Wednesday, November 4, 2020

IWSG: Why Do You Write?

Over the years, I've found THE INSECURE WRITER'S SUPPORT GROUP to be such a great community. I look forward to the monthly posts to connect us. I encourage you to visit the website and join the group!

This Month's Question: Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

My Answer: I write because I love telling stories. I love creating worlds, characters, plots, and twists. I love creating. I love exploring all of the possibilities. I've always been a curious person, and as a writer, I can ask as many questions as I want. Then I can explore, hunt, and find the answers to those questions.

How about you? Why do you write?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Book Review: THE MIRROR MAN by Jane Gilmartin

Such a fascinating premise! Scroll down for my complete review.

The Mirror Man

Author: Jane Gilmartin

On Sale Date: October 20, 2020

ISBN: 9780778309642

Publisher: MIRA

352 pages

Description from Publisher:

The offer is too tempting: be part of a scientific breakthrough, step out of his life for a year, and be paid hugely for it. When ViGen Pharmaceuticals asks Jeremiah to be part of an illegal cloning experiment, he sees it as a break from an existence he feels disconnected from. No one will know he’s been replaced—not the son who ignores him, not his increasingly distant wife—since a revolutionary drug called Meld can transfer his consciousness and memories to his copy. From a luxurious apartment, he watches the clone navigate his day-to-day life. But soon Jeremiah discovers that examining himself from an outsider’s perspective isn’t what he thought it would be, and he watches in horror as “his” life spirals out of control. ViGen needs the experiment to succeed—they won’t call it off, and are prepared to remove any obstacle. With his family in danger, Jeremiah needs to finally find the courage to face himself head-on.

About the Author:

Jane Gilmartin has been a news reporter and editor for several small-town weekly papers and enjoyed a brief but exciting stint as a rock music journalist. A bucket list review just before she turned 50 set her on the path to fiction writing. Also checked off that list: an accidental singing career, attending a Star Trek convention, and getting a hug from David Bowie. She lives in her hometown of Hingham, Massachusetts.

My Review:

Fascinating premise but bland delivery. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed this book, and I do recommend it for the interesting premise alone . . .

However . . . 

Page after page, I found myself wanting. I wanted more of a creepy vibe. I wanted more tension. I wanted more plot and character development. And in the end, I wanted more from the main character. If the ending had been stronger, I could’ve overlooked the other issues, but as is, the ending made me overthink the earlier page-by-page issues, and I found myself feeling disappointed.

Spoiler: I didn’t want him to just save himself, I wanted him to take down the bad guys one by one and save the world from being replaced by clones. Instead, he basically negotiated a deal only to save himself, his son, and his dog.

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.]

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Book Review: ABOVE ALL ELSE by Dana Alison Levy


Above All ElseAbove All Else by Dana Alison Levy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I LOVED this book! I'm not a climber. I have no desire to be one, but I loved every page of this journey as two best friends worked toward their goal of climbing to the summit of Mount Everest.

While reading the story, I highlighted a gazillion passages that I intended to share in this review - but there are JUST so many great lines - read the book!

The reasons I didn't give this book 5 stars instead of 4 include: the constant repetition about Rose's mom not being with them; the idea that an implant is good enough protection when having sex (it protects from pregnancy but not STDS); and concepts that seemed too adult for a YA book: Sherpas living in poverty and Nepali-owned tourism companies. (There are sex scenes and use of crude language - so if that bothers you, be forewarned, but these details did not diminish my rating.)

I was especially glad that by the end of the book the characters came to learn that life is "less about the summit and more about the journey."

Bottom line:
Dana Alison Levy's writing is terrific, the character arcs are fully realized, and the non-linear plot of ABOVE ALL ELSE kept me fully engaged. I look forward to reading more of her books!

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinions.]

View all my reviews

Monday, October 5, 2020

Book Review: CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 by Lisa Unger

Oh . . . I love twisty complicated thrillers! Scroll down for my complete review.

Confessions on the 7:45

by Lisa Unger

On Sale: October 6, 2020

Publisher: Park Row

ISBN: 978-0778310150

368 pages

Description from Publisher:

From master of suspense Lisa Unger comes a riveting thriller about a chance encounter that unravels a stunning web of lies and deceit.

Be careful to whom you tell your darkest secrets…

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.

Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives.

About the Author:

Lisa Unger is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author. With books published in twenty-six languages and millions of copies sold worldwide, she is widely regarded as a master of suspense. Her new release is CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45.

Unger’s critically acclaimed books have been named on “Best Book” lists from the Today show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, People, Amazon, Goodreads, and many others. She has been nominated for, or won, numerous awards including the Hammett Prize, Macavity, Thriller Award, and Goodreads Choice. In 2019, she received two Edgar Award nominations, an honor held by only a few authors, including Agatha Christie. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.x

My Review:

GREAT WRITING! Fascinating story. 

The truth of the matter is we've all become skilled con artists when it comes to posting on social media. Why is that? What are we lying (or pretending) about in our lives, wanting so desperately to convince others of? Quote used in the book from George Orwell's 1984: "If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself."

While I did like this book, I disliked the disparagement of marriage, the fictional misuse/exploitation of the "Me Too" movement, and the sex scenes right at the start of the book. These are obviously my personal tastes. Not everyone will feel the same way about these topics. Additionally, there is a lot of cussing and use of the f-word in the story - so if that offends you, be forewarned.

In the beginning, I really struggled to keep track of the large cast of characters, but I relaxed into it, and trusted that the author would guide me along the path and help me remember who was who throughout the story.

Unger is certainly a master at suspense, embedding creepy little elements to keep the reader fully engaged, such as: "But when she looked out her bedroom window just before turning out her lights to sleep, his car was still there."

Like solving a jigsaw puzzle, Lisa Unger slowly gives the reader one piece at a time, out of order but meticulously filling in the whole picture so it all makes sense at the end. And I was happy that this story had a satisfying ending.

I enjoyed this complicated and twisty thriller from Lisa Unger, and I look forward to reading more books written by her!

Some of my favorite lines from the book:

"The girl didn't know what she was saying. She was a mouse. And the mouse was so afraid that she was looking to the cat for love."

"The truth like a wildfire that burned everything in its path. One that destroyed but also cleansed. And then from the ash, new life."

"Write it, said Beth. When we narrate our experience, we take control of it. And in controlling the story of our past, we can create a better future."

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, which in no way influenced my opinion.]

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Gone Hiking

Time for a reboot. No cell service, no internet, no drama - just breathing in the peace of nature. Here's a picture of where I will be:

Book Review: SMASH IT by Francina Simone

This book has such an AWESOME cover! It immediately drew me in. Scroll down for my complete review.



By Francina Simone

On Sale: September 22, 2020


ISBN: 978-1335146502

368 pages

Description from the Publisher:

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts—why?—she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list—a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold—do the thing that scares me.

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys—and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned?

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

A lot, apparently.

About the Author:

Francina Simone believes in one thing: authenticity. She writes YA stories full of humor and hard life lessons with sprinkles of truth that make us all feel understood. Her craft focuses on stories about girls throwing caution to the wind to discover exactly who they are and what it means to love. Francina is also known for her BookTube channel, where she discusses controversial topics in books.

My Review:

SMASH IT by Francina Simone paints a fascinating picture of life as a teenage girl -- a girl who just wants to have the guts to be herself. While I was never into the theater scene, I certainly was a girl who wanted to be myself. Problem was . . . figuring out who exactly that was! Simone does a great job of exploring that idea within the pages of SMASH IT.

One way the main character tries to find herself is by stepping out of her comfort zone and auditioning for the school play. (You don't have to be a theater buff or a teenage girl to enjoy this book!) The process allows her to meet new people and have experiences she would have missed out on otherwise.

I'm not a huge Shakespeare buff, so a lot of the references within the story were lost on me. But this didn't diminish my ability to enjoy the story line. Another element that was lost on me was much of the slang. I don't know if it was because I'm from a different region of the country or because I'm older or because I'm white, but nonetheless, I had fun extrapolating the intended meanings.

There are a lot of sexual themes and a few scenes in the book - but when you're trying to figure out who you are and how to grow into yourself and love yourself - your sexuality plays a significant role in that process. The author did a fabulous and thoughtful job with this topic.

Because she's working on finding herself, she creates a "F*ck It List" to help her overcome her insecurities. So, obviously, be forewarned if you have a huge aversion to cuss words; they are used a lot in this story.  But also, keep in mind, her list serves a terrific purpose. Here's an example of it:

1. Be bold - do the things that scare me.

2. Learn to take a compliment. 

3. Stand out instead of back.

Page after page, I found myself smiling because:

Simone is a great writer with an ability to fully immerse the reader within the story world.

