Friday, February 26, 2010

Black Book Bloggers: Where Bloggers & Authors Meet

At the request of an author I adore, and with no arm twisting required, I've created Black Book Bloggers.

With so many other websites promoting books, why is there a need for this?
I belong to many of those other websites and too many times books by and about us are relegated to a forum. This site has been formed as a collective place for both authors of African American lit and bloggers that read and review their works.

It will allow authors to promote their work directly to a community that also promotes books through their blogs.

It will allow bloggers to interact with authors they're already reading, discover new authors and give them a chance to provide those authors with open and honest feedback. It will also allow bloggers to promote their own blogs to authors and other bloggers of African American lit.

I hope to see you over there!

#BookReview: What's Done in Darkness - Shaun L. Green

"Jacqueline Moore noticed that she was rocking again... 'Sit still,' she said. 'You're not crazy.'"

Dealing with teen girls is never an easy job and when her daughter becomes more secretive, Jacqueline, or Jay as she prefers to be called is sure she's in some kind of trouble. Combined with her daughter's strange behavior and a strong sense in her gut that has never steered her wrong, Jay is determined to find out what's going on with Siva. Before she can do that, she has to move a few distractions out of her way.

The proud owner of a new boutique, Jay is constantly worried about sales and promoting the store. When she's not worried about the boutique, she's working on her relationship with her current husband Terrence and dealing with her annoying ex-husband, Marcus.

While Jay believes that her relationship with her daughter has always been good, it becomes very tense when she receives a call from her ex-husband asking why their daughter has been skipping school. Forced to address the situation Jay begins snooping through Siva's trying to find answers. When she stumbles across her diary, she knows she shouldn't read it, but fearing that her daughter might be in trouble, she does. Reading it makes her realize that her daughter is no longer the virgin that she thought she was and that she is about to become a grandmother.

Siva is adamant about keeping her baby. Upset that her mother has once again gotten in her way, she's determined to win this time. While her mother believes that her former boyfriend, Jason, is the father, she knows that's not the case. When she's confronted by an angry girl at school claiming that she slept with her boyfriend, star athlete Cameron, Siva has to wonder if there's any truth to it. All she knows is it doesn't matter who fathered her child, she's going to raise it, even if she has to do it all alone.

Back in Jay's world, she's still too busy with the boutique to address the situation, but is forced to talk with Siva's school counselor when Marcus won't drop the subject. To her surprise, she finds that Siva didn't just miss a few days this week when she was home sick, but has missed several days over the last few months and is in jeopardy of not graduating. Even more surprising is the fact that she has written excuses for her absences and they've all been signed by Terrence. When the school can't locate Siva and Terrence won't answer his phone, Jay rushes home to find them in the middle of an angry confrontation that confirms what she's suspected since she left the school.

As an outsider looking in, I can see so many red flags that Jay ignored. Giving her daughter material things to make up for the lack of time spent with her is a common mistake that a lot of parents make these days. In Jay's case, the end result was a daughter that resented and disrespected her at every turn.

What did you like about this book?
As the mother of a teen, this book is very believable and relatable. I think it's written in such a way that both adults and young adults can appreciate it.

What did you dislike about this book?
There were some characters that I thought were unnecessary and didn't add much to the storyline.

How can the author improve this book?
There are some phrases used that date the book. For example, "That's what's up." While it was a popular phrase a few years ago, unless you're writing a period-specific story, you should stay away from anything that can date your story or characters. In addition, the phrase was used by adults often and catch phrases tend to be more of a teen/young adult thing.

256 pp
Published October 2008

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Authors of Color That Tweet & Where to Find Them Online

Portrait of a Woman Sitting on a Sofa Using a Laptop Computer

Want to know what your favorite authors are up to? Wondering who your favorite author's favorite author is? Is the sequel to her next book coming out soon? Will there even be a sequel? Sure you can wait until their publisher releases that information, but wouldn't it make sense to ask them directly on Twitter or their blog? Now I'm not suggesting that you stalk them, but you can let them know that you enjoy their work. They don't always get the same love from publishers and bookstores that other authors get, so a word of encouragement really goes a long way.

