BOOK REVIEW: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

7260188Title: Mockingjay

Author: Suzanne Collins

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 19 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Post Apocalyptic 

Read Start Date: November 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: December 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans – except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay – no matter what the personal cost.

SeriesMockingjay is the third and final book in the 3-part series.

Catching Fire is the second book in the 3-part series. You can see my review of the book by clicking on this link.

The Hunger Games is the first book in the 3-part series. You can see my review of the book by clicking on this link.

My Review: If you haven’t read the first or second book yet, then I would not read this review, as there will be many spoilers. In the first book, Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games, becoming for the first time in its 74-year history co-winners. Usually, the Capital only allows 1 victor per game, but as the last 2 standing tributes, neither would kill the other. They decide instead to trick the Capital into letting them both live by threatening to eat poison berries, thereby killing themselves, and giving the Capital no Victor — and there must always have a victor.

In Catching Fire the 75th Hunger Games (the 3rd quarter quell) has been announced. The tributes were chosen from among the victors. This means of course that Katniss and Peeta had to return to the arena to once again fight to the death. However, there was no winner, since the revolution had begun against the Capital. Katniss was rescued from the games and whisked away to District 13, but Peeta falls into the hands of the Capital to be used as a pawn against the rebels.

In the third book there are no games; instead, there is a war between the Capital and the districts. As you can imagine, war is messy and brutal, and the plot of this book is no different. Favorite characters will die, and there will be triumphs and defeats. Although I liked this book (it was as fast paced as the other books) I have to say that this is not my favorite out of the three books. Maybe it was the lack of the Hunger Games, or maybe it was that the ending was too tidy for me, like a neatly packed gift under the Christmas tree, but there was just something about it that didn’t leave me satisfied.

Having said that, I read through the series twice, and if push came to shove, I would probably read it a third time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

6148028Title: Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 3 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Post Apocalyptic 

Read Start Date: November 20, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 24, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sparks are igniting. Flames are spreading. And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel in the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before…and surprising readers at every turn.

Series: Catching Fire is the second book in the 3-part series.

The Hunger Games is the first book in the 3-part series. You can see my review of the book by clicking on this link.

My Review: If you haven’t read the first book yet, then I would not read this review, as there will be many spoilers of the first book. Katniss and Peeta have won the Hunger Games, becoming for the first time in its 74-year history co-winners. Usually, the Capital only allows 1 victor per game, but as the last 2 standing tributes, neither would kill the other. They decide instead to trick the Capital into letting them both live by threatening to eat poison berries, thereby killing themselves, and giving the Capital no Victor — and there must always have a victor.

This seemingly simple act of defiance ignites the spark of revolution that has been brewing in the Districts for quite some time. As Katniss and Peeta take their victory tour through each of the Districts, the unrest grows, as do the feelings in Katniss’ heart. Threatened by President Snow to “convince him” that she is in love with Peeta (they played up the lover card in the Games for the show), will she settle for Peeta as the Capital wants, or will she run away with Gale? Will she bend to the Capital’s will, or will she stand up and fight?

In Catching Fire the 75th Hunger Games (the 3rd quarter quell) has been announced. The tributes will be chosen from among the victors. This means of course that Katniss and Peeta will be returning to the arena to once again fight to the death. I thought that this book was more of the same from the first book, except less action and more story building. However, the book was still really good, especially toward the end when the games started and it made a good follow up to the first book.

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2767052 (1)Title: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours 35 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Post Apocalyptic 

Read Start Date: November 4, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 12, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Series: The Hunger Games is the first book in the 3-part series.

My Review: Essentially, the book is a post apocalyptic story about “the Capital” (where all the rich people live) and the surrounding 12 districts, where in most cases the populous is poor and/or starving. Each district has a sort of theme, where each is responsible for producing one type of commodity. For example, District 12 (where Katniss is from) is the coal mining district. District 11 is agriculture, and so on. Katniss’ father was killed in a coal mining accident, which left the family to fend for itself. As a result of their starvation, Katniss takes up hunting, which is where she meets her best friend Gale (enter the first male love triangle participant).

74 years before the book takes place, there was an uprising against the Capital, led by District 13 (responsible for mining elements necessary for nuclear power). The Capital won the war, and obliterated District 13. In order to keep the Districts in line, they created the Hunger Games, forcing the children of the remaining districts to fight each other every year to the death for the entertainment of the Capital. The names of 1 boy and 1 girl from each district are chosen at random to participate, with the number of times the name appears in the pool increasing incrementally every year as the child gets older.

Even though her name is only in the bowl once, Katniss’ 12 year old sister, Primrose, is chosen at the reaping, and Katniss volunteers to take her place in that years Hunger Games. It seems that the odds were not in their favor. This is where we meet Peeta, the second male in the love triangle. Although Katniss has never spoken to this boy, he had had a crush on her since they were children. They are whisked away to the Capital where they will be made up, pampered and forced to enter a closed arena where they will kill or be killed in sometimes gory and violent ways — all to entertain the Capital’s richest people.

I read this book once before in 2011, and while I remembered the overall storyline, had forgotten a lot of the details, so it almost felt like I was reading it again for the first time. I was really surprised to read in some recent reviews (see, Chrissi Reads) that there was talk of banning the book for violence and inappropriate sexual content for its intended age group. First of all, Katniss and Peeta kiss like a few times (as part of the games). That is all. There is not even a hint of sex in this book. I don’t want to give too much away about their relationship because it actually plays a big role in the storyline itself.

I never would have thought of this book as a romance novel anyway (even though on Goodreads it is tagged as such). For me, this book was more dystopian-action-adventure. Was there violence? Sure. But what PG-13 movie nowadays does not have violence or sexual content? What video game does not have violence? Maybe since this book was written 11 years ago (*gasp* has it already been so long?), it was more cutting edge then now in 2019? I don’t know. Anyway, I never thought that this book was inappropriate — but then again I’m the girl who read Roots in the 8th grade. Now that was a disturbing book, and it was based on reality to boot! I think that if we really want to talk about what might be scary for young adults, we should be having a discussion on school shootings, and not The Hunger Games.

But I digress.

This book has been one of my favorites for a while. Katniss is a great female lead character. She is smart, cunning, and brave. Of course she has some flaws too — she is fickle and naive at times, but I think these flaws add to her character and make her more likeable. I mean, who wants a perfect heroine? That would be super boring.

Despite the violence, there were also some really tender moments, where I found myself getting teared up. If you read the book, you will see what I mean — I don’t want to give anything away.

So in conclusion, and before I get too carried away, this book has it all. If you haven’t read this book yet, you really should.

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

18158562._SY475_Title: Crazy Rich Asians

Author: Kevin Kwan

Book Length: 546 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Read Start Date: October 27, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm,

Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry.

Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

Series: Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in the 3-part series.

My Review: The book starts in 1986 with a bedraggled 8-year old boy named Nicholas Young who sits, soaking wet with his cousin Astrid Leong, in the lobby of a posh London hotel, the Calthorpe. Astrid’s mother had forced everyone to walk from the nearest subway stop because “it was a sin to take a taxi nine blocks” and so you can imagine how they must have appeared.

Nicholas’ mother and aunt attempt to check in to the Lancaster Suite, but are turned away by the racist general manager because they are Chinese (and being soaking wet hides the fact that they are stinking rich). When Astrid’s mother calls her husband to tell him of this outrage, Mr. Leong calls the owner of the hotel (they played golf together only the month before). A few minutes later, Lord Rupert Calthrope-Cavendish-Gore himself is guiding the Young / Leong families through the lobby. Harry Leong had bought the hotel, the racist general manager was surreptitiously fired (ha!), and we are introduced in a very fun way to the wealthiest families in Singapore.

The real story begins in 2010, when Nicholas Young is 32 years old. He works in academia, and his girlfriend Rachel Chu has NO IDEA that he is ridiculously rich. When his childhood friend is getting married, Nicholas invites Rachel to accompany him to the wedding in Singapore (and to stay for the summer), and of course, while they are there, to meet his family. What he doesn’t tell her, is that his family’s’ house rivals that of Queen Elizabeth, and that he is Singapore’s most eligible bachelor. Oops.

This book was just simply fun, amazing, and at the same time heartwarming. I felt really bad for Rachel who is thrust head first and without a clue into the shark tank of single ladies all vying for Nicholas’ attention. Rachel has to go through all sorts of trials and tribulations that would have scared off anyone — from being called a gold digger, to the dead fish in her luggage, Rachel has to overcome some pretty awful harassment. I really liked that there was no fairy tale ending, and that the relationship was left with a question mark (I guess to be answered in the 2nd book in the series).

I also liked that this book didn’t only center around Nicholas and Rachel, but was also very much about the other characters. I especially liked Astrid Leong and the fact that even though she was also super rich (she easily spends more on one dress then I make in a year) she is also, somehow, down to earth.

Would I recommend this book? 5 times yes!

BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

3._SY475_Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Author: J.K. Rowling

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 34 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: October 14, 2019

Read Finish Date: October 18, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.

