We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

Another brilliant novel has sailed across my desk – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This is a YA novel which stays with you long after the final page has been devoured. The story is told through the central character, Cadence. We follow her summers spent on a family island along with her friends /cousins –The Liars. As the liars hold a mirror to their family, they don’t always like what they see, and this has a disastrous effect.

The narrative of this novel is like a boat on the ocean, the reader is rocked by its undulations, of an idyll childhood spent on a private island near Martha’s Vineyard, to the fractures of this Kennedyesq family, which break, heal and break again. The reader is taken on an emotional journey, riding the ups and downs of the waves, which eventually crash to the shore with its stunning conclusion.

Lockhart’s writing is clear and concise but not devoid of description or poetry. It is her writing that first grabbed my attention. Here is an example of the main character describing her cousins and friend.

 

Johnny

He is bounce, effort, and snark.

 Mirren

She is sugar, curiosity and rain.

 Gat

He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.

 

The writing was taut and effortless, but it was the plot in the end that won me over. I had to know the secret, the mystery.

Do not go in search of other reviews if you are interested in reading this one, as spoilers will surely ruin the whole experience. I’ll leave the last word to the dust jacket.

“We Were Liars is a modern suspense that will leave you reeling. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just lie.”

Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Published: 2014

Genre: YA/ Crossover

Poetry in Song

U2 2 Robbie williams 2 Cat stevens 2

Like many writers I have a playlist of songs that I write to, but sometimes it’s not just the music that inspires me, sometimes it’s the lyrics. I’m not going to debate the literary merits of song lyrics over literary poetry; to me they are the same. They convey and express emotions, they tell a story and they inspire. I remember the first time I heard John Lennon’s Imagine I was so moved and by his words and still am today. So I thought I’d share some of my favourites.

Robbie Williams “Angels “

I sit and wait
Does an angel contemplate my fate
And do they know
The places where we go
When we’re grey and old
‘cos I have been told
That salvation lets their wings unfold
So when I’m lying in my bed
Thoughts running through my head
And I feel that love is dead
I’m loving angels instead

 

Live “The Beauty Of Gray”

If I told you he was your brother
We could reminisce
Then you would go about your day
If I said you ought to give him some of your water
You’d shake your canteen and walk away

The perception that divides you from him
Is a lie
For some reason you never asked why
This is not a black and white world
You can’t afford to believe in your side

This is not a black and white world
To be alive
I say that the colours must swirl
And I believe
That maybe today
We will all get to appreciate
The Beauty of Grey

 

U2 “one”

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without
Well it’s…

Too late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One…

 

James Taylor “Fire and Rain”

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again

 

Bob Dylan “One Too Many Mornings”

Down the street the dogs are barking
And the day is getting dark.
As the night comes in a-falling,
The dogs´ll lose their bark
And the silent night will shatter
From the sounds inside my mind,
For I´m one to many mornings
And a thousand miles behind.
From the crossroads of my doorstep,
My eyes they start to fade,
As I turn my head back to the room
Where my love and I have laid….
Harry Chapin “Cats In The Cradle”

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, Dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad
We’re gonna have a good time then

 

 

All Our Yesterdays – By Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays

I love this book. This is one of those novels that book reviewers pull out all the clichés; a real page-turner, I couldn’t put it down, had me up all night. Because it’s true, I’m ‘exhibit A’ – The kid’s dinner went by the wayside, I was up all hours, zombie eyed; I was obsessed. Every moment I had, the book made its way back to my eagerly awaiting hands. I needed to know what was happening to the characters that had so quickly taken up residence in my life.

A quick plot outline – the two main characters travel back in time to try and save themselves and the world. To do this they must kill someone, but they find this more difficult than they thought.

That’s the gist of the plot I don’t want to spoil anything by giving too much detail. This book is the perfect example of “How to Start a Novel” Terrill puts you straight into the action –tick, questions are forming in your mind, has you curious – tick, tight plot – tick, early attachment to the characters – tick. The story has the essence of The Terminator films, which is fine with me, as I’m a huge Terminator fan; the fiction world has been waiting for a good time travel book for sometime. All I want to say is if you enjoy reading YA fiction then put this one on your shopping list.

