Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng
I read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng last year and it was easily one of the best books I read so I had high hopes for this one.
While Everything I Never Told You is good it doesn’t hit the same heady heights for me as Little Fires Everywhere.
The novel is about a family who are torn apart by their eldest daughter’s death. Marilyn marries her college professor – James, much to the shock of Marilyn’s mother. Her mother wants Marilyn to fulfil the dreams she never had – a career and independence and this doesn’t involve Marilyn marrying so young and especially marrying a Chinese man.
Marilyn is happy to give up her dreams of chemistry and science to marry James however after having Lydia and Nathan she realises that she has become exactly like her mother. She leaves her husband and children and decides to pursue her scientific dreams. However it falls flat when she discovers she pregnant again. She returns back to her family and puts all her dreams and ambitions onto eldest daughter Lydia.
Lydia is no longer able to be a child and every waking minute is spent on homework and education. Lydia wants to please her mother for fear she’ll abandon the family again. But it starts to take its toll and she makes her only friendship with bad boy Jack. Then she’s found at the bottom of the lake…
The family fall apart – James starts an affair with a student, Marilyn gives up, Nath who was due to go to Harvard continues to never feel good enough for his parents and Hannah feels as invisible as she ever was. Whilst the family will never heal, by the end of the novel they realise they must pull together more than ever.
Any Way You Want Me by Lucy Diamond
Sometimes you just want an easy book to read, nothing that’s too taxing on your brain and a novel that you can just pick up and leave. Any Way You Want Me by Lucy Diamond is that novel.
It tells the story of Sadie, sassy and with the world at her feet, she has two beautiful children with her long term partner Alex. Trouble is she misses the days of it just being her and Alex and whizzing off somewhere for a long weekend or the last conversation they had which didn’t involve the kids. As much as she loves her family, she craves excitement and the need to feel wanted.
Enter Mark. She meets him at Alex’s work’s do and the pair are smitten. Sadie hesitates at first but soon finds any excuse to meet up with him. Trouble he, is starts to turn up everywhere! Things go really wrong when Sadie finds out she’s pregnant and doesn’t know who the father is. Even she admits it’s as though she’s ended up in an Eastenders’ storyline.
It is though a happy ending. Sadie is a character with lots of flaws but is still so likeable. It’s great to have a protagonist like this. Definitely one to read on holiday or a sunny afternoon.
The Cows by Dawn O’Porter
The Cows by Dawn O’Porter is funny, heartbreaking and a real story of female friendship without being in your face and gushing.
The novel tells the story of three women – Tara, Cam and Stella and how their lives collide.
Tara works in a male dominated office where misogyny rules and her talent is often forgotten about as she becomes the butt of sexist jokes. She has a daughter from a one night stand is is actively seeking love. She meets Jason while she is meant to be on a date with someone else. The pair get a long so well and they exchange numbers, trouble is Jason’s phone is knocked out of his hand by a passing cyclist and the phone goes down a drain. Jason has no way of contacting Tara. Meanwhile Tara is caught pleasuring herself on the tube ride home and is unknowingly filmed and becomes an internet sensation. It ruins her life to the point of losing her job and not even being able to pick her daughter up from school.
Cam is sassy and a blogger. She writes about a range of feminist topics from not needing a man to not wanting children, which no-one can seems to accept least of all her mum. She has a guy who she sleeps with but wants nothing more from him. Following a blog post about Tara’s incident on the tube, Tara gets in touch with Cam and the two strike up a strong online friendship, only meeting once. Cam accidentally gets pregnant and decides she wants a termination, unfortunately in a tragic accident she falls down the stairs breaking her neck before this can happen.
Stella is realing from the loss of her twin sister. She is told she may develop the BRCA gene which caused the death of her sister and mother. This becomes all consuming to the detriment of her relationship with her boyfriend and he decides he doesn’t want children with her. Stella goes on a downward spiral trolling Cam and pretending she has cancer all to seduce her boss – Jason! When Cam reveals to Tara, before her death that she is being trolled by a Stella and she explains what she is going to do to her boss, the penny drops and Tara realises the boss is her Jason! Stella had put Jason on an internet ban so he wouldn’t have known how to track Tara following her incident. The trio of women become linked and Tara stops Jason from sleeping with Stella.
The novel is sassy without ramming feminism, female power and reputation down your throat. As I have been reading so many thrillers of late, this novel was a welcome change and I really enjoyed it.
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
If you want a comforting, light hearted read this is not it and to be honest I was not expecting it to be as intense as it was.
Turtle isn’t your average 14 year old. She know how to use a gun, kills animals for food and how to live apart from society. She lives with her dad who she believes loves her more than anything. He’s flits from caring to abusive in the blink of an eye and Turtle doesn’t always know where she stands. If she does something her dad doesn’t approve of he physically abuses her and rapes her, which Tallent describes, sometimes, in horrific detail. Her relationship with other women is also concerning as her dad has taught her not to trust females, making life hard at school.
