Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Night of a Thousand Stars

Night of a Thousand Stars
By Deanna Raybourn
Published: September 30, 2014

New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn returns with a Jazz Age tale of grand adventure 

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat's wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father's quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems. 
With only her feisty lady's maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear. 

My review:

What I liked about this book was the way it tied together the Lady Julia Grey mystery series with the author's new 1920s historical fiction. Night of a Thousand Stars is a companion novel to City of Jasmine and it features a cameo appearance by Gabriel Starke, the hero of that book. It also has a character from the Lady Julia series and mentions a few more. The relationship between Poppy and Sebastian reminded me of Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane perhaps with good reason. 

Poppy has always stood out in her family because she can't quite conform with what is expected of her. Her mother is very demanding but her American stepfather is kind and doting. Poppy has a history of not finishing what she starts so when she runs out on her wedding with the help of Sebastian and she later finds out he might be in danger, she decides it is up to her to save the day. Of course Poppy is a novice at adventure so with the help of a friend she secures a job as secretary/typist to an elderly gentleman who is traveling to Damascus where she believes Sebastian may be. There she finds out that no one is who they seem to be and she has to figure out who she can trust.

I enjoyed reading this book even though Poppy sometimes annoyed me. To be fair, she is intelligent though she does have some wrong ideas. She is plucky and headstrong and because she reminded me of Lady Julia, I forgave her occasionally stupid decisions or ideas. I guess if she didn't make some bad decisions then we wouldn't see her grow as a character and it would lessen the excitement and suspense of the story.  I do think that City of Jasmine is better in terms of the mystery plot. With this book, I didn't feel as invested in the mystery though I was curious to see how they would escape to safety. The mystery kind of falls apart or seems unimportant in the end. The romance and characters seem more important here but I did like how Poppy's character develops and even Sebastian grows over the course of the book. Like Gabriel Starke, he is not a perfect hero and he needs Poppy's help as much as she needs his. 

While this book can be read on its own, I suggest that readers at least check out City of Jasmine first. If you haven't read the Lady Julia mysteries, that won't ruin your enjoyment of this book though you may miss out on the various cameos and connections. I have a feeling that readers who like Night of a Thousand Stars will want to read Silent in the Grave if they haven't already. Overall I found this to be an entertaining story that should appeal to fans of romantic adventure.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (192)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I can't believe September is almost over! At least the weather has been summer-like and will continue to be really nice this coming week. I was worried for awhile there that it was time to break out the sweaters. I am going to put that off as long as possible :)

One good thing about fall is that my favorite TV shows are starting up again. I don't watch a lot of TV--I'm very selective about what I decide to follow. Downton Abbey Season 5 is on (I subscribe to a VPN so I can watch it now instead of waiting till January and trying to dodge spoilers) and Once Upon a Time starts tonight. I have also been watching Dancing With the Stars but I am not enjoying it as much this season so I may not keep up with it. I did give the first episode of Gotham a try and I liked it but I haven't made up my mind if it is worth watching. 

This past week was Banned Books Week and Hobbit Day (September 22nd is Bilbo and Frodo's birthday). This year I put together a display with related books, bookmarks, activity sheets and posters promoting The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. My coworker let me borrow the Gandalf hat and pipe he made for Halloween one year. I think it adds a lot to the display! I am looking forward to seeing the final movie this December. It's been awhile since I read The Lord of the Rings and I am thinking about rereading it this winter.

Books reviewed:

Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

Books read:

Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan

This was a cute if predictable romantic comedy that looks at Hollywood behind-the-scenes and the challenges of constantly being in the spotlight while trying to have a life of your own. 

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (reread)

I loved Secret Daughter just as much the second time around but it had been a few years since I read it so I didn't remember everything. Definitely one of my favorite books.

Currently reading:

My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, etc.

I liked Rainbow Rowell's story but I have a feeling this short story collection is going to be a mixed bag. One of the stories was really weird and another was oddly disappointing. We'll see how I feel when I've read all of them. 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (reread)

As I am listening to this audio book, I am surprised by how dumb Skeeter is. I don't remember that from my first reading of the book. She means well but she is so naive and stupid in some ways. It makes me cringe sometimes.

What I plan to read next:

Boomerang by Noelle August

I requested Boomerang after reading some very positive reviews from other bloggers about how this book is not like other "New Adult" books. When I think of New Adult, I think lots of drama, angst, controlling bad boy love interests and possibly love triangles which kind of put me off reading the genre. This book definitely looks more like a romantic comedy with 20-somethings instead so hopefully I will like it.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

I have heard this book is amazing so I am looking forward to reading it. I can't believe I still haven't read Legend. I'm not sure if The Young Elites would be considered dystopian or fantasy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors

Island of a Thousand Mirrors
By Nayomi Munaweera
Published: September 2, 2014

Before violence tore apart the tapestry of Sri Lanka and turned its pristine beaches red, there were two families. Yasodhara tells the story of her own Sinhala family, rich in love, with everything they could ask for. As a child in idyllic Colombo, Yasodhara’s and her siblings’ lives are shaped by social hierarchies, their parents’ ambitions, teenage love and, subtly, the differences between Tamil and Sinhala people; but the peace is shattered by the tragedies of war. Yasodhara’s family escapes to Los Angeles. But Yasodhara’s life has already become intertwined with a young Tamil girl’s…

Saraswathi is living in the active war zone of Sri Lanka, and hopes to become a teacher. But her dreams for the future are abruptly stamped out when she is arrested by a group of Sinhala soldiers and pulled into the very heart of the conflict that she has tried so hard to avoid – a conflict that, eventually, will connect her and Yasodhara in unexpected ways.
Nayomi Munaweera's Island of a Thousand Mirrors is an emotionally resonant saga of cultural heritage, heartbreaking conflict and deep family bonds. Narrated in two unforgettably authentic voices and spanning the entirety of the decades-long civil war, it offers an unparalleled portrait of a beautiful land during its most difficult moment by a spellbinding new literary talent who promises tremendous things to come.

My review:

I was eager to read this book because like Ru Freeman's On Sal Mal Lane, it is fiction about Sri Lanka set during the war years.  While Freeman's book focused on the lives of children in one neighborhood of Colombo, Nayomi Munaweera's story narrated from the viewpoint of two young women, one Sinhalese and one Tamil. The book starts out with Yasodhara describing her father and mother's childhood and how they met but the narrative really looks at the lives of women in Sri Lanka. It is not Yasodhara's dad Nishan who sticks with readers but his sister Mala, his mother Beatrice Muriel, and his formidable mother-in-law Sylvia Sunethra. These characters all fade to the background however when we finally get to read about Yasodhara and Saraswathi.

Yasodhara and her younger sister Lanka grow up in Colombo, surrounded by family and even make friends with a Tamil boy who lives upstairs but that friendship and childhood end abruptly when her family flees to the United States for safety. There she faces the challenge of fitting in and adjusting to a different world. It isn't until she is a grown woman that she is pulled back to the island by Lanka and life circumstances. 

It is Saraswathi's story that truly haunted me and while so much of the book is told from the perspective of Sinhalese people, her chapters just have such an impact. Saraswathi experiences extreme suffering that leads her to make difficult choices.  It is heartbreaking to think of what could have been if the war hadn't happened. I am glad the author chose to write from her viewpoint too even though it was hard to read about. 

Nayomi Munaweera has a way with words and I felt pulled into the story from the beginning. I couldn't help but feel for Yasodhara and especially Saraswathi. I appreciated that this book was a thoughtful look at the way war affected the trajectory of two lives as well as the commonality between people. I think this would be a great followup for readers who've read On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman and a good pick for fans of Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Thrity Umrigar and Lisa See.

There is one scene towards the very end that I could really relate to when two of the characters find out that the war has ended. I remember that moment when I saw it on the Internet just like they did and called my parents over to look at the news reports and that feeling of happiness and relief. I grew up in the States feeling apart from the war and my parents kept my sister and I in the dark about it when we were little. It was only when we were a little older that we learned about what was going on and not till I was an adult did I realize that there were race issues going on even when my parents were still living there (they immigrated to the U.S. in the 70's). I was not yet 5 when the war started and 30 years old when it ended. It is sobering to think that for one generation war is all they've known most of their lives. Needless to say this book resonated with me on a personal level but I think readers of any nationality could appreciate it. I would strongly recommend it to book groups too. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR List"

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

This is my most highly anticipated book on my Fall TBR list. Maybe even for the whole year. I will be a little sad when it is over though I will hold out hope that Percy and his friends will make cameo appearances in Riordan's other books.

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella

I love the Shopaholic series but I have to admit that the last book was probably my least favorite so I approach this one with some caution and I will be checking it out from the library rather than automatically buying it from Amazon like I would have done in the past.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

I have heard so many good things about The Young Elites that I hope I won't have too high of expectations. I still need to read her other series too.

Seasons of Trouble by Rohini Mohan

This is the second book about Sri Lanka and the war that is being published this fall. I am still not sure if it is meant to be a fictionalized account based on real people or if it is nonfiction entirely.

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I loved The Naturals so I am excited about this one. I have yet to read a Jennifer Lynn Barnes book that I don't like.

Talon by Julie Kagawa

Although I wasn't a huge fan of her fairy fiction, I am willing to give Talon a try since it is about dragons and I like dragons, even the scary Targaryen ones.

Shattered by Mari Mancusi

And there is another dragon book on my fall TBR list...

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

No dragons? 

