Monday, January 18, 2016


"Little Sister!" he cried out. "Thank you for guiding us here. Thank you for taking care of us all this way. Wherever we go we will remember your kindness. We shall wear your feathers when you give them to us. We will hold your people in regard and tell our people always to treat you well…" The Flicker flew up into the air, flashing the gold beneath her wings one last time, and then flew back into the forest. —Ted Andrews

I found a rare yellow shafted flicker
arranged on my doorstep,
perhaps it was a thoughtful gift
from the neighborhood cats,
perhaps not, but it was so beautiful
nestled in that blue woven rag rug,
I couldn't bear to let it go, or bury it.
I took photos of it, I drew it,
and called it Still Life with Dead Bird.
I kept that bird deep in my freezer,
wrapped in tinfoil and night.
And whenever I needed solace
I took it out of the freezer
to admire its golden beauty.
It shone like sunrise, I kept it on ice
for decades, in a cabin I later abandoned,
along with the interrupted dreams of a writer's life.
I wonder what the neighbors thought
when they found it covered with hoarfrost?



I found a rare yellow shafted flicker on my doorstep, perhaps a gift from the neighborhood the cats, perhaps not, but it was so beautiful I took many photos of it, still life with dead bird. I kept it in my freezer, in a cabin I abandoned, I wonder what the neighbors thought?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Get Lucky

After reading some of my Amazon reviews, a writer friend asked: What happened to the great writers? Good question. I keep thinking I'll get lucky. Living writers: who do I admire?

I do like Pat Conroy, but he's a tough read all the way around, I adore Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, V.S. Naipaul, Isabel Allende, Paulo Coelho, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Smiley, John Nichols. 

 Notice that most writers on that list are not American writers. Gabriel García Márquez is dead (I'm keeping this list to living writers, so Edward Abby, Peter Matthiessen, and Bruce Chatwin are also off list). I guess I should toss in Barry Lopez too. But that moves me off fiction and into another realm...

I really don't like Dan Brown, and many other "famous" or best-selling living writers. I will read John Grisham in a pinch, but I can't say I enjoy his work. Nor Mario Vargas Llosa, or Annie Dillard. Has she done anything since Pilgrim at Tinker Creek? Or Michael Cunningham's, The Hours, what a struggle that was to read; AS Byatt, and Milan Kundera, I felt cheated by them. Paulo Coelho could easily join that cheatin' list.

What do I mean by cheatin' list? Author's use of deux ex machina to get out of a story, too much reliance on godtalk—that includes new age spirituality bytes, etc. Sometimes a book is just a chore to read, despite good craft and metaphor.

I don't seek out Stephen King (I hate horror, and most sci-fi). Ditto Ursula le Guin and Margaret Atwood. Hated Earthsea Trilogy, and Handmaiden's Tale. I read Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, enjoyed them but I would never revisit them.

Yeah, yeah, I read all of J.K. Rowling's Harry Pottery tales, and was momentarily enchanted, but this is supposed to be a list of great writers. Popular, best-selling, or top 100 living writers does not equate to great writers. I used Ranker's Best Living Writers List Criteria: writers who are still alive, in order to compile this list, and then I diverged. It got me to thinking about the process of how we construct lists. So, other types of lists evolved. 

There's the List you need to read for Grad School: Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, John Irving, Tom Wolfe, and the ones I'm supposed to like: Neil Gaiman, Nicholas Sparks,Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, etc. This list is thankfully short as I'm limiting it to living writers. Otherwise, there's no telling where this blog post would end.

And then there's the uncategorized list of writers who've jumped ship, the poets I've known, who later became novelists (vs. novelists who became poets:  Edna O'Brien): Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon, Sherman Alexie, Michael Ondaatje, Colm Tobin, Dave Eggars, etc.

Thank Gawd I'm not compiling a list of 100 best poets. Would I have to limit it to poets who are famous, poets I don't know, poets I've read, poets I've read with, poets I've worked with, poets I've slept with? Now there's an incestuous list. Better to stick to dead poets for that list.

And there are the pulp fiction lists of popular writers I secretly read: James Patterson, and Dick Francis (didn't he die? I know his son's been co-writing books with him, perhaps they've a special arrangement. Adds another dimension to ghostwriting). 

Jim Patterson's a thoroughly nice guy, I like what he does with his money, and long ago, and far away, I once read with him at Book Passages, and because he was interested in young writers, I gave him a CPITS anthology of student poetry.... Not sure of his hack partnerships, they read fast and furious (three-page chapters), but I do love his Maximum Ride series.  (See, I do like some sci-fi.)

I hurt my knee a few years ago, I've had a lot of down time, laid up, don't like TV, and then I discovered free ebooks on Amazon, I devoured them, then had to get the bad taste out of my mouth and wash out my eyes, so I began to write rather warty reviews.

I've read so much utter dross, it's frightening. I'm afraid it will rub off and then I will become complacent, so I hone my skills by reviewing ebooks. As penance, perhaps. Sometimes it's purgatory. More like hell. 

But then, I'm a poet, not a novelist, what do I know? We take leaps of faith with obscure metaphor, nobody reads us, we don't even write in complete sentences...

There are only a handful of "new" Amazon writers, whose serialist work I admire, and will actively seek out: Jinx Schwartz, RP Dahlke, R.E. Donald, Chip Hughes, Mike Faricy, Brian Meeks, MZ Kelly, Steve Gannon, Jennnifer L. Jennings, Bev Pettersen, M. Ruth Myers, Abigail Keam—but her books have gotten sloppy as of late. Children's author, D. B. Patterson's adult novel, Perdido River Bastard, may be a one-hit wonder. Ditto Auburn McCanta's All the Dancing Birds. I'll keep my eye peeled for work by Florence Osmund and Ellis Shuman—they both are writers of promise.

As to how much I read, I read fast, furiously fast. Most of what I read does not require much by way of grey cells. That is not to say that I haven't read most of the classics, I've read most of those too as well. Grad school sort of ruined me for reading escape fiction, in order to escape, as it were, so the review process is my penance for reading so much poorly crafted writing. 

Every little once and a while I get lucky and am sucked in by the storyline. That's what it's all about, isn't it? 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2015

(This piece was originally posted June 20, 2015, but seeking verisimilitude, I've moved each year's reviews to Dec. 31. It's too hard to find them buried mid-year.)
I'm an avid ebook reader and reviewer—I read mostly escape fiction, most of it not so good. Some of it deplorable. But, hey, it's free. And I'm cheap, I'll read just about anything. Especially at 4 AM, when I'm desperate to go back to sleep, and hope I'll nod off from sheer boredom. Sometimes it backfires, I find a great book. Then it's 6AM and I'm owl-eyed.

As I said, I'll read just about anything. But not without some teeth gnashing. So I review some of the ebooks upon occasion. Sometimes I get lucky and even find gems among the dross. They get full five-star rating. Check those authors out. Usually the first book's free....

I consider the review process a good honing skill: I read and mentally edit books as I go. My cousin, tired of listening to me complain about how awful some of those ebooks were, said: Why don't you review them too? (And shut up, already.) And so I did. Another tool in the craft toolkit.

What do I look for when I review a book? Strong plot, storyline, and interesting characters with depth, not flat, stereotypes. Some young writers, not clear on the concept of show, don't tell, rely upon the crutches of rampant consumerism to flesh out their story. Using designer clothing labels to define a character, or to set the scene, and the story reads like an ad. Does the description build our understanding of the character, or plot? Is it necessary to the storyline? Do I need to know the protagonist wore an Ann Klein blouse?

I look for a believable plot, good storyline, and figurative language that doesn't intrude, and subtle intellect. Novels stem from the oral tradition. Storyteller George Sanders says it best:
"...the process of crafting a good story means not condescending to your reader. It means creating sentences that clue them into something unnoticed about the character, and allowing them to figure it out. “A bad story is one where you know what the story is and you're sure of it," he says in this short film, George Saunders: On Story."
Then there's the actual structure of the story. Check out the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet: opening image (backstory), set-up (dilemma), theme/catalyst/debate, acts 1 & 2, intro of storyline B, premise, enter the bad guys, dark night of the soul, act 3 (with help from Storyline B), finale, final image/epilogue. Finis.  I love the liveliness of this layout, replete with examples. Less dry than English 1A's plot breakdown, as exposition, and denouement and everything in between, both eluded and deluded me. (Why couldn't they just say setup, conflict, and resolution? See also The Five Elements of Plot Structure.)

