December 13, 2010

Parents Say the Darndest Things

Twenty-eight year old Justin Halpern was dumped by his girlfriend and decided to move back in with his parents. Sh*t My Dad Says is a memoir about the funny witty sh*t that Justin’s dad says. It will make you laugh out loud from the visuals in your head. It may even remind you of sh*t your parents said while growing up, and still say.

This memoir started off as instant messenger statuses, then a Twitter page that grew into over one million followers. Literary agents started calling. TV producers extended show invites. Reporters asked for interviews. Now it is a published book and a TV series. These facts are not lost on me. If Justin Halpern can do it, I can too. So I’m taking a brief blogging break to write about the Sh*t My Mama Do.

Rating: ♥♥♥

December 10, 2010

Winter Bloom Brings Past Seasons' Secrets

A garden isn’t a garden without the tender love and care of a gardener. The effort and work that a gardener puts into a garden is what makes it beautiful.

Eva discovers a neglected walled garden. She asks the owner, Mrs. Prendergast, also rumored to have murdered her husband, if she can care for it. With the help of others, the garden is brought back to life. This process also helps the individual workers heal from their own problems and soon friendships form.

I’m not a gardener with a green thumb by any means. I look at a plastic flower and it dies. But author Tara Heavey did a wonderful job developing each character and engaging the reader. The cover is misleading, as it gives the idea that it’s a light chick lit read. We all know not to judge a book by its cover though, right? It is actually a story that will draw you in with light suspense as each individual character’s history is revealed. Topics such as the sudden loss of a loved one, abuse, the Holocaust, and unwanted pregnancies are covered in the 369 pages.

There are reader discussion questions and an author Q&A at the very end of the book. I recommend Winter Bloom for a book club selection.

Rating: ♥♥♥

December 8, 2010

One-Two Punch

Imagine Muhammad Ali in the ring. He’s floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee. His one-two punches are quick and on point. He’s on top of this boxing match and it even looks like he’ll win. Now imagine Muhammad Ali is Alex Cross. Nana Mama, Bree and the kids are cheering from the sidelines. But nobody suspects that the opponent is really someone else.

Amongst all of the chaos in the ring, there is a physical ring that demands attention too. Bree and Alex are planning a wedding. Not to mention there is a team of snipers playing hero by killing corrupt public figures. And Kyle Craig is back with a personal vendetta! He never knew exactly how he’d destroy Alex, but the time has finally come. Through every chapter, I had to brace myself. It’s coming! Is this it? Now? Uh oh it’s time! And then…

The murder case took a backseat. I was just anxious to see how Kyle Craig vs. Alex Cross would result. Recent stand-alone Patterson books have been disappointing. Cross Fire somewhat let me down too. I anticipated this moment when Kyle Craig would return and plot to destroy Alex Cross/Cross family. It was like a three-hour fight that you can't stop watching, and then it ends with a single punch in the last two minutes, but not a TKO.

Rating: ♥♥♥♡

Decoded Quote of the Week

"I live a life you can write a book on. Man and I'll tell ya, it'll be a best seller." -- Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter (1998)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

December 5, 2010

Vows, Vendettas & Katz the Detective

Everything seems fine and dandy in Sophie Katz life. Her latest book is a best seller. Her boyfriend Anatoly has basically moved in. And her best friend just announced her engagement. Then in the blink of an eye, Sophie’s world isn’t so peaceful. Her other best friend Dena is shot. In true Sophie fashion, she delves into investigation mode.

As usual, Sophie gets herself into humorous situations. Kyra Davis wrote another entertaining light book with the right amount of seriousness. The story flows, but don’t expect anything deep. Katz fans will shake their head at Sophie’s antics and try to solve the mystery too.

Rating: ♥♥♥

Although this is the fifth in the series, you won’t be lost if you haven’t read the others. However, I always suggest reading books in order. I recommend them all. Here is the complete order below:

♡ Sex, Murder & A Double Latte 
♡ Passion, Betrayal & Killer Highlights
♡ Obsession, Deceit & Really Dark Chocolate
♡ Lust, Loathing & A Little Lip Gloss

December 1, 2010

Digital Portable Reading Devices

I dedicate my 100th blog post to the future of reading. 

