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Archive for March, 2015|Monthly archive page

Big Little Lies

In My Book Club Books on March 26, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Unknown

by Liane Moriarty

Adult Fiction/©2015/ 460 Pages

Publisher’s Synopsis (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . . A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what? Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads: Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?). Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all. Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

My Thoughts: At first glance, I thought this was going to be a fluffy read, but, as it turns out, it has real substance. The plot is very clever and well thought out. You know someone died, but you don’t know who or why. This definitely keeps you guessing all the way through. In addition to the mystery, there are key messages within the plot centering on the issue of bullying, as well as the politics of divorce, motherhood, and school. Each character serves a purpose, and there is quite the cast of characters. The most thorough character development, of course, was reserved for the main characters, who continued to evolve right up to the last chapter. However, even the lesser characters received a certain level of substance. All in all, an enjoyable, worthwhile read complete with an engaging plot and memorable characters, as well as many parts that will make you stop and think.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Literary Epicureans Book Club Discussion

This book was a hit with everyone. Our discussion centered around the interesting format with all its false foreshadowing leading to numerous wrong guesses. We were all impressed with how well thought out the plot was, complete with purposeful hints that were masterfully misdirecting. Not one of us figured out who the victim was until the moment it was revealed. And we couldn’t have been more satisfied with who it was. Being that all of us are involved with education, we thought the author was spot on with the incidents at the school, especially the ones involving helicopter parents and the staff efforts to deal with everything in general and the process of getting to the root of the bullying in particular.

We then went on to discuss the characters, how they evolved throughout the story, and which character we identified with most. We liked how the author slowly filled out and revealed each character as the story progressed. Our opinions and understanding of Madeline and Celeste deepened considerably over the course of the book, but it was Jane’s backstory, how it all came together and connected, as well as Bonnie’s backstory, that took us all by surprise. One member noted, and we all concurred, that Madeline, Celeste, and Jane made an unlikely but very cool trio, supportive and loyal to each other.

This discussion led into a deeper discussion about the moral dilemma of doing something that is wrong in order to do something right, specifically as it pertained to the characters in the book, but also as it pertains to our own personal belief systems.

As we wound up our lively discussion, one member commented about Madeline’s newly formed book group, The Erotic Fiction Book Club. We decided it was time to actually name ours. So the previously Unnamed Book Club is now officially The Literary Epicurean Book Club.

Book Club Rating: 5/5

Book Club Discussion Questions

Our “When Push Comes to Shove” Dinner Menu

Summer-Blush-004-copyright-Cheri-Loughlin

Pink Moscato Champagne and Raspberry Lemonade Cocktail

Assorted Cheeses with Crackers and Veggies with Hummus

Gourmet Pizzas (Vegetarian and Chicken Ranch)

Perfectly Simple Pizza Salad and Mixed Spring Fruit Salad

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies and Haagen Das Ice Cream

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Ruin and Rising

In YA Book Reviews on March 19, 2015 at 9:25 pm

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by Leich Bardugo

YA Fantasy/©2014/434 Pages/The Grisha #3/Recommended for 7th Grade+

Publisher’s Comments (Courtesy of Goodreads):

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

My Thoughts:

I loved everything about this book, as I did the other two books in the series. I especially enjoyed and appreciated her writing style. Leigh Bardugo is an absolute master of description and dialogue. She is also pretty darn good at plot and character development. The main characters evolved as the story progressed, but the secondary characters also developed more depth, thus providing more than just a few truly memorable and unique characters. The plot is darker and even more complex than the previous two books in the series, and quite the page turner. Too many plot twists and OMG moments to count. How it was all going to end was always in question, and with each turn of events, I had the nagging feeling that I wasn’t going to like it. But like it, I did. I must say that this is the most satisfying ending to a trilogy ever! I was surprised at how things were resolved, but all the loose ends were tied up and I was not disappointed.