Then there are the typos, and poor craft. It's a bad omen when the writer has typos in the synopsis. I generally won't download a book if it does. And then there are the stories that have typos on page one. Really? If an author doesn't know the difference between it's and its, it does not bode well for the "sullied craft" of writing. Possessive apostrophes do not need to precede every single word that ends with ess. Doorknobs don't need to possess the room, unless, of course, they're possessed. But that's another kettle of fish entirely.

Please mosey on over and LIKE some of my reviews. Amazon's all about Like, just like on Facebook. Except, like, the buttons are, like, different. My older reviews are buried deep. But the most recent ones should be fairly easy to access.

Go to MoHurley's Amazon Reviews click on the comments section under my review and that will take you to the review where you can like it. Click on that Yes button under my review as it boosts my ratings.... And then I get Amazon brownie points. Ridiculous, I know.

I began, in 2013 with an even more ridiculous score of 3-point-4-million-something from the top of the reviewers' list, and I am slowly wending my way forward, to 26,578th in line. I'd love to make 25,000th in line. I am (not) a number! A friend liked 3 reviews (truthfully I had 249 liked reviews, now I have 251) and my ranking improved. I am 24,762. Thank you Carol!
  • Oops! Now I'm 25,278 with 253 helpful votes. Statistical vagaries. — 6/30
  • I'm ranked at 24,288, with 300 helpful votes, 77% helpful —11/26
  • Today I'm at ranking in at 24,001, with 331 helpful votes. Yes! Thank you! Amazon's revising its webpages and has done away with some stats. Apparently I also have zero followers, and am following no one. Not only do I have to ask people to like my reviews, but now I need to get people to follow me? Urg. Who knew that Amazon was remaking itself over as AzFB?—12/18

I've also posted some shorter versions of these reviews on Goodreads, but I find the format so tedious, I don't often visit. Don't know how long I'll keep it up.
At one point I was keeping all my reviews in one post, but they got swallowed up by the archives, and even I couldn't find them, so I'm dividing them up by year, and reposting them at the end of the year. Really glad I didn't opt for posting them on the day written. I'd never find them all. Small niggling typos, missing commas, and sentences lacking clarity here, have been corrected on Amazon, but not necessarily here. Forgive me, it's too hard to find, and replace them as it's an ongoing process, this revision, even on reviews! Mea culpea.
My Amazon Book Reviews 2014
My Amazon Book Reviews 2013

Unexpected Kisses (A Castle Mountain Lodge Romance Series Book 1)
Unexpected Kisses (A Castle Mountain Lodge Romance Series Book 1)
Price: $0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Revamp of a revamp?December 29, 2015
OK, so I couldn't help myself, I had to compare the versions/redactions of Unexpected Gifts (Kisses—or whatever it's called—how many different titles and book covers can you give the same story?).

There are definitely changes in the storyline from the current chaste version of Unexpected Gifts. But I am a bit put off by the two (or is it three?) versions, as Elena Aitken changed the storyline in the current revamp of Unexpected Gifts.

The current version Unexpected Gifts not as good as the first release of this book that I had downloaded ages ago, and this version, Unexpected Kisses (aka Unexpected Gifts—the steamy version), seems to be a mishmash of the two other versions, or maybe I'm now tired of reading it. Reading it once was lovely, reading it twice was annoying, reading it 2.5 times was pure torture. So two.five stars it is. Perhaps I shouldn't have revisited this one. Once was enough.

The conclusion to this version, and the other versions, is a very short story, called Unexpected Endings. But calling it a novella is far too generous, and it should have been added to both versions of this story as an epilogue. So I'm calling the whole thing off. I'm done with this author who can't seem to make up her mind as to how the story should go. I've completely lost faith in her ability as a writer. Sad, as I enjoyed reading the very first version a couple of years ago. If you can't remember what you've read from one book to the next, then you'll enjoy it. It truly is escaped fiction.

Unexpected Endings (A Castle Mountain Lodge Romance Series)
Unexpected Endings (A Castle Mountain Lodge Romance Series)
Price: $0.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Predictable endingDecember 29, 2015
Unexpected Endings is a companion novella that provides an ending to the story of Andi and Colin from Unexpected Gifts—aka Unexpected Kisses, the steamy version of the same story— (Castle Mountain Lodge Book 1). It's a light Christmas romance, set a year later, about the happily-ever-after ending to finding the perfect guy. But by the time I got to this storybook ending, I was both underwhelmed and annoyed by the two versions of the first story, Unexpected Gifts/Kisses, and quite frankly, I couldn't figure out why Elena Aitken didn't just conclude the story in Book 1 to begin with.

If you want closure, Unexpected Endings will wrap up the Andi-Colin romance from Unexpected Beginnings—aka Unexpected Kisses. At least it's free. Sadly, I think I'm done with this author. Too much of a one-horse town. 

Unexpected Gifts (Castle Mountain Lodge Book 1)
Unexpected Gifts (Castle Mountain Lodge Book 1) 
Price: $0.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Port in a storm scenario leads to an unexpected giftDecember 18, 2015
Every little once and a while an ebook I've read, resurfaces on BookBub, etc., and I find myself fondly remembering having read it. Canadian writer Elena Aitken's Unexpected Gifts (Castle Mountain Lodge Book 1), is a light Christmas romance. It's been two years since I've read it, so I don't remember every detail. Sure, because it's about finding the perfect guy, there's a happily-ever-after improbability factor to it, but it's also an enjoyable read. Perfect for the holidays. And it's free.

Party planner, and Christmas grinch, Andi Williams accepts a promo invite to remote Castle Mountain Lodge, a safe haven to un-celebrate Christmas. She's somewhat estranged from her family: her father's child bride and new family, her mother, who now plays for the other team, is on a cruise with Val, and Andi's definitely estranged from her ex's family. Grieving for her ex, Blaine Porter, who walked out on her after she had a stillborn daughter, Andi's in the throes of despair.

The premise: Can Andi find happiness again? No room at the inn. On the Winter Solstice, she heads up the mountains. Enter ex-pat playboy Colin Hartford, a room mixup, and a blizzard. A flash of recognition. He's Blaine's childhood chum. Andi met him last year in Santa Lucia. Colin's a player. But Andi literally has nowhere to go, and the blizzard is raging, the highway's closed, so they share the villa, and.... well, you'll just have to read it to find out what happens next.

However, the ending's a tad flat, Aitken utilizes her characters Andi and Colin in another book—a novella ending, there's more to their story, but this is a standalone novel, not a cliffhanger. Unexpected Kisses, also free, is the steamy version of Unexpected Gifts. I've read bits of it to compare the two versions side by side, I prefer the old version of the story. Not sure if I want to revisit it entirely for the naughty bits.

OK, so I couldn't help myself, I had to compare versions/redactions of Unexpected Gifts, there are definitely changes in the storyline. In the latest download (here), Colin is not Blaine's friend...they didn't meet in Santa Lucia... (in the 2011 version of this publication, they do). To say the least, I was confused as the Look Inside feature which carries the old 2011 storyline. Which seems to now be the steamy version of the story. But I am a bit put off by the two, mebbe three versions, as Elena Aitken changed the storyline in this current revamp of Unexpected Gifts (3.1). It's not as good as the first release of the book, so three stars. Perhaps I shouldn't have revisited it. Once was enough.

