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annaerishkigal

Anna Erishkigal's blog

"I put my heroes through hell..."

If James Bond and Black Widow had a baby, the result would be super-spy Hildebrant Boone

The Bonus Pool (Boone's File Book 2) - Dale Amidei

I think this is the best InterLynk novel yet. Agent Boone had has become a nicely rounded character, with flaws and strengths, both of which play into this classic spy thriller. If James Bond and Black Widow were to have a baby, it would be Doctor Hildebrant Boone, slick, kick-butt, ruthless, flawed and vulnerable.

Like all of Dale Amidei's novels, the protagonist goes through a crisis of faith after the loss of her lover in the prior novel, but it's handled subtly in the form of Lin, a Chinese dissident Christian who Boone is assigned to smuggle out of the People's Republic of China and keep alive long enough to be offered asylum. In addition to new enemies, an old enemy crops up as well, now a hired gun, to prevent that from happening. No moustache-twirling villains here, you can feel Yameen's hatred, his motivation, his bloodlust and his greed. The plot twist with the hackers is absolutely brilliant. You'll never feel the same way about your banking transactions again.

This book has a hilarious episode at the end which I won't spoil, but let's just say, don't mess with Boone, and don't mess with her friends!

Fix that sorry, sagging middle of your novel

Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between - James Scott Bell

Middles are the bane of a writer's existence. At first the new blush and excitement of a story carries you along, but eventually you hit this point where you look at your plot outline and realize that everything you wrote is utter crap. Sure, maybe you've got some big reveal at the end (maybe even wrote it), but you read the middle and it's boring boring boring and, no matter how much you stare at it, it's always hard to figure out exactly what went wrong.

Writing from the Middle helps you examine the 'turning point' that will get you from that first blush of a new story to your epic ending and re-invigorate that sorry, sagging middle of your bridge. While a short book with a few extraneous tutorials at the end to make it worth the $2.99, if you've ever gotten bogged down in a dumpy middle, this book is what you need.

Another helpful writing guide

Emotion Amplifiers - Becca Puglisi, Angela Ackerman

Another helpful writing guide from Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. This dovetails nicely with The Emotion Thesaurus to include a nice little tutorial about ramping up the tension in your story, and then a few new emotive categories not included in the original books. I got this for free, but even if there was a small fee it would be worth it.

The Gift - Rhonda Hopkins, Jennifer L.  Oliver

Dad steps up to the plate...

 

I read this short story as part of a winter-themed box set. As a mom myself, I always wonder what would happen if I ever 'ran away from home' and left my husband to take care of the holiday hassle, the gift-shopping and the kids. Mom gets even! Well, when Robert Chalmers wife gets called away a few weeks for Christmas to care for her sick mother, all of a sudden Robert has to deal with just that, along with his cute daughter Amanda, though I thought Robert handled it a lot better than -my- husband would and Amanda was a lot better behaved. MOSTLY better behaved... At about 45 minutes to read, this story was just the right length to give me a nice little warm fuzzy feeling while waiting for my kids gymnastics lesson.

Wow! What a ride!

Romeo Down: A Short Story (Sean's File Book 2) - Dale Amidei

'Romeo Down' is one of those stories which starts the action right out of the starting gate and keeps your heart pounding until the very end. It's kinda like watching live coast guard rescues on the military DVIDS channel, raw and real and the stakes so high you'll find yourself rocking back and forth in your seat as you scroll your Nook to the next page. This is a novella depicting an incredibly realistic military rescue while under enemy fire, the action is both heroic and also believable, and you will feel like you are THERE.

No more talking bubble-heads!!!

She Sat He Stood: What Do Your Characters Do While They Talk? - Ginger Hanson

This is one of those short little 'solve the problem' writing skills book that delivers exactly what it promises. Your critique partner throws your manuscript back into your face scorning 'Bah! Talking bubble heads!' and this little book will help you figure out how to weave bodily action into your dialogue to make it seem more realistic.

Now I gave this book 5-stars because it goes beyond the usual 'go back and add body movement' advice by giving you a brief primer on the five senses (plus sixth-sense if you're writing fantasy) and the three styles of learning (audio, visual and kinesthetic) and then suggesting ways you can ADD those five senses and three styles of learning into your dialogue body movements and what people notice as they do all that moving around, and it teaches ways you can do this BEFORE you even write your scene so the bodily movements / senses come out in your first draft. There were a few places this book got a little cerebral, but I left with a definite checklist I'll be filling out beforehand to enhance my writing.

P.S. - Make sure you take advantage of the free handouts the author makes available on her website. They really are quit useful and you'll be using them again.

