Book Related Topics, Fiction, Young Adult

Favorite Childhood Books

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I was a voracious reader as a child. The fourth of six kids,  I read so many things way earlier than I should have. I started reading Mills & Boons in Primary 4 (4th grade) because my older sisters had them lying around. I looooved romance novels. Growing up, I consumed so many of them which is why I’m surprised I grew up to be an adult who doesn’t love romance novels.

Anyway, in between all that debauchery, I actually read some age appropriate books and I want to share my favorites growing up. I hope when I have kids someday that they love these books too! Also, you’re never too grown up to reread these books to see if they stand the test of time or to read one of these for the very first time!

  • Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton – I read A LOT of Blyton growing up in Nigeria and these books were my absolute favorites. They were so funny, relatable and painted such a fun picture of boarding school that made me want to go to one so bad (my mother vehemently said no!). This was the first school series I ever read. The characters were all fully developed and even the antagonist (Gwendolyn! what a brat!) had a great arc through out the book. This is one I have never reread, I want to do this on audio soon, to see if it holds up but I remember it with such fondness and nostalgia for my childhood days.
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – I reread this book last year and it was just as fantastic as I remember it being. I was so glad that 7 year old Leggy had great taste in books. Claudia Kincaid is tired of being the older sister in her family so she decides to run away. Being the very resourceful and clever girl that she is and knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along. These two kids successfully run away in New York City to the MET! This is such a fun read and I think even adults who are looking for a palate cleanser would enjoy it.
  • Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene – I have read every Nancy Drew novel that has ever been written! My mom really liked these books, so she bought so many of them for us. There was always a Nancy Drew novel available to read and as soon as I could read, I devoured them. Carolyn Keene was so adept at keeping a young girl’s attention – there was just the right amount of mystery, very mild romance and innocent fun as Nancy and her pals sleuthed around solving not-so gruesome mysteries and murders. I would always beg my mom to let me read just one more chapter but would end up staying up all night to read the entire thing because every chapter pretty much ended on a cliffhanger and I just had to know what happened next! I have not read these books as an adult, I probably won’t get to them anytime soon but I adored them as a child. I’m just going to trust 7 year old me that they were good.
  • The Baby Sitter’s Club by Ann Martin – I loved these books growing up, I have tried to go through the series description to find one that I did not read and I couldn’t find any. My mom bought these books anywhere she could find them because she knew we were guaranteed to love them. This book is about a group of friends who decide to start a baby sitting business in their home town. We followed them through puberty, diabetes, parents getting divorced, moving away and of course, BOYS! These books were just such easy reads but I wonder if they’d really stand the test of time today. I somehow doubt it but they were great to 7 year old me.
  • Famous Five by Enid Blyton – The famous five included Julian, Dick, Anne, not forgetting tomboy George and her beloved dog, Timmy! These books made me feel like a grown up. There were actually high stakes involved unlike Nancy Drew, I actually felt like they were in actual danger of being hurt. After reading these books, I’d beg my older sister to play detective with me but she’d say no because sisters are horrible! I loved George, she was my favorite character. It’s so amazing how progressive her character is by today’s standards to balk at gender roles and expectations and just be herself.

Just as an aside and bonus hot take, you know a book that everybody loved but 6 year old me absolutely hated? Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I just did not see what the fuss was all about. Wow, I really was a young tough critic.

What are some of the books you enjoyed reading as a young ‘un? I want to know in the comments! Have your read them again recently? Did they stand the test of time? Sound off in the comments, we love reading them!

Leggy

romance

Book Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

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The modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, it’s about the five Bennett sisters and their pushy mom – who is dismayed that none of her five daughters are married and their dad – who I don’t even think knows he exists. The Bennett parents live in their house in Ohio with their three youngest daughters – Mary, Kitty and Lydia. Mr. Bennett has a heart attack, prompting the two oldest daughters, Mary and Liz,  who live in New York to head home to help tend to their dad.

With all of them together under one roof, their mom wastes no time in matchmaking by inviting them to a neighborhood barbecue to meet Chip Bingley who was a suitor on Eligible, a The Bachelor-type show. He has his friend Fitzwilliam Darcy in tow and the rest makes up this hot garbage of a book.

You guys, I HATED this book. Like, this was an awful book. There is nothing redeeming about it. The writing was awful, the characters were awful, the structure, the plot – all awful. So many things felt so cut and paste. Jane’s story line was the most ridiculous from start to finish and Sittenfeld wrote her in a way that made me think Jane was a little mentally behind than the average person.

