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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Books that stick with you

I was told a long time ago that in order to write well, you have to read -- a lot. You have to read good things, so that you learn; and not so good things, so that you can learn as well.

As a journalist, I read newspapers every day to see the writing style of others. How did this reporter tell this story? What kind of impact does it have? How are the facts presented? Did it keep my attention? What did I learn?

As a novelist, I take the same approach to reading novels. But I'm a reader first. There have great author is, after a few pages, I'm hooked on the story and all that other stuff is out the window. Sometimes, you get so engrossed in a book, you forget that your own deadline is looming. 
Take, Victoria Christopher Murray's The Deal, The Dance and The Devil for example. I didn't like this book -- I loved it.
What would you do for five million dollars? Adam and Evia Langston have lived in their own little garden of Eden since the two married at the age of seventeen. Working their way up from the humblest of beginnings, the Langstons have thrived beyond anything they could have ever imagined. Now they live in the finest home, drive the best cars, and indulge in all the trimmings that signify their massive success. But then the recession hits and rips apart the family’s financial stability. Unable to support their three children and other relatives, Adam and Evia find themselves drowning in financial trouble and teetering on the brink of complete disaster. With nowhere to turn, the Langstons have no idea what to do.
Until Shay-Shaunt√©, Evia’s multimillionaire boss, comes to the Langstons with a five-million-dollar offer that seems so hard to refuse. Will the Langstons make this deal? Or will they recognize that the glitter of five million dollars may be far from gold?
This book is a clinic on character development. Murray takes your emotions on a journey. I've read it twice and nearly missed a deadline in doing so, but it was SO worth it.

Another book that sticks with me is 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter. Here's a book that takes a movie I couldn't stand (16 Candles) and creates a parallel with the main character's life and the 80s teen film. But to love this book, you don't have to even like that movie. Carter masters creating a heroine that seems to have everything going against her, but she still wins. I stopped watching TV while reading this book.
32 Candles is the slightly twisted, utterly romantic, and deftly wry story of Davie Jones, who, if she doesn’t stand in her own way, just might get the man of her dreams.
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. With wholly original characters and a cinematic storyline, 32 Candles introduces Ernessa T. Carter, a new voice in fiction with smarts, attitude, and sassiness to spare.
It goes without saying the Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale was an inspiration to me. So much so that I actually had to burn the first manuscript I wrote because it sounded too much like a bootleg version of McMillan's iconic novel. I said, as I read this book, this is going to be me and my friends. Damn, I hate that I was so right about it. There are moments in my life where I'm looking in the mirror thinking, did this really happen to me or Savannah.
The story of four vibrant black women in their thirties. They draw on each other for support as they struggle with careers, divorce, motherhood and their relationships with men.

The book that inspired to me become a writer might surprise you. But it's Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. 
The first time I read this book was after watching The Cosby Show and Denise wrote a paper about the book and got a C. I wondered, what was the book about. So, I hunted it down and decided to write my own paper on it for my English class. Unlike Denise, I received an A. But more than anything else, I was inspired. I loved the story about this pretty black woman trying to find her place in the world, despite -- what we call today -- the haters.

One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston's beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published -- perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.

I could go on and on about books that have stuck with me, but I don't have that kind of time, so I'm going to leave you with a list —in no particular order—of must read books. If you're a writer or avid reader, these books, in my humble opinion will teach you something.
**PLUG TIME** September 6th, my latest novel, Too Hot For TV hits the shelves. I hope you will pick up a copy!
Some of my favorites: 

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