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review 2018-01-14 22:33
Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Kintu - Aaron Bady,Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

This is a big, ambitious book, relating the story of an extended family that begins with a patriarch in 1750 and then jumps ahead to 2004, tracing the fortunes of his descendants in modern Uganda. It’s been much discussed as a very Ugandan book, written for local readers and enjoying massive popularity there, but it’s an excellent novel with much to offer international readers as well.

The story begins in the old kingdom of Buganda, where Kintu Kiddu, a governor, journeys to the capital to pay his respects to a new king, who just took power by murdering his brother. Kintu’s most pressing concerns, however, are closer to home, with the large number of wives he’s obliged to marry for political purposes, the grooming of his heir, and the adopted son whose father curses Kintu’s family.

By 2004, Kintu’s descendants are scattered. Suubi, abandoned as a child, has found material stability but is haunted by her dead twin; estranged from her adoptive family, she tentatively searches for her relatives at the urging of her boyfriend. Kanani is an old man who, along with his fanatical wife, has found refuge in an evangelical Anglican sect, but their zealotry has driven away their children and the family keeps a shameful secret. Isaac has overcome childhood neglect and survived war to be economically successful, but he believes he has given HIV to his wife and child and is afraid to confirm it. Miisi is foreign-educated but chooses to live in a village, where he is raising a small tribe of grandchildren after the deaths of his children.

Plot summaries about this book tend to focus on the ancient curse, but as someone who usually finds fictional curses to be boring plot drags, I was impressed with Makumbi’s handling of this element. The Kintu clan believes that they are cursed, but the story leaves room for other interpretations. The characters experience a lot of hardship, but in the modern story it never feels inevitable, as in those books where you know every hope will end in tragedy. When the clan ultimately comes together in an attempt to remove the curse,

the outcome is ambiguous; but what’s clear is that they have connected with one another, forming a support network to buoy relatives who are isolated or in crisis. Perhaps their isolation from one another was the problem all along, and the ceremonial aspects are simply a way to bring people together and give them a common goal.

(spoiler show)

But having more than one possible reading is a sign of good literature.

And this is a really good book. It’s engaging and moves quickly, with short chapters and lot of dialogue, and a few secrets for readers to guess. The characters are believable and complex, even those who only appear for short periods of time, and this is quite a feat given that there are a lot of them. The writing is good and there is a strong sense of place, though this is a book much more focused on people than descriptions; the culture comes out in the way people speak and what they think and worry about. When people talk about this book being “too African” for British readers (Makumbi evidently couldn’t get a publisher there), I suspect it’s not really about the book’s lack of white characters or focus on colonialism and its aftermath. All that has been done before, though this book remains notable for the lack of European presence in such an expansive historical epic; there’s a lot more to Uganda’s history than its decades of British rule, and we see that in context here.

No, I think the British publishers just took issue with the book’s being aimed at Ugandan readers: the language, the names, the culture aren’t simplified, but form the foundations of the book’s complex world. I doubt international readers will actually have trouble understanding it. No matter where you’re from, it’s an engaging story with a lot of humanity that anyone will recognize, and books tend to be better when they don’t make patronizing assumptions about their audiences.

Aside from being a good story, this book has a lot to say. In the introduction (which I recommend actually reading – it’s spoiler-free and provides interesting background and context), Makumbi describes the book as “masculinist,” for its look at how patriarchy hurts men. The book doesn’t explicitly discuss gender roles, but it’s there, from Kintu’s struggles to sexually gratify the many young wives politics require him to marry when he only wants one, to Isaac’s issues with female sexuality, which lead him to marry a woman who can recognize his issues and use them to manipulate him. When asked if this isn’t feminism, Makumbi replied that her next book is the feminist one – which has me excited for that book. But I can see where she’s coming from: this book is more focused on the men, though the women are complex and varied.

Finally, it’s a fascinating look at the combination of tradition and modernity. There are a lot of traditional Ganda beliefs in the novel, but it doesn’t idealize the past or portray it as monolithic. (One of the funniest scenes involves a traditional all-night advice session for Kintu’s son on the eve of his marriage; the men give him a lot of contradictory advice about sex and marriage.) In the present, the clan varies in their adherence to tradition, from Kanani, who wants to do away with it, to his sister Bweeza, whose persistence and enthusiasm for the old ways make her the “Great Aunt” of the clan. Modernity creeps into traditional ceremonies, where the hired medium is foreign-educated, while old ways and traditional motifs reassert themselves in modern contexts.

Overall then, this is an excellent novel, combining storytelling prowess with big ideas and food for thought. I hope its unfamiliarity won’t scare readers off; one of the great advantages of reading is the ability to experience other lives and cultures, and this is a perfect book for the armchair traveler. And it has an engaging plot, complex characters and universal themes to interest those with no connection to Uganda. I hope it is widely read and that we get more books like this.

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review 2018-01-08 00:00
Best Laid Plans (Madaris Family Saga)
Best Laid Plans (Madaris Family Saga) - Brenda Jackson Best Laid Plans sets out to seduce with cunning women, alpha males, hot romance and a hint of suspense. This time around Mama Laverne sets her sights on Nolan and with a little help from her family and friends, just may get her wish. Ivy and Nolan take readers on a tempting chase of danger, romance and stubbornness. What begins as a meeting of the minds turns into a lesson in love. Count on Brenda Jackson to deliver a lesson in family while writing an epic love song along the way.
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review 2018-01-04 02:17
4 siblings, 4 very different lives
The Immortalists - Chloe Benjamin

The novel begins in 1969 with Gold family--Saul, Gertie, and their 4 children Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon--living in New York City. One afternoon the 4 kids go to see a psychic who will tell them the dates of their deaths.

And from there we follow each of the kids' lives. How accurate was the pyschic? How does her prediction affect each of the kids in their life choices and career decisions? The 4 kids live very different lives in their daring, their career and educational choices--how much of that is a result of the predictions? Did the psychic (accidentally or otherwise) steer them to decisions that would lead to the intended outcomes? Or is fate just fate?

This book is very well written and well organized. I love family sagas and I love novels that follow people as this one does—and sometimes such novels get messy and confusing. Benjamin has done a great job telling the stories of the 4 kids while interweaving them and those of Saul and Gertie and significant others and their kids. She also ties up the potential loose ends of significant others and children.

A pleasure to read.

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review 2017-11-30 04:22
Wicked Torture
Wicked Torture - J. Kenner

Title:  Wicked Torture

Author:  J. Kenner

Publisher:  Martini & Olive

Series:  Wicked Nights S tark World Book 3

Reviewed By:

Rating: Four

Review:


"Wicked Torture" by J. Kenner


My Thoughts.....

 

If you love reads of intensed second chance love that will have a lots of emotional twists, memories, heartbreaks to redemption and love then this is definitely the read for you.This is definitely one of those loves that should have never been walk away from in the first place however, I could see that Noah was doing what he felt was right.   

 

We find that the two main characters Kiki and Noah have been on a roller coaster 'to hell and back' will they be able to get finally  their HEA? For reason why these two had separated due to what Noah had done to Darla. Now as his life changes due to his wife and daughter death and it seems like he still had feeling for Kiki after seeing her again. Will Kiki be there for him as he seems to have come back into her life after ten years?  What about her 'huge music career?  Well, the story gets more interesting as you keep turning the pages where we see that these lives would have to be rekindled. We find Kiki now that she is divorced from her husband and Noah is widowed.  

 

The author presents quite a story as we see how these two being drawn together once again. I will say I did like how time that was taken to heal before they tried to start once again. There was definitely the hot chemistry between these two but will Noah be able to 'give his heart a second chance at love?'  This will definitely be a 'unique twist on a second chance love.' Will these two get this HEA and find their way back to each other?  To find out the answers to these questions and so much more you will have to pick up "Wicked Torture" to see how this story all comes out especially that epilogue.  

 

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review 2017-11-26 23:52
Raised from the Ground by José Saramago
Raised from the Ground - José Saramago,Margaret Jull Costa

Look, I like fiction that teaches me about history and deals with social issues, and I don’t mind a bit of stylistic experimentation. But I have my limits. This so-called novel is about 30% story, 10% flights of fancy and 60% unsourced treatise on labor relations in 20th century Portugal. Several generations of a peasant family are dirt-poor, doing backbreaking labor from sunrise to sunset for rich landowners who may or may not pay enough to keep their families from starvation. As the decades go on the workers become increasingly engaged in a struggle for better wages and hours. The landowners, government and Catholic Church unite to keep the workers down, the landowners refusing to raise wages and calling in the police at any sign of labor unrest; the government (particularly under the Salazar dictatorship) responding violently to strikes and arresting and torturing suspected organizers; and the local priests preaching acceptance of their lot to the peasants and getting cozy with the landowners.

Which is a fine backdrop for a story, but here the history is at the forefront; the book isn't about its characters but rather the overall state of workers’ rights and oppression at the time. Whole chapters don’t include anyone we’ve even met, but describe the torture and death of an unknown laborer (much of it from the anthropomorphized perspective of the ants in the room), or elaborate on an extended metaphor comparing the latifundio to an ocean. Meanwhile the appearances of the "protagonists" from the Mau-Tempo family are about putting a face on the workers’ poverty, subjugation and slow empowerment, rather than any excitement in their personal lives. The plot of the book is the story of the rural Portuguese peasantry in general and not anything going on with these individuals. I couldn't help wondering, since Saramago was clearly much more interested in the history than the fiction, if he chose to write an impressionistic "fictional" story rather than the seemingly more natural nonfiction account in part because it allowed him to avoid the work of marshaling all the required facts and figures. Or maybe I'm being unfair and he was simply using his soapbox as a famous author to hold forth on the issues that mattered to him, and fictional conventions be damned.

Meanwhile, the writing style is experimental, full of run-on sentences and paragraphs that incorporate dialogue without quotation marks. Here are samples so you can see for yourself:

“Long live the republic. So how much is the new daily rate, boss, Let’s see, I pay whatever the others pay, talk to the overseer, So, overseer, how much is the daily rate, You’ll earn an extra vintém, That’s not enough to live on, Well, if you don’t want the job, there are plenty more who do, Dear God, a man could die of hunger along with his children, what can I give my children to eat, Put them to work, And if there is no work, Then don’t have so many children, Wife, send the boys off to collect firewood and the girls for straw, and come to bed, Do with me as you wish, I am my master’s slave, and there, it’s done, I’m pregnant, with child, in the family way, I’m going to have a baby, you’re going to be a father, I’ve missed a period, That’s all right, eight can starve as easily as seven.”

“Tomorrow, said Dona Clemência to her children, and her nieces and nephews, is New Year’s Day, or so she had gleaned from the calendar, placing her hopes in the brand-new year and sending her best wishes to all the Portuguese people, well, that isn’t quite what she said, Dona Clemência has always spoken rather differently, but she’s learning, we all choose our own teachers, and while these words are still hanging in the air, news comes that there has been an attack on the barracks of the third infantry regiment in Beja, now Beja is not in India or Angola or Guinea-Bissau, it’s right next door, it’s on the latifundio, and the dogs are outside barking, though the coup was put down, they will speak of little else over the next weeks and months, so how was it possible for a barracks to be attacked, all it took was a little luck, that’s all it ever takes, perhaps that’s what was lacking the first time around, and no one noticed, that’s our fate, if the horse carrying the messenger bearing orders to commence battle loses a shoe, the whole course of history is turned upside down in favor of our enemies, who will triumph, what bad luck. And in saying this we are not being disrespectful to those who left the peace and safety of their homes and set off to try and pull down the pillars of the latifundio, though Samson and everyone else might die in the attempt, and when the dust had settled and we went and looked, we found that it was Samson who had died and not the pillars, perhaps we should have sat down under this holm oak and taken turns telling each other the thoughts we had in our head and heart, because there is nothing worse than distrust, it was good that they hijacked the Santa Maria, and the attack in Beja was good too, but no one came to ask us latifundio dogs and ants if either the ship or the attack had anything to do with us, We really value what you’re doing, though we don’t know who you are, but since we are just dogs and ants, what will we say tomorrow when we all bark together and you pay as little heed to us as did the owners of this latifundio you want to surround, sink and destroy. It’s time we all barked together and bit deep, captain general, and meanwhile check to see that your horse doesn’t have a shoe missing or that you only have three bullets when you should have four.”


Certainly Saramago is a talented writer with a strong voice, and for all the unusual choices here he brings the setting vividly to life. The translation is very good, and the publishers deserve credit for a professional job, including a few brief footnotes explaining historical and cultural references that may not be self-evident to a non-Portuguese reader. This book is not without merit, and had I come into it looking for a history of labor relations rather than a novel, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so disappointed. But for all Saramago’s talent, for me it was a drag to read.

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