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We Chit Chat: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

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“It’s not easy to persuade a human to end their life – they’re very attached to it, even when it makes them miserable, and Ada was no different. But it’s not the decision to cross back that’s difficult; it’s the crossing itself.”

Leggy: Soooo we’re finally done reading this book. How was it for you?

Taynement: I honestly don’t know how to categorize it. I think it was a lot. It took me a long time to get through it. I guess I’ll say it felt like sitting in on someone’s therapy session.

Leggy: Yeah, it was a lot. A little too much at times, what did you think of the book itself?

Taynement: I honestly don’t know how I felt. I don’t know that I enjoyed it much. It felt like a chore. But on the other hand, when I think back on it I can appreciate her writing style.

Leggy: I think with books like this, less is more. A lot of the writing was just absolutely beautiful but at times it was way too much and felt over written. I could tell it was her first book and it was almost like she was trying to prove how well she can turn a phrase or paint a picture with words. Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic when it worked and I loved so many lines but at some point, I don’t need a metaphor or pretty line for every god damn thing.

Taynement: It really took me a minute to identify all the characters and the speaking in third person.

Leggy: What does Asughara mean? I kept trying to figure out what it means in Igbo but I couldn’t. Every other thing made sense to me in Igbo apart from that name. Maybe it’s a dialect.

Taynement: No idea. I never tried to figure out meanings. I thought of the names as just names. The only one I took interest in was Saint Vincent because that’s the name of a musician that identifies as gay in real life. So I was wondering if it was a name she took from her or if it was coincidental.

Leggy: I was actually taken aback by that name because every other thing felt very Igbo and traditional and here comes Saint Vincent.

Taynement: So what were your thoughts on this story?

Leggy: It was a fascinating story. Also it felt and read very autobiographical. I’ve been following the author for a long time and I felt like a lot of the things that happened in the book were very biographical and makes me wonder if this is how she sees herself. I’m also very fascinated by the ogbanje myth. My mum is an only child and that word got thrown around her because she was the only child of her parents that survived childhood. I enjoyed the explanation of mental health through Igbo mythology, so I’ll give it that.

Taynement: That’s the other thing I was going to note, I think there are different ways to ingest this book. Someone like me, I’m new to the author and knew next to nothing about her so it was eye opening and everything was new to me. It wasn’t until I was doing a deep dive on her that I saw her sister’s scar and realised the book was probably autobiographical and also, her article on her breast reduction too. I enjoyed her writing style the most and the fearlessness. I feel like she laid everything on the line and was open because there were ugly things people would be afraid to share. But she didn’t shy away from them.

Leggy: Yeah, I think maybe that’s why this book was easier for me to digest? I’ve known the author from afar in real life and I’d heard all these stories before. I knew when she got married or almost got married to an Irish guy in real life. Absolutely, it was brave to share these things and I like that she kept the focus on herself.

Taynement: My favorite chapter was chapter 19 when she spoke from Ada’s point of view. It was very raw and honest.

Leggy: Oh, did you like her description of Jesus? – “He hears every prayer babbled, screamed, sung at him. He does not, contrary to some belief, often answer them…and while He loves humans (He was born of one, lived and died as one), what they forget is that he loves them as a god does, which is to say, with a taste for suffering”

Taynement: Yes, I did. It really provided a different point of view on things.

Leggy: What did you not like about the book?

Taynement: I think what I didn’t like was that there was a lot of hop, skip and jump. Like from nowhere she skipped from straight to gay, we didn’t get enough information on the bridge and then the non binary seemed to come out of nowhere.

Leggy: Yes, sometimes you could tell the whole “us”, “we”, “asughara” concept was running away from her, like she couldn’t hold them all together and make the concept cohesive. Also, Saint Vincent was such a bullshit character, we didn’t get as much background on him like we got on the other “gods”? It was just like “oh we stepped back and let Saint Vincent do his thing and bam! she’s dating girls”

Taynement: Then the mention of her being molested by her neighbour and her neighbour’s dad was so random. So yeah, that was my gripe with the book, there were lots of unconnected dots.

