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Review: Empty Promises

This is my second recent review here. I hope to do much more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my new review policy.

Review summary: James Jackson has written a book that is both entertaining and thought provoking, both heartfelt and action-filled. I enjoyed this story on so many levels, and will seek out the earlier Seamus McCree novels soon. This is a 9/10 star book in my opinion. Details are below

About this book: Seamus McCree’s first solo bodyguard assignment goes from bad to worse. His client disappears. His grand-dog finds a buried human bone. Police find a fresh human body. His client is to testify in a Chicago money laundering trial. He’s paranoid that with a price on his head, if the police know where he’s staying, the information will leak. Seamus promised his business partner and lover, Abigail Hancock, that he’d keep the witness safe at the McCree family camp located deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s woods.

Abigail is furious at his incompetence and their relationship flounders. Even his often-helpful son, Paddy, must put family safety ahead of helping his father. Seamus risks his own safety and freedom to turn amateur sleuth in hopes he can solve the crimes, fulfill his promise of protection, and win back Abigail. Wit and grit are on his side, but the clock is ticking . . . and the hit man is on his way.

About the author: James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series consisting of five novels and one novella. Jim splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome. He is the past president of the 700+ member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. You can find information about Jim and his books at http://jamesmjackson.com. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and/or Amazon.

Giveaway: James M. Jackson will be awarding the chance to name a character who will appear in FALSE BOTTOM (Seamus McCree #6) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win.

My full review: Having not read any of the earlier Seamus McCree books, I began this one feeling somewhat disconnected from the main character. The plot was interesting, but the emotion was lacking. However, as the story progressed, the protagonist and his family came into better focus, while the action kept moving. By half way through the book I was fully engaged.

What I liked best:

  1. This is first and foremost a well done story. One could quibble that it is a little predictable here and a little cliche there but I don’t see how an author can develop a plot as intricate as this without leaving themselves open to such complaints. Bottom line: is it is humanly believable and logically consistent. That is no small feat.
  2. I would have liked to know more about all of the characters, but I suspect this is a pitfall of starting with the fifth book in a collection. What is presented of them here is well done, with particular kudos to the father son relationship and the wonderfully portrayed three year old granddaughter. Even the dog is well written.
  3. I’m not such a fan of first person narratives, and the switching between first and third person threw me at first. I do happen to like head hopping, however, and I enjoyed the way the frequent changes in perspective moved the story along. Part way through the book, I realized I had totally acclimated to the mix of first and third person, and by the exciting and rather lengthy climax scene, I found it particularly effective.
  4. I always appreciate when an author has the background, or has done the research, to add local color to the setting. I felt like I was on the Upper Peninsula by the end of this book, listening to the birds and riding around in an ATV.
  5. There are a few bad guys in this story, but the ultimate creep gets to have his own point of view, and he is appropriately chilling.

What I liked least: As you can probably tell, by the end of the book there wasn’t much I didn’t like. If forced to find items to have a minor quarrel about, I’d mention these:

  1. The local environmentalist was a caricature, and an unpleasant one at that. (I’m something of an environmentalist.)  Every other character of significance was more multi-dimensional.
  2. The sheriff’s degree of anger with Seamus sometimes seemed out of proportion to the events, particularly given the two men had collaborated together in the past. Maybe the sheriff is supposed to be an unusually angry individual?

Like I said, minor points. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

 

My favorite excerpt: 

Had Owen returned my call? Had Abigail found anything? Any word from Bartelle after Owen ratted me out? My phone claimed it had no voice or text messages. Sometimes the signal is so weak the phone doesn’t receive messages, so I brought the remainder of my drink to the deck, where the signal was strongest, and dialed voicemail. The sun-heated decking was uncomfortable on my bare feet. I shifted weight from foot to foot to minimize the discomfort and keyed in my password.

You have no messages at this time.

Back inside, I booted up the computer and checked email. Nothing relevant and no help for my situation.

