Fiction Faceoff Results!

Hi Everyone – thanks so much for taking part in my Fiction Faceoff. The winner is The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. I’ll be reading that soon!

I truly appreciate all the comments on the blog and participating on Twitter!

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Who’s That Indie Author? Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin

Author Name: Anne Goodwin

Genre: Literary/reading group fiction

Books: Sugar and Snails (novel, 2015); Underneath (novel, 2017); Becoming Someone (short stories, 2018); Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home (novel, 2021)

Brief bio: Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice and is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.

What got you started as a writer? I’d written since childhood, but was too shy to share the results with anyone but my sister, although I did win a national student writing competition in my late teens. Later, I was too busy writing reports and academic papers for fiction. When a family tragedy sparked a midlife crisis, my therapist (see next answer) urged me to consider what I wanted for myself. It was the prompt I needed to make space for my hitherto secret ambition to become a published author.

What difficult experience has helped you as a writer? The complicated bereavement forced me to take my writing seriously. Plus, several years of psychotherapy helped me mine the depths of childhood trauma and to accept it, however painful, as part of who I am. I believe my fiction benefits from this meticulous processing: I can delve into characters’ challenging emotions without my own issues contaminating the story.

Have you ever participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? If so, how many times and what was your experience? Not officially, as the pace is too fast for me, but I’ve started a new novel in November a couple of times, averaging 1000 words a day to complete a draft before the end of January. However, contrary to most advice to hare through the first draft to have something to edit, I remain a contented tortoise.

What advice would you give a new indie author hoping to publish a book? Set up your author newsletter early, preferably before you publish.

What has been the biggest challenge for you during Covid? Tolerating the UK government’s mismanagement, especially in relation to PPE shortages, neglect of care homes and apparent indifference to higher death rates among people of colour. But it’s catalysed my next novel about a care home resident with delusions of grandeur who becomes convinced she’s responsible for the transatlantic slave trade.

What are you reading right now? The Promise by Damon Galgut, winner of the 2021 Booker prize.

Would you rather laugh or cry over a book? As in life, I value both.

Have you ever climbed a tree to read a book?  Not that I can remember, although I have read in a hammock hanging from a tree. (Make that two trees.)

Have you ever dropped a book in the tub, in a pool or in the ocean? Books are far too precious to read where there’s risk of damage.

Could you live in a tiny house? A tiny house is far preferable to no house, so yes, of course. But, as I live in a larger-than-average house at the moment, I’m not looking forward to downsizing.

What are the small things that make you happy? Butterflies, the first snowdrops, a surprise sight of deer on my morning walk. Choral singing, cuddling up with my husband, cuddling up with a book. Connecting with readers, learning new words, a fresh insight into my WIP. Moorland, spectacular sunsets, lentil soup.

Website and social media links:
Website annegoodwin.weebly.com
Book blog Annecdotal
Facebook @Annecdotist
Instagram authorannegoodwin
Twitter @Annecdotist
YouTube Anne Goodwin’s YouTube channel


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Book Review: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Razorblade Tears
by
S.A. Cosby

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I know to be wary about books that get a lot of hype, but I fell for it this time. When I saw the critical acclaim from The New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post and many others, naming Razorblade Tears one of the best books of 2021, I wanted to read it.

In the beginning, I thought I was part of that cheering crowd, but I soon changed my mind. Here’s the premise of the book:

Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins are two ex-cons whose gay sons, Isiah and Derek (married to each other) were gunned down outside a wine shop in Richmond, Virginia. When Buddy Lee suggests they combine forces to avenge their sons’ deaths, Ike agrees.

Ike, a successful Black business owner, has kept a clean record in the fifteen years he’s been out of prison for manslaughter. And he’s kept his violent temper at bay. He needs to, especially now that he and his wife have custody of three-year-old, Arianna, Isiah and Derek’s daughter. Buddy Lee, who is white, is a career con man and an alcoholic, living in a dilapidated trailer. On top of their grief, they have many regrets about shunning their sons for their homosexuality. Now they have a chance to make things a little better.

They soon learn that Ike’s son, Isiah, a journalist, was about to expose a scandalous relationship between a woman named Tangerine and an unnamed powerful man she’d met. On the other side, this powerful person has hired a hit man and his violent gang to find Tangerine and kill her before the story gets out.

Over a period of several days, Ike and Buddy Lee chase the killers and the killers chase them. And there are many violent casualties along the way, described in graphic detail. Between the violence, they move towards friendship as they joke around and share their struggles about accepting their sons. Ike also sets Buddy Lee straight on a number of racial assumptions. I thought these were good ways to bring out the subtleties of racism, one of the better parts of the book.

I was interested in the premise, but honestly, the rest of the book just isn’t that good, with all kinds of weird metaphors and choppy sentences. Razorblade Tears is described as noir fiction, and as a reader you have to accept the violence as part of the genre, but I found the characters to be stereotypical and the fight scenes hard to follow. In addition, to say you must suspend all disbelief is a huge understatement.

