Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, June 22, 2018

My Great American Read: And Then There Were None

The Great American Read series on PBS,which offers readers the chance to vote for their favorite bit of fiction(so far, a million votes have been cast), has inspired me to tackle a few of the nominees for my personal TBR.

Out of that small selection, the first one that I've completed is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, a classic stand alone from her best known detective fare. It's gone through a few title changes(for good reason) and has been adapted for film,TV, the theater and even a video game!

What inspires so much interest in this sinister story? Well, the set-up is deceptively simple; a group of ten strangers all receive invitations to stay on a remote island off the English shore. Whether for work,play or hidden agenda, each one makes their way over and grows a bit acquainted with their new companions.

On first meeting, each person seems to be the average sort; a former governess, a retired general, a doctor, a judge, a glib rich boy. However, it's not long before you realized that all of them have one thing in common-they all have truly gotten away with murder. Nevertheless, everyone gets along rather well in the beginning:

The amiable mood shifts quickly once a phonograph record is played that announces all of their crimes and ends ominously with "Prisoners at the bar, what do you have to say in your defense?"

As each guest dies, one by one in accordance with an old nursery rhyme(my edition called it "ten little Indians" but I do believe later versions have it as "ten little soldiers.") that is posted in every bedroom and accented by a set of figurines upon the dining room table whose number grows smaller with each death, suspicions and accusations abound.

It's not too long before the remaining guests realize that the person behind all of this is in their very midst. Despite taking what precautions they can and making what alliances are available to them, the death count keeps ticking down and there is no outside help to rescue them:

Agatha Christie wrote in numerous formats but the stage was one of her great loves and that affect shows in the theatrical elements of the story.

From eating their meals together to locking themselves in their bedrooms at night, the closed room tension steadily builds for the dwindling set of characters performing for us on the page.

 One chapter begins by describing the few still there as various creatures in their state of fear; a nervous bird, a twitching tortoise, a wolf flashing his sharp teeth. It's not a question of rooting for someone to survive(all of them are terrible people,trust me) rather, it's more about who is doing this and for what reason? Not to mention how and is anyone else in on this death trap with the secret killer?

Christie really goes full dark on this story, something that for 1939 and a popular woman author was mostly unheard of. She relies on suspension and the careful layering of plot points/misleads to keep the reader following this deadly trail of bread crumbs to it's bitter end. You would think this sounds unbearably bleak yet it's coated with a good amount of intrigue that makes this a truly hard to put down book.

The influence of And Then There Were None can be seen across many genres, some of them satirical and others a light hearted homage. One thing is for certain-Christie certainly did pave the way for other mainstream artists to get as grim as they needed to be:

This is the first Agatha Christie that I've read that doesn't involve either Poirot or Miss Marple and it does inspire me to check out some of her plays as well. Her firm hand at the literary wheel is well established yet it takes being on such a finely tuned thrill ride as this for yourself to make you fully appreciate the art of her craft.

The next book on my GAR list to read is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, as part of the High Summer readathon that I'm joining in on this July. Looking forward to that and the rest of this particular TBR indeed, except for one that I've already seen the movie version of.

This has certainly been a scary start to my little literary adventure here but it's one that I, unlike the unlucky guests upon the island, made it through all the better for it(the following video is spoiler-ish for those who haven't read this book,you have been warned!):

Friday, June 15, 2018

Red Clocks have chimed for Sci-Fi Summer and a look ahead to some High Summer reading

The Sci-Fi Summer readathon(hosted by Michelle Miller at Seasons of Reading) officially ended the other day but I must confess that I finished up a couple of days early.

Upon completing Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, I wasn't in the proper mood for diving into Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood. Don't get me wrong, Red Clocks was good,however going from one scary future scenario into another was perhaps not the best idea.

In Red Clocks, the not too distant future in America has passed a "Personhood Amendment" which outlaws abortion and a host of other new laws from a rather populist president are making other child bearing options difficult for anyone not already in the traditional marriage set-up.

