Review of ‘The Plant Lady Cracks a Nut’

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The plant lady, Eden Tywyn, is still trying to escape her past. Recuperating from her adventures in finding out who was behind sabotage at the mall where she works in Packard Falls, she’s pulled into yet another adventure by her new BFF, Ronnie Landau. When strange things start happening, she’s unsure if it’s a blast from her past, or something even more sinister.

The Plant Lady Cracks a Nut is Gwen Pankhurst’s second book in the Plant Lady series, and it’s just as wacky as book one. Eden and her band of oddball friends (two- and four-legged) are forced to deal with efforts to bring development to the peaceful oasis of Packard Falls, while Eden continues to cope with the unwanted attention of her maybe not dead husband’s family.

Humorous and scary at the same time, this is great fireside reading. I received a free copy of this book, and I give this one four stars.

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Review of ‘How to Write a Novel the Easy Way’

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Because I know that a lot of the readers of these reviews are authors themselves, and because, as a writer, I happen to have a large collection of books on writing, I’ve decided to review some of them as a service to my readers. One of my favorite how-to books, and one that has been in my library for some time, is How to Write a Novel the Easy Way by Jim Driver with Jack Davies.

A brief book by an author, editor, and publisher in the UK, this book discusses the pulp fiction method of writing, harking back to the 50s and 60s, the heyday of pulp fiction, when authors cranked out book after book, not exactly literary fiction, but well-crafted stories for the broadest possible audience. The authors describe easy-to-apply methods for writing stories that will entertain readers, which, at the end of the day is what we writers really want to do.

From character development to outlining and writing your book, you will find this a handy reference for your own shelves. They take the mystery out of mystery writing, and put the romance in your bodice-rippers. I purchased this book from Amazon so long ago, it’s no longer listed in my purchases. While I spend most of my time writing, or reading books for review, these days, I hadn’t picked it up in a long time, but when I did, I wasn’t surprised to find that there were still things I could learn from it.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Basic Cartooning’

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If you like doodling and drawing cartoons, you might benefit from some basic instructions. Basic Cartooning by Maury Aaseng, follows the methods developed 90 years ago by artist, Walter Foster, at his home in Laguna Beach, California. It begins with materials and moves on to the basic shapes needed to make cartoons. Included is information on using digital techniques, not available during Foster’s time, and the process for developing panels and strips.

As useful as it is for beginners, I also found it a good refresher myself, to build on the techniques I developed during my time as a newspaper editorial cartoonist in the 1970s. This one is a must for your art reference library.

I’ve had this book in my own reference library for quite some time. Lately, I’ve been dabbling in my studio, working on some humorous illustrations for my books, and I came across it. I realized that I’d never reviewed this one, and decided it would be useful for budding artists out there to know about.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Watercolor Made Easy: 30-Minute Landscapes’

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Watercolor Made Easy: 30-Minute Landscapes by Paul Talbot-Greaves is a comprehensive guide to painting landscapes in watercolor, compositions that can be completed in 30 minutes or less. This handy how-to book is useful for beginners and experienced painters alike, and will add new life to your art.

I purchased this book from Amazon several years ago, and have read it several times. I finally decided to post a review to let other artists know of this valuable book.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Painting Water in Watercolour’

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Whether you’re a beginning artist, or a more experienced one who wants to expand your techniques, Painting Water in Watercolour by Terry Harrison is a must-have for your art reference library. Harrison offers a cookbook of detailed techniques for painting any water scene, from puddles in a country lane to a raging surf. The series of 30-minute exercises and the step-by-step projects at the end of the book will have you painting fantastic marine scenes in no time.

I give Harrison five stars for an amazingly effective book.

‘Vixen’ nominated for Readers Choice Award

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Vixen  I am excited to announce that my novel, Vixen, has been nominated for the Readers Choice Award in the Historical Fiction Category. I encourage all of my readers to go to www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-voting/ and go to category 14 (Historical Fiction) and vote for it. Vixen can be found near the bottom of the category page. Your vote will be greatly appreciated. Again, a reminder, go to    www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-voting/ and vote.

Review of ‘Writing at Work’

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Writing at Work: Professional Writing Skills for People on the Job by Edward L. Smith and Stephen A. Bernhardt is a comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to improve writing skills at work. It covers everything from grammar to improving the appearance of your writing. I use this book in connection with a summer writing workshop on professional writing that I conduct for select college seniors interested in careers in foreign affairs. I’ve found it to be a handy guide, in conjunction with a style guide, to assist students in the task of improving their writing skills.

Whether used for teaching others, or as an individual self-help guide, for the young professional, this book should have a prominent place in the reference library.

I give this handy reference five stars.

Review of ‘Not Before Midnight’

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Lake County, Oregon Sheriff Bud Blair is in the dumps. His dog, Molly, is dying, and Nancy Sixkiller, his fiancée, has dumped him. When his friend and old partner, Del BeBe, needs his help to protect a preacher who is being targeted by Muslim radicals, he comes back to life. Bullets fly and emotions are aroused as Bud and Del team up with the new and old women in their lives, and have to deal with FBI agents (some crooked) and a rogue biker gang bent on murder.

 

Not Before Midnight by Rod Collins is the fifth book in the Sheriff Bud Blair series, and it is a great read if you want to be entertained with a fast-paced mystery that combines epic descriptions of Oregon’s  high country, old-west attitudes, and exciting gunfights.

 

I received a free copy of this book, and give it a resounding four stars for the sheer entertainment value.

Review of ‘L-2011’

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In the summer of 2011, riots broke out in London in response to the police shooting of a young black man under questionable circumstances. As the riots continue, two on-line personalities take to the airwaves, battling for the future of the city. Chester George, a masked man whose identity is unknown, uses YouTube to call for general anarchy by the ‘real’ citizens against corrupt authority, while Sadie Hobbs, a controversial blogger and TV reality star calls for the ‘normal’ citizens to rise up and take the city back from the ‘feral’ thugs.

While the shooting incident and subsequent rioting are actual events, from that point on, L-2011 by Mark Gillespie, is pure alternate history. What if, it asks, the riots never stopped? It then follows events, from a national level to the viewpoint of Mack Walker, a 16-year-old Scot, newly arrived in London from Edinburgh, as he gets caught up in the course of events and joins the crowd for the final showdown that will determine the fate of a nation.

A twisted tale, L-2011 not only shows the sometimes-corrosive effect of social media, but delves into the psychological state of those affected. A chilling story that will cause you to think about the current state of the world we live in, and ask yourself, ‘what if this is not fiction, but reality waiting to happen?

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Extreme Heat Warning’

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FBI agents Roger Dance and Paul Casey must reopen what they thought was a closed case. Killers, James Devon and William Patterson, with high-level help, have escaped on the eve of their trials, and their trail leads to the teeming streets and steaming swamps in and around New Orleans. The two agents, with the help of a band of angels, must brave voodoo, corruption, and doubt as they pursue two of the deadliest perps they’ve ever encountered.

Extreme Heat Warning by Vicki Graybosch, et al follows them as they cope with things they were never taught at Quantico. This is book 2 of the Shallow End Gals series, and I have to admit the plot is fascinating. The prose, however, tends to choppiness, and the switches from third to first person are confusing at first. A bit too much telling, and not enough showing for a story that begs to be ‘shown,’ with the exotic locales and quirky characters—main and supporting.

I worked my way through it, and, unfortunately, found the ending a bit too murky for my taste. I give this one three stars, but must admit, it does show promise.

‘Vixen’ Nominated for 2017 Readers Choice Award

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Vixen  I am excited to announce that my historical novel, Vixen, has been nominated for the 2017 Readers Choice Award in the Historical Fiction category. Please go to www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-vote/ and cast your vote. It will be greatly appreciated.

Review of ‘Frozen Past’

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Fairfax County homicide detective Jaxon Jennings is burned out, has been since the murder of his child and the breakup of his marriage. When the body of a young boy is found under the ice of a neighborhood pool, and he and his partner are called to investigate, his past comes back to haunt him. With the lives of a group of local teens on the line, Jaxon must get control of himself to save them—and himself.

Frozen Past by Richard C. Hale is a thriller with a flawed hero and a merciless killer, and action that moves at a frenetic pace from explosive start to even more explosive finish. Once you start reading this book, you won’t be able to put it down, and when you’re done, you’ll never look at your quiet suburban neighborhood in quite same the light again.

I give this one an easy five stars.

Review of ‘Mindspeak’

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Lexi Matthews is a 17-year-old with two secrets she conceals from her classmates at her elite boarding school—she’s the daughter of a famous scientist, and she is able to influence others with her mind. When Jack DeWeese arrives as a new student, Lexi’s life is turned upside down. First, Jack heals her broken wrist with a touch of his hand, and secondly, he seems to know all about her and her secrets. When her father disappears, and she finds herself being pursued by someone who is able to get inside her mind, her relationship with Jack enters a new phase, and she’s not sure if she can trust him, or anyone else for that matter.

Mindspeak by Heather Sunseri is a science fiction thriller combined with young romance, with a plot that is as twisted as your mind will be as you read it. An interesting, and thought-provoking, read.

The ending left a bit too much out. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘5th Floor Below’

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While conducting research on space debris at a top-secret facility near Haifa, Dr. Naama Kashti is exposed to an unknown substance that triggers rapid changes in her body, leading to the belief that she has stumbled upon the secret to immortality. Her discovery causes shock waves around the world, with foreign intelligence agencies and the world religious communities shaken to their cores.

