My first thought when I began reading this book - oh gosh! 486 pages? How will I finish it in time for my other novels? I have a huge pile of books that are sitting quite snugly next to me on my bedside table. I have a habit of ordering as many books as I can online on Amazon. Since its coming from America and I want to save on shipping, I do mass ordering of books - sometimes forgetting that I already own the same book! Recently I had ordered Before I go to Sleep by S J Watson only to reaise that I had the earlier edition of the same book collecting dust in my study cupboard!! Plus I am more into psychological thrillers these days because of my recent reading of The Girl on the Train. So I was pondering as to whether I will find Big Little Lies interesting (I had ordered this book much earler) ...But I managed to finish this novel in a week!
Big Little Lies is a 2014 novel written by Liane Moriarty. Her main inspiration for the story came from a radio interview she heard where a woman recounted her parents' abusive relationship. Even as an adult, she would hide under her bed to escape from her parents' screaming matches - a scene she incorporated into the novel. This novel is considered as one of the top 10 books that every book club should discuss. Well we haven't discussed it yet in our Book Club. But I think we'll lay off Liane Moriarty for a while having already discussed two of her books recently.
Big Little Lies is essentially about the friendship between 3 women who are at crossroads of their lives. Madeline, Jane and Celeste all have their kids entering kindergarten at Perriwee Public School. Jane's son Ziggy is accused of bullying another classmate which he vehemently denies. While discussing the lives of these 3 women and how the parents handle Ziggy's supposed bullying, the novel leads us to the Trivia Night where there is a murder.
This is a women's murder mystery. Till the end, I didn't know who is going to be murdered and who does it. Suspenseful and at times hilarious, I liked the way this book is written - it is a mix of the narration of the weeks leading up to Trivia Night ending with snippets of interviews given by the people involved after that dreadful night.There are many twists along the way which kept me hooked. It addresses many serious issues like bullying in schools, domestic violence, single motherhood, beauty obsessed society.
On the downside, I did feel there was too much attention given to detail - the reader doesn't need to know that Celeste lived in a massive tall sprawling house with soaring cathedral ceilings etc. A mansion would have sufficed, don't you think? I dislike draggy overly descriptive books - Yawn. Books that go straight to the point interests me like The Girl on The Train. I gave up Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan after the first few chapters!! Too much details!! Too much. ( I am using much instead of many on purpose - they are uncountable !)
Overall, I would recommend this book if you don't have anything else good to read. It is not a dark book and definitely not scary. It did raise a few questions in my head when reading certain parts like
'Sometimes, doing the wrong thing was also right'
'The mother sets the definitive tone in every family'
'There are so many levels of evil in this world'
Big Little Lies has been made into a TV series starring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley. Watch the series if you don't feel like reading 486 pages. But do be prepared to be disappointed - in my experience, the movie or the Tv series is never as good as the novel. I watched the movies Me Before You and The Girl on the Train and they both failed to capture and deliver the essence and drama of the novels. Can't blame the producer - he/she has to squeeze an entire novel into so few hours. Anyway, get this novel at Amazon for around US$10 or at your local bookstore. Happy reading!
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion is the sequel to The Rosie Project.
As mentioned in my previous book review of The Rosie Project, Professor Don Tillman goes on a quest to find a perfect partner. He even prepares a questionnaire to sieve out potential partners. He has a weekly meal plan which he tries not to deviate from. Critics have compared Prof Don to Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory, the American sitcom. While trying to help Rosie, a PHD student find her biological father, Prof Don unexpectedly falls in love with her and vice versa.
The sequel, The Rosie Effect takes their marriage to the next level when Rosie finds herself pregnant with Bud (Baby Under Development) after moving to NY. Don gets busy learning the basics of becoming a father but his unique research style gets him into trouble with the law. While juggling between looking after their landlord's beer refrigeration unit in his apartment, staying on the right side with his social worker, Lydia and doing his baby research, Rosie finds him disconnected as a potential father (he fails to attend prenatal classes with her because he had assumed he wasn't needed) and thereby unsuitable to be Bud's father. She leaves for Australia seeking seperation from Don.
