celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Book Review – Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of “The View” by Ramin Setoodeh

The View is one of the longest running daytime talk shows hosted by a panel of women. Created by vet, Barabara Walters, it was the first of its kind at the time. Over the years, the show has gone through numerous hosts and public and private drama. Ladies Who Punch with interviews from almost all the hosts (in fact, all the hosts except for Elisabeth Hasselbeck) explores the behind the scenes drama and revisits the drama the public knew about.

You know, I am never quite sure what genre to classify these sort of books in (Read: Not All Diamonds and Rose, The Housewives etc) but I think they have shot up to the top of my list of favorite genres. These books basically read like reality shows and as a fan of reality shows and memoirs, it should be no surprise. I always welcome a peek behind the curtains on the actual personas of celebrities vs. the public personas we get.

All this to say, I truly enjoyed this book and it came at a good time as a palate cleanser. It was such an interesting feeling recounting some of the drama or notable episodes that I remembered and hearing what the true stories were about. I stopped watching The View many years ago, so everything read as new. I felt like I was just learning about Barbara Walters for the first time (might I add I wonder a lot about where she is these days?)

It was also interesting to learn just how much the crew HATED Rosie O’ Donnell. I used to love Rosie’s show back in the day, so learning this other side to her was new. On the flip, in the book, Whoopi seems to have rated highly with viewers in focus groups but arguably didn’t come off so great in the book. Star Jones seemed to take accountability for her mistakes and Meredith Viera seemed to genuinely be a sweetheart. In some way, The View played a part in Donald Trump being President (don’t ask me how lol) but he is featured a lot in the book.

Overall, if you are into behind the scenes and let’s call it what it is – gossip – then this is the right book for you. I will say that I hesistate to call it gossip because Setoodeh comes with straight facts and a lot of what is in the book is straight from the horse’s mouth with people backing up what was being said. He speaks a little with Meghan McCain who he has known for a while but we interestingly get nothing from Sunny Hostin. I wonder why…?

Taynement

dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, scifi

Book Review: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

“My point is, there’s always something. I think, as a species, we have a desire to believe that we’re living at the climax of the story. It’s a kind of narcissism. We want to believe that we’re uniquely important, that we’re living at the end of history, that now, after all these millennia of false alarms, now is finally the worst that it’s ever been, that finally we have reached the end of the world.”

It’s 1912, Edwin St. Andrew is exiled from polite society by his parents after ranting about colonialism at the dinner table and finds himself in Canada. He enters the forest one night to admire the Canadian wilderness and is shocked to see a sudden vision of a man playing a violin in an airship terminal. 200 years later, Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour on earth from the outer space colonies when she is asked about a strange passage in her best selling book. A passage that describes a man playing a violin in an airship terminal when suddenly the Canadian wilderness rises behind him for a couple of seconds. When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts is hired to investigate this anomaly and determine if we are living in a simulation, he travels through time to meet each participant to interview them and finds so many different lives upended.

“You know the phrase I keep thinking about?” a poet asked, on a different panel, at a festival in Copenhagen. ‘The chickens are coming home to roost.’ Because it’s never good chickens. It’s never ‘You’ve been a good person and now your chickens are coming home to roost.’ It’s never good chickens. It’s always bad chickens.”

I genuinely do not know how to describe this book to you because I went in blind. I saw that Mandel had a new book out and I just downloaded it and read it without even checking to see what it was about. I recommend you go in that way because there is really no description for this book. It’s so many things at once. It is a pandemic novel, a time travelling novel, an apocalyptic novel, a human nature novel etc. I did not enjoy Mandel’s last novel, The Glass Hotel, as much as I did Station Eleven but this one is Mandel at her absolute finest. If you read Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, you get to pick up the different little easter eggs she drops on the way. Characters from her previous books pop up in this one and it was so thrilling to recognise characters I thought I would never see again.

