My Book Rating System

My book rating system is based on 5 stars. The book must be rated at least 3 stars for a review.

3 Stars: Good story, good plot, good writing.

4 Stars: I was wowed, but something about the story fell short of perfection.

5 Stars: I was either drooling, on the edge of my seat, or falling in love.

If you would like me to review your book, please contact me at

Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Review: Betrayal's Shadow, by KH LeMoyne

Betrayal's Shadow
KH LeMoyne

Mia Bowman's sucky, cheating husband is having a child with another woman before the divorce papers are even final. Under a lot of stress, she starts having exhausting, life-like dreams where she's transported to a prison with a drop-dead gorgeous hunk of a man. The hunk of a man is Turen, a celestial guardian of man-kind. But it turns out that Mia just might be the one saving Turen.

This book is solid. It has action, it has great characters, it has romance, it has sex, it has torture, it has good and it has evil. The characters are believable, the plot is well-rounded, motivations are clear. I could go on.

The story drops you right into the action. This was one of the very minor complaints I had, in that it was a little bit confusing right there at the beginning. But it didn't take me too long to figure out what was going on, and once I did, the story had me ensnared.

Turen, drop-dead sexy Turen, also had me ensnared.

The hopelessness of the Guardians had you rooting for them to succeed. There were some powerful motivations, powerful loyalties, powerful men and woman. I loved the whole clan.

I think I would have liked the betrayer to be not so apparent, maybe a few red herrings tossed in my reading path, but that's okay. I can live with that, because this story rocked on all other levels.

I really liked this book, and recommend it to anyone who likes some steam in their fantasy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Review: Redbacks, Book Two of As Darkness Ends, by Aaron Crocco

Book Two of As Darkness Ends
Aaron Crocco

An earthquake brings New York City, and the world, to its knees. James Cole is saved by Tuckey, who befriends him in the chaotic aftermath. James is focused on trying to go home to his wife, but then darkness descends, demonic creatures appear, and all Hell breaks loose.

So we have an apocalyptic, end of days scenario. I liked the concept of the cataclysmic events and destruction of much of the human race, coupled with a supernatural angle. I didn't say "religious" angle, as the author was careful not to pin down specific religious deities or's a spiritual walk for any faith. The story is about good vs. evil. Demons and darkness and dread, oh my!

This is a fast-action, quickly-moving novella that doesn't stop to breathe...much like the characters' lives. There is good detail about the destruction; you are able to see and feel the grit.

I'm not typically drawn to novellas for the simple reason that they tend to have a quick pace that doesn't allow me to get to know my characters, or immerse me in the story. This story was no different.

I found the writing very basic. This is a tension-filled story, yet it was not written in a way that made me feel tense. There were times I didn't believe some of the emotions, because I didn't *feel* what the character was supposedly feeling. The beginning of the story, especially, seemed to try too hard. The author's descriptive prose fell far short of its goal, resulting in clunky sentences that didn't flow naturally, causing me to re-read them to get the jist of the author's intent. Run-on sentences were another issue for me.

I'm not quite sure I understood the end. Again, the fast, novella pace could be to blame. I would have liked things to slow down so I could absorb what was happening, especially with the wrap-up.

So, fast-paced, good concept; however, it could have better execution. At least for me. If you like your stories shorter rather than longer, you may give this one a try, and if you like action-filled, fast-paced stories, Redbacks may be just the kind of pace that you like.

Follow Aaron...he's every where:
His blog: CopiusNotes

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King
Julie Kagawa

Meghan Chase is turning 16, but it's not necessarily sweet. She's an outcast, hoping to catch the eye of the popular guy...but the joke's on Meghan. Fortunately, she has a loving mom, an adoring 4 year-old little brother, and a best friend Robbie to see her through the horrors of high school pranks. But no one can help Meghan when she channels Alice in Wonderland and trips through a portal to the world of the fey.

Notice that reference to Alice in Wonderland? When I first started this book, I couldn't help drawing comparisons to the famed story, and quite frankly, I was disappointed. From Meghan's bumbling into taut, outlandish situations to the Cheshire Cat wannabe, I was ready to close the book.

I am *so* glad I didn't.

Once Meghan gets to the Summer Court (which, for me, could have happened much sooner), the book starts to rock. And once the Winter Court was introduced, with icily handsome Prince Ash, stick a fork in me and call me late for dinner, cuz I couldn't put the book down. The fey are wickedly beautiful, living in a world I'm not sure I'd ever want to visit, despite its beauty. Wicked, wicked fey.

