Fiction

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: 4 Quick Fire Reviews

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Here are four books that I’ve read lately that you might enjoy!

  1. Ayeesha At Last by Jalaluddin Uzma:

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“Just remember to pack light. Dreams tend to shatter if you’re carrying other people’s hopes around with you.”

This is a Pride and Prejudice retelling set in a muslim community in Canada. Ayeesha is a smart, liberal muslim woman who is trying to navigate the complexities of her religion, love and family. Khalid is nothing if not devout and he’s super judgemental about everything he thinks is a transgression and super outspoken about it too. They meet, they hate each other and drama ensues. This book had everything that could have made it great but I thought it was overwritten and the characters were stereotypical caricatures. The villains were super villains, the author hit us over the head with it. Nothing was subtle, she told us everything she wanted us to feel. And oh my God, the drama! So much drama and twists that were not useful at all. I gave this book 2 stars on good reads.

 

2. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan:

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“Because every day with a book is slightly better than one without, and I wish you nothing but the happiest of days.” 

Nina Redmond just got laid off from her librarian job because libraries have been shutting down all over the UK. She decides to buy a van and start a mobile library in a sleepy village many miles from where she lives. She gets to have a lot of adventure and experience a new culture while discovering herself, falling in love and doing something she loves. I really enjoyed this one, I thought it was cute and a great coming into yourself story. What I did not like about this book is the love story. I didn’t understand why the author wrote the male love interest’s character like that- he was married, a grump and just plain ridiculous. I ended up giving this book 3 stars because the love story just wasn’t for me but it was a super sweet book with a likable heroine that I continually rooted for.

 

3. Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan:

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“The age of kings is dead, Adamat, and I have killed it.” 

This is the first book in Powder Mage series. Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and liberated the common man. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces. Also, on the dying lips of mages killed during the coup is a promise of disaster to come because the gods promised the king’s family that they would rule forever but no one believes in silly legends do they? I really enjoyed this one. I gave it 4 stars on good reads. McClellan is a fantastic story teller and I loved this book. I’m going to continue and finish the entire series. Totally recommend this one.

 

4. The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton:

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“How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?”

This book was a mind turner. Evelyn Hardcastle will die tonight at Blackheath, that much we know, and she’ll die every night until Aiden can figure out who killed her. Aiden gets 7 days and 24 hours in 7 different bodies to figure it out. And if he doesn’t at the end of the 7 days, the clock starts all over again without any of the knowledge he gained in the past cycles. He’ll start on a clean slate every 7 days and he’s stuck at Blackheath until he figures out the answer. I quite enjoyed this book, I thought the premise was fantastic and the execution was good even though I think the author lost a hold on it a little bit towards the end. I enjoyed trying to figure out who killed Evelyn, I love a good whodunnit. I gave this one 3 stars on good reads.

 

I hope you enjoyed these quick fire reviews. Let me know if you’ve read or intend to read any of these books in the comments. Have a great reading week everyone!

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics

My Book Picking Process

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Every time I get in a book rut, I can’t help but think that I have no one to blame but myself because I must be picking the wrong books. I took a moment to think about my book picking process was and decided to share and also see how everyone else does it. I think insight to my process can probably be gleaned from my reading habits post.

I think the fact that I go into a lot of books blind i.e not knowing a synopsis or what the book is about, probably doesn’t help my cause. Back in the day, I used to keep a running list of books that I wanted to read. This list was informed by anything. A recommendation, a TV segment, a review etc. At the time of addition, I may or may not have an idea of what the book is about but, by the time I scrolled down the list to see what was available in the library, I almost didn’t remember why I added it.

These days, I have given up on that list for two reasons. Increase in FOMO and joining Instagram. Our timeline is full of fellow book lovers and publishing houses, so I can’t miss any of the books that are currently on people’s radars and I always want in to join the conversation. The books on my list were at least a few years old and I’d just rather something newer. This is why most of my reads are current reads vs. back lists.

Since they are current reads, they are popular, so instead of adding to a list, now I go straight to my library and join the wait list and wait the endless weeks till it gets to me. Like I mentioned, if I see a book over and over on my TL and it comes with raves, I probably will get on that. See: Daisy Jones & The Six, The Farm, Ask Again Yes – all products of FOMO.

The other way I decide on picks is through my magazines. I subscribe to two magazines that come with book review and every now and then I take pictures and save them in a “Book Album”. I rarely come back to the album but coincidentally my FOMO books end up aligning with books I have added to the album.

Genre plays a big part. Most of my reading genre is fiction. If it’s historical, sci-fi or fantasy, I probably won’t touch it. I am a tad bit turned off by YA but I know there are some good ones out there. Celeb memoirs intrigue me, so I read a decent number of them.

The last method is simply, Leggy recommends to me.

