December 9, 2016

Lightning struck twice

I'm not entirely sure why it's taken my so long to read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. As I mentioned in the post where I reviewed Let's Pretend This Never Happened, I freaking LOVE Jenny Lawson and her writing. I actually picked this book up last year shortly after it came out but as with many things I was distracted and I only now got around to it. I adored it. Her debut novel is much like her blog where it's snippets of stories from her life (which is nothing short of eccentric and bizarre like her which is why I love her so much) mixed in with colorful anecdotes. Furiously Happy is a completely different kettle of fish. There are still tales of her life which are off-the-wall but the main focus of this book is Jenny's struggles with mental and physical illness and how she's decided to view it. Instead of seeing it as a dark cloud that obliterates all the joy from her life she has instead chosen to embrace all of the happy moments in between and LIVE THEM UP. Her joyousness and love of life is felt on every page. It's a fantastic pick me up. She takes the stigma of mental illness and throws it completely out of the window (making sure that it's wearing a funny sombrero on its way out). There's more taxidermy and of course arguments with Victor but the overarching theme is shining rays of light into the darkness of mental illness. I've already gotten one of my co-workers reading it and she said that from the first page she was hooked. That's two ringing endorsements, ya'll! This one is a 10/10 for sure and if you don't read it you'll surely regret it.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 6, 2016

I've been trying to encourage strangers to read this so I must love it.

It happened again. I fell in love with another book by Shaun Tan. The book I'm talking about is Lost & Found and it's absolutely fabulous. There are 3 short stories collected in this book: The Red Tree, Lost & Found, and The Rabbits. As with the other books by Tan, there is a fabulous mix of fantasy and reality. The fantastic elements are used to tell stories that are all too true and real. He hits at the heart of a person with stories of depression (The Red Tree), disenfranchisement (The Rabbits), and loneliness/otherness (Lost & Found). His ability to create elaborate stories through gorgeously drawn images astounds me. I understand now the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" because many times the illustrations themselves are all that are needed to convey the real emotions of his characters. The settings are a character in their own right and the urge to leap into the book and visit those places is virtually impossible to ignore. The Red Tree follows someone who is battling against their own mind and spiraling deeper and deeper into depression. However, there's something following her that she can't see (but the keen-eyed reader will) and the end result is uplifting and powerful. Lost & Found was probably my favorite. It's about a man who comes across something just a wee bit odd and out-of-place. He decides it must be lost and there follows a journey to take this thing back to where it 'belongs'. (It's also a short animated film which I am definitely going to watch.) The third was actually written by John Marsden with the illustrations by Tan. If you replace rabbits with basically any group of people who come into an already established area and claim it for their own you'll totally get what they're trying to convey with this one. And so another Shaun Tan book added to the list 'must own for life'. 10/10

See what I mean about utilizing the entire two pages?

This guy didn't get a name but I think he's a Herb.

*sigh*


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 2, 2016

Weak stomachs steer clear from here!

Not too long ago, I reviewed The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian which is the first book in the Gower Street Detective series. Today's post is about the second book in the series which is titled The Curse of the House of Foskett. The sequel delves a bit deeper into March Middleton's past and hints at Sidney Grice's past as well (and possibly why he stepped forward as her guardian). As the prologue attests the case covered in this book shows a definite shift in their relationship and partnership. I enjoyed that most of all I think. The story starts out with our detective and his wannabe assistant cooped up in Gower Street because after the results of his last disastrous case (from the first book) he is being derided by the public and press at every turn. When he is approached by a member of the Final Death Society to make sure that if anything untoward happens to the members their deaths will be investigated everything spirals out of control. Grisly doesn't begin to cover the actions in this book so if you have a sensitive stomach this isn't one for you. However, if you enjoyed The Mangle Street Murders then I think you'll really enjoy this as you can really feel Kasasian is hitting his stride with characterization. (Also, the wit and sarcasm are to die for!) There are mysteries within mysteries within mysteries in this book. I can see that he's setting up a rather shocking revelation to be delivered most likely many books down the line. (That's smart marketing right there!). As it is, there is another book already out and a fourth is slated to come out next year I believe. I'd give this one an 8/10.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 29, 2016

Peter Petrack on writing for a modern audience

Sorry for the late posting but I've just started a new job and I'm all over the place. :-P As a result, today's post has not been written by me but is instead a guest post by Peter Petrack. It's all about his new book Wayfarers Highway. If you're looking for an epic story about a seemingly normal character then I think you've landed in the right place. Enjoy!


A camper travels the back roads of America, but it is not what it seems. Pursued by powerful forces: a master-mind, a maniac, and a terrorist, its crew wonders if they'll ever reach Journey's end.

