Monique Roffey – The Mermaid of Black Conch

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation

Hello! I’m back with another book review for Caribbean Folklore Month in October, which is almost over. Hurray! Listen, I love October. I love Caribbean Folklore month, but this month was rough. Between family members being sick and me having to take care of them, then me being sick and just powering through to get all the things done this month INCLUDING preparing for my book to launch! Did I tell you I have a book coming out in December 2022?

Iti’s Coming!!! The Halfway Tree, baby!

Yes, it’s folklore, yes, it’s urban fantasy, yes, it’s real-life family struggles and yes, preorders will start soon. After all of that, I am just beat and October, love you, but you need to end.

However, today I am reviewing The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey from Trinidad and Tobago.

Monique Roffey – The Mermaid of Black Conch

I started to write this review over a week ago during mermaid and lusca week and just needed some time. Like I said, the month was hectic and I have not been well. But that’s what notes are for *flips out notepad*, let me jump back into my thoughts about this book

This book is about the mermaid Aycayia, who was cursed as a young woman by the women of her tribe to be a mermaid. She eventually (after a 1000 years or so) meets David, a young fisherman who sings for her while he’s out at sea. Due to some unfortunate events, which David rescues her from, she comes back to the land, back to being a woman and understanding the world. David and his friends try to help her adapt but, of course, this wouldn’t be a mermaid adventure/romance/thriller without a mermaid-catcher and some people with villainous intentions for Aycayia.

This story is supposed to be based on a Taino legend, an obscure myth that Roffey plucked out of Tobago. Aycayia, which means ‘sweet voice’ was either from Cuba or Puerto Rico originally, from an ancient indigenous tribe. The women of her village prayed to the goddess Jagua and cursed her to swim the ocean forever as a mermaid. Why did they do this? Well, basically they were afraid she would ‘tek dey man’. Apparently, Aycayia was very beautiful and would dance on the hills and sing naked, I mean, everybody was naked in her tribe, so I doubt this was the problem. The women couldn’t stand how their husbands lusted after her and thought she was bringing far too much attention to herself. In the book, she was the young daughter of the chief and kept refusing marriage as she was grieving the death of her sisters. Wait, now that I think about it…

Wait, wait, wait!

I know this book isn’t new. A lot of people probably came up with this, turned it over and analysed it to death, but I’m only NOW seeing another layer to this that has me…

Oooo yeah, I’m getting mad!

So is it kinda, sorta hinted at, maybe implied that her refusal of marriage is what got her cursed? I’m not saying that the author said this explicitly, but it can be inferred. Think about it. If she had gotten married, if she had chosen a husband because married men and unmarried men were coming to her father left and right for her hand. IF she had simply chosen one, these women’s husbands would have stopped petitioning for her. She would have been someone’s wife and everybody would have had to calm the hell down because she was taken. Like the women who cursed her, she would have disappeared from history completely. However, because she chose to keep singing and dancing on the hillside, grieving for her dead sisters, enticing the eyes of their men, she had to be punished. Listen –

This deserves an Alan Rickman table turnover.

Single women can never get a damn break, can they? All through history, damnit

I’m sorry, but at the same time I’m not, but I am because it makes her story so much more heartbreaking. Like what the hell? Not me getting riled up over fiction again. Nothing new.

I have no problem believing that women would do something like that. Women can be viciously bad-minded. I say this not because I don’t like women, I love them! I cherish my female friends, but I know the depths of the things women can do if they perceive you as a threat. Still, you have to be truly insecure to curse another woman for eternity JUST because of jealousy. I do believe that people need to feel all of their feelings to get through them or understand them, but I stop at believing that there are no ‘good and bad’ feelings. Some feelings can lead you to do some bad, stupid shit and therefore, by association, become ‘bad’ feelings. We’ve never heard of somebody killing someone else over happiness or robbing someone’s house because they felt grateful. Jealousy can kill a man, and apparently, also exile a human being in the ocean forever. These women who were jealous of Aycayia are dead and gone and she was still suffering from this curse. Madness! But the larger-than-life fantasy stuff that I like. This story was great and although it was a little heartbreaking, I really liked it.

Now, what was I going to say before I got mad!

Uhh. *checks notes* Oh!

This book feels magical, as most mermaid books do. There is an undeniable magic about mermaids. Mermaids, dragons and fairies. The three most ‘feels the most like magic’, magical creatures in fantasy. They’re all pure mysticism and allure and this book is no different. You feel it when David first meets Aycayia in his boat. His descriptions of her being a wonder to his eyes, an experience he felt blessed to even behold. This creature that he said felt ‘like she was from a time when all creatures were getting designed‘. You know, just otherworldly and magical!

Poor David was smitten. Like most men in love, he compares his feelings to grander elements than it’s worth. All of a sudden the woman you love is better than most women, more intriguing, more open, more admirable: when really, she’s just normal and you are on a high. He was completely and totally rearranging his perspective on LIFE, and honestly, it was equally adorable and annoying. I admit, meeting a creature of lore definitely counts as awe-inspiring, so I’ll give him that. I get it. Not every woman is a mermaid.

One thing that I appreciated was how David and Aycayia adjusted to each other. It did feel real, the hardness of reality for her and her adjusting to being human again and him adjusting to having a woman-fish in his house. Other characters were like Miss Rain, the owner of Black Conch or most of the land on the island who befriended Aycayia and her deaf son, Reggie, and Life, David’s uncle. I won’t speak on the dynamics of living on an island like that in the Caribbean where most of the land is still owned by descendants of slave owners and the weird, sometimes unwarranted hatred, that spirals around that arrangement. I wouldn’t say that I have NO feelings about it though. It’s just that as a free black woman living in a free Caribbean state who’s never lived on land owned by anyone but my own family, I don’t think that I can fully relate. Have I ever had complicated feelings towards descendants of slave owners, some of whom still live in the Caribbean? Yes. I have never felt hatred though. Hate is strong word, that I reserve for caraille.

Hate it!

I choose to be open and fair and non-judgemental. Negativity gives you fine lines and I am not about that in my impending old age. Speaking of old age, something about the description of Reggie’s birthday cake took me back. Like I got a vivid memory of bright-coloured birthday cakes from my childhood, and the feeling of being a child and seeing birthday cakes as these gems of desserts, instead of the clouds of sugar that they truly are. I love when a description brings out a buried memory/feeling from my past that I thought I had lost.

I really related to David as a character. Like him, I’ve always been very happy and content with island life. The simpleness of it, but even those sentiments are plagued by the brutal history of this beautiful, carefree place. Like him, I often find myself in the still of an afternoon looking out on the hills wondering who my people were, what traditions and customs never made it across the ships from the hands of elders into my lap for me to pass on to future generations. It’s a deep-rooted sadness that comes and goes like waves of the sea.

