Book Review – Educated by Tara Westover

Book Review – Educated by Tara WestoverEducated by Tara Westover
Published by HarperCollins on February 20, 2018
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Women, General
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

A little change of pace here…I read this book a week ago but I’ve struggled to find time to write a review and I want to do it justice. I have wanted to read this book for quite some time. I feel quite strongly about biographies and memoirs and I tend to read and review them with a different lens. I acknowledge that the story is personal, it actually happened and should be respected.

Educated is a memoir about the author, Tara’s, childhood, continuing into her adulthood. Tara’s upbringing was challenging, she grew up in an environment whereby her parents had extreme beliefs about healthcare, education and the government. Tara, her parents and siblings are mormons, but Tara makes it clear from the outset that the book is not about mormonism.

As always, I’ve done my research, I watched some interviews with Tara on You Tube and she stresses that mormonism was not responsible for the views of her parents and the events that occurred for her and her siblings. There are plenty of practising mormons who still attend school and access healthcare. Rather, her father’s declining mental health heavily influenced his actions and paranoia about the world.

Tara’s situation is extraordinary, she entered university education at the age of 17, despite having no formal education previously. Tara’s family members suffered injuries and illness as a result of her father’s belief about medical treatment. Due to Tara’s lack of exposure and awareness of how other families and children live, the home life she experienced was normal. The beliefs were not questioned by her, until much later.

The book is such an intriguing read. It reminded me of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. It is about more than just Tara’s formal education, it is primarily about her home life, family, relationships and struggles. Tara’s home life was sometimes abusive and often neglectful. Tara and her siblings were often in very dangerous situations as a result of her father’s actions. I know a lot of people have feelings of anger towards Tara’s parents after reading her book. Tara does not mirror these feelings towards her parents and her siblings. Tara still expresses gratitude for some aspects of her upbringing, which is so admirable.

I had mixed feelings towards Tara’s father whilst reading the book. At times I was shocked, other times angry, but there were times when his responses made me giggle a little. Tara is successful in portraying her father honestly, without degrading him. Tara also acknowledges at the end of the book that she and some of her siblings have different accounts in relation to several events in the book.

You’ll enjoy this book if you love memoirs, or stories where people have overcome hardship in their lives. Tara is certainly admirable and her accomplishments speak for themselves.

five-stars

About Tara Westover

Tara Westover is an American author living in the UK. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom, and after that first taste, she pursued learning for a decade. She graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014.

Book Review – Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Book Review – Sharp Objects by Gillian FlynnSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Published by Crown/Archetype on September 26, 2006
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Suspense, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths, General
Pages: 272
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Sometimes you just need to read the book after watching the tv show

Again, I’m drastically late to the party, but I don’t care. Who cares when you read a book as long as you enjoy it right? Enjoy it I did.

Yes, every living person has read Gone Girl. I’m going to put myself on the line here and say I enjoyed Sharp objects EVEN more. Sharp Objects was where Gillian Flynn started and she did goooooood. It’s now a HBO tv show starring Amy Adams and a bunch of other great actors (it’s on Foxtel for those of you in Australia) and I really enjoyed the show – it led me to the book.

What I loved about the book:

  1. It’s set in South – in a fictional town called Wind Gap and the scene was set for me – with words like “pitcher” and phrases like “pull taffy” and  “catch a greased pig”- ok, so that might have been an out of town character making fun of the town, but still I could almost hear the southern drawl
  2. Verrrrrrry similar to the tv show, but the ending has a lot more juicy detail, so if you’ve seen the show I think you’ll enjoy the book
  3. Easy, quick read with lots of scandal mixed in
  4. Interesting characters

I think there was more of a focus on Camille’s past in the tv show though and I also hated her mother, Adora much more whilst watching the show. Amma, Camille’s younger, overly sexualized, devious sister did not disappoint. I think she might be my favourite character. From the mouth of 13 year old Amma:

What if you hurt because it feels so good? Like you have a tingling, like someone left a switch on in your body. And nothing can turn the switch off except hurting?…

The book is a bit of a whodunit, but there is more to it than that, there are also dark pasts, temptations and complex relationships.  If you enjoy dark family type thrillers I think you’ll enjoy this book. You should also watch the show, I thought it was fantastic.  I’m hoping there is a Season 2 of Sharp Objects, which may or may not lead to a second book (fingers crossed). Hey – Margaret Atwood announced she is writing a follow up to the Handmaid’s Tale on Twitter, so it happens ok.. (BTW  – I’m super excited about that).

