Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Published: August 2, 2012
Format: Paperback (404 pages)
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

 
In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.
4 Stars

This exciting fantasy adventure stars a fascinating heroine who is a mix of sarcasm, humor, Cinderella, and deadly assassin.  The romance was a love triangle, but I thought it was well written.  Other than too many exclamation points in the writing for my taste, I loved this book.

Mild spoilers ahead! This spoiler warning is for those very sensitive to any spoilers. Major spoilers look like this > View Spoiler »

beware-spoilers

Throne of Glass has a fantastic main character named Celaena.  Her strong opinion mixed with her sarcasm and a little condescension made her so funny and likable and just awesome.  Even though she is a notorious assassin, she’s also not afraid to be feminine which I found refreshing.

Random question – I was confused about the “Adarlan’s Assassin” title.  Did she kill people FOR Adarlan or IN Adarlan?  I know there are prequels to this series and I’ll bet it answers that little detail.  I’ve heard good things about the prequel stories so I’m probably going to read them.  But if you happen to know the answer to that little detail, I’d be very grateful.

Throne of Glass started out as a fairy tale retelling of Cinderella but Sarah J. Maas changed it after asking herself, “What if [Cinderella] was an assassin who had just tried to kill the prince?”  The questions she asked herself after that helped shape it into an original story with only slight references to Cinderella.

To anyone that has issues with the realisticness of a woman being an assassin, I would like to point out that women already posses a lot of the skills required to be an assassin.  I think my favorite example is Kaltain staring Celaena down with a “keenness that would make any assassin proud. (pg 75)”  Being underestimated is also another huge advantage that women have.  Celaena is underestimated about her assassin skills all the time and she uses it to her advantage.

As much as I adore Celaena’s sarcasm and humor, she can only get away with it because of her vulnerable moments where she discusses her childhood which was full of abuse and tragedy.  I found myself noticing that Celaena used her sarcasm the most when she was telling tragic stories from her past.  It helped me connect with her character more when I realized that she was probably being overly sarcastic to cope with the pain she still felt.

Celaena is definitely brave, but she’s not perfect either.  If she was perfect I would hate her.  I like her flawed the way she is.  In the castle that Celaena is living in, there is something or someone going around killing people.  Celaena is usually very confident and brave, but she starts to have doubts about being able to kill this particular monster.  As she hurries up the stairs in the dark, she says to herself, “Not that the thought of something wicked dwelling in the castle scared her or anything. (pg 194)”  That made me laugh. She’s brave but maybe not that brave.  I felt like I could connect with her a little more after that.

Despite being a little afraid, Celaena is trying to figure out who/what is killing people.  Her only clues are disemboweled, dead bodies with weird symbols around them like it’s the Da Vinci Code High-Fantasy Edition.  Celaena learns that the symbols mean this monster has been released from the Chamber of Secrets land of the dead, so she gets all Hermione at the library to figure out how to kill it.  This story keyboard smashed all my geek buttons at the same time.

As Celaena is chasing after this monster, two guys are chasing after her.  Kidding!  Honestly, it’s not that bad.  There are two guys that she develops relationships with.  I feel like it is my duty, as a book reviewer, to tell you that there is a love triangle.  I know this plot element can really bug people, but it doesn’t bother me that much if the romance is a subplot like it is in this book.  I really enjoyed the romance in this book.  Neither of the guys is perfect and they both have a unique connection with her.  Now I can’t choose.  As far as love triangles go, it’s a very well written one.  Captain Westfall annoys her too much for them not to have some romance later on.  And the Prince is just so darn charming but a little vulnerable at the same time that you can’t help but like him, too.

The Prince perfectly matches Celaena’s sarcasm.  When Celaena is having her period, she tells the prince to go away because she feels like dying.  He tells he that no one should die alone and makes up a a sarcastic and slightly suggestive story to entertain her in her “final moments.” By the way, how cool is the casual reference to a period?  I liked the honesty, but I liked even more the men’s reactions.  The captain freaks out and runs away.  The prince comes to tease her.

The prince was clever, charming, and persuasive.  I liked that he intuitively knew to appeal to Celaena’s competitive side to get her to join the assassin competition on his behalf.  I found it so interesting that the prince embodied the romanticism that a traditional princess has.  He insists on marrying for love, which Celaena finds old-fashioned and unrealistic.  He also believes in being polite and kind.  And he thinks incredibly gorgeous and romantic things like this about Celaena:

He couldn’t banish her heart-wrenching music from his mind, even when he burned his mother’s list of eligible maidens, even when he read a book long into the night, even when he finally fell asleep.

-Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass pg 149

Isn’t that just beautiful and romantic?

This next quote is a conversation that Celaena and the prince have and I think it shows the princes romanticism and Celaena’s realism.  I also think it makes them a good couple.

“What’s the point in having a mind if you don’t use it to make judgements?” [said Celaena]

“What’s the point in having a heart if you don’t use it to spare others from the harsh judgements of your mind?” [said the prince]

-Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass pg 231

As much as I like Celaena, I agree more with the prince.  I try daily to have more empathy and not judge others.

Captain Chaol Westfall is attractive in his own way.  He’s logical, loyal, and down to earth.  The captain also has a swash-buckling side to him that Celaena makes fun of, to my delight.

Chaol tossed his cape on top of hers, his toned body flexing through the dark threads of his shirt.  He drew his sword.  “On your guard!” He moved into defensive position, and Celaena looked at him dully.

Who do you think you are? What sort of person says “On your guard”?

-Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass pg 81

I have only one small complaint about Throne of Glass.  Exclamation points do not belong in prose.  Just saying.  It made the writing feel cheesy.  Here’s an example:

How lovely it was to hear a voice like her own–cool and articulate–even if he was a nasty brute!

-Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass pg 3

If the exclamation point had been left out it would have come across as delightfully sarcastic.  The eclamation point makes it just so dramatic!! You know!!! It sounds like Jim Carrey is stuck in my head!!!!

Here’s another one!  In the prose! I only marked it because it irked me.  Irked me, I tell you!

Celaena would not make a fool out of him!

-Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass pg 133

Here’s another example of the generous use of exclamation points! This is Celaena’s hilarious description of the prince!

Princes are not supposed to be handsome!  They’re sniveling, stupid, repulsive creatures!  This one … this … How unfair of him to be royal and beautiful.

-Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass pg 8

I know I’m starting to sound like Elaine Benes from Seinfeld criticizing someone’s use of an exclamation point, but it did pull me out of the flow of the story more than once.  Although, to be fair, the exclamation points work better in the last quote since this is a thought in her head instead of in the prose.  Still, they were used a lot throughout the book and the story didn’t need so many exclamation points.

I think the only way to write a fair review of this book is to mock it light-heartedly in a way I hope Celaena would approve of.  I loved this book.  It was so much fun.  But the exclatamtion points need to go.  *deep, tragic sigh* *hand over heart* *moment of silence for the dead exclamation points*

I’m sorry.  I’ll stop talking about exclamation points now.

One thing I enjoyed about the narration was when it moved to different points of view.  It didn’t do it a lot – just enough to be interesting.  It told the story from the Prince’s view, the Captain’s view, and Celaena’s view. And it was well written so I could tell whose head I was in without ever getting confused.  Most of the story was from Celaena’s view, but it added a lot to the story – especially the romance – when we got to see little snippets from the Prince or the Captain.

Throne of Glass had a fun, adventurous plot that I really enjoyed …  except for the ending. As Celaena continues the quest of finding out who is killing people she starts to think that it’s Nehemiah, who is her best friend.  I know from too much reading of books that I should not believe this.  I’m hoping for a cool reveal of who is controlling the beast that kills people and it sadly turns out to be the most cliche choice. I was kind of disappointed.  View Spoiler »

I loved the fresh and different take on magic in this book.  Celaena briefly mentions being able to see fairies as a child.  The day she first killed someone was the day they left her.  This quote talks about how there used to be magic in this world but it left on it’s own.

But even though the king had banned magic, most knew the truth: within a month of his proclamation, magic had completely and utterly disappeared of its own accord.  Perhaps it had realized what horrors were coming.

-Sarah J. Mass, Throne of Glass pg 31

This little snippet causes so many questions that I know I will devour this series until I find out where magic went.  Why did it leave? When is it coming back? WHAT IF IT NEVER COMES BACK? I found the idea of magic suddenly leaving one day so interesting.

 Also, unimportant detail (but what am I if not a noticer of unimportant details), the main characters are 18 and 22 which are technically adults.  Just curious why it’s not an adult book.  Not judging or anything.  They probably made it a young adult book because young adult books are awesome and this is an awesome book.  But still, it did make me wonder what “makes” a young adult book.  Does the age of the main character matter when it comes to labeling it young adult or not? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What do you think about young adult books that have older characters? (like 18 or 22?)

Content Rating: Medium, for violence and language.  The violence is a little graphic.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J Maas

Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series. Sarah lives in Southern California, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much coffee, and watches absolutely rubbish TV shows. When she's not busy writing, she can be found exploring the California coastline with her husband.

Audiobook Review: Think Like A Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Audiobook Review: Think Like A Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. DubnerThink Like A Freak by Stephen J. Dubner, Steven D. Levitt
Series: Freakonomics #3
Published: May 12, 2014
Format: Audiobook (7 hrs 5 mins)
Genres: Audiobook, Non-fiction
Source: Purchased

 
The Freakonomics books have come to stand for something: challenging conventional wisdom; using data rather than emotion to answer questions; and learning to unravel the world's secret codes. Now Levitt and Dubner have gathered up what they have learned and turned it into a readable and practical toolkit for thinking differently - thinking, that is, like a Freak. Whether you are interested in the best way to improve your odds in penalty kicks, or in major global reforms, here is a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems.

Along the way, you'll learn how the techniques of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion can help you, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, why Nigerian email scammers make a point of saying they're from Nigeria, and why Van Halen's demanding tour contract banning brown M&Ms was really a safety measure. You'll learn why sometimes it's best to put away your moral compass, and smarter to think like a child. You will be given a master class in incentives-because for better or worse, incentives rule our world. And you will learn to quit before you fail, because you can't solve tomorrow's problem if you aren't willing to abandon today's dud.
4 Stars

If you’re an avid Freakonomics podcast listener, like me, you won’t find much new in this book.  Still, I really enjoyed the ideas and had fun applying them in my life.  It’s all about critical thinking and new ways to approach problems that you might not have thought of before.

beware-spoilers

Think Like A Freak is all about approaching problems in ways you hadn’t thought of before to actually solve them.  We go about problem solving the wrong way sometimes because we put private benefit over the greater good.  We also have this mentality that there is a right way and a wrong way to solve problems.  More of us need to think like a Freak which more or less means this:

The modern world demands that we all think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally; that we think from a different angle, with a different set of muscles, with a different set of expectations; that we think with neither fear nor favor, with neither blind optimism nor sour skepticism.  That we think like–ahem–a Freak.

-Steven D. Levitt & Steven J. Dubner, Think Like A Freak pg 8

Here’s a simplified list of what the first two Freakonomics books were about. This book is different because they discuss in more depth HOW they did those things.

  • Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life
  • Knowing what to measure, and how to measure it, can make a complicated world less so
  • The conventional wisdom is often wrong
  • Correlation does not equal causality

If you want a single word to describe all advice on Facebook, here it is:

Just because you’re great at something doesn’t mean you’re good at everything.  Unfortunately, this fact is routinely ignored by those who engage in–take a deep breath–ultracrepidarianism, or “the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge or competence.”

-Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, Think Like A Freak pg 28

I had never realized how much value there is in admitting you don’t know something.  People fake it because looking like you don’t know something, especially if everyone thinks you should know something, has more consequences than just making up something.  We all do it.  At the very least, it gave me permission to say “I don’t know” to my kids more often.

This small quote changed my perspective on learning.

The key to learning is feedback.  It is nearly impossible to learn anything without it.

– Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, Think Like A Freak pg 34

I get stuck in the trap the feedback = criticism which leads to hurt feelings.  They give an example in the book of learning to bake bread.  If you have never baked bread in your life and you are not allowed to try it and make mistakes the chances of you succeeding are almost none.  The two ways you can learn something are:

  1. Trying it out and using the feedback from your experiments to do better next time
  2. Have a teacher, who will also give you feedback on what you are doing to guide you in the right direction

It’s so simple and yet I had never thought about it that way before.  You can’t learn anything without feedback! It changed the way I viewed teaching my piano students.  I now see that me making little adjustments to what they are doing is essential to learning instead of being hurtful.

