Friday, October 28, 2016

ON MY RADAR (10-28-16 edition): Books that have hit my radar...

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

An electrifying first collection from one of the most exciting short story writers of our time
Ottessa Moshfegh's debut novel Eileen was one of the literary events of 2015. Garlanded with critical acclaim, it was named a book of the year by The Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle, nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. But as many critics noted, Moshfegh is particularly held in awe for her short stories. Homesick for Another World is the rare case where an author's short story collection is if anything more anticipated than her novel. 

And for good reason. There's something eerily unsettling about Ottessa Moshfegh's stories, something almost dangerous, while also being delightful, and even laugh-out-loud funny. Her characters are all unsteady on their feet in one way or another; they all yearn for connection and betterment, though each in very different ways, but they are often tripped up by their own baser impulses and existential insecurities. Homesick for Another World is a master class in the varieties of self-deception across the gamut of individuals representing the human condition. But part of the unique quality of her voice, the echt Moshfeghian experience, is the way the grotesque and the outrageous are infused with tenderness and compassion. Moshfegh is our Flannery O'Connor, and Homesick for Another World is her Everything That Rises Must Converge or A Good Man is Hard to Find. The flesh is weak; the timber is crooked; people are cruel to each other, and stupid, and hurtful. But beauty comes from strange sources. And the dark energy surging through these stories is powerfully invigorating. We're in the hands of an author with a big mind, a big heart, blazing chops, and a political acuity that is needle-sharp. The needle hits the vein before we even feel the prick.

Siblings and Other Disappointments by Kait Heacock

Kait Heacock delves into the vulnerability of relationships and the various ways families fight, forgive, or fall apart. Her debut collection of twelve short stories follows a long-haul truck driver, a mother waiting for the rapture, newlyweds on a trip to the mountains, a father who competes in food-eating competitions, and an array of other characters scattered throughout Central Washington, down to Nevada, and up to Alaska. Each story explores themes of loneliness and isolation and how those exist both apart from our families and within them. Siblings and Other Disappointments unpacks the myriad meanings of the word family and the ways in which the bonds of those units are forged, dissolved, or simply maintained.  

Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He’s been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid’s stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable.

He’s also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he’s hunted gods and demons, and broken them in his teeth.

As Persons investigates the horrible McKinsey, he realizes that he carries something far darker than the expected social evils. He’s infected with an alien presence, and he’s spreading that monstrosity far and wide. Luckily Persons is no stranger to the occult, being an ancient and magical intelligence himself. The question is whether the private dick can take down the abusive stepdad without releasing the holds on his own horrifying potential.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

SHARING: A Reader's Blessing

Grant Snider of Incidental Comics

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: News of the World by Paulette Jiles


Longlisted for the National Book Award–Fiction

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by William Morrow (first published March 29th 2016)
ISBN 0062409204 (ISBN13: 9780062409201)

About the Author

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.

Check out the author's website.

My Thoughts
Captain Kidd laid out the Boston Morning Journal on the lectern and began to read from the article on the Fifteenth Amendment.
Captain Kidd is in his "golden years", left a widower with two grown daughters and grandchildren. He's a bit restless, still on the road and not quite ready to settle just yet. He travels Texas offering readings of the news. People pay to hear him recite the news of the country and the world at large for various reasons-- some just like the social aspect of gathering with a group to hear the news, some are illiterate and incapable of reading the news themselves. Whatever their own personal reason, people gather for a dime a piece to hear Captain Kidd read.

While Captain is in Wichita Falls, he is approached with the request that he take a young captive and return her to her family. Young Johanna was taken captive at the age of six by the Kiowa after they had killed her parents and little sister, and adopted by a Kiowa couple. She was raised by Turning Water and Three Spotted as their own for four years, until the Kiowa decided that it was too dangerous for them to keep a captive white girl when there are soldiers always looking for a reason to battle. So she was traded back to the whites at the age of ten, finding herself surrounded by strangers she doesn't know or understand, frightened and confused and yearning to return to the only family she knows.

The Captain agrees to transport her back to her family, and so begins their three-week journey to San Antonio. Along the way they fight battles, both literal and figurative, with small victories occurring at every turn. Every smile and every English word is a victory, but as time goes on every step of the hoof and turn of the wagon wheel brings them closer to separation.

The author says in "A Note From the Author" that it seems all captive children who had been brought back to "civilization" had yearned to return to their Indian families, regardless of how little time they spent with their adopted families. The author says that her Irish character Doris Dillon said it best:
"...You can put her in any clothing and she remains as strange as she was before because she has been through two creations...To go through the first creation is a turning of the soul we hope toward the light, out of the animal world. God be with us. To go through another tears all the making of the first creation and sometimes it falls to bits. We fall into pieces. She is asking, Where is that rock of my creation?"
When trying to think of how this book made me feel, the word that came to mind was "wistful". Yes, "wistful", yearning, longing. You feel for this little girl who was ripped from the only family she seems to remember, the only life she knows, and given to a stranger to return her to people she doesn't know and info forced assimilation. You feel for the Captain, separated from his family who are living lives of their own, he himself alone in the world.

