How Many Strikes Before an Author is Out? My Experience with Liane Moriarty & Big Little Lies.

I was recently inspired by Andi at Estella’s Revenge’s post (and Shannon at River City Reading’s follow-up post) about blogging more creatively. Both posts generated an outpouring of commentary from fellow book bloggers…many lamenting the fact that their “Book Reviews” are among their least “viewed” and commented on blog posts, with discussion and “list-type” posts doing much better. Unfortunately, this applies to me too.

So, in an effort to be a bit more creative (even though being creative is HARD – at least for me!), here I go with a different type of book review…

Have you ever just not loved a certain author that everyone else seems to adore?

Do you keep pushing yourself to read more books by this author because you figure there will eventually be one you like? After all, everyone else LOVES this author…

How many tries does it take before you face the fact that you and X author just aren’t meant to be, regardless of what everyone else thinks? How many strikes does an author get before they’re out?

Welcome to my recent experience with Liane Moriarty. My first tries with her were The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot. I didn’t like either of them for the exact same reasons: the central characters drove me bonkers and the backgrounds of both stories included an overload of inane mommy politics. Even though I liked the underlying stories in both books, the sheer volume of mommy politics that surrounded these stories made the books painful to read and the characters painful to listen to. After The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot, I swore off Moriarty. We dated, I really wanted to like her, but, in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be.

UNTIL…Big Little Lies came along. Everyone was raving about it….other bloggers, my friends, my mother-in-law, etc. “It’s her best yet.” “It’s so much better than the other two, you really should try it despite your past experience.” I wondered what was wrong with me. Why can’t I just like these books like everyone else does? So, not wanting to feel left out, I decided to give her one last shot (on audio this time…maybe an Aussie accent would suck me in!)….

FictionBig Little Lies Audio, Liane Moriarty, fiction
Released July, 2014
16 Hours (462 Pages)
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Purchased





Plot Summary

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly? 
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. 
But who did what?

My Thoughts

Not surprisingly, I couldn’t make myself like this one either. For the exact same reasons as I disliked The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot. I did like the central story and certainly think it was a worthwhile one to tell (I won’t go into specifics to avoid spoilers). But, why oh why did it have to be surrounded by so much absurdity? You’ve got a bunch of judgey moms constantly judging each other, kids being ostracized and “banned” from playdates, and elementary school petitions (ugh!!). This stuff takes up more of the book than the actual storyline, which is a shame.

I think Moriarty’s writing tends to be somewhat formulaic: same types of characters and settings, secrets, scandal, and a big reveal. And, I think this plays a part in why I’ve felt essentially the same about three of her books now. The secrets and scandals are juicy in a “Desperate Housewives” sort of way, but the relentless chatter of the mommies is just too much for me to take…even though I’m a mommy myself!

In my mind, it’s three strikes, you’re out on this one. I’m officially throwing in the towel on Moriarty. 

Have you ever had a similar experience? How many strikes do you think an author deserves before you resolve to move on?

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  1. You lasted longer than I would with an author I don’t like – LOL. I will stretch to two books at the most! It’s hard to pass up books everyone else loves, though!

    Posted 9.18.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I think I lasted so long solely because everyone else in the world loves her books! I kept pushing myself to try harder to like them 🙂

      Posted 9.18.14 Reply
    • Maz wrote:

      I know this a very late reply! I’ve read The Husband’s Secret, persevered but didn’t really like it. I thought it was mainly because of the state of mind I was in at the time (just split from my partner) but have now started on Big Little Lies, read 19 pages, and already it annoys me! I just don’t like her style of writing. A bit too flippant and not quite serious enough maybe? I get what you’re saying, too much fluff in the background which, too be honest, just doesn’t interest me. Just get on with it! I don’t think I’ll finish it. Too many other books out there.

      Posted 8.12.17 Reply
      • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

        Funnily enough, I loved the TV series of Big Little Lies. Much darker than the book and focused more on the personal issues of the parents rather than the school politics fluff. Wish the book had been more like that!

        Posted 8.14.17 Reply
  2. I enjoyed your post! I’ve read The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot. I enjoyed both, but understand your criticism about ‘mommy politics.’ I’m sorry to hear the same is in Big Little Lies.

