Monday, September 19, 2016

TRULY MADLY GUILTY BY LIANE MORIARTY

Image: goodreads.com
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Liane Moriarty failed to disappoint in her latest novel, Truly Madly Guilty. Having read Three Wishes, The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies, she is clearly becoming one of my favorite modern authors. Her stories typically jump right in providing information a bit at a time until the driving event and central idea are revealed. In my opinion, Moriarty has always done a good job of tying up loose ends leaving the reader satisfied but not necessarily with a perfectly happy ending.

Truly Madly Guilty is a story is about three couples, three children, and the intertwining relationships of all six people. From the publisher's synopsis and the first chapter of the book, we know that something major occurred at a family barbecue one afternoon that affected and transformed the lives of all the characters. However, and this is my only complaint, we don't find out until more than halfway through the book what actually happened at the darn barbecue. I felt like the author dragged that bit out a little too long. The remainder of the book focuses on the after effects of the tragic event at barbecue. And that's where we see Moriarty at her best - character development. She has a knack for painting a vivid portrait of the characters and making them so relatable. We are truly all more alike than different, and I think by exposing the vulnerabilities in her characters is what makes them so realistic and relatable to her audience.

The other books I've read by this author don't necessarily end this way,  but Truly Madly Guilty's ending is a bit of a happily ever after. And I think it works for this storyline.

Recommendation: I enjoyed this book immensely, finishing it in less than one week. It tackles some heavy subjects in a lighthearted manner that makes you think but also leaves you with a smile. I think this is the author's trademark talent. I would recommend this read for a book club selection or a quick read on your own. A caveat - you must be patient and willing to endure the build-up. Enjoy the journey, and don't get so wrapped up in the destination. Her writing is simply marvelous!

Until next time ... Read on!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

LOSING IT BY EMMA RATHBONE

Image: goodreads.com
Rating: 1 of 5 stars

Losing It by Emma Rathbone is about a young lady, Julia, who is still a virgin and perpetually plagued as to why. Without any sort of concrete plan in place, she quits her job in Arlington, Virginia and attempts to go back home to San Antonio, Texas to live with her parents for the summer. Unfortunately, for Julia, her parents do have concrete plans and they suggest she spend the summer with her Aunt Viv who lives near Durham, North Carolina. Once there, we learn that 58-year old Aunt Viv is also chaste.

The novel is told from Julia's point of view, and there is not a lot of conversation between characters but rather more inner dialogue where Julia is clearly in conflict about her sexual position (no pun intended!) in life. This writing style made the ~250-page book feel more like 650 pages. In reading this story, I got to know quite a bit about Julia and her thought processes as of voyeur of her stream of consciousness, and as a result, I found her character to be very unlikable. She is self absorbed, judgmental, irresponsible, and quite rude. While staying with her aunt (for free) during the summer, she repays her by invading her privacy, damaging her property, and bailing on her on one of the most important night's of her aunt's life. You might expect and condone this behavior from a young or immature protagonist but not from a 26-year old who was too cowardly to have a frank conversation with her aunt.

I think Julia should have focused more on how to find and develop more meaningful relationships rather than how to lose her virginity. I have a feeling if she'd focused on the former, she might have solved the "problem" of the latter. The author did try to redeem Julia's character at the end of the book, but it was too little too late. Rathbone's writing style is decent (albeit the multitude of times Julia responded with the single-word sentence, "cool."), so I might consider reading something else by her. Perhaps a different storyline and setting might better highlight her writing skill.

Recommendation: I suffered through this book because it was a book club selection. I thought it might be a funny, light-hearted read. Instead I found it painfully dreadful. There are so many books in circulation, with new ones being published everyday, and there is only so much time to read. Save your time, and choose something else.

Until next time ... Read on!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

THE FORGETTING TIME BY SHARON GUSKIN

Image: goodreads.com
Rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin is about a little boy named Noah, who at first, seems to have some basic behavioral issues. Finding no success or solutions with several psychologists and psychiatrists, his mother - Janie, turns to Yale and Harvard psychologist Jerome Anderson who has extensively studied after-life cases. Both she and Dr. Anderson come to believe Noah is a reincarnation of another young boy named Tommy. They work together to help Noah reconcile this previous life with his current one in hopes to rectify his behavioral and emotional issues.

The story begins with detailed background on how Janie conceived Noah. Then, it fast-forwards to present day then switches perspectives to Dr. Anderson. The book alternates between Janie and Dr. Anderson for a bit then another character named Denise Crawford is abruptly introduced. I had several problems with this style of writing. For one, I didn't like the introduction of new characters without proper background information. It took me a few pages (and sometimes chapters) to figure out where the author was going with the back and forth manner in which she introduced characters and information. Additionally, it made the reading confusing, but perhaps, this is what the Guskin was going for since the whole assertion of reincarnation is unclear. Furthermore, I didn't understand why the author included the first section about Noah's conception. She never tied that to the ending or validated its relevance. She could have saved the reader (and publisher) about 15 pages and just jumped right into the story.

I read this selection for book club, but this is not something I would choose to read on my own. However, that's the point of book club - to read books one normally wouldn't read. I prefer fiction that could actually be true. I know the author tried to prove reincarnation by interjecting documented cases of reincarnation by a "real" Dr. Jim Tucker. While this may work for some readers, it just made the novel more confusing to me - is it a work of fiction or non-fiction? I don't think the author could decide.

As for me, I don't believe in reincarnation, so it was a bunch of fantasy illustrated in unrealistic situations and circumstances. I finished the book in about four days, mainly because I was just ready to be done and move on to the next book.

Recommendation: I would not recommend this book for someone looking for a light, fun read because that it was not. Conversely, its themes are heavy and the content makes for a slower read. However, I do think the premise lends itself to thought-provoking discussion and lively debate for small groups or book clubs.

Until next time ... Read on!

Monday, September 5, 2016

THE LIFE WE BURY BY ALLEN ESKENS

Image: goodreads.com
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Life We Bury is the award-winning first novel written by criminal defense attorney, Allen Eskens. It tells the story of young college student, Joe Talbert, who is tasked with a biography writing assignment for his English class. Coming from a dysfunctional family, Joe decides to secure the subject of his assignment from a nursing home. There he meets, Carl Iverson, who was convicted of raping and murdering 14-year old Crystal Hagen.

From page one, Eskens jumps right into the story providing poignant details and clues through the book's entirety to help fill in the holes that the summary on the back cover doesn't provide. The book is thoughtfully written. You can certainly tell that Eskens is an attorney by the legal detail he provides; however, the information is presented in such a way that it is easily consumed by any lay person.

My my main issue with the story, resulting in four stars rather than five is that it is tied up very nicely with a bow at the end. Everyone is happy and all is well. I think that provides satisfaction to a lot of readers, but it seems very unrealistic to me.

While the story is about an eager college student seeking truth and justice, the book also carries other themes such as forgiveness, healing, and the purpose of life. I think that's what makes the book so great. It's more than just a story for the reader; it creates a bit of introspection.

My favorite part of the book is when Carl shares his idea of religion and spirituality with Joe.

"...Then one day, I was lying on my bunk, contemplating Pascal's gambit." ... "This philosopher named Blaise Pascal said that if you have a choice of believing in God or not believing in God, it's a better gamble to believe." 

Carl then explains that if there isn't a God then "this is our heaven," basically explaining to Joe the importance of making best of what you have while you're here. You can tell this made an impact on Joe.

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend the book for a quick read on a quiet night at home. It's a fast read that tugs at the heart.

Until next time ... Read on!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US BY CHARLES MARTIN

Image: goodreads.com

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a page turner! I finished this book in three days. That's a record for me. As you'll learn, if you choose to follow my blog postings, I will share 2-3 reviews per month. One because I am starved for time, or just living life, however you wish to look at it. But two, I am an incredibly slow reader. I don't scan. I devour each and every word so I can get the full experience of the story I, often, become lost in. My hope is that my reading and its resulting emotions will be shared with other book lovers in this space.

So, let's talk about Charles Martin's The Mountain Between Us. Two professionals - Dr. Ben Payne and Ashley Knox - are stuck at an airport in Utah due to maintenance issues and an impending storm. Rather than take the airline up on its offer to put the passengers up for the night until the storm passes, Ben charters a private plane in an effort to beat the storm. He invites Ashley, who is due to be married the next day. All seems to be going well with Ben's plan B until the unthinkable happens leaving he and Ashley stranded in the mountains and wilderness. To further complicate matters, no one knows they've left Utah or that they even chartered the plane!

While reading this book, I found myself emotionally tired from pulling for Ben and Ashley to make it out of their dire situation. There were lighter parts of the story that contained glimmers of hope and a bit of humor. And sometimes, I even found myself feeling like I was reading an episode of Naked and Afraid.

I found this book to be beautifully written. Martin's words are carefully composed and filled with emotion. I found value in what he shared through this fictional story and could even sense a spiritual theme. (If you read this book, be sure to also read the author's note at the end.)

Having said that, I didn't really care for the ending of this book. It was a bit of a cliché. I wished the author would have kept the focus on grief and healing rather than adding the romantic element. I think it would have made for a better story overall, hence the rating.

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend the book as a fast read over a long weekend. (And since we've got one coming up, maybe you can take me up on my recommendation then share your thoughts here.) The story's messages can help in dealing with grief and forgiving yourself for words said and words left unsaid.

Until next time ... Read on!


About Melyssa

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Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog. I am an avid reader who enjoys reading fiction. I also read biographies as well as fiction and non-fiction books about the Holocaust and Civil Rights period ... and I've been known to read a blog or two! If you'd like me to review a book, please complete the contact form below my bio. I'll be in touch!

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