Book Review: The Burning Girl by Lisa Unger

The Burning GirlThe Burning Girl
A Whispers Story #2
Lisa Unger
Pocket Star, November 2014
ISBN 978-1-4767-9779-3

From the publisher—

Ten years after Eloise Montgomery discovers her psychic abilities, she is a full-fledged working psychic, with a partner and a business. Now, in The Burning Girl, she’s discovering some disturbing things: secrets about her genealogy that are, perhaps, best left in the past; that her granddaughter Finley has powers of her own; and that not all of Eloise’s visitors actually want to be helped. Some of them are just looking for trouble…

When The Burning Girl opens, we find Eloise vacuuming while a young girl glowers on her couch. That child isn’t really there; she’s one of those lost girls Eloise “listens” to when her psychic attunement kicks in. Almost fourteen years after the deaths of her husband and older daughter, Eloise is at something of a crossroads in her life and the strain of her unwanted knowledge of people in terrible peril has clearly worn on her. Her younger daughter, Amanda, lives as far away as she can get because she’s so unnerved by her mother even though she cares about her deeply. Eloise’s partner, Ray, wants more from her than she can give and Eloise sees no relief ahead from the burden of knowing things that can be so very painful. A woman named Agatha may be the only one who can save Eloise from falling victim to her own sensabilities.

Eloise is a woman nearly consumed by the emotions of others and it’s apparent that the visions and the whispers are in control. I’ve never had any such experiences but her pain is palpable and I had no doubt, as I was reading, that she was nearing the edge of sanity. It was like seeing an old acquaintance years after you first met and wondering what terrible travails life had brought her in the intervening years. Her struggle to survive seeps through the pages and I frequently wanted to put an arm around her for just a moment.

The first novella in this trilogy had more edge to it but, by the time The Burning Girl ends, I really did feel that Eloise might at last be finding a kind of peace. I’m looking forward to Ms. Unger’s The Three Sisters to see how this nice woman will fare.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

Spotlight on a Christmas Classic, Part Three—and a Giveaway!


A delightful new holiday series featuring five classic
Christmas tales
in luxurious hardcover editions

Five books will be given away, one of
of these wonderful Christmas stories.
Thank you to Penguin Random House

for their generosity.

Welcome to Day Three!

Continue reading

Off-the-Path Advice on Becoming an Author

Brea BehnBrea Behn is very passionate about reading and writing in all genres. She started writing at the age of fifteen, when she wrote a memoir for her twin brother. Currently, she writes children’s fiction of several genres, nonfiction, and is building her career as an author and public speaker. Brea speaks at local churches, schools, colleges, and bookstores on topics varying from social media, being a published author, and on more personal topics of grieving as a teen and living with PTSD.

Brea’s first published book, a YA dystopian series called Wolves in the Woods, came out this summer. Her second book is a non-fiction book, titled Death Sucks, Life Doesn’t Have To, which will be coming out this February. The second book in the Wolves series, Wolves in the City, will be coming out in summer of 2015.  Brea has also written a middle grade fiction book and a children’s picture book which she is currently pursuing publication for.

When Brea is not writing, she is reading, usually several books at the same time. She is also passionate about animals, has a degree as a veterinary technician and volunteers at her local humane society. Brea also enjoys gardening and homeschooling her children.

Brea lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their two children.

Brea’s website

I love being an author. I love the challenges it brings. From query letter to book reading each step I had to learn myself and brought unique challenges. I also love being able to pour my thoughts and feelings into my work and get them out of my head. Along this road I have also had the privilege of meeting some amazing people. Some are semi-famous, such as the screen writer of the hit TV series, House to horror writer Mort Castle and well known Wisconsin author Michael Perry. Others are not even published yet, but have become good friends. Through it all I have found happiness like I haven’t known since I was a kid. Writing and being an author truly are my happy place. I love every moment of it. Some of those moments have not been perfect, and those are the moments I want to share with you. Hopefully you learn from them and maybe get a good laugh from them as well.

