Monday, November 21, 2011

The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles by Jacob Singer

One of my goals for the year was to read 3 fiction books (I think it was 3). I made it through two: The Five People You Meet in Heaven and A Lesson Before Dying. When I received the pitch for this book, I decided to request a review copy and make it the 3rd.

The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles is a book that contains two stories: Book 1 Emma, a young girl, finds that she is classified as a second class citizen because she is biracial (white and black). She rebels and decides to cross the colour barrier and enter the white European community with her fair skin allowing her to pass as white; Book 2 “Marla, Emma’s daughter, is raised as white and at the university she attends, becomes very active in opposing apartheid. She learns from Emma that her true grandmother is a Cape Coloured and is on her deathbed. Emma would like her mother to see a grandchild she never knew she had.”

As I read through Book 1, I could see that a lot of care went into this novel. It is filled with historical facts and vivid details of the characters. The author also includes content on cultural idiosyncrasies in some Cape Town communities. I was curious enough to circle several of these items and enjoyed the extra tidbits I picked up after doing additional research of my own.

I did not expect that I’d have to learn so many characters. A few times I thought everyone had been introduced only to see another unfamiliar name. Once I made it to Chapter 6, I didn’t want to meet anyone else! However, the author established a connection between all of these people and the main character, Emma.

Emma decides to leave home in order to assume a new identity and live as a white woman. She disguises anything about herself that would allow her to be identified as black in her quest to live an ‘unrestricted’ life. I'm not sure how to feel about this decision. The synopsis on the back cover of the book heralds her as an ‘unsung hero'. I wouldn't go that far.  Is it heroic to live a life that denies part of who you are? Is it heroic to befriend people and have a romantic relationship with a man while intentionally hiding from them your true self? There’s so surprise in the irony that by denying she was black she was always fearful that someone would discover who she really was. 

I decided not to read Book 2. I had read enough on this point of view addressing the rebellion against apartheid. Plus, disguising your identity and living as part of the privileged group doesn’t quite fit the definition of rebelling……or does it?

Although the book was written as a novel, the characters truly did exist. Singer notes the following, ‘I used a writer’s license to create their conversations and interactions with each other.’

Jacob Singer, who was born 1935 near Johannesburg, agreed to do an interview shortly after I received the book. Hopefully he’s still up to it. If so, are there any questions you’d like me to ask?

Click here to see my interview with the author.  

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Giveaway WINNER of The Economics of Ego Surplus

 The winner of The Economics of Ego Surplus by Paul McDonnald is 
Christa @ Mental Foodie

Send your mailing address to  and feel free to come back and drop us comment about your thoughts on the book!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Top 10 Books I've Had the Longest and Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

When I started looking through my books to see which ones to qualify for this post, I couldn’t believe some of the gems I’ve neglected to read! I’ve included 11 books instead of 10 but a couple were too close to call.

I started several of these books but didn’t finish. I’ll try to get through four* of them during Black History Month. Looks like you get a sneak peek at some of the reviews that may be coming! 

In no particular order, here are The Top Ten Books That Have Been On My Shelf For The Longest But I've Never Read:  

Gonna Lay Down My Burdens by Mary Monroe
In the sweltering little town of Belle Helene, Alabama, Carmen Taylor keeps her weaknesses, her frustrations, and her sorrows to herself. She's too busy dealing with the dramas of troubled friends like Desiree Lucienne, the petite, pampered daughter of a doctor who tries to beat the wildness out of her. But that doesn't stop Desiree from trawling for men, and trying to drag Carmen along.

A Girl Called Boy by Belinda Hurmence

A pampered young African-American girl finds herself mysteriously transported back in time to the days of slavery.

*Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

John Howard Griffin, the author and main character of "Black Like Me", is a middle-aged white man living in Mansfield, Texas in 1959. Deeply committed to the cause of racial justice and frustrated by his inability as a white man to understand the black experience, Griffin decides to take a radical step: he decides to undergo medical treatment to change the color of his skin and temporarily become a black man.

