Friday, July 28, 2006

SNAP by Lucio Dutch


�Excuse me while I dance, I mean, as I attempt to get down, literary style.�

Such a bold and dramatic first line begins the saga that is SNAP, LUCIO DUTCH�S most compelling novel to date. DUTCH�S literary effect is absolutely stunning. The storyline: one that is utterly exhilarating, meaning that even though the subject matter has been handled before, DUTCH�S writing style carries the line forward with such a force it seems almost orgasmic.

Orgasmic in the audacity of such a daring combination of structure and events and character traits is what sets SNAP apart from the other writings within the Urban Fiction genre.

SNAP begins explosively with a flashback starring Jocelyn Moore as the quintessential rape victim. Well� Potential rape victim is more accurate. �Potential� because Jocelyn fights back with such a fierceness, as to cause Victor�s �nose to menstruate.� Later we find out that this meeting of sorts is not the first between Jocelyn and antagonist Victor Sinclair.

Moving forward� This particular flashback is the beginning of the 1-2 punch combination that leaves the reader stunned with the voracity of such a sweet science. Then DUTCH proceeds to violently and swiftly segue into the real dance of the storyline with fantastic style, introducing each character in stride. Making up the raucous melee is Felix Ortega, O, Mona and a slew of other characters, whom I will henceforth refer to as the inner SNAP circle.

Each character of the inner SNAP circle is roundly and thoroughly explored. This leaves very little to the imagination, as the reader knows the characteristics and personality traits of each immediately from the get-go. But what makes DUTCH�S style so eloquently sweet is that each of the inner SNAP circle remains mysteriously unpredictable the whole while. Victor Sinclair, as example, is wholesomely seen as the one whom walks the straight-and-narrow - which indeed he does. The pathway he walks, however, is as crooked as pirates� teeth, and just as dirty.

[pg. 157]
Pains that Victor felt in his stomach made him double over and fall to the floor. His mental confusion, his pain and his anger, though his fault, made him want nothing but revenge. The little clarity that Victor was able to achieve once in a while had disappeared, for good. He was going to make sure he made females feel the pain he did�.

Excuse me while I dance�

DUTCH manages to take on issues of great importance to many a disgruntled people, including Inner-city disenfranchisement & the resulting subtle racism� Although my opinions are not always synonymous with the loud-and-clear approach DUTCH uses in SNAP, it�s well beyond me to feign not beaming a truthfully knowing smile of respect for DUTCH�S tact. That very tact is indeed part of the �dance� that makes SNAP such a thrill to be part of. It really defines the steps & movement of the dance � so to speak.

That�s it! That�s what sets SNAP apart from the fray of other Urban Fiction novels: It�s as if the reader is part of the melee, rather than being the nosey bystander peeping in. It�s as if the reader is toe-tapping along with the rhythm and swaying to the beat of it. The SNAP story is one that we can each relate to our own lives; Just the familiarity of it... It reads true.

[pg. 187]
Seeing the concern in his mother�s face made to Victor was heartbreaking, he was lying to her and felt not only did he let himself and friends down but his parents who invested so much. At that moment he wanted to slit his own throat, Victor�s head had the Temptations inside stomping to a ball of confusion and he was in search of Teddy Pendergrass to help him give it up and turn it loose.

Aside from the brilliant pieces of writing & the familiar understanding of being part of the an inner circle, style is key here. LUCIO DUTCH has proven once again that he has plenty for the sharing.

5 Stars: An utterly exhilarating read.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Secret Society by Miasha

Secret Society

Miasha enters the arena of urban literature full-throttle and ready to swing.  Her stunning debut novel, Secret Society, has left me awe-struck – and quite frankly speechless – at the audacity of its broad reality.  Each swipe of Miasha’s pen sews another detail onto what is surely to become one the most talked-about novels of 2006.  One of the most fashionable fabrics of the season – if you will…

Distinct is the difference between that fabric and, say, wool; Such is the voice of Miasha:  resonant with beauty and utterly distinctive.  I expect this rising star to supernova within the genre “urban fiction.”  Her writing style at times is brutally original – caustic even – but resounds with a truth that cascades upon the conscience like a meteor shower.  Her word is explicitly strong and reads like a reality I’ve heard about before, but have never had the opportunity to personally experience.  Now I can be proud and comfortable in knowing that I’ve actually experienced this thing which is the storm Miasha.

Secret Society is an intriguing story about two femme fatales Celess & Tina who have learned the seductive art of survival.  The streets of Philadelphia – incidentally, the City of Brotherly Love – will never quite be the same after these broads practice their trade of running game on prospective highest-bidders.  

I know women who are known only for their inherent ability to juggle unsuspecting men away from their great fortunes whilst keeping them smiling sunshine-happy.  Yes, I know these women and ultimately these girls are no joke.  100% professional go-getters and never golddiggas – as diamonds are a girl’s best friend – Celess & Tina prove this to the very end of the novel.  The question:  will they have to do so with their own lives?

What immediately springs to mind is autumn’s blockbuster “Memoirs of a Geisha,” such is the talent of Miasha’s Couture-clad vixens.

But what Miasha’s Secret Society has done is to take “Memoirs” to another level; a street level where the bling-bling is abundant even though the ghetto is next door blazing big guns…  A thug-laden level where purple-on-pink minks and $70,000 cars and 3-bedroom townhouses are given away as insignificant gifts, exchanged for bits of affection.  I suppose there is truth to the old cliché about pleasing the one your with.  In fact, is there anything more endearing?  What of truth and honor and love? – These girls are no joke.

Awe-inspiring is Ms. Miasha with pen.  She has endowed us with a very impressive freshman debut.  Secret Society is essentially the dramatic tale of what has the potential to happen in an urbania where the women are illusive as they wanna be and as intriguingly breathtaking as the men want them to be.  Impressive write indeed!

5 Stars:  A Stunning & Powerful Awe-inspiring Debut

**Reviewers Note**

This reviewer was given an advance uncorrected reader’s proof of Secret Society for review purposes.

This reviewer is convinced that this is a stunning novel.  In this reviewer’s opinion, the novel should of course undergo the usual editing process to correct the stray misuse of comma or other punctuation.  But other than that…  This reviewer would not change a word!  Excellent, Excellent novel – a pleasure to read and be part of Celess’ & Tina’s world!

Reviewed for Mahogany Media of Hudson & Albany NY
Mahogany Media Review
Jacquii's Poetry Spot

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Middle Sister

The Middle Sister     
Bonnie J. Glover

Pamela Johnson is the middle sister, who along with sisters Nona & Theresa have the daunting task of keeping the sanity of their family.  After their dad vacated his “Daddy” spot, the mental fabric of the family becomes tattered and it’s all the girls can do to survive in the midst of their Mother’s mental breakdown.

Bonnie J. Glover’s debut novel is not a bad effort at all.  In fact it’s quite daring and introspective on more than just one level.  The writing at times becomes a bit pretentious, but the overall effect is notable for this first-time fiction author.

The Middle Sister is set in 1970’s East New York where Pamela conjures an invisible friend into being, as if he were the Father figure that she’d missed since the days of her daddy’s departure.  In fact that is the only plausible reason for the appearance of Kwai Chang – David Carradine’s character from the old action series Kung Fu – to offer the fatherly advice that is lacking in Pamela’s life.  This fact speaks very boldly on how one survives the devastation of life.  It speaks on how the human mind places that very survival above all other situations that make up the muck of life.

And that is exactly what Glover’s expertly crafted novel represents:  surviving the muck the world sometimes offers up.  And as a side motif:  finding buried talents and establishing them as part of your own persona, your own legacy.

[pg. 56]
        The lock on the apartment door turned slowly and made a grinding noise when Nona pushed it open.  Theresa rolled her eyes since we had been trying to be as quiet as possible.  I thought right away that I would check my toolbox to see if I had any four-in-one.  I’d lubricated the lock and doorknob and get rid of that sound.  Funny how I knew what to do with problems like doorknobs or dripping faucets without thinking hard.  In my mind I could see exactly how I would approach a problem like that, what tools I’d use, and how long the job would take, all in a few seconds.  Maybe that was my talent, fixing things like Daddy used to do.  That made me smile a little inside.

No doubt Pamela’s talent for solving problems and preserving the peace within is the glue that keeps this family together.  And you’d better believe Glover gives Pamela and her sisters more than their fair share of problems to resolve, conquer and move beyond.  Sometimes Glover does this with startling and chilling alacrity, but at other times the sobering effect of her writing is bittersweet with humor.

At one point in this spectacular freshman effort the sisters have taken their Mother for a doctor’s visit.  Having witnessed Alzheimer’s work its’ mystical effects, this scene is firmly etched in my memory:

[pg. 119]
        “That James Brown, he sure do know how to keep that head combed.  Wished I could get a perm to do like his do.”
        “Mama, you look fine.  You don’t need no perm.  You got an Afro now.  You a real soul sister.”
        ….The door opened, and a large white woman came in holding a folder in her right hand and fumbling to put on glasses with her left…
        “Mrs. Johnson?”
        “That’s me, Doctor.”
        “My name is Dr. Renee Moore….  Can you tell me what’s wrong?”
        My mother waited a couple of seconds, then looked at Nona, me, and Theresa.
        “They say I done lost my mind.”
        “And what do you say?”
        “That it’s a matter of opinion.”
        I’d never heard Mama speak like this before. I jerked my head up.
        “Why is it a matter of opinion?”
        Maybe I ain’t lose it, maybe I just misplaces it every once in a while.”
        Mama gave the doctor one of the grins she gave to us when we brought her home a candy bar or burger from McDonald’s….

Another poignant moment is when Glover reveals to us Nona’s lesbianism.  The very fact was announced in such a way as one never saw it coming, but the way the Johnson family embraced Nona makes for a very admirable stance.

Glover’s novel has shattered stereotypes of mega proportions.  She has given a voice to the strength of iron will and determination.  She has given a voice to the mentally ill and the ill-spurned alike.  She has shown that in the face of adversity one must be there for family and she’s done so in stunning & beautiful fashion.

4 ½  Stars – Introspective, Strong-voiced & Admirable

Reviewed for Mahogany Media of Hudson & Albany NY
Mahogany Media Review

Friday, November 11, 2005

From A Hard Rock To A Gem

From A Hard Rock To A Gem     
Pamela A. Johnson

From A Hard Rock To A Gem can be defined as a coy euphemism to describe what attitude one is likely to own whilst coming from and out of the ghetto.  Thus is Johnson’s topic with the aptly titled novel that has the subtitle “a memoir of a lost soul.”  And while this is indeed a noble subject to embrace with pen, Pamela A. Johnson’s effort (unfortunately) falls short of being a stellar voice within the “moving-on-up” genre of today’s literature.

The novel begins with a quote from the main character’s grandmother, Nana Downstairs:

If you keep going in the direction you’re going
You’re going to end up where you’re headed.

With this somewhat ambiguous oxymoron in mind, the tedium of Johnson’s tale begins.  The introduction spews forth with the telling of Diamond Faith Sterling’s early childhood in the inner-city, then blossoms – and with not much subtlety – into how she makes “major moves”, becoming the first female Kingpin (also-referred to as Queenpin) in the dope game of  East Oakland, California.

Though Johnson weaves a tiresome story, the detail in her memoir is vivid with actual detail that reads true.  But her story offers little (if any at all) humor.  Some may argue that merely surviving the harsh environs of the ghetto is in and of itself the proverbial last-laugh.  I, however, felt there was that inevitable bit of humor within Diamond’s character missing – especially considering she does indeed survive the onslaught of being shot at, beatup and abandoned to live with reluctant family members.  This is the story of a tough young lady who – against all odds – does thrive in her environment, but towards the middle and especially the ending of the novel it began to read more like a parody without the laughs.  

Very important thing that humor could have rescued this book from the depths of ultimate tedium.  Johnson neglects to mention any sort of trait that would show me how Diamond was able to sustain her life long enough to become the multimillionaires Queenpin.  Sure she speaks about Diamond’s prowess on the streets for “keeping it real” and having the right connections to obtain the crackrock to sling in the hood.  That’s all fine and good, but anybody could tell you that being THE Boss in the dope game is more than “keeping it real.”  And from this standpoint From A Hard Rock To A Gem no longer rings of truth, but rather dismally knocks of big exploits and tired clichés.

There is, however one memorable scene where Diamond, who was once hooked on snorting lines of cocaine, gives a piece of sage advice to her addict friends White Girl and Lakeisha:

[pg. 190]
        “What, what made you quit Diamond,” White Girl want to know.
       “I started havin’ cash flow problems and y’all know how much I like money.  When it started interferin’ with my money and my business, I stopped.”
        “What program did you go to?” Lakeisha asked.
        “Program…  I didn’t go to no fuckin’ program.  I stopped on my own.  Y’all can stop on yo own too if you wanted.  All it takes is for yo desire to stop usin’ to be stronger than yo desire to use, and you can stop.”
        “So you sayin’ you never even slipped?”  White Girl asked.
        “No I didn’t.  Not once I made up my mind I didn’t.”
        White Girl asked another question.  “So you sayin’ you never crave for coke?”
        “There was times when I wanted it, but that’s when I get my Bible or call somebody I know who use to use but stopped and talk to ‘em about my urge….   When you get those urges they don’t last long, but they be strong.  You gotta stay focused on yo desire to quit usin’ and you have to remember that depression you suffered in the past when you came down from that high.  It’s been a struggle but I been clean eighteen months.  And I didn’t go to no program.  I just stopped usin’….  If yo desire to stop usin’ is stronger than yo desire to use, yes I think you can stop,” I said looking her straight in the eye.

Admirable words and lovely advice.  Novel words?  Unique advice?  No.  It tends to read like a line straight from the Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous handbook.  And thus is the writing of Johnson.  The premise of the novel is indeed a noble one.  The clunky and cliché writing of the subject matter is not.

3 Stars – Tedious Reading

Reviewed for Mahogany Media of Hudson & Albany NY
Mahogany Media Review

Monday, October 10, 2005

Cooking Bacon Naked

Cooking Bacon Naked
Stephen E. Chatman

What a marvelously humorous and witty dialogue Stephen E. Chatman has endowed us with with his newest novel Cooking Bacon Naked.  Throughout the meritorious depths of Cooking Chatman flaunts his stick-and-move philosophy, beguiling the reader with his flamboyant stunts as would the main event at Mandalay Bay.  His epic storyline revolves around the lives of Stephen (an ex-boxer and guzzler of cheap Merlot with issues of grand proportions) and his love interest Liza, with notable appearances by Stephen’s “other” women:  Max, Melody and Rachel, the money-grubbing mother of his child.

As we each know, relationships and the maintaining of these relationships is often a 24-7 deal.  (Ordeal in Stephen’s case.)  But what Chatman does is toss obstacles in the path of his protagonist’s juggling routine, expecting him to maintain a perfect balance.  This makes for hilarious entertainment:  watching Stephen drop the balls and struggle to begin anew…

This brilliant melee is told from the perspective (or reality) of the male mind.  And having the ability to gaze into the reality of what makes man tick is refreshingly well worth the read.  As Chatman allows Stephen to stumble and trip over his often chauvinistic philosophy and fighter mentality, the reader is brought into that very reality.  Thus is the skill of Chatman to entice with grand flare.

“Never let a guy come up behind you.  You could get the life beat out of you,” Stephen says frequently throughout Cooking, as if this is the most brilliant philosophy ever.  In fact this philosophy is very reasonable.  Though when considering how Chatman places Stephen in situations where the resolutions are so obvious to the reader – especially the female reader – “make sure your opponents gloves are in front of you” would suffice as a more plausible and respectable philosophy.

The repetition of that statement sets the mood for the hilarious scenarios and the laughable conversations we share with Stephen.  This is what makes this novel truly special.

At one point in Cooking a hotheaded Stephen comes forth to do Max’s bidding:

[pg. 67]
        “So Max sent you?  Max, Max, it’s always Max.  Answer me this,” he quips.        Omar draws on his cigarette and exhales out of the corner of his mouth.  Here it comes!  I just knew he would blow the smoke in my face.  That would have been majorly disrespectful and it’s what I would have done, if I smoked…

Later in the menagerie we see another example of Stephen’s great philosophy:

[pg. 115]
        For years, the cronies took turns granting themselves big raises and fat-cat bonuses on top of bigger bonuses for their self-proclaimed vice-president titles.  In my neighborhood, gang signs are flashed to identify your allegiance.  Around the vice presidents, you gain allegiance by laughing heartily at anything they say that is an attempt at humor.  Just to piss them off, I laugh as hard as I can before they even finish their joke.  I suppose that’s a form of reverse brown-nosing.

Chatman entices with his humor and stuns with the voracity of his truth.  In one memorable scene Stephen is in jail after having punched a security guard in the nose for “being allergic to flashlights.”

[pg. 149]
        …Sometimes you have to ring a guy’s bell to get him off your back.  And if it’s not the pervert, it’s the convert who has spent his life stealing, beating and killing…but now wants to preach religion to me, while he awaits conviction for a quadruple homicide…  This guy walks around with one of those picture bibles made for kids, since he can’t even pronounce words on an eye chart.  If you take the time to listen to his wild interpretations of the bible, you’ll hear about Moses giving Eve an apple atop Mount Eden.

Humorous throughout without a doubt…  And although the ending was a bit disappointing, what makes this novel such a rock amongst the sea of new literature is that Chatman doesn’t shy away from taking risks.  His “go-for-it” mentality really works wonders for the funnybone in all of us.  

There are no if-ands-or-buts about it, if one fries up some bacon in his birthday-suit one is liable to get splashed by sizzling bacon grease.  This analogy is likely the reason for the title Cooking Bacon Naked – one must be prepared to be splashed with Chatman’s wit!

5 stars – Exhilarating, Hilarious & Suave

Reviewed for Mahogany Media of Hudson & Albany NY
Mahogany Media Review

Saturday, October 01, 2005

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. & The Choices That We Make

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. & The Choices That We Make
Valerie A. Withers

Withers’ novel is a powerful testimonial to the power & beauty of true friendship and a tribute for essence of woman truly blossoming through the turbulent moments of reality.  This novel is basically a group of short stories that shares a common element:  Synthia.  And even though each character has her own story to tell, equal but separate is not an issue here, for F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is actually an acronym which represents the first letter of the first name of the seven major characters in this hilarious & well-orchestrated novel.  

Felicity, Rachel, Ione, Evelyn, Nina & Denyse are the sustained medley (the concertos – if you will) that makes the grand composition of Synthia’s opus a reality.  Each lady has her particular storyline.  Each lady represents an integral part of the melody which is weaved with the dexterity known by only the finest of craftmen; such is the skill of Withers’ storytelling ability.  Each is related by their relation to Synthia, whom incidentally is described as being an attractive heavy-set woman.  I would propose having such a diversely fanatical array of friends would require having a little extra security (aka poundage) prerequisite for surviving the brouhaha that can often bloom in close relationships…

Withers entices the reader with a her flowering style of writing.  We are often spoken to directly, as if a dear friend is recollecting a memory and sharing it through conversation.  This conversational style is so very appealing and quite the pleasant surprise as Withers pulls it off perfectly with aplomb:

[pg. 46]
I had never been with a man who was so uninhibited in the bed before.  With him is where I first experienced having my booty sucked and licked.  Now for those of you ladies who are turning your noses up, you might want to skip this next part.  But for those of you, who are true “freaks”, keep reading…

At the very end of Withers’ first attempt at fictional writing we are told Synthia’s age, as a birthday celebration in a surprise locale – to make up for the festivities of the previous year due to the September 11 attacks in New York City & Washington D.C. – is planned by Nina.  During a rare spiritually intense moment Synthia toasts friendship and tells each of her sister-friends how very much she is blessed to have them.  At this culmination point Withers’ intent shines like a brand-new penny:

[pg. 278]
“Cherish your friendships everyone.  They are a dime a dozen and that much harder to come by.”

Although the author tries flexing her poetic muscles (failing miserably) mainly Withers’ masterpiece is a very lyrically humorous work.  She even introduces a new word to my vocabulary:  fyne (an adjective which means sexually attractive).   The spelling is novel.  

She stuns with her characters’ bravado and wit…  She intrigues with the blatant truth of her characters’ realness.  There is a vast amount of laugh-out-loud moments in Withers’ narrative:

[pg. 134]

He was absolutely right.  But I wasn’t ready to go home yet.  “Listen Carl, we can go on and on about this, but it won’t change a damn thing [and] for that I’m truly sorry…  I love you baby, and I love being your wife.”  He sat there for a minute, and then says, “I believe you [but] I will not tolerate you being disrespectful to me as a man, and cavorting around town with other men.”  Who the hell uses the word cavorting? And more importantly, what the hell does it mean?...

Interestingly enough, I was taken aback by the very last page which features the poem “One True Friend.”  The sentimentality was right on point and was a perfect fit for the perfect ending:

[pg. 134]

So the next time you feel alone and think there is know one to care
Remember this one thing; it’s your girlfriend who will always be there

She’s your one true friend!

4 1/2 stars – Hilarious, Heartfelt & True

Reviewed for Mahogany Media of Hudson & Albany NY
Mahogany Media Review

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hiding For Cover

Hiding For Cover

… the mentality of a killer
verbosity is explained appropriately
and poetically-just and
defended like Psalms
of songs one must know & see,
songs that one must trust and…

Her mentality changed naught thee
and the inherent
calm of the juror: your own peers
peeking into the essence
of your unmoved conscience
and seeing the fear that
resides in your very own eye;
your heart none the wiser, for
you believe your own lies.

Katrina. She never cared.
(She of omnipotent fury –
an unclaimed & touched Lady
of Mother’s brothel… She was

She has no immediate prejudice, for
her rampage doesn’t discriminate.
She has no completed pathway, for
her anger is of a history unexplained…

Mentality of the killer?
Perhaps… Perhaps
she is the unrecognized tour d’ force
purging the ultimate silence
with her strong, unrequited & loud

Copyright © 2005 Jacquii Cooke