Vernitra’s Book Club

Book Review | GRIT: THE POWER OF PASSION AND PERSEVERANCE by Angela Duckworth (2016)

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A Book Review by Vernitra Jones

Friday, October 19, 2018

I first started listening to GRIT: THE POWER OF PASSION AND PERSEVERANCE by psychologist Angela Duckworth back in the spring of 2017 when I was living in New York City. I remember listening to the beginning of the book during my morning jogs/walks at the Riverbank State Park across the street from my apartment on Riverside Drive. In this well-researched work, Duckworth expounds on the life-changing power of dogged determination and follow-through.

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Reading Diary: October 2-13, 2018

TAR BABY + new job + chips & guac for lunch

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

I got a new job! I am now an adult services librarian at a public library, and I am liking it. I really enjoyed being a children’s librarian at public libraries in the Houston area and New York City, and now I have the opportunity to explore a different side of the business. At every job I’ve had, I have always been blessed with great teammates, and this job is no different. Things are looking nice!

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Book Review | Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

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Book Review | Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes (2016)

by Vernitra Jones

Some books just get into your heart, and Garvey’s Choice is one of them.

This beautifully and brilliantly written contemporary novel tells the story of an adolescent boy named Garvey who is struggling to find his place. As an overweight introvert with a passion for books and space, Garvey exists far outside the circle of what is considered cool and suffers daily verbal assaults by his peers. Perhaps even more heartbreaking than the rejection from his classmates is the wide emotional distance that exists between him and his dad. In his father’s eyes, real men aspire to athletic greatness, but Garvey’s mind is in the stars and on the smooth Luther Vandross music that soothes his soul. He medicates his feelings with food and nourishes his heart with the honest, warm friendship he shares with his only friend, Joe.

Garvey narrates the story through a series of concise yet emotionally charged poems which reveal his tenderness as well as his evolving strength. Grimes’s poetic language pairs well with her ability to subtly move the story forward, and she skillfully blends moments of pain and joy.

I loved reading this book, and every aspect of Grimes’s writing, from the characterizations to the style to the story, left a major impression on me. After finishing the book, the story sat with me for days, and I am sure to reflect on my reading experience for a long time to come.

I recommend this book to readers of all ages. Although it is categorized as a middle-grade book, I think readers above the middle-grade level will also appreciate and enjoy the story. Also, since there isn’t a major focus on Garvey’s age or grade level, I think this is a great high-low book for high-schoolers, meaning it’s a high-interest but low-readability book, which is great for an older reader who doesn’t want to be intimidated by the text. I would also recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt the pain of not fitting in or anyone who wants to understand that pain. I would also recommend this book to fans of Luther Vandross, who happens to be one of my favorite singers of all time. When you read the book, you’ll understand how he factors into the story!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Book Review | Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Vernitra Jones, writer and book blogger

Book Review | Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris (2016)

by Vernitra Jones

Does the perfect guy really exist? What about the perfect wife? Or the perfect marriage? In this psychological thriller set in England, B.A. Paris twists the idea of perfection and confirms one never truly knows what goes on behind the closed doors of another.

When Grace meets her husband-to-be, star-attorney Jack Angel, she thinks she has won the man jackpot. On the surface, her new beau appears to be a total dime. He is handsome, successful, compassionate, and impeccably well-mannered. However, once Grace gets knee-deep into her love story, she discovers a dangerous element lurking beneath the glossy veneer of her marriage.

While I enjoyed the mystery element and steady pace of this novel, I must admit, over the course of the story, I began to grow disinterested in the antagonist’s motivations. Also, without giving too much away, there is an event in the story involving a book, and I wish that particular plot line had thickened, because it seemed to be headed in an interesting direction. As for the ending, it was not as satisfying as I hoped it would be. 

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book, and I am interested in reading more books by the author. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, non-gory psychological thriller and anyone who enjoys reading about other people’s marriages.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Book Review | If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth by Barbara Leaming (1989)

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Vernitra Jones, Writer, book blogger, and classic-movie fan

Book Review | If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth by Barbara Leaming (1989)

by Vernitra Jones

One of the most legendary screen goddesses in motion-picture history, Rita Hayworth epitomized 1940s glamour. With her angelic face, warm eyes, toothy smile, and luscious mane of fluffy, coppery curls, Rita Hayworth became one of the most adored faces on the silver screen. A trained professional dancer, Rita could glide across the floor and move to a tune like nobody’s business. While Rita capitalized on her picture-perfect image of soft, alluring feminine grace, she led an often tumultuous life plagued by toxic relationships with men and self-destructive tendencies.

In her biography about Rita Hayworth, Barbara Leaming paints an honest picture of the star’s life, one that begins with the childhood sexual abuse which conditioned Rita for a lifetime of damaging relationships with men, in both her personal and professional lives.

From Rita’s early days as a disciplined child dancer, to her reign as a pin-up girl and box-office queen, to her various roles as real-life wife to Eddie Judson, Orson Welles, Prince Aly Khan, Dick Haymes, and James Hill, Leaming spares no tough detail. Leaming provides just enough Hollywood glamour but anchors her story on the harsh realities of Rita’s life.

Ending with Rita’s untimely descent into Alzheimer’s disease, this book provides a candid portrait of the woman behind the glamorous visage.

I enjoyed listening to the audio version of this book, and I recommend it to anyone interested in learning about Rita Hayworth, Old Hollywood, Hollywood gender dynamics, and the effects of childhood abuse.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Bookshelf | Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk (2010) | An Old Hollywood tale with a dark twist

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This novel is dripping with Old Hollywood, and if you love that kind of stuff—as do I—you will enjoy this book. The story transported me back to that glamorous era where inimitable stars like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis reigned over Tinseltown and gossip mongers like Hedda Hopper and Lillian Hellman had the power to either enhance or tarnish a star’s reputation.

The star of the book is Hazie Coogan, who really isn’t a star at all but the trusty maidservant and companion to excessively glamorous and untouchable former film star Katherine Kenton. For decades, Hazie has spent her life not only catering to every need and want of her “Miss Kathie” but also protecting her and–most importantly–her glittering star from harm. Now, Hazie’s focus is protecting Miss Kathie from the loving arms and machinations of one Webster Carlton Westward III—a handsome, young, smooth-talking gentleman caller who is finding it quite easy to cozy up to the older and vulnerable Miss Kathie. (more…)

Bookshelf | Married Lovers by Jackie Collins (2008)

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When beautiful Cameron Paradise flees her abusive surfer husband in Australia, she lands in Los Angeles, where she starts a new life as a personal trainer at a posh gym facility. Determined to sustain her newly-gained independence, her main objective is working hard and saving money, so she can fulfill her dream of one day opening her own gym. While the men she encounters can’t seem to resist her stunning beauty and perfect physique, she blocks all their advances with a steely determination. (more…)

Bookshelf | Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011) | You might bust your pants… From laughing!

This book is hilarious! I listened to it on audiobook, and it made me laugh so much that I want to listen to it again. That’s how much I loved it.

As a comedy writer, actress, producer, mother, and wife, Tina Fey plays many roles, and she candidly reflects on all of them in this funny, well-crafted memoir. (more…)

Bookshelf | Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (2011) | If everyone’s hanging out without you, then at least you have time to read this book

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I came late to The Mindy Project  (that’s what Netflix/Amazon Instant Watch binges are for), but I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be one of the funniest sitcoms I’d seen in years. That show serves up joke after joke after joke–and good ones. The show’s creator and star, Mindy Kaling, has infused the Mindy Project with her own brand of insanely witty humor. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? provides plenty of insight into the woman behind the show. (more…)

Bookshelf | I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron (2006)

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In this collection of essays, Nora Ephron gives us the gift of her signature candor as she presents her thoughts on a range of topics such as aging, body maintenance, the sport of cooking, life in New York City, apartment-separation anxiety, parenting, and more. She even tells her story of being overlooked by JFK as a potential paramour, when she was a White House intern during his administration. Whether they be on milestones or the events of everyday life, the reflections she shares in these essays are funny, poignant, and rife with her trademark wit.

Great Quotes from the Book

“What failure of imagination had caused me to forget life was full of other possibilities?”