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Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape

“But it’s what we do, what we’ve done for years now. We drag our past behind us like a weight, still shackled, but far enough back that we never have to see, never have to openly acknowledge who we once were.”

Elle is a 50 year old woman who is married to her husband, Peter. We are introduced to them at The Paper Palace, the nickname of their family summer home in Cape Cod. Elle has come here every summer since childhood but this year, it’s different. Elle has just had sex with her childhood best friend, Jonas who is also married.

The book is basically a walk through of Elle’s thought process as she decides whether to leave Peter for Jonas or to stay with Peter and the life they have built. That thought process includes going back to the past and remembering all of the events that led her to this point.

“Ever since I was old enough to question my own instincts, my mother has given me the same piece of advice: “Flip a coin, Eleanor. If the answer you get disappoints you, do the opposite.” We already know the right answer, even when we don’t—or we think we don’t. But what if it’s a trick coin? What if both sides are the same? If both are right, then both are wrong.”

I don’t remember how I came across this book but I remember the sentiment was people being disturbed. Still on a quest to read a book that moves me, I jumped on this and for a debut effort, it was pretty good. The format of the book has Elle as the only narrator and is told in two alternating story lines. The first in present day and the other, from childhood to the present touching on the major events that shaped her but don’t worry, it doesn’t get confusing and in fact the progression was done so well that it made you look forward to each upcoming time period.

“I wonder if he would love me if he could see inside my head-the pettiness, the dirty linen of my thoughts, the terrible things I have done.”

There is a pretty significant event that happens in the book that of course, I can’t give away but I assume it would be a talking point for many as a moral question. Was it deserved? or was it outright wrong?. Heller did a good job of developing the characters so well that you got a full sense of who they were and it was up to you as a reader, whether you liked them or not. I will say that I considered Elle’s mom a terrible mother and I wonder if I am in the majority or minority with that.

“…now there is no turning back. No more regrets for what I haven’t done. Now only regrets for what I have done. I love him, I hate myself; I love myself, I hate him. This is the end of a long story.”

I will say that, I did not like the ending. In all art forms, I don’t like ambiguous endings. Don’t make me fill in the blanks, tell me what to think! Overall, it is a dark book and if you are someone who absorbs the energy of books you might want to think hard before getting into it. I think the book went a tad longer than it should have but it was written very well and showed how life can be messy and complicated with many grey areas. I enjoyed it.

Taynement

african author, african stories, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: Wahala by Nikki May

Leggy: The cover of this book is so pretty and eye catching. Do you remember why we decided to read it?

Taynement: I decided to read it because a friend of mine – who is white, mentioned it as a book she wanted to read by a Nigerian author.

Leggy: I think you told me about it and I looked it up. I wasn’t that eager to read it but the title was very Nigerian so I put it on my list. The first time I picked up this book, I read about 4% on my kindle and dropped it because I realised the protagonists were biracial Nigerians.

Taynement: Lol. What do you have against biracial Nigerians?

Leggy: Lmaooo. Nothing oh, but they made a comment about how they were called “mongrels” in Nigeria and I rolled my eyes so hard it almost stayed that way. Talk about revisionist history. Nigeria is a hugely colorist country, so hearing a biracial say that, did not ring true to me at all. Biracials are like gods in that country.

Taynement: Fair enough.

Leggy: But then it checked out to you and you convinced me to finish it. So I picked it up again and read the remaining 96% in one sitting. I think it was quite entertaining.

Taynement: Overall, I think it had a good story. I feel like I know the exact point in the book when you read it in one sitting because I got that feeling too. It got to a point where you knew shit was about to go down with the villain and I just wanted to find out how it unraveled.

Leggy: Yup, it’s hard to put down after a certain point even though the story is entirely predictable. I still was eager to read what I already knew would happen.

Taynement: That being said, this book has so many problematic points!

Leggy: Oh My God! So many! Every good man in this book is white. The Caucasians could do no wrong! They were perfect husbands, perfect fathers, perfect in laws. It was so glaring.

Taynement: OMG! There was a disdain for Africans. At some point, if you remember, I asked you if the writer was biracial. I didn’t want to pass judgement without knowing because as much as they are characters, I think the writer’s voice definitely shone through.

Leggy: Also, Ronke who they considered, the fat one was the only one who dated a Nigerian. At some point, one of the characters blatantly told her to go get herself a white man so that she’d stop dealing with all the crap she was dealing with.

