Sukey Howard

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You see her on TV, you use her cookbooks, you may even be lucky enough to eat in her restaurant, soon you’ll be able to read her new lifestyle magazine and see her brilliant smile on the silver screen (she’s in Elizabethtown, a major motion picture in theaters this fall, directed by Cameron Crowe and produced by Tom Cruise). We’re not talking Martha here, we’re talking Paula Deen, the queen of the Savannah cooking scene make that the Southern cooking scene. As her audience grows, so grows the demand for her down-home Southern recipes. Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics, a one-volume edition of her first two mega- selling tributes to the cuisine she knows and loves, The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook and The Lady & Sons, Too!, will be in stores in early October just in time for holiday giving and getting put it on your holiday hit list and reserve your copies ASAP.

Paula is big-time now a one-woman media conglomerate, outstanding restaurateur, creator of a line of food products and fun accessories, from biscuit mix and butt-rub to aprons, T-shirts and hats, star of the ever-popular Paula’s Home Cooking on the Food Network, loving mother of her two handsome, talented sons and devoted sister to her younger brother, Bubba, who, with her help and guidance, opened Bubba’s Oyster Bar, another Savannah success, just a few months ago.

But life for Paula hasn’t always been a picnic. She married her high-school sweetheart without much thought to starting a career for herself and by the time she was 23 had two baby boys under three, had lost both her beloved parents and taken in her 16-year-old brother to raise, too. Overwhelmed, fear of the outside seeped in and soon she was all but paralyzed. Paula had developed a full-blown case of agoraphobia and couldn’t leave the house. Not good for her, her kids or her marriage. Her husband moved the family to Savannah and Paula still suffered from her immobilizing malaise. Then, as she tells it, she woke up one morning (June 19, 1989, to be exact) and began the rest of her life. And that life is as successful as it is inspirational.

A feisty, female phoenix, Paula found a career by going back to what she knew best cooking. Newly divorced, with only $200 and two willing teenage sons, she began The Bag Lady, a home-based lunch delivery service; she made the food and her boys delivered it. The Bag Lady, an uncommon success, paved the way to The Lady &and Sons, Paula’s now famous Savannah restaurant where she serves the food she loves, the food she learned to cook in her grandmother’s South Georgia kitchen. Southern cooking, according to Paula, is a hand-me-down art, it comes from within and it’s how we show our love, by what we cook and create in the kitchen. It’s full of flavor. It’s filling. It just makes you feel good. Paula’s food made so many people feel so good that she self-published her first cookbook in 1997. It was quickly picked up by a major publishing house and followed by three more super-popular cookbooks. It’s hard to think of Paula who married tugboat pilot Michael Groover last year as anything but bubbly, warm, irrepressible and irresistible. But knowing something about her life, her troubles and the way she overcame adversity makes her an even more appealing personality. John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, has caught her essence when he describes her as an example of the extraordinary phenomenon of Southern womanhood, the steel magnolia. And all that effervescent energy and Southern pride is here for y’all to enjoy in Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics.

You see her on TV, you use her cookbooks, you may even be lucky enough to eat in her restaurant, soon you’ll be able to read her new lifestyle magazine and see her brilliant smile on the silver screen (she’s in Elizabethtown, a major motion picture in theaters this fall, directed by Cameron Crowe and […]
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Matthew Horace doesn’t pull punches, and as a black man and a cop, he’s seen it all. A career law enforcement officer, he spent 28 years at the federal and local levels, ultimately becoming a senior executive at the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives and later a CNN contributor. In The Black and the Blue, his powerful, probing, unvarnished assessment of racial injustice in law enforcement today, he comes out as a “champion of wholesale police reform in the United States,” unafraid to offer prescriptive advice on how to address the racism, prejudices, biases and the lethal “cops don’t tell on cops” tradition ingrained in police culture. Using in-depth interviews and his own experiences, Horace presents the vivid on-the-ground actuality of police brutality, misconduct, malfeasance and the needless, heedless shootings that capture headlines and snuff out lives all over America. Horace narrates like a pro with both passion and control.

