Book Related Topics, Fiction

Book Review: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

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“That these people would leave their homes, their cultures, their families, even their languages, and venture into tremendous peril, risking their very lives, all for the chance to get to the dream of some faraway country that doesn’t even want them.”

Lydia is forced to flee the Mexican city of Acapulco with her son, Luca after her entire family was brutally murdered by a cartel chief. This is not a spoiler as the book opens with this brutal scene. What follows, is a journey of a mother trying to survive with her child and escape the reach of a powerful man. Lydia and Luca journey North, hopping on trains and walking so many miles trying to cross the border into the United States. On the way, they meet so many people and characters that make their experience one that’s fascinating to read.

“…if you can’t trust a librarian, who can you trust?”

One good thing this book has going for it is that the author knows how to create characters that you want to root for. Cummings makes you want her characters to succeed on their journey North. Your heart is pounding as they jump on trains,  dodge gang members, get kidnapped, get lost and everything horrible in between. Whether you met the character from the beginning or the last 100 pages of the book, you have this intense desire to see them come to no harm and when that doesn’t always happen it completely breaks your heart. I also think the author did a lot of research for this book and reading her author’s note at the end of this book confirmed that.

“From now on, when we board, each time we board, I will remind you to be terrified,’ she says. ‘And you remind me, too: this is not normal.’

‘This is not normal.’ Soledad nods.”

It’s also super obvious that the author of this novel is a white person writing about brown bodies because, she spends so long describing these brown bodies. I can’t tell you how many over written lines and metaphors included the word “brown” or a metaphor representing the word “brown”. It was like being a black girl on a dating site and being called “chocolate” over and over again. The main character, Lydia comes off very naive and not Mexican at all. I found her surprise at everything I’d think a typical Mexican who grew up in Mexico would be familiar with, very hard to believe. The choices she made that led her and her family to that point, the way her husband who was a reporter and had seen the deadliness of the cartels just trusted her to make those naive decisions. She was very much akin to being a white woman in a horror movie.

I waited until I finished reading this book before I read the many articles about the controversy surrounding this book. I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed this book. This novel is an over written melodramatic thriller which has sparked a war in the literary world but I still enjoyed it for what it was. I completely understand where the criticisms are coming from. This white author was paid a 7 figure sum for this book deal and received accolades from so many big name authors and is now currently on Oprah’s book club list. All to tell stories about a group of people that you are not a member of and a group of people that are not afforded these opportunities to tell their own stories themselves.

I have also read the author’s notes and some of her responses to the criticisms on her book tour, and I do feel some sympathy for her. It all feels very white savior-esque but I wonder what the average Mexican illegal immigrant would think of this book. Would they be worried about the appropriation or be thankful that a book exists that might help push the conversation on immigration in this country forward and make more people sympathetic to their plight?

Anyway, I gave this one 3 stars on Goodreads. Are you going to read this book? Have you heard of the controversy surrounding it? Do you have any opinions about them?

Leggy

Book Related Topics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Renegades by Marissa Meyer:

Renegades (Renegades, #1)

“One cannot be brave who has no fear.”

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

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

4. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris:

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

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

 

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

 

Leggy

 

Book Related Topics

Our 2020 Reading Goals + Giveaway Winner!

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Leggy:

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

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

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

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

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

Taynement:

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

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

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

Wish me luck!

AND NOW WHAT YOU ARE HERE FOR!

THE WINNER OF THE GIVEAWAY IS…

 

 

 

 

 

CURIOUSSHE!

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

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!

LEGGY & TAYNEMENT

 

 

 

 

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Our Best and Worst Books of 2019 + Holiday Giveaway!

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

Taynement’s Best:

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

Other favorites:

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

 

Leggy’s Best:

A Woman Is No Man

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

Other favorites:

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

 

 

Taynement’s worst:

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

Leggy’s Worst:

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

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

GIVEAWAY

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

Happy Holidays!!!

Taynement & Leggy

Book Related Topics

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

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It’s officially Christmas season. The malls are packed, you can play Christmas music without being judged and the decorations are up. Finding gifts for the book lovers in your life can be tough, so we’re going to give you some ideas on what to get!

Subscriptions:

Everyone knows about Audible, Book of the Month and Scribd which are amazing services and you should definitely consider it but we want to introduce you to some cool literary services like

  • Owl Crate – This is a subscription service for young adults and people who enjoy YA books. Not only do you get a new YA book every month but you also get really amazing bookish accessories too! It’s $29.99 per month.
  • Bawdy Bookworms – This is for the romance readers in your life and the price is quite steep ($44.95 a month)! This subscription box is definitely exclusive for adults because you get one steamy romance book and a couple sexy adult surprises. If the book lover in your life only likes closed door romances then this is not the box for them but otherwise, go wild!
  • My Thrill Club – This is for the thrill readers in your life. Do they enjoy thrillers, horror, mysteries? They’ll love this box! For just $18.99 a month, My Thrill Club sends you 2 books, an e book and a few extra surprises every month. This is such a great bang for your buck!

Cookbooks:

There were so many great cookbooks out this year and it’s easy to figure out which one the book lover in your life already has.

Some of our favorites this year:

  • The Pioneer Woman Cooks : The New Frontier by Ree Drummond
  • Cali’flour Kitchen by Amy Lacey (one of the few healthy and plant based cookbook, I didn’t find annoying!)
  • Life is a Party by David Burtka (Husband of Neil Patrick Harris)
  • Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger (This is the cookbook I’m personally getting myself this Christmas! – Leggy)

Also, you can find stocking stuffer cook books for Keto, Air Fryer and Instapot recipes online or at your nearest local bookstore! (images appear bigger than they really are, they are really bite sized)

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Coffee Table Books:

I can’t wait to grow up, actually decorate my apartment and get a coffee table book for my living room. Anyway, these are our recs for the holiday!

  • The Rihanna Book by Rihanna – A visual autobiography of the star’s life
  • 21 Nights by Prince -(This includes the book and a CD)
  • Black is Beautiful by Kwame Brathwaite
  • The NASA Archives: 60 Years in Space by Andrew Chaikin and Piers Bizony

Stocking Stuffers:

All the bits and bobs you can gift the book lovers in your life!

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Good Old Books:

It’s hard to find someone the perfect book especially when it’s a gift. You have to find out what they enjoyed, what they didn’t and the genre they’re usually most comfortable in and then hope they don’t already have whatever book you come up with.

We have a lot of recommendations on the blog and you just have to search the genre tags to see what we thought of whatever book you’re considering. Celebrity memoirs from people they are fans of,  is always a safe bet. Also, getting them books on subject matters they’re actually interested in.

Some general book recs that are not already on our blog are:

  • Movies (And Other Things) by Shea Serrano
  • Game of Thrones: A Guide to Westeros and Beyond, The Complete Series by Myles McNutt
  • I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller
  • The Complete Novels of Jane Austen
  • Michelle Obama: Her Essential Wisdom edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi

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Giving back (Bonus):

The Stacks Podcast is currently doing a book drive that will benefit the kids of Rocketship Delta Prep in California. The students in this school come from extreme poverty and rarely ever have access to actual, hardcover or paperback books, most of their books are photocopied. This Book drive strives to provide these kids with an amazing Christmas present. They have a book list received from some of the teachers and are asking people to buy at least one book each! Also, you automatically get entered into a giveaway by participating in this book drive. You can read all about it here!

This was a fun post to curate for us and we really hope you find something your loved ones will truly enjoy. If all else fails and you can’t decide what to get, you can always fall back on a good ol’ trusted gift card, so they can get whatever they want for themselves. Happy shopping and hope you have a lovely holiday season!

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Leggy & Taynement

 

Book Related Topics

My Book Picking Process

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Every time I get in a book rut, I can’t help but think that I have no one to blame but myself because I must be picking the wrong books. I took a moment to think about my book picking process was and decided to share and also see how everyone else does it. I think insight to my process can probably be gleaned from my reading habits post.

I think the fact that I go into a lot of books blind i.e not knowing a synopsis or what the book is about, probably doesn’t help my cause. Back in the day, I used to keep a running list of books that I wanted to read. This list was informed by anything. A recommendation, a TV segment, a review etc. At the time of addition, I may or may not have an idea of what the book is about but, by the time I scrolled down the list to see what was available in the library, I almost didn’t remember why I added it.

These days, I have given up on that list for two reasons. Increase in FOMO and joining Instagram. Our timeline is full of fellow book lovers and publishing houses, so I can’t miss any of the books that are currently on people’s radars and I always want in to join the conversation. The books on my list were at least a few years old and I’d just rather something newer. This is why most of my reads are current reads vs. back lists.

Since they are current reads, they are popular, so instead of adding to a list, now I go straight to my library and join the wait list and wait the endless weeks till it gets to me. Like I mentioned, if I see a book over and over on my TL and it comes with raves, I probably will get on that. See: Daisy Jones & The Six, The Farm, Ask Again Yes – all products of FOMO.

The other way I decide on picks is through my magazines. I subscribe to two magazines that come with book review and every now and then I take pictures and save them in a “Book Album”. I rarely come back to the album but coincidentally my FOMO books end up aligning with books I have added to the album.

Genre plays a big part. Most of my reading genre is fiction. If it’s historical, sci-fi or fantasy, I probably won’t touch it. I am a tad bit turned off by YA but I know there are some good ones out there. Celeb memoirs intrigue me, so I read a decent number of them.

The last method is simply, Leggy recommends to me.

I wish my methods were more exciting but for someone who doesn’t read physical books, I don’t go through the emotions of seeing a book cover (like maybe in an airport) and being intrigued or excited to pick up a book and read it. I love walking through bookstores but most of the time, I am already familiar with the covers and get more excited if its a different variation of a book cover I am familiar with.

In summary, the ways in which I pick a book are: FOMO, Instagram, Magazine Reviews and Leggy.

How do you decide on what books to read?

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fiction, Young Adult

Favorite Childhood Books

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I was a voracious reader as a child. The fourth of six kids,  I read so many things way earlier than I should have. I started reading Mills & Boons in Primary 4 (4th grade) because my older sisters had them lying around. I looooved romance novels. Growing up, I consumed so many of them which is why I’m surprised I grew up to be an adult who doesn’t love romance novels.

Anyway, in between all that debauchery, I actually read some age appropriate books and I want to share my favorites growing up. I hope when I have kids someday that they love these books too! Also, you’re never too grown up to reread these books to see if they stand the test of time or to read one of these for the very first time!

  • Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton – I read A LOT of Blyton growing up in Nigeria and these books were my absolute favorites. They were so funny, relatable and painted such a fun picture of boarding school that made me want to go to one so bad (my mother vehemently said no!). This was the first school series I ever read. The characters were all fully developed and even the antagonist (Gwendolyn! what a brat!) had a great arc through out the book. This is one I have never reread, I want to do this on audio soon, to see if it holds up but I remember it with such fondness and nostalgia for my childhood days.
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – I reread this book last year and it was just as fantastic as I remember it being. I was so glad that 7 year old Leggy had great taste in books. Claudia Kincaid is tired of being the older sister in her family so she decides to run away. Being the very resourceful and clever girl that she is and knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along. These two kids successfully run away in New York City to the MET! This is such a fun read and I think even adults who are looking for a palate cleanser would enjoy it.
  • Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene – I have read every Nancy Drew novel that has ever been written! My mom really liked these books, so she bought so many of them for us. There was always a Nancy Drew novel available to read and as soon as I could read, I devoured them. Carolyn Keene was so adept at keeping a young girl’s attention – there was just the right amount of mystery, very mild romance and innocent fun as Nancy and her pals sleuthed around solving not-so gruesome mysteries and murders. I would always beg my mom to let me read just one more chapter but would end up staying up all night to read the entire thing because every chapter pretty much ended on a cliffhanger and I just had to know what happened next! I have not read these books as an adult, I probably won’t get to them anytime soon but I adored them as a child. I’m just going to trust 7 year old me that they were good.
  • The Baby Sitter’s Club by Ann Martin – I loved these books growing up, I have tried to go through the series description to find one that I did not read and I couldn’t find any. My mom bought these books anywhere she could find them because she knew we were guaranteed to love them. This book is about a group of friends who decide to start a baby sitting business in their home town. We followed them through puberty, diabetes, parents getting divorced, moving away and of course, BOYS! These books were just such easy reads but I wonder if they’d really stand the test of time today. I somehow doubt it but they were great to 7 year old me.
  • Famous Five by Enid Blyton – The famous five included Julian, Dick, Anne, not forgetting tomboy George and her beloved dog, Timmy! These books made me feel like a grown up. There were actually high stakes involved unlike Nancy Drew, I actually felt like they were in actual danger of being hurt. After reading these books, I’d beg my older sister to play detective with me but she’d say no because sisters are horrible! I loved George, she was my favorite character. It’s so amazing how progressive her character is by today’s standards to balk at gender roles and expectations and just be herself.

Just as an aside and bonus hot take, you know a book that everybody loved but 6 year old me absolutely hated? Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I just did not see what the fuss was all about. Wow, I really was a young tough critic.

What are some of the books you enjoyed reading as a young ‘un? I want to know in the comments! Have your read them again recently? Did they stand the test of time? Sound off in the comments, we love reading them!

Leggy