Thursday Throwback – loved it!

25810271Woman with a Blue Pencil

Reading Decathlon, book 2

Title: Woman with a Blue Pencil

Author: Gordon McAlpine

Genre: literary mystery

Themes: racism, war, patriotism, stereotypes, love

Setting: Los Angeles/California 1941

Source: Found it on Goodreads/Library

Story: Is it about Sam Sumida, Japanese American looking for the murderer of his wife? Is it about Jimmy Park, Korean American, hunting for an evil Japanese mastermind intent on destroying America? Is it about William Thorne, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and father of four, writing spy thrillers under an assumed name? Is it about Takumi Sato, young Nisei confined to a camp in California with an ailing father? Or is it about the woman with the blue pencil, who manipulates them all for her own gain?

The answer is yes, it’s about all of these and more. It’s about the power of narrative to sustain us through the most difficult times in our lives. It’s about the drive to honor our truth, no matter what the cost.

I can’t recommend this strongly enough. It’s a puzzle and a book and a triumph. I wish I had written it. 5 stars.

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Top 10 Tuesday – Audiobooks

I have really become a fan of audiobooks. A couple of years ago I wasn’t so sure about them, but the more I listen, the more I love them. Nothing makes an annoying or stressful car ride better than a great book. And when I’m working at home, a gripping story can make the hours fly by. Here are some I recommend.

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10 Mystery Audiobooks You Need to Find

  1. Moriarty by Antony Horowitz – This one was good, nothing extraordinary, until about halfway through it became one of the best books of year! The ending completely took me by surprise. Great narration on this one.
  2. No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith – My favorite in this long series is the first one, but any of them are good. The African narrator adds so much to the story that I imagine reading it in her voice when I read the print too!
  3. Silks by Dick Francis – Francis is one of my favorite mystery/thriller writers and I’ve loved all the audio versions. This one is set in a courtroom.
  4. A Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden – I’ve already reviewed this Victorian mystery here, but it’s worth mentioning again. The setting really adds to this book’s appeal. Review here.
  5. The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Alford. This one has an unexpected ending that made it a totally unpredictable ending. Review here.
  6. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – It’s not her best, but it is the first. I listened to the one narrated by Hugh Fraser and he does an excellent job with each of the characters.
  7. Behold, Here’s Poison by Georgette Heyer – This one may be hard to find, but I love her mysteries. They’re full of crazy characters and have a touch of old-fashioned romance.
  8. The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton – A great narrator made this one work for me. Captures different English voices and I got a picture of each character as I listened.
  9. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi – As much science fiction as mystery and completely original. I loved the main character and his story.
  10. The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King – This one took characters I thought I knew and changed everything completely! Bold and dramatic and completely engrossing.

 

There, now you have 10 more titles to look for if you’re already a fan of audiobooks, and if you’re not, well, here’s 10 reasons you should be! Tell me what you’re listening to in the comments.

What Hides Beneath – a Review

standalone-sunday

Standalone Sunday was started by Bookslayer and you can find more here. It’s for titles that are not part of a series.
35833852I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Title: What Hides Beneath

Author: Julie L. Canfield

Setting: Virginia modern day

Synopsis:

Hidden beneath a lump of clay and dirt is a very rare art work crafted by a Japanese warrior. Two museum curators, who specialize in Asian art say it is valuable but renowned appraiser, Annette Williams claims it is worthless and her words carry weight in the art world. So which is it?
Pete White, an insurance investigator disappears from the museum where he is researching the treasure. Did he uncover its true value or find it’s a fake?
Lieutenant Detective Philip Samyn wonders why he is assigned to investigate a low priority robbery from a museum. Is his boss trying to push him to retire? he never thought his last case would be a missing laptop. That’s not how he envisioned leaving the force.
His investigation proves we never see the complete picture. There is always something hidden beneath.

Review: This book was a lot of fun! I don’t check in with Net Galley regularly, but when I saw this one I thought it sounded like one I would enjoy. I liked the description and the setting in an art museum.

I was right. I did enjoy it. I’ve never read anything by this author, but she does a good job setting the scene and drawing the reader into the action. I liked the characters too.

I do have a couple of complaints though. For one thing, she skips around with POV so that I was not sure who the real main character was. I think it was Alison, the curator who discovers a muddy vase. But you could also say it was Annette the appraiser or even the police officer investigating the case. I guess it doesn’t have to have a MC; it could be several people. But I kept expecting one of them to take over more.

Besides that, I felt there were a few plot holes. It takes a while to really build to where I just couldn’t wait to see what happened next. But it was an easy read and I liked the ending. I recommend this one and I’d like to read more by this author. Now I want to go visit an art museum and look for hidden treasures!

The old opened book is christian Psalter
19st century Psalter. Isolated over white with clipping path

Queens of the Conquest: A Review

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Title: Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens, Volume 1

Author: Alison Weir

Source: NetGalley

Setting: roughly 1050 – 1200 England and Normandy

Publishers Synopsis: The story of England’s medieval queens is vivid and stirring, packed with tragedy, high drama and even comedy. It is a chronicle of love, murder, war and betrayal, filled with passion, intrigue and sorrow, peopled by a cast of heroines, villains, stateswomen and lovers. In the first volume of this epic new series, Alison Weir strips away centuries of romantic mythology and prejudice to reveal the lives of England’s queens in the century after the Norman Conquest.

