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Technical difficulties…not all my image files are showing for some reason. I’m working on it (well, I’m trying to get my hosting company to work on it). Some people see all of them, most people seem to be seeing some of them — but which ones vary from person to person (can’t find a connection between image problems and browser or OS). If it seems like I should have a picture somewhere, there probably should be one. Sorry!

Saturday Miscellany – 7/23/16

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson — Crime Fighting and Vampires — sounds like a good idea from someone (see above) who knows their way around Policing the Supernatural.
  • The Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold by Jon Hollins — the tag line definitely grabs your attention: Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hobbit in this rollicking fantasy adventure.” And the description makes it sound like it’d be worthwhile seeing if the book is nearly as good.
  • Flying by Carrie Jones — looks like I might enjoy spending an afternoon with this, and it could be a new obsession for my Doctor Who loving daughter.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and welcome to wanderlustexplored, ThemisAthena and kittensandhumans for following the blog this week.

Second Son (Audiobook) by Lee Child, Dick Hill

Second Son Second Son

by Lee Child, Dick Hill (Narrator)
Series: Jack Reacker, #15.5

Unabridged Audiobook, 1 hr, 27 min.
Random House Audio, 2013

Read: July 5, 2016


Okinawa, 1974: the Reacher family is assigned to a miliatry base there and is going through their well-established routine of moving into their new home. Reacher’s brother, Joe, isn’t dealing well with the idea that he’ll have to take a placement test to get into school; Reacher is dealing with a neighborhood bully; their mother is in France as her father dies; and his father is in the middle of a crisis of his own.

It’s a short story (40 pages in text), but it contains all the hallmarks of a standard Reacher tale, just on a smaller scale. It’s sort of cheating, taking a well-established character like Reacher and imagining the mini-version of him. But you know what? This was so fun, I didn’t care.

Dick Hill gives a pretty good performance, but his little Reacher and Joe voices are unintentionally amusing and cartoonish. I bet he’d be fun listening to with a full Reacher novel (particularly if it didn’t feature kids).

Not a great story, but satisfying. Not a great performance, but satisfying. Gets the job done.

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3.5 Stars

Small Wars (Audiobook) by Lee Child, Dick Hill

Small Wars Small Wars

by Lee Child, Dick Hill (Narrator)
Series: Jack Reacker, #19.5

Unabridged Audiobook, 1 hr, 30 min.
Random House Audio, 2015

Read: July 5, 2016


Reacher is still in the army for this one, and is pulled from his assignment to take over for an injured MP. Major Reacher’s first job at his new post is to investigate the murder of one of the Pentagon’s fastest rising stars.

To help him out (and to help train his underlings) Reacher gets Frances Neagly assigned to him. This story turns out to be a great spotlight for Neagly, actually. She even gets the big fight! This case hits close to home and ends up revealing a lot more about the Pentagon and the victim than anyone expected.

Dick Hill’s performance was fine — there wasn’t a lot for him to do here, but what he did worked.

This one didn’t work all that well for me — the solution was unsatisfying, and Reacher’s reaction to it might even be worse.

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2 Stars

A Few Quick Questions With…Tiffany McDaniel

I’ve really enjoyed my email correspondence with Tiffany McDaniel — she’s charming, friendly, and can laugh at herself. Even if I didn’t spend a couple of days under the spell of her words, I’d want her to find success with this first publication. Here’s a lil’ Q&A we did this week. As usual, I kept it short and sweet, because I’d rather she work on her next book than take too much time with me.

1. Tell me a little about your road to publication.
It was a long road, twisty and dark with the type of rocks perfectly-sized to leave a billion wounds to scar over on my soul. Perhaps too dramatic, but I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen-years-old. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything, which isn’t my first written novel. So it was an eleven-year struggle, hence the dramatics. With all the rejection, I came to believe I would never be published. I thought I’d leave this world with my ghost moaning in defeat. I know I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am now, about to see my book on the shelf. It’s been moving through the publishing house for two years, so with all the years added up, I’ve been waiting thirteen long years to see one of my books on the shelf. July 26th is going to be a very special day indeed. I feel as if I might sprout wings, or something equally magical will happen. Truly I’ll probably just spend the day in the bookstore, staring at my book and smiling.
2. What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
There are so many books I love. Not necessarily in the last five years. Coming to mind, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. But what makes these books, and every book special is the fact that they were written by these very people. Every book has its true author. The stories and characters belong to them. There’s no book I wish I would have written, because their true author has already written it so much better than I ever could.
3. I know that most authors would say that names of characters are important — but yours seem more important than usual, and steeped in meaning. Can you talk a little about your naming process? Alvernine, Grand, Dresden, Fielding — all are great. Be as general as you want, except for Autopsy, I’ve got to know, beyond the meaning — why name someone that?
For me, my characters are real people. These are their true names. They are their names long before I’ve put them down on paper. My job as the author is to listen to the characters. In the case of Autopsy’s name, I had seen the word “autopsy” that day I was trying to know him. I really do feel like these are the hints to me from the characters. Autopsy was telling me his name. As they all do. I just have to listen. I always say I’m surprised myself how the story comes out. That’s true. So when Autopsy was typed there on the page, I didn’t yet know how massive a theme that was going to be in the novel. I had yet to see for myself . . .
4. I don’t want to ask where you get your ideas, but how did you get to the point where you said, “You know what I want to write about? Satan’s summer vacation.”
First off, I love that last line of yours: “Satan’s summer vacation.” Perfect.

