“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

YA Ficition
Hardcover, 227 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Delacorte Press

Cadence Sinclair Eastman is the first grandchild of the Sinclair family. She is the heiress of the Sinclairs, a family that came over on the Mayflower. The Sinclairs spent their summers on their private island, Beechwood, off the coast of Massachusetts. One summer, “summer fifteen,” ends in a mysterious accident, leaving Cady with elusive migraines, and memory loss. Now, summer seventeen, she is back to Beechwood for the first time since the accident. She is determined to remember what happened to her.

Throughout the novel, Cadence is our thoroughly unreliable narrator, bursting with prejudice, teenage caprice, and gaping holes in her memory. She is the observer in the tale of the Sinclairs, chronicling their greed and dysfunction, often using her own King Lear-esque fairy tales.


Although I enjoyed this book while reading it, when I got to the end I was left unsatisfied. This Amazon and Indigo YA Bestseller did not, in my opinion, stand up the hype. Although the writing style was absolutely beautiful and intriguing, in the end it left me feeling that it was somehow flat, and that the story was ultimately unimpressive and unoriginal. I expected more from this book. It had so much potential. It could have been an amazing story, but many opportunities were left untaken. For example, the characters were quite interesting and there could have been some great development there. However, none of the characters were ever explored in any depth. Their surfaces were barely scratched. I want to know more about the grandfather—his grief, his motivation, his downfall. Anything. I want to know more about the Liars. More than their repeated poetic, yet general, descriptions—Johnny is “bounce, effort and snark,”Mirren is “sugar, curiosity and rain,” Gat is “contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.” But what else?


I understand that we are only given a glimpse of these characters because we are seeing them through the eyes of Cadence. However, I think that at least by the end I should feel something for them and their fates. But, I feel as if I hardly know them; that their fate is wholly unrelated to me. When I reached the end I thought, Wait, that’s it? That’s all there is? I wanted to know them more, but they still felt like two dimensional strangers. Even the big twist at the end didn’t surprise me as it was meant to. It felt too been-done-before (I’ll avoid spoilers by not going into more detail).


Perhaps I am overthinking it. This is a young adult novel, and not meant to be overly literary. However, with the author’s style and the endless possibilities for this story, I can’t help but be disappointed.

In conclusion, what holds this book up is Lockhart’s phenomenal writing—I loved her style. However, I don’t think she allowed this story to reach its full potential. But, like I said, the writing itself was truly beautiful, lyrical, and original. That is what kept me going. I’d say give this book a shot, but don’t expect to be blown away. Maybe that will allow you to enjoy it more!

Sorry About My Radio Silence!

I had a pretty busy schedule last week; lots of work and then off to the cottage! I was pretty excited because I hadn’t been to the cottage yet this summer. It was a perfect weekend; the weather was excellent, I had lots of good books with me, and my family was there too. I just got back today! So, you can check out my latest review below, or by clicking here. 


Furthermore, I have some excellent news! Fuelled by Fiction is going to be part of several upcoming virtual book tours! What is that, you may ask? A virtual book tour is when, for a set period of time, an author visits different blogs promoting their book. Each blog that is part of the tour has a specific date. On that date they post a review of the book and the author “stops” by! Sometimes they also do interviews, guest posts, and/or giveaways! 

Book tours hosted by Fuelled by Fiction this summer:

July 31st: Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles

August 12th: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo 

August 25th: The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson 

For each of these tours you’ll have the chance to win a copy of the book, so keep an eye out!

Bestsellers and Recent Releases: “Mr. Mercedes” by Stephen King

Mr. MercedesMr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Genre: Mystery&Suspense
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Simon & Schuster
$36.00 CAD

Mr. Mercedes is the first of two novels by Stephen King being published this year—following suit from 2013 (Joyland in June, and Doctor Sleep in September).  It immediately made bestseller lists, such as the New York Times and Globe and Mail. As a fan of Stephen King’s writing, I was excited to get my hands on Mr. Mercedes, King’s newest release.


The protective plastic cover crinkles on the copy of Mr. Mercedes I borrowed from the library. On the spine there is a sticker that reads “Horror,” like most of King’s other works. This, along with the creepy cover art, direct my expectations. I am promised mass murder, thrills, and chills. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Mercedes does not deliver. I realize now that this novel was meant to be King’s “first hard-boiled detective novel.” However, even still, it didn’t do it for me.


Mr. Mercedes is the story of a murderous psychopath and a retired detective. While Detective Bill Hodges is still on the job, the afore mentioned psychopath plows down an unsuspecting crowd of people waiting outside of a job fair. He does this in a stolen Mercedes Benz. This massacre goes unsolved, and Detective Hodges retires. In the fashion of most narcissistic psychopaths, the killer cannot let sleeping dogs lie. He got away, but he can’t resist wreaking further havoc. So he sends a letter to Retired Detective Hodges.


This letter leads Hodges on a quest to stop and apprehend Mr. Mercedes at all costs.


I understand why Hodges at first feels the need to keep the letter he receives from the police. It was a personal attack. He feels guilty. He feels like he might be able to gain more traction in his own investigation, unhindered by protocol and politics. Etc., etc.. However, as the story goes on and Hodges gets himself in deeper and deeper, his reasonings behind keeping the police out of it become increasingly murky.


At first out of necessity, he involves his teenage neighbour and his love interest. However, as it becomes more clear what Mr. Mercedes is capable of, it’s hard to believe that Hodges intentions and judgement remain sound when he continues to keep them involved and the police in the dark. He puts them and their family in increasing and unnecessary danger.


This might make for a good plot element if Hodges’ own interests clouded his judgement. But that is not how he is portrayed. He is meant to be the hero, and continues to be described in this light. This, unfortunately, leads to a strange contradiction that King does not account for.


Although the characters are (for the most part) well drawn and compelling, their involvement in the plot does not always sit right. This is true right up to the very end.


This book is filled with what you’d expect of your (slightly) above average crime/mystery/suspense novel. There was no horror, no thrills. There were a few chills, but they hardly stood up to King’s usual work. However, even the crime wasn’t of the grisly and gruesome variety. Honestly, the only reason I dubbed this book as anything above average is King’s writing. His style and ability were really the only things that kept me reading. I found the story itself was average at best.


If you like a mystery that’s more character driven than plot driven, you might like this one. However, be prepared to either mindlessly follow where King wants you to, or be left pondering plot holes and, at times, less than believable character motivation.


Hit or Miss?: Miss. This #1 New York Times Bestseller did not hold up to the hype. If Stephen King’s name wasn’t on the cover, I would never have found the plot compelling enough to even pick up.


Social Media Update!

Hey guys!

Fuelled by Fiction is now on Twitter, Pintrest, and Facebook! The blog’s new social media presence is to make accessing content and updates easier for you. It’s now also easy for you to get connected to the blog on your favourite platform! On the sidebar you will find icons indicating the different options you have for connecting with me. You can subscribe by email, like and follow on Facebook, follow on Pintrest, subscribe by your favourite RSS feed reader, and follow on Twitter.


xoxo

Loving “The King’s Curse” !

Hey guys,

Right now I am reading The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory (out 9 September 2014). As with all Gregory’s books that I have read (well, most anyway), I am loving it! It’s the final instalment of the The Cousins’ War series (my favourite of her’s so far). Although I am sad to see the end of the series, so far it seems like this will be a good concluding volume. Look forward to a review in the next few weeks! 


xoxo 

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Memoir
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 26th 2013 by Vintage (first published March 2012)

I selected this book for a couple of reasons. First, a film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon is coming out this December, and so I thought Wild would make a good addition to my Books in the Media series. Second, this book was recommended to me by a relative. I picked it up and thought, This sounds all right. I’ll give it a shot. I later checked it out on Goodreads, and became unsure about what I was going to find within the pages. Some people said this book was amazing and life changing, while others complained about the whiney and vulgar tone. For a moment I considered taking the book back—vulgarity is not my thing. However, this book is indeed being made into a film, it’s a #1 New York Times Bestseller, it’s an Oprah book club book, and it’s one of Indigo’s CEO Heather’s Picks. It’s thus clearly a popular and widely read book. This does not guarantee it’s any good, but it shows that there’s a fair amount of buzz about the book and I should see what it’s all about.


Ultimately, Wild is a memoir about a difficult time in Cheryl’s life. When Cheryl’s twenty-two, her mother, the most important person in the world to her, passes away from cancer. She’s still young. There is still more she could learn from her mother. There is still more guidance she needs from her. She’s practically still a kid. But her mother is taken from her, and this crushes her. From that point forward, her life falls apart. Her father has been out of the picture since Cheryl was six, her step father is no longer around either, her brother and sister keep their distance, and she has trouble connecting with her husband. Her mother was her anchor. Without her, she no longer knows who she is. She floats along lost, trying to get her bearings.


This part of the story receives some criticism about being whiney and self absorbed. Yes, Cheryl was hurting and expresses that hurt, and yes, she ruined a good thing with her husband, and yes, she made some very stupid mistakes with heroin and other men. But she was just being honest about her vulnerability and imperfection. She was so young when the unthinkable happened. Anyone who criticizes her for her pain is one of four things:

  • someone who has never lost a loved one
  • heartless and compassionless
  • extremely cynical
  • or self-righteous and perfect, having never made a mistake.


This part of the story is beautiful and honest, filled with vulnerability, pain, and heartbreak. Yes, her husband was a good man. And yes, she loved him but betrayed him. However, her mother’s death changed her. She wasn’t the same woman she was when she married him. That doesn’t excuse her destructive behaviour, but you can love someone and not be able to be with them. How can you give yourself to someone when you don’t know who you are any more? How can you love and support them when you can’t do the same for yourself? She may not have handled it in the ideal way, but she wasn’t in a good place in her life. She was young, confused, and hurt. I think she should be forgiven and not judged for her mistakes.


In an effort to find her way again, she embarks on a crazy, ridiculous journey that she is utterly unprepared for. She decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone for three months, and over 1,000 miles of rocky terrain. People love to harp on about how stupid it was for her to do this. “She was so unprepared,” “She could have died,” “It’s disrespectful to real hikers,” “She wasn’t being brave—she was being stupid,” blah blah blah. I think people just love to complain about things. I agree, she could have given it a bit more thought. However, Strayed does acknowledge that. However, instead of crumbling and giving in, she pushes on and completes her goal. She learns so much about herself as she makes this journey; it shows her what she’s made of and what she’s capable of. She makes many mistakes, but she learns from them. Perhaps most importantly, she learns to move on.


I’ve also read some criticisms of how she glosses over the interesting parts of her journey in favour of taking a walk down memory lane. I’d argue that this book isn’t about her hike. It’s about her life, and what the trail taught her. If you’re more interested in purely wilderness stories, this isn’t that. This is about her life. And it’s hard for her to explore that without providing the reader with context. Throughout her journey, she grew up. She learned what was important. Alone for the better part of three months, she faced her demons.


As expected, there is a bit of vulgarity in her language sometimes and in her description of her sexual exploits. That wasn’t my favourite thing, but it wasn’t a prominent part of the book (and I was grateful for that). Overall, I found this book quite captivating. As a memoir, it’s top notch, and I am excited to see it come to life on the big screen later this year.It’s slated to be released 5 December, and I will be in line to see it! Keep an eye out for more posts about movie updates and promotions. I will discuss these as the release date nears, and then provide my thoughts on the film adaptation!


This week they released the first trailer and poster for the movie! 

Content warning: Explicit language and sexuality, drug abuse.


Bookish News

July 7-12
Issue 1

Authors Take Issue with Amazon


The Bookseller reports that a group of writers have written and signed a letter urging internet giant Amazon to rectify its practices, and urging their readers to join them.  The letter states that Amazon, in a dispute with Hachette, has “done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms.” 

Many authors are said to have signed this letter, including  David Baldacci, Lee Child, Amanda Foreman, John Grisham, James Patterson, Anita Shreve, Scott Turow, Anne Applebaum, Clive Cussler, Richard North Patterson, and Simon Winchester.

Their letter also states: “As writers—some but not all published by Hachette—we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company’.”

Read The Bookseller’s report and the full letter here.

Since this letter was published, Amazon offered to give %100 of ebook sale profits to Hachette authors until the dispute is resolved. However, this might seem at first to be generous, but Amazon would get a 30% commission, and Hachette would get nothing. This would seem to be to put pressure on Hachette.

Douglas Preston, the author who drafted the afore mentioned letter, told The Wall Street Journal that this deal would prove to be “devastating” to Hachette while “barely hurting Amazon at all. He told them that Hatchette supported his career and he was morally obligated to them: “There’s something wrong with this. My publisher gave me a very large advance for the book they are about to publish. Morally, I would have to turn over that [Amazon] money to them.” 

Author Declines Award Sponsored by Amazon

According to The Bookerseller, children’s author Allen Ahlberg has turned down the first Booktrust Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award because it is sponsored by Amazon. This distinguished author—who has written 150 children’s books—declined the award because he does not agree with Amazon’s tax evading practices. In a letter to The Bookseller he is quoted as saying: “Tax, fairly applied to us all, is a good thing. It pays for schools, hospitals— libraries! When companies like Amazon cheat— paying 0.1% on billions, pretending it is earning money not in the UK, but in Luxembourg—that’s a bad thing. We should surely, at the very least, say that it is bad and on no account give them any support or, by association, respectability.” He also said that, “For [his] part, the idea that [his] ’lifetime achievement’ … should have the Amazon tag attached to it is unacceptable.” By standing by his principles and declining this award, he also declined the attached £5,000 prize!

Full article here.


Amazon Circumventing French Laws
A new French legislation has come into force disallowing online retailers to offer free shipping on books. This is in line with their legislation that books may not be discounted more than 5%. Amazon continues to frustrate book sellers, publishers, and now, the French government, by trying to subvert laws and propriety at every turn. They defy the new French legislation by offering shipping at a fixed rate of one centime (1.4 cents). This is likely to anger those behind the French legislation, which is aimed at supporting bookshops. Newsweek quotes French culture minister Aurelie Filippetti as saying at a conference last year, “Once [Amazon is] in a dominant position and will have crushed our network of bookshops, they will bring prices back up.” 

Newsweek also says that, “France is highly protective of its bookshops, enshrining measures to preserve them in law since 1981 when discounts above 5% were banned to prevent big chains from using bulk orders to undercut smaller independent bookshops. France has 3,500 bookshops compared to just 1,000 in the U.K., of which roughly 700 are independent.”

JK Rowling
The Harry Potter author has recently posted a 1,500 word story on Pottermore. This is reportedly the first time that Rowling has written about her beloved Harry Potter heroes has adults since the final chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This story is written as a piece in the Daily Prophet penned by character Rita Skeeter. 




Sharp Objects
Deadline.com reports that it has been announced by eOne Television that Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn  is being adapted into a one-hour drama TV series. Flynn seems to be gaining speed as her bestselling novels Dark Places and Gone Girl come to the big screen later this year. 






The Magicians 
Deadline.com reports that SyFy has a pilot episode in the works for a TV series based on Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. 






The Queen of Tearling
The futuristic YA novel by Erika Johansen is being made into a movie series with Harry Potter star Emma Watson as executive producer and leading lady. Read more here.



Interest


Top Ten Book Club Picks This Week

The following were the most popular book club books this week based on votes from more than 100,000 book club readers from more than 39,000 book clubs registered at Bookmovement.com:

1. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
3. The Goldfinch: A Novel by Donna Tartt
4. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
5. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
6. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
9. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
10.The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


Update

Dear Friendies,

Thank you for your support! I really appreciate you subscribing to my blog and following my posts. I work hard on them to give you something to read and enjoy! I hope you have been enjoying my Books in the Media series, and I hope that if you have any suggestions you send them my way. 

As I mentioned in my last update, in addition to my Books in the Media series, I am going to review recent releases from bestselling authors as well as current bestsellers. The purpose of which is to determine whether they stand up under scrutiny. I.e., are they actually any good? You can look forward to reviews of the following (in no particular order):
Mr. Mercedes, #1 New York Times Bestseller by Stephen King
The One & Only, #1 New York Times Bestseller by Emily Giffin 
Natchez Burning, recent release by #1 New York Times Bestselling author Greg Isles 
All The Light We Cannot See, critically acclaimed New York Times Bestseller by Anthony Doerr 
…And many more! 

I hope you enjoy reading these reviews as much as I enjoy creating them.

Many thanks,
Much Love,
and
Happy Reading!

As Ever,

the Bibliophile Next Door

PS: You can find the first review in this new series in the post below. Wee! 😉


“The Rise & Fall of Great Powers” by Tom Rachman

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman
Genre: Literary Fiction
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published 10 June 2014 by Doubleday Canada 
$29.95 CAD

From the moment I began reading this book, I was enchanted. It is one of those books you are loath to put down. Every moment spent not reading it felt like a waste of time. I was always itching to delve back into Tooly’s world. 

It begins with a woman in an unlikely bookshop in a small village in Wales. Her unprofitable business has always been to her a “terminal vocation” in which she waits “nearly with impatience for bankruptcy.” Immediately, her character intrigued me and drew me in: What a strange person with such a lack of ambition! With her knowledge of the shop’s computer (which she gained rather reluctantly) she keeps tabs on people from her past. One day she receives a message that sends her reeling. From there, she journeys through her past to piece together the life she always thought she understood.

Each character in this book is wholly original and masterfully crafted. They each have their own eccentricities that at times both endear you and repulse you. As you jump back and forth in Tooly’s life—between the years 1988, 1999, and 2011—you begin to see the trajectory that was set for her as a child. Slowly, things piece together and reveal who Tooly is, who she thought she was, how she became that way, and how she thought she became that way. 

The twists and turns in the story leave you reeling. You, like Tooly, want to understand what on earth happened to her. Why was she abducted by such a strange crew of misfits? Is that what really even happened? Who are these people to her? What is their design? Do they even have one? 

This is an amazing book. Some have said it was a bit of a let down after Rachman’s bestselling debut in The Imperfectionists. I, however, have no such bias, and am, quite frankly dumbfounded by their reaction. Now that I have read Rise & Fall I am certainly keen on reading more from Rachman. His writing, storytelling, and character development are top notch and set him up as an author to keep a look out for. I eagerly await his next creation. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to readers of literary fiction. 


Hit or Miss?: Hit. This recent release from a bestselling author definitely deserves the hype.