african author, african stories, Fiction, literary fiction

We Chit Chat: Rootless by Krystle Zara Appiah

Taynement: Time for another Chit Chat!

Leggy: This was entirely a coincidental Chit Chat. We just happened to be reading this book at the same time. How did you decide to pick this one up?

Taynement: My sister-in-law is an avid reader and her review had me intrigued, so I added it to my TBR pile.

Leggy: I picked this as my Book of the Month pick for March and just happened to finally pick it up this month

Taynement: What made you pick it up as your choice?

Leggy: It was frankly the only thing that sounded great plus, I like to support my African sisters. What did you think of this one?

Taynement: A lot of our chit chats tend to be African authors. I liked it. Granted, it had the stereotypical African author book filled with pain and suffering but I was still intrigued.

Leggy: I liked it as well. In fact, I would have rated this one a lot higher than I did, if I didn’t absolutely hate the ending. I think this was great for a debut author. I always grade debut authors on a curve.

Taynement: You know, I was going to ask you about this. You always make reference to debut authors on a curve. How do you define the curve?

Leggy: I always give them one extra star. I didn’t with this one because the ending pissed me off so much. But I always add an extra star to whatever I think the book would have been if it wasn’t a debut book. I like to encourage the arts. lol

Taynement: Before we get to the end, what were the things you liked about the book?

Leggy: I thought a lot of it was realistic. I recognized the families and the African pressure to fit into a mold. I recognized the shame that comes specifically from failing in an African family. I also thought the plot was fast and moved forward easily. It was a compelling story. I liked that Efe and Sam weren’t childhood sweethearts. I actually kept expecting that.

Taynement: I agree with you on the compelling story point, that was what I liked the most about it. Regarding the shame, I think I have read so many African stories full of expectations and shame that I now roll my eyes at it. I get a little irritated now at that storyline especially when it involves grown adults.

Leggy: What did you think of Efe and Sam’s relationship before the kid? Did you think they were ever really compatible?

Taynement: I thought they were cute especially like you said, how they grew into love. But I think they were idealistic and didn’t want to face that they grew up and were different. They didn’t have the same core values. So to answer, they got to a point where they were not compatible but didn’t want to admit it because they were used to each other.

Leggy: I thought they weren’t compatible. And I think Sam would have realized it if he had just listened and believed her when she spoke about not wanting kids. If one person doesn’t want a child, break up!

Taynement: On the flip side, Sam was vocal about wanting kids is the onus not on her as well to listen?

Leggy: I don’t think he was vocal enough to be convincing because once she said she didn’t want kids he stopped talking about it all together but innately believed she would come around.

Taynement: It’s interesting that the book fleshed out Sam’s childhood trauma but didn’t flesh out Efe’s. In fact, it was all very vague.

Leggy: Very vague. Her life before 5 when her family was in London kept being touched on but never expounded on. Reading her parts of the book when she was younger gave me anxiety.

Taynement: I also tried to imagine how a 5 year old would get scars on her back and if it was so bad why would her parents send her back unceremoniously to the same country that put her through so much trauma. Quite frankly, overall, Efe’s childhood was haphazardly written.

Leggy: I also thought it was utterly insane that they let her younger sister get married so early. It made no sense to me at all. If they prioritized education so much, why would they let their daughter go back to Ghana at 18 to get married? I just don’t think she did enough justice on telling Efe’s family’s history and motivations for the decisions they made.

Taynement: So can I say that I am surprised I liked this book because I thought Sam and Efe were both selfish people aka very unlikeable characters?

Leggy: I think I liked it because of that. To me, this book is essentially a romance novel. The difference is that Sam and Efe aren’t like the typical couple you root for in romance. They utterly love each other, yes but they shouldn’t have been together. Sam’s life would have been so much better if he had married a different woman. Efe’s life would have been better if she had married her white boyfriend.

Taynement: Why did it take so long for Sam to realize that she was going through postpartum depression? Oh man! I think she would have been miserable if she married her white boyfriend.

