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

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Posts Tagged ‘reading’

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?

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Looking for a Good Book

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 5, 2013

Recently I read through a bunch of novels to judge for the RITA contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America. Out of the 7 books sent me, I truly liked only one. That’s not to say I didn’t attempt to be fair and to objectively evaluate the others according to the supplied criteria. But only one out of the seven books appealed to my taste as a reader.

This exercise made me realize what I like about my favorite genres, and also what factors I don’t like that will make me put aside a book.

DISLIKES

No plot: In many of these romances, the romance portion was beautifully done but not much else happened. Reading page after page of angst and relationship problems quickly lost my interest. Now keep in mind that my cup of tea may be your cup of coffee. You may be an avid fan of contemporary romance and love these types of stories. I am not.

I like adventure, danger, and intrigue along with my romance. Or at the very least, I like something to be happening other than the emotional rollercoaster of the main couple. My taste runs to historicals, scifi/fantasy, and paranormals. That’s why romance can delight everyone. Different subgenres broaden the appeal.

Of course, the opposite problem can also be a deterrent: too much plot and not enough emotion. Haven’t you read stories where you don’t get a feel for the people? The action keeps moving along but you want more reaction? Balance is the key.

Graphic Language: Erotica may be a hot selling genre, but I don’t get off on the f-word or other graphically depicted details. You don’t even need a plot when these people are in bed for most of story. Or they’re thinking of doing it. Where’s the falling in love when two people are hot to trot right from the start? I’d be happier with a Jane Austen novel.

Contemporary Settings: I like to escape reality when I read, hence I prefer historical romance or futuristic/scifi/fantasy settings, or a contemporary setting with a paranormal element. My reading pleasure is focused on escape and entertainment, not enlightenment on heavy issues or a rehash of societal woes. All stories reflect on society in some manner. I prefer my tales Star Trek style, i.e. in disguised parallels to humanity’s foibles. As for location, Texas doesn’t draw me in although it seems to be a favorite among readers.

Unlikeable Characters: If the people are too far out from what’s normal for me, too eclectic or weird or damaged or tortured, I am apt to not be engaged. I want people I can admire and aspire to be like, not whom are unpleasant so that I can’t wait for the story to end.

So if these were the main things I disliked, what do I look for in a story? You may ask yourself the same thing. What draws you to a certain type of writing? A certain genre or a time period?

LIKES

Out of Time/Place/Experience: As I said above, I like to escape the toils of daily living, and so historical settings or futuristic/fantasy stories appeal to me. Ditto these elements or a paranormal angle in a modern setting.

Humor: I’m a sucker for humor. In any kind of story, if you make me smile, I’m more likely to keep reading.

Strong Plot: I want something to matter other than the relationship. Let the main couple race to find an artifact, missing sister, stolen chalice, spear of Atlantis, or anything that adds suspense. Throw them into situations that make me turn the page.

Archetypes: While I’m not fond of reunion stories, I do like hidden identity, royalty, rags to riches, and certain other archetypes. Some of these turn me off, like cowboys. What about you?

Mystery: A smidgen of mystery, even about a character’s background, adds tension. If you know everything up front and the characters like each other right away, where’s the story going?

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Now that I’ve finished the books I had to read, I can’t wait to dive into my TBR pile. Adventure, romance, fantasy, mystery, scifi—here I come.

So what kind of stories do you gravitate toward and which types do you generally avoid? How much will you read before you put a book down?

Posted in Florida Musings, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 15 Comments »

What Readers Want

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 13, 2013

Florida Romance Writers was lucky to have Columnist Barbara Vey from Publishers Weekly speak to us about What Readers Want. Basically, they want authors to be polite and respectful toward them. They want their expectations to be met. And they want to know if you’ve reissued a book they might already have.

Barbara Vey (800x600)

Readers may be disappointed if an author breaks her promise to readers. For example, the reader expects a certain type of reading experience, and the author takes a favorite series in another direction. This might sour the reader toward buying any more books in this series.

Readers may not like it when an author switches genres and the reader is expecting the same type of book as before. Either use a pseudonym or indicate by the cover that this is a different genre.

Readers aren’t happy when they buy a book only to find they already have it on their shelves, because it’s a reissue. Have it say so somewhere on the cover or inside the front pages.

Readers blame the author for anything and everything: bad covers, bad editing, etc. They don’t understand that publishers may be at fault. All they know are authors.

Readers hold authors in high regard and expect courtesy and respect in return.

Avoid politics online (and religion) or you’ll risk alienating your fans.

Readers who post reviews shouldn’t give away significant plot points.

To gain reader interest, Barbara advises authors to interact online with readers, put out questions, chat as though with a friend, and be yourself.

Readers, what would you add?

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I was pleased to receive Member of the Month award from FRW. Here’s a photo of me with FRW president Rose Lawson, and another one of FRW Board members Heidi Lynn Anderson, Rose Lawson, and Lisa Manuel with lifetime achievement award winners Linda Conrad, Heather Graham, and Joan Hammond.

Nan Award2013     FRW BoardJan13 (800x600)
We went to lunch afterward at the Field, an Irish pub. Here I am with Barbara Vey. And that’s the rest of the gang!

Nan Barbara Vey   FRWLunch Jan2013

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Movies vs Books

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 18, 2011

Do you prefer to watch a movie first and then read the book, or vice versa?

I’ve done it both ways. Here are some movies I’ve watched that have spurred me to get the book: City of Ember, Legend of the Seeker, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and the Alex Rider teen spy series, beginning with Operation: Stormbreaker. Even my husband has enjoyed these books, most of which are YA novels.

City of EmberCity of Ember book

Legend of the Seeker, on the other hand, is based on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth epic fantasy series (see Wizard’s First Rule to get started). After seeing this show on TV, I was delighted to learn there were twelve books waiting for my reading pleasure. It didn’t matter that Disney altered the storyline to suit their audience. Both were equally enjoyable in their own right. Terry Goodkind is about to release a new book about his beloved characters. I can’t wait to read it.

Legend of the SeekerWizard's First Rule

Now we’ve discovered I Am Number Four after renting the DVD. This is book one in a proposed series, and a movie sequel is already planned. I recognized the hero of this film as being the same actor who played the lead in Alex Rider. Coincidence, huh?

Alex RiderNumber Four

Harry Potter stimulated me in the opposite direction. I read all the books, then devoured the films. I’d say the same for Jane Austen movies. I love those classic romances. Who hasn’t watched Pride and Prejudice multiple times? Ditto for films based on Charles Dickens titles. And another remake of The Three Musketeers will soon appear on screen.

There’s one novel I am not rushing out to read, and that’s the one based on Castle, the witty TV show starring Nathan Fillion as a bestselling mystery writer. I can pass on the book supposedly written by his character because I’m not fond of movie or TV tie-in stories. I’d rather read original works by an author, where the world building originates in his imagination. Thus I’m willing to read books after watching a film based on the work, but I won’t run out to buy a book solely derived from the movie.

What about you? Do movies excite you to read the original book, or would you rather read the book first and then watch the film?

Posted in Florida Musings, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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