Friday, May 28, 2010

#BookReview: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

Imagine having something taken from you without your knowledge.  Now imagine that what was taken becomes one of the most valuable discoveries in science, you still don't know about it and others profit from it without your knowledge.  This is the story of Henrietta Lacks and her descendants.

Authored by Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is the true story of a poor, black woman from Clover, Virginia who finds herself with cancer.  Upon her arrival at Johns Hopkins University, the doctors remove sections of her tumors for further study, without her knowledge.  In today's world, this would not happen without consent.  In the 1950s, not only could this happen, it frequently did.

Like most hospitals, Johns Hopkins also served as a research center and doctors had been trying to grow immortal human cells.  The growth of them would allow scientists to experiment with somewhat of a human entity without actually experimenting on a living being.  While the growing of cells had been tried numerous times, it had always failed.  And then along came Henrietta Lacks.  Scientists found that not only would the cells from her cancerous tumors grow, they grew rapidly and could be transported globally without dying.  The university and its researchers shipped vials of Mrs. Lacks cells all around the world so that other researchers could use them in various projects.

While all of this happened, the Lacks family was clueless as to what was happening.  The Lacks' children were without a mother and Day Lacks was without a wife.  In reading the book, you'll find that each child had their own personal issues.  Whether those were a result of being born poor and black in the south or being raised without their mother are judgements that you'll have to make for yourself.  What was understandable was their healthy fear of doctors and whites, especially in light of their experiences with them.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is one that will cause you to question the morals and ethics of the medical field and be thankful for an author brave enough to do the research and tell this story.  She put a lot of time and effort into making sure the story has been told properly and for that, we should all be thankful.

To date, the HeLa cells continue to be sold and used in research around the world .

What did you like about the book?
Although the book deals with a fair amount of medical terminology, the author does not overwhelm the average reader with them.

What did you dislike about the book?

What could the author do to improve this book?
I can't think of a thing.

Published February 2010

Theme: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic by The Police

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guest Post: Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality edited by Sarah Husain

Today's guest post is courtesy of Dr. Masood A. Raja.

The metropolitan representation of Muslim women is invariably couched in the language of victimhood. It seems that female Muslim subjects have never been able to transcend the passive state of existence allotted to them in the metropolitan imaginary. The burqa-clad Afghan women became emblems of suffering requiring the U.S post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan. Thus, it seems that the alleviation of female victimhood still serves as a convincing legitimizing strategy for imperial wars. Lost in this whole process of imperial design and native patriarchy are the very voices of the so-called recipients of imperial benevolence: the Muslim women.

Sarah Husain’s timely anthology intervenes in this discourse and inserts hitherto silenced voices of Muslim women as agents who speak for themselves. The book is divided into four parts followed by an Afterword by Miriam Cooke, a renowned scholar in the field of Muslim Women Studies. Combining poems, short stories, essays, letters, and art work, the collection lets Muslim women formulate their diverse, often conflicting, views of the Islamic as well as the Western world. Cooke calls the contributions “brave writings” (261) that challenge the status quo both within the Islamic world and the metropolitan West.

Husain informs us of the multivalent scope of this collection in her candid and eloquent introduction. She declares that for the Muslim women “the struggles we face today are not just limited to those against colonial legacies and its inherited regimes of control, or against today’s imperial war, but. . . also. . . the struggles we face within our own ‘Muslim’ communities, our families, our homes—indeed the struggles within ourselves” (3). It is within this complex view of the Muslim female identity that most of the contributors to the anthology express themselves.

While all the contributions are worthy of note, in the interest of brevity, I will include only a few examples. Not surprisingly, Part One, (UN) NAMING WARS, starts with a poem entitled “Woman” by S.N, a South-Asian poet and writer. Written in a patriarchal voice, the poem displays the prejudices that manifest themselves upon women’s bodies, for the woman’s body, in the poem’s male perspective, “is for us to mark our territory/and to conduct our wars” (20). Anida Yoeu’s “The Day After: A Cento Based on Hate Crimes Filed Shortly after 9/11” chronicles various individual and communal acts of hate in the U.S against the bodies, minds, and sacred sites of Muslims. The most moving account combines an act of public hatred with social apathy, a recipe for larger racial tragedies:

    Two women at a bagel store.
    Woman attacked for wearing a Quranic charm around her neck.
    Attacker lunges,
    yells, “look what your people have done to my people.”
    No one in the store tried to help.
    The owner apologized to the attackers for any inconvenience. (25-26)

Part Two of the book, WITNESSING ACTS, includes work that provides a testimony to the impact of native patriarchy and imperial wars on the bodies of women, while also articulating women’s resistance to all these powerful dictates. Shahrzad Naficy’s “On Loan to the Public,” a story “inspired by a glimpse of two orphans in Afghanistan on CNN” (111) plays with the idea of public display of Third World victimhood, and makes us privy to the thoughts and suffering of her protagonist, a female-child rape victim. The narrator’s references to happy childhood scenes elsewhere render her experience even more heartbreaking and also serve as testimony to her courage in intolerable circumstances.

