Recently, I finished reading We Were Liars by E Lockhart and Cadence, the MC, has a great motto: "Do the things you're afraid to do." Although the book wasn't all to my taste, it had a few lessons in there I will treasure for a long time.
 How do you decide which book to read next?
I leave it to chance. It all depends in what mood I'm in; if I've finished reading a really sad book, then I'll read the first happy, fluffy chick lit book I can find. If I want something deep and thought provoking, I scour my TBR list on GR for a long time, comparing reviews and ratings, until I can settle on something. Other times, I pick something up without reading the blurb and leave it to chance.
Questions for my nominees!
1. Why do you read? What started you off and why?
2. If you had the chance to meet whoever you wanted (celebrity, author, musician etc) who would it be and why?
3. What's the best thing you've done in your life so far?
4. Do you believe in love at first sight?
5. What's your best childhood memory?
6. What's your favourite book? Why?
7. How big of an influence does an author have on the books you want to read?
8. What's a pet peeve of yours when reading a book? Does it influence your enjoyment of the book?
9. List five books you love and five books you don't.
10. What would you do if you won the lottery?
11. Are you a blogger? If so, what started you off? If not, would you ever have a blog?

I Nominate:

I'm going to contact my nominees privately during this week, then post those who have agreed to it on here. Have a great day!