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Monday, July 30, 2012

#BookReview: The Whitney I Knew - Bebe Winans

When I saw the announcement of this book in June, my first thought was, "It's too soon.  Has she been properly grieved yet and people are putting out books?"  I admit upfront that I'm a Whitney stan.  From the moment I saw her singing You Give Good Love on Video Soul, I was hooked.  She was gorgeous and her voice was heavenly.  So you'll understand that I took her death personally and stayed in bed the day of her funeral, watching it from beginning to end as the choir sang and her friends and family remembered her.

Through the comments and singing, I was able to maintain my composure.  Then BeBe Winans stepped up to talk about his "sister" and brought his birth sister, CeCe with him.  I've followed the careers of BeBe and CeCe since the late 80s, so I was aware that Whitney appeared on some of their early tracks and that they were friends.  I knew that Whitney and CeCe were like sisters, but was not aware of how close Whitney and BeBe were until he began recounting stories of their times together.  His words and his singing brought tears to my eyes then and again as I read The Whitney I Knew.

With Winans' words, readers are reminded that what we see of celebrities is not all there is.  Though to some it feels as though this book was rushed out to capitalize on Houston's fame, I think it was an attempt to humanize her.  Winans shares stories of Whitney that aren't well known.  For example, for her 26th birthday, Michael Jackson sent her a monkey.  Perhaps it was because he was living a secluded lifestyle and knew the loneliness that came with fame, so he decided to give her a companion.  Whitney, however, laughed it off and said that monkey was getting dropped off at the zoo!

I loved that Winans was close enough to her to see the regular girl from Jersey side of her and share a few glimpses into their friendship.  He talked about how she loved to talk on the phone and how she would invite him and CeCe over for lunch as if New Jersey and Tennessee were right next door.  The stories of how she would pop up at their concerts and sing background as if it were the most natural thing in the world and as if she weren't THE Whitney Houston or how she claimed the entire Winans clan as family from the moment she met them made her all the more charming.

I was slightly taken aback at how Winans weaved stories of other celebrities in, at times it seemed that he was name dropping just to prove how close he was to them.  At one point, he brings up Vanessa Williams and the incident that caused her to give up her Miss America title.  All I could think was, "You had to bring up Vanessa though? I mean, she's somewhere minding her business and you're rehashing a story from 30 years ago. Seriously, BeBe???"

Overall, this book is a testament to the friendship and kinship that Winans had with Houston.  With the offering of pictures from personal family collections and rarely seen video footage, Winans welcomes fans of Houston to see her as he, and those closest to her, saw her.  It's a glimpse you won't want to miss.





272pp
Published: July 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

 

Theme: Jesus Loves Me by Whitney Houston

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Friday, July 27, 2012

#BookReview: Almost Single - Advaita Kala

As guest relations manager at the Grand Orchid Hotel in New Delhi, Aisha Bhatia meets people of means daily.  If it were up to her mother, she'd put a sign that says, "29 and Single" on her desk and hope that one of the available men checking in at the hotel would ask her out.  Aisha is desperate, but not that desperate.

29 year old single women in India are an anomaly.  Aisha's cousins and one of her best friends, Anushka, have all crossed over into the land of holy matrimony.  Anushka is crossing back though and Misha, Aisha's other best friend, has firmly stayed on the single side with Aisha, but not because she hasn't been trying to find a husband.

Like a scene straight out of a Bollywood flick, Aisha bumps into a handsome stranger in a country club parking lot as she's toilet papering a car and, again, when she catches sight of him, stark naked in his hotel room.  And, of course, she continues to have frequent run ins with him, no matter where she goes.

This book was cute and funny, but had the potential to be more entertaining than it was.  The author didn't do a good job of making the reader care about any of the characters.  The interactions between Aisha and Karan felt very stiff and it came as a surprise that they considered themselves a couple, since those stiff interactions rarely happened when the two of them were alone.






