Ray Bradbury #ShortStories #BookReview

18305955Ray Bradbury was nothing if not prolific. An American author and screenwriter who dabbled in a variety of genres, he’s sure to have written something for everyone.

This anthology was certainly an eclectic mix, and I feel like it gives the reader a good idea of who Bradbury was as a whole, from his likes (Stan and Ollie), to his dreams (flights to Mars), his moral views, his faith, his time spent in Ireland, memories of his boyhood, and everything in between, this man must have always been writing.

Which is why I read this book. Each story didn’t just give you insight into the author, but also his method. The ways in which he made you identify with his characters, his tricks for endearing them to you, investing you in the story and making you care about the outcome even if the story itself wasn’t something you’d normally read. (And let me tell you, I am not a huge sci-fi fan, yet probably 500 pages of this book was about space travel and Mars colonization and a myriad of other subjects I’d usually avoid, and yet I kept reading!) 4 stars!

5 Forensic Tips for Your Fiction

I love getting caught up in a good, suspenseful mystery. I love losing myself in the world the author has created, book (or Kindle) clenched in a white knuckled grasp as the protagonist closes in on the villain. What I don’t love is when the author does a forensic See the source imagebelly flop.

Often times it’s a lack of research, a simple mistake caused by confusion, or a reliance on what is shown on TV shows, but it can jar readers right out of the pages of a story when they trip on a “that’s not right” moment. Conversely, going the extra mile by including some factual science can draw a reader deeper into the story because you’re constructing a more realistic world for them to get lost in.

I no longer work in forensics, and I’ll be the first to admit that my wheels are a little rusty, but here are 5 tips (based on my biggest pet peeves) to strengthen the forensics in your writing.

Image result for blood spatter analysis1) When referencing blood, it’s spatter, not splatter!!! This mistake drives me absolutely insane, probably because it’s so common. Seriously. From TV shows to books released by major publishing houses to those published by indie writers, I see this all the time, and it’s simply not correct. (On a side note, the cast off of a blood pattern can tell a detailed story of an attack – it’s worth a little research to bring this element of your story to life. ) Please, make my world a better place and tell everyone you know – blood spatters, paint splatters.

Image result for dna2) No matter what your sleuth’s connections, they’re not getting immediate DNA results. It just doesn’t work that way. If you need a way to provide a means of getting information into your character’s hands more quickly, check out what serology can tell you.

Image result for forensic burial recovery3) If buried remains are recovered in your story, either skeletal or in any stage of decomposition, the professional recovering the remains isn’t just after the body. Some authors include screening the soil, usually having the analyst recover rivets from jeans, zippers, etc. This is correct, but only a tiny fraction of what the process actually entails. The recovery person or team will pedestal the body, removing the soil from the top and sides of the remains, documenting the location of any artifacts found around the body, and screening the dirt. They will also be looking for insect casings, which can help determine the time of year a body was interred, and they’ll collect soil samples for volatile fatty acid analysis to help establish TSD (time since death). With a little quick research, you can make this scene in your novel or short story much more memorable and impactful.

Image result for fingerprint4) Any time I read a fingerprint scene, it’s so boring! And I’ll admit, fingerprint classification is tedious, but collecting them doesn’t have to be! Check out alternative methods (and the situations they are used in) to add a little spice to your scene. From superglue fumes to metal filings, there’s a more interesting way! (Also, don’t forget that other ‘prints’ can sometimes be lifted, like shoe prints.) But remember – fingerprints aren’t always present, and there are surfaces that do not lend themselves to collection.

Image result for evidence collection5) I’ve read too many books in which evidence collection is just a random handoff of plastic baggies. This is not true! First, the collection of evidence is a very detailed and controlled process. Besides everything being photographed in situ before collection, not just anyone on scene handles the collection. A chain of custody for the evidence must be created and maintained, with certain information either labeled or written on the collection container, including the initials of who collected it. Finally, the container will be sealed with a tamper proof sticker or tape that will not allow the evidence to be opened and contaminated without obvious signs. Also, what a piece of evidence is determines what is used to collect it. For example, a bloody shirt would be collected and packaged in a paper bag, not a plastic evidence container. I’d love to read a story where some really wild stuff is collected as evidence – imagine how creative you could get – or make your characters have to get to collect it!

What are your pet peeves that you hate to read in books? Do you have any items you’d like to add to the list? Any forensic question in particular that you need an answer to? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Please introduce yourself and what you write if you feel so inclined . . . we’re all in this together and I consider you a member of my #writingcommunity! I look forward to connecting with you here and on social media, and am open to guest bloggers who’d like to share their knowledge or experiences!

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reed ~ #Mystery #BookReview

40605223It seems like I heard a lot of hype about this book, and how good it was supposed to be. Despite the mixed reviews, I gave it a shot.

I liked, (not loved), the beginning. There was something slightly juvenile feeling about it, but the character from whose point of view the story was told was slightly juvenile, so I figured the author was just following his character’s lead.