Tayari Jones (@tayari)
Official Website -

Carleen Brice (@carleenbrice)
Official Website -
Blog - Pajama Gardner -
Blog - White Readers Meet Black Authors -

Tina McElroy Ansa (@TinaMcElroyAnsa)

Terry McMillan (@MsTerryMcMillan)

Roy Pickering (@AuthorofPatches)
Official Website -

Tananarive Due (@TananariveDue)

Donna Hill (@donnahill)
Official Website -

Dolen Perkins-Valdez (@dolen)

Bernice McFadden/Geneva Holliday (@queenazsa)

Jennifer Baszile (@bgnd)

Sharon Ball (@smball804)

Bonnie Glover (@bonnieglover10)
Official Website -

Connie Briscoe (@conniebriscoe)

Tara Betts (@tarabetts)
Official Website -

Michele Grant (@MGrantAuthor)
Official Website -

Kim Wayans (@kimwayans)
Official Website -

Farai Chideya (@faraichideya)
Official Website -

Virginia DeBerry & Donna Grant (@deberryandgrant)

Eric Jerome Dickey (@ericjeromedicke)

Kayla Perrin (@kaylaperrin)
Official Website -

Heidi Durrow (@hdurrow)
Official Website -
Blog -

Lori Tharps (@loritharps)
Official website -
Blog -

Niobia Bryant/Meesha Mink/Simone Bryant (@infiniteink)
Official website -

Aliya S. King (@aliyasking)
Blog -

Lolita Files (@lolitafiles)
Official Website -

Danyel Smith (@danamo)

Cheris Hodges (@Cheris Hodges)
Official Website -

Deidre Berry (@Writeon777)

Abiola Abrams (@abiolatv)
Official Website -
Official Website -

Jabari Asim (@jabariasim)

L.A. Banks (@LA_Banks)

Noire (@AskNoire)
Official Website -

Francis Ray (@Francis_Ray)
Official Website -

Mary B. Morrison (@marybmorrison)
Official Website -

Mat Johnson (@mat_johnson)

I didn't list authors without Twitter accounts and I'm sure I've missed some who have them. Who do you follow that should be added to the list?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

#BookReview: At the Elbows of My Elders: One Family's Journey Toward Civil Rights - Gail M. Grant

I suspect that this memoir held my attention only because it was written about St. Louis, a city that was segregated during the time period covered in this book, and still is to this day. At the Elbows of My Elders is the author's tribute to her parents, in particular her father, David Grant.

A prominent attorney and civil rights activist in segregated St. Louis, David Grant seems to have had a hand in tearing down several walls of institutional racism. Without intending to, he made his family one of the first to integrated the south side of the city. For those not familiar with St. Louis, whites tend to live on the south side and blacks on the north side. While this is a current condition, I was surprised to find that it existed as far back as the 1930s. Also surprising is the fact that white flight began as early as the '30s with white families fleeing for south county to avoid the handful of black families that moved into south city. The knowledge that the city is divided is often played up by the local media who reports any crime as occurring on the north side, even if it's midtown or downtown. In the minds of most St. Louisans, "the north side" is nothing more than code for black.

In a heavily Republican St. Louis, David Grant became one of the first to recognize that the black vote was being taken for granted by the party, without getting little in return. He was instrumental in persuading black voters to switch to the Democratic party. For this, blacks were rewarded with a new "colored" hospital, which would prove to be the third largest teaching hospital for black doctors and nurses.

Working as part of the original March on Washington (MOW) in 1941 with A. Phillip Randolph, their group was responsible for President Roosevelt's Executive Order No. 8802, also known as the Fair Employment Act, which integrated defense plants. By signing the order, the president avoided the embarrassing march planned for July 1, but he could not avoid the national movement that grew out of it. MOW units were formed throughout the United States and the St. Louis unit, headed up by David Grant, organized protests against several plants within the St. Louis area, forcing integration.