Taynement: And the only Nigerian man in the book was unreliable. I was so uncomfortable with the heavy focus on Ronke’s weight. I completely understand it’s the Nigerian way to be weight obsessed but the way it was written was side eye worthy.

Leggy: Especially since the weight literally didn’t move the plot forward. It added nothing to the book, said nothing about our character. They kept mentioning it even though it added nothing to the character’s actions?

Taynement: At some point someone said to Sofia, the little girl, – “OmG, you pretty little thing, so skinny” – and she’s 5?! All the comparison they made to Isobel’s body like she was prettier because she’s skinny?

Leggy: One thing I’d give the author is – her dialogue is exactly how I expect these characters to sound in real life. There was nothing they said that shocked me as a Nigerian.

Taynement: Except one! Boo who apparently has been hanging with them but doesn’t know what basic Nigerian slang means like asoebi? That was ridiculous. She went as far as saying – now you’re making words up. You guys go to Buka all the time?

Leggy: Boo was my least favorite character and that’s saying a lot when Isobel, the villain, is right there. She was so irritating to listen to. Also, Kayode wasn’t as bad as they painted him and didn’t deserve what happened to him at the end. The author couldn’t even let Ronke have a happy ending and then she ended up with another Nigerian guy with two kids?! Why does the author hate her so much?

Taynement: You know, my biggest problem with this book was everyone was unlikable. Boo was annoying with her dissatisfaction, Simi was elitist, Ronke was a pushover. It was interesting how they turned on each other so quick. Do you think that was realistic or was their friendship just not as strong as indicated?

Leggy: I thought if y’all are such good friends, why would you let a stranger come in and destabilize y’all? They didn’t even bother talking to each other to confirm, they just assumed a whole lot.

But I actually thought it was realistic especially that text Isobel sent to Boo’s husband. She sent it from Ronke’s phone and Boo saw it with her own eyes. It made sense to me that she would believe. I do think there were already cracks in their relationship which made it easier to penetrate.

Taynement: You know it took me till much later in the book to realise that Boo’s husband, Martin, was white.

Leggy: Of course he was white, he was a good man and Nikki May was never going to let him be Nigerian!

Taynement: When Boo got the afro weave, despite having “good hair” and someone in the book said to her – “you look like a black woman” and for the first time in her life she felt black. That knocked my socks off because this meant they didn’t see themselves as black. If the author talked about them never fitting in, okay but they spent all this time talking about Nigerian food and hung out around as a group. Simi grew up in Nigeria, it was such a disconnect to me.

Leggy: I was surprised they ate so much Nigerian food, it didn’t ring true for who they actually were. They even went out of their way to go to the restaurants and introduce their husbands and daughter to the culture but then there was such a disconnect from what they actually identify as.

Taynement: “Why would any sane English woman go for an African bloke?”

Leggy: lmaoooo. I enjoyed those nuggets so much because it rang true that they’d say that, that these characters would think like that.

Taynement: It was hard for me to separate the characters from the author. Overall though, I think the book had a good plot and execution, where it was weak was in character development and having just plain unlikable characters. They made me uncomfortable. Would you recommend it?

Leggy: Yes, I thought it was entertaining. I told someone who asked me my thoughts on twitter, to have low expectations going in and think of it as a reality show and they’d enjoy it. I found it easy to read, I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

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

Taynement & Leggy

african author, african stories, Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, Nigerian Author, romance, Uncategorized

Because it’s valentine’s day!

Since it’s the week of love, we have a 4 in one recommendation for you! What better way to celebrate Valentine as a book lover than to immerse yourself in the romance world of books?

  1. Yinka, Where is your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
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Yinka is a 30-something, oxford educated, British Nigerian woman whose mother keeps harping on her about getting married. Yinka is still nursing a broken heart from her last relationship which ended abruptly after he moved to New York and broke up with her. When her cousin gets engaged, she is suddenly determined to have a boyfriend by her wedding in 6 months. Yinka signs up on dating apps, meets whichever church men her mum recommends she meets and completely loses herself in the search for a man. Yinka, Where is your Huzband? explores the pressure young women face to get married. This book is funny and fast paced. Even though, Yinka makes a lot of wrong decisions, you really can’t help rooting for her.

2. The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea

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Willa Callister used to be a successful blogger with a fantastic fiance and even more fantastic best friend until she walked in on them having sex in the apartment she shared with her fiance, 6 weeks to the wedding. Willa cancels her wedding, stops returning her phone calls and gets fired because she stopped coming into work. She moves in with her sister and her family in the suburbs to nurse her heartbreak. All she wants is to move out of columbus, to a place nobody knows her.

Maisie Mitchell needs a bridesmaid for her wedding and a chance encounter in a coffee shop with Willa, leads her to offer Willa $5000, if she would agree to be her bridesmaid and lie to everyone that they’ve known each other since childhood. Willa needs to money to get the her life back together so she agrees. As she throws herself into Maisie’s world and meets the best man, Liam Rafferty, she is suddenly rethinking her stance on love and friendship. I really enjoyed how this book was as much about friendship as it is about romantic love.

3. The Favor by Suzanne Wright

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Vienna is the longest executive assistant Dane has had, everyone calls her the Dane whisperer. She has never been able to figure out why Dane hired her but she is very grateful for the opportunity. Until Dane asks her to marry him for a year so that he can get his inheritance. His uncle left money for him and his brothers and they only inherit if they get married before 35. Dane is running out of time unless he marries and convinces everyone that the marriage is real. I loveeeee marriage of convenience tropes in romance.

I absolutely loved this book because they really stuck together no matter what. They actually talked to each other every time there was a misunderstanding instead of just turning on each other. The author kept the plot moving forward without resorting to miscommunications that can be resolved if the characters just talked to each other.

4. While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

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Jasmine Guillory is my go to every time I want to read about black people falling in love and being human. Ben Stephens lands a huge advertisement ad that features movie star Anna Gardiner and finds it really hard to be professional. Anna is not only gorgeous and sexy but also very down to earth and kind. Ben has never been one for serious relationships but Anna has him rethinking his stance. Their light hearted banter and flirtation takes a deeper turn when Anna has a family emergency and Ben drives her hours so she can be with her family but can Ben handle the hollywood spotlight that comes with dating a movie star?

Have a wonderful Valentine’s day everybody! We hope you love and are loved forever!

Leggy

celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, Self Help

Book Review: Will by Will Smith

“Stop thinking about the damn wall!” he said. “There is no wall. There are only bricks. Your job is to lay this brick perfectly. Then move on to the next brick. Then lay that brick perfectly. Then the next one. Don’t be worrying about no wall. Your only concern is one brick.”

Will is the eponymous autobiography by Will Smith. At the beginning of the book, Will tells us that his personality is one that tries to clean up and make everything nice and I think that is what he did with his book. While one could argue that he was honest and vulnerable, you could also argue that it was a case of saying a lot without saying much.

“How we decide to respond to our fears, that is the person we become. I decided to be funny.”

I think Will did a good job of laying the groundwork on us understanding where he came from and what led to his fears and insecurity and also his strong work ethic. It was good to see behind the curtains how he became a force in movies and music through intentional planning but also a splash of luck. I found it interesting that Will didn’t focus a lot on his race during his journey to fame and I don’t think it’s something I fault him for and I wonder if it was a conscious thing. I also didn’t get the impression that it isn’t something he doesn’t consider because he does tell a story in the book when he was in South Africa, where he stood up for the right thing.

“If you cultivate the fantasy that your marriage will be forever joyful and effortless, then reality is going to pay you back in equal proportion to your delusion. If you live the fantasy that making money will earn you love, then the universe will slap you awake, in the tune of a thousand angry voices.”

With the many stories that have come out about Will and Jada, it is a safe assumption that this is something most people would be curious about but you will be dissapointed in because he doesn’t get into the salacious details. Will focuses a lot on just himself in his book and doesn’t speak much for other members of his family only in context as it relates to a story about himself. A lot of the stories he tells, you may have heard about before and all he does is add a little bit of context with his humor.

“We’re all waiting until we have deep knowledge, wisdom, and a sense of certainty before we venture forth. But we’ve got it backward—venturing forth is how we gain the knowledge.”

I have to mention that this book veers into self-help where Will gives a lot of nuggets he has learned along the way. You’re not always in the mood to get preached to so in those moments, my eyes glazed over. I wish there was a count for every time he said the word “Every”. It was a lot. He does remind us of all his accomplishments and I have seen some people refer to it as him bragging and I did not get that sense at all. To me, it was straight facts and especially as a black man in America, it is a hell of an accomplishment so I have no issues with him tooting his horn.

