Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Virtual Book Tour

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 1, 2017

My official book blog tour starts today. I hope you’ll follow along and leave comments to support my tour hosts. Some of these posts offer individual prizes. I keep adding new sites, so check my Appearances page often. I’ll do my conference posts from the FRW cruise and SleuthFest on days when I am not a guest elsewhere. See you on the tour!

Blog Tour

Feb. 28Christa Reads and Writes – BOOK REVIEW

Feb. 28 – Terry’s Place CHARACTER INTERVIEW 

March 1 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW, EXCERPT

March 1 – Island Confidential – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 1 – The Big Thrill – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 2 – Community Bookstop – REVIEW

March 2 – Books, Dreams, Life – SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT

March 3 – Brooke Blogs – “History, Mystery, and Buried Family Secrets” GUEST POST, EXCERPT

March 3 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT

March 4 – Texas Book-aholic – REVIEW

March 4 – Readeropolis – REVIEW

March 4 – Kings River Life Magazine – REVIEW and GIVEAWAY

March 5 – Cozy Up With Kathy – “Hair is Gold” GUEST POST

March 6 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 6 – The Revolving Book – SPOTLIGHT

March 6 – The Pop Culture Divas – SPOTLIGHT

March 7 – A Holland Reads – “Backstage at a Fashion Show” CHARACTER GUEST POST

March 8 – The Mysterious Ink Spot – “Theme Parks – Fun or Fearsome?” GUEST POST, EXCERPT, and GIVEAWAY

March 8 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT

March 9 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW

March 10 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

And in case you missed these:

Jan. 14Life of Writers, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Feb. 11 – Carla Loves to Read, BOOK REVIEW

Feb. 22 – Dru’s Book Musing“A Day In The Life” CHARACTER POST

Feb. 22: Socrates Book Reviews, BOOK REVIEW

Feb. 23 – I Wish I Lived in a Library, BOOK REVIEW

Feb. 24, Omnimystery News, SPOTLIGHT

Feb. 24, Open Book Society, BOOK REVIEW

 

IN-PERSON

Sunday, March. 5 at 1:00 pm, “Mystery and History”  Discussion and Booksigning with Nancy J. Cohen (Bad Hair Day Mysteries), Alyssa Maxwell (The Gilded Newport Mysteries), and V.S. Alexander (The Magdalen Girls) at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL  33444, Phone: 561-279-7790. http://murderonthebeach.com/

Saturday, March 11, 1:00 pm, “Writing is Revising” with Nancy J. Cohen in Room 108 of the L-building at Florida SouthWestern State College – adjacent to the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. Check the Lee Campus map here for more details http://www.fsw.edu/about/maps  Park in Lot 7 next to the L-building on Saturday.  http://mwaflorida.org/events/special-events/

March 16-19, Coral Springs Festival of the Arts, http://www.csfoa.com/
Thursday, March 16, 6:00 Meet & Greet Cocktails and Snacks at Coral Springs Center for Performing Arts, Rooms A&B, 2855 Coral Springs Drive, Coral Springs, FL 33065.
Friday, March 17, 6:00 – 6:45 pm, “Conflict and Character” with Nancy J. Cohen at Coral Springs Center for Performing Arts, Rooms A&B, 2855 Coral Springs Drive, Coral Springs, FL 33065.

Sunday, March 19, Signing in the Author’s Tent at “The Walk” between 26th and 29th Streets on the west side of University Drive in Coral Springs, FL

 

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Posted in Appearances, Author Interviews, Book Excerpt, Book Reviews, New Release, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Strippers and Sock Puppets

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 23, 2016

Mystery book reviewer Oline Cogdill spoke to the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America at the August meeting. Oline’s reviews have appeared nationwide as well as regularly in the Sun-Sentinel. Oline offered some useful tips for writers on repetitive elements to avoid in crime fiction.

Oline1

· Strippers as murder victims or confidential informants are overused. Also, male writers seem to have an obligatory scene with a woman in front of a mirror fantasizing herself in this role. How many women secretly long to be a stripper? Not many.

· Coffee habits can take over the story. Count how many times your sleuth meets someone for a cup of coffee, drinks the coffee, heats up a mug of coffee, or tosses the empty cup in the trash. Go lightly in this regard.

· Restaurant scenes where a conversation occurs, and then the diners get up and leave in a huff before finishing their meal, are unrealistic. At least, have them sit down and finish eating or ask for a takeout box.

· Don’t neglect the kids or the pets. Show them being cared for and not being left alone at home or in a car. If you stay away all day, remember to let the dog out when you come home or to feed the cat.

· The sleuth shouldn’t wish for a murder to relieve her boredom. She should have a personal reason for getting involved in solving the crime. The death should be treated with gravity and respect.

· Don’t have your character rush out at night or go into a dark cellar alone without telling anyone or calling for backup.

· How many times is the cell phone left at home or runs out of its charge or there’s no signal? Don’t overuse this excuse. Just as important, if the phone rings, have your character answer it. Too often the ignored phone call means doom and gloom are in the next chapter.

· Less is more regarding graphic violence. It’s better left off-scene for the most part.

· Use the word “woman” instead of “girl,” where appropriate.

· Avoid the “talking killer” who explains the entire crime to the sleuth while holding a gun to her head.

· Talking animal stories don’t have to be silly. Treat them more seriously.

