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Friday, December 13, 2013

Brown Bodies as Props in Modern Lit

With the recent release of 12 Years A Slave and last year's Django Unchained, some in Hollywood have spoken out about their belief that there are too many movies about slavery being made.  Morgan Freeman has been vocal about not seeing it.  Then there's Nick Cannon, a man with the power to create his own television shows (as chairman of TeenNick and with MTV's Wild 'n Out) or movies about blacks who, instead, takes to Twitter to complain:
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

#BookReview: Losing to Win by Michele Grant

I would be hotter than fish grease if what happened to Carissa Wayne happened to me.  Imagine looking your absolute worst and finding yourself on live national television with all of your business put out there for everyone to see.  Even worse, you had no warning that this was going to happen, but your family and friends knew and no one said a mumbling word.  Hotter. Than. Fish. Grease!
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Monday, December 9, 2013

#BookReview: A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

Every item in a vintage shop has a history.  Phoebe loves to imagine how the owner of an item originally looked in it or what inspired her to buy it.  As a buyer for other stores, Phoebe dreamed of opening her own shop and her dreams have just come true.  She's just opened a small shop called Vintage Village and, thanks to a story by a local start up paper, there's been no shortage of customers.
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

#BookReview: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

Two years ago, Amy Tan put out an ebook called Rules for Virgins.  It was only available as an ebook, but at just 43 pages, it was intriguing.  It served as a guide for courtesans, one in particular, on becoming successful and being named one of Shanghai's Top Ten Beauties.  At the time, I commented that I would love to see a novel based on the short.  I didn't realize she was setting the ground work for The Valley of Amazement.
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Monday, December 2, 2013

#BookReview: The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The latest in this series set in Botswana focuses on cases, of course, but even more so on transitioning and growing.  In the previous book, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi juggled multiple cases and finally got a chance to meet the author of their beloved book, The Principles of Private Detection, Clovis Andersen.  This time, detective work takes somewhat of a backseat to real life.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

#BookReview: The Returned by Jason Mott

Given a chance, who wouldn't want a few more minutes with their loved ones?  If a deceased friend or relative showed up on your doorstep, complete as they were prior to death (but not all zombie like), would you welcome them back into your home and life with no questions asked, or would you be skeptical of them?
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Monday, November 25, 2013

#BookReview: Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay

When musician-composer Nicholas first met the beautiful Hazel, he was immediately taken with her looks.  Not the kind of woman he would normally pursue, there is something about the beauty who lights up every room she enters.  She's the mother to his newborn daughter, Jessica, and his biggest cheerleader.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Free for All Friday: All About Idris

How do I love thee, Idris, let me count the ways!  My favorite man to watch do just about anything has been making the rounds promoting his upcoming movie, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.  I'm going to a screening tomorrow night and in anticipation of that, I'm posting a few of his most recent pics out and about.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

#BookReview: Mama's Child by Joan Steinau Lester

Any time you read a book, you bring your own history and experiences along with you.  They shape your perception of what you're reading.  So it wasn't surprising to me that when I looked at other reader's reviews of Mama's Child on Goodreads, the people that loved it versus those that barely tolerated were firmly divided into two camps.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

#BookReview: Marching to Zion by Mary Glickman

In 1916, East St. Louis, Illinois was a hub of activity.  Less sophisticated than St. Louis to its west, it was full of factories and slaughterhouses.  It was also full of immigrants working those factory jobs and blacks recently migrated from the South in search of better jobs than they'd been able to find in places like Mississippi or Alabama.  It's to this city that Mags Preacher arrives in 1916, hoping to make her fortune as a hairdresser.
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Friday, November 15, 2013

#BookReview: Homemade Sin by Mary Kay Andrews

Growing up, Callahan Garrity was closer to her cousin Patty than she was to her own sister.  Slightly older than Callahan, Patty was a free spirit in her younger years.  If you googled hippie, Patty would have shown up in the image results.  Over the years, Patty has given up her carefree ways and become much more serious.  Motherhood and a cheating husband will do that to you.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

#BookReview: To Live and Die in Dixie by Mary Kay Andrews

Callahan Garrity and her motley crew of cleaners are back in book two of Mary Kay Andrews' Callahan Garrity Mystery series.  This time around, Callahan is called on to solve a stolen artifacts case.  And, as usual, Neva Jean and the other mice come along for the ride.
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Monday, November 11, 2013

#BookReview: Disconnected by Jennifer Weiner

In just 38 pages, Jennifer Weiner manages to introduce readers to Shannon Will, a character they will either have sympathy for or despise immediately.  Shannon has been in rehab six times and she's just 28!  Every time she gets out, she swears she's going to get her life together and every time she fails.
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Friday, November 8, 2013

#BookReview: Rude Bitches Make Me Tired: Slightly Profane and Entirely Logical Answers to Modern Etiquette Dilemmas by Celia Rivenbark

Remember the other day when we talked about judging books by their covers and how you decide what to read? When I saw the title of this book, I didn't even care what the topic was, I had to read it.  It's like Celia Rivenbark knew just what I needed.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

#Whatever Wednesday: Judging a Book by Its Cover

Monday night I was browsing publisher’s catalogs, because that’s what book bloggers do for entertainment. As I went through and added books to my “to be read” shelf, I thought about how I pick books and wondered if others use the same methods.
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Monday, November 4, 2013

#BookReview: The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

It's a wonder Sookie Poole hasn't had a nervous breakdown.  With an overbearing mother like Lenore and planning four weddings for her children, consecutively, Sookie is just plum wore out.  She's finally looking forward to spending some time with her husband Earl on a second honeymoon.  Then an envelope is sent to her, changing everything.
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Friday, November 1, 2013

#BookReview: Every Crooked Nanny by Mary Kay Andrews

I can never really get enough of Mary Kay Andrews' books.  There seems to be a year long wait between them and I know we shouldn't rush authors, but there have been times that I wish she could just write a little quicker.  Until recently, I wasn't aware that Andrews also writes under the name Kathy Hogan Trocheck.  Originally released on the Avon imprint, Harper is re-issuing her series based on former Atlanta detective turned private investigator and owner of a cleaning business, Callahan Garrity.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Here's a hodgepodge of things I threw out about three years ago and they're all relevant today.

Reviewing bad books: What's a bad book or a good book is really subjective. I guess instead I should have said reviewing a book that doesn't work for you. I was following a twittersation between two book bloggers recently and one of them said if she reads a book that she doesn't care for, she won't tell her readership about it. Instead she discusses it among her circle of friends. That made me pause and wonder, aren't you doing a disservice to people if you don't at least tell them about it and let them form their own opinion? I know that there are books that I've reviewed here and hated that others loved. By the same token, there have been books that I loved and people questioned my sanity.
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Monday, October 28, 2013

#BookReview: The World We Found - Thrity Umrigar

To say I'm disappointed in this latest novel from Thrity Umrigar would be an exaggeration, but in no way was I as engrossed in this story as I have been with her previous work.  The World We Found centers around four women who were friends in university.  Years later, only two of them are still close.  Yet, when called on by one, all respond.
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Friday, October 25, 2013

#BookReview: The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

The great Zora Neale Hurston once said, "If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it."   For 22 years, Jodi Brett has lived in silence, never addressing her long time partner's indiscretions.  It's easier for her to pretend they've never happened.
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#BookReview: Family Business by Carl Weber & Eric Pete

Look, I have been down with Carl Weber's books since the beginning.  If his last book, The Man in 3B, left a bad taste in my mouth, Family Business scraped the taste buds off my tongue, stepped on them, doused them with sriracha and set them on fire.  It was the most formulaic, predictable, God awful crap I've ever read from him.  It's my fault though.  I didn't do my research on Weber's writing partner.  I'd never read anything from Eric Pete.  Perhaps if I had, I'd have known what to expect, street lit wrapped up in a literary fiction book cover.
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Monday, October 21, 2013

#BookReview: Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Opening with a middle of the night escape from an intolerant town, we first see 11 year old Ella McGhee on a bus from Washington, DC heading to Georgia. A miscommunication leads to a missed connection and Ella finds herself fending off strangers until help arrives in the form of an elderly woman. This is really where the story begins, and though the book blurb leads us to believe Glow is about Ella and her mother, Amelia, it’s really about everyone but them.
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Saturday, October 19, 2013

#ComingAttractions: Books I Can't Wait to Read

Earlier in the year I asked if anyone was interested in a monthly newsletter about upcoming books (kinda like the one Goodreads sends out that rarely has books you actually want to read).  Rather than email a newsletter, I thought it might be easier to just post them here on a random Saturday.  I'm not sure if I'll do these monthly or quarterly.  It'll probably depend on what I see in publisher's catalogs.  I can't wait to read the books below in this last quarter of the year.  Are any of these on your to be read list?  If not, what is?

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
Jung Chang
On Sale Date: October 29, 2013
Summary: "At the age of sixteen, in a nationwide selection for royal consorts, Cixi was chosen as one of the emperor's numerous concubines. When he died in 1861, their five-year-old son succeeded to the throne. Cixi at once launched a palace coup against the regents appointed by her husband and made herself the real ruler of China-behind the throne, literally, with a silk screen separating her from her officials who were all male."

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Alexander McCall Smith
On Sale Date: November 5, 2013
Summary: "Modern ideas get tangled up with traditional ones in the latest intriguing installment in the beloved, best-selling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series."

The Valley of Amazement
Amy Tan
On Sale Date: November 5, 2013
Summary: "A sweeping, evocative epic of two women's intertwined fates and their search for identity, from the lavish parlors of Shanghai courtesans to the fog-shrouded mountains of a remote Chinese village"

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion: A Novel
Fannie Flagg
On Sale Date: November 5, 2013
Summary: "Spanning decades, generations, and America in the 1940s and today, The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion is a fun-loving mystery about an Alabama woman today, and five women who in 1943 worked in a Phillips 66 gas station, during the WWII years."

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Friday, October 18, 2013

#BookReview: The House Behind the Cedars by Charles W. Chestnutt

We’ll probably never know how many blacks become white after the Civil War due to passing. For those unfamiliar with what passing is, it's when a person from one racial group assumes the identity of another racial group, generally because they have a skin tone or features that allow them to do so. Though the subject of passing is later tackled in Nella Larsen’s 1929 Passing and 1948’s Lost Boundaries, Charles W. Chestnutt was one of the first to address it with 1900’s The House Behind the Cedars.
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

#BookReview: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Imagine living what you believe to be the perfect existence only to have it shattered by a letter from your devoted husband. Looking through her attic for something else, Cecilia Fitzpatrick stumbles upon a letter from her husband with her name on it and a note to only open upon his death. Yet her husband is very much alive, and Cecilia just can't help herself.
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Monday, October 14, 2013

#BookReview: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit (Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective) by Octavia Spencer

Earlier this year, I attended BEA and was most excited about Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer's new book aimed at the middle school set. (BEA Day 3: Why Are Those Girls from Brave Dressed as Ninjas?)  Growing up, I loved kid detectives.  Encyclopedia Brown was one of my favorites, as were Trixie Belden and her sidekick Honey Wheeler, and Nancy Drew and crew.  With the introduction of Randi Rhodes, Spencer brings life to the kid detective genre once again.
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Friday, October 11, 2013

#BookReview: The Storycatcher by Ann Hite

I heard tell there was a colored woman's ghost who walked the Ridge.  She was what the old-timers called a storycatcher.  Her job was to set life stories straight, 'cause the Lord only knew how many were all twisted in a knot.  Her story was the big question.  No one knew where she came from.
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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

#BookReview: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

I'm really not sure where to begin with this book.  It's been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, so I don't know what it means that I didn't like it when so many others thought so highly of it.  The writing felt disjointed, as did the timeline.  I've seen some people refer to it as a book of short stories and, perhaps, that's where the disjointed feel comes from. I went into it thinking it was just a novel.
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Monday, October 7, 2013

#BookReview: Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

To the casual observer, Jillian Kane leads a charmed life.  An architect, a mother of two and wife of a police officer, she's also a victim of domestic abuse.  Her husband, Gordon, has been beating her for the smallest infractions for the last nine years and no one else knows.  The neighborhood moms, her co-workers, not even her parents realize that Jillian is Gordon's personal punching bag.
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Friday, October 4, 2013

#BookReview: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson has such a way with words, both written and spoken.  When I met her earlier this summer, the only thing I could say to her after fangirling out was, "I love the way you read!"  I do.  The way Jackson narrates her books really brings her characters to life.  She doesn't spend a lot of time describing her characters, but in the voices she creates for them, you begin to paint a picture of them in your own mind.
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

#BookReview: Where Did We Go Wrong Again by Monica Mathis-Stowe

The ladies of Where Did We Go Wrong are back and they're still a hot mess.  When last we left the ladies, Gabby's husband had just died, Maxine's husband was living in a halfway house after beating her within an inch of her life, and Joy's husband was determined to kill her to keep her away from her ex-boyfriend, who happened to be the father of the twins she was carrying.  All caught up? Good.
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Monday, September 30, 2013

#BookReview: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I really enjoyed this book once I got into it, but I feel like I should warn anyone that plans to listen to the audio version that it can be very confusing.  There are a lot of characters to keep up with and I've found that when that's the case, it's easier to actually read the book so you can refer back to previously read passages to figure out which character is which.  Since I listened to the audio version, I was confused for at least the first hour or so.  After that, it was smooth sailing.
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Friday, September 27, 2013

#BookReview: Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson

"But sometimes I only remember things through records.  They're a trigger for me, they're Pavlov's bell.  Without thinking about the music, I can't remember the experience.  But if I think long enough about a specific album, something else always bubbles up."

That quote right there sums up why I love Questlove and his love of music.  Friends and family make fun of me because no story I ever tell is complete without referring to a song or album that was out at the time. I can remember exactly what I was doing the first time I heard "The Double Dutch Bus" (getting my hair braided by my play mama at day camp), Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick's "The Show" (walking to day camp) or the whole LL Cool J "Bigger & Deffer" tape (riding the bus from a sewage treatment plant on a science camp field trip).  So I can definitely feel where Questlove is coming from.  Music has been such an integral part of his life from the beginning.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

#BookReview: The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden

It was common for slave masters to see their offspring with enslaved women as property and not as their actual children.  So it's no surprise when Sarah, the daughter of house slave Emmeline, is trained to be a personal maid to her sister, the daughter of the master and mistress of the estate.  And when Clarissa is married off later on, Sarah is given to her so that she may continue her role.
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

#BookReview: The Awesome Girl's Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men by Ernessa T. Carter

I have only been waiting on this book for two years.  Actually, a little over two years, but who's counting?  Even as 32 Candles was released, Ernessa T. Carter promised that a new book was coming.  She let us see chapters and everything.  Then life happened and the book was delayed.  Imagine my surprise when I saw someone mention The Awesome Girl's Guide last month.  I squealed with glee knowing that it would just be a matter of time before I'd have a chance to immerse myself in the world of Ernessa and her true to life characters.
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Monday, September 23, 2013

#BookReview: The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

Retired pop diva turned assistant residence hall director Heather Wells has a wedding to plan.  She's got the man, Cooper Cartwright, and the date, September 28, but guess what else Heather has?  Fans of the Heather Wells series know that Heather is famous for being the Brittney Spears of her day.  They also know she's famous for working in the death dorm, also known as Fischer Hall.  As such, you can hazard to guess that there's yet another body standing in the way of what should be Heather's special day.
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Friday, September 20, 2013

#BookReview: Life in Spades by Frances Frost

I'm usually hesitant to read books by authors that approach me through email or social media.  It's not that I don't think they can write, it's that most of the time, they disregard my review request guidelines and try to pitch books that don't appeal to me in the least.  Then along came Frances Frost with her novel Life in Spades.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

#BookReview: Shake Down the Stars by Renee Swindle

Admitting that you have a problem is always the first step, right?  But if you won't admit you have a problem, even to yourself, what are others around you supposed to do?  As Piper Nelson quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, implodes, her family watches and you get the idea that most of them would prefer that she do it in private or at least out of view of the general public.
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Monday, September 16, 2013

#BookReview: Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan

Stella got her groove back and so did Terry!  After the less than stellar novels, The Interruption of Everything and Getting to Happy, it seems that McMillan is finally back on track.  With writing as refreshing as when we first read her words with Mama, it would seem that the cloud that's hung over McMillan's writing has finally lifted.
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Friday, September 13, 2013

#BookReview: Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble by Ann B. Ross

I never thought I'd see the day when I only gave Miss Julia two stars, but Ann B. Ross' latest, Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble, is only deserving of two stars.  While I usually enjoy the books and story lines, this one should not have been written, at least not in the format that it was.
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

#BookReview: Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews

Blogger extraordinaire, Grace Stanton has everything she could ask for.  Her blog, Grace Notes, does so well that it's become not only her full-time business, but also her husband's.  Ben quit his job to manage the site and it's afforded them a fabulous house in a gated community, expensive cars and a closet full of Tory and Kate.  Life is good.  Then Grace catches Ben in the front seat of his car with her assistant, Jamie, and they're doing more than just making small talk.
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Monday, September 9, 2013

#BookReview: What the River Washed Away by Muriel Macleod

The first thing everyone notices about What the River Washed Away is the cover.  I know when I saw it on the shelf at BEA, my first thought was, "Why are they re-issuing The Darkest Child?"  The advance copy of the book noted that this was not the final cover, so I thought, well then they'll change it, because if I noticed it, others will.  And you all did.  I had at least five people ask me on Goodreads if it wasn't the same cover as Delores Phillips' acclaimed novel.  Apparently, the publisher decided to stick with the cover.  It has been almost 10 years since The Darkest Child was published, but they must not know that readers have minds like elephants.  Now that we've cleared that up, let's jump into the book.
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Friday, September 6, 2013

#BookReview: Bootlicker - Steve Piacente

 It's Big Ike Washington's turn.  He's been the go to man for the black communities of South Carolina for the longest.  It's not that Ike has that much power as mayor of small town Kilgo, it's that he has the ear of U.S. Senator Lander McCauley. That, combined with the congressional redistricting of the state, is enough to insure that Ike Washington will be the first black congressman from South Carolina since Reconstruction.
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

#BookReview: Joe Victim by Paul Cleave

Slow Joe, the Verbal Kint of Christchurch, New Zealand, is back.  Readers of last year's book, The Cleaner , will remember how delusional and psychotic Joe was.  After embarking on a four year killing spree, in which no one guesses that Joe is the actual killer, he is finally caught.  Now in prison awaiting trial, Joe is still trying to convince everyone that he's either slow, doesn't remember what happened or both.  And at times, one almost believes him.
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Monday, June 24, 2013

#BookReview: Revenge Wears Prada:The Devil Returns - Lauren Weisberger

Though I'm not sure it was picked as one of the official buzz books at BEA this summer, attendees were certainly buzzing about the return of Andy Sachs and Miranda Priestly.  I'll admit I was buzzing about it too, and before I read it, I thought it would be fun to go back and read the book that started it all, The Devil Wears Prada.
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Monday, June 17, 2013

#BookReview: Crawfish Dreams - Nancy Rawles

I picked up Crawfish Dreams on a recent trip to the local, indie bookstore.  I love exploring their used book section, because you never know what gems you'll find.  And though I didn't think the story was terribly exciting, I loved the recipes interspersed throughout the book.
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Monday, June 10, 2013

#BookReview: Oleander Girl - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

When you've read a really good book by an author, you have high expectations for anything they write after that.  I loved Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Sister of My Heart and Mistress of the Spices and I was sure I'd be just as entertained by her new book.  I wanted to love Oleander Girl so desperately, but (there's always a but, isn't there) the story line was too unbelievable in my opinion.
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Friday, June 7, 2013

BEA Day 3: Why Are Those Girls from Brave Dressed as Ninjas?

I was pretty much over BEA when I left the Javits Center on Thursday.  I'd already shipped a box of books home and had no desire to ship anymore or try to carry them on the plane.  But Octavia Spencer was going to be signing her new book on Friday and I didn't want to miss her, especially after I saw that she'd favorited one of my tweets.
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