Carole McDonnell
Essayist, Reviewer, Novelist

Samples of My Writing:
Reviews I've Written

Review of:

How Much for Just the Spider? Strategic Web Site Marketing for Small-Budget Businesses
by Bobette Kyle

P.O. Box 270374, St. Louis, MO 63127
Phone: 314-477-8090

Rating: excellent

Bobette Kyle's exhaustively researched book, How Much for Just the Spider? Strategic Web Site Marketing for Small-Budget Businesses is not for dabblers. It's for people who mean serious marketing business. Reading this book, one feels as if one has been placed in the hands of an expert supreme. One actually trembles at the wealth of information.

The strategies are many but they share a common denominator: they are marketing strategies that use the old tried and true marketing knowledge for the cyber-age. Arranged in self-contained information-packed chapters, these strategies show the reader the important aspects of websites, how to develop and implement them, how to deal with customer and company data, promotion and targeting, advertisements, search engines and newsletters. She even writes about off-line tactics.

Each chapter is further divided into categories and sub- categories and each chapter has a list of resources and websites arranged by cost-- that correspond to the strategy discussed in that chapter. For instance, the Public Relations chapter has the following categories: Message Boards, Press releases, Leveraging Expertise. And these categories are also helpfully divided. Message Boards is further divided into rules for message boards. One of the sub-categories of Press Releases shows the reader how to make a press release.

How Much for Just the Spider? Strategic Web Site Marketing for Small-Budget Businesses is a whopping 232 pages tour-de-force. The strategies inside it will turn a non-performing website into a true marketing tool. Kyle is not a motivator; she does not attempt to prove the importance of web-advertising. Nor is this book like those humor-filled "Dummies" books. Kyle means business and her marketing insights will enlighten readers who know little about either marketing or websites. Small business who cannot afford expensive internet consultants would do well to buy this book. And certainly, the average consultant doesn't know or wouldn't share-- half of what Kyle does in this excellent business aid.

Strategic marketing books are often challenging. The reader can commit to all the knowledge printed before them. Or they can pick and choose and work on different aspects of the strategy. The website designer and small business company would do well to follow the guidance Kyle pours forth. This author has done her homework -and everyone else's. But the picker and chooser will also find the book useful. This excellent book, which also comes in PDF Ebook format, is highly recommended. One of the year's best business books.

Review of:

Back in the Day
by Darrin Ketih Bastfield

Back in the Day: My Life and Times with Tupac Shakur by Darrin Keith Bastfieldís heartfelt testament to a lost friend has, like all bios of this type, its failures and triumphs. It shows us the evolution and the human side of a young black artist Ėthe backdrop of poverty which never crushed Tupac and the exhilarating social politics au urban art school is vivid and informative. But make no mistake, the book is about the young artistís life and times. And while it hits on certain aspects of Tupacís craft, it is not a book that shows a reader Tupacís artistry or contribution to music or the cause of African-Americans.

The authorís love and respect for Tupac is evident. But this love makes the reader wary. And the events chronicled in the book, while animated and detailed, donít succeed in turning a non-tupac fan into one. The problem is partly one of omission and one of culture - specifically the male culture. And the problem is mine, or people like me. I was a 36 year old black mother of two when Tupac Shakur died. In a culture where the death of a celebrity will mean afternoon-long tributes on entertainment channels, I stood outside the grief that so many of Tupacís fans were evidently experiencing. No, I was not "cold and old." I grieved when Kurt Cobain died. My eyes welled with tears recently for Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. But when Tupac Shakur died I honestly hadnít heard much of his music. I read the book because I wanted to understand something about him. What I found created mixed feelings in me. And this, too, is a matter of culture.

The bookís depictions of life in the hood were dead-on. And it portrays the culture of school- boys from the hood Ėespecially misunderstood arty boys from the hood-- quite well. Tupacís isolating wardrobe and even more isolating personality made me like him for what he was...a troubled artist, a poor kid, a relative of revolutionaries with the burden Ėalmost a family commission-- to do something revolutionary for the cause, a kid with a kind of Cinderella complex who wanted to win over the kingdom to make up for the disrespect he had received. I liked him for this. But the bookís honesty is also its undoing as far as I was concerned. Tupac is here, warts and all. His arrogance towards fellow artists, his need to conquer females, his telling- all about his sexual conquest with one particular girl, are things that the male culture admires or forgives in other men. But these traits turned me off. Granted, itís a book about a teenager and perhaps these traits had disappeared after the full bloom of teenage pride had matured. We see rare moments of Tupacís sensitivity Ėwhen he acted first in reconciling with the other rappers he dissed, for instance. But those moments are rare. And as the book is, the portrait weíre given of Tupac Shakur is not a perfect one, only a true one.

As for the omissions, I wanted to see some of the earlier rhymes. The writer mentioned so many of them. But he didnít mention any. I wanted to see the artist in action. Were there no old copies of these old rhymes? Are they forgotten? Under some other copyright? As it is, the only poem we see in a book about a rhymer is in the front of the book by the author.

My son loved Tupac, loves him still. Seeing the book on the dining room table, he immediately wanted to do a book report on it for school. I still donít know Tupac. But I was more a fan of LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg. How I missed Tupac I donít know. Perhaps my viewing of rap in those days was filtered through the world of MTV. Perhaps the write should have showed how some of the youthful raps matured into older songs. Perhaps, he should have given the reader a bibliogray. As it is now, all we have is a book which speaks about the greatness of an artist, without showing a non-fan why that artist is great. It is not a bio that stands alone. Be that as it may, I read this because I wanted to get to know the work and achievement of Tupac Shakur. That was a mistake. The book is about the young life and times of Tupac and his friend. In this it succeeds remarkably well.

Review of:

Inside My Head by
Reginald S. Lewis

iuniverse, Inc, 5220 S. 16th St., Suite 200, Lincoln, NE 68512 ISBN: 0-595-21920-9
$12.95 US/$20.95 $CAN/10.pp U.K.
Published 2002, 128 pages

Rating: Good

Reginald Lewis is a playwright, essayist and poet who happens to be living on Death Row. Inside My Head, his book of poems, are painful vignettes that depict life for poor men mostly black men behind prison walls. Those prison walls may or may not be actual walls of brick and concrete. Sometimes they are the prison of poverty, ignorance, and the myths caused by racism and media brainwashing. Sooner or later, however, they lead to prisons of concrete.

The poems are primarily about black men. But it is also about the bonding that takes place between lost souls with no hope of creating their own myth, men locked away from the world who share experiences and bond through the outside world's media, as in the poem, "Before Howard Stern" which deals with the author's bonding with a "dope fiend white boy" who died of hepatitis C. Death is everywhere present in jail. It is present in communal and personal memories, in the death of hopes, in murders and rapes behind prison walls.

Poems like "Come back Johnny" which tells the reader that "Little Johnny the child of a dirty white trash ho'" was found on his mother's lap when a pimp "blew her brains out" are powerful. Even more powerful is the depiction of Johnny's fate when he is sent to live with an aunt who calls him NIGGA is described as an "exotic bird" who "lived in cardboard nests" and "who never learned how to fly" was used by various people and then hanged himself. Another poem, "Silky got shot" tells us of the "transformation of a tender young psyche festering in the crucible of some interminable shuttle in and out of one juvenile facility after another." This is painful political stuff. But it is reportage.

The poem "Scenes from an Execution" ponders racism in the death penalty system. Yet, a reader might raise her eyebrow because this is the nearest the poet ever gets to discussing his own troubles on death row. And yet... the political natures of these poems seem like discussions one might hear on National Public Radio "the industrial prison mills," for example.

My favorite poem in this collection shows Lewis' wonderful ability to encapsulate characters in crisp poetry. In "Mizzuz Johnson's emails" a boy writes to his daddy's new girlfriend on the school computer. His mother found the girlfriend's phone number and email address in his pocket one night. "Just in time cuz she was gon' stab Him." One stanza reads as follows: "Dear Mizzuz Johnson...My daddy left. You seen him, Mizzuz Johnson? When you do tell him he cain't say I ain't his cuz everybody know I look jus'a like 'im. Mama say he owe chile s'port." In short insightful lines he shows how strange bonds are created. In so- called normal life, a child would not be writing to his father's mistress. But in Lewis' world of poverty, anything is possible. I say Lewis' world because I live in an urban environment and I don't quite believe in Lewis' world. But perhaps I am protected.

As protected for instance as the white female lawyer who encounters the Black male myth in actuality, outside her own head in the poem, "A marvelous Black male specimen". Lewis writes "Suddenly violations of his/Civil rights is not really why/She's here /It's to break loose from the chains." Whether this white female lawyer's realization is actually outside of the poet's head and exists in common reality is hard to figure out. She might be a wish inside the poet's head, a place where real and stereotyped images of black men are in constant battle. Or she might be a real love affair. In the long run, the romantic occurrences inside his head are all he has. But what about belief? Does the poet want us to believe in the actual occurrence? Does the daydream help ease the pain of isolation if it is believed by his readers? And what are black female readers to think about this tall tale in which an imprisoned black man frees the mind and sexuality of a white woman? One wonders what the game is.

This wondering continues as one reads poems like "Dinner with white liberals", "On Oprah," and "profiling" good depictions of the World Outside, are weak. They are powerful, yet they seem borrowed. His examinations of the lust for black men and its counter-lust of blonde worship doesn't seem to be his own examinations. More like a retread of sociology books he might have read in the prison library. It feels like posing. But what wonderful and informative posing!

I highly recommend these 69 poems written in four chapters by a man who has spent almost 20 years in death row, although the heavy scent of martyrdom and victimhood and the poet's political view of everything is so predominant that a real life flesh and blood man is hard to find. Lewis' poems are about social guilt. They aren't even about personal innocence. Lewis has repeatedly stated that he is innocent of the crime for which he is slated to die. One's attitude towards the poems will depend on whether one believes him or not. I found the poems a stark non-flinching documentary of life inside the prisons of imprisoned minds, prophetic and distant, telling much and yet telling little. But I found the politicizing suspect. Perhaps, that is my failing. I've read political poems but the poetry I've read were rarely by falsely-imprisoned black men. Oscar Wilde's "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" was quite personal in its philosophical way. But Wilde's poem linked personal and universal guilt. These poems about things inside and outside Reginald's head made me want to tell the poet to stop talking about all these important issues and to start talking about himself.

Reginald Lewis site