Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'm at BEA & You're Not

That was so rude of me, wasn't it?  To make it up to you, I've dedicated a page just to live streaming the conference so you can feel like you're there.  Not sure of what BEA stands for or what it is?  Check out this post, then follow along here or by clicking on the BEA 2013 Live Stream tab at the top of the page. 

That's still not enough?  Okay, the lists of authors I want to see and books I want to nab are pretty short, so if you click on the links below and find author autographs or books that you want, let me know and I'll make every effort to grab them for you.  Limit your requests to no more than two books and one autograph.

Authors at BEA

Books at BEA

I'll try to post on the blog, but I'm not sure how much time I'll have for that.  I'll definitely be live tweeting my time at BEA and in New York, in general, so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@Reads4Pleasure) for updates.

Friday, May 24, 2013

10 Fun Facts About Walter Mosley & His Works

The great one came to town and I was there! This was my first time seeing him in person and I had no idea he was so funny.  He read the first chapter of his latest book, Little Green, entertained questions for about 30 minutes and autographed books.  Along the way, he dropped some interesting tidbits, some of which I've read in other interviews and some I've never heard before.

In addition to finding out about his wicked sense of humor, here's what I learned:

  1. Little Green is his only book about resurrection.
  2. He's working with Anthony Mackie on a film adaptation of The Man in My Basement.
  3. The idea for The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey came from dealing with his mother who was suffering from dementia.  Samuel Jackson is working on a movie version of the book. Ptolemy Grey will not be returning in any form.  
  4. He never uses a typewriter.
  5. His favorite character is Twill from the Leonid McGill series.
  6. The Tempest Tales is inspired by characters from Langston Hughes' Jess B. Semple series.
  7. He only works on one book at a time.
  8. He's working on a musical of Devil in a Blue Dress.
  9. He's working with Laurence Fishburne on a series based on Socrates Fortlaw.
  10. He's been drawing for 45 years and never really shares it with anyone, but will have several pictures displayed in a show in New York June through July.

Interested in hearing more and learning about that wonderful sense of humor I mentioned?  Check out the video below.  It's chock full of more fun facts and interesting tidbits.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

#BookReview: Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I began stalking her publisher back in October when I learned that a new book by Adichie was coming out in May.  Seriously, I checked her publisher's list of available ARCs daily.  Then came the day in February that it was finally available.  I downloaded quickly, started reading it and stopped.  It was good, really good, but I was afraid to read it too quickly because once I was done with it, I knew it would be another three years or so before I got another book from her.  So I read it slowly over three months and savored every word in it.

Adichie's books are long, not in an agonizing, I can't wait for this book to be over way, but in such a way that you almost feel as if you're getting two books for the price of one.  She has a lot to say and a lot to cover and Americanah is no exception.

First there's the complicated relationship with Obinze, the love of her life, who she calls Ceiling because when she was with him, "My eyes were open, but I didn't not see the ceiling."  With him, Ifemelu feels natural, more like herself than when she's with anyone else.  And I feel like Obinze feels the same way about her.  At one point he notes that while his wife takes pleasure in being mistaken for being biracial, Ifemelu takes pleasure in her natural hair. As we follow the course of Obinze and Ifemelu's relationship from Nigeria to England and the U.S., you want to root for them, but at the same time, it's interesting to watch how poorly they fare when separated in comparison to how well they do together.

Adichie also explores how the stress of immigrating to another country can take a toll on a person.  We see it in Ifemelu's Aunt Uju, her cousin Dike, Obinze and in Ifemelu, herself.  Bit by bit, each of them loses a little bit of their soul as they attempt to fit in and find their place in their new countries.  Even Dike, who immigrated as a small child and is more Americanized than Uju and Ifemelu, has difficulty adjusting in the long run.

To me, the most fascinating parts of the book reflect on race in America.  Adichie makes a point that I never really gave any thought.  She talks about how in Nigeria, people don't seem themselves as black because everyone is black.  There is no room for otherization when everyone looks like you.  It wasn't until arriving in America that she became black.

