Thursday, March 19, 2015


How to Succeed in Hollywood without really Acting
How to Succeed in Hollywood without really Acting by Peter Skagen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you want to work in the movies as an actor, get a copy of this book right now! Even if you are just curious about how things work in the industry, you should read this book!

Every business has its own language, rules, and etiquette. Unless you have contacts (i.e. family) already working on films, you are apt to make mistakes that label you as a newbie. In most cases, they aren't looking for untested talent. Everyone connected with a film wants people who can make them money by KNOWING WHAT THEY ARE EXPECTED TO DO, DOING THEIR JOB, and NOT WASTING TIME. And that, according to the author, is more important than talent. Movies cast types. Do you know your type?

You can avoid a lot of missteps and be ready when opportunity knocks using the information author Peter Skagen has shared. Kagen, an actor, writer, and producer, explains necessary audition skills and how to behave on set once you are cast. Highly detailed, the book is also very readable, full of personal anecdotes and stories about well-known actors with some great quotes thrown in. The fact that there is a lot of repetition underscores the importance of some of the guidelines being shared.

I have worked in live theater all my life and had no idea how different working in film was. The reader also gets some insight into the variety of jobs that make up the team necessary to get a movie made. I have already shared this book with several talented young friends who want to 'make it' in Hollywood. This is required reading.

BOTTOM LINE: Great information and advice in a readable format that you can't get anywhere else. This book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to those interested in film acting. 

Title: How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Really Acting
Author: Peter Skagen
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher:  Poubelle Publishing
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 332
Copyright: December 30, 2014
ISBN-10: 099376570X
ISBN-13: 978-09937657047
Disclaimer: An advanced copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher/Net Galley for review purposes. 

"Peter Skagen – the un-acting coach -- is a working film and theater actor, screenwriter, playwright, producer, director and coach with an MA in screenwriting from California State, Northridge. Through his wildly successful in-person courses, he has helped countless actors achieve their dream of becoming not just screen actors, but working screen actors. He focuses on story, craft, business, and real-world technique -- the 90% of the business that doesn't take talent." (From GoodReads)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Descent (2015)

DescentDescent by Tim Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tim Johnston's novel is very disturbing. I realized it shortly after beginning, but I kept reading.

OPENING LINE: "Her name was Caitlin, she was eighteen, and her own heart would sometimes wake her - flying away in that dream-race where finish lines grew farther away not nearer, where knees turned to taffy, or feet to stones." 

Visiting Colorado on vacation, Caitlin, with her younger brother Sean tagging along, goes for a run leaving her sleeping parents behind. What happens then is every parents' worst nightmare. Only Sean returns.

The story explores the aspect of each person's life as it is affected by the disappearance, not just the immediate family but others in the community as well. The author brings the Colorado mountains to life. As a matter of fact, his descriptions would easily transfer to a visual story telling medium.

For most of the story I was totally anxious about what was going to happen and it only got worse as the end approached.

Don't misunderstand. This is an excellent story beautifully told. Almost like a impressionist watercolor painting, details and feelings are only suggested in beautiful and emotional language. And the reader doesn't see everything all at once. Instead bits and pieces are revealed over time.

This haunting thriller will stay with you for a long time.

BOTTOM LINE: Well written, plotted, and with incredibly real characters, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Title: Descent
Author: Tim Johnston
Genre: Literate Thriller
Publisher:  Algonquin Books
No. of Pages: 384
Copyright: January 6, 2015
ISBN-10: 1616203048
ISBN-13: 978-1616203047
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Net Galley

Disclaimer: An advanced copy of Descent was provided to me by Algonquin/Net Galley for review purposes.

Tim Johnston , a graduate of the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has done a lot of writing and won awards for it, but Descent is his debut novel. He currently teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Memphis.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


The Poison TreeThe Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read Erin Kelly back in 2013 when her third book The Burning Air was offered on NetGalley. In my review I pledged to read both of her other books immediately since I had picked up her first The Poison Tree at a library book sale.

Since May of 2013 it has languished in a pile of other titles I have been meaning to read. Sometimes, just because the book is in the house or on my Kindle, it moves down the list. My loss because this is a truly compelling psychological suspense story.

OPENING LINE: "I let the telephone fall from my hand." With those few words, we are already drawn into the spiderweb.

The setting is London. Our narrator is Karen, an outstanding student and linguist, ready to graduate university. Her future is set. She just has to choose her path when she meets and becomes infatuated with Biba, an actress and free spirit. Eventually she moves into the crumbling mansion where Biba and her brother live. The lifestyle is bohemian and seductive and ultimately destructive. Lies and unspoken truths unfold layer by layer.

Even though the story jumps back in forth from 1997 to 2007, the transitions are beautifully handled. The reader is never confused about time and place. Erin Kelly writes so well that there were sentences I should have marked so I could find them again. These are the two things that make a book special for me: good writing and surprise. The Poison Tree has both.

Time to find a copy of The Dark Rose

BOTTOM LINE: If you like Kate Atkinson, Donna Tartt, or Tana French, you should try Erin Kelly. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Title: The Poison Tree
Author: Erin Kelly
Genre: Psychological Suspense, Thriller
Publisher: Viking / Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 6, 2011)
No. of Pages: 336 pages
Copyright:2009 / Reprint 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0-670-02240-3
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Library book sale

Erin Kelly was born in London in 1976 and grew up in Essex. She read English at Warwick University and has been working as a journalist since 1998, writing for newspapers and magazines including Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire and Elle. She continues to write about health, lifestyle, women’s issues and parenting. Her fourth novel, The Ties that Bind, is out now, followed in August by Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the first season of 2013's mega-hit ITV series.

She lives in north London with her husband and daughters. (paraphrased from Erin Kelly's website)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm ashamed to say that I have never read Margery Allingham before being offered the chance by NetGalley. Like my father, I seem to have a preference for British mysteries; and like my father, as he aged, I prefer the older titles with less detailed violence, sex, and language.

OPENING LINE: "The view from the narrow window was dreary and inexpressively lonely." This sets the atmosphere perfectly for what is to follow.

A weekend party at a rural estate is ruined when the host's uncle is murdered during a party game. The uncle had criminal connections and something he had that they want is missing. Who took it? The bad guys refuse to let anyone leave until that item is returned.

There are a lot of interesting characters to suspect among the guests, servants, and gang members. The plot has been described as haphazard but there's no problem following the story. The location allows for secret panels and passageways, which are great fun. This is certainly a classic mystery.

Apparently Allingham expected Dr. George Abbershaw would be her sleuth in this first book in the series, but it was the unusual and mysterious young man called Albert Campion, who captured readers and led to his promotion as hero of the series.

According to Mike Ripley "11 of her classic novels [will be} reissued this year and a further nine in 2016."

Bottom Line: If you love Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, you MUST READ Margery Allingham. These three are often referred to as the three queens of British Golden Age detective fiction.

Title: The Crime at Black Dudley
Series: Albert Campion (Book #1)
Genre: Classic British Mystery
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: May 6, 2015 (Ebook)
ISBN-13: 9781448214211
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: NetGalley

Disclaimer: An advanced copy of The Crime at Black Dudley was provided to me by Bloomsbury/Net Galley for review purposes.

Margery Louise Allingham was an English writer of detective fiction, best remembered for her "golden age" stories featuring gentleman sleuth Albert Campion. (Wikipedia)

Monday, January 5, 2015


Fear the Darkness: A Thriller (Brigid Quinn, #2)Fear the Darkness: A Thriller by Becky Masterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was excited to read Becky Masterman's second thriller in a series featuring Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent pushing 60. And yes, finishing Fear the Darkness kept me up past my bedtime. Written in the first person, the reader is drawn into Brigid's world.

Married late in life, Brigid is working hard to build a different kind of world for herself in Tucson, Arizona where she has married for the first time in her life. Her husband Carlo, an ex-priest, is now a professor of philosophy and a good balance for Brigid. With her beloved pugs and friend Mallory, life seems pretty good.

Then her sister-in-law dies and Brigid makes good on her promise to help by allowing her niece Gemma-Kate, to move in. It doesn't take long before it appears that something isn't quite right about the 17 year old.

What a delight it is to have a heroine who is older but still strong and capable!

During the time I was reading the book, I began taking blood pressure medicine and started exhibiting many side effects. It made the story even more personal as Brigid tried to function while unwell.

Like many series, reading the books in order will enrich the experience.

Bottom Line:
Interesting characters, setting, and Brigid herself all make this a worthy second entry in the series which establishes Becky Masterman as a writer to watch. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Title: Fear the Darkness
Series: Brigid Quinn Series (Book 2)
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Minotaur Books
No. of Pages: 336 pages
Copyright: January 20, 2015
ISBN-10: 0312622953
ISBN-13: 978-0312622954
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: NetGalley

Disclaimer: An advanced copy of Fear the Darkness was provided to me by Minotaur/Net Galley for review purposes.

An acquisitions editor for a press that specializes in medical textbooks (forensic examiners and law enforcement!), Becky Masterman grew up in Florida and received her M.A. in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University. Her debut thriller, Rage Against the Dying, was a finalist for the Edgar Award  for Best First Novel, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel of 2013, the ITV Thriller Award, as well as the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony awards. She and her husband actually live in Tucson, Arizona. This is her second thriller.


The Great Zoo of ChinaThe Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

About a quarter of the way into this book, I thought about not finishing it. From the very beginning, the reader thinks "Jurassic Park" but with dragons. More like a comic book story and exhausting with non-stop action, this book demands an enormous suspension of disbelief.

The amount of blood, gore, destruction, death, and just plain awfulness was over the top. I even worried that the budget for a faithful movie would be unattainable.

Matthew Reilly is a best-selling author but I had never read him before. It annoyed me that he often repeated facts multiple times, which I consider writing down to the reader.

The Chinese government has kept secret for forty years the fact that they have found a species that no one has believed is real and they have built an incredible facility to house it. Now it is time to invite a few select people to view their achievement and report back to the world. One of them is our protagonist Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.

It's not hard to guess what comes next. What you have to admire is the detailed world the author has created.

Many reviewers and readers thought this was an amazing book, so let's just say it's not my type of read.

Bottom Line: To sum up my personal feelings all I have to do is quote CJ, " Oh, you have got to be kidding me".

Title: The Great Zoo of China
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Gallery Books
No. of Pages: 416 pages
Copyright: January 27, 2015
ISBN-10: 1476749558
ISBN-13: 978-1476749556
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Source: NetGalley

Disclaimer: An advanced copy of The Great Zoo of China was provided to me by Gallery Books/Net Galley for review purposes.

Matthew Reilly "is the international bestselling author of twelve novels: Ice Station, Temple, Contest, Area 7, Scarecrow, Hover Car Racer, Hell Island, Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves and The Tournament. Matthew’s books are published in over 20 languages with worldwide sales of over 7 million copies." (from the author's website)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Update on Rett MacPherson's Torie O'Shea Series

Book #1 in the series

"For all of you who have been waiting with bated breath, all of the Torie O'Shea mysteries are now finally available on Kindle and Nook. Don't you need something to spend your Christmas money on?"

You can read what I wrote about the series HERE.