Frank Herbert: Dune

Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family;and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

I thought I would read so many books on the cruise–I took five! Unfortunately, I started with Dune, and got stuck on it for the entirety of the trip. We voted this into April’s AdultBooklr readathon unanimously–but I’m terribly disappointed.

I was immediately struck by how terrible the writing is. It’s such a famous book–I was expecting something spectacular. Instead, the writing is lazy in the basics with way over complicated structure. And I bet Frank Herbert’s Thesaurus is well-thumbed. There’s nothing wrong with using unique or creative vocabulary–but he was reaching all over the place.

It’s obvious that Herbert drew inspiration from many sources all over the world for his characters and settings. If done properly, that could have been really cool. Instead, it was just a mess of cultural appropriation and awful tropes. And I do mean MESS–I don’t even know where to start with explaining them because everything was so entwined and the plot so complicated. (This was absolutely the wrong book to read when I couldn’t take detailed notes.)

I finished because of the readathon, but it was hard to keep my attention on Dune. I had intended to spend much more time reading on the ship, but never wanted to pick up in this tattered brown catastrophe.


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Big Little Lies

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.

Liane Moriarty and her deadly good story-telling strikes again. I haven’t seen Women’s Fiction this good since My Sister’s Keeper (really, nothing I’ve read by Jodi Picoult has measured up to that one, although I still have a great many of her books yet to read). Now that I’ve read four in a row, I’ve really seen just how far her reach can go. Every single plot was meticulously mapped from the beginning, and gone over with a fine-toothed comb to match every single detail.

Big Little Lies is now my favorite of the four, perhaps because it has a different mapping than the other three. With the others, we knew what was happening, but the characters didn’t. We were almost omnipresent–watching the characters figure out the details. The stories were far from boring, however, because we still had to pick together the pieces of how everything fit.

In Big Little Lies, however, we know someone has died at school trivia night. We know there has been some huge conflict between the parents, and between the children. We just don’t know who or what yet. The scene is set via Moriarty’s ability to break apart the chapters with both multi-person narration and other writing devices to see outside the box–in this book she uses a journalist’s interview with the parents to get multiple POV.

The story is super thrilling. I mentioned in one of my previous reviews that her books feel like a master laying dominos down, and Big Little Lies is a perfect illustration of that. She waits patiently for us to THINK we know what is about to happen and then *clickclickclick* down they all come.

She also covers a lot of BIG topics in this one. Bullying. Sexual assault and date rape. Domestic violence. PTSD. The sexual trafficking of children. They are wrapped in a women’s fiction/thriller, but Moriarty is making some very clear points here. Don’t let those go unnoticed.

I’ve added everything from her Goodreads page to my TBR, and I’m following her now too. I can’t stand to miss a single thing this woman puts out. It’s bound to be keep me falling off the edge of my seat.


I received a copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Twitter Contest.


The Husband’s Secret

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Liane Moriarty is such a masterful storyteller. She lays down the brickwork for her plot lines so quietly, so meticulously–placing each domino just right.

Meanwhile, she keeps the reader so focused on what the overall picture is going to be that they don’t even notice that she’s placed her last tile and is ready to knock them all over.

Her timing is always on pint and every piece falls exactly where it needs to to hit the next and the next and the next until everything rumbles so fast it comes to a cataclysmic close. Her books are NEVER comfortable, and they make you check your judgments at the door.

What would I do in this situation?

You don’t know.

That’s the point. Neither do the characters. No one knows what they would do until they have to, and the answer is always surprising.

The Husband’s Secret was no exception to this rule. It was every bit as well-written as What Alice Forgot–just as heart-wrenching too, only with different families and different problems. These books are like mysteries, except only to the characters–we know the answers and get to watch as the people in the story figure it out. I was a little bit confused by how the Berlin Wall tied into the story, it did seem to distract from everything else, and I couldn’t find the underlying thread that connected it. Otherwise, I loved it.

One thing that I neglected to mention in my last two reviews is that Moriarty is an Australian author who is starting to build a following in the US. Her books are becoming popular too! I have several friends who are reading these at the same time I am. You should definitely join us–there’s a reason they are circulating so fast!


I received a copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Twitter Contest.



The Hypnotist’s Love Story

Ellen O’Farrell is a professional hypnotherapist who works out of the eccentric beachfront home she inherited from her grandparents. It’s a nice life, except for her tumultuous relationship history. She’s stoic about it, but at this point, Ellen wouldn’t mind a lasting one. When she meets Patrick, she’s optimistic. He’s attractive, single, employed, and best of all, he seems to like her back. Then comes that dreaded moment: He thinks they should have a talk.

Braced for the worst, Ellen is pleasantly surprised. It turns out that Patrick’s ex-girlfriend is stalking him. Ellen thinks, Actually, that’s kind of interesting. She’s dating someone worth stalking. She’s intrigued by the woman’s motives. In fact, she’d even love to meet her.

Ellen doesn’t know it, but she already has.

After reading What Alice Forgot last week, I was all set to read another Liane Moriarty book. And this one is the book everyone seemed to have read when I mentioned the author.

Unfortunately, in comparison to Alice, Ellen’s just did not measure up. Now, the writing was still just as strong–Moriarty has zero trouble there. Her storytelling ability is crazy good. I just didn’t fall quite as love with the characters as I did in the previous book.

Like Alice, this is a multi-perspective narrative. It’s third person when telling Ellen’s point of view, but then switches to first when Saskia–the ex–tells her story. Besides the POV, there’s not a change in format, so you have to pay attention to who your narrator is–and that can be a little confusing if you happen to put the book down and walk away (or answer a phone call).

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell who the villain is. While this is technically “The Hypnotist’s Love Story,” it is also very much Saskia’s. The point of all this is to show how even though you are the main person in your personal narrative, you are only a small piece in someone else’s. They may not even know you exist for more than a moment. Or you could be the bad guy. You’re not always the hero. It’s an interesting concept to think about.

The book starts slowly–dragging almost–to the point where I really didn’t want to keep going. Probably if it hadn’t been a review gift, I would have passed over it. I’m glad I finished, but it isn’t a must read.


I received a copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Twitter Contest.


What Alice Forgot

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

You know how Sarah Dessen always has those cute pastel covers eliciting fun, flowery YA romance? And then you read them and they are full of heartbreaking complicated subjects?

Liane Moriarty is like that, only for adult women’s fiction. Why does this cover evoke happiness? It’s such a devastating book, from the very moment you start reading. Hey, let’s show a blowy, whimsical dandelion so you don’t think about how this is a book about a woman with amnesia who forgets that she’s going through a terrible divorce, and her sister struggles horribly with infertility…among other things.

This is not a book about blowy, whimsical dandelions.

I absolutely cannot relate to some of the things in this book. In fact, much of it is exactly the reason why I chose not to be a mother. Everything here is terrifying. Between the infertility and the miscarriages and the undiagnosed (but very clearly there) childhood mental illness…this book is such a terrifying and sad look at motherhood. Not to mention the fact that Alice doesn’t even remember being a mother to begin with.

But you don’t have to be a mother to sympathize. I couldn’t put this book down. I have three more by Moriarty, and I can’t wait to read them!

I received a copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Twitter Contest.