Category Archives: Books

Hillier Ups the Creepy Factor in The Butcher

Jennifer Hillier, author of Freak, Creep and her latest, The Butcher; splits her time between Seattle and Toronto. That qualifies her for space on my blog about discovering Washington State. I read thrillers almost exclusively and hers have been some of my favorite.

The Butcher definitely has to be her best work to date. The most notorious killer in Seattle history, according to the book jacket, was the Beacon Hill Butcher. But he has been shot and killed. Or has he?

51Pd-9sLwqL._AA160_[1]

 

Recent murders show signs of the same modus operandi as the Butcher. Maybe it’s a copy cat? Or maybe the sheriff, who has now retired, got the wrong guy.

Sam is researching a book about the Butcher. She has an unsettling suspicion that he may have killed her mother. Her boyfriend, Matt, a chef entrepreneur and grandson of the sheriff, makes a very disturbing discovery when he moves into his grandfather’s (the sheriff) house.

I won’t reveal anymore because I want you to read the book. Hillier draws brilliant, life-like characters with everyday flaws. I can only imagine what her plotting diagram looks like during the writing process. Because she makes some swift turns with her plots, ones that keep you guessing. The story reads smoothly without excess back story and without unnecessary description.

And I absolutely love her descriptions of real places in Seattle.

I highly recommend all her books, but The Butcher has to be her best.

You can follow her on www.jenniferhillier.org.

 

 

 

Kevin O’Brien’s Unspeakable

One of my favorite thriller writers has a new book out titled “Unspeakable.” In it, a child actor (Collin) realizes that when he’s hypnotized another person emerges, a very dark, sinister and dangerous boy who lived 50 years before. While Collin sleeps, his friends become murder victims. Could he have done it unknowingly? That lays the foundation for fires, stabbings and untold unpleasantries.

 

Once again O’Brien, who lives in Seattle, has made me sleep with the light on. And this book contains more than 500 pages so the bulb burnt out a couple of times. A silhouette was lurking in the shadows on many of these pages. And I heard creaks around the house long after everyone, including the dogs, were deep into their slumber.

kevin obrien's unspeakable

But that’s what makes the suspense real and why I’m such a thriller fan and especially an O’Brien devotee. My friend wants him to write faster so we’ll have more to read. I don’t know if faster would be better, because now he pens some terrific stuff.

What I also found appealing about this book was the author’s accurate portrayal of the atmosphere in Seattle during the days of the World’s Fair in 1962. How could someone who isn’t old enough to remember Century 21 write such precise details of the culture we experienced then? I worked at the Fair and my coworker’s daughter had a date with Elvis Presley when he filmed his movie here. I may have dated “Wade” from Unspeakable, but escaped before I became a liability. You’ll have to read the book to find out about that reference.

I highly recommend you pick up this paperback original or put it on your Kindle or Nook. Feel the tension for yourself.

Free Help for Tax Time

And a Giveaway

Although this post doesn’t have much to do with Washington State besides all of us have to file taxes by April 15, too, there’s something here for everyone. Julie, my tax preparer, was kind enough to send me a checklist of what I need to collect before I dump three shoeboxes worth of receipts on her doorstep this year.

 

Here are some of her suggestions:

Do you have an in-home business? If so, you may be able to write off the costs of maintaining that home office and even indirect expenses such as utilities and garbage pick-up fees. The area you use must be exclusively for your business and you must conduct business on a regular basis. Here’s how to start:

  • Measure the area used for your business and then the total area of your home, then determine what percentage of the whole you use for your business.
  • Have you done repairs to the whole house this past year? If so, you can allocate or write off the business portion of your home.
  • Maintenance and repairs to the office remain deductible
  • You can deduct a portion of your homeowner’s insurance
  • If you spent money on landscaping and clients come to your home, then a percentage of that expense may be deductible

 

Did you know that tax preparation fees and expenses from last year are deductible? Gifts to charity, including donations of household goods need to be included in your tax papers. Did you keep track of job hunting expenses? What about gambling earnings?

