Sunday, May 31, 2009

Computer Woes

Slowly getting things back to normal.

Becuase of the crash, I lost everything in Outlook Express which means all my e-mail before yesterday is gone. So, if you sent me a request for review or something else that was important and needed a response, please send it again.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Blue Screen of Death

arrived Tuesday evening on the desktop. It signified major issues with the computer and the loss of several reviews I was working on, a couple of chapters of my novel, and several short stories that I was in varioous stages.

So, for awhile at least, reviews won't be appearing here and elsewhere as regular as normal until I get things fixed. And, becuase I write in longhand before typing stuff in, I still have the flawed original pieces to work from.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Reviewing: "Singularity" by Kathryn Casey

For Texas Ranger Lieutenant Sarah Armstrong the summons to Galveston to investigate the death of some big shot didn't seem that important at first. The only criminal profiler in the Texas Rangers, she works out of Ranger Company A, based in Houston. It took her an hour to get from her Houston office to the multimillion dollar beach homes that signify a far different lifestyle than her own of a single mother raising a young daughter.

Almost from the start, the investigation is problematic as she has a history with the lead detective of the Galveston P. D. The fact that the two dead bodies are posed on the bed in the master bedroom under a bloody cross means only one thing to Detective O. L. Nelson. He is convinced that the wife of Edward Travis Lucas the Third, Priscilla Lucas, arranged to have him and his mistress, Annmarie Knowles, killed. Nelson's theory is that Priscilla got mad he was cheating, maybe he wanted a divorce, maybe there is a prenup, and so she hires herself a killer. The cross on the ceiling, the posing of the bodies using fishing line to orchestrate the tableau, and other details are camouflage to throw Law Enforcement off track.

Detective Nelson has been horrendously wrong before and as he makes the case for his theory, she is absolutely convinced he is very wrong again. She is convinced that a pro killer didn't do this for money. Instead, she believes it to be the work of a serial killer who targeted the lovers for some other reason. She believes from the details at the scene that he took his time to clean up after himself because he has done this many times before and enjoys doing what he does.

Unfortunately, Sarah Armstrong's opinion is a minority point of view with the case quickly becoming a media circus and Priscilla Lucas the target. Despite being able to possibly link other cases to the serial killer, Sara Armstrong's career becomes threatened by political pressures due to the prominence of the families involved and media hysteria forcing consequences on every one involved.

Known for her published work in non fiction true crime books, this is author Kathryn Casey's first fiction novel and it frequently shows for readers familiar with the mystery genre. Somewhat clichéd in terms of character development (Sarah Armstrong is a recent widow raising an eleven-year-old daughter with the help of her own strong willed Mom), the novel soon turns into the classic deal of the taunting killer and Sarah engaged in a battle of wits. One expects the mailed notes quoting scripture and isn't surprised that they show up. What is surprising is how long it takes for them to arrive.

Long on legend and lore regarding to Texas Rangers, readers never get the sense Sarah Armstrong really is one. Despite the fact that she works on facial reconstructions with clay in the dark of night when she can't sleep, there is no depth to the character in the law enforcement arena or any real specific unique details that make the Texas Ranger angle of the novel come across as real to readers. Instead, this material comes across as generic and the same basic character type stuff seen in many books in the genre despite the acknowledgements page. It also isn't surprising and rather clichéd when two FBI agents become involved in the case with one being a negative influence and siding with Detective Nelson and the other siding with Sarah Armstrong and becoming a romantic interest. Such conflict is a classic stereotype within the mystery genre.

Yet, such classic stereotypes exist because when the human element is added well the resulting novel can and usually does work. Such is the case here as the novel builds at a steady pace while adding in the human factor making the main character and her family come alive for readers. While Sarah as a Texas Ranger is never totally believable, Sarah as a parent dealing with the tragic loss of her husband, Bill a year earlier comes across extremely well to readers. Not only the impact on her but the impact on her young daughter Maggie rings all too true to readers who are parents. The relationship between Sarah and her own mother also comes across well to readers making the family dynamic one of the strongest plot points in the novel. The human element is what drives this novel forward and when Author Kathryn Casey concentrates on that the book is at its best.

While readers expect the showdown between crimminal and avenging Sarah Armstrong at the end of the novel, the setup to get there and the resulting outcome contains a few surprises. That fact, along with a strong character that frequently pushes at the boundaries of stereotype, plenty of action and depth to the mystery, make this a good novel that will keep readers entertained and turning pages.

Another novel featuring Sarah Armstrong titled "Blood Lines" is currently scheduled to come out some time this summer.

Kathryn Casey
Thorndike Press
ISBN# 1-4104-1064-1
Large Print Version (Amazon does not carry this)
459 Pages

This book was provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

HHCC 2009

has been cancelled. Per the website at refunds will be sent out.

One has to wonder if the stricter standards put in to define what a publisher is, who an author is, etc. killed the conference this year. I find it hard to believe it was just because of the flu scare and the economy as stated on the website. Too many people I read commenting about MWA online were boycotting various events directly because of the new rules.

Regardless of the reasons behind the cancellation, I am very disappointed this has happened. This is the only conference in the immediate area I can get to and something I very much look forward to every year. It is going to be a real shame not to have it this year.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Could it happen here?

(May. 11, 2009) On April 23, 2009, a federal district court in the southern Russian province of Dagestan issued an unprecedented ruling, ordering a journalist of a local newspaper to pay compensation in an amount equal to US$1,000 to a writer who did not like a review of his book published in the newspaper.

As one who writes reviews that are based on the material reviewed and therefore not always positive, it is something to think about.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Prolific Sunday

Finished tweaks on three stories and sent them off into cyberspace earlier today.

One went off to an online market that has published me before. It has been quite awhile since my last appearance there mainly because I just hadn't sent anything in. The story is a weird one very subject to reader interpretation and I am not convinced the market will take it.

The other two went to separate anthologies where I have recently been given the opportunity to submit stories. One is a crime noir story and the other is a hard to categorize one that could be called a horror/fantasy story.

And now the waiting begins......

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bad Reads

Sometimes the favorites just flat out let you down. Authors that you can count on to deliver at least a halfway decent read just don't. Two cases in point:

Last weekend I finished Nevada Barr's BORDERLINE. This book has Anna on vacation in Big Bend which is a place I know something about. Beyond massive geographical rearrangements (some of which she admitted to and others she ignored so one isn't sure if she has even been there) the plot, wooden characters, and twin storylines bordered on the absurd. I kept reading and reading, hoping that it would get better. It didn't.

Tonight, after 150 pages of mediocre story, cardboard characters, and plot stupidity, I have thrown in the towel on Thomas Perry's RUNNER. The latest Jane Whitefield novel is hideous. I refuse to waste any more time on this very bad book.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Claire Hanover retruns in "Hell in a Handbasket" by Beth Groundwater

Often, a second book in a series is weaker than the original novel. It can happen for a variety of reasons. The occasions when a second book in a series is better than the original are rare and far between. In this case it has definitely happened.

It has just been a couple of months since the events in "A Real Basket Case." While Roger is out of jail and cleared, their marriage has not returned to normal. Claire wants the whole family together at Breckenridge for a spring ski vacation but her adult children have inherited her independent streak. Her son, Michael, couldn't make the trip from Boston. Then, after everything they had gone through to get their daughter Judy home from France, Judy would rather hang out with Stephanie, the sister of her boyfriend Nickolas Contino. It certainly wasn't the family vacation she had planned and Claire is trying to be nice as she lets Judy ski off ahead with Stephanie.

That routine decision leads to a tragedy minutes later on the Ptarmigan slope. Stephanie is mortally injured after someone hit her and sent her crashing into a tree. While law enforcement and rescue personal believe it was the fast moving snow boarder who came way too close to the foursome minutes before, Claire believes the tracks in the snow tell a different tale. As in the last book, her theory is easily dismissed by local law enforcement. A second death soon seems to prove her theory making her unwitting daughter the killer's next target. Claire, much to the annoyance of all involved, launches her own quest to find out what is going on in order to protect her family.

Against the backdrop of the Breckenridge ski resort, author Beth Groundwater creates a fast moving and intense sequel that surpasses her first book. While gift baskets do play a role in this book, Claire spends most of her time thinking about this case with occasional consideration of what happened in "A Real Basketcase" and the ramifications of those events on all involved. The issues in the first book create an interesting secondary story line with various angles at play behind the main mystery of Stephanie.

Filled with realistic dialogue, plenty of action, a complicated case and parenting issues all to a familiar too many readers, the novel delivers on all levels across the board. This cozy mystery packs quite a punch and proves that good story telling is good story telling no matter what the label of the sub genre.

To Hell in a Handbasket: A Claire Hanover, Gift Basket Designer, Mystery
Beth Groundwater Five Star (Imprint of Gale, part of Cengage Learning)
Scheduled Publication Date 05/15/09
ISBN #978-1-59414-759-3
268 Pages

I received an ARC of this title directly from the publisher in exchange for my objective review.

Readers new to this series and author may also wish to check out one of Beth's stories published by B. J. Borg in the archives of the website of Mouth Full of Bullets. "Flamingo Fatality" was published in the Summer 2007 Issue (#4) and is a mighty good one. The direct link is: In the interests of fair disclosure it should be noted that I was an assistant editor with my main duties to be a columnist and book reviewer while the site was in operation. I was allowed the opportunity a couple of times to advance read for publishing consideration less than a handful of stories and had no advance knowledge of Beth's stories or any other ones in that issue.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2009

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Reviewing: "Night and Day" by Robert B. Parker

Jesse Stone returns in "Night and Day" in a case liberally borrowed from the nation's headlines. There is a bit of a problem down at the local junior high school. Parents are mad, students are upset, and Principal Betsy Ingersoll is convinced that she did nothing wrong. The day before was the eighth grade dance held every year. This time, Principal Betsy Ingersoll, who has been principal for five years, took all the girls in to the girl's locker room right before the dance to personally check each girl's underwear.

Girls that had underwear on that Mrs. Ingersoll didn't approve of were sent home. At least, that is what the kids and their parents say and they want her in jail and punished. Betsy Ingersoll is politically connected and she won't say what she did or why. All she will say is how she has done so much for the kids over the years and how she has the kid's interests at heart. But, she never really addresses what she did, why she did it, and whether she understands how upset everyone else is by her actions. The students are upset, parents are furious, and Jesse is pretty mad too. The real question is whether or not the principal actually committed a prosecutable crime.

Along with that case, which despite increasing political pressure on Police Chief Jesse Stone he isn't about to let go of easily, Paradise also has a peeping tom and a swinger's club. This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen in small town America, and the fact that every one knows everyone else for years and years, just make it worse. If that wasn't enough, Jenn is being Jenn again and that is never a good thing for Jesse. Featuring the usual minimalist scene descriptions and theoretically witty repartee between Jesse and his staff, Jesse Stone works the cases, drinks heavily and often, and spends lots of time considering the past. That creates a slow moving book full of melancholy memories.

The limited action in the book is provided by the secondary storyline in the mind and actions of the peeping tom who bills himself as "Night Hawk." Clichéd and stereotypical, the storyline provides all the action in the book and easily becomes more important than the main storyline of administrator stupidity and political power. Even then, the "Night Hawk" storyline frequently drags because he is aware of his own issues and seems to be melancholy about his actions and obsessions.

In recent years it has become increasingly obvious by the way the typeset is placed on the page, the very short chapters, and other tricks that the novels are padded for length requirements. That certainly is true here and made even more glaringly obvious by the lack of depth to the storylines. Instead of being a decent short story, the tale was elongated to the point of absurdity in an effort to reach the mandatory length.

Despite those issues the novel is sure not to disappoint his fanatic legions of fans worldwide who still, without a thought, unquestioningly genuflect before each book.

Night and Day: A Jesse Stone Novel
Robert B. Parker
G. P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin Group)
ISBN# 978-0-399-15541-3
289 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Home Sick Again

and not because of any version of the flu.

I seem to have caught a stomach virus yet again. Not counting the food poisoning last October, I think this is the fourth time since then. Might be the fifth. I have lost count. Got sent home Tuesday from work (don't blame them a bit) and stayed home yesterday. Went back today and that was clearly way too soon. Sent back home this morning and will try again on Monday.

I better be well by then.

I have never been so sick so many times and had so many freaky stupid injury things happen to me at school as in this year. Not a good way to make myself part of the team and mighty frustrating.

I'd beat my head against the wall, but with my history of concussions, that is not a good idea.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

2009 Edgar Winners

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the winners of the 2009 Edgars Award.

BEST NOVEL Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin's Minotaur)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library ­Obsidian Mysteries)

BEST FACT CRIME American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, The Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum (CrownPublishers)

BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Dr. Harry Lee Poe (Metro Books)

BEST SHORT STORY "Skinhead Central" - The Blue Religion by T. Jefferson Parker (Hachette Book Group ­ Little, Brown and Company)

BEST JUVENILE The Postcard by Tony Abbott (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

BEST YOUNG ADULT Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin Young Readers Group ­ Dutton Children'sBooks)

BEST PLAY The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza (Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL)

BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY "Prayer of the Bone" ­ Wire in the Blood, Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (BBC America)

BEST MOTION PICTURE SCREENPLAY In Bruges, Screenplay by Martin McDonagh (Focus Features)

ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD "Buckner's Error" - Queens Noir by Joseph Guglielmelli (Akashic Books)

James Lee Burke and Sue Grafton

RAVEN AWARDS Edgar Allan Poe Society, Baltimore, Maryland Poe House, Baltimore, Maryland

THE SIMON SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD The Killer's Wife by Bill Floyd (St.Martin's Minotaur)

Nominees as well as winners are at

Of the winners, the only book I had read at all was BLUE HEAVEN. Readers of my reviews know I am a big fan of C. J. Box. Unfortunately, that book was one I hated and I gave up on it after reading the first seventy pages or so. I almost never quit a book once started, but I thought it was cliched and worthless. Clearly, I am in the minority opinion on that.

Under the Pest Paperback Original category, I had read and reviewed MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust. I really liked that book a lot and was hoping it would win. That isn't saying the winner didn't deserve to win. Just that I hadn't read it so I can't make any comparison.

Considering the number of books here to be read and reviewed, it might be awhile before I get to any of the nominees.

(who isn't doing nearly enough of his own fiction work)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Event: Texas Word Wrangler Festival

4th Annual Texas Word Wrangler Festival

September 11, 2009

9am to 5pm

Giddings Public Library & Cultural Center
276 North Orange
Giddings, Texas 78942

The Giddings Area Chamber of Commerce and the Giddings Public Library & Cultural Center invite all published Texas authors to submit a book for consideration in our upcoming 4th Annual Texas Word Wranglers Festival on Friday, Sep-tember 11, 2009. Word Wranglers use words to convey ideas, stories, portray people and places. We want to honor our Word Wranglers for their hard work and dedication to their craft. We also want to give our community an opportunity to meet these authors and learn about the writing craft.

We are looking for authors of books on the following subjects: children’s books, archeology, poetry, Texas cookbooks, bird watching, fiction, history, historical fiction, mystery, romance, music, Texas Gardening, and anything related to Texas. We have an all day festival at the Giddings Public Library & Cultural Center featuring several author readings and Q&A sessions. On Thursday the authors are invited to visit the Giddings Public Schools to talk to students about the writing process, idea for stories, how a book is taken from the idea to the written page and much more. Authors will have a place to sell their books and autograph them for patrons.

On Thursday evening we host a fundraising gala event to introduce the authors to the community. Authors receive two complimentary tickets to attend the gala and will have a table available to pre-sell books to the invitation only crowd.

The first year we had eleven authors at our event. The second year we had twenty one authors attend our event, ten participated at the schools. The third year we had Hurricane Ike and half of our authors were unable to attend. This year we will honor our volunteer fire fighters, EMS and policemen for their hard work and dedication. Submit your book to the book selection committee or call for more information. We look forward to hearing from you.

Minnie Simmang Selection Committee Chairman Giddings Area Chamber of Commerce and Giddings Public Library and Cultural Center Minnie Simmang" or Giddings, Texas 78942

Phone: 979-542-3539