Various Authors – Sweet TNT Short Stories

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This is an official Caribbean Books Foundation review http://www.caribbeanbooks.org/

Longevity is a good thing. It’s something every relationship, business, and organization strives towards. To be enshrined in society and successful for a long time. And not just for the sake of saying ‘we’re here’, but to create a real presence that can be remembered with good stories of your journey to tell.

After ten years of publishing monthly issues of Sweet TNT magazine, the Culturama Publishing Company has reached a milestone that many businesses only dream to get to. They are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year!

snoppy squad dance

Congratulations!

To commemorate this event, they’ve released two books packed with the type of content that Sweet TNT magazine has become known for. One book was featured in our October Caribbean book review and this month we’ll review the other.

Sweet TNT Short Stories…

sweet tnt short stories

River lime!

I love the cover. Although I’ve never been to a river lime it is quintessential of Trinbagonian living. Several of the stories were only one page long, and they were grouped together into three sections, Lifestyle, Superstition, and Fauna. I thought it was nice to have similarly themed stories put together as it made it easier to go back and find my favourites.

Lifestyle Section

Overall this section really does feel like the lifestyle of the people in Trinidad and Tobago. There was something for everybody to relate to. From the everyday antics of annoying family members and the vibes found at well-known business establishments like doubles men and the barbershop, to the hard life choices some of us have to make to earn a living.

Most of these stories were light-hearted and funny and just gave you a slice of Trinbago life. Then there were some that took me down memory lane. White Christmas by Omilla Mungroo was one. So nostalgic! If you’ve never had the pleasure of making your own Christmas tree, of foraging for the perfect leafless branch to spray or paint white, you’ve probably never been poor!

You missed out! Pic @ http:// kittybee123.blogspot.com

Helping to make the tree was one of the most magical and proudest moments of my life as a child.

Double Period by Joyanne James was another one that took me back to my secondary school days and all the antics that would incur during a free period at school.

Anita’s Paradise by Marissa Armoogam-Ranghel was also one that got me in my feels. It brought back a distant feeling of being a child and marveling at everything around you that I thought I had forgotten. I also love the way the earth smells after it rains and how the glassy beads of water hang over everything magically. It put me in a mood that started with remembering the joys of being little and appreciating the magic in everything, and ended with missing someone dear that I knew then.

I also liked After-Work Lime by Joyce James-Pitman and Carnival Monday by Joyanne James, but overall I would have to say that Omilla Mungroo took this section. I loved most of her stories in this group. Like Playing Target and Decisions, for instance, which were two others that stuck in my mind because of their realness and relevance to society today. Those two were also one of the few stories that spun the book away from its overall light-heartedness.

Superstition Section

You can’t have a short story collection from the islands without a story on superstition. This book has a whole section!

The good thing about superstitious stories or stories about jumbies and folk creatures in Trinidad and Tobago, is that most times it is comical and light-hearted even though it might be at the expense of someone’s pride as they are being tricked or made fun of. Or worst-case scenario, them having to give up the ghost from being scared to death over thinking something was after them when really it was just their superstition getting the better of them… or at least we hope it was.

These stories hit all these notes. The Lord is My Shepherd by Omilla Mungroo could have been in the Lifestyle Section! It was just so sweet and wonderful and showed how despite varying religions and beliefs, Caribbean people are still the best in the world at getting along and bonding over common experiences rather than seeing how we are all different. It felt like a beautiful, slice of life story to me.

The Converter by Joyanne James cracked me up. I don’t know what I would do if I had a cousin like that! And it’s always the educated ones, ent? Woman in White by Jevan Soyer had me rolling with laughter. I could not have imagined that that would have been the outcome! It was such an obvious solution, that it was unbelievable. But, ay, what happens in Santa Cruz, stays in Santa Cruz!

But in this section, The Silk Cotton Tree by Ian Boodoo took the whole damn cake. This, I believe, was the only story that went into worst-case scenario territory and was terrifying like a good jumbie story needs to be sometimes. You know the whole point of these ‘superstitions’ in the Caribbean is not just to scare you from going off in the bush on your own, but to teach right from wrong and the consequences that the universe will send to you in the form of a vengeful spirit if you don’t do the right thing!

Ian Boodoo, why don’t you have more stories in this book??!! Your story was absolutely terrifying. The pacing of the plot was built up beautifully. I loved it! You all know, I’ve said in my writing updates that short stories are not my strength. It’s either my stories are long, or, well – they’re loooong. But I aim to write short stories this well. That is talent. Take a bow and shake some hands, sir.

And please write more!

Fauna Section

I rebuke this section for trying to make me like dogs. I will not. I refuse.

Steups

It was so appropriate to start this section with Duck Thief by Omilla Mungroo. Either poultry thieves, bird watching, or sea animals would have sufficed. Clear staples of interacting with fauna in Caribbean life. Trust me, if you live in the countryside you would have at least ONCE in your life heard of or experienced a duck espionage and the outlandish plans the owner would have gone through to make the duck thief feel their wrath.

The Great Julie Mango Battle by Jamie Gangoo and The One That Got Away by Omilla Mungroo were equally fun to read. Though I must admit, I grew up with a ‘mango police’. No way in heaven would I be leaving a bag of mangoes OUTSIDE after picking them. Madness! Me doh trust dem bud at all! O_o

The Messenger by Marc Algernon was chilling and frankly would have sat well in the Superstition Section. For me, it was the most memorable in this group. I cannot believe that damn bird went off to haunt somebody else afterward! I was like, ‘no, girl, kill it!’

I seriously had an inner Shaq moment

I did like how the same way The Messenger started is essentially how it ended. The play of words to start the new cycle was the same I mean, and it blended to the new person without you even knowing that it did. That was quite clever.

And yes, long sigh cause dogs I also really liked Pot Hound on a Leash by Joyanne James, okay. Look, I’m not a dog person, alright. But I did appreciate this story. It was one of the memorable ones. I really felt the old lady’s frustration and animals on leashes, while necessary at times, does break my heart. But don’t quote me on it.

Do I have any critiques for this collection?

Honestly just one, and it’s only because it hit on a pet peeve of mine. I didn’t really like the introduction. I didn’t mention it at first because I couldn’t really put my finger on why it just felt out of place.

For me, to give a preview of what the country is like before we even start reading the stories is like telling the reader what we want them to think about the stories before they actually read them.

The stories should inform us about what life is like in the country.

If people want to know what the country looks like or feels like, they will through the stories.

They will experience the place through the eyes of people who live there and call it home.

But if we give a social exposition about the countries beforehand, we’re already telling the reader what it’s like. We defeat the purpose of what the stories are meant to accomplish, and we may even create a bias towards the narrative before people even bite into the book.

It does go back to the basic writing principles (but you know, it’s fine if you break them sometimes). What I mean is, the stories should be able to stand on their own and pull the reader in without a ‘Trinidad and Tobago 101’ before it. The stories are the ‘101’ on the islands! The introduction was unnecessary.

And I feel as if a lot of Caribbean books tend to do this. They give long expositions explaining things because the authors or editors think, ‘oh, they won’t get us, or our humour, or our customs, we have to explain things before we start.’ But most short story collections that I’ve read from other countries just starts with the first story! Right off the bat! Because they trust that the stories will be enough to inform and engage the reader.

I would have liked to see an introduction that briefly talked about the work of the Culturama Publishing company and any achievements or milestones they’ve had in the last decade. I doubt readers would have minded if they drove a little market to their work as it is their tenth anniversary. throws confetti

There were also a few bland stories in there. Just one or two. Nothing to discourage buying the book. Very good publication, I do recommend!

Visit the Sweet TNT Short Stories book page on Caribbean Books where you can find purchase links. Thanks for reading and see you next month for another review!

– N. Gomes, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the website please send an email to Reviews@caribbeanbooks.org to get more information. You can send a copy of your book, in either hardcover or digital format. All free copies of Caribbean literature sent to us are not shared or copied in any way. They are used simply for review purposes.

NB: We don’t post reviews of unpublished manuscripts here unless you want us to. We also offer proofreading services specifically with Caribbean authors in mind and will give you private feedback.

Writing Update 1st November 2019

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So last week, WordPress reminded me that it was my anniversary with them.

hp hats

Hooray! And all that jazz…

Nine years seems like such a long time to start off trying to be this thing called an author. Especially when these stories have been with me every single day during those nine years, and long before it, in my dreams, being relived over and over again.

I wonder sometimes how I could have let all that time pass and not have published something by now. But I know why. I wasn’t ready. And not just in the way you think.

