Sunday, March 19, 2017

Review: The Black Widow

When it comes to reading thrillers, I must admit I’m a creature of habit. I am far more likely to read the ninth novel of an author I like than try a first novel by someone else. And so it was this month with The Black Widow, the blockbuster bestseller by Daniel Silva.

Silva begins the novel, the sixteenth in the Gabriel Allon series, in the aftermath of a devastating terrorist attack on a Jewish cultural center in Paris. Allon, the legendary Israeli operative, responds to the attack by recruiting and training an agent he will send into the heart of a global terror network. The agent, a beautiful young doctor who poses as a "black widow" out to avenge the death of her husband, is at the center of a story that held my interest from the first page.

One reason I enjoy Silva’s novels is that they are relevant to the times. The author writes stories that are torn from today’s headlines and present a frightening and seemingly realistic take on safety and security in a turbulent world. He has no peer in the genre.

In The Black Widow, Silva presents Allon, the aging spy, in a fresh light and opens the door to new possibilities in this seemingly endless series. As before, I look forward to the author's next read. Rating: 5/5.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book tag: a new Q and A

As a blogger and an author, I am occasionally invited to participate in activities designed to raise the profiles of bloggers and authors. So when I was "tagged" by fellow novelist Maureen Driscoll this week on Facebook, I knew my time had come again.

Driscoll, author of the Kellington and Emerson regency romance series and a longtime friend, challenged three others to answer a specific set of questions making the rounds. I thought the questions were pretty good, so I jumped right on them. Here they are:

What book has been on your shelf the longest?

Truth be told, I don't have many books on my shelves or in my Kindle. I borrow most of the books and audiobooks I read from local libraries and have done so for decades. Two books I have kept over the years are anthologies of short stories I read in college.

What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?

I am currently listening to The Black Widow by Daniel Silva, one of my favorite authors. When I finish, I plan to reread The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough and other books on that historic natural disaster. All are part of my research for my next novel, set in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1888 and 1889. Before The Black Widow, I read Deceived, the debut novel by Heena Rathore.

What book did everyone like but you hated?

I don't know that I've ever "hated" a book that most people loved -- or even liked. I do know that I never warmed up to the Harry Potter series, even though I read the first book, saw most of the movies, and appreciated the brilliance that went into them.

What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read but you probably won’t?

I put The Fault in Our Stars on my reading list several years ago, in part because of its astonishingly good reviews, but I doubt I will ever get to it — or at least get to it anytime soon. I saw part of the movie based on the book and did not care for it much.

What book are you saving for retirement?

There is no one book I am saving for retirement or even the distant future, but I do hope to return to the classics at some point. I have read only a few of the hundred or so great books people are supposed to read in their lifetime and want to remedy that.

Last page: Read it first or save until the end?

I never read the last page first and can't understand why others do it. The fun of reading a story is not knowing how it turns out in advance.

Acknowledgement: Waste of paper and ink or interesting aside?

I think the acknowledgments section is important because it tells readers a little about what went into producing a book. I like to know how an author got from Point A to Point B in a book that I liked.

Which book character would you switch places with?

I wouldn't mind spending a day in the shoes of John Corey, the cynical, wisecracking detective in several novels by Nelson DeMille.

Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life?

I still have a copy of The Pacific, Hugh Ambrose's non-fiction account of World War II and the companion to the celebrated HBO miniseries. I did some research for Mr. Ambrose when he was writing the book and am listed in the credits as a minor contributor.

Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.

On a few occasions, other authors have emailed me entire books for review. Otherwise, I have obtained almost all of the books I've read through a library,, or a bookstore.

Have you ever given a book away for a special reason to a special person?

I recently bundled all ten of my novels in a Kindle and gave them to my daughter Heidi for her twenty-fifth birthday.

Which book has been with you most places?

Without a doubt, it has been the two anthologies from college. They have survived a dozen moves and are still in mint condition.

Any required reading that you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?

I didn't like The Catcher in the Rye when I read it the first time. I liked it and appreciated it more when I read it the second time.

Used or band new?

I like new books, but I almost always read used books — whether obtained from a store or the library.

Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?

Yes. I have read five: Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, Digital Fortress, and Deception Point.

Have you ever seen a movie you liked more than the book?

Yes. The Bridges of Madison County comes to mind.

Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks included?

My wife purchased Taste of Home Slow Cooker Classics a few years ago. I often open it just to look at the pictures. It's that good.

Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?

As an author, I solicit advice all the time, but I don't always take it. That said, I almost always take advice offered by my wife, Cheryl; my editor, Aaron Yost; and Maureen Driscoll. All three have steered me away from literary trouble on more than one occasion. As a reader, I'll take advice from almost anyone who is passionate about a book.

Is there a book outside your comfort zone you ended up loving?

I don't read much non-fiction, but I recently read and loved Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I am looking forward to seeing the movie.

Okay, now I get to do the tagging . . .

Michele Bodenheimer at

Angela Kay at

Heena Rathore at

Mike Siedschlag at

These are all thoughtful, interesting bloggers and blogs. Give them a look when you have the opportunity.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

March roundup and more

If there is one thing I’ve learned about readers in the past five years, it’s that they like books in bunches. So for the second time in two months, I have bent to the market and compiled a boxed set.

Northwest Passage: The First Three Novels offers The Mine, The Journey, and The Show in one package. I released a set of the first three American Journey books on January 4.

Planning continues on my next novel and series. I hope to start writing in May. In book one, five siblings will begin a time-traveling odyssey in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on the eve of its 1889 flood.

I also hope to complete at least one more audiobook project by the end of July. Veteran actor and voice over artist Allyson Voller will begin work on The Mirror in the next few weeks. Indiana Belle debuted on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes on February 20.

Finally, a big thank you to the bloggers and readers who have read and reviewed Hannah's Moon. In large part because of your efforts, the book had the best first month of any of my ten novels.

Here's to a happy spring for one and all!