Big Little Lies

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at the bestseller Big Little Lies by Australian author Liane Moriarty. This book has recently been released by HBO as a series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley. So, should you read the book, dive into the series, or avoid the whole thing altogether?

The book centers around the events of a school trivia night-where somebody in the seaside town of Monterey, California, is murdered. After this is set up in chapter one, the reader is taken through the events of the preceding six months leading to the incident, and it is up to the reader to work out who has died, why, and who killed them.

Each chapter alternates its viewpoint between three different women: socialite and extrovert Madeline; new resident and single mother Jane; and wealthy ex-lawyer Celeste. All three have children beginning their first year in the local kindergarten, and the story revolves around the first six months of the school year.

This novel focuses on themes of motherhood, family and female friendship, as well as some much darker themes that will go unmentioned here, as this review is spoiler free. I would say its demographic is firmly set in the women of childbearing age category. Particularly, if you have children at school age, you will perhaps relate to the setting of politics in the schoolyard. This book delves into the trials and tribulations of social etiquette, challenges and lighter moments that occur amongst parents of small children.

Liane Moriarty is very talented at hooking her audience. Certainly at the end of the first two chapters I was drawn into the intrigue of the “whodunnit” and was eager to turn the page for more. However Moriarty’s real talent is writing without clichés. Her characters are relatable, human and their life experiences seem drawn from reality, not written for dramatic impact. She is subtle in her writing, able to alternate between dark themes, but then surprise you with relatable humour with ease. I found I was really going for each of the women in this novel, and wanting them to overcome their respective challenges.

In terms of negatives, I was able to pick ahead of time the major plot twist. This is very unusual, I’ve never been able to pre-empt the twist before! However, the ending, including who it was that was killed, was a surprise to me, and Moriarty did a fantastic job at wrapping up her story. The final countdown towards the last few chapters went quickly and the prose was rapid, articulate and exciting. The ending felt complete and satisfying.

Overall, I would recommend this book as an engaging read from start to finish, particularly if you are a stay-at- home mum or dad that can relate to the school yard scene. It is intriguing, pulls you into the mystery, and will keep you guessing. The book explores some important themes around family and friendship. It is suitable for an adult audience only and would translate well to television.

Have you read the book or seen the TV series? What did you think? Please share your thoughts below!

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at TBBC!

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IQ84

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After last week’s review of the short story collection The Elephant Vanishes, I was left with wanting more of the Japanese author Haruki Murukami. Therefore today’s review will be on Murukami’s epic trilogy, available as one volume from Vintage Press for a very affordable price, titled IQ84.

This trilogy, originally released in 2009-2010, is Murukami’s most substantial work- it’s “the big one” for fans of his novels. It contains all the traits that his fans will love- a realistic storyline for adult readers that delves into elements of fantasy and science fiction, but it’s interwoven so neatly into the naturalistic tale that you barely notice.

The story is told in third person viewpoint, alternating chapters between the two central characters point of view: Aomame and Tengo. Aomame lives in the city, working as a fitness class instructor, however uses her “special talents” to do some dark undercover work for a wealthy benefactor. She is a loner by nature and lives life by her own moral sense of justice. Tengo, a child maths prodigy, about to turn 30, is teaching at a cram school and writing fiction in his spare time. He is also a solitary figure, whose contacts consist of a married woman he sees once a week and his literary agent. Tengo’s life becomes complicated when he agrees to being an anonymous ghost writer on a piece of fiction, that is perhaps not entirely fictitious, called Air Chrysalis, which brings significant social and political consequences. Aomame’s life becomes more complicated when she notices there are two moons in the sky instead of one. Slowly but steadily Aomame and Tengo are drawn further and further into danger and confusion, and towards each other.

This story is intriguing and slowly but steadily draws you in. The pacing is superb and Murukami is an expert at taking the normal and flipping it on its head within a second, and then back again like nothing has happened! Whilst the story is long, it never felt that way. The two central characters are perhaps not very relatable, but you like them and want them to succeed. You get to know the pair incredibly well throughout the course of the trilogy, and they are complex and interesting characters; with backgrounds that are explored thoroughly, giving the reader a sense of who they are and why this is so.

Some of Murukami’s novels are loose in structure and very basic in plot, however this novel has a tight structure and plotline, which will make it an appealing read for those who prefer a more focussed story.

This book is not suitable for children, and readers should know it includes sexual themes, themes of domestic violence, and violence in general.

I would recommend this novel to any adult reader, whether they are new to Murukami’s work, or are already fans of this unique author. IQ84 would be a great start if you haven’t read Murukami before.

 

Please let us know what you think below! Comments are always welcome!

Also, you will see some changes coming to the blog over the next few weeks that I hope you enjoy!

 

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at TBBC!

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murukami

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Today we return to one of my favourite authors, Japanese writer Haruki Murukami. We will be looking at his collection of short stories, originally released in 1993, titled The Elephant Vanishes.

The Elephant Vanishes is a medium sized volume of 17 short stories, each one unique and bizarre, where realism meets with elements of fantasy, science fiction and dream-like qualities. Each story will take you to an alternate version of reality where things are very much as you expect, but always with a twist of the unnatural.

Amongst the stories included are Barn Burning, where a man at a party makes an odd confession to his passion for starting barn fires; The Last Lawn of the Afternoon, where a casual gardener mows his last lawn before retirement from the business; and TV people, where a young man, relaxing on his couch, is confronted with little people walking out of his television. My personal favourite was Sleep, a tale where a married woman discovers one day that she no longer needs to sleep, and is given the freedom to live a second life at night. This is something I’ve often thought about (“Imagine what I could do with all that time!”) so I was intrigued by the concept, and the ending to this one had a big impact.

If you are yet to read Murukami, and he is on your list, then I recommend starting with one of his novels and leaving The Elephant Vanishes for afterwards. Whilst I enjoyed the short stories immensely, I think Murukami is much stronger as a novelist, as his stories require space and go along at a meandering pace that is much better suited to a longer style.

If you are a fan of Murukami, then of course this is worth a read. You will recognize subtle references and characters that link with some of his novels. You will, however, probably be left with wanting more, as the stories tend to fly by!

For those who love short stories, I also recommend picking up this volume. You will easily read the whole thing in the space of a day or two, and his short stories have gained international recognition, one of which was printed in The New Yorker.

Have you read The Elephant Vanishes? Which story did you enjoy? Please leave a comment below!

 

Happy Reading and thank you for joining us at TBBC!

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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Today we will be looking at a classic, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

Madame Bovary was written in 1856, and it was the debut work of the French writer. A quick Wikipedia search tells me it was viewed to be so obscene at the time, due to its raunchy sexual references and adulterous themes, that the writer went to trial over it. He thankfully won, and of course, given the scandal it caused, it went on to become a best seller. Somewhat like a very, very old school 50 Shades of Grey situation, everyone just had to read it to see what all the fuss was about.

The story follows the life of Emma, a young woman who is a romantic and a dreamer. She lives an isolated life in the country, and longs for Paris and big city excitement. She desires to be swept off her feet and live a life of luxury. The reality of her situation is that she has chosen the wrong man to marry; a quiet country doctor named Charles, whom she finds boring. She tries to resolve her life’s frustrations by pursuing various extramarital affairs, and doing the 1856 version of spending up big on her credit card, by getting into debt with a local sales merchant.

I enjoyed this book. As far as classics go, it was an easy read and not too long. The story follows a few threads but very closely. You feel you understand the characters very well, what motivates them, and how their past affects the people that they are now. It was realistic- it gave a real sense of the freedoms and restrictions on people, particularly women, at the time. At times I found myself looking down on Emma’s choices, but I never lost a sense of compassion for her, as Gustave demonstrates the lack of liberties available to people at the time.

There are some things to consider though before reading this book:

First of all, if you are keen on this book for some adult content, I suggest you look elsewhere. Certainly in the modern context, this book is far from scandalous. I believe its most assertive reference to some sexy time is something along the lines of “the carriage swayed heartily” and that’s about it.

Also, I’m certain that the only way for Gustave to get away with publishing the saucy content he was writing, was for their to be a strong moral message within the story. I found that the book did read as a large lesson, a ‘what not to do in marriage’ morality tale, that came off a little heavy handed in 2017. It leaves you with no doubt whatsoever what the moral of the story is, and it is somewhat depressing!

Overall, I think this book is worth the read as it is a tightly written, realistic tale of a frustrated marriage. It leaves a clear impression and will stand alone in your memory as a unique classic. If you don’t enjoy themes of marriage and relationships however, it is one to miss.

Have you read it? What did you think? Please leave your comments below.

Thank you for joining us at TBBC. Happy Reading!

 

Fates & Furies

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Today we will be looking at one of the most beautifully written, astounding pieces of writing I’ve had the chance to enjoy at the tail end of last year- Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

I found this book by doing some research of the best novels of 2015. Fates and Furies was featured on multiple top ten lists around the place, and was even chosen by President Obama as his favourite book of the year. I figured, well if it’s good enough for the now former President, it’s good enough for me!

You shouldn’t be deceived by the topic of this book. The topic is marriage. A man named Lotto and a woman named Mathilde get married after only two weeks of dating, and this book tells about their marriage, from beginning to end, from both points of view. It sounds simple, it may sound boring- not your kind of thing- but I promise, if you are interested in the psychology of a person, interested in how two different people can think, feel and live, and the memories that shape their behaviour today, you will find no better book to explore that in than this.

Lauren’s work is incredible. These two central characters are so well written the experience is liking jumping into someone else’s mind completely. I’ve never read character work done so well. Both Mathilde and Lotto have their flaws, their talents, and of course, their secrets. This book is as much about what they share together in their marriage as what they hide, and there is certainly plenty of dramatic elements that push the story along- career highs and lows, money ups and downs, personal crises, and plenty of sex. This book tells the life of two people, in the moments together and apart, in a level of detail you won’t have experienced before.

Lauren’s writing style is easy to read and intimate. It is written in second person viewpoint, but Lauren has included little asides, written in brackets, that give the objective truth of the situation. Like this:

“The author of the Boss Book Club is thinking about eating a salad [She will back out and find her stash of stale Kit Kats].”

Except Lauren does it much better, about more interesting topics, such as what Lotto and Mathilde cannot see objectively about themselves or each other.

I thoroughly recommend this book for absolutely all adults. It will take you into a story of marriage, of personal growth, of truth and lies, that is detailed beyond belief, and never fails to be engaging. If you are a writer, it will show you character work done to perfection. If you are married, it will leave you thinking about a lot of things about yourself and your partner, and what makes a successful relationship. In terms of weaknesses, I would say that I found the first half of the book much more realistic and relatable than the second half. I feel that Lauren undoes some of her hard work in the second half by including a few melodramatic elements which I think cheapen the story a little.

I’ve left this review as vague as I can because it’s truly worth experiencing it for yourself.

 

Now, I’m going to go make myself a salad!

 

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

Middlemarch

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Today we will be looking at the classic novel Middlemarch, originally published in 1871-2 by English novelist Mary Anne Evans, better known by her pseudonym George Eliot- a name she adopted at the commencement of her writing career.

I admit that, for whatever reason, I had up until this point avoided classic female writers. To my shame, I confess I’ve never read anything by the Bronte sisters, or Jane Austen, or anything in that field. Being a bit of a tomboy by nature, I thought I wouldn’t enjoy books with a romantic emphasis and find them “too girly.” I assumed Middlemarch would be all Lords and Ladies without much substance about the human condition.

I was very very wrong, and am glad that I got over my own prejudice to read Middlemarch.

Middlemarch is one of the most intelligently written novels I’ve ever read. It hides its deep and insightful look into the human condition under the broad heading of “a study of provincial life.” Middlemarch is the name of an English town, and the novel explores the lives of the families and couples that live there- it takes the reader into the intimate life of a number of central characters and details for us their ambitions, their beliefs and their hopes, then surely and relentlessly, shows us how luck, poor choices and life in general can get in the way of everyone’s best efforts. It shows us how people compromise, how people can improve themselves or become worse, and shows how big an impact marriage can play in a person’s life. Some characters serve as cautionary tales whilst others serve as inspiration. Every one of them is relatable in a deeply human way- the careers, technology and language may be different now, but you will see your neighbours and yourself in the characters in this book.

This book came at an opportune point in my life. I’ve been married less than a year, and this book gives you a lot to think about in terms of what makes a marriage successful, the sacrifices involved, and how one person’s choices, both their successes and their mistakes, can impact on the other half of the couple. The themes in the novel made me reflect on what I want to contribute to the marriage, and put my expectations from the commitment into a realistic perspective.

The themes in this book are universal, and Eliot’s insight into human nature is astounding. This book is as relevant now as it was over a hundred years ago, and I have no doubt, will be just as relevant in 100 years time.

This novel is not action packed as such- no bombs go off, no shots fired, but if you invest the time, slowly but surely, it will help you to understand yourself, and people in general, a lot better. This book is big, and whilst I believe anyone could read it and get something out of it, if you are married or are getting married soon, this book will serve to provide something extra- as marriage is one of it’s main subjects.

