What's Going On
By Nathan McCall

The Author of the acclaimed bestseller "Makes Me Wanna Holler" strikes again with a collection of personal essays and observations entitled "What's Going On". Nathan McCall challenges readers to view the world through his eyes and share his experiences using a fluid writing style and substantive content.

Entering a new millennium, African Americans are faced with many so-called "hot button" topics. Many of these issues have been discussed and belabored at length. Some of these issues are so sensitive that authors, politicians, and community leaders will often shy away from them being careful not to damage hard earned notoriety. McCall is clearly not vying for first prize in any popularity contests; likewise, he makes sure to point out which of his views he knows will not be shared by many of his readers."What's Going On" addresses issues pertinent to blacks of this generation and his feelings regarding issues African Americans face in our daily lives.

While a book of personal opinion may not sound like an exciting read, "What's Going On" carries a heavyweight punch that travels from different ends of the spectrum and tends to surprise readers with every new chapter. In McCall's first book, the autobiography "Makes Me Wanna Holler", I was impressed with this authors journey from convicted felon to well traveled, acclaimed Washington Post Reporter. The autobiography was so inspirational to me that I jumped at the opportunity to read his newest creation. McCall's candor in all of the subject matter addressed is both poignant and refreshing. It's reasonable to assume that most African American readers will not agree with every single point, however it does provide an entertaining yet thought provoking look at modern day society.

I recommend "What's Going On" to the over 35 crowd, particularly those with a keen interest in current events. I also feel that these essays would make perfect topics for book club discussions. I give "What's Going On" a rating of 31/2.

 

Last Man Standing
The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt
By Jack Olsen

In the opinion of many, loss of freedom is tantamount to loss of life. Most people will argue that if you break the law by committing a violent crime, you forfeit your right to be free. This statement is not a hard sell for most African Americans or for any other race of people for that matter but where's the justice for the innocent? When our legal system breaks down and an innocent man is convicted of a crime, it's impossible to laude the merits of jurist prudence when loss of life is much clearer than black and white. In this respect, Last Man Standing, author Jack Olsen's biography of former Black Panther Geronimo Pratt details a
gripping, unfathomable, tale of a man wrongly accused of murder and as a result, spends decades in prison.

While growing up in the impoverished, rural Louisiana bayou, Pratt learned how hard life can be. Tough lessons from his hard nosed father, Jack Pratt, taught Geronimo and his sibblings the value of hard work, self-reliance, and mental toughness. Geronimo, unfortunately would be forced to rely on these lessons during his constant struggle for survival throughout his entire adult life, most of which was spent incarcerated. Along with the childhood teachings of his father and a passionate sense of determination, Pratt was able to endure a fate and hardships that would have broken the average individual.

 

Generations of African Americans after Geronimo Pratt will only be able to hear stories about what life was like in the 1960's and 1970's living as a radical trying to change the system by force. The Black Panther Party (BPP) serves as one of the most famous movements opposite the more visible nonviolent protests of the 60's. As one of the leaders of the Party, Pratt quickly rose to a powerful level within the organization. Ironically, Pratt's murder conviction was the result of members of the BPP uniting against him as well as the over zealousness of law enforcement divisions dedicated to the group's extinction.

A good portion of the biography centers around Pratt's trial for murder. Readers will find it hard not to get aught up in the conspiracy theories and paranoia that the defendant had to be feeling at the time. Compelling arguments made by Pratt's lawyer, a talented young Johnnie Cochran, will instantly put you in Pratt's corner.

After being presented with the facts of the case, I firmly believe that Geronimo Pratt was innocent of the crime of which he was convicted. Readers however, should remember that they are being presented with only one side of the story. The facts however, are presented clearly enough for each person to form their own opinion. I felt that this book did a good job of bringing to light the good things that the BPP did (free meals programs, literacy/education initiatives, programs to combat poverty) but I think it did a disservice by glossing over the more militant edge of the organization. Despite that minor let down, I found this novel gripping, and uplifting and I would highly recommend it to any non-fiction reader.

I give "LAST MAN STANDING" a rating of 3.

