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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

October 22, 2016

Review: The Widower's Wife by Cate Holahan

August 2016; Crooked Lane Books;
9781629537658; hardcover (304 pgs) &
ebook; thriller
a free book was provided by the author
by Susan Roberts

If you want a book that will keep you reading way past your bedtime...will have you convinced that you know how it will end and then to find out in the next chapter that you were totally wrong...that has an ending that you won't see coming....If you are looking for all that and more, The Widower's Wife is the book for you.

Ana and Tom Bacon and their daughter live in extravagant lifestyle until Tom loses his job and they have no income to support their family. They are in debt over their heads and will soon lose their house. While on a short cruise, Ana falls overboard, When Tom tries to collect the ten million dollar insurance policy, the insurance company sends Ryan, a former NYC detective, to investigate whether Ana fell overboard or was pushed.

This is an intriguing story with a crisp plot that will keep you rapidly turning pages. The story is told in alternating chapters by Ana about the past and Ryan about the investigation. It was a great way to tell the story so that the reader sees the entire story.

Catherine "Cate" Holahan is the author of not only The Widower's Wife (August 2016) but also Dark Turns (November 2015), both are published by Crooked Lane Books.

An award-winning journalist and former television producer, her articles have appeared in BusinessWeek, The Boston Globe, The Record and on websites for CBS, MSN Money,,, and CNBC. Her short fiction won first place in the 19th annual Calliope competition, a magazine published by the writer's group of American Mensa.  

Keep an eye on this author, I think we'll see some great books from her in the future.

Buy The Widower's Wife at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Car when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and helping to take care of their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 21, 2016

Let’s Talk About Writing Dialogue

by Byddi Lee


Well, we did it again! We’ve relocated to a different country, and though I’ve joked about it in previous posts, it’s probably just what I need to force me to write my next book. This time we’ve moved to the wonderful city of Paris, France. Having only learned high school French, integrating here will be quite the challenge. I have noticed that the way we learned French in school – very formal and in full sentences – is different to how people actually talk. For example when we learned to apologize in French we used the complete sentence, “I am sorry.” (Je suis désolé.)  In reality, we simply say, “Sorry.” Writers do something similar to this when writing good dialogue.

Readers are pulled into a story by the characters. What a character says and how they say it helps our readers connect with them and become invested in the narrative. To write engaging and realistic dialogue, listen to how people talk to each other. We often don’t speak in full sentences, and many of our words are contracted. For example, “I am …” becomes “I’m …” Pay attention to how things are said and especially to the things that may be left unsaid in a conversation – this is known as sub-text and can artfully create tension and illustrate character traits.

Notice how a real dialogue flows, then read lots of dialogue. It is slightly different to how people really talk. As a writer, you need to figure how and why. Writing dialogue is not just about transcribing what people say. It involves a somewhat truncated version of how people talk in reality but with enough real nuances thrown in to provide flavor.

For example, in real life, we use a lot of superfluous words upon greeting one another and taking our leave of each other. We make affirmation sounds when listening to someone else talking and inject shortened words that are mere utterances which don’t even make sense (and are quite impossible to spell!) This all needs filtering out.

Then there’s the small talk, the pleasantries that are socially required but are not required to help the reader piece together the components of the story. For example:
“Hello, Molly,” Tom said.
“Oh, hello, Tom. How are you today?” Molly asked.
“Good, and you?” Tom said.
“Pretty good too. So what are you up to today?” Molly said
“Nothing much. I’m just going for a coffee. Do you want to come?” Tom said.
It sounds quite flat, doesn’t it? That’s because it lacks conflict. It fails to push the story forward or work to paint a character or ratchet up the tension. It is simply not necessary.

Don’t let your characters talk in a vacuum. Inject action. Have the characters display some non-verbal signals. For example, the following amended dialogue gives us some clues as to the strained relationship that exists now between Tom and Molly.
“Hello, Molly,” Tom said, blushing as he stood up quickly.
Molly refused to look directly at him. She gathered the papers from the desk between them and moved towards the door, but he’d beaten her to it and blocked her exit.
“Please,” he said softly. “Let me take you for a coffee and explain.”
It is okay to use simple dialogue tags such as said and asked.  They are considered invisible words and the reader skips past them without noticing them too much. Let the words and actions describe the context. Flamboyant dialogue tags such as exclaimed or interjected are unnecessary and look amateurish. The example above illustrates how using action allows for less use of dialogue tags also.

In this example, it is also obvious that the characters have some issues. Dialogue is also a way to disclose information to the reader. Beware of the, “By the way, Bob…” syndrome, whereby information is presented in the dialogue solely for imparting information to the reader. A character will not tell another character something that they both already know, nor will a character give out information that is already common knowledge or isn’t relevant to the conversation. Often this kind of information dump happens when a character is brought into a new situation, or a new character is introduced and needs to be briefed, for example, in a detective story where the character is talking to an expert of some kind. In this way, information can be shared with or re-capped for the reader without making it obvious.

A character might have a particular phrase that they repeat often. This may be colloquial, or indicative of age, or background. A character who often says, “Jolly good,” is very different from one who might say, “Awesome dude.” Profanity and swearing can also display a character’s traits, but use it with caution and with your target audience in mind.

When attributing dialogue, place the proper noun or pronoun before the tag e.g. Molly said or she said. This makes the sentence more active.

Use the correct punctuation for writing dialogue. Surround the speech with quotation marks. All punctuation must be inside these inverted commas. For example -

“Hello,” Tom said.

Not -

“Hello”, Tom said.

The first word after a comma and closing quotation marks should be lower case unless it is a proper noun, for example -

“Hello,” he said.

Not – 

Hello,” He said.

A new paragraph is needed each time a new person speaks or is referred to, even if they don’t speak, for example -

“I’m not going for coffee with you,” Molly said. “Now move out of my way or I’ll start screaming.”

Tom stepped aside.

These are just the basics of punctuation for dialogue. I’ve concentrated on the areas where I see the most mistakes being made. It is worthwhile referencing a comprehensive grammar text or website to make sure that you follow all the rules.

Getting dialogue right makes a huge difference to your writing. Practice dialogue in your head. Let the voices chatter and argue, even voice them aloud, though this is probably best done when you are alone, or with a phone bud in your ear. Just make sure you have the other end plugged into your phone at the time!

Byddi Lee grew up in Armagh, Ireland, and moved to Belfast to study Biology at Queen’s University when she was 18. She made Belfast her home for twenty-one years, teaching science and writing for pleasure. In 2002 she took a sabbatical from teaching and traveled around the world for two years, writing blogs about her adventures as she went. She returned to Ireland in 2004 and resumed teaching. In 2008 she and her husband moved to San Jose, California where she made writing a full-time career. After the publication of her short story, Death of a Seannachai, she decided it was time to write, March to November. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter

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October 20, 2016

5 Hot Romance Novels for Cool Fall Nights

If you'd rather be cozying up with a wonderful romance rather than hiding under the covers with latest Halloween horror novel, then this list is for you.

cover Punk 57
"Where'd you go? I miss you so. Seems like it's been forever that you've been gone."


I can’t help but smile at the lyrics in her letter. She misses me.

In fifth grade, my teacher set us up with pen pals from a different school. Thinking I was a girl, with a name like Misha, the other teacher paired me up with her student, Ryen. My teacher, believing Ryen was a boy like me, agreed.

It didn’t take long for us to figure out the mistake. And in no time at all, we were arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever…

And that was the start. For the next seven years, it was us.

Her letters are always on black paper with silver writing. Sometimes there’s one a week or three in a day, but I need them. She’s the only one who keeps me on track, talks me down, and accepts everything I am.

We only had three rules. No social media, no phone numbers, no pictures. We had a good thing going. Why ruin it?

Until I run across a photo of a girl online. Name’s Ryen, loves Gallo’s pizza, and worships her iPhone. What are the chances?

F*ck it. I need to meet her.

I just don’t expect to hate what I find.


He hasn’t written in three months. Something’s wrong. Did he die? Get arrested? Knowing Misha, neither would be a stretch.

Without him around, I’m going crazy. I need to know someone is listening. It’s my own fault. I should’ve gotten his phone number or picture or something.

He could be gone forever.

Or right under my nose, and I wouldn’t even know it.

*Punk 57 is a standalone New Adult romance. It is suitable for ages 18+.

Buy Punk 57 at Amazon

cover Deadly Silence

Under siege. That's how Ryker Jones feels. The Lost Bastards Investigative Agency he opened up with his blood brothers has lost a client in a brutal way. The past he can't outrun is resurfacing, threatening to drag him down in the undertow. And the beautiful woman he's been trying to keep at arm's length is in danger...and he'll destroy anything and anyone to keep her safe.

Paralegal Zara Remington is in over her head. She's making risky moves at work by day and indulging in an affair with a darkly dangerous PI by night. There's a lot Ryker isn't telling her and the more she uncovers, the less she wants to know. But when all hell breaks loose, Ryker may be the only one to save her. If his past doesn't catch up to them first...

Full of twists and turns you won't see coming, DEADLY SILENCE is New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti at her suspenseful best...

A Blood Brothers Novel

Buy Deadly Silence at Amazon

cover My Brown-Eyed Earl

William Ryder, Earl of Castleton, is at the end of his noble rope. Not only has he broken ties with his longtime mistress, his mother has publicly announced her wish for him to marry a suitable young lady―if only to help him raise the twins left in his care. Hiring a governess should solve some of Will’s problems…but when he meets the candidate in question, he finds himself in an entirely new predicament.


Miss Margaret Lacey is brainy, beautiful, and, once upon a time, Will’s betrothed. But she bowed out of the engagement―and, since then, has never been the same. A tragic accident robbed her of everything, and now, at age twenty-three, her marital prospects are slim to none. Penniless but not without pride, Meg convinces the vexingly handsome Will to hire her for the job. What neither of them could have expected from this arrangement, however, is an attraction that burns stronger than ever. Are these two lost souls finally ready to be schooled in the art of love?

Buy My Brown-Eyed Earl at Amazon

cover Four Letter Word
Fate. Hate. Love. Lies.

Which four letter word will change their lives forever?

Sydney Paige was never so mortified to hear the words "wrong number" in her life. She meant to tell off the guy who broke her best friend's heart but unleashed her anger on a perfect stranger instead. And now her world is turned upside down by the captivating man who wants to keep her on the line.

Brian Savage is living a life he's quickly come to hate-until Sydney's wild rant has him hooked and hungry for more. Soon the sexy woman on the phone becomes the lover in his bed. But Brian has secrets, and the closer he lets Syd get, the harder it is to shield her from the devastating mistakes of his past . . .

Buy Four Letter Word at Amazon

cover The Bachelor Auction
Cinderella never had to deal with this crap.

Jane isn't entirely sure that Cinderella got such a raw deal. Sure, she had a rough start, but didn't she eventually land a prince and a happily-ever-after? Meanwhile, Jane is busy waiting on her demanding, entitled sisters, running her cleaning business, and . . . yep, not a prince in sight. Until a party and a broken shoe incident leave Jane wondering if princes---or at least, a certain deliciously hunky billionaire---maybe do exist.

Except Brock Wellington isn't anyone's dream guy. Hell, a prince would never agree to be auctioned off in marriage to the highest bidder. Or act like an arrogant jerk---even if it was just a façade. Now, as Brock is waiting for the auction chopping block, he figures it's karmic retribution that he's tempted by a sexy, sassy woman he can't have. But while they can't have a fairy-tale ending, maybe they can indulge in a little bit of fantasy . . .

Buy The Bachelor Auction at Amazon

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October 19, 2016

Review: Millicent Marie Just My Opinion by Karen Pokras Toz

by Donna Huber

October 2016; Grand Daisy Press;
978-0996284356; paperback, & ebook 182 pg;
free ebook provided by the author
Millicent Marie is back! Karen Pokras Toz has brought back her middle school, digital diary keeping, advice giving title character in Millicent Marie: Just My Opinion.

Just My Opinion picks up shortly after the end of Millicent Marie Is Not My Name, but can be read as a stand alone. There are a few references to the past BIG event of the first book, but it really has no bearing on the plot of this new book.

Millie has been asked to serve as an advice columnist for her elementary school's paper. She's excited about the upcoming school play and her first sleepover birthday party. For the most part the kids seemed to have learned their lesson after what happened in the first book, except for maybe Doogle, Millie's kid brother. But then snooping is just par of the course for younger siblings. Everything is looking great for the end of her 6th grade year. That is until the odd firing of everyone's favorite principle. Enters new principle Dr. Feather Foster and everyone's worst nightmare. She would give Delores Umbridge a run for her money (I happened to be reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheniox at the same time).

Millie and her friends uncover a sinister plan and concoct a plan of their own to get rid of Dr. Feather Foster. What could go wrong when a bunch of 6th graders, a 4th grader, and a genius kindergarten team up?

Karen Pokras Toz has once again crafted an excellent story that teaches valuable life lessons in a fun and relatable manner.

Buy Millicent Marie: Just My Opinion at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 18, 2016

Review: Tokens and Omens by Jeri Baird

by MK French
July 2016; Jolly Fish Press; 9781631630828
(paperback, 284 pages); science fiction;
provided by publisher for review

In Puck's Gulch, sixteen-year-olds undergo a Quest. Magical tokens are given to them when they perform good deeds, and omens appear near them when they do bad ones. During the five-day Quest, the tokens they earn can be used to defeat the omens. At the end of the Quest, they will discover where their futures lay, and what trade they will be apprenticed to. Generally, each teen must go into the forest for their Quest and battle their omens on their own. Sometimes a teen might get a gift ahead of the Quest, and each one has a patron animal that they can call upon to aid them if the Quest is too dangerous. Zander, the son of the furrier, receives a gift, as does Alexa, the daughter of the baker. There are thirteen teens to undergo the Quest this year, as well as secrets within the village. Fate cannot be cheated and will punish those who try.

This was an interesting take on the trope of teens undergoing physical and mental trials. The characters were generally likable, even the ones that clearly were painted as the antagonist of the story. There is a sharp difference in the classes of workers within the village, and the teens' responses to this were very believable. In a world of fortune tellers, magic potions, a living embodiment of Fate and the ghost of the village's founder whispering to Zander, it very easily could have strayed too far into the fantastic that it would be hard to connect with. Even with these elements presented as part of the world the characters live in, the focus of the story was on the teenagers and the relationships they had with each other and with the adults in the village. Feelings changed over time, they made mistakes, they could be petty or jealous. At the same time, they were also capable of great acts of kindness, and as a reader, I was able to understand their conflicts and how they grew. I felt the same outrage that they did for rules being broken or for the inequalities in the village to continually come down on Zander; he's easily the most sympathetic character from the outset. Alexa had to grow on me, which she did as she learned from her mistakes.

The ending of the story was very hopeful and still fit in with the rest of the story, and kept with the theme of choices defining the individual. While it's clearly the first book in a series, this can stand alone as a single book. It's a very engaging and enjoyable read.

Buy Tokens and Omens at Amazon

MK French, reviewer. Born and raised in New York City, M.K. started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 17, 2016

3 Great Books from @AlgonquinBooks #MondayBlogs

by Susan Roberts

I usually don't pay much attention to the publishers of the books that I enjoy but when I realized that three of the books that I read and enjoyed tremendously this month were all from the same publisher, I thought that it was time to write about the wonderful books that they are publishing.  Thanks to Algonquin Books for the wonderful books.

As Good as Gone by Larry Watson
June 2016; 978-1616205713 (hardcover, 352 pages); western thriller; provided by publisher

Calvin is an old cowboy who lives in a beaten down trailer in the plains of Montana in the 1960s. He avoids other people including the family that he abandoned years before after his wife died. As the story begins, his son Bill has come to ask him to stay with his two grandchildren while Bill takes his wife to another town for surgery. Surprisingly, Calvin agrees and he returns to the town that he grew up in to watch over his 17-year-old granddaughter and 11-year-old grandson. Calvin is a man of few words who appears to handle life in a straightforward way - he makes his point first and asks questions later. Yet the author allows us to see a softer side of Calvin in small ways when he thinks about his wife and the way he treats his grandchildren.

If you are looking for a book with a lot of action, this isn't the book for you. However, if you are looking for a book with a great lead character who stays true to his life, Calvin is a man that you won't soon forget. I plan to look into earlier books by Calvin Watson because of my enjoyment of the characters in this novel.

Buy As Good as Gone at Amazon

cover Cruel Beautiful World
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt
October 2016; 978-1616203634 (hardcover, 352 pages); women's fiction, provided by publisher

I started this book yesterday morning and didn't put it down until I finished it last evening way past my bedtime. It's my first book by this author and I plan to read her earlier books as soon as possible.

Cruel Beautiful World is a powerful book about family and love. Lucy and Charlotte are sisters who they went to live with Iris when their parents are killed in a fire when they are very young. The novel begins in 1969 when Lucy is about to run away with one of her high school teachers who is 30 to her 16 years old. Charlotte and Iris are devastated by her disappearance and the book is told from their viewpoints as life continues to go on and Lucy's viewpoint who finds that her plan for 'happily ever after' may not be reality. I am not going to say any more about the plot because I don't want to give anything away but I will say that these three characters are so well written that I felt like I knew them and I cried when they cried. One other main 'character' in this novel is the time period of the late 60s. It was a fearful time with the Manson murders and the anti-war protesters and this fear is felt in different ways by all of the characters.

This is a powerful fantastic book about family and how we often hurt the ones we love by trying to live our lives the way we want to. Lucy, Charlotte and Iris and their struggles will be long remembered by this reader.

Buy Cruel Beautiful World at Amazon

cover Leave Me
Leave Me by Gayle Forman
September 2016; 978-1616206178 (hardcover, 352 pages); women's fiction; provided by publisher

I think that every woman - at least once in her lifetime - has an urge to walk away from her current life. In Leave Me by Gayle Forman, Maribeth Klein does just that. She is a 42 year old mother of 4 year old twins, works a high pressure job as an editor for a NYC magazine, has a husband who is basically clueless to what it takes to keep their home running and spends all of her time taking care of a family who have come to expect all she does for them. As the novel begins, Maribeth is having a heart attack but she blames it on indigestion and continues working, finally going to the ER the next day (by herself of course) when the pain gets worse. A week after having bypass surgery and in a depression over worrying about her life, she returns home to a family who expects her to go back to being 'supermom' immediately. After several weeks as the family demands increase, she packs a bag, writes a note to her husband and leaves.

Maribeth could have been an easy character to dislike - how likable can a mother be who walks out on her 4 year old twins? I found her to be a very sympathetic character and enjoyed seeing the growth in her as the story progressed. She had been so involved in her work and her family that she had managed to lose sight of herself as a person.  I enjoyed this book and look forward to future books from this author.

Buy Leave Me at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in NC when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy travelling, gardening and helping to take care of their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 16, 2016

Dictionary Day 2016

by Donna Huber

English: Handwritten drafts of dictionary entr...
English: Handwritten drafts of dictionary entries written by Noah Webster. From the Webster Family Papers, Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, October 16, is Dictionary Day. More specifically though it is the birthday of Noah Webster, who most consider to be the father of the American Dictionary.

I love dictionaries because I love words. Growing up every household had at least one dictionary and I remember students who were English majors at my university were required to have a Webster Dictionary (though technically it might have been a Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Was I the only one who went to the dictionary to look up a word and then find themselves reading all the other entries on the page just because they were fascinated by the words? If this was you, then you may enjoy signing up for the Word of the Day from Today's word is LEXICON.

If you are a school teacher Education World has some fun games suggestions you can do with your students to celebrate words.

Who was Noah Webster?

Born into an average colonial family in what is today West Hampton, Connecticut on October 16, 1758, Noah Webster enjoyed a privilege that was rare during his day. He was able to attend college and at the age of 16 graduated from Yale University. He wanted to study law, like many students today, he could not afford an advance education and therefore went into teaching.

Webster saw the need for updating the educational system in the U.S. and wrote the first American textbook, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, in 1783. Nearly 100 million copies were sold and it was used for 100 years to teach students to read, spell, and pronounce words.

By the turn of the century, Americans were pronouncing and using words differently than the English and in 1801 Webster started to work on what would become the first American dictionary. Did you know in Webster's day the words 'skunk' and 'squash' were not in the English (British) dictionary? Americans had also stopped using British spelling for many words, i.e. color instead of colour. Or at least Webster decided they had.

Within 5 years of starting the project, he published Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. It contained short definitions for about 37,000 words. It was another 22 years before Webster completed the American Dictionary of the English Language which included definitions for more 65,000 words.

While well-known for his dictionary, Noah Webster also played a role in the establishment of copyright law and universal education. He helped found Amherst College and created his own version of an "American" Bible. He died in 1853. (from Noah Webster History, Noah Webster House & West Hampton Historical Society)

Test Your Vocabulary!

The grammar site created a list of 10 fun words. I've listed the words below, try defining them before heading over to their blog post.


Do you have a favorite word? Share it in the comments!

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