Monday, July 29, 2013

Who Are You? Who Who, Who Who?

If you've been on Social Media for a while, you have profiles ALL OVER the place.

Or, if you're like me, you have half-finished Social Media profiles all over the place.

So, Who Cares?

Possibly, nobody. If you are on Social Media just to piddle around, if you are not looking to establish yourself as a brand (author, blogger, book reviewer, essayist, musician), then it really doesn't matter.

If you are looking to establish yourself as a brand, if you want people to remember your name, even if it'll be a year or three before there's even a glimmer of a book appearing, then you want:
  • Consistent Message
  • Consistent Image
  • Links and easy ways for people to find your website, blog, book reviews, tweets.
If you are looking to establish a pen name, then that's what you should use.

My last name is difficult for people to remember and spell, and though I do use it (for now), I may eventually choose a different last name for writing. Or, not. So my handle for a lot of things is easy to remember: writerbeverly. That's me at Twitter, on my FaceBook fanpage, at Pinterest, and in many other places.

Always use your name, in some permutation if possible. quirkygirl sounds cute, for example, but who will connect that with Xaviera Holliday? (I'm making those names up; apologies if either belongs to you). Obviously, sometimes it won't be possible to "get" your name: if your name is James Brown or Ellen DeGeneres, it just might already be taken. But avoid being cutesy or locking yourself in to one book or blogtype.

Anyway, one of my bits of Social Media housekeeping was to straighten up my profiles. Making sure I used the same photo (hence I needed to get a new headshot - thanks to all of you for weighing on on that!) and language and links in each of them.

The Impossible Dream

If you are tearing your hair out over trying to cram your entire life into 140 characters or less - give it up. Just like your photo, your bio can only be a tiny thumbnail, and there will be things left out.

I decided to go with a very brief sketch of my writing & reading, plus some (not all) organizations I belong to.

Here's my Intense Debate profile.

Here's my Gravatar profile, that integrates with and lets me interact with WordPress sites, even though I don't have a WordPress blog.

Here's Disqus.

Why Have A Profile Everywhere?

Obviously, you don't have to have a profile (and links) everywhere. But one thing I have found out so far about Social Media, is people don't tend to use ALL of it, all the time. They tend to use one or two of their favorites: FaceBook, Twitter, WordPress blogs, Blogger blogs.

You don't have to (and can't unless you give up eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom) be equally active on all Social Media platforms. But what you can do is have a updated profile on each one, so that when you pop into it, and leave a comment, or whatever, if someone wants to Follow you back and find you, they don't have to do too much work.  Otherwise, you are forfeiting almost all potential fans/followers from that platform. Let's face it, only Nancy Drew really enjoys playing detective.

Other sites you might have - or want - a profile:
  • G+
  • Pinterest
  • Livefyre
  • Huffington Post
  • GoodReads
  • Amazon
  • Bloglovin'
  • Feedly - If there is a place to put or update a profile, I couldn't find it.
Once you make the list of all places you have a Social Media presence, and decide on what you want your profile to be, it only takes 30 minutes- 1 hour, tops, to quickly update all of them. Copy-and-Paste is awesome. This could be something you do/check twice a year, when resetting the clocks for Daylight Savings and you check your smoke detector batteries.

The Tweet's the thing

For Twitter, for good or ill, I have decided to more frequently update my profile than I do my other platforms. Part of what I consider when I Follow someone on Twitter is her/his profile and Tweetstream. If the profile is: "Author of The Best Book in the World, coming out in December 2011!" and the bulk of the Tweetstream is: "Buy the Best Book in the World, available now! I generally don't Follow that person."

Twitter turn-offs: Automatic messages. When I Follow somebody and get an automatic message that says, "I'm so glad we've connected, now visit my website/FaceBook page," I almost always UNFollow. When the auto message is, "BUY MY BOOK" I *do* UnFollow.

At the very least, make sure your Twitter profile is not promoting as "upcoming" a book that was released two years ago.

What about LinkedIn?

Ye-ah, LinkedIn... kind of depends on what your day job is. Mine is with an accounting firm, and my profile there goes along with that line of work. While I do mention my writing life in passing, it's not my day job, nor do I (mostly) want to promote my blog on LinkedIn. (Considering that I blog about Sluts and vibrators and all that. Not that financial industry professionals can't have a keen interest in such subjects.) I have yet to hear about anybody really "working" a blog or book following using LinkedIn as their primary source, but perhaps I'm not listening hard enough. If you have or know of a different experiences, please share in the comments.

If writing/blogging is your day job, by all means have your LinkedIn profile reflect that.

HTML Happiness

I never thought I would learn anything about HTML (Hyper Tex Markup Language); frankly, I didn't want to learn. But there's one little bit all bloggers need to know, and that's the HTML to Open This Link in a New Window.

What this means: Links within the body of your text to other sites are great, but not if, when the reader clicks on them, they shoot straight to that link and away from our pages. People have different reading styles. The methodical types will attentively read the entire post or an article all the way through, and then read it again, only then clicking on links they deem interesting.

The less focused types will read once and want to click on any interesting links as they are skimming the text. For readers who do this (I'm one of them), unless the link opens in a new window, they may not find their way back to our pages and finish reading our posts, never mind leaving a comment.

In Blogger (and probably in WordPress) you can set the default when adding links to Open This Link in a New Window, or you can easily check and correct from the Compose window.

But you can also look at it in the HTML window, and what a link should look like is this (without all the colors):
<a href="" target="_blank">Writing in Flow</a>
On screen to a reader, it appears like this: Writing in Flow.

This part: "" is the link.
This part: Writing in Flow is the text that will appear on the page when someone is reading.
This part :  <a href=something > something </a> is the code that says here's a link, and here's what should appear on the page.

This part: target="_blank" that appears after the link info, before the > and the text info, is the code that signals Open Link in a New Window.

Eyes crossed yet?

And here now, something related to both identity, and HTML (because HTML always makes me swear) for your audio pleasure, The Who.

What SM platforms did I miss mentioning?
Got more tips for writing a brief profile?
Please share in the comments (and always put your blog addy in for CommentLuv!).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dear Author... Are You Smoking Crack? On #GoodReads & #bookreviews

When it comes to GoodReads, I'm easy. (Okay, I'm easy about more than GoodReads, but that's another post.)

via Pinterest
If somebody says, Be My Friend on GoodReads, I generally say yes. Love books, love discussing reading, let's you & me have us a gloriously passionate literary affair. <insert kissy-face noises here>

So earlier this week, I get a GoodReads Friend request.

I accept.

I note, in passing, that this person has collected quite a few friends, but only listed 22 books. So, okay, maybe he's a GoodReads newbie - we all gotta start somewhere, right?

Besides, judging by his posted picture, he's kind of cute.

(Yes, I'm more vulnerable to attractive men. Don't judge.)

Not six hours later, I get this message:

Thanks for adding me. If you get time, I would be honored if you check out my book. I'm a brand new author with no reviews yet. =)
No shit, Sherlock, you got no reviews yet. The info on your books says it was self-published by you, like, yesterday.

You also joined GoodReads, just a few months prior, and prolly friended as many people as would accept you and composed this polite, slightly pitiful message to try to guilt your new Friends into reading and reviewing your book.

You are not even offering free review copies.  *eyeroll*

Clearly, This Newbie Author does Not Understand How Social Media Works.

It's like walking directly up to a woman (or man) in a bar and asking them to come give you a blow job in an alley without offering to buy 'em a drink first.

Or even saying hello. Chatting about something, anything. "How about those <insert sport teams of your choice, here>?" "Hot enough for you?"  "Come here often?"

You and I, Dear Author, have no relationship yet. None, zero, zippo.

For all I know, your book might have Serious Cooties.  As a reader, and especially as a reviewer, I have many, many other choices. Why do I want to be involved with you?

Social Media is about establishing relationships, not advertising at people.

This is where Traditional Publishing has an Advantage over Self-Publishing.

You, the author, probably have zero relationship with 99.9999% of the book-buying public. But your publisher has sales reps and bookstores that trust the general saleability of their merchandise. Even if they have to take a book that howls like a dog from time to time, your publisher throws in enough cash cows to make it worthwhile.

It's like they've already bought rounds for the house.

A book traditionally published will be in trade magazines, will get out to reputable magazines and bloggers that do book reviews. There will be giveaways, promotions, possibly even book readings and signings (although more and more, authors take on quite a bit of the promotion themselves).

If you are a self-pubbed author who has not yet interacted on GoodReads, on Twitter, or in the blogosphere... you'd best prepare yourself to start buying drinks.

Well drinks, with the premium liquor.

I "Get" The Whole Mad Thrill of Finishing a Book

via Jody Hedlund
I do. It is awesome, like fabulous sex, except you feel free to brag about it to your grandma and the cashier in the grocery store. It is exhilarating and intoxicating and sparkly delicious. (I should let/make myself experience the "finishing a book" feeling more often.) So many, many people give lip service to the dream of, "I should write a book someday," so few actually follow through and do it.

You should be proud.  Anybody who finishes a book should be proud of that accomplishment.

And when I finish a book, I know my baby is beautiful, pristine, flawless.

I know that the minute I put it out there, she's going to be the Next Big Thing.

And then I take a step back - a few steps back - and do my best to take off the beer goggles.

If you have experience, or an agent, or good critique partners, or an excellent editor, you will realize - I have realized - that your just-completed manuscript is not all that and a bag of chips.

But some authors are afflicted with Premature Publish Syndrome. 

The numerous rejections they get from agents and publishers are taken as a sign of their incredible genius - wasn't Harry Potter rejected numerous times? They decide to self-publish, letting those foolish agents and publisher eat crow when they are confronted by the wads of cash this book will make.

While I felt crushed and heartbroken by all the rejections I got on early novels, I know now... I was not ready for Prime Time. I feel like I am close, now... but am no longer in such a rush.

I know I will get there, when the time is right. And I am grateful my early efforts aren't "out there," because it would be as embarrassing as putting my middle school paintings up next to a Van Gogh.

That author will probably get some reviews. 

Because many women (and men) cannot say, "No," to a direct request.

And he's semi-cute.

So possibly he will even get some favorable reviews, from people who want to be nice. Hell, I want to be nice. I even cued up a sample chapter on my Kindle, before realizing I would rather spend what little time I have for reading, on work I might enjoy.

But by the blurb itself - you know, that bazillion-times polished gem we put out there to sell our books - I could tell this author is Not Ready for Prime Time.

I've read some terrific blurbs... and then gone on to be horribly disappointed in the work itself. I have never read a poorly written blurb and gone on to be delighted by a book.  And his blurb... was one of the worst I have ever read. Because I am nice, I am not quoting it here.

I could read the book, or the first chapter, but why? It's like expecting a guy who can't kiss to be scream-worthy at oral sex. Sure, it's within the realm of possibility, just like winning the lottery, but what's the likelihood?

The Ratings Racket

via digitalart
at FreeDigitalPhotos
Also? Don't rate your own book as five stars. Obviously you think it's perfect, or you wouldn't have put it out there. Don't rate your own book at all. I always think a little less of an author who rates his/her own book, especially a self-pubbed one. (That said, I did review and rate the anthology I've got a story in, with a disclaimer, because I wanted to give a shout-out to the other authors.) 

Some writers are mature enough to welcome unfavorable ratings and reviews. Let's face it, a book with six five-star reviews looks like only your mother and your besties have reviewed it. Many readers will skip right past the five-star reviews and look for the four-star and lower reviews, as more likely to be honest and not all fan-girly. Controversy over your book - lots of 4/5 star ratings and lots of 1/2 star ratings - can drive sales higher, as many readers will read it for themselves.

As a sidenote, if/when you do get critical reviews or ratings as an author, DO NOT argue, comment, or email the reviewer. (See train wreck, here.) Accept the fact that not every reader will like every book. Millions thought Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was one of the best things since sliced bagels - *I* couldn't get past page 75.

When the stinging wears off, examine honestly if there is merit to the criticism, and do better on your next book. Be aware that some book reviewers report being creeped out by any author attention to their reviews, even a thank you. (I'm not one of them, you can thank me if you like.)  A "Like" to the review is probably as far as you should go. Some reviewers may appreciate your thanks, other reviewers will never, ever, review another book by you.

I Feel Bad for that Author - and a Little Bit Pissed Off, at the Same Time.

He may well come out of this with his dream crushed, with his heart broken. I don't want to see anyone hurt or disappointed.

But at the same time, this author has not done his due diligence or his homework. He feels arrogant to me, and he's not the only one out there with this kind of attitude. I have been working very hard at many aspects of the craft for a couple of decades now. Writing in general, character development, plot, editing, creating a web presence, building support networks, reading agent and publisher blogs and Tweets about what is and isn't good writing, doing workshops, gathering a Twitter family, posting reviews on GoodReads... 

This guy really thinks he's going to self-pub a crappy book and the world will immediately fall at his feet?

Have you been advertised at?
Have a Social Media nightmare to share?
Am I simply being bitchy? Your thoughts?

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kinky Drinks & Grown-Up Toys #NSFW

If you're going to have a Passion Party, what better way to start than to get Kinky?

WARNING: Some photos are NSFW. Please also skip this post if you are:

  • Under 18 years old. 
  • Under legal drinking age for your state/country.
  • Totally uptight about drinking and sexplay, and determined to stay that way.

Kinky is a yummy vodka fusion liqueur including mango, blood orange, and passion fruit juices. (There's also a blue version which I have yet to try.)

I did not host the party, but I did bring the fixin's and made these extremely simple yet tasty cocktails:
  1. Rim the glasses with lime flavored cocktail sugar. Note: It did a really crappy job sticking to the plastic cups.
  2. Add ice to each glass.
  3. Add about 1/3 Kinky Liqueur (measuring is for wimps!)
  4. Fill to top with Cactus Cooler (orange-pineapple soda) or Seven-Up.
  5. Garnish with the little cocktail parasols (you know you want to) and colored napkins.


There were also delicious snacks provided by the hostess with the mostest, Who Shall Not Be Named, and contributed by the other attendees, Who Also Shall Not Be Named. But it was loads of fun and it cracked me up, the intense competition for the title of Biggest Ho.

Once we were fed and drunken, the fabulous Hillary Lozano, Passion Parties Exec Director from the OC, started off us easy, with enticing-scented lotions and scrubs, edible concoctions, like Nibblers that plump up your lips or nips, and taste good, pheromones, and lube.

All Lubes Are Not Created Equal

While alcohol can be a very effective lubricant in terms of breaking down inhibitions (most of us have worn Beer Goggles at one time or another), alcohol isn't so friendly when it comes to sensitive tissues and Accessories that touch sensitive tissues. So whenever possible, avoid using personal lubricants that contain high levels of alcohol.

It's also important, when choosing flavored lubes and panties, etc., to beware of sugar and high fructose anything that'll be introduced into the vagina. Else you may later need to introduce yeast infection cures into the same vagina.

This Is Not Your Grandmother's Vibrator

If you're like me, your first (and possibly only) vibrator was about 9-11" long, made of hard plastic, cream or chocolate colored, extremely noisy, and not particularly lifelike.

Besides the possible embarrassment of having Old Faithful put on display at a family dinner, there was always the issue of the batteries crapping out just when you needed them most .

On the plus side, back in the day when those were the go-to vibrators, there were probably also flashlights around you could cannibalize to get you through the night.

I believe Old Faithful is still around, but there are many, many more choices. Even for somebody like me who writes erotic fiction, it is kind of mind-blowing to see them all laid out on a coffee table.

Ready to #GetLeid?

But that's one advantage to being a guest at a Passion Party; in an an adults only shop you might feel self-conscious staring "too long" at various items, or asking "dumb" questions. There were no dumb questions, and Hillary offered many important tips like staying away from phthalates, which many sex products used to include (some still do).

Being able to touch and feel the toys (above the waist only, ladies!), as they were vibrating and rotating and flashing away was another bonus.

Yes, I said flashing.

One in particular, a hot pink pickle-looking thing with a round handle had built in flashing LED's that reminded me of blinking construction signs:
Up Ahead

Well, some people (*cough* *men* *cough*) do need but resist getting directions.

200 px
200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There was another fascinating gizmo I dubbed the Buzz Lightyear, though its official name was OMG (Oh My Gosh). It was clear and translucent turquoise (exactly matched my shirt, as someone kindly pointed out) with deeper blue accents  Eight levels of rotation, eight speeds of vibration. Rotating internal beads and lights and built-in thingamajiggies to simultaneously stimulate a woman front, back, and center.

To Orgasm, and Beyond!

Seriously, I could so see an offspring getting hold of that thing and re-enacting the Parenthood scene, only with a "Can I play with this toy, Mommy?"

There were friendly toys, like the Sili Rabbit (oh, the twitching ears, so cute!), and things shaped very much like penises (penii?) and eggs and gadgets with remote controls and things that were (kind of) C-shaped, almost like deformed dentures.

I ordered one of those, a We Vibe 3 after being assured it could be used for both solo and couple play. Plus it has a remote control!

And it came as part of the Summer Greetings package, with a selection of lube and magic potions to "enhance pleasure" for both partners.

One of the things I really like about these products is they don't contain dyes or fragrances.

Make It Last

Hillary also shared that while yes, adult playthings do need regular washing, this should NOT be done with alcohol or antibacterial soap (which contains a lot of alcohol), but regular soap and water in most cases.  Many toys will last longer if cleaned with certain products (which Passion Parties conveniently sell).

Always check the specific care instructions that come with any product (for intimate play or not). If it says don't use on freshly shaved skin, or that it's not fully immersible, or whatever, don't do that thing.

It's All Research, I Tell Ya

Because these parties are so popular, you may want to have one or more of your fictional characters attend or host one.  You probably need to attend one in person, yourself, because it's very important to get the details right. <wink wink> Or your character may have her (or his) own "Parenthood" moment with a personal plaything revealing itself at an awkward time.

Of course, I've already blogged about the benefits of masturbation, for both singles and those in a relationship. Which is another thing you might want to include in your fiction. Or your life.

One last thing... I was much impressed with the knowledge and fun style presented by Hillary, as well as the delivery time.  Ordered Saturday afternoon, delivered Tuesday afternoon.Talk about wham-bang-thank-you-ma'am!

Gotta go, I need to go do some more... research.

Do you have a Kinky cocktail recipe?
Another good cocktail for a Passion Party?
Have you ever attended this kind of party - what did you think?

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Thrill Me, Chill Me, Just Don't Kill Me

If I was left in a locked room with a murder mystery and nothing else to read for the rest of my life, I'd probably do myself in. I've never been much for thrillers or romantic suspense, either. Maybe it's function of having led a dramatic life.  When I escape into a book, I don't need or want more of the same.

Or, not, since I've had (still have) great sex, and still enjoy reading about that. <insert naughty smile here.> Perhaps it's just a matter of personal taste.

Still, I used to watch Scooby Doo for endless hours, and eventually I figured out the villain is almost always going to be the friendly caretaker, or the maid, or... somebody we've met, and would never, ever, suspect.

But I'm trying not to be a book snob, and lately I've read quite a few, and some true crime as well. Some because they were written by friends and some because I got 'em for free last year at the RWA National Conference and some because I was following the herd or intrigued by the headlines.

Here now my reviews:

COLLATERAL CASUALTIES, A Kate Huntington Mystery (#5)COLLATERAL CASUALTIES, A Kate Huntington Mystery by Kassandra Lamb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars. I won a free copy of this book, and was asked (not required) to give an honest review, if possible. I was inclined to gag, as I don't LIKE murder mysteries, and most thrillers leave me less than thrilled.

I really enjoyed this book, the first I've read by Kassandra Lamb. The set-up was believable, the action fast-paced, the actions of Dr. Kate and her P.I. spouse and inner circle believable. There were love scenes between Kate & Skip, but the "heat level" was mild/spicy, rather than extremely steamy. If those scenes are what you're looking for, you may be disappointed, but I thought this story worked great without them.

I got bogged down a bit in the middle; there were so many people helping and guarding and taking on a contributory role it was hard for me to tell who was on first base. Kate herself seemed to fade into the background, the only action she took - cleaning. (Ugh!) In fact, I would say that the real heroine in this book (character role that would get the most screen time, if this was a movie) was probably Rose - but I liked Rose, so that wasn't an issue for me.

I did figure out early on who the baddie must logically be (another reason I generally don't like this genre much), but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. Despite being the fifth book in the series, it worked well as a stand alone, a sign of good writing. I'll definitely read more by this author.

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love snark and sarcasm, but not, I discovered, for 300+ pages, in first person.

Or maybe it's just that I don't personally care for mystery, as an adult. I can always see The Big Reveal coming from miles away, and this book was no different, though I wanted it to be.

The writing is excellent, and oh-so-clever, but it felt like too much. Like a hot-dog-eating contest - how much can we cram in here?

YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). For me, while I mostly enjoyed it, I have zero interest in reading the rest of the series.

Into the DarkInto the Dark by Stacy Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not the kind of book I usually like. However, I found myself turning page after page, and burned through it in one weekend.

Mostly, I liked the heroine, Emilie. I didn't feel the romance between her and Nathan heated up fast enough, and then it went a little too fast for my taste. Also, the villain (The Taker) was borderline more interesting than either Emilie or Nathan.

The stories and visual (and olfactory) tour of the tunnels of Las Vegas were fascinating. Given the title, and the heroine's fear of the dark, I would have preferred for the climactic scenes to end there. Even so, it moved well, ended well, and I will definitely be reading more by this author.

Caught in the ActCaught in the Act by Jill Sorenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

Kari Strauss is a good girl doing bad things for good reasons. She smuggles a young Mexican woman, Maria, across the border. She agrees to smuggle drugs, in an attempt to rescue her drug addict sister from the clutches of the bad guys.

Border Patrol Officer Adam Cortez is a good guy, as well. He suspects Kari of being up to no good, and tells himself that’s why he’s keeping an eye on her. These two are on opposite sides of the law, if not opposite sides of the sheets..

What I really liked about this book:
• The explicitly steamy romance between both the A couple, Kari and Adam, and the more tender romance between Maria and Ian.
• The fast-paced action, and unexpected twists and turns.
• The way the bad guy was not cartoonishly bad, but had his good points.
• The humor interlaced with the suspense, especially the date at Adam’s house that gets crashed by his babysitting gig.
• The way the author isn’t afraid to put her heroine through the emotional wringer.

What bugged me about this book:
• It took a little bit too long for Kari and Adam to trust each other.
• Kari’s business seems too convenient; it’s thriving, though she doesn’t have any sales clerks or other help, and only rarely does it seem there is more than one person in her store.
• The engagement ring at the end.

Yes, danger, adrenaline and hormones does inspire healthy young people to jump in the sack together. But I hate when couples are “in love” and ready to marry when they’ve known each other less than a month. Be a couple, boink each others’ brains out, sure, but don’t start shopping rings and talking marriage until you’ve known each other at least six months or more.

*steps down off soapbox*

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Read this in a weekend. Certainly a page-turner. Well-written in some ways, badly written in others. Seemed to me that Nick and Amy had the same "voice," there was no distinction except for the chapter headings as to who was speaking. There were many clever observations and turns of phrases, but they BOTH made them, and they're often recycled.

"the Internet was still some exotic pet kept in the corner of the publishing world - throw some kibble at it, watch it dance on its little leash, oh quite cute, it definitely won't kill us in the night." (Nick)

"we sometimes laugh, laugh out loud, at the horrible things women make their husbands do to prove their love. The pointless tasks, the myriad surrenders. We call these men the dancing monkeys." (Amy)

As a villain, Amy was much too Superheroic. Every time she got into trouble, she managed to squirm (or stab) her way out of it, without paying too dear a price. And then the ending - 39 year old, coming from a mother with a history of miscarriage can easily get preggers from a couple vials of frozen sperm and possibly hubs' jerk-off Kleenexes? I ain't buying it.

Nick was just as devious as Amy was, he simply wasn't as good at it.

I ended up disliking both characters intensely, and the further I've gotten from finishing the novel, the more I feel it is very clever, on the surface, but not particularly deep. Some books, they haunt after I finish them; this one, the farther I've gotten from it, the less I like it.

The Ruth Valley MissingThe Ruth Valley Missing by Amber West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are a mystery fan you will probably enjoy this a lot. A real page turner that moves fast and repeatedly puts the heroine in danger.

Jameson is a very likable character - loved her voice - but there was not enough background given as to WHY she would basically throw a dart at the map and end up in Ruth Valley. Did she have a history of impulse relocations? I was not sure given her close relationship with the doctor at the hospital if she was really a volunteer, or a mental patient. Her family background could/should have given her more impetus, and while her father gets dragged into it, then he simply isn't a factor any longer. That's a loose end that should have been tied up.

Father Mike was the best kind of creepy priest, and kudos for leaving me hanging till the last minute discovering who (some) of the bad guys were. Some of it seemed obvious, and I figured out why we didn't want any of the barbecue early on.

I'm still not sold on the mystery genre, but I enjoyed this very much anyway.

Shattered InnocenceShattered Innocence by Robert Scott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When the three Ohio women were released from their captivity, I was reminded of another woman who had grown up as a prisoner and forced to bear her captor's children, Jaycee Dugard. This book is subtitled "The Untold Story," but that simply isn't true. It is almost entirely gleaned from newspapers, print magazines, and court documents, and almost all of it is about the Garridos, NOT Jaycee. If the author managed to score a personal interview with anyone involved, it was impossible to discern.

There is much value in this material - who WERE Phillip and Nancy Garrido? Why was this convicted kidnapper and rapist free to harm another human being (was going to say another woman, but at 11, Jaycee was scarcely that)? How did he morph from a seemingly normal young man into a MONSTER - and what is the story with the zombie wife, who married him while he was in Leavenworth and has been kicked-dog-loyal to him ever since? This book addresses some, if not all of those issues. However, in some places it becomes tedious and info-dump-y in the extreme.

And of what most people want to know - what was JAYCEE thinking, feeling - at the time she was abducted, during her years in that backyard, and since that time? Well, she's written her own autobiography, and she tells her story exceedingly well. THIS is not that book.

This is that book.

A Stolen LifeA Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jaycee Dugard is one of my sheroes. She exhibits an inner strength and courage that is not found in many people, of any age, and she had to develop that strength when she was so heartbreakingly young.

Everyone knows the basic details of Jaycee's story - she was kidnapped by a convicted rapist and his wife, brutally raped and abused for years, kept in a backyard compound where she bore two children and lived for 18 years, before some alert college campus cops figured out something was "off" about the two young girls that Phillip Garrido had brought with him to pitch his ?book? ?presentation?

This is her sharing from the inside, as best she could remember, in many places with scraps of her own journals. What she felt, what she remembers, how she felt about it, later, after she recovered her name and life.

It's raw, and very little editing was done. So for some people, that's a stumbling point. Knowing that Jaycee's education stopped at fifth grade, I think she did an amazing job.

As she did with her daughters, who clearly she loves very much. There's an innate conflict there, because no matter how she feels about him, her rapist and kidnapper is their father. Someday (if they haven't already), her daughters may read what she had to say about him, about them and their life in that tented "compound."

18 years - I am not sure I would be still alive or sane after 18 years. She could so easily have taken her own life, or done/said the wrong thing and "made" that madman kill her, but she survived, and found pleasure in small things, in pets and her daughters and she fought fiercely for their education, looking up lessons on the Internet and printing out worksheets.

And if you wonder why she (or anyone) in a situation of domestic violence or captivity didn't run on the rare occasions she was allowed out in public, didn't try to send a message through the Internet, this memoir will help you understand.

Emotionally it's a very difficult read in many places, but inspiring, too. If nothing else, I urge you to buy a copy to support Jaycee, whether you ever read it or not.


Even though I'm pretty sure I will never love mystery-thriller-suspense-true crime as much as I do historical fiction and contemporary romance, I'm trying to pry my mind open and taste other genres.

On my TBR list in similar genres:

  • Who Do, VooDoo? - Rochelle Staab
  • The Lifeboat - Charlotte Rogan
  • Dangerously Close - Dee J. Adams
  • In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson

Have you read any of the above books? 
What do you recommend?

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