December 28, 2015

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2015 Anthology | Book Review

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2015 anthology is titled Lusaka Punk and Other Stories. It contains seventeen short stories. Five of the stories were shortlisted for the 2015 Caine Prize while the remaining twelve were authored by participants of the 2015 Caine Prize African Writers' Workshop. I'll begin with the shortlisted stories.

Shortlisted Stories 2015
Nigeria's Segun Afolabi opens this collection with his short story The Folded Leaf. It's about a group of physically challenged Nigerians who travel by bus to receive miracles at the spiritual retreat of famous evangelist, Pastor Fayemi. They head out with hearts full of hope and pockets full of donations raised by an entire church over a period spanning several months. They're the poor ones who scrape up money out of the little they have because the pastors have stressed the importance of giving monetary donations in direct proportion to the amount blessings you want to receive. When it's all over the group heads back home in silence. It's no surprise there's such a distrust of religion worldwide. We need to do something about these globetrotting monsters who swindle gullible devotees of millions in exchange for "blessings" and then use those donations to buy private jets and mansions in different countries. Segun Afolabi is amazing and he's a good choice to open this collection.

Elnathan John (Nigeria) follows Afolabi's lead with the tale Flying. I love the first five sentences of Flying.  In this tale, a young boy named Tachio lives in an orphanage under the proprietorship of Aunty Keturah. She's the one person he can confide in and she provides some sort of stability in an otherwise routine existence. I won't say more. I like it a lot. It's simple and quite moving.

FT Kola (South Africa) follows with A Party for the Colonel, a story about a troubled Indian family in apartheid South Africa. Ibrahim is a man who works really hard to make something out of nothing for himself and his family. He's sure that wealth is the ticket out of oppression and into respectable ranks. It's a story that seems doomed from the beginning and I like it a lot.

Masande Ntshanga (South Africa) penned Space, a story about a gang of young boys who run around a lot without parental supervision. The ending felt abrupt and thus the story felt somewhat incomplete. I didn't really get this story.

Namwali Serpell (Zambia) penned The Sack. An elderly man lives alone with a young boy named J. They've both lost Nana, a woman they both cared about. Serpell shuffles between dreams and the present and it was disorienting. I'm not really sure what's going on in this story...

Workshop Stories 2015
#Yennenga was written by Jemila Abdulai (Ghana). A well-known journalist has been arrested for murder. Her arrest has the nation taking sides with social media hashtags #FreeYennenga vs #DeathToYennenga. The public has its theory on how she rose to fame and whether or not she's innocent of the charges brought up against her but only Yennenga knows the truth. It's a decent story.

The Road Workers of Chalbi was written by Dalle Abraham (Kenya). I loved it immediately. Chinese workers arrive to a little village, the villagers marvel at their proficiency and gossip about their foreign habits. Everyone co-exists in peace for a while but you already know this can't possibly last forever. It's an interesting tale and one that I like.

Nkiacha Atemnkeng (Cameroon) wrote Wahala Lizard. I got excited a few minutes into it because it seemed fresh and different. An aircraft passenger falls terribly sick and is overheard saying that he hopes he hasn't caught the ebola virus thereby sending the plane's occupants into a panic. A story about an aircraft passenger with ebola, aboard a plane? I prepped myself for the drama I was sure would enfold. There wasn't enough drama to satiate me. There was a discussion among the passengers and then the tale veers off from where you think it's all headed.

Diane Awerbuck (South Africa) wrote Nehushtan, a tale centered around Malan. Malan is an engineer currently working on the construction of a dam located close to a small village. He's still trying to cope with the death of his only child and the effects of that loss on his marriage. He's also concerned about the quality of work on the construction project, a responsibility recently passed on to him after the previous engineer bailed out. I like this story.

Swallowing Ice by Nana Nyarko Boateng (Ghana) is that "sweet center" buried deep at page 157 in this 267 paged collection. In Swallowing Ice a journalist, who writes under the pseudonym "Vivian Quack" for Ghana's Daily Times, lives out her routine existence mostly in her apartment. Everything seems fine until life happens. I love this story so much. I paused for a while before moving on. I'll keep an eye for out anything by Boateng. Much respect.

Efemia Chela (Ghana/Zambia) wrote Lusaka Punk, the titular story of this year's collection. It's about teenagers living life during the holiday. Without much to do they focus their energies on teenage proclivities and punk rock. It's not an exciting page-turner but looking back now I appreciate Chela's work.

The Writing in the Stars was written by Jonathan Dotse (Ghana). This story starts out with a character called "Guardian", there are people on horses, wearing cloaks, bearing swords, and there's a kingdom that needs to be protected... Right from the first page I started thinking: Oh gawdd... This is not really my thing... When will this end... The guardian part of the story represented the past and after that introduction we're taken forward in time to the year 2036, the present. Sarah's working on her second Ph.D. and she has discovered a book buried deep in a shrine. The book is encrypted and she works hard to decode it because she believes it holds some secret from an ancient past. This is a creative story but I appreciated it after I was done reading it.

Burial was written by Nigeria's Akwaeke Emezi. In Burial, a young girl deals with the life-changing death of her beloved father. His burial brings in relatives from all corners and this coming together leads to her discovery of some troubling secrets. I love it a lot. Emezi writes really beautifully. I can't wait to read the novel she's currently working on.

