Chicago Publishers: Spotlight on… Featherproof Books

There are some really great publishers in Chicago which is, of course, why I am doing these spotlights. One of the most creative I have found during this feature is featherproof books. I mean, come on, the first sentence in their about statement is “featherproof books is an indie publisher dedicated to doing whatever we want.”

featherproof books was formed about five years ago by Zach Dodson and Jonathan Messinger while they worked on the launch of the TimeOut Chicago book section launch. Initially, featherproof books was all online mini-books which could be printed out and folded together. They do publish print books as well, and they treat each as an unique object of art. Zach tells me “We just didn’t see too many places publishing what we liked when we started, so we decided to make our own niche and fill it.”

Some of featherproof books most recent print books:

featherproof books also has a free iPhone app called Triple Quick fiction. Not only can you download short stories (only 333 words long!), but you can also compose your own story and submit it to the featherproof editors. Don’t forget to check out the mini-books as well!

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka – Bookstore Review

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
Published by Mariner Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

It seems like every time I turn around, my bookseller friend Margie is beating me to the punch by reading a book that I’m dying to read. It makes for a lot of “oh my gosh you haven’t read (insert fabulous book here) yet? You have GOT to read it!” Then I usually buy a copy, but it on my personal TBR pile, and fail to get to it.

With “A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True,” I am both ahead of and behind Margie. I was the first of the two of us to buy the book from The Bookstore, the first to realize that Brigid Pasulka was herself a Chicagoan (she teaches at a fairly prestigious Chicago Public School), and actually the one to suggest it to Margie a couple of weeks ago when nothing she had at home was catching her eye. And yet, Margie was the first of the two of us to read and review it.

The one nice thing about Margie reading a book before me is that I sincerely trust her recommendation and, depending on what she tells me, I can either move a book up on my list, or demote it. Based on her review today, “A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True” is a book that I am absolutely going to have to bump up towards the top of my list.

So please, definitely check out Margie’s fabulous review, and think about heading out and grabbing a copy of “A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True” by Brigid Pasulka yourself. Maybe we can do a readalong and force me to get going on it!

“A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True” by Brigid Pasulka, reviewed by Margie from The Bookstore in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Brigid Pasulka’s website

Divine Appointments by Charlene Baumbich – Book Review

Divine Appointments by Charlene Baumbich
Published by WaterBrook Press, an imprint of Random House

The economy isn’t doing so well and times are tough, companies often have to downsize in order to survive – luckily for Josie. Josie makes her living as a consultant who helps companies streamline, a process which often involves layoffs. Her most recent project, Diamond Mutual in Chicago, is really not going very well. Part of the problem is Lyle, the VP with what Josie sees as an overly soft side, not to mention Barb who everyone loves and whose department is first up for firings. And yet, even with Josie holding Barb’s employment future in her brutally practical hands, Barb is the happier and more admired of the two women, a reality that Barb would attribute largely to her faith. When layoffs begin, Barb knows she must do something in order to help her coworkers – both those staying and those leaving – keep up their spirits, which leads her to start the Encouragement Club to allow people to network about job possibilities and just generally affirm one another.

One of the reasons that I don’t read a ton of contemporary faith-based fiction is that I tend to find much of the dialog that revolves around faith to be terribly unrealistic. I have worked in quite a few secular environments and never have I heard anyone speak about their faith in the way that often happens in faith-based novels. In fact, even working in the denominational offices of my church the dialog never seems to quite ring true to my experiences. Although I did have this problem for a bit at the beginning of “Divine Appointments,” I was soon caught up in the lives of the characters sufficiently that I did not notice any unrealistic dialog. Baumbich clearly has a great deal of compassion for her characters, and it comes through to an unusual degree, thereby essentially compelling the reader to care about the characters as much as Baumbich does herself.

Other than potentially slightly unrealistic dialog, I really liked how Baumbich handled the issue of faith. The way in which Barb influenced and encouraged the people around her with her very interpersonal living of her faith actually was very realistic. She was not one to push anyone else where they were not ready to be, but was simply open about what she believed and the way she lived her life bore witness that her words were not mere lip service.

This is a very comfortable novel that can serve as an encouragement in difficult times and as a reminder of the impact a faith lived out can have on other people. is holding a giveaway for a signed copy of “Divine Appointments” through Monday, October 18th.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Charlene Baumbich’s website

Other Books by Charlene Baumbich:
Baumbich has written a number of books including nonfiction, the Dearest Dorothy series, and the Snowglobe Connections series. For a list of titles, see the books page on her website.

This review was done with a book received from the author.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Body Work by Sara Paretsky – Book Review

Body Work by Sara Paretsky
Published by Putnam Books, an imprint of Penguin
Published in audio by Brilliance Audio

While finally taking a night off – and trying to make sure her young cousin is okay working at Club Gouge – V.I. Warshawski inadvertently witnesses the aftermath of a fatal shooting. It seems inevitable that the death of the young woman, Nadia, is tied to the provocative show put on by The Body Artist, which makes the troubled Iraq War vet Charles Vishneski a prime suspect. V.I.’s main concern initially is making sure that her cousin remains safe, but she becomes drawn deeper into this mystery when she is hired by Vishneski’s parents to help prove his innocence.

This is exactly why I decided to put on Chicago Author Month (aka, My Kind of Book). Somehow I had never heard of Sara Paretsky and V.I. Warshawski and as a Chicago-area book lover, this is an inexcusable oversight. I absolutely loved V.I., she has the same combination of grit and class as does Chicago itself. I also thought that the mystery in “Body Work” was intelligently crafted and resolved. There was a very smart political element to the story that I really appreciated.

Perhaps my favorite thing about “Body Work” was the discovery that Paretsky has a huge backlist which can now be added to my wishlist. Highly recommended.

Note: If you are interested in the fabulous audio edition of this title, I reviewed it for Audio File Magazine.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Sara Paretsky’s Website

Sara Paretsky discussing V.I. and Chicago:

Other books by Sara Paretsky:
Sara Paretsky has written some 16 novels, 4 collections of short stories, and a number of essays.

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

After the Workshop by John McNally – Book Review

After the Workshop by John McNally
Published by CounterPoint

Have you ever wondered how authors get from the airport, to the hotel, to the bookstore in an unknown town when their publisher sends them on tour? In some cases, at least, they are sent with a media escort like Jack Hercules Sheahan. Sheahan is himself an aspiring author, having graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop some twenty years ago. Back then, Jack’s life was very promising, he even had a story published in the New Yorker. After graduating, he took a job as a media escort and subsequently failed to finish his novel or do really anything in publishing besides drive authors around Iowa. Suddenly, though, the failures in Sheahan’s life seem to be coming back to haunt him. He is trying to escort two authors in the same weekend when one of them disappears with her baby, causing her slightly crazy publicist to all but stalk Jack, while the other reminds Jack of all he despises yet somewhat wants to be as well. Just as he is confronting his professional failures, Sheahan’s personal failures – largely through the person of his ex-fiancee – reappear as well.

“After the Workshop” is a highly entertaining account of a side of publishing about which I had never before thought. Media escorts! It makes so much sense, but it really never occurred to me. It sounds like a really fun job, actually, until you start reading “After the Workshop.” Authors sending you on embarrassing errands, crazy people, authors who lord their success over you…makes me feel very lucky about the personalities of all of the authors I have met!

McNally’s book is very entertaining, I really enjoyed his wry humor. I wouldn’t hand this to every reader, though. There is a very ‘inside baseball‘ feel to the book, so that I would really recommend it more to people who are interested in the ins and outs of publishing and book marketing. If you are happy to just have books show up at your door or on the shelves of your local store, this book might not really interest you. If, however, you like hearing about the politics of publishing, the little details of getting books published and makingĀ  book tours work, you might very well really enjoy this book.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

John McNally’s website

Other Books by John McNally:
“Ghosts of Chicago”
“America’s Report Card”
“The Book of Ralph”
“The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide”
“Who Can Save us Now?” (coedited)
“When I Was a Loser”
“Bottom of the Ninth”
“Humor Me”
“The Student Body”
“High Infidelity”

This review was done with a book I purchased.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.