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Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

“I feel like everyone fakes who they really are, when deep down we’re all equal amounts of screwed up. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.”

TRIGGER WARNING: Domestic Violence

Lily is a 23 year old who lives in Boston and we are introduced to her at her father’s funeral where she says nothing during what was supposed to be a eulogy. That same night she meets Ryle Kincaid, a neurosurgeon and a whirlwind romance ensues even when he says he is not a relationship type of guy. We get to know Lily better as she flashes back to her childhood via her journals. We see how Ellen (the celebrity and talk show host) was a focal point in her life and the important part it played when she meets the first love of her life, Atlas Corrigan at age 16.

Flash forward to present day and life is good for Lily. She starts a lifelong dream of owning a flower shop and her new employee, Alyssa who also happens to be Ryle’s sister becomes her best friend and things are good with Ryle – until the first incident happens and we enter into a journey with Lily as she asks questions about her present and explores her past to determine what her future will be.

“Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.”

I have actually never read a Colleen Hoover novel and to my knowledge, this was a change of pace and I am glad this was my first venture into her world. This was a story that was about the complexities of life with a sensitive topic as its focal point and it was written and depicted very well. I think the book summary doesn’t do it justice as it portrays it more like a romance novel with a love triangle involved which is not the case at all. What I liked most about this book were the many layers. Yes, it had domestic violence but it was not the only focal point. This is also a story about friendship, PTSD, family problems, homelessness and that made it rich.

“All humans make mistakes. What determines a person’s character aren’t the mistakes we make. It’s how we take those mistakes and turn them into lessons rather than excuses.”

I like that this book gave me perspective. We always think domestic violence is cut and dry and it’s this mean and evil person but Hoover paints a picture and makes you ask what happens when the person isn’t this mean ogre and is by all accounts a “great” guy. The fact that Hoover was able to make me feel conflicted even though it was clear as day is a testament to how well the book was written.

That’s what fifteen minutes can do to a person. It can destroy them. It can save them

At times, I felt Lily sounded juvenile but then I had to remember that she was 23. But that was me nit picking because another thing Hoover made me realize is, strength comes in different forms and in so many ways, Lily was strong. I enjoyed seeing the friendship develop between Lily and Alyssa because most romance novels focus so much on developing the relationship with the man but not nearly enough on the friendship, so seeing this support was refreshing. This book was not perfect. I gave it 3 stars because it did still have elements of the romance genre that I am not particularly a fan of. It gave me a glimpse to how other Hoover books might be. The elements I speak of are scenarios that aren’t necessarily always realistic. Where things just happen to work out easily that would otherwise in the real world be a headache.

“It stops here. With me and you. It ends with us.”

Overall, I do recommend this book because you get a combination of things and it was an easy book to get through in terms of writing. It wasn’t tedious which is still a mystery to me how it still maintained a fluffy vibe. One of my favorite things about the book was the author’s note, so if you get a chance make sure you read that. It gave context to why she wrote this book and how it was based on her personal experience. I liked seeing how it gave her a different view of her own mother and a different appreciation.

A lot of people have mentioned how it made them cry, I am personally not a book crier and I can’t say I felt that emotional rollercoaster that most felt but that’s personal. If you are the kind who looks to books for a good cry, this might do it for you.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

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“It hurts to want it all, so many things that can’t coexist within the same life.”

Poppy and Alex are best friends who go on vacation every summer. They’re complete opposites. Poppy loves things, Alex hates things. Poppy is fun and loves to meet people and wild. Alex is reserved and wears khakis and only travels with Poppy. For most of the year they live apart, Alex in Ohio, Poppy in New York City. They communicate mostly on the phone until they see each other once a year every summer vacation. For a decade, they’ve taken this summer trip until two years ago when something happened during the trip and completely ruins their friendship. When the book begins, they haven’t spoken in two years. Poppy is unhappy and the job that used to bring her so much joy no longer does. She’s convinced that if she can get Alex to go on one more summer trip that it will save their friendship and take them back to exactly how they used to be.

“I’m on vacation. Vacations always end. It’s the very fact that it’s finite that makes traveling special. You could move to any one of those destinations you loved in small doses, and it wouldn’t be the spellbinding, life-altering seven days you spend there as a guest, letting a place into your heart fully, letting it change you.”

