A Book Savor Chat with MommyMaestra.com Founder Monica Olivera

The Book Savor series grew out of my love for good book, great friends and interesting conversations about what we are reading.

This week’s guest, Monica Olivera, the founder of MommyMaestra.com and Latinas4LatinoLit.org, talks about the books she savors.

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

The Thin Man novelMonica Olivera: Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. Actually, My grandfather, who was always reading, had a collection of Hammett’s books that included the Thin Man series, The Maltese Falcon, The Dain Curse, and a few others. And I’m sure that was when my love affair with mysteries began. Soon after these books, I was gobbling down Agatha Christie and others. Our local library was a home away from home, as was a nearby second-hand bookstore.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

MO: Anything by Elizabeth Peters, Garrison Keillor, or Isabel Allende. I can’t really narrow it down to three books since there are so many that I love and enjoy. My bookshelves groan under the weight of my “favorite” reads from which I simply cannot part. And I have eclectic tastes because I enjoy a good mystery just as much as I do a good comedy or drama. I cannot resist a well-told story.

3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

MO: Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 by Garrison Keillor. Because every home deserves laughter.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

MO: Rudolfo Anaya, I think. I would serve warm pork tamales (if I knew how to make them), fresh limonada, and maybe flan for dessert. Or tres leches. We would talk about the desperate need for our children to hear and read these stories that reflect our childhood experiences and how by writing we in some way immortalize said childhood and the loved ones who may have since passed on.

We would talk about how critical it is for our children to hear and read our stories so that they can grow up with confidence, knowing that their history matters and that they have the ability to make a difference.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

MO: “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” ~Maya Angelou

I agree and think we should nurture a child’s love of reading with books about subjects that he or she is passionate about. Living books make learning a joy.

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

I am a homeschooling Latina mami of two who is passionate about reading and education. My most vivid childhood memories are of spending time in libraries and second-hand bookshops. I cannot enter a bookstore without making a purchase because I can’t resist the possibility of a well-written story.

More about this week’s guest: Monica is the founder of MommyMaestra.com, a home schooling resource for Latino families, and is speaking this week at the LATISM13 conference in New York City. I met Monica through the Latino literacy website Latinas4LatinoLit.org, of which she is also a founder. As many readers know, I wrote book discovery posts for the L4LL website this past summer. Working with Monica has been a joy due to her professionalism and clear communications.

A Book Savor Chat with Mystery Author Jerold Last

The Book Savor series grew out of my passion for great books, great friends, and conversations about books we love. Join in!

This week mystery author Jerold Last talks about the books he savors.

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

Sherlock Holmes novelJerold Last:  I don’t remember which of two it was, either Sherlock Holmes and “The Hound of the Baskervilles” or “The Guns of Shiloh” by Joseph A. Altsheler.  We were learning about the Civil War in 5th or 6th grade, which brought me to the Public Library and Altsheler’s highly readable series of young adult novels about the War Between the States.  One of my uncles gave me a copy of Doyle’s classic for a birthday gift at about the same time.  Of course I’d read all of the Nancy Drew novels and Hardy Boys books before this.  Given my lifelong love of mysteries, I’d like to believe my first adult novel was Sherlock Holmes.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

JL:  That’s a tough choice to make.  Maybe a waterproof iPad and a WiFi connection is an allowable selection?  If I have to choose, then:  1. “The Novels of Dashiell Hammett”; 2. “Raymond Chandler’s Stories and Early Novels”; 3.  Ross MacDonald’s “Archer at Large”.  That’s several weeks worth of reading for me.  Hopefully, rescue is possible about then.

3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

 JL:  That would depend on whose house was being warmed.  If it were a mystery fan, I’d be inclined to give them copies of all seven of my published books (less than $14 at Amazon’s current retail prices).  If they preferred non-fiction, I’d probably select an interesting ethnic cookbook.  We have one on Mexican regional cooking that we’ve enjoyed for many years.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

