The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Title: The Hating Game25883848
Author: Sally Thorne
Pages: 387
Year: 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis: Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I kept seeing The Hating Game on my Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Goodreads timeline, and its rave reviews piqued my curiosity. As is my policy for all books, I put it on my Kindle Wishlist until it went on sale. My boyfriend bought me an amazon gift card for the sole purpose of buying full price books, but I have still adhered to this policy. Because, as I explained to him, why would I buy two full priced books when I could buy 20 books for $1.99? Ahem. On to the review.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman are both executive assistants to the co-owners of Bexley & Gamin, a publishing company in New York City. While they share an office space in close quarters, they have never gotten along. When their respective bosses announce that one of them will be promoted over the other, their competitive drive only raises the stakes of their hatred for one another. However, the office dynamic begins crumbling when their daily arguments and games turn into sexual tension.

Office romance? Enemies to lovers? Sounds like a big cup of cliche. *Sips tea* But the author was able to bring new life to these tired tropes through her hilarious and quirky characters. Lucy’s narration of her working relationship with Josh and the other employees of Bexley & Gamin had me laughing out loud. The witty banter and bickering between Lucy and Josh only made their chemistry more apparent.

As a whole, this book was a fun, hilarious read. I enjoyed every second of it, and seriously could not put it down. Recommending to all fans of contemporaries and rom-coms!

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

Title: Everything You Want Me to Be29276588
Author: Mindy Mejia
Pages: 340
Year: 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: No one knows who she really is…

Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good girlfriend. But Hattie wants something more, something bigger, and ultimately something that turns out to be exceedingly dangerous. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy rips right through the fabric of her small-town community.

It soon comes to light that Hattie was engaged in a highly compromising and potentially explosive secret online relationship. The question is: Did anyone else know? And to what lengths might they have gone to end it? Hattie’s boyfriend seems distraught over her death, but had he fallen so deeply in love with her that she had become an obsession? Or did Hattie’s impulsive, daredevil nature simply put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading her to a violent death at the hands of a stranger?

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to death.

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

This is a review that I have sat on for a while now, just because I was so stunned by this book. Everything You Want Me to Be is a book that has stayed with me since the very last page, and I’ve had a difficult time putting into words just how much I enjoyed it and how deeply it disturbed me.

The story is told from three alternating points of view; Hattie’s, Peter’s, and Del’s (the Sheriff investigating Hattie’s murder). Both men know vastly different versions of Hattie, and this is made apparent right away. In a small town setting where everybody knows everything about everybody, people are very surprised to learn that the popular girl they thought they knew was not all that she seemed.

This book is one of those books that will make you uncomfortable, but not in the reasons that you’re thinking. While being about the murder of one of the main characters, Everything You Want Me to Be is actually pretty tame when it comes to graphic violence. What’s disturbing about it is Hattie’s final year in high school, the events leading up to her death, and what caused everything to fall apart.

Hattie is a master in the art of manipulation, and by the time she turns eighteen, it’s as natural to her as breathing. This is not to say that she is a sociopath, but that she has learned how to perceive what will be most pleasing or attractive to each person in her life and changes her personality based on those preferences. Her manipulations are grounded in good intentions, but that level of self-regulation is exhausting to Hattie. When she finally decides to end the charade and mold herself into her best character yet (herself), she is murdered.

Even though there is a relationship between Hattie and a teacher, I wasn’t as uncomfortable with this as I would have previously imagined. This is not to say that I was completely comfortable with it, I wasn’t. But the 8-year age gap between Hattie and Peter seemed less and less significant as time went on, and I found myself feeling sorry for them knowing what was to come.

Peter Lund was a fascinating character. He’s a young teacher, new to the profession, having all the excitement and characteristics that make up the best kinds of teachers. However, he is not without his own problems. He’s become increasingly distant from his wife, as a result of being transplanted from big city life to his wife’s small hometown. He misses the opportunities that city life affords him, and feels alien to the farm life in which his wife is so capable.

