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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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