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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

See You Next Week!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

#BookReview: The Midwife's Confession - Diane Chamberlain

I so thought I knew how this book was going to turn out when I started it.  In my mind, it would play out like an episode of Law & Order and I'd have an answer to what was really going on within 60 minutes.  That SO was not the case.

In a book with more twists and turns than a maze, The Midwife's Confession is an "on the edge of your seat" read.  You won't realize it when you first start it because it's such a nice story about three friends in a quaint northeastern town.  Written in a Jodi Picoult-like style, the story is told from the view point of not only the three women, but others, as necessary.

Friends since their college days, two of them have raised daughters together, while the third has been the midwife to them both.  When midwife Noelle takes her own life, Tara and Emerson begin to question just how well they really knew their friend.  And although Tara is wrapped up in her own grief and Emerson has been busy with her new restaurant, nothing in Noelle's behavior made either believe she had something to hide, let alone commit suicide.

As they delve deeper into Noelle's past, they discover that not only was she living another life that they were unaware of, her actions in that life directly affect them and their children.  Is it really possible to know someone for over 20 years and never really know them?  Apparently, it is.

What did you like about this book?
I totally thought I had it figured out and I so didn't.  I love a book that surprises me.

What didn't you like about this book?
The book left a few questions unanswered.  I would have loved an epilogue just to satisfy my curiosity about what came next.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Other than wrapping up loose ends, not a thing.

Published April 2011

Theme: Girl by Destiny's Child

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Confessions of an Unapologetic Book Snob

I hate street lit.  I can't fault anyone for liking what they like.  Lord knows I have a love of a few things that no one else understands, but I absolutely cannot stand street lit.  I love literary fiction, historical fiction, a splash of chick lit, thrillers/mysteries, etc.  I'll read just about anything that causes me to think or broadens my horizons in a positive way.  If you're a regular reader of the blog, you already know that. Why am I bringing it up again?  There are two reasons.

First, I've been inundated in recent weeks with requests from authors of street and/or erotic lit.  I'm no fan of either.  I'm not from the streets, I'm not entertained by the streets and I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to read about them.  I read as an escape from real world problems, so it's difficult to imagine anyone wanting to escape to the world of street lit.  If I want to see what's happening in the streets, I can turn on the five or six o'clock news on any given day of the week and play catch up.   To each their own, but for the authors that keep reaching out asking me to not only review their self-published work, but also purchase it to do so, please save yourself some keystrokes.  There are plenty of bloggers that would love to read your work, I'm just not one of them.

The second reason I bring this up is I watched an author on Twitter lament about the classification of her work.  By her own admission it's neither literary fiction, nor is it street lit.  However, it is generally about people in hip hop and, sometimes, that touches on the streets.  A few months ago she posed the same question about one of her past works and I noted that while some parts could be classified as chick lit, depending on who was giving the narrative at the time, other parts certainly had a touch of street to them.  But I agreed that her work was not literary fiction.

She was also concerned that because of the cover her publisher has given her forthcoming book, her book will be overlooked by book snobs such as myself in the bookstore.  Why? Because without knowing what the book is about, the cover makes it look like another typical piece of street lit.

So what's the middle ground when your work doesn't fit neatly into the already defined genres? Do authors or publishers create new genres?  Authors don't necessarily have control of the cover art for their books.  Do the marketing departments know something readers don't know?  And can the wrong cover spell disaster for a book? And lastly, am I way off base on street lit?

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#BookReview: The Grace of Silence - Michele Norris

This is the book I expected when I read Condoleezza Rice's Extraordinary, Ordinary People.  Where Condi failed me, Michele Norris came through with flying colors.  This is truly one of those books that everyone needs to read.

What originally started as a book about post-racial America following the election of President Barack Obama turned into a discussion about race within Norris' own family.  Though Norris herself was born and raised in Minnesota, which may have made for a fascinating story in and of itself, her father was from the deep south.  It's his story she tells, as well as that of her maternal grandmother and other family members.

The Grace of Silence really made me reflect on the conversations I've had with my older relatives.  While they touch on the fun times, rarely do they ever talk about the reasons why they left Mississippi (my mother's side) or Tennessee (my father's side).  There's no mention of how they transitioned from the South to the Midwest, though some would argue that St. Louis is just the upper South.  Encouraged by Norris' words, I plan to have conversations with them about growing up in segregated America and living through the Civil Rights Movement.  If you haven't already, you should plan to do the same, regardless of race.