288pp
Published: February 2009


Theme: Party by Beyonce'

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#BookReview: The Healing - Jonathon Odell

I can admit when I'm late to the dance.  I've had the ARC (advanced reader's copy) of this book since October...2011.  Right, so for almost 10 months, this book just sat on my Kindle waiting for me to get around to it, but as Polly Shine would say, "I can pour water on your head, but you got to wash yourself."

Who is Polly Shine, you ask? She's the healer and giver of sight to those around her.  Things on the Satterfield plantation surely changed for the better the day Polly Shine arrived.  Prior to her arrival, Granada, the teller of The Healing, only thought she knew who she was.

Born on the same day that the mistress of the plantation's daughter died, Granada was taken from her mother and given to the mistress as a play thing.  Now normally a slave of Granada's complexion would not have been allowed to step foot in the big house.  House slaves tended to be light-skinned and were considered more favorable as their appearance was closer to white.  As the daughter of a field slave, Granada should have been out in the fields, but grief is a powerful thing and the mistress was willing to overlook the norms.

Granada takes great pleasure in dressing up in the gowns of the deceased daughter of the mistress annually for Preaching Day.  Standing at the side of the mistress in the fancy clothes and ribbons gives her such joy that she's willing to ignore the laughs and horrified looks of those around her.  Her place is firmly in the big house, next to the mistress.

All of that changes the day Polly Shine arrives.  What kind of slave is worth $ 5,000?  One that can heal.  When slaves on his plantation begin to fall ill, Ben Satterfield, who has never brought in outside slaves, brings in Polly Shine to heal them.  Not only that, he has a hospital built for her and gives her Granada as an assistant.  Of course, this doesn't sit well with Granada.  She belongs in the big house, everyone knows that.  But in becoming Polly's assistant, Granada begins to learn and remember what and who she is and to whom she belongs.

Odell touches on so many points with The Healing.  There's the constant reminder to and from house slaves that they're better than those that live in the swamps and the fields, simply because of the complexion of their skin.

 "Remember, Granada," Sylvie said, "what is bred in the bones will be in the marrow.  You ain't like them out in the swamps that got no behavior.  You been brought up around white folks and learned their manners.  Don't forget that, you hear?  You a proper house-raised girl, and you pretty as a pea, even if you is black as the bottom of a pot."

Then there's the slave mentality exhibited by Old Silas, who had been with the master since he was a boy, and resented any thought of freedom.  He even goes so far as to tell the master how to keep the other slaves in line by keeping them afraid, rendering them unable to hope.

'Mark my words,' I said, 'when a man's not afraid, then he's hoping.  And that's when all hell brakes loose.'

Odell bravely takes on a topic and time period that would normally send white authors running.  But he does so respectfully and definitely did his research.  Using words of former slaves as recorded in the WPA Slave Narratives, the Fisk Collection of Slave Narratives and oral histories of midwives as his guide, he is dedicated to telling the story accurately.  It shows in his work.





352pp
Published: February 2012

 

Theme: Time After Time by Cassandra Wilson


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Monday, July 23, 2012

#BookReview: And Laughter Fell from the Sky - Jyotsna Sreenivasan

Have you ever seen two people that you were sure were siblings or, better yet, perfect strangers, because there was no chemistry between them?  That's how I felt the whole time I was reading And Laughter Fell from the Sky.  While Jyotsna Sreenivasan has written several nonfiction books, this was her first work of fiction.  I'm afraid that she has a lot more work to do before crossing into this genre.

What Sreenivasan has given us is the story of Rasika and Abhay, mid-20s Indian-Americans.  Abhay is a friend of Rasika's younger brother, so while the two know each other from childhood, they don't really know each other.  A chance encounter in a coffee shop gives them a chance to reacquaint themselves.  From there, the road gets bumpy.

Rasika is expected to marry and if she can't find a suitable husband, her parents will find one for her.  Raised with traditional Indian values, she's an American girl at heart and longs to be independent, but she still lives with her parents.  She spends a lot of time sneaking around behind their backs, using her friend, Jill, as an alibi.

Abhay has recently returned to Ohio after living in a commune for two years.  His parents would much prefer that he do something meaningful with his life, like go to law school or graduate school.  He's unsure of what he should be when he grows up, but he knows he wants to make a difference in the world.