As always, with celeb memoirs I did this on audio and I recommend you do the same. Besides, the voices and imitations he does, we also get the added bonus of actual music which adds a different level of interaction. While it still seems a tad performative, your thoughts on the book will ultimately depend on what you are hoping to get out of it so for those looking for inspiration this is a 10/10 but you won’t lack for entertainment.

Taynement.

Book Related Topics, dystopian, literary fiction, race

Book Review: The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

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“By staying calm, they’re showing their child that a mother can handle anything. A mother is always patient. A mother is always kind. A mother is always giving. A mother never falls apart. A mother is the buffer between her child and the cruel world.”

Frida Liu has one very bad day as a mother and has her child taken away by child services. She lives in a world where CPS is now very strict and any strike will have you losing your parental rights. She’s just gone through a divorce because her husband, Gust, refused to give up his young mistress. Frida didn’t ask for any alimony and is therefore having to work part time to afford the upheaval in her life. She can’t sleep because she’s a mother and that’s why she had this very bad day, you see. After her child gets taken away, Frida has to do a government program for one full year to determine if she’ll ever have access to her child again or completely lose her parental rights.

”Now, repeat after me: I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good.”

The very bad day Frida has that led to her child being taken away from her is not mentioned in the book’s blurb so I will avoid mentioning what actually happened for protective services to be called on her. I think it was very bold of the author to pick this particular premise because it does not win Frida any favors at all. You come away struggling with the feeling that she deserved to have her child taken away, even though I get the feeling the author wanted us to sympathize with her? There were so many other mothers in the school that didn’t do anything bad that, had they been the protagonist, it would have been easier to root for. I know people criticized the author for this choice but I actually think it was a bold decision that I did not expect from a debut author.

This book is a dystopian novel and the one year school for good mothers is the main crux of this book. It is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever read and I think it’s because it could happen. There is nothing so over the top about the concept. The women are given very lifelike, actual talking, almost human dolls (this might be the most outrageous concept in this book) that represent their kids. They’re supposed to mother them for one year and at the end of the year, they get an assessment on whether they should get their kid back or not.

The one year Frida is at the school is told by the author in a very unemotional, monotonous way. I know a lot of people might be put off by this but I found that it worked for the kind of book this is. No matter how creepy the readers might find the whole process, the author’s matter of fact way of telling the story makes it even more intriguing at how the concept of this school was ever conceived and approved.

I did not enjoy the ending of this book. I kept feeling the book building up to something and ultimately the ending wasn’t very climatic. Chan finally got me on the side of the protagonist by the end but there was no pay off for that. I felt betrayed by the author. I also found the protagonist to be a very weak woman. Her husband cheats on her while pregnant but she agrees to a no fault divorce and doesn’t ask for alimony while whining constantly about it to the readers.

Chan also can’t decide what this book is actually an allegory for. Is this book about interracial couples? Sexism? Racism? The way the system preys on black and brown bodies? How the “bad” fathers were treated in comparison to the “bad” mothers? Is the author just pointing out the general unfairness of the CPS? We’re instead subjected to lines and lines pointing out the ills of this society that very much mirrors our own without any of these issues ever really landing for the reader.

This is Jessamine Chan’s debut novel and I can’t wait to read what else she’s going to write in the future. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. Have you heard of this one? Have you read it? What did you think?

Leggy

Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Book Review: Sex Cult Nun by Faith Jones

Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical  Religious Cult by Faith Jones

Trigger Warning: Sexual assault (some involving minors), rape

Sex Cult Nun is a memoir of sorts as the author recounts the story of being part of a cult, Children of God(CoG), founded by her grandfather. She recounts living in hiding in Macau with her family as the cult was having terrible PR with its controversial way of living. Her family constituted of two moms as CoG allowed for sexual liberation and anyone could sleep with anyone. As if that wasn’t enough, contraception was banned.

The terrible PR eventually led to a change in name of the cult to The Family. With locations around the world, members just showed up anywhere in the world and had to live in a Family house. If they felt you did wrong, they could reassign you anywhere. There was no formal education because her Grandfather (who she never met by the way) told them the rapture was going to happen in 1993, so there wasn’t even a plan for retirement.

I am fascinated by cult themes because I always try to understand how a person gets to this point and the mental strength it takes to get out of it. Everything about this book sounded unreal and quite frankly, inhumane. Everyone I told a synopsis of the book, asked me why I was reading it. This is a group that had its law modified to exclude sex with children under 16 ONLY because police was getting involved – imagine what it was before that.

As gross as it was, I had to remember that this was someone’s real life. I felt for her as a kid because this was all she knew. The kids didn’t ask for this. Her grandfather was in hiding for most of his regime so he was barely seen but he communicated with his followers through “Mo Letters” that were highly sexual. The cult promoted sexuality in what they called “sharing”.

At some point, her mom got pregnant and didn’t know the father. That’s because there was something called “Flirty Fishing” – preaching the gospel and trying to convert them, even if it means sleeping with them and her mom took her along on these expeditions. This is me letting you guys know that this book is very graphic. How graphic? There is a scene where her mom makes her watch as she masturbates her dad and I will leave it at that.

I completely understand being grossed out by the subject matter and detail but if you are able to stomach it, I found it quite fascinating. I think Jones was convincing as a reliable narrator and watching her journey to realization and eventually to freedom was worth it for me because even I didn’t know her, I was proud and happy for her.

The book doesn’t give much information into the psyche of the parents which would have been more informative. There’s lots of detail and people that might be a little difficult to navigate. It’s written in a matter of fact tone which is expected because it truly is a lot to unpack and is probably how she is able to get through. I was so intrigued by this book that I sought out old documentaries by other survivors and seeing it on screen backing up everything Jones said, was just a jarring experience.

Some people are confused about the name of the book. The sex and cult part are self explanatory but the nun part she says is tongue in cheek reference to the isolated devotion where she felt like she grew up like a nun except there was lots of sex involved.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and I think I left out one star because of how uncomfortable it made me but if it made me that uncomfortable, doesn’t that mean it did its job?

Taynement

Memoirs, Non-Fiction, race

Book Review: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

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“It felt like the world had divided into two different types of people, those who had felt pain and those who had yet to.”

I know Zauner’s book was all the rage last year but for some reason, I just never paid attention to the hype. I don’t even remember putting this book on hold at the library until it checked out to me first week of 2022. I didn’t have anything else to read so I decided to give it a go. Also, I never paid attention to what this book was actually about. I just assumed it was a collection of essays about being Asian in America but instead what I got was a heartbreaking memoir about grief, mother-daughter relationships and identity.

“I remember these things clearly because that was how my mother loved you, not through white lies and constant verbal affirmation, but in subtle observations of what brought you joy, pocketed away to make you feel comforted and cared for without even realizing it.”

Zauner writes about her complicated relationship with her Korean mother and her white father and losing her mother to advanced pancreatic cancer. She doesn’t shy away from the difficult times and what actually caring for a loved one is like. She also doesn’t paint her mother to be just one thing. That was my favorite part of this book. Her mother was never shoehorned into a stereotype, she let her mum be a full human being who had flaws. After a tumultuous relationship with her mother during high school, she runs away to college in the east coast and when she finally returns to care for her mother full time, she wants to heal her mother through Korean food and repair their relationship.

Food was how my mother expressed her love. No matter how critical or cruel she could seem—constantly pushing me to meet her intractable expectations—I could always feel her affection radiating from the lunches she packed and the meals she prepared for me just the way I liked them.

The way Zauner talks about her Korean identity through food and travel was really lovely to read. The author went to Korea every summer for 6 weeks with her mum until high school and talks about the cultural differences. She wasn’t a beauty in America but because she was mixed in Korea with white skin and had the coveted double eyelid, she was considered a great beauty there. She even got scouted to be an idol singer during one of her trips but her mum told her she would never be happy being an idol*. These anecdotes made her connection to her mother and her country very real. She was very immersed in her Korean identity despite having a white father. In fact, she was born in Korea but they moved back to the US when she turned 1.

The boy’s mom placed pieces of beef from her spoon onto his. He is quiet and looks tired and doesn’t talk to her much. I want to tell him how much I miss my mother. How he should be kind to his mom, remember that life is fragile and she could be gone at any moment.

Crying in H Mart was absolutely worth all the hype. It had me feeling so many different emotions and also had me bawling in my office while reading it. Seriously, fuck cancer. This is a thought provoking and emotional memoir that reminds us that our parents are human and are winging this parenting thing. Zauner wrote a very honest book that doesn’t shy away from difficult topics or gloss over who her parents were, but you come out of it feeling like you saw a full picture instead of one single perspective. You feel compassion for her mother even when her actions come off cruel.