 JL:  I think it would be Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser series.  We’ll serve braised pheasant, shot by me, and found, pointed, and retrieved by Jolie, one of our dogs, from the freezer.  Side dishes include mashed potatoes with garlic, since there’s a lot of gravy, and salad (it’s California so there’s always fresh veggies).  Conversation would be about mystery writing, and whether Spenser’s and Susan’s German Shorthaired Pointer, Pearl The Wonder Dog, would have fit into our pack of three GSPs.  Jolie, the model for Juliet in “The Deadly Dog Show”, seems to have a similar temperament to Pearl’s, but is much better trained. Finally, I’d like his opinion of whether Roger makes a good, albeit much more educated, Spenser-type hero, and what he thinks of Bruce as an assistant hero in the mold of Hawk.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

JL:  From Raymond Chandler’s essay “The Simple Art of Murder”, he describes the character of the private detective as follows:  “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.  The detective in this kind of story must be such a man.  He is the hero; he is everything.  He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man.  He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor . . .  He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world . . . If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

JL:  I’m a scientist, a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at The University of California Medical School in Davis.  There are times I feel schizophrenic as I try to juggle my life as a scientist with my life as a mystery writer, like this morning’s interview with a local TV news reporter sharing my allegedly expert opinion of the health effects of inhaling the particles produced by the major wildfires currently burning here in California and throughout the western states.  I live with my wife of almost 40 years, Elaine, three generations of German Shorthaired Pointers, and currently the fourth generation of this canine family represented by eight grand-puppies born to Schone two nights ago.

More about this week’s guest: Jerold is the author of the Roger and Suzanne mysteries which I first discovered because several are set in Montevideo, Uruguay. The latest is The Deadly Dog Show (find it on amazon here), the fifth novel in a series, which also includes two shorter novellas, and the second series entry (after The Body in the Parking Structure) to take place in California rather than South America.  The settings and locales for the preceding South American mystery novels, The Empanada Affair, The Ambivalent Corpse, The Surreal Killer, and The Matador Murders are authentic; Jerry and Elaine lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay for several months each, and selected the most interesting locations for Roger and Suzanne mystery settings.  Jerry’s blog describing the background and birth of Jerry’s books; Jerry, Elaine, and the dogs’ lives; and all things mysterious can be found at http://rogerandsuzannemysteries.blogspot.com.

Ebook vs Print: Enough Already and Here’s Why

As both an author and an avid reader I’m often asked what now seems like an age-old question: ebooks or print? The question implies that I find one superior to the other. Often, the person asking already has an opinion and wants to know if my opinion matches.

Well, it doesn’t and here’s why. The answer is BOTH.

Both ebooks and print have multiple advantages.  Based on circumstances, one format may hold more of an advantage than another for the reader at a certain point in time.

A reader should have the option of seizing the advantage that is most suitable for the circumstance at hand and move between formats without having to swear an oath of allegiance to either.

So let’s examine the evidence, as the characters in my books occasionally say, and compare the advantages of both formats.

Ebooks:

  • Portable and lightweight: This is important if you want to take several books on a long trip, or move household effects with a weight limit.
  • Cost and access: Ebooks are typically cheaper, faster to obtain, and many are free. Ebooks can be downloaded around the world which is great if you live somewhere without a bookstore or in a foreign country where English-language books are few and far in between.

Print:

  • Display and physicality: Books with pictures can be gorgeous personal statements, reference volumes, and home decor. Antique books carry their history with them and are powerful reminders of the past. First editions and signed books are valid collector’s items.
  • Selection: Handling a book, reading the back cover, sneaking a look at the last page, getting the author’s autograph on a paper copy–these are all things that help us select books and discover new authors.

I’m sure there are other advantages to each format and if you can think of some, leave a comment. But for now, enough with the ebook vs print question. I’m going to turn on my Kindle and finish reading the latest Swedish mystery, while trying not to be distracted by the 2000 or so books lining the shelves next to me.

Book Review: For Love of a Cause by Elly Michaels

Book Review: For Love of a Cause by Elly Michaels

Every once in awhile we come across books that we simply can’t put down. FOR LOVE OF A CAUSE by Elly Michaels is one of them.

In 1970’s Bolivia a small insurgent group is battling an undefined but assumed corrupt and brutal government. American suburbanite Annie Crossland travels there with a church group to aid an orphanage and connects with the British purveyor for the well-hidden insurgent group. Annie accompanies him on a supply trip to the main rebel encampment where she finds a role for herself that has been hitherto missing in her life, as well as a volatile yet fulfilling relationship with the rebel leader. Yet we know the fate of most South American rebellions . . .

This is an amazingly well-researched book that lets us walk in Annie’s shoes the entire way. She is the bored wife of a wealthy and bland lawyer but she has hidden strengths and skills that quickly become useful to the rebel group; shooting thanks to skeet with her father, Spanish from college courses, and animal husbandry because of the horses she has at home. She is an innate organizer, as well, who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

The authenticity and writing quality of this book, in terms of both description and characters, cannot be overstated. Annie is no idealistic do-gooder and she is torn between going back to her husband, the Brit who makes periodic supply trips between civilization and the rebel encampment, and her growing fascination with Alex, the educated and handsome but brutal Marxist rebel leader (think Che complete with black beret and cigars.)

Everyone is complex—the product of their background—and Michaels does a wonderful job of slowly connecting Annie and Alex as each struggles with lust, ideology, and relationships with other members of the growing rebel force. I was impressed with the way the author kept Alex true to his character and never gave into temptation to soften him into an easier person for Annie to love. And Annie never loses her awareness of his volatility and cruelty. Dialogue is used to good effect such as when Alex taunts Annie because she is not eating and she tells him it is because he smells like an animal or they argue over socialist ideology. The atmospherics throughout the book are excellent and consistent.

The rebels want to create a new society in Bolivia and try to create a system of local justice to provide the peasantry some measure of protection and stem the Bolivian Army’s random seizures, taxes, and rapes. Annie gets caught up in the effort, deciding to stay with Alex and divorce her husband. Some of the best scenes are those in which Annie shoulders a gun and engages in guerrilla warfare with the rebels whose infiltration strategies are well described. Expect your heart to pound as Annie panics but does what is required, with an emotional aftermath she barely survives. Another stellar scene is when the volatile Alex finds out that she is married. And then there is the chilling moment when he becomes the ultimate arbiter of justice in the area the rebels now control.

I would have liked a little more backstory on the Bolivian government the rebels are fighting and a reference to JPG files was out of context, given the assumed time period of the book. The book also deserves a better editor, cover, and description page on Amazon. It is a gem that couldn’t be more hidden.

The author’s Amazon page and the book’s categories fit this into the Romance genre. There is sexual tension, to be sure, but billing this book as a run-of-the-mill romance does it a disservice. This is a sweeping 5 star novel that fans of Ann Patchett or Anita Shreve will enjoy.

A Book Savor Chat with Writer Elizabeth A. Martina

 The Book Savor series is new to this blog and grew out of my passion for good books,  good friends, and great discussions about what we are reading.

This week writer Elizabeth A. Martina shares the books she savors.

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare? 

EAM: The first book was one from the assigned reading list required to enter 9th grade. It was “The Axe” by Sigrid Undset, the Nobel Prize winning author. Adult themes and religious themes together for the first time. I was shocked at the complexity but bought the rest of the series. It was so intimidating that I never read the other three books.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it? 

Lives of the Saints book coverEAM: First and foremost, the Bible. You can read that over and over and still find more you didn’t notice before. Then, I would like to find Butler’s Lives of the Saints, preferably the four volume edition. Third choice would be “To Kill A Mockingbird”. I figure if I am shipwrecked it might take a while to find me. I get bored quickly if I don’t have literature to make me think.

3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why? 

EAM: I tend to like to give books that will be read again and again. Books that direct your thinking. I often will consider a coffee table book featuring a subject that I know the person would value. For example, a religious book for a religious-minded person or a book on cats for someone who is really into cats. I once gave the book “A Catholic Mother Speaks to Her Children” by Marie Catherine-Sophie de Flavigny to a mother of six.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

EAM: I adore the couple writing team, Bodie and Brock Thoene. I would serve them barbequed spare ribs, mustard potato salad and moscal wine. Ribs, because they are country folk and would probably enjoy that. The wine, because it is sweet and my favorite. Conversation would inevitably turn to history of the 20th century, which is predominantly their book themes, and to Christianity which is always their secondary theme.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

EAM: This is from one of Glenn Beck’s books: “Good decent people are around. Good decent people can succeed.” I like this quote because so often, in today’s society, many people think there is no decency or value system anymore. Reminding people of the fact that values still exist will go a long way towards helping this world.

