Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

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This was a blind pick audio book from my library.

Stats: Published in 2019. Print book is 355 pages, audio book is 12 discs, narrator: Jennifer Lim

Blurb:

In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.

A showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?

What I liked: I liked most everything about this story. The characters are very real. I especially like how Kim explores those dark and very natural thoughts we all have at times. Things we don’t want to think or even admit we think about our lives or the people we encounter or live with. The situation seems real (even though it’s a bit far-fetched). The way Kim parcels out the bits of information makes for a very interesting read (or listen) and I think it is one of the big pluses to the story. I also liked how the wife stuck up for herself and what she believed was right, at the end. Would someone be able to do that in this situation is a good debate to have after reading this story (a good book for a book club read). Jennifer Lim does a great job with the narration.

Great debut novel! I’m jealous!

What I didn’t like: That the author lets a couple people off the hook at the end is a bit disappointing, but as she says in the audio version interview, it’s more realistic, which it is.

Rating: 5/5 (and I don’t give many of those 5’s away. Thought of giving it 4.5 but can’t really think of why, so 5/5 it is 🙂 ) I also agree with the author and editor, I like “Miracle Submarine” for the title.

Author Visit – Bill Ried

I’ve had Bill on my blog before, when he came out with his debut novel: Five Ferries.

Bill’s come out with his new book – Backstory – and it’s getting great reviews:

 “An original and deftly crafted novel that in an inherently riveting read from cover to cover, “Backstory” showcases author William Michael Ried’s genuine flair for the kind of narrative storytelling style that brings his characters to life and holds the reader’s rapt attention from first page to last.”

Midwest Book Review

Here is a little questions and answer with Bill.

How did you come up with the idea for Backstory and what does the book say about facts and truth?

The 2016 presidential election introduced us all to the concept of “fake news,” that truth was whatever candidate Trump said it was at the moment and anything else was fabricated to embarrass him. This struck me as straight out of George Orwell’s1984, where the Ministry of Truth “rectifies” historical records to accord with Big Brother’s current pronouncements.

I then thought about writing a novel about a character’s attempt to change his own history by altering someone else’s novel. I imagined six classmates and placed them in a setting twelve years prior to the current story, on the picturesque campus of Trinity College that has occupied the center of Dublin for hundreds of years. I then contrived to reunite the ex-classmates in 2016 in New York City, for one to start writing a novel based on their time together, and for another to see this will reveal secrets that must be kept hidden and contrive to alter the novel.

Once the characters occupied the setting, the story pretty much wrote itself and the characters sometimes surprised me. For example, I created Becca to fill a limited, supporting role, but she wrote herself in as another major character—and my favorite. But Backstory also illustrates the trap for the weak-minded in falling in line behind propagandists who try to revise facts to fit their self-interest. In the end, facts and truth do matter, in the history books as well as in the life of Ansel Tone. 

What authors inspire your work?

I suppose James Joyce, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, James Fenimore Cooper and Charles Dickens are among the authors who have taught me most about writing. It is no coincidence the hero of Five Ferries reads works by or references these authors and sees Europe through the prism of their works.

I also enjoy modern novels by Caleb Carr and Hilary Mantel and so many others. In trying to craft Backstory as a literary novel with an element of mystery, I took inspiration from modern novels such as Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Tana French’s The Witch Elm and Lexie Ellliot’s The French Girl, although I should also acknowledge Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary for the counterpoint structure of the Yankee Stadium chapter. 

How do you approach cover design?

For Five Ferries I started with the image of a hitchhiker, created by an artist friend from actual photographs. I submitted this to 99designs.com along with a brief summarizing the novel and images of book covers I liked. I immediately received submissions from lots of graphic artists, with whom I conversed in real time through the site. After six days I chose six designers for a final round and continued to review submissions and make suggestions. I finally picked a winning design and only then learned my designer, Colum Jordan, worked in Dublin. 

For Backstory, I repeated this process, in the end receiving 144 designs and variations from some 35 designers. For this book I provided the artists with no central image but did summarize the story and the settings. Unfortunately, I noted the story involves a beautiful woman and two high-end sports cars. Some of the submissions looked more appropriate for a romance novel or a muscle car magazine than a serious novel, so I revised the brief to eliminate women and cars. The winner, Mikhail Starikov d/b/a michaelstar*, actually had it right from the beginning, and he stood out for employing genuine artistry rather than simply applying a font to a stock image. When I chose this winner, I found that he works in Moscow, which led to discussions about Tolstoy and the war of 1812. 

As to fitting the cover design to technical specs for print and e-books, I rely upon my editor/publisher Christine Keleny at CKBooks Publishing. 

How do you research your novels?

Five Ferries started as a memoir, so the basic research was simply living the story. However, memories fade and after 30 years of writing I turned the book into a novel, which required a lot of research. The internet made this much easier; I no longer had to visit the library’s map room to locate a village or find photography books to describe a building. However, I realized I also needed a person native to each country through which my hero travels (England, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Wales and Ireland) to advise about geography, language and customs, as well as native speakers from other countries, to get the slang right. This led to extensive correspondence, one of the things I most enjoyed about writing the book.

