Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - a book review

Welcome to September, and welcome to another book review at YLSNED. This month, I'm reviewing Liane Moriarty's latest release, Big Little Lies (which was the book of the month in the Pink Fibro Book Club, hosted by Allison Tait).

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Big Little Lies / Liane Moriarty

Image source

Pirriwee Public's annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead. Was it murder, a tragic accident... or something else entirely?

Big Little Lies is a funny, heartbreaking, challenging story of ex-husbands and second wives, new friendships, old betrayals and schoolyard politics.

Big Little Lies is big. It starts with a murder, then rewinds six months and starts again. We don't know who has died, and we don't know how. But as we come across smiling partners, broken families and schoolyard cliques (the parents, not the children), we start to figure it out.

We meet three friends who fill very specific roles. There's Madeline, the confident, brash, antagonistic mum who always goes in to bat for friends and family, even when the other team hasn't bothered to turn up. There's Celeste, the skittish bombshell with the seemingly perfect marriage, an image carefully cultivated on Facebook. And there's 'plain' Jane, the young single parent still searching for her way in the world.

I'm not sure what to say about this book. I didn't dislike it. I raced through it - it's easy to read, and parts of it are highly enjoyable. But by the end, enough bothered me about it that I was glad I don't have a star rating for book reviews. I wouldn't have known where to settle.

I really liked the idea of the book's structure. Knowing the end point of the book (that there was a death coming), having that death as the reference point for the timing of the other events, and the interview snippets made for interesting reading. But I think it made the book longer than it needed to be. And, for me, it telegraphed the ending (bar one twist that had me thinking, "Oh. Okay," rather than, "WHOA! No way!").

The characters didn't ring true for me. The main characters felt stereotypical enough, but those quoted during the interview snippets felt like caricatures. Which would have been easier to forgive if they weren't being their 'career mum'/'stay-at-home mum'/'drama queen'/'earnest, well-meaning but overworked teacher' selves to the extreme while being interviewed immediately following a shocking death to which they were witnesses.

I feel like I'm sounding overly harsh. This book isn't bad - I've read 54 books so far this year and it's nowhere near the bottom of the list! It's well-written, well-structured (if long for this genre) and touches on a lot of topics other writers wouldn't go near. It just didn't rock my world.

Standout lines/phrases (the last of which just made me giggle):

  • If she packaged the perfect Facebook life, maybe she would start to believe it herself.
  • If parents had children who were good sleepers they assumed this was due to their good parenting, not good luck. They followed the rules and the rules had been proven to work. Celeste must therefore not be following the rules. And you could never prove it to them! They would die smug in their beds.
  • ...There was real pain in the world, right this very moment people were suffering unimaginable atrocities and you couldn't close your heart completely, but you couldn't leave it wide open either, because otherwise how could you possibly live your life, when through pure, random luck, you got to live in paradise?
  • [The drinks] were divine. Only problem was the Year 6 teachers made some sort of miscalculation with quantities so each drink was worth about three shots. These are the people teaching our kids maths by the way.

When I finished Big Little Lies, I would have recommended it. Now I've sat with the book for a week or so, I'm not sure. I think it depends on how real you want your characters to be.

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Have you read Big Little Lies? What did you think?


Previous book reviews:

The Best Feeling of All and Your Best Year Yet
The Headmaster's Wife (my guest post at Allison Tait's blog)
The Night Guest
The Thirteenth Tale
The Shadow Year and Barracuda
The Paris Wife
Mister Pip and The Light Between Oceans
Big Brother and We Need to Talk About Kevin
The Shining Girls and The Fault in Our Stars

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Top web reads of August

If you've been reading along this month, you'll know it's been a rough one. Health, kids, anything and everything seemed out to stop me this month.

Something had to give, and this month, it was reading. (And sleep. Sorry, dear friend.) So here are the (very few) top web reads I came across this month.

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12 Things You Should be Able to Say About Yourself

This post from Style on V at the beginning of the month was beautiful. A positive, affirmative and aspirational list of things you want to say and think about yourself to start the month off on the right note.

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You CAN Stop Yelling. Here's your 10 step plan.

Earlier this month, I found myself yelling at Ashleigh more often, and simultaneously not liking what I was doing and finding myself unable to stop.

This piece set me back on track. Not necessarily because I implemented it (I'm using some different approaches to bite back that yelling instinct) but because it reminded me of something. It reminded me that you've got to have a strategy. You've got to have something that you do instead of yelling, something that perhaps you and your child agree can work out together in a non-yelling moment; you can't just think to yourself: 'stop yelling'.

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Why women are left off the CEO track

This is a very fascinating article from The Age about... well, about what it says. Most thought-provoking line: "Generally speaking, when a man gets into a new job, he's already thinking about the next job and what he needs to get the next job," said Stevenson, who is co-author of the book "Breaking Away: How Great Leaders Create Innovation that Drives Sustainable Growth -- And Why Others Fail." "Women, on the other hand, when they are appointed to big jobs, are out to prove they deserve to be in the job they're already in. That presents a different way of looking for career progression."

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And that's it! That's not to say there weren't wonderful things to read in August. I just didn't get around to many of them.

To make up for it, here's a funny picture that @QJernalisms tweeted. Because everyone likes funny.




What about you? Did you read much on the interweb in August? Any recommendations?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blogiversaries, Problogger and bloggity bloggingness

Three years. Three years I've been doing this blogging thing. Happy blogiversary to me!



It started with a 'just do it'-style note to myself, and was followed the next day with an imperfect dictionary experience. And that was it. I was off and running.

Or off and typing. Same same.

I posted daily lessons to begin with (hence the YLSNED name), covering everything from garden gnomes to volleyball, from baboon diets to giraffe noises, from the cocoa content of white chocolate to Keith Urban's true nationality.

Compelling stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

Then I moved on to more personal posts. I (officially) let go of the lesson format this time last year. I started blogging about whatever I wanted, which has fallen into a natural pattern of renovation posts, song rewrites, personal reflection, book reviews (for little people and big people alike) and chocolate.

I've even occasionally shared some family pics.


 


 
Three years. In three years, this blog has become more important to me than I would ever have predicted. I've developed my writing voice. I've found my blogging mojo. I've learnt things. I've embraced (at least some forms of) social media, which will be crucial when (if) I make my way back into the corporate marketing world.

I've even made a little bit of money (but don't worry, kids - I won't be quitting my day job anytime soon). And I've made friends. And those two things (and many more) are why I'm so excited to be heading to the Problogger conference this weekend.

 

I will be learning about the ins and outs of blogging. SM, SEO, UV, USP, OMG, WTF? I'll be learning about making my blog heard, making a difference, and maybe making a proper go of this blogging thing. Or at least using this blogging thing to contribute to whatever my future career may be.
 
And I will be meeting friends, most for the first time. I've done my research - I know which ones don't like to be hugged, and I know which ones I'll leap on as soon as I spot them. I have a list of bloggers longer than my arm that I want to thank for sharing their words with the world. I hope to tick off at least a quarter of them.

What better way to celebrate three years of YLSNEDding? (Yes, I verbed YLSNED. Three years in, I think it's worth verbing.)


Are you going to Problogger? What are you hoping to learn?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Perspective

I took the kids to the park recently, and this is what we saw.

 
What I saw: a slight incline to the swings.
What my son saw: a rise that required complicated navigation including walking, standing, sitting, crawling, standing again and walking. And applauding his own efforts.


What I saw: climbing discs set a short step out from the playground.
What my daughter saw: climbing discs set very far from the playground, and very high up, requiring a huge leap (and an incredible feat of bravery).


What I saw: some balls on poles.
What my son saw: coloured balls as big as his head set at the perfect height to play with.


What I saw: a filthy plastic bubble.
What my daughter saw: a magical window whose curved surface altered what she saw, and through which she could pull funny faces at everyone.


What we all saw: some clouds.
What we all also saw: a fire-breathing dragon.


What do you see in these pictures?