What I Am Reading

My thoughts on books, comics, literary magazines, anthologies, genres that I am currently reading and adding to the Amethyst Saw Library.

What books to read?

NOW THAT EXAMS ARE OVER..

This is a question I’m sure law students around Nigeria are asking themselves as they wait for Law School resumption. Or maybe not just them but you and I.  Although, I was on a study curfew, thoughts of what I’d read after exams were like therapeutic bites of silky, white chocolate squares. That’s until Tomiwa of Naija Girl on a Budget shared her thoughts on The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives and Crazy Rich Asians on her whatsapp status. It was a thrilling reminder of what I’d been denying myself–book lust, travel and wonder.

Asides reviewing the lessons life’s been teaching this September you can read these recommended books.

CLASSICS

I feel that some classics are classics for a reason. They’ll outlive us.-Atoke

Once upon a time works by Chinua Achebe, Buchi Emecheta  and Wole Soyinka were considered literary gold and classics. Yeah, that era hasn’t faded but there are now works which have become classics on their own.  Reading not so popular books by classic Nigerian novelists is never a bad idea. My insta-babe, ENKAY, took No Longer At Ease as her Tarkwa Bay weekend gateaway read. She said it’s Chinua’s most boring book. But I’m not here to recommend boring books.

  • The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin was my Cross River Tour read in December 2017. This book had me laughing out loud at the back of the travel senna speeding by fragrant cocoa and palm plantations on state highways..gosh! the irony. If you haven’t read it, it comes highly recommended. This story of Bolanle and her senior wives coded but dramatic lives is now a classic.
  • The Concubine by Elechi Amadi was one of the novels I read when I was reading old Nigerian books back in May. I thoroughly enjoyed this pre-colonial Nigerian lovers’ story tormented by mischievous gods and people and its unbelievable end.
  • Zara the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning children’s afrifuturistic novel about self love, discovery, adventure and alternate universes.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was my second all time favourite romance novel as at August 2017. Its a moving tale of love lost and found in Latin America.
  • Independence by Sarah Manyika is that purple covered novel for Jamb’s Use of English. Its a story of love spanning decades, life, Nigeria’s birth and living with choices we make. A brilliant debut novel by one of my favourite female Nigerian writers.

BESTSELLERS

A few books that ranked and stayed bestsellers. There is a reason everyone, including me, has been delighted by their stories. Some of the one’s you should enjoy now?

  • Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo. Ayobami Adebayo’s profound tale of Yejide and Akin Ajayi’s marriage will stay with you. With its engaging themes of love, desperation, loss, infidelity, family interference, loneliness and insecurity.
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi has stayed 25 weeks on the New York Bestselling List. Its a Young Adult Fantasy novel. Its the heart-trumping narration of Zelie quest to bring back magic to her homeland.
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan  is just as hilarious, motivating, outlandish, shocking like its trailer. But with more mystery underneath the glamour and madness. This novel was ranked one of the most overhyped books on bookstagram. Its adaptation is showing in Lagos cinemas. Reading this is wayy better lah! While you are at it, read the other two books in the trilogy; China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems. My book squad didn’t hear a thing until they’d read it. What? I couldn’t stop talking tormenting them about this trilogy.
  • Born A Crime by Trevor Noah has become one of the best selling memoirs in Nigeria since its release. Trevor Noah narrates growing up in apartheid South Africa.

“We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”- Trevor Noah, Born A Crime.