In The Song of a Goat by Pede Hollist (Sierra Leone), a young girl arrives home to tell her mom she has been suspended from school for two weeks. She's surprised when her mom sits her down for a talk instead of punishing her immediately. The talk is a trip down memory lane, a trip her very disappointed mother deems necessary and possibly more effective than thrashing Stella.

Princess Sailendra of Malindi by Kiprop Kimutai of Kenya. A crazy girl believes she's a princess. She and her brother seem to be wanderers and they do drugs. It's a bit confusing and it ends as badly as you'd expect. I don't like this story. It's so murky as though it needs to be read twice but much more slowly the second time.

In Blood Match by Jonathan Mbuna, Hilda needs a kidney transplant to save her life. Her husband and a few relatives offer to help but their blood type and hers aren't compatible. Salvation comes from an unexpected source and leads to an unforeseen revelation.

Colored Rendition by Aisha Nelson (Ghana) closes out this collection but not at all in the amazing, mind-blowing way a Caine Prize anthology should end. A small school welcomes Marcia and Cliff, two teenage lovers who've come down to Africa for philanthropic purposes. The school doesn't seem to be any of the things the expect it to be. I don't really know what the focus of Colored Rendition was. I didn't like it at all. It's another murky one.

Most Memorable Stories
1) Swallowing Ice by Nana Nyarko Boateng (Ghana)
2) Burial by Akwaeke Emezi (Nigeria)
3) Flying by Elnathan John (Nigeria)
4) The Folded Leaf by Segun Afolabi (Nigeria)

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2015 anthology is a very eclectic collection. I believe the opening and closing stories are important considerations for any anthology and I do not like the story chosen to close out this collection. It wasn't at all strong and memorable. I'm glad I chose the Caine Prize anthology and I'm excited that I'll be reviewing it every year. I can't wait to see what literary treasures 2016 brings. Have an amazing and fulfilling New Year everyone!

[Image via Amazon]

December 19, 2015

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2015 Anthology

I discovered the African Roar anthology series last year and I reviewed the fifth edition, African Roar 2014, on this blog on December 19th, 2014. It's a series that's put together by StoryTime Publishing and edited by the amazing Ivor Hartman & Emmanuel Siguake. I loved 2014 edition and I promised to make it a goal to review every subsequent edition in the series. I kept an eye out all year, searching Amazon, frequenting the StoryTime blog and checking its Facebook page for updates so I could plan my winter break reading but I still haven't seen any mentions of African Roar 2015. I honestly hope the series hasn't been discontinued. If you have any clues or details please leave me a comment or email me:

It's still my goal to review at least one anthology series on my blog site every year. In the absence of the African Roar series, I'll review this years Caine Prize for African Writing anthology series and I will try hard to review all future editions in the month of December. I love this book cover. For some reason I thought of ankara cloth when I first saw the book cover (pictured). The school semester just ended and I need a few days to recover before I start reading all the novels I have lined up. I'll try to have my review of the Caine Prize for African Writing 2015 anthology before the end of this month. If that isn't possible then I'll post it up some time in 2016.

Have a wonderful winter break and a Happy New Year!

READ: African Roar 2014 - My Thoughts

[Image via Amazon]

December 07, 2015

Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah | Book Review

Years after the end of the war, the people of Imperi trickle back home using the many winding, snake-like paths leading to their village. The first arrivals return to find a deserted village strewn with lots of human bones. It's the bones of those who couldn't escape quickly enough on the afternoon that the faraway war finally came to Imperi. Among the arrivals are the elderly, the young, amputees, the people who amputated the amputees, and victims of rape carrying babies. They all hope to reunite with their loved ones and as they come into town they search for familiar faces. The war has left everyone feeling vulnerable and distrustful and they're cautious about getting attached to the new normal because they fear things could change at any time. So as they work hard to rebuild their lives they keep an eye out for plundering enemies from the outside, completely blind to the monsters amongst them who would turn against them in exchange for the most basic of comforts. Change comes to Imperi but it's not the kind they anticipated or the sort of change they desire.

I approached this novel warily when I found out it was another war story because I was worried it might be a rehash of sorts. However, I picked it up because Ishmael Beah's firsthand account of war in his debut novel A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier was incredibly moving and very memorable. In Radiance of Tomorrow, the combination of the plotline and the narrative angle left me deeply dissatisfied. If A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a ten on a scale of one to ten then Radiance of Tomorrow is a three. Radiance of Tomorrow is a fairly interesting novel but very, very, very putdownable.

READ: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah - My Thoughts

[Image via Amazon]

November 07, 2015

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin | Book Review

Bolanle is Baba Segi's newest wife and her arrival threatens to destabilize his household in all the
ways you'd expect but there's more. Bolanle is an even bigger threat because Baba Segi's three other wives are guarding a secret so scandalous, it's in their best interest to get rid of Bolanle. Iya Segi, Baba's first wife who's also the one with the most to lose if everything crumbles, takes it upon herself to make Bolanle leave using every trick she can think of. When nothing seems to be working she decides to go for the kill...

We meet Baba's wives, see their individual reactions to the brand new, college educated wife whom their husband is smitten with, and then Shoneyin delves beneath their outward appearances to show us what lies beneath. Every wife has her own remarkable life story and our knowledge of their private struggles and the journey to this point in time affects how we react to them. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is a delightful page-turner. You should read it.