5th Floor Below by Manahem Misgav is a riveting techno thriller that follows Naama and her friends and family as they come to grips with a discovery that can change the history of humanity, but that also causes seismic changes in their personal lives. A fascinating story translated from Hebrew, it has a few glitches, no doubt caused by slight errors in translation, it combines futuristic sci-fi with international intrigue and voyages of personal discovery. I was also a bit disappointed at the inconclusive ending.

I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Roller Coaster in Tehran’

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Amalia Tavon is a wife and mother. She’s also an expert roller coaster engineer and an adventure junkie. When she’s forced to join Mossad in order to save her family from financial ruin after her husband loses out on a risky venture, she finds her roles in conflict. Sent under cover to Iran, ostensibly to help build a giant amusement park, she finds that the true targets of her mission are not the inhuman animals she’s been led to believe they are. When her eldest son is killed in Israel under suspicious circumstances, her sense of loyalty is put into question, and in order to survive, she finds that she must deceive not only her Iranian targets, but her Mossad bosses.

Roller Coaster in Tehran by Y. I. Latz is a suspenseful thriller, with all the requisite ‘James Bond’ moments, woven in with the profound human consequences of having to live a lie. A chilling book, with a surprise ending, that you won’t be able to put down.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘Black Arts, Tarts, & Gypsy Carts’

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The Summer Sea Carnival is coming to the magical island of Bijou Mer, and Prince Harry has decided that it would be nice if the royal bakery had a booth at this year’s festivities. Imogen Banks, witch-in-training and master baker, jumps at the chance to help run the booth, in order to avoid Prince Harry—Hank to her—because of her strong feelings for her being all complicated by the fact that he’s engaged to be married . . . to someone else.

Things quickly get out of hand when the famed necromancer, Madame Zerna, is found sawed in half in the magician’s tent, and her arch-rival, Rhonda, is found standing over the body with a bloody saw in her hand. Rhonda appeals to Imogen for help, and having previously been wrongfully accused, Imogen understands her friend’s dilemma and decides to try and clear her name.

In Black Arts, Tarts & Gypsy Carts by Erin Johnson it’s always darkest before the dawn, and only slightly overcast afterwards. You’ll fall in love with Imogen and most of her friends, especially Iggy, the irreverent flame who helps her bake some of the most amazing dishes, and you’ll roundly boo the villains—as soon as you figure out just who they are. Johnson has a way of masking the bad guy (or gal) until the very last minute, so the reader is as surprised as Imogen when the mask comes off.

This is book 2 in what is quickly becoming my favorite mystery series. I received a free copy of this book.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Frontier Justice’

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A review of Frontier Justice: Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Richard Dunning. Done quite a while ago, but still worth a look. Go here.

Review of ‘Aetna Adrift’

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Jack Holloway, orbital station manager over the isolated moon, Aetna, has a relatively good life. Under the control of Unity, a soul-sucking bureaucracy that controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives, Jack supplements his income with a little smuggling that helps citizens maintain a semblance of individuality. Then, Tim Randall, a senior Unity executive, is sent to take control of Aetna, and the killing begins. Jack is dragooned into Randall’s plans—which he does not understand—and is forced to decide just where his loyalties lie.

Aetna Adrift by Erik Wecks is a thrilling space epic that portrays the individual against the bureaucracy, with stunning action scenes and deep-dives into the human psyche. With a hero who is far from perfect, arrayed against faceless, soulless bureaucrats, it is as visionary as it is contemporary. But, most of all, it is entertaining. Hard to put down once you start reading.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Inauguration Day’

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While I found the theme, and plotting of Inauguration Day by Peter G. Pollak somewhat interesting, the obtuse writing tended to make it hard to keep reading. To be fair to the author, the story of an about-to-retire secret service agent being tasked by the president to do just ‘one more job’ is interesting, and there are the requisite action scenes, but I got a sense that whoever edited it wasn’t paying enough attention. I’ll give Mr. Pollak credit for this, even though I found the writing not quite up to par, I soldiered on through the entire book, because I was curious to see what would happen.

I received a free copy of this book. The author has some good ideas, but they just weren’t expressed as well as I’m sure he’s capable in this particular book, so I can only give it three and a quarter stars.

Review of ‘Stop Licking That’

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Stop Licking That by Karin Mitchell is a hilarious, but ultimately truthful and useful look at the insanity of parenting. Anyone who has raised children will instantly identify with the situations she so humorously describes, and find the list of strange tips, tricks, and oddball facts at the end as useful as they are entertaining. If you’re a parent, or about to become one for the first time, you will absolutely enjoy this book.

I give it five stars.