Review - Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death
by Nnedi Okorafor
350+ pages

Description via Goodreads
I vividly remembered the sensation of having my forehead caved in by a large rock. It didn't hurt as much as it should have. It just felt like I was suddenly...exposed. A rock destroyed my nose, bloodied my ear, buried itself in my cheek. I was conscious through most of it (p.128)
Who Fears Death explores dark subject-matter and in its own way, sheds light upon the conflict that plagues the storyline. In post-apocalyptic Africa, widespread enslavement, genocide and rape are a norm in many regions. So much so, that it has become a myth of human existence that many people believe in. The central conflict is between the Nuru, a light-skinned people, and the Okeke, a dark-skinned people. In the West the Okeke are enslaved to the Nuru, who are gradually expanding their realm of hate into parts of the East. In this expansion, rape and genocide occur often. Nuru men kill Okeke men, and rape Okeke women simply because they can. Sometimes these rapes produce children, half-bloods known was Ewu. They are considered to be children of violence and are frequently outcast by either side. The main character, Onyesonwu, is one of these Ewu. This story is about her journey to death, and the mystical things that happen along the way.

Who Fears Death contains somewhat vivid descriptions of death, murder, rape and genital mutilation. These descriptions hold the book together and keep the reader engaged. Without them the rest of the narrative is rough. Many of the characters lack depth, and even though it's supposed to take place in post-apocalyptic Africa, as a reader, I don't get that feeling. The reader is frequently presented with folkloric tangents that are supposed to explain why certain things are the way they are. However, for the most part they muddle up the narrative and stall  forward progress of the book. For a very long time, I was confused as to what the true purpose of Onyesonwu's quest was. Was it to defy cultural norms, to become a great sorceress, to kill her biological father, to rewrite the Great Book? Maybe a combination. I don't know...I was only sure of one thing: her death. 

For me, the beginning of the book was very dynamic and intriguing. It faded in the middle because of the reasons mentioned above, and picked up a little towards the end. I found the actual ending to be anticlimactic, ambiguous and escapist. In some cases that works. In this case, not so much. With that said, I'm glad I read this book. It's unlike most of speculative fiction I've ever read.

I read this book for A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour. You can check out other book reviews here

Who Fears Death

Three stars


Top Ten Tuesday - Series I Haven't Finished

Hola. We're trying something new today.

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and The Bookish. Basically, you create a list tailored to the week's topic and share it with other readers by linking up at The Broke and The Bookish. You can find out more information here.

This week's topic: Series I Haven't Finished

I tend to avoid series but here it goes...

1) Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
No explanation necessary.

2) The Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson
I read the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and....it was okay. It kind of bored me. I tried the audiobook of the second book and it bored me as well. Just not for me I guess.

3) The Easy Rawlins Mysteries by Walter Mosley
I've read the first two books: Devil in a Blue Dress and A Red Death. I just haven't gotten around to the others. It's a good series. I was introduced to it through a reading challenge. It's a cross between "private eye" adventures and social commentary. Very interesting. 

4) The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
Another instance where I just haven't gotten around to finishing it. I've read A Wizard Earthsea. It's a really good young adult fantasy series. I love Le Guin's writing, so I'd recommend it to just about anyone. 

5) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
I feel like I don't need to explain why I haven't finished this series yet. The books are so long! Very good. But very lengthy reads. I've only read A Game of Thrones. I started A Clash of Kings and I'm a little over halfway through. 

Okay, so I only have five, the majority of which I've started in the past year. 


Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To participate, grab your current read, open to a random page and share a few sentences. Don't include spoilers, but do include the title and author.

She lay there until her face burned in the sun. Death was coming slower than she wanted. She opened her eyes and sat up.
p. 21 of Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor


Poetry for thought - The Remains

The Remains
by Mark Strand

I empty myself of the names of others. I empty my pockets.
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road.
At night I turn back the clocks;
I open the family album and look at myself as a boy.

What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.

My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds. How can I sing?
Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

Photo: Flickr - Beth Scupham/Dreaming in the deep south


Book Beginnings - Who Fears Death

Book Beginnings is a meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of a book you are currently reading, along with your initial thoughts and impressions about the sentence or book. Remember to include the title of the book and the author AND link up at the Rose City Reader

My life fell apart when I was sixteen. Papa died. He had such a strong heart, yet he died. Was it the heat smoke from his blacksmith shop? It's true that nothing could take him from his work, his art. He loved to make the metal bend, to obey him. But his work only seemed to strengthen him; he was so happy in his shop. So what was it that that killed him? To this day I can't be sure. I hope it had nothing to do with me or what I did back then.
I'm using the entire first paragraph today...You want to know how Papa died and what 'I' did in the past. I'm a little over 50 pages into this book and I love it (right now anyways). Fifty pages and this story has already touched my little black heart, haha. It made me feel a certain way while I was reading, and when I put it down I couldn't stop thinking about the things that happened and might happen the down the line...I want to say more, but I also don't want to give anything away right now.
I'm reading Who Fears Death for A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour hosted by Aarti at BookLust. It's my first blog tour, so I'm kind of excited. Doubly excited because of what the tour is about and for the great book I'm reading for it. I think it might be too late to sign-up for the blog tour, but I think everyone should stop by all the blogs that will be participating and see what awesome books they read.


Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To participate, grab your current read, open to a random page and share a few sentences. Don't include spoilers, but do include the title and author.

He had dark hair and striking blue eyes, once likened to the eyes of a Mesmerist. "The eyes are very big and wide open," a physician named John L. Capen later observed. "They are blue. Great murderers, like great men in other walks of activity, have blue eyes." Capen also noted thin lips, tented by a full dark mustache. What he found most striking, however, were Holmes's ears. 
p. 35 of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson 


Following the herd no more...

A while ago, I decided to take on a reading project I dubbed Following the Herd, the purpose of which was to read popular books I missed out on because 1) I have a natural tendency to be 'anti' anything popular 2) I'm sort of a book snob (I'm working on not being one) and 3) a lot of my friends seemed to only read books I hadn't read and never planned on reading, thus we could never compare notes or thoughts. So I took it upon myself to engage in the following (links to reviews posted below):

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
The Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
So what did I take from this experience?

Well...you'll notice I haven't finished two of the three book series. To sum it up simply, the Millennium Series bored me and each book in A Song of Ice and Fire is super long. In fact, I have read seven books since I cracked open A Clash of Kings (the second book) over a month ago...I did some math (beware) and that totals about 2,280 pages. Since I've only read 500 pages of A Clash of Kings, this means I read about 4.5 pages of something else for every one page of A Clash of Kings. I think that's right--if not, you get the point.

The thing is I'm a slow reader naturally. I get caught up on small details that I'll obsess over and that slows down the reading process substantially. On top of that, the books are huge and my attention span wavers. The combination makes for an extra-extended read, but the series is so interesting that I know I'll continue on.

If I have learned anything about reading popular series, it is never keep too high expectations because there's a good chance you'll be disappointed...also, I've reverted back to my first 'flaw'--I just don't care what's popular. If it's truly good, I'll get around to it eventually, right?

ps:..isn't that sheep wild?



Book Beginnings - The Devil in the White City

Book Beginnings is a meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of a book you are currently reading, along with your initial thoughts and impressions about the sentence or book. Remember to include the title of the book and the author AND link up at the Rose City Reader

How easy it was to disappear: A thousand trains a day entered or left Chicago. Many of these trains brought single young women who had never seen a city but now hoped to make one of the biggest and toughest their home. 
I chose to include the beginning from the first chapter because I thought it was more interesting than the first lines of the prologue. I'm thinking someone, some girl is going to disappear and be murdered...maybe a lot of young women will disappear, and it will most likely happen at or revolve around a fair. How do I know that? The subtitle is Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. Other than that piece of information, I have no idea what this book is about. I'm assuming it's a great piece of historical, crime fiction and I hope it's as sinister as the title implies. Also, it's the last book I need to read, in order to complete the Color-coded Reading Challenge--I''m really happy for that. 


Poetry for thought - Borrowed Dress

Borrowed Dress
by Cathy Colman

He left the room, assured of his immortality--
or was it just his cologne? 
I once wanted his money--not really his money,
but the freshly minted coins of reason. 
His hands smelling like prime numbers. 
I once wanted his swagger, his fame 
but without the dental work. 
I'm reminded that my destiny was
to stand reflected in the infinity-inducing'

mirrors with other women in restaurant
bathrooms who pat their hair, make that little
moue with their lips;
who return to the tables of men,
their hands wet, body hairs galvanized
like filaments of iron. Strange how
everything is orderly even in dissipation
when leaves blizzard the pavement.
I don't see them land but their fall,
the event of it, is still present, almost invisible.

Image: Flickr-LauraLewis23


Review - Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
350+ pages
Description via Goodreads
When I dropped a quarter into the left coin slot, the game emitted a familiar electronic bea-wup! sound. I tapped the Player One button, and the first maze appeared on the screen. I wrapped my right hand around the joystick and began to play, guiding my pizza-shaped protagonist through one maze after another. Wakka-wakka-waka-wakka (222)
Charming. Funny. Entertaining. Fun. An ode to 80s pop culture.
This is about an adventure in the life of Wade Watts, an eighteen-year old gamer and 80s pop culturist(?), on a mission to find Halliday's egg. Halliday's egg will bring him fortune, fame and the means to move out of his aunt's trailer. However, Wade is not alone in this quest--he must compete with billions of other "gunters" to find this egg, which can only be found through something of a virtual scavenger hunt...using 80s references as clues.
The idea behind the story is very interesting, refreshing even. A game within a story, a game within a game, blurring the line between virtual and reality. An escape from reality is a prevalent theme here, as well as, connecting people who are otherwise disconnected in their actual lives. Wade Watts is young, immature and surprisingly, vulnerable. He airs out his insecurities, (physical and emotional) and reveals weakness. It's not something I see a lot. Very uncharacteristic of male protagonists I've come across. He's very smart, dedicated and a little awkward--overall a likeable guy.
You know you've totally screwed up your life when your whole world turns to shit and the only person you have to talk to is your system agent software (237)
Cline utilizes first person narrative fairly well. He's super descriptive in his explanation of the chaotic, rogue, resource-deprived cities of the future and the the inner-workings of OASIS, a game-like interface used to educate, conduct business, work and participate in extracurricular activities. Basically, people sit on their asses all day, instead of engaging people in reality...why does that sound familiar?...But Wade aka Parzival (his OASIS I.D, sort of like a Gamertag) informs the reader again and again that reality sucks.
If I had to pick on something in this book, it would probably be the dialogue--it's really cheesy and elementary at times...I would like to think it would've worked  since Wade is a socially awkward, insecure nerd, whose brilliant thoughts don't always translate into well-articulated conversations. And the book is a little heavy on tell-not-show description, which leads me to another thing. The 80s references. I understand they were essential to the hunt, but it gets tiresome--quickly. At first it's like "Oh yeah, I remember that song" or "Oh yeah, that movie was pretty funny haha", but after 300 pages of it...you just don't care anymore.
I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn't know how to connect with people there. I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it's also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real. Do you understand? (364)
I really liked the main antagonist, the IOI, a huge global corporation trying to control the flow of information for everyone. They'll stop at nothing (including murder) to find Halliday's egg and control OASIS. I also liked that Wade doesn't lead triumphantly the entire way. He needs help, he falters, he encounters obstacles. In the end he learns a valuable lesson about the perks of living and participation in the real world...although he does only learn it through a virtual scavenger hunt...hmm.
It's a fun read about adventure and self-discovery in the context of 80s video games. But you don't need to be a gamer or familiar with the 80s to enjoy it.
Ready Player One
Three stars.

A More Diverse Universe

Aarti over at BookLust is hosting A More Diverse Universe, a blog tour designed for bloggers to spotlight Speculative Fiction (Scifi/Fantasy/Magical Realism) written by authors of color.
You can read the entire post for more information and sign up for A More Diverse Universe here. It's a great post. Aarti provides some great links to explore authors of color who write Speculative Fiction.
Basically, she wants bloggers partial to the genre, to read one book by an author of color and share their experience/thoughts in the form of a review during the blog tour near the end of September.
I'm participating in this because I completely understand where she's coming from...I also think it will bridge neatly into Quest Alpha, a reading project I've sort of ignored because I haven't properly outlined  books I'll read for it. This blog tour helps me immensely on the Scifi-Fantasy end of things. And so for the blog tour I'll be reading:
Who Fears Death won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel...It's probably a great place to start. I've never heard of the Nnedi Okorafor so I'm curious to see what she's about. In my search for a book, I also came across the works of Octavia Butler....I haven't read any of her stuff either, but I'm already inexplicably obsessed with her.
This is the only blog tour has caught my attention and held it...so I'm excited for it.
ps--Thandie Newton (on the graphic for the blog tour) makes a great elf/fairy, or whatever it is she's supposed to be...a gorgeous woman.


What's Next

Hola. I'm still working to complete my reading challenges...I signed up for three, have zero completed and have three months, more or less, to finish them. And I've decided to sign up for a blog tour at the end of this month. I wasn't going to do it at first, but the tour just seems so fun and relevant to my reading attitudes at times...I'll post more on the tour later. So yeah, here's what I'll be reading in the very near future:

European 2012 - France

Color-coded 2012 


Review - A Red Death

A Red Death (Easy Rawlins #2)
Walter Mosley
250+ pages

Description via Goodreads
I didn't believe in history, really. Real was what was happening to me right then. Real was a toothache and a man you trusted who did you dirt. Real was an empty stomach or a woman saying yes, or a woman saying no. Real was what you could feel...Chaim was a good man; better than a lot of people I knew. But he was dead. He was history, as they say, and I was holding my gun in the dark, being real (286)
We meet up with Easy Rawlins five years later, sweeping the floors of some apartment complex at the corner of 91st Street and 91st Place. After some explanation, we learn that life has been a little kinder to him....but it won't last for long--it never does. Rawlins receives a letter from the IRS, detailing an ongoing investigation into his tax records. His mix up with Daphne Monet from five years ago is coming back to haunt him, in the form of jail time for tax evasion. Somehow he ends up striking a deal with an FBI agent, to spy on Chaim Wenzler, a big, bad communist working within the First African Baptist Church. If Rawlins gets the right information, then the FBI will keep the IRS off his back. If he doesn't well...he's shit out of luck. Naturally, the self-preservation instinct kicks in and Easy agrees to help the FBI.

Easy Rawlins is a great protagonist because he's layered. In A Red Death it's all about Easy's possessions; the possession of self, the struggle to keep what is his, and his desire to possess what is not his. As for the last part, I'm referring specifically to his affair with his best friend's wife, Etta Mae. The dynamic between the members of what I'm calling his inner circle, (Etta Mae and Mouse) is an interesting one...Easy respects Mouse, fears Mouse even, but that doesn't stop him from sleeping with Etta Mae. I think he's envious of Mouse, even though he knows Mouse is a bad man. He never says this straight out, but the feeling is inherent in his willingness to help Mouse make things right with his family--the family Easy wishes he had.

I took special note of Easy's admiration of Jackson and his business of trading valuable information. Jackson is not only book-smart, he has a hand in the rumor mill, and provides thoughtful commentary on the reality of Easy's current political environment.
'One day they gonna th'ow that list out, man. They gonna need some movie star or some new bomb an' they gonna th'ow that list away. Mosta these guys gonna have work again,' he said then he winked at me. 'But you still gonna be a black niggah, Easy. An' niggah ain't got no union he could count on, an' niggah ain't got no politician gonna work fo' him. All he got is a do'step t'shit in and a black hand t'wipe his black ass.' (258) 
The idea that Easy had to spy on a communist was interesting. Easy has no animosity at all towards the communist, Chaim Wenzler, but he has to deceive him to keep his possessions. In this case, I don't think of communism as a redefined "enemy", it's simply another added element of danger, another risk for a man trying to do good for himself in a bad world.  

A Red Death

Four Stars