Sheriff Del Goodman is less of a defined character. His purpose is to provide the reader with more details and discoveries about the investigation into Hattie’s murder. Being an old friend of Hattie’s family, he has a personal stake in the case and is therefore more involved and forthcoming with information, but he is still not as developed as the other narrators.

As far as structure, I thought that the pacing was very good. Mejia gave us certain revelations at the perfect times and withheld others until later. The investigation was filled with twists and false assumptions that kept me guessing until the very end. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was shocked yet again. Highly recommended to fans of the psychological thriller!

With Malice by Eileen Cook

Title: With Malice26153925
Author: Eileen Cook
Pages: 316
Year: 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: 3.75/5

Goodreads Synopsis: It was the perfect trip…until it wasn’t.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last six weeks should be. She discovers she was involved in a fatal car accident while on a school trip in Italy. A trip she doesn’t even remember taking. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident.

As the accident makes national headlines, Jill finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. It doesn’t help that the media is portraying her as a sociopath who killed her bubbly best friend, Simone, in a jealous rage. With the evidence mounting against her, there’s only one thing Jill knows for sure: She would never hurt Simone. But what really happened? Questioning who she can trust and what she’s capable of, Jill desperately tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

Imagine waking up in a hospital bed with no recollection of the last month or so of your life. This is how Jill Charron’s story begins, as she recovers from a devastating car accident that killed her best friend, Simone. The gut-wrenching twist? The police don’t believe it was an accident at all. Statements are emerging saying that Jill fought with Simone before the accident, that the crash looked intentional, and that their friendship was more sinister than it seemed.

Jill doesn’t remember any of this. She only remembers a loving relationship with her oldest and dearest friend. But as the evidence begins to tower over her, she wonders if she is capable of the things everyone is saying she has done. Could she have let a boy come between their friendship? Could she have fought with Simone? And could she have murdered her best friend?

Jill’s narrative is split up between interviews, online conversations, media segments, and descriptions of Italian landmarks. This format worked very well for me. I thought it was a fun way to break up the novel and to give more points of view other than our protagonist. It showed just how much the “truth” can differ between different people, and how flimsy that truth can be. Even when Jill’s memory begins to return, her doctors remind her that her “memories” could be influenced by what she has been told by her family and the press, making her an unreliable narrator and leaving a lot of what she remembers up to interpretation from the reader.

I felt sympathetic for Jill as she is cruelly depicted by the media and slut-shamed by peers and strangers alike. Her parents and lawyers don’t believe in her innocence either, simply trying to make it all go away. Everyone believes that Jill is hiding something, and remembers a lot more than what she is letting on. However, while the plot hinges on Jill’s memory, it is only moved forward by the statements and interviews gathered by police as they build the case against her. This is not a novel driven by character development, but by the development of the plot.

So, did Jill murder Simone? Read this fast-paced thriller and find out!

 

The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart by Anna Bell

Title: The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart28811985.jpg
Author: Anna Bell
Pages: 432
Year: 2016
Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: A hilarious new romantic comedy for fans of Lindsey Kelk and Jane Costello from Anna Bell, the bestselling author of Don’t Tell the Groom. Abi’s barely left her bed since Joseph, the love of her life, dumped her, saying they were incompatible. When Joseph leaves a box of her possessions on her doorstep, she finds a bucket list of ten things she never knew he wanted to do. What better way to win him back than by completing the list, and proving they’re a perfect match? But there’s just one problem – or rather, ten. Abi’s not exactly the outdoorsy type, and she’s absolutely terrified of heights – not ideal for a list that includes climbing a mountain, cycling around the Isle of Wight and, last but not least, abseiling down the tallest building in town …Completing the list is going to need all Abi’s courage – and a lot of help from her friends. But as she heals her broken heart one task at a time, the newly confident Abi might just have a surprise in store …

Abi is completely devastated when her long-term boyfriend, Joseph, dumps her unexpectedly. So much so, that it sends her wallowing in a deep depression for weeks. When she discovers his “Things to Do Before I am 40” list among the items he’s left at her apartment, she decides to complete it; thus, impressing him and winning him back in the process. What ensues is the hilarious, yet heart-warming journey of a woman’s discovery of herself.

If you’ve ever been broken up with, especially unexpectedly, you’ll know the emotional roller coaster that ensues in the aftermath. Obsessing over what went wrong, what was said, what might have gone differently, and how you can win them back. Abi’s case is no different. The novel begins with Abi wallowing in post-breakup depression. Bouts of crying, emotional eating, and lack of personal hygiene… Personally, I found it a little pathetic that she let someone else have that much control over her and her happiness, but I can understand the sentiment. This is why that when Abi finds Joseph’s bucket list, it makes sense in her desperate state that she wants to use it to win him back.

Aided by her best friend, Sian, and colleage, Giles, Abi begins to make her way through the list as quickly as she can in order to win Joseph back before he can find someone else. What I liked most about Abi’s group of friends is that even though they were unsure about her list (why abseil down a building when you’re afraid of heights?) and didn’t know the real reason why she wanted to start and complete it so quickly, they still wholeheartedly supported her. They wanted her to succeed and were willing and able to help her do so. I thought their support of Abi really lifted the tone of the story and made it more of a team effort. Sometimes, having a great group of friends around you during a difficult break up can be all the medicine you need.

 

The bucket list aspect could have been very formulaic and just followed the list without much depth or character development, but instead we got to see Abi’s character change and grow from the pity party of one we saw in the beginning, to a woman with confidence and independence. It was very inspiring to see her, not only pick up the pieces, but become a better version of herself, despite her original motives. While this book is very much the predictable, romantic comedy trope, I still found myself invested in Abi’s character and the outcome of the book. All I wanted was for Abi to realize how awesome she was on her own, and that she didn’t need to place her self worth in someone else’s hands. Thankfully, she arrived at that conclusion in the end, after five or six shenanigans.

A must-read if you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud, inspiring, romantic, pick-me-up!

The Shoes Come First by Janet Leigh

Title: The Shoes Come First25026404
Author: Janet Leigh
Pages: 286
Year: 2015
Publisher: Goodreads
Rating: 2/5

Goodreads Synopsis: In Sunnyside, Texas, Jennifer Cloud is an assistant purchasing manager for an upscale shoe store. But after her boss is arrested, she’s forced to find work elsewhere and ends up in her brother’s chiropractic office, where she discovers a hidden passion for helping others.

However, when she receives an unexpected birthday gift from her aunt that transports her back in time to 1568 Scotland, she meets a dashing Scottish outlaw who introduces her to a world of time-traveling keys. But on a return trip to the past, Jennifer’s key is stolen by a villainous band of time travelers who will stop at nothing to collect all of the keys for themselves. When Jennifer attempts to retrieve the key and sees her cousin kidnapped, she enlists a dysfunctional cast of characters—including a few interested suitors—to help her find the key and rescue her cousin.

Oh man… Where do I begin? I picked this book based solely on the fact that it was free via Kindle, and I am so glad of that fact. I really hate to say that I hated this book, but it was pretty bad… I’ve read better Twilight fan fiction… (*Cough* Fifty Shades of Grey *Cough*)

Ditzy (and virtually helpless) Jennifer Cloud’s obsession with shoes outweighs most other pressing matters in her life, until she accidentally stumbles upon a time traveling outhouse that takes her back in time to the 16th century. There, she meets a Scottish hunk, for whom she abandons all morals. (Context: At the time, she’s a 16 year old virgin who sleeps with a stranger she just met.) After a big time jump to the future, Jenn is yet again whisked away to the past via outhouse. Only this time, her redneck cousin Gertie goes along for the ride. From there, a series of shenanigans transpire, as well as Jenn being fought over by at least 3 different men. All of whom, I should mention, are massive fuckboys that Jennifer shouldn’t be wasting her time on anyway.

