Literary Goals in 2018

                  

Hello All! I’m back and ready to write.  I took a very significant break from this blog and from my YouTube channel.  Needless to say, it was a lot.  I was everywhere and nowhere and that wasn’t what I wanted.  Having taken the time to reflect and to make some changes to my blog, I feel I’m more clear-headed about what I want to achieve through blogging.  But before I tell you all about those goals, let me take you back briefly through my year reading in 2017 because despite not blogging I was reading.

Now my reading goals for 2017 were specific and sadly I didn’t accomplish them completely.  However I’m still pretty happy about what I read and how much I read. I had a goal to read all of Bernice McFadden’s novels and I failed.  I read all of her novels except, My Name is a Butterfly (out of print but is being released this year :)) and Finding Amos.  I didn’t reread The Book of Harlan and Glorious.  Although, I’m sure I’ll reread The Book of Harlan one day.  As for  the others I read for the first time, they were all very good and each had something special about them. They are like her children.  McFadden really has a way with telling a story and inventing characters.  Of all the ones I read I think Glorious is the book I least preferred and that was because I felt it was too short.

I encourage you all to take a year to read one author in order of publication.  It’s a wonderful way to learn about writing and how an author hones her/his skills over time.  We are all passionate readers but when we sit down to write we forget about the challenge of the exercise of writing.  It’s not easy and it is quite a solitary activity for most of the time.

My next challenge was to read more Caribbean authors.  Unfortunately I didn’t read as many as I wanted to, but I’m not giving up on that one.  I also wanted to read more pages last year than I did in 2016 but failed at that too.  I was short about 200 pages. Oh well but I read 59 books and almost got to the page count so I read more big books this year.  That really showed for my Goodreads Big Book challenge last year when I read 13 and had pledged to read 10.  I was really happy about that.  I read some great big books and only 2 of them were disappointing – American Pastoral by Philip Roth and Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult.  Let’s just try not to dwell on those 2.  Two duds out of 59 ain’t bad!  Lastly I pledged to read at least one Russian novel and that just never happened.  Every time I culled my shelves for something to read, I skipped right over the Russian novels – too daunting.  One day…

Now on to my goals for 2018, I have set my Goodreads challenge to read 60 books this year.  I usually set my goal at 50 and always go over.  I hope this will push me to read more and watch less YouTube and television.  I’m primarily looking forward to increasing my page count significantly.   Next challenge will be to read more Caribbean authors. I hope to read at least ten. My last reading challenge is to participate in #readingblackout which is spearheaded by Denise D. Cooper at Art Books Live Denise D. Cooper on YouTube.  She’ll be reading only African – American writers this year.  I’ll be joining her for January, February, and March.  I may join in again later on in the year.  If you’re interested I encourage you to join in too if only for a month.

You know #readsoullit will be going on in February in honor of Black History Month as usual with a photo challenge on Instagram and a read along on YouTube.  I’ll be posting on that shortly.  Now another literary challenge will be for me to keep a bullet journal of my reading and my life and most of all to continue writing the novel I’ve been working on.  I’d really liked to write more and to eventually get to the point where I finish something – short story collection, novel, etc. anything!

 

So that’s all on what I’m reading and on what I’m doing literary wise for the year.  I hope I haven’t once again bitten off more than I can chew but I think I can make these challenges work for me.  What about you?  Have you decided to make any plans to read or to write something?  Or are you one of those people who clams up once the challenge has been announced?  If you are no worries.  I can be like that sometimes too.  You know I’m Fickle Fred. 😉

Happy New Year to you all!!! I wish you loads of excellent reading and writing in 2018!!!

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Barkskins

barkskinsBarkskins is Annie Proulx’s fifth novel, which was released in January 2016.  Epic, powerful, and engaging from page one, Barkskins follows two Frenchmen René and Duquet who are indentured to a seigneur Trépagny in New France. There they are to become barkskins, wood cutters.  From these two men the reader follows their lineage and the travels they make which takes us through Canada, the United States, and as far away as New Zealand.

The recurring man against nature theme is present throughout the novel.  We witness the simultaneous destruction of the Native Indians and of their land.  The Native Indians’ desire to live in symbiosis with nature while the white settlers only desire to clear the trees and to force the savage surroundings into their new homes at all cost.  The first half of the book clearly depicts the brutality used to clear off all that was undesired by the white settlers.  As for the Native Indians they were forced to accept the ways of the white settlers or to perish like their ancestors.

The lineages of René and Duquet are perfect examples of how people go about surviving in such difficult unchartered territory.  It’s survival of the fittest. Proulx uses fire as a way of wiping the slate clean because with each new generation comes more hopes and dreams to be had.

Barkskins reads as an epic novel on a grand scale.  There is much to take in from detailed descriptions of lumbering practices to unforgettable characters that will suck you into the story and make you forget that the novel is 713 pages.  Not to mention, Prouxl’s writing is stellar.  She never misses a beat to let you know the slightest thing about a character in one seemingly insignificant sentence.  It’s all in the details people.  If you’re a detailed reader you’ll catch all that she wants to say about a character without spending too much time. The pacing is perfect and has the ups and downs needed to keep a large epic novel like this moving.  If there are any books that are a must read this year it’s Barkskins. You won’t be disappointed. Proulx even manages to make the story come full circle and to give us a bit of a message at the end.  Perfection!  I was so afraid the ending was going to be flat but she finessed it beautifully, henceforth me giving Barkskins 5 stars.

My copy:  Barkskins,  Hardcover, 736 pages – Fourth Estate

My rating: 5 stars

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Festival America

 

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Krik? Krak!

img_2994I’d never heard the words Kirk? Krak! and wondered what they meant when I picked this book up.  Reading the back cover, I learned that storytellers say Krik? and listeners say Krak! in Haiti.  Krik? Krak! is a poetic collection of connected short stories that explores the Haitian community in the United States and in Haiti.  The tradition of storytelling is a way of passing down moeurs and is an important part of Haitian culture.  This is specifically treated in this collection – passing culture from mother to daughter.

Krik? Krak! opens with a short story of Haitian refugees that are attempting to escape the political strife and horrors of their country and are floating out to sea desperately trying to reach Miami, while shedding their personal items along the way and in some cases their lives.  Each story is told from the poignant point of view of Haitians however surprising these stories have a strong sense of universality about them as well.  Everyone has a sense of home, a sense of family, of culture, and a desire for a good life.  Danticat does a brilliant job of integrating the recurring themes of water, suffering, and hope.  Water is often portrayed as a barrier.  The barrier that surrounds the island of Haiti and separates it from the Dominican Republic.  Just as the ocean must be crossed to attain a hopeful life in the United States, water is the notion of escape along with the reminder of all the Haitians that didn’t/don’t make it.

It’s very hard to read these stories and not think about the refugees fleeing the horrors of Syria and immigrating to Europe.  Leaving one’s country and having to find the balance between acceptance into a new country and preserving the culture that was left behind.  Danticat’s writing is infectious with a dynamism of superstition and it enlightens the reader to Haitian history.  I strongly recommend reading this short story collection to learn more about Haiti and its people but mostly to experience the passionate manner in which Danticat evokes the honesty, courage, sensitivity, and authenticity of their stories.

Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer born in Port-au-Prince in 1969.  She was raised in Haiti by her aunt and uncle.  She finally joined her parens, who had left for the United States earlier, at the age of 12 in Brooklyn.  Danticat began writing at the age of 9 years old.  Her move to Brooklyn was difficult so she turned to literature for comfort.  Her first published writing in English was A Haitian-American Christmas: Cremace and Creole Theatre.   Some of the major themes that are dealt with in her writings are mother-daughter relationships, national identity, and Haitian diaspora.

She has been decorated with  countless literary awards and honorary degrees.  Having earned a Masters of Fine Arts from Brown University, Danticat has gone on to write many well-known titled books such as The Farming of the Bones, The Dew Breaker, and her latest novel Claire of the Sea Light.  On a high note, a young director named Easmanie Michel fell in love with Krik? Krak! and is working diligently to bring Edwidge Danticat’s short story Caroline’s Wedding to the big screen.  She believes that Danticat’s work will translate well on-screen and she has been entrusted to make it happen.  If you’re interested in keeping up with the new developments on this film project head over and check out Easmanie Michel’s Facebook page Caroline’s Wedding.

 

My Copy:  Krik? Krak!, paperback 224 pages

Rating: *****

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My Book Club Shortlist 2016-2017

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To New Release or Not

If you’re an avid reader like me, your worst nightmare is standing in front of your bookcase (insert picture of bookcase overflowing with different sized books with colorful enticing spines and a few stacks on the floor because there’s no more room on the shelves) and trying to find the next book to rock your world. We all want to find a book that’s a knock it out of the park 5-stars. However, the number one problem is that we can’t help but be convinced to read some of the many new books released every month instead. Frankly, new releases can be a real dilemma. How does one choose from the plethora of newbies out there.

Well If you’re the kind of person that reads all the new books because you feel automatically left out of the literary conversation if you don’t, then this post is for you. If you’re dying to get to some lesser known but hopefully interesting reads you’re in the right place. I’m going to to share with you some of my anticipated new releases this year. Some of them you can already find in the shops and a few I’ve already read. Moreover the particularity of this list is that they are all diverse authors:

lazarettoLazaretto is Diane McKinney-Whetstone’s sixth novel. She is especially known for writing her successful bestselling contemporary novel Tumbling. One of the dominant aspects to McKinney-Whetstone’s novels is that they are set in her hometown Philadelphia. This is equally the case of Lazaretto which explores the arrival of immigrants whose first stop is the Lazaretto quarantine hospital. The Philadelphia Lazaretto was the first quarantine hospital, built in 1799, in the Untied States. Henceforth, this novel of historical fiction, plays out the story of the black community of Lazaretto, set in the aftermath of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Fans of McKinney-Whetstone, I’m sure will be impatient to read Lazaretto which was released on the 12th of April. Her last novel was published in 2005, called Trading Dreams at Midnight.
in other wordsIn Other Words was released earlier this year in February and it is one that I personally can’t wait to peruse. Jhumpa Lahiri moved to Rome with her family in 2012 with the intention of immersing herself in Italian culture and language. Writing daily in her journal in Italian, her goal was to master the Italian language. Through the pages of this autobiographical novel, we see how Lahiri deals with a journey into new words, writing, learning, and being understood. For all of those who have ever had to live in a country while learning the language, In Other Words should be a relevant read. Lahiri wrote In Other Words in Italian; so that is inspiration to all language learners.

I had the pleasure of already reading and enjoying the next two books that I’m recommending The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden and The Birds of Opulence bythe book of harlan Crystal Wilkinson. The Book of Harlan spans six decades and turns around Harlan the main character. The setting goes from Harlem Renaissance to Paris jazz clubs in Montmartre, Paris to the dark, horrific Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Just check out my review to hear more about it.

The Birds of Opulence develops a story in a small Kentucky town called Opulence. Four generations of women living under the same roof can make the birds of opulencefor a lot toes being stepped on. However, the stronger mothers love their daughters the more difficult relationships seem to be. Wilkinson explores major themes such as mother/daughter relationships, male/female relationships, community, race, and coming of age. Characters found in Wilkinson’s previous short story collect called Water Street appear in The Birds of Opulence. It’s a little book that packs a punch. Check out my review here.
The Blackbirds is the latest Eric Jerome Dickey release, April 19th. I haven’t had a chance the blackbirdsto read it yet, but it’s on my TBR for this month. It’s a chick-lit or as I would like to refer to it as a “girlfriend book”. The blackbirds are four young women Kwanzaa, Indigo, Destiny, and Ericka, friends but close enough to be sisters. Of course they are all looking for something in particular – love, health, etc., however it’s their friendship that they value the most or do they.

Last but not least I recommend The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter the castlereleased at the end of January this year, which is an epic historical fiction covering 1941 to the twenty-first century. It is written by The Wire tv writer and playwright Kia Northern and has been highly anticipated. Two white brothers growing up in rural Alabama and two black brothers growing up in a small town in Maryland whose families will encounter and conflict. Obviously not a simple story but an enticingly captivating one told in 800 pages. I’m looking forward to encountering all the various historical references; definitely a read to keep us engrossed and pondering. Personally, I can’t wait to get to it. It’s on my TBR this month.

I wrote this post as a guest on Callaloo Soup.  Thanks for inviting me!  Check out Francine’s creative simplicity, inspirations and resources blog.  You’ll find everything from journaling, scrapbooking, reading recs,  and plenty of other great ideas to lead your wholesome slow living life.

 

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3 Book Reviews – The Face: A New Series

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The Man Booker International Prize 2016

Man Booker International PrizeThe Man Booker International Prize 2016 longlist was announced earlier today.  The list is comprised of some very impressive and appealing titles.  It won’t be easy for the judges to choose the shortlist.  I’m thrilled to see a little bit of #ReadSoulLit on the list with Marie NDiyae and Fiston Mwanza Mujila.  Both of their books are on my TBR for 2016 so that works out perfectly. I’ll be bumping them up my tremendously long TBR list (2016).  The £50,000 prize will be divided between the winning author and translator.   Each shortlisted author and translator will be awarded £1,000.  The shortlist will be announced 14 April and the winners will be announced 16 May at a dinner at the V&A in London.  So let’s check out the list of the thirteen nominees:

A General Theory of Oblivion -José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola) Daniel Hahn,  (Harvill Secker)

The Story of the Lost Child – Elena Ferrante (Italy) Ann Goldstein,  (Europa Editions)

The Vegetarian  – Han Kang (South Korea) Deborah Smith, (Portobello Books)

Mend the Living – Maylis de Kerangal (France) Jessica Moore,  (Maclehose Press)

Man Tiger – Eka Kurniawan (Indonesia) Labodalih Sembiring,  (Verso Books)

The Four Books – Yan Lianke (China) Carlos Rojas,  (Chatto & Windus)

Tram 83  – Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo/Austria) Roland Glasser, (Jacaranda)

A Cup of Rage – Raduan Nassar (Brazil) Stefan Tobler,  (Penguin Modern Classics)

Ladivine – Marie NDiaye (France) Jordan Stump,  (Maclehose Press)

Death by Water – Kenzaburō Ōe (Japan) Deborah Boliner Boem,  (Atlantic Books)

White Hunger – Aki Ollikainen (Finland) Emily Jeremiah & Fleur Jeremiah,  (Peirene Press)

A Strangeness in My Mind – Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) Ekin Oklap,  (Faber & Faber)

A Whole Life  – Robert Seethaler (Austria) Charlotte Collins, (Picador)

So do you keep up with the Man Booker International Prize? Or just the Man Booker?  Do you think we as readers give too much attention to literary awards? Which literary awards do you enjoy keeping up with?

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 29 -A Few Favorite Books from Last Year

Day 29A Few Favorite Books from Last Year  Today’s the last day of Black History Month but certainly not the last day of #ReadSoulLit.  I encourage all of you to keep posting and talking about books by black authors, while using #ReadSoulLit! Thanks to you all for supporting and participating…

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