Friday, January 29, 2016

#BookReview: BEST FRIENDS FOREVER by Kimberla Lawson Roby

Whenever Kimberla Lawson Roby can pull herself away from writing about her most infamous character, the Rev. Curtis Black, it's typically a good thing. In my opinion, she exhausted his story line long ago and so I won’t even bother picking up a book where he or members of his family are the central characters. I don’t know how her character development is in those books. Though I would imagine that after almost 20 books about the good reverend, she’s managed to fully develop his character down to the minutest of details. However, Lawson Roby continues to fall short with her characters in other books.

This is the same complaint I had about 2011’s Secret Obsession and 2014’s A Christmas Prayer. While the premise of the books is interesting, the characters are so one-dimensional that it’s difficult for the reader to connect with them. In her latest, Best Friends Forever, that doesn’t change.

As the book opens, Cecile Richardson’s husband, Keith, announces that he’s unhappy in their marriage. Feeling overlooked while Cecile pursues running her own business, Keith steps outside of the marriage and outside of the home, leaving Cecile to raise their perceptive ten year old daughter. In the midst of family chaos, Cecile is diagnosed with breast cancer. Enter her best friend, Lauren, to save the day, except she really doesn’t.

Here’s the thing, if you name your book Best Friends Forever, I kind of want to get to know the best friend and her side of the story, not just the storyteller’s. First and foremost, this book is about Cecile and her drama. Yes, Lauren steps in and takes her to the doctor and mean mugs Cecile’s husband and flirts with her brother, but Lauren doesn’t really get her own story line outside of her interactions with Cecile. Sure, she gets some lines here and there, but overall, this is Cecile’s story.

The flat characters mixed in with one dimensional characters and weak story lines continue to be a theme in Lawson Roby’s work. After all of these years, and books, one would think that there would be progress with her writing. It continues to be formulaic and predictable. I know that her books sell well, but that says more about lazy readers than it does about her writing. I would imagine that the bulk of her faithful readers are the same people that shill out money to watch Tyler Perry’s gun toting, foul mouthed, wisdom spewing Madea. I can honestly say that this is the last Lawson Roby book that I’ll pick up.

288 p.
Published: January 2016
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, Feb. 2, 2016

The Book of Memory by Pettina Gappah
288 p. (Fiction; Zimbabwe)
Pub. date: Feb. 1, 2016

Memory is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?

In The Book of Memory, Petina Gappah has created a uniquely slippery narrator: forthright, acerbically funny, and with a complicated relationship to the truth. Moving between the townships of the poor and the suburbs of the rich, and between the past and the present, Gappah weaves a compelling tale of love, obsession, the relentlessness of fate, and the treachery of memory.

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Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who's Next by LA Reid
400 p. (Non-fiction; biography)
Pub. date: Feb. 2, 2016

Over the last twenty-five years, legendary music producer and record man LA Reid—the man behind artists such as Toni Braxton, Kanye West, Rihanna, TLC, Outkast, Mariah Carey, Pink, Justin Bieber, and Usher—has changed the music business forever. In addition to discovering some of the biggest pop stars on the planet, he has shaped some of the most memorable and unforgettable hits of the last two generations, creating an impressive legacy of talent discovery and hit records.

Now, for the first time, he tells his story, taking fans on an intimate tour of his life, as he chronicles the fascinating journey from his small-town R&B roots in Cincinnati, Ohio, and his work as a drummer to his fame as a Grammy Award-winning music producer and his gig as a judge on the hit reality show, The X Factor. In Sing to Me, Reid goes behind the scenes of the music industry, charting his rise to fame and sharing stories of the countless artists he’s met, nurtured, and molded into stars. With fascinating insight into the early days of artists as diverse as TLC, Usher, Pink, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber, his story offers a detailed look at what life was like for stars at the start of their meteoric rise and how he always seemed to know who would be the next big thing.

Pre-order: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

An Undisturbed Peace by Mary Glickman
378 p. (Fiction; Native American)
Pub. date: Feb. 2, 2016

Abrahan Bento Sassaporta Naggar has traveled to America from the filthy streets of East London in search of a better life. But Abe’s visions of a privileged apprenticeship in the Sassaporta Brothers’ empire are soon replaced with the grim reality of indentured servitude in Greensborough, North Carolina.

