Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Title: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

Author: Chelsea Sedoti

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Release Date: January 2017

Source: Goodreads Giveaway

Rating: 3.5/5

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What’s the story?

A teenage misfit named Hawthorn Creely inserts herself in the investigation of missing person Lizzie Lovett, who disappeared mysteriously while camping with her boyfriend. Hawthorn doesn’t mean to interfere, but she has a pretty crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie. In order to prove it, she decides to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life. That includes taking her job… and her boyfriend. It’s a huge risk — but it’s just what Hawthorn needs to find her own place in the world.

Review

This book arrived on my doorstep on the worst day of my cold — you know the one where you’re so sick of being sick and going stir crazy because you’ve been in bed for 3 days — and it brought light to my life.

I had been eyeing this book on Goodreads since January, and intrigued by the fairly vague synopsis, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and kept an open mind.  I was caught off guard and thrown for a loop quite a few times, some were good and some were not-so-good, and by the end, I felt a little cheated.

Overall, I enjoyed Sedoti’s writing.  Her diction and language was strong, and the dialogue felt natural and unique for each and every character.  For the most part, I felt that the characters themselves were realistic and well thought out.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the novel’s main character, Hawthorn Creely.

I found Hawthorn to be frustratingly annoying and couldn’t bring myself to like her much until the very end.  She seemed forced and sometimes unauthentic, as though, despite all of her interesting quirks, she chose to cast herself as society’s misfit teenager and whined about it the whole time.  I also just didn’t understand her obsession with Lizzie Lovett.

Of course, I understand that the entire premise of the novel was for Hawthorn to uncover Lizzie Lovett’s mysterious disappearance, however, I sometimes felt that this was the only thing happening in the novel.  Especially since I just didn’t understand Lizzie’s appeal.

Hawthorn becomes so infatuated with Lizzie Lovett, a girl she hardly knew or cared for prior to her disappearance, that it consumes her completely.  She takes her boring waitress job, dates her strange boyfriend, and becomes completely immersed in the hundred plausible explanations for her disappearance, most of which are supernatural and involve werewolf lore.

But of course, with Sedoti’s strong writing and talent for suspense, I just couldn’t put the book down.  Hawthorn’s obsession became my obsession — I needed to know what happened to Lizzie — and as the story went on, I began to feel for Hawthorn and understand her character just a little bit more.  She is a misfit and Lizzie, being the stereotypical popular and perfect girl that she had been in high school, is exactly who Hawthorn wishes she could be — beautiful, friends with everyone, crushed on by all the boys, and most importantly, included — so she adopts what she can from the life Lizzie left behind.

In my opinion, there was no perfect ending, and although I did feel a little cheated by it, I do think Sedoti did well to tie up loose ends and bring Lizzie and Hawthorn’s stories to a close.  Things ended relatively well, and I honestly have to say that the part I liked the absolute least throughout this entire novel, was Hawthorn’s extremely cringe-worthy relationship with Lorenzo Calvetti, Lizzie’s boyfriend, so take it as you will.

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded

Title: Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded

Author: Hannah Hart

Publisher: Dey Street Books

Release Date: October 2016

Source: Amazon

Rating: 5/5

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By combing through the journals that Hannah has kept for much of her life, this collection of narrative essays deliver a fuller picture of her life, her experiences, and the things she’s figured out about family, faith, love, sexuality, self-worth, friendship and fame.  Revealing what makes Hannah tick, this sometimes cringe-worthy, poignant collection of stories is sure to deliver plenty of Hannah’s wit and wisdom, and hopefully encourage you to try your hand at her patented brand of reckless optimism.

I’m fairly certain that this is the first time I’ve reviewed non-fiction, and not only is this book non-fiction, but it’s an autobiography, which I feel makes it a little weird to review, but I’ll do my best.