“Pandemics don’t approach like wars, with the distant thud of artillery growing louder every day and flashes of bombs on the horizon. They arrive in retrospect, essentially. It’s disorienting. The pandemic is far away and then it’s all around you, with seemingly no intermediate step.”

As is the style with Mandel, this is a quiet slow build story. The exploration of what living in a simulation might mean for humanity is so riveting and her writing of human nature is absolutely beautiful. We begin with different chapters of characters in different centuries and settings with stories that seem totally unrelated and you wonder where exactly this is leading to. The way she ties the stories together beautifully at the end is so good. Mandel’s writing has such a nostalgic feel to it, how do you feel nostalgic about what is essentially a time traveling investigatory story? I don’t know but you do.

“Sometimes you don’t know you’re going to throw a grenade until you’ve already pulled the pin.”

If you enjoy slow burn books, then you should give this book a chance. If you’ve never enjoyed any Emily St. John Mandel’s books then this is not any different. The reasons you hated the others probably exist in this one. It’s very difficult to write a review for this book but I definitely recommend it if it sounds like something you’d like and with every Mandel book, you already know to expect very stellar writing. I think I’ve decided to be a completist where Mandel is concerned. I’m going to go and read her previous books before Station Eleven blew up and see. Anyway, I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Book Related Topics

Hyped Books That I Found…Just Okay

Like Leggy always says, art is subjective. And books fall under that umbrella. Every avid reader has a never ending TBR list that is made even longer by the books of the moment that are getting all the buzz and being talked about everywhere. Sometimes, it’s tough reading a book after hearing all the hype but I have never thought that should be a factor in determining how one feels about a book. Regardless of what the masses say, every read is personal and every opinion will be unique to the reader.

All that being said, I wanted to share some titles that most people loved and when I read it – while not bad – just didn’t give me that book giddiness. I wanted to caveat that I have been hesistant to do this post because majority of my reads are by black women authors so naturally my list will have them in the mix and I didn’t want to feel like I was bringing them down. Again, a book on this list doesn’t mean it was a bad book!

Okay here we go:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I can hear the gasps already. I always say this. I liked the writing on this but I thought the storyline was lacking a little bit. On the flip, I liked the story on her debut, The Mothers but the writing was weaker. I think for me, not fully understanding why she did what she did left me unsatisfied. I didn’t feel like I had closure

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I have spoken so much about this book but I still put it on for the newcomers that don’t know about how I feel LOL. Anyways, my issue with this was I didn’t quite enjoy the main character and while I know it’s possible to like a book with unlikeable characters, I have realized that Iiking my characters goes a long way in me loving a book.

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Another book that was rich with story and history but it was a lot of story that just didn’t make my book nerves tingle.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I read this back before I discovered the YA genre is not for me. I couldn’t connect with this story. In fact, at the end I think I said “that’s it?”

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

This was Leggy’s favorite book in 2018. Leggy reads all the good things, so I wanted to be a part of it. Guys, I tried and tried. I read it, I audio’d it and it just wasn’t hitting the mark for me. I felt so sad but I had to admit that it just wasn’t working for me.

I’ll stop here but these are just a few of the books that I have read that I felt didn’t hit the mark for me. What are some of those books for you?

Taynement

Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

“Because while musical prodigies are always celebrated, early readers aren’t. And that’s because early readers are only good at something others will eventually be good at, too. So being first isn’t special – it’s just annoying.”

Elizabeth Zott is a chemist, a single mother and a very reluctant cooking star host of the beloved, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (continuously proclaiming how hard it is and using chemistry terms!) proves to be very popular and revolutionary. She’s not just teaching women how to cook but daring them to change the status quo of things in the early 1960s. How did a chemist with a masters degree get here? How did she end up in the kitchen? Well, you’re in for the most unusual love story.

“Imagine if all men took women seriously . . .

