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african author, Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, race, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

Ties that Tether - The Stripe

“How much more of yourself, of your culture will you lose to accommodate him in your life?” 

As you may have heard me say a million times this year, it’s been a struggle reading year and I have been doing all I can just to read anything my attention can focus on. I have no recollection of being on a waitlist for this book but once it popped up as available and I saw a Nigerian author, I decided to go for it. Also, is the cover gorgeous or what?

Azere is a 25 year old Nigerian woman who lives in Canada. Before moving to Canada from Nigeria when she was 12 years old, she makes a promise to her dying father to preserve the culture and marry a Nigerian man. Her mother takes this promise to heart and is always on her case to get married and is always matchmaking and setting Azere up on dates. Azere always obliges her mom and goes on these dates and confines her dating pool to just Nigerian men.

Yet another date goes awry and Azere goes to the bar to decompress, meets Rafael and ends up in a one night stand with him. The relationship goes beyond the one night stand and Azere is torn between pleasing her mom and a chance at happiness.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I’d landed on a romance novel but I decided to stick through it to support a Nigerian author. I liked this book enough. Any Nigerian/immigrant can relate to the story and realize it is not far fetched. This book was very heavy on pop culture references but was a good balance of both Western and Nigerian pop culture. A bit on the nose at times but I think it symbolized Azere’s internal struggle of growing up Nigerian and Canadian and identifying as both.

I liked that the book provided insight into the Nigerian culture. Even as a Nigerian, I learned a bit more as Azere is from Edo state. For example, I didn’t know Ogbono soup was from that region. I liked the Edo names mentioned and their full meaning and Azere explains some traditions and their origin. I picked up some names that I thought were just beautiful. I liked the overall message of choosing your happiness and not being tethered due to unhealthy obligations.

The flip side of the book is that you can tell that it is a debut book. It has a slight amateurish feel to it and suffers from the verboseness most Nigerians have. Azere’s character came off as almost childlike/immature. The way she kept wanting to please her mom and keep a promise to her dying father annoyed me. I almost couldn’t believe she had the one night stand given the strong hold her mom seemed to have on her. To be quite honest, her mom came off as a bully to me.

Some storylines felt disjointed in a bid to create anticipation and further the story. It sometimes read like dress up where the story being told was like a recreation of all the various movie and book plot lines we’ve read so some conversations came off clunky. A big blowout between Rafael and Azere and their reaction to it had me scratching my head.

Overall, flaws withstanding, I think it worked. It goes by quickly and is an easy read. It’s one of those where you have to overlook things and just take it for what it is. I gave this 3stars on Goodreads.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, christmas, Fiction, movie related topics, romance

Bookish Matchmaking: Pairing Christmas Romance Novels With Christmas Movies!

I know we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet and I don’t care. This is all we have and I can’t believe anyone would want to take this away from us! We’ve all been through IT this year and we deserve two months of Christmas wrapped in all the corny movies netflix and hallmark shove out every year.

Here are 5 book and movie pairings that should get you through a great safely distanced thanksgiving!

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  1. In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren – Maelyn Jones’ life is not going according to plan, she still lives with her parents, stuck in the same crappy job and now the Utah cabin her family has spent christmas for years with two other families is being sold. After a disastrous last Christmas at the cabin, fearing she has lost all chances with her crush, she makes a wish asking to relive christmas all over again and what do you know? Her wish is granted! This is a typical groundhog day type book.
12 Dates Of Christmas (2011) - Rotten Tomatoes

If you like this book, you should check out a christmas movie by abcFamily called 12 Dates of Christmas starring Amy Smart and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Amy’s character relives her christmas eve blind date with Goseelaar over and over again! (You can find this for free on the Freeform website or rent it on amazon!)

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2. One Day in December by Josie Silver – Laurie meets a strange man at a bus stop, their eyes meet and she instantly falls in love while her bus drives away. She spends weeks looking for said man at the bus stop but never finds him again until her best friend, Sarah, introduces him as her new boyfriend, Jack. And what follows is 10 years of will they? won’t they?

