Fiction

Book Review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

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“I always hated hearing old people yammering on like this when I was young. And I do want to assure you: I’m aware that many things were not better in the 1940s. Underarm deodorants and air-conditioning were woefully inadequate, for instance, so everybody stank like crazy, especially in the summer, and also we had Hitler.” 

It’s 1940 and Gilbert’s narrator, Vivian, has just been kicked out of Vassar College for a terrible freshman performance (she was ranked 361 out of 362, just ahead of the girl who contracted polio). Not knowing what to do with her, Vivian’s parents send her off to New York to live with her Aunty Peg who owns a crumbling theater, off-off-off Broadway, called the Lily Theater. Vivian has no interest in acting or writing but is quite talented with a sewing machine, so Peg makes her the theater’s costume designer and what was intended to be just one regular summer in her life becomes the defining summer that drives the rest of her life. Now at 95, our narrator is looking back on her life and mapping out the effect of that time in New York on the rest of her life.

“I was long and tall, that’s all there was to it. And if it sounds like I’m about to tell you the story of an ugly duckling who goes to the city and finds out that she’s pretty, after all-don’t worry, that is not that story. I was always pretty, Angela. What’s more, I always knew it.”

Gilbert said – “My goal was to write a book that would go down like a champagne cocktail- light and bright, crisp and fun.” and she definitely achieved that. This book is light even though it’s set in the 40’s with the war looming, during the war and after the war. It is fun and easy to read. This book started very well, I loved the main character, her voice was strong and funny. Everybody in this book had so much life and energy, it was a parade of very interesting people in the theater world all with a hint of glamour. The amount of detail Gilbert put in her descriptions were very impressive. The way she described the dresses, the society, the theaters, the effects of war on people, made everything so tangible and easy to imagine. This book had these burst of humor that really shined and Vivian’s retelling of how she lost her virginity was absolutely hilarious.

“The world ain’t straight. You grow up thinking things are a certain way. You think there are rules. You think there’s a way that things have to be. You try to live straight. But the world doesn’t care about your rules, or what you believe. The world ain’t straight, Vivian. Never will be. Our rules, they don’t mean a thing. The world just happens to you sometimes, is what I think. And people just gotta keep moving through it, best they can.”

Ultimately, this book was way too long. This book is almost 500 pages but should have been edited down to 300 pages. This book is essentially a letter Vivian writes to her friend’s daughter describing how they met and their effects on each other’s lives but honestly, that entire part could have been cut out. I didn’t think this line of the story moved the story forward in anyway. I was bored and kept wondering what this had to do with anything. This book shines when it is all about Vivian, when we are hearing about her promiscuity, the war, the professional scandal that sends her out of New York for the first time, and an inner look into the workings of the theater world in 1940 New York. I don’t think light books that go down like champagne should be almost 500 pages long.

“The secret to falling in love so fast, of course, is not to know the person at all. You just need to identify one exciting feature about them, and then you hurl your heart at that one feature, with full force, trusting that this will be enough of a foundation for lasting devotion.”

Even though I thought this book was longer than it should have been, I quite enjoyed it and definitely recommend it. It’s essentially a beach read and perfect for summer. I gave this 3 stars on my Goodreads.  Have you read this book? Are you going to? Let me know in the comments!

P. S – If you enjoy this book, you should check out Amor Towles’ “Rules of Civility”.

 

Leggy

 

Fiction

Book Review – Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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I’d seen this book EVERYWHERE on our instagram feed (follow us!: @nightstands2) and my strong FOMO made me tell myself that I have to read this book. I have had Forever Interrupted in my TBR list forever and just haven’t read it because at the time I got it, a friend told me I might not be emotionally ready for it, so I kept putting it off. I had read Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo some time ago and enjoyed that. I had seen in the comments that it was best to do this as an audiobook, so I put this on hold at my library and jumped on it when it came through.

