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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review - Mrs. Jeffries Speaks Her Mind

Well I am on vacation but I got more reading in than anticipated with flight delays so I am able to provide a book review while in Paris after all.  FYI, Paris is cold and has been mostly rainy while I've been here.  I hope all you dear readers are staying warm this holiday season.  Have some eggnog for me!

Author: Emily Brightwell

Copyright: June 2010 (Berkley Books) 304 pgs

Series: 27th in Mrs Jeffries Victorian Mystery

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre:
Historical Cozy

Main Character:  Mrs Jeffries, a policeman's widow is Inspector Witherspoon's Housekeeper

Setting: Victorian England

Obtained Through:
publisher for honest review

I have not read any of the prior 26 books in this series but it brings the reader quickly into the flow without much fuss.  I liked the initial premise of this series.  Mrs Jeffries likes her kind and basically good employer even though he started on the police force without making himself shine - until Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of the staff pitch in and work their networks and Inspector Witherspoon is solving the baffling cases without really understanding how he did it.  He has risen in rank to Inspector and has grown as a policeman as well.

This time a self-righteous and mean spirited wealthy woman is shot in her own garden during a storm while all the servant's are at the household cook's funeral.  There are plenty of suspects since Olive Kettering was even estranged from her brother and niece and all her servants despised her.  Ms Kettering had recently gotten very involved with the Society of the Humble Servant led by Reverend Samuel Richards which is a scam by all accounts.  But the last few months Ms Kettering swore she heard footsteps in the night and somebody was out to do her harm but nobody believed her.

This is a light and enjoyable read.  The emphasis is on the cozy, with the servants and their contributions to uncovering clues and motives being the core story.  These servants are a family and you are invited into their midst as they gladly jump into sleuthing on behalf of their employer Inspector Gerald Witherspoon.  You will grow fond of them and want to call them friends.  Each employee feels they are contributing to seeing justice truly done.  Mrs. Jeffries has a relationship where the inspector respects her and likes to unwind by sharing his cases in the evening with her, allowing her to subtly drop ideas and directions for him to dig or question.  This case brings danger perilously close to the household staff though.

I will gladly read another of this series when I want a lighter read.  The staff are the counterpoint to the evil in the world for they care about each other and their employer and want to see true justice done.  It is their delightful relationships that make the series special.  Mrs. Jeffries is the investigative mastermind putting all the pieces together.  The inspector comes across as a kind-hearted man who truly wants justice although he doesn't really have the stomach for looking at dead bodies.  The rest of the staff you will need to meet on your own.  There are newlyweds on staff who met working there and recently got married.  A new employee joins them as well and it will be interesting to see how she works into the mix.

The plot had some red herrings and a basic murder setup.  I figured out who the killer was and slowly worked out the how as the investigation turned up clues early on, so this is not a particularly difficult mystery.  I found the strength is in the characters and the magic they create.  If you enjoy a mystery where the recurring characters are old friends you want to visit, this is the book for you.  The sleuthing makes the characters interesting and fun.

Have a safe New Years celebration.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Interview - Sheila Connolly

I am still traveling so this will be the only post for this week.  I hope your holiday season is warm and joy filled, where ever you are.  We have Sheila Connolly joining us who writes the Orchard Mysteries and the new Museum Mysteries.  I recently reviewed A Killer Crop, the latest in her Orchard Mysteries here.

- Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?
Yes.  Or none of the above.  In fact, I often start with the setting, or even a particular part of the setting.  One book came about because I was wandering through an orchard and found a ruined springhouse in the middle of it.  My first thought was, what a great place to put a body!  I ended up creating a whole book around that, starting with, why would there be a body in the springhouse?  Who was it?  How could you sneak a body in there without anyone noticing?

- Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?
Once I have the basic idea, I usually let it stew in my head for a while.  When I'm ready to start writing the book, I sit down with a pad and pencil and write something between a general outline and a letter to myself, including questions I need to resolve.  I may never look at it again, and a lot of elements will change, but the process of laying it out the first time is important to me.

