Monday, September 12, 2022

Top Five: Fiction Novels to Inspire Wanderlust


Top Five Fiction Novels to Inspire Wanderlust

I travel like crazy, not only within my country (India) but also any chance I get to go abroad. However, unlike most others, who carry guidebooks or scour the internet to study a country, I prefer to read mystery fiction or suspense fiction set in the country. Better if it’s a translated work of fiction, because such a book helps to understand the country better, to understand its genesis, its people, its cultural nuances. Travel themed fiction keeps me interested and gives me a unique perspective from a local author’s point of view.

I’ve found a few gems through the years. I list below my favourite countries and the treasured fiction novels I took there. Maybe the list will motivate you to visit, too.

I hope you enjoy my list of top five fiction books to carry while traveling to these countries.

Italy: The Neapolitan Novels 

Italy is worth every bit of the travel hype. I’ve traveled to all corners of Italy and Naples and the Amalfi Coast remain my favorite regions. In summer, the sight of Sorrento lemons, the sparkling beaches, the quaint colourful homes, and the feel of gelato on my tongue are experiences I cherish and fondly remember.

Elena Ferrante's four-book Neapolitan series, originally published in Italian, and translated into many languages, brings Italy, and especially Naples, alive for the reader. The book is a portrait of the coming of age of two girls and a meditation on friendship itself. The first book of the series, My Brilliant Friend, is now also an HBO series.

Turkey: Birds without Wings

Birds Without Wings is a novel by Louis de Bernières, written in 2004. I picked this book up with no real expectations before my trip to Turkey, and it turned out to be a fascinating read. The story is essentially about the Greek-Turkish exodus (1964-65) and the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the ‘Father of the Turkish Nation’ to build modern Turkey. I’d never heard of the book before, but I now count it amongst my top travel themed fiction. 

Japan: Out

Out, penned by the talented and underrated author Natuso Kirono, is a mystery suspense masterpiece set in a staid Tokyo suburb. It tells the tale of what happens after a young mother who works a night shift making boxed lunches brutally strangles her deadbeat husband and then seeks the help of her co-workers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime. Phew! What a premise, isn't it? I found the book and all its characters fascinating. My heart was in my mouth the entire time I read it, burning the midnight oil, wondering each second if now the women were going to be outed. A gory page turner if ever there was one.

Iceland: Jar City

I list Iceland among the top countries I’ve visited. I was lucky to go in the summer. And, let me tell you, you’ll be hard pressed to see landscapes that gorgeous. There was a jaw-hanging change in scenery every few minutes. Jar City, featuring the enigmatic Inspector Erlendur, is a typical Nordic noir murder mystery set in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. It has everything that makes Nordic noir novels great: atmosphere building, great pacing, a detective you can root for, and a unique mystery in the biting cold.

India: Kiss of Salt

Kiss of Salt introduces Darya Nandkarni, an amateur and accidental detective, in the beachside state of Goa, India. Darya is clever, spirited, resourceful, yet troubled and vulnerable. Her adventures will make you laugh, cry, gape, and marvel, and you won’t be able to put down the book until you’ve solved the mystery along with her on the beautiful side-streets of Goa. I’d written this book during one of my many holidays in the gorgeous Indian beach state of Goa (where I now live half the year). Pick up the series if you want a taste of a spunky heroine in exotic locations.


writes atmospheric cosy and psychological mystery fiction. She is also a management consultant, coffee lover, and gipsy-in-her-head. She lives in Mumbai but has solo travelled to 42 countries and thus, her stories are heavily inspired by her travels and by those she meets. Smita has six published books and counting. Her latest, Shut the Lights, released in August. She has worked in a vineyard, in a newsroom, in a school, in a library, in a bank, in an audit firm. She has too many stories to tell and not enough time. You can read her colourful travel and life stories at

Saturday, September 3, 2022

What I Read in August

 So the summer is quickly coming to an end and many of the people I follow on social are in complete and total FALL mode. I'm not sure how time just keeps flying by me like this... and I'm not quite ready to accept that cooler weather is moving in...

New month, new bookish recap. 

How many books did you read in August? Was it a good reading month for you? I ended up testing positive with Covid during the month. While I felt like dog doo, it was the best thing that happened to my TBR in a long time. I read SO MANY books! 9 books in one month has to be some kind of record for me!!

