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TV Review: ‘Cover to Cover’ with Ernie Manouse

Ernie Manouse Cover to Cover PBS Houston Public Media TV

Ten-time Emmy Award winner Ernie Manouse returns to television in Cover to Cover, a follow-up to PBS’s The Great American Read.

About Magazine Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

As one may imagine of a writer and the editor-in-chief of a magazine, nothing gives me greater joy than reading. It’s what makes the task of being an editor bearable and fun — getting to spend a great deal of time reading other people’s words. Mind you, the opportunities to read actual books are few and far between when you’re constantly staring at a computer screen for the better part of twelve hours a day. Between editing other people’s work, writing my own weekly column, drafting sitcom scripts, and piecing together my latest book a few lines at a time just to punctuate the former tasks of my days, I rarely get in any leisurely reading. By the time I get a chance to sit down and do something just for pleasure, my brain has met its maximum capacity for words — a bit of a disappointment for someone who started his career putting out a new novel every year from age nineteen. This is partly because when you’re a reader — especially so a writer-reader — books have an addictive effect on the brain; they become gateway drugs to more books. You find one you think you might be interested in, pick up another in the same genre, and then find something you like about your last book — maybe it’s an omniscient narrator or where the story is set — that catapults you into a very different type of narrative in a equally different genre. Suddenly, you’re reading three books a week, staying up much later than you can just to get in one more chapter (followed by perennial more), putting off that load of laundry that’s needed to be done for a week, and forgetting that you haven’t eaten a real meal in several days. And in the last year of running this magazine, I’ve staved off that addiction because I’ve simply become too busy.

 

ernie TV Review: 'Cover to Cover' with Ernie ManouseBut then came Ernie Manouse making me relapse into my thirst for books all over again in his newest PBS TV show from Houston Public Media, Cover to Cover, a six-episode program premiering tonight at 8 following PBS’s The Great American Read. The latter, a limited series which is hosted weekly by news anchor and television personality Meredith Vieira, launched back in May with a two-hour special, with this continuation taking viewers on a journey for the 100 best American novels. Cover to Cover — also a limited series — is a companion series to Vieira’s in which Manouse gathers together a select book club of personalities, writers, performers, and other public figures from around Texas to zero in on the themes presented in Vieira’s series and to present their own favorite books.

In the show’s premiere episode, Ernie Manouse is joined by Great Day Houston host Deborah Duncan, author Ann Weisgarber, author and former First Lady of Houston Andrea White, and editor/columnist Joe Holley who get together to discuss their favorite books relating to Texas while delving deeper into rather lively discussions about how Texas is presented to people unfamiliar with it and how it translates into the written word. At one point, Duncan even shares a story about a dinner she had with Prince Charles, in which he stated he’d expected more cowboys in this part of the South. Each guest took a moment to read an excerpt from their favorite Texas-centric books (which included Lonesome Dove, the River Oaks-inspired Blood and Money, and more) and share how the prose of each contributed to the success of the books, even if the portraits of Texas might come off somewhat askew to state natives.

texas-10 TV Review: 'Cover to Cover' with Ernie Manouse
Left to Right: Ann Weisgarber, Andrea White, Ernie Manouse, Deborah Duncan, and Joe Holley.

Manouse, as always, allows audiences to feel as though they’re sitting right there in the Houston Public Library’s Julia Ideson Building with he and his famous friends as they foray into conversations not just about how each book portrays Texans, but what exactly Texans are capable of confronting when writers place a mirror in front of them. He and his guests are truly capable of having a funny, engaging, and scholarly conversation without sacrificing their candor and are having a nearly palpable good time laughing and smiling at one another’s high brow anecdotes. The round table of familiar faces — each a tad different from the next — is engaging, informative, and clearly learning just as much as audiences will when Manouse surprises them with a literary trivia game reminiscent of Vieira’s stint on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? — sans the million dollars.

Those familiar with Manouse — either from knowing him personally or enjoying his palette of work that has earned him no small collection of Emmy wins and nominations — will recognize the LGBTQ Community Pillar’s trademark sense of humor immediately and will feel right at home with him in the gaudy and beautiful Julia Ideson Building. Newcomers and lovers of literature will similarly feel as though they’ve known Manouse and his guests as if they were old college buddies catching up after years apart. And it is that sort of hallmark that keeps Manouse not only on screens and radios across the nation, but eagerly awaited by fans to see what he’ll come up with next. For lovers of books, those who simply enjoy seeing Manouse do what he does best, and freshman to either of the former, Houston Public Media’s Cover to Cover is certainly worthwhile TV programming. And most certainly, Manouse’s new television series is certain to awaken that old book lover in all of us, reviving that thirst for books we may often not have the time for or forget to let ourselves savor.