I wish my methods were more exciting but for someone who doesn’t read physical books, I don’t go through the emotions of seeing a book cover (like maybe in an airport) and being intrigued or excited to pick up a book and read it. I love walking through bookstores but most of the time, I am already familiar with the covers and get more excited if its a different variation of a book cover I am familiar with.

In summary, the ways in which I pick a book are: FOMO, Instagram, Magazine Reviews and Leggy.

How do you decide on what books to read?

Taynement

Fiction

Book Review: The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

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“What a privilege, Nan thought, to believe oneself completely independent, to feel unshackled by social conventions and the worry of what other people might think. What a blessing, to be lonely in that particular way.” 

This book follows two couples – Charles and Lily, James and Nan. They meet in New York when Charles and James are hired to be joint pastors for the Third Presbyterian Church and we follow them through their journey of faith, marriage and family over the years.

Charles is the son of an esteemed Harvard professor who was already on his way to becoming a professor also,  when he hears a lecture in school that leads him to God. He meets and falls in love with Lily who does not believe in God, who warns him to not have hope in his heart that she’d ever believe.

Nan is a pastor’s kid who grew up and spent all her time in church, her father insists she leaves Alabama to study in Chicago and expand her world view. She meets James in college, drags him to church and even though James isn’t sure he believes, he develops an intellectual curiosity about Christianity and decides that this would be his avenue to help the world.

“Dearly beloved,” he began. They were the words that started weddings, not baptisms, but the people in the church were his beloved, so dear that as he spoke his heart and throat grew tight.”

I went into this book with really high hopes because of the glowing reviews and high praises I had read about it, but I think it fell short of my expectations. I like how this book deals with the various ways faith manifests and also deals with the lack of faith really well. There was no judgment or preaching to the audience about what faith or a lack of it should look like or represent. The author presents you with the facts of our characters’ lives and leaves any other presumption up to her readers. This book spans 50 years and Wall does a great job of telling this story with a solid backdrop of historic events surrounding each year – civil rights, Martin Luther King, segregation, etc.

“Nan had known, as a child, that God did not answer prayers for more candy or new shoes. Those were worldly things, not sacred. God answered prayers about being a better friend, or being able to get a good grade on a test. God gave wisdom and the ability to work hard. God did not change the circumstances of your life, God changed you. ”

I really liked how the friendship between the couples wasn’t stereotypical, they didn’t hit it off and become friends for life and forever without any struggles. Wall portrayed these couples’ friendship very well. The gossip,  jealousy and incompatibility between four people from completely different places and different belief systems. The dynamic between the women was especially intriguing. I enjoyed that even though they were two very different people, they showed each other compassion when they both needed it most. They gave each other space to be flawed and human and I think this relationship was my favorite in the book.

“Don’t we just have to find the thing that lets us not be scared to die? The thing that lets us not be scared, so we can live?”

I found Lily and Charles’ marriage to be very stifled and unfulfilling. I don’t understand why a pastor would ever marry an atheist who never even went to his services. I just kept wondering why they were together. Charles believed wholeheartedly in God and in the Bible but still decided to marry someone unequally yoked with him? It didn’t make any sense to me. Also, I wish we would have gotten more about the pastors when they were older and better established in their faith and jobs instead of focusing mainly on their college and early ministering years.

Ultimately, this book didn’t make it past 3 stars for me. This was a debut novel so it is definitely a solid effort from the writer and I’ll be reading more from her. If you don’t like gentle and slow reads, this book is definitely not for you. If you loved, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, then consider giving this book a read.

 

Leggy

Fiction

Book Review: The Farm by Joanne Ramos

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The Farm is a nickname for the Golden Oaks surrogacy center in Boston where rich patrons known as Clients, pay exorbitant amount of money to have their kids carried for them by women referred to as Hosts. Most of the Hosts are minorities. White Hosts are so scarce/hard to find that the few they have are referred to as “Premiere Hosts” because as you can guess they are considered “white, pretty and smart, but not intimidatingly so”. The Hosts are nicely compensated by their Clients but what makes it a little uncomfortable is that the women are very closely monitored from the moment they have  viable pregnancy. Their diet, their emails, their every move is being watched by Coordinators and they are not allowed contact with the outside world.

Our protagonist, Jane is a single, Filipino mother of a 6 month old who has recently split from her husband. She is living in a dorm with her resourceful cousin, Evelyn who she refers to as Ate. Ate does all she can to make money to send back to her kids in the Philippines and has now become a sought after baby nurse in NY. After suffering a heart attack, she enlists Jane to sub for her but when that goes awry she suggests being a surrogate at Golden Oaks. Being desperate for money, Jane agrees and begins this new life for the next 9 months.

