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Fiction

Book Review: Ask Again Yes by Mary Beth Keane

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“The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids do. That’s the truth.”

The book begins with two young Irish cops who are partners, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, talking about their future and suddenly we are fast forwarding a few years and Brian moves next door to Francis with his new wife, Anne. Francis lives there with his wife, Lena and they already have their first child.

We fast forward again, Lena has two more kids and Anne has a son. The two never hit it off but Lena’s last born, Kate and Anne’s son, Peter become best friends. Kate is an escape for Peter, whose home life is not the best given his mom’s instability and his dad looking the other way and not doing anything about it.

Now teenagers, Peter and Kate sneak out one night and pledge undying love to each other and share their first kiss. Something major also happens that night that changes the trajectory of all their lives because, it unfortunately is also the last time Peter and Kate see each other for a long time and sets the stage for occurrences in the next decades in the lives of these two families.

FOMO led me to this book. It was everywhere on our feeds and in the book community and even though I didn’t know what it was about, I promptly got on the list for it at my library. I am glad I did because I quite enjoyed it. I’d classify it as a slow build that never really becomes a full fire but was still rich.

“There was no real way for a person to try something out, see if he liked it…because you try it and try it and try it a little longer and next thing it’s who you are.” 

What I liked about the book was how human it was. It showed how generational patterns are hard to break. You see something you didn’t like growing up or you swore you would never do from your parents and somehow you end up there in the same place. And just how flawed we are as human beings. Keane was skilled enough to make some of her characters empathetic even through their ugliest moments. I liked how no character was left to be a saint and when you least expected it, their flaw would pop up and we would be immersed in a journey of the characters trying to work through it.

“They’d both learned that a memory is a fact that has been dyed and trimmed and rinsed so many times that it comes out looking almost unrecognizable to anyone else who was in that room or anyone who was standing on the grass beneath that telephone pole.”

It’s no spoiler to tell you that Kate and Peter reconnect and get married and their marriage and how everyone else reacts to it is an integral part of the story because it begs the question of how were they able to move past that fateful night? The book reminds you of how we get to see our parents as actual human beings as we get older and get a better understanding that they were trying to do the best they could. Except that some of these characters could have done better.

“She’d learned that the beginning of one’s life mattered the most, that life was top-heavy that way.” 

Ultimately for each of these characters, Keane reminds us that no matter how old they got, their childhood eventually played a huge part of who they became as adults. Peter by all accounts was a good man but his demons eventually came to light and was stronger than his will to be a good human being.

When Francis and Brian become neighbors, I wish Keane had taken the time to let us know why the two weren’t close anymore. They didn’t even seem like they liked each other, so why did he move by him at Francis suggestion? I thought that was a bit weird. I wish Lena was dealt a better hand in life but again…life. Like I mentioned earlier, I liked this book. It’s not a feel good, happy book but it’s also not depressing. It’s more of an introspective one that reminds you that life can be complex but sometimes, there are rays of hope that usually comes with a lot of work.

Taynement

Fiction

Book Review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

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“I always hated hearing old people yammering on like this when I was young. And I do want to assure you: I’m aware that many things were not better in the 1940s. Underarm deodorants and air-conditioning were woefully inadequate, for instance, so everybody stank like crazy, especially in the summer, and also we had Hitler.” 

It’s 1940 and Gilbert’s narrator, Vivian, has just been kicked out of Vassar College for a terrible freshman performance (she was ranked 361 out of 362, just ahead of the girl who contracted polio). Not knowing what to do with her, Vivian’s parents send her off to New York to live with her Aunty Peg who owns a crumbling theater, off-off-off Broadway, called the Lily Theater. Vivian has no interest in acting or writing but is quite talented with a sewing machine, so Peg makes her the theater’s costume designer and what was intended to be just one regular summer in her life becomes the defining summer that drives the rest of her life. Now at 95, our narrator is looking back on her life and mapping out the effect of that time in New York on the rest of her life.

“I was long and tall, that’s all there was to it. And if it sounds like I’m about to tell you the story of an ugly duckling who goes to the city and finds out that she’s pretty, after all-don’t worry, that is not that story. I was always pretty, Angela. What’s more, I always knew it.”

