February 25, 2010

A Tale Worth Readin'

This heartfelt story is set in the South and told with a Southern charm. Within the first few pages, I could feel the emotions of the main character, Maggie, and understand why she finds comfort in lying about her family life. If only her sugar sweet lies were truth, and little Maggie didn't have a mother that was schizophrenic.

Maggie and her Daddy move to Pearl, Louisiana into a small house near the state mental hospital, where her mother is a patient. The house is equipped with pink azaleas, a tree house in the front yard, and a little girl named Sam. She seems to be a permanent fixture to the house, arriving at a moment's notice on her bicycle with a carefree smile and untamed strawberry-colored hair. Then one day, Sam can no longer hide the truth after appearing beaten. Over a game of "Go Fish" and peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, the girls stop lying about their mamas and realize they share a common bond: mothers that are troubled with sicknesses.

The descriptive, vibrant author takes us on a journey through the lives of two eleven-year-olds as they experience events that most adults will never encounter. They learn how to cope with family issues, a distant community, and learning life lessons. Pour a glass of sweet tea or coffee milk, sit on your porch swing, and enjoy this great read. Well done, Toni Teepell! The truth really is worth telling!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

February 23, 2010

Chick Lit Meets Mystery

Author Jill Brock has mastered the art of writing chick lit and mystery in the same novel. Before I get into the reviews, let me ask a couple questions.

1) Do you enjoy chick lit?
2) Are you in the mood for a good mystery?
3) Are you a sucker for unforgettable characters that return with new adventures?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then add the Maggie & Odessa Mysteries to your TBR pile.

Odessa Wilkes had it all: a project head job at an advertisement agency, a two-year relationship with a loving man, and a successful life living in New York City. In less than a New York minute, her world flips upside down. She loses her job thanks to an embezzling boss. Carrying her desk belongings in a box walking on the street, her boyfriend suddenly dumps her. He didn't even offer to carry the heavy box like the gentlemen Odessa knew him to be. On the same day, she was trapped in a subway fire. Odessa developed anxiety attacks from all the stress. Right now the only thing that relaxes her is baking desserts for the family restaurant, Blue Moon.

Just when things seem calm, Odessa's best friend, Maggie Swift, storms into Blue Moon unexpectantly with her ADD son in tow. The homemaker needs help finding her missing husband, Roger. Could Roger be having an affair? Or has something gone terribly wrong with his insurance career? Instead of alerting authorities, the two best friends set out to become Private Investigators. Their friendship and personal lives change during the search for Roger. Odessa discovers a new life and love interest when she least expects it. Maggie gains a new career and independence.

This book is filled with comedic adventures of the amateur detectives. Author Jill Brock's debut novel is a fast, great weekend read. The plot is engaging and descriptive. The characters are memorable and hilarious. Jill Brock describes the setting and characters in such vivid detail; it was like watching it on the big screen. There are moments you will literally laugh out loud, and other moments you feel the emotions of the character as if you're really there. If you're looking for light, fun reading and a story to escape in, I recommend picking up and reading
Pennywise, the first novel of a mystery series. 

In Drop Dead Delicious, Odessa Wilkes and her best friend, Maggie Swift, are back in another hilarious mystery. Odessa has recovered from her anxiety attacks and started a new life. Comfortably baking desserts at her family's restaurant, The Blue Moon, and settled into her new romantic relationship, all seems well and calm. Then Odessa's embezzling ex-boss from Eastman & Kendrick, Burke Peterson, comes back. Did he make some kind of deal? Why is Burke back in town? Is Odessa going to kill him like she always planned?

Much to everyone's surprise, Odessa has the opposite reaction. She greets Burke Peterson with a huge warm hug. Maggie is confused. Lee goes into crazy boyfriend mode and shows a jealous streak. Candace just wants everyone to stop making a scene in front of the customers. Burke soon obliges the crowd and makes an exit, leaving behind his wallet. Its not long before Maggie & Odessa try to find out why Burke has returned and if he's really guilty of embezzlement.

Meanwhile, Odessa has entered a Bake Off contest. She needs to determine the best recipe ever in order to win. If only her Aunt left behind the recipes to her delicious cakes like she left behind handmade quilts.