Serendipity (film) - Wikipedia

If you like this book, you should check out Serendipity starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. John and Kate’s characters meet Christmas shopping, fall in love at fight sight, instead of giving her his number like a normal person, she decides to leave it up to fate. 10 years later, they’re both engaged to different people, but of course it’s a movie so… will they? won’t they?

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3. The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss – 34 year old Kate Turner has made her peace with being single. Living in the small town of Blexford, England there aren’t exactly so many men lining up to date her. She’s content with her career and her side gig baking at her friend, Matt’s bakery. But her best friend signs her up to a dating service that promises to find you love in time for Christmas by setting their clients up with 12 blind dates. Will Kate find love with these new men or realise the love of her life has been right under her nose the whole time?

Just Friends (Film) - TV Tropes

If you like this book, you should check out Just Friends starring Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart and Anna Faris. Reynolds’ character loved his high school best friend Amy but she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings after he confesses them to her. 10 years later, he’s lost all his high school weight, become a very successful record executive dating famous Anna Faris. He returns to his hometown for Christmas, realises he still loves his old best friend and sets out to win her love.

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4. Recommended For You by Laura Silverman – Shoshanna Greenberg loves working at Once Upon, her favorite local bookstore. It’s her safe space from everything going on at home and she’s trying to save up money to fix her car. Her boss announces a Christmas holiday bonus that would absolutely save her car and she’s so sure she’s going to win until her rival at work, Jack (WHO DOESN’T EVEN READ!) starts increasing his sales to win the bonus. As the competition heats up, Shoshanna and Jack start spending more time together at the store and sparks start flying.

You've Got Mail (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

If you like this book, you should check out You Got Mail starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks (OR The Shop Around the Corner which is the original 1940 film!). Now, the original movie makes it very clear this is a Christmas movie so hang in there with me! Meg’s character gets put out of business right around Christmas by Tom’s character. They hate each other in real life but unknown to them they’ve developed a passionate relationship online. When Tom’s character realises who she is in real life, he tries to repair their relationship in real life to see if they ever have a shot at being together. This is one of my favorite Romantic Comedies ever!

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5. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on a favorite bookstore shelf, Dash finds it and they run around New York City trading dares and getting to know each other without them ever meeting. Are they destined to find each other or is this just going to remain a fantasy world for both of them?

Dash and Lily Review: Netflix's Christmas Romcom Is Jolly Good Fun

If you like this book, you should check out Dash and Lily the adaptation of this same book on Netflix now. Is this Cheating? I feel like i’m cheating but I don’t care!

Have you read any of these? Are you into seasonal reads and movies? Let us know in the comments!

Leggy

Uncategorized

Audio Book Narrator Spotlight: Bahni Turpin

AudioFile Magazine Spotlight on Narrator Bahni Turpin

I never thought I’d see the day when audio books would be a big part of my life. When a friend first suggested it, I told her it was not for me that it felt awkward and I couldn’t concentrate. That was till I tried it and decided to listen to a book during my drive. Till today, that is pretty much the place I listen to my audio books the most. I have now fully embraced it and it has become a part of my “reading” life. I am always reading two books at a time. One with my eyes and one with my ears.

Recently I was listening to Tayari Jones’ recent audible original, “Half Light” and I am like this voice sounds really familiar and a quick google search confirmed that I was right. I now knew that being a huge audio book listener comes with coming across familiar voices from time to time. Turpin has a vast and impressive resume that spans all genres and to my delight, we’d read and reviewed a lot of the books that she has narrated. With a lot of awards under her belt for narrating, it was so great to see a black woman flourishing in this industry and it was only right that I shared some of her works with you guys.

  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give – BookHippie.com

The popular book turned into a movie, you can see our review on it here.

2. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

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The much expected follow up work after Homegoing. You can find our review here.

3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of blood and bone by Adeyemi, Tomi (9781509871353 ...

This was a much talked about book that was the debut of a trilogy. You can find our review here.

4. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

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The book with the out of this world premise. You can find our review on it here.

5. A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult

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She recorded this best selling author’s latest work. You can find our review on it here.

Other books you may recognize her from:

  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by: Rebecca Skloot
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

These are just some of her works that you may recognize, trust me there is a long list of books that she has narrated. I’d love to know if you have listened (or read) any of her books. If you are an audio book listener, do you notice your narrator voices and do you have any faves?

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

“The old gods may be great, but they are neither kind nor merciful. They are fickle, unsteady as moonlight on water, or shadows in a storm. If you insist on calling them, take heed: be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price. And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

In a moment of desperation, a woman calls on the gods of the night to help her escape her fate as a woman. She begs for more time to live her life without the pressures of getting married and being forced into an existence she wants no part of. She gives away her soul for time. Addie realises after the fact that nobody remembers her. She is destined to be forgotten by everyone she meets the moment she is out of their sight, that is the price she has to pay. This book sends us on a 300 year journey with the girl no one remembers, through cities and wars and music and languages as she tries to stretch the boundaries of her cage. But one day in a bookstore in New York city, after 300 years of an invisible life, she stumbles across Henry who remembers her name.

“…it is sad, of course, to forget.
But it is a lonely thing, to be forgotten.
To remember when no one else does.”

I enjoyed the first 25% of this book, then it lost me and then it found me again. This book sucks you in immediately. The descriptions and the mere premise of the book makes you pay attention to the story. The language is a little more poetic than I prefer in a fantasy book, but I didn’t hate it. I think it lends itself to the setting the book starts out and lingers in – New York and France.

I was emotionally invested watching her lose her family immediately and having everyone she’s ever loved forget her, the instant she makes her deal. It was heart wrenching seeing her trying to figure out how to survive in a world where out of sight is out of mind. Watching her go through major cities, experience new things for the first time, see the world, meet different men, try to figure out a way to leave her mark anyway was fascinating. This part of the book I enjoyed very much.

“If she must grow roots, she would rather be left to flourish wild instead of pruned, would rather stand alone, allowed to grow beneath the open sky. Better that than firewood, cut down just to burn in someone else’s hearth.”

This book completely lost me in the middle. Once the love interest, Henry, is introduced it becomes utterly boring. Henry is not a compelling character, nothing about him makes you want to stand up and take notice. He’s the stereotypical “nice” guy character who thinks they deserve love just because they’re nice. I did appreciate the discussions on mental health and anxiety but I found this character utterly bland. The more the book went on, the more I found him ridiculous especially when I realized his backstory.

I didn’t find the choices he made to be understandable. I also guessed what his deal was earlier on and was just waiting for it to be confirmed. The story grew repetitive and reading about them falling in love was an absolute drag, after spending the first 100 pages of this book gallivanting around the world with a god that only comes in the dark. Also, after watching Addie try to figure out a way to live a life that matters without being remembered., Henry’s story seemed frivolous compared to Addie’s.

“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”

I quite enjoyed the last 100 pages of this book. I loved how it ended. I know a lot of people would have liked an ending that was more definite but I thought the last chapter was very satisfying. It’s really hard to review this book and not give away spoilers. If you’ve read this one let me know what you think because I wouldn’t mind talking more about this book in depth and with spoilers. I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Memoirs

Book Review: The Meaning Of Mariah Carey

I’m having a rough book year y’all. But it seems that while it is hard to get myself to focus and get into most books, it is much easier to dive into a celeb memoir. So here we are, with yet another memoir.

I am not the biggest Mariah Carey fan. I appreciate her talent and her contribution to the music industry but personality wise, based on the persona she chooses to share with the world, she’s not exactly my favorite. That was not going to stop me from picking this one up. She is iconic status and I thought it would be great to hear her perspective on her life and straight from the source vs. what we have heard over the years through the tabloids.

Mariah starts from the very beginning being born to an Irish mother and a Black father. She details the hardship, the tension between her and her siblings with resentment sprinkled in because she looked white and they thought she was passing and the age gap not helping. The tension between her father and brother to the point of violent scuffles. She also talks about not really fitting in and falling in love with music.

