Sunday, December 13, 2009

update- lovin' it

wow! i am thoroughly enjoying "the thing around my neck." i don't want to get too far into it now because i'm sure i will review it when i'm done. just wanted to give you an update. more than 1/2 way finished now. one of the pieces was so close to home for me, it forced me to take a break. before that, i was reading non-stop. anyway, i'll keep you posted......

Saturday, December 12, 2009


i am sorry that i have neglected this blog. i do have excuses and i will let you be the judge on whether they are acceptable. the biggest reason is that i have devoted my time to another blog i created. i have four in total and chose to simplify. (just in case you wish to check it out, it is passionista place @ my knowledge of blogging has come so far. seeing this blog almost makes me laugh at loud at how inexperienced i was at the time. anyway, on to my next excuse...

i have not been reading consistently. well, i haven't been reading whole novels. sometimes i reread parts of books or short stories. sometimes, i full myself on interesting blogs. i gave up on the book clubs for now. i guess im not so interested in someone else making the choices. plus, by the time i would get the books, it would be too late to catch up. other times when i got the books in time, the rsvps were closed. too damn complicated! those are my reasons, take it or leave it! (yes, i am being defensive, lol) i have been doing some reading lately so i guess i'll fill you in on what left an impression.

(my future plans include writing novels for young adults so i have been doing plenty of research. of course, i read the idiot's guide to writing for ya. but i have also been reading ya novels to get a feel for it.).

the BEST book was "the perks of being a wallflower"

incredible novel for all age groups. the characters were so human and relatable. the format was original and perfect for telling this story. look forward to more from this author.

another choice was the sisterhood of the traveling pants- i liked it for the most part. ann breshares (sp?) has a great knack for multiple main characters and narrator changes.

then there was "this lullaby" by sarah dessen

she is one of the top authors in the ya genre. i wanted to know why. dessen had feisty characters that i enjoyed (not those typical female mc that seem to be from the 50's). she also succeeded with the plot. i do feel, however, that she was hitting me over the head with the characterization. i wanted to yell out "she's troubled, I GET IT!" but besides that, i don't recall any other issues.

then by whim (i needed something to read while grabbing breakfast alone at a diner) i purchased twilight from a nearby rite aid. i had heard the buzz but never dreamed that i would be interested in that vampire hoopla. and for the first couple of chapters, i was not impressed. but all of a sudden, i was swept away by the edward/bella saga. i thoroughly enjoyed it. it was not horror, it was love. the characters and their conflicts were compelling. the setting was so vivid. i practically shivered while reading about the damp, cloudy town where the cullens camp out. fantastic book. i even saw the movie and plan on reading and watching "new moon."

rite now, i am reading "the thing around my neck" by adiche. you may recall me mentioning her and this book before. the library finally got it in and so far, i am enjoying it. hope you accept my apologies and i hope i am able to post more frequently.

Monday, July 6, 2009

hello all! last week, i went to the movies to see "My Sister's Keeper." it was based on a book that i read years ago and really enjoyed. this is one of many Jodi Piccault best sellers. the story revolves around this average family that is dealing with an abnormal situation. the oldest daughter has leukemia and the second daughter was created to help her sister survive. the designer baby at the age of eleven decides to sue her family for the rights to her own body. back to the movie...Cameron Diaz portrays the mother who is determined to do whatever she has to do to keep her daughter alive. Abigail Breslin plays the spare parts daughter determined to take control of her life. all of the actors did a phenomenal job. it was believable and heart wrenching. i was specifically impressed by cameron diaz's performance. very convincing and forced you to put yourself in her shoes (the title of another diaz film). the problem is the script. im not a screenwriter so i don't know if anyone could do a much better job. but, in the book, the point of view changed from one family member to another in a seamless fashion. it gave you a deeper perspective on all the characters. the movie attempted to do this but was not nearly as successful. this was especially so for the son and the lawyer. the son has a lot of issues and odd behavior in the novel that are never discussed in the film version. in addition to the character depth issue, the main action that demonstrates the most important theme of the book was left out. **spoiler alert** in the novel, after the court case, abigail's character ends up getting into a fatal car accident and her kidney goes to her dying sister in the hospital of course, the sick sister survives. it teaches us that we can't control life...or death, for that matter. however, in the movie, no car accident takes place. the cancerous sister dies of leukemia and the family heals. what a let down...if i had not read the book, i would have been unimpressed by this sad, predictable movie. i'm happy that i have the knowledge that goes beyond the scenes to get to the heart of the matter.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

one book club down...

had my book club meeting happy i can finally say that now. my very first book club meeting milestone. awww!!! anyway, i thought i would write about it immediately before i forgot any more of the details. it was at this italian restaurant that i've been to before. i thought the food ended up getting in the way of the discussion, actually. the woman across from me ordered calamari (the appetizer) and i was kicking myself for not doing the same. i got pasta.

back to the topic at hand...the leader of the group set it up quite well. she also had a worksheet full of questions, middle school style. that helped the flow of conversation when we had an awkward lull. i must say, she was also quite welcoming. just by looking at them, there didn't seem to be much diversity. of course, that's surface stuff. i was very surprised at how vocal i was. many people mistake me for being quiet. they don't know how opinionated and strong willed i can be. anyway, i certainly contributed my two cents even when it didn't seem like the popular or pc things to say. i counteracted points when i saw flaws. overall, i was myself. being the "minority" person at the group, sometimes you try to not be too intimidating or too vocal. don't want to be perceived as the "angry black girl." but, i think i achieved a satisfying balance. i met some pretty interesting people at the book club. interesting people, great discussion...whats not to love. can't wait for the next meeting!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

zadie smith white teeth

i am currently re-reading zadie smith's white teeth. i am remembering why its one of my favorites. i will definitely be back here to thoroughly discuss my thoughts, interpretations, and questions. there are so many other books on my list to read and re-read, im afraid i will run out of time. plus, i have so many other things to do (including managing two other blogs besides this one).
there is the one i mentioned earlier today by adichie.
the road
revolutionary road
things fall apart
finish to kill a mockingbird (i know, i know)
sag harbor
reread song of solomon and many other toni morrison ect.

tomorrow is my first book club meeting about tell no one by Harlan Corben. i hope that it goes well. keep your fingers crossed!

the thing around my neck

okay, so i already raved about chimamanda ngozi adichi in a previous post. you may recall me discussing the short story collection, This Is Not Chick Lit (she contributed the story The Thing Around My Neck). well, the rest of the world is starting to see what i saw apparently. lately, her name is all over the place, specifically, on the pages of elle. Fab-u-lous!

seems she's written a few books before. her new book is her own short story collection with the title of the short story that introduced me to her in the first place. the settings for the twelve stories included are divided between the U.S and her native Nigeria. look forward to tales about assimilation, cultural issues, gender issues and alienation. i, most definitely, can't wait to get my hands on this one...

i did some research on ms. adichi and the results are in...i like her. of course, i am a fan of her work but i also like HER. she's intelligent and feisty. similar to me, she is not crazy about labels. she is also unapologetically opinionated and frank. i love it! plus, she's only thirty-one. many women (and some men) don't exert that type of self awareness until waaaay later in life (oh yeah, she is also a virgo. i get virgos. i am virgo). ms. chimamanda adichi, i will be watching, reading and (im sure) enjoying.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

tell no one book review (harlan coben)

last saturday, i completed my neighborhood book club selection, Tell No One by Harlan Corben. as i mentioned before, the great thing about book clubs is that many times it will lead you to read books you would never have considered. this was certainly the case with Tell No One. it came in (via Barnes and Nobles mail) looking like the books one might buy at the local CVS. never thought of myself as a book snob but i guess i am. learn something new about yourself everyday. the novel is a thriller, mystery, suspense type, not my usual genre but i was pretty open-minded (you know, besides my snobbery).
anyway...overall, i enjoyed the story. it certainly had a compelling beginning. i was worried that i would have trouble getting into, or caring about the plot. i was wrong. never did I find myself skimming through the boring parts. the technology talk didn't go over my head at all. and although it wasn't the best quality of writing, if you kept an open mind, it wasn't mind numbing either. if the purpose of a story is to entertain, harlan corben achieved this goal.

of course, there were major problems (i know you knew it was coming...)
the narrator of the story (David, a doctor who works in an "urban" community helping the less fortunate) claims adamantly that he does not judge. however, he is one of the most judgemental and condescending characters i've come across in a while. what puzzles me? is it the nature of the character (David) or is it the author's actual point of view? i will try to give Mr. Coben the benefit of the doubt but i'm not convinced. (as jay-z said "i don't believe you, you need more people")
almost all of the characters in this novel are stereotypes:

-the asian killer, who appears to have no sympathy or feelings of any kind. preferred weapon of
choice: his bare hands.

-the black drugdealer/ thugs who have no concept of life besides their own "hood mentality." same goes for the hispanic characters.

-the love of David's life, Elizabeth, a white woman who is perfect in every way. she tries to help the downtrodden (aka thugs) even at the risk of her own life.

