Some More Novels I Liked

A few books from my summer reading list…

 

The SignalThe Signal by Ron Carlson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must confess a soft spot for this book, having backpacked some of the same territory that estranged couple Mack and Vonnie traverse in this short and (somewhat) sweet novel. Carlson does a wonderful job of creating a sense of place and giving the reader enough technical jargon to put them squarely in the Wyoming back country. His style of dialogue is clipped and spare, and this, combined with vivid descriptions of the rugged terrain Mack and Vonnie cross, gives the story a style and voice all its own. In particular, the scene where the couple fly fish for trout in a high alpine lake had me longing for the mountains big time and single-handedly earned the book its fourth star.

 

Having said all this, the story itself was just OK–workable, but nothing to write home about. (three stars at best) The couple are on their last annual trip together into the mountains to basically say goodbye to each other, wrestling with some personal demons along the way. And Mack’s search for the source of “The Signal” results in a less than thrilling confrontation with a somewhat undeveloped antagonist.

 

Recommended for lovers of rugged, descriptive fiction, not so much for die-hard thriller fans.

 

Goodreads Book Description:
Backpacking into the Wind River Mountains on their tenth annual trip, Mack and his wife, Vonnie, find the magnificent woods and stunning mountains of Wyoming full of ghosts and danger. Mack comes from a long line of ranchers, and his dedication to keeping the family land has led him into penury and a life of crime. Vonnie is a fiercely intelligent, headstrong girl who came west for love, only to have it stolen from her bit by bit.

 

They’ve made this trip to say goodbye to each other, but as they navigate the trails they know so well, they come to understand the true nature of their wounds. And Mack has one more secret: he is trying to receive a signal and retrieve something that has fallen from the sky. It is a beacon that will lead them into a wood far darker than they’ve ever imagined. Ron Carlson’s love for the mountains and his mastery of fiction radiate in the pages of this thrilling, fast-paced love story.

 

The Tortilla CurtainThe Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those “ripped from the headlines” novels (despite being published over twenty years ago) that is especially poignant in today’s political climate.

 

The Tortilla Curtain tells the story of two couples set on a collision course with each other: Delaney and Kyra–successful, self-described liberals from suburban Los Angeles, and Candido and America–Mexican illegals scraping out a meager but hopeful existence on the outskirts of Delaney and Kyra’s affluent, gated community.

 

I enjoy stories that challenge the ‘right and wrong,’ ‘black and white’ mindset that is all too easy to fall back on with social and political issues, and TC Boyle pulls this off brilliantly.

 

Goodreads Book Description:
Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course. Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher lead an ordered sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community: he a sensitive nature writer, she an obsessive realtor. Mexican illegals Candido and America Rincon desperately cling to their vision of the American Dream as they fight off starvation in a makeshift camp deep in the ravine. From the moment a freak accident brings Candido and Delaney into intimate contact, these four and their opposing worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.
 

LunaticsLunatics by Dave Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two ordinary men with nothing in common find themselves inextricably connected after they are mistakenly accused of domestic terrorism. As they try to get a handle on how this happened, the stakes rise as they become embroiled in world affairs and international politics.

 

This is one of those “what more could possibly go wrong” stories, with each successive pickle the men find themselves in more ludicrous than the last. Given Barry’s reputation, I had high hopes for a funny and entertaining read, and I wasn’t disappointed. It started out slow for me, but as the story went on, I eventually found myself laughing out loud.

 

Not highbrow literature by any means, but funny, entertaining and satisfying.

 

Goodreads Book Description:
One of them is a bestselling Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist. The other is a winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Together, they form the League of Comic Justice, battling evildoers in the name of . . . Okay, we made that line up. What they do form is a writing team of pure comic genius, and they will have you laughing like idiots.

 

Philip Horkman is a happy man-the owner of a pet store called The Wine Shop, and on Sundays a referee for kids’ soccer. Jeffrey Peckerman is the sole sane person in a world filled with goddamned jerks and morons, and he’s having a really bad day. The two of them are about to collide in a swiftly escalating series of events that will send them running for their lives, pursued by the police, soldiers, terrorists, subversives, bears, and a man dressed as Chuck E. Cheese.

