So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.
– Matilda by Roald Dahl
I’ve had this on my shelf for a while now, and wanted a short book to read and try to catch up on my Reading Challenge. This one only had little over 300 pages, so I was hoping to whizz through it, and it was a fairly enjoyable read in the end.
Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:
About The Book
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
Everything I Never Told You explores the YA genre, with a strange mystery vibe. It definitely contributes tropes of YA fiction through the characters age and issues the story tackles, but there is always the mystery of what happened hanging over the plot as well. The narrative is more of an exploratory one, rather than investigative as I initially thought.
Set in Ohio during the 1970s, we follow the Lee family on their journey to discover why their daughter Lydia was found at the bottom of a lake. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time, the changes of which were written extremely well written, and explores their family history, and what it was like for them to live as a multi-cultural family in those times. The story very much focuses on decoding the Lee family, finding out what goes on in each of the characters minds and how this affects their family life. The main focus is, of course, on Lydia, and life leading to her death in particular.
Everything that happened to each of the characters throughout the book was shown through their eyes, even if the story was written in (a sometimes confusing) third person. As we see things through many different points of view, not many things that happened were predictable, although James could sometimes be a guessable character. The most unpredictable turn of events was Lydia, which made sense seeing as she was the main focus of the story. There was nothing particularly climactic about the ending, but it was an overall interesting book with plenty happening at most points in the story. The plot was fairly fast paced because of this, and everything was logically set out to reveal important parts at just the right time. Nothing was included that necessarily seemed out of place, and by the end, everything was resolved.
With such a small cast of characters, each of them had a fully developed history and storyline which made them equally interesting. I found Lydia to be an extremely relatable character in terms of working hard to get what she wants and eventually breaking under the pressure put on her. She had a rebellious nature that became a seemingly large part of her the further into the book I got, and that seemed to be the case with many of the characters. Having characters like these, who are perfectly flawed, show us that no one in the world is perfect and everyone has their secrets. Due to this, the characters definitely felt real to me, because they were so relatable and didn’t seem polished in any way.
I was not necessarily kept guessing throughout the book, but I was constantly intrigued by the characters that continued to unfold and develop throughout the story. Eventually towards the end, you understand what happened to Lydia through her perspective, which was incredibly interesting. My favourite part of the book was when Nat was accepted into Harvard and the whole family make a fuss of him, when Lydia comes out and confesses she is failing Physics. This is quite a small section in the book, but I just felt it really demonstrated and embodied the feelings of each family member. Nat had finally achieved something his parents were proud of, and he was in the spotlight. His mother and father were pleased with his achievement, and Lydia finally shows that, as hard as she tries, she cannot be good at everything, no matter how much pressure is laid on her. The scenes that were written particularly well were those that really got into the depth of a character and understanding their history, and how that has affected their present. For example, understanding Marilyn and the relationship with her mother helped me to translate how Marilyn felt in the present day when mothering Lydia.
I possibly shed a few tears throughout this book, especially when Lydia was struggling with the pressure that has been put on her by her family, just because I found it very relatable, not because my family pressure me, but because I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well, and feel knocked down when I don’t reach my goals. I feel as though there are many points in this book which other readers will connect with in different ways, and will strike people emotionally, but this was just one moment that really go to me personally. I wasn’t necessarily gripped by the story itself, but the characters made me want to come back and find out more about them. It was an overall quick read, with a lot of depth packed into just over 300 pages.
There are very few books that I have read lately where I can say I really learnt something about myself, but this was an exception. This book taught me that pressure is not always a good thing, especially in high doses, and that we can’t always be good at everything. The best we can do is always strive to do the best we can do, and not be put down if what we get in return was not up to our high expectations.
I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you are lover of character driven novels, rather than plot driven ones. A solid YA book but with plenty to capture older readers as well.
My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5
Where To Buy
If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy it (including, but not limited to):
Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)
Hello fellow bookworms! July has been a month for slowly pulling me out my reading slump! Into The Water was a bit of a drag to get through, but Everything I Never Told You was a much better read, and put me back on track to finish off the month coming out of my horrible slump. I am hoping to have a much better reading month in August, reading a new trilogy, but let’s have a look at what I managed to accomplish in July…
What books have I read this month?
Into The Water by Paula Hawkins
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Late Fragments by Kate Gross
What am I currently reading?