We hear the story of how she was discovered, marrying Tommy Mottola and being in a controlling marriage with him, her various love affairs (Derek Jeter, Luis Miguel, Nick Cannon). She talks extensively about her career. How the magic was created for each album, the people she worked with and the challenges she faced.

I came into this book with the only things I knew about Mariah being the things we’d heard through the media. I have mentioned before how I don’t care for the childhood stories in memoirs but oddly enough, I did not mind Mariah’s. Being honest, I found out probably later than most that Mariah Carey was biracial. For the longest time, I thought her father was biracial, so I found it interesting to read about her upbringing.

I liked this book because I learned so many new things that I did not know before. For one, as mentioned earlier, I did not know Mariah identified as a black woman. I don’t think I knew she was from New York and listening to her audio book narration, I wondered how I’d ever missed her NY accent. I also learned about her strong adoration for Marilyn Monroe who is her she-ro (I mean duh, her child’s name)

Mariah must have one hell of a vivid memory because every story told, even in childhood, was very hella detailed. This could have been the work of her co-writer, Michaela Angela Davis (look her up. I’m sure you have seen her before) but Mariah had to have presented the material for it to be written, so I don’t even think I can say it is because of her.

The biggest flaw this book had was the flaw of omission. You could just tell a lot of things were missing. I moved on to a chapter and all of a sudden she tells us she is singing for demos and I would have loved to know how she got that foot in the door. While she tells us a lot about how marriage to Tommy Mottola was, I still couldn’t tell if he was ever physically abusive because she never explicitly said so and I wondered how a man that controlling only stopped there. She did not touch on her public relationship with James Packer, her time on American Idol or deciding to do a reality show. I know she has said in interviews that only the important things made it in the book but like I always say, don’t write a memoir if you are not ready to lay it bare.

In every story she tells, she comes off as the person done wrong in every situation/story that she tells. That is to say, there wasn’t a strong sense of accountability in certain relationships. I chuckled because Mariah is the only person who would refer to their siblings as ex-sister and ex-brother. There was not a lot said about Nick Cannon, in fact it was almost like she breezed through it. I didn’t get the sense she was in love with him, as she put it he indulged her perpetual 12 year old and he was probably what she needed at that stage of her life.

She speaks a lot about bullying and racism from white people but I find it hard to beleive that she never experienced a hard time from black people for looking white but identifying as black but she never mentions that and it just felt like yet another omission.

Overall, it doesn’t meet my usual criteria for a good memoir because this was a curated memoir but I still enjoyed it. As always I recommend doing this in audio. She is a fantastic narrator and is pretty good at doing voices. I know some people found her breaking into song periodically in the audio book annoying, but I quite liked it.

There are loads of stories and behind the scenes and actual demo tracks (like ODB’s verse for the Sweet Fantasy remix). There is also shade on J.Lo (we find out the reason for Mariah’s issue for her) and Celine Dion (of all people!) but its a fun ride. I saw different sides to her, like her strong faith in God and her resilience. I gave this book 3 stars and I would recommend it.

Taynement

african author, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, Uncategorized

Book Review : His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

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“Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding.”

Afi is a young seamstress who is offered a life changing opportunity. She is offered the position of the chosen wife of Elikem Ganyo – a man she doesn’t truly know. His family gives her a task – make him fall in love with you and leave his wife (the mysterious Liberian woman) who everyone seems to have terrible things to say about. He doesn’t even show up to their wedding, her only contact with him before the wedding day is a phone call acknowledging her presence in his life. After the wedding, she is whisked to Accra and installed in a luxury apartment, with a driver, a huge allowance and anything she can ever wish for except of course, the actual man she married.

“Please, put love aside and be practical. Love will not put food on the table; it won’t hold you at night.”

If you enjoyed Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, you’d probably enjoy this book. I’ve heard white book people compare this book to Crazy, Rich Asians and that’s ridiculous, this book is nothing like that. It’s not frivolous or “fun”. This is a quick and easy read but it tackles a lot of familiar African issues.

What I enjoyed about this book is that it shows how the status of an African woman is always defined in relation to the men they are bound to. The women in this book are all different and it shows us the different ways women adapt to the society they find themselves in and the ways they decide to exist in it. Some women end up being the pillars of the patriarchal society that has oppressed them, some women discover that they can rise above it and define their own paths and some decide to just go with the flow and take the little wins wherever they can get them.

I loved the tension between Afi’s family and the Ganyos as Afi became more of herself and built a sense of self. She stopped being the grateful girl who was indebted to the Ganyos and became a woman demanding better for herself. I loved watching the power dynamic play out between this powerful and rich family and the young woman they empowered unknowingly.

“All men are the same, they only know how to love themselves and to sit on women.”

As much I enjoyed watching Afi grow, I still found Afi extremely naive. I’m Nigerian and this story is as old as time and everyone knows what the deal is. First of all, I couldn’t believe Afi believed all the things her in-laws told her about Elikem’s first wife – that she is ugly and rude and everything bad. I couldn’t believe how the entire story played out. I must admit that I was extremely irritated with Afi demanding more from the arrangement. I thought she should have been old enough to accept the perks and ignore the drawbacks. I found it hard to accept that a girl who grew up in Ghana was this naive when she walked into this arrangement knowing fully that there was another woman involved in the mix. So whenever she talked about loving Elikem, I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes. Nothing about Afi’s behaviour rang true or realistic to me.

There were some plot threads that the author started but never took anywhere. In the beginning of the book, Yaya (Elikem’s sister) takes Afi to a party where she meets a young handsome young man. This meeting is told to us in great detail and she runs into the young man some other time but nothing happens. That character just disappears and the author does nothing with him for the rest of the book, so what was the purpose of those scenes? This is her debut book so I’m going to be looking out for what she writes next because I think this book had the potential to be great but just stopped short.

This book is very readable and the imagery the author conjures is so fantastic that you can see the book play out right in front of you. The descriptions of the various uncles and aunties who are there to suck your entire resources were spot on! The Uncle character in this book is so realistic and the descriptions of contemporary Ghanaian life were great. Even though I gave this book 3 stars, I hope you still give it a chance. I recommend it!

Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction, race

Book Review: Luster by Raven Leilani

In 'Luster,' a Young Woman Moves in With Her Lover — and His Family - The  New York Times

“I am inclined to pray, but on principle, I don’t. God is not for women. He is for the fruit. He makes you want and he makes you wicked, and while you sleep, he plants a seed in your womb that will be born to die”

Edie is a 23 year old black woman and an artist that is aware of her dysfunctions and trying to navigate her way through life. She gets into a relationship with Eric, a white married man with a black adopted daughter, Akila. His wife, Rebecca is aware of their relationship as they are in an open marriage. Edie loses her job and while trying to figure out her finances and living arrangements, Rebecca invites her to live in their house while Eric is out of town on a work trip – without Eric’s knowledge. The book follows the strange dynamic of figuring out how she fits into the family, her relationship with Eric and her slow ease into a relationship with their daughter when she realizes that she might be the only black person in Akila’s life.

Cool premise huh? Yup. That’s why I promptly added to my TBR list. The accolades too. This book had so much high praise, I definitely didn’t want to be left out and this may be partly why this didn’t work for me. I have low tolerance for protagonists who seem to be lost but Edie is 23 so it makes sense. She is practically a baby. I think she had relatable struggles for her age especially being an actual “starving artist” so to speak. Struggles like being broke in NYC, having a raggedy apartment with a roommate and the politics at her 9-5 job and being one of only two black people.

“I think of how keenly I’ve been wrong. I think of all the gods I have made out of feeble men”

Edie’s biggest detriment seems to be the men she chooses to have sexual relations with and how she lets them treat her. We get a background of her family life that somewhat explains why but it didn’t stop me from cringing a little. At some point with Eric, she encourages him to hit her and that was a tad uncomfortable to read. And this leads to what I think is the major reason this book didn’t work for me – I just couldn’t connect.