Gilbert said – “My goal was to write a book that would go down like a champagne cocktail- light and bright, crisp and fun.” and she definitely achieved that. This book is light even though it’s set in the 40’s with the war looming, during the war and after the war. It is fun and easy to read. This book started very well, I loved the main character, her voice was strong and funny. Everybody in this book had so much life and energy, it was a parade of very interesting people in the theater world all with a hint of glamour. The amount of detail Gilbert put in her descriptions were very impressive. The way she described the dresses, the society, the theaters, the effects of war on people, made everything so tangible and easy to imagine. This book had these burst of humor that really shined and Vivian’s retelling of how she lost her virginity was absolutely hilarious.

“The world ain’t straight. You grow up thinking things are a certain way. You think there are rules. You think there’s a way that things have to be. You try to live straight. But the world doesn’t care about your rules, or what you believe. The world ain’t straight, Vivian. Never will be. Our rules, they don’t mean a thing. The world just happens to you sometimes, is what I think. And people just gotta keep moving through it, best they can.”

Ultimately, this book was way too long. This book is almost 500 pages but should have been edited down to 300 pages. This book is essentially a letter Vivian writes to her friend’s daughter describing how they met and their effects on each other’s lives but honestly, that entire part could have been cut out. I didn’t think this line of the story moved the story forward in anyway. I was bored and kept wondering what this had to do with anything. This book shines when it is all about Vivian, when we are hearing about her promiscuity, the war, the professional scandal that sends her out of New York for the first time, and an inner look into the workings of the theater world in 1940 New York. I don’t think light books that go down like champagne should be almost 500 pages long.

“The secret to falling in love so fast, of course, is not to know the person at all. You just need to identify one exciting feature about them, and then you hurl your heart at that one feature, with full force, trusting that this will be enough of a foundation for lasting devotion.”

Even though I thought this book was longer than it should have been, I quite enjoyed it and definitely recommend it. It’s essentially a beach read and perfect for summer. I gave this 3 stars on my Goodreads.  Have you read this book? Are you going to? Let me know in the comments!

P. S – If you enjoy this book, you should check out Amor Towles’ “Rules of Civility”.

 

Leggy

 

Fiction

Book Review – Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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I’d seen this book EVERYWHERE on our instagram feed (follow us!: @nightstands2) and my strong FOMO made me tell myself that I have to read this book. I have had Forever Interrupted in my TBR list forever and just haven’t read it because at the time I got it, a friend told me I might not be emotionally ready for it, so I kept putting it off. I had read Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo some time ago and enjoyed that. I had seen in the comments that it was best to do this as an audiobook, so I put this on hold at my library and jumped on it when it came through.

Daisy is an up and coming artist who is a free spirit and doing what people did in those days – drugs, sex & rock n roll. The Six is a band trying to make it big and led by Billy Dunne, a rocker who gives in to the whims of fame and becomes an addict and isn’t always faithful to his loyal girlfriend, later wife, Camila who finds out she is pregnant with their first child the day before The Six leaves for their first tour.

The story of Daisy & The Six begins when Daisy joins the band and is in close paths as writer and lead singer with Billy Dunne. The band becomes one of the biggest bands in the 70’s up until their split and the book is about all the ups, downs and turmoils behind the scenes.

Guys, after reading this I think Taylor Jenkins Reid shot up as one of my favorite authors. The structure of this book was amazing and really impressive story telling by Reid. The book is told in documentary style a la Behind The Music, so it is told from the various character’s point of view (another reason why the audio is better). By the time you get sucked into the story, it’ll be so hard to not believe that this is NOT an autobiography and it is NOT about a real band.

Reid makes the characters sound so real and details their struggles with love, addiction, egos, turmoil etc so well which is probably why they sound so real. Based on the two books I have read of her, I have noticed that she knows how to write flawed human beings so well. It’s crazy how she can make a character who is doing shitty things still be charming and you still are on their side. That’s a skill, I tell ya.

As if the book wasn’t real enough Reid also wrote original music (which can be heard in the audio book), talk about commitment. I love the way the female characters were written. They were all strong women who weren’t taking shit from men and stood in their own truths and convictions and also were there for each other. I especially liked Karen and Camila’s friendship.

