Just Another Secret Santa…

I hate to sound trite – always uttered right before I’m about to – but one of my favorite things about book blogging is the random people you get to know. This year I was very excited to be invited to participate in a Secret Santa exchange. The participants, aside from me, are:

This is not your typical Secret Santa exchange. Due to the fact that we all live so far away from each other (I believe there’s a 50/50 split between Americans and Canadians), we won’t actually be gifting each other anything. Instead, we’ll choose a book for the person we’re assigned. They’ll read the book and then guest post on the gifter’s blog sooner rather than later. Easy, right? Mostly. It’s not so easy if the person you’re assigned is…


I was feeling more than a little pressure for two reasons. First, because not only did he organize it and invite me, but this is his first Secret Santa exchange EVER. If he hates the book I give him, I will have forever ruined this rite of passage. Second, because he’s testing what little willpower I have. You see earlier this year, Rick hosted his very first readalong for Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison. He hated it. Passionately. He then wrote one of the funniest wrap up posts I have ever read. Seriously, read it.

Herein lies the problem. I like funny, I love to laugh, and I will go to great lengths to do so. Will I go so far as to assign Dragon Bound #2, thus guaranteeing an amusing guest post for myself and my readers to enjoy? Admittedly it’s tempting, but no, I won’t. It would’ve been good though…

Instead, I’ve been trying to come up with a book that he hasn’t read (and preferably hasn’t heard of), that’s outside his comfort zone (as in not on his bookish radar), and that I’d want to share with others here (because people would be very confused if an Amish Romance novel suddenly appeared on the blog). This has been harder than you’d think; I take my bookpushing tendencies very seriously. A few of the books I considered, but eliminated: Wool by Hugh Howey (too popular), In Pinelight by Thomas Rayfiel (too experimental), and In Love by Alfred Hayes (a personal favorite, but not quite right). I was left with two serious contenders: Something Red by Douglas Nicholas and The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock. I honestly had a tough time choosing between the two and if you feel like choosing the other, please do!

So which did I (possibly) choose?

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock. I choose this one because it is genre bending literary fiction masquerading as quintessential American hillbilly noir. It’s not widely known, it hasn’t won any awards, and Donald Ray Pollock seems to have disappeared into thin air, yet it’s a novel that deserves to be read. I’m looking forward to Rick’s thoughts.


“With The Devil All the Time, author Donald Ray Pollock has crafted an exceptionally gritty, twisted page-turner set in the Midwest during the mid-century, but reads more like a gothic Western. Lawlessness roams the rural, god-fearing landscape of Ohio and West Virginia, inhabitated by the likes of Pollock’s deranged-yet-compelling cast of characters–a husband and wife who take vacations to murder hitchhikers, a faux preacher and his crippled accomplice on the lam for manslaughter, and an orphan with a penchant for exacting violent justice. Needless to say, The Devil All the Time is a brutal novel, but Pollock exacts the kind of precision and control over his language that keeps the violence from ever feeling gratuitous. The three storylines eventually converge in a riveting moment that will leave readers floored and haunted.”

The alternative: Something Red by Douglas Nicholas (poet turned novelist), “An intoxicating blend of fantasy and mythology, Something Red presents an enchanting world full of mysterious and fascinating characters— shapeshifters, sorceresses, warrior monks, and knights—where no one is safe from the terrible being that lurks in the darkness. In this extraordinary, fantastical world, nothing is as it seems, and the journey for survival is as magical as it is perilous.” I appreciate that not everyone wants to read about violent, hillbilly psychopaths, so while I’ve made my thoughts known, Rick is free to choose whatever will best suit him.

(I’m resisting inserting “The Devil All the Time for the win”. This test of willpower is really working out for me.)

Merry Christmas and happy reading!

Edit: Heather at Between the Covers pulled my name and she choose Zazen for me. I’m very excited.

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