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Number of total pages read: 928 (+ whatever I’ve read of MPHFPC))
Books read toward 2017 Book Challenge goal: 29.5/ books
So not bad, I guess, but I am already hooked on Miss Peregrine’s, I can’t believe it has taken me this long to get round to reading the trilogy!
Books I plan to read in August:
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
…I’ll see what I feel like after that, I sometimes prefer stand alone books after reading a series, but there are so many series I want to read I might just have to dive into the next one!
UPDATE- I want to also try and re-read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child before I see the play in September!
What do you think of the books I’ve read this month? What about the ones I plan on reading? I hope you have all had a great reading month! Leave your comments below, and book recommendations are always welcome!
Happy August and Happy Blogging!
It’s Sunday, which means it’s discussion time. This is when I write to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. Today is the final installment in the Stories collection, which aims to explore four of my favourite books, discussing characters and their relationships with each other, and how they are affected by predominant symbols in the story. This week I wanted to discuss how we study stories and why it is important for us to practice it whilst reading, along with a few of my experiences…
How to Study a Story
Reading a novel is one thing. Studying a novel is completely different. You can take in the story and understand what is happening, but to study a story is to find learn how literature techniques have been used and how to they contribute to the overall meaning. When reading a story to study it, you need to read carefully, and be attentive to the smaller details in the writing, taking notes on what is happening, what has been spotted, so they can be referred back to a linked to other parts of the story. The question is what notes should be made? Character appearances and personalities are important for the understanding of relationships, recurring themes help us to understand what the book is telling us about the underlying meaning of the story, and author’s writing style helps to identify key features throughout the book. Also note key details and quotes in the story, which will help when recalling the chronology later on, or write chapter summaries. Note down any links found between events, characters or plot as they are found, and what is important about them.
This is just the surface of what notes need to be taken. When studying a story, we also need to think about close reading. This includes four stages in the process of understanding what the story is trying to tell us. These four stages are: Linguistic, Semantic, Structural and Cultural. Linguistic is making notes about aspects of the vocabulary and syntax, and how the dialogue in the book is written. Semantic is thinking about what the words actually mean, and finding connotations within them. Structural is the relationships between the words and other words used in the same context, or in relation to characters or plot points. Cultural is thinking outside the text itself, and how it relates to other writing by the same author, or within the same genre, or points in history.
When completing this project, I wanted to try and record my feelings towards certain parts of the books, as well as researching them in a more academic sense. This was a lot more difficult to do, as I find myself really getting into why the author has written in a certain way. I started with reading The Fault in Our Stars, and the amount of notes I took in the first chapter was extraordinary! I found myself picking apart every sentence and trying to figure out why John Green had structured his sentences in certain ways, and why he had chosen that particular vocabulary. Once I had narrowed down my field of research to character relationships and symbols, it was so much easier to pick bits out and find relevant information that I could use. I continued to do this selective method of research, while still paying to attention to the overall story for context, and it made a massive difference, as I was able to easily look back over my notes and find what I was looking for, without having to read through tons of irrelevant findings.
Why is it important to study literature?
My biggest regret in life is not continuing English Lit after GCSE level, because literature is such a passion of mine now, and looking back, I know my reasonings were pathetic. However, I still practice the study of literature through reading my own books, when I review them, and when I discuss them with other people. There is a surface level you can read a book on, and that is understanding the plot and the characters. For me, this just isn’t enough to satisfy my bookworm cravings. I think it’s so important to look for symbolism, character relationships, atmosphere and dialogue (to name a few!) because as soon as you do, the story comes to life even more than it did before. I have read The Fault in Our Stars a total of 5 times, and I am still amazed at what I learn when I try and think a little bit deeper about what is happening on a particular page. Going back to literature that we’ve already read, and just reading a little bit closer, can really open up a brand new perspective. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was another book I read for about the 5th time, and I was shocked that there were some pieces of dialogue that had never caught my attention, but supplied crucial foreshadowing to the final few books.
To wrap this post, and the Stories post collection up, I wanted to send a message to all of you who read for pleasure, and devour your books in one sitting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, I often enjoy partaking myself, but next time you really want to have a reread of your favourite novel, just sit and cherish the words and what the author is trying to say to you. Think about recurring symbolism, the relationships between characters, and what they mean, because you may just uncover something new!
Until next time…
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
– Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
Also, head over to my Instagram (@bookmuffin) for the chance to win 20% off your order on my Etsy shop, The Literary Artisan!