Sometimes you pick up a book where the characters strike a chord. There's something about them that sucks you in; they're written so life-life that it makes you want to hop inside the pages and dally around with them. This is one of those books.

Each character is a vivid creation that is almost real. You can see them, hear them, smell them. Ash is drawn as such a tempting bad-boy-gotta-have him, I just wanted to lick him. Puck is loyal, and goofy, and can make a witch smile. Meghan's motives for every action is clear and concise and well-constructed. The characters do not deviate from the paths drawn for them by the author.

The imagery is detailed. The plot, while slow in the beginning for me, is well-paced once Meghan gets to the Summer Court and the story moves forward.

And the cat? Best character in the book. He's witty, and arrogant, and disdainful with a cat-like superiority complex...and who's got the voice to tell off the world, when he can be bothered to address matters that he considers beneath him--like humans. Spot on.

If you enjoy the wicked fey, you'll love this book.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Did You Just Call Me?


That one word can cause a tremble of fear in even the most seasoned authors. How do you portray an entire novel in just a few potent words, or better yet, one teeny tiny word? Not only does the title have to represent your story, it has to put on high heels, a short-hemmed skirt, and foot-long fake eyelashes and grab your potential reader's attention. Your title must entice your reader to pick it up and read the book jacket.

Let's face it. We all do it. We browse through titles until one murmurs, "I'm the one you want. You know you want me. Just put your hands on me, pick me up, and check me out."

Coming up with a perfect title can be hard when you're on your own. You may toss ideas around, play around with words, and narrow down the list. The problem here, at least with me, is that you may get stuck in rut, tossing the same words and ideas like dice and keep coming up snake eyes over and over. You get boxed in by the same tired phrases. The sides of the box are so high, you can't climb out, let alone think your way out.

My critique group just went through an title exercise. When one of our members is in a title-tuttle, we all pitch in. We start by throwing key words from the story onto the table (it helps when you have a critique group, or even beta readers, who have all read the story). These can be as many or as few as you want. Sky's the limit. Then we start tying words together into phrases. Don't hold back. Be silly, go way outside the box, be corny. It doesn't matter, because one person's idea just might trigger something in the author's mind. He/she may not choose that exact title, but something someone suggests could be just enough to make that toss of the die come up with something other than snake eyes.

Some people like the idea of physically writing the words down on cards, and re-arranging the cards on the table to see what comes up.

The exercise can be fun and not daunting at all if you don't hold back, give those die a good shake, and let 'em roll.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Darkness & Light, by J.A. Belfield

Darkness & Light
J.A. Belfield

Jem is a housewife, married to a control-freak, Peter. She's expected to provide dinners, a clean house, and sex, with little thought to what she needs or desires. She has a BFF, Poppy, and a sister who provide little distraction to the dreariness of her life. And then then dreams start; dreams of a stranger named Sean. Virile, good-looking, sexy...he provides a whole new distraction when this dream-stranger proves he's no dream.

The beginning of this book shows a weak main character. Jem is a slave to not only her man, but her life as well. It's not clear what her motivation is to stay with her man (in the beginning...a little later things change up a bit and her motivation--fear--is quite evident). As Jem escapes one life to start anew, she becomes aware of herself. She begins to embrace her true nature, growing strong and, yes, a little stubborn, as she shakes the shackles of an over-bearing marriage.

You gotta love Poppy. She is so easy to picture; a vibrant, loyal friend who loves Jem and embraces Jem's weirdness without question. She is by far the most well-drawn character in this to Peter, who is scary in his possessive, narrow-minded nature.

Plot-wise, I was left to question a few things. Without giving anything away, there's a break in Peter's routine in the beginning that seems out of character. He keeps a rigid, unfaltering routine, yet there's an event early on where he not only breaks from this pattern, but breaks from it in a drastic way. It shows a mean character beneath the controlling man we all know and despice. With no explanation for this break in character, we're left feeling that the break is contrived to force the coming events, e.g., the beginning of the break-down of his marraige to Jem.

The 2nd thing that left me scratching my head a bit was how Sean's family is aware of the paranormal connection between Sean and Jem. How they came by this knowledge is never quite explained, or, if it was, it was totally lost on me.

The writing, especially the dialogue, could be a little tighter and focused. The dialogue in particular sometimes seemed to go in circles, taking a little long to get to the point. However, J.A. really nails some of the action scenes: tight, suspenseful, on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of writing that I wish carried over to the whole story over-all. The writing is good...just needs a little fat-trimming.

