BOOK REVIEW: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

39280445Title: Nine Perfect Strangers

Author: Liane Moriarty

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 28 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 2, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 8, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

My Review: At about 2/3 of the way in, I really liked this book. The characters are very interesting and well developed, and the overall storyline is captivating. During the time that the nine strangers are at the health resort and receiving “treatment”, we learn about their pasts and what secrets brought them to the resort for “healing”. We even learn about the history of the people running / owning the resort, which is just as sordid and interesting as the guests.

Now that I’ve finished the book, my opinion has not changed. I really liked this book! It was fun, easy to read, the characters were well developed and the pace of the book was on target. I also just in general really like Liane Moriarty as a writer.

I have read some pretty bad / mixed reviews of this book, but I don’t really understand them to be honest. A lot of people said that the changing perspectives (of the 9 guests and the 3 hotel staff) was confusing, which I did not find at all. I was able to keep everyone straight. The characters were unique enough that it was possible.

Other people said that the story did not have a theme or a purpose — not everything I read needs to have some preachy message, so if this is true, who cares! I usually read this book (audiobook) while bike riding, driving in the car, doing chores around the house, etc. Despite what other people said, I recommend this book!

 

 

 

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.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

32075671Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 44 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Read Start Date: March 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: March 26, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

My Review: I had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it — honestly, I do not remember how it ended up on my holds list at the library. I am struggling to write a review of this book, as it has raised many mixed emotions for me. I have mixed emotions because on the one hand, I understand that there are bad cops out there that give good cops (like my brother) a bad name — but I also know there are criminals out there who give non-criminals out there a bad name.

The theme running throughout the book, and the meaning behind the title, is from Tupac’s famous quote, that Thug Life means, “The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody”. The plot of this book could be ripped straight out of today’s headlines, i.e., Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, African-American vs. Police, etc.

Living in Europe for the past two years, I have not really been following the recent movements, but I can understand that it is a very contentious issue. This book takes the view of an African-American teenage girl, and more or less paints the police in a bad light.

Starr is traumatized when her best friend Khalil is shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Starr takes a deep look at what being African-American means to her. Starr has many juxtapositions in her life. Her father, Maverick Carter, a formal gangbanger, enrolled Starr and her brothers in a mostly white school in a better neighborhood. During the school week, Starr has white friends, and even a white boyfriend. On the weekends in her African American neighborhood (Garden Heights) she leads a different, and separate, life.

This book (and the movie version that I watched afterward) really moved me – at some points to tears. I really felt bad for Starr and her community, especially Khalil, who was shot because the police officer was scared he was reaching for a gun. Khalil wasn’t doing anything wrong, but the police officer didn’t know that. This happens in real life, and it is very, very sad.

There is so much broken with American society, and this book poignantly shows that. Not all African-American men are gangbangers and thugs who sell drugs, and not all police officers are dirty, trigger happy cops who murder African-Americans without provocation – but it is these stereotypes which keeps everyone imprisoned behind walls of hate and suspicion, and forces our collective children to grow up with fear and a learned hatred.

This book may be fiction, but it might as well be nonfiction. Too many times in recent history there have been police shootings of African-American men. Sometimes it is justified, but I can only imagine that sometimes stereotypes and racism (whether conscience or not) have played a part in such a shooting. Sometimes the office responsible for the shooting is indicted, and sometimes he is not. Each time the media and the parties involved become incensed, and it only adds more fuel to an already out of control fire.

Even though this book is supposed to be for teenagers, I would also recommend it to any adult. I usually read only for entertainment, but sometimes it is good to read a book that provokes thought and introspection.