Friday, October 30, 2015

New Books Coming Your Way, November 2015

The 'Colored Hero' of Harper's Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War against Slavery by Steven Lubet
282 p., (non-fiction)
Publication date: Nov. 1, 2015

On the night of Sunday, October 16, 1859, hoping to bring about the eventual end of slavery, radical abolitionist John Brown launched an armed attack at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Among his troops, there were only five black men, who have largely been treated as little more than 'spear carriers' by Brown's many biographers and other historians of the antebellum era. This book brings one such man, John Anthony Copeland, directly to center stage. Copeland played a leading role in the momentous Oberlin slave rescue, and he successfully escorted a fugitive to Canada, making him an ideal recruit for Brown's invasion of Virginia. He fought bravely at Harpers Ferry, only to be captured and charged with murder and treason. With his trademark lively prose and compelling narrative style, Steven Lubet paints a vivid portrait of this young black man who gave his life for freedom.

In His Own Words: Houston Hartsfield Holloway’s Slavery, Emancipation, and Ministry in Georgia by Houston Hartsfield Holloway
320 p. (non-fiction)
Publication date: Nov. 2, 2015

Houston Hartsfield Holloway (1844-1917) was born enslaved in upcountry Georgia, taught himself to read and write, learned the blacksmith trade, was emancipated by Union victory in 1865, and served as an ordained traveling preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church from 1870 to 1883. He devoted the remainder of his life to his family, his blacksmith trade, and his local church. Holloway's 24,000-word autobiography offers a rare working-class perspective on life during some of the most transformative years of US history.

An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation by Nyasha Junior
176 p. (non-fiction)
Publication date: Nov. 3, 2015

An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation provides a much-needed introduction to womanist approaches to biblical interpretation. It argues that womanist biblical interpretation is not simply a byproduct of feminist biblical interpretation but part of a distinctive tradition of African American women's engagement with biblical texts. While womanist biblical interpretation is relatively new in the development of academic biblical studies, African American women are not newcomers to biblical interpretation.

A Moment of Silence: Midnight III by Sister Souljah
544 p. (fiction)
Publication date: Nov. 10, 2015

Handsome, young, Muslim, and married to two women living in one house along with his mother, Umma, and sister, Naja: can Midnight manage? He is surrounded by Americans who don't share or understand his faith or culture, and adults who are offended by his maturity, intelligence, or his natural ability to make his hard work turn into real money. He is calm, confident, and cool, Ninja-trained and powerful, but one moment of rage throws this Brooklyn youth into a dark world of dirty police, gangs, guns, drugs, prisons, and prisoners. Everything he ever believed, every dollar he ever earned, and all of the women he ever loved—including his mother—are at risk.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
336 p. (non-fiction)
Publication date: Nov. 10, 2015

She’s the creator and producer of some of the most groundbreaking and audacious shows on television today: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder. Her iconic characters—Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating—live boldly and speak their minds. So who would suspect that Shonda Rhimes, the mega talent who owns Thursday night television (#TGIT), is an introvert? That she hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances? That she hugged walls at splashy parties and suffered panic attacks before media interviews so severe she remembered nothing afterward?

Before her Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes was an expert at declining invitations others would leap to accept. With three children at home and three hit television shows on TV, it was easy to say that she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. Afraid of cocktail party faux pas like chucking a chicken bone across a room; petrified of live television appearances where Shonda Rhimes could trip and fall and bleed out right there in front of a live studio audience; terrified of the difficult conversations that came so easily to her characters on-screen. In the before, Shonda’s introvert life revolved around burying herself in work, snuggling her children, and comforting herself with food.

And then, on Thanksgiving 2013, Shonda’s sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything.

The comment sat like a grenade, until it detonated. Then Shonda, the youngest of six children from a supremely competitive family, knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.

This wildly candid and compulsively readable book reveals how the mega talented Shonda Rhimes, an unexpected introvert, achieved badassery worthy of a Shondaland character. And how you can, too.

