Featured

Notes Under the Door & Other Stories – Book Review

Notes Under the Door & Other Stories

By Michelle Chepchumba

Dead fathers. Critical mothers. Abusive marriages. Body insecurities. Young love. And always, expectations. Notes Under the Door is an anthology of seven African literary short stories that explores what it can mean to be a girl, a young woman, in a world that demands too much of women, and gives back too little. Set in urban Kenya, each story follows a girl or a woman grappling with the experience of being who they are – young, female, African, layered, complex, whole.

Book Review

Notes Under the Door & Other Stories is a collection of seven short stories.  Each story is a glimpse into a deeply profound moment.  A moment delving into the secret, complicated mind of Kenyan women at different stages of life.  The experiences described in these moments are tangible and feel very real.

Chepchumba’s characters speak on diverse, sensitive issues such as, unexpected pregnancy, and how hard it can be to acclimate to the dramatic change of life a baby brings.  She delves on relationships, and how hard they can be to maintain. A short story on domestic violence from the perspective of a young girl shows the impact it has on children. How domestic violence changes a child’s view of a parent.

Notes Under the Door gives this book its name.  It is a story tackling grief, obligations, and abortion. Each one of these adding on to the damaging effects on a mother at the time of abortion, and years later, when life continues on.

In Spilling into the World, a character asks, ‘…why can’t you decide you’re beautiful?’.  What a powerful question.  Spilling into the World looks at body image in a world where mainstream stereotypes impact women’s views of their own beauty, and their self-confidence.

A heartbreaking story told from the perspective of a young girl whose father does not look at her, nor treat her as ‘his princess’, concludes the collection.

Overall, Notes Under the Door & Other Stories reads like tales told from a best friend’s perspective.  Stories to make you feel, ‘Ah, I’m not alone in this. There are others like me.’ These stories depict women living experiences in our rapidly changing modern world.  They are a conversation to continue, and normalize.  I most enjoyed the realness of these short stories.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

(4.5 Stars)

Connect with Michelle on her blog

The Midnight Library – Book Review

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Book Review

This book is about a woman who feels she has nothing left to give to the world.  She lives in a world that feels utterly isolated and there’s no one she sees who needs her.  She is suicidal and ends up in The Midnight Library.  Where she meets a guide who allows her to explore an infinite library of lives she could have lived, and a chance to discover the weight of her regrets.

Nora Seed embarks on a unique adventure.  She explores various lives and possibilities.  She is greatly disappointed and intensely impressed with her accomplishments in some parts.  In others, she faces crippling grief at the loss of people she cares about, and in the end makes the decision to continue living.

The concept of landing in a The Midnight Library saves Nora from an otherwise devastating choice.  She is a character who is depressed and in a low moment in her life.  The Midnight Library does serve toward bringing her out of this low moment.  She rediscovers what she felt passionate about, who matters in her life, and even finds the existence she thought useless matters to a young man she gave piano lessons.  I love this book for adding an extraordinary magic into the mundane events in life.  Nora discovers that the best she can do with her life is simple, just to live it to the best of her ability. 

“If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it….don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it.”

The Midnight Library, Matt Haig

No need to add anymore.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Our One Plant Vineyard

Today, I’m very proud of our one plant vine growing like a champ.

We got grapevine cuttings from a friend  I have spent the last two months babying these two last cuttings into growing into strong plants.  One has agreed to bring out leaves, but the other cutting remains dormant.  I thought nothing was happening with the dormant one but when I checked it a few days ago, it has roots.  So, we’re in the waiting period with that one. 

Meanwhile, we might end up with a one plant vineyard, and it’s oddly exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Yes, the little leaves on the one plant have me imagining grapes growing on a vine, maybe making wine out of them. hahaha. Here’s to hope!

Dread Nation & Deathless Divide

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems

The sequel to Dread Nation is a journey of revenge and salvation across a divided America.

After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.

But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodermus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880’s America.

What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears – as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.

But she won’t be in it alone.

Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by – and that Jane needs her, too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.

Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive – even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.

Deathless Divide, Goodreads.com

Book Review

Dread Nation came first and it is super amazing.  I enjoyed discovering Jane McKeene because she is feisty, strong-willed and kicks ass. She is a fierce black girl lead. Nothing can keep her down.   She lives her life how she wants it, despite her circumstances.  Book One (Dread Nation) is badass. 

It made me want to read Deathless Divide, and continue with Jane.  Book Two is absolutely darker than the first book.  Which is a strange perspective considering the background of zombies and settlements where Jane is faced with segregation and fighting for equal rights for resources found in book one.  The zombies continue in book two, and the settlement where Jane ends up with her friends is a bit more civilized, to a point

However, in Book Two Jane deals with grief and the part she plays in the death of a man she cared about. She loses people close to her, and the ensuing grief plunges her into a very dark period of her life.  The added bonus is that Book Two includes Katherine Deveraux’s POV.  Katherine is Jane’s best friend, and the one person capable of pulling Jane back from the dark side. We get to meet a host of new characters as they all fight to survive the world-ending zombie pandemic.  Katherine helps pull Jane back when she is all but lost in a quest that could threaten her life. 

In all, Dread Nation and Deathless Divide represent strong-willed black women willing to fight for their friends and family  in order to survive a harsh and brutal world.  

Dread Nation

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Deathless Divide

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Playlist – January 12th

Music is my go-to when I’m feeling a serious need to keep working.  Here’s my playlist of late:

1. Easy on Me – Adele

2. Burn – Ellie Goulding

3. Return to Love – Ellie Goulding & Andrea Bocelli

4. Cycles – Svrcina

5. Battle of the Bastards – Ramin Djawadi (Game of thrones ost)

6. Wild Life – One Republic

7. Fire on Fire – Sam Smith

8. Arcade – Duncan Lawrence

9. Bach, Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prelude – Yo Yo Ma

10. Heartache – One Ok Rock

From my playlist to yours, may you have mad inspiration in your creative journey.

The Fifth Season – Book Review

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Book Review

This is not a fast read. It took me a bit of time to get through the first three chapters. They are full of world building, which is necessary, but felt very tedious. I found myself stopping and coming back again hoping to reach an easier part. Once I was over this, it was easy to sink in to the world of the Stillness.

The characters are extraordinary. The development of each one is thorough and compelling. From Essun’s devastating loss which she carries through the book, and at each point defines her actions. To Syen and Alabaster who are part of an organization working to tame their very nature. These characters face incredible horrifying scenes. They survive in a world in which they are oppressed for being different and extraordinary.

The Fifth Season is not a one day read. It needs time because there is so much to unpack. Once I give it the time it needs, I loved the resilience weaved into among the characters.

I give this 3.5 stars because of the start.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

On the Writing Desk – Work in Progress

A fresh new start for the year 2022.  I’m excited for new projects, and a new creative cycle.  Here is what is on the writing desk this year:

Zev’s Afrotheria – This is a story I’ve worked on off and on for the last few months. I’ll post it more often on this blog , look out for the chapters.

Zev Mablevi’s younger sister goes missing after a vicious attack on their home by ghost wraiths.  To find her, he needs the power of the Guardian Guild.  Zev gives up on his dreams to join the prestigious Tech Class and enters the Guardian Guild.  He works hard to join the most elite force in the guild on a quest to gain enough power to investigate his sister’s disappearance.  He soon meets Dahlia, a progressive scientist who believes she has found a way to win against the wraiths for good.  She needs a guardian who can take her to the top of the mountain where the ghost wraiths come from.  She promises Zev to help him find his sister if he gets her to the mountain and back.

Kipepeo – I started this during the 2019 nanowrimo cycle. I always feel it needs more work, so I’ll polish it up and share it soon.

Henson lives in a two-room house in with his mother and four siblings.  He wins a swimming competition in the local community center and wins a scholarship to Bayside College.  An elite school in the Lavington Hillsides.  There he meets Livia, the daughter of an affluent businessman.  They fall in love, but when her parents discover their relationship, they threaten to withdraw his scholarship. Livia breaks Henson’s heart to protect him.

Ten years later, Henson works in a reputable accounting firm in Nairobi.  He meets Livia, who is now managing her father’s business.  She needs help to save her family’s business from creditors.  Will Henson help her?

Jelani’s Empire – This is a tentative name for this story. In the books it is simply Ram & Amber. Hoping by the end of the year, it will be more than a shell.

Ram fights to recover his mother’s place in his family’s empire. This is a work in progress with no real blurb.  I’m lost in development world with it.

So much to do and write, and January is already underway.  ^_^ This is my list of work in progress.  I hope yours is going well too.

An American Marriage – Book Review

An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

Book Review

Roy and Celestial are in love and married for a year and change. Their story starts out with a working marriage.  Roy is happy with his wife and his greatest concern is how he can get his mother and wife to be friends.  There are cracks in the tapestry.  Celestial suspects Roy is not entirely faithful, and Roy is determined to prove her wrong.  There is the problem of the in-laws who might or might not like Celestial.  The serious pressure from both pair of parents to get a child.  Roy and Celestial are living a relatively happy life until Roy is arrested and falsely accused of a crime he did not commit.  Celestial becomes a wife to an incarcerated man.  Roy becomes a husband locked away for a whopping twelve years.  Their new dynamic strips them of dignity, long held expectations and dreams, and a challenge on commitment begins.

I enjoyed how real Roy and Celestial are portrayed in this book.  Their relationship is far from perfect.  They fight and make up.  They even have a phrase to help them get back from the edge, to escape irrevocable damage.  They might have worked out their differences with time.  When they are forced apart…pulled asunder by the law of the land, their life changes. 

Absence takes hold of them and a new path starts for Roy and Celestial. 

An American Marriage explores relationships between parents and their children.  Roy’s parents have a very strong impact on his life, and on Celestial.  Celestial’s parents also play a role for Roy and what he believes his dreams to be.  The most interesting relationships were between fathers and sons.  Roy had two, and at a point this hidden truth results in a fight between him and Celestial.  Much later, it plays a role in getting Roy through a difficult five years in prison. 

At the heart of this story is a relationship between a man and his wife, and Celestial’s best friend, Andre. At one point Celestial Davenport thinks “…I never imagined myself to be the kind of woman who would find herself with both a husband and a fiancé…”  Roy cannot accept this reality and does his best to fight for his rights as a husband when he gets out.  After all he was innocent when he went to jail, he did the time and hoped his wife would still be where he left her when he got out. 

Yet, Absence grew in five long years, life continued and did not stay still when Roy was inside.  Celestial’s choice to have Andre as a fiancé is harsh on Roy.  She comes off as disloyal, but maybe their relationship was already on shaky ground from the start. It would not have been strong enough to withstand five long years of absence. The true tragedy here is the catalyst of Roy’s incarceration. Without the false accusation, Roy and Celestial would have continued on, living their lives as they were.