african author, african stories, Fiction, literary fiction

We Chit Chat: Rootless by Krystle Zara Appiah

Taynement: Time for another Chit Chat!

Leggy: This was entirely a coincidental Chit Chat. We just happened to be reading this book at the same time. How did you decide to pick this one up?

Taynement: My sister-in-law is an avid reader and her review had me intrigued, so I added it to my TBR pile.

Leggy: I picked this as my Book of the Month pick for March and just happened to finally pick it up this month

Taynement: What made you pick it up as your choice?

Leggy: It was frankly the only thing that sounded great plus, I like to support my African sisters. What did you think of this one?

Taynement: A lot of our chit chats tend to be African authors. I liked it. Granted, it had the stereotypical African author book filled with pain and suffering but I was still intrigued.

Leggy: I liked it as well. In fact, I would have rated this one a lot higher than I did, if I didn’t absolutely hate the ending. I think this was great for a debut author. I always grade debut authors on a curve.

Taynement: You know, I was going to ask you about this. You always make reference to debut authors on a curve. How do you define the curve?

Leggy: I always give them one extra star. I didn’t with this one because the ending pissed me off so much. But I always add an extra star to whatever I think the book would have been if it wasn’t a debut book. I like to encourage the arts. lol

Taynement: Before we get to the end, what were the things you liked about the book?

Leggy: I thought a lot of it was realistic. I recognized the families and the African pressure to fit into a mold. I recognized the shame that comes specifically from failing in an African family. I also thought the plot was fast and moved forward easily. It was a compelling story. I liked that Efe and Sam weren’t childhood sweethearts. I actually kept expecting that.

Taynement: I agree with you on the compelling story point, that was what I liked the most about it. Regarding the shame, I think I have read so many African stories full of expectations and shame that I now roll my eyes at it. I get a little irritated now at that storyline especially when it involves grown adults.

Leggy: What did you think of Efe and Sam’s relationship before the kid? Did you think they were ever really compatible?

Taynement: I thought they were cute especially like you said, how they grew into love. But I think they were idealistic and didn’t want to face that they grew up and were different. They didn’t have the same core values. So to answer, they got to a point where they were not compatible but didn’t want to admit it because they were used to each other.

Leggy: I thought they weren’t compatible. And I think Sam would have realized it if he had just listened and believed her when she spoke about not wanting kids. If one person doesn’t want a child, break up!

Taynement: On the flip side, Sam was vocal about wanting kids is the onus not on her as well to listen?

Leggy: I don’t think he was vocal enough to be convincing because once she said she didn’t want kids he stopped talking about it all together but innately believed she would come around.

Taynement: It’s interesting that the book fleshed out Sam’s childhood trauma but didn’t flesh out Efe’s. In fact, it was all very vague.

Leggy: Very vague. Her life before 5 when her family was in London kept being touched on but never expounded on. Reading her parts of the book when she was younger gave me anxiety.

Taynement: I also tried to imagine how a 5 year old would get scars on her back and if it was so bad why would her parents send her back unceremoniously to the same country that put her through so much trauma. Quite frankly, overall, Efe’s childhood was haphazardly written.

Leggy: I also thought it was utterly insane that they let her younger sister get married so early. It made no sense to me at all. If they prioritized education so much, why would they let their daughter go back to Ghana at 18 to get married? I just don’t think she did enough justice on telling Efe’s family’s history and motivations for the decisions they made.

Taynement: So can I say that I am surprised I liked this book because I thought Sam and Efe were both selfish people aka very unlikeable characters?

Leggy: I think I liked it because of that. To me, this book is essentially a romance novel. The difference is that Sam and Efe aren’t like the typical couple you root for in romance. They utterly love each other, yes but they shouldn’t have been together. Sam’s life would have been so much better if he had married a different woman. Efe’s life would have been better if she had married her white boyfriend.

Taynement: Why did it take so long for Sam to realize that she was going through postpartum depression? Oh man! I think she would have been miserable if she married her white boyfriend.

Leggy: I actually think he was the first person who listened to what she actually wanted to do and then took steps to make sure she realized her dreams. He set her up with auditing classes. He set her up with her job. He was fine with her not wanting kids and if they had ended up in the situation of having kids, he could have afforded a nanny.

Also, it took so long for Sam to realize that she was overwhelmed because they’re both selfish people. Sam made a lot of decisions after they had the kid that didn’t involve her happiness in any way, at some point he didn’t even want her to go back to work.

Taynement: We can’t give away the spoiler but that “big thing” that happened where Efe took it upon herself to take action was silly for so many reasons.

Leggy: I was absolutely appalled. Her decision making skills is absolutely zero. It made no sense to me at all.

Taynement: And that’s when the story took a nosedive for me. Did Efe have to go that far? Why mention it at all? Why drag your sister in it? This one I thought was REALLY selfish.

Leggy: And that part of the book and the end made me not grade this book on a curve even though it’s a debut novel. I can’t in good conscience give this better than I rated it.

Taynement: So, my sister in law also hated the ending but I was actually okay with it. Where the writer was headed otherwise did not seem realistic to me. I didn’t see how they could move past the hump.

Leggy: Tayne, I almost threw this book over my balcony when I read the ending.

Taynement: LOL. I was like WHOOOAAA but also, yep, I’ll take it.

Leggy: I figured it out when I realized the chapters were still counting down to something even after we caught up to the beginning scene of the book. That’s when I was like oh, this is what this writer is heading to. You know, I’m a romance girl. Please give me a happy ending.

Taynement: The more we talk about this, the more I want to take away a star because I just remembered another thing Sam did with Efe’s cousin. There were so many loose end stories that were like huh? That particular story did not add or remove from the story.

Leggy: And then it had no impact on anything. I guess it was like making them even. You did this and I did that. So now we can forgive each other and move on.

Taynement: That being said, I would still recommend this book.

Leggy: Oh absolutely. I think it’s a compelling read. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

Taynement & Leggy

Fiction, women's fiction

Book Review: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

“You’re depressed, not crazy. It’s not insane to be depressed in this world. It’s more sane than being happy. I never trust those upbeat individuals who grin no matter what’s going on. Those are the ones with a screw loose, if you ask me.”

William Waters is born during a time when his family experiences the loss of a child. This event sends his parents into a state of apathy for living and for their roles as parents to their son. William, who grows up neglected and barely acknowledged by his parents, escapes his household through a basketball scholarship. In college, he meets Julia Padavanos, an ambitious and self assured young lady who sweeps up Williams in her plans for their future.  With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, who is happiest with her nose in a book and who is waiting for her one true love who she thinks she will instantly recognize and vice versa. Cecelia, the family’s artist who suddenly ends up pregnant at 17 and Emeline, who believes she is the Beth in their sisterhood (the weak sister and the one who dies in the book Little Women). But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another.

“That Mark Twain quote about how the only reason for time is so everything doesn’t happen at once? I feel like everything that’s ever happened in my life is happening”

Napolitano treats her characters with such tenderness even in the face of so many bad decisions. The characters in this book felt real to me. I have 5 sisters and even though I would never make the decisions that these women make in the book, the complexities of their relationships are very well written and fleshed out. Their mother’s reaction to Cecelia’s pregnancy that mirrored so much of her own young years was so interesting to me. Even though the sisters’ dad was barely physically present in the pages, the way his influence on the girls shown through was so impressive to read. The title of the book comes from what their dad would say to them every time they entered a room – Hello Beautiful!

This book also explores male friendships – the relationship between Kent and William was so heartwarming to read. You could tell a woman wrote this friendship. The way they were there to carry each other and see each other through the world from the first time they met was very touching to read. It was great to see William step outside his family and meet people who were prepared to carry him through his worst days.

“William once had the thought that his fiancé (Julia) seemed to stride about the world with a conductor’s wand, while Sylvie brandished a book, and Cecelia, a paintbrush. Emeline, though, kept her hands free in order to be helpful or to pick up and soothe a neighborhood child”

When an unexpected tragedy occurs in the family and Sylvie makes a bold decision to choose her happiness over what people would say and over her sisters’ feelings, the bond between the sisters is shattered in a very irreparable way causing one of the sisters to be set afloat on her own in New York City, abandoning Chicago, the city she has grown up in and loved all these years.

While I would never make the choice Sylvie made, I saw it coming from miles away and I’m fascinated by how much Napolitano’s writing doesn’t make us question it as much as we would have in the hands of a more careless writer. It happens and you just think: that’s life. This book revolves around mental health, family expectations, ambition and our definition of what love is supposed to be or look like.

“She was all of herself with him and even felt there was room for her to become more. When he rested his eyes on her, it was without judgment or expectation, and in that space, Sylvie felt her potential: for bravery, brilliance, kindness, joy. All of these sails rested on the deck of her ship; they were hers, but she hadn’t seen them before.”

I’ve only read one other Napolitano book, Dear Edward, which I reviewed here and didn’t quite like. I actually think she has made a fan out of me with this new book. I picked up Hello Beautiful because it is an Oprah Book Club pick and even though I do not keep up with any of the celebrity book clubs, I was intrigued because a lot of the reviews surrounding this book mentioned it being a Little Women retelling which you do not need to read to enjoy this book. Having read Little Women though, I think it made the plot predictable for me because I kept waiting to see how she would pick up the big plot points from Little Women which had to be included otherwise it would not be a retelling.

It’s really hard to review a character driven book because all the major plot lines you can discuss feel like spoilers that would ruin the reading the experience for someone else.Anyway, I truly enjoyed this book. I picked it up from a book store in the morning and finished it in 24 hours. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads and strongly recommend it.


celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Book Review: Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson

I actually don’t know what the temperature of Pamela Anderson’s popularity is at the moment but in the 90’s she was a household name. She had her persona – blonde, big boobs, very sexual and let’s be honest ditzy. But we never really know the full story so I was interested in watching her Netflix documentary when it came out. It was also announced that she had a memoir coming out and I knew that I would be interested in reading that as well. The doc came out first and after watching, I definitely saw her in a different light and she is much smarter than most of the world gave her credit for. I was also curious to see how different the book was going to be. From the documentary, I learned that she kept very detailed journals and I think this helps in some of the clear details that she has in her book.

Pamela walks us through her childhood in Canada. Her parents’ quite frankly – toxic relationship which I think played a part in her toxic relaionships when she got older. Pamela’s childhood is impactful in her story because she suffered a lot of sexual abuse before the age of 18. This abuse included one from her babysitter and in another incident a situation with 4 boys. I had to take a breather after reading that part because you just wonder how one gets over repeated sexual assault.

She tells us about her career and relationships and of course her most high profile one with Tommy Lee. His jealousy, her miscarriages and how bad the paparazzi was to her. Of course she touches on the sex tape and we get to hear things from her point of view. There was a TV show about Tommy and Pam and I never stopped to think how she would feel about it and how it affected her. It was great to see her devotion to her boys and them being the reason she couldn’t be with Tommy even if that is what she wanted.

While Pam is all about seeking answers in whatever form – she shares her friendship with a pastor and she reads a lot of self help, I still think there is a gap in her relationship with men. Even if it was not her experience, I think she should have still addressed the accusations against Hugh Hefner. Pam holds Playboy in high esteem and only spoke highly of them. The same goes for Rick Saloman and she is still a huge advocate of Julian Assange.

All in all, I thought she met most of the tenets of a memoir and was pretty open about her life. It was a quick listen (5hr+ audiobook) and I feel like I got to know the generous, kind hearted, intellectual side of her that I’d never learned about from the media. I do wonder if watching the documentary affected my opinion of the book since some things weren’t new to me but overall it’s a quick read if you are looking to get a memoir checked off in your TBR list.


Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, race, thriller

Book Review: The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

“Music’s the gift. Caring’s the gift. And you give it to others now. There are a lot of ways apart from a concert hall to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Ray is a young, black man who loves playing the violin and he is good at it. His family is not supportive, especially his mom who tried to get him to stop playing and instead get a job at Popeyes for a stable paycheck. He ignores her and continues to play with borrowed violins from school. One Thanksgiving, his grandmother – the only family member who believes in his talent, gives him her father’s violin and when he goes to clean it up he finds out that it is a Stradivarius, a priceless type of violin. This becomes a blessing and a curse as his family suddenly takes interest in it and want to sell it and split the proceeds.

Another family, descendants of the family that enslaved his great-grandfather, also come forward and claim it belongs to their family and sue Ray. On the blessings side, Ray’s profile rises and he starts booking gigs and qualifies for the Tchaikovsky Competition—the Olympics of classical music. A competition no American has ever won. Everything seems to be going great until the Stradivarius goes missing. Ray is suddenly under pressure to find his violin while also practice for the competition.

“Second, he learned that doing what you loved may not be enough, that all the passion and perseverance that roared like blood within you could be trumped by factors that you could never control—factors like the color of your skin, or the shape of your eyes, or the sound of your voice.”

I really enjoyed this one for many reasons but mainly because this book wasn’t just one thing. The book managed to be a family saga, a thriller, a book about following passions, overcoming the odds and also exploring the ugliness of our nation’s history. I liked how Slocumb built the story of Ray’s career as a violinist. We got to be there from the beginning and go through his obstacles and breaks and it felt realistic. As a black person, reading some of his obstacles pursuing a character that the world has stereotyped as “not black”, you understand because every black person has faced being put in a box and being told what you can or can’t do.

“And none of that mattered. No matter how nice the suit, no matter how educated his speech or how strong the handshake, no matter how much muscle he packed on, no matter how friendly or how smart he was, none of it mattered at all. He was just a Black person. That’s all they saw and that’s all he was.”

I will say though, at a point I thought Ray’s experience with racism was A LOT but then reading that Slocumb incorporated everything that he himself (a violinist as well) had experienced in real life and I had to snap myself back to the reality of being a black person in America and navigating a mostly white career world.The other part of the book is figuring out who could have stolen the violin. In a rare occurence, my guess on who it was, was actually correct.

I recommend this book. It engaged me and I wanted to find out what would happen next. I read this one but I have heard that the audio is quite good. On a random note, I am curious why there are two different covers for this book.



Book Review: Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell

“I’ll be part of your book, Mother, but not like Egil or Haki or Rupa. I’ll be Omika, the giant. I’ll be the monster who frightens little girls. That’s what I am. I’ll butcher the whole world one by one with my bare hands, and when they’re all dead, the lawmakers and priestesses and all their servants, then I’ll go to the afterlife and find you, and I’ll make you their queen.”

Ruka is born disfigured and Norse (a god) is a genius who is only spared death because of his mother’s love. Born into the snow covered wasteland of Ascom, he lives outside of the city with his mother away from all human interaction. Now the church has declared him an outcast and he is filled with hatred and a hunger for vengeance from all those who have wronged him.

Kale is the fourth and youngest son of the King of Sri Kon who has no direction in life. Born with a silver spoon and a touch of naivete on how the world should be, he struggles to figure out his path in life. At 16, his father forces him to train with the marines and prove himself. He struggles to establish himself as a leader and gain favor in the eyes of his father and possibly win the love of his life as a bride.

Both on extreme sides of the earth, unaware of the existence of each other’s world, Kale and Ruka are set on a path of collision. Where one wants to burn the world down and the other wants to save it, only one can truly be king.

“Ruka stared at the corpse of the boy he’s killed, and his stomach growled.”

Kings of Paradise‘s very first sentence is the quote above. I love a good antihero. If you can do heinous things in a book and murder everybody in sight and still get me to root for you? I’m on board. Ruka is the best anti hero i’ve read in a long time. The book literally opens with Ruka eating the flesh of a boy he just killed (this is not a spoiler, this is literally the first page of the book). Everybody I’ve recommended this to, I’ve had to implore to continue past that scene because an amazing story is going to unfold. But I completely understand that grimdark fantasy books aren’t for everybody but Ruka is the type of character I say all the time that I want to read about. Nell does an amazing job of juxtapositioning Ruka’s current reality to his traumatizing childhood. Being so isolated and not knowing any human touch apart from your mum. His POV is one of the best i’ve ever read. Watching Ruka become who he becomes gives you such a deep sympathy for his character. You want him to succeed despite what his success means for the world.

“Love is the very worst reason for a prince to marry”

Kale is written as the complete opposite of Ruka. He’s kind, he’s close to his brothers, he’s in love with this childhood friend and his father is paranoid and ruthless beyond measure. His story is one of compassion and trying to figure out his place in the world as a 4th born prince who is of no great importance to the throne and who doesn’t have any particular talent that his father can take advantage of. Kale as a character was interesting but ultimately I always rooted for his father. I found Kale to be insanely naive and I found his father to always be right even though I think we’re supposed to think his father is hard. But I found the King of Sri Kon to be an amazing character whose ascendant to the throne I would love to read a whole book about.

When he tells Kale about how his family was murder and how he and his aunty were only spared by coincidence and how he ascended the throne at such a young age even though he was never even near the line of succession and then proceeded to murder and cripple all his enemies. I legit got chills reading it. Also, everyone knows I hate romance in my fantasy. So that’s another knock on Kale, he’s in love and his love makes him make very naive decisions. Don’t get me wrong, I was never bored reading his POV, he’s still a great character but I think everything pales in comparison to a great anti hero who isn’t stopping to fall in love.

“What…do I want?” Ruka put his hands to his awful face and closed his golden eyes, shuddering with what could have been a laugh, or a sob. “I want a world where love is not a crime, Priestess, a world where children are not doomed to misery because they are different. I want only laws with mercy, and justice, and wisdom…but I will settle for your pink insides in my palm, and your brains on a rock.”

So why not 5 stars? The last 20% of this book was extremely rushed. I kept wondering why the author kept feeding us all these details instead of showing us and taking us through the actual action. Nell takes his time and meticulously crafts this story and then ends up giving us a time jump in the last 20% of the book? I think if you’re going to write a sprawling fantasy series then you should take your time. A time skip in a fantasy book is extremely lazy. Hopefully the second book rectifies a lot of my complaints. Overall, I utterly, wholeheartedly recommend this one. Come find me and talk about it with me if you’ve read it or if you read it on my recommendation. Solid 4 stars.


Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, race

Book Review: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

The year is 1973 and Civil Townsend, a Black nurse in Montgomery, Alabama has just started a new job at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic. Since she has a car, she is assigned home visits. Excited to make a difference in the Black community, she is up for a rude awakening with her first assignment. First of all, she finds out her patients are living in squalor in a one room cabin. Then she finds out that her patients are 11 and 13 year old sisters, India and Erica. She is supposed to give them this new birth control, Depo Provera but they are so young and have not even kissed boys. She gives them the shot anyways but Civil can’t get them or their living conditions out of her mind.

The next time Civil is supposed to give them the shots, she can’t bring herself to do it. Especially when she realizes they are only being assigned this because they are black and poor. Civil is from a middle class family, her dad also in the medical field as a doctor so she takes them under her wing and helps the whole family (their dad and their grandma. Their mom died when they were young) more often than she should. She buys them clothes, does their hair and even takes it upon herself to apply for a subsidized apartment.

One day, Civil goes for a scheduled visit with the girls and realizes that the powers that be have taken advantage of their dad and grandma being illiterate and done something horrific and irreversible to the girls. Civil is filled with so much guilt and leads the way in getting justice for them. The book takes us down this journey and fastforwards many years later when they are all grown and Civil goes down memory lane.

I was gifted this book for Christmas and didn’t know what it was about but I liked it. It’s a heavy subject matter so if you are looking for something light, this is not the book for you. This book was set in 1973 and in 2023, it serves as a reminder of all the injustices that black people have had to face and still face today in America. The book has parallels and makes mention of the Tuskegee study. Perkins-Valdez does a good job of creating a world that is real and you feel everything that Civil does. I enjoyed the fact that Civil is black and came from a well to do family while we also meet India and Erica on the other side, who were impoverished. It drives home the point, for those who don’t know, that being Black is not a monolith and just like everyone else, we run a spectrum.

I loved how human she made Civil. As a reader, you think like Civil that there is no other route than to help the family, because why not? But Perkins-Valdez adds the plot where it is brought to Civil’s attention that she may be making them feel like a charity case and she has to ponder when helping crosses the line to interfering. Even when the book fast forwards to 2016, you can still see Civil grappling with the choices she made. If you are wondering if the back and forth was distracting, I can assure you that it wasn’t. There was more time spent in 1973 than 2016.

This is a book I expect to evoke many emotions (might not be positive) but it’s oh so necessary for us to never forget what was done before and what could still be. The book isn’t all dreary as there are secondary story lines surrounding Civil’s personal life. Her ex, Ty, her mom and her relationship with the girls’ dad. I definitely recommend the book and despite the subject matter, it managed to be a quick read.


african author, african stories, Fiction, Nigerian Author, short story, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions: A Novel in Interlocking Stories by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

Leggy: You chose this book for us to read. How did you first hear about it?

