Monthly Archives: August, 2013

Welcome to Fernweh Productions!

The Fernweh Productions blog includes book reviews, quips, and personal observations.  Expect it to be updated at least weekly at first.  Happy reading!


James Penney’s New Identity and Other Stories

James Penney’s New Identity and Other Stories from Thriller:  Volume One, edited by James Patterson

Rating:  * * * *

Short stories are a good way to check out new authors. I rate this audio collection four stars because it’s so helpful to me to find this sort of collection when I’m searching for authors I haven’t read before.

Lee Child’s short story in this collection, James Penney’s New Identity – a prequel of sorts – stars Jack Reacher in a secondary role. Having never read a Jack Reacher novel, let alone a Lee Child story, this was a treat and I have added the Reacher series to my wish list.

Denise Hamilton will not go on my authors-to-seek list, based on her underwhelming-in-the-brains-department heroine in At the Drop of a Hat.

Eric Van Lustbader’s story The Other Side of the Mirror is wonderfully detailed, although the style is not to my taste – but if a movie comes out based on his works I would consider it.

Raelynn Hillhouse’s story Diplomatic Constraints is crisp and enjoyable and I’ll look for more of her work.

Gayle Lynds’ story The Hunt for Dmitri is interesting, though forgettable and rather loosely woven.

Narrators on this collection are Dick Hill, Mel Foster, Michael Page, and Susie Breck.  All are excellent.

Kowalski’s In Love and Other Stories

Kowalski’s In Love and Other Stories, from Thriller:  Volume One, compiled and edited by James Patterson

Rating:  * * * *

This short-story audio collection includes stories by 5 authors, four of whom are new to me.

The Kowalski story is my introduction to James Rollins’ Sigma Force series.  Dick Hill’s portrayal of Kowalski, a man with “the heart of a hero but lacking the brainpower to go with it” (from the cover), is laugh-out-loud funny – it perfectly matches the picture in my mind.  The Sigma Force series has been added to my wish list based on this story.  Kowalski first appeared in Rollins’ novel Ice Hunt.

This collection includes stories by James Rollins, James Grippando, Grant Blackwood, Dennis Lynds, and Christopher Rice.  The narrators are Dick Hill, Michael Page, Joyce Bean, Mel Foster, and Susie Breck.  Based on this collection, I will seek out more by these authors as well as these narrators.

You Know When the Men Are Gone

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

Rating:  * * * * *
A collection of loosely related short stories about Army wives in Fort Hood, TX dealing with their husbands’ absence.  Each woman reacts differently to the separation.
I found it by turns thought-provoking, sad, poignant, hopeful, and horrifying.  I’ll be looking for more by this author.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

By Robin Sloan

Rating:  * * * * *

National Treasure meets Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Clay Jannon finds himself a clerk in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.  Despite his misgivings – he’s a web-design guy working in an ancient store which lends obscure books to weird people – he sticks with it.  He decides to figure out the secrets of the store, the books, the borrowers, and maybe even Mr. Penumbra.  The puzzle of the store is solved, but the adventure is just beginning!

This novel is at once an Epic Adventure and a whirlwind, quicksilver romp.  It’s little-boys-turned-gizmo-geeks playing superhero and pausing periodically to ask themselves urgent, banal questions with utter sincerity.  (Consider Clay’s stupefaction to learn that Mr. Penumbra has a first name!  And it’s…!).  It’s a Quest complete with dungeons and dragons (OK, not actual dragons), wizards, code words, rituals, and True Meaning.  It’s downright hilarious.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore may be read quickly, but will not quickly be forgotten.  As with any great adventure, the questions asked and the truths learned throughout the quest will remain in the reader’s mind.  As will Mr. Penumbra’s first name.


Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Rating:  * * * * *

A pre-teen with Asperger’s Syndrome must figure out how to deal with people and situations since the death of her older brother, her anchor.  It’s funny, and is also an eye-opener (at least to me) in the way kids with Asperger’s see others.  The CapitaliZAtions crack me up.

Standing in the Rainbow

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg (author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café)

Rating:  * * * * *

I listened to the audiobook and can’t decide whether I’m chuckling more about the book or about the reader’s spot-on voicing of it.  It meanders delightfully through an assortment of small town personalities and the events that occur there.  I hardly know how to describe it, except to say that I was hooked from the very first sentence.

Mentzer’s Used Cow Lot

Sign on a livestock auction barn in Drummond, MT

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