Readers' Favorite

April 24, 2015

Review: Silk (The Bloodstone Series Book One) By Chris Karlsen

by Elisabeth Scherer


"From the state of rigor mortis, this one appears to have been killed late last night. Odd."
"Anything else in her reticule?" Ruddy asked.
"Just a few ladies things: a comb, an enamel box with mint candies, and two guineas and one gold sovereign."
The amount raised eyebrows in all the officers within earshot, including Ruddy. The last was more money than any woman he personally knew carried. It was more than many men or women earned in a month. Robbery couldn't have been the motive. No everyday street criminal would leave that kind of money behind.
Ruddy knelt by the body, turning Catherine's head right and left. "I don't think this is our man's work. I suspect this is a killer who wants us to believe it's the same man." from 56%

The Review

I love a good mystery/detective story, finding myself drawn in quickly and as the story progresses I try to out-sleuth the author. The problem is that this usually leaves me disappointed because I have resolved the plot before the climax of the book happens. I don’t know if it is my puzzle solving mind or the work of most mystery writers but I tend to want the twists and turns to be more creative and keep me guessing until the very last moment. That is my personal opinion though. Having said that, Silk by Chris Karlsen might just be your next great read.

Summed up in one sentence:
Murder is afoot in Victorian England and Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone juggles politics at the office, a budding romance with a pretty milliner, a rising body count, and the possibility of multiple murderers on the loose.

What I thought of the book:
Silk has a dual plot line that is easy to follow and the transitions between the two are seamless. I felt like a fly on the shoulder of the characters in this story, experiencing the world from their vantage point. The first plot follows that of a viscount named William. He is a very intellectual character who, I feel, is on a quest to understand certain behaviors and has all the makings of being a gentleman...well except for one small thing. Readers will understand what that thing is right away.

The second plot follows Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone as he investigates a serial killing spree in London. He is everything a good detective novel requires of the P.I.:  He is stoic, funny, and sort of reminds me of myself when it comes to solving a mystery/puzzle - determined. He is a lone wolf who wants very much to solve the crimes happening in his jurisdiction. As my husband said when I asked him to describe the stereotypical detective, “I can’t think of a single detective character that wouldn’t go out of his way to help a kid with his cat.” That is Detective Bloodstone in a nutshell.

There is also a subplot love story that happens as well and I found it just as interesting as the murder mystery. The relationship part of the story really hit me in my Jane Austen soft spot.  There is so much to like about a romance between a Victorian era detective and a Milliner. There is a humorous exchange in which Ruddy’s partner tries to get him to come to dinner with his family where his wife would like to see Ruddy set up with a “good” woman.

“I wish you’d let my missus introduce you to one of her available lady friends.”
“Absolutely not. I appreciate the thought, but no. I’m not lonely or starved for feminine companionship.”
“What if i guarantee Margaret won’t pester you with matchmaker questions?”
“You cannot guarantee such a thing. She will pester me. It is a woman’s nature. Every time she sees me, it’ll be a barrage of questions...Do you think you’ll be asking her to take tea with you? Or, do you think you’ll be asking her to dinner? Do you think she’s pretty? Everyone at church lovers her. I can see the two of you on lovely Sunday walks together.”
excerpt from Chapter 3

Overall the story moved at a good pace and I didn’t figure out the resolution of the story early. I sat wondering how the two plots would come together and I was pleased with how the author weaved it all together. It’s exciting to know this is book one and I can revisit a well loved character like Bloodstone again in the future much like I feel about Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series.

I would recommend reading Silk by Chris Karlsen if you like period pieces, mysteries, and romance all rolled up in one.

Buy Silk at Amazon

Book info:
Available formats: ebook and Paperback (305 pages)
Published: December 2014 by Books to Go Now 
ISBN13: 9781505458640
Genre: Historical Thriller
Source -
Read: March/April 2015

A free ebook was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link.

April 23, 2015

So You Want to Start a Book Blog

by Donna Huber

When I started book blogging I did it as a way to talk with others about my favorite books. I'm sure many book bloggers have this same desire. Others hope to get free books. As an avid reader, book reviewing sure helps support the habit. However, few book bloggers give much consideration to the mechanics of blogging. And unfortunately, this lack of planning often leads to frustration, burn out, and even the discontinuation of the blog.

So if you are thinking that you want to start your own book blog, here are a few tips on being successful.

Decide your platform

When I started blogging I just wanted to tell people about a great book I had read. I just decided one night to create the blog. Therefore, I didn't give much consideration to the platform. I had used Blogger before and was familiar with it. It is also easy to set-up. If you want something quick, then Blogger will be fine a choice.

However, now that I've been blogging for more than 4 years, I have sometimes wished I had started on WordPress. If design and layout is important to you, Wordpress would give you more options. I really didn't think about what my blog would become. I thought it would be just my personal musings. But it has grown past that to something more akin to an ezine. I would have more options for expansion if I switch to Wordpress.

Decide on a focus

While the focus of your blog can change and evolve over time, when you start out it is important to give some thought to what you will focus on otherwise it will be like your throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. I knew from the start that I didn't want to review erotica or horror (they aren't genres I like), yet that still left a lot of possibilities. Some of the most successful blogs focus on a single genre, i.e. romance novels, others focus on a target audience, i.e. children's books.

Besides genres you may want to focus on, you also want to decide if you will participate in tours, book promos, and/or hosting guest posts.

With the decision on your focus, you should also consider some policies and procedures. I wrote a post on these for a past Bloggeista weekend. You may want to review the post. In meantime, think about how you want to receive review requests (or even if you want to accept pitches at all). A review policy, even a rudimentary one, will save you time and headaches.

Decide on a schedule

When you first start out you may be very excited and think you will post every day, but for a new blogger that will soon become overwhelming. I planned to post one review a week. I don't read very fast, but I knew I had some books that I had read recently that I could write about. So I felt that was realistic. However, once I got started and discovered the "behind the scenes" activities involved with blogging, even that goal seemed too much at times.

Think about how quickly you read and your regular life commitments (if you are a parent you may have more time during the school year than in the summer) when setting up your schedule. Next consider the time it will take to write and format your review. I often find myself several reviews behind because I find the time to read, but not write. A year or so ago, I started to blog on the weekends and schedule my posts for the week. That has greatly helped with my blogging particularly as I've increased the frequency. I read often during my lunch break and in the evenings after a long day of work, I'm too tired to write coherently. So weekends have worked well for me.

Writing is just one part of a blog post. The layout and design of the post is just as important as the writing. You will want to add book covers and possibly book buying links. Do you want to include an author blog, or quotes from the book? These take time to format into a post. Then, you must consider adding color or bolding to make pieces stand out.

In my early blogging days (pre-book blogging), I was under the impression that if you post it readers will come. Well, it doesn't work that way. So you will need to budget time for promoting your blog (Twitter and Facebook are good places to start) as well as interacting with your readers.

Keep it Fun

The most important thing to remember when you start book blogging is to keep it fun. You can easily become focused on the mechanics of blogging, on the obligations of blogging, and forget about your passion for reading. Be a reader first and a blogger second and you are likely to be blogging long into the future.

Good luck!

April 22, 2015

Potty Mouth

English: "PG-13" rating of Motion Pi...
English: "PG-13" rating of Motion Picture Association of America film rating system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Ross M. Kitson

Now I haven’t seen the film in question, but my dear wife took the older two of my brood to the cinema the other day to see Project Almanac . It was for a 11th Birthday treat, and two of Evelyn’s (daughter) friends came along. The film is a 12 in the UK, which equates with a PG-13 over in the US—so the wife expected potentially a bit of violence, dash of gore, a few risqué references or scenes, and perhaps a few cuss-words.

Hmmm. By all accounts the film was alright—standard consequences of mis-used science fayre, time travel paradox effects—a bit like a 50s sci-fi short story or a 2000AD Future Shock (but obviously not on a par with Back to the Future….). Yet the wife’s salient memory of the film was the swear-word content. Now, we’re not prudish in our house, far from it, but I think especially since she was taking some of E’s friends to the film, the wife felt rather uncomfortable at the tirade of S&^% bursting from the errant teenagers’ mouths at every opportunity, and the F-bomb dropped along the way. Throw in some mild rude parts and you can see why she won’t be getting the DVD any time soon.

Now it may be slightly naïve of me to expect no cussing in films of a 12A/PG-13 certificate, but when the good wife mentioned this it got me thinking about some of the 12s I’ve seen in the last couple of years, and she’s right… there’s a cuss-creep occurring. The very first 12A I recall seeing was Spiderman 1, and I thought for a long while that this was the first 12A. Apparently Batman was the first—although Spiderman was re-classified as a 12A. This was a British phenomenon, as the US had already started with PG-13’s back in 1984 with The Temple of Doom and Gremlins (which I recall were PG and 15 here). There was a discrepancy between film and video, so for a while Batman was a 15 on video before the law changed.

I’m not daft enough to think kids don’t cuss, as many, many winters ago I too was a young lad with a potty mouth. But film makers seem to be falling into the trap common to children and adolescents in equating swear words with coolness and maturity. It’s as if you can see some Hollywood script writer, fresh from the leafy glades of Harvard or Yale, thinking that to give his script extra credence with Da Kidz he needs a tirade of mild-moderate expletives, with a little F-bomb thrown in for added kudos. And it truly is a cuss-creep. We’ve moved from violence and mild sexual content earning you your 12A/PG13 to bad language being the main issue. I sat through both of the recent X-men films—Days of Future Past and First Class, wincing a little and then holding my head in despair at Wolvie throwing in the F-bomb. Why? It was almost puerile the way it was done. You can see X-men fanboys snickering behind their hands at big bad Wolverine using the big bad word. They’d say ‘oh, it’s in character, it’s what he’d say in real life.’ In real life? A mutant with regenerative powers, an adamantium skeleton, twelve inch claws, who’s a hundred and thirty years old? Yeah…oh, I see that realism right there.

It’s pointless and childish of film makers and it’s a cheap shot. If they’re relying on swearing in films to give their characters some integrity and realism then they need to go back to Screen Writing 101. We suspend our disbelief when we go watch movies, immerse ourselves in the worlds. We accept fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes, unlikely love stories, vampires and werewolves, astonishing plot twists and coincidences. It’s not too much of a push to accept that the characters may not swear as much on celluloid as they would in ‘the real world’ any more than we accept they always pull on pants/sheets/t-shirts when getting out of bed for a wee, never seem to need the loo, have astonishingly buff bodies despite seemingly sedentary lifestyles, and never switch lights on when there’s a monster/serial killer/werewolf/robot lurking in the lounge.

Maybe it’s time to look at certification again? Anyone for a 12-F category…?

April 21, 2015

Review: The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire by Iain Reading

by Donna Huber

The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire

The guilds had existed for two and a half thousand years, and it certainly wasn't the first time that tragedy had struck and claimed the life of an Elemental before their time. It had happened before, and it was sure to happen again, but for Memphis Gray, it was the first time that tragedy had struck so close to home in her own small world.

The Review

The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire by Iain Reading had a promising premise. There are individuals who can manipulate the elements of the world - air, water, fire, and earth. When the energy of two are combined a powerful force is created. Some times great things happen and other times catastrophic events results. The mission of the Waterfire Guild is to maintain balance in nature and the combination of water and fire has positive effects. However, the another ancient guild, the EarthAir, are set on upsetting the balance, causing natural disasters for personal profit.

However, this young adult novel does not live up to expectation. Focused on a guild made up of teenagers, a reader can make quick comparison to Harry Potter, but the writing is lacking the sophistication of of J, K. Rowling. I found the story to be disjointed and often felt the author had to insert "explanations" because the story was contradicting itself. I have to wonder if Reading uses an outline.

The reading level of the book was lower than I was expecting as well. I thought it was a young adult novel. The teens are high school seniors, yet the story read like a middle grades novel. The lack of parental involvement and what adults were present were child-like incarnations (the way a child would like for an adult to be) instead of responsible adult.

Things like the kids hanging out in a secret hideout with the uncle of one the teens, being rushed off to Greece in the middle of the week when there is school, and the eccentric "Mr. Park" were more like the elements I find in middle grade fantasy novels, than one for high school students. There is so little parental involvement that when one student falls off the stage during the performance and needs to go to the hospital the parents are no where to be seen and no one in the story thinks this is unusual.

I'm sure my views of The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire were colored by my editing a manuscript while reading it (I have trouble turning off my "editor eyes") and the fact it followed the superbly written young adult novel, When You Leave by Monica Ropal. Seriously, though if this had not been a Netgalley book for review, I would have given up 50 pages in. I think Reading has potential as a writer and for younger readers this might be a great book.

Buy The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook and paperback (268 pages)
published: April 2014
ISBN13: 978-1497358980
genres: fantasy
audience: middle grades/young adult
source: Netgalley
read: March/April 2015

A free egalley was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. Thank you for supporting this blog.

April 20, 2015

Interview with J.J. Brown (@jjbwordslinger)

by Heather Kirchhoff

Secrets and Howls
What made you decide to start writing? Was this something you always thought you’d do? 

I’m not really sure why I decided to write, except that I always wanted to be a part of the story that my favorite books and movies told. So I wrote myself in as a character specific to that world. This was before I even heard the term fan fiction – I wrote them for myself and no one else.  I kept a list of who my characters were, but it’s lost.

How do you come up with your characters or story ideas?

1. Story ideas come out of either the “What if….?” Zone or they originate with the characters themselves. My first novel, Secrets & Howls: A Wolf’s Head Bay Mystery, originally started out as a straight horror story, with werewolves as the center piece. My inspiration came from many sources, including photographs of the California coast and my love for lighthouses. The process began with a variation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (about a town whose people became vampires), where my question was “What if there really were werewolves? And what if, instead of hiding, they lived in plain sight?”

It just went from there.

2. Characters are interesting, particularly the lead characters – they either show up and demand that their story be told, or they reveal themselves as the story progresses. The lead character for Secrets & Howls, Marita Brye, didn’t really start out as the lead, but she was a part of the cast. She wound up being the lead when it became clear that I needed a character to lead the reader into the story and she fit the bill perfectly. In most cases, though, I know who the lead character is and finding out who they are as I write is both amusing and frustrating, which I suppose is a lot like dealing with real people.

How do you get inspired to write?

I have no idea how I get inspired to write, I just need to write (lol). But I do know that as I’m writing, I’m inspired by the story and the characters to keep digging deeper into the material, to find connections that I didn’t even realize I’d put there until later.

For example, the Wolf’s Head Bay series is connected to two other series – one on which I’m working right now, and another that is set during World War II.

I wasn’t actually consciously making that choice until I started working on my current WIP and doing research for the other one. And then I realized at least one character was present in all three series. It just grew in ways I hadn’t really expected.

What do you do while having writers block?

When I have writer’s block, I break out the watercolor paints and doodle on paper. Or I take one of the journals for one of my current projects and write down questions or notes pertaining to the story. That way, I’m either being creative in another form or I’m still working on the story at hand. It’s that works for me, but something different might work for others.

What kind of stories do you write?

At the moment, I seem to be writing mostly mysteries, some traditional, some with a more supernatural flair.

Who are your favorite authors?

Jane Austen, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, Agatha Christie, JRR Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, Kate
Elliot, Robin Hobb, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, to name a few.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was very young, before the age of ten, I think. I have a one page story in a file box from that time. It’s about a horse. It’s terrible.

What are your stories about?

I have a fantasy novel that I wrote years ago and am working to re-write completely, as well as a science fiction one. They’re somehow connected to each other and I’m very curious as to how that’ll turn out. I’m also interested in tackling the horror genre and maybe a forensic thriller, too. I’ve written a few romantic comedy screenplays and a stage comedy.

What are you currently working on?

A supernatural mystery that takes place about 30 miles north of Wolf’s Head Bay and 30-plus years after the events in Secrets & Howls (which takes place in 1978), the sequel to Secrets & Howls, an erotic novella set in the 1920s and revising my stage play.

What do you do when not writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m reading, taking care of my horses, playing trivia with friends at my favorite watering hole, playing catch-up with movies and chilling with my nephew. I’m looking into taking up swing dancing, which should be a lot of fun.

Buy Secrets & Howls at Amazon

About the Author:
I grew up in Southern California surrounded by an eclectic selection of authors and books ranging from classic literature to popular fiction to mythology to non-fiction, thanks in large part to my educator parents.
Drawing, watercolors, with an occasional dabble in oils and pastels, and theater served as other avenues for story-telling. But what truly fired my imagination was the craft of the written word. This began at an early age and the intricacies of world-building and character allowed me to find my voice and hone my craft.
When not writing, performing in local theater, hanging out with a cantankerous cat and dramatic horses, I enjoy the company of friends (even when it involves heavy duty stable work), trivia night and going for a latte at a local coffee shop.
Currently, in addition to the sequel to Secrets & Howls, I am working on two more novels, shopping an original stage play for production and developing erotic novellas under a pen-name.
'Much Ado Over Murder: A Hey! No Problem! Mystery' is my third and the most recent novel to be published.
Twitter  *  website  *  Facebook

The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. Thank you for supporting this blog.

April 19, 2015

Unboxing the Box of Bookish Delights

Thank you everyone for entering the Box of Bookish Delights giveaway. A winner has been chosen - Sarah K. Congratulations! Thank you, Alison DeLuca, for sponsoring this giveaway by providing the signed paperbacks.

While there could only be 1 winner, I have an offer for the rest of you.

You may purchase your own Box of Bookish Delights for $50 (add $10 if you reside outside the US). If you rather have a surprise shipped to you, you can purchase a Box of BookSurf Fun for $28.50 + tax . I will choose a signed paperback and swag item to ship to you from the BookSurf catalog.

A form to order your own box is below the video.

And now, see what is in the Box of Bookish Delights!

What's in the box?
(1) Reading Rubber Duck
(5) Novel Teas bags
(1) pair of bookworm socks from SockSmith
(1) Signed 1st edition paperback of The Night Watchman by Alison DeLuca
(1) Signed 1st edition paperback of Devil's Kitchen by Alison DeLuca
(2) bookmarks

Order YOUR box:

If you are an author who would like to sponsor a future Box of Bookish Delights, please contact me at donna (at)

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above links. Thank you for supporting this blog.