· And a non-story tip: Keep your website updated. Have a short bio, a longer bio, a good headshot, and author contact info. Do not play music in the background.

Oline spoke next about ethics among reviewers. She mentioned “sock puppets,” which are false online identities some people create to praise their own books and to trash others. Respected critical reviewers give objective opinions. It’s best for new authors to avoid paid reviews.

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It was really fun hearing these clichés, some of which I’ve been guilty of using. Thanks to Oline, now we’ll all be more alert to these foibles in the future.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Business of Writing, Reviews, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Recent Mystery Reads

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 15, 2016

These are some cozies I’ve enjoyed reading in the past month or two. I hope you’ll share some titles in the comments, too!

Flourless to Stop Him by Nancy J. Parra (Mystery)

This installment in the “A Baker’s Treat” mystery series has Toni Holmes whipping up gluten-free holiday treats in her bakery despite December blizzards and a murderer who’s left her brother framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Unable to avoid her sisterly duty in clearing his name, she sets on the trail of a killer who may be someone closer to her than she realizes. Stonewalled by the police who refuse to look further for the culprit, she conducts her own investigation while fending off a couple of potential suitors. This amusing, quick-paced mystery will have your mouth watering for bakery treats while you consume the pages to finish the story. 


Pane and Suffering
by Cheryl Hollon (Mystery)

When Savannah’s father dies, she takes over his stained glass art studio, hoping to turn management over to his right-hand man. But when Hugh keels over next, she realizes something is amiss. Her father, who’d worked for the government prior to retirement, leaves clues for her to follow. She uses her geocache experience and code-breaking skills to track the killer. Can she trust the handsome bar owner who works next-door? What about the students in her stained glass class? A rival shop owner? Or a real estate developer who covets the property? Suspects abound in this charming debut title in the Webb’s Glass Shop mystery series. Interesting tidbits about the artisan craft add detail to this story.


The Conspiring Woman by Kate Parker (Historical Mystery)

The Victorian Bookshop Mysteries featuring bookstore owner Georgia Fenchurch continue to delight. In this installment, Georgia’s association with the Archivist Society brings her into contact with Sir Edward Hale, whose dead wife is found by the waterfront and whose son is missing. While Hale was estranged from his wife, he wasn’t the only one with a motive for murder. Georgia’s investigation takes her from the aristocracy to a group of ladies whose mysterious network might have contributed to the victim’s death. And when the handsome Duke of Blackford returns from his overseas trip, Georgia has a lot more to cause her concern. He wants to talk to her in private, and her heart beats fast at what that might mean. Another trip into Victorian London will hopefully continue this charming series.

 

Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal (Historical Mystery)

When Maggie Hope accompanies Winston Churchill to Washington D.C. right after the attack on Pearl Harbor, she doesn’t expect to become embroiled in a case involving civil rights, intrigue, and murder. Yet Maggie is unable to stay out of trouble even as she juggles a couple of suitors. She meets Mrs. Roosevelt, who commandeers her to help prevent a scandal involving the First Family. It’s entertaining to see Maggie on this side of the “pond” and to view her English colleagues’ reactions to American culture. Enhanced by historical detail, this engrossing mystery will have you deep into post-Pearl Harbor politics and intrigue as Churchill and Roosevelt attempt to cement an alliance between their countries to battle a fearsome foe. Another Winner!


Giveaways and Bargains!

July 1-18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

July 11-Aug 8
Enter to win over 40 cozy mysteries and a Kindle Fire. You can win my novel Permed to Death, plus books from many more of your favorite authors. Click Here to Enter

Cozy Contest

July 1-31
Body Wave (Bad Hair Day Mystery #4) ebook is on sale for $1.00 at Smashwords until July 31. Use Coupon Code SSW75. Marla the hairstylist goes undercover as a nurse’s aide to help solve the murder of her ex-spouse’s third wife.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/580614

 

 

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Book Reviews

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 11, 2016

As an author, I’m often asked what I like to read. Basically, my taste runs to genre fiction. I like to escape to other worlds far away from the reality of daily news. Here are some of my recent reads from Fall 2015. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen

Bookshelf

A Matter of Honor by Jamie McFarlane (Science Fiction)
Captain Liam Hoffen and crew are determined to rescue the survivors from Cape of Good Hope, a ship abandoned by the powerful Belirand Corporation. But even as they set this goal, they’re marked for death. Because now they know the secret that Belirand will kill to keep. Aiding their quest is the mysterious inventor, Phillipe Anino. While avoiding Belirand’s assassins, Liam and friends discover the issue is way bigger than they’d thought. It could blow a hole in everyone’s concept of the known universe. And Belirand is willing to guard this knowledge at the expense of Liam, his crew, and their families. Is he willing to risk all to save the forty-five crew members of Cape of Good Hope?

A Matter of Honor is another action-packed installment in the Privateer Tales. What makes you care are the characters who are noble at heart and take the moral high road. They are heroes you can cheer for until the final page is turned, and then you have to wait impatiently for the sequel.

