Archive for the ‘Author Feedback’ Category

What We Lose

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Unknown-2By Zinzi Clemmons

The Short Take:

Some events in this thoughtful, pain-driven novel are drawn from the author’s own experiences. She is also a light-skinned black woman largely living in a white world, who lost her mother while in college. Clemmons addresses the problems of loss and identity with exceptional honesty, however it is hard to relate to many of the central character’s actions.


This novel is written in vignettes, as if the central character, Thandie, was keeping a journal where she recorded whatever touched her heart that day. This makes the book a little disjointed plot-wise, but it also adds a stronger emotional appeal.

Thandie’s (and supposedly Clemmons’) expressions of grief are often poetic and consistently insightful. She explores how her skin makes her feel like an outsider, not only in her home community of Philadelphia, but also with her mother’s family in Johannesburg, South Africa. She makes acute observations about the divide between rich and poor in the latter location and the escalating crime problem. The novel also includes some historical facts with related photographs, such as the criminal behavior of Winnie Mandela (which was frankly a puzzling addition).

However, for all the looking inward and emotional outpourings, Thandie keeps her distance from the reader. You want her to tell you more and provide context for her actions. Instead you encounter some rather inexplicable behavior and more surface than depth.

Clemmons’ writing style is lyrical, but I’m not sure what else the reader gains from this experience.

A Little Plot:

Thandie’s mother dies and this affects her deeply. She and her father withdraw from each other emotionally. Thandie engages with different people and occupations, but nothing seems to fill the void.

For more about Zinzi Clemmons and her writing click here.

Matthew Pearl’s New Book: The Last Dickens

Monday, March 16th, 2009

I just got this email from Mr. Pearl. I have read both his other books and enjoyed them, particularly The Dante Club. So I thought I would give you a heads up about his newest effort. Sounds interesting. Here’s what he had to say:

Dear friends,

My new novel THE LAST DICKENS is in bookstores everywhere tomorrow! Please consider showing the booksellers support for the book by ringing one up at your local store or online as soon as you can!

My inaugural book reading/signing is tomorrow, Tuesday (March 17), in New York City. I hope all you New York and Tristate area folks will come to hear about the book and say hello at the Barnes & Noble Greenwich Village location (396 Ave of the Americas, at 8th st) at 6:30pm. Bring friends!

THE LAST DICKENS is a literary thriller that begins when Dickens’s sudden death leaves his final novel unfinished. His young American publisher James Osgood sets out on a quest from Boston to England to discover how Dickens’s novel was going to end, unleashing a real-life puzzle that becomes a matter of life and death. Lots more at!

Events following the one in New York will be in Newton (MA), Atlanta, Miami, Iowa City, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Brookline (MA), and Cambridge (MA). Details included below for each event. I’ll send a reminder email to those I have listed as living in each area the day before each respective event–but I try to be sensitive to email clutter, so otherwise I’ll be updating you on my website’s news page rather than through emails. You can also become a fan at my new Facebook page,

I’m happy to report very nice early reviews: the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says that THE LAST DICKENS is “ambitious and satisfying.” Booklist calls it “a brilliant, exciting thriller” that “aligns perfectly with” THE DANTE CLUB and THE POE SHADOW.” And the London Daily Mail declares the novel a “gripping read” that “ensures excitement.” I’m glad I can now share the book with all of you! Please forward this email to anyone you think might be interested, or any book clubs looking for a new pick.

With best wishes,



Answers from Thriller Writer Steve Berry

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

What’s up?

After reading Steve Berry’s latest thriller, The Charlemange Pursuit, I just had to send a few questions. Being the exceptionally nice guy that he is, Steve answered then all. And promptly. Below are my questions and his answers.
Keep in mind these questions were all in lighthearted fun.
Me: Do YOU know why Cotton Malone (hero of four of Berry’s books) is called “Cotton?” Will you ever tell us?
Steve: What fun would that be?  But you never know.  Keep reading.
Me: You seem to have a fondness for gun battles in religious buildings. Any particular reason?
Steve:  Now that you mention it,  I do damage a lot of churches.  Hmmmmmmm? 
Me: Do people send you ideas for new “mysteries” to write thrillers around? Your fantastic thrillers always have some real background, either historic truths of strongly argued theories — how do you find these ideas?
Steve: Occasionally, folks send ideas, but my assistant screens those out before I read the e-mails.  I never see them, that way no one can accuse me of stealing their idea.  Though you have to wonder: why did they send me the idea in the first place if they didn’t want me to use it?
Me: You have a lot of “secret government activities” in your books. Have any government agencies investigated you yet for possibly treading in their areas (even unawares)?
Steve: I wish.  That would be cool.
Me: Have you decided to give up your day job yet?
Steve: I just did.  The law office officially closed December 19th.  No more lawyering. 
Good for Steve Berry!
Now that his pesky lawyering gig is out of the way, we can expect even more exploits for the ever adventurous Cotton Malone. To find out more about Steve Berry and his thrillers, check out his website by clicking here.
If you want to see what I have to say about his earlier thrillers, check out my archived review of 10/7/08. And, if you ever get a chance to attend one of his book signings, do so. He is a delight.

David Fuller Talks Back

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Not only did Mr. Fuller send me this wonderful email, I also got a chance to meet him at the recent Southern Festival of the book. The generosity of his spirit shows in his life as well as his writing.

This is what he had to say:

Dear Rikki,

Thank you for your stunning review.  I was truly moved and touched by your
kind and generous words.  As a writer (and you know whereof I speak), you
sit in your office, working away, hoping that someday, someone will get a
chance to read the work and hopefully get it.  You have made that dream come

I don't know if it will be a movie.  I have given exclusive rights to a
producer (a man who was my agent for 12 years, so I trust him), and he has
numerous irons in the fire.  That said, the American Civil War is a
non-starter in Europe and Asia.  Authors who are appreciated for their other
works find their Civil War novels unpurchased and unread.  The movie of
Sweetsmoke would be expensive, and have to make its money back in the US
alone.  That makes it a tough sell.  But you never know.

When I finished the novel, I thought of an entire scenario for a second book
about Cassius, as I didn't want him to go away.  But as time has passed, I
think this is the best place to leave him.  So I currently have no plans for
a second Cassius novel.  I am, however, working on my next novel.  I'd be
able to work faster except for all the publicity that I've been doing.

Thank you again for your review.  I am both humbled and pleased.

Warmest appreciation,

Dave Fuller

Douglas Preston Talks Back

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I have to admit I get a real thrill when an author responds to my review. It’s the groupie in me, I guess. Recently Douglas Preston had this to say about my review of his work, The Monster of Florence. This non-fiction exploration of a serial murderer in Italy actually ensnarled Preston as a suspect.

Here’s what he said:

Dear Rikki,

Thank you for the intelligent and well-written review, and my
apologies for not responding sooner. I’ve been on vacation and away
from my computer.

It certainly was a difficult experience, but at least as a writer I
was able to write about it and thereby exorcise those particular
demons. I greatly appreciate your support.


Want to know more about Douglas Preston and his frequent writing partner Lincoln Child? Click here.


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