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Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 Posts of 2010

It's been a long year.  Just in case you missed them, here are the top 10 most viewed posts of 2010. Read them...then read them again...I do it all the time. (Sorry, I've watched too many Diddy Ciroc commercials.)

Meh, the movie has been cast and none of my actresses were picked, but these are the people I picked last year before casting had even started.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

#BookReview: Deep Dish - Mary Kay Andrews

It's Paula Deen, y'all! Okay, it's not Paula Deen, but Deep Dish did remind me of Paula and her southern euphemisms several times.  It's the story of Gina Foxton, former runner-up for Miss Teen Vidalia Onion turned cook extraordinaire, and Tate Moody, rugged outdoorsman.  You already know from the onset that they'll end up together, but getting them from point A to point B is what makes the trip worthwhile.

Gina has worked her way up from small town country girl to host of a cooking show on a local cable access channel in Atlanta, Georgia.  When her current boyfriend/producer's escapades get her show canceled, Gina is worried that she'll never make it to the big time.  Luckily there's a new reality show featuring chefs being cast.

Tate Moody makes women swoon and men applaud.  He's a hunter, fisher and a cook.  Vittles, his show about cooking what you find on the hunt, gets high ratings in his market.  With his faithful dog Moonpie by his side, Tate is ready to take on Gina Foxton and anything else that stands in his way of winning the cook off.

When I read Mary Kay Andrews' The Fixer Upper earlier this year, I wasn't sure if her writing would hold up enough for me to enjoy another book by her.  Honestly, I picked up another one of her audiobooks, Blue Christmas, and quickly ejected it from my player.  I didn't vibe with the characters or the story line, so I wasn't sure about giving Deep Dish a try.  I'm glad I did.

What did you like about this book?
What makes a Mary Kay Andrews book a unique experience is her use of regional dialect.  I thoroughly enjoy hearing the slang and phrases sprinkled throughout the character's conversations.

What didn't you like about this book?
Gina had an opportunity to get rid of her producer/boyfriend early on, though readers/listeners aren't made aware of this until very late in the book.  I have to question why she kept him around as long as she did.

What could the author do to make this book better?
I got stuck at one point when she kept referring to a member of Tate's staff as "the Mexican."  Really? In this day and age we're labeling people like that?  Every other character, including "the Mexican" had a name, but instead of referring to him as Tate's prep chef or by his name, Andrews chose to refer to him as "the Mexican" throughout the chapter in which he was featured. I would hope that the author learns to use more appropriate descriptions for her characters.

Listening time: 6 hours, 12 minutes
Published February 2008

Theme: I Still Like Bologna by Alan Jackson

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Monday, December 27, 2010

#BookReview: Starting from Scratch - Susan Gilbert-Collins

When her mother dies the same day Olivia successfully defends her doctoral dissertation, Olivia quietly keeps it to herself.  While her siblings resume their lives, she stays behind in small town South Dakota to sort things out.  In her time there she discovers family secrets as well as secrets about herself.

In an effort to get her out of her funk, and perhaps because she's fallen into one herself, Olivia's older sister has her take over her volunteer duties with a local organization.  Through her Meals on Wheels route, Olivia meets the quiet Mrs. Kilkenny, who keeps mistaking Olivia for her deceased mother.  Though her mother never mentioned her, Olivia can't help but to believe that they must have been friends at some point.

What did you like about this book?
Olivia's mother created newsletters with recipes and advice to readers.  It's obvious that Olivia inherited her passion for cooking and creating new recipes  As a final tribute to her mother Olivia completes the final newsletter for her.  As Olivia cooks for her family throughout the book, the author includes recipes here and there.  As someone that loves to cook, I'm dying to try some of them out.

What didn't you like about this book?
Toward the end of the book Olivia makes a confession to her best friend that required, in my opinion, a response.  Not only was a response not given, there were no clues as to what the response might be.  I just felt like it was an open-ended question that deserved an answer.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Tell us what happens with Olivia and Harry!

