Tag Archives: Books

QFBR: Trail Of Echoes by Rachel Howzell Hall

There’s a neighborhood in the dusty corners of the ‘hood, not terribly far from where the rich people live, where too many young teen girls have gone missing lately.

Then it happens—again.

This time, it’s 13-year-old Chanita Lords who has vanished from a neighborhood in Los Angeles known as The Jungle.

It’s another case that strikes Detective Elouise “Lou” Norton in the heart and gut because she grew up in that neighborhood. Norton also recently solved the case of her long-missing older sister Tori, whose bones had finally been discovered at a shopping plaza not far from where she was last seen all those years ago–part of the scant remnants of her last living day. Tori had been literally under their noses, yet just beyond reach.

So Lou takes another trip down memory lane to The Jungle, and to a family that still lives in the same apartments where Lou and her family used to reside.

Part of her walk includes revisiting and reuniting with families whose members were problematic on the bullying front back in the day. Now, it appears that foul attitudes and bullying jackassery were passed down to the next generation.  

Lou manages to balance, though not always seamlessly, her unwavering dedication to police and detective work to keep other girls like Chanita from being snatched–while knowing how folks in her old neighborhood feel about the police and understanding why they do.

As part of the murder mystery backdrop, Rachel Howzell Hall continues to weave in relational dynamics between the characters in Lou’s life. From the ultra-tense sentiments she harbors toward her dad who ditched their family and is trying to make amends, to the tensions that arise based on cultural and environmental differences between the way Lou was raised and how her partner, Colin Taggert, grew up in Colorado.

But they still work well together as partners in crime solving, along with the other members of the homicide team. Part of the relational story includes a coming out and its aftermath between two longtime friends, and Lou’s attempts to juggle work and kind-sorta-but-not-really-but-still-kinda-sorta blossoming relationship with an Assistant District Attorney who seems like a great guy. 

As for the murder mystery, Howzell Hall‘s writing, as always, keeps me guessing. Who are the main suspects? What’s up with the three mean hood chicks who lived in the same apartment complex as Chanita? Did they carry out one of those Lifetime-esque jealous cheerleader-type of murders and dump the body in a nearby park? What about the mom who had a roughneck boyfriend? The convicted pedophile who lived nearby? The girl’s counselor at school? Some of her schoolmates? Who, what-the-what, when, where, how and why?

Who killed Chanita and tried to deter investigators by injecting bug repellent into her thighs?

Who’s sending the ciphers and other mysterious notes? Who killed AGAIN? Is this a serial killer?  What about the other missing girls? Who, when, where, what-the-what? How and WHY?

Well, that’s about all I can say without saying too much. But yes, is a page-turner!  And I’m so gratified that I guessed the right killer! But the detectives thinning the field did make it easier, though.

To find out more, check out this read— Trail of Echoes. It was published in 2016.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

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From breakup pining to thriving with “I Ain’t Thinking About You”

Whew! This book may be fewer than 60 pages, and it’s an enjoyable read—but a dense one. By that I mean there’s lots to reflect on… And reflect some more. This book is a workshop! 

Based on the title, I imagined a sassy, finger snapping read. That’s in here—along with research-based recommendations. I love when sass and humor meet academic research. I really relate to the tone of this book.

I also love the humor! Plenty of that in here, too…along with hope. That’s what I really, really like—all the steps are meant to get folks to hope.

My favorite parts include Chapter 4 and practical ways to get to acceptance—radical acceptance—and no longer blaming ourselves when someone we’re dating “ain’t actin’ right.”

Oh, and the necessity of forgiveness to get to a place of healing, and looking ahead to what we want life to look like after we’ve fully moved on.

I also love the humor! Plenty of that in here, too...along with hope. That’s what I really, really like—all the steps are meant to get folks to hope. Click To Tweet

There are 13 chapters total in the book, eight which outline the path leading to and including The Breakup Funeral™. Each chapter will ask you to do some thought work that involves accessing your deepest emotions surrounding the breakup (or breakups–plural– if it applies?) and any past influences that may impact your dating choices today. There are writing prompts that provide an outlet for all of that self-exploration and excavation.

Lenina Mortimer, the book’s author, recommends going through the eight steps in order because each step is builds up to the recovery culmination—The Breakup Funeral™.

Lookie here, seriously consider (then get) this book if you’re grappling with a recent breakup. Heck, you may want to check it out even if a relationship ended a while ago, but you’re still grappling with some residual grief. Even if your emotions and your mind ‘been known’ the person ain’t coming back, even if you don’t WANT them back—but you haven’t found it in you to start the path forward to thriving again… This book is also for you.

“I Ain’t Thinking About You” gets 5 out of 5 planets!

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EPISODE 15: Crafting characters that can step from a book’s pages and walk down the street

Any day is a good day to profess affection… so—I admit—I’m in love. With books written by today’s guest! So, there’s this character named Elouise Norton who has captured my heart! Why? Because she’s so human… It’s like I know her.

I’m stoked that I got to interview her creator during a visit to Los Angeles!

Critically acclaimed crime fiction writer Rachel Howzell Hall is the author of several books, including the Lou Norton series, and another title They All Fall Down, which will be released on April 9.

We discuss a range of things from her origins as a writer, how she can explores through her characters, the dualities and unexpected realities of her page people—her characters, and more!

Take a listen to Rachel Howzell Hall on Planet Noun Episode 15!

Part 1—00:00-08:10
Where it all started

Part 1a—08:16-17:07 How a character, Detective Elouise Norton, was a tutor to Howzell Hall

Part 2—17:04-29:02
Characters you don’t expect… dualities and unexpected realities.

Part 3—29:05-36:20
Rachel’s journey toward crime fiction

Part 4—36:28-42:37
Reconciling characters and subject matter with a churchy upbringing

Part 5—42:40-end
Most gratifying moments as an author, and maximizing her time as an author who also has a family and a full time job

Links to stories mentioned in episode:

Torrance bowling alley shooting

Rachel’s social media links:

Instagram

Twitter

Website 

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Erotic poetry to keep your Valentine steamy all year long–a chat with Rare Epiphany

There’s nothing like good talks with longtime friends.

Those conversations between decades-old pals can sometimes get pretty personal and… adult.

Especially if your friend has written a book of erotic poetry.

If you don’t know, you’re about to find out…about Atlanta-based poet Rare Epiphany.

Order her already-published books here.

Rare/Pam keeps a constant stream of writing activities on her docket.

“I have a cookbook coming, too, as soon as I learn how to measure,” she tells Planet Noun.  “I’m a classic Southern cook. I don’t measure anything. I just sprinkle ’till the spirit of my ancestors say ‘Enough my child.’”

She’s also working on a poetic autobiography and a second book of erotic poetry. Her projects include a collection titled “Think.”

“It’s funny, because the main script for think was done before Soul Kisses was done. I just never released [it]. And I figured there’s a reason for that, so I gotta go back through and try to look through it and figure out what’s going on [with] “Think.”

That project, Rare says, is built on a series of writing challenges.

“I specifically ask people, when I don’t feel like I’m writing enough, I’ll ask for challenges. So it can be a word challenge. Give me 10 words, and I’ll take those 10 words and…build a piece around these 10 words. Or I’ll say give me a song. And I’ll write a poem based on how the song makes me feel, or the story of the song, where it takes me. It can [also] be a quote–something to kind of push a poem out, and that is how a lot of Soul Kisses was written,” Rare adds.

I”m always working on some project or another.  And then I’ll get pulled into another project, and then I’ll get pulled into another project. And sometimes I just need a breather from something like the autobiography,” Rare says, which is psychologically taxing project because it delves into her entire history, which includes being sexually abused as a young girl.

When her pen needs break, she opts for happier writing projects.

“Let me write about rainbows and unicorns and stuff.  Feel good about life,” she muses.

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The Life-Changing Magic of getting my “-Ish” Together

Por fin! I’m  finally tidying up my life. Getting my “stuff”together.  That’s what I type, but my mind says a sh-ishy expletive instead.  Feel free to  insert your favorite expletive.

When I say “stuff,” I don’t mean daily chores. I’m talkin-bout getting to the nooks and crannies of the stuff I own… and weeding out what I doesn’t make me happy or what I don’t need.

There’s one main question, according to Marie Kondo’s book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”  The process is based on one question:  Do my possessions spark joy within me?

I’ve been sorting through my stuff…from clothes and shoes,  to books and papers, to forks, knives, and even old keychains. That’s what I’ve been asking myself these past few months.  Does this evening outfit, that was a gift but I haven’t worn in 10 years, spark joy in my heart? Nah?  Ohhhhhkay.  It goes.

Of course, some stuff is NECESSARY to keep, like important documents… but everything else? It’s up for grabs… to be tossed out. This book promises to be a life-changer if you stick to the author’s method of tidying up.

it’s not a waste to release something I’m not using… so someone else can, maybe, find what they need. Click To Tweet

I wish I could say Marie Kondo’s book CHANGED my life, but that wouldn’t be accurate, just yet. I’m in the MIDDLE of this process. But it’s STARTED a change, that’s for sure.

I’m about three months in. Feels like I have six YEARS to go. I exaggerate, but I’m so surprised how much stuff I’ve tossed at this point.  But I also feel in my gut that I still need to downsize some more.

A lot of the stuff I ditched I either didn’t like, or hadn’t used in a long time… and didn’t like that much anymore.

Part of me thinks Kondo goes a little overboard when she tells folks to talk to the possessions about to get the shaft. Tell them you’re thankful for their service, she says–or something like that.

Me talking to audiobook: “But… but… They’re not cops, firefighters or teachers. Why thank them for serving us well,” I asked.

That step seems silly on the surface… but I guess it’s more about cultivating a spirit of gratitude more than anything else… gratitude for the usefulness these things have brought to my  life.

So I thanked them. SOME of them.

Like the brown Børn sandals that traipsed around Los Angeles with my feet and got some travel time in Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Florida, and miles on the East Coast.

I profusely thanked those sandals for being my footy road dawgs for more than a decade. But lately they were just sitting in a corner. These things were so beat up and crusty, so far gone that I threw them in the trash. But not before thanking them for their service. If I could find another pair just like them, I’d buy them in a snap!

I’ve also had to relax my hold on a lot of books I’ve acquired through the years. I had read some in the trove. Others I’m keeping as references. But the ones I finally ditched included books that that I’ve either read and thought I’d re-read… or THOUGHT interesting enough to bring home… but not interesting enough to actually pick up and read once they arrived. I stopped kidding myself. Not gonna read them. So I gave them away. Kondo says of you haven’t read them. You probably won’t.

I think she’s right. I already knew that. Just didn’t want to feel as if I was being a bad steward of good good information by tossing these works. But heck, I wasn’t reading them. They were just taking up space. So they got the boot. Not a steel-toed boot, though. More like a soft shoe.

After getting rid of bags of clothes and boxes of books, I must say I felt all fluffy and lighter than air. Like I’d taken a laxative for possessions. Click To Tweet

And I finally get, I think, the idea of being grateful for the things that no longer serve me. After all, it’s not a waste to release something I’m not using… so someone else can, maybe, find what they need.

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QFBR: Measure of a Man

Person: Martin Greenfield; Maximilian Grunfeld
Thing: This book—Measure of a Man; a well made suit
Place: Pavlovo, Czechoslovakia; Concentration camps—Auschwitz, Buna, Buchenwald, Baltimore, Brooklyn… Various locales.
Idea: Grace makes an improbable life wonderfully possible.

Martin’s life started in Czechoslovakia. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, but Martin says their faith wasn’t especially zealous. Life was good. They worked their own farm, took care of their livestock and even employed workers.

Then the trains arrived… and scuttled Martin’s family away. His mom, baby brother, younger sister and grandparents were sent in one direction. His other sister—taken away as well.

And then there were two. Martin and his dad. But they, too, were separated.

Martin never saw them again.

He survived Auschwitz, brutal marches through the snow, and Buchenwald, which is where Americans liberated them.

Martin’s main question through the succession of atrocities: “Where was God?”

His life took a few twists and turns after liberation–a stint in the Czech army, making a living as a cigarette runner, and meeting young ladies and having fun.

Martin was working as an auto mechanic when a letter arrived from the United States. He got someone to translate it, and learned he had extended family across the Atlantic.

Eventually, he settled in Brooklyn, worked for the suit maker GGG, a company with a client roster that included many high-profile Hollywood names.

Martin married, worked his way up the GGG ladder, and eventually purchased the company and re-named it.

Some have said Martin’s top-notch, made to measure suits are the best in the world. Repeat clients include U.S. presidents, Hollywood stars, athletes, and late night TV hosts.

Martin, whose family was almost decimated by hate, now runs the business with his sons. He notes how grace afforded the opportunity to create another family to love and nurture. Though there were MANY opportunities for death to smother him during World War II, it wasn’t able to snuff his existence.

After decades of hard work, opportunity, and success, and a bar mitzvah at age 80, Martin says he’s “left with nothing but gratitude for my life. Some things, it turns out, are beyond measure.”

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Quick-Fast Book Review: Quitting Church

Person: Julia Duin
Thing: Book—Quitting Church
Place: Various
Idea: Once adherent congregants are ditching their churches. Whether they’re fleeing in droves or trickling one member at a time, the attrition is noticeable. But those who leave aren’t necessarily ditching their faith. So what’s the deal?

In this book, Duin breaks down some reasons God-fearing and God-loving folks are finding a more comfortable home outside church structures and strictures.

In short, the faithful pack their belief and find spiritual solace elsewhere because the church is:
• Irrelevant and not addressing 21st century needs.
• Not a teeming and supportive community that folks need.
• Not concerned about singles over 35 years of age outside of how those unattached individuals can serve the church.
• The teaching is too basic and doesn’t stretch the mind. Some need basic biblical teaching, but that doesn’t encompass everyone’s needs. And what about tough areas of ambiguity? What about questions with no easy, pithy answers?
• Some churches are strangled by controlling pastors.
• And although women make large, large swaths of church membership, their leadership presence is glaringly absent… and in some cases, glaringly stifled into second-class status.
• Some can’t find that passionate spirit they so long for within a church body.

I think this book brings up some interesting points. Some I relate to more than others, as a once-weekly attendee who now finds a growing comfort with regular, but decreased frequency.

I recommend this book for anyone who is frustrated with the church experience and anyone who just wants to know they’re not alone. As for help fixing what’s broken, that’s an individual decision. Maybe you’ll find solace in leaving your church, or inspiration to tinker about and repair what’s broken in your local congregation—or even your denomination. If you’re not religious at all, ignore this recommendation and continue being kind to your neighbor… Amen.

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QFBR: Why Certainty is Sometimes Certainly Wrong

Person:  Peter Enns
Place: The mind
Thing: Book – The Sin of Certainty
Idea: A bunch of Christians might get sad reading this book.  Maybe they’ll weep or get steaming mad and gnash their teeth. According to Enns, the rock-solid certainty many segments of Christianity seek—is a sin.  Clutch your church pearls, your beads and your prayer cloths folks, and I’ll explain what he says:

Faith has nothing to do with knowing rules and tenets of what you believe. Faith is about actual trust in God. It’s also about distinguishing between knowing doctrine and trusting the God of whatever denomination to which you adhere. Enns says separating the two is key to a deeper, abiding Christian faith experience.

Christians seem certain about everything. What happens when people die, how the world developed, how the world will end. But with so many denominations and interpretations of scripture, someone’s certainty is certainly faulty. Doubt is cast as an enemy to be avoided… and vanquished if it pops up anywhere. Peter Enns writes that doubt isn’t the enemy a Christian should fear. Doubt is something to be faced head on… not as a warrior, but an explorer. Doubt’s pain and uncertainty, if explored, can be a means to develop trust. (I imagine trusting God is the entire point of being a Christian…)

Ditching certainty at all costs can unsettle and challenge faith…  It’s a lack of certainty that can make a person cut and run or stand firm (or curl up in a writhing ball) and insist “ I’m going to trust God anyway.”  THAT seems more demonstrative of faith than running down a list of creeds.  It’s certainly more Christian than shafting and bad-mouthing fellow believers who dare rethink faith as something bigger than reciting fundamental beliefs.  But maybe that’s too much of a challenge to some Christian communities. Knowing what you believe is nice (Enns insists knowing those beliefs is not a sin) but it’s never, ever better than trusting God in all matters… even the ones that seem counterintuitive, stupid and senseless. Doubt forces us to look deeper then our tenets  and find, define, and refine a relationship with the divine through difficult moments.

Ends insists God is still God, even if and when we get pissed off at Him… or Her… (or Him/Her).  Enns challenges readers not to fake like all is good when we’re mad at God. Just be mad, but work through the mess to find a closer, trusting connection with God. Trust is a habit you won’t find in a doctrine book. Folks just have to live it because (as the books subtitle says) “God desires our trust more than our beliefs.”

This is a highly recommended book because:

  1. It’s controversial… I imagine this might ruffle some stuffy fundamentalist feathers (and I say this as a Christian).
  2. It’s also a fun and thought-provoking read that might make someone reconsider another aspect of what it means to “have faith.”

 

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A legendary journalist’s fight for life, trudge toward healing

Person: Tom Brokaw
Place: South Dakota, New York, the television news anchor’s chair and other worldly locales
Thing: Book-A Lucky Life Interrupted
Idea:  You’ve probably seen the hashtags.  Cancer sucks.  It can upend any life–from the most forward-propelled to the most brackish and stagnant. In the case of legendary former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, his existence-up until his multiple myeloma diagnosis- had been pretty idyllic-with a couple of bumps along the way–namely, early adult life lessons that got him on the right track.
Brokaw’s career path led to one of the most trusted positions in the country… That of network evening news anchor. It’s a position of public trust.  Not exactly the same as  government workers, law enforcement professionals or teachers, but as a nightly cornerstone of the Fourth Estate, it is a position where credibility is of utmost importance.
Then MM wormed its way into his life, and the lives of his family members.  But like a lot of forceful experiences, there can be helpful lessons learned.  Those lessons could possibly translate into advice to pay forward to the next group of everyday people who get to don the unwanted cloak of cancer warrior.  Brokaw also wrote about fellow MM and other cancer sufferers who succumbed to the disease, while weaving in the end days of one of his brothers, whose memories and life were erased… swept away by Alzheimer’s disease.
This, Brokaw’s seventh book, is a memoir of his arduous journey through it all… a rundown of his  daily battle-not against an outside invader-but his body’s reaction against itself.
Yes, he is the main focus of his ups and downs during this time, but readers can get warm and gratitude-filled glimpses into the work, time, care and advocacy “Team Brokaw” pitched in during his trudge toward recovery.  A difficult trek that Brokaw admits isn’t a forever guarantee of wellness henceforth.
Even with 16 months of chemo, powerful pill combinations and other treatments to redirect his body toward normal, this is a gratitude-laced read. Brokaw still maintains his is a lovely life.

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Quick-Fast Book Review: Think Like a Man; Act Like a Lady

Person: Steve Harvey
Thing: Book—Think Like a Man; Act Like a Lady
Place:  The dating world
Idea:   When it comes to dating, heterosexual women just need to give up. Not on men, but give up on hoping and praying men will “act right.” Often times, “acting right” means men should start acting like the dudes in a woman’s fantasy land.. which can be her mind.

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen. That’s the word according to Steve Harvey.

In this book, which is an easy and pleasant read, Harvey insists men are simple creatures. If women learned about and accepted what drives men, and how their ways of expressing love are different from the ways women tend to show love, things could be better in that arena.

But women need to accept the differences.

This book, when distilled to its essence, is a handy checklist of things to remember while navigating  romantic relationships.

If a man loves you, he’ll profess it, provide for you, and protect you. And Harvey says a man only needs three things from a woman he loves: Your support, loyalty, and “the cookie” (yet another way to say “good lovin’” or sexual healing).

Just don’t expect him to engage you like your girlfriends do.

He ain’t them.

If you want one man’s perspective, and a funny one at that, pick up this book. Take or leave his advice, but (IMHO) there’s something to be said about taking advice about men… from a man.

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