Friday, July 30, 2010

Free For All Friday, July 30

Congratulations on surviving another week! I don't know about you, but I'm glad to see this week come to an end.  Now it's on to the weekend.  

Does anyone else remember the song above? Did you know it's actually the theme song to a movie with the same name?  I loved the 70s for its randomness and this movie was one of the most random things ever.  Set at a disco it followed a married couple out for a night of action, a singer (Donna Summer) trying to get her record played by the DJ, a special guest appearance by the Commodores (I STAN for Lionel!), and a host of other story lines.  This was my song as a kid, you know, back when I thought surviving the school week was the toughest thing ever. What songs defined your childhood? 

We're having our annual family get together. I refuse to call it a reunion because I see 95% of them all year round for every holiday. Mother's Day? Labor Day? Easter? Armistice Day? We're at someone's house eating, drinking and telling lies.  When my grandmother passed in 1988, her children vowed to meet on the weekend of her birthday every year and with very few exceptions, they've done so.  My cousin and I were discussing the lack of participation by most of our younger cousins.  No, there's nothing exciting about hanging with the older crew, but it's certainly a learning experience.  Thanks to family get togethers, I know who got run out of town when they were younger, who lied about their age to sign on to the navy, etc.  And there's nothing as entertaining as what happens when someone in this family gets married!  Remember the last time that happened? (My Cousin Got Married & Other Foolishness). At any rate, I'll be hanging with Aunt Jean this weekend watching her put every man, woman and child, that needs it, in check.

What's going on in your world? Big plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Reading List Update for July

The month of July has been a great one for lit.  I've read so many good books.  It's like the good book fairies are somewhere raining down great stories just for me.  So let's go over what I've read this month.

What I Said I Would Read
32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter - Loved it!
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin - Loved it!
A Taste of Honey: Stories by Jabari Asim - Loved it!
Under the Dome by Stephen King - Sitting on the floor mocking me
The Sacred Place by Daniel Black - Meh
The Gettin Place by Susan Straight - Sitting on the floor mocking me
Blacker Than A Thousand Midnights by Susan Straight - Sitting on the floor mocking me
Red Hats by Damon Wayans - Meh
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls - Too serious for summer
Eddie Signwriter by Adam Schwartzman - Couldn't get into it
Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler by Wade Rouse - Couldn't get into it

These weren't on my list, but the book fairy sent them my way.

Address: House of Corrections by Monice Mitchell Simms - Loved it!
Searching for Tina Turner by Jacqueline Luckett - Twas aight
Platinum by Aliya S. King - Twas aight
Substitute Me by Lori L. Tharps - Loved it!

See what I mean? I'm not committing myself to any particular books for August.  I've got a stack of ARCs and library books mocking me from the bedroom to the living room.  My goal is to keep the subject matter light.

What did you read this month? What's on your list for August?

Monday, July 26, 2010

#BookReview: Platinum - Aliya S. King

If you're old enough to have been reading in the early 80s, you'll remember all of the hubbub over Jackie Collins' Hollywood Wives. Just in case you're not familiar with it, it's the beginning of her steamy series about what goes on in the lives of some of the most rich and famous, but of course, names have been changed to protect the innocent.  Part of the fun in reading her books was trying to figure out who was whom.

With Platinum, Aliya S. King has become the millennium's version of Jackie Collins.  Think Hollywood Wives then replace it with the world of rap.  Think west coast and then replace it with the east coast.  Think scheming and conniving characters, then...think scheming and conniving characters.

Freelance writer Alex Maxwell is engaged to an up and coming rapper.  She's covered some of the biggest names in the industry.  An assignment from Vibe finds her interviewing the wives, fiances and girlfriends of some of the most famous men on the east coast.

Beth Saddlebrook, wife of aging rapper "Z", has been with her husband since she was 15 and he rescued her from her impoverished life in West Virginia.  The mother of four, with another on the way, she's lived a pretty spectacular life.  That's if you don't count the verbal and occasionally physical abuse, along with the cheating and drug use.  As Z's career begins its descent, his behavior becomes more sporadic and Beth is sure he's using again.

