Book & Movie Reviews

My Favorite Comfort Books to Read to Relieve Anxiety #ReadingIsSelfCare

Since I was a child, reading has been one of my favorite past times. When I read a good book, it sits with me for a long time and becomes a part of who I am. The ideas that I have gleaned from reading certain books have helped color my opinion on topics, like respectability politics, social issues, along with many other topics. Since we don’t have anything else to do during this #QuarantineSeason, I decided to share my favorites books with you all!

Tell me if you have read any of these books in the comments below!

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1. Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples: I remember having to read this book in fifth grade and being so transfixed by Shabanu’s story. Shabanu is a Pakistani girl of about 12 or 13 who lives in the Cholistan desert with her nomadic family. Growing up tending her herd of camels she always knew she’d marry young, but as fate would have it, her betrothal comes muchearlier than she expects. Shabanu is married to a man that is twice her age after a chaotic event takes place when her family visits her actual betrothed. Staple’s book has the type of storyline that sticks with you well beyond you finishing the book. Even though I read the other two books in this series, I would still recommend this book out of the whole series as the one that is most riveting.

2. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling: J.K. Rowling once said that, “no matter how old you get, the world of Harry Potter will always be waiting for you when you return.” As corny as this sounds, it is the truth. I frequently reread this series from beginning to end and always get emotional even though I know what’s going to happen. Regardless, my emotions always slip away from me when I read the 6th book in the series. I love the back story that Rowling gives to why Lord Voldemort is the way he is and why their is a rivalry between Harry’s father and Professor Snape. If I had to only pick one book from the series as my all-time favorite, this would definitely be the one. I never get tired of this book.

3. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss: The thing you’ll quickly learn about me is that I’m a tad sentimental and a sucker for quotable things or things that give some insight into the human experience. I love this book by Dr. Seuss because it makes me feel like I’m not alone in my journey to that great beyond we all call adulthood. This book is usually something that you give to a person who’s graduating or just moving up another level in their life. I love the simplicity in the Dr.’s rhymes and the overall messages in the books. The artwork in this book also lends itself to the unique wackiness that can only be found in a Dr. Seuss book. This book is good for people of all ages and something that never goes out of style.

4. Friday Nights At Honeybee’s by Andrea Smith I picked this book  up on a whim in undergrad at my
university’s bookstore and fell deeply in love with the story during my first reading. The book follows two women as they migrate individually to Harlem in the 1960’s until the point where they meet at Honeybee’s, a home for the Black artistic crowd during this era. The two women, Viola and Forestine are both running from their own personal demons. Viola is a Southern Baptist preacher’s daughter who gets ran out of her small town by her Church family and Forestine is a woman who’s only dream is to become a singer. In Smith’s story, the recreation of Harlem in the 1960’s is beyond believable and the storyline immediately sucked me in.  I’d recommend to all lovers of Harlem and jazz music or to anyone who loves The Color Purple by Alice Walker or the Sugar duology by Bernice McFadden.

5. The Blacker The Berry by Wallace Thurman: We’ve all been born in skin that we don’t always feel comfortable in. To make matters worse, we may often get told, “oh you would be pretty if…” or “honey, why don’t you do x, y, and z to yourself” by some brainwashed individual who has been sold a one dimensional view on what beauty is.

In the case of Emma Lou, the hue of her skin is what keeps her from being considered beautiful by others in her family and race. Born as a dark-skinned African-American in the Harlem Renaissance period, Emma Lou is frequently told to modify her skin tone to fit in with society’s concept of what beauty.

I personally love this book because of the raw emotions that Thurman lets spill onto the pages of the novel. Growing up as a dark-skinned girl myself, I can understand the feelings that Emma Lou has when it comes to life and her struggle to come of age in an era when blacks were not necessarily as accepting of their skin tone as they should have been. Yet, don’t be detoured from reading this novel if your not that into African-American history, it’s a good read for anybody who enjoys coming of age stories as well.

