Friday, October 28, 2011

'The Litigators' by John Grisham

I’m not sure how he does it… but he does.  John Grisham follows last year’s release of ‘The Confession’ (easily in the top 3 best Grisham books ever) with ‘The Litigators’.  Immediately you get the feeling that this is going to be one of Grisham’s witty ones.  This man has a wonderful sense of humor and added to his natural ability to tell a story, I see why some call him “America’s favorite storyteller”.  Finley & Figg are two lawyers who work, but not extremely hard, to make their living as practitioners of the law.  They bumble their way around chasing ambulances and divorces all while having more in house fighting than any season of ‘The Real World’. 

Enter, due to a rather CRAZY exit, David Zinc.  David is Harvard Law School graduate who makes a nice six figure salary, who is married to a smoking hot woman, but must work long hours in order to pull down said nice six figure salary.  One day he snaps, and snaps in spectacular fashion.  Grisham writes this scene and you seriously can’t help but laugh as you see David becoming best friends with the elevator.  I swear, while I was reading this scene I could hear the laugh of the Joker in the background (Jack Nicholson’s Joker BTW).  David continues his phenomenal downward spiral at a bar and he contemplates the universe and his life… all while drinking enough to alcohol to make Hunter S. sweat.

Obviously the universe shares in John’s sense of humor because of all the places our friend David could end up, he makes his “new person” debut at the offices of Finley & Figg.  Let the legal dysfunction begin!  The main storyline is the law offices of Finley & Figg happen upon news of a drug called Krayoxx.  Rumor has it that this drug is bad and that brings out the mass tort snakes, I mean lawyers, and the dreams of big fast money begin.  On a good day Finley & Figg dance along the ethics line, with the promise of a multi-million dollar settlement they not only dance, they take ethics to dinner and then to the prom!
David gets caught up in this “boutique” of a law firm but manages to keep himself relatively clean.  This book gets better and better and by the time I reached the end I was staying up till 1 AM because I couldn’t decide where to stop.  The climax (in my humble opinion) is the courtroom scene with the Kryoxx lawyers vs. David.  I will NEVER give away the story, but I will use a two word phase to describe it.  Actually Amazon would probably censor it so let me do it like this:  the first word begins with the letter “b” and the second word is “slapped”. 

As with every Grisham novel there is back story and other stories going on.  I would love to meet DeeAnna… heaven help me.  I think I would enjoy a Sunday dinner at Rochelle’s house, but I would run for the hills if I ever got on her bad side.  Finley & Figg… the antics of these two must be read.  Describing them is utterly impossible and I would fail if I tried.  It takes talent to go from serious to (almost) absurd, but Grisham does it with talent and skill that is fun to read.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

'Surrealistic Erotic Dreams' by Frank C. Hauser

This is a gorgeous book with very erotic, very graphic paintings that are… explicitly beautiful.  Every painting in this book has the same feel as the one on the cover.  Sexual, soft, and surreal.  While the woman are the focal point in these painting, if that’s all you see then you’re going to miss out.  This book opens with an introduction by Gerrit Luidinga giving us a little history and background on Frank C. Hauser.  We then get into the art.  This book alternates between close-ups of the art, full pages of the art, and even black & white. 

If you’re looking at this book I’m assuming that you have no problem with art that is EXTREMELY sexual.  But not sexual in a porn way; sexual in pure arousing and pleasing way.  The intimate parts of a woman are on full display to be devoured with your eyes and caressed with your imagination.  As I was looking at these painting I saw a number of different themes.  Futuristic, mythology, horror, sexuality, nature, and a hint of Giger will all willing participants in this collectable coffee table book for artistic intellects who love artistic sexuality.  I can’t say much more other than this book is mouthwatering. 

One thing that surprised me was the ending.  We are given an index of the illustrations.  Up to this point I was of the assumption that all these paintings were done for this book exclusively.  Nope.  This book contains paintings that span from 1997 to 2010 with a total of forty-three pieces of work.  There are more in the book however because, like I alluded to earlier, there are close-ups and some black and whites in here as well. On my book blog I have started a list of ‘Christmas books you need to have for 2011’.  This one will definitely be on it.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MUST HAVE books for Christmas!