Kipenzi Hill is Beth's best friend and a star in her own right.  Working in the industry since she was 3, Kipenzi is more than ready to get out of the game and marry her long time boyfriend Jake.

The elegant Josephine Bennett is married to the hottest producer in the game.  Josephine has everything she ever wanted in Ras.  She's happy with her home and her design business.  She'd be even happier if she was able to conceive.

And finally there's Cleo Wright. Cleo's not married or dating any high powered men.  She merely sleeps with them for blackmail purposes.  Every man that's ever used her is about to have his life disrupted.  She's about to score a big payday with her tell all novel co-written with Alex Maxwell.

What did you like about this book?
This is the perfect beach read.  Though there are some disturbing moments here and there, the story never gets weighed down by them.

What didn't you like about this book?
There's been a lot of speculation on the web about whom the characters in Platinum are based on.  With few exceptions, I didn't like the characters enough to even try to figure it out.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Though I didn't particularly care for some of the characters, I can't help but to think that was the author's intention.  I would still be interested in reading a sequel because King does a great job of leaving the reader in suspense.

Published July 2010

Theme: All I Need by Method Man featuring Mary J. Blige

Friday, July 23, 2010

Free For All Friday, July 23

The winner of last week's Color Blind giveaway is...Evelyn N. Alfred, come on down! You're the next contestant on...well, I'm no Bob Barker or Drew Carey (who, by the way is no Bob Barker either), but you're a winner.  Please email me your mailing info at and I'll pass it on to the publisher.

If you've looked at the reading challenges over to your right, you'll notice that I've almost completed the African Diaspora challenge. I've enjoyed it and since most of the books I read are about people of the diaspora, it's been fairly easy to complete. On the other hand, I'm not where I want to be with the 144 books in 12 months challenge. I should be reading 12 books a month and I'm not. Well here lately I am, but it's a struggle when school is in session and I'm playing chauffeur to a 16 year old that won't get her license even though I've threatened her with public transportation. But I digress. I'll be reading like a fiend between now and when school starts.  I'm only at sixty-two books for the year and I should be at eighty-four.

Speaking of the 16 year old, also known as the Princess of Snark or POS, she's a senior in high school and we've started the search for THE college.  What she thinks is the perfect school isn't necessarily what I think is perfect, but we're learning to compromise.  We'll be road tripping this fall and I've decided to blog about the adventure that is senior year.  POS has agreed to co-author the blog with me so you'll get to read her snarky spin on things.  You can visit us over at Whose Kid Is This for more on our great adventure.

@browngirlspeaks and I had a discussion on Twitter yesterday about how your background affects your perception of what you read.  When I rate books on Goodreads, I look to see how others rated them and read their comments.  I've noticed lately that there are some books that I just absolutely love that others just hate.  I understand that everyone won't love what I love, but some of the comments seem so narrow minded that I have to wonder what led them to pick up the book in the first place.

The following is a comment someone made about 32 Candles.
What is billed as a romance is (with a few steamy scenes), but then has some very difficult revelations that mirror Celie in The Color Purple and Precious in Push. The combination is awkward and uneven, rather than a healthy balance. I found it very difficult to understand Davie's evolution, which I had thought would be central in the book. Instead, the reader is jarred by the difference between the ugly duckling and the swan and has no indication as to how this change occurred. If I found the character more believable, I might have been able to get into the story more, but I could not get past the holes in character development.

Huh? Did we read the same book? I commented on this person's review and she admitted that maybe she miswrote. Her biggest issue seemed to be character development. I still question how she can say there's a lack of it, but when I looked at the genres she usually reads, I had to come to the conclusion that she couldn't relate to this book simply because it wasn't vampire lit or along the lines of Jane Eyre.

Other examples of readers projecting their own unrealistic expectations are below.  In this case, the book in reference is The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives.