For one, although I have always been confident in my stories, I am able to see where I fall short. So while I thought my stories were great, my writing needed some work. I think this is partly why I started this blog. To practice writing. To practice finding a voice that sounded like me.

Because I’m always writing. A scene here. A sparse conversation there. One day I write about one story, another day something else. I might work night and day on one book for weeks, not wanting to focus on anything else, then suddenly skip writing for a month until my energy levels and the genie in the cosmos feel I’m up to it. Then on other days, when I’m not feeling stories altogether, I write songs and poems, or random thoughts that I put up here.

Writing has never been a problem for me. The quality of the writing was, and I think I can safely say now that I have drastically improved. Because again, well… PRACTICE!

practice makes perfect

I have learned so much about sentence structure, grammar, editing, especially how to cut things down without feeling like you’re cutting out your soul. It’s all a matter of re-wording. But all of this came from just posting and editing my own stuff and doing research. As I’ve said before, writers need to write. It’s how you get better. I suggest to anyone who is looking to improve their writing to just write more. Even if it has nothing to do with your story, the more you write, the more you will see your awkwardness. And I have an open mind, but I’m a harsh critic when it comes to myself. If there is a right way to do something, I will find it and do it that way.

Also, unlike nine years ago, there are more opportunities to publish available now. The industry is flooded with self-publishers, Amazon and Kindle run things now, and publishing doesn’t seem like this far-fetched, unreachable thing anymore. It still costs lot’s more money than I have though, so that hasn’t changed.

I actually would love to get into editing. It feels natural to me. I see things people don’t see, and like I said I go the extra mile and do the extra research to make sure things are correct. So, nine years well spent? Given what I’ve learned about myself and my writing, I would think so.

When I started this blog, I can’t even fully remember the feeling that I had then. I remember I had a Google blog as well which I can’t even recall the name of anymore. How I ended up here at WordPress is beyond me. But the Google blog is history and Critics May Lie lives on. And so it remains…

…for another National Novel Writing Month!!!!!

lotr helms deep horns

Blow that horn, Gimli!

It’s back, baby! Today is the first day and for every day of November henceforth writers all around the world will be sitting down diligently and responsibly to work devotedly on a story or stories they’ve been thinking about since forever. Join the masses and register at NaNoWrimo’s website! They have everything needed to hype you up there. From tracking your word count to earning badges as you progress, to pep talks, forums and chatting with buddies when you’re stuck. You can even find other writers in your country, region or town and go meet them and write together!

And if you finish your 50’000 word cap on the 30th, you get cool prizes! But still, come for the fun! Come for the love of writing. Come to be in a space with like minds. And I want to be your buddy! Find me there at A. Semog! We’ll keep each other company, share some virtual tea and explore! And remember, today’s the first day so get on it, now!

At a goal of 1700 words a day, I really should be writing so…

Travesaou out!

If you didn‘t know about this rad Youtube page about writing called Just Write managed by the Mystical Sage, check out his video essays! Sage has some really great stuff and breaks down some complex writing ideas that may go over your head if read straight from the “textbook”. Don’t say I never told you anything helpful. 😉

Joyanne James and Jevan Soyer – Sweet TNT 100 West Indian Recipes

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This is an official Caribbean Books Foundation review http://www.caribbeanbooks.org/

Let me just say in advance, Happy Divali!! Every blessing to you and yours during this wonderful time of year!

fsufds

Now I had planned to do another review today but due to the relevance of this one to the upcoming holiday, I’ll save the other book for November’s review.

This month I will be reviewing the new Sweet TNT cookbook ‘100 West Indian Recipes’ put together by Joyanne James and Jevan Soyer.

51mqerGmFcL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

First, let me just say how quaint the introduction was. Reliving the childhood memories Caribbean cooking can bring. Food is like that, it engages memory and all the senses. Of course, the setting is much different now for today’s children, but I’m sure ten years from now the smell and taste of certain foods will take them down memory lane as well.

There are eleven sections in this book; Breads, Breakfast, Fillings, Chutney and Sauces, Soups, Main Dishes, Salads, Drinks, Desserts, Sweet Snacks, and Savoury Snacks. The recipes, which were mainly Creole and Indian influenced, were not native to any one Caribbean island.

There are exceptions, like Doubles, which is clearly Trinbagonian, but most of these are general Caribbean recipes that several islands use in their daily cooking or during festivals and holidays. So, if you expected to see something like joumou, which is native to Haiti or jerk chicken which is native to Jamaica, there was none of that.

I tried three of the recipes myself and as the non-foodie expert that I am, will give my best novice opinion. I also tried my best to follow the recipes to the letter, but where I couldn’t I explained why. Things didn’t go as planned at times, but let’s get into it.

Corn Fritters

This recipe was in the Breakfast Section. I choose it because I love corn and the picture looked yummy. And I’ve never tried corn in fritters before! Go figure!

The first problem I encountered was that the general description was not matching what I was seeing. I mean, does this look like ‘a smooth, airy batter’ to you?

corn fritters 2

Smooth, airy, what? This is not cake and this is not a drill!

I need to eat this. It needs to look the way the recipe says it should! How in the world can you get a ‘smooth, airy batter’ with a boatload of chunky corn goodness dumped into the mix is beyond me. Is that even possible? But at this point, I realised that extra pictures of the process in the book would have been a great help.

However, none of this impacted the actual taste of the fritters. This had a lot of corn in it. A lot! For corn lovers like myself, I was in heaven. For others, you might want to adjust the recipe to at least half the amount of recommended kernels because you will get a mouthful of corn and little else. But otherwise, I loved this recipe. It went well with a slice of cheese. I left the optional egg out and it was still nice and moist. I will definitely be making it again for breakfast, just not with regular flour.

Soursop Punch

This recipe was in the Drinks Section. Now, if you’re reading from the Amazon Kindle app you will not be able to find any recipes in the navigator after ‘Fish Broth’. ‘SOUPS’ is the last section you can jump to. Even the Table of Contents stops there. So even though the other recipes and sections are in the book, you will have to scroll through the remaining sections to find what you are looking for. You can still bookmark the recipes you like to come back to them, I just thought it was weird that the navigator didn’t go all the way to the end. Hopefully, it was just a glitch on my end.

How can you make soursop punch when soursops aren’t in season, you ask? It’s called a freezer, baby! Stach it away for a rainy day! This recipe was very close to what I am used to. I expected them to add granola and other random ingredients to this, but they kept this recipe really simple. 

gigsa

It still had a few small pieces of pulp in it after blending. Maybe I could have blended it longer… the instructions didn’t give me a time. It just said puree! But I kind of like the little pulpiness. This was a win for me.

My only adjustments: I used mixed essence because I had no vanilla essence. I also added a little more condensed milk after I tasted it. Just to make it a little bit sweeter which is probably good to hear for people who have to watch their sugar levels. The recipe by itself wasn’t very sweet and had a nice, refreshing soursop taste.

Gulab Jamoon

This recipe was in the Sweet Snacks Section, and well, there had to be one… to give all the trouble!

You know, I love gulab jamoon. And it’s Divali on Sunday, so I wanted to do an Indian styled snack! If only I had known these ‘gulabs’ would have given me so much trouble, I would have just put in the extra work and made something savoury like a main dish or something because it ended up taking a lot longer than expected. Way past the estimated times!

Let’s go through this, step by step.

First of all, I have no frying pan. It’s just not something I use. But I was not about to bake these either. So I took a small pot, put in two cups of oil and made the gulabs small enough so they could float in it. So instead of yielding 12, I yielded about 30 and spent a ridiculous amount of time over the stove just frying these little blobs.

I had no ginger powder so I substituted it with spice. And I used cinnamon essence instead of cinnamon powder. This recipe is 70% milk, so take note.

Opening the condensed milk can with a knife like a boss because that’s how I roll.

Mixing, not kneading is my style, so I used a spoon instead of my hand. If the butter looks like egg below it’s because I microwaved it. Who has time to wait for butter to thaw anyway?

At this point, I was feeling really excited over how accurate my ‘fine bread crumbs’ consistency looked. But that excitement soon deflated when I added the liquid part!

If a cup of evaporated milk is listed in the ingredients then I will think that I need a whole cup of evaporated milk. I am a novice! Recipe is boss, and if ‘Recipe’ says get a cup of evaporated milk ready and doesn’t say, ‘don’t use all of it’, I’m going to think that I need all that milk! Otherwise, why have it ready?

I put all of it in. It was too much milk. As you can see.

screams into the bowl

But because I’m not a complete novice (chuckles shamelessly), I realised immediately that I would have to add more dry ingredients to get the ‘soft, sticky dough’ I needed which would then throw off the proportions of everything!!!

Not impossible to fix, but still frustrating. So I separated the mixture in half and experimented.

To make a long story short, I managed to get something close to the soft, sticky dough without completely compromising the taste of the snack.

Close, I said, not perfect!

Again, since I dare not touch dough with my bare hands’ cause… it’s just a finicky thing about me! It’s messy, I don’t want to!

So I know it said ”roll’ into ovals (what happened to Recipe is boss?) but after mixing it all with a spoon I ladled it into the heated oil WITH A SPOON (gives Recipe the finger)… and they burned immediately! (Recipe gets revenge!)

Just… this recipe hates me, I swear!

The oil was too hot. Was it on medium fire? Medium according to my stove! So it became a process of; stand over a hot pot, drop in very un-sexy lumps of milky gulabby goodness into hot oil, roll them over as fast as I could, and hope they cooked all the way through before I had to ladle them out because they were turning anything but ‘lightly golden brown’, and repeat.

I just ended up with far too much mixture. If I had known it would have been so much I would have cut the recipe down to half. I did have the sense to cut the syrup recipe down to half. I didn’t even use half of that half. It was also way too much. And I went much lighter on the confectioner’s sugar than traditional recipes, but that’s just my preference.

Things I wish the ‘Recipe’ had told me (The recipe by the way, refuses to take responsibility for this):

Lower the stove after the oil gets hot cause, sense!

Stir the sugar at the bottom of the pot when you are making the syrup because it will stick to the bottom of the pot (well this might depend on the pot you use but watch it anyway)

Do NOT use all the evaporated milk! Some at a time until you get the consistency you want. (My measuring cup is over three decades old so I’m considering now that it may have been a little off)

Don’t forget you started off with half powdered milk and half flour in the beginning so if you add more flour you also need to add more milk otherwise you will lose that milky gulab jamoon taste. (Good thing I separated the mixture. I fixed this the second time around)

I must admit, it still tasted very similar to gulab jamoon when I was done, but like I feared, some of them did not cook all the way through because they were burning so fast on the outside and I had to take them out. I just put them in the toaster oven for 5-10 minutes and it finished cooking. The texture was also spot on. That was a win! I thought for a moment because I didn’t add more butter that it would be stiff, but it was still nice and soft. Still couldn’t get them to look pretty though but I take full responsibility for that as I refused to ‘roll’ them into ovals.

Most were fit for consumption, these were the only ones fit for picture taking! Barely! Boo hoo!

Look at this perfection! Is this even possible? I’m done.

My overall thoughts…

This book could have benefitted from having more pictures of the process while making the recipes. With some of the directions, I just needed to see what they were doing, e.g. folding buss up shut. Sure I can Google it, but then what’s the point of the cookbook if I have to do that?

Also, will foreigners know what a tawa is or have access to one? Recipes always forget to list what equipment you need as well, or what you can use as a substitute. I live in the second land of roti and I’ve never actually used or owned a tawa in my life. Point being, be prepared to pull out your smartphone with your flour-hand and Google some things.

Speaking of flour, if you are avoiding it, or milk, there are several non-flour and non-milk recipes in here, like the fillings, chutney and sauces, soups and most of the main dishes, salads, and chows. I honestly don’t eat much of either. I choose these recipes because they seemed fairly simple to do, I already had most of the ingredients at home, and I had an idea of how they would taste so I knew I could judge them properly.

The recipes are simple enough that you can make your own substitutions. I liked that the book didn’t do that for the reader though. If it’s going to feel authentic you need to make it like it is known to be made! Otherwise, the authentic taste created here, which is unique to the Caribbean, is lost. You need to feel like you’ve been dropped into a David Moore painting when you eat it. That kind of nostalgia!

David Moore – Tapia House

The soursop punch would have still tasted good with almond milk, but it wouldn’t have tasted the way Mummy used to make it. You wouldn’t get the taste that brings back those good old memories.

There were a few recipes that I was disappointed weren’t in there. Because I’m going to actually use this book! Trust me! That whole Breakfast section getting handle first!

But for instance, they had bodi, but no recipe with saime? Saime is just as quaint to Caribbean cooking as bodi. But I guess you can substitute it in the Curried Bodi recipe and get something similar. And no cow heel soup recipe!!! O_o For real? But what really surprised me was that none of the savoury/main dish recipes had ketchup in it! I, just, what blasphemy is this?

For those who don’t know, ketchup from Trinidad and Tobago is unique in that it isn’t actually largely made from tomatoes. It’s more of a sweet pumpkin sauce with a dash of tomato flavouring, a 3-1 ratio. At least that’s what I learned in school. It is unique to our taste. Not only is it used as a condiment in fast food places and street food everywhere, but it is also used heavily in cooking, especially in creole food. I didn’t see it in any of these recipes, but several ingredient lists had scotch bonnet pepper in it, something I have never used in my savoury dishes! Just goes to show how the palate differs from house to house even within the islands as well.

But let me wrap up. I would recommend this book for anyone who has been eating Caribbean food all their life and wants to start making it for themselves. If it’s already in your palate, when you encounter trouble like I did, fixing it is just a matter of following your nose… or your taste buds in this case.

Buy the hardcover or download it in time to make some treats for Divali this Sunday, if, like me, you currently have no Hindu friends houses to visit for the occasion. And then try the Sorrel chicken for Christmas as well! Hopefully, Caribbean food will always evoke good memories of family and friends and laughter around food, and the recipes will continue to be passed down for future generations.

Visit the Sweet TNT cookbook 100 West Indian Recipes book page on Caribbean Books where you can find purchase links. Thanks for reading and see you next month for another review!

– N. Gomes, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the website please send an email to Reviews@caribbeanbooks.org to get more information. You can send a copy of your book, in either hardcover or digital format. All free copies of Caribbean literature sent to us are not shared or copied in any way. They are used simply for review purposes.

NB: We don’t post reviews of unpublished manuscripts here unless you want us to. We also offer proofreading services specifically with Caribbean authors in mind and will give you private feedback.

 

J.L. Campbell – Don’t Get Mad… Get Even

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This is an official Caribbean Books Foundation review http://www.caribbeanbooks.org/

The sun is out today again, after a series of heavy rainy days. Yes, the Caribbean is currently being pummelled by one tropical storm after another. Nothing new during this time of the year. Storms, rain, and floods for the Caribbean are like earthquakes are for Asia. It will happen. We will be hopelessly unprepared, but we will band together and get through it anyway.

That being said, hope things are sunny and well on your side of the world, and if not I hope you are cuddling up somewhere dry and warm looking for a book to read! And do I have one for you! This time from a Jamaican author (Jamaica! Wah gwaan?) J.L. Campbell’s book…

don't get mad get even

Don’t Get Mad… Get Even Vol 1

If some of you took the opportunity to read the Caribbean Romance Teaser Book 1 from Caribbean Books Foundation a few years back you would have gotten a taste of her book ‘Grudge’, as she was one of the two authors featured in it.

Don’t Get Mad… Get Even, which also has a Vol. 2 by the way, is a collection of her short stories that all stay true to the book’s name, some of them terrifyingly so. I was seriously reading them and thinking, ‘what the hell?‘ most of the time.

But let’s begin the analysis. There were just five stories so I’ll review each one in turn.

A Push In The Right Direction

This story surprised me simply because, as the first one I knew it would set the stage for the rest and I just didn’t expect it to go there. While reading it, I must admit, I really hoped all the others weren’t along the same thread because it was rubbing me all the wrong ways from the beginning. Not because it wasn’t good, but because of the story’s theme, domestic violence.

I don’t think I will ever understand the inclination to stay with an abusive partner. I know it’s never a simple situation and there’s always other factors to consider, e.g. mental issues, family history, etc. I just have a strong instinct to protect myself especially against a ‘foe’ that means to do me harm. There are many things I am willing to forgive, but threatening my life is not one of them. So this story had me on pins and needles.

You might say, ‘don’t we all have a built-in survival instinct?‘ Yes, we do, but some choose to ignore it, whether because of fear, love, etc. My point being, someone with a strong survival instinct won’t easily put them-self in a situation to be harmed. And like a cat being backed into a corner, I’ll do what I have to to get out. It’s me or you! Love be damned! And the main character of this story finally reached that point. She was pushed into a corner and pushed back, literally!

