Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Shepherd's Song by Betsey Duffey and Laurie Myers

Today on bookaholic I bring you a Christian book which is not only about lives being changed but which could change lives.

It is not often that a book comes along which is so thoroughly engrossing that you literally cannot put it down. This is one of those books. The basic story is that a woman writes the 23rd Psalm on a piece of paper and gives it to her son. He is not impressed and shoves it in his pocket. The woman is then in a car crash and whilst she is unconscious the note travels around the world. On it's way it touches, and changes, the lives of 12 different people. Each person and circumstance is linked to a line of the Psalm.

I found this book to be highly emotional. It swept me up and I found my emotions mirroring those of the people in the stories. I cried, I held my breath and found my chest tight and breathing difficult. It moved me in many ways and made me think differently about the 23rd Psalm. I would recommend this book to everyone, Christians and Non Christians alike. It is possibly the best Christian book I have read in a very long time, and I am a prolific reader.


Betsie Duffey and Laurie Myers are exceptional writers and this comes across in every word of this book. I will definitely be looking out for more from them.

So there we have it for another day in Bookaholic land. I will be back soon with another excellent mystery to review. Until then keep reading

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Death of Pie by Tamar Myers

Today on Bookaholic I bring you a laugh out loud mystery.

I love Tamar Myers Books and was looking forward to reading this one. In this book Magdalena Yoder is currently on the hunt for the killer of a visiting author of a tell all book. It would appear that everyone in the town could have a motive for bumping off the victim. Magdalena, being the richest person it town, and pretty much owning the towns police force (1 officer), commandeers the police car and sets off on a madcap ride to find the killer. The book has a good storyline, with a well written plot. In many places it is laugh out loud funny.

The characters are all eccentric, each one being more crazy than the others. I could picture them perfectly. Tamar Myers has a gift for description which brings the setting to life. I almost felt like I was there. The one thing which spoiled the book a bit for me is that I felt that sometimes everything was a bit over the top. By the end of the book I felt I had had a surfeit of it. This is not to say it is not an excellent book, which it is. It was just a bit too much for me as a reader. Other readers may find this romp through detection right up their street. Would I recommend the book. Definitely. However, readers may want to take a look inside before they buy just to make sure that they are happy with the style. I am sure many bookaholic readers will love this book.


Please note this book is only available in hardback at present. It is not available in the US until 01 April but is available for pre order.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in return for an honest review. This review is based on my reading of the book and my own personal feelings, having done so.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Crime Writing Tips from Leigh Russell

Reviewed by Wendy H. Jones

Today on Bookaholic I am honoured to welcome crime writer Leigh Russell to the blog. Leigh, the author of the DI Geraldine Steel Mysteries, has very kindly agreed to give us some crime writing tips. I am also excited to have been given a copy of Fatal Act to review.

My Crime Writing Tips

As well as writing a bestselling series of crime novels, I teach creative writing for the Society of Authors in London, and for the Writers Lab on an idyllic Greek island. In addition, I write monthly Writing Tips for the CWA website. So I have a few ideas about writing fiction, both as a full-time author and as an occasional writing tutor. In fact, there's so much to say, it's hard to know where to begin. Since I only have one post here, I'm going to try and condense my advice into a few main points.

1) Be brave

This might sound facetious. Believe me, it isn't. Every time I finish a book, I worry. What will my editor say? Will my publisher be pleased? And then there are reviewers, and readers. While you are writing a book, it's yours. You can do what you want with it. You can even abandon it for a different idea. You have that freedom. The story, and its characters, belong to you. But once the book is published, it is public property. Other people wade in. A work that may have taken you months, or even years, to perfect, can be dismissed with a one star review from a disgruntled reviewer. So you need to develop self-belief that is modest enough to take criticism seriously, yet robust enough to resist self-doubt. If you are fortunate enough to be published, or even if you take the plunge and self-publish, you are sticking your head above the parapet. Other people may shoot you down. So you need to be brave.

2) Work hard

Having a creative outlet is fantastic. We writers love writing. That is what makes us writers. Why else would we spend every hour of the day writing, or thinking about plot and character? Eugene Ionesco said, 'A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of writing, or thinking about writing.' As with all the arts, we are fortunate to be passionate about what we do. It doesn't feel like work most of the time. But there are days when it seems hard going. Even being a successful author isn't all fun and glamour! Writing a book can take weeks or months of research, and hour after hour of meticulous rewriting. But it's important to put in the effort, whether you are under contract to a publisher, or just writing for yourself. Because you never know. The likelihood is that no one but your friends and family will ever read what you've written. But there's a chance your book may one day be read by millions of people. So work hard to make sure your manuscript is as good as it possibly can be, before you submit it to agents, or publish it yourself.

3) Writing crime fiction

Writing crime poses particular challenges. The genre has recognised conventions and parameters which make it difficult to be original and yet remain authentic. It's always fun to flout rules, and rules themselves change over time. The modern detective started out as a superhero in whom the reader has absolute confidence. Sherlock Holmes is always right. Recently the genre gave us a spate of flawed detectives, who struggled with their personal relationships. Having, to coin a phrase, done that to death, authors moved on to explore the area of dodgy 'bent coppers.' I am very conscious when writing that many of my readers are very sophisticated fans of the genre. They have seen all the previous metamorphoses detectives have undergone, whether they are private sleuths or police officers following procedure. I think one of the reasons Geraldine Steel has such a wide appeal is because she is relatively normal! She enjoys a drink without being an alcoholic, she is single without being embittered by heartbreak. As well as engaging with the protagonist, fans of crime fiction enjoy suspense and tension, so my books are frequently described as 'page turners'. Structure is key to achieving this tension. Structure isn't what happens in a book, in other words the plot. Structure looks at where episodes are placed in the narrative. The pace in a book needs variety. You can't put all the excitement in one place, leaving long lulls where nothing exciting happens. Getting the structure right is a delicate balancing act that is crucial to the success of any book.

4) Be lucky

This is the final essential key to success as an author. If you're very lucky you may one day find yourself, like me, earning your living writing fiction. It's not all fun and glamour - but I wouldn't change it for anything!

Whatever you do, I wish you the very best of luck in all your endeavours.

As well as being a highly talented writer Leigh is also a genuinely nice person. She is always willing to help other writers, and crime writers in particular. I feel privileged that she has dropped by to give us some very welcome advice.

Review: Fatal Act

A glamorous young TV soap star dies in a car crash. Returning for her sixth case, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is baffled as the driver of the second vehicle miraculously survives - and vanishes. Another young actress is murdered and, once again, the killer mysteriously disappears. Geraldine unwittingly risks her sergeant's life in their struggle to track down a serial killer who leaves no clues.

So says the blurb on the back of the book. This hooked me form the get go. When I started to read the book I was then reeled in, hook, line and sinker. The characters in this book are superb, especially DI Geraldine Steel who is the lead Detective and the star of the show. She is feisty and strong and yet funny and vulnerable. I like her and will certainly be looking forward to finding out more about her in future books. Her Sergeant, and Sidekick, Sam is also a likeable character. They play well off each other and this leads to some laugh out loud moments. The characters are real and that is what endears them to me. 

In this book Geraldine finds herself knee deep in lovies, from a local Television Network and Stage School. Each one of them seems to have things that they are hiding and, of course, being actors no ever knows whether they are telling the truth or merely acting. I have to admit that I could have quite cheerfully bumped off a few lovies myself. This is the sign of a truly great author. One who makes you feel you are a part of the whole thing. There is enough mystery and drama for the most ardent of mystery fans and I found I and to keep reading. I would highly recommend this book and any other of Leigh's novels. 

Connect with leigh on:

Amazon UK author page 
Amazon US author page

Thank you Leigh for taking the time to stop by the blog today. It has been a pleasure meeting you and thank you once again for all your help and advice. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Plotting for Writers

Today you are getting two for one in Bookaholics. It's not even a buy one get one free as both this blog post and my review of a cracking mystery on my other blog are both free. Firstly, why am I talking about plotting. This is something which has been on my mind recently. I have been writing my new book and am working to ensure the plot is as tight and exciting as it can possibly be. I have also been watching the Television Series Revenge on Amazon Prime. 

Now I am not going to tell you anything about this series, other than it is a perfect demonstration of plotting. This series has everything you need in a mystery, and more. Every episode is perfectly worked out, giving you teasers, and then moving to a different scene. This is repeated before going back to the original scene and letting you know more. It is like a tense rope being slowly let out and yet still remaining tense. The end of each episode leaves you wanting more. 

There are tantalising glimpses of back story to allow you to know why the lead character is intent on getting revenge. Every so often there will be a whole episode dedicated to backstory. This is brilliantly executed and adds to the story. It means you are not bogged down in backstory but are still able to fit all the pieces together. 

The series cliffhanger is perfectly designed to leave you wanting to know what happens next. It is a perfect example of how a trilogy can be written to draw readers in and keep them reading on to the next book.

I would advise all writers to watch this series and to work out how it could help them to develop the way in which they use plot. It is on Amazon Prime, or Love Film Instant. So far I am half way through season 2 and I have only been watching it for a couple of weeks. I find myself having to watch just one more episode to see what happens next. To be honest I am completely wrung out with all the emotion and tension. This is something we as writers need to learn as part of our craft. Our readers should always want to read just one more chapter.

Now on to that review I was telling you about. The book I am recommending, Beside Still Waters, is the fourth in a series. It is one of those series where you a re left waiting for the next one. I have reviewed it on the Around the World of Inspired Fiction to which I write with several other fiction writers. Take a look at the review HERE and see why I think it is so good.

What has the picture at the top got to do with plotting I hear you ask. Absolutely nothing apart form the fact that it looks suitably eerie to write a plot around. It is one of the churches in the centre of Dundee and I am sure DI Shona McKenzie must have passed it many times on her way about town.

So ends the two for one deal. Normal service will be resumed as soon as I have finished the 800 page book I am currently reading. Sea you all again soon Bookaholic's

Saturday, 15 March 2014

6 More Fabulous Apps for Writers

Some time ago I wrote an article outlining four top apps for writers. If you missed it then you can find it here. Since then I've discovered some more great apps. Now I will admit, I am a bit of a technophile, and love all things electronic but these apps are truly special and worth downloading.

Index Card

Cost: £1.99

Available for: iPhone, iPad

The icon of the app portrays it extremely well. This is a virtual Pin Board on which you can pin index cards. Although simple, this app is extremely useful. I have a card for every character in my books from Major to Minor. These contain a detailed character analysis with everything I need to know about the character.

Other ways I have used the app:
1. Plot ideas
2. Jotting down random things which I feel could be used in a book
3. Things a character might say

I am sure there are several other ways in which these could be used and if anyone has any ideas then please outline them in the comments and help other writers.

A Novel Idea

Cost: Free

Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android Phone, Android Tablet

This app is deceptively simple and extremely useful. To all my writer friends I make no apologies for the adjectives. They are needed to describe how good this app is. It is basically a detailed notebook for writers.

On opening the app there is a menu bar along the bottom. The options available are Novels, Scenes, Characters, Locations and Ideas. Click on one of these and it contains a detailed template.

As an example the Novel one has the following:

  • Title
  • Setting
  • Theme 
  • Tone
  • POV
  • Premise
  • Plot
  • Group
Below these you can also add ideas and add scenes. 

The character one is brilliant. This is detailed and includes a number of physical characteristics as well as things like external and internal motivation, external and internal conflict, fears and phobias. and so on. You can also attach novels, scenes and ideas to this character.

I love this app and I am sure all my writer friends will too. Worth downloading immediately.


Cost: Free

Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android Phone, Android Tablet, Windows Phones, Windows Tablet

This app is what it says on the tin. It is a notebook for your phone or tablet which is exactly the same as the Moleskine notebook you pay a fortune for in stores. The beauty of this app is that you can carry it with you anywhere you go, in your pocket, on your phone. No more need to carry around that writers notebook that we all, as writers, have. Simple but effective and well worth it because it is free. Being a Scot I love a bargain.

Day One

Cost: £2.99

Available for: iPhone, iPad, iMac

This is a daily journal and is not just for writers. However, many writers also keep a journal. It is a bit more complex than the moleskin diary and has various options to choose from. These include Photo's Tags, Calendar, and starred entries.

What I like about this app is the speed with which you can quickly snap a photo on your phone, add it to your journal, and add notes to this. Perfect for quickly jotting down moments and places which could be used in your book whether it be fact or fiction. A very useful little app.

Type: Rider

Cost: Apple £1.99 Android £2.51

Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android Phone, Android Tablet

Ok, this isn't going to help you be a better writer as it is a game. You have to navigate two balls over a short bit of terrain. When you complete it a book opens and you unlock a chapter about the history of writing and print. There are all sorts of facts in here and it is fascinating. This is a great little app which is addictive and fun. Worth downloading as it is great for passing the time if you have a few minutes to spare.

This app would also be enjoyed by avid readers.

10,500 Cool Facts

Cost: Free

Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android Hone, Android Tablet

Again, this isn't specifically for writers but it does contain a heck of a lot of facts. Many of these you will be able to use in your writing and I have already used some of them in mine. One thing to take account of though. These facts are random and there is no search feature. There is, however, a favourite button  where you can add facts you want to keep. You will need to remember this as the fact may not reappear again for a long time.

For us crime writers here is one I like:

The bloodhound is the only animal whose evidence is admissible in an American court.

Now how cool is that. I love this app and as it is free it is well wroth downloading.

So my fellow writers, plenty to choose from here and all great prices as well. At these prices all worth looking into.

Bookaholics, I will see you all again soon with another review. Keep writing, and keep reading.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Kindle Fire Giveaway

Completely different post on Bookaholic today as I bring you  fabulous giveaway. The first prize is a Kindle Fire preloaded with 26 free books. These books are from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolina's so the books are inspirational and a mixture of fact and fiction. This is an international competition so anyone can enter.

To enter click here

Well worth entering and I hope that it is a bookaholic who wins. See you all again soon

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Nelson Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Today's recommended book on Bookaholic is not for the faint hearted as it is almost 900 pages long. However, I can assure you it is one that is wroth taking the time.

Overall I found this book to be an excellent insight into the life of Nelson Mandela. Through it's pages you learn more about the man who became the first black President of South Africa. You also discover the forces which shaped him and made him the man he is. It takes you from his early years in Africa and how his early upbringing and development helped to develop his character. Whatever happens in his life he rises above it and moves forward. It is obvious that Nelson Mandela was a remarkable man, powerful, and yet humble and staying true to his African roots. His faith in God is obvious but the book does not focus on this so it does not overwhelm. This book is at times emotional but at the same time inspirational. It demonstrates the courage of one man to rise above his circumstances.

This book is so much more than an insight into Mandela's life, it is also an in depth overview of life in South Africa from the early 20th century to the turn of the 21st Century. It covers a period in history which cannot, and should not be repeated. It demonstrates the struggles that Black South Africans went through to get to be the nation they are today.

There is one thing which I must point out before you pay out good money for the book. As I said at the beginning of the blog this is a very long book as it goes into a great deal of detail and description. Whilst this is necessary to set situations and decisions into context, at times it went on for too long. This book could have been a couple of hundred pages shorter without losing any of the flavour of the book. This may put some people of and they may not complete the book. Other than this it is a book which I would highly recommend.

I now have another 800 page tome to read which is the latest murder mystery by Greg Iles. I love his books and will be back with a review soon. Until then keep reading. If you have downloaded and are reading this book then I literally mean keep reading. See you all again soon.