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron (Mystery)
Cajun cuisine mixes with murder and history in this delightful debut novel from Ellen Byron. Maggie Crozat, an artist from Manhattan, goes home for a stay at her family’s B&B. The mansion’s rooms are filled, but no sooner can you say “Laissez les bons temps roulez,” than the shenanigans begin. First one guest meets her demise. When her death appears suspicious and the finger points to Maggie’s relations, Maggie vows to uncover the truth. Impeding her progress is the sheriff, whose feud with the Crozat family is legendary. Fortunately, his handsome relative shows up on the force and quickly becomes Maggie’s ally. Will she unmask the murderer before more guests meet their untimely end? Can she save their plantation from financial ruin? Maggie needs to fire up her southern charm and sniff out a killer to save the estate. With the richly Southern setting, quirky characters, and evocative descriptions, you’ll be wanting more in this charming series.

Kris Longknife: Unrelenting (Science Fiction)
Admiral Princess Kris Longknife is in charge of Alwa’s defense, a planet under imminent threat of attack from a homicidal race. Her resources are limited. But it’s hard for her to remain focused when an act of sabotage within her own ranks neutralizes a number of military women’s birth control devices. Kris is one of the affected officers who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. With a baby on the way, she faces her biggest battle yet. The survival of the planet depends on her. Will her forces be strong enough to defend this one world and prevent the aliens from eradicating humanity elsewhere in the galaxy? Natives, colonialists, scientists, and soldiers join forces in the ultimate confrontation.

Kris Longknife is a sympathetic, strong female protagonist who keeps being forced into military space battles when she’d rather seek peace. But with her brilliant strategic mind, she’s best suited to lead her people toward victory. I’m eager for the next installment.

A Cup of Jo by Sandra Balzo (Mystery)
The grand opening of Maggy Thorsen’s coffee shop by a train station is proceeding according to plan, until the event organizer is found dead inside an inflatable coffee cup. Suspects abound, from the woman’s husband to various acquaintances, most of whom have motives. When her boyfriend’s integrity is called into question, Maggy decides to do some investigating of her own. A solid mystery, a cast of quirky characters, and a savory setting make this a pleasant whodunit to add to your shelves.

Killer Transaction by Catherine Bruns (Mystery)
Real estate agent Cindy York has the job from hell. She’s consistently cheated by rival Realtor, Tiffany Roberts. Tiffany steals her listings and woos her clients while their boss looks the other way. Being cheated one time too many, Cindy leaves a nasty message on Tiffany’s voice mail. This comes back to haunt her when she discovers the woman’s dead body. The police focus on Cindy as the main suspect. With her job in jeopardy and being a hairsbreadth away from serving jail time, can Cindy find the culprit and clear her name?

Smuggler’s Dilemma by Jamie McFarlane (Science Fiction)
In Book 5 of the Privateer Tales, Captain Liam Hoffen and company are hired to locate a battleship operated by the deadly pirates known as Red Houzi. The pirate fleet has just decimated a naval force, and the Navy must regain control so people don’t panic. Liam’s unorthodox tactics are the only thing that might help them gain the upper hand. But when Liam spies the enemy ship, he decides that rather than call in the Navy as he’d been ordered, he’ll attack the vessel and take it over instead. Meanwhile, he struggles with his girlfriend’s recovery from disabling injuries. Can she manage well enough to come along as his pilot? This story contains the usual battle scenes, along with personal interactions that develop the characters.

Mercy’s Prince by Katy Huth Jones (Fantasy)
Valerian is second in line to the throne until his brother is killed in battle. Now the Crown Prince, Valerian must live up to his father’s expectations and become a warrior. While he’s struggling with his fate, Mercy lives in a nearby village and has to discover her destiny. Aware only recently of her healing power, she has no idea how extensive her gifts are until forced to use them. When Valerian and Mercy meet, they slowly realize they belong together. United, they can defeat the enemy. But how long will the peace last before the fearful soldiers come back stronger? Dragons, mind melds, magic, and romance blend together in this coming-of-age tale. Mercy’s Prince is a pleasant escapist read.

The Savants by Patrick Kendrick (YA SciFi Thriller)
The Eastern seaboard of the U.S. is imperiled when a nuclear bomb explodes underwater off the coast, triggering a fault line to crack apart. A gigantic tsunami will flood a number of states unless the President can find a solution. He discovers unlikely help at a research institute for savants, individuals who’ve suffered brain damage but are gifted in unique ways. Working together for the first time, these young people believe they can help. But their leader, who has brought them there to study the group’s dynamics, hides a secret of his own. Much worse is the secret guarded by the Vice President, who sows the seeds of distrust in our government. Can disaster be averted and the traitors in our midst exposed in time to save the world? Scientific theories collide with political intrigue in this fast-paced thriller. Kudos to Mr. Kendrick for educating us about savants and their special talents.

Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen (Historical Mystery)
This installment in the Royal Spyness series is the best yet. A trip to America for Lady Georgiana, distant cousin to the royal family, provides laughs with its fish-out-of-water theme. Add to this a wacky cast of film stars, an eccentric producer, and a jewel thief, and the fun accelerates. Georgiana’s suitor, the mysterious Mr. Darcy, appears when the crew congregates at a glitzy Hollywood mansion. He’s after the jewel thief, but then someone turns up dead. As the puzzle deepens, Georgiana wonders which one of her new friends is the culprit.

