Monday, July 3, 2017

Summer Reading List: Knoll and Ng

Both books I'm reviewing today came from my new favorite way to get books -- thriftbooks.com!  I love this service.  Affordable books, free shipping if you spend at least $10, and while the books don't come to you as quickly as Amazon Prime, they're still fairly speedy.  I used to buy books from Ebay a lot back in the day and this reminds me of them . . . but better.  I highly recommend!  Check them out!

First up . . . The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

I was really looking forward to this book.  Then I straight up hated it.  And it's made me realize that I'll think once, twice, three or four times before picking up another book that's lauded as the next "Gone Girl" or "The Girl on the Train."

I'll let the back of the book tell the description: As a teenager at the prestigious Bradly School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself.  Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancĂ©, she's this close to living the perfect life she's worked so hard to achieve.

But Ani has a secret.

There's something else buried in her past, something painful and private that threatens to bubble to the surface and ruin everything.

{Snip}

The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all she's worked for?  Or will it, at long last, set Ani free?

First things first, the character of Ani FaNellis is probably one of the LEAST likeable characters I've read in any book ever.  Ever.  She's a straight up bitch and not in a dark and mysterious way.  In that she's an out and out C U Next Tuesday and there's nada likeable about her.  She's spoiled, not rich enough by her own standards but it's obvious that she, as the narrator, is a whiny white chick that's upset life hasn't given her AS MUCH as the person next to her.  She shows disdain for her parents and their way of life - including her mom's *gasp* BMW - as a teenager and through the remainder of the book.  Literally one of THE bitchiest book characters I've ever encountered.  The back cover of the book tells us it's soon to be a motion picture from Reese Witherspoon and I'm wondering what the hey hey they're going to do to make this character even halfway relatable.

That said.  The "Ani has a secret" is . . . I don't know.  It's a "secret" from much of the world but not from her parents.  Or her fiancĂ©  Or even any of the kids she went to school with at the time.  It's not much of a secret at all.  There's also a big "scandal" (totally the wrong word but I don't want to give anything away) she's involved in that was pretty predictable.  And it really bothers me that one of the pivotal moments in the book - again, not wanting to give anything away! - happened in November of 2001, just two months after 9/11.  I really, really, REALLY feel like the author should've chosen another year for this cycle of events.  So close to 9/11 just feels so wrong and almost dirty.

So, yeah, this book is no The Girl on the Train and it's an absolute INSULT to Gillian Flynn to even begin to compare it to Gone Girl.  Save your time, save your brain cells.  Skip it!

After I finishing Luckiest Girl, I re-read The Island by Elin Hilderbrand and I think I may have enjoyed it more than the first time!  I love her books.

The next new (to me) book was Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

I finished the entire book in a Sunday.

A Sunday in which all of us were home.

I could NOT put it down.  I absolutely loved this book -- even while hating some of the characters in it.  (And hating the way it started -- "Lydia is dead.  But they don't know this yet." -- and the way it ended.)

The book is about the Lee's, a Chinese American family in Ohio, who wake up one morning realizing Lydia, their oldest daughter - and favored child - is missing.  We the reader know she is dead thanks to the first sentence and the remainder of the book delves into the life - and death - of Lydia as well as the lives of her parents, brother, and sister.

Everything I Never Told You is so, so beautifully written.  It handles the topic of interracial marriage (the father is Chinese, mother white in this particular story) in the 1960's - and raising a multicultural family in the 1970's - in a very respectful yet historically truthful way.  It was, at times, painful to read because of the sheer honesty and transparency of it.  I'm going on a total side note soapbox here but sometimes, now in 2017, we fail to realize how good we have it.  My own children are biracial and, well, they go to school with other kids who are biracial.  Some are black/ white, some Asian/ white, some black/ Hispanic, some Hispanic/ Asian . . . you get the picture.  Our country has changed a lot in the last 40 years and this book really paints a picture of how it was to be "different" in the 70's.

I hated both the parents in the book.  Hated them.  But, at the same time, there were instances where I "got" them and could see where they were coming from.  All three kids in the book -- Lydia, her older brother and younger sister -- were painted so perfectly and I just wanted to hug them.

This isn't a light and breezy beach read.  It's sad and it's powerful and there are times it will make you angry.  But it's a beautiful book that I'd recommend to anyone.

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