Book review: ‘We were liars’ by E. Lockhart

“The island is ours. Here, in some way, we are young forever.”

I’ve read a lot of books in the last few months. Spending nearly 3 hours a day on a train commuting to work and back has made reading the highlight of my day. But despite all of the classics I’ve read ‘We were liars’ is the book that has stuck with me. I know that many will claim that it’s not in the same league because it’s ‘YA’ and therefore of lesser value somehow. But frankly I feel like there’s not enough space in the world of literature for newness, that literature is very much a closed off category of the past.

‘We were liars’ is a work of the present. Through her depiction of the Sinclair family, Lockhart paints a surprisingly authentic metaphor of modern day American society, touching on relevant issues such as insidious racism and power struggles within the family dynamic. Though the Sinclairs may be beautiful, rich and powerful on the outside, they are riddled with corruption and tragedy underneath.

Cadence Eastman Sinclair is the American golden girl; she’s rich, pretty, loved, however beneath the facade she is struggling with chronic, debilitating migraines, which doctors believe to be a symptom of a post-traumatic brain injury. She believes this was caused by an accident she had swimming in the sea, while holidaying on her family’s island two summers ago. However she’s not really sure, since the accident also caused amnesia.

From there Cadence takes us on a trip down memory lane, back to when she first went to the island with the rest of her family, including her cousins Johnny and Mirren and Johnny’s best friend Gat.

The four of them quickly become close friends, calling themselves the ‘liars’. Cadence falls in love with Gat and they start a summer fling, one that Cadence’s grandfather, the patriarch of the family, disproves of since Gat is ethnically Indian. While the grandfather never says this outright and speaks more in veiled threats than clear statements, the situation becomes tense and Gat mysteriously breaks off the budding romance.

Heartbroken, Cadence tries to move on, however when she finally returns to the island 2 summers later everything has changed and it’s clear that something isn’t right. What really happened on the night of the accident? To discover the truth, Cadence is forced to dig up old memories that are probably better left buried.

Lockhart’s prose flows effortlessly as she describes lazy days on the beach of a paradise island cut off from reality. Everything about this book has a dreamy, semi-lucid quality to it, evoking emotion and imagery with every paragraph. It’s truly a masterpiece to read, and even better when you find out what the twist is at the end. Though I had my suspicions, it still took me by surprise and I thought it was very masterfully constructed. I was satisfied with the ending and, though I was sad it was over, it felt like the story had come to a natural close.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries, suspense, psychological thrillers and general YA. It really is an excellent read and definitely worth the time investment.

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Win the ultimate library of 100 signed books!

Charity Lifelites is raffling the Ultimate Library of 100 signed books to raise money for children in hospices

Lifelites – a unique charity which donates specialist technology packages for the 10,000 terminally ill and disabled children in every children’s hospice in the British Isles – is giving one lucky bookworm the chance to win The Ultimate Library of 100 signed books.

The prize, which is a once in a lifetime opportunity, will be given away as part of an online raffle hosted on givergy.com, and tickets will cost just £5 each. That’s equivalent to just 5p per book, but to a book lover the prize will be priceless, as every single one is signed by the author or illustrator. Everyone who buys a ticket will also be helping to support the charity’s work in children’s hospices across the British Isles.

The 100 signed books cover just about every genre including crime, romance, fantasy, historical, biographical, mystery, comedy, political, poetry, food, travel, and thriller.

Among the authors who have kindly donated are Zadie Smith, Sue Perkins, Jeremy Paxman, Sophie Kinsella, Tony Parsons, PD James, Sophie Hannah, Andy McNab, Paula Hawkins, Alan Bennett, John Le Carré, Jeffrey Archer and Margaret Drabble.

As well as the top prize of 100 signed books, there will also be a second prize. When finalised, the full list of books in each prize can be found on the Lifelites website: http://www.lifelites.org/get-involved/enter-one-of-our-raffles/ultimate-library-of-100-signed-books

Every penny raised will support Lifelites’ work to enhance the lives of terminally ill and disabled children in hospices through the power of technology. The charity donates and maintains cutting-edge, accessible equipment to give these children with limited lives unlimited possibilities. The equipment, staff training and ongoing support costs Lifelites over £1,000 a month per hospice but the charity donates this completely free of charge.

Fundraising and PR manager Dominic Hourd said: “Lifelites is so excited to be offering this prize. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. We are extremely grateful to every author who has kindly donated a signed book. Each one will help us raise money for all 10,000 terminally ill and disabled children in hospices across the British Isles.”

The raffle will begin on January 20th and run for three weeks. A link will be available on the Lifelites website when it goes live: http://www.lifelites.org/get-involved/enter-one-of-our-raffles/ultimate-library-of-100-signed-books

 

Please note: cost of delivery is not included. Lifelites will arrange this with the lucky winner. All books are currently at the Lifelites head office in central London. Shipping overseas is possible but will be extremely costly at the winner’s expense, so we do not advise this.

About Lifelites: Lifelites empowers 10,000 children and young people in hospices with life-limiting, life-threatening illnesses and disabling conditions by providing them with opportunities to benefit from the power of assistive and inclusive technologies to learn, to be creative, to communicate and to take control. There is a Lifelites project in every baby and children’s hospice across the British Isles. The hospices do not pay a penny towards their Lifelites project and all of Lifelites’ work is funded by donations: the equipment, ongoing technical support and training at each hospice costs around £50,000 over four years.
http://www.lifelites.org
Charity Number: 1165791

7 Ways to Boost Your Book Sales

In my last post, I looked at how to prepare yourself for self-publishing. This time I’ll be focusing on what to do once your book is already out there, and how to increase your sales revenue. Here are my top tips for marketing your novel on Amazon:

  1. Start driving traffic towards your amazon page. Post the link on your social media accounts, your blog, everywhere you can. Change your signature in any forums you’re part of to your book cover, with a link to the book. Ask your friends or fellow bloggers to tweet the link out for you. Write some articles for news websites or online magazines. Make sure to include a mention of the book and that link in your bio at the bottom.
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  2. Send out review copies. Research book bloggers that you think will be a good fit for your book (there are many internet databases out there which make this much easier) then send them a message politely enquiring if they’d be interested in reviewing your book on their website. If they say yes, give them a free copy. In the internet book community high-profile book bloggers are basically celebrities. Their opinions matter. Get them on your side and you’re good to go. Just make sure to read through their review policies first.
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  3. Hold a giveaway. You can do this through Goodreads, or twitter, or any other social media website. Ideas include ‘like my Facebook page for a chance to win a free of copy of *insert your book title here*’ Everyone loves free stuff. Make them want your book, and get them to follow you while you’re at it.
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  4. Engage. When people leave you reviews, you can reply to them to say thanks. When people tweet about your book, tweet them back/retweet them. Leave reviews on other people’s books. Chat to other writers on forums. People appreciate you showing interest and making an effort.
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  5. Make it easy for your readers to follow you. At the end of your book, include a page with your social media handles, your website, info about any other books you’ve written and a ‘thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this book please leave a review.’ Asking for reviews actually makes people more likely to review the book.
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  6. Build up your writing CV. Submit short stories to magazines, and if they get published make sure to mention your book in your author bio. You can post excerpts of your book (up to 10%) or other things you’ve written on some popular writing sites such as WattPad. Publish multiple books on Amazon, since then you can cross-promote them.
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  7. Put your book on sale. Strategically putting your book on sale at the right times can have a massive effect on sales. Make it 99p or even free for a week and see how the book performs once it’s back up to full price. Usually if the book is good, a strategic sale will kickstart the domino effect and get people to start talking about the book. By the time it’s back up to full price, the word will be out and people who have heard about it based on recommendations will be willing to pay an extra pound or two for it.

 

Follow me for book reviews and more tips on self-publishing, writing and marketing. i’m also looking to host author interviews and guest blog posts in the future – if this is something you’d be interested in please get in contact!

This Really Happened (COVER REVEAL)

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“We all have our own truths. Sometimes they’re the same. Sometimes they’re not.”

Erin has never really known who she is or what she wants, especially when it comes to relationships. That is, until she starts her first year at University and meets her new flatmate Allen.