Leggy: I actually think he was the first person who listened to what she actually wanted to do and then took steps to make sure she realized her dreams. He set her up with auditing classes. He set her up with her job. He was fine with her not wanting kids and if they had ended up in the situation of having kids, he could have afforded a nanny.

Also, it took so long for Sam to realize that she was overwhelmed because they’re both selfish people. Sam made a lot of decisions after they had the kid that didn’t involve her happiness in any way, at some point he didn’t even want her to go back to work.

Taynement: We can’t give away the spoiler but that “big thing” that happened where Efe took it upon herself to take action was silly for so many reasons.

Leggy: I was absolutely appalled. Her decision making skills is absolutely zero. It made no sense to me at all.

Taynement: And that’s when the story took a nosedive for me. Did Efe have to go that far? Why mention it at all? Why drag your sister in it? This one I thought was REALLY selfish.

Leggy: And that part of the book and the end made me not grade this book on a curve even though it’s a debut novel. I can’t in good conscience give this better than I rated it.

Taynement: So, my sister in law also hated the ending but I was actually okay with it. Where the writer was headed otherwise did not seem realistic to me. I didn’t see how they could move past the hump.

Leggy: Tayne, I almost threw this book over my balcony when I read the ending.

Taynement: LOL. I was like WHOOOAAA but also, yep, I’ll take it.

Leggy: I figured it out when I realized the chapters were still counting down to something even after we caught up to the beginning scene of the book. That’s when I was like oh, this is what this writer is heading to. You know, I’m a romance girl. Please give me a happy ending.

Taynement: The more we talk about this, the more I want to take away a star because I just remembered another thing Sam did with Efe’s cousin. There were so many loose end stories that were like huh? That particular story did not add or remove from the story.

Leggy: And then it had no impact on anything. I guess it was like making them even. You did this and I did that. So now we can forgive each other and move on.

Taynement: That being said, I would still recommend this book.

Leggy: Oh absolutely. I think it’s a compelling read. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

Taynement & Leggy

Fiction, women's fiction

Book Review: Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

“You’re depressed, not crazy. It’s not insane to be depressed in this world. It’s more sane than being happy. I never trust those upbeat individuals who grin no matter what’s going on. Those are the ones with a screw loose, if you ask me.”

William Waters is born during a time when his family experiences the loss of a child. This event sends his parents into a state of apathy for living and for their roles as parents to their son. William, who grows up neglected and barely acknowledged by his parents, escapes his household through a basketball scholarship. In college, he meets Julia Padavanos, an ambitious and self assured young lady who sweeps up Williams in her plans for their future.  With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, who is happiest with her nose in a book and who is waiting for her one true love who she thinks she will instantly recognize and vice versa. Cecelia, the family’s artist who suddenly ends up pregnant at 17 and Emeline, who believes she is the Beth in their sisterhood (the weak sister and the one who dies in the book Little Women). But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another.

“That Mark Twain quote about how the only reason for time is so everything doesn’t happen at once? I feel like everything that’s ever happened in my life is happening”

Napolitano treats her characters with such tenderness even in the face of so many bad decisions. The characters in this book felt real to me. I have 5 sisters and even though I would never make the decisions that these women make in the book, the complexities of their relationships are very well written and fleshed out. Their mother’s reaction to Cecelia’s pregnancy that mirrored so much of her own young years was so interesting to me. Even though the sisters’ dad was barely physically present in the pages, the way his influence on the girls shown through was so impressive to read. The title of the book comes from what their dad would say to them every time they entered a room – Hello Beautiful!

This book also explores male friendships – the relationship between Kent and William was so heartwarming to read. You could tell a woman wrote this friendship. The way they were there to carry each other and see each other through the world from the first time they met was very touching to read. It was great to see William step outside his family and meet people who were prepared to carry him through his worst days.

