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review 2018-04-20 17:28
The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack
The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA - Doug Mack

A book about America’s territories: part travelogue, part history, part investigation of the territories’ political status, this is a lightweight, readable introduction to a complicated topic. Doug Mack takes readers along on his trip through the territories: beginning in the U.S. Virgin Islands, then traveling to American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific, and ending with a trip to Puerto Rico. He even makes a stop in the Marshall Islands and briefly discusses the U.S.’s “freely associated states” of the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. (These are independent Pacific Island countries that have a special relationship with the U.S., even having U.S. post offices and citizens serving in the U.S. military; as a group, they were best known to me for being the only other U.N. member states to always vote against sanctions for Israel.) Along the way, he shares his research about the territories in an accessible way that provides a good primer for readers new to the topic.

I found this book interesting, educational and easy to read. The author shows readers each territory as a unique place and digs into their histories and the history of U.S. international policies more broadly. He also examines the legal oddities governing the rights of the territories and their residents: for instance, they are eligible for some public benefits on their islands, but never become eligible for others even when living in the mainland U.S. (some of which actual foreign immigrants can receive after several years). Meanwhile mainland Americans can’t vote for president if they relocate to the territories. Mack pushes for opinions on the territories’ political status, and except in Puerto Rico often finds them hard to come by; for the most part, territory residents seem to prefer a flawed status quo to possibly losing individuality by becoming a state, or losing economically by becoming independent.

Mack could have improved the book a bit by being a little more willing to go out of his comfort zone as a traveler. He does meet a variety of people living in the territories, including, in the Northern Mariana Islands, a man who spent several years in another part of the Pacific learning traditional navigation, and a woman who immigrated from China to work in the garment factories. But his only exposure to obeah in the U.S. Virgin Islands is asking a well-off couple (he’s a local but she is a scuba instructor from the mainland U.S.) about it, to which they essentially smile and roll their eyes. Toward the end, he comments with surprising honesty that “In all my travels in the territories, I’d seen countless shacks and set foot in many middle-class houses and gaped from afar at the occasional oceanfront villa.” It doesn’t seem to occur to him to try to get invitations to some shacks as well, and the book gives little sense of how most people live in the territories.

All that said, with the exception of Puerto Rico, the territories are tiny islands about which relatively little has been written, especially in such an easy-to-read, bite-sized format, and this book did an excellent job of filling them out on my mental map. I would recommend it to any American to learn a bit more about some of the furthest-flung parts of the country. It can even be funny: did you know about the U.S. government’s machinations in the 19th century to claim uninhabitated islands for their bird poop?

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review 2018-03-17 17:30
The Thick of Things

As i grow older and wiser in love and life, i really like my leading romance ladies to be so much more than looking for Prince charming. In the Thick of Things, Khalila does not disappoint. She's independent, she's sexy and passionate about her life and others. We know that with or without Douglas she will survive, but i was routing for Douglas.  

Douglas, also very much an independent man is driven to prove himself to be worthy of a chance, so he thinks before he acts and reacts to Khalila. Which is all a man really has to figure out how to do to succeed with the woman he loves. 

This story is a wonderful read, it's sexy but sweet. It addresses deep issues of sorrow but gives hope and the reader is quickly taken up with the lives of each character. 

The best stories are those where you wonder about the love-story of the other characters because they've made such an impression on you and i hope to be reading about Corinne and even Trent at another time. 

JL Campbell has woven a charming tale of love, and second chances and i am pleased to be able to review and now recommended it to others. 

Keep Writing JL.

Source: www.caribbeanbooks.org/books/the-thick-of-things
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review 2018-02-24 18:35
Crick Crack, Monkey by Merle Hodge
Crick Crack, Monkey (Caribbean Writers Series) - Merle Hodge

Published in 1970, this novella from Trinidad is classic postcolonial writing, but also the enjoyable story of the life of a young girl. Cynthia, called Cyntie or Tee, and her younger brother are raised by extended family after their mother dies and their father goes abroad. She has childhood escapades and attends a couple of different schools and it’s all vividly portrayed. But she also has a well-off aunt who prizes whiteness in all its forms – physical and cultural – and who makes Tee her project. And so it turns into a story about what in book-critic speech might be called the colonization of a person’s mind: how Tee turns against her upbringing and the people who really love her, but without gaining anything of value to take their place.

 

There’s a lot of postcolonial literature out there that follows children as they leave behind their traditional upbringings to attend school and encounter the white world – The Dark Child, Nervous Conditions and Mema all come to mind – but this one stands out for its exploration of how internalized racism works. It’s also different for being set in Trinidad, where there isn’t quite the “traditional” lifestyle that exists in Africa; the population is mostly descended from African slaves and South Asian indentured servants, a cultural mix that’s clearly present in the book and gives it a unique color.

 

But this isn’t only a political book, and I was a little surprised by how well the characters came to life, after seeing them discussed mostly for their ideological roles. Tee’s Auntie Beatrice, for instance, the symbol of colonial thought, turned out to be a surprisingly vulnerable and complex character. She lacks power at home, where her daughters flout her authority and her husband refuses to engage with the family, and in trying to change Tee she seems largely motivated by a desire for the ideal family she’s never had. Other characters likewise feel real and nuanced despite the brevity of the story.

 

Overall, this book was a pleasant surprise and one I would recommend; social justice oriented readers will particularly appreciate it, but in the complex characters, the vivid descriptions of Tee’s childhood, the rhythms of local speech and the colors of island life, it is also simply a good book.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-11-26 20:38
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 14 - Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Brief Rendezvous with Mr. Bond
The Man With the Golden Gun - Ian Fleming,Kenneth Branagh

 

In the discussions inspired by Broken Tune's reads of Hugh Fraser's Rina Walker books a comparison with Ian Fleming's James Bond novels came up -- I thought before I embark on Fraser's novels myself (if I do) I ought to at least briefly dip into Fleming's, though going by appearances it strikes me that there is probably a case to be made that the better comparison piece would be the Bond movies, not the actual novels.

 

Anyway, I'm not planning to embark on a run-through of the entire Bond canon -- I have no doubt that there is plenty of sameness both in the approach and the storylines (not to mention racial and sexist stereotypes), so if I'd done that instead of short-cutting to this, the last novel of the original Bond series, I'd probably be worn out and bored to tears at this point. Not having done that, I could actually enjoy the story as a thriller, not to be taken too seriously (and not looking too closely at the obvious plot holes,

most notably the question why Bond, having run into his quarry in a Jamaican brothel fairly early on, doesn't take him out immediately -- he has NO sort of watching or investigating brief, after all; he's supposed to kill the man outright.  Or, for that matter, why Scaramaga, circumspect arch-villain that he is, would ever decide to take on a man about whom he knows nothing whatsoever as a temporary security guard.  But then, of course, we wouldn't have the pleasure of visiting that hotel, meeting the scoundrel's latest business associates, and embarking on that luxury train ride out into the country ...

(spoiler show)

).

 

My enjoyment of this book was immeasurably enhanced by having it read to me by Kenneth Branagh -- he is one of those people to whom I'd listen reciting the phone book, and quite frankly the fact that he was reading this book was one of the reasons why I picked it for my brief dip into 007 waters in the first place.  Without Mr. Branagh's narration, this would have been somewhere in the 3 or 3 1/2 star range -- but he managed to add a whole different level to it, and for this he earns the whole package a healthy racking up of its star rating.

 

Since the bulk of the story takes place in swelteringly hot and sunny Jamaica, I also got to complete my read for square 14 of the 16 Festive Tasks that way -- Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.

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review 2017-09-22 00:00
Player (Caribbean Nights #1)
Player (Caribbean Nights #1) - Anne Mars... Player (Caribbean Nights #1) - Anne Marsh Finn knows how to be the life of the party. A playboy goofball with his pick of women and a lifestyle of excess He's the man every guy wants to be and women are seeking to claim. What people don't realize is that, he is more than just a good time. He struggles with demons that few bother to even notice. Mr. Fun and Games is looking for a chance to escape the memories of danger and violence that followed him home from his last mission. His latest distraction is playing hard to get, but she's on the verge of getting more than she bargained for. Valentina may be the woman to tame the bad boy seal without even trying. Anne Marsh brings the heat but Player also has romance, adorable fur babies and some messages of hope and forgiveness that are well hidden but no less powerful.
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