*The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Dubois
Drawn from many previously published essays, Du Bois' work reveals the way in which America was reconstructing and redefining itself as a country and culture in the wake of the Civil War forty years prior.

Roots by Alex Haley

It begins with a birth in an African village in 1750; it ends seven generations later at the Arkansas funeral of a black professor whose children are a teacher, a Navy architect, an assistant director of the U.S. Information Agency and an author.

*Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.

 *Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

 Jadine Childs is a black fashion model with a white patron, a white boyfriend, and a coat made out of ninety perfect sealskins. Son is a black fugitive who embodies everything she loathes and desires. As Morrison follows their affair, which plays out from the Caribbean to Manhattan and the deep South, she charts all the nuances of obligation and betrayal between blacks and whites, masters and servants, and men and women.

Black Folktales by Julius Lester

Twelve remarkable folktales, culled from the black experience in Africa and America, are freshly retold in the thoroughly original voice of Julius Lester. Arranged by topic — Origins, Love, Heroes, and People — the tales combine universal themes and uncanny wisdom.Many of the stories were passed down by slaves.

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

"The Purpose-Driven Life" is a manifesto for Christian living in the 21st century...a lifestyle based on eternal purposes, not cultural values. Using biblical stories and letting the Bible speak for itself, Warren clearly explains God’s five purposes for each of us.

The PACT by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt

They grew up on the streets of Newark, facing city life's temptations, pitfalls, even jail. But one day these three young men made a pact. They promised each other they would all become doctors, and stick it out together through the long, difficult journey to attain that dream. Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt are not only friends to this day-they are all doctors.

Not A Day Goes By  by E. Lynn Harris

John “Basil” Henderson has always played the field, both as a professional football player and as an equal opportunity lover. After retiring his jersey for a career as a sports agent, the dashing playboy is surprising everyone—including himself—by deciding to settle down and commit to his new love, Yancey Harrington Braxton.

As an aside, I’ve had several new additions within the past week or so. Here are the four that I received most recently:

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

This powerful and inspiring book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.

The End of Poverty by Jefferey D Sachs

This landmark exploration of prosperity and poverty distills the life work of an economist Time calls one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Sachs’s aim is nothing less than to deliver a big picture of how societies emerge from poverty. To do so he takes readers in his footsteps, explaining his work in Bolivia, Russia, India, China, and Africa, while offering an integrated set of solutions for the interwoven economic, political, environmental, and social problems that challenge the poorest countries.

I Didn’t Ask to Be Born: (But I'm Glad I Was) by Bill Cosby 

In this hilarious new collection of observations, Cosby brings us more of his wonderful and wacky insights into the human condition that are sure to become classics. In the tradition of Fat Albert, Cosby introduces a host of new characters, including Peanut Armhouse and Old Mother Harold.

The Vase with the Many Coloured Marbles by Jacob Singer

This book is divided into two parts. Book 1 is about Emily Kleintjies, born into a Cape Coloured family in Cape Town. She decides to jump the racial barrier of apartheid, and changes her name to Emma Kline. The second book is about her daughter, Marla O'Neil, who was raised as white. The book shows the tragedy of South Africa during the Verwoerd apartheid era, and the sadness that comes with jumping the racial barrier.

Have you read any of these? Would you suggest I move it closer to the top or bottom of my to be read list? 
Are there any that you'd want to see a review on sooner rather than later?

Interview: Cendrine Marrouat (author)

You all may remember Joseph Cook author of Heartbreak.Rebirth.Evolution. Thanks to one quick tweet from Joseph (@InkDrop_Theory), I'm able to bring  to you Cendrine Marrouat. Cedrine has dropped by to talk about her book Five Years and Counting. A Journey into the Mind of Soul Poetry. Many of you know that I rarely, well, actually I never read poetry unless it's given to me. But for those you read it regularly, enjoy the interview!

RHP: Your book, Five Years and Counting. A Journey into the Mind of Soul Poetry, arranges your pieces according to life’s most important stages: birth, teenage years, adulthood, and elevation. How did you come up with this idea? And why 5 years?
CM: Five Years and Counting. A Journey into the Mind of Soul Poetry had always been in the back of my mind. But the book really started to take shape in 2010.   
That year marked my fifth anniversary as a poet. And I really wanted to celebrate this milestone. So, I decided to reread my poetry from 2005 to 2009.

I realized that my style had really changed. Some poems came from a place of pain, while others were more assertive, peaceful and mature. And, there were also the pieces where the quest for deep meaning was obvious.

After translating the poems from my French book (Sortons des chemins battus. Poésie de l'âme) into English, I started regrouping what I considered my best poetry into specific themes.The stages came naturally afterwards.  

Five Years and Counting contains more than 160 poems that will lead you through the labyrinth of life. Human beings start with the primal cry -- the need to be heard. Then, they reach adolescence and look for independence. The adults they become find answers to most of their questions and start learning how to cope with the pain of losing. Elevation occurs when we are no longer afraid of experiencing life beyond loss, and understand that there is beauty beyond death.

RHP: You describe the last stage, elevation, as representing man’s understanding and realization of the ultimate fulfillment in life. Have you reached the stage of elevation? If not, what does it take to get there?
CM: I do not really know if I have reached that stage. I still experience doubts and fears. However, I choose not to let them rule my life. I believe that elevation is within everybody's reach. It just takes two things: a healthy relationship with your inner child and a willingness to embrace whatever challenge comes your way.

RHP: This book of poetry sounds like a very personal collection. How do you decide what to share and what to withhold?
CM: I wrote Five Years and Counting with both myself and others in mind. It is a personal book because I am an artist; artists create art to fill a personal need -- they lie if they tell you otherwise. It is also a universal book because many of the pieces are really not about me. I use poetry to connect with the divine in all of us and deliver positive messages that demand of readers that they face their fears.

I have never had any problem with sharing my poetry, especially lately. I write more and more from a place of complete freedom.   

RHP: What is your favorite poem from this book and why?
CM: My favorite poem is "I Write Your Name." It is very special for two reasons: It is my first piece and I wrote it for someone who taught me a lot about love and patience.

RHP: If we read your poems separate from one another, how would we be able to identify all of them as belonging to you?
CM: There are two things I like to use in my poetry: chorus-like verses and repetitions. I also have a marked preference for short forms, including haiku, senryu and tanka. Further, all my poems contain an element of positive spirituality.
Many readers tell me that my style bears a strong resemblance to Rumi's. I can neither agree nor disagree, as I have never read any poem from him.
RHP:Hmmm, haiku, senryu and tanka.Smiley  I won’t ask.

RHP: Who are a few of your favorite poets and what do you like about them?
CM: I will just mention two: Khalil Gibran and Alphonse de Lamartine. Their poetry is so spiritual that you can almost feel their words caress your mind. And their style is inimitable.

RHP: What is your creative process for writing your poetry? Do the poems just come to you or do you sit down and think about them?
CM: These days, I would say that my creative process is all over the place.
Usually, the only thing that I need to start writing is a title. Then, I go with the flow -- but I always have a dictionary next to me.  

For the last couple of years, the ideas for most of my poems have come to me in the shower or while I am driving. Go figure!
RHP: I hate when that happens! I’ve lost a few ideas that way!

RHP: What else would you like for us to know about you here at Reading Has Purpose?
CM: First of all, thank you very much for featuring me on your blog. I enjoyed answering your questions. I would like to share a short poem from Five Years and Counting.

Piercing through man’s stains,
A ray of hope shines up high.
They stand and ogle;
They listen and do not hear...

But His guiding hand
Strokes and soothes fear and gloom.
Sister Moonshine smiles
And Glory opens her arms
Wide to welcome you.

Where the heart goes matters not.
You need to let it wander.
For the soul needs space.

Where the heart goes matters not.

Five Years and Counting. A Journey into the Mind of Soul Poetry is available for purchase at, Amazon (book and eBook), Barnes & Noble NOOK Bookstore, and Lulu (book and eBook).

Poetry is only one of my many hats. I am also a freelance journalist, reviewer and blogger with a strong interest in social media.

Feel free to visit my website. And come and say ‘hi’ on Facebook, Google+ and/or Twitter.


If you are a fan of poetry, in addition to Joseph, JoVonna Rodriguez has shared her work with us as well.   

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Interview: Paul McDonnald (author) and book GIVEAWAY

I would like to introduce you all to Paul McDonnald. Below you will find my interview with the economics instructor who was willing to  provide his thoughts on the current economic situation and tell us about his current novel on economic terrorism!
RHP: When you talk to people about economics, what are they generally most confused about?
PM: I think people who took just an introductory course in college have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. They’ve been taught a few “trees” like supply and demand graphs, but don’t really have a good grasp of the “forest,” the overall economy. It seems to me intro courses ought to give students a better overview of the “forest” before teaching the “trees.” That’s what I try to do in the novel.
RHP: If you could only teach us 3 lessons about economics, what would they be?
PM: The value of entrepreneurialism would be one. That is the engine that drives a market economy. One of the problems I think we face is that with big corporations becoming so dominant over mom-and-pop type businesses (two!), people become entirely focused on finding jobs with companies or the government instead of going into business for themselves. The economy becomes sort of bureaucratized, and innovation suffers (three!). They say Greece used to be an extraordinarily entrepreneurial country. But an expensive public sector financed by government debt got the younger generation used to eating at the government trough, so to speak. Now it’s empty and they don’t know what to do but protest. Some people say you can’t give yourself a job, but in a society geared to entrepreneurialism you can do just that!
RHP: Although your book (The Economics of Ego Surplus) is fiction, it incorporates many topics that someone would learn in an economics course. Considering you were an economics instructor, you know that this isn’t a very glamorous topic for many people. Are you able to convince people that this novel makes economics exciting?
PM: It’s not easy but I seem to be making a little progress, one reader at a time!
RHP: Did you learn anything new about the topic while writing the book or was this pretty routine business for you?
PM: The economics is very basic, 101-level stuff. But the conclusion the protagonist, Kyle Linwood, comes to at the end is that all the different schools of thought in economics (Keynesian, Marxist, neoclassical, etc.) share a common flaw. This is an idea that came to me in the process of writing the novel.
RHP: Is it possible to create an economy that thrives consistently long term or will there always be ups and downs?
PM: I think the ups and downs of a market economy originate in people’s psychological tendency to get too excited when things are going well and too pessimistic when things are going poorly. I don’t see much that economists can do to end that. But maybe psychologists can figure something out!
RHP: What are your thoughts on the use of quantitative easing to stimulate the economy?
PM: When the Fed “eases” it basically increases liquidity in the financial system, which lowers interest rates. It can be helpful, but ultimately it only works if people respond by changing their behavior. All the easing in the world won’t make businesses expand and hire if they don’t feel confident enough to do it. That’s what the famous economist Keynes called “animal spirits.”
RHP: Would you propose any solutions for the current economic situation?
PM: I would like to see policies that promote smaller businesses. It seems like more and more we are faced with the choice of big government from the Democratic Party or big corporations from the Republican Party. I’d like to see a third way that focuses on markets, but favors small, entrepreneurial businesses at the expense of larger corporate ones.
RHP: What else would you like for us to know about you here at Reading Has Purpose?
PM: That the economics in the novel is pretty easy and painless. I tried to focus on keeping the story fun and engaging. I hope your readers will take a look. A sample of the novel can be downloaded at Thanks for having me!
Paul McDonnold is a writer whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The Baltimore Sun, Texas Highways magazine and Glenn Beck’s Fusion magazine. He has taught economics courses at the University of North Texas, the University of Delaware and North Lake College in Irving, Texas. He lives in southwest Arkansas and can be contacted at

Thanks to Paul for providing a copy of his book for the giveaway!

GIVEAWAY- The Economics of Ego Surplus

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  I have not read this book and I can not vouch for its contents.

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