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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Solomon Vs. Lord by Paul Levine Win An eBook

Win a copy of this delightful book. 

See the author interview.

Nothing to buy, no commitment, just a free eBook.

Winner announced here on 6/6/12

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rogue Crusader by John R. Monteith

I’m beginning to wonder if the Navy is offering creative writing to it’s officers.   I seem to have run across some excellent sea stories recently.
This book reads fine as a stand alone but seems to be the third book in a continuing series.   Jake Slade, an ex-U.S. naval officer with a storied past is thrust into a situation of apocalyptic potential engendered by Islamic extremists. 

Monteith puts together  a likeable cast of characters with some game changing personal issues.   Those issues impact behavior but are not related to the events occurring in this particular book.   I would have preferred a little more back story but, again, the book stands alone quite well.  

There is plenty of action and hard to starboard or hard to port type twists.  (salty dog talk is not my forte)  The book presents a believable scenario as far as terroristic motivation and technique, I can’t say how believable the submarine situations were but they were certainly innovative.   

This was an exciting book and I recommend it.

Body of work of <a type="amzn"> John R. Monteith </a>

Web Site:

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


(We recently talked to Paul Levine, author of the “Solomon vs. Lord” legal thrillers.  The books were nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, and James Thurber awards, and have just been released as Kindle Exclusives). 

Q         “Solomon vs. Lord” opens with the lyrics from an old Frank Sinatra song called “But I Loved You.”  That’s a little odd for a legal thriller, isn’t it?

A:        Would you like me to sing a verse?

Q:        Only if you must.

A:        “Opposites attract, the wise men claim,
            Still I wish that we had been a little more the same,
            It might have been a shorter war.”

Q:        So, is it a thriller with humor or a mystery with romance?

A.        A legal thriller with humor.  A dramedy.

Q:        If you had to compare the story to earlier works...?

A:        Shakespeare, of course.

Q:        Of course.

A.        Seriously.  The ‘opposites attract’ set-up goes all the way back to “The Taming of the Shrew.”  Then there’s Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man.”  “The Bickersons” on radio.  “Moonlighting” on television.  Two people love-hate each other.  Life sizzles when they’re together, fizzles when they’re apart.

Q:        Let’s look at the book’s teaser: 

            “Victoria Lord follows all the rules...
            Steve Solomon makes up his own...
            When they defend an accused murderer, they’ll either end up in ruin, in jail, or in

            Does that leave anything out?

A:        All the kinky sex.

Q:        We’re not sure if you’re being serious.

A:        Totally.  My working title was “Fifty Shades of Plaid.”

Q:        One reviewer described the book as “Carl Hiaasen meets John Grisham in the court of last retort.”  Fair assessment?

A:        I probably bring humor to my work because, as a trial lawyer, I saw so much nuttiness in the courtroom.

Q:        In “The Deep Blue Alibi,” there’s a chapter at a Florida nudist resort.  Is it fair to ask how you researched the scene?

A:        Like Jackie Chan, I do my own stunts.

Q:        What about the title?  Are you paying homage to John D. MacDonald’s “The Deep Blue Good-Bye?”

A:        “Homage?”  That’s French for cheese, isn’t it?

Q:        Now you’re being facetious.

A:        That’s what they pay me for

Q:        Let’s be serious.  You’ve won the John D. MacDonald Fiction award.  You’re not denying his influence on you.

A:        After I moved to Florida, I read all of MacDonald’s Travis McGee books.  When I wrote my first Jake Lassiter novel (“To Speak for the Dead”), one of my first fan letters was from John D. MacDonald’s son.  I think JDM nailed Florida’s weirdness and corruption.

Q:        Does that explain the title of your third Solomon & Lord novel, “Kill All the Lawyers?”   A combination of Shakespeare and MacDonald.

A:        As lawyers constantly point out, that line was spoken by a villain in “Henry VI.”  The guy wanted to overthrow the government, and killing all the lawyers seemed like a good place to start.

Q:        While we’re on the topic of titles–

A:        Which you seem to be obsessed with.

Q:        What about “Habeas Porpoise?” 

A.        I didn’t steal that one from Shakespeare.

Q:        Or anyone else.  That would seem to be original.

A:        Here’s the story.  When Bantam published the book, my editors rejected the title as too funny.  Now, the story opens with two highly trained dolphins being kidnapped by some hapless animal rights people, so I thought “funny” was okay.  But we settled on “Trial & Error” for the book.  When I got the rights back for e-book publication, I restored the original name.

Q:        Tell us about your background.  Your education.

A:        At Penn State, I majored in journalism.  At the University of Miami Law School, I majored in the swimming pool.

Q:        You’ve been a successful television writer.  What advice would you give to people who want to break into Hollywood?

A:        Marry a blood relative of Jerry Bruckheimer or J.J. Abrams.

Q:        Lacking that, when aspiring authors or screenwriters sit down at the computer, what should they be writing?

A:        Ransom notes, maybe?  Look, it’s really hard to break into the business.  Some people suggest writing a spec script.  But that’s a tough route.  Years ago, Elmore Leonard said, “Writing a script and sending it to Hollywood is like drawing a picture of a car and sending it to Detroit.”  So I’d recommend entry level positions as assistants or script readers.  In the TV business, assistants sometimes manage to sell a script to the show they’re working on.               

Q:        Any last words about “Solomon vs. Lord?”

A:        I wasn’t kidding about the kinky sex.

More information on Paul Levine’s website:

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Farsighted by Emlyn Chand

 Alex is a blind teenager whose lack of sight has made his other senses more sensitive or is it something else.   A mystery with psychic overtones, this book is well suited for the young adult reader.

Alex isn’t particularly likeable.   In some ways he epitomizes many of the stereotypical self-centeredness of the spoiled teen.   Alex, however, is not spoiled.  To the contrary, his family struggles to make ends meet and his parents don’t seem to coddle him due to his blindness.   

The book is a journey of self discovery and personal growth.   A lonely Alex discovers the joys and perils of friendship.   I found Alex’s personality a unusual combination of naivety and cynicism.  

The book sets up for an obvious sequel and takes the moral high ground in dealing with the alleged villain.  

Body of  work of <a type="amzn" >Emlyn Chand</a>

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Paul Levine's


Now on Kindle

Win a free eBook of Solomon vs. Lord here.

Check back soon for the GiveAway!
In creating his main characters, Levine relied on 17 years practicing law...and his three marriages. Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord are combative Florida lawyers who love/hate each other and can't agree on "good morning." But life sizzles when they're together and fizzles when they're apart. A Coral Gables blueblood, Victoria plays by the book. A Coconut Grove beach bum, Steve ignores the rules in favor of Solomon's Laws. Together, the two make a surprisingly good trial team, although there's always the chance they'll kill each other while the jury is still out.
Solomon Vs. Lord
Steve Solomon is the sharpest lawyer ever to barely graduate from Key West School of Law. Victoria Lord is fresh from Yale, toiling for an ambitious D.A. and soon to be married. And Katrina Barksdale is a sexy former figure skater charged with killing her incredibly wealthy, incredibly kinky husband. With all three tangled in the steamiest trial of the century, the case is sure to make sparks fly, headlines scream—and opposites attract. Read More
Deep Blue Alibi
They are Florida's most mismatched legal duo,one a glamorous Miami blue blood, the other a Coconut Grove beach bum. And when they get together, you can throw every law right out the window. Read More
Kill All The Lawyers
Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord. They're the legal world's oddest couple—a shorts-and-sandals beach bum and a Coral Gables blue blood. Maybe the only thing keeping them from killing each other is that they're on the same side. Read More
Habeas Porpoise
HABEAS PORPOISE opens when Steve is awakened in the middle of the night with a panicked phone call from his 12 year-old nephew, Bobby. Before he can even realize it is not dream, Steve is on a high-speed chase against animal liberation fanatics who have kidnapped two dolphins from the local water park... Read More
This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Winner of Seal Team Six Outcasts GiveAway

 One hard copy of this HOT new book goes to:

Kara of Indiana

Thank you for participating, come back to my blogs often, there is almost always a GiveAway going on one of them. 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Look Again from Lisa Scottoline; A Guest Review

Note! This review may contain spoilers, I did not read the book so I don't know how much if anything is revealed.  Just a caution, btw I liked the review.

Before Look Again, Lisa Scottoline seemed to specialize in legal thrillers with strong, smart female protagonists with attitude and troubles to spare, usually of the murder-mystery variety.  There’s nothing wrong with that formula, and Scottoline is very successful in crafting engaging plot arcs and characters readers will care about — many of her thrillers are New York Times bestsellers.  

But with Look Again Scottoline seems to be headed in a new direction, one that, while keeping the well-paced suspense of her earlier novels, introduces new provocative issues akin to authors like Jodi Picoult, which heightens the drama and raises the stakes for the characters.

Ellen Gleeson, Look Again’s journalist cum suburban mother, is leading a successful, if not stressful, life with her adopted son, Will — until she gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, with a picture that looks uncannily like Will.  At first she disregards the similarity — after all, the adoption process was completely lawful — the her investigative spirit get the better of her and she begins to dig into what turns out to be a heart-wrenching and nerve-bending narrative that forces her to ask an impossible question as a mother: “If Will isn’t rightfully my son, should I give him up?”

On her quest for the truth, Ellen begins to uncover details about Will’s background and discovers that only three weeks after the adoption proceedings were completed, the attorney who guided her through the adoption process committed suicide.  More questions arise, and with them new dangers, and Ellen realizes that she — and her son — are in life-threatening danger. 

The plot of Look Again is well-wrought, and it was certainly a page-turner of the highest order.  My only complaint was that many of the characters, while expertly rendered, were unlikeable and amoral at best, including the protagonist.  Still, it was an excellent read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an emotionally charged thriller. 

About the Author:
This guest contribution was submitted by Samantha Gray, who specializes in writing about online bachelor degree. Questions and comments can be sent to:

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Seal Team Six Outcasts GiveAway May 6-May13th.

Seal Team Six Outcasts GiveAway  May 6-May13th.

One Hard Copy 

Winner to be announced on May 14th.

This timely book is by New York Times bestselling authors Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin
About the book:
They are the Outcasts. Because people don’t want to know what they do.
In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, the President wants to finish the job once and for all and orders the assassinations of the seven men vying for bin Laden’s place. The president doesn’t want any of them left to dominate . . . and that means he has only one choice. But doing what’s needed without political repercussions will take a small team flying under the radar. A team capable of finessing the U.N.’s distinctions on national sovereignty and acts of war.  A team like the Outcasts.
 Alex Brandenburg: SEAL Chief Petty Officer and Outcasts Team Leader. Disobeyed direct orders by refusing to let a deadly terrorist live to kill another day. Francisco “Pancho” Rodriguez and John Landry: SEAL Petty Officers First Class. Took the pursuit of justice into their own hands with explosive results. Catherine “Cat” Fares:.  Navy Petty Officer. Holds an unbeatable record for pissing off the top brass with her strongly stated opinions on the combat readiness of women.
 The team’s mission: Take out the seven terror merchants vying to take Bin Laden’s place. The team’s status: Expendable.
 As the Outcasts track down first one target, then another, and are hot on the tail of the third, they start to realize that they are closing in on a larger plot at hand and will have to do what SEALs do best to ensure the security of the United States: Break the rules, and get the job done.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An Interview with Margaret McLean, Author of Under Oath, The Riveting Legal Drama

Margaret McLean

An Interview with Margaret McLean, Author of Under Oath, The Riveting Legal Drama

Thank you Ms. McLean for agreeing to be interviewed.   I greatly enjoyed Under Fire, your previous book which I reviewed on this blog.   In a world often grossly overpopulated with legal dramas, real and fictional, your books glow with an understated intensity.   Your characters are memorable and your plots intriguing.   I guess now that I have established or ruined my credibility by admitting I am a fan, I guess I will get to the questions. 

1.) Why did you write this book?  What initiated this particular burst of creativity?

A: Charlestown is a working class Irish neighborhood of Boston, which is only one square mile, but it had the highest unsolved murder rate in the country for decades.  I lived there and would say hello to a man everyday on my way home from work.  I’d see him sitting on his stoop, smoking. One day, I didn’t see him anymore. He was murdered and his murder still remains unsolved.  I witnessed the frustration of the homicide detectives as they dealt with this pervasive code of silence: don’t see anything, don’t hear anything, and never talk to cops.  I became consumed with this street code of justice and why it permeated Charlestown.  The Mothers against Murder group and their determination to end the code of silence also deeply influence my writing.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?

A: I start with an idea for a trial, which has a structure from the opening statements to the verdict.  I weave the story around the trial.  I also create a general outline with character biographies.  As the novel progresses, I use a chapter by chapter working outline.

3.) What is the most difficult part about writing a book?
A: When I’m working on the first draft of a novel, I have to force myself to stop procrastinating and forge ahead.  It’s so easy to focus on anything but writing, especially when I’m busy marketing and promoting the latest novel.  It helps to jot down ideas and sketch the next scene on a legal pad, and then type that into the manuscript.  At the end of a writing day, I stop mid-sentence for it’s easier to pick up where I left off the next morning.  

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?

A: My favorite character is the protagonist, Annie Fitzgerald. She is the prosecutor in charge of the unsolved murder cases; thus, it is incumbent upon her to break the age-old code of silence in Charlestown.  At age eleven, Annie witnessed a tragic event in her family’s bookstore in Charlestown involving her father and the code of silence, which forced the family to close the store and move out.  Years later, Annie comes back to Boston with a personal vendetta to change Charlestown and extinguish the code of silence.  As the trial unfolds against crime boss, Billy Malone, Annie becomes consumed with convicting him, exploits her prosecutorial power, and a lead witness ends up dead.   Annie has to acknowledge her mistake and forge ahead in this impossible case for the government.

5.) What do you like the most about writing?

A: I like creating complex characters who must overcome challenges and make changes in their lives.  I’ve also co-written a play, Under Oath, which features Annie Fitzgerald and Buddy Clancy.  There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing these characters come to life on the stage.  The play is currently in development with the Actors Studio in New York City.

6.)  Where do your new story ideas come from?

A: My stories evolve from a combination of real, controversial legal cases and/or trials.  Characters and dialogue come from my experience trying hundreds of cases as an Assistant District Attorney in a high-crime area.  Lately, ideas are born from interviews and forensic research for my radio show It’s A Crime out in LA.     

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?

A: The best advice I’ve received is to spend less time on the first draft.  The process is similar to creating a multi-tiered wedding cake: mix the ingredients, get it baked, and then spend more time on the frosting and decorative details.  It’s important to keep writing everyday with the goal of producing that first manuscript.  The storyline and characters are honed in subsequent drafts.

8.) Do you have something new in the works?

A: I’m working on the first draft of Under Treason, another legal thriller starring defense attorney Sarah Lynch (the protagonist from Under Fire) and her crafty uncle, Buddy Clancy.  A CIA agent stands trial for treason and crimes committed in violation of the Espionage Act in federal court.   

9.) Who is your favorite author and why?

A: Harper Lee is my favorite author.  She inspired me with To Kill A Mockingbird.  I loved how she incorporated such rich themes and characters into a courtroom drama.

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?

A: Participate weekly in an experienced writer’s group and join organizations such as Mystery Writers of America.  It’s so important to have a support group.  Writing a novel can be lonely and daunting.  I’d also suggest attending writers conferences for they are a great venue to hone writing skills and to meet other authors, agents, and editors.  

Thank you for answering my questions and I know I look forward to your next book.  

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.