Reckless, eccentric and intensely creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure it’s a mutual feeling, too, until he starts dating their flatmate Charlotte instead.

Then one night changes everything.

When a drunken mistake ends in tragedy and Charlotte is left fighting for her life, the victim of a hit-and-run, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…

‘This Really Happened’ is a YA drama being released on the Amazon Kindle Store March 1st. Follow for more updates, sneak peaks and giveaways to be announced in the near future! I’d also love to know what you think of the cover – please leave comments below.

Review: ‘Wonder’ by R.J Palacio (guest post)

Anyone who’s filled with as much self-doubt as I am will surely understand what I mean when I say that every now and then, you come across a book that makes you resolve to be a better person. Wonder by R. J. Palacio is absolutely one of those books. Touching, engaging and uplifting, it offered everything I wanted from a story and then some: a whole host of characters; conflict that felt only too realistic; a conclusion so poignant I’m still drying my eyes and an abundance of youthful, untamed delight.

Trying to summarise a book that’s comparable in style only to Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is not easy, but I’ll give it a go. The premise is simple: August Pullman has a genetic condition that makes him look different to other ten-year-olds. Not just a bit different, like a cleft lip or a weird birthmark, but really, truly, stop-in-the-street-and-stare, makes-small-children-run-away-screaming different. Up until the point where the story starts, he has led a sheltered life. If you can call undergoing surgery every few months, wearing a space helmet every time he goes outside and being home schooled by understandably overprotective parents sheltered, that is. But things are about to change, because Auggie is starting middle school. (Whatever that is. Damn these Americans and their confusing educational systems.) Here, he – and the reader – will meet a variety of his peers and undertake a Bildungsroman-esque journey towards all kinds of acceptance.

I could gush about all the things that are great about Wonder for at least thirty pages. Auggie’s emotions, his dark humour, all the ups and downs…it all feels so real, and that’s what makes the story so gripping. I was rooting for him right from the first page, and I found it surprisingly easy to put myself in his shoes thanks to Palacio’s honest, conversational style. What was even more surprising is that I actually engaged more with Auggie, a ten-year-old boy whose life is dominated by a physical distortion, than I did with, for example, his older sister Olivia.

Via is closer to my age than her brother; her typical-teenage-girl problems are certainly more familiar to me than the issues our protagonist faces. Yet, during Via’s sections of the book, I found myself skimming the text, wondering when it was time to get back to the proper story. Yes, I cared about her, and about Jack, and Summer, and Miranda, and even Justin, but these characters’ musings felt like mere interruptions. It’s only now, on reflection, that I am beginning to question whether the asides about Jack’s poverty, Miranda’s home life and so on had some deeper meaning. Yes, these children look completely normal from the outside, but as the saying goes, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Auggie’s classmates might not carry their burdens on their faces like he does, but they are all equally scarred in one way or another: by their past; by their family; by their friends. If the multiple narratives aren’t there to move the plot along, then perhaps they are intended to remind us that Mr. Browne’s precepts apply to everyone, whether their problems are visible or not. “When given the choice between being right and being kind,” Palacio is telling us, “always choose kind”.

I’ve seen some reviews that use words like ‘ableist’ in relation to the story’s tear-jerking happy ending. Some readers suggest that Auggie is awarded the Henry Ward Beecher medal simply for being deformed, and is therefore subject to positive discrimination. I disagree. Auggie earns his standing ovation for showing empathy, wisdom and kindness in the face of adversity, just like Via and Justin do when they face their demons in order to play the leads in their high school production. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a physical condition, a broken family, the death of a loved one…we are wonderful not in spite of but because of our struggles, and this deserves recognition. Who knows what these characters would be like had they led seemingly idyllic lives like Julian? Who’s to say that they wouldn’t be the ones putting mean notes in other pupils’ lockers? I think Palacio is telling us to embrace our differences, even the ones that make people point and laugh. Even the ones that provoke attacks from the uninformed. Even the ones that, as in my case, make strangers stop in the street and say, “Gosh, you’re tall!”.

These are the things that shape us into the remarkable human beings that we are.

 

This guest post was written by a good friend of mine, Rosie, who runs her own book blog ‘an improbable truth‘. Check it out for more excellent book reviews!