Book of the Month: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is a mystery. Not only is it a whodunnit, but it’s a whodunnit to who?

What we know: At a school trivia night, someone is killed. Who and why are slowly revealed to us throughout the course of the book.

Big Little Lies is a pretty simple book on the surface, but it has many layers that make it a rich and rewarding reading experience. There are three main characters: Jane, a 24-year-old single mother of a kindergartener who may or may not be brutally bullying another child, has just moved to the area and harbors a secret that has been eating away at her for years; Celeste, who has a picture perfect life on the outside but conceals her own dark secrets; and Madeline, a feisty, vivacious woman with a penchant for drama that is coming back to bite her in the ass with her own teenage daughter.

As we wend our way through the intersecting lives of these three women, we touch on many secrets: What is happening in Celeste’s house? What happened to Jane that makes her believe that Ziggy might be capable of what he has been accused? What is going on with Madeline’s daughter? But the biggest secret of all, of course, is who died, and why. Moriarty builds the tension exquisitely. Each small secret and accompanying lie adds another twist to the screw, another torque to amp up the stakes, so that by the time all is revealed, it is a delicious, cathartic experience. An exhalation, a sigh of satisfaction, that says, “ahhhh..finally….”

Ultimately, Big Little Lies is about more than a murder and distorted elementary school politics, though those are, of course, fascinating in and of themselves. Ultimately, Big Little Lies is about the lies that we all tell to make it through our lives, and how those lies can either save us … or kill us.

What was your favorite book in March?

Book of the Month: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Book of the Month – The Raven Cycle Series

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Surprise, surprise, more young adult fare!

I picked up the first book in this series, The Raven Boys, on a whim. It was on the Staff Recommended shelf at the library, and I had a vague memory of reading somewhere that Maggie Stiefvater was a highly accomplished writer. So I thought, What the hell, and gave it a shot. Little did I know that it would lead down a dark path! The second I finished the first book, I put holds on the second and third, and waited with zero patience for them to arrive. (As always seems to be the case, the third one came in first. I went to the library three times in two days just to get my fix of Blue, Gansey, and the rest.)

Here is the premise: Blue comes from a big, cosy, enmeshed family of psychics, but she herself is not psychic. She is more like an amplifier; when she is around, everyone else’s supernatural powers are stronger. Every year, on St Mark’s Eve, she accompanies her mother to a particular church, where the spirits of those who are going to die in the next twelve months make themselves known. Blue never sees anything. Except, this year, she does. And his name is Gansey, and he is one of the supremely privileged boys who attends Aglionby Academy. He also happens to be on a years-long search for Glendower, an ages old Welsh king whom he believes is slumbering somewhere, waiting for the right person to come along and wake him up. Oh, and did I mention that every psychic Blue has ever encountered has told her that if she kisses her true love, he will die? So Blue is sucked into the magical, tortured, privileged lives of Gansey and his friends, Ronan, Noah, and Adam.

On the surface, the premise sounds ridiculous. I was not immediately sold on it. But whoever it was that put it into my brain that Stiefvater is a consummate storyteller, pat yourself on the back, because oh. my. God.

I love paranormal young adult fare. It is my bread and butter. But I got sucked into Henrietta, Virginia, and the world of Blue and her raven boys in a way that I haven’t since Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I tore through those pages as fast as I could possibly go. I thought about them before I went to bed and immediately reached for my book upon waking.

And when I got to the end of the third one, I wanted to throw my book across the room, because it’s not a trilogy, it’s a fourlogy, and the fourth book doesn’t come out until September. 

This sent me into paroxysms of fangirl pain. My fourteen year old sister, who is pretty much the only other person on the face of the earth that I know of who gets as into fictional things as I do, received a very long post on her Facebook page about how demolished I felt that I would not get to know what happened to these people that I had come to care about so deeply until September. I have had a book hangover ever since. It took me three or four days to settle into another book at all, and even now, I am still thinking about The Raven Cycle.

It isn’t just a paranormal romance. There are so many layers to this book. There’s Welsh folklore and the verdant soil of divided classes (Adam Parrish, one of Gansey’s best friends, comes from a trailer park and works three jobs to make his way through Aglionby Academy); domestic abuse and forbidden romance; confused sexuality, feeling like an outsider in your own family, and what happens when you discover that your entire world is, quite literally, a dream.

Go. Read these books. I’ll wait here. Then we can talk for hours about all the little things we love and hate about it.

What are you waiting for?

PS. My favorite character is, of course, Ronan Lynch, the resident psychopath with a core of deep pain and love. Anyone who knows me well will have already guessed this. What can I say? I have a type.

PPS. My favorite book so far is the second one, because, surprise, it is Ronan-centric.

