Hidden Inside

A friend of mine asked, “Everyone out there has a story. Can we love them before we know it? And will we take the time to find out?” That’s the burning question in the book, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Ove is not an old man, not in years, but he has become the grumpy old neighbor. He complains about everything and everyone. Some days he only talks to complain. Other days he doesn’t talk at all.

He wasn’t always like this. He used to be less grumpy. Not warm and friendly, but not so prickly and angry. That was before Sonia died. Now Ove is ready to give up on life. But life, in the form of new neighbors, a homeless cat, and a couple of teenagers, is not ready to give up on him.

I wasn’t sure I would like this one, as it sounds like a “message” book, and I hate those. It was a book club pick, and those are always unpredictable. But with this one I was laughing out loud in the first chapter. The writer uses humor and pathos masterfully to have your emotions swinging back and forth. And yes, it did make me cry, but I didn’t feel like I was being manipulated into it.

Ove reminds me of some people I know and love. He has a big heart, he just has very little tolerance for stupid people. And there are a LOT of stupid people about. I’m giving this one 5 stars out of 5! And if you want to read it, you should try the audiobook. The narrator captured all the voices so well plus the dry humor comes through.

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Blog Tour: Fender by Brent Jones

author pic
Author Brent Jones

Some of you may have read my interview with author Brent Jones last month here. This month I’m doing another column about the author and his book, Fender for a book tour hosted by Shenanigans over at R&R Book tours.

Fender is a very old beagle. His humans have been through a rough time recently. In fact, two of them were killed in a car accident. Only his master is still alive, and he’s not doing so well.

Brennan is heartbroken after losing his daughter and his wife in a car accident. The funeral is over and all he wants to do is sit and drink himself to death. Fortunately, his friends refuse to give up on him. They pack up Fender and the three friends go on a road trip. Along the way, they hope that Brennan will discover that life is worth living after all.

I really enjoyed this book. Male friendship is sometimes overlooked, and I was glad to read about three guys who really cared about one another. The parts about the dog were really good, maybe because Jones has a couple of much loved dogs himself.

If you want to read more about this book, you should catch the book tour happening now.

Fender Blog Tour

Schedule

September 25th

Reads & Reels (Featured Promo) http://www.readsandreels.com

Speedy Reader (Promo) https://speedyreadercom.wordpress.com/

September 26th

Bookworm Chronicles (Excerpt) https://muretbookworm.wordpress.com/

Rambling Lisa’s Book Reviews https://ramblinglisasbookreviews.com/

September 27th

Tranquil Dreams (Promo) https://klling.wordpress.com

Kristin’s Novel Café (Excerpt) https://knovelcafe.wordpress.com

September 28th

Amanda Gernentz Hanson (Excerpt)  https://amandagernentzhanson.com/

Nesie’s Place (Review) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

Thoughts All Sorts (Review) https://thoughtsallsorts.wordpress.com

September 29th

The Bookish Writer (Review) https://errinkrystal.wordpress.com

September 30th

Didi Oviatt (Review) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Wee Bit Wordy (Review) http://www.weebitwordy.blog

RR Book Tours Button (2) (1)

 

Author Interview: Brent Jones

fenderHow far must we travel to find our way home?

Today I have something special – my first interview with an actual author! I’m pretty excited! Shenanigans over at Reads and Reels organized this book promotion, but I actually got to read the book and ask the author a few questions.

The book is Fender: A Novel by author Brent Jones. You can get it here from Kindle Unlimited.

The book is about Brennan, a middle-aged guy whose life has been turned upside down when his wife and daughter are killed in an accident. He’s ready to hole up in his house and surrender to the grief, but thanks to his friends, he agrees to go on a road trip, just the guys and his beloved dog, Fender.

It was a change of pace for me, to read a book from a squarely male perspective. The only female characters in here are presented in flashbacks or as bit characters. I could really feel the difference in the way the book worked, but I enjoyed the difference.

I’ve traveled by car a lot in my life, driving to visit relatives, moving, family vacations – so I could really imagine that part of the book. There’s something magical about the open road. It really does feel liberating.

Brent Jones

From bad checks to bathroom graffiti, Brent Jones has always been drawn to writing. He won a national creative writing competition at the age of fourteen, although he can’t recall what the story was about. Seventeen years later, he gave up his freelance career as a social media manager to pursue creative writing full-time. Fender and The Fifteenth of June are his first two novels.