In most situations, it’s easy to get feedback but reading this made me realize how many things I’m doing that have no feedback.  Raising my kids, running my book club, doing the laundry, cleaning my bathroom, running my blog, writing these reviews – I don’t get much feedback on how I do those things. Most of the time I just stick with the first thing I did and hope it doesn’t turn to crap.  It made me more aware of the decisions I make that are not based on feedback because I don’t have it or I didn’t bother to gather it.  I want to do more experiments in my life so I can have actual feedback and make better decisions.

The best experiment I ever did was figuring out how to get my dishwasher to actually clean my dishes.  A couple years ago, we lived in a rented townhouse and it had a basic dishwasher.  We would pre-rinse the dishes as much as we could, but every time they came out they would be covered in tiny bits of food.  Glasses that had been used for drinking water were now dirtier than when they went in.  Obviously that must mean we weren’t using enough detergent, so we used more dishwasher detergent.  Didn’t help.  Convinced that our dishwasher was broken, we called the maintenance guy.  Unlike me, he had experience with using and fixing lots of dishwashers.  Or in other words, he had lots of feedback.  He told me my dishwasher was most likely clogged with detergent so it wasn’t draining properly and instead of my dishes being rinsed with clean water, they were being rinsed with the dirty washing water that hadn’t drained all the way.  Ew. Gag.  I also didn’t believe him.  I thought he was trying to get out of fixing our stupid, broken dishwasher.  When I told him that, he decided to prove it to me.  He ran my dishwasher empty – no detergent or dishes.  After it had been running for about 10 minutes, he opened the door.  The entire bottom of the dishwasher was covered in suds.  The only place the suds could have come from was inside the dishwasher, clogging the pipes like he said.  He told me to get some dishwasher cleaner and run it empty until there were no more suds.  It took 3 times to get it all the way clean.  After that, I experimented with doing my dishes.  I’ve always believed that it’s dumb to wash your dishes before you put them in a dishwasher.  

What happens if you just stick gross, disgusting dishes with 2-day-old caked on food straight in the dishwasher?  I was going to find out.  Turns out, they come out much cleaner than you’d think (once your dishwasher isn’t clogged with detergent anymore).  My experimenting revealed that caked on spaghetti sauce and cheese wouldn’t come off very well in that particular dishwasher (my new dishwasher will get spaghetti sauce off like a dream).  Other than that, everything came out clean.  Plates with huge blobs of ketchup – straight in the dishwasher.  No pre-rinsing.  Pans that most sane people would soak – straight in there.  Food that was so caked on that I couldn’t even scrape it off – dishwasher!  The caked-on kind came out 80% clean and then I would hand wash them after the dishwasher had done most of the work because I figured, why prewash ALL of the dishes when only some of them actually need it?  Putting them all in no matter what and then washing the ones that came out dirty afterwards saved time because then I only had to wash the ones that needed it.  Since it was draining properly, the gross dishes weren’t getting the other ones dirty.  I would like to add that of course I scrape food off into the garbage can but anything that is so stuck on that scrapping won’t get it off is the dishwasher’s job.

I then experimented with different brands and types of detergent.  The one that got my dishes the cleanest was the plastic tabs with powder inside them.  Powder dissolves better and doesn’t clog up the drain like liquid detergent does.  I tried turing the heat-dry cycle on and off.  Turning the heat-dry off makes it easier to clean the dishes that didn’t get all the way clean, but it leaves the tupperware wet and you have to shake it off before putting it away.

TL;DR – don’t do the dishes in the dishwasher the way your mom taught you.  Clean it out and experiment to see what your dishwasher can really do.  Hint – it can do more than you think, even the old, basic models.

My next favorite chapter was about thinking like a child.  Try to make things fun.  I try to turn chores into games because I think I hate cleaning as much as my kids do.  One of my favorite games I made up was Laundry Basketball.  I turn on the washing machine and tell the kids to see how many shots they can make with their dirty clothes.  My mom is convinced that in college they are going to round up their roommates and play Laundry Basketball with them.

