Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Reads 2011

Today marks the unofficial start of summer. And with summer comes sand, surf, cookouts and new books to read!

Some of the books I look forward to reading this summer include:

Silver Sparrow: I follow the author, Tayari Jones, on Twitter and this book has received a lot of praise from the lit world. It's about two sisters who don't know about each other because their father's a bigamist.

Money Can't Buy Love: Connie Briscoe is back with her latest one. A woman, who is down on her luck, wins the lottery. But is the grass greener on the other side?

Just Wanna Testify: In my last post, I talked about the awesomeness that is Pearl Cleage. In this latest one, we return to the West End of Atlanta, where Blue Hamilton encounters some supermodels who bring trouble to the neighborhood.

The Kid: This is Sapphire's sequel to Push (Precious for the movie goers). The book follows the journey of Abdul, Precious' son. You may want to read the description at your own risk because there is a spoiler. I'm thinking about writing more about this book closer to when it comes out or after I read it. Also, the book club that I'm in is reading it for the month of July.

If Sons, Then Heirs: One big issue in where I live in South Carolina is heirs property. This book deals with this when a man, who now lives in Philly, has to sell property to take care of his great-grandmother. Problem is, it may not be hers.

No One In The World: Some people are stans (or super fans, for a better definition), of certain authors, singers, etc. Some people are stans for Beyonce. Some are gaga for Gaga (we call them Little Monsters). Some read anything from James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, or Nora Roberts (or J.D. Robb). I am a stan for E. Lynn Harris. I saw the man three times! So his passing two years ago broke my heart. But with the help of RM Johnson, one of his unfinished works will see the light of day.

Some major media outlets are also featuring some summer reads:

NPR (added 5/31/11)

More NPR (added 5/31/11)

NY Daily News (added 5/31/11)

Newsweek (added 5/31/11)

CSM (added 5/31/11)

There are other books that I didn't list that I may read, but this is the ones I know I will at least get this summer. What books do you plan to read during the summer?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oprah's Book Club

Unless you have been living under a rock, the last episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show aired today. And everyone has been discussing her impact on culture. I remember when she came to Charleston after Hugo and did a show at the King Street Palace (now condos). Here she is with the News 2 Crew for a promo (Rob Fowler, the guy with the mustache, is still on the station).

And when they show her face on the jumbotrons at Obama's inauguration, you can only imagine almost 2 million people calling her name at the same time.

But since this is a blog about books, I would like to talk about the impact of Oprah's Book Club. When I was in college, the book club was at its height. So I decided to get on the bandwagon and try to expand my reading choices.

A book that was a big deal when it was selected (at least in South Carolina), was Jewel by Bret Lott. Lott, a professor at the College of Charleston, was inspired on how his mother raised his sister (who has Downs Syndrome). Even thought he hasn't had the success since Oprah's pick, Lott has been able to continue writing, was a editor of a literary magazine, and live on one of the islands with the money he earned from being selected for the book club. And he's a nice guy (met him at the Capital Bookfest).

And if it wasn't for Oprah, I wouldn't have experience the awesomeness that is Pearl Cleage. What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day was another one of Oprah's picks and I have been in love with Pearl since. I've read every fictional book she has come out with (except the latest one because I am waiting for the library to bring it in). One of my friends just finished reading What Looks Like Crazy. When she told me she was reading the book, I told her that I give credit to Oprah for getting me into her. So now I have to get my friend caught up on her (yes Cat, I'm talking about you). ;-)

There are other books I've read from the book club (The Reader, Breath, Eyes, Memory, House of Sand and Fog), but college and life made me loose some interest. I tried again a few years ago with the Sidney Poitier book and Say You're One of Them, but they didn't keep my attention like the older ones did. The book club won't be canceled with the show, but will continue on OWN.

So Oprah, thanks for all you have done for the last 25 years. Much love and success!!

