Book Review-EuphoriaEuphoria
Lily King
Published June 3, 2014
261 pages (hardcover)

During my second year of college, I took an anthropology class. For our final project, we had to develop a comparative study of two similar but distinct groups of people (the assignment must have had additional parameters, but I certainly can’t recall them this many years later). My groundbreaking study looked at the similarities and differences of two distinct subcultures of college students: 1) the hippie-dippy students at Lewis & Clark, my teeny, tiny liberal arts college (a school with no Greek system that abolished its football program the year after I graduated) located in Portland, Oregon, the land of rain and quirk, and 2) the football-crazed Bulldogs at my stepsister’s huge state school in the dirty South, UGA.

lewis-and-clark-collegeThe incredibly deep and thought-provoking questions I posed included gems like, “What do you do on an average Friday night?” A Lewis & Clark student’s typical response: smoke a bowl and go out to a bar. A UGA response: go to a frat party and get drunk. When asked how they would describe their school, a Lewis & Clark response went something like, “It’s a really chill, open environment. Everyone knows everyone else. We call our professors by their first names and go over to their houses for dinner. UGA$!logoThe study abroad opportunities are amazing. And I love that we can go skiing or rafting with Campus Outdoors every weekend.” My favorite UGA response was simply this: “Go DAWGS! Get ‘em! Sick ‘em! Woof woof woof woof woof WOOF WOOOOOOOOOOF!!!!”

Needless to say, my brand of anthropology was not particularly enlightening or revolutionary. And I think it’s fair to say that I was definitely not on track to be the next Margaret Mead. In contrast, the three main characters in Lily King’s new novel, Euphoria, take their anthropology a little more seriously.

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I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You

I-Am-Having-So-Much-Fun-Here-Without-YouI Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You
Courtney Maum
Published June 10, 2014
336 pages (hardcover)

I like to think of myself as a guys’ girl. I curse like a sailor. I am a champion flip-cup player. I had non-romantic dude roommates in college and law school. I love going to basketball games. I find joy in binge-watching The League for hours on end. I love going on dirty, sweaty hikes and bike rides.

Then again, I also love shoes and manicures and make up. I get highly emotional and prone to mood swings at predictable times each month. I read fashion and gossip magazines religiously. I DVR Hollywood Exes (a highly underrated gem of reality television), Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Ellen.

Now, please don’t go giving me some holier-than-thou speech about equality of the sexes and the fact that “guy things” and “girl things” are false constructs. I acknowledge that I am stereotyping (and, trust me, I know plenty of guys who watch RHOA). But, let’s face it: there are many ways (some learned, some innate) in which guys and girls are different. We act differently. We talk differently. We certainly think differently.

These differences are evident in real-life, and, on occasion, they positively glare from the pages of books. Sometimes, when a man writes a book from a female perspective or a woman writes a book from a male perspective, it’s just a mess. It comes off as inauthentic, sloppy, unbelievable, or just plain weird.

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Five Great Ways to Celebrate Banned Books Week

Yesterday marked the beginning of Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read. Banned Books Week is sponsored by a number of organizations, including the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of American Publishers, and the American Booksellers Association and seeks to bring together all book lovers (teachers, librarians, book sellers, readers, and writers) “in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”


Each year, to raise awareness about censorship, the ALA compiles a list of books that have been banned or challenged during the past year, as published in their Newsletter on Intellectual FreedomThis year’s list contains nearly thirty books. In addition to some newer YA books like Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park (challenged for “its use of profanity and its treatment of sexuality”) there are also some important classics like Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-Prize winning The Color Purple (used in an 11th-grade AP English class and challenged for “language and sexuality or ‘obscenity,’” as well as whether the book “that deals with issues of racism, violence against women, and rape, has literary value that was age appropriate for the students.”). All of the books on the list “represent requests to remove materials from schools or libraries, thus restricting access to them by others.”

Why is the list important? Continue reading

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Unknown Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published May 14, 2013
589 pages (Kindle e-book)

A couple weeks ago, at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé performed an epic sixteen-minute medley. If you missed it, you can watch it in its entirety here. Shortly after the ten-minute mark, words began to flash on massive screens behind her. You hear a commanding, accented voiceover: “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller . . .” Bey’s silhouette dramatically appears in front of these words, and the medley morphs into Bey’s aggressive anthem “***Flawless.”

If you’re not familiar with “***Flawless,” here is the video:

At 1:25, you can hear that same commanding voice. She says: Continue reading

The Anatomy of Dreams

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley from the publisher, Atria Books, in exchange for an honest review.

18774959The Anatomy of Dreams
Chloe Benjamin
Release date: September 16, 2014
253 pages (ARC e-book)

I’ve been known to have some really odd, very vivid dreams.

In one dream, which was entirely in cartoon form, I was Wile E. Coyote. Predictably, I spent the dream chasing after the Roadrunner. I raced after him around curves in dusty roads, following his signature “meep, meep.” I tried to set traps for him and watched as he escaped, feeling like he was taunting me with his speed and good nature. The dream ended when I ran off a cliff, legs bicycling on air, pausing dramatically before my imminent fall.


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The Moment of Everything

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Grand Central Publishing, in exchange for an honest review.

Guess what? You, too, can receive a free copy of this book from the generous folks at Grand Central Publishing! See details in the “Yay for Giveaways” note below.

20454659 The Moment of Everything
Shelly King
Published September 2, 2014
208 pages (ARC e-book)

I have a friend who is smart and funny, a little brash, and very Southern. She is a successful lawyer who loves Crossfit, cats, and college football. She also happens to be the only person I know who is OBSESSED with romance novels.

Let me be very clear about this: I’m not talking about chick-lit fiction (of the Sophie Kinsella or Emily Giffin varieties); I’m talking about mass-market paperbacks of the sort that feature Fabio on the cover and regularly employ words like “heaving” and “shaft.”

She reads these books constantly and voraciously. I once sat next to this friend on a plane flight from Las Vegas to Virginia and watched in awe (and with only a touch of judgment) as she plowed through a four-hundred-page bodice-ripper from beginning to end. She has been known to carry a romance novel with her in the car and read while she’s stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic (behavior no one condones, obviously). She reads as many as twenty romance novels each month. That, my friends, is a lot of “mounds” and “bulges” and “throbbing.”

Apparently, if you like romance novels, you really like romance novels. Maggie, the first-person narrator and protagonist of Shelly King’s debut novel, The Moment of Everything, has a similarly insatiable habit. She devours cheesy romance novels like they’re going out of style. Maggie has recently been laid-off from her job at a start-up (a start-up that she actually started-up) and now whiles away her hours (hours that should be spent looking for a new job) at the Dragonfly, a used bookstore owned by her landlord, Hugo. There, she can “knock out two to three of these romances [books with titles like The Redemption and A Duke of Her Own and The Pirate Queen’s Deceit and A Devil’s Heart] a day.” Continue reading

The Professor and the Madman

professor_web-300x440 The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
Simon Winchester
Published in 1998
242 pages (paperback)

Each year, the esteemed lexicographers at Oxford Dictionaries examine the new entrees in our vernacular to determine which gems will become the latest entries in their online dictionary. Last year, even Buzzfeed lamented some of the “unfortunate additions” in a post entitled “Twerking, FOMO, Squee, And 11 Other Words The Oxford Dictionary Just Added.” That’s right, “squee,” an exclamation “used to express great delight or excitement”–along with its verb forms: squees, squeeing, and squeed—was added to Oxford’s online dictionary in 2013.

And guess what? This year’s list isn’t any better.

Let’s play a game. I’m going to give you a list of (mostly) terrible slang terms and you tell me which can be found in the Oxford’s online dictionary and which you’d have to look up on Ready? Here we go:

  • YOLO
  • Amazeballs
  • Neckbeard
  • Side-eye
  • Side boob
  • Humblebrag
  • Cray
  • Binge-watch

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The Farm

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Grand Central Publishing, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

UnknownThe Farm
Tom Rob Smith
© 2014
352 pages (hardcover)

People who follow Mark Twain’s sage advice to write what you know usually fall into two categories: 1) the John Grishams of the world (people who sensationalize work or life experiences they have had and call it fiction) and 2) memoirists (people who sensationalize work or life experiences they have had and call it non-fiction). With his newest novel, Tom Rob Smith falls into the former category. But the life experiences on which his new novel are based require little sensationalization to make them creepy, thrilling, and gripping.

Here’s the real-life story (according to this story in The Telegraph), which happened to the author four years ago:

His parents (father English, mother Swedish) had been enjoying their retirement on a farm in Sweden for three years when his father phoned to tell Tom that his mother had been committed to an asylum. Shortly afterwards she discharged herself, flew to London, and attempted to convince Tom and his brother that their father had become involved in criminal activity and was trying to silence her. Continue reading

A Weekend at the 2014 AJC Decatur Book Festival

0829-083114AJCDBF2014This holiday weekend was a celebration for Atlanta-area book lovers! The 2014 AJC Decatur Book Festival, which is the largest independent, community-supported book festival in the U.S., took place mere minutes from my home. The festival brought award-winning authors and droves of adoring book fans (who were utterly undeterred by the sticky, icky 90+-degree weather). Here are some of the highlights:

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