“In fact, she was both my first and second words: Umma, then Mom. I called to her in two languages. Even then I must have known that no one would ever love me as much as she would.”

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for a nonfiction book to read with a trigger warning that this book is about loss and grief. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

*Idol – a Korean star who has been trained from birth to be a star usually scouted purely on looks.

Leggy

Uncategorized

Our 2022 Reading Goals

Leggy:

Happy new Year! I hope you had an amazing holiday because I did! I got to go back to Nigeria after 8 years and I had so much fun! Woah, lots of exclamation marks but that’s how I feel. How was your reading life in 2020? Mine struggled a lot, I usually hit my 70 books goal before December and then just coast for the rest of the year. But that was not the case for me, I had to read 6 books in 5 days to hit my goal. I did it though! 71 books in 2021. This is exactly why I set reading goals, I think anything worth doing is worth being intentional about plus I’m competitive – if I see that comment on Goodreads telling me “you’re behind!” I get the urge to catch up.

This year will be exactly the same for me reading goals wise. I’ve already set my Goodreads challenge to the usual 70 books number. I also want to be more consistent with the content for the blog because I slacked off majorly last year and I’m so grateful I’m doing this with Tayne because she’s the one who has kept me going. If I had attempted this on my own, I would not still be going. So, thanks Tayne!

Otherwise, I really like my reading life how it is. I already read diversely. so hopefully I find books I really enjoy this year.

Taynement:

Last year was yet another disappointing reading year for me. I read a lot of okay books but not a lot of great books. It truly has been a while since I read a book that gave me goosebumps. I still haven’t determined if it’s a me thing or the general state of writing but thankfully it hasn’t changed my love of reading, so continue to read I shall.

Like Leggy, I don’t change my number from year to year. It’s always at 35. Didn’t hit it last year (30) because I was so busy and disappointment after each book made me lose motivation. It wasn’t all bad because I kept my goal of reading back titles and finally read Silver Sparrow! My authors were diverse last year and 13 of my 30 reads were my black women authors and that made me happy.

This year, I would like to continue that. I don’t read across genres as much as Leggy does but I want my authors to be diverse. Reading Detransition, Baby by a trans author was an experience because it took me into a world I had no experience with at all and that’s a good thing. I really enjoy memoirs and didn’t read a lot of them last year, I hope to get back to that this year.

Above all else, I just want to enjoy my reads. We say this every year – the number goals are a guideline and not a hard fast rule. I hope I read books that make me tingle and who knows – is this the year I read 1 or 2 fantasy books and make Leggy’s day? Stay tuned.

Happy new [reading] year, everyone. Let us know what goals you have for your reading in the comments (We really do like hearing from you guys!!)

Taynement & Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction, romance, scifi

Our Best and Worst Books of 2021

We made it through another year. We can’t believe that we are about to enter our third year of COVID. Not much changed in our reading from last year. For Tayne, her reading was still unfocused and she didn’t get to read many books she considered great, which in turn led to not meeting her reading goal number. Leggy leaned into romance novels and read a ton of those to get by. None the less, we stick to tradition and let you know what our best and worst books of the year were.

Taynement’s Best:

Sometime in summer, I put out a PSA on twitter asking people for the best books they’d read this year and this was one of the books mentioned. It fit the bill as I read a lot of black women authors this year and bonus for being a Nigerian author. So glad I did because it was the only book that got a 5 star from me this year. It was so good and had my attention from start to finish. You can find my review on it here.

Other favorites:

  • Not All Diamonds and Rose by David Quinn (See review here)
  • Bamboozled By Jesus: How God Tricked Me into the Life of My Dreams by Yvonne Orji (See review here)
  • Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (See review here)
  • The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (see review here)

Leggy’s Best:

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“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.”

When I read this book in March, I told T;ayne that I think this would be my best book for the year. This year has been a very tough reading year for me especially with literary fiction. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and romance because it lets me escape from this Covid world so, it was just great to find this book and be completely immersed. You can find a full review for this book here.

Other favorites:

  • Hail Mary by Andy Weir (this book is so good! It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read any science fiction! Please read it!)
  • Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Manson (I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads!)
  • A Wicked Kind of Husband by Mia Vincy (Best romance novel I read this year, it was so much fun! If you’re looking for something light, give this a shot! We have a mini review of this one here on the blog.)
  • Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen Series) by John Gwynne (This was a fun fantasy to read!)

Taynement’s Worst:

It didn’t help that I had high expectations but there really wasn’t much that I liked about this book. Not the story, not the writing style, not the characters. It took a while to get going and when it did get going, I did not care. Don’t get me started on the ending. A true wtf moment. See review here.

Leggy’s Worst:

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You either adore a Sally Rooney book or you detest a Sally Rooney book. There is no in between. I really enjoyed Normal People by Sally Rooney, I even reviewed it here for the blog but I really didn’t like this one. Beautiful World, Where Are You comes off so pretentious that I’m almost convinced everyone who loves it is pretending (just kidding! Art is subjective). I read worse books this year but I chose this one because I expected so much from this author plus this is one of those books that I hated enough to talk about it, so it earns its spot. You can find a full review of this book here.

We hope you have enjoyed talking books with us this year. We’d love to know what your best and worsts were so let us know in the comments. Have an amazing Christmas and we’ll see you in the New Year. Happy reading everybody!

Leggy & Taynement

christmas, Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Christmas Romance books!

Once we hit thanksgiving, I’m no longer interested in anything work related at all. I get into this zone where I’m lazy about everything. I don’t know if it’s this ridiculous daylights savings thing we do where everywhere is dark by 6pm but it affects my reading life as well. After thanksgiving, I only read romance books and fantasy. I alternate between these two genres because I’m officially checked out for the year and do not want to do any serious thinking.

Anyway, here are four Christmas book recommendations to wrap up 52 weeks of book reviews on the blog!

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox:

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This was my early December pick for Book of the Month. When Chef Charlie gets hit on the head on her reality baking show, she loses all sense of smell and taste rendering her useless in her career. Her identical twin, Cass, is trying to hold everything together in their hometown while running the family business. Charlie convinces Cass to switch lives with her for a little while till she gets her sense of taste and smell back. Cass needs a break from real life anyway so she jumps at the opportunity. But of course, everything is complicated once men get involved. Can they keep their identities secret while they’re falling in love?

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan:

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Last year, during our annual Christmas books recommendation, I argued that You Got Mail really is a Christmas movie. It starts around Christmas and everyone is wearing coats and it just gives you such a Christmas, cozy feeling. Anyway, this is all to say that I love Christmas stories centered around a bookshop!

When the departmental store Carmen works for closes for good right before Christmas, she has no choice than to move in with her sister Sofia who has the perfect life. Sofia isn’t too crazy about having her difficult, sarcastic sister stay either but with yet another baby on the way and her mother’s wish that they get along, she’s determined to give it a go. Sofia gives Carmen the opportunity to revamp a bookshop for her client just in time for Christmas shopping season with hopes that it’ll keep the ailing bookshop from closing. As Carmen dives into work at the store, she has to deal with choosing between two very different men and mending the rift between her sister and her and just in time for Christmas!

The Santa Suit by Mary kay Andrews:

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Newly divorced Ivy Perkins buys a farm house called The Four Roses without ever seeing it. She’s just looking to be alone for a while while pouring all her labor into doing the house up. The house is way more than she bargained for as the previous family left so much junk behind and she has to sort everything out. In the rubble, she finds a well made Christmas suit with a note asking santa to bring her daddy back from the war. Dying of curiosity, Ivy decides to find out who the Rose family was and if the note writer ever got their wish. Her quest takes her into the community, opens up her lonely world and gives her a second chance at love.

The Christmas Wedding Guest by Susan Mallery:

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The Somerville sisters have lost faith that love will ever happen for them. Reggie hasn’t been back home since her engagement with Tobi ended but her parents want a vow renewal and asks her to plan it for them. Reggie returns to town the same time Tobi does and the sparks are still very much alive. Dena on the other hand, is absolutely done waiting to be married before having a child, she’s pregnant by choice and running her inn herself. When a songwriter/rockstar checks into her inn and makes her want to fall in love, she wonders if she’ll ever be good enough for such a famous person.

This is a two in one romance book that you’ll love this Christmas season. Give it a go!

How are your holidays shaping up? What are you currently reading? Do you read differently during the holidays? Let us know in the comments!

Leggy