 

 

Church Folk
by Michele Andrea Bowen

The African American Church has always been a staple of hope and stability in urban, rural, and suburban communities dominated by people of color. The dynamic of all the different personalities and the constant gossip and drama surrounding Sunday mornings is something parishioners of Greater Hope Baptist Church n Memphis, Tennessee thrive on.

Church Folk takes place during the 1960's on the throes of the Civil Rights movement, which is one of the many tumultuous eras where the Black community relied of the church for guidance, resources, and strength through faith. This bold new novel gives life to those parishioners who give us unforgettable moments, commonly known to all as "Church Folk".

Theophilis Simmons is a young, talented minister who is recently awarded a pastorship of a large church in Memphis. The trust the congregation has in their new pastor is suddenly threatened by his past sins when lodean Benson saunters through the sanctuary flaunting her well known past sexual relationship with the pastor.

Simmons, a fundamentally good man, has built a reputation as a gifted orator with a fiery preaching style and is seen as the rising star of the denomination. Unfortunately, Theophilis falls in love with a "jook joint" cook whom the many church folk find inappropriate company for the minister. Throwing his reputation aside he pursues Essie Lane with the same vigor that he approaches the pulpit. When a shocking scandal emerges during the Triennial Conference, Reverend Simmons is forced to set aside his ambition to right the rongs perpetrated by a group of corrupt ministers.

I was intrigued by both the subject matter and the style of writing used by author Michele Andrea Bowen in this novel. Even though this story takes place in the heart of the civil rights movement, the dynamic of the church characters still ring true today. The players in this novel were masterfully developed and I admit to feeling a kinship with Reverend Simmons because he showed inner strength and a strong sense of self. Church Folk gives readers an entertaining look at a southern church dealing with issues many of which are in contrast with religion.I recommend this novel to churchgoers above 30 years old. I give "Church Folk" a rating of 3 ½.

 

 

I Wish I had a Red Dress
by Pearl Cleage

Joyce Mitchell's life can be described with one word - tragedy. After the loss of several family members to various horrible circumstances including her husband Mitch, she lives in a virtual state of mourning. She never allows herself to accept the possibility of life bringing her any true happiness which shows in everything down to her wardrobe that is always black. The only fulfillment she has in her life are a few friendships she maintains with the local minister and an elderly pair of sisters and her commitment to the Sewing Circus.

As founder of the Sewing Circus, Joyce provides a valuable community resource for young women by providing job training, counseling, day care and a sense of hope for a better future. The Circus is also a haven for many women suffering from issues, heartache, and domestic abuse. Joyce's compassion allows her to get deeply involved in the personal lives of many girls which ultimately puts her life in grave danger.

When Nate, the new vice principal of the local high school moves to town and introduced to Joyce, she is struck with feelings of a sexual nature that she thought were buried alongside her husband.

The undeniable mutual attraction between the two is stifled by the escalating violence at the Circus. When a boyfriend of one of the young mothers at the Circus shows up looking to continue his campaign of abuse the entire community is turned upside down in terror.

Author Pearl Cleage uses the symbolism of Joyce's refusal to wear any color other than black and her deep longing to wear a red dress to highlight the societal constraints preventing her from becoming a "Twenty first Century Woman". Cleage clearly writes from a woman's perspective and she does it with such flair that I would recommend this book to men as well as women.

"I Wish I Had a Red Dress" is a well written, solid story with a main character readers long to see let go and change her life. I enjoyed this novel enough to give it 3.

 

Trouble Man
(The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye)

By Steve Turner

To the outside observer, Marvin Gaye had it all. Millions of adoring fans around the world, a seemingly endless money supply, a loving family, and the presence of mind to deprive himself of no desire no matter how sexually deviant or socially inappropriate.

Many people would jump at the chance to trade places with Marvin Gaye during the height of his career. As fans we tend to fixate on the accomplishments of those we admire while overlooking any shortcomings they may possess until we've created the image of a perfect icon who probably never existed. These perceptions changes of course, as his fans watched his glamerous world come crashing down. In retrospect, what we are left with are countless questions and an incredible string of shocking circumstances that the music world has never recovered from.

