Tuesday, March 30, 2010

iPad -- Is Anyone Using One?

Okay, speaking as a reader here, I'm wondering if anyone is even remotely interested in this iPad thingy Apple's come out with.

I realize there's interest in terms of media hype, which has gotten people's attention as it usually does.

But why would I want one? How is it better than a Kindle, for instance? I've got one of those and love it. It's user-friendly (even for a techno-idiot, like me). Awesome for travel.

I know the iPad has lots of bells and whistles (and apps--every gizmo has apps now). But if you need an iBook tour to understand it, I mean, jeez!

Call me a Luddite, if you like. Call me a stick in the mud. But do we really need another gadget? (And let's not even get into the environmental issues of creating more gadgets.)

If anyone's bought one of those iPad thingies and you really like it, please leave a comment. I'd just like an explanation. Why?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I'm a Mystery Scene Magazine Reviewer

Several months ago, I inquired about being a reviewer for Mystery Scene Magazine. Got a (conditionally) affirmative response. (Yay! Beats rejection, that's for sure.)

Essentially, the deal was for me to write a short review (150 - 300 words--we're talking really short) for one book. If they liked it, they'd keep me on as a freelance reviewer.

So, I wrote my first review of Ed Lin's upcoming release, SNAKES CAN'T RUN. (Good book, BTW. You can read all about it in Mystery Scene Magazine. Because it seems I'm in. :))

I have to tell you, it's pretty cool receiving ARCs (advance review copies, in case you didn't know). Getting that first look at what's on the literary horizon.

Apparently, my review must not have completely sucked, because I've received TWO more books to review. Therefore, I guess it's official. I'm a book reviewer for Mystery Scene Magazine.

And the two books? One is NEVER WAVE GOODBYE, Doug Magee's debut novel. The other is FRAGILE by Lisa Unger. OMG, now I'm drooling.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deadly Political Games Make the System Less Than 'Foolproof'

Review: FOOLPROOF (Forge Books 2009)
Authors: Barbara D'Amato, Jeanne M. Dams and Mark Zubro

Voting fraud isn't a topic one would normally think of as sexy or thrilling. However, FOOLPROOF by co-authors Barbara D'Amato, Jeanne M. Dams and Mark Zubro, proves that even computer geeks can be the stars of amazing thrillers.

The story starts on 9/11. The two protagonists linger at a coffeehouse that morning, thus surviving the Twin Towers' collapse. In the aftermath, Brenda Grant (who lost her fiance, Jeremy, in the disaster) and Daniel Henderson, her gay co-worker, decide to start their own business – seeking out terrorists using their computer savvy. With the determination that comes from personal loss, they build an international business that thoroughly scours the Net for signs of terrorist activity.

Meanwhile, one of Brenda's school acquaintances (another woman who works in computers) makes an appointment to see her, but ends up having an unfortunate accident (oops, pushed into Manhattan traffic) before they can meet. In addition, the Cairo office sends the duo a mysterious message. Daniel follows up with a trip to Cairo. One he'll never forget.

Holding down the fort back in the New York office, Brenda must deal with the urbane Allen Cooper, who's hired the firm on behalf of the Feds to make sure the computer voting system is bug-free and reliable. Cooper's interest in Brenda quickly goes from professional to personal. Thus, while Brenda fights to maintain her professional distance from a client (while acknowledging that maybe it's time to let her guard down and put Jeremy's loss behind her), Daniel's running from people who are trying to kill him.

Intercut between these scenes, we see the President of the United States (a ranting idiot, ostensibly named Kierkstra, but the reader is free to fill in the blank) conferring with a mystery man named Alexander Cabot about a plot to steal votes in the impending election.

To read the entire review, go to: http://thriller-fiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/review--foolproof

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mad for the Moon, Singleton Hippie Art

Mad for the MoonSingleton Hippie ArtSOLDSock footed in his five o'clock shadow,I watch him sleeping...skinny arms and legs,tangled up like Macrame' knotson the hand~me~down couch...And I'm wide awake,twisting my hair in curley-ques,whisper dancing in the kitchen...The night is upside downandthe clocks are inside out...We're Opposites...And I'm mad about him...."Words and Hippie Artwork (c)

Off to Virginia Festival of the Book!

Normally, I'd post a book review or relevant article here on Saturday. But since I'm heading out (in twenty minutes) to Charlottesville, VA to Virginia Festival of the Book, I'll just post about that today instead.

I'll be a vendor at the book festival selling copies of IDENTITY CRISIS (hopefully, by the gross :)). I hope someone from the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime also thinks to bring a few copies of CHESAPEAKE CRIMES: THEY HAD IT COMIN', the new short story anthology. Assuming anyone thought to order it. (I still have to place my own order.)

Anyhow, wish me luck tomorrow. Here's hoping for good attendance and great sales!

Now, let's see. Are our books packed? Do we have everything? So much to think about.

See ya! (Next time I'll have a review of a great Barbara D'Amato thriller I just finished. Awesome! And scary.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

'Thunder Bay': A New Outing for Corcoran O’Connor and the Dark North Woods

Review of THUNDER BAY (Brilliance Audio 2007)
By guest blogger Star Lawrence
Author, William Kent Krueger; read by Buck Schirner

I first read about deliberate, thoughtful sheriff Corcoran O’Connor in Mercy Falls, and I see from Amazon, he has been treading those pine needle-covered forest trails, running into the occasional degenerate murderer, for several books. The last one I read is THUNDER BAY.

