My 2018 Best 12 Reads

2018 was a good year in books for me as I finally started this blog which was a way to journal about the books I read. This has  grown to become a platform for book reviews, my poetry and travel experiences and I am grateful to God and all of you who have encouraged me to carry on with this.

Most of the 24 books I read in 2018 were really worth the while but some are really unforgettable. Here are my best 12 reads of 2018 (in no particular order) with my reviews on each of them. If you are looking for a good book to put your feet up and read, this list may be of good use to you.

  1. Before We Were Yours by Lisa WingateBefore we were yours by Lisa Wingate                          My Thoughts: This is a book that everyone should read! Captivating, emotional and revealing. For me, this book clearly shows that human beings are the same everywhere in the world, some have just evolved to better ways earlier than others. Being from a third world country, stories about illegal adoptions, orphanage scams and child trafficking is not strange at all but to know that these things also happened and is probably still happening in the western world, not to black people but to white folk was shocking to read. Also, the way and manner these crimes were committed, tearing families apart against their will and the trauma hundreds of children had to go through as they were literarily stolen from their parents is heart breaking. Even the ‘rich people’ who adopted these children were also scammed as most often than not, they were told these children were orphans whose parents had died or mentally ill or had willingly given them up for adoption. It was a huge lie on every side. However, I love the way the writer kept me spell bound, taking me through two generations of Foss children, how their love for each other and God’s grace upon their lives led them to reunite and enjoy their lives together. I have learnt from this story that the heart most of the time never forgets true love and family no matter what but even then we should always live in the moment and not in our past hurts and disappointments, we should be grateful for the good that God gives us. As Rill Foss said in this book “Life is not unlike cinema. Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we do not understand. No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment. I let go of the river’s song and found the music of the big house. I found room for a new life, a new mother who cared for me and a new father who patiently taught me not only how to play music, but how to trust. He was as good a man as ever I’ve known. Oh, it was never like the Arcadia, but it was a good life. We were loved, cherished and protected”. This book was the Goodreads (www.goodreads.com) Choice 2017 Winner! it is that good. I recommend this book to all historical fiction lovers and all book lovers………..

 

2. Once Upon a First Love by Tope Omotosho

img_4598

My Thoughts: I set out to read a love story. A happily ever after of pure and innocent first love that blossomed into something real. Something I could relate to. I am married to my first love, we met when I was sixteen and he was nineteen. Just like Peju and Abdul, we broke up for a while and got back together knowing that we were heading for a happily ever after as we had dreamt and promised each other when we were teenagers. . Even as Peju’s story and challenges differed from mine in certain ways (as my husband and I married as Christians), I found them the same as in the end we both discovered who our first love really is. For Peju, it was the fact that she had to choose between obeying God’s command about marriage and her own desires, for me it was thinking that my husband’s love was enough for me and putting his love on a pedestal that only God’s love can exist . I believed that our love could conquer any storm but learnt through the years that only God’s love can stand through the test of time. That only God can love you completely even when you are at your worst and that it is only He that sustains a marriage and life itself. This story is so complete that I can never do justice to stating how I feel. I loved all the characters and how their lives and experiences reflected God’s undying love for us and his constant desire to have us close to him. Eliana’s character is one I would hope for my daughters to have, God fearing and obedient but honest and always trusting God’s will in her life. Not wanting my thoughts to be a spoiler for you all, I will summarize the entire story with Peju’s last thoughts “”Her first love was not the one who she had loved since her secondary school but the one who had loved her even before she was born. The one who had seen her through the pain of the last month. The one who is love himself. She couldn’t believe she had given God up just because of her love for Abdul. That she should deny Jesus because of an old flame. It was almost like nailing him on the cross all over again and joining the Jews to chant for his death and crucifixion. Yes, she loved Abdul but he wasn’t her everything. He wasn’t who she was going to give up everything for”. I was reminded of many fundamental things in my relationship with Christ and my daily work with God. I am grateful I read this story and I urge everyone to read it. It will put things in perspective for you. It will help you know where to go to fill that emptiness in your soul that no man or woman can fill. In as much as I still have a couple of books to go before this year ends, I doubt if any of them will impact on my life as this one has but you never know, right? Congratulations to Tope Omotosho on this great book. I look forward to reading other titles from her.

3. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians

My Thoughts: I bought this book on a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, USA in May 2018 when I was attending a professional conference for geoscientists (I bought two Kevin Kwan books as I realized the book had a sequel). I had been looking for a new author with a somewhat different style of writing from what I am usually used to. On my last trip to the US in April, 2018 (Houston. Texas) I had noticed this book on the shelves of most of the bookshops I visited especially at the airports and on this trip it wasn’t different. I decided to read some of the reviews on the book and they were all screaming “Read the Book”!
Crazy Rich Asians was as great as the reviews made the book to be and as a great sucker for historical fiction, it gave me a good education on Asians in general and the region which up until reading this book I had very little knowledge of their different diverse cultures and lifestyle. I loved the way the author wrote the book with all the Singaporean slags and the translations at the bottom of the page. It was quite witty, entertaining and sometimes outrageous but at the end of the day, Singapore is now in my bucket list of vacation destinations (I think I will just add Thailand and Malaysia).

P/s I also saw the movie and it was a good representation of the book.

4. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

China Rich Girlfriend

My Thoughts: Having read ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ the first book in the sequel and “Rich People Problems’ which is the last book, my expectations were honestly not so high as I felt that I had already gotten the general gist behind the entire story and this would just be to fulfil all righteousness but little did I know that I was in for a wild ride. The story centered around Racheal’s trip to China accompanied by her husband Nicholas after their “forbidden by family” wedding in California. Rachael’s hope was to reunite with her father and his family but was swept into a whirlwind of events that will make you laugh until you fall off your bed. From the first page to the last, I was highly entertained by the high society of Hong Kong and Beijing, with Collette Bing’s craziness especially with her catch phrases such as “I don’t understand. How can a credit card ever be rejected? It’s not like it’s a kidney!” ( when she was told her credit card had been rejected and didn’t know her father had blocked all her funds) and Eleanor Young (Nicholas’ mother) being the Eleanor we know continued to frustrate Nicholas with phrases like ““What do you mean, ‘boundaries?’ You came out of my vagina. What kind of boundaries do we have?”. Eddie Cheng, one of my favorite characters in the other two books also featured here and didn’t disappoint to entertain me. Reading this book was like reuniting with family after sometime apart and catching up on events I missed. Kevin Kwan is an witty, entertaining writer and I recommend not just this book but the trilogy – Crazy rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems for your enjoyment. You may also wish to plan to see the movie ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ which will be out in Cinemas’ August 15th, 2018. Get your copies and read pleaseeee

5. Rich People Problem by Kevin Kwan

Rich people problems

My Thoughts: As I started reading this book, I realized that it is the last book of a three books sequel. Having read ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ (the first book), it was not too much of a gap when I read ‘Rich People Problems’. Quite humorous, entertaining and informative to mention a few ways to describe this book. I will definitely go and get the middle book ‘Rich China Girlfriend’. Kevin Kwan has surely made an impression on me and I will say I have found a new author to follow.

6. Stay with Me by Abayomi AdebayoStay with me

My Thoughts: My first reaction when I read the publisher’s blurb for this book was “This is probably the usual stereotypic story of a married woman who faced adversity due to her inability to have children” but my colleague, Ozoz (visit her blog, http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com) who gave me the book, encouraged me to read it as she raved about the book. She had marked and folded most of the pages like I would mark the pages of my bible and I thought “this can’t be that serious”. However, I was in for a big surprise as I was overwhelmed with a rollercoaster of emotions reading this intense story of love, innocence, betrayal, deceit and the burdens of the life of being a Nigerian or African woman. I loved the simplicity of the way the story was told and how fluid one event spurn into another. Abayomi has written a book that has spoken to me especially as a mother of two young girls to educate them properly in the ways of the world, particularly in matters concerning marriage and men. Unfortunately for Yejide, she had no mother to teach her and her husband cleverly ensured that she did not have any close friends to confide in or to get wise council. The level of her naivety in my opinion is not acceptable, however, this is a reality even in this day and age. I would recommend this book to all my friends.

P/s This book literarily birthed this blog. I read this book and I thought, I don’t want to ever forget this story and I need to put my thoughts in a journal. Here we are…..

7. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

born a crime

My Thoughts: I have been a fan of Trevor Noah since I discovered him on television and I think he is a fantastic comedian. A friend of mine told me about this book and how she was laughing her head off reading it so I immediately ordered for a copy cos I wanted to have the same experience even though I am strictly a fiction girl.This wasn’t totally the case when I actually read the book. Yes it was hilarious but it was more of dark humor for me as I was at so many points shocked at the things that took place during the apartheid era in South Africa. I loved his love and relationship with his mother and admired her courage to break barriers even in the harsh environment. Most times she seemed more like a friend to him but when she was a mother, she was a great one giving him tough love and advise like – I quote, “I know you see me as some crazy old bitch nagging at you, but you forget the reason I ride you so hard and give you so much shit is because I love you. Everything I have ever done I’ve done from a place of love. If I don’t punish you, the world will punish you even worse. The world doesn’t love you. If the police get you, the police don’t love you. When I beat you, I’m trying to save you, when they beat you, they are trying to kill you”. That was pretty intense and I hope to sit my teenage daughter down and say exactly this to her so she understands why a mother does what she does to keep her children safe. I grew up thinking I knew a lot about how the black South Africans suffered under apartheid, I even joined South African students in secondary school (Some were sent to school in Nigeria) to sing freedom songs, I mean I watched the movie about Nelson Mandela too but little did I know that I barely knew the real struggles black South Africans faced. Trevor Noah’s story is an eye opener for me on different levels. I now have great empathy for black South Africans and the Zenophobia issues facing them (though there is no excuse to kill another human being) and I feel like I know them, I feel their pain and their struggles even today. I am now really pumped up to visit South Africa and I am hoping I would get the opportunity to do so soon. I highly recommend this book to all my friends, get a copy and enjoy.

8. The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

The book of memory

My Thoughts: This book has tarried long on my reading list for quite a number of months and I am so glad I picked it amongst the last five books to read before this year comes to a close. First of all, this book is so well written, easy to read and utterly descriptive. Memory could have been Nigerian for all I care and Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison one of the many prison facilities in Nigeria. African countries are so alike, its almost disturbing…. I could relate to Memory’s story on so many levels so much that I found humor in this sad but interesting narrative. This book, in one story was able to touch on so many issues such as racism, adoption, love, forgiveness, stigmatization, discrimination, politics and the decay of government facilities/infrastructure in Zimbabwe (Africa as a whole I would say). From the prison wardens, Synodia, Mathilda and Loveness to the inmates, Verity, Jimmy and Beulah, each character had a story to tell in the story. Memory’s life after she went to live with Lloyd was a blessing but still complicated as all things in life and yet most people envied her life with Llyod thinking it was a bed of roses with a cherry on top. In her journal Memory wrote” She does not understand how someone who once lived in such a mansion can so calmly sleep on a mattress on the floor of a prison cell or eat bread with green mould on it. I would like to tell her that poverty holds no terrors for me, because I have known it and I have conquered it. I want to tell her, but I am not sure she will understand it, that even the big mansions hold their secret miseries. I would like to tell her that they hold more of them because there is more room for them”.
In the end as always, I learnt a lot. I have learnt again, to be slow to pass judgement even on things that I see and I have evidence because sometimes, things are not always how they seem to be. If not, like Memory, you would spend your whole life believing something that wasn’t true and by the time you find out, it may be too late. From the book I quote memory again, ” My mind keeps going back to that memory of seeing Llyod hand over the bills, a false memory on which I have built the foundation of my life, or to put it more accurately, a true memory from which I have made false assumptions”.
I loved reading this book, please get a copy and read it. It will make you sad, laugh, cry and think hard. Enjoy……

9. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

This is how you lose her

My Thoughts: I wasn’t supposed to read this book at all. My husband and I hardly ever read the same type of books as our tastes in books are poles apart but when our book orders were delivered three days ago and we both took out our books from the box, he said “I would like you to read the last short story in this book I ordered. I thought, ‘oh well, its just a few pages, let’s see what this is about’ so I read this ‘story’ and found myself reading the book backwards, one short story after another until it was over and I still felt like I needed more ( I didn’t want it to end, really!). This is my first introduction to the author and I would say I love his writing. I must admit I didn’t like some (a few) of the short stories basically because of the constant use of profanity but the stories were so real and touching that I could connect to a lot of the characters on different levels. I particularly loved the writer’s style of switching from English to Spanish with reckless abandon even if I don’t understand Spanish, it just made everything original. Also, as most of the stories were cited in the New Jersey area, I felt as if I knew some of the characters or I had driven past them around Elizabeth or Union (My mother’s two sisters live in the New Jersey area and I visit them quite often so I am familiar with the names of most of the cities because I am always out and about). This book also drove home the difficulties immigrants face when they arrive in the USA and gave a very realistic picture of the hardships and sacrifices people make to live away from home. I was educated about the Dominican Republic and was able to get a feel of their culture and people. Yunior, the main character in the book and his brother, Rafa drove me crazy with all their craziness and my best character could be Magda (I think). If you love short stories, you must read this book asap! I am currently waiting in line for my husband to finish reading ‘The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’ by the same author which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Award. I can now get back to my own books….

10. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The brief wondrous life of oscar wao

My Thoughts: I wasn’t supposed to read this book at all. My husband and I hardly ever read the same type of books as our tastes in books are poles apart but when our book orders were delivered three days ago and we both took out our books from the box, he said “I would like you to read the last short story in this book I ordered. I thought, ‘oh well, its just a few pages, let’s see what this is about’ so I read this ‘story’ and found myself reading the book backwards, one short story after another until it was over and I still felt like I needed more ( I didn’t want it to end, really!). This is my first introduction to the author and I would say I love his writing. I must admit I didn’t like some (a few) of the short stories basically because of the constant use of profanity but the stories were so real and touching that I could connect to a lot of the characters on different levels. I particularly loved the writer’s style of switching from English to Spanish with reckless abandon even if I don’t understand Spanish, it just made everything original. Also, as most of the stories were cited in the New Jersey area, I felt as if I knew some of the characters or I had driven past them around Elizabeth or Union (My mother’s two sisters live in the New Jersey area and I visit them quite often so I am familiar with the names of most of the cities because I am always out and about). This book also drove home the difficulties immigrants face when they arrive in the USA and gave a very realistic picture of the hardships and sacrifices people make to live away from home. I was educated about the Dominican Republic and was able to get a feel of their culture and people. Yunior, the main character in the book and his brother, Rafa drove me crazy with all their craziness and my best character could be Magda (I think). If you love short stories, you must read this book asap! I am currently waiting in line for my husband to finish reading ‘The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’ by the same author which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Award. I can now get back to my own books….

11. The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher

The Silent Wife

My thoughts: I stumbled on this book by accident on amazon. I read the reviews and decided to give it a go as I am still looking for new interesting authors. This is a book that held me spellbound from the first page to the end, surely the type you can not put down when you start reading it. The story of two women, married to two brothers, both as second wives. Massimo, the older brother seemed like the husband of everyone’s dreams, Lara his wife was envied by all for having the most charming, handsome husband ever. But only Lara knows the truth about her marriage and the secrets within it. Maggie on the other hand is married to Nico the younger brother who is a widower with a teenage daughter. She has a hard time trying to measure up with the “image” of the dead wife and trying to justify herself that she did not marry Nico because of he was well-off. AS Nigerians would say, Lara and Massimo’s marriage was a case of ” The more you look, the less you see” and this is a perfect example of never judging anything from the outside. The secrets behind Massimo’s charm and smiles cuts deeper than I could have ever imagined. Maggie who also had a son from a previous relationship and seemed the unsuitable match for Nico (as their mother Anne expressly communicated at every opportunity) turned out to be the focal point in the Farenelli family circle as she helps Lara to stand up for herself and eventually walk away from the lies and abuse she had endured for so long. Written with a lot of heart and wittiness, Kerry Fisher has won my heart with this book. I am purposely not saying too much about this story to avoid any spoiler comments. Just go out there and get this book! It’s delicious and I am looking to buy other books written by this author.

12. The Not So Perfect Mother by Kerry Fisher

The not so perfect Mother

The Not So Perfect Mother by Kerry Fisher

My Thoughts: Kerry Fisher is the new author I have been looking for……. After reading ‘The Silent Wife” a few months ago, I have plunged into buying her books with reckless abandon and with no regrets. Maia’s story is the story of a modern day Cinderella but with laughs on almost every page. Her life with her partner Colin is one so common with so many women who remain stuck in relationships that they have ended a long time ago. Maia was lucky to be given an opportunity to better the life of her kids when an old client passed on and willed money for her two kids to attend the prestigious Stirling Hall School. Not having enough money or cleaning jobs to put food on the table or keep her creditors away, she still struggled to try to give her kids the best. Fitting into the Stirling Hall School crowd was tough but thanks to friends like Clover who accepted and befriended her and the handsome Mr Peters who loved her. A romantic comedy which has well balanced funny, happy and sad moments with a happy ending but not for everyone especially Colin. The great thing about this book is the humor on almost every page and the truth about life that comes with it. I will definitely be reading quite a number of Kerry Fisher books in the new year and I recommend that you do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


4 thoughts on “My 2018 Best 12 Reads

  1. Great reviews! #1 and #7 are both on or going on my list. If you want more African women’s literature check out the great Buchi Emecheta’s books–she wrote in the 70s and 80s but most are timeless. She writes both of women in Africa and as immigrants in the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

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