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."