Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, thriller, Uncategorized, Young Adult

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: 4 Quick Fire Reviews

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It’s been so long since I did this. I’ve been reading so much during this pandemic and can’t wait to share some of the backlist books I’ve been reading. Anyway, here are four books that I’ve read lately that you might enjoy!

  1. Sea Wife by Amity Gaige:

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“Everyone is hard to love, if you do it for long enough.”

Michael convinces his wife, Juliet who is failing to juggle motherhood and her stalled-out dissertation, to up and go sailing for a whole year with their two kids—Sybil, age 7 and George, age 2. This book opens up with a promise of a mystery but ultimately fizzles out. On the very first chapter of this book, we are told that they’re back from their sailing trip and Michael is dead.

Told from dual perspectives – Juliet’s first person narration and Michael’s Captain’s log, that sometimes doubled as his diary. I found Michael’s Captain log narration to be a bit ridiculous towards the end because there were things he couldn’t possibly have written down that the author took liberties with. We see how strained their marriage is, how different their political opinions are and how the sailing trip affected all these things including their children.

I thought this one was okay and gave it 2 stars on Goodreads. If you like literary fiction that’s very atmospheric and well written, you should give this one a try.

 

2. Cradle Series by Will Wight:

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“When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.”

I’ve been reading through the Cradle series during this pandemic. It’s an escapist read for me. There are currently 7 books in this universe and I’m currently on number 4. This series revolves around Lindon. Lindon is an unsouled which means forbidden to learn the sacred arts of his clan. He is treated like a pariah and forced to compete against people half his age bringing shame to his family until a horrible event takes place in his village and he meets an immortal who shows him the paths his life could possibly go. The story focuses on Lindon’s determination to be the best sacred arts wielder the world has ever seen. I really enjoy these books and totally recommend them. I haven’t given any of the books less than 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

3. Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker:

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“I like to let them talk things out, but fact isn’t a democratic process; if a thing isn’t true it isn’t true, even if everybody votes that it is.”

Orhan is an engineer who has more experience building bridges than fighting wars but he is his city’s only hope. A siege is coming. The army has left the city to fight an unknown enemy, leaving the city unguarded and open for the taking. The people have no food and very little weapon and the enemy has sworn to slaughter them all. It will take a miracle to save this city and Orhan who is a liar, cheater and enjoys history and engineering, is the perfect man for the job.

This book is the kind of fantasy I call competent porn – this is where the characters are extremely good at what they do. I really enjoyed watching Orhan come up with very interesting ways to defend a city and also stop the citizens from tearing it down from within. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

4. Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy:

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“There’s no such thing as winning or losing. There is won and there is lost, there is victory and defeat. There are absolutes. Everything in between is still left to fight for. Serpine will have won only when there is no one left to stand against him. Until then, there is only the struggle, because tides do what tides do–they turn.”

Stephanie Edgley’s weird but rich and famous uncle just died and left her his entire estate to the chagrin of her other relatives. She’s just 12, what is she going to do with all that money and house? Due to some circumstances beyond her parents’ control, Stephanie is forced to spend the night alone in her uncle’s house. At first, she is excited to spend her first night all alone, until there is a break in and she is thrust into a world of magic and excitement and danger. She joins forces with her uncle’s friend, the weird and completely skeletal, Skulduggery Pleasant to solve the mystery of her uncle’s death.

This book is the first book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series. I was quite excited to read this but I didn’t enjoy it as much. I thought 12 was way too young for some of the things they got up to. There was actual danger involved in a lot of these. I also think if she was doing all these with kids her own age (like Harry Potter), I’d be more likely to overlook a lot but she’s completely running around with adults and I found it disconcerting. I gave this one 2 stars on Goodreads but I’m sure younger audiences wouldn’t have the same reservations I did.

These are some of what I have read lately and I hope you enjoyed these quick fire reviews. Let me know if you’ve read or intend to read any of these books in the comments. Have a great reading week everyone!

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, literary fiction, Mystery, thriller, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

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“I’m not very good at forgiveness.” Liz nodded. “Not many people are. But what I’ve learned in life is that in order for true forgiveness to occur, something has to die first. Your expectations, or your circumstances. Maybe your heart. And that can be painful. But it’s also incredibly liberating.”

A chance meeting at an airport bar brings two women together, each running away from the circumstances in their lives, and leads to a switch in travel plans. Claire Cook is married to a very charismatic and well liked politician from a great political family and her life looks perfect. She lives in a fantastic townhouse in Manhattan, surrounded by staff and wealth but behind closed doors, nothing is as good as it seems. Her publicly adored husband is an abuser – both physical and emotional – and does not hesitate to use his loyal staff to clock and monitor her every move.

Eva is also running from something and just wants to not be on a flight to Oakland, so she proposes a change in travel plans to Claire at the airport. Eva to Puerto-Rico and Claire to Oakland instead of vice versa. But, when the flight to Puerto-Rico goes down with Claire’s name on the manifesto, she has to figure out who Eva was and if remaining hidden is the best cause of action.

“Identity is a strange thing. Are we who we say we are, or do we become the person others see? Do they define us by what we choose to show them, or what they see despite our best attempts to conceal it?”

Told through the women’s perspectives, we find out about the lives they’re trying to escape from. Both characters were very well developed and their stories were very compelling and interesting. I was rooting for these women to get what they wanted out of life.

You can feel the fear and tension in Claire’s life when you read her sections in the book. Being without a family for so many years and not being able to have any friends except those pre-selected by your husband, while he physically abuses you with all your staff in the know of what is going on but staying quiet, is a difficult thing to read about.

Eva feels lost and isolated in her life. One mistake in college (even though I thought it was a very dumb mistake and couldn’t believe she did it all for a boy) cost her the degree she had worked so hard for all her life. She is thrust into a life of drugs and crime just to survive. I was intrigued by both storylines and found them easy to follow. Both characters being likable didn’t hurt and made the characters easy to root for.

I found this book to be a well written and fast paced thriller but if you do not enjoy reading alternative point of views in books, then you’re probably not going to enjoy this one. With the book being less than 300 pages and getting straight to the point, I read this book in 4 hours.

I can’t really say too much about this book so as not to reveal any spoilers but I completely recommend this book. The epilogue wasn’t what I was hoping for and it completely broke my heart, but I understood why the author made that decision. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Big Summer | Book by Jennifer Weiner | Official Publisher Page ...

 

“The trick of the internet, I had learned, was not being unapologetically yourself or completely unfiltered; it was mastering the trick of appearing that way. It was spiking your posts with just the right amount of real… which meant, of course, that you were never being real at all.”

Six years after the night that ended their friendship and inspired Daphne to start her blog, Drue Cavanaugh walks back into Daphne’s life and asks her to be her maid of honor. Drue was always the one who had everything – money, beauty, brains- but has finally alienated every friend she’s ever had with her horrible attitude and entitlement. Daphne is no longer the shy kid from high school who did anything for Drue’s friendship, she has built a plus-size blog from the ground up with a very good following and is about to land the biggest contract of her life.

Daphne recognizes that Drue’s wedding guest list is going to be filled with the best of the best and will be taking place in the most beautiful mansion in Cape Cod, so she decides to take that opportunity to boost her career. When a murder happens right before the wedding that throws everyone for a loop and lands Daphne on the suspect list, she’s forced to reevaluate her history with Drue and the reason she was invited in the first place.

“I was going to eat to nourish myself, I was going to exercise to feel strong and healthy, I was going to let go of the idea of ever being thin, once and for all, and live my life in the body that I had.”

Weiner’s writing style is great in this book. She tackles female friendships really well. Some are complex and toxic, while others are complex and yet very healthy. The high school friendship between Daphne and Drue was very intriguing to read about, it was almost like reading about an emotionally abusive relationship. Drue made Daphne feel disposable so she worked even harder to please Drue and maintain her place in Drue’s life. She would do Drue’s home works, take her verbal stings and subject herself to so many different diets just trying to fit into Drue’s squad in high school.

I loved reading about Daphne’s road to accepting her body for what it was, trying to be strong and healthy and discarding the idea that she had to be thin to be worthy of love. I love that Weiner showed that loving yourself is never a straight trending upward line. There are dips and days when we just don’t feel that love and loving oneself is a continuous and never stopping active exercise.

“When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you’re angry, everything looks like a target. There are a lot of angry people in the world. And these days, they’re all online.”

The mystery in this book absolutely sucks. Yes, this book is part thriller/mystery but it was so unnecessary, not well executed and just felt a bit ridiculous. I think this book should have just been straight contemporary female fiction. Big Summer had so much going for it until the murder happened and then everything completely fell apart for me. The murder happened so late in the book that it just felt like an after thought and then the entire book is overtaken by an investigation and our protagonist is suddenly being questioned for murder.

Also, this book absolutely didn’t need a romantic angle. It just felt like it was trying to be everything at once – contemporary, romance, mystery, thriller, social commentary. We don’t need to validate or prove that the fat protagonist is worthy by giving her a man and that is exactly what the whole thing felt like. It was literally instalove, they fell in love in a day and he suddenly moves across states to be with her within a week. It was just ridiculous and unbelievable.

“It’s almost religious, that belief, that faith that a piece of silk or denim or cotton jersey could disguise your flaws and amplify your assets and make you both invisible and seen, just another normal woman in the world; a woman who deserves to get what she wants.”

I really wanted to love this one because I picked it up after hearing the author speak about this book and loving everything she had to say about social media and body acceptance. I enjoyed the first 50% of this book and thought it was well written, the last 50% didn’t work for me. I ended up giving this book 2 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Fiction, Historical, literary fiction, race, Uncategorized

Book Review : The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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“You can escape a town, but you cannot escape blood. Somehow, the Vignes twins believed themselves capable of both.”

The Vignes twin sisters – Stella and Desiree were born in a small town in Louisiana called Mallard filled with very light skinned black people. At age 16, they run away to New Orleans to escape their small town and live bigger lives. After a year in new Orleans, their lives completely diverge. They both go on to live completely different lives – one passing as white, while the other marries the darkest black man she can find. Bennett takes us through the years, weaving together multiple strands and generations of these women, from Louisiana to Boston to California, she tells a remarkable story of trying to survive while black in America.

“There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong”

Bennett describes the town of Mallard so well that it is almost a character in this book (I googled “is Mallard a real town?” even though the logical part of my brain knew it wasn’t). This town is a black community with a very unusual beginning:

The idea arrived to Alphonse Decuir in 1848, as he stood in the sugarcane fields he’d inherited from the father who’d once owned him. The father now dead, the now-freed son wished to build something on those acres of land that would last for centuries to come. A town for men like him, who would never be accepted as white but refused to be treated like Negroes. A third place.

So they strived to create a better negro with each generation breeding specifically for white features – skin lighter, hair wavier, eyes colored but this still didn’t inoculate them from the hands of racism. The twins’ father was still dragged out of bed in the middle of the day and lynched while his little girls watched when they were only 7 and it didn’t stop race from shaping everything about their lives for the 40 years the book spans.

10 years after she leaves, Desiree comes back to Mallard while trying to escape an abusive husband with the darkest baby the town had ever seen. Desiree’s daughter, Jude, is the darkest person in a town filled with light skinned black people. The way Mallard treats and talks about dark skinned people is quite riveting to read. The cognitive dissonance is fascinating. They throw out all the dark skinned insults – dark baby, black you’re almost blue, tar baby, if you swim with us i’m sure the water would be filled with crude oil and on and on. They never see the irony in the way they treat Jude and the way white people treat them.

“But the passe blanc were a mystery. You could never meet one who’d passed over undetected, the same way you’d never know someone who successfully faked her own death; the act could only be successful if no one ever discovered it was a ruse.”

Reading about Stella’s passing as white and being immersed in a world that absolutely hated her was fantastic to read. Bennett paints such a vivid picture of fear and hiding in plain sight in a world that wants nothing to do with you and actively participating in that world and in the prejudice that comes with finally being the oppressor. Stella marries a white man and gives birth to a blonde, blue eyed daughter who had no idea that she was anything but white.

The way little micro aggressions are laid out and “good people” are shown to think their prejudices are for everyone’s good and even the feminist movement’s exclusion of black women is explored. At first, you judge Stella for her choices but as you read more about her story you can’t help but ache for her – the loneliness, the lies her entire life is built on, the struggle of not being able to belong to your people and the surety that the people who claim to love you now would absolutely hate you if they knew who you really were.

“She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.”

Bennett’s debut novel “The Mothers” was very good but this book is FANTASTIC. I loved every second of this book. This story is so well written, emotional, and is one that stays with you long after you’ve stopped reading. I truly enjoyed every character and setting used by the author. Every single line belonged here. I think everyone should read this one. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads and I would give it more if I could. This will definitely make my top 5 books of the year. Absolutely recommend. You should read this one and come talk to me on twitter about it.

 

Leggy

Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, Nigerian Author, Uncategorized, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat : Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other

 

“… ageing is nothing to be ashamed of
especially when the entire human race is in it together”

Plot: Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve black (save for one), British women. It tells the story of their joys and struggles in navigating the cards dealt to them as they journey through life.

 

Taynement: I started this book right at the start of the pandemic and I became so overwhelmed that I kept starting and stopping before I finally finished it. I’m glad I did.

Leggy: I only read this book for the blog. I had absolutely no interest in it and didn’t even know what it was about till I had to read it at the last minute for this chit chat.

Taynement: I recommended it for the blog because it made Obama’s best books list and it won a Booker prize. I also (as usual) did not know what it was about. I went in blind. It was a pleasant surprise for me that it was about different people. I enjoy stories like that.

Leggy: I think it was super easy for me to get through it because of the structure. I could read about one person, step away and pick it right back up. It’s a very easy book to read in sections.

Taynement: Yeah, it’s not a hard book to read even if it didn’t have punctuation and capitalization for each paragraph.

Leggy: I totally forgot you had warned me about the punctuation before hand so when I downloaded it on my kindle, I thought my library had sent me a badly formatted book. Anyway, what was your favorite and least favorite story?

Taynement: My favorite story was the one with Winsome, the one whose mother was sleeping with her husband and yet she felt smug that she was in a perfect marriage. Other standouts were the story of Bummi (can I just say her spelling this Nigerian women’s name this way kills me) and Dominique in the abusive lesbian relationship.

Leggy: I loved the mother one! That was my absolute favorite because we get her daughter’s story first and she talks about how her mum goes off with her kids and husband on some weekends to give her a break and how amazing her husband is. Then BAM! we get hit by the mother’s story. It was fantastic. I enjoyed it.

Taynement: I was like WHOA because she tells us so casually. It was a one sided crush at first.

Leggy: Really enjoyed Bummi’s story too. I’m super glad she found peace and accepted her daughter’s choices at the end. Also glad her white son-in-law actually turned out to be a good person.

Taynement: But she didn’t herself find peace. Nigerian guilt goes deep. I liked that the author went there with the story.

Leggy: I actually think she did. She seemed quite content at the end. The Morgan/Meghan story was my least favorite. I confess that I skimmed it, it gave me nothing.

Taynement: Yes, I was going to mention that story as my least favorite. It didn’t capture me and I get it was a set up for GG’s story. I will say what I liked about this book is how it was so many things. Many different kinds of women were captured and it explored many themes. I’m not sure how she managed to do it but it worked.

Leggy: Do you think it did too much or just enough?

Taynement: Hmmm, that’s tough because on one hand I liked the freedom having many stories gave, but on the other hand, I will say I’d get confused due to many characters and found myself trying to see how the characters related to each other vs. enjoying the story.

Leggy: I thought it did too much. I think there could have been fewer characters. I think she tried hard to cover a variety of black women and their experience. It got super hard to keep track of who was who and how it all connected. I don’t expect one piece of literature to cover the total experience of a group of very diverse people and I think she tried to do that and it got exhausting after a while. The first 50% of this book was a breeze to read but as I got to the end, I struggled to even care anymore.

Taynement: I did a deep dive on the author and was surprised she is half Nigerian, probably why there were so many Nigerian mentions. Anyway, what was the point of Yazz?

Leggy: She was irritating but she’s also a good representation of a lot of young people growing up in this social media age. They’re sponges. She went to Morgan’s lecture and suddenly started calling herself “non-binary”. She wants to seem enlightened without actually doing any work to support that.

Taynement: Makes sense. Can I just add that there was something I liked about Mrs. King and Carole? Perspective. She legit hated this woman for so many years and it took a chance encounter to realize that Mrs. King saved her life.

Leggy: Carole was so ungrateful and I just don’t understand how she got to that conclusion.

Taynement: You have to remember she had a very traumatic experience and I think it’s so common in life to be so fixated on a story in your head so much you don’t even see the reality.

Leggy: I’m glad she finally met Mrs. King and realized she didn’t have to do all the things she did for her to get her to Oxford.

Taynement: I liked this book but I actually don’t think it’s for everyone. If someone said they didn’t care for it, I could see how. I liked how boldly unapologetic and modern it was and I think Evaristo’s dedication sums it up:

“For the sisters & the sistas & the sistahs & the sistren & the women & the womxn & the wimmin & the womyn & our brethren & our bredrin & our brothers & our bruvs & our men & our mandem & the LGBTQI+ members of the human family.”

Leggy: I agree. I liked it and I think there’s a story for everyone but ultimately, I don’t know who I’d recommend the entire book to. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

Taynement: I agree but overall, worth adding to your TBR list and checking out to see if it would be something you’d like.

 

Leggy & Taynement

 

 

 

Book Related Topics, Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

 

“There is exquisite lightness in waking each morning with the knowledge that the worst has already happened.”

The publisher’s blurb tells you virtually nothing about what this book is about. In fact, the first 50 pages leave you wondering where Mandel is going with this one. Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass hotel on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. Jonathan sweeps Vincent up into a world of wealth and greed. At the heart of this book is a Ponzi scheme and the financial collapse of 2009 which makes this even more of a sobering read, now that the stock market is crashing and recession looms.

If you intend to pick up this book because you loved Station Eleven, bear in mind that the subject matters are nothing alike. But the way the books are written is actually quite similar. Mandel has a way with words, every single sentence matters and is important. This book is a real puzzle with pieces scattered all over the different chapters and they all come together at some point to make a full picture.

“Leon hadn’t understood, and he’d given Alkaitis his retirement savings anyway. He didn’t insist on a detailed explanation. One of our signature flaws as a species: we will risk almost anything to avoid looking stupid. The strategy had seemed to adhere to a certain logic, even if the precise mechanics–puts, calls, options, holds, conversions–swam just outside of his grasp. ‘Look,’ Alkaitis had said, at his warmest and most accommodating, ‘I could break it all down for you, but I think you understand the gist of it, and at the end of the day the returns speak for themselves”

The characters in this book are genuinely unlikeable characters. They are opportunists, grabbing whatever life offers them at the expense of so many people while convincing themselves that they are not monsters. The way Mandel writes about the people who are affected when the ponzi scheme finally collapses is heart wrenching. People losing their homes, their retirements, pensions, working well into their 70’s just to survive, losing houses, etc. It’s also fascinating how people never question things that are too good to be true, there was always a feeling that something wasn’t right but those feelings were brushed aside.

This is an effortless read. I adored the writing. Mandel makes sure all her characters have layers, you start to feel like you know these people, you imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes and your heart breaks when theirs does too. This book is weirdly beautiful for a finance book and even if you’re not at all interested in finance (which i’m not), it still captures you from beginning to end. I gave this book 4 stars because even though I loved it the last 50 pages just dragged on for me, I didn’t need everything wrapped up that much. Still a very compelling novel. I definitely recommend.

 

Have you read this one? Will it be making it on your TBR?

 

Leggy