Review ~ Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Phewf! Well, that was an intense week of listening! I’m going to hold my hands up shamefully admit that I’d held off from reading anything by the super popular author Liane Moriarty, simply because her fiction was so often labeled as chic lit. I conjured up aspersions of a bodice ripper type novel, empty angst or some other unfair generalization. Well, if this novel is classed as chic lit, then sign me the hell up! 

Big Little Lies follows a group of parents in a seaside Australian town. They have their rituals, meet at the school drop-offs, and have their cliques and issues. A new parent moves to town and soon makes fast friends, and indeed enemies. 

The novel starts off in an interview type manner, and we soon learn that something has happened at a school PTA quiz night. As we hear witness accounts of may or may not have happened that night, we are taken back to when Jane first arrives on the scene. 

What makes Moriarty’s novel such a hit, is not the plot; the plot, while good, is not one so unique that you wouldn’t ever see in a novel. No. Where Moriarty excels, is in her characters and their interaction. There is such razor sharp authenticity in how these parents and friends talk and act, that you really feel like you know them, and are there living with them. 

This is a brilliant novel that will keep you glued until the very end. If you’ve yet to start reading Moriarty, then Big Little Lies is a great place to start. 

~ Pegasus 

Big Little Lies

Review ~ June: A Novel, by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore

This is one of those books that I picked up without really knowing anything about, and in a way, I’m glad I did. Some of you may have enjoyed Beverly-Whitemore’s previous novel, Bittersweet, and I had heard a lot of good things about it, so I guess that influenced my decision in picking up this book. 

The plot centers around 25 year old Cassie who has inherited an old mansion in decay, in the middle of Ohio. Stuck with this crumbling house, Cassie is even more shocked when a man turns up claiming that she is also inheriting millions of dollars from a famous actor who has just died, and who claims that Cassie is his granddaughter. With this insane piece of news, Cassie is left wondering how, when, why her grandmother would meet, fall in love, and have a child with a famous Hollywood actor. Could it really be true? 

The story is split into two time periods: one in present day with Cassie and others investigating her grandmother’s life, and then we are transported to the 1950’s to meet the grandmother as a young woman. 

This novel kind of reminded me of the style found in novels such as Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Except this one lacked the humor. However, it is an easy read, with elements that make you want to continue and find out how it all pans out. Towards the end, it does get a little too convenient and “nice”, but overall this is not a bad read at all.

~ Pegasus 

June: A Novel 

Review ~ In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware. 

We’re now approaching late summer and it now seems to be the perfect time to get in those last fast paced, thrilling reads. Ruth Ware’s debut thriller, is sure to fit the bill. I can’t even remember how I came across this book, but right from the start, the title, and cover art, really pulled me in. The plot, very reminiscent in an Agatha Christie kind of way, sounded fun, easy and interesting; centering around a hen party (a British term for a bachelorette party), comprising of old school friends who haven’t seen each other in years, Ware takes us on a journey to hell. The opening few pages start with a character waking up in a hospital, so we immediately know that something has gone terribly wrong. 

The novel takes a fairly standard format: we alternate between the present and the past in order to keep us guessing and to keep the flow of the plot. Like I said above, this has a very familiar feel of Agatha Christie to it – a cozy mystery but just turned up a few notches. The characters are well written for this type of novel; enough depth in order to get to know them, but not enough to really care if one of them gets the chop. In some novels this would be a detriment, but as this is a very plot driven read, it works rather well. 

I listened to this via audible and the narrator was excellent, really distinguishing each character. I’ve also just read that there is going to be a movie produced, which actually, in the right hands, could turn out rather well. 

Pick up this book, get a glass of wine, and enjoy the last few weeks of sun! 

~ Pegasus

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Review ~ The Price of Salt, or Carol, by Patricia Highsmith. 

When someone asks if you’ve read anything by Patricia Highsmith, you would usually think they were referring to her famous psychological crime novels, such as, The Talented Mr Ripley series, or Strangers on a Train. Well those are what Highsmith is most famous for, but she also wrote a little gem in 1952. This book is different as it was a complete move in genres – a romance. However, this was a forbidden (and actually illegal at the time) romance as it centered around two women. Now, obviously there was lesbian underground pulp fiction being produced at the time, but this novel broke a lot stereotypes of the time. Usually lesbian characters of the time were one dimensional; characters that needed psychological intervention to get them “over their phase”, or mentally ill, suicidal hysterical women. Highsmith broke against this convention and created characters that any one of us can relate to and understand. 

The novel focuses on Therese who is a 19 year old aspiring set designer  who is taking on a Christmas job at a department store, when she meets an older, confidant woman named Carol. They start talking, and they begin a romantic relationship. 

This is one of those novels that you’ll end up reading more than once and probably coming away with a different perspective. Set from the point of view of Therese, we only get to see her side, her view, of Carol. Both of these characters have their issues, but they are so complex due to several reasons, that we are constantly re-evaluating how we think of them and their actions. 

One of the aspects that I really love about this novel is that being gay really isn’t the issue for these women. It’s the age old issue of not really knowing who we are, or what we can do in order to achieve some kind of murky life goal.  This novel was written in the early 50’s, a time in which these kinds of complexities and truths weren’t always explored, especially with two female protagonists. 

I know this a book review, but I have to briefly mention the recent film adaptation. This is how I came to read the book, and I’m glad I read it before seeing the adaption. I have to admit though, the film version is very good, different in some respects, but very good. 

I know some people are adverse to shelling out money for older books, but I have some good news for you – the kindle version is currently only $0.99! So please take a chance, and give this wonderfully complex novel a read! 

‘Till next time, 

Pegasus 

The Price of Salt, or Carol

Review: My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels #1) by Elena Ferrante

Layout 1Whilst I really enjoyed this book, I still have to wonder what all the hype is about. The beginning is what kept me going though page after page. I really want to find out what happens to the two girls…

I did enjoy Elena’s story of growing up. Not so much Lila’s. I don’t know. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t understand both girls. I do. To me, it’s just so obvious that Lila is a survivor and she neither needs or wants our pity. She is one with a lonely life…no matter how many people she will surround herself with later on in life…however, I strongly believe that the lonely life is one she has chosen willingly to have all that she wants in life….don’t understand? Read the book…

Elena on the other hand….She is a survivor as well….but her survival is based on her hard work…and I don’t think she will ever feel like a survivor or as a success…no matter how much fame or wealth comes her way. She will always be looking for some other fulfillment that I fear will never come…

Okay, so maybe I did like the book a bit more than I realise after writing this review…

However, I still feel sorry for one girl…so much so that I want to shake her because I am so angry. Elena is like another Melanie (GWtW) and Lily is Scarlett…I don’t have much patience for either type of girl really….

There are other ways in life to survive….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Review ~ The Travelers by Chris Pavone

imageThis is the third installment from Chris Pavone that includes The Expats – Pegasus’ review, The Expats – Urania’s review And then The Accident – Pegasus’ review. As is Pavone’s M.O., once again, we are transported to a world of traveling and European locales.

The Travelers is a travel magazine, one of the last in a dying business of print media. Its senior reporter, Will Rhodes, is on assignment in Argentina, when he is approached by a woman who he ends up sleeping with and then being told that he must join the CIA due to his carte blanche access to foreign locations. Yes, I wouldn’t blame you if you had puked whilst simultaneously caused yourself ocular strain by the eye rolling. However, bear with me…. From here, Will is thrust into an espionage world where nothing is what it seems.

This is not a unique storyline, but with all the different locations, the double crossing, characters who have multiple motives, and fast pace chapters, The Travelers, is truly a fun and exciting read. The characters are good enough (although I feel as though they could have had more room to develop), if not a little one dimensional, but let’s face it, this isn’t type of novel that necessarily requires it.

Whilst all three novels are definitely stand alone, Pavone has managed to interweave some characters and plot points that you’ll probably recognize if you read the books in order of publication (The Expats, The Accident, and The Travelers). This books is solidly entertaining and well worth reading if you enjoyed the previous two.

Until next time,

Pegasus.

The Travelers: A Novel

Review: The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin


I liked this book. I could’ve loved it, but it was just too long-winded for me. I honestly didn’t need to know what everyone was wearing or what kinds of critters they saw out their window. I enjoyed the dialogue, the eccentric characters, and the main plot line. 
The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow seems to require analysis. It’s not just a book to enjoy and forget. Magnin makes her points with repetition and quirkiness – hard to miss! 
Magnin deliberately shows the reader over and over how smelly and dirty and gross Agnes’ body is… not as a comment on her size, but as a comment on the exhausting caretaking job her sister Griselda has and the mental and physical imprisonment Agnes suffers. 
I also don’t think it’s an accident that the cat brings dead animals to the former funeral home, nor that the new cop in town is busy chasing after a homeless dog the whole time. I don’t want to ruin the story, but Magnin uses these vignettes to illustrate bigger points – like the nearness of death, the futility of the hunt unless you know what you’re hunting for, and that THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS WHAT THEY SEEM. We need to look under the folds, people. Peek beyond the masks, decode the facades. 
My biggest takeaway from this book is the sin of man creating his own gods in the pursuit of the one God. In The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, the people made Agnes their god. They made PRAYING their god. They made food their god. Some of them even made preaching against Agnes their god. It was all in the name of fellowship and religious advancement, but none of it put their eyes on God. It’s no wonder the sign and statue came to the fate they did. 
Ba’al, the golden calf, and the Tower of Babel, anyone?!  
-calliope

Buy THE PRAYERS OF AGNES SPARROW