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review 2018-01-08 14:20
"The Liars Club" by Mary Karr
The Liars' Club - Mary Karr

The Liars' Club is steeped in a strong blend of Texas scenery [oil rigs and nutria rats], sounds ["He's not worth the bullet it'd take to kill him"] and it's stifling stickiness as much as it is run through with the horrors and trauma Karr experienced as a child. 


What is worth the price of admission though is Karr's writing. She draws on the rhythms and turns of her Texas dialect to craft sentences that are evocative and unexpected. And they always serve the story, from the heat of a Texas summer to the smell of her stepdad's breath the whys of the story and the imagery of it are always linked in ways that make for a really engaging book. Even in framed stories, anecdotes her father is telling at the bar and she is passing down to us, his shape and movement, the intrusions of his friends in the titular "Liars' Club," add to the story in a way that is more than just a painted background on which to picture the story.


Karr's story is full of sweet, heartfelt moments, absurdity, humor and trauma.  It's easy to picture a very different book with the same material, but the way Karr structures her telling moves the trauma away from the center of the story. It makes the book about her family and not what has happened to them, and also makes those moments more impactful. 


"That afternoon, for the first time, I believed that Death itself lived in the neighboring houses. Death cheered for the Dallas Cowboys, and wrapped canned biscuit dough around Vienna sausages for the half-time snack."


If you've heard about the book you may have heard about the more lurid incidents, her mother threatening her with a knife, for instance. These scenes are major parts in the story, but they never feel central in the way they might in a tell-all by the subject of a story that got national media attention, or a book that will get made into a typical Lifetime-style movie. For one, you don't see them coming. The only one she forecasts in detail is the night with the knife, but there are several other deeply disturbing incidents throughout the book. The story about the knife itself arrives suddenly at the end of one of Karr's long chapters. Others kick off chapters. At least one comes suddenly in the middle of the chapter.


It's a shock to read at times, but may be the healthier way to write. We are so used to building to such dramatic moments, but there is no inevitability to an assault, or an emotional breakdown, sometimes things just happen. It's terrible, but it's also a way of keeping your own story. Karr is not a sum only of these abuses, she's also her father's storytelling, her mother's erudition, a take-no -shit-attitude and much else besides. Which makes it more appropriate when Karr ends years later with her family still together. Her mother who held the knife, her father who got too drunk, Karr and her sister, sharing their traumas and the many other experiences that make up their lives. I think a hopeful note is the tendency for the ending of memoirs, but it rings true here because throughout the book Karr has always seen through the worst times as a bug not a feature.


If you've not gotten onto The Liars' Club yet, I highly recommend it. It's a straight shame I hadn't moved sooner to read Mary Karr after hearing her interviewed and reading and excerpt from The Art of Memoir. 


Side note: I picked up my copy of Mary Karr's memoir in the last indie book shop in San Antonio [Twig Book Shop at the Pearl Brewery if you're ever in town]. I try to find local bookshops any time I travel and buy something of local interest. I have trouble explaining my intentions sometimes — I'm more interested in fiction or memoirs that happen to be here than the local "Images of America" installment — but it starts a conversation and leads to some unexpected treasures.

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review 2017-11-20 15:54
The Liars' Asylum
The Liars' Asylum - Jacob M Appel

This is a collection of eight short stories. Each one is solid and thought-provoking. They're tales about the frustrations of romantic love. For me, nothing seemed to be missing from any of the stories. I really liked "Prisoners of the Multiverse" which tells the tale of a suicidal physicist and his top student, and "The Summer of Interrogatory Subversion" which is about a young girl turning eighteen and her mother renting out their basement to a graduate student who looked like a medieval shepherd and who was deemed creepy by the girl's best friend.

Thank you to Netgalley and Black Lawrence Press for a copy of this book.

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text 2017-04-29 02:15
Reading progress update: I've read 82 out of 220 pages.
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

Wow, this mom. She sounds suspiciously like my own mom. "Act normal." "Don't make a scene." In other words, don't you dare cry, sob or show any form of upset.

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text 2017-04-22 20:55
My 99p eBook Haul or Don't Look at Books When You Have Had a Bad Week!
The Witchfinder's Sister - Beth Underdown
The Roanoke Girls: A Novel - Amy Engel
Sometimes I Lie - Alice Feeney
Our Endless Numbered Days - Claire Fuller
Yellow Crocus - Laila Ibrahim
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
The Light of the Fireflies - Simon Bruni,Paul Pen
Carrion Comfort - Dan Simmons
Black Hills - Dan Simmons

So, a while back I promised myself I wouldn't succumb to the £0.99 temptation and I would only buy reduced books if they were on my tbr. Well, I was doing really well until...I had a bad week. Let's face it, other people buy shoes and handbags when they feel they need a boost but we buy books. Not that I need them, my physical bookshelves are full to bursting - I have had to start storing books in a (dangerous) third row as two deep just doesn't hack it - my kindle is full of freebies and deals I never will read and even my kobo, which I swore faithfully to myself would mainly be used to borrow books from overdrive, is slowly filling up with unread (but very good and mostly cheap) books. What can I say? I stand up now and confess:

"My name is Julie, I'm a bookaholic" (but I can stop anytime I like, it's just I have these books reserved at the library...)


Edit: I might as well go the whole hog and buy two more. I've added Carrion Comfort and Black Hills to my Kobo, I like Dan Simmons and I've wanted to read them for a while, I'm ruined anyway.


Oh dear, I'm depressed now, I wonder what's on offer at Amazon...

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review 2017-04-14 17:22
Going Against the Tide With This One
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

So I happen to know a ton of Goodreads friends and real life friends who went ga-ga over this book. I had a friend that reads about 12 books a year make it a point to talk up this book to me every time she saw me. I was reluctant since it was getting a lot of buzz and most buzz-worthy books and I hate do not see eye to eye with each other. When we do, it is of course glorious and I want to hug the book and read it until my eyes blur. But man, when I don't like it and/or hate the characters, the whole thing becomes a straight up hate read. I only finished this book to make sure the "twist" I guessed at a few chapters in was right. I was right. 


Image result for meh reading book gif

This was the most navel gazing book I have read at some time. Rich is bad and we need to give more to others, and also maybe not do that, I don't know, the book went from one extreme to another.  


I believe that the main character, Cadence (Cady) Sinclair Eastman, is running toe to toe with the character of Holden Caulfield (The Cather in the Rye) as most annoying teen character in a book. There are some real similarities between both characters and the two books especially with regards to the whole unreliable narrator gimmick. FYI, most of those don't really work since readers can clue in on certain things, and also it's kind of aggravating to read. 


"We Were Liars" is Cady's tale of her family's woes. Cady is the only daughter and the eldest Sinclair grandchild. Her two other cousins (Mirren and Johnny) and a family friend (Gat) make of the Liars that get referenced in the title. 


Cady's mother is one of three daughters that are left of the Sinclair family and you pretty much get to read a lot about how the three sisters are just being so terribly put upon by their rich and also grieving father. Seriously though, this book should just have been titled, rich white people problems. Cause that's all it really was. I could not take anything seriously at all with what Cady spells out. The whole defining incident that led to the overall book's mystery was a hot mess of a thing. At least even Cady (through Lockhart maybe realizing that the whole thing fell apart towards the end) realizes how dramatic and stupid things were (the only reason why I gave this one of 2 stars).


The Sinclair family has a very tough life being rich (there are numerous allusions to trust funds) and the fact that most of the family does not have to work and or they do work, but it's definitely not going to pay their significant bills. After Cady's grandmother dies the whole family kind splinters, but does it best to not bring up sad and awful things. Because that is what a Sinclair does. Also I hope you enjoy reading that line throughout the book.


The family gets together every summer on their private island and of course the year after the grandmother dies, the grandfather turns into a tyrant. There are allusions made to leaving money to one child or another, or to one grandchild or another, and if one does what he doesn't want to happen, he threatens to cut people off. I swear this whole thing is a Wes Anderson film in book form. 


Cady starts to fall for family friend Gat (seriously his name is terrible) and starts to think about love and how sheltered and oblivious her family is. Gat of course starts to lecture Mirren, Johnny, and Cady about their family's largess like it's something they should deal with and I know that a lot of readers loved Gat, but I found him just as annoying as Cady. 


When an incident leaves Cady sick and reeling, she is left bereft since her liars don't try to talk to her as she recuperates. So pretty much most of the book is Cady trying to get permission to go back to the family's island and see her "liars" again and fix her broken family. She is annoyed at her mother's hovering and concerns and starts to give away her things. She dyes her hair black. She is mysterious (eyeroll). 


Cady is thoughtless and looks at her mother, aunts, and even her grandfather with contempt. Hell I think at one point she disparages some of the family's dogs that are apparently not that smart. She is also overly dramatic (at least that's how Lockhart writes her) and I was really tired of reading all of the freaking metaphors and adjectives that littered this book when Cady is telling your her innermost thoughts and feelings. She seems totally indifferent to her absent father, but even when she refers to him, there tends to be annoyance that he just doesn't do what she thinks he should do.


Case in point, she gets annoyed at her grandfather and brings up his dead wife (her grandfather) cause you read in that moment she wants to cause him pain (ie to not tell a lie for a moment) and with the quickness he shuts he down after a few moments. Frankly, I wanted to tell Cady and Gat, that sometimes people process grief their own way, and you don't get to tell someone how to do it. 


The other characters in this book are not developed well. But that is due to us reading about all of these people through Cady's eyes. I can't tell you anything about her cousins besides their heights and they had Sinclair looks (blonde hair) and that's about it. Lockhart provides more details about the dead grandmother than she did anyone else.

And was anyone else weirded out by the fact that Cady and others don't know much about Gat's home life or anything? It made no sense to me. These kids apparently don't speak to each other via email, IM, or text at all after the summer is up. So Cady being devastated after Gat and her have not spoken since the summer before, and know he is seeing someone made me roll my eyes. He's not a plant. You can't just imagine him siting around doing nothing until you want to play with him again.


The writing was too much. Honestly, I the whole thing was ripe with purple prose. The only things I did like were the fairy-tale stories (reason for the second star) that Cady interjects throughout the book that symbolizes her grandfather and her aunts and mother. But once again I am going to say that Cady equating those fairy-tales with what her family was doing was eye roll inducing. 


The ending which I called just made me sigh until I was finally done with the book. 

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