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6. Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree: This particular book falls under my top picks not only because it is a good book, but because of the way it came to me. Tyree’s book was a staple read amongst middle school girls when I was in 6th grade. Flyy Girl was secretly passed back and fourth between us girls like it was the ultimate study guide and each girl in turn would read it and pass it on to the next girl in line. As an adult, this book doesn’t hold nearly as much magic for me, but I still keep it in my list of faves because it reminds me of a much more innocent time. The book itself isn’t exactly child friendly because of certain scenes where the main character partakes in adult “cardio” exercises yet, the novel itself is about the main character, Tracy’s coming of age and learning who she is on her own terms. While I did read this book at a fairly young age, I would caution other young girls to do so under the pretense of being an observer of Tracy’s story opposed to using it as an all out manual for living life in the fast lane. If you love this book, you need to read The Coldest Winter Ever by Sista Souljah.

7. The Spook Who Sat By The Door by Sam Greenlee: Action, racial commentary, fight scenes, wise cracking, and an urban setting are all a part of Greenlee’s masterpiece. I read this book this semester for my seminar on African-American Fiction after growing up hearing my parents discuss it frequently. Greenlee’s novel has a tumultuous back story. Turned down by American publishers and eventually having to go to Britain to publish this book due to its graphic and raw nature, Greenlee’s book was lost in the shuffle of great African-American fiction. This book is a fictional account of Dan Freeman, an ex-CIA African-American operative as he fights to exact guerrilla warfare on his oppressors. The novel takes place in the 60’s and follows Freeman as he seeks to educate a gang of urban teens on having love for themselves and their race. It was eventually turned into a movie and then, banned by the government upon its release. It has only recently been reintroduced into print and DVD (If you want to watch it, also check out the movie on YouTube).This novel is not for the faint of heart or for those who are easily offended by racial slurs. I would recommend it as a serious read or just as a thriller selection for any and everyone.

8. Imaginary Men by Anjali Banerjee: One of my ultimate guilty pleasures is the Indian culture. I truly enjoy reading novels that are based around Indian or Indian American women’s experiences. Here, Banerjee writes about Lina, a woman who loses her fiancee in an accident and works as a matchmaker. On a trip home to India, Lina’s Auntie tries to set her up with some random Indian man at her cousin’s wedding and she panics blurting out to her aunt that she is already engaged. This sends her family into a tizzy and Lina is stuck trying to find a man to fill the spot of her fictional fiancee. Enter in Raja, an Indian prince who hires Lina to find his brother a wife and sparks start to fly from there. Since buying it, I reread this book at least once a year. Even though it’s predictable, I love the mushy romance and the way that Banerjee deals with grieving. If you love chick-lit I’d definitely recommend you read this book.

9. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen: I was a HUGE fan of Sarah Dessen growing up. (Don’t make that face at me…I know, I know 😑). To fill this final spot, I had to delve back into my bookshelf and weigh the pros and cons of each of her novels to decide which book is my top fave of all time. For me, this position would have to go to The Truth About Forever due to it’s ability to draw me in every time I reread it. This novel follows Macy, a girl seeking perfection to hold her life together after her father dies. On a whim, Macy takes a summer job with Wish, a catering company. Here, she befriends Wes, a boy who has also lost a parent and they play an endless game of Questions where each person has to answer the others question truthfully until someone forfeits. Dessen’s books have been called cheesy and repetitive by some however, I find them to be comforting. I especially love the Question Game and can’t wait to play it with some willing person in the future.

What are your favorite books? Tell me in the comments below.

Cheers!

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May Favorites

May was a month of chaos and blessings for me. I graduated from my Master’s program and also had a whopping total of two deaths in my circle of acquaintances/family.Yet, I was still able to acquire new experiences and favorites that will forever stand out when I think of 2013.

Random Life Experience: After graduating, my mother and I departed from Pittsburgh on our way home via airplane. What was supposed to be a routine trip turned into a nightmare and ultimately led to the bizarrest adventure I’ve ever had while traveling…….and that’s saying something since I’ve traveled in foreign countries by myself without knowing a lick of the local language and never had any huge mishaps. Put on standby in Chicago, My mother and I along with two random gentlemen were forced to deplane once we touched down in Branson, Missouri.

