Ankara Press: A New Kind of Romance – Two NEW stories!

I’d like to give a special thank you to the lovely ladies over at Ankara Press for reaching out to me and sending me two e-copies of the new additions to their African romance fiction collection. Ever since they launched as an imprint of Cassava Republic Press (Nigeria) in 2014, I’ve always wanted to read some of the stories so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!

Ankara Press aims at publishing a new kind of romance, for the modern African woman where stories are more grounded with a healthy thrill of fantasy. Stories published by Ankara Press feature young, independent, ambitious African women who are unafraid to love, in African cities from Lagos to Cape Town. Their books challenge African romance stereotypes by portraying women who embrace their sexuality and are open to finding true love.

Mini reviews of the two ebooks are below:

The Seeing Place by Aziza Eden Walker

Date Read: March 1st 2016The Seeing Place

Published: February 14th 2016

Publisher: Ankara Press

Pages: 171

 

 

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

I enjoyed this African romance/chic lit novel. The story takes place in Cape Town and Johannesburg and follows the growing relationship between caramel-colored beauty, Thuli and dark chocolate hunk, Andile. Andile works as a barman but is actually a talented actor, waiting for his next gig; Thuli works as a TV/Film producer. They meet at Andile’s workplace – a bar, when Thuli sought refuge there after she twisted her ankle, trying to evade the rowdiness of a wild street party in Cape Town. They are instantly attracted to one another when their eyes meet and the story takes readers on a rollercoaster of incidents and emotions these characters endure.

The sex scenes in this story were surprisingly quite explicit (I ain’t complaining, haha) and I think readers should be 18 years or older to read this. The storyline was very fairytale-ish, as most romance books are. I don’t know if the average South African woman would identify with Thuli, since her life seemed perfect, despite the ‘hardships’ she faced as a child – does the average 28 year old South African woman drive a matte black Mercedes-Benz and own her own film producing company? All in all, I liked that I learned something from this novel (the importance of communication and being honest) at the end and it wasn’t a flippant tale – as most perceive romance novels to be. Aziza Eden Walker is a great writer! Her writing style was clear and vivid and I enjoyed her way with words. I give The Seeing Place 3.5 stars!

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.


Love Next Door by Amina Thula

Love Next DoorDate Read: March 6th 2016

Published: February 14th 2016

Publisher: Ankara Press

Pages: 152

 

 

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Love Next Door is a cute story about Abongile (or Abby) and Kopano in Johannesburg, South Africa. Abby, an ambitious business analyst is finally independent and has moved into her new apartment in Johannesburg. Next door to her new apartment is school teacher and artist, Kopano. Once they meet outside Abby’s door as she struggles with hauling groceries into her new home, it is like at first sight and readers follow the blooming love affair between Abby and Kopano.

This was a quick read and I loved how the author incorporated a lot of South African culture into the story, for example: Amina Thula enlightens readers on the negative and positive stereotypes surrounding Xhosa women and the Xhosa language peppered throughout the novel gave the story an authentic feel. I didn’t even need a glossary at the end of the book as it was easy to infer the meanings of the various foreign words. The intimate moments between the main characters were milder than that of The Seeing Place, so I guess readers of all ages could enjoy this book. But the writing style wasn’t as vivid as I had liked and the book could have been edited a little more closely. The ending was quite abrupt for me… or maybe I just didn’t agree with how the characters seamlessly reconciled their love after all the ups and downs they endured. Perhaps Love Next Door targets a younger, teenage audience as the tale was quite juvenile… or maybe the characters were a bit juvenile to me. On the whole, this book was well thought-out and I commend Amina Thula for writing this modern love story.

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.

 

Ankara Press Cover Artt

Image via http://www.ankarapress.com

How amazingly chic is the cover art? Onyinye Iwu (@only_onyi) designed the cover art for the novels published by Ankara Press and she does a lovely job at highlighting the vibrant colors of the Vlisco cloth, as well as portraying African women of all skin tones, shapes and sizes.

I’m fairly new to the African romance genre, but it would be cool for Ankara Press to explore:

  • Maybe having some stories written by men? Men write romance tales too! In the Valentine’s Day Anthology 2015, (an anthology Ankara Press published last year, featuring writers like: Sarah Ladipo-Manyika, Eghosa Imasuen, Chuma Nwokolo and my favorite- Binyavanga Wainaina) men penned a good number of the stories. I’d love to read a romance novel from a man’s perspective and also see men on the book covers wearing amazing ankara fabric shirts!
  • It would also be cool to read a romance novel featuring characters in a same-sex relationship.
  • Do all romance novels have to end happily-ever-after? It would be interesting to read a tragic African love tale too.

Thank you again to Ankara Press for the ebooks. I enjoyed the stories and look forward to reading more soon! Please do check out blurbs of the various stories published by Ankara Press at www.ankarapress.com.

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African Love Stories: An Anthology edited by Ama Ata Aidoo + GIVEAWAY!

aidooDate Read: January 23rd 2016

Published: 2006

Publisher: Ayebia Publishing

Pages: 249

 

The Blurb

African love stories? Is that not some kind of anomaly? This radical collection of short stories, most published in this edition for the first time, aims to debunk the myth about African women as impoverished helpless victims. With origins that span the continent, it combines budding writers with award-winning authors; the result is a melting pot of narratives from intriguing and informed perspectives.

These twenty odd tales deal with challenging themes and represent some of the most complex of love stories. Many are at once heart breaking yet heart warming and even courageous. In Badoe’s hilarious ‘The Rival’, we encounter a 14 -year-old girl who is determined to capture her uncle’s heart. His wife, she decided would just have to go. Mr. Mensah the uncle is all of sixty years old.

Crafted by a stellar cast of authors that includes El Saadawi, Ogundipe, Magona, Tadjo, Krog, Aboulela, Adichie, Oyeyemi, wa Goro, Atta, Manyika and Baingana, there is hardly any aspect of women’s love life untouched. From labour pains to burials, teenagers to octogenarians, and not to mention race-fraught and same-sex relationships, the human heart is all out there: beleaguered and bleeding, or bold, and occasionally triumphant.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I think I have a soft spot for anthologies. Anthologies help me discover new writers. African Love Stories: An Anthology is the second African women’s anthology I’ve enjoyed. In 2014, I reviewed Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing edited by Yvonne Vera (1999) and was thrilled by the diverse stories and cast of African women writers. I even took interest in the writers who were unfamiliar to me at the time, like Leila Aboulela and Lília Momplé.

I know what you were thinking when you saw the title, ‘African Love Stories’ – no, this is not a collection of sappy, romantic, unrealistic, happily-ever-after tales. African Love Stories: An Anthology is a collection of 21 contemporary short stories laden with breathtaking originality. The stories speak on: the issues inter-racial couples face, a woman’s wrath when she discovers her lover is married, the lengths a village boy goes to rescue his wife-to-be, domestic violence, a child born out-of-wedlock who is scorned at her father’s funeral, same-sex relationships, sisterhood, a mother’s love, sacrifice and so much more. There are layered complexities in all 21 stories and the writers skillfully consummate each short tale such that readers ponder and cherish them, even days after enjoying the stories.

The women writers and the stories of this anthology span across the African continent – from Egypt to South Africa. Well-known authors such as: Nawal El Saadawi, Veronique Tadjo, Chimamanda N. Adichie, Leila Aboulela, Sindiwe Magona, Sefi Atta, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Helen Oyeyemi amongst others, are featured in the anthology. But I expected more diversity with respect to the countries represented in this collection. I didn’t expect a lot of the stories (11 of them) to be written by Nigerian women – this is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong! I just wish there was a better mix of countries represented, as was in Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing edited by Yvonne Vera (1999). (I’m not comparing… but I’m comparing haha)

Anyways, I enjoyed all the stories from this collection (well, except two) and my faves were:

“Something Old, Something New” by Leila Aboulela (Sudan) – This is a story that chronicles the events that occur prior to a wedding between a young, muslim, dark-skinned Sudanese woman of the diaspora and a white, muslim man from Edinburgh. During their trip to Khartoum for the ceremony, several events occur that threaten their impending wedding. I really admire the calm manner of Aboulela’s storytelling, especially in this tale.

“The Rival” by Yaba Badoe (Ghana) – The Rival has got to be the most absurd story I’ve ever read! In this story, a wife tries her best to keep her marriage from falling apart by the twisted, affectionate love of her husband’s niece. Since when did nieces start falling for their uncles and dreaming of being the ‘madam’ of the house? How awkward! Yaba Badoe created a masterpiece with this strange story.

“Tropical Fish” by Doreen Baingana (Uganda) – University student – Christine, finds herself sleeping with a British expat who exports fish to the UK. The story takes us through the inner thoughts of Christine as she tries to find herself – because she truly seems lost. I was disgusted and at times mad at Christine for tolerating the intolerable in this story. I loved how Doreen Baingana kept me on the edge of my seat while reading this! (I have Doreen Baingana’s novel Tropical Fish which this story is an excerpt from, and I’m excited to read it soon!)

“Needles of the Heart” by Promise Ogochukwu (Nigeria) – I enjoyed the easy, simple nature in the writing of this story. A woman marries a man who she discovers is a chronic abuser. She constantly finds herself making excuses for her husband, even while she suffers on hospital beds from his fury. The ending of the story had me wondering if the author actually condones domestic violence… This story is pretty scary, but holds a great message if you read in-between the lines.

The editor, Ama Ata Aidoo urges readers to enjoy this collection slowly:

Dear reader, it is highly recommended that you take these stories one at a time, so that you meet these African women properly and individually, and listen to them and their hearts: whether Sudanese, Kenyan, Ghanaian, Nigerian or Zimbabwean… (pg. xiv)

and I totally concur with her. I read these stories slowly and savored them. Why rush through such a rich anthology? That’s no fun!

Even though this anthology was published in 2006 – about 10 years ago, I believe the content is ever so relevant to this day. I wholeheartedly recommend this collection to everyone. These contemporary stories may be set in countries in Africa, but the theme of love is universal to all!

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

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Purchase African Love Stories: An Anthology on Amazon


GIVEAWAY ALERT!

February is the month of love, and I’d like to give away one brand new copy of this lovely anthology! Enter the giveaway below to stand a chance at winning African Love Stories: An Anthology. The winner will be announced a day after Valentine’s Day – so you have about 10 days to try your luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway TERMS & CONDITIONS:

  • Giveaway starts Feb 4th 2016 at 12am GMT & ends Feb 15th 2016 at 12am GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
  • This is an international giveaway – it is open to everyone, worldwide.
  • You must be 18 years and older to participate in this giveaway.
  • The winner will be selected by Random.org, through Rafflecopter and will be notified by email.
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email before a new winner is selected.
  • If you are the lucky winner of the book, Darkowaa will be shipping your prize to you directly.
  • Once the winner is notified via email, providing shipping details will go to Darkowaa only and will only be used for the purpose of shipping the prize to the winner.
  • The item offered in this giveaway is free of charge, no purchase is necessary.
  • If there are any questions and concerns about this giveaway, please email: africanbookaddict@gmail.com

Good luck, everyone!

Update: This giveaway has ended. Thanks to those who participated! Congrats to the winner!