My Rating: 5/5

Books Like This: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Bardugo’s Next Series: The Dregs #1 coming October 6, 2015

Other Reviews:

The Book Addict’s Guide

Read. Breathe. Relax

Siege and Storm

In YA Book Reviews on March 16, 2015 at 6:13 pm

Unknown-1

 by Leich Bardugo

YA Fantasy/©2014/434 Pages/The Grisha #2/Recommended for 7th Grade+

Publisher’s Comments (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My Thoughts:

Author Leigh Bardugo has built quite the magical world in her Grisha Trilogy, with Siege and Storm as an excellent follow-up to Shadow and Bone. In fact, I like this one even better. Bardugo’s writing continues to be incredible. Alina has become a more interesting narrator, and some engaging new characters are introduced.  The Darkling takes on a less prominent role in this book, but I have no doubt he will move back to the forefront very soon. The plot is compelling, highly entertaining, and well thought out with lots of intense action and plot twists. As to be expected, it ends with quite the cliffhanger. Lucky for me, I already have the third book and am ready to start on it.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Other Resources:

Leigh Bardudugo’s Website and the World of the Grisha

Read. Breathe. Relax. Review

Graduation Day (The Testing #3)

In YA Book Reviews on March 10, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Unknown

by Joelle Charbonneau

YA Dystopia/©2014/291 Pages/Third in a Trilogy/Recommended for ages 12+

Publisher’s Comments (Courtesy of Goodreads):

In a scarred and brutal future, The United Commonwealth teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. The rebel resistance plots against a government that rules with cruelty and cunning. Gifted student and Testing survivor Cia Vale vows to fight. But she can’t do it alone. This is the chance to lead that Cia has trained for – but who will follow? Plunging through layers of danger and deception, Cia must risk the lives of those she loves – and gamble on the loyalty of her lethal classmates.

My Thoughts:

This third and final book in the series comes with a lot of action and some interesting plot twists, making it fairly engaging. I appreciated how Cia really thought through who to trust, what to do, and such, but sometimes it got to be a bit much for me. I don’t think the reader really needed all that detail. Overall, though, I thought this was a good conclusion to a good series. Truth be told, The Testing is not my favorite series in the genre, but it had its moments, and I enjoyed it.

Recommended Audience: Age 12 and up, fans of dystopian novels

Similiar Books: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu, Razorland Trilogy by Ann Aguirre

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Other Resources:

Read-Breathe-Relax

The Reading Hedgehog

Independent Study

In YA Book Reviews on March 8, 2015 at 12:12 am

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 by Joelle Charbonneau

YA Dystopia/©2014/310 Pages/Recommended for Age 12+

Publisher’s Comments (Courtesy of Goodreads):

In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in the trilogy, and it serves its purpose well in terms of advancing the plot and setting up things for the final installment. I didn’t find it quite as riveting as the first book, but I felt it had its fair share of action and plot twists . Some new characters are introduced into the mix, and they bring with them some added complexity with more questions than answers. I especially appreciate the political intrigue and look forward to seeing how it all ends.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Additional Thoughts:

The Book Smugglers

Librus Notes

Fantasy Book Critic

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

In YA Book Reviews on March 6, 2015 at 12:04 am

Unknown

 by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Cycle #3/YA Fantasy/©2014/391 Pages/Recommended for 7th Grade+


Publisher’s Comments
 (Courtesy of Goodreads):

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

My Thoughts: 

As befits a third installment to a series, the characters and plot continue to evolve and become more complex with the introduction of a few new (and incredibly unique) characters and multiple points of view and storylines. Each chapter seemed to have a new plot twist on top of plot twist that I didn’t see coming. So much to keep track of, but I am not complaining!  Even better than the memorable characters and engaging plot is the exquisite writing! Maggie Stiefvater is the queen of prose. Sometimes I found myself re-reading sentences just because they were so incredibly descriptive. The cycle concludes with The Raven King, to be released on September 29, 2015.

My Rating:4/5 Stars

Other Reviews:

Wrapped Up in Books