“William once had the thought that his fiancé (Julia) seemed to stride about the world with a conductor’s wand, while Sylvie brandished a book, and Cecelia, a paintbrush. Emeline, though, kept her hands free in order to be helpful or to pick up and soothe a neighborhood child”

When an unexpected tragedy occurs in the family and Sylvie makes a bold decision to choose her happiness over what people would say and over her sisters’ feelings, the bond between the sisters is shattered in a very irreparable way causing one of the sisters to be set afloat on her own in New York City, abandoning Chicago, the city she has grown up in and loved all these years.

While I would never make the choice Sylvie made, I saw it coming from miles away and I’m fascinated by how much Napolitano’s writing doesn’t make us question it as much as we would have in the hands of a more careless writer. It happens and you just think: that’s life. This book revolves around mental health, family expectations, ambition and our definition of what love is supposed to be or look like.

“She was all of herself with him and even felt there was room for her to become more. When he rested his eyes on her, it was without judgment or expectation, and in that space, Sylvie felt her potential: for bravery, brilliance, kindness, joy. All of these sails rested on the deck of her ship; they were hers, but she hadn’t seen them before.”

I’ve only read one other Napolitano book, Dear Edward, which I reviewed here and didn’t quite like. I actually think she has made a fan out of me with this new book. I picked up Hello Beautiful because it is an Oprah Book Club pick and even though I do not keep up with any of the celebrity book clubs, I was intrigued because a lot of the reviews surrounding this book mentioned it being a Little Women retelling which you do not need to read to enjoy this book. Having read Little Women though, I think it made the plot predictable for me because I kept waiting to see how she would pick up the big plot points from Little Women which had to be included otherwise it would not be a retelling.

It’s really hard to review a character driven book because all the major plot lines you can discuss feel like spoilers that would ruin the reading the experience for someone else.Anyway, I truly enjoyed this book. I picked it up from a book store in the morning and finished it in 24 hours. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads and strongly recommend it.


Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, race, thriller

Book Review: The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

“Music’s the gift. Caring’s the gift. And you give it to others now. There are a lot of ways apart from a concert hall to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Ray is a young, black man who loves playing the violin and he is good at it. His family is not supportive, especially his mom who tried to get him to stop playing and instead get a job at Popeyes for a stable paycheck. He ignores her and continues to play with borrowed violins from school. One Thanksgiving, his grandmother – the only family member who believes in his talent, gives him her father’s violin and when he goes to clean it up he finds out that it is a Stradivarius, a priceless type of violin. This becomes a blessing and a curse as his family suddenly takes interest in it and want to sell it and split the proceeds.

Another family, descendants of the family that enslaved his great-grandfather, also come forward and claim it belongs to their family and sue Ray. On the blessings side, Ray’s profile rises and he starts booking gigs and qualifies for the Tchaikovsky Competition—the Olympics of classical music. A competition no American has ever won. Everything seems to be going great until the Stradivarius goes missing. Ray is suddenly under pressure to find his violin while also practice for the competition.

“Second, he learned that doing what you loved may not be enough, that all the passion and perseverance that roared like blood within you could be trumped by factors that you could never control—factors like the color of your skin, or the shape of your eyes, or the sound of your voice.”

I really enjoyed this one for many reasons but mainly because this book wasn’t just one thing. The book managed to be a family saga, a thriller, a book about following passions, overcoming the odds and also exploring the ugliness of our nation’s history. I liked how Slocumb built the story of Ray’s career as a violinist. We got to be there from the beginning and go through his obstacles and breaks and it felt realistic. As a black person, reading some of his obstacles pursuing a character that the world has stereotyped as “not black”, you understand because every black person has faced being put in a box and being told what you can or can’t do.

“And none of that mattered. No matter how nice the suit, no matter how educated his speech or how strong the handshake, no matter how much muscle he packed on, no matter how friendly or how smart he was, none of it mattered at all. He was just a Black person. That’s all they saw and that’s all he was.”