When Rasika and Abhay run into each other, you would expect sparks to fly.  Instead, there's little to no fizzle.  Readers will find themselves going through all 336 pages and not caring one way or another if the two of them end up together.  At no point does the author give them enough dialogue with each other to convince the reader that they even like each other as something beyond friends.  They could have picked random people off of the street and I would have been convinced that they had more in common with them than with each other.



 336pp
Published: June 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

 
Theme: 1 Thing by Amerie
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Friday, July 20, 2012

#BookReview: Destiny's Divas - Victoria Christopher Murray

90s R & B superstar Raine Omari had the career most people dreamed of, but she walked away from that life to fully embrace her love of the Lord.  More than that, she wanted the freedom to express her Christianity through her music and use her life's testimony as a witness to others.  And she decided to bring along a few more singers to help her out. 

Twenty something Sierra Dixon is certifiably nuts.  Actually, calling her nuts is an understatement.  Damaged goods, she was raised in a home with an alcoholic mother who dictated to her a list of things to do, and not to do, to trap and keep a man.  Sierra has more issues than the New York Times, but she doesn't see it that way.  She's just doing what she has to do to get ahead, even if that means lying about being celibate to retain her membership in the country's hottest new group, Destiny's Divas.

First lady Liza Washington has been hiding a secret for twenty-eight years.  From the outside, she appears to have the perfect marriage to her mega church pastor-husband.  As the forty something member of the group, her life is supposed to be a testimony to longevity and endurance in marriage.  In actuality, her husband has been shadier than an oak tree of late and Liza fears that it's just a matter of time before his actions bring the world crashing down around her.

The group organizer, Raine Omari, has it all.  She's in love with her husband and would do anything for her daughter.  But how can she testify about unconditional love when she can't stand her mother-in-law?  Truth be told, her mother-in-law, Beerlulu, could drive anyone ever the edge, but her meddling ways threaten to harm Raine's daughter and drive a wedge between Raine and her husband.

I found that though I felt sorry for Raine and Liza, I didn't have much sympathy for Sierra.  While the other women seemed changed by their situations, Sierra's damaged thoughts were too deep to have simply been changed without benefit of therapy or medication.  You don't go off the deep end one day and hop back up a month later like everything is everything.  Perhaps she talked it out with someone, but the author didn't mention it, so I have to assume that she was as nutty at the end as she was in the beginning. 

Even though Destiny's Divas is 400 pages, it's a quick read as you try to find out how each woman will deal with her situation.  I was amused by the author's reference to current places and people.  She referenced Hue-Man bookstore, an actual bookstore in Harlem that's scheduled to close soon, and a comment she heard Melissa Harris-Perry, host of the Melissa Harris-Perry Show, make.  If you're a fan of Victoria Christopher Murray's previous works, this does not disappoint.







400pp
Published: June 201
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher; opinions are my own.

 

Theme: God's Grace by Trin-i-tee 5-7


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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

#BookReview: The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection - Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe and her sidekick, Grace Makutsi, are back for another adventure in Gaborone, Botswana.  Unlike other books where mysteries have come to them from outsiders, each story to be solved this time around comes from those close to them.  And they're still as entertaining as they've always been.

Mma Makutsi married furniture store owner Phuti Radiphuti in 2011's  The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party.  The two have decided that it's time to build their own home instead of living in Phuti's family home.  Grace is immediately suspicious of the builder, who won't directly address her, only Phuti, and with good reason.  He's a flim flam artist and it's up to her to prove it to her husband.

Of the two mechanics that work in J.L.B. Matekoni's Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, readers are most familiar with Charlie because he stays in trouble.  The lesser known Fanwell finally gets his chance in the spotlight in the latest from McCall Smith, but not because he's done something well.  In fact, Fanwell has been arrested for illegally working on cars.  At the insistence of the same guy that bullied him in school, Fanwell gets caught up in a scheme that he has problems getting out of by himself.

