Novel Review | Just Too Good to Be True by E. Lynn Harris

too good to be trueE. Lynn Harris’ novel, Just Too Good to Be True, covers several important, and highly relevant, themes in American life today, from sports and gold-diggers to chastity and single parenthood; everyone will find something to relate to in this novel.

I initially picked up the book at the airport from Hudson Booksellers. The words New York Times Bestseller caught my eye. I had wanted to read a title by E. Lynn Harris, for quite some time and with a long flight ahead of me, I was glad that I had this book to keep me company. It held my attention through delays, rain, and turbulence.

What Was Good

The main character is Brady Bledsoe. Bledsoe is a promising young football star who looks like he is headed for a career in the NFL and a shot at the Heisman trophy. On top of that, he is a great role model as team captain, a devoted son, and has vowed to remain chaste until marriage. Brady’s mother Carmyn has raised him well, teaching him the virtues of waiting until marriage, working hard in school, and staying focused on football rather than girls in order to achieve his goals.

As the title implies, all of this sounds just a little “too good to be true.” Carmyn, Brady’s devoted mother is hiding serious secrets about her past, and about Brady’s father. Brady is struggling to maintain his “pure” image while making a series of secret choices that could devastate his future. When a young woman named Barrett enters his life, Brady finds it more and more difficult to maintain his clean image and even more difficult to maintain his close-knit relationship with his mother.

By the end of this book, everyone learns something about being true to who you really are, the importance of family ties, and just how difficult it is to keep from suffering a fall. Most of the struggles faced by the characters were realistic; the pressure on athletes and single moms are easy to relate to.

What Was Not So Good

I would have liked to know more about the future of some of the secondary characters, like Barrett, but I guess Harris is saving the rest of their stories for a different novel.

My criticism of this book is that, like many urban novels, the book is riddled with graphic sexual images. The author does a great job of “show, not tell,” and intimately describing what physical interactions take place between characters; but, sometimes, it’s just a little too much. Describing exactly how who-did-what seemed out of place in a book with such strong themes of chastity and family. It almost seemed as if the author was ridiculing people who make celibacy vows, by implying that they aren’t ever really being kept.

Looking back, it seemed strange to me that Carmyn was able to keep secrets about Brady’s father for so long. Why didn’t Brady notice that he never met his grandparents? Why didn’t he ever ask his father’s name? I found some parts of the plot unbelieveable and a little too strange to be true.

If you don’t want to read about characters who are homosexual, or men who are GP, “gay for pay,” then, this may not be the book for you. The one character in this book who was uber-masculine was quite suspect in his sexual practices. Again, there seemed to be a hidden message in making the male character who was the most active with women, and the most macho, the one who was most likely to be engaged in questionable acts with men.

While I enjoyed E. Lynn Harris’ writing style, I would rather read a bestseller that is less sexually graphic. It will be a long time, if ever, that I read another one of his titles.  You can find this book just anywhere, including local bookstores and Amazon. After this title, I think I’m going to go back to reading Urban Christian Fiction, and non-fiction titles.

Update! Only days after I read my first book by E. Lynn Harris, the literary legend passed away. I wrote about it here. I send my condolences to his family and fans.

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Novel Review | The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

the-street-lawyer1Traveling means reading! I love to read when flying, but I forgot to pick up a book. Luckily, they have convenient little bookstores in the airport! Well, I was being cheap so I picked up a less expensive paperback- The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. It cost me $7.99 and it was a very good read, which I guess one would expect from John Grisham.

It was originally published in 1998, but the themes of law, life as a lawyer, poverty, and public interest are still hot topic issues today. The main character, Michael Brock, is a well-paid associate at a top law firm, who has a failing marriage and very little purpose to his life. After a life-threatening event, he begins to re-assess his career and his life in general. This leads to some drastic career decisions and an inspiring story about change. This story rings true in a day and age when there is so much talk about changing the world. However you feel about politics, this book proves that change starts with self. Michael Brock is seeking to correct injustices and right wrongs, but he must first start with righting some of the wrongs in his own life and career.

This book will especially appeal to anyone interested in the legal justice, as with many of Grisham’s novels. I also learned a lot about homelessness and poverty, two issues that are very seldomly discussed. If you like Grisham’s more popular titles, or even if you have never read any of his works, you should pick this one up!

John Grisham’s website

Buy this book on Amazon

Book Review | Comeback Season by Cathy Day

Comeback Season by Cathy Day is a good read for any thirty-something woman who has found herself questioning her choice of career over love. While the main character in the novel longs for a real relationship and a family, she finds herself alone in Pittsburgh facing a dismal dating scene. For many women, the heavy use of football analogies may be overwhelming and hard to follow, but the connection is easy to see as the the protagonist’s ups and downs in love are compared to the highs and lows of her favorite team. While the book is heart-warming, at times, and easy to relate to, less focus on football and more of a focus on a compelling plot would have been two great improvements to the novel.

Novel Review | Passin’ by Karen E. Quinones Miller

The latest novel by Essence Bestselling Author Karen E. Quinones Miller is entitled Passin‘. As the title implies, the fiction novel centers around a fair-skinned, blue-eyed young black woman who, initially for career reasons, decides to pass for white. She moves to New York and starts a new career, takes on love interests, and successfully fools her co-workers and friends until an unexpected event challenges her lie.

The author does an excellent job of providing social commentary through the characters’ dialogue with each other and developing the lead character’s transition from cultural experimentation to a lifestyle change.

Nikkie, the lead character who passes for white is forced to question her own motives as she reaps the benefits of passing, while losing the her place in the black community. Is it really worth it? Will Nikkie get caught? Normally, I give away the whole plot in my reviews, but this is definitely a book that requires you to read it on your own, think about it on your own, and come up with your own conclusion.

I would also suggest doing some research of the “passing” phenomenon, popular doing times of more open discrimination against black, but still going on in present times, as in the case of Nikkie in Passin‘ which takes place in present-day New York. I first learned of passing as a little girl when I watched Halle Berry in Alex Haley’s Queen, and more recently upon reading Our Kind of People by Lawrence Graham. With simple internet research, I learned about some very high-profile cases of blacks who were light enough to pass for white. The whole phenomenon is intriguing and the way that Miller presents it is witty and entertaining.

I would definitely recommend this novel, along with two other novels that I have read by Karen Quinones Miller: Using What You Got and Uptown Dreams. Miller is the author of several other works. For more information, visit her website or click on this link to purchase the book.