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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Top 10 Before 2010


The Twitterati often asks me to recommend a good book for them. Well what works for me may not work for others, so I've compiled a top ten list of the year. Hopefully you'll find something worth reading. I read a lot of books before I started blogging about them in June, but honestly, I can't remember them so my top 10 list will only cover what I've read since June.

Before teen pregnancy became a "norm", girls that got in trouble (read: pregnant) were sent down south to have their babies...

When he left Stamp Creek, Arkansas ten years ago, Tommy Lee (TL) Tyson had no intention of ever coming back.

James Moses Johnson, Jr., Mo as he's known to his fans, knows that he hasn't been the best father he could be...

Imagine awakening on your fortieth birthday and deciding that you were through performing for others.

Ugh, I can't stand parents that sell out their kids to save themselves. It just overcooks my grits!

On August 3, 1952, Ruby McCollum, a wealthy African American woman, shot Dr. C. Leroy Adams, her white doctor, lover and father of one of her children with another on the way.

A delightful collection of short stories, The Prophet of Zongo Street, skillfully introduces the reader to a wide array of characters connected to this fictitious street in Kumasi, Ghana.

Anchee Min's Empress Orchid gives the reader a glimpse into the life of an ordinary girl picked to become one of the seven wives of Emperor Hsien Feng in 1852.

In the early 1800s, several freemen of color set sail for Africa from the United States, settling in what came to be known as Liberia...

Think Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s where the "colored folks" know their place and proper young white ladies do as well, then think again.

I've enjoyed reading and interacting with you for the last six months and I look forward to reading and chatting even more in 2010. Happy New Year!



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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

#BookReview: Witch and Wizard - James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnet


If JK Rowling hasn't already started legal proceedings against James Patterson, she should. In an obvious knock off of the Harry Potter series, Patterson and his co-author introduce us to the sister and brother team of Whit and Whisty.

A new political party has taken over the country and all wizards and witches have been sentenced to die upon reaching the age of 18. Much like Harry Potter, neither Whit or Whisty know that they are magical creatures until someone tells them. While they sit in jail awaiting death, they begin to explore their newly acquired skills with the assistance of their jail mates, other imprisoned teen witches and wizards.

Much reference is made to "Gary Blotter" and "The One Who Is The One." Readers of Harry Potter will pick up several inferences to the series. If you've read Patterson's Maximum Ride series, you can save yourself the time and trouble of reading what was promised to be something new and exciting in this series. The names, places and methods of torture have changed, but make no mistake, Witches and Wizards is nothing new. Though recommended for young adults, I wouldn't try to sneak this one past them unless they've not read any of the above referenced series.
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

#BookReview: Fireflies in December - Jennifer Erin Valent

If you liked Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird or Kaye Gibbons' Ellen Foster, you'll love Fireflies in December. Set in a small Virginia town during the Depression, it's the story of headstrong Jessilyn Lassiter and her best friend, Gemma. It's a relationship that everyone accepts until Gemma's family dies in a fire and the Lassiters take her in. In a town where blacks "know their place," a black girl living with a white family is not acceptable.

Much like Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird and Ellen in Ellen Foster, Jessilyn doesn't care what anyone thinks of her friendship with Gemma. While her father doesn't hesitate to take in Gemma, it takes her mother a little longer to come around. When the Klan begins to threaten the livelihood of their family, the Lassiters begin to learn that everything and everyone is not as it seems.

Though I liked this book, Jessilyn could be a bit of a brat and at times I wished she would utilize a little more common sense. She could have saved her family a lot of time had she done so. At the same time, I could respect her spunk. Considered Christian lit by the publishing community, I didn't really get a preachy vibe from this story. The author briefly touched upon the family's faith, but it wasn't done in an over the top fashion. I would recommend this to YA readers, as well as adults.
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Monday, December 28, 2009

#BookReview: Wifey - Judy Blume


Long before it became popular in the streets to refer to your girlfriend as wifey, there was Judy Blume's Wifey. As were most girls in the 70s and 80s, I was a huge Judy Blume fan. While most of her books at that time were strictly for the 13 and under crowd, Blume wrote a few that catered to the adult crowd. Did that stop eager teens from reading her adult lit? Heck no! I remember Wifey and Forever being passed around the 7th and 8th grade like the latest issue of Dynamite or Tiger Beat. I picked it up again while at my mother's over the Christmas holiday to see if it still had the wow factor.