More about this week’s guest: Elizabeth A. Martina grew up in central New York and went to school in both New York and Massachusetts. She has a son and several foster children.  Most of her storytelling ability comes from her grandmother, who told her tales of growing up in the 1910s and 20s. Her current project is a true crime story of passion and organized crime uncovered via historical archives in Italy, the US, and Canada.

In Memorium: The Unsung Influence of Mystery Author Leighton Gage

Fellow international mystery author Leighton Gage, creator of the Inspector Silva mystery series set in Brazil, passed away last week at his home in Florida. I never met him but he influenced me as both a writer and a reader.

Late last year, as I prepared to publish the first Emilia Cruz novel set in Mexico, the words of dismissal I’d received about trying to publish books for a U.S. audience in which all of the characters are Mexican still stung.  So it was a comfort to discover a Goodreads group about mysteries set in various locales around the world and read a post about Leighton Gage’s Brazil-based Inspector Silva books.

It was the first mystery series I’d heard of set in Central or South America. Emilia Cruz had footsteps in which to follow!

The Inspector Silva books are relentlessly authentic. I’ve been to São Paolo, where the fictional Silva lives, and can truly say that Gage nailed the environment. Disconcertedly so, in many ways. The books don’t shrink away from the brutality of life in the favelas, the choking traffic, endemic corruption, or express kidnappings and other criminal cruelty.

book coverInspector Silva is the product of his environment, as are his subordinates. The plots are driven by circumstances that can be uniquely Brazilian, such as the land rights issue that drove the action in his first book, Blood of the Wicked. Read my review here.

I was pursuing the same path, taking readers into the heart of a culture, with characters who live and breathe the reality of that place, and deal with circumstances that are shaped by that environment. Along with Jo Nesbo in Norway (the Harry Hole series), Ian Rankin in Scotland (the DI Rebus series), and Donna Leon in Venice, Italy (the Guido Brunetti series), Leighton Gage became my role model as an international mystery series author who excels at authenticity.

So it was a huge personal milestone when Leighton Gage followed me on Twitter! We connected as well on Facebook and Goodreads. We never dialogued on any of those platforms but it was enough for me to be recognized by someone who not only enjoyed success in our field but had repudiated the bad advice I’d been given about trying to publish books with all Latino characters. I’m sorry I never got to tell him that. I can only offer a belated thank you to Leighton Gage for both his books and audacity. 

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Book cover design: Updating political thriller THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY

Book cover design: Updating political thriller THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY

This book cover design story starts about seven years ago when I was eating dinner with Sherry, the genius of all things PR, in a swanky Italian restaurant.  Red wine, tortellini, and a laptop with a gallery of 4 proposed cover designs for THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY.  The publisher was waiting for my ideas and we were discussing each design.

The waiter stopped by.  A potential book buyer!  We showed him the mock covers, slowly scrolling through the presentation, and he zeroed in on a dark red cover with a grunge flag of Mexico.  It was Sherry’s favorite, too, and so I sent it off to the publisher as a concept to consider.

Six months later, the publisher had made a mess of the cover–and several other key elements–and we parted ways. It took another 6 months for the book to finally be published on 5 May 2012. 

Related: The Lost Chapter of THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY

Since that fateful dinner at the Italian place–which has since closed, alas, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY has had several facelifts in the quest to find its audience. Here is the story of that book cover design quest!

1. Unused publisher version October 2011

The title is barely readable. The flag isn’t centered. The writing on the left is a weird green.  The back looked even worse, reducing a photo of Mexico’s Zocalo to a dark blob.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Submitted to friends on Facebook for a vote

The candle concept was intended to bring together the idea of the light in the dark as well as votive candles and the Catholic Church, which is a major element of the book.

But some of the responses were “might be a vampire book” and “from a frequent traveler standpoint, I may pass on first glance on the candle – thinking it may be a love story.”

So this cover didn’t let readers know the book was a contemporary thriller.

 

 

 

3. The “Dirty Money” concept

Putting the pesos on the cover was a breakthrough in the concept of the design; money laundering is what leads Eddo Cortez Castillo to uncover the political doublecross.

This cover got positive comments: “I like this one but then again I liked the flame too.”

