Thursday, 20 July 2017

A CROWN OF BEAUTY CHAPTER ONE

Hello everyone.

 I started writing a book titled A Crown of Beauty towards the end of last year and I'm almost done editing it. Here is chapter One. Please read, make your comments,and finally, please select which of the covers you like most. Please note that the book is written especially for young adults. Thanks.




CHAPTER ONE


I came into the world on a rainy Tuesday night in June 1980, at exactly 9:55pm - in the backseat of Father’s car. Father had gone to the church that evening while Mother was at home with her younger sister, Aunt Hilda, who was a final year student in the university. Mother’s labour pains started at 6pm but because there were no mobile phones then, she could not reach Father. Aunt Hilda, not knowing what to do, frantically ran to the neighbour’s house to call for help. Unfortunately, they were not in.

Father arrived at the house at 9pm. By this time, Mother was sweating and groaning and Aunt Hilda was mopping her face with a towel every few minutes.  One look at his wife’s face was enough to cause Father to panic. Quickly, he threw bed sheets and pillows into the boot of the car, as well as the small bag containing toiletries and baby items which Aunt Hilda had already packed for Mother, and came back to the house to gently lead Mother into the back seat. Aunt Hilda sat in the passenger’s seat in front of the car. She later told me that she was praying and hanging on for her dear life as Father drove like a madman that night. He needn’t have bothered.

At precisely 9:45pm, Aunt Hilda said, Mother began to shout “I can’t hold it anymore; I can’t hold it anymore.” Father was forced to park the car while aunt Hilda came down to help Mother who by now had started pushing. Ten minutes later, I was born amidst the blood-stained bed sheets and pillows which Father had hastily brought from the boot and arranged on the backseat after parking the car. Father told me that when they got to the missionary hospital, the nurses scolded him like a child.

Oga, why didn’t you leave your house at the right time?” they said. “Didn’t you know your wife’s EDD? What sort of man are you sef?” And on and on they went even as they carried Mother into a room to check if she was torn during the delivery process. My parents, marvelling at the fact that Mother had given birth to me outside of the hospital, did not bother replying the nurses.

Mother later told me that the circumstances surrounding my birth made her bond with me immediately. The fact that I came into the world peacefully, without the aid of doctors or midwives, was enough reason for her to love me. Two days later, she was discharged from the hospital after the doctors had certified that both she and the baby were in good health. As a baby, I was dark skinned and so tiny that Mother said people didn’t even know a baby was under the covers when they came to pay her a visit and greet the new baby.

I was given the Igbo name, Adaeze, which means ‘daughter of a king’; as well as the English name, Hilda, after my mother’s younger sister. Mother, however, insisted on calling me by my native name, Adaeze. Once when I asked her why she insisted on calling me Adaeze, she replied that it was to help me remember that no matter where I went to in future, I was still African.

We lived in a three bedroom flat at Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos. Being the only child, I was doted on by my parents. My father, Obiora Madu, worked at an insurance company while my mother, Nneka Madu, owned a clothing store. My mother had once worked in a bank but had resigned from her job when she suffered a miscarriage at work, just two years after her marriage. She had me seven years after the miscarriage and never had another child afterwards.

Mother put me in school when I turned two. She later told me that my Father’s people went berserk when they heard it.

“How can such a young child be put in school?” queried my dad’s sister, Aunt Nneoma. “Why not strap the child to your back and take her with you anywhere you go?”

Mother stood her ground and insisted that she could not have her child cling to her always.
 “Adaeze needs to go to school and learn to be independent, like other children of her age. After all, some of her mates started going to crèche even at three months.”

My aunties shook their head. “It’s too much education that has caused this,” they replied. “In the olden days, how many of us started school before eight years of age?”

Mother had her way, however, after she threatened that Father would be the one strapping me to his back and carrying me to his office if he listened to his sisters. Needless to say, I started school the very next week.

By the time I was six, I had made some friends in school but my best friend was Aleesha Ladoju, whose family lived across the street from ours. Aleesha and I had started Nursery school on the same day and from there, our friendship grew. Her sister, Folake Ladoju, was six years her senior and was already in secondary school. Aleesha’s parents were both university professors and were rarely around; as a result, we spent a lot of time in each other’s house after school.

I was in primary four when I turned eight, and each year since primary two, I had always come out top of my class. Aleesha, however, was another matter altogether. We were in primary three when Aleesha first told me:

“Adaeze, I have a crush on someone.”

“A crush?” I replied. “What is a crush?”

She looked at me like I was a blockhead.

“A crush is when you like someone terribly,” she replied.

“Okay, so who do you like terribly?”

“Tobi,” she replied.

I looked at her, aghast.

“Tobi with the buck teeth?”  I asked as I looked over at him.

“So what if he has buck teeth?” replied Aleesha in irritation. “He’s still the cutest boy as far as I am concerned.”

And so began Aleesha’s many crushes. By the time we got to primary four, Aleesha had already crushed on about four boys. I wouldn’t have minded so much except for the fact that I was turned into the courier, by reason of being her best friend. Aleesha would squeeze a letter into my hand and ask me to give it to her crush of the moment, who would later squeeze a note containing his own reply into my hand to give her. I did not relish my new job but what could I do? My only prayer was that we; or at least I, would never be caught exchanging the letters or else all hell would break loose.


Back at home, life continued in a predictable fashion. Every weekday, Mother would wake me up at six to bathe, dress and have breakfast. At seven, Father would drive me to school, where I would have classes from eight in the morning till two in the afternoon.  Mother would pick me up in the afternoon and serve lunch after I had taken a shower. She would then do homework with me before leaving again for her shop which was about five streets away from the house. After she left, I would go over to Aleesha’s place where I would stay until Father came back around seven in the evening and microwaved the dinner Mother had packed in the freezer. Mother usually returned at eight in the evening.

The routine was different on weekends. Every Saturday morning, Mother would do cleaning duties around the house and Father would wash the car and do any needed repairs in the house while playing country or reggae music on his turntable. By the time I was eight years old I knew almost all of Don Williams and Bob Marley’s songs.

On Sundays, Father, Mother and I attended Every Soul Community Church, a church that was about four kilometres away from the house. The pastor in charge of the church, Pastor Freeman, was in his late thirties or early forties and was a vibrant preacher. I liked him personally even though I did not understand his somewhat fiery message of sin, hell and salvation.

Pastor Veronica, the children’s pastor, however made children’s church very interesting. There was a lot of singing and dancing as well as storytelling and playacting, and I usually felt sad when church ended – until I remembered the ice cream waiting for me afterwards. Father had formed the habit of buying me ice cream after church; it was only later Mother revealed to me that it was actually an incentive for me to go to church should I ever feel like not going.

 After service, we would wait around and greet some friends like Mr Thomas, Sister Lucy and others. Mr Thomas was a thirty- something year old man who had separated from his wife about ten years before he joined the church. Their only daughter, an adopted ten year old named Kelsey, was living with him. Sister Lucy was a retired schoolteacher whose son was in my class; and after she commented to Mother once in my hearing “Adaeze is growing fast o, see how her breasts are developing”; I disliked her and started avoiding her thereafter.

The only thing I hated about going to church was the outfit Mother would often make me wear; the maxi skirts or gowns and the bogus, pastor-like hats. I would often plead with her to allow me dress in simple jeans and a blouse like my friends often wore to church but she would insist on my wearing the maxi outfits, saying that they were more appropriate for church. While in church, I would often remove my hat and scratch my already perspiring forehead, sometimes because it was actually itching and other times just to cause enough embarrassment to Mother so she would stop making me wear hats. I was glad the day she finally allowed me wear a simple veil to church.

One Sunday, Father called Mother and I into the living room after church and informed us that his niece, Buchi, who was the daughter of his sister, Nneoma, would be coming to stay with us for a month as she had finished secondary school and was hoping to gain admission to the university in September. I felt Mother tense behind me but she said nothing. Father then asked me to go to my room and tidy it as Buchi would be coming the next day. I obediently went into my room as I had been told and began tidying it up, until I heard the sound of my parents’ voices. I crept silently to the door and listened.

“Obiora, why didn’t you tell me Buchi would be coming tomorrow?” asked Mother.

“O Nneka, stop this,” answered Father. “You and I know that you never liked Nneoma. If I had told you that her daughter was coming, you would have persuaded me to stop her from coming.”

“So you think that by springing this surprise on me, all will be well, o kwa ya?” replied Mother. And so they went on and on. I had never heard my parents argue before and was surprised. At dinner that day, it was clear that they were not talking to each other. That evening, only Father and I performed our weekly ritual of memorizing Bible verses. Mother refused to join us. When Father made me repeat the verse: “If someone says he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar,” over and over again, I had the feeling he was trying to send Mother a message.



Thank you for reading. Chapter Two will be uploaded this time next week so bookmark this page if you haven't done so yet. The chapters can also be read on Wattpad and Goodreads.

Finally, I'm still hunting for more book covers, but of the three below, please pick your favorite and state the reason for your choice if possible:
Cover 1

Cover 2

Cover 3



Monday, 17 July 2017

BOOK OF THE WEEK: LALIBELA'S WISE MAN BY MATSHONA DHLIWAYO

Hello people.

The more books I read, the more I am convinced that there is truth in the saying ‘Do not judge a book by its cover.’ Some books with beautiful covers have such badly written content that at the end of the day, the only thing worth remembering about the book is its cover. Some books, on the other hand, have less than appealing covers but such rich content that the reader cannot easily forget them.

Lalibela’s Wise Man belongs to the latter category. The first time I saw the book, I must confess that my interest was not piqued. First, the title did not sound very appealing and then the book cover itself did not help matters; it looked like it would be a book on African history - which is good if that’s what you’re interested in.

Anyway, I read the book and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. 


Lalibela’s Wise Man is the story of a young man named Christian who, in the beginning, was being groomed to take over his father’s business empire. Christian receives a shocker, however, when his father passes away unexpectedly and his will is read: he was left with nothing but an instruction to visit the wise old man of Lalibela. Dazed and confused, Christian leaves America and sets out for Lalibela, Ethiopia, where he encounters the wise old man, learns some lessons and discovers a secret that will leave him changed forever.

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BOOK

I like it. Initially, I found it difficult to start reading the book due to its unappealing book cover but once I started reading I got hooked.

The story is well paced and there’s hardly a dull moment in-between. Starting from Christian’s journey to Ethiopia as well as his encounter with the monks, the tale is quirky and one can’t help but smile at some of Christian’s experiences. At some point the writer struggles between showing and telling, but fortunately he wins the battle and allows readers to get into the characters unhindered.

I also like the fact that the book is very well edited. One can scarcely find an error in the book and this makes for enjoyable reading as well as the possibility of recommending or buying it for people, especially teens and young adults, without a moment’s hesitation.

The only issue I have with the book is that the ending seems to have been a bit rushed. One image that sprang to mind when reading Lalibela’s Wise Man was that of chickens following a farmer as he left a trail of seeds for them on the ground. In Lalibela’s Wise Man, the author leaves enough information in each chapter to keep readers hooked and eager to read the next chapter; in fact at a point, you’re literally begging; 'please break the suspense and let’s know the purpose of each exercise that Christian was put through.'


The end, however, was a bit disappointing, almost like eagerly anticipating a meal only to finally eat and not be very satisfied with the food. Although filled with sage advice, I wish the advice was spread out, maybe at the end of each exercise rather than everything being left for the end. It just seemed a bit too easy.

After all is said and done, however, Lalibela’s Wise Man is definitely a book worth reading and Matshona; an author to watch out for. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Matshona Dhliwayo was born in Zimbabwe but is presently based in Canada. His books include:


His books can be gotten on Amazon and from any major bookshop.

Monday, 10 July 2017

BOOK REVIEW: DESTITUTIO QUOD REMISSIO by BRETT ARMSTRONG

Hello people.

The first time I saw the book Destitutio Quod Remissio, two things struck me immediately. First, the title of the book. I thought at first that the book was written in Spanish or one of those exotic languages and I wondered how on earth I was supposed to read a book written in a language I did not understand. 

The second thing that struck me was the cover of the book. The average book cover can be summed up in one of three words: beautiful, terrible, or just plain. There are very few books with evocative book covers, and Destitutio Quod Remissio happens to be one of them. 

As it turned out, I was wrong on two counts. First, the book title happens to be Latin and not Spanish, second, the book is actually written in English language, notwithstanding its Latin title. Needless to say, I was relieved.


Destitutio Quod Remissio is the story of a wealthy Roman senator, Marcus Servius, who arrives home one day to find his house burned down, his wife missing, and himself a target for would-be murderers. 

Filled with questions about his wife’s disappearance and the identity of the man who betrayed him, Marcus embarks on a journey to find Benjamin Truvias, a former employee of his whom he believes has the answers to many of his questions. He gets more than he bargained for, however, and in his quest to find answers, he must come to terms with the fact that people, and things, are not always as they seem to be.

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BOOK
Hmm...

First, I must say I love the storyline. It’s a beautiful book that engages the readers from the get-go. However, if you’re not too big on descriptions, you may find the first few chapters a bit difficult to read. I personally wish Brett Armstrong had spent a bit more time describing Marcus’ past life as a senator and less time on the actual journey but hey, anyone who loves descriptions will not have a problem with this.

I also love the various surprises lined throughout the book.  As one gets past the middle of the book, surprises upon surprises await the reader, and many of them you don’t see coming. In fact it becomes very difficult to put the book down as you get to the end.

Another selling point of the book is the fact that it gives readers a glimpse into the Roman Empire as it was in the past and aptly describes life as it was for Christians then. The drawback here, though, is that the author sometimes tells instead of shows which distracts the reader from the book’s narrative.

All in all, though, I must say that the book is quite entertaining and if one can get past the drawn-out descriptions of the first few chapters, one will find that the book was definitely worth reading. Readers who enjoyed Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series will definitely like this book.



About the Author:

Brett Armstrong
Brett Armstrong's first book, Destitutio Quod Remissio, won the 2014 CrossBooks Writing Contest. Historical Novel Society called the book a 'solid, meaty work.'

 In addition to Destitutio Quod Remissio, Brett has written a fantasy tale called Daymoon. More information can be found on his website; www.brettarmstrong.net


Monday, 3 July 2017

BOOK OF THE WEEK: THE SMART MONEY WOMAN BY ARESE UGWU

Hello people.

The average African woman, influenced in part by romance novels as well as by culture, grows up with the belief that her financial stability is dependent on her husband. I used to think this way until my husband was involved in a terrible accident that he couldn't have survived but for the grace of God. The incident shook me (then pregnant for our first child) at the time as I wondered how I would have coped if tragedy struck; however, I soon shrugged it off saying: 'God forbid; I can never be a widow at this stage of my life.'

Within the past six months, however, two women I am well acquainted with lost their husbands and as I commiserated with them, I was forced to ask myself: 'if the unexpected happens now; are you prepared for it?'



This week's blog post is a review of Arese Ugwu's book, The Smart Money Woman. Written in a unique and compelling format, Arese in the book motivates women to take responsibility for their financial future by cultivating a savings and investment culture, rather than depending on their better halves for financial stability.
 

The Smart Money Woman tells the story of Zuri, a twenty eight year old returnee from abroad who earns a good income and who appears to be successful, until the day she realizes that she is over her head in debt. To make matters worse, she is in danger of being evicted from her serviced apartment in the upscale Lekki Phase One if her rent is not paid as at when due.

In desperation, Zuri begins to take stock of her assets and at that point encounters another shocker: her ‘assets’ consist of Chanel bags, Gucci shoes and the like. She has no concrete possessions that can be described as assets. What follows afterwards is an intriguing and charming tale that will leave readers wanting more long after they have finished reading the book.

Arese Ugwu

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BOOK
I love it. When the book first came out I wondered what all the fuss about the book was. After reading it, I knew why.

Some members of my family happen to be accountants and every once in a while I get lectures on money management and the like [and end up dozing off during many of the lectures; sorry bro.] However, Arese in this book has taken what would ordinarily have been a terribly boring lecture on money management and spun a tale around it such that the reader is inspired to take responsibility for their financial future.

Another thing I love about the book is its street credibility. Arese herself is also a returnee; however, the way she infuses some common Nigerian slangs into the dialogue of the main characters makes the book highly entertaining and believable. Rather than boring readers with stuffy grammar, Arese tries to keep the tale light even as she delivers hard punches on money management to the readers.

I think the only minus of the book is that it is not perfectly edited. There are about a couple of instances where some words are missing and the reader is left trying to fill in the gaps; but in spite of these I must say that the book is definitely worth having; and worth keeping. Hopefully, Arese will write other entertaining books like this in the future that will help people, especially women, become more financially savvy and prepared for whatever the future holds.

Monday, 26 June 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: ISOKEN

Hello people.

In the past few weeks, some highly anticipated movies have been released internationally [such as Wonder Woman] and locally [Ayo Makun’s 10 Days in Sun City]. While I was eager to watch a few of them, I must confess that the movie Isoken did not feature on my list of must-watch movies for some reason that I cannot fathom.

I experienced a change of mindset, however, when I saw the movie trailer and so I decided to see the movie. One thing is for sure: if you loved the movie The Wedding Party, you will definitely love Isoken.




The movie Isoken was directed by Jadesola Osiberu and released in the cinemas in June 2017. Featuring star actors and actresses such as Dakore Akande, Funke Akindele, Damilola Attoh, Joseph Benjamin and a host of others, the movie tells the story of thirty four year old Isoken who is  being pressurised by her family to get married.

The opening scene begins with the traditional marriage of Isoken’s younger sister. After being subtly insulted by certain members of the family for not getting married before her younger sisters, Isoken is introduced to Osaze[Joseph Benjamin], a wealthy American returnee, by her mother. There is some chemistry between them and Isoken’s friends, Agnes [Funke Akindele] and Joke [Damilola Attoh] encourage her to go out with Osaze.

Sometime later, Isoken meets Kelvin[Marc Rhys]; a white photojournalist working with the Associated Press, at a Laundromat. Their first meeting does not go too well although sparks eventually fly between them.

As time goes on, Isoken is almost convinced that she has finally found the man of her dreams in Osaze. Events, however, will force her to re-evaluate her feelings and decide if she is courageous enough to face the truth and follow her heart in spite of family pressures and societal expectations of young African women.

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FILM
I love it. To be honest, I don’t know what I expected from it but I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be this good. The picture quality is excellent and the film is able to strike the balance between being insightful and yet just humorous enough to take the edge off it.

I also love the fact that the film raises thought-provoking questions and leaves viewers with something to think about. For instance, the character Agnes, played by Funke Akindele, at one point says to Isoken when she is whining about not being real in her relationship with Osaze; “come on Isoken, no one wants to see the real you on the first date. In fact no one wants to see the real you until after you get married.” 

Hmm. Whether or not you agree with this statement, the most important thing is that you have been left with something to think about and analyse.

Another area of relationships the film subtly touches is preparedness for marriage. At some point in the movie, Isoken’s sister complains that even though she loves her husband and children, she wished she had waited a bit longer to discover herself before getting married. While in Africa the major emphasis is for women to get married before a certain age, less attention is paid to the fact that being prepared for marriage is very important, and that preparation is not just physical but mental and emotional.

The director also deserves kudos for taking time to develop each character. It’s nearly impossible for one to watch this movie without rooting for one character or another. From Isoken’s mother [played by Tina Mba] to Osaze and even Kelvin, one cannot help but fall in love with many of the characters in the film.

The worrisome part of the film for me was the scene where Isoken was portrayed as someone who couldn’t cook; to the extent of using starch meant for clothes to make food. As commendable as it is that recent Nigerian films are trying to portray women as strong, confident and liberated, I do think a disservice is being done to such women in many films. Many films [and even books] seem to equate liberated women as women who are 'domestically useless'. I just wonder, is it not possible for a woman to be strong, confident, and still be able to cook and clean? Just saying.

Despite this, however, I still regard this movie as one of the best movies of 2017.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Have you seen this movie? If so, what’s your take on it? Feel free to share in the comments section below.


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Monday, 19 June 2017

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