Unexpected Endings is a companion novella that provides an ending to the story of Andi and Colin from Unexpected Gifts—aka Unexpected Kisses. It's the happily-ever-after ending to finding the perfect guy. But by the time I got to it, I was both underwhelmed and annoyed by the two versions of the story, and quite frankly, I couldn't figure out why Elena Aitken didn't just conclude the story in Book 1 to begin with. If you want closure, vs. the full dis-clothes-ure of Unexpected Kisses (vs Gifts), also download Unexpected Endings to wrap up the Andi-Colin romance. At least it's free.

Mac Travis Adventures Box Set (Books 1-4): Includes - Wood's Relic, Wood's Reef, Wood's Wall, Wood's Wreck
Mac Travis Adventures Box Set (Books 1-4): Includes - Wood's Relic, Wood's Reef, Wood's Wall, Wood's Wreck
Price: $6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Action-packed storylines, choppy writing style & timeline,October 26, 2015
Book 1, Wood's Relic: Wood, a bridge engineer, down on his luck, lands a repair job from local land developer, Braken, with ties to the Mob, who wants to open a casino. Wood's love of the bottle is legendary, and when he meets Mac Travis, escaping from the oil rings and a bad relationship, Braken's shady bridge project just might save them both. But they find a relic at the base of the bridge which opens up a can of worms, and the treasure hunt is on. Wood's Relic has a great storyline, plot, exciting subject, and an entertaining read.

But characters are predictable, not fleshed out, and Becker's writing style is opaque; it doesn't always flow. You have to work at it. I found myself rereading descriptive passages. Huh? What is the author trying to say? There are a few critical missing nouns in sentences, and some odd typos, but it's bearable. Wrong word usage: "I'm ought'a here." Ought is not "out of." It should be "outta" here, for slang. And "moon has risen and shown"—should be "shone." Several common nouns have unnecessary apostrophes (stylistic differences). The game's called jai alai, not JaiLai. Even I know that, as there are jai alai club signs all over Maimi. Misspelled character name: Bracken/Kracken. Don't think it's on purpose, but it's funny, as in The Kraken. A curiosity: no real time frame is established, other than a reference to Hurricane Andrew (1992), until author mentions the new large portable cellphone, not the kind in a bag (analog). Now that's old, ca 1983! But the technology's off as there were 2G digital cellular networks in 1990, the Nokia was the size of a cordless landline phone, and the first IBM smartphone debutted in 1993.

Onward to Book Two. Becker's writing style improves in Wood's Reef, it's easier to read. Mac Travis takes center stage in this novel. Wood's retired, holed up and living off grid on his own hidden key. Novel opens with a prologue flashback set in 1962, and time present is set post Hurricane Katrina (2005).... Mac finds a nuclear warhead while fishing and word gets out.... But there are some timeline issues: Mac says he came to the Keys in the 80s or 90s, but in Book 1, Mac arrived after Hurricane Andrew 1992.
More coming. I'm still reading it, and am giving author benefit of the doubt with three stars.

Are you kidding me? A grammatical typo in the second paragraph of the freakin' Amazon preview? And in the ebook? What's with that? I will read the series, as I love the Florida Keys. Here's hoping that the actual novels are not riddled with typos. I'll give the author the benefit of doubt and reassess my rating at the end. But this does not bode well.
"...a wayward boat blown loose from it's mooring."
a wayward boat blown loose from it is mooring?
Its, without an apostrophe, is a possessive (ownership) pronoun it. (We don't write hi's, so why it's?
It's, with an apostrophe, is a contraction of it + is or it + has.
The ship owns its mooring. As in ownership. Couldn't resist the pun.

Troubled Sea
Troubled Sea
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Batten down for a great readOctober 18, 2015
This review is from: Troubled Sea (Kindle Edition)
If you haven't read Ms. Schwartz' award-winning Hetta Coffey "Just___" series, you're in for a treat. Troubled Sea is the novel that spawned the character, Hetta Coffey. I had a good sitdown this weekend and read them all in order. I experienced withdrawal at series end, so when I found Troubled Sea in my library, I was delighted.

Troubled Sea, Ms. Schwartz' third novel (2004, rev 2014), is a complex, tightly woven, multi-layered plot-driven thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, or boatswain's chair. It's authoritively written without being didactic, and I suspect the story's more than just a tad autobiographical. I love the snappy dialogue, the locale: set in Baja and Sonora, the mode of locomotion: a luxury yacht, and the problem: culture clash. It's a story of some good-Samaritan ex-pat gringos (OK, nosy Americans) caught in the periphery of a drug-running cartel operation and bust. Add some government corruption, and the Mexican police. What could possibly go wrong?

Formatting could be better, Schwartz uses quotes at the beginning of each chapter, and Annie's captain's logs should be either be fully indented quotes, or perhaps italicized (I'm not fond of large blocks of italicized type). There are a few minor typos: it's vs its; bintu's vs bintus; mother vs Mother; I'm not sure why "gringa" is both capitalized and italicized, as it's a common noun; and there's an odd turns of phrase: "he cut his eyes at Annie." Say wha'?

Troubled Sea could easily become a screenplay. It's cinematically written, and laden with a compelling cast of characters. It's a story told from multiple character/viewpoints a la James Patterson. it's action-packed: there are helicopters, planes, racing boats, trawlers and pangas and guns collude, I mean, collide in a showdown that you won't quickly forget. And you might just learn a few nautical terms too.

I had planned on reviewing the Hetta Coffey novels, but the problem is, now that I've read them all at once, it'll be a challenge to review them separately. That said, Troubled Sea is a great place to launch into the Hetta Coffee series: Just Add Water (Book 1), Just Add Salt (Book 2), Just Add Trouble (Book 3), Just Deserts (Book 4), Just the Pits (Book 5), Just Need's Killin' (Book 6).

NB It looks like there's a 7th book, Just Different Devils. How did I miss that?

Troubled Sea garners at least five golden starfish in my book. 

Last Chance Motel 1 (Last Chance Romance Series)
Last Chance Motel 1 (Last Chance Romance Series)
Price: $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not a fully fleshed out storyAugust 28, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Last Chance Motel is entertaining but it's not a fully fleshed out story and I found myself questioning the author's intent. Was she in a hurry, did she mean to rush over that last scene, leaving us hanging, what about veracity?

In the Josiah Reynolds Death By Honeybee series, Abigail Keam is a top notch writer, the stories are rich, and layered with figurative language, and there are few, if any, typos. Yes, I really do highlight authors' typos. I'm that kind of reader.

Some weak-kneed writing gave me pause:

I have issues with unnecessary apostrophes when lower case nouns and objects need to possessively own things. Usually it's a sign of writer weakness. The motel's logo? Motel logo is fine. The hotel's property? (Insert raspberry sound here). No apostrophe is needed, but a sentence overhaul would be better.

If Eva's new love interest, Mike is such a raging diabetic, why on earth is he eating chocolate cake and drinking wine?
His kiss...was lightening fast... Really it was in utero? How placental. LIGHTNING please, fergawdsakes.

Baby cat? Everyone knows what a kitten is. BTW, they don't EAT milk. Drink, yes.
Character's veracity is called into question when Eva leaves the wet kitten to take a shower and change her clothes first? Wow, her priorities are not in order. Most people would dry off a shivering kitten first, then feed it, not take a shower first. So, when all is said and done, now she sleeps with a still-wet kitten? Ohh-kay. No way it fluff-dried during a storm, not with that humidity.

Explanation of a john boat would be nice. I got to thinking of toilets, or heads with open hatches. Wrong image.

Again, a character's veracity is called to question: when Mike saves Eva from the raging storm, he changes her clothes and puts her to bed without treating her head wound or looking at her lacerated bleeding foot which is wrapped in a garbage bag? But he gives himself a shot of insulin. What about all that blood? C'mon Abigail, flesh out the story more....don't be slovenly. Don't rush over scenes. This story reads like a draft and it needs to go back to the writers' workshop team.

That said, I loved the basic storyline, Eva's rebirth, she's a great new character. I loved the story of the rescued manatee, the lap iguana, the flamingo sign, meeting the locals of Key Largo (sounds like Abigail visited the Sundowner Cafe—love those rolling tarpons). BTW, speaking of veracity, there is no mention of the clouds of mangrove mosquitos waiting for fresh blood, and they are particularly fierce in Key Largo. Suggest the author also watch the classic movie, Key Largo, for more background.

