Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Angst-ridden middle-class thirty-somethings…

🙂 🙂 😐

truly madly guiltyClementine and Erika have had an uneasy friendship most of their lives. They are closer than many sisters, but there are tensions bubbling beneath the surface. One day, they and their husbands, Sam and Oliver, are invited to a barbecue at the home of neighbours, Vid and Tiffany. Something happens that changes all their relationships and throws them into emotional turmoil…

…unfortunately, Moriarty decides not to tell the reader what that something is for roughly half the book. Talk about annoying! When every character in the book knows what happened and refers to it constantly, without mentioning what it actually was, it leads to contrived dialogue, silly hints, a desperate attempt to build tension using the clumsiest of devices. But with the effect it has on them all, you know it has to be something utterly traumatic and devastating, or else it’s going to be a huge anti-climax when the reveal finally comes. Oh dear! Well, it would have been traumatic and upsetting, yes, but not to anything like the extent foreshadowed. Not unless people really have lost the ability to deal with anything at all without going into major howling angst mode – which from all these domestic thrillers I’m actually beginning to believe.

But this isn’t really a domestic thriller, though it’s being marketed that way and the failed attempt to build tension suggests it’s going to be. It’s actually more of a thirty-somethings relationship book, with six extremely tedious and tiresomely middle-class people all getting themselves into a major tizz over what happened that day at the barbecue. Just to keep adding the annoyance on, Moriarty holds back all kinds of other bits of information for ages too. For example, we know Erika’s mother has some kind of problem, but we’re not told what till the book is long underway, so we get all kinds of oblique conversations skirting round the subject. I paraphrase, but not by much: “You ought to go see your mother!” “Oh, is it bad, then?” “Yes, worse than usual.” “Oh, but I told her I wouldn’t be going for another six weeks.” “But I think you must. It’s happening again!” Just tell us, for heaven’s sake!

Meantime, Vid’s daughter is upset about something she did that day, but we don’t know what. Erika is sure there’s something she’s forgotten about that day, so naturally we don’t know what. Sam blames Clementine for what happened that day… Ugh!

Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty

Enough! I loved Little Lies, but I’m afraid this one isn’t in the same league. It’s not actually bad – Moriarty’s readable writing style and occasional humour prevent that, and the characters ring true in their bland unremarkableness. But truthfully I couldn’t find anything much to recommend it. I spent most of the time thinking about giving up and flicking forward to find out what happened that day, and when I finally made it to the end I rather wished I had. Had we been told what happened that day and then been shown the lead-up and consequences, it would have been a perfectly acceptable, if tediously middle-class, bit of “women’s fiction” with all the usual angsting over children and parenting that comes with that. But a blurb calling it “electrifying” and the attempt to turn it into a suspense novel leave it in a kind of limbo where it doesn’t really succeed as either.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Penguin UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 90… and Half Year Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year I added up the full extent of the horror of the TBR, including the bits I usually hide. So time for another count to see how I’m doing…

Total count June 16
Hmm… not doing too well on the target of taking fewer books for review, am I? However, regarding the overall total, in my defence I had to add roughly twenty books or so to the wishlist when I created my Classics Club list, so if it hadn’t been for that there would have been a significant decrease – and the Classics challenge runs over five years. All in all, the increase is not as devastating as I anticipated…

denial

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was at the end of April, so let’s see where I’ve been since then.

780px-Around_the_World_in_Eighty_Days_map

I witnessed a murder in Milan first of all in The Murdered Banker. Javier Marias took me to Madrid in A Heart So White – also to Havana in Cuba, but I’m only claiming one destination per book. Arthur C Clarke took me not just around the world but all the way to Saturn in 2001: A Space Odyssey. (What? Cheating? Not at all – if the political situation doesn’t improve soon, I assure you I’ll be on the next space ship out of here…) My next and most recent trip was one of the Main Journey destinations – off on the Orient Express with Graham Greene in Travels With My Aunt.

To see the full challenge, click here.

16 down, 64 to go!

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The Agatha Christie Blogathon

I’ll be taking part in this event in September and I’m hoping some of you might join in too. It’s being run jointly by Little Bits of Classics and Christina Wehner, both of whom blog mostly about movies. However, the idea of this blogathon is to encourage book and movie bloggers to get together by reviewing either books or film and TV adaptations, or by discussing some aspect of the Queen of Crime’s work. Pop on over to Christina’s blog to find out more – it will be a lot of fun!