Review: This book was a beast. If you’ve ever wanted to know anything at all about the Norman Queens of England, the answers are in here. What they ate, what they looked like (probably), what historians said about them, their families, their children, their hobbies, how they dressed, what they did, and most of all, who they were – it’s all in here.

It’s just very slow to get through. I felt like I read this book for a month and I barely got through it. It’s not the writing. That was pretty entertaining, and I liked that Weir’s own opinions were in here. I think it was the format. I read this on my phone, and that made it feel like a chore to read.

I would recommend it, if you like dense, meaty history with a lot of detail. Just don’t expect it to be a quick or easy read.

October TBR

I don’t usually plan my reading out, because I hate feeling tied down. Instead, I’m just listing a few possibilities. Nothing wrong with that, right?

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Current Reads I must finish!

  • The Queens of the Conquest by Alison Weir, ARC for NetGalley
  • Nation by Terry Pratchett
  • Great Short Novels of Adult Fantasy, Volume 1, **Dad’s old book**

 

The old opened book is christian PsalterNew books I own and must read!

  • Shadows in the Jungle by Larry Alexander, WWII Scouting in the Pacific
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, historical fiction on audio
  • Servant of a Dark God by John D. Brown, epic fantasy by local author

The old opened book is christian Psalter

ARCS and Review Copies to Finish. I’m so behind!

  • More Than a Fraction by Kerri Moseley – Hobbs
  • Afterdeath by Benoit Charter
  • Claude’s Hotel by Naylene Rondon
  • Fateful Impact by Samantha Hoffman

The old opened book is christian Psalter

Library Books I want to get Hold of

  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – hooray! It’s here, it’s here!
  • The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
  • Extreme Makeover: Apocalypse Edition by Dan Wells

The old opened book is christian Psalter

So that’s my tentative list. We’ll see how much I get through and what I wind up adding. But I should get to 1/3 – 1/2 of these books. What do you have planned for October reading?

Prologues – Yea or Nay?

hooray for prologues

Story Empire

I once heard a writing instructor say he never reads a prologue. He was of the opinion that anything written in a prologue was unnecessary and a writer should say what they want to say in the first chapter.

I’ve heard others say the same thing, but I beg to differ. If a book contains a prologue, I figure is there for a reason. Therefore, I read it.

Somewhere along the way, prologues became evil. Some critique groups claim editors hate them, therefore they encourage writers not to use them.

But guess what? If the situation calls for it, I’ll write a prologue. Then again, I’m the writer who vowed I would one day use the line about a dark and stormy night, and did. Seriously, there are valid reasons for writing a prologue. Among them are:

  • A scene/event that takes place in an earlier time from the story
  • Hooking…

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Humorous Mysteries

23014654If you like a little humor with your mysteries, Donna Andrews has got a series for you. Meg Langslow is a blacksmith whose family has a tendency to get involved in stuff that leads to murder. She has discovered a wide array of murder victims over the years, but she keeps her head and always manages to figure out who done it.

I love funny books, so I took a break from my Off the Shelf challenge this month and read two of Andrews’ latest books, Lord of the Wings and Die Like an Eagle. All of them have birds and bird-related puns in the title.

Lord of the Wings revolves around the mythical town of Caerphilly, Virginia where they’ve begun a new Halloween Festival. Things were going pretty smoothly until someone started a strange scavenger hunt. It started at the zoo and ended in a murder. The next book in the series, Die Like an Eagle, centers around Meg’s twins and their first baseball team. The books are #18 & 19 in the series, but you can start anywhere really and give it a go. My favorite is probably We’ll Always Have Parrots which involves a fan convention. It is just hilarious.  Great reads for curling up with a good book.

The value of constructive criticism in writing

writing nore

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If you’re to succeed in writing—if success means writing your best story—then direct feedback (otherwise known as criticism) is invaluable, essential even.

But it’s a tricky thing. No matter how motivated you are to improve your work, criticism is by definition judgemental and aims to find fault (in the pursuit of improvement).

Here are some tips to surviving feedback or criticism, without losing the will to write. Above all, remember no work will ever be perfect and all criticism is subjective:

  • Be open to learning, but listen also to your gut. Your story is ultimately your work and your responsibility. Feedback is about teaching you about the strengths and weaknesses in your writing so you can learn the techniques to get your story across better. Don’t be defensive or hasty. Let the criticism settle before deciding whether it’s useful or not.
  • Before you seek feedback, ensure you’re…

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How To Deliver A Satisfying Ending

Helpful advice

Jaq Vegan Writes

“In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.” 
― Rose Tremain

There is one part of writing that a lot of writers struggle with, and that’s the ending. For most writers, writing the story can be fun, until they get to the ending. And then they get stuck because they’re not sure how it should end, and sometimes, they end up abandoning the piece because it doesn’t feel right.

What are the reasons writers have a hard time ending their stories or articles?

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