Positives:

  • There were a few funny moments that I couldn’t help snorting at.
  • Jennifer Cloud is written as a kindhearted, passionate person, who can’t help but inspire those around her to be better.
  • Time travel

Negatives:

  • Jennifer Cloud is written as a woman with no self control. She sleeps with a man she has just met, who abandons her in a foreign land/foreign time. She is indecisive, ditzy, and helpless. She has to rely on others to save her, and frequently wishes for the men in her life to save her from predicaments instead of looking for a solution herself. She’s described as gorgeous, but doesn’t buy that all these men are interested in her. In summary: Jennifer Cloud is a Disney Princess.
  • All of Jennifer’s love interests are serial daters, and are well known for sleeping around. None are immune to Jenn’s charms.

    IMG_0127

    Me

  • Many, many, MANY plot cliches.
  • Cheesy villains

If you want a LIGHT, romantic, cheesy read, this is the book for you. Personally, I found it a little hard to get through, but someone else may enjoy it immensely. This book received a *chokes on coffee* 3.71 rating on Goodreads.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Title: The Devil Wears Prada 228580
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Pages: 432
Year: 2003
Publisher: Doubleday
Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: When Andrea first sets foot in the plush Manhattan offices of Runway, she knows nothing. She’s never heard of the world’s most fashionable magazine, or its feared and fawned-over editor, Miranda Priestly. But she’s going to be Miranda’s assistant, a job millions of girls would die for. A year later, she knows altogether too much: That it’s a sacking offence to wear anything lower than a three-inch heel to work. But that there’s always a fresh pair of Manolos for you in the accessories cupboard. That Miranda believes Hermes scarves are disposable, and you must keep a life-time supply on hand at all times. That eight stone is fat. That you can charge cars, manicures, anything at all to the Runway account, but you must never, ever, leave your desk, or let Miranda’s coffee get cold. And that at 3 a.m. on a Sunday, when your boyfriend’s dumping you because you’re always at work, and your best friend’s just been arrested, if Miranda phones, you jump. Most of all, Andrea knows that Miranda is a monster who makes Cruella de Vil look like a fluffy bunny. But also that this is her big break, and it’s going to be worth it in the end. Isn’t it?

The Devil Wears Prada (2006) is one of those films they play on TV all the time, and one I almost always watch when it is on. It’s really a fantastically entertaining film, and Anne Hathaway’s, Meryl Steep’s, Stanley Tucci’s, and Emily Blunt’s performances are top notch. So when I found the book on Amazon Kindle for $1.99, I couldn’t pass it up. Miranda Priestly would not approve of my bargain shopping, but I don’t work for her, so YOLO. Settle in for my review, it’s not like you have anything better to do at the moment.

05b4192a9467ea3f1ebad17d82e1f221

I think most of you will know the story by now – Andrea Sachs, a recent college grad who neither knows nor cares anything about fashion, is thrown into a world where anything bigger than a size zero is frowned upon, carbs are the devil, and if you thought that top went with those shoes, you are seriously disturbed. Her boss, Miranda Priestly, head of Runway Magazine and dragon lady extraordinaire, is the most demanding and unreasonable person on the planet. The only reason Andrea puts up with it all, is because working for a year as Miranda’s assistant will open up many doors for her in the future. Only, she’s turning into a “clacker” herself, and her personal life is crashing down around her. After reading the book, I can only say that if you’ve seen the film and think you know the book, you are sadly mistaken. I’ll take “creative liberties” for 500, please.

In the film, we are introduced to our clear protagonist, Andrea “Andy” Sachs (Anne Hathaway) when she interviews for her first publishing job out of school. As her demanding job occupies more and more of her time, we become frustrated alongside her, as her friends and family refuse to see things from her point of view. We become enamored with the cold, Miranda Priestly, and the Runway way of life. When Andy’s job demands her soul, she gives it all up (in a professional way) and takes what she has learned to her next opportunity.

