First Impressions

Okay, so the book meme I’m participating in today is Road City Reader’s Book Beginning in which you share the first sentence of a book you’re reading and your first impressions.

“I am the shade
Through the dolent city, I flee
Through the eternal woe, I take flight”

So, yeah, this book – Inferno by Dan Brown – begins with a quote and I am 26 chapters in and I still don’t know what’s really going on. I have read two Dan Brown Books – Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons before – so I know this is his strategy – clues, misdirection, oblique, artsy references. The problem is I’m not really into it this time – it’s been diminishing returns to me; like with Da Vinci Code I was hooked and trying to decipher the clues as I went and boning up on my art history and halfway buying in to the book’s crazy(?) conspiracy theory; with Angels and Demons, I cared a bit less. The movies may have had an impact here – they just weren’t as dense or as intriguing as the books themselves…or maybe after you’ve read the books you’re spoiled for the movies…I don’t know. This time I am confused as ever but I’m also ambivalent, reading on without really feeling inspired to but because I don’t like to abandon books and it isn’t so bad as to be abandoned, I’m hanging in there. Maybe it’ll pick up; maybe I’ll care more – main character from Code and Angels and here again Robert Langdon is reading like one of those impossible Dans, like the male version of a Mary Sue.. Even with amnesia he’s perfectly sharp and unpuzzling things, and there’s a girl sidekick/love interest (it’s made clear that’s her role here) who you suspect might be kind of interesting if the writer would just shade her in a bit more – maybe he does as the story goes on. But that’s where I am; first impressions.

Because I don’t read a book at a time, I’ll mention that I have also been reading this week in order of levels of enjoyment/interest/engagement (most to least):

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
An unpublished thesis about Antiguan and Barbudan literature
An unpublished thesis about Barbuda
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolf

Inferno is somewhere between the Wolf book and the Barbuda thesis, depending on the day. But it has to its credit being an easy read, like junk food – which is not a diss, I like junk food, but it can leave you starved for real nutrients.

While you’re here, updates to the blog since my last meme participation include:

Moving CREATIVE SPACE 3 – Final Arrival (about people taking the Atlantic Row challenge that ends in Antigua and Barbuda and the history making Antigua and Barbuda team that completed the row) to make space for
CREATIVE SPACE 4 – on the Wallings Nature Reserve in Antigua.

Moving some of the Blogger on Books quick takes (for when I don’t have a full review but I still got something to say) to their own page and moving out the Blogger on Books on Tanarive Due’s The Black Rose to make room for a new Blogger on Books review, The Masquerade Dance.

The Masquerade Dance

Just This and Business Notes, musings and shares related to the writing and freelancing journey; a share on Buju Banton’s comeback concert in Jamaica (his first since lockdown) – wish I could’ve been there for that as he’s easily my favourite dancehall DJ ever (the lead-off video to this post is one of my favourites from his extensive catalogue), and another share inspired by my girl Dena Simmons’ newsletter – with a bit of Langston Hughes peppered in. laughterLangston Hughes is someone you should read at least once in your life, if you haven’t already by the way; him and others from the Harlem Renaissance period (like Zora Neale Hurston – Their Eyes were watching God, Claude McKay – Home to Harlem, etc) – dope stuff.


Top Tenning the Back List (a Book Meme Post)

Doing this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (my first in a long while), I realized that there are nearly 1000 books on my books I’d like to read list (woiiieeee!) and that’s not counting the ones on my bookshelf nor the ones by my bedside (i.e. the ones in progress which I can barely find time to read). *sings* To Dream the Impossible Dream!

But I doing this anyway, well halfway, because I’m doing the back list of books I’d really like to get and read (so I don’t have them yet). Sorry for breaking the rules but it’s what I can manage right now.

Here goes:

RossThe Bone Readers by Jacob Ross – I read an excerpt from this in an editing workshop a couple years ago and then this summer had the opportunity to do a writing workshop co-led by the author; I’ve also had some mentoring from him and had stories edited by him. So for all those reasons he’s on my radar but this book is a Caribbean mystery and I haven’t read a lot of those, so for that alone I am in.

jones_american-marriage_hc_hr_rgbAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones – This is an Oprah’s book club pick and was on Obama’s summer read list. But that only confirms what I’ve known about this writer since reading Silver Sparrow (instant favourite!). Been eager to read this one for a minute.

GirlThe Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig– I don’t remember what this is about to  be honest, but I found a note to myself that said I started listening to the audio book and found I couldn’t focus which is a problem for me with audio books which I only started trying this year (so far only completing Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime, Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, World War Z by Max Brooks, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House).

KeiAugustown by Kei Miller – I’ve been mentioning this one and mentioning it; still haven’t gotten to it. But bottom line is I’ve read 2 or 3 books by this Jamaican author, loved them all, and I do think he is one of the voices of our current generation of Caribbean writers.

ClaudiaCitizen by Claudia Rankine – every excerpt I’ve read from this has fired my interest and in light of ongoing conversations on race, it feels especially timely.

repentersThe Repenters by K. Jared Hosein – I’m falling behind on my reading of this Trini writer; he’s won some more awards and published another book since releasing this one, probably more before I get to it. I best hurry up. Been wanting to read this one since it dropped.

zombiesEverything I know about Zombies I learned in Kindergarten by Kevin Wayne Williams – zombies plus the title amuses and intrigues me.

wolf giftThe Wolf Gift by Anne Rice – When the Queen of the Vampires (love her Vampire chronicles) writes lycans, I’ve got to at least check it out.

railroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – Don’t know a lot about this one but been interested since it won its parcel of high profile awards and popped up on my radar.

bealeIf Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin – love Baldwin, love that he’s having a resurgence; would love to re-read this one without seeing the movie by Barry Jenkins whose Moonlight was sublime and poetic.

While you’re here, the latest updates to the site (probably of a little less interest to my non-Antiguan-Barbudan readers, but I hope not) are three new entries in the CREATIVE SPACE series. Start here.

Also new to the site, an addition to the Books page: the Spanish edition of my most recent picture book LOST! A CARIBBEAN SEA ADVENTURE: ¡PERDIDA! UNA AVENTURA EN EL MAR CARIBE.

Some updates from the Wadadli Pen blog:
#ReadAntiguaBarbuda #VoteAntiguaBarbuda
Caribbean Reads Announces Two New Spanish Language Titles
Lost! At the Miami Book Fair

Oh and real quick (since I’m unlikely to do a separate post for this and it’s all arts), recent watches are (movies) Sorry to bother you which is a satire about capitalism and which was trippy, and 22 July a film about that mass terrorist incident in Norway a few years ago, which was unsettling and sad, both very timely in their own ways; and (TV) despite what I said here, I have been watching The Walking Dead as appointment TV again this season – sad about the departure of Andrew Lincoln who was Rick (his last episode was an emotional roller coaster), and I expect I’ll be checking in from time to time with The Evolution of Hip Hop season 2 – I’ve only seen ep 1 so far but I had been anticipating more in this series since discovering the first season. Hard to believe the hip hop I grew up on is now music history. Time keeps on ticking, ticking. What have you been watching? dying to read? blogging?

Haven’t checked out any of my books yet? Children’s picture books to teen/young adult fics to adult novels; read more. If you’ve read my books, please consider posting a review to Amazon or Goodreads if you haven’t already done so. It makes a big difference. Thanks! For information on my writing and editing services, here’s where you go. – blogger, author, mango lover, Joanne C. Hillhouse

A Tuesday Meme (a Brand New One for Me)

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post on Rainy Day Ramblings where the Meme-mother discusses a wide range of topics from books to blogging and invites others to weigh in and join the conversation .

So, okay, the conversation seems to be about horror movies as America-land gears up for Halloween. I’m in the Caribbean and though Halloween seems to be catching on here, it’s not exactly my bag. I mean, the last three movies I sorta-mostly watched are

Quincy – love Quincy Jones’ music, read his autobiography years ago, so (his recent health scares aside) not a lot new here for me…but point of view adds something, and with his daughter, Rashida, in the director’s chair and sometimes behind the lens, it is a more personal and touching portrait of an admittedly flawed and undeniably talented human being. The man who from his jazz days to his Sinatra days to The Wiz to Sanford and Son and other TV and movie themes to Michael Jacksons’ Off the Wall, Thriller,michael-jackson-thriller-e1535549330442-700x355and Bad, to The Colour Purple to We are the World to Back on the Block to the Fresh Prince of Belair to Vibe … is responsible for some of the most enduring musical and pop culture moments of our lives. I know Netflix is presumptuous (and racially stereotypical) with those algorithms so you may not even be aware of this one but it’s worth a viewing.

Nappily Ever After (also on Netflix and based on this book I haven’t yet read 41osWiEC9sL__SX322_BO1,204,203,200_)- the latest Sanaa Lathan starrer – with a side of Lynn Whitfield. These two women were staples of ‘Black’ film throughout the 90s and aughts (The Women of Brewster Place, The Josephine Baker Story, Stompin at the Savoy, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Eve’s Bayou etc. in the case of Whitfield; The Best Man, Disappearing Acts, Love and Basketball,  Brown Sugar, Something New etc. in the case of Sanaa) and honestly I was going to watch for the two of them alone. Throw in some social commentary vis-à-vis Black women and our complicated relationship with our hair  in world where Eurocentric beauty standards (including straight hair) are the default (for more and deeper takes on this topic read Althea Prince’s The Politics of Black Women’s Hair 41fcMlIvaVLor watch Chris Rock’s Good Hair51D76G05XQL__SY445_), and what’s not to watch. I saw a lot of criticism of this one before I actually saw it. Folks felt it was light fare and too cliché from what I’m gathering, and they’re not wrong. But it’s also a romantic comedry (sic) and they do that – see every Meg Ryan film ever. So I take it for what it is and enjoy it as such (and it was entertaining) and hope that we get more and more opportunities to tell a wide range of films so that one film won’t be expected to carry the burden of telling our many stories (especially when it’s not exactly the genre for it).


That first big chop can be scary…scary liberating…as Sanaa will find out when the tears dry (still from Nappily Ever After)

Leave no Trace – the last film I managed to see (mostly) beginning to end. I saw the trailer sometime ago on youtube and it seemed interesting so when I needed to give my brain a rest, I thought, why not. It’s the story of a father who has opted out with his daughter into the wilds of…some wet, cold part of America…until they are drawn back in to life because it turns out you’re not allowed to opt out of life with your teenage daughter. He tries to play along so he won’t lose her but in the end the restlessness gets him; the heartbreaking part coming when she discovers she wants to stay while he can’t quit moving.

I liked all three in different ways for different reasons (but didn’t love any of them…probably taking the most joy and insight from Quincy). But, obviously, no horror here. I did catch the season 9 premiere of The Walking Dead which jumped the story forward a couple of years to something approximating what passes for normal in a zombie apocalypse, walkingdead-season9-blogroll-1538446518768_400wand it did have some scary moments – not the zombies but the death that’s always imminent. I said a while ago that I was over The Walking Dead (and did check out for a while) but I can’t seem to quit it (though it isn’t appointment TV for me like it used to be). Ezekiel almost falling in to a pit of zombies is about as horrific as it got (and with a couple of near death experiences last season in the face of his insistent optimism), it did feel like the leader of the Kingdom was on borrowed time and that that rope might snap. But… *spoiler alert* it didn’t. Though I do know due to casting news that we can look forward to two major character deaths this season…I mean, “we” assuming I keep watching. The freelancing life is hectic is as hectic does, and I’m still about a season behind on every other show I’m remotely interested in – Atlanta to The Americans…but someday!

Speaking of Someday, I did mention that I have a new story Evening Ritual in The New Daughters of Africa and here’s a meme-ish-related tidbit, it actually began as a sorta ‘ghost story” (or an attempt at historical fiction, or something) inspired by women in a  photo I saw at a lecture I attended on the old sugar factory transport system (the locos). For the longest while I tried to make these two stories which existed in two different times fit together but they didn’t, and when I untangled them I discovered I had one story that with some work (and some helpful feedback), an editor thought worthy of publication in this seminal publication – and as for the original story, in that other time, I may find a way to dig that out yet. The other-other story I mentioned The Night the World Ended was inspired by last hurricane season in the Caribbean which was its own horror show. As I mentioned that’s forthcoming in The Caribbean Writer. Another tidbit, that story was one of those out of body writing experiences, so much so that when they sent word that they’d be publishing it and even as I was re-reading it, I couldn’t remember writing it, though I remember that I wrote it…if that makes any sense.

Most recent book finished is Faye Kellerman’s historical murder mystery Straight into Darkness which didn’t scare me (well, not in the way intended but given that it’s set at the pre-birth of the Third Reich more in the this is what can happen to a democracy if we don’t pay attention way) but did hold my interest.

I feel like I should end with favourite horror films or something to play this game right…but I’m not sure I have any. Does Michael Jackson’s Thriller count? No? Okay free associating off the top of my head, I’m going with Rosemary’s Baby, Cujo, and The Omen – none of which I’ll be watching this October – and leave it at that.

If you’re here for the first time, my name is Joanne C. Hillhouse. I’ve authored some books – I hope you’ll check them out (and if you already have, I encourage you to post a reader review to Amazon or Goodreads, or even here); and I offer freelance services – look me up if you need any of the listed services. Thanks!


First Chapter, First Paragraph

This post is part of the First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros meme in which you post the first chapter of a book you’re reading. Here goes.

(from Freedom Song by Amit Chaudhuri)amit
“It was a solitary voice, saying Allah-hu-akbar and other familiar but incomprehensible syllables. Though it was coming from quite far away, for the nearest mosque was a mile northward, she could hear it clearly, as if it were being recited in this very lane, and its presence filled the grey area between sleep and waking. The singer, if one could call him such, seemed absolutely absorbed, wherever he was, in the unearthly lift of the melody, in his indecision between repetition and progression, and in the delicate business of now prolonging and now shortening a syllable. The city was still – the trams, the trees whose leaves were covered with a film of dust, the junctions, Lower Circular and Landsdowne roads, the three-storeyed houses on Southern Avenue, the ten-storeyed buildings on Ballygunge Circular Road. Soon that machinery would start working again, not out of any sense of purpose, but like a watch that is wound daily by someone’s hand. Almost without any choice in the matter, people would embark upon the minute frustrations and satisfactions of their lives. It was in this moment of postponement that the azaan was heard, neither announcing the day nor keeping it a secret.”

Since we’re here, for any one interested in my writing, I am writing and this past month I’ve had movement on several projects including the in progress sequel to my teen/young adult novel Musical YouthMusical Youth (a finalist for the inaugural Burt Award). So (mindful that this is only draft seventybillion and subject to change) in the spirit of First Chapter, First Paragraph, here goes:

(Musical Youth Two: Talented Teens – wip)
‘“I’m doing it,” Nicola declared with all the regality of Meghan Markle, her latest spirit animal. Zahara, sitting on the lily pad centred in the pattern of her friend’s bedspread under the giant canopy of the four poster, already felt like she was floating downriver. She knew what was coming and she knew she wouldn’t have the luxury of cheering from the bank.’

To read first pages of my books Musical Youth, The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Stories, Oh Gad!, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, click the book titles.

Happy reading…and for those of us who need it, keep writing, keep going.

What’s On Your Nightstand?

I’m tackling two questions in the What’s on Your Nightstand book meme.
What's On Your Nightstand
3.Tell about what you are reading and why. I love to read the backstory on books. Did someone give it to you? Are you trying out a new genre at the recommendation of a friend (or website)? Did you stumble across a new author in a used bookstore?

I recently cut my active reading pile down to four…by putting the other books back on the shelf. The four left standing are, in order of my closeness to the finish line (i.e. the end of the book) The Black Rose by Tananarive Due, Singles Holiday by Elaine Spires, Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal, Straight into Darkness by Faye Kellerman…and back-issues of comics featuring Marvel’s Storm (also a digital copy of Beneath the Lion’s Wings by Marie Ohanesian Nardin). Why am I reading them…a friend gave me The Black Rose – it’s a biography and like biographies, and for this and just the quality of the writing, it’s my favourite of the books I’m currently reading (at this moment); I bought Singles Holiday at another friend’s book reading; I received Without a Summer and all other books in the Glamourist series (I’ve read three others) from the author after doing some editing work for her; I bought Faye Kellerman’s book from the used book shelf because I couldn’t find her husband Jonathan Kellerman’s latest…sss at the local bookstore and needed a fix (I’d liked some of her  Peter Decker books as well but am in particular a fan of his Alex Delaware series) plus, though this wasn’t Decker or Delaware, it was WWll era detective fiction, I figured I couldn’t go wrong; Wings was sent to me by the author for review. The Storm books are a gift from someone who knows she’s one of my favourite superheroes. I just started on these today.

4.Fill us in on your reading habits. When are you reading these books? Is one reserved for bedtime reading? Does one stay in your car to be read while you are waiting? Do you read just one book at a time?

These days I’m reading on the bus and in lines; it’s rare for me to have a day or a night to just kick back and read…so it’s usually to pass the time when I’m out and about. Which sucks. I travelled recently and the plane ride allowed me to finish Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and make significant progress on The Black Rose but alas reading’s slowed again now that I’m back home. I read several books at a time, sometimes at random, sometimes depending on the move, sometimes depending on what’s convenient and within reach. ETA: Case in point, since drafting this last night, I’ve started another book Freedom Song by Amit Chaudhuri because the walk to the shop feels shorter, especially in this heat, if I have something to read or listen to and my active reading pile was further away than my bookshelf (there’s layers to laziness, folks…in my defense I’m operating in energy sapping heat on about two or so hours of sleep today) so I picked this …as to how it got on the shelf, pretty sure it was given to me by someone since it doesn’t seem like something I’d buy, but I don’t hate it so far.

So, what’s on your nightstand? and how’re YOU reading?

Since we’re talking books allow me to thank Kimberly and Tammi for recent reviews of two of mine – my picture books With Grace, which Tammi described on goodreads as “a delightful read”, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, which blogger Kimberly called “a charming, honest narrative”.