Tag Archives: Africa

The Catch by Taylor Stevens

the catchI LOVED The Informationist.

I read and loved The Innocent. And The Doll.

So it’s no surprise, really, that Taylor Stevens’s latest, The Catch, was another winner for me.

For one thing, I love the specific-countries-of-Africa that we get to know a little and Stevens’s treatment of them (in this book and The Informationist). We don’t get a generic setting, or a generic Africa. We get specifics and distinguishing characteristics, while still acknowledging that some overriding truths do apply across the board.

For another, I love the role language (and languages) play.

Mostly, I just love Michael Munroe.

The Catch wasn’t as jaw-dropping as The Informationist or The Doll, though. I think the factors that make me respect The Catch the most are the same things that make it not as much of a thrill ride as the earlier installments of Vanessa Michael Munroe books.

Michael is healing, you see. As the series has progressed, she’s becoming more in control of herself. She’ll never be normal (“normal” is a fallacy anyway), but she’s getting much closer to that than she was when we met her in book one. This is a very good thing; Stevens has allowed her protagonist to grow in a logical and believable way. But I’m afraid it’s also a bad thing. Will this be the end of the series? Will we as readers never again get to watch Michael work simply because she’s more capable of dealing with her past than she used to be?

This installment, because of the character’s growth, is much more character-driven than previous books were. But again, this is something I like in a book, yes, even in a thriller.

The world still has a place for someone with Michael’s skills; I certainly hope the book world still has a place for her, too. I may be better at delayed gratification than I used to be, but I’m not perfect. There’s still plenty for me to learn and do. Perhaps that’s an appropriate corollary? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Do you like character driven books? Have you ever read a book where character growth made said book unpalatable?

Other views:
Books and Movies
S. Krishna’s Books
Stacy’s Books
A Bookworm’s World

Disclaimers: This book was provided to me by the publisher. This post has affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I might get a few pennies, without it costing you any more.

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

Word Lily review

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens, book 1 of the Vanessa Michael Munroe series (Crown/Broadway, March 2011), 320 pages

Vanessa “Michael” Munroe deals in information. If you need to find out something undiscoverable — and have the resources to pay — she can figure it out for you. She grew up as a missionary kid in Cameroon, and she still bears the scars of her past life (literally and figuratively). Her gift for languages comes in handy in her work. When a Texas oil man wants her to find his daughter, who disappeared in Africa, she’s thrust back into the jungle haunted by her past.

I knew I wanted to read it when I heard the first whisperings of the hardcover. When I had the chance to read the paperback, I was thrilled. When I cracked open the pages, I wasn’t disappointed.

I love so many things about this book, about Vanessa Michael Munroe. I love the West African setting, the heart-pounding story arc, the genuine pain of past hurts that comes through (not that I’m glad the pain exists, but I’m glad it shows up and feels real). I love Munroe’s skill with languages and reading people. I enjoy the [few] personal connections she does have.

While the blood and sex and language might make this book an uncomfortable read for some, I found it generally appropriate for the setting and the characters.

I finished reading this book a couple weeks ago, and I’m still over the moon about it. Love it!

My biggest problem with this book is that, when I finished it, I couldn’t yet get my hands on the second book in the series, The Innocent, due out December 27. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but I want more! I can’t wait.

Rating: 4.75 stars

About the author
Taylor Stevens (@Taylor_Stevens, Facebook) was raised in communes across the globe and denied an education beyond the sixth grade; she broke free of the Children of God and now lives in Texas. She’s working on the third Vanessa Michael Munroe book.

Other reviews
Jenn’s Bookshelves
Leeswammes’ Blog
S. Krishna’s Books
Beth Fish Reads
Toothy Books
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I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


Just realized I should have mentioned earlier Sherry at Semicolon‘s new lists of books set in Africa and/or by African authors. (That’s more than one list because they’re organized by country, and she’s broken those lists down geographically, to separate … Continue reading

Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson, Faith ‘n’ Fiction Round Table

Word Lily review

Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson, August 3, 2010), 336 pages

May Seymour’s graduated from college, but she’s still adrift. So when she has a chance to go to Rwanda on a mission trip, she takes it. She’s there as the genocide begins.

I participated in a Faith ‘n’ Fiction round table discussion of this book.

The writing is mesmerizing. The characters are beautifully drawn, so very human.

I quite enjoyed the journalism and photography aspects of the story. I found the rural Kentucky setting endearing.

It was an angle on the Rwandan genocide that I hadn’t experienced before, and I quite appreciated it (as I have other representations). It doesn’t, by any means, replace the need for Hotel Rwanda and the like, but it does provide a different aspect of the story. I think this story is a bit more accessible than some others, because it doesn’t begin and end in the genocide.

The healing, forgiveness, growth and resurrection themes were profound, gorgeous.

Really a great book. Awesome. All the praise I’ve heard for Lisa Samson is warranted, based on this book. I’m glad I finally read one of her books; this will definitely not be my last Samson read.

About the author
Lisa Samson lives in Kentucky.

Other reviews
Books, Movies and Chinese Food

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I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett

Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett (Tyndale, February 15, 2010), 400 pages

Four women from Ohio embark on a mission trip to South Africa. The trip is nothing like any of them planned or envisioned, of course.

These women went into their mission trip unprepared. They had no idea what to expect, for starters, but they each also come weighted down with secrets and fears, doubts and hurts.

Since I’ve been on a trip to Africa (not South Africa, though), I knew I had to read this book. At a few points, especially early on but also later, the bottom fell out of me, as I was sure I knew what was going to happen next and I was disappointed. But, happily, I was wrong about that most of the time!

The women work with a group of South African women with HIV/AIDS who are making beaded jewelry to support themselves and their children. The book is based on a real-life nonprofit organization that works in this arena, Beaded Hope.

The women in the book who take this trip are transformed, of course, but they also make a difference in the lives of those they serve.

Beaded bracelet

My husband brought me this bracelet, which is crafted of beads made from recycled paper made by women with HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

I’m sure this bracelet of mine isn’t the same as those produced by Beaded Hope — that organization is just in South Africa, it seems — but the concept is strikingly similar.

OK, back to the book. Beaded Hope was an emotionally stirring read for me. After I got past my initial feelings of dread (The cover? The concept? I’m not sure.) I enjoyed this story. I didn’t love this book, but at the same time, it was a book I couldn’t not read.

About the author
Cathy Liggett wrote Beaded Hope after traveling to South Africa on a mission trip like the one described in the book.

Other reviews
Genre Reviews

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I received this book from the publisher. I’m an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

boy who harnessed the windThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (William Morrow, September 29, 2009), 288 pages

William Kamkwamba, growing up in Malawi, tells us his story. He tells us about his family, his friends. A brief history of Malawi. When a severe drought (followed by famine) hits, this country of largely subsistence corn growers is starving. William can’t go to secondary school, although his parents try everything, because all the money that would have covered the fees were spent keeping them alive. Instead, William goes to the new library at the local primary school. He’s surprised by the wide selection of books and is drawn to the science texts, particularly physics.

Taken in rural central Nebraska. Windmills are common sites on Midwestern farmland.

Taken in rural central Nebraska. Windmills are common sites on Midwestern farmland.

He decides to build a windmill, to give his family electricity and later a water pump so they can irrigate crops. He doesn’t have any money, though, so finding the parts he needs is challenging. He heads to the scrapyard and little by little collects all the pieces he needs.

I’m not generally a lover of nonfiction, and certainly not nonfiction about scientific achievements. But this book is amazing.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is inspiring, hopeful, authentic. While I’ve never visited Malawi, some of the aspects of how it’s depicted reminded me strongly of my time in Cameroon. The writing is lovely. I was transported.

A great story, a great book. Besides that, it’s a quick read. I wish everyone would read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (and this is something I say only very rarely).

Kamkwamba gave a brief TED talk earlier this year:

Kamkwamba’s blog and Mealer’s website.

Other reviews:
Bibliophile by the Sea
Bookworm’s Dinner
Starting Fresh
Ramya’s Bookshelf
Sophisticated Dorkiness
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I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Creativity yields rebirth

boy who harnessed the wind

“Africans bend what little they have to their will every day. Using creativity, they overcome Africa’s challenges. Where the world sees trash, Africa recycles. Where the world sees junk, Africa sees rebirth.”

—Erik, on page 253, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity & Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Review of this incredible book coming soon.

Bookstore stocks bikes

A bookstore in Minnesota is now also offering bicycles for sale. Well, it’s actually just one style of bike. An inexpensive, utilitarian pedal transportation machine. And for every two he sells, another will be donated to BikeTown Africa, which is currently operational in Botswana, but is apparently open to expansion in any African country that wants to be part of the program.

Via Shelf Awareness, from yesterday.