Backstory is largely set in my backyard and peopled with Americans who talk like me, so the research was simpler. But the backstory within the novel is set at Trinity College in Dublin. I sent a blind email to the Literature Department at Trinity and found a faculty member who answered my questions and corrected my descriptions. Also, two of my characters drive high-end sports cars. I haven’t even owned car in fifteen years and so needed specific technical expertise. My cousin the engineer loved helping out, and enlisted a friend of his who works in a pit crew. I also found a friend to describe the work life of a university professor, another to counsel on New York criminal law, and a third to help with the perspective and dialect of a twenty-five-year-old woman. As to the study of propaganda, which relates to changing history and thus is part of the theme of the novel, I did the reading myself.

I find that people really enjoy contributing their expertise to a novel. They feel part of the creative process, which enriches the collaboration and makes it fun.

What’s next? I have nearly completed the first draft of my next novel, as yet untitled. It is the story of a young man who lives an entitled life until tragedy strikes and forces him to get by on his own. It marks my return to first-person narrative, which I hope will allow me to explore the emotional challenges the hero seeks to overcome. I’ve also had fun including a Australian Shepard as a character and creating a family compound occupying a large bluff on the southern coast of Maine. I hope to publish this book in early 2022.

Here are links to Bill’s book:

Amazon  

Smashwords 

Goodreads – paperback –  e-book 

Rekuten Kobo

Apple Books

Barnes & Noble NOOK

Google Play


Bill’s first book:

Bill’s first book: Five Ferries

An Uncommon Fellow~

We’ve got one of these nesting close by our home. Not sure why since we’re not by water.

Look who’s been posing like a model,

at our local ponds lately,

Wood Ducks, which are uncommon in Southern California.

I need to go back and photograph the females,

who are not quite as show stopping as the males,

but are beautiful none the less.

Cheers to you from the uncommonly beautiful California Wood Duck~

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The Searcher – Tana French

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Another blind pick recommendation from my library. I got the audio book.

Stats: Published in Oct 2020. Print is 451 pages. Audio book is 12 discs (14.5 hours), narrator: Roger Clark.

Blurb: Retired detective Cal Hooper moves to a remote village in rural Ireland. His plans are to fix up the dilapidated cottage he’s bought, to walk the mountains, to put his old police instincts to bed forever.

Then a local boy appeals to him for help. His brother is missing, and no one in the village, least of all the police, seems to care. And once again, Cal feels that restless itch.

Something is wrong in this community, and he must find out what, even if it brings trouble to his door.

What I liked: It was an interesting what if… story, if however improbable. Not sure I buy a ex-Chicago cop with a daughter in the States, going all the way to Ireland to live. Lots of desolate places in the US to choose from. That’s not a dig, just seems improbably. The story itself is enjoyable. I thought the characters were real and I cared what happened to them, especially Tray (spelling?). French really makes you want to root for Tray. And I didn’t figure out what was going on until I was told, though I suspected after a while that things weren’t as they appear. Roger Clark does a good job at narration. It everyone sounded very real. I always enjoy listening to a good Irish accent, too.

What I didn’t like: Hum… not sure. It wasn’t a gripping story but it was a good one. Maybe the improbability of the setup is what hinders me giving it a 5/5.

Rating: 4/5

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

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Got this out of my local library when I was looking for a new audio book.

Stats: Published in April 2020, Audio book is 9 discs, narrated by Heather Masters, print book is 349 pages.

Blurb: It feels like a fairy tale when Alberta ”Bert” Monte receives a letter addressed to “Countess Alberta Montebianco” at her Hudson Valley, New York, home that claims she’s inherited a noble title, money, and a castle in Italy. While Bert is more than a little skeptical, the mystery of her aristocratic family’s past, and the chance to escape her stressful life for a luxury holiday in Italy, is too good to pass up.

At first, her inheritance seems like a dream come true: a champagne-drenched trip on a private jet to Turin, Italy; lawyers with lists of artwork and jewels bequeathed to Bert; a helicopter ride to an ancestral castle nestled in the Italian Alps below Mont Blanc; a portrait gallery of ancestors Bert never knew existed; and a cellar of expensive vintage wine for Bert to drink.

But her ancestry has a dark side, and Bert soon learns that her family history is particularly complicated. As Bert begins to unravel the Montebianco secrets, she begins to realize her true inheritance lies not in a legacy of ancestral treasures, but in her very genes.

What I liked: The premise of the book was very fun. Who wouldn’t like to get something in the mail telling you you have a castle in the Alps, holdings in a tree plantation, and a home in Paris! I also enjoyed the narration. Heather Masters does a wonderful job with all the characters. And Alberta – the new heiress – seems real person in a real situation until strange things start to happen and she starts to act strangely too.

What I didn’t like: Alberta does things, little by little, that just don’t ring “true.” She is dropped off at this castle, being told she’d be picked up in a week. Three weeks go by when she finally realizes they aren’t coming back to pick her up – sorry, no way. No cell service in the mountains (sounds right), but they have a land line (okay, maybe), but she doesn’t insist on using it to leave, even though she is told she’s the new owner of the place. She tries to run away to a local (deserted?) village in tennis shoes without gloves or hat. She lived in the Hudson Valley, so she knows what winter is (not a realistic). And when she okays a murder… (nope) I kept reading because I was listening in the car, otherwise I might have stopped. And Trussoni tries to make it more spookier than it has to be. It could have been a strange and thought-provoking story, but it seems she tried too hard to make it something else

Rating: 3/5