Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fantasy in Death by J. D. Robb

I don't often post the same book here and on Azure Dwarf but this book is so mainstream it needs to be here and it is definitively speculative fiction so it needs to be there too. 

I did really enjoy the technology that was described and I suspect that we will see interactive holograms well before the 2060 date of the storyline.   Computer gaming systems are becoming so sophisticated that holograms are the next logical step.  It will be exciting to see and as so many of the books I read as a kid, science fiction frequently becomes science fact well before we expect it.

It is made clear in this book that Dallas does take each and every murder personally. She believes that she is the advocate for the dead. I can only hope that there are cops out there that have the same strength of duty for those who can’t help themselves.

I’ve said it before, I do like the loyalty that Dallas shows to her staff and the resultant loyalty that is returned. The emotional interplay is the key to success in this series.

I recommend the book and the series.

Body of work of J. D. Robb

Web site:
The not too distant future is the setting for Lt. Eve Dallas and her adventures. The entire series I have read so far is focused on homicide and the mystery that surrounds each murder. This book focuses on rpg. (role playing games) A group of loveable geeks is on the verge of paramount geekieness when they are beset with foul play.

Bart Minnock’s murder strikes a chord with Dallas, I suspect due to his naïve disposition and his vague similarity to Roarke. Roarke, on the other hand, is beyond chord striking, he doesn’t see Bart’s murder as simply a need for justice, he sees a strong need for revenge.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Dawn Country by Kathleen O’Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear FREEBIE

A New Giveaway At Azure Dwarf

People of the Longhouse, bestselling authors and archeologists Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear’s second book in their newest series,
The Dawn Country.

The Dawn Country is the Gears’ 50th published novel.  Three copies of this extraordinary novel will be given away at Azure Dwarf!  (Shipping is restricted to the known universe and this dimension only, alternate worlds and universes need not enter.)


The Dawn Country is the Gears’ 50th published novel, and the First North American series hit international as well as the USA Today bestseller lists.

In The Dawn Country, set around the year 1430 during a time of violent upheaval, Young Wrass is being held captive, along with several other children, in the legendary evil Gannajero the Crow’s camp. Gannajero profits enormously by buying and selling children to outcast warriors who subject them to brutal treatment. Wrass knows he can’t wait to be rescued. He has to organize the children for an assault on Gannajero’s warriors. Even if he dies, someone has to escape, to carry the story back to their people. It’s the only way to stop the evil old woman.

But Koracoo, a female war chief, and Gonda, her husband and deputy, have not abandoned their search. They’re coming for the children, and they have allies: a battle-weary Mohawk war chief and a Healer from the People of the Dawnland. Together, they will find the children and destroy Gannajero. But not before many of the children have been sold and carried off to distant villages— lost to their families and homes forever.

Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear have successfully provided a vital understanding of the history of North America with the latest archaeological findings and sweeping dramatic narratives and strong Native American tradition. Filled with fascinating details about ancient customs mixed with adventure, spine-tingling action, and spiritual power that is entertaining and intelligent, The Dawn Country will gratify dedicated fans and appeal to newcomers of the series.

Buy People of the Longhouse and go to Azure Dwarf to win your copy of The Dawn Country!

Or enter the Contest here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Protector by Laurel Dewey FREE

Protector is Laurel Dewey's first novel.  According to the publisher, The Story Plant, it will be offered FREE in e-book format at all online booksellers from 2/22/11 to 3/8/11.  The FREE offer is to help promote Redemption which is being released in paperback in March.   I will be posting a review of Redemption on 3/23/11 here. 

Grab a free book when you can get it and many thanks to The Story Plant and Laurel Dewey for a free book.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald

Travis McGee is a beach bum with a talent for finding wounded birds and murderous mayhem. A charming ex-con tramautizing McGee’s neighborhood discovers that only one good man is needed to stand in his way. McGee involves himself in other peoples business and collects his lumps.

Over the years I have read as many of the John D. MacDonald Travis McGee novels as I have been able to acquire. His stories are classic, hero with a heart, diamond in the rough, private eye stories that I grew up loving. In spite of my overwhelming love of fantasy and scifi, I always made time to read the latest Travis McGee tale.

The stories are dated, the scenes are changed, the environment and mores are dramatically altered and yet the story still entertains. Timeless mysteries with an admirable protagonist.

I highly recommend it.

Body of work of John D. MacDonald

Web Site:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Three Seconds by Roslund and Hellstrom

This is an excellent mystery encompassing organized crime and human interaction.

I'm not sure why I'm seeing more Swedish books. I Googled it to try and discover why so many good books are coming out of Sweden. I did not come to any conclusions. My guess is a smart publisher discovered a gold mine of work not published in English and is capitalizing on that fact.

I do struggle a bit with the Swedish nomenclature. Being a tad bit provincial it is always interesting to see that human nature doesn't change much based on culture and country. Piets fear and Ewert’s grief do not necessitate translating. It is dismaying to see the extent of organized crime even if it is just a fictionalized account. The demise of the eastern bloc has provided fertile ground for both former military and criminal elements. Piet’s duplicity weighs so heavily that it is painful to read particularly when contrasted with the enormous love he has for his wife and boys.

This was a difficult book to read as the emotions and tension were literally palatable. The duplicity of reputable authority figures was enormously dismaying particularly since you can see real life examples in the daily news. Ewert’s tenacity was awe inspiring in spite of his abrasive personality. It was interesting that the “bad guy” was far more likeable than the “good guy”. Piet’s motivation was never clear but his intellect and foresight were clearly demonstrated.

This is an intriguing mystery characterized by the implacable nature of Ewert working through his grief and Piet’s determination to be alive for his family.

This is a world class novel.

I recommend the book.

By the way I dictated this into my droid x. Boy do I love this phone.

Body of work of Anders Roslund

Body of work of Borge Hellstrom

Web site:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Finding Time To Write By Pamela Samuels Young: A Guest Post

Finding Time To Write By Pamela Samuels Young, Author of Murder on the Down Low and Buying Time.
In the beginning, you were full of excitement about that novel that had been bubbling around in your head. You finally planted yourself in front of your computer and started typing away. Day after day, you rushed home from work, anxious to pick up where you left off. Then life intervened and you haven’t been able to get back to your novel for weeks, or maybe even months.

Take it from me, finding time to write is one of the most challenging aspects of being a writer who is still holding down a full-time job. While the lack of time to write can sometimes be so frustrating that you want to throw in the towel, please don’t. Whether you have just an hour a week or one day a month, use that time and use it wisely.

Here are some tips that can help you find time to write, even if you’re convinced you have no time.

1. Prepare a Weekly Writing Schedule
Sit down with your calendar on Friday evening and go through everything you have to do for the coming week. Determine where you can find time to write, even if it’s only an hour and schedule that time as you would any other appointment. Do the same thing the following Friday and every Friday thereafter until you develop a regular writing schedule. If you fall off track, simply hop back on.

2. Determine What Activities You Can Give Up
When you prepare your writing schedule, review your activities the previous week and determine what things you can give up. Do you really need to see that new Will Smith movie this weekend? How much time did you spend watching your favorite TV shows? Maybe you can go to the gym three days a week instead of four. Identify all the activities you can eliminate and use that time to write.

3. Learn to Write Anywhere
If someone had told me five years ago that Starbucks would be one of my favorite places to write, I would have laughed. How could anyone write in a noisy coffeehouse with constant foot traffic? Well, it works quite well for me, particularly when I’m in the zone. I’ve since learned to write in a number of odd places. I’ve written in the car while my husband is driving, in the beauty shop, even in the doctor’s office. While I love my writing getaways where I spend an entire week or weekend alone in Palm Springs writing away, I’ve learned to write wherever I am and you can learn to do the same.

4. Ask Your Family for Support.
Explain your writing goals to your family and friends and ask them to support you. Tell them that achieving your dreams of becoming a published author will mean seeing a little less of you. While you may attend the family barbecue, you might have to tiptoe out a few hours early to squeeze in some writing time. Writing is a solo venture and sometimes, those closest to you may make you feel guilty for abandoning them. Don’t let the guilt deter you from your goal. Trust me, once you’re a successful author, no one will hold it against you.

5. Read Time Management Books for Writers.
Sometimes it helps to seek advice from professionals. There are two books on time management for writers that I highly recommend. They both offer practical strategies as well as tips for helping you stay motivated. I would even go as far as urging you to spend some of your writing time reading these books!

Write is a Verb: Sit Down, Start Writing, No Excuses by Bill O’Hanlon. The author of this book is a psychotherapist and writing coach who conducts workshops for writers. He focuses on helping writers determine what motivates them to write. He offers practical and useful techniques to help you start and finish your novel.

Time to Write: Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing into Your Busy Life by Kelly L. Stone. In Time to Write, Stone shares the stories of several successful writers who explain how they did it. You’ll hear from big name writers like Sandra Brown, Catherine Coulter, and Tess Gerritsen. Once you see how they got it done, you’ll realize that you can do it too!

Wow Pamela, what great advice!  As a fledgling author I love to hear what advice the successful authors can offer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pamela Samuels Young Author of Murder Down Low: An Interview

1.) What was your inspiration for Murder Down Low?
The Oprah show gets credit for Murder on the Down Low. I can still remember the day I watched in stunned silence as Oprah interviewed JL King, the author of On the Down Low. He boldly professed to sleeping with men, but at the same time, claimed that he was heterosexual. His shocking revelations about the secret world of men on the “down low” really shook me up. The very next day while I was driving to work, the plot for Murder on the Down Low came to me: What if attractive, successful African-African men were being gunned down on the streets of L.A. and no one knew why?

2.) Has the success of your books changed your life and if so how?
Other than making my life much more hectic, not really. I still practice law full time. It's quite challenging to work, promote my books on the weekends and still find time to write. But I love writing and I love meeting fans even more.

3.) Do you do anything different on your book tours? I’ve read where a mystery writer with a cooking theme brings cupcakes on her book tours. Another writer with a music theme to his books brings his guitar and sings a few songs. Do you have any quirky things you do at your book signings?
Wow, what great ideas!. I guess I'm not that creative. LOL! I usually read a few snippets that I think will pull the crowd into the story. A friend suggested that I have actors play the characters, essentially turning a chapter into a live play. I'd love to do that one day.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in Murder Down Low and if so why?
Without a doubt, my favorite character is Special. She’s savvy, street smart, and sexy and more often than not she goes with her emotions no matter what the consequences. That makes her both challenging and fun to write.

5.) Is there any question than interviewers don’t ask that you wish they did? Would you like to ask that question and answer it here?
That question would be, "How do you handle rejection." Even though I have four published novels, I still face rejection. I actually self-published Murder on the Down Low after it was rejected by eight publishing houses. My advice is, don’t let anyone deter you from pursuing your dream. Most successful authors experienced years of rejection. John Grisham, for instance, received 45 rejection letters and self-published A Time to Kill because people told him no one wanted to read about lawyers. How wrong they were! So if you think you have a marketable book, don’t give up on your dream. My goal is to become a New York Times bestselling author and to eventually write full time. I recognize that few authors ever achieve that level of success. That fact doesn’t stop me from dreaming big. I feel very strongly that there’s a significant market for my legal thrillers and I’m confident that I’ll eventually break out of the pack. Until that happens, I plan to continue writing, publishing and watching my fan base grow. My best quality is my ability to get back up after a fall. The publishing industry may knock me down, but I’ll keep getting back up again and again and again.

It is always exciting to hear what published authors have to say about how they got there and their thoughts on their work.   Thank you so much for sharing!
My thanks to Ms. Young for taking the time to respond to my questions.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming

This was a story of insidious collusion of conflicting ideologies at the highest levels. MI6 meets KGB in a surprisingly convoluted mystery.

Sam Gaddis, a bit of a gadfly academic, finds himself immersed in something far different than the backstabbing of academic circles. Sam’s naiveté is a bit difficult to swallow but its eventual erosion is more believable. I enjoyed his tenacity and his loyalty to his friends. I dismayed over some of his obvious moves and his unwillingness to address the seamier side of government.

The story was well told and the characters provided with enough depth to create believability. Historic facts were used well to provide credence for the story line.

I enjoyed the book and I recommend the book.

Body of work of Charles Cumming

Web site:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Interview Of Laura Griffin, Author of Unforgivable

Ms. Griffin, your writing career is an obvious success story. It sounds if you are living your dream. Kudos for following your heart and putting your thoughts and words into an arena where all can enjoy them. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.

1.) Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
Thanks for inviting me to talk to you about UNFORGIVABLE! For years, I have been wanting to tell Mia’s story. The heroine of the book is a DNA expert at the Delphi Center, a cutting-edge forensic laboratory where the mission is to help stop violent crime by putting serial offenders behind bars. Mia has a host of personal reasons for being dedicated to her job, and those reasons come out in the story.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
I usually have a kernel of the story thought out… maybe an opening scene, or a climax. The rest evolves as things go on. As I get to know the characters better, they dictate the story direction.

3.) Is one of your series closer to your heart than the others, if so which one and why?
 I’m loving my current work on the Tracers series. It really combines my favorite topics: forensics, police work, a good love story. The common thread in each Tracers book is the Delphi Center, where an array of forensic experts work. So I can explore anything I want that has to do with crime-solving, from DNA, to ballistics, to human bones. The story possibilities are endless.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in this book and if so why?
I love Mia for her passionate dedication to putting away violent offenders. One of her career goals is to help put a dent in the thousands and thousands of untested rape kits sitting in evidence rooms. This is a character who really believes in victim’s rights.

5.) What do you like the most about writing?
The beauty of writing fiction is that I get to find something that interests me and then create an entertaining story around it so that I can get other people interested in it, too.

6.) Where do your new story ideas come from?
As a former reporter, I’m kind of a news junkie. I’m constantly reading papers, magazines, watching CNN, skimming headlines.

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?
“Write the book you want to read.”

8.) You are a prolific author, what is next on your agenda?
I’ve been thrilled with the success of the Tracers series, and I have more stories to tell. We’ve got three more Tracers books planned, beginning in 2011.

9.) Who is your favorite author and why?
I can’t pick one! I love such a variety… from J.D. Salinger and Edith Wharton, to contemporary authors such as Patricia Cornwell and Jonathan Franzen.

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?
This is a tough industry, so develop a thick skin and don’t give up.

Thank you for your willingness to share your time and your expertise.

See my review of Unforgivable.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Murder On The Down Low by Pamela Samuels Young

When I read Buying Time I thought it was Ms. Young’s first book.  Apparently this story was her first. It is a tale of deceit and fear. On the down low refers to black men having sex with black men but not considering themselves as homosexual but as freaks. Hiding their behavior, these same men profess strong masculinity and infect their female sex partners with HIV. This tale of treachery and deceit leads to death and murder.
This is a topic that is bound to raise eyebrows. It is addressed frankly and with no holds barred. Ms. Young makes an appeal at the end of the book for more tolerance and understanding of the gay community and more help with those who are confused about their own sexual identity. The incidence of HIV in African-American and Latina women is appalling greater than the norm. Ms. Young suggests that a major mind set change is necessary for these women to accept responsibility for safer sex and to insist on testing for both themselves and their partners. The novel was interesting but is truly a side bar for the message.

There is a clear directive that vigilante behavior is counter productive and personal responsibility needs to be enhanced. I found the story and the message sobering. I thought a very volatile topic was handled tactfully while still expressing a very clear cautionary message.

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of Pamela Samuels Young

Web Site: