Buddy read – Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

August 2016 – Janelle’s choice

Truly Madly Guilty

by Liane Moriarty

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Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Suspense

The air rushed from Clementine’s lungs. Afterwards, everyone would say, ‘It happened so fast’, and it did happen fast, but at the same time it slowed down, every second a freeze-frame in unforgettable full colour, lit by golden fairy lights.

Clementine leaped to her feet so fast her chair fell over. What? Where? Who?

This story revolves around three families – Erika and Oliver; Clementine, Sam, Holly and Ruby; and Tiffany, Vid and Dakota. Their insecurities, their worries, their relationships with one another, and the life events that have shaped the people they presently are. But most of all, it revolves around one day in all of their lives when their worlds are irrevocably changed. One incident at a backyard barbeque that changes everything.

Janelle says…

I think it’s safe to say I’m a “Liane Moriarty fan”, now having read two of her books. Big Little Lies blew me away with its suspense and all the connections between characters, I was really looking forward to more of the same with Moriarty’s newest – Truly Madly Guilty.

The narrative jumps back and forth between life prior to the barbeque (which is the defining point in the book), and then replaying the barbeque itself up until the point of the “incident”, and then throwing to life after the barbeque. All the while, hints are dropped along the way about what might have happened at the get-together but never giving enough away that the reader can piece it together. The gap between the two narratives gradually closes until we finally reach the incident itself and all is revealed.

As said about Big Little Lies, I do really enjoy this format of slowly working away at the puzzle, especially when the end result is something completely surprising that I didn’t see coming. All in all I enjoyed this book, the plot kept me hanging on to find out what happens, while also bringing up interesting thoughts around the themes of what is socially acceptable as an adult, as a parent, and just as a person in the world.

I had two reasons for not rating it any higher than 3 out of 5. Firstly, to me it was a dead ringer for another Australian book I read a couple of years ago, which shall remain unnamed so as not to give away the endings of either book, BUT the endings were so eerily similar that I couldn’t get it out of my head and it really bugged me that I felt like I was reading something I’d already read. My other reason is that I didn’t think it needed to go on for as long as it did. This is a pretty hefty book, and there were moments where I was reading and thinking “Yes yes yes, get to the point…how is there still 200 pages to go?!!”

It’s no Big Little Lies, but if you’re a Moriarty fan, it’s definitely worth a read.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Mel says…

This is the third Liane Moriarty book I have read and it followed the same suspenseful format that I have come accustomed to. The day this book launched, I had my hot little hands on my own copy and began devouring it. By page 100, I was hooked and hungry to know what the big “incident” at the barbecue was, that the characters kept eluding to.

The characters were all so personable. Vid was the kind of man I would love to be friends with, his wife Tiffany was the kind of woman I would be intimidated by, Clementine was the kind of person I would warm to and Erica was the kind of woman I would try and avoid. As the story unfolded, these opinions started to shift and not necessarily in the way I thought they would.

It took a fair amount of reading, but once I approached the actual “incident”, it had me gasping in shock and dismay. I couldn’t continue reading until I had given myself time to digest what happened. As the story continued past the barbecue, I started to better understand the characters, their differing reactions and the aftermath.

It is hard to go into detail, without giving away what the actual “incident” is, but I think if we were to spoil that part of the book for the readers of the blog, it would take away any desire you may have to read this book for yourself. The shock factor is what made this book a great read.

I agree with Janelle in that this book was longer than necessary, but I enjoyed the plot enough that it didn’t annoy me as much as it could have. This book is a must for any Liane Moriarty fan, or if you are looking for a read that creates intrigue, mystery and a little bit of heartache with a twist of humour. Sounds like an odd mix, but once you read it for yourself, you will understand what I mean!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Feels – Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

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Published 2014

Genres: Fiction / Suspense

 

“Samantha: Parents do tend to judge each other. I don’t know why. Maybe because none of us really know what we’re doing? And I guess that can sometimes lead to conflict. Just not normally on this sort of scale.”

School dramas are not always isolated to the playground. The Kindy Mums at Pirriwee Public School are starring in a soap opera of their own making, with gossip, finger-pointing, cliques, and general bitchiness a daily occurrence. But some of them have secrets too. And when the truths start to come out, tensions will culminate in the death of a parent.

 

Janelle says…

FINALLY I have gotten around to reading Liane Moriarty, something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, and now I can’t wait to read more of her work. This book floored me. I had so many feelings while reading it. I laughed, I cried, I sizzled with anger, I squirmed with discomfort. And I was right there with the characters, cheering for the ones I loved, booing for the ones I despised. Even when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about the characters, wondering about them and how their story would unfold, as if they were real.

We follow three lead characters in this story – outspoken, loud, fun-loving Madeline; quiet, uncertain, plain Jane; and classy, nervous, beautiful Celeste. Each of these three friends leads very different family lives, and each has their secrets and worries. Their children and the school are the glue that brings them together, as well as the intermittent scandals of the other bitchier school Mums.

A warning – this is no catty, gossipy Mum drama. This book can get intense at times, and deals with some dark issues. There is teenager trouble, domestic violence issues, bullying and harrassment, self-image worries, sexual abuse…..and as mentioned above, death. But it deals with it all in such a real way, the internal murmurings of the characters dealing with these problems are honest and what I imagine would be true-to-life in those situations.

We find out early in the book that a parent has been killed, but we don’t know how, why, or even who, and the narrative eludes to the possibility of another parent being involved in the death but we don’t know any details for certain. There’s an added layer of suspense throughout the whole story, as we go back to the beginning and work our way towards the event in which a parent dies, learning facts as we go and trying to piece together the puzzle.

This was a wonderful piece of suspenseful fiction, which I feel does fit under the umbrella of literary fiction despite the plot being packed with events along the way. But I think you will get even more enjoyment from this book if you are a parent yourself. Your compassion, horror, disgust, grief, and solidarity with the characters will be all the more rich for having that in common with them.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Action-packed – Fear Is The Rider by Kenneth Cook

Fear Is The Rider

by Kenneth Cook

9781925240856

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Suspense / Thriller

“There was a girl running out of the scrub towards him. The temperature was fifty degrees centigrade, there wasn’t a house within two hundred kilometres and a girl was running out of the scrub.”

Katie and John are both lone travellers, making the hot and dusty journey across Australia’s south-east corner, when they briefly cross paths in a lonely outback pub. The next day, back on the road again, they cross paths again….but this time, it’s because Katie is running for her life from the vast scrubby nothingness towards John’s car as he passes by. She’s been attacked by someone, or something, and now they will both be hunted in a terrifying and exhausting game of cat and mouse in the unforgiving desert.

 

Janelle says…

That line up there is the first line of Fear Is The Rider. This book doesn’t mess about. Action from the get go.

I read this book in one day. I haven’t managed a one-day read since The Deathly Hallows! Yes, this is a novella which makes it entirely possible to read in a day, but I don’t force my eyes to stay open until the AM hours to finish just any old book. This book packs a massive punch. I felt like I needed a cup of tea and a lie down afterwards just to get my heart rate back to normal.

Basically, this is about a couple being chased by a wacko through the outback. You’re probably thinking “Wolf Creek”, aren’t you? The story isn’t original, but what made this book so great was the pace (lightning fast), the timing (suspenseful), and the plot (unrelenting). And of course, the Australian desert landscape is the perfect foreboding setting for a tense, scary thriller, it’s almost a character in its own right.

I didn’t plan to stay up late and finish the book, but I just couldn’t stop! At no time did an appropriate place to place a bookmark and walk away present itself. It was just this non-stop roller-coaster ride that had me hiding behind my hands and gasping. It was SOOOOO GOOD.

I don’t know what else really needs to be said about this book. To me, there was no moral to the story, no commentary on this or that, no theme….it was just pure, adventurous fun. And I really want you all to read it! It’s out on 27 January 2016 – what a great way to recover from your Australia Day festivities!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

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Gripping – The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining

by Stephen King

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Published 1977

Genres: Fiction / Horror / Suspense / Thriller

Yep, that’s a copy of The Shining in my freezer up there.

Thanks for the hot tip, Joey Tribbiani.

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“They were alone. Aspen leaves whirled and skittered in aimless packs across the lawn that was now neatly mowed and tended for no guest’s eyes. There was no one to see the autumn leaves steal across the grass but the three of them. It gave Jack a curious shrinking feeling, as if his life force had dwindled to a mere spark while the hotel and the grounds had suddenly doubled in size and become sinister, dwarfing them with sullen, inanimate power.

Then Wendy said: ‘Look at you, doc. Your nose is running like a fire hose. Let’s get inside.’

And they did, closing the door firmly behind them against the restless whine of the wind.”

And so it begins.

Our story is set at The Overlook Hotel, set up high in the wild and breathtaking mountains of Colorado. The peak season is over, and winter is about to set in. The Torrance family, Jack Torrance particularly, are engaged as caretakers, to live in and maintain the hotel over what is expected to be another harsh and isolating snowy season.

But little Danny Torrance has “the shining”, the ability to see into the future, to know things that are otherwise unknown, and to look into the minds of those who also possess even the smallest morsel of this extraordinary ability.

From the time the Torrances first arrive at The Outlook, Danny starts to feel, see and hear things that shouldn’t be there. But is it in his head? Or is it the hotel? Before too long, cabin fever sets in, all while the mysterious and historic hotel is weaving its spell over not just Danny, but Mum and Dad Torrance too. How bad will it get?

Janelle says…

Lately I’ve had such a craving to read horror, and with it being October and all, of course I was going to indulge. I looked to my bookshelves, and immediately chose this old, battered, second-hand copy of The Shining. I don’t think I can imagine reading a shiny new version of this book, to be honest. That just wouldn’t fit at all.

This is my first time reading The Shining, although I have seen the movie many years ago. It totally fulfilled my horror craving and left me feeling content, and also with that lost, unmotivated feeling that happens after reading an incredible book, when you’re not sure when you’ll read something again that measures up to what you’ve just finished.

It’s a reasonably-sized read, my copy is just over 400 pages. Usually anything over say 300 pages makes me slightly nervous at taking a risk on it, because of the time commitment involved to finish it, and the potential for the story to drag. But I sped through this book, and I finished the last quarter or so in one epic session that had me staying up way past my bedtime (again).

Oh man, It. Was. AWE-some!

“From behind him, that soft flump sound of falling snow came again. He turned around and the head of one of the hedge lions was sticking out of the snow now, snarling at him. It was closer than it should have been, almost up to the gate of the playground.”

AAARRGGHHHHH! Freaky hedge animals that move!!

The pace of the story was just perfect, it kept rolling along with intrigue, building in ferocity. I didn’t want to put the book down. The scary bits were for the most part that creepy, tingly kind of scary as opposed to the in-your-face, gory and screamy kind of scary. I caught myself with my fingernails between my teeth a few times.

The book also has themes of domestic violence, anger management, and alcoholism, which I found to be sad in parts, but not upsetting. The parts of the book told in Danny’s voice also clearly represent a young child who is taking in perhaps more of the adult world than he should at his age, yet not completely understanding everything he’s hearing and seeing.

My interest was held fast the whole way through the book, and the length, the pace, the depth of character background and reflection, the plotting…..it all felt perfectly suited to my own personal preferences. It was a great ride, and I think would make a fine introduction to horror for those new to the genre. Read it for Halloween!

 

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Read by Janelle: September 2015 – The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

The Beautiful Bureaucrat

by Helen Phillips

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Suspense / Mystery

“Back in 9997, Josephine stood beside her desk, eyeing the accumulated files, dizzy. A bead of sweat rolled from her armpit down her torso. She did not dare touch them. Like snakes. Handle with a stick, avoid skin contact at all costs.”

Married couple Josephine and Joseph have moved to “the big city” to make a new life for themselves. They both score mediocre jobs, frankly just to make ends meet, and spend a lot of time moving from one questionable basement apartment to the next. Josephine’s job is unusual, her one and only role is to input specific lines of data into The Database, ensuring that she works through the mountain of files that magically appear on her desk every morning. Her boss, who we know only as The Person With Bad Breath, gives no hints as to the purpose of The Database or the logic behind the data that is being added to it. Their workplace is a windowless cube, with no obvious corporation name or other way to identify it, other than the entry doors on the outside of the building, marked “A” to “Z”. Before too long, this sterile environment begins to take its toll on Josephine’s mind and body. She becomes suspicious of those around her, both at work and outside of work. And then Joseph starts to disappear for periods at a time with no explanation. What have they got themselves into?

Janelle says…

think I liked this book? I’m still not completely sure, it was such a whirlwind fast read (less than 200 pages) with a whole lot of mystery and weirdness thrown in, I’m still making my mind up. One minute I was totally absorbed in what was happening, the next minute I was frustrated and thrown by how completely bizarre the writing was.

The mystery at the core of the book is The Database, and trying to figure out what it’s for and what the data in it means. Josephine slowly works this out as the story progresses, and all is explained. But in the meantime, get ready to scratch your head in bewilderment a lot. I present to you – Exhibit A:

“She didn’t know whether pomegranates should be selected based on firmness or fragrance or hue.

Poor me granite.

Pagan remote.

Page tame no.

This starts happening more and more as we move through the book, because Josephine’s strange occupation is slowly sending her bonkers. Every couple of paragraphs or so, she will pull apart a word that is mentioned and rearrange the letters to form new words, as above. At first it’s kind of funny and intriguing, then it just becomes annoying, even though it is proving a point about our protagonist’s state of mind. And then, we have this:

“A laundromat, washers and dryers all filled with bright clothing, but the machines static, not spinning. A gorilla in the driver’s seat of a parked car. A transparent bird, a snagged plastic bag, a woman’s arm vanishing into a brick wall. Three luminous Coca-Cola trucks pulled up to a factory.”

It goes on. For a whole page. I have no idea what’s going on here. She is drunk at this point in the story, or at least a little tipsy, but is it possible she is also high on ‘shrooms or something and I didn’t know? What the actual?!

I enjoy books that are slightly off-centre, I do, but to a point. “The Beautiful Bureaucrat” ebbed and flowed in its weirdness, and its saving grace was that it wasn’t completely ridiculous the whole way through.

I really enjoyed the whole mystery around The Database, and whenever I was reading Josephine outside of the office, I was thinking “hurry up and get back to work!”. I love a good puzzle story. The conclusion was satisfying, and it left just enough unturned to let the reader continue to wonder a little more. I loved the whole concept of this story, and ultimately this is what has just tipped me over on to the “liked this book” side of the scales.

This book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea that’s for sure, but if you enjoy your mystery/suspense novels with a good side dose of crazy, then this short read might just be up your alley.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Read by Janelle: August 2015 – Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

Stone Mattress

by Margaret Atwood

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Published 2014

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Short Stories / Suspense

You believed you could transcend the body as  you aged, she tells herself. You believed you could rise above it, to a serene, non-physical realm. But it’s only through ecstasy you can do that, and ecstasy is achieved through the body itself. Without the bone and sinew of wings, no flight. Without that ecstasy you can only be dragged further down by the body, into its machinery. Its rusting, creaking, vengeful, brute machinery.”

Janelle says…

Stone Mattress is a collection of 9 short stories – 3 of which are connected. Within this collection you have suspense, murder, revenge, themes of ageing and self-examination, and a lot of imagination and a hint of crazy. I love stories that take a seemingly everyday scenario, and then throw in a completely fantastical element to turn everything on its head. That’s what this collection does.

In the first three stories, we follow Constance who is learning to depend only on herself and examining her worth after the death of her husband, Gavin who is Constance’s ex and appears to be having some kind of mid or late-life crisis, and Jorrie, a former fleeting affair of Gavin’s who answers to no one but is about to be stopped in her tracks. All three characters are in the last phases of their lives and questioning their decisions of the past, including the ones relating to each other. Even in their old age, many years since they were closely connected to each other, they are still affecting one another in different ways.

Then we have “Lusus Naturae”, the sad story of a young girl with vampire tendencies that cast her out from her family and community.  “I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth” was probably my least favourite story in the collection. It’s a story about relationships and friendships and the two “ships” colliding. For some reason I just didn’t connect with it as much as the other stories.

In “The Dead Hand Loves You”, a celebrity horror-novel author broods over the unwise, snap decision he made over the distribution of profits from his book sales. In the title story “Stone Mattress”, an aging seductress crosses paths with someone from her disturbing past who she would rather forget, while on an adventure cruise holiday. Consequently, she takes her revenge. And in “Torching the Dusties”, we watch from the POV of a visually-impaired elderly woman as a raging protest mob surrounds her retirement village and barricades the residents in, in order to carry out their evil intentions.

My favourite story of the collection is probably “The Freeze-Dried Groom”. The idea of it is just so crazy, you could almost imagine seeing it as a headline on the nightly news. It’s the kind of bizarre “what-if” scenario I create in my head all the time, and then quickly dismiss as being totally outrageous. I really should start writing them down, there could be good material there.

Basically, in The Freeze-Dried Groom an antiques dealer goes along to a storage locker auction, with a shady ulterior motive of securing a particular locker that’s related to some dodgy criminal stuff he’s involved in. He wins a number of lockers at the auction, and later when he is looking through them all, he finds the contents of one to be just slightly disturbing. I’ll let Margaret explain…

“He’s getting a very odd feeling. He squeezes in past the dress. If what he’s thinking is right, there ought to be some champagne: there’s always champagne for weddings. Sure enough, here it is, three crates of it, unopened. It’s a miracle it hasn’t frozen and burst. Beside it are several boxes of champagne flutes, also unopened: glass ones, not plastic, good quality. And some boxes of white china plates, and a big box of white napkins, cloth, not paper. Someone has stored their entire wedding in here. A big-ticket wedding.

Behind the cardboard boxes there’s some luggage – brand-new luggage, a matched set, cherry red in colour.

And behind that, in the farthest, darkest corner, is the groom.”

That’s right, he finds THE GROOM in the storage locker too! WHAT KIND OF CRAZY WORLD IS THIS?? I love it. I’m not going to share any more with you, there is more to the story but you’ll just have to find out for yourself if you really want to know what happens. You do, don’t you? Why is the groom in there? Who put him there? What happened to him? WHYYYYY?

More than one of these stories ends in an utterly unfinished fashion, leaving you staring at the pages in disbelief that there is no more to be found, but leaving your own mind to decide how you would best like the story to continue.

I have read various occasions that Margaret Atwood doesn’t waste a word. Having now had my first Atwood experience, I would agree that that is an absolutely accurate statement to make about her writing.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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