Robert’s Roundup #20 (June 2021)

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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.

Just wanted to mention a remarkable deal I found: New York Review of Books subscription to 10 issues (6 months) for $10. That includes print + digital + access to the archives.

Indie Author Spotlight


Smashword Sales

There’s a sitewide sale coming in July (and some of the Personville titles will be discounted there). The July column should have some interesting finds. In the meantime, I found some freebies:

As a Firefly in the Night: Collection of 20 Stories by Rosko Tzolov. (Free!) Bulgarian immigrant living in New York. “I enjoy writing about “ordinary” people who find themselves in unusual situations. In such a way, they discover something new and surprising about themselves or their experience.” Currently he is working on an autobiographical novel, Robert Ratman is Sound, Sane and Optimistic.

No Gun’s in Little Cavern by Craig Sholl (Free!) . I see that there is another semi-memoir on Amazon: Truth in This by the same author (for 99 cents – KU, LE).

Accursed Women by Lucianna Cavallaro. 0.99 (Author Website). Australian-Italian historic novelist retells some Greek legends. She has published two volumes in in the Servant of the Gods series which involve Greek gods contacting contemporary humans. Aha, volume 2 Labyrinthine Journey involves some time-traveling elements (surprise, surprise). The later works is about 30% cheaper on Smashwords than it is on Amazon. Here’s Cavallaro’s piece about what the ancient Phoenicians ate.

Ebooks published by Amazon imprints


Under the Radar

Loitering: New and Collected Essays by Charles D’Ambrosio. (Here’s wiki page, and a long interview).

Other Hamlet Brother by Luke Swanson (author website). 0.99 Swanson is an Oklahoma writer, and this novel (which I snagged for free) is about Hamlet’s identical twin brother who has abandoned royal life and traveled around Europe, running into Romeo Montague, Prospero, etc. Here’s a great blurb by Dusty Crabtree: Hamlet meets A Knight’s Tale meets Gulliver’s Travels in this serious—but not too serious—nod to Shakespeare. Swanson wrangles words into unique turns of phrase that give you the perfect imagery, make you contemplate life, or leave you laughing hysterically. It’s several classic stories stuffed into one big Shakespeare sandwich…extra Hamlet.”

Just for the Record: Featuring candid interviews with famous rock legends by Suzanne Rothberg. (author website) 3.99 Rothberg is the sister of alt-singing legend Patti Rothberg who writes music articles on the side. She has also worked to publicize her sister’s music. Most of these pieces are repurposed features and interviews about musicians of yesteryear, plus a few autographical interludes. Wow, no review on Amazon, I guess, I need to post a review there eventually! (For the record I am a total fanboy of Patti Rothberg’s music and love reading these kinds of random music books.

To the Stars by Shannon Bradley-Colleary (which was made into a movie. From Bradley-Colleary’s Storytelling blog, I can see that she writes a lot of journalistic pieces on woman’s issues and

Lazy Creativity: Art of Owning Your Creativity by Kyle Bernier. (KU, LE). A series of short reflections about the artistic process by a visual artist/art therapist.. (Personal website).

Fractured Globe by Angela Fish. (KU-LE)

Storms of Malhado by Maria Elena Sandovici. (Author book page ) $0.99 MAGICAL REALISM IN GALVESTON: This Houston-based author writes a magical realism story about hurricanes past and present. “Through three different timelines, this paranormal historical novel weaves a story of Galveston’s past, underscoring its danger and isolation, as well as its remarkable resilience, its capacity for both nostalgia and reinvention. Full of contradictions, at once insular and open to the world, magical but stifling, stuck in the past yet determined to overcome, Galveston Island is as much a character of the novel as Suzanne, Betty, Katie, their lovers, and their confidantes.” The author also teaches political science in the Houston area and paints watercolors. Here’s a nice interview she did with olmistudio about her painting background, where she said, “I started writing more than ten years ago, mostly because I was bored, but also because novels with a certain kind of character – a young woman who feels inadequate and lost in the world – appealed to me, and there were simply not enough out there. “ I actually snagged her Dogs with Bagels novel she wrote a few years with the determination to read it.

I’m on the fence about paying the discounted price of 5.99 on VersoBooks, but I’m certainly interested in the subject matter of Katherine Angel‘s Tomorrow Sex will be good again: Women and Desire in the Age of Consent. Angel has done a lot of zoom interviews, including one with Olivia Laing See angel Angel’s twitter feed and

Blink and it’s gone sales

Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing By Roy Peter Clark, 1.99. I have raved about all of Clark’s other works. He’s by far the best craftsman of writing I’ve seen.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby 1.99. (Twitter). Recently a friend made a reference not to the movie (which I had seen) but the book (which I had certainly not read). I realized then that I had not gotten around to reading any of his books. Let this be the first!

Best American Essays 2020 edited by Andre Aciman. 2.99. I usually skip these series, but this collection had a lot of contributions from indie mags. Editor Andre Aciman is an Egyptian-American with a CompLit Phd who wrote Call Me by my Name (which became the inspiration for the Oscar-winning movie of the same name). Strongly, no website, but Aciman has a lot of Youtube channels on various subjects: On Proust, and Call Me by your Name. Update: I really recommend the Proust lecture! Wonderful, deep stuff.

Speaking of Proust, I’ve read 3 volumes in my twenties. I would love to return to volume 4 and finish everything off. Proust has a timeless quality;

Inventology by Pagan Kennedy (1.99) accounts of how inventors got started, a nice exploration of science and entrepreneurship. (Author website)

Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy. 1.99 Humor book about history which was published posthumously after the author died. I’ve always been a fan.

Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. (personal website) In addition to writing for videogames and Dr. Who radio dramas. Writes Savannah Schroll Guz (who is also a writer, mixed media artist & cultural critic)

While locating the specific textual emergence of Hall’s influence is certainly a worthwhile pursuit, it is an academic mission best saved for someone’s undergraduate thesis. After all in the literary world, what is more immediate than an interpretation of the new? And in the case of Hall’s debut novel, the weaving together of influential threads has produced something that, once unfurled from the literary canon, also has extension beyond it.

It is Hall’s exploration of intersticed possibilities that are the most captivating part of the book. The main character, Eric Sanderson, in seeking out the mysteries of his identity, in fleeing a conceptual predator, in looking for the sensuous physical and emotional experiences once offered by his deceased girlfriend Clio, plunges into worlds between the actual and the recognizable. And he subsequently achieves an existence that operates sometimes in tandem with, but usually beneath and between, aspects of active reality.


Review Copies Received




Library books/printed books

Here are several books I bought at library book sales — all for a dollar or less.

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson. This is about the Galveston hurricane. Also, be sure to check Maria Elena Sandovici‘s book about the Galveston hurricane above.

What the Dog Saw: And other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell.

Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann. This nonfiction tale about explorers who get lost in the Brazilian Amazon sounds intriguing.

Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry.

Pumpkin Rollers by Elmer Kelton (Texas/Western author). I still have not read Time It Never Rained (his most famous work).

Flashman and the Angel of the Lord by George MacDonald Fraser. From a series of 19th century historical adventures involving someone named Flashman.

A World of Ideas : Conversations With Thoughtful Men and Women About American Life Today and the Ideas Shaping Our Future by Bill Moyers. Moyers taught the master class about interviewing. This book came out several decades ago, but should still be readable. The oversized printed book is nice and inviting.

Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman. Another anthology involving short mostly nonscientific pieces.

Reconstructionist by Josephine Hart. Author of Damage. (Wiki page) Aha, she’s an Irish author who died in 2011.

Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman — source book for Roman Polanski’s film, Piano, about how a musician survives the Warsaw ghetto under the Nazis. (Wiki page).

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I typically avoid historic novels, but Mantel’s novels are supposed to be the best (and this one won borh Man Booker and National Book Critics Circle award). Aha, I see that Mantel has published a lot of essays in NYROB (lucky for me I started a 6 month subscription!) Here’s a Paris Review interview:

Literary Articles and Essays

Rats, after I learned that master reporter and essayist Janet Malcolm, I realize that I don’t actually own a copy of any of her books. (I have checked out several of her books and read occasional New Yorker articles she wrote. Here is a Paris Review interview she did .

I’ve been writing about an incredible novel by the Pulitzer-winning poet Robert Hillyer, and I searched for a list of other fiction works written by poets. Naja Marie Aidt wrote a nice listicle of best novels by poets, At about the same time Forrest Gander came out with another more adventurous list. See also Jeremy Noel-Tod‘s list at fivebooks about the best prose poetry. Speaking of which, Gertrude Stein‘s Tender Buttons is the subject of Andre Aciman‘s essay in Best American Essays 2020. Finally Jeff Sommers has written a 5-sicle of novels written by poets with no obvious picks.

Multimedia, Podcasts, etc

Happy to come across the YouTube channel for London Review Bookshop. One nice effect of the Covid year is that bookstores are beginning to do Author Zoom interviews — although I can’t quite understand how bookstores can benefit from them. Maybe bookstores should just stop selling physical books and publish their own ebooks or run book review services or ebook deal newsletters.

Clay Reynolds talks about his books, Westerns and Texas culture in a 80 minute Youtube video. I am in the process of interviewing him about his books as well and will be writing several reviews of his books. A fascinating author.

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 copies of ebooks from Smashwords (and often at a substantial discount over the ebook’s price on Amazon). Alternatively, you can buy ebooks from GoogleAmazonBNApple and Kobo. During June 2021 A Workers Writebook will be regularly discounted to 99 cents. Check them out! In July you can sign up for the Personville Press mailing lists to stay informed about upcoming sales and publications.






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