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.

Would you rather reviews of the not-so-good books or would you prefer the rainbows and unicorns reviews?

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo and here's why: For those that don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It starts November 1st and ends November 30th. There's a website dedicated to all of the wannabe writers out there who cheer each other on and encourage them to complete their 175-page (50,000 word) novel. I tried it last year. I was hyped about it. And by November 11, I quit. As I said last year, I'm a reader, not a writer. Some people can do both, and do both well. I'm not one of those people.

For all of you that feel the inner author in you struggling to get out, I encourage you to participate. If you're an author trying to complete that book you've been working on for the last ten years, this is for you. In the meantime, I'll be raising the roof in my Snuggie, cheering you on, while reading.

Anyone participating?

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: I stan for all things Peanuts, especially Snoopy. One of the reasons I love this time of the year is the seasonal Charlie Brown shows are starting. Never mind the fact that I own them all on DVD and can watch them at any time (and do). It's all about Snoopy rising up out of the pumpkin patch and scaring the fool out of Linus. Last year someone on Twitter swore up and down that one year the Great Pumpkin actually rose up out of the patch? I've been watching Snoopy do his thing for almost 40 years. Ain't no Great Pumpkin rose up outta no patch! (And yes, it was very necessary to say it just like that, grammatically incorrect and all).

I don't know where you'll be tomorrow at 7 p.m. central, but I'll be parked in front of the TV watching Linus make a fool of himself once again.

 So what is your favorite Peanuts holiday cartoon?

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.

Of the four women, Armaiti, Nishta, Laleh and Kavita, I found Kavita the most interesting and Armaiti the least.  In college, the women were revolutionaries, but as adults, they're far removed from those optimistic, carefree, world-changing days.  As each woman prepares to be reunited with her friends, the reader is given a glimpse into their present-day lives.

Nishta's circumstances changed the most, from an outgoing and outspoken college student to a quiet and obedient wife to a husband who had also changed drastically from his college days.  Laleh used her family's money as a college student to address any and all problems and that didn't change as an adult.  Armaiti, though the focal point of the story and the reason why the women were reuniting, was an extremely uninteresting character.  Kavita was most interesting to me because, in her, Umrigar presents a character unlike others I've read about from this area.  Her lifestyle is not one that's readily talked about in that region, so it was nice to see that subject tackled.

Overall, I didn't feel a connection with any of the women, so it made listening to the book a task, rather than something I enjoyed doing. 

Listening time: 10 hours, 41 minutes
Published: January 2012

Theme: Get Here by Oleta Adams

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.

Now Carl Weber is nowhere near on the same level as James Patterson, but I felt like he made a Patterson move by partnering with another writer who completely changes his writing style.  If you've read Patterson for years, as I have, you've noticed that his recent books are of a lesser quality than his earlier books.  In an effort to churn out as many books as possible, and pocket as many dollars as possible, Patterson simply outlines books and turns them over to lesser authors to flesh out.  I can't say that that's what Weber did for sure, allow a lesser known author to get the come up by using his name, but no.  It was horrible. It was sucktastic.  It should never be done again (except that part 2 to this nonsense is due out, so apparently he is doing it again).

What was so bad about the book? I'm glad you asked.  It started off with the introduction of family members at a meeting called by the parents to announce their retirement from the family business.  Now the reader is lead to believe the business is a fine car dealership.  And it seems feasible.  The youngest daughter, Paris, is rebellious and rough around the edges, but it's something you come to expect from rich kids who are acting out for attention, right?  Third oldest son, Orlando, is all about the business and set to take over when his father steps down.  Oldest brother, Junior, is content with managing the fleet of automobiles and overseeing their transportation.  Oldest daughter, London, used to work in the business, but when she married her attorney husband, Harrison, she backed out and became a stay at home mother.  All of these things are feasible, right?

This is the point when I decided Weber said he was done and turned everything over to Pete, because 44% into this book, the family business flipped from being a car dealership to a heroin ring.  Girl, WHAT?!?!?! I should have just deleted the book from Kinderella right then and there, but nooooo. I kept reading.  I'm sure in their minds, Weber and Pete thought they were creating some Godfather-like saga when, in reality, this was some old crap.  The finishing school Paris had gone to was actually a training camp for assassins, Orlando had a degree in pharmacy, London was an accountant, and her husband, Harrison, was her father's consigliere.

The characters sucked.  The story lines sucked. Everything sucked.  Just...don't read this.  If you've even thought about picking it up, don't do it.  Run, don't walk, away from this garbage.  If Carl Weber wants to enter the world of street lit, he's welcome to do so, but this is where I bid him adieu.

Published: February 2012

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.

I love books that include family trees, especially in instances where the book spans multi-generations. I found myself referring back to it often, trying to keep track of whom the author was speaking about throughout. I’m still not convinced that I kept everyone straight though.

Glow tells the stories of Amelia’s maternal and paternal sides of the family, which includes white, black and Native American ancestors.  The lives of the family members are intertwined.  Their stories are much more interesting than what's happening in the present in the book.  But like I said, the author tries to cover so many people and so many stories, that it's hard to keep them straight.

Tuccelli seems to want to make a connection between Amelia's activism and that of her ancestors, but falls short.  Not enough time is spent tying her back to her history to give readers a sense of how she became the person that she is.  I think time would have been better spent simply writing about the earlier generations and completely removing the Amelia and Ella connections.

Published: March 2012
Disclaimer: Copy received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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."

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.

The story opens with the return of John Warwick to the town in North Carolina where he was formerly known as mulatto. Having lived in South Carolina for some years, where the laws governing who is and is not white are less stringent, John is no longer the same person he was when he left his mother and sister behind in their small community. Now an upstanding, white attorney, he’s returned to Patesville to convince his mother to allow his sister, Rena, to return to Clarence, South Carolina with him, where she might also pass and ascend to a higher racial and social class.

Charles W. Chestnutt
As Rena takes her place in society, she catches the eye of George Tryon, a client of John’s. Caught up in a whirlwind romance with him, Rena can’t help but to wonder if he would still love her if he knew that she was really black. Though John has no problem with passing, it becomes a source of frustration for Rena. She wants to believe that George will love her regardless and is tempted to confess to him, but to do so would out her brother.

It’s been said that Chestnutt based The House on family members. Given his appearance, he would have been a candidate to pass, but chose to identify as black.  He doesn't fault though who choose to pass.  However, it would seem that the message he sends with this story is that while passing for white can indeed move you higher up on the ladder of success, it comes with a price and ultimately it’s up to an individual to determine how much he or she is willing to pay.

Published: 1900

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.
There is a whole lot going on in Ann Hite's The Storycatcher.  Set during the Great Depression, it covers the Sapelo Island area of Georgia to the Black Mountain range of North Carolina.  A brief period of time is also spent in Louisiana.

The story in North Carolina focuses on Faith Dobbins and Shelly Parker.  Faith is the daughter of the local minister, quite possibly the most evil being on the mountain.  Shelly, a maid in the Dobbins house, is also a seer.  Given the gift of sight, she sees and communicates with the dead.  She alone knows that Faith's body has been taken over by someone on the mountain that recently departed and is determined to have her revenge.

Much of the book focuses on North Carolina, but for me, the stories in Sapelo are much more interesting. Ada Lee is a Saltwater Geechee, working in Darien during the week and crossing the marshes on Fridays to spend the weekend on her beloved Sapelo Island.  She would rather be making sweetgrass baskets like her mother and grandmother before her.  Instead, she spends her days cleaning and cooking for white folks on the mainland.  Ada Lee is a seer also and has long been aware of the ghost of Emmaline.  Her Aunt Hattie has warned her to stay away from the haint, but Emmaline has come to set a story straight and there's no denying her.

While this was overall an okay read, the story lines were difficult to keep straight.  Part of this is due to the overwhelming number of characters, which includes quite a few ghosts and haints; the other part is due to the flashing back and forth in time and place.  For the longest time, the stories being told in Georgia and in North Carolina seem to having nothing to do with another, and it's not until the last few chapters that they're tied together and begin to make sense.  Unfortunately, most will lose interest before getting to that point.

Published: September 2013
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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.

We Need New Names opens with Darling and her friends venturing to a nicer part of town to steal guavas.  Once the children of parents that lived in nice houses with food on the table, they've been reduced to being vagabonds.  These are children that have seen more than they really should have at such a young age.  While the others seem to be hopeless, Darling has an aunt in America that she looks forward to visiting.  In her mind, America is the promised land and by going there, she'll once again have decent food and shelter.

Darling's time in Zimbabwe is much more colorful and interesting than her time in America.  It's hard to tell if her sullen moods are because she dislikes the world she found or because she's a typical teenager.  At any rate, America is not the promised land that she thought it was, and she seems to be stuck in limbo, romanticizing her life in Zimbabwe and wishing that she could return to it.

I have no way of knowing if Bulawayo wrote We Need New Names with the idea that people around the world would read it.  It could be that she thought anyone picking up the book would be familiar with the history of Zimbabwe.  And though I was familiar enough to know why Darling and her friend's families had lost their homes and jobs, it would have been helpful for the author to go into just a little detail about it.  The average reader may not have known why that was the case.

Published: May 2013

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.

One would think that after escaping a life threatening situation, Gabby would finally get herself together.  There's no chance of that happening and she's just as conniving in this book as she was in the first.  And just like in the first book, I was left wondering why Maxine and Joy continued to be her friend.

Maxine still walks around living in her own fantasy world.  That can be the only explanation for resuming a dead relationship and going against everyone around her.  Her lack of common sense and her need to always have a man once again prove to be detrimental. 

Of the three friends, Joy has always seemed to have the most going for her.  She messed that up by letting her mother get in her head.  Even with her roadblock to happiness removed, she doesn't have enough sense to get to happy and, instead, seems to find ways to sabotage herself at every turn.

This was a very quick read.  There's nothing deep about it and probably no lessons to be learned, but it was an easy read and just the kind of thing to read when you have a few hours to waste.

Published: January 2013
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from author, opinions are my own.

Theme: Waterfalls by TLC