And now a tribute from Jimmy Kimble and Boyz II Men (my favorite group of all time):

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How To Get Out of Your Own Way

Earlier this week I finished Tyrese's book How to Get Out of Your Own Way. I was mulling over whether I should review it for this blog. After some encouragement from one of my fellow bloggers (Thanks Jeanette!) and some interesting tweets that came through about the book, I decided to take write a review.

First off, this is NOT an autobiography. It is promoted as such, but only the first chapter (where he talks about his childhood up to the point of the famous Coca-Cola commercial) is autobiographical. The rest of the book can be classified as self-help and/or advice.

On Twitter, Tyrese claims that he wrote the book by recording it to his iPhone. He then gave it to the ghostwriter so she could type what he said out. There is no way on God's green Earth that it happened like that. The book was too polished, to the point that it did not sound like him while you were reading it. Anyone who follows him on Twitter and has seen him on interviews would figure that out. I hope the ghostwritter got paid a lot of money.

Some of his advice on this book either sucked or didn't make much sense. For example, he was telling people to "wish depression away". He might have meant people who are sad sometimes. But some people can't wish depression away, which is why they seek help with a mental health professional. And the only time he suggests people seek help is when women find out that their man has been on the DL. Some of his dating advice came off confusing, almost to the point that Steve's advice made more sense. His advice and the constant talk of his ex-wife made me wonder how their relationship actually went. His advice on getting people out your life if they are not good for you is fine, but considering how he's supposedly cut off a lot of his family members rubbed me the wrong way.

But not all of his advice was bad. A lot of the motivational items he did have was good, as well as asking people to create a relationship with God. I also liked the advice he gave on the ways how to improve yourself, how not to self-sabotage and seek out mentors (his is Will Smith). Another thing I did like about the book was the tips he gave to motivate people how to get up and move into the direction they want their life to go. He was able to use personal experiences throughout the book to address his points.

To me this book was OK. It's not the best advice book I read, but it's not the worst either. If you want to read the book, please don't let my review stop you from doing so.

Monday, May 16, 2011

True You

As some of you may know, today is Janet Jackson's birthday. And in honor of her, I'm reviewing her book, True You.

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do (besides reading) was watch videos. And she was one of the artists I loved watching. One of my favorite videos (and songs) from her is Pleasure Principle and I still wonder to this day how she jumped off that platform. I also loved playing her music (to the point that the Rhythm Nation tape popped) and got to a chance to see her during the Velvet Rope tour.

As we know, the last few years have been tough on Saint Damita Jo. Nipplegate, albums not selling as well, and loosing Michael. It would be enough to make anyone scream.

But she also taken this time to go back in the acting business and be in a few movies (with the help of Madea, I mean Tyler). And with David Ritz, she has wrote a best-selling book.

True You is part biography, part advice book in which Janet shares her personal struggles with weight and self-esteem. She also discusses her family life and what it's like to be a Jackson. She gives advise to readers and fans, and tells that that it is OK being your True You. And that everything is going to be alright.

For someone who has struggled with self-esteem, some of moments were very touching and left me in tears. Not only she draws from her own experiences, but experiences from friends and from fans who have wrote her letters. Some of their experiences are heartbreaking, but their examples serve as an inspiration to go forward with life.

At the end, she also gives advice from her trainer and has her favorite recipes for readers to try.

I also enjoyed the pictures in the book of her and her family. The one that touched my heart the most was a picture of her and Michael. Janet had to have been in her tween years because she looked like when she did on Good Times. She looks up to Michael, who was tall and had a huge Afro. #tears She also talks about the good times she and her brother had.

If you haven't picked up this book, please do. The book is not that long, but it is well worth the read. You will want this in your collection.

Here is another one of my favorite songs from Janet. It's not one of her most famous hits (it's with Herb Alpert), but I remember this and the girl who used to imitate her on Putting on the Hits (it was an 80s karaoke/lip syncing show where people impersonated their favorite singers).

Happy Birthday Janet!!

