Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, Uncategorized, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat : Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other

 

“… ageing is nothing to be ashamed of
especially when the entire human race is in it together”

Plot: Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve black (save for one), British women. It tells the story of their joys and struggles in navigating the cards dealt to them as they journey through life.

 

Taynement: I started this book right at the start of the pandemic and I became so overwhelmed that I kept starting and stopping before I finally finished it. I’m glad I did.

Leggy: I only read this book for the blog. I had absolutely no interest in it and didn’t even know what it was about till I had to read it at the last minute for this chit chat.

Taynement: I recommended it for the blog because it made Obama’s best books list and it won a Booker prize. I also (as usual) did not know what it was about. I went in blind. It was a pleasant surprise for me that it was about different people. I enjoy stories like that.

Leggy: I think it was super easy for me to get through it because of the structure. I could read about one person, step away and pick it right back up. It’s a very easy book to read in sections.

Taynement: Yeah, it’s not a hard book to read even if it didn’t have punctuation and capitalization for each paragraph.

Leggy: I totally forgot you had warned me about the punctuation before hand so when I downloaded it on my kindle, I thought my library had sent me a badly formatted book. Anyway, what was your favorite and least favorite story?

Taynement: My favorite story was the one with Winsome, the one whose mother was sleeping with her husband and yet she felt smug that she was in a perfect marriage. Other standouts were the story of Bummi (can I just say her spelling this Nigerian women’s name this way kills me) and Dominique in the abusive lesbian relationship.

Leggy: I loved the mother one! That was my absolute favorite because we get her daughter’s story first and she talks about how her mum goes off with her kids and husband on some weekends to give her a break and how amazing her husband is. Then BAM! we get hit by the mother’s story. It was fantastic. I enjoyed it.

Taynement: I was like WHOA because she tells us so casually. It was a one sided crush at first.

Leggy: Really enjoyed Bummi’s story too. I’m super glad she found peace and accepted her daughter’s choices at the end. Also glad her white son-in-law actually turned out to be a good person.

Taynement: But she didn’t herself find peace. Nigerian guilt goes deep. I liked that the author went there with the story.

Leggy: I actually think she did. She seemed quite content at the end. The Morgan/Meghan story was my least favorite. I confess that I skimmed it, it gave me nothing.

Taynement: Yes, I was going to mention that story as my least favorite. It didn’t capture me and I get it was a set up for GG’s story. I will say what I liked about this book is how it was so many things. Many different kinds of women were captured and it explored many themes. I’m not sure how she managed to do it but it worked.

Leggy: Do you think it did too much or just enough?

Taynement: Hmmm, that’s tough because on one hand I liked the freedom having many stories gave, but on the other hand, I will say I’d get confused due to many characters and found myself trying to see how the characters related to each other vs. enjoying the story.

Leggy: I thought it did too much. I think there could have been fewer characters. I think she tried hard to cover a variety of black women and their experience. It got super hard to keep track of who was who and how it all connected. I don’t expect one piece of literature to cover the total experience of a group of very diverse people and I think she tried to do that and it got exhausting after a while. The first 50% of this book was a breeze to read but as I got to the end, I struggled to even care anymore.

Taynement: I did a deep dive on the author and was surprised she is half Nigerian, probably why there were so many Nigerian mentions. Anyway, what was the point of Yazz?

Leggy: She was irritating but she’s also a good representation of a lot of young people growing up in this social media age. They’re sponges. She went to Morgan’s lecture and suddenly started calling herself “non-binary”. She wants to seem enlightened without actually doing any work to support that.

Taynement: Makes sense. Can I just add that there was something I liked about Mrs. King and Carole? Perspective. She legit hated this woman for so many years and it took a chance encounter to realize that Mrs. King saved her life.

Leggy: Carole was so ungrateful and I just don’t understand how she got to that conclusion.

Taynement: You have to remember she had a very traumatic experience and I think it’s so common in life to be so fixated on a story in your head so much you don’t even see the reality.

Leggy: I’m glad she finally met Mrs. King and realized she didn’t have to do all the things she did for her to get her to Oxford.