I'm contemplating whether I should join the revolution and convert to an eReader. I'm a sucker for a new gadget so the idea of owning an eReader is spellbinding. However, I'm an even bigger sucker for physical books. The comfortable feel of a trade paperback. The official new feel of a hardcover. The act of physically turning pages can never be replaced. After all, an eReader kind of nulls the term "page-turner."

But there are advantages. I like the idea of having access to over 100 classic books conveniently in one place. But will I really read them all? I also like the idea of traveling with multiple books without the extra weight. It makes it easier to read more than one book/magazine at a time.

Through my research, I've narrowed my choices down to three of the most popular types. (Note the Apple iPad is excluded because it's in a league of its own. #TeamApple) Here's what I found:

($139 Wi-Fi; $189 Wi-Fi + 3G; $379 DX)

        • High contrast e-ink screen
        • No glare; readable in bright sunlight
        • Sleek design
        • Weighs less than a paperback
        • Battery life of up to one (1) month
        • Stores up to 3,500 books
        • Seamless page reading
        • Dictionary lookup, notes, & highlight
        • PDF reader with search and annotations
        • Send, carry, & read personal docs
        • Web browser
        • Can read English-language content out loud
        • Book lending coming soon
        • Transfer/play MP3's & podcasts
        • eBooks $9.99 or less
        • Free out-of-copyright books
        • Free book samples before purchase

($249 Wi-Fi; $199 Wi-Fi + 3G)

      • Color touch screen
      • No glare or backlight 
      • Customized font sizes
      • Free book browsing/reading in store
      • Surf the web
      • 8GB of space & expandable memory
      • Offers over 2 million titles
      • Electronic newspapers & magazines
      • Lifetime library
      • 14-day lending from local library
      • Borrow/lend to friends
      • Share passages/quotes on Twitter & Facebook
      • Bookmark, highlight & take notes
      • Most bestsellers & new releases $9.99 or less
      • Sample eBooks for free before purchase
      • "Poor Man's iPad"

$179 Pocket; $229 Touch; $299 Daily Edition
      • Pink ribbon bundle edition
      • 14-22 days battery life
      • Clear touch screen
      • Six (6) adjustable font sizes
      • Access up to 350 books anywhere
      • Carry up to 1,200 books at a time
      • Virtual keyboard, highlight & take notes
      • Two (2) dictionaries & ten (10) translators
      • Transfer titles to both PC and Mac
      • Adobe PDFs, personal docs, blogs, & RSS feeds
      • Play MP3's & audio files
      • Borrow books from local library
      • Daily subscriptions to newspapers
      • Access to Google Books & Sony eReader Store

In conclusion, I am still a fan of old school paper books, but will broaden my reading experience with an eReader. If you are an eReader user, please share your experience with us.

Happy eReading!

November 22, 2010

Is This The End?

“Mama told me one day it was gonna happen, but she never told me when. Is this the end?” An old song from then Puff Daddy, Ginuwine, & Twista comes to mind. Anytime a series begins, we wonder how long it will last, not exactly sure when it will end. Mary B. Morrison started the Soulmates Dissipate series in 2000, and the Honey series in 2007. As you can see below, Darius Jones is the conclusion to both series.

It’s a small world after all. This book brings all of the characters together. Somehow, someway they are all connected. Without providing any spoilers, here is a brief synopsis. Darius Jones is a successful NBA star who constantly updates his Facebook and Twitter, is in love with wife Fancy, and still the target of his son’s mother, Ashlee. Now enters Bambi, the personal assistant of Jada, who also has an ulterior motive. Bambi wants Darius all to herself and will go through any lengths to make it happen. Meanwhile, Jada finds herself fighting for her fiance’s affection because he’s still in love with Honey Thomas. Sound confusing? Well, I highly suggest that you read the previous books in the series, before reading Darius Jones. If not, you will be completely lost. All the drama and backstabbing will go over your head without knowing the history of these characters. Below is a complete list in chronological order:

Soulmates Dissipate Series
1.       Soulmates Dissipate
2.     Never Again Once More
3.     He’s Just a Friend
4.     Somebody’s Gotta Be on Top
5.     Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This
6.     When Somebody Loves You Back
7.     She Ain’t the One
8.     Darius Jones

Honey Diaries Series
1.      Sweeter than Honey
2.     Who’s Loving You
3.     Unconditionally Single
4.     Darius Jones

Mary B. Morrison’s earlier writing was much better. I personally think the series should have ended a few books ago. But I still read this conclusion out of loyalty and curiosity.
It was a tidy ending to both series, but something tells me it really isn’t over.

Rating: ♥♥♥

November 18, 2010

Mini Me

Our fave chick lit character, Becky Brandon nee Bloomwood, is back with a mini me. Her daughter, Minnie, is a perfect example of a Terrible Two’s. She claims everything as “Miiiiiine!” She runs the household, recognizes Starbucks and shops, and is completely out of control. In the middle of Minnie’s christening, a financial crisis breaks out. The Bank of London has gone bust. Chaos ensues, budgets are implemented, cut backs are made. But none of this seems to affect Becky. She finds a way around it all and creates a solution for her personal shopping clients. Meanwhile, she’s also planning a surprise birthday party for husband Luke. Becky? Keep an event hush? Plan a party on a budget? It seems nearly impossible, doesn’t it?

I appreciated Sophie Kinsella’s acknowledgement of a recession and somehow still wrote a story about the biggest shopaholic ever. Fans will like this latest installment.

Rating: ♥♥♥

November 16, 2010

Decoded by Jay-Z

Decoded by Jay-Z releases in stores TODAY.

Last night, he interviewed with the wise Cornel West and Paul Holdenbrager of the New York Public Library. If you missed it, you can watch the 1 hour, 47 minute interview here

Thanks Mr. Carter for sharing your knowledge and explaining hip hop to those who may not understand.

Sincerely Stan,

November 14, 2010

iHeart Giffin

One night can change a whole life. Nick gets an emergency phone call during his anniversary dinner with wife, Tessa. A little boy named Charlie has been rushed to the hospital with burn injuries. As the best pediatric plastic surgeon, Dr. Nick Russo must abandon dinner when duty calls.

Val is a distraught single mom. She struggled with allowing her son Charlie to go to a sleepover. Then an accident happens and changes her whole world.

The two families lives collide. Nick struggles with his feelings. Tessa is confused about the quality of her marriage. Val desperately wants love and a father figure for her son.

Author Emily Giffin tells both sides of the story. You’ll care about the characters after reading and understanding their point of view. Like her previous books, Something Borrowed and Something Blue (which are my all time favorites), I found myself rooting for the mistress. We also get to see the return of a couple of the old characters. The situation that Nick, Val, and Tessa find themselves in can really happen. I heart Giffin for her books that are true to life and about the real matters of the heart when it comes to love.

Rating: ♥♥♥

November 9, 2010

Sweet Valley Returns!

Remember the perfect size 6 blonde twins of California? Yes! Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield of Sweet Valley High are coming back. Author Francine Pascal is giving fans a look into what has happened with the twins 10 years later. People Magazine reports a car crash, kidnapping, and a drug overdose!

Take a sweet trip down memory lane by visiting the official website for updates. Of course I'll keep you posted here as well. Sweet Valley Confidential will be released in April 2011; however, you may pre-order through the Amazon link provided.

In the meantime, enjoy this excerpt of Chapter One.

November 8, 2010

Flapper Much?

Sadie, a young woman from the 1920s, attaches herself to great-niece, Lara. The two are inseparable and determined to find Lara’s lost dragonfly necklace. But there’s only one catch. Sadie is a ghost! She recently passed and lived to be 105 years old. At her funeral, she makes her presence known to Lara insisting that she won’t leave until her necklace is discovered.

This is where a whirlwind adventure begins. Lara stops the funeral claiming her great Aunt was murdered, files a police report, and starts hunting. The scenes are comical. Sadie has a witty sense of humor. Lara is often seen talking to thin air, and later dresses like a lady straight from the Roaring 20s. Flapper much?

