Friday, July 27, 2012

Suzy's Case

Suzy's Case by Andy Siegel is all about medical malpractice. Surprisingly, it's not boring. Siegel manages to keep the story moving along without tying readers down with lots of technical jibber jabber. This is the first book in a planned series featuring personal injury and Malpractice attorney Tug Wyler.

I enjoyed the book. It moved at a fair pace. The story was straight forward. There were lots of colorful characters. The only thing I didn't like was the main character, Tug. That is a fatal flaw.

Tug has a habit of saying or doing things that show him as a sexist jerk. For example, every woman in the book - accept for one in her late fifties - is an object of prurient interest. The man wants to shag them all even though he's married. Then he tries to make it all okay by saying "At least I admit it." There are other instances of Tug being a jerk but the sex is a recurring theme.

Owning up to bad behavior doesn't make it okay in my books. I took an instant dislike to the man. I honestly didn't care if he got bludgeoned or shot or killed outright. I kept reading because I wanted Suzy to get what she needed. I'm not the least bit tempted to read another book in the series.

Friday, July 20, 2012

This Dark Earth

I almost didn't read This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs because I hate zombie books. The cover didn't entice me either. I'm not inclined to read books that state, "Grab your head-knocker and get ready for some wet work in the murder-hole" first thing.

I got this book from the publisher by mistake. Somewhere out there there's a zombie fan wondering what the hell to do with my cozy. I tried to pawn this book off on friends but I couldn't find any takers so I had to bite the bullet. I'm glad I did because it was a pleasant surprise. Jacobs didn't go overboard with the gore so I was able to skip over brief sections without much trouble.

If you have to read a zombie apocalypse novel I'd suggest you read this one. You'll have to skim over the cause of the zombie outbreak. Some of the characters think it might have been a biological weapon gone wrong but we're never told the truth. You'll also have to gloss over the fact that characters survive ground zero of a nuke by hiding in a culvert. It is fiction after all.

If you're interested in stories that examine a post-apocalypse Earth where the best and the worst of humanity are trying to build a new society, then this is a book for you. It is well written and the characters are interesting. You never know when things are going to go bad for the heroes. Be warned, the book ends in a place that cries out for a sequel. That's the only thing I didn't like. I wanted closure. Maybe I'll get it in the next book. If there is one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Excavation Trailer

Book description from Amazon:

High in the Andes, Dr. Henry Conklin discovers a 500-year-old mummy that should not be there. While deep in the South American jungle, Conklin's nephew, Sam, stumbles upon a remarkable site nestled between two towering peaks, a place hidden from human eyes for thousands of years. 
Ingenious traps have been laid to ensnare the careless and unsuspecting, and wealth beyond imagining could be the reward for those with the courage to face the terrible unknown. But where the perilous journey inward ends--in the cold, shrouded heart of a breathtaking necropolis--something else is waiting for Sam Conklin and his exploratory party. A thing created by Man, yet not humanly possible. Something wondrous . . . something terrifying.

Buy Excavation

Friday, July 13, 2012

Signs of the South

Signs Of The South by Narielle Living is a paranormal mystery. The action takes place in a small town in Virginia. Ella moves into a house without any idea of its history. Soon strange things start happening and she is having strange dreams. Eventually Ella has to accept that she's living with a ghost. All she needs to do  is solve a disappearance from more than 30 years ago.

I've never been to the Southern United States (I'm pretty sure Southern California doesn't count) but the more books set there that I read the less I want to go. This book doesn't help things. Think of any "Southern" cliche and it's in this book. Racism? Check. Misogyny? Check. Stupidity? Check. Hypocrisy? Check. Deep dark secrets? Check.

Having said that, this isn't a bad book. It's a fairly fast read. Ella is likable and the mystery is intriguing. As for the other characters, Ella's sister is annoying and there are a pair of college professors who remind me of Nick and Nora Charles for some reason. There's a cop for a love interest but he really isn't in the book very much (though he and Ella end up in bed pretty quickly.)

My one big peeve with this book is that the "whodunit" is never solved. The body is found but no culprit is named or punished. When I read 348 pages of a story, I want to know who did it! If they're not going to be punished, it better be because they're dead.

I received a review copy of this book

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Post: Brooklyn James


After completing my second book, Vigilare, which is book #1 in the Vigilare trilogy, I thought I had written a detective mystery with a paranormal spin. Lo and behold, my surprise, when I kept reading reviews referring to my novel as a THRILLER. I had no idea I was that exciting!

Gabino Iglesias of the Austin Post said:
“Vigilare walks the line between a thriller and a supernatural adventure while safely anchored in a scientific discourse around blood that James put together so well that it's reminiscent of a Douglas Preston or Michael Crichton novel. With action, romance, a strong female hero and a likeable group of characters, Vigilare reads like a good action movie.”
After reading his review, I call up my Editor, and I say, “How would you classify Vigilare?”

