Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

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.


This is by far the best fiction book I have read in a long time.  The writing style is absolutely beautiful.  Celeste Ng begins the story in the present time (late 1970s) where a family has just lost a daughter/sister, and she floats the reader back and forth in time, seamlessly weaving in pieces of the puzzle that lead to what happened to Lydia Lee.

But the story isn't just about Lydia, and it isn't just about the Lee family.  It's about society in the 1960s to 1970s, the struggles of a mixed race family, lost dreams, internal conflict, family, secrets, lies and love.  The themes in this book are extremely powerful and the story evokes a range of emotions for the reader from beginning to end.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fiction/literature.

Friday, September 11, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl She Used To Be by David Cristofano


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

When Melody Grace McCartney was six years old, she and her parents witnessed an act of violence so brutal that it changed their lives forever. The federal government lured them into the Witness Protection Program with the promise of safety, and they went gratefully. But the program took Melody's name, her home, her innocence, and, ultimately, her family. She's been May Adams, Karen Smith, Anne Johnson, and countless others--everyone but the one person she longs to be: herself. So when the feds spirit her off to begin yet another new life in another town, she's stunned when a man confronts her and calls her by her real name. Jonathan Bovaro, the mafioso sent to hunt her down, knows her, the real her, and it's a dangerous thrill that Melody can't resist. He's insistent that she's just a pawn in the government's war against the Bovaro family. But can she trust her life and her identity to this vicious stranger whose acts of violence are legendary?


I really enjoyed this book.  It's definitely a page-turner. The general story line is very interesting - a young woman who basically grew up in the Witness Protection Program, Melody McCartney is tired of reinventing herself and not really knowing who she is.

Although I think David Cristofano does a great job of writing from a woman's perspective, there were a few times where I felt like it was obvious that the book was written by a man rather than a woman. I hadn't even noticed whether the author was male or female when I downloaded the Kindle format, but at one point I stopped reading and checked because the things that Melody was thinking during a certain scene were so over-sexualized that it just didn't feel like something a woman would have written.  I also felt that there were a few parts of the story that were so far-fetched it was hard to get over it in my head as I was reading.

Despite these minor criticisms, the book is very enjoyable.  There is romance and suspense and it was hard for me to put it down until I was finished.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.

Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.

Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.

Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.


I was surprised by the first two chapters of the book.  I thought they were giving the entire story away until I got further into it.  It ended up that there were several twists and turns in the plot, right up to the very end, and it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

I did not like that the narrative rotated between characters - each chapter being told from the perspective of a different person in the story.  I got used to it, but it was just odd for me.

That said, the story is beautiful and sad, suspenseful and heart-wrenching.  If you like Lifetime movies, you'll enjoy this book. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.


Have you ever wondered how someone else's house can always be clean when you can't seem to keep up in your own home?  Or how certain people remain thin and fit while others pack on the pounds year after year?  This book will help you understand how powerful habits are in our day-to-day lives, even when we don't realize it, and how just a few habits (good or bad) can have a domino effect on many others.

I found this book to be fascinating. Understanding how habits work in our lives allows us to consciously make the changes necessary - eliminating bad habits and initiating good ones - in order to achieve the things that we want in our lives. The hard part is simply making the choice to take control of our habits and our lives.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling


ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.


I first knew of Mindy Kaling from the TV series The Office, but in a portion of her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy tells the story of how she got there.  What's interesting to me is how incredibly humble she is and lacking in self-confidence, which she plays off as kind of making fun of herself.

The book is cute, funny and lighthearted. Mindy tells stories from her childhood, dating, her rise to fame (although she certainly doesn't talk about it that way), her time on The Office, and much more.  She is an extremely likable person and her book in enjoyable.