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A Teaching Book Review

This could have been a great story, a fascinating, enjoyable family saga spanning several generations.

Instead, the writer, Bill Kitson, chose to tell his readers the story, instead of showing them.  Chapters of telling, telling, telling.  Then a half page of dialogue and ‘showing’.  For example, the rift between patriarch, Albert, and his son, James. Albert’s decline into dementia would have been an interesting sub-plot if the writer had shown it; not told it.   Jesse’s arduous journey from war-torn Europe back home to England. The First World War (section) was reduced to a few chapters of ‘telling’. Ugh.  Leaving this reader not caring about Kitson’s characters much at all. 

The characters that this writer created were interesting, predictable in places, but on the whole pretty good. But, with the storytelling style of ‘telling’ rather than showing who these people were they were not deeply drawn.  Dialogue enriches not only the story but the characters.  Telling rather than showing is, to my mind, a lazy way of writing.  

for the story.                                                                                     For the writing. 

The formatting was distracting. The pages were not titled with the traditional title and author’s name.  In the front or back, there was no list of Kitson’s other books; a missed marketing opportunity. There was no author biography. 
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Book Review ~ Olivia Holmes Inherited a Vineyard

 4 out of 5 stars ~~ Book Review

In one of my recent searches for new authors to read (and maybe review) I bought this one by Mark Daydy. I wasn’t

 enamored of the title…too long, not very creative and certainly a spoiler alert. Why did the writer give away the plot of the whole story? I thought, ‘a much better title would been  Vineyard in the Moonlight or Grapes to Glass or The Vines. I could go on and on about the wrongness of the title but instead of giving it a pass, I bought the book. 

Next I’m not a fan of a man writing chick lit (fiction for women). They simply don’t have the empathy to write about women for women. I scoffed but ran my credit card anyway. 

I’ve been eating crow with each page that I turned.  This was an excellent story, with well drawn characters.  There was a certain crispness that I don’t find with female authors, much as I luv ’em.  My only critique was that Olivia was a bit ‘wishy-washy’ at times. It would have been a stronger story if she had been more decisive about (for example) leaving her job. She could have done it sooner in my opinion.  But what PANACHE! when she finally did it!  

I’m looking forward to reading the sequel very soon.  

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How Protagonists Engage Readers….or Not

What’s the secret?  Why does one protagonist immediately engage the reader when another is slow to achieve this or never does?  I recently read two novels, back to back, (it sounds like I read sporadically; not true, I have a book in my hand 24/7). 

Anyway, back to my point…..one book (Growing Season by  Melinda Foster) had a single woman, late 30’s, who’s life falls apart.  Long time relationship ends suddenly, and she is found to be redundant at her job of 14 years with the same company. (Most of us can relate to some or all of this.) She is called away to her home town to help family with the business and a small farm.  She was immediately empathetic due to the excellent writing and character development. 

The other book, House on the Harbor by Elizabeth Bromke was not engaging. The four sisters, Kate, Amelia, Megan, and Clara came across as mealy-mouthed and victims. Yep, all four of them. Maybe if the development of the characters had been stronger. Maybe if the author had the reader spend more time with each sister. And the house on the harbor was a non-entity. The house should have been the fifth character.   At first glance, they have  each inherited 1/4 of the house. At first glance….

But this reader didn’t care about any of these women.  I kept speaking to them: “put your big girl panties on and move forward!”  I did finish the book but felt relieved when I had, not satisfied. 

What’s the secret?  Good writing, finely drawn characters, people the reader can relate to.  
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Book 1 in series

 

 

 

 

Book Review ~~ The Raffle Baby

 5 out of 5 stars ~~~~ Book Review

 

This is one of those rare books where the reviewer wants to give it ten, no, a hundred, no, two thousand stars!  The writing is stunning. Ruth Talbot has a delicate, beautiful usage of words that we mortal writers can only dream of for ourselves. 

And her words craft a wonderful story. Griping, grim, tragic at times, nostalgic and loving. About friendship, perseverance, crushing hardship, with no real happy ending.  Talbot takes us tramping across this great nation of ours during one of the bleakest times in our history. The Great Depression. I, for one, never imagined that children….yes, you heard me correctly….children were cast out into the world to join the thousands of ‘hoboes‘ who jumped on and off trains and used them as their only transportation. Following work and seasonal harvests in order to not starve to death. 

Beautiful writing….a book you’ll want to take your time with. Mulling over a turn of phrase in the prose if you are a ‘English literature’ buff….or view, in your mind’s eye, the stunning visuals Talbot paints for her readers. 

This appears to be Talbot’s debut novel and we can only hope that she is working on her next one.  
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Goutet
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Nora Roberts Land by Ava Miles ~~ Book Review

2 out of 5 stars     ~~   Book Review

I ordered more books by this author (hope it was not a mistake) based on the first one I had read. This offering Nora Roberts Land ruined a pretty good story.  The author kept referring to book titles by Nora Roberts and the protagonists of each story. It became very distracting, very quickly.  It smacked of: ‘See how clever I am to know all these titles and their heroes?‘  

I first suspected that this was an indie published book because the formatting was all wonky.  That’s the first clue that an author self publishes. That’s not a bad thing but the author should do their very best at formatting.  The ‘justify’ margin selection would have solved many of the wonky right margins found in this book. It was obvious to me that she had used the ‘left’ margin key. Very distracting. 

The characters were a little shallow. The plot was okay but with the many references to Nora Roberts’ characters it came across as CORNY. 
The sex scenes were lascivious rather than salacious or  scintillating. 

I never finished this book. An unheard-of thing for me.  I usually stick to the bitter end. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews
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An Irish Country Yuletide by Patrick Taylor ~~ Book Review

 3 out of  5 stars    An Irish Country Yuletide

A sweet little story ideal for an easy read during the holiday season. If you’re a fan (which I am) of the Irish Country series, you’ll love this novella. 

The village of Ballybucklebo turns out strong for the Christmas season.  All the characters that readers have grown to love return in this book.  Including a few new ones that are a complete surprise. The prodigal son returns after decades of being banished in Australia.  A new young family (temporarily) in trouble arrives to shelter for awhile.  Engagements and new marriages abound.  

Fans of Patrick Taylor will thoroughly enjoy this book. 

Did you miss my Interview with Patrick Taylor?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews
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Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan Hyde **Review

5 stars     ** Book Review **

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s brilliance as a story teller knows no bounds. In Boy Underground she creates wonderful characters that the reader loves
and cheers for by page three. Secondary characters shine with believability. While the reader may hate some of them, Hyde gives the reader some insight to why they are such terrible parents, friends, and classmates. Dross and riffraff of a small town. 

While weaving this wonderful story about four high school misfits, Hyde brings forth a time in America’s history that should drip with shame for all of us. Woven through this fiction is non-fiction history about social norms and the betrayal of US  citizens, on so many levels.
(Note: This is as much as I am willing to say about the story to avoid, as I do, spoiler alerts.)  

This book is a must for your library; to read and read again and then to keep on the shelf that holds your most treasured books. 

Now available at your favorite book store.
Did you see my Interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews
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I Guess It’s All In the Writing…

What makes us, as readers, care about the characters in a book?  What is it about one book over another? I recently took a chance on a couple of new authors (to me) and was pretty disappointed. The books were like eating a slice of Wonder White Bread, with nothing on it; not even butter. Bland, tasteless and of little interest. 

Sophie was listless, I’m sorry to say with long run-on sentences. Beachcomber Motel was not interesting for a different and ‘deadly’ reason; the characters were not well drawn. They could have been more interesting; instead all three had been ‘done wrong’ by life. And quite frankly, I didn’t care about them. The love story of Jules didn’t develop until the last few pages and was more like: ‘Oh! I forgot to finish up Jules and Nick’s story.’  But, I misspoke, it wasn’t finished up but left the reader dangling mid-relationship with those two. Probably in the author’s hope that readers would be enticed to read a sequel.  Both of these are going to be a series, which I cannot recommend.  
  1 out of 5 stars 

This is beginning to sound more like a book review but hang in there….I will get to my point about writing. 

4 out of 5 stars

So I gave up on those two and cracked another new one; The Stationmaster’s Daughter.  I was instantly engaged and worried about Tilly and her dad, Ken, Ted and Annie. Of course, the setting didn’t hurt; a discarded railway station out in the wilds of Dorset. (UK)  Through no fault of her own, Tilly’s been kicked pretty hard by life. We find that out (artfully written) pretty soon after page one but with no feeling of being rushed.  Then there are flashbacks to 1935 when the trains were running in rural counties.

So no surprise, the difference is simple. It’s all about the writing. That something that a writer has in their storytelling that weaves a charming, enticing, well-drawn and interesting tale. This one’s about trains; I don’t care about trains except if they are on time and relatively clean. But the writer based the back story on trains in their heyday; the steam locomotion. And it was just enough that a reader like me didn’t grow weary with the history of trains.  It was well balanced with beautifully drawn characters. And the dialogue was excellent; I could hear their voices.             
It’s all in the writing. Full stop!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Matthews 
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A New Author, A Fine Book, A Season for Second Chances

 

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills       Book Review

A few weeks ago Jenny Bayliss’ publisher requested a book review from me.  I tend to shy away from unknown (to me) authors out of fear of having to write a bad review since my mission is to support and uplift all other writers. But the synopsis intrigued me so I accepted the invitation. And…

…might have missed enjoying a really good book. The writing is superb, the story line rich with detail, the characters charming and engaging. The little surprises of humor had me chuckling and spurting an outright laugh (once in awhile) at the clever writing.  The humor is honest and handled with a light hand. 

The story speaks to most women who have faced at least a couple of forks in the road of life.  I could really relate to Annie’s long marriage fizzling out. The abrupt loss of husband and children. What do we do with ourselves? Is this our ‘chance’ to live a life we’ve only dreamed of?  Try some things that we were discouraged to try in our previous (and safe) life? 

I love it when a place becomes a character in the book.  And Saltwater Nook certainly did that! 

Half way through the book I hurried to order Bayliss’ debut novel, The Twelve Dates of Christmas. Which, by the way, has received rave reviews.  This is a very talented writer and I hope she continues to crank out the wonderful stories.

Available for sale October 19th. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary.
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A Book Review and a Writing Lesson

   1 out of 5 quills reviews, authors, writing

                                 

Second Chance Grill could have been an engaging, charming and entertaining read but….the writing was clunky and author, Christine Nolfi, did a lot of ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’.  Where she could have put a character’s challenge into the hands of the characters in her book to solve, she elected to get out a small soap box and preach about the issue (real time).  It was very distracting.  

I will digress from this review and begin a writing lesson. One of the first tenants of writing well is wherever possible, to ‘show don’t tell’.   (Example) The employees of the Second Chance Grill need health insurance.  This writer tells all about the challenges of a small business owner trying to find an affordable plan for employees. She almost crosses the line and leaves fiction for non-fiction.  The author could have easily ‘shown’ the challenge of procuring health insurance by creating a chapter/scene where she meets with some insurance agents. Or she reports back to her employees, Finny and Delia, about her failure to find insurance. But that she isn’t giving up and will continue to pursue it. Maybe Finny reacts with cynicism and disbelief. Maybe Delia has special pre-existing conditions that she’s worried about. 

Same for Blossom’s leukemia. Nolfi writes a couple of pages about leukemia in teens, percentages of poor diagnoses, bone marrow transplants. That’s ‘telling’. It would have been a better story if she’d let her characters show the grim percentages of death, tell of Blossom’s struggle with the side effects of chemotherapy.

And then Nolfi barrels into a fund drive to raise money for the transplant. This is where the writing gets particularly clunky and chopped up, and frankly, unbelievable.  The rhythm of the writing goes off the rails so, sadly, I can’t give it a good review. 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary.
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