Monday, September 12, 2011

23rd Psalm

Christopher C. Odom’s The 23rd Psalm’ requests your attention, with a message and a method to a madness straight from the ‘hood. This the debut offering for this talented writer who also wrote, and co-produced it with Cornelius Booker III. Originally offered in 2007, it won Best Picture award at the San Diego Film Festival amid accolades attributed to the players involved. Does it matter where the setting is when characters are vivid and dramatic in their portrayal of semantics that justify issues that need to be resolved? One can make the assertion that the Watts section of Los Angeles would be perfect for such a backdrop where a poignant saga shadows an African-American police detective, who unconsciously channels his intuition to cope with his shortcomings and significantly solve a dubious murder. This is LA Police Detective John Smith’s story, where faith initiatives are manifested in believing in innate feelings and deep soulful hints to elicit due diligence. But who would want murder to involve a reformed prostitute, born again but died to soon? To get to the bottom of who, what, when, where and how, he first must deal with his own demons until the truth tells a much different story. Leslie Jones, Arnita Champion, and Markhum Stansbury Jr. star.
Alcoholism and cynicism in any demographic will prove to be a bad mix for competence and sheer ability for proficiency, especially when complacency finds a way to be define mindsets. Mr. Smith is a candidate for the latter. First depicting it as an ordinary urban prostitute murder there’s no need to possess a sense of urgency. But when John's intuition sparks a new interest, where he experiences omniscient-type visions about the victim, her murder, and other extenuating evidence. Realizing that he must conquer his fears and doubts it only adds fuel to the fire as time becomes both an ally and a detriment. The story takes off when John experiences a brief vignette of a random murdered prostitute, and 12 hours later, miraculously the vision becomes a reality. Ironically, John is assigned to investigate the murder. With very few clues, John does his due diligence and contacts anyone who had recent interaction with the prostitute. Clues abound with dire results, along with the usual innuendo, false tips, and contradictions. 
Tantamount to any good story are memorable characters gracing the setting and a backstory to support contrast, tone and tenor. Adjunct to it all is a doctor committed to his practice, a caring shopkeeper and a ‘holier than thou’ pastor. Each of these characters have their own depictions of the victim. To wit: The doctor stereotypically sees all sexed crazed women with prostitution being a destined fate; the pastor talks about salvation, soul-winning and the need to be born again in the same breath; and the shopkeeper reveals a need for the victim  to have had a friend...someone who would have only cared! Like many who may not be committed enough to be persuasive and perseverant, they all try convincing John to save face and admit to a dead end. Time is of essence but much of it spent in the bottle doesn’t help until innate visions haunt him at every turn of the need to look further and go yet, deeper for the truth. 

The turning point of the story reaches a near climax when John decides to spend more time in the diaspora that created the monster -- the hood! A group of homeless people in there uses different colors and bigger canvases to paint images about the murdered prostitute that wasn’t before realized - a story of transforming grace on a cleared palette. Realizing that his triumvirate of informers had been far from accurate in their depictions of their interactions with the murdered prostitute, John goes back to them intent on closing the case, which culminates in the denouement, and the film's shocking, if not unsuspected ending! I rated this film 3 stars out of 5. Could it have been better? You betcha! But despite a few flaws where a few interludes in my opinion were choppy and uneven, the actors did a credible job of bringing to the fore the gist of what the writer had in mind. I felt that the backstory could have been more defined to shed more light on the prostitutes prior life. Drama notwithstanding, this is a must see reissue. All of the aforementioned didn’t give me notion that this movie shouldn’t be embraced. If there’s more to Christopher C. Odom’s creative spirit he deserves other chances to show that he can be considered worthy of stepping up to the next level, be it writing, directing or producing. Buy this movie and watch it wherever it’s shown at theaters near you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

As A Man Thinketh...

Ever felt that you were on the backside of the mountain, looking up from the valley where you’re currently wading shallow waters of river deep concerns? It‘s perhaps a dark period of your life now, and need to seek more common ground. You’re prone to someone’s shoulders to cry on where time and place demand accountability. How does one go about keeping their heads above water and coping with losing close and loving friends…those that have clung close to the ribs, tugged at the heart, and gave new meaning to significance? I think on things that tend to give me spasms of the mind, dwelling on them, and allowing them to spur me to action, but it’s not about me. I think about those in this predicament. I endeavor to get them out of this stupor. As a man thinketh so is he, the adage goes, but who else would you turn to? The answer is all apparent -- the Lord.

