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

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

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

Book Related Topics, dystopian, literary fiction, race

Book Review: The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

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“By staying calm, they’re showing their child that a mother can handle anything. A mother is always patient. A mother is always kind. A mother is always giving. A mother never falls apart. A mother is the buffer between her child and the cruel world.”

Frida Liu has one very bad day as a mother and has her child taken away by child services. She lives in a world where CPS is now very strict and any strike will have you losing your parental rights. She’s just gone through a divorce because her husband, Gust, refused to give up his young mistress. Frida didn’t ask for any alimony and is therefore having to work part time to afford the upheaval in her life. She can’t sleep because she’s a mother and that’s why she had this very bad day, you see. After her child gets taken away, Frida has to do a government program for one full year to determine if she’ll ever have access to her child again or completely lose her parental rights.

”Now, repeat after me: I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good.”

The very bad day Frida has that led to her child being taken away from her is not mentioned in the book’s blurb so I will avoid mentioning what actually happened for protective services to be called on her. I think it was very bold of the author to pick this particular premise because it does not win Frida any favors at all. You come away struggling with the feeling that she deserved to have her child taken away, even though I get the feeling the author wanted us to sympathize with her? There were so many other mothers in the school that didn’t do anything bad that, had they been the protagonist, it would have been easier to root for. I know people criticized the author for this choice but I actually think it was a bold decision that I did not expect from a debut author.

This book is a dystopian novel and the one year school for good mothers is the main crux of this book. It is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever read and I think it’s because it could happen. There is nothing so over the top about the concept. The women are given very lifelike, actual talking, almost human dolls (this might be the most outrageous concept in this book) that represent their kids. They’re supposed to mother them for one year and at the end of the year, they get an assessment on whether they should get their kid back or not.

The one year Frida is at the school is told by the author in a very unemotional, monotonous way. I know a lot of people might be put off by this but I found that it worked for the kind of book this is. No matter how creepy the readers might find the whole process, the author’s matter of fact way of telling the story makes it even more intriguing at how the concept of this school was ever conceived and approved.

I did not enjoy the ending of this book. I kept feeling the book building up to something and ultimately the ending wasn’t very climatic. Chan finally got me on the side of the protagonist by the end but there was no pay off for that. I felt betrayed by the author. I also found the protagonist to be a very weak woman. Her husband cheats on her while pregnant but she agrees to a no fault divorce and doesn’t ask for alimony while whining constantly about it to the readers.

Chan also can’t decide what this book is actually an allegory for. Is this book about interracial couples? Sexism? Racism? The way the system preys on black and brown bodies? How the “bad” fathers were treated in comparison to the “bad” mothers? Is the author just pointing out the general unfairness of the CPS? We’re instead subjected to lines and lines pointing out the ills of this society that very much mirrors our own without any of these issues ever really landing for the reader.

This is Jessamine Chan’s debut novel and I can’t wait to read what else she’s going to write in the future. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. Have you heard of this one? Have you read it? What did you think?

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction, romance, scifi

Our Best and Worst Books of 2021

We made it through another year. We can’t believe that we are about to enter our third year of COVID. Not much changed in our reading from last year. For Tayne, her reading was still unfocused and she didn’t get to read many books she considered great, which in turn led to not meeting her reading goal number. Leggy leaned into romance novels and read a ton of those to get by. None the less, we stick to tradition and let you know what our best and worst books of the year were.

Taynement’s Best:

Sometime in summer, I put out a PSA on twitter asking people for the best books they’d read this year and this was one of the books mentioned. It fit the bill as I read a lot of black women authors this year and bonus for being a Nigerian author. So glad I did because it was the only book that got a 5 star from me this year. It was so good and had my attention from start to finish. You can find my review on it here.

Other favorites:

  • Not All Diamonds and Rose by David Quinn (See review here)
  • Bamboozled By Jesus: How God Tricked Me into the Life of My Dreams by Yvonne Orji (See review here)
  • Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (See review here)
  • The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (see review here)

Leggy’s Best:

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“Marriages can float apart. Sometimes we don’t notice how far we’ve gone until all of a sudden, the water meets the horizon and it feels like we’ll never make it back.”

When I read this book in March, I told T;ayne that I think this would be my best book for the year. This year has been a very tough reading year for me especially with literary fiction. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and romance because it lets me escape from this Covid world so, it was just great to find this book and be completely immersed. You can find a full review for this book here.

Other favorites:

  • Hail Mary by Andy Weir (this book is so good! It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read any science fiction! Please read it!)
  • Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Manson (I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads!)
  • A Wicked Kind of Husband by Mia Vincy (Best romance novel I read this year, it was so much fun! If you’re looking for something light, give this a shot! We have a mini review of this one here on the blog.)
  • Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen Series) by John Gwynne (This was a fun fantasy to read!)

Taynement’s Worst:

It didn’t help that I had high expectations but there really wasn’t much that I liked about this book. Not the story, not the writing style, not the characters. It took a while to get going and when it did get going, I did not care. Don’t get me started on the ending. A true wtf moment. See review here.

Leggy’s Worst:

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You either adore a Sally Rooney book or you detest a Sally Rooney book. There is no in between. I really enjoyed Normal People by Sally Rooney, I even reviewed it here for the blog but I really didn’t like this one. Beautiful World, Where Are You comes off so pretentious that I’m almost convinced everyone who loves it is pretending (just kidding! Art is subjective). I read worse books this year but I chose this one because I expected so much from this author plus this is one of those books that I hated enough to talk about it, so it earns its spot. You can find a full review of this book here.

We hope you have enjoyed talking books with us this year. We’d love to know what your best and worsts were so let us know in the comments. Have an amazing Christmas and we’ll see you in the New Year. Happy reading everybody!

Leggy & Taynement

christmas, Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Christmas Romance books!

Once we hit thanksgiving, I’m no longer interested in anything work related at all. I get into this zone where I’m lazy about everything. I don’t know if it’s this ridiculous daylights savings thing we do where everywhere is dark by 6pm but it affects my reading life as well. After thanksgiving, I only read romance books and fantasy. I alternate between these two genres because I’m officially checked out for the year and do not want to do any serious thinking.

Anyway, here are four Christmas book recommendations to wrap up 52 weeks of book reviews on the blog!

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox:

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This was my early December pick for Book of the Month. When Chef Charlie gets hit on the head on her reality baking show, she loses all sense of smell and taste rendering her useless in her career. Her identical twin, Cass, is trying to hold everything together in their hometown while running the family business. Charlie convinces Cass to switch lives with her for a little while till she gets her sense of taste and smell back. Cass needs a break from real life anyway so she jumps at the opportunity. But of course, everything is complicated once men get involved. Can they keep their identities secret while they’re falling in love?

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan:

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Last year, during our annual Christmas books recommendation, I argued that You Got Mail really is a Christmas movie. It starts around Christmas and everyone is wearing coats and it just gives you such a Christmas, cozy feeling. Anyway, this is all to say that I love Christmas stories centered around a bookshop!

When the departmental store Carmen works for closes for good right before Christmas, she has no choice than to move in with her sister Sofia who has the perfect life. Sofia isn’t too crazy about having her difficult, sarcastic sister stay either but with yet another baby on the way and her mother’s wish that they get along, she’s determined to give it a go. Sofia gives Carmen the opportunity to revamp a bookshop for her client just in time for Christmas shopping season with hopes that it’ll keep the ailing bookshop from closing. As Carmen dives into work at the store, she has to deal with choosing between two very different men and mending the rift between her sister and her and just in time for Christmas!

The Santa Suit by Mary kay Andrews:

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Newly divorced Ivy Perkins buys a farm house called The Four Roses without ever seeing it. She’s just looking to be alone for a while while pouring all her labor into doing the house up. The house is way more than she bargained for as the previous family left so much junk behind and she has to sort everything out. In the rubble, she finds a well made Christmas suit with a note asking santa to bring her daddy back from the war. Dying of curiosity, Ivy decides to find out who the Rose family was and if the note writer ever got their wish. Her quest takes her into the community, opens up her lonely world and gives her a second chance at love.

The Christmas Wedding Guest by Susan Mallery:

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The Somerville sisters have lost faith that love will ever happen for them. Reggie hasn’t been back home since her engagement with Tobi ended but her parents want a vow renewal and asks her to plan it for them. Reggie returns to town the same time Tobi does and the sparks are still very much alive. Dena on the other hand, is absolutely done waiting to be married before having a child, she’s pregnant by choice and running her inn herself. When a songwriter/rockstar checks into her inn and makes her want to fall in love, she wonders if she’ll ever be good enough for such a famous person.

This is a two in one romance book that you’ll love this Christmas season. Give it a go!

How are your holidays shaping up? What are you currently reading? Do you read differently during the holidays? Let us know in the comments!

Leggy