The trope of friends to lovers has been done to death but I still enjoyed it and this story felt fresh. I think the years they’ve been friends and the depth of their friendship was adequate enough to see how they could have fallen in love with each other. It didn’t feel overdone or stale. Their banter with each other was funny and had me smiling as I read. Even with the sexual tension simmering below, you could tell they were actual friends and that without the attraction they would have still been friends. Also, both the characters are loveable. Nothing kills a romance book more than characters who nobody wants to fall in love with in real life. Poppy is sweet but sassy and outgoing with a very vulnerable side that she only shows to the people super close to her. Alex is very straitlaced, having been forced to grow up so quickly after his mother died and his father fell apart.

This story is narrated by Poppy and is told in alternating timelines. She takes us through the last 10 years of summer vacation with Alex, while we read about their present day falling out and the pains she’s taking to repair it. I quite enjoyed the alternating timelines. The past Alex and Poppy were quite different and a lot more fun than what we found in the present. If you do not like alternating timelines, you might not like this book.

Towards the end, in a bid to force the last conflict that always comes up in romance novels, Henry misses the mark and the book loses its momentum a little bit. Poppy completely forgets how to use her words and instead avoids all manner of communication. A lot of the things she did and said towards the end didn’t make sense for her character. I felt that the final conflict of the book was contrived and not well written at all.

The reason for their fall out was also very obvious from the start but the author drew it out for so long and the characters kept referring to “what happened in Croatia”. The drag out added nothing to the story and I’m sure Henry wrote it to add a little tension. But it’s a romance book about two friends, of course we know what happened in Croatia to make their friendship completely awkward.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this book. It was an easy one to read and wasn’t completely fluffy and without depth. I gave this one 3 stars on Goodreads and I recommend it if you’re looking for something on the lighter spectrum.

Leggy

african author, african stories, Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolu Mbue

Change of Publication Date: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

“We should have known the end was near.”

“How Beautiful We Were” is a story set in a small fictional village in Africa called Kosawa. We get introduced to how rich the people and village are, filled with their traditions, love and history. Then we find out that they are basically under siege and the children of the village are dying because they have been invaded by an American oil company called Pexton.

Their land and water have been poisoned by the numerous pipeline spills and there is no one to hold accountable despite the many complaints as the government is in cahoots with Pexton. Getting nowhere and tired of burying their children, the villagers decide to take matters in their own hands in a plan that goes awry. Little do they know that it was just the beginning of a long fight that spans decades. This book takes us along on this journey through the stories told by the various people involved – the people who were just children when the fight began and our protagonist, Thula and some of her family members.

“Our grandfathers, however, had no interest in losing ownership of their lives—every one of them had turned down Pexton’s offer and returned to the thrill of killing for food as trees were felled all over the valley to make room for the oil field and pipelines and Gardens.”

It’s widely known that it takes a lot for a book to blow me out the water. I have given very few books 5 stars. One of the very few books to get this honor was Imbolo Mbue’s first novel, Behold the Dreamers. I just absolutely loved it. I was excited to get to this one and was #1 on my waiting list for this at my library. When I cracked open the book and saw that it was set in a village, my heart sank. I usually prefer modern settings but I was ready to see how this goes. It took a minute for the book to get going then just when I was about to accept that this was it’s pace, it picked back up but then dropped again and I felt my excitement wane.

All that is to say that the book did not meet my expectations and that made me sad. Overall, this book was superbly written. Mbue painted a vivid picture that made you visualize Kosawa and made you understand their plight. She made you feel the love and community that was shared in the village. You understood who they were at their core. I also think Mbue did a good job of laying the foundation of introducing us to Thula and the events that happened in her family.

I definitely enjoyed the first half of the book to the second half which is when Thula goes to America and returns. The second half never quite found its groove and was uneven. The narration got a bit wonky and there were chapters that felt pointless. So, I guess I am saying that while the writing was beautiful, the plot and pacing suffered. Thula is supposed to come back being this activist and they look to her as a savior but I don’t think that was developed well and it felt disjointed.

I did enjoy the different view points from Thula’s family members – her brother, her uncle, her mother and her grandmother. They came at different points in the book and they were much welcomed when it felt like the book was in a lull. I appreciated the true depiction of the underrepresented in most African countries and the corrupt government and the choices people make just to survive. I think that was well done.