In the book, Andy ends up at a job interview for a magazine she doesn’t read, nor has ever heard of. She doesn’t do any research about the company before the interview, and doesn’t look to see who the key players are. “A million girls would die for this job” is a phrase repeated countless times throughout the novel, but Andy doesn’t appreciate what she has. She constantly complains about her vapid and fashion obsessed co-workers, but while that may be so, they have a much better work ethic than she does. Instead of being grateful for the experience and the contacts she is gaining, she chooses to complain about having to earn her dues.

tumblr_mp05zzX4bz1swrcnyo1_500

While I felt for Andy when Miranda would come up with yet another vague task for her to complete, I couldn’t help but be annoyed with the way she acted. After almost a year of working, she chooses to blow up at Miranda and is fired on the spot. I felt this to be extremely unprofessional, and I couldn’t help but wonder how Andy’s job prospects would pan out after this. (This is fiction, so obviously she is just fine.) Miranda Priestly, while difficult, is an extremely influential person in the magazine industry. Did she really not think about what the consequences might be for her outburst?

From the moment Andy is hired at Runway, she begins to put her friends and family second behind her career. Her best friend and roommate is an alcoholic. When she begins failing her classes, sleeping with random guys, and losing time, Andy doesn’t talk to her about it or offer to help. When her boyfriend starts becoming increasingly distant, Andy doesn’t make more of an effort to keep him in her life. Instead, she seriously considers cheating on him. When Miranda suggests that Andy “reminds her of herself”, Andy takes it as a compliment and uses her words as an opportunity for career advancement. Even when the worst happens, Andy throws away the opportunity for redemption to preserve her career. Because this is fiction, she ends up rebuilding all the bridges she burned, but I couldn’t help wanting to shake her screaming “IT’S JUST A JOB!!!!”

One thing I wish the book had touched on was the double standard in modern culture for women in leadership positions having to act the same way as their male counterparts. While Miranda was (and is viewed as being) difficult, cold, condescending, etc; it’s important to realize how much she has accomplished. Her background is briefly touched on in the novel, but it is explained that she came from nothing and clawed her way to the top. She wouldn’t have gotten to where she is, garnered the respect she has, or proven her invaluable worth to the magazine and fashion world if she didn’t have talent or determination. This, while men are able to occupy leadership positions without the assumption that they are shrill, cold, or overly ambitious.

devil-wears-prada-fashion-film-florals-funny-Favim.com-238958

3.5, because while it was definitely worth the read, I prefer the film. Or maybe I just prefer Meryl Streep. (That woman could play a plastic bag blowing in the wind and still win an Oscar, IMO.)

The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry

Title: The Love that Split the World25467698
Author: Emily Henry
Pages: 396
Year: 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Rating: 4

Goodreads Synopsis: Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife is the perfect description of this book. There is a stark contrast between those two references, but The Love That Split the World marries the Contemporary with Fantasy and Sci-Fi, creating a cohesive and complementary world within it’s pages. I can safely say that I have never read a book like this one before, and I found the different genres within to mesh together perfectly.

Right off the bat, we are introduced to a minor but very crucial character, Grandmother. Grandmother has been appearing to Natalie since she was a child, and has suddenly decided to reappear after a three year hiatus to deliver an important message. “Three months to save him.” As any of us would be, Natalie is confused and unsettled. Who is him? And who is Grandmother? Is she a religious messenger? A Native American apparition? Or simply a figment of Natalie’s imagination? One thing is clear, time is running out and Natalie has to race to beat the clock.