 How the general state of things is affecting women is reflected in four characters starting with Ro, a teacher working on a biography of a forgotten female Arctic explorer and trying to be a single mother before the final legal barrier is slammed down in front of her and then to Mattie, one of her students who finds herself pregnant and is unable to even flee to Canada for an abortion due to the "Pink Wall" at the border.

This quartet is rounded up by Susan,a frustrated housewife wanting to end her miserable marriage but not wanting to make the first move and Gin, an eccentric herbalist accused of a crime she didn't commit.

The story is told in segments, identifying the characters as "The Mender", "The Wife","The Daughter" and "The Biographer"(excepts from the work in progress biography are featured during chapter breaks as well). Granted, it's not the typical liner style but that is a strength rather than a weakness here. Sort of like if Virginia Woolf wrote dystopian lit.

Zumas adds a poetic quality to her prose at times, making the raw unspoken feelings of her leading ladies dance for us on the page. It may not be a beat that everyone can or will groove to yet her writing is powerfully wrought and well worth checking out indeed:

As one readathon ends, the page turns to the next and I'm in the midst of planning my TBR for Seasons of Reading's High Summer, which will be for the entire month of July.

First up is Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, a mother-daughter tale set in Brooklyn. Kimberly Chang and her mother were able to settle there upon emigrating from Hong Kong before Chinese rule was in full effect.

Kimberly's intellectual gifts enable her to attend a posh private school yet she still helps her mom out at the garment factory, a job that demands twelve hour shifts. While wanting to please her mother yet be a part of the American dream, Kimberly is faced with a myriad of choices that pull her in too many directions to follow.

I've heard great things about this book since it was first published in 2010 and considering the current debate over immigration lately, the time to read this is rather timely. A good novel opens the gateways of compassion and empathy, paths that certain spokespeople clearly are avoiding at all costs. Too bad we can't assign reading to those that truly need it:

Another book in that category that is on my High Summer list is Cristina Henriquez's The Book of Unknown Americans.  This story follows a pair of immigrant families(one from Mexico, the other from Panama) who find themselves neighbors in Delaware and share similar problems adjusting to American life.

Both families have young people who connect with one another; Maribel Rivera, who is recovering from a head injury that motivated her parents to make the move to the US for her sake and Mayor Toro, whose family settled in America sooner than Maribel's yet still struggling to make ends meet.

Their relationship is marked with suspicion by both sets of parents, not to mention the local immigrant community. However, a threat from the outside proves to be much more of a concern to all involved. The praise for this novel has been mighty, to say the least, and should be a good companion to Girl In Translation. More importantly, it will be a good book based upon it's own merits:

Simply for fun, I'm going to try what I'm calling a Double Decker Reread of Northanger Abbey. Yes, the original Jane Austen novel and the Val McDermid modern take on that slim satire will be side by side repeats for me.

Northanger Abbey is a good summer story as it's unlikely heroine Catherine Morland is given a chance to see the world beyond her country mouse life. Granted, she mostly gets as far as Bath but still, that is big city enough!

Learning a few life lessons as well as falling in love, Catherine's journey in NA is pretty much the mold for many a young lady's coming of age tale, from Dirty Dancing to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants(okay, I didn't see TSOTTP but still,...).

Out of the four retellings slated for The Austen Project, Val McDermid's version of Austen's posthumous mock Gothic novel was a real success, along side Curtis Settenfeld's Eligible.  I did read all four books and only two are worth going back for more, in my opinion.

McDermid does keep to the original framework but updates wisely such as sending her Cat Morland to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, which sounds amazing to behold! Bath is a lovely place to visit(yes, I've been there) but the social scene these days is very much different from Austen's time. This will be a nice staycation read to be sure:

I still have time to prepare for High Summer, so a few more books will be added on to this particular pile before the calendar page has to be changed there. Also need to finish up a few other reads as well. Those TBR piles do seem to have a life of their own at times, don't they? Oh, well, at least it's a friendly form of life that gives as much as it gets... or does it?!:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Some new mystery treats with old fashioned flavor for your summer reading

Summer reading is the perfect excuse for indulging in a few of your favorite genres and mystery is the ultimate classic comfort food for any literary menu.

By mystery, I mean a good old fashioned whodunit and/or a story length skein of scheming to be unwound by a very wily detective type. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the challenge of a plot twisting thriller or a slyly done suspense tale but sometimes, you just want a solid bit of sleuthing to follow.

A prime example of that is The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey, an author whose has won several awards for her Rei Shimura mysteries. This new series takes us to Bombay in 1921, where Perveen Mistry is the first female lawyer in the city as well as one of the first in India during that time period.

Her work at her father's law firm brings Perveen to a case involving the inheritance of a trio of widows, whom she suspects are being cheated out of their full share of their mutual husband's money,possibly at the hands of the trustee. As she pursues the matter, a murder occurs that only confirms her concerns but raises the stakes that much higher.

Word of mouth has been excellent for this book, which inspired me to reserve it at the library(I'll be picking it up this week!), along with critical acclaim and here's hoping that we are only at the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Perveen Mistry:

When it comes to modern mystery writers with a flair for the old school, Ruth Ware's name crops up quite often and for good reason. Her latest fare, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, is a blend of Agatha Christie plotting with Daphne du Maurier atmosphere.

Harriet "Hal" Westaway simply goes through the motions of tarot card reading in order to make some sort of living, not to mention pay off a persistent loan shark. When a letter from an attorney arrives on her doorstep that says her previously unknown to her grandmother has died, Hal is suspicious but willing to see if she can claim some of what sounds like a nice big inheritance.

Upon reaching the family estate of Trepassen House, Hal finds herself among several unwelcoming uncles, plus a sinister housekeeper to boot. She also stumbles upon an old legend about a former resident or rather captive of Trepassen that could lead to the truth about her place in this family but not without some dire consequences to possibly pay.

I did read Ware's acclaimed The Woman in Cabin 10 and it was a cracking good read, as they say. The Death of Mrs. Westaway promises to be just that with a hint of next level writing that advances her literary game:

If these hardy hardcovers may not seem to fit snugly in your beach bag, you do have the option of a worthy paperback as Anthony Horowitz's Magpie Murders is now readily available in that format.

When editor Susan Ryland finds herself enthralled by the new Atticus Pund mystery manuscript from contentious author Mark Conroy, she is shocked to discover that the last half of the book is missing.

Upon contacting her boss about this, Susan learns that Mark Conroy has just died, leaving more than one unsolved mystery behind him. In searching for the rest of the book as well as the truth, she becomes all too aware of some hidden secrets that could be more dangerous than any foe the fictional Atticus Pund ever faced.

This was one of the best books that I read last year and if you've been waiting for the paperback release, your patience will be well rewarded indeed:

Whatever genre you choose to dive into this summer season, a good book is your best bet against any glitches in your entertainment system. If the wi-fi is down, along with the cable and your battery level is low, all you need is a little bit of light and a savvy storyteller to keep the page turning party going :

Friday, June 08, 2018

Some fantastic YA reads that are making my Sci-Fi Summer soar

The first week of the Seasons of Reading  Sci-Fi Summer has ended and with one more to go, I'm happy to report that half of the books on this particular TBR pile are nearly done.

In the first weekend, I was able to finish Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone, the first in her YA fantasy series entitled The Legacy of Orisha. Orisha is the mythical West African kingdom that our leading lady Zelie lives, a country that used to know and respect magic until King Saran found a way to break the mystical connection that those who practiced it(known as Diviners) needed.

Zelie's mother was among the many adult Diviners executed by royal decree and even though she possesses the flowing white hair that marks her as a being of power, she and many other are unable to activate their magic. Thus, they and their loved ones lead lives of despair, called "maggots" by those in power who overtax,harass and find a way to send them into enforced labor.