Interview Q & A

1. What inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned in the afterword, my wife and I took a cross-country road trip with our dogs back in 2015. I recently published a blog post with photos and the itinerary from that trip. It was a life-changing experience traveling across America by car, and the road trip in Fender largely follows the same path we took.
I’m sometimes asked why I write contemporary fiction—literary fiction, as some call it. How come I don’t write about vampires or killer robots or contact with Martians? The answer is pretty simple. I think truth is strange enough without needing to invent alternate worlds. And when I come up with ideas for stories, I usually try to take two or more seemingly unrelated real life experiences and find a way to mash them together.
I started with the road trip idea and blended it with experiences I’ve had with my dog, Gibson, who much like the beagle protagonist in my book, is named after a guitar. Gibson has helped me through some difficult times, and I started wondering if there was a way I could combine the two ideas of a vehicular adventure and the comfort of a canine friend.
Both aspects of the story were worth telling, I thought. And so I worked backwards—what circumstances would need to transpire to bring together the therapeutic love a dog with a cross-country road trip? And that’s how Fender was born.
2. Where did you get the idea for Brennan and his close friendship with the guys? Is that based on real life?
I wish it were based on real life. I can’t say I have any close friends from childhood. For that matter, I’m a bit of an introverted loner as an adult. But there is something to being able to connect with people you share a history with. There’s an instant bond there, especially if those shared experiences include elements of overcoming adversity together. For two people to abandon their families and leave town for several weeks just to help out a friend, I figured they must share some pretty deep roots. And I felt that a shared experience of childhood poverty and neglect would be a powerful enough reason to forge such a bond.
3. Fender the dog is central to the story. Tell us a story about your dogs.
Fender, the dog, is largely based off Gibson, who is a pug mix and five-and-a-half years old. But the dog who usually gives us the most stories is Stirling, our four-year-old lab mix. It’s becoming a running (albeit unfunny) joke that whenever we travel with Stirling, we need to map out all the nearby emergency vet clinics.
When driving through California, Stirling got into something at a dog park and ended up ill for the rest of our road trip. He couldn’t hold down water or food after that. Last year we rented a waterfront property for two weeks in Nova Scotia, and Stirling decided to make friends with a porcupine. He needed several quills removed from his face in the middle of the night, and the closest vet was an hour away by car.
He’s a good boy—he comes to see me every morning for a hug! I’ll be sitting at my desk and he’ll walk up beside me, place a paw on my leg, wait for me to turn, then stand upright and wrap both his front paws around my neck. It’s just part of our routine and it happens just like clockwork. He’s a lot more work than Gibson, but he can be a lot more affectionate, too.
4. I loved the author’s note about the road trips you took before writing this book. Is there anywhere you’d like to visit that you haven’t been yet?
There are many places in the world I still hope to visit one day. But for the sake of staying consistent with road trips and the themes in Fender, I’m going to pick a location in the United States. My wife is originally from Atlanta, and we’ve made several drives there from Fort Erie. We recently drove to Washington, DC for a wedding and Miami, Florida for a funeral. Between us, we’ve been just about every state, and we’ve logged an absurd number of hours on the road. But there is one state I’ve always wanted to visit and neither of us have been, and that’s Tennessee. I’d love to drive out to Nashville or Memphis—or both!—for a few days to check out the local music scene and tour the Gibson guitar factory. We’ve driven through parts of the state, but have never stopped.

Book Riot Challenge – Read Harder

rhc_cover_pinterestIt’s been a while since I updated my Book Riot Challenge, so I decided it was time to let you all know how I’m doing. It looks like I’m about on schedule for the year, since we’re in May and I’ve completed 17/24 so far.

*1. Read a book about sports. Done! Psmith in the City, cricket. by P G Wodehouse.

*2. Read a debut novel. Done! Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

*3. Read a book about books. Done! End of Chapter, mystery about publishing company.

4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. – still looking!

5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. A Hope More Powerful than the Sea

*6. Read an all-ages comic. Done! American Born Chinese

*7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. Done! Cakes and Ale, published 1930

*8. Read a travel memoir. Done! Three Singles to Adventure, to Guyana.

*9. Read a book you’ve read before. Done! Murder Over Easy, read first in 2007

10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. – Desert Solitaire, Utah

*11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. Done! The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds, Malaysia/China

*12. Read a fantasy novel. Done! The Spirit Thief by Rachel Bach

13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. Unstoppable by Bill Nye

*14. Read a book about war. Done! Valiant Ambition, about American Revolution

*15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. Done! Last Seen Leaving, by Caleb Roehrig

*16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.  Done! Animal Farm, by George Orwell

17. Read a classic by an author of color. – Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley or Native Son by Richard Wright

18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. – either Spider Woman or Daughters of the Dragon

*19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey (From Daniel José Older)

*20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean) Done! Also Last Seen Leaving

*21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay) Done! Future Worlds, A Science Fiction Anthology, published by Future World Publishing

*22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng)  Done! Miss Marple by Agatha Christie

23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan) Beowulf

*24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi) Done! Black Panther, Number 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Standalone Sunday: Cakes and Ale

Standalone Sunday is created by Megan at Bookslayer Reads, for all those great books that are NOT a part of a series.

Title: Cakes and Ale

Author: M. Somerset Maughm

Setting: 1930s England, but also full of flashbacks

Themes: writing, class, sex, relationships

Format: ebook

Source: book club

Plot: Sycophantic writer Alroy Kear is delighted to be asked to write a biography of another (much better) recently deceased novelist Edward Driffield. He’s got most of the stuff from his widow, and has prepared a suitably reverent draft. But he’s missing the stuff about Driffield’s first wife, Rosie the barmaid.

Rosie (the barmaid) had a big impact on Driffield’s writing. All his best stuff was written while they were together. But only a few will admit to knowing her, including ANOTHER writer named Ashenden, and he is the POV character for the book. Ashenden, like many others, was in love with Rosie, and he remembers them both from when he was young.

I hope that’s not confusing, but it makes sense when you read it.

Review: This is not a book I ever would have picked up on my own. I like books about writers, but I wouldn’t have even heard of this one if not for book club. The woman who picked it is a fan of Maughm’s, but she hadn’t read this one, so she thought maybe it would be fun. Well, she didn’t love it, but I thought it was very good. Maybe you have to be a writer to really appreciate it, but there are so many sly comments about writing, publishing, readers, about the fans of famous writers, etc, that I found myself smiling as I read.

The biggest theme of the book, besides writing, is really about class. Rosie, as a barmaid, is a definite cut below the widow, who was a nurse. And two classes below Driffield, a gentleman, who was looked on as a definite eccentric for marrying such an “unsuitable” woman. As an American, I didn’t understand that completely, but even in the US, we judge people by their social status and economic status. If a lawyer married a cocktail waitress, his colleagues would talk, no matter what she was like.

Finally, sex and relationships were a big theme in this one. Rosie was pretty amoral – she loved whom she loved, and she didn’t see anything wrong with that. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to bother her husband. I know that open relationships are growing in popularity, but I am pretty darn conservative, and I have trouble believing that there wouldn’t be more consequences to her love life.

I found this a pretty easy read. There were some passages where Maughm gets to talking about writing and the writing world that went on too long, so I skimmed ahead. And there’s one romantic encounter described in more detail than I enjoyed. Otherwise, it was a fun book and I think I’ll check out more by this author. 3.8 stars out of 5.

**A Note here about Own Voices – M. Somerset Maughm was a bisexual, but to me at least, I didn’t pick up on a lot of LGBT themes in this book. The POV character Ashenden is supposed to be based on him, but like I mentioned, he was in love with Rosie and has a brief affair with her. She is his only lover referenced in the book. Maybe it’s because of my straight bias, but I didn’t really pick up on any other undercurrents. It’s possible that Ashenden has romantic or sexual feelings toward Driffield, but I didn’t pick up on it. I think it’s more of a theme in some of his other works.

 

Book Review: Family Tree

Title: Family Tree

Author: Susan Wiggs

Heard about it: on Goodreads

Setting: Los Angeles and Vermont

SPOILERS!

Annie Harlow grew up on a sugar maple farm in Vermont, but she’s enjoying her new life in LA, married to a charming husband, working at her dream career, and at last, expecting her first baby. Then the world comes crashing down on her — quite literally. A piece of equipment falls on her head, causing TBI, traumatic brain injury. Annie wakes up in a hospital to find that everything has changed while she was asleep, including her. She’s back home in Vermont and now she has to rebuild her whole life.

I’m torn whether this one counts for the Read Diverse Books challenge. Annie might be a minority, but I’m not quite sure on that part. The author never makes it clear, just says that she’s “too ethnic” to be on camera (according to a network, not the author). But the TBI does cause some major soul searching on Annie’s part as she has to relearn how to talk, walk, and survive on her own.

My problem is that the brain injury is treated so lightly. Yes, she is in a coma for an entire year. But so what? Does her family have a financial crisis because of this? Do they have to take out a second mortgage? Are creditors hounding them for payment? No. Is her family feeling the terrible strain of having to oversee her care while living their regular lives? Are they fighting over what should happen next? Are they exhausted from being at the hospital night and day? No.

And how about Annie? Does she suffer any lingering mental or physical handicap from her – let me emphasize here – TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY? No, not really. She’s even DRIVING a couple of weeks after going home. Seriously? Is she disfigured, scarred? Her muscles are atrophied, which I would expect, but the more serious problem is – wait for it – HER MANICURE IS RUINED!

OK, I know that TBI is a real thing. But this is not anything like realistic. It’s the absolute opposite, in fact. And given that, it really didn’t matter to me that the descriptions of Vermont read like a travel brochure, or that all the cooking in here made me crave maple syrup. I just couldn’t get past the ridiculous plot. I kept skipping all the flashbacks to see what happened right now, but Annie never had to deal with anything like what the real consequences would be.

I am NOT recommending this one. It has good reviews, but I just can’t bother with a book or an author who doesn’t do more research.

Currently reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, and I’ll tell you what, you cannot accuse the man of skimping on research.