I can see how people could find the format annoying but it worked for me. It especially worked because it has been optioned as a TV show and I can literally see it playing out in my eyes in it’s transcript style. I promise I am not trying to sell the audio book but one last fun thing about it was the celeb voices such as Judy Greer, Benjamin Bratt and Jennifer Beals as Daisy.

If you couldn’t tell already, I liked this one and I recommend it (in audio of course)

🙂

Taynement

Fiction, romance

Book Review: Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

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

 

“My Tom Hanks is out there, and I’m not going to settle until I find him.”

Annie is 27 years old, single and obsessed with romantic comedies. All her expectations for what a healthy relationship entails are from these movies. She can quote them, she watches them incessantly and she’s determined to meet the movie perfect man. And what better way to look for her real life Tom Hanks, than to work on a movie that your uncle pulls strings for you to be the director’s new assistant. And on her first day at set, she meets Drew, the star of this rom-com that is being filmed.

Honestly, I didn’t want to review this book because I don’t think I can be diplomatic about how I really felt about it. I thought this was going to be a fun read but the heroine was absolutely horrible. I could not stand her. I thought it was going to be a cute story about a girl working on a movie set and falling in love with the star of the movie. The premise had everything I love in a romantic comedy – rich heroes, rich heroes, rich heroes. But it was absolutely disappointing and just plain not good. The main character, Annie, is absolutely insufferable, childish and a little delusional.

Let’s talk about Annie, shall we? Being in Anne’s mind was a terrible experience. She was the absolute worst. It’s one thing to want a romantic comedy kind of love, who doesn’t? But Annie wanted a man who owns a houseboat because Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle had a boathouse. Annie dated a minor character in the book because he had a son and Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle had a son. That’s how absolutely crazy our main female character is. She was crazy judgmental, she judged the main male character based on gossip site articles, even though everyone knows those are hardly true. She never dated but believed that the love of her life would just fall into her lap!

The couple had absolutely no chemistry. Honestly, I should have DNFed this book. I do not know why I continued. There was no redeeming quality that I can tell you about. The only good thing I liked about this book is that it made me re-watch “You’ve Got Mail” and it’s still so good. You know what you should do instead of reading this book? Watch “You’ve Got Mail” again. I do not recommend this book and it’s currently on the top of my list of the worst books I’ve read this year. I gave this one star on my Goodreads.

 

Leggy.

Fiction

Upcoming Book To T.V Screen Titles

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There is nothing Hollywood loves more than adapting a book (or a podcast). We have written about this in the past before . All the books mentioned in that post have been turned to screen except “Hello Sunshine”. There is enough material to go around as we have a couple of books coming up on TV.

Here are some books being adapted to TV:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: The book about a mother and daughter who come to town and shake things up was a favorite of mine and I enjoyed reading it. It was a book that made you think and really leave you wondering what the right thing is/was? It is going to be a TV series on Hulu starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. I will be watching. You can see our review of it here.

Normal People by Sally Rooney:  Based in Ireland, the book tells the story of the sweet but complicated relationship between Connell and Marianne beginning from their high school days all the way to college and beyond. Hulu has ordered this straight to series and it’ll be 12 half hour episodes. Our review of the book can be found here.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makai: A recent one I loved that talked about the AIDS crisis, the people that lived through it and living with the ghosts of the people who they lost. The book was optioned by Amy Poehler’s production company and has not been bought yet but this should be a somber but good watch. This is what we thought about the book.

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K Lee: Following 3 women who live as expats in Hong Kong, this book is set to be an Amazon series starring Nicole Kidman. We are yet to review it here on the blog but can Nicole Kidman do any wrong?

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: The book reads like a VH1 Behind the Music episode or a documentary. It’s even more intriguing as an audio book. I have enjoyed past works by Taylor Jenkins Reid (The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, anyone?) She is an interesting writer. This book is being turned to an Amazon TV series produced by Reese Witherspoon.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: I have not had the pleasure of reading this book but I have heard good things about the book that tells the story of  a young slave girl named Cora and her daring escape from a cotton plantation in Georgia through an underground railroad. Barry Jenkins of Moonlight fame will be directing all 11 episodes on…you guessed it?…Amazon. A cast has already been put together and it includes Joel Edgerton and Thuso Mbedu.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: The multi generational story that also gives part history lesson on Koreans who lived in Japan after the war was inevitably going to be made into a TV show. This time, Apple TV is who takes the reigns on this. I liked this one and you can see what I thought about it here.

Any books on the list pique your interest in reading?…or watching?

Taynement

Uncategorized

Book Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

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“How did you change your life when you were trapped like this? Her history didn’t define her. Her origins didn’t define her. At least, they shouldn’t. She could be more, if she had a chance.” 

This was my Book of the Month pick for May and I just hadn’t picked it up. But after a series of duds and needing something light filled with joy and love, I decided to pick this up. We have a review of the first book in this series – The Kiss Quotient– on the blog but I never read it. Taynement liked it and after I was assured I didn’t need to read the first book to get into the second one, I dove in.

Khai Diep is on the spectrum – he has to be touched a certain way, he doesn’t understand emotions and he is still struggling with the death of his best friend, Andy. When he avoids relationships with people besides his family, his mother takes matters into her hands and returns to Vietnam to find him a bride. When the opportunity arises for Esme Tran to go to America to meet a potential rich husband, it’s an opportunity she can’t turn down because this might be the break her family especially her little girl needs. She’s determined to seduce Khai and get him to marry her before the end of the summer so she can secure the green card she needs to stay in the country.

I picked up this book for the light and joy and even though it had all those things, it also had a whole lot of depth. It was amazing to see Esme trying to figure out the immigration system and a way to stay in America if her seduction doesn’t work. I think the author shined a light on America’s immigration system and the very few options people actually have, to migrate legally. I like that the author doesn’t lump every autistic character into one group and act like they all have the same experiences and all interact with the world in the same way. I also enjoyed all the background characters especially Khai’s brother, Quan, who I really hope gets the next book.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads because it delivered exactly what I ordered and got me out of my reading rut. If you decide to pick up this one don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end, it was fantastic and made me love the book more. The author’s mother was also an immigrant from Vietnam who came to America and married the author’s autistic father. She considers this story her mother’s story. Have you read this one? What did you think?

 

Leggy

 

 

Uncategorized

Book Review: Well Read Black Girls by Glory Edim

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“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” ~James Baldwin

Curated by the founder of the book club -Well Read Black Girls , this eponymous title is a collection of essays by black female writers who speak about their love of reading and discovering books with characters that look like them and they could identify with. I am not sure how I came across the title but I immediately went to my library to check it out. Some of the recognizable contributors involved in this are Jesmyn Ward, Tayari Jones, Gabourey Sidibe.

I quite enjoyed this book because of the passion for literature displayed by each contributor. While reading the stories, I felt like I was sitting in a room and they were speaking directly to me on how they embarked on their literary journey. I guess the word I am looking for is, personal. Every story felt personal and authentic.

It’s very easy to forget that not every black person had the privilege we have now of seeing black authors around. I can’t imagine what it was like back then when black people were recognized even less than we are now and picking up books that almost always exclude people who look like you. The stories of the first time these contributors encountered a character they could relate to made me happy and sad at the same time.

While there was the common thread of not finding characters that seem like them, I liked that every story was not the same, emphasizing the fact that there is not one way to be black. A story like Gabourey Sidibe’s who speaks about not being wanted by her parents seems like it doesn’t fit but somehow reading/books were tied to it and again this was what made the book personal. Some were looking for black characters but some still found the magic of reading even if the characters weren’t black. I loved the deference, respect and homage given to the black writers that came before them.

In reading the acknowledgements, I found out the curator was Nigerian, well her parents are,  and I think my first thought was a little disappointment in not having a story about immigrants, tradition and culture that are such a foothold with Nigerians. There is one story about being in the diaspora, in the terms of being American and not fully connected to her parents home country of Eritrea but I think it would have been good to have a story of someone not born and raised in America and capturing the magic of reading being black in a foreign country.

One last thing that I really liked is how after each chapter, there is a list of book recommendations called “Well-Read Black Girl Recommends”. It’s by genre and all are written by black women writers (The end of the book has all the books mentioned in one huge list. The genres mentioned are:

  • Classic Novels
  • Books on Black Feminism
  • Books about Black Girlhood and Friendship
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Books
  • Plays
  • Poetry

I recommend this book. It’s a quick read and it helps remind us to never forget history and the people who helped us progress in life.

Taynement