I will say though, at a point I thought Ray’s experience with racism was A LOT but then reading that Slocumb incorporated everything that he himself (a violinist as well) had experienced in real life and I had to snap myself back to the reality of being a black person in America and navigating a mostly white career world.The other part of the book is figuring out who could have stolen the violin. In a rare occurence, my guess on who it was, was actually correct.

I recommend this book. It engaged me and I wanted to find out what would happen next. I read this one but I have heard that the audio is quite good. On a random note, I am curious why there are two different covers for this book.


Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, race

Book Review: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

The year is 1973 and Civil Townsend, a Black nurse in Montgomery, Alabama has just started a new job at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic. Since she has a car, she is assigned home visits. Excited to make a difference in the Black community, she is up for a rude awakening with her first assignment. First of all, she finds out her patients are living in squalor in a one room cabin. Then she finds out that her patients are 11 and 13 year old sisters, India and Erica. She is supposed to give them this new birth control, Depo Provera but they are so young and have not even kissed boys. She gives them the shot anyways but Civil can’t get them or their living conditions out of her mind.

The next time Civil is supposed to give them the shots, she can’t bring herself to do it. Especially when she realizes they are only being assigned this because they are black and poor. Civil is from a middle class family, her dad also in the medical field as a doctor so she takes them under her wing and helps the whole family (their dad and their grandma. Their mom died when they were young) more often than she should. She buys them clothes, does their hair and even takes it upon herself to apply for a subsidized apartment.

One day, Civil goes for a scheduled visit with the girls and realizes that the powers that be have taken advantage of their dad and grandma being illiterate and done something horrific and irreversible to the girls. Civil is filled with so much guilt and leads the way in getting justice for them. The book takes us down this journey and fastforwards many years later when they are all grown and Civil goes down memory lane.

I was gifted this book for Christmas and didn’t know what it was about but I liked it. It’s a heavy subject matter so if you are looking for something light, this is not the book for you. This book was set in 1973 and in 2023, it serves as a reminder of all the injustices that black people have had to face and still face today in America. The book has parallels and makes mention of the Tuskegee study. Perkins-Valdez does a good job of creating a world that is real and you feel everything that Civil does. I enjoyed the fact that Civil is black and came from a well to do family while we also meet India and Erica on the other side, who were impoverished. It drives home the point, for those who don’t know, that being Black is not a monolith and just like everyone else, we run a spectrum.

I loved how human she made Civil. As a reader, you think like Civil that there is no other route than to help the family, because why not? But Perkins-Valdez adds the plot where it is brought to Civil’s attention that she may be making them feel like a charity case and she has to ponder when helping crosses the line to interfering. Even when the book fast forwards to 2016, you can still see Civil grappling with the choices she made. If you are wondering if the back and forth was distracting, I can assure you that it wasn’t. There was more time spent in 1973 than 2016.

This is a book I expect to evoke many emotions (might not be positive) but it’s oh so necessary for us to never forget what was done before and what could still be. The book isn’t all dreary as there are secondary story lines surrounding Civil’s personal life. Her ex, Ty, her mom and her relationship with the girls’ dad. I definitely recommend the book and despite the subject matter, it managed to be a quick read.


african author, african stories, Fiction, Nigerian Author, short story, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions: A Novel in Interlocking Stories by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

Leggy: You chose this book for us to read. How did you first hear about it?

Taynement: Roxane Gay, the author, had read it early before its release (like 6 months ago) and had given it a positive review. I saw “jollof” and I was intrigued.

Leggy: It took a lot of coordinating for this to check out to both of us at the same time. I thought it was a novel, I didn’t know it was a series of short stories.

Taynement: As did I. Although, I had a tiny feeling with the interlocking stories in the title. I’m not usually a fan of short stories but I think I’m coming around.

Leggy: They’re easy to read because you can commit to a couple of stories a day and before you know it, you’re done. What did you think about this book overall?

Taynement: I think it was decent. Didn’t love it but didn’t hate it. There were elements I liked but I think it just never crossed the mark to really good.

