Saturday, April 30, 2011

Live chat with Sister Souljah moderated by Jada Pinkett Smith, April 30

Join us here at 7:50 p.m. EST/6:50 p.m. CST for a live chat with Sister Souljah, facilitated by Jada Pinkett Smith.  Tweet @AtriaBooks with questions for Sister Souljah and use the hashtags #sistersouljah #atrialive.  Select questions will be answered live by Souljah.





Watch live streaming video from atria at livestream.com


About Sister Souljah &  Atria Literary Salon Series
Sister Souljah
, the New York Times bestselling author of The Coldest Winter Ever and Midnight will appear live in an exclusive Livestream interview on Saturday, April 30 at 4:50pm PST/7:50 pm EST as part of the Atria Literary Salon Series.  The interview, moderated by actress Jada Pinkett Smith,will be part of the Los Angeles Times Book Festival and held in Los Angeles on the LA Times Stage, to celebrate the release of Souljah’s latest novelMidnight and The Meaning Of Love, a story about young, deep love, the ways in which people across the world express their love, and the lengths that they will go to have it.

For more information and to read an excerpt from the novel please visit: http://bit.ly/ebtfIX Autographed copies of Souljah’s latest novel will be available for purchase by visiting http://www.facebook.com/AtriaBooks. The livestreamed interview will be available on the Livestream Facebook tab.

About Atria Salon Series
This is the fourth installment of the Atria Literary Salon Series. The previous three celebrated authors were Lauren Weisberger, Nicolle Wallace and Jodi Picoult. Returning to the grand old tradition of places like the Algonquin Hotel where people would gather for stimulating conversation, Judith Curr, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Atria Books, launched the Literary Salon Series to bring together authors, editors and media for an evening of stimulating conversation and literary style.

About Atria Books
Atria Books is the publishing home of many major bestselling authors including Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, T.D. Jakes, Shirley MacLaine, Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Zane, and Rhonda Byrne, author of the international bestselling phenomenons The Secret and The Power.



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Interview with K.L. Brady, Author of The Bum Magnet


When and why did you begin writing?
I've been writing since I was a young kid. I've kept diaries and journals since I could remember. My mom used to buy me the ones with the little lock on them...and then she'd break into them and read them. What was the point of the lock? I don't know.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Even though I've been writing and practicing my signature since I was a kid, I never considered myself a fiction writer until I turned forty and took the leap into writing my first novel. After I finished it, I knew writing was my first and only love (at least in an occupational sense). I really cannot see myself doing anything else. This is it for me. Write or die.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I'm not a very artsy or literary writer and I wish I were. I envy authors who have that sense of lyrical prose. I'm resigned to the fact that I'll never be a Toni Morrison on Maya Angelou.  The Bum Magnet won't win me a Pulitzer. But at the same time, I will entertain and make people laugh through characters that readers can connect with on a personal level.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I had an Oprah "aha" moment a couple of summers ago. I was watching her "Live Your Best Life" series which had started not long before my revelation. I was successful in my career as an analyst but I wanted more. I knew that I had a destiny to fulfil and being a government employee or contractor, while often rewarding, would never cut it. Writing is something that I had not only kept hidden from other people in secret journals, but I think I kept it buried within myself. Once I hit forty, I couldn't suppress it anymore. The writer in me wanted out come hell or high water--and The Bum Magnet was born.

Are experiences in your books based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
People ask me this question all the time. I always give the same canned answer...that all authors put pieces of their own stories in their work. And this time will be no different. :) Seriously though...I don't think anyone could write this story as it is and not have experienced the drama for themselves or know people who did. People connect with Charisse because she's so  real and she doesn't mince a single word about her situation. She tells it like it is, even when it doesn't reflect positively on her. With all that said, the story is based on a little bit of fact and a lot of fiction, exaggerated significantly so I can't be sued for slander (hehe).

What books have most influenced your life most?
I would have to say that for me, The Autobiography of Malcolm X was unquestionably one of the most life-changing books I've ever read because it really widened my perspective, not only about the black community and civil right movement, but the world. I so admire Malcolm X's willingness to grow and transform. I think we all have to be open to transformation if we are to fulfill our destiny. You will always see growth and transformation in my characters...and hopefully me.

With Worst Impressions you took on the YA world and Pride and Prejudice. What led you to combine YA with a literary classic?
I didn't really start reading books outside of non-fiction African American books until after I started college. I'd never been exposed to the literary classics growing up. It was like a whole new world opened up for me, and Jane Austen's stories are part of that. I'll never forget the first time I read Pride & Prejudice.  I bought it right after watching the movie, You've Got Mail.  I was amazed at the drama and humor. I consider it to be the original romantic comedy or chick lit novel, which represents the kinds of stories that I devour. I would never have thought something written so long ago, by a white English lady, could make me laugh or touch me the way that book did. I would really love to see young adults use Worst Impressions as kind of a gateway to widening their perspective and reading classic novels from other countries and cultures. That was my hope in writing Worst Impressions. Plus, Liz is just so funny, she's a character that will stick with teens and whom I think they can relate to because of her self-image issues. 

What book are you reading now?
My Kindle is so full of TBR books it's not even funny. It's been my goal to participate in the Colorful Chick Lit challenge but with the effort I've put in promotion, I just haven't been able to read like I've wanted to.  With that said, I have several things that I'm really looking forward to reading.

I just finished a book called One Thing She Knew by Toni Meyer which was fabulous, definitely a page-turner. I want to finish up Two Tears in a Bucket by Traci Bee which is more of an urban drama--a page-turner as well. I'm looking forward to Bollywood Confidential and The Sari Shop Widow. I've been hooked on the Indian culture and food since Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice. And I have a bunch of books I've promised reviews on that I have to add to that list. Too many to name them all.

What are your current projects?
Well, the sequel to the The Bum Magnet, tentatively titled Got a Right to be Wrong, is completed and with my editor. I really love that story. You're going to see a lot of loose ends get tied up in the sequel. We find out what happens to Nisey and the baby. Mama Tyson plays a much bigger role in this story and has her own drama. Most importantly, we get to see the history behind Charisse's relationship with her father, how that has contributed to her "bum magnetism" and whether she really does find her happily ever after...and does that necessarily involve a man?

In addition, I have two big projects that I'm working on now and hope to have both finished by the end of the year. The first one is a young adult novel called Soul of the Band, which features a music-loving African-American teen girl from DC who, after a family crisis, moves to a small town in Ohio and becomes the only black girl in an all white band. This book really stands apart from your typical books of this type because I explore the racial issue with a very truthful but humorous character.

The second project is the first in a series of adult novels featuring an AA female FBI agent named J.J. McCall who catches spies. I liken her to a black "Salt"/Jackie Brown working for the FBI instead of the CIA. I love this storyline because it features a very strong female character in a spy romantic comedy/suspense novel. In my former life, I worked with women like J.J. and always wondered why no one was telling their stories. So, I'm going to do it. I haven't read anything like that, and I'd really like to. I hope readers agree with me.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not a single thing. I think one of the beautiful things about self publishing this novel first before it found a publisher is that I got to tell this story EXACTLY the way I wanted to tell it...and readers love it anyway. :)

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Yes, I learned to grow some thick skin and how to accept criticism. I really had to get over myself and "my art" and do the right thing for the story so that my audience would get the kind of quality they deserved. At a certain point, you have to distance yourself from your work so that you can make it better. And you have to learn to take the useful information from criticism and ignore what you don't need. A very important lesson for new writers.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes, get over yourself, grow some thick skin, and learn to accept criticism! (hehe)

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I would just like to thank everyone who has read or plans to read my work. Your support and great feedback is what helped me get "discovered" and why I have a book deal today. I'll never take that for granted...not ever. Please connect with me on Facebook (Karla Brady or K.L. Brady), on Twitter (@KarlaB27), or my website (www.authorklbrady.com). I would absolutely love to hear from you and I respond to every single note, letter, e-mail, message, post or Tweet that I receive.

