Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ANNOUNCEMENT - My books now available on kindle

Hello All,

I hope the holiday was merry for everyone. I spent it getting my three novels into kindle format. Iwill have the other ereader formats available soon.

Thanks to all who visit my pages. I wish you the very best in the new year. Never give up on your dreams.


A Winter's Poem

Pull my cape close and tight
On the cold frightful night
Winter's snow upon the limbs
All your dreams are but whims
Alas it’s time for the plants to rest
So summer flowers are at their best

Huddle by the winter’s fire
For soon you’ll have your heart’s desire
And when the spring returns
You’ll bask in what your body yearns
To be warm again is what I require
Oh how it is my heart’s desire.

A lovely moon above my head
Winter’s gloom I can shed.
Flowers bloom again at my feet
I’m thankful for spring again to meet.

BOOK REVIEW - A Band of Gypsies

A group of exchange students meet up in turbulent Spain to spend seven months working there. We get to know them as they navigate a foreign country amid all the chaos and random attacks. However we never learn the backgrounds of the other interns even though we know they are full of enthusiasm and a sense of adventure.

Jaime Aragon flees the violence of Manila only to enter another country where violence is run rampant. The picturesque city he imagined to be arriving in is anything but – full of pollution and crumbling tattered buildings, but he grows to like the place that is made even more pleasant by his new-found friends.

He must learn Spanish quickly before he takes up his new job in two weeks time. This is all prearranged for him before he arrives in Bilbao as well as his assigned apartment space that accommodates different interns from across the globe every year. He manages to learn enough of the language to get him by until he learns more and he ends up excelling in his new job.

The small town called Bilbao that he lives in temporarily is in the Spanish Basque country where everywhere there are acts of terrorism going on. This book contains lots of action while also describing local events and characters in detail. For instance, there may be an ambush at a marketplace full of party goers celebrating some event. You never know when and where disaster may strike.

Two of the people in the group, Allison and Jaime, fall in love but are afraid to let go because they both have a terrifying past where people they love have met demise. Tragedy seems to follow this couple around.

This novel is well written and intriguing with all the festivals, bombings, love and lust between the interns, etc. The book is full of captivating stories and is a fast moving tale that will keep you reading to see what happens to all the people involved. The cover is colorful and is a good match for the story being told.

Be prepared for lots of excitement and adventures as our group of interns gets into all sorts of predicaments. I think perhaps it would have been nice to know about the other intern’s backgrounds, but we do get to see the background of Jaime and Allison as the story goes on and thus know why they have a slow moving relationship.

There were many Spanish words and phrases used in this book, but it was all translated so non-Spanish speaking readers could follow the story with no problem.

This is a novel of romance written from the male perspective. Jaime is smitten with Allison but too shy to tell her so. He finds her mysterious and beautiful and she captivates him, but she always seems to be out on dates with different Spaniards he meets. When he finally makes his move, the story is written around them as they yearn to uncover each others backgrounds.

BOOK REVIEW - Banshee Fires of Revenge

There are many misspelled words and left out words in this book, but the bones of the story are very good and it was an interesting read despite that.

The whole story centers around a haunted cottage in the woods that has sat abandoned since the 1960’s when an unsolved murder took place there. But the stories of it being haunted persisted way before that. There was one girl who escaped the murders by jumping from an upstairs window. When she’s found on the street the next day she claims amnesia and soon after leaves town only to return when her nephew is murdered in the same cottage thirty years later.

After the funeral she confesses to her sister she has been plagued by nightmares and knew she must come back to put an end to the banshee that lives in the cottage. At first no one believes her until the banshee decides to leave the woods after a hundred years and venture into town on some evenings.

The inspector on the case finds it hard to let it go because even though he doesn’t believe in ghosts he still has a niggling feeling there is something there that they are all missing. However, his boss tells him the case is closed and so his hands are tied until the nephew is murdered.

Add to this a nosey reporter trying to make a name for herself at the local paper by coming up with the big story. She seems to turn up where the inspector is and is doing a behind-the-scenes investigation of her own by talking to the local historian and questioning the gossipy neighbors.

The book is a bit predictable in places, but still interesting enough to keep reading with new action happening throughout.

This is haunting story with a surprise conclusion that would make a good Halloween read.


