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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Donna Hill and Connie Briscoe Interviews Coming Soon

This week has been hectic. I'm trying to get my blog mojo back. What have I been up to? I've been putting the finishing touches on my book with my editor. It's like going to school. I'm thrilled when she sends my work back to me and I notice there is not alot of red. Then there have been a couple of times when I see so much red, I am appalled at myself. But that's the great part of editing, getting it polished so the readers don't see red, right?

Well, my book is coming out this fall, it's called Waiting on Heaven. So stay tuned for that. Plus, I have an anthology called If I Had My Way, which is a collection of short stories due to release in September. Each short story will be sold separately or you can buy all ten short stories as a collection sold as an anthology. I will be giving away the anthology (all ten short stories) to the readers of my blog as an eBook for those that want to do a review, interview or just want it to read in exchange for an honest review on Amazon. My way of saying thank you for the support.

Also, next week I will be posting the book trailer for Waiting to Heaven and hopefully soon thereafter I will post the book trailer for If I Had My Way.

What else...hmmm. Oh I can't forget this. My interviews with Donna Hill and Connie Briscoe will be posted next week. I'm so elated. These two women are phenomenal. If you don't know who they are, I will give you a crash course. Ready?

~Donna Hill ~

She has more than fifty published titles to her credit since her first novel was released in 1990, and is considered one of the early pioneers of the African American romance genre. Three of her novels have been adapted for television. She has been featured in Essence, the New York Daily News, USA Today, Today’s Black Woman, and Black Enterprise among many others.

What Mother Never Told Me
Big Girls Don't Cry

~ Connie Briscoe ~
She  has had seven novels, one novella, and one nonfiction book published. Her first novel, Sisters and Lovers, sold more than 100,000 hardcover copies and about 500,000 copies in paperback. It's one of my favorites, I have it on my shelf now. So I suppose I was one of the 500,000.

Sisters & Lovers: A NovelMoney Can't Buy Love

Did that jog your memory? Hope so. If not, that's okay. I will bring you up to speed next week with each of their interviews. So stay tuned and check back because I always love your feedback.

Another giveaway, The Hill and Briscoe Book Giveaway, will run during the interviews with Donna Hill and Connie Briscoe. Winners will be chosen from followers who comment on the Donna Hill or Connie Briscoe interview. One winner will receive a book written by Donna Hill and the other winner will receive a book written by Connie Briscoe. Winners will be chosen by I will announce which book is up for the giveaway at the time I post the interview.


Also don't forget to enter the Back to the Books Giveaway Hop. I am giving away two lovely book baskets filled with lots of bookish treats and relaxation for U.S. residents. And $25 towards purchases at the Book Depository for international participants. So anyone can enter and win. Click Back to Books Giveaway Hop for more details.

That's all I got today. Stay tuned for the start of the blog hop and have a happy Wednesday.

Monday, August 29, 2011

In My Mailbox Monday

This week I didn't receive too many books. *bummer* I had too many books to buy for my college kid, but I was glad to put mine on the back burner for that reason. But here is my short list anyway.

Books I purchased

"If I Could" by Donna Hill (old cover)

If I Could      If I Could
Old Cover       New Cover

Books from publisher

The Lost Saints of Tennessee: A Novel

What books have you recently received?

In My Mailbox (IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tidbits, Thank You's and Upcoming Blog Hop

Hi all! I hope everyone is having a wonderful week thus far. A few things to cover today. I first want to thank everyone for their emails and posts a few weeks ago for checking on me during my hiatus when my grandmother passed away. It meant a lot to know my blog family thought of me and kept me in their prayers. Some people think blogging is just something to do, but it really is a wonderful joy for me to meet so many people from so many different places. I feel like I have an extended family with weird sign in names, locations I can't pronounce correctly and varied taste on books, with quirky lovable viewpoints and reviews. And at the end of the day I get to share those thoughts and reviews with other readers and family members, and every so often I get the side-eye (O-o) when I'm talking about a great book I found on another blog that is so weird and exceptional or a new author I've come across that writes a sub-genre I never heard of, but hey that's the great part. So thank you to my blog family for your support during my personal struggle.

Next, I am participating in an upcoming blog hop called Back to the Books Giveaway Hop. It begins September 1st and my giveaway will be open to U.S. and International participants. I normally giveaway several books to several winners during blog hops because I personally feel like if you take out the time to fill out the form, it ought to be worth it. But that's just me. It could be sour grapes because I have NEVER won a book in a book hop before. Haha. So maybe the Book Gods will be good to me with this blog hop. *pretty please*

More importantly, is what to giveaway. As I said before I normally giveaway several books. Well, I have in the past for other occasions and events given away book baskets/boxes. I love making them and I usually give them  away for family and friends. So here are two that I made some time back. I want your feedback as to what you prefer. Would you rather win several books or a book basket?

