BOOK REVIEW: Congo by Michael Crichton

Review by Ryder Islington

 Congo. Just the title stirs up images of deep jungle and wild animals. A perfect title for this fast-paced thriller. I love the imagery. And of course, I love Amy, the sweet gorilla who knows sign language and loves Peter Elliot, the primatologist who has worked with her for six years.

 When Amy starts painting pictures that are eerily similar to a print dating back to the 1600’s, Peter is drawn into a dangerous expedition of the jungle of the Congo, in search of a lost city. This is a page-turner, with so much happening that every word counts. The characters are people, some of them likeable, others, not so much. Just like in real life, these characters all have their own agendas. Whether it be fame, fortune, power, or love, everyone is out to get something. And some get more than they bargained for.

This is on my keeper shelf. I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it, except for those prone to nightmares. Michael Crichton knows what nightmares are made of and he doesn’t disappoint.

Arg! What’s Up With The Colons: Already?


I’ve been reading a long list of new books by authors who have asked for reviews. I think every book so far has had tons of colons and semi-colons. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if anyone knew how to use them. I find sentences with comas and semi-colons. Or semi-colons instead of a period. Or colons between two statements that are barely related to each other.

I’m of the school that says colons and semi-colons should be left for scientific papers and instruction manuals. Okay, I know everyone is free to use their own judgment when it comes to their own writing. But really…if you’re going to use punctuation, could you at least learn how to do it correctly?

 I will be judging entries in the Daphne writing contest soon. I hope the entrants aren’t in love with colons and semi-colons. Or, at least, if they use them, they know how to do it correctly. I never mark down an entry for doing things I don’t do. But I do mark down if the writer isn’t using punctuation correctly.

 C’mon, ladies and gentlemen, if you’re writing fiction, in any POV except omniscient, you are deep in the minds of the characters. Do your characters really think in language that needs colons and semi-colons? Every time you use any word, punctuation, or writing technique that is unfamiliar to your readers, we stop and try to figure it out. Why is there a colon here? Why is this sentence in question form, but without a question mark? Why is there a semi-colon in the middle of this sentence?

Try this exercise. Grab a paper and pen, and just sit around and listen to people talk. Don’t copy down what they say, but put the punctuation on the paper. If someone hesitates during a sentence put an ellipsis on your paper… or a comma,

Are you hearing anything that sounds like it needs colons and semi-colons to make you understand the relationship between the statements?

Sure, a hundred years ago, colons and semi-colons were everywhere. In fiction, as well as every other kind of writing. But then writing changed. We learned about using shorter paragraphs, showing more white space and making chapters shorter to encourage the reader to read one more page, or one more chapter. We learned that deep POV helps the reader connect with the character, to feel what the character feels. We learned to write in a different voice for each character, so the reader could really see the difference in the way characters, think, talk and act. Now could we please make the leap from the use of fancy punctuation to the use of punctuation that allows the reader to stay in the character’s head, and not get caught up in possible meanings of simple sentences?

It’s crazy making to be reading along, enjoying a story, when suddenly something pops up and you say to yourself, “Why did the author do that?”  And it’s even crazier making when the author didn’t know how to it correctly. Which is why I’m CRAZY! Okay, I’m just slightly off. But if I have to read one more fiction book filled with colons and semi-colons, I may go right off the deep end. And you wouldn’t want to be responsible for that, would you?


#BOOK REVIEW: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Review by Ryder Islington

This story shows more than the pain and sorrow of life for African-Americans in the 1940’s. There is more to it than the backstory of characters who committed unspeakable acts, and the results of those acts on their victims.

 Little Pecola, a twelve-year-old Black girl, has lived a sorted life, a life full of pain, abuse, neglect, and loneliness. She is called ugly, bullied and ignored. Ultimately, the story is about how those uneducated and untaught, create excuses for their actions. It is about two little girls, Claudia and Frieda, trying to figure out how to help an innocent, broken child that no one wants. And how to save the life of an unborn baby no one wants.

It is about the pain of being treated as less than. Of not only being the wrong color, but the wrong shade, for Pecola is black. Very black. And those in her neighborhood and her school who have lighter skin treat her just as badly as white people do. Beauty is so highly esteemed, and plain is so deeply abhorred. And in a time when life was full of doubt for everyone, there is no one to lift little Pecola up. No one takes the time to give her as much as a smile, unless they want something from her, want to use her. And her little self is so hungry for approval and love that she will do anything for a crumb of attention.

 My heart breaks for her, and for all the little girls in the world, back then, and now, who are told they are fat, or ugly, or stupid, or the wrong color, who are made to feel unlovable because of how they look on the outside. If this story does not stir your emotions, if it does not reach your heart, then you need to go to the hospital and have removed the series of pumps and pulleys that keep you walking on this earth and have them replaced by a heart made of flesh.

 And then there is the other story. The story of Toni Morrison, the author of the story. Can you believe that she didn’t feel she accomplished what she wanted in this story? Her prose is beautiful, her turn of phrase heart-wrenching. This story made me cry, not just for a moment, about a little character in a book, but for a long time, for the pain that is put upon those who are called less than. Ms. Morrison touched me in a way no other author has. She brought to life a time and a culture full of anger and pain, and connected it to me, to my life in this time and this culture.  Ms. Morrison, I salute you and only hope that someday I will have a hundredth of your skill and your passion.

Creating a Schedule for the Blog

I’m trying to get my act together and make this blog a useable tool for readers and writers. To that end I’m creating a schedule that I hope will work. Here’s the plan:

Monday: Author interviews or Guest Posts.  If you need an interview or would like to do a guest post, related to a blog tour or just to boost traffic or sales, please contact me by comment here, or by email at

Tuesday/Thursday: Book Reviews.  I generally review mystery, suspense, thriller, historicals, and the occasional inspirational, sci-fi and paranormal. Each review is according to my schedule and what I think I can offer in the way of positive reviews. So I receive a book to review and find that I just don’t like the book even though the writing is very good, I usually contact the author and let them know. That rarely happens. I’m pretty open, and my library is pretty eclectic.

Friday: Memories of Me. You all may be bored silly with my little rants of  my past, but I’m having a blast remembering things that happened during my childhood and putting the words on paper…er…screen.

I’m hoping I can maintain this schedule, make my readers happy, and help out other writers. Wish me luck!

The Artist’s Way

Just a short note to let all you writers out there know that I just started a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s about breaking through blocks and getting words on the page, or for those who aren’t writers, getting the paint on the canvas, the glue on the model airplane, etc.

I’ve only read a few pages but feel like the book was written solely for me. Ms. Cameron is speaking directly to me as she talks about ways we are blocked, and how we can free our creativity.

The book is a 12 week course in self help for freeing creativity and allowing artistry to inhabit our lives. Hope to do an article here and there to update you on how it has helped (or not) me.

MEMORIES OF ME: Fishing On The Rocks

When I was a kid, we spent a lot of winters in California and Florida. One year in the fall, we moved to California but, Dad being unemployed, we lived in one of the state parks along the coast.

There’s this place where there are jagged rocks that stick up out of the water. They are forty or fifty feet out from the shore, but when the tide is low, there’s a path on the sand that goes right out to them.

You can see where this is going.

During low tide we would haul the ice chest, fishing tackle, and everything else we needed out onto the rocks. It was a tough climb to the top, and once there it was hard to find a comfortable place to sit. The rocks are always damp, and during the high tide, waves send white foam up over everything. There isn’t a single flat spot, so we would take boat cushions to sit on or lean against. You’d think we’d have been smart enough to wear some kind of waterproof gear, but no, not even a rain coat, or hat.

The wind was usually blowing, and it was cold, maybe in the high forties or low fifties, but with a fine water spray as the tide rose. I weighed about sixty pounds and had to be careful not to get blown or washed away. At full tide there was no way to get back to shore. The water rushed around each side of the rocks and splashed up high as they clapped together. And none of us could swim. So we had to stay on the rocks until the next low tide.

The good news was, the fishing was always excellent, and when we finally made our way back across the wet sand, up the side of the cliff, and back to the state park, we always had a mess of fish for supper.

This story reminds me of the comedian who said, “You know why they put a sticker on the emergency exit of the airplane that says, DO NOT OPEN DOOR DURING FLIGHT? Cause some time in the past…”

Surely, we can’t be the only ones. So the next time you see a show on TV where a helicopter is flying along the Southern California coast, check out those rocks standing up in the water. You just might see some idiot out there with a big fishing rig and a cooler. Or, maybe there’s a sign…

BOOK REVIEW: Voices of the Dead by Peter Leonard

Review by Ryder Islington

The back cover blurb of this book drew me in. A marvelous plot, Voices of the Dead puts the reader into the minds of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, while we hear the voice of an SS Officer of the Third Reich.

Set in 1971, with flashbacks to the horrors of World War II, the main plot follows Harry Levin, a scrap metal dealer in Detroit, who is devastated by news that his daughter was killed by a drunk driver. But the more he learns, the worse the news becomes. The drunk driver is a German with diplomatic immunity. Harry, a Holocaust survivor, is determined to learn who the man was, and then find him. His journey takes him to Germany, to the apartment he lived in as a child, and all over the country in a hunt for the man to whom Harry is linked by more than the death of his daughter.

But there is more to this story than just Harry Levin the Jew, and Ernst Hess the Nazi. Other survivors are in danger, and other Nazis must be found. There are murders to be solved, and skinheads to be stopped. There are old friends to visit, and new friends to make. There are cops in Germany and America who think maybe Harry’s cheese slid off his burger. As more bodies are found, it is obvious that Harry, and everyone he knows, is in danger.

I would highly recommend this book for those who enjoy stories of survival and retribution.

Having said that, I must say that Mr. Leonard’s writing style takes some getting used to. He has a heavy hand when it comes to incomplete sentences, which I at first thought was due to a deep third person point of view. Except that he uses that style for most if not all of the characters. For me, this detracted from the reading. However, the plot was so good, I felt the need to continue reading. And though it was a hard read for me because of this style, I intend to read his next book, which will be out soon.

BOOK REVIEW: Eye Of The World by Robert Jordan

Review by Ryder Islington

This is hands down the best fantasy novel I’ve ever read. The first in the Wheel Of Time series, Eye Of The World, is filled with adventure, danger, excitement and characters who come to life.

Rand and Mat and Perrin, three boys from the same village, couldn’t be more different. Their lives are changed forever with the arrival of Lady Moiraine. Something terrible is coming. Something so dark and evil, that every life is in danger. Mr. Jordan’s imagination ran wild as he created evil creatures under the control of someone even more evil.

Filled with religious and political conflict, this is one of the great epic fantasies. The large cast brings the story to life as good and evil fight for control of the world. I could not stop reading. The imagery flashed in my mind. The heroes and heroines became my friends. And I hated and feared the evil forces and their minions.

I would recommend this book for every reader of fantasy, adult and child alike. The plot is strong, the characters real, the pace fast and furious.

Happy Multiple Personality Day!

Who knew there was a National Multiple Personality Day?

Well, as far as I know, there’s only one of me in here, but hey, I’m all for celebrations, so let’s do this!

I’m an avid reader and have managed to devour several books on this subject, written by both victims, and doctors. I think everyone has heard of Sybil. And The Three Faces of Eve. There is also The Flock by Joan Frances Casey, and Jeckyll On Trial by Elyn R. Saks.

I love this subject. I’d love to interview several alters of a first child and get to know all the parts of a person with multiple personality, now known as dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID.

As a writer, one of my favorite subjects is Psychological Drama. All of my writing incorporates the deep psychological reasons for why my characters do what they do. I think our actions are the result of things that have occurred in our lives, good things and bad. My characters have all gone through tough times and make decisions based on their own experiences.

In my novel, Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, Trey Fontaine grew up wanting to be in law enforcement because his dad died on the job. The three kids who are killing abusive men were abused. Detective Russell Coleman is determined to find justice for family members because they have suffered injustice. Detective Gemini Taylor became a cop to solve a murder in her past.

I write to prove to myself that I am educated and capable because I didn’t get to go to school much as a kid and no one gave much thought to what I might be able to do with my life. Everyone took it for granted that I would marry and have kids, and do what my husband said. College was never considered. Nor was High School. As a matter of fact, I attended less than six years of school all together, including kindergarten, before I went to college. Maybe that’s the part of school that I remember. Maybe there’s another me inside who attended school part of the time. Would I even know?

Do you suppose that we are all a little…what’s the right word…tweaked? I mean, isn’t your personality different when you change hats? Don’t you act and think differently when you’re dealing with children, then when you’re dealing with adults? Aren’t you different with your spouse than with your boss?

I’m a daughter, a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a writer, a promoter, a pet owner…and a few things I won’t confess to, and my behavior, conversation and word choice are different according to which hat I’m wearing at the time. The time to worry is when someone tells me I did something and I don’t remember it. Which has happened. There are tons of memories I don’t have, which could explain a lot. Am I a sick puppy? Or do I just have a poor memory? Whatever. All I know is, there’s a celebration at hand.

So, let’s all raise our glasses to Multiple Personality Day! May you get to know your other selves and remember that talking to yourself is common, but answering yourself may be a sign that you need to seek professional help.