dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, scifi

Book Review: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

“My point is, there’s always something. I think, as a species, we have a desire to believe that we’re living at the climax of the story. It’s a kind of narcissism. We want to believe that we’re uniquely important, that we’re living at the end of history, that now, after all these millennia of false alarms, now is finally the worst that it’s ever been, that finally we have reached the end of the world.”

It’s 1912, Edwin St. Andrew is exiled from polite society by his parents after ranting about colonialism at the dinner table and finds himself in Canada. He enters the forest one night to admire the Canadian wilderness and is shocked to see a sudden vision of a man playing a violin in an airship terminal. 200 years later, Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour on earth from the outer space colonies when she is asked about a strange passage in her best selling book. A passage that describes a man playing a violin in an airship terminal when suddenly the Canadian wilderness rises behind him for a couple of seconds. When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts is hired to investigate this anomaly and determine if we are living in a simulation, he travels through time to meet each participant to interview them and finds so many different lives upended.

“You know the phrase I keep thinking about?” a poet asked, on a different panel, at a festival in Copenhagen. ‘The chickens are coming home to roost.’ Because it’s never good chickens. It’s never ‘You’ve been a good person and now your chickens are coming home to roost.’ It’s never good chickens. It’s always bad chickens.”

I genuinely do not know how to describe this book to you because I went in blind. I saw that Mandel had a new book out and I just downloaded it and read it without even checking to see what it was about. I recommend you go in that way because there is really no description for this book. It’s so many things at once. It is a pandemic novel, a time travelling novel, an apocalyptic novel, a human nature novel etc. I did not enjoy Mandel’s last novel, The Glass Hotel, as much as I did Station Eleven but this one is Mandel at her absolute finest. If you read Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, you get to pick up the different little easter eggs she drops on the way. Characters from her previous books pop up in this one and it was so thrilling to recognise characters I thought I would never see again.

“Pandemics don’t approach like wars, with the distant thud of artillery growing louder every day and flashes of bombs on the horizon. They arrive in retrospect, essentially. It’s disorienting. The pandemic is far away and then it’s all around you, with seemingly no intermediate step.”

As is the style with Mandel, this is a quiet slow build story. The exploration of what living in a simulation might mean for humanity is so riveting and her writing of human nature is absolutely beautiful. We begin with different chapters of characters in different centuries and settings with stories that seem totally unrelated and you wonder where exactly this is leading to. The way she ties the stories together beautifully at the end is so good. Mandel’s writing has such a nostalgic feel to it, how do you feel nostalgic about what is essentially a time traveling investigatory story? I don’t know but you do.

“Sometimes you don’t know you’re going to throw a grenade until you’ve already pulled the pin.”

If you enjoy slow burn books, then you should give this book a chance. If you’ve never enjoyed any Emily St. John Mandel’s books then this is not any different. The reasons you hated the others probably exist in this one. It’s very difficult to write a review for this book but I definitely recommend it if it sounds like something you’d like and with every Mandel book, you already know to expect very stellar writing. I think I’ve decided to be a completist where Mandel is concerned. I’m going to go and read her previous books before Station Eleven blew up and see. Anyway, I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

“Because while musical prodigies are always celebrated, early readers aren’t. And that’s because early readers are only good at something others will eventually be good at, too. So being first isn’t special – it’s just annoying.”

Elizabeth Zott is a chemist, a single mother and a very reluctant cooking star host of the beloved, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (continuously proclaiming how hard it is and using chemistry terms!) proves to be very popular and revolutionary. She’s not just teaching women how to cook but daring them to change the status quo of things in the early 1960s. How did a chemist with a masters degree get here? How did she end up in the kitchen? Well, you’re in for the most unusual love story.

“Imagine if all men took women seriously . . .

Zott is the only female chemist at Hastings Research Institute, even though her male colleagues constantly come to her for help, they do not think she is smart enough. They find her too uppity because she refuses to make copies, make coffee, or anything else that her male colleagues aren’t required to do. They are also resentful of the fact that she is beautiful and does not want to date any of them, be groped or “accidentally” touched. She experiences so much sexism at work until she meets the often oblivious Calvin Evans.