G-2 (The Guardian of Earth Series) by Nigel Carson (Science Fiction)
When Zeke discovers a hostile alien fleet is headed to Earth, he is determined to stop them. His role as Guardian of Earth and descendant of a faraway race is a secret. He trusts no one for help, including his robot valet, Forman. It’s a good thing, since Forman’s creator has tampered with his programming. She’s put a locator inside him, and this becomes useful as Zeke and Forman are compromised by the Maleem invaders. Zeke has a narrow escape aided by his girlfriend, Jessie. Could they use the way she freed him as a means to repel the alien force? Why is it that humans are disappearing around the globe? As more world leaders succumb to the Maleem mind link via a mysterious necklace, Zeke consults his Taman relatives for answers. How can he defeat an ingenious enemy who is seemingly unstoppable? They tell Zeke that he needs to have faith in his own powers and the help of others who believe in him. Can he use his newfound heritage to protect the planet? Filled with action, adventure, and suspense, this story will take you on a ride that’s out of this world. The secondary characters are memorable and unique. An exciting, edge-of-your-seat read!

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Honeymoon brings Florida sleuths to imperiled Arizona setting

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 8, 2015

Great review of Peril by Ponytail by Phil Jason at Florida Weekly.

Phil Jason Reviews Books

Peril by Ponytail, by Nancy J. Cohen. Five Star. 292 pages. Hardcover $25.95.

Certain formulas help focus a writer’s effort. Adaptations of the so-called classical unities of time, place, and action advanced by Aristotle (for drama, not prose fiction) put helpful limits, and the pressure of limits, on the writer and the reader. That’s why island motifs are so popular. In theater, the arrival/departure frame has long been a design staple. Nancy J. Cohen exploits these conventions effectively in her in twelfth “Bad Hair Day Mystery,” featuring hair salon owner Marla Vail, recently married to Dalton, a South Florida homicide detective. PerilByPonytailFront

The romantic Arizona honeymoon that they are planning at the Last Trail Dude Ranch, to which they’ve been invited by Dalton’s cousin Wayne Campbell, the general manager, ends up being short on romance but long on adventure. Strange happenings, disappearances, and even deaths plague the resort and threaten…

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Book Reviews: Summer Reads

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 3, 2015

Here are some of the books I’ve read over the summer. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen

Reader

The Royal Assassin by Kate Parker (Historical Mystery)

This is the third title in the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries, and it’s just as enjoyable as the first two installments. With the Russian Princess Kira visiting England, Georgia Fenchurch from the Archivist Society is employed to keep Her Highness safe. To this end, she takes a job as secretary to a Duchess. When the royal visitor’s guard is killed and her chaperone is found dead, the stakes escalate. Which one of their household bears a grudge strong enough to murder? Are Russian anarchists involved? And how do these incidents relate to a series of bold thefts in the area? Georgia has her hands full playing detective along with the handsome Duke of Blackford. With the detailed period setting, engaging characters, and puzzling mystery, you’ll keep turning pages to the end and will be eager for the sequel.

Rookie Privateer by Jamie McFarlane (Science Fiction)

Liam Hoffen chafes against his fate, being stuck on a mining asteroid and working in his father’s business. But a pirate attack changes everything. His heroism, along with two friends, saves the settlement. However, his injuries prevent him from every applying to the Navy which he would have done if he’d had the funds. As if in answer to his dreams, the Navy grants him and his friend Nick salvage rights to the pirate vessel and asks for their help in a secret mission. Soon Liam and Nick are off on a voyage of adventure and the beginning of many more stories.

I really enjoyed this book and hope to read the next in the series. It’s fast-paced, well-written, and reminds me of the early Vorkosigan saga stories by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Why Kings Confess by C.S. Harris

With his wife about to give birth and his best friend enamored of a mysterious French emigrant, Sebastian St. Cyr gets on the trail of a killer who mutilates his victims. Ties to the French royals, rumors of the “Lost Dauphin” being alive, and a possible conspiracy to prevent a peace treaty with Napoleon keep him busy tracking clues. Someone has targeted him, and Sebastian must find this perpetrator before his wife and unborn child are endangered by his investigation. But the one person who can help is the one he trusts the least. Why Kings Confess is another sterling addition to a gripping series.

The Impertinent Miss Bancroft by Karla Hocker (Historical Romance)

Sophy Bancroft takes a job as governess to Viscount Northrop’s unruly niece and nephews. But caring for children isn’t enough to hold her interest. She insists on investigating several thefts that have recently occurred at his lordship’s estate. Her forthright manner and logical approach startle the viscount into allowing her participation, and he soon finds himself under her spell. But when thievery turns into murder, he dares not risk her life. How can he convince the determined woman to comply? The Impertinent Miss Bancroft is a clever mix of a murder mystery and a Regency romance.

Gathering Mist by Karla Brandenburg (Fantasy Romance)

Giselle is a Kundigerin who possesses powers she tries to deny. This becomes impossible when people close to her are killed. She learns a demon is responsible, and he’s after her next. She turns for help to an old flame turned rock star, who is the only man that can help her. But to work together, they must regain the trust they lost so many years ago. Set in a unique universe, Gathering Mist will have you rooting for this young couple to combine their powers and defeat the enemy.

