Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Oh wowwww I loved this book. I randomly came across it and thought it sounded interesting. And I’m trying to read more books where the main characters are people of colour. This book is about a Chinese-American family, the father is American-born to Chinese immigrant parents, and the mother is a white American. They have three children and right at the very beginning we learn that the middle child, a daughter, has died. She was found in the lake. We don’t yet know how she got there or anything about her last night alive. The book follows the mother, father, older brother, and younger sister. It is heartbreaking. Ng makes you see, understand, and feel for the perspective of each family member. It’s the 1970s in a small town and the setting seems perfectly appropriate for the story. The writing was so graceful, so soft but every sentence was to the point. I really didn’t see what was coming – this story is incredibly unique and I think it’s one that many people should read. We see the negative effects of subtle racism, neglect, pressure, and what a lack of support from loved ones can do. I would recommend this book to anyone – I think anyone would enjoy it, and everyone could be impacted by the story in one way or another.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeons Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander

Someone bought this book for me after my father died while in a coma. I don’t think this had any effect on my ability to read it carefully and with all due skepticism. This is something I believe in but I am always skeptical when someone claims they have experienced it and then wants you to buy their book. This case is a bit more incredible than most because of the illness that Alexander suffered. He really should have died. I can’t believe in his near death experience simply because he is a neurosurgeon… I feel like anyone else could have had that experience and then just talked to a neurosurgeon to confirm that their illness and brain function wouldn’t have made that possible, know what I mean? I liked that its more clinical than other accounts and that Alexander spends much of the book simply relaying facts. It is slightly religious but less religious and emotional than other people who claim to have had a near death experience and for that I was really thankful. I did get a little tired of the author himself… be a little humble.. “Proof” might be a strong word but it was definitely compelling. It was nice and short and I was able to read it all in one sitting. I would recommend this book to people who are curious about near death experiences as I think it really is a great, fairly simple, not overly emotional and righteous – it gets to the point and doesn’t claim to have many answers.

Review: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

I loved this book, I’ve already gone out and bought a few more of her books. The woman at the local independent bookshop that I love in Vancouver had recommended her books to me, telling me to start with this one, and I finally got around to it. I wish I’d read it sooner.

The book is narrated by a 98-year-old woman, named Grace, who looks back at her life starting in 1914 when she started as a maid at this house at the estate called Riverton. She worked for a family and became quite close to the eldest daughter and stayed on with her even after the  daughter got married and moved to London. As an old woman now in a nursing home she is asked for her insight by a woman working on a movie about that family and their tragic past. The story flips back and forth between 1914, 1918- 1924 and 1998. It is so well done and incredibly easy to follow. You find out that there are secrets, past actions and guilt and very slowly you start to realize the situation and the key players. I felt like the pacing was good, the character development was great, the insight into how people behaved back then in upper class, and lower class families and what roles were played was interesting. I wish some things had been answered more fully, more in regards to side characters like the Grace’s daughter and grandson.

 

There were things I didn’t love about this book. It was almost 600 pages, I didn’t think it needed to be that long. I also wish the love triangle had been played out a bit more.. I felt that one of the characters involvement was barely there until it became a pivotal plot point right at the very end.  There were a few details to the book too that were not pleasing.. a few plot points that didn’t entirely make sense. But I accept that the author used those plot details to tell the wider story and get it to where she wanted it to be.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story, historical fiction, and/or books set in England. And I will definitely read more books by Kate Morton

 

 

 

 

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I finally read it, six months after it came out. It feels like I waited forever though. I kept hearing not-so-great reviews so I wanted to be un-spoiled for a while.  I enjoyed reading it for the fact that it was about Harry Potter, but kind of still wish it hadn’t been published. I think I would have really enjoyed the play,and I’ll still go if I can tickets one day. I think it would have been better left just as a play and not turned into a book – it needs the actors, to be drawn out over a few hours, and not to be considered another Harry Potter book. Because it isn’t.

I liked the premise that all those years later Harry and Ginny’s son is friends with Draco’s son at Hogwarts. I liked that it was a bit realistic in that being Harry Potter’s son wasn’t always an easy thing. But what happened with the other characters was a bit hard to read – Ron and Hermione were really not as I’d pictured them. Ron’s only purpose was to be a bit weird and silly and not to be taken seriously at all. Hermione was all serious and very little human. I also really didn’t like the Dumbledore scenes.

The plot was interesting – the two sons try to go back in time to save Cedric Diggory.. but they’re part of an evil plan and all that. The plot could easily have taken up a 500 page novel, but condensing it to a screenplay was really tight and had very little depth. The issues between Harry and his son weren’t resolved in a way that I was happy with either. This is one of those reviews where I saw that I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it, and use the cliche that It Was What It Was.

Before I go to Sleep by S J Watson

Before I go to Sleep by S J Watson

I’m not sure how I felt about this book. It was recommended by a friend of mine, who told me that she couldn’t remember anything about the book except that it was ‘really crazy’ and since I wanted to read a thriller and this was the only one she’d read she thought I should give it a try. I don’t know much about amnesia but this case sounds farfetched, but I can deal with that. Fictional stories can be as farfetched as possible and still be great reads. Anyway, Christine goes to sleep each night and forgets everything that has happened since her early twenties. She can only make memories during the day – everything will be wiped from memory when she goes to sleep again.  That would be hell, and it is for Christine, she is scared and sad and unsure of how to get through the day..each and every day. But she’s apparently started a secret relationship with a psychologist who is willing to help her remember, even though her husband is adamant she accept her life now. This quickly turns into a mystery, how did the injury happen to make her forget everything? Why isn’t her husband ok with her seeing someone to help her remember? I don’t usually read mysteries or thrillers so I couldn’t put this one down. I had to know what happened to Christine. I’m not going to call it a masterpiece but I was entertained. Read it before you watch the movie – this isn’t the kind of book you can read after.

Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

 

This review is a little conflicting. It is a story that needed to be told. A must read for anyone, we’ve all been helped by the medical breakthroughs that came from HeLa cells taken from Henrietta Lacks as she lay dying. This book details the life of Henrietta Lacks, as well as that of her family who continues to live very poor and with many health problems of their own, and the doctors, researchers, and medical field that have all been successful because of her cells. Doctors had been trying for years to culture cells taken from patients in order to do medical research. None survived until Henrietta Lacks cells (HeLa cells) were taken as she was dying from cervical cancer. From this many doctors became successful researchers, making medical discoveries and working towards cures and vaccinations. In the years many doctors were thriving, Henrietta’s family was suffering extreme poverty that, to this day, they still have not escaped. Ironically, without health insurance or money for health care, her family’s health issues continue unaddressed. It seems no one gave the Lackses a second thought once HeLa cells were taken. I really felt for Henrietta’s children and grandchildren – they had all clearly been affected by this. The story highlights issues with medical ethics, racial issues in America, and the US healthcare system. Nothing about what happened to the Lacks family was illegal. I was fascinated by the story, and disgusted by the actions of the white doctors against the poor black patients they were supposed to be helping. So in this sense the book was well-written, except that the author just seemed so awful too! She didn’t seem to show much respect for the Lacks family. Many times throughout the book I felt like she added details of their personal lives that were not important but just underlined the fact that she was dealing with poor, uneducated black people. It felt incredibly disrespectful. All the time she was showcasing the fact that the family never received money while the white doctors made a fortune she was reiterating that she wouldn’t be giving them any money from her book.  I kept wondering why she would keep mentioning that in the book.  There was also just too much about the author and her diary of writing the book. I have read plenty of non-fiction where the author doesn’t continue to talk about themselves and how hard it is to write a book. I was so unimpressed with her that I was sorry my money went to her. So read the book – but take it out from your local library!

Review: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

I saw the movie when I was little and fell in love with it. I watch it almost every year now  in October. I decided to skip the movie this year and read the book instead.  It truly is a book for children of all ages. I loved the book and can honestly say that now I love the story even more. It is so inventive and interesting and exciting and I love that it teaches the reader a bit more about Halloween and the cultures and traditions around the world that celebrate it. Ray Bradbury has his own way of writing that makes his style incredibly unique. I will try to get my hands on some more of his books. I didn’t love Fahrenheit 451.. but that had no bearing on this story whatsoever. I am so glad I read this book! It was so descriptive and I really felt like I was with those kids, dressed up in a costume, travelling through time and space. It made me think of what I liked about all the older spooky kids movies like Hocus Pocus, Casper the Friendly Ghost andThe Addams Family, set in a time before smart phones, the internet, and when kids ran around being kids. I felt like I was back in my childhood experiencing the wonder of Halloween. It wasn’t cheesy, it wasn’t overly creepy, the book felt like it had no agenda (the way some books do) and that it was just a legitimate story.  I liked it how he put each of the kids in a traditional Halloween costume and throughout the story explains a bit about ghosts, mummies, and skeletons. I would consider this a classic and would recommend everyone to read it, especially in October to get in the Halloween spirit.