“Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty

Novels

I big_little_lies_coverhad been avoiding reading this book for a very long time. Every single time I read the description I wanted to read it less. The blurb on Amazon describes it as “a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the little lies that can turn lethal.” That literally makes me want to gag. I hate books about middle aged women. Hate them. I almost always have to force myself through them because I never relate to the characters, I’m not interested in housewife drama, and I generally lean more towards books that either have a lot of action, a lot of aliens, are about idiot teenagers in dystopian universes, or a combination of the three. With all that being said, I am so glad I finally read this book.

Don’t get me wrong. Big Little Lies includes a decent amount of what I would consider “housewife drama.” However these women’s lives are so incredibly dramatic that it’s unreal. The book follows three mothers as their children begin kindergarten: Jane, a single mom so young she’s mistaken for a nanny, Celeste, a woman so smart and beautiful it almost seems too good to be true, and Madeline, who is fiery, passionate, and holds a serious grudge. The three women all have their own battles to fight right from the beginning, as well as another one that’s told simultaneously: someone is going to get murdered, and it definitely has something to do with the secrets they are keeping (or not keeping).

This book actually kept me guessing the entire time. I tried my hardest to figure out who was going to get murdered, or who was going to be the murderer, but every guess I made was wrong. There were a shocking amount of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. It was also a decently fast read, but only because I got sucked in so quickly that I had to set aside everything else I was doing until I could finish the book and solve all the mysteries within the story.

The main reason I read this book was because I started watching the miniseries on HBO and loved it. For those who are curious, the final episode airs next Sunday at 8:00, so if you don’t want the show to spoil the ending for you it’s time to get reading. So far, it’s been pretty true to the book other than the fact that it takes place in California in the HBO version and Australia in the novel, and they’ve definitely amped up some of the relationship drama for more TV entertainment. I’m guessing that the killer and victim is going to stay the same though, so watch out for any spoilers you might come across. Overall, Big Little Lies was a very solid read and an even more solid TV show.

Rating: 5/5!

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chJ4mcy1cpY&t=8s

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“December Park” by Ronald Malfi

Horror, Thriller

december-park-malfi-250x330December Park by Ronald Malfi was far better than I was expecting it to be. Mostly because I definitely judge a book by its cover, and it has one of the uglier covers I’ve seen. Design aside, December Park  was a pretty solid read. But reader beware: this one was lengthy. I didn’t mind it much because I enjoyed the story and the character details, but for those looking for a quick scare this 756 page thriller might not be for you.

The whole book had a very Stranger Things vibe to it, so if you’re a fan of the show, you’d probably enjoy the book. It focuses on teenager Angelo Mazzone (Angie for short) and his four friends in a usually peaceful, small seaside (bayside? cape-side? I don’t know the difference) town in Maryland. The town, Harting Farms, has recently seen a number of disappearances and nobody knows why. The police say they’re runaways, but the town believes they have a serial killer on the loose: The Piper, who lures the children away. When Angie and his friends see the cops recover the body of one of the missing kids, they decide to insert themselves into the investigation and catch the Piper themselves. Set in the early 90’s, the gang of boys patrols Harting Farms by bike. Again, very Stranger Things, just a different decade. The difference with December Park is that there’s nothing supernatural going on here. It’s all just straight up human psychopaths.

I really liked this book. I thought it had a bit of a slow start, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Even though I was reading about a group of teenage boys, it didn’t seem like I was. Told from Angie’s perspective, it’s written elegantly and the story flows together really well. I loved all of the characters, except for the ones I was supposed to hate. My only complaint is the ending. While the suspense built for the entire book and the end definitely creeped me out, I still can’t decide how I feel about it. It threw me for a bit of a loop and I had to reread the chapter just to make sure I had interpreted everything right, and I’ve got some mixed opinions. Read it for yourself and you decide.

Rating: 4.5/5

“Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits” by David Wong

Humor and Satire, Novels, Sci-fi

fvafs-cover-10012015“In the near future, somewhere in rural Colorado…

If Zoey Ashe had known she was being stalked by a man who intended to kill her and then slowly eat her bones, she would have worried more about that and less about getting her cat off the roof.” 