Leggy: Yes, I kept waiting for it to get good but it never did for me. I think a lot of stories had potential but there was a lot holding them back. I kept waiting for her to go further but she never did. Honestly, a lot of the stories were so amateur hour to me.

Taynement: Ha ha, that’s the word. It was like playing dress up.

Leggy: What were the purpose of the dates? The dates seemed pointless to me.

Taynement: I did like that the stories had characters that were connected.

Leggy: We start off with the story of Adaoma, which I thought was all for nothing because after all the dressing up and making you feel it was building up to something, the ending was so anticlimatic.

Taynement: I think it was cool that it was a descendant of Nonso because I think they casually mentioned how her grandmother was married to a woman. I remember thinking the Segun story was pointless but later realizing he was the husband of one of the three main characters (Remi).

Leggy: The story I really liked and thought made sense was Mama Solape’s story. Everything made sense to me. The arc of the story was well done. The way her daughter was completely erased and how people just stopped calling her Mama Solape. How much she fought to retain her daughter’s memory and then at the end naming her restaurant Mama Solape. It was a full story arc to me which I would have loved to see more of, in this book.

Leggy: I didn’t like the last story and again back to the dates. Aisha claims she’s 78 in 2050 but in another story earlier in the book, she mentioned that she finished undergrad in 1994. How is this possible? I think that’s why I hated the dates.

Taynement: Lol. You’re really stuck on the dates. I didn’t even notice that.

Leggy: Numbers stick in my head. I really can’t help it.

Taynement: I actually liked the last story. I enjoyed the futuristic nature of it. I’m always fascinated by how authors imagine the future.

Leggy: What was your favorite story in the book?

Taynement: My favorite story is very random but it was Area Boy Rescue. Maybe because it was from the point of view of a non recurring character.

Leggy: I really liked that one too. When she said her madam dey act like “somebody who head no correct”. To go from her being such an Americanah to moving back to Nigeria and chasing a lorry through the streets of Lagos. That was funny.

Taynement: A very tiny thing but when she admitted that she liked having sex with her madam’s boss. I wasn’t even mad at her. It made me laugh.

Leggy: I really liked that detail. I thought it was succinct and well done because everything is not black and white. There are shades of gray. I think my favorite story was Start Your Savings Account Today, about Remi and her father. That conversation she had with her father and her father was saying – “You think I don’t love you and I paid your school fees in dollars?”. Because that is such a typical Nigerian dad thing to say. Even though you only saw me 7 times after I divorced your mother, I paid your school fees and that proves I love you.

Taynement: Overall, there were bits and pieces I liked and I would recommend it to people but my con is that it was mid.

Leggy: It was okay to me. I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads.

Taynement: I enjoyed it more than you did. I gave it three stars. I think the writing shortcomings were able to hide behind being a collection of short stories.

Have you guys read this? If yes, what did you think? If no, are you going to give this one a try? Let us know in the comments!

Leggy & Taynement.

Fiction, thriller

Book Review: The House In The Pines by Ana Reyes

A viral video where a woman is seated across a man at a diner when she suddenly stares into space and drops dead makes its way all over the internet. Maya is one of the many people who views this video but she is triggered as she has seen this happen before. When she was a high school senior preparing to go off to college, she watched her best friend, Aubrey die in the exact same way. That’s not the only similarity, they both died in the presence of the same man, Frank.

Now years later, Maya is in a serious relationship while going through withdrawals from an addiction to Klonopin, a drug she has been on since Aubrey’s death. She is drinking way more alcohol than usual to deal with it, isn’t sleeping well and has lost a ton of weight. After an embarrassing dinner with her boyfriend’s family where she was drunk, she decides to go back to her hometown and find a way to prove that Frank is responsible for both murders.

I don’t think I have ever read a book recommended by Reese’s book club but I was determined to have a better reading life this year and was open to suggestions so when I came across this on IG I was like sure, why not? and I don’t know if it was a good or bad decision. The book started out captivating and I was intrigued and very eager to find out how or if Frank was connected to both deaths. I think Reyes did a good job of mapping out the past and we get a good sense of Aubrey and Maya’s friendship. But then, when the reveal happens, I was like huh?? I almost didn’t believe it. Dare I say, I felt insulted? It was just waaay too far fetched for me.

