Sextra, sextra, read all about it

8 Jun

Whenever you get to the nitty gritty love scenes in a book do you ever think you’re reading a porn script? Yes everybody has sex, but as satisfying as that? Each and every time? Are you sure?

I remember a friend of a friend was branded a pervert as a fellow bus passenger had a quick read of the saucy sex scene she was silently indulged in.  I can also recall a time in sixth form when friends picked up a book I was reading and looked at me in horror, demanding to know: “What type of books do you read?”  Flicking through Eric Jerome Dickey’s Cheaters, they had randomly landed on a page where the lead characters were getting it on. I blushed my way through an explanation that I barely remember, hoping they didn’t think I was a sex crazed maniac. Who knew books could be so dangerous.

The very first time I encountered sex scenes in a book was when, as a bored 12-year-old who had already read all the teenage novels the mobile library had to offer, I decided to read one of my mum’s books, a Jackie Collins story to be exact. At the time I was bewildered that such things were detailed in books but sex scenes have come a long way since then and are raunchier. But are they really necessary?

As adults it’s inevitable that we have sex, the high rise in STDs confirm that (sorry but I’m an advocate for safe sex). Yet I find myself skipping the love making – to put it nicely – where it doesn’t add any value to the storyline, at least not four pages worth of it. And why does almost every story have to feature girl-on-girl action? I’m not homophobic or a prude but I sometimes wonder if certain authors are better off writing erotica where their bedroom scenes will find a happy home.

One of my biggest issues with sex scenes is the lack of realism. When sex is good, it’s good but I’m pretty sure that not one reader of these novels can say that each and every time they get down and dirty they can orgasm a million times and keep going on at it all night. In fact, Braya Spice’s Dear Drama is the only novel I can recall the protagonist having a shit sex life.

If you want us to identify with the characters then why not talk about when Kevin came within the first few minutes of action? Or how Simone’s libido decreased after giving birth? These issues may not be enticing, especially in the urban literature genre, but they are common problems that grown men and women experience in the bedroom. We’re not porn stars, don’t aim to be porn stars, so leave the porn scripts to the professionals. And make sure these men wrap it up!


The Editor Edition

3 Mar

I’ve been reading a lot of books by up and coming authors recently and have noticed a trend. They offer the first book for free, hoping to pull the reader in and subsequently buy the following five books in the series. Nothing wrong with this if you like books that come in numerous parts rather than one single book (I’ve explained my views on this in the last post). Yet I’ve noticed another trend amongst new authors, one that’s quite worrying.

Have you ever read a book thinking it has a great storyline only to be lambasted with incorrect spelling and grammar? Mistakes that are critical not only because they are made by an adult, but because the content is also to be read by an adult.

I absolutely HATE when I read a book littered with spelling and grammatical errors. Something so simple and basic such as putting a comma in the correct place, or even using one, can change the meaning of a sentence which, in turn, puts me right off. Now, I’m not talking about the author who had one typo on one page of a 340-page novel. I’m referring to the author who, somehow, confused ‘discuss’ with ‘disgust’. The author who thought it was ok to spell ‘sensing’ as ‘censing’. The author who wrote about the ‘dough eyes’ of a female character instead of her ‘doe eyes’. The author who believed her serial killer protagonist was ‘roofless’ rather than ‘ruthless’. A murderer without a roof? Oh come on. I actually stopped reading the novel that featured the ‘roofless’ killer as I found it difficult to comprehend such slackness.

Though I may have enjoyed a few of these free books, I have chosen not to review them based on the fact that their stories have far too many inconsistencies or errors. I will not name the titles of these books or the authors as it is not my intention to name and shame. However, I believe it is important to highlight that if you are someone who wants to share your written craft with the world then it is imperative that you are on point with grammar, spelling and consistency.

The expanding trade of urban literature has seen plenty of black writers sharing their talents and even more black people picking up a book. Gritty tales of the gangster lifestyle and thug love have encouraged many to indulge in stories that were once inaccessible and while some may argue against the content of urban literature, others applaud the fact that a growing number of black adults are actually reading.

It is for these reasons that new authors need to invest in real editors rather than friends and relatives. We need to encourage more people to read and give solid reasons as to why the urban lit genre should exist. It’s not enough to have a story if it is not going to be executed properly and continuing to make the same lazy mistakes will only support those against the existence of the genre.

My advice to anyone who wishes to be an author is to take some adult English classes in your free time, and arm yourself with a dictionary, thesaurus and a couple of books specialising in spelling, grammar and punctuation. The books will not be free like your first novel but if you want readers to invest in your craft, you have to invest in it first.

Does It Really Take Two?

28 Feb

So, I’ve been absent for a while and decided it was time to get my butt in gear and start reading – and reviewing – more books to share with you. While I was scouring Amazon for new titles to get into, it came to my attention that the majority of the books that caught my interest were the third or fourth instalments of a series.  Now, there is nothing wrong with books that have more than one part – Deja King’s Bitch and Wahida Clark’s Thugs series are testament to that. However, it has brought up a question that I’m sure many of you are thinking – why are urban lit writer’s writing five part series instead of a solid one part book?

Before I continue, let me make it clear that although I am a writer I am not a novelist so cannot do what these authors do. Yet as an avid reader, when I purchase a book it is under the impression that it is a finished story that concludes once I turn the last page. Nevertheless, a quick look at the urban book genre in the Amazon Kindle store will show you that almost every new title available (at least that’s what it seems like) is accompanied by at least two more parts. When I receive recommendations via email, the books are hardly ever one-part novels.

If the authors have the writing capabilities such as the aforementioned King and Clark then there wouldn’t be much to complain about. Both ladies have created original and riveting storylines completed by strong and credible characters. Yet the books that I have come across usually consist of poor editing, a lacklustre plot and weak character development. This then continues into the following instalments, with the quality steadily decreasing thus making way for a frustrating read. I recognise that a large majority of the authors are first time writers who have taken the brave step of self publishing in order to get their work seen. But I believe they should spend more time enhancing their craft on a single book thereby creating a solid following and then progress onto a series of books.

I want to support new writers and I want to read their stories; but it wouldn’t hurt to keep things on a small scale until your name becomes more than a whisper within the genre.

If All Men Cheat, All Women Should Too – LaShonda DeVaughn

7 Oct

“Do I think all men cheat? Well looking back at the spiral of events that took place in my life, I would answer with a definite yes. Do I think all women should too? I guess every situation is different so I’ll leave that up to them to decide.”

Janae is addressing the very question that many women face every day, and after reading her tale you might have second thoughts about what you thought was your solid answer. Dedicated to the only man she has ever been with, Janae cannot work out why after four years Tae continues to lie, cheat and disrespect her. She makes her own money, is educated and takes care of home when needed yet her best just isn’t good enough. After catching Tae being unfaithful once again, Janae has to make a decision – put up with the BS or leave for good. Or there is the third alternative that comes in the heavenly form of stripper Damion – give Tae a taste of his own medicine and cheat on him. It was never Janae’s initial plan to pursue another man as she’s not that type of girl. However, the experiences that follow teach Janae some very important lessons along the way, lessons she shares right until the unexpected end.

If All Men Cheat, All Women Should Too is a sophisticated story about how to deal with a serial cheater and the consequences of the actions that follow. Rather than a book that glorifies deceit in a relationship, it attempts to address all the emotions a woman will feel when placed in that position. Many women will be able to identify with being so blinded by love that you’re not able to let go of a rotten relationship. Janae may seem naive but she is just simply in love while Tae typically takes way too long to appreciate the diamond he has before him. The characters are believable, including the good-natured, fun-loving Sarah and her eccentric mother Ms Michelle who add some comic relief from the stress of Janae’s relationship issues. However, the biggest surprise comes from Damion Star, the seemingly elegant stripper/estate agent that seems too good to be true.

I was surprised how entertaining the book was and costing less than anything on McDonald’s Pound Saver menu, it is well worth purchasing. There is also an underlying message about the dangers of promiscuity that I felt was done in a graceful manner by author LaShonda DeVaughn. The only downside is that the last two chapters or so seem rushed considering how steady the story unfolded and the ending is a tearjerker.

A decent and honest look at unfaithfulness in relationships, If All Men Cheat, All Women Should Too encourages fed up women to trust your gut instinct. You will definitely put more trust in yours once you’ve finished reading.

HBIC – Caroline McGill

16 Aug

HBIC – that’s Head Bitch In Charge in case you didn’t know and that’s exactly the position that sisters Twyla and Elle are aiming for. Having grown up singing in the church, the sisters, including eldest sister Etta, have not lead very Godly lives. Living in a Brooklyn neighbourhood, hustling is all they know and neither of the girls have done an honest day of work in their lives.

As the youngest girl of four children, Elle is the book smart sister who everyone thinks will make it big in college. However, with the influence of her sisters she soon finds herself engaging in illegal activities for her older drug dealing boyfriend Knight, encountering infidelity and back stabbing friends along the way. As time goes on both Twyla and Elle strive on with their hustle in any way they can – drug smuggling, sham marriages to men from Bangladesh and even use their singing skills to get a record deal.  After a few mishaps, the girls find themselves back to their original hustle of transporting drugs. Yet this time the stakes are much higher as rather than travelling to another state, the girls have to travel to South America to bring back the goods. Do they succeed? Only part two will tell.

With a title such as HBIC it’s hard not to think of Precious Cummings from Deja King’s Bitch series, so I had high expectations of the book. I wouldn’t call it a gripping read and the main reason why I read on was because I wanted to know where the story was leading to. The major problem with that was I wasn’t quite sure what the story was, hence the bland review. Yes two sisters want the title of HBIC but it didn’t seem like there was a solid plot to follow. It was more like a series of thoughts thrown together as Elle passes through the past and present and certain aspects of the story are left unresolved. For example, what happened to her cousin Olan? His plight seemed like a good inclusion to the plot but you don’t hear about him again and are often left wondering why certain scenarios are mentioned if they are not going to be developed and have no real relevance to the main plot.  You are also left to question how a sixteen-year-old girl manages to get away with doing such things with parents who are so prominent in the local community and church.  The book is said to be based on the life of the author, so I don’t want to dismiss it too quickly. However, if the second part doesn’t answer any questions and fails to provide a tale yet again, I will not be continuing with the HBIC series.

Boss Bitch – Deja King

9 Jul

Yes the Bitch is back. Again. The seventh time to be exact. I loved books 1-5 of the Bitch series but by the time Bitch: A New Beginning was released, I couldn’t think what more Precious Cummings Mills could possibly give. It didn’t help that during the Twitter battle between King and her protégé Michelle Monay, many were critical of her more recent writing efforts and turned their backs on the popular author. Yet after following the madcap shenanigans of the much loved character that is Precious from day one, it wasn’t that easy to walk away. So I gave in and read Bitch: A New Beginning and wasted no time getting stuck into Boss Bitch straight after. For those who thought Miss King was off her game you are so wrong and loyal King fans will not be disappointed.

Boss Bitch picks up from the last instalment where a grown up Aaliyah Mills Carter – daughter of Precious and Nico Carter – was charged for the murder of Sway Stone and the attempted murder of her best friend Justina. If any of these names ring a bell it is because Sway Stone is the rapper that featured in King’s Rich or Famous novel while Justina is the child of T-Roc and Chantal who got together in King’s Superstar book. Through the sheer love of Aaliyah’s family to prove her innocence, the real culprit is revealed. It’s a shocker but when you reflect on past events, it should have been a no-brainer. As a result of the confession, Aaliyah is released from jail but the Cummings/Mills/Carter family face a lot more challenges consisting of a love affair, an impending separation and a drug war that leads to a near fatality. Without best friend and love of her life Amir to stand by her side after he distanced himself in loyalty to his girlfriend Justina, Aaliyah finds herself new alliances who will no doubt add to the family drama in the future. And of course, how can we forget Maya, who seems to pop up at the most inappropriate moments.

The book seemed to finish too quickly, though I’m not sure if this was due to me reading it in the eBook format or because I found it impossible to put down. The inclusion of all of King’s characters – T-Roc, Chantal, Genesis, Lorenzo, etc – makes you forget the linking storylines at times, so it is best to keep all her novels by your side if you find yourself a little lost. Aaliyah is spoilt and stubborn but as her mother’s child, you’ll root for her all the way. Although she is now the main protagonist of the book, Precious still calls the shots and serves a slice of her own scandal which may leave some readers divided. While many will not agree with the direction her character took – like myself– I guess it’s down to character development, which only makes for a better storyline. Yet the majority, if not all, will agree that the return of the Boss bitch sets Precious Cummings and Deja King in the street lit hall of fame.

Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy And Commitment – Steve Harvey With Denene Millner

25 Jun

Last week Friday (22.06.12) saw the UK release of the much anticipated (at least by me) Think Like A Man, the film adaptation of Steve Harvey’s best selling self-help book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man. In conjunction with the release, I’ve decided to review the book that started it all. One of the original Kings of Comedy, Steve Harvey is best known for making people laugh but as he branched into radio, he found himself bombarded with questions about relationships. Due to the insistence from his many fans – men and women alike – he finally published the relationship book in 2009, giving his insight into the unknown: how women can get into the heads of their men.

I have never read a self-help book (I’m quite sceptical of them you see) but the chapters cover various problems so you are likely to identify with something. I for one headed straight for the ‘Why Men Cheat’ chapter before I had even read the introduction but other chapters that may prove popular are: ‘The Three Things Every Man Needs’, ‘The Five Questions Every Woman Should Ask Before She Gets In Too Deep’ and ‘How Men Distinguish Between the Marrying Types and the Plaything’. When I apply certain chapters to specific circumstances in my life, what Harvey says makes sense yet there is this assumption that every man thinks the same way he does.

Firstly, I find the examples he shares are typical of American behaviour and I wonder if much of Harvey’s advice can be equally applied to men outside of the US. Even if it can, why is there this assumption that the majority of men, if not all, ‘Think Like A Man’? It is inevitable that not all men will agree with what Harvey says and will have different solutions to female enquiries but I also find that the ‘real men’ that Harvey talks of will have to be of a mature age so his words of wisdom will definitely not apply to a man of my age. So if you are under the age of 30 you can purchase the book for future reference if you please, but I doubt it will be of much use now.

I did find much of the information useful, particularly the first half of the book, and I found that in regards to what was being said I already do think like a man. It also has comedic value as the book captures the true essence of Harvey’s personality and you can imagine some lines used as part of his stand up routine. But if you think that following every bit of advice down to the full stop will help you get the man you want and keep him, you’re not living up to reality. Why? Because a lot of men would have to read the book first and learn how to be the man Harvey speaks of before agreeing to the advice and deciding it can be applied to them.

Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man is short but gets straight to the point. It has good tips with funny scenarios but it is not for everyone. If you are thinking about buying it don’t do it simply because of the author’s name.