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Friday, December 19, 2014

Mid-Winter Giveaway

This is my THANK YOU for following the blog and letting me be a part of your life. This isn't part of a larger blog hop, it's just us! I have three sets of books to giveaway, all of them are holiday related in some fashion.

#1 Snow Way Out (A Snow Globe Shop Mystery) by Christine Husom PLUS Murder Served Simply (An Amish Quilt Shop Mystery) by Isabella Alan

#2 Mulled Murder (A Special Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery) by Kate Kingsbury PLUS Mrs. Jeffries and the Merry Gentlemen (A Victorian Mystery) by Emily Brightwell

#3 Death With All The Trimmings (Key West Food Critic Mystery) by Lucy Burdette PLUS On Borrowed Time (A Library Lover's Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay.

Entry for giveaway lasts until December 22 6:00 p.m. (MST). U.S. entries only please.

I will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.  

I will accept entries for this giveaway until 6:00 p.m (MST) on Dec 22, 2014. I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you. If I don't hear from you in 3 days, I will select another winner and notify them.

IF you are a member of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.



Here is another gift, a little music video from Michael Buble.  Enjoy!





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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review - Keeper of the Castle


Today I review the next in the Haunted Home Renovations Mystery series.  I have reviewed each in this series from the debut issue.  The Fourth, Home for the Haunting (click here), the third, Murder on the House (click here),  the second book, Deadbolt (click here), and the debut book, If Walls Could Talk (click here).
  I have had the great honor of two interviews with the author, the recent interview (click here), and the older author interview (click here). 


Author: Juliet Blackwell

Copyright: December 2014 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 5th in Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series

Sensuality: mild kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Mel Turner, woman construction renovation Owner/Operator

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Mel needs some big paying jobs to keep Turner Construction going and continue employing her construction team.  Her boyfriend Graham wants her to  be the general over a large project.  The project is reconstructing an ancient monastery brought over from Scotland stone-by-stone.  The project is for a motivational speaker, Ellis Elrich, who will use the reconstructed monastery as his new retreat center.  When Mel is touring the project, she finds the county building inspector dead and two ghosts that followed the building.  In spite of the murder, she joins the team and finds protestors outside motivational speaker's home, a man from Scotland wanting to repatriate the monastery back to Scotland, Florian Libole, a dodgy but famous historic building consultant, potentially the wrong man taken into custody for the murder, and too many things that don't add up on the project. 

There is a mini-mystery involving the ghosts.  Why would there be a Spanish female ghost, the Red Lady, in a Scottish monastery, and why does she envelope anyone who comes close with overwhelming sadness and hunger?  Then there is the Scottish highlander who is very confused about what he is supposed to be guarding, but takes his sword and charges any man that comes near.  Why is this ghost so confused and how can Mel get him settled?  Now add the rumor of a curse attached to the ancient building and another that there is a treasure with the building!  These were interesting and added to the overall dilemmas of the construction site and may figure into the murder.

Mel Turner is a unique heroine who can hold her own on a construction site with a gang of men, and faces ghosts with courage but is afraid of a commitment with her boyfriend.  Graham is the romantic interest who at least accepts Mel's talent with ghosts, which is a huge plus.  Alicia Withers, Ellis Elrich's personal assistant is a breakout star.  She is very reserved, even uptight initially but her true self is eventually brought forward.  I can see a future for her teamed with Mel, so I hope she will be in more books.  Caleb, Mel's step-son from her failed marriage, is always a delight along with her dad and his business partner Stan. 

The Wakefield property with the mis-matched Victorian house and Spanish Revival interior next to the Scottish highland monastery being built on the land gave us a new setting without leaving the state even.  It has a quirky mix that provides delicious gothic touches all around.  The plot plays off of the Hearst castle and how structures would be brought over from Europe and reconstructed by the wealthy in the States. A touchy subject between countries and what if there were something of high value that was brought over with the building?  The pacing was steady although not fast.  I would say on par for a cozy particularly when many new characters are involved.

The climax occurred suddenly, rather surprised that *bam* you are confronting the killer. That felt a little rushed and was resolved equally as quickly.  I would have liked more time to get to the climax, some build up so it was more suspenseful, and a little more tension before it is all over.  The wrap-up was fine in general, but I would really have liked to know more on how the ghosts did with the solutions Mel arranged to give them peace.