Adopted at a very young age into a middle-class white family, Natalie has struggled with her identity all her life. As a child, she tried to fit in with the people around her so that they wouldn’t think she was different. But as a blossoming young adult, she has become tired of this charade and is looking to discover her Native American heritage. This leads to the alienation of some of her closest relationships and changes the dynamic within the social space she has occupied for so long. Throughout the novel, Natalie struggles to answer the question; Who am I? Her mental state plays a very large part in this book, as she tries to figure out whether her experiences are supernatural or psychological.

Natalie Cleary is a particularly wise, and likable protagonist; she is quick to point out slut-shaming and refuses to see her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend as anything but human. Natalie is a feminist, and she refuses to give in to social pressures and constraints that compromise her sense of self. Her relationships with each of the characters featured are meaningful and play an important part in her journey to discover who she is, and who she needs to save.

This book is centered around a romance between Natalie and Beau, and relies on your attachment to that romance in order to effectively tell the story. I found Natalie and Beau’s relationship to be a little too insta-lovey for my taste. There wasn’t any build up of their relationship, just feelings plucked out of midair and proclaimed as love. Their romance was entirely built on good looks, and we are constantly reminded of those good looks throughout the novel.

“His biceps are roughly the size of my head, and his eyes look like summer incarnate, and he has two little dark freckles on the side of his nose, and a mouth that somehow manages to look like a shy kid’s one minute and a virile Greek god’s the next.”

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.  I’m not sure what I prefer, being constantly reminded how beautiful a character is, or being constantly reminded how ordinary a character is. I have to admit, that description does paint a pretty picture. Emily Henry has an extraordinary way with imagery, using words to perfectly conjure a character, action, or place in the reader’s mind. Criticisms aside, I did believe and become invested in their romance. Despite its beginnings, it felt genuine and relevant.

The Love That Split the World is a novel that features diversity, feminism, positivism, and the contrast between the supernatural and psychological. I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but I liked that it was open-ended, and at the same time not unclear. This is one of those books where you don’t get a concrete, “tied up all the loose ends” ending, but it’s done beautifully, successfully, and it satisfies the reader. Nothing in this book is cut and dry, everything is open to interpretation, and the ending captures that perfectly.

 

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

Title: The Wangs vs. The World28114515
Author: Jade Chang
Pages: 355
Year: 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Rating: 3

Goodreads Synopsis: Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.
Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

Before I begin: how do you feel when an author has their characters frequently speak in a different language, and they don’t provide translation? I, for one, find it to be very irritating. Especially if I can’t figure out what they are saying.

The Wangs Vs. the World follows a family of billionaires living in L.A. who lose everything when Charles Wang, the patriarch, decides to put up his home and business as collateral to start a new line of makeup products (Referred to as “the Failure.”). When the economy crashes in 2008, Charles packs up his second wife Barbra and pulls his two kids (Grace and Andrew) out of school to make his way across the country to his oldest daughter Saina’s house in Helios, NY. This fall from grace is narrated by Charles, Barbra, Grace, Andrew, Saina, and even the car they are riding in for the majority of this road trip.

This book was promoted to be a hilarious “riches to rags” story about a family of Chinese immigrants living in America. I guess I didn’t get the jokes… I got the impression that parts of it were intended to be funny, but they just fell flat for me. In fact, I found myself cringing throughout the entire novel. The first chapter starts out with a joke about how Wang means “King” in China and “penis” in America. Penis jokes ceased to be funny when I turned 12, but please… continue. From there, Chang showcases the family’s prejudices against people who think differently than they do, look different than they do, and come from different areas and walks of life than they did. “All Floridians are backwards, all republicans are stiff and racist, all teenage/college-aged girls are slutty, mixed relationships are only okay if you have cute mixed children…” should I go on? I considered abandoning this book several times, but plodded on in the hopes that it would eventually get better.

The dialogue was good (when it was in English), especially between the siblings. The author has a knack for using dialogue to portray images and characters, and clearly made a lot of effort to create complex, well-rounded characters. I just didn’t have any sympathy for them. I didn’t relate to their problems, hopes, dreams, or fears. Any time I felt sympathetic for one of them, they did something that changed my mind. Okay, that’s a lie. Grace was the only character I wasn’t completely turned off by, but that’s only because I kept telling myself that she was just a kid and didn’t know any better than the life of privilege she was accustomed to.