Book of the Month – The Raven Cycle Series

Book of the Month – Locke & Key

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Locke & Key is another incredible graphic novel series that is rivalling my deep, passionate love for the Saga series.

Locke & Key is dark with a capital D. The whole inciting incident for the story is the brutal murder of Rendell Locke, and the lucky, determined survival of his three children, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode, and his wife, Nina. After his death, the remaining family members move across the country to Keyhouse, where Rendell grew up, and that is where the adventure really begins. As Bode, the youngest, begins to discover, Keyhouse is not really a normal house. It derives its name from the fact that there are an unknown number of keys floating around that do random, magical things; for example, opening a door that turns you into a ghost when you walk through it.

As the Lockes begin to adjust to their new life, it becomes increasingly clear that things are never going to be the same again, and that “normal” is a word that no longer applies to them. A dangerous person from Rendell’s past is headed straight for them, on a deadly mission, and there will be hell to pay.

What I love the most about these books is that they throw you right into the middle of the story. Though Rendell’s murder is the inciting incident, it is certainly not where the story starts, and Joe Hill does an incredible job of revealing juuuuust enough information to keep you hooked without blowing the whole thing wide open. It is a complex, convoluted, intense plot that never stops. It is one of the most breakneck stories I have ever read, and I am almost literally breathless at the end of each instalment.

Volume 3 cannot come fast enough from the library for me!

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Have you read Locke and Key? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, what is your favorite graphic novel?

Book of the Month – Locke & Key

A Year in Books

Candice over at Candice Does the World did a great book wrap-up the other day (which she, in turn, apparently stole from Jamie at Perpetual Page-Turner), and so, because I love books, and round-ups, and this one reminded me of those questionnaires that everyone used to do when Facebook and Tumblr were just becoming a thing, I decided to do one myself!

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Number of Books You Read: 134

Number of Re-Reads: 7

Genre You Read the Most From: Fiction

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

I had a list of seven different books here, and then I deleted them all because, for me, this year in books really all comes back to this one:

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

#girlboss – I hated it, so insufferable and tone deaf, ugh.

The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

Neil Patrick Harris’s Choose Your Own Autobiography – The format was so interesting! I thought I would hate it, but it was actually really fun to flip through and skip over parts and then come back, and then go back to see what would have happened if you went the other way. NPH is a consummate entertainer, and his autobiography is no exception.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

The Saga graphic novel series, and I’ll Give You the Sun

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?

Laini Taylor, Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell (all female, all YA authors, interesting)

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

The Saga graphic novel series – getting into graphic novels in a BIG way, because WOW, the stories they tell

Dear Life by Alice Munro and Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood – I have never really been into short stories, but these collections blew me away.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

I have no idea how to even answer this question. There were so many that I couldn’t put down.

 9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

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11. Most memorable character of 2014?

Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and a Half – Not so much a character, but the way Brosch depicts herself in her comics. Bryan and I still refer to that book and the character’s physical quirks on the regular.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (at some point it will become obvious that this was my favorite book of 2014)

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed – I mean, it literally changed my life. Reading Cheryl’s raw, unfiltered, painfully honest advice motivated me to change my circumstances, and changed my approach to changing my life. Her words invigorated me and forced me to confront the things that I had been fearing, and to stop coming at life from a place of fear.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro. I never read ANYTHING by Alice Munro until this year, and that is a travesty, because I love her. Her stories are such perfect slices of normal life writ large, and I can’t get enough.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?

“Whose idea was it that we should all get jobs, work faster, work better, race from place to place with our brains stewing on tweets, blogs, and sound bites, on must-see movies, must-do experiences, must-have gadgets, when in the end, all any of us will have is our simple beating heart, reaching up for the connection to whoever might be in the room or leaning into our mattress as we draw our last breath. I hate to put it in such dramatic terms, but it’s kinda true.” – Dee Williams, The Big Tiny

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Longest: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (725 pages)

Shortest: A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen (50 pages)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Karou and Akiva (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) and Eleanor & Park

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Ken and his van in Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas – I have been getting more and more into simplicity and alternative ways of living within your means, so Ken’s story of getting rid of his huge debt and living in a van for two years was a great reading experience.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton – I pretty much always love Kate Morton’s books, and this one was no exception.

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

There was really only one book I read based solely on someone else’s recommendation, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I know a lot of people really enjoy this series, but I felt it was really bogged down and the protagonist is the most insufferable character I have had the displeasure of reading about.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?

