BOOK REVIEW: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

32620332._SY475_Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 10 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, LGBT, Contemporary

Read Start Date: April 11, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 15, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My Review: This book was written back in 2017, but I guess has had a resurgence of readers due to being a “booktok” recommendation (?). It is also, as of the writing of this review, on the NY Times Bestseller’s list. Needless to say, I had high expectations. Although “booktok” got it right this time, I had a really hard time writing a review of this book.

What do you say about something, when you liked everything, for no express reason? From the very first moment, I was captivated by this story. It was interesting. There was mystery (why did Evelyn choose Monique to ghost write her biography?). There was love (all be it, not in all of Evelyn’s marriages). There was friendship, betrayal, a glimpse into the “rich and famous”…

At the center of it all, a formative woman with a secret — she was bisexual at a time when that was not permitted.

You loved Evelyn, but you also loved to hate her. She was caring, but also at times selfish. Monique was interesting in her own way, even though her story was typical i.e., woman has husband, woman has mixed feelings about divorcing said husband (did I do the right thing, etc etc), woman finds in the end that she deserves true love (which she didn’t have with her ex).

The characters were well developed and seemed true to real people i.e., I could imagine that this was a book about a real person, or at very least based upon a real person.

I don’t want to say too much else, otherwise I will give away essential plot points. This book is highly recommended.

BOOK REVIEW: Beach Read by Emily Henry

52867387._SY475_Title: Beach Read

Author: Emily Henry

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 13 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: May 15, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 19, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.anted. Unable to trust the police, he begins to suspect a cover-up. It’s only when he meets a young Inuit woman, Tupaarnaq, convicted of killing her parents and two small sisters, that Matt starts to realise how deep this story goes—and how much danger he is in.

My Review: This book was a fun and easy read. I listened to the audiobook version mostly while doing chores around the apartment, which made such mundane tasks seem almost delightful.

January Andrews (was it just me or was anyone else reminded of the poem from It by Stephen King “January embers, my heart burns there too”?) is a romance writer with writers block. In her personal life, she is dealing with the death of her father (who she finds out was cheating on her mom) and the break up of a long term relationship. These two failed relationships have her questioning whether romance exists in the world.

Enter Gus Elliot, her rival / arch nemesis / secret crush from college. He is also a writer, but his books are much darker.

They enter into a bet, where each has to write a book in the others’ normal genre. Each weekend they go on outings to learn about the others’ genre for research. E.g., January takes him out on “romantic” outings. And, duh, they fall in love. Who could have seen that coming??

Despite the obvious ending, the journey was fun. The only thing I didn’t like, however, was the bit about the father. It just got really sappy toward the end and made me want to barf. January finally reads the letters her father left for her (at the beginning of the book we find out he died suddenly) and we the readers have to endure the barftastic sap that are the contents of these letters.

Plus, did anyone else feel NOT sympathetic to the mistress or the father like, at all?? I felt that they were VERY selfish!

Mistress: Oh January, you must let me tell you / listen to the explanation of why your father and I were together. I feel so bad and you have to make me feel better.

Father: Please understand why I cheated and forgive me.

NOPE!

But anyway, despite this little part of the book coming mostly at the end, this was a delightful read that I think readers of the genre will like.

BOOK REVIEW: The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora

42360844Title: The Paper Wasp

Author: Lauren Acampora

Book Length: 289 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller

Read Start Date: March 5, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 20, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: An electrifying debut novel from the acclaimed author of The Wonder GardenThe Paper Wasp is a riveting knife-edge story of two women’s dark friendship of twisted ambition set against the backdrop of contemporary Hollywood. In small-town Michigan, Abby Graven leads a solitary life. Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden.

When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she is surprised and warmed that Elise still considers her not only a friend but a brilliant storyteller and true artist. Elise’s unexpected faith in Abby reignites in her a dormant hunger, and when Elise offhandedly tells Abby to look her up if she’s ever in LA, Abby soon arrives on her doorstep. There, Abby discovers that although Elise is flourishing professionally, behind her glossy magazine veneer she is lonely and disillusioned. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise’s world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise, the Rhizome, and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends–until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.

The Paper Wasp is a thrilling, unexpected journey into the psyche and imagination of a woman determined to fulfill her destiny from one of our most unique and incisive writers

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review in 2019. I am only getting to this book now, in 2022. I am somewhat addicted to books, so made the mistake of requesting too many books from Netgalley, all of which I did not get to. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I took a break from reviewing and therefore did not read any books from Netgalley. I am trying to rectify that now.

I am sorry that I didn’t read this book earlier, and I think that the Goodreads review of 3.32 as of the writing of this review does not give the book justice. The book is written in the 1st person, but is told as though it is a conversation or a letter to another person. The narrator is looking back at the past from her position in the future.

So for example: “The airplane seat beside me was unoccupied, so I was able to spread the drawings out on my lap. All at once you were there with me, resplendent on the sofa in your starry dress, the fiery wave of hair over your shoulder. Your eyes were the green of a forgotten lake, your sweet mouth quirked and curved.”

This writing style was okay, but not my favorite. Although it was interesting to see a character (e.g. Elise) wholly from the subjective perspective of someone else (Abby), I have never read a book written quite like this before and it took some getting used to. Additionally, it kind of led me astray, because you are only getting to see the inner working of the mind in so far as the narrator (Abby) wants you to — this led to a wholly unexpected twist at the end, which I did not see coming at all.

That being said, as you can tell from the above quote the author gives great descriptions, which I really liked.

SPOILER ALERT: I get into the plot here so don’t read on if you intend to read this book, which I highly recommend.

So at the beginning of the book, Abby seems obsessed with Elise, a childhood friend turned famous actor, even going so far as to keep clippings of Elise from magazines and the like. Abby and Elise haven’t been in contact for a while, but reconnect at the High School reunion, where Elise gives Abby her phone number. Abby, taking it upon herself, just shows up at Elise’s house in California, where after a moment of trepidation, Elise invites her in — and then to stay long term, first as a guest and then as Elise’s personal assistant.

This arrangement struck me as a little weird — but ok, maybe Elise is the whimsical Hollywood type who just does weird things. Would a normal person just invite someone they haven’t seen in a decade to stay long term? Abby seemed lonely in her old life, so she agrees. As the story goes on, we see that Elise is kind of a train wreck, and into herself. Eventually Abby starts to feel used and devalued, so she ups and leaves (after spilling all Elise’s secrets to the press) just when Elise needs her most (Elise is pregnant), Abby ignores Elise and basically runs away to pursue her own art.

There was also a backstory involving a cultish movie director, Perrin. Elise and Abby were obsessed with him as kids — Elise wants to star in one of his movies, and Abby wants Perrin to use her drawings as a basis for one of the movie plots. There is a place called the Rhizome where actors / artists go to hone their talents, get spa treatments, have dream therapy sessions, etc.

The falling out of the two came as a direct result of the Rhizome, wherein Elise wanted to restrict Abby’s access (after paying for several treatments for Abby as a gift), and Abby took this to mean that Elise did not want Abby to advance in her own career and that Elise was just a self centered ass. This led to the one side falling out of the friends (Abby just ghosted Elise and Elise was desperately trying to get in touch with Abby).

All of the above I can believe and seems pretty consistent…but then Abby goes and kidnaps Elise’s baby and moves to Europe to live with Perrin on his compound. Up to this point, Abby was the sympathetic character — all of a sudden she is the villain, having stolen the child because she believed that she could raise the baby better than Elise. I had always had the impression of Abby as the quiet mouse who didn’t think very much of herself–all of a sudden she thinks she can parent better than Elise? Granted Elise is more or less and alcoholic at this stage, but that doesn’t mean she deserved for her baby to be kidnapped, and it doesn’t mean that Abby is all of a sudden stable. I don’t know, I have very mixed emotions about this turn of events.

Anyway, I finished the book a few days ago and am still thinking about it, so that must say something, right?

This book is definitely worth checking out.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

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: The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

56922594Title: The Stranger in the Lifeboat

Author: Mitch Albom

Audiobook Length: 4 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Christian, Religion, Spirituality, Contemporary

Read Start Date: February 12, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 14, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Adrift in a raft after a deadly ship explosion, nine people struggle for survival at sea. Three days pass. Short on water, food and hope, they spot a man floating in the waves. They pull him in. “Thank the Lord we found you,” a passenger says. “I am the Lord,” the man whispers.

So begins Mitch Albom’s most beguiling and inspiring novel yet.

Albom has written of heaven in the celebrated number one bestsellers The Five People You Meet in Heaven and The First Phone Call from Heaven. Now, for the first time in his fiction, he ponders what we would do if, after crying out for divine help, God actually appeared before us? What might the Lord look, sound and act like?

In The Stranger in the Lifeboat, Albom keeps us guessing until the end: Is this strange and quiet man really who he claims to be? What actually happened to cause the explosion? Are the survivors already in heaven, or are they in hell?

The story is narrated by Benji, one of the passengers, who recounts the events in a notebook that is later discovered—a year later—when the empty life raft washes up on the island of Montserrat. It falls to the island’s chief inspector, Jarty LeFleur, a man battling his own demons, to solve the mystery of what really happened.

A fast-paced, compelling novel that makes you ponder your deepest beliefs, The Stranger in the Lifeboat suggests that answers to our prayers may be found where we least expect them.

My Review:  The summary of this book makes it sound like it is just such an inspiring book. I mean, “Now, for the first time in his fiction, he ponders what we would do if, after crying out for divine help, God actually appeared before us?” Not to spoil the book, but what happens when “the Lord” appears? Everyone in the lifeboat basically dies, commits suicide, etc. How inspiring. This is because the “Lord” can only save them if all 9 people believe that this guy is really who he claims to be i.e. God. But I guess they don’t so they all die. Nice. So the message, believe in God or die? Only when you believe in God can you be saved? Eye roll. I fail to see how this is supposed to thought provoking or emotional?

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of religious books. I read this book for the story, as a fiction novel. I had no feelings other than apathy. Even with regards to the plot the book was only just okay. The book was separated into 3 story lines: The Sea, The Land, and The News.

The Sea: 10 passengers are on a lifeboat. The luxury yacht they were on exploded and they are the only survivors. Somehow no one comes to rescue them, so they float around for weeks, months. Then each person in the lifeboat begins to die, one by one, until there is only Benji, the narrator of the story, left. This plot seems ridiculous. Why were they not rescued? The owner of the yacht was a BILLIONAIRE! Where was the cavalry?

The Land:  An inspector finds the notebook written by Benji which chronicles the time spent on the lifeboat. He is trying to figure out what happened to the ship i.e. why it exploded.

The News: Gives some background on the yacht.

I think the story could have been so much better. It just felt like the author was trying to hard to send a religious / faith message rather than worry about the plot, the character development, or whether his story actually made any sense.

Is it worth reading? Eh. I’m not sure. I guess if you have nothing else to read and are looking for something quick, then maybe give it a try. Otherwise, there are many other, better books out there.

BOOK REVIEW: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

27362503._SY475_Title: It Ends With Us

Author: Colleen Hoover

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 11 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Sociology

Read Start Date: January 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: January 5, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up — she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan — her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

My Review: As of the writing of this review, this book has been on the NY Times Bestsellers list for 35 weeks. This book was also received a Goodread’s Choice award in 2016. Needless to say, this is a pretty popular book at the moment, despite having been published in 2016.

We meet Lily standing on a roof top in Boston, contemplating her decision not to eulogize her father, who had been abusive toward her mother. There she meets neurosurgeon, Ryle Kincaid, and although sparks are flying, Ryle is not the relationship type (as he himself proclaims). Although a little strange, at the time I didn’t give it much thought. I figured, okay he is just a player; but this reluctance is explained later.

Fast forward to sometime later, Lily starts her own business and hires coincidentally, Ryle’s sister. Thus, Ryle is thrust back into Lily’s life, and surprisingly, they start dating. At around this time, Lily’s first love Atlas shows back up in the picture (again coincidentally: they meet at Atlas’ restaurant where Lily is having lunch).

Fate seems to have brought 2 guys into Lily’s life. Lucky girl. Or is she?

Soon we start to see the cracks in the “nice guy” façade that Ryle has carefully constructed. Since the description of the book did not mention abuse, it came as quite the surprise to me. I was definitely not expecting it. If you are a person who has suffered from abuse and would be upset by descriptive scenes of physical violence, including rape, then this book may not be for you. I have to say that I was disturbed myself. It also irks me that this book is classified as a “romance” novel. When I think of romance novels, my mind does not envision an abusive relationship.

In any event, I’m sure by now you can figure out what Lily eventually decided to do about her relationship with Ryle (the title is big giveaway in this regard). Although the abuse was difficult to get through, Lily’s strength and resilience was inspiring.

Although Colleen Hoover wrote the book based on her mother’s own true story, I was a little irked that she wrote Ryle as not the villain, but rather as a person. Meaning, he wasn’t good nor bad, but made mistakes like we all do. He was a good brother and father, but made a horrible romantic partner. That being said, does being a good father, make him a good person? I don’t know. Can you be a good father if you beat the baby’s mother? That Hoover portrayed him as a sympathetic character who sometimes does bad things was strange. Should I feel bad for an abusive person? I certainly don’t want to, but somehow I ended up not disliking Ryle as much as I should have. So, there were some conflicting emotions for me with this one.

Have you read the book? What do you think about the portrayal of Ryle?

BOOK REVIEW: Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Title: Wish You Were Here

Author: Jodi Picoult

Book Length (Audiobook) 11 hours 47 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Read Start Date: February 4, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 8, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57701764-wish-you-were-here

Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.

But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.

Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. The whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.

Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.

My Review: Right off the bat, I will notify you that I will include spoilers in this review because there is just no way to express my disappointment otherwise. As the summary above states, Diana heads to the Galapagos and gets stuck there due to the lockdown. While she is there, her boyfriend Finn, a resident in a NYC hospital, comes face to face with COVID-19 and battles daily to save his patients from dying, often times not succeeding. These situations / scenarios are spelled out in great detail and I have to be honest, it was a bit much for me and detracted from the story.

During Diana’s time on the island, her boyfriend Finn is writing her emails about his experiences in the ICU. There was no mention of this in the book summary, so it came as a unwanted surprise. Finn goes into great detailed about how sick people are, how scared people are, how people are dying and how many. Why do I want to read about this in a fiction book? This has been REALITY for 2+ years!

I had COVID-19, alpha version, in November 2020. I was sick for 2 weeks, and had brain fog for 4 weeks. I was terrified of being one of those people who’s oxygen level drops but you don’t know it. Therefore, I regularly checked my oxygen levels with a pulseox device I bought on Amazon. I do not need to be reminded of how shitty COVID-19 is while reading something for entertainment. I want to be taken from my reality, not have it hammered into my brain with tons of detail, of which I already knew since I follow the news rather closely.

Despite the emails Diana received from Finn, I really enjoyed reading about Diana’s escape from the pandemic by living as a local on the island. Therefore, I was really disappointed when it came to light in Part 2 of the book, that the life Diana was living on the island was only a hallucination brought on by having COVID and being on a ventilator. Seriously? WTF. It honestly really ruined the book for me. Back in reality, Diana is facing a deteriorating relationship and of course COVID. Why couldn’t the island storyline have been the reality? Why did Diana have to have COVID, and why was it the version of COVID that almost made her die? I mean in the book the author made it seem like ALL COVID positive people die and die horribly. This was definitely not the case.

Would I recommend this book? Eh, probably not. Unless you like reading about the very pandemic you are going through right now. In my opinion this book was too soon and probably would have been better 10 years from now when (hopefully) all this shit is just a memory.

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: 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.