Tag Archives: Suzanne Johnson

Who’s got the brag?

I think this may end up being my most massive brag ever.

As usual, Tad has done a fabulous job of keeping track of Peauxdunquian achievements in real time. For instance that Cassie Pruyn is second runner up in the Faulkner-Wisdom’s poetry category, that J.Ed Marston and Tad Bartlett are both finalists, that Maurice Ruffin’s upcoming reading October 3rd, plus much, much more. So I hope you have the Peauxdunque blog bookmarked.

Jeff Roedel was one of 30 writers asked to write a story responding to a photograph by William Greiner for the book Show & Tell.

The Spring 2013 issue of The Eudora Welty Review features Alison Graham-Bertolini’s “Searching for the Garnet Pin.”

The Devil In Her Way by Bill Loehfelm was a “best new local book” on the Best of New Orleans list, picked by Gambit readers.

Ava Leavell Haymon is now Louisiana’s Poet Laureate! Her official induction will be October 24th. Also, her new book of poetry Eldest Daughter was published recently. I attended two events this week where she read from the book, including at a Women’s Week event yesterday at the Baton Rouge Art Gallery, along with Jamey Hatley and several amazing women writers.

Dispensations by Randolph Thomas won the New Rivers Press MVP Prize and will be published soon!

Jenn Nunes has three short fiction pieces at Fiction Southeast.

Blood a Cold Blue by James Claffey is now available. The official launch is this Friday! I love this blog post from his wife Maureen Foley, about being a couple who both write and both of their books being published at the same time.

Che Yeun’s story “One in Ten Fish Are Afraid of Water” has been selected as the winner of Philadelphia Stories‘ Marguerite McGlinn National Prize for Fiction.

Jewel Bush has written several articles for The Uptown Messenger, including a recent one celebrating the 30th anniversary of Community Book Center.

The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans by Susan Larson has been published!

Cam Terwilliger will be writing an ongoing “field notes” series about his year in Montreal on a Fulbright Scholarship.

L. Kasimu Harris was featured on WDSU‘s pregame show tonight and was photographed by Daymon Gardner for the December issue of Travel + Leisure, which will be available in Nov. Check out this picture that Giancarlo Dagostaro took of the session.

Kasimu

NOVAC’s Web Weekend has three more days to raise the last $200 of their $5,000 Kickstarter campaign goal. Go check out what they have planned for the Weekend, next month, and see the swag they’re offering their backers. Eritria Pitts of She is Alex will be part of the Web Weekend and you can check out her short “Blind Date” to whet your appetite.

Speaking of Kickstarter campaigns… I don’t technically know JJ Tiziou, but I kinda feel like I do since his project “Everyone Is Photogenic” is changing my life. Ever since I saw the video for the campaign, I can’t tell you how many many times I’ve heard someone I care about respond badly to a photograph of themselves. Whenever they do this lately, I bring up this project and we have a great conversation about confidence and photography and beauty.

The t.v. show I spent part of last year and the first half of this year working on has released an incredible trailer. I get chills every time I watch it. The show, True Detective. will air on HBO early next year. Makes me very proud to have been part of it.

Speaking of being proud of a project, 12 Years a Slave opens on the 18th and I’m eager to see it. Hearing the Oscar talk now reminds me of the conversations we had while working on it last year – we knew it was special and we knew it was important. It’s going to be incredibly emotional to watch and I’m so glad it got made.

Since I promised that I will self-brag when appropriate, here’s some news about me and my work. Since my last brag, my reviews of Bill Loehfelm’s The Devil in Her Way and Suzanne Johnson’s Elysian Fields were published in 225. Karin C. Davidson interviewed me for Hothouse Magazine. It was a great experience and I’m honored to be a part of this series, which includes great interviews with Brad Richard and Andrew Lam, among others.

Next month, on the 26th, I will read “Tango Face” at a special event at Cafe Istanbul. Orquesta Fleur will play live tango music, there will be dancing and readings about tango and its history. Should be very cool. At the Louisiana Book Festival (Nov 2nd), I will be conducting a live interview with Josh Hanagarne, author The World’s Strongest Librarian, and presenting a panel with fellow Peauxdunque members Tad Bartlett, Susan Kagan and Maurice Ruffin, which is pretty exciting. And shortly after that, “Tango Face” will be published in the Double Dealer, coinciding with this year’s Words and Music Festival (Dec 4-8). The last quarter of 2013 is looking to be very productive.