Last Chance Motel is a darned sight better than most of the romantic novels that populate Amazon's low rent Kindle space. But I expected more. As a series, it has great potential, if the author takes the time to flesh out her stories.

The House on Via Gombito, Second Edition: Writing by American Women Abroad (A New Rivers Abroad Book)
The House on Via Gombito, Second Edition: Writing by American Women Abroad (A New Rivers Abroad Book)
by Madelon Sprengnether
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.95
29 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Travel for travel's sakeJuly 22, 2015
The House on Via Gombito: Writing by American Women Abroad, an omnibus of personal essay, expository writing, memoir, poetry, and fiction selections, is organized by region. Nearly fifty women writers from North America contributed to this genre published, long before the likes of Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, and other women traveller-writers came into the limelight. These women writers were pioneers exploring the inner emotional landscape of travel, as well as the tough reality of a woman traveling alone, in a genre solidly set in a male-dominated world of heroic adventure writing.

The revised 1997 second edition of House on Via Gombito, is great collection of stories with a new introduction to complement the second collection, Tanzania on Tuesday. Full disclosure: I have a memoir about traveling across the USSR, Night Train to Moscow, in the 1991 first edition of House on Via Gombito.

House On Via Gombito: Writing by North American Women Abroad
House On Via Gombito: Writing by North American Women Abroad
by Madelon Sprengnether
Edition: Paperback
57 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Plucky broads abroadJuly 22, 2015
Nearly fifty women writers from North America contributed to this extraordinary anthology, published in 1991, long before the likes of Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, and other women traveller-writers came into the limelight. These women writers were pioneers exploring the inner emotional landscape of travel, as well as the outer landscapes, in a genre solidly set in a male-dominated world of heroic adventure writing.

House on Via Gombito, a mix of essay, memoir, poetry, and fiction selections, is organized by region: from Africa to Zambia. Full disclosure: I have a memoir piece about traveling across the USSR, Night Train to Moscow, in House on Via Gombito. Thank you Bill Truesdale, New Rivers Press editor extraordinaire, wherever you may be, riding that great zephyr in the sky, for reading my zany eleventh-hour email and seeing a potential story in it. And Madelon Sprengnether for shepherding this anthology into being, not once, but twice—as well as producing a second collection, Tanzania on Tuesday.

Writing the Rails: Train Adventures By the World's Best-Loved Writers
Writing the Rails: Train Adventures By the World's Best-Loved Writers
by Edward C. Goodman
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from $0.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary compendium of train storiesJuly 22, 2015
Writing the Rails is an extraordinary compendium: a collection of 101 train travel stories, mostly in the form of essays, memoir, and historic accounts, but also poetry and fiction—from noted and burgeoning authors—reflecting the origins of train travel from the glory days of the Iron Horse, to time present. From boarding the faded opulence of the Orient Express, and Paul Theroux's gritty travels on the Patagonia Express, to exploring the steamy bowels of the New York City subway, the steel rail hums a melancholy melody.

Featured writers include Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, W.H. Auden, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and more. This book deserved better treatment than being remaindered right after it was released, due to the catastrophic events of 9/11. So glad to see it listed on Amazon after being left in the dark (or at the train station), for over a decade. It deserves to be read. There's literally something for every reader. All aboard! Can you hear that lonesome whistle blowing? It's a hobo's lullaby.

Full disclosure: I also have a memoir piece in Writing the Rails, about traveling across the USSR, Night Train to Moscow, originally published in House on Via Gombito by New Rivers Press. Thank you Bill Truesdale, editor, wherever you may be, riding that great zephyr in the sky, for taking my zany eleventh-hour email and seeing a story in it.

Perdido River Bastard
Perdido River Bastard
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A family tree would enhance this epic southern storyJune 30, 2015
Keeping a promise to his mother, Duddy Dean comes home again after a two-years absence to reckon with his past and deal with the reoccurring amnesia from a childhood accident that continues to haunt him. His father Brandon, a lawman who went missing two years ago, is key to the story but the trail is cold. Can Duddy pick up the threads, and remember, and solve the mystery, thus healing himself? You'll meet strong outrageous over-the-the-top womenfolk who run the tribe, and flawed men who are running their own show, running from the law, or both. Perdido River Bastard is a prodigal story, a Southern epic worthy of Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides with a little Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury tossed in. It's a great read. I was reminded of Fried Green Tomatoes, Cold Sassy Tree and the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. But you, Dear Reader, will need to work diligently to keep track of multiple storylines, and all the characters—especially how they're all related. A few well-placed family trees would've enhanced the story greatly, as I was relatively lost most of the time. I lost track long before Sharon was introduced as Duddy Dean's girlfriend. But my mind was so thoroughly entangled in this kudzu-vine of a story, I kept on reading, trusting that the author would lead me safely out of the swamp. There are epic stories and vignettes that will keep you enthralled and entertained. This is no light fluffy read, you will work hard but the reward is that you'll also become emotionally invested in the somewhat confusing tale. But it's a story well worth your time. You will be transformed by the time you reach the last page. The epiphany. The Aha! And that's what a great novel is supposed to do.

Murder at the Maples: Cozy Private Investigator Series (Flora Lively Mysteries Book 1)
Murder at the Maples: Cozy Private Investigator Series (Flora Lively Mysteries Book 1)
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Witty cosy murder mystery set in rural ShropshireJune 15, 2015
A delightful cozy mystery tale of young Flora Lively, who inherited her father's flailing moving business. She cares deeply for the well-being the elderly clients she's moved to the Maples Retirement Village in rural Shropshire. Joy, in particular, who has become like a surrogate grandmother, reports back that a childhood enemy had moved in, he's there to do her in, and residents on the Third Floor wing are mysteriously dying off too soon. With the help of her manager, Marshall, Flora uncovers a crime ring, prevents a murder, and despite her bumbling ways, saves the day, and some lives.

A well written, witty, entertaining read, and a good, solid writer. I can almost overlook the fact that Joanne Phillips forgot to capitalize Dad when it was used as a proper noun. I think we will be seeing more of the Flora Lively character.

I was also delighted to find that Joanne Phillips also wrote another purr-fectly silly story, as told from a cat's point of view, Cupid's Way. Check it out.

Red Clover
Red Clover
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Family dynamics vs coming of ageJune 15, 2015
Lee Oliver Winekoop, the youngest child of a wealthy Evansville, Illinois family, doesn't fit in. His father despises him and his distant mother can only run so much interference. He's not at all like his accomplished siblings, and is laden with myriad neroses that threaten to cripple him, including agoraphobia. Much to his father's disgust, the only thing that Lee excels at is karate. Ironically, Lee begins to find his way during a summer internship with eccentric but brilliant plant geneticist Dr. Rad, which leads to Lee finding his life's work, and perhaps ultimately a cure for cancer. When his Uncle Nelson dies, Lee receives a secret inheritance with strings attached. Lee's world is turned upside down and ultimately rights itself again. Many sub-stories and segues add to the complexity of the plot, and all the threads are woven into a brilliant tapestry.

Red Clover is not your run of the mill ebook, it's a real coming-of-age novel, replete with complex characters with complex obstacles to overcome. It's based on a premise of a poem, On the Outside Looking In. it's a story about a boy who overcomes great obstacles to heal himself, and in the process, his journey also heals his family and his friends too. (I do wish author hadn't used the word frig for refrigerator; better to write fridge, as in Fridgidaire.)

French Fried: one man's move to France with too many animals and an identity thief
French Fried: one man's move to France with too many animals and an identity thief
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Witty memoir of British Expats moving to FranceJune 15, 2015
French Fried is a book that languished in my Kindle "to read" slushpile, despite having all the right ingredients to snag me as a reader: horses, south of France, memoir. I don't know why I waited so long, perhaps Peter Mayle is my touchstone. But steampunk novelist Chris Dolley is a funny, tongue-in-cheeky writer, with a lively, engaging style, and the memoir (set in the 1990s), is hugely entertaining. Chris and Shelagh had more than the fair share of harrowing experiences from battling with recalcitrant French authorities, unscrupulous contractors, to stolen passports and identity theft, and being swindled by a nefarious ex-pat, and they survived to tell a right-rolicking tale.

The structure of the book is crisis-driven, or, will the English couple survive the next outrageous onslaught of misfortune? Getting the horses and the lurcher to France, or animals behaving badly. The joys of house-hunting and remodeling. Getting a car, insurance, and a license. Identity theft, parts one and two. Sherlocking it. Getting one's identity back. My only minor complaint is that Chris Dolley's over-the-top writing style offers little respite. Sometimes less is more. British ex-pat, Victoria Twead, who also writes memoirs of relocating to Spain, is a less accomplished writer, but easier to read. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am glad the Dolleys survived their harrowing adventures and lived to tell their tale with grace and aplomb.

Aunt Bessie Assumes (An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery Book 1)
Aunt Bessie Assumes (An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery Book 1)
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable murder mystery set in the Isle of ManJune 15, 2015
Aunt Bessie Assumes is a lively who-done-it murder mystery tale set on the Isle of Man ca. 1998, featuring Aunt Bessie, the village's honorary maiden aunt. Rain or shine, she takes her morning walk, but when she finds a body on sleepy Laxey Beach, things heat up.

This is an insular tale of bumbling police and island-mainland turf wars. Local Constable Hugh Watterson, vs. Inspector Rockwell, Manx CID. It's also a case of locals clashing with those swanky summer visitors "from across" the water. The dead man is summer visitor Daniel Pierce. It's a story of drugs, gold-diggers, infidelity, sibling rivalry, and corruption. One murder begets another murder. The police are stumped. A trap is set to snare the killer, but will Bessie be next?

Aunt Bessie is a dead character resurrected from another series, Island Romance. She wouldn't leave the author Diana Xarissa, alone, and demanded her own story. She's a bit like Miss Marple, only quirkier. A memorable character. A cosy murder mystery series that both entertains and delights. Look for all seven Aunt Bessie series: Aunt Bessie Believes, …Considers, …Decides, …Enjoys, and the forthcoming Aunt Bessie Finds, … Goes. If you're a diehard Aunt Bessie fan, an anthology, Summer Dreams, introduces the first ever Aunt Bessie short story

Valley of Thracians: A Novel of Bulgaria
Valley of Thracians: A Novel of Bulgaria
by Ellis Shuman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.28

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping tale of kidnapping and smuggling set in BulgariaJune 15, 2015
Historical novel, Valley of Thracians is set in post-communist Bulgaria. Retired English professor Simon Matthews sets out to find his missing adventurous grandson, who is presumed dead. The trail is three years cold and the case is closed. But Simon won't give up. Scott's body was never found. He has a gut feeling Scott is alive. Besides, someone recently logged onto Scott's Skype account, and the laptop was never recovered. Simon Matthews and Thracian scholar Sophia Ivanova team up to hunt for his missing grandson, which leads to uncovering an antiquities smuggling ring run by the Bulgarian Mafia, and murder. Scott's Peace Corps host family offers few clues as to his disappearance. But that's where the trail, though ice-cold, begins.

Simon's story is narrated in traditional third person novel format. But the backstory of Scott Matthews is introduced via emails, and the story of Scoot and Katya during the missing three years, is told in the first person perspective, creating an immediacy set within time present. Which serves to heightens the drama: is Scott alive or not? The gripping conclusion, when all the threads are woven together, is a real page turner.

Unfortunately there are a few silly author errors: "unbridled horses" do on wander across roads. Unfettered, halterless, or loose horses, maybe. But not unbridled. Wrong word. "She beings the slow process of unthawing." Unthawing? I think the author means: "thawing." Unless she's refreezing? Again, wrong word. Other small typos don't interfere with the story. The historical component of the story could serve as a modern travel guide. Ellis Shuman, who lived in Bulgaria in 2009-2010, does an extraordinary job in both telling the tale and setting the scene.

BY EASTERN WINDOWS (Macquarie Series Book 1)
BY EASTERN WINDOWS (Macquarie Series Book 1)
Price: $4.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping account of the Father of AustraliaJune 15, 2015

I didn't realize that By Eastern Windows, by Gretta Curran Browne, was a historical novel based upon a real person, a biography of sorts, as it begins like an 18th century historical romance novel. The story is based on historical documents of soldier and Scotsman from the Isle of Mull, Lachlan Macquarrie, aka the Father of Australia. I knew none of this backstory until I had finished the novel. Irish author Gretta Curran Browne has done a credible job sussing out the life of Lachlan Mcquarrie, and the fact that the story was based on actual facts, explains some of the perceived anomalies and dropped threads in the storyline. Mcquarrie's first wife, Jane Jarvis, a Jean Rhys style Caribbean island girl, is the ward of an unscrupulous brother-in-law, who is a pompous caricature straight out of Dickens. Her mysterious illness and death in Macao is bizarre, to say the least. The second story of Elizabeth Campbell does read like a Regency novel set on the ton. Apparently Browne did not take liberties with the original story to shoehorn it into a fictional model. It's a sweeping epic tale that takes us from the isle of Mull, Scotland, to India, Macao, and Australia. A sequel, The Far Horizon, is set in Australia, followed by Jarvisfield, and The Wayward Son.

Bombshell (Dev Haskell - Private Investigator, Book 4)
Bombshell (Dev Haskell - Private Investigator, Book 4)
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Roller Derby murder mayhemJune 13, 2015
St. Paul PI Dev Haskell is a poor judge of women but a good judge of booze. His date Carol jilts him for a Frenchman, Nicholas. Meanwhile he's hired to protect a visiting roller derby team, The Bombshells. When he is framed for a roller derby queen murder, even his cop buddy, Vice Lieutenant, Aaron LaZelle, and Louie, an alcoholic public defender, about to be debarred, can't bail him out. Detective Manning is out for Dev's head. He thinks he's nailed Dev to the wall this time. Nicholas is a bad penny, and suddenly it's case of crossed cases. When Dev again runs afoul of the law, there's only so much Dev's friends can do to keep him out of trouble this time. Once again Dev has to save himself by solving the crime. Some madcap adventures and romps in and out of the bedroom help to solve this murder mystery.

(There are some typos: martini's, for example. I wasn't keeping track, the book was fast-paced, but I still noted them. Though I enjoyed this book, it felt rushed, less crafted than Faricy's other Dev Haskell books.

Russian Roulette (Dev Haskell - Private Investigator, Book 1)
Russian Roulette (Dev Haskell - Private Investigator, Book 1)
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced bumbling lovable gumshoe readJune 13, 2015
As most of my Kindle library is comprised of free downloads from Amazon, it's eclectic, at best. I prefer soft murder mysteries over bodice rippers, but cosy murder mysteries are sophomoric, and hard boiled action thrillers are usually too violent for my taste. Finding someone edgier than Miss Marple, is a challenge.

Delightfully flawed PI and slovenly boozer, Dev Haskill is an interesting protagonist, and the Mike Faricy series is well written. Faricy is a strong writer and takes care of the reader. A la Ray Chandler, Faricy's characters make bad decisions early, and their consequences inform the story. I didn't realize I had several of Faricy's books already on my Kindle, so as soon as I read one, I galloped onto the next one. Makes it hard to review just one book.

Dev Haskill singlehandedly holds up the corner of the bar with cases of jack Daniel's and Jamison's at a dive called The Spot in St. Paul, when he's not working (and when he's working too); he uses the watering hole as his office. Moe's Diner is his recovery room and office away from home. Dev is hired by a French girl named Kerri to find her sister Nikki. He doesn't have much to go on, a photo of the missing girl with two men—who turned up dead.

Despite being up to his eyeballs in bad decisions, Dev's investigations lead him into the sinister underworld of a Russian Mafia white slavery ring, and a passel of Russians want him silenced. And the St. Paul police force would like to bag him, and pin some felonies on him too. When he runs afoul of a FBI sting, his only buffer is his childhood friend on the force, vice cop Aaron LaZelle, and an alcoholic public defender, about to be debarred. But there's only so much they can do to keep Dev out of trouble. Dev has to save himself by solving the crime with the help of Heidi, his bail bondswoman and sometimes squeeze, and Sunnie, a computer whiz.

This action-driven thriller will keep you turning the pages. Well worth your time to invest in this series. Before you read Russian Roulette, you might want to download a short (back)story, prequel, Twinkle Toes. Up next are Mr. Swirlee (Mr. Softee), Bite Me, Bombshell, Tutti-Frutti,, and Last Shot. Watch for them. They're stand-aloneds and can be read in almost any order. There are eleven books so far in the series, Faricy is a prolific writer.

Leave No Stone Unturned (A Lexie Starr Mystery, Book 1)
Leave No Stone Unturned (A Lexie Starr Mystery, Book 1)
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced cosy murder mystery with more depth than most CMMsJune 13, 2015
After a spate of skimming through bad cosy murder mysteries, Leave No Stone Unturned was a delight to read. It's well written, typo free, and not dumbed down like most cosy murder mysteries are (whoever coined a genre cosy murder mystery (CMM) is an oxymoron—we're talking murder here. The CMM sleuth is a bumbling female who, despite her flaws, solves her case).

Protagonist pre-geriatric widower, and volunteer librarian, Lexi Starr becomes a sleuth when she begins to notice that her daughter Wendy's new macho husband Clay Pitt, a cop, is not what he seems, not only is he a moose poacher, he's someone with a hidden past. When Lexi delves into Clay's past, she discovers his first wife was murdered; he may be a potential murderer. Eliza Pitt was found murdered in the Adirondack Mountains? Will Wendy be next?

Lexi plans a long fall trip from Kansas to the Adirondacks ostensibly to take photos of fall colors but plans a secret side trip to Schenectedy, NY, Clay's hometown. Wendy had lost her childhood charm bracelet, and was heartbroken, so Lexi found an online jeweler in South Carolina, who could replace it. Stone Van Patten notices that here's no charm for South Carolina and offers to be her tour guide.

She uses Stone as a pretext to visit someone she met online. A date. Wendy goes ballistic, tables are turned, but Lexi is determined. In a comedy of errors, Stone winds up in Schenectedy and turns out to be an ideal partner in crime. The cold case file turns dark when pieces begin to fall in place, When Wendy is kidnapped, old family secrets rise to haunt the present, and repeat the past. A page turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Queen Gene
The Queen Gene
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A witty and creative romp that will have you laughing out loudJune 13, 2015
A delightful story about a kooky New York family escaped from the suburbs,to open an arts colony in the Berkshires where everthing goes wrong. it's a story replete with dysfunctional artist tenants, cranky ghosts, pretentious neighbors who thrive on one-up-man-ship style parties, and even more dysfunctional relatives.

The story's witty and well written, the author weaves divergent shorelines well. Memorable characters include protagonist Lucy's New Age mother, narcissistic Anjoli, and her neurotic butt-dialing chihuahua, and other meddling relatives. Despite having perfect health, Anjoli has explored the gamut in alternative healing practices, from spun chakras to eye analysis, offers sage advice. She invests in gay theater and there are some queens in the story—but it doesn't help explain the title, other that everyone's flamboyant. There' Lucy's cousin model Kimmy who takes after Anjoli, Lucy's eternally upbeat aunt Bernice stuck in retirement party mode Florida, and there's more than a nodding reference to Lucy's party-crashing dead relatives, Bernice's sister cranky Rita, and husband George the handyman.

Death by Request (Caribbean Murder Series, Book 11)
Death by Request (Caribbean Murder Series, Book 11)
Price: $6.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Awful writing, interesting, predictable storylineJune 11, 2015
I'm with LadyMax on this one, I like the characters, the setting, and the storyline, but the author's writing and editing skills seen to grow worse over time. The only reason I keep reading this poorly written series is because I want to know the characters' fates. Why, I don't know as the characters are shallow, and predictable as is the plot. It's been a long, boring romance from Cindy's first husband's honeymoon murder to Matteus' proposal. I think I'm done with this series. I can only subject myself to so much bad writing.

Skye's previously released books are so laden with typos and grammatical errors, it's a struggle to read them. I can handle a few errors, but not as many as Skye has let loose onto the ebook realm. Skye's sentences are cloyed with weird linguistic conundrums. She uses weak adverbs/adjectives, wrong prepositions, and repetitiveness. I've taken to highlighting the times she uses "beautiflul/y" nearly 60 times in this novel). Novel # 8 was the worst written ebook, by far.

Sadly Skye's is a slipshod, hack writer who shows no sign of improving. You'd think with 11 books under her belt, there would be some grounds for improvement, but no. I can only conclude that she doesn't seem to care about the reader at all. My only excuse for reading her books is that they were free, I had insomnia and used them as a sleeping aide. If you like simple, shallow romantic novella style murder mysteries, you'll probably like this series.

A Saucy Murder: A Sonoma Wine Country Cozy Mystery
A Saucy Murder: A Sonoma Wine Country Cozy Mystery
Price: $0.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A simple summer readJune 11, 2015
I tend to read novels set in a locale I know well with trepidation, but this book was fun. Sure, I know Blissville well, and could unravel the conflation of various landmarks. But I very nearly didn't read the book because, after the opening paragraphs, the story unfolds with rampant consumerism: name brand clothing used as a means to establish character, and, to boot, the list was more suitable for a 45-something year-old material girl, than a 65-year-old grannie sleuth. Do I need to know Emma's slacks were from Banana Republic. or her shirt was from J. Crew? How does product placement enhance the storyline—is it an infomercial or a novel? It's a classic case of the author indulging in too much telling, and not enough showing. The author needed to use motivation and actions to establish character, not a clothing list. Ugh. Once I wobbled past the triteness, I did enjoy the story, and most of the descriptive scene settings were adequate, but I had pretty much had figured out who the killer was. I like the way the novel is structured so that the murder is solved within a week. The immediacy suited the storyline, keeping it fresh. That said, characters were interesting and engaging. But a deep read, this is not. Unfortunately cosy murder mysteries often leave something to be desired: intellect. If you're in for some mindless escape fiction for the beach or vineyard, then this is your cuppa tea—er, bottle of summer wine.

Ice on the Grapevine (A Hunter Rayne Highway Mystery, Book 2)
Ice on the Grapevine (A Hunter Rayne Highway Mystery, Book 2)
Price: $4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid gumshoe noir, a pleasure to readMarch 30, 2015
Another reviewer compared protagonist Hunter Rayne, a retired ex-Mountie-cum-trucker, to Clint Eastwood, but Hunter is more soulful, and does not seek the limelight. He reminds me of Canadian TV detective DaVinci, of DaVinci's Inquest. Hunter is a complex lawman who retired after his RCMP partner committed suicide, and Hunter, haunted by his friend's death, took to the open road as big-rig trucker. Newly divorced, Hunter can barely make ends meet, and his relationship with his kids is shaky, but he's still a detective at heart. When his newlywed trucker friends with a checkered past are framed for murder—a frozen corpse turns up in their refrigerated truck—Hunter lives up to his moniker, and gets his man, or men.

An entertaining procedural police drama replete with several characters who first made an appearance in Donald's debut book in the series, Slow Curve on the Coquihalla. Ice on the Grapevine, is more spare, and less prosaic than Coquihalla, but it fits solidly in the gumshoe genre. Canadian writer R.E. (Ruth) Donald's writing style reflects her deep knowledge of the trucking world. Authorative polished writing, solid, well-crafted characters, great plot twists, pacing, and the prerequisite dangling red herrings make Donald a pleasure to read. And, rest assured, though it's part of a series, it has a solid ending, not a cliffhanger.