After that I kind of let things flow.  I keep a running outline, which lets me see how much time has elapsed in the story, which character has been absent for too long, and where I am in the page count in case I need to pick up the pace.

- What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?
For a couple of years I have been collecting old photos of what I call "interesting faces" and use them for inspiration for people from the past who sneak into my books.  The contemporary characters I let do the talking.  Very few of them are based on people I know (and I'm still waiting for the people who I did "borrow" to recognize themselves).

- How do you find time for writing, what works for you - and do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?

One of those things you don't know about before you're published is how much time you'll have to devote to various kinds of promotion.  That makes the writing time all the more precious.  I find my creative mind works best in the morning, so that's when I try to actually write.  The afternoon is for the business side, and when my mind really slows down, I read.

A few years ago we moved into a Victorian house.  When I first went through it with the realtor (at which point it was filled with the treasures of an elderly couple who could easily be called hoarders) I took one look at the landing over the stairs and said, that's where the desk goes.  I write at my father's old kneehole desk, with my grandmother's filing cabinet and my great-grandmother's Art Nouveau lamp.  I have a window overlooking our fairly quiet street, and all my current reference materials are within arm's reach.  There's a 3'x4' corkboard over the desk, with all sorts of odd pictures that either relate to the work in progress or that I find entertaining—plus the things I absolutely, positively can't lose in the piles on my desk.

- What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
I write every day, including weekends.  I get up, throw on sweats, fill the coffee mug, and sit down in front of the laptop.  I take a short break for lunch and keep going until the words run out.  At night I turn into a couch potato.

I write quickly (and find myself apologizing to a lot of writer friends who seem to agonize over each and every word).  That's been true from the start, when I had no idea what was expected—I just did it.  I can complete a draft in two to three months.  Then I like to put it aside and gain some distance before I try to edit.  Sometimes there's only a week or two for that, but I have an editor I trust, thank goodness. (And if she's reading this, the book that's due in February is in good shape.  Really.)

- What in your background prepared you to write mystery novels?

I've been a real gypsy in my career: at various times I've been an academic art historian, an investment banker, a non-profit fundraiser, and a professional genealogist.  And I've managed to use all of those experiences in one way or another in my books, believe it or not.

I also started reading at an early age and have never stopped.  When my husband and I were first married, we started collecting mysteries (and this was in the Dark Ages before the Internet!).  We focused on mystery writers and tried to assemble full series by each of them.  If you're wondering, yes, I read them all.  As a result, I have a pretty full collection of classic mysteries.  But I realized a few years ago that I had a definite bias toward traditional mysteries or cozies—there were relatively few thrillers or suspense novels mixed in.  

I started out trying to write romantic suspense, but I don't think I was very good at it.  Things really clicked when I started writing cozies.

- How did you get your first break toward getting published?  Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter etc?

The usual, slogging through endless query letters to various agents.  I landed one bad agent, but it took me a couple of years to realize he was useless.  I started all over again, but at least I think my writing had improved. 

I ended up with my current agency when one of my query letters to them (my third or fourth—did I mention I'm persistent?) came back minus the enclosure, or even a return address.  But I figured out who had sent it, and emailed asking for the response.  It was, predictably, a rejection, but the agent was so apologetic about the mistake that she asked if I'd be interested in "trying out" for a work-for-hire for Berkley Prime Crime.  I said yes, BPC loved it, and I was launched with the Glassblowing Mysteries, written under the pen name Sarah Atwell.

BPC must have liked what they saw, because even before the first book hit the shelves, I had signed to write the Orchard Mystery series, under my own name.  The next year they bought the Museum Mystery series.

So, short answer:  because somebody didn't seal an envelope, I've ended up with eight books published in under three years.

- What are you currently reading?

I read my friends' books, and I try to find time to read non-fiction and other things that sound interesting, whether or not they're related to my own books.  But I'm way behind on best-sellers, and the to-be-read piles are reaching frightening heights.

- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I keep odd talismans on my desk, like pieces chipped off tombstones (I spend a lot of time in cemeteries, for genealogy purposes), a pencil sharpener in the form of a cannon, from Valley Forge, and an elephant eraser based on Lucy, and an eraser modeled on Lucy, the Victorian elephant in Margate, New Jersey, that's big enough to walk through.  Mostly they're things that make me smile.

 - Do you participate in a critique group (or have you in the past?) What are the pros and cons of critique groups?
I have in the past.  I was part of a group put together through the Guppies, a Sisters in Crime on-line chapter, several years ago.  We kind of drifted apart after a year or two, but I'm still in touch with two of the members.  I learned a lot, reading the work of other people and getting their feedback.  I think that most writers are too close to their own work to be objective, and it's a good idea to test your writing on others—particularly those who are willing to be honest with you—before sending it out into the wider world.  The biggest problem I found was that I was usually writing more quickly than the others, so when they were commenting on Chapter 7, I was working on Chapter 15.  I think I would have preferred a group that read the whole book at once and could comment on pacing, character development, and the holes in the plot.  I've had some first readers since, but not consistently.
Thank you so much Sheila!  Great Interview!  I love Sheila's writing setup, it sounds wonderful.  I will be back with you in the new year.  Be safe and out there.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Guest Blog - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Sally Goldenbaum, author of the magical Seaside Knitters Mysteries shares her holiday with us.  Please give a warm welcome!!

When my publisher first suggested a holiday-themed mystery for the seaside knitters to tackle, I was hesitant. I guess because I love this time of year, and tying it to a murder didn’t seem quite right, somehow. But then I said to myself, “it’s a cozy mystery, not a gritty one, and it can have a lovely, feel-good ending--filled with the joy of the season.” And with that I freed myself to explore the things that I love about this time of year, whether in celebrating Hanukkah, or Christmas, or Kwanzaa--or simply a personal celebration of family. 

I know you each have your memories, too--the things that fill your homes and lives with something special that isn’t there the rest of the year. Or maybe memories of what your childhood holiday was like. Here are a few of mine--some memories in the past--and some memories that are still happening in my life. But all memories that I shared with the Seaside Knitters as they welcomed me (and you) to Sea Harbor at holiday time in A Holiday Yarn.

1.  The smell of the fraser fir tree as we carry it home from the corner lot (we still have a corner tree lot--isn’t that wonderful? With a fire at the edge of the lot to keep the scouts’ hands warm and chile waiting for them in the Church basement). 

2.  The decorating of our outside tree--one my children and I planted for their dad for father’s day one year a long, long time ago. The tree is enormous now, shadowing our house, and each year I climb a ladder with a bamboo pole and hook duct-taped to the end that my husband put together, nudging the lights up as far as I can reach. Sometimes I leave them on all year, a canopy of lights that we walk beneath before coming in the door. It’s comforting, somehow. And in Sea Harbor, the knitters walk beneath trees just like this, all along their neighborhood streets and up the long drive to the Ravenswood Bed & Breakfast.

3.  The skating rink my father and the neighborhood dads flooded each year in the empty lot next to our home. The Seaside Knitters have a rink in Sea  Harbor, too, with a warming hut on the side and hot chocolate waiting on the hot plate.

4.  Santa coming to our house, all dressed up, on Christmas Eve. In Sea Harbor he makes his joyful entrance with Mrs. Santa and all the elves on a lobster boat that chugs into the harbor,  cheered by throngs of snow-suited children with rosy cheeks and eyes as bright as the stars.

5.  The sleigh my mother and father put up on our mantle every holiday season. Ben and Nell have one exactly like it, and it sits atop their own mantle, surrounded by boughs of holly.

6.  I love holiday music--I could listen to it all day long. One of my favorites (onethat always leaves me a bit teary) is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  

      The song is featured a couple times in A Holiday Yarn as Pete Halloran and his Fractured Fish band work up their own rendition. They’re singing it to all of you right now. Can you hear them? 

And I join them in sending these wishes to you:

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

Let your heart be light

From now on,

our troubles will be out of sight.


Through the years

We all will be together,

If the Fates allow

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.

And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.”

Peace to all of you.


Thank you Sally for sharing the season with us!!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review - Mistletoe and Mayhem

We are jumping into the holiday spirit with another seasonal themed mystery.  Take the time during all your shopping, baking and visiting to kick back and read a good holiday mystery.  Today we visit Edwardian England, hang on.

Author: Kate Kingsbury

Copyright: November 2010 (Berkley Books) 304 pgs

Series: 6th Special Holiday Edition of The Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Character:  Cecily Baxter, Manager of Pennyfoot Country Club

Setting: Edwardian England, during the holidays

Obtained Through: publisher for honest review

Another year and everyone at the Pennyfoot is holding their breath that the holiday curse has been broken and the season will be free of any untimely deaths.  In London the Mayfair Murderer is  attacking young women, but surely everyone is safe in small Badger's End.  

Charlie, one of the footmen is killed when a gargoyle falls from the roof and strikes him dead.  Clearly an accident.  Then the maid, Ellie goes missing.  Something is strange about  the secretive and mysterious guest Mr. J. Mortimer in room #9.  Then the missing maid's shoe is found in the coal shed.  Cecily goes about asking questions and sleuthing while her husband seems preoccupied. 

This holiday themed historical mystery is a nice light read.  It won't disturb your holiday cheer as it manages to maintain plenty of seasonal trappings among the sleuthing.  Nothing gruesome even though murders rack up.  

The Pennyfoot's employees figure into the story as their lives are intertwined with the two who died.  They're brought to life with all their concerns and desires.  The employees also wrap up some romantic themes that continue from the prior books.  I liked the various employee's viewpoints intermingled with Cecily, it brought the reader in for a fulller experience at the Pennyfoot - a sort of 380 view.

Cecily is a kind, imaginative, bright and observant sleuth whom I easily liked.   The plot was interesting and kept me guessing nicely.  The mysterious guest in room #9 was a great touch.  

It delivers a surprise or two along the way and Cecily has a harrowing confrontation with the killer.  There is a cliffhanger ending that has me anxiously waiting for the next book to find out what happens. 

A solid cozy sure to delight with a good mystery and plenty of holiday cheer.

PUMPKIN PIE PUDDING          (Slow Cooker)

1 can solid-pack pumpkin (15 oz.)
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
½ cup biscuit/baking mix
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whipped cream or cool whip, optional

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients.  Coat slow cooker with nonstick spray and pour mixture in.
Cover and cook for 6 to 7 hours until a knife comes out clean from center of pudding.  (6 to 8 servings)  My oblong slow cooker cooks much faster than 6 to 7 hours because the pudding is spread out over a larger surface than the round cooker.  (Any recipe with eggs needs to be started on high for approximately one hour and then turned down.)

We are approaching the end of this year and I would truly appreciate your vote if you haven't already.  If each follower voted for me I would win!!
* * * * * If you have enjoyed this blog, then PRETTY PLEASE vote for this blog as best Entertainment Blog (proving reading is entertainment) CLICK HERE and also as best Hobby Blog CLICK HERE. Thank you most sincerely. There are voting buttons on the sidebar too. You will have to register with Blogger's Choice, but it is a simple process. I am listed under * * * * *


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Monday, December 13, 2010

Library of Congress

I haven't been there, but I caught a program (Modern Marvels - The Real National Treasure on History Channel) about it and was really fascinated. It has to be the most beautiful library in the world....and if you love books like I do - this was pretty cool.

The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections.

The Library's mission is to make its resources available and useful to the Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations.

There are several sections or departments of the LOC - even the copyright registration office - but the Library Services department's mission is to develop qualitatively the Library's universal collections, which document the history and further the creativity of the American people and which record and contribute to the advancement of civilization and knowledge throughout the world, and to acquire, organize, provide access to, maintain, secure, and preserve these collections.