I picked this book up over a year ago when it was first released, read the first thirty pages and put it away. It just didn’t hold my interest. I was sure it was good, as all Sophie Kinsella books are, but I just couldn’t get with it until recently. I’m glad I gave it another try. Twenties Girl didn’t keep me glued, but it was a fun interim read with a bittersweet ending.

Literary Marie's Rating: ♥♥♥

November 7, 2010

Blink & Pass

Lombardo's Steak House is famous for its menu, the clientele, and the gruesome murder of a mob lawyer. While reporter Nick Daniels is trying to interview a former baseball star, the mob lawyer's eyes are brutally carved out like a pumpkin's at the next table over. Now Nick Daniels has key evidence in his possession: a recording revealing who ordered the hit. This evidence lands Nick in the middle of a mafia war. 

**insert heavy sigh here** It certainly had the potential for a Sopranos-meets-Patterson project. But Nick's personal life and random side commentary to the readers were taking over the pages. When I pick up a mystery, that's what I want the focus to be. It fell short. I didn't even finish reading. Womp!

Literary Marie's Rating: ♥

November 3, 2010

A Molly Ringwald Ending

Back then, Davidia “Davie” Jones just wanted to be invisible. Her abusive mother was the town whore. Her classmates called her “Monkey Night” because of her dark complexion and natural hair. And her crush on the most popular guy in high school, James Farrell, didn’t even recognize her presence. Davie just wanted a Molly Ringwald Ending like in her fave movie, Sixteen Candles.

Now, Davie is the highlight singer at a California nightclub, still rocking her natural fro and coming into her own beauty. Then James Farrell pops back into her life. Just when Davie thinks she’s finally gotten the Molly Ringwald Ending she’s dreamed about, the past rears its ugly head.

The book is divided into “Then” and “Now” sections. I appreciated the background information and history of the characters. It helps to clearly understand the reasons for their actions. Each of the sub-characters are fully developed, which is rare in a debut novel. The ugly duckling turned swan story will tug at your heartstrings. The constant references to Molly Ringwald and Sixteen Candles engages you, especially if you’re a fan.

Ernessa Carter’s debut surpassed my expectations. I’m pleasantly surprised. There were chapters that had me gripped with emotion and other chapters that had me tickled pink. If you grew up on Molly Ringwald, loved Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles, fantasized about your very own Jake Ryan, watched Color Purple, or just love good fiction…read it! Then see the movie when it releases.

For more information, check out the trailer. 32 Candles has earned a spot in my Fave Books of 2010.

Literary Marie's Rating: ♥♥♥

October 30, 2010

Cross Fire Treat

Good news goblin dolls & gents! 

Wedding bells are ringing. Our fave detective, Alex Cross, is set to marry girlfriend Bree. But the plans are put on hold when a series of political murders hit Washington, D.C. Then he gets a phone call from Kyle Craig. The Mastermind is in D.C. determined to destroy the Cross family once and for all.

Click below to read the first 30 chapters FREE of James Patterson's new book in the Alex Cross series. It hits stores Monday, November 15, 2010. You may pre-order a copy from the link provided above.

Enjoy this Cross Fire treat!

October 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Literary Marie's Tuesday Teaser:

"I do not agree that it is imperative that you 'buy a few little things for the sake of your health.' Nor can I issue you a 'prescription to go shopping.'" 

~ p. 180, Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

October 24, 2010

Good-bye To All That Crap

Raquel Azorian, marketing assistant at a movie and television production company, is trying to get ahead in Hollywood. She’s done everything possible to earn a promotion and the attention of the VP at Belmore Corporation. When least expecting it, Belmore’s golden man has taken a romantic interest in Raquel. Meanwhile, Raquel’s home life is a mess. Her annoying, whining mother has left her father and moved in with Raquel. Her unfaithful brother and cupcake-obsessed sister-in-law aren’t getting along either.

Suddenly, Raquel is targeted and instead of getting the promotion, is subjected to office and Hollywood politics. She’s forced to say good-bye to all that.

I won this book in a Notorious Spinks giveaway. I must admit it was sitting in my TBR pile for a while, but I finally picked it up and read. It took me a few pages to like the main character, Raquel. My first impression was that she’s a workaholic. It was all she cared about. But then she reminded me of myself. She’s a young witty lady moving up in the corporate ladder, not taking crap from anyone in the way. Yet, she manages to maintain a professional image all while juggling family issues. She even has unhealthy eating habits (Diet Cokes and strawberry Pop-Tarts) while my snacks of choice are Pepsi and blueberry waffles.

Margo Candela does a good job referencing Corporate America, its politics, cutthroat ways, and the industry. The story takes place in Los Angeles; the city itself is a character in the book. If you live in the L.A. area, worked as a temp before, or wanted the great Hollywood finish, this will be an okay read.

Literary Marie's Rating: ♥♥♥

October 23, 2010

Quote of the Week

"Someday I hope to write a book where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away." -- Clarence Darrow

October 22, 2010

Faithful To The Hand That Feeds

“Substitute Me. Looking for a nanny who will take care of my six-month-old baby as if he were her own. Five full days a week. No cooking or cleaning required. Must love children and be prepared to show it. References required.”

A thirty-year-old, single, African American woman named Zora returns from Paris and decides to apply to the newspaper ad above. After a thorough interview, she is hired as a nanny for a white married couple (Brad & Kate). 

It isn’t long before Zora takes on the role of a housewife and really becomes a substitute Kate. She does laundry, cleans, and is their very own personal chef. Meanwhile, Brad is planning to invest in his passion and Kate is oblivious to the consequences that her long hours of work cause. Is a job promotion really worth spending so much time away from home?

The chapters alternate between Zora and Kate’s point-of-view. Later on in the novel, Brad narrates two chapters. This style gives readers a closer look at the characters and their thoughts.

This isn’t the normal husband-leaves-wife-for-young-nanny novel. It starts off slow, but eventually takes off running in a new direction. It is layered with topics that really made me think. For example, Kate constantly makes references to Zora’s dreadlocks, thick frame, gap in her teeth, and level of college education. Kate can’t seem to understand why anyone would find her nanny attractive. Frankly, I was offended by some of her comments. Is this how we as African American women are perceived by other races?

Substitute Me is a good selection for book clubs or a leisure weekend read. I suggest discussing it over a cultural dish similar to what Zora might have made. It will make for a great discussion about juggling motherhood and a profession, cultural differences, nannies, marriage, and trust. Lori Tharps did an excellent job building a cliché story and adding her own twist.

Literary Marie's Rating: ♥♥♥

October 16, 2010

Tempted To Find Dmytryk

EJD is back with another crime drama/thriller/suspense. I’m really not sure how to characterize his latest books except to say that I am pleased. With every new release by this traveling author, I get an adrenaline rush. The blood in my veins pumps faster. My neck itches and I start scratching like Tyrone Biggums.  Then Tempted by Trouble hit the shelves and I stopped jonesing. Now my eye twitches from staying up late nights turning the pages until I finished.

Dmytryk grew up in my hometown, Detroit and graduated from Cass Tech. (S/O to my fellow Technicians.) Upon graduating from college, he held a white-collar job for seven years making six figures. Then the recession hit and he was forced to work with people who had GED’s while he was degreed up. Sound familiar? Like most people in the Motor City, he was laid-off from the assembly line. With a wife, mortgage, and bills to maintain, Dmytryk had to risk everything to make ends meet.

His wife, Cora, introduces him to Eddie Coyle, a man that only needs a wheelman. What an easy way to make quick cash for just two minutes of his time. He really isn’t the bank robber, just the getaway man. Small sacrifice to save his marriage, right? But Dmytryk gets in too far; a job goes deadly wrong and Cora disappears.

Of course I miss the old EJD days of him expertly writing in a woman’s voice, but I enjoyed this new dark, sexy male character. Tempted by Trouble is another page-turner with a few unexpected surprises. Its not one of EJD’s best, but the story is relatable to the people we see every day trying to recapture the American dream, at any cost.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the possibility of reading Dmytryk, Driver, and Gideon in one novel.

P.S. I'm tempted to find Dmytryk on this Sweetest Day. Enjoy yours!

Literary Marie's Rating: ♥♥♥♥♡

October 12, 2010

The Particular Strangeness of A Gift

What do your taste buds tell you? Do they reveal the ingredients and seasonings used in a recipe? Do they give you insight to the cook’s secrets? Can you tell whether food tastes extremely good or horrible? Well, a young lady tasted sadness in a slice of lemon cake on her 9th birthday. Ever since then, she’s had the gift and the curse of tasting feelings. That’s right. She can taste the cook’s feelings in whatever dish they prepared.

Her discoveries and perspective of people deeply impact her. I just wish Rose would have used this gift to her advantage. She could have possibly saved lives and offered counseling to those depressed. We also find out that her brother has a special story of his own. The siblings both have trouble embracing their strange gifts. There were so many other avenues the author could’ve taken the characters, but the story went elsewhere.

I’m not usually into reading books about extraordinary powers or magical realism. Because I am new to this genre, there were a couple head scratching, bbm confused face moments. If you aren’t already familiar with or open to this genre, it is not the book for you. I’d also like to mention the strange omission of quotation marks throughout the book. It was hard to decipher actual dialogue from someone’s thoughts. Nevertheless, Aimee Bender’s strange prose is still enchanting and creative.

Literary Marie's Rating: ♥♥♥

October 10, 2010

Getting to Happy: Are We There Yet?

Fifteen years ago, we were introduced to four unforgettable characters: Savannah, Gloria, Bernadine, and Robin. You may have read the book or seen the movie. Let me refresh your memory. (Best believe I had to refresh mine by watching the movie before beginning reading.) 

Savannah Jackson (Whitney Houston) was finally over her married boyfriend, Kenneth, and realized her worth. 

Gloria Matthews (Loretta Devine) had just met her handsome neighbor, Marvin. 

Bernadine Harris (Angela Bassett) was still hurt over her husband John leaving her for his white mistress. How can we forget the infamous burning car scene and her drastic haircut that followed? She also spent a peaceful night with James (Wesley Snipes) in a hotel room. 

Robin Stokes (Lela Rochon) was just getting over Russell and dedicated to raising her unborn daughter as a single mom. 

At the end of Waiting to Exhale, we were all hopeful that these relatable ladies found their way. We hoped that they were on the road to rebuilding a positive life. Now fifteen years later, bestselling author Terry McMillan brings them back and we realize that all four women are still getting to happy.

During numerous interviews, Terry McMillan expressed that she had no intentions on bringing these women back. She didn’t set out to purposely write a sequel. But, here is Getting to Happy. It is more of a follow-up to the movie version of Waiting to Exhale.

Savannah is divorcing a man named Isaac after finding out about his addiction to porn. Now she needs to decide whether marriage is really for her, or if dating the rest of her life is the right choice.

Gloria seems to be the only one happy in a successful marriage with Marvin, until sadness comes knocking at the door. Her son Tarik is now grown with a family of his own and problems to boot.

Bernadine actually pursued a relationship with James and they are now married. But we soon find out whether the life story he told in the hotel room that night was the truth.

And Robin is still Robin, independently raising her mature teenage daughter and searching for Mr. Right.

The Phoenix divas are going through one crisis after another. How much more can these four women take? I thought they exhaled; now they are finding themselves in unhappy times again. I ASSumed the sequel would be about them finally getting what they deserve in life. Almost 400 pages and these chicks still ain’t got to happy yet. What a disappointment! I did learn one lesson though. Why live a navy blue life when it should be lemon yellow? Hmm...

I went to the book signing on my birthday and heard comments from other readers. Their views mirrored my own. So it wasn’t just me. But out of loyalty and fandom, I struggled to finish. I understand that some characters haunt authors, and somehow ease their way back onto pages. But these women should have been left alone at that bonfire. Terry McMillan’s interview with Oprah was better than the sequel. Now that’s a true example of Getting to Happy.

Literary Marie's Rating: ♥♥♡