A Weapon of Choice (A Sarah Woods Mystery 9)
A Weapon of Choice (A Sarah Woods Mystery 9)
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A quick, easy readMarch 30, 2015
I guess I'm lucky in that I dropped in on this series at Book 9, which several readers have proclaimed as the best one yet. I enjoyed meeting Sarah Woods, and the storyline. A great entertaining read. Rebound boyfriend Max and Sarah, PI in training, and Sarah's mentor PI, Carter are interesting, believable characters. The plot and the writing are solid, it's fast-paced, and entertaining. I couldn't put it down. A quick, easy read.

However, I was distracted by a few silly typos: misplaced apostrophes: “Well, I’m contacting all of Melanie’s friends and relatives and trying to secure alibi’s." Alibis? "Does your aunt know the Dunaway's?" The Dunaway's what? Driveway? Oh, she means the Dunaways, the simple plural Dunaways. A deuce of Dunaways, to be exact.
Proper nouns need capitalization: "She and mom were friends." "'d rather talk about dad..." "....the bible." Mom, Dad, Bible, in these contexts, all are proper nouns.
A few pedestrian typo-typos: "...mahoganythat...." SO, DO, etc.
Wrong word: "please, don’t let it out of your site.” Sight. (Sigh, spellcheck wins again.) By Book 9, you'd think that these kinds of typos would have been vetted out. Proofread much? Hence the three-star rating.

TENDER DECEIT (Romantic Suspense Psychological Thriller): The TENDER Series ~ Book 1
TENDER DECEIT (Romantic Suspense Psychological Thriller): The TENDER Series ~ Book 1
Price: $0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great cliffhanger with no satisfying closureMarch 30, 2015
An enjoyable read, I loved the exotic locale, and the storyline. Tender Deceit is more of a procedural murder mystery than a romance novel. Leah connecting up with a high school sweetheart has all the trappings of a great romance story. It's well written, though I must confess that I began to question the author's veracity toward the end of the story. I understand that H.Y. Hanna wanted to drive wedge between Leah and Taran to heighten and prolong the suspense and expand the storyline, which it did, but I found I was beginning to question the author's motives. An author shouldn't intrude between storyline/plot and characters. If this had been a stand-alone story, I would've given it 4 or 5 stars, but the author deliberately leaves the reader twisting in the wind. I'm not a good serial reader, never was one to queue up to buy the next book just because the cliffhanger left me stranded on a literary slope. I do like closure, otherwise it has a contrary effect on my psyche, making me cranky with the author. Yeah, I do get the marketing ploy that the author wants me to buy the next book in line, but it makes me resentful. I had to skip ahead to read the previews of Hanna's following books in the series in order to get some sense of closure. Still, it was a gripping tale.

Daisy McDare And The Deadly Legal Affair (Cozy Mystery) (Daisy McDare Cozy Creek Mystery Book 2)
Daisy McDare And The Deadly Legal Affair (Cozy Mystery) (Daisy McDare Cozy Creek Mystery Book 2)
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A fluffy read, should be labeled YA fictionMarch 30, 2015
A fluffy murder mystery far removed from any semblance of believability. It's amateurishly written, as if by a high school student, replete with stilted dialogue, the usual silly apostrophe typos, bad grammar, and plain old odd sentences: "Daisy didn’t even realize they made that made pink outfits" Nancy Drew is a more compelling sleuth, with more substance than this one-dimensional sugar-coated protagonist, Daisy McDare. No square meals were ever consumed, but sweets and chocolate cravings take center stage in this novella. Keep your insulin pills handy. What's with the "hot mess" cliché anyway? "The man was an emotional hot mess..." Augh! This little affair reads more like a dog's breakfast than a cozy mystery. Luckily it was a very short read. Save your more articulate hunger for a meatier story.

Poetry Crossing: 50+ Lessons for 50 Years of California Poets in the Schools
Poetry Crossing: 50+ Lessons for 50 Years of California Poets in the Schools
by Susan G. Wooldridge
Edition: Flexibound

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time-tested writing recipes in a handy formatMarch 21, 2015
Poetry Crossing: 50+ Lessons for 50 Years, an anthology of teaching resources, is designed for poets of all ages, and it delivers poetry of diverse styles and literary traditions. Poetry Crossing features model poems by award-winning poets and poets laureate as well as student poems and bilingual resources. It's chock-full of 50-plus tme-tested writing recipes in a handy large 8x11" format ready for copying on Monday morning. I've met several teachers who are using this book and are absolutely loving it. I too use this anthology when I visit classrooms as a CPITS poet.

What's fun for me, though I don't have any poetry recipes in the book, is that several of the poetry lessons are ones I either borrowed from other poets, or developed during the 1980s, and they have been re-envisioned by other CPITS poets, and presented in a new format. Truly a magnificent 50-year collaborative teaching effort in one handy format.

Poetry Crossing was edited by Phyllis Meshalum; not Susan G. Wooldridge, author of Poemcrazy, who wrote the foreword. Contributors with a California connection include former United States Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, former Ca Poet Laureate Al Young, Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Snyder, David St. John, Ellen Bass, with former and current CPITS poets including Jane Hirshfield, Ca Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, Susan Wooldridge, Francisco Alarcón, and others who have donated their poems. Poetry Crossing makes tangible five decades of CPitS creative writing pedagogy, aimed to stimulate the intellectual curiosity and creative problem-solving skills of today’s students. It belongs up front and center on every poet's and creative writing teacher's bookshelf.

Essential Oils: A proven Guide for Essential Oils and Aromatherapy for Weight Loss, Stress Relief and a better Life: Essential Oils (Essential Oils for Beginners Book 1)
Essential Oils: A proven Guide for Essential Oils and Aromatherapy for Weight Loss, Stress Relief and a better Life: Essential Oils (Essential Oils for Beginners Book 1)
Price: $2.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An infomercial ebook? Don't waste your time. No joy.February 25, 2015
Not particularly useful or well thought out, this ebook reads like an infomercial replete with hotlinks to buy products. It's more like a teaser, the second half of the book is filled with preview chapters for other books, as is the recipe portion of the book. Disappointing, to say the least. Author haphazardly lists essential oils in random configurations, and has not proofread the manuscript. Some oils are capitalized, others are not. Especially lavender, as if it were a girl's name. Sarah Joy can't even get the title sorted out—with random capitalization. Then, there's just the plain wrong words spelled right used. Breathe is used when she meant the word breath. Save your breath, just say no and pass this one by.

Henry Wood: Edge of Understanding (Henry Wood Detective series Book 4)
Henry Wood: Edge of Understanding (Henry Wood Detective series Book 4)
Price: $5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wrong book, right cover: Amazon please update correct versionJanuary 20, 2015
I ordered and downloaded, but didn't receive "Henry Wood: Edge of Understanding". Beneath this cover, I received a different novel by the same author: "Underwood, Scotch and Wry". But I already own "Underwood, Scotch and Wry". I like Henry Wood novels, but this is irritating. You really can't judge this book by its cover when it's the wrong cover, or wrong innards, in this case. If you received the wrong copy from Amazon, contact Brian Meeks at, and he'll send you the correct version.

Dear Amazon,

Amazon was supposed to push the correct version Brian Meeks' book, "Henry Wood: Edge of Understanding" to everyone who downloaded the wrong version last August.

Sleuthing through comments attached to other one-star reviews, I discovered that some 40,000 of us received the wrong book due to a massive e-gearhead error on the author's part, (a case of mistaken cover identity), which has caused him a massive publishing nightmare.

Apparently Amazon promised Brian Meeks to "push" the corrected version to us. Hasn't happened some five months later. Well, it didn't happen. What gives, Amazon?

TG, Brian Meeks offered to replace this version with the correct copy. I contacted the author directly, and so, am good. I now have the correct version. But, Amazon has done a grave disservice to the author Brian Meeks by not following through with everyone who downloaded it, by giving them the correct version. This has hurt his sales, and a chance to further promote his book, which in turn negatively impacts Amazon sales.