Granted I am older than Edie and lived a very different life but I just couldn’t hunker down and feel anything for Edie, not even annoyance. For every new chapter and new revelation, I kept going “okay and..?” because I just was not moved. And while this may be a reality to some, I found a lot of it farfetched. I truly could never understand why Rebecca invited Edie to live with them especially without Eric’s knowledge. We also did not get much insight as to why they had an open marriage. At some point in the book, Edie sees Rebecca and Eric still having sex which makes it more complicated.

A part of why I could not connect is I found the author to be verbose. A line that could be so simple would be described in a complex way with so many words and I am not a fan of that kind of writing. What I thought would be the most interesting story line was the relationship between Edie and Akila, their adopted daughter but the book never really goes in depth with that. I should mention the book is told from Edie’s perspectives so we are privvy to her thoughts.

Its a short book at 227 pages but for me, it was a book in circles. It felt like we went around and around the block, where the views weren’t necessarily pretty and never quite landed at a destination. Basically, nothing made sense to me. I gave this two stars and I’d like to say I have learned my lesson and will not fall for the over-raving and over-hyping of a book but chances are high I will.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, race, romance

Recommended Romance Books With Black Female Characters (NO STRUGGLE LOVE INCLUDED!)

I find a lot of times the romance marketed to black women in entertainment is very much limited to struggle love. I grew up on Mills & Boons where the devastatingly handsome Millionaire/Prince/Duke sweeps the girl off her feet, but the characters were always white.

Black women never get to see themselves this way in literature. We’re always portrayed as strong mules who can take whatever shitty love is offered and we never get the fantasy. Today, I want to introduce you to romance books that black women can escape into and find themselves very well loved and with all their romance fantasies fulfilled.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

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“Just because their standards are low does not mean that we should lower ours.”

Alex Monroe gets stuck in an elevator with Drew Nichols and in a moment of insanity agrees to be his date to a wedding he’s in town for. They have a lot of fun and after they head back to their respective cities they can’t stop thinking about each other so they try to make it work. I enjoyed this one but this is not my favorite in the series. I think Guillory really found her stride as she wrote the other books in this series. Also, just fair warning, this is not a closed door romance, there is a LOT of sex! If that’s not your thing, you might consider skipping this one, or reading it anyway and just skimming the sex scenes.

Guillory has a whole series with great black female characters getting the love they deserve. Her female characters are always complete human beings who just need a man to complement them instead of complete them. So, if you read this first book and love it, there are many more where that comes from. Also, I think this might be the most mainstream of the books I recommend today.

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

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 “Everybody wants something from you, but sometimes there’s a person you want to give to. Sometimes what you give them makes you better for having given it.

Naledi Smith keeps getting a lot of emails telling her she’s betrothed to an African prince which she deletes constantly, very much convinced that it’s all a scam. Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, and the first thing on his mind is his duty to his people to find a wife. He tracks down Naledi and when a chance encounter makes Naledi think he’s just an ordinary guy, Thabiso grabs the opportunity to experience New York without the weight of his princedom.

I absolutely loved this one. It was funny and very charming. This one is also the first book in a series (The Reluctant Royals series) but I didn’t like the next two books and so I gave up after that. This first book though is fantastic and you should check it out!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert:

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“You think this is a big deal because, no offense, you’ve had a lot of people in your life who claimed to care about you but didn’t act like it. That’s not me. I can cook, and right now, you can’t. So I’m doing it for you because that’s how people should behave; they should fill in each other’s gaps”

I just finished reading this one exactly 10 minutes before I started writing this post and I credit it for giving me the idea for this post. Chloe Brown is chronically ill but has decided to get out there and get on with her life. She has moved out of her parents’ mansion and moved into a flat armed with a list of things to do to get on with her life so that her funeral speech would have more than her illness in it.

