Commentary on the Commenting Process

Today, I removed a post I had made some months ago, a review for a lovely children’s book called Abigail the Whale. I got some favorable responses, and for those I was grateful. But I also got a massive quantity of spam messages. Today, regretfully, I have deleted the Abigal review to turn off the spam machine on this post. For those who really care about the book, I am re-posting the review, below.

Review: Abigail the Whale. Written by Davide Call. Art by Sonja Bougaeva. Owlkids Books

I requested this book from NetGalley because it deals with a pre-teen girl and her anxieties, particularly around her body image. I am a licensed psychotherapist, and I know from years of experience how sensitive girls of this pre-teen and early teen age can be about themselves, and their body image in particular. In the story Abigail’s swimming teacher helps her with her problems through creative visualization technique. I use this very approach–visualization and mindfulness– with my patients, so I looked forward to reading the book.

Indeed, the book offers evocative pictures and conveys the idea of Abigail gaining self-confidence through her thought processes. For that, I can highly recommend it for girls of this particular age group. Abigail is a fortunate girl, to have a caring and wise teacher to guide her. The teacher helps Abigail to learn that “we are what we think”, and urges her to “Try it!” Abigail is a bit skeptical at first, but she is a brave and adventurous girl. She tries her hand at thinking, finding key words such as “light” and “water.” She also learns that whales can do pretty amazing things, like swimming and high diving. She finds that she is actually a–SUPER WHALE!

Good for Abigail! She finds that what she thinks is important, and she can help herself with her life’s challenges. It is very empowering to people of all ages to learn the power they possess to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.


This is an excellent, attractive and helpful book. I highly recommend it.

My thanks to author, artist, publisher and NetGalley for making a copy of this fine book available for me to read and review. My thanks also to Allison MacLachlan of Owlkids for resolving a question I had.

Blog Tour Review: A Death by Any Other Name: A Mystery, by Tessa Arlen. St. Martin’s Press Minotaur Books.

I am very pleased to be a part of this Tessa Arlen blog tour, reviewing A Death By Any Other Name.


This is the second Tessa Arlen mystery I have reviewed that features Lady Montford and her housekeeper Mrs. Jackson, having read and reviewed the previous book, Death Sits Down to Dinner, in March 2016. Written in the style of my favorite Golden Age mysteries, Arlen’s books are richly told tales set in an important historical background.

The book starts with a list of the Dramatis Personae–a feature I have always enjoyed as it gives one a small preview and also can serve as a handy reference for the reader as the plot thickens.

The relationship between Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson is, officially, noble lady and capable housekeeper. Unofficially, they are comrades-in-arms as they pursue the mysteries that they encounter. Arlen manages this role-juggling act for our two leading characters very convincingly.

Tessa Arlen has chosen as the time line for this book the momentous days as the world teeters on the edge of the dangerous precipice that will become known as World War 1. This serves to heighten the drama for the reader, as we are in possession of of a historical perspective that Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson have not yet acquired.

Set against this looming event, the story takes the two ladies to a earnest effort in aid of a cook erroneously considered responsible for the poisoning death of a visitor to her employer’s household. With her professional reputation shattered, her expectations for a successful life are in jeopardy.

Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson find themselves drawn into the world of the Hyde Rose Society, which is about to entertain an important guest persuaded somewhat reluctantly into a judging of tea roses. There is no shortage of intrigue and interesting characters in this story. Once again Ms. Arlen shows herself adept at sprinkling the scene with a tasty selection of best-quality red herrings. In the midst of the drama of the little rose society, and with a world war in the wings, we are thoroughly entertained by this well-drawn story.

As the title suggests, we find, as do our two leading ladies, that a rose by any other name . . .well, you know the rest. The solution is inventive and surprising.