Taynement: I liked this book but I actually don’t think it’s for everyone. If someone said they didn’t care for it, I could see how. I liked how boldly unapologetic and modern it was and I think Evaristo’s dedication sums it up:

“For the sisters & the sistas & the sistahs & the sistren & the women & the womxn & the wimmin & the womyn & our brethren & our bredrin & our brothers & our bruvs & our men & our mandem & the LGBTQI+ members of the human family.”

Leggy: I agree. I liked it and I think there’s a story for everyone but ultimately, I don’t know who I’d recommend the entire book to. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

Taynement: I agree but overall, worth adding to your TBR list and checking out to see if it would be something you’d like.

 

Leggy & Taynement

 

 

 

Book Related Topics, Fiction, Mystery, thriller

Book Review : A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

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“And in the end, wasn’t that the key to marriage? Learning to pretend that a few unspoiled things could make up for all the broken ones.”

Lizzie Kitsakis just started working at the prestigious Young and Crane law firm when she gets a call from an old friend, Zach Grayson, from Rikers prison desperately asking for her help. His wife, Amanda, has just been found dead on the floor of their Brooklyn brownstone and he’s the primary suspect. Until recently Lizzie had been a happily underpaid prosecutor with a devoted husband but everything has come crashing down around her. She delves into investigating who could have murdered Amanda, the close knit group that surrounds the couple in Brooklyn who all seem to be hiding secrets of their own and she has to figure out which of these secrets is worth committing murder for.

“Forgiveness is a side effect of love,” he said finally. And sadly, almost. “If you are going to be married, share the ups and downs of life. What other choice is there?”

This is an impressive slow burn of a book. The author starts off building her characters’ backstories and letting us into their lives. We get two different points of view – one from Lizzie as she gets Zach’s call and starts investigating the murder and secondly, from Amanda as we get a countdown of the events that lead up to the murder. The chapters alternate between these two characters so if you don’t like that plot narrative device in a book, this one might not be for you. Even though the book started out slow and built to a crescendo, I never thought for a second it was boring. It was intriguing from the very first page.

“That’s the hardest part about marriage, isn’t it?” Zach went on. “Somebody else’s problems become your own. It doesn’t always feel fair.”

This book was full of twists and turns and none of it was silly but none of it was mind blowing either. It is sprinkled with a lot of deceit, false starts and dead ends but you never feel like the author is toying with your sense of believe. Even though I didn’t see a lot of the twists coming, they just made me go – “oh, ok, I can see that being true”, there wasn’t a huge Gone Girl twist which I loved. I’m tired of every thriller on earth trying to have a huge twist at the end just to cash in on that Gone Girl popularity. Also, I could not guess the killer which is very important to me and this is the fact that kept me reading, I just needed to know who killed Amanda. I read this book all in one day and didn’t go to bed till I was finished.

“I’d been so foolish to think love could change the essential nature of anything.”

After every few chapters, the book presents you with a transcript of a grand jury testimony containing several interviews between witnesses and the prosecutor building the case against Zach. I found these transcripts to be unnecessary and stopped reading them after the first couple installments, just started skipping them. They added nothing to the plot. Also, honestly, the ending was lackluster. Even though I didn’t guess the killer, I still felt oddly unsatisfied. I wanted someone more instrumental to the plot. Anyway, this book is very readable and even though it starts off slow, it still managed to be a big page turner. Gave this 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Fiction, Nigerian Author

Book Review – Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham

Review: 'Black Sunday,' By Tola Rotimi Abraham : NPR

“I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.”

The year is 1996 and we are introduced to twins, Bibike and Ariyike, who live with their mother and father and two younger brothers, Andrew and Peter in Lagos, Nigeria. Their house is not exactly a happy home as their parents are constantly at odds. Their mother is the sole bread winner as their dad continuously loses money in hare brained schemes and investments. The girls have different personalities – Ariyike is the friendlier one while Bibike is the more cynical one.

After their mom loses her job, the family joins a Pentecostal church where their dad meets men like him who are “loud, noisy dreamers”. He takes a huge gamble with the money they have that eventually breaks the family apart. The kids are shuttled off to their grandmother’s house and are forced to grow up and face their pain individually. The girls are forced to lean into their individuality and begin their separate and different paths to life for the next two decades.

