Reading Wednesday – Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes you watch something because you read the book. Other times, you read a book because you watched something. And then there are the times where you see an adaptation is coming and it intrigues you, so you find the source material. That’s how I decided to read Big Little Lies.

While watching Westworld (and reruns of Game of Thrones) on HBO, I saw the trailer.

I wasn’t paying attention to it because I was doing some other ridiculous thing in my attempt to multi-task. But I heard the words “Welcome to Monterey” and my attention was peaked. I watched the trailer, intrigued by the casting and the premise. And I decided to read the book.

I picked up Big Little Lies from the Sacramento Library just before the New Year started. I started reading and I was hooked, even if it was set in a beach town in Australia rather than Monterey, California. I was struck by the characters and also how perfect the casting was for each of them. I loved the format of the story with the police interviews distributed throughout. I also loved that you had no idea who died until just about the very end of the book (or at least I didn’t. At one point I thought I knew who died, but then I realized it had to be someone else).

The book reminded me of Broadchurch (the British version of course because I didn’t watch the American version). The book gives you a slow build in which every character seems to have reason to be a suspect, each with their own secrets. And secrets run rampant from the little ones to the big ones. It’s an accurate portrayal into the psyche of those who keep such secrets and justify keeping those secrets.

As the book progressed closer to the infamous trivia night, I found it harder and harder to put down and ended up staying up way too late to finish the book (mostly because I was so engrossed I had no idea how long I’d actually spent reading). This was one of those books were I was scared the payoff wouldn’t live up to the slow build. But it did.

I loved Big Little Lies and I’m even more excited to watch the adaptation now. I think the casting is perfect and I hope it gives me the same delicious anticipation that the book did. And I’m dying to know how that gun in the trailer fits into things!

If you’re a fan of Broadchurch or The Girl on the Train and similar types of mysteries, I think you will really enjoy Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies.

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Book Review – Planetfall by Emma Newman

PlanetfallPlanetfall by Emma Newman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Plantefall is a wonderful science fiction story of humans leaving earth, guided to a new planet by a ‘chosen one’, the Pathfinder. The story begins with a colony settled on the new planet and the tale of how they got there unfolds slowly, tantalizingly so, as Renata Ghali’s life and lies begin to crumble around her when a newcomer arrives at the colony.

As many of the best science fiction books do, Planetfall gives us a startlingly look at humanity and in Ren’s case at certain mental disorders. Her ways of coping with the trauma of Planetfall and all that’s transpired are unhealthy to say the least. From the beginning of the story, we are teased with what actually happened as opposed with the knowledge the majority of the colony has. Emma Newman makes us work for that knowledge. We are almost a third of the way through the story before we start to collect bits and pieces and two-thirds through before we can actually piece together more. And all the while, we are treated to the workings of the colony and those of Ren’s own mind.

It’s a book about resources and environmentalism (living with a minimal footprint and zero-waste). But it’s also a book that considers questions of humanity, faith, belief, and ultimate purpose. And like many great stories, its ending leaves you questioning not only the story but also your own beliefs and your own self.

I received a free copy of Planetfall from the publisher. My review is my own personal and subjective opinion and I have not received compensation for it.

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Book Review – The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

The House of Shattered WingsThe House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title itself intrigued me. And then I saw the cover. The image of the throne set in front of a Parisian landscape that includes the Eiffel tower and burning feathers floating down from the sky is stunning. The opening of the book did not lessen my intrigue. The book begins with fall of an angel and proceeds to explain and detail the disaster that Paris has become and the danger that the Fallen face and can create.

We learn that the Fallen, though they rule the city of Paris from within separate “Houses”, are not necessarily safe, especially if newly fallen. Parisians not dedicated to a House prize the Fallen for their parts in order to perform magic and maintain a magical high. Our three main characters, Philippe, Isabelle, and Madeline each embody the main aspects of this world. Isabelle is a newly Fallen. Madeline is an alchemist who belongs to a house and continuously seeks the damaging magical high created from inhaling Angel Essence or the dust of angel bones. Philippe is somewhat of a mystery, but hates the Fallen and who they represent and so tries to live outside of the House system.

