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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: A Marked Past, by Leslie Deaton

A Marked Past
Leslie Deaton

Sixteen-year-old Lyla has a pretty sweet life in Chicago: she's got a hot boyfriend, she's made the varsity cheer leading squad, and her folks are pretty damn cool. Then in a split second, a life-changing split second, it all goes bust. Lyla finds herself transplanted to Salem, Mass., in a dumpy farmhouse, with no friends, a past that comes to haunt her.

Let me start with the setting of this book. Salem, which everyone knows is fully of rich history, is a great setting for a witchy book. One of this book's high points is the descriptive details on the setting. It gave the book texture.

Another thing I like about this book is the knowledge of Wicca. At least for me, who was no knowledge of Wicca, I found just the right amount of detail to let me in on the secret without producing the yawn factor.

Of course, the premise and the plot is good. I haven't read many books in this genre, so for me it was fresh and new. The plot had a beginning, middle and end, with no plot holes that I could find.


If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be 'long'. It is best described in two words: too long.

The story needs some serious liposuction. Too much fat. There were scenes that went nowhere; they didn't move the story along. Just like every action must have a reaction, so must every scene. I don't want to read pages of prose, and then wonder why. There were points in the story that were told a number of times (redundant). *Especially* when we're at a suspenseful point in the story! OMG. When our dear Lyla is about to enter a destroyed building and see if the crush of her life is alive or dead...don't spend a couple of pages regurgitating thoughts, feelings, and ideas from earlier in the story. It's not suspenseful; it's distracting.

Speaking of redundancy...the word 'smile' must have been used no less than 200 times. I thought people's faces were going to start cracking.

And here's what I've been dreading to say the most: I liked every character in this book...except the main character. I didn't connect with Lyla at all. Here's the deal. Lyla is selfish, self-centered, manipulative, and, well, no pun intended, but kind of a witch. Okay, if we're going to be realistic here, most of us are tired of the goody-two-shoes, perfect grades, never-do-anything-wrong kind of main characters. Talk about unrealistic. So, yes, I can take a little selfishness from a sixteen-year-old (it is, after all, all about them); I can take a little flaw in my heroine. What I can't take is a selfishly flawed character who doesn't grow. Here's an example. Toward the end of the story, Lyla witnesses a beating. She's hell-bent on saving this person, and when she does, she gets *angry* that the person isn't who she thought she was saving. There was no empathy for the poor sod who just got the hell beat out of his grass (even if at some level he deserved it).

For me, this book needs some serious editing and maybe a beta-reader or two; put on a diet, set on a treadmill, and whipped into shape.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hope for the Future

I was reading the 3rd book in the Lords of the Underworld series (love, love that series), and I found it interesting that hope was considered a demon. At first blush you may wonder how that could be. Hope isn't evil. Hope isn't destructive. Hope isn't bad. No, hope is good and encouraging.

But if you really think about it, hope can be considered all of those things: good and bad, encouraging and destructive.

We are hopeful when we write our first draft. We are hopeful when we ask our critique members to review our work. We are hopeful when we submit our query to agents/editors/contests. We are hopeful when we pass the first/second/third round of a contest, or when an agent or editor asks to see more of our manuscript.

We hope for rave reviews. We hope for positive feedback. When hope to make the finals in that contest. We hope to land a contract. We hope that readers will appreciate our work.

Sometimes, we get what we hope for. Those are good times. We feel good, we feel encouraged. We feel vindicated and we're buoyed by hope, with the energy to keep plugging at our craft.

Sometimes, we don't get what we hope for. Sometimes the reviews aren't what we'd hoped for, or we don't make the cut in a contest, or those agents/editors will take a pass. Those are the bad times. Those are the times when hope is crushed; when we're discouraged. We were hopeful, confident, and it seems as though hope itself set us up for the fall. And then there are times when we lose hope altogether.

But never, ever lose hope. Without hope, you may never write that award-winning novel, or contact an agent/editor who turns out to be the perfect match for you and your work.Without hope, you may have no reason to wake up in the morning and see how your novel has risen in the charts.

Writing isn't easy. But do what you love, learn what you can, work hard, persevere, and hope for the future.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Review: Cheerage Fearage, by Kimberly Dana

Cheerage Fearage
Kimberly Dana

Tiki Tinklemeyer (love the name) is moving to a new town, and is being bustled off to cheer camp by her adoptive parents in order to meet new friends. This is bad news for Tiki, who is a be-speckled klutz who can't walk a straight line, and is more inclined to read books than spin cartwheels. And of course, the camp has a haunted past.

The premise was pretty good. The characters were well-thought, well-drawn, and pretty easy to imagine...and hear! We followed along with the mystery, trying to figure out who was behind the happenings...was it a ghost? Or human? There were no plot holes that tripped the reader.

I thought the cheerleader slang was a little over the top. I wouldn't be able to have more than a 5 minute conversation with any of the girls...except maybe Tiki. Though some of the slang was creative and quite clever, I would have preferred to have it toned down and mixed with a little normal kid-speak.

I didn't buy that Tiki, who couldn't walk a straight line on day one of camp, was one of the best tumblers by day 5. That seemed a stretch to me, unless Tiki has some kind of super power that we weren't made aware of!

The voice of the parents bothered me a bit...I believe they were meant to be portrayed as highly intelligent, but it came off sounding like two people *trying* to sound highly intelligent.

For me, the story ended abruptly with an epilogue that hinted at a supernatural angle. This is fine, except it wasn't set up properly in the story, so it seemed to come out of the blue. I literally looked at that last page and said, "What the hell was that?" The story played out as a pure mystery, except for the one or 2 hints of the supernatural; however, the supernatural story-line was never fleshed out. In fact, the epilogue seemed attached to the wrong story. It's voice was even different, as though the event that ended the story abruptly was a life-changing event for Tiki...except we never got to *see* it. The reader is left with no clue as to what happened.

I get the feeling that a lot of the unanswered questions are meant to be addressed in book 2, but I would prefer to have a story stand on its own merit, and not rely on sequels to finish it.

Overall, an okay read for me, but is worth checking out. You can get your Ecopy of Cheerage Fearage on Amazon:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Funnies

A little humor for all those authors out there!

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: The New Death and others, by James Hutchings

The New Death and others
James Hutchings

This book is a collection of dark short stories and poems. I was asked to review this book by the author, and at first as I was hesitant because I'm not a big fan of short stories or poetry. But I decided to give it whirl.

I was surprisingly entertained! The stories were full of dark humor, cynicism, and satire. Some read like fractured fairy tales, some ended humorously, some had dark twists, and some had moral endings. They're presented at random, so that you never know what to expect on the next page. Some of the stories I didn't quite get, but for the majority they were quite cleverly written.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: The Iron Daughter, by Julie Kawaga

The Iron Daughter
Julie Kawaga

Picking up a sequel to a book is like putting on favorite, fuzzy slippers; or better yet, it's like seeing old friends after a long absence. They're comfy, you know them well, and they give your the warm fuzzies. Reading the Iron Daughter gave me that same feeling.

Meghan, Ash and Puck are all back, though the situations have changed. Meghan and Ash are at odds, and Puck and Meghan get closer than ever.

Being that I'm Team Ash, I kinda missed him for the chunk of the book that he was MIA, but I love how he comes back!

We meet new characters, all richly drawn and developed. New twists are revealed, and our characters stayed true to their roles from the first book. There's betrayal, there's love, there's action, and there are wicked fey all over the place.

The book starts with action and maintains its momentum throughout. This is a very good sequel to a very good first book.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Can You Handle the Truth?

Here's the thing about criticism: It's unavoidable.

As authors, even the brilliant authors, there's going to be criticism about our work. It's an unavoidable truth. Not every person is going to love every book. It's called taste, or preference. And there are a lot of readers out there with a lot of differing opinions.

Some authors don't want to hear the criticism. Their work is their baby; they've poured their heart and soul into their writing. It's perfect. It's brilliant. It rocks! And there is no way it needs improvement.

Time to cash in that reality check.

Even well-known authors will admit that if they could go back, there are things they'd change in their books. It doesn't matter how popular that book might be. Many authors admit that they have to force themselves to stop reading their novel because if they don't, they'll keep on re-writing and the thing would *never* be done.

Criticism should not be feared. When handled constructively, it should be revered. People, whether they're members of your critique group, your BETA readers, an agent/editor, or judges in a writing contest, are giving you feedback to make your work better. They're doing you a favor. Constructive criticism should be valued and considered, and not blatantly disregarded because you don't want to hear anything negative about your baby.