Imperfect Daddy by Gregg Brickman (Mystery)

A former cop and now a nurse, Sophia isn’t happy when her police detective boyfriend won’t talk about his past. Ray has a personal connection to a recent murder case that makes her question his judgement. The deeper she digs, the more concerned she becomes. Did Ray knowingly help convict an innocent man who went to jail for murder? Or was he duped? Later he brought forth a witness whose testimony freed the guy. Now the man is on the loose, and he might have killed again. His wife and son are found murdered and the daughter raped. She claims “daddy” did it. Is the released criminal at fault? And how is Ray’s ex-wife involved? The closer Sophia gets to the truth, the further she pushes Ray away. But if she can’t trust the detective, she can’t be a part of his life. This solid whodunit will keep you guessing until the end.

The Improper Wife by Diane Perkins (Historical Romance)

Maggie Delaney seeks the lodgings of her about-to-be born child’s father, but the man who opens his door to her is a stranger. Pleading for his help, she accepts the nobleman’s aid in the birth of her son. But if this is the real Captain John Grayson, who was the man she married? She’d believed the guy to be dead, drowned in the river. Afraid to be accused of murdering him, she remains silent about her past.

When a pregnant woman shows up at his door and announces she’s his wife, Gray is stunned. The lady even has papers to prove their marriage took place. Foisting her off on his relatives along with her newborn son, he forgets about her until he returns home to his father’s country manor. There he finds Maggie, who has entranced his family. He has no choice but to go along with her charade that she’s his wife. As he falls under his charms, he wishes their marriage wasn’t a sham. There is only one thing that stands in his way, and that’s the identity of the man who fooled her. Maggie is oddly reluctant to discuss the fellow. How can he trust her when she refuses to confide in him?

Dark Moon Rising by Jacqueline Seewald (Romantic Suspense)

Dark Moon Rising has gothic undertones, ghosts, and family secrets. A curse on the Hunt family claims a victim each year who dies a violent death. When Cassie’s car breaks down and she is given shelter by Colonel Hunt in his southern mansion, she’s grateful for his help. But she’s soon swept into a swirl of deceit involving his sons and other townspeople who don’t seem to want Cassie to leave. Why does she keep sniffing lilac scent around the house? And what’s wrong with the girl she meets in the woods who acts possessed? How come the Colonel won’t tolerate the girl’s name being mentioned? Trouble is brewing, and Cassie senses the evil that pervades the house. Will only another tragedy right a past wrong? Or can she prevent the doom that she senses is coming? Can she trust Jim, the Colonel’s son, or does he have a violent disposition like his brother, Drew? Somebody must die to fulfill the curse. Which one of them will it be? Dark Moon Rising is a gripping story that will have you turning pages until the surprising outcome. Another winner by Jacqueline Seewald!

Eggsecutive Orders by Julie Hyzy (Mystery)

White House chef Ollie Paras is horrified when politician Carl Minkus dies in the midst of a meal supplied by her staff. Relieved from duty, she doesn’t trust the Secret Service to look for the true culprit when they’re convinced her kitchen provided the tainted food. But who would want to get Minkus out of the way? And who else had access to his meal? Involved in intrigue and politics, Minkus could have stumbled onto a secret that someone might kill to protect. Ollie hastens to find the killer so her visiting mother and grandmother can get the White House tour she’d promised them. But can she guarantee no one else will come down with a fatal case of food poisoning? This cute story in the White House Chef mystery series will have you rooting for the crook to be caught so Ollie and her crew can prepare for the upcoming Easter Egg Roll event. Entertaining and inventive.

Vicky Peterwald: Survivor by Mike Shepherd (Science Fiction)

In this second volume of the Vicky Peterwald series, the Grand Duchess of Greenfeld focuses on the goal of helping her people. Vicky has led a spoiled life. But now the palace holds nothing for her but intrigue and death. Tired of assassination attempts and abductions, she escapes with the Navy fleet where she serves as an officer. But as her leadership skills surface, she finds herself pulling on her title more often for clout. She uses her elevated status to help the people starving in the wake of her stepmother’s play for power. As she comes closer to outright rebellion, Vicky builds her supporters, including a diplomat named Mannie of whom she grows fond. I’m hoping we see more of their relationship in the sequel, and that Vicky halts her promiscuous ways to settle on one guy. I’d like her more in a straight, monogamous relationship with a clear focus to free her people from the yoke of her evil stepmother’s family.

Vicky Peterwald: Target by Mike Shepherd (Science Fiction)

Grand Duchess and Greenfeld Navy Officer Vicky Peterwald is on her way home from a battle with ferocious aliens that left most of her fleet dead. But someone doesn’t want Vicky to make it back to the palace. Several assassination attempts leave no doubt in her mind that her evil stepmother wants Vicky out of the way. Her father, the Emperor, has become this woman’s puppet. Even when Vicky reaches the palace, she sees it’s useless to tell her father the truth. He prefers his own version of reality. Meanwhile, the empress initiates attacks on Naval leadership, who decide they want Vicky on their side. But is she strong enough to resist the net tightening around her and to rally supporters? Along the way, she grows from a spoiled sex vamp to a leader who cares about her people. This first series title is a spinoff from the Kris Longknife series. It is fast-paced and fun with a sympathetic—albeit promiscuous—heroine.

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What books have you enjoyed lately?

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Praise for Peril by Ponytail

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 1, 2015

It’s always exciting when reviews trickle in for a new book. With Peril by Ponytail’s release date on Sept. 16, I am thrilled to share the first batch of reviews.

