Wednesday, June 30, 2010
This is the fifth book in the "Nappily" series and I'm still loving it! In this installment Venus and Jake are still going strong in their adopted home of Atlanta. Venus' flower shop is doing well and growing everyday. Jake is stepping back out into the spotlight as "JP" with a new career as an actor. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, if you're a fan of these books, you know that in every one there is an outside challenge to Venus & Jake's relationship and the plot revolves how they deal with it and come out on the other side. This time it is Jake's costar, Sirena Lassiter, a successful music diva whose career he helped to launch back in the day. Jake is devoted to Venus, but Sirena is hoping to rekindle the magic of their youth and will do anything to break up their marriage.
As you know, Venus is no stranger to protecting her family from outside attacks, but now the tabloids and the paparazzi add an interesting twist to the mix. I kinda hope this series goes on forever.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
by Jeannette Walls
By now everyone should have read The Glass Castle, one of the best memoirs I've ever read. It was hugely popular a couple of years ago and still sells quite well. It told the story of Jeannette Walls' childhood being raised by pretty unorthodox parents. After its success, she set out to tell her mother Rose Mary's story. But Rose Mary convinced her that the story of her mother, Walls' grandmother, was way more interesting and book worthy.
And right she was. Lily Casey was born on a horse ranch in West Texas and by the age of six was helping her father to tame wild horses. You know that the story that you are about to embark on is going to be incredible the minute that, at age 15, she leaves home to teach in a frontier town - and gets there (500 miles away) alone and on a pony. Her life takes her from town to town teaching, a short stint as a cleaning woman in Chicago, and running a ranch with her husband in Arizona. Along the way, she has children, learns to drive (this was back when cars were scarce) and to fly a plane.
Walls' has written this as a novel, but all of the situations are true and verifiable. I know that women today feel overwhelmed with all that they have to do and the word multi-tasking is a permanent part of our vocabulary, but reading about Lily and everything she accomplished, largely without running water, electricity or much help at all, is truly inspiring. I would recommend this to adults as well as preteens and teenagers.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Another fiction debut. Lots of good first time novelists this year, don't you think?
Set in modern day Nigeria, this book is about the secrets that Baba Segi's wives are keeping, as the titles suggest. Baba Segi is a well to do man with a 3 wives and 7 children. Iya Segi is his first wife and therefore the head of the household. Iya Tope is his second wife, a shy, fearful woman. Iya Femi is his third wife, who blends into the house but has motives of her own. The introduction of the fourth wife, Bolanle into the family unlocks the secrets kept by the other wives and threatens to destroy the whole family unit.
The story is told mostly through the voices of each of the wives as they lay out how each came to be married to Baba Segi (not necessarily the type of man to draw hoards of women to him). Their stories are interesting and complex, most notably when their choice of polygamy crashes against the more modern practices of the world around him. Loved it.
Sidenote: Lola Shoneyin is the daughter-in-law of Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka
Monday, June 21, 2010
by Helena Andrews
If you've been paying attention for the past few months, you would have heard about conversations, TV shows, books, and even town hall meetings dealing with the subject of single, successful, Black women and their difficulty in finding suitable partners (and somehow how it is their own fault). I have stayed out of these conversations for the most part because although I am single (waaaay too single) and Black (I actually prefer African-American), what I'm decidedly not is successful. Now as a moderately enlightened person, I know that successful is in the eye of the beholder. But for the purpose of this national conversation, successful means educated (possessing one or more university degrees) and making a high 2 figure or 3 figure salary in a career with an upward trajectory and therefore not needing a man to take care of you. I, on the other hand, dropped out of college (ran out of money & motivation - I learn way more from just books) and have no desire to return and I have a JOB not a career. And while I do have 2 nickles to rub together, if I lost one I'd be in trouble.
In this memoir, told in the form of essays, Helena Andrews chronicles her life so far - an only child raised by a lesbian mother between Catalina Island and Compton, graduate of a prestigious East Coast university, successful career in journalism living in our nation's capital. Being a single woman in DC is notoriously difficult because of several things: the transient nature of the population (they come & go every 4-8 years, and it's a company town driven by dreams of power, not very conducive to romance. Andrews relates her dating dilemmas hilariously and doesn't hold anything back. I see Bitch is the New Black as an answer to the above national conversation that seems to blame Black women for our inability to find a "good man". She is putting a real life face to it and shows that there are no cut & dried answers.
My favorite thing about the book though are her friendships with her girlfriends. A lot of their conversations remind me of ones I've had with my friends (but we didn't have Facebook & IM-ing, we did it the old-fashioned way on the phone). Despite our apparent age and lifestyle differences, I could really relate to Andrews and her adventures navigating the adult world of dating and careers. You will find yourself laughing out loud in several places and crying in others. Definitely worth all the hype.
by Ernessa T. Carter
The other day on Twitter, a friend asked my how do I fit in time to read with all of the television that I watch. In an earlier post I talked about doing most of my reading on my commute, which pretty much guarantees me about 10 hours of reading a week. When I get home I am usually watching tv and surfing the 'net (is that term still relevant?). Rarely do I pick up a book at home because the television will always distract me. But last Thursday & Friday, I was so engrossed in 32 Candles, that I have no idea what shows were on. And I missed my self-appointed bedtimes both nights, reluctant to put it down. I read it in two days, it was that good.
Davie is a modern day Celie growing up in a small town in Mississippi. Her looks and station in life have rendered her invisible to those around her and she prefers it that way. Sent to the movies one day while her mother "entertains" a gentleman friend, Davie discovers the movie Sixteen Candles and though she knows that life probably isn't attainable for her, it does help her to dream. In school she is saddled with the nickname, "Monkey Night" and a crush on the richest most popular guy in school, James Farrell. A traumatic event is the last straw and Davie runs away to Los Angeles, where she reinvents herself as a lounge singer. Years go by in her new life and then she bumps into none other than James Farrell himself. Will her Sixteen Candles dream come true or will he still see her as old "Monkey Night".
This is one of the funniest, smartest books I have read in a long time. Ernessa T. Carter, in her first novel, has managed to create an iconic character in Davie who you, of course, find yourself rooting for from start to finish. But don't sleep, though. You may feel sympathetic towards her, but she's got some tricks up her sleeve! Definitely on my favorites list this year.
I do most of my reading on my commute to and from work and because I work in a bookstore there are rules about bringing in books and other items that we sell. If you bring in something you own that is also an item that we sell, someone on the management team has to put a sticker on it to show that it is your personal property. So, to escape that hassle, I tend to read advance reader's copies (ARCs) that don't have bar codes and aren't for resale and therefore don't need to be stickered. Recently I needed to find a book fast to take on the train with me and I found an ARC that I got about a year ago and never picked up. That's how I finally read One Amazing Thing.
Having loved The Mistress of Spices, her first novel (and one that I picked up solely because the cover was beautiful), I knew I would not be disappointed. One Amazing Thing takes place in an Indian passport and visa office in the basement of a building in an unnamed American city (but I'm assuming its San Francisco). The people in the waiting room are from several ethnic and racial backgrounds, age groups and income levels. When an earthquake hits and traps them in the office, the eclectic bunch have to learn to work together and put aside their differences and prejudices. To pass the time while they await rescue, they take turns telling a story from their lives - usually one that has helped to define them.
Because the novel has each character tell their own tale, it sometimes feels like a set of short stories and that makes it a quick read. Divakaruni is able to showcase the humanity of each person while keeping you on the edge of your seat wondering about their survival.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
by Jen Lancaster
If you are wondering why the numbers of these posts sometimes don't appear in order, it's because I read a lot of books long before they are released and I schedule the posts closer to the publication date. So, there you go.
I don't really need to tell you that I loved this book, because I have loved every book she's written and I'm sure that I will love whatever she writes next. So, there you go.
In this one, Lancaster finds that all of her reality tv watching may have left her a little lacking in knowledge of all things cultural. So she sets off to smarten herself up. Her plan is to read classic literature, attend dance performances and the opera, learn about wine pairings (an act that involves dragging along her poor husband), and eating the World (sampling cuisine from different countries). All this has to happen while writing her next book, embarking on a book tour for her current book, moving to a new house when mold threatens to take over the old one, dealing with the illnesses of her pets, and adopting 3 feral kittens. Does that sound funny?
It is. So, there you go.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I have been talking a lot about this book at work because it just excites me. One of the marketing blurbs about it that I read said that it will do for Mexican-Americans what Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (which I LOVED) did for Dominican-Americans. What that means is that there isn't a lot of mainstream fiction that displays the lives of the various ethnic communities in this country. Especially of the non-white ones.
What makes this book special is the author's note at the beginning that explains the childhood incident that provoked Skyhorse to write these stories. It is brilliant and that's all I will say about that.
The Madonnas of Echo Park is a collection of related, intertwined short stories that follow the lives of the Mexican residents of this neighborhood, a community in Los Angeles. Yes, there are day-laborers, maids and bus drivers, but, like the neighborhoods we all live in, their lives and motivations are diverse. The one event that all of this revolves around is the accidental murder of a toddler in front of the local corner store.
The first line sets the tone - We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours.
I'm going to say this word again, Brilliant. Go buy this book right now.
If you are a fan of the Daily Show, then you know who Samantha Bee as one of the hilarious "correspondents" featured. In this book of essays, Bee gives insight into her upbringing in Canada. And from these stories, its easy to see how she came to be a comedian.
My favorite chapter is "man-witch", which finds Bee deep into a crush on Jesus. And not just a regular crush, she saw him as her boyfriend.
"My Jesus was cool. He looked like Kris Kristofferson circa A Star Is Born, only with penetrating blue eyes and a nonthreatening admiration for children that I, as a child, both understood and appreciated. He wore a freshly pressed robe all the time, but you knew He had a great ass and could have pulled off a pair of jeans and worn-out cowboy boots, even if you weren't sure why you would want that."What's the one thing that could complicate a young girl's dating relationship with Jesus? A mother who is Wiccan. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the book as Samantha's mother takes her to a Wiccan wedding ceremony, where she is sure that she will be sacrificed to Satan as a virgin.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Late for his cousin's NYC wedding, and risking possible bodily harm because of it, Galen Steele steals a cab outside of his hotel from Brittany Thrasher. He stops for a moment to admire her beauty and is tempted to get to know her better, but duty calls. Brittany, an etiquette coach, is appalled by his behavior, but manages to make her flight back to Florida.
Circumstances from her past finds Brittany in Phoenix to take care of some business. But it turns out the the rude stranger who stole her cab months ago in New York is standing between her and what she wants. Galen agrees to release to her what she wants if she agrees to live with him as his lover for one week.
LOL! Yes, its an improbable situation, but that's why I love romance novels! Hidden Pleasures is Brenda Jackson's 75th book and this was as wonderful as the first!