What did you like about this book?
In listening to Michele Norris narrate her book, the pride in her voice as she spoke of her parents, grandparents, etc. was so apparent.  I could tell that this book was a real labor of love for her.  I'm glad that she was so willing to share so much of their story.

What didn't you like about this book?
I can't think of a thing.

What could the author do to improve this book?
I have no doubts that Norris' life and career are just as fascinating as the lives of her relatives.  I would love to read an autobiography from her.

Listening time: 5 hours, 48 minutes
Published: September 2010

Theme: Better People by India.Arie

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Vote for Me is a Vote for...

Literacy? Books? Book lovers everywhere?  Am I reaching here? Probably so.  Thanks to your nominations, I've been placed on the ballot for Best Literary/Author/Book Blog for the 2011 Black Weblog Awards.  I'd love it if you took the time to tip on over there and vote for me.

My category is on the last of the five page ballot.  So as you click through, take the time to vote for some of my favorites.  Black 'n Bougie is nominated in three categories: Best Writing in a Blog, Best Blog Post Series for those Bougie Bachelorette Chronicles and Blog of the Year.  Shadow and Act is nominated for Best Film Blog.  Ari over at Reading in Color has been nominated for Best Teen Blog. Urban Science Adventures is nominated for Best Science or Technology Blog.

I appreciate your votes and the time you take to visit my literary world.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

#BookReview: Talk of the Town - Lisa Wingate

Talk of the Town is like Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe meets American Idol.  Throw in an associate producer who's trying to hold on to her job, while keeping a secret from the whole town about why she's there, and a mysterious stranger, and you have the makings of a cute southern, chick lit story.

A quick and easy read, Wingate fully utilizes the townspeople for comic relief.  She does such a fine job of describing the characters, that I was able to imagine not only how they looked, but how they sounded as I read it.  If you're looking for a good beach read or just some lighthearted reading with a hint of romance, this is definitely it.

What did you like about this book?
The older women that worked as a waitress and beautician were absolutely hilarious.  I would love to see a book centered on the two of them.

What didn't you like the book?
I think the cover is so cheesy.  I'm not sure who the woman on the cover is supposed to be, but she doesn't look like any character described in the book.

What could the author do to improve this book?
It would be perfectly fine with me if the author just wrote about Imagene Doll and the other residents of Daily without bringing in extra characters.

Published March 2008


Theme: Something to Talk About by Bonnie Raitt

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Friday, May 13, 2011

#BookReview: 13 Little Blue Envelopes - Maureen Johnson

What a great adventure this book was!  I'll have to confess that if I had known it was YA (young adult) lit, I probably wouldn't have bothered reading it.  I'm so glad I did though.  I have nothing against YA lit, but other than the Harry Potter series, I haven't really read this kind of bubblegummy YA lit since I was 10 or 11. 

Up front, I have to admit that this story would be more believable if the lead character was at least in her early 20s.  It took me a second to realize that she was in high school and that made the story just a little less believable and more like, "really?"  Why? Because 13 Little Blue Envelopes is the story of a young woman whose aunt has passed and left her a package that takes her on a scavenger hunt, of sorts, through Europe.

While I loved the adventure and the life lessons her aunt teaches her through her notes and destinations that she leads her to, it's hard to believe that this sheltered teen's parents would allow her to travel from the U.S. to (and through) Europe by herself.  The adventures that she has, and some of the company she keeps, are certainly not experiences that the typical teen could, or would be able to, handle.  Nevertheless, if you can suspend your imagination during the time it takes you to get through this quick read, you'll find yourself cheering for Ginny and hoping she makes it to the end of her journey a better and more experienced person.

What did you like about this book?
I loved the sense of adventure. It would be amazing (and somewhat scary) to receive a letter in the mail like Ginny did and pack up and take off on said adventure with nothing more than what was provided by the sender.

What didn't you like about this book?
As I said earlier, it's hard to fathom any parents allowing their 17 year old high school daughter to set off on such an adventure on her own.  Had the author upped the age of the character by three to four years, it would have been much more believable.  I don't think the character would have lost any of the innocence of a 17 year old had she been written as a 20 year old.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Though it wasn't written in such a way that there could be a sequel, I would have liked to see an epilogue, just to catch readers up on Ginny's life after she returned to the states.

Published: September 2006


Theme: All Around the World by Boyz II Men

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

#BookReview: A Good Man is Hard to Find - ReShonda Tate Billingsley

A noted Christian lit author, ReShonda Tate Billingsley takes the leap into the chick lit/mystery genres with A Good Man is Hard to Find.  I've not read any of her Christian lit, that I can recall, so I can't say if the transition is a smooth one.  What I can say is this was an easy read, but not necessarily a memorable one.

Ava Cole has always been known as a hard-hitting journalist.  When the company she works for is bought out, she's offered a job as a writer at a tabloid.  Reluctantly she accepts and finds herself in Aruba trying to get dirt on superstar India Wright, who's just days from getting married.

As Ava digs deeper into India's fiance's background, she finds quite a few interesting details that could derail India's marriage and put Ava's life at risk.  A mystery interwoven with a love triangle, A Good Man is Hard to Find certainly holds your attention as  you read it, but you'd be hard pressed to remember what it is about a month after you read it.

What did you like about this book?
It was a quick and easy read.

What didn't you like about this book?
For some reason  Billingsley felt the need to include a younger sister for the lead character.  She added absolutely nothing to the story line and, at times, was more of a distraction than was needed.

What could the author do to improve this book?
There is potential to turn this character and her story into a series, but the author will need to dig deeper and flesh out the character.  The reader never gets to go below the surface with the lead character and so, ultimately, there's not a level of caring about her that one would find with leads in other books.

Published: March 2011


Theme: If Your Girl Only Knew by Aaliyah

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Monday, May 9, 2011

#BookReview: Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison

Summer camp at the age of 13 forever changed Holly, Lexi and Nicola.  As kids, Holly struggled with her weight; Nicola her nose; and Lexi, the death of her mother.  Fortunately, Holly and Nicola had each other to lean on from the day they met.  Fast forward 20 years and the girls are still friends.  Lexi, on the other hand, was a part of a group of girls that spent the summer tormenting Holly and Nicola.

Lexi always envied the friendship that the other two had, but when you're 13, it's difficult to go against the crowd.  Since the crowd looked down on the girls, Lexi did too.  And now that her father has died and she's left with only the stepmother that hates her, Lexi finds that the superficial friends who surrounded her when she had money aren't truly her friends.

Told from the points of view of all three lead characters, I found Thin, Rich, Pretty to be a delightful listen.  I was a bit hesitant to give it a listen because it got pretty low ratings on GoodReads, but I enjoyed it.  I think others tried to throw it in the chick lit genre and though it was about three women, it wasn't about them getting rescued from their situations by men.  Rather, they rescued themselves and each other.

What did you like about this book?
The relationship between Nicola and Holly was very believable.

What didn't you like about this book?
I wouldn't consider this book overall to be chick lit.  There was little romance with the exception of Lexi, which made me wonder why Nicola and Holly didn't really have love interests.  Holly is dumped by her fiance' early on and Nicola's love life is never mentioned.  I'm not sure if Lexi was given a romantic interest because she had been  dependent on her deceased father and the author felt like she needed a man to take care of her or if the author felt like there was no other story line to explore for the character.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Since Holly and Nicola were such good friends, a lot of their chapters overlapped.  Because of that, it was almost like Lexi was an afterthought.  Perhaps a better balance of the three women would have worked better.

Published: July 2010


Theme: Unpretty by TLC

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Friday, May 6, 2011

And the nominees are...

The Black Weblog Awards have finally added a category recognizing book/literary/author blogs.  Often it feels like book blogs are overlooked in favor of the glitz and glam of gossip blogs and other ratchetness.  If you enjoy Reads4Pleasure.com, I'd love it if you took a minute to click the link (Black Weblog Awards) and nominated this blog for Best Book/Literary/Author blog.  It's wayyyy at the bottom of their list, so get to clicking and get to scrolling!  Nominations end tomorrow.

By the way, if you have problems with that link, try the one they provide on the site for Internet Explorer users.

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#BookReview: The Choir Director - Carl Weber

You know what doesn't work for me? Books that look alike.  Much like Kimberla Lawson Roby's bad preacher series covers, Carl Weber's covers are all starting to look alike. And you know what that means? It means I can't tell the difference between them and I'm probably less likely to read them.  On the flip side, there are probably fans of both authors that appreciate the uniformity of covers because it makes them easy to find in stores and libraries

The Choir Director is the follow up to The Preacher's Son and The First Lady.  Though I don't remember either title, at some point I read The First Lady because a few of the characters were familiar.  The fact that it took me so long to remember them didn't bode well for the book.  Simply put, the story lines are forgettable, as are the characters.

In the latest installment centered around Bishop T.K. Wilson and his First Lady, Monique, the pastor finds himself trying to put his church family back together after the stunning revelation that his married choir director had been sleeping with male choir members and was outted by his wife during Sunday service.  On top of that, the churches board of directors seems to have turned against the pastor and is determined to have him ousted as the leader of First Jamaica Ministries.  Can a choir director from a small town in Virginia really be the answer to all that ails the church?  Well sure.  This is fiction, after all. 

What did you like about this book?
As with most Weber books, this was a quick and easy read.

What didn't you like about this book?
The characters just weren't memorable, especially for this to be the third book in this series.  Outside of the pastor and his wife, I don't remember any of these characters from previous books.  Either they didn't exist or they weren't developed enough to stand out.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Much like Kimberla Lawson Roby needs to do with the Curtis Black series, Carl Weber needs to let this series go.

Published: February 2011

Theme: Backstabbers by The O'Jays

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

#BookReview: Roseflower Creek - Jackie Lee Miles

At times The Lovely Bones, at other times Bastard Out of Carolina, Roseflower Creek is a sad and unforgettable story.  Set in the 1950s, it tells the tale of Lori Jean.  Abandoned by her birth father, she's being raised by her mother and an abusive stepfather.

Lori Jean escapes the realities of home by visiting her best friend, Carolee's, house.  Later she seeks refuge in the home of her aunt and uncle.  Eventually, nothing and no one can save her from the monster that is Ray, her stepfather.

Narrated much like The Lovely Bones, Roseflower Creek is told in first person and begins with the death of Lori Jean, then takes the reader back to the very beginning to paint a vivid picture of how her life ended in such tragedy.  Because Lori Jean is so young when we meet her, she tells the story with the innocence that only a child can. It's definitely a must read.

What did you like about this book?
There was a never a dull moment.  As I read, I could hear Lori Jean's voice and see things as she described them.  The author did a wonderful job of creating imagery.

What didn't you like about this book?
The cover is absolutely awful.  Had I seen it in the store or library, I would have never picked it up just based on how it looks.

What could the author do to improve this book?
It's recently been released for the Nook and Kindle and the new cover looks much better than the original.

Published: September 2001

Theme: Haunt Me by Sade

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Monday, May 2, 2011

#BookReview: All Different Kinds of Free - Jessica McCann

First time novelist Jessica McCann skillfully brings the story of Margaret Morgan and her family to life in the historical novel All Different Kinds of Free, based on the Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania.  Though the author takes creative license in some parts, it is done to fill in the gaps in an effort to bring the reader a complete story.

There are conflicting stories about whether or not Margaret was indeed a free woman, manumitted by her master upon his death; or an escaped slave from Maryland living in Pennsylvania, a free state.  According to several public records, including the county sheriff's census, her family was listed as "free blacks."  What is known for sure is that Margaret was married to a former slave that bought his way out of slavery and that they had three children, two boys and a girl, all born free. Finding herself in financial distress, the widow of Margaret's former owner sends a slave catcher into Pennsylvania to retrieve "her property," in hopes that they can be sold and bring her enough money to pay her debts.

McCann does an excellent job of capturing not only Margaret and her family's story, but also that of the widow Ashmore.  She brings the case, which really became less about Margaret and her family and more about state's rights versus federal law, to the forefront and magnifies the showdown between the North and the South.

What did you like about this book?
Before starting this book, I had never heard of Margaret Morgan and was clueless that she sued Mrs. Ashmore for her freedom 20 years before the famous Dred Scott case.

What didn't you like about this book?
Not a thing.

What could the author do to improve this book?
The author's publishing house should do a much better job of promoting it.  It's an absolute must read and very few people I've spoken with have heard of it.

Published: April 2011

Theme: True Friends and Family by Naturally 7

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