Book review: The Scorching by Libbi Duncan

The Scorching by Libbi Duncan is perhaps one of the most relatable YA fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time. Many of you may be disappointed, but I did not love reading The Hunger Games books and felt happy with watching the movies.

But, I am somewhat of a SciFi fan. (Star Trek, not Star Wars. Arguing is futile.) I was pleasantly surprised to find that, while seeking to expand outside my favored genre (thriller/mystery), fans of YA, fantasy and SciFi are sure to find something to like about The Scorching, which is the first in Duncan’s The Scorching Trilogy.

Madi is an eighteen-year-old who just dumped her douchey boyfriend—who happens to be what amounts to the heir of the human race, which escaped Earth during an apocalyptic event. Events escalate quickly as she finds out her parents, scientists for what she’s beginning to see is an out-of-control militaristic dictatorship, have been killed.

Or have they?

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Book Review: Looker by Laura Sims

In the interest of full disclosure, I must begin my review of Looker by Laura Sims by saying this: My feelings about this novel are likely influenced by misleading marketing.

All over the internet, Looker was billed as one of the next great “thrillers” and the best “mystery” of 2019. The one that finally got me was that Looker was one of Literary Hub’s “Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2019.”

This novel sounded right up my alley.

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A Friday of firsts

As a longtime print journalist, I admit my relationship with TV news channels was, at one time, somewhat antagonistic. We wanted to scoop them, and we weren’t happy when they reported something we didn’t have.

But as an author, the TV news morning shows, which tend I think of as their version of the newspaper’s Arts & Entertainment section, are important. So when the opportunity arose to be on NewsChannel 10’s 2nd Cup at 9 a.m. on Friday, I was excited. It would be my first appearance on television promoting my fiction (or for any reason at all).

I am fortunate to have had some training in public speaking, though this wasn’t exactly the same. And, while I used a few too many “likes,” I am happy with how it went. I think having a great host like Ali Allison was important.

One of the main reasons I wanted to be on a local TV morning show was to plug my signing at Barnes & Noble later that night.

The signing at Barnes & Noble wasn’t my first. But it was my first at the world’s largest bookseller, so there is, at least in my mind, a major prestige factor involved with signing at a Barnes & Noble.

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I will make my television debut on Friday morning

I will be leading off Amarillo’s NewsChannel 10 2nd Cup morning show at 9 a.m. Friday.

Stashed away among the cobwebs of my brain is the memory of being one of many children in a local television commercial. It was likely in Maine or New York. I also remember doing a short interview, along with some friends, on a local radio station in one of those locations. I believe I was on the local Little League All-Star team. I said my favorite hobby was sleeping.

As an adult, I have been behind a cellphone trying hard to frame out the covered body behind a detective sergeant holding a news conference at a homicide scene. I have also gotten footage of a tractor-trailer half hanging out of the McDonald’s on Amarillo Boulevard.

But I have never been in front of a television camera for any reason.

Until Friday at 9 a.m.

I was booked this morning as a guest on Amarillo’s NewsChannel 10 (KFDA-TV, local CBS affiliate) 2nd Cup morning show. I will be leading off the show at 9 a.m. and speaking with Ali Allison (left in the image at the top of this post). We will discuss my debut novel, Deep Background (, my signing that night at Barnes & Noble ( and whatever else we want to.

I am mostly excited, but also a bit nervous. But I’m determined to enjoy this new experience. I’m not sure if they put out video clips of segments or not. If they do, I will be sure to post it. Either way, I will write about it and let you know how bad the butterflies got before they counted down behind the cameras.

Dan Mallory’s lies were hurtful, and I hope he sees that now

Dan Mallory, who wrote “The Woman in the Window” under pen name A.J. Finn, did not directly copy any other works. But what he did do was worse.

I set out today to write a comparison of “The Woman in the Window,” last year’s literary thriller that had everyone talking, and “Copycat,” the movie that Dan Mallory was accused of essentially ripping off by The New Yorker in an expose posted online this week.

I rented the movie, a 1995 thriller that probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves today despite holding a respectable 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I got out a pad and pen and set out to write down, scene by scene, where the novel and book mirrored each other. This piece was going to be a side-by-side comparison, a “the book was better” post, only probably in reverse.

What happened instead was this: I watched a pretty good ’90s flick with a star-studded cast that probably doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, and I was not able to write my planned follow-up piece about Mallory, who was outed in the New Yorker piece as a man whose mental illness likely contributed to — but did not excuse — a series of bizarre and destructive actions that led to him becoming a millionaire author.

And, as I read more throughout the day and heard from many voices, I was able to find a much better perspective on his story and how, even if he’s not guilty of any plagiarism or true storytelling crimes, what he did was incredibly wrong in some impactful ways.

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