In case you were curious, here's a peek at what I read and reviewed last month!

Garden of Earthly Bodies by Sally Oliver

I think my expectations were too high going into this one. The title and cover immediately drew me in, and it sounded like just my kind of weird. Only... it didn't live up to the anticipated strangeness as much as I had hoped.

The book focuses on Marianne, a woman who is deeply grieving the loss of her sister, and who has noticed an odd growth of thick black hairs down her spine. Her doctor informs her that bodies do bizarre things when under a great deal of stress and recommends that she consider signing up to spend a month at an isolated retreat called Nede. Marianne, in an effort to escape her depression and lackluster relationship with her boyfriend, decides to take the plunge. A month of being pampered and engaging in stress-reducing activies is too hard to pass up. But once inside the grounds, Marianne realizes she might have made a grave (snicker snicker) mistake.

Ok, so the weird hairs appear right at the beginning of the book and but almost immediately take a backseat for a while as Oliver spends an exorbiant amount of time building Marianne's backstory with both her sister and her fiance. About midway through we finally get to Nede, the getaway-slash-research facility, but try not to get too excited because we spend more time in Marianne's backstory again than we do in her present situation. And then BOOM, we find ourselves rushing headlong into the end of the book, where the really weird shit finally hits but we're unprepared and not entirely sure what is happening or why... and then it's over. Done. No more pages. And we're left slightly unsatisfied.

Regardless of my issues with the pacing and holes in the plot, Garden of Earthly Bodies is quite a powerful exploration of grief and trauma and how it wears down the body, not just mentally but physically. If you prefer books that focus on the internal instead of external, this might be just the thing for you.

Newborn by Agustin Maes (Whiskey Tit Books)

Why are more of you not reading this book?!?!?!?! I am going to be doing publicity for this one in October, so I haven't formally reviewed it, but omg it's so dark and sad and also soooo friggen well written. You're going to want to get this one on your radar. 

White Horse by Erika T Wurth

This book has it all. Dark Native American lore. A family heirloom with unique powers. And a metalhead, shot-slinging, aint-taking-no-shit-from-no-man badass leading lady who finds herself suddenly haunted by horrible nightmares and a ghost who's got a story it needs to tell.

Like most people, Kari's got some emotional scars that just refuse to heal. Her mom ran off and left her when she was two years old. Her dad had a bad car accident shortly after that left him brain damaged. And her BFF died of an overdose when they were in their teens. In an effort to dull the pain and repress the memories, Kari keeps her mind busy with alcohol and smokes, and hanging with her cousin Debby at the White Horse, a bar she intents to purchase from its aging owner Nick.

That is, until Debby gifts her a bracelet that used to belong to her mother. When Kari touches it, she experiences powerful and horrific visions, and begins to interact with the ghost of her mother, who may not just be missing.

Drenched in heavy metal music, Stephen King novels, and Indigenous mysticism, White Horse is a horror adjacent murder mystery that will keep you turning the pages... 

Desert Creatures by Kay Chonister

I requested a review copy of this one after seeing the glowing things Michael Kelly had to say about it (for those of you who don't know, Michael drinks the best beers, reads the best books, and publishes some of the most amazing small press literature out there!)

This book was a brain bomb of post apocalyptic dystopian western religious fanaticism (yes, I'm aware that's a mouthful). It takes place out in the middle of the desert. The world has been ravaged. Those who are still clinging to life do so against all odds, surviving in a brutal landscape, fighting off horrific "stuffed men" who have been infected by the desert, and avoiding other survivors who most certainly mean you more harm than good. Many are making their way to the city of Las Vegas, where religious relics for various saints are housed, in the hopes of being healed of their many afflictions, while others are deemed heretics and appear to be "saint touched", demonstrating an ability to do strange and miraclous things.

Told in three parts, we follow a young girl named Magdala over the span of many years, beginning when she first convinces her father to allow her to make the pilgramage to the holy city in an attempt to cure her clubfoot, through all of her trials and tribulations, to all the weird and wonderous people and places she encounters. It's deliciously dark and bleak and eerie and was just what the doctor ordered!

