Big Little Lies

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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!

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!

 

Norm MacDonald: Based on a True Story

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Today we will be looking at a truly unique read, an autobiography that contains almost no factual information about the author itself, but instead takes you on a bizarre journey of degradation and humour. I am talking about Norm MacDonald: Based on a True Story.

There are a couple of hurdles you will need to jump through before tackling this book. First of all, do you know who Canadian comedian Norm MacDonald is?

Norm MacDonald is known as a Comedian’s comedian. He is beloved by Louis C.K, who has written the introduction to the book, as well as by Jerry Seinfeld, Conan O’Brien and David Letterman. His humour is dry and drawling. He’s as laid back as you can get. He is not for everyone, and some don’t find him funny at all, but for me, the more you watch him, the funnier he gets. He has developed a very strong, somewhat cult following, as fans don’t just like him, they love him!

You may know him as one of the previous newsreaders for Saturday Night Live or for his movie Dirty Work. You may be vaguely aware of him from his cameos in various Adam Sandler or Rob Schneider movies. He also has his own podcast called Norm Macdonald Live. If it’s still not ringing any bells then I suggest hitting up good old Youtube and checking out his stand up, then watch the podcast, where he interviews famous comedians. The podcast, I should point out, contains some filthy, filthy language and good grief, if you watch the one with Gilbert Godfried…..

If you already are a big fan, or you become one after checking out his stuff, then this book is 100% a must read. Don’t read anymore of this review, just go and buy it right now. If you haven’t watched the podcast yet, then you should do that first to get the most out of it. If you’re not a fan, or are not converted, then don’t bother getting the book. It’s that simple- this book is for fans of Norm’s work, and they will love every page.

If you have watched the podcast, you will be familiar with his sidekick Adam Eget. He is a lowly servant, a holocaust denier, and a degenerate sex worker. He features heavily in the book, and if your opinion of him wasn’t already low enough, this tale serves nothing to improve his image. This “autobiography” discusses Norm’s early years, then takes you on a journey as Norm and Adam Eget travel to Vegas to play a high stakes game to resolve some serious gambling debts. It also chronicles Norm’s disputes with his downtrodden ghost writer.

It is a very, very funny book. It is an easy read, which I finished over two nights, in three hour sessions. There is almost no truth whatsoever in it from Norm’s life, and Norm has admitted in interviews that he “tricked” publishers into letting him write a story by pretending it would be an autobiography. It does however feature Canada, where he is from, discusses gambling, which he has a real life problem with, and talks a little about his work on Saturday Night Live, which he did do. Other than that, well just don’t trust anything…

The good news, for the Norm fans that will inevitably love this book, is that Norm has said he’s going to write a few more.

This is just the beginning…

Happy Reading from The Boss Book Club!

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!

 

Witches Abroad

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Today we will be looking at the 12th book of the 41 long Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. This book is called Witches Abroad and features the three main characters previously introduced in Wyrd Sisters: the boisterous, fun loving Nanny Ogg, the stern and scary Granny Weatherwax and the wimpish amateur Magrat.

This novel sees our loveable trio step outside their comfort zone and go travelling to foreign places after Magrat is unexpectedly given the task of being a Fairy Godmother. It is her job, with her companions in tow, to seek out the young Princess who is to be her charge, and ensure that a magical wedding is prevented.

Terry Pratchett’s work always contains an element of satire, and this time, as you may guess, this book centers around the ideas of storytelling, happy endings and fairy tales. Terry takes the conventions and turns them upside down, all with his trademark humour, quips, plays on words, and funny asides.

The three main characters feel like friends, and accompanying them on their journey to fairytale lands is full of such adventures as winning their way out of being bankrupted by card sharks, putting a big bad wolf out of its misery, trying a voodoo witches gumbo (and befriending her zombie boyfriend) and tasting banana daiquiris whilst flying around on broomstick.

This book, along with all the others of the Discworld series is recommended for people of all ages and genders. It’s fun and light- hearted fantasy with loveable characters and a quick pace.

You will have a great time!

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

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

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Today we will be taking a look at the new Harry Potter story, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (Parts One and Two).

This is the eighth story of the Harry Potter series, set nineteen years after the 7th story. Harry is a 37 year old man, and himself, Ron and Hermione are all parents now. This story includes what the adults are currently up to, but mainly centers around their children, particularly Albus, Harry’s youngest son, and his best friend Scorpius.

I had a lot of reservations before reading this story. Firstly, it’s been years since a Harry Potter tale: what if it’s not as good? What if this story tramples on my childhood by being terrible on it’s own, or worse, interferes with my warm memories of reading it as a kid? As for many people, there hasn’t been a book released since that has captured that same excitement as the Harry Potter releases did growing up. I didn’t want anything to spoil that.

Secondly, it’s a play. In fact, it’s a stage show that goes for five hours apparently. What if I don’t like the play format, and that makes it tricky to read? Will this just leave me wanting a novel, and feel disappointed that it’s a play instead?

Many concerns- so many that I nearly didn’t buy the book. However my husband talked me into it.

I really needn’t have worried at all.

The story is wonderful. It is filled with all the magic (literally and figuratively!) that made the books so succesful. All of your favourite locations and people are included here. The Hogwarts Express and Hogwarts itself, as well as, through some flashbacks/memories and other devices, the characters we all love- Dumbledore, Hagrid and some of the other teachers. It contains all the people and places you’d love to see come to life on the stage.

The story isn’t afraid to step ahead into new territory either. Albus and Scorpius are new characters that are flawed but immensely likeable too. They prove that a Harry Potter story without Harry Potter can work just as well. Their scenes feel strong on their own, you aren’t reading and waiting for Harry, Ron and Hermione to show up again.

The play centers around themes of Father and Son, and the challenges of parenthood. It deals with grief and acceptance, and our desire to change the past. There is a wonderful balance of humour and heartfelt moments.

As for the problem of it reading as a play, not a novel, it’s really a non-issue. The stage directions are minimal, and only serve to add to the visualization in your mind. They are not lengthy, therefore the story doesn’t drag. After you get used to reading it as a play, you soon get into the groove and are able to read through it as smoothly and quickly as you would a novel- not that you’d want the experience to go fast!

Having said that, you will read through it quicker than a novel. It took me all up about eight hours to read it from cover to cover.

This play was written by Jack Thorne, based on an original story idea by himself, J.K Rowling and John Tiffany. It reads as though it was written by J.K Rowling herself, which is of course important to the whole experience. It also leaves hope that if JK Rowling doesn’t want to write any more stories herself, she could continue to allow others to expend the universe utilizing her ideas, and that can be successful.

J.K Rowling has said that this is the last Harry Potter story. I strongly believe that it won’t be the last story altogether- it feels like just the beginning for Albus and Scorpius. Bring it on!

Having said all of this, if you by luck are living in the UK and have the opportunity to see the stage show in the near future, definitely boycott the book and wait for the show, as I’m sure seeing it live would be spectacular. For the rest of us, we’ll have to patiently use our imagination!

I will say that I haven’t read any other reviews of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. Whether or not anyone else enjoyed it is completely unknown to me, but personally, this play has gotten me right back into Harry Potter mode- I’m reading them all again from the start and am loving the experience!

Thank you for joining us,

Let us know your thoughts down below!

Happy Reading Bosses 🙂

The Girl on the Train

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Hope you have all been keeping well! I’ve been living under a rock apparently, as I’m sure I’m one of the last to read the suspenseful hit of 2015, the global bestseller and soon to be movie (starring Emily Blunt). This is the review for The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins.

If you too have been living in a dark, isolated place over the past year, let’s see if this thriller interests you…

The Girl on the Train is divided by chapters that are told in first person view from a variety of characters. The central character is Rachel, an overweight alcoholic in her late 20s whose life has gone from perfect to disaster in the past five years. She had it all- a great job, a loving husband, health and happiness. We’re catching her at her lowest point, after she’s lost it all.

On her daily train trips (whilst sneaking booze from her handbag), she always takes note of a particular house she passes, which has what appears to be a loving couple within. Often the lady of the house, Megan, is sitting outside. Rachel imagines what life is like for the couple, creates a little backstory in her mind as to what their lives are like.

When Megan is reported missing, Rachel decides to investigate.

The back cover of the novel has a quote from The Times review which states: “My vote for unreliable narrator of the year.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Rachel is unreliable for a lot of reasons- her constant consumption of alcohol has made her memory poor and untrustworthy, she’s desperately lonely, and she’s often overstepping personal boundaries because of this. She is somewhat, for want of a better term, mentally unstable. However, her situation could have happened to anyone- and she’s sympathetic and relatable because of this. Despite her faults, as a reader you feel compassion towards her, you want her to solve the case, and you want her to start rebuilding her life. You want all of this, but you can’t shake the idea that Rachel is also a suspect in this suspenseful tale.

This novel maintains its suspense as it unravels the story slowly, keeping you reading to unlock more clues as to the circumstances of Megan’s disappearance. The switch between chapters from different viewpoints keeps it lively and interesting. Particularly good are the chapters from Megan’s viewpoint, who is a well developed character with, of course,many secrets that need unveiling.

A weakness of this novel is that some of the character chapters are stronger than others. As just mentioned, the chapters from Megan are particularly good. Others, such as the chapters that focus on Anna, one of Megan’s neighbours, feel thin, and the character is less fleshed out and I felt, too superficial. Anna’s viewpoint often doesn’t reveal enough new information and was repetitive of other characters viewpoints. However, this is only a minor flaw in the context of the novel as a whole.

This book is absolutely perfect for reading whilst travelling, especially if it’s on a train! It will have you looking out the window, thinking over the mystery, and will have you pondering about the lives of strangers you pass. It is an easy read, and the chapters are short, great for filling in small gaps in your free time. I did pick whodunnit, but only a chapter or two before it was revealed.

It’s not one of the greatest novels of all time, but it’s a great suspenseful story that will keep you hooked until a satisfactory conclusion. I recommend suspense lovers give it a read if you haven’t already.

Thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

Please leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts!

 

Happy Reading 🙂

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

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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!