I didn't come away from the story feeling emotionally attached to the characters. Except for the father, who we come to know pretty well, I would have liked to have gotten to know the Holloway Pack a little better. It's a very tricky feat to accomplish that emotional investment. I think more visceral emotions injected into the writing would help that.

Overall, I liked the story,and if you are into shifter stories, you'll think this one is pretty sweet.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sample Sunday: Fire in the Blood

The last Sunday I sampled for my babies, Haley had trotted off into the desert with her Earth-kin crush, Ian, and Tanner, a desert girl who is completely in to Ian. Haley thinks it's all rainbows and sunshine until she realizes Ian is taking her to his home, Ralos. Ralos is, after all, the heart-beat of Lak 'Toom, the Fire Eyid's territory.

Duh duh duh duh.....


Chapter Nineteen

Ralos looked so…so…ugly, and dark, and dirty. Dread slicked through my veins like oil, and a shudder vibrated along my spine.

I said, “We're not going there, are we?”

Ian's eyes glittered, and his smile seemed a little forced. "You don't want to see my home?"

I back pedaled. “No, I do, it's just that, it looks kind of...dark.”

"Trust me, you’ll feel different when we get there. Remember what I said. Things aren’t always as they seem.”

“Tuggin said I shouldn’t.”

Ian’s lips stretched over his teeth, a semblance of a smile. A mocking smile. A painful smile. A deadly smile. “Who cares? He’s a Menta. A liar.”

I wrinkled my nose while I studied Ralos. Maybe the place wouldn’t be as bad as it looked, up close and with Ian.

“Do you know what the Mentas do?” he asked.

“They protect Council members. And they enforce the laws.” I hesitated. “And they have this mind control thing called Lunta.”

“True,” Ian said. “Most people don’t like them though, or trust them. It was only out of desperation that the Council asked for their help, because they can do more with little minds than most people know.”

Tanner shuddered. “The Veiling!”

“What’s that?” I asked.

Ian grinned, and this time it looked real. “It’s an ancient art that the Mentas practiced. See, Lunta only persuades someone to do what you ask, but with the Veiling, you can control people’s minds.”

"I don't see the difference.”

Ian tried to explain. “See, with Lunta, I could ask you to get me a drink of water, and you would do it. The effect wears off in minutes even if the task hasn’t been done. Veiling is stronger. It changes a person’s way of thinking. If you were put under the veil, and I asked you for a drink of water, you would die to get me that drink if you had to.”

A chill ran down my arms. “Like brain-washing?”

“Exactly,” Ian answered. “All Mentas can perform Lunta, but very few can veil.”

“How long before it wears off?”

“Days, weeks, months. A lifetime.” Ian shrugged. “It all depends on the strength of the person performing the veil, and the strength of the person being veiled.”

“Thcary,” Tanner said.

Ian seemed to have warmed up to the subject and continued. “And they’re warriors, too, specially trained in killing. They have these camps where they train children practically from birth.”

Killing machines with mind control powers. Gre-eat. And the Council put these guys in a position to act like the police? I couldn’t believe their stupidity.

“See, generations ago Mentas were the dominant authority on Eyidora. They controlled the minds of important people, giving the Mentas unlimited power. They controlled the Council, the laws, the money…everything. They made Eyidorans slaves. They took away free-will.”

I bit my cheek. “So what happened?”

“The only ones who were stronger-minded than the Mentas were the Eyid-emos.” Ian gave me a sly kind of smile. “The Eyid-emos tried to control the Mentas.”

Made sense. Half-gods were sure to be stronger than the Mentas. I nodded.

“But there were a lot more Mentas than Eyid-emos, and then an Eyid-emos died. It’s especially hard to kill one, and I'm not sure how they did it. Naturally, the Mentas were blamed, and the Council outlawed veiling and ordered a decree that removed the Mentas from power.”

Tanner squeaked, but didn’t say anything.

“What decree?” I felt another chill; this one took a trip down the back of my neck.

Ian shrugged. “They put a bounty on their heads, and people were quick to collect their rewards. Dead or alive, though most preferred dead, and Mentas became almost extinct. Apparently, there were still enough of those witches hanging around when the Council schemed up their grand plan when the war broke out. Sort of an uneasy truce.”

I studied Flax's ears, counting myself lucky that I'd gotten rid of Tuggin and found Ian.
We stopped in the afternoon to pass the worst heat of the day in the shade of rocky overhangs.

