Sunday, July 21, 2019

Small Country by Gael Faye

It's 1992. Gabriel is ten years old. He lives in Bujumbura, Burundi with his French father, his Rwandan mother, and his little sister, Ana. He goes to school in the morning and roams the neighborhood with his friends in the afternoon stealing mangoes to sell. He swims in the river and takes trips to Lake Kivu with his family. And he has no idea that his idyllic childhood is about to end. First with his parents' separation. Then when his friends get caught up in the growing tensions between the Hutus and the Tutsis. But everything really falls apart when the Rwandan genocide begins, and the violence from it starts to spill over into Burundi, too.

"The earth had moved imperceptibly beneath our feet. It did so every day in this country, in this corner of the world. We were living on the axis of the Great Rift, at the precise spot where Africa fractures. The people of this region mirrored the land. Beneath the calm appearance, behind the facade of smiles and optimistic speeches, dark underground forces were continuously at work, fomenting violence and destruction that returned for successive periods like bad winds: 1965, 1972, 1988. A glowering uninvited ghost showing up at regular intervals to remind us that peace is merely a brief interlude between two wars. We didn't know it yet, but the hour of the inferno had come, and the night was about to unleash its cackle of hyenas and wild dogs."
At its heart, Small Country is a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of genocide and war. Gabriel's loss of innocence is especially touching when he confronts his friends about their growing hatred for the Hutus and tells them he doesn't want to have to pick a side, or go to war. He just wants life to go back to the way it was. But deep down he knows that can never happen. This story is so poignant and touching. I loved the poetry of Faye's writing, and his vibrant portrayal of life in Africa. Gabriel's voice is so clear and authentic--I loved him, too. At only 183 pages, Small Country is a small novel that packs quite a punch. And I'm so glad that I read it.

Happy Reading!

Friday, July 19, 2019

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Ishmael Beah's memoir is compelling, traumatic, heartbreaking, and unforgettable. The atrocities of war, and the losses he experienced in Sierra Leone, should never happen to anyone, let alone a 12-year-old boy. The fact that he survived to tell his story is a testament to the kind strangers who helped him along the way and to his own courage and indomitable spirit. But instead of telling you my opinion of his remarkable journey, I'd rather let his own words speak for themselves.

The first time that I was touched by war I was twelve. It was in January of 1993. I left home with Junior, my older brother, and our friend Talloi to participate in our friend's talent show. ... We didn't know that we were leaving home, never to return.

I had heard from adults that this was a revolutionary war, a liberation of the people from corrupt government. But what kind of liberation movement shoots innocent civilians, children?

During the day we searched for food and take turns sleeping. At night it felt as if we were walking with the moon. It followed us under thick clouds and waited for us at the other end of dark forest paths....Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them. ... (And) the moon hid behind clouds to avoid seeing what was happening.

We tied our heads with the green cloths that distinguished us from the rebels, and we boys led the way....We walked for long hours and stopped only to eat sardines and corned beef with gari, sniff cocaine, brown brown, and take some white capsules. The combination of these drugs gave us a lot of energy and made us fierce. The idea of death didn't cross my mind and killing had become as easy as drinking water....Whenever I looked at rebels during raids, I got angrier, because they looked like the rebels who played cards in  the ruins of the village where I had lost my family. So when the lieutenant gave orders, I shot as many as I could, but I didn't feel better.  

We had been fighting for over two years, and killing had become a daily activity. I felt no pity for anyone. My childhood had gone by without my knowing, and it seemed as if my heart had frozen....In my head my life was normal. But everything began to change in the last weeks of January 1996. I was fifteen.

"None of what happened was your fault. You were just a little boy."  Even though I had heard that phrase from every staff member--and frankly I had always hated it--I began that day to believe. That didn't make me immune from my guilt that I felt for what I had done. Nonetheless, it lightened my burdensome memories and gave me strength to think about things.

Ishmael Beah is an amazing person. I'm so glad he decided to share his story with the world. My only complaint about this book was the abrupt ending. It felt like the last chapter of Beah's life was missing from the story. Even a brief epilogue of how he ended up in New York would have helped. But that's my only complaint. All in all, this is a powerful and gripping book that I think everyone should read.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Traveling to Africa ... by book!

Since I can't afford to take a real African safari this summer, I thought I'd do a bookish one and read my way through several African countries. Here are some of the books I thought I'd start with and the countries where they take place:

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solder by Ishmael Beah
(Sierra Leone)

Small Country by Gael Faye

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Are there any other good books set in Africa that you would recommend? I'd really like to read There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene, which is set in Ethiopia, some time in the near future, but I haven't checked it out of the library yet. I thought I'd see if I can get these other books read first. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Urban Fantasy Fun...

Lionel Page is a reporter who delights in debunking supernatural hoaxes and frauds. He also has a secret from his past he'd like to keep hidden. But that's getting harder to do. Then Regina Dunkle, a wealthy heiress, comes along and makes him an offer he can't resist. And that's when the story really gets complicated and interesting, with a trip to New York City, a lost manuscript by Edgar Allan Poe, a secret society known as the Thoth Club, an even more secretive woman named Madison, as well as witchcraft, Tarot, mystery and murder.
"He was a long way from home. There were no maps for this part of New York City. Only a guide. He wasn't sure if he could trust her. He wasn't sure if he cared.... Lionel was a storm chaser. Maddie was a storm."
Ghosts of Gotham by Craig Shaefer is supernatural suspense at its best. I loved both Lionel and Maddie, and the magical world they're forced to navigate. I also loved all the crazy stuff that happens to them along the way, from meeting a powerful Greek Muse to running into a hoard of ravenous ghouls. It's a fast-paced and compelling read. And Schaefer's writing is amazing. I thought this novel was VERY entertaining. If you need more convincing, check out Verushka's review. After all, it's the reason I checked this one out in the first place.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July's Bookish Art...

Carl Larsson -- Lady Reading a Newspaper

"There is no enjoyment like reading!"
--Jane Austen

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

From the Blurb:
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine. She reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

My thoughts:  
This book is a unique mix of apocalyptic fiction, urban fantasy, and Navajo myth and legend. And it totally works! Maggie's clan powers make her a fast and efficient killer--the perfect monster slayer. (Although there's a darkness inside her that sometimes makes her wonder if she might just be a monster herself.) Kai's clan powers run to healing and controlling the elements, making them a formidable team. Not that Maggie wants Kai as her partner. She's still hung up on her former mentor, a Monsterslayer who also happens to be an immortal legend. As characters, Kai and Maggie are complete opposites. I liked them both!

I also really liked how this novel is steeped in the Navajo culture and language. It adds another fascinating layer to the magic and mystery. And there's some great magic in this book! There's also a twist at the end that means I now have to read the second book in this series as soon as possible. About the only thing I didn't love about this novel is that it's written in first person present tense, which isn't my favorite; but the story and the characters are so compelling, I got over it. For me, this was a 4½-star read.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Just for laughs...

Because while a John Atkinson cartoon always makes me smile....

....these made me laugh!!

Happy Reading!