Reviews on January Reads

A while ago I made some noise about posting reviews on my blog. I never did this in the past, but hope to do it monthly as I move ahead. I’m afraid posting reviews and blurbs will make the post too long, so I’m only going to share my reviews. If you’re interested, click the Amazon link under each book for the blurb and more information.

To kick off 2019, these are the books I read in January. Maybe one of them will appeal to you.


book cover for Final Girls, a novel by Riley SagerYou know all those slasher movies where a group of teens are stalked by some crazed killer and when everything drills down to a close, there’s only one person remaining? That’s the idea behind Final Girls.

In this case, Quincy Carpenter is the “final girl” of Pine Cottage. The sole survivor of a grisly night when her friends were butchered in the woods. Ten years later, she has her life almost back on track, when Sam, another final girl shows up on her doorstep. The plot quickly gets twisty. While I thought the book was a little slow in getting started, it’s a page-turner once Quincy and Sam begin interacting. Riley Sager weaves layers of mystery, including plenty of threads that lead the reader astray for several surprises at the end.

Suspenseful, tense and satisfying. A recommended read!

Amazon Link


Book cover for Verses of the Dead by Preston & ChildWow! I’ve been addicted to this series from Book 1, and Verses of the Dead is a home run in so many ways. I had doubts about Pendergast working with a partner, but the addition of Agent Coldmoon was a stroke of genius. Not only is Coldmoon a great character, but it gave readers a chance to see Pendergast–along with all his quirks and unorthodox methods of working–through his eyes. Toss is a new boss for Pendergast, new location (Miami Beach) and a string of bizarre murders and you’ve got a perfect recipe to hold the reader glued to the page.

The authors verge away from anything supernatural this time and stick to crime-solving, something Pendergast does exceptionally well. I love “watching” him work. The murders, the method in which they occur, and the reason behind them unfold in an ever startling trail of clues. Pendergast (and Coldmoon) get to interact with several new, interesting characters. Cab driver Axel was one of my favorites. The high-speed taxi ride through Miami is a blast.

I also have to applaud the authors for creating an unusual killer with an unusual motive. Although I love the supernatural twists in many of the Pendergast novels, I admit to enjoying the intriguing details of crime-solving best. I also believe this is a book you could pick up, having never read a single Pendergast novel before, and thoroughly enjoy without knowing any background from the previous books. The new location, new boss, and addition of a partner all go to “seeing” Pendergast through fresh eyes. Highly recommended!

Amazon Link

NOTE: Aloysius X. L. Pendergast is a book boyfriend. I love this guy! These books are pure addiction for me. Although this is book 18, it’s a great place to start for an introduction to the character if you’re unfamiliar with this series.


Book cover for Voyage of the Lanternfish by author, C. S. Boyack, shows bow of old clipper ship with glowing lanternfish headWhat a rollicking, magical, high-octane, deftly plotted adventure! Remember when Dorothy steps from her black-and-white world into the Land of Oz for the first time? That explosion of color, wonder, and delight is equivalent to what the reader experiences in Voyage of the Lanternfish.

Wow, where to begin? I won’t reiterate the plot (click the link and read the blurb), but I will say you’re in for a treat with this story of pirates, high-sea adventure, a diverse cast of characters and plenty of bizarre creatures. Where else will you encounter root monsters, an anvil bird, Fu dogs, owlcats, and a moving reef? And those are just some of the imaginative beings Boyack introduces with his latest release.

I developed a special fondness for the root monsters with their unwavering loyalty, nightly story-telling sessions, rabid delight in receiving names, and atrocious mangling of language. Of special note: You can’t read this book and not appreciate the cleverness of “I I I I”

Trust me. 🙂

The cast is every bit as colorful as the creatures and extremely diverse in backgrounds. They each have such strong personalities, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Even secondary characters and third level characters get plenty of moments to shine. The battle scenes involving mortars, guns, and claiming ships are perfectly executed. I was dazzled and glued to the pages.

I have read several books by this author but this one is in a league of its own. Hop aboard and set sail. You won’t be disappointed!

Amazon Link

Note: Craig Boyack is one of my Story Empire co-authors. I’m giving an extra shout-out here, because he really nailed it with this book!


book cover for No Exit by Taylor AdamsDid you ever read a book and just KNOW it should be a movie? I’ll be shocked if a filmmaker doesn’t pick this story up. According to my Kindle, I devoured 70% of the novel in one sitting. I would have finished the whole thing if I hadn’t needed to call it a night and get some sleep. The next day I tuned out everything else and dug in, irritated by any distraction that pulled me from the pages. This book held me GLUED!!!

Darby Thorne is a wonderful protagonist, an average college student who likes to take rubbings of gravestones. When a blizzard strands her at a rest area with four strangers, she makes a horrifying discovery. One of them has a young girl caged in a van outside. Seeking help, Darby tips her hand to the wrong person—the kidnapper.

Hooboy! I applaud the author for creating one of the most twisted, psychotic villains I’ve ever encountered in a novel. Even more for giving Darby the inner strength and courage to stand up to this predator. She is clever and strong, but never portrayed as a kick-ass hero. She does what she does out of necessity, full of doubts and weaknesses along the way. Jay (the girl in the cage) is also one tough cookie, as she proves when she and Darby team up.

Throughout the long night, the two play a game of cat and mouse with Jay’s abductor. One that involves intellect, physical strength, endurance, and constantly puts Darby in the crosshairs of impossible situations. Her goal is to survive until morning when snow plows are certain to reach the rest area. In the meantime, she is cut off from the world with a dying cell phone, a young girl depending on her, and a kidnapper determined to silence her. It’s hard to say more about this book without giving away spoilers.

There are numerous twists and surprises along the way with a constant buildup of suspense. Sometimes it creeps, sinister and edgy, other times it explodes. The characters are well developed, and the snowbound setting adds a suffocating feeling of claustrophobia. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If I could give it more than five stars I would. I have no doubt this will become one of my favorite reads of 2019.

Amazon Link


Book cover for Linda McCartney: A Portrait by Danny FiieldsAs a diehard Beatles fan, and most especially a McCartney fan, I’ve always been interested in anything related to Paul or Linda. I’ve read several books about the Beatles and Paul, and was excited to find a book on Linda. I enjoyed reading this, getting a glimpse of Linda’s background, her early years, life as a renowned photographer, years with Paul, and her devotion to vegetarian and animal causes. Some of it was a little plodding, but on the whole it read smoothly and held my interest. I loved getting to know Linda up close and personal. She was an amazing woman who I will always admire!

Amazon Link


Review sharing is new to me. I read most every night as a way to unwind and I look forward to sharing the books I discover. Do any of these books intrigue you? What about the covers? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Research: How deep do you go?

Young woman holding magnifying glass like detective. Investigation concept on blackAs a writer, we’re all faced with various levels of research. Sometimes it’s something simple we have to investigate. Other times, it can involve days, weeks or even longer. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I recently spent an exhaustive amount of time researching the spiritualist movement of the late nineteenth century for Cusp of Night

Today, I’m a guest at Romance University with a post about writers and research. Cusp of Night is mystery/suspense novel, not romance, but whatever your genre, we can all relate to the research that goes into bringing our characters and settings to life.

If you have a moment, pop over and share your thoughts about the hows and whys of your own investigative habits!

Summer Productivity by Mae Clair

I just came off a long weekend (happy belated Fourth of July to my U.S. readers) that wasn’t extremely productive. I spent a good portion of it goofing off, swimming, hanging with family and doing things around the house. Summer in general tends to be less productive for me when it comes to writing, though I do a lot spend a good portion of it reading, plotting and writing notes for my WIPS.

Case in point: I have notebooks I devote to each of my WIPS. They’ve been through the “war zone” of exposure to the sun and pool, constant handling and travel. The notebooks below are for A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS (pink, black and gold notebook) and A COLD TOMORROW (dark blue).

Two closed spiral notebooks, covers a bit battered

I have a weird system when I make notes that involves alternating pages of research (mostly right hand pages) and plot (left hand pages). I use different color ink and highlights to draw attention to various points I want to remember.

Two spiral notebooks open on spine with pages filled with writing and some passages highlighted

I started this system with the blue notebook and plan on maintaining it with the last book in my series, A DESOLATE HOUR. I’ve started making research notes while dreaming up plot points as I float around with foam noodles in the pool.

Open spiral notebook with blank left page and pen on top of page, right page filled with writing

As you can see, the left handed page for plot points is still blank. I know where I want to start but I’m still fleshing out the characters who will factor into the prologue which is set in 1777. Book three ties the curse of Shawnee Indian Chief Cornstalk to the legend of the Mothman and Point Pleasant.

In addition to plotting, I spend a good deal of my summer reading. As a habit, I read every night for an hour or two before I go to bed, but during the summer, I also like to read on my deck in between dips in the pool.

One of my favorite summer reads is THE TERROR by Dan Simmons.

Book cover for THE TERROR by Dan Simmons which shows an old clipper ship without sails surrounded by ice and glaciers

Although a massive book (my paperback copy is 955 pages) this is a story I want to read again, and I can’t imagine reading it during any season other than summer. The book is set in the artic, and fictionalizes the tale of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to discover the Northwest Passage in the mid-1800s. Although I originally read it two years ago, it remains one of the best books I’ve ever read, a bizarre and spectacular combination of history, horror, lyrical writing and myth. I’ve never encountered anything to equal it, and each time summer rolls around I think of reading it again.

My current read, however, is a bit different. I’m presently immersed in the WITCH OF LIME STREET, a nonfiction account of Harry Houdini’s battle to unmask medium Margarey Crandon as a fraud. Here’s the cover:Book cover for the Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher is black with lime green border and cameo photos of Harry Houdini and Margery Crandon

Imagine my surprise, when the first night after reading, I switched off the light and realized the cover was glowing. All that lime green you see to the right lights up as neon-glow-in-the-dark with the lights off. I tried to capture a photo of it with my cell phone, but unfortunately it didn’t take.

That aside, I’ve always loved things that glow in the dark—as far back as to when I was a kid and played with a “Dark Shadows” game that had glowing skeletons—so I’m thoroughly besotted with this clever cover. And, in case you doubted, the book is darn good too, especially if you’re a Houdini or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan, or are interested in the spiritualist movement of the 1920s.

Next up?

downloadKevin O’Brien has a new release, YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE that releases on July 26th. I’ve already pre-ordered  my copy. Kevin is an am amazing author and on my automatic read list. If you like mystery, crime and suspense, you’re going to love Kevin.

In the meantime, I’ll content myself with this:

Book cover for DEVOUR by Kurt Anderson shows a cruise ship at night with lights and a huge monstrous mouth with teeth looming above it

 

 

 

 

I have a horrible weakness for creature/monster books (and movies) and have been saving this one for a while. DEVOUR is definitely a summer/beach read IMHO. Isn’t the cover grand? I can’t wait to discover what lurks within the pages.

So tell me…how productive are you during the summer? Do you plot, do you read? What’s on your TBR?

Romantic Suspense and a Research Trip by Mae Clair

It’s been a hectic week. Er, make that month. I love when I have a new release hitting booksellers, but wow, it can be exhausting. I know many of you can relate. Whew!

Today, I’m visiting Just Romantic Suspense, a fantastic blog that is dedicated to….well, romantic suspense. Although all of my previous novels have touched on this genre, MYTH AND MAGIC is the first that can truly claim it. I’m pretty jazzed about that.

As always, if you get a moment, pop over and say hello. The good people at JRS leave each post up for two days, so I am there today (June 24) and tomorrow (June 25).

Know what comes after that?  Okay, aside from Friday.

My husband is indulging my research whim again by taking me to Point Pleasant. Mothman, UFOs, the TNT Area. It should be interesting. This time I want to hit the Mason County Visitor’s Center. It was closed the last time we were there because we arrived too late on a Friday evening. I’m looking forward to coming back with lots of great stuff for use in my Point Pleasant Series.

I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it.

I probably won’t be able to shut up. 🙂

From our last visit into the TNT

From our last visit into the TNT

Guest Blogger C. S. Boyack on Pre-Research

Not that long ago I stumbled across a blog called “Entertaining Stories,” written by fellow blogger and author, C. S. Boyack. Needless to say, I found Craig Boyack’s observations highly entertaining, and in no time added his blog to my list of regular haunts. Trust me—you need to check it out. He shares interesting reflections, writerly thoughts and slice-of-life stuff. It’s kind of like sitting around in a writer’s café and chatting with the group. You can find Entertaining Stories here.

If you hop over today, you’ll also find me there as well. Craig and I are doing a blog swap, each of us posting on various aspects of researching a novel.  So check out the informative post below (along with Craig’s most recent release, THE COCK OF THE SOUTH), then hop over to Entertaining Stories to see what I’ve got to share!

~ooOOoo~

IMG_0956 smallThe Cock of the South is a dwarven fantasy set in a Greco-Roman environment. It involves a group of scattered races coming together to face a common enemy. You can check it out here.

~ooOOoo~

Mae Clair and I are doing a blog swap today. She’s over at my blog discussing the depths of her research for her WIP about the Mothman. To get your Mae Clair fix today, you’ll have to visit my blog at  https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com 

I’m here today to talk about my own version of research. I come up with some pretty wild things for my stories, but I’ve found it easier to fertilize my imagination somewhat. Maybe I should call it pre-research. To that end I use two special apps.

The first one is my RSS reader. This allows me to subscribe to topics that interest me. As a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal it helps to have data pushed to me. I get articles on archaeology, space exploration, webcomics, fantasy art and more this way.

I also use something called Zite Magazine. This allows me to subscribe to content that interests me, but it allows me to refine it. When you first pick a category, the app searches for the word. “Voodoo” will return information about doughnut shops, Jimmy Hendrix music, voodoo economics, and a bunch of other stuff you don’t want. Zite comes with a thumbs up or down option to help refine your results. Spend a month with it and you’ll be learning all about Gris Gris Bags and Black Cat Oil.

But wait, there’s more! I save time by checking these feeds daily. Not everything is awesome, and some days it’s just a quick surf. When I find something of interest I move it to my living documents.

I keep living documents on my iPad with names like Cryptids, Science Fiction, and Paranormal. I add a few notes, and include the link to the article. Now I have a handy reference guide when I need a story element or maybe even a central theme. I also save neat articles and post about them on my blog on occasion. I call these my Idea Mill posts.

My living documents aren’t fancy. They’re just notes for me, but they grow over time. If a note says, Black Shuck the Hellhound of Suffolk, that’s all I need. I can paste that into any search engine and get tons of data. (Try it, and learn all about Black Shuck) As the documents grow, I organize them into categories like ghosts, voodoo, witchcraft, etc.

Here’s an example of how this helped me out. I was writing a science fiction story called Arson at the time. Zite Magazine pushed me an article about micro-thin electronic circuits that would dissolve in water. The purpose was to use them in surgical applications one day. Wow, they’d probably wash away in a fire hose too. Look Ma, no evidence. The idea wouldn’t have occurred to me in a million years, but Zite provided a seed.

I received a post about an archaeological dig in Ancient Rome. It was all about a rock with a prayer carved on it. Apparently the ancients would place the rock on an outcrop and grind it clockwise while repeating the prayer. It also worked counterclockwise as a curse. I tucked it away in a living document, and thought no more about it. When I needed a little something for a novel called Panama, there it was.

I also keep living documents about various writing lessons. It’s just a handy place to remind myself of a suspense trick, or a plotting device that might help me out. Right now I need to improve my section on Asian magic and fantasy. I could use more data about Asian dragons too. I have a rough idea for a short story that could use a little kick in the pants.

3D65373B-5BEE-4BD0-8919-FACF56E0F332 smallAll thanks to Mae Clair for inviting me here today. I hope you found my pre-research tips helpful.

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