I’m not just talking about greater societal customs in general, I mean the little traditions too. Like a knitting pattern that could have been passed on through generations of a specific tribe or household, or a particular recipe that only my great great great great great grandmother would have made. Just these tiny, beautiful, wonderful things that I can never experience or have knowledge of because they were stamped out by slavery and I wonder sometimes if I would have been better knowing it. Nature does that to you, and I live in the bush, but the sea especially, something about it brings out those deep, hidden feelings you didn’t even know were there.

I don’t think there’s anything I didn’t like about this book. All the antagonists, I guess, but that was intentional. You were meant to not like them.

I have to admit though that I was a bit confused as to HOW fishermen can ‘catch’ a mermaid, and I mean like a regular fish. Catch a mermaid in a net, sure, but with a hook and bait?? A normal fish doesn’t have hands. We ALL know this! Once they bite onto something and it’s in their throat all they can do is wiggle and hope they spit it out, but a mermaid has hands and fingers, right? I was like, why doesn’t she just reach in and pull it out? Of course, I NOW know that her hands were like flippers and were webbed, but I remember being so confused at the time while reading it. I was like, but HOW? You see, this is why too many damn questions over fantasy is NOT necessary. Reminds me of that quote…

I had an ‘adult trying to make sense of fantasy’ moment. Obviously, she had fin-fingers! Duh!

But you know, this was a great book. I really liked it. Yes, this is adult fantasy fiction. A lot of ‘sexing’, thinking about sex and references to sex going on, in addition to cursing and adult themes. It’s not graphic, it’s just an adult book. My reviews are never these eloquent, newspaper and magazine reviews that you need a dictionary to understand, but I said what I said, and what I said is that you should read it. Personally, I’ll give it 4 and a half stars out of 5, simply because it was beautiful and it hurt my soul and I would read it again but I needed some characters, who shall not be named, to get some comeuppance and they didn’t. If you want to find out more about the author, you can follow them here on Instagram and view their website here where you can find all the links to all the things. Have a great end to this Caribbean Folklore month, check out Caribbean Authors for all the posts this year, and remember, critics may lie.

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

Those Who Trespass Against Us – Eugenia O’Neal and Doh Jumbie Me – Zahida Hosein

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation

Hello! LONG time no blog! I am writing this while with a fever so if I sound a little delirious and ramble a bit, forgive me and the spelling errors.

So, why am I here? Book reviews for Caribbean Folklore Month! It seems like this is becoming a trend though. Whenever I come here it’s to do a book review, it’s always months apart and I always feel like I need to give an excuse…

I have had other thoughts about life and things but never seem to get here to post it. So, I’ll try to do better, next year.

But let’s jump straight into the review because today I am doing two books. Even when a book is short I still try to give it its own blog, but I felt like I could stick these two together as I really didn’t have much thoughts.

First, we’ll start with Those Who Trespass Against Us by Eugenia O’Neal from the British Virgin Islands.

This story was diabolical and the pacing was *chef’s kiss*. I have yet to truly master the art of short-story telling and at 25 pages, this is the goal right here. In these 25 pages you understood exactly who everyone was and their motives, you understood the part they each played, and the setting/mood was gradually so unnerving, building the tension to the final reveal. And we get back-stories too! Gah! I would read this again as revolting as I think Friar Pedro is, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

So the story starts off with Fr. Pedro arriving from Quito, Ecuador to Ayo, a Spanish settlement outside of Quito, filled with Indigenous workers… is it a fictional village? I believe it might be. Anyway, yes, the story is based in Latin America but it features a Puerto Rican indigenous folklore myth. Fr. Pedro is there to relieve Friar Juan Carlos of his duties who is on his deathbed. Apparently, the little village goes through Friars fast, as they all either leave, die or go mad, and Fr. Pedro is the 16th friar to have been sent there. The place is also basically empty. There’s barely half a dozen people in this whole settlement and Fr. Pedro has this feeling of unease about the whole situation. He feels as if he is constantly being watched but by who; there’s nobody there, right?

Friar Pedro is also fully judging Fr. Juan Carlos for fraternising with the natives and although he is terrified to be in Ayo with the ‘savages’, he still thinks he is far more superior than them and hopes he can leave that ‘hellhole’ in the next year or two. Apparently, him being sent to these back woods, like Ayo is literally the worst settlement in Ecuador, is because he is being punished for some kind of impropriety but we find out what that is further along. (Oh, I wanna say the big nasty he is so bad, but I doh wanna spoil it!)

I really liked this novella. It was equal parts haunting and exciting to read. Like Friar Pedro comes off as an okay guy at first, maybe a little judgey but you don’t hate him. At first, you’re kind of hoping he will get out of the village because it seems like he got into a bad situation and is in over his head, but as the story moves on and more things are revealed about him, you just know he’s going to die. This is a horror story after all so that’s not a spoiler, and he is muy horrible.

There was this one part where he is thinking about revamping the agriculture in Ayo but it’s so that the CHURCH can continue receiving their payments from the settlement.

These people barely have food for themselves! Church, my ass!

He is even considering asking his father to purchase some African slaves to supplement the labour because the place is basically a ghost-town. I understand purchasing human beings was the norm back then but it was so casual, you know, like he’s making a to-do list for the day. It reaches a point where you can’t wait to see his pretentious ass get what he deserves. Just the language that he uses, e.g. he has to disabuse the natives of their pagan gods and ways. Disabuse??  😂

I would recommend this for older YA and adult readers, simply because I would have read books like these when I was a teen. Avid teen readers read read, if you understand what I mean, like you can’t hide the dirt of the world from them at that age. I read widely and it didn’t scar me. So yes, I would recommend it for older teens too. If you would like to read this novella, it is just .99c on Amazon. You can purchase Those Who Trespass Against Us by Eugenia O’Neal here And follow the author on… social media sites that you will have to Google yourself because I can’t find any. I do not have the strength to be hunting down websites today.

Moving on to Doh Jumbie Me by Zahida Hosein from Trinidad and Tobago.

This is a collection of three short stories in the village of Quito Quito, all featuring the obeah man La Garou. It’s strange because I read this right after Those Who Trespass Against Us which was situated near Quito, Ecuador, which has a totally different pronunciation. The phrase ‘quito-quito’ (pronounced ‘quite-toe’, not ‘key-toe’) is used in Trinidad and Tobago to be synonymous with the term ‘behind God’s back’ or anywhere that is very far away from heavily populated areas. So this village called Quito Quito can be any village that is situated ‘quito-quito’ or very far away.

At the end of the three stories, there is a series of poems under the chapter ‘Doh Jumbie Me’ and an Epilogue after that. The epilogue, for some reason, is after the author information, so if you are reading on Kindle make sure to keep scrolling to the end. I normally go to the very end to leave a rating, but I know some people don’t do that. There’s more story after the author and ‘other titles’ information.

The stories themselves, ‘Under The Belly of An Ant’, The Boy Who Couldn’t Steups’ and ‘The Storyteller’ were short folklore pieces. As I said before they all feature the character La Garou, the obeah man. While the first two are cautionary tales where La Garou places some mischievous boys in scary situations to teach them a lesson, the last story is about La Garou and his interactions with the folk characters in the forests near Quito Quito.