Approaching the discussion of race as a non-American black is eye opening because the history of race in the U.S. and the baggage it brings does not belong to them.  On the flip side, because they do not have that baggage, Ifemelu notes the things they should be offended by, but aren't, because they have no idea why they should be (e.g., watermelon/fried chicken comments, tar baby, strong black woman, etc.). Through Ifemelu's blog, Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes), and her interactions with classmates, friends and acquaintances, Adichie hits on some aha moments and quite a few ouch points.  Highlights include those that are quick to claim Indian heritage and the preference of some men for "exotic" women. Non-American blacks aren't let off the hook either as Ifemelu points out in a blog post about how they sometimes are quick to point out that they're not black, claiming instead their country or island, as in "I'm not black, I'm Jamaican."  Ifemelu notes that they say this because they know black is at the bottom of America's race ladder and they want no parts of it.  If there was a racial draft, blacks would be the Charlie Brown of the bunch.

Adichie places Ifemelu in three relationships (with fellow Nigerian, Obinze; white American, Curt; and black American, Blaine), highlighting the difficulties in intercultural, interracial, interclass relationships.  It would seem that the intercultural differences were the biggest factor to overcome and that plays out in her relationship with Blaine that takes place leading up the election of President Obama.  Again, Ifemelu doesn't have the history and baggage of being black in America. And though she can understand and is excited about the possibility of Obama being elected, and it temporarily reignites their relationship, there's a wedge driven between her and Blaine when she fails to participate in campus rallies leading up to the election; instead seeking out other non-American blacks.  Does Adichie point out these differences to say people of different cultures, races or classes shouldn't mix?  No, but I think she's far most realistic about how difficult it can be to overcome the challenges that come with it.

So, long book, a lot of ground to cover, but it's so worth it.  For those that have read Purple Hibiscus or Half of A Yellow Sun, this is not that.  This is something a little different, but just as eye opening as anything else Adichie has written or spoken about.  Take your time and savor it.

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

Theme: Yori Yori by Bracket

Monday, May 13, 2013

#BookReview: Little Green: An Easy Rawlins Mystery - Walter Mosley

When he went over a cliff in Blonde Faith, most readers thought they'd never seen Easy Rawlins again.  It's been quite awhile since we last heard about Easy, so our fears were founded.  Never fear, six years later, Mosley has brought Easy back to his legion of fans and he's better than ever.

While we may have thought Easy was a goner, his best friend, the quick-tempered and quick thinking Mouse, knew Easy was still alive.  And thanks to the wisdom of Mama Jo, he knew just where to find him.  (Speaking of Mouse, Don Cheadle played the role so well in Devil in a Blue Dress, that I forgot Mouse was supposed to be a "light-skinned and light-eyed" man.)  And now that Easy is somewhat recovered, Mouse has his next case lined up.

Evander "Little Green" Noon has gone missing.  Neither his name nor his family is familiar to Easy, but Mouse is all het up about finding this manchild, so Easy gets up from his sick bed to do just that.  In a side of Los Angeles that we've not seen in previous Easy Rawlins' books, Walter Mosley introduces readers to the hippie culture on the Sunset Strip.  Along with the hippies comes the world of acid droppers and drug dealers, parts of the ever evolving 1960s.  It's a city and culture that Easy doesn't recognize, but brings him to the realization that the world he knows is changing much faster than he thought and he needs to change to keep up with it.

As in past Rawlins' stories, Mosley's black characters are almost always part of the Great Migration.  Most of us know that southern blacks migrated to places like Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis in search of factory jobs between 1910 and 1970, a great number of them migrated to California, with most coming from Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.  As large and sprawling as Los Angeles is, these migrants stayed connected, creating their own unique communities.  Mosley plays upon this and reminds us of it it when Mouse and Easy call upon friends like Mama Jo from Louisiana or Martin Martins from Mississippi to assist them in finding the son of another migrant.

I remember being upset with Walter Mosley when I read Blonde Faith, essentially killing off Easy.  I've read his other books in the meantime, but I've never been as fascinated with characters like Leonid McGill.  And if there was one character other than Easy that I've always wanted him to bring back, it's Socrates Fortlow from Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned.  Though I understood that as an author he might have been bored with the Rawlins character and wanted to work on other characters and pursue other things, I felt like there was still life left in the series.  Apparently Mosley has decided there is too and has already written a follow up to Little Green called Rose Gold.  I'm already anticipating Easy's next adventure.

Published: May 2013
Disclosure: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

Theme: Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson

Friday, May 3, 2013

New York Bound for BEA!

In a few weeks, New York will be overrun with book lovers and I'll be one of them!  Ever since I started blogging, I've wanted to attend BookExpo America.  Their website describes it as, "the #1 event in North American publishing and the ideal place for content creators and consumers to discover new books/titles, meet favorite and new authors, learn about trends shaping the book industry, and network with those have a passion for books and reading." I call it a chance to hang out with my book blogging partner in crime, JNic aka @litfangrl, while we drool over soon to be released books and stalk some of our favorite authors.

There's also a book blogger's conference the first day, so I'm hoping to come back with plenty of new ideas to keep you guys interested and engaged. If you'll be in the New York area and you're interested in attending, but don't want to stay for the whole conference, there's a Power Reader event on June 1 that will allow you access to the convention floor.  I'm planning to take in a few Broadway shows and do a little sightseeing, but if you're going to be around for BEA or live in the area, I'd love to meet you, so please don't hesitate to reach out.

Last, but not least, I've toyed with the idea of providing a monthly newsletter for those that don't have time to read full reviews, but want to know what I've reviewed for the month.  I've also thought about a newsletter that highlights upcoming releases.  I know Goodreads does this by genre, but wondered if my readers might like something along that line that focuses on authors and characters of color.  Fill out the survey below and let me know.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Reader & Her Favorite Librarian...A Love Story

Okay, I was a little extra with that title, but if you've been reading this blog for a few years, you know that I love the library.  St. Louis has an amazing public library system and I actually feel sorry for people that live in places where libraries cut hours and close branches.  We have 17 branches here that are open year-round and seven of them are even open on Sundays.

A few years ago I wrote a post about why I'd never quit the library for ebooks.  Well, the St. Louis library offers the option to download ebooks, audio books and mp3s at home, but I still like to drop by my neighborhood branch and the main library to peruse the shelves and find hidden gems that are easy to overlook when browsing online.  The main library closed two years ago, not because there wasn't enough funding or interest for it.  It closed for a $ 70 million renovation!

With the closure of Central Library, I lost Sterling.  Who is Sterling you ask? He's only my favorite librarian.  In a previous post, I broke down my librarians based on their characteristics, but Sterling is the only one whose name I actually knew.

I'd miss Sterling, the gay librarian, who keeps track of everything I've read in the past 9 years and will not hesitate to say, "Oh no Ms. B, you've already read that! Child, I've saved something else for you to read." I'll admit that sometimes I read so much that I don't remember titles, authors or covers. Without Sterling I'd end up with a stack of already reads.

I'd miss Intense Librarian who always makes a big show of adding up my fines and asking if I'm ready to pay them. No, Ms. Ma'am. I happen to know that I can rack up $ 15 in fines before you cut me off and make me pay. If I was going to pay them right now, I'd have my wallet out, now wouldn't I? And yes, I know how to renew my books online since I requested them online. Yes, I know I could renew them online and save myself fines. Just give me the books already!

I'd miss Sympathetic Librarian who constantly apologizes for the long line at the counter, not knowing where to find the book I'm asking about, and the loud outbursts from the homeless men that hang out at the library.

And I'd even miss Nonchalant Librarian who pretends that he doesn't care what I'm reading, but always asks me about such and such book when I return my latest stack.

Who wouldn't love a cast of characters like that?  When the library closed for renovations, Sterling decided to retire and I've missed him desperately.  Nonchalant Librarian relocated to another branch and I run across him occasionally, but no one could take Sterling's place.  And then today, I was walking into the grocery store and I heard somebody say, "It IS you!"  I turned around and there was Sterling.  I squealed and hollered, "Oh my God! Where have you been? I've missed you!"  The old men sitting in front of the store were looking at us like what in the hell is going on here, but I didn't even care.  I was so happy to see him.  And in true Sterling style, he waved me off and said even though he retired, he has "a little piece of a job" now, and that he ran in the store to tell me how cute I looked in my dress.  Ahhh yes, Sterling...good for book recommendations and making me feel good.  I floated on cloud nine the rest of the afternoon.