Derek Takes Action by Mac Black

Derek Takes ActionDerek Takes Action by Mac Black

Derek has a cause but, being Derek, he also has a host of misunderstandings to sort out, mistakes to rectify and a wife to mollify. As a natural leader, he knows that beating the Railway Developers is down to him. As a natural disaster area, we know it is unlikely to go quite to plan. In Mac Black’s fifth and final Derek book the plot is stirred as poor gullible Derek tries his best and makes us laugh all the way to the end!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve grown rather fond of poor, bumbling Derek over the years, and it saddens me a bit to see him go in this final sendoff, but what a sendoff it was.

Once more, he finds himself in the worst sort of trouble from the very beginning of this book, but manages to save face in time for the ending, becoming the local hero that all his readers knew he could be–albeit, with a bit of drama along the way. I still feel for Sally.

This book had Mac Black’s unique humour spread evenly through it, and is full of moments that make you glad you are not the main character in one of his novels. Derek is as witty and enjoyable as ever in this story, and after finishing it, I think it is a tie for me over which is my favourite–this one or the first.

I liked the new characters in this book and felt like this story did a good job of tying everything before it together.

If you haven’t read this series yet and you enjoy humour and unlikely heroes, you should pick up a copy of the first book and get started. I’ll miss Derek, but I understand that everyone has limits, and he has already used more than his share of 9 lives.

Read it, have a giggle.

This review is based on a complimentary copy in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

A new book I am VERY excited about!

Lots of authors lately have made the jump to self publishing, and I have found some really great books thanks to these decisions. Here’s one that I am particularly excited about. If you haven’t met this author yet, please take a moment to stop by his blog and say hello. He’s a hard working writer–and just a great person in general, with a personality that won’t quit.

Visit him at: Fiction Favorites

Announcing His Revenge by John W. Howell is now available in paper and ebook on Amazon.

His Revenge front final

The sequel to My GRL titled His Revenge is available and a new story continues where My GRL left off.

His Revenge is available in the US in Paper and Kindle editions

In Canada in Paper and Kindle editions

In the UK in Paper and Kindle editions

Here is the blurb:

America loves John Cannon, its newest hero, and the President wants to present him with the highest civilian medal for bravery for saving the Annapolis midshipman from a terrorist plot to destroy them. While in Washington for the award ceremony, John unwillingly becomes an accomplice in another plan by the same group to attack the credibility of the US President and the stability of the worldwide oil market. There is no way out as John either becomes a traitor to America or causes thousands of innocent people to die if he refuses.

The second John J Cannon Thriller moves from a barrier Island off the coast of Texas to Washington DC, then to Northern California, and finally to Ecuador. John is on the receiving end of an offer he cannot, refuse. His avowed enemy Matt Jacobs now wants John to help him shake the reputation of the US in the world political arena and disrupt confidence in the government at home. If John refuses, Matt plans to murder innocent Americans including John’s latest relationship. John’s only way out is to pretend to go along with the plan and hope for a miracle.

Excerpt from Chapter one

The water rushes over my head. I’m sinking and don’t know why. With my breath held, I have trouble stopping the air from escaping since the pressure drives the air up and out. I try to keep my mouth closed, but the water pressure pushes the air out more and more. Will I pass out? In the distance, the light is dim. To rise to the surface in time might not be possible─I need to breathe right now. Toward ending the pain in my chest, my rambling mind rationalizes taking a deep breath—even knowing it will end my life. In conflict with the irrational thought of ending it, my body won’t let me suck in the water, as it fights to retain the little bit of oxygen left to fuel my brain.

The despair is nearly overwhelming, and my mind considers other ways to battle the feeling. What more could I have done with my life? The pressure becomes more intense, and I’m about to lose it all, and I decide I’ve lived the way I wanted and have no regrets. I close my eyes and hear only the roar of the sea. I’m so tired. Exhausted. Sleep will fix everything, and I want to give in.

Photo by Tim Burdick

About the Author

John’s main interests are reading and writing. He turned to writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive career in business. John writes fictional short stories and novels as well as a blog at John lives on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of south Texas with his wife and spoiled rescue pets. He can be reached at his e-mail, Facebook Twitter at @HowellWave

My GRL_johnwhowell

His first novel, My GRL is available on Amazon and wherever e-books are sold

A guest spot with the lovely Mia Thompson (Character Description)

Ever find an author’s work so engaging that you can’t wait to find out more about the author and their writing habits? I feel that way about Mia Thompson every time I read one of her books. If you are a reader or a fellow author–this guest blog will be insightful and entertaining. Mia is a truly talented writer and has kindly agreed to share some wisdom with us! Please take a moment to read her post here and check out her books below!

