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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Astilbe Reviews First in "Unfinished Series Book One"

Title: AFTER ME, The Unfinished Series Book 1
Author: Joyce Scarbrough
Author’s Web site: http://joycescarbrough.com
Genre: YA paranormal romance
ISBN: 978-1500740221
AISN: B00MF186J4
Publisher: Buzz Books USA
 Reviewer's Rating: Four stars
Buy link at Amazon. 
Reviewed by Astilbe for Long and Short Reviews.
Some deaths leave behind loose ends. Now that Jada’s been given the chance to tidy a few of hers up, will she be able to do it?

Jada’s snide approach to the afterlife is quite funny. What really made me like her, though, was how she responded to everything that happened after she was murdered. Not only did it fit her personality to a tee, it blended in incredibly well with how some people react to the type of trauma that she’s just endured. Her character development was superb, especially considering how subtle it is in the first few chapters of this novel. While I don’t know if the author has any intention of fulfilling my wish, this is the kind of book that is absolutely begging for a sequel. I loved getting to know Jada and would be thrilled to catch up with her again very soon.

People in Jada’s position are given special powers to help them complete their missions. Most of her new found abilities are things that her new friends and foster family wouldn’t notice under normal circumstances, but there are a few things about her that I would have liked to see explained in more detail due to how easy it would be to accidentally reveal them. The powers themselves make a great deal of sense given the nature of her assignment, but it was occasionally hard to believe that Jada was so good at keeping others from noticing the logical consequences of her having them.

The premise of this tale was so unique that as soon as I noticed it I had to know what happens next. Ms. Scarbrough snagged my attention so thoroughly that I actually stayed up past my bedtime for several nights in a row to power through just one more chapter. What really earned this story such a high rating, though, was how the author acknowledged certain tropes in young adult fiction without succumbing to them. It’s hard to dig more deeply into this topic without bumping up against spoilers, but I was impressed by her consistently creative approach to the plot. This was my first introduction to Ms. Scarbrough’s work, and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what she’ll do next!

After Me is a must-read for adults and teens alike. I, for one, will be rereading it again soon.

MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Joyce Scarbrough is also the author of True Blue Forever, Different Roads, Symmetry and After Me, The Unfinished Series Book 1. 
"Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true."

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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Midwest Book Review Makes Finding Reviews Easier for Writers and Readers

Jim Cox and his daughter Beth offer reviews to authors and publishers on their Midwest Book Review and have always generously allowed me to reprint their reviews on this blog over the years. Their site has grown--and grown--and they recently announced a new search feature to make it easier for readers, authors, and publishers to find a review on a specific book. (This blog, The New Book Review has one, too!)

Anyway, I thought readers of this blog looking for new books in a particular genre might want to utilize the Cox's Midwest Book Review, too. And that my wonderful participating reviewers, authors, and publishers would want to know about their reputable review site.  Here is the note from Jim giving you the information you need to navigate MBR more easily.


"Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

"Our Midwest Book Review policy of archiving reviews for a minimum of five years has resulted in tens of thousands of reviews being housed on our website. That necessitated having an on-site search engine in order to find a particular book review needle in all those book review haystacks! Even so, about once or twice a month I get inquiries from authors, publishers, and book publicists in how they can go about locating the review for their particular title.

"So as of this month we have added to our website homepage a 'click on it' instructional called:"How Do I Find a Specific Review on the MBR Website?" which you will find at:

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/findareview.htm .

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI, 53575
http://www.midwestbookreview.com"
 
 
As an aside, you will find more on how to submit to The New Book Review in the left column of this blog.  And publishing professionals will often find tips and articles on how to increase the effectivness of reviews in my SharingwithWriters newsletter. Subscibe by sending an e-mail with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to HoJoNews@aol.com.

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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Crime Novel by Conrad Draws Praise for Exceptional Dialogue

Book title: Wilful Murder (Alicia Allen Investigates 2)
Author: Celia Conrad
Website: www.alicialleninvestigates.com
Where to buy the book: Amazon USA: http://tinyurl.com/p9wpw96
Genre: Crime fiction
ISBN 9780954623333 (Paperback) & available in all Ebook formats
Publisher: Barcham Books

Reviewed by Marlan Warren originally published in "Dancing in the Experience Lane" Open Salon Blog

 
 

“Look to the past to see what the future holds…”

Wilful Murder – Celia Conrad

 

Who doesn't enjoy a ripping good tale of a Will, murdered relatives and love's labor rewarded? For Wilful Murder, the second book in the Alicia Allen Investigates trilogy, British author Celia Conrad has concocted a pastiche composed of the basic elements we expect in a murder mystery that spins on disgruntled relatives, and reinvented it as part-Travelogue, part-Greek Tragedy, part-Shakespeare and part-Love Story. 

