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I am a self proclaimed writer who is always looking for the chance to share my voice and ideas. I am all about the "blerd" life, and I believe that "From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks".
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shadow Blade is a bright new light

I'm a big fan of urban and multicultural action, fantasy and romance novels. Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass fits in all of the above named categories. Shadow Blade  is no ordinary romance thriller. The main character, Kira Solomon, is a shadowchaser. That is exactly what it sounds like: she hunts things that go bump in the night. Kira is a real tough chick with a reputation for trouble. However, unlike many bad-girl archetypes in literature, we really get to see a different side to our protagonist. Kira's powers that make her the perfect shadowchaser are very damaging in her everyday life and prevent our hero from having functional relationships.

Now enters the lead man in our tale: Khefar. Kira has something that Khefar wants, and it's more than her killer athletic body. He is a near immortal warrior, dozens of lifetimes old who has lost something that is key to his near immortal existence: his blade. Though the two are thrown together for a short while, their cooperation could mean the fate of the world.The two engage in a pulse-pounding, non-stop journey rich in culture, Egyptian mythology and mysticism that will keep you flipping pages fast enough to make your fingers burn.

Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass is a good read and I highly recommend it. There isn't a dull moment in the text. Glass is an expert at creating subtle sexual tension between the characters without over  doing it. You can never accurately predict exactly what will happen next between the characters or in the action. Read this book! Just don't read it alone at night if you're still afraid of the shadows...

Look for Shadow Chase and Shadow Fall in the Shadow-Chasers series By Seressia Glass.

You're killing Me - Review of Killing The Competition by Kennedy Shaw

Let's be honest, not every book that's published is a best seller. Every story doesn't get nominated for Oprah's book of the month club, and a ton of books will never make the top 10 sellers list. However, when a buyer picks up a book, a romance novel in particular, they expect it to at least be interesting. Romance novels (RNs) are supposed to hold you rapt. They should be page turners that get your heart racing, even if its just to get you to the next racy scene. Kennedy Shaw's Killing the Competition was none of the above.

For me, there is nothing worse than getting excited to read a new book, only to be gravely disappointed. I'm an avid reader of several genre's, and I have to tell you that I am hard to disappoint.   I'm a book lover, I'm a reader, and I am hard to let down. This book let me down.

Killing the Competition  is a story about a newspaper reporter, Kyra Chase, who is being targeted by a killer. Subsequently, she is sent to some small, one-horse town by her boss to keep her out of danger. Predictably, the danger follows her. Kyra is oblivious to all of the danger around her, and the town's stud of a sheriff is both annoyed by and attracted to her in the most annoyingly obvious of ways. You can tell where the story is going after the first few pages. Shaw attempts to create romantic tension between the characters but fails miserably, in my opinion.

I would be happy to tell you how story ends between the uptown reporter and the small town sheriff but I was so disgustingly bored by it that I couldn't finish the book (which has only happened to me once before, and I have read hundreds of books, mostly romance). Guessing by the predictability of the story, let me fill you in on how it likely ends: The reporter keeps running into the Sheriff, they get into a heated argument, the argument turns into a passionate kiss, she decides they're in love after some back and forth, bad guy tries to kill reporter, Sheriff saves the day, they live happily ever after.Throw in a vivid sex scene or two and you'll have this book in a nutshell. In fact, my 50 some word synopsis of what likely happens is probably a lot more interesting than the entire 316 page book, I assure you.  Someone who could stomach reading this book all the way through, please tell me I'm wrong. I challenge you to tell me I'm wrong! Seriously Kennedy Shaw,  you're killing me...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New and Improved

After taking some time to decide what I'd like to do with my free time, I thought I might consider doing a more blogging. I wracked my brain for new blogging ideas, and came up with nothing. However, as I began to peruse some of my old blogs, it struck me... Literary Criticism! No, not in any formal way, more of a book review. I read African American romance novels, scores of them. I also enjoy a good fantasy or thriller. Thus I have decided that I will go back through my stacks and stacks of books and begin to give my opinion on them. I'd love to share my thoughts and opinions with other people about the journeys and travels I go on through reading. By all means, join me! This may turn out to be a lot of fun!!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Film Review: Roshomon


Oscar Wilde said, “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple" (http://quoteland.com/search.asp?query=truth). Never has the case been truer than in Akira Kurosawa’s screenplay Roshomon. In this film, Kurosawa addresses the subjectivity of truth and the many ways it can be interpreted. Kurosawa uses the memories of four individuals to describe one event in order to demonstrate the objectivity in an event past does not exist.
In the text Roshomon, the story is told of a rape and murder from the viewpoint of four different people. All four people witnessed the event first hand, yet all four people had a different recollection of what had occurred. Not because three were lying and one was not or even that any of them were lying, but because their individual life experiences, cultures and backgrounds lead them to each see the same event in an entirely different light.
The first to tell his tale is Tajomaru, the rapist and suspected murderer. In his story he was crafty in tricking the samurai, he was kind and loving in consoling the woman he’d raped, and he was valiant in murdering the husband on her behalf. To Tajomaru, this was the truth and an actual historical account of what had happened. In his discourse he did not focus on how he’d hurt and disgraced the woman or the Samurai, not because he did not realize it but more because of his particular episteme, or ones own perception. Tajomaru’s perceptions regarding what is and is not real simply did not include those things. He was a criminal, and it was outside of his criminal culture to lament the wrongs done to others. He did however, in his tale, feel sad for the woman, and offer to take her with him and care for her. Though this was outside of his criminal nature, it was well within his understanding of wrong, even for a criminal.
The wife’s tale varies a great deal from that of Tajomaru. She tells of being raped and of Tajomaru leaving her and her husband behind. Her focus is not at all at Tajomaru, but on her husband. She tells of embracing him for comfort and untying him. In her tale he does not move or speak, but looks on her with “cold hatred”. To her recollection, after begging her husband not to look at her that way, she faints. Upon awakening she finds him dead. Her story is no more fabricated than Tajomaru’s. Her experience was completely and utterly different than his. She was victimized by a strange man in the eyes of her husband. This, as well as the fact that she is a woman, changes the perspective by much. Her place in society as well as her personal episteme shaped her tale.
Thu murdered man also had the chance to tell his tale through a medium. His was inexhaustibly different than both his wife and perceived murderer. For the samurai, his wife was “never more beautiful” than after enduring such a disgrace. However, at the suggestion of Tajomaru, she betrayed him to go with Tajomaru. On top of that she insisted that her husband, the samurai, be killed. This is the interpretation of the event that he got, possibly because of his place in society, being a samurai. His episteme allowed him to only see his own disgrace and betrayal.
Finally that leaves us with the final storyteller, the woodcutter. This mans story has similarities and significant differences from that of the other three. He was just an observer with no particular ties to the situation; save his ties to manhood and society as a whole. From his standpoint all characters were flawed, and none quite so valiant, innocent or even betrayed as anyone of them might have suggested. However, even the wood cutters story is biased in some way by his culture and personal experiences.
Thus in closing, it would be right to say that in Akira Korosawa’s film Roshomon, it is shown that the truth is always subjective. Also that events are open to interpretation. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.” (http://quoteland.com/search.asp?query=truth)

The Concept Of Family in Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' and Elie Wiesel's 'Night'

The concept of family
in Chinua Achebe’s Things fall Apart and Elie Wiesel’s Night

In Chinua Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart, the main character, Okonkwo, is seen going through many changes. His life seems to bounce between several extremes. This is not untrue of the character Eliezer in Elie Wiesel’s Night. The young man Elie himself endured a great deal of changes. Both of these men, through the many ordeals they suffered in text hold on to one thing in common, a strong connection with family.
In the text Night the reader will find that within the very first paragraphs, the narrator, Elie, is discussing his father. In the reader’s very first interaction with Elie’s father, he is telling his son what he cannot do. Ironically, Elie’s survival of the holocaust and his father’s until his point of death were dependant on what he could do. His father says, “You are far too young for that [studies of Kabbalah]. Maimonides tells us that one must be thirty before venturing into the world of mysticism, a world fraught with peril. First you must study the basic subjects, those you are able to comprehend” (4). The first relationship seen in text between the two is one distance.
The distance shown between Elie and his after does not denote one of disrespect. Although Elie does decide to try and study the Kabbalah against his father’s wishes, this does not signify a lack of respect or reverence. It is likely just a lack of closeness or care for his father’s opinion, which is common in boys of fourteen years old. Elie, in the text, was never actually expressly forbidden from studying Kabbalah, but was merely discouraged. In Elie's initial description of his father, he speaks of him with what appears to be great respect: “My father was a cultured man … The Jewish community of Sighet held him in highest esteem; his advice on public and private matters was frequently sought.” (4). In this same passage however, Elie again gives the allusion of not being very close with his father, and speaks of his father’s emotional distance: “He rarely displayed his feelings, not even within his own family, and he was more involved with the welfare of others than with that of his own kin” (4).
In Achebe’s story, Things Fall Apart, again the main character’s father is introduced within the first few paragraphs. Okonkwo’s father Unoka is not respected as was Elie’s. In fact, his introduction was close to an opposite of Elie’s father’s. The text reads, “He [Okonkwo] had no patience with unsuccessful men. He had had no patience with his father”(4). This is an extremely different dynamic in family than in Night, but also some similarity. In Things Fall Apart there is also some father – son distance. In this text however it is far more obvious. The narrator makes it very clear in speech that Okonkwo had no particular close tie with his father Unoka.
Unlike Elie’s father, Unoka was not well respected within his community. According to the text, “People laughed at him because he was a loafer, and they swore to never lend him any more money because he never paid back” (5). Unoka was far from respected, he was more of a laughing stock. His positive attributes, like his negatives, are also quite opposite of Elie’s father. In whole, Unoka seemed to be a very happy and friendly individual. His joys seemed to derive from “making music and feasting” (5). In this way, Unoka is presented as nearly an exact opposite of the father in Wiesel’s Night.
In Night we see family and closeness again coming to the front as the Jews are moved into the ghetto’s. At this time of course, families and community members were all that the Jews had. They had recently had their right to own goods, or have gold taken away. In this portion of the text, family is given a sort of insignificance. While Elie is surrounded by family more in this short time than anywhere else in text, very little is said of them. His distant relatives are given no more than a side remark: “We gave some of our rooms to relatives who had been driven out of their homes” (11).
Elie’s mother. Who speaks very little in the text, has her first words while the family is in the Ghetto. Just moments after her husband is summoned immediately to a council she says, “I have a bad feeling” (13). Since the narrator does not leave much room in text for the mother’s words, one must contemplate the significance of these. The first thing the reader hears her saying is, “I have a bad feeling”. A woman’s intuition, in this case is not to be ignored, or even more so the wisdom of a mother. This may have very well been the intention of Elie Wiesel in placing her words there, especially in physically separating those five words from the rest of her quote.
Elie’s mother is mentioned once more in text, as the family was marched out of their original ghetto and into a smaller one. Out of character, Elie’s father was weeping, but “As for my mother, she was walking, her face a mask, without a word, deep in thought” (19). The last time in text that Elie’s mother is seen is shortly after their arrival to the camp Birkenau. This passage is very brief, as if thinking about it or focusing on the events surrounding it is more than the narrator finds necessary for text, or capable for himself. “’Men to the left! Women to the right!’ Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Eight simple, short words. Yet that was the moment when I left my mother … in a fraction of a second I could see my mother, my sisters, move to the right. Tzipora [his youngest sister] was holding Mother’s hand. I saw them walking farther and farther away; Mother was stroking my sister’s blonde hair, as if to protect her… I did not know that this was the moment in time and the place where I was leaving my mother and Tzipora forever” (29). This is the last time in text that Elie sees any of the women in his family. All the significant female figures of his life are at this point out of his reach, or out of all reach.
The women in the family of Okonkwo also had very little to say, but were not so silent as the women in Night. Several times in text we see ekwefi, the only wife that Okonkwo loved, speaking. Ekwefi was a very strong woman. In text, she runs away from her original husband to be with Okonkwo, though this was not necessarily socially acceptable. She took risk to get what she wanted.
Though Okonkwo had three wives, the other two lack importance as compared to Ekwefi, the mother of his favorite child. This child, Enzima, is the second woman of great importance in the life of Okonkwo. A prime example Okonkwo’s affection for the child is in the scene where Chielo, the priestess of Agbala came for Enzima in the middle of the night. Though it was extremely out of character for Okonkwo to show motion towards his children or anyone else, he does so in this passage. Chielo takes young Enzima into the hills in the middle of the night (Achebe 101), and her mother Ekwefi follows close behind in fear for her child. Okonkwo’s initial reaction is that harsh, as to be expected of him. He says to his wife Ekwefi, “’Why do you stand there as if she had been kidnapped?’ asked Okonkwo as he went back to his hut” (102). It would appear here that Okonkwo had little concern for his wife’s fear for her only child, or the sound of his crying, pleading daughter fading into the distance. After a long journey in the darkness and long waiting in darkness, “A man stood there with a machete in hand. Ekwefi uttered a scream and sprang to her feat. ‘Don’t be foolish’, said Okonkwo’s voice. ‘I thought you were going into the shrine with Chielo,’ he mocked. Ekwefi did not answer. Tears of gratitude filled her eyes. She knew her daughter was safe” (108).
According to Polycarp Ikuenobe. African Philosopher, “personhood is a status earned by meeting certain community standards, including the ability to take on certain prescribed responsibilities that are believed to define a person” (117). Okonkwo risked his “personhood” so to speak, by defying community standards and challenging the priestess. Even waiting outside the cave with a machete, in case he should have to defend his daughter’s safety. This is something not common in society, and likely frowned upon. This shows a strong connection between Okonkwo and th women in his family, particularly Ekwefi and Enzima.
Again, in Night, there is family dynamic demonstrated between Elie and his father. Though, as discussed earlier, the two were not particularly close, there is a moment in text where that all changes. At the time in Birkenau, when men and women were separated, the narrator says, “I already felt my father’s hand press against mine: we were alone” (29). Here Elie speaks as his father and himself as one unit, as “we”. Zthis immediately changes the family dynamics. Elie and his father are now dependant upon one another.

In text, Elie’s father is the relative he is in contact with, and stays with him through most of his imprisonment. Ironically, the member of his family he seemed furthest from is the one he stuck closest to. The message in this is the bond of family and it’s importance to the people suffering through holocaust. This is saying that through his turmoil, grief and loss, the need to have someone close to you there, the need for family to feel human yet survived.
This is not dissimilar to the message in Achebe’s Things fall Apart. Okonkwo lost his connection to his community and his family. All the changes and humiliations he suffered were more than this man could handle. He, being the man that he is, could not lean on his family, and did not a father he could lean on, thus, as alluded to in the title of the text, he fell apart. His family could not hold him together, or rather he would not have allowed them to.
To conclude, the main character of Chinua Achebe’s tale, Okonkwo went through many changes in the time of the text. His life had many great and various stages which he endured. Similarly the character Elie in Elie Weisel’s Night went through an extreme set of circumstances. What was the deciding factor in the survival, or lack thereof in the lives of both characters was their connection with their immediate families.

Works Cited
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Anchor books: New York. 1959
Ikuenobe, Polycarp. “The Idea of Personhood in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart”. Philosophia Africana. 9.2 (August 2006).
Weisel, Elie. Night. Hill and Wang: New York. 1972