Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: It's All In The Details . . . *Blush*


The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers who share ideas and encourage other writers. It's a great place to express doubts and concerns as well as offer and receive tribulations and guidance from other writers. IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. I think you'll find it to be a great writer's resource that's well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with some of the other IWSG writers/bloggers at IWSG Members

Join me in thanking this month's awesome co-hosts:
 Tyrean Martinson
Tara Tyler
Raimey Gallant

 Beverly Stowe McClure


*First I'd like to offer hugs and prayers to all victims of Hurricane Harvey as well as to all those in the path of Hurricane Irma.  The loss and devastation is simply heartbreaking.  It really puts things into perspective, doesn't it?  But as always, the resilience of the human spirit is simply amazing, as is the generosity and caring of people toward others in times of need and loss.  Take care.

Question of the Month: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?)

Have I ever surprised myself?  Good question.  Does making myself blush count?  

So here's the deal - I've never been at ease writing explicit love scenes...specifically erotic sex scenes.  I'm more comfortable keeping the intimate details to the bare (pun intended) minimum needed while still selling the romance.  However, as an avid reader of all genres of romance, I realize today's trend in writing love scenes leans heavily on more definitive details, on the mechanics . . . right down to insert bigger-than-life body part A into tightest-wettest-ever body part B and describe what happens!  *Blush*  Yeah.  Not so comfortable writing those scenes.  Notice I didn't say I don't read, write, and enjoy steamy reads . . . I do!  Some of my favorite authors know how to bring the heat, and I enjoy their books immensely.  However, I think it's probably my weakest area as a writer and definitely something I need to work on.

I'm pushing my boundaries and those scenes more than ever in my current w-i-p and yes, I've surprised myself as I'm slowly becoming more comfortable with it.  It's not so hard (*groan* - pun not intended), but it remains a challenge for this ole southern girl as my Southern Baptist upbringing kicks in.  I can still easily picture mama's stern look, reprimand ringing in my ears.  (Sorry Mom - I remember you said nice girls don't act or talk like that, but things are a bit different nowadays - especially in a writer's world.)  

Recently, I worked on enhancing (seriously?) a couple of sex scenes I felt needed work . . . editing to build more sexual tension including sensual details of the act while still nurturing a deeper level of trust, love, and emotional intimacy between these characters.  I'm pleased and a bit surprised to say I think I've done it!  *Blush*  I'll never be comfortable writing hard-core sex scenes, but I'm learning where my happy medium lies and stopping short of crossing a line that doesn't work for me.  If it makes me blush, squirm in my seat, and/or fan myself, I'm getting it right . . . hopefully for both me and my readers.

How comfortable are you writing explicit sex scenes?  Any pointers to share with those of us trying to learn?

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? 





Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fatal Threat Review


Title:  Fatal Threat
Series:  Fatal #11
Author:  Marie Force
Publisher:  Harlequin Books
Release Date:  July 25, 2017
Buy Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  3 Hearts

First Thoughts:  Great plot with lots of potential, but some issues derails it.



Summary:

With a killer on the loose, it's the worst time to be on lockdown…

It's just another day at the office for Washington Metro Police lieutenant Sam Holland when a body surfaces off the shores of the Anacostia River. But before Sam can sink her teeth into the new case, Secret Service agents seize her from the crime scene. A threat has been made against her family, but nobody will tell her anything—including the whereabouts of her husband, Vice President Nick Cappuano.

This isn't the first time the couple's lives have been at risk, but when a bombshell from Sam's past returns to haunt her, she can't help but wonder if there's a connection. With a ruthless killer out for vengeance, and Nick struggling to maintain his reputation after secrets from his own past are revealed, Sam struggles to tie the threat to a murder that can't possibly be a coincidence. And she has to get it done before her husband's career is irrevocably damaged…

Review:

Lt. Samantha (Sam) Holland is whisked away from the scene of a murder investigation by Secret Service agents. It all happened so abruptly that neither she nor her partner, Freddie, could stop them or get answers to their questions about what was going on. Sam finds herself locked down in a safe house along with the rest of her extended family. She eventually learns of the credible threat against them (especially the children) after she’s joined by her husband, Vice President Nick Cappuano. Needless to say, Sam is very verbal in her displeasure over being locked down and unable to pursue the investigation or her other cases. She insists on going to work in spite of the danger to herself and others.

