Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mini Reviews: 32 Candles, Devil in a Blue Dress, (Off Color) Moonshine

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter 2010
Harper Collins

IQ [Chloe] "'Are you crazy?'
[Davie] 'Yes, I said.' 'Yes I am. That's pretty much been proven already. But I think you're a little off, too, which is why I cannot watch you kill another relationship with kindness.' I semi-quoted from a book I had once read about supposedly kind people in a supposedly kind relationship who still ended up crashing and burning into a love wreck. 'Killing with kindness is still murder.'" pg. 265

32 Candles is one of my favorite books of the year. Everyone should read it (the hardcover is SO worth the money). I don't know what else to say. Can I just leave it at that? I wish I could list 32 reasons you should read 32 Candles but I'm not that creative. The list would end up simply saying 'read it' 32x. Instead I'll do 16 reasons

1. Davie is one of the most unforgettable heroines ever. She's funny, crazy, a bit vindictive and vulnerable. I was so proud of her (you can tell I'm really losing it when I'm proud of a book character, heehee) when she reinvented herself. Screw the dorky kids from her high school days.

2. Davie loves 16 Candles. Really she likes all John Hughes films. Even though they don't have any black people in them. I completely understand :)

3. James! He is an excellent leading man/crush whatever you want to call him. He has a few jerk moments but for the most part he is justified (except in not recognizing Davie. I understand it but I was mad at him for awhile). And he understands Davie so well. *happy sigh*

4. Did I mention Davie is crazy? You read up till the middle of the book and everything is going swimmingly (for the most part). Then all hell breaks loose. It's great. It will make your head spin and it will make your heart hurt because Davie has clearly lost it a little bit.

5. All the secondary characters are awesome. Especially Mama Jane. her presence can be felt at key moments in the story even though she doesn't have that many appearances.

6. Nicky is also a wonderful character. Gotta love the tough guy who refuses to part with his money. And who is willing to fire you over stupid stuff. A golden friend

7. It gives a pretty good glimpse of life in LA for those who are struggling to become famous. well I don't know how true it is, but it seemed authentic to me. (I loved the part about the self-help coach. If you've read the book you know what I'm talking about)

8. Life in Mississippi. My mother is from the South so I'm familiar with a lot of the expressions/ways of life but I obviously don't know everything about life in the South and this was both sad and enjoyable to read about.

9. This quote (goes with #8): "You see, in the South, football is like the army. You don't question orders, you just do whatever the coach tells you to. So James refusing to sit down was a big deal. Unheard of. Like a black child suddenly saying in an English accent to its mama, 'No, madam, I will not retrieve a switch so that you may beat me with it. I believe your request to be not only abusive, but absurd.' And say that did happen. Of course country logic would say that the mama must now beat her child even worse than she first intended, so that they would never have to have that kind of conversation again." pg.45 (LOL at the child trying to get out of a beating! As if that would ever work. I still giggle when I see that line)

10. All the nightclub scenes. I have a love/hate relationship with the '20s-'40s. I LOVE the music from that time period and Davie sings it all. I want to go to Nicky's nightclub.

11. Even the villains of the story become human. Maybe not really nice humans, but they aren't just evil through and through. I'm mainly thinking of a certain character who gets in a fight and messes up his/her nose. I wanted to slap him/her 98% of the time and then the author had to go and give him/her a 2% decent storyline.

12. Cora is Davie's mother and she is horrible. Well sort of.

13. It's blurbed by Carleen Brice. Listen to Carleen. She is an amazing writer herself so her word is bond ;)

14. Davie is dark skinned and most of the popular kids at her school are light skinned. Yes we have to keep talking about the world's fixation with light skin. In this book it's discussed seriously but with a hint of humor (and sadness).

15. The ending scene is SO PERFECT. I had a goofy grin on my face when I read it

16. When you see this book in a store, it's an Invitation to Crazy. If you know what's good for you, you will accept. After all, it'd be terribly rude not to.

I CAN NOT wait to see what Ernessa T. Carter writes next =)

Disclosure: Won from the amazing Jeanette at Today's Book On the Train. Thank you so much Jeanette!

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley 1990
Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster

IQ "'Easy, walk out your door in the morning and you're mixed up in something. The only thing you can really worry about is if you get mixed up to the top or not. '" Mr. Albright pg. 19

I finished this book feeling dazed. Not confused, but dazed. I knew the basics of what was going on, but I never could guess who did what and why they did it. There isn't a lot going on this novel, but everyone spins lies with ease (heehee, sorry). It doesn't help that Easy is a flawed main character and while I love him for it, it does make the narrative a bit frustrating. He gets distracted by liquor and women a few times. I really liked Easy because of how reacted to some dangerous situations he got himself in. He was afraid. Sometimes I like the constantly-brave-main-character, but more often than not, I like the genuine character who shows a little fear. Easy is also very clever. He knows a lot more than he lets on and can read people extremely well. In addition to Easy, Mouse also stands out. Mouse is crazy and he's scary. I'm not sure I completely understand why they're friends, but I'm not sure Easy understands it either. I liked that the author through Easy explains the basic story of each person Easy comes into contact with. It does interrupt the flow of the story at times, but it's helpful.

