Monday, August 31, 2009

#BookReview: Stormy Weather: A Charlotte Justice Novel - Paula L. Woods

Detective Charlotte Justice is back for another round of murder and mayhem in the Los Angeles Police Department. When Maynard Duncan, a dying African American film maker, passes everyone assumes it was from the cancer he was diagnosed with earlier in the year. The mercy killer case Charlotte is working on begins to intersect with Duncan’s case and she begins to suspect that his death may have been at the hands of the “Angel of Death.” Interviewing the cast of characters including his wife, sister, housekeeper, nurse, shady business partner and his secret lover, Charlotte begins to suspect that any one of them would gain something from his death.

As if dealing with murder isn’t enough, Charlotte is forced to deal with her overbearing lieutenant. She’s almost sure that he set her and her partner up, but now she has to prove it without appearing to be weak. On the home front, Charlotte continues to push her newly found old flame away and must decide if she's going to continue to live in the past or move forward. With assistance from her sister detectives, the lovable Billie and not-so-nice Gena, she finds the killer, and it’s someone she least suspected.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why I'll Never Quit the Library for eBooks

I love to read. I guess that's pretty evident by this blog. But more than loving to read, I love the library. I love the bookstore. I love being surrounded by books.

When the Kindle first came out, a gadget loving friend jumped right on it. While she bragged about how cheap the books were (some as low as $ Free.99), I told myself that I'd never abandon "real" books for eBooks. Fast forward a few months and I made the transition from a Blackberry to an iPhone. If you're an iPhone user you know there's an app for everything. So when I found a "Kindle for iPhone" app, I decided to take the plunge. Wouldn't it be easier to just carry my phone around and read instead of weighing my bag down with books every day?

So last Saturday, instead of packing a book to read while my daughter bowled, I read a book on my iPhone. Guess what? I missed flipping the pages. I know Kindle and iPhone readers will tell me I can still "flip" on the Kindle. Guess what? It's not the same! It doesn't feel the same. It doesn't make the same noise the page makes when I turn it in a "real" book. And I can't dog ear the pages on a Kindle. (Disclaimer: I try to carry a bookmark, but fail miserably. I always straighten the corner out as much as possible before I return my library books so as not to distract other readers).

Thinking that maybe I wasn't giving eBooks enough of a chance, I tried downloading a few other books. Again, I failed. Let's face it, eBooks aren't for everyone. If I switch to eBooks, I'll have no reason to go to the library. And I would miss my librarians dearly.

I'd miss Sterling, the gay librarian, who keeps track of everything I've read in the past 9 years and will not hesitate to say, "Oh no Ms. B, you've already read that! Child, I've saved something else for you to read." I'll admit that sometimes I read so much that I don't remember titles, authors or covers. Without Sterling I'd end up with a stack of already reads.

I'd miss Intense Librarian who always makes a big show of adding up my fines and asking if I'm ready to pay them. No, Ms. Ma'am. I happen to know that I can rack up $ 15 in fines before you cut me off and make me pay. If I was going to pay them right now, I'd have my wallet out, now wouldn't I? And yes, I know how to renew my books online since I requested them online. Yes, I know I could renew them online and save myself fines. Just give me the books already!

I'd miss Sympathetic Librarian who constantly apologizes for the long line at the counter, not knowing where to find the book I'm asking about, and the loud outbursts from the homeless men that hang out at the library.

And I'd even miss Nonchalant Librarian who pretends that he doesn't care what I'm reading, but always asks me about such and such book when I return my latest stack.

While I'll continue to keep a few books on my iPhone to read in case of emergency, I'm not putting down "real" books anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

#BookReview: Sisters and Husbands - Connie Briscoe

A follow up to 1995's "Sisters and Lovers," I'm sorry to say that I don't even remember reading the original. I'm sure I did, but I read a lot and rarely remember characters unless they're outstanding. Nevertheless, it wasn't necessary to read the first book to understand and enjoy the sequel.

"Sisters and Husbands" is the story of three sisters: newly engaged Beverly; Charmaine, on her fourth marriage; and Evelyn, married for twenty-five years. Told through the eyes of each sister, it's interesting to see how the sisters not only interpret their own situations, but those of their sisters as well.

Youngest sister Beverly has called off two previous engagements and is on the verge of calling off her third days before the wedding when she sees both of her sisters struggling with their marriages.

Middle sister Charmaine admits that she wasn't mature enough to handle any of her previous marriages. Now that she's settled down with blue collar Prince Charming, she's sure this marriage will last. When his daughter shows up for her annual summer visit, Prince Charming turns into someone Charmaine doesn't know. One argument too many about playing favorites and spending more money than they have to pacify daddy's little girl leads the family to split and Charmaine starts to believe that she's headed for divorce number four.

As the eldest, Evelyn has always held it together for her family. When her husband of 25 years sells the law firm he started and takes a job at Blockbuster, Evelyn brushes it off as a mid-life crisis. Coming home to find him packing his things is another story. Evelyn is crushed that the love of her life has walked out on her. Can the advice she's given clients as a psychologist help her work through her own marital problems? And what will her family think when they find out her perfect marriage isn't so perfect anymore?

#BookReview: Inner City Blues - Paula Woods

Meet Charlotte Justice, LAPD homicide detective during the 90s LA riots. A woman of color in a department dominated by white men isn't an easy thing. Add the ongoing riots and the murder of a 60s activist and a prominent physician and the pressure to solve both cases and most people would buckle under the pressure. Did I mention that the 60s activist is the same man that killed her infant daughter and husband years ago? Yeah, Charlotte Justice is not most people.

The investigation into the deaths of both men leads Charlotte back to her childhood crush, Aubrey Scott. Cautious because of her job and the loss of her husband, Charlotte is reluctant to let Aubrey back into her life. And when an art gallery Aubrey is affiliated with seems to be connected to the murders of the activist and physician, Charlotte has good reason to question whether or not Aubrey should be allowed in her space.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Princess of Snark is now blogging

I had a death in the family last week and didn't get much reading done. Lucky for you, my daughter, aka "The Princess of Snark", made a guest appearance over at TheTinyJEWELBox. I have no idea from whence all that snarkiness came.

Monday, August 10, 2009

#BookReview: October Suite - Maxine Clair

Set in the midwest in the 1950s, October Suite, is the story of two sisters, Vergie and October. Raised by their spinster aunts after the brutal murder of their mother by their father, Vergie and October are plagued by a case of sibling rivalry. The rivalry only worsens when October, an unmarried schoolteacher living in Kansas, gives birth out of wedlock to the son of a married man. Returning home to her aunts and her married sister in Ohio, October can't muster up an ounce of compassion for her newborn son. Overwhelmed by what lies before her, she offers the baby to her sister and brother-in-law, knowing that they've not been able to conceive.

October returns to her life in Kansas determined to make a new start. As she begins to rebuild, she realizes that the one thing missing is the son she left behind in Ohio. Knowing that she agreed to never lay claim to him and to never tell him she's his mother, October is torn when she returns to Ohio for the holidays. Sensing that October wants her son back, Vergie fights back with words that she knows will surely hurt her, the truth about their father.

#BookReview: Ritz Harper Goes to Hollywood - Wendy Williams

Don't judge me! I know there's no middle ground with Wendy Williams. You either love her or you hate her. I LOVE Wendy! She's over the top. She asks questions that no one else will ask. She doesn't apologize for who she is or doing what she does to get what she wants. That being said, she needs to apologize for this book. If you've read the first two Ritz Harper books, you know that they're loosely based on her life.

In this third installation, Ritz has bounced back from a failed hit on her life and the death of her baby daughter. She's back with a vengeance and ready to take on television (sound familiar?). With the help of her trusty producer, Chas, Ritz strikes out for Hollywood, only to find that while she may be the Queen of All Media in New York, people in Hollywood haven't a clue as to who she is. Chas has set up a meeting with Rutger, his bisexual lover who is also the head of the Big Four networks. In other words, he's the person that can green light projects. Rutger is turned off by Ritz's attitude and sends her to a colleague of his that specializes in "diversity" projects.

What ensues is an unbelievable interaction with the diversity czar, his mammy-like housekeeper, a cotton field in his backyard, and a shrine to all things portraying black women in a degrading light. Ritz emerges from her "session" with him armed with a contract and the rest is history.

Did I say it was unbelievable? It's unbelievable. I can go for some far fetched writing here and there, but this was absolutely ridiculous. I know, I know. Wendy never claimed writing was her thing. She should stick to what she does best, giving us good gossip.

#BookReview: Eden, Ohio - Shawne Johnson

Eden, Ohio is a fictional town founded by twelve runaway slave families. The founding mother, Eliza, feels a great responsibility to the town and its residents and passes that responsibility down to her first born daughter, Eliza. Through intuition, home remedies and a connection with a higher power, the Elizas have managed to keep Eden, Ohio a safe place for the families, until the day white families arrive intent on taking over. The outcome of the battle that ensues has lasting effects on several generations to come and it will take the return of a lost son to make things right again.

On a side note, I thought the editing in this book was horrible. In several instances there were verbs missing. I couldn't tell if this was intentional or not. It seemed as though there were two different styles of writing conflicting throughout the book and it would have been simpler if the author had picked one and stayed with it. The missing verbs were not a part of the dialect, which would have been understandable, but were instead, part of the narration.

Monday, August 3, 2009

#BookReview: Shanghai Girls - Lisa See

Spanning 1937 - 1957, Shanghai Girls, is the story of two sisters, May and Pearl. Living in 1937 Shanghai, the privileged daughters of a family rickshaw business are stunned to learn that their father has arranged marriages for them to pay off his debt.

Refusing to accept what he has done, the girls intentionally miss the boat that will take them to Hong Kong and then on to San Francisco and Los Angeles to start married life. After they receive a visit from the loan shark's henchmen, the daughters, along with their mother, decide that the best thing to do is exchange their two tickets for four tickets to Hong Kong, where the family can start over again. When war breaks out the following day, it becomes impossible to get to Hong Kong by boat and the girls and their mother are forced to travel to Hong Kong by foot when it becomes obvious that their father/husband has deserted them.

The sisters endure long months at the immigration detention center, where May gives birth to a child that cannot possibly be her husbands. Because she has already consummated her marriage, Pearl agrees to raise the child as her own. Learning that the family the girls have married into is not rich, as they claimed to be, both girls fight for survival in their own ways.

#BookReview: The House at Sugar Beach - Helene Cooper

In the early 1800s, several freemen of color set sail for Africa from the United States, settling in what came to be known as Liberia, with the assistance of the American Colonization Society. Helene Cooper, a descendant of these people introduces us to them in this well written and visually descriptive memoir. While the story itself is set in the late 60s through present-day, the reader is given historical lessons about Liberia and its people dating back to the beginnings of their society.

Helene's family is a part of the elite, the Congo people, generally made up of those Americo-Liberian descendants of the settlers. It's a custom of the Congo people to take in children of lesser society, or "country" people. Helene's family takes in Eunice, a Bassa girl, who becomes Helene's closest confidante.

Helene's family is forced to flee the country in the 80s, leaving Eunice behind, when the country people stage military coups to take back the land which they feel is rightfully theirs. While the first half of the book covers her childhood growing up in Liberia, the second half covers her adjustment to America, finding her passion for journalism, and the trip that eventually forces her to return to Liberia to look for the sister she left behind.

Often when I read books set in another country, I'm fascinated by the local sayings or phrases. My favorite from this book is, "I hold your foot," which is the Liberian way of begging someone's pardon. I caught the side eye when I said this to my daughter. What can I say? She should be used to me by now.