This review seems to have taken a turn for the critical, which I apologize for because it really wasn’t that bad. I gave it 3/5 stars, verging on 3.5. I have to say, this book was not a terrible read. I didn’t hate it, and I did end up liking Chang’s writing. However, I found myself to be more often offended than complacent, and less invested in the characters than usual. There seems to be a disconnect between author and reader as well, which is demonstrated by the liberal use of Cantonese/Mandarin or whatever language they are speaking without translation or explanation. I feel like I missed important plot points because I couldn’t understand what the characters were saying, and the dialogue in this book was so important because this book was entirely driven by dialogue and the individual journeys the characters take over the course of the novel.

13 Reasons Why You Should Watch Thirteen Reasons Why

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Netflix show, Thirteen Reasons Why. This post discusses suicide, rape, and other sensitive material. If you, or someone you know, is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

On March 31st, Netflix released Thirteen Reasons Why, a series based off of the 2007 novel of the same name by Jay Asher. It follows Clay Jenson, a junior in high school who finds a box of cassette tapes on his doorstep one day. The seven double-sided tapes tell the story of why his friend, classmate, and crush, Hannah Baker, took her own life two weeks prior. She narrates each tape and dedicates each side to one person, detailing how and why each person is one of the thirteen reasons why she made her decision.

Suicide has always been, and will always be, a very difficult and delicate subject. The impact of that kind of decision always ripples out further than we could ever imagine. I think Thirteen Reasons Why is important because it shows those ripples. It shows the classmates, the teachers, the coworkers, the families, the friends, and the strangers that affected, and were affected by, Hannah’s decision. More importantly, it shows the internal ripples inside a person contemplating that decision. It shows that ripples can become waves, and waves can become a tsunami; what may not seem like anything to you is a big deal to someone else.

And even if you are, or if you’ve ever known someone considering, affected by, or related to someone who has made or considered this kind of decision, you’ve been changed forever by the fact that a decision like this even exists. The fact that suicide has been presented as an option, a solution to a problem, a way out… affects everyone that comes into contact with it. And when you hear about it, even if it’s just on the news, it serves as a reminder. A reminder to hug your loved ones a little tighter, to say things you didn’t have the courage to say, and to live a little more than you did before; because in the wake of darkness, you want to create light.

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why reminds us that our words can be weapons, regardless of our intention. We don’t have control over whether someone recognizes that weapon as a toy. That those words can say more than you mean, leave a bigger impact than you meant to, stay with someone for longer than you realize.
  2. It reminds us that sometimes, there is no “next time.” Something that we should have done, or will do tomorrow, always has the potential to turn into something we can never do.
  3. It reminds us that all actions have consequences. Everything you do, everything you say, will affect someone else. Your world isn’t made up of just you, it’s made up of every interaction you will ever have. That’s why they call it the butterfly effect, because even the smallest, most insignificant thing can have an impact.
  4. It reminds us to be quiet. To listen to the whispers that are meant as screams, because you never know how much courage it took to say anything at all.
  5. It reminds us to be loud. To ask for help, over and over again, because someone will hear you. It’s okay to need help fighting your battles. You are not alone.
  6. It reminds us to take responsibility. For our words, for our actions, for ourselves and the impact we can have on others. Those impacts that are not only in the future, but the ones we are making right now.
  7. It reminds us to love, in every way, because love is louder than anything else. As Clay mentions in the series, you can’t love someone back to life. But you can try. Sometimes the tiniest light in a dark room can make all the difference. Life isn’t about the should haves, it’s about the did’s.
  8. It shows that cruelty is a cycle, that someone’s internal struggles can manifest in their other relationships, or in their behavior. That it’s important not to judge people based on their behavior or decisions, because you don’t know what demons they’re fighting.
  9. It shows that sometimes the sickest people can live the most normal lives. We see this over and over again in murder trials and rape cases, where the aggressor is depicted as a kind, smart, generous, and promising young individual from a good family in an upscale community. Someone who has never exhibited aggressive behavior previously… But sometimes the scariest monsters are the ones that hide in your own backyard, and it’s easy to be fooled by the games they play.
  10. It shows the aftermath of sexual assault, and the results of victim blaming. As a society, we are still conditioned to question the victim, to insinuate that they “asked for it,” to treat them as guilty until proven innocent; when in reality we should be questioning the accused. We should not be educating young women on how not to be raped, we should be educating young men not to rape.
  11. It shows the impact of schoolyard bullying, and how quickly it can escalate without intervention.
  12. It creates awareness of behaviors that lead to suicide, addiction, and school shootings. It reminds us that we need to take action against those behaviors and take measures to prevent them.
  13. It shows the best, and most accurate, depiction of today’s teens on television. The diversity of the cast, the crude language they use, the drugs, alcohol, sex, and mean girl culture; all accurate to what teens deal with every day. It’s important for parents and teachers to realize what their kids are dealing with, to remain present and involved, and to pay attention to changes in their behavior.