While Zelie despairs of ever living a peaceful life as well as keeping her father and brother Tzain from suffering for her mistakes, an unexpected run-in at a local marketplace leads her down a path that could bring magic back to Orisha. She winds up protecting Princess Amari, who witnessed the death of her only friend,Binta who was also a Diviner, at the cruel hands of her father.

Amari steals a forbidden scroll that ignites the untapped magic of any Diviner who touches it and Zelie's powers rise to the forefront, inspiring her to give her people the same ability to defend themselves from oppression:

The journey is far from easy, as two other sacred items are needed to perform a renewal ceremony on a remote island during the next solstice. If they do not make it in time, that opportunity is lost for good.

Zelie,along with Amari and Tzain, face many obstacles along the way from potential friends and enemies alike,including Prince Inan who finds himself changed by this pursuit of his sister in more ways than one.

Adeyemi's debut novel is vividly written, bringing these characters and their beautifully wrought world to nearly 3-D life, highlighting the glory and the peril of their harrowing quest. She also wisely uses a multi-character narrative to showcase the emotional impact and growth that Zelie, Amari and Inan experience through the course of the story. The family connections, particularly between the two sets of siblings, are key to the heart of the motivations both for and against magic, adding a good dose of complexity to the mystical elements here.

This is truly a stay-up-all-night type book, the kind that you have to make yourself stop reading in order to get some sleep,eat or do anything else in the real world. A second book is set for 2019 and it's going to be hard to wait for it, particularly with that cliffhanger of an ending! Yet, I shall be patient, I promise.

Word of mouth has been wonderful for Children of Blood and Bone, not to mention critical acclaim as well, which is vital for any new YA fantasy series to stand out amongst the numerous ones on the shelves. It's also hoped that this series will pave the way for other fantasy stories not set in the usual Western culture realm.

Based on it's own merits, I would love it if Orisha became just as potent a fictional locale as Hogwarts for readers of all generations and then some. Time will tell but I do believe in the magic of writing and Tomi Adeyemi is quite the enchanting practitioner of the pen indeed:

After I finished that, I went right to Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. I'm familiar with her earlier intended-for-adults work such as Night Film but this is her first novel in the Young Adult category and it's pretty good so far.

Our heroine is Beatrice, who is still not over the mysterious death of her boyfriend Jim and impulsively decides to reunite with their mutual boarding school friends a year later. Upon attending a concert at a nearby bar, she and her pals wind up in a car accident and land in the title realm, a purgatory of sorts.

They are informed by a strange man who calls himself The Keeper that they are caught in this eleven hour time frame until a group decision is made about which one of them will return to the living world.

Their reactions are varied, with wild girl Whitley acting out her frustrations through violent fits and teaming up with partner in crime Cannon for some "we can do anything we want" hijinks while Southern charmer Kipling and moody Martha seek out their own personal escapes from this seeming eternal reality on repeat.

 Beatrice tries to deny this limbo trap for awhile as well but ultimately comes to the conclusion that what will make the final vote for survival decisive is finding out the truth about Jim's death:

I'm close to the finish line with this book and it's quite the engaging read. Pessl offers up some interesting observations about the nature of reality along with dealing the consequences of keeping secrets and true feelings hidden.

This is the kind of book I would imagine Rory Gilmore reading and passing on to her friends(Paris would hate it but in the end, side with Martha's scheming there). Whether or not you're a Gilmore Girls fan, Neverworld Wake is a solid riveting tale of otherworldly reckonings and I am eager to see how this story eventually ends:

I should be done with Neverworld Wake before the weekend is over, allowing me more time with such adult lit fare as Red Clocks by Leni Zumas and Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood to complete my readathon goals. I am in the midst of Red Clocks at the moment and since it's a library book, the need to finish it is imminent.