You’re probably thinking Branson, Missouri?!?! Where the heck is that?!…Honestly, had I not been forced off a plane in the middle of this destitute city I’d be asking the same thing (no offense to anyone from here). Sadly, I can’t give you geographic specifics due to being in a state of shock at the time of this event, but I can tell you under better circumstances, I would’ve probably enjoyed the peace and quiet of the city and the rustic landscape. However, I can only offer you the general observation that it had houses that looked like the set from Disney’s High School Musical when they showed Troy’s house.

After being deplaned, we were all given instructions to make our OWN way to Tulsa, Oklahoma if we wanted to get a flight home since the Branson Airport had no flights in or out for TWO WHOLE DAYS……..insert seriously pissed face here……When we all found this out, you can only imagine how we felt. At this point, things got really interesting.

Disclaimer: Growing up, my parents often taught my siblings and I the golden rules of interacting with strangers. These rules included a) Never talking to strangers  b) Never eat anything from them and c) NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GET INTO A CAR WITH THEM. Looking at these rules you can only guess how scary and surreal it was for me to actually have to get in the car with two men that I didn’t know (Even though my mom was there with me) and riding for about 3+ hours from Branson to Tulsa. While both the men were gentlemen and we were all united in our anger at the airline, I sort of had a what the flip moment where I had to question my mother’s sanity doing the beginning of this imprmptu road trip.

Thankfully, we made it to Tulsa and got a new flight home the next morning and arrived all in one piece. The most amazing thing out of the whole trip was the fact that we were literally just miles away from where the tornado in Oklahoma hit. The four of us were literally joking about getting hit by some type of storm as we drove through the countryside and watched the sky turn from clear blue to steel gray before our eyes. At this time none of us imagined that there was an actual tornado reeking havoc so you can only imagine how my mother and I felt seeing the aftermath of devastation throughout Oklahoma. All I can say is I am BEYOND grateful that God let us make it home safely.

Favorite Album: As usual, I am tardy to the party and just got my copy of the 2011 masterpiece that is Megalithic Symphony, which is AWOLNATION’s first studio album. Thanks to Amazon having it’s bi-weekly sale on mp3 albums, I was able to get this album for a mere $5. I love the sound of this band. Unlike last month’s favorite album (i.e., Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock And Roll) AWOLNATION’s sound gives off more of a rock vibe than a pop one. This album has minimum screaming and is perfect for us pseudo-rockers who are master’s of the air guitar. Some song’s like “Kill Your Heros” and “Sail” are a bit explicit in the deliverance of their messages, but overall the album is a conglomerate of upbeat non-threatening songs. I would definitely recommend this album to anybody who enjoys a good guitar solo.

Favorite Book: I finally got to crack open Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.  This book is a part of the fantasy genre of young adult fiction. The main aspect of the book deals with time traveling and a long ago foretold prophecy. When I tell you that this book is amazing, I mean that it is literally knock your socks off, laugh out loud ah-maz-ing.This book was so good that I had to scrounge together money to buy the sequel, Sapphire Blue for my Kindle at the crack of dawn just because I didn’t want the feeling of reading this series to end. I plan to post a review of tthese two books soon however, I wanted to share this as my absolute favorite book for May. Gier’s book is brimming with freshness, crazy plot twist, witty humor, and unbelievable characters. It’s a must for all YA lovers.

Personal Challenge: I have recently decided that I need to gain more knowledge about African and African-American Literature (i.e. my chosen area of graduate study). Therefore, I have deemed that this summer I will try my best to read at least one African or African-American themed book a week. To start off my reading, during the last week of May I read the play, A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and watched the 1961 movie adaptation. Also, I was able to finish So Long A Letter by Mariama Ba. I will be posting a movie and play review for Hansberry’s book however, I didn’t have much to say for Ba’s book so I won’t bore you all with a review for that one. If you would like to here my general thought’s for Ba’s book, you can look at my goodread review.

Once again, I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and reading some good books. Please feel free to post your TBR piles in the comment section.

Cheers!

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