The police procedurals in these cases are always intriguing. I enjoyed following the evidence along with Sam and other detectives as they worked together to solve this case. I love these characters and have enjoyed reading about their lives. However, there are things occurring that just don’t work for me. Sam is the Second Lady – the Vice President’s wife – and yet she roams around the city easily recognized without protection of any kind…because she stomps her foot and demands it be that way. There’s no consideration for Nick or anyone else – just Sam doing what Sam wants to do. I loved that she continued to work after becoming Second Lady and think the plot has great potential, but it’s becoming harder to suspend belief and accept the fact that no agent covers her, and it’s never been more evident (or over-the-top) than in this book. Sam’s continued blatant attitude, along with some other issues, was so profound in Fatal Threat that I found myself shaking my head and rolling my eyes a few too many times. It lessened my enjoyment of this book.

I’m a fan of the series. I’ve loved the journey with Nick, Sam, and Scotty as well as the awesome support cast. I’m intrigued with their lives and future and am really hoping to see a more believable stance going forward. Yes, even Romance/Suspense has to be believable to a point. The saving grace for this book is the Bonus Story at the end concerning Avery and Shelby. I loved it and them!

My Rating:  3 Disappointing Hearts . . . And that's the truth!


Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra






Wednesday, August 2, 2017

IWSG: Trust Me! I'll "Get It."

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers who share ideas and encourage other writers. It's a great place to express doubts and concerns as well as offer and receive tribulations and guidance from other writers. IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. I think you'll find it to be a great writer's resource that's well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with some of the other IWSG writers/bloggers at IWSG Members.

Join me in thanking this month's awesome Co-Hosts:  
Christine Rains
Dolarah @ Book Lover
Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor
Yvonne Ventresca
LG Keltner


IWSG Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

Great question!  How much time have you got?!  Just kidding.  I'm going to address this question as a reader.  I think those of you who know me will confirm that I read and review a lot of books.  Probably more than I should as it cuts into my writing time, but being a lifelong lover of books, an avid reader, it's hard for me to cut back.  There are a few things that ruffle my feathers when I read, but I have to say one of the biggest - once you get past editing issues - is trying to read a book when the author obviously doesn't trust me!

What does that mean?  It's kinda like the "show, don't tell" rule, but it goes beyond that.  It's when the author makes me feel like a child by holding my hand and blatantly directing me toward the identity of the "villain".  In other words, instead of subtly weaving the clues/hints into the plotline/story for me, the reader, to pick up on, the author states them in words or obvious character's actions.  Nothing spoils a story much quicker for me than having the "answers" shoved in my face.  I want and need an author to trust me to "get it" as my reading experience is enhanced by figuring things out for myself.  


If an author has done his/her job, they will have crafted a twisted story with a trail that manipulates readers in the direction they want them to go (ideally with a few heart-racing intentionally misleading detours) without hand-feeding them the story.  In simpler words, the authors write their story and trust the readers to figure it out on their own.  The trail should be a curvy one with some surprises, even a shocker or two, but what it absolutely shouldn't do is state anything in words that will lead the reader to look in only one specific direction.  It's a fine line to walk, I know, as I struggle with it as a writer also.  How do you show, not tell?  Through actions, not just words.  But even then, an author needs to take care not to reveal their ace in the hole too soon - don't spoon-feed the reader information.  The bottom line is authors should trust their readers.  Trust me, we'll figure it out!

Have you ever been guilty of "spoon-feeding" your story to readers?  What's your pet peeve when reading/writing/editing?