“I did not believe in love, in marital love, in righteous men or justice”

The quote above captures the tone of this book which I would say was cynical. Black Sunday is the complete opposite of a fairy tale and can be described as gritty but don’t let that scare you because I still enjoyed this book. While the focus was on the twins, we do get the perspectives of the younger brothers at some point. I think Abraham’s goal was to have a jarring, true to life description of how it goes when lives get disrupted and the sole goal is to survive.

“Every girl who hears it is shamed for all the things she otherwise feels no shame for. Shame is female just as merit is male”

When speaking about survival from a female perspective in a patriarchal society, it is inevitable that the difficult topic of sexual assault and also using sex as a weapon to get ahead, will come up. This is woven into the story but not as a lesson or as a sad story but was written rather matter-of-factedly. My guess is so the reader digests it like the girls did – things happen, you get hardened and just do what you have to do without much emotion tied to it. While both sisters chose different paths, Ariyike early on had a clear resolve what she wanted her life to be and made it that way regardless of the cost.

“I learned when I was a little girl that people always lie. I am not sure that everyone means to lie. It is just that they have in their hearts ideas of who they should be, and they are trying to convince themselves that they are who they insist on being. It is tiring”

There were several different thought provoking story lines in this book that could easily have been confusing but Abraham did a good job of weaving all the stories together and you were captivated by each character’s narration of their story. I wish we had more insight into their mother’s side of the story and there was a part of Bibike’s story that had me confused a little bit, because till now I don’t know if it was real or not.

“There were many easy ways to be a stupid girl in Lagos. We were not stupid girls. We were bright with borrowed wisdom”

As mentioned earlier, this isn’t a book with a neatly tied bow on it. What it is, is a well written thought provoking book that wasn’t afraid to be messy and complex and all the while you know that this is a cumulative representation of many a Nigerian girl’s story. I highly recommend this one.

Taynement

Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

Book Review – Arc of a Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Arc of a Scythe is a young adult dystopian trilogy – Scythe, Thunderhead and The Toll. I read the final book last week and decided to review all three books on the blog this week.

Scythe:

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“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.”

Humanity has finally conquered death, nobody can die completely except by fire. Humans are living for hundreds of years while still having the ability to remain as young as they please. There are no governments, the entire world is controlled and catered to by an AI called The Thunderhead. To curtail the world’s population, a group of people called the Scythes are appointed. These are people who are legally mandated to permanently end life. Citra and Rowan are chosen by Scythe Faraday to apprentice under him, an opportunity neither of them wants but must learn to take life efficiently or risk losing theirs. I gave this 3 stars on good reads.

 

Thunderhead:

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2)

“How ironic, then, and how poetic, that humankind may have created the Creator out of want for one. Man creates God, who then creates man. Is that not the perfect circle of life? But then, if that turns out to be the case, who is created in whose image?”

The Scythedom has finally made a decision between Rowan and Citra and one of them has gone rogue, determined to put the scythedom through a trial of fire. The old guards -who see being a scythe as a great calling, to be treated with respect and dignity and the new guards – who actually enjoy killing and see being scythes as being above the entire human population are at an impasse. The thunderhead is forced to watch as things come to a head in the scythedom while being banned from interfering with scythe business. I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

The Toll:

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“We never know what choices will lead to defining moments in our lives. A glance to the left instead of right could define who we meet and who passes us by. Our life path can be determined by a single phone call we make, or neglect to make.”

Rowan and Citra have disappeared for three years, the new guard is completely in charge and rules against bias killings and killing quotas have been abolished. The scythes are now legally allowed to kill as many people as they please. An old guard scythe searches the world for the plan B option to the scythedom that the original scythes made just in case their scythedom experience failed. The World is at a loss and in fear, the thunderhead races against time to save humanity from itself. I gave this 2 stars on good reads.

 

I think this series has a brilliant concept but very poor execution. I also think it was dragged out too long to be completely enjoyable. The romance between the main characters was completely forced as there was literally no atom of chemistry between them. I do appreciate that a lot of the romance was kept to a minimum so we didn’t have to suffer through a significant amount of it.