Published August 2010

Theme: Through the Years by Kenny Rogers

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Seasons Greetings

Happy Holidays!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

#BookReview: The Kitchen House - Kathleen Grissom

In last week's Give a Book, Get a Book post, I asked for everyone's top five reads of the year.  Kayla mentioned The Kitchen House and it sounded so good that when I saw it in the library Saturday, I just had to pick it up.  If you loved Wench, this is the book for you.

I think sometimes we, or at least I, forget that in addition to slaves toiling in America's early years, there were also indentured servants.  The Kitchen House is the story of Lavinia, an Irish servant, brought to America to work off the debt her family incurred in exchange for their voyage.  Traumatized by the death of her parents on the trip over, and the separation from her brother, Lavinia arrives at the Pyke plantation as a young child.

Lavinia is immediately thrown into the family of slaves that work the plantation and becomes especially close to Belle.  Belle's birth mother is long deceased, but Mama Mae and Papa George head her extended family.  Having been promised freedom, Belle continues to bide her time until her manumission papers are signed and freedom becomes a reality.  As Lavinia moves toward the end of her servitude, it becomes clear that she's hesitant to leave the safety of the only family she's known and move into a world where the color of her skins affords her the freedom her family will never know.

What did you like about this book?
Told from the points of view of both Lavinia and Belle, The Kitchen House is an absolutely fascinating read.  It's interesting to watch Lavinia grow into a young woman and see how she repeats the cycle of those that have come before her.  The whole time I was reading it, I wondered if she had a light bulb moment where she realized that she had become what she pitied most.

As a first time author, Kathleen Grissom hit it out of the ballpark.

What didn't you like about this book?
 I really wanted Lavinia to end up with one character and I kept holding out hope that eventually it might work out that way but, unfortunately, it didn't.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Not a thing

Published February 2010

Theme: Turn My Back On You by Sade

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Colorful Chick Lit Challenge

I have to confess that before I started listening to audio books, I didn't think much of chick lit.  However, I've thoroughly enjoyed listening to, and reading, it.  So much so that I started wondering why there isn't more chick lit featuring women of color. Oh sure, occasionally authors will throw in a sidekick with a tinge of color, but mostly the stars of these adventures and their counterparts are lily white.

Then I thought, well maybe no one writes about women of color in this genre because they think there's not an audience for it.  The response from readers when I review chick lit on this blog brings people out of the woodwork.  So we're reading it and it doesn't necessarily have to be about us for us to enjoy it.  That led me to research chick lit outside of the mainstream.  And guess what? There's books aplenty!  I've not read all of it yet, but I've found chick lit with Indian, Latina, Asian and African-American women.  And they're not the sidekick.  They're the star!

  • The challenge will run from January 1 - December 31, 2011
  • Paper, e-books and audio books are all acceptable
  • What qualifies as colorful chick lit
    • Written by women of color about women of color
    • Humorous, snarky or laugh out loud
    • A tinge of romance, but not so much that it resembles a Harlequin
    • A happy ending
    • It's rom/com on paper!
  • Participants should try to read books from all four categories: Indian, Latina, Asian & African-American
  • Levels of participation
    • Novice: 4 to 7 books
    • Amateur: 8 to 11 books
    • Queen of Chick Lit: 12 or more books
  • Indian
    • Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh
    • Imaginary Men by Anjali Banerjee 
    • The Girl Most Likely by Poonam Sharma
  • Latina
    • Life Over Easy by Margo Candela
    • Playing with Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
    • In Between Men by Mary Castillo
    • Asian
      • Buddha Baby by Kim Wong Keltner
      • In Full Bloom by Caroline Hwang 
      • China Dolls by Michelle Yu
    •  African-American
      • Cosmopolitan Girls by Lyah Beth LeFlore & Charlotte Burley
      • Feminista by Erica Kennedy
      • The Bum Magnet by K.L. Brady
    Interested? Grab the badge up top and sign up below.  You can also join us over on Goodreads! We'll do quarterly check-ins to find out how everyone is coming and hopefully, some of you will review what you've read.