Speaking of quarters…I owe y’all my 3rd Quarter Review soon. I hope you enjoy all of this bragging for now – these people and these projects are amazing, so go spend some time with them.

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2013 Q2 Reading Report

I hope you’ll forgive me, but I’ve been in the process of moving during the end of June and all of July, so that’s why this 2nd Quarter Reading Report is coming so late. My 2nd Quarter in reading was strong, but the 3rd will be a bit paltry, I’m afraid (especially the first third) because of how time- and energy-consuming this move has been.

April

A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin – This book, along with the next, A Dance with Dragons, only follows half of the characters from the series. Considering how many of my favorite characters died in A Storm of Swords or were absent, I found this one a slower read. GRRM never really lets up, kills some more major characters and really tortures some others. Still, it was fascinating reading, the kind that just sucks me in and holds me hostage.

The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker – The premise of this book is brilliant: the planet’s rotation starts to slow, which makes the days gradually lengthen, causing a societal schism and also some very real environmental catastrophes. The story is narrated by a young girl who’s going through an ordinary adolescence in the middle of extraordinary circumstances. I was continually surprised by the details that made it all feel very, very real. Best of all, it could be read as a giant metaphor for our current times. Like this haunting sentence near the end of the book: “No one knows what the world will be like by the time I finish school.”

Her, Christa Parravani – A memoir about two twins, one who was raped, struggled to recover and overdosed, and the other who survived the loss of her sister. This book, while incredibly hard and heavy, is also beautiful. Parravani talks about family, sibling (and twin) bonds, competition between women, art and ownership, addiction and mental health. I read this book obsessively and the end was cathartic and earned. I felt like I’d been on a journey by the time I got there.

A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin – So, I got to find out what the other half of the characters were up to with this book. Everyone (who’s still living…) is in such a tough place in these last two books. It made for compelling reading, but was also hard on the heart. The evening I finished this book, I went to a literary cocktail party and was asked what I would do if anything happened to GRRM before the series is finished. I immediately started tallying the cost of hiring private security for him. What would I do? What am I going to do while I wait for The Winds of Winter? It was like 6 years between the last two books and 5 for the two before that. The last one was published in 2011. I’m going to go mad if I have to wait till 2016 or 2017, even with the t.v. series to enjoy. Dammit.

May

Jake and the Giant, E.G. Foley – The sequel to The Lost Heir. Like the first book, I read it at the same time as one of my favorite kids, the son of a friend. We have our own little book club of sorts. He sped through this, sneaking it to school and reading it in the car, etc. (I miss being a kid). Since I had to, you know, drive, instead of read in the car, I was a bit slower. I found this follow-up dealing with Norse mythology entertaining and silly, but also really hefty reading (literally, the book is heavy). The Kid and I are looking forward to The Dark Portal in October.

The Half-Life of Planets, Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin – I started this book because I love Emily Franklin and I finished it because I fell in love with the characters. It seemed a bit formulaic and earnest at first, but then it started to feel like the kind of books I loved as a teen. I’m kinda fascinated when writers (especially Y/A writers) team up to write dual character narratives. Since I’m now on a memoir kick, and after reading this, I’m looking forward to reading Halpin’s Losing My Faculties.

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe – I expected this to be really sad, since it’s about a mother and son reading books together in waiting rooms while she’s being treated for terminal cancer. It is sentimental, highly so, but also highly celebratory of the life that Schalbe’s mother Mary Anne led. It’s a remarkable story and reminds me why I love books so much, the power they have to form and heal relationships. The variety of books that they read during her last days is fascinating, both how they weave into the narrative of her life and how they may be situationally incidental, but speak so much to character and passion.

The Spindlers, Lauren Oliver – Thought I’d zip right through this one, since it’s a short middle-readers book by an author whose older books I read in a few hours. It was a bit treacly and light for me, but I’m not exactly the target audience. Also, I’m not really in a light, childish frame of mind, reading-wise, lately. If you combined The Borrowers and Labyrinth, you’ve got The Spindlers. I think kids growing up with this book will adore it.