I always say my ideas come from the elements that make me. That somewhere in the chaotic clouds swirling in my atmosphere to the calm rivers coursing down my soul, there exists the source of my ideas. As it exists for every author. That’s a rather intense answer. But creativity is intense. It’s chaos and order, a big bang and a small tap. All these things turning, turning, until the wheel is rolling, the story rolling with it, getting to the point when the story is ready to come out.

5. I know you’re neck deep (at least) in promotion for this book, but what’s next for Tiffany McDaniel?
I have eight completed novels. I’m currently working on my ninth. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, flee across the Atlantic Ocean and end up in my land of Ohio. While here they create their own camp of judgment where they serve as both the guards and the prisoners. It’s a story about surviving guilt, love, and the time when lions did indeed once stand as men.
Thanks so much for your time, and I hope your launch week meets with a lot of success.

The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

The Summer that Melted EverythingThe Summer that Melted Everything

by Tiffany McDaniel

eARC, 320 pg.
St. Martin’s Press, 2016

Read: July 18 – 19, 2016

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

Yeah, Keyser Söze’s paraphrase of C. S. Lewis’ appropriation of Charles Baudelaire isn’t part of this book, but it might just encapsulate it. Maybe.

It’s the summer of 1984 in Breathed, OH, and it’s hot. Really hot — and about to get a lot hotter. 1984 is a big year — HIV is identified as the virus that leads to AIDS, Apple releases the Macintosh, Michael Jackson’s Pepsi commercial shoot, and the following advertisement runs in the local newspaper, The Breathian:

Dear Mr. Devil, Sir Satan, Lord Lucifer, and all other crosses you bear,

I cordially invite you to Breathed, Ohio. Land of hills and hay bales, of sinners and forgivers.

May you come in peace.

With great faith,
Autopsy Bliss

Autopsy Bliss is the local prosecutor, who wants to see for himself what evil looks like. Hence the advertisement.

So who shows up in response? A bruised, short black boy dressed in tattered and torn overalls who simply seems to want some ice cream and to say hi to the man who invited him. Autopsy’s son, Fielding, is the first one in town to meet the boy and takes him home to his father (sadly, no ice cream is available in town — unbelievably — for the remainder of the Summer). The Bliss family ends up taking the lad in, and starts calling him Sal. He and Fielding become fast friends and are almost inseparable for the rest of the summer. One by one, almost everyone in this sleepy community is touched by the appearance of Sal — either first-hand or by proxy — demons (figurative), troubled family and personal histories are exposed, latent corruptions come to light, and accidents strike many. No one in Breathed will be the same after the day Sal first appears to Fielding.

The book is narrated by Fielding about 70 years after that summer looking back on the time, thinking of all the regrets he’s had since then and all the ways his time with Sal has overshadowed the ensuing decades. It honestly reminded me of A Prayer for Owen Meany because of this — little kid who talks oddly, is smarter than any of his (apparent) peers, and divides a community, while leaving an indelible mark on his closest friend (who’s not always a friend).

Almost every name (maybe every name, and I’m not clever enough to get it all) is rich in meaning and symbolism — there’s symbolism all over the place, but McDaniel gets her money’s worth with the names in particular. This book will reward close readings, and probably repeated readings as well.

There are so many depictions and descriptions of child abuse and spousal abuse that it’s almost impossible to believe that there households in that world where someone isn’t getting hit on a pretty regular basis. Thankfully, we’re spared watching characters going through it (the vast majority of the time), but there are many mentions of it.

This is not fun read, really, but I loved the whole experience, it is a rewarding read. McDaniel writes with such richness, such depth, there are phrases throughout this that will knock you out. There’s one sentence that I went back to at least a half-a-dozen times one evening — not because I needed to try to suss it out, but because I just liked it so much. The variety of ways she can describe the horrible and debilitating heat wave that struck that part of Ohio those months is pretty astounding — I’m just glad I had some sort of air conditioning most of the time I spent reading the book. Sal’s descriptions of Hell and his fellow prisoners there are full of haunting images that will stick with me for a while (some good haunting, some less-so). I’m troubled by some of what this book said about God, but since the Devil is the one who told about God, I’m not sure we’re supposed to trust his characterizations. On the other hand, just about everything that the book says about the devil seems to be spot-on.

There are no easy answers to be found here — is Sal the devil? Is someone else in town? Is there a devil at all? Are the naturalistic explanations offered here and there throughout enough? I just don’t think you can think about this book without dealing with the Baudelaire/Lewis/Söze thought.

Can’t help but wonder how things would’ve gone if he’d just gotten a little ice cream.

Disclaimer:I received this eARC via NetGalley at the author’s invitation in return for this post. My thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Tiffany McDaniel for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

Bravo and Elphie by Hagit R. Oron, Or Oron

Bravo and ElphieBravo and Elphie

by Hagit R. Oron, Or Oron (Illustrator)
Series: Elphie’s Books, #2

Kindle Edition, 9 pg.
Oron’s, 2016

Read: July 12, 2016


Elphie, the cute elephant kid, is back — with a pet. Mom is trying to get Elphie to go down the slide at the playground, and it’s not going too well. I’m willing to bet you’ll find out that Mom’s a pretty smart cookie.

The art’s as good as last time — nice colors, the kind of characters that’ll keep the lil’ ones’ attention. I bet this would be fun to read aloud with a little someone squirming on your lap and pointing at various things.

It was a bit too short, and not as inventive as the first book — but you know what? I don’t think the target audience is going to be as critical as I am. This was a bright spot in my day, I read a lot of nonsense that day, and this was a little glimmer of optimism and sunshine. Get it for the kid in your life (get the first one, too).

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for this post.

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3 Stars