Saturday, December 31, 2016

MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2016


I began writing Amazon Reviews in 2013 after reading a Kindle ebook that was so awful, I was distraught. My cousin suggested that I write an Amazon Review. And so I did. I'm over a hundred reviews, total. I haven't written many reviews this year. My goal was a minimum of 25 reviews, I got 24 done; the last one didn't make the midnight cutoff date.

It takes considerable time and thought to write (and rewrite) reviews. I don't take the process lightly. I look for a believable plot, good storyline, and figurative language that doesn't intrude, and subtle intellect. Novels stem from the oral tradition. They should entertain (as well as enlighten). It's not all about the escape fiction part.

Unfortunately many reviews are viewed as a popularity contest. Not. It is my hope that some authors will take the time to correct their typos and upload revised books so that we all benefit. Hey, free copy editing! 

Unfortunately, negative reviews also garner a lot of negative points. Please mosey on over and LIKE some of my reviews. Amazon's all about Like, just like LIKE on Facebook. Except, like, the buttons are, like, different.

My older reviews are buried deep. So I tried to include the direct links whenever possible here as well. Go to MoHurley's Amazon Reviews click on the comments section under my review and that will take you to the review where you can like it.

MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2015
My Amazon Book Reviews 2014
My Amazon Book Reviews 2013







Every Little Kiss (Kissed by the Bay Book 1)
Every Little Kiss (Kissed by the Bay Book 1)


Half drenched story, January 1, 2017
When Wendy Watts' grandmother died, she left Wendy a controlling interest in the Blue Moon Inn, with a codicil, that she had to sell the inn after running it for a month with her brother Brian.

Wendy, a realtor in Sacramento, fled Blue Moon Bay, and hadn't been home in nine years. There was family karma to work through. Her free spirited parents dumped Wendy and Brian on the grandmother's doorstep at the inn. Wendy reconnects with old friends, then meets Mr. Hot on the beach, who secretly wants to buy the inn and turn it into a high-rise hotel.

The plot and weaving of a mythic story about finding love by the bay worked well in this novel set in Half Moon, I mean Blue Moon Bay. It was campy to recognize the locale, I once helped friends sell jewelry at the Pumpkin Festival. But I wasn't sure of the author's intent to disguise Half Moon Bay, because she wanted it to sound like a beer brand?

Too much flabby language. I was stymied by the author's apparent lack of vocabulary and inability to write beyond the obvious cliché. Wendy's brother Brian (and father) had emerald green eyes. Did the author really need to use this cliche twice in one chapter? Within a dozen pages? The overuse of hot, smoking hot, hotter, hottie, hotness, ad nauseum. Get a new word already. I was sick of hearing about about the hotness of Mr. Hottie's hot bum. (If I use asp, I'll get censored by Amazon...)

Then there are the illogical bits: the protagonist is drenched (kissed by the bay) and she and Mr. Hot are going for an evening stroll? Brrr. The lovestory hinges on the realization of a folktale written by one of Wendy's ancestors... California wasn't explored by Yanks until the 1850s, or settled until the 1900s. Not exactly ancestor material.

Typos: the word realtor is not capitalized. And hippie is the correct spelling, not a hippy-fly-by-night, unless those were really large hips passing in the night.

In this case you can judge this book by its daft cover of a model in a hot pink dress blowing a kiss. Another lost opportunity. A picture of the cove, done in blues, would've added to the story.

I sent this review in before midnight, as I was trying to get 25 review posted in 2016, and it didn't post until Jan 1...Amazon is amazingly slow at times.







Selling Dreams (The Riviera Romance Series Book 1)
Selling Dreams (The Riviera Romance Series Book 1)


Two loosely connected stories weave a tapestry of love and hope, December 31, 2016

Selling Dreams is two separate stories loosely connected; the characters are fairly well developed. If you persevere, the two stories will mesh. Upon second reading (in order to review it), I enjoyed it more as I now have a better understanding of the central characters.

Chantal owns a shady real estate agency in Antibes, and Flora left an agency in Ireland to join the team. Chantal disappears from the scene after her husband, suffering from dementia, is hospitalized, leaving Flora to navigate the vagaries of selling real estate in France, with her co-workers, Daisy and Iris. 


Meanwhile Chantal is having an affair with a painter, and many of the prospective buyers, and locals of Antibes are willing to offer solace to the girls who are looking for love in all the wrong places.

I've been following Susanne O'Leary since I stumbled upon Hot Property, set in Ireland. There, the Swedish-born author attempted to capture the Irish-English voice, but her dialogue was often flat, as Hiberno-English is, in essence, O'Leary's third language.


O'Leary does a far better job of capturing dialogue in her French Riviera Romance series. She seems more comfortable with portraying the south of France, than Ireland. She does not attempt to imitate French speakers speaking English, or Irish speakers speaking French, TG.


It's not easy to overlook the odd grammar, or the conflation of characters' names: Flora is about to go out, solo, to show a house to a client. "Daisy stiffened. "What? Me?" The problem is that Daisy is still asleep at home. Flora is speaking to Iris.


Chantal, worried about making ends meet, thinks the "money will be a welcome boost to our economy." Economy is the wrong word. Perhaps income?

"They were younger and more clued up." Clued up is a malapropism, reminding me that English is not O'Leary's first language. Perhaps clued-in, or in tune?

I do like the way O'Leary economically recycles her characters introduced at the beginning, in her later episodic novels. If you read them in sequence, the layering and detail really builds and fleshes out the characters, making them memorable figures.


Riviera Romance series:

Selling Dreams
Borrowed Dreams
Forgotten Dreams
Marianne's Christmas

Duty Free is set in Paris, and Villa Caramel is set on the Riviera, but they are from a different series.


