Category Archives: 1st novel

C.J. Tudor — The Chalk Man

This thriller/murder mystery jumps between 2016 and 1986. In 2016, Ed Adams is a small town school teacher haunted by events from 30 years past. In 1986, Eddie and his group of 12-year-old friends’ lives were interrupted by a terrible accident at the fair, two unsolved murders, a suicide, and a beating that left a man in an almost vegetative state.

Eddie’s father always told him “Never assume, Eddie. Question everything. Always look beyond the obvious.” But the whole town has made assumptions about what happened in 1986. When bad things start happening again in 2016, people once more make assumptions.

The Chalk Man, Tudor’s first novel, has an intriguing plot, great characters (young, middle-aged, and old), a setting that makes you feel you are there, and twists and turns that keep you hooked.

Excellent writing!

Catherine Steadman — Something in the Water

This is a different book, but I like different. It starts at the end with protagonist Erin digging a grave to bury her husband. Then the story goes back to tell us how she got there. But the ending isn’t quite what it seems in that first chapter.

I enjoyed the progression of the events in Erin’s mind in this psychological thriller. She is a bright young upper middle class women getting married to the man she loves, creating a documentary, living what seems to be the almost perfect life. But she is also self-centered, naïve, greedy, and blind to the flaws of people she likes or loves. Although she worries too much at times and plans her steps to accomplish her goal, she doesn’t always look at the possibilities of what might happen as she proceeds.

To me the premise of this book is: “What would you do if you found an illegal treasure that appears to be untraceable?”

Erin irritated me at times, but I found her story intriguing. A good read, good first novel.

Anne Corlett — The Space Between the Stars

Humans have expanded throughout the galaxy before a virus wipes out nearly all the population on every planet. Jamie Allenby wakes up alone on a remote planet she escaped to when her marriage was failing and she wanted “some space.” Zero point zero zero zero one percent survival rate, she had heard before her planet fell to the virus. After three days alone she finds two other people. They are rescued by two others in a small spacecraft looking for fuel. Their little band of survivors gathers two more as they bounce from planet to planet toward Earth.

This is not hard science fiction. I would call it “literary” or maybe “psychological” — a study in human behavior. Jamie isn’t sure what she’s searching for, maybe home. The small group includes an ex-priest, a prostitute, an ex-scientist who believes God has caused the apocalypse in order to start over, a young man with autism, the spaceship captain, and his engineer.

Corlette, with her first novel, has written an intriguing story that covers many issues that are relevant today, in the past, or our future.

This one kept me awake until 3AM to finish it. I look forward to more from Anne Corlette.

Amy Gentry — Good as Gone

Thirteen-year-old Julie is abducted from her home in the middle of the night as her ten-year-old sister Jane looks on in fear from the closet. Eight years later, Julie shows up at her family’s door. That’s the beginning and the end of two stories. The current story moves forward through mother Anna’s eyes as she begins to doubt that the girl who appeared on her doorstep is her daughter. And the story of Julie moves backward through the eight years as Julie takes on one persona then another to the time when she left her home.

This thriller is about the two women and how they deal with tragedy. A mother who drinks and hides from life, ignoring the daughter and husband who are still with her, cannot except that the returning daughter is lying and might not be who she says. The daughter who does whatever it takes to survive—changing names and life stories as she moves from one situation to another— is always running, always lying to herself as well as others.

As a writer, I found the point of view (POV) in this novel interesting, The Prologue is the only place the author uses sister Jane’s POV—third person past. In Chapter 1 we jump to the mother Anna’s POV—first person present. When the story shifts to Julie and her various role’s POV it’s third person past, until the last part of the book where it’s Julie’s POV—first person past. It sounds confusing but it works.

The book grabbed my attention and held it to the end.

John Keyse-Walker — Sun, Sand, Murder

John Keyse-Walker was a speaker at the Gulf Coast Writers Association (of which I’m a member) in January. He talked about his route to publishing through winning the 2015 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America contest. Good speaker and contest winner—so I decided to read the book.

Aside from the Prologue, which was probably the suggestion of publisher or editor and almost kept me from continuing, the book was well written. The plot kept me guessing and the characters were delightful.

What captured my imagination was the setting and the people. I lived on a small cay in the Bahamas for a few years and have since visited several Caribbean islands. All have distinct personalities. But if you have ever spent time in the West Indies, you know there is a laid-back attitude—“island time.” It lingers in the air and the sunshine; it seeps into your bones and behavior. The author captured the atmosphere perfectly…I felt right at home in his story.

Teddy Creque is a special constable, a civilian position under the authority of the British Virgin Islands police, on the small, sparsely populated island of Amegada, where no crime has been committed in his twenty-plus years on the job. A research biologist who visited the island every winter is found murdered on the beach, and the BVI police commissioner assigns Teddy the job of notifying the family. But the murdered man was not who he appeared to be and Teddy becomes entangled in finding out who the biologist was and why he was killed.

I enjoyed every minute of this book, the story, the people, and most of all I loved the trip back into “island time.”

Jessica Chiarella — And Again

What would you do with a new perfect body? Four terminally ill people are part of a trial program for FDA approval. They are given new genetically perfect clones of themselves—no disease, baby smooth skin, perfect vision, no wrinkles or even freckles.

This sounds like science fiction, but I wouldn’t classify it as such. It’s the story of four people and how they adapt (or don’t adapt) to their new chance at life. How much of your identity lies in your physical body?

Talented artist Hannah’s new body lacks the ability to paint. Politician David fights bad habits from his old life. Beautiful actor Connie tries to reenter the business after five years away. Connie, completely paralyzed for ten years, tries to find her role in a family unit that doesn’t include her.

An excellent first novel.

Irene “Susie” Smith — Angel of Tears

Angel of Tears
This story of a young girl, Summer, growing up in Detroit is a rewrite of an earlier novel. There are some added details and an epilogue. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially Summer’s connection with her neighbor, an old albino woman.

Irene’s characters are believable and likeable (except those who are not so nice). Her story flows and keeps you reading to the end. Her descriptions of Detroit in the fifties takes you back to another time.

The author writes from the heart. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry.

Liz Kay — Monsters: A Love Story

I don’t read romance novels…or I should say, I usually don’t read romance novels. I’m not sure why I picked this one up to read. Look at the name; it’s obviously a romance. But that name was probably why I brought it home with me.

Why don’t I read romance? Mostly because I like surprises. Apparently romance readers like the stories because they know what to expect and they like happy endings. I like stories with twists and turns and surprise endings. I know some people swear that romance stories are not written to formula, but one thing you can count on is the happy ending. The stories may differ; the characters (heroine and hero in romance) may have different personalities in each one; the plots or subplots can be interesting. But to me the main story is heroine meets hero, heroine is attracted to hero and hero to heroine, conflict—conflict—conflict, heroine and hero end up together in the end. Oh yes, I mustn’t forget, both heroine and hero are supposed to grow and become better people by the end.

Monsters: A Love Story is a good read, even if it does follow the formula. Liz Kay writes interesting complex characters and the story is fun. Stacy Lane is a recently widowed mother of two boys and a poet who has published a novel-in-verse. Tommy DeMarco is an actor and movie producer who has read her book and loved it. He wants to turn it into a movie. The story bounces back and forth between calm, suburban Omaha and wild, partying Hollywood. Tommy is laid-back and has no boundaries. Stacey is nothing but boundaries.

I enjoyed the story, although I did get a bit aggravated towards the end with the two main characters not getting together. I guess that’s part of the romance genre. If you don’t approve of rough language, don’t read this book. (It doesn’t bother me.) You can decide if either Stacey or Tommy (or both) are the monsters.

Steven Rowley — Lily and the Octopus

If you like quirky stories and love dogs, you will enjoy this book. It is silly and sad, touches your heart, and makes you laugh.

Lilly is Ted Flask’s aging dachshund—his closest friend. He holds conversations with her. One day he sees an “octopus” on her head. Not facing reality, he tries to find ways to rid Lily of the octopus. He even talks to the creature attached to his dog’s head. At one point in the book, Ted goes off on a fantasy trip with Lily. They take a ship out into the ocean to defeat the enemy in his own territory.

This is Rowley’s first novel, and I hope not his last. He captures the emotions of his protagonist (and the reader).

Curtis C. Chen — Waypoint Kangaroo

Waypoint Kangaroo is a delightful, high-tech, SF thriller with lots of humor thrown in. Kangaroo is the code name for a spy who has the unique ability to open a “pocket” into an alternate universe where he can store all sorts of tools and toys and retrieve them later. Since he’s somewhat of a loose cannon, he has been ordered to go on vacation on a tourist ship to Mars so that he’ll be out of the way while the home office is audited.

Of course, he runs into trouble on his vacation.

The characters are fun and the plot is fast-paced and full of twists and turns. The author has a vivid imagination when it comes to the space ship, the techy stuff, and the weird “pocket.”

Chen wrote a captivating first novel. Try it. You might like it.