Overall, while I found the writing to be good, I still did find it a bit of chore to read and a bit boring. And while I know this was a disappointment for me, I can see how people could appreciate it so I won’t file it under a “would not recommend”, so if you are looking for a slow paced read, that is what you would get with this.

Taynement

african author, Book Related Topics, Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat – Love in Colour: Mythical Tales From Around The World, Retold by Bolu Baboola

Amazon.com: Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold  (Audible Audio Edition): Bolu Babalola, Ajjaz Awad, Nneka Okoye, Bolu  Babalola, Olukemi Babalola, Headline: Audible Audiobooks

Taynement: Wow. It’s been a while since we did a chit chat. Shame on us!

Leggy: It’s just so hard to coordinate reading during a pandemic. I’m glad we’re finally getting to do one and a young Nigerian author at that!

Taynement: Why did we choose this book?

Leggy: We’ve seen it all over bookstagram and twitter, plus the cover is so striking.

Taynement: Yes, a lot of people I know who have read this, liked it a lot.

Leggy: So what were your overall thoughts on the book? Did you like it?

Taynement: Yes, I have to say I did. Or maybe I liked it more than I expected to. Going in, it had two strikes against it in that, it was a romance novel and short stories – two things I don’t care for.

Leggy: I didn’t hate it but I also didn’t like it. It was okay. Nothing stood out for me. To be frank. It was elemental writing. Nothing was compelling about these stories.

Taynement: Agreed, it was regular. I do think it was a good premise.

Leggy: I think it was a good premise too. I went into it without knowing what it was going to be so reading the first story of someone called “Osun” in school, I was like what’s going on here? Then “Sango”, that’s when I immediately got it.

Taynement: I thought it was overwritten in the way of typical African authors. The book just wasn’t allowed to be. I mean…”water was generous but mostly it wanted to be left alone”?

Leggy: There were so many lines like that It just tried too hard to have flowery language.

Taynement: I liked how inclusive the author tried to be. It had characters from various parts of Africa (the author is Nigerian for those who don’t know). There was an attempt with an Asian character that fell flat for me. The story of Zhinu (the pop star) was not one of my favorites. I couldn’t connect.

Leggy: It was my least favorite too. It was pointless to me. It just seemed to not fit.

Leggy: What was your favorite story?

Taynement: Thisbe and Naleli. What were yours?

Leggy: I really enjoyed the Naleli one. Read like a teenage romance movie. The head girl, Keeya said the meanest things to her.

Taynement: It reminded me a lot of the Netflix show – Blood and Water.

Leggy: I can’t imagine always covering up in the hot sun. I also appreciated that she highlighted the vitiligo condition, that was good. I liked the one where the girl was basically Kerry Washington in Scandal (Scheherazade). That was my favorite. Yaa was my second favorite because it was the story with the most modern realistically African plot to me.

Taynement: I really wanted to know how you felt about the book because I was wondering if I’d appreciate it more if I loved romance novels.

Leggy: I don’t think so. I appreciate the romance genre but I don’t consider this to be a good one to recommend. Especially to someone who typically doesn’t do romance books. I wish the stories had more depth and something to connect with. A lot of it seemed so frivolous that it diluted even the great love stories she was retelling.

Taynement: I think the most intriguing thing about this book is the concept. I also recognize that depth in short stories is something that is tough to accomplish.

Leggy: I’m currently reading “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies”, It’s fantastic and a short story collection and it manages to bring depth to every story it tells, no matter how short. Reading it alongside this book made me see how frivolous it was.

Taynement: Did you like the new tales?

Leggy: No, I preferred the retellings and even at that I do not prefer these modern retellings to the old stories. I think the modernity stripped a lot of the stories of its context and depth. In as much as I loved Scheherazade, the original is a fantastic story. I remember the first time I read the Arabian Night classic – a woman telling a king a story every night, trying to keep his attention till morning to stop him from killing her? I found it amazing!

Taynement: I guess we are in agreement that it was an okay book but commendable for a debut?

Leggy: Yes, it definitely read like a first book. I would appreciate a stand-alone novel from this author next, maybe to flesh out more of her romance writing and give the stories a little more depth and context? I don’t think romance has to be “deep”. Everyone knows I’m a connoisseur of romcom movies, but readers have to be able to buy into the romance you’re selling.

