Book Reviews Fall 2012

So many good books to read, not enough time! Especially now with all the titles loaded onto my Kindle plus the books overflowing our shelves at home, I wish I had more time to lie on the couch and read. Still, I’ve managed to get through the below titles in the past few months. I’m sharing them with you in case you’re in a quandary as to what to read next—besides those listed in the sidebar to your right. There’s nothing like a good book to transport you to a magic place, whether past, present or future, and immerse your mind in another world.

DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL by Joanna Campbell Slan  (Historical Mystery)

This debut title in The Jane Eyre Chronicles will charm you into wanting to read more. Jane is now married to Mr. Rochester. She enjoys an elevated status in society and has given birth to a son. However, she leaves the comfort of home when a mysterious message arrives from her husband’s ward, young Adele Varens. The frightening missive indicates the girl’s life may be in danger. Jane travels to the child’s school where she is mistaken for a new teacher. With the help of an old friend who recognizes her, she goes undercover to catch a killer. Someone has murdered Selina Biltmore, one of the superintendent’s favorites. As Jane gets to know Selina’s classmates along with the house staff, she notes a wealth of suspects. The victim may have appeared a cherub, but she hid a dark side. Jane has to catch the killer fast if she wants to save Adele from harm and prevent an innocent teacher from getting the blame.

Death of a Schoolgirl will immerse you in Jane’s world, and you’ll be sorry to see the story end. I’m eager for the next installment in this delightful series.

Death of a Schoolgirl (The Jane Eyre Chronicles)

THE FIRST CONFESSOR by Terry Goodkind  (Fantasy)

This prequel to Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series features Magda Searus, widow of First Wizard Barracus. Magda senses something isn’t right about her husband’s death. Her investigation leads her to a dark conspiracy, a threat to the Wizard’s Keep and to the very fabric of life itself. The undead play a role in this captivating tale. I enjoyed reading how Magda became the first Confessor and how the Sword of Truth was created. It’s a true origin story and Goodkind’s initial venture into digital first publishing. I love his writing and can’t wait for the next installment in his fantasy world, whether it’s another prequel or a sequel. His exquisite attention to detail and to character depth and the fast-paced action will pull you into the story, and you won’t want it to end.

The First Confessor (The Legend of Magda Searus)

104 PUZZLE QUIZZES HD by the Grabarchuk Family

If you’re looking for a diversion when waiting in a doctor’s office or on a trip, download this puzzle book into your eReader device. Dozens of puzzles await your pleasure: mathematical, geometry, words, spatial, logic, and more. It’s a fun challenge to see if you can solve these brain teasers. You can download the book onto your Kindle or iPad. It’s very easy to operate with an iPad. You touch the responses to see if you have the correct answer. Navigation is a breeze on this device and do-able on the Kindle as well.

It’s a great book to have available when you want a quick puzzle fix or need to kill time. If you like brain challenges, add this book to your collection.

104 Puzzle Quizzes HD (Interactive Puzzlebook for Tablets)

SUNRISE ON THE MEDITERRANEAN by Suzanne Frank  (Historical Novel)

Time Travelers Chloe and Cheftu end up in the Biblical era of King David and the birth of Jerusalem. Mistaken for a mermaid goddess then captured as a slave, Chloe eventually ends up as a trusted advisor in King David’s court along with her husband Cheftu, appointed court scribe.

Old enemies aren’t far behind, and our heroes must prevent a plan that would destroy the holy city. And when they succeed, they’ll face a choice. Chloe can’t return to her own time, so will they stay in this era or move on?

Sunrise on the Mediterranean

WHY MERMAIDS SING by C.S. Harris (Historical Mystery)

Lord Devlin once again gets embroiled in a series of tragic murders. This time young men—the sons of prominent noblemen—are found dead and their bodies mutilated. Clues point to a sea voyage their parents had in common. What happened on that ship that is driving someone to make a statement in such a gruesome fashion? As Lord Devlin rushes to find the killer, he arouses someone’s interest and soon becomes a target himself. The secret of that voyage is one that people will kill to keep, even if it means sacrificing their own children. Can Lord Devlin save himself and track the murderer before more young people die? And can he hang onto the love of his life, actress Kat Boleyn, who gets herself immersed deeper into intrigue and her own danger? This captivating mystery will have you reaching for the sequel.