Mae Yu is the ambitious manager of the center who comes off as the villain in this book because she would stop at nothing to get wealthy clients including Madam Deng. She keeps a special eye on Jane who becomes friends with two fellow white Hosts – Reagan, an idealist who wants to believe doing this is her helping the world in some way while dealing with her family issues and Lisa, the wild free spirit who is doing this for the third time and is the person who coined the center “The Farm”

You guys, I could go on and on about this plot of this book because it was that rich and that layered. I’ve been in a reading rut for a while and it was great to finally read a book I was excited about. I have seen a lot of comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale or saying it is a dystopian book, but I don’t think so at all. I think it is a realistic plot that is current (Goodreads tells me there is a center similar to this called Golden Generations – scary).

What did I like about this book? So many things.

This book was written through the lens of an immigrant and Ramos gets it right using the personal stories she has heard and experienced as a Filipina herself. She touches on the guilt so many immigrant parents face when faced with making the choice between being able to provide from afar or being close to them but not being able to provide. I liked how the book made me think.

Jane just always had an internal battle but there is a scene where Evelyn says Jane seems to have a knack for making the worst decisions at the wrong time and I agree. Jane is so ruled by her emotions, it got frustrating sometimes. Reagan just wanted to do the right thing and represented the white person that is cognizant of their privilege and racked with white guilt but at what point do you make it make sense and live your life? Mae is of Asian descent but seems to be one of those who sees herself as white, there is a point where she doesn’t get why her classmate who is black has been considered one of Forbes 30 Under 30 and doesn’t think she would have achieved that if she wasn’t black – which is probably the thought process for a lot of Americans.

“The colonizers let us tell stories. Even angry stories … They please the colonizer, make him feel hip and cool … What the colonizer would be frightened of is an uprising where the colonized took the means of representation and production and made them equal, for everyone, of all backgrounds.”

I liked how intelligent the book was with tackling racial and social status without being too preachy. Ramos made this very multi faceted with superb writing skills. I wish she had expanded more on what happened at Jane’s baby nursing job and the ending didn’t leave me fully satisfied or had me convinced but everything else was good enough for me to overlook. I fully recommend.

Taynement

Fantasy

Book Review: The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winters

The Rage of Dragons (The Burning, #1)

 

“I can’t imagine a world where the man holding a sword does not have the last say over the man without one.” 

The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable war for 200 years with the natives of a land they tried to claim as their new country. The entire society is built and structured for war. Their castes are built around people who are stronger, faster, bigger and more gifted than others and is maintained strictly with a punishment of death if ever challenged. Born of a lower caste, Tau knows his fate in life is to be killed or used as fodder for the war but he has a plan to avoid that.

He plans to get injured, receive an honorable discharge and live out the rest of his life with the love of his life, but his plans get interrupted when his father is brutally murdered in front of him because of a perceived insult to a higher born. Tau decides to become the greatest swordsman that ever lived in an effort to avenge his father’s death. All of this is going down with a backdrop of a struggling empire, queendom and plans of treachery and coup afoot.

“He was not the strongest, the quickest, or the most talented, not by any measure. He knew this and knew he could not control this. However, he could control his effort, the work he put in, and there he would not be beaten.” 

I bought this book not knowing the author was Black. I stumbled upon it on Goodreads, read the many glowing reviews and bought it. Then I saw some super Nigerian character names and decided to google who exactly wrote this book and out pops a Black man! I was pleasantly surprised. This book was originally self published in September 2017 but was given new life when it was acquired by Orbitz and Winter signed on to write a 4 book series for them.

I’m a sucker for blood thirsty, vengeful protagonists so I ate this book up. I love fantasy where a sort of training school is involved and we get to watch the main character grow in skill and purpose. Tau goes to such limits to perfect his swordsmanship. He lived for his revenge and didn’t care if it led to his death or not. He was out to prove that his caste had nothing to do with his ability to be greater, faster and stronger than the higher born and went about it with such doggedness.

“The days without difficulty are the days you do not improve.” 

I enjoyed how fast paced this book was, it hit the ground running right after the prologue. We get a look at the thinking of the colonizers, the Omehi people crashed unto this land that already had occupants but believed their gods led them there and therefore, they felt entitled to it. We get a look into the caste system, privilege and a lot of other concepts that are relevant to our world today without being preachy. Tau is such a hot headed boy, he almost reminds me of Harry Potter, always rushing into dangerous situations believing that they’re in the right and then letting other people clean up their mess. I was so frustrated with some of the actions he took in this book but is revenge ever a rational, and utterly noble pursuit?

“That’s the price. Life is nothing more than moments in time. To achieve greatness, you have to give up those moments. You have to give your life to your goal.”

I really enjoyed this book. Gave it 5 stars on Goodreads! If you are at all interested in fantasy or looking to get into it. Please give this book a go!