Zott is the only female chemist at Hastings Research Institute, even though her male colleagues constantly come to her for help, they do not think she is smart enough. They find her too uppity because she refuses to make copies, make coffee, or anything else that her male colleagues aren’t required to do. They are also resentful of the fact that she is beautiful and does not want to date any of them, be groped or “accidentally” touched. She experiences so much sexism at work until she meets the often oblivious Calvin Evans.

My favorite thing about Garmus’ characterization of Evans is that she does not write him as a perfect paragon of feminism. Yes, he does not logically understand why Zott is not treated better, given the intellect she possesses and he takes her ideas seriously, but he is still just a man. He proposes to her even though she already told him she does not intend to ever get married. He automatically assumes that she would change her name and completely blanches at the suggestion that if it isn’t such a big deal then he should change his to hers.

This story is filled with so many great side characters. A neighbor that could have been the stereotypical nosy neighbour but Garmus writes her to be so much more. If you’re an animal lover, there’s a dog named six-thirty that most animal lovers would absolutely adore. I am not an animal lover but even I appreciated his contributions to the plot! A priest that fleets in and out of Calvin and Elizabeth’s lives, a very smart and delightful daughter called Mad! and a secretary at Hastings that makes Elizabeth’s life a living hell!

I’m getting weary of reading about quirky female characters who are written like they’re on the spectrum but are not written consistently. Elizabeth in my opinion was very naive, socially awkward and sometimes delusional. There are so many times I just felt like this character was not at all realistic.

The blurb on this book says it’s supposed to be laugh out loud funny, I didn’t find it funny. This book should actually come with a trigger warning – there’s a brutal rape, an attempted rape and suicide. I don’t think I even smiled once. The character said something about subsidized child care in Sweden and I had to google this because I was quite shocked that this would be a thing in the early 60’s which is when this book was set in and I was right, subsidized child care was not a thing till the late 70’s in Sweden. I wonder why her editor didn’t catch that.

Anyway, I did enjoy this book overall and would recommend it. I went into it with extremely high expectations built up by bookstagram and I think I was ultimately a little let down. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. It is a debut novel and I must say, it read like one. If you enjoy quirky characters and a charming cast of support characters, then this one is for you.

Leggy

Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, thriller

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

“Sisterly relationships are so strange in this way. The way I can be mad at Rose but still want to please her. Be terrified of her and also want to run to her. Hate her and love her, both at the same time. Maybe when it comes to sisters, boundaries are always a little bit blurry. Blurred boundaries, I think, are what sisters do best.”

Rose and Fern are fraternal twin sisters. Fern is on the spectrum and Rose is very protective of Fern and is very involved in her life. Fern relies on her sister a lot and trusts her and would do anything for her. When Rose tells Fern that she has fertility issues and isn’t able to have a kid, Fern decides she needs to help Rose have a child and all she needs to do is find a man to impregnate her.

Fern lives a structured, routine life and keeps to a schedule. When she meets Wally at the library she works in, he brings a little disruption in her life – in a good way. We start to see the relationship between the sisters from two perspectives. Fern’s, in present day and Rose’s from when they were children via her journal entries till the stories collide and meet in the present day.

“Fern always seemed to have some sort of impenetrable boundary around her that made her immune to Mum’s reign of terror. I often wondered if that boundary was part and parcel of whatever was different about Fern.”

I don’t recall how or when this was on my TBR list but it was available and I dove into it and it was really a case of right time, right book. It basically is a story about family and how perspectives can be different even in the same environment. There were many things covered in this book – learning more about sensory processing disorder (which Fern suffers from) and being on the spectrum, mental illness, abuse, boundaries and more – but it was woven in seamlessly and did not feel overwhelming. Hepworth managed to place them in the right places with the right doses.

“The library, Janet used to say, is one of only a few places in the world that one doesn’t need to believe anything or buy anything to come inside … and it is the librarian’s job to look after all those who do.”

