Tag Archives: book reviews

Other People’s Books–#2: A Soul’s Calling

Here’s the next entry in my recommendations of “indie” books that I’ve read and loved and would like to recommend to my readers here.  The book is A Soul’s Calling, by Scott Bishop. If you’re interested in travel, adventure, or spirituality (or–if you’re like me–all three), this is the book for you, particularly if you’ve ever wondered what it would really be like to make the trek to Mt. Everest’s base camp (you will no doubt be surprised in many ways).  Here’s my review:

“‘I couldn’t put it down’ is kind of a cliche among book reviews, but I read A Soul’s Calling in a quick two days. The book is a memoir about a man who does what “conventional wisdom” (something I’ve come to pretty much despise) would advise him strongly against, and challenges himself to fulfill a spiritual imperative (HIS spiritual imperative–he never tries to force his spiritual vision on the reader, or on those with whom he comes into contact) by making what may be considered a kind of pilgrimage to the Everest Base Camp. He is guided by visions and communication with spirit in various manifestations; one of the most beautiful elements of the book for me was his personal, loving, respectful relationship with the natural environment, which for him is also a manifestation of spirit.

The author makes no apologies for his relationship with/belief in the “spirit world”; it is simply part of HIS world, and he wishes to use his ability to interact with it for the benefit of all beings (and, again, he considers things like the mountains he approaches, the sun and moon and stars, rocks, and all the natural gifts of the earth as “beings”). This may make some readers uncomfortable, or skeptical, but those feelings should not be used to judge the quality of A Soul’s Calling. A reader with an open mind and an eye for good writing should find a lot to love in it. Even if one isn’t “into communication with spirits”, the descriptions of the people and landscapes of the Himalayas, and of the tortuous journey to Base Camp, as well as the wonderful knowledge that there are still people out there who are willing to flout conventional wisdom for something that they believe is truly meaningful, make A Soul’s Calling worth reading.” 

Here’s the link to the book’s Amazon.com page:

http://www.amazon.com/Souls-Calling-Scott-Bishop-ebook/dp/B00AWQCRWG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387495326&sr=1-1&keywords=a+soul%27s+calling

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Other People’s Books–#1: Only Shot at a Good Tombstone

I’m going to take a break from my regularly (or irregularly) scheduled discussions of my books and make some recommendations in the next few posts about some “indie” books that I’ve read, and loved, in the past year or so.  I’ve mentioned a few here before, but they’re worth mentioning again. (And there’s still time to get them as holiday gifts; I assume that they’re all eligible for the Amazon “MatchBook” promotion, which allows you to buy the Kindle version of a book for a significantly reduced price–usually 99 cents, and in some cases free–if you buy the print version.  One for you; one for a reader you love.)

The first book I’ll mention is Only Shot at a Good Tombstone, by Robert Mitchell.  I LOVE this book.  Robert is one of the best writers I know; he loves Kerouac and Salinger and Joyce and Steinbeck, and it shows.  Tombstone is definitely (and refreshingly, these days) not a light, frothy beach read; it requires a reader’s attention, and rewards it. Yet it’s unfailingly entertaining and thought-provoking and just downright wonderful (did I mention I love it?).  I was thinking just last night that it’s a book about a hero’s journey, albeit a decidedly unconventional one.

Here’s the review I wrote of the book a while back:

“As I read Only Shot at a Good Tombstone, I kept thinking about how I could possibly describe it to anyone else. On one of my Goodreads updates early on, I said something about how reading it was a little like getting on a ride at an amusement park, and having no idea what the ride would be like, and then finding yourself “hanging on for dear life” as the ride takes you to all kinds of unexpected places. I stand by that description.

If you’re the kind of reader who needs a conventional story-line, unfailingly upstanding and “respectable” characters, and tidy answers in order to enjoy a book, OSAAGT probably isn’t for you. There is no real discernible “plot” to the book; it simply follows a protagonist known only as the “young man” through a couple of days as he wanders around the smog-choked, chaotic city of L.A, allowing himself to be drawn into one tableau after another. But if you can just allow yourself to be led where the young man takes you, and keep in mind that “real life” doesn’t have any particular plot either (except, perhaps, in retrospect…perhaps), and tends to be more of a long series of encounters that are defined in large part by what you make of them, you should be able to really enjoy the ride.

It’s those “encounters”–each one elegantly detailed and engaging–that make up the book. What binds them all together and keeps the book from being nothing more than a random, piecemeal–albeit remarkably literate and well-written–gathering of scenes, leading nowhere, is the world-view and unfailing humanity of the “young man.” Although a self-described “freak”, his (and the author’s) compassion for every lost soul he comes across during his wanderings (one of the things that he considers “freaky” about himself is his ability to see the beauty in just about everyone), and his easy willingness to care in an unassuming way for others, allows US to see the characters in his world–and, perhaps, our own–as real, significant, and deserving of our attention. Each one of those characters, and his or her circumstances, is fully drawn and remarkable, and each tableau draws the reader in and turns pre-conceived ideas about “types” inside out, so that, perhaps, when she closes the book and goes out into her own world, she will be forced (in a truly positive way) to look beyond those types out there as well. And that can only be a good thing. (I found the character of Harold, a Jesus-like kind of “street prophet”, particularly affecting.)

But there is nothing “boring” about the book, and the author is not trying to hit the reader over the head to make a “point” (although the book is anything but pointless). Every story and encounter is fascinating and often haunting. Only Shot at a Good Tombstone is by turns funny, heartbreaking, illuminating, profane, “obscene” (but not gratuitously so), cynical, shocking, and just plain sweet. As in life, there are no easy answers, and no tidy conclusions, and each situation and character we meet will be affected by what we ourselves bring to it.

Yeah–I kinda loved this book. It’s one of those good, “old-fashioned” books in which the writer can actually write, and thinks deeply about what he’s writing, and is willing to take all kinds of unconventional chances (and has the talent to do so). I believe that it’s what we used to call ‘literature.'”

OK.  Go buy the freakin’ book! 🙂

http://www.amazon.com/Only-Shot-At-Good-Tombstone-ebook/dp/B0032JTVGU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387381374&sr=1-1&keywords=only+shot+at+a+good+tombstone

Amazingly Good Novel, Free For a Limited Time

One of my absolute favorite “indie” novels (in Kindle format) will be free on Amazon for a few days, starting today. It’s called Only Shot At a Good Tombstone, and it’s by Robert Mitchell. You can read the description and reviews (including mine), and download your free copy, here:

http://www.amazon.com/Only-Shot-Good-Tombstone-ebook/dp/B0032JTVGU/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

You’re welcome. 🙂

P.S. Reviews are really helpful to indie writers–it’s the only way that good books can really start to be appreciated by a wide audience. So, if you do read Tombstone, please try to leave even a quick review/rating on its Amazon page, and/or on Good reads.com.

The Point, Really…

A lot of reviews have been coming in for Holding Breath on Amazon and Goodreads.com.  I get as excited as a child every time I see that a new one has been posted, but the ones that make me the happiest are the ones (and there are quite a few) that say that the reader feels as if he or she has gotten to “know” David through reading the book, had begun to think of him as a friend, and even, in a couple of cases, had started to fall in love with him (yup–been there, done that 🙂 ).  Writing the book, I’d been kind of worried that no one would be able to see the sweetness in him as I had, no matter what I wrote.  But people are seeing it, and reading about their reactions to my portrayal of him (I’m really not all that concerned about what people think of me–it’s David’s book) has made me cry more than once.  I’m so grateful.  And I know that it would make him happy (it would also no doubt make him laugh to see his face plastered all over the Internet, if he’d known at the time what the Internet would be).

I wanted to post another song from the book’s playlist to go with this post, and for some reason The National’s song “Bloodbuzz Ohio” seemed the most appropriate (although I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, except that something about it just reminds me so much of David).  It’s a great song, although I find the video a little baffling because it’s so different from the “video” that runs in my head when I hear the song.  Here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K779pqvYQds

Free Today and This Weekend

I just want to let people know that the Kindle edition of Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, is FREE today (Friday, 3/1) through Sunday on Amazon.com.  Here’s the link to the page again:

http://www.amazon.com/Holding-Breath-Memoir-Wildfire-ebook/dp/B009TV4CE6/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1350864778&sr=1-3&keywords=Bevilaqua

If you do read it, reviews on the Amazon page and/or Goodreads (or anywhere else you can slip one in 🙂 ) are always helpful and appreciated.

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