But it also garnered comments such as “light is too bright” and “where’s the girl?”

 

 

 

 

4. The debut cover (2012)

This design got some great Facebook comments and was published with the book on 5 May 2012:

“I like the red.  I like the way your name pops.  I also like the candle at the bottom.”

“I like the position of the tag line.”

“That sounds like a commitment to me!!!!  I am looking forward to seeing your latest book on the shelf!”

“THIS IS IT! I’m jumping up and down.”

 

 

 

5. The anniversary cover (2013)

After a year there were several reasons to update the cover:

The original cover with the pesos led many to think it was a non-fiction book

The candle seemed to just float at the bottom

The tagline was too small to be read on the book’s amazon book page.

A new design was needed that gave the book a stronger thriller vibe, was cleaner and less cluttered, and could be an eye-catching thumbnail. It also needed to stay consistent with my other books in terms of how my name was presented.

The single graphic did it all. As one friend said, this cover “sparked” her interest the most!

 

6. The romantic thriller cover (2016)

The hidden Light of Mexico CitySales weren’t what the book deserved, so back to the branding and design drawing board. New tactic: emphasize the relationship at the core of the story.

The new cover put the Cinderella story angle front and center. Lovely, evocative, but somehow there was still a disconnect between the story the cover told, the story the sales description told, and the book itself, with themes of corruption, money laundering, and social inequality. 

But I simply love the photo. He’s holding her so tight.

Related: Check out the dreamcast!

 

 

7. The political thriller cover (2018)

A MAJOR shift in presentation and branding, accompanied by a bold counterdrug message sales page in 2019. The second chapter, introducing protagonist Eduardo Cortez Castillo jumped the line to be the first chapter so that anyone reading the “What’s Inside” on Amazon immediately gets the point of the book.

The red and sense of movement are more eye-catching than the previous covers and easier to read as a thumbnail. Once the cover and the new sales copy debuted, sales perked up.  

Let’s hope this is the last cover! Check out the new sales copy below.

Related: Read Chapters 1 & 2

 

A ruthless druglord is on the brink of buying Mexico’s presidency.

Only one man stands in his way.

In this stunning thriller from a former U.S. intelligence officer, secrets fuel the drug war raging along the US-Mexican border. On the eve of Mexico’s presidential elections, government attorney Eduardo Cortez Castillo discovers collusion between the country’s powerful Minister of Public Security and the drug cartel leader known as El Toro.

Coded messages . . . a secret website . . . clever money laundering.

“Enthralling political drama . . . Politics and corruption, and a man and woman from opposite ends of the social spectrum who fall in love.” — Literary Fiction Review

Marked for death by cartel assassins, Eduardo follows the money trail deep into drug smuggling territory. There he’ll find that violence buys loyalty, votes are for sale, and the odds are against survival.

Back in Mexico City, a woman whose name means Light of Mary waits for him.

The cartel is looking for her, too.

Grab your copy of today’s most relevant and unexpected thriller!

Critically acclaimed author Carmen Amato uses the counterdrug expertise gained during a 30-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency to weave together a story that rings with authenticity. Amato is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal.

Not since The Manchurian Candidate has a political thriller book kept readers so riveted to characters who leap off the page. From Mexico’s class system, to the country’s spiraling drug violence, to the harsh realities of the US-Mexican border, get ready for a heart-stopping ride through the darkness of today’s war on drugs.

“Within minutes of reading the opening pages of this story, the reader is completely taken away and wrapped completely in the heart of Mexico City and its culture. The cornucopia of characters and their sub-stories are painted beautifully with layers of depth. Experiences are real and vividly shared . . . The peek into the classes and drug world are both captivating and thrilling.” – InD’Tale Magazine

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Book Review: The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

Book Review: The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

THE REDEEMER by Jo Nesbo is the midpoint novel in the Harry Hole series set in Norway, picking up where the last left off and priming the reader for another just as fast as Nesbo can write it. I’ve been reading them out of sequence and this one both filled in some blanks and created more questions. Specifically, when is Harry going to stop his $^&#@!! self-destructive habits and get his act together. But we all know the answer to that one, don’t we . . .

