Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Book Review - Midnight by Sister Souljah

After years of waiting and rumors of sequels and motion pictures, Sister Souljah fans finally have another story featuring characters from her bestselling book, The Coldest Winter Ever.

Midnight, a prequel, takes place before The Coldest Winter Ever and follows the coming of age of Sister Souljah's popular character of the same name. But, the truth is, this book is very different from The Coldest Winter Ever. There is no mention of the Santiagas, or of any of the drama and turmoil readers know he went through before rising as a hustler. This book focuses only on Midnight, who at a very young age, is sent to America from the Sudan with his pregnant mother. They eventually arrive in Brooklyn, and must adjust quickly to the cultural differences. Readers follow the boy, Midnight, as he grows, tries to remain true to his religious faith, and protect his family by any means necessary.

Even though Midnight wasn't the prequel I thought it would be, I did enjoy the book. The story is a simple love story. Genuine and unassuming, but well-told. Fans of The Coldest Winter Ever looking for a similar book may be disappointed. Midnight is much more about character development and bringing light to the way foreigners view African Americans than life on the streets. There isn't much page-turning action. And, while there are still essences of urban fiction in the book, I believe Souljah was writing for a different genre. So, while Midnight overall is a good read, Urban fiction fans, who have waited so long for more insight into Winter's story, may be ultimately let down.

Midnight is Available at Azizi Books and

Monday, October 13, 2008

Book Review - Possession by Da'Neen Hale

On the outside Yaassa seems to have it all together, good looks, good job and loyal friends to enjoy life with, but she has a secret. She is dealing with an ex, Chee, that just can seem to leave her alone. From Chee, Yaassa has to deal with unexpected visits, stalking, fights, and public humiliation that threatens everything she has worked for.

This situation is the independent woman's nightmare! I found the story to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. I wondered what I would do if I, or one of my friends, were in Yaassa's situation. On the other hand, I also wondered what I would do if Chee was a friend of mine. Hale makes it possible to relate to all the characters in her story on some level, even the bad ones; and I really felt as though I could understand them. Maybe, too well. My only criticism would be that the character development was shallow or too obvious. But, Hale makes up for it with a drama-filled, page turning plot. I would definitely recommend this book.

Possession is available for sale at Azizi Books.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Book Reviews - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

As a former fine artist and current graphic designer, I am no stranger to being reviewed. In fact, most of my undergrad evaluations came not from tests and papers, but from peer and professor critiques in the classroom. Every week as my work was displayed on a big screen for all to review, I braced myself for the impact. If you are lucky, only a few people tear you apart over the details, but mostly everyone seems to like the direction you took. These are the projects that result in a solid "B" or "A-" and you can rest assured that the next project will be better based on what you learned from the scrutiny. But some people are still displeased. They are the perfectionists. They want the coveted "A+" that results in a rare "everyone-loves-it" critique. Most people never get this. I know I never did. I took my B's and A-'s with grace knowing that I would never be perfect. I also knew the alternative, failing grades that result from when a design student only gets negative comments for completely missing the mark.

What does this have to do with book reviews? Everything. Authors are reviewed much the same way I was reviewed as a design student. Every author wants readers to love their book and receive nothing but favorable reviews, but the truth is everyone is not going to love it. Even if the book is good, someone is always going to have a dissenting opinion. What authors need to realize, though, is that these minority opinions are often the most helpful. I was recently alerted to a situation where an author, who sought a review, tried to suppress a minority reviewer's opinion once the author deemed it less favorable.

In reference to the APOOO Book Club discussion question, Should APOOO Reviewer Fight Back? I posted the following response.

Even though this is really sad, and a bit childish, I would let the situation slide. It doesn’t look like there would be any win here for the reviewer by contacting the author and voicing concern. This author is obviously not interested in true, independent opinions. I don’t understand is how you can be an author or producer of anything creative for that matter and expect that everyone will like what you create. It is just not realistic.

My bottom line for authors wanting their book to be reviewed:
Don't publish your work if you do not want honest opinions. Stop being so sensitive, do better next time and move on!

Friday, August 29, 2008

This Weekend - African Festival of the Arts

Azizi Books is selling discounted advance tickets to the African Festival of the Arts.

This Labor Day weekend Chicago's Washington Park transforms into an authentic African village complete with three stages of spectacular entertainment featuring Kool and the Gang, Rachelle Ferrell, Diblo Dibala, Nicholas Payton, Big Daddy Kane and Black Sheep among outstanding others; African Marketplace showcasing authentic art and culture; luscious African cuisine and fare; cultural pavilions; fantastic family fun; and premiering the first ever African Festival of the Arts youth tennis tournament.

For more information about the festival click here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shocking Facts About Chicago Public Schools

September 2 is scheduled to be the first day of school for the Chicago Public School district but this year, students are taking a stand and boycotting the first day back. The boycott is organized by The Save Our Schools campaign (S.O.S.) in protest to the serious lack of funding that Chicago Public Schools receive as opposed to suburban schools.

S. O. S. says,
"On September 2, we have decided that instead of children attending the first day of school for Chicago Public Schools, we are taking our children to a well funded school district in Winnetka and attempt to register/enroll them. If the state won’t provide the necessary school funding for poor and minority children school districts in Chicago, we’ll go where they can receive a quality education."

Save Our Schools Now

Take a look at these shocking facts!

Only 6 of 100 Black and Latino high school freshmen males will graduate from a four year college. Source: University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research

Between 2003 and 2007, white students' reading scores went up while African American, Hispanic and low-incomes student's scores went down. (Chicago Sun-Times, October 31, 2007)

Money spent in Illinois on:
Housing an adult prisoner: $21,000
Educating a child in Chicago: $10,000
Source: Illinois State Board of Education
Office of Governor Rod Blagojevich

Only 9% of African American 4th graders ranked proficient or above in reading, ranking Illinois 38 out of 41 states. (Chicago Sun-Times, November 2, 2006)

Illinois has the largest unaddressed district-to-district funding gap in the nation. (Source: Education Trust)

2005-2006 School Year Graduation
Rates in Chicago
Black males - 37%
White males - 62%
(Source: Schott Foundation)

Illinois ranks 49 out of the 50 states when it comes to funding education from state funds. (Source: Education Trust)

View more facts about the school funding crisis...

Sign up to be a volunteer for this cause!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Review - Blood Colony by Tananarive Due

It is really no secret that Tananarive Due is one of my favorite authors. Ever since reading her story about the African Immortals in high school, I have not only been addicted to her books but to the entire speculative fiction genre in general. To this day, if I absolutely had to choose one, 1997's "My Soul To Keep" is still my favorite book. Well, it has been seven years since the publication of "The Living Blood" by Tananarive Due, the second installment in the African Immortal series, but finally the third installment is here. "Blood Colony" is that novel.

It is hard for me to not love a book by Tananarive Due, but I'll only give this one 4 of 5 stars. "Blood Colony" is wonderfully written and more intriguing than the average novel, but after waiting such a long time for this third installment, when I finished, I still felt like I wanted more.

Set in 2015, we meet up with the Wolde family and the Life Brothers. While they have been distributing their healing "living" blood in secret to third world countries, plagued with sickness, an Underground Railroad of distributors in North America are selling the same thing under the street drug name of Glow. I can't say that I am disappointed, because I am not, but I didn't get a sense that I learned anything new from these characters. The book continues their stories, and we catch up with their lives, but none of the mysteries completely unfold. "Blood Colony" is written so that it could be a stand alone novel, but I think you need to read the other two books to get a full grasp of the characters and to really connect with them and all that they have been through.

Very good but not great. "My Soul To Keep" and "The Living Blood" set the bar up very high and I cannot help but to compare. I have read them both more than once, but unlike the other two, I may not be picking up "Blood Colony" again for a second go 'round. I'll wait until book four.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Live or Die?

"You can either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

Like millions of other people, I went to go see The Dark Knight this weekend. Aaron Eckhart's character, Harvey Dent, says the above quote to Bruce Wayne, his date, and Rachel Dawes over dinner one evening when discussing the Batman.

This quote got me thinking about some of our leaders today. People in the media have been attacking people like Jessie Jackson for slipping up and saying controversial statements in regards to this year's presidential election. Then they come out and say things like, this person hasn't really done anything. Wow. Really, Jesse Jackson hasn't done anything? He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He ran for president and got thousands of African Americans to register to vote for the first time. Would we be saying the same things we say about Jesse, about Dr. King if he had lived? Maybe. But, it was not his fate. He did die a hero, while Jesse has lived long enough to watch himself become somewhat of a villain in spite of all the good he has done. Sad.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Book Signing with L. A. Banks

Last Saturday Azizi Books had our book signing with author L. A. Banks. As hard as I tried, I couldn't catch up and read the entire series to date before she came! (I'm still on book nine, The Cursed) While she was here, I told her that I was really hooked on the Vampire Huntress Legends and asked how she came up with so many imaginative ideas for the storyline. Mrs. Banks told me that it was the news that sparked some of her great ideas. Sometimes, the consequences of events that take place in our world, while being very real to us, can also spark great fiction. I thought about her reference to Hurricane Katrina in earlier books in the series and nodded. So true!

Here are some pictures of us with L. A. Banks and Naleighna Kai.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Book Review - One in a Million

It's been a while since I reviewed any books on this blog... that is because since we booked L. A. Banks to do a signing at Azizi Books, I have been using all of my personal reading time to get through her Vampire Huntress Legend series. (I'm on book 9 of the 10 that have been released, as of today. Great series. I'm totally obsessed.) So, needless to say, I haven't been able to fit many of my other reading interest in as they come up. Mainly, due to time constraints, but I did make room for this new release.

Last week, Azizi Books was also fortunate enough to have Kimberla Lawson Roby come to our store to sign her newest book, One in a Million.

Book Review
One in a Million by Kimberla Lawson Roby

I liked this novella. Shorter than a novel of course, but I totally got into the story by the end of the first chapter. I think that many women will be able to relate to, Kennedi, the main character, as she goes through dealing with a series of major (and I do mean major) life changes all at once. She experiences that which we all dread in marriage and that which we all dream about in life. Overall, this book was really a page-turner. I could have easily read the whole book in one sitting, because you have to see what will happen next.

Thanks for coming to Azizi Books Kimberla! This book is another good one I'm sure your new and old fans will truly appreciate.

One in a Million is available at Azizi Books.
Buy One in a Million from our online store

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Azizi Books is IndieBound!

We are IndieBound!
IndieBound is a community-oriented movement initiated by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) that enlightens the world about the value of independent businesses and promotes those values that make indies unique. IndieBound brings together booksellers, readers, indie retailers, local business alliances, and others who believe that healthy local economies help communities thrive.

Read more about IndieBound.

As an independent retailer, I am very excited about this movement. With competition for consumer dollars higher than ever, consumers are now faced with an important choice. You may choose to take pride in your community by supporting local business, who support local economies, or not, and give your money to the national chains, sending more of your dollars out of your community, and possibly even the country. The ABA is bringing light to this situation through IndieBound by letting people know they do have this choice. There is great value that can be gained by supporting independent retailers.

Don't let globalization make your community obsolete, support IndieBound with your declaration today!

Sign the declaration

Declaration of IndieBound

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for individuals to denounce the corporate bands which threaten to homogenize our cities and our souls, we must celebrate the powers that make us unique and declare the causes which compel us to remain independent.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all stores are not created equal, that some are endowed by their owners, their staff, and their communities with certain incomparable heights, that among these are Personality, Purpose and Passion. The history of the present indies is a history of experiences and excitement, which we will continue to establish as we set our sights on a more unconstrained state. To prove this, let’s bring each other along and submit our own experiences to an unchained world.

We, therefore, the Kindred Spirits of IndieBound, in the name of our convictions, do publish and declare that these united minds are, and darn well ought to be, Free Thinkers and Independent Souls. That we are linked by the passions that differentiate us. That we seek out soul mates to share our excitement. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the strength of our identities, we respectively and mutually pledge to lead the way as we all declare that we are IndieBound!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Upcoming Book Signings at Azizi Books

It's June, finally the skies seem to be clearing up after some of the extreme weather we have had here in the south suburbs of Chicago. At Azizi Books we are gearing up for our summer of book events.

First up, Earl Sewell will be coming to our store Saturday June 14, 12:00- 2:00 PM. Earl will be signing his latest release, If I Were Your Boyfriend. This book is part of the Kimani Tru collection for young adult readers, he is also the author of Keysha's Drama. Earl is a resident of South Holland, another south suburb of Chicago, not to far from us here in Matteson.

Kimberla Lawson Roby will be coming to Azizi Books on Saturday June 28 2:00-3:30 PM to sign her latest release, One in a Million. For those of you who missed Kim Roby in our store in January, when she signed her novel from the Curtis Black series, Sin No More, come early, you don't want to miss her again!

Finally, L. A. Banks will also be coming to Azizi Books on Saturday July 12 from 3:45 - 4:45 PM to sign her latest books in the Vampire Huntress Legend series, The Shadows and The Darkness. She will also be signing Bad Blood, the first book in her latest series, the Crimson Moon Novels. L. A. Banks is the Essence Literary Award winner for Best Story Teller of the Year.

For more up to date information on upcoming events and book signings please visit the Azizi Books website at

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Bump That Rocked The News

It happened this morning, two days after Barack Obama became the presumptive democratic presidential nominee. I was watching the news and I saw a picture of Barack and Michelle Obama giving each other the fist bump. "What was that they just did?" the world asked. My first thought was, really is there nothing more to report? Nothing about the "Fist Bump" seem special to me. I was watching when Obama walked to the podium to make his speech on Tuesday, and thought nothing of it. Then I thought, oh wait, this is news to many because mainstream society has never really witnessed this (hard to believe but quite possibly true). Throughout the day news sources kept buzzing. Yahoo has reported that the "Fist Bump" has sparked big interest from major news sources trying to figure out and analyze the moment, and searches for pictures and video clips of the Bump soared.

I say, take a minute to consider.... what is next.

Barack Obama is the very first African American to make it so far in a presidential election. People are looking into Barack Obama's life with determination unlike the way they have looked at any African American's life. I mean, they are really paying attention because that is what you do to politicians, especially presidential ones. In doing so they are going to see aspects of African American culture that the mainstream Caucasian may have never noticed. So, I wonder, what is next? What is the next staple of African American culture to be noticed and analyzed by the masses.

Am I overreacting? Maybe. But I am not the one who took time out of the morning news to report this story. I am not the major news sources that had to ask MTV what the fist bump meant. So, maybe, I am not overreacting. Our society could be on the verge of a shift of cultural awareness. Only time will tell.

A Presidential Fist Bump

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Book Signings

So, you want to do a book signing at Azizi Books?

I was listening to the Michael Baisden on the radio today and he had a guest, Dan Poynter from Para Publishing, that gave some advice to authors about book signings and I just had to repeat it. He said, "all the bookstore is supplying is a roof." I then heard heavenly chimes in my head. Somebody finally said it! At Azizi Books we have done a fair amount of book signings, about 2 -3 a month since we opened, and I am amazed at how many authors expect us to do promoting on their behalf while they do little or nothing. Usually the first thing they ask is how we are going to promote. Now, we do want signings to be successful, and we do have a newsletter and a website where we post our upcoming events and signings, but that is not really promotion. We tell authors that promoting is up to them, and our most successful book signings are the ones where the author has done a lot of promotion on their own. So, thank you Dan Poynter for giving that advice on the radio. He also gave great advice about book covers and ideas about successfully selling poetry books.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Million Blog List

Azizi Books is # 714

Get listed at
Azizi Books has been added to the Million Blog List! So, once again we are on our way. The Million Blog List is an experiment to see how long it will take to register one million blogs in a list. There are over 70,000,000 blogs out there, so how long will it take to get to one million? Well, Azizi Books is listed as number 714. I read somewhere that it would take 50 years to get to a million if they keep going at this rate. It's a very interesting effort, though. With some more excitement and publicity, I'm sure that list can be filled before I'm 73!

Add your blog to the million blog list

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Buck Really Does Stop Here.

This information comes from a bookmark that we got from the ABA (American Booksellers Association) as a part of their Buy Local First campaign.

For every $100 a consumer spends....
*Local businesses give
$68 to their local economy.
*Chain stores give back only $43.
Local booksellers are members of your community. They care and they contribute. (So true!)

Consumer Quick Quiz
Q: How many in-store author appearances did Amazon stage in your town last year?
A: None. I'd like to point out that since opening in November 2007, Azizi Books has had 15 published authors appear in our store, most of which are local to the Matteson area.
Q: How many people did Amazon employ in your town last year?
A: Zero!
Q: How much did Amazon donate to your local community organizations last year?
Q: How much did Amazon collect in sales tax and pay to support schools, social services and public agencies last year?

So in conclusion, buy local first! Before you run to Wal-mart to buy food, check out the local grocery store or farmers market, before you run to Amazon or Borders come to Azizi Books or order from Stop sending your money to China and India or some other far away land! Supporting local and independent businesses where you are is good for us all.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Lincoln Mall Up and Coming

Many people have asked us why we chose Lincoln Mall in Matteson as a location for our bookstore. It's no secret that this mall has fallen on hard times; foot traffic has suffered, but the main reason we are here lies in one thought. Potential. When I was in junior high, Lincoln Mall was one of the best hangout spots. With all the great stores and a movie theater across the street, what more could young teen girls want? Other people must have thought the same way, because Lincoln Mall was always packed with customers. Well, then something happened. The movie theater closed, and some major retailers left the area. Lincoln Mall lost some of its excitement, and it stayed that way for a few years as people started going to other shopping outlets. But, things are changing. Now, only a few years later, I'm back from college, and Lincoln Mall is coming back as well. Everyone hasn't figured it out though, which I believe is why we get the, "why Lincoln Mall?" question. Maybe they don't believe the new management company can really turn it around into the super shopping experience it once was, but we don't think so. Have a little faith! The Southtown Star wrote an article about the redevelopment happing in Lincoln Mall. Azizi Books isn't the only store that sees potential here.

Read the Southtown Star article here
Lincoln Mall ready for shopping rebound

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A note from Kevin . . .

On my mind...

While listening to the words of Senator Barack Obama, the candidate, during his Tuesday speech about race, I am both filled with pride and fraught with anxiety about that which is and that which might be. We still have so much more to do. Sincere appreciation of our history, of the bravery and selfless works of our predecessors compels us to define what becomes our destiny. However, we can't determine where we are going unless we know where we've been. Pride in our culture and our history should make us proud about our future.

-Kevin Roberts

Friday, February 15, 2008

2008 Essence Literary Awards Winners

Essence Magazine announced the winners for its first annual Literary Awards this week. Among some of the winners are Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, Reposition Yourself by T.D. Jakes, and The Pirates Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson. Terry McMillan was honored with a lifetime achievement award and L. A. Banks (one of my personal favorites) took the award of storyteller of the year.

View the full announcement of the winners of the 2008 Essence Literary Awards

View photos of the winners

Thursday, January 24, 2008

African American Bookstore Karibu Books Closes

Yesterday, I received the news that Karibu Books, the nation's largest black-owned bookstore chain, announced that it would be closing its doors. Shock was the first emotion to come to mind, followed by a slight twinge of anger, then sadness. Karibu closing? This store has been a huge inspiration for us here at Azizi Books. In an environment where independent bookstores are shutting their doors faster than ever, knowing that Karibu books was alive, kicking, and achieving success was a message to us that we could do it too. We looked up to Karibu. This is truly a sad event. Owners say that financial reasons were not the cause of closing.

Washington Post Article About Karibu Books Closing

Come on people, we need these businesses! Our communities need these stores. There are so many great books for us our there, for children and adults alike, that need African American bookstores around to carry them. You can't find them in the large chain stores or online retailers. So what happens without the Black bookstore? We lose part of our voice. Of course there are still many of African American writers who will have no problem getting exposure, but what about the other voices? They may not be as loud, but they still have something important to say.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

2008 Essence Literary Awards

Essence Magazine, which helped launch the writing careers of such best-selling authors as Terry McMillan, Gloria Naylor and Bebe Moore Campbell, is now holding their first ever Essence Literary Awards. The Essence Literary Awards will honor the best books of 2007.

Categories include best in fiction, nonfiction, memoir, inspiration, current affairs, photography, children's books, poetry, and storyteller of the year.

Essence is asking for your participation to by casting your vote for storyteller of the year. Finalist in this category are:

L.A. Banks
Eric Jerome Dickey
Tananarive Due

Trisha R. Thomas

Lori Bryant-Woolridge

Vote for your favorite here

The winner will be revealed in February.

View finalists in other categories

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Azizi Books Gives Black Authors Their Due

On December 26, 2007 Azizi Books was featured in the Business section of the Southtown Star.

What Kevin said about the article. . .
"First, some corrections. Free publicity is nice, but they don’t always get things right (for example, misspelling Octavia Butler’s name). My daughter, Maia, and I are co-owners in this venture, after she joined me in an existing internet book business, ... She manages the bookstore, and I manage the internet operation and purchasing."

Phew. After reading the article myself, I'm glad he added that last part in!

From the article
"For those interested in reading books by African-American authors, Azizi Books in Matteson stocks a full supply of fiction and nonfiction books by black authors."

Read more.,azizi26.article