This book is filled with comedic adventures of the amateur detectives. The plot has multiple storylines, but very easy to keep up with. The characters are just as memorable and hilarious as when we first met them in

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Quote of the Week

"No girl was ever ruined by a book." -- James J. Walker

February 15, 2010

Quote of the Week

"All good and true-book lovers practice the pleasing and improving avocation of reading in bed. No book can be appreciated until it has been slept with and dreamed over." --   Eugene Field

February 14, 2010

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume

The title says it all. There aren’t too many women out here that do not agree. At least one of her books made a girl feel normal. You may have even thought that Judy Blume was writing about you through at least one of her characters.

Over twenty of the most popular female authors pay tribute to Judy Blume by offering their personal experiences. This collection of 24 essays will bring up memories of how Judy Blume had an effect on your childhood growing up. The common books discussed were Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Forever, Deenie, and my personal favorite “Just As Long As We’re Together.”

I remember wishing for a bigger bust-size just like Margaret. “I must, I must, I must increase my bust” was a daily chant. And I remember the time in the 4th grade when my best friend felt jealous because I befriended someone else. Our confrontation was almost identical to Stephanie and Rachel’s.

“You can have more than one best friend at a time.”
“No, you can’t.”
“Why not?”
“Because best means best.”

In the end, we came to a compromise. We’re still true friends to this very day.

Judy Blume had a story for everything a girl could possibly go through: religion, parents divorcing, friendships, relationships, sexual desires, and more. Her coming-of-age stories helped us through those times. Even now as an adult, I think back to the lessons she taught me. I agree 110% that everything I needed to know about being a girl I learned from Judy Blume.

Rating: ♥♥♥

♡ Happy Valentine's Day Book Lovers ♡

Everyone loves a good love story. My all-time favorite love stories are Sundays At Tiffany's and Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson. I literally dropped a couple tears of sadness and happiness while reading both books. The stories are so heartfelt and descriptive, you have no other choice than to feel emotions. I am a big fan of his Alex Cross and Women's Murder Club series. It amazes me how this author can write different genres so well.

If you're into classic predictable romance novels (with the cheesy covers), read Irresistible Forces by Brenda Jackson. Taylor Steele knows exactly what she wants: a baby with no strings, no commitments, and no relationship. All she needs is the perfect man that will agree to such an arrangement. After careful planning, Taylor approaches her sexy, wealthy client, Dominic Saxon. It doesn't take long to convince Dominic that this is a perfect idea since he wants children without the marriage. The two professionals enter into a business...and each other bodies. As the arranged lovers procreate on the island, their relationship suddenly takes an unexpected turn. Events begin to happen that were not previously agreed upon in the contract. 

Just like every other romance novel, this is an entertaining read with a predictable plot. From the beginning chapters, you can tell how the story will end. The love scenes are repetitive, but steamy. If you're looking for a quick book to read and a happy ending, read Brenda Jackson's romance novel to see how Taylor and Dominic handle the irresistible forces between them.

The ever-so-popular The Notebook, is more famous because of the movie. But did you know it was a book originally written by Nicholas Sparks? 

Rating ♥♥♥♥♥

February 10, 2010

E. Lynn Harris Dearest

Also in honor of Black History month, I'd like to pay respect to a very dear author who has paved the way for many others: E. Lynn Harris. I had the pleasure of meeting him on a few occasions during his book signings in Michigan. I wasn't always a fan and it took me a while to finally read his books. They have more substance that I foolishly assumed didn't exist. He opened my eyes, as well as other young women, to the down-low brotha culture. His writings have now become classics that someday I hope to be listed on required reading lists at Universities or local book clubs. I am grateful that he blessed us with literary works and memorable characters. Those characters are back in his last novel, Mama Dearest.

Mama Dearest is bittersweet. Yancey Harrington Braxton tries to revive her singing and acting career. Being a has-been and doing Broadway isn't enough to pay the bills in her New York townhome. Then she gets an unexpected roommate: Ava Middlebrooks, the mother she helped send to jail. Ava is released early and sets out a plan of revenge on her own daughter. Ava teams up with a mystery man to bring Yancey down and give her a dose of undeserving medicine. With the plan in motion, a whirlwind of events happens and the past becomes the future. Basil and Raymond return as the heroes we love them to be!

