If I Never Met You By: Mhairi McFarlane :🤔: | Book Review

If I Never Met You
By: Mhairi McFarlane
Genre:Contemporary Romance, Friendship, Relationships, Law Drama
Rating: I liked it
Publisher:HarperCollins Publishers/William Marrow Paperbacks
Release Date: March 24, 2020

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend…

My Thoughts

Hiya, guys.

I’m back again with another book review and thoughts post and today’s book is if I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane.

Highlights & Summary:😃

If I Never Met You, is a book about a successful, smart, beautiful lawyer in her mid-thirties named Laurie.

Laurie who has spent nearly two decades with the same guy, Dan, since college, lives with him and even works at the same law firm. She and her boyfriend have been in a solid, strong, and committed relationship—or so she thought. After a night out with some work friends, Laurie comes home to her committed long-term boyfriend, but he suddenly hits her with the shock of her life. He wants to break up.

Coining the reasoning behind his sudden change of heart is down to the two of them going in different directions. Laurie, thinking he might just be having cold feet (again) with planning to get pregnant attempts to talk him down like she has done several times in the past. But the longer the conversation goes on Laurie begins to realize that Dan isn’t having a midlife crisis, the love of her life (or so she thinks) is really finished with her.

Laurie is obviously devastated; they’ve been living together for so long and he has been the only person she’s ever been with intimately that her world is completely turned upside down.

Not sure how to move forward, Laurie holds onto hope that the pair could reconcile like they’ve done in the past until she realizes Dan has been dishonest about what sparked their breakup. In my opinion, that’s when things really start to get interesting in If I Never Met You.

First off, I will openly admit that the story was an ok read. More like a summer book for light reading because it doesn’t have a page-turning-can’t-press-pause feel to it. And there was a bit of predictability with the development of Laurie’s new relationship that stems from the fake-love to real-love troupe.

However, the elements that really made the story good for me were the dry humor moments in the narrative. And I liked the slow buildup of Jamie and Laurie’s relationship—this is an important thing to note here because the beginning was very slow 😂.

But the slow buildup of their relationship that expanded out from their little “deal” is what makes their chemistry and bond feel more authentic.

And because Jamie and Laurie are perceived as these two extremely different people on the outside, their interactions carried that much more of an impact as we see their lives and hearts change as the story progressed. Especially getting to see Jamie’s true character which was nothing like how Laurie and the rest of their firm perceived him to be.

Least I forget to mention the fact that McFarlane gives us a mature relationship on both a professional and romantic level with these lead characters. (Who share an age difference in Laurie’s favor). It is one that contests against more than just the issues that her ex, Dan has with the pair being together.

And the drama that follows in the workplace was pretty entertaining–I’m talking about you, Michael🙃🙃. Seriously, guys that guy, just…

Personal Pitfalls & Narrative Flags:😬

I want to make it clear to have this section as personal pitfalls and narrative flags as the issues I had with this book may not strike a chord with other readers or fans of this book.

From the beginning, I think that it took me a while to kind of warm-up to Laurie’s character. As I did like Jamie kind of at the start; he was charming, respectful and confident but always vulnerable around Laurie even when she wasn’t aware of it. The dry humor and witty banter structure of their back-and-forth were also things that I liked about this book.

They are elements that are close to my personality and style of interaction.

Likewise, I am not the outlandish, flashy or in your face type of person. I live in a world of sarcasm and being upfront and honest. So, I felt more in sync with her friends Emily and Nadia who by the way this book needed MORE of.

In comparison with the main lead, Laurie. My eyes glazed over the repetitive passages of her going over and over her relationship with Dan especially after it was made clear how repressive and dishonest, he had been in their relationship. I know she loved the guy, but why put up with so much of that nonsense, Laurie? Why?? 😫

Yes, obviously with a relationship as old as theirs Laurie’s character is going to have this abundance of faith in a guy but as the book progresses, those seeds of doubt that she mulls over didn’t just materialize overnight. They were there for several years while they were together, so the logical part of my brain was constantly questioning why would she ignore her instincts, you know?

While I liked the self-reflection Laurie’s character has in this book, it should not have taken Jamie to come in to tell her how powerful and special she was for Laurie to have that “aha” moment. In my opinion, this cheapens her development and character strength because she is lead there by another man while still picking up the pieces of herself from her breakup with Dan. I would have loved it so much if these two elements were kept separate in the narrative and Jamie’s effect on her only highlighted what Laurie came to realize on her own.

Second, the most notable narrative flag for me reading this book was the fact that the lead character is a POC of mixed ethnicity. And unless I am incorrect the author is not a POC, therefore, it lacks the true connection to Laurie’s character when it comes to prejudices, racial comment, stigma, and stereotypes that come with being a person of color.

I do not bring it up often, but it is an element that I will never, ever, ever be ok with and not draw some attention to it. It would be a different thing if her ethnicity was not drawn directly into the story or brought up in such a way that warrants discussion, but it does.

The points of biracial discrepancies and the prejudices on mixed-race all the way down to the texture of her hair were all brought up with Laurie’s backstory. No matter the amount of “research” pursued to pluck these anecdotes from friends’ stories, books or media outlets, etc. In my opinion, if it is something so fundamentally rooted within an entity that you cannot and will not ever have a personal experience with everyday life as a person of color.

Then it’s best not to try to write or imagine up details like that. I don’t care if you must have a co-author come in and write all those POC perspectives for you 😂 it is just something that should be avoided.—I don’t know the editors for this book and if this they even had any influence with this, but I think you get my point by now.

I have read books dealing with POC characters and non-POC authors before (Because lots of people do it) but there was just something about  the way Laurie was presented that made this notch of the narrative stick with me.

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Awaken The Dragon By: A.C. Arthur | Book Review

Awaken The Dragon
By: A.C. Arthur
Genre:Contemporary Fiction,Sci-fi, Fantasy
Rating: It was ok
Publisher: HARLEQUIN – Carina Press

Release Date: Nov 4, 2019

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

He’s sworn to protect the very entity she was born to kill…

Next in line for the Drakon throne, Theo Masters is the most powerful half human, half dragon in the world. Royal power is the last thing he wants, however. He lives as a human and runs the Legion Security Company. But his new client—a mysterious, beautiful human from a small African village—and the unknown danger she faces may forever change the quiet life that he’s chosen.

Shola N’Gara exists to kill the dark spirit that is attempting to demolish her people. It’s her purpose and her destiny. The gorgeous protector who taunts her with his sexy voice and body is not—especially after he shifts into a magnificent black dragon with turquoise eyes.

A rise in demon activity and the brutal murders Theo’s agents have been reporting start to add up. Someone is making a play, and it’s big enough to change the course of the world as they know it. Now Shola must choose between her destiny and her heart. And Theo must decide if standing by the woman he’s fallen in love with is worth facing his father in a battle to the death.

My Overall Thoughts Were Split:

WHAT I LIKED:

Hands down, the best thing about this book is the concept of these supernatural begins and Dragonlike-demigods being in the human realm, the concept of between realms and soul identities(?!! so cool). Moreover, the fact that the characters are mainly made up of people of color and African descent with this blended incorporation of contemporary and older cultural traditions in the story represented mainly with one of the main protagonists, Shola.

All in all, it was definitely something new to me in terms of context and creativity but a lot of the time the book seemed hard to follow because key details were revealed in spotty locations or broken up by Theo and Shola’s clearly palpable, however, oddly random, sexual attraction for one another.

Romance books are still a bit of a learning curve for myself in terms of breaking down the ratio of how much context/story there tends to be in terms of the attention put towards the main couple’s relationship.  This is why I have been trying to read more of them lol,  but the attempt at these two establishing a connection that quickly with just glances felt rushed every time. If it stemmed from general curiosity or a mutual appreciation for the other’s fighter instinct perspective, for instance, then I might have been on board, but the ship seemed to sail without me.

WHAT PUT ME OFF:

While I liked the mixed elements of the supernatural world and beings coming into play within this story, by the end of the book I did not think the mixing of magic, vampires and Dragonlike-demigods/beings worked well together.

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Destination Wedding By: Jacqueline J. Holness | Book Review

Destination Wedding
By: Jacqueline J. Holness
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Friendship, Relationships, Personal Growth
Rating: It was ok
Publisher: Soon Comes Books
Release Date: Dec 3, 2019

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

Three successful best friends in Atlanta believe they are thriving in the Black Mecca. Bossy bank executive Senalda breaks down men from business to bed no holds barred. Hip hop PR guru Jarena praises the Lord and pursues married men with equal persistence. Famous and infamous radio personality Mimi fights with her fans and for the love of her on-and-off-again boyfriend.

But when an ABC News Nightline report, “Single, Black, Female — and Plenty of Company,” asks why can’t a successful black woman find a man? The friends are suddenly hyper-aware of their inclusion in the sad statistic: 42% of black women who have never been married. Like the women in the report, they are career-driven, beautiful black women living in Atlanta who have everything — but a mate. They resolve to defy the statistic by marrying in a year and have it all by tackling their goal as a project with a vision board, monthly meetings, and more. Project Destination Wedding is born. A “happily married” best friend Whitney is a project consultant.