[Image via Amazon]

October 24, 2015

TBR Book Tag!

I got tagged to put up a "To-Be-Read" post by Darkowaa of the beautiful and inspiring blog, African Book Addict. Here are my responses to the TBR questions. Enjoy!

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I have a post-it widget on my computer that I use for everything. There's a post-it with my To-Do list of everything academic and then there's a post-it with my TBR list for my blog. I'm constantly moving around the titles, adding to the list, and changing my book review choices for any particular month. It's always there when I turn on my computer. I like it a lot. It helps me keep track of everything I need to do.

2. Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?
It's 99% print. I only read e-books when I have to. E-books are actually really convenient but I prefer print. I think I always will.

3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?
I buy the books I'm interested in reading and I keep them on my bookshelf. Selecting what book to read next from my bookshelf is random a lot of the time. Book covers are very enticing so I could reach for a book on my shelf based on that. Sometimes it's based on the number of pages because I have a fixed window of free time between semesters. Sometimes I select a book based on who the author is.

4. A book that has been on your TBR the longest?
Right now it would be between Tolulope Popoola's Nothing Comes Close and Eghosa Imasuen's To Saint Patrick. I'll get to them one day I promise. 

5. A book you recently added to your TBR?
Darkowaa posted today because she got tagged. I read her post and ordered Baking in Kigali by Gaile Parkin AND Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okoroafor on Amazon before settling down to pen this post. Good job Darkowaa :).  

6. A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
I like the cover of Alain Mabanckou's Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty a lot and so I bought it. It's not the only reason I bought it but it's one of the main reasons. Again I saw it featured on the African Book Addict blog soo... Good job Darkowaa! My money go soon finish. 

7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
I wouldn't say I "never plan on reading" but I know deep inside that it would have to be the only unread book on my shelf before there's even the slightest chance that I will read it. I won't mention the book title. 

8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you're excited for?
Right now it's The Longings of Jende Jonga by Imbolo Mbue (I'm aware the title has changed but whatever). It's the book whose movie rights were sold for seven figures. I can't wait. I wasn't aware that Teju Cole had a new book coming out until I read Darkowaa's post so I'm excited about that. I hope I can finish Open City before the new release. It has been on my TBR for a while.

9. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
White Teeth by Zadie Smith and The Famished Road by Ben Okri have been recommended to me since forever. I need to finally read them. I've booked them for 2016. 

10. A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?
The Famished Road by Ben Okri. 

11. A book on your TBR that you're dying to read?
The Longings of Jende Jonga

12. How many books are in your Goodreads TBR shelf?
I use Shelfari more often than I use Goodreads and I have the Shelfari bookshelf widget on my blog. My Goodreads TBR shelf has 6 books. 

October 07, 2015

Bitter Leaf by Chioma Okereke | Book Review

Bitter Leaf is set in Mannobe a small regressive village located somewhere in Africa. We meet Jericho as she returns to Mannobe under the cover of darkness. She has lived in the city for a long time and is finally pulled back home to Mannobe by the guilt induced by her mother's letter. Babylon is a gifted musician and local sex object who's more interested in bedding numerous village women than furthering his career. He's smitten by Jericho but her heart belongs to her boyfriend back in the city. While Babylon courts Jericho's affection, Magdalene, a dutiful village girl who has never felt anything close to the consuming love she has for Babylon, tries desperately to keep his attention. This is an engaging tale of love, pain and lust with lots of interesting characters.

The book title paired with the author's Igbo name made me expect a Nigerian tale but Bitter Leaf isn't Nigerian. It comes across as a story set in some other African country when you take in the way the characters talk and the snippets of a local language I can't identify. I found Okereke's descriptions of lust and the convoluted feelings of sexual attraction humorous and very enjoyable. I'm impressed by her narrative style and attention to detail in the 409 pages of this novel. I assume I'm late to the party considering that this novel was published in 2010 but the more I read Bitter Leaf, the more I wondered why I haven't seen Chioma Okereke's name floated around more often on the various lists of contemporary Nigerian authors. We need to applaud the verve and skill that Chioma Okereke greatly displays in this beautiful debut. Kudos to Chioma Okereke.

[Image via Amazon]

September 28, 2015

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta | Book Review

Ijeoma is a young Nigerian girl, an only child, who lives with her parents in Southern Nigeria. We are introduced to her family in the time period of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. Everything around them is crumbling down and it's not long before Ijeoma's dad dies from an air strike. Ijeoma's mom sends her off to live with her father's close friend because living conditions in Ojoto are getting worse even though Ijeoma would prefer to follow her to Aba. When they both reunite one and a half years later it's because Ijeoma has been caught doing something "abominable" with another girl, Amina. Her mother decides to nip this in the bud by conducting protracted daily Bible studies with Ijeoma, painstakingly covering the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelations, and coupling that with loud, fervent prayers, beseeching God, begging Him to banish all abominable desires from her daughter. That was many years ago. An older Ijeoma looks back on her life as she narrates this tale, taking time to describe surroundings, seasons and dreams as she lays the groundwork for this very important story.

Okparanta explores and questions the complexities of the Bible's teachings in a way that Christians are often taught not to. Her selected scriptures, especially those from the Bible book of Lot, are fitting, poignant, and thought provoking. In the telling of this tale Okparanta grabs the bull by the horns and forces you to confront this controversial issue in the hopes that you (especially her countrymen) reexamine your thoughts on the subject matter. Under the Udala Trees is shamelessly honest, a moving tale of forbidden love by the amazingly gifted and incredibly courageous Chinelo Okparanta. This is a tale well told, a job very well done. You should read this.
Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta - My Thoughts

[Image via NPR]

September 14, 2015

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu | Book Review

Vimbai Hozo makes a big first impression on the beginning three pages of The Hairdresser of
Harare. She's self-assured, blunt, conscious of her own greatness in Harare and not afraid to own it. In her words she's the "Queen Bee" and her place of employment - Khumalo Hair and Beauty Treatment Salon - is her domain. Being regarded as the best hairdresser in all of Harare, which she says equates to being "the best in the whole country", feels good and neither her employer nor her fellow employees pose a competitive threat. Then one day Dumisani Ncube walks into the salon seeking employment. He's confident, very highly skilled and spontaneous. He has a customer service approach that's very different from Vimbai's and much more successful. Vimbai's dethronement seems imminent with his arrival and then the story takes a different turn from what you might have expected.

The Hairdresser of Harare was great from the beginning. I got excited because Tendai Huchu's another gifted Zimbabwean author to rally around after my 2013 introduction to NoViolet Bulawayo. Even though The Hairdresser of Harare is set in Zimbabwe, the commonality of the African experience shines through with slightly varying details. Once we leave the salon drama and power struggle and delve into the personal lives of the main characters I wasn't as excited as I was in the beginning but I still found the novel engaging. Tendai Huchu builds up to a "big reveal" that I wish had been a chapter in the character's life and not his whole story. I wasn't too pleased with the ending of this novel. It's a hasty wrapping up of the story but it still works in some way. The Hairdresser of Harare is entertaining and humorous. It's a fine debut by Tendai Huchu.
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo - My Thoughts

[Image via Amazon]

September 07, 2015

Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta | Book Review

Happiness, Like Water is a collection of ten compelling short stories. It begins with Chinwe and Eze in the story On Ohaeto Street. Chinwe is quiet and dutiful woman who becomes a Jehovah's Witness in order to marry Eze, a prosperous and materialistic Jehovah's Witness whom she first meets when he arrives at her mother's doorstep to preach the good news of God's Kingdom. After marriage and with the passage of time, Chinwe's disquiet grows and she questions her choices and weighs her options. The collection continues with Wahala, Fairness, Story, Story!, Runs Girl, America, Shelter, Grace, Designs, and finally Tumors and Butterflies. These are stories about relationships, domestic abuse, colorism, immigration and girls who love girls, narrated by female protagonists for the most part. Each tale sits comfortably on its own, weighty and deep, ready to be lengthened if Okparanta chooses.

When I found out Chinelo Okparanta had been raised a Jehovah's Witness I hoped that she would explore that religious background deeply in one of the stories but she didn't and that's fine. The stories America and Grace are bold in their exploration of Nigerian protagonists attracted to members of the same sex but still somewhat tame in its handling of the accompanying issues. I don't think any Nigerian author has written this openly about same sex relationships since Jude Dibia broke the ice with his debut novel, Walking With Shadows, and followed up in his third novel, Blackbird. Happiness, Like Water is a well written short story collection that can't be ignored in any line-up. Chinelo Okparanta is a bold new voice and an excellent addition to the literary throng of voices from Nigeria. Her full length novel Under the Udala Trees will be released in two weeks on September 22nd, 2015.
11 Questions for Jude Dibia

[Image via Goodreads]

August 18, 2015

"Cult" - Inkitt's Writing Contest

Inkitt's "Cult" Writing Contest ENDS in 30 Days! 
Inkitt is a free platform that aims to help writers achieve their fullest potential. For their "Cult" writing contest they would like you to submit your best mystery and thriller stories! "Have us biting our nails over stories full of adrenaline and espionage. Keep us on the edge of our seats with your best mystery and thriller stories. We want you to leave us breathless with your tales of unmatched suspense."

Contest Guidelines
Authors will retain all rights to any and all works submitted in the contests. Original stories of any length are accepted. All entries to the contest must be posted on the Inkitt contest page to be considered eligible. The contest opens on August 17th and closes on September 17th. The "Cult" contest is completely FREE to enter! The top 10% based on reader votes will get the chance to be picked by the Inkitt staff for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. 

All entrants will have the chance to show their work to a rapidly growing community of authors and readers hungry for high-quality fiction. SUBMIT your stories today for the Mystery/Thriller writing contest! 

[Images and post content via Inkitt]

August 14, 2015

Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett | Book Review

Furo Wariboko is a Nigerian man who wakes up Caucasian. In this situation where I would have screamed loudly yelled loudly in shock, Furo worries about how to leave his house for a job interview undetected by his family members. And so I wondered if he had a mental illness. Maybe this change from a black man to a white man is all in his head. How can anyone wake up as a person of a different race and still be concerned with making it to a job interview? I waited for him to interact with other humans so that I could gauge his mental health. Furo isn't mentally ill as far as I know. He did wake up Caucasian and after he successfully leaves his parents house undetected he never returns. Blackass is about him dealing with his transformation and taking advantage of all the opportunities that are now open to him as a white Nigerian. Even though Furo's white on the outside he's still Nigerian in all the ways that count. His feelings of inadequacy are borne from a life of academic underachievement juxtaposed with his sister's academic prowess and her constant ability to impress. He shoulders the burden and expectations that come with being a first son and he's desperate to succeed, desperate to show he won't be that man who can't provide for his family. He won't be his father.

Blackass is one of the best literary offerings from Nigeria in 2015. It shines brightly next to Chigozie Obioma's Man Booker long-listed debut, The Fishermen and E.C. Osondu's full-length novel, This House is Not For Sale. Blackass is richly layered, it's fresh and it's engaging. I flipped the pages greedily as I neared the end wondering if Igoni would give this a happy ending. He does right by leaving us where he does at the end of this tale. It's an ending that raises many questions. A. Igoni Barrett delivers everything you expect and more. If your reading list doesn't already have Blackass on it you need to pencil it in. Blackass is one of 2015's must-reads.
Love is Power or Something Like That by A. Igoni Barrett - My Thoughts
13 Questions for A. Igoni Barrett

[Image via Amazon]

August 07, 2015

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi | Book Review

Boy Novak is a caucasian girl living with her abusive father in Manhattan, New York. She finds the courage to run away from home then she starts life afresh in Flax Hill, New England. There she meets Arturo Whitman, a widower and an unlikely love interest at first, marries him and becomes stepmother to his gorgeous little daughter, Snow. Snow's blonde haired, hazel eyed, and gorgeous. An "extraordinary-looking kid" who's the pride of the Whitman and Miller families. The Whitmans and the Millers are concealing a secret that is revealed later on when Boy gives birth to her daughter, Bird.

When I found out on the first page of the novel that the protagonist, Boy, is caucasian I raised my eyebrows and wondered what direction Oyeyemi would take this. I've read novels by authors who write as the opposite gender in first person but I hadn't read a novel in which the author was writing in first person as a different race and I was curious as to how she was going to accomplish this. Oyeyemi's story does not mention or evoke Nigeria in any way and that's fine by me. In the Guardian article Stop Pigeonholing African Writers which made its rounds on the internet last month, Taiye Selasi talks about the need for our authors to have the freedom to do whatever they please artistically. It's a great piece and I agree with her completely. I like Boy, Snow, Bird much more than The Opposite House (the last Oyeyemi book I read) but I don't think it's more intriguing than The Icarus Girl. Boy, Snow Bird is remarkable. Helen Oyeyemi's imagination and talent know no bounds.
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi - My Thoughts
The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi - My Thoughts

[Image via Amazon]

July 14, 2015

Beyond Time - Inkitt's Writing Contest

Inkitt's "Beyond Time" Writing Contest Ends in 13 Days!
Submit your most imaginative and fantastic Science Fiction stories to Inkitt on or before July 27th! Take your readers on a journey; ride a spaceship, explore an extraterrestrial universe, travel through time - the possibilities are endless and the universe is yours. Be spellbinding, be world altering, and let your imagination run free. 

Contest Guidelines
Authors will retain all rights to any and all works submitted in the contest. Original stories of any lenght are accepted but entries must be posted on the Inkitt contest page to be considered eligible. The top 10% based on reader votes get the chance to be picked by the Inkitt staff for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize. All entrants will have the chance to show their work to a rapidly growing community of authors and readers hungry for high-quality fiction. 

Submit your stories HERE
[Image and post provided by Inkitt]

July 07, 2015

This House Is Not for Sale by E.C. Osondu | Book Review

There's a house called "Family House" in E.C. Osondu's 2015 novel This House Is Not For Sale and it's at the center of everything that happens in the city. It's a large, wealthy household run by "Grandpa" and its members are not all related by blood or marriage. Some members of the Family House are runaways, abandoned children, and at least one's a murderer. Each chapter in this novel covers one of the many characters inhabiting the Family House and each character commands attention from start to finish. Grandpa is generous with his wealth and so the Family House is a source of assistance to the community but also a ready source of entertainment and the subject of much gossip. The Family House is a spectacle and with every occurrence the city's inhabitants are always there to dish truly delicious commentary.

This House Is Not For Sale is my first book by E.C. Osondu who won the 2009 Caine Prize for African Writing for his 2009 short story, Waiting, and also authored the short story collection, Voice of America. It's an interesting medley of great characters, myths, social commentary and all things Nigerian. The gossip and murmuring of the city's inhabitants, always preceded by a hyphen right after an occurrence in the novel, are some of the best parts of This House Is Not For Sale. It's a really good read.
[Image via Amazon]

June 14, 2015

Fated Paradox - Inkitt's June Writing Contest

Inkitt's Writing Contest for June 2015 Has Begun!
Inkitt's theme for their latest writing contest is "Fated Paradox: Tales of Gripping Suspense" and they want you to keep them on the edge of their seats with your best mystery and thriller stories. Submit accounts of murders and red herrings, or have them biting their nails over stories full of adrenaline and espionage. Leave them breathless with your tales of unmatched suspense! 

Submission Details:
Inkitt will accept original fiction stories of any length. ALL entries must be posted to the Inkitt contest page to be considered eligible. The contest began on June 4th and closes on July 4th! This contest is completely FREE TO ENTER, and authors will retain all rights to any and all works submitted in the contest. The top 10% based on reader votes will get the chance to be picked by the Inkitt staff for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize. 

1st Prize: $50 cash, 5 printed copies of the winning story with custom typography (created by Inkitt's designer). 
2nd Prize: $40 cash
3rd Prize: $20 cash

ALL entrants will get the chance to show their work to a rapidly growing community of authors and readers hungry for high-quality fiction. 

Contest URL:
Twitter Handle: @Inkitt
Hashtag: #FatedParadox

[Image and post content provided by Inkitt]

June 07, 2015

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma | Book Review

The Fishermen focuses on the lives of four brothers - Ikenna, Boja, Obembe, and Benjamin - but it's also about the disintegration of a family of eight in Akure, a town in western Nigeria. Benjamin, the youngest of the four brothers, narrates their story as he looks back on their life together. The Fishermen begins with the family's reception of the news that Benjamin's dad had gotten transferred to Yola to work, and he was going to leave his family behind in Akure. While he's gone, Benjamin's mom finds it really hard to rein in four adolescent, headstrong boys, and thus begins the crumbling of their family unit. It starts slow at first and then it all goes south shockingly quick.

In The Fishermen, Chigozie weaves in events from Nigeria's history into this story, pegging his tale into a period of time we can all recognize. I liked the nostalgic references to Chinua Achebe, M.K.O. Abiola, Amokachi, and the lyrics from Onyeka Onwenu's famous "Iyogogo" song, among other things. I got a little frustrated early on and every now and then because The Fishermen felt clogged with detailed descriptions about things, areas, paths, locations... Details I honestly did not care about. Were they essential to the story? Probably. Probably not. It's not so bad but it's enough to warrant mentioning. About 60 pages from the end is when I finally begin to really, really feel something. A mounting dread that the worst wasn't over yet and that things were really about to fall apart for good. After I was done reading The Fishermen I realized that I had grossly underestimated this book and Chigozie's skill even though I had been rooting for his debut to be triumphant long before this book came to me in the mail. Chigozie's a good storyteller and without doubt someone we all need to watch in the future.
[Image via The Millions]

May 14, 2015

Epic Worlds - Inkitt's May Writing Contest

Inkitt's Writing Contest for May 2015 Has Begun!
Inkitt's newest writing contest is titled "Epic Worlds: A New Adventure" and they want you to submit your best fantasy stories. Submit your ancient tales about dragons and griffins, or tell your vision of the future through a science fantasy story. Unleash your imagination and write that truly unforgettable fantasy adventure. Write an adventure that Bilbo Baggins would envy, one that enchants, and excites, astounds and has everyone on the edge of their seats. 

Submission Details:
The contest began on May 6th and will close on June 3rd. The contest is free to enter and you can submit any fantasy story of up to 15,000 words. As always, authors who turn in entries will retain all rights to their work. 

How to Win: 
Collect the most community votes to get bumped into the top 10% of entries, from there the Inkitt staff will choose the Top 3!

1st place: $100 Cash and 5 printed-and-bound copies of story with cover created by Inkitt's designer

2nd place: $50 Cash

3rd place: $30 Cash

Get in on the adventure! ENTER the competition now and prepare to enter a world of fantastic fantasy where anything is possible! 

[Image and post content provided by Inkitt]

May 07, 2015

A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta | Book Review

Deola Bello seems to be doing okay when we meet her. She's the Director of Internal Audits at the London office of LINK, an international charity foundation that monitors other charities and ensures that they use charity donations in the right way. At thirty-nine years old she's single and under a lot of pressure to get married. In true Nigerian fashion, her personal accomplishments are overlooked because she's unmarried. Deola travels to Nigeria on a business trip for LINK and there she meets Wale Adeniran, an attractive, equally accomplished widower. Meeting him causes her to reevaluate her life and her choices.

A Bit of Difference sat unread for the longest time because I just couldn't get past the first couple of pages every time I tried. Once I got past that I finished the book within a day. It's a really good read. There's still that love of Lagos and Sefi's picturesque descriptions that we've seen in her other novels. A Bit of Difference is not the most exciting book I've read but I really like this novel.
Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta - My Thoughts
Swallow by Sefi Atta - My Thoughts
[Image via Amazon]

April 14, 2015

Echo of Another World - Inkitt's April Writing Contest

Inkitt's Writing Contest for April 2015 Has Begun!
Inkitt's April contest focuses on the sci-fi/fantasy genre this time. The theme is "Echo of Another World" and it's in honor of the late Terry Pratchett. Inkitt wants you to submit stories that will transport readers to another world the way the novels of the great Terry Pratchett did. You could transport readers to outer space, an enchanted castle, a forest filled with fairies - anything with fantastical or science-fictiony leanings is game. 

Submission Details
All fiction up to 15,000 words is eligible for entry. Novel excerpts are encouraged; fanfiction is not. The contest began on April 7th and will close on May 5th. It's FREE to enter, and you'll retain all rights to any work submitted. Collect the most community votes to be bumped into the top 10% of entries, from which the Inkitt staff will choose the winners. 

Winners will receive Amazon gift cards ($40, $30 and $20). The first place winner will also get five printed copies of their story, with a custom cover created by Inkitt's designer!

Got fantasy in your finger-tips, sci-fi on the mind? Enter the competition now at and do the Discworld proud! 

[Images and post content provided by Inkitt]

April 07, 2015

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah | Book Review

In A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah writes about his years as a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. It's an incredible tale of children trudging through war torn Sierra Leone, armed to the teeth with assorted rifles, raiding villages, killing, and committing abominable atrocities. These kids have been torn away from everything they hold dear either because of the actions of rebel fighters or the actions of soldiers who should be protecting them. They are picked up along the way and trained to maim, loot, and kill. It's crazy. Even as Ishmael describes the horrors of war seen through the eyes of a child you begin to wonder if any child is wholly redeemable from a life this gory. How do you "fix" such children? How can you bring them back to a state of normalcy in all aspects of life? Ishmael Beah is a success story. His story is that of the lucky ones who survive, "successfully rehabilitate", find a passion, and are able to smile as happily, and uninhibitedly as Ishmael does for the photo on the back cover of this novel. For every Ishmael Beah there are countless more who undoubtedly had no choice but to rejoin the fighters and continue with the madness in Sierra Leone.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a standout tale. All the praise for this book is very well deserved. It's a memoir that should be on every shelf. It brings to mind Biyi Bandele's Burma Boy and Uzodinma Iweala's Beasts of No Nation (only because I read those two books first before reading Ishmael's) but as much, much lesser comparisons. All three books deal with protagonists who are child soldiers but neither Bandele nor Iweala were able to hit as hard as Ishmael did. Most likely because Ishmael Beah lived this life. This is his tale to tell and he does so magnificently. There's a lot of things A Long Way Gone does to you, one of which is remind you that there's a lot we all take for granted. No matter what our life story is there's a lot we should still be thankful for. This is an important story. Buy it. Read it. Share it.
Burma Boy by Biyi Bandele - My Thoughts
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala - My Thoughts

[Image via Amazon]

March 07, 2015

Oil on Water by Helon Habila | Book Review

I expected Oil on Water to be a gripping tale about life in the oil rich areas in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. I expected that it would follow the life of a protagonist who lives in abject poverty while oil companies mine billions of dollars worth of oil from his ancestral land. I wanted a deep, gripping, soul-crushing story of dead dreams, dead fishes, and dead bodies of innocent villagers caught in crossfire between militants and government soldiers. This isn't that story. At least not really. Habila's tale covers that from a different, grossly underwhelming narrative angle. In Oil on Water a young ambitious journalist Rufus, volunteers to go on an assignment to the islands in the Niger Delta to report on the kidnapping of the caucasian wife of an oil company executive. Rufus signs up because his career hero Zaq, will be going on this assignment. Zaq is a renowned journalist who was very prominent back in Rufus college days but now he's a washed up, reclusive alcoholic. Rufus gets this chance because none of the more capable journalists at The Reporter want to risk their life pursuing this story. This kidnapping story could be the big break he needs to jumpstart his fledgling career. It's also helpful that the community where the militants are supposedly holding the white woman at ransom is similar to the community he was born and raised in. The one he left behind years ago in search of a better life in Port Harcourt. The journey of Zaq and Rufus form the rest of Oil on Water.

As I read Oil on Water I kept wondering if a Nigerian journalist would go to the lengths Rufus does in order to get the scoop on a story. Oil on Water is not unputdownable. It's just there. I admit that I approached this book with different expectations for the storyline but that doesn't change the reality of what this book is. I think Oil on Water was meant to be something weightier and complex in its tackling of Nigeria's big Niger Delta problem. If that's the case then I believe it falls short of achieving its full potential. This is my third Helon Habila novel and if I had to rank all three of them Oil on Water would be my least favorite.
Measuring Time by Helon Habila - My Thoughts
Waiting for an Angel by Helon Habila - My Thoughts

[Image via Amazon]

March 03, 2015

Running Scared: The Most Terrifying Tale Ever Told!

Inkitt's "Running Scared" Horror Contest Starts TODAY!!
Inkitt is a free platform for writers to cultivate ideas and watch their stories grow. At Inkitt, writers and readers collaborate, giving each other feedback and improving their work. Inkitt wants to help writers get the exposure they deserve and the publishing deals they covet without suffering the frustrations and bias of traditional printing and self-publishing. 

The theme of Inkitt's March horror contest is "Running Scared: The Most Terrifying Tale Ever Told." In the tradition of classic horror flicks and monster movies, they want the freakiest, flashiest fables you can come up with. Make them scream! 

Inkitt is accepting all frightening fiction up to 15,000 words. The contest opens March 3rd and closes on March 31st. It's free to enter, and you'll retain all rights to any work submitted. By collecting the most community votes, the top 10% of entries will be bumped into judging by Inkitt's guest judges (horror authors J.D. Horn, Armand Rosamilia, and J. Thorn). They're pretty unshakeable guys, so pull out all the stops to get them quaking in their boots! 

Win and you'll receive a petrifying prize package, including Amazon gift cards and Inkitt custom mugs. The first place winner will also get a custom poster spotlighting their story! Readers, be on your toes too: there's an Amazon gift card up for grabs for one lucky reviewer! 

Got gore on your mind and fear in your heart? Enter the contest now at for all the (literal) guts and glory!

Contest URL:
Twitter Handle@Inkitt
Hashtag: #RunningScared

[Images and post content provided by Inkitt]

February 07, 2015

Love Is Power or Something Like That by A. Igoni Barrett | Book Review

Love Is Power or Something Like That is a collection of nine riveting short stories filled with many spirited characters. The collection begins with The Worst Thing That Happened followed by Dream Chasers, The Shape of a Full Circle, Something Like That, My Smelling Mouth Problem, Trophy, The Little Girl with Budding Breasts and a Bubblegum Laugh, Godspeed and Perpetua, and finally A Nairobi Story of Comings and Goings. It's a varied collection of evocative short stories, lushly detailed and well narrated by A. Igoni Barrett as though he has lived all those lives.

I love the book cover art (pictured), I love the title of the collection, I love the author photograph on the inside of the back cover, and most importantly I love these nine stories. One of them made me somewhat uncomfortable because of the subject matter but I'll let you figure out which story that is. Two of my friends took one look at the book title and immediately mistook this to be some lovey-dovey book dripping with girly romance. It's not that kind of book. I'm really, really impressed by Love Is Power or Something Like That. You should read it.
Here's my 2010 interview with A. Igoni Barrett: 13 Questions for A. Igoni Barrett

[Image via Amazon]

February 02, 2015

You're in the Darkest Place in the World

Inkitt's "Darkest Place" Horror Contest Starts TODAY!

What is Inkitt? 
Inkitt is a free platform for writers to cultivate ideas and watch their stories grow. Their site lets users collaborate with fellow writers and readers to give each other feedback and improve their work. Inkitt's vision is to help writers get the exposure they deserve and the publishing deals they covet without having to jump through the fiery hoops of traditional publishing, or wade in the shark-infested waters of self publishing.

What is the theme of the horror contest? 
"You are in the darkest place in the world." (This theme can be interpreted literally or figuratively.) We want writers who will submit their blood-curdlers, spine-tinglers, skin-crawlers, and hair-raisers: writers who will make it their duty to scare and shock their readers; writers who can really take us to the darkest place in the world.

What are the guidelines?
It's all about fiction: flashes and shorts up to 10,000 words, written from any point of view. Entries must be posted on the Inkitt contest page to be considered eligible.

The contest opens February 2nd and closes on February 28th. The contest is completely free to enter, and authors will retain all rights to any and all work submitted in the contest.

What are the prizes? 
All entrants will have the chance to show their work to a growing community of authors and readers hungry for high-quality fiction and win the following prizes:

1st Prize  $25 Amazon gift card, Inkitt custom mug, Inkitt custom notebook, custom cover design for the Inkitt story of their choice (created by Inkitt's designer).

2nd Prize  $20 Amazon gift card, Inkitt custom mug, Inkitt custom notebook.

3rd Prize   Inkitt custom mug, Inkitt custom notebook.

Contest URL -
Twitter Handle - @Inkitt
Hashtag - #DarkestPlace

[Images and post content provided by Inkitt]

January 07, 2015

Foreign Gods INC. by Okey Ndibe | Book Review

Ikechukwu Uzondu has been a New York City taxi driver for 13 years even though he graduated cum laude with a degree in Economics from Amherst College, Massachusetts. Initially, the major obstacle on his path to a financially rewarding career seemed to be his lack of a United States working permit. He gets married to Queen Bertha, an obnoxious, insatiable woman he meets in Baltimore, and he gets the coveted American green card, putting an end to all his immigration problems. His next obstacle to getting a "corporate job befitting his education" is his accent which all prospective employers deem a serious communication problem. Stumped and with no substantial source of income he becomes a taxi driver at the behest of his friend but Ikechukwu wants more and he truly deserves it. Along comes a feature story in New York magazine about the store Foreign Gods INC and its enterprising owner, Mark Gruels. Foreign Gods INC. sells foreign deities from all corners of the globe. Its patrons are the wealthy, and famous, willing to pay six figure sums, and sometimes millions of dollars for sculptures of exotic deities. At first Ikechukwu is irritated and repulsed by the idea of trading gods but as he gives it more thought his mind opens up to the possibilities. He's sure his village god Ngene back home in Enugu, Nigeria will command enough money to lift him out of penury, win him back respect, and help him support his mother and sister. Filled with ideas of grandeur Ikechukwu Uzondu steels himself and makes a trip back to his village in Nigeria.

Foreign Gods INC. is the BEST book I've read since I reviewed Taiye Selasi's Ghana Must Go in June of 2014. You won't forget this book. When I finished reading it I put my hands on my head thinking "Okey Ndibe has killed me...". I love the character Ikechukwu Uzondu and I kept rooting for him inspite of everything. I think being Igbo like Ikechukwu helped me understand and fully appreciate every little thing going on in Foreign Gods INC. but it's a universal tale that everyone will find relatable. I really, really, really love this story. Foreign Gods INC. should win awards. Foreign Gods INC. should be made into a movie. I saw Okey Ndibe when he came for the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) celebration of 50 years of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka almost 7 years ago. My good friends Eromo Egbejule and Onyeka Nwelue took photos with him but I hadn't read any of his works back then so I did not introduce myself. Now I'm a huge fan of Okey Ndibe. Foreign Gods INC. is moving, refreshing, and couldn't have been narrated any better. BUY Foreign Gods INC. Read it. Share it.

[Image via Goodreads]