My favorite thing about Garmus’ characterization of Evans is that she does not write him as a perfect paragon of feminism. Yes, he does not logically understand why Zott is not treated better, given the intellect she possesses and he takes her ideas seriously, but he is still just a man. He proposes to her even though she already told him she does not intend to ever get married. He automatically assumes that she would change her name and completely blanches at the suggestion that if it isn’t such a big deal then he should change his to hers.

This story is filled with so many great side characters. A neighbor that could have been the stereotypical nosy neighbour but Garmus writes her to be so much more. If you’re an animal lover, there’s a dog named six-thirty that most animal lovers would absolutely adore. I am not an animal lover but even I appreciated his contributions to the plot! A priest that fleets in and out of Calvin and Elizabeth’s lives, a very smart and delightful daughter called Mad! and a secretary at Hastings that makes Elizabeth’s life a living hell!

I’m getting weary of reading about quirky female characters who are written like they’re on the spectrum but are not written consistently. Elizabeth in my opinion was very naive, socially awkward and sometimes delusional. There are so many times I just felt like this character was not at all realistic.

The blurb on this book says it’s supposed to be laugh out loud funny, I didn’t find it funny. This book should actually come with a trigger warning – there’s a brutal rape, an attempted rape and suicide. I don’t think I even smiled once. The character said something about subsidized child care in Sweden and I had to google this because I was quite shocked that this would be a thing in the early 60’s which is when this book was set in and I was right, subsidized child care was not a thing till the late 70’s in Sweden. I wonder why her editor didn’t catch that.

Anyway, I did enjoy this book overall and would recommend it. I went into it with extremely high expectations built up by bookstagram and I think I was ultimately a little let down. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. It is a debut novel and I must say, it read like one. If you enjoy quirky characters and a charming cast of support characters, then this one is for you.

Leggy

Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, thriller

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

“Sisterly relationships are so strange in this way. The way I can be mad at Rose but still want to please her. Be terrified of her and also want to run to her. Hate her and love her, both at the same time. Maybe when it comes to sisters, boundaries are always a little bit blurry. Blurred boundaries, I think, are what sisters do best.”

Rose and Fern are fraternal twin sisters. Fern is on the spectrum and Rose is very protective of Fern and is very involved in her life. Fern relies on her sister a lot and trusts her and would do anything for her. When Rose tells Fern that she has fertility issues and isn’t able to have a kid, Fern decides she needs to help Rose have a child and all she needs to do is find a man to impregnate her.

Fern lives a structured, routine life and keeps to a schedule. When she meets Wally at the library she works in, he brings a little disruption in her life – in a good way. We start to see the relationship between the sisters from two perspectives. Fern’s, in present day and Rose’s from when they were children via her journal entries till the stories collide and meet in the present day.

“Fern always seemed to have some sort of impenetrable boundary around her that made her immune to Mum’s reign of terror. I often wondered if that boundary was part and parcel of whatever was different about Fern.”

I don’t recall how or when this was on my TBR list but it was available and I dove into it and it was really a case of right time, right book. It basically is a story about family and how perspectives can be different even in the same environment. There were many things covered in this book – learning more about sensory processing disorder (which Fern suffers from) and being on the spectrum, mental illness, abuse, boundaries and more – but it was woven in seamlessly and did not feel overwhelming. Hepworth managed to place them in the right places with the right doses.

“The library, Janet used to say, is one of only a few places in the world that one doesn’t need to believe anything or buy anything to come inside … and it is the librarian’s job to look after all those who do.”

It might seem like a little thing, but as mentioned before Fern worked in a library and seeing how much she loved her job, was good at it and was a place of solace for her, seemed like a subtle nod to us book lovers. Hepworth did a good job of character building and the library seemed like one more character that wasn’t left out. I liked how she didn’t have Fern’s autism be her one defining characteristic even if it was a big part of her life. Instead, we get to know about Fern’s love of bright colors and how bold she was.

“One thing I’ve learned about facing fear,” he says, “is that sometimes, it’s just too scary.”