This science fiction/fantasy reading is a good way to kick off the summer season and it's also a good way to discover that not all stories in these genres are in need of the same old,same old style. A compelling character with a mission of the heart is always the best bet for a great story in any literary realm:

Monday, June 04, 2018

Putting on the Brits for Bad Movie Month

It's become a tradition here at LRG to make August the home of Bad Movie Month,  where each week, I highlight a "why did I spend my money on this?" flick to see just how badly it failed.

Our theme this year is "Badly Done,Brits!",featuring some of my favorite English actors and sadly, I'm doubling down on a true personal favorite, Colin Firth.

Mind you, he is and was one of the best Mr. Darcys to be found in a Pride and Prejudice adaptation, not to mention an engaging talent in other films from The King's Speech to Kingsmen. However, he has made his fair share of cinematic clunkers and that includes both of the Bridget Jones sequels.

Bridget Jones:The Edge of Reason is actually based on a second book about the title character by Helen Fielding(which the third movie both is and is not, which I'll get to shortly) yet most of the movie simply tries to rehash what audiences liked in the original movie.

It completely abandons the plot threads that were based on Jane Austen's Persuasion from the source material, settling for slapstick of all sorts from Bridget tumbling down a ski slope to Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver reprising their fight outdoors in a public fountain(which is soggy in more ways than one). I do happen to own this movie but rarely watch it,except of course to do my blogger duty by reliving this sad story slump:

After that, I'll be checking out the fresh hell of Bridget Jones's Baby, which has a pretty complicated set-up before the cameras started to roll.

The studio had been trying for years to get a third movie going but with no agreement on script but did agree not to use Helen Fielding's third Bridget book, Mad About the Boy, because(spoiler alert 1) she kills off Mark Darcy, a decision that many fans were decidedly against.

Well, the movie (spoiler alert 2) kills off Hugh Grant's character instead and has Bridget getting pregnant and having to figure whether her former love Mark or new American romance Jack(yes, that's McDreamy himself!) is the father. Weirdly enough, Fielding wrote a fourth book called Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries where(spoiler alert 3), Daniel Cleaver is still alive! Quite the alternate reality there,to say the least.

Sure, the movie that they did finally make doesn't sound too horrible at first but the trailer alone gives this turn of events such a textbook sitcom vibe that I might be better off watching that two part episode of Friends where the gang goes to London for Ross' wedding. Even with Emma Thompson on board, I have a bad feeling about this:

Meanwhile, Hugh Grant managed to escape the realm of Bridget Jones yet not another bad romantic comedy. While Did You Hear About the Morgans? was made back in 2009, perhaps this stale story sandwich should have had Grant seriously  reconsider being Daniel Cleaver again a few years later.

He and Sarah Jessica Parker play a New York power couple on the verge of divorce due to Grant's infidelity(insert past scandal joke here). When the Morgans just happen to witness a mob related murder, it's off to Wyoming they go to deal with red state stereotypes!

Yeah, those seem like the good old days at this point but that doesn't excuse this movie from lame "let's fall in love again in this quaint country setting" routines and Hugh exiting, pursued by a bear:

For a bit of the old school, we turn to Michael Caine, whose list of bad movies is as nearly as long as his good ones. To go even further back, I'm signing up for 1979's Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, a disaster movie sequel that has no equal!

Caine plays a tugboat captain who, along with Sally Field and Carl Malden, sets off to salvage the sunken luxury liner while running into another salvage crew run by Telly Savalas looking to loot some plutonium and dealing with ship survivors Peter Boyle,Shirley Knight and Slim Pickens. Yes, this is what they use to call "Love Boat casting" and for good reason.