It might seem like a little thing, but as mentioned before Fern worked in a library and seeing how much she loved her job, was good at it and was a place of solace for her, seemed like a subtle nod to us book lovers. Hepworth did a good job of character building and the library seemed like one more character that wasn’t left out. I liked how she didn’t have Fern’s autism be her one defining characteristic even if it was a big part of her life. Instead, we get to know about Fern’s love of bright colors and how bold she was.

“One thing I’ve learned about facing fear,” he says, “is that sometimes, it’s just too scary.”

I am not sure how to categorize the book. It’s definitely fiction but it had a mix of romance, [very low key] thriller in that it’s all leading up to a big secret/twist which I think was quite easy to figure out. I enjoyed the pacing of the book and all in all found it a pleasurable read. Oh and Hepworth is Australian, so the book is set in Australia. I gave the book 4 stars because the ending kinda hinted at a sequel and I think the book should be a one and done. I recommend this one!

Taynement

celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage by Heather Havrilesky

But I have to admit, there’s something reassuring, to me, about breaking down, falling into disrepair, losing your charms, and misplacing your keys, when you have an equally inept and irritating human tolerating it all, in spite of a million and one very good reasons to put on his walking boots and take his love to town. In other words, if marriage is irrational, as with child-rearing and ambition and art, that’s also part of its appeal.

I had never heard of Heather Havrilesky until a twitter thread of hers made its way to my timeline. A thread complaining about the sexist treatment of her book about marriage. She talked about how people had read only an excerpt in the New York Times and decided she was just a wife who hates her husband and then without reading the entire book for context found her hateful and not grateful enough. Even though I am not married, I put her book on hold at my local library and promptly forgot about it until it checked out to me. Then I debated on if I really wanted to read a book about marriage but after clicking “deliver later” twice, I finally just caved and started it and then read it all in 24 hours.

“People always assume that love is all about celebrating someone else’s amazing qualities. But true love is also about accepting another person’s flaws. In order to create a love that grew and adapted over the years, you had to commit to someone else’s flaws the same way you commit to their qualities. That was love. Loving someone’s bouts of neediness and self-loathing the way you love their hot face.”

Heather has written a very honest book about her marriage. She doesn’t try to sugarcoat the intricacies of it. She doesn’t sell you the rom com view which a lot of books on marriage and a lot of relationship pages sell you on instagram, and I understand why that would make people mad and uncomfortable. But I ask you to sit in your uncomfortability and ask yourself why honesty makes you squirm. Why we have to sanitize the truth of two strangers meeting, living together and raising children? This is not a book of advice, Heather does not implore you to adopt her marriage style, she only tells you how she and her partner, Bill, have managed to navigate theirs.

“Marriage is a lifelong market correction to true love’s overvaluation.”

Considering the sexist world we live in where women are supposed to be eternally grateful to have a man love them and everybody around the world works around the clock to protect the ego of men they have not met, the New York Times excerpt was probably not the best to go with. Yes, it’s loud and controversial and I can see how a publicist or Heather herself thought it would garner attention and lead people to the book but only a man can get away with that kind of excerpt without context. Heather loudly declares in the excerpt that of course she hates her husband and everyone ignores the dichotomy of sometimes hating someone you genuinely love and adore. I saw people giving this book one star based only on that excerpt without even reading the book. It was quite interesting to see people rushing to the defence of an imaginary bruised ego instead of just deciding – that book is probably not for me and moving along, they had to punish Heather for daring to be open and vulnerable about all her feelings even those we might think are ugly and should not be spoken out loud.

“Oh, Bill, Bill, Bill,” she said, sounding disgusted. “He’s not so perfect, you know!”

