Book Related Topics, Uncategorized

Our 2021 Reading Goals + Giveaway Winner!

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Leggy

Happy New Year! I know 2020 was a year like no other and plain horrible for a lot of people but I hope the holidays brought you some reprieve from real life. Last year my Goodreads challenge was set at 70, like it always is and I read 73 books. Not bad, even though I thought I was going to read waaay more. But after Thanksgiving I could barely get myself to sit down and read. I enjoy setting book challenges because it pushes me to turn to reading instead of the TV during my down times. I know the pandemic affected so many people’s reading lives but I hope any reading you managed to do last year brought you some happiness in the middle of this utter shit show.

I’m still setting my Goodreads challenge to 70 books but I do not have any specific goals for myself besides that. I really like my reading life, I read diversely and enjoy every genre so I think i’m just going to relax and go with the flow this year.

Taynement

As I said a 100 times last year, it just wasn’t a good reading year for me. There was so much stress and real life things going on and I could never really get myself to focus. I started out really well, enjoying the books I read and even gave a 5 star rating during that time till the world turned upside down.

I have the same book goal every year – 35. I am not tied to any number of books to read because there are no rules but like Leggy said, I set a goal number because it pushes me to read. So times where I went to watch a show or read my magazines, I’ll make the choice to read. Reading overall enhances my life, so it’s something I want to keep doing. Doesn’t hurt that I enjoy it, so its not a chore.

Last year, I said I wanted to read a classic or two and didn’t. This year I am going to lean into enjoying my love for new fiction and read as many as I can. I do want to try incorporating backlists into my TBR pile (I’ve been wanting to read Silver Sparrow for so long!). I give up on diversifying my genres to include fantasy and sci fi. I will try though on the non fiction front.

Overall, I hope I read many books that give me joy and I wish the same for you. Happy New (Reading) Year!!

GIVEAWAY WINNERS

Now for the exciting part.

*Drumroll please*

The winner is:

Pasha!!!!!! 

Congratulations!! You win a $50 Amazon gift card and you can buy as many books as you like! Please DM us your email address to receive your gift. Thank you all for entering. We appreciate all the love and support. Till the next giveaway!

Taynement & Leggy

Book Related Topics, christmas

Our Best and Worst Books of 2020 + Holiday Giveaway!

We can’t believe the year has come to an end. Everyone dealt with the year differently and the way it affected our reading lives was also varied. For some, it was a coping mechanism and they buried themselves between the pages of books. For some (like Taynement), they couldn’t focus enough and their reading suffered and for some (like Leggy), nothing changed and their reading was the same. At the end of the day, reading isn’t about numbers and is about whatever you get out of it as long as it’s a positive experience and we hope reading (and our blog) was a positive space for you this year.

As always, we share with you our best and worst reads of the year and hope to share good tidings by doing our annual giveaway. Rules of the giveaway will be at the end of this post. Be sure to read and enter and good luck!!!

Taynement’s Best:

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This was one of the first books I read this year and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Who knew that the Black Lives Matter movement would make a dent in the summer but the book dealt with race through the lens of a black girl in her twenties, trying to figure out her life and enjoying her youth and an obsessive white woman living in her privilegde bubble. It was a pretty good debut book and I am glad Reid got to get some shine before the world started burning. It has already been optioned as a movie by Lena Waithe and I fully expect Reese Witherspoon to play the white woman, Alix – hehe. You can read my review on it here.

Other favorites:

  • Open Book by Jessica Simpson (It was a close tie for my favorite read. Review here)
  • The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo (Review here)
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
  • Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham (Review here)

Leggy’s Best:

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When I reviewed this book back in June, I said this would definitely make my top 5 of the year. Well, it landed at the very top. I absolutely adored this book, I thought it was well written and every single word belonged there. I’m sad that it came out during such a terrible year because I would have loved to hear this author speak about this one at my local bookstore. My review is here if you want to take a look!