I am pretty familiar with Hannah Hart, and watch her and the Holy Trinity religiously on YouTube.  From this alone, I have some general and basic knowledge of who she is and know, from vague allusions, that her life has been a little rocky despite her present-day positive and inspiring persona.  So with that said, I didn’t find her autobiography to be shocking, but I was definitely surprised at the level and amount of hardship, grief and trouble she has lived with and overcome in her lifetime.

As the blurb on the dust jacket reveals, the autobiography tells “tales of family, faith, mental health, LESBIAN SEX, and my ongoing journey to love myself (and not just me selfies.)”  That alone is exemplary of her writing throughout the book.

Hart writes with clarity, honesty, integrity, emotion, and humour, and her voice shines through every piece with hope and faith and inspiration for her readers.  She tackles heavy subjects by telling her story, giving advice, and wishing luck and hope to those struggling with their own issues.  Her goal in writing this autobiography was to build a community wherein no one feels as though they are alone, and I really think this sentiment resonated throughout the book.  Although I may not be dealing with the same issues, I was able to gain insight on my own and really gain perspective in the whole spectrum of it all.

I really liked the addition of her journal entries, pictures and sketches.  I feel like it really added to the work and the message she wanted to get through to the readers.  Her writing is very self-reflective and a look back on her past, so it was interesting to have those aspects and pieces that came from her living through those moments to see how far she has come, how it has shaped her, and what she has learned from those experiences.

Overall, it was a great work.  I highly enjoyed reading Hannah Hart’s autobiography, it just felt real and truthful and genuine.  You can’t really write a review on someone’s life, and I’ve read blurbs on Goodreads of “bad” reviews because of the stories she chose to share.  I can’t wrap my head around those reviews — you can’t review an autobiography based on the life events that the author is sharing with you — because if you’re reviewing an autobiography, it should be based on the quality and effectiveness of the writing and its ability to tell the stories, evoke emotions, and invoke critical thinking.  And, Buffering achieved all of those things and more.

Let me know if you’ve read Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded and if you liked it.  And, don’t forget, practice reckless optimism!

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Author: Katarina Bivald

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Release Date: January 2016

Source: WHSmith

Rating: 4/5

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Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy.  When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended.  Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist — even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books.  Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory.

I had easily been eyeing the display for about ten minutes before realizing I had an hour to kill before catching my train back to Germany from London, so I decided to pop in and take a closer look.  The cover and back blurb won me over immediately and I just as quickly queued up to make my purchase.

Bivald’s novel tells the story of a small American town, practically abandoned and in disrepair, badly needing a lot of care and love.  That’s exactly what Sara brings to Broken Wheel.  She arrives, hoping to meet her elderly pen pal and book exchange partner, in town only to find out her friend had passed away.  Despite the awkwardness of the situation, the town welcomes her anyway, and in return, Sara opens a much needed bookstore to liven up the town of Broken Wheel and its residents.

Although the novel’s main focus is on Sara and her journey to self-discovery and romance, we see the development of many secondary characters.  The beginning of the novel sees residents of Broken Wheel as reclusive, repressed, close-minded, depressed… the list could go on, but as Sara manages to get the bookstore running, we see everyone embark on their own journeys of self-discovery, acceptance and pursuit of happiness.

Overall, I found that Bivald’s writing perfectly handles the mess of characters and the development of tangible sub-plots and backstories, all of which I found to be as equally interesting as Sara’s.  Her writing is strong enough to hold up each story line and keep them moving forward at a good pace, allowing the story to fold naturally rather than force the stories to work together — although a little too cliched at times.  The ending was definitely predictable, but this didn’t hurt my experience of reading the book at all.

The whole bookworm and passion for literature vibe that resonated throughout the book made it extremely enjoyable for me to read.  I feel like I have never related more to any character in a book — her description of books, her love for them, her obsession — I maybe too strongly identify with Sara’s perfect imperfection of liking books more than people, but I’m okay with that.