You know, you can love people from afar. Behind a wall and an electric fence… and 20 years to life. Not in my bed next to me. I would never be able to sleep next to somebody who tried to attack or kill me. How does one do that? It boggles my mind and disrupts my spirit just thinking about it.

Okay, let me calm down.
cold sweats

Conditional Surrender

Here we have the story of Celia… Gray.  smirks in Fifty Shades references

Honestly, it was a lot like 50 Shades, from the meet cue to the controlling-type relationship set-up. Unlike 50 Shades though it went terribly wrong, or rather what happened is what might actually happen in real life, not that romance fantasy crack that people be happily sniffing.

By this time though I was wondering if this was going to be an entire book of stories where women got back at their lying, cheating husbands. It wasn’t, not at all. But this story had a serious WTH ending. No joke! You all, I still can’t even… just why, just what the hell?

I think this is why I prefer epic and high fantasy. Let’s clash swords and cast spells. Let the heroes win. Even if they don’t, it was still a great, valiant ride, but this ending made me want to flip a table.

I will not accept it!!

Entrapment

See this obeah thing. sigh

For those who don’t know, Obeah is a system of spiritual practices by certain religions of African descent in the Caribbean. It ranges from the harmless stuff like healing concoctions but then there’s also the ‘black magic’ side which unfortunately is what it is most known for in movies and gossip groups. And bai!! cold sweats this story was definitely the black magic type.

I am not reading this one again. I’m sorry. And it’s not because it was bad, it wasn’t. Not even because it was not entertaining. I couldn’t put the book down! I ‘fraid is all and I’m not ashamed to admit it! O_o

The one truthful(ish), non-cheating husband end up being a damn fool. Men, listen to your Mammie when it comes to these women sometimes and never underestimate your opponent. That’s all I have to say.

None. Fellah had no chance.  gulp

Sudden Emancipation

This story made me feel much like the first. It raised a quiet anger in me as it felt real or related to real events that I see on a daily basis.

Unpopular opinion…

I sometimes feel that children fend better when their fathers leave than when their mothers do. Not because the mother is the only one who can give a child proper care. I know there are millions of people who will have stories of hard times without their fathers. Having any parent leave the home sucks period and is hard on any family.

What I mean is, what I’ve noticed from looking at the world around me, is that many times when a man leaves his family it’s a clean break. He moves on, maybe gets another family, the children and mother get by with or without his support and most of the time, despite any evident emotional baggage, the kids are alright.

But when women are the ones to leave, and this is just what I’ve seen, a lot of the time there is always a lot of spite in their actions. It’s not a clean break. Many times mothers will allow their children to be in situations where the children suffer just to spite the father. I have seen this happen faaaar toooo many times and this story was exactly that situation. It dug at my heart. So close to the reality of many people I know. Gets a plus for most satisfying ending though.

The Last Laugh

Was not funny!! But I guess if you kill somebody it doesn’t matter what they promised anymore. Both characters were taking advantage of each other. I don’t know where to swing my sympathy in this case. Maybe to Carlene, but then she got herself into that situation knowing full well the scamp that Herman was. Trust me, she knew!

I just… I don’t know what to say again about this story! The sinister Jamaican humour really came out in this one, as well as Entrapment. For real! Those two really reminded me of Jamaican duppy stories, which 90% of the time is an ‘I lose then you lose‘ situation. Which is exactly what happened here.

I just had to sit down for a minute after reading this book and wonder about… life. Because I literally know at least one person who has experienced a situation like each one of these stories and that is…

…kinda shocking when I think about it.

I purposefully tried not to give a synopsis of each story. I feel as if saying what it’s about in even the slightest will spoil the duppy magic it was dipped in. So I simply gave my thoughts and feelings about them because I want you to be surprised and engaged when you read it.

One thing they all had in common was endings where the people who were being wronged or mistreated were able to get some justice. Some were strangely satisfying while others were just pure ‘what the hell’ madness.

Overall, I would say, I bow to J.L. Campbell. These stories were frustrating but in a good way. I like when books and movies make me feel something even if I want to flip a table afterward. They were excellent and relatable on any level in any country. It really gives you a peek into the mind of the Jamaican diaspora with more than a touch of Jamaican wit and humour which on a greater scale is unmistakably Caribbean.

It really was a good read for all my cringing and maybe I will light a few candles, say some prayers and risk reading it again. ;P I’m just being silly. I will definitely share it. Sharing this book with everybody!

So please give J.L. Campbell’s book of short stories a try and visit the author’s website where you can find more of their work and all the links for their social media accounts to catch up on what they’re doing next! Also, visit the Don’t Get Mad… Get Even Vol 1 book page on Caribbean Books where you can find purchase links. Thanks for reading and see you next month for another review!

– N. Gomes, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the website please send an email to Reviews@caribbeanbooks.org to get more information. You can send a copy of your book, in either hardcover or digital format. All free copies of Caribbean literature sent to us are not shared or copied in any way. They are used simply for review purposes.

NB: We don’t post reviews of unpublished manuscripts here unless you want us to. We also offer proofreading services specifically with Caribbean authors in mind and will give you private feedback.

Writing Update 31st August 2019

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This month’s review reminded me that when I first started writing it was with poetry. Sitting in a tree somewhere, up late at night or on a bus while going to an from school, little poems always came to me.

Now I feel as if I can’t write anything shorter than a 300-page novel. So much comes to me at once that I feel like my poetry days might be behind me.

Noooooo!

But if it’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s that if you have the mind of a writer you can learn to write anything. It’s how I taught myself to write songs when it felt silly and novels when I thought it would be too complex. And I’m up for teaching myself how to write screenplays next year. So I know if I try I can most definitely come back into my poetry zone. It’s a whole other headspace than novel writing, but I can do it.

I also most recently taught myself how to write reviews. You know those really snarky critique things that say just how bad something was, except it’s not!

I kidd, I kidd

I try to keep every review balanced. There’s good and bad in everything. My point is, really try to push yourself to grow as a writer. Don’t be a, “oh, I can only write this,” kind of writer or an “I can’t be bothered to write anything but this” kind of writer. Especially if you are starting out. Don’t limit yourself. You never know what you might be good at and it can open an avenue to more opportunities. Accept criticism, but at the same time find your own style through practice.

Did I say I am still JUST writing? Holy moly! I can’t believe it! Every day. Other things just fly out the window and I can’t be bothered to be a functioning human being anymore because I’m prowling through the night defeating evil or passing through portals to new worlds somewhere. Can’t say yet if my work is any good, but first drafts rarely ever are so I don’t worry too much about it. I’m writing and that’s what’s important.

Editing might be frustrating, but re-writing is magic! Ay, Travesaou quote!

Editing might be frustrating, but re-writing is magic. – Travesaou

I will be taking some time off with family today for Independence though. Please have balanced writing habits even if it’s all you feel to do. Exercise, get some sun, take a walk, talk to real people not just the ones in your head. Breathe some fresh air, not just air from a different room! Take the allergy medication and step outside! Meditate by an open window! Stretch, pleeeease! It’ll keep you motivated and alive. Happy writing all and Happy 57th Independence Day Trinidad and Tobago!

TandT flag with fireworks

Travesaou out!

Kimolisa Mings – Woman Defined

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This is an official Caribbean Books Foundation review http://www.caribbeanbooks.org/

Hello loves.

After being sick for a week and very ambitiously starting back my exercise routine afterward anyway I’ve been feeling a bit low. Maybe it’s the rain, but I love the rain so maybe I just need to put the dumbbells down and chill.

Still, I felt I could handle something short and sweet. So this month I’ll be reviewing a book of poetry by Kimolisa Mings called Woman Defined.

k mings w defined

I’ve had this book in my Amazon reader for a long while. More than two years now!! I just never found the time to get to it, until now. So let’s start the review!

I don’t know much about the author’s background, other than that she is from Antigua. So I can’t say if any of these poems are about her personally. The collection of 11 poems follow an initial melancholy tone that starts to get more hopeful as the pages turn.

They speak a lot about self-discovery, dealing with past hurts and how these things can stay within you and reflect on your life in the future, and ultimately affect how you treat people and allow people to treat you.

I felt like some of them didn’t appeal to me and others left me wondering what exactly the author was trying to say or make me feel. They weren’t badly written I just didn’t understand them, but most of them were intriguing and made me think.

The first poem, A Story, starts off with letting us know that we are in for an experience, a soul being poured out, not simply an account of events.

