Memoirs

Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taynement

Fiction

Book Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Leggy.

We Chit Chat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leggy&Taynement.

Book Related Topics

Our 2019 Reading Goals

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Taynement

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

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

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

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

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

Leggy

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

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

This year, my two big goals are:

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

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

Happy reading year everybody!

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

 

Leggy&Taynement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Related Topics

End of Year Housekeeping: We Want Your Feedback!

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It’s been a year since we started this blog and we hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as we have enjoyed writing it. It’s been a labor of love, library runs and book acquisitions this past year. Also, a learning process for us, as we try to build an audience and make a space on the internet for ourselves and our love for reading.

We want to always check in with you guys to make sure we are giving you the best we can on this blog. As this is our last post of the year, we are using this opportunity to give you guys a chance to let us know what you would like to see from us next year.

Are there any particular type of reviews you would like?

If we started a book club would you participate and how would you like us to conduct it? Via twitter? or comment sections? How often would you like to have it?

How can we make our posts more interactive? What would make you more likely to leave a comment?

How can we improve our social media presence? Is there something you’d like to see on our instagram or twitter that we are not doing now? (please follow us on instagram @nightstands2 and twitter @2nightstands and tell a friend to tell a friend)

Any personal questions you’d like to know about us? Get to know us as bloggers!

Let us know in the comments because we want this blog to be your go-to destination to express your love for books and your feedback will help us build a better community of like minded people.

Thank you!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Hope you guys come back next year for a wonderful year of all things books!

P.S We were a little disappointed that no one shared their best and worst books of the year 😦 We were looking forward to seeing what everyone else thought and also adding to our TBR lists. So if you so feel inclined, it’s never too late to let us know 😀

Leggy & Taynement

Uncategorized

Our Best and Worst Books of 2018

That time of the year, full of year end lists and reading recaps. You can see our best and worst of last year here. Here’s what we thought for this year:

OUR BESTS

Taynement:

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I had to beg Leggy to let me cheat. I have been mulling and mulling all year trying to pick which I liked better of these two and I just can’t pick one over the other. Considering my favorite book last year was Backman’s Beartown, I guess you could say I am a fan girl. You can see what we though of American Marriage, here and Us Against You, here. That being said, I am such a stingy bitch. I don’t think I gave a single book (not even my faves) 5 stars this year.

Other favorites:

  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama

Leggy:

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My favorite book this year was A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. I knew immediately I read this that it would be my favorite of the year. I just enjoy the slow burn of this book, how it builds and how well written it is. You can see me gushing about this book here.

Other favorites:

 

OUR WORSTS

Taynement:

 

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Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith. I don’t even know how I made it to the end of the book.  It got a 1-star from me and reminded me why YA isn’t always my favorite genre because the mindset is completely far removed from me. She buys her crush a lotto ticket for his birthday, he wins and wants to give her some and she declines and makes such a big deal about it. I mean who declines $20 million? Anyways, its my fault for reading it.

Leggy:

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I couldn’t decide between Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool by Peter Turner. You can see what I thought about Emergency Contact here, but I didn’t think the relationship was romantic or appropriate for an 18 year old freshman. I wrote a full review on it on the blog and it’s worth a read, I gave it one star on good reads.

My other pick, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool was just terrible. It’s not a well written book and there was no point to the story. At the end, I was like okay, what was the point of this book? He writes about a movie star he once had a relationship with and spending the last days of her life with him in Liverpool but she was not conscious for most of the book so it really wasn’t about her or her life at all. There was a movie about  it and I definitely didn’t watch it.

We’d love to hear what your best and worst books were for the year. Let us know in the comments!

 

leggy and taynement

Fantasy, Fiction

Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

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The premise of this book is amazing. It’s 1969 and 4 siblings go see a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell people when they will die, right down to the age and exact date. With this information – Daniel, Varya, Klara and Simon- go ahead and live their lives with this information with Varya the only one who shares her age. They live their lives not knowing whether it was living out a destiny or a self-fulfilling prophecy. The book follows the life of each sibling and gives more insight into how they live.

With such a captivating cover, I feel like I saw this book everywhere and I had high hopes for this but unfortunately, this book was a let down. It had my interest in the beginning and I was curious to see how they would go ahead with life having an alleged expiration date, especially getting the info as teenagers. I feel like the first sibling story was quite interesting and captivating but as we progressively went through each sibling, it became more boring. By the time, we got to the story of the last sibling, I was bored out my skull and uninterested. There was so much focus on their work too, and while I got the connection, I just didn’t care.

Nothing about the writing stood out and it’s quite forgettable. I don’t have much to say about it to be honest. If this is on your TBR list, I honestly let you know that you won’t be missing much if you skip it.

Taynement