This is a slightly different type of review for this week’s post, styled as a Q&A. My best friend and I had both read this book, and obviously, if you have read We Were Liars then you will understand, we had very mixed feelings about this novel! I thought it would be a good idea to have a more structured discussion, like a Q&A session, about the events in the book and how we felt about them, and see how far you all agree or disagree with what we thought
Please do not read any further if you have not read We Were Liars! This post will contains spoilers!
About The Book
‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart
We are the Liars.
We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.
We are cracked and broken.
A story of love and romance.
A tale of tragedy.
Which are lies?
Which is truth?
Q&A Discussion Review
How would you describe the genre of this book?
Silence. When you start to really think about it, this question is a toughie. When we first picked it up, we thought YA and mystery, but there is so much more too it than we initially thought. It could potentially be classed as a thriller novel, as it has the shorter chapters, but it’s more of a psychological read, because it doesn’t have the drive that comes with a thriller, like a whodunnit vibe. A young adult psychological mystery was our final verdict. New genre on Goodreads, perhaps?
Where is this book set, both physically and mentally?
What is meant by this question is of course where it is actually set physically, but also where we are in Cadence’s mindset, as we are reading from her point of view. How is she feeling at different points in the book? So we know it’s set on the island and in various houses on the island, as a main physical setting. It’s tough to tell the first time you read the book to tell where we are with Cadence mentally, but it’s important to think about this because of the nature of the storyline. In the beginning, it all feels very real, but after the accident, and as the storyline unravels, we start to question Cadence’s ability to tell the story, and the mental setting becomes questionable, not unlike the unreliable narrator technique. Also, we know Cadence’s character is under a lot of pressure with everything that has happened in her family with her dad leaving, and also her thinking about going to college, and we thought about whether this possibly hindered her ability to come to the final realisation faster.
What do you think of the series of events that happened throughout the book?
So at the start of the book, we see Cadence’s dad leave her and her mum, so why is this relevant? We think it’s symbolic of the beginning of so many bad things happening to her, and also showing that she has lost the strength of the support system she had with two parents. She has her accident, she has to stay away from the Liars for a few summers, and her relationships falter with a lot of people. Thinking about Cadence’s relationship with Gat, it’s tough to say why it was included in the storyline. It was an addition to carry the story, but would anything have been different if the relationship was taken away, and they were just friends? It never seemed to develop into anything.
Where the events predictable?
Did we know anything going into this book? No! It is so much better to go into this knowing as little as possible, which of course makes all events unpredictable. After she has her accident, you start to see some relevance to the story, but the ending was such a shock. Everything was condensed into such a small book, you need to read it again and pick it apart to find the clues hidden within that you may not have seen the first time round.
Did you find the ending climactic?
In most mystery and thriller novels, the beginning sets the scene, the middle holds the investigation and the ends tells us who the culprit is, along with an epilogue or final chapter which wraps everything up. With We Were Liars, everything seems to merge, and because there wasn’t really any defining investigation to follow the story- it all seems quite mundane in a way- there is even more of a shock when everything comes to light. After finding out everything that happened, their lives seem to go back to normal in the last few pages, which is really strange, because what Cadence has learnt and come to terms with is far from normal. There is also a very strong sense of forgiveness in the end, considering the events. When everyone on the island finds out that Cadence knows, they seem very quick to forgive, almost like they have had the time while she has been recovering to learn to forgive what her and Liars did.
Did you have any theories about what might have happened?
I had one theory, because I always like to try and guess. My theory was maybe someone was waiting for Cadence to try and drown her, because she was the eldest grandchild and heir to the estate. I always thought it had something to do with the water, and I never imagined that the major event in the book wouldn’t be linked. There was also suspicion when Mirren was ill, and questions and theories surrounding that, which brings us to our next question…
Hints towards the ending? Did you spot them or did they contribute towards your theories?
Mirren being ill is now an obvious hint towards the final verdict of the storyline, but nothing ever had a lot of emphasis on it to draw your attention, which was probably done on purpose, to detract from that fact that it may have been a clue. The same thing with the Liars not replying to Cadence’s emails, and Mirren saying she never received her gift. The rebuild of the house was a massive hint, I can’t believe I didn’t pick up on it!
What was your reaction to the plot twist?
It was the most dramatic part of the book. There wasn’t much of a build up which is what made it more effective and in-your-face woah!
Did you find the plot quite fast paced, or was it slow at times?