Redford Morgan used to be the toast of the art world but after being dumped by his verbally abusive posh girlfriend he’s hiding out as a superintendent in Chloe’s building. As Chloe and Red become close, she enlists him to help her achieve her list, sparks fly and Chloe and Red might just be the answer to each other’s prayers.

I really enjoy British romance and this one was no different. I thoroughly enjoyed it! There are other books after this one in this series (The Brown Sisters) but I haven’t read it so I don’t know how good they are.

Have your read any of these? Let me know what you thought in the comments! Have a great reading week, everybody!

Leggy

Memoirs

Book Review: Eat A Peach by David Chang

Eat A Peach - by David Chang & Gabe Ulla (Hardcover) - image 1 of 2

“Recovering alcoholics talk about needing to hit rock bottom before they are able to climb out. The paradox for the workaholic is that rock bottom is the top of whatever profession they’re in.”

David Chang is well known in the culinary world through so many arenas. He has a number of restaurants, books, cook books, podcasts and has featured on a number of cooking TV shows including his Netflix show, Ugly Delicious. He has a reputation for having a DGAF attitude and has amassed a lot of success in his career. And yet it is possible that you may never have heard of him. There is nothing I love more than a good ol’ celebrity memoir and if it involves the culinary world, that is even better (Exhibit A and B – Padma Lakshmi’s to be specific) So, I was eager and curious to read Chang’s memoir.

How David Chang defined the decade in food, through ramen, noise and  rebellion - Washington Post
David Chang

I had prior knowledge of who he was and a little insight to his carefree personality. I have even visited one of his restaurants, Momofuku (which I found overrated), so I wasn’t going in completely blind. Chang delivered the basics. I think he was open and honest and really gave insight to his rise as a chef. Chang also was open about his bipolar diagnosis and being heavily prone to outbursts of rage, even among people he loves.

I added this book to my TBR list when I read an article and excerpt of his book that focused heavily on his outbursts and diagnosis – which I did not know about. I think the book missed the mark for me because the excerpt I read, made me think this book would be focused on his personal life but it turned out to be more of a “How to” book that focused more on his career. I take responsibility that this could be my fault for having different expectations but an example is that the excerpt had my curiosity piqued because I honestly was curious on how he navigated his anger issues within his marriage and how his wife handled it. He barely mentioned his wife in the book but we got loads of examples of how it played out in his various kitchens.

Like I mentioned earlier, Chang was very honest about his life especially the ugly (which there is a lot of) He spoke about being a child of Korean immigrants and how it influenced his desire for success. But his honesty was not something that exactly sat well with me. He talked about behaviors he was not proud of, but for me being honest about awful things doesn’t necessarily excuse the fact that it happened. I didn’t exactly think he went super deep on certain topics. It almost read like he was telling us just enough to be defined as a memoir but you can tell things are missing. He tells us on more than one occasion that he did not create the best working environment for his employees, who were sometimes scared of him but in another says how his greatest talent is bringing out the best in people so that dissonance was hard for me to comprehend.

Something else I struggled with is the fact that Chang’s account of himself made him unlikable. I have mentioned before how this affects my enjoyment of a book, when a protagonist is unlikable, and it was no different here. Once I realized that I was only going to get his version of a memoir, my interest waned. His career trajectory was impressive but I don’t think it was told in a compelling way, I was just ready to be done with the book.

Something Chang does well is actually go deep about the reasons for his restaurant choices, his love of food and the history of food. Fun Fact: Momofuku means “Lucky Peach”. He does give the appropriate kudos where credit belongs for example to black women and Taiwanese women when he started a fried chicken place. A tiny segment of the book that for some reason struck a chord with me was Chang giving his former intern, Madge a chance and making her Momofuku’s CEO at age 30. That is a huge risk that I applauded him for.

I think if the book was presented as a career “How To..” it would have leveled my expectations and been a better representation of what kind of memoir it was. Not to discount his hard work, but it’s hard to take advice from someone who flew a lot by the seat of his pants and even by his own admission was lucky from the very beginning starting with how his dad gave him 100k as seed money. He does have an appendix chapter titled “33 Rules To Being A Chef” that could be applied to any career path that I think aptly fits what I think would have been a better direction for the book.

