Monday, November 30, 2009

#BookReview: Like Trees, Walking - Ravi Howard

Based on the true story of a modern day lynching in the early 80s in Mobile, Alabama, Like Trees, Walking left me wanting more. First time novelist Ravi Howard hits a home run with this story as seen through the eyes of Roy Deacon, heir apparent to the family funeral homes.

Though their father has always assumed they would join the family business, Roy's older brother Paul has plans of his own. When he comes upon the body of his long time friend hanging from a tree in the early morning hours, his life, and the lives of everyone around him, will never be the same.

I truly appreciated the author tackling this subject and even more so because he does so using the voices of young adults. All too often those of us that did not live through the civil rights era or who aren't up on our history are quick to dismiss events of the past. In this "post racial" era that we're supposed to be living in, it's easy to believe that things like this don't happen in modern America. This book is a reminder that it indeed does.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#BookReview: The Prophet of Zongo Street - Mohammed Naseehu Ali

A delightful collection of short stories, The Prophet of Zongo Street, skillfully introduces the reader to a wide array of characters connected to this fictitious street in Kumasi, Ghana. From the elderly Uwargida who magically spins tales for the young children to the humble tea seller, Mallam Sile, who always has a kind word for the cruel patrons that take advantage of him, you'll be drawn into these stories from start to finish.

Other enjoyable stories include The Live In, a short about a Ghanese woman relocated to New York drawn by her sister's claims of wealth and fortune; Man Pass Man, about a local hustler that is finally outhustled; and The Manhood Test, in which a newly married couple test the definition of marriage; and the title story, The Prophet of Zongo Street.

I greatly enjoyed this collection of stories.

Monday, November 23, 2009

#BookReview: Lover Man - Geneva Holliday

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.

Friday, November 20, 2009

#BookReview: Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break - Sherri Shepherd

I really wanted to like this book. I think Sherri is funny as a comedian, pretty good as an actress, kind of a dingbat on The View, but I was ready to give her book a chance. I made it a little less than halfway through and realized this was not the book for me. I know the title is Permission Slips, but I didn't need a permission slip/note at the end of every two or three pages reiterating what she'd just said in her short story.

In the spirit of Sherri, I give you permission to skip this book.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tis the Season for Spreading Cheer Book Contest!

I know, I know! I'm jumping the gun. I'm the person that complains when stores put Christmas decorations up in July. Give Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving their time to shine before you start decking those halls.

On the other hand, I'm also the person that starts playing Christmas music the day before Thanksgiving, while I'm up cooking. I was going to wait until then to spring my holiday layout on you, but I couldn't wait! Blame Donny Hathaway's This Christmas, but I felt the need to share it with you today.

Anyway, let's get to the point of this blog. I love giving gifts that I think people will truly enjoy and I give plenty of books at Christmas. I'll be compiling a list of books for all ages and both sexes to enjoy and sharing it with the blogosphere.

Here's where I need your help. Tell me what books you've enjoyed, either this year or in previous years, , a brief synopsis and who else would enjoy reading them. Leave your suggestions here in the comments section or email me at by December 5th. A compiled list will be posted on December 9th, giving you plenty of time to complete your holiday shopping for the readers in your life.

What do you get out of this? One person, chosen at random, will win a $ 25 giftcard.

Well what are you waiting on? Get to commenting!

#BookReview: Jezebel - Jacquelin Thomas

I'm not much for Christian lit. Not that I'm a heathen, but I prefer to keep my Biblical studies separate from my reading for entertainment. I expected this book to be heavy on Biblical quotes, but it really wasn't and I think I was a little disappointed. Other than a few verses sprinkled in towards the end of the book, one could almost forget that this story was classified as Christian lit.

A modern day Jezebel, Jessie Belle convinces a visiting minister, Traynor, that she is the woman for him. Acting quickly before the women in town tell him otherwise, Jessie Belle and her mother set up a simple plan to hook him. From then the stage is set for Jessie Belle to act in whatever way she deems appropriate, or inappropriate, to get whatever it is she wants. Always staying one step ahead of her husband, she's on the verge of having everything until outside forces get in her way.

