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Africa Reading Challenge! (Hosted by Kinna Reads)

January 19, 2012 7 comments

Map of AfricaI’m super-excited to get to participate in a reading challenge this year that I heard rumblings about and was announced this week.  The Africa Reading Challenge!  Hosted by Kinna Reads.

According to Kinna, the rules are:

Challenge Period
January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012

Region
The entire African continent, including its island-states, which are often overlooked. Please refer to this Wikipedia “list of sovereign states and dependent territories in Africa”. Pre-colonial empires and regions are also included.

Reading Goal
5 books.  That’s it.  There will be no other levels.  Of course, participants are encouraged to read more than 5 books.  Eligible books include those which are written by African writers, or take place in Africa, or are concerned with Africans and with historical and contemporary African issues. Note that at least 3 books must be written by African writers.

Why this challenge?
Getting to know Kinna and Amy in 2011 connected me to African lit and showed me the uniqueness of it.  I enjoyed reading it, so of course I want to read more!  Plus, participating in this challenge will hopefully call attention to this whole other world of books that is so frequently ignored in the book blogging world.  Also, reading is how I travel, and I just love visiting Africa through a writer’s eyes.

My (tentative) reading list:

  1. Music and Dance Traditions of Ghana: History, Performance and Teaching by Paschal Yao Younge (current tbr pile) Ghana
  2. Yellow-Yellow by Kaine Agary (current tbr pile) Nigeria
  3. The Chicken Thief by Fiona Leonard (current tbr pile) Ghana
  4. The Rabbi’s Cat 2 by Joann Sfar (current tbr pile) Algeria
  5. His Treasure (Men of Valor) by Kiru Taye (current tbr pile) Nigeria
  6. The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (wishlist) Sierra Leone
  7. Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood by Robyn Scott (wishlist) South Africa and Zimbabwe
  8. Death of the Mantis: A Detective Kubu Mystery by Michael Stanley (wishlist) Botswana
  9. Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi (wishlist) Egypt
  10. The African American Odyssey of John Kizell: The Life and Times of a South Carolina Slave Who Returned to Fight the Slave Trade in His African Homeland by Kevin G. Lowther (wishlist) Sierra Leone
  11. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (wishlist) Nigeria
  12. King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village by Peggielene Bartels (wishlist) Ghana

I’m hoping to read all of these, but obviously the only ones set in stone are the ones I own.  Suggestions, both from my list and not, are welcome!  I’m excited by the new variety this challenge will bring to my blog and also for the camaraderie innate in reading challenges.  It’s gonna be a fun year. 🙂

Book Review: The Egyptian by Layton Green (Series, #2)

August 27, 2011 1 comment

Egyptian sculpture holding a green globe.Summary:
Dominic Grey, previously a government worker and before that a champion jiu-jitsu fighter, is now working for Professor Viktor Radek on private detective cases frequently involving religious mysteries and the occult.  His first case seems straight-forward enough–retrieve a vial stolen from a biomedical company in Egypt.  But there’s more to this biomedical company than meets the eye, and Dominic soon finds himself racing around the globe from New Jersey to Bulgaria to Cairo in an attempt to unravel a mystery involving what just might be the elixir of life.

Review:
This follow-up to The Summoner (review) lives up to the excitement and global noir feel of the original without retracing the same steps.  This holds promise for the series as a whole as one issue in writing serial detective novels is keeping everything fresh for the reader.

Green has either traveled the world extensively or done a ton of research, as his writing shows an intimate knowledge of the various areas of the world Dominic’s work takes him that is only evidenced by those who have been there.  It is easy to tell when a writer intimately knows the setting they are speaking of, and this is clear in Green’s work.  This lends an extra edge of excitement to the work.

Dominic’s character develops at a believable rate in this entry of the series.  Who he is at the core is still the same, but his work and his encounters with a variety of people lead him to question himself, his life, and his intentions.  I also appreciated that instead of pulling a 007 and moving on to the next woman without thinking much of his love interest from the first book, Nya, Dominic struggles with his emotions about the women he sleeps with.  He is certainly no saint when it comes to the opposite sex, but the way he deals with women strikes a believable middle.

Unfortunately, Viktor does not feature as prominently this time around, and he also appears to be on a bit of a downward slope in his fondness for absinthe.  I hope his character will be addressed more fully in the next entry in the series.

Two of the new characters added this time around are particularly enjoyable–Veronica (the love interest) and Jax (an international mercenary).  I actually fell for Jax much harder than I’ve fallen for Dominic.  He is from small town America with no ties to family, completely confident in the most rural corners of the world.  He’s brassy, witty, and clearly has a bit of a good streak buried in him somewhere.  I think both the ladies and the men reading the series will enjoy his presence, and I hope he’ll pop up in later entries (or even get his own spin-off series).  Veronica is enjoyable for different reasons.  She’s a career woman starting to question where her life is heading and falls for the guy she can’t have.  It may seem cliche, but that sort of thing happens all the time in real life.  She’s sympathetic without being pathetic.  Also, personally, I found her a lot more enjoyable than Nya.  She’s more assertive with Dominic; let’s just leave it at that. 😉

The writing style itself still struggles in places on the sentence level.  Sometimes Green tries too hard to sound philosophical, and it comes across as forced.  Similarly, some paragraphs lean a bit too heavily on showing, not telling.  The instances of this occurring are fewer than in the previous book, though, and it is obvious that Green is working hard on improving his craft.  Personally, I did not find that these instances distracted me from the exciting plot at all.

Overall, The Egyptian is a fast-paced, unpredictable detective mystery, perfect for those looking for a light-weight, page-turner for their evenings or the beach.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Free kindle copy from the author in exchange for review

Buy It
Note:  The Egyptian and The Summoner are on sale for 99 cents for this release weekend only (August 27th and 28th)

Previous Books in Series:
The Summoner
, review