Don’t get me started on the tone deafness. Mrs. Darcy is clearly Trump-nation and makes all these weird racial comments. One of the cut and paste story lines was the introduction of a transgender character which causes Mrs. Darcy anguish and she only understands when its explained to her that being trans is like having a birth defect – what?? Yup, she is racist and transphobic.

At some point when Liz is crying on a bench, a woman stops to ask her if she is okay, except the book says “a black lady stops and says are you okay, honey?” or when one of the producers on Eligible is described as the Asian woman. Ughhhh. Don’t get me started on when Liz says she is not interesting enough to be on a reality show as she is not in an interracial relationship or dating a trans man. My God, who approved this? The author just tried too hard to be “down” and failed miserably.

The book couldn’t decide if it was PG or R. One minute there was cursing and next minute it’s describing an erection as “proof that he was ready” as if you are reading a Harlequin novel. Like I said, badly written. The book was written from the POV of Liz and for some odd reason the final chapter suddenly just cuts and pastes a random backstory about Mary.

In the off chance you couldn’t tell, I hated this book. Don’t waste your time with this, you will be sorely disappointed. It managed to get 1 star from me because for some delirious reason, I finished reading this book. But just because I suffered, doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t do it!

Taynement

Memoirs

Book Review: Educated by Tara Westover

“On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping. I am only 7, but I understand that it is this fact more than any other that makes my family different. We don’t go to school. Dad worries that the government will force us to go, but it can’t because it doesn’t know about us. Four of my parents’ seven children don’t have birth certificates. We have no medical records because we were born at home and have never seen a doctor or nurse. We have no school records because we’ve never set foot in a classroom.”

This book was all the rage last year. It made all the best of 2018 lists I saw but I consciously avoided it because I had read “The Sound of Gravel” by Ruth Wariner and it was being compared to it in certain circles and I decided that I didn’t have the stomach for it. For some reason, I still requested it from my library last year where I was so far down on the list and promptly forgot about it, until it was released unexpectedly to me earlier this month. I am super glad I didn’t have anything else to read, so I took a chance on it.

“To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is a strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.” 

Tara was born to survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho. They were fundamentalist Mormons and her father forbade hospitals, drugs, formal education and isolated them from mainstream society. Her father worked in a junk yard while her mother was a mid wife and that’s how they made their living as a family. Tara, never having been to a classroom, teaches herself math and grammar, takes the ACT and gets a high enough score to get admitted to Brigham Young University for undergrad. This book is about the tenacity of a child to want and envision better for herself than the life she was handed and to overcome the emotional and physical abuse she experienced in the hands of members of her family to go on to Ivy league schools.

“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.” 
I quite enjoyed this book, I thought it was well written and interesting to read. I really enjoyed and appreciated the descriptions of physical and emotional abuse that comes with certain aspects of religion and I like how delicately she handled that. She stresses that this is not a story about Mormonism, but a story about her family. I found it fascinating how much she still wanted to be loved and accepted by her family, even after getting an education and attaining so much for herself.  Even after she had rejected their way of life and religion and calling out her older brother, Shawn, for the abuse he meted out to them.They were all she had known and she loved them dearly and did not want to be alienated from them.

“I am not the child my father raised, but he is the father who raised her.” 

One of the things I found contradictory about this book was how much leeway they gave themselves on their isolation from the government stance. They still had a phone and a television even though they never went to the hospital or school. They even filed taxes which I found  incredible considering how terrible her dad thought the government was. I thought he made a lot of excuses for the excesses he allowed himself but would dig his heels in on things like, going to the hospital when he was burned all over, on the basis of religion. The author felt like her father had undiagnosed mental health issues and without sounding like a couch doctor, I definitely agree that there were some medical issues that made him stick with some beliefs while completely disregarding them when it suited him.

“We are all of us more complicated than the roles we are assigned in the stories other people tell”

A common criticism heaped on this book is questioning how much of this book is embellished. This was another reason I wanted to wait till the hype died down to read it for myself and make up my own mind. I do think that a lot of our memories might not be what they are.  But in the book, she consults the siblings she is still in contact with, to have them collaborate a lot of her memories and if she doesn’t remember something exactly, she lets the readers know that.