If you love "cozy mysteries" with their gentle no-sex-or-graphic-violence paradigms, and strong, intuitive female amateur sleuths; and you love "cerebral mysteries" with their complicated Ah Ha! plots, then I highly recommend Wilful Murder for your next great read.

And if you know nothing about cozies or cerebrals, but just love a bittersweet romantic subplot where a dynamic duo slug it out until they (almost) fall into each other's arms á la Hepburn and Tracy--then yes, this book's for you too. 

I do suggest reading Book 1, A Model Murder, first. Although  few of the first book's characters and almost none of its setting make their way into the second, there's little exposition to bring the newbie up to speed in terms of what has happened in the past to create the present circumstances that open the story.

 In the previous book, Alicia Allen--the Anglo-Italian woman lawyer with a passion for justice--makes friends with an Australian neighbor who works at the law firm where Alicia has just been newly hired.  The young, pretty Australian, Kim, has a crush on her boss, Alex, who in turn has a thing for the incomparable Alicia.

At the end of A Model Murder, Alicia and Alex appear to be merrily strolling off into the sunset. But alas, they are not a couple by the time we revisit Alicia in London. 

As Wilful Murder opens, Alicia is preparing to go to Kim's wedding in Australia. She is now estranged from Alex who once courted her, but took off to work in Singapore. They are still in touch, but Alicia carries resentment at Alex's decision to distance himself from her.

Alicia Allen is nothing if not cautious. She is not a heroine who wears her heart on her sleeve, and in this, not unlike Patricia Cornwall's psychologically wounded medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. Like Scarpetta, Alicia plays her cards close to her chest. She's not one to swoon when Alex appears again--this time in Australia for Kim's wedding. For his part, Alex wants nothing more than to woo Alicia, and he nearly turns himself inside out trying.

Alicia has other things on her mind by the time she crosses paths with the most-desirable-man-on-earth (aka "Alex"). Before leaving London, she took on a client with more troubles than her own: Isabelle Parker, an heiress who is about to come into a magnificent fortune, if she can stay alive long enough to inherit it. Relatives and relatives-to-be have been dropping like proverbial flies, and the body count grows as the plot proceeds.

Having read Book 1, we know that Alicia would rather find the killer or killers than opt for a romantic fling with her ex-boyfriend while she travels Australia on a kind of "working" holiday to investigate the Australian-British ancestral ties of the endangered heiress.

She visits lovely beachy spots, dines in charming cafes on exotic fare and visits museums--without her solicitious solicitor suitor in tow. Quite frankly, those of us who might be lying boyfriendless on some beach reading Wilful Murder may wish to slap some sense into this righteous heroine, but there is still that voice inside our heads that shouts, "You go, Girl!" when she finally gets physical in a life-threatening clinch with the killer as the story approaches its denouement.  

Conrad arranges for Alex to be out of the picture for quite some time, and we are left to follow Alicia's head as she works out the puzzle to solve these crimes. This is true to the "cerebral" mystery style, and reminiscent of Agatha Christie's careful detailing and construction. The plot is chock full of minor characters: most of whom we barely get to know.

In the first chapter, Isabelle's statements regarding her ancestral history were so complex, I ended up mapping it out on paper so I could keep track of who's who.

One of Conrad's great strengths is dialogue. I found that if I simply "saw" the story as a film and let the dialogue carry me through, A Wilful Murder came to vivid life in my mind's eye. 
 
An ominous note received by imminent victims warns:

"Look to the past to see what the future holds and make recompense for what those before  you have done..." 

Conrad's handling of "the past" as it pertains to Isabelle's tangled family tree gives a (perhaps unwitting) nod to the Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex. The play is made up mostly of exposition. We hear about the past...the past...the past. The gory action of Oedipus gouging out his eyes when he realizes he's married his mother is saved for the end. Conrad saves up her big action scenes for the end--after we have been put through the wringer of cerebral dialogue that examines the unanswered questions of the Past.

"Indecisive" is one of the last words in the book, and reflects this tale's Hamlet aspects. Yes, Alicia catches the bouquet, but it has no more active effect on her than Hamlet seeing his father's ghost. There is also something Shakespearean in the way Conrad tends to kill off her characters "offstage," so news of their demise are brought by messengers.

When the story comes together at the end--revealing truths, tying up some loose ends and leaving others still hanging--it leaves the reader feeling winded and yet oddly trimphant having made it across the various locales and dangers that abide in Wilful Murder, and having found tourist pleasures in the Land Down Under and returned to Great Britain, while still trying to figure out whodunit.