Leggy: That information belonged at the beginning and not the end of the book. I felt that way too, but I loved the slow dissolution of her parents’ marriage. There’s something uniquely Nigerian about that. I love when she said – it was interesting for us to watch, how he didn’t even have to go anywhere in order to leave her. I think that’s basically the story of a lot of Nigerian marriages.

Taynement: Yeah, I felt for her mum especially making the decision she had to because they ran out of money and her husband’s hospital wasn’t doing well. I wonder if the Itohan brothers story is true and if so, are the “gods” an excuse for doing whatever she wanted and trying to screw two brothers?

Leggy: Yeah, I feel like her mother got dealt such a bad card in life. Also, even before she moved to America she went back to Nigeria and tried to convince him to come with her but his typical Nigerian man ego said no. I wondered a lot about that too, a lot of the narrative in this book kinda felt like a way to avoid taking responsibility for being a shitty person sometimes? I mean, I’m pretty sure her mental health state had a lot to do with her decisions which I absolutely empathize with but still, YOU made those decisions.

Taynement: Oh and going back to the ogbanje bit, as a middle child with a younger sister, how does that theory hold up?

Leggy: I don’t think she fits the mold to be an ogbanje. Unless I missed it, her mother never had a child who died did she? I thought that was the accurate way to determine an ogbanje – if children before you have died repeatedly then it’s concluded that it’s the same child that keeps coming to earth over and over again and the eventual child that stays is marked so that if he/she dies again and comes back to earth, he/she would be recognised as an ogbanje.

Taynement: So I wonder if that ogbanje concept was an entryway for the non nigerian audience because if nothing else, this book was unapologetically Nigerian.

Leggy: I’m sure they’ll eat this up. Honestly, this is a fascinating topic and I’m Nigerian. Can’t imagine reading this as an outsider, I’d feel even more fascinated. Also, I think I did college wrong because the characters she met and was exposed to? Especially as an international student from Nigeria? I was like dang.

Taynement: She got the full college experience, good for her. Overall, I find myself conflicted by this book. I know I definitely didn’t enjoy reading it, I wasn’t fascinated and it didn’t grip me BUT I was totally appreciative of the style in which it was presented, it is something different.

Leggy: I agree with you. This book is only 229 pages. It should not have been this difficult to get through it or taken this long. This should have been a couple of hours read for me. It had a lot of layers that did not overlap nicely or fit into a cohesive unit. It was a tad over written and metaphor heavy but I appreciated the beautiful language. I highlighted so much on my kindle.

I think an editor should have done a better job of making this book better in terms of continuity and narrative. A lot of things were just dumped into the narrative with no build up or explanation, just told to us and kept moving right on. But I really look forward to reading what else she has up her sleeve. I’m hoping this time it won’t be biographical at all. I think it’s easier to write when you have enough distance from the subject matter. I gave this book 3 stars on good reads. Would you recommend it?

Taynement: Nope. But I think that is a limiting question because it’s all based on taste and it wasn’t for me. I gave it 3 stars as well.

Leggy: I think people should read this book but I can’t think of anyone I could possibly recommend this book to. What would I even say? I enjoyed it but I don’t think I could sell it.

Taynement: Agreed.

“Look, I was a hungry shade, nothing more. I latched onto the men, and their energy felt like sticky fruit sliding between my fingers and when we were done, I was still hungry. And after the next time. I was still hungry. And after the one after that one, I was still hungry. I would have drowned them all. I would have inched slowly over their bodies, dipped my fingers inside their throats and ripped out sounds. I filled their bed with secrets. Ada was right- I found pleasure in evil. I did many things in hunger that could be misconstrued.” 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Would you recommend it? Is there any book you’d like us both to read and chit chat about? Let us know in the comments!

 

Taynement & Leggy.

 

 

 

 

Fiction, romance

Review – A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

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I’m not a huge fan of romance novels but I’m a huge fan of romance movies and after I read this post from Taynement about how romantic comedies aren’t being made anymore, I decided to read this book that’s been on my “when I make it to the beach this summer I’ll tackle it” list. I also decided to listen to it as an audio book to elevate the dramatic effect and make me feel like I was watching it. Thank you American library system!