That is the first sentence of Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. It pretty much sums up the vibe of the entire book. Zoey Ashe is a 22 year old barista living in a trailer park in Colorado. When her estranged billionaire father dies and leaves her his fortune, she has no idea what to think and even less of an idea of what to do when she ends up in the lawless city of Tabula Ra$a, a futuristic Las Vegas where there is no government, everything is legal, and everyone is trying to kill Zoey in order to steal her inheritance. While all this is happening, Zoey and her late father’s closest colleagues find themselves in the middle of a battle between good versus evil.

This book has a lot going on.

I think it probably would make a great movie. Tabula Ra$a is like an even more futuristic version of Dubai, filled with skyscrapers covered in video skins, drones that deliver tacos to wherever you’re standing, and bridges that you can swim across. The world that David Wong builds is really, really cool and a lot of the more action-packed scenes played out in my head like I was watching the movie Transformers if Transformers didn’t suck. That being said, I also felt like this book really dragged on and repeated itself. Thing happens. Thing leads to bigger, more dramatic thing with a twist. Thing is resolved. Slightly different but mostly the same thing repeats. There were several moments when I thought for sure I was almost done with the book and then when I checked where I was on my Kindle I was only at 30% or 50% done.

I would recommend this book for people who aren’t so much into science fiction but rather are into the whole superhero/Marvel Comics type thing. Sure, there’s some futuristic tech that basically drives the entire plot of the book, but the main focus is definitely on the idea of being a hero or a villain and what that means. It’s funny and crude and not the most reverent story, and Zoey’s character reads a little more like a 15 year old boy than a 22 year old girl, but all in all it was pretty solid. It might have felt like a long read, but it definitely wasn’t a boring one.

Also, I feel like I should mention that Zoey’s cat is named Stench Machine.

Rating: 3/5

 

“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

Books I Hated, Novels

A Man Called Ove is about a curmudgeon of an old man who hates everyone and everything that does a-man-called-ove-9781476738024_hrnot act or work the way he wants them to. He sees the world in black and white, right and wrong, useful or useless. He spends his days running through routines that have been set for years and finds interacting with his neighbors to be completely intolerable. Ove has suffered a great loss and is dealing with the passing of his wife. And by “dealing with the passing of his wife” I mean planning his own death so he can be with her. Pretty bleak, right? Enter Ove’s new neighbors, a young couple and their two children who seem to interrupt every attempt Ove makes at finding peace. I would assume the rest of the book is about them weaseling their way into his crusty little heart.

I did not finish this book. I couldn’t do it. I hated it. It pains me to say I hated it because it came highly recommended to me by multiple people and is a New York Times Bestseller with fantastic reviews, but I hated it. Perhaps I didn’t give it enough of a chance, but after sitting down with it every day for days on end and only being able to read a few pages at a time without growing bored or literally falling asleep, I gave up.

A Man Called Ove seems like it could be a very heartwarming story about a man who lost the light of his life only to find it again in a friendship with his new neighbors. I understand that people like reading about that kind of thing. I am not one of those people. I officially gave up at page 129 of 357. Ove was not a likable character and I did not empathize with him. Sure, his backstory was interesting but I felt like it didn’t justify his behavior. I was also shocked to discover he is only 59 yet spends the entire first third of the book acting like he is 95.  This book had a slow start and characters that did nothing to catch my attention or make me want to keep reading. The neighbor family was annoying and almost seemed like a caricature or exaggeration of themselves. I also wasn’t crazy about the writing style, as it seemed repetitive and a little over the top to me.

This book has 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, so the majority of readers enjoyed it. This type of fiction is not my cup of tea and I was very hesitant to read it in the first place, but clearly A Man Called Ove is doing something right. Maybe between books in the future I’ll try to keep pushing through it and provide another review if I ever finish, but for now I think I’ll put it back on the shelf.

Rating: 2/5, Did Not Finish