 

Where that all takes them you can’t begin to guess, but the literary journey there is a masterpiece of inspiration and mayhem. But what else would you expect from the League of Comic Justice?

 

View all my reviews

“The Stand at Fosters Field” Coming July, 2016!

Stand3_flat

After a whole lot of nothing going on here for a long time, I’m happy to tell you I’ve finished a novella called The Stand at Fosters Field. It’s scheduled to be released on July 8th, but you can get an exclusive sneak peek by signing up here.

 

You’ll get Part One (of three–that’s a third of the whole darn thing!) of Stand sent to your inbox, plus you’ll be sent any future exclusives, and you’ll be the first to learn about new releases, contests and giveaways here at bjandersonauthor.com. (My promise to you: no spam, your email stays private, one-click unsubscribe)

 

Here’s the back of the book blurb:

When high school freshman Jacob Miller and fellow classmate Angie Swenson meet at a secluded deer hunting stand over their summer vacation, they set off a violent chain of events that will haunt them both for the rest of their lives. (There’s a more detailed description here)

 

Sound interesting? Sign up now and you could be reading part one within minutes!
 

I know, I know. I can hear some of you saying “I can’t do it–I get way too much flippin’ email already. And didn’t I already give this joker my email address?”

 
Well, if you found out about this post by email, then yes you did. But here’s what I’ll tell you about that. By signing up now, you’ll receive everything you would get by following my blog posts, and more. (see above) You could safely unfollow my blog and you wouldn’t miss out on anything. If you wanted. But if you want to sign up for both, who am I to say no?

 

One last crazy thought…

 

If you read part one and decide you don’t want to wait until July to read the whole book, email me at bjandersonauthor [at] gmail [dot] com. I’ll send you a free copy of the whole book (ebook version) in exchange for a review of Stand on its release day.

 

You could also pre-order your very own Kindle version of The Stand at Fosters Field here.

 

So many options…so many decisions.

 

I’ll leave you to it.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Best book I’ve read in a long time

For fans of the horror genre (and even those who aren’t) I can’t recommend Bird Box by Josh Malerman enough. If you like scare-the-crap-out-of-you-holy-shit-this-is-messed-up-but-in-an-awesome-sort-of-way books, this one’s probably right up your alley.

My $0.02.

 
Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A deathly presence has taken over the earth, causing all who see it to fly into a suicidal and/or murderous rage. Survivors are forced to barricade themselves indoors with the windows covered, emerging only to scavenge blindfolded for food and water and other survivors. After receiving a mysterious phone call offering sanctuary, a young mother and her two children blindly navigate a river in a rowboat desperately trying to reach safety as the threat closes in around them.

I absolutely loved this book. The premise is brilliant–maybe a little far-fetched, but in Malerman’s skilled hands it creates an utterly terrifying story. One that will have you up all night to see how it ends if you’re not careful.

Book description (from Goodreads):

Most people ignored the outrageous reports on the news. But they became too frequent, they became too real. And soon, they began happening down the street. Then the Internet died. The television and radio went silent. The phones stopped ringing. And we couldn’t look outside anymore. Malorie raises the children the only way she can; indoors. The house is quiet. The doors are locked, the curtains are closed, mattresses are nailed over the windows. They are out there. She might let them in. The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall. Soon she will have to wake them. Soon she will have to blindfold them. Today they must leave the house. Today they will risk everything.

Listen to your librarian!

A couple of reviews today, one of which–A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller–was a “Staff Pick” at my local library. As I discuss in my review, I was pleasantly surprised.

Thanks for reading!

A Killing in the Hills  (Bell Elkins, #1)A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this up because of a librarian recommendation, and it was a good read. Interesting characters, good descriptions and a story that kept me turning the pages. This is apparently the first of a series and since I’m not a big fan of mysteries and this one wrapped up nicely for me at the end, I’ll probably stop with this one. However, since it’s better than most, I’d recommend it for fans of the genre.

Book Description (from Goodreads):

In A Killing in the Hills, a powerful, intricate debut from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Keller, a mother and a daughter try to do right by a town and each other before it’s too late.

What’s happening in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia? Three elderly men are gunned down over their coffee at a local diner, and seemingly half the town is there to witness the act. Still, it happened so fast, and no one seems to have gotten a good look at the shooter.  Was it random? Was it connected to the spate of drug violence plaguing poor areas of the country just like Acker’s Gap? Or were Dean Streeter, Shorty McClurg, and Lee Rader targeted somehow? One of the witnesses to the brutal incident was Carla Elkins, teenaged daughter of Bell Elkins, the prosecuting attorney for Raythune County, WV. Carla was shocked and horrified by what she saw, but after a few days, she begins to recover enough to believe that she might be uniquely placed to help her mother do her job.

After all, what better way to repair their fragile, damaged relationship? But could Carla also end up doing more harm than good—in fact, putting her own life in danger?

 

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had little trouble getting into the POV of this story but once I did the pages flew by. Great story with great characters, vivid descriptions and exceptional writing. For me, poor endings are kind of a pet peeve but the ending to The Book Thief was amazing. It flowed organically from the story and struck the right emotional chords. It was also refreshing to read about WW2 from the perspective of ordinary German citizens. Highly recommended.

Book Description (from Goodreads):

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.

So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

The REAL Ghosts of Florence Pass

Cloud Peak Wilderness, 2010. My son, Alec is fishing in Florence Lake, Florence Pass is at far right. Summit of Bomber Mountain is top center. Crash site is on the ridge left of center.
Cloud Peak Wilderness, 2010. At left, my son Alec is fishing Florence Lake. Florence Pass is at far right. Summit of Bomber Mountain is top center. Crash site is on the ridge left of center.

 

A while back, (a long while back) I said I was going to talk about the inspiration behind Ghosts of Florence Pass.

Better late than never.

As long ago as I can remember, I’ve been making semi-regular trips to the Bighorn Mountains in north-central Wyoming, specifically to backpack in the Cloud Peak Wilderness. (formerly the Cloud Peak Primitive Area) Early on, I would tag along with the Boy Scout groups my father took there, and when I was old enough, as a scout myself.

My scouting days are well behind me, but the mountains still call. Fortunately, I’ve kept up with most of my hiking buddies from those formative years and still make the trip when I can. In addition, my wife and kids have made the trip on more than one occasion, which makes me happy beyond measure.

Bomber Mountain Memorial, 2010. Looking towards Bomber Mountain crash site (top center) and the memorial. (bottom right)
Bomber Mountain Memorial, 2010. Looking towards Bomber Mountain crash site (top center) and the memorial. (bottom right)

In the heart of the Cloud Peak Wilderness at an elevation of 12,448 feet is Bomber Mountain, named in honor of the ten crew members of a B17F “Flying Fortress” Bomber that died when their plane crashed there on June 29, 1943.

I’d been to the crash site several times over the years, but only had the vaguest idea of what had actually happened until I read a wonderful little book by Scott Madsen called The Bomber Mountain Crash Story: A Wyoming Mystery. A search on Amazon shows that the book is currently out of print, but you can get a pretty good summary of the events surrounding the crash here.

Fast forward a couple of years.

In the summer of 2007 I was at the crash site again with one of my long-time hiking buddies, contemplating the wreckage. In contrast to the excitement we felt in our early years–our “wow-look-at-the-size-of-that-tire-that’s-so-cool-man-this-is-frickin’-sweet” attitude towards the site–this time we were generally thoughtful and somber about the whole thing.

Bomber Mountain Crash Site, 2007.
Bomber Mountain Crash Site, 2007.

As I sat there looking down the mountain listening to the breeze rattle the peeled aluminum skin of the plane’s fuselage–as it had for the past sixty-four years–I thought about a passage from Madsen’s book. Some on the recovery team (helping to carry the soldiers’ bodies down the mountain) claim there was one member of the crew who may have survived the initial crash. They reported that one of the dead crew members was sitting against a rock with an open bible and photographs of loved ones spread out nearby.

