Absolutely, Almost, Perfect By: Lissa Reed | Book Review, Q&A (+Giveaway)

Absolutely, Almost, Perfect (Sucre Coeur Series #3)
By: Lissa Reed
Genre: M/M Romance, LGBTQ+, Contemporary Fiction, Rom/Com Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: August 3, 2017
Publisher: Duet Books/ Interlude Press
Received an ARC copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Craig Oliver and Alex Scheff lead a charmed life. Craig is part owner of Sucre Coeur, the bakery he’s loved and managed for years. Alex is an up-and-coming Seattle photographer. Their relationship has been going strong for a year, and everything is absolutely perfect—right up until Craig receives a wedding invitation from his long-estranged brother.

As Craig grows tense over seeing his brother for the first time in years, Alex can’t control his anxiety over meeting Craig’s family. At the wedding in an English hamlet, boisterous Scottish mothers, smirking teenage sisters, and awkward ex-boyfriends complicate the sweet life they lead.

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A House Without Windows By: Nadia Hashimi | Review

A House Without Windows
By: Nadia Hashimi
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Culture, Mystery, Family, Friendship
Rating: 4 stars
Reprint release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks/ Harper Collins

Synopsis:

A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.

Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

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Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me by: Nnanna Ikpo | Review (+Author Interview)

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me
By: Nnanna Ikpo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, LGBT, Human Rights, Cultural
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: April 20,2017
Publisher: Team Angelica
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis:

Olawale and Oluwole are dreadlocked Yoruba lawyers, minority human rights activists fighting for a better Nigeria. Bisexual and closeted, Olawale has spent his adult life protecting and defending his charismatic, more evidently homosexual twin; but when the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act becomes law, they, their family, and the women who love them are caught in a savage spotlight that threatens to wreck all their lives. In the midst of this Wole and Wale must deal with an estranged convict father whose unexpected reappearance brings dark and troubling family secrets to light.

Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever celebrates the enduring power of love, desire, faith, patriotism and human rights struggle in the face of political oppression and religious prejudice in Nigeria today. It extends the literary conversation begun by Jude Dibia and continued by Chinelo Okparanta.

 

Book Review:

This book was incredible. Although largely aimed at an African audience, I recommend this book for the LGBTQI+ community; its supporters, human rights activists, and readers who enjoy moving, compelling, and resonating narratives that leave inspired conversation. The content in this book covers strong political, social, cultural, and religious oppression and life-threatening situations that contradict the early to late 2000s following the pass of the SSMPA (Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act) in 2014 time frame that the book covers.

It is impossible to fathom some of the information the author reveals about the treatment of members, supporters and suspected LGBT individuals in Nigeria, but the accounts are real. Yet, so intricately woven in between these scenes are Wole and Wale, two queer brothers who actively use their skills and connections to push a wave of hope and peace to the otherwise vastly secretive gay community that is forced even further into hiding following SSMPA.

I have mentioned before how first person narration was not always my favorite to read, but with some of the books I have read recently, I am beginning to believe that it is not exactly true. Just with the prologue discussing the attack on a gay club in Nigeria and the criminalization of the victims, the reader is given a small glimpse of how regressive, from a Western point of view; a majority of the country is still today.

With that said, it is important to note how well the author delivers not only the political and religious perspectives of ‘traditional’ Nigeria, but also the progressive, forward thinking and widely read opinions of the population. The author does not offer the stereotypical narrative of closeted homosexuals or queer men who are constantly afraid of speaking out, pushing back or fighting for what is right.

Even with the threat of danger ever present in this book from beginning to end, Nnanna Ikpo presents his readers with the most realistic and relatable account of contemporary, queer Nigerian men doing what they can to make a difference for their community in the best way they know how.

Told mainly through Wale’s eyes, the reader experiences a strong complexity when it comes to the gay community because his character is bisexual. Wale stands behind his and his brother’s cause and work, but seems to often find himself struggling with his sexuality because on a deeper level he feels he’s a hypocrite. While at the same time knows that if he does not play the role of the heterosexual male just fighting for human rights of Nigeria’s minorities, real change may never come.

It is also clear that Wale is motivated by his love for his twin brother, Wole. Though focused on Wale, the author does a wonderful job of painting the clear lines that distinguish the two brothers, regardless of how forward thinking and similar they both are.

Wale seems to have a stronger resolve throughout the narrative than Wole about their decision to keep their sexuality a secret, but at times the author gives the reader a small glimpse of the sadness that lies just beneath Wole’s upbeat and outgoing personality that Wale is always attuned to. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave It To Me, presents a story about love, family, life, hope, equality, community, politics, religion and culture that is so immaculately structured it was difficult to put it down.

One of the moving things about this book, and I could have interpreted it wrong, was there seemed to be a theme of forgiveness with this sense of determination to keeping forward projected with Wale’s perspective. Almost an ambiguous way of expressing that love and perseverance will eventually win-out over hate.

Each chapter opens and closes with a letter or an email and closed with a poem that signifies this ever-continuous foreboding sense of optimistic love and loss that pulls the reader into the chapter.

Like me, I think readers will fall in love with the way Nnanna Ikpo keeps the discussion on human rights consistent and open throughout this book. Connected to Wale’s deep love and pride for being Nigerian, a Christian, and a bisexual man who even, in the end, holds on to the possibility of a better future where there will be change leaves us all hopeful.

 

 

Author Interview:

First off, thank you so much for allowing this brief Q&A. I deeply appreciate it. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever is a truly wonderful book.

Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but the title itself, Fimí sílẹ̀, which is referenced in the book, roughly translated from Yoruba means “leave me alone.” What was your inspiration behind the title?

Your translation is in order. The first inspiration for the title was the popular hit track ‘Olufunmi’ by my all-time favourite boy-band Styl-plus, and reflects a longing to explore my Yoruba roots.

I guess my next question counts as a broad, creative writing process question in regards to the book. One of the key shifting points in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was the passing of the SSMPA in early 2014, so was that when the concept for the story came to life or were you already writing the book? If so, how long did completing the book take?

The basic premise of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever came early in 2013. In my initial thoughts, the story would, among other things, be written predictively to show how ugly things could get if the bill became law. Months into writing the first draft, SSMPA was enacted. My anger at this hugely affected the rest of the writing and rewriting process. Our final draft of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever emerged in December 2016. Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever took roughly four years.

How were the poems at the end of each chapter inspired?

While pieces like ‘Eka aro my love’, ‘Beni Perhaps’ and ‘Oremi Alhaji’ were inspired by personal experiences of real people and places, occasionally even scenarios from Nollywood films, others arose from the independent evolution of the plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever and their interaction with each other.

Do you have a favorite character or scene from this book? Or a least favorite?

This is a difficult question. The plot and characters in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever were carefully crafted to capture and evoke multiple symbols, ideas, thoughts, dreams and places both real and imagined. All the characters have their merits (and demerits) and are not in competition with each other – and should never be made to be so. Every part of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever was thought out and deliberated upon by me and informed by others, some of whom were unconsciously part of the creative process. As such I do not have a favourite character, scene, or least favourite one. They are all important parts of Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever’s big picture, and I think necessary.

The book is so rich with character depth and complex narrative layers that keep the reader emerged in the story as the layers slowly unravel. Therefore, I was curious about how much inspiration you took from real life for some of the characters and the strong discussions that take place in this book, i.e. the discussion that takes place at K.U. between the faculty members and Wale and his students for example.

Thank you! Real people and their dynamics in learning and working spaces may differ in form but are substantially similar everywhere, so in Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever, I simply dragged all these people from the several real spaces I have had access to, dropped them into fictitious classrooms and offices and let them deal with each other. Creativity, imagination, editing and rewriting helped me to layer and colour debates.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring Nigerian writers or just writers of the LGBT community who might want to share their stories and continue to bring awareness to the rigid system struggle they are battling?

It is often tricky to advise other writers, even when our primary aim is the same or similar. We have our varying methods, contexts and journeys, and often are strangers to each other. What I have is not so much advice but a salutation, and cognisance of the fact that our work is important and more than that, necessary. And because our art is mostly ‘queer’ and therefore subversive, it may attract more hostility than acclaim. It may not change the world – at least not hugely – but it will not leave it the same, inshallah.

 

Nnanna also runs a personal blog, Letters To My Africa here and you can also follow him on twitter.

This book was truly amazing and even with this review, I do not think I give it enough justice. It is highly recommended. Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my review for  Fimí sílẹ̀ Forever: Heaven Gave it To Me.

Until the next post,

 

Gia.
Other piece(s) to check out I found that related to some of the perspectives in the book: Tell Me Where I Can Be Safe

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Symphony Of Fates (Dragon Songs Saga #4) by J.C. Kang | Book Blast

Hello Again, Book-Peeps:

Before we get into the weekend, I have a quick little post for ya! It’s the fourth and final book in the Dragon Songs Saga by JC Kang,  previously known as The Daughter Of The Dragon Throne, re-release book-day today! ^_^  Symphony of Fates takes readers on the final journey of Princess Kaiya as she fights to protect and restore the realm she loves. This historical, mythological, epic-high fantasy/adventure, sorcery fiction series is one you’re gonna want to jump into.  Here’s a bit about Symphony Of Fates:

Kaiya escapes her ordeal at the hands of the Teleri Emperor, only to return to a homeland beset by enemies on all sides, and crumbling from within.

As a teenager, she quelled a rebellion with the Dragon Scale Lute. As a young adult, she vanquished a dragon with the power of her voice.

Now, robbed of her magic by grief, Kaiya must navigate a web of court intrigue to save the realm before it falls. Only she can lay claim to the Dragon Throne on behalf of her unborn sons—whether the father is the lover who perished rescuing her, or the hated enemy who killed him.

In the final story in Kaiya’s saga, she must rally a nation, repel invaders, and prove to the world why her family alone holds the Mandate of Heaven.

And now… The moment we’ve been waiting for…

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Dances Of Deception (Dragon Songs Saga #3) by J.C. Kang | Cover Reveal (+Book Sale & Giveaway)

Heya, Fellow Book Enthusiasts:

How’s this week been treating ya? Swell? Maybe not so swell? Well, I have some fun news to share with you today. Remember the series I read and reviewed by J.C. Kang? Previously know as The Daughter Of The Dragon Throne, now the Dragon Songs Saga, is a historical, mythological, epic-high fantasy/adventure, sorcery fiction series.

J.C. reached out and told about a book re-launch party happening today, 10AM-9PM over on Facebook.  This launch party will include giveaways, author takeovers, and more! It is definitely something you don’t want to miss.

I have even more good news to for the #TGIF trend today. A cover reveal for book 3 of the Dragon Songs Saga, Dances Of Deception. In case you’re new to the series, here’s a bit about Dances Of Deception:

The world knows Kaiya as the Dragon Charmer.

After vanquishing the Last Dragon with the power of her voice, all she wants is to return to a quiet life of anonymity. Instead, the Emperor tasks her with an onerous task: negotiating with the aggressive Teleri Empire for the extradition of her cousin, who tried to murder the imperial family and usurp the Dragon Throne.

The mission reunites her with her childhood friend Tian, now an assassin-spy who loathes killing. He is no longer the adorable, gullible boy from her memories, any more than she is the adventurous, sweet girl from his. Instead of rekindling nostalgia for a youthful innocence they both yearn for, their reunion ignites a mutual hatred.

When the Teleri Empire breaks off negotiations, Tian must help Kaiya escape. Orcs, Ogres, and enemy soldiers stand between them and home, and their volatile relationship could get them captured… or killed.

And now… The moment we’ve been waiting for…

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We Should All Be Feminists by: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [Review]

We Should All Be Feminists
By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: Writing, Non-Fiction, Feminism, Essays, Social Justice
Release Date: July 29, 2014

Synopsis:

An eBook short.

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.

With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.

Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists

 

Book Review

Though rooted in the backdrop of Nigerian culture, We Should All Be Feminists offers not only a universal reach, but a current perspective when it comes to gender inequality. Like others who have come across this little gem, I found this book insightful, thought provoking and relatable.

Though the hurdles and restrictions I face in America differ from that of Nigeria, it was difficult to read the way in which a mere class monitor position (that she rightfully earned) when she was 9-years-old was passed over to a boy in her class based solely on fact that her classmate was male. Being born with a quick mind and an even quicker tongue, I doubt that without the years of practicing the act of counting to ten (sometimes five) in my head that I would be able to respond or graciously address the systematic gender injustice Adichie describes.

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Cover Reveal For: Songs of Insurrection (Dragon Songs #1) by J.C. Kang

Happy New Year & Happy Friday, Peeps! ^_^

So, I have an exciting post for you all. Today marks the official relaunch day for Songs Of Insurrection by J.C. Kang. Previously know as The Dragon Scale Lute, book one of the historical, mythological, epic-high fantasy/Adventure, sorcery fiction, Dragon Songs (previously the Daughter of The Dragon Throne) series. As you can see on my blog, I’ve followed this series since early last year, and while I liked the old cover, the new one looks amazing.

In case you’re new to the series, here’s a bit about Songs Of Insurrection:

Only the lost art of evoking magic through music can prevent Cathay from descending into chaos. Blessed with an unrivaled voice, Kaiya dreams of a time when a song liberated enslaved humans from their orc masters.

Maybe then, the imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool. 

When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan uncover a brewing rebellion, the court hopes to appease the ringleader by offering Kaiya as a bride.  Obediently wedding the depraved rebel leader means giving up her music.

Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.

And now… The moment we’ve been waiting for…

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Audiobook Review: In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

In The Country We Love: My Family Divided
By: Diane Guerrero
Narrator(s): Diane Guerrero
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Autobiography,  Politics, Immigration, Social Injustice
Rating: 3.5 stars
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 9 Hrs and 10 Min
Type: Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date: May 3rd 2016
Synopsis:
Diane Guerrero, the television actress from the megahit Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, was just fourteen years old on the day her parents and brother were arrested and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, without the support system of her family.
In the Country We Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman’s extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country.
There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are just as precarious, and whose stories haven’t been told. Written with Michelle Burford, this memoir is a tale of personal triumph that also casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families likes the author’s and on a system that fails them over and over.

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