Some fifty miles west, Dark Water of the Mountains leads a life of irreverent solitude. The daughter of a powerful Cherokee chief, it has been nearly twenty years since she renounced her family’s plans for her to marry a wealthy white man.

Far away in Georgia, a black slave named Jacob has resigned himself to a life of loss and injustice in a Cherokee city of refuge for criminals.

A trio of outsiders linked by love and friendship, Abe, Dark Water, and Jacob face the horrors of President Jackson’s Indian Removal Act as the tribes of the South make the grueling journey across the Mississippi River and into Oklahoma.

Pre-order: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Still So Excited!: My Life as a Pointer Sister by Ruth Pointer
256 p. (Non-fiction; biography)
Pub. date: Feb. 2, 2016

Still So Excited!: My Life as a Pointer Sister
is an engaging, funny, heartbreaking, and poignant look at Ruth Pointer’s roller-coaster life in and out of the Pointer Sisters. When overnight success came to the Pointer Sisters in 1973, they all thought it was the answer to their long-held prayers. While it may have served as an introduction to the good life, it also was an introduction to the high life of limos, champagne, white glove treatment, and mountains of cocaine that were the norm in the high-flying '70s and '80s. Pointer’s devastating addictions took her to the brink of death in 1984. Pointer has bounced back to live a drug- and alcohol-free life for the past 30 years and she shares how in her first autobiography, detailing the Pointer Sisters’ humble beginning, musical apprenticeship, stratospheric success, miraculous comeback, and the melodic sound that captured the hearts of millions of music fans.

Pre-order: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto
240 p. (Fiction; Pakistan)
Pub. date: Feb. 2, 2016

Three brothers meet for breakfast. Soon after, the eldest, Aman Erum, recently returned from America, hails a taxi to the local mosque. He is racked with guilt, having betrayed and abandoned the woman he has loved since childhood. Now, he hopes to right his ways. Aman Erum’s brother, Sikandar, a doctor, drives to the hospital where he works, but stops first to collect his troubled wife, who has not joined the family that morning. No one knows where Mina goes these days. Heartbroken over the loss of her young son, she has taken to attending other children’s funerals. Sikandar is exhausted by Mina’s instability, and by his own grief. But when, later in the morning, the two are taken hostage by members of the Taliban, Mina will prove to be stronger than anyone could have imagined.

The youngest of the three leaves for town on a motorbike. An idealist, Hayat holds strong to his deathbed promise to their father—to free Mir Ali from oppressors. Seated behind him is a beautiful, fragile girl whose life and thoughts are overwhelmed by the war that has enveloped the place of her birth.

Three hours later their day will end in devastating circumstances.

In this beautifully observed novel, individuals are pushed to make terrible choices. And, as the events of this single morning unfold, one woman is at the center of it all.

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The Black Calhouns: From Civil War to Civil Rights with One African American Family by Gail Lumet Buckley
336 p. (Non-fiction; biography/autobiography)
Pub. date: Feb. 2, 2016

In The Black Calhouns, Gail Lumet Buckley—daughter of actress Lena Horne—delves deep into her family history, detailing the experiences of an extraordinary African-American family from Civil War to Civil Rights.

Beginning with her great-great grandfather Moses Calhoun, a house slave who used the rare advantage of his education to become a successful businessman in post-war Atlanta, Buckley follows her family’s two branches: one that stayed in the South, and the other that settled in Brooklyn. Through the lens of her relatives’ momentous lives, Buckley examines major events throughout American history. From Atlanta during Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow, to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, and then from World War II to the Civil Rights Movement, this ambitious, brilliant family witnessed and participated in the most crucial events of the 19th and 20th centuries. Combining personal and national history, The Black Calhouns is a unique and vibrant portrait of six generations during dynamic times of struggle and triumph.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

#BookReview: THE GOLDEN SON by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

From an early age, the idea that he can be a great man one day is implanted in Anil Patel’s head. As a child in India, his father told him so and he believed it. The oldest of his siblings, he is the first to go to college and medical school and now, the first to go abroad. Leaving his small village for a medical residency in Dallas, Texas promises to be overwhelming, but Anil’s roommates Baldev and Mahesh become his guides to American living.