“These hills are my favorite place on the globe,” Ian commented while he unsaddled his camel. "Can you feel the power?”

I paused with my saddle in my arms. “Nope.”

“Trust me, it was sheer power that formed the Du Kesan.”

“Ooh!” Tanner exclaimed. “Tell uth thtory.”

“See, this is the Fire Eyid’s territory, and he didn't like it when the Water Eyid kept making it rain.” Ian dropped his saddle. “The Fire Eyid summoned these volcanoes, and they erupted for a whole generation, layering up until these hills were formed.”

“Why?” Tanner asked.

“Volcanoes?” I asked. Who cared why?

“The volcanoes are dormant now,” Ian said to me, and then to answer Tanner said, “The Fire Eyid made a barrier. The Du Kesan surrounds the Fire Eyid's territory on two sides, where it borders the Air and Water regions. The Water Eyid can’t send clouds over the hills if they’re too heavy with rain. In order to get over the hills, the clouds have to get rid of their water first, and Lak ‘Toom stays dry.”

I studied the landscape. “So what part of that story makes this your favorite place?”

Ian dropped into the shade of an overhang. “Anyone who holds the power to summon volcanoes earns my respect.”

I picked an overhang and sat. I felt as dried up as the land around me, and my head ached. I took off my hat and flapped it, trying to whirl up a breeze. “This heat sucks.”

A tingle ran up my arm, and the hairs stood straight. Before I could warn anyone, a flash of lightning smacked the ground behind Tanner, and she squealed.

Ian watched another bolt of lightning with the air of someone studying a piece of art. The sky burst with angry sparks, and lightning chewed the ground. I swore when a rock shard sliced my cheek. The camels shuffled, shaking their heads like they were looking for the best escape route, so we each grabbed a halter to keep them from bolting.

I ducked as bullet-size rocks whizzed by my head. “We have to hide!”

“It’s just a little lightning storm, Ian said. "It’ll pass.”

“Little, my ass. I’m not waiting to be fried.” I dragged Flax toward the overhand where I’d been sitting.

“I wouldn't,” Ian said.

An explosion made me stumble back. A network of electricity slammed into the overhang, tearing through the rock. With a loud creak, the overhang wrenched free, hitting the ground so hard that I felt the vibration under my feet. Dust and pebbles stung my face; Flax jerked his head, wrenching my shoulder.

Ian shrugged and said, “See?”

When the lightning stopped, we dusted off our backpacks. I saddled and mounted Flax, then set off behind Ian and Tanner. I kept checking out the blackened rock behind us. Soon the broken landscape was a distant memory, and I had only the unforgiving black rock of Ralos to look forward to.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Face First

I meant to write this blog yesterday, but it's been a long week. A death in the family, the hellhound of the house chased my daughter's beloved cat into the woods and hasn't since returned (the cat, not the dog), and I've had an onslaught of headaches (it would be easier to tell you how many days I *haven't* had a headache).

I think it's time for a funny story. At my own expense, of course.

For those of you who don't know, I negotiate contracts for a living. "What?" you're thinking. "I thought this was supposed to a funny story, not a boring story?" OK, yes, my job is kind of dry, but seriously, there are funny moments.

Anyway, I'm negotiating this really rough contract, and the customer just isn't budging on some issues that we, quite frankly, need them to budge on. A trip to NYC is planned, and I pull in a few big guns along with an expert team to nail this bitch down: my attorney (a young lady, who also happened to be my boss at the time), a Sr. Regional Vice President (a kind of big guy), the Vice President of finance (a tall, rather distiguished looker), the strategic account exectuve (a tiny pip of a lady), an underwriter (average height guy), and me (back when I was thinner...and younger).

I've never met most of these people before, cuz I'm not exactly hob-nobbing with the execs on a daily basis, being lower on the totem pole. We decide to meet in NYC for lunch before descending en masse upon the customer.

We have lunch, which I manage to get through without saying or doing anything stupid. A miracle, I know. It's a little awkward for me, as I'm not particularly good at small talk, especially when I'm thrust into a group of decision-makers.

Lunch is over, and one of the execs orders a car to take us to the customer's office. It's one of those cars where there are 2 seats in the back facing each other. The Sr. RVP and the fincial VP sit on one side, and the two ladies are on the other. I get along with the attorney quite well ( which is good since she *is* my boss), so I opt to sit next to her. But when the underwriter starts to follow me into the car, he eyes how much room is left on the seat with the 2 larger men and pauses.

