Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers).
I keep meaning to say this. I’ve joined a book reviewing service called Book Roar (which I recommend for authors). I agree to review random ebooks, and in exchange someone somewhere agrees to review mine. These are books I wouldn’t normally read (much less review), but actually it is a bit fun to discover new books outside of your comfort zone. I’ll be posting my reviews at the bottom of these roundups.
Indie Author Spotlight
Under the Radar
Undergrowth: A face-paced ecological adventure set in the dark woods where glowing mushrooms live by Ellen King Rice (website).
Meiselman: Lean Years by Avner Landes. 99 cents. Here’s an interview and a book review calling the protagonist “an aggravating, ridiculous being. He’s no one you’d want to know, but he’s a lot of fun to laugh at. There are even moments when the odd reader might find some of Meiselman’s shenanigans familiar, but those moments are best not admitted to. Best to keep them to oneself, or learn to do the opposite.” Here’s another interview,
Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted by Ian Millhiser (profile and Twitter) . 2.99 This year he published another book (not on sale) called “Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court is Reshaping America.”
Blink and It’s Gone
Library purchases/Printed Books
Literary Articles and Essays
Capsule Book Reviews
Book Roar Review
Barb the Bird of Hope by by Zowie Norris
This is a nice tale for children about an unusual bird dealing with change and turmoil in her life.
It is a challenge to portray an animal in a tale (even a tale intended for children). You don’t want the bird to seem too smart or chatty. A bird can physically interact with other humans and animals (and I think this book does that well), but it can’t really communicate; it can merely observe surroundings and occasionally have private thoughts. Also, a bird cannot really understand human structures (i.e., it can’t read words on signs). On the other hand, birds (like children) can instinctively grasp realities that adults might miss.
Several things stand out about Barb the Bird of Hope. First, the illustrations are incredible, full of eye-catching details, light rainbow colors and nice & crazy perspectives. The pictures of the birds were particularly lovely. The drawings seem to be done in pencil or crayon — a style that young readers could relate to easily. I uploaded two screenshots which demonstrate the nice colors and textures and perspectives. Actually most of the illustrations are much simpler than what I uploaded with this review — a lone bird flying down a road, a bird sitting on the same park bench as a doctor.
Second, the book portrays society during time of COVID — showing hospitals, deserted parks, humans cooped in their homes. The society portrayed in this book seems familiar even to the youngest of us; it maintains an appropriate balance between mentioning COVID and dwelling too much on it. In a way, the book will serve as a time capsule for that year or two where everybody (even children) had their lives upended by COVID. Because of this timeless quality, I could easily imagine this book being read long after COVID fades away.
Third, while the book does mention COVID without getting too melodramatic, one of the “scarier” parts of the book is having the park (and the laburnum tree) damaged by torrential rain and how the birds try to cope. This resonates with people of all ages — especially in places that experience flooding or other natural disasters. In fact, the book weaves the two “scary things” into the bird’s story, offering a way to see the pandemic in a bigger context of environmental threats. Environmentally-minded readers might view the loss of species habitat as another problem alluded to here; bird species are constantly having to adapt to changing circumstances. No wonder that the story has to end on a hopeful note.
The writing is conversational, although the vocabulary is certainly not dumbed down for children. (Ex. perching, exquisite, destruction, torrential, engaged, transform, symbolise). It’s a great story book to read with children. If I were to guess, it’s ideal for readers 5-8 years of age, but there’s enough complex story and vocabulary to interest kids up to the age of 11. It’s a pretty book to look at — to the point that all readers (even pre-readers) would love flipping through the pages.
My main “complaint” is that as an adult is that I had no idea what a laburnum tree looks like! I was genuinely surprised to find a photograph of one on the Internet — it’s beautiful! Although several illustrations show the tree, they were “miniaturized” to allow for more elements to be included together. Now that I know what a laburnum tree looks like, I wish it had been introduced earlier in the story — if only so readers could get a sense of what it looked like BEFORE THE STORM and AFTER THE STORM.
SUMMARY: With amazing colorful illustrations, this story dramatizes how two events (the COVID pandemic and the destruction of a laburnum tree in park) seem to a unique bird with violet tail feathers.
I have been a huge fan of Romanian-American dadistic poet Andrei Codrescu (website) — and a while back, I went on a massive buying spree of his books although I’ve read only a few. A safe place to start was Ay Cuba, delightful travel book about going to Cuba. The ebooks are too expensive.
A wonderful quote from a 1995 radio feature he did about virtual reality games and where he interviewed Jeff Bezos (of Amazon) and Rob Glaser (of Real Media networks). QUOTE: “In 15 or 20 years (they say) I won’t be able to tell the difference between reality and synthetic reality. Well, that’s what they said when they came out with fake fur, plastic flowers, inflatable love dolls, zircons and the Monkees. We’ve learned to enjoy these things, but did we ever mistake them for the real thing?”
Here’s a 1991 compilation of his video appearances after the Romanian revolution. It occurred to me this poet would be delightful in audio/podcast form. Here’s some podcasts and NPR has a ton of 2 minute radio essays by him.
Personville Press Deals
I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. You can buy DRM-free ebooks and audio files directly from the Personville Press payhip store or from Smashwords. These two places generally have the cheapest prices because they offer a higher percentage of royalties to the publisher. Alternatively, you can buy cloud-based ebooks from Google, Amazon, BN, Apple and Kobo. Check them out! Fall 2021 Personville Press will have a mailing list to help people to stay informed about upcoming sales and promotions.
- Minor Sketches and Reveries by Alberto Balengo. ($4) Introspective tales involving animals, allegories and the melodrama of everyday life. Payhip | Amazon | Smashwords |Google | BN | Apple | Kobo.
- Interview with the Sphinx. By Jack Matthews. ($2.99). Hyperintellectual Tom Stoppard-like play which reads like a novel about a strange interview with the ancient Sphinx character. Freud and Florence Nightingale show up too. I loved this play and even produced an audio version of it which you can buy for $2 on payhip (mp3/m4a) but the script reads well too.
- A Worker’s Writebook by Jack Matthews . $1.75 Matthews distributed a photocopied version of this writing guide to his Ohio U. creative writing students over the decades.
- Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War by Jack Matthews. $3.00 Philosophical Stories Taking place during the US Civil War.
- Abruptions: 3 Minute Stories to Awaken the Mind by Jack Matthews. Flash Fiction. $1.50
- Hanger Stout, Awake (50th Anniversary Edition). by Jack Matthews. Coming of age novel. $3.00
- Three Times Time Story Sampler by Jack Matthews (Always Free!) US Amazon customers can sometimes get it for free, but to make things easier, you can down these files directly without having to register: Epub, Mobi.