HOME JOURNEY
Adjoa Andoh performs much of Housegirl, Michael Donkor’s accomplished, affecting debut novel, in sparkling Ghanaian English, immersing listeners in the world of Ghana and the Ghanaian diaspora. At 17, Belinda leaves her village and her mother behind to work as a housegirl for a wealthy couple who returned to their native Ghana to retire in luxury after making their fortune in London. Belinda finds solace in the daily domestic grind and in Mary, the charming, irrepressible 11-year-old housegirl-in-training who becomes like a little sister to her. But Belinda is uprooted again when close Ghanaian friends of her employers take Belinda to London, where she is tasked with befriending and providing a positive influence on their sullen teenage daughter, a student at an exclusive, mostly white private school. Surprisingly, their friendship blossoms after a few bumps, just as tragedy takes Belinda back to her homeland. At its core, Housegirl is a warmly perceptive look at female friendship as well as the angst, melodrama and confusion of coming of age in two clashing cultures.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO
Nelson Mandela, one of the great moral heroes of our time and an icon of human resilience, spent 27 years in jail, 18 of them in an 8-by-7 cell on grim Robben Island in South Africa. In all that time he never faltered, never gave up hope for the future and an end to apartheid, never stopped fighting for his own dignity and that of his fellow prisoners, never stopped yearning for his wife, family and friends. How he endured and persevered is made clearer in the many letters he wrote during that time. The 255 published in The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela, edited by Sahm Venter, are now available on audio, perfectly rendered by Atandwa Kani, whose flawless pronunciation of Xhosa names and phrases makes listening a totally engaging experience. There is lawyerly composure in Mandela’s letters describing his unrelenting quest for the rights of political prisoners. Yet also evident in these powerful and inspiring letters is the raw emotion and deep love of a man determined, against all odds, to remain a strong father and husband.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Matthew Horace doesn’t pull punches, and as a black man and a cop, he’s seen it all.

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Listener beware! Untrue is Wednesday Martin’s unvarnished, cogently argued, colorfully detailed take on women who are “untrue.” She’s talking about women’s sexuality, adultery, cheating and “stepping out,” and she doesn’t mince words or use euphemisms. So if you’re uncomfortable with sexual straight talk, this book is not for you. But if you’re perfectly OK with it, there’s much to shake up your perceptions. Martin sees the sexual double standard, with its misunderstanding of women’s hearts and libidos, as “one of our country’s foundational concepts” along with life and liberty. To explore female infidelity and sexual autonomy, she talked to and synthesized the work of experts—primatologists, anthropologists, psychologists and more—who challenge our received notions of female promiscuity and see it as a behavior with a “remarkably long tail.” Martin reads her own provocative, stereotype-slaying words with elan.

GILDED AGE GHOSTS
I’m not a big fan of paranormal fiction, but Rose Gallagher, the protagonist of Erin Lindsey’s Gilded Age thriller Murder on Millionaires’ Row, is so disarmingly charming and fabulously feisty that I happily followed the spectral happenings that swirl around her from the get-go. Though 19-year-old Rose grew up in the rough-and-tumble Five Points, a notorious Dickensian slum in Lower Manhattan, she’s now a maid in a Fifth Avenue townhouse owned by Thomas Wiltshire, an elegant, eligible young Englishman. Rose, of course, has a full-throttle crush on her boss, and when he goes missing, she uses all her grit and innate talent to solve the mystery of his disappearance. When that’s achieved, she finds herself in Thomas’ world, in which special Pinkerton operatives investigate supernatural events, work with witches and return errant shades to the afterlife. This engagingly fun first installment in Lindsey’s new series is delightfully performed by Barrie Kreinik.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO
The United States imprisons a higher portion of its population than any other country in the world, and roughly 130,000 inmates are in privately owned, for-profit prisons. Less than a decade ago, Shane Bauer, a senior reporter for Mother Jones, unknowingly crossed into Iran while hiking and was held for 26 months in an Iranian jail. In 2014, to investigate life inside a corporately run penitentiary, Bauer took a low-paying job as a guard at a facility in Winnfield, Louisiana, owned by the Corrections Corporation of America (now rebranded as CoreCivic). His on-the-ground reporting in American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment is powerful and disturbing. The conditions he experienced at Winnfield were horrendous, from dangerous understaffing that left prisoners with no classes and few activities, to subminimal medical care, unbridled sexual harassment and pervasive violence. And Bauer’s incisive examination of how the profit motive has shaped our prison system since the end of slavery amplifies his indictment. James Fouhey expertly narrates this vital exposé.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Get lost in two absorbing exposés, plus a delightful Gilded Age mystery in this month's Audio column.
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After completing the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling started writing a mystery series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. And happily, her virtuosic talent as a spinner of stories with intricate plots and singular characters is front and center again. Lethal White is the fourth in the Cormoran Strike series, and it’s perfectly narrated by Robert Glenister, who can ace a wonderfully wide range of British accents. In Lethal White, Strike, a London private investigator with a reputation for unraveling high-profile cases, and his able, lovely (yes, their attraction thrums below the surface) assistant, Robin, are in the thick of it, investigating political blackmail and the murder of a Tory minister, all wrapped in a blur of populist politics, replete with a wild cast that includes radical lefties, conservative snobs and a mentally ill young man who desperately wants Strike’s help. After this 22-hour treat, I can’t wait for Strike five.

FINAL CHALLENGE
Henry Worsley was 13 when he read Ernest Shackleton’s The Heart of the Antarctic, which detailed Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic in the early 20th century. Worsley fell under Shackleton’s spell, and the book shaped his own future as an explorer. The White Darkness, originally published in The New Yorker, is David Grann’s cogent, intensely drawn portrait of Worsley, his fascinating life, his lifelong obsession with the Antarctic and his relentless passion to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps and succeed where he didn’t: crossing Antarctica on foot, alone. Only two and a half hours long, The White Darkness is one of the most powerful audios of the year, made so by Grann’s deftly crafted prose and Will Patton’s unwavering performance, delivered with conviction and calm urgency. Worsley eventually made two successful Antarctic expeditions with teams in 2008 and 2011 and went back for a fateful third expedition alone in 2015. You’ll feel the icy cold, his exhaustion, courage and formidable will as he battles the “obliterating conditions” on his transcontinental quest. Perhaps you’ll come to understand what drove him and the brave few among us to challenge frontiers, regardless of risk.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO
In her new book, These Truths: A History of the United States, Jill Lepore writes, “The past is an inheritance, a gift, and a burden. . . . There’s nothing for it but to get to know it.” To make our past more knowable, Lepore has penned an astonishingly concise, exuberant and elegant one-volume American history that begins with Columbus and ends with Trump. Lepore questions, as Alexander Hamilton did, “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice.” Lepore tells us upfront that much historical detail is left out; this is a political history, an explanation of the origins of our democratic institutions, and it lets history’s vast array of characters speak in their own words when possible. It also makes clear that slavery is an intimate, inextricable part of the American story. This is the past we need to know. Listen closely as Lepore reads with unexpected pizazz.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Three absorbing audiobooks for all your holiday travels.
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Six Four, Hideo Yokoyama’s U.S. debut, was a hit thriller. Seventeen, Yokoyama’s latest book, engagingly performed by Tom Lawrence, is not a thriller, but it is an extraordinarily gripping newsroom drama. It’s also an intensely personal look at a man who must deal with the ethical predicaments of journalism as well as his inner demons and perceived inadequacies. In 2003, as he’s attempting to climb a treacherous rock face, Kazumasa Yuuki, the protagonist and narrator, relives his days following the story of a catastrophic airline crash many years prior that killed almost all of the passengers. In 1985, Yuuki is a veteran reporter for the provincial newspaper in the prefecture where the plane went down, and he is made desk chief for the story. Determined to get as much information to the public and to the victims’ families as he can, he becomes embroiled in vicious office politics and power struggles that lead him to re-examine human nature. Yokoyama’s fast-paced procedural practically bristles with tension.

Lovely is not a word usually associated with Stephen King. But Elevation, his latest novella, which he narrates, is lovely. It is not a horror tale meant to provoke screaming—instead, it’s a beguiling parable with lessons our uncivil society would do well to learn. Scott Carey, a resident of Castle Rock, is losing large amounts of weight, yet his outward appearance doesn’t change, and he’s never felt better. His good friend, a retired doctor, doesn’t think there’s a medical explanation. That’s fine with Scott, who accepts his fate with grace. In the time left to him, he takes on the small-town bigotry aimed at his neighbors, a married lesbian couple. No details to spoil your fun—just know that when Scott goes into the dying of the light, he’s greeted with a rainbow of sparklers. 