I am not sure how to categorize the book. It’s definitely fiction but it had a mix of romance, [very low key] thriller in that it’s all leading up to a big secret/twist which I think was quite easy to figure out. I enjoyed the pacing of the book and all in all found it a pleasurable read. Oh and Hepworth is Australian, so the book is set in Australia. I gave the book 4 stars because the ending kinda hinted at a sequel and I think the book should be a one and done. I recommend this one!

Taynement

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

We Chit Chat: Nearly All the Men in Lagos are Mad by Damilare Kuku

Leggy: The title of this book makes me laugh every time I say it. “Nearly all the Men in Lagos are Mad”. It’s such an eye catching title.

Taynement: Ha ha ha, why? Because it’s true? 🙃

Leggy: I mean…This book wasn’t in my library, so I was just going to skip it but you convinced me to get it so we can read it as a part of our Chit Chat series and I must say I don’t regret it.

Taynement: It was on every Nigerian bookstagram and a friend of mine got it for me. I’m glad you didn’t regret it. I enjoyed this book, which is saying a lot given my stance on short stories.

Leggy: I enjoyed it too. I thought it was super entertaining but I also went in with very low expectations. I just thought it was one of those books where everyone jumps on a bandwagon and it wasn’t going to give what it was supposed to give.

Taynement: Besides the compelling stories and compelling writing, what made this book a good read was knowing that all of the stories were realistic.

Leggy: I have a very different opinion.

Taynement: Let’s hear it!

Leggy: I did not find a lot of the stories realistic.

Taynement: ooooh, really?

Leggy: Sometimes I wondered what society she was writing about. Don’t get me wrong, Nigerian men are mad and the encompassing stories are realistic but some of the little details give American society.

Taynement: Oh ok, I see what you mean.

Leggy: Like in “The Anointed Wife”, the mistress gets a book deal and goes on an interview tour. That would NEVER happen in Nigeria. Ever. Especially when the man being accused of adultery is a pastor? She would be branded a harlot through and through. People would talk about it on twitter for a day, nobody will remember the pastor the next day but best believe they’ll always remember the woman to call her – ashawo.

Taynement: I think that’s where you have to suspend all belief to keep the story moving.

Leggy: Yeah, so little details like that made me roll my eyes because it was giving America not Nigeria but overall, I found the main threads of the stories true to form.

Taynement: Did you have any favorite stories?

Leggy: I really enjoyed “Ode-Pus Complex” because I found it realistic. That exact scenario has happened to someone I know.

Taynement: What a clever title. If you’re not Nigerian, “Ode” means fool.

Leggy: Yup. Such a clever title. And honestly, I didn’t hate the mother. She was direct and honest instead of doing that passive aggressive thing Nigerian mothers do.

Taynement: She was just being realistic and quite frankly, saving the girl.

Leggy: And the girl saw it for herself like woman, you can keep your son.

Taynement: One of my favorite stories was “Beard Gang” – the group of women married to closet gay men.

Leggy: I really liked that one too.

Taynement: I also liked “I knew You“, one of the few stories from the male perspective and acknowledging that he ain’t shit.

Leggy: He really wasn’t shit. I’m glad the girl was like – I’m out!

Taynement: I didn’t read reviews for the book but a friend let me know that Nigerians were up in arms about the sex scenes which were graphic. What did you think about it?

Leggy: I don’t remember any of the sex scenes to be honest, so it can’t possibly have been that graphic.

Taynement: Oh wow. Ose bad gyal! 😂😂😂😂 Well, I didn’t think it was inappropriate or too much but I know Nigerians are gonna Nigerian. In fact, I applaud a Nigerian author for not shying away from sex.

Leggy: Also, considering how much Nigerians have sex, it’s intriguing how much they don’t want that fact acknowledged. Which was your least favorite?

Taynement: Cuck up was up there. It was the story that most embodied what I hate about short stories. It felt incomplete and I didn’t get the point.

Leggy: Aww really? I didn’t mind that one. He convinced her to have sex with her rich customer and then started punishing her for it after the fact. Then had the guts to call a family meeting for her, in a house her “prostitution” got them. So she waited for the meeting, told them the full story and then asked him to leave her house for her. I quite enjoyed it.

Taynement: To be honest, I didn’t hate any story. It was a really good collection.

Leggy: I didn’t like Catfish.

Taynement: Ha ha, I didn’t mind it.

Leggy: Also was iffy about The Gigolo from Isale eko.

Taynement: I agree.

Leggy:mAlso, First Times had the cringiest sentences – “Hi, I’m Belinda but Idris calls me baby.” What? I thought the story had potential but she just couldn’t make the plot move forward in a grounded and realistic way.

Taynement: The two stories where the ladies weren’t so smart rank low for me – Sidelined and First Times.

Leggy: You know the one that made me laugh? International Relations. Honestly, this was a really good collection and very easy to read. Did you read her acknowledgment where she thanked Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? She said she went to a reading at 16 and Chimamanda told her to take all the time she needs to write her first book and she hopes she reads this and It makes her proud. That was really sweet.

Taynement: Yes! There was also a shout out to a We Chit Chat alum author – Chiemeka Garricks.

Leggy: I’m glad older and more accomplished Nigerian authors are providing much needed mentorship for the young upcoming ones. Anyway, I definitely recommend this book. It’s very entertaining and it would make for plenty of fun discussions if you read it in a Nigerian book club.

Taynement: A nonjudgmental Nigerian book club.

Leggy: LOL. Apparently.

Taynement: Actually, I think it’ll be fun for any book club. I’d find it interesting explaining things to a non Nigerian. Anyways, what we’re trying to say is – go read the book!

Taynement & Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

“And what about a person’s life? How do you make a map of that? The borders people draw between themselves. The scars left along the ground of one’s heart.”

Eleanor Bennett has just passed away. She leaves behind a recording for her two children, Byron and Benny who she fondly calls B&B. The recording is nothing either of them expected, especially Benny as she was estranged from both her parents and didn’t speak to them before either of them passed away.

In the recording, Eleanor reveals a lot of family secrets including a history on the Island she is originally from. She gives them one last request and drops a bomb at the same time. She tells them that she has left them a traditional Caribbean black cake in the freezer and they have to eat it together – with their long lost sibling.

“I hope that you won’t be afraid to make the same kind of choice again, if you feel that this is what you need to do to survive. Question yourself, yes, but don’t doubt yourself. There’s a difference.”

This book has all the ingredients for a compelling book – which it was, but for me, even though I liked it, I was not gaga about it like most in the literary world. It is a family multi-generational story with a lot of character. In talking about the Islands, Wilkerson sprinkled in some history that I found interesting. The book spanned from the Islands to the UK and then the United States with MANY characters. I found the book to be very descriptive so it made all the sense when I found out Wilkerson was a former journalist.

“You were never just you, and you owed it to the people you cared about to remember that. Because the people you loved were part of your identity, too. Perhaps the biggest part.”

I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of characters, which may bother some people but it didn’t bother me because as long as a book is written well, I can keep up with the characters. That being said, we get insight into each and every character mentioned except for one, so you have a good idea of who everyone is. I do want to add that I don’t know if we were supposed to be sympathetic to Benny’s character because I wasn’t. I didn’t understand her reasons for being estranged from her parents and she sounded a bit spoiled and stubborn.

“I have lived long enough to see that my life has been determined not only by the meanness of others but also by the kindness of others, and their willingness to listen.”

The biggest drawback of the book was just how the author tried to write about any and everything and at some point, it could be a lot and you realize that it could have used some fine tuning. It’s almost like a book you have to take in small doses. Like I said earlier, I liked the book and do think it’s worth picking up, I just didn’t think it was outstanding. Also, is it just me or has anyone else noticed that we have a bunch of books that are centered around food?

Taynement

Fiction, Historical, LGBT, literary fiction, race, romance

Book Review: Olga Dies dreaming by Xóchitl González

“You must remember, mijo, even people who were once your sails can become your anchors.”

Despite all the factors against them, Olga and her brother, Pedro ” Prieto” Acevedo made it in New York. Olga is a rich wedding planner for Manhattan’s elite while Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrified latino neighborhood in Brooklyn. On the surface, they’re living the American dream but there is something more going on underneath it all.

Olga may be creating dreams of love for other people but she is unable to fall in love herself until she meets Matteo, who forces her to examine long buried family secrets. 27 years ago, their mother, Blanca left them to advance a militant cause that was suppose to free native people all over the world. But with nothing achieved, she comes barreling back into their lives like she didn’t abandon her children all these years ago.

It took me a long time to pick up this book, because the cover and the blurb do it no favors. I think the blurb is quite accurate but I just didn’t expect it to have so much life and culture and such a strong narration. This book is told through the perspective of both Olga and Prieto and interspaced by the letters their mum writes them through the years. Letters that strictly scolds them for whatever decision that spreads through the grapevine that she disapproves of.

I enjoyed Olga’s narration the best, it’s filled with so much snark and wit while Prieto’s was almost stifling. The secret he’s hiding and the length he has gone to hide it is almost suffocating as he tells us upfront and then we carry it throughout the book. Prieto sets out to become a politician to help Puerto Rico and his Brooklyn neighborhood but along the way, he bites off more than he can chew.

The Acevedo family is so boisterous and filled with so much love and joy. I loved reading about everyone in the family, how they all chip in to help each other out and how they find the spaces they are needed to fill up, whenever anyone is about to be left behind. It reminds me of a big Nigerian family and I could relate so much to it.

While I enjoyed the characters in this book, I felt like the political commentary was not subtle at all. Maybe the author did not intend for it to be subtle but I felt at some point that I was being hit over my head with a hammer by a lot of it, especially on gentrification. I feel like it’s all been said before, and sadly, there wasn’t anything new. Also, this is largely a character driven book, so if you’re not into that, this book is definitely not for you because I feel like you live in the narrators’ heads a lot.

I also would love to read the reviews of actual Puerto Ricans for this book because it deals with a lot of actual law and politics involving Puerto Rico. I did not know that the PROMESA law was a real law signed in 2016 until I googled it. I wonder if actual Puerto Ricans enjoyed the use of this as a plotline especially as the opinions on this law and the way it was enacted afterwards is largely negative even though it was propped up by a lot of famous Puerto Ricans.

Anyway, this is a debut book and I can’t wait to read what else the author has for us in the future. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. Have you guys read this one? Is this a book you have on your TBR list?

Leggy

dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, romance, Young Adult

Book Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

“Some scars are carved into our bones – a part of who we are, shaping what we become.”

Daughter of the Moon Goddess is inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother, pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm. Xingyin who has spent all her life on the moon discovers that her mother, the moon goddess, is actually a prisoner on the moon. One day, her magic flares and brings her mother’s powerful jailers to the moon to investigate forcing her to flee the only home she’s ever known. Alone and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom where she disguises herself and comes up with a plan to break the enchantment keeping her mother on the moon and gain her mother’s freedom.

“I was no longer a child willing to drift with the ride – I would steer against the current if I had to. and if I won, by some miraculous stroke of luck, I would never be helpless again.”

I was very excited when I found out about this book. Fantasy? Female protagonist? A Chinese setting? CHECK! I think I was expecting more Poppy War so, this protagonist and the entire world building fell flat for me. The story telling and world building wasn’t strong enough to immerse me into this world. Xingyin comes to the celestial kingdom and finds a job as a maiden for a powerful family and no one even investigates her background? Okay, I’m going to let that go.

But then she competes and wins a place as Prince Liwei’s companion and no one knows where she’s from, who her family is and nobody bothers to ask or investigate? It just rang so ridiculous to me that a stranger would be let near the heir to the throne without even a single question asked. Also, the competition to be selected as Prince Liwei’s companion was an absolute joke. I just expected it to be more intriguing, to show us how cunning or smart our protagonist was but it was all rigged for her to win.

This is a YA fantasy so of course there’s a love triangle. I thought this trope was being phased out of YA but I guess not. I found Prince Liwei to be a very 2 dimensional character, entirely predictable. A prince who is too good and cares too much. A prince who is better than his father but detests all the obligations he has to fulfil as the crown prince like being betrothed to a member of one of the most powerful families in the kingdom. He just wants to train and fall in love with whoever he wants and paint and care soooo deeply without having to make any tough decisions.