Maya has Guatamelan heritage and at some point we see her visit and meet her father’s family (her father died when he was young). Her father was a writer who had an unfinished book that was in her possession. Reyes writes this plot point into the story as if it would come in handy at some point and it does interweave during the reveal but it didn’t seem to add to the reveal at all, so I kept wondering why we were dragged into it in the first place.

There is a lot going on in this book and you can tell that it is a debut effort. I don’t know if I’d recommend this book because I don’t think the payoff was satisfying. I gave it 3 stars because it really did have my attention the first half of the book before it started falling apart.


Fiction, literary fiction, romance, women's fiction

Book Review: The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Solène Marchand, a 39 year old, divorced, art gallery owner, takes her 12 year old daughter, Isabelle, to her favorite boyband’s concert. August Moon, a band filled with young British boys, has taken the world by storm. They’re selling out stadiums and young girls all over the world are madly in love with them. The last thing Solène expects when she takes her daughter and her friends backstage to meet the group is to make a connection with one of the boys, who is just 20. Hayes Campbell is clever, charming and severely attracted to Solène. What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate and genuine relationship. She flies across continents and cities to meet up with him and have amazing sex until their relationship is revealed in the press leaving her daughter heartbroken and vulnerable and Solène, herself, exposed to the millions of girls who are mad that this old woman is with the love of their lives.

When I started this book, I was sure I was going to give it a one star at the end. A fanfiction about Harry Styles? I don’t care how many times fans of this book and the author denies it but this book is very clearly about One Direction and Harry Styles. I just couldn’t get past the age gap and the judgement I had. But I thought for a long time about this book while I was reading it and afterwards. If the genders were reversed would I feel so judgemental towards Solène? Would I judge a dad for sleeping with a 20 year old and question his love for his daughter? I realise that girls have a very different relationship with their favorite male pop stars than their favorite female pop stars so none of the dilemmas that arose in the book would have even been a thing in the world we live in. I also knew how this book was going to end. There was no other way for it to end except the way it did. I don’t want to spoil the book for anybody.

My problem with this book is that the author tried to convince us that Solène and Hayes fell in love but I never saw that on the page. I never thought they had any real conversations. Every conversation they had was about sex and about how much they loved sleeping with each other. The author didn’t show us in depth conversations that showed they were anything other than sex buddies. All we kept being told was the number of orgasms he kept giving her. There was a night he gave her 8 orgasms! Maybe I’m speaking too quickly. Maybe if someone gives you 8 orgasms, you have no choice but to fall in love too. This book has a lot of fans (there’s even a Facebook group just for the fans of this book) and I picked this book up because someone mentioned how much they loved it. I was in a book slump so I quickly picked this one up and another reason I didn’t give it one star is because it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It completely rebooted my reading life which I’m so happy about.

The characters in this book were so pretentious, I don’t even know where to start. Of course Solène is French and even though she was born and raised in America, she still considers all things French to be cool and sophisticated. She’s so well traveled, went to an Ivy league school, so beautiful, so intelligent. She is everything you think of when you think of a stereotypically sophisticated French woman. The author did not lift her pen when jotting down ALL the stereotypes. Hayes is also very rich, very posh, went to private school in England, father went to Eaton, and of course so mature for his age! These two people are gallivanting the world, meeting other cool and sophisticated people like them, buying art, discussing art, having dinners in fancy places, meeting more cool people like them and buying thousands of dollars worth of art!

So why did I not give this book one star? Because honestly it has stayed with me since I read it and I’ve had the urge to convince other people to read it just so I have someone to talk to about it. It’s also interesting to me that I had a lot of problems with this book but I did not find the age gap as creepy as I thought it would be. The author, I feel, did a very good job with that. Hayes still read very young to me but I kept forgetting he was barely legal. Anyway, I gave this book 2 stars and seriously considered giving it 3 stars but came to my senses. I will say though, that I enjoyed being irritated by these characters.

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


dystopian, Fiction, literary fiction, Young Adult

Book Review: Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Bird is 12 years old and he lives with his white dad. His mom, Margaret, is Chinese-American and she walked away from them 3 years earlier to protect them. They are living in a world governed by PACT (Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act) which is supposed to protect America from foreign influence aka China but what it is really doing is giving room for anti-Asian hate. Bird’s dad has told him to lay low and keep his head down but Bird is dealing with the loss of his mom and everything going on around him. After seeing a cryptic note, he is determined to find his mom and fill the gaps that have been resurrecting in his heart and mind.

I am a fan of Celeste Ng. I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You. Those books were slow burns and I thought this was going to be the same journey for Our Missing Hearts when I started. Except, where the two books led to something, this one never did. I don’t remember at what point I realized this was going to be the book but I was probably too far gone to quit. We have seen a rise in apocalyptic settings in books and some may disagree but this was apocalyptic for me. It’s truly not fun to read something that is close to real life. All that to say that the mood for the whole book was dreary, I felt a dread the entire time.

We were told the story from Bird’s perspective and he just seemed sad. I have to say that Ng did a good job of conveying his complicated feelings as a 12 year old. His dad on the other hand didn’t seem fully fleshed out and seemed very much like a background character. When the story gets told from Margaret’s perspective, I felt like the book picked up some and was more interesting and we got more insight. But then, that felt rushed and after waiting to know more about Margaret she just seemed so impulsive and I don’t think I fully understood her motives.

I completely understand Ng’s frame of mind for writing this but I feel like she didn’t find the balance between writing about a conscious message and writing something enjoyable. There was a lot of focus on getting the message across that it didn’t feel relaxed. Although it was an important message, I think it failed in execution because overall I found it boring. I could not get myself to connect with any of the characters. I really wanted to like this one but being bored + the constant sense of dread didn’t make for a pleasant read.


Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, romance, women's fiction

Book Review: The Most Likely Club by Elyssa Friedland

“The thing about problems is that they will be there tomorrow.”

It’s 1977 in Belfort, California, 4 high school senior friends are ready to take on the world. Melissa Levin, Priya Chowdury, Tara Taylor, and Suki Hammer have weathered high school together and even their yearbook superlatives confirm their dreams: Most Likely to Win the White House, Cure Cancer, Open a Michelin-Starred Restaurant, and Join the Forbes 400. Fast forward 25 years and only Suki has made her dreams come true while the rest of the girls are struggling to figure out life. As they gather at their high school reunion and look at the ones who did turn themselves into something, they dream of what life could have been if they had stuck to their goals or if life hadn’t decide to screw them over. There and then, they make each other a promise to strive more and finally achieve at least a version of their high school superlatives.

I love a second chance story, which is why I picked this one as my Book of the Month Pick. Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me because it was trying to do too much. I enjoyed learning about these women’s friendship dynamics because I quite like reading about complicated female friendships. Ultimately, I didn’t think they had a good enough friendship for the bad parts of the friendship to be overlooked or read as just complex human nature. When Melissa finds out something about Priya’s daughter on social media, instead of going to her friend with it (it’s a child for crying out loud), she uses it to feel better about her own life and her own child. She then uses it to comment snidely to her friend whenever she felt like Priya was being holier than thou. I just felt, this is not friendship. Once it involves children, you cut the shit and make sure your friend’s child isn’t putting herself in dangerous situations.

There are so many issues that the author would just throw at us and then none of it even mattered at the end of the book in her hurry to try to pull together all the threads she tried to force into the book. Tara, the bisexual character in this book told us so much about her crush on Suki. Her every high school memory is tied to Suki and the author doesn’t fail to tell us this, every chance she got. But when we finally meet Suki, which for some reason doesn’t happen till the last 15% of the book, nothing is even explored with that. It’s like the storyline just died? Suki seemed like the one with the most interesting life among the friends but we never get her actual full story and when we meet her, she’s in crisis and we can’t even follow what exactly is wrong with her husband. Melissa just happened to meet a millionaire at the high school reunion who just proceeded to fund her campaign for Mayor which I found so eye roll inducing.

The only character I liked in this book was Priya. I think her problems were real life grown woman problems that I could identify with. She was a doctor who was turning down opportunities because she couldn’t get her husband to be an actual full participant in their family. Her evolution in this book was honestly the only one worth reading. Her, standing up for herself and insisting her husband actually parent the children he helped bring into this world, was the only reason I didn’t give this book one star. I wish every character had been written as honestly as Priya was. Her struggles trying to balance being a doctor, a wife, a mother and a daughter in law was so hard for me to read. I was exhausted just reading what her day was like.

I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads. I think you should check it out if you’re looking for something easy to get through and hopefully, this review has made your expectations realistic so you’d probably enjoy it more than I did.


Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“My ambition has long felt oppressive. It is not a joy—it is a master that I must answer to, a smoke that descends into my life, making it hard to breathe. It is only my discipline, my willingness to push myself harder, that has been my way through.”

At 37, Carrie Soto is a retired, celebrated tennis player. The year is 1994 and she is sitting in the stands with her dad, Javier who introduced her to tennis and was her coach for a long time. They are both watching Nicki Chan at the US Open as she inches closer to breaking Carrie’s record of having the most Grand Slam titles. Carrie is not having it and decides there and then to un-retire to defend/maintain her titles.

Her retirement opens the floodgates for the media, who have never liked her, to share their not so nice opinions about Carrie who is nicknamed “The Battle-Ax”. It also brings back someone from the past, fellow tennis player, Bowe Huntley who is also trying to prove something to himself before he retires. Jenkins takes us on a journey of all the events that led Carrie to this moment and how she deals with this new phase in her life.

“One of the great injustices of this rigged world we live in is that women are considered to be depleting with age and men are somehow deepening.”

TJR rarely misses for me and this was no different. I absolutely loved this book. It didn’t take long for me to get swept into Carrie’s world. Something TJR does well is that she creates world that feels so real that you start wondering if you aren’t reading a biography. It felt so real to me that I spent so much time googling each tennis tournament as it came up in the book. The pacing of this book was just right and nothing dragged. I truly enjoyed Carrie as a character and I loved how unapologetic she was. I know TJR was trying to subtly point out the injustices of how women are being treated vs. men and she achieved it.

“I am afraid of losing. I am afraid of how it will look to the world. I’m afraid of this match being the last match my father ever sees me play. I am afraid of ending this all on a loss. I am afraid of so much.”

Another character I truly liked was Carrie’s dad, Javier. It was fun watching the many stages of their relationship and how TJR fully developed it for our understanding. Carrie was a hard shell but you could tell she had a soft spot for her dad. Just like her character, TJR wrote their relationship as flawed which made it realistic. Javier was so good at tennis that I kept wondering how much research TJR did to come up with all the techniques and tricks that Carrie had to do to keep up with her opponents. I want to add that it may seem little but I appreciated TJR infusing Javier’s culture in the moments when he speaks to Carrie in Spanish.

“When did I lose that? The delight of success? When did winning become something I needed in order to survive? Something I did not enjoy having, so much as panic without?”

One thing TJR does in her books is she infuses characters from her other books. When I started this book, I was confused because I thought it was a sequel to Malibu Rising till it dawned on me that it wasn’t a sequel and instead Carrie was the person Nina’s husband left her for in the book. It’s easy to think this was just a book about tennis but not at all. If you ever watched the show Friday Night Lights, it’s something like that. Where the anchor is the sport but it’s truly about everything else surrounding it and life as we know it. CSIB had a lot of heart and soul and I liked how it ended. I enjoyed every stop along the way and the lessons learned as well.

Just in case you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend this one.