These folktales feel like folk stories from long ago or the way they were told long ago. It reminds me of the stories I read as a child of Briar Rabbit and Anancy, where animals could talk and were understood by humans. The way the stories were told also reminds me of how Trinis talk. They start with one thing and end up somewhere else. Somewhere not even close to where they started, before they get back to where they started and yet it all still makes a strange kinda sense.

The Storyteller was the best story of the three. Maybe because I’m an adult and cautionary tales really don’t phase me anymore. But it was nice seeing inside La Garou’s head and the network of folklore characters befriending each other and working together with the obeah man. It was interesting to read.

This is honestly a great read for young adults. Adults can read it who are trying to brush up on their folklore, but I feel like it is meant for a younger audience. If you would like to read Doh Jumbie Me by Zahida Hosein you can find it on Amazon here It is just 103 pages and I believe $2.99 last time I checked. You can follow the author on Instagram and that’s it for my two reviews. See you next week, yes, I have another review planned, and remember critics may lie.

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

W. St. Cyr – The Vault

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Hello all! Welcome back visitors and lovely friends. It’s book review time! And for some reason my mood is a little between this…

I’m back yo!

…and this.

I’m back… whatever

Yeah, it’s been THAT kinda day – week, BUT WE PRESS ON!

After months, I am finally back with another review. This time we’re going over to the ‘bearded’ island, the one and only Barbados, for a novel by Bajan author W. St. Cyr whose work I’ve reviewed before. This time we are looking at his newest release, The Vault.

The Vault follows William Stalker, a Scotland-born, mulatto doctor, who is sentenced to years of hard labour on the island of Barbados after he is accused of killing a Baron in England. While there, he not only discovers his roots as his mother was born on the island to a black slave before she was sent to Scotland but, after being exonerated, he is also tasked with investigating the strange case of the moving coffins in the wealthy Chase family’s burial vault.

Now this book also partially follows the Chase family and their diabolical deeds as well as the different officers who are working on the case of mutilated slaves across the island. Like with his previous novel, Fields of Death, I would not call this story a mystery because from the get-go the reader already knows ‘who done it’. This book jumps between so many different point of views though. From William to the Chase family to the different officers and also Victoria. Were there too many POVs? Maybe. For me, it was just enough not to get confused.

My main issue was that sometimes these different POV’s didn’t really move the plot along (I’m looking at you, Hendrich!) so it just ended up being more to read for no reason but I wouldn’t burn the book over it. The story progressed at a well-enough pace.

The Chase vault is a local legend in Barbados, one that has remained a mystery over the centuries.

HOWEVER

I think this book is very relevant now despite it being based in colonial times. It’s been less than a year since Barbados’ triumphant break-away from the English monarchy or ‘the Crown’ as it is referred to in the story, into a new Republic. This book manages to show the relationship between Barbados and England in a time when they were still cemented firmly in colonialism. It is very much a historical piece. The reader can learn a lot about the state of Barbados, the way the island was run, and how the people there lived at that time. Also used as a penal colony, a LOT of the UK’s prisoners were dumped there and although it was one of the richest colonies at the time, Barbados was falling apart.

Bussa Rebellion 1816, Barbados

Barbados had 99 problems and slavery was just one of them! The atrocities of which were rotting the island from the core, and they were experiencing one rebellion after another, not just there but all over the Caribbean. It reminded me, that people forget the real reason slavery was abolished. It wasn’t because of the kindheartedness of the colonisers, finally seeing the light and the wrong in their ways. The abolitionists could have petitioned until they were blue in the face and slavery would have stayed right there because it was profitable. Even when it was abolished, for decades traders were still finding ways to bring slaves in.

Slavery ended because they could not realistically sustain it anymore. They could not continue to combat all these rebellions which were getting more intense and more frequent in nature. They knew at some point the slaves would figure out that they were in the majority, which is a fact their masters went to great lengths to hide from them. People just weren’t going to stay enslaved forever. Slave masters and plantation owners knew eventually that the slaves would rise up and they would lose, and Haiti was the proof. A smart businessman knows when to cut their losses and leave, and that’s the real reason slavery ended.

But before the slaves tasted their freedom, Barbados was a place to be banished if you found yourself on the wrong side of the law in Europe or in William’s case, on the wrong side of a vicious Baron who caught you getting frisky with his wife because this tale is also equal parts a romance. To the Dr.’s defense, it was completely consensual and the dear Baroness Victoria was the instigator, but boi, oh boi, woman getting man in trouble since the beginning of time AND man shooting theyself in their foot cause of woman, SINCE the beginning of time.

Tell meh I lie!

Your husband is LEAVING on a ‘business trip’. At least wait till he leave nah? That’s Rule #1! When your spouse is away, then you can play. Slip the hot doctor a note and have a secret rendevous after your husband is out of town. That so hard? I am in no way encouraging cheating on your husband. Please don’t say I say to do THAT, thank you. But like my grandfather used to say, if you stupid enough to get caught, you deserve the punishment. Wait…

Me realising my grandfather kinda low-key encouraged my mischief by challenging me not to get caught

But yeah, do people really not understand HOW to have a secret affair? Rule #2 Don’t frolic with the side squeeze in your house. That’s the one place you supposed to be. Sense! But you know, don’t say I SAY SO! You do wrong you will have to pay for it at some point cause karma is a bitch with a damn good memory.

But this is described as a romantic thriller and it did start with William and Victoria and ended with wrapping up their romantic plot. Between the vault and the killings, their relationship was the main plot thread throughout the story so I guess I agree. There was just so much violence, not in their relationship, just in the book in general, it didn’t feel like a romance to me. Having somebody’s death described in detail after a romantic scene kinda kills the mood.

But they did have their moments, William and Victoria, I’ll give them that. There was adequate love and just plain nonsense in their relationship to make the stew tasty. I was rooting for them, but they were two wrongs trying to make a right. Their relationship started off hot and steamy REAL FAST and after all the mess they made they deserve each other!

The true irony of this book though, for me, is how colonisers were most times STAUNCH churchgoers. That is probably the most hypocritical thing in existence. Like, you all burning down each other’s churches, cause ‘Catholics and Methodists bad, only Anglicans allowed here’, but YET you afraid of some coffins getting pitch around a tomb? God-fearing, my ass! Is that the REAL issue here? Let’s call a spade a spade. How about we consider your rearrangement of the commandment, ‘thou shalt not kill’ to ‘thou shalt not kill unless it’s a slave’!

How do you manage the justification, either it is or it ain’t, the maths not maths-in.

