Book Related Topics, Fiction, Young Adult

Favorite Childhood Books

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

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

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

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

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

Leggy

Fiction

Book Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

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“Whose fault do you think it was?” he said. I stood in my kitchen, wanting to explain, careful not to, while he told me we’d marched one too many times, written one too many letters, screamed one too many words. “You women. You need to be taught a lesson.”

I don’t even remember how I stumbled on this book. I think it had a lot of buzz when it first came on the scene but people backed away from it because Christians did not like the way they were portrayed in the book. Anyway, I found the premise super interesting and decided to give it a shot.

This book is a dystopian novel set in an American society where women have been silenced. They are only allowed to be seen and not heard. They are assigned 140 words a day and that is all. They are not allowed passports, not allowed to work and school for women is radically different (only allowed to learn basic math and home economics). It’s quite obvious this book was published to make a commentary on the current political climate. Definitely no subtlety here.

At the beginning, a few people managed to get out. Some crossed the border into Canada; others left on boats for Cuba, Mexico, the Islands. It didn’t take long for the authorities to set up checkpoints, and the wall separating Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas from Mexico itself had already been built, so the egress stopped fairly quickly. “We can’t have our citizens, our families, our mothers and fathers, fleeing,” the President said in one of his early addresses

The main character, Jean Mcclellan does not make it out in time with her family and is stuck in America with 140 words a day. She’s a world renowned doctor and one day the President’s brother gets into an accident. She is called upon to help complete the research she had started before being relegated to the kitchen.

The first half of this book is very good, I was intrigued. In fact, I got panic attacks at some point and had to put it down. The imagery of women having no say in the society made me angry and extremely anxious and then seeing those women punished by electroshock every time they went over their allowed word limit was terrible and made me cringe. Girls being sent to camps for having sex while the boys got off without any punishment made me rage. Gay couples were either sent to prison or forced to say they were cured and marry members of the opposite sex. It was such imagery overload.

“My fault started two decades ago, the first time I didn’t vote, the umpteen times I told Jackie I was too busy to go on one of her marches or make posters or call my congressmen.”

After a while though, it’s very obvious that the writer lost some of her zeal. It was like, all the lofty ideas she started this novel with, just collapsed into melodrama filled with love affairs and pseudo scientific nonsense. Honestly, I skimmed the last 50% of the book because I just couldn’t believe what it had disintegrated to. The main character becomes very unlikable and she makes so many excuses for her son’s shitty sexist beliefs about women, even before women were assigned the 140 word limit. She had a very “boys will be boys” attitude when it came to her own son until those beliefs actually became real and affected her way of life.

“We’re on a slippery slide to prehistory, girls. Think about it. Think about where you’ll be—where your daughters will be—when the courts turn back the clock. Think about words like ‘spousal permission’ and ‘paternal consent.’ Think about waking up one morning and finding you don’t have a voice in anything.” 

I really enjoyed reading about the little girl in this book. It’s funny how people can easily become indoctrinated into their own slavery. Even when Jean makes a deal with the President to let her and her daughter out of the 140 word limit in exchange for her work, it takes a minute before the little girl could exercise her freedom of speech. She had been born into this system and already saw nothing wrong with it and saw it as normal. She finally got a taste of freedom and had difficulty embracing it. It was a very compelling story line and I wish she had stuck to more of those types of stories, which would have made the book so much better.

I still very much recommend this book. I enjoyed it still and gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. I have recommended it to people who have enjoyed it immensely. Also, I’m Christian and I wasn’t offended but if you easily are, maybe skip this one.

 

Leggy.

Fantasy, Fiction

Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

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The premise of this book is amazing. It’s 1969 and 4 siblings go see a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell people when they will die, right down to the age and exact date. With this information – Daniel, Varya, Klara and Simon- go ahead and live their lives with this information with Varya the only one who shares her age. They live their lives not knowing whether it was living out a destiny or a self-fulfilling prophecy. The book follows the life of each sibling and gives more insight into how they live.

With such a captivating cover, I feel like I saw this book everywhere and I had high hopes for this but unfortunately, this book was a let down. It had my interest in the beginning and I was curious to see how they would go ahead with life having an alleged expiration date, especially getting the info as teenagers. I feel like the first sibling story was quite interesting and captivating but as we progressively went through each sibling, it became more boring. By the time, we got to the story of the last sibling, I was bored out my skull and uninterested. There was so much focus on their work too, and while I got the connection, I just didn’t care.

Nothing about the writing stood out and it’s quite forgettable. I don’t have much to say about it to be honest. If this is on your TBR list, I honestly let you know that you won’t be missing much if you skip it.

Taynement

Fiction

We Chit Chat: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

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“Unfairness is a far more natural state in the world than fairness”

Taynement: It’s been months but I finally finished the sequel to Beartown which I loved! (it was my favorite read of 2017)

Leggy: Yes, finally. How was your reading experience?

Taynement: When I first started, I kept wondering what the point of the sequel was and you can’t get lightning in a bottle twice. Then, I think somewhere around chapter 20, something switched and I don’t know why I ever said that and I was all in.

Leggy: I felt that way through out the book. Why did he feel it was necessary to write this sequel? I think he’s a fantastic writer and don’t get me wrong, It’s hard to read a Backman book and not think this man is so damn talented but I do not think this book added anything to the Beartown universe. It wasn’t a story that needed to be told.

Taynement: I beg to disagree. If we look at it from that point of view, honestly all sequels that aren’t part of a series would be stories that didn’t need to be told. His fantastic writing made it a story I didn’t know I wanted. He was able to carve out a focal point and theme of community.

“Culture isn’t just what we encourage but what we allow to happen”

Leggy: How did you feel about Maya’s family in this book and the journey each of them took?

Taynement: The one thing I liked about this sequel was how real it was. More specifically, about the many struggles we all face in life and how it’s easily misunderstood. I’ll just say right now that my least favorite character was Peter Andersson. What a coward.

Leggy: He was my least favorite character too. I couldn’t stand the passages that were about him. He was honestly a terrible husband. He was way too obsessed with the game at the expense of his family. At some point, I felt like he was willing to put his family through anything horrible for a game in a town that hates him so much. I would have moved. He should have moved. His wife sacrificed so much for him and he expected her to keep sacrificing even when it became her turn to shine.

“It’s impossible to measure love, but that doesn’t stop us coming up with new ways to try”

Taynement: The book has always focused on the hockey obsession and their devotion but at this point i’m not sure what he was getting out of it, that he was willing to put his family through what they went through. But that shouldn’t be surprising, he was totally a man, super selfish. The obsession I could deal with, they all were obsessed. He kept harping on their obsession but I could see what each person was getting out of it except Peter.

Also, thinking about the rivalry between Hed and Beartown I kept thinking this is kind of ridiculous and it suddenly occurred to me that the depiction in the book could be seen as a metaphor of where we are as a country with the left and right wings.

Leggy: The way the grownups participated and escalated the situation blew my mind. I think my favorite character in this series is Benji.

Taynement: He was definitely my favorite in book 1 but I think my favorites kept alternating. There were a lot of likable characters. I liked Zackell, the new female coach, also Kira.

Leggy: I liked Zackell too. And I really like Bobo’s family, that is one family that you don’t expect to work but they do and they love and protect each other so fiercely.

Taynement: Which goes back to the book being all heart. Because Kira was real – a strong woman just trying to keep it together. She’s lost a child, she’s had a daughter raped, an obsessive husband and she’s still trying to be a career woman but she was scared of nothing.

Leggy: I absolutely agree. I felt frustrated for her most of the time. Just seeing her life getting more and more complicated and her having to turn down taking shots at her dream for her family.

Taynement: Can we talk about Backman’s writing? How does he do it? This book solidified that he is the answer now whenever I’m asked “Who is your favorite author?” This is his third book of his I like.

Leggy: Backman is a fantastic writer. Sometimes, I’m like you’re just showing off now.

Taynement: Ha ha ha ha and I bet he isn’t even trying. The point where the book does a turn for me there are so many events that I felt my heart was being squeezed till the end of the book.

Leggy: There are so many quotes that just hit you in the heart and mind you, Tayne, these books are all translations!

Taynement: Yes! (which is why I have them sprinkled over this post for a taste) So I was going to to touch on this. Is he still great in Swedish or is it the translation that makes him great?

“You know why you can never rely on men? Because they love men. No one loves men as much as men do. They can’t even watch sports if it’s not played by men”

Leggy: He has to be so damn fantastic in Swedish because he’s so huge in Sweden. We’re just getting him now because A Man Called Ove was translated and did so well here but he’s been big there for so long. Can you imagine if he’s even better in Swedish? Like how is that even possible?

Taynement: It’ll be too much! Can’t tell you how many quotes I have highlighted. I don’t remember how the first book went but I also enjoyed how he went deep into the minds of the individual characters. For example: how a character explained why he was impulsive and what it’s like in his brain, or how Bobo explained how everything outside of playing hockey is so hard but in the rink he knows who he is.

Leggy: The premonition in a lot of the passages was nerve wracking because you know something terrible is coming and you’re just holding your breath wondering who it’s coming for.What did you think about Maya’s brother’s storyline? I was really frustrated by his actions because I kept wondering why he was doing what he was doing and why nobody was noticing?

Taynement: I think it could have been better but then what could be? It’s not easy being the overlooked child and I think the not noticing was to highlight the disintegration of Peter and Kira’s marriage.

Leggy: That’s true. How did you feel about the way it ended?

Taynement: Much better than Beartown! I think it wrapped everything up while giving an epilogue in a subtle way BUT why the caginess on who Zackell’s father is? I don’t want any more sequels!

Leggy: I loved how Beartown ended. I was satisfied with the end of that book. I think this is the last book in this universe, at least I hope it is because I don’t think I will be reading another one.

Taynement: Can I say I totally see this being a movie? Did you know A Man Called Ove is being remade in English with Tom Hanks? The Swedish one was nominated for an oscar.

Leggy: Really? I actually think that book would make such a good movie. That’s one of the things I thought when I read it even though I didn’t love it, I thought it would make a much better movie. I’m excited about that.

Taynement: Anyway, loved loved loved this book. I want to give it a 4 stars because it took sometime to rev up but I might forgive that and give it a 5, we’ll see.

Leggy: High praise. I gave it 3 stars. I enjoyed it but honestly, I could have done without it.

“When terrible things happen, most people become waves, but some people become rocks. Waves are tossed back and forth when the wind comes, but the rocks just take a beating, immovable, waiting for the storm to blow over”

Leggy & Taynement

Fiction, romance

Book Review: The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

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The Perfect Couple is centered around Benji’s and Celeste’s fairytale, high society wedding in Nantucket. It’s wedding season there and this Island is overrun with tourists and wedding guests alike when the maid of honor is found drowned on the morning of the wedding day by the bride herself. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash digs into the best man, the maid of honor, the groom’s famous mystery novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, the chief discovers that every wedding is a minefield–and no couple is perfect.

Through the investigative work of Chief Ed Kapenash, an unraveling of the many alibis and a host of memories from multiple perspectives, Elin takes us back to the beginning—to how Benji and Celeste came to be the perfect couple set to say “I do”. We find out how they met, how their relationship progressed to the proposal. We find out the dirty secrets and the secret love affairs between the most surprising characters and everyone takes a turn being a suspect. Was this drowning a murder or an accident?

Hilderbrand is the queen of beach reads (all her book covers are people sitting in front of the ocean) and multiple book releases a year, this woman knocks them out like books are going out of style soon. In fact, she already has a new book out just a couple of months after this one (4 months to be exact). She is also quite good at writing such distinct characters that actually make you feel things. I did not care for the main character, Celeste, her actions and the holier than thou attitude were just too much for me to take. I know that good people do bad things but I got tired of being told how good, kind and so independent she is while watching her make shitty decisions that would hurt her supposed fiance if she is ever found out.

If you’re looking for a murder mystery book, this really isn’t it. I mean there is an investigation for 24 hours and you quickly realize that this was just a plot by the author to tell us about family secrets and forbidden love. This is chick-lit through and through. I could not stand the love at first sight story line between two of the characters, it was dumb and it was a bit insulting to the reader’s intelligence. I rolled my eyes so hard during all their interactions and did not root for them at all. I thought they were selfish and hurting people whose intentions were clear and pure just for their own stupid gain. Also, the end was pretty anti-climatic for me.

I gave this book two stars. It was a quick read and I think if you’re looking for something easy to read, this is the book for you.

 

Leggy.

 

Fiction

Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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This is my first Kristin Hannah book. She’s the writer of the super popular WW2 book, The Nightingale but I was so tired of the many WW2 books on the market, that I just decided to give that a pass. 13 year old Leni Allbright and her family move to Alaska and go off the grid as a possible cure for her father, Ernt’s illness. He just came back from Vietnam and is suffering from PTSD. He is extremely paranoid and volatile. At first, they do well in Alaska, they moved to Alaska during the summer so extremely longer days and shorter nights. Their neighbors are super welcoming and pitch in to prepare them for the winter coming. Winter shows up bringing with it a lot of darkness and snow, Ernt’s mental state starts deteriorating all over again and the family starts falling apart. Leni and her mother have to tiptoe around his violent rages and soon, they realize that they are alone in a city with 18 hours of night and nobody to hear them or save them from Ernt.

Hannah really takes her time laying the foundation to the Allbright family and showing us the tedious work it took to survive in Alaska in the ’70s. Spending every summer preparing for the winter – canning, smoking every animal and fish in sight, hunting- and then buckling down every winter just trying to get through the harsh temperatures and snow. I really appreciated this part of the book, the slow burn, getting to know your characters and their environment. I think this is where Hannah is a genius, she weaves these tales so well that you can actually see this place that you have never been to in your mind.

I enjoyed the first 70% of this book (this book is about 440 pages), I thought it was so well written and I was already itching to give out my second 5 stars this year on Goodreads to a literary fiction novel butI think this book fell apart in its last 100 pages. First of all, I did not like how the author described love. It was like some kind of compulsion that you can’t help or get away from. The love she described in the book was outright abusive and I couldn’t understand how she didn’t see it. Cora Allbright, Leni’s mother, stays with her abusive husband because she loves him so much and she constantly tells Leni that this is what love is and how she doesn’t think she can live without Ernt so she keeps her and her daughter in this violent home.

Leni falls in love with her next door neighbor, Matthew, and tells us how she finally understands what her mother has been describing all these years. When she uttered those words, my red flags went off so much and suddenly the love story between Leni and Matthew that Hannah is trying to sell me fell apart. If Hannah really wanted to sell us the love story between Leni and Matthew she should have set it up as the exact opposite of whatever Cora’s idea of love is not parallel to it.

I also just did not feel the chemistry between Matthew and Leni, I wasn’t rooting for them. I just wanted Leni to leave such a terrible home and go off to college and find herself. I was glad that she found a friend in Matthew who she could confide in and be herself with and I wish Hannah could have left it at that. Almost every woman in this book is weak and under some kind of patriarchy influence, except of course the stereotypical strong, black woman who is big and tall and is called Large Marge.

I was holding my breath the first 70% of the book waiting for Ernt’s paranoid doomsday prepping  to come to a head but the ending left me very unsatisfied and it needed an editor to clean it up. Hannah goes from literary slow burn to soap opera real quick towards the end and I couldn’t catch my breath going from one extreme to the next.

I know this is definitely going to be an unpopular opinion, as this book has a lot of good reviews. And don’t get me wrong, save for the gripes mentioned above, I can see why it has the positive reviews it received. Kristin Hannah is a fantastic writer and knows how to weave a tale but this was not the book for me. I ended up giving this book 3 stars because of the issues I had with it. I will definitely check out some of her other popular works and give her another try.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? Have you read any Kristin Hannah? Let us know in the comments!!

 

Leggy.

Fiction

Book Review: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

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This is the official description of the book:

This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.
This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.
This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.
When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

I put this description on here because it is one of the few that gives a true picture of what this book is about. What do you do as parents when your 5 year old tells you that he is a girl? This comes after Rosie and Penn have had 4 boys and tried for a 5th girl in hopes that it will be a girl this time. Rosie secretly hoping for a girl to name Poppy – the name of her sister who she lost as a child.

At first Rosie and Penn think it is a phase and treats it as such, but as the years go by they come to see that it is real and the dilemma and issues they face as parents are basically the foundation of this book. 

It’s easy to think this book is simply about a transgender child but I think it covers a multitude of things. I liked how Frankel makes you question what it is to be a parent. When you become a parent do you really consider ALL the possibilities that it comes with and are you equipped to handle it?

With Claude wanting to be a girl, there are 4 other kids to consider but inevitably, a lot of attention is given to Claude and the other kids have to suffer with less attention and also keep this secret within the family, which is a lot to ask of kids. Also, having to deal with a spouse who has different ideas of dealing with things. What is your boundary as a parent considering your kid is still young and needs guidance? How do you know if you are stifling or guiding?

This book is different in that in this case, Claude has supportive parents who are willing to go through far lengths to help with his transition, which usually isn’t the case. Some may consider it unrealistic but I think some people, albeit not the norm, do hit the jackpot with supportive family. I do think, Frankel was balanced in that I didn’t get the sense she was saying this is the best way to handle a situation like this. You could very clearly see that Rosie and Penn were just doing the best they can or rather what they thought was best.

75% into the story, the location shifts to Thailand and for me that is when the book lost the plot for me and kinda went into boring mode. It just didn’t gel with the first part of the story. 

Overall, it was a good read and I think it is a good entry point for anyone who is wary of LGBT topics because the truth about it is as a parent, what do you do if this happens to you? There is a difference between keeping your kid safe at home but there is a whole world out there that is not as friendly and you have to account for that. I found a point in the book interesting when a character said when a girl wants to only wear pants and kick a ball, no one bats an eyelid and she is called a tom boy but when a boy wants to play with dolls and wear skirts everyone is in a panic.

Laurie Frankel is the mother of a transgender child but insists that this book is not autobiographical as everyone will deal with this differently. I’ll leave you with this quote from Frankel’s acknowledgements (yes, I read those):

“For my child, for all our children, I want more options, more paths through the woods, wider ranges of normal, and unconditional love. Who doesn’t want that? I know this book will be controversial, but honestly? I keep forgetting why”

We’d love more interaction from you guys, so please feel free to let us know what you think. Do you think you will read this? How do you think you will react as a parent if your kid came up to you as a 5 year old insisting they were the opposite gender of what they are? Drop a comment!

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