This is a delightfully entertaining book for children of all ages! It's a fantastic story about a little groundhog who learns a valuable lesson about self-reliance and confidence. I loved the metaphor of digging to help little ones understand their power to overcome sadness.
The illustrations are super-cute and are a beautiful compliment to the story. The colors are vibrant and they dance across the page with energy and light. The author uses language young readers can clearly understand, without being condescending. I bought this book as a gift for my niece, Grace (although if her parents read this - keep it a surprise, please!), and I believe it will help her, and her older sister, Allison, to connect with their internal digger and giggle through the discovery.
If you have little ones in your life, I highly recommend this book. And if you know an adult who is struggling with digging their way out of sadness - I recommend this book even more!
Learn more about Katie Spina at her website.
This is by far one of the goofiest books I've ever read! I listened to the audiobook, and it had me laughing out loud in more places than I can count. Adam Baldwin was the narrator, and he did an exceptional job!
It's a story of an insurance agent who, hell-bent on providing the very best in customer service, travels the alternate Earth Universes, helping those who hold polices with his firm. You never know what situation he will encounter... aliens, zombies, Nazi dinosaurs... but you can rely on Tom Stranger to solve the problem and do it with the most impeccable taste.
The most interesting villain in this book? Why, a less-than-reputable insurance agent who believes the dreaded call center is the best practice in customer service, of course!
I don't want to give away too much of this book, because I don't want to spoil the fun for you. But, I promise, this is a parody like none you've ever read, with nods to several films, books, and celebrities. It's a fun romp and I highly recommend it as a nice pallet-cleanser from your TBR pile.
Just don't listen to it at night, in bed... you'll keep your spouse awake with all your giggling... oh, and unless you're a fan of spit-takes, don't drink while reading this book, either! :-)
This was a most curious book. I've never read anything quite like it before. The narrator is the book itself, and it's addressing you, the reader. This means, of course, that the entire book is written in second person... which is a very difficult thing to do. I've never known any other author to attempt this kind of writing experiment, and succeed.
I'm not quite sure Mr. Daniels succeeds, but he comes close. The story is an interesting love letter from the book to the reader, and I think the premise is a good one, just not quite as well done as I would have liked. The narrative was extremely redundant, and often, thoughts go unfinished. I think the author was trying to convey the missing element of engagement when a reader puts down a book and comes back to it later... which makes sense... but I think it could have been done with fewer redundancy and holes. I'm not sure of the origin of the author, but in several passages, it seemed as if English was not the writer's first language. The book seemed loosely edited. I'm not sure if that was intentional, but it did make the book a bit choppy to read.
I think, though, that it's a brave experiment; one that, honestly, I'm not ready to take on. And yet, I'm shelving this concept for later. Reading this book did give me some ideas about how I might craft a novel in second person. Perhaps some day. Certainly, Drake is noodling this around as a future project.
This wasn't an exceptional book, but it was an intriguing read; and as an author, an interesting approach to craft.
This was an interesting collection of short stories written by a host of superb authors, about women, dangerous ones. As with most short story collections I've read, some of the pieces stood out for me more than the others. In some cases, the women weren't the main focal character of the story, in others, she was. In each, though, the word "dangerous" was interpreted a little differently than our conventional definition taught in elementary school. This is a fairly large collection, and to review each story individually would be more than any reader would want, so I'll write about those that were memorable to me in one way or another.
Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie - A Red Country Story
This was an interesting read. Western in its genre, and anything but typical, I was drawn in immediately. The story, written in first-person POV by the main character, a female outlaw in the wild west... was captivating by its gruff demeanor. So many westerns are written as rough, gruff pieces, and this was no different, except for the obvious. The outlaw was a woman. It was a different approach to an old storyline, and I enjoyed it.
