Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review: The Husband's Secret

The Husband's Secret The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second Liane Moriarty book and I just absolutely adore her voice and her style. Her stories are intelligent and well-crafted, her characters so genuine and human and honest. I love how the stories of Cecelia, Tess, and Rachel are interwoven together in a heart-wrenching tale of loss and redemption, all focused around the death of Rachel's daughter, Janie, in 1984. My only negative critique is Moriarty's usage of the f-word. For my blog-following friends who are familiar with my SOP (scale of prudishness), there are a few dozen (give or take) instances of the f-bomb, along with taking the name of deity in vain, as well as your day-to-day cursing. There's quite a bit of discussion of sex, including extra-marital relationships. But I wouldn't call it trashy or explicit, not at all. It's a book that made me think and challenged me to reexamine some of my ideas about life and the consequences of our choices. And it made me burst out in belly laughs frequently, making me grateful that most of the time I was listening to this book I was driving alone in my car.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

"The Paper Magician" by Charlie N. Holmberg

I am so happy to share my review of The Paper Magician, because Charlie N. Holmberg is none other than my cousin! Like, her dad and my mom are siblings and we share a set of grandparents and it's just cool that I'm related to a published author!

This story takes place in a world of magic, but it's unique from any other fantastical magical world I've read about. There are different types of magic and to become skilled in a certain branch of magic you undergo an apprenticeship under an experienced magician. Ceony Twill just graduated Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, which was an experience she never dreamed she could have because of past mistakes and financial set-backs. 

The different kinds of magic in the story are rubber, glass, paper, and metal. Ceony dreamed of becoming a Smelter--a magician bonded with metal--but supply and demand dictated she be assigned to work under Magician Emory Thane, a Paper magician. She's downcast and disappointed. But becoming a Paper magician is better than not becoming any kind of magician, so she accepts the assignment.

Emory Thane is a curious man, older than Ceony but not by too many years. She learns to see the beauty in being a Folder.

But Thane has a muddled past. A dark magician, an Excisioner who practices the dark and forbidden flesh magic, comes to the cottage where Coeny learns under Thane. Thane's heart is ripped out and the dark magician vanishes. Ceony sets off to save her mentor and learn the truths of his heart.

I loved the premise of the story and the curious new way this story of magic is presented. My ten-year-old daughter also read it and liked it quite a bit. When I asked her if she wanted to share any thoughts about The Paper Magician in my review, she answered, "It was really gory." Which made me laugh. Yeah, there's a bit of blood and flesh through the story, but it wasn't upsetting to me. She also liked the simple and direct story line and appreciated there weren't dozens of characters to keep straight in her mind. I liked Coeny's passion for persevering over a magician far stronger and experienced than herself. I think it's a wonderful first novel from my cuz.

You should read The Paper Magician before this upcoming November, when its sequel, The Glass Magician will become available.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"What Alice Forgot" by Liane Moriarty

Well, I've been thinking, and there's really not a lot I can tell you about this book without giving away a ton of information. But I'll do my best to review without giving away too much.

What if you had a chance to rewind your life? To start over and mend your mistakes?

Alice Love is our heroine in this story. The book opens with a dream-like scene. It's kind of random and muddled and out-of-context. We learn that Alice hit her head at the gym and blacked out for a moment. When she awakes she clearly remembers she is pregnant with her first child and she is soundly confused why she'd ever set foot in a gym. She's rushed to the hospital and observed overnight. She calls her husband, Nick, only to be chewed out by an unkind assistant that says he's in Portugal and doesn't want to be disturbed. Alice's sister, Elisabeth, shows up at the hospital looking completely foreign and perplexed. Alice can't make head or tails of her world.

The problem is it's 2008 and Alice had been expecting her first child in 1998. Her last memories were of being 29 years old and happily married and best friends with her sister. The Alice of 2008 is separated from her husband, distant with her sister, and has three children she can't remember giving birth to. 

In essence, Alice spends a week in the mindset of her 29-year-old self trying to piece together why the life of her 39-year-old self is falling apart. What had gone wrong in so many ways, and why? That's what Alice forgot...and a little bit more.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this story. Moriarty has such a raw a witty writing style. Not only do see Alice's perspective of things, but she has included journal entries of Elisabeth to her therapist, as well as letters from her "adopted" grandmother to someone named Phil. I almost think Elisabeth's letters were my favorite parts. But then Alice would say or think something so human and so real I kept changing my mind on what I liked reading more. 

Here it comes: Amy's SOP on "What Alice Forgot." There's a smattering of language throughout the book. A few instances of the f-word and other typical foul language. They're pretty few and far between, considering. The funny thing is the language didn't bother me too much! In other books when I come across less-than-articulate words it sounds so affected, so gratuitous. Like the author is just going for shock factor or trying to not sound out-of-touch with modern readers. Here, however, the expressions of anger or frustration are so genuinely written. As a friend of mine said, concerning the language in the book, it might be a word she would use herself in those situations. (Not that she would ever--I cannot imagine her speaking like that, but it's pretty much how I felt, too.)  So, yes, there's language, but I don't have a big hang-up about it. How's that for funny. Maybe I'm losing my prude--whatever shall we do??

Also, there are some extra-marital relationships mentioned, but there's not a lot of detail at all. Those situations are referred to but there's no explicit scene of infidelity played out for the reader. So, there's that. So this book is definitely for mature audiences.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom" by Christopher Healy

I picked up this title because my 10-year-old daughter insisted I must read it. She tore through this book and was hungry for more (famished, I should say). I did some sleuthing and learned that the second and third books were already published, and what's more, a movie is in the works (according to the author's website, BlueSky, the folks who delighted viewers with Rio and Rio2, are spear-heading the project). 

She actually found this title on accident--our library has "mystery" books for readers to check out. A small pile of books, each wrapped in brown paper (seriously, so charming), was sitting in the YA section and my 8-year-old son, who is venturing more into this kind of literature, picked up this gem. He's not quite the bibliophile his sister and I are, and after he unwrapped it he left it in the van (typical Isaac--wonder where he inherited that behavior from? ...innocent whistling...). Anyway, for some reason the kids and I were stuck in the van a while ago and Alayna was just bored out of her mind, so I told her to peruse through Isaac's book. Hook, line, and sinker.

We discovered the second and third installments were available, but our library was not in possession of copies. Another really awesome thing about my library is they have fulfilled nearly every purchase request I've made in my five-plus years here, and before we knew it I was getting emails notifying me that "The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle" and "The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw" were waiting patiently on the shelves for Alayna to devour. (Since we requested the books, we got first dibs to read 'em.)

Anyway, what's the book about that Alayna and I are making such a fuss about it?? It's a delightful re-telling of four quintessential fairy tales, but what I adore is how "Hero's Guide" focuses on the princes. Frederic (Cinderella) is a dandy, Gustav (Rapunzel) is a brute, Liam (Sleeping Beauty) is your achetypical and heroic Prince Charming, and Duncan (Snow White) is a quirky and distracted dreamer. Even though they are all as different as can be, they all share one thing in common: they are all known by the bards and minstrels of their kingdoms simply as Prince Charming and the musical story-tellers often get the story wrong about the princes. 

The adventure starts off with Frederic, whose father has scared him as a child into avoiding dangerous and heroic feats. After he and Cinderella are betrothed and they get to know each other better post-ball, she realizes she wants someone more rugged and daring. So she leaves seeking adventure. 

Frederic goes after her, and, in his pursuit of his bride-to-be, runs into Gustav. Gustav is very busy trying to redeem himself from the humiliation inflicted by the bards' telling of his "rescue" of Rapunzel (he's also the youngest and most teased of 17 brothers and is desperate to perform an act of heroism that will get his brothers to stop nagging and mocking him). Even though they are polar opposites, Gustav and Frederic set out to find Cinderella. Of course they encounter Liam (who had just broken his engagement with Briar Rose because she's simply an awful spoiled brat) and Duncan, whose own wife, Snow White, decided she needed a break from him (because he is quite eccentric).

The four princes learn of the evil plans of a vengeful witch, and they set off to foil her grandiose endeavors to get her own name to live on through the ages. 

And that's all I'm going to say, because first, frankly, I think I've given away more than I usually do, and second, it's midnight and I'm suffering from a nasty cold. I'm tired.

Originally I started reading this book because Alayna had begged me to, but after finishing it tonight, I'm actually anxious to see where the story continues in the next books. 

Kudos to Healy for a wonderful story, and on Amy's SOP (Scale of Prudishness), I'm happy to report "Hero's Guide" is perfectly suitable and appropriate for its intended audience (younger YA readers). It really focuses on the wholesome elements of the story and imaginative entertainment. Parents can happily encourage their young readers (or any-aged reader) to explore this story without worrying about "grown up" questions or issues cropping up in the pages.