The editing and proofreading is not up to par. Chapters are out of sequence. Typos are freckled throughout the pages. However, it doesn't diminish from the story. ELH fans should read and purchase this novel to complete your collection, but keep in mind that he may not have completed this book himself.

The beginning and middle of the story is written in true ELH style. The characters are well developed; the plot is suspenseful, and it's a page-turner. Towards the end, the book changes as if a different writer took over. I am skeptical whether E. Lynn Harris actually wrote the ending. It seems unfinished, and not in a suspenseful way. Was S. Marcus found and charged? Did Ava rat him out? Did the Pinksney family realize the real home wrecker was Ava? And the most pressing unanswered question: who is the father of Yancey's twin boys? These are questions that readers will have to answer on our own...unless ghostwriters continue writing in ELH name. May he rest in peace.

NOTE: Please do not let the 2 heart rating discourage you from reading his other novels.

Rating: ♥♥

Dr. Maya Angelou

In honor of Black History month, I'd like to pay homage to my favorite African-American author.

Dr. Maya Angelou is one of the greatest voices of contemporary and classic literature. To say the least, she is a poet, best-selling author, educator, historian, role model, actress, playwright, producer, director, and civil rights activist. Born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Stamps, Arkansas, she is no stranger to racial discrimination. At the age of 14, she dropped out of school to become San Francisco's first African-American female cable car conductor. She later finished high school and gave birth to her son, Guy Johnson, who is also a writer. Her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1970. Her prose, fiction, and non-fiction now includes over 30 best-selling titles.

Any lover of literature and poetry needs The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou and The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou in their personal library. This woman is awesome!

Queen of Babble

Do you have a friend that babbles everything? Do you have the gift of gab? Then you definitely relate to this funny series about the Queen of Babble.

Lizzie had it all figured out. She lost 30 pounds, off to spend the summer with her British boyfriend, and a recent college graduate. Or so she thought. Within days, she realizes she's not a graduate after all until her thesis is complete. Her boyfriend, that she spent all of 24 hours with, is a gambling cheat who calls her fat. And worst of all, she is far away from home with nowhere to go. Thanks to her big mouth, Lizzie ends up meeting a stranger on the train to France and spills everything. Oh the horror of realizing he's not a stranger after all, but is actually her host for the remainder of the summer at a vineyard called Mirac. Awkward!

The second installment of the Queen of Babble series takes us to the next chapter of Lizzie's life. She has turned in her thesis and moved to New York with her real life prince, Luke, best friend Shari and Chaz. Before long, Lizzie has found her dream job restoring wedding gowns. Well, it's more like an unpaid internship. Until Lizzie restores a tragic gown for a well-known celebrity and gets major publicity. To make things more surprising, the original Queen of Babble actually keeps a couple secrets. She doesn't reveal to family that she is living with her boyfriend; or that said boyfriend's very married mother is getting mysterious phone calls from a gentlemen. A grown up Lizzie realizes her worth professionally and personally. 

The wedding gown specialist is getting hitched to the man of her dreams! How appropriate! The third and final installment of the Queen of Babble chick lit series opens with Lizzie in bed with one man, and engaged to another. Not to mention, the Chez Henri shop is booming in business thanks to our main character. Lizzie takes on the responsibility of solely managing the shop, hiring help, raking in more clients, and juggling her feelings. Through restless nights, doubts, cold feet, and working overtime Lizzie Nichols finally sits down long enough to plan the wedding and life she always wanted. With an unexpected twist, the series ends. Even with the curveball, Queen of Babble fans will not be disappointed. In fact, you may have suspected it all along. 

Kudos to Meg Cabot for introducing such a realistic American girl who gets to live the American dream. Throughout the series, I especially like the excerpts about the history of fashion, history of weddings, and tips for brides. These are sure to come in handy for later reference! Meg Cabot weaves a funny tale featuring Lizzie's gift of gab that is sure to keep you entertained. Good job, Meg Cabot. You have acquired a new fan of your witty, charming chick lit. If you are a Sophie Kinsella fan, you should enjoy these three (3) quick, light and quirky reads. 

Rating: ♥♥♥

Midnight: A Gangster Love Story

Everyone remembers reading their first urban novel. My first urban read was Sister Souljah's The Coldest Winter Ever. It was rumored for years that a sequel would release. When I first heard of Midnight hitting the shelves, my initial thought was satisfaction. Finally after all of these years the sequel has come. And like many others, I was completely thrown off when I cracked the book open and began reading. Where was Winter? Where was Santiago? Who are these characters?

Once I got past the realization its NOT a sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever, I could enjoy the book. Good job Sister Souljah!

If you are looking for a PREQUEL to The Coldest Winter Ever, and want to learn more about the character Midnight, then you will enjoy this book. There are slow moments that tempt you to skip pages, but there are other moments where you re-read the chapter just to make sure you understand the message. Is it worth $26.95? Hmmm, maybe with a 40% coupon or with the Amazon discount. But it is definitely worth the read.

At a young age of 7 years old, Midnight took on the responsibility of taking care of his mother, Umma, and little sister, Naja. He guides them into the land of the free, United States. He struggles to remain true to his Muslim and Sudanese traditions, making his father proud, yet fitting into the streets of Brooklyn. He had to fight to prove himself and earn a reputation as a warrior, while protecting his mother and sister at any means necessary.

At times, Midnight's actions and thoughts were unrealistic. What 14 year old has that level of discipline and train of thought? What 14 year old takes the time to read about how to truly pleasure a woman?

I think I fell in love with a 14 year old named Midnight. He was mature and smart for his age. He gave me insight to what men really think of us in terms of our clothing, how we carry ourselves, sex, and our mannerisms. I learned Sudanese and Muslim traditions.

I look forward to finding out whether Midnight returns to the US with his wife, Akemi. What happened to Midnight's father and his other two wives? Will Bangs become Midnight's second wife after she humbles herself? Will Sudana remain in the picture? Will we see Midnight grow up and connect with Winter? These are the questions I was left with after reading the last page. I hope Sister Souljah doesn't make us wait years for the answers.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

February 7, 2010

Bible Study for the Modern Girl

Happy Sunday!

You may have noticed that two books stay on my Currently Reading bookshelf: The Life Application Study Bible New King James Version and my current book in the Modern Girl's Bible Study series by Jen Hatmaker. 

The Life Application Study Bible in NKJV by Tyndale is the best Bible I own. The language is easier to read than the standard King James version, offers helpful footnotes, maps, character references, Bible in one year index, and book introductions. I highly recommend this Bible to anyone who belongs to a Bible Study group, or does daily Bible reading.

Studying the Bible isn't easy. It doesn't matter if you are a regular church goer, or the person who occasionally looks up scriptures that pertains to your current situation. Author Jen Hatmaker makes it fun to learn the Bible. In a refreshing way, she makes you laugh, think, and develop a deeper spiritual relationship through God's Word. 

The first book of A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study suggests studying techniques, journaling strategies, and other useful tools. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a member of a women's group, or just a busy woman who likes "me" time. The topics are relatable and I learned quite a few approaches to studying the Bible. I'll be honest, I had fears and insecurities. I didn't understand biblical history and was not knowledgeable of scriptures. I was less intimidated reading the 2008 Black Issue of Vogue magazine. This book helped me to overcome those fears and actually look forward to studying the Word. Now I find that reading the Bible is a fun habit.

Tune In: Hearing God's Voice Through the Static is the second book in A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study series. Have you ever wished that we could hear God talk to us as clearly as our friends do? Can you hear God through the constant ringing of your cellphone and the horns blaring through rush hour traffic? The silly, sarcastic Jen Hatmaker guides you through how to tune in to God's voice. I am currently reading Tune In.

The third book, Road Trip: Five Adventures You're Meant To Live, reminds you of a girl's night out or a road trip with your besties. Six lessons cover topics that are important to women.

Girl Talk: Getting Past the Chit Chat is a five-week study focusing on friendship. 

The final book is titled Make Over: Revitalizing the Many Roles You Fill. It features thirty-minute devotionals in a simple six-week format. Perfect for the busy chick that wishes to have bible study in a fun casual format. 

So grab a hot cup of tea, your Snuggie, a journal, pen, and Study Bible. Join me for a modern's girl Bible study!

Quote of the Week

"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." -- Louisa May Alcott