Good Reads

The holidays are coming up so just in case you find yourself with some leisure time and are looking for something to read, here’s a few books I’ve read lately.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Synopsis:

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.

Heyyyy likeable characters, it’s been so long! A lot of the books I’ve been reading lately I’ve strongly disliked the major characters so this was a refreshing change. I didn’t read a synopsis or any reviews of the book before I started reading it so I did not realize it was more of a mystery and that a major theme was going to be domestic violence. But that was actually a pleasant surprise. While being a playful, light read it manages to cover some pretty serious topics. I’m really liking Liane Moriarty lately. This book had funny moments with women who felt like real people and who had believable relationships. I liked it a lot and I had a hard time putting it down once I got into it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Synopsis:

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Once I realized this entire book was written in letters, a la Where’d You Go Bernadette, I was worried I wasn’t going to like it. But this book was so lovely. The letters back and forth between Juliet and her new friends gave the book a personal touch, it gave a glimpse into their lives, and I loved the way Juliet’s character in particular wrote. She was witty, funny and a good storyteller. I totally fell in love with her. I also loved hearing about this fantastic, badass woman Elizabeth. I actually felt like I knew the characters after reading their letters and I wish I could just take a boat over to Guernsey and meet them all! This is one of the first WWII book (well, aftermath WWII but it did describe disturbing events) that I’ve read that is funny and felt lighthearted. I have to say though, about three quarters of the way through I felt a change – the story sort of turned into more of a romance, a few minor plot things seemed to be dropped or downplayed, and I felt that it ended abruptly. I did not realize until afterwards that unfortunately the original author passed away before finishing the book and someone else stepped in and completed it, so I think that was probably the reason. I still loved it though. And it made me want to take up writing letters to my friends.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Synopsis:

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Twenty years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all.

A Canadian author! And you could tell, too. The story starts off in Toronto and the author name drops just about every Toronto landmark and downtown street name in the first chapter. Which I of course appreciated as a Torontonian, but it got me thinking – is it common in books for the city the book is set in to be like a minor character, or was I just hyper aware because the scenery was familiar to me? I still don’t know. It even mentioned Allan Gardens, where Evan took me with spiked coffees on our second date! So yeah, I experienced some nostalgia. Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. It made me want to read other apocalyptic novels (if anyone has any recommendations I’d take them!). Some things didn’t feel realistic to me (apocalypse aside), like seriously no one could figure out how to generate electricity again after 20 years? That surprised me for some reason. But I really enjoyed the plot and the characters, especially when the book went back and described their lives before the collapse. I do wish some more time was spent in the immediate aftermath of the collapse and how the characters made it because that was super interesting. Overall, I liked!

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Synopsis:

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.

Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves.

Ehhh. I was disappointed. It was okay but I expected so much more! I feel like there was so much potential but nothing really happened! I read it a couple months ago and when I think about it now no events stand out to me. Basically the story is about an Indian family assimilating into American culture as immigrants and what kind of adjustments they make to their lives. I really think that has the potential to be interesting but it just…wasn’t. The author is a beautiful writer, but the book consisted of a lot of descriptions and filler and a ho-hum main character. There was no payoff and the story needed more. In my opinion anyway, it does have some rave reviews. I don’t know what I was expecting but I did not love.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Synopsis:

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

I guess I’m on a Liane Moriarty kick! I still love her and I liked this. It got me thinking how much my life has changed in 10 years and if something happened to me and I forgot everything and thought the year was 2006 and I was still living the life I was then… Actually, you know what, I’m glad I’m not. 2016 is much better for me. What I thought was the most interesting is that when Alice loses her memory everyone around her starts seeing their own lives in reflection to what her memory is of them 10 years ago, and they don’t like themselves, either. Another book that deals with some heavy topics (divorce, death, infertility, the breakdown of a family) but still manages to remain light and sometimes funny. I thought it was smart and thought-provoking and I enjoyed.

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