Reviews – April 2008

25 04 2008

So, it’s been a minute since we did this. I wanted to keep you all abreast of what I’m reading, watching, and listening to. Next week I should have more updates about the publishing journey. Without further ado, here goes:

Books:

Anyone who picked up the Kite Runner, knows that Khaled Hosseini can flat out write. His tragic characters and stories from halfway across the globe captivate the imagination. In his second novel, he has the unenviable task of one-uping his own classic, but he does so admirably. From Amazon.com – The story covers three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban tyranny through the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila, who couldn’t be more different, but who are destined to be thrown together.

This story broke my heart and put it back together again. I look forward to more of Hosseini’s work. A must read!

I was first introduced to Wilbur Smith back in 2003 by a great friend. The first book of his I picked up was River God, a novel set in ancient Egypt about a beautiful princess, Lostris, destined to become queen, her warrior lover, Tanus, destined to become a general, and a eunuch slave, Taita, destined to become the saviour of all Egypt. It was and still is one of the best novels I have ever read in my life. The Quest is the culmination of the series that begins with River God and continues with The Seventh Scroll and Warlock.

From Amazon.com – The Quest continues the story of the Warlock, Taita wise in the lore of the ancient Gods and a master of magic and the supernatural. Egypt is struck by a series of terrible plagues that cripple the Kingdom, and then the ultimate disaster follows: the Nile fails. The waters that nourish and sustain the land dry up. Something catastrophic is taking place in the distant and totally unexplored depths of Africa from where the mighty river springs. In desperation, Pharaoh sends for Taita, the only man who might be able to get through to the source of the Nile and discover the cause of all their woes. None of them can have any idea of what a terrible enemy lies in ambush for the Warlock in those mysterious lands at the end of their world.

After reading the book you feel like you’ve gone on quite a journey. Still I was satisfied with the ending and think this was an excellent conclusion to one of my favorite series. I wouldn’t start with this one, start with River God and work your way forward.

I picked up this book in support of another author favorite – Tananarive Due, the brilliant mind behind My Soul to Keep, The Living Blood, The Good House, and Joplin’s Ghost, to name a few. She writes this book in collaboration with actor Blair Underwood and her husband Steve Barnes. I must admit to a bit of hesitation, because I’m not really into the whole erotic novel thing, but this book surprised me.

From Amazon.com – Tennyson Hardwick—semisuccessful actor, ex-gigolo and incipient sleuth—has the mixed fortune to reconnect with rap superstar Afrodite, a former client, for a night of more than just sex. The next day, she’s found dead in a plastic bag with a split skull, and he’s a suspect. To clear his name, Hardwick draws on all of his considerable assets: good looks and charm, a $2.5 million house inherited from a devoted client, martial arts skills (Barnes’s stock in trade) and connections on both sides of the law. The authors have mixed up a cocktail of exotic elements—the sex for pay industry, the grind and glitz of Hollywood and the rap biz, a smart leavening of black film history—and topped it with a double shot of brutal murder. Handsome Ten Hardwick has not only a great backstory but a very promising future.

Like I said, I really enjoyed the book, it’s a great summer read. I can’t wait for Tananarive’s next book The Blood Colony, coming out in a few months.

Music:

After listening to this album, you will be seeing all the colors of the rainbow. This album is a sonic soundscape, so rich and lush you can almost see the sounds. This album was my introduction to Radiohead, but I’m eager to get my hands on all their work after this.

From Amazon.com – On the deliriously satisfying In Rainbows, Radiohead returns to a more straight-ahead (though subdued) rock sound. This is not a record that hits you over the head with how far this group is pushing the envelope; it’s simply a phenomenal, well-crafted, and exciting album. As soon as it’s done, you’re playing it again.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

So I know you’re probably sick of Love Song, her big ubiquitous pop hit of the moment, but the rest of the album is just as good.

From Amazon.com – Like the portrait on the back of the CD–Bareilles in strappy black dress and lace-free high-tops–the piano-playing chanteuse combines the sweet with the scruffy. While her jazzy pop melodies are radio-ready, her relationship-oriented lyrics can be unexpectedly salty (“Bottle Up” and “Come Round Soon” wouldn’t pass FCC muster). A little profanity here and there, however, doesn’t indicate tough-girl attitude–Amy Winehouse can rest easy–so much as a desire to express herself freely. As Bareilles explains in “Love Song,” “I’m trying to let you hear me as I am.” (Not surprisingly, her degree is in communications.) Fans of Sarah McLachlan and Alicia Keyes will find much to like here.

My favorite tracks are Love Song, In Between the Lines, City, and Gravity.

I picked up this album last week on a whim and I can’t stop listening to it. This guy is like prince and r.kelly combined.

From Amazon.com – The only positive byproduct of an industry asleep at the wheel is a dream. With over a decade of hit-making experience and a certified smash in Rihanna’s #1 single, “Umbrella” Terius “The Dream” Nash is stepping from behind the scenes with a wake-up call. The Dream was born in the Bankhead section of Atlanta and his debut CD, Love Hate, is a sonic gauntlet thrown down against complacent, cookie cutter music. Propelled by the first single “Shawty is a Ten” the mastermind behind the Britney Spears and Madonna collab, “Me Against The Music” will do nothing short of redefine RnB for 2007 and beyond. The Dream has combined all of his hit-making talents for his debut, Love Me All Summer, Hate Me All Winter. Throughout his career Terius has seen people change like the weather, but in the coming months he is forecasting a 100% chance of reign. The Dream says, “It’s more of what I’m giving other people. It’s like the 80s, it’s musical. I’m doing the `Umbrella’ routine to this whole album. All of my records are singles. I don’t think a record has been done this good since Thriller.” Songs like the soulful “She Needs My Love” will solidify Terius’ status as a triple threat, singer, writer and producer.

R&B is back!

DVD’s

I had been looking forward to watching this movie for some time and just got around to it earlier this week. Needless to say, I was not dissapointed. Both Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck should have won Oscars for their strong protrayals of Jesse James and Robert Ford respectively. The thing that struck me as strange before watching, was the title. In my conception it should have read, The Murder of Jesse James. But after watching the movie, you understand why Assassination was the correct word choice.

From Amazon.com – Of all the movies made about or glancingly involving the 19th-century outlaw Jesse Woodson James, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is the most reflective, most ambitious, most intricately fascinating, and indisputably most beautiful. Based on the novel of the same name by Ron Hansen, it picks up James late in his career, a few hours before his final train robbery, then covers the slow catastrophe of the gang’s breakup over the next seven months even as the boss himself settles into an approximation of genteel retirement. But in another sense all of the movie is later than that. The very title assumes the audience’s familiarity with James as a figure out of history and legend, and our awareness that he was–will be–murdered in his parlor one quiet afternoon by a backshooting crony.

Well, that’s all for now. Check this out if you haven’t yet had the chance. You won’t be sorry!