‘Flawless’ – Sara Shepherd

Flawless

In the second in the Pretty Little Liars series we continue with the creepy messages from A and it’s quite unnerving how the messages show explicit knowledge of what the girls have been up to. It’s enough to make anyone paranoid, and you can sense the creep-factor being ramped up here.

Naturally there are some differences from the TV series, in terms of order of events and the level of focus on specific characters. Honestly, I do think the girls in the books are a lot less appealing; they’re all heavily flawed, and we don’t really see much sign of any redeeming features.

After the discovery of Alison’s body at the end of book one, it’s of obvious interest to work out what’s going on. The fingers are pointing heavily to Toby and all the girls have moments that are worthy of some horror movie parody. The notes from A are genuinely creepy though, and I felt that with the adult characters acting as they do it’s hardly any wonder that the girls are rather flawed.

We are told a little more about the situation between Jenna and Toby, though it’s painted in a far less positive light here. While I’m finding the reading of this series good fun, I can’t deny it is totally superficial.

‘The Last Beginning’ – Lauren James

The Last Beginning

Finishing while you’re ahead is always a good idea, but this was such a wonderful read there’s a part of me that hopes there is more to come.

In The Last Beginning we follow Clove Sutcliffe as she learns about her real parents and the role they played in history. We are introduced to one or two familiar faces and get to meet some new, very intriguing, characters.

If you’ve read the first in the series you will be pleased to know this novel helps us make a lot more sense of some of the more confusing elements of the first novel. This is a deftly constructed, compelling read that had me desperate to see how things would be resolved. I loved the character of Clove and as she develops an understanding of her role in history, I couldn’t wait to see how James dealt with some of my unanswered questions. I was gripped by this from the moment I started. Time travel is a familiar concept to explore, but there’s a real sense of James’s skill in controlling what information we need to know at what point in time.

I would urge you to read The Next Together immediately if you haven’t already, then treat yourself to this little gem.

‘Pretty Little Liars’ – Sara Shephard

Pretty Little Liars

My first encounter with Emily, Spencer, Aria, Hanna, the mysterious A and a whole host of other characters came when I started watching the series on Netflix. It’s the kind of series where everyone is impossibly glamorous – I’m pretty certain that few people look like this lot at high school – but the wicked humour and clever plotting has quickly made it a firm favourite of mine. Although I’ve become an avid fan of the series, I wasn’t sure if I could face reading the sixteen novels on which the show is based.

I can only apologise, and say that I wish I hadn’t waited so long.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series we focus on what was a close-knit group of friends. They have gone their separate ways since the ‘leader’ of their group – Alison – has gone missing. Her disappearance causes ripples in the small community of Rosewood but life goes on.

Just like the TV series we are aware very early on that the key characters are all involved in something that the group want to remain hidden. Their secret has kept them tied to each other, even though they don’t seem to like each other very much at times.  We become aware that each of the girls also has their own secret, which Alison knew, but none of the others were aware of. These secrets are things they don’t want anyone to know about, yet when they start receiving messages from ‘A’ we watch them unravel as they try to work out just who is watching them.

The idea of someone monitoring their every move in the way that would have to be happening here is quite creepy. Initially the girls think Alison can’t have disappeared and that she is tormenting them for her own fun. However, when her body is found in her old back-yard, it seems there’s a little more to this mystery than we first thought.

While I found the constant name-checking of brands and products rather irritating in the novel, I was interested to see how the novels differed from the show. The female characters in the book are more nuanced than we’re led to believe and I liked the fact that their roles within the group are not quite so defined. In my head as I’m reading I confess to visualising the characters from the show, even though in a number of cases they are nothing alike. The first novel ends shortly after the discovery of Alison’s body so we are left with many questions, and I really liked the device of having A directly address us at the end.

I picked this up because of a reading challenge I’m involved in which is focusing on Series reads – with sixteen to get through, I might not manage them all in one go but I’m happy to read along for a little.