Sunday, May 16, 2010
For someone who is constantly asserting that she will no longer read books about slavery in the Americas, I have now read three of them this year. The first two were Wench and A Mercy. I made an exception for those books because Wench was just a new, fresh story and A Mercy was written by Toni Morrison ( if she writes it, I'm gonna read it).
Allende, who hails from South America, usually writes historical novels that revolve around Latin America, but its not much of a stretch that she has turned her attention to the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Island Beneath the Sea chronicles the years leading up to and beyond the Haitian Revolution. Toulouse Valmorain, a refined Frenchman, comes to Saint Domingue to visit his father who owns a sugar plantation there. Valmorain considers himself a cultured man, and while he doesn't object to wealth that it creates, has no desire to be involved with the operation and the institution of slavery that fuels it. But life has a different plan for him: his father dies and Valmorain is left in charge of a business he doesn't want.
The real protagonist of this story is Zarite, or Tete, a slave who is brought to the plantation as a child to care for Valmorian's wife. The book is interspersed with Tete's own first-person accounts of her life with the Valmorain's and the uncertainty of the future of the island.
This rich story is made even better by setting the stories of these two people against the backdrop of the beginning of the Haitian Revolution (Toussaint L'Ouverture makes an appearance), the practice of Voodoo by the slave population, and the lives of free people of color in Haiti & New Orleans.
Although I agree with Marlon James' (The Book of Night Women) review, where he says that Allende at times seems to just want to prove how much research she has done on Voodoo and Haitian history. There is one character that at times appears to exist only to make the reader more comfortable with the practice of Voodoo. Aside from that, I loved this book and I will be recommending it at work all summer long.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
by Adrianne Byrd
The Match Made series tells the stories of The Platinum Society, an exclusive matchmaking service run by Melanie Hart. In this first book of the series Melanie is charged with the task of finding a match for banker Jaxon Landon. Two things make this assignment different though - first, she is hired by Jaxon's grandmother not Jaxon himself and second, he's already engaged. Melanie sets him up with former model, now agency owner, Zora Campbell, who is more than put off when she discovers that Jaxon has a fiance. Melanie doesn't give up easy and the chemistry between the two is undeniable.
I recently discovered Adrianne Byrd's writing (or maybe re-discovered; I forget a lot of books I've read over the years) and I wasn't disappointed by this one. The cat and mouse game played between Zora and Jaxon was fresh and not frustrating as some romance authors tend to make similar situations. Oh, and it was plenty steamy, too! Ms. Byrd is the best at that!
Friday, May 14, 2010
by Rochelle Alers
Breakaway is the latest in the books about the Cole-Thomas family. Celia Cole-Thomas is on extended leave from her job as a doctor in a Florida hospital. She was hit during a shoot out in the emergency room and her fiance, a doctor as well, was killed as a result of the incident. The trial for the assailant is coming up soon and in an effort to prepare for it her she travels to her home in the North Carolina mountains for some peace and quiet and to regroup. Also in the area to look for his brother as part of an undercover operation is FBI agent Gavin Faulkner. As part of his cover, he must blend in to the community and befriending Celia is the best way to do that. Once Gavin finds out Celia's story, his professional and personal need to protect her kick in.
I always enjoy the Hideaway series and the Cole-Thomas'. The initial meeting(s) of Celia and Gavin was cute and I especially enjoyed the side trip to Staunton, Virginia, my mother's hometown. While there wasn't a lot of action and I felt that the storyline surrounding Gavin's brother wrapped up a little too quickly, this was still a great read.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
by Rochelle Alers
The third and final book in The Eatons series. The Eatons are a family of educators in Philadelphia and each book details their paths to love. Chandra Eaton is returning home after living abroad. In her haste, she leaves her journals, where she chronicles her erotic dreams, in a taxicab. The next occupant, successful playwright Preston Tucker, finds them and returns them. Will he tell Chandra that he's read them?
by Brenda Jackson
The tag line for this series is "A family bound by loyalty...and love!" There are a bunch of these Westmoreland dudes - brothers & cousins - and none of them ever want to get married! So these quick Harlequin Silhouette Desire books are all about how they reluctantly fall in love. Journalist Chloe Burton arrives at Ramsey Westmoreland's ranch to interview him. After a misunderstanding has her taking on the role of ranch cook, will Ramsey still find her attractive when he learns the truth?
by Brenda Jackson
This is actually 2 books in one: A Little Dare & Thorn's Challenge. They were originally released years ago and were out of print. They are both Westmoreland books from the beginning of the series. A Little Dare is about Dare Westmoreland reconnecting with an old love that he thought betrayed him. Thorn's Challenge is about a woman that Thorn Westmoreland meets at his brother Dare's wedding. They are like oil and water - but can't stay away from each other.
by Linda Hudson-Smith
Sometimes I hate these titles, they seem so corny...but anyway. After being set up on a date, confirmed bachelor and basketball player Houston Carrington is intrigued by Kelly Charleston and wants to get to know her better. What he doesn't know is that she has just signed on to be the new team's doctor.
by Brenda Jackson
The latest in the Madaris series, which is one of my favorites. One of the younger men in the Madaris family, Blade has watch one after another as his older siblings and cousins fall victim to affairs of the heart. He meets attorney Samari Di Meglio and intends to sweep her off her feet but he has met his match in the literal "player hater".
by Francis Ray
What do you do when you run out of family members to write about? You start a series based on their friends! This is a Grayson friends novel. Hot, in demand record producer "Rolling Deep" has done everything in his power to work this classical violinist Laurel Raineau. However, she has heard of his reputation and wants nothing to do with her. So RD, using his real name, Zachary Wilder, works hard to convince her otherwise.
by Dara Girard
After her horrible divorce, Suzanne Rand became a bestselling author using tales from the small town she grew up in to inspire her novel. When she returns home after her father dies to settle his affairs, the town, and especially Rick Gordon, lets her know that they don't appreciate having their dirty laundry aired. Growing up Rick was the boy from the other side of the tracks and is now a successful businessman who wants to enact revenge on Suzanne for something that happened when they were teenagers.
by Brenda Jackson
Brenda Jackson is basically the only African-American author whose work is published by the Harlequin monthly series. Spontaneous is part of the May 2010 Harlequin Blaze series. Kimani Cannon meets Duan Jeffries at a wedding and decides that he will be a perfect one night stand. When she needs a fake fiance to pose as a date for her mother's fifth wedding, she sees Duan as the perfect candidate.
by Simona Taylor
You know that I'm a sucker for any contemporary novel that leaves the confines of the U.S., right? New in town, Trey Hammond is the new owner of a travel agency and discovers that quite a bit of money has been embezzled. All clues point to Kendra Forrest as the culprit. Rather than causing her the humiliation of persecution, he suggests that she work it off by becoming his temporary housekeeper.
by Michelle Monkou
The Ladies of Distinction are a group of sorority sisters who serve as a support group for one another. When one of the ladies, Asia Crawford is laid-off from her job, the others step up and give her an all-expenses paid vacation to the Colorado Rockies to clear her mind. However, a scheduling mix-up has handsome single father, Trace Gunthrey showing up to the same cabin where his is supposed to stay while he drops his troubled teenaged daughter off at camp.
by Adrianne Byrd
When television producer Keenan Armstrong overhears Jalila Goodwyn talking with her girlfriends at dinner about their dating woes, he gets an idea for a reality show - with Jalila, a spa owner, as its star. This was a sexy and hilarious book and when I was done I immediately went out and bought more by this author.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
My co-workers have heard ad nauseum about how excited I was to read this book. It starts out in D.C. (where I grew up) then moves to the West End neighborhood of Atlanta (where I live now) and even has a minor character named Toni (who is nothing like me, but makes me happy anyway). Thanks, Pearl!
After her estranged father, civil rights pioneer Rev. Horace Dunbar, makes some confusing, disparaging comments about the newly elected president, Ida Dunbar is called home by a family friend to help get to the bottom of things. She's hesitant to leave D.C. for a trip home to Atlanta, because she is waiting to hear about a job with the same administration that her father is condemning.
This is a very timely novel that draws upon the little talked about divide between the old school leaders of the Black community and the new school devotees of "Hope and Change". Although I felt that it wrapped up a little too neatly and quickly, I really enjoyed it.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I will read anything that Francis Ray writes. She is one of my favorite romance authors. Some of her books, though, straddle the line between romance and women's fiction. This is one of them.
If You Were My Man is about Nathalyia Fontaine, the proprietress of a popular restaurant that she started with her late husband. Since his death, she has put everything she has into the running of the business (and running from her past) with little time left for anything or anyone else. Likewise, Rafael Dunlap, a hostage negotiator, has made his career his main focus. Because of the dangerous nature of his job, he avoids serious relationships and marriage so he doesn't hurt anyone. However, the two can't deny the spark between them and embark on a romance that is threatened by circumstances from Nathalyia's past.
Another winner from Francis Ray.
Friday, May 7, 2010
by Geneen Roth
If you are a close friend of mine, you are aware that I have issues with my weight. The issue is I have too much of it right now. I know what I have to do and I pretty much know the reasons behind it, but, as an amateur information gatherer I have to read as much on the subject as possible. That need to know it all (and Oprah) led me to this book. In April there was a brief mention on The Oprah Winfrey Show about the book with a promise of a full show in May and in O, magazine there was an interview with Roth. Based on those two events (and other publicity, I'm sure), women started flocking into the store to buy it.
I have to say that I was not quite impressed with this book. Geneen Roth has written a lot about women and their emotional attachment to food, and while I haven't read any of her other books, I recognize her as somewhat of an expert on this subject. Women, Food and God, however, is nothing but a sort of recap of the seminars that she gives to help women identify and overcome their unhealthly relationships with food. And the "God" part? Not sure what that means. There was no mention of religion, or spirituality or drawing on something greater than yourself to help with any issues surrounding food.
The episode where Roth appears on Oprah is airing later this month and I will definitely watch it to see if there was something that I missed. In any case, I think that one of her other books, When Food Is Love, will probably be more helpful to those looking for a serious work on the subject.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
by Robyn Okrant
There seems to be two popular schools of thought about Oprah Winfrey. People either love her or they believe that the people who love her are crazy automatons. In fact, more people are probably in the middle of that spectrum, like me. Yes, I used to tape the show everyday (until my VCR recently died) and watched every episode (except the ones where she interviewed celebrities who are also her friends - too gushy for me). Yes, I was a charter subscriber of O Magazine, until the subscription price went up to almost $30 a year. While the articles and book reviews are some of the best in the business (as a magazine-addict, I know), but the ads, products, and clothing were aimed at a demographic two tax-brackets above me. I canceled my subscription. So, yes I am a fan, definitely not a fanatic.
Robyn Okrant's, experiment was basically to see what all the fuss was about. Why do women endure years-long waiting lists to get tickets for the show? Why do they seem to run out and buy anything that Oprah or one of her gurus mention? Why is she so powerful? Living Oprah is a month-by-month chronicle of Okrant's following of the media queen's advice from The Oprah Winfrey Show, O, the Oprah Magazine and Oprah.com.
This was a fun read, but it was also interesting in a sociological way. Okrant, a married, yoga teacher living in Chicago, basically had her life (and those around her) taken over by this experiment. Her Oprah to-do list (and the money spent to achieve some of the goals) was at times exhausting. Very glad I read this book."If Oprah gave a directive of any kind through one of these outlets, I'd follow it. If one of Oprah's guests gave a piece of advice on her show, I'd act upon it only if Oprah personally backed it up. Additionally, if Oprah wrote a suggestion to us in her 'Here We Go!' letter or her 'What I Know for Sure' column in O magazine, I would take heed. In fact, if she made a suggestion anywhere in the public eye or ear, I latched on. I committed to taking all of her suggestions quite literally and would leave as little to interpretation as possible."
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
by Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes
This is the third book by this powerhouse trio in the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series. Tennyson is an actor who doesn't wait tables between jobs. The former male escort and police academy dropout instead fills his time with martial arts training and bodyguard jobs. Of course that sort of resume will lead you on the path to solve a mystery or two.
After the explosive events of the last book, In the Night of the Heat, Tennyson takes some much needed downtime in South Africa and hopes to reconnect with someone close to him. While there, he is offered a job as a bodyguard to an American actress who is in the country to adopt a child. Later, when everyone returns to the States, she asks Tennyson to work a birthday party for the newly adopted little girl. When the child is kidnapped from the party, feeling guilty, Tennyson makes it his personal mission to get her back.
This is the best in the series by far! Author Steven Barnes is a martial arts master and his expertise is on full display here. It was refreshing to learn about fighting practices from all over the continent of Africa. The inclusion of the thriving African community of Los Angeles - it's nightlife, markets, and restaurants - was also a breath of fresh air. A perfect, steamy, summer thriller!