A Princess in Theory is basically Black Panther if it was a romantic movie. This book is told from two perspectives. There is Naledi Smith who is an orphan American woman in grad school that has been getting a lot of spam mails from somewhere. She is not quite sure where, but thinks it is coming from a made up African country telling her that she is the Prince’s long lost betrothed. Then there is Thabiso who is an actual Prince and the only heir of the current monarchy in Thesolo – a small African country. He comes to America for a couple of meetings, goes to meet and confront Naledi at the restaurant where she works part time for ignoring his assistant’s emails, gets mistaken for a waiter and the familiar trope of mistaken identity kicks in! (strains of Coming to America)

Thabiso gets to know Naledi under the moniker of Jamal, she thinks that he is a trust fund kid of some sort  who has been cut off from the family, but never in her wildest dreams does she think that this Jamal guy could be a prince. They get to know each other as two ordinary individuals but obviously, this is a romantic book so the characters never seem to be able to make smart decisions and he tries to tell her who he is a couple of times but keeps getting interrupted and she makes the discovery in a very dramatic way.

I enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written and well narrated. I think it was a little longer than it really needed to be but I still enjoyed it overall. There’s a bit of mystery that shrouds her family history and why she left Thesolo as a child which kept me wanting to reach the end to find out. Even though I loved the chemistry between the two main characters especially during the first half of the book, I still thought there should have been more scenes to show us exactly why they fell in love and had such an amazing connection.

The second half of this book moves us back to the actual country of Thesolo and the descriptions of the country and its culture is quite fascinating and pretty. I understand how the book cover could be a turn off but literally don’t judge this book by its cover.  I mean I know Alyssa doesn’t need my help selling books but I implore you to look past the cover and give it a chance as I really did enjoy this one.

I gave this book 4 stars on good reads. Have you read this? Did you enjoy it? Please read it and tell me what you think. Happy reading week!

Leggy.

Fiction, Uncategorized

Review: The Lost Khaki Girls by Ronke Odewumi

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The Lost Khaki Girls is a debut effort that tells the story of 3 young women in Nigeria – Adunni, Jade and Becky who have come to do their duty and serve at the obligatory NYSC camp. Each of them come from different walks of life and have chosen to actually serve vs. find a ticket out and stay in their state of residence in Lagos. They have chosen to serve because they each carry a secret that they need space from and believe the 3 weeks at camp will help provide clarity to.

Adunni is the pretty one, who gets attention from men everywhere she goes , Jade (Jadesola) is from a rich family and could be considered a pampered princess while Becca comes from a home with an abusive, alcoholic father complete with their obsession with religion.

The book is what Leggy would call a “palate cleanser” i.e if you are looking to reset or read something mindless and doesn’t require much thought, this would be the book for you. It was an easy, quick read and the characters are fully formed. It gives you a full idea of what life on an NYSC camp is like (reinforcing that I probably would not have survived!). There was a build up to what each of the girls’ secrets, which wasn’t too difficult to decipher but I do think the secrets were worthy of the build up.

You can tell this is the first novel by the author as some of the dialogue didn’t come across naturally and the language seemed a bit dated, as if this is how one would imagine people of that age in Nigeria would speak like. For example, when Jay’s boyfriend tells her they are going to lunch she responds with “that is super”. Or when Adunni is preparing for a pageant she thinks to herself “I could only look in rapture at my own transformation” and I think at some point “garrulous idiot” was thrown as an insult. I am not sure I know anyone who speaks that way.

Overall, I’ll liken it to a Tyler Perry movie where the delivery is on an elementary level but doesn’t necessarily hinder the enjoyment of it. If you are looking for a quick read and to support a sista, this is the book for you. The book is available on amazon/kindle. When I got it, it was $3.99 but looks like it is currently $5.41, which is still not a bad deal.

 

Taynement

Fiction

Review: Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira Lee

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“Later, I would be told I had a twenty percent chance of maintaining a full-time job, a twenty-five percent chance of living independently, a forty percent chance of attempting suicide, a ten percent chance of succeeding.
I was twenty-six years old.”

