Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 Posts of 2010

It's been a long year.  Just in case you missed them, here are the top 10 most viewed posts of 2010. Read them...then read them again...I do it all the time. (Sorry, I've watched too many Diddy Ciroc commercials.)

Meh, the movie has been cast and none of my actresses were picked, but these are the people I picked last year before casting had even started.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

#BookReview: When the Sun Goes Down - Gwynne Forster

"When the sun goes down on my life, you'll all come apart like ripped balloons."   The wealthy Leon Farrell spoke those words to his three children before he passed, but, as always, he underestimated them.  While his oldest, Edgar, does seem to be falling apart at the seams, Shirley and Gunther are doing just fine.

Shunned by their father after the death of their mother while they were still children, the younger Farrell siblings worked their way through college and into successful careers.  Shirley handles PR on board cruise ships and Gunther has built a computer software company that's growing by leaps and bounds.  Their oldest brother, Edgar, is the only one that seems to be struggling in the wake of his father's death.  It's not that he misses their father, he misses the inheritance that he's sure is coming to him.

In his final thumbing of the nose at his kids, Leon died without telling anyone where his will was, including his attorney of over 20 years.  Pressed for money to pay off gambling debts, Edgar hires private investigator, Carson Montgomery, to locate the missing document.

What did you like about this book?
It was a quick and easy read.

What didn't you like about this book?
Some of the conversations seemed so unnatural.  For example, at the beginning of the book instead of giving a narration about the siblings, the author has them speaking to each other and describing their jobs to the other as if they're strangers meeting for the first time and not brother and sister.

I was also troubled by the dialect in which the author had the maid and nurse speak.  It was almost as if because they were the hired help, they weren't capable of speaking in grammatically correct sentences.  Every time I read their words, I cringed just a little.

What could the author do to improve this book?
There were whole chapters that served no purpose and, because of that, the book dragged at some points.  I also question the nice, neat ending of the book.  It's okay to not have a fairytale ending all the time.

Published October 2010
Disclosure: Received from publisher through LibraryThing.

Theme: Family from Dreamgirls

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

#BookReview: The Other Sister - Cheri Paris Edwards

Running away from problems in California lands Sanita back in quiet Urbana, Illinois.  Her family thought she was in school, but Sanita, or Jazz as she was known on the west coast, was leading a life that finally caught up with her.  Safely back in the embrace of her family, she's prepared to put that life behind her and create a new beginning.

With a good ten years on her sister, Sanita, Carla was raised at a time when her parents didn't have much.  So while Sanita had everything handed to her on a silver spoon, Carla has worked hard to get where she is.  As the new principal of a charter school, Carla loves her job.  She's won the respect of her students and most of the faculty, but there are a few teachers that would love to witness her downfall.

Bishop James Jefferson loves the Lord, the church and his family.  If there were any way to remove the pesky Marcella Lewiston from the church, he'd love it even more.  But Marcella was raised in Faith Community Church of Christ as a preacher's kid and she has no intention of leaving the church that her father helped steer for years.  Marcella goes out of her way to keep Bishop Jefferson in his place and with this latest gossip she heard about his youngest daughter, she's sure that she has him just where she wants him.

What did you like about this book?
It was a fairly predictable read, which was fine for a lazy holiday weekend. 

What didn't you like about this book?
I was slightly thrown because I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be Christian lit, but there was a liberal dosage of Bible verses thrown in, so I suppose it is.  Yes, I know there was a pastor in the story, but does that necessarily qualify a book as Christian lit?  At any rate, it felt very much like a Tyler Perry play on paper.  If Tyler Perry is your thing, then this is the book for you.

What could the author do to improve this book?
I felt like the book really focused on Sanita, which was unfair to Carla.  I thought, well maybe there was another book that focused on Carla and so the title The Other Sister was appropriate because we were now focusing on Sanita.

Due to her introverted ways, Carla was often the overlooked sister.  On the flip side, Sanita was the black sheep in a family of "good, churchgoing people."  I would say that since either sister could have been "the other sister," the focus should have been 50/50.

Published November 2010
Disclosure: ARC received from the author

Theme: Lay Your Troubles Down by Angela Winbush featuring Ronald Isley

Friday, December 3, 2010

#BookReview: The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey - Walter Mosley

An old man sits patiently, lost in his own mind, waiting on someone who's never coming again. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is the story of a 91 year old man with failing memory that has been given a brief window of time to remember all of those things that he's forgotten in over nine decades of living.

Through conversations he holds in his head, the reader is introduced to Coydog, Ptolemy's childhood mentor. It is also through these conversations that we learn of Ptolemy's deceased wife and his relationship with his previous caretaker, Reggie.

Now that Reggie has passed, Ptolemy's relatives all seem to want money from him and suspect that he's senile enough to give it to them without realizing it. Robyn, a guest of Ptolemy's niece, enters the picture and seems to want nothing from Ptolemy other than his company. The fact that she's 18 and he's 91 is rarely a factor in their platonic relationship. Robyn is simply seeking someone to care for and Ptolemy can certainly use it.

With Robyn's assistance, and also to her dismay, Ptolemy begins taking medication that returns his memory completely. Ptolemy is determined to make the most of his time and it's Robyn's job to help him complete his list of goals before that time runs out.

What did you like about this book?
Walter Mosley has such a way with words that it's a pure delight to read them. Honestly, I could probably read his grocery list and be happy. In the hands of any other author the relationship between Ptolemy and Robyn would have seemed strange, even creepy. However, Mosley writes it in such a way that it seems perfectly natural.

What didn't you like about this book?
There is a lot of switching between present day and the past without any demarcation. It got frustrating occasionally when trying to determine about whom or what the narrator was thinking.

What could be done to improve this book?
I would have liked to see an epilogue just to find out the outcome of Robyn's relationship with Ptolemy's family.

Published November 2010

Theme: I Remember by Dianne Reeves

Monday, November 29, 2010

#BookReview: Un-nappily in Love - Trisha R. Thomas

You know how some comedians hold on to a bit too long? Like it was funny at first, but now that it's served its purpose, they should really let it go and find something else to latch on to?  That's exactly how I feel about the Un-nappily series.  To be more exact, that's how I feel about the title.  My problem is not so much with the story lines, but that the author has to keep finding a way to plug the 'unnappiness' into it so that it fits with the title. Unfortunately, it wasn't a natural fit.

In the first book of the series, Nappily Ever After, the main character, Venus Johnston makes the decision to cut her long, flowing and chemically relaxed mane.  In doing so she learns about herself, her fiance, her mother, etc.  I got it.  She evolved.  She became a new creature.  So why are we still dealing with this five books later?

This time around Venus' husband, Jake, has embarked on a career as an actor and he's starring opposite the attractive Serena Lassister, with whom he has history.  Serena is aware of Venus' insecurities and sets a plan in motion to reclaim the man that is rightfully hers.  And then Venus puts on a long, flowing wig and her husband magically sees her with new eyes and comes back to her.

Yes, I'm side-eyeing the hell out of that story line.  I'm confused and I think the author is too.  The character was happy to be natural, her husband was happy with it (or so he thought), and just as he was about to cheat, a Naomi Campbell wig brought him back from the brink?  Yeah, ok.  Trisha R. Thomas is better than this and it's about time she picks up another story line because this one is played out.

What did you like about this book?
It was a quick and easy read.

What didn't you like about this book?
It's boring and predictable.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Find a new lead character and a new story line.

Published May 2010

Theme: Be That Easy by Sade

Friday, November 19, 2010

Black on Black Friday

portrait of a young adult business woman in a grey suit as she sits in a chair and smiles
The publishing world, particularly the feminine side, has been abuzz lately regarding what books are reviewed most, promoted most, etc.  It's not surprising that an overwhelming majority of those books are written by white men.  Recently female authors like Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, two female authors that enjoy healthy book sales, took newspapers to task for their treatment of commercial lit (read: chick lit written for and by white women).

As I watched the blogs blow up talking about this, I kept waiting on the women to point out all of the other literary work that's overlooked.  Sure, they threw them in as an afterthought, but I got the distinct impression that they were most concerned about their brand of chick lit getting as fair a shake as the latest Tom Clancy.  Well I'm a Picoult fan, but I'm also a fan of well written books by African American female authors and, quite frankly, I'm tired of them being overlooked.

In anticipation of holiday shopping, I'm sharing with you my list of no less than 240 books that you and yours need on your shelves.  There's everything from children's lit and chick lit to non-fiction.  Word has it that Borders is participating in Black Friday this year.  So I encourage you to go through the list and pick out some of my favorites that are sure to bring some happiness not only to the recipients, but to the authors that have written them.

Monday, November 15, 2010

#BookReview: Getting to Happy - Terry McMillan

There's a line in Nonchalant's song 5 O'clock where she says, "If you had a good day, damn, I must have missed it."  That line bounced around my head the whole time I listened to Getting to Happy.  At one point I made a comment on Twitter that I was three-fourths through and was still waiting on one of the ladies to get some happy. Ultimately, some of them find happiness.  I'm not so sure they all did though.

Fans of Waiting to Exhale were excited to hear that Terry McMillan was bringing the ladies back in real time.  Most books offer a sequel that picks up right where the story ended.  McMillan fast forwarded the characters fifteen years where she left off, almost the same amount of time between the publication of both books.  I don't know that I need to remind most what was going on with the characters previously since WTE was THE black woman's Bible back in 1992.

Back in 1992 if I had to describe the characters in a few words, I would have said Savannah was a bit thirsty for a man, but pleasant enough. Gloria was a single mother finding comfort for her loneliness in food.  Robin was clueless and just as thirsty as Savannah.  Bernie was a woman shattered by a broken marriage.  In 2010, "thangs done changed"

SPOILERS BELOW!!! Skip on down to the bottom if you plan to read the book.

Remember the guy Bernie met shortly after her divorce? He was married, but his wife was dying?  Well she married him and it didn't turn out so well.  Suffering from the after effects of that relationship, Bernie has turned to prescription drugs.

Gloria and Marvin were certainly one of the happiest stories in WTE and I was ready to continue with that, but life doesn't happen that way and neither do McMillan books.  Marvin's death sends Gloria right back to where she was in WTE.

Robin, she who slept with everything that moved back in the day, is surprisingly single and celibate.  That doesn't mean she's not looking for love though.  Her friends give her a hard time about internet dating, but she's pretty sure the right man is out there for her.

Savannah...I just don't remember her being so damn bitter.  I mean there was nothing anyone could say, or do, to her in this book that didn't produce some snappy comeback.  So she got married and her marriage didn't work, but I really got the feeling that her attitude had a lot to do with it.


What did you like about this book?
Umm...well...yeah.  LaChanze, Gloria Reuben and S. Epatha Merkerson were absolutely fantastic as the voices of Robin, Bernadine and Gloria, respectively.

What didn't you like about this book?
Terry McMillan needs not ever voice another book again...EVER.  I've never heard anyone so unimpressed with breathing before in my life.  Every word she uttered sounded like it took more effort than she was willing to put into it.  That same flat voice, with a hint of crazy, you heard when she was on Oprah's couch talking about her ex-husband? That's the same voice you're getting here.  It was so bad that I seriously considered skipping over all of Savannah's parts just so I wouldn't have to hear her.  Quite honestly, I can't really say if the character of Savannah was a bitter as I thought she was or if I was just confused by the "whogivesadamnsicleness" of Ms. McMillan.

In addition, these women didn't find happiness.  Well maybe Robin did because she ultimately reached the goal she set for herself, but Bernie and Gloria both found themselves saddled with the responsibility of helping their grown children raise their own children.  And Savannah, well who knows. 

What can the author do to improve this book?
Leave the voice over work to the professionals.

Listening time: 11 hours, 30 minutes
Published September 2010

Theme for Savannah: Bitter by Chante' Moore

Theme for Robin: Wanna Be Loved by Jill Scott

Theme for Bernadine: Be OK by Chrisette Michele

Theme for Gloria: Ain't No Need To Worry by Anita Baker and The Winans

Friday, November 12, 2010

On Broadway

I was all set to blog about Getting to Happy, but a conversation with @BrooklynLinda on Twitter inspired me to write about Broadway instead.  I listen to Slacker Radio during the work day and I've Got Love from the musical Purlie came on.  That led me to wonder if I could find it on DVD.

For those not in the know, the musical Purlie is actually based on a play written by Ossie Davis in 1961. It's the story of a traveling preacher, Purlie Victorious, who comes back to his small hometown in Georgia to save a church and break the hold Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee has over the sharecroppers.  Along the way he falls in love with Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins.  By the way, that is absolutely my favorite name in the world.  Nothing defines country like Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins!

In the original play, Ossie Davis played Purlie and Ruby Dee played Lutiebelle.  Quite appropriate, huh?  When it hit Broadway in 1970 Cleavon Little took on the role of Purlie to Melba Moore's Lutiebelle.  Eventually Purlie made it to TV with Robert Guillaume (Benson) as Purlie, Melba Moore as Lutiebelle and Sherman Hemsley as Gitlow.  I LOVED Gitlow.  There was something about seeing Hemsley in a role as someone other than George Jefferson that just did my 11 year old heart good.

I've added the Ossie Davis/Ruby Dee version of Purlie to my wish list, but I just can't bring myself to buy it.  I'm holding out for a reasonably priced Robert Guillaume/Melba Moore/Sherman Hemsley version.  Apparently someone else values it as much as I do because the cheapest I've found it online is $ 197.

Talking about all of the musicals I enjoyed as a kid reminded me of The Wiz, Ain't Misbehavin' (Nell Carter) and Sophisticated Ladies (Phyllis Hyman), along with a host of others.  PBS used to capture these performances and broadcast them, otherwise there's no way I would have been able to see these spectacular Broadway performances.  I've added clips from each to give you a hint of what you've been missing.

I've Got Love from Purlie

Ain't Misbehavin'

 Sophisticated Ladies


Those are just a few of my faves.  What's on your list?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

#BookReview: In My Father's House - E. Lynn Harris

Written before his untimely passing last year, In My Father's House was to be the first in a series from E. Lynn Harris about Bentley L. Dean III.  Warren, the man he left his fiancee' for, broke his heart when he refused to come out of the closet with him.   Cut off from his wealthy family when he revealed that he was gay, Bentley left the cold streets of Detroit for the warmth of Miami. 

Firmly established as the owner of the premiere modeling agency in South Beach, Bentley and his partner are struggling to pay the bills.  Due to the recession, no one is using models the way they used to.  When a mysterious stranger visits the office to secure male models for a private party, Bentley is immediately skeptical.  A background check confirms that the man is legitimate and Bentley attends the party along with several of his models, only to find that the attendees are all men in search of discreet hookups with other men.

While that normally wouldn't bother Bentley, he wasn't running an escort service and he'd taken his young and impressionable mentee to the party.  Said mentee gets swept up in a relationship with the well-known host of the party, who also happens to be Hollywood's biggest star as well as a father and husband.

So the remainder of the book is spent trying to convince Bentley's mentee to come back home to Miami and getting Bentley to reconnect with his estranged father.  There's nothing new to see in this one.  It's the usual E. Lynn Harris formula.  Though it was a quick read, overall I was unimpressed.

What did you like about this book?
It was a quick and easy read.

What didn't you like about this book?
It was very predictable.

What could the author do to improve this book?
I'm not sure if there are plans to continue this story line with someone else writing them, but unless they can bring something new to it, they shouldn't bother.  

Published June 2010

Theme: My Petition by Jill Scott (yes, I know it's written about the government, but parts of it seem so applicable to character situations within the book).

Monday, November 8, 2010

#BookReview: The Hairdresser of Harare - Tendai Huchu

I think I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that I'd read about this book on an author's blog and was frustrated that it didn't have a US publisher and wasn't scheduled to be released in the states.  The author of the book saw my comment and reached out to me with an offer to send me a copy.  It arrived a few weeks ago and let me tell you, I read it from start to finish in a little under two hours and loved it!

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu is the story of what can happen when you refuse to see what's right in front of you.  Vimbai is a single mother raising a child that's the result of an affair with a married man.  Working in Mrs. Khumalo's salon, she's the best hairdresser in Harare.  All of that changes the day Dumisani appears.

Though male hairdressers are unheard of in Harare, Dumi's charming ways with both Mrs. Khumalo and the customers immediately makes him the star of the salon.  Feeling put off by this, Vimbai avoids him.  However, the need for extra income prompts her to offer him a room in her house when she learns that he has no place to stay.

Both are cut off from their families, though for different reasons, and, as a result, become quite close.  Dumi sends confusing messages to Vimbai when he invites her to attend a family wedding with him.  His family is immediately drawn to her and embraces both her and her daughter.  I really feel that Vimbai and Dumi use each other to legitimize themselves to others.

Earlier when I talked about not seeing what's in front of you, I was referring to Vimbai's refusal to acknowledge that perhaps there was something Dumi was hiding.  As a reader going in knowing the back story, it was obvious by what the family was saying that there was something about Dumisani that he hadn't shared with Vimbai.  However, I think even without knowing what the family was referring to or why, had she been paying attention, there were plenty of hints and signs for Vimbai to see.

When Vimbai is finally confronted with the truth, her reaction is such that she outs Dumi to those that intend to do him harm.  Ultimately he must leave Harare and Zimbabwe altogether. It's not until she realizes that she will lose every aspect of him that she truly grasps the consequences of her actions.

What did you like about this book?
I loved the author's use of words and their flow.  He does a wonderful job of describing not only the characters, but their surroundings.

What didn't you like about this book?
Honestly the only thing that I can find wrong is that it's not available to a wider audience of readers.

What can the author do to improve this book?
Find a publisher in the states!  This is definitely a story that needs to be told.

Published September 2010

Theme: The Jackal by Ronnie Jordan

Friday, November 5, 2010

Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

Okay, not really, but I thought we'd take a break from books today to talk about my other guilty pleasure.  It never fails that at least once a year I'll see an article about books that change lives.  Is music life changing? I can't say that it is, but there are songs that automatically transport me back to another place and time when I hear them.

1. Easy by The Commodores: I learned how to skate on Saturday mornings at Skate King in East St. Louis from an instructor only known as Red.  I tried to skate backwards forever and finally mastered it one Saturday while The Commodores played in the background.

2. Master Blaster (Jammin') by Stevie Wonder: 5th grade Girl Scout Jamboree in the basement of Lily Freeman Elementary.  All I really remember is that it was hot and when Stevie sang, "It's hotter than July," I agreed with him.

3. Silent Night by The Temptations & This Christmas by Donny Hathaway: I can't remember a holiday season without these songs and the season doesn't officially start for me until I hear them.  I know I'm not alone when I say that if either song pops up on my iTunes mid-summer, I sing right along like it's Christmas Eve.

4. Our House by Madness: When cable arrived in our house in the early 80s, my brother and I would watch videos non-stop.  This was one of our favorites and every time I hear it, I think of him.

5. Jack and Diane by John Cougar Mellencamp, anything by Journey & Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard: Every one of these songs reminds me of 7th and 8th grade at Zion Lutheran Grade School

6. Out On A Limb by Teena Marie: Seems like it played on repeat while a group of neighborhood girls helped an older neighbor get ready for prom.  I had to get back to my street before the street lights came on, but those that stayed behind told us the next day that her date never showed up and she played that song all night.

7. Cher Chez La Femme by Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band: College parties and my first intro to house and deep house music. Yes, I know this song came out in the 70s, but no college party was complete until it was played.

8. Real Love by Mary J. Blige: For some reason I had access to a university vehicle the year this came out and was often sent on errands.  My partner in crime and I would ride through the back roads between Champaign-Urbana and whatever podunk town we were headed to blasting the whole What's the 411 tape.  Yeah, I said TAPE!

9. 261.5 by Tony! Toni! Tone!: Actually the whole Who tape had it going on.  We played in for hours straight on a last minute road trip to another university for a party.  We also played it in the parking lot in the early morning hours once the party was over and we discovered our friend's rust bucket of a car had a flat.

10. You Ought to Know by Alanis Morrissette: Is an explanation really needed?

So what songs bring you fond, or not so fond, memories?

Friday, October 29, 2010

#BookReview: Page from A Tennessee Journal - Francine Thomas Howard

After reading about how great this book was over at BrownGirlSpeaks, I knew I had to add it to my "to be read" list.  I'll admit that I added it February, but just now got around to reading it.  What can I say? My list is long.

Page from A Tennessee Journal tells the story of a mother struggling to raise her four children in 1913 Tennessee after her husband leaves them.  Annalaura Welles knew better than to marry John.  Her Aunt Becky told her he was a sporting man, but she was too enamored with his good looks and flattered that he chose her from all of the women in town.  Twelve years after they said, "I do," John took off in the middle of the night leaving Annalaura to figure out how to harvest the 40 acres their family sharecropped for the McNaughtons.

When John Welles left his family he didn't plan to be gone for long.  There's no way Annalaura could understand how he felt.  No man in his right mind wanted to sharecrop for the rest of his life.  He knew that Alex McNaughton had cheated his family out of what they rightfully earned the previous season and he thought that if he could just get up to Nashville, he would be able to earn enough money to buy his own farm.  He would have told Annalaura, but he knew she'd find the words to stop him.

Much like Annalaura, Eula McNaughton was in awe of her husband, Alex.  Eula was homely and knew it, so when Alex McNaughton showed up at her family's door asking for her hand in marriage, she readily accepted.  Though tending a farm was a step down for her, it was better than being an old maid, which was where she was headed just shy of her 21st birthday.  Eula runs the farm like clockwork and caters to Alex's every whim.

Alex McNaughton has no use for the coloreds.  As long as they work his land and stay out of his way, they're alright with him.  Noticing that the middle 40 acres of his land aren't being harvested properly, he sets out to confront John Welles.  He doesn't get a chance to talk to the long gone man, but he does have a chance to speak with his wife and that meeting sparks more than a passing interest for him.

What did you like about this book?
I loved that each of the four main characters was fully developed.  As a reader, I was able to see everyone's side to the story and even some background on why they behaved as they did.

What didn't you like about this book?
I can't say that it was the book, but I disliked the way women were treated as property.  I know that it was due to the time period, but I still didn't care for it.  Both John and Alex were in love with Annalaura and both, especially John, treated her as less than human.  For John to leave without word and stay gone for over a year, then magically reappear like a few gifts and kind words would make everything okay? No sir!  I was mad for Annalaura.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Not a thing.

Published March 2010

Theme: Billie's Blues by Billie Holiday

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

#BookReview: Karma II - Sabrina A. Eubanks

I loved Karma and I was really looking forward to reading the sequel to it.  Unfortunately, Karma II doesn't quite live up to the promise of the initial book.  Even so, it's still a fairly decent read.

The loss of his fiance left Lucas Cain devastated.  With the support of his best friend and fellow detective, Noah, Lucas has gotten his head straight, at least on the job.  Noah's womanizing ways amuse Lucas, but he's in no rush to connect with another woman as long as Jasmine remains on his mind.

When the two detectives are paired with lady detectives Leah and Nichole, sparks immediately fly.  The case that the foursome is working on really gets buried under the blossoming romance between Lucas and Nichole and Noah's personal problems.  In fact, the undercover operation could have been left out of the book and I don't know that anyone would have cared or noticed.

The one thing that really stood out in this book was the treatment of women as property and/or less than human.  Several women in the book are abused at the hands of men, both physically and emotionally.  While I realize that that is a reality, especially in the world that the author has created, it made for quite a few cringe worthy moments.

What did you like about this book?
The relationship with Lucas and Nichole was cute, but it evolved entirely too soon to be realistic.

What didn't you like about this book?
As I said above, the mistreatment of women left a bad taste in my mouth.  I got no sense that any of the men perpetrating the abuse regretted it or apologized for it either.  Just as disturbing as the physical abuse was the mental abuse carried out by someone that would otherwise be a likable character.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Returning to what worked for the first book would be helpful.

Published March 2010

Theme: Black and Blue by Raheem Devaughn

Monday, October 18, 2010

#BookReview: Sweet Georgia Brown - Cheryl Robinson

Georgia Brown firmly believes in supporting her man.  So even though Marvin hasn't held down a job since he was laid off from the plant, she continues to support him.  Living with his parents is no walk in the park, especially with two kids, but it's all they can afford while Marvin insists on working on a comedy career.

Fast forward and Marvin's spot on a prime time comedy competition has launched his career in radio.  Much like the jokes that he told to win the competition, his radio show focuses on what a bad wife Georgia is.  She's been the butt of his jokes for so many years that she doesn't even bother listening to his show anymore.

Marvin's bank account and ego have grown since he won the show.  He knows that Georgia is a supportive wife, in fact, she's his rock.  That doesn't stop him from seeking the attention of other women who are only too happy to please a nationally syndicated radio host.  His arrogance knows no bounds and the only thing that humbles him is the gambling debt he owes.

When a woman from Marvin's past shows up on Georgia's doorstep with a 13 year old daughter in tow, Georgia has just about reached her limit.  The sweet Georgia Brown that Marvin has walked over for years is no more.  In her place is a woman that knows what she wants and how to get it.

What did you like about this book?
It was a quick and easy read.  The author does a good job of making Georgia very likable and Marvin very unlikable.  I also appreciated the fact that the story line wasn't predictable, though it could have been.

What didn't you like about this book?

What could the author do to improve this book?
As despicable as Marvin was, I would have liked to see him suffer more.

Published January 2008

Theme: Love T.K.O. by Regina Belle

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

#BookReview: Feminista - Erica Kennedy

I can't tell you how many times I glanced at this book on the shelves of the library and kept right on walking.  Everything about the cover screamed typical chick lit.  I had no use for it.  I only wanted to read books that would improve my world and impress me.  Meh, so I'm slow sometimes.  Feminista was great!

Sydney Zamora bounced around from job to job until a temping gig landed her a permanent position as a writer at Cachet.  Along with that position came a nice, fat paycheck and all she had to do was write a few articles a month about celebrities. Easy, peasy, right?

Sydney has a reputation for discarding people from her life like yesterday's newspaper.  Friends that got married? Gone.  Having a baby? It's been nice knowing you.  Fiercely competitive and an eternal feminist, she doesn't suffer fools and that includes the men she dates.  When her sister tries to hook her up with Mitzi Berman, THE matchmaker, Syd fights her every step of the way.

Maximillion Harvey is an heir to one of the biggest department stores in the country.  He's also a slacker.  While his sister is content to run their empire, he'd much rather slide through life having fun.  He's left a trail of brokenhearted women in his wake and sees no reason to change that.  Mitzi would love to see him shackled to one of the women in her stable, but he has no intention of falling in line with her program.

Ok, I know what you're thinking.  Typical romance, right? Nope.  This is a hilariously funny take on what you think you know about fiercely independent women and the wealthy men that woo them.

What did you like about the book?
Sydney was an absolute mess.  Instead of being Pollyanna Perfect, Erica King makes her very relatable.   There was just the right touch of drama and comedy sprinkled throughout to make this a page turner.

What didn't you like about the book?
The cover doesn't do it justice.  From my initial glances I made assumptions that kept me, and perhaps others like me, from picking it up.  Nothing about the cover tells you that the lead character isn't scrawny white chick, but is actual a person of color.

What could the author do to improve this book?
I know that it's not necessarily within her power to determine the outcome of the cover art, but it would really go a long way to make it more eye catching.

Published September 2009

Theme: Independent Women by Destiny's Child

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

#BookReview: THE FALL OF ROME by Martha Southgate

The Fall of Rome really is a play on words.  The opening character is Jerome Washington, the only African American faculty member at a prestigious, predominantly white, all boys boarding school, The Chelsea School, in Connecticut.  Jerome firmly believes in pulling one up by one's own bootstraps without reaching back to help anyone else that might be struggling along the way.  Thanks to his hard work and his Harvard training, he's been on staff at The Chelsea teaching Latin for numerous years.  One of his greatest passions is studying Rome.

...but I share the view of those scholars who have argued that ancient Rome was a place of racial egalitarianism.  I am not so naive as to believe that this country's long history of racial prejudice has been eradicated.  But I do believe that those of us whom Du Bois called "the darker brothers" could profit from accepting the values that Chelsea at its best espouses.   And while I see this school's standards softening under the relentless onslaught of preferential treatment, I want to continue to uphold the values that the school's founders held dear.

Mr. Washington can barely disguise his contempt for Rashid Bryson, the young freshman from New York.  Rashid has come to Connecticut after the death of his brother, a death that has left his parents shells of their former selves.  Adapting to Chelsea, and its student body, will be difficult for a brown boy Brooklyn.  When he notices that the Latin class is taught by Mr. Washington, he takes the class in hopes that he'll find an ally or mentor in him.

There are so many factors at play within this story.  Rashid is looking for acceptance in a world in which he's unfamiliar.  Mr. Washington is haunted by the ghost of his past and is determined to keep boys that don't belong at a place like Chelsea out of it.  Jana needs a chance to redeem herself from her last failure to save a promising student.

What did you like about this book?
I absolutely loved this book!  Any time you find yourself talking back to the pages and wanting to punch a character in the throat, it's got to be a great book.  Martha Southgate has done an exquisite job of creating such a character in Jerome Washington.  From page one I hated him and, while I kept hoping he would have at least one redeemable quality by the end, he had none.

At one point Rashid gives a speech that sounds like something straight from the mouth of President Obama.  Given that the book was written in 2002, either the author is psychic or it's just a coincidence.  In either case, the speech he gave is just as applicable to the present day real world as it was in the fictional world in which Rashid resided.

What did you dislike about this book?
Nothing. I'm only sorry that more people haven't read it.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Not a thing.

Published January 2002

Theme: Can't Truss It by Public Enemy

Monday, October 4, 2010

#BookReview: The Girl from Purple Mountain: Love, Honor, War,and One Family's Journey from China to America - May-lee Chai & Winberg Chai

As a child I hated spending time with my "mean" grandmother. It wasn't so much that she was mean, it was more that I didn't understand her. In The Girl from Purple Mountain, May-lee and Winberg Chai tell the story of their grandmother and mother from their points of view.

With the passing of Ruth, the matriarch of the family, the Chais are thrown into a tizzy. To her family's astonishment, Ruth secretly arranged to be buried alone and away from the plots purchased by her husband. And so begins the story of how Ruth came to be the way she was. To May-lee she was the stern grandmother that rarely showed affection. To Winberg she was his extraordinary mother.

In a time when Christianity was new in China, Ruth was a proud Christian. Her determination led to her studying in America and earning a degree from Wittenberg University. Her cunning ways saved her from marrying a shallow man and instead marrying his younger, more studious brother. While the world around her crumbled, she continued to lift up her husband and sons. It's no wonder that with the weight of the world on her shoulders, she became the stern grandmother that May-lee came to know.

In reading this I found myself drawing parallels between Ruth and my grandmother, who raised twelve children while surviving a divorce and later the death of her second husband while living first in Mississippi and later in East St. Louis. She never told her children she loved them, but they always knew because of her actions. Her no nonsense manner, the result of living in a segregated and unjust world, was a steady in the lives of her children and in mine until she passed in 1988. It has always been strange to hear my aunts and uncles speak of her in such glowing terms. Much like I saw my grandmother differently than my mother did, I know that my daughter sees my mother much differently than I do.

What did you like about this book?
May-lee and Winberg Chai have done a magnificent job of presenting the same person in such a way that she almost seems like two different people.

What did you dislike about this book?
At times the portions written by Winberg can get wordy. I imagine that it's because he remembers China so vividly that he wants to share as much as possible.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Other than the wordiness here and there, I wouldn't change a thing.

Published June 2001

Theme: Grandma's Hands by Bill Withers