    Posted 9.18.14 Reply
  3. I enjoyed reading this post, too. I’ve yet to read Moriarty, but doubt I would have attempted a third novel given your experience with the first two. If a first novel doesn’t quite hit the mark, I need some particular reason to give the author another chance – loving the writing style, amazing characters, etc.

    This reminds me of my recent experience with Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men. The overall novel wasn’t a favorite, but the smart writing style and characters make me want to read more.

    Posted 9.18.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      If I love the writing style, I’m definitely more inclined to try again. And – if I find debuts with some problems, but also some bright spots, I’m more inclined to give them additional chances as well!
      I think what I discovered with this one is her novels tend to be somewhat similar in character and setting….it’s just the particular secrets and/or scandal that differ.

      Posted 9.18.14 Reply
  4. I love this topic because I think it’s definitely something we’ve all gone back and forth over (especially when urged by other readers to give someone another shot). I don’t think I’ve gone past two unsuccessful reads, but I’m proud that you gave it one more go!

    Posted 9.18.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      It’s totally a peer pressure thing! I think 3 was one too far…two may be my number moving forward. I think I’m quitting Ian McEwan at 2 🙁

      Posted 9.18.14 Reply
  5. I avoid Women’s Fiction as a genre because of two reasons, one of them being mommy politics, the other being boring housewives doing boring things. I just can’t get into it. Even when a parent dies or a child is doing something crazy I’m like, omg I just do not care. At all. Maybe because this is something that happens to friends and so it doesn’t seem like much of a story to me? IDK.

    I think you’ve given her books a fair shake. Maybe 3 strikes, you move on? Not every author’s writing style or plots work for every type of reader. I can’t get into the things mentioned above, someone else will wonder how I can read about people in futuristic or historical settings. Sometimes you just don’t like a storyteller’s style, you wonder if they will EVER get to the point, while others love the slow and steady pace. Different books for different folks.

    Posted 9.18.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I totally agree – everyone has different tastes…and that’s why there’s space for so many different kinds of books out there! And apparently I should also steer clear of women’s fiction!!
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted 9.18.14 Reply
  6. Ruth2Day wrote:

    I can’t put my finger on an author I fell out of love with. But I do find authors who pad their books with a ridiculous amount of detail turn me off big time. You know the detail I mean, a character buys a new car and before you know it you are reading a manual on the car while the story takes a break.

    Posted 9.18.14 Reply
  7. Jennine G. wrote:

    Kudos to you for giving her a fair shake! Usually I find one book by an author I like. But, I have been hooked on formulaic writers who have gotten old before. Grisham and Steele being my big ones from years and years ago.

    Posted 9.18.14 Reply
  8. Excellent post Sarah! I keep wanting to try Moriarty but something has held me back. I’m so glad you shared what you did about her books ~ I absolutely abhor mommy politics and all the unnecessary judgmental crap that goes with it. I’ve never liked Desperate Housewives and would not enjoy a novel that plays into that type of plot. Thank YOU for your honesty and for sharing! I am officially boycotting Moriarty with you 😉

    Posted 9.19.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Thanks for your solidarity! I actually did used to watch Desperate Housewives..and this stuff was even more grating than that!

      Posted 9.19.14 Reply
      • Carol wrote:

        I have not used this space before – I found it by doing a google search on does anyone else hate Big Little Lies? I couldn’t finish Husband’s Secret – SO annoying but had to persevere with BLL because of book club. I have real problems with authors who fixate on their character’s physical appearances and although I think Liane was trying to get away from the whole beauty-is-everything debate she just keeps assessing people time and again on their appearance. It drove me nuts. I don’t want to know about the haircut that transformed (was it Jane?) into a princess and earned her the Barista prince. So, even though I did not persevere with book number 1, I had to do the right thing and read book number 2 but that is it for me and this author. Sorry Liane I am sure you are lovely, you sure know how to write and get a plot onto a healthy boil, but your characters killed me, along with something a little repetitive in the narrative that relentlessly describes the physical characteristics of your characters in a fairly unimaginative way. Oh dear. I’ve just used my lunch break.

