28 8 / 2012

An Accidental Affair by Eric Jerome Dickey

James Thicke is a man whose mysterious past runs as deep as his violent streak. He’s channeled the intensity of his soul into twin passions-success as a screenwriter, and marriage to movie actress Regina Baptiste. In the midst of filming his latest script, starring Regina and leading man Johnny Bergs, James receives a video of his wife caught in the most compromising of situations.

Hours later, the clip of the on-set infidelity has hit the Internet and gone viral in the blogosphere and across all channels of social media. James responds to the affront by savagely attacking Johnny Bergs, and the spectacle has both the paparazzi and the police amassing at the married couple’s estate. James goes on the run, but only as far as the city of Downey, California. As James tries to protect Regina from Hollywood’s underbelly, lust, blackmail, and revenge become his constant companions. Does an accidental affair spell permanent danger?

I haven’t been as enthused about Dickey’s novels for a while now. His stories used to be one of my “Black girl who loves to read” staples, but I eventually either grew out of his story lines or he stopped putting much effort into creating enjoyable books. From the above book synopsis, one would think that this story would be entertaining, but unfortunately, An Accidental Affair falls into the “un-enjoyable” books category.

My book club chose this for our August themed “New Novel” selection. From the get go, the book was filled with name dropping and attempts to put the reader into the world of the modern blog and social network driven media. Every few pages contained a blog entry or a Facebook status or a reference to a tweet. That would have almost been ok had the story line been somewhat believable and not ridiculously repetitive, but all it did was add to the already long list of irritating quirks within the book that were excessively distracting:

  • Every characters’ full name was given every single time they were mentioned
  • Every character always wore a t-shirt with a quirky saying on it
  • The author seemed to intentionally keep the race of the two main characters a secret
  • There were full pages of dialogue with no mention to who was speaking, or HOW they were speaking, resulting in a lot of confusion about the conversations taking place

This book was unneccessarily long as well. Had it been cut down by 200 pages, or even reduced to a novella, I think I would have enjoyed it much better. Not being too much of a fan of erotica, I thought I’d be severely turned off by the sex scenes, but the actual scenes weren’t so bad. The circumstances surrounding them were, though, causing much of the story to be completely unbelievable.

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this story to anybody. It almost came across as if Dickey may be stuck in a contract requiring him to produce a certain amount of books, so he’s doing that, but not using the talent and thought in structure that put him on the map. I hope he gets back to writing good, entertaining novels, soon and very soon.

Grade: D

28 8 / 2012

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife’s childlessness.

Meet Baba Segi …

A plump, vain, and prosperous middle-aged man of robust appetites, Baba Segi is the patriarch of a large household that includes a quartet of wives and seven children. But his desire to possess more just might be his undoing.

And his wives …

Iya Segi—the bride of Baba Segi’s youth, a powerful, vindictive woman who will stop at nothing to protect her favored position as ruler of her husband’s home.

Iya Tope—Baba Segi’s second wife, a shy, timid woman whose decency and lust for life are overshadowed by fear.

Iya Femi—the third wife, a scheming woman with crimson lips and expensive tastes who is determined to attain all that she desires, no matter what the cost.

Bolanle—Babi Segi’s fourth and youngest wife, an educated woman wise to life’s misfortunes who inspires jealousy in her fellow wives … and who harbors a secret that will expose shocking truths about them all.

This was BookTini’s July book club selection for our International theme. Based in Nigeria, Shoneyin’s novel burrows deep into the polygamous lifestyle of the well off Baba Segi, and his conniving and dangerous wives who will stop at nothing to make sure their position in his life is safe.

Though polygamy is taking a downturn in the African country, it still remains a practiced custom among those who have yet to embrace the mostly modern practice of monogamy. So what happens when a polygamist adds a modern, educated woman to his list of wives, a woman who couldn’t fit in as wife #4 no matter how hard she tried?

Jealousy, stubborness, and “mean girl” antics permeate throughout the story. When the beautiful and sophisticated Bolanle is heralded as Baba Segi’s new wife, the older, more experienced wives begin to worry that she’ll soon take over their household. But when it is apparent that Bolanle can’t bear any children, the women use that to their advantage to keep her low on Baba Segi’s totem pole.