Akiva from The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy

23. Best 2014 debut you read?

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Dustlands trilogy by Moira Young

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy McNoughton – Even if you aren’t so much into tattoos, this book is basically just full of people’s stories. It is like in-depth people watching, where you get to touch a piece of their soul for a minute. As soon as I was done, I immediately opened it and started reading it again, which I believe is the first time I have ever done that.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

The Light Between Oceans by

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Eleanor & Park

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Though the different lifelines got frustrating sometimes – there were stretches where it felt like I was stuck in a Groundhog Day-style time loop because I kept having to re-read nearly the exact same thing over and over again – I really enjoyed the premise.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

#girlboss

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver – The end of this book was such a cop-out, I nearly threw it across the room in anger. All of that emotional investment and journey, for nothing. And from an author that is capable of so much more.

 

When it comes down to it, there were SO MANY GOOD BOOKS that I read in 2014, there is no way that a round-up like this could take them all into account. I didn’t even talk about The Big Tiny by Dee Williams and how much it touched me to read about her experience, or The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau and how it helped me jumpstart 2015, or The Creative License by Danny Gregory which opened me up to the world of drawing. Plus so many more. If you are interested in more of the books that I read last year, you can find them over at my Goodreads.

What did your 2014 in books look like? I would love to see it if you also complete a round-up like this!

A Year in Books

Book of the Month – Kate Morton

September’s book of the month is not a book at all, but an author that I have fallen gloriously in love with.

I first encountered Kate Morton when I read her book The Forgotten Garden, which I enjoyed well enough. Since that time, I have gotten my hands on each of her books – four in total – and devoured all of them with gusto. She is a master storyteller, weaving together different time periods, concealing secrets, and always ending with a twist. Even when you think you see it coming, you don’t. Not really. As well, every novel has a secondary main character: the main setting. Whether it is the grand house of Riverton or Milderhust Castle, the buildings in Morton’s novel are essential to her stories, and seem to live and breathe themselves.

Here are her four novels, ranked from best to not-as-best (because even her worst novel is not really WORST):

The Secret Keeper

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This one BLEW MY MIND. When the secret at the end was finally revealed, I stared at my book in absolutely gobsmacked shock. I thought I had it all figured out but, oh boy, was I wrong. This book is delicious.

The House at Riverton

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Something about the special mix of early 20th century English noblesse mixed with the genuine loveliness of Grace as narrator combines to make this book magical. I loved reading about Grace’s life as a maid, and I could not see how everything was going to turn out at the end; when I finally got there, I tore through the pages so fast I was nearly breathless. Not quite as masterfully executed as The Secret Keeper – it drags a little in places, and for a while there I thought that she was going to glaze over the main event entirely! – but still, this is a thrill ride.

The Forgotten Garden

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Full disclosure: I read this book four years ago and don’t specifically remember all that much about it. All I remember is opening it thinking, “Hmm. I guess I will try it” and then re-emerging, bleary-eyed, a few days later.

The Distant Hours

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I read this one recently and, while still a great book, it simply does not live up to the excellence of The Secret Keeper or The House at Riverton. The first half drags on like craaaazy, but the slow-ass pace is made up for in the second half.

Now: which one will you be reading first? 🙂

Book of the Month – Kate Morton

Book of the Month: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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When we went to Florida in March, I took Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park with me. I devoured it on the plane, finishing it beside the pool in Orlando. I could not wait for my other Rainbow Rowell hold, Fangirl, to come into the library, and the moment I got my hands on it, I stopped reading everything else and dove in.

Rainbow Rowell is one of my new favorite authors. She has a gift for pulling into being these compelling, complicated characters that feel like they are breathing right next to you on your couch.

Fangirl is about a girl, Cath, who is obsessed with a book series, Simon Snow. Her and her twin sister, Wren, have always been in it together, and have been writing fanfiction for years. They are off to college now, though, and Wren is pulling away, distancing herself from the fangirls that they used to be, and Cath is left to figure things out more and more on her own. In the process, she learns a lot about herself, manages to make some new friends, and find a boyfriend, too.

I don’t know exactly what it was about Fangirl that spoke to me. Perhaps it is that I, too, am a fangirl about a lot of things. I even used to dabble in writing fanfiction (though none of it was ever any good). Perhaps it is that I identified very strongly with her first-year-of-college experience, and that I am so attached to my own experience of it, revisiting it in my mind more often than is probably healthy. Perhaps it is that Cath is a bit strange, and I have been working harder lately to embrace my own strangeness, to let my freak flag fly, you might say.

There are a lot of things to love about this book. There were a few times when the romance thing got a little bit off the rails with the gooeyness, but at the same time, I remember those feelings. I remember what it felt like when Bryan and I first got together, and it was a lot like that. So I can’t fault the book for that, since that is just an accurate depiction of how young love feels.

Anyway, if you are looking for a great book with great characters and a fun plot, this is my pick! Go check it (and Eleanor & Park, though a slightly less “fun” read) out of your local library today.

Book of the Month: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell