Friday, February 28, 2014

The Husband's Secret

Book 11 of my 2014 Reading Challenge.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Summary (via the book jacket)

My darling Cecilia, if you're reading this , then I've died...

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death.  Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret - something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well.  Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive...
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all - she's an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her community, and a devoted wife and mother.  Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home.  But a letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia - or each other - but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband's secret.

My Opinion

First things first.  I would open the letter, no question, no hesitation.  It helps that Cecilia isn't like me because she didn't open the letter right away and the first half of the book was spent getting to know the women and trying to guess how they fit together.
The first surprise for me was what the book was actually about.  Admit it, you read the summary and think you know the husband's secret.  I did the same thing...I read it and would have comfortably bet a large sum of money that the secret was (obviously) infidelity.  Guess what?  It's not!!
I liked how the seriousness of the story was broken up by humor.  For example, one woman had this reaction to finding out her husband was interested in someone else: "We were in the middle of season five of Dexter!  How could you break up with me in the middle of season five?"
I was a little thrown by the random references to The Berlin Wall and The Biggest Loser but overall, I enjoyed this unexpected story.  I think this could be an interesting book club selection because it's a light(ish) read but has enough moral dilemmas to generate discussion.  

Quote from the Book

I loved and identified with Tess and wish I could just quote everything she thought and said.  I'll settle for this, her explanation of how social anxiety makes her wary of meeting the moms at her son's new school:
"The chat, chat, chat, the swirls of laughter, the warmth, the friendliness, and the gentle hint of bitchiness that ran beneath it all...she couldn't do it again.  Not now.  She didn't have the strength.  It was like someone cheerfully suggested she run a marathon when she'd just dragged herself out of bed after suffering from the flu."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You

Book 10 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom


A collection of eight short stories, all with a theme of family.

My Opinion

I really like the author's writing style.  She has a flow that's easy to become absorbed in and her characters were all varied and flawed.  
That being said, I'm neutral about this collection.  I think it's me; these stories are all very melancholy and I wasn't in the right frame of mind to handle it. 
I will definitely read more by this author but probably would not reread this particular book.  

My Favorite Story

Light into Dark.  It was difficult to choose my favorite because I liked all but one pretty equally; The Story didn't resonate with me at all and was definitely my least favorite.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Book 9 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Coreyography by Corey Feldman


A memoir of Corey Feldman, an actor best known for his roles as a child in many 1980's movies (Gremlins, The Goonies, Stand By Me, and The Lost Boys, to name a few) and for being half of the heartthrob duo "The Two Coreys" (along with Corey Haim).

My Opinion

I know I've said this before - I love reading biographies and memoirs but have a very difficult time reviewing them.  I can critique the writing style, flow, etc. but I will never pass judgement on someone else's life experiences.
It helps that I've seen all the movies and recognized most of the names he mentions, even if I'm just a smidge too young to have experienced "Coreymania" first hand ( late 80s/early 90s Tiger Beats still had "The Two Coreys" in them, just not as the focal cover stories they had been a few years earlier).  
He is a great storyteller, even as the stories are pretty self-serving.  I think it's natural for anyone recounting their life to spin a little - everyone wants to be the hero of their life.  I believe he believes everything he said and sometimes perception is more interesting than cold facts.  I might not feel so generous if I was someone he had written about - he does not hold back on people he feels wronged him and he downplays the wrongs he did to others.
A quick read that would have the most interest for children of the '80s and maybe the '90s as well.

Quote from the Book

"Funny thing about being an addict: when you finally get sober, when you feel clean and strong and something that seems awfully close to normal, you immediately begin contemplating the idea of partying again.  Because you're fine now, right?  You just needed to get all that craziness out of your system.  Now you can party responsibly.  It's the disease talking, but he sounds a lot like yourself."

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Light Between Oceans

Book 8 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Summary (via the book jacket)

After four harrowing years on the western front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day's journey from the coast.  To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel.  Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby's cries on the wind.  A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately.  But Isabel insists the baby is a "gift from God", and against Tom's judgement, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy.  When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world.  Their choice has devastated one of them.

My Opinion

I felt this book with my whole heart.  The story was beautiful and the characters were so well-written.  
I loved Tom.  While I understood why Isabel made the choices she did (thanks to the author's incredible writing),  I found no sympathy for her.  You don't use your pain as a reason to hurt someone else and her actions, especially as everyone around her was hurting because of her, were absolutely inexcusable. The ending felt right but was a bit happier than I expected. 
Highly recommended.  

Quote from the Book

"He turned his attention to the rotation of the beam, and gave a bitter laugh at the thought that the dip of the light meant that the island itself was always left in darkness.  A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it."

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Thirteenth Tale

Book 7 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Summary (via the book jacket)

Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself.  Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long.  Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life of gothic strangeness - featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.  Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

My Opinion

I loved the beginning of the book, reading about Margaret's love for the bookstore she grew up in.  Nothing for me will replace the feeling of exploring a library or used bookstore - so many possibilities, so much history.  Shiny new books or electronic books are better than no books at all but they don't settle my soul like a pre-loved paperback.
Overall, I liked but didn't love this book. I like her writing style but didn't become absorbed in the story the way I expected to, and after so much buildup, the big reveal ending felt a bit rushed.  

  Quote from the Book

"It came again, the abrupt loss of voice.  So used was she to hiding the truth that it had become atrophied in her."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Yellow Star

Book 6 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy

Summary (via the book's prologue)

"In 1939, the Germans invaded the town of Lodz, Poland.  They forced all the Jewish people to live in a small part of the city called a ghetto.  They built a barbed-wire fence around it and posted Nazi guards to keep everyone inside it.  Two hundred and seventy thousand people lived in the Lodz ghetto.  
In 1945, the war ended.  The Germans surrendered, and the ghetto was liberated.  Out of more than a quarter of a million people, only about 800 walked out of the ghetto.  Of those who survived, only twelve were children.
I was one of the twelve."

- Excerpt from interview with Sylvia Perlmutter [the author's aunt; this book is based on the 5 1/2 years she spent living in the Lodz ghetto]

My Opinion

I read this book based on the recommendation of my 10 year old daughter.  Actually, it was less a recommendation and more an insistence...she had read it and it touched her so much that she brought home 2 copies from the library - one for me to read and one for her to (re)read - and sat next to me as we finished the book in one sitting.  

It took me a little bit of time to settle in because prose isn't one of my favorite writing styles, but I quickly became so absorbed in the power of the story that the style no longer mattered.  Prose turned out to be an excellent choice for this juvenile book because it removed some of the harshness of the story; the spaces allowed mature readers to fill in the gaps but kept it from being too bleak for young readers.

This book begs to be read aloud.  An amazing story about a strong woman and I'm very thankful to Alison for sharing it with me.

Quote from the Book

"Dora came home from work in a bad mood.
Mother and Papa are tired.
I miss my real doll.
And we are all hungry.
But there is not enough food for dinner.
Mother does not eat her meal.
She gives it to me instead.
She does not say "I love you" in hugs and kisses,
but her love fills my plate,
and I gobble it up."