What Did You Do For Your Summer Vacation?

I received One Night by Deanna Cabinian from the author. At first a bit reluctant to read something described as a “coming of age” novel, I am glad I did. I have a category I like to call a “comfort read.” Nothing in it should give offense to anyone (IMHO). It borders on fantasy in that the characters are almost too perfect and, in several cases, too mature in behavior and opinion for their chronological age. In the first few pages, I worried the story would spiral down into sappy, syrupy, sentimental storytelling in a nostalgic search for an imagined perfect past. That did not happen. The tightly controlled crisp writing moved the story along at almost page-turner speed. There are nicely woven reflections on quality of life, the inevitability of death, different perceptions of love (requited and unrequited) and the values of a strong family life. What could have been sappy was rescued by the writers skill into something really good. On an Amazon scale, I gave this a five-star rating, something I have never done with a “comfort read.” I highly recommend this for the YA crowd and will nag my son until he reads at least parts of it.

Unusual, but with a Gracious Ending

The Cupboard by Charles Harris is a collection of seven unusual stories. That is what is stated on the cover so as I go through each story I will be looking at the “unusual” factor and rate each story accordingly.

Unusual rating = U + 1-10 (10 being the most unusual)

The Cupboard (U8) There is no end to this story. It is a realistic ending without being an ending. Our unnamed narrator is a film director who is not always employed. His upstairs neighbor, Frank, turned out to be a cameraman with a gift for lighting. When Director found a script about a magician that he thought worthy of production, he also found magic to be one of Frank’s talents. Frank helped correct a few errors in the script and Director went on to production but felt Frank’s talents as a cameraman weren’t sufficient to include him in the project. Frank didn’t actively complain but became increasingly quiet and didn’t visit Director’s apartment as much. The film was a success and Frank was invited to a party where he performed his most astonishing trick of all. It would affect others present in different ways in their futures. The story is unusual and so is the phrasing used to discuss some of Director’s observations. Describing his marital relationship with wife Rosie, Director noted: “She was attractive enough to find her own lover if she wanted to, and in her mid-thirties was still more than serviceable.” (loc 68-69). I found that a bit jarring. Such phrasing contributed to what made the story unusual for me.

Good Ol’ Boys at Work & Play

The cover of Cigerets, Guns & Beer by Phillip T. Stevens catches the eye immediately. Beer and cigarettes are present, necessary for any good breakfast. While a gun is not displayed, bullet holes are, perhaps from the night before. A reader might predict that this will be a “good ol’ boy” novel replete with rednecks. The reader would be correct. This novel will make those who grew up in a small town nostalgic; a place where there might be only one law enforcement officer who also read water and electric meters, sold alcohol in defiance of Sunday “blue laws,” was a source of under-the-table porn, and served as a de facto judge deciding what town residents could and could not get away with.

Motion, Alchemy, and Prisms

In this selection of Hourly History books, Isaac Newton: A Life From Beginning to End, readers may discover some new facts about Newton’s thoughts and discoveries. Some readers might be inspired to dispute facts given. That’s good. It means they are inspired to read and do Google searches. I find these books valuable for my son. As a high school student, he has heard of the subject characters and events of most books in the series but may be unaware of ongoing academic controversies. These short, interesting, survey reads help to sponsor an interest in reading as the reader feels a sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing yet another book on the list.

Mussolini: A Short History

BENITO MUSSOLINI A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History Limited is a book from a series of factual biographies meant to be read in about an hour. A reader can figure that out from the author credit. It gives readers like me; a fan of horror, crime fiction, and bizarre novels in general, a break from a guilty pleasure and gives me the illusion I am reading serious stuff. It is true that the material is serious but to fulfill its stated reason for existing, it must necessarily be a surface treatment of the subject. Can you imagine a one-hour treatment of the life of Winston Churchill? This series may have such a work but I won’t read it. Some subjects are more appropriate for a survey work. In my opinion, this is one of those.

Who is James Madison?

James Madison: A Life From Beginning to End by a group called Hourly History presents a series of publications that present episodes and personalities in a proposed one hour read. This one has a subtitle One Hour History US Presidents Book 3. This seems perfect for my purposes as I seek material for English as Second Language learners. I looked at this work to determine what I believe the level of English required to read a non-fiction book in one hour.

Historical Fiction, Suffragette Experiences

The Fall of White City by N. S. Wikarski is a work of historical fiction inside of which is embedded a crime mystery. I like history. As an ex-law enforcement type, crime continues to interest me. The identity of the perpetrator and motives for the crime committed are elements of a complex mystery. This work reminds me of the style of Agatha Christie but with more emphasis on the female suffragette angle. This novel should be highly entertaining for those with some knowledge of the 1893 Chicago World Fair and surrounding social issues of the day. The reader might feel a sense of nostalgia. For those with no knowledge of the time period, fascinating historical facts such as the distribution of telephones in Chicago, and the capacity of passenger cars on the newfangled Ferris Wheel might promote further reading. This is Book One in the Victorian Chicago Mystery Series. I will follow it up with Book Two, Shrouded in Thought as well as investigate other series by this talented author.

Take Time To Reflect

Impressions by Dan Groat is a very impressive (sorry, I know better but I couldn’t resist) collection of short reflections on the daily grind of our lives, also known as existence. This is one of those collections that is valuable to keep around for when you are feeling just a bit down and unfocused. It will, at the very least, redirect your attention to things that are a bit more meaningful than immediate routines we are forced to go through on a daily basis. This was selected as a Book of the Day (BOTD) by the folks at OnLine BookClub on 11 January 2017. The following comments are about some of my favorite selections. There are 55 reflections; there is no way I will comment on each of them. Buy the book; it will make you happy.

A True Spy Story

The Spy With No Name by Jeff Maysh is a 59 page Kindle Single published 02 January 2017 by Kindle Digital Services LLC and available through the Kindle Unlimited subscription system. It is a true spy story which I find a near contradiction in terms. If it is a true espionage tale, how can anyone verify the truth? A reader can at best accept an interpretation of what happened.

Total Weirdness with Warnings

I like flash fiction. By its nature, all flash fiction is not created alike but this collection takes weirdness to some new levels. So, I will start out with some warnings. To say the least, this is some adult stuff. But I want to quote warnings from the work itself.

From the Introduction:

“This is not a story collection with any underpinning narrative. These are syringes filled with words. Fumbles in the dark with a stranger. This is a collection you can open up to a random page in order to hook yourself up with a quick fix of fun. Grab a tasty treat between meals. A quickie in the staff-room on your lunch-break. Maybe have just one more for the road. You know you want to.

Flash Me!: The Sinthology (Kindle Locations 91-95). Solarcide. Kindle Edition.