Bombshells by Jim Butcher - A Harry Dresden Story
This was an interesting one. I'd heard of this author, and this series before, but haven't read any of the work. I found it to be a playful romp through a mixture of fantasy and a modern take on noir. In this piece, the main character, a women, narrates, and we come to understand her world and how she's maturing through it. And although she is quite formidable against those that oppose her, I found her to be an exceptional example of the differences "dangerous" can bring to our lives. This one had an intellect that one should be wary of, even if her countenance was demure and gentle. The occasional moments of snark were especially appreciated. I enjoyed the progression of the story, and the satisfying ending. This gave me an opportunity to sample Mr. Butcher's work and come to the decision that I should seek out more of it.
Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale
This was one of those stories where the main character wasn't the dangerous woman, and yet she figured prominently in the story. She was the prize to be won, even though those fighting for her knew she wasn't good for them. I was impressed with the way the author introduced us to the main character, a young boy, and his treatment of his growth throughout the story. The author provided a perspective about women through this boy's eyes that we normally don't see. This story included some language I think could have been left out - but I understand why the author included it. The word choices pinpointed exactly time, place, emotion, education, and attitude. It was warranted, but not an enjoyable component of the story for me.
I Know How To Pick 'Em by Lawrence Block
This was super creepy - not in a horror or paranormal way, but in an icky psychological way. The main character, a man with a sorted past, made me feel a little like I needed to reach for the Clorox wipes after reading this story. The dangerous women in this piece was one who appears "off stage", yet feeds into the story's progression and intention very strongly. The feature that stuck with me the most about this piece was the near ambivalence of the main character, after behaving so deplorably. He still found justification. He's one sick guy... if that was the author's intent, he succeeded. It's certainly worth the read, just because finding creepy, icky stories like this is so rare. The experience, for literature's sake, is worth the time.
Second Arabesque, Very Slowly by Nancy Kress
This was an interesting dystopian story whose characters spoke loudly to me. The hierarchy of the women and men in this society was fascinating, even a bit reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, yet from a different perspective. Again, the term 'dangerous' isn't what we'd expect. The danger here was actually strength. And that's what I loved most about it... the women in this piece were dangerous because of their strength, not because of their ability to hurt, or destroy; but rather, because of their ability to insight change and undermine all that was acceptable. In that respect, it was an uplifting tale. I enjoyed it very much.
I listened to the audiobook version of this collection, and the narrators who read were exceptional, each one. However, the voices that I thought were best suited for the pieces they read were Scott Brick, who read Wrestling Jesus, which I enjoyed for the narrator's ability to convey different characters, including their specific difference in ages; Jake Webber, who read I Know How To Pick 'Em because his dry and almost abrasive delivery was perfect for the piece; and my favorite, Janis Ian who read Second Arabesque, Very Slowly because I felt that she added an extra dimension of accuracy to the characters. After hearing her read, I felt these people were real, not just paragraphs on a page.
Interestingly enough, the one piece that was most difficult for me to get through was The Princess and The Queen by George R.R. Martin. I felt that the narrator did a fine job reading, however, for me, the material was overwhelmingly long, tedious, and lacked the punch I would expect from a short story or novella. So many details; far too many, for my tastes. But, I know many millions of readers enjoy his work, and I accept that I am in the minority. I can deal with that.
Overall, I found this to be a wonderful collection of shorts, and an excellent companion to a long road trip.
Describe this book in just two words.
Hmmm.... Unexpectedly Creepy! Yup, that about covers it.
This is a tantalizing story that takes the reader into different head spaces and different emotionalities simultaneously. Andy takes full advantage of some seductive storytelling techniques to hook you into turning page after page. First, he demands that you question sanity... that of the characters', and your own, too. Then, he drops you into what should be a safe place, only to ramp up the uncomfortableness of it all. You'll learn that sometimes, safety is simply a foil to reality. Then, he engages you with an old standard, 'Children are often more insightful than the adults'... Yet, how is it that the reader can't understand what they reveal? That should be an easy one, but Andy doesn't make anything easy; and you're thrilled for it. Finally, in an environment where so much time has presented it's secrets, how is it that no one has ever listened long enough to find the alternative solution... or act on it?
This is a story that will keep you on your toes. You won't want to close your eyes, even to rest them in between chapters... don't you dare... you might miss something essential. The layers of characters that live in this book are a wonder to behold. Just when you think you understand the impetus for one's quirks and the motivation for their action... or silence... a new door opens, shoving you headlong into another Empty Hallway you weren't prepared to walk. It's a bit unsettling.... and oh, so rewarding.
Andy Lockwood traverses the edge of spooky just close enough to make you wonder if he'll pull you back to safety in time. When he doesn't, it's a delightful shock to the system. This book is a fascinating study into what might happen if, instead of ending things the way our English teachers taught us, we simply allow the characters to do what they will and take notes to share around the campfire. The comfort in this reading was not found in the delivery of expectations, but in a plot progression I could never have imagined. How nice to discover unsettling creepiness wrapped tightly inside characters I thought I knew.
This is a book I highly recommend!
Learn more about Andy Lockwood at his website.
I'm so pleased that Beth Dumity, proprietor of R&B Used Books in Grand Blanc, Michigan, introduced me to author in residence, Boyd Craven!
This title is the first in his survival and preparedness series, and it's a gripping read. I'm not generally interested in reading series' because I don't like to live inside the stress of literary anticipation. But, Boyd has a new fan in me, and now I have to buy them all.
I don't usually spoil books, but in this case, I think it's important... because, you know, since I was so broken hearted after seeing "I Am Legend" and I simply can't watch it anymore... you NEED to know this...
The Dog Doesn't Die!
Whew! Okay, that's out of the way. I feel better now.
Getting back to my experience of reading this book, I can tell you that this adventure is a nail biter. The tension is well placed, and there's just the right amount of it to keep you turning the pages. This read is a comfortable roller coaster ride... Tension, time to breathe, a few laughs, time to breathe, tension, tears, and a resolution without an ending. It's wonderful.
Stories about books, libraries, and writers are always my favorites; and this one ranks high among my top picks. When I met Boyd (he signed my book!) he admitted that this story was indeed semi-autobiographical. It stands to reason, he was able to portray all the writing scenes so authentically. He's also a survivalist, which also came out in the story. But this isn't some nut-case, off the rails macho prepper thing. This is a true-to-life tale of romance, loyalty, adventure, and intelligence where characters think ahead and plan for the worst, while hoping for the best, day by day. Boyd's dialogue sounds perfectly natural inside my head; and with the character of Opus (the dog) Boyd takes the Disney concept of animal sidekicks out of the fairy tale and drops him squarely into reality, right where he belongs.
Exciting, smart, warm, and funny... I'm writing my name on the inside cover of this book because when I loan it out (and I will, because this one needs to be shared) I want it back!
Thank you, Mr. Craven, for a tale well-told. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
I highly recommend this book.
Learn More about Boyd Craven and his books at his website.
This is an event that I look forward to every year. It is spectacularly well organized, in an fantastic location, and partnered with the SterlingFest event... all things that make this a super-fun day. The Sterling Heights Library is the sponsor of this event that brings together 70 Michigan Authors of nearly every genre known to literature. The tables are nicely spaced under the portico in front of the library, extending toward the Police Station, and overlooking the Arts & Craft show. The number of people who walk through this event every year is staggering! This event is so well-trafficked that the city provides for parking lots in outlying areas, and has shuttle buses to bring people in. There are food vendors, musical acts playing throughout the day, and so many friendly faces, it's hard NOT to have a good day at this festival.
My favorite part of the day, aside from the new readers I get to talk with, is the time I get to spend sharing the day with my tribe. I'm thrilled to say that out of the 70 authors that were in attendance, I am friends with about 75% of them already! I was able to catch up with my friends and have a great day in the sunshine, surrounded by books. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday!
My husband, armature photographer, Dave Plopa, took some photos, posted here... and he caught me and some of my friends having fun on video, too. A huge thank you goes out to him for all his love and support!
I'm excited to attend this fun event next year!
Photos and Video provided by Dave Plopa Photography
One of the things I love best is to have a friend recommend a book to read. Going in, you have an understanding that this is going to be a story you'll enjoy, simply because someone you trust, someone who also enjoys reading as much as you do, enjoyed it, and thought highly of the author and the story. That recommendation is even better when the friend is a bookseller. Bookshop owners have a special understanding of the writing craft, and what makes a good book great. It's their job, after all, to curate stories and make the best ones available to us. So, a huge THANK YOU goes out to Luke Janes at Toadvine Books in Berkley, Michigan. It is because of you that I am now thrust headlong into a trilogy (usually a taboo for me) and am loving every minute of it!
Although I still haven't figured out why the author titled this book "Wool", and I'm sincerely hoping that at some point along the reading of this series, it's meaning will be revealed... I must say, this is fantastic writing. The story, a post-apocalyptic thriller, is well crafted. The set up is near flawless. It gives you just enough information to understand why things are as they are, but not so much information as to ruin the tension and the expectation of the forthcoming books.
The premise of a community being governed by a history they can't escape, is compelling. The simple request to "go outside" is edge-of-your-seat spooky; and you're not sure why it is that way - except that the lack of complete understanding of the nuances of this society is exactly why this book is such a great read. We learn about the culture and it's people in pieces, after being dropped headfirst into the action and the emotional struggle right from page one. The details are filtered out slowly, and the reader learns more from imagination and inference than from a direct explanation from the author. It was different, and I liked it.
I don't usually read series or trilogy works because too often the let-down after book one is prominent. I am hopeful that this one will be different. Hopeful because this is really good writing, and I'm confident that it will be different because my friend and bookseller, Luke told me it was. If you can't trust your local indie bookshop owner, who can you trust!?!
Visit Toadvine Books on Facebook. I'm sure Luke can suggest a great read for you, too!
2783 Coolidge Highway Berkley, Michigan 248-439-0409
I got completely caught up in this story. It was engaging on so many levels, I devoured it slowly, as you might a chocolate sundae on a summer afternoon... you want to read it quickly so it won't melt, but you want to savor every bite because it's so delicious.
I don't usually do this in my reviews, because after all, it's all written on the back of the book. But here's a quick synopsis...
A reclusive author, nearing the end of her life, calls a writer, who's father owns a bookshop, to write her last tale, her memoir. Many others have tried to get this story out of the reclusive author, but she only speaks to our young heroine.
Okay, there's a lot more to it, but basically, it is a story about an author writing a story, her last story, with the help of another writer, who spent her childhood in a bookshop. In the process, the young writer learns that she, too, has a story, and discovers its weight in her life. It's perfect summitry, if you ask me!
I loved this book for it's multi-layered approach to storytelling. I loved it for its many subplots, told over three generations. I love it for its mystery and gentle tension. I love this book for the diversity in the collection of souls captured between it's pages. I love this book because even when I got to the end, the final "wrapping up" surprised me just as much as the middle climax (of which there seemed to be several - one for each subplot).
This is the first of Diane Setterfield's work I've read, and it's wonderful. I especially appreciated the interview she did at the back of the book, and the book discussion questions, perfectly curated for a book club! If you get the time, this would be a good book to wade into as you would a gentle lake... slowly and carefully, so you don't miss the tiny guppy details swimming around your feet.
The psychological thriller is my favorite genre to read. Packed with creepy surprises and unexpected turns, these stories are some of my favorites. Alice Feeney's "I Know Who You Are" is one that delivers on all counts. This book is filled with twists and turns that are easy to navigate, but rarely take you where you expect to go. And, her ending is a complete surprise... right down to the last sentence from the main character. Nothing is as it seems in this creepy tale.
I enjoy Feeney's ability to meld the past with the present in her writing. She gives you backstory not by simple plot exposition, as so many other authors do; instead, she allows the characters to tell and show their own backstory by living through their histories in real time. In other works, this jumping from past to present and back to past can sometimes be confusing, almost like two different stories happening simultaneously. But Feeney has the distinct ability to run both timelines in parallel, which keeps you engaged in both times, and with all the characters in the today and the before. It's fantastic skill.
This is another of those rare instances where I was treated with "Wow!" on the last page, and then ten full minutes of silence while I digested the experience. I read this in audio book, and I must say, the narrator's tone, acumen with the pregnant pause, and slight voice changes made the work more enjoyable. I highly recommend this book, if you like endings that grab your attention.
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