But I think I’ve gotten past all my random thoughts…

I am not sure if I would read this book again. I’m on the fence. I’ve said before that books with slavery themes especially ones that have very gruesome depictions of it are not my cup of tea. I feel the collective trauma of my ancestors building up in me whenever I read books or watch movies around these topics. It’s the same as a Jewish person avoiding holocaust content. I wouldn’t say it’s triggering per se, but it is upsetting for me so I took my time reading this book. There were days when I didn’t read it at all because I was still recovering from a scene that deeply disturbed me. And this had a lot of random slave killings and torture. I feel like I could just skip those parts if I ever read it again, but I’ll see.

Now that doesn’t make it a bad book. I ain’t say that. On the contrary, the violence had a point as they were all in some way related to the killer, a folk character of Barbados who St. Cyr made vividly real. Or they were related to the Chase family, which tied back to the vault. I feel like the violence was also used to give the reader a reflection of the time period, to help create the setting, that things like this happened frequently back then, without reason or remorse. So there was a purpose, I just felt a kinda way about it. So just letting you know if that is something you want to avoid.

If you are looking for a historical thriller with a steamy romance plot and some infamous folklore legends, W St. Cyr spins a wild and haunting tale of the mysterious Chase vault and the devious killer out for… body parts? (I don’t want to give everything away, the book technically isn’t out yet), all played out during Barbados’ brutal history as a penal colony. Join the launch, which will be held at the Grand Salle, Central Bank in Barbados on 21st May 2022 from 5-8pm. This is an in-person launch, with full Covid protocols observed. I believe it will also be live-streamed, those links will be available closer to the date. Follow the author W. St. Cyr on Instagram for more information until then, and pick up your copy as soon as it is available.

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

SouCouYant – Marsha Gomes-Mckie

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation.

Happy Caribbean Folklore Month! Yes, October is almost done. Jumbie Night (full moon, 20th October) happened and other than the fact that I was falling asleep on myself by 6pm overall it was a cool thing. Will do it again next year.

But today, I came to do a book review, the only review I have time for this month. And since it is Caribbean Folklore Month, of course, we’ll be doing a book on Caribbean folklore. Today I’ll be reviewing SouCou Yant by Marsha Gomes-Mckie from Trinidad and Tobago featuring, well, a soucouyant.

Her fire rages!!!

Why did I choose a book featuring this folklore character? Well, let’s just say I’m still (yes, still) a little salty about this, and I want to show them how it’s done.

Love the book cover, from the fiery hair to the tattoos along the neck and face. It’s beautiful and really gives a sense of the magic and power in the being. I always feel as if the soucouyant is relegated to being the ‘witch’ of Caribbean folklore. The old hag, or ‘old higue’ as it is called in some Caribbean countries, making deals with the devil for power. However, since witches can be fearsome and powerful, it’s okay to look it too and this cover captured that.

But what is a soucouyant? For those who may not know, in the Caribbean it is said to be an old woman who sheds her skin at night and flies around as a ball of fire looking for someone’s blood to suck. If you want more information on this folktale persona you can read the post from Caribbean Authors on it here for Caribbean Folklore Month.

But onto the book, SouCou Yant is about SouCou, a young shaman who is stolen away from her home (somewhere) in Africa during the slave trade. She is bought to Trinidad and given to the son of a plantation owner as a birthday present because she is young, pretty and a virgin, though not for long. She has the young plantation owner’s child and is more or less taken good care of until he is married. Since having a slave mistress doesn’t go off well with his new wife, SouCou is eventually sold to Governor Yant where she begins to truly understand the horrors of slavery for a woman whose prime purpose is to please her master. But Governor Yant has another purpose for SouCou that only he and his slave mistress, Oma, know about, and being the perceptive woman that SouCou is, she uses this as leverage to guarantee her daughter’s safe passage off the island into freedom. Hence follows a constant tug-of-war between her and the Governor and his mistress, as neither of them trust each other, and rightly so, until the huge explosive ending that spills over into the entire town and the surrounding plantations.

Now there’s a lot going on in this book. I quickly realised that I no longer have the same reading fortitude that I once did. Reading a book in a day ain’t no small feat for me anymore. And not just reading, movies as well. I often don’t finish an entire movie in one sitting anymore either.

Here I was thinking I would get to read all I want when I got older. Joke’s on me – #SlowReaderProblems

And it has nothing to do with the excitement level of the thing. This book was NOT boring. I just need a little more time to get through a novel now. Maybe it’s ‘old’ age but the ending of this book wore me out! And by ending I don’t mean the very end. I mean, the buildup to the climax. So much was happening! It was really fast-paced, race against time stuff, and I had to take a break or two. It is what it is. It’s good news for those of you who like that excitement and pace. The plot wasn’t confusing or anything, there was just mucho things going on at once.

I appreciate the clever wordplay in the title. Because she belonged to Governor Yant she got his last name and it remained even after she assumed her full role as the mythical fireball. SouCou being a shaman held a lot of significance in the plot but this story is really about what a mother would do to guarantee their child’s safety, what a parent would do. From the beginning, when SouCou realised what this slavery thing really was, it was all about getting Eve out.

Because SouCou was born free she didn’t just accept slavery like the other slaves did. She didn’t totally rebel right away, and even when she did it wasn’t for herself. She was adamant that her child would know the freedom that she once had. I really liked the contrast between SouCou and Marietta. Honestly, she was the only other character that I liked. It seemed at first that the two of them would be at odds with each other, SouCou being a slave and Marietta being the slave owner and disapproving of the relationship with her son. But in the end, they were shown to have similar minds and hearts and that was nice because everyone else was just horrible.

I honestly kinda hated this book as I do any book about or surrounding the sickening atrocities of slavery.

AbSoLuteLy SicKen-Ning

Admittedly, it wasn’t all beatings and hangings and back-breaking labour. This is no ’12 Years A Slave’, and it leans more towards the supernatural once you get further into the book. But it really reminded me of how much rape and sexual assault has ALWAYS BEEN a mechanism of terror for war and enslavement. And how it was just glossed over as something normal during those times and expected when it was still CLEARLY rape because even if the women agreed, the truth EVERYONE knew was that if they had a choice they wouldn’t be there. They cooperated because they knew they would be killed or forced if they didn’t. That’s still rape. Agreement under duress does not count! And this still happens in war zones around the world today, unfortunately. But just letting you know, there is a lot of that.

I really liked SouCou as a character. She was fairly young throughout this book, late teens if I recall correctly, but she moved with the resolve and the understanding of someone who knows and has seen more. I feel like that was attributed to her ability as a shaman but even just the trials of going through being taken from your home and slavery I am sure grew a lot of people up real quick.

Other than SouCou, I don’t really care much for any of the other characters. Not that they weren’t well-written, I just really disliked ALL of them. Everybody. The plantation owner, his evil wife, Governor Yant, Oma, Mark (yes, even Mark!). But I think that was the point. I think you were supposed to have a certain level of dislike for them given the situation. Their motives were clear, their actions were expected and in line with their character arcs. Some I wanted to see die more than others, some I didn’t care about either way. Like I said, I appreciated Marietta’s character and her unexpected growth, or rather maybe she always was like that but circumstances revealed her true nature.

