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

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

Book Review: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

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“I’m not very good at forgiveness.” Liz nodded. “Not many people are. But what I’ve learned in life is that in order for true forgiveness to occur, something has to die first. Your expectations, or your circumstances. Maybe your heart. And that can be painful. But it’s also incredibly liberating.”

A chance meeting at an airport bar brings two women together, each running away from the circumstances in their lives, and leads to a switch in travel plans. Claire Cook is married to a very charismatic and well liked politician from a great political family and her life looks perfect. She lives in a fantastic townhouse in Manhattan, surrounded by staff and wealth but behind closed doors, nothing is as good as it seems. Her publicly adored husband is an abuser – both physical and emotional – and does not hesitate to use his loyal staff to clock and monitor her every move.

Eva is also running from something and just wants to not be on a flight to Oakland, so she proposes a change in travel plans to Claire at the airport. Eva to Puerto-Rico and Claire to Oakland instead of vice versa. But, when the flight to Puerto-Rico goes down with Claire’s name on the manifesto, she has to figure out who Eva was and if remaining hidden is the best cause of action.

“Identity is a strange thing. Are we who we say we are, or do we become the person others see? Do they define us by what we choose to show them, or what they see despite our best attempts to conceal it?”

Told through the women’s perspectives, we find out about the lives they’re trying to escape from. Both characters were very well developed and their stories were very compelling and interesting. I was rooting for these women to get what they wanted out of life.

You can feel the fear and tension in Claire’s life when you read her sections in the book. Being without a family for so many years and not being able to have any friends except those pre-selected by your husband, while he physically abuses you with all your staff in the know of what is going on but staying quiet, is a difficult thing to read about.

Eva feels lost and isolated in her life. One mistake in college (even though I thought it was a very dumb mistake and couldn’t believe she did it all for a boy) cost her the degree she had worked so hard for all her life. She is thrust into a life of drugs and crime just to survive. I was intrigued by both storylines and found them easy to follow. Both characters being likable didn’t hurt and made the characters easy to root for.

I found this book to be a well written and fast paced thriller but if you do not enjoy reading alternative point of views in books, then you’re probably not going to enjoy this one. With the book being less than 300 pages and getting straight to the point, I read this book in 4 hours.

I can’t really say too much about this book so as not to reveal any spoilers but I completely recommend this book. The epilogue wasn’t what I was hoping for and it completely broke my heart, but I understood why the author made that decision. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Historical, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Book Review: Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

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“We are more than just our genes. We are, in some way, a product of the people who surround us—the people we’re forced to grow up with, and the people we choose to be with later.”

Don and Mimi Galvin were an average middle class family living out what seemed to them at the time, their American dream. After World War II, Don moved his family to Colorado for his work with the Air Force and there, they created their large catholic family. Mimi went on to have 12 children, the oldest born in 1945 and the youngest in 1965.

Mimi tried to create a good domestic life for their children. Encouraging structure, hard work, and an interest in sports. Their family was huge enough to be well known and also well respected in the community but behind close doors was a different story – psychological breakdowns, abuse that went unnoticed by the parents, violence between the boys. By the mid 70’s, 6 of the 10 boys had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and were in and out of hospitals.

“And so I was crushed,” Mimi said. “Because I thought I was such a good mother. I baked a cake and a pie every night. Or at least had Jell-O with whipped cream.”

The Galvins became popular in the debate of nature vs nurture in the psychiatry field concerning schizophrenia. A lot of the theories in those days, laid a lot of blame on the mothers. A lot of psychiatrists, even without a suitable peer reviewed study, were quite convinced that children developed schizophrenia because they had an overbearing mother that they tried so hard to please that they lost touch of reality. This was a very sexist theory and completely discounted the presence of fathers in the house. The theory also prevented a lot of people from going to get help early because a lot of mothers feared they were going to be blamed for their children’s condition.

“They have been warehoused where nobody can really deal with them,” he said. Here was the real reason, he thought, why big pharma could afford to be fickle about finding new drugs for schizophrenia—why decades come and go without anyone even finding new drug targets. These patients, he realized, can’t advocate for themselves.”

What went on inside the Galvin family house led to them being one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. We see the medical field move and evolve as we follow their family story over the years. As we talk about the past and present protocol for schizophrenia patients from lobotomies to institutionalization and the ebb and flow of shock therapy in mental health.

We also see the harm this sickness brought to even the healthy people in the family and the innocent bystanders too. We follow scientists as they start looking for genetic markers for schizophrenia and find a compromise to the nature/nurture debate.

“For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted in the direction of the sick family member. Even if just one child has schizophrenia, everything about the internal logic of that family changes.”

This book contains a lot of abuse, so consider this a trigger warning. There’s a lot of domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse (we also see abuse from a catholic priest) etc. I found this book to be very compelling and very readable. I did this one on audio which is how I do most non fiction books I read. Even though there is a lot of science in this book, I do not think it bogs down this book in anyway. I actually think the science elevates it.

I completely recommend this book and hope we as a community think about the way we treat our mentally ill. This book is also a huge indictment of the pharmacology industry for their non interest in putting money into developing more drugs to help with a wide variety of mental health illnesses because of how difficult the trial process is. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa

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Plot: Bontle Tau is living a luxurious and largely fake life in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has a gang of admiring older boyfriends who pay her rent, send her on vacations and even secure her high level construction contracts even though she doesn’t have a construction company. She narrates what life is like living the life of a “blessee”

 

Taynement: So, The Blessed Girl…lol

Leggy: Is this an actual book?

Taynement: I don’t want to be harsh but it could have been a PDF fan fiction, but let’s go back to how we ended up with this book. Given everything going on in the world, we wanted to read a fun book by a black author. We’ve been intentional with our chit chats. They’ve mostly been either black or female authors. Enter Blessed Girl.

Leggy: I think we took the fun read waaay to the left. I was actually excited to read this one, but once I downloaded it from my library and read the first 10% I put it down. It was so badly written.

Taynement: Same. It was such a fun cover till I read the first page.

Leggy: I actually would have never finished this book if we didn’t have to do this chit chat.

Taynement: I still don’t honestly know how to categorize this book because it was badly written but I do think there was fun in it? I could see the vision and the format was like it was her writing in her journal and we were the journal? Or it was a video journal and we were the viewers?

Leggy: I didn’t find fun in it. I actually found it very problematic and it ended exactly how I thought it would end. Because obviously we have to punish the “prostitute” by giving her HIV. There was nothing fun in this book for me. I’m also not going to recommend this book to anyone so there’s going to be a lot of spoilers in this chit chat. Can I talk about the author’s treatment of a full blown rapist in this book? He raped a whole 14 year old and they spent the entire time talking about letting him see the son that resulted from this rape instead of discussing the fact that he is an actual rapist!

Taynement: You’re right, I think I’m just reaching. Listen from the moment she said Donald Trump was her idol, I immediately went to search when this book was published and it was 2017.

Leggy: They just threw in the rape part to “explain” why she was the way she was? Fun would be just a materialistic woman who likes money and fascinated us by her exploits. This just turned in a Tyler Perry movie.

Taynement: I think she was wayy too easy on her mother also.

Leggy: Her mother was TRASH!

Taynement: I couldn’t decide if the author wanted us to be mad or sympathetic towards her because I would never speak to that kind of mother again.

Leggy: You handed your 14 year old daughter to a grown man! And then made a case for why this grown man can come back 13 years later and be a great arse dad. What the fuck?! Who approved this crap?! I kept getting really angry reading this book.

Taynement: And his wife supported it. Ewww

Leggy: Also, the main character was crap. I sympathized with everything she had to go through but I didn’t like her. Honestly nobody in this book was likable and I think to pull off a book like this you need a likable protagonist.

Taynement: I think her best friend was – the one with the steady boyfriend but she got no development in the book.

Leggy: Honestly, that girl just came off as a stereotype to juxtapose her “good” character with the main character’s “reckless” life.

Taynement: And of course, trust the abusive man to be Nigerian in a book set in South Africa

Leggy: So many Nigerian oil barons sprinkled in this book, Nigerian artist, even the salon the girl frequented was owned by a Chimamanda. Anyway, I knew she’d get HIV. I mean how can a badly written book get worse than to introduce HIV? The ultimate punishment of wayward women? *rolls eyes*

Taynement: I honestly didn’t see any twist coming. I was too engrossed in how bad this book was and how it got published.

Leggy: Immediately Mr. Emmanuel asked to not wear a condom, I knew it. They didn’t mention through the entire book if she was having protected sex or not so for that to be mentioned specifically, I knew he had HIV.

Taynement: Also, what was the point of telling us about the cheating with her aunt’s husband if nothing came of that plot line?

Leggy: I kept waiting for her aunty to catch her and nothing happened. She even ended up starting a business with her aunty. It was like once they punished her with HIV, her sins were forgiven and she became a whole new person.

Taynement: And her ex-husband never stopped loving her and was fine with everything. I didn’t understand why or how he was still mad at her mother but not her. How do you forget that she is materialistic and only now open to returning to you now that you are successful.

Leggy: Even HIV. The protagonist cheated on him while they were married, lied to him and deceived him but still, love conquered all!

I wonder what the publisher saw in this book and thought it was worth publishing. Honestly, I can list so many Nollywood movies that are better than this book and they didn’t even end with the girls getting HIV.

Taynement: Probably wanted to explore the idea of the blesser/blessee culture but needless to say, this book was a fail. Don’t get caught up by the cover, skip this one people!

Leggy: We didn’t even talk about her brother/son’s drug problems. For a short book, this book sure had a lot of story lines.

Taynement: Someone who got rehabbed in 30 days.

Leggy: And suddenly was a drug free, happy child chilling with his rapist father and his family. We have to export this fantastic rehab to the world. Anyway, like Tayne said, skip this one. I wouldn’t recommend it. Gave it 1 star on Goodreads.

 

Leggy & Taynement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Book Review : The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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“You can escape a town, but you cannot escape blood. Somehow, the Vignes twins believed themselves capable of both.”

The Vignes twin sisters – Stella and Desiree were born in a small town in Louisiana called Mallard filled with very light skinned black people. At age 16, they run away to New Orleans to escape their small town and live bigger lives. After a year in new Orleans, their lives completely diverge. They both go on to live completely different lives – one passing as white, while the other marries the darkest black man she can find. Bennett takes us through the years, weaving together multiple strands and generations of these women, from Louisiana to Boston to California, she tells a remarkable story of trying to survive while black in America.

“There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong”

Bennett describes the town of Mallard so well that it is almost a character in this book (I googled “is Mallard a real town?” even though the logical part of my brain knew it wasn’t). This town is a black community with a very unusual beginning:

The idea arrived to Alphonse Decuir in 1848, as he stood in the sugarcane fields he’d inherited from the father who’d once owned him. The father now dead, the now-freed son wished to build something on those acres of land that would last for centuries to come. A town for men like him, who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes. A third place.

So they strived to create a better negro with each generation breeding specifically for white features – skin lighter, hair wavier, eyes colored but this still didn’t inoculate them from the hands of racism. The twins’ father was still dragged out of bed in the middle of the day and lynched while his little girls watched when they were only 7 and it didn’t stop race from shaping everything about their lives for the 40 years the book spans.

10 years after she leaves, Desiree comes back to Mallard while trying to escape an abusive husband with the darkest baby the town had ever seen. Desiree’s daughter, Jude, is the darkest person in a town filled with light skinned black people. The way Mallard treats and talks about dark skinned people is quite riveting to read. The cognitive dissonance is fascinating. They throw out all the dark skinned insults – dark baby, black you’re almost blue, tar baby, if you swim with us i’m sure the water would be filled with crude oil and on and on. They never see the irony in the way they treat Jude and the way white people treat them.

“But the passe blanc were a mystery. You could never meet one who’d passed over undetected, the same way you’d never know someone who successfully faked her own death; the act could only be successful if no one ever discovered it was a ruse.”

Reading about Stella’s passing as white and being immersed in a world that absolutely hated her was fantastic to read. Bennett paints such a vivid picture of fear and hiding in plain sight in a world that wants nothing to do with you and actively participating in that world and in the prejudice that comes with finally being the oppressor. Stella marries a white man and gives birth to a blonde, blue eyed daughter who had no idea that she was anything but white.

The way little micro aggressions are laid out and “good people” are shown to think their prejudices are for everyone’s good and even the feminist movement’s exclusion of black women is explored. At first, you judge Stella for her choices but as you read more about her story you can’t help but ache for her – the loneliness, the lies her entire life is built on, the struggle of not being able to belong to your people and the surety that the people who claim to love you now would absolutely hate you if they knew who you really were.

“She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.”

Bennett’s debut novel “The Mothers” was very good but this book is FANTASTIC. I loved every second of this book. This story is so well written, emotional, and is one that stays with you long after you’ve stopped reading. I truly enjoyed every character and setting used by the author. Every single line belonged here. I think everyone should read this one. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads and I would give it more if I could. This will definitely make my top 5 books of the year. Absolutely recommend. You should read this one and come talk to me on twitter about it.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, Mystery, thriller

Book Review : A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

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“And in the end, wasn’t that the key to marriage? Learning to pretend that a few unspoiled things could make up for all the broken ones.”

Lizzie Kitsakis just started working at the prestigious Young and Crane law firm when she gets a call from an old friend, Zach Grayson, from Rikers prison desperately asking for her help. His wife, Amanda, has just been found dead on the floor of their Brooklyn brownstone and he’s the primary suspect. Until recently Lizzie had been a happily underpaid prosecutor with a devoted husband but everything has come crashing down around her. She delves into investigating who could have murdered Amanda, the close knit group that surrounds the couple in Brooklyn who all seem to be hiding secrets of their own and she has to figure out which of these secrets is worth committing murder for.

“Forgiveness is a side effect of love,” he said finally. And sadly, almost. “If you are going to be married, share the ups and downs of life. What other choice is there?”

This is an impressive slow burn of a book. The author starts off building her characters’ backstories and letting us into their lives. We get two different points of view – one from Lizzie as she gets Zach’s call and starts investigating the murder and secondly, from Amanda as we get a countdown of the events that lead up to the murder. The chapters alternate between these two characters so if you don’t like that plot narrative device in a book, this one might not be for you. Even though the book started out slow and built to a crescendo, I never thought for a second it was boring. It was intriguing from the very first page.

“That’s the hardest part about marriage, isn’t it?” Zach went on. “Somebody else’s problems become your own. It doesn’t always feel fair.”

This book was full of twists and turns and none of it was silly but none of it was mind blowing either. It is sprinkled with a lot of deceit, false starts and dead ends but you never feel like the author is toying with your sense of believe. Even though I didn’t see a lot of the twists coming, they just made me go – “oh, ok, I can see that being true”, there wasn’t a huge Gone Girl twist which I loved. I’m tired of every thriller on earth trying to have a huge twist at the end just to cash in on that Gone Girl popularity. Also, I could not guess the killer which is very important to me and this is the fact that kept me reading, I just needed to know who killed Amanda. I read this book all in one day and didn’t go to bed till I was finished.

“I’d been so foolish to think love could change the essential nature of anything.”

After every few chapters, the book presents you with a transcript of a grand jury testimony containing several interviews between witnesses and the prosecutor building the case against Zach. I found these transcripts to be unnecessary and stopped reading them after the first couple installments, just started skipping them. They added nothing to the plot. Also, honestly, the ending was lackluster. Even though I didn’t guess the killer, I still felt oddly unsatisfied. I wanted someone more instrumental to the plot. Anyway, this book is very readable and even though it starts off slow, it still managed to be a big page turner. Gave this 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

 

“There is exquisite lightness in waking each morning with the knowledge that the worst has already happened.”

The publisher’s blurb tells you virtually nothing about what this book is about. In fact, the first 50 pages leave you wondering where Mandel is going with this one. Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass hotel on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. Jonathan sweeps Vincent up into a world of wealth and greed. At the heart of this book is a Ponzi scheme and the financial collapse of 2009 which makes this even more of a sobering read, now that the stock market is crashing and recession looms.

If you intend to pick up this book because you loved Station Eleven, bear in mind that the subject matters are nothing alike. But the way the books are written is actually quite similar. Mandel has a way with words, every single sentence matters and is important. This book is a real puzzle with pieces scattered all over the different chapters and they all come together at some point to make a full picture.

“Leon hadn’t understood, and he’d given Alkaitis his retirement savings anyway. He didn’t insist on a detailed explanation. One of our signature flaws as a species: we will risk almost anything to avoid looking stupid. The strategy had seemed to adhere to a certain logic, even if the precise mechanics–puts, calls, options, holds, conversions–swam just outside of his grasp. ‘Look,’ Alkaitis had said, at his warmest and most accommodating, ‘I could break it all down for you, but I think you understand the gist of it, and at the end of the day the returns speak for themselves”

The characters in this book are genuinely unlikeable characters. They are opportunists, grabbing whatever life offers them at the expense of so many people while convincing themselves that they are not monsters. The way Mandel writes about the people who are affected when the ponzi scheme finally collapses is heart wrenching. People losing their homes, their retirements, pensions, working well into their 70’s just to survive, losing houses, etc. It’s also fascinating how people never question things that are too good to be true, there was always a feeling that something wasn’t right but those feelings were brushed aside.

This is an effortless read. I adored the writing. Mandel makes sure all her characters have layers, you start to feel like you know these people, you imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes and your heart breaks when theirs does too. This book is weirdly beautiful for a finance book and even if you’re not at all interested in finance (which i’m not), it still captures you from beginning to end. I gave this book 4 stars because even though I loved it the last 50 pages just dragged on for me, I didn’t need everything wrapped up that much. Still a very compelling novel. I definitely recommend.

 

Have you read this one? Will it be making it on your TBR?

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics

Is It The Book I Hate…Or The Character(s)?

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Think of a book you really don’t like. Now think of a book that you don’t like that EVERYBODY seems to love. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is that book for me. I read this book a few years ago and absolutely hated it. It was recommended to me by a friend and it was back in the day when I had not learned the art of dropping a book if I did not like it.

If you didn’t know,  I found out early on that I seem to have a problem with books with British protagonists. They are just never likable and I don’t know why. So from jump I was struggling with the book but powered through as mentioned above. By the end of the book I was annoyed, irritated and very relieved that I was done with the book.

To my chagrin, this book is a beloved one. I kept reading rave reviews about it, it was on every list imaginable. In fact, much to my chagrin before Covid19 struck, this book could almost always be found in every airport bookstore bestseller bookshelf – regardless of country.

Every time I see this book or someone tells me how they just “read this book that I really loved”, I’d roll my eyes and want to understand exactly what it is they loved. At some point, I took the time out to wonder what I was missing and what it is exactly I don’t like about the book.

One day, after giving my response for the 100th time as to why I didn’t like the book – I just couldn’t stand Eleanor. I took a step back and wondered if you don’t like a character in a book does that automatically make it a bad book or is it the reverse where it has been written so well that you have intense feelings of dislike for a fictional character? Do your characters have to be likeable to qualify a book as good?

While it definitely affects your enjoyment of the book, I want to say no. I’d like to think that you can separate the meat of a book and its writing from the likeability level of a main character. Book that comes to mind is A Little Lie. I found the main character very frustrating but I wouldn’t say I hated the book (although Leggy did so hmm) I think it was written well enough and the characters were fully fleshed out. On the flip side, I also don’t think I have ever described any of the aforementioned British chick lit books with annoying protagonists as “a good book”

So I pose the question to you, can you hate the main character or characters in a book and still think of it as a good book or does the intense dislike color your feelings towards the book?

Taynement