BOOK REVIEWS: Just Because Something Happens Doesn’t Make it Interesting

Book Reviews / Reading

Here’s a round-up of what I’ve read this month:

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

Meet Nora, a “good girl” of a woman grappling with the truth that “…what consigned me to mediocrity, is me, just me.” She didn’t grow up to be a great artist, a mother or a wife. And, at 42, she’s a single elementary school teacher obsessed and infatuated with the family of one of her students.

Ok, Messud piqued my interest with the plot concept, but Nora’s “obsession”,  self-absorption and bitterness grew tiring and monotonous. And for all her anger, resentment and envy, Nora could have been a relatable or at least a sympathetic character, but Messud doesn’t allow for this. You’ll be ready for this story to end. And it does with a nice little element of revenge.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Psst, The Husband’s Secret isn’t much of a secret. You’ll be in on it  long before Moriarty officially reveals it.  I spent the first half of the book trying to keep track of who was who as Moriarty toggled between three different story lines. There’s nice character development with the notable exception being the “husband” from the title.

Similar to Moriarty’s other book What Alice Forgot, this one, too, is a fun Chick-Lit read with insight on the complexity of modern relationships sprinkled here and there. At times, though, one gets the feeling that Moriarty aspires to more serious fare with attempts at symbolism and analogy. With this one, it was the “Berlin Wall” and Tupperware. Yes, you read that right: Tupperware.

The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith

Just because something happens doesn’t make it interesting. This is Marion Roach Smith’s mantra. And it’s a mantra that could be applied to blog posts, personal essays, and basically any type of storytelling. So it’s a useful book even if you don’t get around to writing your memoirs!

I highlighted this book like crazy as Smith lays out the nuts and bolts of good writing. It turns out that your personal story isn’t very interesting to others (unless you’re Kim Kardashian, a President, or other famous person.) What’s interesting is what’s universal. So the trick is to tease out the universal theme in your story and then use your personal story as the illustration of that theme.

And what I really loved about this book – no silly writing exercises or prompts – just good tips and pointers!

And by the way

Bread and Wine Recipes

I’m “cooking” my way through Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. So far, I’m raving about “Annette’s Enchiladas”. Click here to see that recipe review. Next up this weekend, goat cheese scrambled eggs!

Looking for more book reviews: head over here.

Looking for a good read: here are some of my favorite books from last year.

And check out the short & casual book reviews over at Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly twitterature link up!

Read in good books lately?

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  1. I love book reviews and being in Europe I got myself a kindle, I think it is one of the best purchases ever, so now a book looks interesting more likely than not i can download it. I think Im going to check out the memoir project and bread and wine. Thanks I will be checking in again for sure.


  2. The Husband’s Secret is the March pick for my book club, so I’ll be picking that one up soon. The Memoir Project piques my interest too since I’m trying to focus part of my reading this year on books about writing. Adding it to my list!


  3. Nora is pretty angry and rant-y, and I was not sure what I felt when it was over. On a brighter note the Memoir Project sounds interesting!


  4. Ooo… I like that you’re cooking your way through Bread & Wine. I really want to try the blueberry crisp.


    • I just picked up the ingredients for the Enchiladas again for the 3rd time in as many weeks. I think we’re addicted. I’m going to experiment with some variations of it in the future, too. Like maybe using flour tortillas and adding in black beans and corn.


  5. Thanks for the book reviews. I’ve got so many books to read it’s unreal. I am lucky to get through two books a week for my blog reviews every Sunday. I’m like someone said, I’m impressed that you’ve so many books.


  6. The Memoir Project sounds VERY interesting to me… And Shauna Niequist is hands down maybe my favorite person ever… LOVE her books! So happy to see she made your list!


  7. Great post! I’m reading Moriarty’s ‘What Alice Forgot’, and am really enjoying it. I must say though – it started a bit slow for me, but has gotten better and better the more I read. I read most of ‘The Memoir Project’, but never finished it. I really enjoyed the writing and the teaching, but the author somehow felt a bit smug to me. Read some of your other book posts – love your blog! (Found you through Anne’s Twitterature linkup.)


  8. dawnomite says

    I just got The Husband’s Secret from the library yesterday. Looking forward to it. I read another book by Messud once (can’t remember the title) – and it was awful. I love the mantra from the writing book – so, so true.


    • I was giving Messud a second chance. A few years ago, I bought her book The Emperor’s Children but ended up abandoning it after a few chapters. With The Woman Upstairs, she hooked me from the beginning.


  9. Hiya! I enjoyed What Alice Forgot, but I haven’t gotten around to reading The Husband’s Secret. Putting it on the list! I loved The Memoir Project. I borrowed it from the library, so I need to add it to my collection so I can highlight my way through it like you did! A friend is borrowing my copy of Bread & Wine, but I have her blueberry crisp recipe memorized, I make it so often! I need to try her enchiladas soon! Thanks for all of the great reviews!


  10. The Memoir Project sounds exactly like something I need to read. I love books on the craft of writing, but like you I can do without the writing prompts and exercises. Thanks for the suggestions!


  11. I love The Memoir Project and that quote you pulled out is PERFECT. And I adore Bread and Wine but I’ve never made Annette’s enchiladas. That definitely needs to happen. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing what you’ve been reading with us!


  12. Hi Stacey, the book on The Memoir Project sounds really interesting … I’ll check our local library … Inspiration on wrtiting is always welcome!


  13. I read a lot of YA (I guess being a YA myself!) and so many of them are written in first-person and make the protagonist sound so self-absorbed that I can’t contain my eye-rolls! I’m reading the last of the ‘Divergent’ series at the moment and even though it’s first-person the protagonist isn’t self-involved. Honestly, it bothers me so much sometimes.


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