While there was an underlying feeling of creepiness, I felt more impatient than held in suspense. Three quarters of the way through the book, the impatience was for the book to be over, and when it finally was, I wanted to throw something. I HATED the ending. It seemed like a cop-out to me, even though I would guess that it was the destination where the author had intended to go the whole time. I felt let down. I felt betrayed. I felt like I had wasted my time. That said, the author can write/the book is readable. You might like it better than I did. You might even love it. But I didn’t. 3 stars.

In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White ~ #Mystery #BookReview

29243822This is the third book that I’ve read by this author, and I have to say that if you’re looking for suspense, she delivers! I didn’t like this one as much as the other two – I liked the characters and plot from the others better – but this kept my attention AND kept me guessing until the end.

The setting – the far, northern wilds of Canada – is almost a character in itself. It certainly makes for a creepy atmosphere.

This book was fast paced, well plotted, and sinister. Quite honestly, it almost bordered on horror. If you’re looking for a book to keep you up at night, this just might be it! 4 stars!

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn ~ #Mystery #BookReview

40389527I roll my eyes every time a book is hailed as, “The next Gone Girl.” Let’s be clear  – whether you loved it, hated it, or didn’t read it, there’s only one Gone Girl. Novels are creations; each should be considered on it’s own merits. Have you ever heard someone say a painting is going to be the next Mona Lisa?

Rant completed, I will say that while this book wasn’t the next Gone Girl, as advertised, it was good. Really good. I enjoyed it immensely, and was taken by surprise several times.

The story was easy to read. The plot was simple, yet at the same time, elaborate. The character was well developed, and her internal dialogue and memories do a good job of endearing her to readers, whether they like her or not. I felt myself rooting for her. And how can a mystery lover not love the Hitchcock references? This one was time well spent. 5 stars!

The Last Girl by Nick Twist ~ #Mystery #BookReview

38925046This book started off with a bang. It was creepy, suspenseful, and mysterious. What it lacked in certain areas was made up for in others . . . until it wasn’t.

What started off as a promising read slowly spiraled into something else. Something I didn’t want to read. I kept going, hoping that the author would recapture what he initially had going. Eventually, it became clear that wasn’t going to happen; would it be rude to say that the author deviated from a good course to indulge himself?

I gave this book 3.5 stars, rounded to 4 where applicable, because the author has talent and had something good for a minute there. It was action packed and hard to put down at first. By the end, everything about it annoyed me, even things that I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about if the author had delivered. Scratch the previous rating. Writing this review has made me realize how utterly offended I became over the pages of this book. 3 stars.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman ~ #Mystery #BookReview

35231503This book kept me reading with it’s suspense and pacing, but I felt it got a little slow near the end. Parts felt fresh; other parts not as much. The characters were interesting, the backstory created an interesting dynamic, the dialogue was witty at times, but I can’t help but feel like this book was just shy of the mark.

I had to know what happened, had to keep reading, which is the sign of a good book, right? Except that the ending of this one made me want to throw the book against the wall. Then maybe run it over with the lawnmower. (Oh, Kindle, you just don’t know how many trees you save.) I found the end to be a total let down. But 75% of this book is really good, so 4 stars. (The 90’s references made me nostalgic, which may have skewed by opinion towards the positive.)

Dying Truth by Angela Marsons ~ #Mystery #BookReview

39501802This is the 8th book I’ve read in the D.I. Kim Stone series, and like the seven before it, it was a suspenseful, roller coaster of a mystery. Angela Marsons is an expert at keeping her readers on their toes!

In this one, the author continues to explore the group dynamic among the detectives while delving into the dark side of elite school groups and hazing. I hate giving spoilers, but I will say that this book changes the group forever.

My biggest concern is that Marsons book deal was for 8 books – please let there be more! This is the only series I’ve encountered over the last few years that has me completely hooked; there are a few others I keep up with, but more out of curiosity than need. This series is an addiction as much as a guilty pleasure. 5 stars!

Vanishing Girls by Lisa Regan ~ #Mystery #BookReview

36441275This was a fast paced, adrenaline pumping mystery with high stakes. There was a little awkwardness, a sentence here and there that felt like the author was struggling to find her footing, but all in all it was well written, with a well developed protagonist and pacing that left me gasping for breath.

The intricate plot was slyly crafted and the author didn’t shy away from shocking the reader. I can’t say more without giving spoilers, which I detest, so I’ll just say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and wouldn’t mind spending more time with Detective Josie Quinn by reading more books in the series. 5 Stars!

 

Force of Nature by Jane Harper ~ #Mystery #BookReview

35688002This book is by the same author as The Dry, a book that’s been on my to-read list since before it was released. Sadly, I still haven’t read it. This is the second book in the series (I didn’t know it was a series, either.)

5 women go into the woods, only four come out. I had to read it. I love good hiking horror/mysteries, and have written a half dozen stories in the same vein myself, because as most hikers know, there’s so much that can go wrong, and the woods can be such a wild, unpredictable, and yes, sinister, setting.

I liked the characters. The writing took a few pages to adapt to the almost imperceptible little details of an Australian writer, but after that, I rarely noticed the quirks. The pacing was good, the suspense strong, and the ending unforeseen. Not my favorite book of the year, but still good. 4 stars!