Related: Book Review: The Bat by Jo Nesbo

The story centers around a contract killer who accidentally kills the wrong member of the Salvation Army, which apparently has a big footprint in Oslo, then must stick around to find the right person and complete his assignment. Harry will find the vulnerable daughter of the head of the Salvation Army in Norway for both a possible romantic dalliance and source of information. Secretive Martine will be torn between her attraction to Harry—free at the moment from his on-again-off-again relationship with Rakel—and her duties to the Army.

Harry will approach things as he usually does, in his jeans, Doc Martens, and rock band tees. He’ll flout his new boss’s authority, start drinking again as he tracks the killer’s roots to the war in Bosnia, and use who he can along the way.

The writing is superb, Harry is a character you hate to love, and as always, Nesbo puts us right on the street in Oslo, a city I adore.

Related: Visiting Norway, Mystery Author Style

But I’ll admit to two teeney but annoying flaws:

1. The words ‘redemption’ or ‘redeemer’ were overused. Everybody gets labeled with some variation of the word. One reference in a subtle but significant way would have been enough.

2. At the end, Harry’s former boss has a big reveal but by that time it felt unnecessary. The book didn’t need the extra stuff and the core plot was complicated enough not to warrant this distraction from the central storyline.

But overall, THE REDEEMER by Jo Nesbo was masterful international mystery and I’m ready for the next Harry Hole novel.

A Book Savor Chat with Marketing Expert Bobby McDaniel

The weekly Book Savor series grew out of my passion for good books, good friends, and great discussions about what we are reading.

 This week marketing expert Bobby McDaniel shares the books he savors:

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?
 
Bobby McDaniel:  I was always a voracious reader as a child, but the book that made the most impact for me was Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. As a young man grappling with my own sexuality and the religious/social implications that brought, this book paralleled my own journey. Not only did I find the themes of individuality and personal identity compelling, the writing itself captivated me. It was required reading in my AP class, and usually I read these books grudgingly. I read this one three times, plus read the Cliffs Notes and Monarch Notes. I really should dust that off and give it another read!
 
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?
 
BMcD: This may be cheating… but, I’m going to say 3 series. First would be Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings series. It’s a fantasy classic, plus his prose takes forever to read… perfect for the stranded castaway who doesn’t know when help will arrive. The second would be Douglas Adams’ Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy (Ultimate edition). Why? You need to be able to laugh in crisis, and this sci-fi comedic series also provides practical guidance for staying alive in any part of the universe! Last, but not least, I would hope to have Michael J Sullivan’s Theft of Swords series. Full disclosure, I have known this author personally before his novels were published. That being said, this fantasy series is masterfully crafted and ,while lengthy, it reads quickly and easily. I love the world, the plot, and especially the characters.
 
3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?
 
BMcD:  I’m cheap, so I’d probably pick up those coupons they give away at the post office… I kid, I kid! Reading is such a personal experience, I find it hard to actually buy books for someone else. I’ve had so many books bought for me that sit and collect dust. So, I would either purchase a picture book of the area/state that they live or a gift card to Barnes & Noble. Lame, I know.
 
4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?
 
BMcD: Douglas Adams. I’m a geek and I love to laugh, so I imagine hanging out with Douglas Adams would be an amazing experience. I would serve Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, Gin & Tonics, and steak… preferably from a talking cow, but I guess any cow would do.
 
5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?
 
BMcD: “I may be mad,” he thought, “but I prefer the shit of this world to whatever sweet ambrosia the next might offer.” – Alobar,Tom Robbins Jitterbug Perfume
 
Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.
 
Bobby McDaniel is a narcissistic, juvenile lunatic with cyclothemic tendencies. He enjoys reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy when he’s not working on building his online marketing empire at Thumbprint Strategic Media.
More about this week’s guest: Bobby is the president of  Thumbprint Strategic Media, LLC, www.ThumbprintStrategic.com. He blogs occasionally at wildlyurban.com and is characteristically clever on Twitter. He and I routinely meet for work sessions at a favorite coffee shop. Over lattes and our laptop screens we talk books, social media, website design, and other critical life issues.

A Book Savor Chat with Crime Fiction Author Jason Beech

The weekly Book Savor series grew out of my passion for good books, good friends, and great discussions about what we are reading.

And what is the best way to get those great book discussions going? With some thought-provoking questions of course!