Dead After Dark, Charlaine Harris – So I’ve basically been reading the last few books in this series because I hate leaving things unfinished (see my recent reviews of Iris Johansen books and the Stephanie Plum series). It’s hard for me to voluntarily not finish the ride, which is why I try to start series only cautiously lately. I totally respect why Harris decided to end the Sookie Stackhouse series and I basically felt rewarded by how things turned out for Sookie. But this book was so crazy and over-packed with returning characters and plot threads. It felt like a bit of a rush to finish.

The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate – This book is amazing! Took me totally by surprise. The first person narrative of Ivan, a gorilla who paints in captivity, is so funny and poignant and such a smart book. I flew through this, laughing out loud, quoting the book to friends in conversation and was entirely invested.

June

Why We Broke Up, Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman – This is a pretty unique book, but not a unique experience. Each section of the book, illustrated by Kalman, is about an object from a break-up box and the story behind it, from when the couple were together. I’ve had at least one such box and stories about the scraps of paper and objects that carry relationship residue. Another book I underestimated which stuck with me long after I finished it.

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell – This is a quick, vital book that everyone should read. Period. Mostly about women in the workforce by the COO of Facebook, it’s packed with fascinating personal stories and research about the disadvantages women are dealt (often, by themselves) in business, how both women and men can counteract these disadvantages to everyone’s advantage. This came up in no fewer than 300 conversations since I read it.

Poser, Claire Dederer – The subtitle says it all: “My life in 23 yoga poses.” Each chapter focuses on one particular pose/period of Dederer’s life as she’s learning yoga and what it reveals about her history and relationships. I have to add this one into the gumbo of my own book – the way she uses yoga poses as a frame for her memoir is a lot like what I’m hoping to do with my memoir (framed by tango). If I can be anywhere near as funny and brave as Dederer is in this book, even better.

Elysian Fields, Suzanne Johnson – My 225 Magazine review is available here.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith – I hope they make a movie based on this book. Hell, *I* might make a movie off this book, if someone doesn’t. It’d be a sweet, smart rom-com like The Wedding Date meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Oh look, someone is making a movie. Good. I can focus on my memoir, since I’m all moved into my new place.

Now, I’m gonna go read so I can bulk up my third quarter…

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2012 Q3 Reading Report

As I predicted in my last Quarterly Reading Report, July and August were a bit sparse, but I made significant gains in September. And as always, I read some really amazing books. All but two of the sixteen books I read this quarter were from the library. I did go back and buy two of the books after reading them, because I wanted a copy of my very own.

July

Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu – This was an odd, sometimes completely amazing, mishmash of other fantastical children’s tales, pulling from fairy tales like Hansel & Gretel, as well as The Chronicles of Narnia. But, these references were homages, touchstones in a tale that was, in part, about the power of stories and imagination.

One for the Money, Janet Evanovich – You’ll be disappointed to know that I was inspired to read the book by the recent movie (once again). I found this first Stephanie Plum tale amusing and entertaining, though completely dated. But, how can it not be considering how much the world has changed since it was originally published in 1994 (that’s 18 years ago!).

August

Two for the Dough, Janet Evanovich – One of the things I like best about reading these books now is seeing simultaneously how absolutely original and completely influential Stephanie Plum has been in this genre. You can see Sookie Stackhouse’s origins in Stephanie Plum, too, even though they live in different genres.

Oyster, John Biguenet – This book devastated me. I began reading it to prepare for my interview with John Biguenet, but finished it out of entirely selfish reading necessity. I was so utterly captured by this book that I had one of those experiences where I felt like I was living in the world of the book and would bump into the characters at any moment. I also felt the unbearable itch to see this book become a movie, most especially with one of the final scenes.

A Million Suns, Beth Revis – This sequel to Across the Universe was a bit slower to start than the first book, but once I was in, I was truly in. It didn’t quite go where I expected it to, which I appreciate. I’m fairly good at predicting plots and twists (both in movies and books), so my hat comes off to a book or movie that can surprise me without making me feel cheated. Can’t wait for the third book, Shades of Earth, which is coming out shortly after m birthday next year.

Out of  Sight, Out of Time, Ally Carter – The latest in Carter’s Gallagher Girl series, which I’ve enjoyed for a while. This one took a bit of an odd turn, elevating the “what I did last summer” essay to new heights, introducing amnesia and a spy adventure after the fact. At first, I wasn’t so sure about this twist in the series, especially since it’s been a little while since I read the last one, but I settled in just fine. I love that Carter writes about teen girls, who also happen to be spies and con artists.

