Friday, July 31, 2015

My Review of ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up’

AUTHOR: Lee Gutkind

For anyone who doubts the maxim that truth is stranger than fiction, I suggest you read this book. It will put all doubt about that idea to rest.

If you are a creative writer, one of the great things about this book is that it empowers you. Non-fiction writing need not be dry and nothing but facts. In fact, writing the truth (in story form) has attained the status of a genre: creative non-fiction.

Lee Gutkind provides many excellent examples of great memoir and journalistic writing that fits the genre. For fiction writers, creative non-fiction provides yet another direction in which to focus one’s energies. Why make up a plot when you can craft an amazing story around actual events?

However, for those who might be interested in this form, be aware that creative non-fiction is not just making things up. It’s more like telling true stories with a storytelling arc imposed. Plus the level of detail that pulls the reader into the story.

It can also be a time-consuming pursuit, particularly if you decide to “embed” yourself in a group or situation you’re writing about. Such creative non-fiction requires a period of osmosis during which writers can soak up the details needed to properly embellish their work.

If you are interested in writing memoir or other creative non-fiction, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Friday, July 17, 2015

My Review of ‘Last Kiss’

Author: Louise Phillips

A man is murdered in a swank hotel in Dublin by a woman apparently obsessed with imagery and the Tarot. When another body is found, killed in similar circumstances, the police realize they may be dealing with that rarest of birds – a female serial killer.

Louise Phillips’ protagonist, criminal profiler Dr. Kate Pearson, is in fine fettle. Not only smart, but funny. Professional, but feeling ill at odds about her personal situation.

Kate has separated from her husband and does her best to look after her son, Charlie. Her frustration with that situation is compounded by the odd feeling she has that the officer she’s worked with most closely – Adam O’Connor – would like to be more than friends and vice versa.

Nonetheless, they are teamed to investigate the possible connections with other murders across Europe. All the while, an ambitious rival officer plays dirty in an attempt to discredit O’Connor.

Meanwhile, a woman worries that her husband is having an affair with a much more aggressive and sexual woman than herself. She confides her fears to a group of female friends – at least one of whom knows more than she’s telling.

There is a twist – which I did see coming – but that did nothing to lessen how enthralled I was with the story.

Louise Phillips once again delivers the goods in this heart-stopping thriller.

This book is an absolute must-read!

Friday, July 10, 2015

My Review of ‘Hill Country Rage’

by Patrick Kelly

In this sequel to HILL COUNTRY GREED, Joe Robbins is still separated from his wife, Rose, and is willing to do anything to reunite with her and their two daughters. Meanwhile, he’s been offered a job as CFO for a company run by Sam Monroe (a larger-than-life cowboy type) who has big plans (and a big payday for Robbins, assuming all goes well), which largely depend upon landing Kenji Tanaka, a big-shot Japanese businessman, as an investor.

However, when Neil Blaney, Robbins’ best friend (and a character from the first book) smells something wrong with Tanaka, then ends up murdered (in a way made to look like an accident), Robbins starts to rethink his commitment to Monroe.

What follows is a story that pulls the reader into the world of Austin big business and international intrigue. The book is compulsively readable. Robbins is a flawed, but likeable, protagonist who launches a personal quest to avenge Neil’s death by finding his killer. But, to his dismay, so many people (including those he’d usually trust) seem to want him to leave it be.

The book is not only a tense and fast-paced read, but Robbins is a three-dimensional character. In reading both books, it’s my impression that Robbins is a man simply looking for love, good friends and the good life. Without revealing spoilers, I’ll only say that Robbins’ continued quest to restore his former family life (a task made harder by Rose’s dating a new man) may be part of the good life he seeks. Or not. For there’s yet another woman in Robbins’ life. Leaving me to wonder if Robbins really knows what he wants or has defined what he means by “the good life”. This question adds a dimension to his character that holds promise for future storylines.

I highly recommend the book.

Friday, July 3, 2015

My Review of ‘Ruin Falls’

by Jenny Milchman

When Liz Daniels and family take a trip to see her in-laws, this alone is most unusual. Her husband, Paul, who’s kept his distance from his parents gets this sudden urge to vacation at their farm.

However, when Paul takes the extraordinary step of staying at a motel overnight, this is truly out of character for him. Paul is rigidly anti-consumerist and won’t abide his children eating anything but health food. No pesticides, no additives, no sugary treats for his kids. And Paul, being an expert in living off the land, has visions of doing so completely someday.

But that is just the set-up of Liz Daniels’ nightmare – the disappearance of her two children. Taken by Paul himself.

Once that’s established, the cops dismiss the matter as a “domestic dispute,” and Liz is left on her own to solve the problem.

What transpires is a story that’s way more than one of eerie suspense and page-turning thrills. It is a story of a woman who always deferred to and depended upon her husband’s strength and larger-than-life persona, who must come into her own.

In the face of self-doubt and loneliness, Liz is forced to deal with her stoic father-in-law, Paul’s fawning students, and a dangerous adversary in order to dig out the whole truth behind her situation.

To her credit, Liz co-owns a business. However, she hasn’t been the “take charge” partner, leaving that role to her friend Liz, who has her own troubles.

Not only is the story well-plotted and characters fully formed, but the setting is described in rich detail, without slowing the pace.

I highly recommend this book.