One of the many thrills of working in a bookstore is getting to see some REALLY cool books.  Already I have seen a number of books that I want to get myself or someone else for Christmas.  So why not share them?  Unlike my other book reviews or posts, these will be book (for the most part) that I have not read.  These are books that got me so excited when I saw them that I just had to share! 

These are in no order, they're just there.  However... if you're one of those people who must know; the books are in order of when my eyes first saw them.  (There, happy!?)

'The Louvre - All The Paintings'
by: Erich Lessing & Vincent Pomarede

'Dawn of the Bunny Suicides'
by: Andy Riley

'Heart & Soul: The Story of America and African Americans'
by: Kadir Nelson

'SpongeBob's Kitchen Mission' Cookbook
By: (duh) SpongeBob!

'Sinners and Saints'
by Victoria Christopher Murray & Reshonda Tate Billingsley

'Steve Jobs'
by Walter Isaacson

'Surrealistic Erotic Dreams'
by: Frank C. Hauser

'Forgotten Bookmarks'
by Michael Popek

'Goodnight iPad'
by: Ann Droyd

by: Stephen King

'The Best of the Rejection Collection: 293 Cartoons That Were Too Dumb, Too Dark, or Too Naughty for the New Yorker
By: Matthew Diffee

'Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis'
by: David Wills

'Timelines of History'
by: DK Publishing

'Gladiator: The Roman Fighter's (Unofficial) Manual'
by: Philip Matyszak

by: Raphael Mazzucco

'The World According to FaceBook'
by: Wylie Overstreet

'Salvage the Bones'
by: Jesmyn Ward

Thursday, October 6, 2011

'Heart and Soul - The Story of America & African Americans' by Kadir Nelson

With all the “apps” out there, I wish someone would invent a “standing in awe” app.  That way I could just tap and let some computer algorithm explain how I feel.  Books like this one need that because there is no way to convey, in words, how truly magnificent it is.  You know how when you see a perfect sunset and you just watch it because words would cheapen the moment?  That’s the way I feel about this book.

The cover sets the tone for this future classic and… wow.  This story is told through the voice of a woman (Kadir’s grandmother) who has lived through the visit of the first slaves to the election of President Obama.  The narrator transcends time, as does our history.  In the telling of this story, our narrator is very honest.  And not from the “chip on the shoulder” angle either.  Just honest.  One of the first stories that made me go “what?” was hearing why Pap wouldn’t let his family eat black-eyed peas on New Years.

Another point was the picture of the whipping tree.  I’m from South Carolina and we used to visit Charleston all the time.  I hated it then but I miss it now.  Anyway, there was a street in Charleston that was two way.  In the middle of the street there was a large tree.  I remember my mom telling me that slaves used to hang from that tree.  The tree in this book isn’t the same tree, but I got that same weird feeling that I got when I saw this painting.  One of awe, horror, fascination, and sadness. 

Grandmother continues her story and every once in a while, throws in a dash of humor.  Suffice it to say that she wasn’t the only woman who found Dr. King attractive.  :-)  Hearing about our history from Grandmother is a treat, but what REALLY makes this book stand out are Kadir’s paintings.  And not just one or two.  No, we are treated to a painting on every. single.  page.  And since Kadir doesn’t do shoddy work ever, having this much talent in a book is real treat.  It’s almost impossible to pick my favorite painting but if I HAD to, then I would choose the very last.  After reading this book the last picture is the cherry.  What’s scary is; that picture would have the exact same impact even if you haven’t read the book.  Such is the power of Kadir’s paintings.

I’ve already started my “coffee table books for Christmas list” and this one is #3.  Take off the jacket and put this one out as soon as you get it.  As I was going through this book my five year old wanted to know what I was reading.  I showed him, then I showed him a picture of Kadir, then we went through the paintings in the book.  After we were done he looks at me and says, “Dad I want to be a painter”.  Freaking awesome.

As a parent, a bookseller, and a man of color I constantly hear that there aren’t books for “us”.  Well shut up because here you go.  I will also venture to say that this isn’t just a book for “us”.  This country wouldn’t be where it is today without the forced and volunteer help of African-Americans.  While our path may be unique, our history shouldn’t be.  Magnificent work Kadir.


'Scandalicious' by Allison Hobbs

Waiting on an Allison Hobbs book to drop is like waiting on the next iPhone.  You can't wait to get your hands on it so you can play with it.  All day. And all night.  If you just said "you can't play with a book" you have just told me that you have never read Allison Hobbs.  I read Allison because she is one of my favorites.  I also read her because I wonder... what the hell will she come with next?  'Scandalicious' is it.  Solay is the sexy-cute owner of a cupcake boutique called (duh) 'Scandalicious'.  This shop is heavy on the sugar and even heavier on the innuendo.  My kinda place!  She's a single business woman who spends too much time in the kitchen and not enough time in the bedroom.  Not that she would have any fun in there, because her sex life is as empty and barren as class in Black History at David Duke University.

So she borrows a chapter out of the 'Manual for Horny Guys' and pays for it!  As luck would have it, she gets one hell of a dick down plus something else.  Deon, her phallus-for-hire-, is FaceBook perfect.  (You'll have to be friends with Allison to know what I'm talking about).  Out of everyone in this story these two have the hottest and nastiest sex this side of Cornnell Clarke.  Oh y'all know Allison can write some sex scenes so be prepared to lick your fingers after a few of these here.  Lincoln is the married guy; a married guy who is having incredibly bad sex with his wife.  She's boring and wouldn't know her way around a blow job if given a map and GPS.  In his anger he does something really stupid that cause repercussions far beyond what he plans. 

Melanee was just... strange.  This quiet, demure, chaste little thing is living a double life that is just... strange.  Her sexual escapades, nevertheless, were very erotic.  And strange.  The scene after Colden tells her she has pleased Madam... wow.  Easily my favorite sexual escapade in this book.  Vidal was the flamboyant fool who was supposed to be the comedy relief.  But he was short on the comedy and only succeeded on getting on my damn nerves!  Solay let him get away with too much especially since that was HER store!  He needs to exit stage left and quit messing up my damn groove.

I always finish Allison’s books in about two days and this one was no different.  One slight “issue” though… (no spoilers), what was up with the ending?  It caught me by surprise because it was so “un-Allison”.  You tell me.  Anyway, Allison continues her string of hits with this one and I’m sure you (freaks) will enjoy this just like I did.  Now… what I want to know is where can I get some of those cupcakes?  Especially the red velvet ones!  I got some ideas on what I can do with those.  And Vanilla Bean with Hot Pink Butter Cream?  Come on Allison… you’re holding out on us!!


Cherie Johnson's 'GET'S IT'!

Living in Bakersfield, CA I don’t have access to a lot of book conventions, workshops, or festivals.  So when there is one I make it a priority to be there.  In August 2011 I went to the Los Angeles Black Book Expo to meet other book lovers, authors, and publishers.  One of the authors I met there was Cherie Johnson.  She was the actress that played on ‘Punky Brewster’ and ‘Family Matters’.  She has written a book titled ‘Around The World Twice’ and came to our bookstore to promote it.  We started talking and it turns out that she wanted to come to the bookstore to do a signing in the past.  In a Twilight Zone type episode, she told me that she called the bookstore a while back and was discouraged her from signing there.  *Sigh*.  So after I apologized my ASS off, I told her that I would do everything in my power to make it happen.

And we did.

One of the things that impressed me about Cherie from the start (aside from the fact that she was smokin’ hot) was her interaction with her fans.  She spoke to everyone, smiled at everyone, shook hands with everyone, and took pictures with everyone.  Having been in the book business for a while I can tell you that this is not the norm.  I have seen authors come into our store and just sit on their ass and don’t move.  I always say that meeting an author is more personal than meeting an actor because an actor is acting out somebody else’s words.  When you meet an author you are meeting the actual person that wrote the words.  That matters.  Even when I was at the Black Book Expo there were authors that were very standoff-ish.  Cherie was not.  We had a great talk, I gave her one of my t-shirts, and we promised to stay in touch. 

And we did.

And roughly two months later Cherie and her friend, Joy Thomas, walked through the doors of Russo’s Books.  I was in the back getting a few things ready and making sure that Cherie’s ‘Capri Sun’ was nice and cold (sorta inside joke) before I went back out.  Even before I said hello Cherie was already speaking, talking, and joking with the people in my bookstore.  SHE GETS IT!  This isn’t some spoiled celebrity who has bodyguards and an entourage; this is a woman who is genuinely happy to meet people.  I am so tired of dealing with prima donna authors who think they are above it all and that we, the peasant public, must bow down and kiss their feet just because they give themselves some fake title.  I’m SO tired of dealing with authors who take no pride in meeting and schmoozing with their fan base.  The way the publishing world is restructuring itself, there are fewer author signing because they are fewer book sold.  In a strange paradox, the #1 revenue for bookstores is… author signings!  So when an author does get a chance to meet their fans, it’s a good thing for everyone involved.  Provided the customers show up to support the author AND the store.

Cherie COMPLETELY sold out of the books that we had in stock and had to dip into her bag of books she brought with her.  The entire time Cherie was here she was talking, laughing, smiling, (looking cute), signing, walking, and making connections.  That same day we had the ladies of ‘A Woman’s Perspective’ calendar signing as well.  The match couldn’t have been more perfect.  The ladies played off each other like The London Symphony.  Once the customers got their calendar signed they would gravitate toward Cheri and she would charm them even more.  Near the end of the signing she even gave out her info to a woman who wanted to get know more about the writing game.  Now… could an author sitting on their butt do that?  Nope.  Would an author who could care less do that?  Not a chance.

And yes, I know there are those who will have a problem with me calling her an “author” even though she has a book published.  Get over it.  While she IS an author, the point of this blog is to let you know about a writer who GET’S IT.  Because there are sooooooo many who don’t.  Having Cherie here was a pleasure and I sincerely hope we have privilege of hosting her again.  One of the connections Cherie made while she was here was meeting LaMeka Ross.  Ms. Ross will be heading up the next Bakersfield Women Business Conference and I hope Cheri will be able to make it back because she’s positive, she’s successful, she’s fun, and she (you guessed it) GET’S IT! 

Thank you Cherie for a wonderful book signing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

'Dawn Of The Bunny Suicides' by Andy Riley

Suicide really shouldn’t be this funny… yet it is.  Thinking of clever ways to die shouldn’t be entertaining … yet it is.  Andy Riley delivers another morbidly funny book in the dark humor ‘bunny suicides’ series.  One of the best things about these books, and especially this book, are the clever way our furry little friends find to off themselves.  No facial expressions, no blood, no exploding guts; just the classic drawn white bunnies before, during, and after death.

There’s even a James Bond ‘Goldfinger’ reference in here!  How could you not this book?  Creative, amusing, chuckle inducing, and cerebral on a grisly imaginative level.  Gun shy about meeting that new cute, Goth looking chick in your office?  Put this book on your desk and you guys will be burning candles and buying his and hers black leather iPhone cases by Christmas.  Want to get strange looks in your bookstore?  Read this book while walking around asking people for help.  (It’s especially funny when you go up to them in the ‘Religion’ section).


Simply put, this book is classic Andy and a must for every bathroom, coffee table, night table, break room table, and surgical table in the literate world.  Actually the illiterate world would enjoy this book as well since there are no words.  Of course they’ll miss out on the really clever ones… but that’s their fault for not being educated right? OK, I’ll go now.