April 8, 2016

My #BookReview Raven Black by Ann Cleeves 5 Stars


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I did that when I read the first book in the Shetland Island Quartet by Ann Cleeves. The story is well-done in many ways. It is told from several points of view with a chapter break delineating each. We get in the minds of many of the people around the Shetland Island. Cleeves doesn’t spend lots of time in each point of view, but enough for us to get a feel for the story and the people.

She introduces us to her protagonist detective, Jimmy Perez from the eyes of another character. What a cool thing to do! Later we get in his mind, and we become attached to the rumpled, self-conscious but highly empathetic detective. This is a story about a brutal murder of a young woman. As the story unfolds we learn of this murder’s links to a previous murder of a child. I don’t like it when children get murdered or threatened, but Cleeves does a nice job of protecting us. She doesn’t bring us too close to the previous murder victim. We learn more about the current victim. And, although I hated that she was killed, she wasn’t as vulnerable as a child.

Another thing that I appreciated was the description of the place. I’ve never been to the Shetland Islands in Scotland nor did I know much about the people.

You will understand the closed-knit relationship of the Islanders.

Furthermore I appreciated the beautiful writing. Here’s an example:

Sally felt if she reached out her hand she’d be able to touch the hole where once Catherine had been. It would feel hard and shiny like ice.

I actually solved the crimes, but that didn’t stop me from reading. My one complaint is that one resolution was a bit too contrived–perhaps to try and surprise the reader. She didn’t need to worry about surprises. The book was good enough without that.

If you’re looking for a new series (and I wish there were more than 4 because I’m about to finish the second one), pick up Raven Black.

PS. Just finished White Nights and I think it was EVEN BETTER than Raven Black. Much more plausible and the descriptions of the white nights in Shetland were amazing. I’m a new fan!

For a very different kind of mystery, try e-Murderer. Here’s the book trailer.

What Do Technical Readers Like to Read?

A week ago I developed a little quiz so readers could find out what kind of readers they are. One category was Technical. So, let’s look more closely at the Technical reader and determine what they like to read and how they prefer to read.

They are cautious and controlled. As readers they tend to read sure bets. They prefer nonfiction to fiction and do not mind reading a lot of detail. In fact, the more detail the better. They will do their due diligence before embarking on a book. They listen to their friends and colleagues who recommend books, and they read the reviews very carefully. Often, they get a sample of the book (if it’s an ebook) beforehand.

For Technicals if they actually start a book, they will finish it even if they dislike the book. Leaving a book already begun, unfinished just isn’t in their nature. Technicals are neat readers. They have never marked up a book or turned down a page. They do take notes as they read, but never to deface a book. That’s one reason they like to read on ebooks. They can mark and underline without hurting the book.Writing

Technicals do like reading real books, preferably hardbacks, but they tend to read both books and ebooks. It took them a long time to switch to reading ebooks because they do not make changes easily. Unlike Bolds who are quick to change, Technicals are more deliberate.

You may be a Technical reader. If so, you read nonfiction, fiction based on real facts, biography, scientific books and other books full of detail. Book length doesn’t bother you. And, you prefer to read at night or early in the morning.

Here’s a book selection for the Technical reader. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. You can read my review and then decide.

What Kind of Characters Do You Prefer?

bigstockphoto_Friendly_Group_Of_People_Wavin_4097952Recently several books hit the best seller list that have despicable characters. Readers say, “I didn’t like anyone and I couldn’t care less what happened to the people in the story.”

In thinking about this, I began reflecting on my own reading habits. Personally I love character driven books. I don’t necessarily write character driven books, but that’s what I like to read. The story and the plot interest me but only in so much as my relationship to the characters.

I don’t have to “like” the character or want to meet them for a drink at happy hour, but I do need to feel some empathy for them. One example was Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. This was a unique character. She had special skills but she also had a number of flaws. Some may describe her as Autistic she had such a hard time relating to people (but was brilliant with hacking computers). Larsson created an extremely complex character. But, he helped the reader relate to her by sharing some of her backstory. When Lisbeth punished her probation officer, the readers cheered. No, we might not do the same thing to someone, but the fact that he sexually abused her in despicable ways made her actions okay by me. Did I “like” Lisbeth? Would I even want to meet her on the street? Probably not.

The main character in The Girl on the Train was also very unlikeable. She drank too much and lived in a delusional world. As a reader I began to doubt the world view, presented through her eyes. But, as the story moved forward, I worried about her because of her vulnerability. It took her a long time to act and to so so in a way that felt satisfying, but when she did, I was pleased. Her passivity wasn’t likable. She wasn’t someone I’d want to visit or to come visit me. But, at the same time, I cheered for her and hoped she’d be proven right. (And she was).

If you’ve read my blog before, you know how I feel about the book Gone Girl. One of the reasons I disliked the book and everything about it was I had no empathy for any of the characters (except those who may have gotten themselves killed). By the end of the book I couldn’t care less what happened to either protagonist. Reading the book brought me no satisfaction. If left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I not only disliked the characters, I was sorry I finished the book.

Whether writing a short story or a novel, the characters make the story worth reading. Card-board characters who populate many books today, including most of John Grisham’s stories, do not satisfy me as a reader.

What kinds of characters do you prefer?

Interview with Jenna Scali about Murder on Moonshine Hill

We are excited to welcome Jenna Scali to our blog today. Some of you may know her as the star of the new mystery series that began with the e-Murderer. If you read that book, you learned a lot about Jenna. You know that she’s 28 years old, has two cats, is divorced and is working on her PhD in criminal psychology. You also know that her best friend is Quentin Person, a gay history professor who teaches belly dancing on the side. I won’t give too much away since some of you may not have read the e-Murderer yet. Today, we’re going to be talking about Jenna’s new adventure Murder at Moonshine Hill. This is the story about when

Thank you for joining us today. Tell us a little about what we can expect when we read Murder on Moonshine Hill.

If you enjoyed some of my friends in e-Murderer, you’ll love all the characters in Murder on Moonshine Hill. For one thing, Quentin plays a much more dominant role in this book. He’s definitely my go-to man. I hang out with him and we both toss out ideas about what might be happening.

Can you tell us what the book is about?

You’ll find out in the opening pages that someone is murdered. But we don’t know who. Later, you’ll learn that my friend from high school, Marcy Hawthorne, is getting married in a nice little mountain inn. It sounds like the perfect place for a wedding. But, as it turns out, it’s also the perfect place for a murder.

How is it that Quentin goes to the wedding with you.

I really didn’t want to go to this wedding because Marcy and I had a great falling out. She didn’t come to my wedding and I haven’t heard from her in ten years. Nothing. So, why should I go to her wedding. But then something happens (don’t want to give too much away) that peak my curiosity and I decide to go. Quentin begs me to take him with me. He loves the mountains and it’s Spring Break. So, he comes along.

Blue Ridge Parkway Mountains Sunset over Spring Rhododendron Flowers Blooms scenic Appalachians near Asheville NC

Blue Ridge Parkway Mountains Sunset over Spring Rhododendron Flowers Blooms scenic Appalachians near Asheville NC

Do we meet new characters in this story?

OMG! Yes. Lots of new people. You’ll meet all the wedding guests as well as Marcy and her prospective husband. Also, my mother is very much in this story. She’s running around causing all kinds of havoc in her matching pumps and purses. Furthermore you’ll meet Marcy’s parents who are both divorced. They bring their new spouses. It’s the typical wedding crowd full of people with love/hate relationships.

Do we get to see Starr again in this book?

Starr couldn’t come to the wedding with me. She had to stay back and hold down the fort in Dr. Bingham’s office. But, there are plenty of other characters that should keep you entertained and maybe Starr will turn up again in the next book.

Tell us about this place Moonshine Hill?

The Moonshine Hill Inn is a beautiful spot in the mountains of North Carolina. We are going in the spring so the weather is perfect, if a little chilly. It is secluded without televisions or cell phone service. This part of the world used to be well-known for making moonshine whisky. That’s how Moonshine Hill got its name. But now it’s more popular with hikers and sports enthusiasts. I’m a reluctant runner, as my readers know. Quentin drags me out to run with him. but most of the time, I’d rather sleep in.

Jenna, thank you for introducing us to this newest adventure. Here’s the blurb for Murder at Moonshine Hill

Who invited murder and mayhem to the wedding?

When Jenna decides to go to this wedding, she expects to dredge up old secrets and old hurts and she expects to see people from her past, but she doesn’t expect to stumble on a dead body.

Jenna’s friend is arrested. The wedding is cancelled. And Jenna’s tendency to stick her nose where it shouldn’t be leads her into the path of the killer.

Set in the serene mountains of North Carolina Murder on Moonshine Hill is filled with suspense, humor, and a quirky cast of supporting characters.

Look for the release in the Spring or Summer of 2016. Now under contract with MuseItUp Publishing.

If you’re curious about the eMurderer, check out this book trailer.