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Southern Comfort

I’m puzzled by this girlie cover for the paperback version of Intuition by Allegra Goodman. It’s all about this young woman, who works in a cancer lab. (Thank God there’s a cute doctor also working there!) But oops, his ex is on a rampage and she tries to mess with his work and there’s all these ethical and moral dilemmas and hey, maybe another cover (more serious) would have been better! More like the hardcover maybe?

Speaking of covers, one of my favorite books of 2006  Abide with Me, by Elizabeth Strout had a total redesign for the paperback. How do you go from this to this?

We also have a crumbling cupcake cover trend. From Miss Invisible by Laura Jensen Walker  to the The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

On the Rise:

The hot new novel looks to be The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle. (Mentioned earlier in the month in this blog.)

Link Love

I enjoy group blogs and found Deadline Hellions to be mighty fine reading.

Read  of the Week

I re-read The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks and it was like discovering a brand-new book. I didn’t remember a bit of it except for the last story where her main character tries to follow The Rules.

I was surprised by the spare prose and the shortness of the novel, but I still really enjoyed it and think the work holds up after ten years. Still I prefer her latest The Wonder Spot which I believe I’ll re-read for comparison.

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A Must-Read!


A few best-selling authors are guilty of occasionally phoning in their novels. Many authors are expected to produce a novel a year, and publishing companies count on certain authors to contribute substantially to their bottom line. What pressure! Is it any wonder that every now and then an author produces a slap-dash effort?


Best-selling author, Jodi Picoult, however is NOT one of those authors. It amazes me that she consistently writes well-plotted, well-researched page turners every year. Her latest Nineteen Minutes about a school shooting is a tour de force. She juggles dozens of points of view, yet never confuses the reader or loses the momentum of the story. Her skillful pacing makes you to want to devour the novel one sitting. Additionally her characters are so well-crafted and true-to-life she manages to make the reader feel sympathy for the shooter.


Don’t miss this one!


Link Love


This is a thoughtful article on  the future of book reviews. 


Thank goodness! Baby boomers love their books.


A Little South in Your Mouth


I’m lucky because people actually send me books! For free. And sometimes they are wonderful like More Culinary Kudzu by Keetha DePriest Reed. It has YUM Southern recipes organized by seasons  and amusing stories accompany the recipes. You’ll want to try the Hummingbird Cake (a favorite of mine), cheese straws, garlic chess grits, funnel cake, seven layer salad, tea time tassies and a whole lot more of your Southern favorites. This is the second book in a series of cookbooks and I just LOVED it. I know I don’t usually do cookbooks ‘round here, but this one was too good not to mention.


Looking Ahead


There are certain books I drool over long before they hit the shelves and the one I’m lusting over the most right now is  A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans.  First of all, it’s been compare to  The Secret History by Donna Tartt one of my ten top-favorite books of all time.


Then Publishers Weekly said “this stunning novel marks the debut of a serious talent.” Kirkus calls it “a psychological thriller that keeps the reader on edge until the last page.” Library Journal said, “this debut novel grips readers from the first chapter.”


The novel is about man who refuses to hold his newborn son because of traumas he’s experienced in the past. It debuts in May.


Fun Read of the Week


Karen Quinn, author of Ivy Chronicles has a new novel called Wife in the Fast Lane. Instead of going one a multi-city tour, Quinn asked her publisher to help subsidize a contest on her web site instead which net 750 entries but also brought over 7,000 visitors to her web site. The contest is closed but you can read about it on Quinn’s site.


Here’s an excerpt.

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In “me” news I’m very pleased that my next novel Earthly Pleasures finally has publication date. February 2008 may sound like it’s very far away but it’s a mere blip in publishing time.


The novel will be published under a pen name as it’s so very different than what I have written in the past. It took me over two years to write the novel (a very looong time for me) because it was such a complicated plot and yet it’s rather short as novels go.


In deal lunch (way back in May 2005) it was described thusly: “ A hospitality greeter in Heaven crosses the dimensions to reunite with her lover on Earth.”


On another topic, it’s wonderful news that teens are buying more books that they have in decades.


Also I finished Still Life with Husband. This is one of those books that doesn’t have a very compelling hook, i.e. it’s about a woman whose bored with her marriage and has an affair.


BUT… it’s wonderfully clever and great fun to read. Very Lolly Winston or Suzanne Finnamore. Lauren Fox, the author, has such a winning style she doesn’t need a high concept plot.


On my list to read is Sloppy Firsts by Megan Mccafferty. Curious, I went searching for an  excerpt. MAN. What a distinct voice. You don’t often see something like that right off the bat. Can’t wait to read.

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The GCC Presents  Melanie Lynne Hauser Author of Super Mom Saves the World



I love the premise of Melanie’s novels. A PTA mom has a horrible Swiffer accident and acquires super powers. The press release says she’s having lustful thoughts about Mr. Clean. (Love it!) I’m partial to the Brawny towel guy, but whatever…


Anyhoo, you know this one’s gonna be fun. Both the notoriously cranky Kirkus and Booklist gave it the thumbs up.  


Q. SUPER MOM SAVES THE WORLD is a sequel. Did you anticipate having a sequel when you wrote your first novel?  What was the writing process like?


A. No, I didn't anticipate it.  I'd written a stand alone - or so I thought.  It's an odd thing, as a writer, to be told that no, you didn't actually end the story where you thought you did.  And I admit, it was tough - the hardest thing I've had to write so far.  There are so many other people reading over your shoulder when you're writing a sequel.  And I had a couple of false starts.  But in the end, the book I wrote is a good book, I think; I'm happy with what has happened with these characters, and feel privileged to have had the chance to live with them this much longer. 


Q. You did a lot of promotional work for your first novel. Any big plans for your second? Now that you're a veteran what will you do differently this time around? 



A. I'm not doing quite so much, actually; I think I learned that there are a lot of things outside the author's control, and no matter what else you might come up with, there's just a critical point where you can't move the mountain on your own.  So hopefully I'm being smarter by concentrating on talking with independent booksellers, for example, instead of spending a ton of money on Google AdWords that really don't seem to make a difference.  I think I'm just using my time and money in a smarter way, at least I hope!  Not just randomly driving around, looking for books to sign, but making sure I'm going places where there are actually promotion and media opportunities.  Not having lots of silly contests on my website, either.  Those don't seem to make a big difference.  And while, with the paperback, I spent a lot of time on MySpace, I'm not sure that was worthwhile, at least not for the audience for my book.  So I'm not spending so much time there. 


(Although, now that I think about it, there is, currently, a silly contest on my website! And also, some Google AdWords. But I'm not spending nearly as much money & time on them as I have in the past!)


Q. What's the next for you?



A. Wish I knew!  I have a lot of ideas I'm excited about, but it's too soon to tell what's going to happen first.


Q. What's your favorite part of writing a novel? Your least favorite?


A. There's no least favorite part about writing!  That's the most important thing I've learned since being published - that the writing is IT, the reason I'm doing this.  The publishing part is much more daunting, and can be heartless, and if that's the only reason you're doing this, you're going to have a tough time.  But if you're doing it for the love of the writing, you can weather any slings and arrows that come your way


Q. How did you stumble into novel writing in the first place? Was it something you always wanted to do? 


A. I was always a voracious reader, and I suppose there was always a sense that I was good with words, and had a vivid imagination.  But I didn't always want to be a writer, no; I really wanted to go into the performing arts, and did a lot of theater.  But in my mid-thirties, when my children were a bit older, I looked around and realized that "Hey, you know - maybe I should be a writer!"  And so I started out small, writing humorous parenting essays, and working my way up to writing novels.  That was always my ultimate goal, but it was a bit intimidating, and it took me a while to get my courage up.  But once I started, I haven't stopped!  And I hope I never do.



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What to Read In March


Cassandra King has a new one out called  Queen of Broken Hearts It’s about a divorce coach who is leery of ever falling in love again. If you’re a Southerner you probably also know that King is the wife of Pat Conroy. Her new novel opens in Fairhope, Alabama, home to Page and Palette and Over the Transom bookstore. (Page and Palette is mentioned. There’s also a character named Son. Could this be a nod to Over Transom owner Sonny Brewer?) Dorothea Benton Frank, Sandra Brown and Fannie Flagg give the novel raves.


Here’s the excerpt.


One of my favorite authors, Tawni O’Dell has a new release Sister Mine. As the title may or may not suggest, O’Dell writes about coal miners, which would ordinarily be about as interesting to me a book about lint.


But her prose, storytelling and voice is sooo wonderful. I’m desperately disappointed that I couldn’t find an excerpt to show you how great O’Dell is. But here’s an excerpt from a previous novel to demonstrate that O’Dell has got the chops.


One of the most disturbing and compelling novels I’ve ever read was Lionel Shriver’s  We Need to Talk About Kevin.  Shriver’s latest is  Post-Birthday World. The main character is tempted to cheat on her husband and the author presents a two-pronged narrative of what happened when she stayed faithful and what might of happened if she strayed. It’s sort of high-brow Sliding Doors. All the major reviewers are raving. No excerpt, dang it. I really wanted a taste.


Imagine losing your fiancé’s six-year-old daughter in the split second your attention is diverted. That’s the premise of The Year of Fog, by Michelle Richmond. I’m pretty sure this sample chapter will reel you in. Love the spare prose. Reviews are wunderbar, and include a starred Library Journal. Michelle is originally from Alabama.


Susan Coll writes a witty send-up on the college admission process in Acceptance. Looks fun but I couldn’t find an excerpt or even a web site. Reviews are good.


Tara Ison writes a darkly comic novel called The List about a couple with a rocky relationship. They make a list of ten things they want to do before they break up for good. The list becomes progressively dysfunctional. Sounds like an intriguing premise. No excerpt available.


Much loved Anne Lamott has an essay collection out called  Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith revealing a more mellow side of the writer.


 Helpless by Barbara Gowdy is about child abduction. (Hence the hints of Lovely Bones in the cover). No excerpt but with two starred reviews this one may be worth looking into.


The God of Animals (a Books Sense pick) is about a poor rancher girl who is exposed to a world of wealth and privilege when her family boards horses. Here’s a snippet.


Naked on the Page a non-fiction offering by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Janet Ganahl chronicles middle-aged dating (almost an oxymoron and book I could have written myself) Kirkus calls it “Carrie Bradshaw meets AARP.”


I mentioned Spellman Files, by Lisa Lutz before about a quirky family who owns a detective agency. This has “big book” written all over it with the tons of foreign rights sold and movies rights optioned. There’s a sample chapter when you click on the first link.






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A new wind is blowing at Southern Comfort. I’ve decided to post my most detailed blog every Friday. That’s where you’ll find a big, fat serving of reading selections or other worthy things I’ve collected during the week. There may be little driblets during the week but Friday is the big day to get your weekly shot of Southern.   

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Reading Rainbow


The font is big because LJ is MESSED UP! They forget to add the post-to-journal button but I can’t complain because it’s FREE.


Enuff. Read Joe Hill’s debut and it was engaging and fun until near the end when it got over-the-top, confusing and weird. I’ve seen this in horror novels a lot. The author seems to think anything goes because, “Dude, I’m a horror novelist.”




I skimmed a lot of tedious action, gore and incomprehensible junk to get to the ending.


In other bad news, I wasn’t amused with this offering. There’s some funny stuff but it’s bogged down in backstory and a lot of non-essential scenes. And it tries too hard.


Whenever I start feeling blue about my reading material, I return to something I know is near perfect like this.


It’s like a return to sanity and order.  The equivalent of a literary Calgon bath. AHHHH! Take me away.

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Excuse me, y'all. I am having problems with LJ so that's why the print in the last few entries is so small. Trying to work it out. Think I've got it figured out.