The novel was a light read, making it the perfect vacation novel.  It has an simple premise, quirky characters, interesting story with a dash of romance.  I’ve already recommended it to a handful of people, all of whom are embarking on their warm getaways to escape the harsh cold and snow of Canada, and I know, despite their varying tastes in literature, they will enjoy this book.

 

Go Set a Watchman

Title: Go Set a Watchman

Author: Harper Lee

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: July 2015

Source: Chapters

Rating: 4/5

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Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her.  Memories form her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt.

When news of Harper Lee’s novel first came out a few years ago, there was a lot of controversy surrounding it involving her rights and the protection of a novel she never wanted to publish.  Ultimately, it rendered me reluctant to purchase and read it, but as time wore on, I realized that I actually just really wanted to read it and find out what it was all about.

Essentially, the novel takes place several years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird.  It follows Scout’s, or I should say Jean Louise’s, attempt to get through life as a modern woman.  The novel revolves mostly around her visit to Maycomb County, during which she finds out many of the town’s dirty little secrets, destroying her own disillusioned view of her father.

Honestly, reading this novel I found myself completely taken aback at the serious revelations and allegations that came out surrounding her own family, and felt completely disheartened.  Atticus is held on such a high pedestal in To Kill a Mockingbird, and this just crushed me.  But I guess, as the saying goes, never meet your heroes.

Despite this, the novel was wonderfully written in true Harper Lee style.  A classic, for sure.  I felt Jean Louise’s struggles as a modern woman in a small town very telling of society and our culture as a whole (even though I live nowhere near the American South) even in this day and age.  She is condemned by her family and community for being who she is, a woman rising in success.  Condemned because she chose to “abandon” her father for a career in a big city.  Her inner struggle between caring for her father, marrying a man she loves but could never make happy and be happy in return, and her independent, successful and fruitful life in New York.

These are issues that I feel women are still struggling with today.  Home versus professional life.  Dependence versus independence.  Family versus career.  Although the times are changing, society still puts so much pressure on women to abide to gender roles and morals.  Harper Lee addresses these issues, as well as many others also explored in her first novel, that I feel Go Set a Watchman will become an iconic, timeless classic novel in its own time.

The Secret Garden

Title: The Secret Garden

Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Publisher: Penguin Threads

Release Date: November 2011 (first published 1911)

Source: Mayersche Buchhandlung

Rating: 5/5

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When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle’s great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets.  The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up.  And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.  The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary’s only escape.  Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key.  One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in.  Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life? (Goodreads)

The Secret Garden quickly became my favourite story when I first saw the film as a young child.  Ever since, I’ve watched at least once a year.  It’s my go-to movie and yet, I’ve never read the novel until now.

Having seen the movie, I knew the story of Mary Lennox.  Of course while reading, my imagination conjured up images of the actors, of the movie sets, and all of that, but the novel filled in all of the gaps the film had left empty.  Everything we don’t see or know from watching the movie is answered and addressed in the novel.  I found that there was an added depth to the story.  The story, the characters, the world of Misselthwaite Manor, is filled in with rich, lively detail that is not necessarily available in the movie.

This review seems to be more of a comparison between the novel and the film, but in all seriousness, I don’t see why you wouldn’t love this novel.  It is such a great story, albeit a sad one at first.  Burnett’s writing reignites the light of childhood and your imagination is able to run wild with Mary and Dickon through the moors of Misselthwaite.  The language might be a little tricky because a lot of it is written to imitate the Yorkshire accent of the community, but you get used to it really quickly.

Overall, reading The Secret Garden as an adult was a great experience.  It felt like an old friend, evoked a sense of nostalgia and familiarity I’ve rarely experienced.  It reminded me of the magic, innocence, and whimsicality of childhood.  It was a fantastic, easy and quick read.  How could you say no?