BTW, the first three books in the  Irish Romance series, The Kerry Romance Box Set, Hot Property, Hot Gossip, and Hot Pursuit, are free on Kindle right now. The fourth book is Hot Wishes. I enjoyed them, but I liked The Blow-In from the Tipperary series better.






Checkered Crime: A Laurel London Mystery
Checkered Crime: A Laurel London Mystery


Checkered Crime is a rollicking tale of a quirky, larcenous orphan in search of her roots, December 31, 2016
Checkered Crime is a rollicking tale of a quirky, larcenous orphan who goes in search of her roots and finds out more than what she bargained for. Laurel London's misspent youth proved to be too much for the residents of Walnut Grove, Kentucky, whom she's bilked in one way or another (including the pastor), ever since she hit the double digits, as a t'weenie.

Laurel got fired from her only job, and needs a car to find work. She cons her best friend, Derek, to rebuild a clunker checkered cab for wheels. She takes her new wheels out for a spin and accidentally picks up a fare, “Trigger Finger” Tony Cardozza, who happens to be a mobster from Louisville, and things go south from there. But the job pays well. Enter the FBI—dreamy Jax Jackson, her old Porta Potty boss, and warring factions of the Mob, in a merry goosechase. Batty Trixie, Laurel's foster mom, adjusts her tinfoil hat, as there are some inexplicably strange goings-on in Walnut Grove.

Nuts and bolts. Minor editing issues include typos: it's chicken coop, not "chicken coupe," unless it's a name of a car. A compound word failure: "ear shot" should be earshot. Unless of course, his ear got shot. Then fire away. Mondegreen alert: it's not "throws of danger," but, "throes of danger." Ok, so there are a few squirrely transitions, sometimes the sentence structure (or word choice) was odder than a lovesick adder on a hot caduceus, and I gotta admit that it was a highly improbable plot, but it was oh-so-entertaining. Witty dialogue keeps this story moving along. I haven't laughed out loud or snorted so much in public in ages.

Hysterically funny writing. I give it four snorts.

The Laurel London series:
Checkered Crime
Checkered Past
Checkered Thief







Legal Ease (The Sutton Capital Series Book 1)
Legal Ease (The Sutton Capital Series Book 1)


Legal Ease is a case of libris interruptus, December 31, 2016
Tycoon Jack needs a fake wife to keep his job and Kelly needs money to go to law school, so she propositions him into a fake marriage arrangement. Talk about prostitution. Jack's aunt knows it's a sham and tries to discredit the marriage so she can inherit the company. Things heat up as Jack and Kelly cohabitate, but the neglected plot is so thin, it's wearing a négligée.

Legal Ease is the first book in the Sutton Capital series (eight books and counting), and Ms. Ryan began writing in 2013, so I assume the amateurish/naive Harlequin writing style has more to do with the distance of time and her later novels have more depth. That said, I enjoyed the story, but I had to work hard to keep my suspension of disbelief in check, as much of the story doesn't seem well developed. Improbable plot meets unrealistic characters and stilted dialogue.

I do love the cleverness of the title. But I am uncomfortable with the plot premise of forced seduction that far too many romance novelists favor. (R-rated modern bodice ripper.) It makes me squirm, and not in a good way. And the kidnapping/white slavery conclusion was pretty left field. It made for an abrupt ending, a case of libris interruptus, despite the Happily Ever After quickie tacked onto the end of the story. I can't say I want to find out what happens next in the series to the other characters. Life is too short.





Murder In Paradise
Murder In Paradise


Author overkill murders the story, December 31, 2016

Ten seemingly unrelated people from Great Britain, Australia, and Canada, are chosen to survive one year on a deserted tropical island in order to make a documentary. Murder in Paradise is a combination of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" meets William Golding's "Lord of the Flies," with a film noir nod to the reality show, Survivor.

My suspension of disbelief was challenged early in the story. And it never recovered. The group is forced to forage for survival, yet there were wild apples and bananas on this uninhabited tropical island. Apples? Really? Apples won't grow in the tropics. I kept waiting for oranges to appear. (There were limes....) The scene turns from idyllic to paranoid as people begin to die off like flies. Characters find that they are connected to each other, after all, but what is the common denominator? One of the characters even makes a comment that the murders would make for a good documentary.

Unfortunately the author does not have Christie's voice, nor does he employ strong dialogue, so Murder In Paradise is one long tedious read. The first third of the novel focused on the mundane, setting the scene, and the pedantic development of basic survival skills. There was no true plot or character development; just a series of hook ups. And murders. The usual culprits, the typos, didn't enhance the experience, but I did giggle when I read: "a thin slither was still connected to the mother tree." So Hannibal Lector! Ssssllith!

Also, the omnipotent narrator was so busy explaining everyone's motives, he interfered with the storyline and didn't allow the reader to become absorbed in the tale, nor bond with the characters. It reads like a bad B-grade movie with an abrupt ending.Talk about overkill! I seethed, and persisted, finishing the story, but by then, I was feeling murderously inclined, and probably should've quit reading it. But I finished it. A most dissatisfying read.

I'm on a roll here. This review too was censored by Amazon for because I added an euphemistic spelling of the original title for Agatha Christie's book, Ten Little _______ using * @ signs. etc. Sheesh, Amazon, really? Then Amazon gave me a time out, making it hard to repost the revised version. Here is the offending sentence:

Christie's, story, And Then There Were None, was called Ten Little Indians in the US, as the original title, Ten Little N*@@ers was far too controversial a title in the 1960s.







A Yorkshire Christmas (Christmas Around the World Book 2)
A Yorkshire Christmas (Christmas Around the World Book 2)


A lightweight nostalgic Christmas read, December 31, 2016
A nostalgic Christmas read. Protagonist Claire Lindell, who is an angst-ridden ditz, escapes to her godmother's Yorkshire home in anticipation of a quiet Christmas, sans family. But during a blizzard she drives off the road into a ditch, and runs into a sheep farmer with a stuck sheep. They rescue the sheep. it's Christmas. Love ensues. Cute fluffy story, simply written, loaded with product placement and R-rated sex. Dickens it ain't. Not even Binchy close.

Awkward language interferes with the hastily constructed (unedited) storyline: "he scrambled to a standing position;" Then there's veritas, truth in language: "...he hefted a large brass kettle..." I would hope it was copper kettle, unless he was trying to poison her. They "just gazed at each other through the darkness..." if it was dark, how could they gaze through it?  Spelling and grammar errors don't help either. "Does your Dad..." no. it's a generic noun, don't capitalize it.

"Anna saw a mother pushing a baby carriage." This gets back to the idea of who is the third person narrator: American or British? Pram, if British. The story waffles back and forth between an American and British voice and idioms. Too much hasty pudding and not enough verbose writing skills went into the construction of this story. A good insomnia read. Meaning it led me to counting sheep in the middle of the night.

There is a second bonus story as well, that follows the same cookie cutter format as Yorkshire Christmas, except it takes place in upstate New York. I'd advise skipping it unless you're a sucker for that sort of thing.





Caching In: A Geocaching Love Story (Pastime Pursuits Book 1)
Caching In: A Geocaching Love Story (Pastime Pursuits Book 1)


A quirky, compelling light romance, December 31, 2016
A quirky, compelling story, light romance genre (OK, so it's fluffy chick-lit) with an adventurous twist. Highly entertaining and enlightening. I had some questions about geocaching, having witnessed it firsthand, so that was fun to get a backstory. And as twenny-something Ally learns the ropes with geocaching coach and friend, she finds that love is the real buried treasure.

Some silly typos: personal noun Mom needs to be capitalized when used as a name."....for what lied ahead..." Nope, nope, nope. Unless someone was lying, of course. Wrong word spelled right: "....blouse seemed find to me..." Fine, not find. Compound word malfunction: it's "wherever," not "where ever." But they don't intrude with the story.




First Bite: Steven Becker Starter Library
First Bite: Steven Becker Starter Library
Price: $2.99

Riproaring introductory novels to three adventure series set in the Florida Keys,December 31, 2016
Wood's Reef (Book 2 in the Mac Travis Adventures Box Set (Books 1-4): Nautical Thrillers) is a dynamic tale set in the Florida Keys about an old Navy SNAFU over misplaced bombs. The former Navy pilot (who sounds a bit like our current president-elect) is running for president. Crusty conch, Henry Woodson, who knew of the cover-up, decides to call Ward's bluff, at risk of life and limb. I'll say no more as this is spoiler enough.

Fast paced, well written, well organized story (except for some pesky typos—see below) will keep you mesmerized to the very last page. Mac Travis, the protagonist, is a memorable character, not easily forgotten.

I will add more details about the other novels included in this starter library after I finish them. I'm reading Pirate, set in the 19th c. Keys, and it requires a mindshift, so I don't want to rush it.

And Becker also included the first novel in another contemporary Florida keys eco thriller series: Bonefish Blues, with a new protagonist, Will Service. I can't wait to read it as I missed out on the introductory offer. I may have to join Amazon Prime.

I have faith that the two remaining novels will retain a solid four-star rating (hopefully, with not too many typos....I have raging dyslexia, which makes me an OCD reader as I have to work harder than the average bear to process language. Typos make me cranky. And of course, I'm a writer....)

Becker also produces a great blog, focused on sport-fishing and ecology in the Florida Keys. If you sign up, he may send you a free book or two. Highly recommended.

Nota Bene: I read another version of Wood's Reef in the Mac Travis Box set, and wrote a partial review (posted below) in October of 2015. I sent Steve Becker a list of typos. Glad to report most of them have been corrected BUT I found 2 dozen more typos in this version of Wood's Reef in First Bite! Awkward. Do I send him a typo list?

Whatever happened to copy editors? Did they all suddenly become extinct? Good news: they're mostly errant apostrophes; its/it's confusion, your vs you're; proper noun confusion; wrong word spelled right: quite, not quiet. Bad news: it still interferes with my reading pleasure. Some writers use their fanbase to ferret out those pesky typos. I wish it was a megatrend.

My Oct 2015 review: Becker's writing style improves in Wood's Reef, it's easier to read. Mac Travis takes center stage in this novel. Wood's retired, holed up and living off grid on his own hidden key. Novel opens with a prologue flashback set in 1962, and time present is set post Hurricane Katrina (2005).... Mac finds a nuclear warhead while fishing and word gets out.... But there are some timeline issues: Mac says he came to the Keys in the 80s or 90s, but in Book 1, Mac arrived after Hurricane Andrew 1992.

To be fair, Becker did revise Wood's Reef, as well as Wood's Relic. Well worth the reread.

Check out The Mac Travis Adventure series on Kindle Unlimited:
Wood's Relic
Wood's Reef
Wood's Wall
Wood's Wreck
Wood's Harbor
Wood's Reach (a new one! Oh my!)

I think the Tides of Fortune I received from Becker, is the prequel to the Tides of Fortune series.
Pirate
The Wreck of the Ten Sail
Haitian Gold

Will Service Eco Thriller series
Bonefish Blues
Tuna Tango
Dorado Duet

This list is as much for me as it is for you as I find it challenging to remember all the titles and what order they came in...

PS This review was censored by Amazon for using a word, so I substituted SNAFU, cut the second half, and added it to the comments section. Attempting to restore full review now.





