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Friday, December 16, 2011

The Top Ten Absolute Must Reads of 2011

10. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (@WesMoore1)

It was strictly a coincidence that I listened to The Other Wes Moore the same week I was reading Patches of Grey, but it turned out to be the perfect compliment to it.  Both books dealt with young men of color coming of age and, though one was a memoir and the other was fictional, I found myself comparing the characters in both.

9. Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate (@mesouthgate)

There comes a time in every woman's life when she realizes that her mother is human.  I mean, logically, you know that your mother is human, of course.  And to any other observer, it's extremely obvious.  But there's a point, as a daughter, when you realize that she's just as imperfect and capable of making mistakes as anyone else.  Martha Southgate's Third Girl From the Left beautifully exposes the flaws of three generations of women who are anything but perfect.  Disclaimer: Though this book wasn't written in 2011, I read it this year and it was just too perfect not to include.

8. Roseflower Creek by Jackie Lee Miles

At times The Lovely Bones, at other times Bastard Out of Carolina, Roseflower Creek is a sad and unforgettable story.  Set in the 1950s, it tells the tale of Lori Jean.  Abandoned by her birth father, she's being raised by her mother and an abusive stepfather.

 7. Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany (@AmyHatvany)

Admitting failure is never an easy thing to do.  And for a mother to admit that she's failed, it can be devastating. In Amy Hatvany's Best Kept Secret the reader is given a front row seat into what can happen when a parent falls apart.

6. Tiny Sunbirds,, Far Away by Christie Watson (@tinysunbird)

Told from the point of view of Blessing, who is twelve when we first meet her, Tiny Sunbirds is the story of a Nigerian family uprooted from their comfortable existence in Lagos when the mother catches the father cheating.

5. Patches of Grey by Roy L. Pickering, Jr. (@AuthorofPatches)

In a story that at times reminded me of Matty Rich's Straight Out of Brooklyn, Roy L. Pickering, Jr. deftly weaves a coming of age tale of Tony Johnson in Patches of Grey.  And while Pickering could have taken the easy way out and strictly focused on one main character, he takes the time to tell not only Tony's story, but that of his siblings and parents as well, each as fascinating as Tony's.

4. If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary (@LoreneCary)

It's impossible to read the latest from Lorene Cary and not reflect on your family's legacy.  Whether it be physical property or simply your family history, there are things passed down through the generations for which no monetary compensation will suffice. If Sons, Then Heirs touches on both of these.

3. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan 

In this reimagined, futuristic version of The Scarlet Letter, sinners don't wear a letter indicating their crime.  They wear the color on their skin.  The need to direct funds away from prisons and to law abiding citizens has led to the non-existence of prisons.  Through a process called chroming, criminals are color coded and microchipped, allowing anyone that passes them on the street to know what their crime is and allowing the government, and anyone with a computer, to track them at all times.  Yellows  serve short sentences for misdemeanors and Blues are child molesters.  Red is the color for murder.

2. This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park (@SamuelPark_)

Easily one of my favorite reads this year, This Burns My Heart is the moving story of Soo-Ja.  As a young lady in 1960 South Korea, she longed to move to Seoul and become a diplomat.  When her wealthy father forbids her to join the Foreign State Department, she plots, at her mother's suggestion, to marry an easily pliable man who will let her have her way.  But when you try to run game on someone, there's always a good chance that game is being run on you. And while Soo-Ja thinks she's using Min, she finds that she really is not the master of her fate, as she thought.

1. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (@tayari)

With the opening line, "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist," Tayari Jones skillfully pulls the reader into the world of two sisters: Dana and Chaurisse.  Told in first person by each of the sisters, Silver Sparrow is absolutely remarkable.

I hope you've enjoyed the year in reading as much as I have.  I'll be on hiatus from posting after today.  Look for new posts starting January 17.  Enjoy your holidays and have a Happy New Year.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Favorite Things Week: Current TV Shows

 Our America with Lisa Ling, Sundays on OWN

One of the last true journalists on TV, Lisa goes after stories that others shy away from.  So far this season she's featured child prostitution, extreme parenting and polygamy.

Reed Between the Lines, Tuesdays on BET

I've seen complaints across the Internet that this show is horrible, it doesn't ring true, blah, blah, blah.  As much as people would like to pretend The Cosby Show or Girlfriends started out great, they didn't.  It took time for them to find their legs and it's taken time for Reed, but it's gotten better and is perfect if you're looking for a show the whole family can watch.

