Thursday, 29 November 2012

Nothing Comes Close: A Review

Book:                   Nothing Comes Close
Author:                Tolulope Popoola
Publisher:            Accomplish Press
Year:                    2012
Genre:                 Romance
Source:                Author

No woman likes nasty surprises in a relationship, particularly when it is her heart on the line. So it is plausible that the reader feels the jolt of every twist and turn in the journey of these two lovers as they learn to put their trust in no one else but each other.

Nothing Comes Close is the story of two lovers: Lola and Wole, and the lives of their friends around them. Wole and Lola meet at her friend Titi's birthday party and of course sparks fly. They exchange numbers and it kind of grows from there. The story is told in first person narrative. It alternates between Lola and Wole's points of view as events unfold. Setting is in UK: London and Milton Keynes, with a few scenes in Lagos, Nigeria towards the end of the story. Lola has four friends: Funmi, Maureen, Temmy and Titi - all presumably in their 20s and hoping to meet the man of their dreams. These friends have a 'Carriesque' quality about them - such as Carrie Bradshaw had with her girls in 'Sex & The City.' They support each other through thick and thin including break-ups, engagement and grief. Wale has his friends too: Kene and Mark. I find Wole's POV and the yarn with his friends down-to-earth and credible, particularly when they have their 'Poker Wednesdays'. Wole, Kene and Mark make me laugh a few times - that's how Naija dudes talk.

Wole is an interesting character with a somewhat shady past as well as a traumatic one. He is revealed slowly which helps create suspense and a few twists. To the female reader he is the forbidden fruit you cannot not help but take a bite of. But is he worth the risk? This is the question Lola has to ask herself.

There are some interesting twists. Lola's friend Maureen dies in very unfortunate circumstances. It was sudden, reminding the reader of the social ills around us. There is also another death: a murder. Wole is implicated in the murder and arrested by the Police. Lola chooses to stand by him, but would Wole appreciate this and was Lola right to stand by him? Lola's elder sister and her husband are wary of Wole and advise Lola to end the relationship, but this is not the extent of the sister's interference. She goes further than that and it does not bode well for Lola and Wole.

What I particularly like about Nothing Comes Close is the Naija flavour. Though it is mainly set in the UK, the story retains the authenticity of its Nigerian characters in the dialogue, humour and expressions. The first person narrative is effective in the shifting POV between Lola and Wole as the plot unfolds. There is a smooth flow which is commendable. The reader is able to keep up with who is telling the story as their name is highlighted at the beginning of each chapter. The downside to the use of first person narrative in this way is that the reader is exposed to the character 'telling' what is happening as opposed to 'showing' and letting the story unfold by itself. This does not spoil it for the reader, in my opinion. Though I have to admit I am at times suspicious of the showing/telling rule of fiction writing.

Wole is a well developed and rounded character - he contributes a lot to the story and its twists. The way he deals with the unfortunate character who later dies (and then tells Lola - he did it because of her) - is brutal but also shows his passion runs deep. I like him very much. Lola is perhaps not as well developed, though I like that she is not a 'forming' babe and she is quite sassy in her own way. In terms of setting the scene, there is not as much (embellished) description as one might find in many novels - but then I am not a fan of much description so I did not particularly miss it. I am aware that some readers like the embellishment that detailed description of a scene brings to a story.  The novel could do with a bit more editing. There are repetitions of some expressions  and some of the 'telling' details (mentioned earlier) could have been deleted on closer editing.       

The plot is effective, creating suspense in its twists and turns, particularly with the murder and Wole's arrest. I like the scene where Wole and Lola get close and confide in each other about their pasts. The reader gets to know why Wole is the man he is. However, I do think the part where Wole ends up in Nigeria is slightly unrealistic. Lola is going to Nigeria for three weeks, so my guess would be most men would wait until she gets back to the UK. But one would also have to admit that his chasing her to another continent makes the romance a little juicier.

Another thing I like is the way the love scenes are done. Never thought I would like to read a sex scene without the sex. But Ms Popoola manages to convince me that less is more. So I 'see' the film of sweat on Lola's back after some time spent in Wole's flat overnight and imagine what she and Wole got up to. The author pulls this off effectively at least three or four times, (sometimes a promise of action with some 'rude awakening' of some sort to interrupt proceedings, sometimes - some 'action' - but with readers' imagination to 'fix' the rest. I thought the morality and responsibility of an intimate relationship between two mature adults was very well managed.

Nothing Comes Close is definitely a worthy effort for a debut novel. I know that the author is working on a spin-off about one of Lola's friends - Funmi and her Fiancee Ebuka, and I look forward to reading more of Ms Popoola's work.

©Adura Ojo 2012

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Officer's Bride: A Review

Novella:   The Officer's Bride
Author:     Lara Daniels
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 
Year:         2012
Genre:      Romance
Source:     From the Author 

Most of us have heard about an officer who happens to be a gentleman. He's the stuff of many women's dreams regardless of culture or creed, and it's an incredibly romantic tale. Lara Daniels's novella is about such a man. Except that he isn't so gentle sometimes as passion takes over, but then that's how his young bride Nafisah likes it. All of him or nothing, and him: all of her or nothing.

The Officer's Bride is a romantic tale set in Northern Nigeria and also Abuja in the year 1998 against the backdrop of military rule of Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. Most of the novella covers two days: 7 and 8 June 1998. This allows for creative suspense and an interesting plot as the reader gets to partake in a slice of events leading to the demise of Abacha, though it is an indirect plotting device that adds to the main story between the couple: Colonel Edward (Eddy) and his Bride Nafisah. The reader gets to witness some of the excesses of Abacha's regime and why he had to be stopped.

Nafisah's childhood is not pretty and she loses her family in traumatic circumstances. Eddy is her knight in shinning armour. He does not disappoint as he becomes her guardian when she is rescued at 14. In the intervening years, the tide turns favourably for both Eddy and Nafisah. Nafisah blossoms into a beautiful young woman. At nineteen, she realises that she has 'caught' feelings for her guardian; feelings that are new to her. Eddy is busy wrestling with demons of his own. The way events play out is passionate and at times, funny. The author cleverly puts control of the pace of the relationship in Nafisah's hands. And then she has to deal with the consequences. This makes for some hot and passionate sex scenes, very tastefully done. This is great as being the one to initiate 'proceedings' is traditionally not the role of a young Northern Muslim Nigerian woman. However given the colonel's position of power and advantage, it made perfect sense to let this happen. In the meantime, the colonel has a secret of his own that he has to share with his new bride. It is the sort of situation every bride dreads and Eddy is aware of this.

I liked the coming of age of Nafisah, the way she grew and blossomed into a confident young woman; given her traumatic past. I also liked the fact that she was given some power and control in the relationship in a culture where women have no recognisable power or voice. I was not particularly enthralled with the expression 'child-woman' which was used to describe Nafisah several times in the book. There are several mentions of Mills & Boon cliches which are better avoided, such as: "God, he needed her!" The time frames could have been more explicit where there were flashbacks. The lack of clear timelines to indicate flashbacks could be confusing for some readers.

On the whole, this is an entertaining and well written novella from Ms Daniels. The setting in Northern and Central Nigeria is authentic. Plot and pacing is very good. I am glad that Ms Daniels has left behind the fantastical settings of her previous books: Love in Paradise and Love At Dawn. There is a very noticeable progression in her writing. And with some decent promotion, Ms Daniels deserves some major break out success for this effort. She has honed her skill weaving romance with thrilling suspense that is crime caper-like. It is good to see that she recognises this as a strength of hers. The story is refreshing and I enjoyed it very much. The fact that the novella is ninety pages is a plus. It is in clear prose and so readable. You get into it and don't want to put it down.You don't feel guilty about it because you know it will not take much time to finish it. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good story and would love an escape for a few hours. I'm even persuaded to learn some Hausa.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

NaNoWriMo is National novel writing month which typically takes place every November. The project was christened in July 1999 by Chris Baty from San Francisco and became an annual November event in 2000. It is an event embraced by writers all over the world - An opportunity for writers to write a new novel in at least 50,000 words. I would use NaNo month to finish the first draft of my current WIP: What's Age Got to Do With It?. I haven't really done much so there's a lot of work to do. Excerpts would be posted every week throughout the NaNo month on Adura's Eyes.

As I am not writing from scratch, I strictly do not qualify for NaNoWriMo, so I will not be participating formally in the project. I will however use the month to complete the first draft as mentioned earlier. I'm looking for Nigerian writers willing to be critique partners for November and possibly beyond that. If interested, please send an email. Wishing all writers success in their NaNoWriMo projects. May the muse be with you.

To participate or find out more about NaNoWriMo, check it out here.

A big 'thank you' to everyone who continues to support this blog. I appreciate your visits while I was away. Hope you forgive my absence:)  I hope to put up posts more regularly. 

Coming Up: A Review of Lara Daniel's "The Officer's Bride."

Sunday, 3 June 2012

If I Were to Write Honestly: Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology - A Review

Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology

Publisher: SPM Publications, London
Date of Publication: November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9568101-0-6
Source: Prize from an online competition

What I admire about the Sentinel as a literary brand is the ability of its editors to give a voice to experienced as well as upcoming writers. The Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology is no exception. Edited by Unoma Azuah, Amanda Sington-Williams and Sentinel Founder, Nnorom Azuonye, the anthology is a collection of poems, short stories and plays. Part One of the anthology edited by Unoma Azuah, is a collection of seventeen poems by ten individual poets: Wong, Beynon, Isa, Sopian, Okon, George, McDermott, Asalor, Adesuyi and Azuah who is also poetry editor. The poems are accessible and of a decent length, concise. The poems of course deal with various subject matter and in a range of interesting modern forms. I was intrigued by the first poem: 'Lives' by Nicholas Y.B. Wong. The poem seemed to me a celebration of life, nature, chaos, rebirth and renewal, as well as the relationship between living (animate) and non-living (inanimate) lives: the symbolism of a cat and its many lives including inanimate existences. It was all cleverly done as these lines in the third to fourth stanza:

...fragments of memories flashed.
It forgot how it died before this life. Its 
body turned into a glass jug. The blue blood
inside spilt out, the whole world's suddenly 

made of one colour.
When it landed
the growing cotton
formed a bed,...

 Stanzas 11 - 12 also :

...I meowed. You turned around,
Our eyes met.
I remembered how I died-

I never die. I evolve,
like virus,
like lives,
You give me water in bowl that has seven
colours, more beautiful than marbles...

Part two of the anthology is a collection of short stories - seven short stories edited by Amanda Sington- Williams. Again these are stories that capture the reader's imagination. There is little space here to do this section justice. You will have to get a copy and read it yourself. Part three is a collection of plays edited by Sentinel Founder/Publisher, Nnorom Azuonye. The first play is 'Prologue' by Callum Patrick Hughes. Angela Amalonye Nwosu penned the second play titled: 'Phantom House'. 'Funeral of the Minstrel' by Nnorom Azuonye completes the trio of plays in this section. 'Funeral of the Minstrel' is a befitting tribute to late poet and Playwright Esiaba Irobi. I daresay 'Minstrel' celebrates the writer's life including his confrontational and thought provoking writing style - a befitting tribute indeed.

Part four of the anthology brings the reader back to the Cinderella of literary forms. It is one to which the Sentinel as a literary brand has shown steadfast loyalty where other publishers have fled. Again, some twelve beautiful poems that were a delight to read, but I had to chose one. 'If I Were to Write Honestly' by Hannah Lowe captured my imagination with its universality and bending of theme, writing about love:

I heard it in the voices of pious women singing,
in the chanting of island children, words that rose above the 
classrooms corrugated roof and found the mangos hanging from 
their branches, loved by the sun.'  

In the above scene, Lowe could so easily have been talking about Lagos or Barbados or even somewhere in India. But no. We had Syria and its tradesmen and it fitted the scene just as well. Love is beautifully twisted too:

I went looking for love in the blue alleyways behind the shop...
...a memory of love. I looked for it in the stop
and pause of my father's feet outside my bedroom door.
When he beat me and later when I beat him off...
...even that was love.

  It does not get anymore honest than that.

If there was something I would change about the anthology, I would have liked an editor's intro in each of the four sections. That might have added more colour and wholeness to the entire body of work. But what do I know? They probably don't do that anymore.

©Adura Ojo 2012

Saturday, 24 March 2012

NaPoWriMo 2012

The blogosphere should be the place for every reader and writer as bloggers on various writing challenges plough into the recesses of their creative soul to blog every day in the month of April. NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month, is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April - that's 30 poems in 30 days. 
NaPoWriMo was founded in 2003, when poet Maureen Thorson decided to take up the challenge (modeled after NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month), and challenged other poets to join her. Since then, the number of participants has increased every year. And Yes, I'm crazy enough to sign up and have indeed.