Mrs. Claus' Christmas Cookies: Make Impressive Holiday Treats

Well organized cookie cookbook, includes the science behind the baking,December 28, 2016

Though I agree with some of the 1 to 4 star reviews, that the author is pushing his kitchen products (with hot links to The Prepared Pantry), I was impressed with the structure and layout of the cookbook—especially the treatise on the science of cooking.

Cookie families are arranged together by type: drop, hand-formed, refrigerator, rolled/cutout, bar cookies, and other types of cookies (cookie guns). The author takes the time to explain the science behind making cookies. Cookies require three specific things: sugar, fat and flour. Change the ingredient, mixing method, or ratio, change the cookie. Photographs help the reader to gauge the expected outcome of the cookies.

The index does not have hot links so it's a bit misleading to have the index in blue type. You still have to scrub through the book linearly. My only other real complaint about the otherwise clear layout of the recipes is that there are specific fonts for making fractions: 1 1/2 is not clear; 1-1/2 is visually cluttered; but 1 ½ is the correct use of fractional typography; 400°F is traditionally how oven temperatures are written. Not 400 degrees. But these are small quibbles. Cookie monster want more cookie!




Favorite Christmas Cookies
Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the cookies, December 28, 2016

Though it was a great idea to feature a Christmas cookie companion cookbook to augment a Christmas romance story collection, Ten Christmas Brides, the recipes themselves are sadly lacking. Some are downright weird. Cornflake cookies? Use packaged vanilla cookies to make more cookies?

Authors fuss over using organic eggs, a specific organic butter (Kerrygold), then suggest that we substitute Splenda for sugar—without augmenting the recipe to handle the lack of sugar molecules. Clearly they have no clue that cooking is a science. Cookies require three specific things: sugar, fat and flour. Change the ratio, change the cookie.

If you want a companion cookie cookbook to explain the science behind cooking, see: Mrs. Claus' Christmas Cookies: Make Impressive Holiday Treats. It's thematically organized, and well laid out.

About the only recipes I trusted were Hellen Scott Taylor's. BTW, golden treacle is not molasses, though they can be substituted. And peanuts are not nuts, they are legumes. Peanut-butter cookies are already 100% nut free. But I like the idea of using sunflower seeds butter. They'd probably be even better with cashew butter.

And there were typos. Nothing instills confidence like typos in a cookbook. For some reason tbsp. is randomly capitalized, but not tsp. And different font sizes are used—sometimes within a word. There are specific fonts for making fractions: 1 1/2 is not clear: 1 ½ is correct fractional typography; 400°F is traditionally how oven temperatures are written.

No photos, no index (hot links help, but it would make more sense to group recipes by style: drop, roll/refrigerator, cookie gun, and bar); there's inconsistent visual layout of the recipes; no variation on the provided backstories to go with the cookies—the same descriptive paragraph is trotted out again and again for an author's four recipes.





Fantastic Creatures (Fellowship of Fantasy Book 1)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

A delightful compendium of sci-fi stories and fairytales—something for everyone., December 28, 2016

Fantastic Creatures (Fellowship of Fantasy Book 1) is a collection of 21 short stories from indie authors, covering a broad range of genres —from fantasy to sci-fi—replete with mythical and twisted fairytale creatures to real monsters. The opening a sci-fi story, Three Steaks and a Box of Chocolates by A.R. Silverberry, set the tone, with a strong voice, story, grounded with details, which was followed by a second strong story Snapdragon, by Lea Doué, a classic fairytale. The fist few stories in the anthology are superb, but, after reading the dystopian The Last Chronicle of Pete Marsill, by Cave Yates, my interest began to wane, and I just wasn't buying the flying squid story, let alone, the tree octopus story. I wanted to sink my teeth into a longer, more satisfying read—other than a werewolf tale. Most stories were tightly edited but I did find some typos and a few badly wrinkled sentences in need of a steam iron, or maybe a mangle. Sill, there's sure to be a story or six, for everyone to enjoy.





The Blow-In (The Tipperary Series Book 1)

A journalist tosses her high profile career to the wind and lands in a small Tipperary town, December 28, 2016

The Blow-in is a bit of a cupcake romance, but the story moves a little farther afield than Susanne O'Leary's previous Irish novels. Perhaps because the protagonist, Finola, is older, more jaded, than O'Leary's other heroines; she is also a more interesting a character.

Finola, a burned out investigative journalist, flees from the notoriety of her Dublin past to land in a rural village the outskirts of Tipperary to run a foundering local newspaper, only to find a hot mess of conflict there too. To make matters worse, she's a blow-in. An outsider. Add a touch of mystery and suspense, the story zings along. But the basic love storyline is a bit too rosy, it's contrived and improbable, with the movie star love interest. The Blow-in begins strong and is an enjoyable read.

I've been following Susanne O'Leary since I stumbled upon Hot Property, and Hot Gossip, set in Kerry, the west of Ireland. As I had mentioned in my previous reviews of O'Leary's first books, the Swedish-born author is writing in Irish-English. Quintessentially Irish dialogue is not easy to capture, the poetry and musicality of Hiberno-English, harder still, but O'Leary's listening skills are improving.

O'Leary's Riviera Romance series, Selling Dreams, Borrowed Dreams, Forgotten Dreams, and The Riviera Romance are a more plausible and meaty series. Perhaps O'Leary is more comfortable with portraying the south of France. I do like the way she rotates her characters introduced at the beginning, in subsequent books. If you read them in sequence, the layering and detail really builds and fleshes out the characters, making them memorable. Maybe one of these days I'll write reviews about them too...