Me who has actually read the book thought because she was being brutally honest she made sure to actually point out how amazing her husband is at the end of every anecdote. He actually does 50% of the housework, does actual parenting and always tells her how hot she is. At some point I felt exactly like her mother in the quote above. Like Girl, you must have hit the jackpot with this man. The most uncomfortable I felt while reading this book is when she tells her husband about this author she had dinner with hitting on her. They talk about it in such detail and she kept bringing up the fantasies she’s been having about this man and they even discuss rationally the idea of her having an affair with this man. It made me so uncomfortable because me as a single person, my idea of love and long term relationship does not include this type of radical honesty. I kept thinking, why can’t she just shut up about this man and deal with this privately? We all are so sure that we want absolute honesty from our significant others but I think that the romance that has been sold to us has convinced us that it won’t include having conversations about attraction to the opposite sex and possible affairs. I think in my mind once you’ve found the one you love every feeling of desire you have about everybody else just dies especially if you’ve really and truly found the one!

Maybe in the future Bill can save himself a lot of time and effort and just hand his future third wife this book and say, “It’s all in there.”

This is a brutally honest look at Heather’s marriage. If you are someone who worries about airing out dirty laundries or you care deeply about how this book may have made a man you do not know feel, this book is probably not for you. If you are someone who refers to themselves as a good person, this is probably not for you. I think if you see yourself as an individual capable of being complicated and do not intend to project your view of marriage and companionship on another person’s reality then this book is for you. If you just want to sit back and read how someone else has navigated her 15 year marriage even though it might not be how you navigate yours or how you intend to navigate yours then read this story. Again, this is not an advice book. This is a book sorely about Heather’s marriage.

Every book about marriage is actually a book about survival, and about trying to find happiness together in spite of the fact that you’re doomed to fail from the start. You’re doomed because even though you’re aiming for forever, forever doesn’t really exist. You either die or your marriage does. There is no forever.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this one and have recommended it to Taynement because I want to hear what an actual married person who I like and trust thinks about it. If you intend to read this book, I implore you not to read that excerpt in the New York Times or read any angry reviews of this book. Judge this book purely on the words the author has put down on paper in its entirety. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads. I docked one star because I actually did not laugh once. Yes, a lot of the digs at her husband were tongue in cheek and meant to be funny but I think the best part of this book is the quiet honesty and the fact that the author does not shy away from the ugliness that makes us human.

Leggy

african author, african stories, Book Related Topics, Fiction, Nigerian Author, short story, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: Nearly All the Men in Lagos are Mad by Damilare Kuku

Leggy: The title of this book makes me laugh every time I say it. “Nearly all the Men in Lagos are Mad”. It’s such an eye catching title.

Taynement: Ha ha ha, why? Because it’s true? 🙃

Leggy: I mean…This book wasn’t in my library, so I was just going to skip it but you convinced me to get it so we can read it as a part of our Chit Chat series and I must say I don’t regret it.

Taynement: It was on every Nigerian bookstagram and a friend of mine got it for me. I’m glad you didn’t regret it. I enjoyed this book, which is saying a lot given my stance on short stories.

Leggy: I enjoyed it too. I thought it was super entertaining but I also went in with very low expectations. I just thought it was one of those books where everyone jumps on a bandwagon and it wasn’t going to give what it was supposed to give.

Taynement: Besides the compelling stories and compelling writing, what made this book a good read was knowing that all of the stories were realistic.

Leggy: I have a very different opinion.

Taynement: Let’s hear it!

Leggy: I did not find a lot of the stories realistic.

Taynement: ooooh, really?

Leggy: Sometimes I wondered what society she was writing about. Don’t get me wrong, Nigerian men are mad and the encompassing stories are realistic but some of the little details give American society.

Taynement: Oh ok, I see what you mean.

Leggy: Like in “The Anointed Wife”, the mistress gets a book deal and goes on an interview tour. That would NEVER happen in Nigeria. Ever. Especially when the man being accused of adultery is a pastor? She would be branded a harlot through and through. People would talk about it on twitter for a day, nobody will remember the pastor the next day but best believe they’ll always remember the woman to call her – ashawo.

Taynement: I think that’s where you have to suspend all belief to keep the story moving.