        Posted 6.23.16 Reply
        • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

          Well…I’m glad I’m not alone in these books just not working for me! For me, it’s more about the overload of mommy politics…something I can’t stand in real life and don’t like to be surrounded with in my reading either.

          Posted 7.4.16 Reply
  9. Trish wrote:

    Ok, I love this Sarah! I admit that I’m one of those who doesn’t really read reviews anymore because I’m shelves are full and I hate knowing too much about a book before I read it anyway. What I REALLY want to know is exactly what you talked about here–what worked for you and what didn’t. I also try to ask a broad question at the end of my posts but sometimes people answer and sometimes they don’t. I have What Alice Forgot on my shelf and have heard such good things about Moriarty! But bummer that she hasn’t been working for you. I love the dating comparison.

    Posted 9.19.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Thanks so much! I’m trying to move towards asking the broader question in reviews where I see an angle…we’ll see how it goes!

      Posted 9.19.14 Reply
  10. It’s good of you to try three times to enjoy an author. I will give my honest answer; I only give them one shot. If I don’t enjoy the author’s style of writing (different than just not enjoying the plot) I will bail out as DNF or just not pick up another. I don’t review DNF on my blog, so folks wouldn’t know I do that.

    I will name books or authors that were hyped by bloggers and recommended to me within last year & I tossed aside, or wouldn’t even pick up:
    Gone, Girl by Gillian Flynn, Lauren Beukes, Fifty Shades by E.L. James, Twilight series by Stephenie Meyers, Dan Brown, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you 🙂

    Posted 9.19.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I appreciate your honesty! I feel like you’re not alone with not reviewing DNFs! My issue is I have a hard time not finishing books I start. But, it’s a goal of mine to be quicker to just move on if I’m not into something. And I’m with you on Twilight…enjoyed the first one, but found them pretty painful after that. I did like the Dragon Tattoo series, though!
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted 9.19.14 Reply
  11. So, I LOVE this post. So creative!
    Here’s the thing about Liane Moriarty for me- I enjoyed The Husband’s Secret quite a bit last year (although I did want to tell her to get to the point when she was rambling on for pages about the Berlin Wall). So, while I was curious about Big Little Lies- at first I was hesitant to read b/c I wasn’t sure if I could take it getting to the point for several pages.

    And for me- BLL is the better book of the 2 of hers I have read- I liked the format, I liked the pacing of the plot, and her use of humor really made my day.

    The mommy politics- well, I can see why you don’t like it. And if I was a mommy- I might not. Not being a mommy, though, I can see the satirical side of her viewpoints on the mommy politics.

    I do think you’ve given her a fair shot, though, and not all authors are for everyone.

    Great creative post!

    Posted 9.19.14 Reply
  12. Sarah, thank you. I am definitely NOT reading this book now – ha! One off the list, instead of the other way around. I think you gave it a good, Harvard try…three strikes and you’re out seems fair to me. Blech.

    Posted 9.21.14 Reply
  13. This was a really great way to change things up for book reviews! I’ve read a whole series of books by an author I absolutely hated because all of my friends kept hounding me to do it. It is time in my life I wont be getting back.

    Since then I kind of employ at five chapter rule: if I am cringing and/or frustrated with the author by chapter five than I just close the book and walk away slowly.

    Amazing post!

    Posted 9.23.14 Reply
  14. Charleen wrote:

    If the first time I try an author, the book gets 2-stars, that’s usually it. I made an exception for Gillian Flynn, and while I liked Gone Girl more than I thought I would (3 stars), I still doubt I’ll read anything else from her.

    I’m not big on Liane Moriarty either. I liked What Alice Forgot, because the memory stuff is fascinating to me. And The Husband’s Secret did keep me turning the pages, even though I was annoyed by the domesticity of it all. (It’s hard to relate to a book when every character is defined by her motherhood when I’m not a mother.) So, even though the two books I read got 3- and 4-stars from me, I’ve still pretty much decided she’s not for me.

    So, sometimes it’s not as simple as whether or not I liked the book. I feel like the things I liked can outweigh the things I didn’t for an individual book (or two), but not for the author’s works as a whole. If that makes any sense.

