Posted in Uncategorized

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

From the first pages of Everything I Never Told You, there’s such a thick layer of sadness enclosing the whole atmosphere that even the happier memories tend to float in a grayish filter. Nothing is bright, nothing really shines, every little joy being somehow washed by wave after wave of sorrow, unspoken regrets and more than anything, longing. Longing to be either yourself or someone else, to fit in or to be unique, longing for love, for dreams, for things to be different or exactly the same, for freedom or belonging. Longing for all the things that make us human and for all the things that make us different.

I haven’t really stopped reading once I learned how to, as a child. Not during teenage years, not during adulthood. But I realized now, while reading Everything I Never Told You, that it’s been more than a decade maybe since a book offered me some sort of… revelation. I cannot find a better word. During the years of adolescence, when I was questioning everything and looking for answers, I searched for and found books after books that would allow me to form my thoughts, that indirectly shaped the way I think, that made my mind buzz with ideas. But since then, somehow reading turned from thirst of knowledge into entertainment only instead.

And I can’t remember discovering any more bewildering novels. Novels that would shake me, that would suddenly make me grasp an idea that feels like it’s completely new and in the same time, like it’s been always floating there, under a shallow layer, so close, but always out of reach.

And although the whole novel of Celeste Ng is somehow bursting of examples, one insignificant scene was the one opening my eyes about this: how hard we hit the ones we love the most, when we are furious on anything else besides them. How in that explosive moment, we don’t care how exposed, innocent and hurt they are and nothing else matters besides our own anger. And how poisonous is the mix of guilt, fury and pride that forms in the seconds after, how it swells in your throat so much that it hurts and doesn’t let you breathe or swallow. We never learn that the guilt won’t ever disappear, even if, perhaps, the memories themselves might fade with time. In that impulse, we always forget that the guilt will survive even after the people won’t be there anymore, that the guilt will hover around, surrounding and intoxicating any recollections, outbalancing any facts or feelings, no matter how much we try to ignore it.

As cheesy as it may sound, I feel grateful for reading this book and amazed by the author’s ability to paint such raw images, to make me feel such diametrically opposed feelings in the same time, to make me sense each character’s pool of grief, regrets, silences and vulnerabilities. I did not read Everything I Never Told You. I felt it, I lived it. There weren’t many things to make me connect with the characters or to identify myself with their own stories, but the author’s talent makes you empathize with all of them, transfering you their feelings as if they were your own.

Posted in John A. Heldt

Indiana Belle (American Journey #3) by John A. Heldt

If I wouldn’t have seen the long list of this author’s books, I would have honestly thought that Indiana Belle is his debut novel. Not because of the storyline, but because of the writing style. The story is nice and cohesive, most of the characters’ portraits are sturdy enough to be credible, but the writing technique has something so… naive that it gives you the impression that the author just started his writing experience and that he’s trying to follow all the rules taught in school.

The main downside is that even for a time-traveling story, there are some aspects that just seemed either forced or not enough developed, so be prepared to swallow your frustration about this and just move on with the story. Despite this, I enjoyed the book: it has this nice, relaxed vibe, sweet and light like a lazy summer day, without any drama, stress or conflict. The world building is absolutely wonderful. The author throws you straight into the 1920s and colors the life there in bright, clear colors. I felt like the side characters were contributing even more to this, giving you a glimpse into the people’s mentality back then.

What drove me crazy was just the way the characters were oftentimes addressed. I understand the wish of avoiding repetition when referring to the same characters again and again, but expressions like “the rhode islander”, “the time traveler”, “the society editor” somehow put distance between the reader and the protagonists and after a while become annoying.

I didn’t connect in any way with Cameron, the book’s hero but I blame it more on the fact that I deeply hate the insta-love. And in his case, the concept is even more absurd: he falls in love with… a photo 😑 At least Candice has a more natural reaction and overall, her personality is more bubbly and charming. And as I mentioned before, even if their appearances are kind of episodic, I found almost all the secondary characters extremely well portrayed and their actions are a great addition to the whole 1920s picture.

Although the storyline flows pretty much without a major or breathtaking conflict, here and there, there will be some chapters that are breaking the rhythm and make the whole plot more entertaining. I personally loved the chapter from the far future and to be honest, I would have loved to see the story continuing in that era. It was an awesome and totally unexpected turn and it offered some extra flavor to the whole novel.

Indiana Belle is the third book in the American Journey series, but each novel can be read independently. I haven’t read the first two novels yet but I didn’t feel there were any missing points or that I skipped any connections with the previous two books.

Posted in Trish Harnetiaux

The Secret Santa by Trish Harnetiaux

This book felt very much like a shot of alcohol: super fast and surprisingly intense, you’re finishing it before you even know it and it gives you no time to get bored or lose your interest.

Yes, the story doesn’t go super deep and it might feel more like a short story or novella instead of a full length novel despite the decent number of pages. However, it definitely doesn’t feel rushed or incomplete. Perhaps it’s not offering a lot when it comes to people’ motivations or complex descriptions, but it brings a clear view of the actions happening and colorful enough portraits of the main characters. And by colorful I believe it is the best way to describe the individuals that we’re encountering in The Secret Santa. Nobody could argue that their personalities are the most genuine, but in the same time, they’re not annoyingly unbelievable also. It feels like the author took some very normal features and just exaggerated them enough to make a statement, but not to the point where the characters turn to caricatures. I encountered this technique before with other authors and always loved it. It’s like the characters themselves become the definition of certain traits: ambition, platitude, stubbornness, revenge, etc. But in the same time, they are portrayed with enough colors to give them full personalities. Frankly, you’ll never meet in real life such unidirectional personalities but for sure you won’t mind loving them or hating them when you’re reading about them.

As long as you don’t start the book expecting a deep dive, but instead, a light and catchy story, I’m sure you’ll be enjoying it a lot and find very little things to judge or to dislike.

Posted in Stephen Graham Jones, Uncategorized

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

I have no idea how exactly to explain my initial reaction to this book. I’ve read countless books in English, which is not my mother tongue, I live in an English speaking country and use the language every day, but once I started The Only Good Indians I felt like I don’t understand a word, like I’m reading in Chinese. After a few pages, I even passed the book to my SO to make sure that my brain didn’t suddenly lose its ability to read or to understand a sentence. And no, it clearly wasn’t me, it was the writing. I still have no idea what exactly happened there, what the issue was. Each word had a meaning, but somehow, put together, they just didn’t have any sense. Somehow, after a few chapters, things sort of went back to normal and the phrasing was smoother. Despite that, the book still didn’t catch me and I just wanted to finish it faster and be done with it.

The storyline is definitely original and not one of the tipical horror plots, but that’s pretty much the only good thing I can say about it. I’ve seen so many excited reactions about this novel, I saw it in so many 2020 tops. It’s not even the fact that my expectations weren’t met. I wasn’t just disappointed, I simply disliked everything about it. The characters weren’t interesting, I couldn’t sympathize with any of them, their actions seemed illogical half of the time, the storyline wasn’t catchy, the plot didn’t make my pulse jump or give me the feeling that I’m reading a horror. In addition, I feel like the author tried so much to signal that this is a story about native indians that it became repetitive and annoying.

Considering that so many readers gave positive reviews and I’m in minority here, I’m just going to assume this was not a story for me, but it can definitely be for somebody else. So in case you’re feeling tempted to give it a try, don’t let my opinion discourage you from reading it.

Posted in Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I was not intending to read this book, but after watching the TV series, what eventually convinced me otherwise was the fact that… it seemed like my sympathies laid on the wrong side. Between the readers, there will always be Team A or Team B (remember Twilight?) but usually this happens when both options are reasonable and do not fall under the “villain” category. After watching the TV series, completely empathizing with Elena Richardson and almost hating Mia Warren, I discovered with shock that most of the people had a complete opposite opinion. Like.. Elena was the bad one?! Did we really watch the same thing?
So I started the book just to see if it will leave me with the same perspective or offer some additional details that might explain why most of the people had a different point of view.

Although you might expect the opposite when it comes to a book versus its adaptation, I felt like this time, the screenplay offered somehow an ampler spectrum of the main characters’ colors. In the book, Elena’s actions are clearly throwing her in the villain’s role, without giving too much depth to her reasons. By comparison, Mia’s lack of color makes you sympathetic to her cause without the justification of any actions, but simply because of the role she’s playing: the single, poor, but dignified mother that’s just trying to raise her daughter in the best way and… doesn’t really do much else.

In the TV series, my perception was different. Mia is selfish, sacrificing her daughter’s happiness and stability on the altar of her own career dreams. She stabs Elena in the back, she sets off a custody battle because of her own past trauma and without actually thinking about the well-being of the baby, she subtly manipulates and uses people around her. Yes, some of Elena’s actions are questionable as well, but only after she’s been provoked by Mia and usually have a “the end justifies the means” vibe. But overall, Elena just fights in a fairer way, with more direct hits. And even though her portrait might be simpler than Mia’s, who is this hipster-ish, gipsy-at-heart, mysterious and misunderstood artist, I stand by Elena’s cause. Although she sacrificed her own dreams for the sake of the family, I did love the fact that she had a strong attitude and turned the situation in the best way, without victimizing herself, despite having some regrets at an unconscious level. Meanwhile, Mia sacrifices everyone around her (her parents, the Ryan couple, Bebe Chow, the disputed baby, her own daugheter) for the sake of her own dreams and beliefs, without any doubts or remorse.

I also loved the portrayal of the other characters more in the TV series than in the book. All of the side characters and all of the kids’ experiences (both Pearl’s and the Richardsons’) are more lively and intense, you get to know them deeper and overall, the TV series just does it better. I feel like the book is covered by a veil that makes everything and everyone faded and blury, while the screenplay removed that veil and allowed the action to shine bright and colorful.