The Book Review Club: Red Hot Lies

When middle grade author Barrie Summy, creator of “The Book Review Club,” heard I was going to review Red Hot Lies by Laura Caldwell for the July meeting of the club, she said, “…so you’re into titles with “red” and “hot.” LOL! (For those who don’t know, I published a novel called Real Women Wear Red.)

When middle grade author Barrie Summy, creator of “The Book Review Club,” heard I was going to review Red Hot Lies by Laura Caldwell for the July meeting of the club, she said, “…so you’re into titles with “red” and “hot.” LOL! (For those who don’t know, I published a novel called Real Women Wear Red.)

But red is just one thing that Laura Caldwell and I have in common. We also credit Jerry Cleaver of Chicago “The Loft” fame for our early writing. And there’s something about Laura’s voice that resonates with my own and I’ve always said that if I had to point to an author who was most like me, it would be Laura Caldwell – in a teeny tiny way.

I first discovered Laura Caldwell after I wrote the first draft of my second manuscript and read her first published book, the first chick lit novel I’d ever read – Burning the Map. I rewrote my manuscript to be more chick lit after that – I was hooked on chick lit and on Laura Caldwell. With her second book, Look Closely, I could see that Laura was moving toward suspense. And each book moved more and more in that direction until she fully switched to mystery/suspense/thriller when she moved from Harlequin’s Red Dress Ink to Harlequin’s MIRA.

Red Hot Lies is the first book of an Izzy McNeil trilogy – followed by more red: Red Blooded Murder and Red White & Dead. And if I thought we shared similarities in our writing, well Laura leaves me in the dust with the introduction of this trilogy. Wow! Her legal background serves her well, but she retains the personalization of her characters that is so Laura Caldwell. And that’s what I love most about her writing and why I have all of her books and follow her from genre to genre. She’s the only author I can say that about.

So now what is Red Hot Lies about? Here’s the excerpt and blurb on the back cover of the book:


Usually I pride myself on my intuition. I listen to that voice that says, “Something bad is happening…” or maybe “Get out. Now.” But on that Tuesday at the end of October, my psyche must have been protecting the one remaining day I still believed life was orderly and the universe liked me. Because I didn’t hear that voice. I never saw it coming.


They say bad things happen in threes. When her fiancé, Sam, disappears on the same day her mentor and biggest client is killed, hotshot Chicago attorney Izzy McNeil starts counting. But trouble keeps coming. Sam is implicated in the client’s death, her apartment is broken into and it’s not just the authorities who are following her.

Now, to find Sam and uncover her client’s murderer, Izzy will have to push past limits she never imagined. Lucky for her she’s always thrived under pressure, because her world is falling apart. Fast. And the trail of half-truths and lies is red-hot.

I love one reviewer’s quote on the front cover that really captures the essence of the novel:

“Aims for the sweet spot between tough and tender, between thrills and thought–and hits the bull’s-eye. A terrific novel!”–#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child

After reading Red Hot Lies, I’m inspired to finish my suspense wip, something that keeps getting put aside. But starting the second book Red Blooded Murder (which is even better than the first), should keep the motivation going, although Laura Caldwell is a tough act to follow.

For more information about Laura Caldwell and her books, visit her web site. For more book reviews of this month’s “The Book Review Club,” click on the icon below.

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Book Review Club: April Fool’s Day: Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew

With the April meeting of The Book Review Club – hosted by the fabulous I So Don’t Do Mysteries middle grade author Barrie Summy – landed on April Fool’s day, I knew I had to review a book especially appropriate for the day. Especially since Barrie is such a prankster herself. Hmmm… I wonder if there’s an April Fool’s “I So Don’t Do” mystery in the future…