NEW BOOKS

So you’d like new books ehn? Okay..here are some

  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born with one foot on the other side. It was my give-away novel for the blog’s first year anniversay.
  • An Abundance of Scorpions by Hadiza Isma El-Rufia charts one woman’s journey through grief and uncertainty to a road that leads to self discovery, redemption and love. I saw this novel first on Dasience’s bookstagram review post.
  • The Chibok Girls by Helon Habila; 4 years after 276 girls disappeared from a secondary school in northern Nigeria, kidnapped by the world’s deadliest terror group, Boko Haram. A tiny number escaped back to their families but almost two hundred remain missing. Reporting from inside the traumatized and blockaded community of Chibok, Helon Habila tracks down the survivors and the bereaved.(description from Rovingheights)
  • HOLD by Michael Donkor; Moving between Ghana and London, Hold is an intimate, moving, powerful coming-of-age novel. It’s a story of friendship and family, shame and forgiveness; of learning what we should cling to, and when we need to let go.
  • She Called Me Woman plumbs the depth of what it feels to be queer, a woman, and Nigerian, by revealing these realities via 25 raw, blatant, and intimate stories told in the first-person. This collection is edited by Azeenarh Mohammed, Chitra Nagarajan and Rafeeat Aliyu. (description from Brittle Paper)
  • +234 An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian by Atoke is an introduction to the Nigerian lifestyle and a reintrduction for Nigerians.

“If I find a book tedious, I’ll dump it. Life is too short and there are so many sweet books to read. The time available to read books  is so short – especially as an adult.”-Atoke.

SELF HELP, CAREER AND BUSINESS BOOKS

Did you think I was only going to give you fiction recommendations?

  • A Degree is not Enough by Ima Slip is a book that supports skill training. Ima Slip pens down the recipe of what you need to succeed in life,why it’s not the case that every degree owner is successful and why there so many people that have succeeded without the help of their degrees..(review from Rovingheights)
  • Olori Supergal by Oluwatosin Ajibade; Oluwatosin Ajibade mostly known as Olori Supergal is one of the most respected and credible voices in new media today.
    In Olori Supergal: From Social Misfit to Social Media Hero, she tells the story of her experience with abuse, struggles with academics, dealing with the challenges of being a young entrepreneur in Nigeria and growing her business (description from Rovingheights).
  • Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene isn’t called the Black Girl Bible for no reason. It’s basically a guide for black women on how to navigate the world, and a guide for non-white people to understand what it means to be up against a sexist and racist system. Read it!(review by Literandra)
  • Smart Money Woman by Arese Ugwu is still one of the best personal finance books with humorous but relatable characters written for women and men who live in Africa. The Smart Money Woman tackles, debt, spending, the fear and misconceptions surrounding money and the lack of it, love, friendships, cultural and societal pressures and the roles they play in success from an African perspective.
  • Dating Intelligently by Laju Iren; Have you’ve been getting the law school questions and marriage jokes like I have? This book is a common sense guide to courtship.
  • Working on a Dream by G. Fagbure is filled with lessons in life and business by the co-founder of Jumia and Supermart.ng

 

ROMANCE

Being a hopeful romantic I’ve got some love stories you should read.

  • Not Just An Interlude by Lara T. Kareem is a beautiful tale brimming with good vibes, stressing the values of friendship, love and being independent. Although, it was on my Did-Not-Finish reading list because of my exams, I’m loving Sewa, the heroine.
  • Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour is on my September TBR list. It’s a story of love, career pursuit, family and many other nuances of being queer by Nina Lacour. Whom I love so much, her writings are just refreshing, reflective and personal.
  • The Summer of Jordan Perez(and the best burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding is a phenomenonal, vibrant story of queer love, fashion (retail, design, blogging and photography), burgers, friendships and summer in LA. It’s one lesbian love story I really connected to its heroine, Abby Ives and her adventures.

“Every kind of book is a gift. Once acquired, read and use its lessons. Whether its a short story collection, novel of any genre, poetry chapbook, or even a notebook used to journal your past.”-Adaeze Feyisayo Samuel.

CRIME THRILLERS

From legal, detective to crime thrillers. These books are filled with determined heroes and action packed plots set in Nigeria.

  • Oil on Water by Helon Habila is a thriller and political fiction novel. From the desks of Nigeria’s newsrooms, two journalists are recruited to find the kidnapped wife of a British oil engineer. Zaq, an infamous media hack, knows what’s in store, but Rufus has no idea what he’s let himself in for (description from Goodreads).
  • Carnivorous City by Toni Kan: Rabato Sabato aka Soni Dike is a Lagos big boy; a criminal turned grandee, with a beautiful wife, a sea-side mansion and a questionable fortune. Then one day he disappears and his car is found in a ditch, music blaring from the speakers. Soni’s older brother, Abel Dike, a teacher, arrives in Lagos to look for his missing brother. Abel is rapidly sucked into the unforgiving Lagos maelstrom where he has to navigate encounters with a motley cast of common criminals, deal with policemen all intent on getting a piece of the pie, and contend with his growing attraction for his brother’s wife.(description from Google Reads) Adebola Rayo of The Book Banque criticized its lack of complex female characters who were overly sexualized in sexist narratives. The upside is the novel’s main character is Lagos herself and many bookstagrammers say it was an interesting read.
  • Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle is set in contemporary Lagos, the story centres around a one-woman crusade to protect and empower the many women working as prostitutes in the city. I say “centres around”, because the actual plot is much more complex than that. Drawing in officials, police, foreigners, criminals, the story twists and turns its way to its conclusion, touching many of the profitable criminal enterprises and creating a fascinatingly tangled piece.(review by Lipglossmaffia)

COLLECTIONS

Sometimes a novel can be a lengthy commitment. If you’d like to read in bits and pieces. Then the poetry or short story collections below are ideal.

  • Stars of the New Curfew by Ben Okri is a collection of short stories that explore the central theme of the difficulty of standing one’s ground in a world where superstition, poverty and irresponsible use of power combine to destroy effective social bonds.
  • Funny Men Can’t Be Trusted by Tolu Akinyemi is a wondrous collection of short, witty poems about life, men, women relationships that you’ll end up loving.
  • What It Means When A Man Falls from the Sky by Leslie Nneka Arimah is a collection of recommended short stories. I still have this on my book stacks unread since I bought it in June. How time flies when you’re digitally immersed in ebooks.
  • A Thousand Beginnings and Endings Edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman. Its a collection of retold Asian legends and myths. It’s been delightful reading this. Its a reel into the folktale from India, China, all the way to the Philippines.

I hope this list is fresh, knowing, informative, encouraging to you. If you’d like to buy them visit Rovingheights, Alaroro Books, Book Peddler, Something Bookish on Instagram, they deliver across Nigeria. Or check out any nearby large supermarts like Ebeano supermart. If you’ve read any of the books on the list. Leave a rating and comment about it for other readers.

Thank you for reading Gemstone!

Image source: Opened Gifts by AmethystShotX

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CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE BY TOMI ADEYEMI

“I teach you to be warriors in the garden so you will never be gardeners in the war. I give you the strength to fight, but you all must learn the strength of restraint.”

“When your opponent has no honor, you must fight in different ways, smarter ways.”

Many bookstagram reviews of this international bestselling YA Fantasy all put the first quote without its accompanying second sentence on strength. This sentence cautions restraint, without it things can go wrong. Gosh! I’m enchanted by this novel. The last time I read fantasy that resonated this much with me was with Georgina Kincaid and her Succubus series by Richelle Mead and Carter and Sade Kane of the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan  I dropped reading A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Meet Cute (Young Adult Fiction collections) to read Children of Blood and Bone during the last week of July. I’d wanted to read some different after a long stressful day.

If you peer closely you’ll see small drops of ogogoro in my mini mug. I sipped that shot like Zelie in celebration of the victorious last sentences.

A world of magical wonders and brutal realities..Orisha. The narrative introduces one to the new Orisha where magic is missing and Zelie’s biggest worries include passing initiation and taxes. The old Orisha had Majis who were white-haired, Orisha Mama’s magic blessed, children of blood and bone. It’s amazing the fantasy woven around the Orisha gods was inspired by Yoruba deities. I kept nodding to the various magical powers each maji clan possessed from their sister goddesses and brother gods. Reapers who summoned souls, Tiders and Yemoja, Burners who blazed fiery, Healers and Cancer, and Seers. When various characters touch with a magic scroll it sparks magic in Divîners and Kosidans alike. You can take a quiz to find out which clan you belong to here.

This heroine’s narrations are shadowed by fearful memories of her mother’s execution and past beauties of magical Orisha. I was always pulled away from these to her meagre existence. Yet Zelie had a strong drive for survival and freedom. Zelie is impulsive, silver-eyed beauty, gifted Reaper, smart, seasoned trader, skilled fighter, leader and compassionate heroine. Amari and Inan, both children of the tyrant king narrate the plot with Zelie on a quest to return magic to Orisha. One of the beautiful things about these characters describing the plot and other characters were their unique personas. Growth of Zelie, Amari and Inan occurred slowly throughout the novel. Amari, the scared Princess grew bravely to be the Lionaire. Inan, Little Prince who sacrificed everything to be everything his cruel father wanted. He struggled with his sense of duty and being himself. Tzain, Mama Agba, Kaea, Nailah, Zu, Baba, Roën and other minor characters play huge supporting roles in this tumultuous quest. I was sad that Amari and Tzain’s budding romance was halted while Zelie and Inan’s passionate one was fervently frustrated. But I remain a hopeful romantic while waiting for a sequel. 

Children of Blood and Bone mirrors a lot of real life issues we face in our societies like police brutality, racial or ethnic discrimination, gradual loss of culture, poverty and political tyranny. This mirror holds the themes and lessons one can learn from the novel. It’s robust plot was hijacked by plot twists, suspense and intrigue. CBB is written in simple English with Yoruba phrases and coined terms. Irony was one of literary techniques expertly utilised in this fantasy. Flashback and character dialogues were used to fill in the plot. Simile and imagery are two literary techniques artistically employed in this novel, (eg. the light’s voice is smooth like silk, soft like velvet. It wraps itself around my form, drawing me to it’s warmth). I found it ironic the King destroyed other families and his children while avenging his dead family. Another major irony was that Zelie hungered for change but was afraid of the possibilities magic could create. Out of the Eighty-five chapters my favourite chapter was Fifty-seven (plus the Epilogue of course). This chapter’s festivities and pet Lionaire Nailah inspired by book photo. Coincidentally it’s the author’s favourite chapter.

Landscape and animals in Orisha are nothing like anything I’ve read. Blue whisked bee-eaters, large panthonaires, snow leopanaires, stalking hyenaire. A map of Orisha is presented before the first chapter began. I enjoyed that the plot took us around that map and Orisha’s interesting landscape. It’s a highly recommended African Fantasy and YA Fiction book. For its plot twists resolutions and unexpected end of the last battle, four and a half fireworks! Did they succeed in bringing back magic? Did tyrant King Saran and his reign end? You’ll have to read to find out. To see more gorgeous book pictures or fan art click #childrenofbloodandbone.

 

More Info..

Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian American writer and creative writing coach. Children of Blood and Bone is her first novel. Published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Company, a trademark of Macmillian Publishing Group LLC.

*this is a Flashback Friday Fiction feature review.*

 

 

YOU ARE NEAR YET YOU ARE FAR

YOU ARE NEAR YET YOU ARE FAR by NKIACHA ATEMNKENG

‘Travel between both Nigeria and Cameroon is supposed to be easy since citizens of both countries do not require entrance visas. However, the land route between the Cameroonian border town. Ebok and the Nigerian border town, Ikom is currently barricaded. Don’t ask why.’

‘You finally get jealous of the damn Sanja and feel like peeling it off your body and disappearing into the restroom. But if you peel it off just to pee, you will become naked and everybody at Ake will embark on a screaming spree. “Mad writer! Wahala dey for here o. Dr Dami, please bring that your mad bus. Carry y’im go. A man’s body is not a country!’

I finished reading this piece and the magazine it was published in, in June. Its incomplete review has sat in my draft since. In a bid to clear out my draft I’m published my thoughts about this second person travelogue. It makes me smile that the author’s first name sounds Igbo because of the irony the first paragraph presents. He began his non-fiction story stating many Nigerians drummed ‘you look and sound Nigerian’ into his Cameroonian ears. This was delightful reading this travelogue written by an African visiting Nigeria.

Halfway through this creative non-fiction piece I’d highlighted various honest paragraphs and comical sentences.  I just knew this is my favorite work from the Saraba Magazine: Issue 22-OPEN. This travelogue made me reminisce about my tour of Obudu, Ikom and Calabar in Cross River State. Where no one could answer my questions about why the Cameroonian border was closed. Or why people kept asking if I was Nigerian.

Apart from the humorous yet observant tone and ironic experiences of the narrator. Its the second person point of view used makes this read very compelling. Apart from the Literary Exchange Programme, he visits the Ake Arts and Literature Festival. Since I missed the ‘This F-Word’ themed fifth festival, his narration made me feel like I was there. I attended the sensational festival through his thoughts, reflections, dialogues and famous Sanja. His bravery in publishing a food review that didn’t crown Nigerian Jollof Rice ruler mirrors his candid appraisal of Nigeria-Cameroon relations. I felt near to this Douala boy, involved in his discussions about culture, literature, geography, politics. Yet I am far, far away in Lagos.

 

 

I’M LOVING YA ROMANCE

Young Adult Romance is a genre of Romance popularly called YA Romance by book lovers. It’s a genre I got curious about after reading book reviews, a blog tour, Something like Summer by Jay Bell, Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon, The Last Days at Forcados High School by A.H Mohammed and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

This July I decided to add reading books from two new genres to my 2k18 reading goals. YA romance and African Horror were my picks because I had enjoyed the works I’ve read so far.  I’m a lover of erotica, chicklit, afrofuturism, queer, historical and western romance, travelogues, legal thrillers and coming-of-age books. Some days back some friends and I were lamenting about the cliché plots of many Mill and Boons novels we read as girls.

Having extraordinary narratives exploring unconventional experiences of characters of color is what I love about YA Romance. Little wonder many of these bestselling YA Romance novels are being adapted into films. I adored The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon that I read it in just one day! Everyday by David Levithan and P.I Still Love You by Jenny Han are ebooks I’m currently thoroughly enjoying.  I’d like to read Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon,  Meet Cute, a YA Romance anthology edited by Jennifer L. Armentrout and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Most YA Romance novels and their reviews I have read narrate that we all have many types of loves, quests for life that don’t always end the way we expect. This abrupt yet robust style is one I found very fulfilling while reading some ebooks lately. The characters are so endearing! I love reflective works and many YA Romance make me travel, explore, muse, experience life and love. I really love chicklit and romance novels, poems and anthologies. why? These genres feed my hopeful romantic self with laughter, love, faith and lessons. I like it when a book teaches its reader to love and believe in themself This is a common theme with many Young Adult Romances I have read this July.

I haven’t began reading African Horror works yet. I only have Palmwine Drunkard by Amos Tutuola, a classic and books by the genre’s popular author Nuzo Onoh. After reading many African horror flash fiction on a blog a thousand midnights ago, I got fascinated with this genre. I do recall listening to Radio Lagos afternoon story time every week day. The presenter would read  Forest of a Thousand Daemons: A Hunter’s Saga by D.O Fagunwa in Yoruba. I came to cherish this Nigerian Literature Classic that improved my appreciation of Yoruba language and painted African mystical adventures in my mind forever. I will soon make a African Horror book list. If you have any book recommendations for both genres do comment them below.

 

Images source: Amethyst Saw