Private India by James Patterson

I haven't read a James Patterson book in years but technically this book is written by Ashwin Sanghi and it is set in India and follows an Indian detective. Admittedly the person on the cover looks kind of white...

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

And look it's another dragon! 

I have been looking forward to finally reading this one even though I know it has the Red and Purple Weddings...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (191)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Well the first day of fall is this week and I am a little bummed but I cheered myself up with my first mug of apple cider for the season.  I also pinned an intriguing recipe for a Paleo No Bake Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie that I might try for Thanksgiving since my sister is Paleo and it is a healthy alternative with chocolate involved.

Books reviewed:

Landline by Rainbow Rowell (not my favorite Rowell book)

Books read:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (reread)

I think the audio version was a fantastic way to experience the book again but I did have to turn it off at one point so I didn't cry while driving. This is the selection for my evening book group and we are showing the movie at the library on Monday night. I like being able to discuss the book and the movie adaptation together.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

I really enjoyed this debut mystery set in the 1930s at a hotel in Brighton. It reminded me a lot of Deanna Raybourn's books, especially the heroine and her relationship with her husband. The setting and cast of suspects reminded me a little of Agatha Christie too. 

Currently reading:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (reread)

While I read the book before the movie came to theaters I hadn't finished listening to the audio version yet. I really like the narration and I love that Octavia Spencer is the voice of Minnie.

What I plan to read next:

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (reread)

This is the afternoon book group selection for September. I want to reread it so it will be fresh in my mind.

My True Love Gave To Me by Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, etc.

There are a number of stories in this anthology that I am eager to try. I'm especially excited to read the ones by Ally Carter, Stephanie Perkins, and Rainbow Rowell. I had thought John Green had contributed a story too so I was disappointed to find out I was wrong. I read another holiday anthology he wrote a story for a few years ago (Let it Snow).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: Landline

By Rainbow Rowell
Published: July 8, 2014

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

My review:

While I kind of liked this book I was also a little disappointed with it. The main character is so selfish and I struggled to like her or relate to her. I did appreciate the honesty with which marriage is portrayed as well as the difficulties in trying to balance a demanding career with family life. I liked the flashbacks of the young Georgie and Neal as well.

I think the idea of the story is a good one but it just didn't work for me because the adult Georgie is too hard to like. The story ended up being about two people who maybe shouldn't have gotten married in the first place and you can't help but feel sorry for them and their children and wish they could find some common ground. I was left feeling that things weren't really fixed between them but maybe that just makes it more realistic (aside from the magic landline phone). There are some moving moments and at least Georgie seems to figure out what is important by the end of the book.

Overall I think I just prefer the author's teen fiction over her fiction for adults. Eleanor and Park was so heartfelt and beautifully written that this book just pales in comparison. I thought with Attachments that it was a good first effort and that any flaws were due to it being her first book but after reading Landline I realized her teen fiction is much better (in my opinion) and I hope she continues to write more of that. 

While Landline did not live up to my admittedly high expectations, that doesn't mean I didn't like it at all or that you shouldn't give it a try. It did receive mostly positive reviews from professional review publications after all. For those who are new to Rainbow Rowell's books however I would suggest starting with her teen fiction. For readers looking for similar contemporary books for adults, I'd suggest trying What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (141)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
Release date: October 14, 2014

Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

I read a really positive review of this in School Library Journal where the reviewer compares it to the Lunar Chronicles. I wonder if this will be a darker book due to a spoiler in that review (hate spoilers in reviews but maybe it was in SLJ to help school librarians decide if they wanted to purchase it). Also I am anxiously awaiting the start of season 4 of Once Upon a Time and something about this version of Snow White reminds me of Snow from OUAT.

Monday, September 15, 2014

(Updated Version) It's Monday, What Are You Reading (190)

Now updated to include pictures and my thoughts on the books I read :)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

This post is late because I currently don't have access to my laptop as of Sunday morning. It is trapped in my home office with a six-legged, winged creature that may be a wasp or bee. I have a bug phobia especially when it comes to things that may sting (I have never been stung and hope to spend the rest of my life without experiencing that pleasure). I am hoping it will just die on its own but most likely I am going to have to gather my courage and my flyswatter and go to battle. Eventually...


It was a bee and it is now resting in peace thanks to the kindness of a neighbor. 

In the meantime I finally got to watch Outlander when I was visiting my sister (I loved it!) and now I am tempted to order cable even though I can't afford it. I will hopefully be able to catch up on episodes next time I visit her. She owes me for all the Gilmore Girls episodes I taped for her since she didn't get that show back in the day :)  I think the casting was really good and the show seems faithful to the book so far.

Books reviewed:

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Books read:

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan

I thought this was a fun Christmas romance though not as good as book 1. I still haven't read book 2 but I may pick it up someday. While it is probably best to start at the beginning it is possible to read this as a standalone (or without reading the second book).