I really liked Quiet Child. It was interesting because it could have referred to being told to ‘be quiet!’ as a child or being called a ‘quiet child’. Unknowingly one leads to the other and the poem could have referred to either instance and would still have made sense. But the poem was really about finding your voice which I appreciated.

Darkness was also thought-provoking but it upset certain things in me.

There are far too many poems about what women ‘lose‘ after their first time. As a matter of fact, why are those words used anyway? Lost virginity. Lost innocence. Society makes it sound so depressing! Is nothing good gained after that experience?

Now I know many women feel the same way as in the poem. And it’s because they may have felt that they had no control over the situation when it happened which is horrible. I’m also not going to be the feminist antagonist and say women only think sex is bad because the big bad man wants you to think like that!

I just feel like, where a woman’s virginity is concerned, we need to shift from a consciousness of personifying or likening the experience to negative things so that women (especially young women) can, in turn, feel more powerful in their stance and make it into the beautiful thing it is meant to be.

Nothing Lives Here was a poem which speaks of anger and fear and how they can fuel each other making you raw and empty. I honestly felt this. Maybe not the anger and fear part but understanding the tiredness of feeling so many emotions until you just discard the act of feeling altogether because you’re exhausted by it.

I think My Cup was my favourite in the collection.

It spoke of the conundrum of finding yourself, and putting on the masks and filling yourself with the beliefs of others and trying to fit into their mold. And wondering why you can’t see your way or be ‘yourself’ afterward.

Until you realise the earth-shaking truth that the only way you can be yourself is to first discard the expectations that others place on you. Emptying your cup, as they say, so you can become your new self, filled with your own beliefs and expectations for yourself. At least that’s what I got from it.

Here is where the poetry starts to go into that more hopeful mood that I talked about and Everyday took it further by acknowledging that everyone is a work in progress and we all get a new start at life every day. The others were good, but these spoke to me. I felt like I understand completely the feeling of it.

A twelfth poem was included called Beauchamp. This was an extra, an excerpt from another book of the author’s poetry, She Wanted A Love Poem (which is also up on Caribbean Books, by the way) This one was the best in the bunch even though it wasn’t really apart of the collection. I needed an entire book of Beauchamp-type poems to sink my teeth into. So I think I might read the other book as well.

I’m sorry that I can’t be more eloquent and compare it to the greats or something, but it was so short I barely knew how to react when I got to the last page. The author did write from their own perspective. There just wasn’t enough for me to form a conclusion about how I really felt. I barely started lifting the veil, peaking into the author’s mind, and it was over.

There definitely was something about it that gave me a feeling of, ‘yes, that is so true. I can relate to that.’ But I also felt as if the author held back a little. The emotions they were trying to express felt like it existed only on the surface. Like they could have explored it in depth a little more to really make me sink into the feeling with them.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written poetry but it was how I started as a writer and even then I could tell the difference. Of when a poem didn’t scratch the surface of what I was really trying to express and when it was spilling out from my soul to the point that I couldn’t believe that I just wrote this.

I think the author could have pushed themselves and dug a little bit deeper because there wasn’t any that really touched my heart and stayed with me long after I finished the book. It’s like they were almost there sometimes then they pulled back or the poem ended. I think that is really the only problem I had with it, if you can even call that a problem.

But I think maybe I just need to release the poems into the air and someday when I return to the book, they would have grown in meaning.

Go poems! Be free!

So I still give it a thumbs up for a light read. I just wished there was more, and more depth. But please give Kimolisa Mings’ book of poetry a try and visit the author’s website where you can find more of their work and all the links for their social media accounts to catch up on what they’re doing next! Also, visit the Woman Defined book page on Caribbean Books where you can find purchase links. Thanks for reading and until next month!

– N. Gomes, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the website please send an email to Reviews@caribbeanbooks.org to get more information. You can send a copy of your book, in either hardcover or digital form. All free copies of Caribbean literature sent to us are not shared or copied in any way. They are used simply for review purposes.

What I Don’t Miss About Being A Girl

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I loved being a little girl. It is still hands-down the happiest period of my life.

9cfb952d054120b9d759ac843c1d60f9-700

Everywhere looked like this to me! Neverland!

My imagination ran wild then, and the world was a magical, beautiful place. Being a teenager… not so much.

So, looking at some young women crossing the street yesterday, I found myself very happy to be done with that part of my life. Which is strange because since Saturn has returned in my cycle, I’ve found myself mourning the loss of my 20 somethings to working at unfulfilling jobs, not having nearly enough fun, and just being too frustrated over life and my future in general.

Like most people entering their 30’s, I started to wonder that if I had been braver back then and just went after stuff that I wanted maybe my life would be more fulfilling now. However, despite any fleeting wish to get that time back (heck, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing anyway, so let be), I do NOT miss the confusion and the drama of it all.

amen atlanta

Can I get an ‘Amen’?

It upsets me though when people belittle young girls for their choices, as a matter of fact, young people in general. Stop being so hypocritical. None of us were perfect at that age and made all the right choices, so just stop. And even if you were baby Jesus reincarnated, you probably had the right influences in your life to keep you on the straight and perfect!

Whether the skeletons are hidden behind a closet door somewhere or laid out on the front yard for everyone to see, we ALL had our teen-aged angsty years and early 20’s lack of judgment, what was I thinking?!, dies 100 deaths, can’t believe I did this or wore that moment(s). Some peoples moments were worse than others, but we all had something!

However, possibly the most popular critique I hear is about their clothing. Should I even mention the fact that half the people who frown their faces at these same young people and how they dress now, used to dress in clothing that would have seemed scandalous and inappropriate in their day? By all means, ’60s and ’70s party clothes might be proper today, well, unless you’re Cher or Wrathchild anyway, but back then, maybe not so much! They were defying their elders and the norms of social dress codes with flying colours too!

I don’t care for skimpy clothes or trousers hanging off my ass either, but here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t realise, or seem to pretend not to remember, your perception of your body changes drastically when you hit your teens. So I think it’s safe to expect some kind of drastic behaviour on their part.

Perception, it refers to becoming aware of something through your senses. I can’t speak for boys, but as a little girl, you come from a world where pretty clothes are the only physical perceptions you measure yourself by.brandy dress cinderella

That other girl is prettier because she has nicer clothes than you. If you had a pretty outfit too then you would also be pretty! So, a pretty outfit automatically makes you prettier no matter what your body looks like. It’s all about the Cinderella transformation moment and once you have the pretty ensemble your business fix!

Your body and how it looks are of little consequence to you and not a cause for concern or worry. Or at least that’s how it used to be, and should still be.

But then you get breasts, and your hips widen. You may even put on a little weight in certain areas below your waistline and your facial features get more womanly. All of a sudden your body is different than it was before, shaped much like some of the pretty women you watched from afar in magazines and movies. To the point that it almost feels like you’ve undergone a mind swap to a new body. And then the confusion starts.

Because nobody helps you with this. Of course, you get introduced to your first bra, and the wonderful world of what a period is which literally attacks you out of nowhere (NO ONE truly explains just how bad a period is, unfortunately, so I tried to once).

People who never paid attention to you before suddenly start to, like boys and men and, other girls trying to accept their new bodies as well and measuring themselves up to you. And you know that all of this, the ‘mean girl’ behaviour and unwanted male attention, is because of how your body looks, NOT your clothes, your body that you can’t simply change the next day like your wardrobe to stand out less.

And that’s not even the half of it.

You have to cope with all of this change while dealing with the myriad number of opinions going around about your body. Seriously, everyone around you seems to think that, ‘oh, she’s at that age now, maybe I should tell her about this and that‘. And then Mary, Jane and her mother-in-law all have something to say about your body. A body that you are still getting used to and frankly don’t appreciate people making into the topic of the day!

Or suddenly people who used to laugh and talk normally with you begin to speak to you more ‘carefully’, more politely, and look at you in a discomforting way. Because you’re a young woman now, and interactions that would have seemed innocent when you were a child may lead to misunderstandings now.

it is

You also can’t play ‘kid games’ anymore, though I applaud the girls who put on their sports bras and go for it anyway. But most of the time, after being pushed just one time on your very new, very tender breasts, by one of your counterparts on the playground, sitting out the rough play becomes the norm. Yeah, those breasts stay pretty darn tender for a solid decade. More awkwardness!

And yes, most parents suck at helping you with this. As I said, they’ll get the bra and hand out the ‘first menstrual cycle’ pamphlets but they absolutely suck at preparing you for the drastic shift in social dimensions, norms, and perceptions when your body finally breaks the hormonal growth curve.