Though the author touches on her family's connection to several entertainers of the time such as Lena Horne, Leontyne Price, Cab Calloway, etc., I was most impressed with her father's mentoring of young attorneys. Those attorneys included Billy Jones, a young East St. Louis attorney who would go on to try and win the case for integration in the public schools and later become a judge. His mentees also included Frankie Freeman, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Margaret Bush Wilson, the first woman of color to chair the national board of directors of the NAACP.

What did you like about the book?
I love learning new things about places or topics that I think I'm already well versed on. The author touches on quite a few events that occurred of which I was unaware.

What did you dislike about the book?
The book moved slowly at times.

How can the author improve this book?
I would have liked to hear just a little bit more about her mother. The author touches on both of her maternal and paternal grandparents, but seems to gloss over her mother.

272 pp
Published September 2008

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sins of the Mother - Did We Love It?

Three Women Applauding

I don't know about you all, but I planned my Sunday evening around this movie. I cooked dinner early and retired to my room to watch it in peace. When my daughter asked me to come downstairs to help her make churros for Spanish class, I agreed only after she assured me that she had already turned the channel to Lifetime Movie Network. Even then I refused to come down until the movie was on a commercial break.

I LOVED IT! With a few exceptions here and there, the movie stayed very true to the book. Jill Scott was great, but she's always great. People who haven't seen her performance in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency are missing out on her acting skills. But the break out performance was by Nicole Beharie, the actress that played LaShay. Twitter was abuzz Sunday night with people voicing their dislike for the angry, bitter character. At the same time, tweeps really empathized with Shay.

And the church scene? My timeline was scrolling so quickly that I could barely keep up! I knew it was coming, but I was sitting on the edge of my seat to see how it would play out and I was not disappointed. It was so good that I had to hit rewind and watch it a second time. By the way, the author herself was in this scene sitting directly behind Shay, wearing some fierce glasses.

The casting (I loved the chocolatey goodness that played Oliver), the writing and the scenery all came together to create one of the best "book turned movie" that I've seen in awhile.

So what did you think? Did you enjoy it? Was it everything you thought it would be? Did you read the book first? Comment here, but by all means, comment over on Lifetime's website because we want to see more movies by and about us, right?

And what other literary works are you interested in seeing? Terry McMillan's Mama? Beverly Jenkins' Bring on the Blessings? What about a J. California Cooper series of shorts?

Monday, February 22, 2010

#BookReview: A Second Helping - Beverly Jenkins

The second in what I hope becomes a series, A Second Helping is the follow up to 2009's Bring on the Blessings. The residents of the historically black town of Henry Adams, KS are back for more.

Readers of the first book will remember that newly divorced millionaire Bernadine Brown bought the struggling town while looking for a project to immerse herself in after she found her husband of twenty-plus years cheating. A woman with a big heart, Bernadine began a project in the first book to unite the families of Hays Adam with hard to place foster children. In her latest sequel, we find the kids and their families thriving and readying for adoption.

Eleven year old former car thief, Amari, has found a home with the mayor of the small town and has made the decision to become a part of the July family. In order to do so, he must complete a spiritual quest guided by the matriarch of the July family, Tamar, and complete an unselfish task that brings joy to someone else. Paging through old photo albums, Amari stumbles upon pictures of the August 1st parade and decides to organize one for his new family and new town.

Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of an August 1st parade. Most of us are familiar with Juneteenth, which is celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the abolition of slavery in Texas, the last state to free their slaves in 1865. August 1st celebrates the abolishment of slavery in the British empire in 1834 and was celebrated throughout towns in the United States up until 1927. To this day it is also celebrated in Barbados, Bermuda, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Anguilla, The Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and the British Virgin Isles.