Also, please check out my most recent book review, "A Story for Beautiful Girl" by Rachel Simon and let me know what you thought. Rachel Simon stopped by and read it unbeknownst to me and was thankful for the honest review, so much so she tweeted it. *happy dance* I was shocked and elated. So please check out the review or pick up a copy of A Story of Beautiful Girl and let me know what you thought.

Wells, that's all I have for today. Have an awesome week. I'm trying to get back on track for my Friday's Free eBooks. Keeping my fingers crossed that I get it completed before tomorrow. So check back to see if I did. :-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

What am I currently reading?
I am currently reading "No One in the World" by E. Lynn Harris and  R.M. Johnson. Also, "Purge" by Sofi Oksanen and "Silver Sparrow" by Tayari Jones.

What did I recently finish reading?
I recently finished reading "The Story of Beautiful Girl" by Rachel Simon (check out the book review) and "Mama Ruby" by Mary Monroe (book review to post soon).

What do I think I'll read next?
I think I will read a YA novel next. Hoping to get to"Divergent" by Veronica Roth before the month is over. I have been putting it off for far too long. I also want to read "The Girl Who Fell From the Sky" by Heidi W. Durrow.

Happy Reading!

What are your WWW's this week?

WWW is a weekly meme provided by Should Be Reading

Also please read my most recent book review of "The Story of Beautiful Girl" by Rachel Simon. Let me know what you think?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (May 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446574465
Received: From Publisher

Product Description: Amazon

It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: "Hide her." And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia-lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love. 


The Story of Beautiful Girl mainly centers around Lynnie and Homan. Lynnie is a developmentally disabled pre-teen girl when she arrives at the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. Her parents place her there due to their own shame and what they think others will say or think about Lynnie. When we meet Lynnie she is unable to talk coherently and in her early twenties and has just run away from the School with Number Forty-Two, another resident, an African American deaf-mute male. Lynnie and Number Forty-Two arrive at the doorstep of an elderly white woman name Martha who lives on a farm. They are now escapees from the School of the Incurable and Feebleminded and Lynnie has just given birth. Number Forty-Two is her loving protector, but not the father of her child. The authorities from the school retrieve Lynnie from Martha's home and Number Forty-Two escapes through the woods. Martha has hidden the baby in the attic as the authorities search her home. Just before the authorities take Lynnie away, Lynnie whispers to Martha, "hide her." This is the beginning of a long journey of love and hope that spans forty two years. 

Over the more than four decades of being apart, Number Forty Two (Homan) and Lynnie, never stop loving and thinking of each other even though they remain apart for so long. Martha is a 71 year old woman who doesn't have children of her own and who has lost her husband, and is still grieving. She stays isolated from others except on Christmas when her previous students come to her annual Christmas party. When the authorities leave, Martha is now propelled into motherhood, something she has no knowledge or expertise in. She desires to be the best guardian she can be to the baby and seeks out help from her students to hide her and the baby from authorities.

I felt so much admiration for Martha. Here she is late in life, grieving from the loss of her husband and then she is given a blessing in disguise that gives her life and purpose. At first Martha is perplexed. She knows in her heart she will hide the baby, she never waivers on that, but she is bewildered at just how she needs to go about doing it. But once Martha sets in motion that she needs to hide somewhere people can't find her, she leaves her home and everything she once knew. Her adult students become her and the baby's extended family as they move from location to location, keeping her  whereabouts secret and communicating only through letters via another student. Martha's biggest worry is that she won't live long enough to see Julia become a woman, so she tries to make sure she leaves the best impressions on the baby and teaches her everything she can while she has time.

This book is breathtaking in its moments. It's a beautiful and tender story. It is told from multiple viewpoints of the characters Lynnie, Homan, Kate and Martha. From the first few pages I was enthralled with this story. It kind of weaned about 50 pages in. Then it started to pick up again. I read this story in one day, at times I had to force myself to continue because the descriptively written words and long narratives didn't seem to move the story along, it felt like filler. But I persevered and finished before my children made it home from school.

What I loved:

I loved the book cover. It has an opaque cream colored background and the book cover has a nice sheen to it. The lettering is raised and on the inside cover the first page is red and has pictures of black feathers displayed on it; on the spine of the book it's black with a red feather. The significance of the red feather will be explained later in the book. This is a book cover that will definitely go in my favorite category, it's simple yet conveys the title very well.

I also loved how the author captured the essence of people with disabilities, it felt authentic, sensitive and comprehensive. I could tell that she had done extensive research and hadn't just made it up out of pure imagination. At the end of the book there are author notes and acknowledgments, there Rachel Simon explains that she has an intellectual disabled sister. And that she did indeed do extensive research with several institutions, residents, scholars and experts. I really enjoyed her reasoning for Number Forty Two, she said she read about a fifteen year old African American boy who was found wandering in the alley in Illinois and because authorities couldn't understand him, they didn't look for his family or send him to the school for the deaf, instead they placed him in an institution where he remained in one facility after another for fifty years until his death, his name was John Doe Number 24. Rachel explained she couldn't stop thinking about him, wondering where the people were that had loved him or that he loved. She wanted to pay tribute to him and all the people like him. I think she put forth a tremendous effort and it paid off. I did cry about 3/4's in. It resonated with me personally. And in the beginning when it seemed like Number Forty-Two may have died, I thought I was going to have to do a wall slide, crumble to the floor and take a breather. But I pressed on and I'm glad I did.

I also like how the author captured the dialect or speech used for Lynnie and how Homan might interpret what he saw, since he is deaf and mute, we rarely hear him say a complete word and he cannot read. So it was amazing me to me that from Homan's perspective, people didn't have names per se as we used them, because he didn't know them. He instead used descriptive attributes as names, such as Lynnie, who for him was "Beautiful Girl and "Sam" short for good samaritan and Little One for the baby.

What I Didn't Like:

The drawn out pages of description and details. Some times it would be pages of it that never moved the story forward. For example, a character named Blue. I understood that she was trying to show us the motivating factor for Homan as he forged on from one adversity to another. He had the memory of Blue telling him he could be a winner and we as readers would know that someone in Homan's life loved him. But I didn't need pages and pages
dedicated to Blue to get that feeling. So that part was overdone. Also, I think the book could have eliminated the viewpoint of Kate, one of the nurses at the home who was a loving and committed nurse, trying to do the right thing and yet keep her job. She befriended Lynnie and became Lynnie's confidant. Also, the ending was drawn out. It took too long to get to the good "stuff", the conclusion of this forty two year journey. The very thing I'd been hoping for and convincing myself I would get if I just kept reading...resolution. I was so tempted to just skip to the very last page and read backwards.


I would highly recommend this book and I will buy anything Rachel Simon writes in the future. I believe her intent, I believe in the love she has for her sister and the reasoning behind telling the story of people who many times don't have a voice. I know from personal experience the struggles, the joy and the resolve it takes to care for someone intellectually disabled. It can be heartbreaking and frustrating and I think caregivers don't get enough support and I think the beautiful people with their beautiful minds don't get the love, respect and support they often deserve. 

I remember reading a post from a blog called Line of Serenity,
it was a post about a mentally challenged boy named Denny who was in the store with his mother and a man that stopped to talk to him. The mother thanked him and said most people don't look at him, let alone talk to him. The man said, “there are plenty of red, yellow, and pink roses in God’s Garden; however, ‘Blue Roses’ are very rare and should be appreciated for their beauty and distinctiveness. You see, Denny is a ‘Blue Rose’ and if someone doesn’t stop and smell that rose with their heart and touch that rose with their kindness, then they’ve missed a blessing from God.”
So my perseverance to read the story was personal. I had to finish for my own 'blue rose'.

I give this book 4 1/2 Blue Roses. I normally don't do halfs, but it was warranted for this review because it was better than four, but not quite five.

To my very own beautiful blue rose....keep fishing for wind son.  Keep fishing for wind.

Have you read a story simply because it related to you personally? If so, what was it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

10 Books That Changed My Life

Growing up with a love for reading there were books that stuck with me throughout life. Some that made me want to read more, others that made me want to be a writer and some that made me want to read them more than once. So here is a list of the ten books that changed my life in no particular order.

1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This book was a requirement in high school and I could remember feeling like we shouldn't be reading it because it contained adult situations and issues of molestation. I was most intrigued because it was an autobiography and I thought if Maya Angelou can survive all that, surely I can survive being a teenager.

2. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

As a a kid, I thought this was the best book someone ever created. It was the book every parent bought their daughter when they reached puberty. It was fascinating, captivating and bawdry for an eleven year old. The first book I can remember gossiping about or I suppose the first "book club" I attended every morning at school before class.

3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I read this book after my mother read it. She ranted on about it for days, ruining all the good parts. But I still wanted to read it for myself. So I read it in one sitting. It was the first adult fiction book I read non-stop. This book epitomized "page turner" for me. It was eventually made into a film starring Whoopi Golberg, Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. I love the film. It is my favorite film of all time. I could probably do a one woman show and recite all the lines from the movie.

Most readers have their first box set or collection of books. Before the box set of Harry Potter, there was the box set of Anne of Green Gables. I loved the stories, but even better was the mini-series they created that came on PBS. It was the first time I compared notes from a book to the television adaption.
5. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

I have the book still on my shelf today. My copy is nearly two decades old. But I love this book. I get choked up thinking about it. I remember reading it and feeling this sense of amazement with the craftsmanship and the flow of Baldwin's words. It's a short read and when I finished I said I want to write like Baldwin. So I copied the entire book by hand on a yellow notepad just so I'd know what it was like to write beautiful words.

6. Sugar: A Novel by Bernice L. McFadden

I read this book when it first debuted. Something about the simple title drew me in. I decided to see if I could read the first chapter non-stop and if  I could, I would buy it from the bookstore. So I sat down and read it and had to force myself to stop reading it. I took it home and finished it. I ranted and raved about it so much my friend wanted to read it, so I let her borrow it. She took the book and sent it to her mother in Louisiana so she could read it. So I had to buy a new copy because I never give away books that I love. My friend went on to buy her a personal copy of Sugar so her daughters could read it as well. I have bought this book a total of five times because I always end up letting someone have a copy. Her sequel, This Bitter Earth, is great as well. Bernice L. McFadden was my imaginary mentor when I begin my writing journey. When I read her work I felt like I was reading my own. I now own all her books, and some I have several copies of...just in case.

7. Holy Bible (NIV) by Zondervan

Can't lie, I dread reading the King James Version of the bible as a kid. But once I was in my early twenties I found out there were different versions of the bible. The NIV is my favorite version, it clear and concise. I can understand the text much easier and I can still get a feel for the KJV without the headache of feeling like I'm translating. This book really changed my life because by having a better understanding, I became an avid reader of the bible.

8. Carrie by Stephen King

This was the first thriller novel I read and the first book that made me afraid to go to sleep. I was hesitant yet intrigued. Here is a girl who is blessed with these supernatural gifts but they are also a curse. Not to mention her religious fanatical mother who terrifies her. I felt sorry for Carrie and I was perturbed by her experiences when I went to sleep. Then they came out with the movie and I was excited to see how it would all go down on the big screen. It took a long time for me to read another thriller or Stephen King novel because I didn't like the many POV's in the book. And I remember thinking I would never write a book in that type of format. I guess Stephen King decided to do the same, as he changed his format in his later books.

9. A Hero Ain't Nothin But a Sandwich by Alice Childress

I read this book in middle school. Looking back it was the first book I read that gave an articulate description about living in the inner city amongst drugs and violence. Told from the viewpoint of a thirteen year old heroine addict named Benjie, the story is moving and graphic, yet frustrating and sad because you want Benjie to make some different choices. This is a great book. I have read it several times. I think it is more suitable for late middle school graders or high school students. Any younger and they may not grasp the intensity and urgency in the book. It was later made into a film starring one of my favorite actresses, Cicely Tyson.

10. There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

This is the first book that made me cry. I believe I was 19 or 20 years old when I read it and I can remember thinking what can I do to help the children in these living conditions, even though my living conditions were probably not any different growing up in the inner city myself. It's a gripping story. Sadly, Chicago is facing some of the same issues today. I can't help but wonder how two decades later, there has been little significant change for the impoverished of Chicago. The book is a true story,  Lafeyette and Pharoah, aged 11 and 9 years at the beginning of the book in 1987, live in the drug and gang infested ghetto of Chicago. Their family consist of their mother who struggles financially and is on welfare and public assistance, a frequently absentee father, an older brother and younger set of triplets. They often go without necessities and are in constant struggle just to survive the run down projects they live in, the gangs that control them and the daily struggles of life and violence they must endure to survive in the other America; the one we don't hear about. 

What are some of the books that changed your life or made a significant impact on you?

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Lena's Ramblings

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I am a writer, filmmaker, wife and a mom of five beautiful, intelligent, quirky kids. This blog is for writers, aspiring writers, filmmakers and movie lovers. Bringing you my favorite books, films and photos, as well as giveaways and updates on my journey. I'm currently in the process of producing my first short film from my collection of short stories titled, If I Had My Way. The first story to be filmed will be Tandarin Drive. My award winning book, If I Had My Way, is available now. You can purchase a copy at and You may contact me via email at:

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