Friday, June 22, 2007


The First Lady
Carl Webber
Dafina Books
Kensington Publishing Corp.
ISBN: 0-7582-1575-4
Published: January 2007
Mainstream Fiction

Rating: 4 ½ Stars - EXCEPTIONAL
Reviewed by: Marguerite Lemons

Charlene Wilson decides upon her deathbed, to choose several women from the church her husband pastor’s as candidates to take her place as First Lady. She, along with the church secretary, pens several letters to be given to each person at certain intervals beginning six months after her death.

Bishop T. K. Wilson, is surprised to receive a letter from his deceased wife six months after her death telling him that it is time for him to remarry, and to his chagrin, the members of the church agree.

The delivery of the first letters sets off a chain reaction of events that no one could have imagined. The members of First Jamaica Ministries have their minds made up as to which of the women should be first lady. However, the pastor is not ready to let go of his deceased wife and start a new relationship. So, he allows the members and his best-friend to determine who he should date instead of following his heart. When he discovers that his deceased wife in manipulating lives from the grave, he is angry and hurt. However, he realizes that the time has come for him to make a decision about his life, as well as, what’s best for his church.

Mr. Webber managed to juggle the stories of five different characters with a legion of extras, and come up with a serious, funny and romantic story. He allows you to become a part of the characters lives and experience their fears, pain and joy. However, there was couple of times when I felt it was time to move on with a couple of the characters, but I read this one in a day. It is an enjoyable read.

Ladies Night Out
Electra Rome Parks
New American Library
ISBN: 9780451220257
January 2007

Rating: 4 Stars EXCELLENT
Reviewed by: Michelle Alexander

Lexie, Meshell, Tonya and Tracee ask each other, "What is the freakiest thing you have ever done?" and their answers take the reader into the deepest secrets of their lives. Lexie the least experienced, looks online for her first major encounter and finds what
she least expected. Meshell the least inhibited finds herself at a swingers party and finds that it’s a slippery slope to sex addiction. Tonya the exhibitionist learns that everyone doesn't always just want to look and narrowly escapes and Tracee the golddigger ends up in an affair with a married man who just happens to be her boss. Ultimately they all have
a showdown with each other.

Set in Atlanta, Ladies Night Out is well written with spicy details, this book will stay on your shelf to read again and again. Everyone will find someone in this book to identify with and also understand the love that friends have in order to save each other.

Big Girls Don’t Die
Crystal Jordan
Cobblestone Press
Publication 2006
ISBN: 978-1-60088-104-6
Paranormal/Erotic/Multicultural Romance

Rating: 2 ½ stars - GOOD
Reviewed by: Tonni

Cynthiana Trent is a plus sized model turned clothing designer, who was turned into a Vampire by a Frenchman name Andre St. James who owns a hotel in Las Vegas.

The story takes place on Valentines Day. Cynthiana gets a surprise visit from Andre who she hasn’t seen for a month. And she is not happy to see him. A misphrased greeting leads to them having hot passionate sex. It’s not ‘til its all over she realized she is still mad at him for turning her into the “undead”. So she spends the rest of Valentine’s Day with her friend Candy a werewolf but it gets cut short because of a family emergency.

In the past, Cynthiana has been denying her feelings for Andre. Will she be able to resist his charm and allure? Or will she give into her longing and feelings for Andre.

This book was a short read for me. Crystal’s description of the sex scenes between Andre and Cynthiana was outstanding because you can form a picture of the two having hot passionate sex. I had to grab my hand fan and a cold cup water to cool off.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading about hot sex.

The Street Life Series – Is It Suicide or Murder?
Kevin M. Weeks
Publisher: Xlibris Books
Publication Date: December 2006
ISBN: 1-4257-1104-9
Genre: Urban Lit/Street Fiction

Rating: 2 ½ -GOOD
Reviewed by: Danni Jackson

The Street Life Series – Is It Suicide or Murder? Follows the life of car thief and West Philadelphia native Teco Jackson. Teco is handsome and smooth when it comes to the ladies. A dangerous, high speed car chase convinced him that his life had to change but after trying the religious path, he realized that crime was in his blood. So he returns to a life of petty thievery and car thefts. Sleeping at different women houses and having just enough to get by has become his lifestyle for as long as he can remember. But a chance encounter with Mujaheed Bashi Firen of the Strictly Business Crew (SB) presents him with the opportunity to step his game up and prove he’s more than just a small time thug.

Even though Teco isn’t into the drug game he takes Bashi up on his offer and quickly becomes entrenched in the drug dealing world. Teco is a good earner and earns the nickname of “Homicide”. As a result, Bashi promotes him to his right hand man. Homicide is seen as fearless along with the fact he doesn’t back down from anyone, garners him the respect of the all the members of SB Crew but one – Gail Indigo Que aka GQ who is the only female in SB. GQ is understandably upset because she was the enforcer/right hand before Homicide took her position. There is a major power struggle between Homicide and GQ amidst dissention with the SB Crew as Homicide is promoted. Homicide is busy enjoying his life filled with money, cars and women. But a major takedown cuts his lifestyle short for a stint. And after getting out of jail, Homicide learns that Bashi has disappeared and makes it his mission to find out what’s going on. The tension between GQ and Homicide escalates and when the dust clears and the duo appear to have called a truce, Bashi turns up dead. And all the evidence and clues point to Homicide. Homicide goes after the truth and the question will be is the killer – an enemy or a friend? And will GQ help or hinder Homicide’s quest for the truth?

One problem is that the book has several minor and insignificant characters that bog down the plot and stop the story from flowing as easily and effortless as it could. Also, there is some irrelevant information that does little more than pad the book. A good final editing would eliminate some of these errors as well as help focus the plot, provide deeper characterizations plus smooth and tighten the dialogue.

The Street Life Series – Is It Suicide or Murder is fast-paced, full of drama and captivating. The writing is sharp and the storyline will hold reader’s attentions. Teco aka Homicide is a likeable character despite his lifestyle.

If Love Is Good to Me
Francine Craft
Kimani Press
ISBN: 1-58314-783-7
Publish Date: October 2006

Rating: 2 Stars – OK
Reviewed by: Delores Hines

Dosha Steele meets millionaire Christian Montero on a trip to Spain to heal a broken heart. Both are trying to recover from relationships gone bad. The book picks up with the couple already engaged and planning their wedding. If you're a fan of Ms. Crafts Steele family this book continues the saga.

As the couple is planning their wedding they go through all types of drama, some of it unbelievable in today’s times. Christian is very moody and can't seem to get over the things his ex-wife did before she died. Dosha is more patient than any woman I ever read about. Who would be able to handle their fiancĂ©e constantly lamenting their past relationship????

I was disappointed with this book and I am a fan of Francine Craft. The book had no real point of reference, one minute the couple is stuck in the past, the next minute someone's threatening Dosha, the next they're living in fear of things learned from a Tarot card reading. It felt like being in a screeching car, it kept starting and stopping. The cover had a great looking couple on the front.

Every Thug Needs A Lady
Wahida Clark
Publisher: Dafina Books/Kensington
Publication Date: October 2006

ISBN: 0-7582-1288-7
Genre: Urban Lit/Street Fiction

Rating: 2 Stars -OK
Reviewed by: Danni Jackson

Every Thug Needs a Lady follows the lives of four friends – Jaz, Kyra, Angel and Roz – and their quest to turn their lives around despite being from the hood.

All four ladies are graduating college and on the verge of a new life. Roz is going to be a physical and respiratory therapist, Angel to be a corporate lawyer, Kyra plans are graduation, grad school and then becoming a doctor of psychology and Jaz is about to graduate and go to medical school.

Every Thug Needs a Lady revolves around the dramas that unfold in their lives along with their thug boyfriends. Roz who is also known as Tasha is infatuated with Trae who also happens to be a good friend of her former boyfriend of five years who is incarcerated. Trae wants Roz but she doesn’t want to date another thug. Also Angel who is about to embark on her career post law school, is intrigued by Trae’s best friend Kaylin but she doesn’t want to give in to the feelings and plays hard to get.

Every Thug Needs a Lady is raw and richly detailed. It contains all the elements that are popular with the urban/street lit genre. So the common elements of thugs, money, drugs, bling, drug dealers, prison, designer clothes and sex is rampant throughout the book.

The character are trying to grow up but don’t seem to be succeeding. The actions and their words do not match. The girls say they want one thing but don’t appear to have the focus or determination or know how to achieve their goals. It’s apparent these women are lacking in some very common life skills in order to move past their current life status and truly leave the ghetto/inner city behind.

Every Thug Needs a Lady also suffers from a bevy of editing issues including many typographical and grammatical errors.

I found this book to be somewhat contradictory in the character goals and motivations but it did make you think – every character is well educated but on the flip side has a thug/playa persona. And it appears that the thuggish side wins out for a while. The question that came to my mind is - How strong is the pull of the street/criminal lifestyle? Is the lure of the street life and being a hustler so powerful and why?

I would definitely recommend that readers read the first book before this one, though it is not required, it may help in understanding parts of it.

Every Thug Needs a Lady took a while for me to get into. The usual fast pace of street fiction books’ was missing from the first third of this book. It took to long for me to become engaged in the book and with the characters. It was, in my opinion, unsurprising in the plot and the perfect “hood” fairytale.

The first book was better because the characters were more diversely drawn and easier to differentiate. It seems that all the ladies end up in the exact same or very similar situations in their lives and haven’t learned anything from witnessing the drama that their “friends” go through. So in essence, it becomes the same or a very similar story which is tedious and predictable. The characters lack a clear growth and in some parts are not very developed.

The ending and subsequent epilogue was confusing but everything wrapped up and everyone’s lives turned around so there is the Happily Ever After. There was enough left unfinished as a teaser to tempt readers to purchase the third book in this series to see what else happens in the lives of these friends.

Your First Novel
By Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb
Writer's Digest
ISBN: 9781582973883, 2007
Nonfiction/How-To (Writing)
Published: September 2006

Guest Reviewer: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Publisher's Site:

Pay No Attention to the Title

Your First Novel Is for All Novelists, from Would-Be to Seasoned

When I teach my writing students, I urge them to keep reading, keep writing, keep taking classes. Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb, the agent and author combination who have cobbled together a definitive first book of reading for novelists, urge writers to do the same thing. Having said that, this may very well be the place for a would-be novelist to start.

It's also a great place for a seasoned writer to refresh, pick up a few new hints, get inspired and get some understanding—some real understanding—of what it is agents do.

The reason this book is so important is that both authors come from a place of experience and both have researched their lesson plans. Not only that, Dennis Lehane's foreword will inspire any writer—any writer!—to dig into their craft and the business of publishing by reading farther.

Whitcomb doesn't just give good advice; she illustrates her points liberally with quotations from the classics and newer writers who have perfected their craft. The visuals she provides for, say, "Accents and Dialect" are as clear as if they had been diagrammed for you by the sternest of English-teaching nuns. Only Whitcomb isn't at all stern. Rather her voice (another subject she discusses) will convince writers of her warmth, that she cares about writing, both her own and that of others.

Rittenberg is equally engaging. The most jaded of novelists will come away from her section of the book (publishing, queries, marketing and more!) with a sense that to know an agent may—after all—be to love one.

This book is one that should be grabbed, read, and kept reference-handy by writers at most any stage in their careers. Okay, I'll exempt Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver, but you get the idea.

Two Loves, One Heart
Carrie J. Keaton
Author House
ISBN: 1-4259-3017-4 (sc)
Published: June 2006
Mainstream Fiction

Rating: 1 Star – Poor
Reviewed by: Marguerite Lemons

Lynette Thomas gives up the opportunity to finish her college education in order to marry her high school sweetheart and move with him to South Carolina. Her fairytale life soon becomes a nightmare when her loving husband becomes emotionally detached and abusive.

Steven Montgomery is a successful attorney and the former class nerd, in his and Lynette’s high school. Steven becomes Lynette’s night in shining armor when he rescues her from a hopeless situation.

Two Loves, One Heart is a story about a woman who is given a second chance to live and love after surviving an abusive marriage. I found the characters boring, the plot predictable and story poorly written.

I had a hard time reading this book. It was full of typographical and grammatical errors, and there were parts that were completely out of sequence. In one chapter she’s seven months pregnant, and in the next she’s three or four. I was really ready to give up when I read about a child in one chapter that had yet to be conceived let alone born until several chapters later.

Ms. Keaton, I applaud the effort you put into writing your story and getting it printed, but your proof-reader and editor did not serve you well.

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