Her latest book:

click cover to purchase

sentencing sapphire COVER

Sapphire Dubois is back in the follow-up to the international bestsellers STALKING SAPPHIRE and SILENCING SAPPHIRE, fighting her most grueling serial killer yet.

A summer has passed since the catastrophe at the country club. Heiress and vigilante Sapphire Dubois has escaped to Paris, where she has shed her rich persona and lives as the infamous Serial Catcher. When the handsome Detective Aston Ridder tracks her down, Sapphire returns home to find Beverly Hills in chaos. A new vigilante has taken over Sapphire’s old job, and will stop at nothing to get her predecessor out of the way.

Meanwhile, a man with dark intentions and a deceiving smile has nestled his way into the rich community and is killing off heiresses. It doesn’t take long before Sapphire finds that this man, the next killer she has to catch, is none other than her estranged father. Already plagued by sickening memories, Sapphire is pushed to the limit when her father initiates a deranged game that threatens both her sanity and the lives of everyone around her.

While Aston struggles to keep the woman he loves from drowning in her father’s madness, Sapphire battles to outwit her merciless opponents before time runs out and more innocent blood is spilled.

Guest Blog:

The Oh That Changed My View on Character Description

As an author, it is easy to picture your main character as a version of yourself, or a version of someone around you. Ask most writers and they’ll tell you that they see some of their own features in their MC’s.

I never thought much about this. The only thing on my mind as I wrote was how I, personally, saw the character, whether his/her specific features pertained to the story or not.

However, if you ask most readers how they view an MC, pre-description, they are likely to give you a version of themselves as well—an adaptation of a face they can meld with their own as they relate to the character.

In 2013, my publishing house, Diversion Books, and I, decided to put up my first novel on Wattpad—an international site for readers and writers—as a book club in promotion for the second book in the series. Soon, my fan base jumped from the US to worldwide and I was getting messages from readers all over the globe.

My first thought: Yay!

Then I got a message from a girl from the UAE, if I recall correctly. She told me how much she loved the book, then asked me what Sapphire (my MC) looked like?

Without thinking, I wrote back and gave her the image of my version of Sapphire. Her reply? Oh.

That Oh said it all and I immediately regretted what I’d done. I’d taken away her image of the main character and ruined the way she related to Sapphire.

Clearly, not everyone in the world is an heiress/spy/astronaut/district 12 resident, but what we do as readers, and what makes stories so great, is that we find ways, despite location, time period, and social status, to put our own features on the character so we can pretend to be them as we go on their adventure. Not every reader does this—I know some are more comfortable with being handed the image—but many find it the easiest way to connect with the character.

Due to this Oh, I was faced with multiple questions. How many books had I read where the character’s facial shape, hair color, eye color, and height didn’t pertain to the story? How many times had I mind-deleted the author’s character description because it didn’t match the image I’d already created?
The most important question of all: Why the hell was I doing the same thing to my readers?

This has nothing to do with being politically correct. It’s about questioning who the characters truly belong to: the person who created them, or the person absorbing them?

Before I answered the message I should have realized that there’s plenty of character description in my novel, and that she, just like I have so many times, had mind-deleted it because it didn’t fit with her image. I should have replied: “Whatever you want her to look like.”

Because of that Oh—that may or may not have meant what I thought it did—I hereby vow to neutralize the descriptions of my future main characters, leaving them as blank canvasses, and stop imposing my personal image on defenseless readers. Unless, of course, it comes down to Writer’s Rule No 1: POPP. Plot Over Personal Preference. (There’s a good chance I just made up that acronym, but it’s still true.)

From here on out, I will do my darndest (grandma-term alert) to make sure that every person, of every hair/skin/eye color, of every length and size, everywhere can see themselves in my main characters. Because once that book is in your hand, dear reader, the characters are not mine; they are yours.

You can find Mia’s other books as well as info on her from her Amazon Author page by clicking

Here: Amazon Central Author Page for Mia Thompson

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

The Last MidwifeThe Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn’t imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides.

But everything changes when a baby is found dead…and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer.

She didn’t commit the crime, but clearing her name isn’t so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that’s dangerous. Invited into her neighbors’ homes during their most intimate and vulnerable times, she can’t help what she sees and hears. A woman sometimes says things in the birthing bed, when life and death seem suspended within the same moment. Gracy has always tucked those revelations away, even the confessions that have cast shadows on her heart.

With her friends taking sides and a trial looming, Gracy must decide whether it’s worth risking everything to prove her innocence. And she knows that her years of discretion may simply demand too high a price now…especially since she’s been keeping more than a few dark secrets of her own.

With Sandra Dallas’s incomparable gift for creating a sense of time and place and characters that capture your heart, The Last Midwife tells the story of family, community, and the secrets that can destroy and unite them.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a powerful, emotionally charged novel that will keep you turning pages even when you should have been in bed hours before.

“I guess I know more than she does, because the baby don’t come out of your foot.”

I dare you to read this book and not fall completely in love with Gracy. She is the kind of character that works her way into your heart and refuses to leave. I find that I am still thinking of her, long after the last page has been read.

Really, I can’t say enough good things about this novel, or the author’s writing. I’m struggling to find words that will do it justice.

What I loved: Gracy’s life in the various terrains and her midwifery skills, including the struggles she faced with weather and other folks in the community were wonderfully descriptive. I really felt like I was there with her, travelling the bumpy roads and helping these women through their birthing trials.

What I loved even more: Gracy is forgiving, kind and understanding, but she can also be as tough as nails, as one would expect a woman living at the time and doing the duties she performs would have had to be.

This story doesn’t waste time delaying the events that shape the story, and by the time the important stuff happens, it feels like a natural progression. This author has an excellent handle on language and her writing is smooth and flows easily. I was particularly impressed with the dialogue.

There are a lot of books out there, but few that I can find no fault in–this is one. Read it, you won’t be sorry.

This review is based on a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

Countdown to Death by Iain McChesney

Countdown to DeathCountdown to Death by Iain McChesney

Ten strangers are lured to a remote Scottish island at the invitation of a reclusive industrialist.

Stranded on Lord Black’s wondrous estate, the disparate guests have more in common than they first realize.

Accused in a mysterious letter of having committed crimes in their past, one by one they are hunted down. But who is the killer? Will any of them live to find out?

***A modern retelling of the Agatha Christie classic–with a surprising twist.***
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And then there were none…kind of. I really liked this book. I became hooked on this author’s writing with his first novel, so I was definitely curious to see what he would do next. I’m excited to say that he surprised me in a pleasant way.

This book is a modern retelling of a classic work, and although they are different enough that they can’t be directly compared–I have to say, that for once, I liked this story better than the original.

One of my favourite things about McChesney’s writing, is the way he blends dark humour into an ordinary scene, making it fun. I like the ironic things that happen to his characters and the way he gets an already quick plot moving even faster with unexpected events.

I couldn’t figure this one out until the very end, and I laughed when I realised that the clues were there all along–but I was so involved with the writing and the characters that I didn’t see what was right in front of me.

I truly like this author, and recommend his work to anyone looking for a great read.

So much fun!

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and was provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

View all my reviews

The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Knutsen

The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath: A NovelThe Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath: A Novel by Kimberly Knutsen

Set in the frozen wasteland of Midwestern academia, The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath introduces Wilson A. Lavender, father of three, instructor of women’s studies, and self-proclaimed genius who is beginning to think he knows nothing about women. He spends much of his time in his office not working on his dissertation, a creative piece titled “The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath.” A sober alcoholic, he also spends much of his time not drinking, until he hooks up with his office mate, Alice Cherry, an undercover stripper who introduces him to “the buffer”—the chemical solution to his woes.

Wilson’s wife, Katie, is an anxious hippie, genuine earth mother, and recent PhD with no plans other than to read People magazine, eat chocolate, and seduce her young neighbor—a community college student who has built a bar in his garage. Intelligent and funny, Katie is haunted by a violent childhood. Her husband’s “tortured genius” both exhausts and amuses her.

The Lavenders’ stagnant world is roiled when Katie’s pregnant sister, January, moves in. Obsessed with her lost love, ’80s rocker Stevie Flame, January is on a quest to reconnect with her glittery, big-haired past. A free spirit to the point of using other people’s toothbrushes without asking, she drives Wilson crazy.

Exploring the landscape of family life, troubled relationships, dreams of the future, and nightmares of the past, Knutsen has conjured a literary gem filled with humor and sorrow, Aqua Net and Scooby-Doo, diapers and benzodiazepines—all the detritus and horror and beauty of modern life.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This can be a difficult book to read at times, since you know from the beginning that everything is not going to come up roses, but it is also unique, moving, funny and heartfelt.