 

Synopsis

FROM THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF GONE GIRL

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

four-half-stars

About Gillian Flynn

Flynn’s 2006 debut novel, the literary mystery Sharp Objects, was an Edgar Award finalist and the winner of two of Britain’s Dagger Awards—the first book ever to win multiple Daggers in one year. The book is now an HBO® limited series starring Amy Adams.

Flynn’s second novel, the 2009 New York Times bestseller Dark Places, was a New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite, Weekend TODAY Top Summer Read, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009, and Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction choice. In 2015, the movie adaptation starring Charlize Theron was released.

Flynn’s third novel, Gone Girl, was an international sensation and a runaway hit that has spent more than one hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists. Gone Girl was named one of the best books of the year by People Magazine and Janet Maslin at the New York Times. Nominated for both the Edgar Award and the Anthony Award for Best Novel, Flynn wrote the screenplay for David Fincher’s 2014 adaptation of Gone Girl for the big screen, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Her newest release, The Grownup, is an Edgar Award-winning short story and an homage to the classic ghost story. Universal has optioned the rights to The Grownup.

Flynn’s work has been published in forty-one languages. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Brett Nolan, their children, and a giant black cat named Roy. In theory she is working on her next novel. In reality she is possibly playing Ms. Pac-Man in her basement lair.

Book Review – Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Book Review – Nineteen Minutes by Jodi PicoultNineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Published by Atria Books on March 5, 2007
Genres: Family Life, Fiction, General
Pages: 440
Format: eBook
Goodreads

five-stars




Old School

I know, I know… this book was published in 2007 and I’m only reading it now. I’m slow to the party on this one. I wish I had read it sooner. I’m a converted Jodi fan.

I had read another of Jodie’s books (The Pact) and I loved it and several friends recommended Nineteen Minutes as another great read.

The book was a change of pace for me. It’s not a thriller in the traditional sense, more of a drama, but has moments leaving you on the edge of your seat. I had trouble putting it down.

A school shooting is a horrible reality in the US and has been for a long time. The details of the school shooting were heartbreaking. Jodi does a fantastic job of describing the events leading up to and the post impact of the shooting. There are many players in the telling of the story. From the police investigator, to the lawyer (hello again Mr McAfee from The Pact), to the parent of the shooter and of the victim. Jodi accurately reflects the thoughts and feelings of the characters and yourself as the reader.

From the investigator:

He had no fucking idea how to process a nightmare this massive…

From the mother of the shooter:

no one seemed to have the right words of comfort for someone whose son had just killed ten people.

The overall feeling and questions you ask yourself when reading:

Did every teenager have the capacity to fall on one side or the other of that tightrope, and could you identify a single moment that tipped the balance?

As well as the courtroom drama that plays out, the book focuses on relationships. In particular the relationship between mother and daughter and the associated struggles. Also worth mentioning is the exploration of relationships between friends and the cruelness of young people.

I loved the book and a friend advised me it reminded them of the book We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I loved that book too, but they are different. There are many more perspectives in Nineteen Minutes and I don’t think it is as dark as We Need to Talk about Kevin, although the same feeling of heartbreak and senselessness is there – as it is with all the shootings that occur on a daily basis. I’m grateful  I live in Australia, where thankfully, since the Port Arthur massacre, shootings are not commonplace in my country.

Read this and be prepared to be moved.

Synopsis

In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five….In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it. In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.


Sterling is a small, ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens — until the day its complacency is shattered by a shocking act of violence. In the aftermath, the town’s residents must not only seek justice in order to begin healing but also come to terms with the role they played in the tragedy. For them, the lines between truth and fiction, right and wrong, insider and outsider have been obscured forever.

Josie Cormier, the teenage daughter of the judge sitting on the case, could be the state’s best witness, but she can’t remember what happened in front of her own eyes. And as the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show, destroying the closest of friendships and families.

five-stars

About Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is the #1 bestselling author of twenty-five novels including My Sister’s Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, The Storyteller, Leaving Time, the acclaimed #1 bestseller, Small Great Things, which explored the issues of power, privilege and race, and has sold more than 1.5 million copies. Picoult’s most recent novel, A SPARK OF LIGHT., published on October 2, 2018, was her tenth consecutive instant #1 New York Times bestseller, and was praised as “Picoult at her fearless best” by the Washington Post.

Book Review – The Orchid Girls – Lesley Sanderson

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Thank you to the author for the opportunity.

The Orchid Girls Published by Bookouture on November 13, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, General, Crime, Psychological, Suspense
Pages: 425
Format: ARC, eBook
Goodreads
five-stars

Secrets from the past make for an exciting read…

The Orchid Girls is the author, Lesley Sanderson’s first book. I was drawn to the title of the book and when I read the blurb, I was sold. I enjoy novels about women and I liked the idea of a secret in the past coming back to haunt the characters.

Molly as an adult is troubled, an alcoholic, in a complicated relationship. Molly presents as being tortured and feels immense guilt about her past.

We liked being the Orchid Girls until I went and spoilt it all.

Grace is almost exactly the opposite. She is successful, in a seemingly loving relationship, despite having a really rough childhood. Grace is happy to leave the leave the past in the past.

The past has no room in my life. It has to stay where it belongs.

What did I love?

I really liked how the book was written. We hear from Molly, Grace and Charlotte in the present and get to read past newspaper articles and diary entries to fill in the missing pieces of their past.

The book isn’t particularly scary, or thrilling, but I was caught up in the story and I wanted to know what happened. I empathised with both Molly and Grace at different times throughout the book. When I have a connection with characters like that it makes me want to keep on reading.

I thought I had all the twists and turns figured out, but I didn’t until much later in the book. I love this because it means that the author has appropriately challenged my ideas about how I see the characters and the events. I’m pretty switched on to the route of thrillers these days and it is tricky to fool me now. I know the recipe.

Ummm it has to be said…and it won’t ruin the outcome of the story for you, but I think Grace’s husband Richard is a DICK. I made note of this in my reading notes. He was a character that I really hated (and I’m sure this was intentional by Lesley) and I specifically wrote DICK next to his name. Ha ha ha ha.

The wrap up

Overall this was a great read and I would recommend to any readers who enjoy reading books about women. Strong women, weak women and loving women. It ignited my teenage female gossip side too!

I’d definitely like to read more from Lesley Sanderson  – I think she is an author to watch!

Synopsis

They called them the Orchid Girls. Grace. Molly. Charlotte.

One of them is in love. One of them is a liar. One of them is dead.

On a jagged Dorset cliff, wind whipping their hair, waves crashing on the rocks below, three friends became two when Charlotte’s body was pulled out of the sea.

Fifteen years later Grace and Molly are worlds apart. Grace has a glittering career and a loving husband. Molly is a lonely, unemployed alcoholic. Grace has everything to lose. Molly has nothing.

They have moved on from the tragic accident that shadowed their childhood. But somewhere lies a photograph waiting to be unearthed – waiting to reveal a secret one of the Orchid Girls is desperate to keep hidden…

Book Review – The Other Wife – Michael Robotham

Book Review – The Other Wife – Michael RobothamThe Other Wife by Michael Robotham
on June 26, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, General, Psychological, Crime, Suspense, Mystery & Detective
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads

two-half-stars
There comes a time when a not so glowing review is required.

I’m still reading The Affair by Sheryl Browne (almost finished), but I thought I needed to go back to another book I read recently.

It absolutely PAINS me to say it. I did not love The Other wife by Michael Robotham. In fact, I struggled through it.

I was so excited to read his new book. I had read The Secrets She Keeps and thought it was fantastic. It was exciting to have stumbled upon a new author and an Australian one at that. I could not believe I hadn’t read his books previously.

The reason I did not love The Other Wife could be because I hadn’t read the other books based around the protagonist Joe O’Loughlin. So perhaps it’s unfair for me to comment without “getting to know” Joe. I’ll admit it, I’m a Joe amateur!

Also, it could be that I enjoyed Michael’s writing from a female perspective. I hope there are more books to come similar to The Secrets She Keeps.

So what didn’t I love?

I didn’t feel a connection with Joe and as above, this might be because I haven’t read any of the other Joe books.

Nothing surprised or shocked me here. I was waiting for something to happen. There just wasn’t enough of a good thing. I wasn’t intrigued by the fact that Joe’s father had an affair…there was much more to it than that, but this is what I wanted to be excited about.

I almost gave up. There were times when I just wanted to put my kindle down and start something new. That is never a good sign. I kept on going because I thought the ending might be the saving grace and all my worries would be put to rest. The ending did not excite me either.

We are a little spoilt by the twists and turns present in a lot of thrillers lately. So I don’t mind when there aren’t as many twists (and in fact there were a few in this book) but they didn’t surprise me or keep me on the edge of my seat.

Should I keep reading Michael’s books?

The Secrets She keeps can not be just a fluke or a one off. Please let me know in the comments if you have read any of Michael’s other books and can recommend where to start. Do I need to read the other Joe books before I pass further judgement??

Now, I need to state that my reviews are my own thoughts and opinions and I might get some hate from all the Robotham lovers, that is ok. All I ask is that they convince me. Recommend me a book of his that I will love and I’ll review that one too.

Synopsis

Childhood sweethearts William and Mary have been married for sixty years. William is a celebrated surgeon, Mary a devoted wife. Both have a strong sense of right and wrong.

This is what their son, Joe O’Loughlin, has always believed. But when Joe is summoned to the hospital with news that his father has been brutally attacked, his world is turned upside down. Who is the strange woman crying at William’s bedside, covered in his blood – a friend, a mistress, a fantasist or a killer?

Against the advice of the police, Joe launches his own investigation. As he learns more, he discovers sides to his father he never knew – and is forcibly reminded that the truth comes at a price.

About Michael Robotham

Gold Dagger winning and Edgar short-listed author Michael Robotham was born in Australia in November 1960 and grew up in small country towns that had more dogs than people and more flies than dogs. He escaped in 1979 and became a cadet journalist on an afternoon newspaper in Sydney.

For the next fourteen years he wrote for newspapers and magazines in Australia, Britain and America. As a senior feature writer for the UK’s Mail on Sunday he was among the first people to view the letters and diaries of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Empress Alexandra, unearthed in the Moscow State Archives in 1991. He also gained access to Stalin’s Hitler files, which had been missing for nearly fifty years until a cleaner stumbled upon a cardboard box that had been misplaced and misfiled.

In 1993 he quit journalism to become a ghostwriter, collaborating with politicians, pop stars, psychologists, adventurers and showbusiness personalities to write their autobiographies. Twelve of these non-fiction titles were bestsellers with combined sales of more than 2 million copies.

About Michael Robotham

Gold Dagger winning and Edgar short-listed author Michael Robotham was born in Australia in November 1960 and grew up in small country towns that had more dogs than people and more flies than dogs. He escaped in 1979 and became a cadet journalist on an afternoon newspaper in Sydney.

For the next fourteen years he wrote for newspapers and magazines in Australia, Britain and America. As a senior feature writer for the UK’s Mail on Sunday he was among the first people to view the letters and diaries of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Empress Alexandra, unearthed in the Moscow State Archives in 1991. He also gained access to Stalin’s Hitler files, which had been missing for nearly fifty years until a cleaner stumbled upon a cardboard box that had been misplaced and misfiled.

In 1993 he quit journalism to become a ghostwriter, collaborating with politicians, pop stars, psychologists, adventurers and showbusiness personalities to write their autobiographies. Twelve of these non-fiction titles were bestsellers with combined sales of more than 2 million copies.

You – Caroline Kepnes Book Review

by Caroline Kepnes
Published by Simon and Schuster Genres: Fiction, General, Media Tie-In, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
five-stars

I’m starting this blog with a book I can’t get off my mind. It’s You by Caroline Kepnes. I did a mini review on Facebook singing it’s praises. I love it even more now that there is a Lifetime TV Series of the same name. The book was recommended to me by my friend Jac (hi Jac!) and I am so glad I  read it.

Whilst the TV show is also fantastic, I don’t want the TV series to take away from the book.

I read it quickly and was disappointed when I finished and I would no longer hear Joe Goldberg’s crazy voice inside my head. Joe is clearly very deluded, psychotic and quite fearless, but I loved his character so much.

Joe becomes obsessed with a woman he meets and nothing will stop him from pursuing her. The book is gripping, with all the right kinds of heart racing moments. Before you know it, you are on Joe’s side and you are rooting for him (well I was ok?).

There are quite a few raunchy sections, which I don’t mind at all. The characters (particularly Joe) are interesting and Joe’s narration throughout makes them even more enjoyable. There are characters Joe despises, making for an entertaining read.

The good news?

There is a sequel called Hidden Bodies, which continues right where You leaves us. It is as heart stopping as You, possibly even more. I didn’t think Joe could go that far…even my dog loved it (see pic).

The better news?

Hidden Bodies finishes with the opportunity for a third instalment and I really hope Caroline is working on that.

Caroline is an author I want to read again and her book Providence is on my list of books to read soon!

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About Caroline Kepnes

Caroline Kepnes is the author of You, Hidden Bodies and Providence. She has worked as a pop culture journalist for Entertainment Weekly and a TV writer on 7th Heaven, The Secret Life of the American Teenager and the upcoming adaptation of You. Originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts she now writes full-time and lives in Los Angeles.

About Caroline Kepnes

Caroline Kepnes is the author of You, Hidden Bodies and Providence. She has worked as a pop culture journalist for Entertainment Weekly and a TV writer on 7th Heaven, The Secret Life of the American Teenager and the upcoming adaptation of You. Originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts she now writes full-time and lives in Los Angeles.