Monday, September 30, 2013

book review: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

The backstory: After reading What Alice Forgot  for my book club this summer (I'll review it eventually, I promise!), I was excited to see the first pick since I joined the She Reads Online Book Club would be Liane Moriarty's latest novel, The Husband's Secret.

The basics: The Husband's Secret focuses on three families in Sydney, who all have a tie to a Catholic school. Tess uproots her son and moves back to Sydney to stay with her mother when her cousin/best friend and her husband reveal that they are in love. Rachel, the school secretary, still mourns the loss of her daughter, who was murdered as teenager. She's further devastated when her son tells her he, his wife and son are moving to New York for two years. Cecelia is the woman who seemingly has it all, including three daughters and a successful Tupperware party business. When she stumbles across a letter in her attic addressed to her with the instructions "to be opened by my wife only in the event of my death," the question becomes: will she follow his wishes or give in to temptation?

My thoughts: There are a lot of characters living in the pages of this novel, yet I never struggled to remember them or keep them separated. At first, the three women (and their families) live a relatively separate existence, which gives the reader time to get to know all of them. As the novel progresses, however, Moriarty continues to richly build the characters and their world.

Obviously much of the intrigue centers around the titular secret. I read compulsively to discover what it could be. And while I was pretty sure I figured out the secret before it was revealed (I had), the how and the why were even more intriguing than the secret itself. (If you're as impatient as I am, the secret is revealed in a timely manner rather than at the novel's end.)

Admittedly, the novel lost a bit of momentum when the secret was revealed, but the drama soon reemerged as various characters dealt with the ramifications of the secret along with their existing daily struggles.

The verdict: The Husband's Secret is a fast, engaging read that deals with the reality of difficult subjects in a realistic way. While this novel could be classified as chick lit due to its approachability, Moriarty infuses the story and characters with depth that convinced me this novel is not nearly as simple as it appears to be.  

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 397 pages
Publication date: July 30, 2013
Source: publisher via She Reads Book Club

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Husband's Secret from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle edition--only $5.99!)

Want more? Visit Liane Moriarty's website and like her on Facebook.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Monday, September 9, 2013

book review: A Question of Honor by Charles Todd

The backstory: A Question of Honor is the fifth historical mystery in mother and son writing team Charles Todd's Bess Crawford, a British World War I nurse, series. My reviews of the first four: A Duty to the Dead, An Impartial Witness, A Bitter Truth, and An Unmarked Grave.

The basics: A Question of Honor begins in India in 1908, when Bess was living there while her father's regiment was stationed there. The regiment faces a challenge when one of their own killed five people. He's assumed dead, but as the novel shifts back to its present tense in the fall of 1918, Bess begins to seek the truth, about his possible presence in France and about what happened ten years ago.

My thoughts: I adore Bess as a character, and it was a delight to spend a little time in her childhood at the beginning of this book. I tend to shy away from mysteries in which the sleuth is not actually in law enforcement or a private investigator, but Charles Todd has done quite well giving Bess realistic curiosities to investigate. As this book takes place in the fall of 1918, I'm quite curious where the series is going, as we know the war is ending quite soon.

Favorite passage: "I thought she seemed as tired as she believed I must be. It was the toll of war for those fighting and those at home waiting. Sometimes I wasn't sure which was the more difficult."

The verdict: A Question of Honor is a thoroughly intriguing historical mystery and doesn't shy away from asking hard questions about history. I particularly enjoyed seeing Bess interact with so many different characters, and seeing her spend so much time with her mother was a delight.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 352 pages
Publication date: August 27, 2013
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy A Question of Honor from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.) Want more? Visit Charles Todd's website and like them on Facebook.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Salon: September what?

Good morning, y'all! Please pardon my unintended absence from blogging. Perhaps next year I'll remember to plan to take the first two weeks of classes off blogging, as I can't seem to find time to sit down and write when the semester first begins. Here's what I've been up to lately:

I'm teaching a new class this semester, a first-year seminar called Real Genius. I always love teaching a course for the first time, but it is so much more work. We're reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and I'm really enjoying revisiting it. I opted not to re-read it over the summer (I read it soon after it came out in 2008) and instead read along with my students to keep it fresh. For our next unit, I'm turning control over to the students. They'll each be picking a past winner of the MacArthur "genius grant," selecting texts by and/or about their genius, and leading a class discussion. I'm utterly fascinated by the genius grants and the amazing work of those who receive them, and I'm really excited to see which geniuses they pick to study (the 2013 grants will be announced September 23!)

Despite my lack of blogging, I have actually been reading (and listening) a fair amount. I'm currently reading The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty and listening to Let Me Go, the sixth mystery in Chelsea Cain's Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series. I've been having another spell of "reading what I want to when I want to," and it's a nice reminder to take a step back, and not say yes to as many new-to-me-author pitches. I love discovering new authors and reading new releases, but I don't spend enough time reading the entire backlists of authors whose work I've enjoyed. After recently loving Sharp Objects (review coming soon) even more than Gone Girl, which I read last summer and promptly vowed to read Gillian Flynn's two earlier novels soon. I'm hoping to find a way to finally make backlist a reading priority again. More than anything, however, I want to make reading less stressful. I want fewer definite commitments and more freedom to pick up whatever is calling to me at that moment.

Lead singer BJ Barham
singing my favorite song,
"City Lights" solo
and acoustically. 
My birthday was a few weeks ago (always right around the start of the semester--fun!), and I treated myself to a solo road trip to Nashville to see American Aquarium, who are now officially my favorite band. It was a fabulous concert, and I relished the time driving across the country, eating with friends and family, lounging by the pool, going to the Grand Ole Opry, and generally taking three days to just do what I wanted to do. I felt more centered and ready for the semester than I ever have.

After seeing Charles Esten, Sam Palladio, and Clare Bowen perform at the Grand Ole Opry, I decided to give Nashville another try, and I'm loving it. I broke up with it too early into its season last year, and all of the qualms I had then have been alleviated. I only have two episodes left, and then I'll be counting the days until season 2 premieres.

It's no secret I abhor the hot weather, and after a relatively mild summer, we are in the middle of another brutal heat wave. I happened to wake up early enough to enjoy some reading and coffee time on the deck this morning, but if this heat doesn't break soon, I may go a little more crazy. With classes in full swing and pumpkin flavored everything popping up, I long for days without air conditioning, having all the windows open, and wearing a hoodie when outside after dark. Fingers crossed autumn makes an appearance in central Iowa soon.

Coming up on the blog
Lots! I have an embarrassing number of posts half-written. There are thirteen (!) books to share my thoughts on, plus nine films and a handful of television shows.

Now tell me: what have y'all been up to?

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!