ABC's Wednesday night line up: Modern Family, The Middle, Suburbgatory & Happy Endings

I don't think we've seen a line up as good as this since NBC dominated Thursday nights in the 90s.  With the exception of Happy Endings, which may be too much for the kiddies, Wednesday night is a great night for family comedy.

The Walking Dead, Sunday nights on AMC

When this premiered last year, I loved it, but didn't know if it would be just as good its sophomore season.  It is!  It's on hiatus now, but will be back in the spring.  If you're a fan of Stephen King's The Stand, this has a similar feel.

New Girl, Tuesdays on FOX
I wasn't sure if I'd be on board with a show about a quirky chick.  I'm already a fan of awkwardblackgirl.com, so did I have room for another nerd girl in my life? I did!  Zooey Deschanel is hilarious as Jess. 

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Favorite Things Week: Albums of 2011

This is my last week of posts for 2011 and I thought I'd get all Oprah with it and give you five days of *cue the Oprah voice* favorite thinggggggsssss.  Well...I guess it doesn't quite pack the same punch as Oprah.  I mean, unless you can hear her in your head saying favorite things like I hear her in mine.  Anywho, each day this week, I'll bring you some of my favorites in the pop culture world, culminating with my top ten list of favorite books of 2011 on Friday.  So let's get it started (no Black Eyed Peas).

I love, love, LOVE music, so it should come as no surprise that I have an opinion about the best albums of 2011.  Yeah, I'm old, I still call them albums.  Now I generally listen to audio books in the car, but occasionally a CD will come along that makes me pack my books away and sing along while I drive.  Here are my top five favorites of albums released this year.

5. All of Me: The Prequel by Estelle

I've been a fan of Estelle since I heard the infectious beat of Wait A Minute a few years ago.  I loved it so much that I went back and found her first CD, The 18th Day, and jammed out to that one too.  But it's been a few years since Estelle put out anything.  She kept tweeting that she was working on something and when Freak, a great song with catchy lyrics and a deep house beat, came out, I was convinced that the album was finally on its way. Not!  But Estelle assures her fans that it's coming and in the meantime, she released a mix tape to tide us over.  There's absolutely no way to listen to it and not find yourself twerkin'.  If you haven't yet, be sure to download your free copy here and be on the look out for the official release of All of Me.

4. As Above, So Below by Anthony David
Anthony David's voice is like cognac, it goes down smooth and stays with you for awhile.  Most of us were introduced to him when he did a duet with India.Arie called Words back in 2008.  He's actually been putting out albums since 2004 and each one just gets better.  His duet with Algebra on 4Evermore had to have been the feel good wedding song of the year.

3. 4 by Beyonce'
I confess, I had some doubts about  4 before I heard it, based on King B's last CD.  While B-day was everything, I Am...Sasha Fierce left SO much to be desired.  My first listen to 4 confirmed that Bey was indeed ready to reclaim her title.  I didn't, and still don't, care for 1+1 or I Care very much, but the rest of the album? She's giving us 80s/90s pop diva all over the place.  And if you had enough sense to purchase the deluxe version, you were treated to some real gems that weren't included on the regular version, including my favorite, Schoolin Life.  I was disappointed that Bey didn't make a video of it or perform it at her Live at Roseland concert.  With 4, she clearly got her grown woman on.

2. Watch the Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West

I was really afraid that I wouldn't like this album and that I'd have to cancel my membership in the Jay-Z stan club.  Kanye's last few CDs have left something to be desired, in my opinion, and I wasn't sure that the two of them could pull this off.  Wrong!  Watch the Throne stayed in rotation for months.  I don't think I listened to an audio book from the moment it came out in August through the end of September.  I was relieved when my literary twin, J Nic, came to visit.  I didn't know if she loved it as much as I did, but we played it the entire time she visited (when we weren't listening to 4).  Then @HuskyBro_Inc, who I knew detested Jay & Ye, got in the car.  I didn't tell him what I was listening to, I just let it play.  I looked over and he was bobbing his head, so I knew it was safe to unleash the "a-ha" on him.  I have to tell you, not only did he like Watch the Throne, he liked 4.  I converted him!

The Watch the Throne tour didn't make it to St. Louis, but someone on YouTube shot great footage of the Montreal concert.  Here's one of my favorites.

1. 21 by Adele

There are a handful of artists that I love, but they depress the dog stank out of me.  There's Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman and, now, Adele.  I can't even tell you how many times I've listened to 21 in its entirety, never taking it out of the CD player.  It stayed on a continuous loop for months.  Even when I got out of the car, I'd listen at work or in the house...constantly.  Adele has a voice that makes unicorns cry and unicorns are magical, mystical, pretty damn happy creatures, no?  That lush voice combined with heart wrenching lyrics are enough to bring grown men to their knees.  I could be having a perfectly good day, start listening to Adele and start questioning my existence on my earth.  She's that damn good.  I can't even pick a favorite song on 21, each one speaks to me in a different way.  I'll just leave you with her singing Someone Like You while she lounges at home with just a piano player.  No autotune, no studio effects, just her clear and perfect voice.

So how about you? Which albums stayed in rotation in your car or home this year?

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Confession: I'm A Muppet Stan

Longtime followers of the blog and Twitter followers know that I stan for the Peanuts.  I live tweet every holiday special and live for Snoopy's cackle.

But did you know that I also stan for the Muppets?  I don't know anyone that was happier than me when the latest Muppet film was announced. I was eight when The Muppet Movie came out.  I begged for the soundtrack on 8-track and still remember the words to all of the songs, like this one.

And this one

So over the Thanksgiving weekend, I begged asked the Princess of Snark, who is loving life as a college freshman these days, to accompany me to see The Muppets.  Both of us loved it!  It's cheesy, it's over the top, but it's the Muppets and that's exactly what I expected from them.  How can you see the clip below and not want to kick your heels up and run out in the street and dance?  

Don't even pretend like that clip didn't give you life! You're over there dancing in your seat, I can see you.  Anyway, watching the movie led me to wonder if there are enough Muppet fans out there to justify bringing the show back.  Would you watch it?  I know I would.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#BookReview: Busted in Bollywood - Nicola Marsh

When her romance with a wealthy, married man ends, Shari Jones finds herself without a job and without a place to live.  Her best friend, Amrita, is engaged to a man she's never met, in India.  Determined not to go through with the marriage, Amrita convinces Shari to meet him in her place.  After all, her groom has never seen her since the families arranged the marriage.  With the assistance of Amrita's wacky aunt, Anjali,  Shari is off on the adventure of a life time and finds romance where she least expects it.  From the busy streets of New York to the bustling streets of Mumbai, Nicola Marsh takes readers along for the ride.

What did you like about this book?
It was a short, cute read.

What didn't you like about this book?
I'm used to my chick lit heroine's being smarter than Shari.  Actually, I can't say that Shari wasn't smart, because her character wasn't really developed enough for me to know if she was or not.  For her to be the main character, it really felt like the author glossed over developing her and, instead, chose to focus on other characters, like Anjali.

The ending also felt really rushed and, unlike chick lit heroines who choose to marry for love or because they're headed down that path, Shari seems to have chosen marriage because she ran out of money...and the guy was loaded anyway...so...yeah.

What could the author do to improve this book?
There were areas that could have been funnier and other sections that could have been removed entirely.  Also, the synopsis and title would lead one to believe that a good portion of the story deals with Shari's time in Bollywood, when, in fact, it makes up very little of the story.  Perhaps a title that aptly reflects what the book is about would be more appropriate.

Published: December 2011
Disclaimer: Book provided by the publisher.


Theme: Would I Lie to You by The Eurythmics

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Free for All Friday, December 2

If you missed the Black Friday giveaways last week, don't worry.  There are still quite a few books up for grabs.  I consolidated them into one list and they can be found under the Giveaway tab at the top of the blog.  Now, *cue the shooting star*

In the course of my work day, I proof a lot of documents, so the AP Style Guide and dictionary.com are close, personal friends of mine.  While reading Wednesday, I ran across a document in which the writer kept using predominate instead of predominant.  What's the difference? Predominate is a verb, predominant is an adjective.  Anywho, as I edited, I tweeted a grammar PSA stating the difference between the two.  @GammasWorld & @CaliGirlED immediately jumped in with SchoolHouse Rock requests.  Thanks to those two, you're being treated to "Unpack Your Adjectives" and "Verb: That's What's Happening."

As a kid, and admittedly as an adult, I loved the School House Rock series.  In my world, the only thing better than Saturday morning cartoons were the SHR videos that appeared between cartoons.  Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here? Conjunction Junction? I'm Just A Bill? Who needed to pay attention in school? School House Rock taught me everything I needed to know.  Which videos were your favorites?

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