Dig It Out by Katie Spina
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.
Check out my interview with Katie Spina on Indie Reads TV!
The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent by Larry Correia
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! :-)
Only You by Benjamin Daniels
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.
Empty Hallways by Andy Lockwood
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.
Check out my two-part interview with Andy Lockwood and his editor wife, Bailey on our Indie Reads TV Program!
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