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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-05-12 22:18
Good Idea, Atrocious Execution
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe


The book has over 500 reviews on Amazon, with a 4.1 star average rating. The five-star ratings account for 41% of those, which is reasonably impressive.  My review isn't going to impact that very much, and that's not my intent.


This review will also be filled with spoilers. Consider yourself warned.


First major spoiler:  The dog is okay.  Nothing bad happens to him.  There's another spoiler about him later.


I finished the book, which is more than I do with many of the books I start.  Many of them don't hold me for two pages.  So there's that.


I liked the premise: Academic Connie Goodwin inherits her grandmother's old house in what was Salem Village, Massachusetts and goes on a search for a 300-year-old book with some connection to the Salem Witch Trials. 


The writing was competent, if a little heavy on the description.


That said, it wasn't long before I began to have problems even as I continued reading.


Connie is a young woman, in her early to mid 20s, and she has been in school virtually all her life.  The last few years in grad school have been by choice: she wants to continue to study and earn her PhD.  She doesn't come across, however, as a dedicated scholar.  Once she completes her oral exam and is cleared to begin her dissertation, she seems to forget all her academic training and lose all her scholarly motivation.  Is it because it's summer break?  It shouldn't be, because working on that dissertation should be her single primary focus now if she's truly dedicated to her scholarship.


However. . . .


She receives word from her mother Grace, a free spirit hippie type living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that the house that had belonged to Connie's grandmother, Sophia, needs to be prepared for sale after sitting vacant for 20 years since Sophia's death.  Since the house is in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and Connie is at Harvard in Cambridge, she is delegated to the task for the summer.  She heads there with her roommate Liz and her dog Arlo.


There's no real explanation for why the place wasn't sold when Sophia died or why it's being sold now.


It was at their arrival at the house that I lost my willing suspension of disbelief (WSOD).



The rest of the very lengthy review is at




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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-12-14 05:34
Suspicious minds
The Semper Sonnet - Seth J. Margolis

When Stephanie at Stephanie's Book Reviews reviewed this book, I was intrigued enough to check it out on Amazon.  The Kindle edition was only 99 cents. so I splurged and bought it.


Disclosure:  I paid the full retail price for the Kindle edition.  I do not know the author, nor have I ever had any contact with him about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of contemporary gothic and historical romances.


This is not really a review, since I've only read a couple chapters and may or may not read any more.  But I'm so disgusted by what I found that I feel compelled to post this information.  As an author, I cannot post it on Amazon; authors are not allowed to post negative comments/reviews.


I know virtually nothing about the publisher of this item, Diversion Books of New York City.  They have a website that makes them look professional, and they seem to have a number of authors and titles in their catalogue.  But I personally would never recommend them to anyone, based on my reading of the opening chapters of this book.


Editors are supposed to fix errors.  Although editors are human and make mistakes, they shouldn't make big fat obvious ones.



Screen shot from K4PC





Copied text from later in the same chapter:


Lee Nicholson would not be wounded. She would not bleed.

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Location 245). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.


Copied text from the next chapter:


“You haven’t been charged with anything, Miss Nichols.”

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Location 292). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.

Copied text from later in the next chapter:


Where would she go?

“Miss Nichols?”

Detective Lowry was staring at her with something verging on concern.

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Locations 317-318). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.



And later:


“Leslie Nichols?”

She turned from her dresser to face one of the plainclothes men sifting through every item in her bedroom.

“I’m known as Lee. Lee Nichols.”

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Locations 365-367). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.


An error like that is pretty much unforgivable.  I caught it on a first reading late at night when I was tired as hell.


Names are important . They are one of the first identifiers of a character.  They can also stop a reader in her tracks if they're wrong or jarring or . . . too familiar.


From early in Chapter 1:


Her mentor at Columbia, David Eddings, had assured her that it was her looks and not her scholarship that had landed her a spot on the news.

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Locations 224-225). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.


David Eddings was a well-known author of several best-selling fantasy series.  Coming across an unusual name of a real person like this is a jolt that pulls a reader out of the make-believe world of the novel.  Had the name been Donald Eddings or David Geddings, I would never have noticed it.  But I did notice "David Eddings" and was immediately on alert.


When the main character's name changed from "Lee Nicholson" to "Lee Nichols," the importance of the other name doubled.  "Leigh Nichols" is one of the many pseudonyms of another best-selling author, Dean Koontz.

(spoiler show)



Had this been a self-published book, I probably would have stopped reading at that point and just posted a DNF review.  There were other elements of the plot that bothered me even at less than 4% into the book, but I could have overlooked those if I felt confident of the writing.  But because it was published by a third party, I decided to do a little more research.


The first stop was Amazon, to see what the reviews were like.  Oh man, oh man, oh man, here we go again.


The Semper Sonnet's dedication:


For Jean Naggar

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Location 64). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.


 From the Amazon page for the book:



Full transparency my ass.


Oh, and that 1 comment?  It's Jean Naggar's link to her own book.  Follow that up and you'll find that Ms. Naggar is a literary agent.  I'd be willing to bet she's Seth Margolis's agent.


Full transparency my ass.


So now I have a really bad taste in my mouth about this author and this book.  I regret spending even 99 cents on it and putting 35 cents in Margolis's bank account, 7 cents of which probably went to Naggar.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-10-24 02:10
A horrible little gem - no stars, not even a half
A Harvest Passion - Emily Murdoch

Disclosure:  I obtained this book on 2 September 2016 when the Kindle edition was offered free.  I do not know know the author and I have never had any communication with her about this book or about any other matter.  I am an author.



To tell the truth, I have read -- or tried to read -- worse books than this.  Ms. York, Ms. Willow Fae, Ms. Sharon Many-Names, and of course Mr. Victor come to mind, among others.  But I've also read far better.


The basic plot:  Young gentleman (though we don't know how old precisely) returns to England after five years as a missionary in India.  He has been offered a position as teacher in a small village school.  He encounters a young woman (we don't know exactly how old she is either) who turns out to be the town's social outcast.  They fall in love, but she has a trunkload of baggage and he has no social graces, so they are constantly at odds and unable to sit down and have a civil conversation.  When they finally do, they live happily ever after . . . .but not in the village.


Nothing extraordinary there, except that there's no external conflict at all.  None.  There's no tension, and other than their both being TSTL, there's no plot.  There's no villain, no antagonist at all, and no obstacles in their path to happily ever after.


Leo Tyndale himself has no real baggage.  He's kind of a klutz when it comes to social graces, but he doesn't appear to be poor or driven to avenge some family insult.


Hestia Royce has been shamed by a fiancé who jilted her at the altar, but she still has a home and apparently an estate that will support her.


So what's the problem?  The only problem is that they're TSTL.


There are other problems, however, with the writing.  Let's skip over the tepid plot and look at the details.


All we know about Leo's invitation to teach is


only the death of his parents and an invitation which he could not refuse would have brought him back.

Murdoch, Emily. A Harvest Passion (Kindle Location 107). Endeavour Press. Kindle Edition.

Nothing more is said about it, so the reader has no idea why this invitation was such that he could not refuse it.  Was he offered a large sum of money?  Was he being blackmailed?   He seems to know no one in the village of Sandercombe, so whoever it was that issued the invitation never contacts him throughout the book and no further mention is made of why he returned to England.


He arrives in August, during the harvest, when the weather is hot.  So very hot.  Overwhelmingly, oppressively, blazingly, unbearably hot.  Over and over and over and over, we are told how hot it is in England, hotter even than in India.  There is never any rain, never any cooling breeze.  Always hot.  In the school house, in the guesthouse, everywhere, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot.  Right on through September, stifling hot, boiling hot.


I didn't buy it.  Nor did it really have anything to do with the story.


In my many updates, I detailed some of the many errors I came across, some as small and absurd as


There was a looking glass above an ewer with a pitcher of warm water beside it, and Leo gladly availed himself of it and

Murdoch, Emily. A Harvest Passion (Kindle Locations 47-48). Endeavour Press. Kindle Edition.

The ewer, of course, is the pitcher; Ms. Murdoch apparently doesn't know that there should be a basin to go with the pitcher, and that the ewer is not the same as the basin.  Small details like this indicate the author has done little to no research and is relying on what she thinks.


But other errors have nothing to do with not knowing what a ewer, pitcher, and basin are.