Whether these accounts of a crash survivor are truth or legend may be lost to the ages, but as I sat there among the wreckage, the possibility of its truth was chilling to say the least.

For years afterward, I thought about the crew of the ill-fated bomber and the airman who may or may not have sat among the remains of his crew mates and their plane. I tried to fathom the sadness and the fear and the anger and the hope and the despair. I couldn’t imagine any of it.

Bomber Mountain Crash Site, 2007. Note the large sections of tire cut away by souvenir hunters.
Bomber Mountain Crash Site, 2007. Note the large sections of tire cut away by souvenir hunters.

Ghosts of Florence Pass is about a boy named John Parker who’s gravely injured when the plane carrying his family home from a lakeside vacation crashes into a remote mountainside. All around him is death and destruction and what he does in the days following the crash makes up the bulk of the story. I may not have captured what another young man may have been going through in the summer of 1943, but that’s okay. If John Parker’s story resonates with just one reader in the same way my hike up Bomber Mountain did in the summer of 2007, that’s more than okay with me.

Thanks for reading…

 

Some books I like. And one…not so much.

Mostly doing some housekeeping here. Since most of my book reviews are on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. I thought it was a little redundant to have them on a dedicated page here as well. So today I’m posting my old reviews (along with a new one) here in the blog and will do the same with all new reviews from here on out.

Thanks for reading!

And now for a review never before seen on this site…

Reviver (Reviver Trilogy, #1)Reviver by Seth Patrick

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Loved the premise for this story, which was why I started reading. People known as “Revivers” are able to bring back the dead–temporarily at least–to offer loved ones the chance to say goodbye or to give homicide detectives crucial first-hand testimony. I was expecting much more from this book than a cookie cutter thriller and unfortunately, that’s what this is. Sure, there was the other-worldly paranormal stuff thrown in as well, but for me there was nothing new or exciting here. The characters in the story–mostly flat and lifeless–mirror my opinions of “Reviver.” But I’m sure that in the proper hands, this trilogy will be a wildly successful movie franchise.

And from the archives…

Cold MountainCold Mountain by Charles Frazier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A testament to the power of great writing.

Anyone who’s read Cold Mountain can tell you that, for the bulk of the story, there’s not a whole heck of a lot happening. Sure, at its heart there’s Inman’s epic journey and Ada’s struggles on the farm (and the occasional scrape with assorted ne’er-do-wells and low lifes) but for the most part, it’s a slow build to the end. But I, for one, could not put this book down.
Frazier’s talent for description and characterization carry the story brilliantly through what–in the hands of a lesser writer–would be a tough slog. Although it’s been some time since I’ve read this book (I’ll most likely be reading it again) there’s one scene in particular that has stuck with me–Inman’s interaction with the blind vendor outside the hospital. Again, not much going on there, but the authenticity of their relationship and the dialogue was extraordinary.

A great read–one that will stay with you, I promise.

 

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good, engaging read.
Dynamic writing, interesting characters and alternating chapter cliffhangers kept me turning the pages. Although I found myself rooting for a certain ending, the one Ms. Flynn wrote was even better. In the end, very satisfying and well worth the time spent reading.

 

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American HistoryEmpire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A real eye-opener.

This book was a very well written account of a (in my opinion) neglected chapter in this country’s history. My education of this time period centered around the Civil War, but in the western plains an equally dramatic struggle was playing out. Without sugar-coating the actions on either side, Gwynne tells it like it was, letting the reader form his or her own opinion of events. And although there’s never a question of which side eventually comes out on top, there is much to learn here. Not only about the vast and powerful Comanche empire, but the tenacious settlers and Rangers who mounted the final challenge to their reign.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well written with good description and character development, but in the end, not my cup of tea. I’m not sure if Martin writes in other genres, but if so, I would definitely give him another look.