Every writer starts with one common thing. An idea for a story, poem or article. Sometimes where we get our ideas from come from an amusing place. I have been a stay at home/homeschooling mom for over seven years. Having kids is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It has tested me physically and mentally so many times my body and my sanity often feel like an overused muscle. Some of those limit-reaching moments have resulted in some great writing. I remember reaching one of those moments when I gave my then one year old son a muffin. Of course his sister who was three wanted one too. By the time I got them both a muffin, the one year old had escaped from his high chair mashed himself and the carpet with his muffin and ran scattering the remnants all over the kitchen and dining room. Then he was thirsty so he helped himself to a Sippy cup of water which he was happily pouring into the mashed up muffin in the carpet saying, “I cwean it mama!” All of which could have resulted in a major mommy meltdown. Instead I sat down and wrote a little story called, “If You Give a Toddler a Muffin”. Obviously it mirrored the children’s picture book If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff. My story basically portrayed the chaos of having two kids that are both toddlers and did not go any further than Facebook. The point is I took my stress, frustration, and exhaustion and turned it into something that was entertaining and amusing for others. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is where Laura Numeroff got her idea from herself! What to remember from my story is that strong negative or positive emotions often result in some of the best writing you will ever accomplish. Write what you have and what you know. Write what you are passionate about. Write about what you love or what you hate. Writing is emotion and what you write should evoke emotions in your reader. If you are emotional when you write, so will your readers be when they read it! That is an awesome and powerful gift of writing.

Another thing writers have in common is that we are often trying to get out in the world to learn about our craft, to meet others and to share our work. If you are not, do so! The benefits are immeasurable. One fantastic way to do this is at a literary conference. I was at a conference with over a thousand people in attendance a couple of years ago. This was before I was published. I was a bundle of nerves. I knew no one. It came time for lunch and I sat at a random table near the front. Soon it filled up with others. I made short conversation with those around me. At one point I asked the man sitting next to me if he was a writer. He looked somewhat insulted and said, “I am the key note speaker actually.” I am fairly certain the look of horror on my face gave away the fact that I had no idea who he was. All I could choke out was, “Oh”. The lady sitting next to me saved me by asking a perfectly charming and intelligent question about the TV character he happened to create, named House. Holy crap! I was sitting next to the screen writer for House! The rest of the conversation at the table was amazing and despite my flummox at the beginning of the meal I am able to look back on that experience now with awe. But I did learn a couple of things from my experience. First, should be obvious. Study the key note speaker list before the conference! Know not only who is speaking, but what they are speaking about and who they are! More importantly, you never know who you may end up sitting next to. The next person you meet may be the agent that is looking for you, the author that may give you career changing advice, or the editor that can teach you something invaluable. You will never meet them though if you don’t go in the first place. When you do go, go with an open mind and ready for anything. All of this is true online as well. If you utilize social media to its full extent you will be virtually meeting tons of people. Again, that can’t happen if you don’t create a Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or whatever else account. Put yourself out there! Being a successful author is a fine balance between social media and real world experience. One I am constantly fine tuning myself.

Wolves in the WoodsFinally, I want to talk about something that all writers will or have faced: rejection. I got over fifty rejections, non-responses, or “this is not the right fit for me” letters before I received an acceptance letter from a publisher. You can’t put your work and yourself out there without receiving some rejection. One rejection in particular I want to share with you that was particularly painful. I always research the agent, publisher or editor I am contacting. I look at what they prefer, the works they have done before, who they represent etc. It is a lengthy process that often can take hours. Just recently I was sure I found the perfect agent for a children’s picture book I wrote. Like my story she was passionate about animals. The books she represented held similar messages (but not so similar there would be a conflict of interest). I loved her encouraging message to writers and I felt like I had a good chance. So I spent a couple of hours writing up a query letter for her. I am a type A perfectionist and won’t send anything out until it is as perfect as I can make it. In other words, I spent time and effort to contact her. I sent it out with high hopes. TWO HOURS after I sent it I got a simple one sentence e-mail in reply: “This is not the right fit for me at this time.” Ouch. What did I learn from this experience? I learned that I would have done nothing different. That I sent out what was the best of my abilities and that one no does not mean all will be a no. Most importantly, that effort, time, and dedication will be rewarded with a yes….eventually. I have not given up and neither should you. No matter how many “not for me” responses you get there is a “We are pleased to tell you…” message waiting for you out there. Don’t give up, keep learning and keep writing!

