The Seal of Approval

What’s in a seal?  Prestige, praise, protection, a blessing.  Seals have existed for many centuries.  They date back to some of the world’s first civilizations.  Today we use them mostly to award prizes.  If you’re a book lover of literary prizes, then you’re used to seeing seals on winning books and runners-up.  Seals are now also showing up on new releases and back list books for book clubs.  Oprah’s Book Club, Reese’s Book Club, Emma Watson’s Book Club, even Jimmy Fallon, and the list goes on.

I hope this trend isn’t going to continue but it seems as though people are really catching the reading bug because of them .  That’s fantastic!  However the thing that annoys me about some of these celebrity book clubs is that when the book is published there has to be a giant seal printed on the front cover for the book club.  This drives me mad!  Why is it that publishing companies have to put Oprah’s seal on every book she chooses for her book club?

When the public decides to buy a book that happens to have the Oprah book club seal, it looks like we’re all joining her book club when we aren’t.  It’s great for the author who gets loads of publicity because his/her book was chosen to be discussed for the club.  Sadly for collectors, like myself,  the Oprah and Reese cover seals don’t cut it.

November 13th, 2018 Becoming by Michelle Obama was released.  I was ecstatic but when I heard that Becoming was chosen for Oprah’s book club, I hoped that there would be some pre-orders that were published without the seal.  First edition hardcover books with a book club seal on the front is just disheartening.

The 13th I looked at all of the pictures on Instagram that rolled through my feed of Becoming.  Everybody was so proud and overjoyed by the release of this book.  But there was a common feeling lurking under many of these posts. “I would have preferred that the cover didn’t contain a Oprah Book Club seal.”  Now this is a very common thought contrary to what most people would think.  It’s time that publishing companies start listening more to their customers, the avid readers and book collectors on this one.  We are all prepared to buy books but we’d prefer you omit publishing them with book club seals.

I know publishers probably think that the seal of approval encourages the public to buy more books.  Avid readers who buy a lot of books don’t need a seal of approval on a book to be convinced to buy it.  Most of us do our research and we know what we want to buy and read.  There are people who just refuse to buy any books with book club and literary prize seals on them.  In my opinion, these so-called seals of approval make the value of the first edition decrease.

Now after pre-ordering my copy of Becoming from Amazon, it arrived sadly with the dreaded Oprah seal.  So I had to hunt for a copy with no seal.  I realized that the British copies do not have any seals on them.  On the hunt for a British copy, I found and ordered a copy of Becoming from The Book Depository.  My copy came from the UK and it doesn’t contain the Oprah seal of approval.  Thank goodness was my sigh of relief once the box was finally opened.  Becoming looking perfectly beautiful.

So what can we do to try to get books to not contain seals of approval from celebrity book clubs?  I think we should all take to our computers and write letters to publishing companies, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc and urge them to stop printing book club seals on book covers or at least print only half of them with seals.  At least this way there would be a possibility for book lovers to be able to buy a book without a seal.  This could be done since now we know that they produced all of the UK copies without seals.  What’s stopping publishing houses from publishing only half the books with seals?  Comment below and let me know what you think about this.

Bye 2018. Hello 2019 Literary Goals!

I can hardly believe that 2019 has arrived so quickly.  2018 was a good reading year as a whole for me because I did complete my Goodreads goal to read 60 books.  I also read 461 more pages than last year.  However, there were quite a few things that did not go as planned that I hope to improve this year.

I didn’t get a chance to read very many Caribbean lit books. I managed to read 3 – one poetry collection Satellite City and Other Stories by  Alecia McKenzie is a wonderful short story collection that plunges the reader into the ambience of living on an island and Jamaican culture. , The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Afro-Dominican writer, is YA novel in verse that will grab your heart and won’t let it go. It’s beautifully lyrical and relatable to all ages. This is a book not to miss, and finally Slave Old Man a short literary fiction novella written to perfection by Patrick Chamoiseau.  The beautiful descriptions take you through the plush green sinister nature of Martinique to the uncertain life of an old slave who finally seeks freedom. All three are excellent books that are well worth 4.5 -5 stars. So I will definitely continue on my Caribbean journey because I still have much to discover and experience.

I also joined the #readingblackoutchanllenge(=to read only African-American writers during the year) which I did for half of the year. Of my 60 books read, 35 books were by African-American writers. This was an interesting challenge.  It got me started on reading the Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley.  I managed to read the first four books and they were really good.  There are a total of 13 books in the series so I’m going to try to see how many I can get through this year. Reading this series was a great reading surprise for me. I couldn’t believe how much I liked them and kept asking myself why it took me so long to start reading them.

So many books, so little time is the phrase we should all have engraved somewhere. How we torture ourselves over all of the new books coming out each year. Well I won’t be doing that this year.  I have already pre-ordered a few but I will be focusing on trying to finish reading all the books by certain authors, for example I still need to read Love and Paradise to finish all of Toni Morrison’s books.I still have books to finish by Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, even Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and many others. My year will be devoted to backlist books (If you want to join me use #backlistbooks2019 when you post about a booul you’re reading that isn’t from this year.) and some new ones here and there.

As for reading challenges, I’ll be choosing them as I go along during the year, but I have decided to participate in the Ghana reading challenge(spearheaded by African Book Addict, go check out her blog for more info), which is to read 5 books within the year which are by a Ghanaian writer.  It turns out I have quite a few which are already on my backlist for this year. I’ll also be trying to read at least 10 big books that are 400 pages and over this year.  I do this challenge every year because it helps me not forget those huge door stops that have a tendency top be overlooked because of their size.  We have to remember that big is not always synonymous with fear.  There are some great big books pout there and I hope I’m going to put my hands on at least ten of them.

Now, I’d love to read more than 60 books but I don’t dare set my total Goodreads goal for more books. Last year the goal was set at 60 and this year I sat the goal at 50.  If I get a chance to read more I will be thrilled, but essentially I’d like to be able to choose 4 and 5 star books. I reaching for quality.

So, that’s all for the reading goals but I do have some writing goals concerning this blog and that’s to write at least 1 blog post a week and to finish each month with a recap of what I read for the month.  This means I won’t be recapping over on my YouTube channel.  I’d like to balance my time between here and YouTube. The other place where you can get bookish updates from me is Instagram and Twitter.  Click the links to follow me over there.  Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and to support the blog, my YouTube channel, and Instagram! I really appreciate it.  2019 is going to be a stellar year all around and the bookish communities seem to be gearing up  for some great reading and sharing!  Let me know below how your 2018 in reading went and what you have planned as reading goals for 2019.

 

 

#MarchMysteryMadness

#MarchMystery Madness has been in full swing since March 1st and I decided to participate for the first time.  I’m also doing #ReadingBlackout this month for the second time.  January was a #ReadingBlackout month and February was of course #ReadSoulLit, specifically in honor of African-American writers.

March Mystery Madness is giving me the opportunity to explore mystery crime novels specifically written by African-American writers.  I started 2018 discovering the Easy Rawlins series written by Walter Mosley.  In January I read Devil in a Blue Dress, February I read A Red Death, and I’m currently reading White Butterfly.  The series starts in the late 1940s and each novel moves on in time.  So, once you get to White Butterfly the series will have already moved to 1956.  There’s a lot to say about this addictive series, which has a strong group of recurring characters, set in Los Angeles, and an ambience that will draw you in and won’t let you go.  The additional bonus is that the Easy Rawlins series gives you the authentic historical background while you’re trying to figure out whodunnit.  Reading this series so far has been like meeting up with an old friend.

The first book I read this month was Icognegro – a graphic mystery written by Mat Johnson and artwork by Warren Pleece.   Johnson examines the idea of “passing” (=the ability for a fair-skinned black person to move in society as a white person because of his/her light skin color) through the storyline involving a journalist from the New Holland Herald newspaper.  Zane Pinchback, alias icognegro,  travels south as a “white” man from New York to report on lynchings. However, his last incognegro story almost goes wrong and he barely escapes when he is recognized as being black.  He makes it back to New York to the unfortunate news that his brother has been arrested in Mississippi for brutally murdering a white woman.  And the story unfolds……

Incognegro is a good mix of mystery and history.  Johnson gives you the facts about the horrors of lynching and the troubled race relations between whites and blacks.  The story takes place in the early twentieth century so the setting and ambience drag the reader into a very dark place.  I was on edge from page one and it got worse and worse as the story moved on.  I couldn’t put it down.  Beautifully executed and there was even some humor in there believe it or not.  The artwork complemented the story perfectly and the black and white images help accentuate the brutality of the time period.  Check out the video below where you can hear Mat Johnson talking about how he got the idea for this ingenious graphic novel.

 

 

 

The second book I picked up this month for March Mystery Madness was called Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely. This is the first book in the Blanche White cosy mystery series.  It contains three other books, Blanche Among the Talented Tenth, Blanche Cleans Up, and finally Blanche Passes Go.  This one was a big surprise to me because it is definitely an atypical mystery novel.  Blanche on the Lam begins with Blanche standing in front of a judge for writing bad checks for the second time.  The judge decided to condemn her to spend some time in jail and that’s when Blanche’s bladder starts to nag her.  You’ll just have to read the book for the rest of the details.  Anyway, this novel will appear to be slow-moving but Neely is giving you the clues and information with her detailed storytelling, which may appear to be off the subject.  It’s not. The reader follows the story through Blanche’s eyes and through her thoughts.  She is hysterical but mostly she’s very intelligent and intuitive to people’s behavior.  Neely uses the story to astutely talk about racism, sexism, and classicism.  It’s brilliant! I can’t wait to pick up book 2 Blanche Among the Talented Tenth.  You can already see from its title that it will be as vivid if not more than Blanche on the Lam.  You can check out the video below where Barbara Neely talks about using her writing as a way to talk about her activism. There’s one thing I’d like to know and that’s where is Barbara Neely these days.  Why hasn’t Neely hasn’t Neely written anything else since the Blanche White series?  Her writing is a breath of fresh air in this genre.  The Blanche White series is a must read.

 

Incognegro – Mat Johnson, hardcover, 136 pages (Berger Books)

Blanche on the Lam – Barbara Neely, Kindle edition, 304

White Butterfly – Walter Mosley, paperback, 309 pages (Washington Square Press)

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 28 #ReadSoulLit Wrap Up

 

 Unbelievable I stuck to a TBR!😅 Sadly Black History Month will soon be over but luckily #readsoullit can continue on.  Hope you all had a good one and have discovered some new authors and new books to read throughout the rest of 2018. My #readsoullit stack was pretty good. No duds and I managed to read 7 books. Wish I could have gotten in a 400+ page book so it looks like that will be a priority for next month. Happy continued #readsoullit reading and Thanks to you all for participating!  Please check out the video below of Frank X Walker, a great Affrilachian poet from Kentucky.  The best works I read this month were from him.  Buffalo Dance and When Winter Come are two excellent poetry collections – MUST READS!

What did I read this month:

Tar Baby – Toni Morrison, paperback, 306 pages (Vintage) ****

Buffalo Dance The Journey of York – Frank X Walker, paperback, 69 pages (The University Press of Kentucky) *****

When Winter Come The Ascension of York – Frank X Walker, paperback, 115 pages (The University Press of Kentucky) *****

A Red Death – Walter Mosley, paperback, 312 pages (Washington Square Press) ****

Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore – Walter Mosley, hardcover, 265 pages (Doubleday) ***

The Mighty Miss Malone – Christopher Paul Curtis, hardcover, 307 pages (Wendy Lamb Books) ****

Halsey Street – Naima Coster, hardcover, 320 pages (Little A)

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=browngirlreading

 

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 27 A Book To Cosy Up With

 

  This was the first book I read by J. California Cooper and I was forever hooked on her captivating and life lessons-filled short stories. They were Wonderful stories, especially since I’m not a fan of short story collections. Homemade Love changed all that for me. So if you haven’t tried J. California Cooper this short story collection would be a great place to start.

Check out below my review of Homemade Love and another video with J. California Cooper talking about her story writing.

Homemade Love – J. California Cooper, paperback, 175 pages (St. Martin’s Griffin)

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=browngirlreading

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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 26 Book and Music

Here’s another book that is on my 2018 TBR by an African-American writer called Jedah Mayberry.  It’s a coming of age story. “It’s a lushly told reflection on a young man’s passage into manhood.” (back of The Unheralded King of Preston Plains Middle)  Check out the video below with an interview with Jedah Mayberry talking about the inspiration he had for this book.

 

The Unheralded King of Preston Plains Middle – Jedah Mayberry, paperback, 315 pages (River Grove Books)

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 25 First Letter of Your Name

It wasn’t easy finding a title that starts with the letter D in my collection of books.  In the end, I found two, Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor was one of them.  I decided to go with Daughters of the Stone by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, which is on my TBR for this year, since I’ll be focusing on reading what’s on my shelves. This was Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa’s debut novel published in 2009 and is apparently her only novel to date. Daughters of Stone follows five generations of Afro-Puerto Rican women through their physical and spiritual journey, starting in the 1880s.  Check out the video below where Llanos-Figueroa reads an except from her novel and talks about how and why she wrote it.

Daughters of Stone – Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, hardcover, 323 pages

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 24 #ReadSouLit TBR in March

I’m going to do my best to stick with these, although I might change something. I’m so difficult about sticking to TBRs.  My reading goals for March are to read for #marchmysterymadness and for #readingblackout.  There are a few new ones on this stack I need to get to, especially The Obama Inheritance, which I’ll be buddy reading with Morgan Gayle.  A big Thank You to Three Room Press for sending it to me for review. Another big Thank You to Dutton Books for sending me an ARC of Bad Men and Wicked Women too. I will also be buddy reading White Butterfly with Monica from Monlatable Book Reviews. She has an excellent blog you should definitely check out.  I’m so happy Freshwater arrived today because I’ve been anticipating it.  Are you planning on reading some mysteries next month? If so, which ones?  Check out the video below with Margaret Wilkerson Sexton reading an excerpt from her debut novel A Kind of Freedom.  Below that is a short clip of Attica Locke introducing her latest book Bluebird, Bluebird.

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 23 Cool Shoes and a Book

I just received this special edition of The Darkest Child last week. This new cover is perfect. I’ve been hearing so many people rave about this book as well as saying how mad it made them. It’s a book that’s going to put us through a lot of emotions. Sounds like a book for me. I’ll definitely be reading this one this year. Oh and those cool shoes are my daughter’s platform Converse.

Delores Phillips was born in Georgia in 1950 and sadly died in 2014.  She graduated from Cleveland State University with a bachelor of arts in English.  However, she worked as a nurse in psychiatric hospital in Cleveland.  The Darkest Child was her debut novel.

The Darkest Child – Delores Phillips, paperback, 387 pages (Soho Press) This special edition has an introduction written by Tayari Jones.

 

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
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#ReadSoulLit Photo Challenge Day 22 Book and a Drink

Black No More has been on my TBR for quite a while. It’s on my list of #SundayShorts to read this year. Black No More is a Harlem Renaissance Classic that explores race in an unexpected way, that will spark much thought and deep conversation. « What would happen to the race problem in America if black people turned white? Would everybody be happy? These questions and more are answered hilariously in Black No More, George S. Schuyler’s satiric romp. »(back cover of Black No More) Of course there’s tea in this picture because that’s what I’m usually drinking when I’m reading. What do you usually drink when you’re reading?

Black No More – George S. Schuyler, paperback, 180 pages

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.
http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=browngirlreading