We Spread by Iain Reid

Recieved the e-arc today and devoured the book in a matter of hours on my couch during this lovely workbreak Covid has given me. While not as a mind bending as Reid's first novel, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, it still messes with the mind quite nicely, and leaves us asking ourselves what in the fuck did we just read?!?

Turning his attention to the elderly, he pokes a finger at some of our biggest fears - what happens when we start to outlive our loved ones? Who can we trust to look after us, care for us, do right by us? And what happens when we can no longer trust our own memories?

Apparently, Penny's longtime partner set her up for this exact situation, preparing a home for her at Six Cedars - a very small, very isolated retirement community that she doesn't recall discussing with him - in the event that he dies, which he has, and she's no longer able to care for herself on her own, which her landlord Mike believes after she takes a spill off a chair and gives him a scare.

Though Penny is moved into Six Cedars against her will, she quickly acclimates to the kindness of others, until things start seeming just a little bit... off. The owner Shelley and the sole staff member Jack talk to her as though she's been there a while, reminding her of things she's told them that she has no memory of sharing but she swears she's only been there days. Mornings and evenings seem to pass interchangably, the other residents are starting to act strange... and Penny is determined to figure out what the heck is happening to them.

This book reminded me so much of a movie I watched not too long ago with my husband, called The Manor, where an elderly woman is sent to a rehabilitation center and quickly determines some evil activies are taking place... only here, in We Spread, we don't really get the answers Penny is seeking. And I think we're kind of ok with it?

I went into this one expecting a bit more from it than it meant to deliver, I guess. I had really high hopes because I was so taken with his novel Suffer the Children. I mean hell, I read that book back in 2014 and I STILL catch myself thinking about it...

Plus, cults! religious nuts! and mysterious disappearances! How could I not love it?

It was definitely a slow burn, and I can totally see the comparisions to Stephen King's IT - the book follows four cult survivors as they reconnect around the 15 year anniversary of the Family of the Living Spirit masscare. Emily, the fifth survivor, just committed suicide, and the four who remain decide it's time to head back to Red Peak to uncover the mystery surrounding the Family's brutal murder-slash-suicide. The story bounces back and forth in time between present time and the past, slowly showing the reader just how F'd up the cult became, and exposing the trauma, guilt, and confusion each one has been carrying around with them all these years.

While there's no giant alien spider creature hiding out at the summit of Red Peak, there is certainly something terrifying and strange calling to them, and they plan to go and meet it head on regardless of what it wants.

There were a few times I considered chucking it, just due to the pace and the fear that it was all leading to a very disappointing end. And while I'm glad I kept reading, I wasn't disappointing in assuming it was going to be a disappointing end. If that makes sense. LOL.

Beach Bodies by Nick Kolakowski (Final Round Press)

Day four of my Covid binge reading quarantine found me cracking open this bad boy on my kindle app. Nick emailed me out of the blue yesterday with a review request and after checking out the book I knew I was going to end up pulling it to the top of the review pile. A billionaire's doomsday bunker on a beach? Three distressed strangers arrive out of nowhere, with one of them bleeding badly, demanding that the caretaker let them in? And that cover? Have you seen it? Yup. Count me in.

It's a helluva quick read, easily digested in a matter of hours, in one sitting really, because right from the get-go you're dying to know what the heck is going on. From page one, we're dropped straight into the bunker, with its current caretaker Julia and her kinda-sorta-boyfriend Alec as they're alerted to the fact that the the bunker's alarm slash camera system slash drone is trying to deploy when it detects something approaching outside. And from there, the weirdness begins.

Little pig, little pig, let us in...

Like Julia, we're standing there questioning everything that's happening, uncertain of what's going on, what's about to happen, and we're kept cleverly in the dark the entire time until that fucking ending. Oh wow that ending.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

One of the joys of being home sick with Covid is the ability to say fuck it to everything and just lounge on the couch and read. Which makes it super easy to inhale a 350 page book in one day if you feel like it, and you guys, this book is best read in one sitting! Let me just tell you!

The writing is just so lush and engaging I was pulled in from page one. It's incredibly atmospheric - mysterious but not a mystery, cultish but not cultfic, psychological but not overly mental.