She thinks that her dad loves her more than anything and it’s not until she meets Jacob, who grows up in a normal home that she questions why her upbringing is so different. For the first time in her life, Jacob provides stability, he cares about her and treats her with respect. Turtle is incredibly close to her grandad and when he suggests she ask Jacob to prom and her dad finds out, he kills Turtle’s grandad (his own dad).
Turtle runs and lives in the bush, terrified for her life. The book ends in disaster as her dad tracks her down at the school and injures her and her school friends but justice is done when Turtle shots him in self defence.
As I mentioned the book is at times uncomfortable but it is worth a read.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Unintentionally I seem to be reading a lot of morbid books at the moment. This book has been everywhere and whenever I am looking at books to buy on Amazon is always cropping up.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on a true story, elements have been changed by the author but the main characters and the basis of the story is true.
Lale is a Slovakian Jew forced to leave his family, if he doesn’t, they will be killed. He is taken to a concentration camp for hard labour but the SS see potential in him and he is taken to Auschwitz and made to become the man who tattoos numbers onto those entering the camp. Lale struggles with the fact he is the man to give men, women and children a lasting physical reminder of their time in the camp but he is just doing what he is told to stay alive.
Portrayed as a man willing to help anyone, he trades food and even jewellery with those on the outside to get medicine into camp or will starve himself so others don’t go hungry. As soon as he sees Gita, he instantly falls in love. Everything he does in the camp is with the end goal of him and Gita having a life together after the war is all over.
My only criticism of the novel is the way their love is described – it’s almost sickly sweet the way he speaks to her and thinks about her in a fairy tale like way. Although maybe this is amplified against the atrocities described in the camp.
Both Lale and Gita do make it out alive and spends several months trying to find each other after the war is over. The author actually made friends with Lale and his son, unfortunately Gita died several years before, to enable her to tell the remarkable story.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
I have been really slack recently keeping up with my book reviews. I read The Immortalists at the beginning of May and here’s my thoughts…
The novel is separated into four separate parts following each of the Gold children. In 1969 the children visit a psychic who tells each of them in turn the date they will die. As children do, they don’t take the date seriously but as they progress into adulthood they can’t help but shape their lives around the predicted date they will die. The children also shaped by their claustrophobic parents who smother them with love and struggle with the idea of their children moving away and leaving home. Upon their father’s death, each child starts to branch out.
Simon, the youngest of the Gold children, moves to San Francisco in the 80s with Klara, the closest of the siblings. He moves to the city due to the huge gay scene during this era and also because he doesn’t want his mother to know his sexuality. Their mother has huge ideas for each of the children, mainly centred around them being doctors – however Simon rebels and becomes a dancer in a gay club. He’s promiscuous and starts using drugs, he eventually settles with a partner but cannot remain monogamous. He catches AIDS and dies on the date the psychic predicts.
Klara has always been attracted to the super natural and magic. She becomes a performer in San Francisco and eventually meets her husband who shares her vision for performing and together they tour the country. They have a daughter who they also include in their act. Klara becomes so consumed by the date she’ll die and feeling trapped in her controlling marriage she takes her own life on the predicted date she’ll die.
Daniel is happily married but has been forced to take time out of his job as a doctor in the army due to his mental health. He dies on the date the psychic predicted following a fight.
Varya, the eldest of the children, you could argue has the most complex of mental health issues. She works in a lab testing drugs on animals. She doesn’t let anyone get close to her and focuses solely on her work. She is the only one of the children still alive by the end of the book.
It sounds like a morbid tale but it’s incredibly interesting account of how a psychic reading can change and shape everything you do in life.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
When I haven’t been meeting up with friends and family, my week off work has consisted of watching reruns of The Hills and reading Becoming by Michelle Obama – a complete contrast I know.
I read the first 250 pages over two days of the Easter weekend whilst sunbathing in the garden.
What struck me most about Michelle Obama is how humble and down to earth she comes across. She doesn’t strike me as someone who has changed from being a First Lady and expects heirs and graces. She wanted and continues to use her platform for social change and to improve the lives of young people.
She knows who she is and seems truly comfortable with herself admitting that although Ivy League educated and reading and composing briefings whilst in the White House, she would still watch Sex and the City and read People magazine. She worked hard to become a lawyer however wasn’t afraid to say that she didn’t like the corporate world and instead changed vocation to helping young and vulnerable people.
Neither her or Barack came from wealthy backgrounds and had to work hard to get what they wanted. Although brought up in working class families both were installed with string values and ethics.
A complete cliche but by the time I had finished reading the book I felt as though Michelle had become a family friend.
She speaks to the people and conveys her thoughts in an honest and articulate way. It’s not a sordid book where she gives always her husband’s secrets, she’s completely loyal to him and their daughters. A slight contrast from who is currently in power.