I found the world building to be very fascinating but full of holes. There are so many things the author just neglected because it wasn’t convenient for him. For example – people can still die, it’s just that people aren’t allowed to permanently die. If you’re not killed by a scythe or by fire, you are immediately rushed to a center to be revived. If this is the case why are scythes even needed? Why not just let people die?!

Also, the morality in this book is very black and white. I really would have loved to see some moral grays because I think that’s exactly what most of life is made up of. The main villain in this book Scythe Goddard is so one dimensionally evil, he’s almost a caricature. I think this book brings up some very interesting philosophical questions but then fails to explore them.

I still finished this series so obviously there was always something that kept me wanting to find out more (plus my library just kept pushing out books so I had to!). I do recommend these books if you’re looking for something more young adult and easy to get through. Overall, I give this series 3 stars!

Have you read these books? Did you enjoy them? Let us know in the comments!

 

Leggy

 

Fiction

Book Review: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

Claire Lombardo's The Most Fun We Ever Had is your future TV fix

“Everyone thinks I know what I’m doing but I actually have no idea what I’m doing and that’s the cruelest trick the universe plays on people who have their shit together, little one; the people who seem like they have it together are the most overlooked, because everyone thinks those people never need anything, but everyone needs things; I need things; thanks for listening;”

40 years of being a couple, Marily and David are still a couple madly in love. The annoying kind of in love where they are still touchy feely and still like each other. They have 4 daughters.

“But that was the thing: sometimes being a sister meant knowing the right thing to do and still not doing it because winning was more important.”

Wendy – their oldest child who is a widow and drinks a tad bit too much with a mean streak in her, reserved more for her younger sister, Violet

Violet – lawyer turned stay at home mom who would go to great lengths to have the perfect family image even though things aren’t all that they seem

Liza – the nerdy, rule follower who is stuck in a dead end relationship and finds herself pregnant

Grace – the surprise baby who was born much later than her sisters and struggles with finding her place.

“The thing that nobody warned you about adulthood was the number of decisions you’d have to make, the number of times you’d have to depend on an unreliable gut to point you in the right direction, the number of times you’d still feel like an eight-year-old, waiting for your parents to step in and save you from peril.”

It’s 2016 and each of the kids are in a not so good places in their lives and do not want to share this state with their parents. The book goes back and forth telling us the foundation, early beginnings and everything in between in David and Marilyn’s relationship. The anchor that births all the story lines is the reemergence of a child Violet gave up as a teenager. It affects each and every single one of them in a different way and brings back old and not so buried resentments.

So, I nearly dropped this book in the beginning because I was so confused with the back and forth and the many characters. But I am glad I stuck with it. I eased into it and finally got a grasp of the people and the stories. I enjoyed this one. I am a sucker for family and generational stories and that is what drew me to the book. Lombardo did a great job in developing the characters in the book so every action they took was realistic because it was true to form to how Lombardo had written them from childhood to adulthood.

It was so fascinating to me that this loving couple raised 4 assholes. Honestly guys, that is the only way to describe it. These kids were just horrible people. There is not one of them I would want to be friends with and it affected a bit of my enjoyment of the book because I spent a lot of it being frustrated and angry at their decisions. The even more fascinating thing about it is their whole spiral stemmed from feeling that they could not live up to finding and maintaining a love like their parents.

“She’d fallen into motherhood without intent, producing a series of daughters with varying shades of hair and varying degrees of unease.”

I want to talk more about the characters being unlikable. Each of the daughters were so unbelievably selfish. Liza was so indecisive it hurt my soul. Marilyn’s obliviousness drove me mad and it’s crazy how the most mature character was 16 year old, Jonah. While I found them unlikable, the flip side to it is that it could be seen as realistic and a portrayal of how complex it is to be human (and on some level to be a spouse and a parent)

“It’s funny,” her mom continued. “I think so much of making a relationship work has to do with choosing to be kind even when you may not feel like it. It sounds like the most obvious thing in the world but it’s much easier said than done, don’t you think?”

I do think the book ran a little longer than it should have. Every time I’d think the book was winding down, it’d just be ramping up another angle with another revelation about someone. I enjoyed the perspective of how everyone thought Marilyn and David were perfect but they really had so many trials that they worked through. Overall, this is a book about the trials that come with parenting, being a sibling, feeling lost, second guessing your life decisions. If you like long books and have the time to get into a well thought out story, I recommend this.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

 

“There is exquisite lightness in waking each morning with the knowledge that the worst has already happened.”

The publisher’s blurb tells you virtually nothing about what this book is about. In fact, the first 50 pages leave you wondering where Mandel is going with this one. Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass hotel on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. Jonathan sweeps Vincent up into a world of wealth and greed. At the heart of this book is a Ponzi scheme and the financial collapse of 2009 which makes this even more of a sobering read, now that the stock market is crashing and recession looms.

If you intend to pick up this book because you loved Station Eleven, bear in mind that the subject matters are nothing alike. But the way the books are written is actually quite similar. Mandel has a way with words, every single sentence matters and is important. This book is a real puzzle with pieces scattered all over the different chapters and they all come together at some point to make a full picture.

“Leon hadn’t understood, and he’d given Alkaitis his retirement savings anyway. He didn’t insist on a detailed explanation. One of our signature flaws as a species: we will risk almost anything to avoid looking stupid. The strategy had seemed to adhere to a certain logic, even if the precise mechanics–puts, calls, options, holds, conversions–swam just outside of his grasp. ‘Look,’ Alkaitis had said, at his warmest and most accommodating, ‘I could break it all down for you, but I think you understand the gist of it, and at the end of the day the returns speak for themselves”

The characters in this book are genuinely unlikeable characters. They are opportunists, grabbing whatever life offers them at the expense of so many people while convincing themselves that they are not monsters. The way Mandel writes about the people who are affected when the ponzi scheme finally collapses is heart wrenching. People losing their homes, their retirements, pensions, working well into their 70’s just to survive, losing houses, etc. It’s also fascinating how people never question things that are too good to be true, there was always a feeling that something wasn’t right but those feelings were brushed aside.

This is an effortless read. I adored the writing. Mandel makes sure all her characters have layers, you start to feel like you know these people, you imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes and your heart breaks when theirs does too. This book is weirdly beautiful for a finance book and even if you’re not at all interested in finance (which i’m not), it still captures you from beginning to end. I gave this book 4 stars because even though I loved it the last 50 pages just dragged on for me, I didn’t need everything wrapped up that much. Still a very compelling novel. I definitely recommend.

 

Have you read this one? Will it be making it on your TBR?

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics

Is It The Book I Hate…Or The Character(s)?

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Think of a book you really don’t like. Now think of a book that you don’t like that EVERYBODY seems to love. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is that book for me. I read this book a few years ago and absolutely hated it. It was recommended to me by a friend and it was back in the day when I had not learned the art of dropping a book if I did not like it.

If you didn’t know,  I found out early on that I seem to have a problem with books with British protagonists. They are just never likable and I don’t know why. So from jump I was struggling with the book but powered through as mentioned above. By the end of the book I was annoyed, irritated and very relieved that I was done with the book.

To my chagrin, this book is a beloved one. I kept reading rave reviews about it, it was on every list imaginable. In fact, much to my chagrin before Covid19 struck, this book could almost always be found in every airport bookstore bestseller bookshelf – regardless of country.

Every time I see this book or someone tells me how they just “read this book that I really loved”, I’d roll my eyes and want to understand exactly what it is they loved. At some point, I took the time out to wonder what I was missing and what it is exactly I don’t like about the book.

One day, after giving my response for the 100th time as to why I didn’t like the book – I just couldn’t stand Eleanor. I took a step back and wondered if you don’t like a character in a book does that automatically make it a bad book or is it the reverse where it has been written so well that you have intense feelings of dislike for a fictional character? Do your characters have to be likeable to qualify a book as good?

While it definitely affects your enjoyment of the book, I want to say no. I’d like to think that you can separate the meat of a book and its writing from the likeability level of a main character. Book that comes to mind is A Little Lie. I found the main character very frustrating but I wouldn’t say I hated the book (although Leggy did so hmm) I think it was written well enough and the characters were fully fleshed out. On the flip side, I also don’t think I have ever described any of the aforementioned British chick lit books with annoying protagonists as “a good book”

So I pose the question to you, can you hate the main character or characters in a book and still think of it as a good book or does the intense dislike color your feelings towards the book?

Taynement