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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Casting for Kathryn Stockett's "The Help"

Kathryn Stockett's The Help, first reviewed back in June, has consistently stayed on the top of the best seller's lists since it was published back in February. As most of you know, I loved this book. I've recommended it to several people and engaged in lengthy discussions about it with co-workers, fellow Tweeters, on Facebook, etc. Back in June, when I first read it, TheTinyJEWELBox and I tried to cast the movie in our heads. Hasn't everyone who's read this book tried to do this? Anyway, we went round and round trying to determine which actresses would be cast. I've taken a stab at it, now it's your turn. My picks are below. Tell me who you'd pick for each role.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

#BookReview: Nappily Faithful - Trisha R. Thomas

After Jake is found not guilty of killing his former business accountant, he and Venus relocate to Atlanta. Hoping to make a new start, he sells his clothing line to his best friend, Legend, and focuses on producing new artists and spending more time with his family. Things haven't been right between him and Venus since she lost the baby she was carrying when he went to trial.

Venus isn't happy with the way things are with Jake and is ready to call it quits until she receives a call from Airic. After a three year absence, he's ready to be a father to Mya, a role Jake has been filling happily.

Newly married to televangelist and speaker, Trevelle Doval, Airic realizes that it's time for him to grow up and be the father that he should have been when Mya was born. Trevelle has convinced him that Jake's recent trial and Venus' brief hospitalization for an overdose have made them unfit parents.

Former prostitute turned evangelist, Trevelle Doval, will stop at nothing to complete her perfect picture as good Christian woman. She's so busy throwing stones at Jake and Venus that she conveniently forgets that she killed her former pimp and abandoned her child in the backseat of a car. It's too bad that the presiding judge of the custody hearing remembers, because she was there to witness it all.

I had forgotten about this series until someone reminded me of it. I'm already looking forward to reading Trisha Thomas' latest, Nappily in Bloom.
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#BookReview: Nappily Married - Trisha R. Thomas

Fans of the Nappily Ever After series are already familiar with Venus Johnston. For those that aren't, let's catch you up. In the first book of the series, Venus is shacking up with her doctor boyfriend, Clint, while holding down a decent job and biding time until he proposes. Committed to Clint and keeping her hair "did", Venus chucks it all to the wind when Clint gives her a dog for her birthday, instead of the ring she expected. Cutting all of her "long, luxurious mane" off gives Venus the independence she's been searching for, but when Clint dumps her and starts dating a long-maned beauty, Venus begins to wonder if she made a mistake.

Book two of the series, Would I Lie to You?, finds Venus in the arms of a new man, the aloof Airic. After dating him for two years and realizing there's still no ring in sight, Venus relocates to the west coast where she meets former rapper, Jake Parsons, working on the marketing campaign for his new clothing line. Jake is only meant to be a distraction from her problems with Airic and her mother, who is battling breast cancer. To Venus' surprise she finds herself in love with Jake while carrying Airic's baby.

Ok, so now that we're all caught up, let's get to Nappily Married. Venus is happily married to Jake and together they're raising Mya, the daughter Airic refused to help Venus raise. While Jake is happy running his clothing empire, Venus finds herself looking for something she can call her own.

When an opportunity to work at a local hospital opens, Venus jumps on it. Imagine her surprise at finding that former boyfriend, Dr. Clint Fairchild, has relocated to the west coast as well and brought along the woman he left Venus for. Her new employer decides to have Venus compete for her job with Clint's wife, Kandi, who's determined to make Venus' life a living hell. Jake is not happy at all about Venus being in such close proximity to her ex-boyfriend and when she fails to tell him that she's traveling to DC with him for a conference, all hell breaks loose.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

#BookReview: Dark Child - Travis Hunter

Black babies are missing in Atlanta and no one seems to notice or care. In Dark Child Travis Hunter weaves the story of Urban Brown, a white man raised in a brown world; his biracial sister, Jamillah; and the foster mother that raised them.

Once a promising athlete, Jamillah is a crackhead looking for her next big score. When she comes across a black market for babies, she's sure that if she can just sell one baby, she'll have enough money to get herself into rehab.

Urban has protected his younger sister since their parents died at the hands of the police. But when she shows up on his doorstep demanding the baby he rescued from her and a crack house, he shuts her out of his life, determined to raise the baby she's left behind.

Young black girls are being pushed to give up their babies and when they refuse, they're taken. With the assistance of Priest, a cop criminals love to hate, and Jethro, a small town cop from a nearby town, Operation Dark Child is about to come crumbling down and you'll never believe who's involved.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

#BookReview: God Ain't Blind - Mary Monroe

Annette and Rhoda have returned. Fans of Mary Monroe will remember them from the God Don't...series. Friends since grade school, Annette and Rhoda are as different as night and day. Annette has been faithfully married for ten years. On the other hand, Rhoda has been married for over twenty years and has been having an affair for the last twenty with her husband's best friend.

When Annette's husband begins to reject her after major weight loss, Rhoda encourages Annette to have an affair with a hot, young caterer. Believing that her husband is having an affair, Annette decides what's good for the goose is good for the gander. And that's where the hijinks begin.

Toss in Annette's strained relationship with Rhoda's daughter, the original bad seed; blackmail from her lover; problems with her employees, and you have the makings of a good read.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

#BookReview: The 8th Confession - James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

The ladies of the Woman's Murder Mystery Club are back. The elite of San Francisco are being murdered in their beds and there are no clues as to why it's happening or how they're being killed. Leave it to Detective Lindsay Boxer, reporter Cindy Thomas, Assistant District Attorney Yuki Castellano and Medical Examiner Claire Washburn.

While the ladies have their hands full with that mystery, a homeless man is beaten and killed in broad daylight. Normally an event that would go overlooked by the news and the police, Cindy takes a personal interest in it. The victim, originally hailed as a hero in the area, soon turns out to be the exact opposite.

I've found a lot of Patterson's recent books to be very formulaic, but he (or maybe Maxine Paetro) continue to get it right with the Woman's Murder Mystery Club series.
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#BookReview: The Sari Shop Widow - Shobhan Bantwal

Widowed when she was just twenty-seven, Anjali Kapadia moved back in with her parents to run their sari shop and transform it into the boutique she always envisioned. Fast forward 10 years and Anju is still living with them, but the boutique is no longer turning a profit. When her father places a call to his brother in India pleading for financial assistance, Anju and her mother just know that her Uncle Jeevan will come in and run roughshod over them like he always has.

To Anju's surprise, the tyrant formerly known as Uncle Jeevan is somewhat subdued and allows his unannounced partner, Rishi, to make decisions for him. Also unusual for traditional Indian culture, Uncle Jeevan encourages Anju and her mother to give input into his and Rishi's idea to make the sari shop an all-in-one boutique complete with a salon and tea house.

As Anju begins to work more closely with Rishi, the forty-two year old British/Indian businessman, she feels an attraction to him, but is afraid to move beyond the memories of her deceased husband. Uncle Jeevan's secret is the key to moving her forward.

I'm typically not into romances and I might not have read this if I had realized it would take me down this path, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's always fun to read about other cultures and the author certainly brings the reader into the world of a traditional Indian family living in America.

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#BookReview: Raising Jake - Charlie Carillo

Sammy Sullivan has never had it all together. From his crappy job at the New York Star, to his failed marriage and weekend relationship with his son, Sammy just can't seem to win. And then in one fell swoop, it gets even worse.

Fired from his job of twenty-eight years on the same day that his son is expelled from school, Sam is determined to get one thing right in his life, his relationship with his son. In one long weekend, Sam learns that Jake is one of the smartest and nicest people he's ever met. He also finds out that his divorce from Jake's mother twelve years ago left more of an impression on him than Sam or his ex-wife knew.

Visiting his father's old neighborhood, Jake finds the father he thought he knew and the grandfather he always assumed was dead. He also makes a life changing decision that will blow both of his parents away.

This book reminded me so much of Leonard Pitts' Before I Forget. I can really appreciate parent/child relationship stories and Charlie Carillo definitely got this one right.
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Friday, September 18, 2009

My passion for reading is missing. Can you help me find it?

I love to read. If you asked him, my father would tell you that I picked up a book at age 4 and haven't put one down since. I can remember getting fussed at for bringing a book with me to family night, to church, to the skating rink...you get the picture.

With the exception of my college days, when I was distracted by men, parties & what not classes, there's never been a time when I wasn't reading at least one or two books. In grade school I could easily read a book a day and still have time for recess, homework and playing outside until the street lights came on. In high school I could easily read a book every two days and still have time for homework, watching the neighborhood boys play basketball, and practicing a new dance routine with my next door neighbor for the party of the year that happened weekly.

As a new mother sixteen years ago, reading was my escape from diapers, formula and a crying brat baby. As the Princess of Snark, as I call my daughter, became more independent, I found myself able to get back to the book a day habit. So now as we start her junior year in high school, a time when her dependence on me is at an all time low, when I should have hours upon hours of free time to read, I've lost my passion for reading.

I've fallen off the wagon. Me! The woman known for reading 3 - 4 books at a time, strategically placed in my purse, car, bathroom and bedroom. Last week I read 2 books. Who does that? This week I've read bits and pieces of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros after reading a review of it by IB Reading and noting that it was one of Evelyn Ashford's favorite books. Have you seen or read this book? It's not big by any means, 134 pages at most. Twenty-five pages in and I tossed it back in my bag. I tried picking up James Patterson's The 8th Confession. Shortly after I picked it up, I dropped it back on the floor underneath my desk at work. I even tried another Ellen Douglas book.

Is it possible that I've lost the passion for reading? Could it be the subject matter? I think I read a pretty diverse selection of books, but maybe I need to be introduced to something else? I'm looking for a book that blows me away like Kathryn Stockett's, The Help. I want a book with imagery so vivid that I feel like I've been there before, the way Alexander McCall Smith makes me feel about Botswana in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.

What books have you read that left you wanting more? Which authors leave you hungering for their next book? I'm begging you to help me find good books, help me get my mojo back!
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

#BookReview: A Hope in the Unseen - Ron Suskind

Self-hate is alive and well in Cedric Jennings. This story, which won the author a Pulitzer Prize as a two part story in the Wall Street Journal, follows a Washington, DC student through high school into his freshman year at Brown University. To overcome adversity and make it from the inner city to the Ivy League is something to be applauded. To denigrate those that helped you along the way is something to be condemned.

Cedric Jennings is angry and with good reason, given the environment in which he's been raised. But his character is not at all likable. While in high school he continuously expresses disdain and contempt for those around him. His holier than thou attitude did not endear him to this reader. Believing that his attitude might change upon a shift to a new environment, Brown, I continued with the story, only to find that while his location changed, his attitude did not. The character continues to be contemptuous to those around him regardless of race, creed, color or socioeconomic standing. Understand that his problem is not with those around him, but with himself.

I'm puzzled as to why this young man was picked by the author to follow for several years. Yes, he survived and made it out, but there's nothing remarkable about him other than that. This book was a national bestseller when it came out in 1998 and received raving reviews from the mainstream, liberal media, perhaps wanting to believe that this young man was a shining example of what inner city black children could become with the assistance of whites in shining armor. Me? I'm unimpressed and underwhelmed.
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#BookReview: Where the Dreams Cross - Ellen Douglas

Nat Stonebridge is who I imagine Scarlett O'Hara would be if she were living in the 1960s Mississippi Delta. In college, her reputation was "known in certain circles from Vanderbilt and Sewanee all the way down the college circuit to Tulane..." Recently divorced, the former belle of Philippi, Mississippi, Nat always causes a stir when she returns to town, to the embarrassment of her Aunt Louise.

In Nat Stonebridge the author has created a devil may care character whose logic seems to follow no rhyme or reason much to the delight of this reader. Lamenting her lack of money or a husband to provide money, Nat has the following conversation with her cousin:

"Maybe if you got a job in a bank, you could marry the president," Wilburn said.

"I wouldn't," Nat said. "It would be immoral for me to marry again, and that's the the truth. I wouldn't mind being his mistress, if he was nice and didn't bother me too often, and if his wife didn't make any trouble; but I certainly wouldn't marry him."
In her quest to find a man with money, and help Aunt Louise & Uncle Aubrey, who have fallen on hard times, Nat takes up with Floyd Shotwell. Floyd is a loner from a "good" family who falls for her before realizing she only wants him for money. Agreeing that a platonic friendship is best for them, the arrangement works until they road trip to the Ole Miss football game and Floyd begins to see Nat for what she really is.

An Ellen Douglas book wouldn't be complete without a look at the sometimes complex relationships of blacks and whites. Though written in 1968 and set in the mid 1950s, one could almost believe that blacks and whites lived harmoniously in the Delta, were it not for glimpses into the lives of Aunt Louise's maid, Clakey, and Kilroy, the houseman at the local backwoods gambling spot. In fact, Louise sees herself as a concerned white woman, merely trying to assist the colored population by keeping things as they are. The following is a conversation between Aunt Louise and her niece, Anne Farish.

Aunt Louise, you really must not talk about the darkies when they can hear you. I'm surprised at you!

"Clakey's not interested in race relations," Miss Louise said. "And that's what I mean. It's people like this young man - stirring up darkies who don't know there is such a thing as race relations. Just you wait until they begin talking about integrating the schools... What are you going to say when Anne wants to bring some little brown girl home to play one afternoon? You're going to have to tell her whyshe can't. And do you know what that means? It means you're going to have to teach her to be prejudiced - a thing I certainly never had to do to you and Nat...It's a horrible complication of life that neither you nor I nor Clakey has ever had to contend with.
It's with certainty that the author wrote this with tongue in cheek. As a daughter of the south, there's no doubt Ellen Douglas witnessed conversations such as this. I'd be interested to know how she responded to such, though I think her writing gives a good representation of how she felt about such absurdity.

Though the storyline isn't particularly interesting, conversations such as the two I've mentioned above make this an entertaining and insightful read.
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Friday, September 4, 2009

#BookReview: Truth: Four Stories I Am Finally Old Enough to Tell - Ellen Douglas

I was introduced to Ellen Douglas one Sunday morning on a local access channel. Mind you, I wasn't looking for her. I was actually watching the program because Tayari Jones, author of Leaving Atlanta was a guest and I was interested in hearing her. I was pleasantly surprised watching the round table discussion between the three authors, the name of the third author escapes me. Though I was already familiar with Ms. Jones' work, I had never heard of Ms. Douglas. Listening to her describe her books fascinated me further and I promptly went online to request several of her books.

Truth: Four Stories I Am Finally Old Enough to Tell
is based on her family history and as she said in the tv interview, she wasn't able to put the book out until all of the family members involved in the stories had passed and couldn't object. Each story touches on the intersecting histories of southern whites and blacks.

The first, Grant,presents a white family too busy living to be bothered with the dying uncle living in their back room. His care and companionship is left to Rosalie, his former housekeeper.

Julia and Nellieis an introduction to the author's colorful grandmothers, a few crazy relatives and first cousins that lived as man and wife for several years.

Hampton focuses on the black male servant of the author's grandmother who observes the family while living a private life that none of them have thought to imagine. The title character of this story reminded me of Hoke Colburn from Driving Ms. Daisy. Though he never argues with his employer, he does quietly disagree with her and maintains his dignity in all situations.

On Second Creek addresses the author's guilt about whether or not her family was involved in a slave massacre as a result of rumors about a slave uprising.

If you've read and enjoyed Kathrynn Stockett's, The Help, you'll certainly enjoy these shorts from a true master of storytelling.
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

#BookReview: Ellen Foster - Kaye Gibbons

Ellen Foster has not had an easy life, but boy does she have spunk! In the spirit of Blaze James, from Finding Me, Kaye Gibbons brings us Ellen Foster, an 11 year old who has been shifted around from home to home.

After watching her mother's abuse at the hands of her alcoholic father for years, and her ultimate suicide by overdose, Ellen first tries to maintain a decent home life. When her father begins to make advances towards her, she leaves for her maternal aunt's house, only to find that while her aunt doesn't mind a weekend visit, she has no intention of allowing her to stay there permanently. When her teacher sees bruises on Ellen, the school steps in and she's sent to live with her art teacher in what is surely one of the happiest times in her short life.

Shortly after, Ellen's father dies and her maternal grandmother petitions the court for custody. In a seeming effort to punish Ellen for both her mother's and father's faults, Ellen is made to work in the cotton fields with the "coloreds". In working with them Ellen learns quite a few family secrets. Following the death of her grandmother Ellen is sent, once more, to a new home, that of another aunt and cousin. Finding nothing that resembles love in that home, she sets out to find herself a new home with the Foster family.

Though the author could have made the title character a weak child, she has not. Ellen is a child that's grown up too quickly and has the mouth to prove it. Make no mistake, she sasses a few adults, but she makes valid points. Daring to befriend a "colored" girl in the South during the 70s is brave on her part and it's with Starletta's family that she seeks refuge repeatedly and through them, learns what a family should look like. Too often authors bring in the maternal black woman to save the poor white child. I'm happy that Kaye Gibbons didn't play that card in this novel. Instead, she uses the character of Starletta to teach Ellen that her skin color doesn't make her different at all and that real families come in all shades.
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