Sunday, January 18, 2015

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an author that has been on my TBR list since I first saw her TED Talk. She is so beautifully brilliant that I can't help but quote her: "The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story." Beautiful and brilliant, right?!

I was just about to leave a used bookstore empty-handed (I know, that's borderline blasphemous) when I happened upon Half of a Yellow Sun. It hasn't been on my shelf for long, only a couple of months, but I've had Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on my author list for years. In any case, I'm including Half of a Yellow Sun as one of the books in My Reader's Block's 2015 Mount TBR Reading Challenge. The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge lists "a book by an author from Africa" as one of its challenges so Half of a Yellow Sun also allows me check that one off the list! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria.

The synopsis on the back of the novel explains that Half of a Yellow Sun "illuminates a seminal moment in African history: Biafra's struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s." It also mentions that the story is told through five unforgettable characters, and that is true, but while Odinegbo, Olanna, Richard, and Kainene are all integral to the novel's intrigue, the character who had the most profound effect on me was Ugwu. Readers follow Ugwu, a teenage boy, from the poverty of his village home through his employment as a houseboy for university professor, Odinego, and finally to the front lines of the war as a member of the Biafran army. Readers move alongside Ugwu as he learns, loves, and commits atrocities as a soldier.

Half of a Yellow Sun is a story about war, what war does to people, and how it changes people. I'm not going to lie. This book is not easy to read. It's so heart-wrenching in places that I almost had to put it down a few times. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's ability to write such realistic, yet fictional, characters is what makes this novel so incredible.

If I have one negative critique it would be the structure of the chapters. Around the middle of the novel, the plot jumps ahead to the late sixties before telling the story of the early sixties. I was confused at first, until I flipped back and then ahead to reassure myself that I had not missed integral details. I think a chronological structure might have been more effective if only to avoid reader confusion.

I haven't really adopted a rating scale so I'll stick with the age-old star chart. Half of a Yellow Sun gets an easy FIVE stars from me. I would highly recommend that everyone open their minds a little and read this novel!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2015 Reading Challenges

I already read a lot. I'm doing a Master's degree in English literature. Over the last year and a half of my degree, though, I've found that my reading for pleasure has been severely lacking. With a pseudo-New Year's resolution in mind, I've decided to sign up for a few Reading Challenges in an effort to force myself to read for pleasure (slightly oxymoronic, I know). 

The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge is really what started me on this endeavour. I'm really hoping to complete this challenge while still fulfilling the other challenges that I've signed up for. What I am really doing, I suppose, is making this Read Harder Challenge, even harder!

From there I decided to look for a few more interesting challenges that also include prizes. Who doesn't like prizes?! So I added the following: 

Mount TBR Reading Challenge over at My Reader's Block. I'd say I have about 200+ titles on that list, but I'm limiting myself to the "Pike's Peak" (12 books) level for this one.  

Ethereal 2015 over at Riedel Fascination. This challenge is outside my typical reading comfort zone and therefore intriguing! I'm just signing up for the "Intuition" (5-10 books) category, but I am really looking forward to it. 

Reading Challenge Addicts 2015 should be a fun way to track my progress. I'm only officially signing up for three challenges which puts me in their "Easy as Pie" (1-5 challenges) category. 

If I can find the time, I may add Random House Canada's Reading Bingo Challenge simply because I'm Canadian and want to read more Canadian literature. I really like this idea and if I ever get myself back on track in the blogging world, I'd like to host a challenge like this one myself.

Happy reading, folks! Here's hoping I've inspired some of you to take on a Reading Challenge or two!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

On Hiatus

If you're stopping by for one reason or another there's not much to see of late. I have been and still will be on hiatus until I have completed my Master of Arts degree in English Literature. Please feel free to peruse my archives; there's a lot of cool stuff in there!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Brandon to Fredericton: MB to NB: Our Epic Road Trip

Since I'll be moving the 3500km from Brandon, Manitoba to Fredericton, New Brunswick at the end of this month, Cowboy Tex (formerly known as Farmer Joe) and I planned our holidays around taking a road trip there so that I could get a feel for the place! It was lovely and I'll try my best to create a mostly-pictures-few-words blog post all about it.

I've always known Canada is a beautiful country. I've driven all the way to the West Coast and taken the ferry to Vancouver Island, but I hadn't, until this trip, driven East. (Manitoba is in the centre - kind of - of the country, for those not up to snuff on their Canadian geography).

Northern Ontario is majestic, almost as much so as Western Alberta and British Columbia. It makes up the southern portion of the Canadian Shield and it is wonderously rocky and full of coniferous forests covering rolling hills and valleys.

Lake Superior, living up to its name.

Quebec is a bit more like the prairies that I am familiar with, very much an agricultural province. Quebec intimated the heck out of me because its official language is French. Despite the fact that I wish, more than many things, that I spoke French, I do not. I feel very guilty about that. Perhaps after I complete my Master's, learning French will be the next thing on my list.

I spent a lovely, albeit swelteringly hot, day and two nights
in Montreal with a dear friend of mine. 

The city is brilliant in its historic nature and vibrant culture.
I've been told by many people that I would love Montreal and they were not wrong! 
It would have been wonderful to have taken
actual engagement photos here, but it was so
hot that I just couldn't bring myself to change
into something engagement-photo worthy.

New Brunswick was breath-taking! After a rather flat Quebec, our most eastern destination presented us with rolling hills and vibrant greenery. The St. John River runs right through Fredericton creating a consistently cool breeze to blow throughout the city. 

Fredericton, as a city, is wonderful. It is a small city (60,000 people). It is a city full of art and culture. It is a city with a strong government and military presence.
It is an old city.
It is a city with a strong university presence. 

 I felt at home there. 

Celebrate the Small Things (Aug 2 - a couple days late)

One of these days I'll actually post my weekly celebrations for VikLit's blog hop hosted over at Scribblings of an Aspiring Author on time...

On Monday I handed in my completed creative writing thesis! I am celebrating No More Edits! This coming Friday is my defence. I am excited and terrified - a very strange feeling.

This is actually a chicken egg,
but just imagine a more intricate
design on a much larger egg!
I had lunch and played catch-up with my best friend on Wednesday and got the invitations to her Bachelorette Party sent out on Thursday. Another check mark on my To-Do List!

Friday, I headed out for one more visit with my Baba before I head out East at the end of this month. During that visit she approved of the ostrich eggs I ordered on eBay which means that I can order more for her to decorate to serve as centre pieces for my wedding. She has two years to do 15...hopefully!

While I have your attention, I'd also like to add the beginning of Blogust, an initiative by Shot@Life, a United Nations Foundation. Every day in August a designated blogger posts as part of Blogust and for every comment on his or her blog a donation is made to purchase a life-saving vaccine for children around the world. Last year I visited and commented every day and this year I am doing the same. I hope you'll consider joining me!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Let's Play Catch Up - Awards Theme

Eons ago, June 4 to be exact, M.J. over at M.J. Joachim's Writing Tips passed on a beautiful award to me, Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award! Lovely, right?! M.J. runs all kinds of cool blog challenges and then showcases the winners on her Blog Hopper Marathon Wall of Fame. You should really check her out. I've won two "events" and they've been super fun! M.J. is one of five sisters - wow - and so she passed this award on to five blogging sisters. I only have one sister, a younger sister, but since I've always been the older sister, I am going to take this opportunity to pass this award along to my older sister in the blogging world, Zoe from rewritten. She's brilliant. She's zany. She's everything I could want in a real flesh and blood older sister. Lucky for me, I at least get to have an e-relationship with her!

Speaking of Zoe, she nominated me for a different award on June 12 (yes, eons ago as well), Best Moment Award. All you have to do for this award is write or record and post an acceptance speech and then pass it along to someone(s) that you feel worthy of the award. I was going to make my first attempt at a vlog for this one, but I just have to admit that I can't bring myself to make the time. So without further ado, here is my very short acceptance "speech" - Zoe, you are a beautiful soul and I love you. I hope some day we will grace each others presences in person. Thank you for this award! Some of my best blog moments come when I read your comments. Now, I am passing this along to Me from Scribblings, another beautiful soul that brightens my blog world.

Finally, there is Deanie from Thoughts and Ideas from Deanie Humphrys-Dunne who recently (yes, July 25 is recently) awarded me with a Wonderful Team Member Readership Award. Recipients are supposed to name 14 nominees over 7 days or all at once. I really haven't been blogging much of late so I think for this one, I will just go through and list the last 14 bloggers who commented on (a.k.a read and acknowledged) my blog.
T. Drecker from Kidbits
Zoe Byrd from rewritten
Viklit from Scribblings of an Aspiring Author
Rebeccah Giltrow from Rebeccah Writes
Lara Lacombe
Kate Larkindale from Fiction and Film
Me from Scribblings
Suzanne Lucas from Times Squared
Nancy LaRonda Johnson from Writer's Mark
Mei from Diary of a Fair Weather Diver
A month of....Blog
Diana Wilder from ...about myself, by myself
Sandy from Traveling Suitcase
Vidya Sury from Coffee With Mi
Thank you all for reading my blog!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Canadian Reading Challenge Review: Several Women Dancing by Paul Dutton

When the lovely and talented author/blogger Marie Landry from Ramblings of a Daydreamer did a call out to see if people were interested in a second annual Canadian Reading Challenge, I told her that I would commit to reading and reviewing at least one book that met the criteria for the challenge. I'm a fellow Canuck after all and us igloo inhabiting, dog-sled driving (I joke, I joke, I kid, I kid) northerners have to stick together! Here it is, the last day to link up a review, and it's Brandy just under the wire.

I met author and sound poet (seriously, take a minute and check that out) Paul Dutton in 2010 when my creative writing professor invited him to do a reading as part of literary series at our university. The man is a genius, maybe a little crazy, but they say there is a fine line between genius and insanity! After hearing a very short excerpt from his novel, Several Women Dancing, I had to have it, had to read it and one cannot simply purchase a book directly from an author and not have him or her sign it. The inscription reads: "For Brandy in Brandon, Drink it in sips or gulp it down. Paul Dutton," and now for a brief review.

Move over E L James with your unrealistic virgin girl-child turned doormat nymphomaniac and abusive dictator/borderline misogynist (if you haven't guessed it yet, I hated Fifty Shades of Grey, well, the 6 chapters I actually forced myself through, anyway), and make room for some real Erotica. Several Women Dancing is not for everyone. It is raw. It is highly sexual, some might say vulgar, others might say inappropriate, but I am not one of those people. I loved it.

The novel is told in first person narrative through a male voice who frequents strip clubs and inevitably becomes obsessed with one of the dancers, Black Satin. Dutton takes the reader through fantasy after sexual fantasy and does this in such a way that the reader is never really sure if the encounters described are real or fictional. The days, cities, even seasons become muddled in the man's mind as he lives his life from one experience involving Black Satin to the next. The novel is just so honest and I think that is why I enjoyed it. I think that honesty is what makes it so believable and such a great piece of literature. It is disturbing and uncomfortable at times especially when Spencer engages in fantasies of an Oedipal nature, but it is all part of the raw honesty that I appreciated so much in this novel.

Here's my favorite passage (don't worry, it's rather tame in the grand scheme of the novel): "I blame the candles (so long since I'd had a candlelit meal); I blame the meal (thick cream soup, a subtly spiced casserole, a bottle of wine); I blame the wine (a vintage Burgundy, the last of which we sipped on the living-room couch); I blame the couch (plush and comfortable, inducing a lassitude augmented by the classical guitar playing on the stereo); I blame the stereo (at the end of the record the room filled with silence); I blame the silence (breathing a faint sigh, she leaned her head on the back of the couch, where I'd stretched out my arm); I blame my arm (lifting it a little as a prelude to moving it, I caused her head to roll slightly towards me and saw her smile); I blame her smile (it increased the flutter in my stomach, the trembling in my hands, the shortness of my breath, the dryness of my mouth, the pounding of my heart); I blame my heart." Beautiful, right?!

Overall, Several Women Dancing is riveting and fresh! If I use Marie's rating scale: I loved it! So, if you can keep an open mind, pick it up and enjoy some real literary erotica - Canadian style!