Some of my favorite lines from the story:

"I look like the freak who has no social shame. The truth is I have too much social shame. So much shame that it seeps out of me like fresh cut garlic on the back of the tongue."

"I'm not uncool, but I do these uncool things as if I'm addicted to self-sabotage."

"I don't drink -- I think alcohol is nasty. Like, who chooses to drink that burn-your-throat-flavor when you could drink a smoothie? I'd rather die fat than from liver problems."

"If I'm going to stand out, then I have to start standing on my own."

[I received an early copy for free from the publisher via Net Galley. This did not influence my opinion.]

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

IWSG: Best Beta Partner

 It's that time again . . . 

This Month's Question: If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

My Answer: First, I'm assuming "beta partner" is equivalent to "beta reader"?? Because a critique partner is someone who helps tear apart early drafts of your manuscript to help improve it, and a beta reader is someone who reads the first "finished" (polished and amazing) draft to give feedback on the overall plots and character arcs. (I would never replace my current critique partners - they're the best ever. So, I feel like this is a trick question.) But if I can keep my critique partners and just have a new beta reader . . . hmm . . .  I would choose Dean Koontz. Yup.

How about you? Who would you want to read your manuscript prior to publication?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Book Review: WHEN I WAS YOU by Amber Garza

The cover reads: Two women. One life. They can't both have it.

Oh. Boy. COUNT ME IN! Such a creepy premise: Two women, one name. When the older Kelly Medina receives a phone call from the pediatrician to remind her of her son's upcoming appointment, she tells them they must have the wrong phone number. That's when she discovers there's another Kelly Medina in town. That's where the obsession begins. 

Scroll down to read my full review.

When I Was You

by Amber Garza

Publication Date: August 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0778361046

Publisher: MIRA

Description from Publisher:

YOU meets FATAL ATTRACTION in this up-all-night psychological thriller about a lonely empty-nester's growing obsession with a young mother who shares her name.

It all begins on an ordinary fall morning, when Kelly Medina gets a call from her son's pediatrician to confirm her upcoming well-baby appointment. It's a cruel mistake; her son left for college a year ago, and Kelly has never felt so alone. The receptionist quickly apologizes: there's another mother in town named Kelly Medina, and she must have gotten their numbers switched. But Kelly can't stop thinking about the woman who shares her name. Lives in her same town. Has a son she can still hold, and her whole life ahead of her. She can't help looking for her: at the grocery store, at the gym, on social media. When Kelly just happens to bump into the single mother outside that pediatrician's office, it's simple curiosity getting the better of her. Their unlikely friendship brings Kelly a renewed sense of purpose, taking care of this young woman and her adorable baby boy. But that friendship quickly turns to obsession, and when one Kelly disappears, well, the other one may know why.

About the Author:

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they're real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California, which is—no joke—home to another Amber Garza.

My Review:


Amber Garza does an amazing job of weaving story questions throughout the prose, compelling the reader to keep turning pages to find out what will happen next!

When I Was You was easily the best book I've read in ages. 

Normally, I don't enjoy reading a story written in second-person POV, but Amber Garza used the device so skillfully to ramp up the creepy factor of the book! The second-person POV made it feel like the main character was writing a letter to the woman she was obsessed with. For example:

"As the water boiled, I thought about you. Thought about how lucky you were to have a baby and your whole life ahead of you."

There were really only two elements of the story that bugged me. One: there were moments of missing time for the main character that were never resolved. Two: the sexual relationship with Rafael was too cruel and misogynistic. And yet, even with those two things, this is still the best book I’ve read in ages, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery and suspenseful novel.

When I Was You is the type of book you can't stop reading, and when you do have to stop (for work, sleep, shower, whatever) you can't stop thinking about it.

Some of my favorite lines from the book:

"You seemed surprised, almost shocked, at my kindness. It endeared me to you a little. I knew that feeling. I often felt like everyone around me was my enemy, not my friend. Rarely did people stop to hep each other. It was like everyone was too into themselves to notice when someone was in need."

"But if you thought that was all it would take to break me, you thought wrong. You'd grossly underestimated the determination of a mom."