PerilbyPonytail

“Hairdresser Marla Vail spends her honeymoon at the dude ranch from hell. Marla is annoyed when her handsome husband, Dalton, accepts his cousin Wayne’s offer of a post-wedding stay at the Last Trail Dude Ranch in Arizona. She’d rather be lounging by the pool in a Caribbean resort than riding ponies up dusty trails and learning the mysterious ways of saguaro cactuses. And she’s even more annoyed to learn that Wayne and his wife, Carol, have asked Dalton to check out a string of mishaps at the ranch, ranging from a fire in the kitchen to a flood caused by an open valve on the water heater…As usual, it’s just a matter of time before Marla risks life and limb to help her husband solve a case that’s bigger than either of them anticipated.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Cozy fans will have fun.” —Publishers Weekly

“Nancy J. Cohen once again delivers a delightful cozy mystery with the latest escapades of Marla and her partner Dalton.”—PaulineMichael, Night Owl Reviews

“This is a good addition to Cohen’s long-running series. The heroine is in fine form and … the slight bit of paranormal activity adds a nice touch.”—Susan Mobley, RT Book Reviews

“The author does a great job between all the characters, the storyline, the descriptions and the scenery. Each of them draws you into the book and you never want to stop until the story ends even then you want the story to keep going. A great series you will not be disappointed in reading.” —Babs Hightower, BTS eMagazine

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Book Reviews: What I Am Reading

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 25, 2015

When I give talks, people always ask what I like to read. So I am going to share with you some of the books I’ve read this year. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen

Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette (Mystery)
Hayley looks forward to writing about new Key West chef Edel Waugh in her food critic column, but things go up in smoke when a fire shuts down the restaurant. Then investigators discover a dead body inside an adjacent burnt-out shed. It’s no other than Edel’s ex-husband. Was his death an accident, or did Edel commit arson to cover up a crime? Or perhaps someone else has a grudge against the talented chef? Hayley determines to help the woman, who’s anxious to open for the holidays. But will Hayley even have a column to write when a rival threatens her job? Chaos ensues amid holiday preparations in this fun mystery. The mouth-watering food descriptions will compel you to make a dinner reservation at your favorite restaurant.

The Heir by Kiera Cass (YA Fantasy)
This fourth installment in The Selection series by Kiera Cass is just as much frothy fun as the previous three books. If you like to daydream about living in a palace and being on first name terms with royalty, you might enjoy these titles. In this story, Princess Eadlyn agrees to her parents’ requests to hold a Selection in order to distract the populace from their woes. Having no interest in getting married, she dutifully obeys while plotting to get rid of her suitors along the way. She doesn’t expect to actually care about any of the young men who show up at the palace hoping to win her hand, so it comes as a surprise when a few of them make an impression. Can she let down her emotional walls enough to give herself a chance at love? With this being part of another trilogy, you know the princess won’t make her decision until the end, and the author does a good job of keeping you guessing which guy will win her heart. If you’re looking for complex political intrigue, look elsewhere. The Heir is light, fun, and full of dreams for a pleasing summer read.

Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell (Historical Mystery)
Journalist Emma Cross, a lesser member of the Vanderbilt family, opens her mansion door in historic Newport one day to find a baby on her doorstep. Down the road is a murdered coachman who must have left the infant there. Who are they, and why did they come to her house? She launches her investigation into an elite society soon clouded by another death. Textile magnate Virgil Monroe disappears overboard from his sailboat. Was it an accident or murder? Is there a link between the missing man and the abandoned child? Who among this bejeweled crowd might know about the baby? As Emma investigates, she learns shocking secrets that might make her the next victim unless she discovers the culprit first. Emma continues to show her strength and gumption in an era when independent women weren’t the norm. You’ll be eager to join her next adventure involving history, mystery, and high society in the Gilded Newport era.

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace (YA Fantasy)
This story engaged me from the start and swept me along with its frantic, engrossing pace. Multiple viewpoint switches were done well, with each chapter labeled by the character who ruled it. I quickly felt sympathy for Johanna, member of a performing troupe who watched her father die as he fell from a tightrope in the forest. Was it an accident as people said? And why were girls who looked like her being murdered in different villages? She performs at the estate of Duke DeSilva and meets his son, Lord Rafael. There’s an instant love-hate relationship between them that makes you realize they’re destined to be together. But Johanna has a broader destiny, because she hides an identity unknown even to herself. And once Rafi finds out who she really is, he swears to protect her at all cost. But can he protect her from dangerous mages headed their way or conspirators bent on destroying them? Romance, mystery, and fantasy are wound into one package that will have you bolting for the next volume.

Bubba Done It by Maggie Toussaint (Paranormal Mystery)
When a dying banker says that someone nicknamed Bubba stabbed him, he unleashes the sheriff’s investigation into a number of townsfolk all of whom share the same moniker. What makes the lawman’s task more difficult is that each person has a viable motive. Wayne turns for help to the local Dreamwalker. But when Baxley tries to contact the dead guy in the great beyond, she runs into a dark entity that threatens to pull her into the void forever. Complicating matters are the victim’s niece who is missing and her boat that was found abandoned in the marsh. What has happened to the young girl? As Baxley gets closer to the truth, she receives threatening messages and acts of vandalism that are meant to discourage her. But she persists on pursuing justice regardless of her own peril. It’s a pleasure to see Baxley’s paranormal powers expanding. This unique element adds to the story’s mystique. With its cast of quirky characters, Southern setting, and psychic sleuth, Bubba Done It will keep you guessing until the end.