In the end, I felt manipulated by the hype and in the heavy-handed message about race, gender, sexuality, and a host of other social issues. I felt this could have been a much better book if the author had focused more on the characters and had chosen one or two issues.

Other WordPress bloggers have written mixed reviews. You can check them out here.

Books with Chai
The Lesser Joke
The BiblioSanctum

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Fiction Faceoff on Twitter Finals – Today!

Hi Everyone,

Sorry for the delay – we’ve made it to the finals and now it’s between The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles and Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Which would you choose? If you’re on Twitter here’s the link:

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Fiction Faceoff on Twitter – Semifinals Day 2

Hi Everyone,

We’re down to the last 2 polls. Today is Day 2 of the Semifinals and the Finals are tomorrow. Which book would you choose? Today’s matchup: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid or The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.

If you’re on Twitter, you can vote below:

Each poll lasts 24 hours. This one ends Saturday at about 9:15 am EST.

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Book Club Mom’s Books of 2021

I’m a little late in sharing this, but if you’d like to see what I read in 2021, here they are!

The Searcher by Tana French – 4 stars

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn – 5 stars

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders – 3 stars

Cary Grant – A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman – 5 stars

The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce – 3 stars

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – 4 stars

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane – 4 stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – 4 stars

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – 4.5 stars

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – 4 stars

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – 5 stars

Rabbit, Run by John Updike – 5 stars

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – 3 stars

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison – 5 stars

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – 3 stars

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – 4.5 stars

The Last Flight by Julie Clark – 3.5 stars

The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham – 4.5 stars

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth – 4 stars

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner – 3 stars

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland – 3.5 stars

The Bone Hunger by Carrie Rubin – 4.5 stars

My Brief History by Stephen Hawking – 4 stars

The Early Stories of Truman Capote – 5 stars

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – 4 stars

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – 4.5 stars

“The Casual Car Pool” by Katherine Bell – 4 stars

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – 3 stars

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – 3.5 stars

The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine – 3 stars

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet – 3.5 stars

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel – 4 stars

The Lying Room by Nicci French – 3.5 stars

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – 3 stars

The Address by Fiona Davis – 4 stars

Furious Hours by Casey Cep – 5 stars

The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford – 3.5 stars

There There by Tommy Orange – 5 stars

Elizabeth and Monty by Charles Casillo – 3.5 stars

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell – 5 stars

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – 5 stars

Defending Jacob by William Landay – 3.5 stars

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – 5 stars

Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer – 3 stars

Date with Death by Julia Chapman – 3.5 stars

The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen – 4.5 stars

If you’d like to see what I’ve read in other years, you can follow these links which are also in tabs at the top of the page:

Books of 2013

Books of 2014

Books of 2015

Books of 2016

Books of 2017

Books of 2018

Books of 2019

Books of 2020

I didn’t read as many books this year, but some of them were long ones! I feel like I’d gotten away from reading longer books, so reading these reminded me of the nice feeling of really sinking into a story like The Thorn Birds.

Stay tuned for an updated list of my all-time top reads. I went from Top 10 to Top 15 a few years ago. I’m probably going to have to up it to 20 because I read some great books in 2021. Do you have lists of all-time favorite books? What’s your number one favorite? If you don’t know by now, my all-time favorite book is Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk. That’s a long one too!

Leave a comment and tell me your favorites 🙂

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Fiction Faceoff on Twitter – Semifinals!

Hi Everyone!

We’re down to the final four. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, The Magician by Colm Toibin, Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid and The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.

Today’s matchup is The Lincoln Highway vs The Magician.

Each poll lasts 24 hours. This one ends Thursday at 9:30 pm EST.

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Fiction Faceoff on Twitter – Round 2 – Day 4!

Hi Everyone!

One more day of Round 2 and then we’ll be headed to the Semifinals! If you’re on Twitter and would like to vote, the poll runs until about 8:30 pm EST today.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Nonfiction books on my radar – my TBR grows!

The older I get, the more interested I am in nonfiction. I especially like biographies and memoirs and narrative nonfiction. I also like an occasional gossipy book (I confess!). Here are five nonfiction books I’d like to read this year. All descriptions are from Amazon.

Greed in the Gilded Age: The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick by William Elliott Hazelgrove (Feb 15)

‘Millionaire’ had just entered the American lexicon and Cassie Chadwick was front page news, becoming a media sensation before mass media, even eclipsing President Roosevelt’s inauguration. Using these newspaper articles, Hazelgrove tells the story of one of the greatest cons in American history.

Combining the sexuality and helplessness her gender implied, Chadwick conned at least 2 million dollars, equivalent to about 60 million today, simply by claiming to be the illegitimate daughter and heir of steel titan, Andrew Carnegie. Playing to their greed, she was able to convince highly educated financiers to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars, on nothing more than a rumor and her word.

She was a product of her time and painting her as a criminal is only one way to look at it. Those times rewarded someone who was smart, inventive, bold, and aggressive. She was able to break through boundaries of class, education, and gender, to beat the men of the one percent at their own game.

Hedged Out: Inequality and Insecurity on Wall Street by Megan Tobias Neely (Jan 25)

Who do you think of when you imagine a hedge fund manager? A greedy fraudster, a visionary entrepreneur, a wolf of Wall Street? These tropes capture the public imagination of a successful hedge fund manager. But behind the designer suits, helicopter commutes, and illicit pursuits are the everyday stories of people who work in the hedge fund industry—many of whom don’t realize they fall within the 1 percent that drives the divide between the richest and the rest. With Hedged Out, sociologist and former hedge fund analyst Megan Tobias Neely gives readers an outsider’s insider perspective on Wall Street and its enduring culture of inequality.

Hedged Out dives into the upper echelons of Wall Street, where elite white masculinity is the standard measure for the capacity to manage risk and insecurity. Facing an unpredictable and risky stock market, hedge fund workers protect their interests by working long hours and building tight-knit networks with people who look and behave like them. Using ethnographic vignettes and her own industry experience, Neely showcases the voices of managers and other workers to illustrate how this industry of politically mobilized elites excludes people on the basis of race, class, and gender. Neely shows how this system of elite power and privilege not only sustains itself but builds over time as the beneficiaries concentrate their resources. Hedged Out explains why the hedge fund industry generates extreme wealth, why mostly white men benefit, and why reforming Wall Street will create a more equal society.

Heiresses: The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies by Laura Thompson (Feb 15)

Heiresses: surely they are among the luckiest women on earth. Are they not to be envied, with their private jets and Chanel wardrobes and endless funds? Yet all too often those gilded lives have been beset with trauma and despair. Before the 20th century a wife’s inheritance was the property of her husband, making her vulnerable to kidnap, forced marriages, even confinement in an asylum. And in modern times, heiresses fell victim to fortune-hunters who squandered their millions.

Heiresses tells the stories of these million dollar babies: Mary Davies, who inherited London’s most valuable real estate, and was bartered from the age of twelve; Consuelo Vanderbilt, the original American “Dollar Heiress”, forced into a loveless marriage; Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress who married seven times and died almost penniless; and Patty Hearst, heiress to a newspaper fortune who was arrested for terrorism. However, there are also stories of independence and achievement: Angela Burdett-Coutts, who became one of the greatest philanthropists of Victorian England; Nancy Cunard, who lived off her mother’s fortune and became a pioneer of the civil rights movement; and Daisy Fellowes, elegant linchpin of interwar high society and noted fashion editor.

Sentence: Ten Years and a Thousand Books in Prison by Daniel Genis (Feb 22)

In 2003 Daniel Genis, the son of a famous Soviet émigré writer, broadcaster, and culture critic, was fresh out of NYU when he faced a serious heroin addiction that led him into debt and ultimately crime. After he was arrested for robbing people at knifepoint, he was nicknamed the “apologetic bandit” in the press, given his habit of expressing his regret to his victims as he took their cash. He was sentenced to twelve years—ten with good behavior, a decade he survived by reading 1,046 books, taking up weightlifting, having philosophical discussions with his fellow inmates, working at a series of prison jobs, and in general observing an existence for which nothing in his life had prepared him.

Genis describes in unsparing and vivid detail the realities of daily life in the New York penal system. In his journey from Rikers Island and through a series of upstate institutions he encounters violence on an almost daily basis, while learning about the social strata of gangs, the “court” system that sets geographic boundaries in prison yards, how sex was obtained, the workings of the black market in drugs and more practical goods, the inventiveness required for everyday tasks such as cooking, and how debilitating solitary confinement actually is—all while trying to preserve his relationship with his recently married wife.

Shackleton by Ranulph Fiennes (Jan 4)

An enthralling new biography of Ernest Shackleton by the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

In 1915, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to traverse the Antarctic was cut short when his ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice. The disaster left Shackleton and his men alone at the frozen South Pole, fighting for their lives. Their survival and escape is the most famous adventure in history.

Shackleton is a captivating new account of the adventurer, his life and his incredible leadership under the most extreme of circumstances. Written by polar adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes who followed in Shackleton’s footsteps, he brings his own unique insights to bear on these infamous expeditions. Shackleton is both re-appraisal and a valediction, separating Shackleton from the myth he has become.

Do any of these look good to you? What nonfiction books are you looking forward to reading in 2022? Leave a comment!

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Fiction Faceoff on Twitter – Round 2 – Day 3!

Hi Everyone!

We’re getting closer to the Fiction Faceoff Seminfinals on Twitter! Today, The Magician by Colm Toibin beat Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. The next matchup is between Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid and The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. What’s it gonna be? You choose! Each poll lasts 24 hours.

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