Sunday, September 30, 2012

REVIEW: The Warmest December by Bernice L. McFadden


The Warmest December is the incredibly moving story of one Brooklyn family and the alcoholism that determined years of their lives. Narrated by Kenzie Lowe, a young woman reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John, as she visits her dying father and finds that choices she once thought beyond her control are very much hers to make.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Akashic Books (first published January 1st 2001)
ISBN 1617750352 (ISBN13: 9781617750359)

About the Author
from her website

Bernice L. McFadden was born, raised and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the eldest of four children and the mother of one daughter, R'yane Azsa. Ms. McFadden attended grade school at P.S. 161 in Brooklyn and Middle School at Holy Spirit, also in Brooklyn. She attended high school at St. Cyril Academy; an all-girls boarding school in Danville, Pa.

In the Fall of 1983 she enrolled in the noted NYC fashion college: Laboratory Institute of Merchandising, with dreams of becoming an international clothing buyer.

She attended LIM for two semesters and then took a position at Bloomingdale's and later with Itokin, a Japanese owned retail company.

Disillusioned and frustrated with her job, she signed up for a Travel & Tourism course at Marymount College where she received a certificate of completion. After the birth of her daughter in 1988, Bernice McFadden obtained a job with RockResorts a company then owned by the Rockefeller family.

The company was later sold and Ms. McFadden was laid off and unemployed for one year. She sites that year as the turning point in her life because during those twelve months Ms. McFadden began to dedicate herself to the art of writing. During the next nine years she held three jobs, always looking for something exciting and satisfying. Forever frustrated with corporate America and the requirements they put on their employees, Ms. McFadden enrolled at Fordham University. Her intention was to obtain a degree that would enable her to move up another rung on the corporate ladder.

She signed up for courses that concentrated on Afro-American history and literature, as well as creative writing, poetry and journalism. She credits the two years spent under the guidance of her professors as well as the years spent lost in the words of her favorite authors, to the caliber of writer she has become.

In 1997, Ms. McFadden quit her job and dedicated seven months to re-writing the novel that would become, "SUGAR."

In February of 1999, after nearly ten years, four drafts and 73 rejection letters - SUGAR was finally acquired by Dutton Publishers.

Published in the winter of 2000, SUGAR is still in print and in 2010 celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Bernice L. McFadden also writes racy, humorous fiction under the pseudonym, Geneva Holliday.

Check out the author's website
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My Thoughts

Kenzie spent her childhood in a war zone fueled by alcohol. Raised by an abusive father and a mother who gave up long ago, she and her brother Malcolm just tried to survive their childhood.

This is one of those books that begins at the end, and then is filled with flashbacks. It is a daughter, all grown up now, sitting by the bedside of her dying father, coming to terms with their past. Struggling with her own demons, she is forced to face the fact that her father had demons of his own, and to try to learn forgiveness.

This book had some very intense moments, and it is disheartening to think that there are so many children out there suffering through the same things that Kenzie suffers through in her story. This is a glimpse into a dark world that I was lucky enough to have been shielded from in my childhood, having been raised by a mother who always put her children first.

Bernice McFadden is very adept at drawing you into this desolate world-- one which you get the feeling she is all too familiar with herself.

My final word: Author Bernice McFadden does what she does well. Most of this book was a quiet, meandering walk through a sad and desolate landscape, with glimpses of beauty and islands of oasis amidst the misery. The final brief chapter of this book was beautiful and heart-wrenching, and had me in tears. If you are interested in experiencing the bleak lives of children growing up in households of abuse and alcoholism, told with effective writing and character development, and leaving you with a sense of hope, pick up this book!

Buy Now:

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My Rating:



I received a copy of this book to review through the LibraryThing's Early Reviewers in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

GUEST POST: Cindy Roesel, author of Viewer Discretion Advised

Today I'd like to welcome author Cindy Roesel by my blog. Cindy is the author of Viewer Discretion Advised, which I will be reviewing in the future. Today Cindy lets you in on a couple of her less-than-sterling moments...
Thank you HEATHER for inviting me and my novel, VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED to be a guest on your blog, CEREBRAL GIRL IN A REDNECK WORLD. This is my first published novel and it’s a very exciting time.

When you told me that I could visit, I was overwhelmed by the gift. There are many talented writers, so I really appreciate you focusing on me and VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED. Here’s a memory I want to share with you and your followers.

It’s something I remember as if it were yesterday, even though it was many years ago. In fact, I was still in middle school. A person publicly let me and everyone around us know that I had incorrectly used the words good and well. He made it his duty to make the entire school aware. It wasn’t good enough to correct me during gym class or even as I passed through the halls. It felt like he turned on the emergency broadcast system to inform the entire world that Cindy Roesel was clueless with the distinct differences between good and well. I ended up feeling quite stupid. I’m sure, that was his intention. I will never forget it, as I’m sure you can tell by my writing this now as an adult. I bet we’ve all had these moments, but I’m sharing mine with all of you to let you know what partially motivates my writing. I now know how to use the words good and well correctly.

I was the first one in my family to attend college and ultimately graduate with my Bachelor of Arts degree. From there I went into the television broadcast news Industry, becoming an anchor/reporter/producer eventually winning an Emmy Award. Before the Emmy, came my unspeakable act of using the word burst in the worst way possible. I would have a lovely blonde anchorwoman in Las Vegas rip a piece of script paper out of the teleprompter and screech so loudly every person from the Vegas strip to Los Angeles could hear, “There is no such word as bursted,” while my insides liquefied! Thank God I would be fired and put out of my misery several days later. Trust me I now know things burst on this earth as we know it!

Why did I take you down memory lane? What is the point of these stories? These are some of the reasons why I write and study and strive to do well: to do good work. I’m constantly reading other writer’s work, and writing reviews of other author’s novels. Those things keep me fresh while working on my own writing. Sure I make mistakes, but they are the exceptions. I’m vigilant and constantly on the lookout for the next potential good-well mistake or bursted disaster. One can only try to do their best, yet you can never become complacent. We don’t always have the luxury of having an editor. I can tell you where the word “of” is missing in my novel and I want to scream, but I had to let it go. I’m going to be more careful the next time around.

Writing and having VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED published was a dream come true. Writing is a hard job. Don’t be fooled. If you want to do anything else except write, I suggest you do it, because getting yourself to sit in the chair isn’t easy, but it’ll be the most gratifying thing you ever do. I’m completely humbled by the process.

If you want to write, I encourage you to move into your favorite chair with your pen and paper and just begin. Or create a happy place with room for your desktop and space for your special coffee cup, which you will be refilling a lot. It’s going to be the best experience of your life. Trust me.

I along with every writer am grateful for people like Heather and blogs like CEREBRAL GIRL IN A REDNECK WORLD who support and love writers and authors with their time and promotion! It’s such a blessing to be able to come on your blog and tell you about VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED and why I work. Thank you so much, Heather and to your bloggers, I appreciate all of you! Feel free to contact me at or

Thanks for stopping by Cindy! I look forward to reading your book in the upcoming weeks. Learn more about Cindy's book Viewer Discretion Advised.

Friday, September 21, 2012

ARTICLE SHARING: Author Lawrence Norfolk shares his top 10 food books of the 17th century

John Saturnall's Feast, written by Lawrence Norfolk, is one of my favorite books of 2012. And here the author lists his Top 10 Seventeenth Century Food Books. Full of recipes for things like "collops of bacon with eggs", "delicate cat tongue biscuits", "sallets" (salads), and "A Smoothening Quiddany of Quinces", I could read about this stuff over and over!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

REVIEW: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves


When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn't bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family - and a stack of overdue assignments - instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

About the Author
from Goodreads

Tracey Garvis-Graves is the author of On the Island and Covet. She lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, two children, and hyper dog Chloe. She blogs at using colorful language and a snarky sense of humor to write about pop culture, silly television shows, and her suburban neighborhood. You can e-mail her at She’d love to hear from you. 

My Thoughts

Anna accepts a job as a tutor for 17-year-old TJ, who battled cancer and is in remission. On the way to the Maldives, their plane goes down somewhere in the ocean and they wash up on a deserted island. As they struggle to survive, they grow together and fall in love.

This book had its moments. Sometimes interesting, sometimes predictable, often contrived, it was at least able to hold my attention. There were some pretty ridiculous aspects. For example, Anna packed enough soap and shampoo to last the summer when flying to Maldives, and yet 2 1/2 years after being stranded on the island, they still had shampoo and soap for bathing.

The writing was a bit simple-- it wasn't descriptive, it wasn't beautifully lyrical. In fact, it reminded me of my own writing when I attempt to write fiction, and I always feel that my writing falls so short. There wasn't much of an attempt to really bring you into the story and make you feel like you were there. It was just "he said this, and she said this, and the wind blew and it was hot, and they were hungry and sad and lonely". It was very straight-forward and simple writing.

And I just didn't get some things. For instance, after they fell in love, Anna kept worrying about what would happen if they got off the island? What would people say? She believed there would be repercussions for "her actions", even thought TJ was an adult. I just didn't get why she was so stressed over this. Their relationship was unorthodox, but it wasn't as if she were a pedophile taking advantage of a 12-year-old. And surely people would understand that they had been stranded on an island together, never knowing whether one or both of them may die.

I think I actually enjoyed the last half of this book, as it seemed more believable, if not the more exciting half. And this was a bit of a disappointment, as it was the first half that I was really looking forward to experiencing.

Considering the author chose to self-publish this novel, you've gotta give her credit. She has had the best success I've seen thus far from a self-published author! Her book has been well received and is showing up on actual bookstore shelves and has become a bestseller. That's impressive!

My final word: This was an "okay" book. I was left with the same feeling I usually have after reading most romance novels. As if it were a bit of fluff and little substance, although the last half of the book is more substantial. Read this one when you are looking for a little fluff. 

Buy Now:

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My Rating: 


I received a copy of this book to review Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SHARING: One Shade of Gray

Friday, September 7, 2012

REVIEW (Book Club Read): The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Paperback, 308 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2011)
ISBN 0345525558 (ISBN13: 9780345525550)

About the Author

Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children: Tre’von, eighteen; Chela, four; and Miles, three. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Diffenbaugh and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh is also the founder of the Camellia Network. The mission of the Camellia Network is to create a nationwide movement to support youth transitioning from foster care. In The Language of Flowers, Camellia [kuh-meel-yuh] means “My Destiny is in Your Hands.” The network’s name emphasizes the belief in the interconnectedness of humanity: each gift a young person receives will be accompanied by a camellia, a reminder that the destiny of our nation lies in the hands of our youngest citizens. For more information visit

Follow the author on Facebook
Follow Vanessa on Twitter @VDiffenbaugh

My Thoughts

Victoria has struggled with life. Given up at birth, she has been tossed from home to home, never finding a family. Now aging out of the system at eighteen, it is time to make life her own and do with it as she please. She is lucky enough to have a few very important people enter life (Renata gives her a job, and Grant gives her his heart), and instead of following a traditional path, she creates a new one of her own. 

The title of this book comes from Victoria's love for what flowers have to say to those that can hear them. Back in Victorian times, people would use flowers to send secret messages. Lovers would use them to communicate love and passion, or the desire to meet. People would use flowers to express grief and joy. The aptly-named Victoria understands their language and speaks it fluently. She can bring people's deepest desires to light through the use of flowers.

Victoria is damaged by her tragic childhood, and this has left her with a detachment disorder that doesn't permit her to connect with people. But she can speak to them through flowers.

I loved this story. Some aspects were a little far-fetched, such as the fact that a baby girl in the system would not have been adopted in a flash, and would instead spend her life in foster care, given up over and over again. But it was sweet and touching, Victoria was just quirky enough (I love quirky characters!), and I really loved the language of the flowers. My favorite moments in the book were the ones where Victoria and Grant debate the meanings of the flowers, when there is more than one documented meaning. Fascinating!

My final word: Delightful! That's it. Just "delightful"!

Purchase The Language of Flowers:

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Ballantine Books

My Rating:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

REVIEW: One Second After by William R. Forstchen


New York Times best selling author William R. Forstchen now brings us a story which can be all too terrifyingly real...a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages...A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP).  A weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies.

Months before publication, One Second After has already been cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should read, a book already being discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a truly realistic look at a weapon and its awesome power to destroy the entire United States, literally within one second. It is a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warns could shatter America. In the tradition of On the Beach, Fail Safe and Testament, this book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future...and our end.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates
ISBN 0765317583 (ISBN13: 9780765317582)

About the Author
from Goodreads

William R. Forstchen (born 1950) is an American author who began publishing in 1983 with the novel Ice Prophet. He is a Professor of History and Faculty Fellow at Montreat College, in Montreat, North Carolina. He received his doctorate from Purdue University with specializations in Military History, the American Civil War and the History of Technology.

Forstchen is the author of more than forty books, including the award winning We Look Like Men of War, a young adult novel about an African-American regiment that fought at the Battle of the Crater, which is based upon his doctoral dissertation, The 28th USCTs: Indiana’s African-Americans go to War, 1863-1865 and the "Lost Regiment" series which has been optioned by both Tom Cruise and M. Night Shyamalan.

Forstchen’s writing efforts have, in recent years, shifted towards historical fiction and non fiction. In 2002 he started the “Gettysburg” trilogy with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; the trilogy consists of Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, Grant Comes East, and Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant - The Final Victory. More recently, they have have published two works on the events leading up to Pearl Harbor and immediately after that attack Pearl Harbor, and Days of Infamy.

In March 2009, Forstchen’s latest work, One Second After, (Forge/St. Martin’s books) was released. Based upon several years of intensive research and interviews, it examines what might happen in a “typical” American town in the wake of an attack on the United States with “electro-magnetic pulse” (EMP) weapons. Similar in plotting to books such as On the Beach and Alas Babylon, One Second After, is set in a small college town in western North Carolina and is a cautionary tale of the collapse of social order in the wake of an EMP strike. The book has been optioned by Warner Bros. and currently is in development as a feature film. The book was cited on the floor of Congress and before the House Armed Services Committee by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R.-MD), chair of the House Committee tasked to evaluate EMP weapons, as a realistical portrayal of the potential damage rendered by an EMP attack on the continental United States.

Forstchen resides near Asheville, North Carolina with his daughter Meghan. His other interests include archaeology, and he has participated in several expeditions to Mongolia and Russia. He is a pilot and co owns an original 1943 Aeronca L-3B recon plane used in World War II.

Check out the author's website for lots of great information on EMPs
Check out what you can do to prepare for an EMP
Learn more about EMPs 
Fan the author on Goodreads

My Thoughts

This book follows life in a small North Carolina town after an EMP. In case you aren't familiar with the term, an EMP is an electromagnetic pulse, and there has been a lot of talk over the last few years about the threat to us from such an attack. It has been said that it could feasibly be caused by someone detonating a nuclear warhead high above the earth. Doing so could wipe out all electronics within the reach of the blast.

It's hard to comprehend the scope of destruction and the rippling effects this would have on our society. There would be no electricity, no running water, few cars (since most cars for the last 20 years have had some computerization).

Think about the medical implications. Pacemakers stop working in a split second. Without electricity,  the lack of refrigeration would cause many medications to go bad, respirators and incubators would turn off. Many thousands could die within minutes of an EMP. Many thousands more would die in the months following as medications ran out and medical treatment became unavailable.

Dysentery and food poisoning would kill many others without working plumbing and spoiling food supplies.

Martial law would take effect, with people executed on the spot for what previously may have been deemed minor offenses, but now could become life-threatening crimes against others with everyone clinging so precariously to life.

This book was a hot topic when it came out, even discussed within the walls of the Pentagon as a foreshadowing of a previously unrealized threat. With a foreword by Newt Gingrich, this book provides a very real depiction of what life would be like after an EMP, and underscores the fact that every American should be aware of and prepare for such a threat.

And the fact is that an EMP is not the only way that something like this could happen. The type of major solar flares that we are expected to see in the next year or so could also cause electrical failure, with some areas potentially down for years. They've said that if a solar flare took out a major area like New York City, it could be ten years before they could get back up and running again.

My final word: I enjoyed this story (whether or not "enjoyed" is the right word). Very realistic and timely, this book should be a wake up call to the world regarding a potential threat-- whether caused by man or nature. This story is hosted by very believable characters fighting to survive and overcome very real events. Everyone should read this book, and do what they can to prepare for any event, be it for an EMP, solar flares, hurricanes or floods. Allow this book to the be the hand on your shoulder that moves you to action. And I am happy to mention that this book is currently in development as a major motion picture! I'll be looking forward to the movie version!

Purchase One Second After:

Barnes and Noble

Rating: 8 out of 10