They do not tell you that it is apparently completely fine for a man to glare at you like he wants to eat you for an hour in a line at the bank. They do not prepare you for the double standards of walking down a street and having several people be very verbally appreciative of your figure in an outfit only to then have the same said outfit be used as a reason to justify harassment, should you get harassed.

harassment

For a young woman, trying to absorb all of this and love her new body despite, it is the most confusing shit EVER! Enough to make you hate yourself and your new body. Because at the end of the day, you didn’t ask for any of this to be shoved onto you overnight, and you don’t see why things have to change. Or why you have to be herded into circles with other girls that you don’t know, might not even like at all, but are expected to get along with because you ‘belong’ with them.

The point is, I am not surprised that some girls dress the way they do, or even act the way they do. It’s a confusing time! And you get to a point where you can only do two things. Although you are still very uncomfortable, but at the same time very fascinated with your new body, you still don’t know WHAT TO DO WITH IT!

So you can either say, ‘hey, I look like these pretty women now, so maybe I should dress like them’, and try not to be too creeped out with the response. Or you can cover up because of how uncomfortable the unwanted attention is making you feel. And if you look around, girls are always doing one or the other.

girls together

Now I know a lot of women are probably going, “no, there are other options. Just accept yourself!” But that comes with time. And trust me it takes years, years, and more years, to truly be comfortable with your body. And when I say comfortable I don’t mean comfortable showing it off. Because some women who choose this option many times are hiding deep insecurities about how they view themselves, and the skimpy outfits are just a show, a retaliation against the feeling of being insecure and not pretty enough.

When I say comfortable I mean completely content and relaxed in knowing who you are, and what you are not and being okay with that, whatever it may be. To the point that you do not care about fitting the perception of beauty that you think others expect of you which is what makes you feel uncomfortable anyway.

You’re just over it! Men are men, if they want to stare they’ll stare, no matter what you wear. Boobs are boobs, every woman I know has at least one. They are no longer fascinating to me! Your ass is just a welcome seat cushion, and hips are just another fact of life, lot’s of women have them. At some point, you’re just done with worrying and agonising over your body and how it is perceived.

idrather

That is the stress that I do not miss. AT ALL! But I know the smallies have it. I can see it in their eyes! Every time I stand by a traffic light and there’s one next to me with something too tight and short on and she’s constantly fixing herself and glancing around to see who’s watching. Seeking that validation, “am I doing this right?”

And I want to hug her and tell her, “Yes, if you are comfortable with yourself you ARE doing it right!” But I know she hasn’t fully accepted herself yet to understand why. I just pray in my heart that somebody she trusts enough to believe will have the sense to ease her mind because she IS confused!

I see it in my niece’s eyes too, when she has to check herself in the mirror a dozen times before she leaves the house. She then proceeds to take two dozen selfies, I KIDD YOU NOT! Every angle she can think of! And I get it! She’s enamoured with her new self and how beautiful she’s become! Like, this is me? Really?

fabulous

When did I get so fabulous?!

Her body is so new and different than it was before. Part of her wants to show it off and another part doesn’t because she’s slowly learning how fast having the body she has can turn creepy and uncomfortable. But she’ll figure it out, I know she will because she has people to help her.

So be kind with your words. Don’t judge and criticise. Let them know that they’ll have a lot less anxiety if they pay less attention to what they look like and to what people think of how they look. That their life will be less burdened, and much happier.

They may not have to worry about feeding a family and paying a mortgage, and I know these ‘chirren’ don’t always listen even when your intentions are good. But they have things to work out too, anxieties and fears just like everyone did at their age. You wouldn’t be a fair adult if you didn’t help them become good ones as well along the way.

Don’t just be a critic, you know, sometimes they lie. 🙂

-Written By Travesaou

Copyright © Critics May Lie All Rights Reserved

Liane Spicer – Café au Lait

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This is an official Caribbean Books Foundation review http://www.caribbeanbooks.org/

Every time I do a review or have to write something not solely because I feel like it, I suffer a bit. I want to write what I want to write damnit!  pouts like a 5-year-old

But every time I hit this wall I remind myself that I am an adult (puts on my big girl pants), and more importantly, I’m a professional or at least I would like to be taken seriously. This isn’t about me, it’s about letting you know the deal so you can make an informed decision. It’s about building up my rapport, finding my own unique writing voice, learrrrrning.

If you’re wondering what I’m babbling on about, this month’s review is… drum roll, please…

cafeaulait-lianespicer

Oh boy.  sweats

A romance novel. sigh

I like romance. I like novels. But somehow when the two mesh together… not so much. Most of them make no sense to my mind, but by God, I’ll do this review justice if it’s the last thing I do! I am happy to say that I started off reading this book with no hesitation though. I was a little excited getting into it. I liked the cover art and wanted to know what was behind the knowing smirk and raised eyebrow on chérie’s face.

So let’s get into the review. Yes. Spoilers. Listen. I never say anything critical about the plot, so no worries.

This story is about Shari Zamore. A woman born out of the Windrush generation in the UK, looking to figure out her life after a long-overdue ‘breakup’. So during her holidays, she jumps on a plane and heads to the lovely Caribbean on the islands where her parents were born, Trinidad and Tobago.

She arrives with little luggage ready to sightsee and shop and indulge in a quintessential island get-away. She wants to relax and clear her mind and hopefully make some decisions about where she wants her life to go after her vacation. Her cousin Wanda, who acts as confidante and regularly spirits her away to all the sexy events, is bent on hooking her up with someone while she’s there. She introduces Shari to Gaston…

I didn’t know you were in this story!

… the french Martinique lover boy who literally sticks to Shari like glue.

Yes, Gaston! In the flesh. While Shari enjoys his company and his playful demeanour she’s not really interested in getting involved with anyone so soon after her breakup. Or so she thinks! Until she ends up completely bewitched (I don’t know what else to call it) by a man who loathes her… no, that doesn’t sound right. Let me try again. Instead, she ends up completely bewitched by a man who insults her every chance he gets… wait, what?

You know what, I’ll get back to that.

WARNING!

This story hits all the points of a romantic novel. The rollercoaster of emotions, the eye candy, the hate that I love you conundrum, the warm, masculine aromas breathes deep, the perfectly unblemished skin tones, the glistening muscles, the wonton abandon to ecstasy, the sweet, beautiful girl who fixes the brokenhearted man with passionate love, and the sultry, long-legged, busty beauties. Grrr. Everyone is gorgeous in this book by the way! Period. Is this a compliment to Caribbean people? I- yes! I’ll accept that! Very accurate.

This book is incredibly sexy. That much I can guarantee you! Read it for the hot, steamy love affairs, the gyrating bodies at the parties, the rigorous love-making in rose gardens! I said rose gardens, people! The horniness is palpable.

But what else is there? I also really liked how the sights on the island were represented in the book. Shari did so much during her time there and most of it was described beautifully by Spicer. No need for a travel or events brochure just get this book and hit all the spots. Hopefully, you’ll get stalked by a gorgeous Adonis specimen everywhere you go too. You never know.

I must nitpick on a few things here though because even though the author talked a lot about where Shari went on the island and gave lots of beautiful descriptions I can’t say that everything is entirely accurate. For instance, we all love calypso, but at a fete today or even ten years ago which is when this book was written, 90% of the songs played are soca, old school dancehall, international dance hits, and reggae.

Then there’s getting a taxi to and from Port-of-Spain. Most taxis in the Caribbean are unmarked. Which is why we have specific locations or ‘taxi stands’ where you can meet taxis that go to specified areas. If you take any one, especially on a main road, you might end up somewhere you don’t want to be. As for taking taxis in Port-of-Spain, there are so many taxi stands going to different areas from there, but the book made it seem like you can just put out your hand on any road and get a taxi. It doesn’t work like that.

The author probably didn’t want to go into all that detail. While I would love that every tourist has an easy time getting around, it just felt unrealistic that on her first day in a country she’s never visited before Shari was able to move around with no problems on her own. Had she asked for directions every now and then, taken a wrong turn here an there, it would have seemed more realistic.

The description of Frederick Street was also iffy. Cars are allowed down it but not maxis. The sidewalks there are also essentially for pedestrians, not vendors. You may find one or two vendors, but the sidewalks are more packed with people than people selling, and on slow days it’s very empty. The description of the street just felt very general, like it could have easily been a crowded shopping street in Bali or Mexico. There just wasn’t anything specific about it that stood out to say ‘ah, yeah, Port-of-Spain is really like that!’ Like I said, it’s a nitpicky thing. Wouldn’t burn the book over it.