I love family dramas, give me a quiet slow burn between family members written really well and I’m absolutely sold. This story is about living with mental illness from the perspective  of the person with the illness and and the loved ones who have to be around the illness and how it affects them. Lucia is the younger, vibrant, spontaneous and mentally ill sister who is very much loved and adored by her sister, Miranda – responsible, older, mama bear whose entire existence becomes an obsession with getting Lucia to take her pills and stay healthy.

“Our mother might’ve said this: that immigrants are the strongest, that we leave our homes behind and rebuild. Everywhere we go, we rebuild.”

As the two Chinese- American sisters get older, we see them make vastly different decisions that drive them further apart both literally and figuratively. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, making huge, impulsive decisions, that take her to different corners of the earth. She marries an Israeli man, Yonah, who she leaves abruptly to fulfill her desire to have a child and she has one with a young undocumented immigrant named Manuel.

They end up moving to Ecuador to raise their kid but the truth remains that she cannot escape her mental illness as she still has to live with her brain everywhere she goes. The voices come and they take her hostage.

“Querencia. It refers to that place in the ring where a bull feels strongest, safest, where it returns again and again to renew its strength. It’s the place we’re most comfortable, where we know who we are—where we feel our most authentic selves.”

As we examine Lucia and her brain, every character around her is fully developed and fleshed out and do not just exist as caricatures to drive Lucia’s story forward. We hear about the lives they built for themselves before and during Lucia. This story is told from alternating perspectives so everybody gets a turn to tell their side of the story. Everybody’s story is treated as important and worth hearing. My favorite was the harrowing story of the undocumented Manuel in New York city and how consuming that experience of being absolutely scared of your own shadow for fear of being caught and deported, can be.

And then, her worst fear: that the line between her sister and her illness was becoming irrevocably blurred”

Mira Lee’s portrayal of mental illness in this book is raw and very real. It was actually quite difficult to read. She makes the readers question where a person ends and their mental illness begins? What are Lucia’s eccentricities and what are her symptoms? When is she being spontaneous and vivacious and when is she being manic? When is she just sad because she’s human and this is life and when is she actually depressed? what are her thoughts and what are the voices?

There are times when everything here is beautiful but a lot of times in this book, everything is just sad and heartbreaking.

I gave this book four stars on good reads and I definitely recommend it.

Have you read this? did you enjoy it? Are you going to read it?

Leggy

Taynement adds: I audio’d this book and didn’t quite have the same experience Leggy did. Like we have said before, a narrator can make or break a book and I did not like the different narrators as it made for inconsistencies. My favorite narrator was the voice of Manuel and I was bummed when his next view point was read by another (female) narrator vs. the original. All I am trying to say is I would not recommend audio’ing this one.

Uncategorized

Five Star Faves

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I mentioned in an earlier post, that I am going through a reading funk. Not so much that I am not reading but the books I’ve read recently have not given me life. I seem to have plenty 3-star just okay books. So far, only American Marriage has given me a tingle in my book parts.

I went to look at my Goodreads history to see what books I liked in the past to see if I could find a theme and make reading decisions that’ll lead to a book tingle and realized that in all my Goodreads history, I have only given 7 books 5-stars! So either I am reading not enough or I am just that stingy with my stars. Anyways, I thought it was a nice number and decided to share with you guys.

As a reminder, the major criteria to get a 5 star from me is to just have me engrossed and who knows? It could be a case of right mindset at the time I read the book. I’ve talked about two of the 7 here: Beartown and Year of Yes. Here are the other 5 in no particular order:

  1. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: I was besotted with this book. The extravagance, the culture, the lightness and fun of it all. It’s being turned into a movie in August and I think it’ll be fun seeing the lavishness translated to screen but I am leveling my expectations in terms of the story line. A quick search tells me that I have apparently written about this book before here. That being said, I wasn’t as in love with the rest of the trilogy. There are many characters in the book and probably if you binge-read it, it won’t be so hard to keep up but I read each book as they came out with time in between and it was a little bit of work trying to remember and place the characters.
  2. Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko: I usually have issues with a lot of Nigerian authors for many reasons. Usually wordy, lots of translations and just the general vibe of trying to cater to an international audience. DWWTP was refreshingly different. A straight easy read, I was interested in the characters and the overall storyline that touched on topics oft not discussed among Nigerians.
  3. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur: I am not into poetry and never had the desire to read a book full of poetry but I was hearing good things about this and joined the (very long) wait list for it at my library and it was totally worth the wait. I loved everything about the book because I related to it. I liked how it had no structure and wasn’t uber serious/professional (the “I’s” were spelled as “i”). Combined with her illustrations, it worked for me. So much so that for someone who never owns books, I had to own this one.
  4. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue: Every time I talk about this book, I gush. I loved it so. I admit, I am a sucker for an immigrant story and this is one. The shock that comes with moving to a new country from Africa, getting used to it and doing everything possible to stay in this country, even when you realize you are basically living a bottom barrell life. How far do you go to stay? The book is basically about the “doing everything possible” to stay. Yet another immigrant tale that didn’t fail me.
  5. The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close: I don’t expect everyone to react to this book like I did because at first glance this book looks like an easy breezy summer read but it really wasn’t. It uses two couples in the D.C. political scene as a backdrop for a plot that addressed so many things my friends and I have been talking about lately at this stage in our lives. The evolution of friendships, marriages, attitude to life, envy, feeling behind in life etc. It was an enjoyable read that also made me think  of the parallels in my own life. 

So there you have it. I really wish I had more 5 star books on my roster but alas. I’ll keep on working on it and maybe next year I’ll have 5 more to share with you. Wish me luck!

Taynement

 

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Fiction

Review: The Oracle Year by Charles Soule + Giveaway Winner

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“Belief is a commodity. It can be packaged, bought and sold. It’s true of saint’s bones, and it’s true of my ministry.”

If you are looking for a fun, mindless book that goes by quickly but is also a page turner – look no further because, this is the book for you. Main character, Will wakes up with 108 prophecies about the future, from insignificant things like knowing that person x is going to buy chocolate ice cream at a particular date and time to significant ones like predictions about the President of the United States and other major world events.

He starts putting some of these predictions anonymously on a website. They find their way to Reddit and when the first 3 predictions come true, the whole world starts calling him “The Oracle” and he begins to garner buzz. He also starts selling some of the prophecies about the future to huge corporations for a shit ton of money and as more and more of the predictions start coming true,  the buzz is elevated to a full on obsession on finding out who the person behind this is. Unsurprisingly, he makes massive enemies that include a well known televangelist Fox News type character andthe President of the United States.

I found the beginning of this book to be the best part because it hits the ground running from the very first page. The action is fast paced, you’re trying to learn all the characters and discern who you should be rooting for. Then you get to the middle and the tempo just drops down and all you want to do is get to the end see how it ends.

I hated the main character. He was so freaking whiny and I wish he had been more of a smart and cocky individual that didn’t spend all his time thinking “woe is me, I have such a hard life, ooh all the millions in my bank account” and there wasn’t a single character that I found well written or likable, they were all just bland caricatures.

I found the plot of the book original. I kept thinking it was such a great idea for a book and would make an amazing movie. This would have made a better screenplay. Which is funny because even though this is a debut novel for Charles Soule, he is a seasoned comic book writer who writes for Marvel. An editor should have taken a hatchet to it and weeded out the many arcs that the book could have done with out. So many things bogged down the plot and slowed down its progression. It was as if the author was like “I need this book to be 400 pages so what can I throw at them and try to make it stick?”  Fun fact: most of it doesn’t stick. 

The cons of this book not withstanding, The Oracle Year worked for me as a breezy read. This is a proper summer beach read. A spy chick-lit type book, if you will. Think of it like Gossip Girl or Empire (in its earlier seasons). A show you don’t take seriously and is not the best but you also can’t get enough of it. I would recommend this book if you’re looking for something to pull you out your reading slump or you just read a very heavy book and need a reading palate cleanser. I gave this book 3 stars because it did the job I expected it to do – it entertained me.

Have you read this book? If yes, what did you think? If no, do you think you’d give it a chance? Let me know in the comments!!

Leggy

AND THE WINNER IS…*drumroll*

GENERATOR

And the 11th commenter was @Neuyogi!! Congratulations! We will reaching out to send your gift card your way.

Thank you all so much for commenting and following and we hope you continue to support us. We appreciate all the love and support!

 

We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: Reading Goals Check-In + A GIVEAWAY!

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At the very beginning of the year, we talked about our reading intentions for the year. In the spirit of accountability, we decided to do a check-in to see where we all are in our reading for the year. Think of it as encouragement if you are lagging behind or kudos if you are right on track.

Leggy: How’s your reading been so far?

Taynement: Frustrating. I’m tired of being disappointed. I can’t say that I’ve read a lot of great books yet this year and that makes me not so eager to read because I don’t want to face disappointment again. I need to do better with my choices. How about you?

Leggy: Yeah, it’s been a crappy year for me as well. The only non fantasy book I’ve given above 3 stars is Everything Here is Beautiful and We’re Going to Need more Wine. I haven’t read any literary fiction that has blown my mind this year, I have way too many 2 and 3-star books on Goodreads.

Taynement: An American Marriage is my only 4-star book so far. I did like that one.

Leggy: Do you think this year has just been a crappy book year or we’re not finding the right books for us?

Taynement: I’m going to go with a combination of our book choices and hyped books not meeting our expectations. I’m pretty sure there are loads of books that are good that just aren’t buzz books, so we’ve overlooked them. The disadvantage of reading books I don’t care for is that, it slows me down immensely as it takes me longer to finish.

Leggy: Me too and at the end I’m just sad.

Taynement: What has been your least favorite book so far?

Leggy: I haven’t really hated any book this year. I have a shit ton of 2 and 3-star, really average, not even worth hating books and you know I love to hate books. What about you?

Taynement: My least favorite book so far has been Windfall by Jennifer Smith. Terrible YA, terrible audiobook narrator. On the bright side though, I think I fed off your reading goal and I have somehow read a number of books with Black characters. 5 of my 12 books have met that description.

Leggy: I feel like every book we’ve read together has been written by a Black author and all women too. I’ve been killing my reading goal this year. I’ve read 29 books so far but I always start off strong and then taper off towards the end of the year so we’ll see how this year ends. I’ve also started The Count of Monte Cristo. That book is huge but I’m really enjoying it. It’s absolutely readable for a book that was written in 1844 . Any books you’re looking forward to reading?

Taynement: Not really. But I do have a saved reading list and two recommendations that comprise of mostly Asian authors. I’ve come to the realization that I have an affinity for Asian authors. I almost always like their works. So I’ll say I have hopes of breaking the “meh” book streak with them.

Leggy: I told you you’d like Everything Here is Beautiful. Asian author too. Deals with mental health, immigration, family. I quite enjoyed it.

Taynement: Yeah, it’s on my list. One last thing is, I’ve surprised myself by committing to a YA trilogy – two things I claim not to like (YA and trilogy books) It’s The Thousandth Floor series. I quite like it. Looking forward to the last book. It’s not a great book but I enjoy it.

Leggy: Cool. So what are you currently reading? I’m working through two books – The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman and hoping to start Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi soon.

Tayenment: Currently making my way through The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and hope to pick up AND commit to reading Freshwater again, this time.

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On to the fun part!

As a thank you for supporting us and as encouragement to keep up the good work and keep reading, we are giving away an Amazon gift card so you can knock some books off your TBR list. All you have to do is:

  1. Follow us on Twitter (@2nightstands) OR Instagram (@nightstands2). If you are already doing that, then you’re a rock star and you just have to do #2.
  2. Leave a comment on this post letting us know what your favorite book of the year is, so far. Don’t forget to leave your handle when you do this so you can be contacted to get your email address if you win.

The winner will be mentioned in next week’s post. So, make sure to check back on Monday, May 7 to see if you won! Feel free to tweet us if you have any questions.

Have a lovely week and Happy Reading!

Leggy & Taynement