 

TITLE: All Our Yesterdays

AUTHOR: Cristin Terrill

GENRE: YA

NB: was awarded the 2014 Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel by the International Thriller Writers

Author Interview -Sarah Rayner

Go to the Drinks With …Page and click on the Sarah Rayner tab to read the interview. Enjoy!  🙂

“Shelter” A Book for the Reluctant Teen Reader.

shelter

Recently I mentioned that crime writing was trending in the YA genre. So I have been sleuthing, researching and investigating a few of these novels. The first one I picked up was Peter Cocks Long Reach, I found it totally unsuitable for the 14-18 age group. It was graphic and read more like an adult crime novel.

The next novel I chose was by the well- respected crime writer Harlan Coben he has turned his hand to YA with a new crime series. The first is called Shelter.

The first thing I must mention is cliché, cliché, and cliché.

Next thing I will say is it works.

Despite the cliché use of the new kid in school, dorky best friends, and parent departed. The novel is page-turning fun. I recently wrote a post about dyslexia and a reluctant reader and how this affected my family. This is the type of book that really appeals to the reluctant, male, teen reader. (no sexism intended)

Harlan has taken a character, Myron Bolitar, from his adult series and introduced his nephew Mickey Bolitar. (Lazy or just getting future fans for his adult series)

Mickey’s father has recently passed away, his mother is in rehab, and now his new girlfriend has disappeared. The only responsible adult in his life is his uncle Myron, and he wants nothing to do with him. Mickey is determined to find out what happened to his girlfriend and this leads him into a seedy world of crime. Along his journey he forms friendships, which you can see are going to carry throughout the series. These friendships make the story interesting. The characters are fun, likeable and a little clichéd.

Harlan has successfully adapted the language to a teen reader; there is no condescension in this statement. There is a need for an easy, fast paced read with relatable characters. This is an excellent novel for either those who want a light holiday read or the teen that finds reading a chore.

 

Warning: The main character goes to a strip club; there is suggestion of torture and sex slavery.

Title: Shelter

Author: Harlan Coben

Published: Orion 2011

Genre: YA Crime

Series: Seconds Away (Book 2)

Dyslexia is not a Disability

shutterstock_191313095

How to engage the reluctant reader is a puzzle many parents would like the answer to. Like any puzzle some pieces go in smoothly and problem solved, but what if the pieces you have just don’t fit. The advice given, as a parent, is to read to your child every night, immerse them in phonics and sight words. What if you’ve tried all of the above and nothing works.

This is where I found myself with one of my children. He is now a teenager and still hates reading. After lengthy analysis it was found he had a processing disorder under the banner of dyslexia. This had me frustrated as the education system is heavily text based, even Math. How was he going to get through high school?

The answer is individual, case-by-case. For us, we celebrate his talents or play to his strengths. Once he was able to choose electives school became less laborious. He still has to get through English and large volumes of text are confusing and tiresome, but school is not all there is to life, and I show him example of others who have succeeded despite being dyslexic (or maybe even because).

Famous dyslexic writers:

W. B Yeats

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature struggled academically. His school report cards were poor and scholars who have studied his rough drafts have indicated he was dyslexic. He was known for his bad spelling and the inability to edit without reading out aloud repeatedly.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

He also had a great deal of problem with spelling and was kicked out of school at the age of twelve for his inability to focus and finish his work.

John Corrigan

When John’s mother questioned his teachers about his school -work the reply was “Just face it. Some kids are slow” he found the information going in was a struggle, but he could always push it out to make sense – he could write well.

 Patricia Polacco

Patricia did not learn to read until she was 14 and found school a very difficult time. She was fortunate enough that a teacher picked up her learning difficulty and she could adjust the way she learnt. Patricia went on to successfully complete a university degree.

Other writers include:

Agatha Christie, Jackie French, John Corrigan, Terry Goodkind, Hans Christian Anderson, Sally Gardiner.

Other notable dyslexics:

Tom Cruise, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Sir Richard Branson.

These people can be inspiring, but I like the advice from author Rick O’Riordan whose son is dyslexic

“People who are dyslexic and who are successful understand that while dyslexia may define them, it doesn’t confine them. They understand the concepts of ‘work smarter,’ ‘think differently,’ and ‘I can.’”

And in summary the children’s author and illustrator Sally Gardiner who said “My brain was said to be a sieve rather than a sponge” (This is exactly how my son described his) “I strongly believe that dyslexia is like a Rubik’s Cube: it takes time to work out how to deal with it but once you do, it can be the most wonderful gift”.

What Not to Write

shutterstock_138556595

There are a couple of things that I find annoying; people not using their blinkers, queue jumpers, noisy eaters in the cinema (really important stuff),these little, pesky things disrupt the flow of my day. But they also pop up in novels, not literally these problems, but other things that authors often do that jolt my reading experience out of the fantasy realm back into reality. An author once said if you want to know what not to write, think about the things you skim over as a reader. There are two things that without fail have me flipping through the pages faster than a Kardashian seeking publicity.

1. Dream sequences – I hate them, I never read them, I skim as quickly as I can to get back into the story. Writers often put them in as foreshadowing, some psychic warning, but they are always boring. I know when I have a dream and I want to tell someone, I start to tell the dream and I gradually I see his or her eyes glassing over. It’s not that I’m a bad storyteller, truly I’m not, it’s that dreams are only interesting to the dreamer. So writers, heed my warning, leave the dream sequence out.

2. Overly long descriptive paragraphs – In a genre fiction there is no need to do lengthy descriptive scenes, most readers do not care what the character is wearing, and what they ate for lunch. If it’s not important to the story or characterization leave it out. The one exception is when the writer has a gift with words and the description is so skillfully woven that it creates an emotional response from the reader. Writers like Ian McEwan, F Scott Fitzgerald or Martin Amis, even Earnest Hemingway fall into this category.

Should Books Have Ratings?

shutterstock_139452749

Should books have guidance ratings?

After comments to a recent post I started thinking more seriously about this idea. This is a touchy subject as many have firm views on censorship and democracy in our freedom of choice in art. We continue to rate our films and electronic games, therefore shouldn’t we have guides on the content of a novel.

I know there have been times when I wish I were given a warning of content. I’m not a fan of graphic violence and particularly find rape scenes very disturbing. I have read many wonderful books that have scenes that make me put it back on the shelf; unfortunately once I have read it I can’t erase it from my mind.

I think this is why there is a growing trend in adults reading YA and the material becoming more explicit. A study last year found that 55% of YA (12-17 yr. old) fiction readers were over 18 and that 28% were aged 30 -44.

I read a YA novel where the 15 year old protagonist was a casual drug user and drank alcohol to excess with her friends, there were never any consequences to her actions and I would not be comfortable let my teen reading this. Was this content added because the publishers are aware of this growing shift in their YA audience?

Beth Yoke, executive director of the Young Adult Library Services Association, an offshoot of the American Library Association says”Books can be a safe way for young people to explore edgier, sensitive, or complicated topics, and they provide parents the opportunity to help their teens grow and understand these kinds of sensitive issues,” and. “ALA’s interpretation on any rating system for books is that it’s censorship.”

There is some merit to the associations comment, yet I feel that there is a difference in the quality of the vast amount of material on offer in the YA market. The book I mentioned above is popular fiction and in no way does it have literary merit exploring in-depth teenage issues with skill and talent.

Beside the contentious issue of censorship the obvious dilemma for a book rating system is practicality. Who would be responsible for this task? In films it is an independent body, which adheres to strict guidelines. The shear volume of books produced would make this impossible, so does the responsibility fall on the publishers or the individual for self –published novels. In the U.S there is a voluntary rating system available to the author, but most fear damage to sales if they add this. Shouldn’t information over profit be more important?

As you may have guessed I’d welcome a guideline that informs me if a novel contains, Drug use, offensive language, sex scenes etc.

The choice is still the consumers; it just empowers them to make a choice more suitable to their needs.

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

Alex

One of the fastest moving trends in the YA genre is the crime novel. John Grisham, Harlan Coben and James Patterson, usually write adult crime, are all producing novels aimed at a younger audience. Next week I will review Harlan Coben Shelter, but first, I thought I should indulge in an adult crime novel so I can compare the two. I chose Pierre Lemaitre’s Alex, it was translated into English and re-published last year, and since that time it has received a lot of praise and won the CWA’s International Dagger award for 2013, so I thought it was a good choice.

The first thing I will say about this novel is don’t read anyone else’s review. This might sound arrogant, but I’m giving this warning for your own well being as many of the reviews reveal too much and I found this tainted any mystery the plot may have held. Most of the reviewers have done this inadvertently, but my readers are an intelligent bunch and I know they can read between the lines.