If you haven't picked up a copy of The Bum Magnet, it's available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Booksamillion, Target and Walmart. Get a copy for you and a friend or two (because you know they need to read it. lol)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

From the Mailbag: When Is a Book "Read?"


Normally I'd throw this in to a Free for All Friday post, but since I'm doing a giveaway this Friday, I thought I'd throw this out here to fellow readers now.

Kim (@girlfrombim) asked the following:
So I know you don't believe in struggling through just to say you finished a book. What do you do when you have started a book on goodreads and it's in your currently reading...but you know there's no way in hell that you want to finish it? Do you count it as "read"? 
Believe it or not, I was just thinking as I was road tripping a few weekends ago.  I started listening to three different books.  The first two didn't hold my attention enough for me to finish them, BUT I did listen to at least 40% of both of them.  Do I count them as read on Goodreads?  I think so, and here's why.

I devoted at least four hours of listening to both.  Had I been actually reading them, I would have finished each within a four hour time span.  Not only that, by devoting time to them, I delayed reading something that I really enjoyed.  If someone were to ask me about them, I would be able to give them enough of a synopsis for them to determine whether or not it might be an enjoyable read for them. So while I didn't complete it, I read it enough to know that it wasn't the book for me.  And in all fairness, I don't review books I haven't finished.

What say the rest of you? Do you need to read 100% of a book to qualify it as read? At what point in reading a book do you feel comfortable enough to offer your opinion on it? 30%? 50% 100%?

Monday, April 25, 2011

#BookReview: The Bum Magnet - K.L. Brady


I often tease one of my Twitter pals about having a crazy magnet.  And just like crazy people are attracted to her, bums seem to be attracted to Charisse Tyson.  Reeling from the broke heart Marcus "the cheater" Matthews left her with, she's gone on a self-proclaimed man hiatus.

When the handsome Dwayne Gibson becomes a client, Charisse is determined to keep it professional.  That's easier said than done and she finds herself falling for him.  As their relationship progresses, Charisse reflects on her past failed relationships, and those are really the most entertaining parts of the book.

Charisse seems to have dated every kind of loser imaginable, so much so that you would think that her bum radar would go off sooner than later the older she got.  Proving that just because one is older does not make them wiser, Charisse finds herself with not just one man on her doorstep, but quite a few.  Has she learned enough on her self-improvement quest to figure out who's a bum and who's the real deal?  And what about the college sweetheart tapback (hat tip to @onechele over at Black 'n Bougie) that won't go away?

What did you like about this book?
K.L. Brady has done a fine job of blending romance and comedy with a touch of mystery to create a perfectly balanced story.

What didn't you like about this book?
About halfway through I figured out one of the characters motives and wanted Charisse to figure it out as soon as I did.  She was just a little more naive that I would have liked.

What could the author do to improve this book?
I honestly can't think of a thing.





368pp
Published March 2011

 

Theme: Who's Zoomin Who? by Aretha Franklin

Friday, April 22, 2011

#BookReview: The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party - Alexander McCall Smith

The characters you've come to know and love are back in the 12th book of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.  Grace Makutsi is finally marrying her beloved Phuti Radiphuti.  Charlie, the mechanic's apprentice, finds himself in a bit of a situation when his girlfriend announces she is pregnant with twins.  And in between trying to figure out what is killing cows in Gaborone and what is really going on with Charlie, Mma Ramotswe keeps seeing the ghost of her late white van.

Alexander McCall Smith's books are known for being well written, well researched and easy reads.  He lives up to all three of these characteristics time and time again with this series.  I'm always happy to read the latest book in the series, but sad to know that it will be at least a year before I will have the opportunity to read the next.

What did you like about this book?
Mma Makutsi really gets a chance to play a leading role in this book.  She's such a funny character that any time she's highlighted, it's sure to bring a laugh to the reader.

What didn't you like about the book?
As always, my complaint is that the book goes by entirely too fast.

What could the author do to improve the book?
Though nothing can be done to improve the book, I would love for HBO to speed up their process in bringing movies based on the series to the small screen as they mentioned last year.  Am I the only person who would be okay with Jill Scott putting her music career on hold for a minute in order to get filming done? Just me? Oh, ok.





Published: March 2011
224pp


Theme: We Must Be in Love by Pure Soul

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#BookReview: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates - Wes Moore

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.

Wes Moore, the author, grew up in a single family home after the death of his father.   However, the strain of raising children alone forced Wes' mother to move herself and the children in with her parents.  He was fortunate in that he came from college-educated parents. He soon found himself in trouble at school and facing pressure from neighborhood kids to join them in compromising activities. 

The other Wes Moore was born to a young mother that tried desperately to do right by her children.  Already a teen when she had her first son, she had not made it to 20 before having Wes.  Her oldest son belonged to the streets, but he recognized something special in Wes.  Wes, however, was determined to make money for the family he started as a young teen father and soon became swept up into the streets.  Eventually he would go on to serve time.

The author, Wes Moore, is a Rhodes Scholar; a former White House fellow and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.  The imprisoned Wes Moore will never see the outside world again.  He's currently serving time for his role in the killing of a police officer during an armed robbery.  How do two young men growing up under similar circumstances with the same name turn out so differently? I believe that a big part of it is having a strong presence of positive family and/or a village that believes in you.  Wes, the author, had a mother and grandparents that were willing to sacrifice to put him on the right path.  The other Wes really had no one once his brother and mother accepted, or turned a blind eye to, his activities.

How does this explain the brothers in Patches of Grey then?  There has to be something internally that makes you believe that in spite of your circumstances, you can rise above them and do better.  Tony and CJ grew up in the same home and were offered the same opportunities, yet Tony found it within himself to want better while CJ took the easy out of the streets.  There is no epilogue in Patches of Grey, but I have to imagine that much like the author, Wes Moore, Tony goes on to bigger and greater things.

What did you like about this book?
It would have been easy for the author to just write his memoir and I wouldn't have blamed him.  He's lead a very impressive life for someone so young.  The fact that he took time to meet and get to know the other Wes Moore and tell his story as well is absolutely fascinating.

What didn't you like about this book?
I honestly can't think of a thing. 

What could the author do to improve this book?
Not necessarily with this book, but I would love for him to write another book detailing his time as an aide to Condoleezza Rice and a Rhodes Scholar.






Published: January 2011
Listening time: 6 hours


Theme:  Boys to Men by New Edition

Monday, April 18, 2011

#BookReview: Patches of Grey - Roy L. Pickering, Jr.

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.

Tony  is every inner city youth that dreams of making it out, except he doesn't plan to do it by being a rapper or athlete.  He dreams of going to college.  Normally you would expect one's parents to be supportive of that kind of dream, but his father's defeatist attitude weighs heavily upon Tony's shoulders.

Even as Tony walks the straight and narrow, his younger brother CJ is on the path to destruction.  Completely unimpressed with school and what it offers, CJ belongs to a gang.  Somewhere in the middle is their sister Tanya.  At the age of 16, she's obsessed with losing her virginity.

I was intrigued with the fact that the younger brother was the wayward one.  In most books, the older sibling's bad habits lead to the younger sibling's desire to do better.  So it was interesting to see the roles reversed.  On the other hand, it could have been that the parents had more time and were less stressed when raising Tony (and his sister Tanya) and by the time CJ came along, he was left to raise himself.

It's also interesting to note the differences between the relationships that their father shared with Tanya and the boys.  While Tony's relationship with his father is antagonistic at best, Tanya's relationship with him had me wondering if I was reading about a completely different man. No, really. It took me a minute to realize that this belligerent man who berated his oldest child was the same man that coddled his daughter and offered her words of encouragement.