What an unpleasant read this was! This novel of a Nigerian Baba with his 4 wives was not what I was expecting. I found it humorless and quite ugly-- violence against women, women slapping their children, rape, sister-wives cruelty, toilet humor. Early on, I assumed these women were an African equivalent of our Bravo series "Housewives of...(fill in the city)". But this story is much darker and I can see no reason to recommend it.

I love reading and learning about life in other cultures. But this is not a book I recommend to learn about African culture. The author took what could have been so educating and fascinating...and jumped right over that line.
I don't know who told either of these readers that this book was about to be on some Real Housewives ish or that it was meant to educate the reader about "African" culture.  It would be impossible to teach one about African culture since a continent with many countries has many cultures.  Expecting a book to do for you what you haven't done for yourself is ridiculous.

So what's on your mind this afternoon, literary or otherwise? I'd love to hear your opinion on how your background can cloud your literary vision.

#BookReview: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives - Lola Shoneyin

Let me start by saying I loved this book.  I wasn't sure what to expect even though I had read author interviews and reviews by others.  I was worried that though Lola Shoneyin is a respected poet, the transition to author might be a difficult one.  I was pleasantly surprised that she made a seamless transition.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is set in present day Nigeria and centers on wealthy businessman, Baba Segi, and his four wives.  Each wife is unique and brings something different to the Segi household.  There's the oldest wife, Iya Segi, who's the mother of two, as well as a shrewd business woman.  She entered the household with wealth and plans to leave the same way.  There's the quiet Iya Tope, who just wants to get along with everyone while raising her three daughters.  The conniving Iya Femi is content to be the youngest and prettiest of Baba Segi's wife.  She has a schemer's heart and stops at nothing to make sure her two sons receive the best of everything.

The three wives have grown comfortable with each other and their roles over the years., but the house is thrown into a world wind of turmoil when Baba Segi brings the college educated Bolanle into their household.  Like the other wives, Bolanle has come to the marriage to escape her former life.  Each of the wives has secrets, but it's through Bolanle's struggles that they're all brought to light.

What did you like about this book?
The author does a great job of describing her characters, so much so that I was able to envision what not only major characters, but minor characters looked like, as well as their mannerisms.  I found myself really liking, and cheering for some characters, while despising others and that can be credited to great writing.

What didn't you like about this book?
Not a thing. Every character had a story to be told and the author did a good job of telling them.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Write a sequel, even better would be a series.

Published June 2010

See what others are saying about it:
Brown Girl Speaks
Color Online
Lotus Reads

Theme: Anotherloverholenyohead by Prince

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

#BookReview: Searching for Tina Turner - Jacqueline E. Luckett

There was a time when I would have followed you to the ends of the earth - from On Silent Wings by Tina Turner

Lena Spencer wakes up on the other side of fifty and realizes that she's unhappy with her life.  The wife of the next CEO of a prominent corporation and the mother of two, this is not the life she signed up for.  Her oldest returned home from college with a slight drug addiction, while her disgruntled high school daughter has changed her name.

When Lena's husband Randall began working his way up the corporate ladder, Lena agreed to leave her job to become a stay at home mother and the consummate hostess.  Her hiatus from her career was only intended to be temporary, but her family has convinced her that her place is in the home.  Though she's tried to approach the subject of returning to work, or at least renewing her passion for photography, Randall continues to brush her off.

Lena finally reaches her breaking point when she begins to suspect her husband is having an affair with his co-worker.  Using Tina Turner's autobiography, I, Tina, as inspiration, Lena sets off on a journey to rediscover herself and her passion for living.  In an adventure that takes her from Oakland, California to the south of France, she discovers that Tina doesn't have a thing on her.

There were so many times in this book when I found myself shaking my head in frustration with the way Lena allowed herself to be treated by her husband and her kids.  I felt like she gave away her power to all of them and received nothing in return.  At one point her son's therapist tells her that her son questions her value.  She has made life so easy for all of them that they come to expect her to continue doing whatever it is that she does for them without ever taking into account that may want something different from herself.  When she finally expresses that she does, they all resent her for it and place blame for everything that has gone wrong on her shoulders.  I know that this is just a book, but I also know that there are a lot of women in real life that are living this same existence.  So today's question is, what is your value? Whether it's your value to your family, your job, yourself, where does your value lie?