Daisy is an up and coming artist who is a free spirit and doing what people did in those days – drugs, sex & rock n roll. The Six is a band trying to make it big and led by Billy Dunne, a rocker who gives in to the whims of fame and becomes an addict and isn’t always faithful to his loyal girlfriend, later wife, Camila who finds out she is pregnant with their first child the day before The Six leaves for their first tour.

The story of Daisy & The Six begins when Daisy joins the band and is in close paths as writer and lead singer with Billy Dunne. The band becomes one of the biggest bands in the 70’s up until their split and the book is about all the ups, downs and turmoils behind the scenes.

Guys, after reading this I think Taylor Jenkins Reid shot up as one of my favorite authors. The structure of this book was amazing and really impressive story telling by Reid. The book is told in documentary style a la Behind The Music, so it is told from the various character’s point of view (another reason why the audio is better). By the time you get sucked into the story, it’ll be so hard to not believe that this is NOT an autobiography and it is NOT about a real band.

Reid makes the characters sound so real and details their struggles with love, addiction, egos, turmoil etc so well which is probably why they sound so real. Based on the two books I have read of her, I have noticed that she knows how to write flawed human beings so well. It’s crazy how she can make a character who is doing shitty things still be charming and you still are on their side. That’s a skill, I tell ya.

As if the book wasn’t real enough Reid also wrote original music (which can be heard in the audio book), talk about commitment. I love the way the female characters were written. They were all strong women who weren’t taking shit from men and stood in their own truths and convictions and also were there for each other. I especially liked Karen and Camila’s friendship.

I can see how people could find the format annoying but it worked for me. It especially worked because it has been optioned as a TV show and I can literally see it playing out in my eyes in it’s transcript style. I promise I am not trying to sell the audio book but one last fun thing about it was the celeb voices such as Judy Greer, Benjamin Bratt and Jennifer Beals as Daisy.

If you couldn’t tell already, I liked this one and I recommend it (in audio of course)

🙂

Taynement

Fiction, romance

Book Review: Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

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

 

“My Tom Hanks is out there, and I’m not going to settle until I find him.”

Annie is 27 years old, single and obsessed with romantic comedies. All her expectations for what a healthy relationship entails are from these movies. She can quote them, she watches them incessantly and she’s determined to meet the movie perfect man. And what better way to look for her real life Tom Hanks, than to work on a movie that your uncle pulls strings for you to be the director’s new assistant. And on her first day at set, she meets Drew, the star of this rom-com that is being filmed.

Honestly, I didn’t want to review this book because I don’t think I can be diplomatic about how I really felt about it. I thought this was going to be a fun read but the heroine was absolutely horrible. I could not stand her. I thought it was going to be a cute story about a girl working on a movie set and falling in love with the star of the movie. The premise had everything I love in a romantic comedy – rich heroes, rich heroes, rich heroes. But it was absolutely disappointing and just plain not good. The main character, Annie, is absolutely insufferable, childish and a little delusional.

Let’s talk about Annie, shall we? Being in Anne’s mind was a terrible experience. She was the absolute worst. It’s one thing to want a romantic comedy kind of love, who doesn’t? But Annie wanted a man who owns a houseboat because Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle had a boathouse. Annie dated a minor character in the book because he had a son and Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle had a son. That’s how absolutely crazy our main female character is. She was crazy judgmental, she judged the main male character based on gossip site articles, even though everyone knows those are hardly true. She never dated but believed that the love of her life would just fall into her lap!

The couple had absolutely no chemistry. Honestly, I should have DNFed this book. I do not know why I continued. There was no redeeming quality that I can tell you about. The only good thing I liked about this book is that it made me re-watch “You’ve Got Mail” and it’s still so good. You know what you should do instead of reading this book? Watch “You’ve Got Mail” again. I do not recommend this book and it’s currently on the top of my list of the worst books I’ve read this year. I gave this one star on my Goodreads.

 

Leggy.