 

Leggy

Memoirs

Book Review: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

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I heard so much about this book and for no good reason at all, I just had no desire to read it, so I stayed away from it. Sometime, late last year I was looking for an audiobook to listen to and it was available in my library so I decided to go for it. Born A Crime is an autobiography of sorts that focuses on Noah’s childhood in South Africa. The title, Born A Crime is because being born in the times of apartheid where having a black mom and a white dad was illegal, he literally was the product of a crime.

The book is written as a collection of essays and Noah talks about his childhood in depth right from the moment his mother made a decision to get pregnant with him. He talks about how mischievous he was as a child, how his mother – who is really the heroine of the book – did so much to protect and raise her child to be his own person in the most unconventional way, how he grappled with religion as a child and basically navigating this world he was in as a biracial child.

This book was great. I started it and was instantly drawn in. Noah’s intelligence seeps through in the way this book is written because he is able to tell his story even when it is at its most gruesome in a light hearted way. He finds a way to come out with a lesson  and how it contributed to who he is today.

As mentioned earlier, his mother was a major character in the book and wow what a woman or should I say, what a human being. Patricia Noah’s fearless energy shone throughout the book. She made bold decisions and was a determined person who fiercely loved her children. She had interesting child rearing tactics but it worked for her. It was also so fascinating to me that a woman with her characteristics still ended up with bottom barrel men who were abusive towards her, to the point where she almost lost her life.

The essays were not written in chronological order, so in one chapter Noah could be 19 and in the next he is back to being 11 years old. I didn’t quite like that. And even though I know it was about his childhood, I would have liked to know how he veered into comedy. Other than that this book really was an absolute delight. I feel like I say it a lot but listening to it via audio was a treat. Noah’s inflections, voices/accent imitation, singing and comedic chops made it even funnier and really took you to the setting of the book.

If you are looking for something fun that’s also serious, I definitely recommend.

Taynement

Fiction

Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

Recursion

“Life with a cheat code isn’t life. Our existence isn’t something to be engineered or optimized for the avoidance of pain. That’s what it is to be human – the beauty and the pain, each meaningless without the other.” 

Neuroscientist Helena Smith, in a bid to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and save her mother’s life, accidentally builds a machine totally unprecedented. This machine allows you to store a memory, then go back and relive that memory and your life from the day of the stored memory all over again.

New York city cop, Barry Sutton, is investigating a devastating phenomenon called False Memory Syndrome, where residents are waking up with false memories of lived full lives, different from ones they are living now. Suicide skyrockets and Sutton tries to get to the bottom of the phenomenon before memory as we know it is destroyed. Needless to say, these two stories collide in a way that’ll make you question time, memory and love.

“There are so few things in our existence we can count on to give us the sense of permanence, of the ground beneath our feet. People fail us. Our bodies fail us. We fail ourselves. He’s experienced all of that. But what do you cling to, moment to moment, if memories can simply change. What, then, is real? And if the answer is nothing, where does that leave us?” 

Who doesn’t want a do over in life? Personally, I don’t trust people who say they have no regrets. If you’re offered a way to go back in time and relive it, with all the knowledge you have now still intact, who wouldn’t be tempted to take that chance? This and so many questions are asked and answered in this book. Crouch writes a very human novel. Infact, I’d argue that this book is basically a love story. We see how much love pushes us to be the best or worst versions of ourselves, how desperate love makes us and ultimately, how love breaks us.

Other questions like, would you go back and stop Hitler? What are the consequences of that? If World War 2 never happens, then half the population on earth now stops existing and we get a totally new world. Blake Crouch turns his incredible imagination loose in his latest thriller and your mind will be racing trying to keep up with him.

“He has wondered lately if that’s all living really is—one long goodbye to those we love.” 

Ignore the science. Honestly, don’t try to understand all the facets of this. Get the gist of how the base science works then let everything else go. I find that’s why people think they can’t read science fiction because they get bogged down by the science. Understand the basics of how this world Crouch is creating works and then let everything else go. Reviewing Crouch’s book is not an easy task; there’s a huge limitation on how much of the plot I can talk about without spoiling something, and I don’t want that.

I will say that when Helen Smith relives her life over and over and over again till the readers are out of their minds with the familiarity of it all, it gets to a point where you just want it to freaking end. This gives you a glimpse of how Helen feels and your heart absolute breaks for her. I think this section of the book pushed the book up a star for me because if  I went crazy as a reader,  just imagine what the protagonist felt, living her life over and over again, trying to stop the inevitable from happening.

“My soul knows your soul. In any time.” 

If you’re looking to venture into science fiction, I think you should give Blake Crouch a try. Underneath all that science, Crouch writes human stories. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. If you read this and enjoy it, you should give his first book, Dark Matter, a shot.

 

Leggy