Month: January 2015
Chickens, Hawks and Grumpy Goats by S.A. Molteni is a short book of short stories and essays based upon real life experiences on a hobby farm in Florida that the author shares with her spouse.
A delightful collection of tales, some from the point of view of the animals, that highlight the ups and downs of living on a hobby farm, this book could be three times longer and I’d still enjoy reading it. In fact, I think I’d like it even more if it was longer, because the stories are so well written and entertaining. The story of the aftermath of Chicken Little’s ‘sky is falling,’ episode, “Chicken Little in Therapy,” was my favorite. The opening story, ‘Surviving the Winter,’ had me fooled until the mid-point, when I realized that it was being told from the point of view of a Chicken Hawk, and even though it had a sad ending, I found myself chuckling wryly at parts. Others are nonfiction accounts of events that significantly affected the author, and she gets that impact across in her prose with great effect.
Molteni is a master story teller who conveys a sense of reality in her stories, even when the main character is an animal. After reading this book, you’ll find yourself wondering if maybe it wouldn’t be nice to have a little piece of the countryside to call your own – until you read the bonus story at the end, and realize that life in the country is not all bucolic scenery and laughs.
Kudos to the author for a fun read and four stars.
Originally posted on The Story Reading Ape Blog.
Adriel Pacheco is a witch. For those who believe in witches, and don’t want to burn them at the stake, she is the source of spells and incantations – often asked to do the impossible. When Dolores Garcia asks her to prepare a protection spell against a werewolf, Adriel thinks it’s a routine job, until she finds out that Dolores wants the spell to bind the human side of the werewolf to her. Despite Adriel’s warning, she goes ahead, and ends up ripped to death by her intended paramour – it seems werewolves don’t like efforts to magically bind them.
Things get dicey for Adriel when her Indian policeman ‘friend,’ White Feather, informs her that Dolores is not the first victim of a vicious werewolf attack.
Under Witch Moon by Maria E. Schneider is an entertaining look at witchcraft, at turns chilling and funny. One can’t help but feel attracted to Adriel, in the same way White Feather is attracted to his ‘Merlin,’ which is the name he knows her by until things get intimate.
I received a free copy of Under Witch Moon, and thoroughly enjoyed it. A four-star book.
In 1947, at the age of 15, Jezer Kornfield, a non-observant Jew, makes his way to Moscow, seeking to join the Red Army. When two soldiers, as a joke, give him directions to KGB headquarters at Lubyanka instead of the army recruiting station, he meets Colonel Michel Petrichova, a Spetsnaz officer, who sees potential in the undersized youngster.
Taking the young Jez under his wings, Petrichova sends him for special training where he meets Anna Puchinsky, another trainee, and Jez finds, in addition to his love for army life, the love of his life. After training, though, Jez and Anna are sent their separate ways, him to service in the Soviet Union’s wars abroad, and her into limbo as far as Jez knows.
In the field, Jez’s career takes off like a comet, and he’s soon a lieutenant assigned to KGB headquarters. From this point, his life takes a series of strange and deadly turns. First, his sisters are arrested when they take part in a demonstration, and Jez violates his oath as a soldier and helps them flee the country. This brings him to the attention of Otto Mitrokhin, a corrupt KGB officer with a deep hatred of Jews. Mitrokhin at first uses Jez’s skills to further his own corrupt plans, and then sets himself the mission of bringing Jez down.
Birth of an Assassin by Rik Stone is a riveting tale of life in Soviet Russia as those who, though they see the eventual demise of Communism, still love their country, are pitted against those who are only in it for gain. He doesn’t know who to trust as he finds himself hunted by the very army he loves, and torn between love for his family and love for Anna, who is also playing a deadly game.
Stone weaves a compelling tale of love, honor, and betrayal as he takes us into the underbelly of a country in turmoil. Full of action and drama, this is a book that, once you start, you will not be able to put down until the final climactic confrontation.
Five stars, only because I can’t give it six.
If it’s as good as the last one, this is a keeper.
Insurance claims investigator Harry Reese, and his wife Emmie, are off to Washington, DC to investigate a series of burglaries of jewelry from several prominent citizens of the District. Harry knows, though, that since Emmie has insisted on accompanying him there’s likely to be corpses involved because the woman is absolutely fascinated by the prospect of finding bodies littering the scene.
What they find after arriving is far more than simple insurance fraud. Harry finds himself neck-deep in a land speculation scheme and a series of murders that stretch from New York City to the nation’s capital.
Kalorama Shakedown by Robert Bruce Stewart is a humorous mystery set in Washington, DC shortly after the assassination of President McKinley. Rich in historical detail of the era and populated by an intriguing cast of the most unusual characters a reader could ever imagine. Follow Harry as he wends his way through a maze of clues, misdirection, and missteps – until he finally stumbles his way to the answer.
A tantalizing tale filled with surprises from beginning to end.
I’d like to give this one five stars, but a few too many formatting errors knocks it down to four. Still, though, a thoroughly enjoyable read.
First rate CSI Reilly Steel has relocated from San Francisco to Dublin, Ireland to be near her father who has gone back to his home country. Her job in Dublin is to bring the police crime lab there up to first class standards, a task made harder by a lazy, by-the-books boss who resents her, and Irish cops who resent having a meddling American in their midst.
When a series of deaths present puzzling clues, making the incidents seem to Reilly more than routine she finds an ally in Detective Chris Delaney. When the bodies start piling up, convincing her that they’re dealing with a particularly vicious serial killer, Reilly’s skill is tested to its limit, and demons of her past come back to haunt her.
I received a free copy of Taboo by Casey Hill, the first in the CSI Reilly thriller series. Hill has created a compelling character in Reilly Steel, and weaves technical details into the story in an interesting way. She also inserts clues in a way to keep the reader guessing until the story is almost concluded – and even after a suspect is identified (this will catch readers by surprise), the outcome is far from certain until it sneaks up on you. This story left me wanting to read more about the character.
I give this book four stars.
This week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is the chorus from the song, ‘You are My Sunshine.’ That’s hard one, because there are so many possible interpretations, but here’s my attempt. I took her advice and did a play on the word ‘dear.’
If you like stories that explore the darker side of human nature, you’ll enjoy reading Flesh Worn Stone by John Burks, Jr. I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
Steven Alexander awakes in a cage along with five other people, including his wife, Rebecca. He has no idea where they are, or how they came there, only remembering that a group of masked men invaded his Houston home, killed his two sons, and abducted him and Rebecca. Slowly, he comes to realize that he has been transported to a living hell, a place where hundreds of other similar captives are forced to participate in the Game – a competition to the death, where one must win in order to survive, and where losers become the meal of the day.
Determined not only to survive, but to get vengeance for his son’s deaths, and escape, Steven learns that a person is capable of doing things that are so far from the reality that he grew up in, he finds himself on the verge of losing his mind, and his humanity. Most disturbing, though, is his discovery that his fellow captives are not what they first appear to be.
Burks weaves a tale that is not for the faint of heart or overly sensitive. Descriptions of the Game’s competitions, and their aftermath, are graphic and disturbing. He takes us deeper into the human psyche than will be comfortable for some readers, but if your stomach can take it, the insight gained is worth the journey.
The ending of this book will disappoint some, but sets readers up well for the next in the series. Entertaining is hardly an appropriate word for Flesh Worn Stone. Chilling is perhaps a better description.
Well-written, it has a few too many typos, misspellings, and formatting errors, so I can only give it three stars.
If you like vampire stories, you have to read this.
The week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is ‘Express Yourself. Now, that’s a hard one. How, among all the photos I’ve taken over the years, do I find one that expresses me or my ideas? I rifled through my archives, though, and came up with this. What do you think?
Leilani Texeira is a cop in Hilo, Hawaii. When she and her partner, Pono, while on a routine vandalism call, find two drowned girls, she’s pitched headlong into a case that reaches far beyond the small town in which she lives. Lei knows one of the victims, and feels compelled to step out of her routine patrol cop role and help investigate the death. The lead detective, Michael Stevens, a former LA cop with secrets of his own, is at first reluctant to accept her help, but with few other resources at his disposal is forced to take her on – a relationship that quickly becomes personal.
Blood Orchids by Toby Neal, which I received a free copy of in exchange for my review, is a chilling tale of evil deeds in a small Hawaiian town, told in a style that will keep you glued to the page from start to finish. Filled with suspense and colorful descriptions of aspects of our 50th state that will be unfamiliar to mainlanders, Blood Orchids spins a tale of crime and secret emotions that sets a new standard for the mystery/thriller genre. It starts with action that gets even tenser when Lei becomes the killer’s next target. The deeper she delves into the case, the more the threads of her past become interlaced with current events. She doesn’t know who she can trust – including herself.
In this tale, Neal demonstrates her mastery of the genre, and her understanding of the depths of the human psyche. A story well worth reading – that will keep you guessing from beginning to end, and make you salivate in anticipation of Lei’s next adventure. I give Blood Orchids four stars.
The tenth book in my Buffalo Soldier series, Range War will launch soon. I’d like to share the cover I’ve chosen for this volume, which is the story of Ninth Cavalry Sergeant Ben Carter and his special detachment. They are caught in the middle of a dispute between cattlemen and sheep ranchers – with a gang of hired gunmen to complicate the mix.
Taran Collins is a loner. He doesn’t particularly like anyone, Indians included, but when he sees an Indian woman and an old injured Indian man pursued by a mob of cowboys, his hatred of those who abuse the weak trumps his other dislikes, and he intervenes to save them He soon finds himself outnumbered and about to be done in, but a strange orb, shining brightly, comes to his rescue. The old man delivers a cryptic message, and then disappears.
Later Taran is bitten by a deadly snake, he passes out, to wake up, miraculously alive, in the town of Orlaca. Strange occurrence piles on top of yet another strange occurrence, as Taran discovers that there’s more to the world than he’d previously known – the Skin Walkers being the oddest perhaps.
Fire Wind by Guy Stanton III is the story of the Old West meeting the Next Frontier, as aliens and cowboys contend for supremacy and survival. Taran’s faith is tested again and again, as he gets to know what he’s really made of.
A cross-genre novel, mixing western, religion, and science fiction, Stanton has created a story that I find fairly interesting. In some cases, I didn’t find the dialogue too credible, but it was still an entertaining read. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. An interesting story, but the plot is not as strong as it could be, and some of the dialogue is also weak, so I give it three stars.
Some outstanding advice for writers.
Martha Alderson’s Blockbuster Plots: Pure and Simple (Illusion Press 2004) presents step-by-step strategies to build your story, maximize the impact of scenes and provide depth to the plot. She focuses not on the ordinary plot, but the one that will push you to the top of the pile, make your book a must-read among all others.The difference in simple terms is you must want to write a story that will go viral (maybe make you a lot of money) rather than simply tell a story you feel must be told. I’ve read two other books for would-be writers that address this unique animal:
Alderson explains it differently–less narrative and more a structured approach via what she calls a ‘Scene Tracker’. This handy spreadsheet includes significant elements required for each scene, such as:
- date of scene
- scene summary
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Ask an Editor: Stuart Whatley, Huffington Post Associate Blog Editor gives the inside info on how to get published
Stuart Whatley is a Huffington Post Associate Blog Editor in the Washington D.C. bureau. Other than HuffPost, his writing has appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Guardian, TruthDig.com, The American Prospect, Free Inquiry and other outlets. He spoke with OpEd Project Intern Ravenna Koenig about what he looks for in a good op-ed, what’s up next for the Huffington Post, and the most important lesson he’s learned about submitting opinion pieces.
Ravenna Koenig: What advice would you give to people looking to get published by the HuffPost?
Stuart Whatley: The most important thing is speaking from a perspective where you have credibility. A lot of the pitches we get are from people who read the newspaper, make observations and become kind of armchair experts… and you can do that—in some ways it’s the only way to start—but at the end of the day it kind of puts you at a…
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A really helpful cheat sheet to help you understand how to show, not tell.
As writers, we’re often told how important it is to “show, don’t tell” with our words. The funny thing is, it can be easier to write “tell” rather than “show”, but it’s waaaay better to READ “show” than it is to read “tell”. And really, as someone who spends a lot of time reading, I kinda hate it when I read writing that does more telling than showing, because it almost makes me feel dumb, you know? It sends the message that the writer thinks that to get their story across then they have to describe everything to the point that there’s no room left for my imagination to enjoy the creativity of filling in any gaps…
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