Wednesday, May 25, 2016

2016 Carefree Colourful Women Beach Reads

Summer is just around the corner. I know the calendar says it doesn't start until June 20, but if you're like me, it starts somewhere around Memorial Day and doesn't end until Labor Day. While some people prefer mysteries, thrillers or biographies for their beach reading, I like to keep it light. I'm sharing some of my favorite reads that pair nicely with a refreshing pina colada or Bahama Mama. Or maybe you're not planning to hit the beach this summer, but you need a palate cleanser after some of the heavier books you've been reading.  I've got you!

Some of my favorite books are about women of colour just having fun. Too often we get saddled down with other people's problems and take on the burden of the world. All you'll find in these selections are carefree, colourful women who sometimes get caught up in quirky situations, bad romances and silly schemes. All of the books are about women of colour from around the globe and were written by women of colour from around the globe. Happy reading!

The Broke Diaries: The Completely True and Hilarious Misadventures of a Good Girl Gone Broke by Angela Nissel
The Awesome Girl's Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men by Ernessa T. Carter
Imaginary Men by Anjali Banerjee
Life in Spades by Frances Frost
Waking Up in the Land of Glitter by Kathy Cano-Murillo
Confessions of a Call Center Gal by Lisa Lim
It Ain't Easy Being Jazzy by Quanie Miller
A Pinch of Ooh La La by Renee Swindle
Chore Whore: Adventures of a Celebrity Personal Assistant by Heather H. Howard
Sexual Healing/Let's Get It On by Jill Nelson
Losing To Win by Michele Grant
Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra
Year of the Chick by Romi Moondi
The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
One Flight Up by Susan Fales-Hill

Friday, May 20, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, May 24, 2016

Dated Emcees by Chinaka Hodge
62 p. (Poetry; African-American)

Chinaka Hodge came of age along with hip-hop—and its influence on her suitors became inextricable from their personal interactions. Form blends with content in Dated Emcees as she examines her love life through the lens of hip-hop's best known orators, characters, archetypes and songs, creating a new and inventive narrative about the music that shaped the craggy heart of a young woman poet, just as it also changed the global landscape of pop.

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

Cappuccino Kisses by Yahrah St. John
224 p. (Romance; African-American)

Triple chocolate cupcakes can help get a girl through the tough times—especially after Mariah Drayson's dream marriage ends in heartbreak. Now the gifted baker has been handed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: running the Seattle branch of her family's legendary Chicago patisserie. The competition is stiff. Until high-end coffee importer Everett Myers comes up with a sinfully tempting proposition.

The finest ingredients. Limited distribution. Everett knows the secrets of success. Joining forces with the alluring pastry chef is making the millionaire widower believe in second chances. And when Mariah unveils her secret weapon—a decadent new dessert—he knows they're a winning team. But the single father can't coast on sugarcoated fantasies. Is Mariah prepared to reveal the secret that could cost her a future with Everett?

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

His Loving Caress by Candace Shaw
224 p. (Romance; African-American)

Instead of falling apart when her childhood sweetheart chose his music career over marriage, Elle Lauren fled to Paris to study fashion design. Her stunning wedding gowns now give other brides the happily-ever-after she didn't have. Ignoring Braxton Chase's long-distance apologies has been easy. But meeting him once more stirs the deep longings and desires that a decade has not erased.

Braxton walked away from the pressure to marry at a young age, and he's regretted breaking Elle's heart ever since. From the moment he sees her again at his Atlanta jazz club, he knows he wants more than forgiveness—he wants a second chance at the body-and-soul connection that they once had. Can he convince her to trust the sweet, seductive melody of their lost love?

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

Sapphire Attraction by Zuri Day
224 p. (Romance; African-American)

Real estate mogul Ike Drake Jr. likes women the way he likes his cars—polished, sophisticated and reliable. Quinn Taylor, meanwhile, is as fiery and unpredictable as the red Corvette she drives. From the moment she roars into Paradise Cove, music blasting, they're like oil and water. And when a judge rules that Quinn must work off the damages in Ike's office after she broadsides his sedan, the tension between them escalates…before exploding into raw desire.

Quinn's unconventional ways are ruffling feathers in this picturesque town. Yet there's something compelling about the place—and about powerfully strong, steady Ike. Simple chemistry won't be enough to bridge the gap between them, especially with a determined ex-girlfriend waiting in the wings. It'll take the kind of trust that requires putting your heart on the line to secure a glittering, priceless future…

Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Every Beat of My Heart by Kianna Alexander
224 p. (Romance; African-American)

Lina Smith-Todd is a winning bid away from owning a piece of musical history. The auction heats up when she discovers that her chief competition for a piano owned by Thelonious Monk is the man who once shared her bed. But the priceless baby grand isn't all that the seductive, supremely confident musician intends to possess. Rashad MacRae wants a second chance to be with Lina.

Rashad's passion for music was inspired by the legendary Monk. But if walking away with the prize means losing his shot at a future with Lina, he's ready to concede defeat. To entice her back into his arms, Rashad has to find a way to regain the self-sufficient attorney's trust. And now a family revelation could cost him everything. Can doubt be swept away by the promise of an everlasting love song they both know by heart?

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

The Real Mrs. Price by J. D. Mason
336 p. (Fiction; African-American)

Lucy Price is living the American dream. She has been married to her successful husband and businessman, Edward Price for a year and couldn’t be happier until she learns that Eddie is a dangerously ruthless man, heavily involved in illegal activities that threaten not only her marriage, but her life. Eddie abruptly disappears, but not before warning Lucy that if she wants to keep breathing she'd better keep her mouth shut. Six months later, word of her husband surfaces when she learns that he is presumed murdered in a small Texas town, apparently killed by his “wife”, Marlowe Price.

Marlowe is no stranger to trouble. An outcast in her own community for being one of those "hoodoo women," who can curse you or cast you under her beguiling spell, Marlowe is shunned at every turn. Seven months ago, a whirlwind romance in Mexico led Marlowe to marry the man she thought she’d spend the rest of her life with. For Marlowe and Eddie, there is no such thing as trouble in paradise. But late one night, when Marlowe witnesses her husband putting the body of a dead man in the trunk of his car, the illusion comes crashing down around her and she knows she has to move fast before the devil comes calling once again.

Now, Lucy and Marlowe must come together to find out where and who Eddie really is, and help each other through the threat he poses.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

#BookReview: THE SUMMER OF ME by Angela Benson

Years ago I decided I was going to have the summer of Lisa. I sent my daughter to my mother's house, which was just across the river, but still, I had the house to myself. I looked forward to all of the fun and adventure I was going to have in those three months. The first week of summer I went to Crown Royal night at the Black Rep, a local theater company.  Good liquor and a good story are two of my favorite things, so this was the perfect night. My favorite DJ was hosting the event, free Crown Royal was flowing and the play, which I can't even remember at this point, was probably outstanding. Fast forward a few hours and I stumble into the house in my cute shoes and one of the many dresses I'd bought for my summer of Lisa. I didn't bother to turn the lights on because like most people, I have the layout of my house memorized. Lo and behold, I tripped over a pair of Birkenstocks in the middle of the hall, broke my big toe and spent the rest of the summer wearing those same Birkenstocks and walking with a cane while my really cute dresses hung in the closet.

When I read the synopsis for Angela Benson's The Summer of Me, I was sure I would relate to Destiny Madison. Though her exact age is never given, I would guess that she's 25 or 26, based on the age of her kids and the year she left college to have the twins. The twins have the opportunity to spend the summer in California with their father and stepmother and while it scares Destiny to let them do so, she knows that time alone will give her a chance to work an extra job and save money. It's important that she find a house near the twin's father before the school year starts so that the kids can attend a better school and be close to both of their parents, not just their father.  Even as Destiny's need for money leads to her involvement in a slightly illegal scheme, she also finds herself designing a new program for church that has her working closely with Daniel, a handsome pastor and former investigator.

Is the book predictable? Sometimes. Is that OK? Sure. Would I read another book from the author? I couldn't say for sure and here's why. I'm a stickler for time lines and characters that make sense. At one point, the wife of Destiny's ex talks about him finding a 12-step meeting he was comfortable with. Well that's good, but what was he addicted to? Did that ever play a part in his relationship with Destiny? Does it affect his relationship with his current wife? I have no idea because it's never addressed again. It seems to be irrelevant, so why even mention it?

Also, the twins are supposed to be six. They both have cellphones, talk on Facebook, Skype with their friends and make videos. I know kids today are much more technologically advanced than when I was a kid, but I don't know six year olds with Facebook accounts because Facebook doesn't allow it. Who are these other children the twins are Skyping with? Who gives a six year old a video camera? The story line could have made just a little more sense if Destiny was aged by 10 years. Sixteen year old twins doing those things make much more sense than six year old twins doing them.

Like I said, I'm not sure that I would pick up another book from the author, but it's an overall easy read. If you have a few hours on a lazy afternoon, you'll breeze through it quickly.

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

Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, May 17, 2016

Collected Poems: 1974-2004 by Rita Dove
448 p. (Poetry; African-American)

Rita Dove’s Collected Poems 1974–2004 showcases the wide-ranging diversity that earned her a Pulitzer Prize, the position of U.S. poet laureate, a National Humanities Medal, and a National Medal of Art. Gathering thirty years and seven books, this volume compiles Dove’s fresh reflections on adolescence in The Yellow House on the Corner and her irreverent musings in Museum. She sets the moving love story of Thomas and Beulah against the backdrop of war, industrialization, and the civil right struggles. The multifaceted gems of Grace Notes, the exquisite reinvention of Greek myth in the sonnets of Mother Love, the troubling rapids of recent history in On the Bus with Rosa Parks, and the homage to America’s kaleidoscopic cultural heritage in American Smooth all celebrate Dove’s mastery of narrative context with lyrical finesse. With the “precise, singing lines” for which the Washington Post praised her, Dove “has created fresh configurations of the traditional and the experimental”

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

The Sky Over Lima by Juan Gómez Bárcena
288 p. (Fiction; South America)

José Gálvez and Carlos Rodríguez are poets. Or, at least, they’d like to be. Sons of Lima’s elite in the early twentieth century, they scribble bad verses and read the greats: Rilke, Rimbaud, and, above all others, Juan Ramón Jímenez, the Spanish Maestro. Desperate for Jímenez’s latest work, unavailable in Lima, they decide to ask him for a copy.

They’re sure Jímenez won’t send two dilettantes his book, but he might favor a beautiful woman. They write to him as the lovely, imaginary Georgina Hübner. Jímenez responds with a letter and a book. Elated, José and Carlos write back. Their correspondence continues, as the Maestro falls in love with Georgina, and the boys abandon poetry for the pages of Jímenez’s life.

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

Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura
352 p. (Non-fiction; Japan)

In 1871, five young girls were sent by the Japanese government to the United States. Their mission: learn Western ways and return to help nurture a new generation of enlightened men to lead Japan.

Raised in traditional samurai households during the turmoil of civil war, three of these unusual ambassadors—Sutematsu Yamakawa, Shige Nagai, and Ume Tsuda—grew up as typical American schoolgirls. Upon their arrival in San Francisco they became celebrities, their travels and traditional clothing exclaimed over by newspapers across the nation. As they learned English and Western customs, their American friends grew to love them for their high spirits and intellectual brilliance.

The passionate relationships they formed reveal an intimate world of cross-cultural fascination and connection. Ten years later, they returned to Japan—a land grown foreign to them—determined to revolutionize women’s education.

Based on in-depth archival research in Japan and in the United States, including decades of letters from between the three women and their American host families, Daughters of the Samurai is beautifully, cinematically written, a fascinating lens through which to view an extraordinary historical moment.

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

Counternarratives by John Keene
320 p. (Fiction; short stories)

Ranging from the seventeenth century to the present, and crossing multiple continents, Counternarratives draws upon memoirs, newspaper accounts, detective stories, and interrogation transcripts to create new and strange perspectives on our past and present. “An Outtake” chronicles an escaped slave’s take on liberty and the American Revolution; “The Strange History of Our Lady of the Sorrows” presents a bizarre series of events that unfold in Haiti and a nineteenth-century Kentucky convent; “The Aeronauts” soars between bustling Philadelphia, still-rustic Washington, and the theater of the U. S. Civil War; “Rivers” portrays a free Jim meeting up decades later with his former raftmate Huckleberry Finn; and in “Acrobatique,” the subject of a famous Edgar Degas painting talks back.

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

The Gods of Tango by Carolina De Robertis
384 p. (Fiction; South America)

February 1913: When seventeen-year-old Leda, clutching only a suitcase and her father’s cherished violin, arrives in Buenos Aires, she is shocked to find that the husband she has traveled across an ocean to reach has been killed. Unable to return home, alone, and on the brink of destitution, she is seduced by the tango, the dance that underscores life in her new city. Leda knows, however, that she can never play in public as a woman, so she disguises herself as a young man to join a troupe of musicians. In the illicit, scandalous world of brothels and cabarets, the lines between Leda and her disguise begin to blur, and romantic longings that she has long kept suppressed are realized for the first time.

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

My Voice: A Memoir by Angie Martinez
288 p. (Biography; Latinx)

In her twenty years behind the mic at New York City’s two biggest hip-hop stations—Hot 97 and Power 105.1—Angie Martinez has become an entertainment legend. From one-time presidential hopeful Barack Obama to Jay-Z and Beyoncé to post-prison Tupac, her intimate and candid interviews with the leading names in the music business, hip-hop culture, and beyond have grabbed headlines and changed the conversation.

In the same no-holds-barred style of her radio show, Angie shares stories from behind-the-scenes of her most controversial interviews, opens up about her personal life, and reflects on her climb to become the Voice of New York.

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

#BookReview: THE MOTHER by Yvvette Edwards

As a mother, it has always been my fear that something would happen to my child and I wouldn't be able to reach her. Now that she's an adult, that fear is even more magnified because she lives 800 miles away. Losing her would be like losing the air I breathe. It's for that reason The Mother hit me like a ton of bricks.

Every mother's greatest nightmare is realized when Marcia Williams learns that her only child, Ryan, a sensitive 16 year old, has been murdered by another teen. Marcia's husband, Lloydie, has always been quiet and is even more so now. Mothers get caught up in the why and the how. Marcia needs to know these things. All Lloydie needs to know is that his beloved son is no more.

Conversation between Ryan's parents has all but ceased. There is still a cup of tea on her nightstand when Marcia awakens each morning, but intimacy is a thing of the past. While Marcia heads for court daily, Lloydie heads for his garden. Marcia sits through the trial of her son's killer with her sister, Lorna, and Nipa, the family liaison, but there is no Lloydie.

Marcia can pinpoint the moment when Ryan began to change. It started with Sweetie, a loud girl with an ample bosom and a street attitude. She's not the girl that Marcia would have chosen for her Ryan and perhaps that's why he was attracted to her. Had Ryan picked a demure, studious girl with braces and glasses, he might still be alive. These are the kinds of things that run through your mind after you lose someone. Would things have turned out differently if only or with whom or when or where?

Sitting in court allows Marcia to observe Tyson Manley, her son's murderer, and his family, his mother in particular. What kind of woman raises a son that can murder someone with no regret? One would be hard pressed to tell who is more smug, mother or son.  Watching Marcia trying to make sense of what has happened to her son is painful. Will a guilty verdict bring her relief? It's not likely, but perhaps some closure. And then what?

In a slight twist that might not work in any other story, Edwards throws readers for a loop. But within that twist and within that loop, there is a glimpse of joy and humanity. There is forgiveness. There is a harnessing of strength "to keep going, not just to remain alive, but to live." There is a future to which to look forward.

256 p.
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher; opinions are my own.

Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Friday, May 6, 2016

New Books Coming Your Way, May 10, 2016

The Mother by Yvvette Edwards
256 p. (Fiction; Caribbean English)

The unimaginable has happened to Marcia Williams. Her bright and beautiful sixteen-year-old son Ryan has been brutally murdered. Consumed by grief and rage, she must bridle her dark feelings and endure something no mother should ever have to experience: she must go to court for the trial of the killer—another teenage boy—accused of taking her son’s life.

How could her son be dead? Ryan should have been safe—he wasn’t the kind of boy to find himself on the wrong end of a knife carried by a dangerous young man like Tyson Manley. But as the trial proceeds, Marcia finds her beliefs and assumptions challenged as she learns more about Ryan’s death and Tyson’s life, including his dysfunctional family. She also discovers troubling truths about her own. As the strain of Ryan’s death tests their marriage, Lloydie, her husband, pulls further away, hiding behind a wall of secrets that masks his grief, while Marcia draws closer to her sister, who is becoming her prime confidant.

One person seems to hold the answers—and the hope—Marcia needs: Tyson's scared young girlfriend, Sweetie. But as this anguished mother has learned, nothing in life is certain. Not any more.

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

Seventeen by Anita Agnihotri
250 p. (Short stories; India)

Seventeen, written by acclaimed Bengali author Anita Agnihotri, brings together the best of more than one hundred pieces of her published short fiction. By turns intense, brittle, angry, sad, and torn apart in conflict, the stories here bring out the different faces of human hardship and explore an India that is still largely unknown. Set in both cities and villages, in small-town India and in international suburbia, the pieces run the gamut of experiences—both everyday and extraordinary. From personal relationships set against a background of turmoil to social truths told through the unique lives of individuals, each of these stories paints a picture of human fragility.

Presented here in English for the first time by award-winning translator Arunava Singh, readers encounter a brother and sister who visit the unique crater-lake that their dead, estranged mother had written to them about in her letters. We find a middle-class employee whose orderly life is turned upside down when his employer holds back his paycheck without an explanation. And we find the employees of a forgotten outpost in a sun-baked town who consider mass suicide when they realize there is no hope of survival. From start to finish, there’s no question here: Seventeen is literary craftsmanship at its best.

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

Black Dove: Mamá, Mi'jo, and Me by Ana Castillo
350 p. (Biography; Mexican Indian American)

"Paloma Negra," Ana Castillo's mother sings the day her daughter leaves home, "I don't know if I should curse you or pray for you."

Growing up as the intellectually spirited daughter of a Mexican Indian immigrant family during the 1970s, Castillo defied convention as a writer and a feminist. A generation later, her mother's crooning mariachi lyrics resonate once again. Castillo—now an established Chicana novelist, playwright, and scholar—witnesses her own son's spiraling adulthood and eventual incarceration. Standing in the stifling courtroom, Castillo describes a scene that could be any mother's worst nightmare. But in a country of glaring and stacked statistics, it is a nightmare especially reserved for mothers like her: the inner-city mothers, the single mothers, the mothers of brown sons.

Black Dove: Mamá, Mi'jo, and Me looks at what it means to be a single, brown, feminist parent in a world of mass incarceration, racial profiling, and police brutality. Through startling humor and love, Castillo weaves intergenerational stories traveling from Mexico City to Chicago. And in doing so, she narrates some of America's most heated political debates and urgent social injustices through the oft-neglected lens of motherhood and family.

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

Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love of My Son Michael Brown by Lezley McSpadden
272 p. (Biography; African-American)

When Michael Orlandus Darrion Brown was born, he was adored and doted on by his aunts, uncles, grandparents, his father, and most of all by his sixteen-year-old mother, who nicknamed him Mike Mike. McSpadden never imagined that her son’s name would inspire the resounding chants of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and ignite the global conversation about the disparities in the American policing system. In Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil, McSpadden picks up the pieces of the tragedy that shook her life and the country to their core and reveals the unforgettable story of her life, her son, and their truth.

Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil is a riveting family memoir about the journey of a young woman, triumphing over insurmountable obstacles, and learning to become a good mother. With brutal honesty, McSpadden brings us inside her experiences being raised by a hardworking, single mother; her pregnancy at age fifteen and the painful subsequent decision to drop out of school to support her son; how she survived domestic abuse; and her unwavering commitment to raising four strong and healthy children, even if it meant doing so on her own. McSpadden writes passionately about the hours, days, and months after her son was shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson, recounting her time on the ground with peaceful protestors, how she was treated by police and city officials, and how she felt in the gut-wrenching moment when the grand jury announced it would not indict the man who had killed her son.

After the system failed to deliver justice to Michael Brown, McSpadden and thousands of others across America took it upon themselves to carry on his legacy in the fight against injustice and racism. Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil is a portrait of our time, an urgent call to action, and a moving testament to the undying bond between mothers and sons.

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

The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang
288 p. (Autobiography; Hmong)

In the Hmong tradition, the song poet recounts the story of his people, their history and tragedies, joys and losses; extemporizing or drawing on folk tales, he keeps the past alive, invokes the spirits and the homeland, and records courtships, births, weddings, and wishes.

Following her award-winning book The Latehomecomer, Kao Kalia Yang now retells the life of her father Bee Yang, the song poet, a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by American's Secret War. Bee lost his father as a young boy and keenly felt his orphanhood. He would wander from one neighbor to the next, collecting the things they said to each other, whispering the words to himself at night until, one day, a song was born. Bee sings the life of his people through the war-torn jungle and a Thai refugee camp. But the songs fall away in the cold, bitter world of a Minneapolis housing project and on the factory floor until, with the death of Bee's mother, the songs leave him for good. But before they do, Bee, with his poetry, has polished a life of poverty for his children, burnished their grim reality so that they might shine.

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