 

JoylandJoyland by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Combining elements of a good crime novel (the cast of characters, usual suspects and the trail of evidence) with King’s wonderful characterization and descriptions, this was a quick and very satisfying read.

Help make GHOSTS OF FLORENCE PASS free and win a $15 Amazon gift card!

Update–1/30/14: Ghosts of Florence Pass is now free on Amazon.com, so the promotion detailed below is closed. But feel free to read on if you’re so inclined…

Hello again and Happy New Year!

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here, and I’ve resolved to change that this year. I’m supposed to be a writer, after all.

I’ve recently published a new ebook titled Ghosts of Florence Pass, a short story that had been rattling around in my head for some time. I’ll talk about the inspiration for and the writing of Ghosts in a future post, but today I wanted to ask a favor. I know, I know. I disappear for months and then the first thing I do when I come back is ask for a favor. I can already hear murmurs of “You’ve got some balls, Anderson.”

I’d argue if I could.

So, in an effort to make amends, I’m doing two things. First, you can download and read Ghosts for free almost everywhere ebooks are sold and in every conceivable format. That includes a PDF file you can download from this site or from my author page at Goodreads. Ghosts will be free forever, so don’t worry about missing a ‘limited time offer’ or a ‘promotional period ending soon.’ It’s a fairly quick read, and I’m modestly proud (is that even a thing?) of how it turned out.

OK, now for the favor. Notice I said Ghosts is free almost everywhere. It’s still priced at 99 cents on Amazon.com, the granddaddy of all booksellers. This is the lowest price Amazon will let an author charge for his or her work, but in the spirit of free market competition, it will match its competitors’ prices of any product they sell. (although there’s no guarantee of this, I guess)

On every Amazon product page there’s a link that says “tell us about a lower price.” You need to scroll down the page a little bit to find it, and when you click it, Amazon asks you for a link to the lower priced item and the price. I’ve been doing this for a couple of months in hopes of getting Amazon to price match, but the key to this working (so I’ve heard) is a lot of different people alerting them to the lower price.

You see where I’m going with this?

On the bottom of my book page for Ghosts are links to all the retailers’ pages where it’s available for free. If you would be so kind as to tell Amazon about the free price (enter $0.00) on Amazon’s form) at one or two of these retailers, I would be incredibly grateful. Not surprisingly, the larger retailers (Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo) carry more weight when Amazon’s algorithms consider price matching, so those are the ones I’ve been focusing on.

So, earlier I mentioned there were two things I was doing to make up for my lack of correspondence these last few months. For this, and to thank everyone who helps me make Ghosts ‘permafree,’ (as they say in the ebook world) I’m offering a chance for two people to win either a $15 Amazon.com gift card or a signed paperback copy of The Ascent of PJ Marshall.

From now until Ghosts is free on Amazon or March 1st, 2014, (whichever comes first) let me know you’ve alerted Amazon using the contact form below or by dropping me a note. (email, tweet, comment on this site) I’ll put your name on the list, and when the entry period ends, I’ll pick two winning names at random. I’ll contact you for your mailing address at that time and ship out the goods.  If you live outside the US and Canada, prize will be in the form of an electronic Amazon gift card.

That’s all for now, so thank you in advance for your help and thank you for reading! I’ll talk to you soon.

I promise.

eBook Giveaway!

Just a short post today to let you know that Marshall will be free to download this holiday weekend. For three days–from today (5/25/13) through Monday–visit Amazon.com (or the Kindle Store from your device) to download and start reading.

FYI, if you don’t have a Kindle, apps are available for various smart phones and tablets (including the iPad) that will let you read books in Kindle format. Every day, there are tons and tons of books available to download for free. Not only does this eliminate the risk for readers in trying out new authors, it’s a great way for those authors to spread the word about their books.

Another win-win in the new publishing model.

So if you’ve been reluctant to drop your hard-earned money on an unknown author, (can’t say I blame you) now’s a good time. And if you’re so inclined, tweet-share-post-text-blog-chat-email your friends and family (I suppose you could even tell them in person) about this and all the other free books out there.

Thanks for reading!

^