The author goes to great lengths to create the character of Jessie Belle for the reader, but little attention is paid to her husband. While his wife is working to improve his stature in the community, the good reverend is blind to her actions, seemingly to the point of being dimwitted. I'm not sure if the author realized she was portraying him this way, but it seems to be a contradiction that a former child prodigy minister could be so naive to everything happening around him. His answer for every argument with his wife is to simply ask God to handle it without bothering to find out what she's really up to. It just didn't ring true with me as a reader.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don't miss the 24-hour Read-A-Thon, Dec. 5th!

Missed Dewey's Read-A-Thon in October? Not to worry, you're just in time for the December Read-A-Thon. Dreadlock Girl and I were lamenting way back in October about how the date just didn't work for us. She proposed creating our own read-a-thon at a more convenient time and voila? The December Read-A-Thon was born. Please be sure to sign up over on the Dreadlock Girl and let me know that you're participating as well. There just may be a prize in it for you!


What is the date of the next Read-a-thon?

December 5, 2009, starting at 6 am PST.

Where can I sign up?

You can sign up to be a Reader or a Cheerleader for the December 2009 read-a-thon here.

What is the 24 Hour Read-a-thon?

It’s sort of a reading challenge, only everyone participates at the same time. For 24 hours, we read books, post in our blogs about our reading, and visit other readers’ blogs.

Do I have to stay up the whole 24 hours?

No, although it’s more fun if if you do. Cheerleaders only need to commit to at least one hour, and Readers can either choose to stay up the entire time or take breaks as they need to.

What are the ways in which I can participate?

The two types of participants are Reader and Cheerleader.

What is the role of a Reader?

People who sign up to be readers are committing to reading books, posting updates in their blogs, and, if they need breaks, visiting the blogs of other readers and encouraging them. The most hardcore among us will stay up the entire 24 hours and do nothing but read and update, even going so far as to skip showering and eat meals while reading. However, not all of us are that hardcore, and it’s OK for you to customize this read-a-thon to meet your needs. All I ask is that you be honest in your updates, and that’s about the only rule for readers.

Updating for Readers: This should be individually customized. If you want to spend 5 or 10 minutes updating each hour or every 3 hours, that’s great. If you want to update whenever you feel like you need a break from reading, that’s great, too. If you want to just read and read for 24 hours straight and then write one big update, that’s also great. You do what works for you, OK?

Suggested format for updating: Again, customize this as you wish, but I suggest updating about what you’re reading, how many pages you’ve read since your last update, and how much time you’ve spent reading since your last update. You may want to keep a running total of time spent reading, number of books read and pages read; this could make you eligible for some prize drawings. Updates might also be your typical book reviews, once you finish something.

Readers visiting other readers: Do this if and when you’re in the mood, as often as you like.

Tips for Readers:

1. Pick shortish books. When you’re reading for such a long time, you might get really sick of the same book for hours on end. Past readers recommended that you start with a short book so that you have a feeling of accomplishment when you finish it early in the read-a-thon.

2. Choose something light (children’s books, humorous books, graphic novels, books you already know well) and save those for the end when you’re tired and sick of reading.

3. Try not to pick really dense nonfiction unless you have the most enormous attention span ever.

4. If you’re going to use this time to catch up on other challenges, try to have a big variety available. You don’t know what will hold your attention, so don’t assign yourself specific books without alternates.

5. Give yourself permission to put a book aside and try something else if it’s not holding your attention.

6. Careful with caffeine! If you drink more coffee than you’re used to, you’ll be jittery at first and then crash later. Drinking something lightly caffeinated (green tea?) throughout the day seems to work better.

7. Don’t sit in the same spot/position all day! This could make your back hurt. Instead, move to different places in the house every hour or two.

8. In general, don’t be a masochist. This is supposed to be fun! And if anything about the challenge makes you start picturing us with little devil horns and wanting to strangle us, please stop and change it so that it works for you. Or, you know, go ahead and scream TO HELL WITH THIS CHALLENGE and go to sleep. We don’t want sleep deprivation making you hate your friendly read-a-thon organizers.

What is the role of a Cheerleader?

Cheerleaders don’t need to make a commitment to a time slot. They cheerleaders will just spend whatever amount of time they can visiting the blogs of readers and other cheerleaders and encouraging everyone. The main purpose of this type of cheerleader is to keep Readers from feeling isolated as they spend their day reading.

We would like to have as many cheerleaders as possible, so that the Readers don’t go for any large chunk of time without an encouraging comment.

I can’t participate, but is there some small way in which I can help?

You would go straight onto our mental list of Most Awesome People Ever if you would promote the read-a-thon in your blog. If you scroll down, you’ll find buttons you could use. You don’t have to say much; you can just say the 5th of December 24-Hour Read-a-thon is coming up and link to this page. Or you could just put a button in your sidebar. But if you don’t really care about being on our M.A.P.E. list, you could promote the read-a-thon just because your readers might be interested!

Or you could just sort of hover in the background and, if you’re not busy on December 5th, visit a few Readers and say hi (or not).

Once I sign up, what do I do next?

Key your eye on this blog. In the days leading up to the Read-a-thon, we’ll probably post updates, last minute info, etc. The day of the read-a-thon, there will be a home base post.

Do e-books count?

Well, sure! Also audio books, reading to the kids, etc.

I can’t decide yet. The date of the Read-a-thon is too far away, I don’t know my work schedule, etc.

That’s OK. We’re going to keep mentioning the read-a-thon, especially the week before it starts. Just sign up if/when you decide to join us! The only problem you might encounter if you sign up at the last minute is that you may not make it onto the participants list before the event starts.

Here you go. These buttons were all made by past read-a-thon participants. You’re also free to make your own (let me know and we’ll add it here) or tweak these.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it.

Ahhh, truer words were never spoken than those quoted in the title of today's post by W.C. Fields. A few weeks ago I was all gung ho about participating in National Novel Writing Month. (Check out this post if you don't believe me. November is National Novel Writing Month!) I was SO going to write the next great novel, or at least I was going to put 50,000 words down on paper/screen and pretend it was the next great novel.

As the start date got closer, I began to think about all of the things I could write about. I would literally wake up with storylines, characters, etc. on my mind. I couldn't wait for November 1st
to roll around so that I could unleash this epic novel on the world. And then November 1st rolled around. And where was I? Parked in front of the TV watching football. And you do know that football starts at 11 with the pre-game show and goes until 10:30ish, and that doesn't even include the post-game show, right?

So Sunday was blown, but Monday was going to be a new day. Never mind that I work a full-time gig and chauffeur a "hesitant to get her license" 16 year old around daily. I was determined! Knowing that Monday nights are reserved for football, I thought I'd get some writing out of the way at work...yeah, it's not what they pay me for, but I won't tell if you won't. Once I got settled, the words started to pour out of me. And then the phone rang...and people stopped by...and I had to do some actual work. I was fine with that though. I figured I had breezed through 1600 or so words in the course of a busy day, surely I could find some time each day to tap out a few more.

Unfortunately, that day never came. The work week went by in a blur. My evenings were spent doing the parent thing and watching my shows. Who wouldn't think that watching Grey's Anatomy or Parking Wars would inspire greatness on my part? And why wouldn't falling asleep
as soon as the sun went down on Friday be helpful? But Saturday was coming and THAT was going to be the big day.

Except, of course, I forgot that I signed my daughter up for a program at the local university and parents are required to participate in a four hour session. We emerged from the lecture hall like zombies and made our way to another university across the river so that the offspring could check out the campus. From
there we made a pit stop for lunch and by the time we got home, I was ready for a nap. The long awaited nap was interrupted to drive the angsty teen, who forgot about doing research for her history class, to the library, where we spent 45 minutes looking up
information on prison reform and Dorothea Dix. Finally back home and ready to rest and write, I was asked to drive the same teen to the anti-homecoming dance (Please don't ask). Thinking that getting her out of the house would be a good idea, I agreed. What should have been a quiet, three hour window to write turned into a "hey BFF, I haven't talked to you in forever so let's play catchup" phone call.

Then Sunday rolled around and I was right back where I was last Sunday, parked in front of the TV for a day of football. So it's official. I'm giving up. I'll continue supporting and cheering on all of the people I encouraged to give it a try. But let's face it, I'm a reader, not a writer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

#BookReview: The Honey Well - Gloria Mallette

Ever since her mother started pimping her to pay the rent when she was 16, Arnell Rayford has tried desperately to separate herself from her mother. Recently engaged to an up and coming politician, Arnell makes the decision to cut her mother loose once and for all. Were it that easy.

Esther, or Queen Esther as she's known to those that frequent her brothel, the Honey Well, is ruthless and stops at nothing to get what she wants. And what she wants is to keep her adult daughter on a short leash by controlling her. Deciding that the only way to ensure Arnell stays under her control, Esther sets out to keep Arnell from marrying her politician boyfriend.

When a handsome stranger from Esther's past comes back into her life all hell breaks loose and no one will be the same when all is said and done.

I've seen this book at the library for years and never picked it up because I really thought I had already read it. I picked it up the other day because my stack felt too light and figured I'd just give it a browse to see if it was worth another read. To my surprise I hadn't read it before! I wouldn't say I love this book, but it was a decent read.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Seg-Book-Gation: A Letter to Book Lovers from Author Bernice McFadden

Fellow Book Lovers,

The following came across my email yesterday and I felt the need to share it, with the author's permission. I'm a big fan of Bernice McFadden's works under her own name and also her pseudonym, Geneva Holliday. We've all walked into one of the big name bookstores and had to search for the "black lit" section. It's usually reduced to a small corner or a few shelves, as if our lit isn't relevant. And what is there is the poorly edited, fly by night, urban/street lit.

It's lengthy, but please take the time to read the letter below from Ms. McFadden. Let's not lose a good author.

Dear Book Lover:

You may not know me, or my novels, because I am a

member of a growing band of African-American writers of literary

fiction who are slowly disappearing. And not because I am lacking in talent and credentials; in fact I have already published a number of books with major publishing houses and have been reviewed by national newspapers and well-respected literary journals, and have received critical acclaim and awards for my efforts. My work has been hailed as vivid, thought provoking and brilliant. I have been compared to Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston and Gloria Naylor.

The fact that my novels may disappear is not due to the downward spiral of the economy or the pound of flesh it has taken from the book-publishing industry. No, my demise began long before the floor of the housing market began to rot away and the stock market crashed through.


I don't rightly know why publisher’s market fiction written by African-Americans ONLY TO African-Americans - but it has become common practice. And by doing this, they've placed all AA authors in one box forcing them to compete for the attention of ONE audience.

The word that has been coined to describe what is happening to AA writers is: Seg-Book-Gation

Segregation is an abominable practice no matter how you slice it - but when you apply it to art -- it becomes a sin. Art of any medium should transcend color, race, class, religion and ethnicity, but alas, that is not the case in the publishing world.

AA literary writers like myself are being pushed out of the industry all together as we are no longer able to secure book deals, because publisher claim that AA readers are only interested in buying books about sex, street-life and drugs. We know that this is not the case. We are a diverse people, interested in a variety of subjects.

On January 9th, 2010, my debut novel, SUGAR will celebrate its 10th anniversary. In order to commemorate this occasion It is my great hope that this moving story of friendship and acceptance will sell 10,000 copies between now and the anniversary date.

Please try your best to purchase from an independent bookstore. It was the independent bookstores that made SUGAR the instant success it was 10 years ago.

It is my dream that the surge in sales for this decade old novel, will send a message to the publishers that we readers desire ...crave and DEMAND a variety of literature from our AA writers because their stories are just as riveting, thought-provoking and universally appealing as the stories coming from their non-African-American counterparts.


Please purchase at least one copy of SUGAR for yourself, a friend or family member and spread the word as far and wide as you can.

Peace & Light,
Bernice L. McFadden

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare A Book?

While I try to avoid figure out this whole writing thing, my mind keeps wandering to more important things like:

  • When the creator of the alphabet created it, how did he or she decide what letters should look like and what sounds they should make?
  • Will those boots I saw at Naturalizer still be on sale when I'm finally ready to purchase them? No, really. You don't understand. It's hard for a big-calved chick like me to find boots!
  • Do fries go with that shake?
  • Why are the majority of my blog and Twitter followers women?
Ok, so maybe only one of those questions is really valid. Studies (and observation by anyone who has lived long enough) have shown that women tend to be more chatty, so that would explain Twitter, but the blog?

Do women read more than men? I got my love of reading from my father and he got it from his mother. Aside from him, I can count the number of men that I know who read something other than the morning paper daily. What say you, blogosphere?