This movie did so badly that the idea for a third one was shelved(and later became the premise of the Sylvester Stallone movie Daylight!). Michael Caine did make plenty of over the top epics in that era and this promises to be some good old fashioned snarky fun:

An additional movie may be included later, in honor of my sister's birthday that month(we shall see) but I do hope that my fellow British actor fans can find a few laughs to share with this list. As much as we delight in that stiff upper lip, our English gents are not above being caught out in their goofy movie moments there:

Friday, June 01, 2018

Bookmarking some literary summer TV

With June officially here, the need to escape with summer entertainment is most pressing indeed. Fortunately, there is a way to combine two of the best forms of hot weather relief as this quartet of new TV shows coming up are based on books.

In the case of the Stephen King inspired Castle Rock, set to debut on Hulu in July, several of the horror master's works are referenced in this series set in one of his mythical New England towns. Characters that have appeared in more than one book show up such as retired Sheriff Alan Pangborn(Scott Glenn), who has seen plenty of strangeness before and after his time on the police force.

Newer characters are also on the scene like Henry(Andre Holland), a death row attorney returning to his home town to face some personal demons and his adoptive mother Ruth(Sissy Spacek), whose memories are fading , which could prove fatal. Both Stephen King and J.J. Abrams are on board for this project and it could be quite the staycation spot for streaming this summer:

For a bit of comic book fun outside of the multiplex, Freeform has Marvel's Cloak & Dagger ready to roll this month.

The show is set within the MCU but how much that will connect with the current films is yet to be seen. Our pair of heroes are teens Tandy(Olivia Holt) and Tyrone(Aubrey Joseph), who discover that they possess super powers that match up well together.

Using her ability to sense the hopes of others and fight with light daggers, Tandy is drawn to Tyrone,whose powers are teleportation  and ability to feel the fears of those around him and they both learn of a prior connection that perhaps marked their destiny.

This does sound like fun and if this dynamic duo happen to show up in the next Infinity War movie, you'll certainly have a one-up on the rest of the audience in knowing who they are firsthand:

In the grown-up realm, we have AMC sending us to Dietland in June with a menu of real world satire.

Based on the 2015 novel by Sarai Walker, our heroine is Plum Kettle(Joy Nash), who works for a major fashion magazine and is frustrated with her ghostwriting gig for bitchy editor Kitty Montgomery(Julianna Margulies).

Plum is also tired of trying to fit in with society's notions of what an attractive woman is and winds up being recruited by a radical underground movement who takes their goals deadly seriously.

To say that this story is topical is quite the understatement and it will be interesting to see what the end results will be. Definitely one to keep an eye out for:

Meanwhile, HBO is offering up another female lead miniseries with Sharp Objects, based on Gillian Flynn's first novel(well before Gone Girl). Amy Adams stars as Camille, a reporter recovering from a nervous breakdown who decides to return to her home town in pursuit of a big story.

 Reconnecting with her mother Adora(Patricia Clarkson) and half sister Amma is not the best thing for Camille's emotional healing process but it does allow her a good opportunity to look into the disappearance of two local girls that might have a more personal tie to her own troubles.

I have read this book and while I liked it, I didn't love it(Dark Places, which came after this one, is a stronger book). Nevertheless, with Amy Adams as the headliner and Marti Noxon producing(she's also behind the scenes on Dietland), we might get a truly inventive slice of Southern Gothic to savor here:

Having a bit of bookish TV is a nice two for the price of one deal. While it doesn't mean that you should neglect that growing TBR pile by your bedside, watching a couple of these shows might  make your vacation packing a little lighter perhaps. Granted , they could also lead to getting more books but holding off until fall might be made easier as well:

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Catching up on some of those Great American Reads

One of the literary highlights of the season has been the launching of The Great American Read on PBS,which aired the other week and introduced viewers to the one hundred titles available for voting online.

There's also been a quiz on the official website that lets you check off how of the books you have already read and I'm happy to say that I've completed a good number of them. Mind you, with entire book series such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Alex Cross, my total is tricky as some of those I have read only a couple of the books in that particular stack.