Through Lionel's back story, the reader finds out why he's so hard on his son and how he came to be in the situation he's in.  Undoubtedly, his perceived failures shape the way that he treats Tony.  And while he believes that he's preparing him for the real world and teaching him life lessons, he's slowly losing his son's respect and love.

Aptly named Patches of Grey, Pickering proves that, indeed, life is rarely black or white.

What did you like about this book?
As I mentioned before, I love that everyone in the family has a story to tell and is actually allowed to tell it.

What didn't you like about this book?
Not a thing.  My biggest regret is that it took me so long to move it up on my "to be read" list.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Can't think of a thing.





Published: October 2010
Available on Kindle (for $ .99) and Nook

 

Theme:  Family Affair by Sly & the Family Stone

Friday, April 15, 2011

#BookReview: The Ex-Debutante - Linda Francis Lee


The only thing better than good chick lit is good Southern chick lit where the character has a melodious name.  In Carlisle Wainwright Cushing, Linda Francis Lee has created the quintessential name for a Southern belle.  The only other chick lit character's name that even comes close is Dimpsey Jo Killebrew in Mary Kay Andrew's The Fixer Upper.

Having become a successful divorce attorney in Boston, being summoned back home to Willow Creek, Texas to handle her mother's divorce was not on Carlisle's list of things to do.  She purposefully moved to a town where no one knew her to escape the Wainwright name, money and reputation.  No one in Boston, not even her fiance, suspects that she comes from money.  And as far as she's concerned, she'd like to keep it that way.

Now she not only has to handle her mother's third, or is it her fourth, divorce, she's also been tasked with singlehandedly saving the Willow Creek Symphony Association Debutante Ball.  No one in town has forgotten the tumble she took when Carlisle was a debutante.  And no one in town can stop talking about her mother's latest divorce scandal.  Carlisle is determined to save her mother's reputation, once again, and pull off a ball the likes of which the town of Willow Creek hasn't seen before, even if it means rounding up a motley crew of debs.

What did you like about this book?
The characters were really smart and very well developed.  Sometimes secondary characters are tossed into a story with no background, but Lee took the time to tell everyone's story so that the reader didn't have to guess as to why characters were behaving in certain ways.

On a personal note, I picked this up as a former debutante because I thought it would be interesting since  I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a deb.  My daughter is a senior this year and was vehemently opposed to participating, so I didn't force her.  As we listened to The Ex-Debutante during our morning and evening commutes, she constantly exclaimed, "THAT is the exact reason why I refused to participate in that nonsense."  Whatever kid!
Delta Debs, 1988


What didn't you like about this book?
The narrator's voice was a little blah at times, like she'd rather be painting her toenails or plucking her eyelashes out one by one.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Can't think of a thing.





Listening time: 11 hours, 4 minutes
Published: May 2008


Theme: She's Not Just a Pretty Face by Shania Twain

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#BookReview: A Cup of Friendship - Deborah Rodriguez


Centered around the lives of frequent visitors to the Kabul Coffee House, A Cup of Friendship offers a glimpse into life in modern day Afghanistan.  I was hesitant to read it initially because I was worried that it would be another 'white person saves the natives' story, but surprisingly it wasn't.

Small town country girl Sunny came to Kabul with her on again/off again boyfriend, Tommy.  While Tommy is out playing secret soldier for extended periods of time, Sunny is trying to turn a profit with the coffee house she's opened in Kabul. Working along side her are Halajan, a widow; Halajan's twenty year old son, Ahmet, the coffee house's guard; Bashir the cook; and the newly arrived Yazmina.  Rounding out the cast of characters are Jack, a handsome American in Kabul as a consultant; Candace, the ex-wife of a U.S. diplomat; and Isabel, the fiercely loyal and indefatigable British journalist.

Through Isabel the reader learns of the atrocities that women in Afghanistan face under the Taliban regime and as laborers in opium fields.  Isabel's journeys also offer a brief glimpse into Muslim and Jewish relations in Afghanistan.  Candace's story focuses on growing terrorist cells.  Halajan is in love with a childhood friend, but communication is forbidden without her son's consent.  And Yazmina, a young widow, arrives in Kabul pregnant and afraid because a pregnant woman without a husband casts shame upon her family.

In this fast paced read, Rodriguez takes care to explore story lines that the average American reader may not have had exposure to before.  I was completely hooked from the beginning to end and highly encourage anyone else that's seeking a better understanding of every day life in Afghanistan to give this a read.

What did you like about this book?
There were a lot of characters to keep track of. It could have been difficult to keep them straight and keep the reader interested in all of them, but Rodriguez seems to have tackled this with ease.

What didn't you like about this book?
While everyone else's story seemed to teach a specific aspect of life in Kabul, I felt like Sunny's story could have taken place anywhere.  While the others were struggling to stay alive or live by the rules of their religion, Sunny's biggest problems seemed to be what man she'd end up with before the book ended.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Focus less on the American perspective (Sunny) and more on those native to Afghanistan.





304pp
Published: January 2011


Theme: Ronnie Talk to Russia by Prince

Monday, April 11, 2011

#BookReview: Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? - Jen Lancaster

I suppose I could write a lengthy review of this book and give you reasons to read or not to read it.  However, if you've read any of her other books, this is really no different.  That being said, if you liked Bitter is the New Black or My Fair Lazy then chances are you'll like Bright Lights, Big Ass. Personally, I'm looking forward to reading the author's fiction debut, If You Were Here.

400pp
Published: May 2007



Friday, April 8, 2011

Does It Matter Who Writes the Story as Long as It's Written?


I was talking to a co-worker the other day about a book that Amazon recommended as something readers of Wench might like.  I loved Wench.  It  is a well written and well researched book about a group of women living in slavery.  It was also written by an African-American author.  The book that Amazon recommended was set pre-Civil War and was written from the perspective of a plantation owner's wife upset about his "relationship" with a slave.  I'd take exception to any book that portrayed the slave mistresses of their owners as willing accomplices to their relationship, but for me, it's especially offensive when the author can't empathize with the character about which he or she is writing.  Is it that I think only African-Americans can write on these topics or do the necessary research? No, but you have to admit that sensitive topics deserve a fair amount of respect that authors of other races don't always give them, knowingly or not.

Let's look at 2009's The Help. Written by a white author about white women and the African American help that worked in their houses, it was one of my favorite books that year. I felt like the author took her time developing all of the characters. The African American characters were no less important than the white ones and just as much attention was given to their story lines.  I also have a great deal of respect for Kathleen Grissom's The Kitchen House about an Irish girl who comes to America as an indentured servant and forms a bond with the slaves on the plantation on which they work.  Though it would have been easy to make the slaves minor characters and play up the story line of the indentured servant alone, Grissom took the time to develop both the character and story line of everyone in the book.  In a lot of ways, her book really reminded me of J. California Cooper's The Wake of the Wind.

On the flip side, I absolutely hated Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, the story of a young white girl sent to live with her great-aunt and her maid.  Much like The Secret Lives of Bees, I disliked this story of a white child being raised by black women who were treated like magical Negroes.  Little attention was paid to their lives apart from how it related to their white wards.  Though they were significant in the development of both children's lives, they were treated as secondary characters.

All of this leads me to ask, does it really matter who writes our stories or any stories as long as they're well written? I don't remember a great deal of uproar over a white male writing Memoirs of A Geisha.  There was a slight murmur about it being written from a Western perspective, but not nearly the amount of grumblings I heard about The Help.  If African American history is American history, should all Americans be allowed to tell the stories as long as they do the proper research and do the story justice or are our stories exclusively ours?  Are African American authors limiting themselves by writing books with predominantly black characters?  Why do books written by authors of other races receive more acclaim than books with similar topics written by African Americans?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#BookReview: Size 12 Is Not Fat - Meg Cabot


It seems like just yesterday that teen sensation Heather Wells was performing at malls around the country to huge crowds.  The fans loved her and her former teen star turned pop star fiance loved her.  And then things came crashing down.

When her career goes south, Heather's mother flees the country with Heather's manager and all of her money and her fiance cheats on her.  So what's a girl to do? Start all over again. Figuring that the cheapest way to get a college education is by working for a university, Heather embarks on a new career as an assistant director at a residential hall.

A series of deaths in the building have been deemed accidental by the police department, but Heather knows that college girls, especially not these girls, are not into elevator surfing.  With the help of her private investigator roommate (whose just happens to be her ex-fiance's brother) and Magda, the cafeteria cashier, Heather is determined to get to the bottom of what's really going on in her building.

What did you like about this book?
I have to say that I'd never read a Meg Cabot book before this.  I also wasn't aware that she had written The Princess Diaries.  Had I known that, I probably would have picked up her books sooner.  She has a writing style that perfectly blends outright humor and "don't blink or you might miss it" snark.  Her lead character is smart and likable.  I'm definitely planning to give the next book in the series a try.

What didn't you like about this book?
Magda refers to the kids in the dorms as "my little movie stars," because at some point the dorm was used in the filming of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It was cute the first 20 or so times she said it, not so cute the last 50 times.

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






Listening time: 10 hours, 7 minutes
Published: December 2005


Theme: I Think We're Alone Now by Tiffany


Monday, April 4, 2011

#BookReview: Sweet Jiminy - Kristen Gore

Jiminy Davis walks away from her life in law school in Chicago and finds herself in the small Mississippi town in which her grandmother, Willa, lives. She's come to get away from everything.  Realizing that being attorney is not what she wants for her future, she hopes the time away will give her a chance to regroup.

Bo, the nephew of Willa's housekeeper, Lyn, has come back to Mississippi to study for his medical school entrance exams.  Growing up in the south, Bo knows all too well how the rural Mississippi town expects blacks to behave.  He's simply there to prepare for his exam without the distractions that he might have in a bigger city.

Years before this Jiminy was born, there was another Jiminy, Lyn's daughter.  Both Lyn's husband and the first Jiminy were killed in what was called an accident, but what everyone in town knows were deliberate killings.  With time on her hands and a natural curiosity, the current Jiminy is determined to find out what happened to her namesake.  The problem is having only visited the south during summers as a child, Jiminy is not always aware of the ways race factors into interactions in the town.  So she's shocked when she finds the previously polite townspeople reacting in unexpected ways to her questioning.

It was coincidental that I read this during the time the Investigative Discovery channel was premiering the Injustice Files series.  If you're not familiar with it, it features cold cases from the Civil Rights era.  All of the stories featured involved black men killed by members of the Klan, or those of that ilk, who have never been brought to justice for their crimes because the white citizens of their town either turned a blind eye to what was going on or actively engaged in the crimes themselves.  Kristen Gore did a fine job of creating characters quite similar to the people featured in the documentaries.

What did you like about this book?
There were a few twists and turns that I didn't quite expect.  Since I hate predictable books, I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected.

What didn't you like about this book? 
I was going to say the second Jiminy's naivete was over the top, but after some thought I  decided it really wasn't.  Her experience as a white woman from a northern city played a big factor in how she saw race and race relations.  So while one might have expected her to know the rules of the South, she would have really had no reason to since her earlier experiences there as a child would have been structured in such a way that her only interactions with blacks would have been her grandmother's housekeeper, Lyn.

What could the author do to improve this book?
The author introduces a Latino family that's come to Mississippi to open a restaurant while pursuing the American dream. Other than using them as a way to introduce immigration to the story line, they really serve no purpose.  We already know the town is full of bigots, so giving them another group of color to intimidate is overkill.  It's pretty safe to assume that someone that doesn't care for African Americans has no use for any other people of color.  Their story line could have been nixed altogether.






240pp
Published: April 2011

 

Theme: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet


Friday, April 1, 2011

Free for All Friday, April 1


It's been a minute since I've done a Free for All Friday so I thought I'd take a break from book reviews and throw a few things out there.  If you're like me, you start thinking about Friday as soon as Sunday rolls around, so you'll forgive me for my friend to the left doing the "Thank God It's Friday" dance on my behalf.  Let's start with the most "are you freaking kidding me" thing I've seen this week.

What happens when an author reads a review of his or her book and doesn't like it?  From what I know of the authors I talk to, they may take it personally, but rarely do they ever attack the reviewer.  In other words, "everythang ain't for everybody." So if a reviewer likes your book, fine.  If not, someone else does so whatevs, right?  Well self-published author Jacqueline Howett read a blogger's review over at Big Al's Books and Pals and didn't care for his review.  In all fairness, the blogger did say he liked the story line, his issue was with the number of typos and grammatical errors, which made it difficult to read.

What started with the author pointing out all of the good reviews of her books quickly evolved into her dropping several F bombs.  At some point either common sense (or her publicist) reeled her in and the madness ended.  Well, it really didn't.  When I first read the post, there were maybe 27 comments.  As of Wednesday, it was up to 307.  It was also revealed that several publishing houses troll book blogs looking for self-published works that might be worth signing.  So now the author has not only lost credibility in the blogging community, but in the publishing community as well.  The link to the blog has been retweeted, linked on Facebook and on Amazon.  Several commenters noted that while they might have purchased the book, even with the review given, there was no way they would do so now.  And the blog that had 15 followers on Monday now has 771.  You tell me who's having the best week ever.

In other "what in the entire hell" news, @sarahsosincere sent me the link to a story about a middle-aged, suburban, white father of three that writes street lit for black and Latino youth.  Paul Langan defends his writing by saying that as someone that has spent time with disadvantaged youth (yes, a summer in 1997 was all it took), he thought he'd write lit that they could relate to to help them improve their reading skills.  Okay, fine, you want to dumb down books for kids that are reading below their grade level, I'm good with that.  What I'm NOT good with is you writing lit about gang bangers, teen pregnancy, etc. as if those are the only  topics to which this kids could relate. What say you? Should we feed kids garbage and just be happy that they're eating?

The books would feature black and Latino characters, and the characters’ conflicts and choices would ultimately model positive decision-making. The books would be written at a level that struggling middle and high schoolers could read (fifth grade), about topics they would want to read about (guns, theft, pregnancy), for a price they would pay ($1). source

In happier book news, a group of your favorite authors (and mine) have gotten together and created A Chapter A Month.  What's that?

No more waiting for a year to hear from your favorite author. Now you have us inside this amazing new experience where reading meets the brave new digital world. As a reader, you will enjoy fresh, exciting chapters every month as we reveal our stories to you one chapter at a time. You will travel with us on our writing journeys and watch our novels come to life on paper...and beyond. Each month the authors will offer you something behind the pages - whether it's a live interview with your favorite character or an ask-the-author-anything session, on this website it's more than just the story.

You will be able to download the stories to your e-readers, iPads, iPods, Smart Phones and personal computers.

If you're excited like I am, you'll like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and check out their website for the April 4 debut.

Reading challenge updates
Of the 144 books I've committed myself to reading this year, I'm up to 33.  My goal is to read at least 12 each month, so I'm close, but just a little behind. 

For the Colorful Chick Lit Challenge, my goal is 12 or more books featuring women of color.  So far I'm up to nine.  It's been fun reading about women from different cultures and I'll be at my goal before June, but  I'm always looking for suggestions.

So thoughts, comments, feedback? Is it okay for authors to attack reviewers or should they have thicker skin? Is street lit acceptable for your kid or others? Whose down for a chapter a month? And how are your reading challenges going?

 
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