It's time for you to pay homage to that which will free you from bondage, and allow your melancholy blue to bright colors akin to illuminating light and rays of hope. You’re not alone...God has His hand on your shoulders. You’ve listed to your Pastor and he has enlightened you. It's like that train that chugs up that mountain looking for willing passengers, not losing steam each step of the way. The traces of erstwhile tears pale against the tracks that the train is traversing, looking for destination without being destitute, and better directions to focus for clearer vision. It’s time for you to make discernible options and endeavor to make better decisions how you strive for quality living. As you think and tinker with time, the temerity of fate will test your faith, but you are still blessed and highly flavored. Okay, you’ve heard that whisper…that still small voice that packs a whale of a punch. When He speaks, one must listen. As you stand, that mountain is not so rough after all, the river can now be navigated, and the lilies of the valley are in full bloom! You’d want to thank the Lord for joining you on the road to Damascus. You have once again been lifted up from adversity and have been righted a better course. As a man thinketh your head indeed is to the sky, and you are alive!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

In Search of the Village That Raised Me

Oh, how I long for days when the living was easy and the cost of living was generally how you were raised, and where grits and grocery were appreciated more! It didn’t take me all of three scores to bring me to realization that I truly miss those old times...times when (dis)obedience was the sum of the parts that determined the consequences of right and wrong. You will probably remember too, how certain things will always be etched in your mind, and you may remember how you used to do things, how things were packaged and delivered to the social fabric that allowed ties to bind, as you’d find yourself comparing then to now. The old adage that ‘time waits for no man’ shouldn’t be understated, and can be best attributed to how we look at change and what is affected by it. Look no further than what you see around you, whether you venture outside of your power structure or stay within the boundaries of your inner being, the way things used to be is no more! Believe that! Nowadays communities far and wide are hard-pressed to maintain and find nostalgic value that once identified pride and privilege just to be associated with a sense of belonging. Seemingly, gone are the days when morals and ethics were instilled as part of familial mindset, complete with the discipline needed to augment right from wrong and applicable procedures to train up that child right. I can surely attest to those lost valuables while penning my upcoming book, ‘Righteous Apples and Other Spiritual Gems’ recalling what should be part of remembering when the simple things in life really meant something. It’s the precious homilies that I allude to in it that always brings me back to know how much I miss simplicity and quality living standards as I search for that village that raised me.

Many cities across the nation begat the origins of Black life near and around railroad tracks adjoining the spic and span of downtown locales, where whole generations jockeyed for position, and staked out livelihoods that colored canvases using hues that are exemplified earlier in this essay. Know that the generation you’re living in as you read this essay is nothing like what you experienced if you’re a Baby Boomer like me. A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom era, and the term itself is sometimes used in a cultural context. However, I’m using it here to illustrate differences and drawing parallel to changes that occurred back in the day as opposed to what’s happening now. In general though, baby boomers are usually associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values. So much so that many people have disputed the extent of that rejection, noting the widespread continuity of values with older and younger generations are varied and are allowing changes to truly broaden new sensibilities and other acquired habits to institutionalize a way of life. My, how times have changed! And it is that specific quality of life that I harken back to that has me reminiscing and longing for this generation to snap out of it.

Where is that village that raised me? Can I borrow the chinaberry bush switch that I had to clear the leaves off of so that my whipping would be complete...or perhaps turn back the hands of time, snatch some of what Big Mama preached, and give it to today’s youngsters? What is it that has parenting taking a back seat to taking control of their households? Back in the day there was a strong sense of togetherness in our society. The streets weren’t mean and malicious ready to swallow you up with every wrong turn you took. There were no hard-scale robberies, and petty theft were no more ‘grand‘ than taking money out of our mama’s pocketbook (which surely made you stand front and center with that chinaberry switch!). We looked out for each other and respected the elderly. You didn’t dare let Miss Sally (who always sat on the porch with good vantage points and saw EVERYTHING) catch you doing anything out of the way. If word got back to mama and daddy you HAD to confess, even if it wasn’t the way it actually happened ‘lest you ran the risk of calling Miss Sally a liar. Along with that, it would be unforgivable for someone of any age to walk in front of someone’s house, and if they were sitting out front (like Miss Sally always did), and you not wave and ask how they were doing. Moreover, you did not pass anyone on the street without speaking, especially if it was an elder...and if you were addressed by them you were expected to respond by saying ‘yes ma’am and no sir’ . Every responsible adult had the right, and were expected to chastise you and you knew when you got home you had another one coming! Everybody helped everybody, no one went hungry and we weren’t poor by any stretch of the imagination.

My heart is heavy and my mind hurts just observing what I see in today’s society. You have babies raising babies where girls are getting pregnant at such early ages. There are no more ‘Big Mama’s. They are all in the clubs, quite a bit of them in the 35-40 age range. There seems to be more one-parent households where the fathers have all but disappeared. Mothers are raising boys in matriarchal families and girls are not being taught the ways of men by their daddies. Social mores have eradicated with the softening and graying of gender awareness. It is the bi-curious nature that have homosexual tendencies running rampart, complete with androgynous personas with females especially wanting to be, and adhering to male dominances. I remember being taught to respect females and the attributes of chivalry. I felt for my sister and the sisters of my friends if and when they got out of line wanting to be more than what was taught that a respectable girl should embody. I know for a fact that girls back then were much harder to get than the ones I see in this generation! Church took on a life of its own. There was no such thing as you not going to church...not only did you go, but you were expected to be an active part of it, not like today where you see young folk leaving it in droves. Teens and young adults are not staying put to differ between being religious as opposed to embracing spirituality to perfect that quality of living I spoke of earlier. We had a few pimps, mind you...and prostitution wasn’t hidden, but today the new-fangled pimps are bold beyond measure -- you have them ascending pulpits! They’re continually leading God’s people astray with false prophetic views, albeit while proving that church is big business worthy of having a megachurch mentality.

Yes, I’m in search of that village that raised me. I want prayer and discipline back in the public school systems; I pray that every Black man change their selfish ways searching their souls and be accountable for loving their wives, embracing their children and bolstering their communities. I need for more women to stop taking the flak that men come up with just to get what they other words ladies, close the candy shop and let them earn the goodies like my father and his father before him did. There are several other things that I’d like to see the village of today incorporate into their lives: I want our communities to stop being disenfranchised and exploited by people of other persuasions that don’t respect us. I want us to form more meaningful coalitions, love each other more, and learn how to better play the 21-century game of social responsibility and be ‘game changers’. That of advancing to the next level of personal and professional success, unleashing the greatness that lies within. Meanwhile, I will continue to search for my ‘village’ and teach those willing to listen!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

VERBATIM!: Hear Their Voices -- Children With Parents in Prison

VERBATIM!: Hear Their Voices -- Children With Parents in Prison

Hear Their Voices -- Children With Parents in Prison

Incarceration is no joke, and often it has become status quo for wrong doers to be meted out punishment for their misdeeds. But what about the children who are faced with growing up without parents who will not be their for them? Is it conceivable too, to say that there’s problematic issues with the fact that at least 3 million children (an counting!) who have one or both parents in prison? They face, and are dealing with challenges and hardships through their own voices, and by way of the caregivers, grandparents, teachers, school counselors and social workers who are raising and interacting with them daily. Their stories and thoughts are unique. Authors Howard Zehr and Lorraine Stutzman-Amstutz decided it wasn’t robbery to give voice, visibility and vitality to these oft-forgotten children in their superb book, ‘What Will Happen To Me?’ Not least of which shouldn’t be understated are the importance also of the portraits supplied by Mr. Zehr as adjunct photographer bolstering the impact of the visual effects to the subject matter therein.

What Will Happen To Me are the effects of how unfortunate circumstances and the unforgiving policies in the judiciary system can have adverse ramifications on families that are suffering the consequences. Sobering words and heartfelt lamentations abound from what has been showcased in this book. The authors were erudite in capturing not only the essence of what research methodology is supposed to be when exposing accumulative data, but also quite proficient in suggesting relative topical issues and strategies that may be beneficial to both the children and others associated with this malady. I loved this much so that it has heightened my awareness to want to be an advocate for the cause. The accolades I attribute are many, but first and foremost, it’s the voices of the children that are ever so vociferous and prevalent from the mouths of babes. Points to ponder proliferate throughout the whole book, evident in the detailed information and layout presentation. My support for the subject at hand is heart-felt as I hope when reading it, would have a bearing on the consciousness of what we should be doing to stem the tide and possible do what is needed to offer applicable means to augment aid.

The book is sectioned in various increments relative to cause, effect that forces you to be mindful of applicable measures for solutions. Part one deals with various statements from children interviewed juxtaposed with full-color poignancy. If a picture is akin to a 1,000 words then you will be mesmerized with expressions that can’t be ignored. The faces of the children with their stories are powerful! The message is the hope for change, and the need for the public to embrace their plight. Part two offers a look into what the caregivers are going through and information given for them which includes 10 questions that are obvious prompts that offer extensions to mindsets of children who are victimized by the circumstances surrounding incarcerated parents. These questions are typical of the breath and depth of what should be apropos for levels of commitment to rectify consequences relative to experiences associated with ill-treatments from schoolmates, familial attachments, adults who are ambivalent to their plight, and from those who are concerned but mired in the bureaucratic malaise that often accompany the judiciary system. Part three covers the topic as it pertains preventive measures and a sense of jurisprudence where t communities can, and should be working to restore corrective initiatives to help than hinder.

I like the fact that the authors believe that restorative justice and suggestive input are needed for strong support to garner more resources for challenge and change. I rate this book 5 stars out of five and recommend it for anyone who is serious about making a difference in the lives of children and families so affected. No matter what your thoughts are on this subject, the stories therein are large and compelling...and not only should they be heard, but greater effort should be indicative of the right kind of support and resources that can prevent other children from being victims aiding and abetting a system that is stifling the growth of the next generation. Buy this book where books are sold.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Sticky Are You?

Strange it is when first meeting someone, never dreaming that one day it would manifest into something much more than a pleasant surprise. Such is the case with circumstances surrounding up and coming singer, LaVeda Davis. I was first introduced to La Veda’s mother in the mid 80’s, who was a colleague of one of my brothers working at an area vocational tech school in Miami. I vividly remember she telling me that her daughter was destined for stardom because she has an incredible voice. It was years later that I actually got a chance to witness and hear this unique talent, now all grown up still the chartreuse that she was labeled. La Veda, born in Miami, FL, realized her love of music at the age of 7 which subsequently blossomed into a creative spirit enhancing writing poetry and and putting music to her words. As it was, singing was a natural progressive move! Exposed to Leontyne Price by her father, she developed this hunger to sing opera first, then on to jazz and rhythm and blues. Featured in TRACE magazine's 1998's ‘Women in Music’ issue along with Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Erykah Badu, and Janet Jackson, claiming the number nine (#9) spot. Honing her craft and not being confined to only singing, La Veda uses spoken word to help develop her songwriting skills and craft. No stranger to travel for exposure, she took part in the Double Talk 3, a Hip-Hop & Rap/Poetry festival in Amsterdam, featuring Antonia Reed aka Bahamadia, a Philadelphia-born hip hop artist. La Veda has performed in major music cities, such as Washington D.C., New York City, Amsterdam, Paris and her native Miami; and has recorded with many national and international music personalities and producers for a healthy mix, including,Tricky, Hada Guldris, N'Dinga Gaba, Kimani WIlson, Charles Dockins, A.D. Cruze, Dwayne Jensen, CJ Burken, Undah Dub, Steve Paradise, Trevor Goodchilde, Kenny "The Human Orchestra" Muhammad, Nitewerx, The Vision and Element of Titanz Entertainment, Cudda Brown, Dwayne Bastiany, Richard Joseph, Nicholas Walker, Barrington Williams, LineNoise, 418, Daniel Pinks, Kavayah Wright, DJ Booman, DJ Timmy, Joan Pau well and Dana Byrd, who has been featured as a collaborative lead vocalist on several of her previous recordings.

Opting to don only her first name for recognition, La Veda’s luxuriant voice, her deft, hummable hooks, and her individualistic lyrics are deliciously hard to forget. Her first solo album, Sticky/Foreplay,” just released on Harlem Station Recordings, has the authoritative grooves you’d expect from someone who’s collaborated with many of the aforementioned artists among other luminaries— any music aficionado wouldn’t have a problem tuning in to an incredible voice to set any mood. Can good music create a mood for a melange to know that a singer has arrived? Sticky/Foreplay, answers that very question. It exudes with sexual innuendo with all the trimmings of an expected climax! Fully rounded with 18 tracks, this album straddles various musical genres, from Urban Soul fused with Jazz to R&B with Europeanesque undertones. The songs on this set tend to be monotonous in style, where perhaps inclusion of different cadences would’ve given it more of an eclectic mix for those looking for a rise in temperature. Despite it being thematic, her stylistic renderings are smooth and simmering as the vocals are expertly segued with the type of fresh tracks and drum/bass sequences that flavors this album, and defines its distinctive and unmistakeable melodic flavor.

In my opinion, the tunes that touched me more were the ones that lives up to the title of the album -- ‘Second Skin’, ‘Round And Round’, ‘I Love You’, and the sensuous ‘Strip Down’. I asked La Veda to share insight on influences that have shaped her sound, only because I needed to know where did the ambiance come from to record this unique mix, and she responded by saying, “My father exposed me early on to some of the most extraordinary artists, such as Johnny Hartman, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, Brooke Benton, John Coltrane, Shirley Bassey, Phyllis Hyman, Barry White, War, Santana, Barbara Streisand, Sade, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Nat King Cole, Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye...there is an elegance in the way they told their stories, how they phrased their notes and how their voices and music left an profound mark on me.” This is the perfect idiom to set the stage for sensuality to accentuate whispers to scream. Great job La Veda, you have truly arrived and your introduction here is complete. Buy this CD and know that foreplay will be needed to really set you flowing!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Romer Reviewʼs Superlative Movers & Shakers and Other Memorable Books of 2010

The Romer Review proudly presents a personal list of achieving wunderkinds that made a difference this past year. in the literary arena. In my opinion 2010 was an exceptional year for me in more ways than one pertaining to all things literary. I saw quite a few people grow and provide services and good reading material! Moreover, there were certain people that in my opinion stood out and further solidified their worth in this industry above and beyond status quo. Notwithstanding last year was the arrival of the iPad, the ensuing e-reader/e-book price wars and the late-breaking launch of Google Editions that stirred the publishing industry into ever higher levels of panic. Questions abounded relative to whether the written word survive, or would books and bookstores be things of the past? If the best books published this year are any indication, I would beg to differ with my answer being a resounding yes! There were quite a few gems that defined the true essence of penmanship for crating stories with imagery in fiction, and with truths ever so magnified in the non-fiction world. No matter what changes come to the industry certain things will remain status quo, and that cuddling up with a good book will be the exception that fuels the rule. Albeit, delivery methods, and the mediumi which you read books may change, but writing is as vital as ever, and readers still get excited over books and the authorsthat write them. The books of 2010 did good by me. I want to pay homage to them here.

There were virtual marketing entities, people who expanded their expertise in cyberspace in providing literary resources and services, as well as those that showed a knack for making themselves visible and viable. In this age of recessive ills and cutbacks in the literary world, business went on as usual, especially among those that persevered. There were a few publishing companies that made my list, as well as Publicists, Authors and Editors that need to be recognized. Iʼm talking about substance and substantive input that made a difference with an upside for even greater potential in the future. This correspondence is my personal views on the superlative movers and shakers that stood out and the books that either that was promoted by them, the acclaim given thereof, and the legitimate options that made surfing the net worthwhile! Several quality manuscripts came across my desk for editing, as well as aspiring authors exhibiting potential. Thereʼs no substitute for excellent writing skill as well as books that have the propensity to hold my attention long after I reluctantly relinquish them. Like any good book with qualitative insight, I invariably came back to them in various mindsets. Usually I donʼt cotton to superlative lists more often than not. Why? Because you simply cannot list them all at the risk of omitting some that are just as worthy, but fail to adhere to any criteria for inclusion. I read too many books across the board and can honestly say that well over half of them were not quality reads. As an ʻA Listʼ reviewer with several major publishers the number of books I get in a years time is exhaustive. Compiling lists of this magnitude can be fraught with angst and trepidation on most voracious readers. For argument sake though, and to refute those that insist that there should be a list nonetheless from me, I will appease them only because of the nature of literary comparison and the many fans that look forward to getting opinionated views from books read and reviewed by me.

About my lists: The people and entities that I name for any of the lists here therein are based purely on observations, industry contact information and personal evaluation of all interactive activity both online an offline. Of course, all trade publications and insider information I have has implication for merited success to be honored by me. As for the books, Iʼve read and reviewed every book on the lists (fiction and non-fiction) and stand by them. I read across the board and get books from many publishers, mainstream and/or self-published. I selected them randomly and gave credence to those that touched me the most. They are not in any numeric order, nor are they based in my positioning on what other best seller lists may comprised one way or the other. I judge authors on artistic merit and their ability to write competently to sway any of their audiences, and thereʼs no favor based on race. As such I have broken my lists down and categorized them accordingly:


The Shack by William P. Young
Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain? The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

I, Alex Cross by James Patterson
You would have to know that ANY Alex Cross book written by this author would make my list! If you are a James Patterson reader then this latest offers nothing new on a theme he himself has already done to death in his 16th novel featuring detective Alex Cross (after Cross Country), in which Cross takes on yet another barbaric serial killer, this one known as Zeus. Word that an estranged 24-year-old niece, Caroline Cross, has been murdered disturbs Cross's birthday party. What makes all of his books great is how he intrically weaves stories that have you riveted without wanting to put the book down -- and this one doesnʼt disappoints.

Crave by J.R. Ward
This is book 2 of the Fallen Angels series from this author, and if youʼre looking for an entertaining and thought-provoking storylines check this, and the previous one for size. Isaac Rothe is a black ops soldier with a dark past and a grim future. The target of an assassin, he finds himself behind bars, his fate in the hands of his gorgeous public defender Grier Childe. His hot attraction to her can only lead to trouble-and that's before Jim Heron tells him his soul is in danger. Caught up in a wicked game with the demon who shadows Jim, Isaac must decide whether the soldier in him can believe that true love is the ultimate weapon against evil. It offers a sumptuous mix of danger and romance.

Uptown by Virginia DeBerry & Donna Grant
In Uptown a prominent Harlem family is strained to the breaking point by the high-stakes world of the Manhattan real estate industry, and one woman searches for her identity and the will to forgive. But after twenty years away, Avery Lyons returns to New York when her mother and uncle suffer a serious car accident. The tragedy brings the family together, but Avery is not happy about the impromptu reunion. She no longer recognizes the Harlem of her childhood, but the same old family dynamics and secrets are all too familiar . . .Steamy, provocative, and sexy, Uptown is a turbulent and triumphant read.

Big Girls Do Cry by Carl Weber
This is truly a soap opera in da hood! Sibling rivalry can escalate to open hostility, especially if your sister has married your rich ex-fiancé. But somehow, Isis and Egypt manage to get along. In fact, together theyʼve founded a unique book club, The Big Girls Book Club, where members have to be at least a size 14. Egypt moves into Rashid and Isisʼ mansion, but the arrangement starts to go south when Egypt realizes her feelings for Rashid, with whom she was involved for 10 years, havenʼt completely died. This is yet, another offering from Carl with lifelike characters—flawed, confused, frustrated, and sometimes plus-sized.

The House by Anjuelle Floyd
There are a plethora of books with this title, but the similarity ends with this authorʼs depiction of a haunting story of death, redemption and guilt. Anjuelle Floyd is The Romer Reviewʼs Debut Author of the Year and one of several to watch in 2011. Fresh off the heels of her previous masterpiece, Keeper of Secrets, The House is riveting and poignant. What happens when the divorce is final and youʼre ready to start anew? On receiving the very thing you wanted more than anything—a divorce and the power to sell the house—over which youʼve fought the past year—Anna Manning learns that Edward, her soon-to-be ex-husband is dying from cancer...and the plot thickens!

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
This is a haunting novel with good implications about the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers—one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London. What happens on a particular beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16- year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple--journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday--who should have stayed behind their resort's walls. The tide of that event carries Little Bee back to their world, which she claims she couldn't explain to the girls from her village because they'd have no context for its abundance and calm. What makes this book work is the amazing subliminal value of bridging the contrasts of race and culture.

The Help by Kathryn Stockette
In a page-turner that brings new resonance to the moral issues involved, the author spins a story of social awakening as seen from both sides of the American racial divide - a young southern white woman and two Black maids. Set during the civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss.,Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams.

Room by Emma Donnoghue
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon
Any book for and about Zora Neale Hurston will whet my appetite and this one written to appeal to young adults didnʼt disappoint. Told in the immediate first- person voice of 10-year-old Carrie, Zora Neale Hurstonʼs best childhood friend, this first novel is both thrilling and heartbreaking. Each chapter is a story that evokes the famous African American writerʼs early years in turn-of-the-last- century Eatonville, Florida, and the sharp, wry vignettes build to a climax, as Carrie and Zora eavesdrop on adults and discover secrets. Carrie mourns for her dad, who went to Orlando for work and never came back; Zoraʼs father is home, but he rejects her for being educated and “acting white,” unlike her favored sister. Racism is part of the story, with occasional use of the n-word in the colloquial narrative. This novel of lies and revelations will reach a wide audience.

Moonshine by Alaya Johnson
This is one of the best paranormal novels I read in 2011. Itʼs a period piece written in the vampiric thematic mode blending a tempestuous romance with dramatic historical fiction, populated by a lively mythology inhabiting the gritty New York City streets. Check out Zephyr Hollis, who is an underfed, overzealous social activist who teaches night school to the underprivileged of the Lower East Side. Strapped for cash, Zephyr agrees to help a student, the mysterious Amir, who proposes she use her charity worker cover to bring down a notorious vampire mob boss. What he doesnʼt tell her is why. Soon enough sheʼs tutoring a child criminal with an angelic voice, dodging vampires high on a new blood-based street drug, and trying to determine the real reason behind Amirʼs request—not to mention attempting to resist (often unsuccessfully) his dark, inhuman charm.

Tempted By Trouble by Eric Jerome Dickey
Booklist calls Eric Jerome Dickeyʼs latest book A serendipitous mix of lust, longing, and murder, but in my opinion this is another outstanding read that this talented author has given his audience. This is a cautionary tale, featuring a criminal prone to panic attacks. It shows that crime does pay, but only for a little while with a flaming-hot stand- alone set in the world of conmen and thieves. Multi-talented Dmytryk Knight earns his college degree. In addition to English, heʼs fluent in five languages. He finds a well-paying, white-collar job at a Detroit automobile company. Seven years later, a recession hits, and heʼs demoted to the assembly line. Seven years after that, the economy tanks, and heʼs laid off. Whatʼs a guy to do? In Dmytrykʼs case, he looks for honest work, and struggles on unemployment for two years. Dmytrykʼs wife, Cora, isnʼt happy with their stressful, uncertainexistence, so she pushes her husband to work for Eddie Coyle. The problem is, Coyle is a crime lord, and the job requirements include killing whom he wants, when he wants.

Bachelor Unleashed by Brenda Jackson
This is book 2 in the Batchelor in Demand Series...They had a hot, fleeting affair Farrah Langley has never forgotten. Attorney-to-the-rich-and-famous Xavier Kane was tender, sexy, attentive—and ravished her body. Everything she ever wanted in a lover. Getting together with him again in New York is a fantasy come true. She certainly doesnʼt expect the footloose bachelor to change his ways. And the burned-by-love mediator isnʼt looking for forever. But Xavier is. Thereʼs something about Farrah, though...something that touches him deep in his soul...something that keeps him coming back. So when fate brings them together again, Xavierʼs ready to pick up where they left off. But this time around, he wants more. Can he convince the lean, leggy beauty that heʼs That he wants only one woman in his bed, heart?

Non- Fiction

21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times
by Bernie Trilling & Charles Fadel
Thereʼs no other book of late that Iʼve read that tackles problems and gives a blueprint for how to deal with, and teach our children new standards for 21th Century success. The world has undergone foundational shifts in recent decades—widespread advances in technology and communications, booming economic developments and increased competition, and the escalation of global challenges from financial meltdowns to global warming. How can we prepare students to meet the challenges of our century if our schools remain virtually unchanged? This essential resource introduces a framework for 21st century learning that maps out the skills needed to survive and thrive in a complex and connected world. A 21st century education includes knowledge of traditional core subjects such as reading, writing, and arithmetic—but also emphasizes contemporary themes such as global awareness and financial/economic, health, and environmental literacies.

Career GPS: Strategies for Women Navigating the New Corporate Landscape
by Ella L.J. Edmondson Bell
The workplace is constantly in flux, and even now there are new opportunities open to women. But to take advantage of these possibilities, it's essential to know the current rules for corporate success.Women more than ever, and recent trends bear this out, are more saavy and tenacious in securing their own piece of the rock...and the work place is fertile ground for this new initiative. Author Ella L.J. Edmondson Bell puts a new spin on what it will take to solidify and continue to be major players in corporate America. She offers guidelines to help women forge their own pathways to professional ascent, providing tips for maximizing a review, networking in a relevant way, and much more.

Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Succes and Find Greatness by Randal Pinkett & Jeffrey Robinson
For generations, African-Americans have been told that to succeed, they need to work twice as hard as everyone else. But as millions of black Americans were reminded by Pinkett's experience, sometimes hard work is not enough. Black Faces in White Places is about "the game" that is, the competitive world in which we all live and work. The book of offers 10 revolutionary strategies for playing, mastering, and chang ing the game for the current generation, while under taking a whole sale redefinition of the rules for those who will follow. It is not only about shattering the old "glass ceiling," but also about examining the four dimensions of the contemporary black exper ience: identity, society, meritocracy, and opportunity. Ultimately, it is about changing the very concept of success itself. Based on the authors' considerable experiences in business, in the public eye, and in the minority, the book shows how African-American professionals can (and must) think and act both Entrepreneurially and "Intrapreneurially," combine their collective strengths with the wisdom of others, and plant the seeds of a positive and lasting legacy.

Through the Eyes of God by Shelia L. Jackson
Reading this book was a true epiphany for me because the author gave great analogies that aligned with a biblical foundation, which she used diligently for the general public to identify with. It exposes the people and places community, family, friends, and workplace-that are responsible for feelings of unworthiness and self-hatred, which can lead to an identity crisis. This problem is universal, crossing all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, classes and genders, because we all have struggled at some point in our lives with the need to be validated by others. This book solves the problem and brings healing to the whole person-mind, body, and spirit. It flows and give clarity to all of the above.

Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Women in American Life and Culture
by Sheri Parks
This is a MUST read for anyone interested in the evolution and manifestation of womenʼs continual legacy within her diaspora. Sheri Parksʼs authoritative yet deeply personal study exposes the overwhelming emotional costs—as well as the benefits—of the black femaleʼs roles as communal savior and martyr. traces the development of the “strong black woman,” from the oldest ongoing archetype to such modern-day inheritors of this legacy as Coretta Scott King, et al. Bringing it all home, Parks recalls the personal costs sheʼs paid for her own identity and captures those moments when she is expected to be all and know all. She challenges readers, mothers, and daughters alike to examine how damaging and rewarding this role can be and to take control of it in their lives. This book made me realize just how much I continue to respect women of color!

The Ministry of Motherhood by Cheryl Lacey Donovan
The Ministry of Motherhood is a triad of emotional value, attempting to explain what it truly means to be a responsible mother, what not to do to attain the epitome of the role, and a personal if not introspective look at how it affected her journey to now. The empowering refreshing messages will challenge mothers to look inside themselves for change. It will help them to identify the strongholds in their lives; public assistance, lack of education, abusive relationships, and tear them down with the help of the creator so that they can in turn take the steps necessary to build a better life for themselves and their children.

Master Your Debt: Slash Your Monthly Payments and Become Debt-Free
by Jordan E. Goodman w/Bill Westrom
In todayʼs economic crisis the ability to manage money, win at the mortgage game, clean up your credit report, and to learn the intricacies of negotiating new terms, now comes an in-depth blueprint with detailed advice on becoming free of debt. Master your debt contains many pioneering strategies as it lays out an innovative plan for achieving the elusive goals of financial success. Iʼm using it personally to help ME with my financial planning. I recommend it to you, too!

Generation EX-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith
...and How to Bring Them Back
by Drew Dyck
The widespread problematic issue of young folk leaving the church and compromising faith initiatives are topical for this book. The author gives in-depth analogies, research methodologies and applicable means to acentuate and bring tangible results for solutions. As a Deacon in my church and mentoring to young adults in general and teen boys in particular, this book touched me and has aided my progress relative to the title. Christians and lay folk alike would find this book compelling and poignant!

Daddyʼs Delight by Dr. Karia Bunting
Thereʼs no need to struggle with Godʼs design and destiny for His gift to mankind! Dr. Bunting gives great insight into how and what God took in fashioning woman to be the importance and value of each one and to relationships. So why do so many women struggle with God's design, wishing they could change just this or that one thing about themselves? Bunting challenges each reader to accept and embrace the fact that, in whatever season of life, she is God's masterpiece-not her own work of art. When God sees her, He sees His beautiful creation. A creation that yes, has some wrinkles needing to be smoothed out and yet, is one in whom is His delight to love to perfection.

Act Like A Lady,Think Like A Man
by Steve Harvey
Comedian and Celebrity Host Steve Harvey comes across in this book as the chivalrous and all-caring savior of women who he feels are not seeing the big picture of a manʼs world, and that they are all-knowing, regardless. Yet when it comes to relationships, he feels that they can't figure out what makes men tick. Why? According to Steve it's because they're asking other women for advice when no one but another man can tell them how to find and keep a man. In this book, Steve lets women inside the mindset of a man and sheds lights on many concepts and revelant questions that we all ask from time to time.

Honorable Mention

The Journey to Peace: A Womanʼs Guide to Finding Inner Peace by Carol Lynn Watson

Home Again: Stories of Restored Relationships by Wanda B. Campbell

I Shall Not Die by Kendra Norman-Bellamy

Industry-Level Superlatives

Mainstream Publisher of the Year -- Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster gets my nod because of the comprehensive program initiated by them that gave a wider audience to readers by expanding subsidiary and imprint options. The acquisition of Atria Books and Zaneʼs Strebor Books International a few years ago allowed them good vantage points with wider readership with their imprints. This is a prime example of teamwork and an innovative way of using timely acquisition in producing quality reads.

Independent Press of the Year -- Peace in the Storm Publishing
Industry-level Personnel that Made a Difference -- There are several in this category, but a few stood out.

Marlive Harris - Year in and year out Ms Harris has exemplified dogged perseverance in aiding aspiring authors and the industry-at-large in providing services, information and promoting avenues for literary worth. Her is a virtual marketing gem - an online book promotion service for authors, bookstores, and small Presses. She provided ample successes for the G.R.I.T.S. Online Reading Club, the G.R.I.T.S. Kidz Book Club, the G.R.I.T.S. Virtual Book Tours, and the On the Air with the In addition, Marlive is a virtual marketing Maven! You may want to visit this magnificent site:

Ella Curry - EDC Literary Services is her bailiwick and what a difference she made to those wanting and needing a higher visibility. No one has made significant steps for improvement over such a short time than this young lady! Evidence of this harkens to her total makeover in the sites promoted under the various auspices of her expertise.

Tyora Moody - ʻTyʼ as she is affectionally called started out as a Web Mistress and Designer, but the past year and a half she has sprouted wings and has soared by making her presence felt in the industry. If you were fortunate to have her design your website, blog or allowed her to give you a better presence online, her Tywebbin Creations ( was the difference that made it happen! An aspiring writer and Blog enthusiast, her Christian entities online along with other signatures such as (, ( and made her an outstanding choice for this study.

Elissa Gabrielle - If sheʼs not yet a household name now, she will be soon! Ms Gabrielle has made strides as a distaff publisher. Not to be mistaken for other notable women in the field, she is doing it independently in a self-publishing mode that gives credence to beating the odds! Her claim to fame will be her PEACE IN THE STORM PUBLISHING company that is poised to introduce new authors with clout. Already she has published books of her own and a three volume set of anthologies should garner accolades. Her 'The Triumph Of My Soul' series is hot, with the third installment sometime in the near future.

Authors to Watch in 2011 -- Jacqueline Moore, LaConnie Taylor-Jones, Cheryl Lacey Donovan, Stephanie Casher, James W. Lewis, LaToya S. Watkins

This Superlaive Listing for 2010 was creatied and written under the auspices of The Romer Review by Alvin C. Romer (c) 1999-2011 All Rights Reserved