#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 25 – Most Read Author

img_2550Day 25Most Read Author  Toni Morrison, the Queen, is my most read author.  I’ve read everything except Paradise, Love, and God Help the Child.  I’ll need to get on to reading these three really soon since I’v heard through the grapevine that she’s working on a new book titled Justice.  Sounds intriguing….

 

 

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 19 – Currently Reading

Day 19Currently Reading

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My copies:

Like Trees, Walking, paperback 252 pages

Blacks, paperback 512 pages

Jubilee, paperback 497 pages

Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War, hardcover 368 pages

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying.
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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 17 A Short Story Collection

Day 17A Short Story Collection  –  I’m not usually a fan of short story collections because they always seem to leave me hanging (so that’s it?!) or wanting more.  However, last year put me on the right track with getting back into them.  I read Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Blackberries, Blackberries, A Piece of Mine, and Water Street.  All four img_2515collections had me captivated and made me want to explore other short story collections.  So, at the end of last year I picked up Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones which I have heard no one really talk about.  Jones is most known for winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Known World in 2004.  I didn’t even know he’d written a short story collection.  Actually he’s written two, the second collection is called All Aunt Hagar’s Children.  Hopefully, I’ll make the time to explore Lost in the City this year and it will join the list of short stories that keep me captivated and leave me satisfied. How about you?  Do you like reading short story collections?  If so, what are some of your favorites?

“The nation’s capital that serves as the setting for the stories in Edward P. Jones’s prizewinning collection, Lost in the City, lies far from the city of historic monuments and national politicians. Jones takes the reader beyond that world into the lives of African American men and women who work against the constant threat of loss to maintain a sense of hope. From “The Girl Who Raised Pigeons” to the well-to-do career woman awakened in the night by a phone call that will take her on a journey back to the past, the characters in these stories forge bonds of community as they struggle against the limits of their city to stave off the loss of family, friends, memories, and, ultimately, themselves.

Critically acclaimed upon publication, Lost in the City introduced Jones as an undeniable talent, a writer whose unaffected style is not only evocative and forceful but also filled with insight and poignancy.” (Lost in the City, back cover description)

 

My copy:  Lost in the City, paperback 268 pages

 

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying.

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge – Day 3 Anticipated Release

The Book of Harlan

Day 3 – Anticipated Release:  This wasn’t hard for me to choose at all.  I’ve been waiting impatiently for the arrival of The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden.  It is due to be released on May 3, 2016 by Akashic Books.

“During World War II, two African American musicians are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan’s parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he becomes a musician. Soon, Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are lured across the Atlantic Ocean to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre—affectionately referred to as “The Harlem of Paris” by black American musicians.

When the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald, the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany. The experience irreparably changes the course of Harlan’s life.

Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden’s mesmeric prose, The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden’s familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.” (Goodreads site description of The Book of Harlan)

Bernice L. McFadden, born and raised in Brooklyn, has always known she wanted to write since she was a child.  “I guess all of the literature I was consuming helped to fuel my already active imagination and so very early on I began writing short stories and plays. I would say my first story was penned by age eight.” (quote from Bernice L. McFadden)  After her studies she ventured out to work as an  international clothing buyer.  Feeling dissatisfied with that job she went back to school and earned a degree in tourism.  However it wasn’t until being laid off in 1990 that McFadden attempted writing seriously.  It was during this period that she wrote her first novel, Sugar, which wasn’t published until 2000.  Yes it took 10 years to find an interested publisher.  McFadden has gone on to write many more interesting contemporary novels  The Warmest December, Gathering of Waters, Nowhere is a Place, Glorious, Loving Donovan, and the list goes on.  Her influences are writers such as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ann Petry, Zora Neale Hurston, J. California Cooper, Terry McMillan and many others.  So if you’re into any or all of these writers, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t love McFadden’s writing too.

