Tuesday, August 11, 2020

 The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression

Four-star review of The Emotion Thesaurus second edition by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

An improvement over the last version of the book I used a few years ago. Expanded to 130 entries so you can find most emotions you can think of, and for each a long list of physical signals and behaviors as well as shorter ones of internal sensation and mental responses. Acute and long-term responses are also addressed. This is a good reference book for when you want to show a characters emotional response to something that occurred.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Tuesday Book Reviews on Wednesday

Four-star review of The Pythagorian Solution by Joseph Badal

This was an exciting story set on the Greek island of Samos. Lots of action and good descriptions of the beautiful island. The good guys are well developed but, though there are short chapters about what the bad ones are planning, their characters are all charicatures. I could have done without the rape scene too. The basis for the story, that a fisherman has such a good understanding of geometry that he can leave the clue to leads the good guys to find a treasure aboard a Turkish boat that sank at the end of WW II, is a leap. But the tension built throughout, so this book was a page-turner.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Tuesday book review on Wednesday

Short one this week for a shorter book

Trixie Finds Her People

Four-star review of Trixie Finds Her People by RJ the Story Guy

Cute book of dog stories for kids about how a dog adjusted to a new family and the real and imaginary adventures she had. Partly told through the eyes of the brown rescue dog. Good descriptions of the dogs behavior with emphasis on how much scent plays in a dog’s perceptions.

Tuesday book review on Wednesday

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

Although this was slow to build up to the event that shaped the lives of so many people, especially when we know one of the five teens will die, the second half of the book was full of action and suspense. Secrets kept for twenty years come out one by one. The method of writing each chapter from the POV of each of a few characters works here. A few of the deaths seemed unnecessary. I’ve always enjoyed Scottoline’s work, starting with the series and more recently a few of the thrillers, but this didn’t quite measure up to the rest.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Tuesday book reviews on Wednesday

CyberSpace (CyberStorm #2)

4-star review of Cyberspace by Matthew Mather

I was eager to read this near future novel since I’ve enjoyed all of Mr. Mather’s books I’ve read, including the first in this series, Cyberstorm. As I read it, I realized I didn’t remember the last parts of that novel. This one was full of the same kind of suspense and I do care for Mike and his family and friends and what happens to them, but I didn’t see much character development. Here he is going through yet another world-wide catastrophe and he doesn’t learn anything new about himself. But I learned a lot of neat stuff from the discussions about how many satellites are orbiting our world, ane what would happen if they were damaged, turned off or brought down by a physical or cyber attack. The most important for me was the explanations about how the time signals they send are used in diverse ways, since that relates to my own novels.

The Valcourt Heiress (Medieval Song, #7)

Three star review of The Valcourt Heiress by Catherine Coulter

I’ve read several of Coulter’s FBI thrillers, but this was the first historical romance. Set in King Edward’s regency, the story of Merry, the titular character, and Garron of Kersey included a few page-turning sections, wast mostly very wordy. That he didn’t realize at first that the Merry who joined him at court was not his Merry didn’t sit right with me. And a twin? How cliché. I almost didn’t care whether Arthur was dead or alive. Some sections were better written and developed than others, especially the beginning, but it sort of fell apart toward the end.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tuesday Book Reviews

The Brotherhood of the Rose (Mortalis, #1)

5 star review of The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell

This book taught me more about creating tension and writing action scenes than all the talks I’ve seen David Morrell give. Two orphans, Saul and Chris, were mentored by the mysterious Eliot and trained to be assassins, supposedly for the CIA. Years after Eliot gave the boys their first Baby Ruth candy bar, they are being hunted by every espionage group in the world. Loyalty is tested by betrayal leading to revenge. The story moves swiftly from the rockies in Colorado to Washington, D.C., Bangkok to London, Paris to the Canadian rockies and other places along the way. Most of the time a page-turner with a few sections of exposition.

ICE by Kevin Tinto

4 star review of Ice by Kevin Tinto
From the cliffs in the Gila Mountains of New Mexico to Antarctica, this novel was full of action and emotion. The Native American mystery starts with the discovery of an unknown dwelling at the bottom of a cliff and kept my interest through this story. The main characters of anthropologist Dr. Leah Andrews and her mountain-climbing husband Jack are only partly rounded, and I expect will continue to show what their made of in book 2. The geography and history of southwestern New Mexico are skewed somewhat. A cliff dwelling is known in the area, and the muddling of Navajo and Pueblo Indians is disturbing, but since the novel is part science fiction, I can accept that, as if it was alternate history. I’m interested enough to read on to find out what happens to the Native American girl.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Tuesday Book Review

The Motive (The Curtis Chronicles,#1)

The Motive: Cycle of Violence by Joseph Badal

Good plot about an Albuquerque doctor who’s called to Hawaii upon the death of his sister. He doesn’t believe it’s a suicide, as the police claim, and sets out to prove it. Along the way, he meets a woman his sister worked with to help kids, and when they’re both threatened, enlists the aid of a former pal. My only gripe is the novel spends too much time on the bad guys’ stories and also drags out the ending – which segues to the next book in the series. Still, it was full of action and adventure, tension and plot development and several great characters.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tuesday Book Review

Cloak of Darkness

Four-star review for Cloak of Darkness by Helen MacInnes

I hadn’t read any of the authors espionage thrillers for many years, although they used to be favorites of mine. It was like the proverbial old shoe, fitting me and my current mood. I would have rated this higher, just for the way she creates suspense, but it’s dated in so many ways, mainly because it’s set in the late 1970’s. Still, I enjoyed reading about Robert Renwick again and seeing what he was up to this time. When he’s told his name is on the Minus List, he travels to New York. For Claudel, the story starts in Djibouti. After Robert stows his young wife away in a safe place in Virginia, he and Claudel meet up in the Swiss and French alps in pursuit of a previous foe and a new one.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tuesday Book Review

The Interspecies Poker Tournament: The Roshaven Case Files No. 27

5-star review of The Interspecies Poker Tournament: The Roshaven Case Files No. 27 by Claire Buss

Another fun read about thief-catcher Ned Spinks and his assistant Jenni the sprite. This time, they’re after a mustachioed shape-shifter who take the form of each kind of fae creature before he kills one of them. Jenni’s loyalty is torn between Ned and Momma K, the highest authority of all the fae, who has tasked her with finding the murderer. We learn more about each of the fae communities along the way, and a get a quick lesson on Texas Hold’em. If you’re looking for a quick and delightful read, this is the book for you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tuesday Book Review

Nemesis Games (The Expanse, #5)

4 star review of Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey

The crew of the Roci are back from the Ring and the discoveries on the other side, but they’re separated. Amos is on Earth, Alex on Mars, Naomi trying to reunite with her son, and Jim waiting on repairs to his ship on Tycho Station. With alternating chapters about each of them, their various stories combine to tell their stories, not just their present, but their pasts. Nemesis Games takes us back mainly to the inner planets.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Tuesday Book Review

Excelsior (The Excelsior Journey Book 1)

3 star review of Excelsior by George Sirois

Teenager Matt Perry has written a comic strip about the hero Excelsior ever since he touched a sword, found during an archaeological dig. Turns out the sword holds the essence of the actual Excelsior, who saved his world Denab IV from the Krunations. And Matt was chosen to absorb the essence as many have before. He’s needed to free the Denabians. This novel is full of exciting adventures and situations, dear to the hearts of teenage boys. Aside from occasionally lapses, the writing was good, but I knew how it would end, especially since it’s the first of a series.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Tuesday Book Review on Wednesday

A Conventional Corpse (Claire Malloy, #13)

5-star review of A Conventional Corpse by Joan Hess

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed reading the Claire Malloy mysteries. Somehow I’d missed this one in the past. Claire, a bookstore owner, is roped into hosting a mystery writer’s convention in Farberville at the local college and a quaint old house turned hotel. The chaos that ensues is unavoidable, given that the four female and one male writers are frenemies, and that few of them get along with an editor who crashes the party. Taking a back-seat to all this is Claire’s relationship with police detective Peter Rosen. Toss in a cat, Claire’s daughter and her friend, a vegan hotel owner, and a few others, making this a fun story from start to finish, the kind of book I need at a time like this. I understand the Kindle version of the book has many spelling errors, but I didn’t notice any in the print version.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Tuesday Book Review

Drop Dead Crime: Mystery and Suspense from the Leading Ladies of Murder

4 star review of Drop Dead Crime: Mystery and Suspense from the Leading Ladies of Murder

An anthology of stories from four writers I hadn’t read before and one of my all time favorites in this genre, Julie Smith. I enjoyed a couple more than the others, but overall, these were good stories with female protagonists and intriguing plots. These are obviously experienced writers who know how to write. The one I particularly liked was the last one by Leslie Wolfe featuring FBI agent Tess Winnett.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Tuesday Book Review

The Girl at the Border

Four star review of The Girl at the Border by Leslie Archer

I would have given this book five stars, because it was well-written and engrossing, but the author didn’t seem to know whether this was a psychological thriller, a murder mystery, action-adventure or something else entirely. It didn’t help that we jump without warning between the main characters, not only in distance but time. I enjoy modular stories like that, but usually there’s some indication at the beginning of a module that there’s been a change. The blurb begins: Renowned archaeologist Richard Mathis is half a world away on the island of Crete when he learns his daughter, Bella, has gone missing. Within twenty minutes, hes on his way back to the States. Two days later, hes dead. But in the end, it’s really about the parallels between Richard’s assistant Angela and Bella.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Tuesday Book Review on Wednesday

4 star review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I tend to find epistolary stories either boring or confusing, particularly when there are multiple people writing to each other, but the underlying story totally overcame those problems. Perhaps it was the different ‘voices’. During World War II, Guernsey, one of the islands in the English channel, was occupied by the Germans and the citizens underwent enormous hardships. This takes place soon after. As the citizens tell their stories to writer Juliet Ashton, we come to know a few. When she travels to the island, we learn more about them as well as her. In the end, it’s a charming love story.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday Book Reviews

5 Minute Vacations by Cindy Tomamichel
4-star review of Five-minute Vacations by Cindy Tomamichel

This series of contemplations that take about five minutes to read can be a balm for us in times of stress. All presented in second person but as suggestions not as commands. The imagery appealing to all of the senses is lovely. Relaxing, evocative, it can be read in bits and pieces or all in one sitting.

Highly recommended in these times of uncertainties.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tuesday Book Reviews

I've been away the last two Tuesdays, but in the meantime I've read a few books. Here are my reviews of three of them.


4-star review of Sanditon by Jane Austen

This unfinished novel stops abruptly just when it was becoming most interesting. I read it because I’m enjoying the dramatization and expansion of the story on PBS Masterpiece, although I doubted Miss Austen would be that racy. The interesting characters Charlotte meets when she agrees to spend an undisclosed amount of time with Tom and Mary Parker at their home in Sanditon paint the usual story of the rich, those who want to be rich, and those who don’t care. Charlotte has her eyes opened even in this short section. She’s astute enough to wonder at Tom’s insistence that Sanditon will become a high-end seaside resort, complete with therapeutic bathing, and to see the relationships among Tom and his brothers and sisters, three of whom are hypochondriacs. I expect Jane Austen would have continued the story very differently from the TV version. The version I read is accompanied by several sets of questions to use in readers groups, not just for this novel, but for any.

The Basle Express

4-star review of The Basle Express by Manning Coles

Reading this old-style spy/thriller novel reminded me why I used to read these. Tommy Hambledon, of British Intelligence is headed to Switzerland for a vacation, but when the man sharing his sleeper on the train is killed and Tommy is left with his book, an assortment of men are after him. They think he has papers the dead man stole and had planned to hand over. Tommy’s joined by an Austrian and together they find the papers and catch the bad guys. A quick read.

The Names of the Dead by [Wignall, Kevin]

5 star review for The Names of the Dead by Kevin Wignall

This was one I couldn’t stop reading from the moment I started. Great characters were consistent in their behavior throughout. Driven by a need to find the son he didn’t know about until his ex-wife was killed in a suicide bombing in Spain, James ‘Wes’ Wesley travels from a French prison with Mia, a high-functioning autistic woman, throughout Europe. Wes’s back story and why he was serving a prison sentence are integral to the plot. In the end, Wes shows how decent he is by making a self-sacrificing decision.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Tuesday Book Reviews

The Coin

Four star review of The Coin by Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra

This romantic thriller about an American woman Gabriella (originally from Cuba), who lives near Grasse and found a coin while hiking. The coin has markings added after it was minted, and they indicate that it’s part of some international scheme to create dissent among people. Gabriella, married with two children, is guarded by a reluctant American operative who happened to be nearby on vacation. The intriguing plot of the novel moved quickly with lots of tension that was sometimes interrupted by head-hopping, the growing attraction between the operative and the woman despite her marital status, and the obvious identity of the antagonist.

Siege and Sacrifice (Numina #3)

Five-star review of Siege and Sacrifice by Charlie Holmberg

The third novel in this trilogy follows through on what was promised by the first two and gives the reader even more. Kolosus has been inflicted on the world and Sandis, the other vessels, and the clerics must work together to fight him. This time the story also takes us to the ethereal plane where the numen reside, many more numen than we’ve seen before. Their origin is revealed – another excellent piece of world building from one of my favorite fantasy writers. The ending to Sandis and Rone’s story was perfect. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Tuesday Book Reviews

Dark Waters by Chris Goff

Five star review of Dark Waters by Chris Goff

Raisa Jordan arrives in Israel to take over for another diplomatic security agent and immediately becomes involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict when her predecessor is shot along with a Palestinian. Witnessing the event are an American federal judge Ben Taylor and his Lucy, who’s in Israel for non-traditional treatment. There are also an Israeli sniper Ganani, another Palestinian Haddid, and assorted member of the police and diplomatic corp. The action is fast-moving, but allows the growth of the characters. The author said at the conference where I bought this book that her daughter convinced her to travel to Israel and her trip inspired the book.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tuesday Book Reviews

I'm back with a couple of reviews for you all

Children Of The Future

3-star review of Children of the Future by Jane Suen

Great premise, but the writing is stilted. When Telly arrives with his schoolbus to pick up the kids they're all gone except for Billy, who's hiding. Most of the book is devoted to the search for the kids, so there's a feeling that this might be a crime or an alien abduction, but when they're found, Telly's the only one who continues to question who took them and why. Written at a fourth or fifth grade level, this might be suitable for kids although they might not understand the ending.

Top Marks for Murder (Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, #8)

5-star review of Top Marks for Murder by Robin Stevens

One of the best of a great series. Hazel and Daisy are at Deepdean School for Girls, finishing their fourth year and preparing for the anniversary festivities. Their dormmate Beanie sees a woman being strangled in the woods, setting the Detective Society off to find bodies and clues and get into all sorts of mischief. Hazel, as vice-president and secretary, relates their adventures as they eliminate suspects in the murder that occurs during the gala dinner. As always, the girls triumph, but the fun is in how they get there, one step ahead of the Inspector as usual.