Why Mermaids Sing: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 3

A NECESSARY HUSBAND by Debra Mullins (Historical Romance)

Lucinda Devering’s future rides on the success of her protégée, young Meg Lynch. The Duke of Raynewood has hired Lucinda to train his American granddaughter to fit in with the nobility and position due her as a lady. However, Meg’s sea captain brother shows up with other plans. He wants to take Meg home to Boston but delays their voyage at his sister’s pleas. In the meantime, the Duke instructs Lucinda to tame this ruffian who is his only heir. Can Lucinda accomplish this difficult task when Garrett Lynch makes her heart beat faster and her hidden desires flare into life? Garrett finds himself drawn to his sister’s mentor against his will. He doesn’t want to like this life in England or take his role as Lord Kelton. But the longer he stays, the deeper the danger that Lucinda will tempt him to remain.

A Necessary Husband

HEART FATE by Robin D. Owens (Fantasy Romance)

Lahsin Yew escapes from an abusive husband into a hidden sanctuary where she seeks peace and her Second Passage to acquire the magic known as Flair. But she’s not the only resident in BalmHeal. Tinne Holly is there, too, allowed inside only because he’s anguished over his divorce. Both emotionally wounded by broken relationships, they are drawn together by their unacknowledged Heart bond. Will they be able to reconcile their pasts in order to move ahead into the future? With Lahsin wary of men, Tinne has to approach her carefully even as his heart yearns for her. Forbidden by law to mention their connection, he can only hope that time will heal them both so they can be together. But when Lahsin learns the truth, will she turn away from him? Excellent world building and likeable characters will pull you into this imaginative tale.

Heart Fate (Celta's HeartMates, Book 7)

ARK ANGEL by Anthony Horowitz (Teen Spy Fiction)

Teen spy Alex Rider is recovering from a gunshot wound in a private hospital when thugs burst in meaning to kidnap the boy in the next room. Wanting to protect the son of wealthy Nikolai Drevin, Alex takes his place. The bad guys, who don’t know one kid from another, forcibly take Alex to a deserted warehouse. There they await a response to their ransom demands. But Alex isn’t one to sit idly by, especially when the thugs threaten to cut off one of his fingers and send it to Drevin as proof they have his son. To forestall the horrendous act, Alex reveals his true identity and learns that the gang belongs to the terrorist group, Force Three. He manages a harrowing escape after the terrorists lock him up and set fire to the deserted building.

In gratitude to Alex for saving his son from a traumatic ordeal, Drevin invites Alex for a holiday on a private island in the Caribbean. Drevin’s space station is set to become the first hotel in space. But is that all Drevin plans? Engaged by both MI6 and the CIA, Alex attempts to discover Drevin’s secrets while pretending to be his son’s friend and an honored guest. His visit quickly turns dangerous as the Force Three gang shows up and Alex becomes the hunted instead of the hunter.

Another rousing episode in the Alex Rider series, this story is just as fast-paced and exciting as the rest. It’s pure escapism at heart.
Ark Angel (Alex Rider Adventure)

WHEN GODS DIE by C.S. Harris (Historical Mystery)

Viscount Devlin is once again tapped to use his unique sleuthing abilities to discover who has murdered the Marchioness of Anglessey. Is it the Prince Regent, who is caught with her body nearly in her arms? Or is it one of the prince’s political enemies who seeks to discredit him and put another claimant on the throne? Or is it the lady’s husband, jealous because she took a younger lover? Or maybe it’s the lover, whom she cast aside?

Lots of suspects abound in this intriguing mystery set in 1800’s London. Amid a deepening conspiracy, Devlin seeks justice and determines to find the killer. The stakes rise as traitors in high places attempt to silence him. Detailed settings and a dashing hero will have you seeking the next book in this engaging series.

When Gods Die: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery

SHIP OF DREAMS by Brenda Hiatt (Historical Romance)

Della, a medicinal herbalist, escapes from a possible murder charge in San Francisco onto a cruise liner headed to Panama and eventually the States. Needing a quick disguise, she proclaims a stranger onboard to be her husband. For reasons of his own, he plays along until the ship sails and he gets her alone in his cabin. When she reveals her ruse, he explains that he needs a wife for business purposes. They agree to an arrangement but their fake marriage soon changes into deep affection. Their marriage becomes real when the ship’s captain performs a secret ceremony.