"Trouble Man" gives readers the joy of actually knowing not only the history of Marvin Gaye but an astounding vision into the type of person he was, the lives he touched, and the inner demons that haunted him until the day he died.

The author brings us back to the upbringing of Marvin's father and his father's role in the church as a minister. The issue of religion was key in young Marvin's struggle between gospel and secular music. That battle with his family and his conscience would be the first of many struggles that ultimately defined the man we knew as Marvin Gaye.

"Trouble Man" is easily the best biography I have read to date. Readers will be taken along on a life full of so much change and up's and downs that I was left awestruck

This must read biography receives my highest rating of 4.

 

You Send Me
The Life and Times of Sam Cooke

By Daniel Wolff

The question of the day is: can someone who leaves this world early in their years possibly have lived a full life? Without getting too philosophical, this question often haunts us when we attempt to examine the lives of many great entertainers who transcended their craft but clearly died before their time.

The mysteries surrounding the death of Sam Cooke will never equal his accomplishments during the short life he lived and the impact he had and continues to have on the music world today. Documented through the eyes of Daniel Wolff with the help of those who knew him best, "You Send Me" provides an accurate chronology of possibly Rock-N-Roll's greatest phenomenon.

I will start by admitting that Sam Cooke is absolutely my favorite singer and that I've looked forward to reading this biography for months. Given this, you might assume that this extreme personal admiration might somewhat cloud the judgement of the average book critic. Not the case Book Circle readers. I approached this book with the utmost objectivity and an open minded attitude.

The first several chapters of "You Send Me" provides an excellent look at the backround of the Cook Family. It provides interesting details of Sam's father Charley and the hardships he faced raising a family in Mississippi's racially charged Delta during the Depression. Charley is painted as a very moral, hard working man who found religion late in life but found his home and his livelihood preaching the gospel. Charley's commitment to the church is what eventually started the gospel singing career of his children who would travel with him to sing at different churches. As opportunities in the church and better job opportunities for working class African Americans became available in the Midwest, the Cooke Family traveled to Chicago where the young Sam Cooke found his true calling.

As Sam grew older he traveled locally with his own group before he was chosen by his mentor to replace the lead in one of gospels most famous groups, The Soul Stirrers.

Throughout, Daniel Wolff provides a detailed timeline of dates and facts that shows an extraordinary research effort. At no time during this read do you feel that the author's accuracy or the truthfulness of any events was in question.

As much as I would like to say to casual readers and non-Sam Cooke Cooke fans that this biography will captivate you and leave you with a great sense of the type of person he was, I unfortunately cannot. "You Send Me" seems to bury itself in so much detail about dates, times and locations that it fails any attempt to explore the personal side of Sam Cooke. It is a safe bet that the type of person who purchases this book would be somewhat interested in what Cooke's personal interests were as well as his personality traits, but the biography served as purely a historical account. The book did get more personal toward the end as it looked at the incidents surrounding his death; unfortunately, I'm not sure many readers will actually make it that far.

If you're writing a paper about "The Life and Times of Sam Cooke" then Daniel Wolff's biography would make a fantastic reference. If you were looking to find out about Sam's moods, thoughts, insights and ideas then you would be better off buying his CD. I give "You Send Me" a rating of 2 1/2.

Stormy Weather
By Paula L. Woods

Writing a good story is an art; likewise, writing a solid, enthralling mystery is a gift. Paula L. Woods has the gift of weaving the threads of secrets, lies, love and hate into an intriguing mystery and captivating read.

In "Stormy Weather" Paula L. Woods gives us Charlotte Justice, a determined, intelligent, dedicated detective of the LAPD's elite Robbery-Homicide Division.

In her latest adventure, Detective Justice delicately negotiates the murky politics of the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of the Rodney King Verdict, while attempting to solve a complex and potentially dangerous mystery.

The closer she gets to the truth, the more the threads of her personal and professional life become tangled in a web that proves almost impossible to untangle.

Charlotte's intense involvement in a murder of a renowned director of film noir creates an increasingly damaging effect on her relationships with her lover and her family. Even on the verge of losing her career and quite possibly her life, Charlotte Justice never wavers in her pursuit of the truth (Charlotte "Justice" - get it?).

This story inspires the true spirit of the traditional mystery while allowing the reader to marvel at a true heroine with rock solid integrity and vulnerabilities that make her human.

"Stormy Weather" is the second in what I hope will be a series of Charlotte Justice mysteries. For all you mystery buffs out there, this one will keep you on your toes.

I give "Stormy Weather" a must read rating of
3 ½.

 

 

 

Plain Brown Wrapper
By Karen Grigsby Bates

The question of the day is who killed Everett Carson? Carson, the successful publisher of a popular black magazine, is well known for all the wrong reasons. As an overbearing, abrasive, arrogant, calculating heartbreaker of numerous women, the list of Everett Carson's potential enemies is seemingly endless.

Given the previously noted facts, finding the person who caused his sudden demise in his hotel suite provides uphill struggle for the LAPD. Adding to the complexity of the murder was the location and time it took place, Everett Carson was in his hotel room preparing to receive the coveted Journalist of the Year Award in front of a Ballroom crowd of hundreds of his peers. Among his peers were dozens of competitors, colleagues, and even jilted lovers, most of whom had the opportunity and motive to commit this violent act.

Alex Powell, a former employee of Ev's and now a successful newspaper columnist in her own right is asked to check on her friend Everett Carson due to his uncharacteristic lack of appearance at his own banquet. Upon arriving at his room, Alex finds him murdered and consequently, is enlisted by the LAPD to assist in the investigation. Alex's reputation as a journalistic diva among the black elite as well as being a well known mover and shaker in the writing community, makes her a valuable resource in solving the crime.

Author Karen Grigsby Bates does her best to create a vivid image of her main character by exhaustingly detailing her journey through the haunts, social gatherings, and homes of the "well to do". Bates shows Alex's impeccable sense of style by describing seemingly every fashion decision Alex makes in her travels to find a killer. By not only providing information about Alex's clothing but providing ample information about the fashion no no's of others, I began to wonder if we were ever going to actually begin the development of the mystery.

After reading half of this novel without any changes in story line or interesting twists in the plot, it became really hard to maintain interest in the search for Everett's killer.

As a reader who appreciates strong characters in novels, I am constantly challenging authors to increase the level of detail when describing their main characters; moreover, if there was ever a case for a writer grossly over doing it, this book is it. I found "Plain Brown Wrapper" to drag on mercilessly, incessantly belaboring the same scenarios over and over while approaching an ending that proved anticlimactic at best.

As someone who is extremely partial to mysteries and probably too easily impressed by most efforts, it pains me to say that I would not recommend this novel.

I give "Plain Brown Wrapper" a rating of 1.

 

 

 



The Sisters of Theta Phi Kappa

By Kayla Perrin

When the movie "I Know What You Did Last Summer" meets the TV Show "Sisters" you end up with the hit novel "The Sisters of Theta Phi Kappa". In keeping with our group friendship theme of the month, author Kayla Perrin has presented a group of women who define the very essence of the word friendship. Four girls attending a Historically Black College meet during a sorority rush and through their college experience, develop a bond that grows stronger into their adult lives.

Shereen, a successful executive and beauty queen of the bunch, deals with past relationship heartache and the frustration of being adored by many but unable to find the right man.

Ellie, regarded as the free spirit, is involved in an affair with a married man who she is hopelessly in love with. Issues of self esteem and self doubt make Ellie's struggle with her weight all the more difficult.

Yolanda, the no nonsense lawyer is burdened with a mother who has given up the will to live and a strained relationship with her father. While putting on a tough exterior for her friends she is forced to deal with the animosity and jealousy she feels toward one of her sorors.

Lastly there is Jessica, the shy reserved college girl turned TV broadcast personality, who tries desperately to shake the skeletons in her closet while unknown forces from her past refuse to let her forget.