Murder and Marinara by Rosie Genova (Mystery)
Victoria returns to her hometown on the Jersey Shore to do research for her next mystery novel. Fiction turns into reality when TV producer Gio Parisi dines at her family’s restaurant and keels over dead. Could the culprit be their food supplier who has a grudge against Parisi? Or Tim the chef, who had the opportunity? Or maybe Parisi’s wife or girlfriend? Suspects abound in this lighthearted romp that will have you remembering your days at the seashore with fond memories.

The Saffron Crocus by Alison McMahan (YA Historical Mystery)
Isabella, 15, longs to be a singer in 1643 Venice, but as a lady, she’s confined to singing in salons. Her teacher, Margherita, introduces her to the opera, and Isabella sees a new future ahead of her. But when Margherita is brutally murdered and her son is accused of the deed, Isabella shifts her goals to discovering the killer. She’s met Rafaele, who respects her ambitions, and she wishes to help clear his name. But can she resist her aunt’s attempts to match her to another man, who won’t allow her to sing in public? As she discovers secrets her teacher kept hidden, Isabella races to gain evidence before Rafaele is executed for his alleged crimes. If he dies, so will her hope, because she’s fallen in love with him. This glimpse into a fascinating era moves at a quick pace that will have readers singing for justice and wanting more from this talented author.

The Counterfeit Lady by Kate Parker (Historical Mystery)
Georgia Fenchurch, a London bookshop owner during the Victorian era, is a member of the secret Archivist Society that investigates crimes. So when her house guest Lady Phyllida’s cousin is murdered, Georgia gets involved. The cousin was married to a man who’d designed warship blueprints for the government, and those documents are now missing. There’s only a handful of people who would have known he’d taken them home that evening, and they are members of the upper crust. Thus Georgia assumes the identity of Lady Georgina and teams up with the Duke of Blackford to infiltrate high society. They must root out a spy and find the real killer to clear the husband’s name of murder.

This second book in the Victorian Bookshop mystery series is as engaging as the first. Georgia is a capable heroine, strong-willed and independent. She grows to care for the duke while knowing their relationship can never progress beyond friendship. I’m eager for the next installment as the search for her parents’ killer continues and she gets involved in another adventure.

G-1 (The Guardian of Earth Series book one) by Rigel Carson (Science Fiction)
The world is on the brink of ecological disaster, but scientist Dr. Zeke Landry has trouble convincing anyone that a conspiracy might be the cause. As he digs deeper, he uncovers truths about himself that leave him even more mystified. When he becomes a target for deadly forces bent on his destruction, is it because of his research into the global water shortage or because of his own mysterious background? In a race against time, he must discover his legacy and activate his powers to save the world. G-1 is a page-turning ecological thriller that could become chillingly real.

The Goddess’s Choice by Jamie Marchant (Fantasy)
Robbie can’t take any more beatings by his father, and so he looks for escape one day at the country fair. Here he meets the lovely lady he calls Milady. They share a dance and a conversation before her guards hustle her off. Figuring he’d never see her again, Robbie returns to his farm and the animals who comfort him. Somehow he can understand what they say and can heal their injuries with his mind. Meanwhile, the lady he met returns to her home at the palace. She’s actually Crown Princess Samantha. Her father, the king, is ill and has been pressuring her to choose a consort. She rejects the fawning suitors who want nothing more from her than her royal status. As members of her court conspire to seize power, Robbie learns he has powers of his own that go beyond healing. Can he gain his strength in time to save Samantha from the noblemen plotting to kill her? This well-imagined story will grab your attention from the start and take you on an adventure filled with magic until the satisfying conclusion.

Undercity by Catherine Asaro (Science Fiction)
Beginning a new scifi detective series set in the Skolian Empire universe, Asaro introduces Major Bhaajan, a former military officer turned P.I. who returns to her home planet under assignment to rescue a missing prince. What she discovers goes beyond a kidnapping and reveals a conspiracy that shakes her world. Exquisite world building, strong characters and fast-paced action will have readers eagerly awaiting the sequel.

What is on your reading list for this summer?

 

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Amazon Reviews

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 22, 2015

According to some recent online posts, Amazon is changing the way it will be rating reviews.

“The new system will give more weight to newer reviews, reviews from verified Amazon purchasers and those that more customers vote up as being helpful.”

As an author, I find this promising. Recently I have revised three of my backlist titles. Some of those earlier reviews from the original books are less than stellar. I’d like to see new readers overwhelm the airwaves with positive raves about my revised and updated editions. And I certainly wouldn’t mind if Amazon removed some of those low-rated earlier posts that say my writing should have been better edited. Because those reviewers are right. My earlier editions did need more work, which I can only now see from the perspective of 15 years later.

Permed to Death, book one in my Bad Hair Day series, is a prime example. It’s full of exclamation marks and other new author mistakes. Open Road Media has put this title for sale at $1.99 this month only. This is great since it’ll attract new readers to my series. But I hope they keep in mind this is my first mystery and understand that my writing has steadily improved over the years. Some kind reviewers, who enjoyed the story, have remarked that it’s the first in the series and should be judged that way. Earlier reviewers haven’t been so accommodating. Hence my eagerness to produce revised and updated editions.

I need reviews for these new Author’s Editions so they can supersede the earlier ones. If you have read Hair Raiser, Murder by Manicure, or Body Wave in their revised formats, please post a customer review at Amazon, and also at Goodreads or BN if you go to those sites. These books are all on sale now for $3.99.

You can also go to an author’s book pages on Amazon and click on Has This Review Been Helpful to You? Click Yes if you feel it’s a decent review or No if it bashes the book and you don’t agree. Some low ratings may be justified but others are unusually cruel, like one star reviews that say, “This is the worst book I’ve ever read,” or “Author needs work” or “Painful to read.” Be fair. If you think the writeup applies, click yes. If not, click no. And is this true of newer editions? We’re not asking for all good reviews, only fair ones.

Please consider leaving a review for any of my new titles you pick up. Your post might encourage someone else to buy my book. And the more books that sell from the frontlist, the more the publisher will be inclined to acquire the sequel.

You count as a reader, now more than ever before in the publishing industry. Use your power to help your favorite authors.

Follow me on Amazon and find my books: http://amzn.to/1BYmuXE

More articles on the Amazon Update:

http://www.theverge.com/2015/6/20/8818621/amazon-reviews-system-changes

http://www.cnet.com/news/amazon-updates-customer-reviews-with-new-machine-learning-platform/

http://recode.net/2015/06/20/amazon-upgrades-its-review-software-keeps-banana-slicer-reviews-intact/

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Book Club Discussion Guide

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 27, 2015

Do you belong to a book club? Maybe you’ve always wanted to start one. But what do you discuss? Aside from determining the parameters for your group, you’ll need to figure out how analytical you care to get.

book club

Here are some questions to jumpstart your discussion. Adapt them for your own use.

When you put the book down, were you smiling or sad? Did you feel a sense of satisfaction? If you liked the story, what elements appealed to you—The setting? The writer’s style? The fast pace? The memorable characters? Things you learned from the story? The emotional depth? The real life issues? The escapist element into another world? The happy ending? Or the ambiguous finale?

If you didn’t like the book, why not? Did the characters not engage you on an emotional level? Was the pacing plodding? Not enough action? Inaccuracies in research? Long descriptive passages that put you to sleep? A setting you found distasteful? You couldn’t relate to the characters or concept? You don’t like the genre? Your friend or book group made you read it? Would you try a book by that author again?

Why did you buy this particular book? Do you feel the expense was worthwhile? What inspires you to buy any book? Is it the author? Book cover? Endorsements? Cover copy? It’s on the Bestseller List? Recommendations by friends? Do particular story elements or tropes appeal to you? Character archetypes? How much do you read to see if the story captures your interest?

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Story Elements

Characters
Do the characters seem real?
Can you identify with the hero/heroine?
If they’re not snagging your interest, why not?
Can you distinguish between different people in the story? What makes them distinctive?
Does the protagonist grow and change by the story’s end?
Are the characters memorable?

Setting
What is the novel’s setting?
Does it appeal to you? If so, why?
How does the author convey a sense of place?
Would you want to visit the location in the story?
Are there certain settings you avoid in a book?

Plot
Does the storyline develop logically?
Is the plot linear or wrought with twists and turns?
Are elements of mystery or suspense included? Are they important to you?
Is the pacing too slow, just right, or so intense you can’t put the book down?
Is there a balance between action, exposition, and dialogue?
Were you surprised or is the story predictable?
Is there a subplot? How is it related to the main plot?

Voice
Is the story in first person, third person, or multiple viewpoints? Which do you prefer?
What would you say is the protagonist’s attitude toward life?
Does a sense of humor shine through?
What makes this author’s voice unique?

Style
Is the writing didactic or breezy? Wordy or clear? Poetic or simple? Action and dialogue or lots of exposition? Do you prefer long passages or lots of white space and short chapters?

Theme
Can you identify a central theme? (i.e. sibling relationships, coming of age, father/son)
How does the theme relate to the story?
Does the theme have symbolic references?

Genre Specific Topics

Mystery:
Did you suspect the killer early in the story or were you guessing until the end? Was the killer’s motive plausible? Would you want to read more about this sleuth and his world? What makes this series unique and interesting?

Suspense: Were the characters realistic, or did they put themselves in jeopardy unnecessarily? Was the villain evil enough for a sense of dread to pervade the story? Were the stakes high enough? And was the resolution convincingly satisfying?

Romance: What’s the heat level of this book? Did the relationship develop in a believable manner, or did the love scenes seem gratuitous? Did you fall in love with the hero/heroine? Did the story contain an archetype that appealed to you (i.e. marriage of convenience, fish out of water, rags to riches)? Is it considered a classic romance with a happy ending?

Sci Fi/Fantasy: What kind of world did the author create? Is it believable? Is there enough detail to make you feel you’re there? What is at stake in the story? What does the hero risk losing if he fails in his mission? Would you want to revisit this universe?

What else would you add to this list for a book club to discuss?

Here I am speaking to a book club. I’m available locally or via Skype.

Book Club

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Save the Date! Hanging by a Hair Paperback Edition LAUNCH PARTY
https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty
Thursday, May 7, 2015, 6:30 – 8:00 pm EDT

 

 

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