But it was all about SouCou! She was the star! You wanted to see her get free or at the very least get mad and take ALL of them with her! Unfortunately, the men were real trash in this book. Again, even Mark. Listen, I’ll give him the whole ‘we must end the slave trade‘ and ‘I must make up for my mistakes‘ thing. I’ll give him that! He was heads above all the male leads in that aspect and I get that he and SouCou had a ‘history’. But if he really JUST wanted to help SouCou get out and get back to her family, he would not be in her panties like EVERYBODY ELSE! screams internally SIR! ARE YOU REALLY SINCERE ABOUT HELPING THIS WOMAN?

He was decent-ish *cough cough* than the others but still throwing the whole man in the bin! At the end of the day, he had a plan but did not include SouCou in on it, neither did he fully take in the reality of her situation. Because he viewed himself as the ‘coloniser who saves the slaves’. But in reality he was just as smitten with SouCou as any of the other men in this book and wanted to claim her beautiful, African ass by whisking her off to France to be with him and his family, under the pretense of ‘but I actually care about you!

Okay, you care about her, but be that as it may, how exactly are you planning to contain Shango’s fire in your concrete jungle in Europe? The woman want to stay in the bush for a reason. I was like, just leave her! Let nature soothe the fire in her soul until the end of time. But no! Mark out here like ‘baby, baby, please‘.

CLEARLY! Do you not fear the Lordt, sir?

But yeah, that’s what I think about that. *twiddles thumbs*

Honestly, I feel the same way about this read like I did about the last one. It’s a good book, exciting, thrilling, would recommend, but I enjoyed it the first time. No need to read it again. Follow the author on social media and visit their website. You can get the book here on Amazon. Read it, yes, I am recommending it, and remember critics may lie.

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

What a Caribbean ‘Spooky Season’ Could Look Like

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It’s been a while since I’ve just done a random thought post. So hi, goodnight. What have I been thinking about?

*sips tea*

Around this time every year, I start seeing people talking about Halloween. Now as you know this is not a holiday or celebration that has roots in the Caribbean. I know some of you are hell bent on this Halloween thing anyway, but before you roll your eyes and click out, hear me out.

It’s a fun holiday, I get it. I like to do costumes and dress up too. Matter of fact, it’s kind of hard to not like doing that in the Caribbean when so much of our culture evolved and revolves around festivals where you dress up and parade the streets. You want to join in All Hallows Eve because you think it’s fun? Be my guest.

But don’t you ever feel even a little weird that it’s not really your culture? I mean, Jack-o-lanterns? Bobbing for apples? Trick or Treat? These things have very specific historical connotations that have nothing to do with the Caribbean’s heritage. Read the history of Halloween here.

What I mean is, instead of importing something that belongs to someone else, why can’t we create something of our own? We can most definitely take part in spooky season, but make it Caribbean. You know, make it based on our culture the same way Mexicans have Día de Los Muertos. A similar spooky vibe as Halloween, but nothing actually like Halloween. It’s their own thing with their own flavour and history. Halloween is cool, but it’s not our culture.

Imagine… Jumbie Night (it’s a name!)

On the day of Jumbie Night, people decorate their offices and the streets with folklore characters, dress like them and eat special food named after them sold by establishments during the day. In the evening, people meet for Jumbie Night dressed as folktale characters. There are douens, la diablesse, papa bois, churile, mixed in with Carnival characters like moko jumbies, blue devils and midnight robbers if you’re in T&T. We do it in an open savannah where there is a stage for spoken word performance competitions and stories about the folklore is told and vendors selling craft items and food (free for the children). We play games and win prizes and most importantly learn and pass on the culture. And if the adults wanna fete afterward, you know they will.

While Halloween has origins in Celtic and Romanic cultures and has that similar idea of warding off evil spirits, I really love the celebratory vibe of Día de los Muertos which has origins from the Aztecs, and is really about remembering the dead so they will ‘live’ forever in our memory. Jumbie Night can be our thing, with origins in Caribbean culture which spans Afro, Indigenous, and Asian influences. What that will look like depends on us. It can be something we promote and look forward to just like any festival. And that sounds so cool! Can’t we do that? Something with meaning to us, instead of this…

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com (Just what is with the pumpkin faces? O_O )

And like I illustrated, I’m not just talking about trading witch costumes for la diablesse. I’m talking about meeting and sharing the folktales with the next generation but making it a fun event. Continue the oral tradition by encouraging spoken word poetry and narrations, which is still very alive in the Caribbean. Encourage theatre and art based around the mythology. This has been a thought that I have had for years and I always wondered, how can I get something like this started.

Well *excited grin* next month Caribbean Books Foundation will be commemorating for the first time Caribbean Folklore month in October, where we will be celebrating the folktales, mythologies and the authors that write about them in the Caribbean.

And I have to say I am really excited!

And with this, I’ve suggested we incorporate a night where people can dress up and revel as the Caribbean folk characters that we love, which are seriously scary by the way. We decided on the name Jumbie Night, but it is all a work in progress. I don’t know where it’s going, but it’s a start.

During the month of October, we’ll be covering many characters from across the Caribbean, not all, I mean we have to leave some for next year and I love that there are always new ones to be discovered. Caribbean folklore and mythology is so vast and one character changes from one Caribbean country to another. I would love this special night of remembering our folktales together to be on the clearest, most beautiful night of the month! The night when jumbies love to roam. Under the full moon! Don’t welcome them into your homes though. That’s not apart of the plan.

Under NO circumstances

The plan IS to re-engage with our culture. The plan is to continue passing on these stories to our children so they can pass it onto their children. And as Caribbean people we joke all the time about how foreigners view us, like we’re still living in thatch houses on the beach. But the truth is we’re the reason why knowledge of our folklore is declining. We haven’t continued the practices of passing it on. I see people disregarding our culture and acting like it isn’t relevant, or dare I say sophisticated enough because we’re civilised now.

I swear some people in the Caribbean act as if everybody else’s culture and heritage is exotic and beautiful, but ours is plain and outdated and we need to stuff it in a draw in shame with our grass skirts and mud huts. Please, don’t be that person. You know the one. Who’s quick to say Papa Bois is just make believe but every Christmas is playing ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town‘. Santa Claus ain’t real either! But it is…say it with me, FUN! It’s fun! So let’s tell some scary stories from the Caribbean and have some fun.

Caribbean Folklore Month and Jumbie Night coming in October 2021. See the Caribbean Authors blog for more details.

– Written By True Nicks

Copyright © Critics May Lie All Rights Reserved

Vaughn T. Stanford – Men, Unleashed

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation.

This book was bacchanal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How’s it going, neighbours? Quarantine treating you good? Or isolation have you dreaming of your ex when you swore you would NEVER… listen, don’t take chain-up from Covid-stress. It’s not worth it and this book is the proof!

Today I’m reviewing Men, Unleashed by Vaughn T. Stanford.

I admit I wasn’t really sure about this book when I first read the blurb. But I ended up liking it, which goes to show that you should really give books a chance. So many people will browse over a blurb without a second thought because it doesn’t immediately fit into a genre they like. I read this through the Caribbean Books Foundation Review programme, and it would not have been my first pick but it is definitely something I would recommend to others.

The story follows crime reporter, Steven Gardner, who regularly reports on the worst of humankind in Trinidad and Tobago. He believes though that while bandits are being put behind bars, what about the criminals of everyday physical, mental and emotional abuse that goes unnoticed? He is convinced that not enough light is being shed on the men who are the main perpetrators of this abuse.

With a collection of stories that he has amassed over the years, he approaches his editor and is reluctantly given a chance at a feature column ‘Men Are Dogs’ where he plans to tell the unpleasant details of the victim’s lives. But like any taboo subject, people react. In all ways possible, whether they are for or against what he’s doing. Both inside and outside of his workplace as some of his older, more seasoned colleagues are not happy about being passed over for the coveted Sunday feature. And his feature becomes a hit at the fictional ‘National Standard’ that creates a nationwide discussion on men and their behaviour.

Now, I know some of you must be thinking, ‘so this whole book just bashing man?

Well…

But no, actually, I don’t think so. I think it helps to further open the conversation about certain destructive behaviours that men have been allowed to continue with that cause serious damage to the people around them AND to themselves as well. And yes, it is allowed, whether by women, their parents, society, other men, we allow it to continue by not talking about how damaging these behaviours are and hiding behind the ‘alyuh woman just want to bash men’ attitude.

Every week when Steven submitted a story, I almost felt like one of the readers of the paper where I was anxiously awaiting the next one thinking ‘it can’t be as bad as the last one‘, and then it was equally as bad or worse. Like all of the stories were bad but there were two, in particular, *breathes smh* that made my skin crawl. I literally had to get up and move around to get the sensation to go away. It wasn’t just uncomfortable to read, it was uncomfortable to consider, to phathom, to digest, just the gall of a situation like that even daring to exist had me…

At first, the paper didn’t say who was writing the stories and people assumed it was a woman, but gender doesn’t matter here, being human does. If you’re not even a little upset reading this book, you need to check if you have a pulse. If I was a man, I would have exposed them too!

The main character also had his own issues going on. His sister’s husband was cheating on her and that escalated publicly. He found himself in his own questionable ‘men are dogs’ situation ( I admit I was so mad, I stopped reading the book for a while, I was like what the @#!&!# man, you stupid too? ), and while I kinda liked that he wasn’t some unrealistic, holier-than-thou, ‘I would never’ poster boy, you can’t pelt stones when you living in a glasshouse, partner!

Cause that also begs the question, are men just incapable of making right choices when it comes to their ‘basic’ instincts especially when it’s connected to their emotional needs as well; even if they DO see that it is wrong, are more or less good people, and are not prone to toxic behaviours? Maybe that was what the main character’s slip-up was meant to show. Just how easily he could also end up in a position that cast him into doubt like those other men he was writing about. I don’t know. *shrugs endlessly*

Some of the things the stories in the feature covered were cheating, rape, physical abuse, child slavery/marriage, emotional abuse, drug trafficking, family disagreements, mental illness, grooming, and infertility. And they all looked at the way the men in the stories dealt with those issues or were perpetrators of those things. I don’t know if these stories, the way they happened exactly, are based on real events, but I’m sure if they were the author would have changed all the names anyway. There’s definitely a trigger warning because of the rape and domestic abuse scenes. If that trauma hits too close to home for you, there are other books to read. Don’t upset yourself. Some of it was uncomfortable for me and I ain’t never been in any of these situations. There’s also mild language and consensual sex so it’s an adult book. Not for the kids.

Speaking of close to home.

Photo by kat wilcox on Pexels.com

Since the main character is a crime reporter in this book, Steven covered certain crimes that were very familiar. If you read it and are from Trinidad and Tobago you will know immediately the real-life crimes these ‘fake’ crimes were based on.

From an editor’s perspective, there’s nothing wrong with how he included it. He had a disclaimer from the start. And although the scenarios are similar, he didn’t use any real names, real places, real dates, or times so it falls within fair use. So why mention it?

Because as a reader who lived through these events and saw the uproar and change in the landscape of our society because of it, I’m not sure how I felt about it. I’m not mad, but it just feels personal to me, especially since the cases I am referring to haven’t been solved and are still like a weight on the psyche of our society. Mainly because they involved the preying on normal, vulnerable members of society by very well-off, affluent members of society. A lot of things felt covered up and too suspicious to be a coincidence. And to this day we still don’t know what happened. Not mentioned in the book, but last week we got some kind of justice for Sean Luke. His case has been pending for over 15 years now and it was met with so many mixed emotions. *giant sigh*

If you’re not from Trinidad and Tobago it probably won’t mean anything to you. Just another gruesome mystery for our reporter protagonist to cover in the news. But for the people who are from there, it could feel weird to read ‘references’ about it even in fiction. I definitely felt weird. Is it okay that we relegate it to fiction when for so many it still feels like a raw open wound? But then at the same time, I’m also like, yes, let them know we’re NEVER forgetting. I don’t know, I’m torn.

I can’t really think of anything I disliked. Outside of the stories he prepared for the paper, there were others he encountered from day-to-day. But after a while, it started to feel like a lot of sitting down and listening to other people’s stories. I found myself wondering, why are people randomly telling him their stories though? It didn’t always seem plausible that they were doing it just because he did the feature.

I liked the descriptions of Trinidad, like when he was driving around. If you’ve read my past reviews you know I get a little peeved when they overdo it. Like having a random Carnival band passing by in October just to prove we’re a Caribbean country. *giant eye roll* The descriptions felt natural and ‘lived in’. I can’t speak to how realistic the newsroom (is that what they call it?) setting was, or Steven’s work as a crime reporter. I assume the author did his research and made it as close to the actual experience as possible like a good writer should.

And here are some random thoughts because you know I always go there! HAHA!

Allison (his co-worker) is a real bitch though, just like her uncle. It’s so obvious they related.

What ‘hood rat’ coming to beat up a reporter over a Sunday feature about men? Listen, I live around so-called ‘hood rats’. They doh read papers. -__- Unless this article directly messing with their money, but it’s still sceptical. Maybe they were hired, I don’t know.

Also, I haven’t heard the name ‘Dalrymple’ in a long time, but I’m sure every Trinbagonian knows one, so big up the Dalrymples out there!

But let’s wrap it up. This book, honestly, I can’t say I will read it again. But that’s only because it’s not the kind of story I would read over. I enjoyed it the first time. It was an experience, but I don’t need to read it again. However, it was still compelling, well-written and suspenseful so because of that, I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5, and I had no other real issues with it. My peers (a certain one) have admonished me for not giving 5-star reviews, but that’s not entirely true. I do give 5-stars and have before but you need to touch my heart to get that. I can’t just really enjoy it, it can’t just be a really good book, it needs to be an unforgettable experience.

That being said, I will be giving this book 5 stars on Amazon. I mean, it’s almost there anyway and why stop the author from getting that boost on Steve Jobs’ moneymaker just because I didn’t catch glorious feels. Vaughn Stanford needs to get paid too! Follow the author on social media and visit their website, get the book here on Amazon. Read it, yes, I am recommending it, and remember critics may lie.

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

B. Jane Turnquest – Amount to What Counts

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation

Good evening my esteemed friends. I find myself mulling over some tea this afternoon with a book in tow and a sudden urge to wave wistfully at the gardener from my open, ornate parlour window. Such is the feeling Amount to What Counts by B. Jane Turnquest gives you, the book I’m reviewing today by a Bahamian author.

As I didn’t read up on the book beforehand, this children’s book was definitely not what I expected, but not in a bad way. At first I thought that I would be introduced to a story similar to The Secret Garden. But it turned out to be a guide for boys on character development, with verses that they can meditate on to become better men and individuals.

The author’s poetic rhyming lines offers behaviourial and philosophical advice to ‘Master Carlbury‘ who was brought to ‘23 Rhuidrock House to stay with his Aunt Bea and her husband until he could establish himself as a young man of means‘.

The verses cover topics like building patience, dealing with difficulties, understanding self-worth, the strength in being humble, dealing with disappointments, different ways to be brave, among many other things. It is encouraging words for boys to live by and meditate on. Honestly, some of us adults could do with the instruction as well. Many of the shorter phrases would be good on plaques to hang up on a wall at home. I can also see children putting them on cue cards to carry around for easier reference. Some of my favourites were…

Be mindful of your company, your crowd, for with it an estimation of your character is enshroud. What is prescribed, is to be extremely and intentionally selective of your tribe.

You never lose; you win, learn or there is an experience gained. There is always something valuable earned, even in the midst of what stains or pains.

A good sportsman loses with grace. When one does, the defeat is, in a sense, lessened or erased.

excerpts from ‘Amount To What Counts: Manners Matters for Boys’

Parents can also get involved with them as well, as at the end of the book there are certificates that children can earn by doing something thoughtful, being creative or stepping out of their comfort zone. The guidelines can help them explore their own heart through life questions that also help them form bonds as they consider what they should look for in friends, AND there are pages to colour! Colouring always warms my adult heart so this book won me over already!

I would recommend this for 9 to 12 year olds. It’s a good talking point as if children don’t understand some of the words and ‘old-English’ syntax, parents have the chance to explain it to them and help them understand what it means practically.

You can check the author’s Facebook where you can find more of their work and catch up on what they’re doing next! Also, visit the book’s page on Amazon to purchase it. Thanks for reading and until the next review!

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

Diana McCaulay – Gone To Drift

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation

It’s fitting that when I was reading this book, I was in a car passing by the sea on the highway heading to Carenage in west Trinidad. I was on page 41 where Maas Conrad remembered his days as a young boy, when his father gave him some of his first lessons as a fisherman.

“Close you eyes, he said and I obeyed. Keep them closed. … … I heard the sea, falling and rising and falling. Now open you eyes, my father said. I looked and I saw familiar shapes become visible. If you take a light to sea, you can’t see inna the dark, my father said. A man at sea need him night sight.” – excerpt from Gone to Drift, Diana McCaulay

I looked over at the horizon line that seemed to blend into the sky and felt a hint of that deep connection with the sea that fishermen need to have. I am not a ‘sea person’ in that sense of the word. Despite my Caribbean upbringing, when I go to the beach I can be found sitting reading a book, not bathing. I do like to look at the sea and bask in its quiet, majestic presence across the landscape. I blame my grounding Capricorn nature. Feet on the ground is best for me, but onto the review. Our Caribbean book is from Jamaica today…

Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay

Diana McCaulay’s Gone to Drift tells the tale of Lloyd, or Lloydie as he is affectionately called in his community, who when he realises that his grandfather, known as ‘Maas Conrad’, has been out to sea longer than usual, even for a seasoned fisherman, grows anxious and questions whether he is okay. While the community shares in his worry, no one seems to be too preoccupied with looking for the old man. Fishermen go missing sometimes, it’s part of the risk involved being out on the open water. They council Lloyd to wait. If his grandfather is alright he will return. But as Lloyd asks around he finds himself suspicious about the events surrounding his grandfather’s ‘disappearance’ and decides that he has to find him himself, sooner rather than later.

Gone to Drift is not an action packed thriller. It’s a quiet, contemplative story that tells several stories at once. A story of how greed can compromise the soul of man, making him willing to ‘make ends meet’ at any cost. A story of community knowledge, practices and skills and how they were quietly passed down through generations but are now lost to a way of life that once was. It’s a story of the forever ongoing disregard human beings have had for the environment.

But most importantly, it’s a story of family ties particularly between grandparents and their grandchildren, as Lloyd’s love for his grandfather is what motivates him to take risks to find him. This story is particularly endearing for us at this time. During the pandemic, we have unfortunately lost a lot of our elders. The over 60 age group has been hit hard by this virus. For us in the Caribbean where extended families are still very much the norm, grandparents are many times as loved and respected as our own parents.

It means that while we may have grown up with the wisdom and love of our grandparents around us, a great part of the next generation of children will not have this crucial grounding familial connection anymore. It is a sad an unfortunate prospect that the stories of a whole generation and the ties they had to the ones before them could be gone without any record after this pandemic is over. It is all the more reason to hold our elders close while we still have them.

Getty image @ Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

I truly did enjoy this book. I really liked how in between the chapters of Lloyd’s quest to find his grandfather, we also got to see his grandfather’s memories of his days as a boy, learning the family trade from ‘a long line of fishermen‘, growing up with his brothers and eventually leaving home, starting a family, and becoming an old man. It’s a meaningful young adult novel that tells a beautiful story, and reminds me a lot of the old Studio Ghibli films where every story had the underlying tale of man’s struggle with balancing industry while preserving the environment.

I would definitely recommend this for early secondary school students (Forms 1-3) and even late primary schoolers, if they are already a serious reader, but I’m sure adults will enjoy this as well. It’s a nice Sunday afternoon read.

You can check the author’s website where you can find more of their work, contact information, social media, and catch up on what they’re doing next! Also, visit the book’s page on Amazon to purchase it. Thanks for reading and until the next review!

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

It’s Possessive Plural!

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Welcome!

As an editor, I wanted to start a little series where I go over little grammar mistakes that I see authors make all the time. It could be because they are genuinely confused about what is right or they just forgot along the way. Either way, it’s good insight to have in case you have something more official to write.

So today, let’s talk a little about Possessive Plural and how you use it.

But first, a little reminder on possessive singular, which is fairly straightforward.

To show possession of an item -‘s is added to the end of the noun that has the ownership.