A creatively written story with clever plot twists makes "The Sisters of Theta Phi Kappa" an intriguing read. I also found the book easy to follow because the author chose just the right moments to keep slowly flashing back to the group's college years. This plot device is used successfully to allow the reader to understand exactly what occurred to create their current duress for past sins. The Sisters of Theta Phi Kappa slowly builds to an explosive ending where the truth finally comes to light and tests the limits of these sorority sisters, forcing them to choose between life and death.

I would not discourage men from picking up this book but I will point out that it is written from the perspective of a woman; likewise, a woman can probably glean more from this book with regard to its' sense of sisterhood than men.

A well written drama that will keep you in suspense till the end makes my rating for "The Sisters of Theta Phi Kappa, 3.



Married Men
By Carl Weber

The friendship of four men is put to the test in the captivating novel by Carl Weber entitled "Married Men".

Kyle, the successful businessman who seemingly has the perfect life and family, struggles with issues surrounding his interracial marriage.

Jay is the quintessential pretty boy who is adored by countless women. Although married with children, Jay continually uses women as sex objects until he unexpectedly falls in love.

Allen, the Mama's boy, is torn between an overbearing controlling mother and a lover who tests the limits of his ability to trust.

Lastly, there is Wil, a physically formidable man with a solid marriage and happy family. Wil's entire world is shaken to its foundation when he becomes the victim of a cruel prank. "Married Men" chronicles the traumatic changes that occur in each of these characters lives and how it affects their lifestyle, families and their friendships.

The strength of "Married Men" is found in its ability to accurately provide a detailed description of each of these four men both physically and psychologically. This novels outstanding character development not only encompasses the main players in the story but all of the secondary characters such as: wives, girlfriends, and even relatives. Readers feel truly involved in all situations and intense confrontations because of their intimate knowledge of every personality. With the many flawed decisions made by all four of these men throughout this story, you can't help but be impressed with their friendship that is steadfast, loyal, and constantly forgiving.

I strongly believe both men and women of all age groups will enjoy this book.

Carl Weber's hysterically funny, shockingly entertaining drama will prevent you from putting this book down.

I give "Married Men" a rating of 31/2




BETWEEN LOVERS

By Eric Jerome Dickey

Between Lovers is the newest novel by the author of the popular bestsellers: Milk in My Coffee and Cheaters. Dickey's novel tells the tale of a successful romance novelist who in the midst of a book signing tour travels to Oakland, CA to spend time with his beautiful, long time love interest Nicole. Narrated by the love struck writer, Between Lovers details Nicole's inner struggle between a man who's feelings for her have withstood many hardships surrounding their relationship and Ayanna, an attractive, successful attorney that has captured Nicole's heart through her sensual nature. The writer, aware of his part in this competition deals with his pain through his writing thus making his novels anonymous autobiographies of his life.

Author Eric Dickey has a true talent for vividly recreating intimate scenes between his characters. Whether the illustration is anger, sadness or a sexual nature Dickey can provide a realistic enough account to where the reader feels like they are in the room during the interaction. It is unfortunate however that I felt no attachment to any of these characters because by jumping right into the love episodes, the author failed to develop the players in the story. Dickey did make a valiant effort to get readers more intimately involved in a character life by stirring up major drama in Nicole's life in the latter part of the book but by this time I did not care enough about her to need to see the conflict resolved. Without a whole lot of direction, the storyline seemed to drag on without a plausible end in sight.

I have great respect for Eric Jerome Dickey as a writer and I have enjoyed many of his previous novels but I felt that Between Lovers did not have the strength behind it's story to keep me enthusiastically turning those pages.

I give this book a rating of 21/2.



The Debt
By Randall Robinson

Randall Robinson has been one of the most prominent voices in the struggle to bring the issue of reparations for slavery to the American forefront for the last decade. In the wake of the recent International Conference on Race in Durban, South Africa, payment to the descendants of American slavery has been a topic of many heated debates across the country. The Debt attempts to draw parallels between the socioeconomic status of African Americans today and the long-term affects of slavery.

