Travel reading wrap-up (fall 2022): A batch of mini-reviews — all sorts of love!

I’m back from a one-week trip, which was fabulous… and while I read quite a bit, I don’t have energy just yet to write full-length reviews. So… here’s a quick look at what I read while I was away. Lots of love stories — some dramatic, one that’s utterly silly, and one charmer that includes love, friendship, and pure delight. Read on if you want to know more!


Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory: A steamy story of workplace romance, set amidst the wineries of Napa Valley. Margot Noble, co-owner of a family winery, has a one-night stand with a hot guy she meets at a bar, only to discover the next day that he’s her new employee. The book explores the intense connection and chemistry between Margot and Luke, but also delves into family dynamics, career frustrations and expectations, and issues around honesty and self-awareness. The romance is steamy but also sweet, and I loved the dynamics between Margot and Luke.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Heading Over the Hill by Judy Leigh: I’ve been seeing other bloggers’ rave reviews for Judy Leigh’s books for quite a while now, and finally had the chance to experience one for myself! Pure delight — this is the story of Dawnie and Billy, a married couple in their early seventies, who decide to move to a new town and focus on starting over again, just the two of them. Between his Harley and her colorful wigs, they’re a shock to their conservative neighbors, but soon end up making a huge, positive impact on everyone they encounter. The story is engaging, funny, but also quite heartfelt — there are elements that explores the characters’ sorrows as well as joys, and at one point, it even brought me to tears. Overall, I loved it — and I just wish I had a Dawnie in my life!!

Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto: After having this paperback on my shelf for about a year, I finally picked it up — and I have to say, this is quintessential vacation reading! Super silly, not at all intellectually challenging, and just oodles of fun. When Meddy and her meddlesome aunties get involved in an over-the-top Chinese-Indonesian wedding, they also find themselves dealing with an inconvenient corpse, stolen jewels, and the reappearance of Meddy’s college boyfriend — her one true love and the one who got away. The escapades here are preposterous and outrageously unbelievable… but so much fun to read and laugh over! I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series, Four Aunties and a Wedding.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo: This is the most dramatic and serious of my batch of vacation books — the story of Dunni and Obinna, high school sweethearts with an intense bond who were cruelly separated by their families, as they reunite at a friends’ wedding in Nigeria twelve years later. With alternating timelines showing their present reconnection and the traumatic events of their past, the book gives us a deep understanding of how these two characters ended up where they are. I loved the exploration of the class differences in their society and how their families’ histories influenced how they were treated, as well as the insights into their individual decision-making and struggles. There are some truly painful revelations, as well as lovely moments of connection and understanding. This is a beautiful, sad, complicated story, well worth checking out.

Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

What a week! I enjoyed every book I read… now comes the hard part — deciding what to read next!

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Book Review: The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo

Title: The Sweetest Remedy
Author: Jane Igharo
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: September 28, 2021
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When a woman travels to Nigeria to attend the funeral of the father she never knew, she meets her extravagant family for the first time, a new and inspiring love interest, and discovers parts of herself she didn’t know were missing, from Jane Igharo, the acclaimed author of Ties That Tether.

Hannah Bailey has never known her father, the Nigerian entrepreneur who had a brief relationship with her white mother. Because of this, Hannah has always felt uncertain about part of her identity. When her father dies, she’s invited to Nigeria for the funeral. Though she wants to hate the man who abandoned her, she’s curious about who he was and where he was from. Searching for answers, Hannah boards a plane to Lagos, Nigeria.

In Banana Island, one of Nigeria’s most affluent areas, Hannah meets the Jolades, her late father’s prestigious family–some who accept her and some who think she doesn’t belong. The days leading up to the funeral are chaotic, but Hannah is soon shaped by secrets that unfold, a culture she never thought she would understand or appreciate, and a man who steals her heart and helps her to see herself in a new light. 

In Jane Igharo’s newest novel, family is family, even when least expected.

Hannah is a successful writer living in San Francisco near the single mother who raised her. She’s passionate about her career and her volunteer commitments at a local youth center. She’s also fed up with clueless, entitled men who try to hit on her by commenting on her “exotic” beauty or think it’s flattering to ask her about her ethnicity.

When Hannah attends an upscale cocktail party with her best friend, she’s pretty much over it all, until she meets a lovely man who seems to really see her, but their connection is cut short when he’s called away on something urgent. Soon after, Hannah’s mother shares painful news as well: She’s just been informed that Hannah’s father, a man Hannah met only once in her life, has died suddenly. What’s more, his final request was for Hannah to attend his funeral in Nigeria.

Hannah’s feeling are complicated and painful. She’s always known who her father was — a wealthy, powerful businessman from Nigeria. She’s googled his family and has seen photos of her siblings, none of whom know she exists. She has memories of his one visit to see her in San Francisco, and she knows that he’s always provided financially — and generously — for her… but why did he never actually want her? Why was she never good enough?

With a push from her mother, Hannah agrees to go to Nigeria, and the experience is astounding and life-changing. The Jolade family is not just well-off — they’re extremely wealthy, and their home is a gated estate in the exclusive Banana Island area of Lagos. Hannah learns upon arrival that the family has not been told anything about her, so when she shows up in their midst, their reactions are shock, anger, and resentment.

Still, their father has stipulated that the family must stay at the estate with Hannah until after his funeral or they’ll be cut out of his will, and so begins a two-week period where awkwardness and hostility slowly make way for new connections and emotional exploration.

As Hannah develops relationships with each of her siblings, she gains greater understanding of who her father was, why he made the decision he made, and how she fits into this world that’s so strange to her. Her journey is lovely and thoughtful, and also includes romance, as the man she’d met in San Francisco ends up being important to the Jolade family as well.

I loved reading about Hannah’s experiences, and admired her courage so much. She’s thrust into a world that she knew of as a child, but always viewed as a fairy tale, out of her reach. She describes herself at one point as the child looking through the candy story window, seeing a beautiful world but unable to participate. At the same time, she feels guilty too, not wanting to hurt the mother who devoted herself to her upbringing by embracing a world that she’s not a part of.

The book is mostly told through Hannah’s perspective, but also includes chapters from the points of view of other family members, and this approach really works. It allows us to see the other sides of the story — the emotional upheaval of not only losing your father, but also discovering the deep secret he’s kept, and being forced at the same time to accept a stranger into your midst and treat them as family.

We also see Hannah’s experiences in Nigeria, as she learns to connect with a piece of her own heritage, feeling alien yet finding ways to embrace what Nigeria means to her, and to see beyond the expensive lifestyle she initially encounters to understand the family’s history and deeper connections to the people of Lagos.

The love story is affecting and feels real, but it doesn’t take over or dominate the story. I see this book as much more about identity and family than about the romance, although all these elements come together in a really beautiful way.

The Sweetest Remedy is moving and lovely, with a storyline that’s well-written and evocative, and a main character you can’t help but wish the best for. I really loved this book. Don’t miss it!

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