Book Review: Everything I Never Told You

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22916576by  Celeste Ng

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.

ebook, 304 pages
Published June 26th 2014 by Penguin 
(from Goodreads.com)
I read this in December 2016, and just now realized I had never posted a review for it. It’s a heartbreaking tale, beautifully told, that I read in one day. First time I’ve read a novel in that short a time in a while. This is a debut novel. I cannot wait to read her next.

Book Review: Nightmares and Dreamscsapes

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I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since junior high, and his books contains some of the short stories that makes me want to walk up to him and say “Dude, your mind is so twisted, and I LOVE it!” One of those stories is ‘You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band’, another is ‘Chattery Teeth’ and one more favorite in this collection is ‘Home Delivery.’

The list of stories in this collection (all published previously):

Dolan’s Cadillac
The End of the Whole Mess
Suffer the Little Children
The Night Flier
Popsy
It Grows On You
Chattery Teeth
Dedication
The Moving Finger
Sneakers
You Know They Go a Hell of a Band
Home Delivery
Rainy Season
My Pretty Pony
Sorry, Right Number
The Ten O’Clock People
Crouch End
The House on Maple Street
The Fifth Quarter
The Doctor’s Case
Umney’s Last Case

These include a couple of ghost stories, a zombie tale, some vampires, some alien-ish things, and a couple of those odd things that only Mr. King can come up with. For example, The Moving Finger, a story about a man and what emerges from his drain one night. Like Chattery Teeth, it’s kinda icky and just plain weird. Which is why we all love Stephen King, right?

 

Book Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

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As per my rule, after I started watching the Showtime series ‘Dexter,’ I had to read the book the show was based on.  (I did not read these when the series was running.) I am glad I did; the book is dark, creepy, and occasionally wryly funny. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter is a different monster from Showtime’s, but both are equally entrancing.

My favorite line from this book:

“I took a deep breath and tried to remind myself that I was a good girl and didn’t do those things.” Gotta love it when a serial killer makes you laugh.

 

Book Review: A Little Life

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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A Little Life was the first book I chose from my 2016 Reading Challenge, a book recommended by a librarian or bookseller, and what a way to start! I am normally able to get through a novel of this length in a couple of days, depending on what else is going on in my life; I began this on January 11, and didn’t finish until March 22. It isn’t a difficult novel to read in the sense that the prose is complicated or confusing; it was hard for me to get through simply because of the challenging plot. The main character, Jude, is a heartrendingly broken man, and the story of his brokenness was, at times, too much for me.

A Little Life is the story of four college classmates, who move to New York to make their way: JB, an occasionally cruel painter who is trying desperately to make it in the art world; Malcolm, the genius architect; Willem, kind, handsome aspiring actor; and Jude, a brilliant litigator with a tortured past and a disabled body he refuses to acknowledge. As the years go by, each of these men achieves huge success in their fields: Willem becomes a world-famous movie star, JB’s paintings of his friends are shown in galleries all over, and Malcolm is designing buildings on every continent, while Jude is the head of his law firm. Their relationships through the years have deepened and grown, and the men themselves go through addictions, sickness, love and death. Through it all, we see Jude become continue to crack along the lines formed by a horribly traumatic childhood. He is haunted by his past, sure that if he tells the people he loves about what happened to him, they will not only judge him, but turn away or worse. His scars define him, and just when he is healing for real, the universe kicks Jude in the teeth once again.  After years of friendship, Jude and Willem have fallen in love, and are happy together. Jude’s myriad health problems are finally on the mend, after some major surgery, and their life is good. For the first time in his life, Jude is happy. And then BOOM!  Jude’s life is blown to smithereens once again.

“This, he thinks, is his punishment for depending on others: one by one, they will leave him, and he will be alone again, and this time it will be worse because he will remember it had once been better. He has the sense, once again, that his life is moving backward, that it is becoming smaller and smaller, the cement box shrinking around him until he is left with a space so cramped that he must fold himself into a crouch, because if he lies down, the ceiling will lower itself upon him and he will be smothered.” (p 804)

While this novel truly broke my heart, it’s easy to see why it was recommended by so many, and nominated for so many awards. I’d recommend it gladly, as long as you aren’t looking for something to cheer you up.

Eat. Sleep. READ. That’s all.

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Eat. Sleep. READ. That’s all.

It’s a new year (well, duh!), and I’m posting, finally. No apologies or excuses for my absence this time, just a fresh start. And a challenge.

I love a good book challenge, and this year, I’m taking Anne’s from The Modern Mrs. Darcy.  The 2016 Reading Challenge is relatively simple, without a huge number of books, which I need right now. And the variety is great!

mmd

 

Here are my choices, so far. Nearly all of these are books already on my e-reader or bookshelf, which was a conscious choice on my part. I have an overflowing e-reader, and it would be ridiculous to add more when I can satisfy the requirements! There are three choices that are new-to-my reader books; these are starred! (And my list is in the opposite order than the one above.)

 

A book I’ve already read at least once:

Cold Comfort Farm  by Stella Gibbons

A book that intimidates me:

Othello by William Shakespeare

A book I own, but have never read:

Van Gogh’s Room at Arles by Stanley Elkin

A book I previously abandoned: 

A book that was banned at some point:

(I’m choosing the same book for these two categories)

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

A book published before I was born:

A Room With A View by E.M. Forster

A book chosen for me:

I honestly cannot decide on which of the books my wonderful friends Karen & Rob selected for me, so I’m adding both of them to the list!