Per usual for a memoir, I audio’d it and gave it 2 stars for all the reasons mentioned above but that is not to say this book won’t work for a lot of people. For people who may not know anything about Chang, who may be more interested in knowing more about culinary success or who don’t need their protagonist to be likable, this book might actually be a good read for them.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction, race, Uncategorized

Book Review: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

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“My memories of him, though few, are mostly pleasant, but memories of people you hardly know are often permitted a kind of pleasantness in their absence. It’s those who stay who are judged the harshest, simply by virtue of being around to be judged.”

Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her mother’s pastor calls to let her know that her mother is going through a depressive episode and she asks him to send her to California.

While Gyasi’s outstanding debut novel, Homegoing, zooms out with its broad story spanning generations across Ghana and the United States, Transcendent Kingdom zooms in to a specific Ghanaian immigrant family in Huntsville, Alabama as the family explores grief, faith, racism in the evangelical church, addiction, science, and trying to develop a sense of belonging.

“You cannot go around claiming that an idea or an item was imported into a given society unless you could also conclude that to the best of your knowledge, there is not, and never was any word or phrase in that society’s indigenous language which describes that idea or item”

This book is written in a first person point of view. Gifty tells us the history of her family as best as she can remember it reading as a stream of thoughts. It’s not chronological in its retelling as it jumps between present day California and her family’s history in Alabama. We know from the very first page and the novel’s blurb that her brother, Nana, died from a drug overdose so every time she comes close to getting to his addiction you almost hold your breath, dreading it.

Reading the kind of child and kind older brother Nana was, made you dread his inevitable end that you know is coming. Nana was kind, smart and talented and had no history of previous misdemeanors. He was a star in whatever sport he decided he wanted to be a part of. Already attracting college scouts by the time he was 15, his future was so bright and promising. Gyasi paints a picture of Nana so heartbreaking that just like Gifty, even you are praying for his death to come and go already to spare us the anticipation distress.

“…We humans are reckless with our bodies, reckless with our lives, for no other reason than that we want to know what would happen, what it might feel like to brush up against death, to run right up to the edge of our lives, which is, in some ways, to live fully.”

Gifty’s family is the only black family in their congregation. Her mother, not knowing the politics of race in Alabama figured the God in Ghana was the same as the God in Alabama and did not have second thoughts about sending her family to a congregation that feared God but hated them. I liked the juxtaposition of the head pastor – who was so kind to Gifty’s family and the congregation – who treated them badly and traded on racial stereotypes to justify Nana’s dependence on drugs. The most heartbreaking being when Gifty overhears a conversation where one of the women in church says – “these people have always had a taste for drugs”. Everything is tinged in racial bias, from the praises heaped on Nana for his brilliance in sports to the insults after his fall from grace.

“They are skeptical of the rhetoric of addiction as disease, something akin to high blood pressure or diabetes, and I get that. What they’re really saying is that they may have partied in high school and college but look at them now. Look how strong-willed they are, how many good choices they’ve made. They want reassurances. They want to believe that they have been loved enough and have raised their children well enough that the things that I research will never, ever touch their own lives.”

I genuinely enjoyed this book and pondered so many of the questions Gifty raises as she straddles the fence between christianity and science. Ultimately, I felt that this book was too short. I wish she had talked more about her mother’s recovery or non recovery. The book ends rather abruptly, the last chapter a wrap up of her and her mother’s life but I was curious. Did she ever get help? Did she ever get out of her depressive episode? What led Gifty to the place her life ended up? How has she reconciled her faith with her career?

I feel like Gyasi left so many questions unanswered. This book is less than 300 pages. I think 267 to be exact so it’s not like she ran out of pages. I still highly recommend this book. This is nothing like her first book but I think she escapes the sophomore slump by drilling down instead of writing yet another sprawling book that can be compared to her fantastic debut novel. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy