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Sparkle: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Denene Millner , Howard Rosenman , Joel Schumacher , Mara Brock Akil
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description


Detroit, 1968. The Motown sound is sweeping the nation. Girl groups are hotter than ever. Over their mother’s objections, three beautiful sisters—Delores, Sister and Sparkle—are taking the local music scene by storm. But their dreams are bigger than Detroit. Their manager, Stix, is just as ambitious and will do whatever it takes to make it to the big time, even if it means using the girls—and his love for Sparkle—as the foundation of a new musical empire.

Behind the music and lights, the recording industry is a ruthless and unforgiving place, just as Mama had warned her girls. Sister, with her good looks and voice, is the natural headliner of the trio, yet her complicated personal life threatens to overshadow her talent; Delores has her sights set on a different kind of life outside the spotlight; and young Sparkle must push past her deepest fears if she is to fulfill her destiny—does she really have what it takes to go all the way?

Riveting and soul-stirring, this timeless tale reminds us of the unbreakable bonds between family, the high price of fame and what can happen when we dare to show the world how brightly we can sparkle.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Denene Millner, whose Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, cowritten with Steve Harvey, is currently #1 on the New York Times Advice Bestseller List, is an award-winning entertainment journalist and the author of The Sistahs’ Rules, and the coauthor of several novels. Her nonfiction credits include the What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know relationship series and the humor book, The Angry Black Woman’s Guide to Life.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


SISTER WAS NEVER good at disguising what she was thinking. Not that she wanted to anyway. The way she narrowed her eyes, the way she twisted her lips, the placement of her hands, the shifting of her lithe, hourglass frame—all of it was her very deliberate way of letting anyone with eyes, ears and a half a brain cell know exactly what was on her mind. And right then, at that very moment, as she stood, hand on hip, in the kitchen of the Discovery Club, alternately glaring at the singer on the cramped, dilapidated stage and the audience’s enthusiastic response to him, Sister’s stance was screaming three things: Troll! Damn, he can sing! You couldn’t pay me to go out on that stage after him!

Sparkle was fluent in Sister-speak—knew that she’d have to do some fast talking if she was going to get her big sister to walk out on that stage and perform behind Black, a big, greasy, sweaty mess of a man with a voice and stage presence that made him practically morph into Marvin Gaye before the audience’s eyes. Sister craved attention—fancied herself the star. Playing musical cleanup was not an option.

Sparkle’s eyes shifted between Sister’s glower and the stage, where, at that very moment, Black was whipping his hand in the air to signal the piano, bass and harmonica musicians to stop playing his soul-stirring blues tune. Black caressed the microphone between his fat, sweaty palms, closed his eyes, cocked his head and stood silent—a dramatic pause that suspended space and time and left the packed crowd hanging so hard on his next note that even the roaches crawling over the crusty dishes back in the kitchen stood still.

And just when the room was about to burst waiting to see what the theatrical singer would do next, just when the piano man’s arms, suspended over his instrument’s keys, started to ache, just when Sister shifted onto her other hip and furrowed her brow so hard her foundation yawned just a bit on her forehead, Black let go of the microphone on the stand, raised his hands in exaltation and, with a growl that rose from the depths of his belly, belted, “I’m a maaaaaaaan!”—the hook to the soul-stirring, make-’em-scream-hallelujah a capella version of Bo Diddley’s smoky blues song.

Everybody—the musicians, the drug dealers sitting in the choice seats, the young guys cozying up to their dates with dreams of getting lucky later on, the shop workers and hairdressers and school cleaners who’d climbed out of their work clothes and into their finest outfits to enjoy what little bit of fun and freedom they could muster in the bowels of the club, the bartender, the waitresses—everybody jumped to their feet and hollered like they were sitting on the front pew testifying at the holiest of church revivals.

And Black? He grilled it up and ate it whole. Every. Single. Morsel.

Sparkle knew it was time for some fast talking, or she was going to lose Sister. “Sister, please, just hold on, now . . .” Sparkle began. But Sister was having none of it.

“No,” she said simply, hand still on hip, eyes still on Black.

“But you’re up next—I can’t change the run of the show and if you don’t go after him, you’re not going to get to go at all,” Sparkle reasoned.

“I said no,” Sister snapped. “I am not going on after a troll who just sang himself cute.”

Sparkle adjusted her angle so that she was standing in front of Sister, blocking her view of Black and the audience, which by now was shouting and clapping and testifying so hard the clapboard floors and crumbling wall plaster rumbled. “Pretty please?” Sparkle begged, turning on her modest-little-sister charm.

“I don’t even know why I let you talk me into coming down here,” Sister said, her eyes shifting from one young face to the next. The room was full of young’uns—their naivetÉ practically dripping from their pores. At twenty-eight years old, with enough living under her belt to outmatch most fifty-year-olds, Sister had neither the time, the energy, nor the foolishness it would take to win over a bunch of teenagers anyway. “I think I’m the oldest sardine in this can.”

“You don’t look it,” Sparkle quickly opined.

“That’s the truth,” Sister said slyly, flipping her hair and running her hands along the outlines of her hip-hugging satin pencil skirt and her tight black sweater with a scoop cut in the back. Sister looked good. And she knew it, for sure. “It’s your song anyway. You go out there and sing it.”

“But you’re the singer in our family,” Sparkle said, anxiously peeking over her shoulder and saying a silent prayer that Black keep milking the crowd long enough for her to con Sister onto the stage.

“So?” Sister snapped. “You can sing, too.”

“Yeah,” Sparkle said, moving herself into her sister’s line of vision. “But you know how to keep people’s attention . . .” Just as the words pushed themselves from Sparkle’s lips, both she and Sister caught sight of him—some goofy guy with Coke-bottle glasses and an awkward grin, staring down Sister. “See?” Sparkle said quickly. “People want to see you talk. Imagine how you’ll blow them away when you sing. Come on, Sister, just say you’ll do it . . .”

Just then, Black sat on top of his final note, stretching it so far and so long and so wide the audience’s thunderous applause was near deafening. When he finally let go of the note, he stood there in his black jumpsuit, a wash rag in his hand, mopping his brow and taking in every praise like it was a steak dinner. The announcer rushed to the stage, he, too, applauding wildly, and patted Black on the back while he expertly snatched the mic from the singer. “Black, ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer said. “We’ll keep the applause going. Next up . . .”

Sparkle’s heart skipped two beats. “Please,” she begged Sister. She was racing against time. “I just want to hear my song.”

The announcer kept on: “Sister Anderson! This is her first time at the Discovery Club, so make her feel welcome!”

Sparkle looked at the announcer, then back at Sister. She was starting to panic. “Please, I begged the owner to let you come sing tonight and he squeezed us in even though he really didn’t want to. If you back out now, no one will ever hear my song and no one can sing it like you can. Now, I went over everything with the band, and . . .”

Just then, all 300-plus pounds of sweaty Black rolled their way to the backstage area, crowding out all those who stood waiting their turn to take the stage. He practically pushed Sparkle out of the way to step right in front of Sister; his hot breath seared the rouge Sister had swiped from the makeup case her mother had buried in the bathroom linen closet. Black stared Sister down as the announcer called her name once again. “You sure you want to do this?” he asked, a smug smile stretching across his face.

Sister couldn’t stand smug bastards, but what she adored more than anything was a challenge. There was no way she was going to step back off this bet. Sister smiled back at Black, locked eyes with him, and, without saying a word, slipped her arms out of her sweater and spun it around so that the low cut was in the front, where there was now lots of cleavage. Sister, her eyes digging straight down into Black’s soul, said everything that needed to be said between the two. Sister’s smirk put the exclamation point on it.

Black swallowed hard and shifted his girth out of Sister’s way as she stepped past him and sashayed onto the stage. And when she pulled the microphone close to her hot red lips, looked out over the packed crowd and said “thank you” for the opportunity to perform, there wasn’t an eye in the house focused on anything other than Tammy “Sister” Anderson. Women crossed their legs and twisted a little in their seats and, out of the corner of their eyes, took stock of their men’s reaction to the siren on the stage. The men—well, there were quite a few who turned up the bottoms of their cups of liquor and took long, hard swigs of their beer. Those who really didn’t give a damn what their women thought of their actions or figured they had plenty of time to sweet-talk their ladies after disrespecting them made no bones about leaning in and running their eyes from the top of Sister’s fine brown hair, across her ample bosom, past her invitingly curvy hips and thick, luscious legs and all the way down to the tips of the red toenails peeking from her high-heeled sandals. Sister was sexy. She knew it. And everybody else in the room knew it, too.

Sister winked at Sparkle as the band played the introduction to “Yes I Do,” an upbeat, Motown-styled song Sparkle had scribbled in her dream journal just a few weekends earlier while she was keeping time with Mama at the dress shop. The words were sugary sweet and innocent, like the yarns of lace fabric Sparkle’s mother expertly worked into a bridal gown for a teenage girl who was going to be walking down the aisle just a week shy of her twentieth birthday. Sparkle had seen the light in the young bride-to-be’s eyes and melted just a little; here was this nineteen-year-old girl, barely out of high school, about to recite her marital vows with a real man, when Sparkle, who was the same age, hadn’t even gotten her first kiss. And when that bride-to-be stepped in front of the mirror to admire herself in her wedding dress, Sparkle thought she was the luckiest girl in the world and that, surely, if a man kissed her and told her he loved her ...

Product Details

  • File Size: 1840 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1476704562
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Media Tie-In edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00818IR26
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,239 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well put together August 14, 2012
i can't wait to see the remake coming up and this book is on point and tells the story and all that went on with trying to make it big. the story is always familiar and yet always so compelling. the struggle, journey and the many sacrifices that take you from one point to another. the characters and pacing just keeps on the edge of your seats. the book is on point and a valuable lesson about the music business and life in general.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Live To Read August 14, 2012
By Chels
Although I have not yet seen the movie, the novel, Sparkle, has made me want to. I love the story, characters, and back-and-forth dialogue. Millner did a great job describing the events of the book; it was easy to imagine the scenes taking place. I loved the humor and speech patterns of the characters. Everyone was quick-witted and funny. If the book was this good, the movie and music must be fantastic.
Three sisters begin singing together and after winning a contest in 1960s Detroit, their talent quickly takes over the city. Romance, abuse, and drugs are the problems that threaten their rise to the top. Sister becomes engaged to an abusive man and takes up cocaine, Sparkle has to move past her nerves and embrace her talent, and Delores merely wants to help her sisters' rise to the top and earn enough money to fund her education. All this drama takes place in the midst of the Civil Rights movement.
Millner's novel is excellent and anyone would enjoy reading it. The book is fast-paced and never lost my attention. I give this novel four out of five stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I was looking for! February 27, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I fell head over heels for the 2012 remake of this movie.
Books based on movies usually tend to offer more insight
and this book is no exception!
I'm not sure just how closely this book follows the script,
but it's very convincing and offers a little more insight on many events in the movie.
This book is really interesting and so hard to put down!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Just watch the movie January 26, 2013
It's identical to the movie. I prefer the move though. The movie gets four stars the book...well. That's all I'm going to say about that.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Read Before the Seeing the Movie! October 8, 2012
Sparkle by Denene Millner and Howard Rosenman should be read before seeing the movie that currently stars Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston. Sparkle is the story of three sisters - Sister, Sparkle, and Delores and they dream of being a singing group even though it is against their Mama's wishes. Sister is the lead singer of the group as she is beautiful and has a great singing voice but it is the songwriter, Sparkle, who catches Stix's (their new manager) attention. Delores simply sees the singing group as a way to make income on her way to medical school.

In Sparkle, like every girl group (real or fictional), there is one that believes she is bigger than the group and that is where the drama begins. Denene Millner does an excellent job at capturing the music scene and the atmosphere of Detroit during the Civil Rights Movement. It should also be noted that in this book adaptation, Millner writes details and gives backstories that are not displayed in the film version which provides a greater understanding to the storyline. Sparkle was a quick, exciting, and entertaining which was read in one afternoon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sparkle Sparkles!!! September 7, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this book and it set me up for the movie perfectly. Wonderful imagery it's like you are really there with them or one of the characters. Everyone should read this book.
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More About the Author

New York Times best-selling author Denene Millner is a hotly sought after award-winning journalist whose insightful and captivating pieces have secured her foothold in the entertainment, parenting, social media and book publishing industries. The former Parenting magazine columnist has penned 22 books, including "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man," co-written with Steve Harvey.

Millner also is the founder and editor of, a critically acclaimed blog that examines the intersection of parenting and motherhood through the multi-cultural experience. Under Millner's leadership, MyBrownBaby has won numerous awards and enjoyed recognition as a Top Mom Blog of 2011 and 2012 by, solidifying it as one of the most respected and celebrated niche blogs on the web.

Millner frequently contributes as an entertainment writer for Essence, Ebony and Jet; her extensive television experience includes appearances on the The Today Show, The Nate Berkus Show, HLN, MSNBC and the Rachel Ray show.

The former political reporter and entertainment journalist lives in Atlanta with her husband and their two daughters.


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