As in Death Sits Down to Dinner, we are furnished with an afterword providing a wealth of historical background for the fictional account we have just enjoyed.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review and to Shailyn Tavella of Minotaur Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

WholeReview: A Whole Latte Murder: A Java Jive Mystery, by Caroline Fardig. Random House – Alibi


whole-latteJuliet Langley surely leads an interesting life. One might say she’s a Renaissance woman. She manages the popular Java Jive coffee house, she is a beautiful, feisty redhead, a talented musician, and has a number of attractive men in her life–police detective Ryder Hamilton is her primary romantic interest as the story opens, but she also has her very best friend Pete Bennett, and as the tale progresses, interest builds in another policeman, Detective Stafford.


Juliet has vowed to stay out of detective endeavors, but her life gets complicated. Ryder gets a promotion to Homicide. That’s a good thing, right? Well, maybe for him, but not for Juliet, who finds her anxiety climbing. Then Pete takes a nasty fall and breaks his wrist, and a local college student goes missing, causing concern for Juliet’s friend Chelsea. Soon after that, Chelsea is found dead in her bathtub, apparently electrocuted.


Faced with all this, Juliet goes into full sleuthing mode with Pete as events continue to escalate. Juliet’s relationship with Ryder blows up, while Juliet and Pete’s interactions are heating up. As if that weren’t enough, detective Stafford is becoming a Person of Interest, and Juliet’s musical performing talents are renewed.


This is a lively tale, full of curves and twists, which leaves us looking for what the next episode may bring.  My thanks to author, publisher and NetGalley for making an advance copy available for me to read and review.

Review: Miss Seeton by Moonlight by Hamilton Crane, Heron Carvic. Farrago.

seeton-moonlightMiss Seeton is trying to enjoy her peaceful village life in her little cottage. She enjoys doing a bit of sketching and gardening, and improving her yoga skills But once again, there are villains at work in the area. This time, there are two. The first is a cat burglar known as Raffles who cleverly makes off with art and precious jewels and holds the valuables for ransom. Then there is the entity known as Croesus who seems to favor quite varied art objects with a wintery flavor.

It is a given that the village gossip mill is in full operation, and of course Miss Seeton is called upon for her unique talents. She spends quite a pleasant time sight-seeing (on assignment) with her adopted niece Anne, wife of Scotland Yard detective Bob Ranger.

I must admit, while entertained by this bucolic tale, I was wondering where the “moonlight” of the title came into the story. Not to worry. The moon does arise, about two-thirds of the way into the book, and it’s worth the wait. You know, while I really admire the efforts of those who have taken up the storytelling mantle of the original author, Heron Carvic, I have not found the later books to contain as many laugh-out-loud passages as Mr. Carvic gave us. But the description of the moonlight ride of Miss Seeton comes very close to emulating the best of the original author’s work. These books are just great fun to read.

Once again, my sincere thanks to Farrago and NetGalley for making an advance copy available for me to read and review.

Review: Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham. Peters Fraser & Dunlop.

death-of-a-ghost-largerThe enigmatic “Albert Campion” is invited to a remarkable art showing by the widow of painter John Sebastian Lafcadio. This is the eighth of twelve scheduled events to exhibit a set of posthumous works left by the temperamental artist with explicit instructions about the annual showing of the painting, one at a time. But the carefully choreographed event goes seriously awry when the lights go out. When they are restored one of the attendees is found stabbed.


Albert Campion is noted for his ability to solve puzzling crimes. He is also known to be mild-mannered and inoffensive to a remarkable extent. Therefore, it is shocking for those of us who know Albert when he becomes really angry in this story. The question here, you see, is not the identity of the murderer. The exasperating challenge here is to prove what is already known.


For Albert does know, early on, who is behind the murder. Indeed, the murderer knows that he knows, and taunts him expertly and incessantly with high good humor. After all Albert’s efforts go unrewarded, there is a startling and surprising resolution.


Once again, Allingham’s ability to create fascinating characters and intriguing situations makes for a tour de force of the writer’s art.


My thanks to Camilla of the Margery Allingham Estate for making an advance copy of this book available for me to read and review.

Review: Girl Number One, by Jane Holland. Thomas & Mercer.

girl-number-oneEleanor Blackwood is a young woman struggling with a traumatic past. On the 18th anniversary of her own mother’s murder, an event witnessed by six-year-old Ellie, she decides to challenge her gremlins by taking a run through the very woods that were the site of her mother’s death. She is not prepared for what she finds on her run: a naked dead woman in the woods, with the number 3 written on her forehead with black marker. She can barely believe her own eyes. In a panic, she runs from the scene, scraping herself badly during the hectic one through the nettle-filled woodland trail.


It gets worse. When Eleanor reports her experience, she is received skeptically by the police, who nevertheless search for the body in the woods, and fail to find one. At that point, reactions vary: the police, knowing her history, think she is either suffering hallucinations or an overactive imagination. Her father is angry, accusing her of attention-seeking behavior. Her employers at the local school think she should take a leave from teaching. Even Eleanor begins to doubt what she has seen, or not seen. She has been through years of therapy, and indeed is currently seeing a hypnotherapist, Dr. Quick.


This is a riveting first-person story that offers flashback scenes interspersed with current events. We, the reader, aren’t sure about Eleanor’s mental health, either. But when events become even more complex, we increasingly feel there is a malevolent force behind what we are seeing through Eleanor’s eyes, and like her, we are hard pressed to recognize who is friend and who is foe. I found it hard to put this book down, and read long chunks at a time. The author has done a masterful job of telling a difficult tale.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for making an advance copy available for me to read and review.

Review: A Killer Closet: A Mystery, by Paula Paul. Random House – Alibi

killer-closetAuthor Paul adeptly sets the stage for this book in the opening sentence, when Irene finds a dead woman in her closet.


OK, we’re hooked, and want to learn more. We find that Irene was until recently an assistant DA in Manhattan who was lured/coerced into returning to her hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico by her mother, the still-glamorous Adele. The daughter-mother connection has been somewhat distant, with Adelle spending her years with a series of husbands after the death of her first husband, Irene’s father. But now, at age seventy, Adelle’s luck has run out and she turns to her only daughter for help.


After some amount of discussion, Irene finally and reluctantly agrees to leave her New York life and come to Santa Fe. The plan is that Irene will open a consignment shop selling gently worn haute couture.


But Irene’s first day of business is complicated by the unsettling discovery in her closet. She meets the Santa Fe police chief, acquires a young but very capable assistant, Angel, and soon encounters a pushy local attorney, Peter James [AKA PJ] Baily, who takes an interest in Irene’s circumstances rather against Irene’s wishes.


This is a cleverly told tale that keeps us guessing through the many turns and twists encountered by a persistent Irene and a reluctant Adele. As it turns out, Irene is hard pressed to know whom she can trust, and who is part of the problem, and indeed just what the problem is.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for making an advance copy of this book available for me to read and review.

Welcome To My World

Welcome to my new improved (I hope) blog site.  It was a struggle to move content from old site to new, and not everything transferred to the new site.  I haven’t figured out how to format pages to my satisfaction, but I’m working on it.   So please, bear with me if this site does not seem quite what it should be. I’m really hoping it will improve–SOON.

July6_04 copy

©Warren Gibson 2014

Here I Go!

This is my first post, and I don’t really know what I’m doing yet.  Hopefully it will become clearer (to you and to me).

I have been writing short reviews on Amazon for books I have purchased, and recently I was contacted by the Allingham Estate about Margery Allingham’s books.  They very kindly provided a book for free, asking only that I read, review it and post it on NetGalley, which I did.  Now, I find I like doing this–reading books (I especially like mysteries, classic and more current–but not thrillers) and writing my impressions of them.  I will also confess that I  have some vague thought of trying to write a mystery of my own.  But you know, I ran into a roadblock trying to envision and carry out a (fictional) murder.  It seems to flow so  effortlessly in the best mysteries I have read.  But I also have found that I don’t like mysteries where the author’s earnest efforts at writing are too visible to me.  It puts to mind seeing a stage play where too much of the backstage activity is visible–it gets in the way of the story.  So far, in my own writing, the stage crew is very much in evidence.

So that’s all.  At least I got started!