Leggy: Yeah, so little details like that made me roll my eyes because it was giving America not Nigeria but overall, I found the main threads of the stories true to form.

Taynement: Did you have any favorite stories?

Leggy: I really enjoyed “Ode-Pus Complex” because I found it realistic. That exact scenario has happened to someone I know.

Taynement: What a clever title. If you’re not Nigerian, “Ode” means fool.

Leggy: Yup. Such a clever title. And honestly, I didn’t hate the mother. She was direct and honest instead of doing that passive aggressive thing Nigerian mothers do.

Taynement: She was just being realistic and quite frankly, saving the girl.

Leggy: And the girl saw it for herself like woman, you can keep your son.

Taynement: One of my favorite stories was “Beard Gang” – the group of women married to closet gay men.

Leggy: I really liked that one too.

Taynement: I also liked “I knew You“, one of the few stories from the male perspective and acknowledging that he ain’t shit.

Leggy: He really wasn’t shit. I’m glad the girl was like – I’m out!

Taynement: I didn’t read reviews for the book but a friend let me know that Nigerians were up in arms about the sex scenes which were graphic. What did you think about it?

Leggy: I don’t remember any of the sex scenes to be honest, so it can’t possibly have been that graphic.

Taynement: Oh wow. Ose bad gyal! 😂😂😂😂 Well, I didn’t think it was inappropriate or too much but I know Nigerians are gonna Nigerian. In fact, I applaud a Nigerian author for not shying away from sex.

Leggy: Also, considering how much Nigerians have sex, it’s intriguing how much they don’t want that fact acknowledged. Which was your least favorite?

Taynement: Cuck up was up there. It was the story that most embodied what I hate about short stories. It felt incomplete and I didn’t get the point.

Leggy: Aww really? I didn’t mind that one. He convinced her to have sex with her rich customer and then started punishing her for it after the fact. Then had the guts to call a family meeting for her, in a house her “prostitution” got them. So she waited for the meeting, told them the full story and then asked him to leave her house for her. I quite enjoyed it.

Taynement: To be honest, I didn’t hate any story. It was a really good collection.

Leggy: I didn’t like Catfish.

Taynement: Ha ha, I didn’t mind it.

Leggy: Also was iffy about The Gigolo from Isale eko.

Taynement: I agree.

Leggy:mAlso, First Times had the cringiest sentences – “Hi, I’m Belinda but Idris calls me baby.” What? I thought the story had potential but she just couldn’t make the plot move forward in a grounded and realistic way.

Taynement: The two stories where the ladies weren’t so smart rank low for me – Sidelined and First Times.

Leggy: You know the one that made me laugh? International Relations. Honestly, this was a really good collection and very easy to read. Did you read her acknowledgment where she thanked Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? She said she went to a reading at 16 and Chimamanda told her to take all the time she needs to write her first book and she hopes she reads this and It makes her proud. That was really sweet.

Taynement: Yes! There was also a shout out to a We Chit Chat alum author – Chiemeka Garricks.

Leggy: I’m glad older and more accomplished Nigerian authors are providing much needed mentorship for the young upcoming ones. Anyway, I definitely recommend this book. It’s very entertaining and it would make for plenty of fun discussions if you read it in a Nigerian book club.

Taynement: A nonjudgmental Nigerian book club.

Leggy: LOL. Apparently.

Taynement: Actually, I think it’ll be fun for any book club. I’d find it interesting explaining things to a non Nigerian. Anyways, what we’re trying to say is – go read the book!

Taynement & Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

“And what about a person’s life? How do you make a map of that? The borders people draw between themselves. The scars left along the ground of one’s heart.”

Eleanor Bennett has just passed away. She leaves behind a recording for her two children, Byron and Benny who she fondly calls B&B. The recording is nothing either of them expected, especially Benny as she was estranged from both her parents and didn’t speak to them before either of them passed away.