The IRS wants to hear about it all. If your tax return is the least bit complicated, you need to find a qualified preparer (sorry Julie is taken) or read up on the current tax requirements and rules.

To help you with your taxes, I have the current, hot off the press, edition of J. K. Lasser’s “Your Income Tax 2013” to give away to one of my lucky readers. All you need to do is comment on this blog, include your email address in your comment, by February 15, 2013, and you’ll be placed in the drawing to win the book. You will be notified by February 17, if you’re the winner.

“Exploring Washington’s Backroads” Paints a Perfect Picture

John Deviny, author of “Exploring Washington’s Backroads,” was kind enough to give me a copy of this most intriguing book. It’s a short, concise volume packed with trips throughout our state that anyone, traveler or local, would enjoy. Photos on every page just make the enticement more alluring. Deviny has divided the state into what her calls “Backroad Trips,” 17 of them to be exact.

View from Skamania Lodge in the Columbia Gorge, which is also mentioned in the book.

Each of the trips describes the general location, “Sights and Scenes” not to miss and a route to follow that truly depicts the culture and personality of the area. For example, “Backroad Trip 2” loops you through the Black Hills of the Puget Sound region in Thurston and Grays Harbor counties. In our Capitol, Olympia, you begin the journey and then drive through forested hills above the Chehalis and Black River plains through old timber towns and quaint businesses. Be sure to investigate the magical Mima Mounds.

You visit towns like McCleary, which actually holds a Bear Festival (July 12-14, 2013), and where the door factory is still in business wafting off the smell of sawdust to remind you it’s a mill town.

Each trip holds surprises and new information (even to me) so when you’re ready to discover small-town Washington, I urge you to order this book, pile the family in your car and head on down the road. You’ll be glad you did.

Deviny advises you to explore on your own, beyond what he describes in his book, “A good road trip is an art form, and the open road is your canvas.”

Soap Lake, also mentioned in the book, has a new sundial.

Envy, A Thriller for Young Adults

Several renowned thriller authors have taken their first step into the young adult genre recently. One of those lives right here in Washington and is one of my favorite writers, Gregg Olsen.

Gregg signed my copy of Envy in Maple Valley. Check his web site for other places he is signing books.

The time this New York Times best selling author spent writing true crime has paid off in his fiction work because you realize that the plots could have happened. Olsen’s first YA Envy is the first in a series of “Empty Coffin” novels. Since working with children in a school setting, I’ve always said that you have to keep kids attention with every paragraph of a book. They won’t settle for long descriptions, careless plots or flawed character profiles. When their interest wanes, they put the book down and never pick it up again. In my opinion, an author has to be the best kind of writer to appeal to the YA readers.

Olsen does this superbly in Envy. It’s the story of what can happen when cyberbullying goes way too far. It’s about twin girls with unusual powers. Coincidentally, Olsen has twin girls. It’s set in the very lovely town of Port Gamble, Washington. Maybe the town will hold “Empty Coffin” tours like Forks does “Twilight” tours. Coincidentally, Olsen lives in a small rural town in Washington, just not Port Gamble.

I love reading good YA’s because I have the attention span of a gnat. And this one, kept me turning pages well after midnight, but also checking to make sure the doors were securely locked.

Good for reluctant teen and tween readers and also great for adults who won’t tolerated slow-moving plots.

Do you read young adult novels?

Heather Larson writes about the Pacific Northwest from her office in Tacoma, Washington hoping she can entice you to visit or share your own memories of the region and read books by Washington authors, who are some of the very best.

“Creep:” A Book Review

“Creep,” written by Jennifer Hillier, is a work of pure fiction or at least I hope so. Given some of the irrational behaviors reported by the news these days, it could be close to the truth. But I really think it is Hillier’s superb writing that makes the book a success.

According to her Facebook page, Hillier who is originally from Canada currently resides in Seattle and the book’s setting portrays areas in and around Seattle very accurately.

Named for Radiohead’s song “Creep” and appropriately mentioned throughout the book, the title is also the ultimate play on words.

When professor of psychology, Dr. Sheila Tao, ends her affair with her young teaching assistant, she’s not prepared for the lengths he’ll take to make her suffer. Tao’s fiancé appears to want to end their relationship when Sheila admits to having an embarrassing addiction. Besides her fiancé, not many people would care if Sheila took off for an indefinite period of time or so it seems when she disappears.

I hope that’s enough to make you want to read the book because I don’t want to spoil any of it for you. From the first page, I was hooked and spent many hours when I was supposed to be working, reading instead. Then I didn’t want it to end. I was rewarded for that. You will be, too.

Although a debut novel, the writing is skilled and professional. Characters are well-drawn, easy to love or hate, and follow the paths you’d expect them to. The plot, however, will keep you turning the pages. None of the clues planted go astray and all are wrapped up neatly. Honestly, I found no fault at all with this book. Hillier’s writing keeps me reading and wanting more – that’s something I can’t define and not very many authors have it. Part of it is flow and smoothness, but some of it is a secret quality that can’t be found in how-to-write books.

In August, 2012, Hillier’s new book, “Freak” comes out. I’ll be one of the first to buy it. It’s already on my calendar.

Best of Discover Washington State in the Past Year

I was tagged by my friend, Kerri, at Living Large in Our Little House for The Seven Links circle bloggers have been participating in. It seems like a good time to review what I’ve done, so here are my answers.

Here are my choices for the best posts during the past year, my first year blogging:

Most popular post:  Wine and Dog Lovers Unite

Even I was surprised at the number of views this post drew. I kept trying to figure out if it was the dogs or the wineries that people were interested in and finally decided that it was the combination.

Most controversial post:  Cranberries:  Treasured Berries

Although my blog talks more about what to do in the Evergreen State and I don’t deem it controversial, this one caused a stir. Readers demanded to know if the cranberries were grown organically.

Most helpful post:  Top Travel Trends

One of my most comprehensive posts, this suggests places in Washington that match up with the national travel trends predicted by Thomas Stanley in Luxury Travel Magazine.

Surprising success:  Val Mallinson, Author of Dog Lover Books

I love that so many people want to travel with their dogs and Val makes it so easy to do with her books on where our canine friends are welcome.

Not enough attention: Washington State Tourism Shutting Down

Everyone in the state you talk to has an opinion on this, yet I received no comments.

Post I’m most proud of: Port Townsend:  A Victorian Seaport Now and Then

This was a tough one because I’m usually proud of one that has been written recently, but looking back this one has lots of good information for a visitor wanting to explore Port Townsend.

If you have any comments on the posts mentioned, pro or con, I would love to hear them.

Five Blogs I’ve Chosen to Tag:

 NW Dog BlogYou can get frequent, updated advice about traveling with your dog here from Val Mallinson.

Girl About the WorldHaley travels both inside and outside Washington and is based in Seattle. She’s got fantastic tips to offer travelers.

Stuck at the AirportAnyone who can post a blog everyday has my vote for most knowledge on the topic chosen. Harriet knows airports inside out.

Lighthearted TravelAlthough Marilyn lives in Oregon, she often writes about Washington and lots of other really cool destinations.

Going on AdventuresBeverly has lots to talk about in the way of traveling adventures and it’s all good sound advice.

Kevin O’Brien: A Favorite Author of Mine

For relaxation, I read thrillers, thrillers and more thrillers. But I’m fussy about what I select. I don’t care for stories that have detectives or agents as the main characters and I’ve found legal thrillers, for the most part, a bit tedious. My attention wanes after just a few courtroom scenes. The ones I like the best have ordinary people as the heroes and heroines.

 

One of my all-time favorite authors in my particular genre has to be Kevin O’Brien who lives in Seattle. Because he talks about places I’m familiar with in his books, it’s not hard to visualize where a scene takes place and that makes the book that much more fun for me.

 

I keep track of what I read in a Word document. This is what I said about “Vicious,” which I gave five stars:  A thriller that kept me enthralled, one that I couldn’t wait to get back to reading and one that surprised me.

And “Final Breath,” which I also gave 5 stars and believe me, I’m very stingy with this perfect rating:  I wanted to be reading this all the time and not taking care of my responsibilities. A reporter and her son are stalked and “heroes” from her stories murdered. The body count was a little high, but the story moved right alone. A high octane thriller at its best.

 

Now, I’m ensconced in his latest “Disturbed,” and I’d really like to go read instead of work, just like with the others.

If you like thrillers, give O’Brien a try.

My Five Favorite Books on Washington

Tons of different books, including guidebooks, have been written about Washington State, but I tend to refer back to the page-worn pets on my bookshelf.

Here they are:

The Dog Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest by Val Mallinson – a comprehensive guide about the best places around to take your dog including parks, hotels and restaurants and Val updates it often.

Washington Trivia complied by John Hedtke – a great little paperback to take on trips and quiz your traveling partners with. Did you know that the cartoons on the J.P. Patches Show came out of his hat?

Atomic Marbles and Branding Irons by Harriet Baskas and Adam Woog. Actually anything by Harriet Baskas works as she’s the go-to writer on weird places and things in the area.

Waterfall Lover’s Guide:  Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb. Using waterfalls as markers on a scenic drive will take you in all kinds of new directions in this area. 

Book Lust to Go by Nancy Pearl. Not a book about Washington, but by a Washington author. The only librarian with her own action figure, Nancy Pearl, writes about books and this one tells you which books to read prior to going to a certain destination to prepare for the culture.

Heather

A Cowgirl Remembers…

Book Giveaway

Win a copy of "A Cowgirl Remembers When..."

The Cascade Mountain Range divides Washington almost in half north to south. In Eastern Washington, on the east side of the mountains, the temperatures traditionally run warmer than over here on the west side of the range. Many differences exist between the two sides of the state. One of the most interesting to me is the number of ranches and the cowboys and cowgirls that run those ranches.

Through social networking, I met Dawn Nelson, one of those cowgirls, who is also an award-winning author. I’m giving away one of her books, “A Cowgirl Remembers When…” tomorrow. To be eligible to win, please follow the instructions at the end of this blog post. Now let’s hear from Dawn.

Where have you lived in Washington State?

Dawn:  I grew up in the small town of Danville, Washington with a population of well under 100. Now I live in Creston with 200 other people. It’s about an hour from Spokane. I love small towns!

What was your first experience with writing?

Dawn:  I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and started writing letters to my daughter when she was born in 2005. I was worried that she would never get to know who her mother was. So I sat down and wrote the short stories of my life, which turned out to be my first book, “A Cowgirl Remembers When.” After writing that book, I realized that writing was something I could do while I was healing from my surgeries, so I kept on writing. After several years of surgeries, I’m almost back to normal.

Not only did Dawn write this book, she's also the cover model.

How many published books do you have to your credit now?

Dawn:  Since 2009, I’ve had five books published. I have a sixth at my editor’s now and thirty-six more at home in different stages of completion.

Do you have a western theme in your books because that’s what you know the best?

Dawn:  Besides being what I know the best, it is also what I enjoy the most. I am trying to branch out into other genres, but western-themed books are my comfort zone.

What is life on your ranch like?

Dawn:  It is full of adventure and inspiration for me. As I answer these questions, a cow is giving birth about 15 feet behind me in a calving pen. This time of year is when I can get most of my writing done. Calving season gives me lots of hours sitting here in the vet room waiting on a first calf heifer to calve. The rest of the year, I have to make time to write.

To win “A Cowgirl Remembers When,” which received the Academy of Western Artists’ 2010 Buck Ramsey Book of the Year award; please make a comment on this blog post by midnight, Friday, March 11, 2011. Be sure to include your e-mail address in the comments so that I can get in touch with you.   Thank you.