The story itself was not bad. When it comes to romance novels I try to take out all the romps and if the story is still compelling without them, then we have a success. So where the plot points and the tone are concerned, in that aspect it was a well thought out story. I do feel like the story overplayed the ‘destiny’, ‘meant to be’, ‘instant unexplainable attraction’ cards a bit which made Shari and her lover boy feel and act crazily over each other even though they barely knew each other.

Did I mention Gaston was featured in this?

Sing it with me! “Nooo ooone’s slick as Gaston! No one’s -” Okay, I’ll stop.

As for the other characters, they were well developed and engaging. They made an impact. Descriptions were well thought out. This book was very visual. The characters weren’t monochrome blobs in my mind at all. They had personality and backstories that made them make sense, well, most of them.

Shari, however, well… At a glance, she made sense. But then the author tried to make you believe that she was supposed to be this rational person that didn’t do impulsive things and never took a chance. But I’m not buying that she was bitten by some intoxicating Caribbean dream love bug and was acting outside of her normal behaviour.

Nowhere in her back story is she rational. Her previous relationship was anything but rational. She comes off as open-hearted, a little naive, forgiving and definitely reserved, but rational? Nah. The only thing I agreed with is that she’s clearly confused.

Let me talk about this Caribbean Eros specimen now who according to the description in the book must look like the male model in that Mentos Gum teaser video. Watch at your own risk. You have been warned.

Now, the reasons for him acting the way he did wasn’t that bad. People CAN get bitter and angry when they go through a bad relationship, but I just hated the fact that Shati made it so easy for him. It’s fine to feel passionate, sensual need for someone. I’m not even concerned with the fact that he was being an ass to her. Not all characters need to be nice! My problem was her reaction to his disgusting behaviour.

This man showed Shari nothing but contempt and dislike since the first time he met her. He actually likened her to a bad penny once (ouch!) and she’s upset about his behaviour, she’s hugely miffed at the ‘bloody sod!’. But she succumbs to his forced interactions anyway which are clearly misguided by his own messed up feelings and she allows herself to get even further mixed up in his manipulation of her even though she knows that’s what he’s doing! I just…

It’s a little bit messed up, right?

She’s just completely mystified by his hotness and then feels bad about being an idiot and playing into his hands later on. How, just HOW does his sexy voice and immaculately toned body make up for the fact that he is judging you according to his own standards and is bent on using you to fulfill his own twisted needs? Is it that, ‘made for each other’ thing again? It seems so nonsensical to pin it down to that. I mean it all turned out fine in the end and I guess all’s well that ends well, but she didn’t make him work for it AT ALL after all his shit! And I was really pissed about that.

But you know, when you’re horny, I guess all’s easily forgiven. Neither of them could stop thinking about ripping each other’s clothes off even when they were at odds with each other. So I guess maybe they are meant for each other! I’m done!

There were a few fun cliché things in here! A jealous crazy ex, a misunderstanding over trust issues, wait, spoilers, must not say more! There was even a ‘I’m a woman and scared of small animals’ moment and he saved her. sighss And then she saved him from a life of misery, resentment, and heartache through the power of love. Doesn’t quite seem even, but the drama!! I tell you, if you’re a romance junkie you WILL love this book!

And I didn’t miss certain references to a classic romance we all know. Let’s see… woman perceives man to be rude and arrogant and he makes it clear he’s not interested in her. He’s much more well endowed financially than she is and is revered by society. Every woman thinks he’s a great catch but she’s determined not to like him but they keep meeting in the same company and eventually realise they’re made for each other. There was even a scene where he asks her to dance out of the blue and she accepts because it was so unexpected. I mean, this man doesn’t like me, right?

Wow, I’ve seen this movie a million times and never realised just HOW uncomfortable Darcy looks here!

Yes. Café Au Liat seems to follow the Pride and Prejudice story notes A LOT but instead of conversation while dancing (Geez, I sound like Mary) trying to figure each other out, our leading man INSULTS AND ASSAULTS the leading lady! And she’s putty in his arms because she cannot resist his foine-ness! Damnit, girl, get it together!! I even remember the chapter (seveeen), I was so frustrated.

I can never understand suddenly losing your common sense, and to an extent dignity, in the presence of someone mind-blowingly attractive. Have I ever been completely taken off guard by a pretty face? Of course! But I get even calmer in situations like that cause fools of myself I will not make. Nobody is that mesmerising. What can I say, I’m a sphynx. But attractive people are just people at the end of the day and the last thing I want to do is come off as utterly desperate. He’s seen it before. Trust me.

There were some questionable things, but there were also soft, beautiful, honest and funny moments that had merit and it was very well written. As I said I had no problems with the actual plot. It flowed well. Please give this book a try!

Check the author’s Facebook page for updates on other projects and her blog page!

As well as the Café Au Liat book page on Caribbean Books where you can find purchase links. And I’ll see you next month for another review!

– N. Gomes, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the website please send an email to Reviews@caribbeanbooks.org to get more information. You can send a copy of your book, in either hardcover or digital form. All free copies of Caribbean literature sent to us are not shared or copied in any way. They are used simply for review purposes.

It Doh Wuk So Down Here

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Now in order for this post to make sense, I need to tell you a few things about myself. You may already know but for the sake of those reading for the first time…

I live on a Caribbean island. NOT South America. NOT Central America. The Caribbean. Close by, but a different region.

Somewhere inside the orange line…

My grandparents, and to an extent my great-grandparents, owned their own land and built their own house. My parents did the same and I have older and younger siblings. We all still live on the islands, have never migrated and most of my immediate relatives are here as well. I don’t particularly care to tell foreigners where I’m from or my background because there are far too many misconceptions that I’d rather not deal with.

But back to why this is relavant, and I’m sorry if this becomes a semi-rant. I took the bus home the other day. It was the first time I took a bus in a long while and while I have no problem taking the bus, once it’s on time, I always meet up some characters there that make me… sigh …wonder.

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Truth.

Now there are the comical ones with the loud stories that by all intents keep the ride entertaining. There are the talkative old people, the harmless but ardent political debaters, and the rowdy school children. I can take them all, even the people who complain about the bus service from the time they get on the bus to the time they get off.

However, there’s only one group of people that drive me absolutely mad every time they open their mouth on a bus or anywhere else I meet them for that matter.

The ‘freshwater yankees’. Now, if you are from the Caribbean most likely you know what this term means. But for those of you who don’t…

A ‘freshwater yankee’ is someone of Caribbean descent who migrated to live in the U.S. of A for a short time, anywhere from a fortnight to a few years, and when they return they act as if they were born and raised in North America. After just a short time their accent and mannerisms drastically change to ‘resemble’ that of those who live in North America, and they suddenly claim to know more about the States than the people who were actually born and raised there.

The term ‘freshwater’ likens them to freshwater fish. Since Caribbean people predominantly get their fish from the sea, it hints at them being a fake, because they are not really from the ocean or the original source. They are pretending to be something they are not. Yankee, of course, is an old term for an American.

Now from what I understand this can apply to Caribbean persons who migrate to the UK as well but somehow the ones who go there tend not to return as often and even when they do their attitude is not as disgusting as those who migrate to the USA. I don’t know why.

The really annoying thing about this is that they come back to the islands, verbally proclaiming how wonderful ‘living abroad’ is and how great they are doing and how everything is 100 times better ‘up there’ compared to ‘down here’. All in a fake North American accent by the way.

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Now, I am not even going to entertain any suggestions or criticisms about if the USA is or is not ‘better’ than any other country. This is not about that. I also have no problem with someone moving abroad to seek new opportunities or take up permanent residence. It’s your life, and you’re free to live it wherever you want.

The thing is… MOST people in the world have some kind of loyalty to the land of their birth, even a tiny bit. And while each country has clear differences in economic growth and stages of development, home is where your heart is despite your circumstances, or where you may move to. Most people can attribute that to not just a particular place or people but to a particular country or region as well.

For me, my heart is in my country, which makes it the best place in the world to me, and I’m sure a lot of people in the US or other countries feel the same way about their own country despite where they may live. Statistics don’t matter, what matters is how you feel about the place.

So if you come into my country and verbally bash my homeland in my presence in the most hypocrical way possible with your fake accent and ‘better than’ attitude (like you would know, you’ve been abroad for two minutes!)… breathes That is cause to get knock down. Plain talk, bad manners.

sakura full punch

So there are going to be spurts of local twang during this post. I don’t normally use it while writing on my blog because I know people from different countries read my posts and they won’t understand what I’m saying. So I try to use the Queen’s English like I learned it in school but things like this make my blood boil and my only response comes out…. you know what, I’ll translate.

