This Dark Road to Mercy

This Dark Road to Mercy
Wiley Cash
© 2014
230 pages (hardcover)

I live in Georgia.  Before I moved here, I lived in Virginia.  And, before that, I lived in Louisiana.  My husband was born and raised in North Carolina.  Neither of us has a Southern accent (or so we claim), but we know a good one when we hear one.  We can tell if a Southerner is from Southeastern Virginia, New Orleans, or North Georgia based on his or her particular drawl.

And we can tell if someone is decidedly not a Southerner based on an atrocious fake accent.  For example . . .

Frank Underwood is clearly not from Gaffney, South Carolina: Continue reading

Life After Life

Life After Life
Kate Atkinson
© 2013
529 pages (hardcover)

You know what?  Sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover.  Take this book, Life After Life.  I should have known I would be disappointed with it as soon as I picked it up.  There were so many telltale signs!  To name a few:

  1. The cover art.  It’s atrocious.  Nothing about the cover art leads me to believe the book would be one I would like.
  2. There is a blurb on the front that reads, “One of the best novels I’ve read this century.”  And it’s by none other than Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl (which, as I mentioned here, I thought was ridiculously over-hyped and downright terrible).
  3. It’s over 500 pages long (not a cover judgment, I realize, but a prejudgment nonetheless). Continue reading

Tell the Wolves I’m Home

Tell the Wolves I’m Home
Carol Rifka Brunt
© 2012
360 pages (hardcover)

Most people go through an awkward phase at some point.  Those terrible early-teen years, when you’re not quite a kid and not quite an adult, are prime awkward-phase years.  Your body is changing, your hormones are raging, and you’re trying to figure out who the hell you are.

Maybe you went through an embarrassing Goth phase (like these guys) and decided to dye your hair black and wear black lipstick and black clothes.  Maybe you went through a hippie phase and wore Baja pullovers (you know the kind) and tried to get your hair to dread and smoked American Spirits.

Or maybe your awkward phase was like mine.  My awkward phase included oversized glasses, bad perms, a wicked overbite (followed by years of braces), and horrible fashion.  And it looked something like this . . . Continue reading

Love & War

Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home
James Carville and Mary Matalin
© 2013
337 pages (hardcover)

Politically, Bryan and I see eye-to-eye on every issue imaginable.  We lean far to one side of the political spectrum, and there are many issues about which we feel very strongly.  Although I would not describe us as particularly political, our politics color everything from what non-profits we support financially to how we decorate our house (hanging in one of our hallways is a grouping of politically-themed art and documents, including the invitations to a presidential inauguration and inaugural ball that Bryan’s grandparents attended decades ago).  I can’t imagine being from a household where my vote would be canceled out by my husband’s.

If you follow politics on television at all, then you know who James Carville (the Rajin’ Cajun) and Mary Matalin are.  They are the poster children for the cancel-each-other’s-vote relationship.  Despite having diametrically opposed views on nearly everything, they got married in 1993 (after he worked on Clinton’s presidential campaign and she worked on Bush’s). Continue reading

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
B.J. Novak
© 2014

You probably know B.J. Novak from The Office. He was Ryan (the temp), sometimes lover to Mindy Kaling’s Kelly Kapoor. Mindy and B.J. were both writers on The Office; that’s where they met.  And now, in real life, they are BFFs.  They are each stars on their own (more so Mindy than B.J. these days, but who’s counting?), but, with their powers combined, they seem to shine a little brighter.

And they milk that for all it’s worth.  They have “private” conversations with each other on Twitter.  They post pictures of each other on Instagram.  They have entire Buzzfeed lists dedicated to their friendship and mutual adoration (like “35 Times Mindy Kaling And B.J. Novak’s Best Friendship Killed You In The Heart”). Continue reading

An Unnecessary Woman

An Unnecessary Woman
Rabih Alameddine
© 2013
291 pages (hardcover)

Up until my senior year in college, I spent very little time in the library. I had managed to study abroad for three semesters. I majored in foreign languages (French was my primary language, Japanese was my secondary . . . and I took a little Wolof and Spanish for fun), so my “studies” consisted largely of reading, writing, and speaking languages that I had picked up through immersion.

But at the start of my senior year I made a foolish decision: I elected to do an honors thesis project. Theses were not required for foreign-languages majors, but I (ridiculously) thought it might be a fun challenge to translate a book. After much research, I found a book by a Senegalese woman written primarily in French with a smattering of Wolof phrases. I submitted my thesis proposal and found an advisor.

The book was a short 133 pages, and I had about six months to complete the translation. I thought it would be a cakewalk. I was wrong. Continue reading

Andrew’s Brain

Andrew’s Brain
E.L. Doctorow
© 2014
200 pages (hardcover)

I’ve noticed a trend in books I’ve read recently: characters that have emotional, behavioral, or social disorders.

  • There is Rachel in Player One, who has prosopagnosia (the inability to differentiate faces), “multiple structural anomalies on her limbic system that affect [her] personality,” mild OCD, autism spectrum disorder, and “a lesion in [her] brain’s right hemisphere creates tone-blindness that hinders [her] ability to appreciate what you call humour, irony, passion, and God.”
  • And Don Tilman from The Rosie Project, who is extremely socially awkward and has Asperger’s Syndrome (or some other, unspecified autism spectrum disorder).
  • And Jaz, Summer’s brother in The Thing About Luck, whom people treated like he was invisible and who had gotten three different diagnoses from three different doctors (OCD, ADHD, and PDD-NOS).

I can now add to that list Andrew, the unreliable narrator of Andrew’s Brain.  Andrew is a “freakishly depressive cognitive scientist klutz.” Continue reading

Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir
Eddie Huang
© 2013
276 pages (hardcover)

Eddie Huang’s name might not be immediately familiar, but if you’re into food, you’ve probably heard of him.  He was the guest judge who wore the sweet camo ensemble and who contestant Travis said was “kind of a douchebag” during the Vietnamese food episode on this past season of Top Chef (this is the clip if you haven’t seen it).

I am quite sure that was not the first time Eddie Huang has been called a douchebag. He is like a young, Chinese-American Tony Bourdain with a fresh shape-up.  He’s foul-mouthed, unapologetic, and brazen.  And he takes his food very seriously.

Although his dad owns a couple restaurants, his career in food was not preordained.  A few years back, Huang was a young associate grinding his way through 1800 billable hours at a big New York law firm.  But, when the recession hit, he got laid off.  He was selling weed and hustling sneakers and had just started his own streetwear line, Bergdorf Hoodman, when he answered a Craigslist ad for a Food Network show.

Continue reading