Pardon the pun, but there’s a lot to reckon with in The Reckoning, John Grisham’s new thriller, including courtroom complications that of course won’t be set straight until the last few minutes of the audiobook. So settle in for a long, satisfying listen as you sift through the lives and lies, sins and secrets, grief and guilt of the proud Banning family of Clanton, Mississippi. On a fall morning in 1946, Pete Banning, husband, father, head of a prominent cotton-farming family and revered World War II hero who lived through hell, walked to town, murdered the Methodist pastor and would never say why, though his silence might mean dying in the electric chair. His reasons for the murder and its consequences for Pete’s two children unfold vividly as Michael Beck reads in a remarkable array of authentic accents.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Lovely is not a word usually associated with Stephen King. But Elevation, his latest novella, which he narrates, is lovely. It is not a horror tale meant to provoke screaming—instead, it’s a beguiling parable with lessons our uncivil society would do well to learn.

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The title of Michelle Obama’s blockbuster bestseller, Becoming, lets you know that you’ll get the answers to many of the questions you’ve had about this extraordinary woman. You’ll find out how a kid who grew up in a cramped apartment on Chicago’s South Side graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law to ultimately become our first African-American first lady and one of the most admired women in the galaxy. More importantly, you’ll understand how she kept her authenticity, grace and sense of self while in the glare of an unrelenting media spotlight, where everything you say and do and wear is scrutinized. Obama is candid and frank, talking about the problems in the early years of her marriage, about being a mother, her dislike of politics and her distress with the current administration. She reads in her warm, familiar voice, and you’ll be swept up in her story, her triumphs and her trials. She’s lived a version of the American dream, but one shadowed by the very American nightmare of racism and prejudice.

It’s been much too long since I spent time with Precious Ramotswe and her colleagues at the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and it’s always a quiet joy to return. Colors of All the Cattle, Alexander McCall Smith’s 19th installment in his bestselling series, wonderfully narrated again by the liltingly voiced Lisette Lecat, transports us to the sunny charms of Botswana and Mma Ramotswe’s unshakable belief in “old-fashioned” Botswana kindness. Though she’s taken on a difficult case for a victim of a hit-and-run accident, Mma Ramotswe has been pushed into reluctantly running for city council by her friend, the formidable matron of the local “orphan farm.” Smith and Mma Ramotswe never let us down—modesty and honesty trump bravura, and keen but gentle detecting skills solve the case.

A private investigator went missing in 2006, his body never found, the case marred by mistakes and innuendos of corruption. That cold case heats up when some kids come across a red VW in a remote, wooded park, with a handcuffed skeleton in the trunk. That’s for openers in Ian Rankin’s 24th Rebus novel, In a House of Lies, performed by James Macpherson in an authentic Scottish burr that’s still soft enough to be easily understood. Though John Rebus is officially retired from Police Scotland’s Major Crime Division, he was on the case 12 years ago and is as eager as ever to get involved again. And with his former protégé, Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, assigned to the investigating team, that’s not hard to accomplish. Pay close attention—Rankin’s in great form, and there’s a lot going on in this intricately plotted police procedural.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

The title of Michelle Obama’s blockbuster bestseller, Becoming, lets you know that you’ll get the answers to many of the questions you’ve had about this extraordinary woman. You’ll find out how a kid who grew up in a cramped apartment on Chicago’s South Side graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law to ultimately become our first […]
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Belong to Me, Marisa de los Santos’ latest, is unabashedly and wholeheartedly a woman’s book, and in this audio incarnation, read with warmth and understanding by Julia Gibson, it’s the perfect summer listen. It’s the kind of guilty pleasure that ranks with a pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate chocolate chip, a not-too-dainty spoon and no one to share it with. The characters, save the few irredeemably unlikable, are all people that grow on you in the best way. Front and center is Cornelia, a petite, plucky, thirtysomething with enormous generosity of heart, and a husband to die for, who leaves the urban hubbub of Manhattan for the kinder, gentler suburbs. Sidelined by her perfectly coiffed, perfectly dressed, scathingly judgmental new neighbor, Cornelia befriends an elusive single mom with a brilliant, lovable teenage son I’d be more than happy to adopt. There seem to be subplots galore, but as loves and losses, yearnings and secrets surface, the threads of the subplots begin to mesh, weaving into a wonderfully patterned tale, one I wished would go on for many more hours.

Belong to Me, Marisa de los Santos’ latest, is unabashedly and wholeheartedly a woman’s book, and in this audio incarnation, read with warmth and understanding by Julia Gibson, it’s the perfect summer listen. It’s the kind of guilty pleasure that ranks with a pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate chocolate chip, a not-too-dainty spoon and no […]
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Don’t confuse Tana French’s skillful debut In the Woods with Harlan Coben’s latest, The Woods, though there are a few grisly similarities. French serves up an intriguing, genre-bending psychological thriller in the form of a solid police procedural. Dublin murder squad detective Rob Ryan narrates as he and his bright, buoyant partner, and closest friend, Cassie Maddox, investigate the murder and rape of a 12-year-old girl, whose body was left on a Bronze Age altar at an archeological site in the woods near Knocknaree. Twenty years before, detective Ryan had played in these very woods until the ghastly day when his two best mates disappeared and he was found in blood-soaked sneakers, mute, never able to remember what happened. Keeping his childhood trauma a secret from everyone but Cassie, he works this increasingly complex case, looking for links to the past, hoping that lost memories might surface.

Reader Steven Crossley gets the voices right, gives the characters depth and keeps you involved.

Don’t confuse Tana French’s skillful debut In the Woods with Harlan Coben’s latest, The Woods, though there are a few grisly similarities. French serves up an intriguing, genre-bending psychological thriller in the form of a solid police procedural. Dublin murder squad detective Rob Ryan narrates as he and his bright, buoyant partner, and closest friend, Cassie Maddox, […]
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Top Pick in Audio, December 2018

In her new book, These Truths: A History of the United States, Jill Lepore writes, “The past is an inheritance, a gift, and a burden. . . . There’s nothing for it but to get to know it.” To make our past more knowable, Lepore has penned an astonishingly concise, exuberant and elegant one-volume American history that begins with Columbus and ends with Trump. Lepore questions, as Alexander Hamilton did, “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice.” Lepore tells us upfront that much historical detail is left out; this is a political history, an explanation of the origins of our democratic institutions, and it lets history’s vast array of characters speak in their own words when possible. It also makes clear that slavery is an intimate, inextricable part of the American story. This is the past we need to know. Listen closely as Lepore reads with unexpected pizazz.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

In her new book, These Truths: A History of the United States, Jill Lepore writes, “The past is an inheritance, a gift, and a burden. . . . There’s nothing for it but to get to know it.”

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Henry Worsley was 13 when he read Ernest Shackleton’s The Heart of the Antarctic, which detailed Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic in the early 20th century. Worsley fell under Shackleton’s spell, and the book shaped his own future as an explorer. The White Darkness, originally published in The New Yorker, is David Grann’s cogent, intensely drawn portrait of Worsley, his fascinating life, his lifelong obsession with the Antarctic and his relentless passion to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps and succeed where he didn’t: crossing Antarctica on foot, alone. Only two and a half hours long, The White Darkness is one of the most powerful audios of the year, made so by Grann’s deftly crafted prose and Will Patton’s unwavering performance, delivered with conviction and calm urgency. Worsley eventually made two successful Antarctic expeditions with teams in 2008 and 2011 and went back for a fateful third expedition alone in 2015. You’ll feel the icy cold, his exhaustion, courage and formidable will as he battles the “obliterating conditions” on his transcontinental quest. Perhaps you’ll come to understand what drove him and the brave few among us to challenge frontiers, regardless of risk.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

Henry Worsley was 13 when he read Ernest Shackleton’s The Heart of the Antarctic, which detailed Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic in the early 20th century. Worsley fell under Shackleton’s spell, and the book shaped his own future as an explorer.

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After completing the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling started writing a mystery series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. And happily, her virtuosic talent as a spinner of stories with intricate plots and singular characters is front and center again. Lethal White is the fourth in the Cormoran Strike series, and it’s perfectly narrated by Robert Glenister, who can ace a wonderfully wide range of British accents. In Lethal White, Strike, a London private investigator with a reputation for unraveling high-profile cases, and his able, lovely (yes, their attraction thrums below the surface) assistant, Robin, are in the thick of it, investigating political blackmail and the murder of a Tory minister, all wrapped in a blur of populist politics, replete with a wild cast that includes radical lefties, conservative snobs and a mentally ill young man who desperately wants Strike’s help. After this 22-hour treat, I can’t wait for Strike five.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Lethal White is the fourth in the Cormoran Strike series, and it’s perfectly narrated by Robert Glenister, who can ace a wonderfully wide range of British accents.

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