Fiction

Upcoming Book To T.V Screen Titles

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There is nothing Hollywood loves more than adapting a book (or a podcast). We have written about this in the past before . All the books mentioned in that post have been turned to screen except “Hello Sunshine”. There is enough material to go around as we have a couple of books coming up on TV.

Here are some books being adapted to TV:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: The book about a mother and daughter who come to town and shake things up was a favorite of mine and I enjoyed reading it. It was a book that made you think and really leave you wondering what the right thing is/was? It is going to be a TV series on Hulu starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. I will be watching. You can see our review of it here.

Normal People by Sally Rooney:  Based in Ireland, the book tells the story of the sweet but complicated relationship between Connell and Marianne beginning from their high school days all the way to college and beyond. Hulu has ordered this straight to series and it’ll be 12 half hour episodes. Our review of the book can be found here.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makai: A recent one I loved that talked about the AIDS crisis, the people that lived through it and living with the ghosts of the people who they lost. The book was optioned by Amy Poehler’s production company and has not been bought yet but this should be a somber but good watch. This is what we thought about the book.

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K Lee: Following 3 women who live as expats in Hong Kong, this book is set to be an Amazon series starring Nicole Kidman. We are yet to review it here on the blog but can Nicole Kidman do any wrong?

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: The book reads like a VH1 Behind the Music episode or a documentary. It’s even more intriguing as an audio book. I have enjoyed past works by Taylor Jenkins Reid (The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, anyone?) She is an interesting writer. This book is being turned to an Amazon TV series produced by Reese Witherspoon.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: I have not had the pleasure of reading this book but I have heard good things about the book that tells the story of  a young slave girl named Cora and her daring escape from a cotton plantation in Georgia through an underground railroad. Barry Jenkins of Moonlight fame will be directing all 11 episodes on…you guessed it?…Amazon. A cast has already been put together and it includes Joel Edgerton and Thuso Mbedu.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: The multi generational story that also gives part history lesson on Koreans who lived in Japan after the war was inevitably going to be made into a TV show. This time, Apple TV is who takes the reigns on this. I liked this one and you can see what I thought about it here.

Any books on the list pique your interest in reading?…or watching?

Taynement

Fiction

Book Review: A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

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“I was born without a voice, one cold, overcast day in Brooklyn, New York. No one ever spoke of my condition. I did not know I was mute until years later, when I’d opened my mouth to ask for what I wanted and realized no one could hear me.”

This is a story of multiple generations of women trying to survive the deeply patriarchal culture that they are born into as we watch history repeat itself multiple times. 18 year old Deya, born and raised in Brooklyn primarily by her grandparents, is about to finish high school and is starting to meet with suitors. Even though she wants to go to college before getting married, her grandparents give her no choice in the matter.

Isra, Deya’s mother, also had no choice in the matter when she got married as a teenager in Palestine and moved to America to be with her husband, Adam. Finally, there is Fareeda, Isra’s mother in law, who knows and accepts her role in this culture. She thinks this is a man’s world and all the hardship and abusive she suffered in her own husband’s hands are just parts of being a woman, so she looks the other way when her son begins to act just like her husband.

“A real choice doesn’t have conditions. A real choice is free.”

I really loved this story. A lot of people of color and immigrants know that you do not air your dirty laundry in public. You do not want to confirm the West’s single story about the Middle East or Africa so you, deny, deny, deny! But this book lays bare all the stereotypes and gives them human emotions. It centers around the people that matter and does not care about the white gaze at all. As someone who was born and raised in Nigeria, this book could have easily been a Nigerian story. We see women who have been treated terribly in marriages, abused because they couldn’t give birth to a male child and just for being a woman, turn around and inflict the same conditions on the next generation.

Isra is unable to give her husband, Adam, a male child and is subjected to abuse from her mother in law who inflicts verbal abuse on her every time she gives birth to yet another girl. Adam in turn takes out all his anger on her by being physically abusive while Fareeda chides her for not hiding her husband’s shame and parading her wounds for all to see.

“…my fears while writing this novel—fears of further stereotyping and marginalizing my culture as well as adding to our “otherness” by bringing our domestic abuse and inherited family trauma to light. But these very fears are what shame our women into silence and, ultimately, what keep us from advancing as a society and culture.” – [The author, Etaf Rum on her fears while writing this book]

I do think a lot of people need to read this story and realize that this is just one perspective. I read a lot of reviews on goodreads that were mad that this book was written and worried about how it further stereotypes the Middle East, as being backwards and oppressive.

I think that as long as this story is a story of even one person then it deserves to be told. It is up to us as the reader not to use this book as a blanket read of everything about the culture, or as proof to further our stereotypes and biases. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recognized every woman in it as someone I have known in real life and there are a lot of people still living this life. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy.

Fiction

We Chit Chat : Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

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“I’m still me, I want to say to him, your son, but that would hardly help if I am currently everything wrong with the world.” 

Taynement: On to our third author of the year.

Leggy: I know. This was a pretty short read.

Taynement: Yes, it was but I think he did a lot with a short book and more authors could take a page from his book. Pun intended.

Leggy: I actually think he did way too much for such a short book. At some point, I got whiplash like am I reading a different book?

Taynement: Interesting. I disagree. I think he integrated a lot of themes with perfect balance.

Leggy: I really didn’t like the shift in focus to police brutality. It’s rare you get a book from an African author about being a gay, second generation African in America. I would have appreciated the book so much more if he had focused on that.

Taynement: I liked that he didn’t dwell too much on the different themes save for  the focal theme of Niru being Nigerian and gay and trying to deal with that.

Leggy: I enjoyed the first half of the book but after the incident, I skimmed the rest of it.

Taynement: Really liked that angle. He touched on the Nigerians but didn’t dwell. Even when they went to visit Nigeria, he described Nigeria so well and the way his father’s behaviors changed was so apt. Even touching on how Nigerians revere pastors and how they deal with homosexuality. I wasn’t expecting the incident and right after, all I felt was rage. I really hated Meredith. But again the way I interpreted it was a touch on how you might think you’re Nigerian in America but at the end of the day, all they see is your skin color.

Leggy: I think this is why I didn’t like that part of the book. I was waaay too angry while reading it. I couldn’t understand how anybody would react the way Meredith and her family did after the incident. Okay, what is done is done, that part wasn’t your fault but you let this young man’s reputation be dragged through the mud without any interference.

Taynement: Reminder of the havoc white women wreak. There was a part in the book when Niru’s dad, half angry-half pleading says “All you people do, wherever you are in this world, is just bring death and destruction, you bring nothing good, nothing good”

Leggy: I just couldn’t understand what kind of parents would do that. Also, reading this book from Meredith’s point of view filled me with so much rage.

Taynement: Exactly. Her parents were the worst and I wished bad things for Meredith but, I think we digress. Moving back to Niru, it’s an interesting look at Nigerian parenting. Niru was a model child that was even headed to Harvard and yet his gayness overshadowed everything. It also showed your basic Nigerian marriage dynamic.  I felt his mum was weak and she could have stood up for him more.

Leggy: When his father said it was better if he had murdered someone, and then the irony of the incident. Well, he kind of got exactly what he asked for. You could tell his mother didn’t think it was that bad, being gay that is, but she didn’t have the guts to stand up for him all through.

Taynement: Can I just say that I wondered a little about how his older brother OJ was written. I actually thought he was dead. Niru kept referring to him like he was a memory.

Leggy: Never got the idea that he was dead. Just think he is basically such a god in their eyes that it made him sound like a memory more than an actual person. He should have called his brother when the whole thing blew up in his face. Also his friendship with Meredith was weird to me. I felt it wasn’t a real friendship on Meredith side because it was built on her infatuation of him. Is it a real friendship if you spend the entire time lusting after said person? Or maybe I just hate her.

Taynement: Fair enough. She’s not a likable person. She has that typical white girl entitlement air about her but as Niru said “Without her life is quiet, with her it is often unbearably loud”

Leggy: Also, it’s quite interesting how so ashamed Niru’s dad was of his gayness that he couldn’t call a conference and say his son is gay. Even with the accusation, he was still too ashamed to admit that. They had proof that he was gay. He had a Tinder account. He had gone on a date. But they chose silence over that option.

Taynement: That’s so deep and so sad and I give Iweala all the credit for delving into this topic and as an acknowledgement nerd, I read it and he felt the need to clarify that he isn’t gay. He also mentioned how this story evolved from a short story of his about a teenage boy outed to his Nigerian parents. He originally did not set out to write about a gay character. He wanted to write about the immigrant experience but he ended up here coming form a community that is conservative about issues of identity and orientation.

Leggy: Of course he had to clarify that he is not a gay guy considering how crazy Nigeria as a society is. Also shows how no matter your credentials and money and background, you’re still black, black, black! His Harvard didn’t matter at the end. His parents living on the right part of town didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but the color of his skin.

Taynement: Yes, I mentioned that earlier, still black at the end of the day. Overall, I thought it was a good book and I would recommend it. I did not like the ending.

Leggy: I did not like the ending either, I just felt like Meredith does not deserve closure or anything good.

Taynement: Lmao. I feel like you focused more on Meredith than Niru or rather she had more of an effect on you.

Leggy: She definitely had more of an effect on me. The whole situation was just too crazy for me. And she kept acting like she was helpless and had no agency at 18. Overall, I would recommend this book too. Gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy & Taynement

 

Fiction

Book Review: A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult

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“It stood to reason that both life and death began with a spark of light”

The Center is a woman’s reproductive health services clinic that provides gynecological services to women, including abortions. It’s one of the last of its kind as the people of Mississippi do not take kindly to abortions mostly because of their religion. One fine morning we meet a whole bunch of characters who go to the center for different reasons.

15 year old Wren was there to get birth control with her aunt. We have Joy, who is there to get an abortion and Janine, who is a pro-lifer that was at The Center undercover to get ammunition. There are a host more others who are unfortunate to be in there when a gun man seeking revenge, walks in and holds them hostage. To make matters worse, the lead hostage negotiator turns out to be Wren’s dad and the situation becomes personal for him.

“Your religion should help you make the decision if you find yourself in that situation, but the policy should exist for you to have the right to make it in the first place. 

When you say you can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a good thing. When you say I can’t do something because YOUR religion forbids it, that’s a problem.” 

It’s been a while since I read a Jodi Picoult book. The only thing I remember about her books was she must always have a character that dies. This book was mainly based around abortions and was a challenge to pro-lifers everywhere, to see the other side of the coin. While it was clear where Picoult stood, she was very fair in showing both sides of the argument. Each character was fully fleshed out and you really got to understand why they made the decisions they did and how they ended up at The Center.

The book is written in reverse order, starting at 5pm and it.drove.me.nuts! Now for those who rush to the back of the book before starting, this may not be an issue for you. It just took away from whatever semblance of a buildup there was. There was also a twist that came from nowhere and seemed like an after thought.

Overall, I liked the book okay because it was a timely issue – women’s rights, with strong view points. It’s one of those books that you hope makes a difference and helps people have a well rounded view. If you don’t think reverse chronology would bother you, I’d definitely recommend.

There were so many good quotes that I figured I’d share some of my favorites:

“Laws are black and white; lives of women are shades of gray”

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.” 

“Louie believed that those white men with their signs and slogans were not really there for the unborn, but there for the women who carried them. They couldn’t control women’s sexual independence. To them, this was the next best thing.”

“Vonita, God rest her soul, used to say that if men were the ones to get pregnant, abortion would probably be a sacrament. The Super Bowl halftime show would celebrate it. Men who had terminated pregnancies would be asked to stand and be applauded at church for the courage to make that decision. Viagra would be sold with a coupon for three free abortions.” 

Taynement