📚 #BoutOfBooks 23 📚

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 20th and runs through Sunday, August 26th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 23 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I know that here in Tempe summer doesn’t really end until, well, at least the equinox, but September is sort of a watershed. School has started, candy corn is on the shelves, and fall reading has begun. BUT THAT’S STILL TWO WEEKS AWAY!!! Hopefully, Bout of Books will distract me for one of those weeks.


The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea Memoirs and Confessions of a Stage Magician The White Castle

These are the three books I’d like to finish by the end of August. I’d like to finish the in-progress and make good progress on the others. I also have a couple short stories on the slate: “Initial Profit” by Bruce Davis and “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge” by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Continue reading “📚 #BoutOfBooks 23 📚”


Deal Me In, Week 33 ~ “Dark Warm Heart”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Dark Warm Heart” by Rich Larson

Card picked: 8 – My horror suit.
Found at: Tor

Noel caught her wrist, the not-sore one, and folded both hands around it. “I’m sorry about last night,” he said. “I don’t know what’s in my head, sometimes.”

The Story
Kristine and Noel are newlyweds, but Noel’s work collecting the oral tales of the Canadian Inuits has kept him away for an extended time. When Noel returns, after being caught in a freak blizzard, he’s changed. He can’t eat and is obsessed with finishing the English translations of the stories he’s recorded. Kristine is haunted by the phone call she received from Noel after his rescue, of what he told her he saw in the blowing snow.

Larson is very strong with his use of color to evoke the cold throughout this story. I’m kind of glad I read it on a toasty summer day rather than a cold winter night (though the kind of cold and snow that is in this story doesn’t exist in Arizona). Also, I’ve started to think about Readers Imbibing Peril, which doesn’t start until September, and this story was a nice little taste of horror to tide me over.


Mini Reviews, Vol. 14

The Black Dove cover The Black Dove by Steve Hockensmith

Holmes On the Range Mystery #3 – I know, look at me reading all the series!

Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer end up “deducifying” in Gold Rush San Francisco, looking to solve the mystery of Dr. Chan’s death. Hockensmith does a good job of keeping these mysteries fresh; changing up the settings while staying true to the Old West. I listened to this on audio; the dialog shines with William Dufris.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea cover Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Think of every ocean/undersea adventure ever. Toothy whales? Check. Giant squids? Check. Antarctic sailing? Check. Atlantis? Check. Island of savages? Well, check. Generally, I really enjoyed this book. Published in 1870 (1872 in English), Verne revels in science. The submarine, the underwater breathing apparatuses, the natural classifications of so much aquatic life—all of it gets good press. Honestly, the only bits I glazed over during were discussions of where the Nautilus was and where it was going. Seaman, I ain’t.

alt text Lizzie: The Letters of Elizabeth Chester Fisk 1864-1893, edited by Rex C. Myers

I bought this last summer at The Old Sage Bookshop in Prescott.

I’ve read a few memoirs and collections of letters by 19th century pioneer women. Usually, they are from the prairie or southwest. In this case, Lizzie Fisk lived in Helena, Montana. Instead of a farmer or a rancher, her husband was a newspaper man. Many of her letters are about the Herald, her husband’s, newspaper and the politics of the city and the state. Fisk was an abolitionist and a suffragette, but she was also terribly judgemental and, as a woman of her time, selectively racist. In all, her letters filled out my notion of the American frontier, but honestly, Fisk isn’t someone I would have liked to spend time with. (And I doubt she would have thought much of me either…)

hosted by Nick @ One Catholic Life

20 15 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books

Down the TBR Hole 16


This is a meme started by Lia at Lost in a Story. The “rules” are:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m modifying this a little since my to-read shelf is a mess of books that are mostly in storage. Instead, I’m going to look at my wishlist—all those books I add on a whim during my travels around the book blogging community—and weed out the ones that don’t quite sound as good now. The “keepers” I’m going to look for at online libraries or add to my Amazon wishlist.

alt text Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale

I have a soft, soft, soft spot for con men. Which explains this book and the next. Both of which I’m KEEPing. (Happily, this one is available at the digital library!)

The Big Con cover The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man by David W. Maurer

Not only am I interested in the type of person that is a con man, but what vulnerabilities make the average person fall for their schemes. KEEP.

You Will Never See Any God cover You Will Never See Any God: Stories by Ervin D. Krause

I can understand why this ended up on my wishlist: midwest writer with Nebraska ties. But man, this just seems grim. I don’t think I can do grim right now. GO.

Illusion Show cover Illusion Show: A Life in Magic by David Bamberg

A magician’s autobiography.

alt text The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani

I was interested in crime novels set in Vegas, but the yen has somewhat passed. GO.

Anyone have any experience with any of these? Any arguments for KEEP or GO?