Other favorites:

  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (review here)
  • Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (aka, J. K . Rowling, I absolutely loved this one. It’s a tad bit too long but it’s my favorite of the Strike books so far)
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb (I was bawling at the gym as I listened to the end of this book)
  • Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker (review here)
  • The Cradle series by Will Wight (This is my go-to series every time life gets tough, they’re so good which is why I leave them for my reading slumps. I talked about them here)

Taynement’s worst:

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It was a chore to read. It was trying to outsmart itself. I derived no pleasure from it and it had a twist at the end that had no effect on me – which means, I had checked out. We both read this book and you can read our thoughts here!

Leggy’s Worst:

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This is apparently the only book I gave 1 star this year so I’m going to go with this. I think this book had the propensity to be fun (which is why we picked it for one of our chitchats this year) but it was absolutely terrible. I found so much of it so problematic – the way sexual assault was handled, the way forgiveness was wielded as a crime canceler, I just found it ridiculous. Also, it was so badly written. I remember reading the first 10% on my kindle, putting it down and texting Taynement to see if this was an actual real book. You can read our thoughts on it here.

GIVEAWAY RULES

Okay guys our rules are simple – Leave a comment on here, letting us know your favorite and worst book of the year AND interact with us on Twitter (@2nightstands) or Instagram (@nightstands2). It could be a like, retweet, comment, repost – your choice. We will announce the winner when we return next year and the winner gets a $50 Amazon gift card. That’s enough to purchase a couple of books of your choice!

This is our last post for the year so – Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! and wishing an amazing New Year to all our readers! Here’s to a better reading year in 2021! Thank you for all your support!

Taynement & Leggy

Book Related Topics, christmas, Fiction, literary fiction, Non-Fiction, Self Help

‘Tis The Season – Gift Ideas For The Book Lovers In Your Life

Wow! We can’t believe that Christmas is round the corner. The world is still burning all around us but the fact that we survived this hellish year, only means we deserve an actual Merry Christmas for real. In a bid to make the holiday as close to normal as possible, most of us are still planning to give gifts. Good thing gifts are socially distant conducive. As we do every year, we have curated a list to make gift giving easier for the book lover in your life.

Cookbooks

Cookbooks are great to gift because everyone loves a good cookbook even if they have no plans of cooking from it. Pictured above are some of the cookbooks we loved this year. A lot of the recipes are easy to make with ingredients you can get from your local grocery store so anyone can cook through these or just admire the pictures and dream about cooking through them!

Here are some cookbooks we recommend:

  • The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry (this is very basic and the recipes are all under 1 hour but utterly delicious!)
  • Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin
  • Modern Comfort Food by Ina Garten (she’s a household name and she knows good food!)
  • Home Style Cookery by Matty Matheson
  • The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food: A Cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson

Coffee Table Books:

Noone is visiting but because we are spending so much time at home, it’s always good to have aesthetically pleasing, conversation starters ready for when people do start coming over: There were so many coffee table books we loved this year apart from the two pictured above! Some of them are listed below:

Celebrating Blackness

With the kind of year we’ve had, this would be a great time to gift books that’ll help people learn a little more about their neighbors, and it doesn’t have to be very heavy books about race. Support and gift them books from their favorite black authors:

Fiction

Non-Fiction

  • I Don’t Want to Die Poor by Michael Arceneaux
  • Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
  • Any Black Classic like anything from Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes. Support black art!

Reading Related Knick Knacks

  • Reading Rests
  • Reading Lights
  • Holiday Lettering Artist Pens
  • Or this amazing reading journal from Etsy! (Also, there’s always collectibles in your loved ones’ favorite books that are widely available on sites like Etsy!)
  • They love Harry Potter? Get them this amazing collectible quidditch set!
  • Love Game of Thrones? Get them this miniature Game of Thrones iron throne!
  • From stickers, to bookmarks to stationeries. Visit The Seasonal Pages and you are sure to find something at such affordable prices (Support Small Businesses!)

Good Ol’ Fiction and Non-Fiction Books

The first step to choosing a book for a loved one is finding out what they actually enjoy reading. Find out the genre they’re most comfortable in, the last thing they read from that genre that they actually loved then try to find them something in the vein. There are so many blogs (LIKE OURS!) that are great resources for reading different reviews and making a suggestion. There’s always nonfiction books on topics they’d enjoy like TV shows, books from their favorite personalities (podcasters, reality show characters, athletes etc.) and if all else fails, get a gift card to their favorite book store (Shop locally if possible!)