These three characters are forced together in a somewhat incongruous way and the story unfolds through their viewpoints. At its core, The House of Shattered Wings is a simple mystery – one built upon discovering whom has created an elaborate plot of revenge against House Silverspires. The revenge is built upon a frightening curse. It is dark and palpably scary. And yet, I wanted more from the book.

I wanted more discussion of theology and philosophy. I wanted to more characterization of many of the Fallen and their faith or lack thereof. I wanted more thought, feeling, and discussion about the rights and wrongs of the War, the House system, and the Fallen’s role in the world. Philippe spends some time considering his place in the world and the way things are, but it is rather superficial. I wanted so much more of this and from more of the characters.

Despite spending a majority of the book with Philippe, Isabelle, and Madeline, I only felt like I truly got to know Madeline. While the book is beautifully written and the descriptions are wondrous (multiple sensations were frequently described), I found the plot and its pacing slightly discordant. I feel like the book the author wasn’t quite sure what she really wanted her book to be – a tale of the Fallen and other Immortals once they become mortal or a tale of a post-war future. Even the discord between Houses and the House system itself could have used more detail. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly I found lacking, but I just know I wanted more. And as a result, the ending felt slightly unsatisfactory and abrupt.

Galley copy of The House of Shattered Wings
Overall, I recommend The House of Shattered Wings as an entertaining and intriguing story. But do not look to it for deeper implications and philosophies.

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Book Review – Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ink and Bone is from Rachel Caine (author of the Morganville Vampire Novels). At its core, Ink and Bone is about a love of books and knowledge. But it’s also about power and ignorance and control. In this world, the Great Library of Alexandria has survived time and now has a presence worldwide. But that presence is extremely controlled. There are rules and restrictions and prohibitions about owning books.

Ink and Bone takes places in the year 2031. The main protagonist is a 16-year-old boy who grew up smuggling original copies of books and grew to love those books. His father tasks him with entering service to the Great Library to continue to help his smuggling family. Jess’s experiences trying to gain a coveted position and the relationships he develops make Ink and Bone a great read.

It’s a little confusing at times trying to suss out the positions and reasoning for the various groups (Burners, Ink-Linkers, Smugglers, the Great Library, and even a war between the English and the Welsh). But all these groups set the background of dynamics within this world and create interesting conflict.

Ink and Bone is reminiscent of Harry Potter (academic trials) and Game of Thrones (Greek fire is a lot like wild fire). It also has some common young adult tropes. A variation of the #commonYAline “released a breath didn’t know was holding” even makes an appearance. But none of that bothered me because I was fascinated with the world and the concepts and the struggles Jess faced trying to navigate this world and fit his own beliefs into it.

I truly enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to read Volume Two of The Great Library.

Note: I was provided a promotional/free copy of Ink and Bone by Ace or Roc Books, but all views are my own.

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Review: Day Shift

Day Shift (Midnight, Texas, #2)Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brief note to begin, I have not read Midnight Crossroad, so Day Shift is my first introduction to the people of Midnight, Texas. That said, my enjoyment was not hindered at all by this fact.

Midnight is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere Texas. And that seems to suit all the characters perfectly, which is why additional visitors seem to unnerve the residents. And despite the truly terrible character names, the characters were all so intriguing (enough to make me want to go back and read Midnight Crossroad). You’ve got the tattooed and pierced psychic, the vampire, the witch, the nice gay guys, the mysterious woman, and more. Over the course of the book, we are given tidbits and glimpses into all of these characters and more. We are teased wonderfully with the secrets they are hiding. None of these people truly know one another and we don’t either, even by the end of the book. But, we are given enough information over the course of the story to whet our appetite and not frustrate us.

There are a lot of story threads and a lot of viewpoints which may frustrate some readers but served to keep me intrigued. Although I will admit, I did lost track of some of the different intrigues over the course of the story as we focused on some of the more direct mysteries (the accusations leveled at Manfred and the mystery of the boy left in Rev’s care). Just when you think that even Charlaine Harris has forgotten about some of the stories, she’s weaves a tidbit or reference back in. Harris is great at mystery and she has set up a lot of things in this quirky town to fill several more books.

The story is unfolded in simple language without overly complicated or hard to understand writing. It’s clear and direct and makes the book a fast read. .At times, it feels too simple. The main mystery in the book was not too hard to unravel and guess at which annoyed me until I realized it had wrapped up just to leave room for the return of my absolute favorite character from the Southern Vampire series (aka the Sookie Stackhouse books). I love that the Midnight, Texas books are set in the same world as those of the Harper Connelly and Southern Vampire books for exactly this reason. Day Shift actually has a couple characters known to Sookie making appearances.

Overall, I enjoyed Day Shift immensely. But that enjoyment was very much due to the fact that I was looking for simple, light, enjoyable fare. That’s no to say there wasn’t violence, death, and references to terrible acts, but we didn’t linger on it. It was straightforward. This is exactly the type of book you want to take with you to read on the beach in the summer. This is the Charlaine Harris I grew to love in the early Sookie books (before they went off the rails).

I look forward to checking back in with the residents of Midnight in a future installment.

Note: I was provided a promotional/free copy of Day Shift by Ace or Roc Books, but all views are my own.

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Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely adored this book from start to finish. It had me completely hooked when I understood there would be references to pop culture of the 80’s and when it references Dead Man’s Party I was beyond excited. It just got better from there. And the few times I started to question something, I was pleasantly surprised to find my questions answered in the very next chapter. I loved the diversity in the characters and the accurate representation of friendships that can develop in online communities.

It’s a brilliant book that both celebrates and cautions online communities. I think everyone can find something they enjoy in this book.

PS Who else is dying to go to dancing at the Distracted Globe?

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Review: Night Film

Night Film
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book. I found I it to be a totally immersive experience, made more so by the inclusion of the news articles, notes, forum postings, etc. inserted throughout the book. The references to real films and actors and actual news outlets make the novel feel real (i.e. the reference to Marlowe Hughes role in Superman). These aspects are inserted so seamlessly, it makes you want to fact check and see if Marlowe really had a role before you recognize the distorted reality of this book….

While reading the book I did tend to feel like Cordova really is a master of fear and horror and that his films and experiences related would absolutely terrify me. But upon finishing the book, I realized nothing describes is really that terrifying, which is kind of a relief to someone who is not that fond of being scared. You get enough detail about the plot and story of Cordova’s films to really believe they exist, but there’s not enough to provide the heart-stopping terror which is purported to exist in viewers of Cordova films.

There are some interesting points about science versus magic in reality, especially when searching for answers that are not easy to come by. I would have liked to have seen some of that explored a little more fully.
There are some plot issues. For one example, I’m not sure an investigative journalist would really forget about and/or let go of the fact that someone follows him. Certain threads seem to be abandoned for longer than they should be. Part of the ending was also telegraphed fairly early on (at least for me). The meta experience of being IN a Cordova film

The book also uses italics liberally was does get to be a bit annoying, especially since the italics often serve to emphasize the wrong word in a particular statement (or at least the wrong word in my head).

Overall I really enjoyed the book. It is a huge book, but don’t let that scare you off. It reads like a book half its size (the frequent short 1 to 2 page chapters helps with that). The book is ripe for a movie adaptation, almost feels like it was written with that in mind at times ….

Considering the way Inez Gallo lied about Cordova in the resting home. Is it possible that Ashley is still alive? I only ask because of the references to South America and Hopper leaving for South America. Perhaps he found something indicating she was there and he was going to meet her. It was never really explained what he saw/found when he was in the house at The Peak. Also, I’d like to know if you think McGrath will ever go back to his ‘reality’ in NY after finding Cordova.

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