Great Christian Suspense / Political Thriller / Military Fiction

Killing Doctor Jon - Dale Amidei

Killing Doctor Jon is the third book in the Jon's trilogy which hooked me in with The Anvil of the Craftsman and kept me hooked through The Britteridge Heresy and now this book, Killing Doctor Jon.

 

There are two main heroes throughout this series. The first hero, Jon Anthony, is a professor of theology at a Christian university with an unusual view of the difficulties in the Middle East. In Anvil he ran amok of a megalomaniac while in Iraq, and then in Britteridge he had to fend off a death threat by the megalomaniac's brother that followed him onto American soil. In Killing, once again Jon is forced to defend his beliefs, but he has a bit more mojo (view spoiler) to carry out his unusual evangelical beliefs. I'm not usually into Christian fiction because I usually find it used as an excuse to hate The Other, but I enjoyed Jon Anthony's mission, even if I don't necessarily believe every single thing he did, because Jon had an expansive view of God's work (i.e., the Craftsman) as including all good men, including good Muslims.

 

The second hero is my favorite fictional characters, Daniel Sean Ritter aka Kameldorn, an Air Force special forces soldier. What can I say? Mmmm.. hot, hunky super-spooky special-forces hero? The author probably won't appreciate a reader lusting after his Christian romance hero a-la paranormal romance style, so I'll focus instead on how 'in' Ritter's head you'll feel as you are forced to leave behind your wife, head into hostile territory, and ... lots of spoilers here so I can't say more. All I can say is Ritter/Kameldorn rocks and I've already dove into Ritter's story in Operation Naji.

Now for the villains. I enjoy a well-rounded villain. It's hard to write about Muslim terrorists without devolving into a kind of petty Islam-bashing or making them come across as moustache-twirling caricatures, but I thought the author did a nice job of helping me get inside the bad guy's head and examine some of the 'wrongful thinking' that might be inspiring Al Qaida and ISIS types to do terrible things. And ... there was one character who didn't turn out to be what I thought he'd be (given books 1 & 2) and I really enjoyed that.

 

So ... excellent Christian suspense thriller with a nice military fiction twist. Already got Operation Naji loaded onto my e-reader.

Healing read for Domestic Violence survivors

Blue-Eyed Devil - Lisa Kleypas

I have mixed feelings about this book, so I will break it down what I liked and didn't like, and then you can make your own decisions as to whether it's a recommended read.

What I liked whenever Travis and Hardy were together, the story flowed. There was nice chemistry between these two, and the writing, and descriptive prose, and the supporting characters were all well done. That part, I give 4 stars.

What was 'meh' - this book delved deeply into the psyche of a battered woman. As somebody who works with battered women a lot in her 'day job' I have to say every bit of research the author did into how a narcisstic batterer lures in, and then slowly breaks down, the psyche of their love interest was accurate. If you are somebody who has teetered at the brink of being battered yourself, consider this a must read because you will see yourself in these pages. If this were a psychology or treatment textbook, or a case-study of a battered woman, it would be worthy of 5 stars. Why, then, do I consider this portion of the book to be only 2-star worthy?

The author is an exceptionally talented writer, but this portion of the book (almost half of it) was nearly 100% telling and no showing. This is a work of fiction, not a non-fiction treatise on the psyche of battered women, and at no time did I feel that I was walking in Travis's shoes. I don't know if this is because the author has never actually been in such a situation and therefore was unable to take that last step into hell to make us feel what Travis felt as she lived through it? Or if perhaps she has lived through it and still teeters at that point of healing all domestic violence victims reach where they can flatly state 'this happened to me' but are not yet ready to deal with those issues on an emotional level. Whatever the reason, although I felt sorry for Travis as she lived through these things, at no time was I ever able to completely empathize with her or get into her head.

Overall, as a work of fiction and a romance novel I am going to give this book 3 stars, but if you are yourself healing from a domestic violence situation, then consider this book a 5-star book because as a quasi-fiction DV case study it is likely just what you need to read to feel as though you are not alone.

3 Stars

Satisfying short story

Dead Lily Blooms (At Death's Gates) - Lizzie Starr

A vampiress who suddenly discovers there is more to existence than simply being immortal and powerful. And I can't say much more than that because it would create spoilers. :-) Story was just the right length for sitting on the sidelines during one of those kiddie sports lessons.

Tsar Wars - Stephen Goldin

I'm a sucker for a massive, galactic-spanning space opera that has everything but the kitchen sink in it (Star Wars anyone?), so when the tongue-in-cheek Tsar Wars came across my recommendation list, it was a given I'd snap it up.

 

I enjoyed this book far more than perhaps I should have. Galactic empires, political back-stabbing, genetically engineered secret agents, a princess-in-peril, and ... circus performers? Including a cameo with some otherworldly jaguar-like antagonists? Oooh! Yeah. This book hit a sweet spot that ain't been hit since Princess Leah kissed Luke Skywalker just before swinging across that yawning chasm and said 'good luck!'

 

Since when did it become not okay to just plain have FUN reading a book? With a happy ending? Why has everything become about some dark, tortured anti-hero? Can't heroes just be heroic because it's the right thing to do? If you enjoyed the light-hearted feel of the first three Star Wars movies (IV-VI)and lamented the loss of both characterization and feel-goodedness (is that even a word?) from the latter three prequels (I-III), then you'll enjoy this book immensely.

 

And oh, goody ... there are several more books in this series....

 

5 lightly-leaping space-faring circus tigers

Have you ever loved somebody from afar?

Bite & Release - Cory Cyr

I really enjoyed this book and I have the bags under my eyes to prove it :-) This story grabbed me from the tatooed man on the front cover and kept me reading until the book was finished.

Was it perfect? At some point the plot twists got a little implausible (in a sensationalistic kind of way), but that part was thankfully brief. The heroine was -too- bitchy at the beginning, but after a while she toned down and I started to like her.

And as for Shea? Oh, Shea... :-)

4 Brazen Bite Marks!

Disturbing look at what happens when death in war becomes meaningless

The Eternity Brigade - Stephen Goldin

I originally read this book back when I was in high school, not so long after the Vietnam war that people still questioned why wars were even being fought. Even back then this story stuck with me, and was my first real introduction to the sub-genre of military science fiction. What happens when killing doesn't matter, death doesn't matter, all that matters is to complete the mission, with no understanding of WHY you are fighting the war or killing the guy in the blue armband, only to be put to sleep when it's all said and done and woken up when the next war rolls around to kill again.

Now, upon re-reading the updated edition in 2014, it strikes me how well this book brings you into the psyche of a 'career soldier' caught in this hellish merry-go-round as he is resurrected to fight in wars again and again. It was disturbing when I read this story back in the early 1980's, and it's even MORE disturbing now as we are not yet extricated from Afghanistan (which at least STARTED with a purpose) and Iraq (which is like ... WTF???) and already there are hawkish clamorings to 'help' Ukraine or 'help' Syria. War is dehumanizing, and while some wars can't be avoided, this book highlights that soldiers are not some fungible commodity to be shuffled form war to war.

Great read! 5-stars.

Solid Villain-Builder

Writing About Villains - Rayne Hall

Bought this a while ago and am only now getting around to reviewing it.  This is an excellent step-by-step 'how to build your villain' book.  It is long on pragmatic advice and writing prompts, short on boring blather, and should help pry the most recalcitrant villain out of your noggin and make him a worthy, three-dimensional adversary for your hero.  I dusted it off and used some of the examples recently as a 'how to' guide for my writer's group and the writing exercises were all very helpful in a large-group setting as well as the individual one.

How to sneak good stuff into your story.

Writing Subtext: How to craft subtext that develops characters, boosts suspense, and reinforces theme (Elizabeth Lyon on writing craft) - Elizabeth Lyon

 This is a brief how-to tutorial (around 46 pages) on how to identify places where you can eliminate spelling something out and use a variety of clever ways to let the reader infer the information using a variety of methods. Subtext is a difficult subject to grasp. This book is a quick guide for when you reach that stage in your editing and want to give it a go-through to see if you can be a little more subtle. I liked this book that I went and bought another of Ms. Lyon's writing books.

A concise 'how to' book

Tension on the Line: The Secret to Hooking Readers - Angela Hunt

This is a concise 'how to' book to help you spot places your story might be dragging due to too much irrelevant information or backstory.  It starts out with a 'bad' example and then, step by step, shows you how to excise the irrelevant backstory along with a few other writing habits. It then goes on to show you how to use things such as strategic chapter breaks and dialog to increase tension. This book is short (real short ... only 42 pages).  In that 42 pages, it helps you get right in and fix a problem.  Make sure you understand this book is short-and-sweet when you buy it.  I bought the paperback version of this to keep on-hand.  I have since bought several more books in this 'Writing Lessons From The Front' series as they're just handy to grab as a refresher without searching through hundreds of pages of text.

Non-stop action!

Waning Moon - PJ Sharon

Lily Charmichael is a girl with a gift, one which an overbearing government agency known as The Industry wants to get their hands on. The book starts out in a rural town which refuses to come under Industry control, where Lily crosses paths with Will, a young man who has more going on than she is aware of. A trip into the city results in betrayal, a risky escape, and a journey through some unlikely resistance.

Can't say much more than that without giving spoilers, but I enjoyed this book and have already picked up the next one in the set.

4.5 Healing Stars