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.

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.

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.

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

Mombasa Raha, My Foot by Haroun Risa

Happy October! 

This is my birth month, so I always feel as though I’m full of excitement in October.  The post today is about Haroun Risa’s Mombasa Raha.  He sent me his book for a read and review.  The content in this book is a lot on the heavy side.  My soul felt sad reading the harrowing experiences his characters go through.  I would call this an Awareness Book.  The topic tackled is on human trafficking, sex tourism, and murder in a world hidden in plain sight.  I give Haroun respect for daring to delve into this topic and making a book out of it. 

Mombasa Raha, My Foot is available to purchase at The Nuria Store, Moi Avenue ( Next to Assanand’s Music Shop).

Mombasa Raha, My Foot

by Haroun Risa

Book Review

Mombasa Raha has an insightful collection of characters.  Together they form a tapestry of life at its very worst and at its very best.  The characters in Mombasa Raha experience great betrayals, suffer pain and unimaginable tragedies.  The one thing they have in common is the knowledge that there is a hidden underworld found at the Coast of Kenya.  This underworld is not kind, or safe, instead it is brutal and takes everything to survive an encounter.

At the center of Mombasa Raha is Ruth.  Ruth consumes herself with an investigation of her estranged sister’s murder.  Ruth tackles the realities of human trafficking and rape.  She discovers what living through such experiences did to her sister. She delves into the hidden parts of her sister’s life to discover the devastating truth of her sister’s death.

This story is not easy, nor is it a story to read fast.  It is a revelation into the harrowing experiences Kenyans fall into and how they fight to survive the cards dealt in search of Mombasa Raha.

This book was given to me by the author for a review. The book’s content is R18+ and above.  There is mention of rape and human trafficking.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

5 Writing Books to Add to your Writer’s Library

June ends with grace and half a year is in the bag.  Nairobi is cold.  Coffee, warm clothes, and scarves have become a staple in our corner.  It’s perfect reading weather.  If you’re a writer working on improving your writing skills, here’s a list of books to get you started, or to keep you going.  They add great resources to your writing kit and I’ve found I’ve returned to all of them more than once.

1. Gotham Writer’s Workshop: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School

I discovered this book right after high school and it’s been a staple in the library.  I’ve lost copies of it and ended up with an ebook. This book is a great start if you’re just beginning.  When you don’t know where to start, it will get you through the idea stage, to how to formulate your story, and equip you with tools on how to create characters, decide your POV and dialogue basics.  My favorite concept from this book is, ‘Ideas are everywhere.  The writer of fiction must learn to search the world for these seeds.’  It’s a great addition to your writing books, and will help you find out how to plant your seeds and help them grow into fiction


2. The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

This book was a referral.  My favorite quote from this book is: ‘Good Storytelling…gives the audience the experience of a life…” If you want a more in-depth way of approaching storytelling, this is the perfect book.  It discusses story structure, parts of the ‘story world’, and exploration on how to develop that world.

3. On Writing

I absolutely love the idea of looking at writing as a form of telepathy.  I love magic and the possibilities it represents.  On Writing is a look at how to deal with rejection letters from publishers, how to build your writing toolbox and unearthing the fossils of story that fill your imagination.  It’s a very entertaining take on the craft and I find that it helps to return to this book when I’m stuck.  The best advice I got from this book is that you need to keep reading.  Read everything that you can, to become a better writer, to increase your knowledge on people, places, ideas, concepts…just read, probably more than you write, or just as much.


4.  Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writers

Now, if you’re like me and English is the third language, hahaha, you’ll know that writing English can be difficult.  It has very many words and a gazillion ways to describe things.  This thesaurus is a great addition to your library for this purpose. Writers need new words in their writing toolbox so as not to repeat themselves and become boring.  We remember what we often practice, so the thesaurus will help you discover new ways to say remember.

5. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

This last book is about embracing your writing and loving it no matter what level you are in terms of publishing/self-publishing or just sharing your fiction space.  I love everything about this book.  It explores productivity, how to create and share without allowing fear to cripple you.  Mostly because I have a serious productivity weakness that I’ve been working on conquering.  The last two years have been full of activities in my personal life that took attention away from writing.  It’s not easy getting back.  It’s like starting again when you get back to it. You need input, ideas, and concepts in books to help you along. ^_^ This book has been perfect.  Words like these, ‘Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you. Make me really happy.  I want to say I’m in love with this book and because I love it, I’m sharing and hoping you will love it too. 