Freshwater yankees, hear nah, if yuh like de States, fine, me ain’ vex with yuh fuh dat. Buh stay dey, nah? If it so dread ‘down here’, whey yuh come back for? We doh like yuh head anyway so why botha come?

Translation: Freshwater yankees, please note, if you like to live in North America, that’s no problem. I am not upset about that. But if it’s so bad ‘down here’, why do you come back? Why don’t you just stay where you are? We don’t really like you anyway so why do you bother to visit?

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I know a lot of you feeling me right now on this cause holidays start and they on their way.

I always wonder about this because most people I know cannot stand their freshwater yankee family! You always hear them complaining during the holiday season about how their family from the US are coming back and they can’t stand their attitude.

Please. We want nothing more than to immediately put you on a plane and gladly send you back to the States you love so much. So why do you come down here to trouble the souls of those who are happy to be living here?

And you see them on the streets during July-August Vacation or JAVA (yes, that’s what we call it! NOT Summer!) always walking the streets talking loudly about how, ‘crime down here is so bad’. Yet still, your handbag swinging freely behind you and nobody attempt to grab it yet. You’re eating, drinking, partying and coming home late at night without an incident. But crime so bad down here, right?

Listen. I’m not saying the islands don’t have crime. Far from it. I’m not even saying you can’t have an opinion and talk about current events. However, it’s the state of the world! Why the need to lambaste everything here as if your precious USA doesn’t also have its share of problems? There’s crime everywhere! People still travelling to Europe despite all the terrorists attacts and still going China for trade despite the Communist Party. Feel free to come an go but why yuh hadda get on so disgustin’? (Translation: Feel free to travel anywhere you want but why must you behave in such an intolerable manner?) I don’t know what world these people living in? Jah, put ah han’! (Lord, help me to deal with these people!)

just tired

Just… ugh

How did this unfortunate semi-rant start? There was a particular woman on the bus, the freshwater yankee, who was talking about race. I hate the topic race. I am so tired of the whole twisted subject. However, I am especially tired of the way people in the USA dance around it, and between television, social media and the freshwater yankees, the North American do-si-do on race has permeated the soil of many a land outside of their borders.

Anyway, this lady on the bus was telling the poor senior gentleman who was probably regretting striking up a conversation with her that he is wrong for calling himself ‘mixed’ and if he did, it meant he was ashamed of being ‘black’.

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Sorry, I’m not following your logic.

Now I understand Americans have a different idea of what being ‘mixed’ means and it comes from their looong history of slavery. Now the Caribbean also has a looong history of slavery under their belt but somehow we managed to come out of it a lot less messed up than the States did. The backlash is serious like a heart attack over there, to the point that they are still paying for out-dated, never been true ideas of race and colour in the present generation who are trying to deal with all the mess.

But here’s the thing, the USA’s way of viewing race is not the right way or the only way. Countries have different histories, different backgrounds which would lead them to think differently and have different conclusions about their identity.

When someone says they are ‘mixed’ in the islands it’s because they ARE. Simple. It’s the truth! That’s all. They’re not hiding a deep seated fear or shame of being ‘black’, they’re just ans-wer-ing the question. And half the time they’re not going to be taking offense for you asking either. MOST people in the Caribbean are made up of more than one ethnicity or race. I’m sure there are people who aren’t but it’s so prevalent you can be someone like me who literally doesn’t know anyone who isn’t mixed.

That’s just the way it is over here. Everyone intermarries and is mixed up in some way or the other. It’s the norm, and there is nothing wrong with that. Most times the question isn’t if you are mixed but how you are mixed. But apparently saying that you are mixed is an insult in North America because this woman acted like it was!

I honestly wanted to tap her on the shoulder and give her a piece of my mind but I have long learned not to interrupt bus conversations, no matter how tempting and even if they are loud enough for the whole bus to hear! This woman had to be mad though! You have the nerve to tell off someone over how they are categorising their own ethnicity when you are misrepresenting your own nationality? You fake North American!

Who the hell said we have to believe or do as the UN or the US or any other organization or country does? This is NOT the USA. And just because you have issues with Caucasian America and insist on cutting them out of your ethnic background (her grandmother was apparently Caucasian) doesn’t mean you’re right. Go ahead and be a proud black woman if it makes you feel better but don’t try to force your ignorance down anybody’s throat.

The poor man took to telling her about what a nice man his Indian father was to try to convince her. It didn’t work. He even tried to change the subject but it only led to her talking about all the other ways the US is better than ‘down here’. I could see the venom in eyes rolling around the bus.

The man finally turned into a silent nodding robot. He was probably praying for her to get off before he did. But imagine that, having to defend the geniality of your father’s race to justify why you appreciate both your ethnic backgrounds because somebody’s projection of themself insists that you are wrong. I just wanted to…

And I see it all over American Twitter and Instagram. All the ‘biracial and proud’, biracial and beautiful’ hashtags and posts, and I am so confused. Yes, be proud of who you are but it almost comes off like they are trying to convince themselves that they should be proud which is madness! Why do you need to justify your mixed race at all?? You are what you are. But after listening to that woman I think I understand why. If there are people like her in North America who ‘race-shame’ mixed race people if they don’t conform to being labelled as just ‘black’ then… I don’t know. My head hurts. See why I don’t like this topic?

How about we make it simple. How about we recognise and salute every race and ethnicity that came together to make us? And then, how about we appreciate ourselves as a new whole, that exists because of and despite our parents varying backgrounds? Isn’t that a lot simplier? No headaches and going around in emotional circles and guilt traps.

I am just… thanking God she didn’t sit next to me.

Because I would have rightfully let her know that it doh wuk so ‘down here’. Here in the Caribbean, you are from the Caribbean. I know people who come from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and races living here and we all understand the same jokes, eat the same food, talk the same way, honour our ancestry and appreciate the land of our birth because we’re all Caribbean people. It doesn’t matter if Mummy was Chinese and Daddy was Syrian or Daddy was First People and African mixed and Mummy is an Indian ‘gyal’. Or if both your parents are the same race! What matters more is if you genuinely identify with the unique culture of the island you were born in, and to being a Caribbean person first!

And I think that’s why freshwater yankees rub us the wrong way, even worse than an uneducated tourist. You are from here. You are supposed to know better! You just jump in the USA and take on the accent, the culture and the way they think about everything just so just so and suddenly everyone else don’t know what they talking about? Give me chance and take your ingenuine self somewhere else please.

Please note I am not referring to those who have migrated to the USA or elsewhere (my darling Aunt being one of them) and still love their old country as much as their new one and speak no ill of either. And for those of you who can’t wait for your ‘yankee’ family to reach to love them up, bless you, you have some nice ones. That’s the way you are supposed to do it!

The rest of you ‘freshwater yankees’ take salt in your veins and let it burn with shame for acting like such know-it-all fools in your motherland. AT LEAST have the decency to have some damn respect for the land that first bore your ungrateful soul, even if you no longer call it home.

Have a good day loves! Remember, critics may lie. 🙂

-Written By Travesaou

Copyright © Critics May Lie All Rights Reserved

 

Writing Update 1st July 2019

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Hello!!

First, let me say that I wanted to do a review on the books I read in the last few months, but as time would have it writing got in the way. YAAAYYY!!  throws confetti

 

Thank the Lord! I can finally say writing is the thing holding me back from being productive in other areas. And I’m very happy about that! I am well past the halfway point in editing and once I’m done I will put it aside and work on something else because it will need another edit before I decide to pass it onto any other editors.

But I’m taking a break to tell you that Camp NaNoWriMo is on, starting today! The first of July! So get into that if you can. I still haven’t decided yet if I’m joining as I’m in editing mode for the next few months maybe. But I do have a few projects I want to start so maybe I’ll stop by, set a low word count and work on a few. But you know what might get me into it? Writing partners!

So if you need a buddy to cheer you on, or ask how your day is going or just another wordcount to compete with, sometimes a little healthy competition is just what you need to keep writing, I’m A. Semog on Camp Nanowrimo. Let’s share a tent! I’m just a little sleeping kitten who appreciates a belly rub every now an then. I won’t be any trouble. I promise.

And now back to writing!   runs away

Excited!! Definitely excited!

Happy writing, my loves!

Travesaou fighting!

Copyright © Critics May Lie All Rights Reserved