Monday, April 30, 2018

What's Val Reading? (April 2018)

It's the last day of April, and you know what that means ...


How fitting that *NSYNC got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today of all days!

But enough *NSYNC ... time to find out about Val's reads! (I kid. Could there ever be enough *NSYNC?)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Goodreads)

This book takes place between 1873 and 1903.  The basic plot is that two “Master” magicians want to determine which of them is the better teacher of Magic, so they each choose a pupil to engage in a competition of Magic.  The Night Circus serves as the venue for the competition.  It’s a functioning circus, so normal people come to view it, not knowing that the Magic they are seeing is real, and not merely illusions.

I enjoyed this book, but it took a while for the story to really get going.  Part of that could be that there are a ton of characters, and it took me a little while to keep them all straight.  It’s quite a long book (the copy I read was over 500 pages) – at 150 pages in I was still kind of “meh” about it, and the only reason I kept going was that I didn’t have another book on hand to switch to.  In the end, I’m glad I stuck with it, as the story did pick up, and by the end I was invested in the outcome.

Magic does factor heavily in the book, so if that’s something you’re uncomfortable with, go ahead and skip this one.  In the book, Magic isn’t “good” or “bad”; it’s just something that is. The book actually doesn’t get too much into spells, etc., but Tarot cards are mentioned a few times (the Circus has a Fortune Teller). 4 stars.

Content: No language; one non-explicit sex scene.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo (Goodreads)

One day after school, somewhat unpopular eighth grader Meredith Oliver decides to stop at the Deli Barn to get a soda.  While she’s there, a masked man with a gun robs the Deli Barn and kidnaps the only other patron in the store – Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in Meredith’s class. Meredith struggles to deal with the trauma of the situation, and her family struggles with how to connect with/help her through it.

This book was both fascinating and also not at all what I expected it to be. Even though it is primarily about an eighth grader, it’s definitely not YA. (Side note: this book is a great reminder of the terrifying nature of middle school politics and popularity.) The tone of the novel is heavy yet compelling. It becomes difficult throughout to distinguish what actually happened versus what Meredith thinks/imagines happened. By the end I was VERY eager to know what the resolution would be.  I wouldn’t say this was a “happy” or “fun” read, but it was definitely a well-written page-turner. 4 stars.

Content: No sex; some language (mostly the “b” word because apparently it is a favorite among eighth-grade girls).

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Goodreads)

Cadence Sinclair is the eldest grandchild of Harris Sinclair, a wealthy blue-blood New Englander who owns an island off of Martha’s Vineyard.  Every summer, all the Sinclairs (Harris and his wife, their three daughters and their families) spend the summer on the island.  The eldest grandchildren, Cadence, Johnny, and Mirren, plus Gat, their longtime family friend, become known as the “Liars” – hence the title.  Something traumatic happens to Cadence during the summer when she’s 15, causing her to have debilitating migraines and memory loss.  She can’t remember what happened that summer, or why the boy she loves seems to have stopped loving her.  She’s allowed back to the island two years later, and she’s determined to figure out what really happened.

This book was ANGSTY.  Granted, it’s a YA novel, and sometimes that comes with the territory.  But this one was a little over the top for me.  It’s all first-person from Cadence’s point of view, so I understand that, given the circumstances, some strong emotions are to be expected.  It was just a little much for my taste.  So much so that I almost abandoned the book in the middle – it felt like Cadence was making such a big deal out of every single conversation she had, every thought and look and interaction.  HOWEVER. There is a twist that kind of puts it all in perspective.  So if you’re the kind of person who can forgive a book for all things if the last chapter is good, then this one is for you.  Also if you like angsty teens. 3 stars (2.5 without the twist)

Content: There was lots of swearing in this book.  F-word swearing. No sex.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Goodreads)

I loved this book. It is my favorite Liane Moriarty to date.  That said, it is certainly not for everyone. The f-word is used throughout, and there are some definite triggers (domestic violence, sexual violence). I’m not going to say any more than that, because I don’t want to spoil the plot.

The story takes place in the small beach-front town of Piriwee, Australia.  The nucleus of the plot is the Kindergarten class of the Piriwee Public School. On orientation day, an accusation of bullying is made, which affects the trajectory of both the students and their parents. And that’s all I’m going to say about plot, because it’s really so much better to read and discover it for yourself. I knew basically nothing about the plot going in, and I’m so glad I didn’t! 5 Stars!

Content: Language (f-word), lots of triggers, including domestic violence – I’d advise you look it up online for the content warnings – they’re plot points, so I don’t want to list them here.

Have you read any of these books? As I'm NOT a fan of angsty teens, I think I'll pass on We Were Liars, but the others sound interesting!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


  1. Haven't read any of them but want to. :-) I like the show for Big Little Lies though. Happy May!

    1. Happy May to you, too, Freda! Thanks for stopping by!


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