Thunder Bay is actually in Canada, but the story begins in Minnesota. O’Connor has resigned as sheriff of Tamarack County. His friend, an almost 100-year-old Ojibwe medicine man named Henry, is hospitalized and asks O’Connor to find his son, who would then be 73. Son? What son? O’Connor had known the old man all his life, no mention of a son.

He reluctantly agrees and at least Googles the mother’s name, one of two clues the old man had. The other clue is a gold watch with a beautiful Latin woman’s picture in it. Of course, through the wonder of Inspector Google, he finds the connection right away. The son, a zillionaire industrialist, is a recluse a la Howard Hughes on an island near Thunder Bay.

Corc journeys to the place, bringing the watch. By then, he has learned the old man’s story, which we readers learn to the tune of half the book. I won’t go into it—but I cried and I am not usually a sappy mess.

The son is a wackypack, with long white hair and a closetful of clean bathrobes and surgical masks. Or is he?

I will leave it to you.

There is a second story line I won’t go into and all I can say is that the book nimbly dodges Nancy Drew World a few times, for which I was thankful.

Buck Schirner? The reader? Wonderful bass voice. My gosh, you could take a bath in his voice. I asked my daughter why I never meet anyone with a voice like that. She said it was because I never went anywhere.


Star Lawrence owns a health website called HEALTH’Sass at http://healthsass.blogspot.com and a recession site at http://hopeycopey.blogspot.com.
She can be reached at jkellaw@aol.com.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

John LeCarre's Real Life Inspirations

If you like John LeCarre novels as much as I do, you'll probably appreciate this look at the real life inspirations for some of his characters (via Sarah Weinman's blog). His description of the world-weary man behind Alec Leamas, the protagonist of THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, is priceless.

Richard Burton as Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

LeCarre himself wrote this piece, which talks about his father's influence and some of the, um, interesting situations he encountered.

Though the article doesn't touch on his experiences with MI5 or MI6, it still provides a window into the (master) mind of the spy novelist.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Just a Few Reading Suggestions

If you're looking for book ideas (like there's a shortage? LOL), you might want to try one of the crime fiction classics--one of the 100 Best Crime Books Ever Written (at least, in someone's opinion). I always wonder about the criteria used to make these lists. Why, for instance, in the hardboiled section, was Sue Grafton chosen instead of Marcia Muller (who invented the hardboiled female protagonist Sharon McCone before Kinsey Millhone came on the scene)? Why Grafton instead of Sara Paretsky, who created V.I. Warshawski? And did they pick A IS FOR ALIBI simply because it was first? I mean, I liked it, but I'm not sure it was the best of the series.

Okay, whatever.

And, in honor of the occasion, here are 27 Graphic Novels for Women's History Month.

I usually associate graphic novels with cartoonish action-adventure stories, not with some of the selections I see on this list.

Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawkexpress/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Just more possibilities for your TBR pile, brought to you by The Reader's Advisor Online. (My usual source of too much information. :))

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Read an E-Book Week Starts Tomorrow

Did you know that Read an E-Book Week runs from March 7 - 13? And did you also know that March is Women's History Month?

On that note (and having just missed the chance to celebrate National Grammar Day--drat!), I hope you won't mind a tiny bit of BSP for my novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, which is available as an e-book AND features a strong female protagonist that I think Gloria Steinem would approve of (um, Gloria? would you like to read my book? just askin' . . .). The novel is available on Amazon's Kindle Store and Smashwords, the latter of which is running a promotion ($.99 downloads this week only!) to celebrate e-book week. Further, my novel is making its premiere this weekend as a book trailer!

Yes, I can see movie written all over this one. ;)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

'Cobblestones': Murder and Wiccan Rituals in Martha's Vineyard

Review: COBBLESTONES (PopPix Press 2010) (Kindle edition)
Author: J.T. Cummins

In COBBLESTONES, the island community of Martha's Vineyard becomes like a modern-day Salem, when an elderly couple are accused of homicide, allegedly related to witchcraft.

The story centers around deputy district attorney Matthew Bright, assigned to prosecute the case against Edwin and Cecelia Hubble. The Hubbles are Wiccans who are first suspected, then accused of killing local residents, based largely on circumstantial evidence. Bright (who's dealing with personal problems at home) must go up against the beautiful, but tough, defense attorney Lizabeth Mosley, who we eventually learn has a unique interest in the matter.

As the case proceeds, Bright's certainty about the Hubbles' guilt starts to waver. Nonetheless, his boss, Nathan Poole, wants to proceed full steam ahead--a decision dictated more by island politics and anti-Wiccan prejudice than it is by evidence.

At only 60 pages, COBBLESTONES qualifies as a novella, but an unusual one. The writing reflects the author J.T. Cummins' screenwriting roots, in that it's not only written from many perspectives, but the description is spare and more suggestive than detailed, similar to that found in scripts. The chapters tend to be short (and have the feel of movie scenes), conveying the story in bite-sized pieces that are easy to read and lead deftly into the next scene. So once you've read one, you want to keep going.

The story moves at a brisk clip and, with an economy of words, explores the political pressures on Bright and Poole (as well as the tensions between them), various romantic relationships, the community's antipathy toward the Hubbles and the Hubbles good-hearted innocence--or is it a facade? Cummins inserts a whisper of doubt about this.

Capable of being read in the time it takes to watch a feature film, COBBLESTONES is a lean, entertaining and fast-paced story that ends with a surprise twist and breathtaking climax--just like in the movies.

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