Cover to Cover, which premieres tonight at 8 PM on PBS Channel 8, will run its limited series for six weeks. Manouse’s rotating round table of guests on his pretaped episodes is set to include other Houston nobles such as America’s Got Talent star Christina Edwards Wells — who will be competing in the semifinals of the televised talent show tonight at 7 PM on NBC — poet Jasminne Mendez, Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star CEO Pierce Bush, meteorologist-turned-memoir penman Frank Billingsly, and many other familiar faces over its six week run. All-About-It TV Review: 'Cover to Cover' with Ernie Manouse


Click here for more information on Cover to Cover, including the show air dates, themes, panelists and books.

Click here to follow Ernie Manouse on Facebook.

About Houston Public Media
Houston Public Media is a service of the University of Houston and supported with financial gifts from the community. Houston Public Media combines broadcast and digital assets to serve residents of Southeast Texas with trusted local news and entertainment and national programming from NPR and PBS. With a combined weekly audience of more than 1.5 million, Houston Public Media is committed to delivering content that expands minds and possibilities with trusted information.

Ernie Manouse Returns to TV in New Show “Cover to Cover”

Ernie Manouse TV PBS Cover to Cover Great American Read

Houston Public Media presents Cover to Cover, hosted by Houston’s own Emmy-winner, Ernie Manouse: Tuesdays on TV 8 on PBS.

(HOUSTON) – The Great American Read launched on May 22 with a two-hour TV broadcast and voting kick-off for America’s favorite book. The PBS special returns on September 11, 2018 with a weekly series on book themes from heroes and villains to love and other worlds, culminating with the naming of America’s favorite work of fiction on October 23rd.

Ernie-Header Ernie Manouse Returns to TV in New Show "Cover to Cover"As The Great American Read prepares to reveal America’s favorite novel in the fall, Houston Public Media is putting a local spin on the PBS special that celebrates reading through Cover to Cover: The Houston Public Media Book Club.

Cover to Cover follows the same themes as the Greater American Read with Emmy-winning host Ernie Manouse inviting a changing panel of Houston influencers each week to talk about their favorite books in a lively, insightful half-hour discussion.

With lots of laughs, self-reflection, and shared learning moments, the series explores books that help us understand and define our identities and our place in the world to books that discover the trials and tribulations of literature’s favorite heroes.

Panelists include KHOU-11’s Deborah Duncan, Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star’s Pierce Bush, and Former First Lady Andrea White. Books highlighted include the favorite “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, the timeless “Macbeth”, and new reads such as “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

Each feature will broadcast on TV 8 at 8:00 pm on Tuesdays, starting September 11. Watch the first episode of the much anticipated series here.

Click here for more information on Cover to Cover, including the show air dates, themes, panelists and books.


About Houston Public Media
Houston Public Media is a service of the University of Houston and supported with financial gifts from the community. Houston Public Media combines broadcast and digital assets to serve residents of Southeast Texas with trusted local news and entertainment and national programming from NPR and PBS. With a combined weekly audience of more than 1.5 million, Houston Public Media is committed to delivering content that expands minds and possibilities with trusted information.

BOOK REVIEW: “Let’s Talk About Love” by Claire Kann

Claire Kann Biromantic Asexual Let’s Talk About Love LGBTQ

“Let’s Talk About Love”, a biromantic, asexual coming-of-age story for some of the underrepresented parts of the LGBTQ spectrum gets 4 out of 5 stars.

“Let’s Talk About Love” by Claire Kann tells a story of college-aged student Alice as she endeavors everything that life has to offer her. Throughout the novel, Alice struggles with friendships, romances, and even future career plans. “Let’s Talk About Love” is easily one of most realistic books I’ve ever read. The timeline and characters all flow nicely together. While reading, it felt like I was there with the characters, experiencing everything as they did. I would consider this book to be a nice escape from my own reality, not something intensely exciting or mind-blowing, but a nice distraction from real life.

Claire Kann does an excellent job of painting the character Alice as a real human being. Her feelings and thoughts were all easy to identify with. I was falling in love with Alice as I was reading; and the characters were my favorite part of the book. Each one is so independently developed that it is clear that Kann spent a lot of time crafting them.

I also can’t help but praise the book for including a biromantic, asexual character. The book I read previously, “Summer Bird Blue” by Akemi Dawn Bowman, included an asexual character, but didn’t delve too much into detail as to what that meant. While that was still an incredible book, I appreciated that Kann took the time to explore the different types of asexuality as well as what asexuality meant to Alice. Alice has a great appreciation for aesthetics and the “cuteness” of people. She’s even made a cutie code to classify how looking at someone makes her feel. It’s details like these that really enhanced the book for me.

Alice also regularly visits a therapist. This is the first book that I have ever read where I actually got to see a character talking to a therapist. I think this is something that is important for young people to see in books. I talk a lot about how normalizing LGBTQ characters is important (which it is), but these are also things that need to be normalized. Young adults will read this book and see that it’s okay to get help with these things. Alice also struggles with the uncertainty of not knowing who she is, a reason for the therapy visit, and I think these are all great topics to include in a book.

While I did love everything that this book stood for, talking about love and sexuality and gender equality, I felt as if it was made for people much younger than myself. I almost always enjoy young adult fiction, but Kann’s writing struck me as rather simple. It would be easier for a younger person to understand and even identify with, though it’s written about a girl in college. There are mature topics in here, but not many. I think the only thing some may deem as inappropriate is the conversation about arousal. Even then it’s spoken about only to figure out Alice’s feelings toward a person.

Also — and this might just be me — but I for one am thankful to see a bi (romantic in this case, but sexual in others) person end up with a male. Bisexuals get a lot of heat for their “bi status” and it’s awesome that Kann included a bi character whose romantic interest is a male. Often times bi stories are about girls realizing they’re bi by falling in love with a girl. I appreciate that Kann paired Alice up with a male, showing people that bi people can be with either sex.

Kann filled “Let’s Talk About Love” with important messages for the youth, and I think everyone could learn at least one new thing from reading this book. And even if nothing new is learned, at least the younger generations reading books like these will realize that therapy is okay, being uncertain is okay, and speaking your truth is okay.

Were-About-It-1 BOOK REVIEW: "Let's Talk About Love" by Claire Kann

BOOK REVIEW: Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summer Bird Blue Asexuality Akemi Dawn Bowman LGBTQ Book

“Summer Bird Blue” by Akemi Dawn Bowman – 5/5 Stars

“Summer Bird Blue” by Akemi Dawn Bowman is a young adult LGBTQ book that deals with the topic of asexuality at a young age. The novel revolves around a young girl named Rumi, struggling with the loss of her sister and best friend, Lea. Lea was always there for her sister; the two wrote music together; they talked about boys together; they were inseparable. And while there is only one brief scene of the two of them at the beginning, it’s easy to see the qualities they share and the love that they have as a family. Of course, this is not all we see of their relationship, as Lea appears many times in flashbacks both warm and heartbroken.

As the story progresses, we watch Rumi foray through the stages of grief. Shortly after Lea’s death, Rumi is shipped off to Hawaii to live with her Aunt. As many people would, Rumi takes to anger in this new environment, finding herself wanting to yell at anyone who tries to help her. Because she is a seventeen-year-old girl, and Dawn Bowman did a great job of painting her as a fiery angst filled teen who just wants her sister back, Rumi’s anger is relatable. 

If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect much from this book. I picked it off a list at the mention of an asexual character. Asexuality is highly underrepresented in books and media; and I thought it would be an interesting read. What I got from the book, was so much more. Dawn Bowman does an excellent job at crafting a story where there isn’t much going on within the narrative. Rumi spends the summer on the island of Hawaii meeting new people and dealing with new experiences. There isn’t much of a story, and the arcs are all character-based. That being said, this book probably isn’t for someone mainly into adventures. But it is for someone liking character-driven stories with rich connections.

I fell in love with these characters, as seeing myself within them became easy — Rumi with her grief-based anger and her willingness to lash out at those around her, her confusion with attraction and sexuality; Kai with his troubled family and his uncertain future; Aunt Ani just trying to help out wherever she can. That’s not all of them. There were so many more amazing, detailed, well thought-out characters. I was impressed with each of them, as they all had such varying quirks and personalities. If anything, I would suggest reading “Summer Bird Blue” simply because of it’s amazing characters.

But the book is much more than that. Bowman’s novel reads almost as a stream of consciousness. Page-after-page, we listen in on Rumi’s thoughts and feelings. The great thing about the story is that we get to watch Rumi grow as a person, not only through her actions, but through her thoughts. She struggles with the idea of being able to play music again, and we get to witness her thought process as she overcomes this fear.

Then, of course, there’s her sexuality. “Summer Bird Blue” tackles a lot of tough issues within its pages. Dealing with the loss of a family member and figuring out one’s sexuality? It’s a lot; but the two plot lines meshed incredibly well together while also bringing to light sexualities that don’t often get a lot of attention. The storyline is focused mostly around Rumi’s possible asexuality (and yes, they actually say the words ‘asexual’ and ‘asexuality’ aloud in this book — amazing, right?) while also describing other orientations. They touch briefly on being aromantic and demisexual, something that a lot of other LGBTQ books never do.

I applaud Akemi Dawn Bowman in writing a book with such diverse, amazing characters. It isn’t something that I’ve seen before and it feels fresh and new, a feeling that is always amazing to have when reading a book.


The LGBTQ novel “Summer Bird Blue” is expected for release Sept. 11th, 2018 from Simon Pulse, the YA imprint of Simon & Schuster Publishing. You can preorder your copy here. It is recommended for ages 12 & up, specifically grades 7 through 9.

 

All-About-It BOOK REVIEW: Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman