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Friday, October 30, 2009

What Do You Mean I Can't Read AND Write???

Sunday kicks off the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. Starting November 1, I'm committed to putting my words down on paper (or on computer screen as the case may be) over the next 30 days.

So what does this mean? Will I stop reading? Will nonchalant librarian rebuke me in the name of all things Zora and refuse me admittance? Instead of throwing my latest read in my purse, will I have to carry around a laptop and type when I have a free moment?

I doubt all of the above. Reading is like breathing for me. Come hell or high water, I'll find a moment to read each day. I may not make it through my usual three to five books a week, but I'm pretty sure I can squeeze out one and still find time to write.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#BookReview: The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster - Kaye Gibbons

A follow up to the spunky Ellen Foster, The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster disappoints. I'm not sure what happened from the first book to this one, but it seems that the character's voice changed and so did the author's style of conveying her message.

In brief, this book focuses on Ellen's high school years and...well, I'm not sure what else. I have to be honest and say I put this book down halfway through. I'm the master of working my way through horrible books, but this story is not true to the original character and I felt like I was reading one big run on sentence.

Is it me? Has anyone else read this and enjoyed it?
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Monday, October 26, 2009

#BookReview: Roadrunner - Trisha R. Thomas

Former major league baseball player Dell "Roadrunner" Fletcher is in danger of losing his wife and kids if he can't get himself together. A baseball injury leaves him addicted to painkillers and feeling sorry for himself. His wife and kids have tried to be understanding and given him room to grieve for his former life, but when he hits his wife, they begin to realize that he's spiraled out of control.

The patrolman that responds to his wife's 911 call removes Dell from the home, but instead of booking him, takes him for a long ride that results in his disappearance.

Officer Lopez manages to inject himself in every aspect of the grieving family's life in a way that borders on stalking. Dell's son is loving the fatherly attention he's receiving, but his daughter is sure the handsome cop is up to something sinister.

This was a decent book, a quick read and a nice departure from the author's "Nappily..." series.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

#BookReview: Wildflowers - Lyah Beth LeFlore

St. Louis native, Lyah Beth LeFlore, has delivered another winner. Co-author of Eddie and Gerald Levert's I Got Your Back, Ms. LeFlore is consistent with her writing and does a fantastic job of capturing her audience.

Though Wildflowers follows the lives of three mothers and their adult daughters, it is Chloe Davis Michaels who really shines. Living the good life in LA, Chloe begins to question herself when she realizes that she's approaching her mid-30s without a prospective husband in sight. This makes her easy prey for the good looking and smooth talking Gregorry Robinson III. Two months into their marriage, the one her family warned her about, things start to fall apart and when Chloe gets a call from the bank, she realizes that Gregorry has emptied out their joint account and stolen all of her money. As if that weren't devastating enough, Chloe loses the baby she was carrying. Determined to get herself together, she heads home to St. Louis and her family.

It's back in St. Louis that the reader is introduced to Chloe's sisters Fawn, who's in love with her pastor while rejecting her doctor husband; and Eve, suffering from low self-esteem with the degrading boyfriend to prove it. We also meet their cousins Ceci, a loud and boisterous hair stylist/postal worker/barmaid with a penchant for men, booze and cocaine, raised by a mother that only wanted the best for her; and Thora, an out of town cousin that keeps her distance in order to keep peace in her heart and home, raised by the distant, Billye Jean.

At first I was skeptical about keeping all of the characters straight, since there were so many, but Ms. LeFlore does an excellent job of giving them their own distinct voices. You'll find yourself rooting for each woman and recognizing the strength in women that surely lies within your own family.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

November is National Novel Writing Month!



I'm not the writer in my house, my daughter is. I think it's only fair though that I take a stab at it since I'm the first one to pick books apart. So the rules have been set by the good folks over at NaNoWriMo and I'm dedicated to completing the task in the allotted time. Care to join me?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

In 2007, we had over 100,000 participants. More than 15,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

So, to recap:

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.

Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

That's all there is to it! Occasionally, participants write in to ask about the rules of the event. We don't have many! But because we've found that creativity is often heightened by constraints (and communities bolstered by shared goals) we have evolved a handful of rules over the years. The rules state that, to be an official NaNoWriMo winner, you must…

  • Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people's works).
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you're writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
  • Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.
  • Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
  • Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

#BookReview: The Million Dollar Demise - RM Johnson

The Million Dollar Demise is supposed to be the last in the series that includes The Million Dollar Divorce and The Million Dollar Deception. Somehow I think there's room for either a fourth book with the same characters or a new series based on some of the existing characters.

