Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, romance

Book Review: The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

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Violinist, Anna Sun explodes into fame when one of her performances goes viral on YouTube. She’s suddenly unable to play any piece from beginning to end because she’s crippled with anxiety and the need to make it perfect. Her boyfriend also picks this time to ask for a break in their relationship because he wants to explore what’s out there for him before he makes a formal commitment to her. Angry and hurt, Anna decides to have a series of one night stands to get back at him and the very first person she matches with? – tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep.

Quan has been out of the dating market for a few years while he was fighting cancer. His cousin and business partner convinces him to get back out there and try a few casual dates to get back in the swing of things. Anna is the perfect candidate for that, as she’s only interested in one night stands anyway. They meet up and have more than one unsuccessful one night stands that just leads to more and more dates.

They develop a relationship that has Anna questioning if she even wants her boyfriend back and has Quan hoping it turns into something serious. When tragedy strikes Anna’s family and has her thrust in a caregiver role to her father, she has to confront the role her family and especially her older sister has played in her mental health.

Helen Hoang writes romance that is both sweet and deep. I think we’ve reviewed all of Hoang’s books on this blog and I think we’re probably going to continue to read them. I got this book as my August Book of the Month pick and read it one day. Hoang writes about different facets of Asian culture in her books coupled with issues surrounding autism. The main character gets into therapy to help cope with her sudden inability to play a piece through and is given the diagnosis of being on the autistic spectrum.

Watching her deal with the diagnosis and make sense of so many things in her life was very enlightening. The book takes on more serious topics than her other books – caregiving of a terminally ill parent, autism, depression, family dynamics, death etc . Seeing the family dynamics Anna had to deal with was very infuriating but very real. This is Hoang’s strongest book with the most character development. It’s sexy and hot but also deeply sad.

Hoang revealed in the author’s note that this is a very personal story for her and it showed in the way it was written – it’s written in the first person instead of the third person. It’s also not a book that ties up in a pretty bow. They don’t fall in love and everything doesn’t get better like a typical romance novel. The emotions are raw and intense, I was completely immersed in the story and their chemistry was off the charts. Also, both characters are perfect and I think everyone can see why they would be attracted to each other. Quan is kind, vulnerable and everything a leading man should be. He committed from the start and stuck with it even when things got rough.

This is my favorite Hoang book, I genuinely hope you give this book a chance. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

african author, african stories, Book Related Topics, Fiction, LGBT, literary fiction, Nigerian Author

Book Review: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Life is an ambivalent lover. One moment, you are everything and life wants to consume entirely. The next moment, you are an insignificant speck of nothing. Meaningless.

Kambirinachi is an ogbanje. She is a spirit that keeps getting born as a human, but she never lives long enough and always dies and returns to the spirit world. Then she makes the decision to live and lives in fear of a retaliation from the gods for not returning. She lives a full life and experiences love, loss and gets married. She has twin girls – Taiye and Kehinde. The three of them become estranged when Kehinde suffers a traumatic experience and the three end up in different countries. Kambirinachi remains in Nigeria, Taiye moves to the UK and Kehinde is in Canada.

A long time has passed and the three reunite in Lagos as Taiye has moved back and Kehinde is visiting with her husband. The three have to come together and relearn each other and the book tells us their life stories from each of their perspectives and how each, in their own way, dealt with the fallout from what happened to Kehinde.

I finally gave a book 5 stars y’all.

It’s so hard to believe that this is a debut effort because it was so beautifully written. It had all the elements of things I enjoy in a book – complex/flawed characters, family sagas that span generations and beautiful writing that draws you in. Over the years when the sisters were estranged, Taiye wrote letters to Kehinde that she never sent. Taiye’s ex sends the letters without her knowledge and Kehinde reads them when she is in Lagos. Ekwuyasi’s choice to narrate their stories and go back in time, through these letters was such a fantastic choice. We go through the past and the present so seamlessly.

“Our relationship has always struggled against our twinness.”