My Review: I have read this book 3 times in all, and everytime I enjoy it as much as the first. I really love the writing style of J.K. Rowling. It is very tongue-in-cheek, light, and just overall super fun! In fact, the entire story is just fun! A young orphan boy forced to grow up with his nightmare relatives, live in a closet beneath the stairs, finds out that he is a wizard…and not just any wizard, but the wizard who, as an infant, lived through an attempted murder on his life by the infamous dark wizard “He Who Shall Not Be Named.”

Suddenly, his life changes from one of misery to one of greatness and prophecy, and he is whisked away by a half-Giant to his first year of wizarding school, where he meets other kids his own age who also have magic powers. Harry makes friends (for this first time in his life) and they get into all sorts of hijinks at the school: from fighting trolls to hiding illegal dragons, wearing invisibility cloaks and going searching for a hurt unicorn in the Forbidden Forest. I was always constantly amazed at the imagination of J.K. Rowling — for example, jelly beans of every flavor — even vomit and beeswax!

Although this book is written for children, adults of all ages will find this book equally great and fun. This book is a definite read (and re-read!). I cannot recommend this book enough.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

40591267._SY475_Title: Girl, Stop Apologizing

Author: Rachel Hollis

Book Length (Audiobook): 7 hours 37 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help, Personal Development

Read Start Date: July 31, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough.

In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people—whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee—instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself.

My Review: This is the second book that I have read by Rachel Hollis. The first book was Girl, Wash Your Face. You can read the review here. Within the first 18 minutes of listening to the audiobook, I already liked it. She was speaking real truths, and I could totally understand her point. In the first part of the book, Hollis expounded on her theory that adults are the product of how, as toddlers, they learned to get attention. Over-achievers gained attention as children for doing well. Some toddlers get attention by being affectionate, so they learn to become dependent upon affection. Some toddlers get attention by making others laugh, so they learn how to entertain…and so on. This made perfect sense to me.

Her book only became better as it went on.

At about 1.5 hours into the book, Hollis had already laid down some really good advice. This book is really resonating with me so far. Hollis talks about setting realistic goals for yourself, and how to realistically achieve them. I have the goals to get more fit and to finish writing my first novel. My book currently has about 25,000 words, and I have not been able to get much done in the past few weeks. Hollis suggests that one should plan to work on her goals, at a time that works best for her regarding these goals. After working for 10 hours a day, I am usually so tired from work, that I cannot muster the motivation to do anything. Therefore, for the next week, I will give it a go and try to wake up early in the morning — maybe that will help.

So, I tried it for one day, and it didn’t help, because, well, I am not a morning person. So taking Hollis’ advice, I switched back to evenings — although it really seems that only weekends work for me.

After finishing her book, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hollis is a really smart woman, and gives some really good advice on life and how to become your best self. I even started following her instagram! This book also helped me get through some tough workouts, so this book is a big YES for me!

This book also “fueled” my workout on August 3rd and August 4th.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

198505._SY475_Title: The Demon in the Freezer

Author: Richard Preston

Book Length: 283 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science, History, Medical, Health

Read Start Date: September 2, 2018

Read Finish Date: August 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The first major bioterror event in the United States-the anthrax attacks in October 2001-was a clarion call for scientists who work with “hot” agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the U.S. biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense.
Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world’s most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox-and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers-at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia, at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines.
Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, D.C. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government’s response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill.
Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.

My Review: This book is scarier than any horror book, because you guys, this book is NONFICTION! Imagining that a terrorist group may be able to weaponize a virus like smallpox to decimate the population of a major US city in the blink of an eye is terrifying. This book opened my eyes to an array of grim possibilities that I had never before even though about. Viruses, epidemics, etc. have always fascinated me for some reason — and movies about such subjects are my favorite kind of film in the horror genre (closely followed by zombies).

The descriptive way that Preston writes about viruses, really gave me a clear picture in my mind of what he was talking about. Sometimes, this was not such a good thing — and unless you grew up listening to your mother’s ER stories at the dinner table like me, this book might not be a good thing to read while eating.

“The inflamed area in his throat was no bigger than a postage stamp, but in a biological sense it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Particles of smallpox virus were streaming out of oozy spots in the back of his mouth and were mixing with his saliva. When he spoke or coughed, microscopic infective droplets were being released, forming an invisible cloud in the the air around him.”

Seriously, you guys, I will never look at people coughing again without imagining all the tiny virus particles spewing into the air from their mouths.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Croquette & Empanada: The Book Romeo Would Have Given Juliet by Ana Oncina

42202751Title: Croquette & Empanada

Author: Ana Oncina

Book Length: 132 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Comic, Graphic Novel, Humor

Read Start Date: May 4, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 5, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A classic love story: doughy appetizer boy meets doughy appetizer girl. Together they exist in a world cohabited by humans.

Croquette is looking for love—his sweet, silly other half.  Empanada hopes she can find someone who accepts her for who she is. It’s a match made in tasty, tasty heaven. Internationally bestselling author Ana Oncina’s Croquette & Empanada explores modern love and domesticity with charming comics. Enjoy the antics of this adorable, culinary couple as they navigate romance and cohabitation, from deciding to move in together to purchasing their first pet.

My Review: This comic was funny, sweet, and relatable. I really liked the cute artwork and the stories are ones that every compatible couple can relate to. He may be a Croquette, and she an Empanada, he likes dogs, and she likes cats, but together they make a sweet and loving couple who find themselves in endearing and humorous situations. I mean, who hasn’t insisted to watch a movie that the other doesn’t want to, only to fall asleep immediately after it starts? Who hasn’t signed up for the gym, been motivated for about ten seconds, and then promptly lose interest?

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fast, fun, and adorable read.

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for providing me with a free ARC!

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Business Cat: Hostile Takeovers

42202745Title: Business Cat: Hostile Takeovers

Author: Tom Fonder

Book Length: 144 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Humor, Comic, Graphic Novel

Read Start Date: May 3, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: After clawing his way to the top of the corporate world, Business Cat’s professional standing is secure — or is it? Following a surprise audit from the IRS and some nefarious scheming by his executive rival, a business dog named Howard, things go downhill fast. Business Cat’s exile from the C-suite isn’t always pretty — he winds up in temp jobs, alleys, foster homes, and the kennel — but it is always entertaining. Author Tom Fonder’s story of Business Cat’s remarkable journey provides a thrilling conclusion to the series, and one office workers, cat lovers, and comics fans will cheer on to the finish.

My Review: This comic is freakin hilarious! I was literally laughing at every comic strip. If my cat was a “business cat” she would undoubtedly do the same things. Every cat lover should read this comic, and the rest of humanity should too. I love the artwork, I love the story line. The only thing that I didn’t like is that I had to stop reading (because the comic came to an end).

Thank you to Netgalley for the free ARC!!

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

 

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

18693763Title: Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours 57 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: April 18, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 25, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

My Review: This is the second book that I have read by Celeste Ng (although this is the first book she wrote). The other book I read was Little Fires Everywhere. You can find my review here.

This book was fantastic. The characters were extremely well developed and really pulled me into the story. The opening lines really draw you into the story: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.”

I don’t want to give too much away regarding the plot, but it is hard to review the book without mentioning some aspects. I do not think that the below gives too much away.

Lydia is the eldest daughter to Marilyn and James. Lydia struggled under the weight of her parents expectations. Marilyn, having had to give up her dreams of becoming a doctor (when she became a mother), tried to live vicariously through her daughter. James, who never fit in as a child (because he was Asian), tried to live vicariously through his daughter’s popularity. The problem was, that Lydia was neither popular, nor interested in becoming a doctor.

Nath, the oldest child and only son to Marilyn and James, lives in the shadow of his younger sister Lydia. His achievements are all but ignored.

Hannah, the unwanted third child, is basically invisible to her parents, as all their attention go to the favored child Lydia. There is a great quote from the book describing Hannah: “Hannah, as if she understood her place in the cosmos, grew from quiet infant to watchful child: a child fond of nooks and corners, who curled up in closets, behind sofas, under dangling tablecloths, staying out of sight as well as out of mind, to ensure the terrain of the family did not change.”

In the aftermath of Lydia’s death, the family and their relationship to each other is thrown into turmoil.

The story alternates between the past and the present to give a full picture of the Lee’s life together, and how they became who they are.

My younger brother died almost five years ago (a few days before his 29th birthday) in an accident (he was hit by a driver high on drugs who ran the red light). Some of the descriptions Ng gave of the family dealing with a child’s death really resonated with me. For example, Ng describes a scene where James is looking at his surviving children and he sees bits of Lydia in each of them. I often too experience this. I have the same teeth as my brother, and sometimes I think of him when I see myself in the mirror. Reading this book made me wonder whether when my parents look at me, do they also see my brother in my face? Do they see my brother’s eyes in the eyes of my sister, or his features in those of her son?

Ng’s descriptive language is so powerful and really makes you imagine what you are reading. For an example, James says something nasty to his son after Lydia’s death. Ng says something like, James’ words were like moths in the air that he wanted to catch and pull back, but he was too late because they were already crawling inside his son’s ears. I couldn’t find the exact quote again sadly.

Anyway, in conclusion, I highly recommend this book. Ng’s powerful storytelling with stay with you for quite some time.