Set in the fun-loving 70s, Wifey is the story of Jewish, suburban housewife, Sandy Pressman. Doing what her mother always told her to do, Sandy married a nice Jewish boy. The problem is ten years and two kids later, Sandy is bored. Her husband, Norman, is the king of the quickie; her lovable brats are off to summer camp; and at Norm's insistence, Sandy is being forced to take golf and tennis lessons at "the club." Just when she thinks her summer can't get any worse, she finds herself with a pervert in her backyard and on her phone.

While this book was hot stuff in the 70s, it's pretty tame by today's standards. There's a lot of wife swapping and extramarital affairs going on, with little mention of practicing safe sex or the possible results of not practicing safe sex. Most of what happened in the book was over my head when I read it 20 plus years ago. Reading it now makes me want to ask the main character, why did you settle? Why did you ever marry him? What a difference a few decades make.
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

#BookReview: A Different Kind of Christmas - Alex Haley

If you're looking for any of the familiar characters from Roots or Queen, you'll have to look elsewhere. This is also not the made-for-tv Roots: The Gift. First published in 1988, A Different Kind of Christmas is set in 1855 and is the story nineteen year old Fletcher Randall. A native of North Carolina, and son of a prominent senator, Fletcher is the heir apparent to his family's impressive plantation.

A visit to Philadelphia his sophomore year at Princeton, and an unlikely friendship with three Quaker brothers, starts the young man on the path to question the morality of slavery. Though he's managed to avoid facing his parents, returning home for Christmas can't be avoided. Agreeing to assist with the Underground Railroad proves to be the biggest challenge he's faced in his 19 years, especially when he finds out that his assignment places him in direct conflict with his family. With assistance from an unlikely source, Fletcher works to right the wrongs that his family has perpetuated for generations.

At just 100 pages, this is a very quick read. I received this as a gift in 1991 and this is the first time I've picked it up since I first read it back then. The detail given to characters like those that appear in other Haley novels is not as evident here. I suppose if it had been, the story would have been more memorable without re-reading it. Nonetheless, it was fairly enjoyable.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

#BookReview: She Ain't the One - Mary B. Morrison & Carl Weber

I probably should have left this one on the shelf at the library, but I was looking for a quick, easy read that wouldn't require much thought and that's exactly what I got.

Apparently a follow up to previous books by Ms. Morrison, which I've not read, She Ain't the One is the story of the certifiable (read: should be locked up somewhere) Ashlee and reformed playboy, Jay. Rebounding from divorce and the loss of his woman on the side, Jay relocates to DC in hopes of rekindling a relationship with Tracy, the side chick who dumped him when she found out he was married. Jay doesn't find Tracy, but he does find Ashlee. Though she appears to be a confident and caring woman, Jay soon finds out that Ashlee is not what she seems to be.

I'm torn because I hate stories that just seem so far-fetched that they should be posted in the fantasy section of the bookstore. At the same time, the ending left me asking, "Is there a sequel and how soon can I get it?"
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Monday, December 21, 2009

#BookReview: Uncle Otto - Winfred Cook


An absolute, can't put down page turner is the best way to describe Winfred Cook's Uncle Otto. Set in 1920s/1930s Arkansas and St. Louis, the narrator introduces us to his disabled Uncle Otto, for whom he's named. A stroke that left Otto incapable of speaking clearly has caused him to be a shell of the man he used to be, but the birth of his namesake brings a spark that the rest of the family hasn't seen in years. The younger Otto becomes fascinated with his uncle and persuades his grandparents to tell his story.

Through this story the reader is introduced to Beaumont, Arkansas and the great migration of several African American families from the South to northern industrial cities, such as St. Louis. As a resident of St. Louis, I'm always fascinated by the history of this city. The author does a wonderful job of describing St. Louis as it was then. It's even more meaningful to me because I reside in the general area in which the families live so I'm familiar with the streets mentioned. It's also interesting to note that families migrating north found a city as segregated as St. Louis was, and still is, to be a hot bed of integration in comparison to Arkansas and other southern cities.

I love that the author subtly touches upon the difference real fathering can make in a man's life. Though raised in a two parent home, the title character quickly falls prey to the streets because his father doesn't know how to communicate with him and properly teach him how to be a man. There's also the misconception that parenting is strictly the mother's job. In the eyes of his father he has provided a home, food and clothing and since that's more than his father did for him, he's gone over and above what's expected of him. It's not touched upon by the author but I suspect that the daughters suffered the lack of fatherly attention also and as a result, two of the three sisters have children out of wedlock.

The only disturbing thing that I found about this story is that there's no hero at the end of the day. I suppose that's only human though and as true to life as one can get.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

#BookReview: If These Walls Could Talk - Bettye Griffin


Though this book is called If These Walls Could Talk, it should have been called "that's what you get for being uppity and thinking you could buy a house, now stay your tail in an apartment and call it a day." I don't know if that's what author Bettye Griffin had in mind, but that's certainly what I got from it.

Following the lives of three families living in various parts of New York, If These Walls Could Talk takes them on the journey from the decision to become home owners 100 miles away from where they currently live. The families deal with the long commute from Pennsylvania to their New York jobs, not doing their homework prior to buying homes, a shady contractor, foreclosure, separation, doubting family members and unexpected guests.

I found nothing distinguishable about most of the characters and had to go back several times to try to determine which family I was actually reading about at times. If my walls at home could talk, they'd ask me why I wasted time reading this.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

#BookReview: Sandrine's Letter to Tomorrow - Dedra Johnson

Written in a voice far older than that of an 8 year old, Sandrine Miller has a lot to say. Raised by a mother that resents her, Sandrine looks forward to a summer with her grandmother, Mamalita. Instead of the summer she imagines, she's stuck with her father's less than nice new wife and her bratty daughter in Mississippi. When no one is looking, Sandrine makes her way back to her mother in New Orleans, but life there is no joy either.

The author, Dedra Johnson, covers various subjects in a little over 200 pages including: prejudice and preconceived notions within the African American community about skin tone and hair; preying on young girls by older men; women blaming young girls for being preyed upon; and Catholicism. Though there are several tough issues tackled in this book, it's still an enjoyable read.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

#BookReview: Heard It All Before - Michele Grant


When you're a woman of a certain age, it can be difficult to find books that speak to you on your level. I'm not really one for chick lit or urban lit and that's what several contemporary authors are trying to push onto women. At times I feel like writing to the publishing houses, "Stop assuming that we're all 20, or what to be 20, and write to my demographic." Ladies, I'm happy to tell you that newcomer Michele Grant is writing to our demographic and she gets it!

Heard It All Before is the story of the solid middle class suburbanite Jewellen Capewell and her wild child sidekick, Renee Nightingale. While Renee works relationships like a novice checker player, Jewellen works hers like a skilled chess master. But when she meets the handsome Roman Montgomery, a brother with serious game, all bets are off.

I love that the author tells the story from all sides. Unlike some women authors, when her female characters are wrong, they're wrong and Ms. Grant doesn't try to sugar coat it. I absolutely adored this book and devoured it within hours on a Sunday afternoon. It's not in bookstores just yet, but is available for pre-order at Amazon.


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Friday, December 11, 2009

#BookReview: Chinese Cinderella - Adeline Yen Mah

Of all the books I read during last week's readathon, I feel least sorry for the main character in this book. I suppose I should feel badly since this is a true story, but the author whines entirely too much about a life that by her standards may have seemed less than ideal. In comparison to the other girls I read about, her life was a walk in the park.

Shortly after her mother passes, her father marries a young Eurasian woman with no time or desire to raise her husband's five children from his previous marriage. Quickly producing two children of her own, the stepmother goes out of her way to ensure that her children have the best of everything while the older children suffer.

Let's keep in mind that this is an extremely wealthy family with a full staff of servants. Suffering in this instance means sharing a bedroom with another person and not wearing the latest fashions, but still wearing new, clean and presentable clothes. In addition, the main character is sent to private school and forced to walk to and from school because she is too stubborn to ask for tram fare.

The saddest part of this story is that there's a sequel in which the author, now a physician and writer living in the states, continues to whine her way through medical school in England.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Blogs Her Color’s Color of Choice


*Stepping up to the proverbial mic* I'd like to thank the Academy, the people that write books so I can read them, the library that carries those books that people write so I can read them... Ok, I got caught up for just a minute. But I'm happy to announce that Blogs Her Color has picked my little, old blog for today's Color of Choice.

If you're a first time visitor here, welcome. I read...a lot. I started this blog to help me keep up with what I've already read so that I don't pick the same book up from the library more than once. Regular readers know that Sterling, the gay librarian, used to do a great job of keeping me straight on what I had and had not read already. Sterling has moved on to another library, without leaving a forwarding address, and now I'm stuck with Nonchalant Librarian who could care less about what I'm reading. Occasionally I get stuck in a rut and can't find anything I'm interested in reading and my faithful reading community gives me the push I need.

I'm passionate about African American lit, but I'm also partial to Asian, Hispanic and women's lit. I'll read just about anything though...no, really. Feel free to suggest any good books you've come across that you think others would enjoy. We're interactive here. Sometimes I read books so far off track that I give myself the side eye. And other times I read books that I think no one else has read and several people chime in...with the good, the bad and the ugly. I say all that to say, thanks and welcome!




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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

#BookReview: Edith Jackson - Rosa Guy


Back in my Judy Blume/Paula Danziger/Carolyn Keene days, also known as 25 years ago, Rosa Guy was the first author I read that spoke to me as an African American young adult. Set in New York in the late 70s/early 80s, Edith Jackson is the third in a trilogy that includes Ruby and The Friends. Each book in the trilogy could stand alone, so there's no need to read the first two to understand the third.

The oldest of her deceased mother's five children, Edith is determined to keep her sisters together as they shuttle from one foster home to another. Recently settled in Peekskill, she believes she's found a good home for them. But when her sister Bessie starts sitting on their foster uncle's lap a little too long and her sister Minnie begins to spend time with a new friend, that happens to be white, Edith's world is thrown into turmoil.

This is a story of a young woman learning to live for herself instead of everyone around her and finding that she does indeed have a choice in her future. I loved this book when I was 12 and even more so now.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A book is a gift you can open again & again - Garrison Keillor

A few weeks ago I issued a call to Twitter, Facebook and blog friends asking for book suggestions to give as presents to the readers (and those that need to be encouraged to read) in our lives. The response was overwhelming. I've compiled a list of suggested books below and comments from those that suggested them.

I also promised a $ 25 Amazon.com gift card. For her passionate and lengthy list of books, particularly in a genre that is sometimes overlooked by adults, the winner is Ari aka Miss Attitude. Ari blogs over at Reading in Color and is always in the know about the latest and greatest lit for young adults. Congrats Ari!


Youth


The Underneath by Kathi Appelt & David Small

Mean, old Gar-face abuses his poor little animals so much so that the only place they can find solace is underneath the house. The story deals with animal mistreatment, but also teaches friendship can be found in the unlikeliest of places - in this case among a dog and a cat. This is a great book to read aloud or with an older child perhaps 2nd grade or above.




Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson & Kadir Nelson

Written by Sharon Robinson - Jackie Robinson's daughter - this is a wonderful tale of history, hope, faith and love. It was a welcome addition to our family library and an even greater addition to my kids' school library - as we purchased an additional. copy to donate. Another favorite for the 2nd grade and above.



The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden

Ivy, Holly, and Mr. and Mrs. Jones all have one Christmas wish. Ivy, an orphan, wishes for a real home and sets out in search of the grandmother she's sure she can find. Holly, a doll, wishes for a child to bring her to life. And the Joneses wish more than anything for a son or daughter to share their holiday. Can all three wishes come true?





Young Adult

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

A YA urban fantasy book about a high school girl who draws the unwanted notice of a faerie prince. I think that'd be a great choice for an older teen/20s reluctant girl reader.


Liar by Justine Larbalestier

It's about a girl who lies. A lot. It's suspenseful and keeps you guessing. I loved it.


Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

It's about a multiracial sarcastic smart athletic guy who decides to make a bunch of misfits popular. For guys especially I recommend ..A poignant, hysterical read.

I also recommend anything by Walter Dean Mosley.


A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott

For all the historical fiction/fantasy readers. About a girl from 21st Brooklyn's time travel to the Civil War Brooklyn. Amazing.


Flygirl by Sherri Smith

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn't stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy's gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women's Airforce Service Pilots—and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won't accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of "passing," of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one's racial heritage, denying one's family, denying one's self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.


Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.


She's So Money by Cherry Cheva

Maya has always been the good girl. Camden is the popular jock with a bigger ego than brain. Maya never thought there'd be a reason for them to, like, interact. But when the biggest mistake of her life lands her in need of a seriously devious plan, she discovers Camden isn't as dumb as he looks. And now that Maya's playing the bad girl (lying, cheating, swindling, and, um, shopping), she might as well do it right and flirt with the bad boy. . . .


Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear--part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify--and he's always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom in order to experience "the real world." There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.


The Making of Dr. Truelove by Derrick Barnes (for guys it's very funny, very hormone-driven!).

Diego is a sixteen-year-old boy with a problem. He loves his girlfriend, Roxy. And when they suddenly break up due to Diego's own insecurity issues, the boy is crushed. However will he win Shorty back?

On the trusty advice of his (crazy) best friend, Diego invents an alter ego known as Dr. Truelove. A sex and relationship e-columnist, Truelove is smooth where Diego is gawky, skilled where Diego is clueless. Truelove is, quite clearly, the way back into Roxy's heart. Or so it seems.


Lip Gloss Chronicles series: The Ultimate Test and Splitsville by Sheila M. Goss

The Lip Gloss Chronicles explores the life of three sassy and hip urban high school freshmen who are high on fashion and magnets for drama. Britney Franklin, Jasmine McNeil, and Sierra Sanchez, daughters of Dallas, Texas socialites met in their private grammar school, and now they are ready to tackle their freshman year in a new public high school as a team.


Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife -- between desire and danger.


Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl which just came out a few days ago. It was an amazing paranormal read and about as long as one of the Twilight books.



Donut Days by Lara Zielin. It was a great story about families, church, and friendship.

International Fiction


The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

About a group of slave women in Jamaica plotting their escape.


Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo

Essentially a gothic multigeneration family saga


The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson

A book about a woman going through menopause who is forced to reexamine her life and values after realizing mermaids are real. Trust me, it's handled wonderfully.




Non-fiction

Complications and Better by Atul Gawande's medical essays (the latter has slightly more interesting topics)

anything by Oliver Sacks (my favourite is his memoir of loving chemistry as a boy called Uncle Tungsten)

Red, White, and Drunk All Over by Natalie McClean

For foodies: a wonderful book about wine-not at all pretentious and McClean's love for it shines through.




Fiction - Adults


Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice

Still reeling from divorce and feeling estranged from her teenage son, Trish Taylor is in the midst of salvaging the remnants of her life when she uncovers a shocking secret: her sister is alive. For years Trish believed that her mother and infant sister had died in a car accident. But the truth is that her mother fatally overdosed and that Trish’s grandparents put the baby girl up for adoption because her father was black.


After years of drawing on the strength of her black ancestors, Billie Cousins is shocked to discover that she was adopted. Just as surprising, after finally overcoming a series of health struggles, she is pregnant–a dream come true for Billie but a nightmare for her sweetie, Nick, and for her mother, both determined to protect Billie from anything that may disrupt her well-being.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town...


Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her -- her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

#BookReview: A Deep Dark Secret - Kimberla Lawson Roby

I'll start by saying that this book really belongs over in the YA (Young Adult) section. If the author was shooting for an adult audience, she missed the mark. I applaud her for tackling the subject of molestation, but she does a poor job of keeping the reader's attention.

On the plus side, it's a very quick read at only 174 pages so you won't feel as if you've wasted too much of your time.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

#BookReview: Chore Whore: Adventures of a Celebrity Personal Assistant - Heather H. Howard


HILARIOUS! If you're a fan of The Nanny Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada, run to your nearest bookstore or library and pick up this book.

Single mother and personal assistant extraordinaire, Corki Brown is called on to do everything from picking out birthday presents for Steven Spielberg to planning her employer's wedding, redecorating her house AND carrying around the employer's fiance's mother's ashes! With a Rolodex that most would envy, Corki carries off even the most ridiculous of tasks without batting an eye.

Based on her own experience as a personal assistant in Hollywood for over 20 years, I can only imagine some of the drama that the author has witnessed. My only wish is that she would do a follow up or at least give us hints as to whom her characters are based on. This book was a quick, light hearted read.
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Monday, November 30, 2009

#BookReview: Like Trees, Walking - Ravi Howard


Based on the true story of a modern day lynching in the early 80s in Mobile, Alabama, Like Trees, Walking left me wanting more. First time novelist Ravi Howard hits a home run with this story as seen through the eyes of Roy Deacon, heir apparent to the family funeral homes.

Though their father has always assumed they would join the family business, Roy's older brother Paul has plans of his own. When he comes upon the body of his long time friend hanging from a tree in the early morning hours, his life, and the lives of everyone around him, will never be the same.

I truly appreciated the author tackling this subject and even more so because he does so using the voices of young adults. All too often those of us that did not live through the civil rights era or who aren't up on our history are quick to dismiss events of the past. In this "post racial" era that we're supposed to be living in, it's easy to believe that things like this don't happen in modern America. This book is a reminder that it indeed does.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

#BookReview: The Prophet of Zongo Street - Mohammed Naseehu Ali


A delightful collection of short stories, The Prophet of Zongo Street, skillfully introduces the reader to a wide array of characters connected to this fictitious street in Kumasi, Ghana. From the elderly Uwargida who magically spins tales for the young children to the humble tea seller, Mallam Sile, who always has a kind word for the cruel patrons that take advantage of him, you'll be drawn into these stories from start to finish.

Other enjoyable stories include The Live In, a short about a Ghanese woman relocated to New York drawn by her sister's claims of wealth and fortune; Man Pass Man, about a local hustler that is finally outhustled; and The Manhood Test, in which a newly married couple test the definition of marriage; and the title story, The Prophet of Zongo Street.

I greatly enjoyed this collection of stories.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

#BookReview: Lover Man - Geneva Holliday


Geneva Holliday, the lighter and more erotic side of author Bernice McFadden, is back with another great read. Her latest, Lover Man, picks up where Seduction left off.

When event planner, Crystal Atkins, meets a handsome, fellow American at a wedding in Antigua, she's convinced that he's the one for her. Leaving her child's father behind, she relocates to New York to be with the man she loves. What's really going on with the strange woman that lives across the street from her though?

Fans of Ms. Holliday's work will remember Karma Jackson as the foxy and fabulous reinvention of the homely Mildred Johnson. Karma is back in the states and ready to get reacquainted with her city. Proving that the grass is always greener on the other side, Karma soon realizes that while her appearance on the outside has changed, she's still Mildred on the inside.

Back for another appearance is the grouchy, but lovable cougar, Geneva Holliday herself. When her husband convinces her to leave Manhattan and move all the way to Brooklyn she's sure her world will never be the same.

I love this author as both Geneva Holliday and Bernice McFadden. Her characters are believable and she doesn't sugar coat a thing. I love that she's able to write in such a clear voice in both of her genres and I'm looking forward to reading more from her.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break - Sherri Shepherd


I really wanted to like this book. I think Sherri is funny as a comedian, pretty good as an actress, kind of a dingbat on The View, but I was ready to give her book a chance. I made it a little less than halfway through and realized this was not the book for me. I know the title is Permission Slips, but I didn't need a permission slip/note at the end of every two or three pages reiterating what she'd just said in her short story.

In the spirit of Sherri, I give you permission to skip this book.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tis the Season for Spreading Cheer Book Contest!


I know, I know! I'm jumping the gun. I'm the person that complains when stores put Christmas decorations up in July. Give Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving their time to shine before you start decking those halls.

On the other hand, I'm also the person that starts playing Christmas music the day before Thanksgiving, while I'm up cooking. I was going to wait until then to spring my holiday layout on you, but I couldn't wait! Blame Donny Hathaway's This Christmas, but I felt the need to share it with you today.

Anyway, let's get to the point of this blog. I love giving gifts that I think people will truly enjoy and I give plenty of books at Christmas. I'll be compiling a list of books for all ages and both sexes to enjoy and sharing it with the blogosphere.

Here's where I need your help. Tell me what books you've enjoyed, either this year or in previous years, , a brief synopsis and who else would enjoy reading them. Leave your suggestions here in the comments section or email me at Reads4Pleasure@gmail.com by December 5th. A compiled list will be posted on December 9th, giving you plenty of time to complete your holiday shopping for the readers in your life.

What do you get out of this? One person, chosen at random, will win a $ 25 Amazon.com giftcard.

Well what are you waiting on? Get to commenting!
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#BookReview: Jezebel - Jacquelin Thomas


I'm not much for Christian lit. Not that I'm a heathen, but I prefer to keep my Biblical studies separate from my reading for entertainment. I expected this book to be heavy on Biblical quotes, but it really wasn't and I think I was a little disappointed. Other than a few verses sprinkled in towards the end of the book, one could almost forget that this story was classified as Christian lit.

A modern day Jezebel, Jessie Belle convinces a visiting minister, Traynor, that she is the woman for him. Acting quickly before the women in town tell him otherwise, Jessie Belle and her mother set up a simple plan to hook him. From then the stage is set for Jessie Belle to act in whatever way she deems appropriate, or inappropriate, to get whatever it is she wants. Always staying one step ahead of her husband, she's on the verge of having everything until outside forces get in her way.

The author goes to great lengths to create the character of Jessie Belle for the reader, but little attention is paid to her husband. While his wife is working to improve his stature in the community, the good reverend is blind to her actions, seemingly to the point of being dimwitted. I'm not sure if the author realized she was portraying him this way, but it seems to be a contradiction that a former child prodigy minister could be so naive to everything happening around him. His answer for every argument with his wife is to simply ask God to handle it without bothering to find out what she's really up to. It just didn't ring true with me as a reader.
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