Wenzhi, the other love interest, is a high ranking army official who has won so many battles and brought great respect to the celestial kingdom. He has a dislike for all things royal and just wants to fight. He’s competent and smart and mysterious. Yet another person who was just allowed to rise in the army ranks even though no one knows where he’s from.

“It was only later that I learned the Chamber of Lions was reserved for the army’s most skilled warriors. While most had taken months, a year even to master every trap, it took me a matter of weeks.”

Xingyin was great at EVERYTHING she tried. She shot an arrow for the first time and was just an absolute natural. She learnt everything and became so strong in a matter of weeks. This is a woman who spent all her growing years in solitude and has never worked out a day in her life. She almost beat Prince Liwei in archery a mere month after she started training even though he had trained all his life.

Anyway, a lot happens in this book so at least you get a lot of bang for your buck. I think because I read a lot of fantasy, this book was not for me. It wasn’t very good world building, the politics isn’t intriguing enough for me to ignore the plot holes and the romance wasn’t passionate enough for two people, not to talk of a three way.

I do think if you enjoy romance books and YA literature, you’re going to enjoy this book. If you enjoy epic fantasies or if you read Poppy War and are looking for a dupe, this book is not for you at all. So while this book was not for me, I actually think it has an audience. It has above 4 stars on goodreads so it’s definitely popular.

This is one book that I wanted so badly to talk to someone about after I finished it so much so that I’m so desperate to join an in-person book club. Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments.

Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape

“But it’s what we do, what we’ve done for years now. We drag our past behind us like a weight, still shackled, but far enough back that we never have to see, never have to openly acknowledge who we once were.”

Elle is a 50 year old woman who is married to her husband, Peter. We are introduced to them at The Paper Palace, the nickname of their family summer home in Cape Cod. Elle has come here every summer since childhood but this year, it’s different. Elle has just had sex with her childhood best friend, Jonas who is also married.

The book is basically a walk through of Elle’s thought process as she decides whether to leave Peter for Jonas or to stay with Peter and the life they have built. That thought process includes going back to the past and remembering all of the events that led her to this point.

“Ever since I was old enough to question my own instincts, my mother has given me the same piece of advice: “Flip a coin, Eleanor. If the answer you get disappoints you, do the opposite.” We already know the right answer, even when we don’t—or we think we don’t. But what if it’s a trick coin? What if both sides are the same? If both are right, then both are wrong.”

I don’t remember how I came across this book but I remember the sentiment was people being disturbed. Still on a quest to read a book that moves me, I jumped on this and for a debut effort, it was pretty good. The format of the book has Elle as the only narrator and is told in two alternating story lines. The first in present day and the other, from childhood to the present touching on the major events that shaped her but don’t worry, it doesn’t get confusing and in fact the progression was done so well that it made you look forward to each upcoming time period.

“I wonder if he would love me if he could see inside my head-the pettiness, the dirty linen of my thoughts, the terrible things I have done.”

There is a pretty significant event that happens in the book that of course, I can’t give away but I assume it would be a talking point for many as a moral question. Was it deserved? or was it outright wrong?. Heller did a good job of developing the characters so well that you got a full sense of who they were and it was up to you as a reader, whether you liked them or not. I will say that I considered Elle’s mom a terrible mother and I wonder if I am in the majority or minority with that.

“…now there is no turning back. No more regrets for what I haven’t done. Now only regrets for what I have done. I love him, I hate myself; I love myself, I hate him. This is the end of a long story.”

I will say that, I did not like the ending. In all art forms, I don’t like ambiguous endings. Don’t make me fill in the blanks, tell me what to think! Overall, it is a dark book and if you are someone who absorbs the energy of books you might want to think hard before getting into it. I think the book went a tad longer than it should have but it was written very well and showed how life can be messy and complicated with many grey areas. I enjoyed it.

Taynement

african author, african stories, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat: Wahala by Nikki May

Leggy: The cover of this book is so pretty and eye catching. Do you remember why we decided to read it?

Taynement: I decided to read it because a friend of mine – who is white, mentioned it as a book she wanted to read by a Nigerian author.

Leggy: I think you told me about it and I looked it up. I wasn’t that eager to read it but the title was very Nigerian so I put it on my list. The first time I picked up this book, I read about 4% on my kindle and dropped it because I realised the protagonists were biracial Nigerians.

Taynement: Lol. What do you have against biracial Nigerians?

Leggy: Lmaooo. Nothing oh, but they made a comment about how they were called “mongrels” in Nigeria and I rolled my eyes so hard it almost stayed that way. Talk about revisionist history. Nigeria is a hugely colorist country, so hearing a biracial say that, did not ring true to me at all. Biracials are like gods in that country.

Taynement: Fair enough.

Leggy: But then it checked out to you and you convinced me to finish it. So I picked it up again and read the remaining 96% in one sitting. I think it was quite entertaining.

Taynement: Overall, I think it had a good story. I feel like I know the exact point in the book when you read it in one sitting because I got that feeling too. It got to a point where you knew shit was about to go down with the villain and I just wanted to find out how it unraveled.

Leggy: Yup, it’s hard to put down after a certain point even though the story is entirely predictable. I still was eager to read what I already knew would happen.

Taynement: That being said, this book has so many problematic points!

Leggy: Oh My God! So many! Every good man in this book is white. The Caucasians could do no wrong! They were perfect husbands, perfect fathers, perfect in laws. It was so glaring.

Taynement: OMG! There was a disdain for Africans. At some point, if you remember, I asked you if the writer was biracial. I didn’t want to pass judgement without knowing because as much as they are characters, I think the writer’s voice definitely shone through.

Leggy: Also, Ronke who they considered, the fat one was the only one who dated a Nigerian. At some point, one of the characters blatantly told her to go get herself a white man so that she’d stop dealing with all the crap she was dealing with.

Taynement: And the only Nigerian man in the book was unreliable. I was so uncomfortable with the heavy focus on Ronke’s weight. I completely understand it’s the Nigerian way to be weight obsessed but the way it was written was side eye worthy.

Leggy: Especially since the weight literally didn’t move the plot forward. It added nothing to the book, said nothing about our character. They kept mentioning it even though it added nothing to the character’s actions?

Taynement: At some point someone said to Sofia, the little girl, – “OmG, you pretty little thing, so skinny” – and she’s 5?! All the comparison they made to Isobel’s body like she was prettier because she’s skinny?

Leggy: One thing I’d give the author is – her dialogue is exactly how I expect these characters to sound in real life. There was nothing they said that shocked me as a Nigerian.

Taynement: Except one! Boo who apparently has been hanging with them but doesn’t know what basic Nigerian slang means like asoebi? That was ridiculous. She went as far as saying – now you’re making words up. You guys go to Buka all the time?

Leggy: Boo was my least favorite character and that’s saying a lot when Isobel, the villain, is right there. She was so irritating to listen to. Also, Kayode wasn’t as bad as they painted him and didn’t deserve what happened to him at the end. The author couldn’t even let Ronke have a happy ending and then she ended up with another Nigerian guy with two kids?! Why does the author hate her so much?

Taynement: You know, my biggest problem with this book was everyone was unlikable. Boo was annoying with her dissatisfaction, Simi was elitist, Ronke was a pushover. It was interesting how they turned on each other so quick. Do you think that was realistic or was their friendship just not as strong as indicated?

Leggy: I thought if y’all are such good friends, why would you let a stranger come in and destabilize y’all? They didn’t even bother talking to each other to confirm, they just assumed a whole lot.

But I actually thought it was realistic especially that text Isobel sent to Boo’s husband. She sent it from Ronke’s phone and Boo saw it with her own eyes. It made sense to me that she would believe. I do think there were already cracks in their relationship which made it easier to penetrate.

Taynement: You know it took me till much later in the book to realise that Boo’s husband, Martin, was white.

Leggy: Of course he was white, he was a good man and Nikki May was never going to let him be Nigerian!

Taynement: When Boo got the afro weave, despite having “good hair” and someone in the book said to her – “you look like a black woman” and for the first time in her life she felt black. That knocked my socks off because this meant they didn’t see themselves as black. If the author talked about them never fitting in, okay but they spent all this time talking about Nigerian food and hung out around as a group. Simi grew up in Nigeria, it was such a disconnect to me.

Leggy: I was surprised they ate so much Nigerian food, it didn’t ring true for who they actually were. They even went out of their way to go to the restaurants and introduce their husbands and daughter to the culture but then there was such a disconnect from what they actually identify as.

Taynement: “Why would any sane English woman go for an African bloke?”

Leggy: lmaoooo. I enjoyed those nuggets so much because it rang true that they’d say that, that these characters would think like that.

Taynement: It was hard for me to separate the characters from the author. Overall though, I think the book had a good plot and execution, where it was weak was in character development and having just plain unlikable characters. They made me uncomfortable. Would you recommend it?

Leggy: Yes, I thought it was entertaining. I told someone who asked me my thoughts on twitter, to have low expectations going in and think of it as a reality show and they’d enjoy it. I found it easy to read, I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

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

Taynement & Leggy

african author, african stories, Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, Nigerian Author, romance, Uncategorized

Because it’s valentine’s day!

Since it’s the week of love, we have a 4 in one recommendation for you! What better way to celebrate Valentine as a book lover than to immerse yourself in the romance world of books?

  1. Yinka, Where is your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
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Yinka is a 30-something, oxford educated, British Nigerian woman whose mother keeps harping on her about getting married. Yinka is still nursing a broken heart from her last relationship which ended abruptly after he moved to New York and broke up with her. When her cousin gets engaged, she is suddenly determined to have a boyfriend by her wedding in 6 months. Yinka signs up on dating apps, meets whichever church men her mum recommends she meets and completely loses herself in the search for a man. Yinka, Where is your Huzband? explores the pressure young women face to get married. This book is funny and fast paced. Even though, Yinka makes a lot of wrong decisions, you really can’t help rooting for her.

2. The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea

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Willa Callister used to be a successful blogger with a fantastic fiance and even more fantastic best friend until she walked in on them having sex in the apartment she shared with her fiance, 6 weeks to the wedding. Willa cancels her wedding, stops returning her phone calls and gets fired because she stopped coming into work. She moves in with her sister and her family in the suburbs to nurse her heartbreak. All she wants is to move out of columbus, to a place nobody knows her.

Maisie Mitchell needs a bridesmaid for her wedding and a chance encounter in a coffee shop with Willa, leads her to offer Willa $5000, if she would agree to be her bridesmaid and lie to everyone that they’ve known each other since childhood. Willa needs to money to get the her life back together so she agrees. As she throws herself into Maisie’s world and meets the best man, Liam Rafferty, she is suddenly rethinking her stance on love and friendship. I really enjoyed how this book was as much about friendship as it is about romantic love.

3. The Favor by Suzanne Wright

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Vienna is the longest executive assistant Dane has had, everyone calls her the Dane whisperer. She has never been able to figure out why Dane hired her but she is very grateful for the opportunity. Until Dane asks her to marry him for a year so that he can get his inheritance. His uncle left money for him and his brothers and they only inherit if they get married before 35. Dane is running out of time unless he marries and convinces everyone that the marriage is real. I loveeeee marriage of convenience tropes in romance.

I absolutely loved this book because they really stuck together no matter what. They actually talked to each other every time there was a misunderstanding instead of just turning on each other. The author kept the plot moving forward without resorting to miscommunications that can be resolved if the characters just talked to each other.

4. While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

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Jasmine Guillory is my go to every time I want to read about black people falling in love and being human. Ben Stephens lands a huge advertisement ad that features movie star Anna Gardiner and finds it really hard to be professional. Anna is not only gorgeous and sexy but also very down to earth and kind. Ben has never been one for serious relationships but Anna has him rethinking his stance. Their light hearted banter and flirtation takes a deeper turn when Anna has a family emergency and Ben drives her hours so she can be with her family but can Ben handle the hollywood spotlight that comes with dating a movie star?

Have a wonderful Valentine’s day everybody! We hope you love and are loved forever!

Leggy