A mix of both. There were some parts that dragged on a lot, like Gat and Cadence spending time together. I was initially planning to read this in one day, but it took me almost a week! The chapters made it feel slightly faster paced because they were so short, but there were some parts that were quite repetitive and therefore slowed the pace a bit. This could have been done to make you pay attention to the important parts, by using repetition within scenes, even though they seemed mundane. It has been very cleverly written.
Did the author tie up all the loose ends that were introduced throughout the story?
Pretty much, we can’t think of anything within the plot that we’re still questioning.
Thoughts on the sentence and paragraph structure?
Why did the author split longer sentences into different lines? My idea was it could mirror the Liars on the different levels of the house at the end, by having different parts of the same sentence on a separate line. It could also hint towards the very broken family that you find out the Sinclairs are. Shorter sentences seemed to be fact, the piece of information that Cadence knows, whereas the longer sentences are more Cadence trying to figure out what has happened, which is why it seems more bulked out in the middle, and the broken sentences appear more at the beginning and end of the book.
Thoughts on the language and style of language used?
We’re thinking here about the very dramatic use of language for less dramatic circumstances. For example ‘He took out a hand gun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell.’ Language like this appears throughout the book and it is extremely metaphorical, because it isn’t actually happening. But we feel like nothing in this book is actually happening in a sense; therefore the language could mirror this in some way. Also, Cadence uses very specific and poignant language to describe the Liars in the beginning, such as describing Gat as ‘ambition and strong coffee’. We thought this could be written so specifically because the Liars do end up being characters in her head, and she therefore knows them as well as an author knows her characters, like she has built their personalities.
Who was your favourite character, and why?
All characters had a part to play, but none seemed significantly important at the same time. You can sympathise with Cadence because it is written from her point of view, but if I had to choose, I would choose Mirren, because she seemed the most chilled, and I know how important it is for a girl to have another girl to bond with. Gat didn’t seem real enough, and his relationship with Raquel was a strange addition, possibly to distract Cadence from him, and stop her falling for him too much. If she had fallen too hard, she may have figured things out sooner.
What did you think of the different characters in the story? (the Aunties? the Littles? Grandad?)
The aunties didn’t have a massive role to play until the end when they had the fight. Their characters developed into very selfish ones, and we found them quite distracting from the main plot, but again, this could have been another technique that Lockhart used to keep the reader from guessing the ending too quickly. There was one part regarding the Littles that stood out to me, which was when they had just finished a family dinner and Cadence asks the Littles to tell her about what happened, which is when she finds out they have been forbidden to say anything to her about the ‘accident’. I feel like people that young wouldn’t be able to understand, or even keep their mouths shut about what happened, so the aunties must have quite a strong influence over them. Grandad was a very mixed character, because at some points he could be the adorable, loving Grandad, and the next he could snap and be quite aggressive when people were only trying to help him.
Did the characters feel real to you?
The story was a lot more focused on the progression of events, rather than the character development. However, the situation the family was in was a very realistic situation.The Liars are more well developed, so they were the most real. The characters, while they did’t have a lot of development, they did have the background and family setup that made it feel more real. They didn’t have a perfect family.
What was your favourite part of the book, and why?
Probably finding out what happened, and Cadence actually having her accident. So kickstarting and rounding off the storyline were the favourite parts, because they were important parts in the plot. Her accident is a trigger for the reader to explore the story further.
What was your least favourite part of the book, and why?
THE DOGS DYING! They didn’t deserve it! Also the slower parts of the storyline that dragged on a bit.
Were certain types of scene written particularly well?
There was nothing that jumped out in particular, but at the same time, it was all, to some extent, written really well, for the author to be able to hide such a big surprise at the end through seemingly ordinary writing about realistic family disputes.
Did the book make you feel any particular emotions? Did you cry at any point?
The writing wasn’t necessarily emotional enough to cry (although tears may have been shed when the dogs die, just saying!) There was some anger when the aunties were arguing, or when Grandad lashed out when people were trying to help, but no particular rush of emotion.
Did the story grip you and keep you turning the pages?
Yes! But also, because of the way it was written, with no cliffhangers at the end of chapters, it seemed like a normal story. It wasn’t being told to create a climax at all because everything in the end is so sudden. This happened more towards the beginning transitioning to the middle.
Did you learn something? Morally or academically?
Don’t get four people to start a fire on different floors of a building!
Seriously though, we learnt that sometimes, it isn’t always about having material possessions, but building memories and moments with the people you love most in your life. This was most prominent when Cadence was getting rid of her things, and you can see her survive without them. You can have a minimalist lifestyle and still be happy.