Taynement: Yes, it’ll be interesting to see what she does with a stand alone. I agree that romance novels don’t always have to be “deep” but I think that letting the stories breathe would make for a more relaxed romance novel that would be far easier to enjoy.

Leggy: I still can’t pick out any line that stood out to me even with the over the top flowery language. The lines just made me roll my eyes and you know how much I love a good quote.

Taynement: We both do! Well, based on social media, we are in the minority of people. A lot of people have loved it so far.

Leggy: That’s fine. Art is subjective plus this book sure has a very good social media PR. Was it worth the hype for me? Absolutely not. It was an okay book. I wonder if I’d have finished if we didn’t have to do this chitchat but we’ll never know now. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing what this author does next. I love supporting black authors and she’s Nigerian!

Taynement: Definitely!

Taynement & Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fantasy, Uncategorized

Reading Rut Woes – 5 Books That Made My DNF List

I haven’t read anything new in three weeks because nothing has been able to keep my attention. I’ve picked up a ton of books and dropped it after the first few chapters. I’m behind on my Goodreads reading challenge, something that has never happened to me since I started tracking my reading on that website. I always get one reading rut a year but it’s always in the fall so this is such a new feeling for me.

Anyway, this is a list of 5 books that I picked up during my reading rut that I will definitely go back to now that I’m out of it.

  • Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson: I’ve mentioned quite often on our Instagram page (@nightstands2, follow us!) that Sanderson is my all time favorite fantasy writer and I’ve been saving this book for the perfect time. I’ve read every one of his books and this one came out last December. I finally downloaded it but I just couldn’t get into it. I read the first chapter and gave up. This is the 4th book in the Stormlight Archive series. This is an amazing series and I wholeheartedly recommend it! I guess I’ll have to pick this one up another time.

  • Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro: I actually read 70% of this one before I put it down. I didn’t hate it. I was actually enjoying it but I just put it down one day and never picked it back up again. Ishiguro is one author I really want to read everything he’s ever written because I think his writing is so versatile and intriguing. Will definitely finish this one before the month runs out.

  • Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winters: I raved about the first book in this series here. I really loved it and the second book finally came out late last year. I read two chapters, asked my friend to read it and tell me if it will be worth it and never picked it back up again!

  • The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw: I got this one on audio because I decided that an audio book would be the exact thing to get me out of my funk but I never picked it up. I always go for podcasts when I work out instead of picking it up (I’m looking at you, Altarcall!) but I’ve heard so many good things about it and it’s also about to be turned into a TV show!

  • The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart: This has been on my TBR list and I finally got it from the library. Will definitely be going back to this because this is the one that actually kept my attention for a while there! The world building is so fascinating and the type of magic practiced in this world is unlike any I’ve ever read about. The emperor requires every child to give him a piece of their bone in other to power the constructs that protect the kingdom. I will definitely write a full book review either on here or our Instagram whenever I’m done with it.

How did I get out of my reading rut? I re-read Harry Potter! I re-read Harry Potter every year anyway, but I moved it up to this month. Having a comforting and familiar read was what finally did the trick. I read the entire first book in the Harry Potter series in one day and when I was done, I immediately picked up Girl X by Abigail Dean. Really happy to go back to my regular reading schedule! How do you usually get out of a reading rut? Let me know in the comments!

I hope you all have an amazing reading week!

Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Memorial by Bryan Washington

Amazon.com: Memorial: A Novel (9780593087275): Washington, Bryan: Books

“That loving a person means letting them change when they need to. And letting them go when they need to. And that doesn’t make them any less of a home. Just maybe not one for you. Or only for a season or two. But that doesn’t diminish the love. It just changes forms.”

Benson and Mike are a couple living together in Houston. Benson is a daycare teacher who is African American and Mike is a chef who is Japanese American. They’ve been together for a few years but they are in a rut and are now wondering if they are still a couple and if they are, why are they? Mike’s mom shows up suddenly at their apartment just as he finds out his dad, who left when he was young, is dying in Japan. Mike decides to drop everything and go be with his dad and leaves Ben alone with his mom.

This book was on a lot of year end “best of” lists last year, so I was curious and really wanted to read this. Unfortunately, this was yet another book that fell flat for me. I completely understand that it was meant to be a contemplative book since both characters were going through transformations in their lives. But like most character driven books, a lot happened while nothing happened.

“We take our memories wherever we go, and what’s left are the ones that stick around, and that’s how we make a life.”