Also, having read the book, there is really nothing over the top that happens. I can see how this exact scenario can play out especially in the country I grew up in that is rampant with a lot of undiagnosed mental health issues masquerading as religion. I really enjoyed this one and urge people to read it with an open mind and away from the hype. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy.

Memoirs

Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

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“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others” 

The best selling book of 2018. A million and one people, including myself, made their way through this book over the holidays. A memoir of the former First Lady, Michelle tells us her story in 3 parts – her childhood, meeting and “becoming us” with Barrack and her time in the White House.

If you read our “Best of” post, you will recall that this was one of my favorite books of 2018. The #1 thing a memoir requires is openness and honesty and Michelle gave us that. You could tell that Michelle has been holding back and being PC because she sure had a lot to say. Every stage of her life was laid out in great detail in a way that lets the reader into her mind and understand what made her the way she is today.

I generally am inspired by women of substance and I don’t know if anyone exemplifies substance more than Michelle. This book was like a little self help/guide book to me and reminded me a lot of “Year of Yes” (which I gave 5 stars). I love how intentional Michelle was with a lot of things in her life and I identified strongly with her need to plan.

While I do think she lucked out with Barrack, I think she played a part in that “luck” because she had a strong sense of self and was ready for him in her life. It was so awesome to see how full of a life she had independently, before being Barrack’s wife. I am still in awe of how these two came to cross paths but the part where she set aside her fear and reluctance to be in the public eye and give Barrack the blessing to go into politics because she knew she couldn’t be the one to hold him back from his greatness was so admirable to me.

“It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful—a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids—and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.” 

The quote above is another facet in her life that Michelle shared with us when she lost people in her life. Susan’s story was a big life lesson for me. I liked that Michelle wrote this book through the lens of being a black woman. Gabrielle Union did the same thing and honestly I think it is quite impossible as a black person/woman to not view life through the lens of your color and gender.

Things I didn’t care for. The childhood part. It’s not a Michelle thing, I just generally find childhood stories in memoirs boring. I couldn’t wait to get to the future part. The most talked about things during the book promotions – her lust for Barrack and immediately spending nights at his apartment and how she would never forgive Trump were just that. As in, just those lines. We didn’t get any expanded or salacious stories.

I don’t know how Michelle was able to find the balance of being open and yet still not stepping on any toes but this worked on so many levels. Like with any memoir, I think it should be consumed audio style. She reads it herself by the way. I came away from this book just thinking of how amazing a woman she is. This is a strong recommend from me.

Taynement

Fiction

Book Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

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“Whose fault do you think it was?” he said. I stood in my kitchen, wanting to explain, careful not to, while he told me we’d marched one too many times, written one too many letters, screamed one too many words. “You women. You need to be taught a lesson.”

I don’t even remember how I stumbled on this book. I think it had a lot of buzz when it first came on the scene but people backed away from it because Christians did not like the way they were portrayed in the book. Anyway, I found the premise super interesting and decided to give it a shot.

This book is a dystopian novel set in an American society where women have been silenced. They are only allowed to be seen and not heard. They are assigned 140 words a day and that is all. They are not allowed passports, not allowed to work and school for women is radically different (only allowed to learn basic math and home economics). It’s quite obvious this book was published to make a commentary on the current political climate. Definitely no subtlety here.

At the beginning, a few people managed to get out. Some crossed the border into Canada; others left on boats for Cuba, Mexico, the Islands. It didn’t take long for the authorities to set up checkpoints, and the wall separating Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas from Mexico itself had already been built, so the egress stopped fairly quickly. “We can’t have our citizens, our families, our mothers and fathers, fleeing,” the President said in one of his early addresses

The main character, Jean Mcclellan does not make it out in time with her family and is stuck in America with 140 words a day. She’s a world renowned doctor and one day the President’s brother gets into an accident. She is called upon to help complete the research she had started before being relegated to the kitchen.

The first half of this book is very good, I was intrigued. In fact, I got panic attacks at some point and had to put it down. The imagery of women having no say in the society made me angry and extremely anxious and then seeing those women punished by electroshock every time they went over their allowed word limit was terrible and made me cringe. Girls being sent to camps for having sex while the boys got off without any punishment made me rage. Gay couples were either sent to prison or forced to say they were cured and marry members of the opposite sex. It was such imagery overload.

“My fault started two decades ago, the first time I didn’t vote, the umpteen times I told Jackie I was too busy to go on one of her marches or make posters or call my congressmen.”

