Let’s talk Liane Moriarty, or as I like to call her, my not-remotely-guilty pleasure. You might think you haven’t heard of this delightful, Australian author, but you’ve probably heard of her most popular novel, BIG LITTLE LIES. After reading one of her books as part of a summer reading challenge a few years ago (in case you’re wondering, the book was TRULY MADLY GUILTY, and the challenge was to read a book with a character that has your same name), I’ve been maybe just a little obsessed and I’ve read everything she’s written and I’m impatiently awaiting the next one.
Here’s what I love about Liane Moriarty: she is SO GOOD at internal dialogue. Her characters are interesting and complex and oh-so-relatable. She often (but not always) builds up a mystery with this internal dialogue, and often shifts character perspectives so you get different pieces from different characters. She is especially good at writing female characters. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly the reason you’ve stayed up until 3:00 am reading her books AGAIN, but her books are addicting and consistently make me take much longer lunches than I normally would.
So, with no further ado, I’ll get right to ranking these books from worst (though I’ve enjoyed them all!) to best. I dare you to argue.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BARBEQUE?!?! The answer to that question is less interesting than the exploration of these characters and the various things that motivate them.
The premise is pretty simple: three couples, three kids, one ill-fated barbeque that throws their lives to shambles. The book ping pongs back and forth from present day to that day at the barbeque, with characters saying ominous things like, “We never should have gone to the barbeque,” or “What if we hadn’t gone to the barbeque?” I dare you not to flip ahead to figure out what they’re talking about.
TRULY MADLY GUILTY is a good exploration of characters and the ways that their relationships are complicated. This was the first Moriarty novel I read, and obviously it was compelling enough to drive me into a slight obsession, but now that I’ve read everything else she’s written I find this one the least enjoyable.
Many Moriarty fans actually rank this one as their least favorite, but they’re wrong (though not by much).
Ellen is a hypnotherapist with a history of terrible relationships and is happy to finally find herself in one she thinks will last. The only complication? He has a stalker of an ex-girlfriend, and she’s constantly interfering in his life. Ellen finds this fact kind of interesting, and is intrigued to meet the woman.
Except she already has, she just doesn’t know it. DUN DUN DUN!
This is one of Moriarty’s happier books—in the end, there are no dark twists, no long-held secrets, nobody dead or maimed (though at points in the story you start to feel like all of these things are a real possibility). It wraps up nicely--too nicely? Probably. But it’s a nice fluffy book, and I read it in about four days so obviously the story still drew me in. Plus, I want to live in Ellen’s beach house.
Three Wishes This was Moriarty’s debut, which is kind of hard for me to believe. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s got all the hallmarks of her career just in little seedling form. THREE WISHES follows the lives of a set of triplets in their thirties; the book opens with the pregnant one getting stabbed (comically…I promise there is a comical way to be stabbed…), and then fills in the backstory to see how we got there.
There are family secrets; there is LOTS of family drama. There are some coincidences that occasionally feel like a stretch but work in service of the story. Each triplet has her own unique voice and story arc, and I’d say that the ending is just about as happy as it could be for these characters.
THE LAST ANNIVERSARY shares so many things with Moriarty’s other novels: great interior dialogue, an unsolved mystery, relatable female characters. Funny, funny, funny, but also heart-wrenching.
The premise of this one is a little bonkers; a year after ending her “perfect on the outside” relationship with Thomas, Sophie unexpectedly inherits his late aunt’s house on Scribbly Gum Island, home of the infamous Munro baby mystery. Shockingly, she accepts the house and decides to move there. Even more shockingly, most of Thomas’s family are inexplicably cool with her giant house being left to someone outside the family. When Sophie moves in, mysteries develop and unravel. Some I definitely saw coming, but there’s one twist I did NOT anticipate and it made me audibly gasp.
This one hosts a cast of quirky characters, but also starts to tackle deep issues (wasn’t really expecting a novel that explored postpartum depression in any kind of thoughtful way, but this one manages it!).
I just inhaled Deborah Harkness’s A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES. I was so carried away by the story that I read this brick of a book in a couple of days.
Diana Bishop comes from a long lineage of witches, but the mysterious death of her parents causes her to shut her magic away and live like a human. While working in Oxford University as a historian, Diana uncovers an old book that clearly has a spell on it. Against her better judgement she opens the book and finds that it is actually two books, one an alchemical book and one with hidden writing.
Her finding of the book brings vampire Matthew Clairmont into her life. At first Matthew thinks he is protecting Diana, but soon their feelings becoming romantically entangled. But it is against the laws of both witches and vampires to fall in love with another creature, and soon forces more powerful than Diana has ever experienced try to keep her away from Matthew. But little do these shadowy forces know Diana has more power than they ever thought possible and Matthew never lets go when he falls in love.
This is a great bite-your-hand-forget-to-breathe love story. It moved quickly and the writing was excellent. It’s a fabulous fantasy with elegant world building and a unique magic system. I usually shy away from supernatural romance and I am not much into vampire stories, but Matthew Clairmont stole my heart completely. If you like the sound of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, you also might like the following books.
Gilly’s childhood is bleak. The only bright spots are when her godmother Geillis comes to visit. When Geillis dies and leaves Gilly her beautiful and mysterious cottage, Thornyhold, Gilly is surprised to find that the village thought Geillis was a witch and that they now assume Gilly will fill her place as the resident wise-woman.
A mysterious stranger with piercing blue eyes gives new-father Pytor a precious jewel intended for his young daughter. Pytor fears the jewel and hides it away. The baby girl, Vasya, grows up with a wild and unbiddable will. When her village is in danger, it is indomitable Vasya who sets out, with the help of the jewel, to save her family and friends.
Nora Fischer figures that things just can’t get much worse. She’s been dumped by her boyfriend, denied by her dissertation committee, and lives a pretty depressing life. But while wandering in the woods one day, she strays from the path and discovers a whole other world of magic, danger, and a possible job/way home. But first she has to rescue her potential magician boss.
Hannah Green has cornered the market when it comes to the mundane. However (and that is a big however), she will soon be faced with the truth that mushrooms can talk, there is magic in the world, and there is an ancient evil that must be faced. But who will face it? Hannah Green.
Mercy Thompson runs one of the best one-woman mechanic shops in the Tri-cities area. She also hides a dark past. She’s a shapeshifter who was raised by werewolves, but she was driven from the pack. Now she tries to live like a human. But her two worlds start to collide when she takes in a half-starved runaway.
It’s not uncommon for adults to be hesitant to read books written for a younger audience. Whether it’s because these books are often written about the problems that only children face, such as school, or because as adults we’re convinced that we’re not supposed to read books written for children, the fact is, a lot of readers are missing out on awesome books simply because they’re not in the adult section. I’ve actually found that quite a few books in the juvenile fiction section have themes and lessons that are important for all ages, or are just written so well that they deserve to be seen by as many eyes as possible. It might be surprising, but there’s a lot we can learn from books written for children.
For readers who love a good foray into classic children’s literature, this book might be a good choice. While THE PENDERWICKS isn’t quite old enough to be considered a classic, it has the feel of a book written by Louisa May Alcott, and should thus satisfy that cozy place in any reader’s heart. It’s got family, hijinks, and a whole lot of heart.
WOLF HOLLOW, which has been compared to Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, is not a book for the faint of heart. Serious topics, including war, bullying, and prejudice are tackled in this reflective novel. For people who are worried that children’s fiction will be a little bit too light, this might be a good choice.
History buffs, especially those of you who enjoy medieval history, might want to peruse THE INQUISITOR’s TALE. Gidwitz takes on a story of magic, friendship, and learning, and manages to fill it to the brim with his research into medieval times, meaning even adults will likely learn something new while reading this one.
If you’re longing for something that’s heavy on social commentary, look no further than THE GIVER. Lowry crafts a world that she manages to stay surprisingly neutral about, offering readers a frank portrayal of a supposed utopia. The ambiguous way that she writes the moral dilemmas makes this a book ideal for discussion and debate, and a great choice for a book club.
Despite being a lifetime book lover and professional librarian, I just recently discovered my favorite book genre, microhistories.
Microhistories give the reader what I call an “ant’s-eye view,” or in other words, a view of something from the ground up. I love to dive deep into one specific topic and explore every nook and cranny history has to offer.
It’s so refreshing to learn about a topic with a more focused perspective. Luckily for me the Provo Library offers plenty of options when it comes to microhistories. If you need a place to start, the library has you covered. Listed below are some of my favorite microhistory reads.
In my eyes, Mark Kurlansky is the king of microhistory. If you’re new to the microhistory genre, you can’t go wrong with any books by Mark Kurlanksy, but I highly recommend starting with this book. Kurlansky gives the readers a history lesson on The Big Apple (New York) when it was the Big Oyster, and how this salt-water bivalve influenced its economy, culture, and food scene.
Imagine chemistry class spun into a series of delightful short stories and you’ve got a fun, new way to learn about the periodic table. You’ll walk away from this read feeling like a genius and wondering why it took you so long to find chemistry funny.
Talk about digging deep! This book explores the many uses of human cadavers. What role do cadavers play in space exploration? You’ll have to read the book to find out. WARNING: If you’re squeamish, you may have a hard time getting through this one (but please try, I promise its worth it!).
Where do fonts come from? This book answers that question along with many other questions you might not even know you had about fonts. You’ll learn about the typographers behind the typefaces and find yourself thinking twice about the font you choose for your next school assignment (that is, if your teacher hasn’t assigned Times New Roman 12 pt.).
There’s so much more to the banana than meets the eye. Split ways with any preconceived notions of your favorite yellow fruit and learn about origin of the banana. The combination of science, history, and politics makes for an informative and entertaining read. Quite appealing, right?