But as the deadline ticks closer, the women wonder if they can withstand another year of looking for love in the media-proclaimed no-man’s land of Atlanta. Senalda wrests a marriage proposal from the male version of herself, but the proposal comes simultaneously with a devastating secret. Jarena unleashes hell when her call to ministry coincides with dating her married college sweetheart. Mimi faces losing her career and jail time chasing her boyfriend and marries another man in the process. Whitney’s power couple profile plummets when her husband, a pornography addict, announces he would rather pursue photography than be an MD.

Inspired by an actual Nightline report, Destination Wedding charts four women’s journeys as they discover that love is not an experiment easily confined to a timetable.

 

My Thoughts

Despite my ill-favored thoughts on this book at the present, I do think it is a book that I will re-read in the future due to the possibility that I might be able to connect with its context on a more personal level. Moreover, I will say that the tones of the popular TV shows Sex and The City, and Girlfriends were fairly prominent in the story as we got to know the main characters, Senalda, Whitney, Jarena and Mimi, in this book better.

While I liked the concept and motivation behind this book, I could not fully get into the story. Regardless of how much we learn about each of the main characters and the struggles within their love and personal lives. I do love that this book is about these powerful, even insecure but strong-spirited women of color trying to pursue the best aspects of their lives as well as love. They are quirky, mouthy, smart, sassy and vulnerable at time, making them that much more relatable.

Besides the hook for the story’s synopsis, I remember hearing about the statistic and the primetime piece that sparked the inspiration for this book a few years back and was intrigued to read the author’s approach.

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Most Ardently By: Susan Mesler-Evans | Book Review

Most Ardently
By: Susan Mesler-Evans
Genre:Contemporary Fiction,YA Fiction, Retelling, LGBT Fiction
Rating: It was ok.
Publisher: Entangled: Embrace
Release Date: October 21, 2019

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

Elisa Benitez is proud of who she is, from her bitingly sarcastic remarks, to her love of both pretty boys and pretty girls. If someone doesn’t like her, that’s their problem, and Elisa couldn’t care less. Particularly if that person is Darcy Fitzgerald, a snobby, socially awkward heiress with an attitude problem and more money than she knows what to do with.

From the moment they meet, Elisa and Darcy are at each other’s throats — which is a bit unfortunate, since Darcy’s best friend is dating Elisa’s sister. It quickly becomes clear that fate intends to throw the two of them together, whether they like it or not. As hers and Darcy’s lives become more and more entwined, Elisa’s once-dull world quickly spirals into chaos in this story of pride, prejudice, and finding love with the people you least expect.

My Thoughts

For me, this book was ok. I think this is the type of book for anyone not familiar or who hasn’t read Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice to be honest. Trying to be as abstract as possible here without giving too much away (as it is technically a re-telling) I will try to stick to the things I liked about the characters and the overall tone.

First, I love that the main characters include people of color and taken out of the context of this re-telling, I know that there is another book titled Pride that came out a few years ago that does the same thing, but I haven’t made it to that one—yet.

Getting back to Most Ardently, our main character, Elisa, in this book has strong opinions about those around her. But at the same time, her character came off as a bit timid and shy while around new people and in school. Her counterpart, Darcy, on the other hand, seemed to carry that same level of indifference that we expect from the archetype of the character. And while I actually expected this, I cannot be sure if that was more upsetting, getting what I expected instead of a character more relaxed, friendly and sociable.

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Louisiana Catch by: Sweta Srivastava Vikram | Book Review

Louisiana Catch
By: Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Genre: Domestic Abuse, Drama, Self-Esteem, Personal Growth
Rating: 4 stars
Publisher: Modern History Press
Release Date: April 10,2018

IndieBound | Amazon | B&N |

Synopsis:
Ahana, a wealthy thirty-three-year-old New Delhi woman, flees the pain of her mother’s death, and her dark past, by accepting a huge project in New Orleans, where she’ll coordinate an Annual Conference to raise awareness of violence against women. Her half-Indian, half-Irish colleague and public relations guru, Rohan Brady, who helps Ahana develop her online presence, offends her prim sensibilities with his raunchy humor. She is convinced that he’s a womanizer. Meanwhile, she seeks relief from her pain in an online support group, where she makes a good friend: the mercurial Jay Dubois, who is also grieving the loss of his mother. Her work in the U.S. and the online medium bring the two men into her life, and Ahana learns that neither is what he seems. With their differing sensibilities on a collision course, Ahana finds herself in a dangerous situation—and she discovers a side of herself that she never realized she had.

Louisiana Catch is an emotionally immersive novel about identity, shame, and who we project ourselves to be in the world. It’s a book about Ahana’s unreliable instincts and her ongoing battle to determine whom to place her trust in as she, Rohan, and Jay shed layers of their identities.

As Ahana matures from a victim of domestic sexual abuse into a global feminist leader, she must confront her issues, both with the men in her life and, ultimately, with her own instincts. Whom can she rely on to have her best interests at heart?

 

My Thoughts

In a nutshell, Louisiana Catch centers around a woman, Ahana, who has completely lost her self. She just got out of a marriage that has caused her to break down due not only to the downward glances of those in society but also due to a secret she has never told anyone. Her ex-husband was emotional controlling and both physically and sexually abusive. The domestic abuse in Ahana’s marriage from her ex-husband still lingers around everything in her life.

And while she has the support and guidance of her strong, smart and independent mother to fall back on, that over-protectiveness and sheltered world Ahana allows her mother to place her in, only continues to hinder her. I loved Ahana’s mother; it was clear she was well respected, sweet, kind and knew her worth, but following along Ahana’s journey without her, other readers might pick up on how much influence she really had in her daughter’s life.

When we are introduced to Ahana’s character, she’s stuck at a mid-point in where she is unsure of how and in which direction to move forward in her life and unable to face or talk about her marriage and the sexual abuse.

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Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me by: Nnanna Ikpo | Review (+Author Interview)

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me
By: Nnanna Ikpo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, LGBT, Human Rights, Cultural
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: April 20,2017
Publisher: Team Angelica
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis:

Olawale and Oluwole are dreadlocked Yoruba lawyers, minority human rights activists fighting for a better Nigeria. Bisexual and closeted, Olawale has spent his adult life protecting and defending his charismatic, more evidently homosexual twin; but when the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act becomes law, they, their family, and the women who love them are caught in a savage spotlight that threatens to wreck all their lives. In the midst of this Wole and Wale must deal with an estranged convict father whose unexpected reappearance brings dark and troubling family secrets to light.

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever celebrates the enduring power of love, desire, faith, patriotism and human rights struggle in the face of political oppression and religious prejudice in Nigeria today. It extends the literary conversation begun by Jude Dibia and continued by Chinelo Okparanta.

 

Book Review:

This book was incredible. Although largely aimed at an African audience, I recommend this book for the LGBTQI+ community; its supporters, human rights activists, and readers who enjoy moving, compelling, and resonating narratives that leave inspired conversation. The content in this book covers strong political, social, cultural, and religious oppression and life-threatening situations that contradict the early to late 2000s following the pass of the SSMPA (Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act) in 2014 time frame that the book covers.

It is impossible to fathom some of the information the author reveals about the treatment of members, supporters and suspected LGBT individuals in Nigeria, but the accounts are real. Yet, so intricately woven in between these scenes are Wole and Wale, two queer brothers who actively use their skills and connections to push a wave of hope and peace to the otherwise vastly secretive gay community that is forced even further into hiding following SSMPA.

I have mentioned before how first person narration was not always my favorite to read, but with some of the books I have read recently, I am beginning to believe that it is not exactly true. Just with the prologue discussing the attack on a gay club in Nigeria and the criminalization of the victims, the reader is given a small glimpse of how regressive, from a Western point of view; a majority of the country is still today.

With that said, it is important to note how well the author delivers not only the political and religious perspectives of ‘traditional’ Nigeria, but also the progressive, forward thinking and widely read opinions of the population. The author does not offer the stereotypical narrative of closeted homosexuals or queer men who are constantly afraid of speaking out, pushing back or fighting for what is right.

Even with the threat of danger ever present in this book from beginning to end, Nnanna Ikpo presents his readers with the most realistic and relatable account of contemporary, queer Nigerian men doing what they can to make a difference for their community in the best way they know how.

Told mainly through Wale’s eyes, the reader experiences a strong complexity when it comes to the gay community because his character is bisexual. Wale stands behind his and his brother’s cause and work, but seems to often find himself struggling with his sexuality because on a deeper level he feels he’s a hypocrite. While at the same time knows that if he does not play the role of the heterosexual male just fighting for human rights of Nigeria’s minorities, real change may never come.

It is also clear that Wale is motivated by his love for his twin brother, Wole. Though focused on Wale, the author does a wonderful job of painting the clear lines that distinguish the two brothers, regardless of how forward thinking and similar they both are.

Wale seems to have a stronger resolve throughout the narrative than Wole about their decision to keep their sexuality a secret, but at times the author gives the reader a small glimpse of the sadness that lies just beneath Wole’s upbeat and outgoing personality that Wale is always attuned to. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave It To Me, presents a story about love, family, life, hope, equality, community, politics, religion and culture that is so immaculately structured it was difficult to put it down.

One of the moving things about this book, and I could have interpreted it wrong, was there seemed to be a theme of forgiveness with this sense of determination to keeping forward projected with Wale’s perspective. Almost an ambiguous way of expressing that love and perseverance will eventually win-out over hate.

Each chapter opens and closes with a letter or an email and closed with a poem that signifies this ever-continuous foreboding sense of optimistic love and loss that pulls the reader into the chapter.

Like me, I think readers will fall in love with the way Nnanna Ikpo keeps the discussion on human rights consistent and open throughout this book. Connected to Wale’s deep love and pride for being Nigerian, a Christian, and a bisexual man who even, in the end, holds on to the possibility of a better future where there will be change leaves us all hopeful.

 

 

Author Interview:

First off, thank you so much for allowing this brief Q&A. I deeply appreciate it. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever is a truly wonderful book.

Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but the title itself, Fimí sílẹ̀, which is referenced in the book, roughly translated from Yoruba means “leave me alone.” What was your inspiration behind the title?

Your translation is in order. The first inspiration for the title was the popular hit track ‘Olufunmi’ by my all-time favourite boy-band Styl-plus, and reflects a longing to explore my Yoruba roots.

I guess my next question counts as a broad, creative writing process question in regards to the book. One of the key shifting points in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was the passing of the SSMPA in early 2014, so was that when the concept for the story came to life or were you already writing the book? If so, how long did completing the book take?

The basic premise of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever came early in 2013. In my initial thoughts, the story would, among other things, be written predictively to show how ugly things could get if the bill became law. Months into writing the first draft, SSMPA was enacted. My anger at this hugely affected the rest of the writing and rewriting process. Our final draft of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever emerged in December 2016. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever took roughly four years.

How were the poems at the end of each chapter inspired?

While pieces like ‘Eka aro my love’, ‘Beni Perhaps’ and ‘Oremi Alhaji’ were inspired by personal experiences of real people and places, occasionally even scenarios from Nollywood films, others arose from the independent evolution of the plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever and their interaction with each other.

Do you have a favorite character or scene from this book? Or a least favorite?

This is a difficult question. The plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever were carefully crafted to capture and evoke multiple symbols, ideas, thoughts, dreams and places both real and imagined. All the characters have their merits (and demerits) and are not in competition with each other – and should never be made to be so. Every part of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was thought out and deliberated upon by me and informed by others, some of whom were unconsciously part of the creative process. As such I do not have a favourite character, scene, or least favourite one. They are all important parts of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever’s big picture, and I think necessary.

The book is so rich with character depth and complex narrative layers that keep the reader emerged in the story as the layers slowly unravel. Therefore, I was curious about how much inspiration you took from real life for some of the characters and the strong discussions that take place in this book, i.e. the discussion that takes place at K.U. between the faculty members and Wale and his students for example.

Thank you! Real people and their dynamics in learning and working spaces may differ in form but are substantially similar everywhere, so in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever, I simply dragged all these people from the several real spaces I have had access to, dropped them into fictitious classrooms and offices and let them deal with each other. Creativity, imagination, editing and rewriting helped me to layer and colour debates.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring Nigerian writers or just writers of the LGBT community who might want to share their stories and continue to bring awareness to the rigid system struggle they are battling?

It is often tricky to advise other writers, even when our primary aim is the same or similar. We have our varying methods, contexts and journeys, and often are strangers to each other. What I have is not so much advice but a salutation, and cognisance of the fact that our work is important and more than that, necessary. And because our art is mostly ‘queer’ and therefore subversive, it may attract more hostility than acclaim. It may not change the world – at least not hugely – but it will not leave it the same, inshallah.

 

Nnanna also runs a personal blog, Letters To My Africa here and you can also follow him on twitter.

This book was truly amazing and even with this review, I do not think I give it enough justice. It is highly recommended. Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my review for  Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me.

Until the next post,

 

Gia.
Other piece(s) to check out I found that related to some of the perspectives in the book: Tell Me Where I Can Be Safe

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