My review of Hot Gossip ( An Irish romance) (The Kerry Series Book 2):

My review of Hot Property (The Kerry Series Book 1):

You can pick up all three copies of the "Hot" Kerry trilogy free, right now. I look forward to reading the final third of the story. And writing a review.





Just Pardon My French (Hetta Coffey Series, Book 8)
You'll barge right into this rollicking tale, December 28, 2016

I'm a big fan of Jinx Schwartz' Hetta Coffey series, and Just Pardon My French (Book 8) in the series does not disappoint. The previous books in the "Just..." series, all were located in California and Baja, California, with occasional sorties to Arizona and mainland Mexico.

Just Pardon My French is the first Hetta Coffey novel that deviates from the Baja locale, and cast of characters, and I wondered if it would hold up, as it's also a tad more biographical. I was delighted to find that it had more depth than the previous books, and is laced with topical news references than keep the story current. I enjoyed the way Hetta's backstory (what makes her tick) was woven into time present. And the new characters introduced in this story are charming—people you'd want to meet again.
Just Pardon My French reminds me a bit of Schwartz' quasi-autobiographical novel, Land Of Mountains set in Haiti. Schwartz' first training-bra, I mean, book, Troubled Sea is also a little more hard-boiled. It launched the Hetta Coffey series. Protagonist Hetta, a redheaded brassy Texas firebrand, has a nose for trouble. She has a tendency to leap into the void, then wonder if there's a way out of the mess she's landed herself, and her sidekick, Jan, in. Jan also makes an appearance in this story, but takes a lesser role. If you're expecting a carbon copy plot of the Baja series, you may be disappointed as this book seems to be a new direction for the series.

Jinx does her homework (she really did pilot a barge through the canals of France last year); she's a solid writer, and spins a damfine suspenseful tale. She just keeps getting better and she's a funny writer to boot. If you're new to the series, check out the Hetta Coffey Collection Boxed Set Books 1-4 on Amazon Prime, or just buy the series. You won't regret it.





Orkney Twilight (Sam Coyle Trilogy)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A stunning coming of age novel, December 8, 2016

A stunning coming of age novel about a teenager, Sam, and her dysfunctional relationship with her father, Jim, an undercover policeman. While on holiday in the Orkneys with her father, Sam must sift through Jim's myriad aliases to reconnect with him, and deal with her own political agenda—only to find herself entangled in a dangerous mystery. I won't dwell on plot, as it would be a spoiler, and part of the charm of this novel is not knowing what is real.

The semi-autobiographical Orkney Twilight, Clare Carson's debut novel, is set in 1980s London, and Orkney. Carson spent holidays in Orkney with her father, who was an undercover policeman. Carson's writing is authentic, well crafted, lyrical and intelligent. I laughed out loud over "sandalistas."

Nothing was wasted in the story—no facile or gratuitous writing. Every image, every angle was utilized, and accounted for, the novel works on several levels at once. Oblique references to Yeats and TS Eliot were thrilling embedded "easter eggs." I was a little miffed that Carson glossed over Orkney's Celtic background, skipping from the Neolithic era to the Viking Age. BuI she handled the prehistory well, and I ultimately liked how she utilized Viking mythology as a through-line to carry the story.

Because Carson's writing is so complex, I wished that she had made more references mid-story to the characters she introduced at the beginning, I had quite forgotten about most of Sam's family, other than her mother, so when they were reintroduced at the end of the story, I'd forgotten who they were—Sam's sisters, and friend. So it made for some surreal reading until I caught up with them. A glossary for some of the oblique British slang would be useful as well.

I rarely give out a five star review, but this is one star-worthy read. A good novel is an alchemical marriage between author and reader. There will be work involved, but the reward is priceless.





Buying Time (Legacy Series, Book 1)
Manipulative tearjerker, November 23, 2016

I felt strangely cheated by this story, and I didn't like the manipulative nature of the novel. I was also thoroughly put out by the author's depiction of Marin County. She should write about the landscape she knows, not the San Francisco-Bay Area. Predictable storyline and flat one-dimensional characters hindered the plot; the stilted dialogue and slow pace sank the story. It's an over-the-top product-placement material read. Limited vocabulary didn't help: the author collectively used "lovely" and "beautiful" and "wonderful' and "great" and "favorite" over 300 times! But I believe the author's intent was honorable, even if she did drown the story in saccharine sentimentality. Love Story, it's not. Another reader tried to compare the book to Terms of Endearment. Not even remotely in the same ballpark. No truth, no razor's edge—unless you like feel-good redemption death-porn. Buying TIme was a colossal waste of time. Don't bother.





Money, Murder and Mayhem (Cryptic Cove Cozy Mystery Series Book 1)
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful

Not cosy writing, apostrophe mayhem, November 6, 2016

Where to begin? A cosy mystery should not be a synonym for an author's lack of basic writing skills. Or depth. This is an extremely lightweight and amateurishly written short story--not even a novella--with potentially interesting one-dimensional characters, but is saddled with an anemic plot. I won't delve into that, as that would spoil the storyline.

The story is underdeveloped and sloppily written, and the choppy/weak sentence structure was akin to reading a high school student's creative writing assignment. Lexi was publicly outed to the entire town by Mavis for sleeping with Jake on a first date, (which she didn't do), and she didn't think to mention this public humiliation to her best friend? Talk about a missed opportunity. You'd think that Lexi, worried about appearances, would be mortified. Then later, Lexi said she slept with Jake. Oy.

The author is not versed on basic sentence structure and grammar. It distracted from the story. Nothing says amateurish like grammatical errors page after page after page. For some reason the author felt compelled to add apostrophes to simple plurals. The Swansons are two people, which is a simple plural. No apostrophe necessary. The Swanson's (blank) is possessive. The Swanson's what? The author never got it right, not once in 20 times.