While Anil adjusts to life in the U.S., Leena, a childhood friend of Anil and his sister, Priya, finds herself married off to an abusive family. Deceived by her groom and his parents prior to the wedding, Leena goes from being a beloved daughter to a house servant. Shame and fear keep her from returning to her family home, where it’s likely that she would be shunned by her parents.

As Anil adjusts to his demanding residency and his fellow doctors, it’s interesting to note the disdain that some of the others seem to feel for him. One in particular goes out of his way to make him feel like he has no place there and it’s disheartening to watch. It’s reminiscent of far too many situations where “real Americans” feel it’s their duty to put “others” in their place, as if certain roles, titles, etc. are only reserved for some people and others only receive them because of special treatment. It’s also interesting to note that the one resident that connects with him is another foreign student, perhaps feeling a kinship as an outsider.

It’s frustrating to watch Anil reach for the “American dream,” including the blonde next door, because from the very beginning, I’m hoping he’ll go back to India and save Leena. When he’s called back for his father’s funeral and assumes the role of village negotiator, a job he is resistant to, I just know that he’s going to whisk Leena away and take her back to America so they can live happily ever after. But the author knows best and the story line she creates for both Leena and Anil is far better than I could have imagined.

I loved these characters and I loved having an opportunity to watch both of them grow. Both Leena and Anil fight against the limitations that others want to place on them – Anil as the oldest son and foreigner, and Leena as a woman – and triumph in the end. Once again, Shilpi Somaya Gowda has hit it out of the park.

408 p.
Published: January 2016

Pre-order: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, Jan. 26, 2016

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill
400 p. (Fiction; dystopian)
Publication date: Jan. 25, 2016

All Keita has ever wanted to do is to run. Running means respect and wealth at home. His native Zantoroland, a fictionalized country whose tyrants are eerily familiar, turns out the fastest marathoners on earth. But after his journalist father is killed for his outspoken political views, Keita must flee to the wealthy nation of Freedom State—a country engaged in a crackdown on all undocumented people.

There, Keita becomes a part of the new underground. He learns what it means to live as an illegal: surfacing to earn cash prizes by running local races and assessing whether the people he meets will be kind or turn him in. As the authorities seek to arrest Keita, he strives to elude capture and ransom his sister, who has been kidnapped.

Set in an imagined country bearing a striking resemblance to our own, this tension-filled novel casts its eye on race, human potential, and what it means to belong.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
384 p. (Fiction; romance)
Publication date: Jan. 26, 2016

Rhine Fontaine is building the successful life he’s always dreamed of—one that depends upon him passing for White. But for the first time in years, he wishes he could step out from behind the façade. The reason: Eddy Carmichael, the young woman he rescued in the desert. Outspoken, defiant, and beautiful, Eddy tempts Rhine in ways that could cost him everything…and the price seems worth paying.

Eddy owes her life to Rhine, but she won’t risk her heart for him. As soon as she’s saved enough money from her cooking, she’ll leave this Nevada town and move to California. No matter how handsome he is, no matter how fiery the heat between them, Rhine will never be hers. Giving in for just one might quench this longing. Or it might ignite an affair as reckless and irresistible as it is forbidden…

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That Other Me by Maha Gargash
384 p. (Fiction; Middle Eastern)
Publication date: Jan. 26, 2016

Majed, the head of the eminent Naseemy family, is proud to have risen into the upper echelons of Emirati society. As one of the richest businessmen in Dubai, he’s used to being catered to and respected—never mind that he acquired his wealth by cheating his brother out of his own company and depriving his niece, Mariam, of her rights.

Not one to dwell on the past—he sent Mariam to school in Egypt, what more could she want from him?—Majed spends his days berating his wife and staff and cavorting with friends at a private apartment. But he’s suddenly plagued by nightmares that continue to haunt him during the day, and he feels his control further slipping away with the discovery that his niece and his daughter are defying his orders.

Mariam despises Majed, and although she blames him for her father’s death, hers is a strictly-organized, dutiful existence. But when she falls for a brash, mischievous fellow student named Adel, he might just prove to be her downfall.

Largely abandoned by Majed as the daughter of a second, secret marriage, the vivacious Dalal has a lot to prove. The runner-up on “Nights of Dubai,” an American Idol-type reality show for Arab talent, Dalal is committed to being a singer despite the fact that it’s a disreputable career. When her efforts to become a celebrity finally begin to pay off, she attracts the attention of her father, who is determined to subdue Dalal to protect the family name. As Majed increasingly exerts his control over both Dalal and Mariam, both girls resist, with explosive consequences.

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The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
408 p. (Fiction; India/U.S.)
Publication date: Jan. 26, 2016

The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities.

Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever.

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The Seventh Day by Yu Hua
224 p. (Fiction; satire; China)
Publication date: Jan. 26, 2016

Yang Fei was born on a moving train. Lost by his mother, adopted by a young switchman, raised with simplicity and love, he is utterly unprepared for the changes that await him and his country. As a young man, he searches for a place to belong in a nation ceaselessly reinventing itself, but he remains on the edges of society. At forty-one, he meets an unceremonious death, and lacking the money for a burial plot, must roam the afterworld aimlessly. There, over the course of seven days, he encounters the souls of people he’s lost, and as he retraces the path of his life, we meet an extraordinary cast of characters: his adoptive father, beautiful ex-wife, neighbors who perished in the demolition of their homes. Vivid, urgent, and panoramic, Yang Fei’s passage movingly traces the contours of his vast nation—its absurdities, its sorrows, and its soul. This searing novel affirms Yu Hua’s place as the standard-bearer of Chinese fiction.

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Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl by Rashod Ollison
240 p. (Non-fiction; memoir; LGBT)
Publication date: Jan. 26, 2016

Growing up in rural Arkansas, young Rashod Ollison turned to music to make sense of his life. The dysfunction, sadness, and steely resilience of his family and neighbors was reflected in the R&B songs that played on 45s in smoky rooms.

Steeped in the sounds, the smells, the salty language of rural Arkansas in the 1980s, Soul Serenade is the memoir of a pop music critic whose love for soul music was fostered by his father, Raymond. Drafted into the Vietnam War as a teenager, Raymond returned a changed man, “dead on the inside.” After his parents’ volatile marriage ended in divorce, Rashod was haunted by the memory of his itinerant father and his mama’s long forgotten “sunshine smile.” For six-year-old Rashod, his father’s record collection—the music of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Al Green, and others—provided solace, coherence, and escape.

Moving nine times during his childhood, Rashod constantly adjusted to new schools and homes with his two sisters, Dusa and Reagan, and his mother, Dianne. Resilient and tough, while also being distant and punitive, she worked multiple jobs, striving “to make ends wave at each other if they couldn’t meet.” He spent time with his acerbic mother’s mother, Mama Teacake, and her family’s living-out-loud ways, which clashed with his father’s family—religious, discreet, and appropriate—where Rashod gravitated to Big Mama and Paw Paw, his father’s parents.

Becoming aware of his same-sex attraction, Rashod felt further isolated and alone but was encouraged by mentors in the community who fostered his intelligence and talent. He became transformed through discovering the writing of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, and other literary greats, and these books, along with the soulful sounds of the 1970s and 80s, enabled him to thrive in spite of the instability and harshness of his childhood.

In textured and evocative language, and peppered with unexpected humor, Soul Serenade is an original and captivating coming-of-age story set to an original beat.

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Friday, January 15, 2016


Normally I wouldn't review two books in the same post unless they were from the same series, but I was so blown away by Quanie Miller's ability to switch up genres and hit them both out of the park that I wanted to share both of her books with you.

I can’t remember the last time I cackled so hard while reading a book. Jasmine T. Peacock, known as Jazzy to family and friends, is an absolute riot. When we first meet her, she’s healing from a broken relationship with her ex, Curtis. She thought he was “the one” until he asked her to cosign on a car for him. One thing Jazzy is not – a fool. And just when she thinks she’s done with him, he pops back up as her cousin’s fiancée!

Mercedes and Jazzy have never gotten along. Family members are amused by the cousin’s ongoing battles, but Jazzy isn’t. To save face, she brings Reggie, a mall kiosk owner who’s trying to get close to her, to a family function celebrating the recently engaged Mercedes and Curtis and hijinks ensue.

Between Jazzy’s crazy, secretive employers, the restaurant shootout she witnesses (but remembers to grab her food before diving under a table), a mama who spies on neighbors more than Pearl Shay ever could, her sister and her sidekick, there is never a dull moment in her life. And that is what makes this book so amazing.

Far too often black women in chick lit don’t get to be silly and average. It’s like there’s always this superwoman image to uphold and they don’t get to let their hair down. They’re stars at work, but have lackluster love lives. Or they’re wealthy and just need a man to complete them. I could go on and on, but what I love about this character Quanie Miller created is she has nothing together. She works a crappy job. She lives with her mother and her sister. Her friends don’t have it all together either. Very few people in her circle do. It’s refreshing to see real people reflected in these characters. I would love to see a series of Jazzy books.

280 p.
Published: October 2013

Purchase: Amazon | B & NSmashwords

On the flip side of chick lit, Ms. Miller takes us to the small town of Carolville, Louisiana for her next story. Leena Williams is about to marry the love of her life. The guests have arrived and Leena is stunning in her gown, but her groom is missing. Instinct leads Leena back home where she finds a Dear John letter from the love of her life and the father of her child. Johnny has left her.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and Leena is determined to find out what or who came between her and Johnny. Adira Collins is a beautiful woman. Only a woman as captivating and cunning as she is could pull Johnny away from Leena and their son. But when Leena goes snooping into Adira background, bad things start to happen.

Adira is dangerous and everyone from her past tells Leena that, but do you think she listens? Nope. I was yelling at her as I read the book. “Girl, go find another man. Johnny probably wasn’t even that fine.” Adira possesses levels of evil that Leena can’t even fathom and as she goes to battle with her, she’s going to need all of the help she can get.

This book was such a departure from Miller’s first book that it was hard to believe one person wrote both. It’s such a huge genre skip to go from chick lit to paranormal, but she does it well. The characters in The New Mrs. Collins were just as developed and believable as those in It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy. Though the author has only put out the two books thus far, I look forward to reading a lot more from her, regardless of the genre.

276 p.
Published: October 2014

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, Jan. 19, 2016

Passion's Song by Farrah Rochon
224 p. (Fiction; romance)
Publication date: Jan. 19, 2016

New Orleans has always been a musical city, and April Knight quickly fell under its spell. Despite the challenges of poverty and disillusionment, April defied everyone to realize her dream of becoming a celebrated cellist. Buoyed by her success, she's returned to the Ninth Ward to share her encouragement and enthusiasm with the local youth, unaware of a new passion that awaits.

Years ago, Damien Alexander encouraged April to follow her ambitions, even as he followed his own. Now he has the opportunity to revitalize his old neighborhood, and he needs April's grace and charm to woo investors. Instead of the platonic arrangement they expected, a swift and intense spark of attraction suddenly changes the dynamic of their relationship. Will they be able to help their community and answer the sweet, sweet melody of love?

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Surrender at Sunset by Jamie Pope
224 p. (Fiction; romance)
Publication date: Jan. 19, 2016

Ever since enduring a possibly career-ending injury, Miami superstar shortstop Carlos Bradley has retreated from the world. His life undergoes a radical makeover when he's convinced to hire a designer to restore his secluded island mansion to its former glory. Completely different from the women Carlos has known, interior decorator Virginia Andersen captivates him with her infectious spirit and the sensuality beneath her coolly professional demeanor.

The owner of a struggling design firm, Virginia can't believe her new employer is a baseball legend. But Carlos wants more than just her expertise. And when he insists she move into his tropical getaway during the renovations, Virginia soon finds herself sharing the irresistible playboy's bed. But when the media descends, she's thrust into the limelight and her past becomes an open book. Is she ready to overcome her doubts to fight for a future with the man of her dreams?

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Untamed Love by Lindsay Evans
224 p. (Fiction; romance)
Publication date: Jan. 19, 2016

A winning bid at a silent auction gets Mella Davis more than just complimentary services from landscape architect Victor Raphael. It sparks an instantaneous attraction to the brooding bachelor that takes her completely by surprise. Stern and tightly wound on the surface, irresistibly masculine underneath, he's a challenge to her single-and-loving-it status—and to the heart she's learned to protect. And still, she can't help giving in.

Ever since love burned him in the past, nothing has cracked Victor's calm control. Then he glimpses carefree, vivacious Mella at a Miami charity event. Uninhibited days and sensual nights follow as she brings warmth and desire back to his world, until doubt wrenches them apart. Opposites attract, but can they also overcome their differences…and sow the seeds to thrilling and lasting love?

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Seducing the Heiress by Martha Kennerson
224 p. (Fiction; romance)
Publication date: Jan. 19, 2016

Friends who flirt—that's corporate attorney Farrah Blake and high-tech security expert Robert Gold. Farrah, second of the wealthy Blake triplets, has no intention of acting on her attraction to the notorious bachelor. Until a business trip to Sin City turns into a wild and wanton weekend that leaves her with an unforgettable souvenir: a wedding ring!

Robert has made his share of romantic mistakes, but marrying the gorgeous, no-nonsense Farrah isn't one of them. Though he reluctantly agrees to her divorce request, he's hoping to change her mind. Trouble is, he'll have to deceive her in order to do it. And though all's fair in love and Vegas, gambling with the truth could cost Robert a love he's willing to stake his heart on…

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Confucius Jane by Katie Lynch
352 p. (Fiction; contemporary women)
Publication date: Jan. 19, 2016

On leave from grad school, Jane Morrow is helping out in her uncle's fortune cookie factory. Though surrounded by her loving family and their close-knit Chinatown community, Jane feels like a colossal failure, wondering if she will ever have the guts to move on with her dissertation and her life.

When Jane meets medical student Sutton St. James at her local noodle shop, sparks fly. Sutton stands at a career crossroads: surgical residency or stem cell research overseas? The first would make her ultraconservative father happy, but the latter might help find a cure for her mother's debilitating MS. Neither would make them comfortable with their daughter's sexuality. Sutton's only certainty is that she has no time for a relationship-yet neither she nor Jane can deny the chemistry between them.

It's a picture-perfect romance until Sutton's father's scandalous secret threatens her family and her reputation. In her rush to protect Jane and the community she has come to hold dear, has Sutton turned her back on the only thing that truly matters?

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Friday, January 8, 2016


Dear Author of Colour,

Your publisher is hurting you, and I don’t mean in that ABC After School Special way. Your publisher isn’t promoting your books like they promote others and it’s killing your reviews and sales. But #weneeddiversebooks! Readers shout it, your publisher tells you they agree. Then tell me why the pitches I receive are so white. And it’s not just books by already popular authors that they’re pitching. They’re authors no one has ever heard of, but the publisher has decided they’re worth promoting even though their synopsis reads like hot garbage. What do you mean, Lisa? Here’s a screenshot of December pitches, a publisher's giveaway and the Goodreads monthly newsletter.

Month after month, week after week, I receive pitches from publishers and rarely do they offer books by authors of colour. On a rare occasion, I come across a black or Latina publicist who offers me books that don’t necessarily interest me, but if they have characters of colour or an author of colour, I’ll likely accept them because I want them to know that someone is interested in books by authors that aren’t white. But why should I have to wait for a publicist of colour for that? In the seven years that I’ve been blogging, I can count on one hand the number of publicists I’ve encountered that aren’t young, white women. And young white women are going to pitch books that interest them. I don’t need another book about any of the Brontes. I don’t give a flying fig about Mr. Darcy. But over and over again, that’s what clogs my inbox.

Now your publisher could do you a favor and make ARCs of your book available online. Oh, you didn’t know they could do that? See, publishers tell you they don’t send hard copies of ARCs out anymore because of costs ̶ printing, postage, the time it takes to package it up and send it, etc., but they can and do make electronic ARCs available on Netgalley and/or Edelweiss. Most of you already know about Netgalley, but when I mention Edelweiss, you screw your face up like

While Netgalley has some of the bigger publishing houses listed, along with a number of indie houses, Edelweiss is a clearinghouse for almost all of the larger publishing houses. Booksellers, librarians and bloggers can read publisher catalogs (and I do faithfully), make note of what new books are in the pipeline, and add them to their to be read or to be bought list. Everything listed in the catalog doesn’t become available to download as an ARC, but a good number of books are. And this is where we run into the problem.

Some publishers, like Simon & Schuster and Harper, do a really good job of making books available to reviewers on Edelweiss. Why? Because they know that if the reviewer likes the book, they’ll write a post about it. If they love the book, they’ll tell everyone they come in contact with in real life and on social media about it. Sometimes I get books six months in advance. That means I have six months to shout from the rooftops about how good your book is. What happens when ARCs aren’t made available? Reviewers have to wait for release date like everyone else, which means there’s no release day promotion for you other than a tweet, a short Facebook post, etc. informing people you have a new book out ̶ not much to motivate people to buy your book. Even worse, there are publishers that list ARCs so that you can request them, but then never respond to your request. Why even list the book if you have no plans to actually allow reviewers to read it? I hate to tell you authors, but some of your publishers are so non-responsive that I move your book down to the bottom of my to be read list when that happens. Right now that list is at 499, so good luck on getting that review in the year your book is published. And there is one publisher I will never request a book from again because they've not responded to any requests in two years. As a matter of fact, I try to avoid reading any authors on their imprint.

I hate to break it to the romance authors among you, but you’re missing out the most. Harlequin and Kensington post ARCs on Netgalley, but it’s not often that your books appear among them. Of 41 books currently posted on Netgalley by Kensington, there is only one book by an author of colour, appearing under the Dafina imprint. Harlequin fares a little better, but not by much. With 66 books posted on Netgalley, three are by authors of colour, published under the Kimani imprint.  On Edelweiss, Kensington lists 172 books on their frontlist and several of the 58 on their Dafina imprint are available for download. Harlequin’s catalog is difficult to locate on Edelweiss, but it doesn’t matter because of the 95 books on their frontlist, the 29 under the Kimani imprint aren’t available as ARCs. Though, to be fair, it seems that only 12 books on their frontlist are. Perhaps Harlequin just isn’t concerned about any of their authors.

The bottom line is this, publishers can say they’re interested in diversifying their readers and their catalogs, but they’re not. Studies have shown that the most likely reader is an educated black woman. We buy and read books, yet publishing continues to cater to an audience that looks like them instead of us. The lack of people of colour in publishing is another topic that requires further discussion and perhaps we'll delve into that one day, but I digress. It doesn’t matter how well you write a book, if your publisher won’t promote it to reviewers and/or readers, who will know? I’ll continue to do my part by combing catalogs, looking for and promoting your books, but you’ve got to do your part and demand that your publishers start offering your books to any reviewer that reads your particular genre, not just the ones they think might be interested because we share the same skin tone. Adult women read YA all day, every day and they haven’t been teenagers in decades. I think they can find it within themselves to read a book with characters that don’t look like them if a publisher promotes it well enough.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


It took me a minute, but I was reading right up until and through New Year's Eve, so I didn't want to put out a list too early and miss telling you about any amazing reads. The books below are my favorite reads from 2015. Some I reviewed, others I didn't. Unlike previous years, I have a self-help/non-fiction book, which I rarely read, and a cook book - because the recipes are that damn amazing. Enjoy!

God Loves Haiti by Dimitry Elias Leger
262 pages
Published: January 6, 2015
Read: 1/8/2015

In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, the president of Haiti, his wife and her lover try to reconnect with each other.  I can't remember why I didn't review this on the blog, except that it was so overwhelmingly good that words failed me when I tried to describe it to someone so my post would have been a bunch of gobbledygook. But trust me, read it.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Stick Fly by Lydia Diamond
Audio: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Published: February 1, 2008
Listened: 2/26/2015

No one does bougie like black people on the east coast! When two adult sons bring their current girlfriends to meet the parents at their family's summer home on Martha's Vineyard, nothing is off limits. I listened to this because Audible offered it free for Black History Month. Such a great play. The actors and the story line were superb. I never gave much thought to "listening" to plays, but I'm definitely planning to do it again.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound | Recorded Books

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
352 pages
Published: April 14, 2015
Read: 3/30/2015; Review

I hate to compare books, especially ones that are really well written in their own right, but this reminded me of Ayana Mathis' The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. The thing that made it better, in my opinion, is that the characters are tied together. In The Twelve Tribes, even though the characters are siblings, their stories are written in such a way that they can stand alone and there's little interaction between the siblings as adults. So while we see them interact as children, once they move into the adult world, there's very little dialogue among them - stand alone stories. While The Turner House doesn't delve deeply into the lives of all the Turner children, Flournoy gives us a good sense of how their lives have turned out based on the adult children's whose lives she chooses to explore.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

'Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma
400 pages
Published: April 22, 2014
Read: 5/23/2015

OMG, I don't even know what to say about 'Til the Well Runs Dry. Set in Trinidad and the United States from the 1940s through 1960s, it's the story of a young seamstress who's raising two boys and falls for a policeman. Their marriage and lives together and apart are happy and twisted and tortured, but this was an absolutely amazing read. I'm just sorry that it took me so long to getting around to read it.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
304 pages
Published: June 30, 2015
Read: 7/6/2015; Review

Touted as a coming of age story, Star Side follows two sisters, Dionne and Phaedra, who are uprooted from their life in Brooklyn and transplanted in Barbados. And while coming of age usually implies that someone is growing up or entering adulthood, I would argue that all three of the main characters, Hyacinth included, come of age in this well crafted novel. I can't remember the last time a book made me laugh AND cry. Loved, loved, LOVED the characters in this book.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa
304 pages
Published: September 1, 2015
Read: 9/13/2015; Review

Grounded in reality and a bit of mysticism, The Blue Between Sky and Water is the story of four generations of women in Gaza and America, connected by family ties. Not nearly enough people read this amazing book. But you? You go read it, now!

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Only the Strong by Jabari Asim
288 pages
Published: May 12, 2015
Read: 9/18/2015; Review

I loved Only the Strong partially because it was set in St. Louis, so the landmarks were familiar to me, as were some of the characters.  But I also loved it because those characters were so well written. I was drawn into their story lines and was sad to see them end. I'm hoping the author will give us a sequel or recycle some of the characters into his next work.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
352 pages
To be Published: April 12, 2016
Read: 9/23/2015

It's kind of unfair of me to add this to the list since you won't be able to read it until April, but it's amazing. It's like nothing Diane McKinney-Whetstone has written before. All of her other books are good, but this? This is some other level stuff.

Pre-order: B & N | Book Depository

Untwine by Edwidge Danticat
320 pages
Published: September 29, 2015
Read: 10/17/2015; Review

I don't typically read YA (young adult) lit, but I'll always make an exception for Edwidge Danticat. Sixteen year olds aren’t supposed to die, but sometimes they do. Giselle and Isabelle Boyer are as alike and different as twins can be and the author explores those differences in Untwine.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
336 pages
Published: November 10, 2015
Read: 11/13/2015; Review

Oh Shonda Rhimes, you better work! Year of Yes spoke to the introvert in me and convinced me that I too could become a bad ass like Shonda. Rhimes’ tone throughout the book is very conversational. It feels like sitting on the couch with your best girlfriend, shooting the breeze and drinking red wine and eating popcorn while she fills you in on what she’s been doing since you last saw her.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen by Dora Charles
272 pages
Published: September 8, 2015
Read: 11/25/2015

Miss Dora drops all kinds of tea on Paula Deen in her cookbook and after working with her for 22 years, you know she knows what she's talking about.

I checked out the Kindle version of this from the library & spent the evening reading the stories and recipes. I thought I might find a recipe or two to try but the book is full of them! I'm definitely buying a hard copy of this to add to my cookbook collection and I've already tried a few of the recipes. Look, my sour cream pound cake was just okay before, but using Miss Dora's recipe? Honey, hush!

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due
335 pages
Published: September 8, 2015
Read: 12/8/2015

I always have to read Tananarive Due stories in broad daylight, preferably early morning so that between the time I read them and go to sleep, plenty of other things have happened to fill my brain.  Otherwise, they subconsciously creep up on me and I scare the living daylights out of myself.   Ms. Due has outdone herself with the shorts in Ghost Summer. Some are longer than others and some are way too short for my taste. The stories definitely left me wanting more. I would love to see fully fleshed out novels of a lot of these shorts.

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound