Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#BookReview: Karma - Sabrina Eubanks

The author titled this book Karma, but it just as easily could have been called Frenemy of the State. Justine Greer is an attractive woman with a good head on her shoulders and a great career as a news reporter. A night out with her best friends Holly and Simone leads to a chance introduction to the suave and debonair narcotics detective, Lucas Cain.

Lucas and Noah have been partners on the force and best friends for years. When Noah sees the trio of ladies enter the club, he immediately senses that Justine is just the kind of woman to turn his friend’s head. When Lucas sends drinks to the ladies’ table, the romance begins for them, while jealousy and envy begin for others.

Simone has been friends with Holly and Justine since college. While she’s always been able to relate to Holly, since they both came from humble backgrounds, inwardly she has hated Justine since college. In her mind, Justine’s middle class upbringing and the fact that she is an only child has lead her to have a charmed life. Everything has always come so easily to Justine, but Simone knows that there’s one department that Justine cannot compete in with her.

Holly’s husband, Robert, has warned Lucas about Simone and her evil ways, but Lucas isn’t prepared for the extremes that Simone will go to. Though he’s managed to dodge a few bullets she sends flying his way, nothing will prepare him for what happens when he and Noah go undercover as bodyguards for her rapper/drug dealer boyfriend, Nine.

Justine knows that Simone is a little flirty and over the top, but she’s always been that way. Even when Simone openly flirts with Lucas in her presence, Justine sits by idly without saying a word. Everyone wonders how long she will allow Simone to carry on with her wild antics, until the day Justine loses it and turns the tables.

Bodhidharma once said, “Still others commit all sorts of evil deeds, claiming karma doesn’t exist. They erroneously maintain that since everything is empty, committing evil isn’t wrong. Such persons fall into a hell of endless darkness with no hope of release. Those who are wise hold no such conception.” I can’t say that Simone would have changed her ways had she known what fate awaited her for her evil actions, but she just might have.

What did you like about this book?
It was very well written. The author created such an unlikeable character in Simone that even when she was in harm’s way; I felt absolutely no remorse for her.

What did you dislike about this book?
Not a thing, I’ve already added the sequel to my “to be read” list.

How can the author improve this book?
No improvement needed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, March 30

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page either in the comments below or on your own blog (give a link to your blog so we can check it out!)
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's teaser:

"Business was better at the Coq Rouge than at Savini's, and I was beginning to make a living, but it wasn't what it should have been, and I know I stayed longer than I normally would have, because of Frank's understanding.  He kept saying, "America isn't ready for you, Bricktop."

p. 213, Bricktop by Bricktop with James Haskins

Monday, March 29, 2010

#BookReview: Wench - Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Rarely does a book leave me speechless.  I've sat down to write about Wench no less than four times and each time had to get up and walk away because there's so much to say and yet, I'm not sure of how to say it.  Make no mistake about it, I absolutely loved this book.  So many of you told me you couldn't wait for me to read it so that I could share my thoughts with you.  Now I have to wonder if you all set me up.  Did the book have the same effect on those of you that read it?

For those that have not, Wench is the story of four women that meet annually at Tawawa House, an Ohio resort that caters to white slaveowners and their slave mistresses.  The eldest slave, Reenie, is mistress to her brother who sold their only child at a young age.  Sweet has three sons and a daughter by her master and is pregnant with her fifth child.  Lizzie has born a son and daughter for her master, Drayle.  The women seem to have accepted their lots in life until Mawu joins them.  A rebellious slave from Louisiana, Mawu hates her master and longs for the day when she will be free. 

Though the book touches on each woman's story and circumstances, a great portion deals with Lizzie and her perception of her relationship with Drayle.  In her heart of hearts, she loves Drayle and believes that he loves her as well.  On the outside looking in, it appears that their relationship is based on tit for tat.  If you do this for me, I'll do that for you. Starting with cool drinks of water on hot nights, teaching her to read, bringing her extra food, Drayle slowly works his way into Lizzie's heart and by the time Drayle comes for her, she truly believes theirs is a mutual love and admiration.  Lizzie's belief in Drayle is so great that she risks the lives of the women around her at Tawawa House and finds herself excluded from the small group. 