    Just as it is the responsibility of books and shows like Thirteen Reasons Why to depict a subject like this honestly, it’s our responsibility to receive it respectfully. Watch. Listen. Let the ripples hit you, if only so you can know what they feel like. And one day you may be better equipped to help someone who feels like they’re drowning.


That being said, please do not watch this show if you are considering suicide, or have considered it in the past. This show contains very graphic depictions of suicide, rape, and abuse that may trigger those thoughts and behaviors. Please do not push yourself if you know you cannot handle those scenes, your mental health is more important. Click here for a complete list of triggers and which episodes/scenes to avoid if you choose to watch this series.

 

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Title: The Things We Wish Were True 29057887
Author: Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Pages: 276
Year: 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis: In an idyllic small-town neighborhood, a near tragedy triggers a series of dark revelations.

From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.

Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.

During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?

This book kept me guessing right up until the end. Marybeth Mayhew Whalen has produced a suspenseful, and complex novel that causes the reader to question just how well they know the people living around them, and what secrets we all hold in the dark abysses of our lives.

Told from several POV characters, Whalen weaves each story line together into a connected web of experiences and tragedies. While this is a little confusing at first, I found it easy to differentiate between each character and POV chapter. Every character has a distinct voice, and I found it easy to follow each of their story lines once we established who everyone was. However, they have the most ridiculous names for small town-American characters. There’s Zell, Jency, Bryte, Everett, Lance, Pilar, Zara, etc, etc. I thought these names were interesting and it made it easy to keep everyone straight, but honestly who do you know from the deep south named Jency, Bryte, or Zell? If they had names like Tinsley or Kinsley or Lynnely, THAT I would believe. Southern people love naming their offspring after Presidents and adding -ly to the ends of names. That’s like their crack.  This is not a stereotype, I would know.

Another thing I thought about while reading this novel was who the main character was. We get so many different points of view, and follow so many different characters that it was hard to say that one particular character was the “main protagonist.” However, I think that Cailey was meant to be the main character because she is the only one who speaks in first person. She is also the only POV character that is not an adult.

This was a fairly short read, but it definitely sucked me in. I fell deep into the drama of Sycamore Glen, and I loved that it had a more suburban and classic southern feel. Being from the south, this book made me feel nostalgic and right at home between its pages. However, I wasn’t able to get too comfy, as I was speed-reading through each chapter trying to figure out all the little mysteries alongside the big one. Even though it was a little predictable at times, the suspense more than makes up for it. Honestly, even if you figured out all the mysteries ahead of time, I think you would still enjoy this book. Preferably read in the summer, on the beach, with a tall glass of lemonade or sweet tea.