If you could have dinner with an author…

I’m borrowing from Angela at Books and Opinions again (thanks, Angela!).

Usually I dislike this kind of question – “if you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be?” – I’ve never had a good answer. But for this questions, I had an immediate answer, but I debated whether it was stalker-ish to post it. Clearly, I decided it’s not:

If I could have dinner with an author, it would be UK indie author Lizzie Steel.

Lizzie SteelA while back I reviewed Lizzie’s first book, Running Home, calling it one of the best fiction books I’ve ever read. Recently, I looked her up on Amazon so I could recommend the book to a friend and I discovered she wrote a second (phenomenal!) book, A Life More Complicated. Having loved Running Home, I bought and read A Life More Complicated immediately. I do plan to review the book more thoroughly, but here I will simply say that this book was amazing. She calls it gritty – and it is. It is gritty and gripping and painfully real.

Running Home Book CoverA Life More Complicated Book Cover


So, I would like to have dinner with Lizzie Steel because I find her writing compelling, and I am in awe of how she masterfully tells her stories from her desk in the playroom while battling crippling anxiety. As a mom-trying-to-be-an-editor, and suffering with my own history of post-partum mental illness, I identify with Lizzie and take encouragement from her bravery in putting herself out there – and succeeding splendidly!

Book Review: The Fever by Thomas Fenske

Make no mistake, this is not just another “Lost Gold Mine” story!
Sam Milton’s life revolves around two things, a cryptic riddle and the mystery of a lost gold mine and so far, his search for the truth has only led to frustrating dead ends. 
In his mind, he has only one choice: keep looking! 
His dangerous trespassing trips into the unknown have alienated his family and friends, and even cost him the woman he loved but “the fever” continues to push him.  Just how far will his lust for gold take him?

The Fever by Thomas Fenske

I read Thomas Fenske’s The Fever several months ago, but life interrupted my plans to write a speedy review. Since it has been awhile since I read the book, I wanted to make sure my recollections are accurate and I took a look back through my Kindle highlights and notes (I actually always do this, but not always as a first step in writing a review). The handful of highlights and notes basically confirmed what I’ve been thinking – what drew me in to The Fever and has remained with me after reading it is its uncanny relation to reality. The events of the story are engaging and memorable, but the most lasting impression for me is that this book truly captures life, from the simplicity of a donut store, well-known and praised despite its run-down appearance, to the messiness of a life structured around a seemingly unrealistic obsession. I think few readers who are looking for an honest, enjoyable read will be disappointed with Fenske’s work.

The story follows Sam as he pursues a passion/quest/obsession with finding a long-hidden gold mine in Texas. We hear how Sam learned of the mine from a dying drunk through an unfortunate but very realistic series of ill-advised adolescent decisions that land him in jail for a night, and then how, for a time, he dismissed the idea and (tried to) put it out of his mind. Years later, he still can’t forget the drunk’s story and accompanying riddle designed to lead searchers to the mine and he decides to devote himself to finding it. We see how Sam’s life quickly becomes centered around this quest, how “he knew he was being guided by that relentless gnawing urge” (Kindle location 1125): he takes jobs that allow him the time off to have an opportunity to travel out to where he believes he will find the mine; he skimps on groceries so he can afford his searching trips; even his friendships and romantic relationships revolve around who understands or supports his endeavors. You’ll have to read the book to find out how he searches and whether he is ultimately successful!

As I mentioned above, what I loved about the book is how realistically life is portrayed, in everything from Sam’s relationship with his parents to how he goes about planning his hiking routes. Some of my favorites:

  • Sam’s vow not to leave a pile of dirty dishes in the sink when he leaves town and subsequent admission to himself that it’s a hopeless expectation (Kindle location 1392). This sounds a lot like me… until my recent trouble with ants, anyway. Now I usually can’t leave things in the sink overnight without finding ants in the sink the next morning.
  • The image of Sam with maps of his search area spread out across the floor as he “crawled over them with a gooseneck lamp and a magnifying glass” (Kindle location 1601). My comment here was: “Adam!” because it reminded me of my husband planning his climbing trips.
  • The frequent mention of an “unwritten rule” that “parents were better off not knowing about some of the things their kids did” (Kindle location 1956). I have to say – this last one did not sit well with me for a good long time – I commented that this is true from a child’s perspective but not a parent’s – though I am trying to come to terms with the reality of this statement, particularly as my children grow; I may need to know everything they do at age four, but I won’t—and shouldn’t—as they get older. It takes A LOT for me to let go of this control.

I’ve just realized I have said a lot about more obscure parts of the book that have stuck with me than about the story line in general, and I think this actually speaks to the quality of the book. It’s true that I read for entertainment, but I feel a lot more satisfied when I have something to take away with me when I finish a book. Ultimately for me, the worth of a book often comes down to how it sticks with me after I’m done with it, and The Fever has definitely stuck around in my mind. I think a lot about Sam when I come across things in spiritual reading that refer to the troubles caused when we put things—anything—ahead of our journey for union with God’s will. He’s sort of a reminder to me, at times, not to let some temporary (or, in his case, very long-lasting) interest too high on my priority list in life, and, in a way, helps me stay focused on what’s important.

I think it takes a lot of talent and skill to write a book that both entertains in itself and impacts the reader, and in my opinion, Thomas Fenske has succeeded with The Fever. I honestly can’t wait to read the sequel, A Curse that Bites Deep!

Four stars!!!

Check out www.thefenske.com for more about The Fever, author Thomas Fenske, and The Curse that Bites Deep (now in editing with the publisher – Wings ePress.

You can buy The Fever at the following places:

Kindle (Amazon) $3.99
Nook (Barnes&Noble) $3.99
iBOOK (Apple iPad/iPhone) $3.99
Other ebook formats are also available at smashwords.com
Buy the Paperback at Amazon —  $13.95

Also check out Thomas Fenske’s blogs: Author’s Blog & That Crazy Cookbook Guy!


**Many thanks to author Thomas Fenske for providing a free copy of The Fever in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: Jungle Eyes

Jungle Eyes (Jungle Eyes Trilogy) (Volume 1) by Lindsay Marie Miller is part one of an adventure-romance trilogy set in 1899. Wealthy New Yorker Henry Rochester, fleeing his mother’s matchmaking efforts, boards a ship with a friend and thus embarks on what is supposed to be a one-year adventure sailing across the Atlantic. Instead, his ship sinks, killing everyone on board except for Henry. Improbably, Henry washes ashore on a deserted island inhabited by a young woman named Elaine, who washed ashore herself years prior after a similar shipwreck. Together they battle both the jungle’s natural dangers and human menace, facing wild animals, poisonous plants, extreme weather, and pirates. Inevitably, they fall in love and navigate their new relationship while trying to survive their circumstances.

Jungle Eyes is engaging light reading, with constant motion; there are no dull moments in the story. I read it within a day or two, and enjoyed being transported to another time and place. To read it, though, the reader must suspend any notions of reality. I find it completely fanciful and improbable. Plot elements like Henry’s shipwreck are treated very lightly, as is the fact that Elaine spends so many years alone on an island at such a young age without parents to guide her. In that regard, Elaine’s temperamental interactions with Henry make a lot of sense, but the link is never drawn by the author. Fanciful elements like Elaine’s friendly relationship with a panther and Henry’s ability to navigate a ship on the Atlantic with no more than a week’s experience at sea round out the fantastical story.

Reading Jungle Eyes was a bit like watching a fun romance movie. It offered an entertaining way to spend some time, but I don’t need to do it again and I’m not so interested in the sequel. You may feel differently if you enjoy this kind of superficial, surreal love story. It’s not my usual kind of reading, and for me, this falls into the “good enough” category, and earns 3 stars.

Rating: 3 stars

Buy the book: Jungle Eyes (Jungle Eyes Trilogy) (Volume 1)

*Many thanks to author Lindsay Marie Miller, who provided a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.