In the recording, Eleanor reveals a lot of family secrets including a history on the Island she is originally from. She gives them one last request and drops a bomb at the same time. She tells them that she has left them a traditional Caribbean black cake in the freezer and they have to eat it together – with their long lost sibling.

“I hope that you won’t be afraid to make the same kind of choice again, if you feel that this is what you need to do to survive. Question yourself, yes, but don’t doubt yourself. There’s a difference.”

This book has all the ingredients for a compelling book – which it was, but for me, even though I liked it, I was not gaga about it like most in the literary world. It is a family multi-generational story with a lot of character. In talking about the Islands, Wilkerson sprinkled in some history that I found interesting. The book spanned from the Islands to the UK and then the United States with MANY characters. I found the book to be very descriptive so it made all the sense when I found out Wilkerson was a former journalist.

“You were never just you, and you owed it to the people you cared about to remember that. Because the people you loved were part of your identity, too. Perhaps the biggest part.”

I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of characters, which may bother some people but it didn’t bother me because as long as a book is written well, I can keep up with the characters. That being said, we get insight into each and every character mentioned except for one, so you have a good idea of who everyone is. I do want to add that I don’t know if we were supposed to be sympathetic to Benny’s character because I wasn’t. I didn’t understand her reasons for being estranged from her parents and she sounded a bit spoiled and stubborn.

“I have lived long enough to see that my life has been determined not only by the meanness of others but also by the kindness of others, and their willingness to listen.”

The biggest drawback of the book was just how the author tried to write about any and everything and at some point, it could be a lot and you realize that it could have used some fine tuning. It’s almost like a book you have to take in small doses. Like I said earlier, I liked the book and do think it’s worth picking up, I just didn’t think it was outstanding. Also, is it just me or has anyone else noticed that we have a bunch of books that are centered around food?

Taynement

Fiction, Historical, LGBT, literary fiction, race, romance

Book Review: Olga Dies dreaming by Xóchitl González

“You must remember, mijo, even people who were once your sails can become your anchors.”

Despite all the factors against them, Olga and her brother, Pedro ” Prieto” Acevedo made it in New York. Olga is a rich wedding planner for Manhattan’s elite while Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrified latino neighborhood in Brooklyn. On the surface, they’re living the American dream but there is something more going on underneath it all.

Olga may be creating dreams of love for other people but she is unable to fall in love herself until she meets Matteo, who forces her to examine long buried family secrets. 27 years ago, their mother, Blanca left them to advance a militant cause that was suppose to free native people all over the world. But with nothing achieved, she comes barreling back into their lives like she didn’t abandon her children all these years ago.

It took me a long time to pick up this book, because the cover and the blurb do it no favors. I think the blurb is quite accurate but I just didn’t expect it to have so much life and culture and such a strong narration. This book is told through the perspective of both Olga and Prieto and interspaced by the letters their mum writes them through the years. Letters that strictly scolds them for whatever decision that spreads through the grapevine that she disapproves of.

I enjoyed Olga’s narration the best, it’s filled with so much snark and wit while Prieto’s was almost stifling. The secret he’s hiding and the length he has gone to hide it is almost suffocating as he tells us upfront and then we carry it throughout the book. Prieto sets out to become a politician to help Puerto Rico and his Brooklyn neighborhood but along the way, he bites off more than he can chew.

The Acevedo family is so boisterous and filled with so much love and joy. I loved reading about everyone in the family, how they all chip in to help each other out and how they find the spaces they are needed to fill up, whenever anyone is about to be left behind. It reminds me of a big Nigerian family and I could relate so much to it.

While I enjoyed the characters in this book, I felt like the political commentary was not subtle at all. Maybe the author did not intend for it to be subtle but I felt at some point that I was being hit over my head with a hammer by a lot of it, especially on gentrification. I feel like it’s all been said before, and sadly, there wasn’t anything new. Also, this is largely a character driven book, so if you’re not into that, this book is definitely not for you because I feel like you live in the narrators’ heads a lot.

I also would love to read the reviews of actual Puerto Ricans for this book because it deals with a lot of actual law and politics involving Puerto Rico. I did not know that the PROMESA law was a real law signed in 2016 until I googled it. I wonder if actual Puerto Ricans enjoyed the use of this as a plotline especially as the opinions on this law and the way it was enacted afterwards is largely negative even though it was propped up by a lot of famous Puerto Ricans.

Anyway, this is a debut book and I can’t wait to read what else the author has for us in the future. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. Have you guys read this one? Is this a book you have on your TBR list?

Leggy

dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, romance, Young Adult

Book Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

“Some scars are carved into our bones – a part of who we are, shaping what we become.”

Daughter of the Moon Goddess is inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother, pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm. Xingyin who has spent all her life on the moon discovers that her mother, the moon goddess, is actually a prisoner on the moon. One day, her magic flares and brings her mother’s powerful jailers to the moon to investigate forcing her to flee the only home she’s ever known. Alone and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom where she disguises herself and comes up with a plan to break the enchantment keeping her mother on the moon and gain her mother’s freedom.

“I was no longer a child willing to drift with the ride – I would steer against the current if I had to. and if I won, by some miraculous stroke of luck, I would never be helpless again.”

I was very excited when I found out about this book. Fantasy? Female protagonist? A Chinese setting? CHECK! I think I was expecting more Poppy War so, this protagonist and the entire world building fell flat for me. The story telling and world building wasn’t strong enough to immerse me into this world. Xingyin comes to the celestial kingdom and finds a job as a maiden for a powerful family and no one even investigates her background? Okay, I’m going to let that go.

But then she competes and wins a place as Prince Liwei’s companion and no one knows where she’s from, who her family is and nobody bothers to ask or investigate? It just rang so ridiculous to me that a stranger would be let near the heir to the throne without even a single question asked. Also, the competition to be selected as Prince Liwei’s companion was an absolute joke. I just expected it to be more intriguing, to show us how cunning or smart our protagonist was but it was all rigged for her to win.

This is a YA fantasy so of course there’s a love triangle. I thought this trope was being phased out of YA but I guess not. I found Prince Liwei to be a very 2 dimensional character, entirely predictable. A prince who is too good and cares too much. A prince who is better than his father but detests all the obligations he has to fulfil as the crown prince like being betrothed to a member of one of the most powerful families in the kingdom. He just wants to train and fall in love with whoever he wants and paint and care soooo deeply without having to make any tough decisions.

Wenzhi, the other love interest, is a high ranking army official who has won so many battles and brought great respect to the celestial kingdom. He has a dislike for all things royal and just wants to fight. He’s competent and smart and mysterious. Yet another person who was just allowed to rise in the army ranks even though no one knows where he’s from.

“It was only later that I learned the Chamber of Lions was reserved for the army’s most skilled warriors. While most had taken months, a year even to master every trap, it took me a matter of weeks.”

Xingyin was great at EVERYTHING she tried. She shot an arrow for the first time and was just an absolute natural. She learnt everything and became so strong in a matter of weeks. This is a woman who spent all her growing years in solitude and has never worked out a day in her life. She almost beat Prince Liwei in archery a mere month after she started training even though he had trained all his life.

Anyway, a lot happens in this book so at least you get a lot of bang for your buck. I think because I read a lot of fantasy, this book was not for me. It wasn’t very good world building, the politics isn’t intriguing enough for me to ignore the plot holes and the romance wasn’t passionate enough for two people, not to talk of a three way.

I do think if you enjoy romance books and YA literature, you’re going to enjoy this book. If you enjoy epic fantasies or if you read Poppy War and are looking for a dupe, this book is not for you at all. So while this book was not for me, I actually think it has an audience. It has above 4 stars on goodreads so it’s definitely popular.

This is one book that I wanted so badly to talk to someone about after I finished it so much so that I’m so desperate to join an in-person book club. Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments.

Leggy