#6 Discover Ten New Authors of Colour
Either erotica is your thing or it isn’t, and, well, sometimes it is mine.
Here’s a book that’s a mixture of erotica, African folklore and fantasy.
Give yourself a treat and try this heady, powerful novella.
Abiku: A Battle of Gods by Elizabeth Salawu
She was called an Abiku, an evil spirit sent to this world to lure men to their doom
Dayo is a bi-racial twenty-something year old with a German mom and a Nigerian dad. She has a semi bougie lifestyle, always jetting across the pond between Africa and Europe.
She starts dating her father's driver in secret after seducing him.
On her return from her cousin's twenty-first birthday, she tries gbana (crack) for the first time. She finds herself in an alternate realm and thinks she's hallucinating from using gbana. She doesn't take anything that happens there seriously as she thinks she's having a vivid dream. That is, until she couldn't wake up from getting married to a 'man' she met in that realm...
Ann Girdharry’s View
A highly original story that blends eroticism, Nigerian folklore and a young woman's dual life. I’ve never come across anything similar.
Dayo comes from a rich family and has a privileged lifestyle. Once free from her parents' supervision, she seduces her father's chauffeur and they start a hot, steamy affair.
Things start becoming strange when sex and drugs seemingly push Dayo into another realm. It's a mythic realm in which she begins an affair with a man who appears to be a god.
Is she hallucinating? Has she gone mad? What’s real and what isn’t real?
As the story spins out, Dayo has some tough choices to make, but she’s a tough young woman, so don’t think the odds are all stacked against her.
This book touches on notions of African beauty, and portrays a different view of attractiveness.
The erotic scenes are well written and the first half of the book is particularly powerful.
Photoshot of Elizabeth Salawu
Five Things You Didn’t Know about Elizabeth Salawu
1.I record my podcase (The Segilola Salami Show) in my bedroom whilst wearing my PJ.
2. I love jollof rice and fried plantain (Nigerian jollof is the best).
3. The only place I can imagine spending 365 days in at a stretch is London.
4. Every time I re-read Abiku: A Battle of Gods, I say to myself, “Wow, did you actually write that?”
5. Whilst pregnant, I decided I was only going to breastfeed my daughter for one month but somehow I ended up doing it for two years eheheheh
Thanks for letting me review your book and for talking to us today, Segilola (Elizabeth Salawu). You can check out more about Segilola here
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
This is essentially a story about 9/11, its aftermath and the on-going war against terrorism. The story is based in the USA, though there is plenty of travel to countries such as Afghanistan, Turkey, Greece and Libya. We follow the lives of two men.
The first is Pilgrim, who is a secret agent for a division of the American secret service few have heard of. He’s a master of his craft and an expert in the investigation of crime scenes. The second man we follow is the Saracen.
The book is made of four parts and pretty much the first three parts are background and set-up to the main story which arrives in part four.
In the first three parts, we learn about Pilgrim – his childhood, his foster parents, his life as an agent and his rise to fame amongst the ranks of agents, his doubts and fatigue at the relentless pace of his job. We learn about Saracen – his childhood and his hatred of the Saudi royal family and of America, his recruitment and years spent fighting in Afghanistan against the Russians, his one-man, demonic plot against the US homeland and his determination to see this succeed. There are some horrific scenes of torture and violence that the reader witnesses.
Some people might find the hundreds of pages of backstory and detail difficult to get through.
I liked finding out about these two men and the forces which shaped them. They are both intensely human and we get to know their thoughts and see inside their minds. It’s not always comfortable, but it was always interesting, maybe even riveting.
Part four is where the story really kicks off and all the many threads of the previous three sections come into play. People that Pilgrim and the Saracen have met have an influence on the final acts in the book as the tension mounts. Memories and tiny incidents which we know about (but Pilgrim and Saracen may have dismissed) take their place to try to tip the hand of fate one way or the other. This was well done. I always admire an author who gives attention to detail and Hayes is good at this.
Given that the big overview of the story is 9/11, its aftermath and the war against terrorism in the USA – of course, the story has a main path to follow. Of course, Pilgrim is the hero. At the end, he’s practically a super-man and close to death, he speaks to the President of the United States and is called ‘a hero’. We also get to know a real hero of 9/11 in the character of Ben Bradley. Ben is a NYPD cop who befriends Pilgrim (and inspires him) and I enjoyed reading about Ben and his wife.
Xenophobia, racism and constant negative commentary
My main problem with this book was the constant racism/xenophobia/negativity about numerous cultures and people of the world. All except the Americans. (Actually, in one incident an Australian UN unit also gets some praise, but, oh yes, Hayes is from Australia isn’t he?)
Whether it’s the Turkish people, the Greeks, the Afghans, the Persian empire, the Syrians, the Libyans – you name it and Pilgrim has some negative or snide or suspect comments to make.
Often these are tiny and conversational and part of his internal dialogue as he assesses situations and intelligence assignments. They could go unnoticed, I suppose, because they are not at all the main meat of the book. Rather, they are its constant and unpleasant undercurrent.
At first, I clocked Pilgrim’s little asides and ignored them. But as they added up, it was like the dripping of a tap – Pilgrim just couldn’t resist drawing us into his xenophobic world. In the end, after some six hundred pages of it, I’m sorry to say I couldn’t stand it any longer.
Of all the books I’ve read in the last few years, I’ve not come across this problem before.
I understand that many won’t share this opinion and I want to be clear that I’m not talking about the big story of Pilgrim versus Saracen. I’m talking about the internal values and dialogue of Pilgrim, for instance when he walks into a Turkish village and assesses his surroundings, or arrives at a crime scene and thinks something about the personnel working the case. What a shame.
It totally spoiled what could have been an excellent book.
hello January 2017
A beautiful winter's day at La Grande Motte - one of my favourite seafront walks and perfect inspriration for a day of writing.
Void by David Staniforth
A void in one’s memory is filled with more than the fear of not knowing, it swirls with the dread of what those missing memories might contain.
When a young man wakens in a freezing car, his mind a complete blank, he embarks upon a journey that brings that very dread to the fore. Who is he? What has he done? Where does he belong? Why can he not remember?
VOID: a psychological journey of discovery that forces the question: To what extent can our memories be trusted?
What I liked best about this book was the atmosphere and tone. It stays grey throughout, as the author keeps us balanced on the edge of disaster. Everything is murky and the facts stay unclear and this is matched by the bleak world ‘Tom’ finds himself in - cold and foggy and lonely.
There’s an intensity, as the main character pieces together the clues about who he might be and what sort of a man he’s been.
It’s surprising, but there’s a strong romantic thread to this story too, because Tom discovers a memory of love and that there might be a woman who loves him. Despite his fears about himself, Tom shows himself to be sensitive and loyal and this made me like him a lot.
One small thing which didn’t work for me, was the way the author writes about the importance of music to Tom and quotes lyrics. And since you know how I can be picky, I also thought there was a tad too much repetition which made the middle of the book a bit soggy.(These really were minor issues.)
The ending was a tragic surprise and gave the whole story another perspective. I don’t want to spoil it by saying more.
I can see why this is classed as a thriller but I think romantic thriller does it more justice – the story has a lot more subtlety and meaning than most thrillers on the shelf and I think that’s it’s strong point.
Photoshot of David Staniforth
Five Things You Didn’t Know about David Staniforth -
1. At the age of eight, I took part in a school television programme with celebrated botanist, David Bellamy. I was on camera for around a minute, so I reckon I’m still owed four minutes of fame.
2. At the age of eighteen, I almost died from alcohol poisoning.
3. Had I performed better in my O Levels, I would likely have become an architect and my life would have followed a completely different course, one in which I probably would not have discovered my love of writing.
4. My favourite ever song is ‘Stone in Love’ by Journey. It reminds me of the early years with the girl I met when I was nineteen, who I’m still married to thirty-four years later. There’s a line that goes “burning love comes once in a lifetime” and for me it has.
5. I read my own books for pleasure, enjoying them as if they had been written by somebody else.
Thanks for letting me review your book, David, and for telling us about yourself.
You can check out more about David Staniforth here
Portraits of the Dead by John Nicholl
The greater the evil, the more deadly the game…
When Emma awakens in total darkness, she is aware of her nakedness. Injuries. A bed not her own. A blindingly bright light suddenly pierces the blackness and a disembodied male voice calls her “Venus”.
Venus – the goddess of love, beauty, sex and desire. He says she is "Venus Six". What does this predator want from her? Can she outwit the masked man who demands to be called “Master”? Or will he be looking for Venus Seven?
Detective Inspector Gravel finds himself floundering when a local nineteen-year-old university student is abducted and imprisoned by a sadistic serial killer…
This is dark fiction – we live each day with the incarcerated victim, the perpetrator is twisted, sick and clever. The icing on the cake is that there’s an unexpected accomplice supporting the perpetrator and doing a chunk of the thinking for him – I really enjoyed that accomplice.
John Nicholl has a unique style. There’s immediacy in his writing and an informality. For instance, Emma’s internal dialogue takes you right into her mind. Another aspect that worked well for me was the banter and (darkish) humour between the DI Gravel and his long-time colleague, DS Rankin. Their exchanges made them very likeable.
The downside of Nicholl’s style is that he uses plenty of long-winded sentences that run on far too long, but that was a minor irritation. I have to say too, this story didn’t shed that positive a light on the police, since the advances in the case seemed to be ad-hoc and come by circumstance rather than great detection.
Some of the things the perpetrator made the victim do, turned my stomach, and since I’m a seasoned thriller reader (and writer), that’s saying something.
The ending was abrupt but it worked for me.
Maybe it sounds like I didn’t like this book, but I really did. This books works! It’s original. It’s got a punch. So forget any literary snobbery and enjoy it. (By the way, I gave it a rare Five Stars.)
Photoshot of John Nicholl
Five Things You Didn’t Know about John Nicholl
1. Fifty-six year old John Nicholl is happily married with three adult children and one grandchild. He and his wife met when they were just sixteen.
2. He lives in beautiful West Wales where he grew up, and spent most of his working life as a police officer, child protection social worker, manager and lecturer.
3. He has written three Amazon # 1 bestselling darkly psychological suspense thrillers, and is currently working on a fourth, which he hopes to complete by the summer. Given his professional experiences, he feels the genre chose him.
4. John has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and fought in competition, but it’s yoga and swimming that interest him these days.
5. John is a big sports fan, and particularly enjoys watching boxing, rugby and football (if Wales or Swansea are playing). He can sometimes be found at the Swansea City ground with his youngest son.
John has two other published books and they’re both thrillers (yay!) You can find more information here http://www.johnnicholl.com/
Good Me Bad Me
by Ali Land
Millie is struggling to build a new life and a new identity.
Looming dark and menacing are memories of recent events which led her to leave her mother's house and finally go to the police for help. Looming even darker, are Millie's struggles with her own conscience.
As a child, she has suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her mother, but can she ever escape the darkness she feels inside and feel like other girls?
Will Millie manage to withstand the trial against her own mother, at which she will be the main witness?
To make things worse, the situation is not straightforward with her temporary foster family. Millie is jealous of their teenage daughter. The two girls hate each other, though they are both pretty good at hiding it.
This story is a brilliant insight into the mind of Millie as she builds her new future.
The question is - what sort of future will she choose?
I gave this book five stars for the story set-up and for the portrayal of Millie. However, constant hyphenations of ordinary words got on my nerves so much I almost gave it a four.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.
Enter to win an ebook copy of An Ishmael of Syria
Winner will be chosen the 27th January 2017
Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to An Ishmael of Syria by Asaad Almohammad. This book has been nominated for 2016 Goodreads Choice Award.
I found it to be full of raw power. Read on to find out more.
An Ishmael of Syria by Asaad Almohammad
Adam is a tortured soul. Exiled from his homeland, forced to watch the horrors unfold from afar. His family, still living – or surviving – in war-torn Syria, struggle daily.
Adam tries to be a ‘global citizen’ and become a part of his new community in Malaysia, but is constantly faced with intolerance, bigotry, and plain old racism. Opportunities are few and Adam finds himself working long hours for poor pay so that he can help his family.
The increasingly distressing news bulletins, along with Adam’s haunting childhood memories, compel him to examine his own beliefs; in God, in humanity, in himself and his integrity as a reluctant bystander in the worst human catastrophe of the twenty-first century.
Ann Girdharry’s View
Shocking. Anguished. Insightful. Don’t expect this to be a comfortable read.
However, I’d rank this as a must-read, particularly for anyone interested in understanding the experiences and emotions of a man in exile.
I should tell you too, that the style of writing may change forever your view of what a novel is or should be.
I admit that being inside the head of the main character required all my concentration. We witness Adam’s fragmented encounters in Malaysia with strangers, fellow students, colleagues and other Syrians unable to return to their home country.
With each conversation we come to better understand Adam’s state of mind and terrible helplessness, despite, or perhaps because of the fact, that he is the financial lifeline his family at home depend upon. We see that it isn’t only the Syrians in Syria who struggle, Adam struggles daily to survive too, just in different ways to his family.
The writing is interspersed with passages from Adam’s life as a young boy and the friends and family he grew up with.
I think this book is so powerful because it’s so raw, so don’t look for literary perfection.
Reading of Adam’s experience has forged a link between me and the Syrian people – just from the reading of one book – I call that remarkable.
Photoshot of Asaad Almohammad
Five Things You Didn’t Know about Asaad Almohammad
1.An Ishmael of Syria is my debut novel. It’s about a young Syrian man who is haunted by his past as he tries to find a home. It’s also about struggling against odds that we all might face. Rather than centre on surmounting his struggles, the novel is more about his journey. The story follows Adam across Syria, Lebanon, and Malaysia between 1989 and 2015.
2. For a year or so I’d translated my first-hand experiences coupled with my psychological insight into a work of fiction. With terrorism, radicalisation, and the refugee crisis becoming the centre of heated debate, I thought that the story is one that readers might appreciate.
The novel is semi-autobiographical. I have to say the bulk of it actually happened. I’ve used some artistic licence to weave the stories together. But in essence everything happened. Through the narrator, I used critical consciousness as a tool in tackling a number of socio-political issues. I wanted to engage the mainstream audience without neglecting readers with deeper knowledge of the region and issues conveyed through the book.
3. I was born and raised in Syria. I moved to Malaysia around 8 years ago and just recently finished my PhD in neuro-political psychology and marketing. I live with my wife and our two cats.
4. For the last few years I’ve been working as a consultant on a number of issues spanning across deradicalisation intervention programmes, civil unrest, illicit financial flows, and due diligence research.
5. I am avid follower of news on foreign policy, trade, and immigration. One of my favourite pastimes is discussing current affairs and politics with my wife and friends
Add this one to your ‘to buy’ list and please remember to post up a reader’s review, for instance on Amazon. Reviews are important because they help authors to get noticed. (They are especially important to new and lesser-known authors.)
You can find out more about Asaad Almohammad here http://asaadalmohammad.com/
Until next time and Happy Reading!
Here's a Christmas Advent Calendar for booklovers from BeckValley Books.
"If your looking for gifts or treating yourself, dive right into our own unique interactive Advent Calendar full of fabulous books...."
I'm excited to share with you all Beck Valley Book's unique interactive Christmas Advent for booklovers!! If your looking for gifts or treating yourself, dive right into the Advent Calendar full of fabulous books from so many amazing authors for Christmas Gifts or for you to enjoy, special offers too!
Here we go....
Hover over the dates and they will become alive with so many wonderful book choices and some offers! Click on the blog post link in each date to be taken to the author's own Christmas advent page where you will find out much more plus what makes Christmas special for them this year.
This week’s author is one for poetry lovers.
What is it about poetry that makes it magical? If you like poems, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. In poetry, meaning and feeling can be captured in a few words. Today, I’m joined by Hibah Shabkhez.
I came across the poetry of Hibah Shabkhez by chance on a part of Goodreads which is frequented not by readers but by authors. Her poems are so enticing, polished and easy to read that they give the (surely false) impression they were easy to write.
Rather, I think this tells us of the writer’s talent. Read on to find out more.
Alack, The Ashen Waves of the Sea by Hibah Shabkhez
Alack, The Ashen Waves of the Sea is a book of quatrain poems that would have you sing softly of love and light and laughter, of truth and of daring, of knowledge and innocence and fantasy. With this silken string of quatrain-chaunts, let yourself soar feckless unto the sun, like Icarus, for the space of one glad smile.
Ann Girdharry’s View
I think that talking too much about poetry can spoil it. Poetry is such a personal experience and, when well done, can evoke surprising emotions, or memories, in the reader.
I enjoyed this varied, short collection which, in my interpretation, included themes of love, loss, death, the existential, the beauty of nature. The book description above gives a glimpse of the treats instore.
In each quatrain, I liked the way the author played with so few words to give such depth. The poems reflect the creativity, mastery of words and life view of the author.
Photoshot of Hibah Shabkhez
Hibah is so eloquent - I really enjoyed her responses to Five Things You Didn’t Know about Hibah Shabkhez -
1. I like to think of myself more as a number of people operating under the alias ‘Hibah Shabkhez’ than as one person defined by the name. This deliberately Wemmick approach to identity does tend to make people believe I am a trifle bonkers, but then who wants to pretend to be sane anyway?
2. Languages fascinate me, especially the impact that sound and spelling have upon meaning. So I made language-teaching my ‘half-plate’ – my regular job – and I add to it a slice of every language I run across. For my diary, of course, I invented a multilingual secret alphabet all my own.
3. One of my selves is a Pakistani girl who dreams of adventures, of discovering brave new worlds and a million different ways of living. At present I am in Paris studying at a university right out of my storybooks, and daily I discover some fresh beauty in this land of strangers like me. As long as I live I pray that every day will bring me new wonders, one sleepy windswept park-square at a time.
4. Recipes and principles of good sense make standard cooking rather boring, but I do like crazy culinary experiments. So, every once in a while, I grab a bowl, beat up half a dozen eggs, and toss in a fistful each of all things vaguely edible around me, from chocolate-coated cereal to chunks of fish ... Try it out sometime.
5. According to the lore of my country, royal children in olden days learnt a craft as a sort of back-up plan against penury. As a writer in the ivory tower of legend, I chose book-binding to be my ‘royal skill’. It may not haul in the millions, but it certainly allows me to bind myself hundreds of books.
Thanks for joining me today, Hibah, and having a ‘royal skill’ sounds like a great idea.
You can check out more about Hibah Shabkhez here - https://www.facebook.com/hibahshabkhezsarusaihiryu/ and here http://languedouche.blogspot.fr.
Next time, I’ll be joined by an author nominated for this year’s Goodreads Choice Award. His powerful book is based on the experiences of a Syrian in exile. Watch this space.
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