Sunday, March 28, 2010

The (Almost Forgotten) Art of Poetry

When was the last time you read a poem? Be honest. School? University? Reading out aloud at a wedding or funeral? Hardest question: when was the last time you read or bought a book of poems? The only reason I am thinking about poetry for the first time in a long time is because I recently reviewed a book of poems and was suddenly thrust into someone else’s mind. Poetry is not like reading a book. One can think they plumb the depths of a writer’s mind, but read a poem and your perspective changes. A poet is forced to lay bare his or her soul in an act of brutal honesty without the many words available to a writer.

There are as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. Wordsworth defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” Emily Dickinson said, “If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry.” Dylan Thomas defined poetry this way: “Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing.” Robert Frost said, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and thought has found words.”

So where does poetry come from? Wikipedia has a nice concise definition. Poetry as an art form predates literacy. Some of the earliest poetry (songs) is believed to have been orally recited or sung. Poetry was employed as a way of remembering oral history, story (epic poetry), genealogy, and law. Poetry is often closely related to musical traditions, and much of it can be attributed to religious movements. Many of the poems surviving from the ancient world are a form of recorded cultural information about the people of the past, and their poems are prayers or stories about religious subject matter, histories about their politics and wars, and the important organizing myths of their societies.

Is poetry relevant to modern life? I would say more now than ever. However, I happened upon a blog where someone else said it better than I ever could. The founder of the first-ever Massachusetts Poetry Festival Organizer Michael Ansara says: “Google “poetry and funerals”—over 7,000,000 links come up. Google “poetry and weddings”—over 4,000,000 links come up. Why? Because poetry remains our deepest song. It is the sound and imagery and lyrics of our souls. It teaches us to look at the smallest moment and the details of life and learn from them. It can inspire us when we are heavy with grief. It gives voice to all the most important parts of being human—and it helps us struggle with the mysteries and with the awful facts of being human in this awe-inspiring chaos of the universe. Is it chance that most religious texts incorporate poetry? (…) But there are so many contemporary poets along with the great poets of the past who can still sing to us, who can still help us make sense of the paradoxes of living, who can inspire, comfort and stretch us. That is why when we bury our loved ones we want poetry. Now we have to bring the great poets and the great poetry of our day out into the light and bring it to people rather than asking them to find it in some cramped back room of a bookstore.”

With that in mind, I dipped into Essence of My Existence: Poems to Acknowledge My Truth by Rajyeshwari Ghosh. Here is my review: A Sublime Journey of the Soul

“This book of poems is a gem, something to be savored and relished for each word of wisdom and awakening it offers the reader. The poet has made courageous journeys of both inner and outer self, endured both physical and emotional hardships, and this is reflected in her work. Stripped of illusions and pretensions, the poet reaches deep within herself for the answers to life’s questions. Sometimes there are no answers; sometimes the answers are painful, but they take the reader onward and upward to the understanding of life we all crave. Her words drop softly, like the petals of an exquisite flower upon the pool of water that is our consciousness. Tiny ripples disturb our thoughts and awaken a sense of understanding. The poet shows her true soul and self in an often anguished investigation of emotions ranging from relationships (family, friends, lovers), to seemingly mundane tasks like job hunting, to a bitter disillusionment with the American Dream, to just ‘being’. The poet is not afraid to strip away the layers and arrive at painful realizations. There are beautiful moments when her words prompt the reader to pause awhile and reflect on how often we rush past those special times and people in life, but it’s too late to recapture those precious times (I Have Grown Up Too Fast). The poet looks for authenticity in life and self, seeking a meaningful existence in a hurly-burly world that is often transient, shallow, fast, cruel and unjust, seeking the joy in each day, reaching for a moment of new awakening (The Realities). From plumbing the depths of a loss of self-identity, the poet offers words of wisdom equivalent to the adage ‘to thine own self be true’ … leading to an awakening from within and a renewed faith in self and humanity.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why I Read Clive Cussler