Deal Me In, Week 32 ~ “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting” by Charles Payseur

Card picked: 6
Found at: Flash Fiction Online

I’m always on the lookout for stories with fantasy critters that aren’t very common. Dryads fit that bill.

This story is structured with a back and forth, by paragraph, between the burgeoning relationship of a lumberjack and his tent-mate and the instructions for recognizing dryads, the sometime dangerous tree spirits. As the romance advances, we also learn that parts of a dryad can be sold for good money. And money can buy a lot freedom.

“Come away with me,” you say, and you whisper your dream, of a small home ringed by tall shadows. Not safe but safer. Not perfect but beautiful.

This is a fairy tale and it might even have a happy ending. (As long as you’re not a dryad…)

Review ~ The Secret History of Magic

Cover via Goodreads

The Secret History of Magic by Peter Lamont & Jim Steinmeyer

If you read a standard history of magic, you learn that it begins in ancient Egypt, with the resurrection of a goose in front of the Pharaoh. You discover how magicians were tortured and killed during the age of witchcraft. You are told how conjuring tricks were used to quell rebellious colonial natives. The history of magic is full of such stories, which turn out not to be true. Behind the smoke and mirrors, however, lies the real story of magic.

It is a history of people from humble roots, who made and lost fortunes, and who deceived kings and queens. In order to survive, they concealed many secrets, yet they revealed some and they stole others. They engaged in deception, exposure, and betrayal, in a quest to make the impossible happen. They managed to survive in a world in which a series of technological wonders appeared, which previous generations would have considered magical. Even today, when we now take the most sophisticated technology for granted, we can still be astonished by tricks that were performed hundreds of years ago.

The Secret History of Magic reveals how this was done. It is about why magic matters in a world that no longer seems to have a place for it, but which desperately needs a sense of wonder. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Peter Lamont and Jim Steinmeyer are two of my favorite magic writers, and the history of magic is one of my favorite subjects.

What Worked
Magicians are liars. Most magicians are okay with that epithet. Likewise, the stories and histories they relate are filled with embellishments and fabrications and are prone to a certain amount of revision when it suites a narrative. Did people in the Ye Olde Olden Days really believe that magicians had supernatural powers? Probably not. But did it become convenient for magicians to wink at a contemporary audience and say, “But you all are too sophisticated to believe that nonsense”? Well, it doesn’t hurt to flatter an audience that might not give you the benefit of a doubt.

The Secret History of Magic drills down past some of these not-entirely-true stories to highlight the performers who perfected their craft and worked hard for their notoriety or, at least, their living. This book is light on the secrets behind tricks, but doesn’t shy away from a little exposure when needed. But those types of secrets aren’t really what this book is about. Instead, Secret History about how magic has changed with the times while not really changing much at all.

What Didn’t Work
There is a lot of repetition of certain ideas in close proximity to each other. If a concept were presented at the beginning of a chapter and is then perhaps reiterated at the end of the chapter, that’s one thing. If the idea is presented at the beginning of a paragraph and the end of the same paragraph and then maybe again a paragraph later, repetition may be a problem. And this isn’t done once for emphasis, it happens over and over. Sometimes it felt like similar, independent articles had been imperfectly stitched together. I don’t know whether this was due to the collaboration, but some of the more directly historical sections were smoother.

I’m also not sure I’d suggest this as a “beginner” text. While someone like Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin is given ample page space (because his “memoir” is one of the core “histories” of the profession), many other magicians are mentioned by name only, possibly relying on knowledge of them that the reader may or may not have. I don’t think this is the magic history book for someone who has only heard of Houdini.

Regardless, I enjoyed this book. I’ve been thinking about magicians and their histrories, their versions of their truths, for some time on my own. As a writer, it’s a layer of storytelling worth consideration. And for me, reading about magic history is like that quote about sex: even not-great magic history is pretty good magic history.

Publishing info, my copy: hardback, Tarcher Pedigree, 2018
Acquired: Amazon, 7/16/2018
Genre: history

Poetry Pit Stop #1

On Saturday morning, I went to Bookmans, the big, local second-hand book store. I browsed, but the only book that wanted to come home with me was Wind Song, a slim volume of Carl Sandburg’s poetry. Many of these are poems that I could probably find online, but I like poetry in books.

On Saturday evening, I decided I wanted to expand my magic library from one shelf to two. This meant displacing most of the books on the second shelf. Some ended up in the closet. A stack of Russian lit ended up atop boxes of paperbacks. And a collection of mostly unread poetry books ended up in the bedroom. “I should start reading poetry on regular basis,” I thought. “Maybe one or two poems a day.”

So that’s my plan. And maybe once a month I’ll share my favorite poems from the previous reading period.

So, the first poem:

Sandburg fits this time of the year for me. Summer is just beginning to recede and I’m reminded of my “good old days” of going off to college in Lincoln, which seemed like it was out on the prairie to me.