During the 1830s these annual events were small affairs largely organized in schoolhouses, debating halls, and black churches. Over subsequent decades, however, these annual meetings became much larger, more public, and communal affairs. Thousands of people of African descent would congregate in villages, towns, and city squares during the opening days of August to celebrate the ending of slavery elsewhere and organize for its overthrow in the United States. During the 1850s, these public meetings became breeding grounds for more militant opposition toward American slavery: through the attraction and participation of fugitive slaves; the parade of armed black militias; and, fiery speeches demanding the violent overthrow of American slavery. In British Canada, an older generation of black people, along with fugitives and more recent emigrants, also adapted August First as an important expression of their antislavery actions and political identities. In short, August First Day was to become the most important public commemorative event and popular form of mobilization among people of African descent in the English-speaking Atlantic world between the 1830s and the 1860s. - excerpt from Whatever Happened to August First by J.R. Kerr-Ritchie
Along with the adventures that come with planning a parade, readers are introduced to a few new characters and will be delighted to reacquaint themselves with old, familiar characters.

What did you like about this book?
I loved the introduction of August 1st. The author is known for writing historical romances. Though this is not a romance in the true sense of the word, I'm glad that she introduced the historical aspects of this fictional town.

What did you dislike about this book?
It ended too quickly. Yes, even with 386 pages, I wanted more.

How can the author improve this book?
No improvements needed. It's my hope that this becomes a series and that it doesn't take another year for the next edition to be released.

386 pp
Published January 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Literary News You Can Use

Just wanted to take a minute to share some literary "goings on".

Don't miss Sins of the Mother on the Lifetime Movie Network this Sunday at 8 pm est/7 pm cst. Based on Carleen Brice's Orange Mint and Honey, it stars Jill Scott and Nicole Beharie (American Violet). Be sure to head over to the Lifetime message board to let them know what you think, especially if you'd like to see more of our stories on TV and the big screen.

The sequel to Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale titled Getting to Happy is set to be released some time this fall and catches up with the ladies 10 - 15 years after we last saw them. What do you think? Anyone excited about this or has the interest level in this story expired?

Anchee Min, author of Empress Orchid and The Last Empress is back with a new book about author Pearl Buck. I'm a fan of both women so I'm looking forward to reading Pearl of China when it comes out in March. If I'm really lucky, I'll get a free copy in the mail!

There's finally a Kindle for Blackberry app available and it's free! What does that mean to you? That means you can join the rest of us in reading Bernice McFadden's Keeper of the Keys, available for the low price of $ 1.99. You can also read it on your iPhone or on your computer, using Amazon's new Kindle for PC app. After you've read it, be sure to sign up over on the right for a reminder of our March 10 chat with the author herself.

This has absolutely nothing to do with literature, but it makes me cackle.

That's it for me. What upcoming books and/or literary events are you excited about? Please feel free to share!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Join us for a Special Event in Honor of National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Pulled from The Red Pump Project -

As National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS approach, we want people to realize that women are a big part of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and we ought to know how the disease is affecting us directly and indirectly. There are many reasons why it's important for women to know the facts when it comes to HIV. Biologically, we're more susceptible to infection during sex. We're also more likely to get infected through heterosexual sex.

Statistics used are from the Center for Disease Control's
website. Although these stats are only taking the United States into account, globally, HIV/AIDS is no less of a problem, especially for women.

HIV/AIDS & Minority Women
HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects minority women in the United States. According to the 2005 census, Black and Latina women represent 24% of all US women combined, but account for 82% of the estimated total of AIDS diagnoses for women in 2005.

HIV is the:
  • Leading cause of death for Black women (including African American women) aged 25–34 years.
  • 3rd leading cause of death for Black women aged 35–44 years.
  • 4th leading cause of death for Black women aged 45–54 years.
  • 4th leading cause of death for Latina women aged 35–44 years.
  • The only diseases causing more deaths of women are cancer and heart disease
  • The rate of AIDS diagnosis for Black women was approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Latina women
  • In 2006, teen girls represented 39% of AIDS cases reported among 13–19 year-olds. Black teens represented 69% of cases reported among 13–19 year-olds; Latino teens represented 19%.

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 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 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 Wednesday, March 10 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST right here.

#BookReview: Big Girls Do Cry - Carl Weber

The ladies of the BGBC, that's the Big Girls Book Club, are back for another round of adventures. The only requirements for membership are a love of reading and being a size 14 or more. The sequel to Something On the Side, Big Girls Do Cry picks up with the story of Isis and her crazy (and I don't mean that in a good way) sister, Egypt.

Newly relocated to Virginia with her husband Rashid...the same Rashid that her older sister Egypt dated for over 10 years, Isis fears that her marriage could be coming to an end if she's not able to have children. Though adoption could be the answer to their problems, Isis' husband would prefer to have a child of his own.

Egypt has lived with Rashid and Isis since her last suicide attempt. She's over Rashid, the man that she dated for years until married playboy Tony came along. Tony's wife won the last battle, but Egypt is determined to win the war. She might need to get a job and move out of her sister's house first, but for now, she plans to stick around and lure Rashid back into her bed.

Ok, time out! I just need to do a reality check here. So sister #2 (Isis) married sister #1's (Egypt) leftovers (Rashid). Then when sister #1 couldn't trap the married man she dated and tried to kill herself, sister #2 let sister #1 move in with her and the leftovers (Rashid)? Couldn't and wouldn't be me, but to each her own, right?

New club member Loraine has everything going for her as the president of her own public relations firm. The office of national president of her sorority is just within her grasp, but only if she can keep her sorors from finding out about her cheating husband.

The only male member of the club, Jerome, is Loraine's best friend. A living-out-loud gay man, he's proud of the way he loves them and leaves them, until the day he leaves the wrong one and all hell breaks loose.

What did you like about this book?
Much like early Eric Jerome Dickey and Van Whitfield, Carl Weber writes well from the female perspective.

What did you dislike about this book?
The storylines bordered on ridiculous at times, but it is fiction so I guess I can't complain too much.

What could the author do differently?
I would have liked more male voices in the story. Isis and Loraine both have problems with their husbands, but the story is only told from their side so as the reader, you're left feeling like the husbands are unconcerned with their marital problems.

Look for the sequel, Torn Between Two Lovers, in September 2010.

319 pp
Published February 2010

I received a free copy of this book from Kensington Publishing. In no way did receipt of this book affect my review.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

#BookReview: Guest Post: Orange Mint and Honey - Carleen Brice

Today's guest blogger is Yolonda Spinks.

Relationships whether good, bad or ugly, we all have them. These relationships, especially those with close friends and family shape our entire existence. The most unique relationship is the mother-daughter bond, even if that bond is broken; it still exists. In Orange Mint & Honey, author Carleen Brice takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride in the lives of Shay Dixon and her mother Nona. Although 25 years in age, Shay's soul personifies a character much older. While experiencing her mid-life crisis, Shay is advised to take a break from graduate school by her advisor. Later Shay would receive a visit from her banshee (spirit) Nina Simone and be advised to return home to her mother, a recovering alcoholic whom she had not spoken to in seven years.

A tale of love, hate, forgiveness, truth, and a large dose of heart-wrenching reality, Brice uses Orange Mint and Honey as an avenue to touch on very sensitive and sometimes taboo subjects, but with such eloquence and skill. While reading this novel I continuously found myself overwhelmed with emotion. At times I laughed, sometimes I cried and other times I had to put the book down and just think. Brice allowed me to use the character of Shay Dixon to deal with some of my own daughter-mother issues. Like Shay they are issues that started for me as a young girl and now in adulthood these same issues continue to affect me via the choices I make on a daily basis. However, I received a dose of hope knowing that all relationships are mendable if we are willing to meet people where they are and if we receive what they have to give us as opposed to demanding what we want or what we think we deserve. Like Shay eventually did, I had to take into account that my mom has her own growing pains that she has to deal with on her terms and I must allow her to do that on her time, just not at the expense of my feelings.

This book is a must read and an eye-opener for anyone that is affected by or intrigued by the mother-daughter bond and the strengths and weaknesses that lie within it. In spite of the struggles, these women, Nona and Shay were determined to make it through allowing the reader to understand the sensitive yet strong bond that women possess. "Ain't I a woman?"

**Be sure to tune in Sunday, February 21, 2010 to Lifetime Movie Network to catch the premiere of "Sins of the Mother." This movie is based on Brice's novel Orange Mint & Honey and stars Grammy Award winning singer/actress Jill Scott. **

**Check out the Carleen Brice interview by BrownGirl by clicking here.

Yolonda Spinks is new to the blogging world, but loves reading books and sharing her opinions. A senior in college majoring in journalism, she also gives community presentations on infant mortality and its affect on African Americans.

For more reviews by Yolonda, please visit her at Notorious Spinks Talks or follow her on Twitter @NotoriousSpinks.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Author of the Month - Tananarive Due

Tananarive Due — pronounced tah-nah-nah-REEVE doo — is the American Book Award-winning author of several books, ranging from supernatural thrillers to a mystery to a civil rights memoir. Blood Colony (released in June 2008), is the long-awaited sequel to her 2001 thriller The Living Blood and 1997’s My Soul to Keep, a reader favorite that Stephen King said “bears favorable comparison to Interview with the Vampire. Blood Colony continues the saga of African immortals with healing blood.

Due also collaborates with her husband, novelist and screenwriter Steven Barnes. They recently sold their screenplay adaptation of her novel The Good House to Fox Searchlight studios. In the summer of 2007, Due and Barnes published their first mystery, Casanegra: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel, which they wrote in collaboration with actor Blair Underwood. Publishers Weekly called Casanegra “seamlessly entertaining.” The series continued with In the Night of the Heat and From Cape Town with Love, scheduled for publication in May 2010.

The Living Blood, which received a 2002 American Book Award, “should set the standard for supernatural thrillers of the new millennium,”said Publishers Weekly, which named The Living Blood and My Soul to Keep among the best novels of the year. The Good House was nominated as Best Novel by the International Horror Guild.The Black Rose based on the life of business pioneer Madam C.J. Walker, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. My Soul to Keep and The Good House are both in film development at Fox Searchlight.

Due’s novel Joplin’s Ghost blends the supernatural, history and the present-day music scene as a rising R&B singer’s life is changed forever by encounters with the ghost of Ragtime King Scott Joplin. Due also brought history to life in The Black Rose, a historical novel based on the research of Alex Haley – and Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights, which she co-authored with her mother, civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due. Freedom in the Family was named 2003's Best Civil Rights Memoir by Black Issues Book Review (Patricia Stephens Due took part in the nation’s first “Jail-In” in 1960, spending 49 days in jail in Tallahassee, Florida, after a sit-in at a Woolworth lunch counter).

In 2004, alongside such luminaries as Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison, Due received the “New Voice in Literature Award” at the Yari Yari Pamberi conference co-sponsored by New York University’s Institute of African-American Affairs and African Studies Program and the Organization of Women Writers of Africa.
-excerpts above from Tananarive Due's website

My personal favorites from Ms. Due are The Black Rose and the Tennyson Hardwick series. Her writing really brought Madame C.J. Walker to life for me and I appreciate the Hardwick series for the covers with Blair Underwood's naked back! I'm also a big fan of The Good House and The Blood Colony series. I'm usually too much of a chicken to venture into the supernatural, but her writing is just too delicious to resist.

Do you have a favorite by the author?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Books to Movies Week: Lights, Camera, Action!

We've talked about the good, the bad and the meh. Everyone already knows that I'm waiting on "The Help" to be made into a movie, even going so far as to cast the movie myself). Now let's talk about more books that should be made into movies.

The Broke Diaries by Angela Nissel
Also known as one of the funniest books I've read, I've heard rumblings for the longest that a movie is forthcoming, but I've yet to see it happen.

"On buying ramen noodles: I am sooooooo embarassed. I only have 33 cents. I (please don’t laugh) put the money on the counter and quickly attempt to dash out with my Chicken Flavored Salt Noodles. The guy calls me back! I look up instinctively, I should have run . . . Why didn’t I run???!! He tells me the noodles are 35 cents. I try to apologize sincerely. I thought the sign said 33 cents yesterday, so that’s all I brought with me. Could he wait while I ran home and get the 2 cents? I show him my student I.D. to let him know I am not a thief. He shakes his head and motions either for me to get the hell out of his store and don't come back again or get the money and do come back. I don’t know. He said something like “Nyeh” and swiped his hand in my direction.

I can’t translate hand motions well.

The noodles: tasty!!!"

2. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
Until "True Blood" came along, I left witches, vampires and warlocks to others. Occasionally I'd dip my toe in the waters of Anne Rice-dom though and find something fantastic.
"In this engrossing and hypnotic tale of witchcraft and the occult spanning four centuries, we meet a great dynasty of witches--a family given to poetry and incest, to murder and philosophy, a family that over the ages is haunted by a powerful, dangerous and seductive being."

3. I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots by Susan Straight
I read this year's ago and the story has stayed with me.
"Large, silent, 14-year-old, blue - black Marietta Cook leaves tiny Gullah-speaking Pine Gardens, South Carolina to seek her uncle and her fortune in Charleston when her mother dies. Learning the rhythms of the city, working for Frank in the fish market, going home to bear twins, working on a rice plantation, returning to Charleston and raising her boys--her life unfolds."

4. 72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell
I think it's important that the African American community confront mental illness head on and stop sweeping it under the rug, all the while believing that it can pray away schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. In an intensely personal story, the late Bebe Moore Campbell allows readers a glimpse into the world of those affected by loved ones suffering from a mental illness.
"In this novel of family and redemption, a mother struggles to save her eighteen-year-old daughter from the devastating consequences of mental illness. Trina suffers from bipolar disorder, making her paranoid, wild, and violent. Watching her child turn into a bizarre stranger, Keri searches for assistance through normal channels. She quickly learns that a seventy-two hour hold is the only help you can get when an adult child starts to spiral out of control. After three days, Trina can sign herself out of any program."

5. The Tamara Hayle series by Valerie Wilson Wesley
Tamara Hayle is part Cleopatra Jones and part Willona Woods and I love her! I don't know that she would translate well on the big screen, but I would love for HBO to adapt the series about this modern day private eye.
"A tough and savvy Newark cop-turned-P.I., Tamara Hoyle is a sister with a mission: to raise her kid right in a mean town."

Now it's your turn. What books do you think deserve the Hollywood treatment?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Books to Movies Week: They Never Should Have Made THAT Into A Movie!

Perhaps they were good books gone bad. Or maybe they were bad books made worse. The bottom line is there are some books that should have never been made into movies.

1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

I'm a fan of Toni, but the first time I picked up Beloved I said, "huh?" and put it down. When I heard it was being made into a movie, I picked it up again, determined to read and fully comprehend it before I ventured into the theater. Again I said, "huh?" I recruited my god sister, a fellow book lover, to go along with me. Now between the two of us, we read over 3,000 books between the 1st and 8th grade (and yes, we're competitive nerds so we tracked it). I figured if I didn't understand what was going on, she would. We both left the theater saying, "huh?" You know when I finally comprehended the story? On the third try and after seeing the movie! No one should have to work that hard to figure out a book or a movie.

2. I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

Second only to Judy Blume in my middle school world, Lois Duncan created a masterpiece with this book. I loved it more than Killing Mr. Griffin (another one of her good books gone bad). I was surprised to find that a movie was being made of the book more than 20 years after it was published. Flipping through cable one night I noticed it was on and decided to give it a watch. And just like that, a book that I loved had gone bad. I can't blame it on Sarah Michelle Gellar or Freddie Prinze, Jr. I'll blame it on whomever did the screenplay. At any rate, it was some kind of horrible.

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I know, I know. Critics loved it. The Academy loved it. You may have loved it. You know what I loved? The end. While the book was pretty good, the movie was entirely too long. There was a whole hour that could have been deleted. You know, the part when he was working on the boat and the affair with the older woman? Yeah, that part could have been sliced and saved us all an hour and no one would have been the worse or the wiser. So while the rest of the movie might have been great, I was too irritated about the unnecessary parts that I started getting restless and stopped paying attention. And while Brad Pitt is some amazing eye candy, Kate Blanchett gives me the willies.

I could go on and on, but that's my short list of good books gone bad. What's on your list?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Books to Movies Week: "Meh, They Made It Into A Movie" *Kanye shrug*

So far we've talked about good books/good movies, books we didn't know had become movies and now...meh, they made it into a movie.

1. The Human Stain by Philip Roth
In short this is the story of a former professor fired for racially insensitive remarks who, at the age of 71, begins an affair with a 34 year old illiterate cleaning woman. At some point in their romance, the professor reveals to the maid that he is not really Jewish, as he has claimed for years, but is actually black, a secret he never revealed to his deceased Jewish wife or children. Now the book was "meh" itself, in my opinion, but the movie was even more so because instead of finding a black man (or at the very least biracial) to play the lead character, they sprung Anthony Hopkins on us! Say what? To top it off, Nicole "I couldn't act my way out of a paper bag" Kidman played the cleaning lady. Clearly a great "meh" moment in movie history.

2. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
As a kid the only book that I read as much as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was Harriet the Spy. Based on descriptions of the characters, I knew exactly what Harriet and Old Golly should look like. I was excited when I heard a movie version was coming out. Yes, I was a grown woman when it happened, what's your point? At any rate, I didn't embarrass myself by seeing it in a theater, I waited until it came out on DVD and bought it under the pretense that my daughter might enjoy it. I can't say if she did or not, but imagine my shock when I saw that #1) Harriet the blond of my child hood had become Harriet the brunette and #2) Old Golly wasn't old. She was Rosie O'Donnell. What the...? I couldn't even comprehend the rest of the movie. I could have been good, might have been bad, I'm not sure. The casting of characters was enough for me to give it a "meh".

3. The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene
Alas, another beloved story from my childhood done wrong by Hollywood. The Nancy Drew of my childhood was courageous & courteous, pushy but polite, and nice (never a nerd). The Nancy Drew of Hollywood is a nerdy, somewhat flighty and overly aggressive brat. Gone from the movie version are Nancy's sidekicks Bess and George. Meh, I didn't care for it.

4. The Shining by Stephen King
Not to be confused with the original version of The Shining with Jack Nicholson at his crazy madman finest or Shelley Duvall at her nuttiest, someone had the nerve to remake The Shining in 1997 with Steven Weber. Yes, the guy from Wings! I have no idea why anyone would want to mess with perfection, but Jack Nicholson broke the mold when it came to playing Jack Torrance. The original Shining gets five stars, the remake? A "meh."

So that's my list. What books, made into movies, might have been better off staying a book or was just a "meh" movie for you?

Up tomorrow: Books they never should have made into movies

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

#BookReview: Guest Post: Secrets and Lies - Rhonda McKnight

Today's guest blogger is author Sharon Ball.

Secrets and Lies is the story of Faith and Jonah Morgan, a couple struggling to keep their troubled marriage together when the husband’s coworker accuses him of the unthinkable. Jonah is a workaholic, and his wife Faith is sick of it. There are lots of little secrets, lies, and unspoken words that create more secrets and more lies, even amongst the minor characters. Forgiveness is the main takeaway from the story. It's been awhile since I've enjoyed reading a book this much. Not only were the characters believable, their personal struggles were ones many people can relate to—busy schedules, the need to succeed in the business world, balancing family and work life, feeling appreciated, doubt, family secrets, and keeping a family and marriage together. As each page submerged me more into Faith and Jonah's story I found myself rooting for them and wanting them to figure out a way to work things out. Ms. McKnight did an excellent job of tackling the subject of sexual harassment from the angle of the accuser and the accused. Great storytelling! To read my interview with this debut author click here.

To read more from Sharon, please stop by her blog A Break From the Norm or follow her on Twitter @smball804.

About Sharon:
In January 2005 Sharon Ball resigned her position as chief operating officer at a technology staffing company, and began a career as a full-time writer. As an avid reader, and an enthusiastic storyteller, she found that writing contemporary Christian fiction fueled per passion to create stories with a redeeming value. Sharon was a finalist in the 2009 ACFW Genesis contest (contemporary fiction), and she graduated from Central Michigan University. She and her husband make their home in Atlanta, Georgia.