The author's writing is a bit like the wagon journey they are on-- slow, steady, and gets the story where it's going. It's not overly laden with flourish, nor overly emotional or descriptive, yet effective. Her characters are well formed and relatable.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, October 4th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, October 5th: Bibliophiliac
Friday, October 7th: Just One More Chapter
Monday, October 10th: BookNAround
Tuesday, October 11th: A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, October 12th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, October 13th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, October 14th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, October 17th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, October 18th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Wednesday, October 19th: Books on the Table
Thursday, October 20th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, October 24th: Tina Says…
Tuesday, October 25th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, October 26th: Literary Quicksand
Thursday, October 27th: A Bookworm’s World
Friday, October 28th: Art @ Home
Monday, October 31st: The Book Diva’s Reads
Tuesday, November 1st: Man of La Book
TBD: FictionZeal
TBD: The Paperback Pilgrim

My final word: This is one of those sweet and gentle reads, and at 200 pages, it's a fast read as well. There are moments of tragedy and heartbreak, but for the most part it is a sweet story as this old man wandering at the end of his life falls in with a young girl who is lost and seeking the nomadic yet grounded life she has known. The two of them turn out to be quite well-suited for one another, and the Captain will become more to this little girl than anyone ever expected. This is a good rainy-day read, to sit curled up with on a gray and overcast rainy or snowy day.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

READATHON 2016: End of Event Survey

Well, that's a wrap! Another readathon comes to an end, and I have failed once again to accomplish whatever goals I set for myself. Too many distractions combined with the inability to stay awake.

End of Event Survey

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Every hour
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Nope. I didn't even get through my one, although I should finish it today. It actually would be a pretty good book for someone to read during the readathon, as it is interesting and a short book (News of the World by Paulette Jiles)
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? Nope
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everyone always does a great job
  5. How many books did you read? I didn't complete any
  6. What were the names of the books you read? News of the World by Paulette Jiles
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? (only one I read)
  8. Which did you enjoy least? see above
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I think I've only missed one or two over the last 7 years. I will always be a reader.
And that's all folks! We'll see you next year!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

READATHON 2016: Mid-Event Survey

Busy, busy! I'm trying to read when I can, but I've had things I had to get done today. If I can finish this one book, the event will have been a success for me!

Mid-Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now? News of the World by Paulette Jiles
2. How many books have you read so far? Still on this one
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? If I make it through this one, I haven't decided what I may read next. Maybe The Wolf Road or A Gentleman in Moscow.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? It's been non-stop interruptions. I have a house full of animals, urgent chores that need to be done, and I'm preparing for The Walking Dead premier event my friend and I are getting together for tomorrow. But I'm reading in between things.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Nothing. I've been through a lot of them now, so I know what to expect of my household, the event, and myself.

READATHON Oct 2016: Opening Meme

I'm here! I'm up! Don't start without me!

Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? South Florida
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Finishing News of the World by Paulette Jiles
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I really didn't plan much in snacks this year.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Single woman with a Zoocrew (3 dogs, 5 cats), this is my 7th year participating in the readathon.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I probably won't do anything different. These days, I just take it easy and try to get as much reading done as possible. I won't be staying up for 24 hours. I'm too old for that stuff!

And that being said: Let's get this party started!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mailbox Monday (10-17-16 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

Received through the Book of the Month club: 

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

In Emma Donoghue's latest masterpiece, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.
Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style.

A Gentleman in Moscow
immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

For review through TLC Book Tours:

The Dude Diet by Serena Wolf

From chef and creator of the popular food blog, 125 outrageously delicious yet deceptively healthy recipes for dudes (and the people who love them), accompanied by beautiful full-color photography.

Dudes. So well intentioned when it comes to healthy eating, even as they fail epically in execution—inhaling a "salad" topped with fried chicken fingers or ordering their Italian hero on a whole wheat wrap (that makes it healthy, right?).

There are several issues with men going on diets. First, they seem to be misinformed about basic nutrition. They are also, generally, not excited about eating "health food." You can lead a dude to the salad bar, but you can’t make him choose lettuce.

Enter Serena Wolf—chef, food blogger, and caretaker of a dude with some less than ideal eating habits. As a labor of love, Serena began creating healthier versions of her boyfriend’s favorite foods and posting them on her blog, where she received an overwhelming response from men and women alike. Now, in The Dude Diet, Serena shares more than 125 droolworthy recipes that prove that meals made with nutrient-dense whole foods can elicit the same excitement and satisfaction associated with pizza or Chinese take-out.

The Dude Diet also demystifies the basics of nutrition, empowering men to make better decisions whether they’re eating out or cooking at home. Better still, each recipe is 100% idiot-proof and requires only easily accessible ingredients and tools. With categories like Game Day Eats, On the Grill, Serious Salads, and Take Out Favorites, The Dude Diet will arm dudes and those who love them with the knowledge they need to lead healthier, happier lives—with flattened beer bellies and fewer meat sweats.

The Dude Diet includes 102 full-color photographs.

REFERRAL: Book of the Month Club

I joined the Book of the Month Club about a year ago, and I've been loving it! Each month, four of their regular judges (they have about a dozen regular recurring judges) and one special guest judge (there is a different guest judge each month) each suggest a book selection. You, as a book club member, review the offered selections and choose up to three of them to be sent to you. Your membership plan includes the first book, and any additional books are $9.99 each.

They also now offer a couple of additional books for you to choose from each month (because there are always so many awesome books releasing, and so its hard to only suggest five)!

The hardbound books come imprinted with the BotM logo, and the month the book was offered. The company also regularly throws in little extras (for instance, this month I got "After Book Mints" and another month a wine cozy). They also hold regular photo contests (like taking a picture to show what you get out of books, or where you read your books, etc.) where winners can win a free three-month subscription.

Find that you don't care for any of the selections during a given month, or perhaps you are going on vacation? No problem! Just skip the month!

Some of the books that I have received so far through the Book of the Month club:

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington

And some of the guest judges:

Allison Williams
Ellie Kemper
Craig Ferguson
Whoopi Goldberg
Mayim Bialik

Use my link to sign up today, and you'll get 30% off (and I'll get a credit for a free book)!

Learn more or sign up now and save 30%!