Part Three, (UN) NAMING FAITHS/UNCLAIMING NATIONS, complicates the two major signifiers of identity: religion and nationalism. The works included in this part provide insightful critique of the nation and religion as imagined by Muslim women themselves and not by their Western benefactors. The critique of religion employs the very language of faith that has often been the medium through which the native Muslim patriarchy has articulated women’s place in Islamic societies. In a moving essay at the end of this section entitled “Infinite and Everywhere! My Kaleidoscopic Identity,” Mansha Parven Mirza captures the traumas, trials and ambivalences of maintaining a hybrid identity in a world obsessed with cultural and religious purities. Challenging the purists, she ends her essay with this courageous statement: “For those who cannot deal with the likes of me, tough luck! I’m here to stay, and this time I won’t drift away” (213).

Part Four, RE-CLAIMING OUR BODIES/RE-CLAIMING OUR SEXUALITIES, deals with, as is obvious, women’s bodies and sexuality, most sensitive subjects in Muslim societies. The challenge to a stereotypical view of the Muslim womanhood becomes obvious in a few lines of Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf’s poem “The Veil, My Body”:

   It’s just a piece of cloth
   But after Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Maluku, Kosovo
   This is all I have. (246)

The Muslim female identity is constructed within the larger imperatives of native patriarchy and the international power politics, and in such a complex scenario any reading of the female Muslim subject will have to be much more nuanced and complex. Voices of Resistance brilliantly places itself in between the two extremes of politics of representation—the West and the Islamic East—and lets the female Muslim subject speak for herself. The collection, besides being interesting for a non-academic reader, will be a useful text in fields as diverse as literature, politics, cultural studies, women studies and studies of gender.

About the reviewer:
Author of Constructing Pakistan (Oxford UP), Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja is an Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Literature and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies. Dr. Raja

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, May 25 - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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

"Despite the widespread media coverage of the Moore suit, the Lacks family had no idea any of this was happening.  As the debate over ownership of human tissues played out around the country, the Lacks brothers continued to tell anyone who'd listen that Johns Hopkins had stolen their mother's cells and owed them millions of dollars."

p. 206, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Monday, May 24, 2010

Live Discussion of "Wench" by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

#BookReview: Belly of the Beast - Caleb Alexander

Fans of the HBO series Oz will appreciate the latest from Caleb Alexander, Belly of the Beast. Set in a Texas prison it is the story of Christian Alexander. Raised by his strict grandmother and a high performing student in his Catholic high school, Christian seems destined for greatness. With his own father in prison, Christian looks to his uncle for guidance. When that uncle is gunned down while walking a friend home, Christian descends into his own personal hell. With little regard for life, he goes on a killing spree that lands him in a maximum security prison.

Coming from the streets of San Antonio, Christian has always had Hispanic friends. He learns quickly that there’s no such thing as friends of another race in prison. Separated from Enrique, his lifelong friend, Christian quickly aligns himself with others of his race. At first content to go along to get along, Christian doesn’t get involved in prison politics or race wars. When his best friend is attacked, his views change and he begins to organize the biggest and most well trained prisoners that the system has witnessed.

A student of several world religions, Christian creates Umkhonto, whose sole purpose is to protect black prisoners from those that would do them harm. Backed by his counterparts in other parts of the yard, Umkhonto becomes a force with which to be reckoned. As the native Mexicans and U.S. Mexicans do battle on the yard for dominance, the Umkhonto quietly build up their numbers in preparation for the battle that is surely coming.

Though not an extremely lengthy read, I found myself struggling to make it through this book, simply because of the subject matter. There’s a point when Christian rejoices over the number of black men arriving at the prison because to him it means more soldiers for his war. To me it simply meant more black men displaced from their families and more black women left behind to raise their kids alone.

Is it hypocritical of me to enjoy shows such as Oz or the works of Iceberg Slim, yet question this storyline? Perhaps. Christian does have redeeming qualities and expands his mind enough to think beyond the prison walls. The fact that such an avowed separatist can find it in his heart to save a man of another race is enough to make me step back and question whether or not I’ve misjudged him.

What did you like about this book? 
The author obviously took time to research prison life to create such a realistic account.

What did you dislike about his book? 
There were a lot of characters and at times it was difficult to keep up with them.

What could the author do to improve this book? 
It would have been interesting to see what happened with the main character beyond the prison walls. I don’t know that a sequel is necessary, but an epilogue would have been sufficient.

Published March 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Had Happened Was...

Teenage girl (14-15), posing in studio, portrait, elevated view

So I really planned to post a review of my most recent read, but guess what? I haven't finished anything this week!  I've started several books and I've made progress, but making it to the end just hasn't happened yet.  I'm blaming it on the end of the school year, teaching the Princess of Snark how to drive, Twitter and anything else I can throw in the pot.

More than anything I'm blaming it on


I love good TV as much as I love good books.  I'll make an effort to get a few books done this weekend, but the series finale of Lost comes on Sunday night.  SERIES FINALE! 2 1/2 hours to try to figure out what I haven't been able to figure out in the six years I've devoted to this show.  So yeah, I'll try to finish a book or two, but don't hold your breath.

Any fellow Grey's fans? What did you think of last night's finale? If you're not using the words amazing and/or awesome, why not?

Fellow Losties, any ideas on how the show will end? If you've figured it out, can you clue me in?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Repost: Wench - Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Dolen Perkins-Valdez will be here next Monday evening, May 24, at 8:00 p.m. CST to discuss the book with us.  If you have questions you'd like me to send to her in advance, please email them to me at  Also, sign up for the reminder over to your right.  I'd hate for you to miss out on what promises to be a great discussion.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, May 18

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

"A self-educated black man who could educate, lift up, and enlighten other black men was a danger to the status quo.  A black man who had the vocational skills to build a house, the emotional stability to build a home, the social passion to build a village, the historical foundation to build a nation, and the mental abilities to lead that nation, was Public Enemy Number One for many."

p. 194, Belly of the Beast by Caleb Alexander

Monday, May 17, 2010

#BookReview: Camileon - Shykia Bell

Camile has always been taunted by her classmates, that is, when they notice she's around.  Often overlooked by everyone, Camile has struggled to make it through life with only her mother as a constant companion.  She's determined to make it on her own, but when her mother falls ill, the perfect world that she's constructed for Camile starts to crumble around her.

A mysterious stranger introduces herself to Camile while she's visiting her mother in the hospital and suddenly Camile has the friend she's always dreamed of.  Akalina is everything that Camile is not.  She's outgoing and not afraid to stick up for herself.  Camile is so grateful to have a shoulder to lean on that she's willing to overlook Akalina's borderline psychotic personality.

I can't say enough about how good this book is.  It's Tananarive Due's Blood Colony meets Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series minus the vampires.  It's so rare that you run across sci fi books featuring characters of color, that it's refreshing when it happens.  When the author approached me on Twitter about reading Camileon, I was a bit hesitant, but only because I've been sent some really, really bad books courtesy of the Twitterverse (see my review of My Husband's Fiance).

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was exceptional and apparently overlooked in the sci fi realm.  I turned to fellow readers Dren from Dren's BSpot and Marq from Love to Read for Fun as this genre is really more of their thing than mine and neither of them had heard of it.  I did find myself having to re-read some passages to fully comprehend the scene, but I suspect that it was only because the world of sci fi lit is something with which I have limited contact.  I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

Published July 2008

Theme: She's Strange by Cameo

Friday, May 14, 2010

#BookReview: Sankofa - Rita Kusi

Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing and beware of book synopsis’ that say one thing, but give you another. From reading the synopsis on the back of the book, I was under the assumption that Sankofa would be the story of four friends returning to their roots in Ghana to rediscover themselves.

“…four friends whose families won the Diversity Lotto Program in the late 1980’s and traveled from the tropical climate of Ghana, West Africa to New York City. No one said life in a new world was going to be easy, but no one also said it was going to be tricky either. How do you adapt to a new way of life while remaining true to the old? 
Take the journey with the main character, Kimberly Akosua Mensah, as she makes the trip back home and attempts to reclaim her past to move forward to adulthood.” 
Based on that, I was ready to read the story of perhaps these young girls making the initial adjustments as children and then skipping ahead to perhaps their teen or adult years. I was looking for conversations and interaction with family members more firmly rooted in the culture and the conflict that can come from becoming Americanized while your family remains Ghanian. What I got was fooled into reading a book with pretty cover and an African title believing it would be enlightening when, in reality, it turned out to be street lit.

The four friends (and this term is used far too loosely in this book) are Kimberly, the narrator; Trish, the hustler who will use anyone or anything to get ahead; Staci, a new mother; and Courtney, the good girl that keeps picking bad boys. When Trish sleeps with Courtney’s boyfriend, the friends take sides and Kimberly is left out in the cold. Eventually the friends reconnect and Kimberly goes back to Ghana to visit her grandmother. That’s it, end of story.

This book bothered me on so many levels. At one point in the story the friends head for the annual Ghanian picnic, with Staci’s baby in tow, and proceed to drink the entire time. The author justified it by saying the baby was too young to know what was happening. Never mind that it’s illegal to drink and drive and you’re putting people in harm’s way. Promoted as a reclamation of her past, the main character does not even return to Ghana until the last two chapters of the book. The first 137 pages of the 158 page book are spent talking about complete and utter foolishness.

Beyond the ridiculousness of the story line, the editing was absolutely awful. At times I found myself re-reading sentences several times trying to make sense of them, only to realize that there were actually three sentences combined into one, with absolutely no punctuation. The author also struggled to stay consistent with the voice of the narrator. In several instances the paragraph would start with Kimberly narrating in third person and by the second or third sentence, it would become one of the other women speaking in first person and then switch back to Kimberly’s narration.

The story line, the improper editing and the annoying narration all made this very short read a difficult and tedious one.

What did you like about this book? 
The cover is colorful.

What did you dislike about this book? 
The story line, the improper editing and the annoying narration.

What could the author do to improve this book? 
Not everyone is meant to be a writer and this book is clearly an indication of that. If writing is her passion, then she would be well served to find a real editor. There were far too many grammatical and structural mistakes made. A good proofreader and/or editor would have never allowed this book to be published in its current state.

Published September 2009

Theme song: Ghetto by Sticky Fingaz

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bodacious Blogging Book Reviewers Award

I received this award from Dren over at Dren's B-Spot

Here is how it works:

If you are given this award you must first accept it by leaving a comment on the post you were nominated on. Then copy and paste the post and add it to your own blog.

Make a list of the last 5 books you read and pass the award on to 5 other bloggers (no backsies!). Please also identify the blog from which you got the award and don't forget to tell them they have a blog award!

My last five books I've read:

1. House Rules by Jodi Picoult

2. Who Does She Think She Is? by Benilde Little

3. Till You Hear from Me by Pearl Cleage

4. Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

5. Visions: The Story of a Black Girl Determined to Make It Despite the Odds - Williette D. Dotson

So now, it's with great pleasure that I pass this fabulous award to five of my fav blog divas:

1. The Black Bookshelf

2. The Brown Bookshelf

3. The Happy Nappy Bookseller

4. Book Snob Wannabe

5. Love to Read for Fun

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Setting Words to Music

Music and words have always played a big part in my life.  In some ways, music is woven even deeper into the fabric of my being.  There's not a major event in my life that I can think of without remembering what song was popular at that time or what song I was listening to as it happened.

It's been said that people should have a theme song.  Mine changes from day to day.  Some days it's "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree, other days it's "Easy" by the Commodores (which I learned to skate backwards to back in the day).  And still on other days, it "Murder Rap" by Above the Law (Don't judge me!)  Anyway, this got me to thinking.  TV shows have theme songs, people can have theme songs, why shouldn't books?

I've gone back through a few of the books that I've read over the last year and come up with songs that immediately came to mind as they relate to the story line.

The book: Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
The song: Sentimental by Alexander O'Neal

The book: I'm Down by Mishna Wolff
The song: Square Biz by Teena Marie

The book: That Takes Ovaries! bold females and their brazen acts - edited by Rivka Solomon
The song: A Deeper Love by Aretha Franklin

The book: Glorious by Bernice McFadden
The song: Testify by Dianne Reeves

The book: Heard It All Before by Michele Grant
The song: I Want to Thank You by Alicia Meyers

The book: Uptown by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant
The song: Native New Yorker by Odyssey

So what about you? Read any books that just screamed for their own theme song?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, May 11

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page either in the comments below or on your own blog (give a link to your blog so we can check it out!)
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
This week's teaser:
"It was obvious he was more than willing to wine and dine her.  We were very surprised when we saw him not because he was white, okay partly, but more because she was going to be the first to fulfill our fantasy of being with one."
p. 77, Sankofa by Rita Kusi

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Help"ing a fellow reader

I received the following email this morning.  If you can be of assistance, please email me at and I'll put you in contact with the sender.

I have a special request. I have been trying desperately to get a copy of The Help. My husband is a dialysis patient on disability as well, to be able to afford this book would be a real financial hardship. When things get stressful my one escape is to read, this looks like the perfect book to do so with. It's a bit of an embarrassment to ask for this but is there anyway possible a copy can be sent to me, I can provide medical documentation as proof if needed. It would mean so very much to me if this can somehow be arranged. Words cannot express my appreciation if this can be worked out. Again I can provide medical proof if needed.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

#BookReview: Who Does She Think She Is? - Benilde Little

You know how you just know you've read a book already? I could have sworn I read this a few years back. I figured the cover had changed and that's why I was so thrown by it. Turns out I hadn't read it. If Sterling had been at the library that day, I would have known because he would have told me. You would think the library could store a list of what you've read in their database or something so that people like me could keep track, but I digress.

Who Does She Think She Is? is really nothing more than Dorothy West's The Wedding shaken, not stirred.  In both books the main character is a well brought up, slightly spoiled, young, black woman engaged to a wealthy white man.  Something, or someone, happens to turn their heads in the direction of another man, in both instances he's African American, and the ladies question their decision to marry.

Who Does She Think She Is? possesses an overbearing grandmother, The Wedding has an overbearing mother. The mothers in both books are currently in or were previously in bad marriages and project their issues onto their daughters.  The only real difference in these books is that one is set in 1950s Martha Vineyard, the other in present day New York.  The similarities aren't enough to detract from the story line of WDSTSI and if you enjoyed The Wedding, you'll certainly enjoy this.

What did you like about this book?
The author flows her words and the story together very well.  It made for a quick read.

What didn't you like about this book?
Other than the fact that I felt like it was a rehash of another book, nothing.

What could the author do to improve this book?
The ending seemed a little rushed and wrapped up just a little too perfect to be believable.

Published April 2005

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, May 4

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page either in the comments below or on your own blog (give a link to your blog so we can check it out!)
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
This week's teaser:
"You just told me he wasn't competent to stand trial, and now you're telling me he's too competent to use an insanity defense.  You can't have it both ways!" I argue.  "We can look at the discovery when it comes in...But from what you've told me, there's a pretty strong case against Jacob, including a confession.  I really believe it's the best way to keep him out of jail."

p. 263, House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Monday, May 3, 2010

#BookReview: Till You Hear From Me - Pearl Cleage

Fans of this bestselling author will be delighted to find that once again she has returned to the West End neighborhood of Atlanta.  You'll be reintroduced to characters you previously met in Seen It All and Done the Rest, as well as Baby Brother's Blues and several other of Cleage's books.  Using her words in a way that's reminiscent of J. California Cooper's style, readers are introduced to Ida B. Wells Barnett, daughter of a revered preacher and a feminist mother.

Set shortly after the election of President Obama, Till You Hear From Me is the story of Ida B. and her efforts to reconnect with her father.  A civil rights icon in Georgia, "The Rev" campaigned vigorously for the newly elected president, so when he starts making strange statements to the press and on YouTube, Ida is summoned home by her childhood neighbor, Miss Iona.  Having worked on candidate Obama's campaign, Ida fears she could be overlooked for a job in his administration based on her father's strange behavior.  Though he once worked to register 100,000 voters in the state, the Rev began speaking out against the candidate when he distanced himself from his own pastor, Reverend Wright.

Wes Harper grew up in the West End and couldn't wait to leave.  Departing for boarding school at thirteen, he never looked back.  While others celebrate the win of the newly elected president, Wes is working on a way to benefit from it.  Having no loyalty to anyone or anything other than his bank account, he'll stop at nothing to get his hands on the list of recently registered voters, even if it means deceiving his father's oldest and dearest friend.

I was so excited about reading this book that I went through it in a little over two hours.  Cleage is consistently good with her work and I've yet to be bored by anything she produces.  The reintroduction of former characters is always welcome and makes me want to revisit her past works just to read about them once more. She has created a neighborhood big enough to tell everyone's story without being repetitive, while allowing her returning characters to be a part of the story without taking over it.

What did you like about this book?
I loved the father-daughter relationship between Ida and her father.  Her parents are separated and even though she speaks with both of them, you can tell that her relationship with her father is a very special one.

What did you dislike about this book?
The ending felt a bit rushed and slightly anti-climatic.

What could the author do to improve this book?
 Slow down and give the reader a meatier ending.  That being said, I'm looking forward to, and hoping there is, another "West End" book.

Published April 2010