Mr. Meeks assures me that most of his readers did eventually receive the correct version but, for some reason, I did not. I suspect there are many other readers in a similar situation--as Mr. Meeks has 15 negative one-star reviews and nearly all of them mention that the wrong book was received. But they did not write to Amazon to complain. I am complaining on behalf of those other readers.

Amazon, please push the corrected version of book to Brian Meeks' readers ASAP. He is an intelligent and erudite writer, and deserves your full support to correct this error. As it is, there's far too much amateur writing that passes for literature on Amazon. Meeks is a keeper.

FWIW, due to the extenuating circumstances surrounding this SNAFU, I've upgraded this from a one-star to a four-star review, based on the sample (though there were some small typos.) I will add a detailed review later, when I've had a chance to read the entire book.

The Ruby Brooch (Time Travel Romance) (The Celtic Brooch Series Book 1)
The Ruby Brooch (Time Travel Romance) (The Celtic Brooch Series Book 1)
Price: $4.99

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative storyline, possessive apostrophe mayhemJanuary 12, 2015
I enjoyed the premise of The Ruby Brooch (Time Travel Romance)--it's both imaginative and inventive--but the mechanics of Logan's writing leave something to be desired. The overall writing was awkward, and her vocabulary was simplistic and littered with too many poorly crafted similes.

The basic idea of the book was interesting, but it needs serious revision. The time travel aspect was too over the top and not believable.The characters are flat romance stereotypes. Not enough accurate historical detail. And the iPhone, iPod time travel thing was too weird and contrived for words. Suspension of disbelief, much? The end of the book drags on as well.

Logan's use of possessive noun/genitive is unnecessary in at least 90% of her sentences. I've noticed that this seems to be a trend in Kindle books in general. Is it software that's prompting all these weird sentence structures, or merely a lack of writing skill? Fergawdsakes, Dear Author, in future stories, please don't use another possessive noun apostrophe (-'s) in a sentence unless you have to.

Not only is the unnecessary punctuation awkward, it literally breaks the narrative flow. Makes me stop dead every time and rephrase the sentence. The reader shouldn't have to revise the writer's sentences in her head. Reading requires a suspension of disbelief, and if the reader is thrown out of the story because of ambiguous phrases and uneven punctuation, it's hard to overcome the limitations. Cardinal rule: Take care of the reader.

Logan wrote: on a chair's spindly rear legs
Suggest: on the spindly rear legs of the chair

Logan wrote: Reading the paper's recitation was unnecessary.
Suggest:Reading the recitation in the paper was unnecessary.

One may assume I'm being overly nit-picky, or a cranky reader (I am) but these errors listed above are ALL on page 1.

Logan wrote: escorted the bride's widowed aunt
Now, this one is necessary.

Cullen walked in his grandsire's shoes.

the line above the marketing manager's manicured nail.

I was the farm's mistress.
shaky, but passable.

Logan wrote: She climbed up on the wagon's bench seat
Logan wrote: she wore her pencils' graphite tips to nubs.
Logan wrote: in the busy dining room's front corner
really? AWK!
Suggest: in the front corner of the busy dining room

Logan wrote: As a little girl, Kit's father's toolbox, full of wooden...

The author's attempt to support two possessive nouns in a row has created an odd sentence. Better to use two sentences.
When Kit was little, she was fascinated by her father's toolbox full of wooden handles worn smooth and shaped to his grip.

Hopefully these random examples illustrate my point--there are many more, especially toward the end of the book.

Misplaced punctuation I can handle--sometimes. But if it requires a reread to grasp the meaning, then it needs to be fixed.

"...with a famous poet, he knew (comma) Grace McCoy..." Ya need the comma.

It's worth it to take one's writing to the next level. And with very little effort. At least Logan knows the difference between it is and its. I think I only spotted one inappropriate it's. I would've given The Ruby Brooch a 4-star rating but there's far too much clumsy writing for it to merit a higher score.

Note bene: while weeding out old email drafts, I found these notes for a review from 6/9/13, long before I began to write reviews for Amazon. I may rework it at some point. Or not.

Child of the Mist (These Highland Hills, Book 1)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting storyJanuary 11, 2015
Child of the Mist, set in 1565, in the Scottish Highlands, where widower Niall Campbell, still mourning for his dead wife, and young Anne MacGregor, a midwife and healer, are pledged in order to bring peace between the feuding clans. But it was hardly love at first sight, and a traitor in the midst, tries to disrupt the families' attempts at a peace treaty and clan alliance. There's also a potential love triangle that raises the tension and strains the relationship to breaking. Supporting characters are interesting and memorable. Morgan paints the backdrop well.

The story begins slow, and it does have a Christian theme, but it doesn't kick into overdrive until the end. My rationale is that during the 16th century, the characters would be motivated by faith in action and deed. Alas, it's a story light on historical facts, and utilizing Christian rhetoric to move the storyline, never works. Deux ex machina. If you're into Christian lit with an inspirational overlay, it will disappoint. If you're not fond of Christian lit, it will disappoint. There's a lot of linguistic lip-service, but the protagonists behave like lusty Harlequin romance characters. I suspect that a Christian overlay was added to the story later. A revisionist pastiche that does not seamlessly move the story.

The plot weighs heavily on the central characters inability to choose love, or each other, so they sit on the fence of indecision, and argue throughout the novel. The author's use of colloquial language woven with modern speech acts sometimes makes for a hard read. The plot's predictable and the story may be trying to cover too many genre bases at once: historical, romantic, Christian, etc., I enjoyed reading it, but Outlander, it's not. According to other reviews, this first book is the weakest one in These Highland Hills trilogy. Wings of Morning, and A Fire Within have drawn more positive reviews.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful tale told from a child's perspectiveJanuary 11, 2015
A Pony for Christmas is a delightful quick read as told from a six-year-old's perspective. Wonderful story, and characters. Because it's a short story, or novella, there's an economy of language, and characters aren't as fleshed out, but the story holds. Suzy believes that if she is very good, Santa will bring her a pony, despite all odds to the contrary. Sort of a "build it and they will come" theme, to steal a metaphor from Field of Dreams. Sometimes magic happens. I didn't realize that that the novella was written by Bev Petersen, an author I admire. Bev rode the racetrack circuit in Alberta, she knows her horses, and has a keen eye for detail. But in this story, she's outdone herself, and the tale will linger, long after you've put the book down. Kudus. It will tug at your heartstrings. A hard copy to any horse crazy little girl would make a fine Christmas or birthday gift.

3.0 out of 5 stars Better edited than Skye's other booksJanuary 11, 2015
Perhaps Jaden Skye is finally listening to the Amazon reviews as this book was not as fraught with appalling typos as her other books. Skye is a decent storyteller, and dialogue is a strength. Unfortunately Book 8 was also loaded with typos, which prompted my first review. The books published later than this one are not necessarily edited.

I understand it's a hassle to re-upload a corrected manuscript to Amazon, so many authors don't bother. But Skye's previously released books are so laden with typos and grammatical errors, it's a struggle to read them. I can handle a few errors, but not as many as Skye has let loose onto the ebook realm. So, it's still buyer beware.

However, this particular edition seems to be fairly blemish free. Amazon will refund ebooks that you don't like, so I suggest that if you do download one of the unedited novels, demand a refund. Perhaps Skye will get the message and revamp them all.

Since the author is recycling a storyline and basic plot over and over again, the real story is about the protagonist. Death by Honeymon, the first in the series, is free, but loaded with errors. Characters are flat, but it's often a lively, shallow read. Escape fiction, each story is set on different Caribbean islands.

This was originally posted June 20, 2015, but seeking verisimilitude, I've moved each year's reviews to Dec. 31. It's too hard to find them buried mid-year. Since it's not yet Dec. 31, I'm moving this to  today. That will change. Take that, web crawlers!

I reposted the first 50 Amazon reviews on my blog, but then I keep going back and revising them and then I can't remember which review to update. So these may be slightly different that what's up on the Amazon page.

My Amazon Book Reviews 2014
My Amazon Book Reviews 2013