Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (audio)

"None of us ever know all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken.  It's probably just as well.  Some secrets are meant to stay secrets forever.  Just ask Pandora."

This is the first novel that I have read by Liane Moriarty and I was pleasantly surprised.  I picked this up at the library as an audio book and had no real high hopes for it.  I had seen it on the best seller's list and some other lists in the past and didn't really have anything else that I wanted to listen to at the time. I was planning on it being some sort of 'chick-lit' average book that would - at the very least - pass the time on my way to and from work for a week or so.  Wow, was a wrong.

This novel is told from the point-of-view of three very different women whose lives begin to slowly come together.  At the center of it all is the secret of one women's husband and the ultimate question of how well you can ever really know someone - specifically your spouse.  Like the book, I wasn't expecting to like the characters as much as I did.  They were all significantly flawed and made a lot of bad choices, but each one began to grow on me.

I usually am not super into reading this type of book, but I was hooked from the very first page.  Even though the 'husband's secret' is the center of the book, figuring out the secret is not.  The secret is actually revealed fairly early on in the book.  I wasn't super surprised by it.  Which was fine because the real focus of the novel was not the secret itself, but how it unfolds and the people that it effects along the way.  The writing was wonderful and witty and the plot left me wanting to turn the pages faster than I could read them.  The dialogue and dynamics of the novel is pure brilliant.  And I absolutely loved the interaction not only between the characters but the inner dialog that was the driving point of the story.

Was this book perfect?  Not at all.  The characters were more-often-than-not superficial and there were way too many coinsidances to make this story at all believable.  But, all that aside, I thought the novel was extremely well done and I couldn't put it down.  So that gives it a 5 stars in my book.  Plus there was the epilogue.  Wow - just wow.  Very creative and thought-provoking and not at all what I was expecting.

Liane Moriarty is now one of the best new(ish) authors that I have read in awhile and I can't wait to see what else she has in store!

This book was #3 on my top ten list of 2015.

Friday, November 20, 2015

House Rules by Jodi Picoult (audio)

"It's never the difference in people the surprise us.  It's the things that, against all odds, we have in common."

About every year or two I usually find myself going through a 'Jodi Picoult' phase - usually when I find myself in need of a audio book because the new ones that I want to listen to are still on hold at the library.  Including this one, I have read 11 out of her 21 novels (I think...), not including her two YA books or collections of short stories.  I generally enjoy them and they make great audio books for listening to in the car - engaging stories with relatively simple concepts and storylines even though they usually carry a lot of emotion, unthinkable choices, etc.  I like hearing the story from the view point of multiple characters and find it interesting to read about 'hot topics' that make readers think about things that aren't all that fun to think about.  

Her latest book, Leaving Time, was quite different than usual.  Very good, but very different.  That was what originally got me back to reading Picoult again in the first place.


This book focus on a young man named Jacob who has Asperger's syndrome and the effects that it has on him and his family - specifically his mother and younger brother, Theo.  Jacob is currently on a detective/crime fix and we soon find him caught up in his own crime scene where he is the suspect in the murder of his social skills tutor.  The middle of the novel gets into a lot of typical behaviors of Asperger's effects Jacob in court.  In usual Picoult fashion, reader's aren't sure if Jacob is actually guilty or not as the trial is takes place and there is the usual unsuspected twist at the end - even though I can't for the life of me remember exactly how the ending went.  I guess I need to stop reviewing books nearly a month after reading them!!

All in all, this was an enjoyable book - interesting storyline and premise - but nothing amazing.

I also have a problem with the cover.  Beautiful design, but is it just me, or does the kid in the photo look to be about 8 or 10 instead of 18??

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

" 'He's coming for you,' is all she says. 'This is how he always does it.  He's coming for you, Kat, and I don't know how to save you.  I'm packing Bibles and I'm burning papers, but they know you have been reading and writing, and they are changing the law ahead of me.  I can't make sure you obey the law because they are changing it faster than we can obey.' "

I first fell in love with Philippa Greogry after reading The Other Boleyn Girl' about four years ago and have since read pretty much everything she has written...except her earlier and more contemporary novels.  I haven't read any of those yet and don't know that I will.  I just finished reading 'The King's Curse' - which was marketed as the sixth of her Cousins' War novels, but which also serves as somewhat of a prequel to her Tutor Court novels as well.  It was a really interesting transition and I'm glad that I waited awhile to read this so that I could start it right after finishing 'The King's Curse.'

This novel - technically the fourth in the Tutor's Court series - follows Henry VIII's sixth and final wife, Kateryn Parr from right before her marriage to the King up until his death in almost four years later 1547.  Even though I have read a lot about Tutor history, I did not know much about Kateryn Parr before reading this book.  I under the impression that she was not in danger from the King and I was surprised how close to death she became.  One has to wonder, if Henry VIII had lived longer, if he would have changed his mind - yet again - and set her aside to marry a new queen...or even ordered her to be put to death.  

A central theme in this novel was the reformation of the English church.  I don't know much about this topic, so I'm not exactly sure if everything was accurate or not, but I was really interested to read more about the history of the Church of England.  I had previously thought that the change in believes were focused on Henry VIII being able to divorce his second wife, Anne Boleyn in order to remarry.  Although this was a factor, the novel went into much greater detail of the many changes that the reformers wanted to see in England to convert back to a more truer religion that better represented God's teachings.  It was fascinating to read about a women who was so instrumental in the events that took place and had thoughts and ideas of her own that were among some of the first to be published by a women.  

I greatly enjoyed this book, but I've come to a conclusion that Philippa Gregory's books aren't at great as I once thought they were.  I'm not sure if her writing has changed or if it is mearly that I have grown as a reader.  Sometimes I feel like a lot of her characters blend together and aspects or dialogue is repeated - but I suppose that's what happens when writing one novel after another set in similar historical periods and place.  I usually find myself taking awhile to get into one of her new novels, but once I do I finish it in a few days.  I still love reading her books and was really interested in new characters amongst those mentioned in her previous novels.  She has a knack for taking lesser-known women in history and crafting engaging characters and story lines set in the historical backdrop of some of the most interesting time periods of history.

I am looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (audio)

"You don't need water to feel like your drowning, do you?"

I've read a lot of Jodi Picoult books in the past - 10 according to my Goodreads account - but I somehow missed this one along the way.  I'm not sure how I overlooked it.  Other than 'My Sister's Keeper' it is probably one of Picoult's most well-know books so far.  I kept thinking that I had read it before, but I guess not.  Overall, it was a good book, but it wasn't one of my favorite of the author's novels.

The story centers around a teenage girl named Josie and a school shooting that happened at her high school where her use-to-be best friend Peter killed 10 students and injured 19 others - all in the time span of 19 minutes.  The novel goes back and forth between when Peter and Josie were young children and the present where everyone in the town is trying to deal with the aftermath of the shooting: Josie who has lost her boyfriend, Josie's mom Alex who is involved in the case, Peter's parents, parents of the killed and injured students, the student's themselves, and of course Peter.  

The argument that Peter made behind the massive murder of innocent teenager was that he had been bullied from literally day one of attending kindergarten.  As the story progresses, it is evident that Peter had been badly bullied and much of the bullying came from Josie and her popular group of friends.  Peter was always seen as 'different' and never really fit in.  As the trial begins to play out, the author leaves the reader to question if Peter's actions were justified.  Of course, killing innocent people is never ok, but we begin to understand how awful Peter was treated all throughout school.

This novel brings up a lot of questions.  Why do troubled teenagers (or adult) involved in mass murders do what they do?  Is it because of their parents?  Or how they were treated at school?  Or something entirely different?  And, most importantly, how - as parents, educator's, etc. can we prevent this from happening - both centering around Peter's violent actions and on those of the students that bullied him to the point of causing him to take innocent lives?  Lots of things to think about...

I remember high school - as I'm sure we all do.  It wasn't always fun and teenagers can be downright awful towards other students.  It's been almost ten years, but Jodi Picoult's vivid writing of how high school brought back a lot of thoughts and feelings from my own high school days.  I wasn't bullied a lot per say, but I had a lot of friends who were 'different' and it wasn't always walking through the hallways or, in my case, getting picked last for gym class (do they still do that anymore??)  Luckily, I didnt' really care.  I had my own interests and friends and I couldn't really have cared less what the popular crowd thought.  It left me wondering how a certain instance of bullying can barely effect one person, but cause extreme issues in another.  Throughout the story, I wanted so badly to tell Peter that it gets better.  That his whole world isn't always going to be walking through the dreaded high school hallways.  I'm still not quite sure how to portray that to young students these days.  You can say 'it gets better' all you want, but when you're living in the moment, just an entire day can feel like a life time.  Peter thought like this and didn't see any other way out.  

This book was an important one on many levels and I'm glad I read it, but I would have liked to see a slightly different ending.  I'm not sure what exactly, but there seemed to be so much build up and the conclusion seemed to fall a little flat for me.  After reading the book, I am still left with a lot of questions as to why certain characters did what they did.  Not to give too much away, but I cannot understand Josie's thoughts and actions throughout a majority of the last half of the book.  It just didn't add up for me.  I guess I was expecting something a little different, but still a book worth reading nonetheless.