2015 Book #42 – Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Date finished: 5/5/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: June 26, 2014
Pages in book: 292
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

My rating: 4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book that made you cry” check box because, well, it made me cry. I found this book to be quite moving. The story alternates between the views and memories of all 5 people in the Lee family, transitioning without causing too much confusion which was appreciated. We find out right from the first line of the book that “Lydia is dead,” Lydia being the older of the 2 daughters. As we delve deeper and deeper into the psyche of each member of the family before and after her death, including Lydia for the before, we come to our own conclusions about what may have happened to poor Lydia. Each member of the family has their own idea of what happened, but none of them ever find out what actually happened. And what actually happened is one of the biggest tragedies in the book, I think. Through the book we learn the reason why Lydia’s mom (Marilyn) is so hard on her and pushes her to do so well in school. Even more than that, we learn the reason why Lydia stomachs it. Every member of this family has a complicated and slightly twisted relationship with one another. Their fears drive them to do reckless and ultimately destructive things that cause the relationships within the family to crack long before Lydia’s death. The extreme sense of loss resulting from Lydia’s death causes the family structure to crumble.
There are a lot of relevant issues discussed in this novel, most importantly is that of ethnicity and how different someone can feel even if their just as American as the person standing next to them just because of their ethnicity. James (the dad) is Chinese and Marilyn is white. And actually, their marriage was apparently illegal during the time period at which the book was set (they would’ve been married in the mid to late 50’s I think). James has never felt like he fit it through his entire life. He knows how heart-wrenching it is to have no friends, just because your face looks a little different. The weird stares, the whispers, the giggles. The one thing he wants for his children is for them to fit in and be normal. Unfortunately he becomes a professor in a small college town in Ohio, where they are the only Oriental family.
And poor Hannah! (Who I will call Hanna Banana because she just desperately needs a nick name) She is forgotten about by her parents for most of the book, relegated to the lonely attic, removed from the rest of her family. All she wants is love and to feel like she’s a part of her family but no one ever pays attention to her. It was just heart breaking.
So obviously I liked this book. I thought it really dealt well with a large variety of issues: ethnicity, family pressures, death, loss, love, and life itself. It was moving and thoughful and I really enjoyed it.

The bottom line: I would recommend this book, it was full of tension and discussed some relevant issues

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

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2015 Book #39 – To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

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Title: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Date finished: 4/28/15
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Pages in book: 355
Stand alone or series: There is a sequel to this book coming out next month (P.S. I Still Love You)

Blurb from the cover:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?
Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

My rating: 2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book you can finish in a day” check box mostly since I finished this book in a day. I had seen this book on a lot of other blogs with rave reviews so when I saw it at the Harwinton Public Library I decided to give it a try. I have to be honest though, this was not one of my favorite books. I mean the book itself was a fine book and I can see why many people like it. It was just a little too much teen angst for me, which is one of the reasons I haven’t read many young adult novels since I was in high school. I am trying to get back into them because many of them have only a medium, tolerable amount of teen angst and that’s fine. This book though just had a little too much for me, I was so frustrated with Lara-Jean in the beginning of the book that I just wanted to scream.
I wasn’t a fan of this book in the beginning and then as the story progressed things seemed to get better. I began to like the story more and I was slightly hooked and wanted to keep reading. About 50 pages before the end though, things started going downhill for me again. I guess I just don’t get the point. I started to think that the point was that we liked Peter. But he cheats on his tests, he is continually hanging out with his ex-girlfriend that he’s still in love with (umm can anyone say red flag??) and he did not make an effort to dispel Gen’s evil rumor that he and Lara-Jean had sex in the hot tub on a school trip. Excuse me, but this doesn’t exactly sound like a stand up guy to me. Certainly not one I would want to date. But then after Lara-Jean’s mad for awhile she pretty much just let’s it go and starts writing Peter a letter. Is she doing this to get back with him? To be done with him for good (my vote)? The book just ends there. And I get that there is a sequel but honestly I was kind of mad. I put all this time and effort into reading the story and I can’t even leave off with the heroine being happy with a good guy? It was just too much frustration for me.

The bottom line: Was too much angst and not enough resolution for me. Although this is altogether a popular book, I would probably not recommend.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #24 – Mortal Heart by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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Title: The Mortal Heart
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Date finished: 3/29/15
Genre: YA (novella)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Pages in book: 54
Stand alone or series: Beautiful Creatures: The Untold Stories

Blurb from the cover:

Everyone in Gatlin has a story…
Before she met and married Mitchell Wate, the beautiful and brilliant Lila Jane Evers was an honors student at Duke University. Studying late into the night in the rare books library, she is captivated by a single line of text on an old piece of parchment: “In the Light there is Dark, and in the Dark there is Light.”
What can it mean?
Then one night, Lila Jane meets a mysterious young man who may have the answer. His name is Macon Ravenwood, and for every secret he reveals, he is hiding another. With Macon’s help, Lila Jane uncovers the wonders of the Caster world–the Light and the Dark. But a romance between the Incubus who is fighting his own dark side and this fiercely independent Mortal is doomed from the start. The closer Lila Jane and Macon become, the more her life is in danger.
Discover the unforgettable and untold story of how Lila and Macon fell in love in this all-new Beautiful Creatures novella from #1 New York Times bestselling authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

My rating:
 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book with magic” check box. While this was a short story (it was a novella after all), it was oh so very interesting. And such a tease. The end really just leaves so many worlds open on what could happen in future stories.
This novella tells the heart-breaking story of Lila Jane Evers and Macon Ravenwood. Lila Jane and Macon fell in love before Macon’s transformation into an Incubus. Macon has never wanted this fate and has fought his change at every turn. Lila Jane makes him wish more than ever that he was normal so that he could be with her forever. Unfortunately, he can not fight his family’s heritage. Macon gives her an Arclight to protect her in case he should attack her after he turns into an Incubus. I know that if Macon and Lila Jane had stayed together that Ethan never would have been born so obviously I can’t wish that they had been together always, but they loved each other so much it is just heart-wrenching.

The bottom line:
  For those who like the Beautiful Creatures series I would definitely recommend this novella!

Author website

Link to Amazon