When Eloise Corwin - a longtime patient in her desert hometown's infirmary - finds a wounded young traveler sharing her sick room; she insists that he tell her about his adventures. The young man, Orson Gregory, tells her how he found and stole a glowing gemstone, hidden for decades beneath the government-built factory beside his family farm. He tells her how he's been chased ever since - by mercenaries, by terrorists, and by other, stranger enemies. He tells her how he threw in his lot with a real adventurer, a mythology professor, an innkeeper, and a duo of hired guns on a cross-country journey to clear his name and return home - something he's currently failing to do. To reach safety, the motley travelers will first have to deal with each other, evade the foes that follow their every move, and tangle with other forces both strange and powerful, their fellow travelers on the Wayfarers Highway.
About the Author:
In addition to writing the Wayfarers Highway novels, Peter Petrack is also a composer and performing trombonist. In recent years, he has found growing success as a writer of Jazz, as well as Orchestral, Choral, and Band Works. Between these two artistic businesses, Peter has frequently been forced to write in the third person. He lives in Pennsylvania, where he is constantly surrounded by pieces of paper.
In the Author’s own words:
Wayfarers Highway is a story for today. We live in a really weird time. A lot of people are confused and frightened. Naturally, readers and writers turn to strange stories in these kinds of times. The difference now is that a lot of the bizarre things in the story can come directly from real life. I wanted to write that kind of story, a legend for today – that’s something I’ve been calling it for a while. I wanted all of the adventure of the big legends set in the modern world, with modern themes, and modern characters.
I like that timeliness. It also made the book difficult to write. I would never want to write something blatantly for 2016, for example, something that a year from now would be obsolete. But achieving the general early 21st Century setting was worth the balancing act.
Wayfarers Highway is the end result of nearly eight years of that kind of thinking. It’s a story about an ordinary young man, named Orson Gregory, who steals a glowing rock that he finds under a factory that was built decades ago on farmland his family sold to the government. This ends Orson’s life as he knew it. People want the rock he stole - strange people, and dangerous. Powerful enemies – mercenaries, terrorists, and maniacs chase him across America. Orson’s only help comes from a motley bunch of his fellow travelers, a hippie, an innkeeper, a mythology professor, and hired guns. On the road, trying and failing to find a way to return home, Orson is forced to face the truth that the world is stranger, more complicated, and more dangerous than he ever imagined.
Here are the purchase links:


You can find Peter on Twitter: https://twitter.com/peterpetrack  or @PeterPetrack

November 25, 2016

Fear of death

You may have noticed (or maybe it didn't even register) that I didn't make my regular Tuesday posting. I traveled for Thanksgiving and honestly I'm surprised I got last Friday's post and today's post up (even if it is super late). It's been a busy week! However, on the flight I was able to read a graphic novel that I've had on my radar for quite some time. Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa is a tension-filled story of just how far a father will go to keep his son safe. The story begins with a depiction of a nearly idyllic family complete with mother, father, and son who are living off the land in perfect bliss until...the three shadows appear. It is a story of fear, determination, and the lengths a father will go to when he feels his son is threatened. It's also about grief and the inevitability of death. I think this is an important book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if there is someone in your life who is currently struggling with a loss it could provide a measure of comfort that they are not alone. Secondly, if a parent is trying to explain life and death to their child then this might be the way to go. I know there are other children's picture books that touch on this topic but this definitely discusses not only the sadness but the fear of death which I think adults relate to even more so than children. Thirdly, the artwork really complements the story. It's without color, straightforward, and charming. I'm giving this one a 7/10.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 18, 2016

Connecting through letters

Over a year ago, I stumbled across a website entitled Slightly Foxed and was immediately intrigued. It's a quarterly magazine full of book reviews except these books aren't new releases. In fact, a large number of the books mentioned in the magazine are out of print and the authors aren't necessarily well-known. As with most things that I adore, Slightly Foxed originates in England and the book reviews (not to mention the books themselves) definitely reflect the English mentality. They're heartfelt, sardonic, thoughtful, and intelligent. Besides the quarterly magazines, you can also order from a limited selection of cloth bound novels. These are classic memoirs which have been reviewed by the magazine. By the way, they did not ask me to write this post. I've been trying to figure out for a while how I was going to plug them and I've finally gotten around to it.

Last year, I ordered the entire year's worth of magazines and the book 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Firstly, the magazines themselves are superb. Lovers of literature and those that might be looking for a new read that is unlikely to be stumbled upon in a chain bookstore will love Slightly Foxed. Secondly, if you haven't read 84, Charing Cross Road then you MUST GO READ IT IMMEDIATELY. I had never even heard of this book or this author until I read the review of it in SF where my interest was piqued. The book consists of letters sent between Helene who lived in New York and a man named Frank Doel who worked at an antiquarian bookstore called Marks and Co in London. The first letter was sent by Helene in 1949 and their correspondence continued for 20 years. Eventually, other coworkers from the store would start writing letters to Helene and she would develop a friendship with Frank's wife and daughters. I was so moved by these letters. They were real and beautiful. Helene is hilarious and crotchety. Frank comes across as uptight and somewhat aloof (until Helene breaks him of that). The second half of this book which was not a part of the original print...well I don't want to spoil it for you. Let's just say that it was extraordinarily easy for me to see myself in Helene's place. This is a woman that wrote from the heart and it's like...gosh. Ya'll I can't find the words to describe just how much I loved this book. I want to start right back at the beginning and I just closed the back cover. This has high rereadability. (Google tells me that isn't a real word but I refuse to believe that.) Go forth, readers. You won't regret it. 11/10

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 16, 2016

Bonus post: Spreading the word about Inkitt

A little over a month ago, the guys over at Inkitt reached out to me to let me know about their website and about some of the novels being published there. The basic premise behind Inkitt is that anyone is welcome to submit their writing. Inkitt is a readers-driven publisher which means that once on the website readers (that's us!) are able to take a look at a wide variety of books and based on reading behavior (there are some mathematical calculations involved) Inkitt will decide if the novel is worth publishing. This means that tons of new and emerging writers are getting an opportunity to get their work out there and we're getting to see some new talent. Here are the Community Guidelines if you're interested in submitting something of your very own or you want to know how it all works. If, like me, you're not only interested in the mainstream publishing industry but also self-publishing then this is a really unique idea.

As of today, November 16th, you can access Inkitt through an app on iPhones and iPadds. Huzzah! You can download it through the App Store by going to this link. I highly encourage you guys to check them out (I'm not being paid to say any of this by the way. I just really like what they're doing and want to help them out.).

Just in case I missed anything or I didn't do their site justice you can watch a video all about what they're about here:



As always, thanks for visiting the blog and I hope to see you back here at the end of the week. Happy reading!