A Madness of Angels by Kate Swift (Rob’s choice)

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb (Karen’s choice)

A book I should’ve read in school:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A book recommended by a bookseller:  

*  A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara    I took this recommendation from the employees at Powell’s, where this novel was on several folks top-five books of 2015.

A book I’ve been meaning to read:

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

A book that can be read in a day: 

My Story by Marilyn Monroe

A book published this year:

This category is last, because I don’t have anything for it yet. Once 2016 gets going a bit more, I’ll fill this one in!

 

 

 

As I read these (and everything else!) I’ll post thoughts, reviews, etc. I’ll begin reading these as soon as I finish what I’m currently involved in! Join me, won’t you? Let’s make 2016 a year full of books!

And if anyone has suggestions for books published this year, let me know!

 

 

 

Something’s Fishy

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Is it possible to miss someone who never really existed? To long for something you never actually had? Well, of course it is, I tell myself–that’s what dreams are. Right? Sure. But in this case, I’m not talking about a dream I had. I’m talking about something altogether different.

Before I go any farther, let me just say that sharing this with the entire world was a difficult choice to make. I need to get this out of my head, though, so here we go! A few posts ago I mentioned that I’d ventured back into the world of online dating, and that I’d met someone.

His profile on OkCupid said his name was Justin, a computer engineer in his mid-40’s, living in New York City. He had a cute profile picture; not movie star cute, but attractive. (I’m not movie star attractive, and I don’t judge a book by its cover!) He liked books, jazz, Asian food, and travel. He messaged me, and we chatted on the site for about a week and then through emails, and texts. After a couple of weeks, he asked if he could call, and I said yes. Talking to him was very nice; he was funny and smart, and I liked him. He did have a strange accent that made understanding him difficult sometimes; it almost sounded as if he had a hearing problem as a child. He told me his accent was from growing up in Germany, where his mother still lives. It didn’t sound at all German to me, but I accepted his explanation, because by this time, I was starting to like this guy. Of course, I should have paid more attention to the things that didn’t add up. The strange accent. The fact that if I called him I always got voice mail. And the strangest thing, the one that really should have made me know I was being played–he had no online presence. I did a Google search for the name he gave me — Justin Peacock– about a week after we started talking, and while I did get some hits, they clearly were not him. There is a writer of that name living in NYC, and he popped up. His books, mystery/thrillers, are pretty good. But that’s neither here nor there. I thought this lack of any kind of online presence was odd, given that he claimed to be a freelance computer engineer; in this day and age, how do employer find him if he isn’t online? No Facebook profile, either. Something was smelling fishy.

 

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A month or so went by, and “Justin” called me nearly every night. I enjoyed our talks, and was truly feeling something for this man. I’d set aside my suspicions, except for a little niggling in the back of my mind. And then he told me he loved me. Frankly, I was astonished. We’d never met, and he loves me? Seriously? He seemed sure of himself, so I went with it, and let him declare his love. I wasn’t in love–yet–but I was developing very strong feelings. Then he began telling me he had a job coming up that was taking him out of the country. He said he was going to Malaysia for a month to negotiate the contract, then he’d return home before going back for a year. He said he wanted me to come with him for that year. Well, from there it all went down hill. The week before he was supposed to leave on this trip his calls were fewer and fewer. The day he left, he didn’t call, and I was angry and hurt; how do you leave the country for a month and not even call the girl you say you love to say goodbye? What the hell was going on? I emailed him, and heard that he’d been running so late he’d nearly missed his flight, and how sorry he was. Yadda yadda yadda. From then on, the excuses flowed like a river. When I told him that my sister suspected he was playing me, he told me he’d planned on coming to Portland on his way back home after his month was up, to surprise me and prove them wrong. Then he said he was having trouble with his bank and couldn’t put minutes on his phone, so couldn’t call me. I really didn’t know what to think at this point, but I was torn. A big part of me wanted him to be real, and to have him show up on my doorstep. But the sensible part of my brain said “Jonna, something is not right here. Find out why!” So I did what I could, and put his picture into Google image search, and hoped against hope that I was actually talking to a man named Justin Peacock. Nope. I got catfished.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term catfish, let me enlighten you. 3454615

catfish

someone who pretends to be someone they are not online to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances. From the 2010 movie Catfish

CATFISHED : Being deceived over social media as the deceiver professed their romantic feelings to his/her victim, but isn’t who they say they are.

Having a fake profile, images and avatar in order to lure people to have romantic feelings. They are then catfished when the victim realises the person they have fallen for via social media is not who they appear to be.

The picture led me to a Google Plus profile of a man in California named Alexander Appleby (his name sounds fake, too, I know). Every picture “Justin” had sent me was from one of Alexander’s profiles, either on Google Plus or Facebook. Just to be sure these were not the same people, I called the business phone number listed on the profile, and spoke to Mr Appleby. I’m not sure if I was hoping to hear “Justin’s” voice or not, but the voice I spoke too was definitely not the man I’d been talking to. And he was rather upset to find out someone had been using his photos in such a manner.

I sent an angry email to Justin, telling him I knew the truth, and wanted to know who he really was, and why he’d done this. Needless to say, I’ve heard absolutely nothing since.

What really bothers me is that I miss him. I miss that imaginary person, and that makes me both sad and angry. I swear, if I ever meet the person behind “Justin Peacock”, I will bring the wrath of the gods down upon them.