I had a long, positive history with Sheriff Lon Bartelle. Was it strong enough for him to cut me some slack over my initially lying to him? Surely, the best way to tell him of my malfeasance was face-to-face. Like a man mounting the scaffold for his hanging, I forced leaden legs to return me to the deck. My call to Bartelle brought the information that he was in the office but not available to come to the phone.

I put Atty on a lead to do her business and then shut her in the house. “Sorry girl, I need to leave you home for this one. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

She trotted to the living room and, without a glance back, crawled onto the couch, where she didn’t belong. She pawed the throw pillow resting against one arm, knocking it flat, and stretched out, snuggling into the back of the couch and resting her head on the flattened pillow. Her eyes met mine and she grinned, as if to say, “What? I’m just following orders.”

A personal note: I am a writer myself and therefore come to all reviews with biases born not only of my personal preferences  but also of my own writing style. In this case the author’s well done frequent changes of point of view, and his flair for local details, resonated with my own efforts and no doubt bought him extra enthusiasm from me.

I also received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2018 in other authors

 

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Review: Deep Sahara

This is my first review here in a few years. I hope to do much more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my new review policy.

Review summary: This is an impressive book, but not an easy read. If a reader is willing to make the effort to flow with this unusual story, I believe they will find themselves haunted by it, in the way only a fine novel can manage. I give it a 9/10. Details are below.

About this book: Klaus Werner travels to the Algerian Sahara to research a book on desert insects. He is billeted in a local monastery, but upon arrival he finds it empty of its inhabitants. He soon discovers that it is a recent crime scene.

About the author: Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman’s Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

Giveaway: Leslie will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win,

My full review: Leslie Croxford has written a book imbued with the feel of the desert and buoyed by his deep knowledge of the region. As I followed along on one man’s odyssey to find himself after the death of his wife, his personal mirages of the mind and heart competed in my head with those of the world’s most vast arid region.

What I liked best:

  1. I’m not generally big on description, but the contrast between the sparse, often brusque dialog and the vivid verbal painting of the Sahara made me feel like I was there, experiencing days of solitude punctuated by stark conversations with others who seldom spoke.
  2. The main character’s earnest search to understand his past and discover who he is are woven well into the action. The hero is perceptive and honest with himself, making him fine company for all 280 pages.
  3. Occasional clever observations about humanity add a much needed touch of subtle humor. A few of my favorites are at the end of this post.
  4. Bonus points have been given for the delicate yet effective handling of both the sex and violence.

What I liked least:

  1. One significant event in the narrative is never explained well enough for me, and the little explanation it does receive contradicts other parts of the plot. It’s a minor but irritating flaw.
  2. I’m definitely not a fan of the very end. I will not give anything away, but only say that there were several possible variations on it that would have fit the spirit of the story as well or better, in my opinion, and been more satisfying to and even respectful of the reader.

In spite of these two issues, the book is well worth reading for all those who yearn to experience other lives and stranger worlds inside the covers of the novels they choose.

Purchase this book: Available in paperback through Amazon, or at the Book Depository.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

January 25: Locks, Hooks and Books

February 1: Bookaholic

February 1: Journey of a Bookseller

February 8: Sharing Links and Wisdom

A few of my favorite quotes

  1. “… recounting the tale to myself, to that other beholding part of me standing in for the God in whom I no longer believe, but to whom I apparently continue to have things to say.”
  2. “Be that as it may, I kept no diary. What I had to say about myself today was the same as I would have said yesterday or what I shall say tomorrow …”
  3. “Wherever one is, Monsieur,” the officer said, looking directly at me, “one is actually in one’s own situation. That’s the case regardless of how alien one’s surroundings are.” He replaced his cap over his clear features and prepared to leave. “So one would do well to understand what that situation is. It might save one a lot of trouble in one’s new setting.”