Unfortunately, their wedded bliss is cut short when the ship founders in a storm and sinks. The two are separated, and she believes her husband to be dead. She makes her way to the eastern U.S. to meet his family, where she is not very welcome. She’s about to run away when her husband turns up, alive and well. Will their troubled start allow them to settle down, or are they each better off on their own? This heartwarming romance, along with vivid scenes of a shipwreck based on true stories, will keep you turning pages.

Ship of Dreams

July Contest

JULY AUTHOR CONTEST: Win a free book!

Find the answer to this question on my website: “Where did Marla Shore discover the body in Shear Murder, and what was the victim’s relation to the bride?”

Prize: Mystery gift box including a signed ARC of Shear Murder    

Contest begins on July 3, 2012 and ends on midnight, July 24, 2012. Drawing will be held using Random.Org. Winner will be announced on Nancy’s blog and website the next day.

Rules

To enter the drawing, send an email to contest@nancyjcohen.com

In the Subject line, put Contest

In the Body of the message, put your first and last name and email address along with the answer to the question.

*One entry per person, please! U.S. Residents only due to postage constraints.

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No purchase is necessary. By your entry, you certify that you are at least 18 years of age and agree to the conditions of this contest. You will hold the Author harmless for any misdirected emails and release her from any liability claim that may arise from your entry. By this entry, you give permission for your name to be added to the author’s email newsletter list.

Addicted to Books

I am addicted to books. I’ll confess right now that I can’t go anywhere without a book. The format doesn’t matter. Kindle, iPad, or tree-based physical books will all serve the purpose. You’ll find books in my car, in the bathroom, in the bedroom and the den. Sometimes I’ll read three at once, usually in different genres. But as my Amazon wish list grows longer, so do the piles of books in our house. We have crates of them spilling over into every room.   books2

Some books I’ve gathered at conferences, others in goodie bags at various book events. Some authors have sent me their work for endorsements. And of course I have to buy the books my friends write. Then there are my favorite authors and new writers to try. So many good books to read, not enough time!

You say I can save space if I give up the physical tomes and settle for digital? The futurist in me fears an electromagnetic surge/weapon/solar flare that will knock out our electronics. Where would I be then without a paper book to hold?

No matter what format books take in the future, I can’t live without them. I need a story to transport me to other places and other times, to experience adventures I’ll never have in my lifetime, and to learn about different ways of life and people. Storytelling lies at the root of the human experience. Even if the delivery methods change, the need for this form of expression will not go away. So join me, and read a book today!

EBooks

EBOOKS

“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.                                                         

Annette

Annette Mahon, Nancy Cohen, Cynthia Thomason

Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.

Panelists:

Lou Aronica, Publisher, The Story Plant

Donna Hayes, Publisher and CEO, Harlequin Enterprises

Al Zuckerman, Literary Agent and Founder of Writers House

Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins

Heather Graham, NYT Bestselling Author

Alan Kaufman, Literary Attorney

Loriana Sacilotto, Executive VP, Editorial & Global Strategy, Harlequin Enterprises

Angela James, Executive Editor, Carina Press

“Publishers are moving toward digital publishing because consumers want it.” Ereaders will be hot over the holidays.

A digital world offers no returns, no print production, and a different distribution avenue. It’s a very big opportunity for writers and publishers. Genre readers have adapted to the technology faster than others.

Neilsen Bookscan (if I got this right) reported $40.6 million eBook sales in one month.  The Kindle is responsible for this explosion.

The competition, i.e. B&N, Borders, Amazon, and Google, are growing awareness of this product.  What will really shake things up will be Smartphones.  This is the next big opportunity.  People who don’t own dedicated eReaders will have global Smartphones.  Even eReaders may disappear in favor of these devices.  The deciding factor is how long brick and mortar stores stay open.

See this article “Verizon Wireless Brings Kindle Experience to Android Smartphones and Other Devices” at http://bit.ly/9LypQG

Lou:  He doesn’t distinguish between print or eBook writers and publishing houses re prestige.  Readers want interaction with writers.  You must connect in some significant way with your readers.  The only way you can stand out from the pack is to market yourself, no matter the publisher or the format.

Regarding whether you should self-publish or go with an epub, Lou reminds you that epubs can manage the different streams of income.  Convenience is a major factor to going with an epub for now.  If eBook sales equivocate to print sales, perhaps these epubs should begin offering advances. 

Print publishers have to set up a new infrastructure while maintaining their legacy print operation, but there may be casualties as their margins are very small.

Angela:  Digital first authors may choose to go with an epub because they want to write something different or they want to start out in a smaller market.  It doesn’t mean they’ve been rejected by the major houses as many perceive it. 

“You don’t want to just publish a book.  You want a career.” Authors are small business owners and have to market themselves. 

Carolyn:  How do pubs and authors collaborate together as partners in a new business model to sell more books?  The major houses have to figure out how to reduce costs on the print side while increasing their investment in digital.  Readers care about what reviewers think and what their own friends like.  They care about a good story.  She believes too much technology (i.e. enhanced eBooks) may interfere with this experience, at least for fiction. It might work better for nonfiction.

Alan believes things may look similar in five years if the general trade publishers acquire the eBook publishing houses.  Then those pubs may in turn be acquired by Google.

“Publishers act as gatekeepers.  This is their most important function.  If they aren’t around to do that, who knows what’ll be out there?”

Harlequin is already ahead of the game because it has Carina Press.  Angela says other issues like DRM and pricing will change the landscape.

Other issues mentioned in the panel were consumer pricing and the strong trend toward price reduction, demographics and the behavior of younger readers and their purchasing habits, and the foreign market which is hungry for content. 

Coming next: Digital Rights

I’m guest blogging today over at Fresh Fiction on Creating Memorable Villains.  Please check out my post and leave a comment: http://freshfiction.com/page.php?id=2864

Judy

Judy Fitzwater and Edie Claire

                                   

Traci

Traci Hall, Sally Schoeneweiss, Kathleen Pickering

SUBRIGHTS

Books on Tape, Large Print Books, Book Club Selections, Digital Editions…Are you aware authors may have split these rights with their publishers, meaning the publisher has to pursue them? Readers often ask me why I don’t put my books into audio or why they aren’t available for a book club choice through the mail. I have to explain that it’s up to my publisher to obtain these deals. Unless my agent retains 100% of these rights in my contract, I don’t have any say in this matter.  And our retaining these rights isn’t always the best choice.        Books

Publishers deal in volume and have more widespread contacts, so they may be in a better position to sublicense those rights. Sometimes that means they’ll push their favorite authors or their bestsellers and the rest of us midlisters get dreck, but there isn’t anything we can do about it. Don’t you think all authors would love to see their books on audio, made into a film, or available to book clubs nationwide?  And even if we could pitch them ourselves, not all of us have the skill or the connections.  A bigger agency with a subrights division could do it, but they’d probably be interested in the same thing as the publisher: push their bestselling authors. And there’s a reason for that.  I once queried an audio publisher myself. Their response: they only take on bestselling novels. So it’s a self-perpetuating issue.

What can you as a reader do about it?  Write to the author’s publisher about how much you’d like the book in xxx format.  Put up good reviews on all the online reader sites.  Hand out the author’s bookmarks to your friends, libraries, and local reading groups.  Suggest their book as your local book club selection.  And keep buying the author’s newest release or insist that your librarian order it.  It’s the sales figures that count.  So if it takes a bestseller to obtain subrights, who else to better help the author get there than her fans?

NinC Blast

Novelists, Inc. members include multi-published authors of all genres of popular fiction.  Ninc has just begun a new newsletter, NINC BLAST, which includes information about our authors’ new and upcoming releases, as well as a “Did you know?” feature with tantalizing, little-known factoids about some of your favorite authors.  To subscribe to NINC BLAST, please go to our Website: http://ninc.com/   Then scroll down to the middle of the screen, where it says, “Let NINC BLAST you. ”  Simply click on the pale blue envelope, then follow the protocols.

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Support Your Favorite Author

TEN WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR

How can you keep your favorite authors writing the series you love so much?  How can you inspire them when the publishing world dives and drags them along for the ride?

Here are some ways you can help besides showing up at a booksigning, ordering their book in the library, or giving a copy of their book as a gift.

  • Post reviews of their books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Facebook, Shelfari, your blog, and anywhere else that takes reader reviews. And while you’re at it, give their book five star ratings.
  • Tag their book sites on Amazon.  Scroll down on the book page to where it says Tags Customers Associate with this Product and put in your tags, i.e. keywords, or click Agree With These Tags.
  • “Like” the author’s posts on Facebook
  • Tweet their blog posts or other sites to your friends and retweet their Twitter posts.
  • Write them a message of support.  Authors need inspiration and you, the reader, are the reason why we write. 
  • If you’re really dedicated, lead a discussion group about their books.
  • Mention their books on Amazon Listmania and other favorites lists
  • Request bookmarks and pass them out to people you know who like to read.
  • Suggest their book for a book club discussion.
  • Provide links online to their website, blog, and Facebook fan page.

 What would you add?  As an author, can you make any other suggestions?  As a reader, what can the author do for you in return?

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The Big Dark Moment

In a romance, the Big Dark Moment is the crucial juncture when all seems lost between the hero and heroine.  He stomps away and she strides in the opposite direction, and it seems as though they will never be together again.  How can they overcome their insurmountable obstacles?  Will love triumph in the end?

Of course it will.  The prerequisite for a romance is the HEA  (Happy Ever After) ending. But for this HEA to have emotional impact, our characters first must experience the painful Big Dark Moment when their relationship seems hopeless.

Tossing a cog in the story wheel isn’t the way to go about it.  This confrontation must arise naturally from the character’s internal conflicts.  Take Paz and Jen from my WIP.

elegant woman Jen is a fashion designer who looks as svelte as her models. For years, she struggled for parental approval.  Growing up in a wealthy family, she internalized her mother’s superficial values that appearance matters.  But she yearns for a man who can appreciate her for herself and not for her looks or money.                                                   

Drift Lord warrior Paz Hadar isn’t the rich businessman she’d expected to snag, but he brings out her strength and resourcefulness and admires her bravery.  Yet when she tries to discuss their future together, he clams up.  He’s planned for nothing beyond this mission, and so she figures he’ll leave her in the end.  Paz, in turn, gets angry when she pushes him for his plans, believing she can’t accept him for the person he is and wants to mold him into the ideal man. And if he’s not good enough for her, forget it. And so he stomps off.  Jen feels he doesn’t care enough about her feelings to truly confide in him.                                  angry eyes

 Thus they go their separate ways, until each one realizes how much they need the other.  But by then, Paz seeks to prove himself by attacking the enemy all on his own.  Jen rushes to his side, but it’s too late.  He’s been…well, we don’t want to give the story away.

sad woman

 

 

 

Action and reaction propels the story forward, leading to the Big Dark Moment and the final confrontation with the villain. And when Paz and Jen finally commit to each other as we know they will, we’ll heave a deep sigh of satisfaction.  Sour before sweet, despair before joy.  It makes the ending all the more Happy Ever After.  

               wedding couple

 

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LIBRARIES IN A DIGITAL WORLD

Will libraries become a relic of the past when books turn digital?  Like in a Dr. Who episode, will there be one vast library that’s a repository for the entire world, the sole remaining place holding dusty shelves? That was a cool couple of episodes with David Tennant starring, by the way. Think about the trees cut down to produce all that paper and where those once living trees might have come from. Anyway, will libraries, with reduced funding as an additional obstacle, still be viable ten years from now?                          Books

If you think of the library as a multi-media center, then I believe the answer is yes. Besides books, movies, and music, public libraries offer free classes on a variety of topics, meeting rooms, computer centers, literacy and outreach programs. And did you know you could order digital books from the library to download to your eReader?  You can probably research whatever you want by accessing library services online, too.

 A recent article in an AARP bulletin for seniors reports about how Queens Library in New York holds a phone-in discussion group twice a week.  Participants dial in at the prescribed times and chat about books, recipes, current events topics, history, and more. It’s a great way for people to keep in touch and have human contact when they can’t get about so easily. The library’s mail-in program supplies assisted living facilities and homebound individuals with reading materials, movies, and music.  These are great services for people who want to benefit from their local library but don’t have the means to get there.

It appears as though the role of the library in the future is to expand rather than to shrink. So donate your used books to your local library, join the Friends of the Library and support their fund-raisers, and give your librarian a big hug of appreciation for all her efforts.

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