However, I would like to add a few more to my tally but a reasonable number there. So, I have a list of five books from the GAR pack of nominees to get to before the winner is announced. Most of these titles were on various TBRs(yes, I have more than one or two!) with only one recently purchased:

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD: Zora Neale Hurston's iconic novel about the emotional journey of an African American woman was met with mixed reviews upon it's first publication in 1937.

However, her work was revisited by scholars and critics during the 1970s and 80s, gaining recognition for the vibrant humanity and forward feminism to be found within it's pages. This book is her best known work, with Oprah Winfrey producing a made for TV adaptation in 2005, starring Halle Berry as Hurston's heroine Janie Crawford.

I might check that movie out but do plan to read this along with the recently published non-fiction ZNH book,Barracoon(which recounts an interview with Cudjo Lewis, one of the last transported slaves to America). The latter couldn't find a publisher willing to take it on for decades but fortunately, has been released for all to appreciate in these turbulent times. I look forward to being embraced by Hurston's words and fully appreciating her literacy legacy as well:

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE: I've been on an Agatha Christie kick lately but have only read either her Miss Marple or Poirot mysteries. This sinister story(which has rightfully gone through a couple of title changes there) is one of her stand alones and has been made into as many films as any of her renowned detective tales.

This suspense classic features a group of ten people who seemed to be wholly unconnected to each other yet one person is motivated enough to kill them off,slowly but surely. A framework that many have tried to duplicate in various forms over the years yet the original is still held to be the best.

I want to read this with fresh eyes so I'll avoid the movie versions for now. There will be plenty to choose from afterwards,goodness knows. My copy is making it's way to me via mail as we speak and that wait will make my reading of ATTWN all the more delightful:

AMERICANAH/WHITE TEETH: Both of these contemporary novels are award winners, with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie getting a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2013 and Zadie Smith receiving the Whitbread and the Commonwealth Writers honors for this debut back in 2000.

They also share the theme of immigration in common as Americanah's lead characters, Ifemelu and Obinze, find themselves separated as each one leaves their home country of Nigeria to make a new life in America.

 While Obinze is ultimately denied his chance and become an undocumented immigrant in London, Ifemelu is able to enter the United States and discovers a new set of struggles awaiting her.

In White Teeth, the myriad of family dramas within the story are centered by the friendship of Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, who met during the last days of WWII. Samad became a British citizen after the war and the two of them often share a pint and opinions at the local pub.

Their children,however, feel the brunt of cultural assimilation from more than one section of society. Some of that unspoken yet keenly applied pressure leads their sons and daughter down a dangerous path with consequences that are more far reaching than they think.

Out of the two, I have tried to read White Teeth the most but it just didn't click with the me the first couple of times around. Well, the third time is the charm and with the wonderful word of mouth that White Teeth has gotten over the years, I should finally succeed on that front:

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY: Yes, I'm giving in to the bizarre hoopla and going to read this damn thing. As it happens, I picked up the second and third book in this series at a church rummage sale(true story) and it felt silly not to have the one that started it all,so I got a secondhand movie tie-in edition to complete the set.

Okay, enough equivocating; out of the several eyebrow raising books that are on the GAR list, E.L. James' twisted love story has drawn the most ire from readers and I get that, believe me.

However, after all this time and with the movie adaptations over and done with, I suppose that seeing what the fuss is all about is a good enough reason as any to read this now. Unlike the ladies of the current hit movie Book Club, this won't drastically change my life but who knows, I might get a better idea of the overall appeal of Ana Steele and Christian Grey here:

I have no set timetable for these reads,although a few of them will be part of future readathons for me. I might do a couple of follow-up posts about some of the books when I'm done(yes, Fifty Shades will more likely than not get a full review) and if anyone else is doing a Great American Read list of their own, please let me know.

The voting is still on for the Great American Read and there is a Facebook group for readers to talk about all kinds of books,including those selected for  this list. Whether you like or loathe some of the novels chosen here, this bookish talk is a good path towards reading more, which is something we can all agree on: