DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley from PENGUIN GROUP Viking/Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review.

Laura Lane McNeal
© 2014
352 pages (ARC e-book)

New Orleans is known as the land of beads, beignets, boobs, and booze. It’s the city of parades, floats, and masked balls. It’s a paradise of excess and open containers. It is the bachelor- and bachelorette-party Mecca, and people travel hundreds and thousands of miles to relish in its splendor of strip clubs, bars, Hurricanes, oysters, and live music. It’s a place where you can take pictures with actual police officers, while drinking a beer on Bourbon Street at 2:00 a.m., that look like this:

New Orleans

But, for many Louisianians, New Orleans is dark and foreboding. When I lived in Baton Rouge, I knew several people who had been born and raised in Louisiana but had never been to New Orleans (keep in mind that New Orleans is a straight shot down I-10 from Baton Rouge–a trip that takes less than an hour and a half). In Baton Rouge, urban legends/cautionary tales about the dangers of New Orleans spread like wildfire (like the one about the girl who got AIDS when a stranger on Bourbon Street purposely pricked her with a tainted syringe). Continue reading


DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. 

UnknownDelancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage
Molly Wizenberg
© 2014
242 pages (hardcover)

As I mentioned in passing before (here), my husband’s favorite food is pizza.  (As an aside, my favorite food is ice cream. We are quite a pair.) When you’re married to someone who truly loves pizza, you eat a lot of pizza (a couple weekends ago, we had pizza for lunch one day . . . and then went out for pizza at a different spot for dinner that same evening). And, when you eat a lot of pizza, you have no choice but to become a bit of a pizza snob. You can immediately discern good crust from bad crust (and good char from bad char), you know the perfect ratio of sauce  and cheese to crust (enough for taste but not so much that the crust gets soggy or the toppings are gloppy), and you know all of the places in town with the best pies (here in Atlanta, that’s Antico, for their Napoletana with broccoli rabe, salsiccia, and bufala mozzarella on a perfectly charred crust).

Luckily, there are a lot of people out there that take pizza seriously. They have studied wood-burning oven times and techniques, what cheeses taste best with various toppings, and the exact right amount of sugar to put in the tomato sauce. These days, there are lots of pizza hipsters, and they make some durn good pie. Continue reading


Rainbow Rowell
© 2014
310 pages (hardcover)

Back in the ‘80s, time-traveling movies were all the rage. And the time traveling always seemed to take place in an ordinary object that was transformed into a magic, time-traveling device.

There was the magic, time-traveling telephone booth of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure:

Continue reading

Lucky Us

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. 

Lucky Us
Amy Bloom
© 2014 (expected publication date July 29, 2014)
212 pages (ARC e-book)

When I was in high school, Alanis Morrisette released her single “Ironic”:

And, immediately, the world revolted.

“Nothing in that song is ironic!” proclaimed every angsty 17-year-old wearing Doc Martens (as she took a break from smoking cloves, mourning the loss of Kurt Cobain, and reading Jack Kerouac). Continue reading

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley from Random House Publishing Group/The Dial Press in exchange for an honest review. 

UnknownThe Rise & Fall of Great Powers
Tom Rachman
© 2014
340 pages (ARC e-book)

Imagine if your past were a mystery. Not in a Samantha Who?/amnesiac kind of way, but in a Finding Carter/abduction kind of way. Finding Carter is a new show on MTV about a kid who was abducted when she was three years old. She grows up with a woman she believes is her mother (her wonderful, amazing, super loving mother). As a teenager, Carter gets arrested for normal teenage mischief. But, after getting fingerprinted in jail, the police discover she isn’t Carter after all; she’s little abducted Lyndon. Now, Carter/Lyndon finds herself back with her real family, people who are strangers and about whom she knows nothing. She misses the woman she knows as her mother and struggles to make sense of her identity:

Continue reading

Silver Linings Playbook

silver_linings_playbook_cover_book1The Silver Linings Playbook
Matthew Quick
© 2008
289 pages (hardcover)

Silver Linings Playbook, the movie that was released in 2012, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as mentally ill and emotionally unstable individuals who meet, develop a weird quasi-friendship, and enter a dance competition together,  is great. It was nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture, (Jennifer Lawrence won for best actress— that was the year she tripped up the stairs and everyone fell in love with her for being so funny and “normal”).  It has a 92% on the Rotten Tomatoes‘ Tomatometer. And (most significantly) Cooper and Lawrence won the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss. Here’s a refresher:

Continue reading

The Painter

201405-omag-heller-949x1356The Painter
by Peter Heller
© 2014
364 pages (hardcover)

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books with middle-aged, moderately disturbed, first-person male narrators (like Summer House with Swimming Pool and To Rise Again at a Decent Hour). For obvious reasons, it’s a bit difficult for me to really connect with a book about a fifty-year-old dude having a mid-life crisis or a crisis of conscience or any other kind of crisis.

But there’s something about this book and its titular painter and first-person narrator, Jim Stegner, that drew me in. Stegner is a forty-something, twice-divorced artist who lives in a cabin in rural Colorado. He spends his days painting, fly-fishing, smoking, and thinking about alcohol (he’s a recovering alcoholic and hasn’t had a drink in three years). His daughter, Alce, whom he taught to fly-fish and considered his best friend, was murdered when she was fifteen, and he carries tremendous guilt over her death (he believes he didn’t adequately protect her) and grieves her loss every day. Continue reading