Taynement: Roxane Gay, the author, had read it early before its release (like 6 months ago) and had given it a positive review. I saw “jollof” and I was intrigued.

Leggy: It took a lot of coordinating for this to check out to both of us at the same time. I thought it was a novel, I didn’t know it was a series of short stories.

Taynement: As did I. Although, I had a tiny feeling with the interlocking stories in the title. I’m not usually a fan of short stories but I think I’m coming around.

Leggy: They’re easy to read because you can commit to a couple of stories a day and before you know it, you’re done. What did you think about this book overall?

Taynement: I think it was decent. Didn’t love it but didn’t hate it. There were elements I liked but I think it just never crossed the mark to really good.

Leggy: Yes, I kept waiting for it to get good but it never did for me. I think a lot of stories had potential but there was a lot holding them back. I kept waiting for her to go further but she never did. Honestly, a lot of the stories were so amateur hour to me.

Taynement: Ha ha, that’s the word. It was like playing dress up.

Leggy: What were the purpose of the dates? The dates seemed pointless to me.

Taynement: I did like that the stories had characters that were connected.

Leggy: We start off with the story of Adaoma, which I thought was all for nothing because after all the dressing up and making you feel it was building up to something, the ending was so anticlimatic.

Taynement: I think it was cool that it was a descendant of Nonso because I think they casually mentioned how her grandmother was married to a woman. I remember thinking the Segun story was pointless but later realizing he was the husband of one of the three main characters (Remi).

Leggy: The story I really liked and thought made sense was Mama Solape’s story. Everything made sense to me. The arc of the story was well done. The way her daughter was completely erased and how people just stopped calling her Mama Solape. How much she fought to retain her daughter’s memory and then at the end naming her restaurant Mama Solape. It was a full story arc to me which I would have loved to see more of, in this book.

Leggy: I didn’t like the last story and again back to the dates. Aisha claims she’s 78 in 2050 but in another story earlier in the book, she mentioned that she finished undergrad in 1994. How is this possible? I think that’s why I hated the dates.

Taynement: Lol. You’re really stuck on the dates. I didn’t even notice that.

Leggy: Numbers stick in my head. I really can’t help it.

Taynement: I actually liked the last story. I enjoyed the futuristic nature of it. I’m always fascinated by how authors imagine the future.

Leggy: What was your favorite story in the book?

Taynement: My favorite story is very random but it was Area Boy Rescue. Maybe because it was from the point of view of a non recurring character.

Leggy: I really liked that one too. When she said her madam dey act like “somebody who head no correct”. To go from her being such an Americanah to moving back to Nigeria and chasing a lorry through the streets of Lagos. That was funny.

Taynement: A very tiny thing but when she admitted that she liked having sex with her madam’s boss. I wasn’t even mad at her. It made me laugh.

Leggy: I really liked that detail. I thought it was succinct and well done because everything is not black and white. There are shades of gray. I think my favorite story was Start Your Savings Account Today, about Remi and her father. That conversation she had with her father and her father was saying – “You think I don’t love you and I paid your school fees in dollars?”. Because that is such a typical Nigerian dad thing to say. Even though you only saw me 7 times after I divorced your mother, I paid your school fees and that proves I love you.

Taynement: Overall, there were bits and pieces I liked and I would recommend it to people but my con is that it was mid.

Leggy: It was okay to me. I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads.

Taynement: I enjoyed it more than you did. I gave it three stars. I think the writing shortcomings were able to hide behind being a collection of short stories.

Have you guys read this? If yes, what did you think? If no, are you going to give this one a try? Let us know in the comments!

Leggy & Taynement.


Book Review: The Measure by Nikki

“That the beginning and the end may have been chosen for us, the string already spun, but the middle had always been left undetermined, to be woven and shaped by us.”

One day, everyone in the world wakes up to a strange box on their doorsteps. Everyone from high rise apartment owners to desert tent dwellers. On the box is an inscription – the measure of your life lies within. Inside the box lies a string that has been determined to show you exactly how long you’ll live. Everybody is swept into frenzy. People are scared. Some people open theirs and some people choose not to. No one under 22 gets the box but as soon as you turn 22 a box appears on your doorstep telling you exactly how long you have to live. No one knows where this box comes from. No one knows who left them. As society tries to pull together and grapple with this new way of living, people are left with a choice – to open or not to open? Would you want to know exactly when you’ll die? What would you do with that knowledge? Erlick charts this new world through the eyes of 8 different characters grappling with different choices and trying to navigate this new reality.

“We humans have an impulse to mark our existence in some way that feels permanent. We scribble ‘I was here’ onto our desks at school. We spray paint it on walls. We carve it into bark. I was here. I wanted this sculpture to do to the same, to let it be know that these people lived. A testament to the fact that these humans — with their long strings and medium strings and short strings — they were here.”

I don’t remember when I first heard about this book but I’ve had it in my library holds since last year and every time it would check out to me, I’d send it back. I guess it finally checked out to me at the perfect time because I loved reading this one. First of all, what an amazing premise! And what a way to think this all the way through. The author takes this and just runs with it, how would this work in politics? in romance? in friendships? between parents and kids? Yes, the results aren’t unpredictable but they are all so well thought out. Where this book really shines is in its characters. This is purely a character driven novel. The plot moves as the characters learn to live with their new reality and figure out a way to make the best out of what life has given them. From a no name politician who after opening his box and seeing a long string decides to use it to make himself into a political star, an architect who after being forced to open his box is left single and alone to sort out the unfairness of the number of years given to him, a school teacher who decides not to open her box and her sister who grapples with the reality of loving a partner who you know exactly when she’ll die.

“I watched a lot of people come to the end, and everyone around them kept begging them to fight. It takes real strength to keep on fight, and yes, usually that’s the right answer. Keep fighting, keep holding on, no matter what. But sometimes I think we forget that it also takes strength to be able to let go.”

This is a debut novel and I grade all debut novels on a curve. I think this is a FANTASTIC novel and made me feel a lot of emotions but it did get heavy handed sometimes. Sometimes Erlick couldn’t leave well enough alone, she wanted to make sure her audience was picking up everything she was putting down and sometimes you should just let your plot breathe. The everlasting optimism and hope while everything was going on in this book might come off as heartwarming to a lot of people but to me it came off as naive. If I had written this book it would have been completely fatalistic at least for a whole generation but Erlick chose to see humans as a much better species than I do.

“Maybe the boxes are like that, too. Nobody can offer any foolproof explanation for them, so they just end up meaning whatever we want them to mean — whether that’s God or fate or magic. And no matter how long your string is, that, too, can mean whatever you want it to — a license to behave however you want, to stop dieting, to seek revenge, to quit your job, to take a risk, to travel the world.”

I loved this book and I gave it 5 stars but if you do not like character driven novels, you will not like this book. If you need to know why the boxes appeared and why, this book will not work for you because it is not the point of the book. It’s never explored or determined why or where the boxes came from. This is purely speculative fiction. Realistically, this is a 4 star book but a debut novel deserves that round up. Plus it made me cry and I asked all my friends including Tayne what they would do if they got this kind of box. Would they choose to open it or not? So I’m asking whoever is reading this, if you got a box that contained how many years you have left on earth, would you or would you not open it?


Fiction, thriller

Book Review: The House In The Pines by Ana Reyes

A viral video where a woman is seated across a man at a diner when she suddenly stares into space and drops dead makes its way all over the internet. Maya is one of the many people who views this video but she is triggered as she has seen this happen before. When she was a high school senior preparing to go off to college, she watched her best friend, Aubrey die in the exact same way. That’s not the only similarity, they both died in the presence of the same man, Frank.

Now years later, Maya is in a serious relationship while going through withdrawals from an addiction to Klonopin, a drug she has been on since Aubrey’s death. She is drinking way more alcohol than usual to deal with it, isn’t sleeping well and has lost a ton of weight. After an embarrassing dinner with her boyfriend’s family where she was drunk, she decides to go back to her hometown and find a way to prove that Frank is responsible for both murders.

I don’t think I have ever read a book recommended by Reese’s book club but I was determined to have a better reading life this year and was open to suggestions so when I came across this on IG I was like sure, why not? and I don’t know if it was a good or bad decision. The book started out captivating and I was intrigued and very eager to find out how or if Frank was connected to both deaths. I think Reyes did a good job of mapping out the past and we get a good sense of Aubrey and Maya’s friendship. But then, when the reveal happens, I was like huh?? I almost didn’t believe it. Dare I say, I felt insulted? It was just waaay too far fetched for me.

Maya has Guatamelan heritage and at some point we see her visit and meet her father’s family (her father died when he was young). Her father was a writer who had an unfinished book that was in her possession. Reyes writes this plot point into the story as if it would come in handy at some point and it does interweave during the reveal but it didn’t seem to add to the reveal at all, so I kept wondering why we were dragged into it in the first place.

There is a lot going on in this book and you can tell that it is a debut effort. I don’t know if I’d recommend this book because I don’t think the payoff was satisfying. I gave it 3 stars because it really did have my attention the first half of the book before it started falling apart.


Fiction, literary fiction, romance, women's fiction

Book Review: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Solène Marchand, a 39 year old, divorced, art gallery owner, takes her 12 year old daughter, Isabelle, to her favorite boyband’s concert. August Moon, a band filled with young British boys, has taken the world by storm. They’re selling out stadiums and young girls all over the world are madly in love with them. The last thing Solène expects when she takes her daughter and her friends backstage to meet the group is to make a connection with one of the boys, who is just 20. Hayes Campbell is clever, charming and severely attracted to Solène. What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate and genuine relationship. She flies across continents and cities to meet up with him and have amazing sex until their relationship is revealed in the press leaving her daughter heartbroken and vulnerable and Solène, herself, exposed to the millions of girls who are mad that this old woman is with the love of their lives.

When I started this book, I was sure I was going to give it a one star at the end. A fanfiction about Harry Styles? I don’t care how many times fans of this book and the author denies it but this book is very clearly about One Direction and Harry Styles. I just couldn’t get past the age gap and the judgement I had. But I thought for a long time about this book while I was reading it and afterwards. If the genders were reversed would I feel so judgemental towards Solène? Would I judge a dad for sleeping with a 20 year old and question his love for his daughter? I realise that girls have a very different relationship with their favorite male pop stars than their favorite female pop stars so none of the dilemmas that arose in the book would have even been a thing in the world we live in. I also knew how this book was going to end. There was no other way for it to end except the way it did. I don’t want to spoil the book for anybody.

My problem with this book is that the author tried to convince us that Solène and Hayes fell in love but I never saw that on the page. I never thought they had any real conversations. Every conversation they had was about sex and about how much they loved sleeping with each other. The author didn’t show us in depth conversations that showed they were anything other than sex buddies. All we kept being told was the number of orgasms he kept giving her. There was a night he gave her 8 orgasms! Maybe I’m speaking too quickly. Maybe if someone gives you 8 orgasms, you have no choice but to fall in love too. This book has a lot of fans (there’s even a Facebook group just for the fans of this book) and I picked this book up because someone mentioned how much they loved it. I was in a book slump so I quickly picked this one up and another reason I didn’t give it one star is because it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It completely rebooted my reading life which I’m so happy about.

The characters in this book were so pretentious, I don’t even know where to start. Of course Solène is French and even though she was born and raised in America, she still considers all things French to be cool and sophisticated. She’s so well traveled, went to an Ivy league school, so beautiful, so intelligent. She is everything you think of when you think of a stereotypically sophisticated French woman. The author did not lift her pen when jotting down ALL the stereotypes. Hayes is also very rich, very posh, went to private school in England, father went to Eaton, and of course so mature for his age! These two people are gallivanting the world, meeting other cool and sophisticated people like them, buying art, discussing art, having dinners in fancy places, meeting more cool people like them and buying thousands of dollars worth of art!

So why did I not give this book one star? Because honestly it has stayed with me since I read it and I’ve had the urge to convince other people to read it just so I have someone to talk to about it. It’s also interesting to me that I had a lot of problems with this book but I did not find the age gap as creepy as I thought it would be. The author, I feel, did a very good job with that. Hayes still read very young to me but I kept forgetting he was barely legal. Anyway, I gave this book 2 stars and seriously considered giving it 3 stars but came to my senses. I will say though, that I enjoyed being irritated by these characters.

Have you read this one? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!