I enjoyed Mike’s story better even if I didn’t understand why he dropped everything to be with his estranged dad. His flashback story (there was A LOT of this) was cohesive and I could see how his time in Japan left an impact on his life. Part of the book blurb seems to imply heavily that Ben and Mike’s mom, Mitsuko had this heavy impact on each other, but I didn’t get that. It just felt like two people living together who cooked a lot and had conversations but nothing major.

It was good to see a book that featured two minority queer leads and it was just a shame that the story felt as lackluster as their relationship. I didn’t particularly think the storytelling was great and having an ambiguous ending definitely didn’t help. As a former Houston native, recognizing some of the locations was fun but that was about it. Well, maybe a bit of Mike’s dad, Eiju’s prickly character intrigued me but not enough to cover the things I didn’t like about the book.

“How often do you get to learn that lesson? That sometimes you just lose?”

There was a lot of “fucking” in the book and I used that word because that’s exactly how it was mentioned. There’d be a fight or yet another boring conversation and from nowhere weird descriptions involving groping and squeezing and awkward body movements would pop up and one of them would narrate they were fucking. Have I mentioned it wasn’t particularly great story telling?

I’ll stop beating on the book but as you can tell, it isn’t one I’d recommend. I gave it two stars because I actually finished it. I did this on audio and it was narrated by the author, which I think was a mistake because he didn’t sound enthusiastic and sounded flat. I don’t know if reading the book would have been better since I heard there were no quotation marks. So, read at your own peril but I’d advise skipping this one and picking up another title.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, Mystery, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

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“Healing by way of vengeance … no such thing existed; it never had. Hurting others had only injured me further.”

A female Apothecary, Nella, dispenses poisons in secret, to women who have been wronged by men. She only has two rules – none of her poisons can ever be used to harm a woman and she must record the name of the procurer and the person they intend to kill in her book, for safekeeping and insurance. On a cold February evening, a young 12 year old, Eliza comes to Nella to procure a poison to kill her master courtesy of her beloved mistress. The relationship between Eliza and Nella sets them on a dangerous path. In present day London, Caroline finds a vial near the Thames river as she tries to forget the recent reveal of her husband’s infidelity. This ancient vial leads her down a path of discovery and investigation into the lives of these women that lived 200 years before her.

Sounds like an amazing and intriguing premise for a book right? So why was a book about an apothecary killer so freaking dull?! This book started out with such great promise. I was instantly grabbed by the blurb. This was my Book of the Month pick for March and because of the number of people who picked this particular book there was a delay in delivery as they tried to procure more. I chose this book on the first of March and it only just arrived this week which even made me more excited to crack it open. To say that this story is slow is an understatement. I kept waiting for something to happen but nothing really happens. This book is written in dual timelines. One in the 1700s and the other in present day London. None of these stories intrigued me and frankly, the connection between the women in different timelines was forced at best.

Caroline comes to London to escape, after finding out her husband had an affair. She stumbles across a group of people mud larking and decides to participate. She finds an apothecary bottle inscribed with a picture of a bear and decides to investigate the bottle and I just didn’t understand why she even had the urge to do it. It just seemed so ridiculous. All the ‘conflicts’ in this book were tenuous at best and were always those conflicts arising from misunderstandings and which could have been fixed with a single sentence and I just found that to be lazy writing. I found Caroline’s story entirely pointless and would have preferred if this book focused entirely on Eliza and Nella. Caroline was entirely a caricature of a one dimensional character who put all her dreams on hold in order to get married and cater to a cheating, manipulative husband.

I expected magical realism and a deep look into the lives of women in the 1700s but this book offers nothing of the sort. I also expected mystery and more of a plot and I am so tired of all women’s back stories being about men. The author never even explored the moral ambiguity of making a career out of murdering men just because a man betrayed you in the past. There wasn’t enough character development in this book for me to even justify the lack of a juicy plot by saying it was character driven. The women in this book were all bland and one dimensional. I found it hard to like anyone even when given their back story.

I did not enjoy this book. It was filled with implausible situations, unrealistic emotions and characters that were contrived. The author did a terrible job connecting the present to the past, probably because there was literally nothing connecting the women and her trying to create a connection was unsuccessful. Caroline was boring, one dimensional and frankly, I don’t see how she could have had even a prayer of getting into Cambridge. What kind of history major does not know how to search a library’s historical archives?

