Friday, August 31, 2012

MSRL: Cookbook Review, Middle Eastern Basics




Middle Eastern Basics: 70 Recipes Illustrated Step by StepMiddle Eastern Basics: 70 Recipes Illustrated Step by Step by Marianne Magnier-Moreno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG! The "My Cooking Class" line of books are the most awesome cookbooks ever.  Anyone who has ever read one of my cookbook reviews knows how much I love the photo layout of the books, this has to be the best yet!  What I love the most about Middle Eastern Basics is the aerial photography that shows the reader all of the ingredients from an overhead well lit display, and it provides a fantastic step by step set of recipes that makes cooking fun.  I certainly recommend this along with any of the other "My Cooking Class" cookbooks to anyone who's interested in learning about cooking the right way.  I will definitely be adding this cookbook to my bookshelf.


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Monday, August 27, 2012

MSRL: AAMBC, New Book Release, Crushed Love by Tavares Jones


AAMBC (African Americans On The Move Book Club)
New Book Release
Crushed Love by Tavares Jones

Thank you for reading "my summer reading list" and for being a book lover. Through my blogging platform, I also serve as a blogger for AAMBC Public Relations, a company founded by author Tamika Newhouse (www.aambc.com). It is my pleasure to help Tamika increase exposure for up and coming authors and to help spread the word about what's new in creative writing!

Synopsis of Crushed Love: 
Twenty-year-old Michelle Tucker finds herself devastated when an obsession for dating the wrong type of man claims her freedom and relationship with her four-year-old. Filled with heartrending betrayal, devastation, adversity and more, Crushed Love follows Michelle through a gauntlet of sacrifice and redemption as she struggles to find herself and piece back together her life.



Author's Bio:
Tavares Marquez Jones was born in Swainsboro, Georgia on March 30, 1986, the first child of Lillie Jones, the second son of Willie Dawson. His siblings are Gerrie Brown, Sherree Brown, Talonda Brown, Clarence Williams, Shankeil Tarver, Sheniza Dawson, and Shekenia Dawson. His father was a pastor and entrepreneur, his mother a housekeeper at a nursing home, then an assembly worker in both an environmental technology and energy conservation plant and a poultry factory. He lived in Swainsboro through high school, graduated in 2004, and received a full football scholarship to Middle Tennessee State University. After enjoying a wonderful first three years both in the classroom and on the field, he fractured a bone in his right foot in a game towards the end of his senior season. Because of injury, he was unable to perform to the best of his ability in front of scouts. Therefore, his draft stock plummeted. He went from being projected as a mid-to-late round pick in the NFL Draft to not getting picked up at all. For about two or three years, he worked a few jobs here and there, an assembly worker at a Nissan plant, maintenance man at a nursing home, replenishment associate at JC Penney, before wholeheartedly rediscovering a passion he had kept secret from everyone – including his very own mother – WRITING. He finds writing very refreshing, inspirational, and exciting.

Interview with Tavares Jones:
1.     At what age did you start writing?
I started writing at age four.
2.   What was the first thing you wrote?
The first thing I wrote was actually a message in the form of a drawing. When I was four, there was this girl who stayed next door that I liked. So I drew this stick-figure picture of a boy and a girl holding hands with a question mark off to the right. However, it didn’t work out as I had planned because she took the piece of paper, wadded it up, and threw it in the trash.
3.   What led you back to writing after placing it on the backburner for so long to focus solely on your love for football?
After my time was up on the field, I was hurt by a lot of people I thought loved me. I was looking for someone to vent to after my then-girlfriend walked out on our three-year relationship a month before I was going to propose. As I was sitting on the floor leaning against the wall next to my bed crying, wondering how could she do something like that after how special I had always treated her, God put it on my heart to get up, walk over to my laptop, and start writing. Writing slowly but surely carried me through heartbreak and my feeling the lowest I had ever felt.
4.   In your bio I read you have five sisters, what type of affect does that have on your writing, being that most readers are women?
I think being around them so much molded me into being a bit more emotional than most men, while at the same time giving me firsthand knowledge on when to be sensitive and when to be assertive, and in turn, it shows in my writing.
5.    Tell me a little about your debut novel, Crushed Love?
Crushed Love is an urban novel written from a woman’s perspective. It’s about a young single mother who allows her obsession for dating a bad boy to destroy the relationship she has with her four-year-old son. I wrote this novel because there are so many men who don’t understand what a woman goes through after sacrificing so much to be with a man and still wound up having her heart broken. I think it will enlighten men to be a little more sensitive to and appreciative for the countless sacrifices women make, while at the same time, enlightening women to be a bit more mindful about the type of men they trust to be around their children.
6.   When and where will Crushed Love be available?
The eBook is available for Kindle, Nook, and iPad. The paperback is also available at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, Indigo, Amazon, Better World Books, and everywhere else books are sold.
7.    Where can readers find more about you, your debut novel, and your writing plans for the future?
They can find more about me on my website tavaresmjones.comartofficialmedia.com, and my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

MSRL: AAMBC, New Book Release, Archie's Psalm by Christopher D. Burns


AAMBC (African Americans On the Move Book Club)
New Book Release
Archie's Psalm by Christopher D. Burns

Synopsis of Archie's Psalm:
Archie’s Psalm is a glimpse into the life of a latchkey kid who is encountering situations that force him to learn about the changing world around him. A coming of age story with a carefully crafted narrative and subplot, Archie’s Psalm shows the transitioning world of a neighborhood in Memphis, TN ten years after Dr. King’s death. Through the setting, vivid character descriptions and moving storytelling a hot and humid southern neighborhood comes to life. Through the use of dialect and song the shifting tone and sound of the south reminds the reader of Zora Neale Hurstons’ novels. A work of literature that is artistic, powerful and important. A book that could become as relevant as Ann Petry’sThe Street.


Author's Bio:

Originally from Memphis, Christopher D. Burns joined the US Navy after getting into a lot of trouble as a teen shortly after graduating high school. Upon completing Aviation Electricians Mate school, Chris was stationed in San Diego, where he served in the military for four years and worked as an electrician on F-14 Tomcat aircrafts. When his military service was completed, Chris found himself trying to figure out his next move. He once again ffound trouble living in LA, so he moved back to San Diego and worked as a QA Analyst before being asked to play college basketball at San Diego City College. An injury cut short his basketball aspirations and led to visits to poetry readings in San Diego. At this time he began to write his first book, A Man’s State of Mind. He received an AA in Psychology from Mesa College (SDCCD) in 1997. Chris also began to work as a high school basketball coach and became one of the youngest head coaches in San Diego in 1999.
In 1997, Chris went on to attend San Diego State University where he earned a BA in English and a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. While attending San Diego State University, Chris wrote Stages: a handbook on men and relationships, 100 Black and White Questions (co-authored by Kevin Pendleton) and Archie’s Psalm (which later became his Masters thesis).
After graduating with his MFA degree from San Diego State, Chris returned to his childhood home of Memphis and worked for two years as an instructor of English at Historically Black College, LeMoyne-Owen College. He resigned to teach high school English, complete research on building writing skills, and to focus more on the CB Publishing website www.cbpublish.com, Center Court Basketball www.centercourtbasketball.com, a sports and fitness website, and his footwear company ARCH www.arch-usa.com.
An Interview with Author, Christopher D. Burns:
Chris Burns, why did you become a writer? I was inspired to start writing my freshman year of college. I was playing college basketball and working as a teacher’s assistant. One of the teacher’s at the school was a poet and invited us all to her poetry reading from her chapbook. When I got home, I sat down and started writing. I always told stories and I was a bit of a class clown in high school, so the writer was always there, but I guess I needed a push. I began writing poetry and one of the poems felt like a story so I kept writing and it became A Man’s State of Mind, my first book. I guess to answer the question quickly, I became a writer because I had these stories in my head and I just needed to get them out. Unfortunately it has taken me 17 years to begin working on my career.
Archie’s Psalm. That is an interesting title, where did it come from and what is it about?The title came from the original draft of the book. I attended San Diego State University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. During the fiction workshops I began submitting chapters to my classmates and the story didn’t really have a title. Like my first book the story began as a poem. I was going to get my MFA in Poetry so it was only natural that most of my stories began in this way. The chapters I was submitting were not labeled chapters. I was using verses from the Book of Psalms in the Bible to kind of inspire each section. My idea was to make the final chapter begin with a verse from Psalms. When I submitted the book as my thesis it was written this way. However, I had a serious Jean Toomer influence and the narrative felt disjointed. I cut a lot of the book and removed the references to Psalms, but kept the title. When someone asks me now why this is the title and what it’s about, I can still say that it is about songs. Psalms are songs. Archie is one of the main characters in the book. He is an older man, kind of like the neighborhood sage. The book is built around Archie’s interaction with the main character Buck. Buck is a young boy on the verge of becoming a teen. Old Man Archie often sits on his porch and sings the blues while playing his guitar. Throughout the story Archie tells Buck stories that often parallel with what is happening in the text. His stories usually begin with a song.
The book is also about the multiple layers that exist in families. It is about those hidden stories that every family has. Archie’s Psalm is also about the point when boys become men physically and how they learn to interact with girls and all of the problems that the world throws at them. The book is a commentary on a lot of different things and it will be interesting if people finish it and realize all of the things that have taken place.
Explain your writing style and how does it differ from what's current? My writing style varies. I play around a lot with character sketches and dialect. I don’t use a formula. I just make sure I am writing as much as possible. I do have a lot of influences and those influences come through at times. My favorite writer is Ralph Ellison, followed closely by Toni Cade Bambara and Zora Neale Hurston. There are random elements of Invisible Man in every book I’ve written. In my first novel, A Man’s State of Mind, I play around with setting and I never really tell you where the story is taking place; which allows the story to have the feeling that it could be happening right down the street from you. In my second book Stages: A Handbook on Men & Relationships, there is a comedic tone that is playful but hides a serious subplot. I got that from Zora. In Archie’s Psalm I also use a bit of Zora’s technique in using a shifting dialect. In Archie’s Psalm the exposition is written in standard English, but the dialogue is written in the voices I heard in my head from my childhood. Those voices always code switched. My mom would sound completely different talking with friends than she did on the phone with bill collectors. I think how my work differs is that after 17 years of writing and just putting books out there without any promotion is that I haven’t had to write in a particular style because one of my books caught on. What I’ve noticed is that many writers stick with what gets them a livelihood, or what is going to make sure they stay popular. A person who writes urban fiction, sticks with that. A person who writes relationship books sticks with that. My work differs because I can’t tell you one novel that is written like Archie’s Psalm. No one is really writing and giving a voice to Black boys. Most stories are written for women because they read more than men. I write my books for readers and I write what is familiar because I want it to ring true. Archie’s Psalm is different because it finally gives voice to the boy that was, raised in the single parent household, raised in the neighborhood that was changing from the close knit Civil rights based black community to the neighborhoods on the verge of Reaganomics, crack and gangs. As simple as the story seems, it touches on a lot of the issues that affect our neighborhoods right now and it does all of this in the form of a coming of age story.
What do you think is your best work thus far? My best work oddly enough is a work that I haven’t even mentioned and it is not readily available. It Often Deprives Me of My Sleep is a collection of short stories, poems, essays and a conversation with the muse, that I wrote for about 15 years. For the sake of this interview though I guess I will say Archie’s Psalm is the most important… scratch that. All of the books are important.
If I did have to choose one of the books that people can actually buy and answer the question, what is my best work… it would have to be Archie’s Psalm. I know the book is hard to read and is not what is the norm, but I think the payoff for finishing the book and then discussing it will create an experience.
When I was in grad school I had a professor who told me to write for me. He told me that I shouldn’t worry about my race or background and that I should simply write. I could never get past that. Everything I write in some way has a point. Everything I write means something and attempts to cut you and leave a scar. I need my books to live and breathe. I want each book to give you a character that when you are finished you want that character to keep living.
What can reader’s expect from you next? The great thing about never promoting my work is that everything is new and there are multiple titles for people to choose from. If you want something that will reach in and pull at every emotion, you can read A Man’s State of Mind. If you want to laugh and learn how to read men, Stages: A Handbook on Men and Relationships. If you want to get into something that reminds you of classic literature with a contemporary setting, read Archie’s Psalm. If you want to read about business I have a Kindle download named One Hour to Wealth that gives you the guidelines I used to launch my own sneaker company. I have in my computer right now a book that I am co-authoring titled Winter in Hip-Hop, a nonfiction book that deals with Blacks in the post civil rights era. I also have a work of fiction that is about a preacher who murders a gangbanger. There are other projects I’m working on as well, but who knows if any of this other stuff will ever see the light of day? If you want to keep up with what’s happening with me you can definitely read the blog on www.cbpublish.com. I even do a Hi Lites section on cool places to visit in Memphis. I also write a fitness blog at www.centercourtbasketball.com that works in conjunction with my sneaker company on www.arch-usa.com. I like staying busy and I try to write in some form everyday.
How are you managing to write and then tell the world you have these great books you want them to read? I am not. That is why I don’t have a writing career. I have never taken my own advice about working on a dream in regard to my writing. This will be the first year that I have actively worked on promoting my books. I did do a little bit of promoting when I hosted an Open Mic, but not really. What I hope now is that people will see your interview and take a chance on my books. If they do, that would be great.
Is there a book that can compare to Archie’s Psalm? I think the closest relatives to Archie’s Psalm are The Street by Ann Petry and actually a short story: The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara. As many books as I have read I find it hard to make a direct comparison. I guess another title would be Stephen King’s The Body (the movie Stand By Me was based on this short story). I like the fact that I’m actually promoting this over my other books. I think it would be easy for me to push Stages or A Man’s State of Mind, those books kind of fall into the contemporary market. However I feel that people are ready to change gears.


Excerpt:
He told stories to pass the time.  A simple man, never loud.  Carried extra quarters in his pockets, about ten patch made pockets on dingy coveralls, a soft white shirt beneath the faded denim straps over his shoulders.  The only look on his face I remember was like the quiet warmness after a summer rain.  His half smile marked with crescent moons at the corners of his mouth and lines like folds in brown blankets at the corner of his eyes.  His skin soft with bristled hair, even on his hands hair grew.  He carried a walking stick sometimes, and walked through the streets each morning and each afternoon.  Maybe to see what we was doing, us latchkey kids, us thugs.  But we wadn’t so bad, just bored, and he knew that.
He told stories to pass the time, stories of uprisings, niggers, Tom’s, fools, white folks, but mostly it was stories about the neighborhood that stuck to me.
Me and the guys ran all over the streets bothering and startling the old folks.  He just stood when we would ride by, looking at us act up.  He never did nothing to us unless he found us being too mannish.  Folks used to say he carried bricks, a small piece of brick in each overall pocket.  He caught Lil Tony trying to scare Ms. Phillips once.  He saw him and from what Tony said,
“I was ridin right, ridin, Buck, I wasn’t even messin wit Ms. P.  I ain’t lyin.”
“What’d he do, what’d he do?” I kept asking.  Tony’s toughskins were scuffed pretty bad on purple knee patches.  His palms was dirty with little scrapes on chubby hands.  His jaws shook when he got excited.
“I ain’t lyin Buck, I ain’t-”
“Tony, what’d he do?”
“He threw one at me.”
“No he didn’t.”
“Yeah he did.”
“Did it hit you? Did it hurt?”
“You ask stupid questions Buck.”
“You the one that’s stupid.  You know how Old Man Fishstick act when he see Ms. P.”
“Yeah but-”
“That’s why you got hit,” I laughed.
“Didn’t exactly get hit though, I just saw him raise his hand. So I jumped off my bike.  He walked up an-”
“An he laughed at you an walked away, didn’t he?  Don’t lie.”
“Yep, he jus laughed an walked off.”
“An he lef you sumthin?”
“A quarter.”
“Me too.”
‘Pretty Ms. P,’ was what he called her.  Old Man Fishstick was what we used to call him.  He always talked with Ms. P, but not much to many other folks.  I even noticed him take out his folded red kerchief with the white designs on it to wipe his brow, before she would see him.  He’d pull off his old blue hat and pull at the tufts of gray hair matted to the sides of his head.  He’d even walk a little bit slower with longer strides.  Such long strides I think would’ve been hard with a pocket full of bricks.  I had found out that their wadn’t no bricks a long time before any body else. What it was, was quarters in small, cloth brown bags.  But I didn’t tell nobody seein as he only had em every once in a while.  Anyways, I asked him why he always fixed up himself, when he see Ms. Pat.
“Ya know what a peacock is?”
“Yes suh.”
“Find out why peacocks look like they do, an then ask me why, an I’ll tell ya.”
Still don’t know why peacocks look like they do, but I’m trying to get the answer.
Old Man Fishstick used to be scary to me.  He still scare everybody else, but not for real scary.  We knew he wasn’t gonna really hurt us.  We would go by his house and yell at him.  He’d be on his, one step up, lil wooden porch.  Sitting on it plucking strings on a wood box guitar.  Singing old songs bout, “Movin on, umm hmmm, movin on down de line. De train dun pass me up, an I’s too ol to git on board.”  We’d run and shout his name, “Ol Man Fishstick, Ol Man Fishstick, Ol Man Fishstick.”  He’d stand up and run at the gate holding a brick in his hand.  We’d take off running an laughing.  Twenty minutes later we’d be back.
His house was one of the few really old houses.  It sat on the corner of Caldwell, where a potholed street separated it from the elementary school.  Both the school and his house was across from the field for the park, where the slidin board, merry go round, monkey bars and lots of old concrete picnic tables was.
That field, in the summer, always had dragonflies floating across and it was lots of them.  Like greenish-brown, fat mosquitoes darting back and forth.  At night the dragonflies was replaced by lightnin bugs.  Small with white butts that blinked on and off when the green, black wings would close and open.  Momma said they had to light up or the flowers wouldn’t grow.
Ol Man Fishstick had a big backyard that was overgrown by about two inches.  But he had a long planting bed where he grew stuff and a honeysuckle vine in there.  One long vine that almost made a second fence.  We used to sneak back there and get some of the yellow-white stems and pull them out to suck the juice.  I had some honeysuckle by my apartment, but it wadn’t no danger in getting that.  Besides, me, Lil Tony, Smoke, Skillet, Lizard and Tiger didn’t like staying that close to the house.  We were the army of UltraMan, too fast to catch, too smart to stay by the house.  If we stayed by the house we’d have to do chores for Smoke’s folks.  So we went to Ol Man Fishstick’s place and bothered him.
Every time we went by, he’d be playing the same music with different words, “She don’t know babaaah, she don’t know my heart hurt sooo.  Umm Hmmm.  I said she don’t know babaah that my heart hurt sooo.”
His songs seemed sad, like his stories.  But he never seemed sad when he talked.  He’d raise his arms and wave his hands drawing pictures of words.
After taking years off to work in academia, I have finally begun this year (2012) to take my writing career seriously. I have been writing since 1995 and like many authors I thought my writing would take on a life of its own and I would be famous and people would be making movies about the characters I created. That hasn’t happened. I realize now that in order to build my career and attain readers I am going to have to really take a direct interest in getting people to discover my novels.
I think I have a very unique voice that people will come to respect and admire. I feel that my stories are different, not just because, but my stories are very different in how the stories are told. Most male writers that write in various genres write specifically for a female reading audience because they know those are the people who are reading primarily. I write to create characters and to see where those characters’ stories end. For me the writing process is a journey that combines the writer with each individual person in the story. When my characters hurt, I feel that and if I feel that then I think you will feel it when you are reading. My stories are primarily about men who are learning to be men. As a man who was raised in a single parent household, I think my life has generated a perspective that shapes my narratives. My stories are inspired by personal stories and things that I have witnessed. They are comedic, but each narrative has weight.
While you have a lot of writers to choose from, it is my hope that you will buy a book and give it a shot. I promise you will read something unlike any other novels out there. I also know that you will come away with something to discuss with other readers and friends. I think these books in regard to women readers, will give you genuine insight into the male psyche. In regard to men, these books will give you a voice and allow you to say, “That’s me.” I love getting feedback and I will respond to questions or comments. If you would like to get a better understanding of what makes me tick check out my updates on www.cbpublish.com. Once again, thanks for stopping by and stay positive and motivated.


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Friday, August 17, 2012

MSRL: Cookbook Review - Make It Simple With G. Garvin


Make It Super Simple with G. GarvinMake It Super Simple with G. Garvin by Gerry Garvin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, as I was lounging around at my friend's house during my extended vacation in July, I picked up her copy of Make It Super Simple with G. Garvin. This man is only her favorite chef so I said to myself, let me see what all of the hubbub is about.  I see why people love him. In this book he takes very practical everyday family and entertaining recipes, punches them up a notch to - just enough for the average person to be able to make them and still feel like they are a gourmet chef, while still keeping it simple. His focus is truly on family and get togethers with friends.  I recommend this cookbook to anyone, especially the ladies because, besides the vivid food photography, there are some pretty good shots of G. Garvin doing his thing. But this would also be a great gift for any guy in your life that thinks he's a great cook, but may not really be one (this will give him a clue without making him feel too girly). LOL. Great book!


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