P.S. For her birthday, Janet is asking fans to donate to amfAR in her honor.

P.P.S. And if you haven't noticed, some of the words in this post are linked to Janet videos on YouTube.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Events that I missed...and may miss

Almost two weeks ago, Steve Harvey was in Charleston with Kirk Franklin. Even thought I do listen to his radio show, I did not have any plans to go. I've already seen three concerts this year (Prince, Kem and Lauryn Hill) and going to at least another one this summer (Sade).

I was heading to Myrtle Beach for work when I read in our local newspaper that Steve was going to be signing books at the Waldenbooks at Charleston Place, scheduled the day before the concert/comedy show (the signing was on a Friday, at 6 p.m.). I was just finding out on Thursday.

This Waldenbooks is probably smaller than others AND it is in the middle of downtown Charleston, right in the heart of the tourist area. Also, it was on a Friday evening I knew I was going to be back by then, but I also had an event with the sorority.

I made a personal decision not to attend. I didn't want to deal with downtown traffic, tourists, paying for parking and being squeezed up in a small bookstore just to see him. And the last minute promotion ticked me off. I also think that he stayed at Charleston Place (it's a hotel with stores) and wanted to kill two birds with one stone. I attend my sorority's event and had a blast.

Right now, I am still (kind of) debating on whether I should drive up to Columbia for the annual South Carolina Book Festival. Everyone knows that gas is high. But the author list is not impressing me. I wouldn't mind seeing Martha Southgate, but was very sad to see that L.A. Banks wasn't coming again.

So readers, should I go to this event? I'm am leaning towards no, but I am open to suggestions.

ETA 5/15/11: I decided not to go to SC Book Festival this year. Besides the lack of diversity in this year's roster, I discovered yesterday that a gallon of milk is higher than a gallon of gas. I decided to take the money I saved and invest in a cow. I'm kidding. I just left Columbia for graduation and would have to turn around and come back for this, with nothing much for me to see. So I stayed home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Daddy By Default

So now that graduate school and graduation is over (now I am The Reading Diva, MLIS), I actually have time to sit down and read books that don't contain anything about library science. I got a chance to read and finish Daddy By Default by Pat Tucker.

Parker and his wife Roxanne just suffered another miscarriage. After leaving the hospital, Parker gets pulled over by the cops, only to be arrested for unpaid child support. Problem is, he doesn't have any kids.

Parker's best friend James is going through a difficult divorce from Serena, the wife from hell. In the middle of this is their young daughter, Semaj. Things go from bad to worst when James finds out he's not Semaj's father.

And there's LaChez. She's probably never worked a day of her life. Instead she pimps her children's fathers and the government to get money. She gets wrapped up in a fake child support scheme that may cost her her freedom.

I give props that this book was a quick and interesting read. I did like that all of the stories were eventually linked and the end was a little surprising. I found myself rooting for the men in this story, because they were suckered or forced into situations they weren't suppose to be in. The women pretty much ticked me off, especially LaChez. I couldn't believe the actions of Roxanne through most of the book. What happened to standing by your man? And trifling is beyond what LaChez was. And I don't blame her son for trying to get some of her money.

My only true problem with the book is that some facts were changed throughout the book. One (very) minor character's age went from 11 to 9. In one part of the book, LaChez went out to get some weave for a party. Then towards the end of the book, she became white. Huh? I know that white people do get weave (or extensions), but most of the book, I was imagining this character being black. Since it was so close to the end, I kept her black in my mind. And there were some loose ends hanging in the end of the book.

This book does serve as a cautionary tale of the child support and welfare systems. If you find yourself if a middle of a paternity/child support case, do what you have to do, even if the child may not be yours.

I am going to take a page of out Read For Pleasure's book and end this post with a song. I heard this on the radio yesterday and thought this would be a good way to end this post. I could have used some other songs, but with the tone of the book, I think that the King of Pop's cautionary tale was the most appropriate.