"I can't squeeze into that seat," he says.

This innocent little statement starts a domino effect that ultimately traumatizes more than one person in that car.

I gallantly offer to switch seats.

Did I mention that running through the middle of the car floor is a hump? No?

I rise. I'm hunched over so I don't hit my head on the ceiling. I step over the hump. Unfortunately, I forget about the heel on my shoe, which catches on the hump. Since I'm hunched over, all my weight is pitched forward.

The rest of my body follows my head. I go down.

Face first.

Right into the Finance VP's lap.

Did I mention I went down face first?

Don't even *ask* where my hands went...I've block that part of the trauma out.

Picture this: Dale is on her knees, in a car full of people, with her face in a Finance VP's lap.

Oh. My. God.

I leap up as if my face had caught on fire which, in fact, it had.

Whatever ice had previously frozen my personality with this group, has been broken.

The entire group laughs so hard, I think the car windows are going to shatter. To add insult to injury, I now have to sit next to this distinquished-looking VP all the way to the customer's office; this distinquished VP...whom I've never met before that day...who's had the pleasure of having my face in his lap.

To this day, the running joke in the contract department is if we need something from the finance department...send Dale.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Let's Talk

Let's talk dialogue. Dialogue is more than just listening in on a conversation. Dialogue tells you things about the characters that prose may not. Dialogue can set the pace of a story, moving it along. I've read a number of books lately where the dialogue doesn't rock. It feels (sounds) unnatural. It's pointless. It's not realistic...especially when we're talking YA. Sometimes the dialogue doesn't sound like kids talking.

Here are some of the dialogue traps I see:

1. Repeating people's names over and over.
2. Not using contractions.
3. Dialogue that doesn't move the story along.

So, how does one have rockin' dialogue? Let's look at some tips.

Listen to people talk. Really listen. While conversing, are they saying each other's names repeatedly? I'll bet they're not. I almost guarantee they're not. Unless they're stressing a point, or trying to get someone's attention, they're silent on the name-usage. When writing, do the same. Reserve the name-usage to those times when you're stressing a point or getting someone's attention. Also, keep note of people's body language when speaking; adding body language to your written dialogue helps makes it real.

Unless your character is speaking English as a second language, or your story is set in a time period (or world) where speech is more formal, people use contractions. If you go back to tip #1 and are listening to people talk, I'll, again, bet that they're using contractions. Leave the formality behind unless it has a purpose in your dialogue.

Avoid conversations that go nowhere. Dialogue is supposed to move a story along. Here's an instance where we have an exception to tip #1. Have you ever listened to two kids bicker about something? "Did not!" "Did too!" "Did not!" "Did too!" "Did not!" "Did too!" Okay, so that might be how a real conversation goes, but on paper? Bo-ring! It's pointless and goes nowhere and no one seriously wants to read that argument for half a page.

So, stop talking, and start listening and writing your rockin' dialogue!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: Love You More, by Lisa Gardner

Love You More
Lisa Gardner

State Trooper, Tessa Leoni, is arrested for the murder of her husband and accused of disposing of her six-year-old daughter. Homicide detective, D.D. Warren, has to figure out why Tessa killed her husband, and what happened to the missing little girl. What ensues is a twisted, complicated weaving of betrayal, secrets, and clever deception.

This book is a cool ride on the crazy train. What I liked most about this story is how quickly and intricately Tessa links traps and deception like railroad cars, then sends the train on a twisting journey of mind-boggling shams, collecting unsuspecting passengers along the way who fall prey to Tessa's trickery.

What I seriously didn't like was that the story was told in two points of view: Tessa's and D.D.'s. Here's the problem with the two points of view. Instead of being ensconced in the mystery of what happened, running alongside D.D. as she tries to hop on the caboose, and being in the dark about what truly happened the night Tessa's husband was murdered...we knew. We knew because we were *also* in Tessa's head. There were no surprise stops on our journey.

Because we knew what was in Tessa's mind, D.D. came across as narrow-minded and unsympathetic. I kept thinking, "Where's that tough detective gut instinct? This chick is way off." Instead, I thought D.D. was blind, or at the least a dumb detective with no insticts. If I didn't know what was going on in Tessa's side of the fence, I would have been as duped as D.D. But I wasn't. I knew. Halfway through the book I'd guessed most of the ending, and 3/4 of the way I'd guessed the rest.

This train was 2 stops short of an unforgettable ride, however, the cleverness of Tessa's scheming gave the train enough steam to keep it running.