dystopian, Fiction, literary fiction, Young Adult

Book Review: Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

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

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

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

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

Taynement

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

Book Review: The Most Likely Club by Elyssa Friedland

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taynement

Book Related Topics, celebrity memoir, Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, romance

Our Best and Worst Books of 2022

Leggy’s Best:

“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.”

Emily St. John Mandel has become such a must read author for me. I have enjoyed every book of hers I’ve ever read. I absolutely adored this book and gave it 5 stars. You can read my full review of this book here. This year has been a fantastic reading year for me in all genres so I thought it would be hard for me to pick a favorite but this was such a clear answer for me.

Other favorites:

  • Book Lovers by Emily Henry (favorite romance book this year for sure! Full review on the blog here.)
  • Dreadgod by Will Wight (The 11th book in the Cradle series by Will Wight. Please read these series if you haven’t yet. These books are so much fun. The 12th and final book comes out next year. favorite fantasy book of the year for sure!)
  • Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield (This was my favorite weird book I read this year. Goodreads marks this as horror? Didn’t get that at all but it was so strange and such amazing writing)

Taynement’s Best:

This was one of the first books I read this year and nothing else captured my attention like it. This memoir of sorts has Faith Jones recounting her time in a cult and how she got out of it. I could not believe a lot of the things I read and the fact that it was someone’s real life was really jarring. As mentioned in my full review, loads of trigger warning for this one. Any book that had me go down a rabbit hole of wikipedia and documentaries just to get more information after I was done, was bound to be top of my list.

A lot of the books I enjoyed were niche favorites (books about reality show bts) but some other favorites were:

  • Verity by Colleen Hoover (This book was an acid trip but I probably read this the fastest. Full review here)
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (I guess I had my number of non fiction reads. Perfect blend of smart and interesting. Full review here)
  • The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth (This was a random read that I ended up liking a lot. Full review here)
  • Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid (TJR rarely misses with me and this was not an exception)

Taynement’s Worst:

This was a recent review of mine so it should be no surprise that it is my worst. Up until writing this, I didn’t realize how much non-fiction I read this year. Well, my worst book is also in this genre. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has a memoir now whether they deserve it or not. This memoir had so many missing gaps, way too much toxic positivity and just overall missed the mark. Extra negative points for the terrible voice cadence that was used in the audio book. I just really hated this book y’all! (Full review here)

Leggy’s Worst:

Instagram loves this book. I have a mini rant about this book on our Instagram page (@nightstands2, follow us!). I picked up this book because of the hype and because I saw a trailer of the movie adaptation on Youtube and decided to just read the book instead, what a bad idea. There was nothing romantic about this book. The heroine is the exact type of character I hate in a romance – think Zooey Deschanel from New Girl, obviously hot girl who is “awkward” and has no idea she’s hot. I rolled my eyes so much reading this book it almost fell out of the sockets.

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

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

Book Review: Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan

“That,” she says, “is an irreversible outcome. Divorce may or may not be. Broken relationships may or may not be. You may never repair those completely, but you’re still here to try. Do you recognize what an amazing gift that is? To still be here to try?”

Yasmen and Josiah were what the kids would call “#couplegoals”. They liked and loved each other, the sex was great, they had two kids and shared a vision and a business together. Until they go through some tragedies and realize that their love was not enough to hold them together and they eventually divorce. Now, they are living in their new normal, still business partners but learning to co-parent. But spending that much time together jogs both their memories and they start to reminisce about the good times. The story takes us down memory lane to the beginning of their story, how they got here and if there is a chance for a future as a couple again.

“Depression,” she goes on, “is a liar. If it will tell you no one loves you, that you’re not good enough, that you’re a burden or, in the most extreme cases, better off dead, then it can certainly convince you that you’re better off without the man you love, and that, ultimately, he’s better off without you.”

Y’all know that I am not one for romance novels and I don’t think I quite knew it was a romance novel but it worked for me and I really liked it. I liked this because it was very realistic and definitely wasn’t a “boy meets girl” story. Ryan did a good job of giving us a clear picture of who Yasmen and Josiah were as a couple from the beginning to present day, so you feel like you know them. I liked how she introduced their traumas in just the right doses and didn’t try to shove it all down at the same time. And when I say traumas, this also serves as a trigger warning for pregnancy loss, depression and suicidal thoughts. Ryan found a way to weave these real life situations into the story while also incorporating the different reactions people have to therapy and the different ways people deal with grief.

“Do people remember the exact moment they fall in love? I’ve learned it’s not one moment, but a million of them”

I have mentioned earlier but I would reiterate that the best thing about the book was how realistic it felt and that is a testament to Ryan’s writing. From something as little as Yasmen acknowledging the versatility of black hair or being kind to her body or her rebellious teenager. As much as I mentioned the TWs earlier, there were fun moments in the book like the great friendship Yasmen develops as an adult, the passion for their restaurant and the healthy friendship between Josiah and his best friend that is open. I have said in previous reviews how I have noticed a lot of books lately seem to be incorporating food into their stories and this was no different

I can’t sing the praises of this book enough. If you are looking for a mature, happy ending having romance novel look no further. This was my first Ryan novel and I was not disappointed. It reminded me a bit of Seven Days in June. Oh , I forgot to add that there’s loads of sex in the book but that’s not why I am recommending 😀

Taynement

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

Book Review: Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean

“It seems the tighter I try to hold on, the more things slip through my fingers. It is a reminder to me of how impermanent life is.”

Mika Suzuki’s life is a mess. She’s 35 and has just been laid off from her paralegal job. She’s living with her best friend but still can’t make ends meet. She is an absolute disappointment to her traditional Japanese parents. Her last relationship ended in flames. Mika is at her lowest when she gets a call from her daughter Penny – the daughter she gave up for adoption 16 years ago. Penny wants to get to know her birth mother and Mika is determined to be a woman who daughter would be proud of. Mika spends the entire month talking to her daughter and making up the perfect life for herself – the perfect career, the perfect romantic relationship, and even the perfect house. As the lies snowball into a fully fledged fake life and Penny decides to come visit Mika in Portland with her adoptive widower dad, Thomas Calvin, Mika must figure out a way to keep up with her lies while forming a relationship with her daughter.

I really liked all the family dynamics portrayed in this story especially the one between Mika and her mother. Mika and her parents have a very difficult relationship where she has never felt understood. Her parents being immigrants has shaped a lot of their experiences and has made it hard for them to understand each other. Their relationship involves church, her parents trying to introduce her to eligible Japanese men and Mika asking them for loans which she always promises to pay back but never does. I like how the author portrayed Mika’s mother as complex instead of demonizing her as an absolutely bad mother. She was just a woman who was limited in her world view and moved to a country she didn’t want to be in in the first place and then was saddled with a daughter who didn’t want the traditional path to success her parents had set out for her to follow. I enjoyed reading about her experiences and what made her into the person she was today.

I didn’t expect this book to grab me as much as it did. Sure, there’s romance in it and a few spicy scenes but that is not all this book is about. The romance lends a certain layer of lightness to this story that would have otherwise been depressing. The relationship between Mika and Penny’s adoptive father, Thomas comes across very organic and believable. The relationship Penny and Mika build throughout the book was so well done to me. Seeing Penny being accepted into Mika’s family and beginning to explore her Asian identity was very touching. This book explores interracial adoptions and some of the pitfalls. Even though Penny’s adoptive parents tried to expose her to Asian culture, their whiteness still gave them a lot of racial blind spots.

I really enjoyed this book. Are there some aspects that felt predictable? Sure. But it explores so many topics and does them in a nuanced way. I really recommend this book. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy

literary fiction, Mystery, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Some Of It Was Real by Nan Fischer

“It’s important you understand that I don’t have a clear definition for what I do. Psychics use their intuition or spiritual guides to gain information about the past, present, or future. Mediums are channels that deliver messages from those who have passed over. I’ve been called a psychic-medium, and that’s as good a definition as any. But the truth is that I’m not sure why I hear voices, see images, sing at times, or scribble notes—it just happens and I can’t tell you how because I truly don’t understand it.”

Psychic medium, Sylvie Young, starts every show talking about how she discovered her powers but she leaves out a lot. Like the fact that she isn’t actually sure that she’s a psychic, she’s estranged from her birth parents who think she’s a scammer and her publicist insists that she research some of her guests before every show. Journalist, Thomas Holmes, has it out for people he sees as “grief predators”. After a catastrophic reporting error, he’s anxious to get a great story and prove himself to his editor. So he pitches a story about psychics, he’s determined to prove that Sylvie is a crook. He plants some decoys in the audience and Sylvie falls for it having researched them beforehand. He approaches her and asks her to let him shadow her for the full week before her next big show, make sure she doesn’t research anyone, so that he can either expose her as fake or tell his LA Times audience that her powers are real. He insists that if she is indeed real then she should have no problem with his request.

This book is not your typical rom-com. You can feel them connecting but the romance takes a backstage for most of this book. Sylvie and Thomas play a game of cat and mouse trying to out maneuver each other. I personally found myself rooting for Sylvie even though a part of me wasn’t sure if she was actually a scammer or not. Sylvie takes Thomas through a journey to her past to get him to understand the origin of her powers. She goes back to her adoptive parents’ house and tries to trace who her biological parents were and why her adoptive parents lied to her for so long about where she’s from. All the stories about her parents’ death is starting to sound fake to Sylvie and she decides to trust Thomas to figure it out with her. Thomas thinks this is another fact that proves she’s a liar because if she really has the power to speak to the dead, why has she never spoken to her mother?

Thomas is also hiding a lot of family secrets. Grief vampires feel very personal to him because after his father and brother died, his mother completely lost herself to psychics. Spending all her money trying to contact her late husband and son, trying to find closure and neglecting her actual living son. Both Thomas and Sylvie are struggling with their past and there was something so wholesome about watching two broken but very good people try to fix themselves. They spend so much time together in the book that you can actually see them slowly liking each other. There’s a twist near the end of the book that the author didn’t make a big deal of. She dropped it like the readers weren’t going to go “DANG!” but I actually think that is the beauty of this book. It grabs you in a really surprising way and the plot keeps moving at an alarming pace and doesn’t stop till the very end.

Thomas forces Sylvie to reexamine the way she makes a living while she encourages him to confront his demons and let go of the past. Thomas also struggles with the ethics of writing an expose about someone he is now attracted to. This book is told in alternating point of view chapters, both in first person. It allows you to get into the head of what each character is thinking as they play this game with each other. I will say that if you really are primarily looking for romance with this one, then skip it. I would never recommend this book as a rom com. Even though I bought the fact that Thomas and Sylvie would fall in love after spending so much time together, I didn’t quite buy how it was presented on the page.

I think this is one of the most surprisingly good books I’ve read this year. It really took me unawares. I started it and couldn’t put it down till the very end. I absolutely recommend it. I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction, women's fiction

Book Review: Notes On Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

Sally is Kathy’s younger sister and she looks up to Kathy. She thinks Kathy is the coolest, smartest person and hangs on to her every word. They had a great summer going to the pool, taking family trips and obsessing over Billy Barnes who is a senior. Kathy has had a crush on him for a while and he eventually becomes her boyfriend. By the time school starts, Sally might also have a crush on Billy even if it seems like her sister only spends time with Billy.

One morning, Billy is driving them to school and they get into an accident that kills Kathy. Billy has severe injuries but Sally is unscathed. The book becomes Sally narrating her life to Kathy over the next fifteen years as she navigates life with her parents who are grieving differently and her interesting relationship with Billy.

I’d seen this book everywhere and hopped on it as soon as it checked out to me at the library. I liked it because it was an easy, straight forward read. The book was written in the voice of Sally and it was as if she was writing letters to Kathy. I liked that it was written progressively in time, so there were no worries about going back and forth in time.

I saw afterwards that this book was marketed as a thriller and I wonder why because I don’t think there was any element of thriller in it. This book explores grief, emotions and family dynamics. I didn’t have a problem with how the book was written but I didn’t quite like Sally. Now I know everyone grieves differently but I didn’t understand Sally’s grief. She actually seemed detached but that might have been her trauma. It was interesting that even though the accident wasn’t technically her fault, in some way I still blamed her and I was a little surprised she never seemed to blame herself or feel any guilt. All those emotions seemed to have been written into Billy’s character and I understood his complicated emotions. Sally’s parents truly were something else. Very quirky.

Overall, even though it’s nothing really extraordinary, I would still recommend the book. The author lost a brother when she was young as well so I can imagine that this might have been cathartic for her. Even though grief/death is the topmost theme, this is not a dark book. In fact, there is a weird romance thrown in for good measure.

Taynement

Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, thriller, Uncategorized

Book Review: Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

“Banter can hide the worst sins. Some people laugh to hide their shame, they laugh instead of saying I feel embarrassed and small.”

One late October, Jen is waiting up for her son, Todd, to come home after midnight when she witnesses a murder. As she watches from a window, Todd approaches but he’s not alone, he’s walking towards a man, armed. As Jen watches in horror, her son stabs the man fatally for no apparent reason and refuses to talk about why he did it. Todd is now in custody and the police won’t let his parents see him or talk to him plus he’s refusing a lawyer. Jen goes home and falls asleep in deep despair only to wake up in the morning and it’s the day before the murder. Jen keeps sleeping and waking up days before the murder with another chance to try and stop it. Somewhere in the past is the trigger for this murder and Jen has to spot it, catch it in time, to avoid her son’s future being ruined.

“How sinister it is to relive your life backward. To see things you hadn’t at the time. To realize the horrible significance of events you had no idea were playing out around you.”

I’m a fan of people being stuck in a time warp. Living your life backwards? Living an alternative reality? Sign me up. This book was very well written and the time warp very well plotted with the main character actually doing things that I would have done from the start. I enjoyed how fast she understood the predicament she was in and started acting fast. I knew from the start the main person she should be taking a look at so I wasn’t that surprised by the twists and turns the author came up with. But I enjoyed the ride even though I knew where the author was taking us. It did not at all diminish my enjoyment of this book.

This book makes you consider if you really know anything about the life you’re living. There’s something about reliving your life and looking at past scenes with a critical eye as you search your son for the period he became a murderer. Your sweet, funny, nerdy son who cried when his first girlfriend dumped him. What did you miss about his behavior lately? Who is this girl he’s seeing who he doesn’t really let you get to know fully?

At the 75% mark of this book, I became exhausted reading about Jen waking up further and further into the past. The constant past loop of her life made me so tired even though I kept trudging through it. If I was that tired reading Jen’s constant turmoil of spending so long in the past, I can’t even imagine what it was like for her to live it. Even when she thinks, “Okay, I’ve solved it, this is it”- there’s still yet another revelation and even further into the past the thread leads. After a while, I just wanted it to end. I was rooting for Jen all through to save her boy.

I totally recommend this book. If you’re looking for a thriller that makes sense and isn’t trying to be the next Gone Girl, pick up this book. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers in this review and I would recommend just skipping the blurb and diving in. It’s really good writing and she really does make the pay off worth your while. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

Have you read this one? Let me know in the comments what you thought of it. If you haven’t read it, will you be picking this one up? Let me know as well!

Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction, race, romance, women's fiction

Book Review: Love Marriage by Monica Ali

“She was greatly moved by her mother’s love marriage, more than she had been in years. Love, Ma was telling her, not only in words but by example, conquers all.”

Yasmin is of Indian descent and lives in the UK with her family (mom, dad and brother). She is training to be a doctor like her dad and is engaged to Joe, who is white and also a doctor. He lives with his single mom, Harriet. The two families couldn’t be any different as Yasmin’s family is a typical immigrant family who puts their head down and does what is expected and the family never discusses anything and sweeps things under the rug while Harriet is a loud and proud well known feminist who is very open about her sexuality.

Wedding planning is underway and as the families get to know each other a bunch of things are uncovered along the way that threaten the wedding day ever happening. The book uncovers all the things they all have to face as everyone starts being honest with themselves and for better or worse, start living in their truth.

Whew! I am not going to tell you guys how long it took me to read this book but just know it was a long time! This was my first time reading Ali’s work, so I had no frame of reference. This book was the epitome of throwing everything but the kitchen sink and hoping something sticks because let me tell you that there were A LOT of stories flying everywhere.

It took a while to lay the ground for the characters and the minute you thought you had an idea of who they are, everything was unraveled as we begin to see the secrets unearthed and boy was there much to unearth. From sex addiction to rape to infidelity to racism, culture differences, ambition, corporate red tape and much more, there was so much that was covered.

I think Ali managed to do the social commentary better than some other topics but it just didn’t need everything. I wish there had been a singular focus on the central characters but there seemed to have been a desire to have even the side characters get their own shine but that could be because the main characters weren’t quite interesting per se. I found Yasmin to be unsure of who she was, which is realistic at age 26 but nevertheless, still annoyed me. Joe seemed a tad boring and at some point I wondered if he really did have a sex addiction?

What I enjoyed about the book where psychiatric nuggets that we get from Joe’s therapy sessions that seemed to be based on true life medical research and the introspection by the characters at the end, to help forge some better life living. I think Ali was trying to show how children judge their parents based on what they know but sometimes they have no idea.

That being said, I thought the ending was a bit vague and rushed and its ironic that its also when it kind of tongue in cheek addressed the title of the book and what a love marriage truly means. But I welcomed it because this book was way longer than it should have been and an editor should have earned their paycheck on this one.

Overall, this book has all the ingredients for an interesting read but failed to get us there because of writing and editing choices. I wouldn’t recommend this as I think there are better family with secrets books out there that would be worth your time.

Taynement