Ready Player One

Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Publisher: Broadway Books

Release Date: June 2012

Source: Amazon

Rating: 4/5

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When I first heard of Cline’s novel, Ready Player One, it came with a bundle of rave reviews, however; when I read up on it, my main concern was: will I like this?  It’s a novel about video games, and being a really horrible player with little interest in gaming, it was definitely a struggle to make a decision on whether or not I wanted to buy this book.

I don’t know about you, but I like good books.  Even though I might not be interested in the genre or topic at hand, I can still appreciate it if it is well written and makes me interested in something I might not have been previously interested in at all — so with that in mind, I bought the book anyway.

Ready Player One tells the story of Wade Watts, a teenager living in an impoverished community in a futuristic, dystopian America.  Life has become digital, with everyone leading their lives through their created online personas.  Five years before Wade’s story takes place, James Halliday, the genius behind the Oasis (the online world in which everyone lives) passes away with no one to inherit his wealth and legacy.  Knowing this, Halliday, organizes a massive and complex quest for his fans.  The first person to complete the quest, the winner, inherits everything he has.

Wade is the main character in this novel, however, there are are four other players who also play important roles in the development of the plot. Together they drive and mould the story as they attempt to complete Halliday’s quest while also going up against an evil corporation trying to take over the Oasis.  For a novel of this length, juggling five characters is no easy job, but Cline makes it look so easy.  As the story unfurls before your eyes, each and every character is brought to life through amazing backstories and subplots, creating some of the best character development I have ever experienced.

Overall, Ready Player One was a fantastic book.  It was a quick and easy to read, but I did find that some references went right over mtg head, especially the gaming ones.  But the novel is so much more than gaming and ’80s references, it’s about finding strength and confidence in yourself all the while staying true to who you are.

This was a great read and I highly recommend it!

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

Title: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

Author: Jonas Jonasson

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: April 2014

Source: All Books

Rating: 4.5/5

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On June 14, 2007, the king and the prime minister of Sweden went missing from a gala banquet at the royal castle.  Later it was said that both had fallen ill, but the truth is different.  The real story starts much earlier, in 1961, with the birth of Nombeko Mayeki in a shack in Soweto.  Nombeko was fated to grow up fast and die early in her poverty-stricken township, be it from drugs, alcohol, or just plan despair.  But Nombeko takes a different path.  She finds work as a housecleaner and eventually makes her way up to the the position of the chief advisor, at the helm of one of the world’s most secret projects. (Goodreads)

Jonas Jonasson’s novel The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is probably one of the best books I’ve read in a while.  It’s my first Jonasson novel, I heard about it after my parents saw the film based on The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, and raved about how fantastic the story was.  I figured that if the film was great, the novel must also be amazing, but instead I found this thrifty find for only a few dollars at All Books, one of Ottawa’s best independent bookstores — and boy, am I ever glad I read it.

First, I will begin with a word of warning: the suspension of disbelief is absolutely crucial.  Jonasson’s characters are all well-rounded, believable (albeit still exaggerated) characters — there is no doubt that truly gifted and intelligent people can be born into horrible situations, that a potato farmer is a long-lost descendent of a baron, or that a man can exist without legally existing on paper — Jonasson’s story is somewhat based in realistic and truthful circumstances, however, it is the wild and crazy adventure on which these characters embark that force you to simply forget reality in order to fully enjoy this outrageous story.

I feel like I’ve recently read a few novels in which multiple storylines intertwine and converge into one, but I don’t think any of them have done it as well as Jonasson has in this novel.  Jonasson’s talent really shines in creating such diverse and intriguing characters with such fantastic and rich backstories, throwing all of these characters together, and letting the story unfold and tie up all loose ends in an extravagantly complex plot.

Unfortunately, despite how much I loved this book, I cannot give it a full 5/5.  Instead, choosing a 4.75/5 because I did find the beginning of the novel a little long-winded and difficult to get through.  However, despite its laboured start, this was an amazing novel and I think it will stick with me forever — it is truly such an amazing and creative piece of literature.