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Other Girl Review


Title:  The Other Girl
Author:  Erica Spindler
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  Aug. 22, 2017
Buy/Order Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4.5 Fantastic 's

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press, Netgally, and the author for an arc copy of this book.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Justice for Sara and The First Wife Erica Spindler comes The Other Girl, a chilling new thriller about a ritualistic murder of a college professor that sends a small town cop back into the trauma she thought she’d put behind her.
Synopsis:
A horrific crime. One witness—a fifteen year old girl from the wrong side of the tracks, one known for lying and her own brushes with the law.
Is it any surprise no one believed her?
Officer Miranda Rader of the Harmony, Louisiana PD is known for her honesty, integrity, and steady hand in a crisis—but that wasn’t always so. Miranda comes from the town of Jasper, a place about the size of a good spit on a hot day, and her side of the tracks was the wrong one. She’s worked hard to earn the respect of her coworkers and the community.
When Miranda and her partner are called to investigate the murder of one of the town’s most beloved college professors, they’re unprepared for the brutality of the scene. This murder is unlike any they’ve ever investigated, and just when Miranda thinks she’s seen the worst of it, she finds a piece of evidence that chills her to the core: a faded newspaper clipping about that terrible night fifteen years ago. The night she’d buried, along with her past and the girl she’d been back then. Until now that grave had stayed sealed…except for those times, in the deepest part of the night, when the nightmares came: of a crime no one believed happened and the screams of the girl they believed didn’t exist.
Then another man turns up dead, this one a retired cop. Not just any cop—the one who took her statement that night. Two murders, two very different men, two killings that on the surface had nothing in common—except Miranda.
Review:
What a fantastic, chilling read!  Be prepared to be totally immersed in this story as Spindler weaves the past and present into one heart-racing thriller.  I read this book in mostly one sitting, simply unable to put it down.  This is my second book by Erica Spindler and all the proof I need that she deserves a spot on my "go-to" author list.  I look forward to exploring more of her books. 
Detective Miranda Rader is a respected, ten year veteran of the Harmony, La. police force.  She has earned the respect of fellow officers and her commander through years of hard work and dedication to her job.  But it hasn't always been so as witnessed in her sordid past of lies, wild parties, drugs, and alcohol.  How many times can a young girl yell "wolf" before everyone stops believing her?   Fifteen-year-old Miranda found out one dark, rainy night and ended up branded a liar and a slut.  The resulting chaos and devastation led her to flee town, leaving behind the family who turned their backs on her.  Miranda made her own second chance and is a different person now, keeping her old life buried.  That is until the day she's called out to investigate the brutal, ritualistic murder of a beloved college professor and finds a piece of evidence tying her to the murder scene and linking to her buried past.  Things quickly escalate out of control when a cop also turns up dead with evidence pointing an accusing finger at Miranda.  It seems her past has finally caught up with her, placing her in imminent danger as her new life is torn apart.  Is someone seeking revenge by setting her up?  Or is Miranda finally seeking vengeance against the ghosts of her past?
Intense, fast-paced action kept me burning through the pages of The Other Girl.  The detail-oriented plot is enhanced by an atmospheric setting, lending a dark, ominous tone of impending gloom and doom to the story.  The characterizations are spot-on, beautifully crafted, leaving me questioning who I could really trust and whose loyalty is a mask.  There are some twisted surprises in this story . . . some I figured out ahead of the reveal and some I didn't.  Either way, they don't deter from the reading pleasure of this intriguing, mesmerizing suspense thriller.  A Must Read!
My Rating:  4.5 Fantastic, Thrilling 's . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx
Sandra

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Seeing Red Review


Title:  Seeing Red
Author:  Sandra Brown
Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing
Genre:  Romance/Suspense
Buy Link:  Amazon
Release Date:  August 15, 2017

My Rating:  4 Secret 's

*Many thanks to the publisher, Netgally, and Sandra Brown for an arc of this book.


Synopsis:
Kerra Bailey is a television journalist on the rise, and she's hot on the trail of a story guaranteed to skyrocket her career to even greater heights: an interview with the legendary Major Trapper. Twenty-five years ago, the Major emerged a hero from the bombing of the Pegasus Hotel in downtown Dallas when he was photographed leading a handful of survivors out of the collapsing building. The iconic picture transformed him into a beloved national icon, in constant demand for speeches and interviews--until he suddenly dropped out of the public eye, shunning all members of the media. However, Kerra is willing to use any means necessary to get to the Major--even if she has to wrangle an introduction from his estranged son, former ATF agent John Trapper. 

Still seething over his break with both the ATF and his father, John Trapper wants no association with the hotel bombing or his hero father, and spurns the meddling reporters determined to drag them back into the limelight. Yet Kerra's sheer audacity and tantalizing hints that there's more to the story rouse Trapper's interest despite himself. And when her interview of a lifetime goes catastrophically awry--with unknown assailants targeting not only the Major, but also Kerra--Trapper realizes he needs her under wraps if he's going to track down the gunmen before they strike again . . . as well as discover, finally, who was responsible for the Pegasus bombing. 

Kerra is wary of a man so charming one moment and dangerous the next, and she knows Trapper is withholding evidence collected during his ATF investigation into the bombing. But having no one else to trust and enemies lurking closer than they know, Kerra and Trapper join forces and risk their very lives to expose a sinuous network of lies and conspiracy running deep through Texas--and uncover who would want a national hero dead.

Review:
Most readers have a list of "go-to" authors they can count on to delivery an amazing read every single time.  Sandra Brown places very high on my author "go-to" list.  And once again, she delivers an intriguing read in Seeing Red - complete with flawed characters, sexual tension, and a plot laden with lies, secrets, and conspiracies that kept me guessing until the end.

Kerra Baily is a smart, tenacious, by-the-book, rising television journalist on the trail of the story that will make her career.  It's the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Pegasus Hotel, and she is determined to score an interview with national hero Major Franklin Trapper.  The major became a hero 25 years ago when he emerged from a burning, bombed hotel, guiding a group of people to safety including the five-year-old girl he carried in his arms.  His fame was headline news for years afterwards as he made appearances and accepted awards, but he later dropped out of sight refusing all interviews.  His regrettable choice of fame over family cost him the loss of a relationship with his son, John.  

John Trapper is a proud, intelligent, wary, sometimes hot-headed ex-ATF agent turned private detective who can often be found at the bottom of a bottle.  He deeply resents his father's past neglect and remains convinced the truth of the bombing and aftermath has never been revealed.  Shunned by his colleagues, John continues his off-the-record investigation determined to find the real bombing mastermind and redeem himself and his derailed career.  He's sloppy drunk the day Kerra approaches him for help securing an interview with his now hermit-like dad, the Major.  He refuses her, but she leaves him with an intriguing picture and a directive to get a magnifying glass and take a closer look.  And so their journey begins.

Family dynamics, secrets, conspiracy, murder, and a taut underlying current of sexual tension drive this fast-paced story.  Readers will need to buckle up and hang on as they race through some classic Brown twists and turns to reach another satisfying conclusion served up with a cherry on top - a surprise, of course.  The detail-oriented plot line reeks of danger and sets a tone of tense anticipation with flawed characters fighting for survival (and against their undeniable attraction), making Seeing Red a hard book to put down before reaching the end. Intense Suspense + Sizzling Romance = A Page Burning Must Read!

My Rating:  4 Secret 's . . . And that's the truth!


Cross My Heart . . . xxx


Sandra



The Grave Tender Review


Title:  The Grave Tender
Author:  Eliza Maxwell
Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
Release Date:  April 11, 2017 (Revised Edition)
Buy Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Raw, Heart-Racing 's


A chilling psychological suspense novel, The Grave Tender explores the dark boundaries people cross to save loved ones, and the limits of family bonds tested by the deepest of betrayals.

Note:  Revised edition: This edition of The Grave Tender includes editorial revisions.

Synopsis:
Endless questions from a shadow-filled East Texas childhood haunt Hadley Dixon. People said her mother, Winnie, was never quite right, but with one single, irreparable act, life as Hadley knew it was shattered. The aftershocks of that moonlit night left her reeling, but the secrets and lies had started long before.

When a widowed and pregnant Hadley returns years later, it’s not the safe harbor she expects. The mysteries surrounding a local boy’s disappearance remain, and the townspeople still whisper about Hadley’s strange and reclusive Uncle Eli—whispers about a monster in their midst.

But Hadley’s father and grandmother, the cornerstones of everything safe in her world, avoid her questions. If Hadley stays here, will she be giving her children the family they need, or putting their lives in danger?

The hunt for answers takes a determined Hadley deep into the pine forests, in search of sunlight that will break through the canopy of lies long enough to reveal the truth.

Review:

Wow! What a heartbreaker! My tears were falling way before I reached the end. I knew it was going to be a dark read, touching on some sensitive subjects, but I didn’t know it would rip my heart out and leave me feeling so raw and exposed. This is my first book by Eliza Maxwell, but I’m now highly motivated to seek out and read more. The strong voice and tone of her writing carried this story and these characters through hell and high water, and her expert descriptive manipulation of setting authenticates the plot. The subject matter is dark, touching on rape, incest, domestic abuse, molestation, lies, betrayal and murder – all of which gives readers a first-hand view at the depravity some characters are/were subjected to . . . events that scar/scarred them for life while sealing their fate. I maneuvered the twists and turns of this story while holding my breath with heart racing much of the time. Every time I thought I had things figured out, another shocking revelation would prove me wrong. The characters are an odd bunch at best – and you can never be sure if you’re looking at the real deal or a person hidden by the mask of humanity they wear. At times, I felt like I was in a spook house filled with smoke and mirrors – could I trust who and what I was seeing? Or was it an elaborate illusion – a monster in disguise?

Raw, dark, and gritty, The Grave Tender is a disturbing read that I could not put down until I read the final page. I didn’t come close to guessing the villain as his/her mask never slipped until the big reveal. I won’t say more (you can read the synopsis) because this book needs to be a first-hand reading experience. It isn’t sweet. It isn’t nice. It isn’t for the faint of heart. It features some damaged, broken characters stumbling down a path toward a destiny of ultimate betrayal and devastation – all brought about by the tears of their past. An intense, haunting, beautifully written story that draws attention to some hardcore subjects. A Page Turning Must Read!


My Rating:  5 Raw, Heart-Stopping 's . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx


Sandra

Friday, July 21, 2017

Trunk Music Review...


Title:  Trunk Music
Series:  Harry Bosch #5
Author:  Michael Connelly
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Buy Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Tenacious 's



Synopsis:
Back on the job after an involuntary leave of absence, LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch is ready for a challenge. But his first case is a little more than he bargained for. 

It starts with the body of a Hollywood producer in the trunk of a Rolls-Royce, shot twice in the head at close range - what looks like "trunk music," a Mafia hit. But the LAPD's organized crime unit is curiously uninterested, and when Harry follows a trail of gambling debts to Las Vegas, the case suddenly becomes more complex - and much more personal. 

A rekindled romance with an old girlfriend opens new perspectives on the murder, and he begins to glimpse a shocking triangle of corruption and collusion. Yanked off the case, Harry himself is soon the one being investigated. But only a bullet can stop Harry when he's searching for the truth . . .


Review:
LAPD Homicide Detective Harry Bosch returns with a bang from another forced leave in Trunk Music.  His first day back in homicide, and he's called out to investigate a body found stuffed in a car trunk.  The investigation gets off to a bad start and quickly deteriorates when Harry realizes the scene has been compromised by the investigating officer.  The murder appears to be an organized crime hit and should be turned over to the Organized Crime Investigation Unit, but Harry is reluctant to do so as he has a bad feeling about this case and wants to see it through.  When OCI turns the case down, Harry calls in his team consisting of Jerry Edgar and new member Kizmin Rider and together, they roll up their sleeves and get to work.

I found the first half of Trunk Music to be a little slow moving as a lot of page time was devoted to the organized crime aspect of the story. I think it succeeded in diverting readers and Harry off the right trail.  The pace picks up in the second half and I suddenly found myself burning through the pages trying to solve the case.  Through a series of twists and turns and several dead-ends, Harry pursues the truth at all costs and once again finds his credibility and job in question.  The difference this time is that he has support from new commander Billets and his partners.  Tough and tenacious as a junk-yard dog, Harry's high morals and integrity will not allow him to back down.  A trail of lies, blackmail, corruption, and murder leads him back and forth between LA and Vegas - where he runs into an old flame...and things suddenly get very personal.  

As always, the police procedural's are strong in Trunk Music.  It's always intriguing to follow Harry's thought process as he works through the evidence.  Character development is also huge, and I found that I like this more confident, more content Harry.  New and returning cast members add support and interesting possibilities for future stories.  All in all, another great read in this intriguing series.  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4 Tenacious 's . . . And that's the truth!


Cross My Heart . . . xxx


Sandra