Thursday, November 30, 2017

Mind in the Clouds Is On Sale

The Perfect Stocking Kindle Stuffer

A suspenseful whodunit,
where not all the suspects are human

Just 99 cents, now until December 6

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Book Review: Pushing Brilliance by Tim Tigner

Bigger than Life Hero in Nonstop Action Thriller

Simply put, if you are a fan of bigger-than-life action/thriller heroes, Pushing Brilliance is for you.  The book introduces Kyle Achilles, who unlike his namesake, appears to have no heel.  Working with the beautiful, Russian mathematician Katya Kozara, they fight assassins out to kill them for reasons they can’t begin to guess.

Action is clearly the strong suit of this book.  It starts early and seldom slackens.  And each time you believe Tigner is about to wrap up this tale, our protagonists meet another challenge.  Relaxation only comes when you finish reading.  One doesn’t necessarily expect a great deal of character development in a thriller, and this book fits that mold.  We get a glimpse of Achilles and Katya, but nothing in depth.  Both are stereotypes, although Katya seems well beyond the norm on nerdiness.  Do mathematicians really run their lives by calculating probabilities?  Additionally, thrillers often struggle with the romantic connection between the leads – usually they just jump into bed.  Tigner, in my opinion, handles this aspect of the story better than most. 

While I like the bigger-than-life heroes on occasion, they can get old.  There are just so many Olympic bronze medalists, turned CIA operative, turned competitive rock climber, turned invincible hero I can take (yes, that’s Achilles’ resume).  Additionally, there was too much dialog on tactics and strategy with Achilles being the teacher and Katya playing the role of the ready-to-risk-her-life student.  And some of the tactical insights seemed little more than common sense, although Katya was still in awe.  Finally, there was a question if the target of this crime (I’ll leave that vague to avoid a spoiler) would really be as gullible as they are portrayed.  Human nature became a bit warped in places.

But overall, for an action-packed ride filled with gun battles, plotting and counter-plotting, and a bit of technology and romance, Pushing Brilliance is tough to beat.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

My Writing Goes Green

A month or two ago, I was beta-reading for a local author.  Beta-reads provide thoughts from a typical reader (somehow, I qualify) on areas that need attention before they are immortalized in a published work.  While the feedback might not be pleasant for the author, it’s better at this stage than later in those 1-star reviews.

Several of my comments on this piece had to do with unfulfilled expectations.  For example, after Scene A had led me to expect a ‘fight to the death’ in scene B, I found little beyond some verbal sparring when I got there.  What happened?  I was at a loss.  A few days later, however, it all became clear.  The author sent me a note that said, in effect, ‘thanks for helping me lose those words that I had fallen in love with.’ 

We all do it.  It’s that clever turn of a phrase (at least in our minds) that keeps words in a manuscript long after their reason for existence has disappeared.  It’s tough to drag them, kicking and screaming to the little trash can in the corner of the screen.  So, I don’t.  Instead, I save them in files I invariably call ‘HOLD.’  The problem was, however, that I had no plan, no idea how to use those words…until today.  Today, my writing goes green.  Today, I start recycling those words I can’t use in a book – in blog posts.

Today’s installment is from a near-future mystery in work, Killer in the Retroscape (  Originally, it had a scene that dealt with ‘smart clothes,’ those garments that contain technology for everything from monitoring your UV exposure to paying for your latte.  In this case, the clothes were a complete wardrobe for analyzing a golfer’s game called (drum roll) The Wearable Golf Pro.  The problem, of course, is that as future technology goes, it’s not.  Most of it is here today, so the words had to go.  But in the spirit of reducing, reusing, and recycling, here’s a few of them from a dialog in that deleted section.

“So, you have to wear the whole nine yards for this to work?"
"No, but there’s six sensors that are required, if you’re going to get any benefit.  Fortunately, they can go in a lot of different pieces of clothing.  But if you’re into nude golfing…well, your swing’s going to suffer.”

OK, it seemed funnier in context.  But the good news for me is that I now have lots of fodder for posts.  Given the size of this snippet and the cumulative size of the ‘HOLD’ files I’ve generated to date, I can write 664 posts from recycled material.

Now, is that green or what?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: Whiskey Kills (A Top Shelf Mystery) by Lolli Powell

A Satisfying Mystery Driven by Its Humor

Whiskey Kills is a cozy mystery, the second in the Top Shelf Mystery series.  With the absence of sex and violence that marks a cozy, the story features humor in their place.  Erica (Ricki) Fontaine’s sarcastic wit on everything from mothers to men will keep you chuckling to the last page.  As a bonus, those quips are woven into a substantial whodunit.

The mystery contained in the pages of Whiskey Kills is solid.  The author introduces us to enough well-developed characters with possible motives to keep almost anyone guessing.  In fact, it seems like the author could have written most of the book, then flipped a coin to decide who gets nailed in the big reveal – the field was that well populated.  And the suspense is maintained skillfully, as Ms. Powell continues to peel back layers of the mystery onion, revealing new connections and unanticipated motivations to the last page.

But as good as the mystery is, the crux is the humor.  And since Ricki’s investigation often puts her at odds with her police detective boyfriend, Gabriel (Gabe) Russel, a lot of that sarcasm is directed at the opposite sex, e.g., “I've noticed that men have trouble concentrating on more than one thing at a time, and he was already doing two.  Asking him to also think was probably expecting too much.”  (Potential male readers be forewarned!)  But no one escapes her caustic view, including herself, making Ricki a very likeable character.

In the true spirit of back-seat writing (e.g., being a book reviewer), I’ll pick one nit.  For me, Ricki pushed the ‘ignore common sense’ theme somewhat too far.  In this regard, the book was a bit like a YA, with a protagonist ignoring authority, parents, and sometimes, even friends.  Would it really be out of character if Ricki didn’t do everything that people told her to avoid?  She can be frustrating…but maybe that was the author’s intent.  The heroine you love to fret about?

Overall, I recommend that you read Whiskey Kills because it’s a satisfying mystery.  And then, if your sense of humor is like mine, you’ll love it for the laughs.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Select Thriller and Action-Adventure eBook Deals

Beyond Salvation by Darcia Helle
4.5 Stars, 27 reviews, Genre:  Suspense-Thriller-Crime
FREE, 24 November-27 November

Killing Instinct (Michael Sykora Suspense Novels Book 3) by Darcia Helle
4.6 Stars, 23 reviews, Genre:  Suspense-Thriller-Crime
99 cents, 24 November-27 November

Child's Play (Michael Sykora Novels Book 4) by Darcia Helle
5 Stars, 12 reviews, Genre:  Suspense-Thriller-Crime
99 cents, 24 November-27 November

Scarlett by Elle Klass
Pre-Order, Genre:  Horror, Suspense-Thriller-Crime, Thriller-Paranormal
99 cents until 19 November

Christmas Cookies with a Side of Murder by Meredith Potts
4.7 Stars, 17 reviews, Genre:  Christian – Wholesome, Cozy Mystery, Humor, Suspense-Thriller-Crime
99 cents until 31 December

Check All Prices Before Purchasing

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Book Review: At Bay (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 1) by John W. Mefford

Who’s the Real Alex Troutt?  Beats Me.

At Bay introduces us to Alex (Alexandra) Troutt, Special Agent of the FBI.  Following a serious car crash which produces total amnesia, she starts to rebuild her past as she also builds a case against a brutal, serial killer terrorizing the Boston area.

For a thriller, At Bay was slower than I expected, with a large portion of the book dealing with Alex’s memory loss and the inconsistencies she saw between her internal feelings and the way others characterized her past.  Presumably, this was the author’s intent – give the readers of the series a significant insight into the person that is Alex Troutt.  And with this much emphasis on character development, one might expect a clear picture.  But because of the strongly differing perspectives, none emerged.  In book 2, Alex might be the hard-driving, risk-taking FBI agent we saw occasionally in book 1…or she might quit and become a soccer mom.  I couldn’t guess (although it’s probably the former, given this is a thriller series).

The opposing viewpoints about her character also seemed to push the finale to the final few pages, where there were simply too many convenient coincidences and extreme, deductive leaps to build much tension from realism.  The way the final victim was identified, the way the location of the final murder was determined, and the way the suspect was identified all seemed to involve such unlikely events and leaps of faith that it was difficult to give them any credibility.  To me, the end really fizzled, and it was slow getting there.

Overall, At Bay seems to aim for an in-depth look at what makes Special Agent Alex Troutt tick – her marriage, her kids, her drive for justice.  But that picture is never clear and the thriller part of the tale is relegated to what’s left, making the story a bit unsatisfying.