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

I liked Evil Librarian but not as much as I thought I would. I think there is definitely a "Buffy" kind of vibe to the story but it also reminded me of the snarky writing style of Rachel Hawkins.

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore

Tarnish provided a different view of Anne Boleyn so we get to see her before she caught Henry's interest and the story ended well before her time as queen.

The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas 

I loved this book. It is the sequel to The Burning Sky and I thought this book was even better than the first one. Lots of surprises and twists.

Currently reading:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (reread)

I am listening to this on audio which is a different experience from when I read the print version of the book. I think the narrator does a good job with Hazel's voice and that breathy quality when she is fighting for oxygen.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: Say What You Will

Say What You Will
By Cammie McGovern
Published: June 3, 2014

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern's insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

My review:

Amy and Matthew are both flawed and hurting teens and together they find understanding, friendship, and love but it isn't all smooth sailing from there. Amy has been over protected by her mother and other well meaning adults. A chance conversation with Matthew in her junior year precipitates her plan to have student aides help her during her senior year in an effort to reach out and make friends. In Matthew, Amy sees someone who won't sugar coat things and he is also on the outside at school like her. 

Matthew doesn't want to acknowledge that he has any problems. Sure he washes his hands several times a day and is afraid that if he doesn't follow his rituals, terrible things will happen to the people he loves but other than that he considers himself as just a normal teen. Amy notices the truth about him though and she pushes him to confront his fears.

I liked Say What You Will and reading about Amy and Matthew's journey in their last year of high school and beyond. The romance builds slowly which makes sense because a level of trust and friendship has to be established first. I really liked the portrayal of Amy and the things she struggled with and wanted for herself. Both characters showed growth but it was Amy's story that stuck with me. 

Overall I thought this was a good book and while it is different from The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, I think it would appeal to fans of either book and those who like contemporary teen fiction. Ignore the comparisons to John Green and Rainbow Rowell and give this book a try anyway. You likely will not be sorry that you did.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (140)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead
Release date: February 10, 2015

The epic conclusion to Richelle Mead's New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series is finally here...

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

After their secret romance is exposed, Sydney and Adrian find themselves facing the wrath of both the Alchemists and the Moroi in this electrifying conclusion to Richelle Mead’s New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series. When the life of someone they both love is put on the line, Sydney risks everything to hunt down a deadly former nemesis. Meanwhile, Adrian becomes enmeshed in a puzzle that could hold the key to a shocking secret about spirit magic, a secret that could shake the entire Moroi world.

After reading Silver Shadows, I can't wait to find out how this series will end and I am glad I don't have to wait till next summer. I hate winter but at least I have some good books to look forward to.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Review: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies
By Liane Moriarty
Published: July 29, 2014

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .
A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?  
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.   But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?). 

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.   

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies
 is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.  

My review:

I think Big Little Lies is even better than Liane Moriarty's previous bestselling book, The Husband's Secret. The pacing flows quickly helped along by the countdown to the fatal Trivia Night and interspersed with interview quotes with other parents and teachers at the school. 

The three main characters Madeline, Celeste, and Jane all have compelling individual story lines however Madeline at first seemed less interesting than Celeste and Jane who both had big secrets to deal with. Madeline initially reminded me of Cecilia Fitzpatrick from The Husband's Secret and I also thought there were some similarities between Jane and Tess (also from THS) because both were basically single mothers new to town and the school. While there are some similarities between the books, I was relieved to find that Big Little Lies took a different path. I liked the element of suspense and trying to figure out who died on Trivia Night.

I found Jane and Celeste's stories to be moving. I won't go into details to avoid spoiling the book but they both have dark secrets in their lives. Even Madeline's struggles with her eldest daughter touched me. I didn't like Madeline as much but I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. It would not be easy to be in the situation she faces with her ex-husband and his new wife living in the same community and watching how he treats his new daughter compared to how he wasn't there for Madeline and their daughter. I also liked how she could be protective of her friends and family. 

The school and the issues with bullying were frustrating to read about. I felt sorry for those involved and it made me angry with all the gossip and the useless response of the school to some of it. The community is very gossipy and not very welcoming to outsiders but thankfully for Jane, Madeline and Celeste take her under their wing. 

Overall I really enjoyed Big Little Lies. It is a page turner but it also made me want to cry at times because of the issues faced by the characters.  In a way this book reminded me of the movie American Beauty and the way outwardly perfect lives can hide big secrets. There is some humor too as well as a little romance. There is a little element of mystery but it isn't a true mystery novel. I think this would be a good pick for book discussion groups and readers who enjoy Jojo Moyes. It is definitely one of my favorites of 2014.

Note: I received an ARC for review courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss