[769]: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Full disclosure: this book wasn’t in my radar until Jimmy Fallon featured it as a summer read for his book club. And while I don’t usually take any celeb’s reading suggestions to heart, there’s something about this book that called on my bibliophile sensibilities. And boy, was I happy I picked it up. This was an enduring, heart-captivating read about family, mental health, friendships, love and forgiveness for the people we love no matter the veracity of how they wronged us.

This is a story about two families whose lives are irrevocably connected regardless of time and circumstances over the years. We first meet the two patriarchs of the Stanhopes and the Gleesons in 1973. Besides being in the same profession (cops), they have nothing in common. But somehow, they end up living right beside each other. Behind closed doors, one wife dealt with the loneliness of young motherhood (Lena, Francis’ wife) while the other lived with mental instabilities that isolated her even in her home (Anne, Brian’s wife).

Years later, a friendship between Francis’ youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter blossomed. When they were both fourteen, and during one of Anne’s episodes, a violent crime was committed that would change the trajectory of their lives. What followed was years of loneliness for both Peter and Kate as they tried to deal with the fallout of the tragedy that struck their lives.

This is one of those books that no matter how ugly your connections were, fate somehow, someway, intervenes. That regardless the distance or how many years have passed, the connection can’t be severed. As in the case of Peter and Kate. Because of how their stories were intertwined, they’re never too far away from each other’s thoughts. And while Kate tried her best to move on, Peter, being the sensitive soul that he was, couldn’t. He loved Kate right from the beginning, and vice versa. Despite their families’ wishes to not see each other, and the mental and emotional baggages that came along with them, they were irrevocably tied.

My heart ached for Peter. He was, for all intents and purposes, abandoned by his own parents. Even though both were physically present, they had emotionally checked out from his life since his knowing years. His mother suffered from a mental illness that made her unstable. She was abusive at times, catatonic, most days. But on her good days, she was a mother who doted on Peter. His father, on the other hand, did his best. And unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t strong enough to carry the load. He left Peter in the care of his brother, George — who gave him the emotional support of a father.

In the end, and in the rubble of years of heartaches and disturbing pasts, love survives. Forgiveness endures. Family remains. I think those were the foremost lessons I have gleaned from this book. There are no villains here. Just people surviving from one day to the next.

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On the Night Table [54]

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin | Beartown by Fredrik Backman | Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures by Cain, Thompson & Postlewait|

Happy Monday, all!

I had another outstanding reading week last week. Thanks to the very Fall-like weather, I was not motivated to go to the gym, so I ended up reading under the bed covers. Chalking that up to self-care. Lol. I read a total of eleven books. ELEVEN. Books. Yes. But to be fair, I read two shorties and one graphic novel: Finding Langston & I’m Afraid of Men, and Fence, Volume 3. So technically, I only read 9 books which, I guess would match my total from a week a go. Still an astronomical number, though.

So today, I thought I’d share what I want to get to this week. I started Serpent & Dove on Friday night. I’m conflicted. While this book started out great, I’m getting a little bored with it as I go along. I wish the plot would move a bit faster. Beartown by Fredrik Bachman is one I started a while ago but I had to put it down for whatever reasons. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures is a non fiction about three doctors wholly involved in Doctors Without Borders. Basically, they tell theirs stories and experiences about being in the frontline of conflict. Can’t wait to finish all three this week.

Here are the books I read last week:

Fence, Volume 3 by CS Pacat | Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick | The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandi | The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary | Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome | My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Montfegh | Vox by Christina Dalcher

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya | Breathless by Beverly Jenkins | Odd One Out by Nic Stone

If I have to pick a favourite, I say it’s a toss up between The Flatshare and My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Let me know if you’re interested in any of the books I read last week.

xoxo

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Listening Library [2]

I honestly have more luck with my weekly downloads in my Libby than I do with my regular purchases. Out of all the books I downloaded last week, only one of them remain unheard (The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes). I so wish my library stocks more new releases. My credit card could use some breathing room. Lol.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin | Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan | Odd One Out by Nick Stone | Call Them By Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin follows a family from Connecticut and their strong bond amid a family crisis or two. I’m a huge fan of family sagas so this is right up my alley.

Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan. This book gave me the “A Man Called Ove” vibe for the simple facts that they are both at the same age as they ruminate about their past loves.

Odd One Out by Nic Stone 1/5 stars. Follows the story of three friends as they navigate through life on the path to self-discovery. I loved about three-quarters of the book, then hated the ending.

Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises by Rebecca Solnit is a collection of essays about violence against women. In the hands of the people they love, the police, and random acts of violence. This will be an anger-inducing, life-affirming commentary about women, more often than not, suffer the greatest at home.

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya | Finding Lanston by Lesa Cline-Ransome | Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer | Breathless by Beverly Jenkins

I’m Aftraid of Men by Vivek Shraya. Such a powerful, own voices read. 4/5 Stars.

From Goodreads:

“A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century .” 

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome. LOVED this one. 5 /5 Stars. This was a sad, heart wrenching read about a boy who gets bullied in his school.

Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer. I love me some M/M romance from time to time. This one follows two swimmers who are opposites — one openly gay, and the other, closeted. Excited to read this!

Breathless by Beverly Jenkins. I liked this one, too! 4/5 Stars. This is book 2 of the Old West series. Looking for the first book. I might have to use one of my Audible credits.

So these are the downloads that will keep me company on my walks and keep me sane during my workweek. Lol.

Happy listening!

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Best of the Best: Non Fiction Reads

I have been making a concerted effort to read more non fiction novels for the last couple of years. It’s tough to get into for sure, but when I pick a book from this genre, I know it’s something that I absolutely want to read. I don’t get into the habit of picking what’s popular, though that’s not necessarily true in most cases: see Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I’m also a creature of habit so books that I tend to get into are either about politics or feminism.

Today, I thought I’d share with you the top 3 novels that have graced my bookshelves this year. These are the books that made such an impact on me; they made me think. And as in the case of one book, strengthen my conviction.

VISIONARY WOMEN: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World by Andrea Barnet.

If you’re like me who has a vague sense of who these women are and would like to learn more about how they essentially changed the world, pick up this book. Here, you will learn about their impact in our environment. From urban planning, conservation and protection of the chimpanzees’ ecosystem; to the banning of highly toxic pesticides, these four women are the heroines who fought relentlessly to make our world a little bit safer. This is their brief autobiographies focused on their contributions to the world as we know it.

BEASTIE BOYS BOOK by Michael Diamond, Adam Horowitz et al.

This book was extraordinary in all sense of the word. But the only way to enjoy this fully is by downloading the audio book and reading the physical copy at the same time. The audio book contains an amazing star-studded narrators while the hardback itself is a treasure trove of a multi-media feast. I’ve not read anything like it. I was only a semi-fan before but after reading it, I’ve become obsessed. The Beastie Boys’ contribution to hip-hop is truly extraordinary. These threeJewish boys from Brooklyn brought with them their own brand of rhymes and beats. Their humble beginnings and their collaborations with a few household names in both Rock and Hip Hop genres are the stuff dreams are made of. They also addressed/apologized for sexism & misogynistic lyrics in the past. Check out my Instagram for a complete look at this book.

NOTORIOUS RBG: The Life and Times or Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik. Illustrated by Ping Zhu

There are women whose stories inspire you. And there are women whose lives make you feel empowered and insignificant at the same time. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, along with the four women of the first book of this post, are those women. They fought against all odds at a time when women’s places are definitively at their homes and not on the streets in protest, or as in the case of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, in the law courts. To be instrumental to the institution of equality laws in your land at a time when women working was an incongruous as stay at home dads, was mind blowing and awe-inspiring to say the least.

SPECIAL MENTIONS: Becoming by Michelle Obama, Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss & the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and A Model for America’s Future by Peter Buttigieg.

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[768]: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Vivian, a ninety-year-old woman looks back at her life as she pens a letter to her best friend’s daughter. In an attempt to explain the connection she formed with her father over the years, she recounts her life as a woman whom, at first, couldn’t find her place in the world.

Confounded by her lack of prospects in both marriage and career, her parents shipped her off to New York in the care of an eccentric aunt. Peg owned a dilapidated, struggling theatre far and away from the vicinity of Broadway. In New York, she will discover freedom to be herself surrounded by women who will show her independence as well camaraderie borne of survival and artistic creativity by way of theatre. Starting in 1940, her story spans through decades of love, friendships, ruined relationships, war and heartbreaks.

In 2006, Eat, Love, and Pray was one of my favourite non-fiction novels. It was a book about a woman who showed great courage to leave what was familiar and venture all over the world to find herself. It was honest and awe-inspiring. It spurred on a curiosity for her other work. Unfortunately, I was convinced that Eat, Pray, and Love was a fluke — in my own opinion, anyway. So I never did find out exactly how versatile her writing was. City of Girls might’ve done its best to convince me to finally dive in to her backlist, though.

This book felt like it had two faces: the first half aimed to tell the story of women living in a commune above a theatre whose lives were, for the most part, untouched by men. To be clear, men were present but they held very little relevance to the occupants of the Lily theatre. They were side players in the periphery of their lives — which, I thought, was fantastic and one that I’ve rarely read about.

But with the entrance of Peg’s ex-husband, and the emergence of a play that eventually helped put Lily back on the map of theatre-goers, men were, all of a sudden, catalysts to the heartbreaks of the women in the theatre. Don’t get me wrong, women had choices here. Their lives turned out the way they turned out because they chose the paths they chose. I’m not facetious enough to strongly believe all men were evil in this novel. I just found it odd that things started falling apart once men started playing a bigger part in the second half of the novel.

Overall, City of Girls was a fantastic historical fiction in the tradition of The Great Gatsby. Elizabeth Gilbert introduced us to a set of extraordinary women in their own rights, flaws and all. And while the novel was very dense in its heft, her style induces a cathartic zen attributable to good writing. It felt like slipping into warm bath water. Familiar, comforting and a balm to one’s soul.

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Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 222

I may have mentioned how much time I’m spending watching book tube videos lately. One of the pitfalls of diving into the abyss that is book tube is that it makes me salivate over books, therefore forcing my twitchy fingers to order stuff online. Once again, I found myself clicking my pay cheque away with an order from Book Outlet. So here are the books that somehow found their way to my house. *facepalm*

The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting | All Our Todays by Elan Mastai | All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover | And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Housseini | American Panda by Gloria Chao | Contagion by Erin Bowman | The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini | Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace | Summoned to the Thirteenth Grave by Darynda Jones (not in the picture)

I’ve read The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting — which was overwhelmingly disappointing; All Our Todays by Elan Mastai, and Summoned to the Thirteenth Grave by Darynda Jones. I know I have to re-read Summoned again because I realized I haven’t written a review for Net Galley.

R e a d L a s t W e e k

I read a total of 9 books last week. My favourites being, The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir and Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper. I also finally picked up a Historical Romance from Ms. Beverly Jenkins. I didn’t realize it was book 3 of her Old West series, but that’s okay. No need to read the series in order, I don’t think. I downloaded book 2, which is Breathless so I’m going to listen to that sometime this week. I enjoyed Tempest, truly. I love how the heroine completely defied all the norms you would expect from a woman of colour especially at that time. I’m looking forward to broadening my reading horizon in this genre. I re-read Red, White and Royal Blue in audio form — loved it! The narrator did Henry’s accent justice. Anyway, here are the rest of the books:

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty | Texas! Sage by Sandra Brown | How to Stop Time by Matt Haig | When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton.

The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir | Tempest by Beverly Jenkins | Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston | The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones | Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

So that’s my reading update/book haul last week. I hope your week is going swimmingly well so far. Happy Hump Day!

xoxo

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[767]: Save Me From Dangerous Men by S.A. Lelchuk

I mentioned on my inaugural Listening Library post about how wonderful my Libby app has been. How it affords me the practice of perusing books, reading them, then buying a copy if I may so choose. This is one of those serendipitous occasions when I loved a book so much that I just had to get a copy.

I love a great whodunnit novel, but more so when it features a female detective. Nikki Griffin is one such character and more. She has this almost supernatural ability to stay level-headed during the most stressful situations. Even while she’s getting tortured and beaten to within an inch of her life. She has the strength and prowess of an MMA fighter and is probably the kind of person you would want in your corner if you happened to find yourself in an abusive relationship. In fact, besides being a bookstore owner, that’s exactly what she does: she hunts down violent, abusive men and give them a taste of their own medicine.

I don’t think it’s a prerequisite for a PI, but I’ve read a few of them whose traumatic dark pasts were the catalyst as to why they are in the profession. Nikki’s, however, seemed like the source of her superpower, so to speak. She has a brother who’s so far gone that she has no choice but enable his drug addiction. I also think that the guilt she carries of how he turned out plays a factor. She loves and cares too much for all the women she helped and the brother who is the source of both her strength and weakness.

It seems like I’ve only talked about Nikki and not about the case that is the crux of the novel. Basically, she was hired to follow an employee suspected of selling company secrets. But slowly but surely, she uncovers something far more sinister than what was let on. Allow me to be a bit of a nerd here for a moment. If you’ve seen Captain America: Winter Soldier, the premise of what Nikki uncovered was similar minus the super weapon that could target them The creation of a technology that will enable the government or any factions to eliminate suspected terrorists and supposed government enemies without due process.

The investigative part of this novel was done quite well. The twist was a surprise and didn’t feel like it was contrived. Overall, Save Me From Dangerous Men was a fantastic debut. A fast-paced, badass pulp fiction of a novel with an equally badass character. What’s more, she can freaking recommend a book on a dime. She’s well-read, fierce, and a kick ass vigilante/assassin who uses her smarts as much as she uses her muscle.

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Fall Reads

Have I mentioned how much I love Fall? It’s my favourite season. When I was a devout NFL fan, I couldn’t wait for that first leaf to turn burnt orange. But now that I don’t watch it anymore, I look forward to this season because of how conducive it is for readers like us. Second only to Winter, I think it’s the best season for us, readers. Thick sweaters, fleece pjs, socks…it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Today, I would like to share with you some of the books I definitely want to read this season. I will update this list as I go along because I’m only putting up 5 books for now. We all know I read more than 5 books in a month, but these are the books that I want to get to first:

  • Brood by Chase Novak is a horror about children that were made in a lab that go feral when they reach a certain age. Apparently, this is the second novel to a series that I’ve not read, but I’m throwing caution to the wind and see how this one will go.
  • Beartown by Fredrik Backman. I picked this up a couple of weeks ago on my thrift store jaunt with my daughter. I love this author but I’m a little intimidated, if a little scared as this one has themes of rape. I’m looking forward to reading it regardless.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This summer, I had the privilege to read A Thousand Splendid Suns by this author. I was awed by how beautifully he described Afghanistan despite the horrors of wars, poverty and violence that his country can’t seem to get away from. This is his debut novel which has won a ton of awards and accolades. Looking forward to this one, even though it’s probably going to hurt just as much.
  • Contagion by Erin Bowman. Now, I haven’t had much luck with Ms. Bowman’s books in the past, but I love these kinds of stories. This one, however, is set in space.
  • Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. The overwhelming response to this book is: “meh, nothing new here, folks”. I still want to read it, though.

So these are the books I’m planning to cozy up to this Fall — among others that are in my TBR, that is. Let me know if you’ve read any of these, and if you’re planning on creating Fall reads list as well.

xoxo

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Listening Library [1]

Hello.

You’ve all heard my recent obsession with my Libby app — the app that has saved my Goodreads reading goals for the last couple of years. Not only does it enable me to read books I wouldn’t otherwise seek out, but it also saves me a few bucks by reading/listening to books before I choose to buy them. Granted, my library only stocks a few of the recent releases, but I still feel giddy when I see an audiobook I want to listen to.

Today, I thought I’d share with you some of the books I’ve downloaded recently. Let me know if you’ve read any of these.

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper | The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes | The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie | My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh


Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper explores why “angry black women” should remain angry.

The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes is an account of Ben Rhodes’ role in the Obama administration as his writer.

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie is a story of an avenging heroine on the quest for gold and well, revenge.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh tells the story of a young woman in the new millennium currently suffering from an emotional and mental malady of sorts. With the company of a psychiatrist, she goes into hibernation mode in an effort to cure herself.

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston | The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani | The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston needs no further introduction. I’ve read this at least 3 times already but I wanted to see what the audio is like so I borrowed it.

The Night Diary by Veera Hirannandani is a story about a 12-year old refugee and her family escaping the escalating violence in Pakistan brought on by India’s separation from Britain.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. Tells the story about roommates who share the same flat on schedule, and who don’t cross paths but somehow are destined to be together. Curiouser and curiouser.

I’m not gonna lie, they all sound good. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find a physical copy or two of these on one of my Hoarders posts in the future.

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[766]: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Christina Lauren

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

Book Review

The writing duo of Christina Lauren hardly disappoints. Apart from Dating You/Dating Me, that is, which I had a tough time getting into because of the characters. Also, Autoboyography which was so good up until that one moment when the broken hearted boy did something so stupid that I can’t even. Sigh. Anyway, they continue to write entertaining romance novels that are funny and sexy. They are also so proficient in witty banters between characters. I guess that’s one of the advantages of being a duo.

In The Unhoneymooners, we meet Olive. A self-proclaimed unlucky soul who can’t catch a break. Unlike her sister who manages to win every single contests she enters. As luck would have it, she wins her entire wedding – including the honeymoon. But throughout her unlucky streak, Olive never once did she feel envious of her twin sister’s lucky draw in life. Their relationship is a loving, supportive one. They have each other’s backs no matter what and will do just about anything for each other.

It is unfortunate that she can’t warm up to her sister’s fiancé and especially to his brother, Ethan. Things has always been contentious since almost to the day they met. For some inexplicable reason, they just grate on each other’s nerves. So when the entire wedding party and guests came down with the worst case of food poisoning, Olive’s luck either turned for the better or worse – depending on who you asked.

Ethan and Olive spends the next week in beautiful, balmy Maui trying not to kill each other and staying out of each other’s way. Unfortunately, fate has another plan. Day by day, their relationship grows from cantankerous to something else entirely. And with every change in the dynamics of their relationship, comes the revelations of the real reason why they can’t stand each other.

I really enjoyed this one. Christina Lauren are authors whose works I repeatedly go back to when I’m in need of an escape. I’ll never tire of them, I don’t think. The Unhoneymooners became just one of their works that I’ll read and reread.

There are a lot to love about Ethan and Olive. The banters, the antics they pull on each other, the way they love each other’s siblings to a fault; and the way they sometimes forget that they hate each other. Olive, despite being plagued with unholy luck, was one of those people who accepts things for what and how they are. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t take steps to somehow change the status quo. In fact, she’ll do just about anything to finally gain employment even as far as to coerce Ethan into faking a marriage. Ethan, on the other hand, also has something to gain by agreeing: to prove to his ex-girlfriend that he’s moved on. (Sidenote: having a free holiday in Maui only to have it spoilt it by seeing your ex with their current flame staying is not my idea of a good time.) Long story short, mishaps ensue. But amongst the comedy of errors was a realization that they were actually good together. And theirs could work if they could only get past all the hang-ups of their past encounters.

The one thing they have in common was how much they love their siblings and to what end they’ll do to protect them. But it’s that instinct that might be detrimental to their pursuing a relationship.

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