 

Thank you for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

Happy Reading Bosses!

American Gods

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be having a look at Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

My husband is a big fan of the actor Ian McShane, and when he found out he’d been cast in a television series based on a novel, he went and bought the book for me to read. Since he bought the book I have seen Neil Gaiman everywhere, from other bloggers singing his praises, to a friend at work toting his collection of short stories. The British author is popular and, as I’ve found out, this is with good reason!

American Gods tells us the story of Shadow, a man recently released from prison who finds himself, after a sudden unexpected tragedy, on a trip home with nothing to look forward to. He then meets the mysterious and mischievous man who goes by the name of Mister Wednesday, who hires him to be his personal bodyguard.

And so begins a journey across America, a great big road trip. The only difference is, it’s to meet and greet the ancient Gods who have settled in America. It’s a mythical story which puts into modern times how old Gods would survive in modern USA. From driving taxis to working as prostitutes, the Gods that used to be so powerful have to scrape together a living, and Shadow is exposed to what life is like for these immortal creatures. There are also new Gods, Gods that people worship in this day and age- for example the God of technology- and there is a war brewing between the old and new, with potentially dangerous results.

You may think a book containing so many mythologies would be a difficult read, but it isn’t. The story is engaging and fast moving as Shadow moves with Mister Wednesday from town to town. Gaiman has obviously done a lot of research into the belief systems of a variety of cultures both within and outside of America, and he retells many old folktales in interesting ways. The main characters, Shadow and Mister Wednesday are both very likeable, and Mister Wednesday I’m sure, with his dry humour and shameless antics, will be a favourite character for many.

This novel provides food for thought in terms of what the modern person believes in, and what we think is important to us. It also will make you think about how our current beliefs fit within a history full of a huge variety of cultures, mythologies and stories to make sense of the world.

I found this novel to be engaging throughout, with a wide variety of fascinating, funny, bizarre and dark God characters to be met along the way. If you’ve got too much on your plate already, I’m sure the television series, due in 2017, will be great as the story would lend itself wonderfully to the screen.

I recommend this book for fans of American history, folklores and cultural legends, as well as those who like road trips and adventures. You will have a very enjoyable time.

 

Happy Reading Bosses!

 

A Wild Sheep Chase

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

 

Today marks the 5th and final day of the Five Day book review catch up. From here on in, book reviews will be posted weekly on a Sunday, as per the norm. We will be looking at Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase today.

 

I need to start off by saying that I read this book at the wrong time. This book is supposed to be the third part of a trilogy. Parts one and two are titled Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, Murukami’s first two novels, only released in English for the first time last year. I thoroughly recommend reading the first two to start with, and then reading a Wild Sheep Chase straight afterwards to get the complete experience. I read this after reading some of Murukami’s later works (such as The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore) and some months after reading the first two. It was therefore a bit difficult to get into the flow of this book, mainly because Murukami’s writing style has diversified and changed since these first three books so it felt like taking a step back into a different headspace, which was difficult.

 

Having said that, this book has done nothing to diminish my new found Murakami obsession, and this is another great story. In this story our protagonist, the same man from the first two novels, is working in his small advertising and publishing firm, he has a new girlfriend with strikingly beautiful ears, and is continuing about his life, doing not much in particular. He is then accosted by a mysterious man in a dark suit, and is given a month to find a sheep from a photograph with a star on its back, with dire consequences if he fails.

 

The story takes our man on a trip across Japan in search of the Sheep and his friend the Rat. J from the bar also gets a look in. This book marks the departure for Murakami from his completely realistic and naturalistic books in Wind and Pinball, to the slightly bizarre and absurd. This is the book that marks the shift in style for Murakami. If I had read this directly after the other two, then the all out bizarre surrealism of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle wouldn’t have been so shocking. Therefore, as I mentioned before, I think it’s important that you read his novels in order, and somewhat close together. You can then note the progression of the story, as well as Murukami’s journey as an author.

 

This book contains more humour than his other novels, and is cheeky and odd. I recommend saving the trilogy for a rainy day. Keep the coffee and cigarettes nearby, and cook yourself a nice meal afterwards (the protagonist always does a ton of cooking in each novel- it will make you want to eat something too!).

 

Thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club and participating in the 5- day Blogging Catch Up Bonanza!

 

Regular blogging schedule resumes from next week so please join us next Sunday for a review of American Gods.

 

Happy Reading from The Boss Book Club!

Kafka on the Shore

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

 

Today marks Day Four of our Five Day Blogging Bonanza to mark the return of TBBC. Today we will be having a look at Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. The novel by one of Japan’s greatest living authors was written in 2002.

 

This novel follows the story of a 15- year old boy named Kafka, who is running away from home. Mature beyond his years, Kafka trains himself physically and mentally to be strong enough to survive on his own, and sets out with no clear plan, travelling by bus across Japan. An avid reader, he comes across the Komura Memorial Library and makes friends with the enigmatic librarian Oshima and the beautiful Miss Saeki.

 

On the other side of things is an old man named Nakata. Due to a mysterious illness when he was younger he has a low IQ and therefore simple way of living, and he can talk to cats. He embarks on a journey, assisted by a trucker named Hoshino who he meets along the way. What exactly that journey is, not even they are certain of, but it includes finding an important stone, and sealing an entranceway.

 

The story of these characters intertwine in such a way that blurs the naturalistic, realistic elements of life: ie a boy running away from home and an old man making his way across the country, with the bizarre, surreal and dreamlike qualities- including accessing the other side- whether that’s the other side meaning death, an alternate world, or an alternate state of mind is up to the reader to decipher. This book journeys firmly into the weird, and contains one graphic, violent scene that made me feel a little ill to be honest. However, apart from this one scene, the book is nonviolent. Murakami always includes a lot of the everyday things in life- a lot of descriptions of cooking meals, doing laundry and attending day to day activities, and then before you know it there’s a violent, bizarre or sexually explicit scene put in there and then it’s straight back to ironing shirts again. You would think this would be jarring or uncomfortable to read, but Murukami’s writing is so well done, and the pacing so perfect, that it poses no problem.

 

Of all his books so far, this contains the most definite plot and story arc, and would serve as a great introduction to Murakami if you prefer a structured story. This book, as with all Murakami’s novels, lends itself to multiple re-readings, as its rich in symbolism and hidden meanings.

 

Murakami has become one of my favourite authors, and if you’re willing to walk on the weird side, you will find his novels a truly rewarding experience. I enjoyed this book so much that I read A Wild Sheep Chase (by the same author) immediately afterwards.

 

Please join us for the review of A Wild Sheep Chase tomorrow.

 

Thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

 

 

 

 

Purity

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

 

This week, to celebrate the return from hiatus, we’re doing a book a day for five days (this is Day 2!). Today we’ll take a look at Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Purity.

 

This is the first book I’ve read by the modern American novelist and I was very impressed by the scope of this book. At the start of the drama is a woman named Pip Tyler, an individual who’s struggling with life due to a large University debt; a less than ideal living situation squatting with some housemates, a job she doesn’t enjoy and a friction filled relationship with her mother. There are certainly relatable moments for just about anyone in the opening chapter, however the novel rapidly expands and opens out to cover a large range of characters, and a broad array of themes.

 

This is as much a political thriller as it is a personal drama. The political side comes into play through the character of Andreas Wolfe, a Julian Assange type figure who was raised in Germany and is now leaking anything and everything political he can find on the internet. When Pip is hired by this man she is pulled into a world of journalism, of secrets, of information and intrigue.

 

Before this novel my knowledge of Berlin’s history was somewhat limited but through the character of Andreas, Franzen does an excellent job at painting a picture of what it was like to grow up in a very politically and socially unstable time. Also, Andreas’ character is very interesting psychologically, and if you enjoy your characters complex and working out why people think the way they do, you will find him incredibly fascinating.

 

On a smaller scale, this book is also about relationships, between parents and children, between husbands and wives, and between friends. It’s about what pulls people together and drives them apart. The book is written in third person viewpoint, but the chapters alternate focus between the characters, so each main character gets a chapter of their own. Franzen does an incredible job at putting together a story that includes the relatable, everyday relationship issues that we can all relate to, as well as tell a tale that’s big enough to cover themes about freedom, the right to information and….

 

Murder.

 

Yes, somebody gets killed but you’ll get no spoilers here!

 

All in all, this is an interesting book with a broad scope: personal drama, intrigue, politics, the information age, love, reunion, family and death all mix together to create a great story by Franzen.

 

Thank you for joining us on The Boss Book Club!

 

Please stop by tomorrow for a review of Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett.