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Gayle ‘De-Licious’ Johnson has composed an excellent yarn of divergence and growth. There is Death here. There is also Life, Redemption, and Perseverance. Ms. Johnson shows superb balance in the texturing and shading of her creations. Her execution of a ‘full circle’ storytelling device in this coming of age tale was deftly implemented, injecting the reader with a sense of having traveled from there and back and then beyond; her music references pepper nostalgia throughout, cementing the period’s timesense.

Miss Johnson’s creation, the young heroine Nina, had some tough choices to make. Her clinical processing and basic fortitude, her steadfastness, was both uplifting and heartbreaking. Instilled with wisdom and a common sense uncanny for someone of her years, the entities she desired most in life were fully visualized and achievable; a certain naivety wouldn‘t allow her accept anything else, her focus laserlike and undaunted.

Guided by an internal barometer calibrated on bad influences and green eyed monsters, her counterpart was aimless and reckless. Driven by impulse and envy, Joi supplied the perfect balance, the ultimate foil. While the love made available to her was unquestionable, the firm and amorous resolve was resented and scoffed upon, returning in the form of disdain, disrespect, and deceit.

The villains: shadowy and sincere. Some in your face, others passive, causing doubt throughout, and continuing with dread when corruption surfaces. A fourth quarter revelation chimes in during the resolution, reminding us that the world is a tiny place, and that Time sheds light at its own pace.

A succulent read, this morsel satisfies like bowl of warm cobbler, draped in a dollop of your favorite topping.

Gayle Johnson delivers in What’s Past is Not Forgotten.

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Mark it down. I rarely use the word beautiful; I find disdain in its overuse.

However, there aren’t that many other words that accurately describe my exposure to Ms. Esperanza Spalding, the 23 year old soulful, string strumming genius from Portland, Oregon. Beautiful not for her heavenly face or her porcelain skin, but more so for the sensations that purity of  delivery and her phenomenal stage presence brought about in me.

Too cool, she floated across the stage and assumed her position; my curiosity was stoked as she cued the band. Like a singular breeze moving through a still room, she oozed….…….under the beaming lights, never missing a stroke, her tiny hands roaming over that beast of an instrument, effortlessly rendering me breathless and borderline smitten as she hypnotized her audience.

Her glam was infinitely fantastic as she lead the band with dreamy articulation and a masterful finesse, coaxing deep resonance and soul throbbing strands from her counterpart, merging sound and color with time and space.

Spalding, born of African-American, Welsh and Spanish descent, is able to sing in Spanish and Portuguese as well as English. When asked why she chose the bass as her signature sound, she insists that the choice wasn’t hers, but that the bass “had its own arc” and resonated with her. For her, discovering the bass was like “waking up one day and realizing you’re in love with a co-worker.”

With a firm desire to be judged for her skills and showmanship rather than her sex appeal, she is an advocate of female musicians exerting care to avoid over sexualizing themselves. Not wanting to limit herself, she chooses not to be categorized as simply a jazz artist, preferring to keep her options open on future collaborations, thereby maintaining an avenue to reach the masses that may not be as familiar with jazz.

In 2005, Spalding was hired by Berklee College of Music, becoming one of the youngest professors in the institution’s history. Her method: help students manifest their growth through a practice journal, allowing them to recognize their strengths and what elements they need to pursue. As of 2008, she was in the process of developing a course that focuses “on transcribing as a tool for learning harmony and theory”.

Simply beautiful.

This fantastic read is a vivid, multifaceted glimpse into the life of R.F. Maldonado. Within, he  shares shamelessly and without hesitation. This man of many hats is beyond definition: singer, songwriter, entertainer, gangster, survivor.

I neither condone nor justify the use of drugs. As a member of the Sober Community, I know how critical and judgemental the masses can be; I would imagine that it’s a chore to love a heroin addict.

While reading this book, I found myself in downtown Atlanta, sitting outside a methadone treatment center. The motley mix of nine-to-five troopers that utilize ‘the clinic’ for the morning sessions are not much different from you or myself……..except that these people have an appointment they can’t miss; if they do, it’s going to be a messy day at the J-O-B.

Heroin addiction is a sickness; his continued sobriety is an accomplishment, a victory, and a testament to his strength.

There is a certain tenderness about his delivery that makes one want to embrace him. Life as he knows it, his testament and recollections of violence, a gangster’s violence, are looked upon as part of a distinct past, one he makes no move to distance himself from. Rendered with a conversational glint, his style of storytelling isn’t overly grandiose. Rather, you’re drawn in by his meaningful delivery, his ultra cool.

Plagued by childhood pains that caressed and taunted him for decades, they also subconsciously directed his self destructive patterns. His paranoia was instilled and prominent at an early age; someone of lesser constitution would be in no condition to spill his memoirs in an attempt to help the next man.

Mr. Maldonado is fascinating, his zest for life  unquestionable. He has a way of looking at things…sensitive and quirky, especially when considering factors of Murphy‘s Law. If Time steals a name from him, the loveliest details of the encounter remain to compensate and captivate.

Journey with the man. Allow him to take you with him as he revisits his most tragic moments. Along the way, he’ll share his joys, his passions, and the sweet flowers that he lingered  to sniff.

If you’re lucky, you might even get to hear him strum a tune.

The book began with a glimpse into the secret world of these teenage girls. In dramatic fashion, the terrors in the mind’s eye of any person raising a young lady were  personified , multiplied……. then juggled, the horrific images leering at you as they pass before your eyes onto the next page. These  ladies were  resourceful. They were also sweet, sinister, and oh so brutal.

Not sounding soft is is difficult. Seeing young teen girls in physically compromising situations with inappropriate male suitors was an instant turn off. The reality of the fiction is that some girls choose to play adult games, for whatever reason, and therein I found acceptance. The main character, Vida,  age fourteen and a mere freshman in high school, had plenty sense. Although her beginnings were profoundly tragic, she actually had a life long stability that went against some of the choices she made. Watching her evolve was pleasing, and a testament to her repressed benevolence.

As the stakes rise , the finesse of the crew shines in signature, cold blooded moments. the introduction of a male character elevates their operation to the next level. While I initially thought his inclusion was lateral move, his purpose served to lend  another facet of ruthlessness that the ladies were unable to manufacture on their own. His operational slickness and sense of friendship completed the group dynamic.

This story was told on a grand scale, bordering epic proportions,  the coast to coast jaunt peppering the tale with fresh locales, lending scope and new dimension as the viciousness of their deeds escalated.

~Nicely done.

Ð. Stylz

Editor in Chief

Chaklet Coffee Books

This  assignment made me realize how prejudiced I had become against hood literature. Apparently, an indifference to violence and unending tales of ghetto terror had developed. What was once shocking intrigue had become trendy and over populated with an engorgement of talented writers, all consumed with out shocking each other by assaulting intelligent readers with everything from violence to vice…..and every cuss word in between.

Residents come and go, but the Hood is constant, and Time has taken its toll on Bentley Manor, focal point in this installment and safe keeper of its desperate and destitute denizens. Decades strong, the apartment complex stands aimless and proud, its innards infested with junkies, hustlers,  and  kids pulling tricks in urine scented hallways.

Some stereotypes are to be expected, but the writers (Meesha Mink and De’nesha Diamond) have instilled facets and shades of these men that made them stand out not just as individuals, but also by displaying a sensitivity……a compassion for their surroundings that was most inspiring. Shocking elements were finely balanced by unexpected vulnerabilities. A fresh first person narrative sealed the deal, making for a vivid treat.

The authors found excellent pitch for the voices of the entities portrayed: a pimp that was shockingly oblivious to most everything but  business, a player, a killer, and a drug dealer, one that intended to keep his game drama free. As clichéd as the crew sounds, the introductions, the interludes, the interactions, the initiations were all executed with candor and sincerity.                                                                                                                                                                                                Unforced; quite busy,  yet never precocious.

Crisp.

This book changed my perspective on hood novels.  Accurately capturing the authenticity of the Atlanta inner city locale was an extra treat.

“I wish I had more hands”…….. I would give this novel three thumbs up.

Ð. Stylz

Editor in Chief

Chaklet Coffee Books

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