Preserving knowledge and creativity for our future generations! Document the history, advancement of civilization and knowledge throughout the world and preserve the collection. What a tall order to fill.

I think the part of the story that captured my attention the most was how the initial collection was housed in the Capitol building in D.C. until the British in 1812 set that on fire. Thomas Jefferson came to the rescue and donated his personal library (50 years of book collecting) of 6487 books! I found that astonishing. The Jefferson books have a special display area to this day.

At the time Jefferson was often viewed as primarily a farmer yet his library included books in foreign languages and volumes of philosophy, science, literature, and other topics not normally viewed as part of a legislative library. He wrote, "I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer."

"The Jeffersonian concept of universality, the belief that all subjects are important to the library of the American legislature, is the philosophy and rationale behind the comprehensive collecting policies of today's Library of Congress." LOC website.

The LOC seems pretty successful in their mission, the collection of more than 130 million items includes more than 29 million cataloged books and other print materials in 460 languages; more than 58 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world's largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music, and sound recordings.

The Library of Congress occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill, The Jefferson building, John Adams and James Madison buildings. The photos featured here are of the Jefferson building. There are two additional building that are not on Capitol Hill, one of which is preserving film and sound recordings.

Researchers can go to the LOC and view books and documents in the reading room. The photo shows what an elaborate area the reading room is. The books are brought to your desk by an attendant, treated as national treasures. I like that idea. Their book delivery system is efficient and reminded me of a streamlined baggage handling system for fragile items! Here is an establishment that views books and knowledge as a treasure.

The LOC has been busy scanning many of their treasures and making them available online as well. They are keeping up with the modern world in their mission.

I can see that the next time I am in D.C. I will just have to go to the Library of Congress and soak up the atmosphere in the reading room!! If you have a chance to watch this episode on the History Channel I think you might be surprised as well.

We are approaching the end of this year and I would truly appreciate your vote if you haven't already.  If each follower voted for me I would win!!
* * * * * If you have enjoyed this blog, then PRETTY PLEASE vote for this blog as best Entertainment Blog (proving reading is entertainment) CLICK HERE and also as best Hobby Blog CLICK HERE. Thank you most sincerely. There are voting buttons on the sidebar too. You will have to register with Blogger's Choice, but it is a simple process. I am listed under * * * * *


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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review - Holiday Yarn

Last week we were in Massachusetts for apple harvest season, now we head to the shore for a small coastal Mass town during the cold holiday season.  Back in July I reviewed the previous book, Moon Spinners, as well as interviewed Sally and I am just delighted to have another book so soon.  Bundle up, it is a humid wind that blows the snow in Sea Harbor.

Author: Sally Goldenbaum

Copyright: November 2010 (NAL Books) 270 pgs

Series: 4th Seaside Knitters Mystery

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character:  Nell Endicott, her niece Izzy Chamber, friends Birdie Favazza and Cassandra Halloran

Setting: Modern day Sea Harbor, Massachusetts during the holidays

Obtained Through:
publisher for honest review

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays the Seaside Knitters are helping Mary Pisano with turning her inheritance (grandfather's rambling mansion, Ravenswood-by-the-Sea),  into a Bed & Breakfast.  The family is meeting at Ravenswood and Mary has to face her difficult cousins as they discuss the family businesses - including her plans.  One cousin has always been a problem, Pamela, who runs the family's successful fashion magazine.  Pamela is vocal in her opposition to the family estate being turned into a B&B.

Nell and Birdie stumble upon Pamela's body in the snow outside Ravenswood in what appears to be a suicide.  But it is determined a homicide by the  police.  The Painter at Ravenswood, who was known to be cavorting with Pamela trying to get a modeling job at the magazine, starts spending a lot of money until he meets a fatal accident.  

A subplot of elderly neighbor who is passionate about keeping Ravenswood from becoming a B&B has the knitters puzzled and provides an added little puzzle which has a surprising answer.  Nell and the Seaside Knitters suspect the painter's death was no accident and the same hand that took Pamela's life was involved.  The four friends get serious about tracking down who had a motive to kill twice between shopping and their knit-a-square charity project.

The instant I started reading the book I felt at home again.  I realized that I enjoy Ms. Goldenbaum's writing style.  It fits me like a favorite sweater or a comfy sweat shirt.  IMHO she excels at putting the reader in the moment of the story completely, melding setting of a small coastal town and the character Nell effortlessly.  I just know if there were a Nell Endicott I would love to be her friend. 

The rest of the Seaside Knitters are well defined and enjoyable, they add to Nell and make the experience flavorful.  In this installment of the series I felt that I got to know Nell's husband Ben a bit better and their relationship is so positive and supportive - I enjoy his character almost as much as Nell anymore.

The plot was solid and clues deftly sprinkled about.  I just barely figured out the murderer before Nell - and even the killer is finely portrayed and plausible.  The climax flowed from the rest of the book to a natural conclusion and the wrap up was pleasantly satisfying.  If you enjoy a mystery that is equally about an interesting group of friends, a great setting, a murder to work out and well written to boot, then I highly recommend this series.  

One final note on A Holiday Yarn that I felt was a great touch and I want to spotlight.  There is a charity knitting project featured in the book that really exists.  The KasCare project where  you can knit (or crochet) a square for AIDS children of South Africa.  Many of these children are orphaned and each square is put with others to create blankets for these children.  This started as a family project by the McDonald family of Australia.  If you knit or crochet (or know somebody who does, pass this along) this might be an great holiday inspirational activity.   Since it is a square at a time it is a small commitment and can be a group project and great for getting the family involved.   For more information go here:

And now for a special treat to warm you up this holiday season.

Hot Buttered Rum Mix


*       1 lb unsalted butter, softened
*       1 (16 ounce) package confectioners' sugar, sifted
*       1/2 lb light brown sugar, packed
*       1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
*       1 Tbls nutmeg
*       1 Tbls cinnamon
*       1 Tbls cloves


1.      In a large bowl cream the butter and the sugars and spices together until smooth. Add the softened ice cream and mix until a creamy consistency is obtained. Transfer this to a freezer container with a tight fitting lid. Place in the freezer for up to 1 month.
2.      To Serve: Place a heaping 2 tablespoons of the frozen mix in a highball glass or coffee mug. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons dark rum - or to taste. Pour over the mix 6 ounces of boiling water and stir until the mixture is melted. Sprinkle top with cinnamon or nutmeg and serve forth!

Helpful Suggestion: Freeze the mix into ice cube trays. Spray the trays well with unflavored cooking spray (don't use butter flavored) and spoon in the mix. When they are frozen solid, drop the "cubes" into a heavy duty zipper top bag and store in the freezer. Eliminates the mess of scoops and drips, and adjust the number of cubes in your drink based on the size of your trays. Dishwasher your trays in very hot water to remove the spray, or put them in the sink and poor boiling water over them.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:  I will be traveling for the holidays.  I am trying to line up some guest blogs in advance.  There may only be one post during the week of Christmas and New Years and the Blog Carnival will be the second Monday in January to allow me time to get back into the swing of things.  I will try to share some photos when I get back from Paris - not Texas either!!

We are approaching the end of this year and I would truly appreciate your vote if you haven't already.  If each follower voted for me I would win!!
* * * * * If you have enjoyed this blog, then PRETTY PLEASE vote for this blog as best Entertainment Blog (proving reading is entertainment) CLICK HERE and also as best Hobby Blog CLICK HERE. Thank you most sincerely. There are voting buttons on the sidebar too. You will have to register with Blogger's Choice, but it is a simple process. I am listed under * * * * *


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Monday, December 6, 2010

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival for December 2010

It is time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival. In the midst of hectic holiday shopping, the blog carnival gives ideas for crime fiction to give to those on your list. Below is the line-up. Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural Book Review

Reactions to Reading gives us The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell

Rhapsody in Books gives us a legal mystery The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Private Investigator Book Review

San Francisco Book Reviews gives us Bone Appetit by Carolyn Haines

Tiny Little Reading Room gives us Big Red Tequila by Rick Riordan

Amateur Sleuth book Review

Reactions to Reading gives us A Colder Kind of Death by Gail Bowen

Cozy Mystery Book Review

Lesa's Book Critique gives us Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle

Kittling: Books gives us Night Kill by Ann Littlewood

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

The Incurable Disease of Writing reviewed The God Hater by Bill Myers

Author Interview

About Bed & Breakfasts provides an interview with author Jean Hager

Writing Tips and Advice

 Writer Sense gives us  Omitting Needless Words

Writer Sense gives us Creating Characters: Motive

#####Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here. #######

Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!

Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (

We are approaching the end of this year and I would truly appreciate your vote if you haven't already.  If each follower voted for me I would win!!
* * * * * If you have enjoyed this blog, then PRETTY PLEASE vote for this blog as best Entertainment Blog (proving reading is entertainment) CLICK HERE and also as best Hobby Blog CLICK HERE. Thank you most sincerely. There are voting buttons on the sidebar too. You will have to register with Blogger's Choice, but it is a simple process. I am listed under * * * * *
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Review - A Killer Crop

Today we have a harvest themed mystery amid bushels of apples and Massachusetts fall colors.  Grab a cup of hot coffee/tea and curl up for this peek at a soon-to-be-released novel.

Author: Sheila Connolly

Copyright: December 2010 (Berkley Books) 300 pgs

Series: 4th An Orchard Mystery

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: cozy

Main Character: Meg Corey, former Boston banker now apple orchard owner

Setting: Modern day Granford Massachusetts

Obtained Through: publisher for honest review

Meg is in the middle of her first harvest and busier than a one-armed-paper-hanger when her mother drops by for a visit.  But Elizabeth Corey seems to be hiding something from her daughter.  Then the police are asking about an old friend of Elizabeth's that they find dead under mysterious circumstances that she had really been in town to see while her husband was on an extended ocean fishing trip.  The dead man was a married professor specializing in Emily Dickinson that Meg's parents had been good friends with in their college days.  Why was Meg's mom seeing this man seemingly on the sly and who would kill a boring college professor?

The small town of Granford Mass is a good setting and the orchard and apple growing a perfect background for this series.  The town and atmosphere are cozy gold.  The added ingredient of Emily Dickinson and her life in the neighboring town lent a scholarly and historical feel to the story.

The reader sees Meg going through an internal struggle with her relationship with her mother and even wrestle with officially revealing her boyfriend to her mother.  Unlike many sleuth and mother conflicts, this one shows both mother and daughter growing which I appreciated.  Elizabeth Corey is so well done that  grew fond of her and look forward to her in upcoming books.

I do have a complaint.  The tension between Meg needing to constantly help with the harvest and yet trying to force time here and there to help her mother was strained by the Orchard Manager.  Meg is the owner of the orchard and she is constantly taking harsh orders from Bree, the twenty-something manager who works for her.  Bree would say things like "You're late." At no point did Meg correct her attitude.  Not only is Meg paying Bree, but she is getting a room in Meg's house and yet this over-the-top bossiness is a recurring theme.  I found this unrealistic and irritating, really irritating.

The mystery itself was interesting, if not riveting.  A man who appears to have no reason at all to be murdered dies under suspcious circumstances and Elizabeth Corey is implicated.  The resolution was a let down for me.  No climatic confrontation with a killer but rather a calm explanation of what really happened.  Anti-climatic.   Overall, It is a solid cozy read with a community you will feel comfy with.

Pumpkin Pancakes


Mix in one bowl:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt

Mix in another bowl:
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Combine, stir well and make pumpkin pancakes!

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