I highly recommend When I Was You by Amber Garza.

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley. This in no way influenced my opinion of the book.]

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

IWSG: Choosing a Form

I always find the IWSG's Question of the Month intriguing and thought provoking. This month's question holds true to that!

This Month's Question: Quote . . . "Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don't write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be." Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn't planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

My Answer: When I first started writing, I just wrote my truth. But then I had the rude awakening that "my truth" didn't fit into the genre norms and was quickly rejected along traditional publishing avenues. At first, that was very disheartening. Then I studied the qualities and expectations of different genres and worked to master the craft of writing. That led to having two books published within the traditional marketplace. Now, I find myself being drawn with my whole being back to writing what I WANT to write, regardless of genre expectations. It's hard finding a balance between writing for myself and writing to satisfy the dynamics of a certain genre.

What about you? Do you choose a form/genre in advance?

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Book Review: SOMEONE'S LISTENING by Seraphina Nova Glass

Oh, when I read the description for this thriller, I knew I had to jump into it!! Scroll on down for my complete review.

Someone's Listening
by Seraphina Nova Glass
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
ISBN: 978-1525836749
Publisher: Graydon House Books

Description from the Publisher:
You’re not alone. Someone’s waiting. Someone’s watching … Someone's listening.

In SOMEONE’S LISTENING, Dr. Faith Finley has everything she’s ever wanted: she’s a renowned psychologist, a radio personality—host of the wildly popular “Someone’s Listening with Dr. Faith Finley”—and a soon-to-be bestselling author. She’s young, beautiful, and married to the perfect man, Liam.

Of course Liam was at Faith’s book launch with her. But after her car crashes on the way home and she’s pulled from the wreckage, nobody can confirm that Liam was with her at the party. The police claim she was alone in car, and they don’t believe her when she says otherwise. Perhaps that’s understandable, given the horrible thing Faith was accused of doing a few weeks ago. And then the notes start arriving—the ones literally ripped from the pages of Faith’s own self-help book on leaving an abusive relationship. Ones like “Secure your new home. Consider new window and door locks, an alarm system, and steel doors…”

Where is Liam? Is his disappearance connected to the scandal that ruined Faith’s life? Who is
sending the notes? Faith’s very life will depend on finding the answers.

About the Author:
Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and Playwright-in-Residence at the University of Texas-Arlington, where she teaches Film Studies and Playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and has optioned multiple screenplays to Hallmark and Lifetime. Someone's Listening is her first novel.

My Review:

I loved it.

This was the first book I've read by Seraphina Nova Glass, and I enjoyed it thoroughly! The characters were well developed, the plot was intricately woven, and the pacing was perfect.

Admittedly, I was a little worried when the opening lines of the story had the main character waking up (a taboo cliche), but the story quickly improved with great imagery and layered questions.

Multiple places throughout the story, the author had me gasping out loud and feeling my own anxiety ramp up.

While the main character was quite complex, there were times when I wanted to reach through the story's pages and shake her, hard. She made a lot of dumb choices for a professional therapist, and her heavy-handed purchase of a gun pulled me out of the story world.

Nonetheless, expert writing and story pacing kept me glued to the pages. The plot was resolved in a satisfying climax, and the reveal of the villain was well justified.

I look forward to reading more books by this terrific author!

Favorite passages from the story:

"Maybe that primal need for your mother when you're in pain, because no matter how abandoned she's left you, no matter how many years have passed, you still carry an illogical hope that maybe ... maybe she'll be there this time."

"It seems impossible that I can go out in the world and find and lose jobs, fall in love, make unforgivable mistakes, hurt people, get my heart broken, develop wrinkles and cynicism, and change so completely from who I was in this house, and come home and that little Christmas globe hasn't moved, probably not even to be dusted, through all of this -- through a person's whole life."

[I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

IWSG: Changes in the Publishing Industry

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

This month's question: There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

My answer: I would really like to see an increase in the acceptance of all authors and all publishing paths. As writers, we love the process of writing, but sometimes the process of publishing causes finger pointing, raised eyebrows, and unkind comments. We all want the same thing: to share our written stories. Let's be kind about the different paths we may choose to climb that mountain and celebrate each other's successes and encourage each other through our setbacks along the way.

What are your thoughts? What changes would you like to see?