With that in mind, I will give you a very brief plot blurb. The setting is France (mainly Paris), a girl is kidnapped and the police try to solve this and other evolving mysteries- there. I want to mention a couple of things that bugged me about the novel, I don’t usually do this as opinions can be subjective, but I have an uncontrollable compulsion today to put it out there.

First – the cop, he is the stereotype, white, middle aged, pig headed, flawed character we’ve seen time and again in many crime novels. This is a shame as Lemaitre has a talent for characterization. Secondly- the title, it really “had my goat up” as my mother would say. It did the crime genre, which is unpredictable by nature, no justice.

Now for the good- what I love about the novel is Lemaitre’s keen observations on human nature. He manages to create characters that are incredibly believable. His writing pulls out the subtleties and nuances of the everyday, that most of us are unaware. Lemaitre’s talent is in the detail. I’m not talking of the kind of detail that can bore you to tears, I once read a book that described a fob watch for eleven pages, it’s the kind of detail that forms clear pictures in your mind and allows the story to move along seamlessly. It is that talent that leaves me wondering whether Lemaitre should write in a different genre especially literary fiction.

NB: He did win the Prix Goncourt award for an epic novel Au revoir là-haut on WWII; the highest award for literary fiction in France.

In the end I recommend the book for adults who enjoy this genre, as it was enjoyable. I also recommend it to budding writers, as there is much to be learnt from his style, and its what I found to be the most enjoyable part.

 

Title: Alex

 Author: Pierre Lemaitre

 Published: French 2011, English 2013 Maclehose

 Genre: Crime

Jane Austen Revamp

sense and sensibility north hanger abbey

Should a classic novel be reinvented? This question is nothing new, but neither is the concept. For centuries stories have been retold, reworked, and presented in different forms. Many of Shakespeare’s plays have origins in Greek mythology and folklore and verbal storytelling. The constantly evolving fairytale genre is another example of this.

When I heard that six of novels of Jane Austen were going to be rewritten in a contemporary format I was wary, but only in the “Don’t fix what ain’t broke “ context. The Austen Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

Sense and Sensibility has been rewritten by Joanna Trollope and was released on October 2013; Northanger Abbey was rewritten by Val McDermind and was released on March 2014. Curtis Sittenfeld is working on Pride and Prejudice, which will be released in a few months and Alexander Mccall Smith is penning Emma. No news on the other two novels, as of yet. Hint, hint, I’m available.

Jane Austen is one of the most popular writers in the English language and if she wrote today she would be labelled under the chic-lit romance genre. Her books were published between 1811 and 1815 and have been widely read ever since. So should they be tampered with?

I have heard authors talk on this subject and many are of the opinion that it keeps the stories alive. I believe the only opinion that matters, is the authors, as it is their work. This is obviously difficult, as in this case, when the author is deceased. But a good story is a good story, and I can’t form a valid opinion until I’ve actually read one.

The reviews are generally good, and I’m thinking I will dip my toes in the water. I might start with Emma, when it is released, as it is one of my favourites and Alexander Mccall Smith is such a witty, Wildean (Oscar) writer, that I’m sure he’ll capture the Austen spirit to a hilarious tee. Or maybe I’ll start with Pride and Prejudice; I feel Curtis Sittenfeld is an excellent choice for this novel. Sittenfeld really knows how to get into the mind of a young adolescent girl with all her turmoil; she displayed this in Prep (loved this novel). But…. After reading J.K Rowling’s review of Northanger Abbey maybe I should start there.

 

‘Val McDermid’s brilliant re-working of Jane Austen’s original shows that innocent, bookish girls in thrall to the supernatural have changed surprisingly little in two centuries. Witty and shrewd, full of romance and skulduggery – I loved it.’
J.K. ROWLING

 

And…..

 

‘I picked up Northanger Abbey one evening and didn’t stop reading until I’d finished it. It’s an exquisitely realised tale of the uncertainty and brutality of teenage years told with the lightness of touch and humour that Val is famous for. Utter brilliance from McDermid’ SUSAN CALMAN

 

I’m going straight to The Book Depository to order my copy. Any suggestions, besides moi, for who should write Persuasion or Mansfield Park?