 This week crime fiction author Jason Beech shares the books he savors:

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

Jason Beech: Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock. I never read much as a boy, but I was once in WH Smith’s in Sheffield, England, and my dad told me to buy a book.

The cover got me first, then the blurb sounded odd and unusual. I’m not sure what that says. But it blew me away when I read it. It’s a story haunted by the main character Steven’s past, whose parents have died, his mother tragically. Returning from the Second World War he spends minimal time with his brother Christian in the family home before he disappears into Ryhope Wood. Their home stands at the edge of this wood and it is occupied by beings conjured by myth and peoples’ ever-changing perception of mythology. So there are bastardised versions of Robin Hood, some early Anglo-Saxons, roaming the woods, occasionally bursting from them into their garden.

The wood has paranormal barriers stopping just anybody getting in, but the characters can reach its core through persistence.

It sounds a little daft, but the characters are rich and yearning for something that seems out of reach, and the themes are epic. For example, Steven’s brother Christian has taken on his father’s obsession about the woods, into which he disappears searching for someone to give him peace. Steven’s friend Harry saw something similar when shot down over France, and is keen to get into this one because he sees his own salvation there.

Steven himself is trying to figure out his feelings for his father, (which is played out brilliantly with the Urscumug chasing Steven and Harry – you have to read it), his mother, and the hate he holds for his brother.

It’s about mythology and how it becomes distorted, as well as how history (including personal) always affects the present.

After reading it, I thought I was into fantasy, but I’ve really disliked everything else in the genre because of wooden characters with silly dialogue.

It struck a chord. I’ve read nothing else like it.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

JB: Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, American Tabloid by James Ellroy (possibly the scariest book I’ve ever read, including any horror), and The Crow Road by Iain Banks.

The Crow Road3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

JB: The Crow Road by Iain Banks, because the book is about family and what happens when you neglect it. It’s sour, political, has epic swearing, a grandmother’s heart exploding during her funeral, and has you examining your family history and how you must continue to create new memories.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

JB: Charles Dickens. I’d serve him my mother’s Sunday dinner of roast lamb, new potatoes, green beans, stuffing, spring (I think) cabbage, Yorkshire puddings, and mint sauce, smothered in gravy (onion).

Then I’d ask him if he could have cut a few hundred pages from most of his novels, and ask if Britain has moved on much from Victorian times in social terms.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

JB: “8.45 a.m. My mother is in the hospital grounds smoking a cigarette. She is looking old and haggard. All the debauchery is catching up with her.” From The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4

I need to take note.

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

I’m an Englishman in the US writing crime fiction and words with extra letters, and coaching the beautiful game to American youngsters.

I have one novel out, Over the Shoulder, and a short story collection, Bullets, Teeth & Fists, coming out in mid-August.

http://jdbeech.wordpress.com/ Blog page

www.facebook.com/MessyBusiness Facebook page

 @beech_jason

More about this week’s guest: Jason Beech is the author of crime drama OVER THE SHOULDER which I read in one weekend. I keep expecting to hear that Hollywood has called him, ready for the next great Goodfellas-type movie. Read my review of the book here.

A Book Savor Chat with DifferentOutcomes.net’s Jason Sullivan

The Book Savor series is new to this blog and grew out of my passion for good books, good friends, and great discussions about what we are reading.

And what is the best way to get those great book discussions going? With some thought-provoking questions of course!

This week suspense writer Jason Sullivan shares the books he savors.

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

Jason Sullivan: Reading the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov was a huge moment for me as a kid. I was thoroughly enthralled by the magnificent world-building of Asimov and his vision of a galaxy-wide civilization in peril. I found his focus on the interpersonal as the basis for great societies very compelling. In the Foundation Series, Asimov convinced me that psychological drama is far more exciting than spaceships having laser battles.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

Hegel Logic JS: I would probably want Hegel’s Logic, because if I were to be alone for hours, days, months and years, I might have enough time to finally figure it out, or at least go mad trying. Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda, as I could perhaps use the mystical journey described within as a sort of spiritual workbook for my explorations. Finally, a gem by Richard Brautigan, entitled, So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away. This is a tragic, humorous, beautiful and haunting book. I could read it many, many times.

 3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

 JS: With Napoleon in Russia: Faber Du Faur. I recently came across this luxurious oversized book that includes beautiful and unposed paintings of Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia. You feel as though you are marching alongside Napoleon’s army, seeing what they saw and feeling it as well. Although a tragic event, these paintings have an unpretentious quality and are a window onto a moment in history. The book also reminds us of why it is sometimes better to stay at home and leave world conquering for another day.

 4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

 JS: Without a doubt, my choice would be Edgar Allan Poe. For dinner, we would have the Mid-Atlantic specialties of Silver Queen corn and extra-large Chesapeake Bay crab cakes. We would discuss Virginia and Maryland, an area we both know well. I would have secured a bottle of the finest cognac for after dinner. Once the first glasses of cognac were finished, we would sit by a roaring fire and begin to talk about everything imaginable. We would discuss Romanticism and poetry, delve into his seminal influence in Science Fiction and Mystery, and as the shadows begin to make ghastly figures upon the wall, he might share a word or two about the genre for which he is most famous – Horror. I would also want to hear his views on some of the major events that occurred after his death, such as the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the two world wars, technology and globalism. I would bring up a few things of particular interest to me. For instance, what are his views on the nature of time and affection, and what were the circumstances surrounding the writing of “A Dream Within A Dream”? He might mention what transpired during those last few days in Baltimore, but I would not ask about this. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, as the fire drew down, we would dare to speak of the eternal secrets … before falling asleep in our chairs to the glow of the last few dying embers.

 5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

 JS: From the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov, the psychohistorian Hari Seldon said, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

 Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

I like surrealist paintings. I have discovered that words piled like blocks on a sheet of paper (or on a computer screen) do not inspire; instead, I try to find them alive and animated within my experiences and environment. Finally, I am hopeful that the world will be a more peaceful place in the not too distant future.

More about this week’s guest: Besides knowing more about Edgar Allan Poe than the rest of us, Jason runs the review and flash fiction site DifferentOutcomes.net.

A Book Savor Chat with Fiction Author Flora Solomon

The Book Savor series is new to this blog and grew out of my passion for good books, good friends, and great discussions about what we are reading.

And what is the best way to get those great book discussions going? With some thought-provoking questions of course!

This week historical fiction author Flora Solomon shares the books she savors.

1.  Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

HiroshimaBookFlora Solomon: When 12 years old and in the 7th grade, my science teacher recommended the class read Hiroshima by John Hersey. I took him up on it and borrowed his copy. The shocking book introduced me to the unknown and violent world I was on the cusp of entering.

2.  CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

FS:  Tops on my list would be the thick and detailed book, How to Survive a Shipwreck by I.M.A. Survivor. Then for comfort, oldies but goodies such as Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

3.  CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

FS: My own book, of course, A Pledge of Silence, a World War II novel based on the nurses who served in the Philippines, were captured by the Japanese and held prisoners of war. Alternatively, if the residents were new to the area, I might take a book on regional gardening, local cuisine, or native wildlife.

4.  CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

FS: I have neither talent nor interest in cooking, so I would take Louise Steinman, author of The Souvenir, A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War, to the best restaurant in town. After her father died, Louise found hundreds of his World War II love letters to her mother, and an inscribed Japanese flag hidden in an old trunk. She writes of two journeys—one of realization and healing, and the other a trip to Japan to return the flag to the fallen soldier’s family. Both journeys are beautiful and moving. Conversation between us would not be a problem.

5.  CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

FS: I have two college degrees, yet the nuances of grammar and the capriciousness of punctuation baffle me. Though it’s not an inspiration, I like this quote from Mark Twain:“Anyone who can only think of one way to spell a word obviously lacks imagination.”

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

FS: My husband and I relocated from Michigan’s water, winter, wonderland to the beautiful North Carolina coast. Besides reading and writing, I enjoy visits from my children and grandchildren, a hard-won tennis match, and an occasional round of golf. My website: www.apledgeofsilence.com.

A Pledge of Silence book coverMore about this week’s guest: Flora is the author of WWII drama A PLEDGE OF SILENCE, the moving and authentic story of an Army nurse caught up in the Pacific war.

 

Cover of Cliff Diver

Get it today on amazon.com

Carmen Amato at Spring Hill

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