Wilful Murder is built around the fine art of looking at the past--where we came from, what made us who we are today, the skeletons in our closets that we may or may not know about, and it prompts questions about whether we can make positive changes such as opening our hearts again to someone in spite of all we've been through or whatever pain still resides in our DNA.


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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Frugal Editor Updates to Include Little-Known Ampersand Guidelines

The Frugal Editor
Subtitle: Do it yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your new bestseller
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Genre: Nonfiction: Writers/Editing/Writing
Available as e-book at http://bit.ly/FrugalEditorKind  




Second Edition Gets Spit and Polish
 
Digital Books Make New Edits of Even a Book on Editing Possible
 
Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s newest book is a second edition of the multi award-winning The Frugal Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your new bestseller. And now it’s sporting new formatting and even a few additions all because of the magic of e-books.
 
The author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers was inspired a poem one of her clients sent her for editing. The author had used the lovely-to-look at ampersand everywhere she need to use an and. That, of course, could be a style choice, but not all style choices are good choices. Poetry should be trimmed of excess words, but this choice only shortened conjunctions that could have just been red-penciled out. The poet said she had made the choice because ampersands are so pretty. Yes, they are. So pretty and so rarely used that the reader could become distracted from the poem’s intent and the imagery. Carolyn’s editing instinct has always demanded that trickery with font, formatting, strained metaphors and the like should be avoided. She can only hope her client took her advice.
 
But the incident made the author realize that most writers don’t understand when ampersands can and should be used. So, it was back to the recent edition to make additions—thanks to the ease of fixing books published digitally these days.
 
The first edition of The Frugal Editor published in 2007 was winner of USA Book News’ pick for Best Professional Book, a Reader Views winner, and received nods from the Next Generation awards and the Military Writers Society of America, but the new version is Expanded (more than 100 pages)! Updated! And Reformatted. It also has a a new subtitle, a new cover by Chaz DeSimone with a new three-dimensional look by Gene Cartwright. And this e-book version was honored again by Dan Poynter’s Global Ebook Awards and the Next Generation Indie Awards.
The second edition covers new editing tricks the author has come to appreciate since the first was published, including how to spot the overuse of helping verbs when simple past tense would work just as well; a reminder that politically correct usage isn’t always what a writer should strive for (consider some of the language used in the award-winning movie Twelve Years A Slave); and more on style choices vs. grammar rules and how to make those choices. She says, “I'd be embarrassed if I had to say I hadn't learned anything more I could share with my readers in seven years since the first edition was published.”
 The Frugal Editor received plaudits from industry shakers like Marilyn Ross, founder of Small Publishers or North America; Tim Bete, director of Dayton University’s Erma Bombeck Writers’ Conference, and respected industry editors like Barbara McNichol.  
 
Howard-Johnson, an instructor for nearly a decade at UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program, chose to release this new edition for e-books with Amazon’s Kindle because their free app allows readers to access it for many platforms and the lower price of digital publishing gives her struggling students and clients an affordable choice. It will soon be available for print, too.
 
Whichever format a reader chooses, The Frugal Editor battles the gremlins out there who are determined to keep an author’s work from being published or promoted. Resolved to embarrass authors before the gatekeepers who can turn the key of success for them—these gremlins lurk in a writer’s subconscious and the depths of computer programs. Whether a new or experienced author, The Frugal Editor helps writers present whistle-clean copy (from a one-page cover letter to your entire manuscript) to those who have the power to say “yea” or “nay.”

The author is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing, and its Diamond Award for her work with arts and culture. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of 14 women of “San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen.” She has worked for Good Housekeeping Magazine and as a journalist for several newspapers and has been a popular presenter at writers’ conferences nationwide like the one at San Diego State University and the Sinclair Lewis Writers’ Conference. She is also a novelist and poet, which informs the advice she gives to authors of those genres.
 
Learn more about Howard-Johnson and her HowToDoItFrugally series of books at http://www.howtodoitfrugally.com.
 
The e-book is available at http://bit.ly/FrugalEditorKind.
 
# # # #
Cover image and media kit available on request at HoJoNews@aol.com.
 
“Absolutely essential for beginning writers and a necessary reminder for the more advanced.  The mentor you've been looking for.  This book won't collect dust!”~Christina Francine, review for Fjords Review


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 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Medical Mystery Endorsed by Amazon Reviewer

Book Title: The Fragrance Shed By A Violet
Author: Lin Wilder
Author Web site: http://www.linwilder.com/
Genre: Medical Mystery
  • ISBN-10: 1630632619
  • ISBN-13: 978-1630632618
Purchase at Amazon.com
Use the 'look inside' to read 1st 3 chapters
Reviewed by Susan Toscani originally for Amazon
 
This book is a keeper.....a well-written, page-turning, thoughtful look at personal evolution, forgiveness, redemption. It's a mystery, a romance, and all-around great read. I loved it and, as a former career woman myself, identified with the main characters and many of the issues with which they grappled. Plus, getting to know Max was a treat in and of itself!
 
