Review of “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

Dec. 29, 2017 Outlander by Diana GabaldonOutlander-TV-cover

I read the 550 ebook pages of Outlander this past week. If you do the same, allow plenty of time. I also have watched the television series based on the book. Sometimes a book is better. Sometimes the movie or television series is better. This was a close one to call. Because the television series is filmed in Scotland, it brings the descriptions in the book to life, and the characters are more alive by actors portraying them with the mud, rain, and pain part of the reality. The book filled in some of the missing information about the characters’ backgrounds and family scheming and betrayals that aren’t as evident in the series. Black Jack is definitely scarier in the series. Although the descriptions are graphic in the novel, the impact is stronger, if not horrific, when viewing them. The series also allows more than Claire’s point of view and the sound of Gaelic as the actors speak it. Which is better than me trying to pronounce it. I think the book and series are an excellent example of marrying the two and both being equally enjoyable.

What do you think?



Book review for “The Cavalry Wife”

The Cavalry Wife

Book review for “The Cavalry Wife” by Donna Dalton

Dalton has a gift for poetic phrasing that captures the historic setting and transports the reader to President Grant’s time period. When his timid cousin Cassie Grant accidentally shares her bed with cavalry Captain Chase Brooks, they are forced to marry to avoid a scandal. A common ploy in romance novels, Dalton deepens the challenge of keeping the perfect couple apart with the backstories of Cassie and Chase. They wrestle with their own demons and struggle to resist the growing need to unite as husband and wife physically and emotionally in a natural progression. Dalton provides plenty of action, and she passes the test of historic romance by creating a story that could only take place in this time period. I only wish she had written a longer story.

Book review for “The Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie”

“The Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie” by Penny Burwell Ewing is the second book in The Haunted Salon series and combines ghostly helpers with a cozy mystery to keep the reader turning the pages.utterly-deadly-southern-pecan-pie-1

Written in first person, Jolene Claiborne is the hair stylist who sees ghost and solves mysteries. She has two younger sisters who help her and parents with a history that makes Daddy the prime suspect. Detective Samuel Bradford is the love interest but at odds with her special powers and knack for finding trouble.

It has a strong Southern voice and the setting backs it up with a beauty pageant, baking contest, Southern mansion, and Civil War reenactment. The modern day mystery is solved with clues from the Civil War and unfolds in a well-paced series of events that reveal just enough to keep the reader waiting for the next hint to drop. Jolene is the type of character that keeps readers coming back to find out what she’ll do next.

Book reviews

I’m catching up on my reading now that the weather has turned cold. I hope to have something posted every week but bear with me if I miss a week. I post books I enjoyed and want to share. If I didn’t like a book, I won’t post a review. We all have different taste, and someone may love a book I didn’t like. If I see a major flaw or room for improvement, I will try to offer some helpful advice. I appreciate feedback from my books as well. Join me in reading a few good books this winter.

Laura Freeman


Review of “For Better or Hearse”

Book review for “For Better or Hearse” by Ann Yost.17339235

Nick Bowman is the proverbial bad boy who returns home to save the family fortune and reputation. Daisy Budd, is the plain sister who falls for him. The romance story is combined with a cozy mystery as Nick and Daisy search for a “blue diamond” and bodies appear in the mortuary turned wedding boutique. Family members with marital problems and crazy citizens who have unique wedding plans add to the zany list of characters that interfere with their love life. I personally thought the older sister’s behavior was forced and not logical and could have been handled differently, but overall, the story worked. Four out of five stars.

HUDSON – Writers have created mystical and magical worlds like Wonderland, Neverland and Camelot to comfort adults and children in times of grief and worry, said Gregory Maguire, the best selling author of “Wicked.” Hiddensee

More than 150 people met the author Nov. 8 at the Hudson Library and Historical Society where Maguire shared his writing experience, and fans could purchase copies of his latest book, “Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker” which imagines the backstory to the classic tale of “The Nutcracker.”

Hiddensee” is a story of hope and intertwines the famous nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker, Drosselmeier, who carves him. 

Written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffmann as a story for children, the tale of “The Nutcracker and Mouse King” makes little sense, Maguire said. There’s a lot of digression, and it’s never explained. It’s a “schizophrenic story.”

Then Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote the musical score and made it a seasonal favorite, he said. Most of the crowd admitted to seeing the annual Christmas ballet.

Maguire said Act 1 was a pretty good story with Clara and The Prince battling the evil Mouse King, but Act 2 was as if a relative “brought out a slide show story from their eight-month vacation trip.”

The dances have nothing to do with Clara or the Mouse King, Maguire said.

Hiddensee” creates a backstory for “The Nutcracker,” much like “Wicked” created the backstory for the wicked witch of the west in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Raised in a strict household, “The Wizard of Oz” was the one movie Maguire and his six siblings were allowed to watch.

I would organize a play around it and cast parts,” Maguire said. “If you take all the music out of it, it runs 12 minutes.”

Then Maguire would mix up the story and add characters such as Captain Hook and Tinkerbell.

If you add something, the story can’t end the same,” Maguire said.

One version of the story had Captain Hook marrying the wicked witch and having “Little Hookin’s and Snookin’s.”

His father was a journalist and his stepmother a poet, and Maguire said he began writing “Wicked” in the second grade.

The story belonged to us, and I played it over and over again,” he said.

Maguire shared early handwritten stories and drawings, which included fires and people falling out of windows.

They were always filled with adventure,” he said. “I liked to save them in the end.”

Maguire was 24 when his first book, “The Lightning Time” was published. He has written 25 children’s books and 10 adult books.

While living in London, he read about a brutal murder, which made him think about the antagonist in a story, he said.

How do people go from healthy to being guilty of murder? Or a monster?” he said.

He thought about the witch in the “Wizard of Oz” who was bad, Maguire said. That meant she was unredeemable, and it was all right to vanquish her.

There was no backstory for the witch,” Maguire said.

He decided to create one and wrote “Wicked” in five months.

It was my first royalty check with more money than enough for two hamburgers,” Maguire said. “I thought they made a mistake.”

His fortune changed at the age of 39 when “Wicked” sold a million copies, he said. Broadway turned it into a musical, which has been performed more than 4,000 times in its decade run and has won 35 major awards, including a Grammy and multiple Tony Awards.

Book review for “Walking Through Fire”

Bookreview for “Walking Through Fire” by CJ BahrWalking Through Fire

This was the first book I’ve read by CJ Bahr but “Walking Through Fire” has me hooked on her storytelling abilities. She takes a story reminiscent of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” and elevates it to a thrilling encounter with murdered ghost Simon McKay and a not so Miss demure Laurel Saville with a villain that grows more dangerous with each turn of the page. The supporting characters of best friend, unfaithful ex-boyfriend, and Scottish setting add to the story’s supernatural believability. The love story builds to the shocking series of surprises at the end that makes the book impossible to put down until the last page has been read. For romance, a ghost story, a sexy encounter, and a villain you’ll love to hate, I recommend “Walking Through Fire” and will be looking for others books by CJ Bahr.

Book review of Betting On Kincade

“Betting On Kincade” by Devon McKay is a rodeo ride of fun. If you love cowboys, and Kincadewho doesn’t, Dalton Kincade will capture your heart as he tries to recapture the love of Cassie Wilcox, whose stubbornness matches his own.


The western romance includes a rodeo rider, a ranch in trouble, a drunken stepfather, a high-stakes poker game, and more. McKay’s writing is smooth and fast paced. She knows how to tell a solid story that holds your attention from the first page to the end, and leaves a smile on your face.  I’ve read her other books, “Cowboy On The Run” and “Staking a Claim” and this is another one to add to anyone’s collection.

