Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

Ellen O'Farrell is a professional hypnotherapist in her mid-thirties. Her office is located in her beachfront home which she inherited from her grandparents. Ellen has a relatively zen personality, except for when it comes to relationships. She has had a few difficult breakups in the past decade and is ready to finally find someone to build a life with. Using an internet dating site, Ellen manages to meet Patrick.  Patrick is an extremely handsome man in his late thirties. He is a widower with an eight year old son he absolutely adores.  Just as Ellen is deciding that Patrick might be "the one," he announces that he has something important that he must share with her before they continue the relationship.  Terrified as to what he might say, Ellen is actually a little relieved when he announces that he has a stalker.  

My Thoughts:  
I think I may have fallen a little in love with Liane Moriarty (well at least with her writing).  I started off reading Big Little Lies after Sarah posted her review of the book. I then went on to read The Husband's Secret and What Alice Forgot.  I pretty much plowed through all of them.  The Hypnotist's Love Story is one of her earlier novels, but is just as great as her others.  One common theme you will find in Moriarty's writing is a multiple person narrative.  This writing style is especially interesting in The Hypnotist's Love Story as the two narrators in the story are Ellen and Patrick's ex-girlfriend now stalker, Sasika.  If you love a little romance with a twist, this is definitely the book for you.  After you read this one, go ahead and read all of her others as well.  I don't think you will be disappointed.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

At the opening of this debut novel, readers are introduced to Simon Watson, a young librarian living in his family home on the Long Island sound.   Simon's mother drowned when he and his sister, Enola, were young and his father died shortly after.  The house sits on the edge of a cliff and is slowly falling apart due to Simon's lack of care and money to protect it from the impending water. One day Simon receives a mysterious book from a collector who found his grandmother's name written in it's front.   The book appears to be a circus log documenting stops, performers, acts, etc. As Simon begins to research, he comes to find that his family is connected to this circus in ways that he could have never imagined.  

My Thoughts: 
Over the past few years, I have become of fan of books about circuses.  I loved The Night Circus and Water for Elephants.  I picked up this book hoping that it, too, would be a great circus novel. I was not disappointed.  The chapters in the novel alternate between present day with Simon and the time period when the circus log was actually being created. Swyler intricately weaves the two time periods together as the novel progresses and gives us a story about books, family, and curses. After the first chapter or so, I was hooked and had to force myself to put it down to do other necessary tasks.  


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Piper Kerman (Piper Chapman on the show) is a middle aged, middle to upper class white woman who is being sent to prison for a 10 year old offense.  As an adult in her early 20s, Piper desired to see more of the world.  Tagging along with her girlfriend Nora, Piper becomes entangled in the world of drug trafficking. She quickly realizes that a life of crime isn't for her and disentangles herself from Nora.  Piper returns home to get her life back on track.  She finds a career she loves and meets her boyfriend, Larry.  Just as their relationship is progressing, Piper is informed that Nora's drug ring is being indicted and she will face criminal charges.  Years pass and Piper is stuck in a holding pattern as she waits to be charged and sentenced.  Once she is finally officially charged, Piper enters a plea bargain and is able to have her time reduced to 15 months.  In the remainder of the memoir, Piper shares her experiences in prison.  

My Thoughts: 
The Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black, has become rather popular.  My husband and I started watching it when the first season came out and it has now become one of our favorite shows. While I love the show, I have to say that I am very glad I went back and read the book.  In the memoir, Piper describes the relationships between the women in prison a little differently. There was much less bickering between the women and much more support compared to what is portrayed on the show.  I liked that these women looked after one another and despite their many differences, they truly cared for one another.  Kerman's unique look at the prison system is intriguing and thought provoking.  I highly recommend this one. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

5 Books to Read this Summer

I love summer.  This is not because the temperatures are high or I like to hang out at the pool all day. I love summer because I am a school librarian and I get the summers off, which means I actually have a little time to read.  I enjoy easy reads in the summer and I always get asked for recommendations for books to read during those long awaited summer vacations at the beach.  So... here you go.  These are 5 of my favorite summer reads in no particular order:

1. Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave: This is a recently published book and I just finished reading it while I was spending a weekend in Charleston, SC.  I love wine and was attracted to this book solely for that reason.  Eight Hundred Grapes is a great read about a family that owns a small vineyard in California.  The youngest sibling, Georgia, is a L.A. lawyer and is supposed to get married at the vineyard in a week's time but discovers that her fiance is keeping a big secret.  She returns home to try and figure things out only to discover that her family members have some secrets of their own. 

2. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: This is a young adult book, but a great read all the same.  It reminds me of Gone Girl in the sense that there is a surprise ending.  If you are one of those that like to read the last chapter first, don't do it with this one.  Trust me.  The surprise is worth the wait.  Click here to read the full review. 



3.  Landline by Rainbow Rowell:  Have I mentioned that I love Rainbow Rowell?  While I absolutely love all of her books, this is by far my favorite.  I read it in one sitting and wanted to start it over again as soon as I read the last page.  Click here to read the full review. 

4. Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple: This is a quirky read about a family whose mother goes missing.  15 year old, Bee, is determined to find out what happened to her mother.  The novel goes back in time and tells about the events leading up to Bernadette's disappearance.  I promise this one will have you laughing out loud. Click here to read the full review. 

5. South of Broad by Pat Conroy:  My husband and I have been super fortunate to be able to vacation in Charleston, SC over the years. It is one of my absolute favorite cities.  In this book, Pat Conroy tells the story of residents who live in the multi-million dollar homes south of Broad Street. His storytelling is superb and his characters are incredibly intriguing.  If you haven't visited this wonderful city, you will definitely want to once you finish this book.  Click here to read the full review. 


And here's what I plan to read over the summer:

1. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
2. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
3. The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
4. The Truth According to Us by Anne Barrows
5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Lydia is the favorite child in a mixed race family.  At the beginning of this 1970's family drama, readers find out that Lydia is dead and her body has been found in the middle of the school lake. The remaining of the novel goes back in time and tells the story of how her death occurred via each of her family members.  We find out that James, her Chinese father, really wants Lydia to be popular at school because he was a bit of an outcast growing up.  Marilyn, her American mother, gave up a lot when she married James and got pregnant with their first child. She had big aspirations to be a doctor and not a housewife like her mother. Marilyn decides that if she can't be a doctor she will do everything in her power to make sure Lydia becomes one.  Her older brother, Nath, is extremely intelligent but is barely noticed because all of his parent's attention is on Lydia.  Hannah, the youngest, is portrayed almost as a shadow that slips in and out of rooms with little to no recognition. As the story unfolds, each family member's perspective weaves a tale that is both intriguing and thought provoking.  

My Thoughts: 
While this novel started out a little slow for me, I was extremely glad that I read it.  Celeste Ng does an amazing job of telling this story about family life.  In every family there are so many different perspectives and view points that have to coexist and while James and Marilyn had loving intentions for Lydia, it is obvious that their desires are not her desires. This book is definitely not a light summer read, but I highly recommend that you add it to your summer reading list.  It's also a great book club pick with lots to discuss. 


Monday, December 29, 2014

Down River by John Hart

Adam Chase hasn't been back home to Rowan County, North Carolina in over five years.  After being tried for a murder and found not guilty, he left his hometown and moved to New York City to start over. Just when he thought he had left his past behind, Adam receives a mysterious phone call from his closest friend asking him to come back home and help him with a situation he refuses to expound upon. Adam finally makes the journey home after spending weeks trying to decide if he could ever face the demons he left behind. Within hours of returning, Adam is beaten up and is forced to confront family and friends he hasn't spoken to since he moved away.  To make things worse, crimes begin happening on his family farm and many citizens of the county immediately turn to Adam as the prime suspect.   

My Thoughts: 
Down River is the story of a sleepy southern town that is definitely not lacking in excitement. This "who done it?" novel is sure to keep you guessing.  John Hart, a lawyer from Rowan County where most of his novels take place, is an excellent storyteller and does a fantastic job keeping his readers in suspense as his stories unfold.   If you are in the mood for an easy mystery read, Down River will not disappoint! 

*Also check out Hart's novel Iron House


Monday, December 22, 2014

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies is the story of three very different women whose children attend the same preschool. One is a gorgeous, wealthy woman with the perfect set of twins. Another is an all around great mom who really seems to have it all together, except for the fact that her teenage daughter chooses to live with her father. And the third is a quiet (and a bit mysterious) single mother that just doesn't quite fit in. Circumstances throw the three together and they become fast friends as they help each other navigate the tricky social dilemmas of preschool moms.

From the beginning of the story we know that one of the characters will end up dead. The fun of the story is getting there. As Moriarty uses her wit and craft to attach you to each character you have to keep reminding yourself that someone is not going to make it. Ultimately it's a story that shows us that we all tell lies- big and little- to others and more often to ourselves.

I enjoyed the story very much. Just when you think the book is about to get predictable, a twist shows up in perfect timing. There are a few little mysteries that start from the very beginning and leave you searching for the answers throughout the story right alongside the characters. I thought the ending may have wrapped up a little too neatly, but in this age of constant trilogies it felt kind of nice to just read a book and let it end cleanly. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen year old Mia has a pretty great life.  She has a loving family, a great boyfriend, and is pretty sure she will be accepted to Juilliard for the fall semester. On one unexpected snow day, her family decides to go for a drive and everything changes.  They are hit head on by an oncoming vehicle and Mia is the lone survivor.  Shortly after the accident Mia realizes that she is having an "out of body" experience as she witnesses her comatose body being loaded into the ambulance.  As her extended family members and friends gather at the hospital waiting for her to wake, Mia has to decide if she actually wants to go on living.   
My Thoughts:  
I have wanted to read a Gayle Forman book for a while and decided on this one since the movie is coming out later this summer.  Maybe it was because I had pretty high expectations, but I was a little disappointed.  While I don't want to give away the ending, I felt that it really left me hanging.  I also had a hard time with the concept of Mia walking around in a ghost-like form trying to decide if she wanted to live or die.  While I believe that many young adult novels can be enjoyed by people of all ages, I am coming to find that some are just not for me as an adult.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Cadence Sinclair-Eastman, known as Cady, has grown up in a wealthy, prestigious family. Every summer her whole family heads out to a private island to vacation.  Cady's cousins plus a family acquaintance (The Liars)  are her companions each summer.  Cady looks forward to spending the summer with them until one summer when everything goes wrong.  All she can remember about that summer is that she was in some sort of accident.  Convinced that she had a swimming accident where she hit her head on a rock, Cady can't understand why her mother won't let her return to the island the following summer.  Two summers later, Cady's mother believes she might be ready to return and see her family.  Everything seems normal, until Cady begins to remember little pieces of what really happened the summer of the accident. 

My Thoughts:
We Were Liars is an extremely well written novel.  From the beginning, I knew that something wasn't right about Cady's story.  As things began to unravel, the book became more and more intriguing.  I would definitely categorize this novel as a mystery, but it also focuses a lot on the dynamics of Cady's family.  I am hesitant to say too much about the story line because this is definitely a book where you don't want to give away the ending.  Those of you who turn to the back of a book and read the last chapter before reading the rest of the story, let me implore you to not do that with this book. Let the ending be a surprise.  You won't regret it. 


Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

After a terrorist attack, thirteen-year-old Theo Decker is left orphaned and the sole guardian of a small painting that was placed in his hands after the explosion. Unable to part with the painting because it is the only connection he has left to his mother, Theo hides it away as he navigates the twists and turns of his new orphaned life. The book follows Theo's journey into adulthood where the book takes a dangerous turn into the underworld of art. 

The Goldfinch is the recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and was also hailed as one of Amazon's most important books to read. The book is long, ringing in at over 800 pages, so if you decide to read it be sure you are up to the task.

I have heard so many mixed reviews of this book. I don't think anyone can argue that it isn't well-written. Tart is best known for weaving long intricate stories. This one reads like a large meal that you have to sit back and digest for awhile. Interestingly, I truly disliked this book until I took time to discuss it with my book club. After really dissecting the pieces of the story, I have to agree with all the praise it is receiving. On a personal level, I couldn't really find one character that I liked or could relate to and I felt that parts of the story were too detailed and cause the momentum to lag, which can really feel defeating in such a long book. However, the themes of the story are very real and moving. 

My only real advice on this one is that if you decide to take it on, don't quit halfway through. If you start it, hang on to the end. It's worth the closure you will feel from it.