A personal note: I come to this review with a bit of bias, as we all do. In my case, I, too have written a book (x0) about Africa (Nigeria) drawing on my professional background (as a geophysicist) so I wanted to like this novel. I was once employed by one of the major oil companies exploring for oil in Algeria (where Deep Sahara takes place). Although I never worked there, I heard plenty of stories and have an appreciation for the female geologist in this novel. (There aren’t that many of us.) I also received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2018 in Africa, oil industry, other authors

 

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My own peaceful place

outlines 3The last two weeks I’ve been living underwater  — or at least that is the feeling I always have as I put the last little pieces of a novel together. I call this process my first edit, but in reality it is more like fitting tiny puzzle pieces into the right slots as all the miniscule components of the plot get checked and triple checked for consistency, correct order and believability.  Most my awareness goes where it needs to, and that’s into the world of the book itself. I thank the wonderful people who tolerate my lack of presence here.They know who they are 🙂

But I’ve come up for air today. I’m just over half done, and know from past experience that the first half of the book takes considerably more time. Apparently by  the end of the story, I have a better idea of exactly where I am going with it. The good news for me is that I am pleased with my latest creation. It’s called c3, and it is the story of youngest daughter Teddie’s out of body experiences. I hope to get it to my first beta readers over the next couple of weeks, and to have it out on kindle at least by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, my blog tour for novel y1 has just ended, and a couple of the guest posts I wrote seem worth posting on my own blog. Below is my favorite, about the peaceful place that helps me write and my appreciation of those in my life who provide me with such support while I do it.

How to Create a Great Work Area for Inspiration
porch1 (2)I think that a good work area is so important to writing that I’ve gone ahead and made three of them right in my own home.
Work area number one is a living room chair designated as my writing chair and used when I just have to get something out of my head quickly and I don’t care who is talking or how loud the TV is. I keep little notes strewn all around it and the whole family knows not to touch anything on “my chair”. It’s a little indulgent, but they humor me and having it there lets me feel like I can stop and get an idea down at any time.  I suspect every once in awhile my daughter walks by late at night and finds things like “Jeb must meet Tasha sooner!!!!!” scribbled on a paper towel with a red marker and just shakes her head.
Then there is the small spare bedroom upstairs that I have turned into my official office. The walls are lined with inspirational sayings. I go there when I need lots of time alone.  Four things make it special.  A closed door. Its own attached bathroom so I don’t have to emerge even for a minute and risk anyone interrupting my train of thought. A very comfortable chair. And, a second power cord for my laptop so I don’t have to run downstairs for that either. When I go into my office everybody, including myself, understands that I am very, very serious about getting some writing done.
Finally, there is the place where I actually write.  At least I’ve written over eighty percent of each of my three novels in work area number three, which is my front porch.  It is clearly where I most enjoy writing, even though the workspace has to be set up fresh every time.  Two pillows cushion the rough wicker chair and a third softens the small table turned into a footstool. The roof overhang protects against all but the worst of rains, especially if I turn around and face the house, and lean over to protect my laptop while I let the raindrops bounce off of my frustrated back until the deluge stops. I live in Texas, so in the winter, which lasts about two months, I bring a blanket and a space heater out with me.  In the summer, which lasts about seven months, I work in a tank top and blast one and sometimes two fans at myself. It’s coffee in the morning, ice tea in the afternoon, and sometimes a glass of wine as the sun goes down. That’s about the time when my husband will stick his head out of the front door and ask “are you still out here writing?”
“Yeah. I’ll be inside in a minute.” He shakes his head and half an hour later he brings my dinner out on a plate.
It’s good to have at least one work area that you love. It’s even more important to have people who will let you love it.

This post appeared on:
June 11 at Blog-A-Licious Authors
June 17 at The Unending TBR Pile
June 30 at Reading the Dream Life
Check these blogs out for a wealth of information on reading, writing and publishing as well as leads for many fine books you aren’t that likely to hear about elsewhere.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2013 in writing

 

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Watch what you wish for

An old friend gives me a hard, meaningful stare. It is April 2012 and I’ve just published my first book, x0 and I am telling him about the plot.  His response?  “Careful what you wish for.” Then he adds in a warning tone “Life imitates art.”

Icarus: click for print

Icarus: click for print

The visit has not gone so well and this friend is already well on his way to becoming a former friend. His odd response to my story of a telepathic loner who discovers kindred spirits through her unusual mental talent finally clinches the deal. The implication behind his warning has always irritated me. Don’t reach for your dreams or you may lose all. Our culture is full of fables of backfired wishes and the assorted smiting of those who reach too high. The very myth of Icarus warns those who would chose to take flight and touch the sun.

Not that I don’t get the “cherish what you already have” side of this issue. It’s about balance. Again. Savor the moment and reach for the stars.

So what happened once I started to reach? Did my former friend’s dire warnings come true and have I found myself fighting off strange telepathic urges, kept up in the night by the sounds of countless souls? No, I found myself joining writer’s groups on the web and reading a lot of other blogs. It turns out that, just like in real life, I don’t have all that much in common with many of the aspiring writers out there fighting for attention on all the sites. And I am not terribly compelled to join in the countless threads of conversation on every blog I visit.  I’m a loner, even online. Maybe especially online.

visit the farmlet

visit the farmlet

But it also turns out that there are folks out there with whom I share commonalities. I met a wonderful writer named Bob Craton who has penned a series about four pacifists fighting to save their home world. I met a wonderful blogger named Christi Killien who tells a fascinating tale every week about life on her self sustaining farmlet. I’ve had people review my books who seem to get what I am saying far better than people who know me well. Wahoo!

And just this past week I’ve had a reader contact me to complain about all the mistakes in x0. Mistakes? I was horrified. The book has been professionally edited and proofread within an inch of its life. Okay, she offered.  Let’s call them “puppies” so you do not get so defensive. I knew as soon as she proposed using a new word, that I had the good fortune to meet yet another kindred spirit online. She is now in process of showing me what she means, taking some of the more difficult passages in x0 and rewording with a light touch that makes the concepts clearer. I will be using her input to give x0 a gentle tweak someday soon, and the second edition will be better for it.

As she and I exchange ideas, I think of the other remarkable writers, readers, and bloggers who have touched my heart and mind since I published x0, and then I think of my former friend’s dire warning. Now I know what I wish I had said.

“Life imitates art? Really? You promise??” I am so lucky that he was right.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in telepathy

 

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small world shrinking

I’ve been interviewed and x0 has been reviewed by two fascinating young women from India, who ask great questions and make excellent points in their review.  Please check out their blog “The Pensive Phoenix” here.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in x0 elsewhere

 

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And the object of the game is ….

india school busI’m giving some thought today to negative stereotypes associated with India, particularly those held by my fellow citizens of the USA. There are plenty, let’s face it. We paint a comic insult cartoon of every other nation on earth, although some caricatures, like the stuffy Brit, do imply a bit of fondness. I wonder if every other culture does the same. I think I am going to go with yes on this one, and guess that all caricatures of us are not that fond either.

Several years ago a good friend of mine was told his job was being outsourced to India.  The friend is an electrical engineer who spent years writing in machine code to tell your car’s more intelligent parts exactly how to behave. It was a high level skill and he was very good at it, but he was told that his company had a found a kid in India who would do the job at a fraction of the cost and, as his last assignment, my friend was to train his replacement. Yeah right. Guess I’m just not going to remember a whole lot to teach him, my friend laughed. I sympathized.

And then, he started to talk to the young man, who turned out to be smart, eager and happy beyond belief to have gotten this job.  It was going to make him one of the richest people in his village.  One of the most successful members of his family ever. He and everyone he knew were rejoicing at this incredible good fortune. So of course my friend started to remember more and more to teach him, and before he was done he had passed along every trick and shortcut he knew. The young man was so grateful and once he took over my friends job I’m told that he was very good at it.

So was my friend successful, or not? That depends on how you define success. Remember board games?  The directions always started out with “The object of the game is……” Surely I’m not the only person who has wished that real life came with such clear information. If the object of your game is to make as much money as you can, as easily as you can, then my friend failed.  And, let me add that if such is your object, you should consider something other than writing self-published novels. They are exhausting to write, they take forever, and you can probably count on a few dollars a month in return.

india mapBut what if success is having a more interesting life? Learning things you never knew you never knew? I firmly believe that the internet has brought the world together in ways we are just beginning to understand, and it has done this for anyone who gets online. But writing and self-publishing three novels has taken this to a whole new level for me. I now share ideas and information with readers and fellow writers in a global community that would have astounded my seventh grade self, a girl who could barely contain her excitement at being allowed to study world geography. Today, copies of my three books exist in over twenty countries. I’m pleased beyond belief.

And later this week, I’m going to be interviewed on a blog written by two young women in India. I’ve done a fair amount of such interviews already, but this one is different because I didn’t go to them. They found my book, read my book, liked my book, and sought me out. All the way from India. Is that cool or what?

The young woman I’ve been corresponding with works as an instrumentation engineer and she also has aspirations to write. She wondered how I manage to raise a family, have a technical career and find time to be an author. I told her that I didn’t manage all at once, rather the writing started once the kids were older and job demands lessened. I offered advice on any of the above if I could ever be of help. I suspect that she has plenty she could teach me as well.

Did I mention that my my friend the electrical engineer learned quite a bit from the young Indian man he instructed? Well he did, of course, for in the best of circumstances knowledge flows two ways. Not every outsourcing story ends so well, but in my friend’s case his employer was so impressed with the job that he did training this kid, and with the new skills he picked up while doing so, that they decided to keep him on also. He trained a few others for them and then he went back to happily writing machine code, using all he had learned to his advantage. Your car may run better because of his story.

So what’s the object of the game? Some days I think I know, other days I’m not so sure. But I am am pretty certain that my friend’s story is a success story, in more ways than one. And I do know that I gained far more than I hoped for when I picked up my laptop and started to write my first novel. If gaining more than you hope for isn’t success, what is?

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in empathy, x0 elsewhere

 

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Mission control

Most of us have been involved at least once in writing a “mission statement”.  This concise summary of what one is trying to do is usually an exercise in restating what ones boss wants to hear and is thus regarded by cynical employees as the time wasting nonsense that it is. Yet, the real question regarding why you are doing what you are doing remains a valid one. What is the point? What do you want to accomplish? Why not just take a nap?

To that end, today the blog “Face Painting for World Peace” is going to articulate its reason for being. I’ll start with the obvious.  I wish to sell my book x0.  I wish to entertain myself by writing, which I love to do, and in the best case I wish to entertain others with that writing.  I love to do that as well. I’d like to solicit more interaction here and am trying to figure out how because I wish to grow by hearing from others with ideas outside of my usual circle.

All good mission statements cover not only what is to be done, but also how.  At least at a very high level. So, I hope to do the above by writing about the aspects of x0 that most fascinate me. These include the relationship between telepathy and empathy and the way both relate to humans treating each other with compassion and respect. I subtitled my book (and named this blog) “Face Painting for World Peace” because my main character Lola realizes that she lost many of her racial and ethnic prejudices while painting children’s faces every year at the school carnival. She wonders if similar close interaction with the children of ones enemies would foster world peace. So, this blog will look at paintings about peace, art about peace, and music about peace.

I also hope to occasionally post about Nigeria, the fascinating country where half of the book occurs. There will sometimes be posts about the oil business, with an insiders perspective on the hunt for the hydrocarbons we rely on so heavily and yet know we need to rely on less And finally, I hope to feature other books of any genre that touch on any of these topics or on the theme of world peace. I will be more aggressively seeking out other authors and welcome all requests to do a guest post.

Mission accomplished? Hardly. But after about eight months of feeling my way along on this blog, and as I am about to cross the 2000 hit mark very soon, it feels good to say “mission begun”.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in art for peace, Nigeria, oil industry

 

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