Randall Robinson as a masterful command of language and shows his passion for his argument through a unique, often poetic writing style. What impressed me most about The Debt was it's historical perspective that provided a thorough overview of various events in history and how the pertain to an economic argument regarding the slave trade. My main problem with Robinson's bestseller is that it was in some sections difficult to follow. Due to it's slightly unorthodox style and layout, I often had to read chapters more than once to make sure I was clear on the point The Debt was attempting to make. Another drawback to this book were some specific issues where the point was belabored by the author because it was clear he felt very strongly about them.

Despite my minor criticisms, I would highly recommend this book to people who are interested in a poignant, provocative memoir about an extremely controversial topic. Regardless of your opinions surrounding the issue of reparations, The Debt makes the most compelling argument I have ever heard by laying out the facts and letting the reader draw his/her own conclusions.

I gave this book a rating of 3.



Just Say No
Omar Tyree

In Charlotte, North Carolina two very different children with very little in common will soon become friends and embark on a journey that defies imagination and changes both their lives forever. Darin Harmon, a confident, self assured, star high school quarterback befriends John Williams, a quiet, church going, gospel choir boy who shows strong talents as a musician. The friendship of John and Darin takes them to North Carolina A&T University, a historically black college, where they remain great companions but strive to excel at their respective talents. It is their separate college experiences and decisions made during this time that shape and define the men they become.
Darin, who is struggling with a less than stellar collegiate football career and focused on distinguishing himself as a star athlete, helps John during a talent show perform a song that becomes the talk of the campus as john electrifies the audience with his own classic style of crooning earning him the title of "Loverboy". Darin reluctantly becomes John's manager when John's career begins to soar but the two are forced to part ways when john chooses to drop out of college to pursue a singing career full time. Darin, who was just beginning to come into his own as a solid defensive back is sidelined with a season ending injury, decides to drop out of college and manage John full time. Author Omar Tyree paints a vividly realistic, portrait of John "Loverboy" Williams and Darin Harmon as they are thrust into a world of super stardom and are forced to deal with all the temptations the fast lifestyle of the entertainment world has to offer.

Omar Tyree has done a fantastic job of developing both these characters with a detail that I have seldom seen authors able to accomplish. The way John and Darin expressed their passion for their respective talents was key in developing the mindset and focus of John toward music and Darin with football. "Just Say No" will keep readers entranced as the music business pulls John deeper into a lifestyle of excess that he was clearly not prepared for. Readers will feel like they have known these guys all of their lives and will be shocked at how they react to situations many artists are faced with daily.

I was blown away by this novel and cannot think of an age group, gender, or professional occupation that could not enjoy reading it. Many books that are able to captivate reading audiences do so it by starting slow and building on the plot but "Just Say No" grabs your attention by the first chapter and holds it at a high level of drama throughout the story. This book is hands down the best book I have read all year and I give it my strongest recommendation for all readers.

I give "Just Say No" a rating of 4 with an added note of being the best BLACKBOSTONONLINE read of 2001.



Never Satisfied
Michael Baisden

Author Michael Baisden reveals the reasons behind why men in relationships often cheat on their significant others in "Never Satisfied". Giving women the "heads up" on the tell tale signs of infidelity through the behavior of unfaithful lovers, Baisden creatively uses real life accounts of cheating men to illustrate exactly what women should look for. A wide range of men and women were researched and interviewed to provide vivid, scandalous, stories of men who find themselves in compromising situations. Women and men will find themselves laughing at the humorous, true to life, predicaments that the characters in the short stories find themselves in. The book attacks the psychological, sociological, and even economic issues behind why men are unfaithful from a realistic perspective rather than using the popular oversimplification "All men are dogs" routine which talk shows have adopted as the standard. "Never Satisfied" provides an entertaining look at popular social locals such as NightClubs, Bars, Parties, and of course the Bedroom giving readers an all-inclusive look at the mindset of the cheating man.

In the beginning of this book, the author makes a statement about his feeling that many men will view this book as a betrayal of a secret code which says that men should not, under any circumstances, reveal the secret methods of cheating to any women. While not admitting to personally using any of the cheating tactics outlined in this book, I will say that Myself and any other man who reads this book will feel a strong sense of betrayal that a sacred code amongst players may have been violated beyond repair. This feeling along with my duty as a Book Critic leaves me very conflicted because even if I don't believe a book like this should be written, I must admit that it is very well written, easy to follow and very entertaining.

If I were to recommend this book it would obviously be to women of all age groups who want to know the true feelings and reasons why men cheat; likewise, to women who suspect their man is cheating and want to evaluate the signs. A warning to all men out there who are cheating or considering cheating: If your woman has read or is reading this book, you had better decide to do the right thing and show some restraint or change your methods all together.

I give "Never Satisfied" a rating of 3.



GOOD HAIR
By Benilde Little

The privileged world of Manhattans Black Bourgeoisie is the lifelong goal of Reporter Alice Andrews in the riveting novel by author Benilde Little in "Good Hair". This savvy, humorous, wildly entertaining tale, highlights a successful woman's need to become a member of an elite inner circle of Black Professionals while trying to disregard a past which in these circles would be deemed undesirable. Alice tries desperately to meet Mr. "socially acceptable" Right at all costs with little regard for details like love, trust, and self-respect. When Jack Russworm appears and seemingly fits the profile of Mr. Perfect, Alice is forced to confront all of those issues, many of which are wrapped up among painful secrets from her childhood.

"Good Hair" has all the necessary tools any novel needs to keep readers captivated with real life subjects while taking a different approach in its delivery. I found Benilde Little's style refreshing as she used scenarios involving her main character to illustrate the mood and tension in the scene rather than always communicating her thoughts through narration. Alice's need to belong to these cliques was shown with her acceptance of comments, which she clearly found offensive and this gave the novel a very funny edge because her thoughts were not restrained with the same civility and control.

I believe that this book will be understood and even enjoyed more readily by women, in particular those women who have shared similar experiences as Alice while in society, the workplace, and in relationships. I do urge the brothas out there not to sleep on this book because there are definitely situations that men find themselves in that are not any less real because they are viewed through the eyes of a female character. I highly recommend this book to all readers especially those professionals trying to climb that all important, socioeconomic ladder and taking those sometimes comical hits on the way up.

I give "Good Hair" a must read rating of 31/2.



A THIRST FOR RAIN
By Roslyn Carrington

Several stories have been written about single parent homes fighting society's most basic hardships in an effort to rise above predetermined stereotypes or much less, survive with a sense of normalcy. In the United States these achievements are often a tall order for families facing hardships like poverty, crime, and domestic abuse; likewise, in a poor rural setting on the island of Trinidad, families are forced to accept certain realities with time, hard work, and education as their only way out. Myra, a beautiful, hard working Creole style cook, who makes a living selling lunches to people out of a small hut in Port of Spain, Trinidad, strives to hold her business and family together while turbulent forces threaten to pull her whole life apart. On the surface, a reader sees Myra's struggle with her rebellious teenage daughter and a father with deteriorating mental health but this novel goes so much deeper in dealing with feelings of rage, resentment, disappointment and loss.

I was extremely impressed with Roslyn Carrington's amazing ability to develop each character with enough substance and detail that as a reader, you feel a sense of connection with all the people in the story. In a clever way, the author gave all the characters in the book a personality trait that in some way related to people we know in our personal lives and/or ourselves. As Myra's world slowly closed in around her "A Thirst for Rain" brings you deeper into her thought process as well as the minds of those around her. Even with the cultural differences of Trinidad to the States there is no ambiguity in the emotions that are being expressed by all the characters.

This truly inspiring and uplifting tale of hope and sacrifice should be considered an absolute must read for people who are ready for the ultimate drama. For me, "A Thirst for Rain" provided a wonderful example of how close knit communities can pull together in crisis and how the ability of one woman to trust can affect the lives of all those who care about her.

I give "A THIRST FOR RAIN" a rating of 4.


Black Coffee
By Tracy Price-Thompson

Looking for an exhilarating, realistic, thrilling drama with a main character that you can vividly see standing before you? If so, then I strongly suggest you run to the bookstore and pick up Tracy Price-Thompson's refreshing creation "Black Coffee".

If there were ever a truly intriguing character that I could guarantee the single guys out there would love to meet, it would definitely be army sergeant Sanderella Coffee.

Recently back in the states from an overseas assignment that lasted several years, Sanderella Coffee's Army career is finally beginning to come together. Although she still has several staggering hurdles in front of her such as an extremely neurotic superior officer hell bent on stifling her progress, Sandie is starting to move toward her ultimate military goal, Officer Candidate School. Making her way off the streets of Brooklyn, New York, escaping the drama of the night club scene, repeatedly meeting the wrong man, and being a single mom with few career prospects, combine to form her reasons for enlisting in the military. The regimented military life at first seemed like her worst nightmare but she later realized that her inner strength, leadership qualities, and natural assertiveness give her an excellent opportunity to achieve a promising future.

The thrust of the drama begins when Sanderella meets Drill Sergeant Romulus Ceasar. With the appearance of being Mr. Perfect, Rom wins Sandie's heart and their love affair begins with a major drawback, his wife. Not only do personal issues arise in both of their lives that would crush the average relationship but the Army's strict rules on adultery threaten to destroy both of their futures in the military.

Tracy Price-Thompson's first novel has a lot to offer within its story. I have to start by saying that her writing is absolutely top shelf. She possesses an uncanny ability to show her talent for storytelling by creating an interesting plot surrounded by believable characters that readers will care about and probably even identify with. The sensual yet down to earth nature of Sanderella Coffee is outlined so well in this novel allows you to enjoy her strengths and weaknesses equally. The military edge is something that gives "Black Coffee" a refreshing twist that you seldom see in the books of today. It is clear that this book is focused on a female character that falls in love; nevertheless, I will not typecast this great story as a romance novel because it brings all of the many facets of a relationship to the table.

I found "Black Coffee" to be right on point and I would extend my recommendation to women and men age 25 and up. I would also say that this novel is perfect for Book Clubs because it goes into family drama and relationship conflicts that make great discussions. I give "Black Coffee" a rating of 3 1/2.


It's A Thin Line
By Kimberla Lawson Roby

The family drama has been the mainstay of many of today's book writers. The story of the African American Family trying to keep it together through life's various struggles has been the way to approach social issues often prevalent in our families, relationships and our communities.

"It's A Thin Line" is a story focusing on the lives of three siblings and how they react to their mother's sudden illness while dealing with their own stressful problems that negatively impact their everyday lifestyles.

Sydney, the oldest daughter is coupled with the burden of performing the arduous day to day tasks involved with caring for a sick mother. While trying to maintain a successful freelance writing career, teenage daughter, and sex starved husband her mother's condition wears her down emotionally and physically as he receives little help from her siblings. As if Sydney's day to day problems weren't enough, she battles with haunting memories from her childhood and how these memories are affecting her marriage.

Rick, the youngest sibling, is involved in a loving relationship with a wonderful woman who adores him as much as he adores her. Content with the living situation as is, Rick ignores his fiancee's pleas for him to set a wedding date. Dealing with his seeming inability to commit and the failing health of his mother brings their relationship to a crossroads where his lover feels her last option is an ultimatum.

Gina, the middle child, is dealing with the most serious problem all; a husband whose insecurity and short temper repeatedly erupts into violent rage directed at her. Being isolated from her family and the wear and tear on her self esteem causes her to reevaluate her volatile relationship and the long term affects on both her and her two kids.

"It's A Thin Line" gives a lot for readers to swallow at once and it provides a telling look into the life of the family under siege. While I do feel that this book deserves to be read because it deals with so many different opics, I personally felt that it tackled too many issues to the point of compromising its realism. If the problems that face these characters parallel your life as the reader, then this novel would most likely have a greater affect on you; however, I often found the sequence of problems and their end results to be slightly predictable.

To Kimberla Lawson Roby's credit, her interactions between Gina and her abusive spouse did seem vividly realistic and well written but the novel as a whole was not enough to keep me enthusiastically turning the ages.

I give "It's A Thin Line" a rating of 21/2.

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