AgathaChristie

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20 Books of Summer

Oh dear! I’m so far behind with this challenge it may be impossible to catch up! But I’ll try! And my choices aren’t working out too well – I’ve abandoned three to date, as many as in the whole of the rest of the year. Here’s my ‘progress’ so far…

Read and reviewed

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Widow by Fiona Barton

Abandoned – review to follow

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (polemic barely disguised as fiction)

Abandoned and replaced – no review

Vigil by Angela Slatter (nothing wrong with it from the little I read – just not my kind of thing)

replaced by The Visitor by Maeve Brennan

Barkskins by Annie Proulx (polemic barely disguised as fiction)

replaced by From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

Currently reading

Citizen Kane by Harlan Lebo

Three Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

The Visitor by Maeve Brennan

So, 17 books to read and review over the next two months – still do-able… so long as I don’t get distracted…

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And finally, a couple of books that are heading towards the top of the pile…

truly madly guiltyCourtesy of NetGalley. Loved Moriarty’s last book Little Lies and can’t wait to read this one!

The Blurb says: Despite their differences, Erika and Clementine have been best friends since they were children. So when Erika needs help, Clementine should be the obvious person to turn to. Or so you’d think. For Clementine, as a mother of a two desperately trying to practise for the audition of a lifetime, the last thing she needs is Erika asking for something, again. But the barbecue should be the perfect way to forget their problems for a while. Especially when their hosts, Vid and Tiffany, are only too happy to distract them.

Which is how it all spirals out of control…

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the girlsNetGalley again. One of the big releases this summer, and also one of my 20 Books.

The Blurb says: Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

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So…what do you think? Do either of these tempt you?

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P.S. Next Tuesday, I will be hosting my first ever guest post, and I have to tell you it’s a major goodie! Not telling who, but here’s a hint… it’ll be a Tuesday ‘Tec post. I do hope you’ll pop in…

poirot gif 2

FictionFan Awards 2014 – Crime/Thriller Category – Standalones & Book of the Year 2014

Please rise…

 

…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2014 in the Crime Fiction/Thriller Category – Standalones.

The last reminder of the rules for this year…

THE CRITERIA

All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2013 and October 2014 regardless of publication date, but excluding re-reads. The books must have received a 5-star rating.

THE CATEGORIES

There will be Honourable Mentions and a Winner in each of the following categories

Factual – click to see awards

Genre Fiction – click to see awards

Literary Fiction

Crime Fiction/Thrillers – Books in a Series

Crime Fiction/Thrillers – Standalone Novels

 

…and…

Book of the Year 2014

THE PRIZES

For the winners!

I guarantee to read the authors’ next book even if I have to buy it myself!

For the runners-up!

Nothing!

THE JUDGES

Me!

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So, without further ado, here are this year’s runners-up and winner in

 

CRIME FICTION/THRILLERS

 

And here we go for the final category (hurrah!) for this year. It’s been a great year for original and well-written standalones, many of them with more than a touch of humour, black or otherwise. To be honest, any of these would make a fine winner, but only one can get the prize. So here goes…

STANDALONES

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

 

life or deathLife or Death by Michael Robotham

One of the finds of the year for me, I’ve been loving Robotham’s Joe O’Loughlin series, and this standalone is equally good. Audie Palmer has been in prison for ten years for an armed robbery that went wrong. Although two of the gang died and Audie was arrested, the stolen $7 million has never been found. Since Audie’s brother is suspected of being the fourth gang member, everyone assumes he’s living a life of luxury somewhere and that Audie will get his share when he gets out. So why would Audie suddenly choose to escape, just one day before he’s due to be released? It seems he has made a promise that he must keep – but there are people who want to stop him. So not only is Audie running from the law, he’s in a race to fulfil his mission before he loses his life…

Click to see the full review

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Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

moriartyA brilliant ‘follow-on’ novel. There’s no sign of Holmes or Watson in this one but it’s set perfectly in the Holmesian world we know so well. It is the year 1891, just after Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty have fought their final battle at Reichenbach Falls. Our narrator is Frederick Chase, a Pinkerton man, in Europe on the trail of a criminal mastermind, one Clarence Devereux, who he believes is responsible for killing one of his colleagues.There’s constant excitement, terrifying peril, touches of horror, brilliant descriptions of London and enough humour to keep the tone light. The writing is superb, totally within character and as good as Conan Doyle’s own. The tone feels completely right for a Holmes book and the world of the book is absolutely the one in which Holmes lived and worked. And the only word I can find for the climax is awesome! So clever I read the last part of the book with a huge grin on my face, out of sheer pleasure and admiration.

Click to see the full review

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little liesLittle Lies by Liane Moriarty (aka Big Little Lies)

Trivia Night at Pirriwee Public Primary School in New South Wales doesn’t turn out quite as planned. We learn in Chapter 1 that the evening ends with a murder, but we don’t know the victim, the murderer or the motive. We are then whisked back six months to meet the various characters and follow the events leading up to the murder. It all begins on the day the mothers bring their five-year-olds along to the Kindergarten ‘Let’s Get Ready’ Orientation Day…

I loved this book. The mothers are brilliantly observed, completely believable – people most of us have met. They each have quirks and flaws, they can be annoying, but they’re also intensely likeable – you can’t help but feel that it would be so much fun to spend time with them. The writing is great, and the author keeps a perfect balance between the serious side of the story and the humour – like in real life, she allows her characters to have both happy and sad times, rather than burying them under a blanket of angst. So nearly the winner…

Click to see the full review

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Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

Summer HouseAs the book begins we learn that Marc is being investigated for malpractice by the Board of Medical Examiners over the death of one of his patients, successful actor Ralph Maier. As he waits to learn the outcome, Marc tells the story of how Ralph became his patient and of how their families gradually became acquainted, culminating with Marc taking his wife and two young daughters to stay with Ralph’s family in his summer house, complete with swimming pool. Sexual attraction turns the house-party into a bubbling cauldron of hidden and not-so-hidden emotions, gradually coming to a boil as we move towards the shocking incident that’s at the heart of the story. Dark, funny and thought-provoking, in the end this is as much about the diseases of the soul as of the body, the two somehow tangled together in Marc’s mind. The pacing is perfect, the writing and translation are superb, and Marc is an unforgettable monster of a character. Brilliant!

Click to see the full review

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a pleasure and a callingA Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan

William Heming has always been fascinated by the lives of the people around him. Some might call him a stalker, but he wouldn’t call himself that. He just likes to find out all about people…without them knowing. So when he is given a job as an estate agent, what joy! The ability to poke and pry round other people’s houses; and better yet, to be able to copy the keys of the houses so that he can pop back when the owners are out – or even when they’re in…

If I had an award category for character of the year, Mr Heming would win hands down! This is a hugely entertaining read, both creepy and humorous. Twisty and turny all the way through, it kept me guessing right up to the end. It’s all handled with huge skill and a lot of humour so that the reader ends up completely ambivalent about the awful Mr Heming – laughing along with his wicked sense of humour even while condemning his ever-more extreme behaviour. Oh, it’s hard not to let this one win…

Click to see the full review

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FICTIONFAN AWARD WINNER 2014

for

BEST CRIME FICTION/THRILLER – STANDALONE

 

 Entry_Island_JK (2)

Entry Island by Peter May

In the tiny community of Entry Island in the Gulf of St Lawrence, a man has been brutally murdered. The local police don’t have the expertise to investigate such a serious crime, so the Quebec Sûreté send a team to the island. Unusually for this French-speaking province, the islanders are English-speaking, so his Scottish descent means that Detective Sime Mackenzie is included in the team to carry out interviews. But when Sime (pronounced Sheem) meets Kirsty Cowell, the wife of the victim and the chief suspect, he is struck with an unshakeable feeling that he knows her…although they have never met.

Like the Lewis Trilogy, Entry Island has a double time-line – the present day investigation set in Canada, and a historical storyline set on Lewis. May’s books are always meticulously researched with a very strong sense of place. But since he started writing about Lewis this strength has taken on an extra layer – it feels as if he is really now writing with his heart as well as his head. He spent a good deal of time on Lewis while producing a Gaelic-language drama serial, Machair, and he seems to have absorbed the landscape and the community of this remote and weather-beaten island until it has become an integral part of him. In my opinion, this is the best book May has ever written and one of the best crime novels I have read – with an authenticity and depth of emotion that reduced this sentimental lowland Scot to tears on more than one occasion. A great book and a worthy winner.

Click to see the full review

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And now…

the nominees for the Book of the Year Award are…

 

 

FICTIONFAN BOOK OF THE YEAR 2014

 

THE WINNER

 

Factual...
Factual…

 

Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson
by S.C. Gwynne

The first time a factual book has ever been my book of the year, but this is an outstanding biography, as readable as the best fiction. Well researched and clearly structured, the book balances the history and the personal perfectly, but what really made it stand out for me so much is the sheer quality of the writing and storytelling. Gwynne’s great use of language and truly elegant grammar bring both clarity and richness to the complexities of the campaigns, while the extensive quotes from contemporaneous sources, particularly Jackson’s own men, help to give the reader a real understanding of the trust and loyalty that he inspired. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for anyone to interest me in the minutiae of military campaigns, but I became absorbed by the descriptions of artillery and troop movements, supply chains and battle plans. Gwynne’s brilliance at contrasting the beauty of the landscape with the horrors of the battlefield is matched by his ability to show the contrast between Jackson’s public and private personas. If only all history were written like this – a superb book, and one that gets my highest recommendation – truly the book of the year.

Click to see the full review

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Thanks to all of you who’ve stuck with me through this mammoth awards feature – I may try to streamline it a bit in future years. I hope you’ve enjoyed it – I’ve enjoyed your company!

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

little liesAll for one and one for all…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Trivia Night at Pirriwee Public Primary School in New South Wales doesn’t turn out quite as planned. We learn in Chapter 1 that the evening ends with a murder, but we don’t know the victim, the murderer or the motive. We are then whisked back six months to meet the various characters and follow the events leading up to the murder. It all begins on the day the mothers bring their five-year-olds along to the Kindergarten ‘Let’s Get Ready’ Orientation Day…

This is such a clever book. The mothers are brilliantly observed, completely believable – people most of us have met. They each have quirks and flaws, they can be annoying, but they’re also intensely likeable – you can’t help but feel that it would be so much fun to spend time with them. And this despite the fact that they are ‘helicopter’ parents – obsessed with every aspect of their little dears’ lives. So when an accusation is made that one child has bullied another, the mothers are much more upset about the whole thing than the children seem to be. There is so much humour in the book that it’s only gradually the darker underlying subjects begin to show through. Moriarty avoids the temptation to over-dramatise so that, even as we learn of the secrets some of the women are hiding, the characters remain totally credible. And as the book progresses, the author keeps a perfect balance between the serious side of the story and the humour – like in real life, she allows her characters to have both happy and sad times, rather than burying them under a blanket of angst. Oh, and she writes in the third person past tense – I think I love her!!

She’d once been appalled to hear of women claiming PMT as a defence for murder. Now she understood. She could happily murder someone today! In fact, she felt like there should be some sort of recognition for her remarkable strength of character that she didn’t.

As the book starts, Madeline has just turned forty. On her second marriage, she’s far older than most of the other mothers and takes on a sort of maternal role with them too. She’s loud, extrovert and feisty – but she’s also kind, generous and understanding. She may be very happily married now, but that doesn’t stop her being very bitter (and extremely funny) about her first husband, Patrick, who deserted her not long after the birth of her eldest daughter. And now he’s moved to Pirriwee with his wife Bonnie and new daughter – Madeline is less than thrilled. On the surface, Celeste has an ideal life – stunningly beautiful, she is the mother of a set of agreeably naughty twin boys, and the wife of rich and handsome Perry. But it’s soon obvious that the marriage is not as golden as it appears. The third of the main characters is Jane, a young single mother new in town, whose son is the child accused of bullying. Upset by this, Jane is taken under the wing of an outraged Madeline and so begins a war between Madeline’s crowd and the Blonde Bobs – the yummy-mummies who think they rule the school. But what starts as something reasonably light-hearted will soon begin to spiral out of control…

Perhaps Madeline should take up yoga so she and [her daughter] Alice would have something in common? But every time she tried yoga she found herself silently chanting her own mantra: I’m so boooored, I’m so boooored.

Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty

I loved this book. The characterisation is great, as is the writing. These women may have problems in their lives, but ultimately they’re survivors, with a strength that comes from their friendships and mutual support. The book reminded me of some of the great female ensemble films of the past – Fried Green Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias or even 9 to 5. There’s a lovely device where comments made by some of the uninvolved mothers during police interviews after the murder give a kind of running commentary on how the rest of the community viewed the growing feud. The ending managed that difficult feat of being both surprising and yet entirely consistent with what had gone before. This will undoubtedly be one of my favourite books of the year – highly recommended.

Thanks again to Cleo from Cleopatra Loves Books, whose excellent review persuaded me to read this book.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Penguin Books UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link  – for reasons too deep for me to fathom, the title in the US has been changed to Big Little Lies.