The friction between the twins were the focal point but Taiye read like the main character. And boy was she a fully fleshed out character. Queerness is still not embraced in the Nigerian culture and I enjoyed how Ekwusayi didn’t make it an issue or a big deal. It was just Taiye’s sexuality, nothing to make a big deal about. Taiye was hella flawed but I am so glad that it had nothing to do with her being gay. Oh and even as flawed as she was, Taiye was the character that you were rooting for.

Taiye loves food and cooking and wants to be a chef and this was made clear throughout the book. Ekwuyasi gave us recipes for every thing Taiye cooked. When I say we were given recipes, I don’t mean in the typical way of listing ingredients and steps. We were given those but I don’t know the magic Ekwuyasi performed but it was written so beautifully and woven into the story. She made it clear thatcooking was a love language of Taiye’s.

The one gripe I had is there seem to be an influx of Nigerian writers who are writing about ogbanjes. As a Nigerian, I am familiar with it and I know it is part of the culture but it now seems like a lazy trope that is being infused for a western audience that isn’t as familiar with it. I often wondered why the author chose to make Kambiri’s issue her ogbanje-ness vs. what seemed like a mental illness or depression.

I honestly could go on and on forever as I remember various parts of the book. Even though it details the unpacking of a trauma. It still goes through a lovely friendship, a loving marriage, a loving yet toxic relationship. I don’t think it matters what the topic was, the best thing about this book was the writing, you’d be willing to go on the journey. I highly recommend this book, if you couldn’t already tell!

Taynement

Book Related Topics, christmas, Fiction, LGBT, romance

Book Review: The Guncle by Steven Rowley

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“Grief orbits the heart. Some days the circle is greater. Those are the good days. You have room to move and dance and breathe. Some days the circle is tighter. Those are the hard ones.”

Patrick’s sister-in-law and friend, Sara, dies and his brother has to go to rehab for addiction and convinces Patrick to take the children back with him from the funeral to Palm Springs for 3 months while he takes care of his addiction. At first Patrick is very hesitant. Yes, he loves his niece and nephew but in short bursts. He’s fine handling them for weekend long visits with their mother or when he flies back to Connecticut to see his family but being their primary guardian for 90 days alone seems nuts to him.

Patrick has no idea what to expect – he’s been dealing with the loss of the love of his life in a car accident for years and doesn’t think he’s the right person to guide his niece and nephew through their grief when he hasn’t even handled his yet. With humor and a lot of heart, Rowley leads his readers through a journey of grief and family.

I really enjoyed this one. I think most of the characters were very likeable (except Patrick’s sister, yeesh, talk about overreacting to things). I especially liked GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick). I like that they made Patrick a super likable person whose vices and excesses never came before his own niece and nephew. It was easy to find his shenanigans cute and funny because you knew he would never do anything purposely to endanger the kids’ lives. Patrick used to be a famous movie star who was in a popular TV show that made lots of money (a la Friends) and after it ended, he moved out of LA to Palm Springs and stopped socializing with anyone but his gay throuple neighbors.

Even though this book is light hearted and funny, it deals with grief and death in a very real way. Rowley does not at all shy away from the hard parts of losing someone you love. Patrick is very determined to make sure the kids mourn and are able to talk about their mother in an open way, without pressuring them to snap out of it. Patrick even hopes that their kid resilience will be a way for him to mourn Sara too but he soon finds out that he would have to be the adult in this situation and show them a way to grieve in a healthy way. To do that, Patrick is forced to deal with the loss of the love of his life in a tangible way instead of the avoidance game he’s been playing with himself for years.

At some point while reading this book, I had to google – “Is Steven Rowley gay?” because this character would seem super stereotypical and offensive if it wasn’t another gay man writing this. Thankfully, he is gay and all my apprehensions vanished. This is my first Rowley book and I definitely will be picking up his backlist titles especially when I am going through one+ of my reading slumps. This book was utterly delightful and funny and I recommend it. I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, scifi, Uncategorized

Book Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

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“I penetrated the outer cell membrane with a nanosyringe.”
“You poked it with a stick?”
“No!” I said. “Well. Yes. But it was a scientific poke with a very scientific stick.”

The Martian was one of my favorite books the year it was released. It was the only science fiction book that had ever made me cry until this one. Ryland Grace wakes up from a coma and realizes that he’s in a spaceship but he doesn’t know why or how he got on one. He’s in what looks like a hospital room with two other people who are dead. He doesn’t even remember his own name and doesn’t know what he does for a living. As his memories fuzzily return, he pieces together what he’s doing on a spaceship.

The sun is dying because an organism (astrophage) is feasting on its energy. On one hand, the scientific community is excited at the discovery of an actual live organism in space but on the other hand, if astrophage keeps up its activities, earth is going to go back into another ice age which will result in the immediate death of 50% of the population plus multiple wars for the earth’s remaining resources. Alone on this ship that has been built with the resources of every country on earth, by the best minds the earth has to offer and staffed with volunteers that know that they’re going on a suicide journey to save earth, Grace has to figure out why this organism is affecting the earth’s star but not affecting Venus’.

Project Hail Mary is ridiculously imaginative and funny with amazing emotional payoff that you wouldn’t expect to get from a science fiction book. I think the best thing about Weir’s writing is because he’s an actual scientist and was for years before he ever wrote The Martian, his science writing always sounds plausible. I’m not an astronaut and yes, a lot of things in this book obviously hasn’t been invented but I think he creates enough of a situation where this would be the ideal ecosystem for the ramping up of science inventions and discoveries. If humans were to actually make this journey, it’d have to be pretty close. Also, you don’t have to pay attention to the actual science. As long as you get the gist of the stakes, you can relax and enjoy your reading experience. All you need to know is the world would be doomed if Grace doesn’t figure out how to get rid of the organism and spare the world another ice age.

Even if you do not enjoy science fiction, I still implore you to pick up this book. It is so much more than imaginative science. It’s about hope, friendship, humanity and realising how much we’re capable of when we give ourselves a chance to be great. Grace learns so much about himself on this suicide mission to save earth even though he isn’t scheduled to live more than a couple months after he sends back information to earth on how to save 7 billion people. Weir makes an unexpected and unbelievable contact when he thinks he’s well and truly alone but i’m determined to keep this review spoiler free. We also grapple with the ethics of suicide missions, while Grace’s memories keep coming back in spurts throughout the book, we’re confronted with a looming question of how he actually came to be a member of this team – was it really his choice and is he really a brave volunteer?

Weir’s enthusiasm for science is very infectious and you’re going to get sucked into caring about what happens to these amazing characters. Please ignore the science fiction tag and give this book a chance. The author has created an amazing world in less than 500 pages which had me sobbing at the end. I gave this one 5 stars on Goodreads.

Have you read this one? Did you love it as much as I did?

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Our family histories are simply stories. They are myths we create about the people who came before us, in order to make sense of ourselves.”

Spanning multiple decades, Malibu Rising tells the story of the Riva family. The Riva family consists of the legendary singer, Mick Riva, their mom, June Riva and their 4 children – Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit. The story begins in 1983 on the day of the annual Riva end of summer party. This is the party that has no rules. No invites, no structure just word of mouth and people show up and let out all their inhibitions and have a good time. Every famous and non-famous person wants to be there.

By now, the Riva children are not in contact with their father anymore, their mother is dead and they are all famous in their own rights. They are all coming to the party with their own secrets. Nina’s famous tennis player husband has just publicly left her, Jay and Hud have secrets that they need to share with each other and Kit has her own private realization that she is trying to confirm. The book fills us in on all the backstory of each member of the Riva family while building up to the explosive end of the party.

“Alcoholism is a disease with many faces, and some of them look beautiful.”

I have written before, that Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors. I do think it’s really hard to miss with a TJR novel because the woman knows how to not only tell a story but create a world that feels so real. It’s very easy to read a TJR novel and forget that it is not a true story. Another thing about TJR is that she is so versatile that no two books of hers are quite exactly the same and she is not put in a corner when it comes to her writing style.

I was not disappointed by this book. I kept wanting to see what would happen and finished the book in three days, which is unusual for me. As mentioned earlier, this book spanned multiple decades and inevitably had to jump back and forth through the present (day of the party) and the past. In the present, it was heavy on the anticipation of what was to come and the culmination of the party and the secrets held by the Rivas. And in the past, TJR tells us in chronological order, how the Riva family came to be. Starting from how Mick and June met, his rise to fame, the struggles encountered and decisions made along the way.

“Maybe our parents’ lives are imprinted within us, maybe the only fate there is is the temptation of reliving their mistakes. Maybe, try as we might, we will never be able to outrun the blood that runs through our veins. Or. Or maybe we are free the moment we are born. Maybe everything we’ve even done is by our own hands.”

I marveled how this book was a balance of an easy fun read but was also a book that had you questioning the age old Nature vs. Nurture question as the Riva children despite good intentions find themselves making the same mistakes made by their parents and have them wondering if they were inevitably destined to make these mistakes because people tend to mimic what they grew up around or because it is their DNA? I also enjoyed the close relationship all the siblings had with each other.

While one of the things I liked was the crescendo approach that TJR built I’d be remiss not to mention that I thought the final culmination was kind of a let down and I thought it was all over the place. I don’t always need endings to be wrapped up in a bow but unless there is a plan for a sequel to this, I found it quite haphazard and it felt like loose threads galore. It all felt like the ending of a movie where the viewer could interpret their own ending. There was so much happening without enough context. Also, adding stories of brand new characters we had no attachment to previously seemed like frivolous fillers.

It wasn’t enough to stop my enjoyment of the book because the journey truly was a fun enough ride for me to forgive the destination. For those who have read another of TJR’s books, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (recommended read), you may recognize that Mick Riva was one of her seven husbands and that was a fun crossover to read. I gave this book 4 stars and would recommend this for your summer reading list.

Taynement

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

Book Review: The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

“Destiny could also be a choice, she realized. To believe or not, to be vulnerable or not, to go all in or not.”

Jess Davis is a freelance data scientist and a single mother who is juggling a lot of financial responsibilities while trying to be the perfect granddaughter and mother. Raised by her grandparents and raising her own daughter alone, she knows too much about being left by people she loves and is hesistant to venture back into the dating world. Her recent brushes with dating apps has left her even more convinced that dating is not for her in anyway but she is lonely and tired of being alone. Jess hears about Genetically – a company that claims to be able to match people based on a spit test. They claim to be able to determine who people are compatible with just by certain genetic markers and on a whim one day, she sends in her sample.

Jess understands numbers and believes that Genetically has the right objectivity needed, to find her soulmate. But tables turn when she is matched with Genetically’s founder, Dr. River Pena with a 98% match, something that has never happened in the history of Genetically. Jess has met Pena before and it was not a positive meeting. She sees him at the coffee shop she goes to every morning and he never tips, never smiles and is just grumpy.

Jess does not believe that he is her soulmate and refuses to go along with the process of getting to know him until the board of directors offer her $10, 000 to get to know Pena and bring publicity to their company ahead of the looming IPO. Despite her skepticism, Jess needs the money so she agrees to get to know him and go on a few interviews to help the company out, but she finds that she has signed up for way more than she bargained for.

This is hands down my favorite Christina Lauren book. I’ve read a couple and they always fall short of my expectations but this one was so much fun and heartwarming. The characters were completely loveable and made choices that even when I didn’t agree with them, I completely understood why. It was charming, funny and completely predictable but I didn’t care because it was srill fun to read. I finished this book in one seating. I love fake dating tropes and even though this is technically not one, it read that way and was delightful to read them fall in love and get to know each other while navigating the publicity that came with being such a high never before seen match percentage.

The usual end conflict in every romance book did not work for me. I thought the resolution was great but how it was handled was a bit wonky for me which is why this book only got 3 stars from me. I still really liked it and I definitely recommend it. I’ve been on a romance kick lately in a bid to get away from the real life problems and this one definitely pulled me in and kept my attention. I’ve heard people say this one had a slow beginning. I didn’t think so but just a heads up to stick with it if you fall in that category.

Have you guys read this one? Did you like it? Let me know in the comment section!

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers - By Liane Moriarty (paperback) : Target

“I don’t get the obsession with strangers, her first husband, Sol, once said to her, and Frances had struggled to explain that strangers were by definition interesting. It was their strangeness. The not-knowing. Once you knew everything there was to know about someone, you were generally ready to divorce them.”

One day, 9 people come together at a health resort and spa named Tranquillum House. Tranquillum promises that whatever the reason for being there, they are able to transform your life in 10 days. The resort comes with unconventional methods such as no speaking, strict diets and lots of meditation, but they believe in the methods so much and let the guests know that it will require a lot of work on their end.

The guests consist of a fading romance author, a couple at their wits end, a family trying to get over a tragic loss, a stay at home obsessed with her weight, a former football player and a divorce lawyer. Also in the story is the head of Tranquillum House, Masha. We get to see her back story and learn what led her from high powered exec to slightly obsessive life coach.

“Sometimes your life changes so slowly and imperceptibly that you don’t notice it at all until one day you wake up and think, ‘How did I get here?’ But other times, life changes in an instant with a lightning stroke of good or bad luck with glorious or tragic consequences.”

I would not call myself a Lianne Moriarty fan. I liked her first book enough and the more I read of her, I found out that she had a format – group of people, some mystery that she builds up through the entire book and then just building around the whodunnit and then a weak let down but here I am, reading yet another title.

I am here because Moriarty (with the help of Nicole Kidman) has convinced America that she is a great author through the TV show adaptations. Big Little Lies was a phenomenon and my motivation for reading this is the upcoming Hulu adaptation of this (FOMO is real guys!). As much as I am not a fan, it was a case of right timing because it was just what I needed at the time.

“Relax and enjoy the journey. The stream will carry you this way and that, but will carry you forward to where you need to go.”

I think Moriarty did a good job of providing a back story to all characters. 9 characters seems like a lot, well 11 when you add Masha and Yao, her protege but I did not feel overwhelmed but I was able to follow easily. Frances, the romance novelist seemed to be the central character as we heard from her voice the most and Moriarty did a good job of making her real. She was the perfect mix of human – flawed and annoying and her thoughts sounded like the average human’s thoughts that they just never said out loud.

Moriarty did a good job of infusing life’s different complexities and issues that we encounter in different ways and at different stages in life, through these characters. She explores topics like death, self loathing, losing one’s self, family relationships.

“Don’t let your heart be a casualty of your head.”

The book was going swimmingly well and then somewhere along the way, it took a turn and became ridiculous. I don’t know if Moriarty just had nothing else to give but where she managed to make Frances human, she missed the mark with Masha. At the point where we delve into Masha’s life which she had been feeding us in bits and pieces, it just didn’t make any sense. Coming back to what was transpiring in the present time, it was so off the rails that I could not believe what was happening. I am willing to accept that this could have been on purpose to be in tandem with Masha’s spiraling but that might be a reach.

The end notwithstanding, if you are looking for a fluffy read where you enjoy the journey and not the destination, I actually would still recommend it. It served as a nice distraction and definitely scored high points in intrigue and keeping you interested in what was coming next,

Taynement

african author, african stories, Book Related Topics, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, race, romance, Uncategorized, Young Adult

Book Review: The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1) by Namina Forna

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“Like all the rest, giving us impossibilities and calling them choices.”

Deka is finally 16 and is ready to go through the blood oath ceremony that she hopes will declare her pure and make her one of the other girls. She has been othered all her life by her dark skin and tight curls but Deka is convinced that the blood oath ceremony will finally prove her worth and fetch her a husband.

What is the blood oath ceremony, you ask? Well, this deeply patriarchal society believes that on a woman’s 16th birthday, in preparation for her life as a man’s faceless and silent companion, she has to be tested for purity right before she is fitted with the mask she must wear for the rest of her life. You step into the temple, the priest cuts you. If your blood runs red, you’re pure. If it runs gold, you’re impure and the consequence is death. If you’re extremely lucky your first death will be your last. But on the day of Deka’s ceremony, her blood runs gold and changes her life forever.

As Deka struggles with her fate, a mysterious woman pops up and offers her a way out – come to the capital, be trained as a warrior and get absolution after her service or submit to her death. Of course, this is no choice at all. The Emperor is building an army filled with people like Deka (Alaka, as they’re called in the book) to fight against the Deathshrieks – monsters that attack the city and whose screams can blow out a human’s ear drums.

“Every girl knows it by heart. We recite it whenever we enter a temple – a constant reminder that women were created to be helpmeets to men, subservient to their desires and commands.”

This book starts with a bang. Forna apparently does not believe in easing her readers into the world and letting them settle. Within the first 10 pages of this book, the blood oath happened and it never let up after that. Hearing about the tenets of the religion practiced in Deka’s world made me think we were being set up for some priest conspiracy but when Deka’s blood actually ran gold I was like oh wow! I didn’t expect that to be literal at all.

The world building in this YA fantasy is very unique. I enjoyed seeing how the various villages and fractions interpreted the religion. Racism and colorism is also rampant in this world. Forna does a great job of establishing a baseline for what this world is supposed to be and its norms and rules.

“Are we girls or are we demons?”

I love a training fantasy book. Any fantasy book where a school or a training facility is involved has my heart. Once Deka gets to the Capital and the training commences, seeing her struggle to discard all that she had heard about women being second class citizens (a concept that was driven primarily by her religion) was interesting. Women aren’t allowed to run or even walk in a hurry, a woman must be demure and quiet at all times. Hearing that every day of her life, accepting that as a truth and then being forced to train as a warrior must have been quite the challenge.

The life ordinary women in Deka’s village were forced to live was simply insane. Every time the author dropped another detail, it made me get so mad at a world that isn’t even real!

“Never forget: the same gift they praise you for now, they will kill you for later.”

I think it’s common knowledge by now that I hate romance in my fantasy. It completely takes me out of the story. The romance in this book was not different. I think it added nothing to the plot and could have been completely left out. Also, this book is very obviously a debut novel. The writing is really great in some areas and extremely clunky in others. It needed to be tightened up a little. I hope this installment does well so she can get a better editor.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this one. If you liked Children of Blood and Bone, you’ll like this one. Even if you didn’t like it but are looking for a good YA fantasy book, this one is so much better and the author has great potential to be even better. I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads and I’m looking forward to the next two books which promises to be even better. I tried really hard not to drop any obvious spoilers about the ending.

Have you read this one? Let me know in the comments!

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

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“It hurts to want it all, so many things that can’t coexist within the same life.”

Poppy and Alex are best friends who go on vacation every summer. They’re complete opposites. Poppy loves things, Alex hates things. Poppy is fun and loves to meet people and wild. Alex is reserved and wears khakis and only travels with Poppy. For most of the year they live apart, Alex in Ohio, Poppy in New York City. They communicate mostly on the phone until they see each other once a year every summer vacation. For a decade, they’ve taken this summer trip until two years ago when something happened during the trip and completely ruins their friendship. When the book begins, they haven’t spoken in two years. Poppy is unhappy and the job that used to bring her so much joy no longer does. She’s convinced that if she can get Alex to go on one more summer trip that it will save their friendship and take them back to exactly how they used to be.

“I’m on vacation. Vacations always end. It’s the very fact that it’s finite that makes traveling special. You could move to any one of those destinations you loved in small doses, and it wouldn’t be the spellbinding, life-altering seven days you spend there as a guest, letting a place into your heart fully, letting it change you.”

The trope of friends to lovers has been done to death but I still enjoyed it and this story felt fresh. I think the years they’ve been friends and the depth of their friendship was adequate enough to see how they could have fallen in love with each other. It didn’t feel overdone or stale. Their banter with each other was funny and had me smiling as I read. Even with the sexual tension simmering below, you could tell they were actual friends and that without the attraction they would have still been friends. Also, both the characters are loveable. Nothing kills a romance book more than characters who nobody wants to fall in love with in real life. Poppy is sweet but sassy and outgoing with a very vulnerable side that she only shows to the people super close to her. Alex is very straitlaced, having been forced to grow up so quickly after his mother died and his father fell apart.

This story is narrated by Poppy and is told in alternating timelines. She takes us through the last 10 years of summer vacation with Alex, while we read about their present day falling out and the pains she’s taking to repair it. I quite enjoyed the alternating timelines. The past Alex and Poppy were quite different and a lot more fun than what we found in the present. If you do not like alternating timelines, you might not like this book.

Towards the end, in a bid to force the last conflict that always comes up in romance novels, Henry misses the mark and the book loses its momentum a little bit. Poppy completely forgets how to use her words and instead avoids all manner of communication. A lot of the things she did and said towards the end didn’t make sense for her character. I felt that the final conflict of the book was contrived and not well written at all.

The reason for their fall out was also very obvious from the start but the author drew it out for so long and the characters kept referring to “what happened in Croatia”. The drag out added nothing to the story and I’m sure Henry wrote it to add a little tension. But it’s a romance book about two friends, of course we know what happened in Croatia to make their friendship completely awkward.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this book. It was an easy one to read and wasn’t completely fluffy and without depth. I gave this one 3 stars on Goodreads and I recommend it if you’re looking for something on the lighter spectrum.

Leggy

african author, african stories, Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolu Mbue

Change of Publication Date: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

“We should have known the end was near.”

“How Beautiful We Were” is a story set in a small fictional village in Africa called Kosawa. We get introduced to how rich the people and village are, filled with their traditions, love and history. Then we find out that they are basically under siege and the children of the village are dying because they have been invaded by an American oil company called Pexton.

Their land and water have been poisoned by the numerous pipeline spills and there is no one to hold accountable despite the many complaints as the government is in cahoots with Pexton. Getting nowhere and tired of burying their children, the villagers decide to take matters in their own hands in a plan that goes awry. Little do they know that it was just the beginning of a long fight that spans decades. This book takes us along on this journey through the stories told by the various people involved – the people who were just children when the fight began and our protagonist, Thula and some of her family members.

“Our grandfathers, however, had no interest in losing ownership of their lives—every one of them had turned down Pexton’s offer and returned to the thrill of killing for food as trees were felled all over the valley to make room for the oil field and pipelines and Gardens.”

It’s widely known that it takes a lot for a book to blow me out the water. I have given very few books 5 stars. One of the very few books to get this honor was Imbolo Mbue’s first novel, Behold the Dreamers. I just absolutely loved it. I was excited to get to this one and was #1 on my waiting list for this at my library. When I cracked open the book and saw that it was set in a village, my heart sank. I usually prefer modern settings but I was ready to see how this goes. It took a minute for the book to get going then just when I was about to accept that this was it’s pace, it picked back up but then dropped again and I felt my excitement wane.

All that is to say that the book did not meet my expectations and that made me sad. Overall, this book was superbly written. Mbue painted a vivid picture that made you visualize Kosawa and made you understand their plight. She made you feel the love and community that was shared in the village. You understood who they were at their core. I also think Mbue did a good job of laying the foundation of introducing us to Thula and the events that happened in her family.

I definitely enjoyed the first half of the book to the second half which is when Thula goes to America and returns. The second half never quite found its groove and was uneven. The narration got a bit wonky and there were chapters that felt pointless. So, I guess I am saying that while the writing was beautiful, the plot and pacing suffered. Thula is supposed to come back being this activist and they look to her as a savior but I don’t think that was developed well and it felt disjointed.

I did enjoy the different view points from Thula’s family members – her brother, her uncle, her mother and her grandmother. They came at different points in the book and they were much welcomed when it felt like the book was in a lull. I appreciated the true depiction of the underrepresented in most African countries and the corrupt government and the choices people make just to survive. I think that was well done.

Overall, while I found the writing to be good, I still did find it a bit of chore to read and a bit boring. And while I know this was a disappointment for me, I can see how people could appreciate it so I won’t file it under a “would not recommend”, so if you are looking for a slow paced read, that is what you would get with this.

Taynement