But with the Drake triplets, she was hedging her bets 50/50 on the correct punctuation. She even felt compelled to add an errant apostrophe to yachts. Just because. I'm surprised she didn't add an apostrophe to shoulders. I won't mention the excessive apostrophe's (stet) on mom's or Grams'.

Or that Mom and Grandpa need to be capitalized if they're being used as a name just like Grams. And a mom, not Mom's name, is not capitalized. Or that one of the few times the author used that possessive apostrophe correctly was at the Magistrate's office. Not sure why she capitalized magistrate, because in the next sentence she didn't capitalize the county clerks office, and that one also needed an apostrophe. Then there was the old it's vs. its war.

Spellcheck is not the writer's friend... "but top being so hard." I guess she stole the s for another word and used it elsewhere. Neither triplet? Last I heard, neither referred to two, as in neither, nor—not three at once. Unless one of the triplets was MIA.

And this author was a freelance writer before she became a novelist in 2014? Attending a writers' group would do wonders for developing plot and fleshing out character. An editor would also do wonders for muscling up sentences, cleaning up contextual and grammatical errors before they assault the reader's integrity.

Glad it was free. Two stars.





The prodigal sun
by Boschka Layton
Edition: Paperback
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

Prodigal Sun, a radiant collection of poetry, an extraordinary first book,October 7, 2016

Poet-painter, Boschka Layton is being discovered in Canada. I can't say "re-discovered," because she was largely ignored during her lifetime-especially during her Canada years with her then husband, Canadian Poet Laureate and Nobel Prize nominee, Irving Layton.

Betty Sutherland and her brother "Jamie" John Sutherland founded several important modernist publications in Nova Scotia and Montréal, First Statement Press, Contact, Contact Press, and CIV/n. They first published poems in Nova Scotia-sometimes handwriting, or typing them up as broadsides, when they moved Montréal in 1942 and founded First Statement, they upgraded to a state of the art mimeographed journal typed and designed by Betty. She was the graphic artist and also a reader (and proofreader). Jamie was the editor. That's how she met Irving, and a young upstart poet-musician, Leonard Cohen, who were all part of the artist-cooperative press, and a modernist writers' circle.

Boschka (nee Betty Sutherland), half-sister of actor Donald Sutherland, and second wife of Irving Layton, left Canada to raise her daughter in California-in an anarchist commune on the bohemian shores of Big Sur during the 1960s. Then she moved to the Russian River in the 1970s. Most of the poems in her first, and only book of poems, stories, and drawings, The Prodigal Sun (Mosaic Press, 1982), are tales of her travels in India, living in Guerneville, and chronicles the ongoing literary battle with her ex-husband.

When Betty left Irving for good, and moved to California, she changed her name from Bashka (the Rusisan-Jewish equivalent to Elizabeth-as she had converted to Judaism when she married Irving) to Boschka-after the painter, Hieronymus Bosch. For Boschka, California was the promised land-a garden of earthly delights.

Boschka had rheumatic fever as a child which left her with an enlarged heart. Another fever left her stricken with Bells Palsy. Boschka had a funny poem, Is There Hope for the Future, Cry the Loud Bells of Palsy? about scaring all the small children half to death whenever she smiled at them.

If I don't survive the next San Francisco earthquake
don't live to see the second coming of Christ in two thousand and twenty
I may be remembered for a line in Layton's poem to this third wife..

     from Is There Hope for the Future, Cry the Loud Bells of Palsy?
     -Boschka Layton, The Prodigal Sun


Boschka spent the remainder of her years processing that once-in-a-lifetime relationship that gave her joy, two children, whom she loved deeply-and ended with a lifetime of pain. Boschka's stories of day-to-day living with Irving for 15 years, are chronicled in Prodigal Sun. She likened her relationship with Irving Layton to that of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.



"WHERE IS SYLVIA?"

Sticking your head
in the oven
you thought you were terribly clever-
guest editor from Mademoiselle
brilliant author of first novel
up to your neck in poems
In my dream you rolled
all over the bed with me.
Put one long dark
cloth red leg over mine.
We flashed together
under yellow silk
of sari, red
dotted
If you didn't make it
how can i?
You outwrote me
ten times over
before thirty
In the long evening
I piece together
a novel
like crocheting
or knitting twenty rows
before bed-time.

-Boschka Layton, The Prodigal Sun

and


BRIEF TO IRVING

I open your latest book
of eighty-two poems
another blitzkreig
and see you're taking up the cudgels
against another wife:
I wonder how she's taking it?
I see. She's leaking headaches
trembling in corners
already
and she's only had two years of you.
The reason, perhaps, appears on page 75
you squirm over your neighbour's crotch. . . .
After twenty years I am still angry
I will say it for us all
Faye, Aviva, Harriet, myself:
We're not, Irving, merely strumpets
for your pleasure;
we're almost numerous enough
your wives
to unionize, vote you out
if you think that makes poetry
you've got another wife coming....

-Boschka Layton, ca. 1983

People said Boschka, who died on Valentine's Day, 1984, died of a big heart. And her heart was big, she was an amazing, generous, witty, and multi-talented woman. Her poems document and reflect that generosity of spirit. A remarkable woman, a remarkable writer. A remarkable first, and sadly, last book.





Skin and Blond (Blond Noir Book 1)
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Blonde on Blond, July 2, 2016

Skin and Blond is a fast-paced tale of a damaged PI whose obsessive-compulsive behavior not only got her fired from her dream job on the police force, it makes her a pariah in legal circles, continues to put her at risk, and it plays her right into the hands of a serial killer. Ivy Stern is hired by a client with his own equally dark secrets, to find his sister's killer. She uncovers a string of unsolved murders, can she prevent the next one, without jeopardizing her own life?

The hard-boiled tale is equally dark and suspenseful and littered with strange bedfellows. Ivy may be a blonde bombshell home-wrecker with the instincts of an alleycat, who likes her sex rough, but she's far from stupid. She's a delightfully flawed, multi-faceted character, who pushes the definition of raunchiness to an extreme. She is more cunning, than smart, and if she were a man we wouldn't think twice about her sleeping around and hard drinking. Add to the plot, the improbable: opposites attract. She's a raging nymphomaniac and her ex cop boyfriend, is an asexual virgin. Huh. It's a stretch to explain her at-risk behavior.

Technical nuts: doughnuts is a compound word, not "dough nuts. The author's use of "blond" vs. "blonde" seems to be a typo, not deliberate. The only time she uses the word "blonde" correctly is: "...his frustration was better than a dumb-blonde joke... So I have blond hair." But male characters misuse the word "blond" too. Ralph says: "...you're pretty and blond..." and "The cute blond detective." Why did the author name the series Blond, as it is a linked (rare) English masculine gender noun, and Ivy is definitely a blonde all the way down to her roots.

Skin and Blond is Book 1 of 3 in the Blond Noir Mysteries Series. I don't know if I can stomach this author's kinky noir vision, but Skin and Blond was a fast-paced, gripping read.





Dangerous Passage (Southern Crimes Book #1): A Novel
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Sweet tea and theology thriller, July 2, 2016

Atlanta police detective Avery North uncovers a human trafficking ring when she follows the trail of a serial killer whose victims are young Asian women with a magnolia tattooed on their shoulders. Dangerous Passage is also the story of a budding romance between widower Avery North, who is married to her job, and her cohort, medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Their love story begins in medias res, the budding romance already in place, so we don't get to witness the sexual tension build (we're informed via Avery's daydreaming), or explore the characters' motives.

Characters are interesting, Avery's police dynasty family is quirky (torn apart by the murder of her brother, killed in the line of duty), dialogue is believable, but character's actions are implausible. If an intruder was in the house, why would Avery turn on the bedroom light? Why would she bungle handling evidence? My suspension of disbelief was disengaged. I found it challenging to bond with the characters, an essential aspect of storytelling. The ending was a bit rushed and anti-climatic.

Minor typos and glitches had me gnashing my teeth: "...she was laying in the alley" and "...she was laying on the ground." Oh dear, is she a chicken? The present participle of lie (to recline) is lying. Limited vocabulary: "...her finished taco."..."waited for Mitch to finish his lunch..." Shortcuts that don't flesh out the story: "Avery looked toward the gourmet kitchen..." I thought gourmet referred to food, not a kitchen layout. A little description would've aided the visuals: granite counters, spices, copper pots, etc. A case of tell, vs. show. Common nouns elevated to proper name status: "On the other side of the Dumpster..." Lower case dumpster will do. Hyphenate "mid-twenties," please.

The procedural police work and the budding romance were interesting, but the tale soon morphed into Christian fiction to flesh out the characters' actions and carry the storyline—it becomes an odd pastiche of fundamentalist Southern Christianity blended with procedural police drama. Given the locale, Atlanta, I expected some sweet tea and theology. But the religion aspect became intrusive toward the end, and were used to wrap up dangling sub-plots. Wish the book was labeled as Christian lit, then I would've left it on the proverbial shelf.





Her Treasure Hunter Ex (Ballybeg Bad Boys, Book 1)
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Shallow story, July 2, 2016

Underwater archaeology photographer Katy Ryan lands a desperately needed job documenting historical artifacts to pay for her mother's mounting medical bills. Bonus is that the dive is on the fabled wreck of RMS Lusitania, which was the subject of her her doctoral dissertation. But something's fishy about the entire underwater salvage expedition, as it's a secret mission. When she finds her roomie is her ex, "Dex"Declan Fitzgerald, a treasure hunter, not only is the past resurrected, old passions rekindled, they are also pitted against each other in a race to find the hidden jewels in the wreck. But when two divers are murdered, Katy realizes that she's the target...

Her Treasure Hunter Ex is a contrived novella, not a fleshed out story. Central characters Katy and her ex, "Dex" are so static and one-dimensional as they explore their steamy second chance romance, that not even a murder or two can rescue the foundering storyline. Had the author invested more time and attention into the underdeveloped story instead of the myriad perfunctory sex scenes peppering the manuscript, it could've been a decent read. I found myself groaning, and not with delight, tallying up the so-called "steamy" sex scenes which were clinical, bordering on puerile. I'm beginning to suspect soft-porn authors must steal from each other. Pebbled nipples. Really? If there hadn't been so many sex scenes, Her Treasure Hunter Ex could've passed off as a Young Adult book.

The writing's ok, but the author is naive and her vocabulary is limited. Clumsy sentences: "His look was intense, the levity of earlier put on hold." She sometimes uses wrong words: pray vs prey: "The net was reluctant to relinquish its pray" had me laughing inappropriately. Vision vs visibility. Jade is a stone, not a jewel, it doesn't glint in the bathroom light.

The author did some research on the historical aspect of the story of the Lusitania (which is why I read the book in the first place). I didn't learn much about the wreck and the author was far too inexperienced a writer to flesh out the adventure part of the story, which is decidedly more interesting than the juvenile "hot" sex scenes. I will hand it to the author for knowing her fadas, or accents on Irish words. But this was one boring read. I want my wasted time back.





The Wicked Flee (A Marty Singer Mystery Book 5)
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Too hard-boiled, hard to follow, May 10, 2016

I loved the first four Marty Singer books, I read them back-to-back, but this one was a tedious read, the storyline was hard to follow and it was choppy. Even the writing style was compromised. No, I don't mean typos, but the prose didn't flow. Ironic, in that the bad guy, Eddie, was an aspiring poet gone south. I was expecting more poetry, and it was also anti-poetical, but I enjoyed the oblique T.S. Eliot references. Central character to the series, Marty Singer was an after-thougt, superfluous to the plot. I did finish it, through gritted teeth, determined to get closure to the story. But it was a struggle. A tedious read, unlike Iden's other novels. I think Matthew Iden has new content editors. And not good ones. Way to violent and hard boiled for me. I want to tell Iden, don't mess with what ain't broke. I sure hope book 6 returns back to the original Marty Singer format.





The Hope Diamond: A Romantic Comedy (Sweet Delicious Madness Cozy Series Book 1)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An entertaining madcap adventure, March 20, 2016

The Hope Diamond: A Romantic Comedy/Cozy Mystery (Sweet Delicious Madness Cozy Series Book 1) is an entertaining madcap adventure featuring absent-minded, eccentric Lily Bilbury, an about to be divorced American, mother of twins, living in northern Italy. Lily's philandering husband Enrico who refuses to file their divorce papers, is a thorn in her side.

Lily is a kooky character that had me laughing at her, and with her. A zany supporting cast, rumor of a lost diamond, and everybody busy is minding each other's business in a tiny Italian town. Despite the rather improbable addition of Hollywood actors, The Hope Diamond is an entertaining light read.

Sarff is a gifted, and comical writer who tells a good yarn, despite her sometimes challenging use of syntax (a common problem when a story is written in the first person). But I seriously doubt the veracity that her books have been professionally proofread, as I seem to find typos galore in all her books. She needs to fire her proofreaders.

about to measuring... to is a strikethrough
interrupts me… me is a strikethrough
Tomorrow I will… will is a strikethrough
(Nothing suggests professionalism like leaving editorial strikethroughs).
Mom and Dad, when used as proper names.
English Breakfast, a proper name
Quick as lightning, not lightening


The Hope Diamond is the first book in the series, Sweet, Delicious Madness. I tried to revised my review of Sweet, Delicious Madness, and it seems that the link is gone, so here are my reviews, all in one place.

The entire Sweet, Delicious Madness series collection is:
The Hope Diamond (not in this boxed set)
The Heir to Villa Buschi
The Treasure of Croesus (rehash of Heir)
The Knotty Bride

Sarff is a witty, intelligent author who deserves a full five star rating for her writing, but not for this collection. I strongly suggest that she fix it and re-upload corrected manuscript collection. A good editor would make her work really shine. Some of my literary concerns may be addressed in a possible revised ebook version of this boxed set and, then, you, Dear Reader, will be in for a real treat.

Sarff spins a damfine yarn, but the combo Book 1 in the series, The Heir to Villa Buschi, but its rehash, The Treasure of Croesus, Book 2 is annoying and confusing. I finally skipped to the final book, The Knotty Bride. The overall story was invigorating and wonderful. But the book in the middle rehash, combined with some real doozy typos (so much for that professional editing disclaimer), gave me pause. The books would probably read fine as standalone books (or if you have reader's amnesia), but not in a linked series.

Typos include: people's last names with apostrophes. They should be simple plurals (no apostrophe, unless they're owning something). Orphan possessives: "...and Anna’s can’t be bothered to arrange her own wedding."
They're instead of their
Pie instead of cake (pizza)
Tablehopping, not table topping!
Capital M Mars
Brooch, not broach

I wrote a longer indepth review about the characters, the plot, and the typos replete with location for easy editing, but Amazon erased the entire second half of the review. A flawed uploading system at work. The one time I didn't make a copy before uploading. I don't have the heart or stamina to recreate it from scratch. I have also revised and uploaded the Sweet, Delicious Madness review several times over and it keeps reverting to the original version, so I finally deleted it.



Sweet
 Delicious Madness Cozy Mysteries Box Set 2-4
Maddeningly delicious story in need of a rewrite, March 18, 2016

Julie Sarff spins a damfine yarn in the series, Sweet, Delicious Madness. The overall story was invigorating and wonderful. But the middle book, combined with typos (so much for that professional editing disclaimer), gave me pause.

The books would probably read fine as stand-alones (or if you have reader's amnesia), but not in a linked series. The recycling of material in the combo Book 1 in the series, The Heir to Villa Buschi, and its rehash, The Treasure of Croesus, (Book 2) is annoying and confusing. I finally skipped to the final delightful end book, The Knotty Bride.

Sarff is a witty, intelligent author who deserves a full five star rating for her writing, but not for this collection. I strongly suggest that she fix it and re-upload corrected manuscript collection. A good editor would make her work really shine. Some of my literary concerns may be addressed in a possible revised ebook version of this boxed set and, then, you, Dear Reader, will be in for a real treat.

The entire Sweet, Delicious Madness series collection is:
The Hope Diamond (not in this boxed set)
The Heir to Villa Buschi
The Treasure of Croesus (rehash of Heir)
The Knotty Bride

Typos include: people's last names with apostrophes. They should be simple plurals (no apostrophe, unless they're owning something). Orphan possessives: "...and Anna’s can’t be bothered to arrange her own wedding."
They're instead of their
Pie instead of cake (pizza)
Tablehopping, not table topping!
Capital M Mars
Brooch, not broach

(Nota Bene: I tried to revised my review of Sweet, Delicious Madness, but Amazon wouldn't accept my revisions, so I deleted it. I also wrote a longer indepth review about the characters, etc., but Amazon erased the entire second half of the review. A flawed uploading system at work. The one time I didn't make a copy before uploading. I don't have the heart or stamina to recreate it from scratch.)


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