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Fantasy, Fiction

Book Review: Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson

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Lillian and Madison are friends in an elite boarding school. Madison is from a rich family while Lillian is in through a financial assistance program. The unlikely pair are roommates and that’s how they become friends. They go through a scandal in which Lillian gets a raw deal and is expelled. The two don’t speak for a while but begin to exchange letters where they update each other on their lives.

Madison is now married to a wealthy man who is prominent in the political scene and Lillian is lost and still living with her not-so-great-at-parenting mom. One day she sends a letter to Lillian letting her know she needs her help. The help in question is for Lillian to move in with her family and take care of her 10 year old twin step kids. The catch is the twins burst into flames whenever they get agitated regardless of where they are. Never able to say no to Madison and with her life back home dreary, Lillian agrees to take care of the kids. The three quickly form a bond and Lillian begins to forge a new path for her life.

This might be the first book I read because of its cover. It just had this 70’s/80’s simplistic crayola look and the fire shooting out of pants made me chuckle. I didn’t expect to be as impressed as I was by the book. I liked this book because of its many layers. It wasn’t just about combustible children. In fact, as you get into the story, you realize at some point that Wilson has found a way for you to forget that bursting into flames is not exactly normal but in your brain it just becomes the norm as you focus on the other aspects of the book.

Madison and Lillian’s relationship was infuriating to me even though I think the explanation for it was a lazy story line. What I enjoyed most were the twins. Wilson makes them smart kids who are aware of how everyone sees them as a burden and balance their trauma (they experienced something major). You see them childlike and realistic at the same time and trusting no one but each other. I love how the characters were so fully fleshed out that you know Bessie is the captain of the twin ship and she was very protective of her brother, Roland.

I know I am partial to books that delve into human relations and the many curve balls we have to face but this was a well written book that I would recommend.

 

Taynement

Chick-Lit, Fiction, romance

Book Review : Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Evvie Drake Starts Over

“Your head is the house you live in, so you have to do the maintenance.”

Evvie married her high school sweetheart. Everyone considers them the perfect couple and her husband especially, to be the perfect husband. On the day Evvie makes a decision that would shatter that illusion, her husband dies in a car accident leaving her reeling from the events that follow. Her guilt for not feeling as much grief as expected and coming to terms with her marriage and the man she married.

Dean Tenney was living the dream – a star pitcher for the New York Yankees until one day he just couldn’t pitch anymore. He was pitching wild balls and not hitting any of his targets and was forced to retire from a game he loved before he was ready. Dean heads to Maine, searching for answers and trying to understand his life after being forced to retire so young. He rents a room from Evvie and they become friends.

This is a charming book. There is no other word for it. It’s also a very adult novel. This is definitely  a romance novel but with fully developed characters who talk like adults. I enjoyed the different relationships in this book and the exploration of all the nuances. I really enjoyed watching Evvie and Dean fall in love. You watch them become friends, and then other things get slowly added to the equation. They both struggle to understand each other’s issues. Dean tries to understand Evvie’s actual marriage struggles that she hadn’t shared with anybody else – not her dad, not her best friend, Andy- and Evvie in turn tries to understand his pitching woes.

No matter how predictable this book is, Holmes still does a great job of walking us to the destination. This is a well written book. The character development was stellar. The characters have their flaws and Holmes does not lean on stereotypes to bring her story to life. I enjoyed these characters and found their back stories compelling and fascinating. I can’t imagine waking up and not being able to do the very thing you’ve loved and done for the longest. This book deals with a lot of serious issues but it also has a lot of humor and hope for the future.

Evvie Drake Starts Over definitely dragged in the middle. It was not a fast paced book all the way through, but I understood the reason for the slow build in the middle as our characters got to know each other. Also, the whole angle of trying to “fix” each other made me cringe a little bit because it just seemed a tad bit intrusive and codependent.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy.

 

Fiction

Book Review: Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

⚡P.D.F⚡ Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

It’s 2015, Alix Chamberlain has just moved to Philadelphia, with her husband and two kids, from New York. She is a well known personality with a social media following who rarely has to pay for anything. She is a wealthy white woman who is used to getting what she wants, when she wants. Emira is a 25 year old black girl who is Alix’s babysitter for her oldest child, Briar. Emira loves Briar to death and is good at her job. She lives a normal young person’s life and parties with her friends on the weekends but as she watches her friends become adults and being responsible, she realizes she cannot be a babysitter forever and has to figure out her life in general. She can barely afford rent and she is about to lose her health insurance via her parents and needs a job with health benefits.