Leo's ship arrives in Southampton on Saturday.  In one paragraph, it's noonish, but two paragraphs later, the captain of the ship is crossing the deck in the evening glow.  Unable to locate the stagecoach after docking, Leo sups in a tavern apparently sometime after eight o'clock.  Yet he manages to arrive in Sandercombe, the village where the story takes place, that same evening!


This is sloppy writing and a complete lack of good editing.  Oh, I'm sure there was someone in the author's circle of family and friends who read the book and loved it, but the book desperately wanted a competent editor to catch errors like this.


Why, at eleven o’clock on Saturday the 13th August 1814, just twenty-four hours ago, he had been standing at the brow of a ship as it came into Southampton Port.


Shouts had rung out in rough voices, and Leo had ducked as a brown faced sailor marched past him with a heavy anchor in his grip, three other man helping him with sweat dripping down from his face. The spray of the sea crashed against the side of the boat of which they had all been residents for the last six months, and Leo instinctively put his hand to the side to steady himself as the waves rocked them.


“Almost there, Mr Tyndale, sir,” called Captain Browne, beaming as he strode across the ship’s deck in the August evening glow.

Murdoch, Emily. A Harvest Passion (Kindle Locations 92-98). Endeavour Press. Kindle Edition. 

Sailing ships of the early nineteenth century weighed many tons, and would not have been secured by an anchor that could be carried across a rolling deck by three or four men.  Ships' anchors were massive metal weights attached to heavy chains and ropes so that they could be mechanically raised ("weighed") and lowered ("dropped") by means of a capstan on the deck.  When the ship was under sail, the anchor was secured to the hull.


This again is the sort of thing that indicates the author has been careless and/or lazy.


Yet this little book of 80 pages is listed at $3.99!


I can understand the writer who has put together a little story and wants to share it for the fun of it.  The writer doesn't really want to go to the trouble of doing any research -- not even to the proper forms of address for the English nobility! -- but thinks maybe other people will enjoy the little tale without pointing out the lack of accuracy.


Then don't charge so much for it. Put it out there on Kindle for $0.99 so you get a few royalties to cover the cost of the cover art, but for crying out loud, don't expect people to pay that kind of price for that crappy a product.


And don't brag about your academic credentials when you've got errors out the wazoo.


It appears from the data on the Amazon listing that most of the 14 reviews came from free copies.  There are only five- and four-star reviews, and they are all gushing about how wonderful the book is.  To compare this to Downton Abbey or Winston Graham's Poldark novels is outrageous -- and hints that perhaps the reviewers are not unbiased consumers.  I haven't done any checking on that issue.


The book is not a Regency in the classic sense; it's just set in 1814.  The story is thin, the characters are thinner, and the details are annoyingly wrong.


Pass on this one, unless you've run out of milk cartons, cereal boxes, and soup can labels to read.

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text 2016-10-24 00:03
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
A Harvest Passion - Emily Murdoch



I'll have a full review later.  I have to vacuum the living room first.  Then feed the dogs.

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text 2016-10-23 23:57
Reading progress update: I've read 95%.
A Harvest Passion - Emily Murdoch

My parents knew that they would not be long for this world, not after they contracted cholera, and despite my relative fortune that they would leave me, it had been . . . difficult for me to attract a suitor. I was a prickly individual even then, and successive seasons soon showed me that it was the gentle, rather pathetic girls that would find husbands quickest.


“Isaac Quinn’s father is the Duke of Daventry, but as a fifth son there was no fortune for him, and he wanted a quick marriage as his father was threatening to disinherit him. He approached my father, and the betrothal was announced a day later.

Murdoch, Emily. A Harvest Passion (Kindle Locations 1286-1290). Endeavour Press. Kindle Edition. 


Let me get this straight.  AFTER her parents have come down with cholera, they negotiate this engagement?  Does Ms. Murdoch, with her degrees in History, have no awareness of how cholera is contracted, incubates, and progresses?  Does she know nothing of the symptoms, or the rapidity with which it can kill?


No, Ms. Murdoch, Hestia Royce's parents would not have negotiated an alliance with the Duke of Daventry's fifth son while they were sick with cholera.  Nor would the Duke of Daventry's fifth son have approached them while they were sick with cholera.


This is unforgivably horrible writing.

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