Showing posts from 2019

Beach read or serious read?

Do those lazy hazy days of summer demand beach reads or serious reads? Warm breezes blow. The lawn needs mowing. The weeds are scattering seeds (most especially yellow weeds of the dandelion persuasion). So what will you read?

For me, a beach read in warm weather just might send me to sleep. Eyes heavy when the sun's too bright and tired when the sun goes in, and waiting tasks that demand a level of attention I'm not willing to give... and words that need to lead me to deeper thoughts if they're going to distract me... better sleep, or I'll have to work.

No, in warm lazy weather, when there's too much to be done, my best hope is a slow and serious read; something to grab my assumptions and turn them into questions awaiting answer, to turn presumption on end, and to sumptuously guide... So here are some reviews of serious reads, all demanding serious coffee to be savored with the words.

I thought The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson might be a book to add to my ma…

A Slew of Sleuths perhaps

I like mysteries. Sometimes I like them just as quick reads with satisfying characters and that sense of having completed a jigsaw puzzle at the end. My husband does complex puzzles on his tablet while I read on mine. But sometimes I like a mystery with deeper characters and plot, the sort of book that keeps me up in the evening while husband plays chess. And maybe that's the difference - mysteries like chess or like jigsaws.

Here are a few "chess" jigsaws, worthy of reading long and late in the day. Find some coffee and see if any of them entice you.

First is the third omnibus edition of Inspector Morse novels by Colin Dexter. Why can't I find copies of the first and second omnibi? Anyway, this third one starts with the first Morse novel, so it's very satisfying seeing him slightly younger at his first meeting with Lewis. Find some elegant, complex four-star coffee to go with these well-structured mysteries.

Still in England, my next new favorite detective is Pe…

The Inspiration of Ireland

Today I'm delighted to welcome Martha Geaney to my blog. She's the author of  Death on Clare Island  and she's promised to let me know more about the time, place and characters of her novel. So pour yourself a coffee, pull up a chair, and find out the answers.

Time, Place and Character  by Martha Geaney

A reader asked how I decided upon my amateur sleuth character, Star O’Brien. She’s the protagonist in my Star O’Brien mystery series. Although Star is an American, the series is set in Ireland. I wrote the character because I enjoy reading mysteries with a strong female lead character. And because there weren’t enough of them. I’ve always loved reading mysteries. My favorite authors include Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, Carol O’Connell, and Deborah Crombie. Harriet Vane, Kinsey Millhone, and Kathy Mallory were major influences. Star is a complex individual. There’s been losses in her life. These experiences left her vulnerable but she doesn’t show it. She is …

A dark day for dark coffee?

I thought the sun was going to shine today. I saw the flowers in bright colors and wondered if I'd need to water them. Then the skies watered, while smoke covered Paris, and gargoyles looked on; and I cried. Notre Dame is a beautiful cathedral, and its structure still stands, they say. But a church is more than its roofless walls and broken glass. And a building it more than picture postcards with stamps. A magically beautiful place is changed by a horrifying beauty of flames. And a new beauty will arise to fill the old, or so they say.

Which has nothing at all to do with writing book reviews though it does make anything so trivial seem even more so, while my fingers ache to click on that internet page with "breaking news" instead of typing words. And the hours go by.

Perhaps it's remotely fitting that I'm reviewing books built on magic, telling of worlds where magic's power, like fire's, changes everything. Or perhaps that's a stretch. Still, time to…

Rung any Bells recently?

My husband plays chess, so my son (aged 7 at the time) told his teacher I could help with chess club. Which I did... for 13 years (hence my book: A Bible Book of Chess!) Meanwhile my mum plays music, so my friend asked me to join the bell choir at church. Bell choir is fun! And to be honest, I do (or at least used to, sort of) read music. So it should be easy shouldn't it. But ringing bells is a bit like editing, trying to see too many things at once... which bell, which hand, ring it or bang it or shake it or thumb it or... and who's turning the page? Noticing whether the note has a triangle, a twiddle, a dot... and noticing in time to actually do what the symbol says. But we all play together and we all make mistakes and somehow it all comes out as music, and beautiful. So yes, bell-ringing is fun. And so is editing.

And so is reading. The reason I'm bell-ringing is 'cause the bell choir will play on Palm Sunday and Easter, and somehow--I'm really not sure how--t…

How aware are you of autism?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Sara Fitzgerald to my blog. She was named Writer of the Year
by the League of Utah Writers in 2006, and has written four romance novels and two young adult paranormal novels; plus two Christmas stories, A Miracle for Ann (click here for my review) and Saving Savanna. She lives with her husband and daughter in the Rocky Mountains. She enjoys spending time with her family.

Sara's website

and you can find all her books, listed below, on Saving Savanna
Mine for Keeps
Just What the Doctor Ordered
Yesterday’s Wish
Anything for Charity
Darkness Within
Magic Within So... welcome Sarah and thank you for visiting my blog. I'd like to start by asking about your latest book, A Miracle for Ann. I've just read and reviewed it, and I'd love to know inspired it... I wrote A Miracle for Ann because of my daughter. Savanna has autism. When she was first diagnosed, priv…

Christmas for Easter?

Easter's coming, so why am I reading Christmas stories? Probably because I am so, so, so, so far behind with my read-and-review (and post the review) list. So no, I didn't read all these books this week. I didn't even write all these reviews this week. But I want to get them posted so I can concentrate on writing for a while, so here goes... Some Christmas books for Easter! (And Christmas coffee too.)

Reel Christmas in Romance by J.J. DiBenedetto is a sort of old-movie-themed You've Got Mail. Warm, romantic, blending past and present very comfortably, it's an enjoyable read for Christmas or any time you need a warming infusion of words. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

A Miracle for Ann by Sara Fitzgerald tells the sometimes difficult story of a family facing a Christmas crisis when insurance won't pay for the child a small child needs. This one appealed to me because of the connection with autism. It's a heartwarming Christian tale of relatio…

How many different types of mystery can you think of?

I'm writing (and researching) John's Joy at the moment, a book of children's stories based on Revelation. I know it sounds odd, but I've always loved Revelation, and the more I learn about it the more I love it. So why not try to convey that excitement (and mystery) for kids.

Meanwhile I'm also rewriting my old Hemlock stories, in hopes of getting them published (maybe Ink-Filled Stories will take them, but that's a mystery). I'm compiling my cat tales into Claws for Concern. And I'm editing, formating, and generally playing with other people's books.

And I'm reading. So here are some more book reviews and coffee recommendations (because, of course, I'm also drinking coffee).

Someone Else’s Daughter by Linsey Lanier is the first in a mystery series starring a once-abused woman who's daughter went missing as a baby. Sensually direct, never sweet, and filled with contrasts and humor, it's the sort of tale you'd love to watch on TV. …

Distracted by covers?

I've been seriously distracted. Remember that big republishing thing, with all my books retaining their old covers, all to be rereleased with a different publisher. Then came the news, via Facebook (a wonderful source of news) that book covers on Amazon might not be printing correctly. The posting was soon ammended to say that only covers that weren't formatted correctly would fail. And then I learned... yeah, half of mine weren't formatted correctly. Now we're down to only three that need reformatting, and it's not a big deal. The publisher just needs to "flatten" the pdfs and change the color profile. But, knowing how Ingram Spark refuses to accept a cover that's saved with the wrong color profile, I can't help wondering why Amazon doesn't employ a similarly simple software test. That said, I'm told they have great "human" testers who rejected some of the newly flattened covers because the text color, unchanged, wasn't diff…

What's more important than genre?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Joab Steiglitz to my blog. He's touring the internet with his novel, The Old Man's Request, a historical suspense set in pre-Depression New York, and centering around a Russian immigrant. It's an intriguing time and place (becoming more so the more I read about the novel... reader, read on!), and Joab has generously offered to share what he's learned about setting. He's also sharing a chapter. So, over to you Joab, and thank you for visiting here.

Why Defining Your Setting is Important
A lot of would-be writers set out to write a specific story: a fantasy with wizards and dragons, a spy thriller with a megalomaniac villain out to conquer the world, a vampire and werewolf love story, etc. These are all fine ideas, but where they take place is just as important as the characters and the plot.
Just as you want three-dimensional heroes and villains, a well-developed setting is imperative for your story to come to life. Locations a…

Mrs. Rossi's Dream by Khan Ha

Today I'm delighted to feature Khan Ha's novel, Mrs. Rossi's Dream, a thoroughly absorbing story of guilt, forgiveness, sense and sensitivity... echoes of war and inhabitants of peace. It's nothing to do with Lent, but it seems a perfect choice to add to the reading list.

Richly sensory, gorgeously descriptive, harrowingly disturbing, and beautifully told, Khan Ha’s Mrs. Rossi’s Dream brings to life a different side of Vietnam—not just the war (though this should surely be a must-read for anyone wanting to see the different sides of conflict), but also the aftermath of peace. It’s a tale of contrasts, comparing the hard-fought freedom of a “traitor” who, after years of captivity, simply gets on with his life, and the desperate longing of a woman, Mrs. Rossi, held in thrall by the absence of her son. Vietnam’s peaceful forests are contrasted with the death and destruction haunting their past. Vietnam’s people contrast with the Vietnamese American daughter rediscovering …

Have you tried reading for Lent?

I used to give things up for letter - candies, but not at weekends 'cause that's when my granddad gave me chocolate; watching a favorite TV show, but not if it was one my brothers would be watching (it wasn't just the temptation to join them; it was not wanting them to know I'd given anything up, because they'd tease me); spending sixpence on treats (hot chocolate) at school, but only if my friends weren't spending their sixpences (same problem)... Then I started doing extra things for Lent - not complaining about homework; getting up early to go to church on a weekday; reading my Bible... And then I grew up and got busy and didn't always remember. But Lent starts on Wednesday, so here are some good books you might want to "pick up" instead of "giving up." And drink coffee. No, I'm not giving up coffee for Lent!

First is a book on Holy Week, which comes at the end of Lent. I'd definitely recommend Walking Through Holy Week by Kar…

More than pancakes and Easter eggs. An amazing walk to Easter!

Today's the day for pancakes back home - Pancake Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday; the day before Lent begins. I loved pancakes as a child; Lent not so much, since giving up chocolate always seemed like more than I could do. I saved myself from too serious a commitment though, reminding myself that it would be "unkind" to refuse gifts of comfort food from my non-Catholic relatives. And now, here I am, a mongrel Christian indeed... and here's pancake Tuesday with me wondering if I can make gluten-free pancakes (they never quite work)... and here's Karen May with a fantastic book for Lent, Holy Week and Easter, for Catholics, Protestants and Mongrel Christians, and for anyone else wondering what the whole Lent and Easter thing is all about. Thank you for this great excerpt from your book Karen!

Excerpt from Walking Through Holy Week
Chapter 3: Good Friday Part I: Walking the Road to the Cross

How meaningful it must have been for the followers of Jesus to stand in the places…