I have learned these things and so much more on my journey to becoming an author. The key word there is learn. Like everything else, a career as an author requires lots of mistakes, learning experiences, and a whole ton of reward that makes every single step worth it!

Spotlight on a Christmas Classic, Part Two—and a Giveaway!


A delightful new holiday series featuring five classic
Christmas tales
in luxurious hardcover editions

Five books will be given away, one of
of these wonderful Christmas stories.
Thank you to Penguin Random House

for their generosity.

Welcome to Day Two!

Continue reading

Book Review: Die I Will Not by S.K. Rizzolo

Die I Will Not Tour Banner


Title: Die I Will Not
Series: John Chase Mystery Series #3
Author: S.K. Rizzolo
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Genre: Historical Mystery



Purchase Links:

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Amazon US  //  Amazon UK  //  Book Depository


Die I Will NotDie I Will Not
John Chase Mystery Series #3
S.K. Rizzolo
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2014
ISBN 978-1464203220

From the publisher—

Unhappy wife and young mother Penelope Wolfe fears scandal for her family and worse. A Tory newspaper editor has been stabbed while writing a reply to the latest round of letters penned by a firebrand calling himself Collatinus. Twenty years before, her father, the radical Eustace Sandford, wrote as Collatinus before he fled London just ahead of accusations of treason and murder. A mysterious beauty closely connected to Sandford and known only as N.D. had been brutally slain, her killer never punished. The seditious new Collatinus letters that attack the Prince Regent in the press also seek to avenge N.D.’s death and unmask her murderer. What did the journalist know that provoked his death?

Her artist husband Jeremy is no reliable ally, so Penelope turns anew to lawyer Edward Buckler and Bow Street Runner John Chase. As she battles public notoriety, Buckler and Chase put their careers at risk to stand behind her while pursuing various lines of inquiry aimed at N.D.’s murderer, a missing memoir, Royal scandal, and the dead editor’s missing wife. As they navigate the dark underbelly of Regency London among a cast driven by dirty politics and dark passions, as well as by decency and a desire for justice, past secrets and present criminals are exposed, upending Penelope’s life and the lives of others.

A long time ago, or what seems like a long time in one’s reading life, I “discovered” S.K. Rizzolo’s first book, The Rose in the Wheel, and fell in love with the characters and the setting and the time period and the author’s writing style. In a word, I was smitten. Then came Blood for Blood the following year and this was no sophomore slump. I could hardly wait for the third book but wait I did…and wait and wait and wait.

Finally, I gave up, thinking the author had decided not to continue writing, and I mourned the death of the series. Imagine my surprise and delight when, 11 1/2 years after the second book, I found out the third was coming out. Die I Will Not has been high on my TBR list ever since I was invited to take part in this blog tour.

So, what’s the verdict? Well, I did enjoy it quite a lot but, somehow, a bit of the charm is gone. Perhaps that’s because it’s been too long and my recollections of the first two books had become a little “shinier” than reality but, on the other hand, it could be that my reading expectations have changed in all those years (I know they have) or that the author’s touch has faded just a little. I don’t really know why I’m not so enthralled by this third book but I DID think it’s quite good.