I love books that can mirror real life so accurately that you feel like the author really poured their heart and soul into them. You definitely feel that when you read “The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath.”

Kimberly Knutsen writes with a passion and it is felt through each of her carefully worded passages. I enjoyed reading this and found myself nodding my head in agreement with many of the characters thoughts and much of the dialogue. This author is able to put into words what many people must think but not be able to voice.

The characters are strong and believable and the emotional link between them is apparent from the beginning. These are not one-dimensional characters and it is obvious that the author put a lot of work into each of them.

If you enjoy realistic dramas, and books that can make you forget about your own worries and become involved with the characters, this one is likely something you will enjoy.

This review is based on a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

Author Help Page Answers: Duncan M Hamilton

Today, Author Duncan M Hamilton is sharing his wisdom and experience with us. Thank you, Duncan! (He really has some great advice!)

You can find Duncan’s Amazon Author Page here:

1. How did you decide to become an indie author?

I’ve been writing all my life, but always as a hobby, and never as something I thought I could make a living at. When a relative fell seriously ill, she said not to get to that point in your life with any regrets. Publishing one of the books I had written was my first thought. It was around the time self publishing was getting some media attention, so I decided to give it a try.

2. What genre do you write in and why?

I write in Fantasy. Historical fiction was always my thing, but I usually hit a road block when historical events wouldn’t allow my story to progress. For that genre, I’ve never liked the idea of playing free and easy with real events, so this was a bit of a problem. One day it struck me that making up my own history would not only help solve this, but would also be a lot of fun! I haven’t looked back!

3. What social media sites do you use and can you offer a tip for each one?

A WordPress based website and blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads author profile, and a Google Plus page that I never use. I’m not great at this stuff, so the main tip I’d suggest is the thing I rely on. I have my WordPress set up so my blog posts are automatically shared on the other sites, populating them with content and saving me a lot of effort!

4. How important is blogging to an indie author in your estimation?

In honesty, I don’t know. I don’t blog that often, and probably far less than I should, because it’s not something I’m particularly good at. When I do, it’s limited to book related news, and things that give me inspiration. I’ve always seen it as a resource for people who’ve already encountered my work to visit, rather than a tool to grow my audience. Not sure if this is the best approach or not. Probably not.

5. How do you go about getting reviews?

For my first book, I spent some time making a list of all the review sites and book bloggers that were open to my genre, then went about emailing them all (it took quite a while!). I mailed nearly two hundred sites, heard back from about 10, of which 4 ended up posting reviews, so it can be something of an uphill battle.

6. What do you price your books at and do you give away free copies?

They range from $2.99 to $5.99. I’ve given away some copies as part of promotions, but I don’t have a permanently free title.

7. Do you use a cover artist or make the cover yourself?

I use a cover artist. In my opinion, the cover is too important not to have expert input.

8. What do you do about editing?

I use professional editors.

9. What do you do when sales are slow to encourage more books to be sold?

Panic! Work harder to get another release ready sooner. This is something I really don’t have much of an answer for. There’s no silver bullet that I’m aware of. If you have one, I’m listening!

10. What do you know now, that you wish you had known before?

I can’t think of anything. There’s so much information out there for writers looking to venture into self-publishing, that a bit of time spent researching can cover most of the pitfalls before plunging in. As with anything, there are minor things I change and refine with each book, but they’re more matters of personal preference rather than anything substantive.

11. Do you use a mailing list or newsletter to promote?

Yes, I do. Conventional wisdom is that it’s pretty important. I can’t say with any certainty how helpful it’s been for me.

12. Any further advice, tips or tricks you think would help others?

If you hope to make a career out of this, behave professionally in all areas and at all times. Only release your work when it has the level of production quality you would expect from a book you buy.

13. Where do you sell the largest majority of your books and do you do just ebooks or print as well?

Amazon, with Kobo in second place. I have my novels available in print through print on demand.

Wonder Fire By B.J. Webster

Wonder FireWonder Fire by B.J. Webster

1666, was called “The Year of Wonders”, despite it being a year of great calamity and disaster in London. The joke was, at least things weren’t worse than they were.

Who really started the Great Fire of London? Nobody knows for certain. The official line is that it was started in a bakery on Pudding Lane. The Privy Council concluded that the fire was caused by nothing other than ‘the Hand of God, a great wind and a very dry season’. But what if that was not the case? Could the Great Fire, which destroyed so much of the City of London, have been the result of a deliberate act? Let’s assume this is the case and delve into the motives of ambition, illicit affairs, unrequited love and political intrigue, none which was a stranger to the court of King Charles II.

Feel what it was like to live in 1666 and better understand the intricacies of politics, power and class divide of the time. Be drawn in by the fascinating web of intrigue and how it plays out to create one of the most devastating events in history.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonder Fire by B.J. Webster, is an awesome book filled with historical knowledge as well as the author’s take on the happenings of London in 1666.

This is a great book for a variety of reasons. The setting was interesting and hasn’t been overused by other authors. The characters were realistic and I found the speech to be very authentically written. I want to shake this author’s hand.

I find that when you read a book that the author was really passionate about, it shows in their writing and this was definitely the case here. The author has written a beautiful book, but has also shown the true historical side of things. The depth of her research is clear in the little known facts available in this book.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Highly recommended to anyone curious about this period of history.

This review is based on a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Trust No One by Paul Cleave

Trust No OneTrust No One by Paul Cleave

In the exciting new psychological thriller by the Edgar-nominated author of Joe Victim, a famous crime writer struggles to differentiate between his own reality and the frightening plot lines he’s created for the page.

Jerry Grey is known to most of the world by his crime writing pseudonym, Henry Cutter-a name that has been keeping readers at the edge of their seats for more than a decade. Recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of forty-nine, Jerry’s crime writing days are coming to an end. His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders committed by bad men, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia begins to break down the wall between his life and the lives of the characters he has created, Jerry confesses his worst secret: The stories are real. He knows this because he committed the crimes. Those close to him, including the nurses at the care home where he now lives, insist that it is all in his head, that his memory is being toyed with and manipulated by his unfortunate disease. But if that were true, then why are so many bad things happening? Why are people dying?

Hailed by critics as a “masterful” (Publishers Weekly) writer who consistently offers “ferocious storytelling that makes you think and feel” (The Listener) and whose fiction evokes “Breaking Bad reworked by the Coen Brothers”(Kirkus Reviews), Paul Cleave takes us down a cleverly twisted path to determine the fine line between an author and his characters, between fact and fiction.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought this book had a really interesting premise and was excited about it–but wasn’t as excited after I started reading it. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t love it as much as some of the other reviewers have.

I expected that the story might be a bit difficult to follow based on the idea that the main character had Alzheimer’s, but that wasn’t really too bad. What bothered me was that it seemed like this story would get going for a bit and become exciting and then drop off into useless exposition again–just because. Perhaps that was just my interpretation of the story, but I felt like the harshness of the coarse language was only there for shock value, and not that it really added anything valuable to the story.

This is interesting, but I viewed it in a rather removed sort of way, as there were no characters I felt close to, nor any that I really desired to get to know better.

Overall, it wasn’t a book that I think everyone will love, but one that I would recommend to those who like to read things outside the box.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway

Sisters of Heart and SnowSisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway
Rachel and Drew Snow may be sisters, but  their lives have followed completely different paths.

Married to a wonderful man and a mother to two strong-minded teens, Rachel hasn’t returned to her childhood home since being kicked out by her strict father after an act of careless teenage rebellion. Drew, her younger sister, followed her passion for music but takes side jobs to make ends meet and longs for the stability that has always eluded her. Both sisters recall how close they were, but the distance between them seems more than they can bridge. When their deferential Japanese mother, Hikari, is diagnosed with dementia and gives Rachel power of attorney, Rachel’s domineering father, Killian becomes enraged.

In a rare moment of lucidity, Hikari asks Rachel for a book in her sewing room, and Rachel enlists her sister’s help in the search. The book—which tells the tale of real-life female samurai Tomoe Gozen, an epic saga of love, loss, and conflict during twelfth-century Japan—reveals truths about Drew and Rachel’s relationship that resonate across the centuries, connecting them in ways that turn their differences into assets.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written and deeply thoughtful story. With dual tales in this novel, one set long ago in the twelfth century and one set in the current day, this book has a lot to offer to both those who love contemporary writing and for those who love historical books.

Margaret Dilloway keeps getting better with every novel she writes. I was not only impressed with her dialogue in this book as it was easy to read and believable, but also with the unusual family dynamics she creates for her characters. This author gives you a reason to want to continue with her books from the very first page.

When reading this, I found that I became very involved in the story of Tomoe, wanting to know more early on. The descriptions used for the setting were wonderful and made it easier to visualise the story. I like the parallels between the modern story and that of the Shogun period.

This book made me smile, made me cry and in the end and is a novel that I happily recommend to others. Margaret Dilloway is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors and a name I automatically associate with above-average fiction.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.