What I’m Reading: Everything I Never Told You

From the Book Jacket:

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:

Part of me really enjoyed this story, and the other part of me really disliked it. I don’t know if it’s because I really enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere and I had big expectations, but something about Everything I Never Told You just left me feeling unsatisfied.

I’ll start by saying that Marilyn and James Lee really annoyed me. They were your stereotypical “I want my child to beeverything I wish I was when I was growing up” kind of parents, and I couldn’t stand them. I get that parents often live vicariously through their offspring, but they were ridiculously selfish.

That being said, a big kudos to Celeste Ng for making me loathe them so much but at the same time wanting to know more about them. My heart hurt for their children, whether it was because they were being pushed into being something they didn’t want, being ridiculed for having a passion, or being ignored completely.

I’d almost give Everything I Never Told You four stars, but there’s some nagging feeling holding me back. I think I just wanted more out of it; it felt way too short for the subject matter and I feel there’s some kind of void that’s been left unfilled.

My rating: ★★★¾/5 stars

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What I’m Reading: The Immortalists

From the book jacket:

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

My review:

After reading the book jacket for The Immortalists I was intrigued and just had to give it a go. After all, if you knew what day was your last on earth, how would you live your life?

The story starts off with the four Gold kids visiting the fortune teller and then kicks off their timelines. The book is sorted into four parts, one per character, and each section blends the timelines together between characters.

While each chapter was pretty long (40+ pages in come cases) I found myself blasting my way through Simon and Klara’s sections. They were perhaps the most enjoyable and interesting to read, then the pace got a little slow when it got to Daniel, and even more so with Varya. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it, I just felt like I wanted a bit more out of Daniel and Varya’s storyline.

In the end, The Immortalists isn’t overly graphic, but depicts a fictional-but-accurate tale of the times. And the premise itself is a great conversation starter: If you could know when in time will be the day you die, would you want to know? Would knowing shape your life differently?

My rating: ★★★★/5

What I’m Reading: Red, White & Royal Blue

From the book jacket:

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

My review:

I picked up a copy of this book after hearing a lot of positive feedback about it. The idea behind the book was quite intriguing, but I think it really could have been put together more cleanly. Also – I can’t help but assume that this is a fictitious spin on what politics may been like if Clinton had won the 2016 election, but I digress…

The main story idea itself was good – a secret love between the First Son and HRH? Scandalously wonderful! I cheered for Alex and Henry’s love story and I truly wanted them to be together. Love know no boundaries (or political policies), you know? But all details involving their “bow-chicka-wow-wow” moments was … Meh. I don’t know if it was skirted over on purpose or if the author was too apprehensive of researching the subject matter, but those moments fell flat, IMO. There needed to be more than kissing, a smile, an “Oh Baby” and spooning.

Additionally, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m not American, but I just didn’t enjoy the whole re-election subplot and felt that the story could have had the same impact if it didn’t revolve around an election.

Red, White & Royal Blue definitely has an important message behind it – that policies need to change with the times and you should be allowed to love whoever you want to love openly – but I feel the story could have been delivered better. Chop out the centre third of the story and again, the point still could have been made. It was too long for what it was.

In a nutshell: I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It just didn’t live up to the hype for me.

My rating: ★★★/5 Stars