Book Reviews- Summer Reading

After my spring of YA, I decided to ease back into the world of contemporary fiction. But let’s just jump into these book reviews!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty’s books have always been on the periphery for me. I see them everywhere and I just never pick them up. The Bee Book Club decided on Big Little Lies for May, and it exceeded all of my expectations! The story is set in an Australian suburban beach town. The three main characters, Madeline, Celeste, and Jane are all mothers to brand new kindergartners. Madeline and Celeste have long been friends, and Jane is new to town as a single mother. Madeline takes Jane under her wing for one more person on her team in the PTA battles of elementary school parents. What begins as a silly fluff book quickly turns into a serious book with heavy subject matter. But the beauty of the book is how Moriarty effortlessly weaves humor and satire about suburban school politics into the overarching story. I was thoroughly surprised by this book, and quickly looked for more by Moriarty. It’s a fun, easy read that still manages to make you think. 4/5

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Not kidding. I literally jumped right into another Moriarty book. This was again set in a suburb of Sydney. Cecilia Fitzpatrick has it all. She juggles and balances and never has a hair loose. Her husband is kind and loving to their three daughters. Tess was just blind-sided by news regarding her marriage, and takes her son to live with her and her mother in Sydney. And then there’s Rachel. She’s living alone, working at the elementary school, and dwelling on her daughter’s murder that occurred twenty years ago. In the span of a week, their lives intertwine and intersect and news comes to light that affects them all. This one was slightly more predictable than Big Little Lies, and had less humor as well. I still enjoyed it, but just a little less than the previous read. 3/5

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Lydia has died in the lake near the Lees’ house. Lydia can’t swim. It makes no sense why she would be out there. Not perfectly lovely Lydia. But it is true, and Lydia’s parents, Marilyn and James Lee are beside themselves in grief and misunderstanding. And it’s not just Marilyn and James. Their older son, Nate, who was very close to Lydia, is grieving and angry. And their younger daughter, Hannah, is just trying to cope, always living in the shadow of her sister, and never being seen or acknowledged. Lydia lived with all the expectations, to be a doctor from her mother’s unfulfilled goals, and to be liked and social, from her father’s own anxieties and worries. Each family member holds secrets, concerns, hopes, and truths from each other, and in Lydia’s passing, everything comes to the surface or at least boils underneath. I loved this book. I found it to be a heartbreaking family saga, and applaud Ng for her writing style. I read this rather quickly, and think it is worth a glance. 4/5

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

This is the companion piece to the wildly popular Life After Life. In Life, we learned about the ins and outs of the many lives Ursula Todd lived throughout the years of the war and beyond. In this companion book, we learn about her beloved brother, Teddy and his life during the war and beyond. Unlike Ursula, Teddy lives only one life. He was an RAF pilot and flew on many bombing raids on Germany. Along with the tales of his life in the war, we learn about his daughter, two grandchildren, and his lifelong love, Nancy. We also get a taste of England post-war and into the twenty-first century. This book was amazing. I liked it more than Life which got a little tedious. It was written wonderfully and I just wanted to swim in the text! I love how literary the characters are and how many references they make to poetry, which was true in the first book, but felt more relevant in this one. I can’t sing its praises enough and do hope you read both books! 5/5

My summer reading has gotten off to a great start. My library queue is not going down at all, so I see lots of good reads in my future! What are you reading this summer?


The World War II Novel

Somehow, at the beginning of the year, I ended up reading four books about some aspect of World War II. There seems to be no end to the stories that can be told about the war, and I thought I had the formula down pat. But I’m glad to say that each of these novels gave light to different experiences. Some facets are similar, but I was glad to learn new things and hear a different perspective.

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

Last year, Moyes U.S publisher started to release more of Moyes work that had been released in the UK prior to the fame she gained with her recent titles. Since I loved all of them, I bought everything I could from her. This was one of them. During the war, many British men were stationed in Australia to help the Allies in the fight against Japanese forces. Many of these men met and married the local women. At the end of the war, there were ships that brought these women to Great Britain to be reunited with their husbands. This story follows one particular ship that was actually part of Britain’s naval fleet carrying both soldiers and these young brides on its farewell voyage. Through the eyes of three young women, the captain, and a Marine officer, we find out how this journey went. I liked the book and appreciated the way Moyes used different perspectives as she has in her other work, but this book was a slower read for me. I loved the ending. Moyes has such a talent for writing endings, and I found a few of the characters endearing, but it fell a little flat in the middle. 3/5

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Two of my blogging friends highly recommended this book, so I knew I had to try it out. Ursula is born to a wealthy family in 1910. Her life is interesting, because she dies and is reborn over and over in her life, as early as right after her birth. There’s no explanation, and no one else knows. Ursula is not even sure she knows, but she starts remembering things or having weird feelings around specific potentially difficult moments, so she lives it a different way than the first. Spanning the time from the Great War to the Second World War, we see the many ways Ursula’s life could have gone, from mundane differences to huge great world events. It felt like a British Forrest Gump of sorts. I really enjoyed the writing, but some of the repetition was a little too much to go through. I still really liked it and would recommend it. 4/5

China Dolls by Lisa See

I’ve enjoyed all of the books I’ve read by Lisa See, and when China Dolls was released, I put myself on the hold list and waited MONTHS to get my hands on it. See is from Los Angeles and has a great following, so it took a while. This novel follows the story of Grace, Helen, and Ruby who meet in San Francisco at the auditions for The Forbidden City nightclub. This nightclub was the first to open with only Chinese entertainers. Grace is a talented dancer who grew up in the Midwest with no idea of Chinese traditions or culture. Helen grew up in a wealthy, traditional Chinese family in Chinatown. And Ruby will do anything to achieve the fame and fortune she knows she deserves. The three ladies become instant friends, and their friendship is tested by ambition, jealousy, the war, and men. What struck me about this book was all the research See did to really capture the time period and paint a picture of the Asian American performers in this period. While the main characters are fictional, many characters mentioned were real, and she incorporates them so well! Some of the story is slow and the girls can get petty, but I am now so interested to find out more about this time in history. Her notes at the end of the book and her website provide great resources, so I’m excited to do a little digging. 3/5

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book was critically lauded last year, and landed on many “Best Books of 2014” lists, perhaps all of them.  It deserved the praise. The story follows two young people through the majority of WWII in Europe. Marie-Laure is blind and lives in Paris with her father, who is the Head of Security for the National Museum, the keeper of the keys. He is a talented locksmith and woodworker. To help Marie-Laure become independent, he builds a model of their neighborhood in Paris and teaches her to use it to learn her surroundings. This works until they are forced to leave due to the German Occupation and they flee to a little seaside town to live with Marie-Laure’s great uncle and his housekeeper. In Germany, Werner is a bright orphan who learns to tinker and fix things early to entertain his sister and the younger children. He is recruited by the Hitler Youth and his skills take him many places as he helps find resistance fighters and Allied soldiers. Their paths will cross, but between these stories, there are several others: a museum caper, an unexpected group of resistance fighters, and other stories of hope and light. Every character is fully explored and no one feels limited. The writing is beautiful and I loved every minute of it. Every minute. 5/5

Phew! That’s a lot of WWII stories. Have you ever unintentionally gotten into a specific genre? I’m glad to have moved on to a few light-hearted contemporary reads that I’ll be happy to share with you soon!