Sometimes, at first blush, this is hard to do. If you take the criticism personally and can't seem to see the forest through the trees, set it aside for a couple of days. Let the suggestions simmer. See the story through your eyes, and then through your reader's eyes. Envision your story with a few tweaks and ask yourself, "Does this make the story better?" You may be surprised by the answer!

With that being said, you know your work best. While critiques should be evaluated and considered, don't be swayed into blindly changing your writing style or the voice of your story simply because one person has a differing approach. Consider making changes that are right for you and for your story.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: The Other Slipper, by Kenechi Udogu

The Other Slipper
Kenechi Udogu

Sixteen-year-old Jo is a tall, klutzy girl living in a kingdom of dainty opposites. One night, after sitting on the sidelines watching ball-goers enter the castle, including a strange beauty in a funky carriage who appears to be wearing glass slippers, Jo finds a ginormous pumpkin (which her family eats) and a little glass slipper. But the slipper hums to her, and only her, and Jo and her seventeen-year-old brother Ron find themselves on a mission to return the magic slipper to its rightful owner.

This is an interesting take on the Cinderella story *after* the ball, and from someone else's point of view. This story takes the slant of where the magic came from, how it originated, and the price one pays when they want too much of it.

I like how the story takes you beyond the magic of the ball, beyond the fairy tale that we all know. The story keeps it real; magic doesn't come for free. There are consequences for our actions.

The characters in this novel are likeable enough, but not especially charismatic. Probably the biggest issue I had though, was with the run-on sentences because run-on sentences have a tendency to lose their train of thought and sometimes slows the plot down especially if you have to go back and re-read the sentence and break it down in your head just to get to the point.

Overall, a nice read, especially if you like twists to the old fairy tales.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Does Your Book Need To Go On A Diet?

Some things are meant to be chubby: Santa, little furry critters, and snow men, to name a few. Some things are not. When choosing hamburger at the supermarket, you see packaging that indicates how lean/fat the hamburger is: 90% lean, 80% lean, etc.

Your story should be lean, too. You don't want a book that's 60% lean, because that means it has 40% fat that could, and should, be trimmed. Those spare tires and jiggling thighs are usually indicative of minute details, redundancy, and scenes that do not move the story along.

Minute details drag the story to its knees. It's like walking through a forest and hitting quick sand. You get stuck. For example, I don't want to know that the character has woken up, stretched, brushed her teeth, sat on the toilet, taken a shower using Dove soap and a loofah that she just bought yesterday at the store, and then answered a phone call telling her her husband has been in an accident. These are all details that do not give life to your story, and no one really cares to read a minute-by-minute itinerary of what we do when we wake up. What we care about is that our character's husband has just been in an accident. So get there and tell us.

Redundancy is boring, and may seem to the reader that the author doesn't believe we can hold a single thought in our head. Chapter 3 might tell us that the amulet our character has received has been passed down to the first daughter for 10 generations and safekeeping it from the evil villain is key to keeping the world safe from annihilation. Chapter 10 reminds us that the amulet our character has received has been passed down to the first daughter for 10 generations and safekeeping it from the evil villain is key to keeping the world safe from annihilation. And chapter 18 reminds us that amulet our character has received has been passed down to the first daughter for 10 generations and safekeeping it from the evil villain is key to keeping the world safe from annihilation...just in case we forgot. Does your story need to repeat itself to get its point across to your readers?

Axing scenes that don't move the story along is by far the hardest trick to master. It might be a scene full of award-winning prose, clever use of language, or just your, the author's, baby and absolutely must stay in for personal reasons. Let it go. If it's not crucial to the story, it's a jiggling thigh or a big butt. I remember reading how JK Rowling's publisher (or movie director...I honestly forget if the interview was talking about the book or the movie) wanted her to axe the bathroom scene where Hermione, Ron and Harry battle the troll. She fought for that scene, because it cemented the friendship between the 3 characters. It was crucial to the story; the friendship between the 3 characters was pivotal to the entire series. If JK had said, "But I like trolls! It must stay in!" the argument would have had no merit.

So read your story with a critical eye. It may need some liposuction in order to become a lean, mean, reading machine.