One night as Emira is out partying with her friend, Alix calls Emira in a panic to watch her oldest, 2 year old Briar. Emira is all dressed up with her friend, Zara and they go to a nearby grocery store where a security guard accuses her of kidnapping Briar (of course after a white woman expresses concern). Everything escalates as a bystander films the whole thing. Emira calls Alix’s husband, the confusion is cleared and Emira wants to pretend that the incident never happens and never brings it up again.

Alix on the other hand is racked with [white woman] guilt and suddenly takes an unusual interest in Emira. She decides to get to know her better and does everything she can to impose herself in Emira’s life.

I really, really enjoyed this book. Beyond the summary above, a whole lot more incidents occur that involve the past and the present merging and affecting both women’s lives. This book really was a social commentary on race and class privilege but it was not written with a heavy hand. In fact, it might be missed if the story lines presented on the surface are the only focus. That’s how well written it was.

I liked how friendship among women was depicted in the book. Alix is an unlikable character but her friendship circle, although misguided, was still fun to read about. Same went for Emira’s circle, always there for them when they needed. It’s always nice to see strong, supportive female circles. I used to live in the Philadelphia area and it was fun recognizing some of the locations mentioned. I also really liked that the ending was not an expected or cliche ending.

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads (which is a feat for me). Considering this is a debut novel, I expect for the author to only get better from here. As expected, Hollywood already has its hands on this book as Lena Waithe has optioned the rights to it. Looking forward to her future works.

Taynement

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately: 4 Quick Fire Reviews

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Here are four books that I’ve read lately that you might enjoy!

  1. Pumpkin Heads by Rainbow Rowell:
    Pumpkin Heads

Deja and Josiah have worked at the Pumpkin Patch all through high school every Halloween but tonight is their last night because they’re finally high school seniors and are leaving for college the next year. Deja decides that their last night will go out with a bang and shenanigans commence!

Every year when Goodreads does their annual “best of” lists of all the different genres, I go through the nominees of genres I didn’t get to check out during that year and pick something that stands out to me. I didn’t read any graphic novels last year so I decided to pick this one out, since it had high ratings and I had read the author before. I read this in maybe 30 minutes, it’s quick but I didn’t enjoy it. Maybe it’s just for middle grade but one of the best books I read last year was middle grade (The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley) and I loved it. I think a good book is a good book regardless of grade level. Anyway, gave this one 2 stars.

2. Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God By Sarah Bessey:

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“I find God most in that wild tang, in the sparse and open space, in the unresolved colors, even in the doubt and the uncelebrated places of our lives often neglected by theologians and philosophers. Perhaps that’s why I keep wrestling with this story of God, with the unresolved Jesus, with the wind and fire and water of the Spirit; there’s an edge to the story, more than we acknowledge at times.”

Bessey was raised in the prosperity gospel movement. She grew up believing that if we just obeyed God and were true Christians then we’d get untold prosperity and blessings and her life seemed to prove that. Bessey was a popular author, sought after speaker, married to the man of her dreams with four kids. Everything in her life seemed to shout out the goodness of the Lord then she got into a car crash on the highway that wasn’t her fault and her faith came crashing down.

Bessey tells a poignant story of her road to recovery, finding out her body was never going to be the same again, meeting the Pope in Rome, criticisms of the Catholic Church, and encountering the Lord in the last place she expected. In a world of strong faiths and never wavering, it feels refreshing to see one of the Christian faith’s leading authors be so vulnerable and honest about her doubts. I really recommend this one for people like me who aren’t sure anymore, for people who have always been sure and everyone in between. Really enjoying reading this one. Gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

3. Renegades by Marissa Meyer:

Renegades (Renegades, #1)

“One cannot be brave who has no fear.”

This is the first book in the Renegade series. The Renegades are a syndicate of people with extraordinary powers who came into power at a time when humans needed them the most. They are revered by everyone except the villains they overthrew. Nova grew up with the villains, her allegiance is to them, so when she infiltrates the renegades in order to learn their secrets, she ends up with more than she bargained for. This is a YA fantasy novel.

I quite enjoyed this one even though it got annoying at some point. It’s so ridiculous that Nova believes the things she does even when the truth is staring her in the face. I also really liked the complexity Meyer gave the characters in this book, it was never heroes are all good and villains are all bad. I gave this one 3 stars. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series especially now that I know all three books are finally out!

4. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris:

Holidays on Ice

“All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are unique, but I’m afraid that when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints.”

I’ve finally listened to every single thing Sedaris has ever written. I have only read one of Sedaris’ book physically and that was “Me Talk Pretty One Day” and I even later listened to that one on audio. I think Sedaris is supposed to be listened to, not read. He reads all of his own books and is a very good narrator. I don’t actually find him particularly funny but his books are mostly light and even the difficult topics he tackles still have a light angle. Since it was the holidays and this was the last book of his I hadn’t read, I decided to tackle it. This is his holiday Christmas collection and I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads. My favorite was The Diary of a Macy’s Elf. It definitely isn’t my favorite Sedaris.

 

I hope you enjoyed these quick fire reviews. Let me know if you’ve read or intend to read any of these books in the comments. Have a great reading week everyone!

 

Leggy

 

Memoirs

Book Review: Notes From A Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi

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I first knew about Onwuachi when he was a contestant on Top Chef. I was excited to see a Nigerian name on such a global scale, even though I was confused that his first name was not. Even though I was rooting for him, I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t seem to embrace his Nigerian side fully and even the judges told him he needed to find a point of view. I say this to say, my knowledge of him via the show made me form a not so keen  opinion of him especially now that he is the executive chef of the widely popular Kith/Kin which fully embraces Nigerian cuisine with a flair.

Onwuachi tells us about his life growing up in the Bronx to a Nigerian father and Louisiana mom. The marriage was not a good one and his parents split. Onwuachi suffered physical abuse from his dad (who overall just sounded like a horrible man). His love of cooking stemmed from his mother who was a caterer. He never told his mom about how his dad beat him up and instead acted out which led to his mom sending him to Nigeria to be with his grandfather. This was a short section but had a major impact on him. He connected with his grandfather who told him stories of his ancestors and he learned about Nigerian dishes.

By the time he made it back to America, he had forgotten all the lessons he had learned and started rolling with the wrong crowd. Onwuachi tells us how he got involved with gangs and dealing drugs. He didn’t last long in college and feeling lost on his mother’s couch he got a cooking job on a boat which started his rise in a career as a chef.

So I will admit, I pegged Onwuachi wrong. So wrong. I had a better understanding of why he was the way he was on Top Chef. While addressing the racism he has encountered in his career he mentions how a producer told him that America was not ready for a black chef who did fine dining.

I always say the best ingredient for a memoir is being open. I originally wanted to say that Onwuachi was open because he was about his life although he mentioned nothing about his personal life until the end when there was a random mention of a fiancee. He had no qualms mentioning names including a racist chef in a Michelin star restaurant. He was very detailed about the rise and fall of his restaurant Shaw Bijou within months. I feel like I got a good sense of who he was and who he is. I thoroughly enjoyed the flow and how it was written.

I was disappointed that the book didn’t extend to how Kith & Kin was borne. Another thing that irked me was that every chapter included a recipe and during the Nigeria section he kept calling Egusi soup, Egusi stew and I cringed every time I heard it.

Overall, I really liked this one. Onwuachi’s unwavering belief in himself was palpable and motivational. He is not humble about it and is very confident in his abilities and what he can do, which is a much needed quality for a black man in America, regardless of your field. It was a quick read that you would easily find yourself immersed in.

Taynement

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Our 2020 Reading Goals + Giveaway Winner!

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Leggy:

Happy New Year, everybody! Hope the holidays treated you well and you got to spend time with people you love and who love you back! Last year was such a busy work year for me that I barely completed my Goodreads reading challenge. I set my goal for 70 books and read exactly 70 books. One of reasons I continue to set number of books goals is that it pushes me to turn to reading when life gets busy instead of just turning to my TV screen . This year my Goodreads challenge will still be set at 70 books as it has been for the past 3 years because it is a number I feel comfortable with but as usual, I’ll try to always do better. We’ll see!

I had two big reading goals last year, both of which I failed miserably at.

1. I was supposed to read more self help books and actually try to apply them – didn’t read more self help, therefore failed woefully at applying any new principles.

2. I was supposed to finish Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I picked up this book from the bookstore, read 100 pages, raved about it on twitter, stopped reading it for a bit and then never came back to it.

This year, I’m going to finish Anna Karenina and that’s the only reading goal I’m setting this year!

Taynement:

Taynement did not have a good reading year in 2019. You are probably tired of hearing this. I take responsibility into why this is the case and maybe because just like Leggy, I failed miserably in my goals. I know there are people who look down on people having goals, much less reading goals but it helps me focus and like Leggy said helps me do better with my reading life. I tend to read books I otherwise might not have.

Last year, I had a goal of 35 books and actually thought I didn’t meet it as I did not count books I started and did not finish due to being uninterested (a good habit I picked up last year). I ended up with 37. I read quite a number of memoirs (a fact I found interesting, I definitely didn’t set out to do that) and I answered my question from last year’s goal wondering how audio books would fare. I definitely read more audio books. I think life got too hectic for me to sit and get into an actual book. Following a goal of reading 3 books by the same author let me know that I am not a Curtis Sittenfeld fan. I did try to read a classic and started Little Women but never got to finish. Yay for trying?

Well this year, I reduced my goal to 30 because the year is already looking like it will be something. I honestly don’t know if I have any different goals. I want to diversify my genres. I am always envious of how vast Leggy’s tastes span. When I deviated from my old faithful, fiction and read Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers, I really liked that so I should put it out here that this is the year I make it a goal to finally read Red Rising, the fantasy book that Leggy has been trying to make me read. I should probably start reading synopsis and this will inform better choices in my reading. I intend to read books that I have seen on 2019 Best Of lists repeatedly and see which I agree with.

Wish me luck!

AND NOW WHAT YOU ARE HERE FOR!

THE WINNER OF THE GIVEAWAY IS…

 

 

 

 

 

CURIOUSSHE!

Congratulations!!! Send us a DM on our twitter page and we will follow up with you on next steps on receiving a book of your choice.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!

LEGGY & TAYNEMENT

 

 

 

 

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Our Best and Worst Books of 2019 + Holiday Giveaway!

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It is kind of crazy that we have somehow reached the end of the year again. With it comes our annual mention of the best and worst books we read this year (You can see last year’s here). In addition, and in lieu of the holiday spirit, we will also be doing a giveaway as a thank you to all our readers for supporting us this year. Rules of the giveaway will be at the end of our best/worst list. Be sure to read and enter and good luck!!!

Taynement’s Best:

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I struggled this year, reading wise. I didn’t read a lot of books that really tickled my fancy and I hope I have better luck next year. The best book I read this year was Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” but it was a back list I read later, so I didn’t think it qualified so then, my favorite book this year was Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. You can find my thoughts on it here. It is also being adapted to a tv series with Riley Keough as lead.

Other favorites:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (Review here)
  • Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (Review here)
  • Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi
  • The Farm by Joanne Ramos (Review here)

 

Leggy’s Best:

A Woman Is No Man

The best book I read this year, hands down – A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum and you can read my full thoughts on it here. The day I read this book, I told Tayne that it would be my best book of the year and here we are at the end of the year and nothing has knocked it off.

Other favorites:

  • The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winters (This was my favorite fantasy read of the year. Full review here)
  • The Flatshare by Betty O’Leary (Favorite romance of the year, full review here)
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Full review here)

 

 

Taynement’s worst:

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Absolutely terrible book. Terrible writing. Terrible retelling. This book propelled me to be serious about dropping a book if it is not doing it for me. You can find my review on it here.

Leggy’s Worst:

Waiting for Tom Hanks (Waiting for Tom Hanks, #1)

Hands down, the worst book I read this year was Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey. I’ve never met a more annoying and delusional heroine in my entire life and I’ve read some pretty out there romance. You can read my full review here. I also gave this book one star on good reads.

GIVEAWAY

Okay so the rules are simple – Leave a comment listing your favorite and worst book of the year and interact with us on twitter (@2nightstands) or instagram (nightstands2). Whether it’s a like, retweet, comment, repost – your choice. We will announce the winner when we return next year and the winner gets to have the book of their choice purchased for them. Easy peasy!

Happy Holidays!!!

Taynement & Leggy