Self Help

As we’re getting into the new year, a lot of people might be interested in reading books that might help them achieve whatever goals they’re currently setting for the next year. Self help is always a safe go to as a gift. Just be careful what titles you gift them! LOL.

Here are some of our favorite self help books from 2020:

  • Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster
  • Wisdom from a Humble Jellyfish: And Other Self-Care Rituals from Nature by Rani Shah (considering we’re currently living through a pandemic and are looking for different ways to protect our mental health and develop a self care routine, I highly recommend this one!)
  • Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life by Mary Kondo and Scott Sonenshein
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle

For The Nostalgic (and possibly older reader in your life)

Book Sets of Old Favorites like Tom Clancy, Ken Follet, Mary Higgins Clark etc.

Don’t Forget Yourself!

While you are shopping for everyone else, don’t forget to get yourself something. We are all hoping for a better year and whatever you need to help you plan, read better or remind yourself of the bad ass you are, here are some journals, notebooks (if you would like to take notes/quotes from the many books on your TBR list) and inspirational cards that are great gift ideas.

Hope this was helpful and you find some great ideas on here. Let us know if you have any questions or got some inspiration from the list. Happy Holidays!!

Taynement & Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, Historical, romance

Book Review: Aunt Ivy’s Cottage by Kristin Harper

Zoey moves back to Dune Island after being laid off from her job and then finding out her ex boyfriend has spent her savings on borderline illegal investments. She goes back to live in her family house with her aunties, Sylvia and Ivy. Aunty Sylvia dies shortly after Zoey arrives on the Island, setting off a fascinating chain of events that uncover family secrets and calls into question the line of inheritance for the Island house.

Zoey’s cousin, Mark is the apparent heir of the house whenever Aunty Ivy dies. He wants to get a headstart and move her to a home for the elderly and hurry up the inheritance. He also wants to lease the house as soon as possible for the summer as the inheritance states that it cannot be sold and must be inherited by someone related to the family by blood. A throwaway comment by an old man at Aunt Sylvia’s funeral calls into question Mark’s paternity and if he is indeed qualified to inherit.

With the cousins clashing over what to do with Aunty Ivy’s cottage and fighting over renovations at the house, Zoey unexpectedly finds an ally in the local carpenter, Nick. Nick left the rat race in New York City to come and start all over again in Dune’s Island after an ugly divorce. When they meet, sparks fly and it makes Zoey wonder if she’ll ever make it off the Island ever.

I enjoyed reading this book. First of all, the cover is gorgeous. It’s a very cozy read and exactly the type of read you need during winter snuggled up in bed under the covers. I enjoyed the descriptions of the small island and the residents in it, the rumors about the older houses and the different real life situations every character in this book had to go through. Aunty Ivy was such a charming character and I just wanted her to be alright and safe. I was pleasantly surprised by this one as I had never heard of the author and she succeeded in creating a charming family. If you’re a fan of Debbie Macomber books, you’d probably enjoy this one.

As much as I enjoyed this story, I found the pacing to be very slow in some parts and rushed in others. There was far too much going on with all the characters (and I mean all of them!). Everyone had a secret or an alcoholic father/stepfather, struggling with a dead spouse, a dead sister, lost jobs, lost homes, lost savings. It all felt a little too much and caused the author not to completely focus on the main storyline.

The resolution of the paternity conflict was so rushed that I wondered if I missed some pages on my kindle. Even the response by Mark at the end felt so in contrast to the character we had seen exhibited throughout the book. It felt so untrue to his character and inauthentic. The romance between Zoey and Nick was almost non existent, I thought the author should have spiced up their relationship a little more. Just when you thought it was about to happen, she’d pull the plug on it and make them have a conflict so I never actually got to see any chemistry between them but suddenly they end up together at the end even though they never actually dated.