For example:

Josie‘s dress

The day‘s end

The exception being when using ‘it’. Possessiveitis its with no apostrophe, not it’s (which is an abbreviation of ‘it is’)

For example: The tree was old and its branches were bare.

Possessive singular is easy, right? What if the noun is already plural?

For example:

The children’s house

The sheep’s pasture

Still simple, just add -’s to the end.

However, when singular nouns become plural, i.e. an -s is added to the end, you simply add an apostrophe after the -s (s’) to show possession/ownership.

Example 1

days – days  /  jackets – jackets  /  baskets – baskets, etc

Example 2

The baskets handles were wrapped in ribbon.

(many baskets with many handles)

Compared to singular possession

The basket‘s handles were wrapped in ribbon

(one basket with many handles )

What writers seem to have a little more difficulty with is when the plural form of the noun ends with –es

However, it is still just as simple as adding an apostrophe to the end.

For example:

The dresses sleeves were all too long.

(many dresses with many sleeves each)

So you see, the principle is the same. It may sound awkward, like something that is actually wrong when you say it out loud because wouldn’t, “the sleeves on the dresses were too long” be much easier to say?

It would, and I admit, I do tend to rephrase sentences like these when line editing sometimes just so it rolls off the tongue better, but it isn’t wrong. Also, it is always better to know the right usage, just in case.

-Editor True Nicks

Was 2020 That Bad, Or Was It Just Your Attitude?

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I find it interesting that in a year where a pandemic raged through the world, most countries were on lockdown or had whole areas in quarantine for months, and where most of us were locked away with only our phones and computer screens to connect us to the rest of the world, that I did not blog more.

Like, what happened? People were bored at home, they were actually reading more! I, I just, I have no excuse for not posting regularly this year.

Granted, I was working on my writing and editing a lot this year (so there, I did have a reason 😉 ), but it got me thinking that maybe a lot of us have just been using the handle of ‘2020, the year where everything that can go wrong will go wrong’ as a handicap for our own shortcomings.

Seriously, elemental and pandemic catastrophes aside, was 2020 really the reason for all our problems, or did we just use it as a scapegoat to not try harder this year?

And I say this because whether things stay the same or not, 2021 might not be any better if we don’t change our attitude. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to kill your ‘See Ya and Good Riddance 2020’ parade. I am not trying to be a downer. If giving 2020 the finger gets you out of bed tomorrow and doing what you need to do, then you do what you have to do! I doubt it will get its double-digit feelings hurt.

My point is, what if things don’t magically change on January 1st 2021? The last pandemic the world saw lasted over 2 years. Granted we’re better able to deal with it now because of advances in medication and global communication to keep productivity up and stay connected, but there is no guarantee that 2021 will be any better or worse than this year.

And if 2021 does stink, blaming it all on the ‘year’ being jinxed or something is not going to solve anything either. I admit, 2019 was an eye-opening year for me. I felt like I finally understood where I wanted my career to go. I was getting ready to test the waters throughout 2020 with a million ideas, and then I tripped on the stupid rug I had picked out, started wondering if the old one wasn’t better, and just ended up standing on the new rug all year afraid to move on it because I didn’t want to snag my shoe again and this time fall flat on my face!

And even though I never complained much about it, or attributed much of my slumpy periods to the ‘curse’ of 2020, I still had to realise that a lot of it was me being passive, me dropping the ball on success because, why not? After all, the whole world is in a state of recession and slumpiness, so it’s alright if I don’t accomplish much this year, right?

RIGHT??

That ‘2020 attitude’ held a lot of us back and if we’re not careful, we will take that attitude into 2021 with us.

A lot of horrible things happened this year. Month after month we had to watch city after city cart bodies off in trucks to be buried after 1000’s of people daily succumbed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and all its subsequent sibling strains, all around the world. Wildfires raged through major continents for months on end, damaging homes and polluting the air. Many countries recorded some of the worst unemployment rates and homeless numbers they have seen in decades as a lot of people lost their jobs and houses due to the shutdown. Some people lost not just one parent or a sibling, which frankly is enough heartache on its own, but several family members to this virus.

But a lot of us were just sitting at home looking on, complaining about having nothing else to do but sit at home and look on, and when you think about it, that’s also horrible in a way. I’m not saying you can stop coronavirus or superhero a mountain of rain over the wildfires. We can’t do anything about these things that are largely out of our control. However, I really wish the ‘worst year ever’ memes can take a rest for 2021, whether it is a good year or not, and we can just get a little more positive about life.

Can we point out the good things that happened this year too? Let’s see.

Show of hands of all the small businesses and entrepreneurs who killed it success-wise in 2020 despite the slump in the economy? With so many businesses closing down, our economy needed you, and we thank you for working so hard.

Show of hands of all those who didn’t get sick once in 2020? Or didn’t get somebody else sick if you were? 🙌 This is an achievement! You followed the Covid regulations, you wore your masks, you sanitised, physically distanced, and washed your hands! You out here keeping Covid at bay, and I thank you!

Show of hands of all those who survived the Covid-19 virus in 2020? So many did not. We appreciate that you are still here with us.

Show of hands of all the people who saw with their own two eyes one of the beautiful mountains that were miraculously revealed after the smog created by man cleared from the skies? For real, we need a timeout more often. Mount Kenya‘s peak! Visible! By the time we get to travel again, the smog will return and it will be gone from sight, so count yourself lucky to have seen it yourself.

Show of hands of all those who learned something great, unexpected, and magical about themselves in lockdown in 2020? Listen. I jumped hurdles I didn’t even know I had in front of me until ‘me, myself and I’ had to face them in isolation. And I’m a pretty introverted soul. Alone time and introspection gets me energized. But I still appreciated the pause that Covid set on the world. Whether it was learning to get along with your family, reconnecting with a loved one, finding your center and your purpose, working your way out of a bad habit, facing the truth about what you want for your life, or finally having to face a bad relationship and deciding to get out of it, you did that for yourself this year, and I’m proud of you.

Very 90’s hi-five, baby!

2020 was not a bad year. It was a hard year. It was a scary year. It was a challenging year, but for those who faced it head-on and adapted and kept striving to move forward, it was still a good year. I can’t lie, this year was stressful for me, but it is December 31st and I am alive, my family is still Covid-free, and we’re meeting our needs despite any challenges. God has been good, and I won’t cry over any milk split along the way. I can’t.

So let’s go into 2021 with that attitude. That whatever may come, whatever 2021 may have in store for us, it’s not the year that defines your success, or your happiness. It’s you. I would like to send all my condolences to the people who lost loved ones this year and didn’t get to say good-bye. Whether it’s something you believe or not, I am imagining your people in a wonderful place filled with light, and happiness and feeling your love, so keep sending it to them even if you’re still grieving.

And thank you 2020. Yes, thank you! For all the hard lessons you thought us this year about what is really important. I hope we learn from it and don’t be like typical humans and forget them by the end of January 2021.

A toast to you, and your smashing 2021 to come! Happy New Year!

– Written By True Nicks

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