 
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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Book Features Quest for World's Best Chocolate

Title: Chocolatour
Subtitle: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate"
Volume 1

Author: Doreen Pendgracs
Author's Web site link: http://doreenpendgracs.com
Genre: Nonfiction travel, food
ISBN: 978-0-9918901-0-1
Personalized autographed copies can be obtained directly from the author's site at http://chocolatour.net where e-books are also available.
Hard copies are available on Amazon



Reviewed by Susan Fluhr originally for Boomeresque: Baby Boomer Travels for the Body and Mind 
 

 

This first volume of a projected three has convinced me that travel writer Doreen Pendgracs is the “Rick Steves” of chocolate tourism. Like Steves’ books, this volume not only takes us to places, but also provides historical context and information necessary for an in depth understanding of chocolate. Pendgracs’ passion for and appreciation of chocolate is infectious.
In this first volume, Pendgracs ultimately takes us to seven European countries to explore the world of fine, artisanal chocolate, but she starts the book by sharing her travels to cacao growing regions in a remote Amazon jungle area in Peru and on back roads subject to mudslides in Ecuador. Her cacao growing exploration on the island nation of Saint Lucia was undertaken in somewhat more luxurious surroundings. In this chapter, we learn how the cacao fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) is grown and ultimately harvested and processed into chocolate.
If you ever feel the need to explain your chocolate addiction or why chocolate is actually good for you, Pendgracs provides the necessary information in chapter two of her book which is titled, “Chocogasms and Other Health Benefits of Chocolate”.
Although most of us know we like chocolate, the author educates us about how not to just consume chocolate, but how to experience it — much as an oenophile understands and enjoys fine wine. She identifies ten chocolate personalities that we can use to characterize the products of different chocolatiers and then introduces us to chocolatiers she finds noteworthy in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Holland, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. These chapters will be very useful for travelers wanting to undertake a chocolate pilgrimage along with their visits to the “must sees” of Europe. After reading this book, you will want to and be able to add fine chocolate tastings to your European travel itineraries.
Many people know that Mexican mole sauce combines the flavors of chocolate and chile. In Chapter 12 of Volume One of Chocolatour, the author shares some recipes that employ chocolate in new and intriguing ways. Are you ready for cacao gazpacho or a summer salad with smoked eel, chocolate and pecorino wafers topped with chocolate vinegar?
There is also a chapter about chocolate festivals, museums and attractions around the globe.  Indeed, I purchased my copy of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate (Volume One) at the Hawaii Chocolate Festival in Honolulu, where the author, Doreen Pendgracs, lectured about chocolate. I admit I was a little leery about sitting still for an hour lecture about chocolate, especially immediately after having sampled some of the festival products (chocolate covered bacon anyone?). However, just as in her book, the author kept me and the others in the room engaged as she conveyed her knowledge abut and enthusiasm for chocolate.
While you can (and should) purchase this book for yourself if you are a chocolate devotee or a chocolate devotee wannabe, it would also make a wonderful gift for the chocolate lovers in your life. My copy is inscribed to my favorite chocolate lover — my husband.
 
 
 
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  The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Spiritual Memoir Reviews by New Consciousness Review

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Unearthing Venus
Subtitle: My Search For the Woman Within
by Cate MontanaISBN-10: 1780285973
ISBN-13: 978-1780285979
Memoir/womens/spirituality
Authors' Web sites: www.unearthingvenus.com
www.catemontana.comiTo buy the book

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Reviews by Julie Clayton, originally for New Consciousness Review

A true tale, Unearthing Venus reads like a gripping novel filled with outlandish characters and circumstances, interesting locales, and astonishing bravery by an everyday heroine. Readers will be captivated by the humor, raw honesty, heartwarming tone, and unexpected insights along this unconventional journey, which eventually yields  not only personal awakenings, but also universal lessons.
Cate Montana is an ordinary woman, yet she has led an extraordinary life searching for deeper meaning and personal authenticity, allowing the winds of heartbreak and breakthrough to carry her, having faith that the choices she makes will ultimately lead to greater spiritual realization.


This book is “everywoman’s” story revealing the struggles that women in particular, and humanity in totality, endure as a consequence of feminine values being denied and invalidated. And it upholds a greater vision for what humanity is capable of becoming.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.