Besides the deceptively simple plot (that turns into a great big mess over a few days), and the wonderful main character, the setting really makes this book stand out. I don't read many mysteries (this is the third one I've ever read) but I think what makes Easy Rawlins such an interesting detective of sorts is that he has a lot of extra crap to deal with. Sure it's hard for a woman during the 1950s (I think that's when this book is set, it's post WWII) to be a detective but it's even harder for a Black man. The police won't work with Easy, they are too busy trying to pin him to various murders or coming up with any excuse they can think of to get him arrested and eventually killed. It's infuriating to read about the racism Easy has to face at the hands of the police. He has to deal with it from other people, but you would at least expect the police to try and protect ALL its citizens. There's a great quote about racism in the book, "[i]t was the worst kind of racism. The fact that he didn't even recognize our difference showed that he didn't care one damn about me." (pg. 119)Like many people, I both enjoy reading about post-World War II society (the music, the dancing, the fashion) and dislike reading about it (the racism, sexism). Regardless, the author's writing is excellent, there's a good attention to detail about life in California in the 1950s. The characters are chilling and authentic, the setting is fantastic and the mystery (made my head spin, but I might be a bit slow when it comes to mysteries) is well thought out. I look forward to reading the next book in the series ( I think it's A Red Death). After you finish the book you MUST watch the movie. Don Cheadle as Mouse is one of his greatest parts. He made the character come more alive for me. Although the plot and ending changed significantly from that of the film. So maybe watch the film first.

Disclosure: We own the book (I didn't know we owned it so I bought my own company. Then I found my mother's old copy and promptly returned my new one.) The move was free On Demand ;)

Moonshine by Alaya Johnson 2010
St. Martin's Press

IQ "For all her faults, Lily was an excellent reporter. She observed, instead of just grafting her own expectations onto events. She dug beneath the surface. Enough of that, and no matter what sort of drivel she'd been raised with, she would understand the living nightmare that gripped so many people in this city. It was happening already. In some ways, I felt sorry for her. It was hard knowledge to live with, and even harder to experience every day." Zephyr pg. 207

Zephyr Hollis is known as the "singing vampire suffragette." She is dedicated to helping all those in need, even if it means giving away all her money. Zephyr soon realizes that she needs money in order to maintain a decent lifestyle of living (meals, clothes, a roof over her head) and still help people. The rent is almost due and with no money to her name, Zephyr accepts a proposal from Amir. He was a student in her class for one day (she teaches night school to immigrants and Others). He wants her to use her job as a social activist to bring down a notorious vampire mob boss (Rinaldo). Zephyr goes undercover, tutoring a member a child member of Rinaldo's gang, attending parties thrown by New York's most elite. She also has a side project of trying to learn more about a new street drug for vampires, called Faust. It gives vampires an euphoric high that is blood based and it doesn't last long. To top it all off, Zephyr must defy some social norms, and try to learn more about the mysterious Amir and the world of Others (paranormal creatures, consisting of djinns, vampires, skinwalkers, etc.)

First of all, this cover is awesome. The blood red lipstick and two neck bites contrasted with the pale skin give the book a very dark and appealing cover. That's what really drew me in at first. To top it all off, the book is set during the Prohibition Era. Zephyr is going to speakeasies, listening to jazz, promoting the equal rights of immigrants and taking up a host of other issues that needed to be addressed during this time. The setting of the 1920s is meticulously researched and it never seems to be inauthentic or completely improbable. It's only natural that vampires do exist and live in New York City's Lower East Side, they are not supposed to feed off humans, instead they go to blood banks. Naturally there are some renegade vampires and the gangs all consist of vampires. I was sucked in (heehee pun not intended) immediately by Zephyr's narrative. The book does start off rather slow and there's a lot of details, but Zephyr is marvelous, so it doesn't matter. She is so passionate and yet not naive. She knows that she can't save everyone, but she does want to help everyone she can while still having a little fun. I love Zephyr. She is so independent, outspoken and occasionally impractical, which makes for the most winning combination. She is not perfect, she has her own biases that she needs to get over and she has some family issues (she's from Montana and comes from a family of famous demon hunters. She refuses to demon hunt anymore). One of the questions Zephyr struggles with is over who is evil. "It occurred to me for the first time that Nicholas didn't see himself as evil. But did anyone?" (pg. 107)

Amir is another fascinating character. He shows very little emotion and refuses to tell Zephyr why he wants to see Rinaldo taken down. Learning more about him and his world is one of the highlights of this novel. Although Zephyr and Amir are the main characters, the supporting characters are just as interesting. They aren't simply flat people in the background, they have their own dramas unfolding. I was a bit bothered by how the action was interrupted. A dramatic scene would start to unfold and then the scene would change and we would learn about it from Zephyr. I would have rather been shown the scene than told about it. Other than that, this entire novel is a WIN. I love Zephyr, the setting of 1920s NYC, the presence of social activism, cool yet scary paranormal creatures, twisted and clever mysteries and Amir. Oh Amir. *happy sigh* I need to get my hands on the next book in this series (surely it will be a series, there are so many loose ends and good stories waiting to be told!).

Disclosure: Won from the wonderful Terri at Brown Girl Book Speak. Thank you, thank you, thank you Terri!

PS This is an off color review since the author is Black but the main character is white.

PPSS To show off the wonderfulness that is Amir, I will share an exchange about his love of hot dogs (which I don't understand since I think hot dogs are kind of gross, but nevertheless the dialogue is entertaining)

"'let him burn your carpets. Give him some hot dogs.'[Zephyr]
Kardal billowed in surprise. 'Djinni don't benefit from animal sacrifice.'
Amir's laugh seemed to warm the room. 'A snack, brother. A strange human snack, that might involve actual dogs but everyone hopes doesn't.'" (pg. 234)


  1. Oooh, I've never heard of 32 Candles, but the way you're so enthusiastic about it makes me want to look out for it! And Moonshine has long been on my want-to-read list. So good to know it turned out well. :)

  2. I absolutely LOVED 32 Candles! Glad to see that you enjoyed it as well.

  3. *Moonshine gets bumped to the near-top of Mt. TBR*

    I've never seen 16 Candles *gasp* Guess I know what I'll be watching this weekend. xD

  4. This is the first time I've heard of 32 candles, but it sounds great! I'm adding it to my wishlist. :)


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