Mma Potokwane, the matron of the orphanage from where Mma Ramotswe and J.L.B. Matekoni have adopted their children, has been fired from her post, one that she's held for years and planned to hold until she retired.  A conflict with a new board member have left the matron without a job and without any hope.  Mma Ramotswe will stop at nothing to see her friend restored to her position.

While these three cases might seem like a lot for the ladies to handle, they have help this time around in the form of Clovis Andersen, the author of a book that has been like their Bible for detecting, The Principles of Private Detection.  While Clovis is quick to point out that he's not the great detective that the ladies think he is, he does serve as a sounding board for them to bounce ideas off of and by the end of the story, you know that he respects them just as much as they respect him.

With this latest book, there are no big surprises and no big changes.  It's the same steady story lines that readers have come to love and expect from McCall Smith. 






272pp
Published: April 2012

 
Theme: Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing by Lionel Hampton featuring Tito Puente
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Monday, July 16, 2012

#BookReview: Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I come late to her fan club, but Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's work is truly worthy of all the accolades it receives.  In Purple Hibiscus, she skillfully combines a coming of age story with a military coup and domestic abuse.  Each of these topics could have been difficult to handle, but Adichie manages to write about each of them in a way that doesn't overwhelm the reader.

Fifteen year old Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, live a good life in Enugu, Nigeria.  Their father, Eugene, is a big man, meaning wealthy and well-connected, so they enjoy privileges that their classmates and friends do not.  But because their father is a big man, no one suspects that he rules his family with an iron fist in the name of religion.  So strict in his faith is Eugene, that has renounced his own father, who has not converted to Catholicism, and limits the children's time with him to 15 minutes during the Christmas holiday.

It's not until Kambili and Jaja get to visit their Aunt Ifeoma and cousins that they learn that everyone does not live by a daily schedule.  Every aspect of their lives, from the time they wake up until they go to bed is dictated by schedules their father has created for them. In Aunt Ifeoma's house, children are encouraged to have a voice and actually use it.  At home, speaking out of turn or acting independently without guidance from their father is a cause for immediate disciplinary action.  In Aunt Ifeoma's home, there is laughter and open emotion, things that have been stifled in Kambili and Jaja's home.

At one point, Eugene boasts that his Kambili and Jaja are “not like those loud children people are raising these days, with no home training and no fear of God;” to which Ade Coker replies: “Imagine what the standard would be if we were all quiet.”  This conversation really hit on so many things for me. The children and their mother's silence has enabled Eugene to keep them living in constant fear of his punishment, should one of them step out of line.  The voices of the students and faculty at the university where Aunty Ifeoma teaches have been raised, resulting in a military coup and the persecution of those that have spoken up.

Forced to leave Nigeria as a result of the coup, Aunty Ifeoma moves to the United States to teach.  Though her daughter, Amaka, always saw the U.S. as the promised land, she soon begins to believe that though times were sometimes hard in Nigeria, there was a freer sense of self and others there than in her new home.

 “There has never been a power outage and hot water runs from a tap, but we don’t laugh anymore . . . because we no longer have the time to laugh, because we don’t even see one another.”

By the end of this book, I was drained.  While I was hoping for a happy ending, instead I got a,, "okay, this is life, make the best of it" ending.  And I'm okay with that.  I just wanted better for characters that I became deeply invested in during the course of my listening.

I do have to point out that I didn't care for the narrator's voice, so I was tempted to stop listening and read the book instead.  The problem I had with it is the story is told from the point of view of Kambili, a fifteen year old Igbo girl from Nigeria.  The narrator was significantly older and sounded nothing like I would imagine Kambili to sound.  I was so thrown by her voice that I actually looked her up.  I understand that she's narrated several of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, but since I've never listened to them, I wasn't familiar with her voice.  Much like I like my female characters voiced by women and not men, I like my characters to sound more like the actual character than a distinctly older person.





307pp
Listening time: 11 hours
Published: October 2003

Theme: Sorrow, Tears & Blood by Fela Kuti

  
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Friday, July 13, 2012

#BookReview: Southern Charm - Tinsley Mortimer

Minty Davenport, or Mary Randolph Mercer Davenport, whichever you prefer, though I do think Minty is absolutely a delicious name.  It just rolls off your tongue right?  Anyway, Minty Davenport is a southern debutante in every sense of the word.  She of the Charleston, South Carolina, certainly not West Virginia, Davenports is the daughter of none other than Scarlett and Gharland, and heiress to Magnolia Gate, an estate that's been in the family for five generations.  So what's any self-respecting debutante to do when she finds herself with a college degree, but no fiance'?  She heads to New York!

Lest you think she's the next coming of Mary Tyler Moore, she's not.  Minty has a nice apartment on the Upper East Side, thanks to her mother's connections, but not a job in sight.  That changes once she hooks up with her sorority sister and lands a job with the best boutique PR firm in the city.  In a page from  Devil Meets Prada, Minty finds herself working for the hard to please, nothing is ever quite right Ruth Vine.  Long days and nights at the firm don't leave Minty much time for socializing, but at least Ruth's agency handles the hottest events in town.

With a new gig and a new life in the big city, it's only a matter of time before Minty finds the perfect man.  He comes in the form of Tripp du Pont, the same Tripp du Pont who broke her 15 year old heart years ago during Christmas break in Palm Beach.  It's hard to believe Tripp has changed, but Minty quickly finds herself on his arm at all of the important social events and before she realizes, she's New York's next "It Girl."  Can Minty juggle work, Tripp and the life of a socialite?  Not hardly, but you'll enjoy reading about it as she tries.

Debut author Tinsley Mortimer has created quite the charming character in Minty Davenport.  Though Minty could have come off as spoiled and unlikeable, she is neither.  I enjoyed the relationship that Minty and Scarlet had.  I would have expected the stereotypical, intrusive mother acting for her own selfish gain to the detriment of her debutante daughter and, though Scarlet did interfere occasionally, she ultimately kept the best interests of Minty close to her heart at all times.  I'm excited to see if more adventures in the big city await Ms. Davenport.







256pp
Published: May 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

 

Theme: New York, New York by Frank Sinatra

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

#BookReview: Nowhere is a Place - Bernice McFadden

Sherry has drifted from place to place for most of her adult life in search of something.  Though we're told initially that Sherry has spent her life wondering why her mother, Dumpling, slapped her one day, we know that there has to be a deeper reason for Sherry's restlessness.  As she and Dumpling set off on a journey from Nevada to their family reunion in Georgia, you have to believe that she'll find answers along the way.

More than just the story of one woman's wanderlust, Nowhere Is A Place is a family history, the story of how their family homestead came to be.  Told through the words of Sherry, as she imagined it from research and conversations with Dumpling, it's a journey back to slavery and to present day Georgia.  Beginning with the story of Lou, an Indian girl sold into slavery, right up to fast-tail Lilly, Dumpling's mother, who couldn't take another minute in that small town and sought the bright lights of Philadelphia, Bernice McFadden's words pull you in quickly.

One aspect of the book that I really loved was that as Dumpling was reading Sherry's words, and observing her during their long drive from Nevada to Georgia, she began to gain a better understanding of who her daughter was.  Often parents only know their children as the person they remember growing up in their house, not as an adult.  Dumpling has no idea why Sherry is the way she is or why she does the things she does until she spends time with her and gets to know the adult Sherry.  Prior to their road trip, she always thought of Sherry as her strange child or the child that didn't tell her anything about herself.  I feel like by the end of their journey, Dumpling found her to be extraordinary and learned that while Sherry had been telling her about herself all along, Dumpling hadn't necessarily been listening.

As I go back and listen to McFadden books that I've previously read, I'm reminded of works by J. California Cooper.  This book, especially, made me think of Cooper's The Wake of the Wind.  And though I enjoyed this book when I read it, the narration of  Myra Lucretia Taylor really brought it to life.






304pp
Published: February 2006
Listening time: 9 hours, 7 minutes

 

Theme: Sentimental by Alexander O'Neal

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Monday, July 9, 2012

#BookReview: Size 12 and Ready to Rock - Meg Cabot

Heather Wells is back!  Fans of the series will remember that we were first introduced to Heather in Size 12 is Not Fat.  A former teen pop star, her career took a dive when she and her record company disagreed on her songs and her image.  To make matters worse, her mother sticky fingered her money and took off to parts unknown.  Now the Debbie Gibson of her time is an assistant residential hall (don't call it a dorm!) director.

If you've been reading the Size 12 series, you already know that there have been a series of unfortunate events in Fischer Hall.  With the students gone for the summer, the university has decided to give the hall a makeover, especially since students are starting to ask not to be placed in the "death dorm."  Heather is looking forward to a peaceful summer with her motley crew of student workers and the love of her life, Cooper Cartwright.  But Heather's life is never peaceful for long.

Ex-boyfriend, and brother of Cooper, Jordan Cartwright pops up with Tania Trace, the very woman Heather caught Jordan with a few years ago.  As if dealing with those two wasn't enough, Christopher Allington is back with all of his smug comments and privileged ways.  Thanks to Christopher, Jordan and Tania will be filming their reality show in Fischer Hall.  And there goes Heather's quiet summer.

Tania has a stalker, which means Heather has a problem.  With the help of private detective/boyfriend, Cooper, and her own instincts, Heather is determined to get to the bottom of things.

As always, Cabot's writing is delightful. Heather is funny enough, but Cabot gives us the hilariously dry and snarky Sarah and the overly perky Lisa for additional giggles.  The first time I "read" a Cabot book, I actually listened to the audio version of Size 12 is Not Fat.  I always worry that books that listen well won't necessarily read well.  That's definitely not a problem with this series.  I enjoy reading it as much as I do listening to it.

I can't remember who narrated the audio version of Size 12 is Not Fat, but her voice reminded me of one of my favorite commercial actresses, Melanie Paxson.  It turns out that Melanie looks nothing like the Heather that's described in the books, but whenever I read them, she is who I see.  Here she is with yet another one of my favorite commercial actresses, Stephanie Courtney, also known as "Flo."








384pp
Published: July 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

 
Theme:  Somebody's Watching Me by Rockwell


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Friday, July 6, 2012

#BookReview: Wallflower in Bloom - Claire Cook

Deidre Griffin has lived in the shadow of her famous brother, Tag, forever.  In a family with four kids, at least one of them is going to be the family rockstar.  For the Griffins, it's always been Tag, the oldest of the four and the only son.  From the beginning, he's been groomed to be the star and Deidre, unfortunately, has been set up for a life time of wallflower duty.

Tag isn't just the family's rockstar, he's the latest self-help guru.  As soon as I read a description of him, I pictured Oprah's latest self-help guy, Tony Robbins. Building an empire off of using a family meal time tradition, Tag quotes chiasmuses to the masses and they eat them up, no matter how silly they sound.

A chiasmus is when the second half of an expression is balanced against the first half, but with the parts reversed.

But can the Griffin family really complain? Tag employs all of them, in some fashion, and owns the houses they live in in the family compound.  No one seems to be complaining except Deidre, who, as his personal assistant, catches the brunt of the work and Tag-isms.

When Tag embarrasses her in front of a guy who could be "the one," Deirdre has had it.  She quits, for probably the 100th time, but this time she means it.  It's time to come out of Tag's shadow and become the star she's meant to be.  And what better place to do it than Dancing with the Stars, even if Deirdre isn't a star.

Make no mistake, Wallflower in Bloom is a coming of age tale, even if the person in question is middle aged.  As much as she hates her family dynamics, Deirdre has never really known who she was without them.  Outside of college, she's only spent a year away from her family and returned to them like a homesick puppy.  Even as her family, especially Tag, doubts her ability to succeed, Deirdre forges ahead.  Her adventures in Hollywood are just as much about her physical growth as they are about her mental growth.  Anyone who has ever questioned her place in this world, or in their family, will find themself cheering for her.






260pp
Published: June 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

 

Theme: Sway by Michael Buble

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just Read Already: Why Huffington Post & Others Continue to Get it Wrong


It's no secret that I love books by and/or about people of color.  If you click on the header of this blog's home page, you'll shuffle through three collections of books based on genre.  Of those 18 books, only two were not written by people of color.  While my blog focuses heavily on books featuring characters of color, it does not solely.  I'm open to reading about all cultures and, hopefully, readers of this blog are too.

African Americans are as much a fabric of this country's history as anyone else.  So it's ironic that on the 4th of July, a day to celebrate America's independence, Huffington Post would release a list of  "50 Books That Every African-American Should Read."  Like bookstores and publishers, they continue to get it wrong.  I don't necessary agree that every book on this list should have made anyone's list, but I strongly disagree that this list should be limited to African Americans.  The result of lists like this is that readers that are not African American can be made to feel as if these books don't apply to them and are specifically for African Americans.  This is the same vibe they get from the segregated sections in bookstores that are labeled "African American Lit."  Sure they can venture into the section, but does that label really encourage them to?

I can honestly say that I've never seen, and I highly doubt that I will see, a list of "50 Books That Every White American Should Read."  You know why? Because that list is simply called "the classics" and everyone in America is expected to read them in their high school or college lit classes, regardless of their race or culture.  Books by and/or about white America are considered the norm.  Why not recognize that some of the books on Huffington Post's list belong on the classics list instead of continuing to segregate through literature?  Actions like this are part of the reason why some in white America grumble about things like Black History Month or the NAACP Awards.  If mainstream America recognized the contribution of African Americans as American contributions and fully integrated black history into the American history taught in schools instead of relegating it to three paragraphs, and recognized achievements of people of color overall, there would be no need for either.  By the same token, don't throw just any old book at me simply because a person of color wrote it.  Some of the books on that list had no reason for being there other than the fact that their author was African American. 

As I read through the comments on Huffington Post, it would seem that most people agree that the title of the list wasn't well thought out, even though its intentions may have been good.  Perhaps the article should have been titled "50 Books by African Americans That Everyone Should Try Reading," because, ultimately, real readers want to read good books regardless of who wrote them.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tis the 4th



Another holiday is upon us.  Enjoy time with your family, good food and good books and I'll see you back here Friday.



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Monday, July 2, 2012

#BookReview: The Next Best Thing - Jennifer Weiner

This is absolutely the cutest book I've read this year.  It's the story of Ruth Saunders and her adorable grandmother, Rae.  Tons of books are written about BFFs that move to Hollywood in search of fame and fortune, rarely are the BFFs grandmother and granddaughter.

Raised by her fashionable and flirtatious grandmother after the death of her parents in a car accident that left her slightly disfigured, Ruthie can't imagine a life without the grandmother who never left her side through multiple surgeries. Long hospital stays gave the two of them plenty of time to watch their favorite show, The Golden Girls. It was only natural that when she began writing as a kid, she inserted herself and Rae in the lives of Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia.

When Ruthie's script, loosely based on her life, is picked for pilot season, she's ecstatic.  But the network and the realities of dealing with actors, agents and attitudes gets to be a little overwhelming.  Along the way she discovers that you can only control what you can control, finds love and learns to let Grandma Rae live a little.

So that's the plot, now let me tell you why I adored this book.  It's essentially Weiner's story of her experience with 2011's State of Georgia.  She created and produced the show that only lasted one season.  And if you watched the show, like I did, you'll recognize the characters from the show in the book.


The lead role was to be played by an overweight, by Hollywood standards, actress.  After the initial pilot, the actress, in this case Raven Symone, lost weight because she no longer wanted to be seen as the overweight, funny friend. Readers will also recognize the Loretta Devine character and I swear I saw a hint of Jackee' in there as well.

Weiner also gives readers a glimpse of writing rooms, and the lack of diversity in them, and the difficulty in casting actors/actresses of color, especially if the role hasn't been written especially for them.  The biggest thing I learned is that what the creators of shows envision is not necessarily what ends up on the screen.  I've not always been there for Jennifer Weiner's books, but in this instance, I felt like I was reading an episode of E! The True Hollywood Story and loved every minute of it.





 400pp
Published: July 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.



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