I 'll not divulge any further as I will then be giving away the ending. Overall, I found this book written in the same tone as the first. But I did find it a bit of a drag. Plot was a little sluggish and the jokes were not funny as the first novel. I guess the novelty of the first book wore off. Honestly, Mr Simsion shouldn't have written the second book. He should have just stopped at the first. My advice to you is - Only read the first book and treat it as a stand alone. You won't miss The Rosie Effect.
If you are still keen on it, get it online at Amazon.com
'One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl...Three for a girl. I'm stuck on three, I just can't get any further. My head is thick with sounds, my mouth thick with blood. Three for a girl. I can hear the magpies - they're laughing, mocking me, a raucous cackling. A tiding. Bad tidings. I can see them now, black against the sun. Not the birds, something else. Someone is coming. Someone is speaking to me - Now look. Now look what you made me do'
- excerpt from The Girl on the Train
I have not read a book this fast. One of my most unputdownable book of all times. A psychological thriller, The Girl on the Train is Paula Hawkins first novel and look at its runaway success! It sold 1 million copies in the first month of its launch and now 15 million worldwide, thanks to the movie adaptation. Incidentally, the movie is still showing in Singapore theatres. Having found out that its on NY Times Bestseller list for 83 straight weeks, I knew I had to get a hold of this book.
Rachel Watson travels to London in the same 8.06 commuter train. Everyday, the train rattles down the track flashing past a stretch of cosy suburban homes. When the train stops at the same red signal every morning, she gets to look into the house of a couple and their daily activities. Because her own life is in shambles as she is going through a divorce and alcohol addiction, she feels hope in the cosy perfect life of Jason and Jess (names she gives the couple).
One morning, Rachel sees something shocking that completely shatters the 'Jess and Jason ' image in her head. Unable to keep it to herself, she goes to the police. But her alcoholism and mental instability render her sighting as unreliable. She takes matters into her own hands and soon gets deeply entangled not only in the investigation but also in the lives of everyone involved.
I must say I enjoyed this thriller novel tremendously. I sacrifced my naps and my night sleep to find out who did it... and had to quieten my girls and my hubby everytime I am reading and they are creating a racket around me! It was fascinating, gripping and so very creepy. I didn't expect the build up and the conclusion, it cames as a nice twist to the story which was the reason I couldn't put it down. Told from the prespectives of Rachel, Anna and Megan. You'll find out who they are as you go along :) Not a very thick book, it has only 323 pages and it is quite a small paperback. So you can finish it no time too!
Available in Amazon for US$10 and in Singapore opentrolley.com.sg for S$24. Watch the movie trailer here. I hope to catch the movie one of these days.
'You don't choose who you fall in love with, and it doesn't matter who they are, it comes with a very certain and specific struggle.'
Actor Joshua Sasse, 28 about his fiancee Kylie Minogue, 48
You don't go looking for love, it finds you and that this powerful feeling for another person often defies logic are the underlying themes in this debut novel The Rosie Project by Australian author Graeme Simsion.
An international sensation, this hilarious feel good 2013 novel is narrated by Professor Don Tillman, an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor, on an unusual quest - to find out if he is capable of true love. He is so wedded to his schedule (aka Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory), that an idea of being wedded to an actual woman precludes him. He designs a 16 page questionnaire to sieve out the potential candidates but which narrows his options. Enter Rosie Jarman, who scores a perfect zero, but in his interest to help her find her biological father (the Father Project), he discovers that opposites do attract and that he had unknowingly fallen in love with her and tries to win her over (the Rosie Project).
This novel was a gift from my 14 year old daughter Ranya for my birthday this year. A very thoughtful gift because she knows my love for reading. She had seen a video of a book haul featuring books to get for your mom and she chose this book for me. (Thank you darling - an absolutely unique book which I enjoyed reading all the 304 pages very much).
The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has tenaciously gone after love in the face of overwhelming challenges. Available online at Amazon for US$10.
A sequel, The Rosie Effect, has also been published in 2014. Look out for its book review soon!
I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person
now I was free. There was such a glory over everything.
The sun came up like gold through the trees,
and I felt like I was in heaven.
-Harriet Tubman (one of the first few black women to escape slavery)
Kathleen Grissom - the author of New York Times bestseller and a Book Club favourite The Kitchen House - has nailed it again! She has continued the story of James Pyke in a sequel Glory Over Everything and has enraptured readers yet one more time. A breathtaking thriller, a tragic love story and an inspiring testament to our essential need for freedom all rolled into one beautiful novel.
Although this novel can be read on its own as the author does remind the reader about the important facts, it will be enriching if one had read the earlier book. Told mainly from James 'Jamie' Pyke perspective, I felt that the novel started off rather slow and uninteresting but the pace did pick up from the middle and did not waver till the end.
To summarize, James Pyke, who is the ill-begotten child of Marshall Pykes (master of the Tall Oaks Plantation) and the slave Belle, runs away to Philadelphia. There he finds work as an apprentice for a silversmith Mr Burton. Impressed by James's eye for detail and his hard work, Mr and Mrs Burton who have just lost their son, decide to adopt James and make him their heir. Because James looks white, he is able to hide his terrible secret (that he is half black which might jeopardize everything he had worked so hard for). James befriends a married socialite Caroline and falls desperately in love with her. She bears him a child and dies tragically at childbirth..
What made me finish the book in no time was when Pan, the 10 year old beloved black boy who had been entrusted with James, gets abducted and sold into slavery. James goes on a dangerous quest to find him through the Underground Railroad. [The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by the 19th Century slaves in efforts to escape to freedom in the Northern States or to Canada.] Just when they thought they had reached safety, just when they thought they had tasted freedom, the brutal slave tracker Rankin closes in. Will Rankin finally get his hand on James and expose his secret identity? Or will James's fight for survival and compassion triumph? Read to find out....
The amount of importance given to details of the journey to find Pan and the incredibly treacherous route taken through the Great Dismal Swamp to escape with Pan and Sukey, the heavily pregnant compassionate nurse, was noteworthy. The story just jumps off the pages! Breathless to the end...
Published in 2016 and consists of 365 pages for the hardcover version. Paperback available at Amazon for US$10.
'I love reading your book reviews. After seeing it on your blog, I went ahead and bought Me Before You..It was a lovely story. Just yesterday, I bought the sequel After You....'
- Shereen M.
Thank you dear friend for reading my book reviews. After what you said, I realised my last book review was more than a month ago! It made me sit up. As I was reading Glory Over Everything, sequel to The Kitchen House, I had completely forgotten about my last book I had finished reading - Olive Kitteridge. This ought to explain a whole lot about this novel, doesn't it? The fact that it had slipped my mind.
My interest in this book was piqued when I read a book review of Olive Kitteridge in Singapore's The Sunday Times a few months back. Someone (I can't remember her name but I believe she was someone newsworthy) had been reading this book and had particularly liked the story. Presuming I would to, I ordered this book online.
Olive Kitteridge the novel by Elizabeth Strout is a 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning collection of 13 stories about a group of ordinary people who lived in Crosby, Maine. It depicts their joys, sorrows, tragedies and grief all centered around a retired school teacher Olive Kitteridge. She deplores the changes around her - a lounge musician haunted by a past romance, a former student who has lost the will to live, Olive's own child who feels his mother is insensitive to his needs and her husband Henry who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.
I am sorry to say so bluntly - I didn't quite enjoy this book. I took a long time to finish it (yes I finished it!) and yet it had only 270 pages. No doubt, it was my close companion during my tea in cafes or while waiting for buses or for my girls.. but I found it rather dry, long winded and quite depressing. There were 3 suicides, 3 other deaths, a lot of broken relationships, sad aging folks and a whole lot of loneliness.
I guess no one is immune to loneliness of their soul - no matter how busy they may seem. Probably, that is why this book is so sad - it reminds all of us too much about it. We all are starving on the inside.
Olive finished the doughnut, wiped the sugar from her fingers,
sat back, and said,"You're starving."
The girl didn't move, only said,"Uh-duh."
"I'm starving, too,"Olive said. The girl looked over at her.
"I am," Olive said. "Why do you think I eat every doughnut in sight?"
"You're not starving ," Nina said with disgust.
"Sure I am. We all are."
A Reader's Guide and questions for Book Club discussions are also available at the end of the book. Olive Kitteridge has also been made into a 4 hour TV mini series starring Oscar winner Frances McDormand in 2015.
Available online at amazon for Us$10 paperback version.
My reading friends and I had our inaugural book club meeting just yesterday 4th Aug. Some of the members hadn't read the full book The Husband's Secret. So we had a half book discussion (Angie's idea!). All of us, except Sherin Qadir (an artist friend who has just returned from Manila to Singapore), are new to this whole book club concept so I was prepared for blunders and hiccups.. Our initial group had 5 members but Jenny fell ill while another member couldn't make it because of her responsibility towards her two preschoolers. In the end, it was just the three of us - Sherin, Angie and myself. I must say it was a wonderful first book club meeting. This is how it went :
3-3.30pm - INTRODUCTIONS
We took turns to socialize and got to know one another and what is happening latest in their lives. Angie and Sherin are new to each other so some background exchanges took place.
3.30-4.30 BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION
We delved into the discussion proper of the novel The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. Along the way while munching through nachos and biting into little doughnut holes washed down by cold iced lemon tea, we did get the discussions going. A total of 10 questions were discussed and it was all based on passages or characters from the book.
'There is no such thing as a good divorce. Do you agree?' or
'What do you think is the underlying theme running through this novel ? Guilt? Grief?'
made us ponder and debate over different view points.
4.30-5.00pm GAME ON!
We played a game' What is in your Handbag?' in line with one of the characters in the book Tess who is ultra organized and carries everything in her handbag. For every item in the list, you get one point if you fish it out the fastest and the person with the most number of points gets a gift. Sherin won with the most number of points! I get a feeling that she is another Tess! So what was in the hamper?
A little make up pouch
A bottle of Vegemite because Tess loves it
2 packets of chocolate covered raisins because it is Tess's son Liam's favourite snack
A small bar of Crabtree & Evelyn soap
5.00pm END OF BOOK CLUB MEETING. We have planned to meet at Sherin's house next beginning of September to finish the rest of The Husband's Secret. Members were given an antique bronze book mark as a token of appreciation for attendance.
Book Clubs are a norm in America but not in Singapore. I am not surprised as half of our population don't even read one book a year! I initiated this on a whim to see where this Book Club goes- a lot of questions do crop up in my head now and then - will it be well received among our busy country women or will it fizzle out after a few meetings? How do I get more members to join in? (we are always on the lookout for new members - do email me at email@example.com if you are keen to join) How do we keep the discussions alive meeting after meeting?
Why did I start a Book Club?
1) To encourage reading among my friends.
We are all busy and we don't really have the time to read. I believe all of us love and want to read but it becomes our least priority with our busy lives. Attending a book club forces us to read as we wouldn't want to be embarassed among our member friends. You set a date, choose a title and grab a book to discuss.
2) To Socialize More Often
A book club meeting is a nice solid plan - I have made arrangements with my reading friends to meet every month at 3pm at each other's place. Its not one of those 'Lets meet for coffee one of these days' or 'We should meet again soon' statements that soon gets forgotten. It forces us to meet to socialize and to learn what is the latest in everyone's lives.
3) Helps to improve our Literacy
Reading more is one of the easiest ways to improve your grasp of your language. Turning it into a habit through attending book clubs is the most fool proof way to ensure we read more and thereby improve our literacy.
4) To Share Interests
You'll understand how it feel to be interested in a certain genre and you could share the excitement with those who share similar interests. Your friends will get to share their own interests too and this might help all of you bond over a certain genre.
There are some books which stay with you long after you have read it...some books that can make you ponder over the characters' lives and touch your soul deeply Some novels that you wish the story never ends and you read it slowly so as to make it last longer.. much like savoring a delectable dessert. The Kitchen House is one such book.