This sounds like a really strange title for a blog post: Why I Read Clive Cussler. Well, maybe you’re wondering why I do read his books, now that I’ve said (almost guiltily) that I do. That remark and this blog post were inspired by an interesting article in the Guardian (UK) by Cormac McCarthy, about bad books and bad writing. He questions whether some of the supposedly ‘good’ writers were all that good in the end. I guess many people who went to college and university have (like me) read just about every ‘good book’ that the English Lit courses had to offer. How many people continued to read those good books after graduation? How many of those people sashay into a bookshop and immediately head for the (Whatever) Prize winners of the year? How many of those same people sidle to the ‘commercial fiction’ section, shelves groaning under the weight of yet another bestseller that the critics have panned but has been flying off the shelves, copies bought by secret (avid) commercial fiction aficionados?

Confess! How many readers have snuck a wonderful ‘bad fiction’ book into their ‘good books’ shopping? I began to think long and hard about what constitutes a good book. A few years ago, while running a personnel agency, I was interviewing a woman who told me emphatically that she never, ever read ‘rubbish,’ and that she only ever read ‘fine literature.’ Shame. Sounds like torture. The problem is, when you consider fine literature like Jane Austen, she wasn’t writing for the literary snobs of the day: she was writing for the readers of the day. So was Dickens. His weekly installments had readers panting for the next chapter in his novels.

I then formulated my theory that a book is as good as its reader perceives it to be. I am not talking about poorly written, badly constructed novels with excruciating dialogue and pathetic grammar, desperately in need of merciless editing. I am talking about popular fiction. The businessman who wants a throw-away spy thriller to read on the plane, the housewife who languishes in the arms of an imaginary Mills & Boon lover while washing socks, the computer buff who craves sci-fi above all else; the kid who devours comics … what they read is good for them because it satisfies a need and makes them happy.

Philistine! I hear the shrieks already. But hear me out. At university my book shelves bulged with the fruits of fantastic writers: Austen, Bronte, Waugh, Poe, Tolkien, Dickens … you name it, I had it, and I still have them now. And yes, I do still read them. My mother was much addicted to frivolous romances (she still is!) and when I would try to persuade her to wade though some tome or other, she would shudder and tell me that at her stage in life she wanted to read for enjoyment. Young and naïve, wrestling with James Joyce and other ‘good writers’ who were actually sometimes completely obscure, I thought she had sunk quite low in the field of literary tastes. Her behavior was made all the more reprehensible by the fact that my mother did English Lit at university and many of my good books were hers originally.

Actually, I have also fallen somewhat from my ivory tower of literary correctness. I love reading Clive Cussler because he tells such ripping good yarns. Of course, being a complete tomboy with four brothers may just have contributed to my loving adventure stories. I now realize that one can have good books that may only be good to an individual. It might be character, plot, or descriptions; whatever counts the most for that reader. My adopted daughter agrees with many opinions that Bella of the Twilight sagas  is annoying. Maybe as a heroine she is, but my daughter has devoured all the books many times over already and the series transformed her from being a reluctant reader into an avid reader. Obviously Edward's charms have made up for Bella's deficiencies...

I have heard J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, and Stephenie Meyer’s writing skills being criticized. Despite all that, they’ve sold more books and earned more money than many a ‘good’ writer. So, how does one measure the success of a writer? Katie Price (er … Jordan, for those not in the know) has published yet another bestselling autobiography. I thought a person could only write one, and that technically it should at the end of a long, meaningful, and fruitful life, but apparently that’s not true. So, if she sells more books than a ‘good’ writer, does that make her a better writer?

The public is fickle. Writers have to give readers what they want. With the evolution of society and the novels that reflect society’s tastes, values, morals (or lack thereof), habits, and desires, more themes are becoming available. The sky is the limit when it comes to topics and, especially since the explosion of print on demand and e-publishing options, people ready to write about them. A hundred years ago it would have been unthinkable for anyone to pen a memoir that included lovers, children out of wedlock, drugs, sensational intimate details etc. That’s why D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was such a literary and social scandal way back then. Not so today. It actually seems rather tame. Reality has become more compelling than fiction, and the adage holds true: truth is stranger than fiction.

Is there a future for ‘good’ books? Of course there is! People want solid writing when they’re in the mood for it. Others want just fluff and escapism. I say give people what they want, but write what you know to be real. Read any good books lately?

This is not a rhetorical question: who has managed to read James Joyce’s Ulysses from start to finish?

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Importance of Reading Aloud With Your Kids

My review of an enchanting book for (very) young readers (Piggie Wiggie’s Great Adventure) coincided with my finding a great review by Jen Robinson of Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook. This marvellous book should be mandatory reading for all new parents. Kids spend more time out of school (7800 hours per year) than in school (900 hours per year) so it’s illogical to place the burden of creating a love of reading in kids on the teachers’ shoulders. That role should begin with the parents.

Books should be in every household, and reading an entrenched part of family life. Parents can get their kids started while young, showing them just how much fun books can be, and just how much fantastic information is contained in books. But even more importantly, reading with your child will have the most beneficial emotional effects. Kids love doing things with their parents and reading, discovering an exciting story, waiting in anticipation to hear what will happen to the hero, is better shared in an atmosphere of loving familial warmth. Parents can assess their child’s emotional, mental, and spiritual development, and help them learn about life, (and sometimes death), decisions, and choices that will determine who they are in life and build their future. Children learn their moral and ethical guidelines early in life. Be there when they do!

In Jen Robinson's assessment of the book, she has this to say, “Among the many reasons to read aloud to kids, one of the most important is that it helps them to associate reading with pleasure. Human beings are by nature pleasure-centered—we will voluntarily do things repeatedly if we get pleasure from them. And because reading is an accrued skill, spending repeated time reading is what enables us to get good at it.”

Any parent keen to see their child excel in school and indeed in life should heed Jim Trelease’s words: "Reading is the ultimate weapon, destroying ignorance, poverty, and despair before they can destroy us. A nation that doesn't read much doesn't know much. And a nation that doesn't know much is more likely to make poor choices in the home, the marketplace, the jury box, and the voting booth. And those decisions ultimately affect an entire nation—the literate and the illiterate." (Page xxvi)

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce readers (young and old) to a special kind of hero. Aimed at ages 4-6, Piggie Wiggie’s Great Adventure is a daring tale of adventure, heroism, and a ‘never-say-die’ attitude. Family pet and escape artiste extraordinaire, Piggie Wiggie the Guinea Pig is out the cage and on the loose, ready for adventure. What an adventure it turns out to be as Piggie explores a brave new world. First up is a ride in a remote control toy car. Thrills and spills ensue with a happy, soft, safe ending in a pile of pillows. But wait! There’s more. Stuffed to the gills with a delicious (and illicit) feast of fresh veggies, Piggie has a close encounter of the soggy kind in a bathtub of water and more toys. Undaunted, Piggie Wiggie wriggles from one disaster to another, culminating in a sensational showdown with Scruffy the cat. What will become of this intrepid Guinea Pig, who should add ‘explorer’ to its name? Read on…

This book is a great read-aloud for parents and kids. It's a charming story for young children, made even more memorable by the fact that Piggie Wiggie’s adventures are based on the Houdini-like antics of a real family pet, a Guinea Pig owned by author and illustrator, M. J. Daley-Prado. This adds a delightful authenticity and will endear the story even more to young readers, especially those that enjoy a 'this-really-happened' tale. The author also includes some quite ‘big’ words in the tale and it’s an ideal opportunity for parents and teachers to begin expanding a young reader’s vocabulary by explaining the words. This talented author also illustrated the book and her captivating images of Piggie Wiggie in action make the story come alive, elevating this book to another level of enjoyment. An unexpected but excellent addition is a reading guide at the back for parents and children seeking a Guinea Pig as a pet. Topics range from caring for the new pet to dealing with the inevitable.

About the Author: M.J. Daley-Prado lives in Maryland with her beautiful teenage daughter and their newly adopted cat, Millie. M.J. has a genuine interest and love for children's literature. As a mom, she has always tried to instill the importance of books and reading in her own child. Books can take a child to magical places they have never been before. They can stir their imaginations and spark their creativity. She hopes her books will bring as much joy to your children as she has had making them. She has followed the amazing careers of her favorite authors and illustrators, Marc Brown, Robert Munsch, Elizabeth and Victoria Kann. M.J. especially likes to address topics that will help children and families during difficult times. MJ has written and illustrated several children’s books to her credit, including "Grandma What Is Cancer?" and "Buzz". Her favorite quote is: "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it." (William Arthur Ward)

You can discover more about this author by visiting:;;

I first reviewed this book for Readers Favorite.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Preview: Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken

Having just done a blog on book reviews, it seems a little strange to preview a book i.e. talk about a book that has yet to be printed and appear on the shelves. What are the benefits of a preview? Just like a movie trailer, a book preview excites reader interest (hopefully getting readers to mark their diaries as to publication date), and starts building up a following so that by the time the book hits the shelves, the author will enjoy something of a captive audience. Creating a count-down buzz also gets readers hyped and eager to purchase their copy. The Harry Potter series and Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol marketing are prime examples of wildly successful countdowns. This works best if the author aims pre-publication publicity at the specific target market for the book. Pre-publication publicity is great for an author if they can garner professional reviews in advance to use as endorsements on the cover.

Do your kids like critters? They’re gonna love the collection of reptiles that populate Mr. Cross’s classroom. Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken isn’t an average middle-grade novel. Neither is Mr. Cross an average middle-grade teacher, as Drew Harrington soon finds out. The rules are simple…

Welcome to Sixth-grade
1. Keep away from the animals! Violators will be prosecuted.
2. Unpack your bag and make your lunch choice.
3. Meet your neighbors.
4. Keep away from the animals! Violators will be prosecuted.

Sixth grade can be a zoo. Drew Harrington sure hopes so. He and his best friend, Jackson Harris, can’t wait to join Bridgeton Elementary’s legendary teacher, Mr. Cross, in a classroom inhabited by cantankerous lizards, elusive iguanas, and a 13-foot Burmese python named Prometheus. Cootie-proof Kim Etter, Tinkle Troy Schwartz, the social outcast with an overactive bladder, and perpetual grade-schooler Joe Riaz are among Drew's classmates. Will this year be as predictable as the past five? Or will this be the year that makes Drew realize mice don't taste like chicken?

I asked author Scott Heydt a few questions about this unusual book on life in the middle grade.

1. Why your choice of subject matter re: the critters?
Back in my elementary school years, I had a teacher who longed to work in the San Diego Zoo’s Reptile House. We cared for over one dozen different reptiles and amphibians in our sixth grade classroom. Our classroom contained more than a dozen reptiles and amphibians, ranging from a thirteen-inch long gecko to thirteen-foot long Burmese python (named Prometheus). Aside from the animal atmosphere, my teacher changed the way I perceived school. He read us controversial books, played basketball with us on Fridays, and showed passion for everything we learned. It served as the spark for my love of learning to this day. It was a life-altering experience. These creatures come from my fond memories of that year. Two years ago, I participated in a writing workshop called “Tator Tots and Technique.” The presenter challenged us to think back to our school days and write about our memories. The exercises I completed at that workshop became the seed for Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken.

2. Can you give me your view of the parallel worlds between the kids’ life in the classroom and the world of reptiles they encounter, and what you hope kids will glean from reading your book?
My hope for readers is two-fold. One, that readers will value the strong bond formed between a teacher passionate about his profession and a boy who looks up to him. Second, that readers will appreciate the subtle differences between our behavior and that of animals. We are not so different, and what we learn from the care and observation of nature can help guide our own behavioral decisions.

3. Are any of the human characters or events based on your own life?
Characters come from the behaviors we observe in those around us. All of the human characters in Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken are a blend of people I grew up with as well as some of my current students. Sure, some characters are based more on one real person than others, but I’ve changed those names to protect the innocent (or guilty).

4. If mice don’t taste like chicken, what do they taste like?
The next time I catch one, I’ll let you know.

5. If you could be any animal in the book, which one would you choose? Why?
I would choose to be Iggy. I can hang on the wires of my sprawling cage most of the day. When I’m hungry, I can climb down to munch on some lettuce leafs and vegetables. If anyone messes with me, I can smack him with my long tail. I’m also a great climber, so escaping and exploring is fun.

6. Your book is certainly very educational. Is there more teachers can do in the classroom with your book?
An interesting educational slant to the book is that activities are designed specifically for teachers by a certified teacher (i.e. me). My goal is to provide lessons fully developed with attached resources available so teachers can easily integrate Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken into their Reading curriculum.)

Lesson plans include:
• Discussion Questions about Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken e.g. Using websites provided within the “Mr. Cross’ Critters” link of, groups of students will identify the natural habitat of the iguana, Burmese python, boa constrictor, gecko, salamander, Nile monitor, Savannah monitor, milk snake, toad, and painted turtle.
• Symbolism Overview
• Social Studies Lesson: “Control Your Inner Ozzie”
• Math Lesson: “Math Don’t Taste Like Chicken”
• Vocabulary Lesson: “Introducing & Activating Word Meanings”

Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken is published by PM Moon Publishers and is scheduled for release summer 2010. Be sure to look out for it at all good book stores.

About the Author: Scott Heydt grew up in suburban Philadelphia and resides with his wife in Chalfont, Pennsylvania. With undergraduate degrees in Elementary Education and Psychology and a Masters in Leadership and Liberal Studies, Scott attributes his passion for and knowledge of writing to the great teachers who guided him in the past. Scott's website is

Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken is Scott’s second novel for children. PM Moon Publishers, LLC awarded the book an honorable mention.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Benefits of Book Reviews

I never thought much about book reviews until I wrote my first children’s book and was desperate for reviews. Suddenly I began seeing book review pages everywhere—in magazines, in newspapers, online … everywhere! Why wasn’t my book there? I began reading other people’s reviews, appraising other people’s opinions, and wondering how I could get my book reviewed. Although my publishers did send out review copies, I came to the conclusion that it was up to me to drive my own marketing machine.

Are Book Reviews Vital?
Book reviews, in my opinion, are very necessary. Perhaps they aren’t vital, but how many people rush to see a movie without first watching a trailer? That’s why movie makers have trailers—to entice viewers. Book reviews are written book trailers, to entice readers. People don’t want to spend money on something they might not enjoy. They read a book review, hoping to extract some idea of whether the author will appeal.

In her article How to Submit Your Books for Review, marketing guru Dana Lynn Smith has this to say about the value of book reviews: “Book reviews can be a powerful marketing tool for books of all types. Potential customers learn about books by reading reviews in newspapers, consumer magazines, professional journals, newsletters, e-zines, book review Web sites, online bookstores, and other blogs and Web sites. In addition to bringing books to their attention, well-crafted book reviews also help the reader determine if a book is a good fit for them.”
Dana’s excellent article also includes lists of online sites, people, and organizations that do book reviews.

How to Get Your Book Reviewed
How do you get book reviews? You ask for them. Your options are: dedicated book reviewers, bloggers, an organization, library, journal, or company.

Rule Number One: don’t just send a book in the post with a hastily scribbled note begging for someone to review it. All sites, magazines, journals, and libraries will have submission requirements that may include: a cover letter, power testimonials, book excerpts, a marketing plan, and ARC’s or book copies. They may also prefer only pre- or post-publication material. Be sure to read the guidelines carefully, especially if you are a self-published author. Some people won’t accept a self-published book. However, don’t panic, there are many sites and organizations that do. For step-by-step guidelines, read this excellent article on 1st Turning Point: Getting Your Book Reviewed—Preparing the Book Kit by Lillian Cauldwell.

Is Your Book Right For The Reviewer?
Another consideration is whether your material fits the reviewer’s criteria and target market. Don’t send a children’s book to a romance book site or general interest publication. Don’t waste your and other people’s time sending to a tiny niche market outlet if you are an author with a general appeal book. Spend some time reading reviews on various sites or publications to get a feel for the tone and style of the reviews. Get an idea of what kind of readership the publication or site has, or if it’s an individual, what kind of following that person has. School and public librarians are great for children’s books because the reviewer will have a captive, interested audience on hand.

Dead Ends?
Yes, you can send 100 books out for review and not get much back in the way of reviews. So, before you do the ‘spray and pray’ method, really refine and hone your targets carefully. If individuals have agreed to review your book, always keep in mind that this is not their job, and they may not have time to fit you in for a while, if at all. Some people (alas) promise to review but spend more time enjoying the free books they get than actually doing a review. Big sites, journals, or newspapers may not even get back to you. There are many other smaller sites that can still, through sheer volume and hard work on your part, give you enough of a response. Big sites and publications also may not be able to give your book the personal attention you feel it deserves.

Are You a Book Review Snob?
If so, don’t be. Perhaps you think that a big important review site is going to give you more sales than Fred Bloggs from Baltimore or Shirley Jones from Florida? Maybe … but then again, maybe not. Fred Bloggs may just tell twenty or thirty friends about the fantastic book he read, and put a review on Amazon to express his admiration. Shirley Jones may be a very active member of a book club and her praise could result in other book clubs picking up on your novel. While professional reviews are both hard to come by and great to have, it’s the average person out there who is buying your book and their opinion does count. Amazon has some excellent advice to offer authors looking for Amazon reviewers, and explains how these reviews can benefit sales.

What About Bad Book Reviews?
This brings me to the next point. What to do about a ‘bad’ book review? The old adage “There’s no such thing as bad publicity. No publicity is bad publicity” should hold true. Most people realize that a book review is an opinion, that’s all. Top authors like Dan Brown and James Patterson have also been criticized for a variety of perceived writing defects. It’s important to remember that if a reviewer criticizes an author’s writing techniques (style, grammar, plot construction, dialogue), then there is a problem with the book. One always hopes the person reviewing a book will go for the genre he or she enjoys. However, the mark of a good reviewer is someone who is able to judge a book on how it will appeal to a general or (in some cases) a niche market. That’s why authors on specialist subjects should really aim for niche market review outlets to get the best results.

A book reviewer’s job is to tell the potential reader about the book, not about themselves. At the end of the review, the reader should have a very clear vision of the book and its contents and a very fuzzy picture of the person contributing the review. A book review is not about self or personal views, but about the book and how it can benefit others.

I recently began reviewing books and deliberately offered my services in other genres, books I would not go for as my first choice. I have reviewed women’s fiction, romantic suspense, and am about to tackle a collection of horror short stories. That’s a challenge for me and I am enjoying it, keeping in mind my advice above.

Should You Pay For Book Reviews?
The jury is still out on this one because there is an opinion that paid-for reviews are generally more favorable because the author has paid for it. Professional sites and publications usually have too much integrity to risk their reputation on this score and most times advise the author that honesty is their policy. Paying for a review also means that there is a motivation to get it done. Free reviews end up with the site or publication being inundated with demands. You may have to wait a while to get reviewed.

Good old Google is a wealth of information on book reviews sites. Some other leads to pursue are: the Virtual Book Review Network; The Midwest Book Review; ReaderViews. Check out Anastasia Suen’s Literacy Blog for children’s books as well as the list of 100 Best Book Reviewers on Twitter. John Kremer offers a list of magazines that review books.

Book reviews are just one part of the wide scope of marketing possibilities available to authors. Don’t say no to review requests because you never know where your book will end up. It could just arrive on the desk of someone very important to your book’s future.

Are you a book reviewer? Share your opinions with us!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Book Review: Candy, Corpses, and Classified Ads

 If you like murder mysteries with a dash of something else tossed in for that extra 'je ne sais quoi' then JL Wilson is an author you'll enjoy. When I began reading this book, I was surprised that the romantic leads in this entertaining tale of murder, mayhem, and more hilarious mishaps were not quite your standard 'youth and beauty' objects of desire. The heroine is well past her first blush and the hero, while still attractive, cannot be called youthful. (Well, neither can George Clooney and he's still gorgeous!) Curious, I read up more on the author and discovered why she has created this kind of romantic suspense for a slightly older (or should I say mature) reader.

In her own words, JL Wilson says: "I was born in a small town in Iowa, and have traveled extensively in the U.S. and overseas, finally ending up back in the Midwest where I'm married to a glass artist who spends a lot of time in the studio, making amazingly beautiful things. We have assorted animals who live with us and who make regular appearances in my books under various pseudonyms (they know who they are). In 2003, I read my first romance novel and immediately decided this was the genre for me. But there was a problem: the books I read all featured young heroines, interested in starting a family and having babies. So I started writing romantic suspense (with an occasional side trip into paranormal fantasy) about older women, with some age on 'em, who are interested in men and sex and having a good relationship (which may or may not include a marriage). I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoy writing about them."

It seems that mature romance is finding its place both in novels and in the cinema (Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman in Harvey and Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in It's Complicated) and people are loving it.

This intriguing romantic suspense novel involves a potbellied pig, Melvin, a septic tank, a pitchfork, and Molly Lawson’s dead (murdered!) ex-husband. Could things get worse for Margaret Olivia Lawson, since the police officer investigating the case is none other than the deliciously still attractive JT McCord, who jilted her eighteen years ago? JT McCord has returned to Tangle Butte as Chief of Police. Candy-loving Molly, now the News Editor of the Tangle Butte Daily Tribune, finds herself in an invidious position.

After JT ditched her for someone else, Molly moved on to marry twice… except that her first husband, Delbert, died and her second husband, Sam, ran off with a hairdresser, or so everyone thought. Molly has given up on romance but finds that her resolve is somewhat shaken by JT’s reappearance in Tangle Butte.

By helping JT with the case, and trying to prove she is not the Number One suspect in her ex-husband’s murder, she finds that old attractions die hard and her original feelings for JT soon resurface … just like her ex-husband Sam Ferris’ body! Our feisty heroine finds murder on her doorstep, under the living room window, to be exact, and when Molly’s life is threatened several times, things turn downright dangerous.

The problem is that when Sam’s body resurfaced, with a little help from Melvin, the pot-bellied pig with a penchant for digging up flowerbeds, so did some past dirty financial deeds committed by the less-than-honest inhabitants of the town. Tangle Butte, population 4,145, isn’t a hotbed of passion, or greed, or power... or is it?

The author accurately paints an often hilarious picture of small-town life interspersed with sex, murder, gossip, copious amounts of M&Ms, alarmingly accurate Tarot card readings, cryptic romantic classified ads and, it seems, quite a lot of adultery. As the investigation progresses, old hurts, memories, and grudges are exposed. Lost loves, affairs, financial shenanigans, and possible motives for murder abound.

Molly, a budding crime novelist with three murder mysteries under her belt and a fourth in the making, finds that she is in more danger than she suspected. Sam wasn’t quite the louse everyone thought he was, and when it’s discovered that poison, and not a pitchfork, was the weapon of choice, the net starts to tighten on a guilty member of the Tangle Butte community. Will JT make the arrest before Molly meets an unfortunate end?

J. L. Wilson has created appealing, believable characters in Molly and JT. They are a tad older than in a usual romantic suspense novel, but still desirous of love and passion. The quirky secondary characters, especially Molly’s mother, Yolanda, are well fleshed-out and add piquancy to this exciting murder mystery.

A well-paced plot and realistic dialogue show that the author has an excellent grip on what makes a small town tick. A particularly amusing note is the local book club, Monday Readers Social Exchange, (known to its members as ‘Mr. Sex’), whose members eschew literary masterpieces and have banned Oprah’s Book Club selections as being too ‘uplifting.’ They prefer romance novels, murder mysteries, and sci-fi. Such delightful incidents and more abound in this enjoyable novel, giving a touch of wonderful realism and charm to the tangled exploits taking place in Tangle Butte.

To purchase visit Amazon. For more titles by this author visit The Wild Rose Press.
I originally reviewed this title for Readers Favorite.