Overall, I thought this was a really sweet book with a charming setting especially the parts involving the aunties and their life stories. The ending felt unbelievable and seemed like the author was in a hurry to wrap everything up in a bow and give everybody their own happy ending. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

Thanks to Netgalley, Bookouture and the publisher for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

You can purchase a copy of Aunt Ivy’s Cottage by Kristin Harper on Amazon .

Leggy

african author, Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, race, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

Ties that Tether - The Stripe

“How much more of yourself, of your culture will you lose to accommodate him in your life?” 

As you may have heard me say a million times this year, it’s been a struggle reading year and I have been doing all I can just to read anything my attention can focus on. I have no recollection of being on a waitlist for this book but once it popped up as available and I saw a Nigerian author, I decided to go for it. Also, is the cover gorgeous or what?

Azere is a 25 year old Nigerian woman who lives in Canada. Before moving to Canada from Nigeria when she was 12 years old, she makes a promise to her dying father to preserve the culture and marry a Nigerian man. Her mother takes this promise to heart and is always on her case to get married and is always matchmaking and setting Azere up on dates. Azere always obliges her mom and goes on these dates and confines her dating pool to just Nigerian men.

Yet another date goes awry and Azere goes to the bar to decompress, meets Rafael and ends up in a one night stand with him. The relationship goes beyond the one night stand and Azere is torn between pleasing her mom and a chance at happiness.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I’d landed on a romance novel but I decided to stick through it to support a Nigerian author. I liked this book enough. Any Nigerian/immigrant can relate to the story and realize it is not far fetched. This book was very heavy on pop culture references but was a good balance of both Western and Nigerian pop culture. A bit on the nose at times but I think it symbolized Azere’s internal struggle of growing up Nigerian and Canadian and identifying as both.

I liked that the book provided insight into the Nigerian culture. Even as a Nigerian, I learned a bit more as Azere is from Edo state. For example, I didn’t know Ogbono soup was from that region. I liked the Edo names mentioned and their full meaning and Azere explains some traditions and their origin. I picked up some names that I thought were just beautiful. I liked the overall message of choosing your happiness and not being tethered due to unhealthy obligations.

The flip side of the book is that you can tell that it is a debut book. It has a slight amateurish feel to it and suffers from the verboseness most Nigerians have. Azere’s character came off as almost childlike/immature. The way she kept wanting to please her mom and keep a promise to her dying father annoyed me. I almost couldn’t believe she had the one night stand given the strong hold her mom seemed to have on her. To be quite honest, her mom came off as a bully to me.

Some storylines felt disjointed in a bid to create anticipation and further the story. It sometimes read like dress up where the story being told was like a recreation of all the various movie and book plot lines we’ve read so some conversations came off clunky. A big blowout between Rafael and Azere and their reaction to it had me scratching my head.

Overall, flaws withstanding, I think it worked. It goes by quickly and is an easy read. It’s one of those where you have to overlook things and just take it for what it is. I gave this 3stars on Goodreads.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, christmas, Fiction, movie related topics, romance

Bookish Matchmaking: Pairing Christmas Romance Novels With Christmas Movies!

I know we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet and I don’t care. This is all we have and I can’t believe anyone would want to take this away from us! We’ve all been through IT this year and we deserve two months of Christmas wrapped in all the corny movies netflix and hallmark shove out every year.

Here are 5 book and movie pairings that should get you through a great safely distanced thanksgiving!

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  1. In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren – Maelyn Jones’ life is not going according to plan, she still lives with her parents, stuck in the same crappy job and now the Utah cabin her family has spent christmas for years with two other families is being sold. After a disastrous last Christmas at the cabin, fearing she has lost all chances with her crush, she makes a wish asking to relive christmas all over again and what do you know? Her wish is granted! This is a typical groundhog day type book.
12 Dates Of Christmas (2011) - Rotten Tomatoes

If you like this book, you should check out a christmas movie by abcFamily called 12 Dates of Christmas starring Amy Smart and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Amy’s character relives her christmas eve blind date with Goseelaar over and over again! (You can find this for free on the Freeform website or rent it on amazon!)

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2. One Day in December by Josie Silver – Laurie meets a strange man at a bus stop, their eyes meet and she instantly falls in love while her bus drives away. She spends weeks looking for said man at the bus stop but never finds him again until her best friend, Sarah, introduces him as her new boyfriend, Jack. And what follows is 10 years of will they? won’t they?

Serendipity (film) - Wikipedia

If you like this book, you should check out Serendipity starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. John and Kate’s characters meet Christmas shopping, fall in love at fight sight, instead of giving her his number like a normal person, she decides to leave it up to fate. 10 years later, they’re both engaged to different people, but of course it’s a movie so… will they? won’t they?

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3. The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss – 34 year old Kate Turner has made her peace with being single. Living in the small town of Blexford, England there aren’t exactly so many men lining up to date her. She’s content with her career and her side gig baking at her friend, Matt’s bakery. But her best friend signs her up to a dating service that promises to find you love in time for Christmas by setting their clients up with 12 blind dates. Will Kate find love with these new men or realise the love of her life has been right under her nose the whole time?

Just Friends (Film) - TV Tropes

If you like this book, you should check out Just Friends starring Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart and Anna Faris. Reynolds’ character loved his high school best friend Amy but she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings after he confesses them to her. 10 years later, he’s lost all his high school weight, become a very successful record executive dating famous Anna Faris. He returns to his hometown for Christmas, realises he still loves his old best friend and sets out to win her love.

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4. Recommended For You by Laura Silverman – Shoshanna Greenberg loves working at Once Upon, her favorite local bookstore. It’s her safe space from everything going on at home and she’s trying to save up money to fix her car. Her boss announces a Christmas holiday bonus that would absolutely save her car and she’s so sure she’s going to win until her rival at work, Jack (WHO DOESN’T EVEN READ!) starts increasing his sales to win the bonus. As the competition heats up, Shoshanna and Jack start spending more time together at the store and sparks start flying.

You've Got Mail (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

If you like this book, you should check out You Got Mail starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks (OR The Shop Around the Corner which is the original 1940 film!). Now, the original movie makes it very clear this is a Christmas movie so hang in there with me! Meg’s character gets put out of business right around Christmas by Tom’s character. They hate each other in real life but unknown to them they’ve developed a passionate relationship online. When Tom’s character realises who she is in real life, he tries to repair their relationship in real life to see if they ever have a shot at being together. This is one of my favorite Romantic Comedies ever!

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5. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on a favorite bookstore shelf, Dash finds it and they run around New York City trading dares and getting to know each other without them ever meeting. Are they destined to find each other or is this just going to remain a fantasy world for both of them?

Dash and Lily Review: Netflix's Christmas Romcom Is Jolly Good Fun

If you like this book, you should check out Dash and Lily the adaptation of this same book on Netflix now. Is this Cheating? I feel like i’m cheating but I don’t care!

Have you read any of these? Are you into seasonal reads and movies? Let us know in the comments!

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

“The old gods may be great, but they are neither kind nor merciful. They are fickle, unsteady as moonlight on water, or shadows in a storm. If you insist on calling them, take heed: be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price. And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

In a moment of desperation, a woman calls on the gods of the night to help her escape her fate as a woman. She begs for more time to live her life without the pressures of getting married and being forced into an existence she wants no part of. She gives away her soul for time. Addie realises after the fact that nobody remembers her. She is destined to be forgotten by everyone she meets the moment she is out of their sight, that is the price she has to pay. This book sends us on a 300 year journey with the girl no one remembers, through cities and wars and music and languages as she tries to stretch the boundaries of her cage. But one day in a bookstore in New York city, after 300 years of an invisible life, she stumbles across Henry who remembers her name.

“…it is sad, of course, to forget.
But it is a lonely thing, to be forgotten.
To remember when no one else does.”

I enjoyed the first 25% of this book, then it lost me and then it found me again. This book sucks you in immediately. The descriptions and the mere premise of the book makes you pay attention to the story. The language is a little more poetic than I prefer in a fantasy book, but I didn’t hate it. I think it lends itself to the setting the book starts out and lingers in – New York and France.

I was emotionally invested watching her lose her family immediately and having everyone she’s ever loved forget her, the instant she makes her deal. It was heart wrenching seeing her trying to figure out how to survive in a world where out of sight is out of mind. Watching her go through major cities, experience new things for the first time, see the world, meet different men, try to figure out a way to leave her mark anyway was fascinating. This part of the book I enjoyed very much.

“If she must grow roots, she would rather be left to flourish wild instead of pruned, would rather stand alone, allowed to grow beneath the open sky. Better that than firewood, cut down just to burn in someone else’s hearth.”

This book completely lost me in the middle. Once the love interest, Henry, is introduced it becomes utterly boring. Henry is not a compelling character, nothing about him makes you want to stand up and take notice. He’s the stereotypical “nice” guy character who thinks they deserve love just because they’re nice. I did appreciate the discussions on mental health and anxiety but I found this character utterly bland. The more the book went on, the more I found him ridiculous especially when I realized his backstory.

I didn’t find the choices he made to be understandable. I also guessed what his deal was earlier on and was just waiting for it to be confirmed. The story grew repetitive and reading about them falling in love was an absolute drag, after spending the first 100 pages of this book gallivanting around the world with a god that only comes in the dark. Also, after watching Addie try to figure out a way to live a life that matters without being remembered., Henry’s story seemed frivolous compared to Addie’s.

“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”

I quite enjoyed the last 100 pages of this book. I loved how it ended. I know a lot of people would have liked an ending that was more definite but I thought the last chapter was very satisfying. It’s really hard to review this book and not give away spoilers. If you’ve read this one let me know what you think because I wouldn’t mind talking more about this book in depth and with spoilers. I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, race, romance

Recommended Romance Books With Black Female Characters (NO STRUGGLE LOVE INCLUDED!)

I find a lot of times the romance marketed to black women in entertainment is very much limited to struggle love. I grew up on Mills & Boons where the devastatingly handsome Millionaire/Prince/Duke sweeps the girl off her feet, but the characters were always white.

Black women never get to see themselves this way in literature. We’re always portrayed as strong mules who can take whatever shitty love is offered and we never get the fantasy. Today, I want to introduce you to romance books that black women can escape into and find themselves very well loved and with all their romance fantasies fulfilled.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

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“Just because their standards are low does not mean that we should lower ours.”

Alex Monroe gets stuck in an elevator with Drew Nichols and in a moment of insanity agrees to be his date to a wedding he’s in town for. They have a lot of fun and after they head back to their respective cities they can’t stop thinking about each other so they try to make it work. I enjoyed this one but this is not my favorite in the series. I think Guillory really found her stride as she wrote the other books in this series. Also, just fair warning, this is not a closed door romance, there is a LOT of sex! If that’s not your thing, you might consider skipping this one, or reading it anyway and just skimming the sex scenes.

Guillory has a whole series with great black female characters getting the love they deserve. Her female characters are always complete human beings who just need a man to complement them instead of complete them. So, if you read this first book and love it, there are many more where that comes from. Also, I think this might be the most mainstream of the books I recommend today.

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

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 “Everybody wants something from you, but sometimes there’s a person you want to give to. Sometimes what you give them makes you better for having given it.

Naledi Smith keeps getting a lot of emails telling her she’s betrothed to an African prince which she deletes constantly, very much convinced that it’s all a scam. Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, and the first thing on his mind is his duty to his people to find a wife. He tracks down Naledi and when a chance encounter makes Naledi think he’s just an ordinary guy, Thabiso grabs the opportunity to experience New York without the weight of his princedom.

I absolutely loved this one. It was funny and very charming. This one is also the first book in a series (The Reluctant Royals series) but I didn’t like the next two books and so I gave up after that. This first book though is fantastic and you should check it out!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert:

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“You think this is a big deal because, no offense, you’ve had a lot of people in your life who claimed to care about you but didn’t act like it. That’s not me. I can cook, and right now, you can’t. So I’m doing it for you because that’s how people should behave; they should fill in each other’s gaps”

I just finished reading this one exactly 10 minutes before I started writing this post and I credit it for giving me the idea for this post. Chloe Brown is chronically ill but has decided to get out there and get on with her life. She has moved out of her parents’ mansion and moved into a flat armed with a list of things to do to get on with her life so that her funeral speech would have more than her illness in it.

Redford Morgan used to be the toast of the art world but after being dumped by his verbally abusive posh girlfriend he’s hiding out as a superintendent in Chloe’s building. As Chloe and Red become close, she enlists him to help her achieve her list, sparks fly and Chloe and Red might just be the answer to each other’s prayers.

I really enjoy British romance and this one was no different. I thoroughly enjoyed it! There are other books after this one in this series (The Brown Sisters) but I haven’t read it so I don’t know how good they are.

Have your read any of these? Let me know what you thought in the comments! Have a great reading week, everybody!

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction, race, Uncategorized

Book Review: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

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“My memories of him, though few, are mostly pleasant, but memories of people you hardly know are often permitted a kind of pleasantness in their absence. It’s those who stay who are judged the harshest, simply by virtue of being around to be judged.”

Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her mother’s pastor calls to let her know that her mother is going through a depressive episode and she asks him to send her to California.

While Gyasi’s outstanding debut novel, Homegoing, zooms out with its broad story spanning generations across Ghana and the United States, Transcendent Kingdom zooms in to a specific Ghanaian immigrant family in Huntsville, Alabama as the family explores grief, faith, racism in the evangelical church, addiction, science, and trying to develop a sense of belonging.

“You cannot go around claiming that an idea or an item was imported into a given society unless you could also conclude that to the best of your knowledge, there is not, and never was any word or phrase in that society’s indigenous language which describes that idea or item”

This book is written in a first person point of view. Gifty tells us the history of her family as best as she can remember it reading as a stream of thoughts. It’s not chronological in its retelling as it jumps between present day California and her family’s history in Alabama. We know from the very first page and the novel’s blurb that her brother, Nana, died from a drug overdose so every time she comes close to getting to his addiction you almost hold your breath, dreading it.

Reading the kind of child and kind older brother Nana was, made you dread his inevitable end that you know is coming. Nana was kind, smart and talented and had no history of previous misdemeanors. He was a star in whatever sport he decided he wanted to be a part of. Already attracting college scouts by the time he was 15, his future was so bright and promising. Gyasi paints a picture of Nana so heartbreaking that just like Gifty, even you are praying for his death to come and go already to spare us the anticipation distress.

“…We humans are reckless with our bodies, reckless with our lives, for no other reason than that we want to know what would happen, what it might feel like to brush up against death, to run right up to the edge of our lives, which is, in some ways, to live fully.”

Gifty’s family is the only black family in their congregation. Her mother, not knowing the politics of race in Alabama figured the God in Ghana was the same as the God in Alabama and did not have second thoughts about sending her family to a congregation that feared God but hated them. I liked the juxtaposition of the head pastor – who was so kind to Gifty’s family and the congregation – who treated them badly and traded on racial stereotypes to justify Nana’s dependence on drugs. The most heartbreaking being when Gifty overhears a conversation where one of the women in church says – “these people have always had a taste for drugs”. Everything is tinged in racial bias, from the praises heaped on Nana for his brilliance in sports to the insults after his fall from grace.

“They are skeptical of the rhetoric of addiction as disease, something akin to high blood pressure or diabetes, and I get that. What they’re really saying is that they may have partied in high school and college but look at them now. Look how strong-willed they are, how many good choices they’ve made. They want reassurances. They want to believe that they have been loved enough and have raised their children well enough that the things that I research will never, ever touch their own lives.”

I genuinely enjoyed this book and pondered so many of the questions Gifty raises as she straddles the fence between christianity and science. Ultimately, I felt that this book was too short. I wish she had talked more about her mother’s recovery or non recovery. The book ends rather abruptly, the last chapter a wrap up of her and her mother’s life but I was curious. Did she ever get help? Did she ever get out of her depressive episode? What led Gifty to the place her life ended up? How has she reconciled her faith with her career?

I feel like Gyasi left so many questions unanswered. This book is less than 300 pages. I think 267 to be exact so it’s not like she ran out of pages. I still highly recommend this book. This is nothing like her first book but I think she escapes the sophomore slump by drilling down instead of writing yet another sprawling book that can be compared to her fantastic debut novel. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fantasy, Fiction

4 Kick Arse Female Fantasy Books!

I loveee fantasy. It’s my favorite genre and gives me so much escape from reality especially in these very, very strange times we live in. This is a very male dominated genre and the types of characters I enjoy in fantasy don’t help matters. I adore ruthless characters in fantasy. I want them to be single minded about their goals and to cut their way through their enemies.

The problem is that I read a lot of male heroes because there isn’t that many female characters written that way. I do not enjoy romance in my fantasy. I can stomach a little bit of it, but I do not want it to be the main plot. I just want a lot of world building and violence (Yikes!). Yes, there may be something wrong with me.

I decided to make a list of 4 fantasy books that I think have my version of a kick arse female character in fantasy.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang:

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“Nothing is written. You humans always think you’re destined for things, for tragedy or for greatness. Destiny is a myth. Destiny is the only myth. The gods choose nothing. You chose. At every critical juncture you were given an option; you were given a way out. Yet you picked precisely the roads that led you here. You are at this temple, kneeling before me, only because you wanted to be.”

Rin aces the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—and finds herself at Sineguard, the most prestigious military school in Nikan. Being a dark-skinned peasant girl, she is targeted immediately by her classmates and bullied by teachers who don’t believe she should be there. Rin with the help of a seemingly insane teacher realises that she possesses a lethal power everyone else at Sineguard believes is a myth. War breaks out in Nikan and her set graduates into a political mayhem and an all out war.

Why I love this character – Rin is absolutely ruthless and very focused on her goals. She is very single minded when she decides on a destination. She doesn’t get into any romantic entanglement even though I feel like there were some makings of one. She is a complex and complicated character who absolutely smashes all expectations. She is involved in some absolutely terrible deeds, but you rarely ever see women written like that so I was absolutely pulled in from beginning to end. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence:

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Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch.”

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. Nona Grey is rescued from being hanged by one of the convent’s sisters after being accused of murder (and being guilty of much worse). She is just 8 but has made powerful enemies by the time she enters the convent. We see the young girls get trained in every art of killing imaginable. It takes about 10 years to be considered a sister.

Why I love this character – This is a convent so there are basically no men around. You get to have a book that is based solely on female characters interacting with each other for the most part. I love training schools a la Harry Potter, but this time for assassins. I love seeing how our characters develop from this absolute clueless person, to the end of the book where they are powerful and strong. This is a trilogy and I’ve read the first two books.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden:

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“I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me”

Vasilisa is growing up in the Russian wilderness totally inhibited. She spends her days exploring her environment, listening to her old nanny tell her stories of the various gods and spirits with her older siblings and honoring the spirits. After an incident, Vasilisa’s father decides that she needs a mother figure and marries a new wife who is a deeply devout christian and bans them from honoring the Russian gods and spirits with devastating consequences.

Why I love this character – Vasilisa is independent and strong and everything you hope your girl child will be but she is severely punished for it and called a witch. She never lets anything stop her from her goal of liberating her village even if it meant honoring the spirits with her own blood. She rejects the fear and holds on to bravery. She was just a kick arse character and you will enjoy rooting for her.

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie:

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“You were a hero round these parts. That’s what they call you when you kill so many people the word murderer falls short.”

Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, is the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ. Her victories have made her popular but too popular for her employer’s taste so he betrays her, throws her off a mountain and leaves her for dead. This is a simple revenge story. After she is nursed back to health and is now half the woman she was, she vows to kill the 7 men present when she was betrayed at whatever cost. Even though this is the 4th book in an already established world, this is still a standalone that I think you can read whether you read the first three or not. So, yes, you can just jump into this book and it’ll still be an amazing read.

Why I like this character – I think my description says it all for me. She’s a woman with a one track mind bent on revenge – think Kill Bill on acid. There’s a bit of a romantic partner here but it’s barely there and doesn’t really affect the plot too much.

Let me know if any of these titles catch your fancy. I hope you enjoy this post, 4 for the price of one. Have a great week!

Leggy