The book begins with a female writer by the name of Maggie St James' disappearance once the case goes cold and her parents have hired on Travis, who has a knack for finding the missing through visions he recieves when touching objects they've owned. He manages to track her to a extremely isolated compound called Pastoral, allegedly founded in the 1970's and thought to be a place of legend, and promptly goes missing himself.

Fast forward a few years later, and we meet Theo, Calla, and Calla's blind sister Bee, who are life long residents of Pastoral, a tight knit and completely self sustaining community of people who believe they are protected against the "rot" and evil of the outside world so long as they remain within the clearly marked boundaries of their home. Strangers are not welcome for fear of bringing disease and illness. Which causes some surprise for our trio when they begin to uncover some secrets that seem to point towards Travis and Maggie's existence there.

I've read some reviews where people claim the "twist" was really predictable but honestly, I was too engulfed in the story and allowing it to just unfold in front of me that I didn't even have TIME to try to piece together what was happening and I think that's the best way to do it. Let the story take you there... because once you get there, it lifts the entire thing up to a whole new level of what the fuckery!

I've had this book on my TBR for such a long time, and I'm so glad I finally picked it up! It's definitely making the list of my all time favorite reads this year!

Toad by Katherine Dunn

Even though I am out of my covid quarantine, I still feeling fuzzy headed and funky, and while I am no longer reading and reviewing from the confines of my living room couch, I still consider this covd read #6. Lol. Damn the 'Rona!

I've had Geek Love on my TBR for a while now and the only reason I left it there unread in favor of this one was because I requested the arc, and felt compelled to get to it before it released. Though now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have because... oh gosh, don't hate me... I was really unimpressed with Toad.

I've been there/done that with the whole sad girl genre and when written well, can totally get into it. But this one seemed to infect me with a strange malaise. It actually, literaly impacted my mood. It was just soooo blaaaah. I mean, ok, look, as I get older, I become more and more comfortable with the fact that I'm an introverted extrovert. I can do the socializing with people thing like the rest of you do,but then I need time to just back away and chill and reset. I get that about myself. And I thing most people, if they are honest with themselves, also like a break from other people from time to time but holy crap does this book work the one end of that spectrum to DEATH.

Our protag is basically living a hermetic life now after surviving a pretty bad mental breakdown, tucked away in her tiny home with a jug of fish on her counter and a vocal old toad in her garden, and staying as far from other people as possible.

The entire book is basically her dishing us up a plate of some really funky memories. And I can't tell if she's contentedly reliving these in her mind, or if she's just that haunted by them. Mainly, they are of a few friends she used to hang with that were a little odd and offbeat and whom she didn't even really seem to LIKE to hang with, by the way. Every so often there'd be a horror story with a boyfriend or co-worker for funsies. But ultimately, we float in and out of these moments with her and god she was such a bitch to everyone and everyone seemed to treat her like shit or put up with her simply because she was there and there so many times I thought I should probably just put this down and walk away because, while I wasn't hating it, I also wasn't getting into it, and I just kept disliking her more, the more I read. And it felt a little toxic. But here we are, less than two days and more than 350 pages later...

Soooo... do tell! What did you read last month? Have you read any of these? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Dianne C. Braley's Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, this series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20ish odd bookish scenarios....


Dianne C. Braley

Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?

Oh my, I’m going with feet.


Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

This is so hard! I think the giant bestseller. I want a motion picture deal, lol.


Would you rather be a well-known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?

Now! Who cares when you’re dead?


 Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?

Every sentence begin with one. I don’t think it would be a good book, but I don’t know what I’d do without them.


Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?

I would love background music for my life and feel like I should have that anyway.


Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?

This is tricky. I could set the bar low if I wanted, and am willing to up to a point! Ha! But if it went against my core values and beliefs, I couldn’t do it.


 Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?

I think writing hateful characters is fun and helps a writer learn more about themselves. I’ve already done this, and shockingly the character I began to hate was inspired by a younger version of me. It might be time to call my therapist again.


Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?

I’ll try some weird blood as ink writing—sure.


Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?

Become a character. I like introspection and writing about myself. I’m sort of self-involved.


Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?

I think we as writers don’t give readers enough credit. Books nowadays don’t use quotations often in dialogue, and I don’t find it difficult to read at all. I’m going without using punctuation or caps.


Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?



Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?

I like being yelled at for motivation I wanted to join the military when I was young for that reason, so Dylan Thomas it is.


Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?

Ugh. Neither, but I’ll go with speaking. People wouldn’t want to talk to me, and I could write in peace.


Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?

This is tough!!! I guess I’ll have to go with the 50 shades only because I’d be lonely, and I could try to rework the writing and some scenes in my head.


Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?

These are so hard! Rip it apart. That way, people might be intrigued enough to buy it.


Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?

Voices in my head narrate my every move anyway, so that’s easy. It’s my voice, but it’s relentless.


 Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?

Pens & paper. I pretty much already have forcefully, but now I’m used to it.


 Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?

Laying down. Being supine is a rarity in my life, so I wouldn’t mind.


Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?

Naked. I don’t care anymore. At a certain point, it is what it is. It might interest people enough to buy more books.


A raw, gritty New Englander, Dianne C. Braley found love for the written word early on, reading and creating stories while trying to escape hers, growing up in the turbulent world of alcoholism. After putting her pencil down for a time, she became a registered nurse finding strength and calm in caring for those who couldn't care for themselves. While living in Martha’s Vineyard years ago, Braley cared for ailing Pulitzer prize-winning novelist of Sophie's Choice, William Styron. He and his books helped her realize she missed crafting stories, and she had some of her own to tell. The Silence in the Sound, Dianne's debut novel, just released on August 23rd 2022.


Thursday, August 11, 2022

What I Read in July

I keep saying this but how the heck is the middle of August already? I'm not sure how time just keeps flying by me like this...

How many books did you read in July? Was it a good reading month for you? In case you were curious, here's a peek at the books I read and reviewed last month!

Danger Slater's Moonfellows
Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing

Moonfellows is an alt-historical sci-fi (without the science) story about a group of folks who are sent to the moon in the early 1900's to mine it for MacGuffinite, a precious mineral that has the potential to change the world as they currently know it. But the mission goes to shit pretty quick and the crew soon find themselves not only stranded on its dry, dusty surface, but also fighting for their lives as one of their very own begins to transform into something horrible...

I read this in nearly one sitting. You know how sometimes you pick up a book expecting to read just a few pages and before you know it, you've finished it? Well, this is one of those books, you guys. It was just. that. friggen. good! Absolutely unputdownable! Cosmic space horror goodness for the win!

And not to sound cheesy, but I believe this is his best book yet! It's been so amazing reading his work over the years and seeing how much he's grown as a writer. I cannot wait to see what he writes next. I'll be first in line to get my grubby, space-sluggy hands on it!!

Ottesa Moshfegh's Lapvona
Pengiun Press (Audio)

WTF did I just read?!

There were parts I really liked, that carried echos of books like Mammother and The Book of X, and parts that were just nasty-cringy and gross which doesn't usually don't bother me... but this kind of nasty-cringy and gross shit did.

Ottessa narrated the book and did a really nice job. It was pleasant to listen it (minus the nasty-cringy gross shit) and had a vaguely dark fairy tale feel to it.

Best not to know what you're walking into when you open this door, methinks.

T. Kingfisher's What Moves the Dead

Tor Nightfire

This book has THE most perfect title and cover, doesn't it? I mean, they both will make so much more sense once you get deeper into the story but c'mon... amiright?!

What Moves the Dead is fungal body horror at its creepiest. It's been a hell of a long time since I've read Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, so I really have no idea how close it stays to the bones of the original, but the prose feels as though it was literally pulled off those pages and spat right out onto these. It oozes victorian dread - dark and dreary setting complete with a decrepid crumbling mansion, pale and sickly residents, maids throwing themselves from the roof, and a private murky pond that gives off strange flickering green lights at night.

Madeline, the mistress of the mansion, look like she's recently joined the Undead. Her brother Roderick is as timid as a mouse and just as twitchy. The wild hares in the surrounding woods are acting incredibly odd. And there are rumors of curses and witches. But our protagonist Alex, who was summoned by Madeline when she first took ill, soon discovers there is something much more horrible at foot.

The tension and suspense is what makes the whole thing work so well! Highly recommend.

Sarah Gailey's Just Like Home
Tor Books

Is it me or does Sarah Gailey reinvent themselves in all the best ways every! single! time! they write a new book?!?!

This time we're treated to a horror-house story with Just Like Home, when Vera Crowder is called back to her childhood home to watch over her estranged mother as she lay dying. We immediately sense that there is some horrible family secret we're not yet clued into, and that the itself house holds some exhilarating, and terrifying, secrets of its very own.

As Gailey slowly wraps us in their tantalizing web, peeling back the familial trauma and gory ongoings in the basement through flashback chapters, we begin to understand that Vera and her mother are not alone in the Crowder House...

Honestly, I'm surprised to see it shelved in the regular fiction section at the bookstores because of the suspense and horror components it contains. An absolute page turner if for nothing other than the SHEER NEED TO KNOW just wtf is going on! And holy crap does it get CRAAAAZY in the last 3/4s of the book! 

Mia Moss's Mai Tais for the Lost
Underland Press

A punchy sci-fi noir novella, set 90 years in the future, that takes place in an underwater city while the now-uninhabitable surface world burns away.

In it, we find ourselves following Marrow Nightingale, the Electric Blue Moon's only private detective, as she begins to crack the case of her murdered brother. She quickly discovers there's something larger at play here, and meets up with some interesting characters along the way. There's an AI mermaid stripper, a super intelligent octopus, and of course there's lots of drugs, an orgy-wake, and some nefarious government types who will do anything to remain ahead of their competition.

It's incredibly fast paced, and I read it in nearly one sitting out on the back deck today. My only compliant is that the speed at which the story unfolds doesn't allow time for the author to flesh out the world we have found ourselves immediately plunged into. While I don't necessarily need the history on what happened to the world topside and pushed everyone to seek a life underwater, I would have loved to have a more clear picture of the underwater cities themselves.

If you're looking for what I like to call "brain candy", this book is going to be perfect for you, but if you're seeking something with more depth and a focus on world building, you'll end up disappointed.

Michael Seidlinger's Anybody Home?
Clash Books

A more intimate spin on books like A Cabin the Woods and movies like The Strangers, Michael Seidlinger's Anybody Home reads like a how-to manual for home invaders.

Told from the perspective of someone who has been at this a long time, we are pulled into the role of a fledgling invader under their tutelage. They show us how to scope out a house, break and enter undetected, how to hide among the family to learn their habits and the lay of the land, all in preparation for the terrifying and horrific invasion which is being staged and filmed in the hopes of becoming a "cult" hit.

It's unsettling and slighlty horrifying, if not as a direct result of Seidlinger's writing (which could be a little difficult to follow at times) then definitely for the niggling seeds of doubt and worry that it creates - are any of us truly safe in our homes? would we know if we were being watched? what role would we play if someone threatened our safety, our family? would we have what it takes to survive it?

If thoughts like these, and graphic depictions of bodily mutliaton, are triggers for you, consider yourself warned.

Not too shabby! I read 5 physical books and listened to 1 audiobook. (Anyone else pick up on the black and pink theme? That was totally unintentional, by the way, haha!)

I'd love to know what books you read last month!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Goodreads Giveaway: The Prince of Infinite Space and The Autodidacts


Add The Prince of Infinite Space (Giano Cromley, releasing Tuesday)


The Autodidacts (Thomas Kendall, recently released)

to your goodreads shelf by Friday 8pm EST and I'll choose a random winner to recieve a print copy of each.

Please share widely to help us celebrate both titles,
and make sure your goodreads DMs are open so we can get in touch if you're chosen!

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Where Writers Write: Jill Stukenberg

  Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

photo by Emma Whitman

This is Jill Stukenberg. 

Jill's first novel, NEWS OF THE AIR, is the 2021 winner of the Big Moose Prize from Black Lawrence Press and publishes in September 2022. Her short stories have appeared in Midwestern GothicThe Collagist (now The Rupture), Wisconsin People and Ideas magazine, and other literary magazines. She is a graduate of the MFA program at New Mexico State University and has received writing grants from the University of Wisconsin Colleges and has been awarded writing residencies at Shake Rag Alley and Write On, Door County. Jill is an Associate Professor of English at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point at Wausau. She grew up in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and previously taught in New Mexico and in the Pacific Northwest. She lives in Wausau with the poet Travis Brown and their eight-year-old.

Where Jill Stukenerg Writes

Don’t tell, but sometimes in the deep Wisconsin winter, after having hiked the two blocks from my house in facemask, snowpants, snowboots, and mittens, and climbed the stairs to the quiet of my on-campus office (imagine it is January, or a Sunday morning), I strip down to my socks and long underwear to write. I’m lucky to have this space, my own office on a university branch campus from which I also teach and grade papers, edit and advise student editors, and work with community writers to organize book festivals and poetry walks. In the ebb and flow of the year, with its semesters and breaks, I am grateful for the hours when the work is my work—when I am alone with my thermos and novel plot—and for those when my work is to give to others—my students, other writers. 

This desk isn’t a sacred place; unless the places owned by the taxpaying public hallow their own ground. This office isn’t a she-shed, with cute curtains I sewed from a Pinterest model. But this is the place where, in losing myself, in giving myself over on cold mornings (or hot ones, in flip-flops) I most open to the blank page and what will come through it. And on the back of the closed door, though my students don’t recognize her, I keep a poster of Janis Joplin.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Indie Spotlight: Stephen Baker | Donkey Show


Welcome to our Indie Spotlight series, in which TNBBC gives small press authors the floor to shed some light on their writing process, publishing experiences, or whatever else they'd like to share with you, the readers!

Today we are shining the spotlight on Stephen Baker

The Origin of Donkey Show: 

Take a real story and play with the pieces


I was working a while back as a general assignment reporter at the (now defunct) El Paso Herald-Post when a freelance photographer returned from a harrowing experience across the border, in Ciudad Juarez. A reputed drug lord, Gilberto Ontiveros, and his henchmen had beaten and mock-executed the photographer, Al Gutierrez, apparently mistaking him for a DEA agent. Gutierrez brought back a death threat from Ontiveros for our lead drug reporter, Terrence Poppa.


The newspaper, naturally, ran with this as a series of front-page stories, nothing less than a crusade. It was accompanied by editorials accusing the Mexican government of sheltering the drug lord. This pressure eventually led to Ontiveros’ arrest. Our editors viewed it as a journalistic triumph.


Poppa was an excellent, hard-working reporter, who later was nominated for a Pulitzer for his investigative work. In his Herald-Post series, he reported that Ontiveros traveled around Juarez in a Mercedes limousine with a carload of "pistoleros" in front or back. The drug lord’s trademark, he wrote, was a briefcase with the words "The Boss" spelled out in diamonds.


For my novel, Donkey Show, I started with that same story, but changed it in crucial ways. What would happen, I wondered, if everything in the story had been wrong--if the original reporting had been flawed, and if the death threat had come not from the drug lord, but by underlings who wanted to see him thrown in jail? In such a case, the newspaper would be running its crusade based on misunderstandings. And the reporter--a lazy one, in my story--would have to put the pieces together.


That’s the essence of Donkey Show. I placed the story in 1993, just as the United States and Mexico (and Canada) were finalizing a continental free trade agreement (NAFTA). This gives the fictional newspaper more leverage in its campaign. It’s still a time when regional newspapers carry weight. The digitalization of media is still in the future. Cell phones, huge with antennas, are luxury items for the rich. In short, information is scarcer, and the resulting ignorance drives the plot on both sides of the border.


My 2014 novel, The Boost, also takes place along the border, though in the future, not the past. In fact, the protagonist of The Boost, a coder named Ralf, is the great grandson of Tom Harley, the lazy death-threatened reporter of Donkey Show.




Stephen Baker has worked as a journalist and writer in many cities, including Paris, Mexico City, Caracas, Quito, Madrid, New York, and El Paso. His non-fiction books, including The Numerati and Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything, explore the effects of technology on society.

 His first novel, The Boost (Tor Books, 2014) is a near-future tale that, like Donkey Show, takes place along the U.S.-Mexico border. Kirkus Reviews called the book “a true delight of a techno-thriller that has deep, dark roots in the present.” Before moving to the New York area, Baker was a Paris-based European technology correspondent for BusinessWeek, where he headed up the magazine’s coverage of wireless technology and the mobile Internet. 

 He is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and earned his B.A. at the University of Wisconsin. He lives with his wife in Montclair, NJ. They have three sons.


Author website: 

Twitter: @stevebaker

Instagram: @TheNumerati