Writing is a skill to learn and improve.  The books above have been a great addition to my reading list.  There are more, but these have stood out for me in this month of June.

Keep writing!

Once Upon a Lane – Book Review

Once Upon A Lane


There once was a lane, filled with well-tended lawns and well-fostered friendships, of well-appointed houses all neat and tidy and those that live within, of stories and mysteries that manifest for only fleeting moments for the few who pay attention. This is one such tale. – By Duncan Wilson


Book Review

Once Upon a Lane is a tale about an ensemble of souls living as neighbors on the same street, each one with strengths and weaknesses, others hiding deep secrets behind closed doors.  These parts of themselves work to create a unique and pleasant community.

Duncan Wilson describes life along this lane with vivid imagery.  His characters constructed with careful detail that brings each one to life, making it easy to imagine them in the mind’s eye.  The hidden world that emerges in this lane is unique, full of childhood adventures, colorful garden spaces and fantastic characters.

Young Tommy is once asked, ‘How is the Lane today?’ and he answers, ‘It’s the same as it always is, idyllic.’  It is a perfect description of life in this community.

Wilson explores the human condition with his characers, carving out relationship bonds between friends, family, lovers, pets, strangers, and other…creatures.  The most charming of all these bonds are the children and their effortless bonds of friendship, easy love, whims of magical adventure and the imaginary worlds they create.

I enjoyed the adventures of the Youngest Murphy Boy the most.  His heart is full of loyal love and he manages to charm everyone he meets.  One would never guess he harbors any struggles born of emotional scars.  His friendliness is only second to lovers/partners, Ida and Ella, this epic couple that dishes out cookies and baked goods to the neighborhood.

The lane has a blight titled the House with the Dead Lawn.  Much of the story is centered on the mystery of this house that no one dares approach.  There is also Mrs. Habernathy, who is the least-liked character.  She is nosy, unpleasant, gruff and unfriendly.  She remains the one character whose story I would have loved a much deeper exploration.  I’m left infinitely curious of her inner world.

Once Upon a Lane follows an eclectic cast of characters.

They live their ordinary lives in a more than extraordinary stretch of road.  Their lives woven into a tight web of familiarity that is only possible in a community of neighbors.  Unseen among them is an extraordinary secret.

This secret rolls and pulses under the surface of their idyllic lives.  Epitomized in the form of a house with a dead lawn, and Mrs. Habernathy, whose behavior is at one point described as, ‘…disquieting and unnerving…’  This hidden mysterious secret drives the reader through the pages to a very startling discovery about Mrs. Habernathy and her connection to the house with the dead lawn.

I would recommend this book to anyone fond of slice of life stories filled with mystery, secrets behind closed doors, and love between family, friends and lovers.  Most of all, if you have imagined your community is hiding a secret, you definitely must read this book to discover what kind of secret it could be.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Unaffected Resolve – Review

The Unaffected Resolve

by Humphrey Osoro

The Unaffected Resolve Volume 1 is an introduction to Lisa Sagini.  She starts out unconscious and injured, but soon wakes up on the back of a cat-like creature.  She then discovers the world, as she knows it, has gone through an apocalyptic event.  The cat-like creature carrying her has chosen to save Lisa and her junior, a man named Orville.  His reasoning is that he can guarantee their survival and they in turn shall provide him vital information.

What Lisa Sagini wants to know most is why the world they knew had to change.  Why did they have to lose their friends and family?  How will they survive after this apocalypse?

However, the questions above are not tackled in this volume.

  Volume 1’s sole purpose is to introduce Lisa Sagini: who she is now and where she has come from.  Lisa is a soldier in the Kenyan Army, has a strong personality and it is clear that she is comfortable in her own skin.  Each scene is drawn to depict Lisa’s reality in vibrant colors and clear visuals and her memories serve to unfold the story.  Her narrative adds to the story as it transitions deeper into the past.

This introduction reads very fast, and leaves you with the familiar feeling of wanting to know more at the end of the volume.  I enjoyed reading this start into a post-apocalyptic Kenya and I find myself curious as to what would have led to the apocalypse.  Most importantly, how will Lisa survive in this new world?

I would recommend this volume to anyone +16 and beyond.  The volume does have some serious and violent content.  This is also a perfect start for someone who wants to read but doesn’t feel like they have time for an intensive novel.  The plot is strong and complex, with promise of more engaging story in the later volumes.

The writer and illustrator shared a copy of this comic with me. You can read it at this link: The Unaffected Resolve

Bingeing on Books – August Adventures

This month has been incredible, in that I found myself reading more books. I celebrate this kind of stuff. Because it’s easy to get lost in important activities during the day, or in conversations that leave you no time to take time and read a book. I’m grateful for the time to be in a quiet moment getting lost in different worlds, meeting characters and exploring alternate universes.

Here’s a list of books that I couldn’t put down for the month of August:

Children of Blood and Bone
by Tomi Adeyemi

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

I genuinely enjoyed reading this book. In it’s most purest form, this is a story about a young girl, Zelie, who wants to break out of the chains she finds herself living in. I love the adventure, and her courage, her anger and the serious ambition to change the status quo.

Don’t Read The Comments
By Eric Smith

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight.

Son of the Morning
by Linda Howard

Grace St. John, a scholar, unwittingly discovers the Knights of Templar’s secret treasure. Suddenly, her life is upturned when she spies her boss murdering her husband and brother. With no reason to live, except to extract vengeance, Grace becomes a fugitive of the law as she attempts to find an explanation for this horrible act.
Grace simultaneously translates 14th century medieval documents written by Black Niall. This embittered knight reaches into Grace’s subconscious and the two begin to share dreams 700 years apart. A scholar specializing in ancient manuscripts, Grace St. John never imagined that a cache of fragile, old documents she discovered was the missing link to a lost Celtic treasure. But as soon as she deciphers the intriguing legend of the Knights of the Templar — long fabled to hold the key to unlimited power — Grace becomes the target of a ruthless killer bent on abusing the coveted force.
Determined to stop him, Grace needs the help of a celebrated warrior bound by duty to uphold the Templar’s secret for all eternity. But to find him — and to save herself — she must go back in time.

Summoning the magic of an arcane ritual, Grace steps back to the barren hills of 14th-century Scotland, enduring the perils of an untamed land to confront Black Niall, a fierce man of dark fury and raw, unbridled desire. Driven by a mix of fear and passion, Grace enlists this brazen knight to join her in a modern-day search for a killer.
In their quest to protect a timeless secret, they uncover a love for all time — and a deadly duel of honor that risks everything they have.

This one is a reread. I always find new things to enjoy in this book, and I love it. Plus I love the payphone vibes. Can’t believe payphones are now old world!

I hope you get a chance to check these books out and enjoy them as much as I did. Have a lovely August month!

Nakisanze Segawa’s The Triangle

#New African Reads

The Triangle 

b29edce1ad816c9c735d6147eeaea2cf783d1b62A gripping tale of intrigue and war in precolonial Africa. Two young people — Kalinda, a page in the court of the King of Buganda; and Nagawa, one of the king’s beautiful young wives — are swept up in conflict as missionaries, rival tribes and soldiers of fortune vie for power in what is now Uganda.

It is a time of upheaval in Buganda, an African kingdom on the verge of losing its independence. Anglican and Catholic missionaries are rapidly converting people to Christianity, in the process stirring conflict with their kinsmen who have embraced Islam. Three main characters – Nagawa, a young but unhappy bride to the king; Kalinda, a servant in the royal courts; and Reverend Clement, a Scottish missionary, are swept up in forces that will change their lives and reshape the future of their nation.

Thoughts:

Just got a message in my inbox about this book.  Unhappy Bride to a king, A servant in the Royal Courts, and Conflict in  the village….yeah, sign me up.  Looking forward to jumping into this gem in the coming days. Meanwhile, get your own copy here:

Amazon

Smashwords