After searching online I found the perfect book to review: April Fool’s Day: Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew by Carolyn Keene, of course. And it was available on Kindle. And because our household just got a Kindle, it was the perfect book for me to take Kindle out on a test drive. So I downloaded it on Saturday and finished reading it by Sunday. Being able to immediately download a book was a huge plus – my order for my print books just arrived yesterday.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Nancy Drew book. My last Nancy Drew sighting was the movie, Nancy Drew: The Mystery of Hollywood Hills. Used to experiencing Nancy Drew the teenager, this was the first time I was introduced to Nancy Drew, the middle grader – but up-to-date with cell phones, gamer girls, and computers. I would think the middle grade set would love it! Hmmm… I’m sounding rather old just saying that…

Apparently, the Clue Crew was started in 2006 and there are now 24 titles in this series. Here’s the blurb for April Fool’s Day:

Nancy, George, and Bess have been invited to an April Fool’s Day party at their new schoolmate’s house. It sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun — each guest is bringing a gag to the party, and the best prank will win a special prize.When two of the guests’ fancy new electronics go missing, Nancy knows something’s up. Is this someone’s idea of a joke? The Clue Crew certainly isn’t laughing, and they’re on the case to find the missing gadgets.

It really was a lot of fun to read, even for me. It took me back to my childhood reading all about Nancy, George, Bess, and Housekeeper Hannah Gruen. But I missed the teen-aged Nancy and boyfriend Ned Nickerson. The best thing about this is that for those middle-graders being introduced to Nancy Drew at this age, they have a whole lot of fun awaiting them with the entire Nancy Drew series. I kinda wish I had a middle grader to introduce Nancy Drew to.

To read more April reviews from The Book Review Club

The Book Review Club: Bet Me

My next review for “The Book Review Club” is Bet Me by Jennifer Cruse. For book reviews by other club members, see Barrie Summy‘s blog.

Where have I been? I must be the last person on the planet to discover how brilliant Jennifer Crusie is. And Bet Me is an example of a practically-perfectly written book. Not only did I love her writing style, but it passed every example of good writing in Margie Lawson’s “Deep Editing” class.

Min Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man like Cal Morrisey, who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Cal Morrisey knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal are dealing with meddling friends, wedding cake, a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kremes, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a frantic bride, Chicken Marsala, a mutant cat, snow globes, two Mothers-from-Hell, great shoes, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of including the biggest gamble of all–unconditional love.

The above blurb excerpt is from the web site of Jennifer Crusie followed by an interesting note about the 10-year history of this book before it made it to publication. Writers especially may want to check it out.

Speaking of which, I mostly read today from a writer’s point of view. And the story behind the story was fascinating to me. Jennifer Crusie is definitely one of those authors a writer can learn from. But it really helps when you love their work. Bet Me stands out because not only is it character-focused with snappy dialogue that is so Jennifer Crusie, but, to me, straddles chick lit and romance. Okay, if chick lit turns you off, let’s call it romantic comedy.

Some people call it romance because there is romantic conflict throughout, but I call it a romantic chick lit or romantic comedy because the characters are flawed, interesting, and self-depracating at times. They are real. Everything about this book is so real. And that’s what I loved about chick lit, but I am also a romantic so it serves up both to me.

You read it and you feel like you are Min, sitting comfortably in your apartment in your sweats with your cat, both licking your chops in anticipation of eating the Chicken Marsala delivered by a man so handsome and suave you call him “The Beast.” Only he doesn’t see your flaws, or if he does, instead of being turned off by them, he celebrates them. Min, always on a diet to please her skinny mother, is emphatic about turning down all carbs. Except that “The Beast” has a way of seducing her with fresly-baked Italian bread and pasta so delicious the look of extreme pleasure envelopes her face until Cal lives for the day he can put that look on her face. Is that hot or what? That’s my kinda guy.

The only drawback in the book may be for regular die-hard romance readers who are going to want more physical romantic payoff more often than what Bet Me delivers. But it tops my favorite books list and I’ll be looking for more Jennifer Crusie titles.