What did you like about this book?
There are a lot of books written for the under 30 crowd and the light fluff crowd, this isn't one of them.  That's not to say that the book is super serious, it's just grown folks lit.  The author is unafraid to approach issues that any woman of a certain age might find herself in.  I appreciate the straightforward way she chooses to deal with them.

What didn't you like about this book?
The ending was pretty abrupt and I felt just a little let down.  It doesn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the book, but I would have been happier with a different ending.

What could the author do to improve this book?
I wouldn't necessarily call it an improvement, but I could easily see the potential for future books about a few of the characters in this book.  I'd love to read more about Lena's sister and best friend.

Published January 2010

Theme: On Silent Wings by Tina Turner

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, July 20 - The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives

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:

"Don't get me wrong.  I don't hate Baba Segi; on the contrary, I have several reasons to be thankful to him."

p. 148, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Monday, July 19, 2010

#BookReview: The Sacred Place - Daniel Black

Last summer I stumbled upon a book that I really liked by Daniel Black called They Tell Me of A Home. With The Sacred Place, the author seems to have fallen into the sophomore slump.  Just as in They Tell Me of A Home, Daniel Black tackles the subject of LISWB (living in the south while black). Instead of visiting present day Mississippi, the reader is transported back to 1955.

Set during the same summer and in the same town (Money, Mississippi) where Emmett Till was murdered for whistling at a white woman, this is the fictional tale of Clement Johnson. Except it's not really fictional.  One could easily read this and come to the conclusion that the author is really telling the story of what happened to Till without directly doing so.

Like Emmett Till, Clement comes down to Mississippi to visit his family for the summer.  Accustomed to living in the big city, he pays no heed to the warnings that black people must behave differently in the south than up north.  Walking into the general store to purchase a soda is a big deal.  It's an even bigger deal when the white woman working the counter specifically asks you to place your money in her hand and instead, you place it on the counter and sass her.

It's not long before the white people in town are riled up about the new colored boy in town that doesn't know his place.  When Clement comes up missing, the black people of Money, Mississippi decide that it's finally time to take a stand.

What did you like about this book?
Daniel Black is a gifted writer.

What did you dislike about this book?
The title of the book comes from a special field that is described as the closest thing to heaven on earth.  It is here that members of Clement's family come to commune with the deceased.  It is also the place where the author loses me.  I didn't particularly care for the introduction of the supernatural aspect into what was otherwise a solid story.  In addition, there is a character that is introduced for no other reason than to show the reader that not all white people in the town are racists.  However, this character is an absolute loon and adds nothing to the story.  In fact, he's quite distracting.

What could the author do to improve this book?
My suggestion would be to either focus on the real story or the supernatural story, but not both.

Published February 2007

Theme: The Death of Emmitt Till by Bob Dylan

Friday, July 16, 2010

Free For All Friday

Instead of the usual book review, I thought we'd talk about a hodgepodge of things.

1. The Old Spice Man gets all literary on us and what not

2. Author Ernessa T. Carter was bold enough to share a chapter of the rough draft for her new book online.  Guess what? I loved 32 Candles and I love what she's written so far in what she's titled The Awesome Girl's Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men.  If you didn't check it out earlier in the week, by all means, click here and do so now!

3. Lori Tharp, author of Kinky Gazpacho, has a new book coming out! Fans of The Nanny Diaries are sure to love Substitute Me.  What happens when 30 year old college drop out Zora becomes the nanny & then some? Pre-order your copy and find out!

4.The debate over whether or not books by and about African-Americans should be integrated within their respective genres or lumped together in "the black section" continues on Twitter and the blogosphere.   Author Tayari Jones tackles it again with her post Avoid the Santa Syndrome: Don't Blame Zane.  We've talked about it here before, but I'm interested in knowing if your views have changed since the last time.  Do you like your books like you like your martinis, shaken not stirred (segregated) or on the rocks (integrated)?

5. What would you like to see more of on the blog? What would you like to see less of? Do Teaser Tuesdays & Throwback Thursdays work for you or should I do them less frequently?  Is there too much going on in the side columns or not enough?

6. What's on your mind? It's Free for All Friday so there's no need to stick to just lit.  Feel free to share whatever it is you're just dying to talk about.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Throwback Thursday: Giveadamn Brown by Robert Deane Pharr

Throwback Thursday, an event hosted by Jenny over at Take Me Away Reading, is a new meme I'll be featuring at least once a month  It's the time to recognize those older books… an older book you’ve always wanted to read, or one that you have read and love; maybe one from your childhood; or review an older book -- how about even a classic!

Synopsis:  In this surreal dark comedy, Larry "Giveadamn" Brown is transformed from a country bumpkin into a crime kingpin when he inherits the Harlem dope and numbers empire of his Uncle Harry. Unable to match firepower with the competition - Sonny, a coiffed millionaire; Baby Doll, a 300-pound Jesus freak; and Studs, a ruthless lesbian - Giveadamn devises a shrewd scheme. His secret weapon: the Golden Fleece, a fantastical machine that defies all known laws of chemistry and physics. When word of it leaks out, Harlem is never going to be the same...

Though he's not as well known as Donald Goines, it's my opinion that if Goines is the father of the original street fiction, Robert Deane Pharr is the uncle of it.  Fans of the movie Cotton Comes to Harlem and Goines' work will thoroughly enjoy Giveadamn Brown.

Originally published: 1978

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

#BookReview: Red Hats - Damon Wayans

No, that's not a typo.  Damon Wayans, the comedian, has written a book about a sixty-plus year old woman.  Let that marinate for a minute, I'll wait... You done? Okay. There are a lot of people online that loved this book, I'm not one of them.

Meet Alma, wife of Harold for twenty-seven years, mother of three adult children, and the meanest, moodiest and downright evil lead character of Red Hats.  Alma may have been happy once upon a time, but if she's had a good day in the last twenty years, everyone around her has missed it.  Never one to have a kind word for her patient husband, Harold, she's at a loss when Harold drops dead and no one, not even her kids, wants to stick around to help her pick up the pieces.

In all of the years that she's lived in the neighborhood with her husband, she has managed to alienate just about everyone.  Couped up in her apartment, she watches the world go by without her, until the day that the ladies of the Red Hat Society come to her rescue.  Alma has never depended on anyone before and it will take a leap of faith for her to let this lively group of women into her life.

What did you like about this book?
The front and back covers have the most gorgeous red hats on them.  At just 211 pages, this was a very quick read.

What did you dislike about this book?
There were so many opportunities for the author to go more in depth about the reasons why Alma acted the way she did.  Instead, he decided that a paragraph would suffice.  There was also an opportunity to develop the character of Harold more, perhaps to give insight as to why he would stay with a woman so mean that she wouldn't pee on him if he were on fire.  Once again, it was a missed opportunity.

What could the author do to improve this book?
While I understand that this book was done as some sort of tribute to his mother, he may want to try his hand at writing from the male point of view going forth.  He has yet to find the voice of women.

211 pp
Published May 2010

Theme: Meanest Woman by Deborah Coleman & Joe Willie (I was looking for the Muddy Waters' version, but couldn't find it).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, July 13 - I Am Not Sidney Poitier

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:

"To have called Morris Chesney passive-aggressive would have been a glaring understatement, as much as any understatement can glare.  To have called him an egotistical, self-centered, not-terribly-bright asshole with a mean streak a mile wide would have been fairly accurate.

p. 91, I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett

Book Blog Tour & Giveaway: Color Blind - Precious Williams

Prepare to be shocked.  Prepare to be angry. And then prepare to want more. From journalist Precious Williams comes the true story of a brown girl living in a white world, trying to figure out where she fits.  Published in the UK as Precious, Color Blind is the title chosen for the United States' release.

Dating back to the 1950s, it was not uncommon for Nigerian families to send their children to live with white families in England in a situation best described as private fostering.  Rather than go through agencies similar to those here in America, families would simply advertise their child in the local papers, in hopes that a family would be willing to raise them until they were ready to do so themselves.  Unlike foster care in the US, the birth parents paid the families directly for the care of their child.  In most instances, the parents were not poor or seemingly neglectful, as are many parents in America's system.  Rather, these were parents that came to England to pursue education or job opportunities and hindered by their children, sent them to a full time family to care for them until time and money afforded them the chance to do so themselves.

It is into this world that Precious Anita Williams is born.  The descendant of Nigerian royalty, she is deposited with an elderly couple in a small, English town shortly after birth.  In what I can only imagine is a painful and confusing existence, Precious is made all too aware that she fits into neither the predominantly white world she lives in, nor the Nigerian world that her mother thrusts her into on a whim.

Ridiculed at times and ignored the rest of the time by classmates, Anita's small group of friends consists of her sixty year old foster mother, Nanny; Nanny's adult daughter, Wendy; and her son-in-law, Mick.  Occasionally other foster children are introduced into her world, but unlike her placement with Nanny, they never stay for long.  Anita's birth mother, Elizabeth, occasionally sweeps into her world like a tornado bringing with her a whirlwind of criticism and material items, but rarely a kind word or affection.

It is no wonder then that later in life when she finds herself pregnant, Anita seems to have few qualms about giving her own child over to Wendy for fostering while she completes school and begins her career.  The example set by her mother, and from what she has witnessed with other fostered children leads her to this conclusion.
Having babies is something African women can do, but -- from what I've seen in my life so far -- it's only white women who can be truly material...Can someone like me -- a pseudo-African -- really compete with Wendy when it comes to raising a baby properly and being a decent mother?
Though some would find the intentions of Nanny, Anita's foster mother, noble, I found myself questioning her motives several times.  By her own account she had a fondness for, and a fascination with, African children, desiring her own version of Topsy, a character from Uncle Tom's Cabin.  In addition, her nickname for Anita was Nin, short for Pickaninny.  It is no wonder that upon reading Uncle Tom's Cabin at Nanny's recommendation, Anita came away feeling less than desirable.  Imagine reading the following as a child, knowing that the woman raising you had announced you as her own personal Topsy.
She was quite black.  Her round, shining eyes glittered like glass beads.  Her woolly hair was plaited into little tails which stuck out in all directions.  Her clothes were dirty and ragged.  Miss Ophelia thought she had never seen such a dreadful little girl in all her life.
I really had a hard time deciding who I was angrier with: the white foster family that seems to revel in Anita's skin color while, at the same time, trying to white wash her; or her mother, who doesn't provide love, nurturing, stability within her household, or long term education about her cultural background.  I applaud the author for being courageous enough to share her story and overcoming so many obstacles to become the person she is today.

241 pp
Published August 2010
Disclosure: Book was provided by the publisher.

Theme: Someday We'll All Be Free by Donny Hathaway

Tour Schedule
Monday, July 12         Books And... & Literanista
Tuesday, July 13        Reads4Pleasure
Wednesday, July 14   BrownGirl BookSpeak & Notorious Spinks Talks

Thursday, July 15       Arms of a Sister
Friday, July 16           Precision Reviews
About the Author
Precious Williams was first published aged eight when her poem took first prize in a poetry competition (she won £2).

Since then she has been a Contributing Editor at Elle, Cosmopolitan and the Mail on Sunday. Precious' work has also been published in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, Glamour, Korean Vogue, New York magazine, Wallpaper and several other publications. Her journalism focuses on health and lifestyle features and celebrity interviews. Notable interviewees include Nina Simone, Yoko Ono, Jon Bon Jovi, P Diddy, Bryan Ferry, Lenny Kravitz and Naomi Campbell.

Born in the UK, Precious is of Sierra Leonean and Nigerian descent and she has lived in London and in New York. She studied Periodical Journalism at the London College of Printing and English Language & Literature at Oxford.

Her first book, Precious: A True Story is a memoir about her childhood in foster care. The book is titled Color Blind in the US. Both editions will be published by Bloomsbury in August 2010. 

Giveaway: Enter to win your own copy of Color Blind!

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6. Blog about the giveaway and leave a link in the comment section below - 5 entries

All entries must be received by 5:00 pm CST, Friday, July 16.

Monday, July 12, 2010

#BookReview: 32 Candles - Ernessa T. Carter

When was the last time you stayed up late to read a book? 32 Candles is so good that I started reading it at a bowling alley, ignored Twitter and the TV when I got home and stayed up until I was done with it. Yes, it's that good.

32 Candles is the story of Davidia Jones, also known as Monkey Night the mute chick.  Growing up in small town Glass, Mississippi, Davidia life has been nothing nice.  The daughter of the town skank, she's shunned by adults and ridiculed by her classmates who name her Monkey Night because "she looks like a monkey and is dark as night." A severe beating by her mother leads her to the decision to just stop speaking.  Her silence is accepted by her classmates, who easily overlook and ignore her from elementary school until her sophomore year of high school.

Davidia has found solace in, what I call, "the holy triumvirate" of teen movies: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, and the star of them, Molly Ringwald.  Davidia's less than perfect life is made just a little brighter when she watches them.  Though she doesn't speak out loud, in her mind she rehearses what she would say should anything close to what happens in the movies happens to her.  And when she runs into James Farrell, a new transfer student, she's sure that he's her Jake Ryan.

If you've never seen Sixteen Candles, right about now you're asking, who is Jake Ryan? "Jake Ryan? He's only the most popular boy in school."  Even though he's a football star and big man on campus, James is nice to Davidia.  When he and his sisters host a party at their mansion, she's excited to receive and invite and heads to the party where she's sure she'll finally have her moment.  But Davidia's life is no movie and she's no Molly Ringwald.  Faced with the realization that things are never going to change for her in small town Mississippi, she strikes out on her own.

Having reinvented herself as Davie Jones, the pirate, not the Monkee, the girl formerly known as Monkey Night finds herself with a new job, new family and for the first time, friends, in California.  Life is going pretty well for Miss Davie until the day she runs into James Farrell.  Fifteen years have passed since Davie last saw him and surely she's outgrown her obsession with both him and Sixteen Candles, right?

What did you like about this book?
Even if you're not a fan of 80s films, you're bound to cheer for Davie.  This is the story of anyone that's ever been ridiculed for daring to be different. 

What didn't you like about this book?

What could the author do to improve this book?
 Nada, zilch, zero. You know a book is good when you go to sleep dreaming about it and wake up still thinking about it.  I need a movie and a sequel ASAP!

Sneak peek! Starting today Wednesday, you can read the author's rough draft of her next book at 32  She told us at last week's book signing that even though there's no sequel, the character of Davie does play a role in her next book.  I can't wait to read it!

Published June 2010

Theme: Originally I was going to go with Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds (yeah, I know it's from The Breakfast Club, hush it!), but instead decided India.Arie's Get It Together was much more fitting.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

32 Candles Reading & Signing with Ernessa T. Carter

Ernessa T. Carter speaking at Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO on July 8, 2010

The audio is difficult to hear because the air conditioning was going.

Friday, July 9, 2010

#BookReview: A Taste of Honey: Stories - Jabari Asim

When Jabari Asim rolled through St. Louis earlier this year, I didn't attend the book signing because I hadn't yet read the book.  Now I really wish I had gone just to hear him read.  Billed as a set of sixteen short stories, A Taste of Honey is so much more than that.  It would be impossible to tell just one story and not wonder where it leads to or how the characters in that particular story affect characters in other stories.

Set in 1967 Gateway City, residents and those familiar with St. Louis will immediately recognize street names and neighborhood distinctions sprinkled throughout.  With a healthy cast of characters who could all be the main character, it is young Crispus that grabs my attention.  Though all stories are told in third person, when reading this I felt as if they were being told through the eyes of this young man.

There is the story of Rose, a young woman with the voice of an angel who lives to sing at church on Sundays, but spends the rest of the week pretending that her husband isn't as bad as he seems.  There's the friendship between the Reverend Washington and the notorious gangster, Ananais Goode, that no one can figure out. The neighborhood is rounded out with Guts Tolliver, the hit man with a sense of humor; Ray Mortimer, a white cop patrolling the beat; and several others that make this an absolutely delightful read.

What did you like about this book?
The author is a master of language and uses it to set the backdrop for an absolutely fascinating take on what life in St. Louis must have been like for African Americans, especially a nine year old boy.

What did you dislike about this book?
At just a little over 200 pages, I could have used a bit more.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Nothing.  If J. California Cooper were to decide to stop writing tomorrow, Jabari Asims could easily step into her role as the master of the short story.

Published March 2010

Theme: People Make the World Go Round by The Stylistics

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Throwback Thursday: What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage

Throwback Thursday, an event hosted by Jenny over at Take Me Away Reading, is a new meme I'll be featuring at least once a month  It's the time to recognize those older books… an older book you’ve always wanted to read, or one that you have read and love; maybe one from your childhood; or review an older book -- how about even a classic!

Synopsis:  Ava Johnson was living out her dream in Atlanta: fabulous career, high living, and the promise that things could only get bigger and better. Then Ava's future crumbled -- she tested positive for HIV. Believing her life to be over, she returns to Idlewild, Michigan, the small town of her childhood. But home is not what it used to be, and Ava's homecoming is anything but the sorrowful end she expected. Big-city problems have made their way to Idlewild, and Ava finds a new beginning in working with the town's troubled black youths. Oh, and then there's Wild Eddie -- nothing gives a gal a new lease on life like falling in love!

I remember reading this and being blown away by this author bold enough to write about a black woman living with HIV, I mean really living with it.  I was also fascinated by the introduction of Idlewild, one of the few resorts where African-Americans could vacation and purchase property prior to 1964.  I had never heard of it before reading the book and now attending their annual jazz festival is high up on my bucket list.

Originally published: 1998

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

#BookReview: Address: House of Corrections - Monice Mitchell Simms

From Locust Grove, Georgia to Detroit, Michigan, the debut novel from Monice Mitchell Simms is a journey that grabs a hold of you from page one and doesn't let you go until the end.  Even then, you'll be begging for more.

Address: House of Corrections opens with the main character's, Merry, release from prison in 1965.  Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Merry and her brother Johnson have been raised by their grandmother in the south until events force them to relocate to Detroit and the mother that abandoned them shortly after birth.  Immediately fascinated with the sporting life her Aunt Teenie lives, Merry falls in with a bad crowd and sets the course for her life.

Having been abandoned by her own mother, one would think that Merry would take steps to insure that the same does not happen with her own kids.  But much like her mother, Merry finds herself chasing after some thing and someone, leaving her kids to be raised like her mother in a history repeating cycle.

What did you like about this book?
It was extremely well written.  The characters are very believable and you find yourself wanting to know more about them.  I was especially fascinated by the mother's relationship with her son versus her daughter.  It is said that in the African American community mothers love their sons and raise their daughters.  The author completely comprehends that and uses it to her advantage in telling the story.

What didn't you like about this book?
I honestly could not find anything to dislike.

What could the author do to improve this book?
The author provides an excerpt from the follow up book in the back of this book.  I'm going to need her to keep writing so that I can read the sequel sooner than later.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided by the author.

Published March 2010

Theme: Too Late by Rachelle Ferrell

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, July 6 - Eddie Signwriter

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:

"She, Nana Oforiwaa -- a woman of such power, who could make the world do anything -- was consenting to no longer being young when other people still were.  Lord, it wasn't easy -- to give everything up for a child, a weak-willed child -- but she was doing it.

p. 65, Eddie Signwriter by Adam Schwartzman