Great job, Devon. Congratulations on your third novel. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Zapruder film captured Kennedy’s assassination


Posted Oct 16, 2017 at 12:01 AM Updated Oct 16, 2017 at 4:08 PMhh Zapruder1

HUDSON – The assassination of President John F. Kennedy continues to impact generations.

For one family, its effects have been uniquely, “hauntingly” historic.

Alexandra Zapruder, granddaughter of Abraham Zapruder, the Dallas man who captured those indelible 26 seconds on film from the Grassy Knoll on Nov. 22, 1963, shared her family’s history to a packed room of more than 150 people Oct. 10 at the Hudson Library and Historical Society.

The Zapruder film was a home movie, Alexandra said — key to understanding it as an historic document and its effects on her family.

“If you don’t understand it was a home movie made by an individual with a family history, you can’t understand the life of the film,” she said.

Abraham Zapruder, a dressmaker and Russian immigrant who came to the country in 1920, left his shop (“Jennifer Juniors”) on Dealey Plaza that fateful morning, stopping briefly at home to pick up his 8mm video camera to capture the president’s visit.

“He loved technology and progress,” Alexandra said. “He was a modern man.”

Abraham and his family also loved Kennedy.

“My family were real Kennedy fans,” Alexandra said.

Abraham arrived around noon at his selected perch, a concrete abutment on the Grassy Knoll, to capture the moments when the motorcade passed. The twenty-six seconds of color film ultimately captures Kennedy emerging after a sign with his hands to his throat — and then being hit by what is believed to have been the final, fatal shot.

Darwin Payne, a reporter with the Dallas Times Herald (which ceased publication in 1991), interviewed Abraham after the shooting. Alexandra showed a clip of the interview, as her grandfather describes hearing the shots, seeing the president’s head “opened up” and knowing Kennedy was dead long before Walter Cronkite announced it.

“The killing of the president belonged to the [Russian] world he had left behind,” Alexandra said. “Violence on the street didn’t happen in a democratic society. It was more than he could bear. He couldn’t believe [President Kennedy] was shot down like a dog.”

Abraham had the film processed and three copies made, she said. Two went to the Secret Service. He drove home with the camera, the original print and the other copy.

“For him, it was a nightmare,” Alexandra said. “He didn’t know what to do with it.”

Richard Stolley, journalist and editor of LIFE Magazine, called in the days following the assassination. Abraham was said to have trusted the then-reporter, that Stolley might treat the film with respect and not exploit it. He sold the film to LIFE for $150,000.

“He agonized over it,” Alexandra said. “He didn’t sell to the highest bidder or give it away.”

The Zapruder family gave $20,000 from sale of the film to the widow of J.D. Tippit, the Dallas officer whom Oswald shot and killed the same day as Kennedy. Ironically, both Tippit and Oswald were buried the same day, after Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby days after Oswald’s arrest.

Alexandra noted that her family was criticized through the years for selling the film to LIFE, which printed 31 black and white frames from the video in its Nov. 29, 1963, edition, leaving out the fatal shot.

The first rule of the Zapruder film, Alexandra said, was not to talk about the Zapruder film — both out of respect to the Kennedy family and because of the moral dilemma it posed for Abraham, Alexandra said.

The film haunted the Zapruder family.

“It was horrible to see and disrespectful to the Kennedy family,” Alexandra said.

In 1975, as the film was under the auspices of LIFE magazine, a pirated copy was released on television, and LIFE returned the rights to the Zapruder family. Alexandra’s father, Henry, tried to allow some viewing but limit it. The film was used in the 1991 JFK film by Oliver Stone.

In 1998, ownership was transferred to the JFK Collection at the National Archives Records Administration. The U.S. Justice Department paid the family $16 million, about half of what the film’s value was capped at. The Zapruders have retained the copyrights.

In 2000, the Zapruder family donated the film copies, photographs and all copyrights to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

Most of the people in the room at the library were old enough to be alive that fateful Friday in Dallas, coming up on 54 years ago this Nov. 22.

During the question period at the end, Al McCaulley of Tallmadge stood up and offered another unique perspective.

From 1958 to 1967, he said, he worked in the photo lab for the FBI in Washington, D.C., and was called in for a 24-hour shift the day after Kennedy was shot to handle a special film coming in from Dallas.

McCaulley said the now iconic Zapruder film “seemed longer than 26 seconds.”

“Everyone sees something different [in the film],” he said.

Alexandra agreed, and says it raises more questions than answers, including conspiracy theories.

“The film is a visual record but it complicates the discussion,” she said.

Abraham died when Alexandra was 11 months old, so she researched his life and ultimately authored “Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film.”

“Everyone else got to know him — but not me,” Alexandra said.

In 2004, Alexandra’s father died and the film became her responsibility.

“I had to take responsibility for the Zapruder film and those who were part of it,” Alexandra said. “I was a writer so it was natural for it to fall to me, but I knew nothing about the film. I ran into historical gaps and misinterpretations of the family story.”

Alexandra’s resume extends far beyond being an author and curator to both national and family history. She is a founding member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

A graduate of Smith College, she served on the curatorial team for the museum’s exhibition for young visitors, Remember The Children, Daniel’s Story. She earned her master’s degree in education at Harvard University in 1995.

In 2002, Alexandra completed her first book, “Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust,” which was published by Yale University Press and won the National Jewish Book Award in the Holocaust category. She wrote and co-produced “I’m Still Here,” a documentary film for young audiences based on her book, which aired on MTV in May 2005 and was nominated for two Emmy awards.


Phone: 330-541-9434



Editing your story

Editing your work with editor Jennifer Fisher, speaker at Hudson Library and Historical Society on Sept. 25, 2017.

Self editing your novel – to enhance work, streamline, robust language, create a product to sell

Type of editing

  1. Development (subjective) – what is the big picture, characterization, plot development, and narrative flow
  2. Line editing – focus on prose, word choice, paragraph structure, and sentence flow
  3. Copy editing – check facts, punctuation, and capitalization
  4. Proofreading – eliminate typos

Keep notes on lingering questions or items to check for clarity and accuracy. Review comments from others but stick to your gut instinct. Reread your manuscript.

Narrative voice – Should be unique, consistent, and reader should “hear” the voice.

Setting – When, geography clear, if historical work, introduce to all the customs, mores, and way of life.

Timing – Storyline length, need dates and make clear how much time as passed in the story.

Tense – Most are past tense. All verbs need to be consistent.

Plot – Needs a beginning, middle, and end. Are there too many subplots that distract from the main plot? Can you distill plot to 1-2 sentences? Bring some originality to the story line. Most plots have been written. What makes your story different?

Pacing – Moves along smoothly and evenly. Are the chapters a consistent length? Are there long scenes that take over story line and slow down narrative pace? Does story move along too quickly or confuse reader? The story should slow down at climax.

Characters – How large is the cast? Are all necessary? Are you familiar with the background of each main character? Do you know them? Be aware of names – keep them distinct and not sounding alike.

Point of View – 1st or 3rd person limited. How many characters have POV? Introduce all characters in 1st few chapters and be consistent in how you refer to them. Cycle through POVs regularly. Do not head hop!

Incorporating the unfamiliar – Don’t assume others know what you know. Explain complicated concepts and devices. Example is military terminology, foreign countries, futuristic worlds.

Series or stand alone – If first in a series, drop in element that can be picked up in later books. If stand alone, resolve the plot

The first page – Pulls reader into the story. Make sure the first sentence, first paragraph, first page will entice reader. How many characters are introduced in first page? Sense of setting and mood established.

Give feeling of what to expect in story – Give clear picture of setting, pose questions to create interest. Is the mood scary, suspicious, or upbeat?

The first chapter – Introduce most of the characters, tell the reader what to expect and make them want to read more. A dead body should appear by chapter 3 in a mystery, and a romance should start by page 30.

The ending – Is it satisfying? Is the central plot resolved? Does it wrap everything up?