So what was it that made these slaveowners think that they could bring their slaves into a free state without risking escape?  Fear.  With the exception of Reenie, each of the women had children back on the plantation.  Knowing that any action taken by them could result in their children being sold away was more than enough to keep these women in their place.

What did you like about this book?
I loved how the author developed the women.  While the men did play roles in their lives, they were secondary to who the women were as people.

What did you dislike about this book?
It wasn't a dislike, but I wanted to know more of the back story for all of the women, not just Lizzie.

What could the author do to improve this book?
I don't think any improvements need to be made, but I would love to see a sequel.

So now I really, really want to discuss this.  There's so much that I want to say here, but won't because I know that while quite a few of us have read it, several have not.  Are we up for a book discussion in the near future?  Should I ask the author if she's willing to chat with us about it?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Seduction/Lover Man - Geneva Holliday

Mildred Johnson ain't hardly cute. So when the handsome Tony Landry joins the firm, ignores her for months and then starts showering attention on her, she should have some clue that something in the milk's not clean. But meet the "almost 40 year old" virgin who's so happy that any man has shown her attention that she doesn't question his motives. Mildred finds herself sucked into Tony's get-rich-quick scheme and it's only when he takes the money and runs does she realize that she just got played. Reinventing herself as Karma, Mildred proves that in her eyes, revenge is the best medicine.

Geneva Holliday, the lighter and more erotic side of author Bernice McFadden, is back with another great read. Her latest, Lover Man, picks up where Seduction left off. When event planner, Crystal Atkins, meets a handsome, fellow American at a wedding in Antigua, she's convinced that he's the one for her. Leaving her child's father behind, she relocates to New York to be with the man she loves. What's really going on with the strange woman that lives across the street from her though? Fans of Ms. Holliday's work will remember Karma Jackson as the foxy and fabulous reinvention of the homely Mildred Johnson. Karma is back in the states and ready to get reacquainted with her city. Proving that the grass is always greener on the other side, Karma soon realizes that while her appearance on the outside has changed, she's still Mildred on the inside. Back for another appearance is the grouchy, but lovable cougar, Geneva Holliday herself. When her husband convinces her to leave Manhattan and move all the way to Brooklyn she's sure her world will never be the same. I love this author as both Geneva Holliday and Bernice McFadden. Her characters are believable and she doesn't sugar coat a thing. I love that she's able to write in such a clear voice in both of her genres and I'm looking forward to reading more from her.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Repost: Why I'll Never Quit the Library for E-books

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, March 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, March 23

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page either in the comments below or on your own blog (give a link to your blog so we can check it out!)
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
This week's teaser: 

"He pointed to an area behind a bush, and she went behind it grateful for the privacy.  It occurred to her that some white men wouldn't think enough to point to a bush."

p. 98, Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

If you've never clicked on the "Giveaway" link at the top, you're missing out.  My library at home is overflowing and I'm always giving away books, so be sure to check it often.  The winner of Pearl of China by Anchee Min is Bonnie M.  The winner of Trickery by Christine Racheal is Tomi.  Please email me your mailing addresses, ladies.

I'm on vacation starting tomorrow so on Wednesday and Friday you'll get re-posts of previously reviewed books from way back when all of three people were reading this blog.  I have of stack of really good books waiting on me, so we'll jump back into new reviews next week.

Monday, March 22, 2010

#BookReview: the big book of SOUL: The Ultimate Guide to the African American Spirit - Stephanie Rose Bird

Though I was hesitant to drift into such unknown territory for me, I was pleasantly surprised by the big book of SOUL.  Covering everything from African American spirituality to hoodoo and holism, author Stephanie Bird presents the reader with plenty of food for thought.