After a while though, it’s very obvious that the writer lost some of her zeal. It was like, all the lofty ideas she started this novel with, just collapsed into melodrama filled with love affairs and pseudo scientific nonsense. Honestly, I skimmed the last 50% of the book because I just couldn’t believe what it had disintegrated to. The main character becomes very unlikable and she makes so many excuses for her son’s shitty sexist beliefs about women, even before women were assigned the 140 word limit. She had a very “boys will be boys” attitude when it came to her own son until those beliefs actually became real and affected her way of life.

“We’re on a slippery slide to prehistory, girls. Think about it. Think about where you’ll be—where your daughters will be—when the courts turn back the clock. Think about words like ‘spousal permission’ and ‘paternal consent.’ Think about waking up one morning and finding you don’t have a voice in anything.” 

I really enjoyed reading about the little girl in this book. It’s funny how people can easily become indoctrinated into their own slavery. Even when Jean makes a deal with the President to let her and her daughter out of the 140 word limit in exchange for her work, it takes a minute before the little girl could exercise her freedom of speech. She had been born into this system and already saw nothing wrong with it and saw it as normal. She finally got a taste of freedom and had difficulty embracing it. It was a very compelling story line and I wish she had stuck to more of those types of stories, which would have made the book so much better.

I still very much recommend this book. I enjoyed it still and gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. I have recommended it to people who have enjoyed it immensely. Also, I’m Christian and I wasn’t offended but if you easily are, maybe skip this one.

 

Leggy.

We Chit Chat

We ChitChat: “My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder” 

Taynement: I felt like there was a stretch of time last year when I saw this title everywhere. The Nigerian name caught my eye and I added it to my TBR list.

Leggy: So, what was your first impression of the title?

Taynement: I didn’t think anything of it per se. I think I just assumed it’ll be a book similar to Helen Oyeyemi’s style. Which is funny because I have only successfully finished one Helen Oyeyemi book (I generally find her tedious), so it’s interesting that I still wanted to read this. I’m glad it’s nothing like her work though.

Leggy: It was definitely the title that caught my eye and I thought it would be fantasy or some kind of metaphor but it is actually quite literal. I wanted to read it because a lot of book people were talking about it and it’s on the indie next list so I figured it was worth my time. Also, because I couldn’t find it on the “just released” table at Barnes and Noble and that table usually has everything! So what did you think of the book?

Taynement: I really liked it. I think it was straight to the point, easy read (hovers a little above 200 pages) and enjoyable. It’s a simple story of an older sister, Korede who protects her younger sister, Ayoola (the alleged, more beautiful one) who has a bad habit of murdering her love interests when she tires of them. I enjoyed that it was set in Lagos, Nigeria because knowing how terrible the system is, it made me wonder how a serial killer would fare.

Leggy: Yes, I really liked that it was short. It told a good story in a concise amount of words. It’s an easy read and I was intrigued by the familiar places in Lagos I could recognize. I’ve always thought serial killers would thrive in Nigeria so it was fascinating even watching them try to cover their tracks.

Taynement: Quite honestly, a lot of books could take a cue from that. Strip off all the extras and just dive to the point. But on the flip side, it did have that element of a short story (I hate short stories) where it leaves you unsatisfied as I did not feel we got an understanding as to why Ayoola kept killing these men.

Leggy: I didn’t feel that way at all. It didn’t leave me feeling unsatisfied. She was very clear that she killed the men because they were all terrible and treated women like objects. I think she considered herself some sort of sexist avenging queen. And she managed to convince Korede of that at the end when a male character, Korede thought was a paragon of goodness turned out to be just another man.

Taynement: I also think the author handled the flashbacks very well, weaving the current murders to their childhood and fear of their father.

Leggy: I thought the flashbacks involving their father was so well done, and showed how far back the older sister has been playing protector to her younger sister. I also liked how modern this book was. It incorporated social media in a way that was relevant and not gimmicky. When she writes about how her younger sister has to act on social media to project the grieving girlfriend part. I quite enjoyed the commentary about our social media selves and our real selves.

Taynement: I think it will be nostalgic for a lot of Nigerians – the nosiness of coworkers, the mother obsessed with marriages and many mentions of familiar Nigerian dishes.

Leggy: Definitely – The father who was terrible at home but obsessed with this reputation outside the home, the mother obsessed with marriage for her daughters despite having had a terrible marriage herself etc. I think the writer didn’t try to cater to the western gaze. The writer calls things what they are and instead invites the reader to explore another culture that they might be unfamiliar with in its authenticity.

Taynement: Yes, that was refreshing. It had to have been done well because usually whenever I read foreign books, I wonder how the west would receive it but I actually didn’t wonder about that while reading this book.

Leggy: What did you think of the whole coma story?

Taynement: Earlier, I was going to say that another thing I liked about this book was that it was layered, I think the coma story is an example of that. On one hand, it could be seen as random but I don’t think so. I think it served as an outlet for Korede carrying this huge burden. And the aftermath of the coma as probably a wake up call for her to live a life that isn’t one always borne from a direct comparison to her sister, because she might have her own world where people see her as a star.

Leggy: I just knew he was gonna remember once he woke up, would you have told as the patient?

Taynement: Definitely not. I would have been too freaked out. I think a huge part of this book is Korede easily blaming her sister for everything without acknowledging using her as a shield. She gave up on herself from childhood, and assigned roles – she chose the ugly and protective sister role. She didn’t have to always save her younger sister but she chose to, it was safer for her to live in her sister’s shadow even when she’s murdering her ex-lovers.

Leggy: Did you like how it ended? I was super satisfied with it.

Taynement: I think I was okay with it. I’m not sure I can go into detail without it being a spoiler but I think it was true to how life can be.

Leggy: Would you recommend this book to anyone? I’ve recommended it to so many people. I think it’s a good read and short, so it’s easy to get through.

Taynement: Absolutely! I thought it was a great book and a great intro, if anyone asked for a Nigerian author that isn’t Chimamanda. I also think this would make a good book club pick.

Leggy: I think so too, there are so many layers to discuss and analyze. I gave this 4 stars on good reads.

Let us know what you think in  if you have or when you read the book.

Leggy&Taynement.

Book Related Topics

Our 2019 Reading Goals

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Taynement

Happy New Year, everyone!! New year, new reading goals. Last year, I went rogue and was saying I had no goals and yada yada but this year in my life, I have a goal of being intentional and I am applying it to everything in my life, including my reading.

Majority of my reading is mostly newly released fiction/memoirs so this year so, I want to try and be all inclusive with stuff on my backlist. My dirty little secret is that, I have not read a lot of classics. So this year, I am going to try and include 2-3 classics and get in with the cool crew.

Going through Leggy’s books for the year, I admire how diverse a reader she is because I can acknowledge I am not (y’all I told you I am a fraudulent reader!). She is also very big on fantasy books and *say it with me* I am not. Last year, she had a goal to make me read Red Rising and she failed with that, so I might humor her and read it and add another fantasy book.

I did not change my number of books for the year and left it at 35. I anticipate audio books will be a big part of my reading this year, so I wonder if it’ll be more or less. Oh, one last thing, I joined a reading challenge to help in diversifying my reading. I don’t think I will do all of it but these are the guidelines:

a book you’ve been meaning to read
a book about a topic that fascinates you
a book in the backlist of a favorite author
a book recommended by someone with great taste
a book you chose for the cover
a book by an author who is new to you
a book in translation
a book outside your (genre) comfort zone
a book published before you were born

Leggy

I enjoy picking a number of books on goodreads every year because I think it challenges me to read more and try to make or beat my number. Last year, I picked 70 books and ended up reading 83 books. This year, I’m still going to leave it at 70. I think this is a comfortable number for me where I do not feel too much pressure but also a big enough number where I feel challenged to read more books every year.

As usual, every year I always try to have goals in mind. Last year, one of my goals was to read more female and minority writers which is a goal we as a blog collectively achieved. I read a lot of women last year and I’m super proud of that. I also finally tackled “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas which is a super readable book if anyone is looking to put it on the TBR for the year.

This year, my two big goals are:

  • Read self-help books more intentionally. I don’t read a lot of self help but I do want to be intentional in the way I pick these books and then try to apply them more or at least actually take one thing away from the books that I read. The first book that I already finished this year is “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson and I hope to incorporate some of their tips into my every day discussions.
  • And as always, tackle a classic. My classic this year is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Last year, my second option was “War and Peace” by Tolstoy but I never got around to it but who knows? Maybe this year?

Other than that, I really hope I have a good reading year.

Happy reading year everybody!

Do you guys make reading goals? Tell us what they are in the comments!

 

Leggy&Taynement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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