The type of reader you’d recommend the book to?
We would recommend We Were Liars to readers around the 20 year old age range, similar to ourselves, and of course anyone older who appreciates this genre of literature, but not suitable for young readers. Anyone who enjoys a quick read.
Are there any books or series you would compare it to?
There is nothing we can think to compare it too, it is such a unique story. It can loosely be compared to The Fault In Our Stars just for the plot twist and the shock of thinking one thing, and the opposite happening.
My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5
Where To Buy
If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy it (including, but not limited to):
Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)
Top Ten Tuesday was originally started by The Broke And The Bookish, where a topic is given every Tuesday and the blogger then produces a top ten list of books to fit the weekly subject. The hosts are currently on a break from TTT, so I’ve decided to go back through the topic archives to find things to write about until we begin again for real. The topic this week is ‘Book Covers I Want To Redesign‘. I did a post a few weeks ago about my favourite book covers, so here is the reverse. These are book covers I have come across over my many years of reading that I have been barely able to look at, hiding them away on my shelf and giving them away as soon as I have finished reading them. Unfortunately, some of these books have been really enjoyable, and I hate it when I am deterred from a great book because of the design. Also, lots of books now have different editions with different cover designs, so I will mainly be focusing on the covers that I have personally come across that I would like to redesign if given the chance…
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
I have heard so many good things about this book, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the cover has never appealed to me as something I would want to read. It gives off some really odd vibes, I would probably stick to something a bit more simple and focused on typography rather than introducing a weird atmosphere with the inclusion on a standing cow!
Her by Harriet Lane
Since I first laid eyes on this cover, I hated it! It took a lot to pick it up in Waterstones, and I mainly did because it was the next best mystery and ‘Book of the Month’. The description intrigued me, which seems to override my hatred for the cover, but I really didn’t like having it on my bookshelf. It clashed with everything, and stood out for all the wrong reasons. Worst of all, when I got round to reading it, I didn’t even enjoy it that much. I was glad to get rid of it!
The Confessions series by James Patterson
I loved this book series! It was absolutely brilliant, and made me want to read more and more of Patterson’s writing. However, one of my pet hates when it comes to cover design is using people on the cover. It detracts from what a reader loves doing, which is using their imagination to picture the character’s appearance. If there is already someone on the cover, then how am I meant to have any input into what this character looks like? Don’t even get me started on movie tie-in editions!!
The Selection Series
Don’t get me wrong, on first glance, these covers are really pretty, and I’m not necessarily saying that I dislike them completely. I do however, dislike the use of people on the cover! What is wrong with designers eradicating reader’s imaginative ability and giving them what they think the character should look like? No, just no, please stop!
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Marueen Johnson and Robin Wasserman
Again with the people on the cover! I know most Shadowhunter books have included people on the cover, but they have been done in a way that still leaves a lot up to the imagination, such as not showing faces, and adding more details to focus on. Here, however, most of the cover is face, and it’s not how I want to picture the particular character. Don’t use people on the cover!!
Confessions by Kanae Minato
So a book cover that doesn’t have a single person on it, and I don’t know what it is about the book, I just feel it looks like not a lot of work has gone into it. Don’t get me wrong, I understand someone has probably worked hard on the design, but I feel like they could have done a lot more with it.
Organ/Soul Reapers by Shay West
These books are amazing! I was sent them by the publisher and was completely blown away by the storyline and character development, and the writing in general was amazing for an author is not very well known, but the cover definitely did not do this justice. Everything from the photography and image editing to the use of typography would have definitely put me off if I had seen it in a bookshop! This is the perfect example of why we shouldn’t judge books by their covers!
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
More people on the cover! Need I say more? It just puts me off.
The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
There are many different covers for the Divergent series, but the covers I read were the kind I would steer clear of in the book store. The images were not well put together, using stock imagery for the most part, and the typography really didn’t do it any justice either!
Me Before You
Okay, so the cover design is nice for this one. It’s cute and the colour and typographic choices were well made, but the reason I would redesign this cover is because it gives off the wrong vibe for the story. It makes it out to be an adorable contemporary where two people fall in love and live happily ever after, but there is so much more to it than that, and I just don’t feel like it is fully communicated through either version of the cover.
What do you think? Are there any here that you disagree with, or any books on your shelf that you would jump at the chance to redesign? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time…