Whether you're a practicer of holistic medicine or not , you'll find the natural remedies and receipes detailed within fascinating.  The author discusses preventative holistic treatments, as well as external treatments for the beautification of the face and body. The underlying message throughout the book is living well through natural means is very possible and is something that everyone can, and should, explore.

Published February 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

#BookReview: Trickery - Christine Racheal

There was nothing about this cover that screamed, "Pick me up, read me, read me!" Even after reading the book, I still can't figure out how the publishing house determined that that picture most accurately portrayed the story or main character. Let me assure that in spite of the cover, this book was a pretty good read.

Trickery is the story of Taj Jenson, a young woman used to getting her hustle on with little regard to whomever may be affected. For years she’s made money entertaining men at private parties with the assistance of her sidekick. It’s a lonely existence, but Taj has built up a wall around her and prefers solitude to the company of others. That changes the day she meets San.

The quiet and brooding San is different from any woman Taj has met. Where Taj can be loud and boisterous when needed, San brings a calming presence to her world and it doesn’t take long before the two are inseparable. First as friends, and eventually as lovers, the two build a world together based on the desire of each to get their children back.

A tragic incident threatens their once close relationship and leaves the women devastated. While one woman quietly seethes and seeks revenge, the other finds that she must try to rebuild the semblance of a life she once had. Unable to reconcile their feelings for one another, they go their separate ways.

When Taj begins dating a handsome doctor named James, she begins to live a life she’s never imagined. From the spur of the moment shopping sprees to the luxurious Mercedes Benz and a good looking man bending to her every whim, Taj has everything she could ask for. Life is looking up for her until she meets her live-in boyfriend’s best friend, Melinda, and senses underlying sexual tension between the two.

Melinda has always been there for James. She stood by patiently when he married and divorced his first wife and has no doubt that Taj’s time with James is limited. As she bides her time waiting for Taj to slip up, she learns that Taj is a walking time bomb of her own and given enough time, she’ll implode with no help from anyone. And just when it couldn’t get worse for Taj, Sen comes back into her life.

What did you like about the book? 
It was well written. Unlike most urban lit, it doesn’t have such a grungy, street feel to it that the average person can’t relate to it.

What did you dislike about the book? 
I would have liked a better ending, but I suspect the author set it up this way for sequel purposes.

How can the author improve this book? 
The book was interesting from Taj’s perspective, but readers would get a fuller appreciation for other characters if they were given a voice.

Published January 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#BookReview: Glorious - Bernice McFadden

From the dirt roads of Waycross, Georgia to the busy streets of Harlem, Bernice McFadden once again delivers perfection in her latest novel, Glorious.  With actual historical events playing in the background, we are introduced to Easter Bartlett and her family.

The historic "Fight of the Century" between Jack Johnson and James Jeffries sets in motion a series of events that eventually push Easter out of Georgia and eventually land her in Harlem.  Much mention is made of Marcus Garvey and his Universal Negro Improvement Association.  A story set in Harlem at such a time would be incomplete with referencing the Harlem Renaissance and Ms. McFadden deftly weaves in noted members of the Renaissance, including A'lelia Walker*, daughter of Madame CJ Walker and a patron of the arts, and Langston Hughes.  Others such as Claude McKay and Carl Van Vechten are also mentioned.

With writing as rich and vivid as only she can do it, Ms. McFadden draws you into the life of Easter Bartlett and doesn't release you easily.  Though their stories are not the same, I couldn't help but to compare Easter Barlett to Wallace Thurman's Emma Lou Brown from The Blacker the Berry, with both women seeking refuge in Harlem I found myself yearning to read this while at the same time putting it down in order to savor it and prolong the inevitable end.  While I usually give away books that I've already read, this is one that will have to stay in my library.

What did you like about this book?
The author does a wonderful job of developing the characters, even minor ones.  Through her words I was able to imagine exactly how everyone and everything looked.

What did you dislike about this book?
I wouldn't say it was a dislike, but there was a period of time of the main character's life that was kind of glossed over.  While going into detail about it was not necessary to tell the story, I could have stood more than a few sentences about the timespan.  That is only because I didn't want the book to end

How can the author improve this book?
No improvements needed!

Published May 2010

* Correction: Should have been noted as A'lelia Walker instead of Bundles.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays, March 16

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page either in the comments below or on your own blog (give a link to your blog so we can check it out!)
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's teaser:
"He called when they were coming to New York to spend the summer with their aunt, an eccentric spinster who'd been living in the swank building on Edgecombe Avenue since the days Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, and Joe Louis called it home...When the two men arrived, they found the gold-leaf ceiling in the once grand marble lobby peeling, but Aunt Vashti's apartment was a Harlem Renaissance time capsule." 
p. 73, Uptown by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant

Monday, March 15, 2010

#BookReview: CHILDREN OF THE WATERS by Carleen Brice

As I told her on the Twitter the other day, I blame Carleen Brice for my house work not getting done the day I read this. I started reading Children of the Waters during a break at a workshop, then proceeded to leave the workshop an hour early so that I could go home and read in peace. I purchased this book during an auction back in December, but waited until I really needed something good to read to pick it up. It was well worth the wait.

Children of the Waters is the story of two sisters, one unaware that the other exists. The older of the two, the recently divorced Trish, is struggling to raise her teen son, a biracial youth, trying to find his place in a society that doesn't always view him favorably. Trish's younger sister, Billie, has lived her whole life without knowing that she was adopted. A free spirit with a nurturing instinct, she's head over heels in love with her musician boyfriend and the baby she's carrying.

In 298 pages, Ms. Brice masterfully blends words and phrases to create a special story of two women learning how to be mothers, sisters and daughters. This is an absolute page turner and my only regret is that it ended.

What did you like about this book?
Though the sisters are of two different races and their racial differences do come into play here and there, race is not the overall theme of the book.

What did you dislike about this book?
At right under 300 pages, it didn't seem long enough. I need a sequel!

How can the author improve this book?
She can't. There is nothing about this story that needs to be changed.

298 pp
Published June 2009

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Meet Author Niobia Bryant, AAMBC Blog Tour

Message from a Mistress
Will 160 characters lead to the end of someone’s marriage?

“Very Impressive” –Cyndey Rax, author of My Sister’s Ex

(March 2010) National bestselling author Niobia Bryant releases her seventeenth novel, Message from a Mistress which is loosely based on the 1940's movie A Letter to Three Wives.

Jaime Hall, Renee Clinton, and Aria Livewell all reside with their spouses in the affluent gated community, Richmond Hills, in New Jersey. The ladies are all best friends with their Richmond Hill neighbor, Jessa Bell–a sexy and single socialite. Trouble is Jessa Bell has just sent them all a text message taunting that she has run away with one of their husbands. That message opens the door to each of the woman’s unspoken insecurities in their marriage as each recalls incidents that hint that their husband is the one. And with the husbands away—and unreachable-- on a chartered fishing boat all day and Jessa not answering her phone, they have all day to wonder…and to worry about scandalous secrets of their own.

Throughout the book–which takes place in one day–Jessa Bell also recalls her steamy relationship with her unidentified lover. Everything about their explicit romps are revealed from the day she first seduced him up until the day he agreed to leave his wife–her friend–for her.

Book excerpt---
After receiving the text message from Jessa Bell-- Aria, Renee and Jamie decide to head to Jessa's home to confront her and discover yet another surprise.

The taxi slowed at the glass-enclosed security booth and Aria lowered the window, knowing they would need to identify themselves to get inside their subdivision. Sure enough, Lucky, the potbelly, red-faced security guard, walked back to the rear of the taxi. He stuck his head inside.

"Hello ladies, he greeted them warmly.

"Lucky, have you seen Ms. Bell yet? Aria asked. His face was instantly confused. "Ms. Bell?" Well, remember she moved today ---?

"She moved," all three women said in unison with plenty of emphasis, obviously shocked as hell.

"You ladies being such good friends, I assumed you all knew she was moving today."
Renee pocked the cork on the Patron again.

A sexy, unforgettable and drama filled novel about love, infidelity, and the importance of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer... From bestselling author, Niobia Bryant

1 writer with
3 Publishers
15+ books
4 Genres
Celebrates 10 years of being an author with 2 award nominations and 3 new book releases in 2010

Message from a Mistress is your 15th novel since you started your career as a published author in 2000. What was the inspiration behind this book and its storyline of a woman sending a text message to alert her friends of her affair with one of their husbands?

My first book that was published ten years ago was a romance and I enjoyed--and still enjoy--telling these really great stories about the love a black woman and black man have for each other. But I always wanted to tell more drama driven fictional stories where there was no guarantee of a happy ending. Where people dealt with real meaty and complex issues in their lives. So I had to one day cross over into the commercial or mainstream fiction genre.

Message from a Mistress is my third mainstream work and it is a look at the dynamics of both marriage and friendship and how they can be affected by secrets, lies and betrayals. My main inspiration was not just to deliver drama and scandal but to really travel the road many marriages take that leads to that ultimate betrayal and then to examine the effects of it. More than my previous mainstreams novels, I truly believe that Message from a Mistress is the one that most captures the reason why I wanted to write more than just romance fiction.

Message from a Mistress was loosely inspired by the 1940's film A Letter to Three Wives, and your Hoodwives series was inspired by the television show Desperate Housewives on ABC… it seems that you find inspiration in TV and film to influence your writing. Are you inspired to tell stories that share views of what women of color aka "sistahs" would do in particular scenarios?

Definitely. Although the vast majority of my books are completely original I have been influenced by my own desire to see “you know what would a sistah do in this same situation.”

For the Hoodwives series, my co-author and I were like “Desperate? Puh-leeze. Living in a beautiful subdivision in a great neighborhood? They want desperate? How about the wives in the projects? We’ll show you desperation.” The idea for the series was born and then we came up with four original story lines for the wives.

I loved, loved, loved the movie “A Letter to Three Wives”. I enjoyed the concept of three wives learning that their mutual friend has run off with one of their husbands and then have the entire day to ponder which one of them has been betrayed. It’s really clever and it intrigued on so many levels. So I wanted to modernize the story and give it some new perspectives-- like adding the wives having secrets of their own. I really just wanted to see where I could go with it. Again the general premise is the same but the actual stories for each character are original and I had a lot of fun bringing those characters to life in Message from a Mistress.

You write in 4 genres… and are signed to 3 different publishing houses... very impressive…how did that happen for you?

I am definitely ambitious and very focused on living my dreams. The same way that I write in different genres, I read different genres. Black, white, whatever. From non-fiction by Cornel West to street-lit by Donald Goines. Sci-fi, young adult fiction, romance, commercial fiction, literary fiction and those like Tina McElroy Ansa and Gloria Naylor who have found a nice blend of commercial and literary fiction--I read it all. I wanted to try my hand at a lot of it. People always say to write what you enjoy. Well, I enjoy a lot of different things and it transitioned over into my writing.

I started out in romance because I did my research and discovered it was easier to get published without agent in this particular genre. Those books did well and I eventual got the agent. I had these different stories in me that I wanted in print so I came up with proposals over the years and my agent got to work making the deals happen.

This year you are nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best African American Romance for your 9th full length romance novel "Make You Mine" as well as the Best Steamy Romance in the 2010 Emma Award presented by Romance Slam Jam. Congratulations on those accolades. As a national bestselling author, how important are these award nominations to you?

The award nominations are great. They are testament that the hard work you put into a book is appreciated and respected. It’s a great way, besides having a great sell through percentage, to know that you’re getting it done; that people enjoy what you’re doing. I’ve been up for a lot of awards in the past ten years and I’ve won some, but I’m always just as excited as if it was my very first nomination because I have great passion and love for this writing game.

For someone who is celebrating her 10-year anniversary in book publishing and has over 15 novels of your own, what is your greatest achievement to date and what would you like to accomplish in the next 10 years?

I think the fact that I once dreamed of getting published and having just one book deal and to now have four is a great achievement for me. I’m a girl from a single-parent household from Newark, NJ who use to sit on the back of the public bus and tell stories to my friends and anyone who would listen. I used to write short stories in my notebook. I used to say I will have a book published before I turn a certain age. I did it. But I have even more dreams. I am a national bestseller which means I have hit some bestseller lists across the country but I definitely want to hit the New York Times or USA Today. Also, like any other author I would like to see one of my books turned into a major movie or television show. So in a nutshell, New York Times and a movie deal. Point blank, those two things are definitely on my to-do list.

For those who have never read one of your books please suggest a book in each one of the categories that you write in for them to begin reading--

Let’s see for one of my “sexy, funny and oh so real” romances, I suggest my GIVE ME FEVER. It comes out in May of this year and its book 3 in a series centered on the Strong family.

For the teen fiction of course I recommend my debut book, FABULOUS. I am writing under the name Simone Bryant. It’s about a clique at a private school for children of celebrities.

For urban fiction, my solo book as Meesha Mink debut in January 2011 so I suggest starting with the book that kicked off the series, DESPERATE HOODWIVES.

For mainstream, I suggest MESSAGE FROM A MISTRESS. It really is a smart, well-written, emotional, drama-filled roller coaster ride in the pages of the book.

What writers inspire you and why?

I am most inspired by authors Tina McElroy Ansa and Gloria Naylor. Tina's book, The Hand I Fan With and Gloria's novel, Mama Day are two of my all time favorite works of fiction. What I love about them is the blend of literary and commercial fiction. They both write very smart, entertaining, character driven books that remained with me so many years after first reading them. As a writer I want to be able to create that kind of lasting connection between my books and readers.

As an author, what are the keys to your success that lead to Message of a Mistress getting out to the public?

The internet has been such a fun way of promoting the release of Message from a Mistress and I'm sure will prove itself vital in the upcoming sales success as well. I have my Twitter pages, I have my Facebooks pages, MySpace and my personal blog; I use them all to keep my fans updated and to invite new ones. Tweetdeck is a must for me. I simply love the way it works.

As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take for you to start and finish Message of a Mistress?

Since I write in multiple genres it helps me stay organized by creating a synopsis and an outline for each of my books. I write a full synopsis of the entire story and the first chapter which I usually have to submit to the publisher. Afterward I begin writing with the use of an outline chapter breakdown. Message from a Mistress took a few months not including editing.

What's next for Niobia Bryant?

I am working on promoting my three 2010 book releases, Fabulous my first teen fiction/young adult novel on Kimani Tru, Message from a Mistress on Dafina/Kensington and in May I will release Give Me Fever on Dafina. I'm doing my first virtual book tour starting March 1st. Readers can keep up with the itinerary on my blog and by following me on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Author--

Niobia Bryant a self described chameleon of the written word has contributed to the book world since 1999 with the release of her first short story Hush, Hush. Since then she has garnered publishing deals with 3 major houses, Simon & Schuster, Dafina and Harlequin. As a full-time writer she has penned over 15 novels using three different monikers including Simone Bryant (Young Adult) and Meesha Mink (Urban Fiction) within four genres of fiction literature targeted for African American females including romance and contemporary. In 2010 she will release three new books a contemporary, a romance and a young-adult within months of each other. This Newark, NJ native splits her time between South Carolina and New Jersey.

Communicate with Niobia Bryant
TWITTER @infiniteink
FACEBOOK--Niobia Bryant| Meesha Mink
Receive updates on appearances,bookclub meetings, awards, new releases, deals and more

Friday, March 12, 2010

#BookReview: Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America - Rich Benjamin

To balance my reading of Crossings: A White Man's Journey into Black America I picked up Searching for Whitopia.  The author, Dr. Rich Benjamin, defines a whitopia as "whiter than the nation, its respective region, and its state.  It has posted at least 6 percent population growth since 2000.  The majority of that growth (often upward of 90 percent) is from white migrants."

While many suburbs were seen as whitopias as recently as 40 years ago, that no longer holds true.  As more middle and upper class people of color have found the means to move to the 'burbs in search of the American dream, white people have moved further away, creating exburbs.  Going even further than exurbs, whitopias were created.  Most of us are aware of white flight.  We've seen it in formerly white neighborhoods gone black, hispanic, asian, etc.  Whitopias give those for whom moving a few miles away from the city isn't enough the ability to create their own utopian society.  These families literally pick up and move hundreds of miles away.

During his research, Dr. Benjamin visited St. George, Utah; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; and Forsyth County, Georgia, among other places.  In reading about his encounters I was struck by how conservative and Republican all three of the towns were.  I was also amazed to find that in Utah and Idaho, many of the residents of both areas were former Californians.  In my mind California is a hot bed of liberalism, toleration, integration, etc.  After reading this, not so much.

A great number of the residents spoken with identified themselves as Christians and saw nothing wrong with their brand of segregation, stating that in moving to Whitopia they were returning to 'simpler times'.  While some residents were fleeing black people, a great deal of them were fleeing immigrants.  I was reminded of a time when whites blamed blacks for taking jobs that were rightly theirs (in their mind), increasing their taxes by living on the government, etc.  and wondered if part of their disdain for immigrants was due, in part, to this same thinking.  Within their whitopias, people of color are allowed, but typically only as service workers.  A return to simpler times, in my opinion, is just another way of saying "when whites ruled the country and 'those people' knew their place."

In all of the places he visited, it seemed that the presence of one black man, Dr. Benjamin, was tolerable, but anything beyond would have been a cause for concern.  The story of a lone black man living in Scott County, Minnesota who endured racial comments from his friends and shrugged them off because that's the way it had always been made me sad.  To be the only black person in town...for the author to ask around town about where to find you and everyone know exactly where to find you, not because you're popular or live in Small Town, USA, but simply because you're not one of them has got to be exhausting.

We often hear or read about post-racial America now that we have an African American president.  I don't see the integrated, accepting society that the election of President Obama was to bring about.  What I see is a widening gap between classes and races.  It should be noted that though most of the visited whitopias were comprised of the upper class, there were several members of the middle class hanging on the fringe.  Those that can afford to pack up their life and live in a bubble do so.  Those that don't become resentful of those that have left and those with which they are left.  If those with whom they are left are people of color, the resentment becomes even greater.

368 pp
Published October 2009

Thursday, March 11, 2010

how i got ovah: for muh' dear - Carolyn M. Rodgers

           today Blackness
       lay backin
& rootin

           told my sweet mama
               to leave me alone
               about my wild free knotty and nappy
          cause i was gon lay back
               and let it grow so high
                  it could reroute its roots
                     and highjack the sky!

          she sd. why don't you let it grow
             right on down to the ground honey chile,
          grow yo'self a coat of hair fuh winter
             matter fact you so BLACK now, huh!
                 why don't you jest throw
                    a fit
          of BLACK lay backin & rootin.

my mama gives some boss advice...
   i think we all ought to do that

Published in 1976, I remember seeing how i got ovah sitting on my mother's bookshelf for most of my childhood.  I never bothered to read it until I went to college. I was absolutely blown away by Carolyn M. Rodgers' words and she became my favorite poet.  I loaned the book to a friend and never saw it again.  It's out of print now, but I managed to find a copy on  I'm so glad to have an old friend back and I wanted to share some of her work with you.  If it's okay with you, from time to time I'll post some of her work.
Who's your favorite poet?  If you don't have a favorite poet, what's your favorite poem?

Monday, March 8, 2010

#BookReview: Crossings: A White Man's Journey into Black America - Walt Harrington

I don't even know where to start with this book. As a black person, this has to have been one of the most difficult books I've come across. Make no mistake about it, the author writes well, but his subject matter left a bad taste in my mouth.

Crossings: A White Man's Journey into Black America is a compilation of interviews Walt Harrington did in the early 90s with black Americans across the country. You might ask what drove him to do this. Are you ready for this? No really, are you ready? Though he is married to a black woman and has biracial children, he doesn't really know black people. Propelled by a racist joke he overhears at the dentist, he sets out on a quest to visit black people across America in hopes that he might better understand his children. Really, dude? I mean, really!

I can't tell you how many times I put this book down, walked away and cussed about it, but I will tell you that it took me over a month to read it. In that same month I read at least five other books while this one sat on the floor mocking me. So what angered me so much about this book? Let me count the ways.

Apparently Mr. Harrington believes that being poor and being black are synonymous and seems to go out of his way to find interview subjects that are not only poor and black, they're happy about it. From the small town he visits in Mississippi to the trailer parks of Tennessee, his cast of characters are one step, if that, removed from sharecropping. Yes, I know the history of the South. Yes, I know that poverty still exists. What I refuse to believe is that he couldn't find one person in his section covering that region that wasn't poor.

I believe the author intentionally skewed facts to portray African Americans in a bad light. For example, his section about the Midwest touched on East St. Louis, a city blighted by white flight and a loss of industry. The one that stuck out most to me was that teachers there only made $ 10,000. I'd be very interested in knowing where he came across that data. As a resident of the metropolitan St. Louis region (and the daughter of a former East St. Louis School District administrator), I'm well aware that even fresh out of college teachers in the district made a minimum of $ 35,000 in the early 90s. How do I know? When I was fresh out of college in the early 90s looking for a job, I considered teaching in the district. Had the author bothered to really do research, he would have learned that teachers in the district are the highest paid in St. Clair County, have more advanced degrees than any other district in the county, and that the average salary of a district employee with advanced degrees range from $ 50,000 to $ 95,000.

Of all the people Mr. Harrington met along his 25,000 mile journey, I was able to count on one hand the number of "success" stories he met along the way. Success in this case is defined as an elevation in socioeconomic status. So then readers are led to believe that being middle class and above is not the norm and that working to rise above poverty is not necessarily a goal that is achievable, nor is it a goal worth trying to reach.

The author is quick to discount his black wife as non-representative of the norms of black America. Why? Because she is an army brat and, as such, was raised overseas and across the states so her ability to adapt to any situation, to approach life logically,to not be jaded by the "real black experience" is the exception to the rule.

So you ask, why did I force myself to read the book if I disliked it so much? I kept reading in hopes that somewhere along the line the author would have an a-ha moment. I hoped that at some point a light bulb would go off. Unfortunately, it did not. I almost shudder to think about how his skewed views of black people affect his children.

466 pp
Published September 1999

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reminder: Join us March 10 to Discuss Bernice McFadden's Keeper of the Keys & National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

In recognition of National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I'm pleased to announce that author Bernice McFadden will join us on Wednesday, March 10, for an online discussion of her e-book, Keeper of the Keys.

This moving short story of a young woman who considers suicide when she learns she has AIDS is only available through and only in e-format for the low price of $ 1.99. If you don't own a Kindle, you can still join in by reading on your iPhone, on your Blackberry or on your computer, using Amazon's new Kindle for PC app. Both apps are free.

Please don't miss out on this opportunity to discuss such an important topic in our community. Happy reading and we'll chat next Wednesday, March 10 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST right here.