Not being especially well-versed in the details of Regency London, I can’t say if Ms. Rizzolo’s setting is 100% accurate but it certainly has the feel of being right and I easily immersed myself in Penelope’s London. I’m sorry her worthless husband is still around but, of course, divorce wasn’t really possible in those days except at great cost and with dire social consequences so I suppose we’ll have to continue putting up with him. (Maybe, some day, Penelope will figure out a way to “dispose” of him without getting caught.) Penelope is a strong-minded, intelligent woman and it’s not surprising she would want to follow this latest potential lead to the truth about her father and an old unsolved murder. She’s very lucky to have two such stalwart friends to help.

The other two main characters, John and Edward, were just as I remembered them and they remain my favorites of the three. I’m particularly interested in the exploits of the Bow Street Runners, precursors to our modern-day police, and John didn’t let me down in the least. There are many twists and turns in this mystery and the characters—and the reader—have to keep their wits about them.

Regardless of any hesitations I might have, I’m delighted that Penelope, John and Edward are back and I do hope that we’ll see them again next year.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

About the Author

S.K. RizzoloS.K. Rizzolo is a longtime Anglophile and history enthusiast. Set in Regency England, The Rose in the Wheel and Blood for Blood are the first two novels in her series about a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister. An English teacher, Rizzolo has earned an M.A. in literature and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.


For more information please visit S.K. Rizzolo’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads.


Follow the tour here.


Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Why I Keep on Writing

Marilyn Meredith 2Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest River Spirits from Mundania Press. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra. Visit her at and her blog at

Since I haven’t become a well-known mystery writer and I don’t make a lot of money, there are plenty of people who wonder why I spend so much time writing.

I do have friends who were writing that have given up just for the above reasons. I had another friend who was a wonderful writer, but couldn’t take criticism or rejection. I’ve been rejected many, many times—but though each time was a disappointment, I never considered giving up.

As for criticism, I’ve learned from criticism, constructive and not so constructive. I’ve belonged to the same critique group since 1981, though the members have changed over the years, I’d be disappointed if they didn’t critique the manuscript pages that I read to them. In fact, I consider them my first editor. That doesn’t mean I change everything the way they suggest, but often what they’ve said gives me a better idea or way to write a passage.

Yes, it would be great to be well-known, but I’m proud of the fans I do have. When someone either writes to me or lets me know in some way that they’ve enjoyed one of my books, that’s made all the time I’ve spent writing worthwhile.

And about the money, I seldom make as much as I spend on promotion. No one is paying my way to attend conferences or drive to a book festival or a panel in a far-away city—or the cost of staying in a hotel. My husband and I have learned to turn these little jaunts into mini-vacations.

What would I do if I wasn’t a writer? I don’t know, but it would leave a big hole in my life.

I love writing about the characters I’ve come to know and love. If I didn’t write about them, I wouldn’t know what happens to them next. I enjoy being in a world where I know what everyone is thinking and how each will react to certain situations (most of the time.) Though the bad guy, or girl, doesn’t always get what’s coming to him or her in real life, you can be sure they will in my novels.

If you want to know the truth, writing is somewhat of an addiction. It’s something I’m compelled to do—something I derive great satisfaction and joy from.


River SpiritsBlurb for River Spirits:

While filming a movie on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation, the film crew trespasses on sacred ground, threats are made against the female stars, a missing woman is found by the Hairy Man, an actor is murdered and Deputy Tempe Crabtree has no idea who is guilty. Once again, the elusive and legendary Hairy Man plays an important role in this newest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

From the publisher, all formats:

For Kindle:

Amazon paperback:

For Nook



The winner will be the person who comments on the most blog
posts during the tour.
He or she can either have a character in my
next book named after them, or choose an earlier book in the
Deputy Tempe Crabtree series—either a paper book or e-book.

Tomorrow you can find me at Thonie Hevron’s
Just the Fact’s Ma’am
My Topic, The Use of Cop Lingo—or Not.