Shoneyin doesn’t just regale us with negative stories of women, though. She makes sure to include every wife’s back story, starting from their birth, so that each woman’s reasoning for their actions is apparent: powerlessness will make you do what you have to do to survive.

I greatly enjoyed this peek into Nigerian life, customs, and tradition. Though the  ending seemed to wrap up much too quickly, leaving me (and much of my book club) wanting more, the overall story was entertaining. The book club had a great time discussing what we all would do if ever put in such a situation.

I’d recommend this to those interested in African literature, Nigerian lit in particular. Also, those who are interested in stories filled with polygamy, the lives of women in Nigeria, and cat fights.

Grade: B

31 7 / 2012

As we do every year, my book club met in June for a coed meeting to discuss a books based on a gender related topic. This year, we chose We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity, bell hooks ode to Black men in America.

hooks took us on a journey through American history while explaining the whos, whats, whens, and whys surrounding the lack of direction and responsibility within the Black community. She explains how the introduction of white male patriarchy was extremely damaging to African men brought to America in shackles because they were bombarded by the image of men taking financial care of their families, while being members of a society that would not allow them to due so because of their status as slaves. With the abolition of slavery, came the black codes, KKK, segregation, and other discriminatory practices that prevented Black men from fitting into the American definition of “man”. Left to do little or nothing for their families, many have turned to either lives of crime or laziness, relying on the women in their lives to be responsible for Black households.

Very interesting stuff. Due to my background in Black/African American studies I was aware of much of the information shared, but it was still eye opening to read hooks’ point of view and review her research.

The book was extremely textbook-ish though, so many within the book club complained about it being boring and a lot of people gave up on it. I admit that after the first few chapters, I felt like something was missing. I kind of expected to read of the “cool” of Black men, how and why they are envied, where it originated from and what aesthetically and culturally makes them so cool, but the book seemed to solely rely on explaining why Black men have not been able to be the best they can be; their coolness resulting in them being treated like second class citizens. Nothing is wrong with that kind of subject matter, but the title seems to be a bit misleading.

Regardless, the book discussion resulted in a raucous, sometimes serious, sometimes hilarious discussion between the men and women within our group. Throw in BBQ, other good eats, and Tropical Orgasms (our signature drink) and a great time was had by all.

GRADE: B-

06 6 / 2012

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

Ernessa T. Carter brings us the story of small town Mississippi native, Davie Jones, the oft overlooked ugly duckling with a mean mama, an infatuation with the cutest guy in high school, and classmates who insist on calling her Monkey Night. She finds solace in the movie 16 Candles, and goes by the mantra, “What would Molly Ringwald do?” After an embarrassingly horrendous incident, Davie escapes to Los Angeles, and reinvents herself into a sought after singer in a well known night club. Everything is fine until the cutest guy from high school shows up a decade later and turns her world upside down.

As I’ve stated a gazillion times, I love romantic comedies and chick lit, so this story was right up my alley. Davie’s antics had me yelling at the pages, threatening to throw the book out of my window, and smiling really hard at the cheesy stuff. What can I say? I’m a romantic who always wants a happy ending.

There were a few parts that I can say kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but I can’t delve into specifics without spoiling the story. I’ll just say that I would have preferred that the author had explained events as they were happening, instead of all of a sudden clumping a million things into a particular section.

Other than that, the book was enjoyable and a perfect read for our BookTini’s Chick Lit month selection in May.

Grade: B

11 5 / 2012

May Book Club Selection: BookTini’s theme for May is Chick Lit, so the club voted to select is Ernessa T. Carter’s 32 Candles as our Literary Selection of the month.

Davie—an ugly duckling growing up in small-town Mississippi—is positive her life couldn’t be any worse. She has the meanest mother in the South, possibly the world, and on top of that, she’s pretty sure she’s ugly. Just when she’s resigned herself to her fate, she sees a movie that will change her life—Sixteen Candles. But in her case, life doesn’t imitate art. Tormented endlessly in school with the nickname “Monkey Night,” and hopelessly in unrequited love with a handsome football player, James Farrell, Davie finds that it is bittersweet to dream of Molly Ringwald endings. When a cruel school prank goes too far, Davie leaves the life she knows and reinvents herself in the glittery world of Hollywood—as a beautiful and successful lounge singer in a swanky nightclub.
Davie is finally a million miles from where she started—until she bumps into her former obsession, James Farrell. To Davie’s astonishment, James doesn’t recognize her, and she can’t bring herself to end the fantasy. She lets him fall as deeply in love with her as she once was with him. But is life ever that simple? Just as they’re about to ride off into the sunset, the past comes back with a vengeance, threatening to crush Davie’s dreams—and break her heart again.

This month, our Oakland-East Bay chapter agreed to support a local book store by purchasing our Literary Selection from Marcus Book Store, the oldest Black owned and operated book store in the nation, with locations in Oakland & San Francisco.
I gave the copies out to our members at our April 15th meeting and within a week, people had finished it and were exclaiming how much they loved it. Many said it was similar to reading a rom-com, which I’m happy to hear since I’m a romantic at heart and love reading about love! 
I’ve been trying to wait to read it just so I’ll be able to retain the info for our May 20th discussion, so I’ll be cracking it open today.

May Book Club Selection: BookTini’s theme for May is Chick Lit, so the club voted to select is Ernessa T. Carter’s 32 Candles as our Literary Selection of the month.

Davie—an ugly duckling growing up in small-town Mississippi—is positive her life couldn’t be any worse. She has the meanest mother in the South, possibly the world, and on top of that, she’s pretty sure she’s ugly. Just when she’s resigned herself to her fate, she sees a movie that will change her life—Sixteen Candles. But in her case, life doesn’t imitate art. Tormented endlessly in school with the nickname “Monkey Night,” and hopelessly in unrequited love with a handsome football player, James Farrell, Davie finds that it is bittersweet to dream of Molly Ringwald endings. When a cruel school prank goes too far, Davie leaves the life she knows and reinvents herself in the glittery world of Hollywood—as a beautiful and successful lounge singer in a swanky nightclub.

Davie is finally a million miles from where she started—until she bumps into her former obsession, James Farrell. To Davie’s astonishment, James doesn’t recognize her, and she can’t bring herself to end the fantasy. She lets him fall as deeply in love with her as she once was with him. But is life ever that simple? Just as they’re about to ride off into the sunset, the past comes back with a vengeance, threatening to crush Davie’s dreams—and break her heart again.

This month, our Oakland-East Bay chapter agreed to support a local book store by purchasing our Literary Selection from Marcus Book Store, the oldest Black owned and operated book store in the nation, with locations in Oakland & San Francisco.

I gave the copies out to our members at our April 15th meeting and within a week, people had finished it and were exclaiming how much they loved it. Many said it was similar to reading a rom-com, which I’m happy to hear since I’m a romantic at heart and love reading about love! 

I’ve been trying to wait to read it just so I’ll be able to retain the info for our May 20th discussion, so I’ll be cracking it open today.

03 4 / 2012

April Book Club Selection, The Help by Kathryn Stockett - In November, we were supposed to read and watch The Help, but unfortunately, the movie hadn’t been released on DVD and there were no bootleg copies to be found lol We opted for Something Borrowed (and enjoyed it immensely) and moved our viewing of The Help to April, our official movie month. Now April is here and all I can think about is “Darnit, we should have read The Hunger Games!”
Dah, well…maybe next year.
I feel like I’m the only book slore who hasn’t read The Help. I have, however, seen the movie. I loved it. I never quite understood the backlash spearheaded by so many Black women, but I felt that maybe the book would shine a light on why so many were upset. I’m 100 pages in and I have yet to see the controversy. I hate that this issue looms over my reading experience, though. Instead of having an authentic reading experience, I feel like I am looking for something that will offend me.
So far so good, though. Another member has already expressed how addictive the story has been. I think the book, movie, and issues surrounding the reception of both will make for a great discussion

April Book Club Selection, The Help by Kathryn Stockett - In November, we were supposed to read and watch The Help, but unfortunately, the movie hadn’t been released on DVD and there were no bootleg copies to be found lol We opted for Something Borrowed (and enjoyed it immensely) and moved our viewing of The Help to April, our official movie month. Now April is here and all I can think about is “Darnit, we should have read The Hunger Games!”

Dah, well…maybe next year.

I feel like I’m the only book slore who hasn’t read The Help. I have, however, seen the movie. I loved it. I never quite understood the backlash spearheaded by so many Black women, but I felt that maybe the book would shine a light on why so many were upset. I’m 100 pages in and I have yet to see the controversy. I hate that this issue looms over my reading experience, though. Instead of having an authentic reading experience, I feel like I am looking for something that will offend me.

So far so good, though. Another member has already expressed how addictive the story has been. I think the book, movie, and issues surrounding the reception of both will make for a great discussion

19 3 / 2012

My book club’s new logo

My book club’s new logo

09 3 / 2012

Book plates sent by author @Tayari Jones for BookTini’s March selection, Silver Sparrow. I’m starting it today. Can’t wait.

Book plates sent by author @Tayari Jones for BookTini’s March selection, Silver Sparrow. I’m starting it today. Can’t wait.

23 2 / 2012

This pic was taken after BookTini’s discussion of Common’s memoir, Feb 19th.
To be honest, we talked more about Whitney Houston, the funeral, and Bobby Brown, than the book. About 99.99% of the club agreed that the story just wasn’t good: it wasn’t engaging and bored a lot of people. Nearly half barely made it to 100 pages. We’ve never had a discussion where we strayed so far off topic and stayed there for the majority of the meeting. I almost felt bad for the guy (even though I was part of the 99%).
Our Oakland chapter wasn’t the only one that thought the book was a waste. Tawanda from BookTini’s DC chapter stated, “Our discussion was so short. Everyone was like, ‘Common is so damn wack’, and then we ate mac and cheese.”
LMAO
Better luck next time. 

This pic was taken after BookTini’s discussion of Common’s memoir, Feb 19th.

To be honest, we talked more about Whitney Houston, the funeral, and Bobby Brown, than the book. About 99.99% of the club agreed that the story just wasn’t good: it wasn’t engaging and bored a lot of people. Nearly half barely made it to 100 pages. We’ve never had a discussion where we strayed so far off topic and stayed there for the majority of the meeting. I almost felt bad for the guy (even though I was part of the 99%).

Our Oakland chapter wasn’t the only one that thought the book was a waste. Tawanda from BookTini’s DC chapter stated, “Our discussion was so short. Everyone was like, ‘Common is so damn wack’, and then we ate mac and cheese.”

LMAO

Better luck next time. 

01 2 / 2012

February Book Club Selection: One Day It’ll All Make Sense by Common
In 2012, I decided to institute monthly themes* for BookTini, to ensure a diverse list of Literary Selections. To coincide with Black History month, our February theme is “a memoir, biography, or cultural criticism with focus on the African American community or African diaspora”. Sounds heavy, but it really isn’t. With prior selections like Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power, and Scott Paulson Bryant’s examintion of Black male sexuality in Hung, we already have a loose pattern of reading books in this territory.
The club voted to read Common’s somewhat recent memoir, Some Day It’ll All Make Sense. I’m not big on reading up on the lives of celebrities (unless it’s ybf.com), but I’m 100 pages in and it’s not too bad. Common shares his humble beginnings growing up in Chicago (with a mama who DOES NOT PLAY lol), and also gives insight on fatherhood, where his consciousness comes from, his rise to stardom as a rapper, and a few of his high profile relationships.
So far so good.
*January’s theme was ANY NOVEL.

February Book Club Selection: One Day It’ll All Make Sense by Common

In 2012, I decided to institute monthly themes* for BookTini, to ensure a diverse list of Literary Selections. To coincide with Black History month, our February theme is “a memoir, biography, or cultural criticism with focus on the African American community or African diaspora”. Sounds heavy, but it really isn’t. With prior selections like Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power, and Scott Paulson Bryant’s examintion of Black male sexuality in Hung, we already have a loose pattern of reading books in this territory.

The club voted to read Common’s somewhat recent memoir, Some Day It’ll All Make Sense. I’m not big on reading up on the lives of celebrities (unless it’s ybf.com), but I’m 100 pages in and it’s not too bad. Common shares his humble beginnings growing up in Chicago (with a mama who DOES NOT PLAY lol), and also gives insight on fatherhood, where his consciousness comes from, his rise to stardom as a rapper, and a few of his high profile relationships.

So far so good.

*January’s theme was ANY NOVEL.