Fiction, romance, literary fiction, race, 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

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

We Chit Chat: Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola

Taynement: Hi, Leggy. It’s been a minute since we did one of these.

Leggy: Yup. I’m excited to discuss this one.

Taynement: We do a lot of chitchats on African authors because we’re excited to support their work but it also makes it more difficult to review. So what were your thoughts on this book?

Leggy: This book was the most exhausting slog of a book I’ve read this year. If we weren’t committed to this blog and to this ChitChat, and I was reading this just for pleasure, I would have DNF-ed it.

Taynement: Oh dear, it was a journey of a read for sure.

Leggy: I was actually quite excited to read this one. When we reviewed her previous book, I said that I was super excited to see what she would do with a long form romance book. So, I was going to pick this one up regardless of the blog.

Taynement: Everyone knows my stance on romance, so I can’t say that I was excited. More like I was preparing myself. You started before me and you told me you didn’t think I would make it.

Leggy: Once I started and it was hard for me, a rom com lover to get through it, I knew it would be even harder for you. First of all, this book read like a Dear White People fan fiction to me.

Taynement: Agreed. So here’s my thing, when I say it was a journey what I mean is the beginning was a struggle and then the book settled and then it became quite corny.

Leggy: The crux of the book is the fake dating trope and it should have started way earlier in the book. It started 35% into the book and I was already bored and restless when we got to the actual romance between them. If the editor had insisted that this book center the actual romance 100%, it would have worked better. Too much was going on in this book for me, story-wise.

Taynement: My problem with this book was the writing style. I say this a lot about African authors but they never let their words breathe. Instead, they wield them like heavy chains. I think Babalola overwrote a lot of the stories/scenes. So, it felt like playing dress up and imagining what people would say while also jam packing it full of clap backs/quips that are supposed to be clever, chockful of current slang but it fell flat. I’ll give an example: “My heart had never been compelled into competitive sports by boys and yet here it was acting like an Olympian, beating like its name was Serena.” Sheesh!

Leggy: Oh God, don’t get me started on how verbose this book is. I see your example and I raise you an even more overwritten passage: “The smile he gave her was mainstream, pop, radio-friendly. The smile he’d given me was the single released after an artist had established themselves, found their voice, could speak directly to their target audience. The smile he’d given me had more R&B to it.”

Taynement: Lord!

Leggy: I think the best lines are those that are profoundly quite and simple. It felt like the author wanted to show us she could write but these over written passages made me roll my eyes so much.

Taynement: Another thing, which I can’t really knock her for, is that she’s clearly proud to be African. So this book was very clearly African – more Nigerian/Yoruba but I couldn’t stop wondering how every black person on campus seemed to be African?

Leggy: Did this book read very American to you despite the number of British slang thrown in there?

Taynement: I was just about to bring that up! I don’t live in the UK but a lot of the language and events seemed…American? For one, not to be stereotypical but there was a lot of coffee drinking when I was expecting tea, lots of “ain’t”, even the Malakai police story read American.

Leggy: The debating All Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter storyline seemed very American. Also, wasn’t this literally a storyline on Dear White People?

Taynement: These events didn’t help with the feeling that this book was trying to pack in relevant pop culture tropes to make it current. I spoke with my sister-in-law who lives and went to school in the UK and she said the school experience in the book definitely felt more American, so I was glad I wasn’t being too critical.

Leggy: This book was written for twitter.

Taynement: Yes!!

Leggy: That’s all I kept thinking. This is such a twitter inspired book.

Taynement: That being said, she tied in the honey and spice theme well and I did enjoy when Malakai and Kiki fell in love, I think she allowed the book to breathe then. It felt organic.

Leggy: I wish this book could have been purely about Malakai and Kiki falling in love. Take out the race issues, take out the guy she was sleeping with, have the high school best friend expose her as a “fraud” feminist. Then they break up, get back together and live happily ever after. I think the mistake a lot of authors of rom coms make is trying so hard to make their book deep. Your book is just as worthy as just a love story! Love stories are amazing!

Taynement: I did like the friendship stories. Aminah and Kofi being in love but working for it.

Leggy: Yes! Classic sidekicks which every good rom com needs! This book could have been great. If I was her editor, I would have told her to strip it. Stop over writing. You already have a book deal, we know you can write. Just tell us a good story!

Taynement: I think an observation I’ve made lately is authors seem to be writing for a book to screen adaptation.

Leggy: I thought the same thing about this book. It was really giving American high school movie. Everyone in this book read super young to me even though they were adults in college.

Taynement: I felt like it veered between YA and romance which was a mind trip because I know they’re in college. As a romance reader, was the climax of the book – them professing their love on par with other romance books? Because that felt like a lot! I found it super corny.

Leggy: Yes! It’s always corny but I think what makes it good corny in a well written romance book is that the rest of the book is so good and has made you so invested in the couple that you’re left smiling at the corniness of it all. The one in this book just made me roll my eyes and leap for joy that at last, the trial that was this book was over!

Taynement: Overall, we’d never say not to support a fellow Nigerian but bias aside, this was not a well written book.

Leggy: I would not recommend this book. I did not enjoy it. But if you’re interested, knock yourself out!

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

Taynement & Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, LGBT, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: The Mutual Friend by Carter Bays

“Being staunch anything is pretty much interchangeable with being an asshole.”

It’s the summer of 2015 and Alice Quick needs to start living up to her potential. She’s publicly announced on Facebook that she’s going to be a doctor, so now she actually has to do it. She’s 28 years old, grieving her mother, barely scraping by as a nanny and now kicked out of her apartment. She has to get her shit together and make a plan to study for the MCAT but in this age of social media and online dating, everything is a distraction.

Her millionaire brother is having a religious awakening. Her sister-in-law has just been diagnosed with Crohn’s and is struggling with all that comes with it. Her new roommate is cosplaying still being in her 20s and loves chaos. Bays writes about one summer in New York encompassing so many different cities and characters tied together by threads unseen.

This book is about 500 pages and if I had gone to Goodreads before picking it up, I don’t think I would have read it. It’s currently 3.85 stars on there and a lot of people report being confused and not “getting” it. I would have missed out on a great book if I hadn’t just picked it up and started reading. I did not realise this book was long until I went to rate it on Goodreads and saw the page count. It read so fast and the pace never slowed for one second.

The first thing you should know about this book: it has a weird narration technique. The narration in the book is choppy and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Bays goes from one character to another without explicitly stating whose point of view we are now hearing from and just expects you to figure it out. If you usually do your books on audio, I don’t know how this one would work, so maybe stick to the pages with this one. After a while, I got so used to it that I stopped noticing it. It was fun for me because I never got the chance to get bored with one character’s story. It made the pace of the book feel so fast and non stop. That said, stick with it. The threads holding all the characters together will be revealed at the end. Even the little things that seem to be just anecdotes from the characters all help to connect everybody in the end.

If you liked How I Met Your Mother, you’re going to like this book. If you think the journey of a story is what makes the ending worth it, then this book is for you. Bays takes such a circuitous path in telling you how to get from point A to point B. Unlike How I Met Your Mother though, this ending is actually super worth it. It fills you with so much warmth that you didn’t expect. I find that a lot of literary writers write about the internet, social media and online dating with such a judgmental, get off your phones tone but there is none of that here. Bays chronicles how we live our lives on and off social media without injecting his personal beliefs into the narrative. The facts are the facts. He’s not trying to get you to do anything other than listen to his story and pay attention to these characters he has created.

I finished this book at 11pm at night and I had to absolutely tweet about it. I mentioned on Twitter that this is a book that is not for everybody but it was definitely for me. It’s like Bays combined everything I love in a book and put it into this one. After I read the end, I was filled with such regret about it ending. I don’t usually re-read books but I think I’m going to re-read this one now that I know all the threads of the story and see if there are any easter eggs I missed. I think you should give this one a chance and stick to it even if you don’t quite get it, I say give it 100 pages and if it’s not for you then it’s not for you. But if it is for you, come talk to me on IG or twitter about it. I gave this one 5 stars on Goodreads and I know it’s going to make my top 5 of the year.

Have you heard of this one? Will you consider picking it up? Let me know in the comments.

Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction, romance, women's fiction

Book Review: Flying Solo by Linda Holmes

“I find the way you approach this exhausting.”

Laurie Sassalyn returns to her Maine hometown of Calcasset to handle the estate of her great-aunt Dot who lived till she was in her nineties. Aunty Dot was a great adventurer who never married and whose life Laurie greatly admired. Still flustered by her canceled wedding and about to turn forty, Laurie dives into cleaning out her aunty’s house and settling her estate. When she finds a mysterious wooden duck at the bottom of a cedar chest, her curiosity is piqued because Dot isn’t a woman who hid beautiful things away. She’s even more intrigued when she comes across a love letter from one of Dot’s ex-boyfriends that ends with the line – “And anyway, if you’re ever desperate, there are always ducks, darling.”

Laurie is told that the duck is worthless so when it’s taken from her in a very unethical way, she wonders why anyone would want a worthless duck. Desperate to uncover the real reason Dot hid away the duck and its origins, Laurie embarks on an adventure that leads her to discover so much about her aunty, her family, her friends and challenges the rules she’s set for her life.

If Holmes’ name sounds familiar to you, it’s because she wrote Evvie Drake Starts Over but this book is nothing like that. Her first book was a purely romance novel but Flying Solo is more women’s fiction. If you ever wonder what the general consensus of what publishers consider women’s fiction, just read this book, it ticks every box.

Laurie has decided that she does not want to get married and she does not want kids. She likes living alone and coming back to her hometown in Maine gives her a chance to confront the choices she has made for herself. Cleaning out her aunt’s house gives her a chance to see her future clearly and helps her wonder who will be doing the clean out of her house when she dies childless. Also complicating her future is her ex boyfriend who is now twice as hot and is the librarian in their small town. He wants all the things Laurie doesn’t want – for her to move back to Maine and marry him.

This book was an easy read but the quote at the top of this post is how I felt about Laurie. She never got off her soap box. I found her exhausting, she reminded us every 3 minutes that she wants to live alone and never have kids. I really enjoyed how her best friend called her out on how judgmental she came off to people like her who had chosen the traditional path of getting married and having kids.

I liked the overall message that romance does not need to fit into any box to be legitimate and good but I still felt that the romance in this book felt very one sided with Laurie holding all the cards. But who knows? Maybe I’m so used to seeing women compromise for men that it just felt off to me to see a woman get everything she wanted without having to ever bend? This is one of those books you pick up if it’s available in your library or the paperback goes on sale. It’s an easy read that I doubt I’d remember by the end of the year.

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, movie related topics, romance

Book Review: Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

Nora Hamilton is a romance channel screenwriter. She knows the formula for a corny romance novel – two people have a meet cute, fall in love, 90% into the movie they fight and the man leaves, then 99% into the movie the man comes back and they live happily ever after. She’s been churning these out her entire career and taking care of her children plus free loading husband. When Nora’s marriage falls apart, she turns the story of the breakup into a screenplay that gets picked up by a big Hollywood director complete with a star studded Hollywood cast including former Sexiest Man Alive, Leo Vance who plays her ex-husband. Her tea house is a huge character in the story so the director asks to film in her house.

The morning after shooting wraps and the crew leaves, Nora finds Leo on her porch with a half-empty bottle of tequila and a proposition. He’ll pay a thousand dollars a day to stay for a week. The $7000 would give Nora enough cushion till she goes back to writing her generic romance movies for the romance channel (which honestly is so clear that the author is referring to the Hallmark channel), so she says yes. 7 days might be just enough time for them to get to know each, enough time for them to fall in love or enough time for him to never want to leave but love never adheads to a formula.

This is one of my favorite romance books of the year. I absolutely loved it. The characters are older and more mature so their relationship wasn’t bugged down by superfluous things. Nora’s kids were great additions to this book, they were charming and felt like kids. I absolutely believed the progression of Nora and Leo’s relationship. Nora was smart and intelligent and yet still felt human and relatable. Her fears and insecurities made sense to me. Also, the way Nora handled the end of her previous relationship and her attitude towards it was really well written. I understood all her choices. I also loved how all the supporting cast were extremely different and yet were still very likable people.

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads because I don’t think Nora protected her children enough from her new relationship. I felt like she was very selfish in the way she let Leo get embroidered into her family so quickly without giving a thought to how her kids would feel if they’re left by yet another man. It seemed so out of character for Nora to not think explicitly of how being with Leo while he was basically living with her would affect her kids.

All in all, I really loved this book. If you’ve read Book Lovers then give this one a shot. Apparently the secret to writing Ephron-esque rom coms is to just name your female protagonist Nora? Pick up this one y’all, it was absolutely delightful!

Have you read this one? Let me know in the comments. Also, if you have any book dups for this, let me know! I think I’ve found my romance sweet spot.

Leggy

Fiction, literary fiction, romance, thriller

Book Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

Lowen Ashleigh is going through an eventful time in her life. Her mom has just died from cancer and the first time she dares venture outside her apartment for a work meeting since her death, a man is hit by a bus in front of her. Lowen is a writer. A struggling writer. She likes her private life, doesn’t do promo and just hasn’t had a lot of opportunities. Her work meeting is an offer by Jeremy Crawford, husband to the best selling author, Verity Crawford.

Verity has written a successful series but is unable to continue as she has sustained injuries from a car accident. Lowen is offered the opportunity to finish out the series for a substantial amount of money. She is also offered the chance to live at the Crawford residence to go over Verity’s notes and outlines for the series which is good timing since she is about to be evicted.

Lowen accepts, moves in with Jeremy, Verity and their lone surviving son and uncovers a whole lot more about Jeremy and Verity’s relationship while also developing feelings for Jeremy. We also get to learn more about Lowen’s past.

I have mentioned before that I am a newbie to Colleen Hoover. This is only my second book of hers with the first being It Ends With Us. I was told that that was a departure from her usual writing style but this is apparently also a departure as well. Hoover wrote this book independently from her contract (which makes it free on Kindle Unlimited!)

All that to say that I really enjoyed this book. I have been in a reading slump but this kept me intrigued and turning the pages. There was soooo much going on in this book. So many stories but Hoover found a way to not make it complicated. It was very meta because we are reading a book about a writer writing a book that is reading notes on another book that was being written for a writer by another writer (clap for yourself if this made sense to you haha!)

To make things clearer, I’ll reveal that while going through the notes, Lowen discovers Verity’s autobiography which becomes part of the story that we read along with her. This is where we find out about the couple and somehow the book becomes a thriller and I started guessing what happened (I was wrong). I should also let you know that there are a lot of sex scenes in the book that I have to say was well done. Not too smarmy and not too childish/prudish.

I didn’t quite like the ending but honestly it was not so bad considering the many plot threads in the book. I didn’t quite buy the feasibility of Verity’s storyline 100% but you know…creative liberties. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book. I completely recommend this book and it was an easy and quick read.

Have you read this one? Which book of hers do you recommend I read next?

Taynement

Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

“It’s a particularly strange kind of loss, when something you don’t think you even want gets taken away from you.”

Three months after Greta James’ mother dies, she has an onstage meltdown a couple weeks before the release of her long awaited sophomore album. Trying to outrun the humiliation and self doubt, she agrees to accompany her father on an Alaskan cruise. A cruise that her father and mother had looked forward to for months and one they booked to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Greta has spent her entire career trying to prove her practical father wrong. Her mother, Helen, had been at every bar, every performance, cheering her on but her father, Conrad, had always felt that she should do something more practical and steady with her life.

“Maybe the point isn’t always to make things last. Maybe it’s just to make them count.”

This is essentially a father-daughter story. Greta and her father feel so lost after the death of Helen and they’re both trying to grief the best way they know how. On the trip is also 4 of her parents’ friends, two couples that her mother had convinced to come on the trip with them. This Alaskan trip becomes a chance for father and daughter to hash out their differences including talking about the infamous song she wrote about him. It was quite heartbreaking to see a man who loved his wife very much have to deal with her passing and still be subjected to the trip they had both wanted to go on for so long.

“It’s like that feeling of getting off a long flight and taking your first breath of fresh air. You were okay on the plane. You could breathe just fine. And you could survive like that for a pretty long time if you had to. But once you’re off, you realize you wouldn’t want to live that way forever. Not if you had a choice.”

Ben Wilder is also struggling with a major upheaval in his life. He has come on the cruise as an expert historian on Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, an adventure story Greta’s mum had loved so much. He’s here to give lectures as part of the entertainment offered on the cruise. Him and Greta hit it off on the boat but they live completely different lives in the real world and this might be the only time they can enjoy the bubble of being with each other.

“The truth is, being a parent is mostly just reacting. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t. You give what you can. And at the end of the day, most of it is just being there.”

When I grabbed this book, I expected it to be a deeply emotional read about a father and daughter trying to reconnect after they lose someone very important to them. While this is what this book is meant to be, I actually did not find it emotional at all. It was hard for me to connect with any of the characters in the book and I found the romance on the side a little distracting especially as it did not have a very satisfying conclusion. I never felt fully invested in any of the characters or the story. I never bought into the main character being a Rockstar plus I found her to be quite immature and angsty for her age. I wonder if because Smith usually writes YA books and this is her first adult novel, if some of that teenage angst bled into someone who’s supposed to be in her 30s.

I still think this is an easy read. I read this all in one day and while it may not stay with me past this year, it was a solid 3 star book for me. If you’ve been postponing this one because you’re worried it might be too heavy for you, I promise that it is not at all heavy.

Have you read this? What did you think? Have a happy reading week everybody!

Leggy

Book Related Topics, Chick-Lit, Fiction, literary fiction, romance

Book Review: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

“That’s the thing about women. There’s no good way to be one. Wear your emotions on your sleeve and you’re hysterical. Keep them tucked away where your boyfriend doesn’t have to tend to them and you’re a heartless bitch.”

Nora Stephens is an amazing book agent. She gets her clients the best deals and is called “The Shark” behind her back for her ruthlessness. The only person who matters to Nora is Libby, her little sister and her family. Nora has been taking care of Libby since their mother died and is determined to make sure that Libby keeps living a stress free life even though Libby is now married with two kids and another one on the way.

This is why Nora agrees to visit Sunshine Falls, North Carolina with her sister in order to destress before the baby comes. Small towns are not her thing but she has promised Libby two weeks of uninterrupted sister bonding time including completing a list of small town romance cliches while they’re there.

“That’s life. You’re always making decisions, taking paths that lead you away from the rest before you can see where they end. Maybe that’s why we as a species love stories so much. All those chances for do-overs, opportunities to live the lives we’ll never have.”

Instead of bumping into a smart and funny but totally hot farmer while living in the small town, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, an editor from the city who is in Sunshine Falls to take care of his aging parents and whip their affairs into shape. Charlie and Nora have met many times before but always on days when they both weren’t bringing their best to the world, so this presents a chance for them to start over and get to know each other as people not as an editor and agent.

“Maybe love shouldn’t be built on a foundation of compromises, but maybe it can’t exist without them either. Not the kind that forces two people into shapes they don’t fit in, but the kind that loosens their grips, always leaves room to grow. Compromises that say, there will be a you-shaped space in my heart, and if your shape changes, I will adapt.”

I have unwittingly become an Emily Henry completist and every book of hers just keeps getting better. I’m actually scared to read her next book because I don’t see how she can keep this momentum forever. Henry reminds me of Nora Ephron so much. Her characters have depth and interact in ways that you can see why they would fall in love. Nora and Charlie are my favorite characters of hers till date. They are smart, older and know exactly what they want in life. They both know they don’t want to have kids and there is no grand announcement about why. It’s stated as a matter of fact and moved on from.

The banter between the two characters is smart and just snappy. It is the banter I have in my head when I picture the perfect relationship back and forth between two smart and well read people. I also like that Henry didn’t lean into the enemies to lovers trope. In my opinion, they were never enemies. They just had a bad work meeting that they both put behind them, so it was so easy to see how they’d meet in another context and get along very well.

“Not every decision a woman makes is some grand indictment on other women’s lives.”

As much as this is a romance book, the best thing about Emily Henry’s books is that it’s never just about the romance. At the core of this book is a sister relationship. Nora and Libby have a very codependent relationship with Nora thinking she can shield her sister from all the hurt in the world. At first, I was very annoyed by this relationship and every time they would come up, I just wanted to go back to the amazing banter between the two main characters. But as the book unraveled and I got the backstory of their relationship and how young they both were when their mother died and the circumstances surrounding their mother’s death, I understood why Nora felt so responsible for an actual adult with a thriving family of her own now. The resolution to the sister relationship was very organic and satisfying.

“Can’t think of a greater symbol of hope than a person who’s willing to drag themselves out of bed and sing at the top of their lungs to a group of strangers trapped on a train. That tenacity should be rewarded.”

You know how at the 85-90% mark of every romance book, the main characters have some unresolved conflict then they break up before finally coming back together to give us the happily ever after we lovers of romance read these books for? This is the first time that I actually thought the conflict reflected real life. The circumstances surrounding their conflict was very mature and I could see why that would come up because they had already talked about it before they began their “relationship” so when it came up, I wasn’t surprised. Just grateful that Henry thinks very highly of her readers to sell us some silly conflict that doesn’t even make sense with the characters she has created.

“The last-page ache. The deep breath in after you’ve set the book aside.”

That quote is exactly how I felt when I completed this book. If you’ve read People We Meet on Vacation and loved it, I promise you that this book is even better. Anyway, I really liked this one. I gave this 4 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

celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage by Heather Havrilesky

But I have to admit, there’s something reassuring, to me, about breaking down, falling into disrepair, losing your charms, and misplacing your keys, when you have an equally inept and irritating human tolerating it all, in spite of a million and one very good reasons to put on his walking boots and take his love to town. In other words, if marriage is irrational, as with child-rearing and ambition and art, that’s also part of its appeal.

I had never heard of Heather Havrilesky until a twitter thread of hers made its way to my timeline. A thread complaining about the sexist treatment of her book about marriage. She talked about how people had read only an excerpt in the New York Times and decided she was just a wife who hates her husband and then without reading the entire book for context found her hateful and not grateful enough. Even though I am not married, I put her book on hold at my local library and promptly forgot about it until it checked out to me. Then I debated on if I really wanted to read a book about marriage but after clicking “deliver later” twice, I finally just caved and started it and then read it all in 24 hours.

“People always assume that love is all about celebrating someone else’s amazing qualities. But true love is also about accepting another person’s flaws. In order to create a love that grew and adapted over the years, you had to commit to someone else’s flaws the same way you commit to their qualities. That was love. Loving someone’s bouts of neediness and self-loathing the way you love their hot face.”

Heather has written a very honest book about her marriage. She doesn’t try to sugarcoat the intricacies of it. She doesn’t sell you the rom com view which a lot of books on marriage and a lot of relationship pages sell you on instagram, and I understand why that would make people mad and uncomfortable. But I ask you to sit in your uncomfortability and ask yourself why honesty makes you squirm. Why we have to sanitize the truth of two strangers meeting, living together and raising children? This is not a book of advice, Heather does not implore you to adopt her marriage style, she only tells you how she and her partner, Bill, have managed to navigate theirs.

“Marriage is a lifelong market correction to true love’s overvaluation.”

Considering the sexist world we live in where women are supposed to be eternally grateful to have a man love them and everybody around the world works around the clock to protect the ego of men they have not met, the New York Times excerpt was probably not the best to go with. Yes, it’s loud and controversial and I can see how a publicist or Heather herself thought it would garner attention and lead people to the book but only a man can get away with that kind of excerpt without context. Heather loudly declares in the excerpt that of course she hates her husband and everyone ignores the dichotomy of sometimes hating someone you genuinely love and adore. I saw people giving this book one star based only on that excerpt without even reading the book. It was quite interesting to see people rushing to the defence of an imaginary bruised ego instead of just deciding – that book is probably not for me and moving along, they had to punish Heather for daring to be open and vulnerable about all her feelings even those we might think are ugly and should not be spoken out loud.

“Oh, Bill, Bill, Bill,” she said, sounding disgusted. “He’s not so perfect, you know!”

Me who has actually read the book thought because she was being brutally honest she made sure to actually point out how amazing her husband is at the end of every anecdote. He actually does 50% of the housework, does actual parenting and always tells her how hot she is. At some point I felt exactly like her mother in the quote above. Like Girl, you must have hit the jackpot with this man. The most uncomfortable I felt while reading this book is when she tells her husband about this author she had dinner with hitting on her. They talk about it in such detail and she kept bringing up the fantasies she’s been having about this man and they even discuss rationally the idea of her having an affair with this man. It made me so uncomfortable because me as a single person, my idea of love and long term relationship does not include this type of radical honesty. I kept thinking, why can’t she just shut up about this man and deal with this privately? We all are so sure that we want absolute honesty from our significant others but I think that the romance that has been sold to us has convinced us that it won’t include having conversations about attraction to the opposite sex and possible affairs. I think in my mind once you’ve found the one you love every feeling of desire you have about everybody else just dies especially if you’ve really and truly found the one!

Maybe in the future Bill can save himself a lot of time and effort and just hand his future third wife this book and say, “It’s all in there.”

This is a brutally honest look at Heather’s marriage. If you are someone who worries about airing out dirty laundries or you care deeply about how this book may have made a man you do not know feel, this book is probably not for you. If you are someone who refers to themselves as a good person, this is probably not for you. I think if you see yourself as an individual capable of being complicated and do not intend to project your view of marriage and companionship on another person’s reality then this book is for you. If you just want to sit back and read how someone else has navigated her 15 year marriage even though it might not be how you navigate yours or how you intend to navigate yours then read this story. Again, this is not an advice book. This is a book sorely about Heather’s marriage.

Every book about marriage is actually a book about survival, and about trying to find happiness together in spite of the fact that you’re doomed to fail from the start. You’re doomed because even though you’re aiming for forever, forever doesn’t really exist. You either die or your marriage does. There is no forever.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this one and have recommended it to Taynement because I want to hear what an actual married person who I like and trust thinks about it. If you intend to read this book, I implore you not to read that excerpt in the New York Times or read any angry reviews of this book. Judge this book purely on the words the author has put down on paper in its entirety. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads. I docked one star because I actually did not laugh once. Yes, a lot of the digs at her husband were tongue in cheek and meant to be funny but I think the best part of this book is the quiet honesty and the fact that the author does not shy away from the ugliness that makes us human.

Leggy