Tiny, Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed – Poor you, if you spent any time with me while I was reading this book. I did not talk (or think!) about anything else as I quickly devoured it and for a while after I finished. Sugar (Strayed) presents a master course on absolute, raw courage in nonfiction, not to mention how to write about yourself without being self-centered. Made me excited to read Wild, though the subject matter hadn’t previously appealed to me.

River Road, Suzanne Johnson – My interview with Johnson will be forthcoming from is in this month’s issue of 225 Magazine. Let me just say, this is what I read during my Hurricane Isaac evacuation.

September

Hot Stuff, Janet Evanovich + Leanne Banks – This is the “fluffy audio book” mentioned in the Leg Three post from the Grandma Road Trip. It truly is fluffy. It did the trick though, which was gave Mums and me something to listen to while driving, engaging enough to listen to, but not complicated enough to distract us from driving.

Naughty Neighbor, Janet Evanovich – This one was begun on Leg Four and finished on Leg Five. I hate to say it, but I kinda wish we’d given this one a pass and moved on sooner to the loooong audio book that I resisted, but which Mums picked out. That one ended up being very engaging and we didn’t get to finish it.

Reunion, Alan Lightman – This one was recommended to me by a writer friend when I told him I’m writing about tango and dance. The funny thing is that though he recommended it to me, in part at least, because it features a dancer, I think I needed to read it for an entirely different reason. Another interesting thing is that this book is of a type that is usually like nails on a chalkboard to me (literary, male character longing for the past and an idealized woman he’s probably invented), yet I loved it. Mysterious. While I didn’t buy Reunion, I did later buy Lightman’s book of essays Dance for Two. It remains to be seen how much the essays will actually be about dance.

The Lover’s Dictionary, David Levithan – One of two books bought at The Book Table in Oak Park during Leg Four of the Grandma Road Trip. It’s small enough to fit into a purse, so I ended up tucking it into mine and reading the whole thing over the next few days. Partly because the book is written in relatively short “dictionary entries,” this is one of those books where you can say, “hey, I have a minute, let me read a page or two” and you end up reading twenty before you know it.

Wife 22, Melanie Gideon – I read a write-up about this one in Entertainment Weekly and was both intrigued and skeptical. I wasn’t sure if it would hold my interest, but I ended up gulping it up in like 24 hours. I’m not surprised that it’s going to be made into a movie. It’s got the best combination of knowing what’s coming and yet you can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Switched, Torn, Ascend, Amanda Hocking – Because I don’t live under a rock and I’m somewhat plugged into the publishing world, I heard about a successful self-published writer selling the rights to her already-released e-books to a traditional publisher for what I think ended up being a $2 million deal. So, I thought I’d give them a try. You can see the self-published thumbprint on this books and not for the stereotypical reason you’d think. They’re compelling and well-edited. Where you can see their origins in self-publishing is a contradiction: there was no gatekeeper to tell Hocking her odd-ball ideas wouldn’t sell (trolls as sexy creatures and heroes? depicted sexual acts and cursing?) and you can clearly see that Hocking was writing the type of story she enjoys reading, so it fits nicely on the shelf next to other “popular paranormal teen books.”

Whew. So many books, so little time! I do my best. Already can’t wait for the fourth quarter report cause I’m reading some great books. Till then…

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2012 Q1 Reading Report

I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogger duties this year. But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading. Here is the first of 2012’s Quarterly Reading Reports.

January

Royal Street, Suzanne Johnson – Read my 225 review here.

Then Came You, Jennifer Weiner – I decided last year to catch up on all the JennWein books I’d gotten behind on and this was my last book on that mission. I begin every one of her books with the same incredulous thought: this seems like a needlessly complicated and melodramatic plot. But, it doesn’t matter, I quickly get sucked in anyway. Her characters are so full and dimensional and really, isn’t life (needlessly…) complicated and melodramatic? Anyway, I love her books and this one was no different. Several different characters, a lot going on, surprisingly fulfilling. I’ve gotta stop being surprised.