Frantz Fanon: Toward a Revolutionary Humanism by Christopher J. Lee
264 p. (non-fiction)
Publication date: Nov. 15, 2015

Psychiatrist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Frantz Fanon is one of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century. He presented powerful critiques of racism, colonialism, and nationalism in his classic books, Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961). This biography reintroduces Fanon for a new generation of readers, revisiting these enduring themes while also arguing for those less appreciated—namely, his anti-Manichean sensibility and his personal ethic of radical empathy, both of which underpinned his utopian vision of a new humanism. Written with clarity and passion, Christopher J. Lee’s account ultimately argues for the pragmatic idealism of Frantz Fanon and his continued importance today.

The Emperor of Sound: A Memoir by Timbaland
240 p. (non-fiction)
Publication date: Nov. 17, 2015

In The Emperor of Sound, Timbaland offers fans an unprecedented look into his life and work, taking them backstage with 50 Cent and live on-stage with Justin Timberlake. Completely uncensored and totally honest, he reveals the magic behind the music, sharing the various creative impulses that arise while he’s producing, and the layering of sounds that have created dozens of number one hits. Cinematically written, full of revealing anecdotes and reflections from today’s most popular music icons, The Emperor of Sound showcases this master’s artistry and offers an extraordinary glimpse inside this great musical mind.

A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor
256 p. (fiction)
Publication date: Nov. 24, 2015 (paperback)

Our narrator is ’twenty and untouched’ when her mother dies. Sent by her absentee father to live with a relative in a modest Delhi apartment, she is ill-equipped to resist the allure of the rich and rebellious young man from a different social class who approaches her one day at a cafe. As they drive around Delhi—eating, making love, falling apart—he introduces her to a gritty, thrilling India that she never knew existed…and will never be able to forget. A Bad Character is an astounding book, an intimate and raw exploration of female transformation in contemporary India.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

#BookReview: PLAYING FOR KEEPS by Deborah Fletcher Mello

Synopsis: As an accomplished architect, single dad of teenage twin girls, and co-owner of The Playground, Raleigh’s hottest jazz and blues club, it’s an understatement to say Malcolm Cobb has his hands full. Add to that an ex-wife who knows how to bring the drama, it’s no surprise he has little time or inclination for a personal life. But when he spots stunning, voluptuous Cilla Jameson, he’s suddenly considering rearranging his schedule and setting aside his concerns.

Independent and successful, Cilla would love to be in love. But when it comes to men, she has a lengthy list of requirements. And “no children” is at the top. Yet she can’t help being intrigued by Malcolm. He’s handsome, fascinating, respectful—and up for a challenge. But is Cilla? After all, the man has baggage—and it is fully packed. Can she handle the ex who’s determined to keep him single? Or the twins who are not quite the angels Malcolm thinks? She’ll have to decide, if she wants to play for keeps.

Review: Typically romance novels have a little bit of a cat & mouse feel to them, but I didn’t notice that so much with Playing for Keeps. Cilla and Malcolm jumped right into a relationship that quickly blossomed into a love affair and then marriage. And perhaps that’s why it rang untrue for me.

Cilla, a successful woman with no children of her own and the freedom to do as she pleases, willingly gives up that freedom almost immediately to parent her boyfriend’s twin daughters…teen twin daughters at that. What was her motivation for that? Malcolm’s love was just that strong? The reader never really finds out because while the author takes the time to create a background for Malcolm, outside of a friend/coworker that Cilla speaks with a few times, we don’t know much about her and the people that shaped who she becomes.

On the other hand, we’re introduced to Malcolm’s mother, his daughters, his business partner/best friend, that friend’s wife, etc. We know what attracts him to Cilla, how he came to own two businesses, all about his failed marriage, etc. Though some readers might be delighted to see a story that relies heavily on the point of view of the male protagonist, I think it’s important to tell stories from both sides, in the name of balance.

Billed as a romance, Playing for Keeps spends much more of its time focusing on everything but romance. At times, it was easy to forget that I was reading a love story. In fact, it reads more like a Tyler Perry script except, for once, the woman saves the man. That’s not to say that I won’t read anything else from the author. I’ll just have to do my due diligence before I do.

320 p.
Published: October 2015
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

#BookReview: UNTWINE by Edwidge Danticat

Sixteen year olds aren’t supposed to die, but sometimes they do. Giselle and Isabelle Boyer are as alike and different as twins can be. Isabelle is the creative flute playing twin, while Giselle is the more analytical of the two. From birth their parents have encouraged their individuality, insisting that they be placed in different classrooms, wear different clothes and have different sets of friends.

A fatal car accident on the way to Isabelle’s flute recital leaves the already fragile Boyer family fractured. Through error, the hospital believes that Giselle is the deceased twin. However, it’s Giselle that has survived, but is unable to communicate with them. Imagine being trapped within your own body while doctors and medical students observe you and talk about your twin as if 1) the twin they’re discussing isn’t really you and 2) wondering where your parents are.

Giselle uses her time in the hospital to reminisce on her childhood with Isabelle and family and friends. Edwidge Danticat’s love of her native country is always apparent in her writing and I love how she weaves in the Boyer family’s life in Miami with their return visits to Haiti. We learn of how Giselle and Isabelle loved spending time at their grandparent’s house and how their parents first met as students in Haiti.

Explorations of friendships, boyfriends, things that teens dwell on, swirl around in Giselle’s head as she lies in bed and even after she’s released. What she doesn’t explore, at least in my opinion, is grief. We don’t see the denial and anger that often comes with grief, perhaps it’s muted, but we see her parents act out. We see Giselle push people away, but her grief is a bit underwhelming and not what I would expect from someone that’s lost a sibling, let alone a twin. That would be the only misstep from the author that I can find, though it's not my place or anyone else's to tell someone how to grieve.

Untwine is meant for the Young Adult (YA) reader, but it’s easily relatable for adults. Fans of Danticat’s lyrical writing will appreciate this read.

320 p.
Published: September 2015

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

#BookReview: FINDING AMOS by Bernice L. McFadden, J.D. Mason & ReShonda Tate Billingsley

To call Amos Davis a rolling stone would be an understatement. In his prime, he had women falling at his feet, three in particular. First there was Linda, the woman he came closest to loving until Melba Jean came along. Trying to love Melba Jean was a battle Amos wasn’t willing to engage in, so it was easy to move on to Ruby. Such is the life of a musician, but Amos didn’t just leave those women behind, he also left behind three daughters scarred with memories of a fleeting father. Now that he's losing his memory, he wants a chance to reconcile with the adult daughters he rarely had time for as children.

Present day Amos is suffering from Alzheimer’s. In his mind, he’s fully capable of taking care of himself instead of sitting up in a nursing home. In that same mind he’s still on the road playing piano. Through flash backs readers watch as he shifts between the past and the present, telling the story of how his relationships have played out with his daughters. Most interesting is the correlation between how much he loved their mothers and how he treats each daughter as a result. It’s for this reason that it seems that he loves Cass, Linda’s daughter, most and seems to overlook Toya, Melba Jean’s daughter.

Cass has always believed that she wasn’t affected by Amos’ departure from her life, especially since he wasn’t really her father, just her stepfather, but she would be wrong. Even though she shared a close relationship with Amos as a child, she watched him leave her mother for other women, a temporary fixture in their lives, and sought men much like him.

Toya would roll her eyes if you told her she only dated married men because of her daddy issues. But as a child, she watched Melba Jean steal Amos from Linda and in return attack other women and fight for Amos’ love. Adult Toya is a present day version of Melba Jean, right down to the angry wives that confront her about their men, and a bitterness that takes over her whenever she thinks of the father that abandoned her.

Tomiko got Amos’ sense of creativity and has turned it into a career as a highly acclaimed children’s author. She doesn’t seem to have any of Toya’s bitterness or Cass’ self-esteem issues, likely because she had a mother that didn’t dwell in the past. Though we don’t know a lot about Cass’ mother post-Amos, we know that Tomiko’s mother got married and had two more children, which seems to have served Tomiko well and makes her the daughter most readily to accept Amos’ apologies.

Finding Amos was originally scheduled for release under the title Amos back in December of 2012, but was tabled for some reason. I remember reading it then and thinking it felt disjointed. It read in three distinct voices of three authors that seemed to have not shared chapters with each other and the writing styles were so different that it was easy to determine which author had taken on each daughter. This version flows much better and makes a much more compelling read.

288 p.
Published: October 2015
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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Friday, October 16, 2015


The annual fall readathon is tomorrow and I thought I'd share some of my tips and tricks for getting through it.

1. It's a marathon, not a sprint. You have 24 hours to read your little heart out, so pace yourself.

2. Stock up on snacks before Saturday.  Unless you plan on using a run to the store as an excuse to take a break, you should have a variety of snacks on hand. Mindless snacking & reading go hand in hand like peanut butter & jelly.

3. Just like you need variety in snacks, you need some variety in genres and book length. As much as you love a good thriller, you might want to throw in some romance novels or science fiction., sort of a palate cleanser between courses at a fine diner. You'll also want to mix a few short books (200 pages or less) in with your longer reads.  I find it easier to start the day with short books as a warm up and move on to longer books as the day progresses.  When I find myself getting distracted, I switch back to shorter books of a different genre.  To be fair, your shelves are probably full of books of all lengths and genres you've been meaning to read but haven't yet.  Now is the time!

4. Take a break! It would be great if you make it through 24 hours of reading, but no one expects you to. Saturdays are full of errands we don't get to during the week.  If you have other events planned, by all means, go.  The readathon isn't about the quantity of time you spend reading, but the quality. There are some die hard participants that will go from 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday, I'm not one of them. I've tried in the past and by 6 p.m., my brain has turned to mush and I can't even comprehend what I'm reading.  Go take a walk, check in on social media, call your great-aunt Gertrude who you've been meaning to call for weeks.

5. Check in at the readathon site  and on social media throughout the marathon.  There will be plenty of giveaways, as well as links to other participants blog sites, if they're bloggers.  It's always a great time to discover new blogs and fellow readers. If you've officially signed up for the readathon, there will be cheerleaders tweeting at you and offering you words of encouragement.  And you can offer those same kind words to other readers.

I'll be tweeting most of Saturday using the #readathon and #ReadInColour hashtags, so if you're participating, let me know so I can cheer you on and find out what you're reading.  Now what are your tips on getting through the readathon and what's in your stack?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#BookReview: MOURNER'S BENCH by Sanderia Faye

Children that talk out of turn irk me, so initially it was difficult for me to get into Mourner's Bench.  Told from the point of view of 8 year old Sarah Jones, it's the story of the civil rights movements' arrival in small town Maeby, Arkansas. At the center of the movement is Sarah's mother, Esther, with whom Sarah is on a first name basis.  Like I said, children that talk out of turn and don't know their place aggravate me.

Sarah is an old woman in an 8 year old's body.  At a time when she should be outside playing and living carefree, she's more concerned with getting off of the mourner's bench at revival. Mind you, she put herself there, but she felt it was time, given who her mother was. For those not familiar with the mourner's bench, it's where people who've not yet been baptized but feel they're close to getting a sign that it's their time sit during church or revival.  In some churches, it's believed that parents are responsible for their children's sins until they turn 13.  Esther's big city ways keep her on church prayer lists all around Maeby.  Figuring Esther has enough sins to carry, Sarah is determined to get her religion so she can become responsible for her own sins.

Left behind by Esther when she went off to Chicago, Sarah lives with her grandmother, Muhdea, and great-grandmother, Granny, along with a host of young cousins left behind by their parents to be raised by their older relatives. Her close relationship with Granny is a big factor in Sarah's life.  Her disrespect of her mother is in part due to her relationship with Muhdea. While neither Muhdea or Granny cottons to Esther's idea of integrating the local schools, and using Sarah to do so, it's their dismissal of Esther's opinions that lead Sarah to think she can speak to her mother any kind of way.

There are enough plot twists and revelations to keep the book interesting, but there was also enough to call the story line into question. I had a hard time believing that adults would allow two 8 years to go house to house signing up black potential voters in 1960s Arkansas, especially when the threat of the local authority loomed so heavily over them. Having had grandmothers from the South, I also found it hard to believe that either of my grandmothers would have tolerated any sass that way Muhdea and Granny did, and they certainly wouldn't have encouraged me to go against my mother so blatantly.  At almost 400 pages, Mourner's Bench is a decent read, but it takes far too long to get to the meat of the story.  That being said, it's a decent debut novel from Faye and I'd definitely give her work another try in the future.

372 p.
Published: September 2015
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publicist, opinions are my own.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

#BookReview: UNDER THE UDALA TREES by Chinelo Okparanta

With the Biafran War as the background, Under the Udala Trees opens with the story of a young and happy Ijeoma. As her parent’s only child, she is coddled and well cared for in her middle class home. The war takes its toll on her father early on and Ijeoma and her mother, Adaora, are left to fend for themselves. With relocation as their only choice, Ijeoma’s mother makes the decision to send her to live with family friends, the Ejiofors, where she will become their house girl. Though this is not the ideal situation, and one Ijeoma would never have found herself in had the war not come, the family with whom she is living has promised to send her to school, which is what her father, Uzo, would have wanted.

It’s in her new home that Ijeoma meets Amina. Though Ijeoma is Igbo and Amina is Hausa, they quickly become friends and more. The girls stumble into a relationship that’s more than just friendship, it’s something undefinable, but from the reactions of the adults around them, they’re made to feel that it’s wrong. As we follow them through the years, we see the mental anguish that they’re subjected to because of their love for each other.

Though we’re never given insight into whether or not Amina makes the decision to abandon her love of Ijeoma herself or if it is forced upon her, the reader is a witness to Ijeoma’s story. From the intense Bible reading sessions with her mother, to her discovery of an underground group of women just like her, to her attempt to “go straight,” Under the Udala Trees is the story of the journey of one woman to become who she truly is in a country where whom she loves is illegal. Does she disappoint some people along the way, namely her mother and Chibundu? Perhaps. But in the end, she’s free and standing in her truth and that’s what matters most.

336 p.
Published: September 2015

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#BookReview: THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE by Sonali Dev

When I read Sonali Dev's A Bollywood Affair last year, I immediately fell in love with her characters. As soon as I found out she was continuing her Bollywood series, I made a note to add The Bollywood Bride to my reading list. Since her previous work focused on an unlikely couple falling in love, I foolishly assumed that Bride was a sequel to that book. I have to admit that at first I was disappointed that it was not, but Dev’s new characters quickly brought me around to their side.

Known as Bollywood’s Ice Princess, Ria Parkar leads a dreadful life. Though her adoring fans think she lives a charmed life, she really lives in a self-imposed isolation from the world when she’s not filming. Her closest, and only, friends are her housekeeper and her agent. So why does she continue working in an industry she hates? Ria has secrets that cost her financially and otherwise and smiling for the camera is the only way she knows how to keep them contained.

When Ria fled Chicago 10 years prior, she left behind her favorite aunt and uncle and her cousin Nikhil, who is more like a brother than a cousin to her. She also left behind her best friend and lover, Vikram. Now that Nikhil is getting married, Vikram and Ria will be together in the same house where they began and ended their relationship. Vikram is determined not to let Ria get under his skin. He’s finally found a semblance of happiness and won’t abandon it for the woman that broke his heart.

The Bollywood Bride is a bit of a misleading title because based on the main characters, you might think that this book ends in a wedding between them. Spoiler: It does not. But it does give readers plenty of interesting twists and turns as we watch Vik and Ria deny their lover for each other and fight to maintain their distance in a house overrun by well meaning, but nosy, relatives and friends. As always, it’s an entertaining read from Dev and has me planning a Netflix Bollywood marathon in the near future.

352 p.
Published: September 2015
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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