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    Friday, December 10, 2010

    #BookReview: When the Sun Goes Down - Gwynne Forster

    "When the sun goes down on my life, you'll all come apart like ripped balloons."   The wealthy Leon Farrell spoke those words to his three children before he passed, but, as always, he underestimated them.  While his oldest, Edgar, does seem to be falling apart at the seams, Shirley and Gunther are doing just fine.

    Shunned by their father after the death of their mother while they were still children, the younger Farrell siblings worked their way through college and into successful careers.  Shirley handles PR on board cruise ships and Gunther has built a computer software company that's growing by leaps and bounds.  Their oldest brother, Edgar, is the only one that seems to be struggling in the wake of his father's death.  It's not that he misses their father, he misses the inheritance that he's sure is coming to him.

    In his final thumbing of the nose at his kids, Leon died without telling anyone where his will was, including his attorney of over 20 years.  Pressed for money to pay off gambling debts, Edgar hires private investigator, Carson Montgomery, to locate the missing document.

    What did you like about this book?
    It was a quick and easy read.

    What didn't you like about this book?
    Some of the conversations seemed so unnatural.  For example, at the beginning of the book instead of giving a narration about the siblings, the author has them speaking to each other and describing their jobs to the other as if they're strangers meeting for the first time and not brother and sister.

    I was also troubled by the dialect in which the author had the maid and nurse speak.  It was almost as if because they were the hired help, they weren't capable of speaking in grammatically correct sentences.  Every time I read their words, I cringed just a little.

    What could the author do to improve this book?
    There were whole chapters that served no purpose and, because of that, the book dragged at some points.  I also question the nice, neat ending of the book.  It's okay to not have a fairytale ending all the time.

    Published October 2010
    Disclosure: Received from publisher through LibraryThing.

    Theme: Family from Dreamgirls

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    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    #BookReview: The Other Sister - Cheri Paris Edwards

    Running away from problems in California lands Sanita back in quiet Urbana, Illinois.  Her family thought she was in
    school, but Sanita, or Jazz as she was known on the west coast, was leading a life that finally caught up with her.  Safely back in the embrace of her family, she's prepared to put that life behind her and create a new beginning.

    With a good ten years on her sister, Sanita, Carla was raised at a time when her parents didn't have much.  So while Sanita had everything handed to her on a silver spoon, Carla has worked hard to get where she is.  As the new principal of a charter school, Carla loves her job.  She's won the respect of her students and most of the faculty, but there are a few teachers that would love to witness her downfall.

    Bishop James Jefferson loves the Lord, the church and his family.  If there were any way to remove the pesky Marcella Lewiston from the church, he'd love it even more.  But Marcella was raised in Faith Community Church of Christ as a preacher's kid and she has no intention of leaving the church that her father helped steer for years.  Marcella goes out of her way to keep Bishop Jefferson in his place and with this latest gossip she heard about his youngest daughter, she's sure that she has him just where she wants him.

    What did you like about this book?
    It was a fairly predictable read, which was fine for a lazy holiday weekend. 

    What didn't you like about this book?
    I was slightly thrown because I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be Christian lit, but there was a liberal dosage of Bible verses thrown in, so I suppose it is.  Yes, I know there was a pastor in the story, but does that necessarily qualify a book as Christian lit?  At any rate, it felt very much like a Tyler Perry play on paper.  If Tyler Perry is your thing, then this is the book for you.

    What could the author do to improve this book?
    I felt like the book really focused on Sanita, which was unfair to Carla.  I thought, well maybe there was another book that focused on Carla and so the title The Other Sister was appropriate because we were now focusing on Sanita.

    Due to her introverted ways, Carla was often the overlooked sister.  On the flip side, Sanita was the black sheep in a family of "good, churchgoing people."  I would say that since either sister could have been "the other sister," the focus should have been 50/50.

    Published November 2010
    Disclosure: ARC received from the author

    Theme: Lay Your Troubles Down by Angela Winbush featuring Ronald Isley

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    Friday, December 3, 2010

    #BookReview: The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey - Walter Mosley

    An old man sits patiently, lost in his own mind, waiting on someone who's never coming again. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is the story of a 91 year old man with failing memory that has been given a brief window of time to remember all of those things that he's forgotten in over nine decades of living.

    Through conversations he holds in his head, the reader is introduced to Coydog, Ptolemy's childhood mentor. It is also through these conversations that we learn of Ptolemy's deceased wife and his relationship with his previous caretaker, Reggie.

    Now that Reggie has passed, Ptolemy's relatives all seem to want money from him and suspect that he's senile enough to give it to them without realizing it. Robyn, a guest of Ptolemy's niece, enters the picture and seems to want nothing from Ptolemy other than his company. The fact that she's 18 and he's 91 is rarely a factor in their platonic relationship. Robyn is simply seeking someone to care for and Ptolemy can certainly use it.

    With Robyn's assistance, and also to her dismay, Ptolemy begins taking medication that returns his memory completely. Ptolemy is determined to make the most of his time and it's Robyn's job to help him complete his list of goals before that time runs out.

    What did you like about this book?
    Walter Mosley has such a way with words that it's a pure delight to read them. Honestly, I could probably read his grocery list and be happy. In the hands of any other author the relationship between Ptolemy and Robyn would have seemed strange, even creepy. However, Mosley writes it in such a way that it seems perfectly natural.

    What didn't you like about this book?
    There is a lot of switching between present day and the past without any demarcation. It got frustrating occasionally when trying to determine about whom or what the narrator was thinking.

    What could be done to improve this book?
    I would have liked to see an epilogue just to find out the outcome of Robyn's relationship with Ptolemy's family.

    Published November 2010

    Theme: I Remember by Dianne Reeves

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    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    #BookReview: Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office - Jen Lancaster

    HI-FRIGGIN-LARIOUS.  I could end this review right there because it really sums up everything I need to say.  I was talking to the Twitterati a few weeks ago about good audio books.  I spend at least an hour a day in the car, 30 minutes of it with an angsty teen, so I try to keep the mood light.  After inquiring about something funny to listen to, the overwhelming majority of tweeters told me I just had to check out Jen Lancaster.  I'd never heard of her, but a quick check of the libraries automatic downloads made it easy for me to get started.

    Everyone told me that if I was going to start with any book, it had to be Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office.  I'm so glad I listened to them.  From the very beginning Jen pulls you into her kooky Jeniverse.  She's a proud material girl who has absolutely no qualms about spending money on thing she wants.  She's rude and abrupt, but only as needed.  And she's certifiably and unapologetically the queen of snark.

    When we first meet her she's kicking ass and taking names as saleswoman supreme.  With a six figure salary and a boyfriend making decent money himself, they're living la vida loca in a penthouse apartment in downtown Chicago.  A layoff forces Jen to re-access her life, but not without a lot of bumps and bruises and hilarity along the way.

    What did you like about this book?
    I LOVED the snarkiness of it all.  In fact, I loved it so much that as soon as I finished listening to it, I downloaded the prequel Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, The Wonder Years before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase.

    What didn't you like about this book?
    Not a thing

    What could the author do to improve this book?
    What part of not a thing didn't you get?

    Listening time: 10 hours, 18 minutes
    Published: March 2006

    Theme: Ironic by Alanis Morrisette

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    Monday, November 29, 2010

    #BookReview: Un-nappily in Love - Trisha R. Thomas

    You know how some comedians hold on to a bit too long? Like it was funny at first, but now that it's served its purpose, they should really let it go and find something else to latch on to?  That's exactly how I feel about the Un-nappily series.  To be more exact, that's how I feel about the title.  My problem is not so much with the story lines, but that the author has to keep finding a way to plug the 'unnappiness' into it so that it fits with the title. Unfortunately, it wasn't a natural fit.

    In the first book of the series, Nappily Ever After, the main character, Venus Johnston makes the decision to cut her long, flowing and chemically relaxed mane.  In doing so she learns about herself, her fiance, her mother, etc.  I got it.  She evolved.  She became a new creature.  So why are we still dealing with this five books later?

    This time around Venus' husband, Jake, has embarked on a career as an actor and he's starring opposite the attractive Serena Lassister, with whom he has history.  Serena is aware of Venus' insecurities and sets a plan in motion to reclaim the man that is rightfully hers.  And then Venus puts on a long, flowing wig and her husband magically sees her with new eyes and comes back to her.

    Yes, I'm side-eyeing the hell out of that story line.  I'm confused and I think the author is too.  The character was happy to be natural, her husband was happy with it (or so he thought), and just as he was about to cheat, a Naomi Campbell wig brought him back from the brink?  Yeah, ok.  Trisha R. Thomas is better than this and it's about time she picks up another story line because this one is played out.

    What did you like about this book?
    It was a quick and easy read.

    What didn't you like about this book?
    It's boring and predictable.

    What could the author do to improve this book?
    Find a new lead character and a new story line.

    Published May 2010

    Theme: Be That Easy by Sade

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    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    #BookReview: I'd Know You Anywhere - Laura Lippman

    Imagine being kidnapped as a teen and escaping from your captor only to have him reach out to you years later. In the summer of 1985, Elizabeth was a typical teenager.  She loved Madonna and lived for trips to the mall.  With strict orders to stay close to home, Elizabeth usually obliged her parents.  Then came the day when she wandered a little further than she should have.

    There's always been something different about Walter Bowman.  At first glance he's handsome, but upon closer inspection there's something that no one can pinpoint.  It makes women step back and causes men to take him for a weakling.  In his early twenties, Walter has never been with a woman, let alone had a girlfriend. It's not for trying though. When he comes upon the innocent Elizabeth walking along the road, he must have her. Walter has killed before, but with Elizabeth, it'll be different.

    Fast forward to present day and Eliza, as she now goes by, is a married woman with two children: thirteen year old Iso and eight year old Albie.  Her husband, Peter,  knows about her history and is fiercely protective of her.  Recently back in the states after living overseas, the Benedicts have settled into their lives on the east coast.

    When Eliza is contacted by an advocate for Walter Bowman, their world is sent into a spin.  Eliza is the one that got away, the only one that got away, and Walter is scheduled to die by lethal injection.  Walter believes that he knows Eliza better than anyone else and if she would just talk to him, he could convince her to ask the governor pardon him.

    What did you like about this book?
    This was an absolute page turner.  Laura Lippman does an excellent job of drawing the reader in and forcing them to pick sides.

    What didn't you like about this book?
    There were some scenes that I found a little unbelievable, but it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment.

    What could the author do to improve this book?
    There was a story line with Iso that wasn't fully explored and I would have liked to find out what was at the heart of her acting out.  While it could have been typical teenage angst, I suspect that it was more than what readers were exposed to.

    Published August 2010

    Theme: Every Breath You Take by The Police

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    Monday, November 22, 2010

    #BookReview: The Fixer Upper - Mary Kay Andrews

    This book made me want to pack my stuff up and move to small town, USA.  The Fixer Upper is the story of Dempsey Killebrew, attorney-at-law.  A lobbyist in a prestigious Washington, DC firm, Dempsey's life is pretty sweet.  As proof that she's the agency's star, she's allowed to accompany her boss and a congressman he's wooing on several trips.  That would be just fine if her boss and said congressman weren't now being investigated by the FBI!

    Dempsey's world comes crashing down in just one afternoon and she does what anyone in her situation would do.  She heads to Guthrie, Georgia.  When Dempsey's father hears of her dilemma, he realizes that she's the perfect person to work on restoring the old family homestead in the small town he was born in.  Yes, Dempsey is a Georgetown attorney with no clue as to how to restore a house, but she has plenty of time on her hands.

    Mary Kay Andrews introduces a lively cast of characters in this hilarious story.  There's Ella Kate, the crotchety old woman that lives in Dempsey's home.  She was Dempsey's great uncle Norbert's caretaker, and possibly her grandmother's lover, and she and her cocker spaniel, Shorty, aren't about to give up their house without a fight.  There's also Dempsey's elderly lawyer, Carter Berryhill, and his son T, who provides a romantic interest for Dempsey.  In addition to the good townspeople, Dempsey also has the FBI breathing down her neck.  She can either play nice with them or risk facing jail time.

    What did you like about this book?
    I don't know how well the comedic timing of the lines translate for anyone reading it, but it was absolutely hilarious to listen to.  The narrator, Isabel Keating, is masterful with her voices.  Voices aside, The Fixer Upper is a charming piece of chick lit and I'm adding more from the author to my 'to be read' list.

    What didn't you like about this book?
    The only thing that really made no sense to me was how naive Dempsey was supposed to be.  As a Georgetown trained attorney, she wasn't always the brightest bulb in the box and that struck me as a little unbelievable.

    What could the author do to improve this book?
    I don't know that a sequel is intended, but since it was left a little open-ended, I certainly wouldn't mind a visit back to Guthrie, Georgia.

    Listening time: 15 hours
    Published: June 2009

    Theme: Country Girl by Rissi Palmer
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    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Black on Black Friday

    portrait of a young adult business woman in a grey suit as she sits in a chair and smiles
    The publishing world, particularly the feminine side, has been abuzz lately regarding what books are reviewed most, promoted most, etc.  It's not surprising that an overwhelming majority of those books are written by white men.  Recently female authors like Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, two female authors that enjoy healthy book sales, took newspapers to task for their treatment of commercial lit (read: chick lit written for and by white women).

    As I watched the blogs blow up talking about this, I kept waiting on the women to point out all of the other literary work that's overlooked.  Sure, they threw them in as an afterthought, but I got the distinct impression that they were most concerned about their brand of chick lit getting as fair a shake as the latest Tom Clancy.  Well I'm a Picoult fan, but I'm also a fan of well written books by African American female authors and, quite frankly, I'm tired of them being overlooked.

    In anticipation of holiday shopping, I'm sharing with you my list of no less than 240 books that you and yours need on your shelves.  There's everything from children's lit and chick lit to non-fiction.  Word has it that Borders is participating in Black Friday this year.  So I encourage you to go through the list and pick out some of my favorites that are sure to bring some happiness not only to the recipients, but to the authors that have written them.

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    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    #BookReview: Twelve Rooms with a View - Theresa Rebeck

    Thirty something Tina Finn doesn't have a lot going for her.  Living in a trailer park with her loser boyfriend while cleaning other people's homes for a living, her life is not going so well.  Her mother's sudden death reunites her with her overambitious sister, Alison, and her mousy sister, Lucy.

    It turns out that their estranged mother married late in life and married well.  None of the daughters thought highly of their alcoholic mother while she was alive, but the fact that she's left them an apartment worth $ 11 million may redeem her in their eyes.  Turns out mother dear married a recluse whose home she had been cleaning.  When the recluse dies and the Finn girl's mother passes less than a month later, the apartment is willed to them.

    The problem is the apartment isn't just any old apartment.  It's a twelve room, two kitchen, hidden stairwells dwelling with various species of moss growing on some of the walls.  It's immediately obvious that this apartment, large enough to take up half a floor in a New York building, was once grand and worth money.  Fearing that the will may be contested by the sons of their late mother's husband, the women decide that someone should take up residence immediately while the will is being contested.

    Since Tina has nothing else going on, she moves in and promptly meets an entertaining cast of characters.  There's Len, the botanist, who lives above her in the penthouse.  He also has a greenhouse, but has run out of room.  Hence, the moss growing on her walls.  For $ 700 a month, Tina's mother allowed him to use the second kitchen and, in need of money, Tina sees no reason to stop him.   There's also a family with six kids, a weepy doorman, the nosy neighbor across the hall and a ghost that only makes nighttime appearances.

    Because this is New York and real estate is everything, the co-op board works diligently to evict Tina.  Tina's sisters are less than honest with her about the legal proceedings and she finds herself befriending the kooky residents of the building in an attempt to stay.  And that's where the laughs begin.

    What did you like about this book?
    The characters are entertaining.  The author also does a great job with imagery.

    What didn't you like about this book?
    There were several secondary characters introduced that needed to be fleshed out just a little more.  It seemed like they played pivotal roles through several chapters and then simply disappeared.  I felt like there were stories to be told as it related to them, yet they weren't.

    What could the author do to improve this book?
     Wrap up the loose ends she left hanging.

    Published May 2010

    Theme: Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood from Sesame Street

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    Monday, November 15, 2010

    #BookReview: Getting to Happy - Terry McMillan

    There's a line in Nonchalant's song 5 O'clock where she says, "If you had a good day, damn, I must have missed it."  That line bounced around my head the whole time I listened to Getting to Happy.  At one point I made a comment on Twitter that I was three-fourths through and was still waiting on one of the ladies to get some happy. Ultimately, some of them find happiness.  I'm not so sure they all did though.

    Fans of Waiting to Exhale were excited to hear that Terry McMillan was bringing the ladies back in real time.  Most books offer a sequel that picks up right where the story ended.  McMillan fast forwarded the characters fifteen years where she left off, almost the same amount of time between the publication of both books.  I don't know that I need to remind most what was going on with the characters previously since WTE was THE black woman's Bible back in 1992.

    Back in 1992 if I had to describe the characters in a few words, I would have said Savannah was a bit thirsty for a man, but pleasant enough. Gloria was a single mother finding comfort for her loneliness in food.  Robin was clueless and just as thirsty as Savannah.  Bernie was a woman shattered by a broken marriage.  In 2010, "thangs done changed"

    SPOILERS BELOW!!! Skip on down to the bottom if you plan to read the book.

    Remember the guy Bernie met shortly after her divorce? He was married, but his wife was dying?  Well she married him and it didn't turn out so well.  Suffering from the after effects of that relationship, Bernie has turned to prescription drugs.

    Gloria and Marvin were certainly one of the happiest stories in WTE and I was ready to continue with that, but life doesn't happen that way and neither do McMillan books.  Marvin's death sends Gloria right back to where she was in WTE.

    Robin, she who slept with everything that moved back in the day, is surprisingly single and celibate.  That doesn't mean she's not looking for love though.  Her friends give her a hard time about internet dating, but she's pretty sure the right man is out there for her.

    Savannah...I just don't remember her being so damn bitter.  I mean there was nothing anyone could say, or do, to her in this book that didn't produce some snappy comeback.  So she got married and her marriage didn't work, but I really got the feeling that her attitude had a lot to do with it.


    What did you like about this book?
    Umm...well...yeah.  LaChanze, Gloria Reuben and S. Epatha Merkerson were absolutely fantastic as the voices of Robin, Bernadine and Gloria, respectively.

    What didn't you like about this book?
    Terry McMillan needs not ever voice another book again...EVER.  I've never heard anyone so unimpressed with breathing before in my life.  Every word she uttered sounded like it took more effort than she was willing to put into it.  That same flat voice, with a hint of crazy, you heard when she was on Oprah's couch talking about her ex-husband? That's the same voice you're getting here.  It was so bad that I seriously considered skipping over all of Savannah's parts just so I wouldn't have to hear her.  Quite honestly, I can't really say if the character of Savannah was a bitter as I thought she was or if I was just confused by the "whogivesadamnsicleness" of Ms. McMillan.

    In addition, these women didn't find happiness.  Well maybe Robin did because she ultimately reached the goal she set for herself, but Bernie and Gloria both found themselves saddled with the responsibility of helping their grown children raise their own children.  And Savannah, well who knows. 

    What can the author do to improve this book?
    Leave the voice over work to the professionals.

    Listening time: 11 hours, 30 minutes
    Published September 2010

    Theme for Savannah: Bitter by Chante' Moore

    Theme for Robin: Wanna Be Loved by Jill Scott

    Theme for Bernadine: Be OK by Chrisette Michele

    Theme for Gloria: Ain't No Need To Worry by Anita Baker and The Winans

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    Friday, November 12, 2010

    On Broadway

    I was all set to blog about Getting to Happy, but a conversation with @BrooklynLinda on Twitter inspired me to write about Broadway instead.  I listen to Slacker Radio during the work day and I've Got Love from the musical Purlie came on.  That led me to wonder if I could find it on DVD.

    For those not in the know, the musical Purlie is actually based on a play written by Ossie Davis in 1961. It's the story of a traveling preacher, Purlie Victorious, who comes back to his small hometown in Georgia to save a church and break the hold Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee has over the sharecroppers.  Along the way he falls in love with Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins.  By the way, that is absolutely my favorite name in the world.  Nothing defines country like Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins!

    In the original play, Ossie Davis played Purlie and Ruby Dee played Lutiebelle.  Quite appropriate, huh?  When it hit Broadway in 1970 Cleavon Little took on the role of Purlie to Melba Moore's Lutiebelle.  Eventually Purlie made it to TV with Robert Guillaume (Benson) as Purlie, Melba Moore as Lutiebelle and Sherman Hemsley as Gitlow.  I LOVED Gitlow.  There was something about seeing Hemsley in a role as someone other than George Jefferson that just did my 11 year old heart good.

    I've added the Ossie Davis/Ruby Dee version of Purlie to my wish list, but I just can't bring myself to buy it.  I'm holding out for a reasonably priced Robert Guillaume/Melba Moore/Sherman Hemsley version.  Apparently someone else values it as much as I do because the cheapest I've found it online is $ 197.

    Talking about all of the musicals I enjoyed as a kid reminded me of The Wiz, Ain't Misbehavin' (Nell Carter) and Sophisticated Ladies (Phyllis Hyman), along with a host of others.  PBS used to capture these performances and broadcast them, otherwise there's no way I would have been able to see these spectacular Broadway performances.  I've added clips from each to give you a hint of what you've been missing.

    I've Got Love from Purlie

    Ain't Misbehavin'

     Sophisticated Ladies


    Those are just a few of my faves.  What's on your list?

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    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    #BookReview: In My Father's House - E. Lynn Harris

    Written before his untimely passing last year, In My Father's House was to be the first in a series from E. Lynn Harris about Bentley L. Dean III.  Warren, the man he left his fiancee' for, broke his heart when he refused to come out of the closet with him.   Cut off from his wealthy family when he revealed that he was gay, Bentley left the cold streets of Detroit for the warmth of Miami. 

    Firmly established as the owner of the premiere modeling agency in South Beach, Bentley and his partner are struggling to pay the bills.  Due to the recession, no one is using models the way they used to.  When a mysterious stranger visits the office to secure male models for a private party, Bentley is immediately skeptical.  A background check confirms that the man is legitimate and Bentley attends the party along with several of his models, only to find that the attendees are all men in search of discreet hookups with other men.

    While that normally wouldn't bother Bentley, he wasn't running an escort service and he'd taken his young and impressionable mentee to the party.  Said mentee gets swept up in a relationship with the well-known host of the party, who also happens to be Hollywood's biggest star as well as a father and husband.

    So the remainder of the book is spent trying to convince Bentley's mentee to come back home to Miami and getting Bentley to reconnect with his estranged father.  There's nothing new to see in this one.  It's the usual E. Lynn Harris formula.  Though it was a quick read, overall I was unimpressed.

    What did you like about this book?
    It was a quick and easy read.

    What didn't you like about this book?
    It was very predictable.

    What could the author do to improve this book?
    I'm not sure if there are plans to continue this story line with someone else writing them, but unless they can bring something new to it, they shouldn't bother.  

    Published June 2010

    Theme: My Petition by Jill Scott (yes, I know it's written about the government, but parts of it seem so applicable to character situations within the book).

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