Book Review: “Loyalty” by Ingrid Thoft


When I started this book I expected to give it 4 stars, maybe 5. The set up was strong and fun. The tangle of plot threads intrigued. The family dynamics entertained. And you really can’t have too many detectives with Attitude, so it was a pleasure to meet another one. Also, early on, there was an absolutely great line about how children are like NASA launches – you can invest lots of money and time in them only to see them go quickly off course. (Sorry I can’t provide the actual quote – i loaned my copy of the book to a friend.) But as the pages turned, my enthusiasm waned. The detective lost some appeal when she became preoccupied with wardrobe changes and when she turned out to be well nigh perfect (wealthy, smart, gorgeous, ballsy and more). The threats against the detective felt increasingly manufactured rather than intrinsic to the plot. The shocking family secret was telescoped waaay in advance. There were many references to real places and neighborhoods in the Boston area, yet overall the book was low on atmosphere. And by the end of the first book in this series, I am already tired of the family. Because I loved the first third of this, I would try another book in this series, to see whether the stuff that bothers me was tied to this particular book, or persists through the series.

I got this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Here is a synopsis of the book. The synopsis is from the publisher so expect extravagance.

Book Review: “Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah


Clearly this is not my kind of book. It was a best seller and I cannot fathom why. I found it trite, tedious, and eventually, terribly manipulative in a movie-disease kind of way. The characters were incredibly cliched, the “history” was a shallow rehash of slogans and consumer product nostalgia. I am mad at myself for wasting the hours to finish it, which I only did because I had agreed to review it. I do not await the forthcoming sequel.

I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. Here is a synopsis of the book. It comes from the publisher so expect extravagant claims.


I started blogging as part of my effort to regain a writing career.  (Warning to other writers: J.D. Salinger aside, not writing for two decades will not bolster your career.)

Like most of my important life decisions – including writing novels and having kids – this one sprang from an offhand suggestion. Fortunately, impulsive decisions can be excellent decisions.

My blog’s initial purpose was to let people know my writing exists. Here’s how it was supposed to work: you read a post, you like it, you say oh look she’s got novels too I think I’ll try one. Wordpress and Smashwords stats suggest that chain of thoughts does sometimes occur!

(In other hands my blog might attempt aggressive marketing but the reality is that that ain’t me. Fortunately, my books do seem to be gradually building momentum despite this.)

When I started my blog:

  • I had considerable wariness, surely shared by most fledgling bloggers. What if I run out of ideas? What if nobody ever visits my blog? What if writing a blog keeps me from writing my novels? Fortunately – like most fears – these caused needless angst.
  • I assumed I would blog about writing but I hardly ever do.  I mention milestones for my novels (for example, today I launched a serialization of my psychological thriller ?Was It A Rat I Saw?) But I strictly write novels, so milestones don’t pop up that often. Sometimes I detail my writing techniques, but this blog will never provide advice on writing or editing.  I’ve only got this advice for other writers:

To improve your writing do more writing.

  • I anticipated a single-topic blog but instead have many.  I’ve got my preoccupations  (animals, my kids, sunrises, the ocean, epitaphs, an addict among my loved ones, patterns that prompt impromptu Rorschach tests) but I do keep adding to them. I aspire to an omni-topic blog. Although that will play havoc with my tag cloud.
  • I didn’t expect to have so many people like my photographs.
  • I didn’t expect to be staggered and awestruck by the vast number of interesting, beautiful, thought-provoking, nurturing, and hilarious blogs I have happened upon! I love being part of this sprawling yet tight-knit community. I still feel peripheral but that’s who I am.
  • I didn’t know that responding to WordPress Photo Challenges, Writing Challenges, and Daily Prompts such as  this one would be so much fun.

My Psychological Thriller Now On-Line

Cover of "Rat"

Jacket from the original hardcover edition. 

Tommy Dabrowski, a brain surgery patient and research subject of neuropsychologist Dr. Clare Austen, witnesses a murder with the right half of his brain, which no longer has access to language. Clare and Tommy race against time to figure out what he knows before the killer gets to them.

Was It A Rat I Saw is a psychological thriller involving real-life split brain research, animal rights, and a love quadrangle. It was originally published in hardcover by Bantam-Doubleday-Dell. I’ve got the rights back now, so am publishing it as an e-book.

To start that process, each Friday in August, 2013, I will post a section Was It A Rat I Saw to this blog page.  Five sections, chapter by chapter, on five Fridays, beginning August 2.

If you read them by the end of September, you will receive an e-book version for free.

I am serializing Rat now because August is web serial writing month (WeSeWriMo). Me, I probably won’t ever write serial fiction – I do too much late-stage editing, – so posting an already-finished book may be as close as I ever get. But I admire the energy and sensibility of serial writers.

Check out the Rat Reviews on Goodreads.

Unforgettable Lines

In yesterday’s post, I noted that I can never remember a joke’s punch line. That got me thinking about  lines that perpetually run through my head. Here are just a few. How many of these do you recognize? (answers on page 2.)

  1. I didn’t get the money, and I didn’t get the woman.
  2. I’m a stranger here myself.
  3. I can’t help it if I’m lucky.
  4. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
  5. Is there anything you have forgotten to tell me?
  6. To be lonely is a habit, like smoking or taking drugs.
  7. You can lead a horse to water but only very rarely can you drown him and get away with it.

All Mod Cons

Elmore Leonard published the novel Pagan Babies back in 2000 but I just read it this week. It is an Elmore Leonard book, therefore the plot is full of cons and double crosses, the dialog is witty, the prose is terse, and the characters are gritty and lively – oddball yet believable.  In this book, Father Terry  leaves Detroit half a step ahead of the law to become a rural priest in Rwanda during the recent genocide. During his first mass, some forty souls are slaughtered in front of him where they have sought sanctuary. After five years, Dunn returns to Detroit and gets caught up in the schemes of local mobsters and with Debbie, an aspiring stand-up comic who just got out of prison for hitting her ex-boyfriend with her car. The ex-boyfriend conned her out of $67 grand and she hatches a succession of schemes to get payback.

On LibraryThing and Goodreads I gave this book 4 stars. It probably only merits 3 stars. Consider the fourth a gratitude star. I can always depend on a Leonard novel to be worth reading.

I really needed a good read after having just forced my way through Quinn by Iris Johansen. My first and last Johansen. The writing was  flabby and weak. All the dialogue sounded just like the narration and I hated the narration. The characters were romance novel cliches crowbarred into a thriller format. And the plot. Oy, the plot. Sensual, fragile yet tough forensic artist Eve quests for decades to find out what happened to her missing daughter, aided by hunky FBI man and former Navy Seal Quinn. One suspect is her hunky ex-lover, former Army Ranger and father of the missing girl, who doesn’t know whether he killed the girl or not because sometimes his brain short-circuits thanks to torture by North Koreans. But he must be innocent because the daughter’s ghost appears to him as well as Quinn and Eve. Aaaaaaaaaaaa. I can’t say why I wasted the time to finish this (I skimmed the second half) except I knew it was a best seller and wanted to see why. I found no explanation. To restore my faith in book buyers, I tell myself that the other two books in this trilogy must be way better. You won’t get me to test that theory.

Johansen fans – I regret if I have offended you. Looking for a positive – we will never compete for her library books!

(This post comes from this Daily Prompt.)

The Daily Prompt: Person of the Year – Philip Marlowe


Marlowe was at his finest in this book.

Detective Philip Marlowe is the person of this or any year, but don’t give him the award. He’ll be a no show at the ceremony and not just because he’s a work of fiction.

Of all the characters I have met and loved in novels, Marlowe is my favorite. I recently re-read his seven novels and found them as fresh and relevant as they were when I last read them, decades ago.

Marlowe has an unswervable moral code. He makes mistakes, he has doubts, but he always knows what’s right and acts accordingly. His morality is personally customized. It may not jive with law or mores but when there’s a discrepancy, Marlowe’s right.

Marlowe despises phonies and looks out for underdogs. He’s smart but he mostly operates on instinct. He’s often alone and frequently lonely. He’ll never be rich and he doesn’t care because wealth costs honor. Not that he’d ever put it like that. He doesn’t go on about honor or loyalty or justice or dignity but he lives his life in ways that promote all four.

An Attitude to Aspire To

Recently, through the book-lovers’ site LibraryThing, I have gotten to know a woman who is plagued by two spinal conditions, each of which can be impossibly painful. When I expressed my regret about this, she replied that she always likes to look for a positive and at least her condition gives her plenty of time with some things she loves, books and reading.

Whenever I think about this it helps me to stop with the petty bitching about trivialities, for at least a brief stretch of time.