 

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying.
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Black History Month 2016 – #ReadSoulLit

Hello all!  Yes Black History Month is just around the corner.  This February Danielle from OneSmallPaw and I are hosting a read along of a great American classic called Jubilee by Margaret Walker and a #ReadSoulLit photo challenge over on Instagram.  We’ve tried to make the photo challenge more engaging, with the hopes of seeing lots of new titles being  pictured; henceforth, showing the wide range of fantastic black authors and genres in which they write.  So I hope you’ll all try and join in for something at some point. If you don’t have Instagram you can follow me here to see what I post over there, but with a bit more explanation.  Don’t forget to link #ReadSoulLit when you post your pictures on Instagram and Twitter.  That helps people find us.  Currently, there are 900+ photos on Instagram, which should spark everyone’s interest in reading black authors.  Happy reading in February!

jubilee

 

ReadSoulLit2016

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying.
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Classics Club Spin #4

The Classics Club is a group of bloggers that try to encourage book lovers to pick up some classics through IMG_2165the year.  I’d mentioned wanting to read more too but as the year 2013 dashes to an end, I realise that I could have read a few more. Sigh.  So here’s my chance to try to redeem myself before December 31, 2013.

Here’s how it works.  Below you will see my list of 20 classics numbered.  On Monday the 18th of November, Sam over at the blog Tiny Library will post the number, from 1-20, generated from random.org.  From there we will read the book that is numbered the same from our respective lists.  I grabbed all the classics that I had in plain view and I secretly hope that Moby Dick doesn’t come up either Sam because no matter how much I want to read it, it intimidates me and it’s hella long!  I need to read eventually.  It’s been sitting on my shelf way too long.  So here’s my list:

1. Les Liaisons Dangereuses – Choderlos de Laclos

2. Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan

3. Casino Royale – Ian Fleming

4. On the Road – Jack Kerouac

5. Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut

6. Easter Parade – Richard Yates

7. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

8. Rabbit Run – John Updike

9. Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin

10. The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton

11. The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon

12. Orlando – Virginia Woolf

13. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

14. Black Boy – Richard Wright

15. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf and Spell #7 – Ntozake

Shange

16. The Ballad of the Sad Cafe – Carson McCullers

17. Persuasion – Jane Austen

18. Sanctuary – William Faulkner

19. Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

20. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Comment below and tell me what you think? Have you read any of these?  If so tell me which ones and if you liked or hated them. I hope some of you will join me in this hazardous reading venture. We’ll have until the end of the year to finish the book. Sounds doable right?

The Reader

101299The Reader has garnished my shelves now for about three years and I have finally gotten a chance to enjoy it.  If anything it’s made me want to review all the unread books on my shelves and to get cracking on them.  This novel has been talked about here and there over the years but I’ve never heard any of my book buddies talk about it.  I feel it’s a hidden jewel that everybody should try to possess.

Michael Berg becomes ill one day on his way home from school when Hanna picks him up and cleans him off.  She is twice his age and he is only fifteen years old.  Michael continues to go back to visit Hanna and they carry on a love affair for a while.  As time goes on, the complexities of Hanna start to show, but Michael is virtually incapable of any analysis of this mysterious woman and her ways, who awakens his sexuality, his senses, as he becomes a man.

The novel is told in first person which makes it personal, as if a friend is telling his story.  The narrator is a very reliable source because he’s very honest about some very personal private emotions that sometimes aren’t too flattering.  The Reader is erotic, melancholic, hopeful, and infuriating.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that put me through so many profound emotions.  At times I felt like a voyeur.  Schlink was a master at writing this story because it contains all the aspects of what’s needed to make a perfectly balanced.  Nothing is done for sensationalism.  Every scene has its reason for existing.

Schlink also did an excellent job exploring how the generation of World War II born during or right after the war must have felt and how the collective conscience tries to adapt.  The guilt was terribly heavy and doubt was looming over friends but especially family – wondering to what extent they had participated in the war or to what degree did their silence cost lives.  It’s terrifying having had to face such heavy actions.  This theme is carried right through the book when Michael deals with different characters, his father included.

The Reader was translated into 37 languages and won a few awards including the Hans Fallada Prize (awarded every two years to a young author from the German speaking world since 1981) in 1988, while being the first German book to top the The New York Times bestselling books list.  The film adaptation lead to Kate Winslet winning an Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of Hanna Schmitz.  Bernhard Schlink has written many books including non-fiction and crime novels.  He was born in Bethel, Germany in 1944 although he was brought up in Heidelberg and worked as a professor of law at the University of Berlin and later became a judge.  The Reader was his first novel that was translated into English in 1997.  Watch the link below to find out more about how and why he wrote The Reader.  He’s a very interesting speaker.

Title: The Reader

Genre:  Historical Fiction/German literature/World War II Holocaust

Published:  1995 – 1997 translated to English

Edition:  Vintage International

Pages:  218

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * * 1/2

+4,968

The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 Shortlist

1579084251eP+WiFpiL12611253 So here they are.  The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist was announced today at the London Book Fair.  The longlist was competitive and somewhat diversified, but the shortlist competition is even stiffer.  I was happily surprised to see that Where’d You Go, Bernadette made it to the shortlist, after having read so much about it not being serious enough to be nominated or win a literary prize because of its modern epistolary form.  If you read    135378911606173413507212my review you know I loved it and found it refreshing and well-balanced.  I haven’t read the others but they have all been moved up to the top of my TBR for 2013.  The only real disappointment with the longlist is that it didn’t contain more women writers of colour.  Although I was thrilled to see Zadie Smith’s NW on the shortlist.  I enjoy her “keep it real” writing.  I’m anxious to read this one since the reviews have been mixed.  I’m expecting NW to pull me completely out of my comfort zone.  I probably won’t get to Bring Up the Bodies this year since I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Wolf Hall.  It looks as if Mantel, Smith, and Kingsolver are the top contenders – Hilary Mantel for winning the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and 2012,  Zadie Smith winning the Orange Prize in 2006 for On Beauty, and Barbara Kingsolver winning the Orange Prize in 2010 for The Lacuna.  I imagine people are wondering why the Women’s Prize even exists since it doesn’t seem to be a necessity with all the other literary prizes out there that seem to be dominated by women.  In my opinion, women’s literary work is still by large ignored and not valued enough.  The Women’s Prize will continue to aid in spotlighting some of the best women’s literary work available as well as discovering new writers.  Good luck to all those that made the shortlist and may the best woman win.  So, what do you think of this shortlist?  Are you interested in reading any of them, if so which ones?  Check out the video below of the judges talking about the books on the shortlist. The judges are Miranda Richardson, (Chair), Actor, Razia Iqbal, BBC Broadcaster and Journalist, Rachel Johnson, Author, Editor and Journalist, JoJo Moyes, Author, and Natasha Walter, Feminist Writer and Human Rights Activist.  Ah, you can feel the suspense.  Happy reading….

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

12611253Ah Bernadette!  You have got to love her in spite of all of her faults.  She’s witty, intelligent, and an immensely creative architect.  Unfortunately, something has happened to her, making her anti-social and borderline argoraphobic.  This is a novel that explores what can go wrong with someone and how that person is perceived by others.  It also speaks of personal limits.  The reader can’t help but love Bernadette Fox because her rants are sometimes the ones we want to do ourselves, but prefer to do it in our heads.  Not doing her job as an architect for a long while, she tries to cope with being stuck at home because she hates going out, while trying to raise her intelligent precocious daughter Bee.  Meanwhile her husband, Elgin, is a big computer guru working for the omnipresent Microsoft or MS as the people call it in the book. He is the reason they have moved to Seattle.

The book is an amazing introspection on what is wrong in American society.  Maria Semple has found an ingenious way of critiquing that through the usage of the different types of correspondence used to tell the story of what happens to Bernadette.  The most original aspect of this book is that it is told from multiple perspectives, using letters, emails, faxes, doctors reports, and interviews.  Some may argue that it isn’t literary enough because of that but I disagree.  What better way to critique society while using one of its devil evils, emailing, etc.  It’s clear that Semple has taken a lot of care into weaving the story.  There are many issues that are developed such as husband/wife relationships, mother/daughter relationships, being wealthy, creating, socializing, integrating into a community, etc.  What I love the most is that it got me to laugh out loud quite a few times.  It is an entertaining and gratifying read.  It really made me wonder how I would react to some of the things that happened to Bernadette.  At one moment, there is a reference to a novel with a famous architect in it and Bernadette’s creativity rivals his ingenuity.  The only thing is Bernadette is human and that fragility is what makes the reader empathise with her.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is not Maria Semple’s first novel.  It was The One is Mine.  It is the story of a profoundly unhappy woman named Violet Parry, who is living a luxurious life with her husband David and her toddler Dot.  It’s not until she meets Teddy that things seem to be very different for her.  Semple wrote on various popular television series where she’s proved she knows how to tell a story.  She is credited for having worked on shows such as Saturday Night Live, Arrested Development, Suddenly Susan Mad About You, 90210, and Ellen.  Writing might be in her blood as they say since her father Lorenzo Semple, Jr. worked on the television series of Batman.  Maria Semple lives in Seattle with her husband and her daughter Poppy.  Check out the link below where Semple talks about how she went about writing Where’d You Go, Bernadette and mentions a few excellent pointers for debutant writers.

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Genre:  Adult Fiction/Humor/Contemporary

Published:  August 2012

Edition:  Little, Brown and Company

Pages:  320

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * * *

My favorite quote:  ”I was downtown early one morning and I noticed the streets were full of people pulling wheelie suitcases.  And I thought, Wow here’s city full of go-getters.  Then I realized, no, these are all homeless bums who have spent the night in doorways and are packing up before they get kicked out.  Seattle is the only city where you step in shit and you pray, please God, let this be dog shit.” (Where’d You Go, Bernadette, p. 124)

+4,223

Reading Resolutions in 2013….

New Year’s resolutions are becoming nothing more than pressure.  If we’re not promising ourselves to honour our gym subscription, lose 5kg., to learn how to speak a foreign language, or to go through those random boxes in the attic, you can count on bibliophiles gearing up to fix the number of books they’re planning on devouring in the new year. I’m guilty as charged.   I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

2012 has finally come to a successful end since I managed to finish my Goodreads goal by reading 51 books.  Here’s the part where you hear some cool music and of course lots of cheering for me.  I tried to choose different types of books and added some YA novels to my repertoire, with some reservation in 2012.  I’m still trying to like it as much as some but it seems just a little on the predictable, light side for me.  I’ll continue to read YA to give it a chance and I’m not giving up on finding some good ones.  Moreover, the YA titles I’ll decide to read in the future will hopefully be chosen with care.  If you have any recommendations please write them below.  Be careful not to suggest too many trilogies and series because you know how much they get on my nerves, although they seem to be the thing to publish at the moment.  There’s always one book that disappoints in them. With that said from the 51 books I read, my 12 Best Reads of 2012 in no particular order were:

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I was lucky to have chosen such interesting books, but unfortunately there were a few duds –1. Fifty Shades of Grey, 2. Fifty Shades Darker, and 3. Fifty Shades Freed.  They were the worst.Henceforth, another one of my goals of 2013 is to try to pick high calibre books no matter what genre and to enjoy my reading.  Speaking of resolutions, this year my goal is to read more African-American literature, more classics, more detective/thriller novels, a few rereads, more graphic novels, and more books from The Guardian Weekly’s 1000 novels everyone must read https://didibooksenglish.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/, which includes a bit of everything previously listed .  My challenges this year will be 55 books for the Goodreads 2013 reading Challenge and 5 books for the Big Book Challenge on Goodreads. That’s probably a few too many since I’m pretty busy, but I love a challenge and I gotta try.  So, I’ll certainly give it a good go.

As for my blog, I’m also adding a new rubric called Teacher Feature where I feature an EFL teacher working here in France each month.  These posts will contain information on what it’s like teaching EFL in France in different environments.  There will also be more posts on book related subjects, whether it be on book events, authors, new releases, and maybe even some other stuff.  I’d also like to thank all my subscribers immensely for supporting ReadEng. Didi’s Press this year and hope that 2013 here keeps your interest peaked about books and the literary world, and urges you to continue to comment or to begin to comment if you haven’t done so yet.  I wish you all very Happy reading, but most of all, I wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR with much love, friendship, health, and prosperity in 2013!!