Overall I found this yet another highly enjoyable adventure with Mel that gave us a Scottish fling without leaving California.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list


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Need some holiday crafts to do with the kidos, or want to make some ornaments for your tree or a simple gift?  Try these ideas out.


Mini Chalkboard Christmas Ornaments

3-inch wooden disc
Flat or satin finish acrylic crafts paint
Foam brush or flat-bristle paintbrush
Dove or other Christmas motif (see
next page)
White paper
Scissors
White, wax-free transfer paper
Ballpoint pen
White gel ink pen
Paper towel
Spray sealer
Fast-drying clear crafts glue
Pearl cotton thread or ribbon
for hanger
Scrap of felt or cardstock

1. Paint the wooden disc; let dry.
2. Print the motif onto the white paper. Cut around the motif to create a circle or square the same width as the painted disc. Cut a circle or square from the transfer paper the same width as the painted disc. Place the transfer paper, carbon side down, on the painted disc. Place the motif, right side up, on the transfer paper. Using the ballpoint pen, trace the outline of the motif, then “color” in the inside.
3. Remove the papers from the painted disc. Use the gel ink pen to darken the transferred image. Work in small areas, filling them in and then blotting the wet ink with a paper towel for a chalky look; let dry.
4. Spray the disc with sealer; let dry. Glue the thread or ribbon to the back of the ornament, forming a hanging loop. Trace around the disc onto the felt or cardstock; cut out. Glue the felt or cardstock circle to the back of the ornament for a finished look.


Pattern for the ornaments -- right click on image and save.  Enlarge as needed.  This idea, directions and pattern came from Better Homes and Gardens website (click here)


Paper Ornaments
There's no need to get intricate when decorating your Christmas tree. For the easiest ornament idea ever, simply cut ornament shapes from patterned paper (or how about from copied book pages onto colored or decorative paper) and set eyelets in the top for hanging.  You can add touches of glitter glue, ribbons, buttons, foil, artificial poinsettias or ivy etc.  They won't take up as much space to store either!




Check here for more DIY ornament ideas (click here).






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Monday, December 15, 2014

Review - Thunder Bay

I met this author at a writing conference and was quite impressed with a workshop he gave.  I bought this book and just now got to read it.  This was a new author to me, perhaps to you as well.  See how the book stood up to my high expectations.

Author: William Kent Krueger

Copyright: 2007 (Atria Books) 304 pgs

Series: 7th in Cork O'Connor Investigation series

Sensuality: Adult situations, nothing explicit

Mystery Sub-genre:
Private Investigator, suspense

Main Character: Corcoran (Cork) O'Connor, restaurant and gift shop owner and part-time PI

Setting: modern day, Aurora, Minnesota (northern Minnesota's lake country)

Obtained Through:
Publisher for honest review

Henry Meloux asks Cork, working as a part-time PI, to find a long-lost son the ancient Ojibwe medicine man has never met... from a relationship with a white woman, Maria Lima, seventy-three years ago. Cork gets two clues to work from: a location in Canada and a gold watch with a picture of Maria.  Cork proves his PI chops by shortly locating the son, who is an eccentric retired mining entrepreneur.  Managing a meeting between the rich son and elderly Henry is a challenge and his initial efforts are answered with an attempt on Henry's life.  Henry isn't deterred and insists his son needs him, propelling Cork into a dangerous labyrinth.

Cork is Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian. He juggles helping Henry with a family crisis.  He is a family-first guy and Henry is extended family, which shows much about his inner-man.  Jo, is his capable wife and a lawyer who I respected greatly.  Henry Meloux, Ojibwe elder and Cork's spiritual adviser is a character I quickly loved and his past love affair gave him a bittersweet quality.  Wally Schanno is a widower who is struggling through his grief and asks to help Cork with any PI work.  I felt for him from the first pages.  Trinky Pollard is a retired Canadian Royal Mounted Police who helps the gang on the Canadian side.  Cork's daughter Jenny is going through a lot in the story.  She is a thoughtful and sensitive girl on the brink of college having her mettle tested...which tests Cork's ability to not barge in and fix things.  

Krueger is known for creating a strong sense of atmosphere, and I think his reputation is well earned.  The scenes of Henry in the Canadian wilderness had me smelling the cook fire and pine trees.  The plot took a basic concept of a long lost son and built a web of suspense with murder and greed.  The pace increased as the story developed.  The climax was a nail biting deadly confrontation that got the blood pumping. The wrap up tied up all the various threads to satisfactory conclusions. 

This was my first exposure to the author and the series and it delivered a rich tapestry, layered plot, and defined characters.  This won't be my last book in the series!

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list



Do you need some holiday decorating ideas still?  Here is an easy one for you.  Wrap wire around a foam cone (find in floral or hobby stores) to make these pretty Christmas trees!

I found this and more great last minute decorating ideas here.











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Monday, December 8, 2014

Guest Post - T.C. LoTempio

T.C. LoTempio is the author of the newest cozy mystery series, Nick and Nora mysteries, a tip of the hat to the old Thin Man fanchise.  I reviewed the debut book in the series, Meow if its Murder (click here).

Dashiell Hammett's best-selling last novel "The Thin Man" (considered a seminal work of the hard-boiled mysteries with lighthearted approach and humor) introduced the world to Nick and Nora Charles.  Nick is a boozing former Private Investigator married to wealthy heiress Nora.  The Thin Man was turned into radio, film, television, musical stage production, and even a stage play.  But I do believe this is a new twist on the Nick and Nora legacy, with a nod to the "Cat Who..." popular mysteries mixed in as well.

Why a Cat?  by T.C. LoTempio

I’ve had quite a few people ask me why I chose to write a mystery series about a cat.
Well, the answer’s simple. I didn’t actually choose to do it…


I’ve been writing for most of my life, but never with an eye for publication until 1997. There followed a flurry of writing books – mostly my favorite genre, horror, where I tried very hard to be the next Stephen King.  I ended up getting a few published, but through a small press. I still wasn’t where I wanted to be.


Next I started writing paranormals – mostly paranormal mysteries.  Alas, I was informed by many of the agents I approached that the market for paranormals – especially those that featured vampires – was oversaturated.  Another dead end. 


So I turned to self publishing.


I published a few of my paranormal mysteries via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They got pretty good reviews, but nothing really stellar.  I still hadn’t found my niche.  And then….


I was at my day job one morning, sitting in my boss’s office.  He knew my hobby was writing and I was telling him about the latest one I’d written that was ‘making the rounds’ at agent offices.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Why don’t you quit writing about vampires and werewolves and write a book about your damn cat?”


Me: “But I like to write about vampires and werewolves.”


My boss: But it isn’t getting you anywhere. You love that cat and you love to write. I think you should think about it.


I went home that night and thought about it. I’d recently acquired a tuxedo cat, ROCCO, who had a feisty personality – so much so that I’d created a blog entitled cats, books and more cats, and I’d just developed what I though was a creative premise – I’d interview authors as if the cat were the one asking the questions.  I’d gotten Janet Evanovich to agree to an interview and I’d just also gotten in touch with a few other authors who all thought the idea was “cute”.


Hm….maybe my boss had something there? But what sort of book could I write that would feature a cat? It had to have something to do with food, I thought. People love books with recipes!


I lay down on my couch and flipped through the channels. Turner classic was running “The Thin Man”. And suddenly the premise came to me…Nora Charles, ex-crime reporter, returns to her hometown of Cruz, California to take over her mother’s sandwich shop and finds a stocky, tuxedo cat on her doorstep, whom she names Nick.  As it turns out, the cat’s original owner was a Nick, too, and he was a private eye….and thus were born the Nick and Nora mysteries. Although the original premise was a LOT different from the book Penguin bought…but that’s a story for another day!
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Thank you T.C. LoTempio for this fun post on your inspiration to write mysteries with a cat character.  Love it.

Here is a great idea for a naturally relaxing home spa treatment, make your own salt scrubs that are all the rage!
Home Spa Sea Salt Scrub

The primary purpose of a salt scrub is to exfoliate the skin, which removes the outermost layer of dead skin cells, softening your skin in the process and giving your skin a natural healthy glow.  Courtesy of Budget 101.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups fine sea salt
1/3 cup olive oil or almond oil
3 drops of essential oil of your choice

First, be sure you are using Essential oils, rather than Fragrance oils which are loaded with fillers and chemicals and can irritate the skin! Some of our favorite essential oils are Lavender, Rose, Neroli, Orange, Birch (for anti-cellulite!), Wild Rose, and Peppermint . Your choice of Essential oil may depend on your mood or any health issues you've been experiencing, such as poor sleep (in which case, you'd use Lavender).

Combine all in a small bowl, blending well.  When done, package in a sealable mason jar with a computer generated label, a bow etc, for gift giving.

How to Use a Body Scrub:

    Sit on the edge of a tub and moisten the area you wish to scrub.
    Place a tablespoon or so of the body scrub in the palm and gently work each area for approximately 1-3 minutes. If you work too quickly you won't properly exfoliate.
    Be sure not to scour too hard or too long.
    Gently rinse the area with warm water, but don't use soap or shower gel to remove it.
    If you want baby smooth skin, exfoliate once weekly.
    Body scrubs should never be used on the face.

Treating yourself to a lovely Home Spa treatment is a fantastic way to save money while still taking some much needed time out for yourself.  
Exfoliate your soles and heels with this mixture after a bath or foot soak. Or apply it to the legs, arms or have someone apply it to your back!
 

More Home Spa Recipes you might enjoy for yourself or as gifts (click here).




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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review - Meow if it's Murder

I was intrigued by this new series premise and book blurb.  Here is my take on the new Nick and Nora mystery series (after the old "Thin Man" movies).


Author: T.C. LoTempio

Copyright: December 2014 (Berkley) 305 pgs

Series: 1st in Nick and Nora Mystery series

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Characters: Nora Charles former crime reporter, now a small business owner

Setting: modern day, Cruz, California

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Nora investigates the curious death of socialite Lola Grainger who had been a friend of Nora's mother.  There are some aspects to the reported account of Lola's death while her and her husband were out on their yacht that don't add up for Nora. She also finds a charming tuxedo stray cat she names "Nick" that she tracks to a PI who was hired by Lola's sister to investigate.  Seems nobody has seen the PI for a few weeks and he could be gone for good.  


Nora's crime reporter tendencies won't let the story go, even after a police detective keeps warning her off the case along with her best friend, Chantal, saying her Tarot cards show its dangerous. Indications point towards Chicago mob connections, but how that really works is fuzzy as Nora keeps digging. A fun side plot is how Nick has the eerie talent of leaving clues for Nora, like using scrabble tiles to spell out "FBI."

Nora is a great heroine, she is a milder crime reporter (not hardened) than what I initially anticipated for a Chicago reporter.  But, she works well for this type of mystery.  Nick, the cat who found Nora, picks up as intuitive guide to Nora -- reminiscent of the "Cat Who..." books with Koko giving clues. He is clearly a vital half of the "Nick and Nora" team for this series.  Chantal is Nora's best friend and is an interesting addition too.  Ollie, or Oliver Sampson, is the PI who was partnered with Nick's former deceased owner.  Nora and Ollie become friends and he seems setup to be in next books too.  Detective Daniel Corleone is the standard police/FBI romantic interest.  His character is well done despite being an overused character idea. 

The setting of Cruz California isn't really utilized much other than the marina and yachts.  The plot was surprisingly more complex than I expected and was well developed.  The pacing did a great job of keeping me engaged in the story and turning pages.  The climax had Nick and Nora confronting the killer with some good tense moments.  The wrap-up was short but sweet.

This debut book has a good foundation of a former crime reporter with an intuitive cat sidekick that delivered a good plot idea with creative writing and fun characters.  I am looking forward to many installments in this new series.  If you enjoyed the Lillian Jackson Braun books in their early years, you will probably love this series.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list


Evergreen Hurricane Candles

Bring a touch of elegance to the dinner table or to your holiday display with these simple holiday hurricane candles.



You'll Need:

Glass hurricane candle holder
Evergreen pieces
Spray adhesive
Pillar candles

Before you start make sure you scrub the hurricane glasses completely with window cleaner. Pick nice flat greenery pieces & spray them liberally with the spray adhesive.

Let the greenery set a few minutes until the spray adhesive has become tacky, then carefully seat them on the hurricane glass.

Give it a few minutes time to dry, then trim the bottoms with decent scissors or shears.  I believe that the adhesive spray will keep the greenery from turning brown and brittle, but this is my first time.  If you wish to use artificial, I'm sure that would look just as lovely.

Finally, add a candle!

I found this project at Budget101 (click here).



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