-the cops, who are of course stupid

-the lawyers, sleazy and money hungry

oddly enough, only the lesbians get a reasonably fair shake (i may be wrong, though).

so, there's that issue...
the other problem is that in order to keep the love of David's life pure and perfect, coben give some weird, afterthought ending to tie up the loose ends (poorly) in the last chapter. *Spoiler Alert* Elizabeth didn't shoot the deadbeat idiot ( no, she's too good for that), the 1st person narrator did. so why didn't he mention that important information in the first 368 pages??

the last complaint ( i promise) concerns the premise of the book (the motivation, if you will). all of the events that happened (mostly bad things) happened because of the death of a guy who sounds like a major a-hole whom we never meet or even hear that much about. some rich jerk's jerkier son was killed. so, for close to a decade, just about everyone who may or may not have had anything to do with it must pay with their lives??

i'm not buying that!

i will keep you updated on what the others thought of the book at my 1st book club meeting next week!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fiction Podcasts/ Indian Country

I've fallen in love with the concept of fiction podcasts. Its very easy to download. I just go to iTunes podcasts and subscribe. Then I listen to the ones from previous months or weeks. I just finished listening to one that was superb. It was a reading of "Indian Country" by Sherman Alexei (sp?) on the PRI: Selected Shorts Podcast. The narrator was the phenomenal John Lithgow (whom I love). Perhaps you remember him from 3rd Rock from the Sun. Anyway, the story was fantastic. Hilarious. Sad. Dramatic. Dry...all at the same time. This, too, is a great tool for learning about new authors. I don't think I've heard of this author but I will certainly change that when I am looking for something new to read.
Other fiction podcasts that I enjoy are The New Yorker fiction and The Moth Series. My favorite fiction podcast so far was the reading by Gary Shteyngart called "The Curiosity of Sisters" on The New Yorker fiction. The story is by Andrea Lee. Also look out for "Two Worlds" on the PRI podcast by Jhumpa Lahiri (thats if u didn't already read it in her new short story collection).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

favorite childhood books

Our earliest experiences with literacy are probably the ones that shape our long term relationships with books. Therefore, I thought I'd share some of the ones that were the most memorable in my childhood.

As a kid, a book series is VERY important. Finally, you find a book that you like and you know that there will be another and hopefully another to follow. So lets start with some of the ones I enjoyed and therefore recommend:

1. There was, of course, the famous "Babysitter's Club Series" by Ann M. Martin. A series that told the stories of 5-8 girls who work at their own babysitting agency. Each book would have a different narrator (except for the bonus books where it switched from chapter to chapter). I grew up with the girls as they experienced genius older sisters, step families, diabetes, death, shyness and diabetes to name a few.Ilearned how an organization/business is run (president, vice president, treasurer). I am sure that many a kids businesses sprung from the BSC example. (1st one I read was "The Phantom" book #2)

2. Can't forget the Sweet Valley Twins/High Series by Francine Pascal. Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefied were twins that couldn't be more different. Each book had them managing their differences while managing popularity or academics. It seemed like the perfect family in the perfect location with the perfect looks (the only thing not so perfect was whatever the conflict was for that book).

3. I also read plenty of "Nancy Drew Mysteries." It was a great introduction into the mystery genre. Although Nancy seemed to be a little too goody-goody for me, the plots were still interesting and well...mysterious. I must have read a thousand of these and even one or two Hardy Boys. (another great gateway into mystery is The Mystery of Snowshoe Mountain).

One of my favorite authors as a child and even as an adult is the fantastic and well known Judy Blume.

For pre-teen girls I recommend:

Blubber, Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great (could so relate), Just As Long As We're Together, and the famous Are You There God, Its Me Margaret

pre teens boys/girls alike

Freckle Juice and all Fudge books including Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Beverly Clearly is another no brainer:

Beezus and Ramona, all Ramona books, The Mouse and the Motorcycle and well...all things Beverly Clearly (fifteen was good, Jean and Johnny...all)

Other books I enjoyed

Sixth Grade Secrets by Lois Sachar

I Know What You Did Last Summer

The Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan

Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones

Daphne's Book

Anastasia Krupnik (and the rest of the A.K books)

Of course, these are just a few. If I think of more, I'll post comments. You should do the same.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

hello again...just wanted to share my love for one of the most interesting but many times forgotten genres of literature and that is the short story. Of course we all have experienced the anthologies filled with short stories (among other works) that we would receive and read all through school and even college. But, I've taken to choosing a short story collection sometimes when I need a break from the novel. A mixed bag of smaller, intense tales worth telling. Sometimes, there is one writer but the ones I enjoy the most are from various authors pulled together under some theme.
My absolute favorite anthology is Gotham Writer's Workshop Fiction Gallery. Gotham's Writer's Workshop is a creative writing school and I suppose that is the reason why this book is GOOD! The book has work from Chekhov, ZZ Packer, Lahiri, Dorothy Parker, Chopin, Danticat and many, many more. A few stories that I truly enjoy and recommend are the following:

1. Going for the Orange Julius by Myla Goldberg (truly funny, abt a fascinating, Pink Cadillac driving grandma and the dating tips she has for her granddaughter at the mall).

2. Crazy Life by Lou Mathews (a street smart/ book smart chola trying to save her boyfriend from livin la vida loca).

3. The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin (a well-written long short story about moral choices).

Another collection of short stories I love is This Is Not Chick Lit. I wasn't as familiar with the authors in this text. Curtis Sittenfeld was a name I recognized and love, so I bought it. Plus, I did judge the book by its cover (which is simply black with the title in big block pink letters, oh the irony). Favorite stories from this collection include The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a second person account of a Nigerian immigrant adjusting to American life while balancing a connection to home. Loves it. Ava Bean by Jennifer S. Davis is hilarious. Also loved The Red Coat by Caitlin Macy. Fantastic characterization.
I could go on and on but I won't. If you want to stick with one author, try Jhumpha Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies and even better Unaccustomed Earth. Of course, you can't go wrong with The Portable Dorothy Parker. I'll talk you to more about those two in future entries. In addition, I'll keep you posted on other great short story collections as I remember and read more. Hope this was helpful!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

So I joined a few book clubs... my first time ever. For so long, I have been trying to set up a book club. It never works. I've now come to accept that my peers are just not readers. Anyhow, I signed up for a neighborhood book club. They have chosen Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. I read it before in college and enjoyed it but now in my old age (30) don't remember much. It will be interesting to hear different people's opinions and experiences with it and other books. I also joined another one that seems to deal with African-American experiences. This one meets in the city. Their choice is The Soloist and another one is by J. California Cooper (can't recall the title). I'll be joining them with their June choice, Miracle at St. Anna's by James McBride. I'll keep you posted as the meetings come up.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The library is just not what it use to be. I remember days in school where instead of going out to play kickball or the other recess activities, I would shrink away to myI favorite place. The library has always been my oasis, filled with books, peace and quiet. Its one of the few places where small talk is not necessary; in fact, its shunned. Or at least, it was....Lately, my trips to the library have been chaotic, uncomfortable. It seems that the quiet requirement is a thing of the past. I find that even the librarians talk in an unusually and unnecessary loud tone. The old people take up all of the tables reading newspapers. There is a huge, disgruntled line for the computers. The entire layout of the library makes it difficult to look for books. Then, there is the caliber of people who now frequent the library. Overall, they seem to be annoying, confused souls who are always in my way. Once, I came across a mentally ill woman cursing out her invisible friends at the top of her healthy lungs. The day before yesterday, I was assaulted with the stench of an old drunk who chose to take a nap in the fiction section. I miss my library, where I could escape my troubles, not add to them. Sorry if this sounds too Mike Rooney...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Eat, Pray, Read-how books guide my spiritual life

Hello to all. This blog is really about my love of books, my relationship
with literature. Ironically, Im not really reading anything right now. I
just came off a real binge and decided to take a breather. However, something that I realized lately is that a lot of my "spirituality" is reinforced
through books. Since I can remember, I have been drawn to fiction and considered non-fiction boring (although i hadn't given it a chance). All of a sudden, I really got into
self-help books and they have really changed my outlook on life. I know people who must go to church to find their inspiration (and sometimes i do go). But, many times I read something inspirational and I am blown away. I feel like (at the moment) life will always be great now that I know this. I am much better at dealing with people, much more accepting of the different attitudes and perceptions they may have. I am a thousand
times more positive and open-minded. I am even more self-reflective than I was before.
And I owe it all (well not all) to reading.
Some books that stand out in my memory as having made a difference in my spiritual outlook...

1. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

my first new agey type book but taught me valuable lessons, esp. the agreement
of don't take anything personally.

2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Im sure this book is not necessarily meant to be a spiritual guide. In fact, I found
it in the business section of Barnes & Noble. However, I felt so inspired by so many
parts of this book. What type of person do you want to be? What legacy do you want
to leave behind? Who and what are most important to you? These are the types of
questions you will have to evaluate when reading this. You will be forced to get your
act together.

3. Eat, Pray, Love

I know that everyone has probably heard of this one by now. Yet I know that
all won't have the same experience I had with it. This book made me think about
my own spirituality. I was able to realize that the way I pray does not have to be like
the way my mother or my husband prays. It retaught me to appreciate the beauty of
the world and those who inhabit it. I remembered to be grateful for what I have no matter
my circumstances.

So my point is that reading is one of the ways that I add to my spirituality. Even through fiction,
I come across characters and situations that I draw lessons and inspiration from. That, to me, is sacred.