I had ordered this book on a whim in Amazon when the synopsis interested me. Never did I realise I was soon going to get my hands on a treasure of a book. I looked so forward to reading this book that I would quickly finish up all my housework and plomp myself in bed late at night getting my reading fix for the day. Or while the rest of the household were on gadgets, I would be reading my book in the living room. I just couldn't stop devouring it!
Author Kathleen Grissom's debut novel about slavery in the South (of America) in the late 1700s is one of the best books I have read this year- if not the best. Well written and a definite page turner. It reminded me so much of the classic Gone with The Wind which I loved reading so long ago.
In 1790, a 7 year old white Irish orphan arrives on a Virginia tobacco plantation with no memory of her past. She is put to work as a servant with the black kitchen house slaves. Lavinia is slowly accepted into the world of the big house where the master is mostly absent and the mistress missing her husband, battles with opium addiction. Lavinia gets deeply bonded to the slaves too. As time passes and as she grows up into a young woman, she finds herself torn between her loyalty to her adoptive family and to those in the big house.
Told primarily from Lavinia's perspective, Ms Grissom also injects a different tone by telling some of the story from Belle's view - one of the slaves who becomes a mother figure to Lavinia. A very interesting read with vivid characters and a lot of drama and action. I learnt a lot about slavery in America and how the blacks lived their lives in fear and suppression. How they could be molested, raped, killed or sold like wild animals in auction and yet they could not say anything about it. A truly sad time for the black slaves.
Ms Grissom used coloquial black slavery language for the slaves dialogue which gave reality to the novel. What really gave me the chill in the end was the explanation that Ms Grissom gives on how she came to write The Kitchen House. What gave her the idea or the push to write this novel? You have to read the ending - its chilling and made me grateful that I read this Wow book.
Available in Paperback in Amazon. You can even download recipes, watch a video or invite Ms Grissom to chat wit you in your book club at thekitchenhousebook.com
A sequel Glory over Everything has also been published. My next fix after Olive Kitteridge.
Before I dive head on into this , I would like to share with you responses to my previous book review - The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
I've read this book and loved it. Good choice!!!'
- Sherin Qadir, Singapore
''I saw the book Nilo recommended at the airport. I bought it and read the whole book on the plane. It was like watching an 8hr movie! Captivating! Enjoyed it very much. Thank you for the recommendation!'
- Kheng, Sydney
My pleasure, ladies. I am glad my recommendation has been well received....The reason why I am discussing the topic - why we have to read and how to read more - is because of a whatsapp conversation I had with a couple of my close friends. Why are we reading less and what could be done to save this downfall in mankind? A little over the top, you might think. Downfall? It is a kind of downfall to me, if you must ask.
I constantly hear from friends and read comments here and there that it is increasingly difficult to find time to read. With a barrage of responsibilities being thrown at us throughout the day, reading takes the least priority. Its perfectly understandable especially when school going kids and elderly parents are involved.. au contraire, I believe that no matter how busy you are, there are ways to squeeze reading into your daily routine. I'll talk about that later.
Remember reading should not involve only reading FB updates or reading the instructions on the back of your Instant oatmeal packet. A proper reading exercise would involve a book or a substantial magazine article. Even reading this blog post will suffice :)
Benefits of Reading
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. There are many benefits of reading of which I have highlighted a few :
How do we keep reading alive?
From my personal experience,
My humble request - don't forsake reading. Please do find time to read. Way before TVs, handphones and other distracting gadgets came along, our only source of entertainment used to be books. Don't forget that. Now you have many ways to read a book -on ipads, laptops, smartphones etc. There isnt any excuse not to read. Its ironic isnt it? With so many ways to read, yet we are hardly reading!
There is a book for every person on this planet. whether your interest is in classical literature, poetry, self help guides, religious texts or romance novels, there is something out there for you to capture your entire attention and imagination. So, go on and lose yourself in a good book. No one will find you there. Enjoy this solitude, my friends..It will soon become your favourite time of the day. It is definitely mine as I enjoy this escape and soul replenishing immensely.