Please forward any interesting images and a-z prompts for poems (no porno, pls). I can do with all the help I can get. My email address is on the side bar.

Feel free to join in too. Wish me luck and please come read and support me with your comments at Adura's Eyes where the poems will be posted. Many thanks. See you soon.     

Sunday, 12 February 2012

African Romance Author: Kiru Taye

Please tell readers about yourself
Hello everyone. I’m romance author Kiru Taye. I was born in Enugu, Nigeria but now live in London, UK. I’m the first of 5 siblings. My parents are both retired but my father was a Mechanical Engineer and my mother a Nurse.  I lived most of my childhood life in Enugu although I attended FGGC Owerri for secondary school. My first degree was in Electronic Engineering but I also studied Business Management in post-grad school.

I have 3 books published to-date:
His Treasure (Men of Valor, #1), a historical romance novella published 2 Dec 2011, is an award-winner and best-seller.
A Valentine Challenge (Challenge series, #1), a contemporary romance novella published 30 January 2012
His Strength (Men of Valor, #2), a historical romance novella published 10 February 2012

2When did you start to write?
Truthfully, I can’t claim to have been writing forever, because I haven’t. I’m new to writing   and learning every day. I started writing seriously in January 2010. Before that, I had written stories in secondary school.

3Which writer(s) do you admire or have had the greatest influence on you?
The one single book that had the greatest influence on me was Shogun by James Clavell. I read it as a teenager and I’m still in awe of the author for being able to transport me to another time and location. But most of all for making me respect Japanese culture and heritage. From that moment, I wished that I could read books about African culture that didn’t focus on Africans just being victims of violence, war and poverty, because Africans are much more than that. I wanted to read books that showcased African heritage and culture in a positive light, not as something to be ashamed of. It is part of the reason I write. I want to showcase the Africa that I know – rich in heritage, savvy, robust, cosmopolitan and technologically-aware Africans.  
  Your first novella - His Treasure – had some sexual content.  What feedback have you had from readers about this?
The feedback I’ve received on His Treasure has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve had someone question whether the sex scenes are realistic especially the oral sex scene. My comeback is that oral sex is not a ‘modern’ or ‘western’ invention. Parts of some African cultural women’s rites of passage included being taught different sexual acts by older women in the community so they could please their husbands. Most of these cultural rites of passage were abolished with the introduction of ‘Christianity’ that classified anything outside ‘missionary position’ as immoral.
Anyway, the book has won an award already – LR Cafe Best Book of 2011 and it’s currently an All Romance eBooks Best-seller. So I’m very grateful to all my readers because they are still buying it.
  You guest posted on the issue of sex and African fiction previously on this blog, is this something you would continue to explore in your books?
Absolutely. As I pointed out in my previous post on AOP, Africans have sex—a lot—so there’s no reason why African fiction shouldn’t reflect it. My books will always contain varying degrees of sexual content. I write books for adults and I make no apologies for it. J
   African historical romance was previously not out there. Why did you choose this path for your first book?
As I mentioned in my answer to question 3 above, I want to write stories that showcase African heritage and culture positively. There’s this misconception among people that love and romance is a modern thing in Africa. That is totally wrong. Love and romance has always existed in Africa, although expressed in different ways. I wanted to write stories that showed Africans falling in love while still dealing with other cultural issues that might impact relationships.
In His Treasure (Men of Valor, #1), I touch on how polygamy and arranged marriages affects relationships and families.
In His Strength (Men of Valor, #2), I touch on how widows and non-indigenes (non nwaala) are treated.
In His Princess (Men of Valor, #3), I touch on the impact of slavery and rape.
But the single thread running across all these stories despite the issues is the love and romance. All my lead characters have happy-ever-afters in store for them. J

7There are no proper pictures of you anywhere online. Is this deliberate or do you intend to engage in public functions/signings like some other writers do?
It’s wrong to say there are no pictures of me online, because there are. But I have deliberately chosen not to upload pictures of me onto my online profiles mainly because I want to keep the focus more on my writing / books and less on me as a private person. Readers will get the opportunity to meet me in person when they attend book events. J
   Tell us about your current book(s)
I have 2 new books out.

A Valentine Challenge

Book 1 of the contemporary romance Challenge series set in Enugu, Nigeria. Three friends. Three challenges. Are they willing to risk everything for love? 

Ex-soldier Michael Ede’s spent his time building his life exactly the way he wants it. Life is good. Or so he thinks. So when his friends set him a challenge to exorcise the memory of a woman from his past, he expects it to be a walk in the park. 

Socialite Kasie Bosa is spitting fire at men. Her long-term boyfriend has asked for a break via text message of all things. How dare he? She’s told him to go take a dive into the River Niger. And not so politely too. So the next man who dares to cross her path is at risk of getting shredded with her spa manicured nails. 

Bad news for Michael who has chosen her as the object of his challenge. But neither of them can deny the sizzling chemistry between them nor control their responses, it seems. It’s the season of love. Can either of them escape unscathed?
His Strength (Men of Valor)

 Book 2 of Men of Valor historical romance series set in pre-colonial Iboland.

When a warrior seeks to claim a free-spirited woman, he soon discovers a tigress unwilling to be caged.

As a young widow, Nneka yearns to be released from the obligations to her late husband’s family, and live as an independent woman. With a past colored by a brutal father, she’ll never yield to another man willingly, and will do just about anything to attain that freedom, including flouting the laws of the land.

Ikem was unable to claim Nneka once because his lineage meant he wasn’t good enough. Now fate has given him another chance, but he quickly discovers that claiming this unpredictable wildcat is easier said than done. Will he be able to convince her that succumbing to their passion is the key to her freedom?

9When is the book available and where can we get it/in what formats?
A Valentine Challenge is now available on eBook formats for $1.99 via Amazon US, Amazon UK and All Romance eBooks.
His Strength is now available on eBook formats for $1.99 via Amazon, Breathless Press and All Romance eBooks
SShare one philosophy of life or mantra that you hold to be true?
“Do what you love. Love what you do.”
This is a mantra that defines how I do things. I’m either into it or not. There are no half-measures for me.
“Live and let live.”
This is a mantra that defines how I interact with people. We may not always agree but we all have a right to live peacefully with each other without fear.
  Do you have some advice for aspiring writers?
Learn – Read as many books as possible. Find out what you love about your favourite books and apply it to your writing.
Refine, Refine, Refine – a draft manuscript is just that. A draft. It takes several revisions before it reaches a state it can be turned out to the reading audience. You have to learn the patience and skill of revision.
Get yourself a good critique partner or group – make sure it’s not a member of your family unless the person is in the literary/writing community. It needs to be someone or people whose literary/writing opinion you value otherwise you’re on a slippery road to quarrels. J

1Any works in progress?
Eh, yeah! I always have a work in progress. There are always stories rattling around in my head. I just need to find the time to write them all. Lol
The Warrior’s Healer – a paranormal historical romance. I started writing it even before I wrote His Treasure but it’s such an epic that it’s taking a long time to finalise.
Her Weekend Bodyguard – an erotic romantic suspense. Here’s another epic one I started writing before His Treasure too. But there’s so much going on with the story that I need to get it all right before publication.

It’s been a pleasure interviewing you, Kiru.

T              Thank you, Adura. I totally enjoyed answering your questions. 

  There are some errors I can't seem to get rid of in the format of this interview. Tried my best to get rid of  the weird 
   characters but it appears to be restricted and won't budge! I do apologise. Hope you all enjoyed reading my chat with
   author Kiru Taye.

Friday, 13 January 2012

What to Expect here at AOP in 2012

Are we still wishing each other Happy New Year? Does anyone know when social etiquette dictates that we stop? I'm sure it's not now. So happy new year to you if you're visiting this blog for the first time and you did not read my previous post. You're welcome:)

2011 was a great year for African literature, particularly African fiction.This blog began its journey in April 2011. So far it's been great. I have you lovely readers and fantastic guests who graced this blog with their presence to thank for that. I would like to say a special thank you to Myne Whitman, Jude Dibia, Abi Adegboye, Fiona Leonard, Kiru Taye and the lovely Lara Daniels. I'm a firm believer in: "if it ain't broken, don't fix it". You can pretty much expect a similar mix of features this year to what we had last year. The only difference is that I may do less reviews but more interviews and guest posts. That said, I'm open to suggestions.

If you have any ideas for this blog or wish to guest post, email me pls: adura(dot)ojo(at)gmail(dot)com. Writers/bloggers from Africa and the diaspora are welcome. Have a fab year and see you soon.