February

Eight Days to Live, Iris Johansen – I also set myself the mission of catching up with all of Iris Johansen’s books, even though she’s a very different writer than JennWein. While I’m reading her books, I know they’re each pretty much the same book, but they’re comforting in a way. Like bad t.v. left on in the background. I don’t really have to pay attention to absorb the story. Anyway, since I read Blood Game last year, I’ve seen a marked improvement in the books. This one focuses on Eve Duncan’s adopted daughter and it also is a bit better, more like how Johansen’s books felt when I started reading them.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy, Alison Bechdel – A friend from Peauxdunque loaned this graphic novel memoir to me and I ate it up in about a day, though it’s pretty hefty (don’t let the pictures fool you). It was really funny and really moving, just as the subtitle “tragicomedy” implies. I’m consistently impressed with the narrative options available when visual art is mixed with words.

Chasing the Night, Iris Johansen – This book introduces a new character, Catherine Ling, that Johansen is clearly going to continue to write about. Another woman obsessed with a missing/taken child, Catherine seeks out Eve Duncan’s help. Since Eve Duncan is the character of Johansen’s I like the least, it was interesting to see her in interaction with another character who has so much in common with her, but is a foil to her. The books have definitely gotten a lot better – so much so than I’ve begun to wonder if they aren’t ghostwritten, maybe even by one of the reclusive author’s children (her daughter is a researcher for her and her son has co-written several books with her). Well, regardless, I think the collaboration with her kids has probably given her fiction a whole new lease.

Eve / Quinn / Bonnie, Iris Johansen – So, I’ve acknowledged a few times that Eve Duncan isn’t my favorite character, yet I gobbled up each of these books in just a few days, lured by the promise of finally knowing what happened to Eve’s daughter Bonnie – after more than a dozen books. The “truth” of what happened was really sad and haunted me for a few days. Yes, I’ll admit it. I was haunted. I’ve finally caught up on all of her books (except for the ones written with her son, Roy). Or, so I thought. A new one featuring Catherine Ling is coming out in a few days.

March

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson – Even though I only finished two books in January, I was also reading this behemoth all year, which I started last year. I put it aside a few times and picked it back up, reading the last half pretty quickly.  One interesting result of the book’s heft is that I felt like I was living with this odd, brilliant man for quite a while. It seemed to me that this book was both an inspiring call to arms and a cautionary tale. At times, I was quite horrified as I read, or amused, or fascinated. I was always impressed with Isaacson’s writing, his ability to be pretty impartial considering how hard it must’ve been not to either glorify or vilify Jobs.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling – Pretty much the opposite of the Jobs biography in every way, but just as good. I started reading it right after I finished Steve Jobs and I finished it within 24 hours. It is such a quick, witty, brilliant snack of a book. If I didn’t already love Mindy Kaling, reading this book would pretty much finish me off. She needs to write like 10 more books.

Tango Zen: Walking Dance Meditation, Chan Park – Also a quick read, this book is pretty much a series of quotes about tango (or zen meditations, however you want to look at it).  I refer to it a lot, especially when thinking about my proclivity to close my eyes while in close hold with some partners. It’s given me a different lens through which to understand tango, and also an exercise for centering myself when my anxiety/overthinking threatens to trip me up while dancing.

Wither, Lauren DeStefano – Another dystopian teen book. I’m really loving this subgenre and the different permutations creative authors are making of it. This one was pretty horrific and fascinating. Think Stepford Wives with a healthy dose of Handmaid’s Tale. I don’t like the cover of the second book, but I am excited to read it.

Hunger Games / Catching FireSuzanne Collins – I loaned my copies of the series to a librarian friend (all of the library’s copies were requested) and when I got them back, I re-read the first two books before seeing the movie with her. This is the third time I’ve read the books and they are still amazing each time, maybe even more so as I appreciate just how multifaceted they are more each time I read them.

I think one thing that particularly impresses and excites me about dystopian lit in general and this book in particular is how mature the subject matter is. This is a dire world in which the teen characters, often girls, can either succomb or fight. It seems to indicate that teens can take a great responsibility for their universe than we’ve previously attributed to them. So, in a word: empowering. While Hunger Games might’ve begun the newest wave of dystopian, helped identify the subgenre, it reminds me most of a series of books published almost 20 years ago.

So that’s what I’ve been reading in the first quarter of 2012. I’m looking forward to a strong second quarter in reading.

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Filed under literature, musing, Quarterly Reading Report, what I'm reading