Click icon for more

book review blogs

@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Book Review Club: Girlfriend Material

As you may recall, I reviewed Melissa Kantor’s The Breakup Bible for my first book review for Barrie Summy’s “The Book Review Club.” I loved this book so much I had to get Melissa Kantor’s next book Girlfriend Material. Here’s the blurb, courtesy of

If Kate were Lady Brett Ashley, the devastating heroine of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, she’d spend her summers careering around the Riviera in her coupe, breaking hearts by the dozen–because why not? In reality, Kate’s never even had a boyfriend, and she’ll be spending the summer abetting her mom’s lame ploy to make her dad jealous: running off to Cape Cod and crashing at the seaside home of her wealthy friends, the Cooper-Melnicks. To add to the shame, the Cooper-Melnicks’ gorgeous daughter Sarah is a bit like Lady Brett, and she seems less than thrilled to hang out with her new houseguest. Any dreams Kate once had of a perfect summer are ruined.

That is, until Sarah’s cute, witty friend Adam starts drawing Kate into the fold–and seems intrigued. With Adam around, Kate feels like she just might have a bit of heartbreaker potential after all. But when a breezy summer romance quickly grows more complicated can Kate keep pretending her relationship with Adam is just a carefree fling? Or will she take the risk and tell him her real feelings? Suddenly Kate is asking herself a question she never thought she’d stoop to: Is she girlfriend material?

As usual, Melissa Kantor captures teen-age anst in such a way that I, as an adult, can totally relate. So much so, it’s almost painful to relieve some of those feelings – of having to answer to parents, of not being in control of your own life – as much as any adult is in control of their life, that is, being hung up on a guy who seems too smooth to be true, and forced to be with a peer who treats you as if you’re not quite good enough.

Location in a book is very important to me, so, naturally, as a beach lover, I enjoyed the Cape Cod setting, and was so happy the book had little to do with the character’s home town in Utah. 🙂

Melissa Kantor, being a high school English teacher, must have more inside information than I do regarding what teens are doing today, but I do question some of the insights that a teen is supposed to have. I hate to say anything negative, but in some young adult books I’ve read, and this one included, it feels a bit too much like author intrusion, imparting the author’s life experience into the life of the teen character. But, then, it could just be me.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and Melissa Kantor is a master at weaving plot elements together for the perfect ending to a book.

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Book Review Club: The Breakup Bible

My first review for “The Book Review Club” is The Breakup Bible by Melissa Kantor. For book reviews by other club members, see Barrie Summy’s blog.

When I realized I wanted to write a young adult novel I hadn’t really read any that I could say I loved. I kept trying, but none of them really appealed to me and I wondered if I really could write a young novel myself if I couldn’t even find one I enjoyed reading.

Anyway, that all changed the last time we were at Disneyland. There we were in line at the Holiday Haunted Mansion, and the teens behind us were cracking us up talking about if one friend with a big head married another friend with a big head – just imagine how big their kid’s head would be. LOL. That’s when I knew I had to write a young adult novel. If only I could find a young adult novel I really loved.

So, the next day we popped into Compass Books in Downtown Disney (other locations in the Bay Area) before heading back to the hotel room for an afternoon break. Naturally, I love small book stores and this store is a draw every time we go to Disneyland – about once a quarter – it’s well organized, with inviting atmosphere, and helpful clerks (with a small cafe attached serving coffee and yummies). And then I saw it – The Breakup Bible by Melissa Kantor. And I devoured it in two days. It was fabulous. This was the kind of young adult novel I could not only love, but maybe write. Hope, hope, hope.

So what did I like about The Breakup Bible? What was it I could relate to? It took me back to high school. The feelings all came alive again. I was there reliving it, even though it was a long time ago.

The main character was smart – a member of the school newspaper staff interested in a smart guy also on the newspaper staff. What could go wrong? Two smart kids working on the paper together? Being smart doesn’t make you immune from dealing with the same issues everybody deals with. Like what happens when the guy you thought was so cool and smart dumps you for the one girl he said he’d never be with? But you don’t know that because he keeps saying he wants to be friends and maybe you’d eventually get over him but he gives you mixed messages – like little body language cues that you interpret, naturally, as wanting to get back together?

You hope, hope, hope because you just can’t go on with a broken heart. And you can’t move on, beccause this guy still has your heart. But, then eventually you realize he’s just another dumb guy, but you just couldn’t see it before. That’s when you start to grow up just a bit and learn from that experience and maybe choose the right guy next time – and not just the guy who seems right. As the last paragraph in the book’s back blurb says:

She starts to see Max–and herself–in a whole new light. And Jennifer discovers there just might be life after heartbreak.

Unlike some young adult novels that try too hard to be young and hip, or the author is trying too hard to teach a lesson, you find yourself rooting for Jennifer. Because once you get to know Jennifer, you become Jennifer, and you start rooting for yourself.

Should You Self-Publish Or E-Publish?

If your book or novel doesn’t fit into a well-defined mass market box that the large publishing houses cater to, you may find yourself researching smaller publishers. In today’s world, that seems to mean e-publishers.

So, now that you’ve been offered a contract from an e-publisher you’re ecstatic. It feels great to say, “A publisher wants to publish my book.” But once you come off that high by reading the small print, your euphoria is replaced with questions. Reality sets in. What, exactly, does signing with an e-publisher do for you that self-publishing does not? Or is there an advantage to self-publishing over signing with an e-publisher?

Now that self-publishing without upfront fees, through Lulu, for example, is available and many e-publishers are either dispensing with an automatic print run, charging you for print, or making print dependent upon number of sales, it’s time to examine what exactly an e-publisher does for you versus self-publishing. So, let’s take a closer look at each scenario.


You now have a publisher’s name to announce. You can tell everybody, “I’m published by “so-and-so.” In return, the e-publisher may:

  • Provide a web site
  • Format the book during production
  • May or may not edit the book and you may or may not agree with the edits
  • Provide a cover
  • If print, they will provide the ISBN and get your book into Amazon and Barnes and Noble, although some e-publishers charge a fee for print
  • Determine the release schedule
  • Bond with other writers with the same publisher
  • Draw traffic to your book by readers of that publisher if similar in genre
  • May or may not provide your book in print
  • Insist you spend time promoting, including participating in author chats


You have to go it alone. Sometimes you will be dismissed as being “self-published” and reviews will be harder to obtain. In return, you can:

  • Create your own web site presence
  • Control the schedule
  • Design your own cover, including the ability to use the cover in promotion
  • Format your book design during production
  • Edit as you wish or hire your own editor
  • Set your own price above POD fees, although ISBN packages may set price too high
  • Determine availability in electronic and/or print
  • Retain the rights to sell to one of the big publishers
  • Control promotion of your book and not have it listed in areas you deem inappropriate

You may have noticed that it really comes down to how much you’re capable of or have the desire to do yourself. Especially if you have your own web site, and the professional editing, graphic, and production skills. With self-publishing you will have to get your book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which will require the purchase of an ISBN or the ISBN package that Lulu provides. But the additional distribution fees may raise the price of your book to a point that will not sell. Or you could self-publish with Lulu, without purchasing the ISBN package, thereby, setting your own price.

But self-publishing may be worth it if you have your heart set on seeing your book in print and the e-publisher has set a certain number of sales before they will put it in print. Note: some types of books do not sell as well in e-format and will never get enough sales to then move into print. The e-publisher will retain the print rights for a set amount of time and you’ll have to wait for them to expire before you either sell them to another publisher or self-publish it yourself anyway.

Only you can determine which publishing method is best for you and your book. But, whatever method you choose, promotion is really going to be up to you.


Deleted Scene from Real Women Wear Red


Deleted Scene


(Also published on

“Dignity and self-respect, dignity and self-respect.”

When I left my ex-husband, Alec, my two favorite words were “dignity” and “self-respect.” From that moment on, I was going to run as fast as I could from anything that even ever so slightly put either one of those two at risk. It became my mantra of sorts. I would mutter to myself, “dignity and self-respect, dignity and self-respect” whenever I felt slightly threatened or insecure.

So there I was two days before the flight to Miami lying on the doctor’s table with my legs spread as far apart as they physically could. Actually, farther I was sure. With my feet in stirrups and almost every part of my voluptuous body exposed because the two pink paper napkins they gave me, one for my large breasts and the other for my ample bottom, had ripped apart and were flying through the air.

I asked myself whatever happened to dignity and self-respect? Should I throw on my clothes and drive away as quickly as I could or did I endure it, escape to some place pleasant in my mind and get it over with? Because it took all of my courage to even show up for this appointment without cancelling at the last minute. I dreaded this appointment more than ever since my divorce.

Maybe it was the part where they asked about my nonexistent sex life.

But back to the indignity of lying here on the GYN table. After all, the doctor, female I might add, had appeared. I wasn’t sure I was happy with another female poking around my body so intimately. But I also wasn’t sure a male doctor would make me feel any better. Not unless he offered a better dressing gown. But why take a chance? Next time, I’d bring my own.

I closed my eyes and held my breath as she poked around commenting on my privates, “You’re a bit red and dry.”

I quickly offered, “Must be my bath soap. I showered right before I came in.

“No, no. It happens at your age, you know.”

I was thinking “Dry? No way. That’s one thing I don’t have to worry about, even at my age.” Then she asked, for the second time, “Do you do regular monthly breast exams?”

Then I did say, “Are you kidding me? With these giant globes, my breasts get more action than a Vegas casino on a Saturday night.” And I winked. Didn’t know where that came from. Guess my usual way of using humor in uncomfortable or overly sterile situations. The good doctor didn’t even crack a smile. Just looked at me underneath her glasses riding halfway down her nose.

The truth was, my body hadn’t had much action since, and I hated to admit it, I discovered my divorce attorney ex-husband having an affair with one of his clients–a woman going through a divorce. How original.

And as quickly as the doctor appeared, she disappeared. I was told to get dressed. And as I clasped my bra, she knocked again, fully expecting me to be finished. It took a little more time than that to put us all back together.

I didn’t answer the knock, trying desperately to get my top back on but she entered anyway. “Oh, I thought you’d be done.” I smiled knowingly to myself. Guess she really didn’t know what my life was all about. Because, believe me, there was no chance I wasn’t going to know what was going on with my breasts and my body was well lubricated, thank you very much. Even at my age. Maybe, especially at my age. Maybe I hadn’t had much action here lately but my years of living had given me the experience to get to know my body quite well.

She looked over my chart and told me my blood pressure and cholesterol levels were all quite good. She gazed at me, through her reading glasses, looking rather surprised and said, “Guess you’ve got good genes.”

At my weight and age (who made up those weight charts anyway?), I think she expected something else. Something her medical books told her:

1. If a patient is over 20 pounds “overweight,” check for health risks A, B, and C.

2. If a patient is over 40, check for health risks, X, Y, and Z.

3. If a patient does not fit our diagnostics, shake your head.

Having heard that piece of good news, I sucked up enough courage to ask the question I really wanted to know and why I had kept this appointment right before the cruise. If I was going to execute “operation boy toy.”

“Uh, doctor,” I began as I cleared my throat, “am I still young enough to get pregnant?”

She looked at me below the rims of her glasses again and said, “Only if you have sex.” Ha! So the doctor did have a sense of humor.

I walked out of the doctor’s office with a spring in my step, happy to be exactly where I was, where I had come from, and where I was going. And I was meeting Maggie for drinks. My reward for following through on the appointment most dreaded by women everywhere.

I mean, I walked in there feeling confident, and came out of there feeling confident but in-between going in and coming out was another story. But all of that was behind me. It was time to enjoy the anticipation of embarking on a new adventure.