She says, “With all of that action, twist and turns, and a cliffhanger-ending, you have a Thriller on your hands, my dear.”

With further research, I found that I did in fact write the beginnings of a Thriller trilogy, as the novel has aspects of suspense, tension and excitement. Wikipedia says, “Thrillers heavily stimulate the viewer's moods giving them a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, surprise, anxiety and/or terror.”

With renewed clarification of just exactly what my novel consisted of, my curiosity was piqued about the Thriller genre. After looking into it further, I found men have been writing and reading thrillers for years, with the name James Patterson dominating that list. The genre is relatively new as a mainstream medium for women, however there are many talented female thriller writers, such as Tami Hoag, who successfully made the jump from romance to thrillers. I always found Anne Rice be to quite thrilling, even before the term thriller became synonymous with books. One book I have on my to-read list is Jessica Fortunato's, Sin Collector. I certainly find the premise thrilling!

From what I gather, there is quite a gender discrepancy in the thriller genre, as far as what content the reading public will accept from a male versus a female writer. I get questions every now and then about my “dark side.” In my interview with Gabino Iglesias of the Austin Post, he said, “Looking at James, a stunning belle with a perpetual smile on her face, it's hard to picture what would drive her to write a novel where sexual abuse and death are two crucial and ever-present elements.”

Vigilare is set in the town of Vanguard, where Detectives Gina DeLuca and Tony Gronkowski investigate a string of murders among the city's most loathsome population, rapists and pedophiles, of which the Vigilare is most likely responsible. Vigilare, an Italian term, meaning to watch over, to look out, to protect--is a play on vigilantism. I was inspired by comic books and movies, such as Batman and The Punisher. And I do love me some Boondock Saints. Pitting evil against good, and how good can turn bad, even with the most pure of intentions.

I am an upbeat, positive individual in my personal life. I like light, love, peace and tranquility. However, when I get into writer mode, most often I enjoy allowing my mind to take me to uncomfortable places. I find fear only propels us to a deeper understanding.

In my first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me (An Amazon Breakthrough Novel Quarter Finalist), I take on themes, such as domestic abuse, alcoholism and suicide. I certainly do not take on darker subject matter with the intent to justify it or glorify it. Shocking things happen to people everyday. As a writer, I feel difficult subject matter can be delivered candidly, yet with enough finesse and tact to allow readers to transport through it (maybe on the edge of their seats...or biting their fingernails) to the other side.

To start in the darkness, allows an author to steer her words toward the light, allowing characters to come to terms with tragic things in their past, growing, evolving and coming out of it. For me, dark, intense reads allow for pivotal character development. And as a reader, I enjoy works that are more than the words on the page. Books that make me think. Books that make me question my own morality, standards and outlook. Books that leave me wondering, What would I do? If given the same set of obstacles. As a reader, I don't pay particular attention as to who is delivering the story…male or female.
“If there is something in which James excelled, it has to be the way she treated her subject matter. Scenes of attempted rape and physical violence abound, but they're always carefully and tactfully done. Instead of going for the cheap thrills and shock value, the author gently deconstructs a sad reality and unflinchingly exposes the psychological devastation that such an experience can bring.” -Austin Post
Even with such nice reviews, I receive some negative feedback every once in a blue moon. “I didn't like the language in certain scenes.” OR “Some of those scenes were hard to read.” Menacing, disturbed people are not going to talk like alter boys. And if those darker scenes didn't make you a bit uncomfortable, then I didn't do my job as a writer. I always ask if they would think as such if they had read the same scene from a male writer. This usually causes them to tilt their head and think momentarily.

Maybe it's the mixture of dark and light, hard and soft, trauma and romance, that makes it glaring. There are some questions as to whether a true thriller should include a romantic underbelly. For me, that is the redeeming quality. It's like a female heroine. She can't be concrete tough and without flaws, or the reader will not relate nor empathize. Right? I get no satisfaction out of reading a book that starts out dark, intense and at times horrifying, and ends the same way. As a reader, I have to have a resolution. Take me on a journey, even a harrowing one, but give me closure.

I'm currently reading Wodke Hawkinson's Betrayed, a perfect example of a book that keeps me turning the pages. At times, it is brutal and harrowing, but as the story plays out, it is redeeming. A nice mixture of suspense and romance, all the while intricately developing their characters and the forces that drive them.

Essentially, I write from the female perspective, with intent to tell a good story, and empower those who have come through challenging circumstances. It is not by choice that darker subjects pique my attention and weave their way into my writing. It simply is what comes out of me. It has been a most interesting journey into the thriller genre. If you may be interested in a suspenseful journey, I hope you will take into consideration my Vigilare series.

Brooklyn James is an author/singer/songwriter inspired by life in the Live Music Capital of Austin, Texas. Her first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me, has an original music soundtrack and was chosen as a Quarter Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Brooklyn holds an M.A. in Communication, and a B.S. in both Nursing and Animal Science. The Vigilare trilogy is an adaptation from a short narrative film. She is currently working on the last novel in the series, as well as another book and music soundtrack combination. All songs from the soundtracks are written/co-written and performed by the author. Listen free at her website or on Facebook

Vigilare and Vigilare: Hell Hound (Volume 2) are available now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Year Zero Trailer

Book description from Amazon:

Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news.

The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity’s music ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything—and the aliens are not amused.

Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he’s an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He’s scared of heights. He’s also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he’s packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy.

Soon he’s on the run from a sinister parrot and a highly combustible vacuum cleaner. With Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick now has forty-eight hours to save humanity, while hopefully wowing the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Corpse in the Crystal Ball

Corpse in the Crystal Ball by Kari Lee Townsend is the second book in her Fortune Teller series. It's a fun, fast read. The characters are engaging and the mystery is just complicated enough to keep a reader's interest.

Psychic Sunny Meadows (!) has the hots for Detective Mitch Stone and just as she works up the nerve to do something about it his ex comes to town. Before you can say "Red Shirt!" she's dead and Stone is accused of the crime. Meadows is asked by the mayor of the town to help clear Stone's name. If that's not enough to do, she has to look after her Granny Gert who is, let's just say, slightly wacky. Not as wacky as Stephanie Plum's granny but cast from the same mold.

The things I don't like about this series are mostly small things but every time I notice them they pull me out of the story and that, for me, is a big problem. The main character's name bugs me. Sunny Meadows. It's really hard to take her seriously.  She's supposed to be this terrific psychic but she seems to have trouble reading people and situations. She often jumps to conclusions that are skewed if not outright wrong.

As with the first book in the series, the idea that the mayor would insist that she work with the police to solve a crime is implausible. I can see a defense attorney getting a lot of the "evidence" she uncovers thrown out.* Especially in this case where she wants to do the nasty with the prime suspect.  I know this is a work of fiction but the basic premise has to be plausible. I just don't buy it.

Having said that, the book is well written and the characters likable enough to hold my interest. I will probably read the next book in the series with the hopes that Sunny will be a paid consultant with a willing Detective Stone so the mayor doesn't have to insist they work together.

*I will concede that some of my objections stem from differences between the US and Canadian legal systems and my understanding thereof.

I received a review copy of this book.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Guest Post: Kari Lee Townsend

Kari Lee Townsend's latest cozy

What is a Cozy Mystery anyway?

When I first started writing mysteries, I didn’t have any clue there were so many different kinds. Cozy mysteries, soft boiled mysteries, hard boiled mysteries, thrillers, etc. It was a little overwhelming, but once I did a little homework, it wasn’t so bad.

I chose to write cozy mysteries because I love everything about the word “cozy.”

Cozy mysteries are usually set in a small town. Or if they aren’t in a small town, then they revolve around a small area like the theater or some area that feels like a small community. The small town almost becomes a character itself. A place you would want to visit with quaint aspects like the shops and maybe a park or some unique touristy things to do. Readers love to keep revisiting places they know and love.

Cozy mysteries are all about the characters. The regulars who live and work in the quaint town you’ve created. They grow and evolve and form relationships that readers want to keep reading about. That’s what I love about a series. You get to keep up with what’s happening in these characters’ lives. Root for them when they’re down, cheer them on when they up, fear for them when they’re in trouble. You become invested in them almost as if they are real. And with some cozy series running so long, you really feel like you’ve known them for years because … well … you have!

I love romance in a cozy because the best part of a romance for me is the chemistry between the couple. In a cozy, everything too steamy takes place off screen so to speak. The only thing you see on the page is the chemistry, and well, okay a little bit of heat, but nothing that would make your granny blush.

The same goes for violence and swearing. We get the best aspects of trying to figure out whodunit without having to see the actual violence itself. That too takes place off screen, and we are simply left with the clues and suspects to work it all out. There can still be danger and your lead can still be in jeopardy, but you can rest assured nothing too scary will happen. For me, that’s the perfect type of book. Great characters, a perfect setting, a bit of romance, an interesting mystery to solve and a touch of suspense. I, for one, hope to be writing cozy mysteries for a very long time.

National Bestselling Author, RT Reader’s Choice Award & Agatha Nominee Kari Lee Townsend lives in Central New York with her very understanding husband, her three busy boys, and her oh-so-dramatic daughter, who keep her grounded and make everything she does worthwhile…not to mention provide her with loads of material for her books. Kari is a longtime lover of reading and writing, with a masters in English education, who spends her days trying to figure out whodunit. Funny how no one at home will confess any more than the characters in her mysteries!
Kari writes fun and exciting stories for any age, set in small towns, with mystical elements and quirky characters as Kari Lee Townsend. Kari also writes romantic comedies and women’s fiction with the same sense of humor and quirky characters as Kari Lee Harmon.  To find out more about Kari and all her books go to