Anyways, I gave this 2 stars on Goodreads because I really do think the premise is fantastic. The cover art is gorgeous and it had so much potential. I’m off to apply to Cambridge since everyone can apparently get in!

Leggy

Chick-Lit, Fiction, thriller

Book Review: The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

The Wives

“Women are stuck in a cycle of insecurity perpetuated by the way men treat them, and we are constantly fighting to prove to ourselves and everyone else that we are okay.”

Thursday tries to be the perfect wife to her husband, Seth. She cooks, she primps and she says yes to almost everything that he asks for. Thursday seems happy except for one tiny glitch – Seth has two other wives. The agreement is that they each have assigned days and never have contact with each other. In fact, none of them know who the others are. It’s a crazy arrangement but Thursday is so in love with Seth and is willing to stick to the arrangement as long as she has him in her life.

Everything changes one day when Thursday finds a phone number with a woman’s name in Seth’s pocket. Thursday can’t let it go and she chases it down. She finds out it belongs to one of the other wives and as she keeps digging, she also begins to find out that there is a different side to Seth that she had no idea about

“A woman’s greatest foe is sometimes her hope that she’s imagined it all. That she herself is crazy rather than the circumstances of her life. Funny the emotional responsibility a woman is willing to take on just to maintain an illusion.”

I don’t think I realized that there was a chick-lit thriller genre but this was definitely the category this book fell in. I was intrigued by the polygamous storyline because it’s something I find fascinating. Reading about Seth’s schedules with all his wives, the traveling and different personalities he put on depending on which wife he was with, stressed me as a reader, so I couldn’t imagine how he was coping with it.

The book is told only from Thursday’s perspective, so I never got to answer that question. Towards the end of book, I understand why it was that way but I think it would have been nice to get different perspectives. I enjoyed this book. It was quite fast paced and the story didn’t drag. Fisher didn’t make us wait long for a reveal and plot twist. She kept it moving and I was all in and ready to find out what would happen next.

Everything went downhill in the latter part of the book, the story just became ridiculous. Fisher might have got ahead of herself and caught up in the excitement of the story leading up to the end because it felt like a sugar rush. I had to stop a second and wonder what the heck was happening. There was so much packed into this part of the book that I didn’t bother figuring out if it all added up and if it was feasible.

In spite of the weak second half of the book, I’d still recommend it. If you are looking for an easy breezy read that isn’t a romance novel, this is a good pick. It’s entertaining and a mindless read that does not require much thought and concentration.

P.S It probably won’t happen to you since you are reading this but because each wife was referred to by the days of the week they had assigned, it took me some time before I realized her name was actually Thursday.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, thriller, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Push by Ashley Audrain

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“You used to care about me as a person—my happiness, the things that made me thrive. Now I was a service provider. You didn’t see me as a woman. I was just the mother of your child.”

Blythe is determined to be a better mother than her own mother was to her and her grandmother was to her mother. Her and her husband, Fox, have had a fairytale romance from college to real life, gotten married and are now ready to start their family. But when baby Violet comes Blythe is convinced that there is something wrong with her but only her can see it. She finds it very hard to bond with Violet and doesn’t think she is as sweet as everyone seems to think she is. Her husband thinks she’s imagining things and the unspoken thought in his head is that she doesn’t have a maternal instinct because of her situation with her mother. Is it all in Blythe’s head? Are the women in her family just not cut out for motherhood?

“Marriages can float apart. Sometimes we don’t notice how far we’ve gone until all of a sudden, the water meets the horizon and it feels like we’ll never make it back.”

This book is written in the first person narrative. This is Blythe’s version of the story. This story she’s telling us is tense and mysterious and had me at the edge of my seat. Is she a reliable narrative? Are we supposed to believe this insane story she’s telling us? Why is she the only person who feels this way? Even though we’re fully prepped for the tragedy that unfolds in the book, waiting for it felt like torture and when it finally happened my heart absolutely broke for this family. Blythe’s version of events sounds outrageous and insane and after awhile just like her audience, she too starts doubting her memories too.

“Before we were conceived, we existed in part as an egg in our mother’s ovary. All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. “

Even though this is a psychological thriller, at its core, this book is about motherhood and all the stress that comes with it but don’t go gifting this book to your friends who are mothers! It’s a raw look at how our society views mothers and how mothers come to see themselves. The way we view women’s bodies as vessels to bring forth life, the way women are rendered invisible still by this amazing and dangerous process and then the way we expect them to perform motherhood for us.

This book is also a multigenerational story. We read about Blythe’s mother, Cecilia and her grandmother, Etta. We read about the different women who have brought her to this point. At some point in the book, Blythe’s mother, Cecilia, tells her that the women in their family aren’t cut out for motherhood but Blythe is determined to forge her own path. This is a very complex portrait of a woman presented to us in her own words and we are asked over and over to judge her sanity. Is she just a product of her childhood, unable to bond with her child? Is she so deep in postpartum depression that she becomes an unreliable narrator in the relationship between her and her daughter? Or are we dismissing her as hysterical because she’s a woman and we don’t trust women in our society?

“we had both morphed into a version of ourselves that didn’t feel as good as had been advertised.”

This book is amazing because it doesn’t matter if you figure out which question is correct. It doesn’t matter if you can decide who to believe. Every possible path available to us is heartbreaking and devastating and the end will knock your wind out regardless. This book is so well written, the author writes with such a clarity that a lot of people will not expect from a thriller. Every character is well explored and never a caricature. Even though the entire book is in first person we see a full picture of everybody involved and somehow know exactly who they are. Audrain writes a riveting and tense drama that documents the terrors of a family disintegrating in the most horrific way possible and this story is going to stay with me for a very long time. There are so many trigger worthy issues in this book, so be warned! I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. Please read this one and talk to me about it! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Leggy

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Book Review: Monogamy by Sue Miller

Monogamy' by Sue Miller book review - The Washington Post

“Just, that we read fiction because it suggests that life has a shape, and we feel . . . consoled, I think he said, by that notion. Consoled to think that life isn’t just one damned thing after another. That it has sequence and consequence.” She smiled at Edith. “I think it was more or less the idea that fictional narrative made life seem to matter, that it pushed away the meaninglessness of death.”

A second marriage for both, Annie and Graham have been married for 30 years. Graham is an outgoing, charming big guy who owns a bookstore while Annie is the reserved one of the two and a photographer. They have a daughter, Sarah while Graham has a son, Lucas with his ex-wife, Frieda. Frieda and Graham are still on friendly terms and Annie, quite comfortable in her relationship with Graham, is also friends with Frieda.

When Graham dies suddenly, Annie’s world is rocked and she is plunged into deep grief. As she tries to adjust to her new life without Graham, she finds out that he had been unfaithful to her and she finds her grief journey derailed as she looks back on their years together and wonders how real it was.

This book was boring.

I am not opposed to character-driven books, which this book was, but this was just not compelling. I absolutely got the idea of what this book was meant to be. It was supposed to be a character’s introspective look into their life as they go through the journey of life’s complicated experiences – love, loss, friendships etc. Annie has a full life or so it seems but after Graham’s death, she questions if her life was full or if it was full because of Graham’s life. I think the life experiences and journey Annie went through were authentic and relatable.

“Love isn’t just what two people have together, it’s what two people make together, so of course, it’s never the same.”

Now the problem was the author tried to pack in ALL of the experiences in this story and it just ended up jumbled. Starting from the repressed memory that was awakened by Graham’s death, the complicated relationship with her daughter, wondering about her career and many more. Granted, she was going through inventory of her life, it was hard to keep track of what was Annie’s bone of contention of the day.

The book was mostly from Annie’s perspective but every now and then it would take a detour and be told from other people’s perspectives like Sarah, Lucas and Frieda. This would have been great if their sections were fully fleshed out but it was like we were told a bit and that was it. I wasn’t quite sure what the purpose of that was. And also, we don’t figure out the time period of the book until much later.

I gradually lost interest as the book went on. As mentioned earlier, I think it was all over the place and I didn’t know where to put my focus on. I will say that this actually worked in helping the reader understand how complicated Annie must have been feeling. You could feel the shift when Annie moved from sadness to anger. The last minute addition of a person from Annie’s past was the final thing that made me sure that I did not like this book.

As you have probably guessed, I don’t think I would recommend this book. I am surprised that I even finished this book because it very much felt like a boring conversation I could not get out of. If you do take the chance to read this book, you can’t say you haven’t been warned.

Taynement