We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

liarsI’ve had the best week in reading-three books in a row that I gave 5 stars to! And I can’t believe I waited so long to read this-I’ve had the prepub sitting around the house for a pretty long time but it wasn’t until three people told me I have to read it that I got going with it (I’d actually read the first chapter a while ago-why on earth did I put it down??)

I loved this. Lockhart is such a good writer (see: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.) I didn’t know much about the book going in, which is what I like. So all I’ll say about the story is that it is told by Cady Sinclair, who comes from a wealthy (like, super wealthy) family and that every summer they all spend the summer together on their private island near Martha’s Vineyard. Yes, their own island where each daughter and family has their own house. The summers are idyllic for Cady and her cousins and Gad, a family friend who’s not quite a cousin so it’s ok for her to fall in love with him. But after their fifteenth summer something happens and by her 17th summer Cady is trying to remember and put the pieces together.

This was a great story, very emotional (I cried and cried), and wonderfully spun out.  I loved how she included fairy tales that Cady would tell based on traditional tales but with the twist of her own family’s history, and how those tales advance the story.
It was a very fast read, and once I got to the end I wanted to start over at the beginning so I could reread it. I didn’t, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the book since I finished it yesterday morning.

Friendship by Emily Gould

friendshipI thought this was beautifully written. In fact, I think Gould is such a good writer-creating striking sentences that sharp and moving-that the writing seemed almost better than the story itself.  That said, I did like the story of the changing friendship between Amy and Bev, two young women trying to make a go of it in NYC.  They’ve been through good times and bad together, but most of the story focuses on when they both end up going through their roughest patches at the same time. And truly broke, down on their luck hard times. The friendship becomes strained because they can’t give each other the help they need and because Amy basically freaks out over Bev’s unplanned pregnancy more than Bev herself does.  Amy veers into “unlikable main character” territory, but not completely.
I just read someone else’s review on Goodreads who only gave this 3 stars and said the story was somewhat forgettable. I actually gave it a full 5 stars (!) because I thought it was so well written and did dare to poke the unhappy sides of friendship.

p.s. I kept picturing Amy and Bev and Ilana and Abbi from Broad City.

The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai

hundredThis was wonderful! I was excited to read it because I had liked The Borrower so much and as a friend pointed out she knew she’d like it from the wonderfully designed cover alone. I knew I’d like it when I opened it up and saw that the book was divided into four parts and that the story of all that went on in that house in the 100 years would be told in reverse chronological order. How fascinating!! Especially when you started reading and saw that the close to present day occupants talked and referred to quite a bit what they thought they knew of the house’s history, speculating on rumors and vague stories. In addition to being caught up in the modern story, I looked forward to going back in time to find out what really went on.

In the first part it is 1999 and Zee and her husband, Doug,  have moved in to the carriage house on her mother’s estate. Her mother, Grace, along with her second husband Bruce, live in the grand house.  The whole estate was once an artists’ colony when Grace was a very little girl, but reverted back to a private residence. Zee is a professor at the local college and frustrated by her husband’s lack of career trajectory. He’s supposed to be finishing a book, but he’s two years out of grad school and he’d better get a move on.  The book is about a little known poet, Edwin Proffit. Doug is thrilled when he finds out that Proffit actually once stayed at the artist colony and is desperate to find out anything about him. The fact is, he’s not really keen on his book anymore and is secretly writing series fiction (like The Babysitters’ Club) for the money.  When Bruce’s daughter Miriam and her husband Chase also move in to the carriage house it shakes things up.  This story plays out in a fascinating way (crazy secrets!) and, like reading a short novel, it concludes completely and satisfyingly at the end of its section. But then you turn the page and go back in time to the next section before Zee was born and Grace was young woman at the estate.

Layer upon layer is revealed and the format of the book was so perfect for the story.  Beautifully written and constructed, as well as being an engrossing story.  When I got to the end I considered continuing around to the front of the book again to make sure I understood the pieces of the puzzle and how they all fit together.  I can’t wait for my friend Melissa to finish reading this so we can talk about it!

Cure for the Common Breakup by Beth Kendrick

breakupA light romance, contemporary, not exactly the sort of thing I usually go for (it seemed more vulgar than light-hearted sexy fun) but I enjoyed it enough.  Summer is a flight attendant who doesn’t like to be tied down to any one person or place, but a plane crash and near proposal find her re-evaluating things. She heads to a charming seaside town known for being the place to go to after a breakup.  All the residents and establishments cater to weepy women and they all take to Summer right away. In no time at all she’s ingratiated herself to the community, taken on the bitchy lady, decided to get the hunky mayor for herself, and taken on the meanest, nastiest, richest old lady who controls the whole town.  It’s all a little too easy, unbelievable, and lucky, but it would suffice for a quick summer read. (I gave it 3 stars.) p.s. regarding the cover: the kids were so interested in that mile high ice cream cone but once I started looking at it (we were making up flavors for each of the mostly improbably colors) all I could think was that the food stylist actually used Play-Doh to make the “ice cream” scoops and I could only that whenever I looked at the cover. What flavor do you think that intense forest green would be?

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

justoneI was somewhat reluctant to read this, believing it would be just like the movie Before Sunrise.  But a friend told me to read it and I did and I really liked it. (Reading this right after Fangirl, though, when I try to think about the book I get a bit mixed up between the two since they both have girls in their first year of college adjusting to that whole life. That’s the only similarity, though.) So, yes, there is a similarity to Before Sunrise-two people meeting in Europe and having a brief time together before parting, but it was actually quite a bit less romantic. It’s the summer before college and while on a “Teen Tour” straitlaced, bound for pre-med, rule abiding Allyson spontaneously goes to Paris with a boy she saw perform Shakespeare in a way that touched her straight in the heart. Off they go through the Chunnel to the world’s most romantic city, where they have a wonderful, exhilarating day together. It’s not perfect, though, as Allyson constantly wonders if he’s genuinely attracted to her or if he has girls all over the city. I though the whole book would be this one day, but it’s not! For they split rather unexpectedly and then the remaining half of the book is Allyson doing terribly at college because she can’t stop thinking about her lost European love and what a fool she was. Until…she decides to go find him. I thought this was a charming book even though recently I’ve been feeling bitter about every book I read and how unrealistic everything is (really Allyson? You can just get a summer job that’s perfect with witty, caring, people who feed you well and nurture your ridiculous dream of going to Paris with nothing but a plane ticket?).  I was very ambivalent about the ending, but I think I like it and I understand the setup for the sequel, which I will certainly read.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirlI loved this!  Cather and her twin, Wren, are off to college in Nebraska. There are all kinds of things going on. Their dad is a manic-depressive ad-man (totally like Robin Williams’s character in that recently axed tv show, leading me to believe that all creative advertising people are totally manic) and she’s worried about how he’ll get along with his daughters gone. Their mother left them all when the girls were only 8 years old. Cather and Wren are tight and of course Wren drifts away from her as soon as school starts, opting to go for the college drinking and partying experience. Cather is nearly socially phobic and happy to spend all her time in her room, writing. You see, she is an incredible writer and widely known in certain circles of fan-fiction writing. What totally impressed me in this book was how Rowell created first the world of the book series of Simon Snow, then Cather’s own writing about Simon. The series is somewhat Harry Potter-esque and Cather has been writing for years. She is now writing her own final book in the series in anticipation of the series’ real final installment, due at the end of the year.  She gets tens of thousands of hits on everything she writes. But no one really knows who she is! That’s really what I found so interesting-she’s basically famous, and an amazing writer in her own right. Honestly, despite the craziness going on around her I found myself envying her and wanting to point out that she just doesn’t know how good she has it. And her roommate’s darling ex-boyfriend is cute and charming and falls for her. And her roommate is hilarious in a strange and brusque way. Cather navigates this new world of college, finds her writing voice, copes with her family, and copes with change in a unique story.

Debutante Hill by Lois Duncan

debutanteWhat a treasure to discover now! This is one of the Lizzie Skurnick books and it’s a reissue of Lois Duncan’s very first ever published novel (from 1957.)  I really enjoyed beginning by reading Duncan’s introduction, which explained all about how she came to write this story, first as a short story, and then to develop it into a novel, which then went on to win a literary contest which launched her writing career.
The daughter of a doctor, Lynn lives a pretty golden life. She’s pretty, popular, and part of the “the Hill”, which is where the privileged families live. She’s never really thought about that much before, though, happy just to enjoy her circle of friends and her boyfriend. But now it’s her senior year and her boyfriend has gone off to college (giving her his ring when he leaves) and the big news in town is that they are going to have debutantes. All the debutantes will spend all year having special parties, complete with a full week of daily events during the Christmas break, concluding in the spring with the big formal coming-out. Lynn is excited until her father expresses his disapproval of such a divisive activity, pointing out it will only worsen the class divide in town. So Lynn is not a debutante and all her friends are and she’s left out of parties and of course discovers that the the “lower class” kids are all perfectly nice and there’s no reason not to be friends with them. For all the novelty appeal of reading about the dating conventions, Lynn spending a morning ironing and doing her nails, and the like, there is a lot of substance to this story and pretty impressive that Duncan, as a young writer, managed to weave in issues of class and privilege.  I really enjoyed this!