Caz Tallis restores rocking horses for a living. We learn quite a bit about the horses throughout the story. Caz isn’t used to living an intriguing life. She’s more like the nice, hard-working girl who puts a lot of hours in for little pay, but pursues her art for the sheer joy it gives her of seeing the completed rocking horses like the day they were first made. Many of them come to her as broken down wrecks with pieces missing from lots of wear and tear. She enjoys the calm peacefulness of restoring the horses in her workshop and the casual friendship she has with James, her childhood friend, who she sees at least once a week.

But suddenly her world is turned upside down when she finds a supposedly dead rock star and his dog on her roof terrace. She isn’t quite sure what to do with this scruffy but charismatic character. As Caz finds out the real story from Ric she agrees to help him find the actual murderer of the crime that he supposedly committed three years earlier – the murder of a band mate. The case has been closed long ago by the police who were convinced that Ric did it.

The more Caz talks to Ric the more she becomes certain he didn’t commit the crime. It doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous and polite and she feels herself falling for him. She ignores the pleas of James to turn him in to the police and decides its okay for Ric to stay at her place temporarily. Thus begins a page turning read.

Ric can be quite persuasive and although Caz is reluctant at first, she agrees to be a private eye and to question all the possible suspects for him. Of course she’s totally out of her element here and James is crazy with worry over her safety. In his mind it is bad enough with her letting Ric stay in her flat not really knowing if he is a murderer or not. Her sleuthing around leads to many dangerous situations and lots of action and there are times Caz wonders why she even agreed to help in the first place and perhaps her judgement is clouded by the growing feelings she has for Ric.

As the investigations continue, they both learn that there are people who will kill to keep this secret hidden.

All the characters aren’t as lovable as Caz, Ric and James, but they are wonderful and well drawn and fit in the novel perfectly. It’s easy to picture all these people and the nerve wracking situations they face as the story unfolds to a gripping conclusion.

This is a great book and not just for female readers.

BOOK REVIEW - The Mountaineer's Dance

The Russian “mail order” bride meets a lonely American bachelor. Claudia is working hard as a nurse’s aid trying to make ends meet while living with her mother and sister whose husband left her with two kids to support. The five are living in a run down apt. while Claudia commutes by bus on a two hour journey to work everyday at Ambrosi Hospital a couple of towns away. Dr. Maddiwar, a new Indian doctor notices all the extra things Claudia does for the patients and the dedication she gives to her nursing. Ultimately, she falls for her boss, the Indian doctor, and moves in with him, glad to be out of the squalor she’s been living in. He has a deluxe and roomy apt. near the hospital. However this romance is short lived and she ends up back at the apt. with her mom and sister because the Indian doctor’s wife is coming for a visit. Once back home Claudia’s sister, Marina, talks her into entering her picture and info into a Russian “mail order” bride’s catalogue, which Claudia isn’t too thrilled about. Marina was always the pretty one and she was just ordinary and thinks it would be a waste of time. Nevertheless, she follows Marina’s advice.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in America there is Freddie, a cab driver in NYC that never has fit in with the family. He lacks self esteem and keeps trying to impress his parents through his various endeavors. They are somewhat appalled when he takes the job of driving a cab, but he becomes quite a good cab driver and learns all the ins and outs of the business. After dropping off a fare he finds a catalogue about “mail order” brides. He stuffs it away to look at later and when he does he decides to write to Claudia whose picture catches his eye because she’s different than the other girls and isn’t all made up and blonde like so many of the available women in the magazine. Claudia’s family is shocked when she gets a letter from Freddie in NY. After corresponding they decide to meet so Freddie goes to Russia on a tour sponsored by the people who put out the catalogue. Everyone in the small dilapidated village Claudia and her family live in become very excited at the thought of an American coming to visit, so in anticipation of Freddie’s arrival they go all out to prepare a feast for him

Deciding he needs a wife to impress his parents, Freddie ends up taking Claudia back to America where they marry and live in a small apt in NYC. She quickly makes friends with other Russians immigrants in town and starts to fit right in to her new life while Freddie is out driving his cab. All is well and good until Freddie decides it’s time to stop driving the cab, get a better job and to move closer to his parents. Of course by then he can afford the big house with the manicured gardens and swimming pool, etc., but Claudia is anything but happy. She had to leave all her new-found friends behind and there is no one to talk to in the area of big estate homes. She had grown used to the lifestyle of sitting around talking to your neighbors daily and seeing children playing in the street and the new environment was very sterile to her with not a soul around and something she can’t get used to. Of course there is a big fight and she feels awful because Freddy has given her money to send home to her mom and sister all this time.

They take off in separate cars after storming out of the big, new house. You’ll have to read this book to find out if Claudia and Freddie can pull their relationship together. This is an interesting, worthwhile read and is well written.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

BOOK REVIEW – No Cure for the Broken Hearted

No Cure For The Broken Hearted This is a somewhat predictable but enjoyable story about a childhood romance that never really died away. Nick and Katherine met one summer as teenagers while vacationing at the lake. Nick’s mother let Katherine know she was beneath her son when she was invited to their big estate for tea. They had servants for everything and it was all so formal that Katherine felt very out of place. Nick got on well with her parents and yet she found his mother “scary” and it was soon after this that his mother sent Nick back to the city, so there were no more daily visits to the ice cream shop where she worked and she didn’t hear from him again until years later even though they both promised to stay in contact after the summer ended.
As Katherine grew up she immersed herself in school and then in work and never left any time for relationships. She becomes a world class, highly respected architect. One day years later Nick walks back into her life and asks her to design his dream home at the lake where they met. Of course by this time Nick is quite the playboy and has travelled all over the world. Because of the family wealth there was always plenty of news about his escapades in the tabloids and newspapers. All the memories of that summer came flooding back to Katherine and at first she didn’t want to get involved in designing his house, however she changes her mind after he calls her to bail him out of jail instead of calling his fiancĂ©. The picture of her and Nick taken by the paparazzi is spread all over the front page and this causes the fiancĂ© to burst into her office and throw a fit as she waves her huge engagement ring in the air while she’s ranting at Katherine about stealing her man.
This is a good clean read in the romance department, which you can’t say about all books out there. Instead of sex scenes this book delves into the minds and feelings of the characters. It’s a sweet story about two people who meet again as adults. Katherine is a bit disheartened in the beginning and pretty indecisive about her feelings for Nick. At first she wanted to have nothing further to do with Nick after he never stayed in touch with her after their summer romance years before. Besides he wasn’t the sort of man you could take seriously anyway – or was he?
Nick doesn’t realize she still has feelings from long ago and she’s a bit hurt at his disappearance from her life after he went back home after that summer at the lake. Nick is somewhat immature and has always followed the dreams of his family and isn’t really the person he wants to be. He was a troubled teen and is still troubled as an adult. Will he find the courage to break away from what his family expects of him?
There are characters in this book that are easy to hate as you route for Nick and Katherine to get back together like they were as teenagers. This book moved along at a slow pace and even with the couple of typing errors it was a very enjoyable read.


I'm really astonished at what Americans find important. Or at least should I say "the people in power find important?" Here there are thousands of Americans living in poverty and starving and the government is worried about what light bulbs we all use? I'm just amazed and wonder if I should move out of the USA and not for the first time.

We truly have people starving over here, so many out of work and we are told to use environmentally safe light bulbs? I think the government has their priorities mixed up. I would be trying to find more jobs for the American people and trying to help with the things everyone has to deal with on a daily basis. To heck with light bulbs! I'm sure the people who can barely put food on the table are worried about environmentally friendly light bulbs.

It really pisses me off and I want to go out and buy and hoard light bulbs like the lady I read about that had a whole room of them, enough to last her a lifetime.

Tell me, if you're reading this, what do you think?


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BOOK REVIEW - Tales from a Mountain City by Quynh Dao

Wow! What a story! This is a true account about a family during the Vietnam War and the rise of Communism. This powerful story is told by one of the daughters in the family. The writing of this memoir is excellent and contains many bits of history as well as family stories.

When the Communists move into Vietnam this family is thrown out of their house with nowhere to go. The troops want to use their house as a base for their operations and living quarters. The family finally finds refuge with a lady that the mother of the family had done business with in the past. They stay in the attic of her house along with another family who has fled their home. Many people lost homes to the troops. You were especially in danger of being homeless if you were wealthy and had a big house. Everyone was experiencing a time of great upheaval with normal daily life abruptly changed. Books were burned in the streets and Communists broadcasts blared out through speakers erected in the towns and on the streets.

The author shows how they had to live during this turbulent time, accounting for every place they went and told if and when they could come and go. At this time a lot of brainwashing began with the children having to learn slogans at school as well as having to dig trenches and go on other assignments as needed to help the troops instead of studying regular school subjects. At a certain age everyone had to fill out a form called "the declaration of personal background," which was basically your whole family history. The communists wanted to find all the counter-revolutionaries in the country. These undesirables were then either executed or sent to prisons, or as they called it "re-education camps" until they were reformed. Many friends and relatives were sent to prison to be reprogrammed. Some fled to the woods where a lot of them perished because of disease and lack of food. Luckily most of this family escaped that fate, although as a teen the author was taken from her home in the middle of the night by the soldiers with no explanation to her parents as to why. When taken by the cadres you never knew if you would be reunited with your family or not.

The soldiers would come along and take the young people to do various tasks for them. The author was in a group of other girls who had to pick tea at a secret location for a month. Others taken weren't as lucky as they had to dig up land mines, etc. Living during this time was quite dangerous. Everything was very uncertain and food was terribly scarce. Many people starved to death. Families would set up stands to sell what they could, hoping to make enough money to buy rice and other necessities.

This family, along with many of the Vietnamese people, witnessed some dreadful scenes as people were executed and everyone lived in fear from day to day. Bombs, air raids and gunfire became a regular occurrence.

This is a heart wrenching story of sacrifice and a family's hope to escape the horrible atrocities they had to live with everyday. This book also contains some wonderful old family photos.

Some of the things in this book are shocking and some will make you mad because you really care about this family and what happens to them. Quynh Dao shares a couple of funny moments as well, which lightens the mood of this book. I highly recommend this behind the scenes look into the lives of real people living under Communist rule.

Sorry to be so sporadic with my posting here

I had to have major emergency surgery a couple months ago so it's taken awhile for me to get back into the swing of things. I hope to get caught up soon and will be posting some more book reviews.

If any of you are authors I encourage you to sign your book/books up for a FREE review. It does take awhile to get to your book and have it read but it is definitely worth it because the review gets posted to your Amazon book page as well as to a couple of independent blogs.

Most genres are allowed by the site but not all. Those excluded and a few rules are listed at the top of the page. It only takes a minute to put your book on the list along with a link to your book, the genre and a brief synopsis.

Good luck everyone! Here is the link. Now go and check it out!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

BOOK REVIEW - Growing up in Mississippi

This book is a memoir about growing up working on the cotton plantations in Mississippi. Not only did this family struggle because they lived in poverty, but they were also black and living in the south when African Americans were discriminated against and looked down on just because of their color.

When I read the synopsis for this book it sparked my interest because I was also raised on a cotton farm in the south in the 50's. I was interested in Bertha's story. I thought perhaps I could relate to what happened to her, not because I'm black but because we were also very poor back then and did our share of picking cotton when we weren't in school. I also knew very well what blacks were treated like in the south during that time.

Some of the things the author describes are horrible and are certainly things that no one should have to witness and certainly not a child. They are things that should have never happened, but most of the people in the south in those times were raised with a prejudiced attitude. It's very unfortunate when we can't just view everyone as human beings regardless of our differences. Today things have changed for the better, which is a good thing. It was hard enough growing up in poverty but I think it was downright dangerous to be a person of color in the 50's and even the 60's. You never knew when someone would shoot you dead for no reason at all.

As a reader we get to look inside the plain houses this family lived in; live the turmoil in their lives, hear the tales of what they ate, which was sometimes very little. They worked hard all day everyday and lied in their beds at night listening to the rats and the snakes in the walls. But they weren't without a few fun childhood moments. They would sneak out of the house when their mother was gone and take the boat out and go wading in the rivers, never once thinking of the dangers of snakes swimming in the same waters. My siblings and I used to wade in the muddy ditches too when we were growing up and lie in bed listening to the rats in the walls of the sharecropper's shack we lived in until I was about 13.

I could relate to this story on several levels. There was a lot of poverty in the south with people drifting here and there to find work. I found this book to be an enlightening read and a sad story. This family was treated so badly, but it's also uplifting because they stuck together through everything they had to endure and rose above the poverty and the prejudice after the civil rights movement. The author was able to go to college, which was a childhood dream, and graduate with a degree.

There wasn't a father figure present, but Bertha and her siblings had a strong mother who wanted the best for her four kids and she moved them around a lot to different plantations as she tried to give them the best life she could under the circumstances. This memoir also has some nice family photos. I would recommend this book to anyone who really wants to see what life was like back then from someone who knows firsthand. The reader can get a good feel for the characters and the places by all the description in the story. I felt like I was right there with Bertha, laughing and crying along with her. The cover on this book is a collage of family photos and quite the appropriate choice.

Just finished my first magazine

And what a job that was! I had been working on this for about three months and never realized what a job it is to put a magazine together. I began to wonder if I had taken on a job too big to handle, but it felt awfully good to get it done and was quite an acconplishment. Perhaps I'll have a greater appreciation for magazines now although I love books much more.

This job got delayed several times. I had to have emergency surgery and it was one thing and then another after that.

Of course I'm way hehind on my bloggiong posts. I have several book reviews to post and other things.

And it's hot here in the desert being summer and all, although we've had it lucky this year overall as far as temps go. Usually several weeks in the triple digits by this time of year and we've only had 3-4 days is all.

Take care everyone.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Entered the ABNA contest for this year late Sun night. I stayed up until it was midnight EST but of course I would have been up anyway being the night owl that I am. I couldn't fill out any of the entry form until I had made a last minute check of all my files, even though I had already checked them a dozen times for the right formatting, as if I thought it would somehow change when I wasn't looking. I spend way too much time checking things several times. Maybe I do suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. But that's a whole other subject entirely.

Now we all play the waiting game as they read and critique our pitches to see if we even move forward to the next round of the contest when our excerpts will be read. I'm hoping to make it that far at least.

I plan on working on my works on progress while this contest is going on. Now we'll see how far I get on any of that stuff. If things go the way they usually do around here it won't be as far as I think or I'd like. I'm working on four or five projects, so with any luck I'll get one of them finished this year.

Today I got sidetracked unloading and moving the contents of a storage building. All that physical labor about wore me out. I went and had Mexican food after that and don't have the energy for anything else today. I was starving after that ordeal as I'd only had a bowl of cereal this morning.

Once home again, I fed the cats and hopped on the computer to do my email. Then had to doctor my problem child. This one cat I have chews on herself and always gets a rash. I thought I needed to post on this blog too before I'm neglecting it again. My main intent right now is posting updates about the contest for anyone reading this.

There seem to be a lot of entries in the fantasy or sci-fi category from all the excerpts I read before the contest started. The competition seems to be fierce in those genres. I'm not sure how well those are liked by the judges either. We haven't had a fantasy or sci-fi piece win the competition in the last three years of this contest, but every year is a new contest so way too early to give up hope on that.

I've got to go and get my butt to bed after I drink a pitcher of water. I'm so dehydrated after the storage building ordeal today. I'm not used to going that long without water. I feel like I'm spitting cotton balls tonight (as my grandmother used to say.)

Blessings all,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Proofreading Now Available

I have added proofreading to my website and will be offering my eyes to read your work. I know a second set of eyes can be invaluable after you've read your novel a jillion times. Its easy to skip right over things that someone else will see. I will check for punctuation and consistency as well as spelling errors.

I want to especially help the indie writers out there in your goal to become published authors. I'm offering my services for below the average price for proofreading to keep it affordable. I hope you will check out my website for more info:

Blessings to all,

It's Contest Time Again

Well its contest time again. I've been working on that for the past month and ignoring this blog again. Shame on me but this time of year all of us are eating and breathing this contest. Getting all my stuff in order as well as helping others with theirs and answering questions. In less than a week now we'll all be sitting back waiting to see if we made the first cut.

I feel fairly confident in my entry but you never know from year to year how things will go. As we all know, writing is very subjective and sometimes it seems like it just takes the right person seeing it. So you could have something fantastic and if it isn't the reviewers cup of tea, you get the boot before the thing gets started. You definitely have to have something unique and interesting to along with superb writing skills.

Fantasy is what I write and it has never won this contest. Will this be the year for a fantasy manuscript to take the prize? We can only hope so. I thought about writing in a different genre but fantasy is what I do best, however I have started a couple of other novels. One is a literary fiction piece and the other is a mystery. I have no idea if and when I'll finish them and what shape they'll be in when I do. You never know what genre the publisher is looking for from year to year, but it seems so far a human interest story has taken the top prize except for the first contest when it was a mystery story. But we can't give up hope. I'll be happy if I just advance a few rounds in the contest even if I don't win. You meet a great bunch of people on the boards and we all share with each other, so its also about camaraderie as well as entering the contest.

I'm entering last year's novel "Saving the Rainbow." I feel confident its a fairly original idea and that counts a lot. And I didn't have anything else ready anyway. I wasn't about to put myself through the stress of finishing and polishing in a months time. I did that last year and it was very hectic.

I'll keep updates posted here as things go along.

Blessings everyone.