For those that haven't read the first two books, let me bring you up to speed. Multimillionaire Nate Kenny always gets what he wants...always. When he finds out that his new bride, Monica, is unable to have children he files for divorce. Realizing that the only way to keep her from getting his money is to catch her cheating, he hires a con man, Lewis Waters, to weasel his way into her life and seduce her. Nate didn't bargain on Lewis actually falling in love with Monica and vice verse. Not only does Monica fall for Lewis, she falls for his daughter. Upset that his plan backfired, Nate sets out to destroy Lewis and uses his best friend, Freddy Ford, to do it. When that plan fails, Freddy seeks revenge on Nate for causing him to lose his house, his fiancee and their unborn child. Meanwhile, Monica learns of Lewis' deception and returns to Nate, taking with her the daughter of the now jailed Lewis, not realizing that Nate is the master mind of her unhappiness. At the close of The Million Dollar Deception Monica has moved back into Nate's house, along with Lewis' daughter, and the toddler that Nate adopted as part of his grand plan to win Monica over. A knock at the door and several gunshots later, Nate and Monica have been left for dead and little Nate is nowhere to be found.

Alright, so The Million Dollar Demise picks up with the previous book left off. Tigers don't change their stripes over night, leopards don't change their spots and Nate Kenny hasn't become an angel. Recovering from his wounds, he sits by the comatose Monica's bedside for weeks while his personal detective searches for Nate, Jr. But when his ex-fiancee', Daphanie, shows up and says she's pregnant, Nate makes plans to dump Monica as soon as she awakens.

On the run from the police in Chicago, Freddy heads down south to his ex-girlfriend's house. When he shows up with a kid in tow, she knows something's up, but she's smart enough not to ask. Recently released from prison, Lewis reaches out to Freddy to return Nate, Jr. in hopes that Nate and Monica will return his daughter to him in exchange.

Loved this book. The ending will leave you begging for more and, with any luck, RM Johnson will deliver.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

#BookReview: Nappily in Bloom - Trisha R. Thomas


Fans of Venus Johnston, of the Nappily... series will be glad to know she's back. Along with her are her husband, rapper turned entrepreneur, Jake; the father of her two year old daughter, Airic; and Airic's overly ambitious bordering on obnoxious wife, Trevelle Doval.

I appreciated this book a little more than the others because the author widens her circle of "main characters" and gives more focus to all of the former minor characters and a little less to Venus. Nappily in Bloom brings the return of Jake's right hand man, Legend, and with him always comes trouble. If you remember all of the heartache Airic and Trevelle caused Venus and Jake in the last book, you'll be glad to see that karma comes back on them hard. And not to be left out, Judge Delma Hawkins is back and struggling with the fact that not only is her daughter marrying a conniving fellow attorney, but is insisting on including her birth mother in the ceremony.
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#BookReview: My Husband's Fiancee - Kaira Denee


Thanks to Dawn over at Dream Relations, Inc. for sending this my way. Let me start by saying that the story lines could have been divided and produced two books instead of one.

The main character is 27 year old reality TV producer, Kimberly Rose, who's caught up in a "love thing" with an 18 year old NBA player. I can't say this is unbelievable, but I can't imagine too many mothers that would be okay with their 18 year old dating a grown woman, even if he's making grown man money.

A former stripper turned producer, Kimberly is stunned when her young hottie proposes to her and her best friend from her stripping days shows up in town. She's torn about whether she should reveal her past and if she should accept his proposal.

The side story in all of this is the reality TV show Kimberly is producing about a married man with a fiancee'. Yes, you read that right. Engaged. Married. Wife. Kids. We're to believe that two women love this man enough to move into a house with him for 12 weeks and participate in challenges that will ultimately help him decide which woman he should be with. I don't want to get up on my feminist soapbox and start spouting, but what the hell???

Anyway, the ladies move in with Eric and basically he's torn between new booty and old booty. For a short while it seems that the ladies might come to their senses and both will kick him to the curb, but eh, no such luck. Someone gets his trifling tail and is happy about it.

I was really bothered by the implausibility of both story lines, along with the proofing errors. I saw "they're" for "their" way too many times, along with "you're" for "your". It's also interesting to note that while we're not told the race of any of the other characters, though assumptions could be made based on names, the writer drops the fact that Kimberly is white midway through the book. I don't know if that was supposed to add something to the story line or not, but honestly it just made me feel some kind of way.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

#BookReview: When I Was Puerto Rican - Esmeralda Santiago


What looked like it would be a promising read turned out to be blah. While I realize that When I Was Puerto Rican is the author's memoir, there's nothing "memoir worthy" about it, at least not as far as I can tell.

Raised as the oldest of 11 on the island of Puerto Rico, Esmeralda Santiago leads a pretty unremarkable life. Moving from the rural areas of Puerto Rico to the big city, from living with her parents to living with relatives, there's just nothing exciting about her story.

Though the back cover of the book emphasizes her moving to New York and how it affects her, in reality her New York relocation only takes up one-fifth of the entire book. Even worse, the New York section briefly covers one year of junior high before the reader is fast forwarded to the author returning to the high school that she graduated from 10 years prior.

It's my understanding that there is a follow up to this book called Almost a Woman. The author has been kind enough to add an excerpt from it at the back of this book. From what I can tell of that brief part, the sequel is just as unremarkable and seems to repeat everything that we're told in the initial book.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

#BookReview: Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali - Kris Holloway


Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I love reading about other cultures. Following a semester abroad in France, Peace Corps volunteer Kris Holloway returned to the states intent on taking a class on West African history and civilizations. Partly because of Mali's independence from France, Ms. Holloway requested an assignment there. The result of her two years in Mali working with Monique Dembele, a young midwife, is a beautiful memoir.

Life for women in Mali, especially those in rural areas, is not easy. Most women are married by the age of eighteen and have seven children. The risk of death during childbirth and pregnancy is among the top ten highest in the world. At the time this book was written in 2007, over 96 percent of women had had some form of genital cutting performed during their infancy or childhood.

It's admirable that Ms. Holloway chose to go to Mali, but even more admirable is Monique Dembele for being born into such a world and creating change when those around her wouldn't. I won't tell you that this book isn't a tearjerker, because I would be lying, but it's also an empowering story that should not be missed.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

#BookReview: That Takes Ovaries! bold females and their brazen acts - edited by Rivka Solomon


I came across this gem while wasting time at Barnes & Noble last Saturday. All I can say is, wow! Someone has summed up the phenomenon that is woman with one simple phrase, "That takes ovaries." Editor Rivka Solomon was attending a dinner party a few years ago and gave this response to a story another guest was telling about a brazen female. After seeing everyone's reaction to the phrase, she issued a call for stories of women and men around the country who had been witness to, or participated in, a "take charge" act.

Seeking submissions of anything YOU have *ever* done - little or big - that was gutsy or audacious...Something that when you think about it today, makes you nod your head with *pride,* or even semi-disbelief, and think, "Wow! I did that!"
As you can imagine, her inbox was overflowing with stories. The outcome is a book of sixty-four short stories broken down into sections such as: On the Spot: Impulsive, Gutsy Acts; Doing It Together: Collective Activism; and For Ourselves: Taking Charge of Our Bodies and Sexuality. I won't go into all of the stories, you really must read this collection yourself, but I will give a synopsis of my favorite from the book.

Preaching to the Convicted by Kathleen Tarr tells of the time that the author awoke to find a burglar in her house. Instead of hiding, she approached him head on and proceeded to lecture him. In a house with walls full of posters of black revolutionaries she asked, "You would look Martin Luther King in the eye and continue to rob this house? You would look at these celebrations of Sojourner Truth and Toussaint L'Ouverture and cavalierly ransack this home for mere dollars?" Now the author was really stalling for time until she could find her keys and make a mad dash out of the house, but by the time she broke the man down, he was in tears, pointed out that her keys were in the back door and left her house.

I don't know if I would have been brave enough, or had the ovaries, to do this, but I was more than impressed with the author. That Takes Ovaries is definitely recommended reading.
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Monday, October 5, 2009

#BookReview: Something She Can Feel - Grace Octavia

At first glance I thought Something She Can Feel would be a typical romance novel, a genre I can take or leave. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's the story of a grown woman coming into herself.

The daughter of a well known preacher in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Journey Cash has had her life mapped out for her; first by her father and then by her husband, Evan. Journey and Evan have known each other since they were seven and while Evan has always had Journey's best interests at heart, before their wedding day Journey begins to doubt that he's the man for her.

In addition to her self doubt on the home front, Journey begins to suspect that oldest brother has something to hide and knows for sure that her youngest brother does. She doesn't realize that her parents do as well.

When Dame, a former music student turned multimillionaire rapper, comes to town to donate money to her school, something is stirred in Journey. Surprised to find that Dame is not the stereotypical rapper, she begins to spend more time with him and through conversations with him begins to question whether or not she's been living the life she wants to live or the life that's been created for her by those around her.

It's evident in the storyline and development of the characters that Grace Octavia has grown since the 2007 release of Take Her Man. I applaud her for that and for giving the reader "something she can feel."
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