Sunday, October 16, 2016

Review--For This We Are Soldiers

For This We Are Soldiers: Tales of the Frontier ArmyFor This We Are Soldiers: Tales of the Frontier Army by Carla Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy Carla Kelly's Regency romances, but I really like her tales set in the American West. Her depth of knowledge of the period, her eye for detail, all of it combines with excellent story-telling to make for a great reading experience.

This collection of tales from the frontier isn't a romance collection, and three of the stories appeared in the (also excellent) Here's To the Ladies, but it's a good purchase for her fans. I hope Ms. Kelly continues to bring us tales from the frontier army, a milieu she handles better than any other romance author today.

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Review--Revenge in a Cold River (William Monk, #22)

Revenge in a Cold River (William Monk, #22)Revenge in a Cold River by Anne Perry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been a fan of this series since Face of a Stranger, but I found the ending on this latest William Monk mystery strangely unsatisfying. It felt rushed, and the reader is left practically dangling after the very well done action at see climax.

But any Monk novel that reveals more of the detective's hidden past is a must-read for fans, and I enjoyed that aspect of the novel very much.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sometimes, Change is Good

As many of you know, I've been working hard since Amber Quill Press closed. I edited and re-released three of my earlier novels as ebooks at Amazon and Smashwords. I've been shopping the manuscript of WHAT THE PARROT SAW, and hope for good news on that front. But in the meantime, I'm still writing.

I'd started work on a novel that has possibilities, but yesterday I made the tough decision to set it aside for now at 10K words in, and try a different project. Book #1 was frustrating me because I couldn't figure out enough of the characters' goals, motivations, and conflict, and when the author can't finger the GMC it's time to re-think it. Debra Dixon's classic Goal, Motivation, and Conflict is often referenced by romance writers, and it's become somewhat of an industry bible for good reason. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to write a novel, in any genre.

In the past I've sometimes had to get 1/3 into my manuscript before I knew the GMC, one of the pitfalls of being a "seat-of-the-pants" writer. But I know myself well enough now to know that occasionally the best ideas aren't ready to come forward, and if I put this book on the back burner I can begin a new project that feels more solid to me.

So there it is. Sometimes the writing process takes more time and effort, at least for me. People often ask me if I enjoy writing, and I come back with classic reply, "No, I enjoy having written." So I'm off to do the painful writing part so that in a couple months I can sit back and enjoy having written.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review--Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)

Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another excellent entry in the Expanse series, with an ending I totally did not see coming (but should have). Corey takes to heart Mark Twain's advice about chasing your characters up trees and throwing stones at them. The crew of the Roci are in it again, this time when they're sent to be mediators in a conflict between squatters and corporations on a newly uncovered habitable planet.

The analogies to the Wild West and the American Frontier are drawn in broad strokes. It's the farmers vs. the ranchers, the settlers vs. the railroads and banks, pick your favorite and it's worked in there.

The only thing that kept this uber space opera from five stars was the feeling that it could have been trimmed. After a while, you can get burned out on all the danger and violence and favorite characters in jeopardy. But it's still one of the best science fiction epics available today and I highly recommend this series.

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Sunday, October 02, 2016

Review--Knight's Shadow (Greatcoats, #2)

Knight's Shadow (Greatcoats, #2)Knight's Shadow by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

More swashbuckling yumminess featuring the greatest fictional swordfight since Inigo Montoya fought The Man In Black. I can't imagine why someone would read this before Traitor's Blade, so let me just throw out there that you should read the first of The Greatcoats novels before picking this one up.

Knight's Shadow continues to ask tough questions about whether Right Makes Might and the role of people who stand up and say, "Hold on, that ain't right!" It's a philosophical as well as adventurous story, and should appeal to fans of Dorothy Dunnett, Terry Pratchett, Alexandre Dumas, Rafael Sabatini and Raymond Chandler (The Venn diagram of the fan groups who would enjoy this story should be very interesting.)

I eagerly look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

National Coffee Day!

"Your eyes are the smoky bronze of coffee, rich and deep. It settles in your belly and warms you from the inside out. Hot, and able to get a man up in the mornin’, and keep him up all day. Without coffee, the day is dull, flat, lifeless. But with that first taste of the stimulatin’ brew, you know you can face anythin’. It makes your heart beat a little faster, and the colors all seem sharper, the air brighter."

--Smuggler's Bride

It's #NationalCoffeeDay (Seriously? As if every day is not coffee day?) and I've already celebrated with a few cups of my favorite morning roast. If you're one of those who just can't face the day without that stimulating brew, be like Rand Washburn and raise your cup to coffee!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Review--Sustained (The Legal Briefs, #2)

Sustained (The Legal Briefs, #2)Sustained by Emma Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do you reform a rake? Throw a plot moppet at him, or in the case of Jake Becker, six of the little darlings.

Jake's living the good life as an up-and-coming defense attorney in D.C., on his way to making partner. Sure he defends low-lifes and spoiled brats, but he's good at it, he's handsome, he's buff, and he can get all the women he wants and ensure they're gone the next morning.

Then he has his pocket picked and meets Chelsea McQuaid, a young woman caring for her orphaned nieces and nephews, and his life will never be the same again.

I liked the dialogue and the depiction of the children, and the plot crisis was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be, but it was handled well and the writing was fast paced and on point. The first person narration makes it harder for us to get a full vision of Chelsea, who had her life completely upended by her new responsibilities. Jake could walk away from the situation, she cannot, but we only hear her POV on what this means for her in her dialogue.

The sex is steamy (once they figure out how to avoid the moppets) and the supporting characters add to the story. Ms. Chase writes entertaining contemporary romances, and I look forward to reading more in the Legal Briefs series.

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Review--Traitor's Blade (Greatcoats, #1)

Traitor's Blade (Greatcoats, #1)Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A swashbuckling delight, sure to thrill fans of Dumas, Sabatini, and people who know that even though Basil Rathbone plays the villain, his sword work is what you want to watch in the film.

I loved the world building. Falcio Val Mond is a Greatcoat, one of the former king's magistrates, trained to sing the law and dispense justice in the king's name. But now the Greatcoats are in disgrace, scattered throughout a kingdom where the rule of law has been supplanted by the rule of venal, greedy men. De Castell does a masterful job of creating flawed but very human characters in Falcio and his companions, and the echoes of The Three Musketeers chime throughout the narrative. The fight scenes in particular are wonderfully done, and worth studying for craft and choreography.

I look forward to the further adventures of the Greatcoats, reveling in this grand fantasy with larger than life characters.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Another year of helping young readers

I started my fifth year with Reading Pals, a volunteer organization that matches adults to young readers needing some assistance. We spend an hour a reading books together, and it's one of the highlights of my week.

My pal this year is a young man in the 3rd Grade, and Jackson (not his real name) is already a veteran of the program, being matched with a pal last year as well. I usually have little girls as my Reading Pal, so it'll be fun and different having a boy. I try not to be stereotypical when it comes to gender roles, but having two sons, four brothers, and a husband, I know how most eight-year-old boys think. I anticipate more fart jokes in my future.

I also spent a few minutes with my Reading Pal from two years ago, who's now a poised young lady almost ready for middle school. We talked a bit about books she read this summer, and she asked if I would pass along my Smithsonian Magazines to her. I used to give her my copies each month and I'm pleased as punch that she wants to continue receiving them. Periodicals are a great way to keep kids interested in reading since they feature lush photography and shorter articles.

It's not always easy to break up my Wednesday to run across town to the school where I volunteer. Sometimes the kids would rather be out on the playground than hanging with some old lady. Sometimes I'd rather be on the playground than hanging out with a kid with attitude. But at the end of the day, if they close the book with satisfaction and say, "I liked that story!", it's all worth it.

After all, how will I get my next generation of readers if I don't prime the pump now and then?