    Posted 9.28.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I loved Gone Girl, but didn’t like Dark Places…too dark! And – I am a mother and still didn’t like the domesticity of Moriarty! It was over the top and does not reflect reality…well, at least my reality! Completely makes sense about the author’s work as a whole. Every author has certain books that are better than other’s, but it’s difficult if there are themes that define an author’s work that bug you!
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted 9.29.14 Reply
  15. Sharlene wrote:

    Interesting post!! At first I didnt know what you meant by Mommy Politics but ah, now I do. I don’t think that would be something I’d want to read either. But i still might just give one of her books a try. Just to see what you’re talking about! I’ll let you know how that goes!

    Posted 12.11.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I would give one a try…everyone else seems to love her! I literally feel like I’m the only one out there who doesn’t!

      Posted 12.11.14 Reply
      • Terri wrote:

        I didn’t like her. I generally don’t like anything that is melodramatic and reminds me of a soap opera. I read “what Alice forgot” and that is precisely what it made me think of. That kind of drivel makes women hate their lives, question their marriages and focuses an the very small dark side of life.

        My next books? Born A Crime by Trevor Noah and Last Train to Istanbul. Both testaments to human strength.

        I cry and feel plenty of negative emotions in real life I sure as he’ll don’t like books that magnify those things that make you cry.

        Ps ending to What Alice forgot was awful. You put us through that emotional roller coaster and give us a flat bland endinget?

        Nope, 1 book in and I’m jumping off of this ridiculous house wife soap opera train. I don’t need or want anymore.

        Posted 3.20.17 Reply
        • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

          Glad I’m not the only one 🙂 I’ve got Born a Crime on my audio TBR list!

          Posted 3.21.17 Reply
  16. Melinda wrote:

    I’ve only read one book by Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies) and, while I enjoyed it, I definitely had some of the same concerns you did. I’ll probably give her one more chance, simply because I have at least on of her other books waiting on my Kindle, but if books are as formulaic as you say, I’ll be giving up on her as well.

    Posted 12.28.14 Reply
  17. MW wrote:

    Maybe you have to be an Aussie to really get this one. With two kids of my own at a Sydney public school (i.e. prior to high school), I really did have to laugh at how well this captured the way some of the parents behaved. I could see each character reflected in real school parents.

    I _loved_ it.

    Sorry, not what you wanted to hear, I know.

    But after reading Gone Girl, I have decided to strike Gillian F off my reading list for good. Fool me once, shame on you, Gillan; fool me twice shame on me.

    Sorry my opinions don’t match yours; I do like your reviewing style.

    Posted 1.20.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Well, thank you even though our particular reading tastes don’t align exactly!

      I do think Moriarty accurately captured mommy politics…it’s just that I HATE them in real life and don’t want to also live them through my reading. Weirdly, I adored the HBO series. Much darker and more focused on the real issues of the parents…rather than the surface mommy politics stuff.

      Posted 1.21.18 Reply
    • CREATIVE CAT wrote:

      I think you’ve generated a fascinating discussion in this blog! What I’ve noticed by just talking to various people about her work it this: it would appear that heterosexuals who have experienced parenting and long-term relationships mostly identify with and ‘get’ Moriarty’s characters, dilemmas, internal monologues, irony, humour and much more. She is skilful, clever, inventive and prolific. Naturally, like JK Rowling and RR Martin who are also genius ‘imaginers’, she has a huge following as well as people who simply can’t stand her.

      Posted 3.28.21 Reply
  18. MAX RYAN wrote:

    why read this New Age twaddle when there’s so much great writing available?

    Posted 11.15.20 Reply
  19. Liv wrote:

    Hope it’s not too late to reply! Started reading Nine Perfect Strangers after watching the TV series. Oh LORDY! It is painful. I also hated Big Little Lies. Liane’s characters are incredibly superficial, and the writing focuses on unimportant details and not in a masterful way; there’s too much ‘oh look, I’m a writer!’ self-conscious element about it. My impression of her writing: weak, contrived, plodding and dull.

    Posted 10.25.21 Reply

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