Incentives easily backfire.  Say hello to my kid’s sticker covered potty training toilet that achieved nothing. Incentives work for people who think just like you, but most people don’t think like you do.  Can I just say that I love this list on how to use incentives the right way?  It’s come in really handy so far.

How to Bribe Your Kids the Right Way – Incentives 101 (pg 135)

  1. Figure out what people really care about, not what they say they care about.
  2. Incentivize them on the dimensions that are valuable to them but cheap for you to provide.
  3. Pay attention to how people respond; if their response surprises or frustrates you, learn from it and try something different.
  4. Whenever possible, create incentives that switch the frame from adversarial to cooperative.
  5. Never, ever think that people will do something just because it is the “right” thing to do.
  6. Know that some people will do everything they can to game the system, finding ways to win that you never could have imagined.  If only to keep yourself sane, try to applaud their ingenuity rather than curse their greed.

After reading that list I realized that the perfect incentive for my kids is video games.  My kids LOVE video games.  They would be completely addicted zombies by now if I let them.  But it makes the perfect incentive because they really care about it, it’s cheap for me to provide, and they will do almost anything to get it.  They have done dishes, laundry, picked up toys, and even cleaned toilets to get to play for 30 minutes.

How do you do the dishes?

I know this is a weird discussion question, but I’m so intrigued by how people do them.  Do you pre-rinse? Do you hand wash them?  Do you point the forks up or down?  What detergent do you use?  Rinse-aid or no rinse-aid? I want to know it all! I’m bizarrely curious about this chore that I hate doing.


 

Content Rating: Mild, for very mild language (if there even is any language.  I don’t actually remember any swearing but if it’s there I know it’s mild.)

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Stephen J. Dubner

Stephen Dubner

Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and TV and radio personality. In addition to Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, his books include Turbulent Souls Choosing My Religion, Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper, and the children’s book The Boy With Two Belly Buttons. His journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time, and has been anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing, The Best American Crime Writing, and elsewhere. He has taught English at Columbia University (while receiving an M.F.A. there), played in a rock band (which started at Appalachian State University, where he was an undergrad, and was later signed to Arista Records), and, as a writer, was first published at the age of 11, in Highlights for Children. He lives in New York with his wife, the documentary photographer Ellen Binder, and their children.

About Steven D. Levitt

Steven Levitt

Steven David "Steve" Levitt is a prominent American economist best known for his work on crime, in particular on the link between legalized abortion and crime rates. Winner of the 2003 John Bates Clark Medal, he is currently the Alvin H. Baum Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, director of the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and co-editor of the Journal of Political Economy published by the University of Chicago Press. He is one of the most well known economists amongst laymen, having co-authored the best-selling book Freakonomics (2005). Levitt was chosen as one of Time Magazine's "100 People Who Shape Our World" in 2006.

Join a New Instagram Challenge! #ReadingQueue

instagram-reading-queue-july

The Reading Queue meme will be moving to Instagram as a monthly challenge!

I wanted to make it easier for you to join and I thought a hashtag on Instagram would be a lot of fun.  To join, just use the hashtag #readingqueue with the books you are planning to read! It can be books you’re planning to read for the day, the month, the year – whatever :).

That means I will no longer be hosting the Reading Queue here :(.  But I didn’t want to get rid of it completely so I hope you guys like the move to Instagram.

And if you would like to keep posting a Reading Queue on your blog, feel free to keep using the name and the badge – there just won’t be a link-up anymore.

Special Thanks!!

I wanted to thank Christina from Book Tasty for helping me host this meme that we started over 2 years ago.  I can’t believe it’s been that long!  I wouldn’t have been able to do this meme without her.  She designed the badge and came up with the name.  You’re awesome, Christina!!!

I also wanted to thank all the people who regularly wrote posts and supported this meme that Christina and I started.  You guys rock!

I already posted my Reading Queue for July on Instagram.  Here it is :)

July-Reading-Queue

Be sure to follow me and Christina on Instagram and tag me if you participate.  I want to see what you are reading!

Book Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Book Review: Big Little Lies by Liane MoriartyBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Published: July 29, 2014
Format: eBook (460 pages)
Genres: Adult Fiction
Source: Library

 
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.
4 Stars

If you loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette I bet you would love Big Little Lies, too. Big Little Lies is full of quirky characters, great humor, gossip, intrigue, and mystery.  It’s addicting to read.  And somehow, at the same time, it talks about abuse, lies, and the objectification of women in a thoughtful and moving way.

beware-spoilers

This book is about deep issues like abuse and lies so how did Liane Moriarty make it so funny?  I think it was a combination of blunt honesty and creative writing that made this book amazing.  Right from page one we get snooty internal commentary from a cat that sets the tone for the whole book.  Sadly, the cat doesn’t really show up again but the humor sticks around. (And can I just say that a book about a person going on with their daily life that is narrated by a sarcastic cat would be an excellent book.  Someone should write that.)

If this quote doesn’t perfectly describe people on their phone all the time then I don’t know what does (I’m one of them, ok? Not judging).

Mothers took their mothering so seriously now.  Their frantic little faces. […] Eyes fixed on the mobile phones held in the palms of their hands like compasses.

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 2

I think my phone/compass has a setting that heads straight for the corner of my counters and table.  Anyway.

Chick lit and murder mystery had a baby and it is this adorable book that you just want to eat up and pinch it’s wittle cheeks.  The narrative of the story is interrupted by hilarious interviews between the residents and the police officer about a murder that has happened.  The interviews unearthed mostly gossip and unhelpful information but oh are they so much fun to read.  At first, I felt like I needed to keep all the people straight in the interviews but I don’t think you really need to.  Unlike other murder mysteries where you are trying to find who did it by following a revolting trail of disturbing clues, this book doesn’t even tell you who died.  Part of the fun is trying to figure out who even died!  And your only clues are the interviews of the moms judging the other moms in the school!  I had a lot of fun writing guesses in the margins as I was reading and they were all wrong which means that this book had excellent foreshadowing and writing that kept me on my toes.

My favorite character was Madeline.  Her tirade about being forty and getting outraged at imaginary problems was hilarious.  Also, I never, never get upset about problems I’ve invented in my head.  Never.  Mostly.

I don’t know why, but I loved reading about Madeline’s unfounded resentment for her ex-husband’s wife, Bonnie.  It was just so funny and blunt.

“When Bonnie hears I’ve hurt my ankle, she’ll bring me a meal.  She just loves any excuse to bring me a home-cooked meal.  Probably because Nathan told her I’m a terrible cook, so she wants to make a point.  Although the worst thing about Bonnie is that she’s probably not actually making a point.  She’s just freakishly nice.  I’d love to throw her meals straight in the bin, but they’re too damned delicious.  My husband and children would kill me.”

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 28

I feel a little like that when I get mad at my husband and he’s nice to me.  My husband is also freakishly nice.  Now what am I supposed to do!? The nice card is so not fair sometimes.

I can relate to this a little too much.

The angrier Madeline got, the more freakishly calm Ed became, until he reached a point where he sounded like a hostage negotiator dealing with a lunatic and a ticking bomb.  It was infuriating.

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 212

One of the deeper issues that Big Little Lies explored was how important a woman’s looks are in our society and the consequences of that.

A glittery girl. […]  All her life Jane had watched girls like that with scientific interest.  Maybe a little awe.  Maybe a little envy.  They weren’t necessarily the prettiest, but they decorated themselves so affectionately, like Christmas trees, with dangling earrings, jangling bangles and delicate, pointless scarves.

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 14

Why are looks so important to women?  Why do even women value other women based on their looks?  Do we miss things (like the abuse of one of the women who happened to be very beautiful) because everything looks pretty on the outside?  It’s not like I’ve never asked myself these questions before, but I always find myself thinking more deeply about them in the context of a story.  Jane, one of the main characters, has this thought when she meets someone new:

Although, what did that say? If the woman had been a toothless, warty-nosed crone she would have continued to feel resentful?  The injustice of it.  The cruelty of it.  She was going to be nicer to this woman because she liked her freckles.

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 16

I found this next quote so moving and thought provoking.  It’s about how in our society women can easily feel that the most valuable thing a woman can be is attractive to a man.  I liked this honest look at the issue of women’s looks that Liane Moriarty masterfully mixed with a little humor.

“You’re beautiful,” she began.

“No!” said Jane angrily.  “I’m not! And that’s OK that I’m not.  We’re not all beautiful, just like we’re not all musical, and that’s fine.  And don’t give me that inner beauty shining through crap either.”

Madeline, who had been about to give her that inner beauty shining through crap, closed her mouth.

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 197

Madeline talks about how Jane’s mother’s attitude about beauty shaped Jane a little, then society and media shaped her attitude a little more, and then one hateful comment finished the job that everyone had been doing little by little.  They all added up together to warp her attitude about food and wrongfully plant the idea that skinny means beauty and beauty is what matters most to a woman.

There were some lovely thoughts on parenting.  This book showed so well that while genetics play a role in your kids, how you raise them matters so much more.  As I’m watching my kids grow up, I relate to this quote that puts childhood so poignantly.

Your child was a little stranger, constantly changing, disappearing and reintroducing himself to you.  New personality traits could appear overnight.

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 63

I never realized until reading this book that I judged people who stayed in abusive relationships.  I developed so much empathy for people who are victims of abuse after reading this.  This quote shows the mindset of the woman who was abused.  The idea that she somehow deserves abuse.  I love that the message of this book was that you don’t deserve it.  No matter what.

A little violence was a bargain price for a life that would otherwise be just too sickeningly, lavishly, moonlit perfect.

So then what the hell was she doing here, secretly planning her escape route like a prisoner?

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 245

I think this all the time.  There has to be a balance between empathy and the ability to function in your real life.

… 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?  You had to register the existence of evil, do the little that you could, and then close your mind and think about new shoes.

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 353

The word silly is used a lot throughout the story to downplay the hurt and concerns of women.  The saddest example is when the little girl who was getting hurt during the school year was afraid to say who it really was.  But when the little girl later insisted on not inviting a certain boy to her party, the mom dismissed it as her daughter just being silly.  It turned out that this certain boy was the one that was hurting her.  We sometimes trivialize violence and pain when it happens to girls and even women.  Every time I saw the word silly, I realized how very sadly common it is to do that to women.  To trivialize the pain they are going through.

One of the most fascinating things about this book was all the lies and secrets.  All of the characters tell white lies and most of the characters have big lies or secrets.  It seemed like the more secret they kept something, the more power it had over their life.

There’s something about this scene that just gets to me.  Celeste is naturally beautiful.  I think this scene shows how even women tend to over-value how important our appearances are.

“Oh, Celeste,” she’d moaned. “I just can’t handle you today.  Not when I’m feeling like shit and you waltz in here looking like . . . you know, like that.”  She waved her hand at Celeste’s face, as if at something disgusting.

The girls around them had exploded with joyous laughter, as if something hilarious and subversive had finally been said out loud.  They laughed and laughed, and Celeste had smiled stiffly, idiotically, because how could you possible respond to that? It felt like a slap, but she had to respond like it was a compliment.

-Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies pg 165-166

The passive aggressive way the women told Celeste that she was too pretty and it made them feel bad made Celeste respond as if it was a compliment when it wasn’t.  Is there something about passive aggressiveness that makes the only polite response a lie?  I try to imagine Celeste responding with the truth and I couldn’t figure out a way in which it didn’t end badly for her. 

What white lies do you tell the most?

As a naturally honest and blunt person, I tell white lies all the time.  I’m actually pretty good at.  It’s not something I’m proud of.  I wish that I could be honest all the time, but people’s feelings matter to me and it’s just not always possible.  I tell lies most of the time to avoid minor tiffs and to spare people’s feelings.  For the most part, I think that’s a good thing.  I have things to do and telling someone that no you don’t like deviled eggs but they keep insisting you take them even though you’ve pointed out they could get ruined in the heat (Just turn on the AC!) or that someone else might like them more (Nonsense! Take them!) it’s sometimes just easier to take the deviled eggs.  And then throw them at someone’s car.  And when they ask if you liked them, you lie of course.  Yes they were delicious!!  Because who wants to argue some more about deviled eggs?

To reduce how many white lies I tell (because yes it does make me feel guilty), I found that the best thing to do is just say no.  That’s it.  No explanation or excuse.  Neighbor: Take the deviled eggs!  Me: No. Neighbor: Ok…  (I guess you could add in a polite “But thanks anyway” to reduce the awkwardness but honestly I don’t mind awkwardness).

Content Rating: High, for strong language and a rape scene that was mildly graphic.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty is the author of five novels, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, and the best-selling Three Wishes and The Husband’s Secret. The Husband’s Secret reached number one on the New York Times best-sellers list, was a number one best seller in the UK, has sold close to two million copies worldwide, has been optioned for a film, and will be translated into more than thirty-five languages. Moriarty lives in Sydney with her husband, son, and daughter.

Book Review: In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

Book Review: In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel PhilbrickIn the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
Published: May 1, 2001
Format: Paperback (302 pages)
Genres: Non-fiction
Source: Purchased

 
In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex—an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. In a harrowing page-turner, Nathaniel Philbrick restores this epic story to its rightful place in American history.

In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty-ton bull sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, made for the 3,000-mile-distant coast of South America in three tiny boats. During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, the survivors clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear.

In the Heart of the Sea tells perhaps the greatest sea story ever. Philbrick interweaves his account of this extraordinary ordeal of ordinary men with a wealth of whale lore and with a brilliantly detailed portrait of the lost, unique community of Nantucket whalers. Impeccably researched and beautifully told, the book delivers the ultimate portrait of man against nature, drawing on a remarkable range of archival and modern sources, including a long-lost account by the ship's cabin boy. At once a literary companion and a page-turner that speaks to the same issues of class, race, and man's relationship to nature that permeate the works of Melville, In the Heart of the Sea will endure as a vital work of American history.
3 Stars

In the Heart of the Sea is an addicting read mostly because I was horrified and had to know what happened next.  This story honestly sounds made up but it is not.  As nail biting as the story itself was, it was written like a historical textbook.  I know this story happened a long time ago, but using “perhaps” a lot dragged the story down.  He uses lots of dates and what feels like info-dumping of historical details that don’t seem relevant to the story.  Some information felt like showing off how much research he did.  Right whales, sperm whales – I learned a lot about whales.

I enjoyed the clever similarities in the history pointed out by the author that I might not have otherwise noticed.  For example, the female dominated society in Nantucket from all the missing whalers is similar to the female dominated society of the whales.  The whaleship Essex slowly died and sunk just like the whales they hunted did.

Speaking of whales, the description of hunting and killing the whales was very graphic.  You don’t have to be an animal lover to find the way that they hunted these whales extremely sad.  It was also very disturbing to read about the cannibalism and insanity among the sailors that came from being lost so long at sea.  Journaling at sea helped the Captain maintain his sanity, but not everyone was so lucky.  I thought it was interesting how much journaling can help people cope with tragedy.

Overall, it was fascinating to see the historical story that inspired Moby Dick that I knew nothing about before reading this book.

Is there such a thing as luck?

The first mate, Chase, was actually the person that Captain Ahab from Moby Dick is based on.  He seems to be more likable than the actual Captian, Pollard.  Ironically, Chase makes very poor decisions but because of his forceful personality Pollard relents to his decisions even though Pollard’s decisions were usually better.  Pollard’s life after the shipwreck is full of bad luck which made me wonder – is there really such a thing as bad luck? Or was it his passive personality and bad decisions that caused bad things to happen to him?  Pollard has very sound judgment but he often doesn’t follow it.  In my mind, that is a bad decision.  Chase seemed to have a happier life because he acted in charge of his destiny but then he suffered from insanity.  Watching the differences in both of their lives made it seem like luck, if it exists, has a very small influence on our lives.  What do you think about luck?

Content Rating: Medium, for violence and disturbing situations of survival.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Nathaniel Philbrick

Nathaniel-Philbrick

Philbrick was Brown’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978; that year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI; today he and his wife Melissa sail their Beetle Cat Clio and their Tiffany Jane 34 Marie-J in the waters surrounding Nantucket Island.

After grad school, Philbrick worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during which time he wrote/edited several sailing books, including Yaahting: A Parody (1984), for which he was the editor-in-chief; during this time he was also the primary caregiver for his two children. After moving to Nantucket in 1986, he became interested in the history of the island and wrote Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People. He was offered the opportunity to start the Egan Maritime Institute in 1995, and in 2000 he published In the Heart of the Sea, followed by Sea of Glory, in 2003, and Mayflower. He is presently at work on a book about the Battle of Little Big Horn.