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Monday, November 27, 2017

Secret Santa for Readers

SantaThing: Secret Santa for Book Lovers

SantaThing is LibraryThing's Secret Santa for book lovers. This is their ELEVENTH year!
How it works:

Become a Secret Santa. Choose your gift level ($15–50) and bookstore, such as Powell's, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others. 

LibraryThing takes no "cut." If you pay $30, you get $30 worth of books (plus shipping at some sellers).

1) You can sign up for yourself, or make it a gift for a friend on or off LibraryThing.  You can do multiple SantaThings, one for yourself, gift ones for a family member or friend.

2) They choose a LibraryThing member to be your "Santee," the person you'll be buying for. They try to match up members with similar tastes in books.

3) You pick books for your Santee within the SantaThing system.

4) LibraryThing elves order the books and the books are shipped directly to your Santee. Only LibraryThing and the bookseller see your address.

5) You receive a package with the books from your Secret Santa—and rejoice!

Dates to know:
Monday, December 4th at 12pm EST (18:00 GMT). Sign-up ends. Secret Santas are chosen, profile messages are sent to the Secret Santa, and you can then enter your gift choices.

Monday, December 11th at 12pm EST (18:00 GMT). After the weekend, gift picking ends. LibraryThing sends the order via eight tiny ponies to the bookstore you chose.

Go here to sign in or start an account.






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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review - Murder Between the Lines

I was excited to read this historical from the endorsement from author of the Maggie Hope series: "Radha Vatsal succeeds once again in fleshing out a strong-willed, ambitious, and thoroughly delightful young heroine, who struggles against the society's restrictions on so-called career women, while solving crime-and writing news stories-with aplomb." - Susan Elia MacNeal.  Read on to find my review of this new-to-me series.


Author: Radha Vatsal

Copyright: May 2017 (Sourcebooks Landmark) 320 pgs

Series: 2nd in Kitty Weeks Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Kitty Weeks, Women's page reporter for the Sentinel

Setting: 1915 New York City, NY

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review-Edelweiss

From the book cover: "When Kitty's latest assignment for the New York Sentinel Ladies' Page takes her to Westfield Hall, she expects to find an orderly establishment teaching French and dancing-but there's more going on at the school than initially meets the eye.

Tragedy strikes when a student named Elspeth is found frozen to death in Central Park. The doctor's proclaim that the girl's sleepwalking was the cause, but Kitty isn't so sure.

Determined to uncover the truth, Kitty must investigate a more chilling scenario-a murder that may involve Elspeth's scientist father and a new invention by a man named Thomas Edison."

Capability "Kitty" Weeks lives in a penthouse, has servants, and a chaffeur but works half days at the paper. She is smart and very capable.  Her father, Julian Weeks, was a single parent raising her after her mother died shortly after giving birth.  He has always been a distant father.  Helena Busby, Kitty's editor, is typical of a mature woman who struggles with remaining traditional yet provide relevant material for the Women's pages.  Jeannie Williams, Kitty's coworker, lives in a boarding house and they share duties.  Sylvia Lane is Julian's first romantic interest since her mother died, which causes tension. Mr. Mills is a fellow reporter, but works with the men on a separate floor and could be interested in Kitty.  Time will tell.

The time period is rich with the political tensions with WWI Germany and Women's Suffrage movement. Submarians are dependant on batteries and Edison's battery may leak a gas that is explosive in closed quarters of a submarine.  This battery could be what Elzpeth was studying.  All of these bring the lesser written about war into focus as Kitty investigates.  Of course, the proper role of the era for Kitty is every present also.  The girl's school is delightfully atmospheric.

The plot is a solid mystery of accident versus murder and there are plenty of red herrings.  Subplots are Kitty's other writting assignments of President Wilson visiting a Womens Suffrage group (giving Kitty plenty to think on) and covering the shocking Times Square New Year's revelry.  Another subplot is Kitty's father becoming serious in a romance, the first since her mother died after giving birth.  The pacing is generally like the Jacqueling Winspear novels,

I will be honest, I have mixed feelings about the killer confrontation.  It is a confrontation, but satisfaction isn't of the expected or usual kind.  It is a bit realistic in that respect and the resolution isn't cut and dry either.  There was a bit of "save-the-day" which gave the aredrenaline kick.  The wrap up ensures more Kitty adventures in the future.

I liked Kitty, her money allows her freedom of movement, and she is gutsy.  I would like Julius, the father, be developed further.  He could be a great character.  I enjoyed Kitty being challenged by her coverage of the Suffrage group, which seemed realistic for the era. Overall I think this is a solid historical mystery and I will read the next one.

Rating:   Good - A fun read, I really enjoyed it.  Give it a try, particularly if you enjoy Jacqueline Winspear.



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Friday, November 3, 2017

Review - City of Lies

This is the debut novel in a new series by the bestselling author of the Gaslight mystery series with midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Frank Malloy.  I jumped at the chance to read and review this new series based on the cover blurb.  Let's take a look at Ms. Thompson's new series.

Author: Victoria Thompson

Copyright: Nov 2017 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series: 1st in Counterfeit Lady Novel series

Sensuality: Nothing graphic, but some violence in workhouse and occasional swearing.

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Suspense

Main Characters: Elizabeth Miles, smart and cunning grifter

Setting: 1917, Washington DC, Occoquan Workhouse, and New York

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review (Netgalley)

From the book cover: "Like most women, Elizabeth Miles assumes many roles; unlike most, hers have made her a woman on the run. Living on the edge of society, Elizabeth uses her guile to relieve so-called respectable men of their ill-gotten gains. But brutal and greedy entrepreneur Oscar Thornton is out for blood. He’s lost a great deal of money and is not going to forgive a woman for outwitting him. With his thugs hot on her trail, Elizabeth seizes the moment to blend in with a group of women [Suffragists picketing the White House] who have an agenda of their own [get women the vote at any cost]. 

She never expects to like or understand these privileged women, but she soon comes to respect their intentions [after being arrested with them and meets historic Lucy Burns], forming an unlikely bond with the wealthy matriarch of the group whose son, Gideon, is the rarest of species—an honest man in a dishonest world. Elizabeth knows she’s playing a risky game, and her deception could be revealed at any moment, possibly even by sharp-eyed Gideon. Nor has she been forgotten by Thornton, who’s biding his time, waiting to strike. Elizabeth must draw on her wits and every last ounce of courage she possesses to keep her new life from being cut short by this vicious shadow from her past."

Elizabeth Miles is an outstanding character.  She was raised a con artist and thinks on her feet.  When she is arrested with Suffragists picketing the White House in her effort to escape Thornton's thugs, she assists the women in dealing with the ordeal at the Occoquan Workhouse.  Once they are released she really has to be creative to stay alive with Thornton on her trail and maintain her new identity.  

Anna Vanderslice is a gentle and fragile suffragist that Elizabeth befriends and assists to get through the workhouse.  Anna bonds with Elizabeth quickly, relying on her courage.  David Vanderslice is Anna's brother who becomes a part of the story once they are released from the workhouse.  Mrs Bates is an older lady arrested who takes Elizabeth under her wing.  Gideon Bates, is her son and a lawyer who fights to get the Suffragists released and remains a key figure.

The settings are all a matter of historical record, even the Occoquan Workhouse.  Ms. Thompson did an amazing job of bringing the Suffragist movement to life, and gives the reader a slight taste of what women endured to get us the vote.  I found the depiction of the workhouse and the infamous "night of terror" well done without getting graphic.  

The plot twists and weaves and kept me turning pages.  The pacing is perfect, suspense is maintained and I never had to drag through any sections.  The interweaving of the historical events of the Occoquan Workhouse with Elizabeth's flight to escape a murderous man was pure genius.  

The climax was full of tension and some edge of your seat thrills, loved it!  The wrap up was equally enjoyable, with it's own twist. 

I had high expectations from the book blurb, and the story lived up to all of them.  Besides the importance of what it took [historical accuracy is high in the story] from many brave women to literally fight for the vote as a backdrop to the plot, the characters shined.  Elizabeth is a complex lead and Anna has her own depths that come forward.  The plot twists kept coming and I had to known how Elizabeth was going to get out of each challenging situation.  I give high praise for this novel and already am a fan and want the next installment.

Rating: Shear perfection - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend.

Here is a very short informative video.  FYI, women received the right to vote by one swing vote!  https://youtu.be/m1jAM2c0yz4



Here is a four minute informational piece worth the time.
https://youtu.be/9_q2Aw464KI



The movie Iron Jawed Angels starring Hillary Swank is great as well.



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Monday, October 30, 2017

Review & Giveaway - Room With a Brew

I have followed this series since the debut novel, To Brew, or Not To Brew (click here), the second novel Tangled Up in Brew (click here) and two guest posts (click here and here).  Let's check out the third release in this series and see how our lady brew master is doing!

Author: Joyce Tremel

Copyright: Oct 2017 (Berkley) 288 pgs

Series: 3rd in Brewing Trouble Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Maxine "Max" O'Hara, brewmaster and owner of Allegheny Brew House

Setting: Modern day, Pittsburgh PA

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the book cover: "It's Oktoberfest in Pittsburgh, and brewpub owner Maxine "Max" O'Hara is prepping for a busy month at the Allegheny Brew House. To create the perfect atmosphere for the boozy celebration, Max hires an oompah band. But when one of the members from the band turns up dead, it's up to Max to solve the murder before the festivities are ruined. 

Adding to the brewing trouble, Candy, Max's friend, is acting suspicious... Secrets from her past are fermenting under the surface, and Max must uncover the truth to prove her friend's innocence. To make matters worse, Jake's snooty ex-fiancée shows up in town for an art gallery opening, and she'll be nothing but a barrel of trouble for Max."

Maxine "Max" O'Hara is busy brewing, running a restaurant, running to church and her folks place every Sunday, and oh yeah solving a murder.  Apparently her personality is fueled by caffeine running through her veins.   Jake Lambert gets to be more present in this outing and he acts more like a boyfriend with Max.  Book two in the series was lacking in that regard and now we have that back.  Candace "Candy" is a stubborn and independent character with an incredible past that comes back around.  Tommy is Candy's ex husband who shows up to help deal with her past redux and quickly becomes the break out character.  Victoria is Jake's ex-wife who plays a role in the story and shows just how bad Jake's marriage really was.  Hops is Max's kitten who is just adorable throughout.

Pittsburgh is great and filled with such potential as a setting.  I enjoyed all the references to local quirks and sayings.  I enjoy the history touches here and there too.  The Brew House is a good setting as usual, although not as much time spent there this time around.

The plot reached a bit and it worked well while remaining in the cozy wheelhouse.  The pacing was fast paced and kept interest.  The climax was a little surprising in that it snuck up on me when I wasn't expecting it.  The wrap up was delightful and brought a smile. 

I was grateful to have some chemistry back between Jake and Max.  I had figured out the motive to the murder and the killer fairly early on, which happens - but it seemed a little too obvious.  I can't be that good of an armchair detective!

Rating:   Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
GIVEAWAY

The publisher has offered one copy of Room with a Brew for giveaway!

Entry for giveaway lasts until Monday November 6th 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.
The publisher will be shipping the books to the winner.

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 shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are a member or follower (including email subscriber) of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.


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


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Monday, October 23, 2017

Author Guest Post - Joyce Tremel

Today we are honored to have Joyce Tremel join our blog.  She was a police secretary for ten years.  Joyce is a native Pittsburgher, has two grown sons, and lives in a suburb of the city with her husband. When coming up with the idea for this series, she thought her big city with the small town feel would be the perfect setting for Max's brew pub. She hopes "yinz" guys agree!  I will be reviewing her newest book later this week.  Please welcome Joyce.

Why Pittsburgh?

I’m often asked by readers why I chose Pittsburgh as the setting for my Brewing Trouble series. The reasons are numerous. Anyone who has read the books so far has probably figured out by now that Pittsburghers are a little different. We use expressions like “n’at” and “yinz.” We call thorny shrubs “jagger bushes.” We often use the word “jag” which comes from the Scots-Irish and means “thorn.” When we call someone a “jagoff” we’re not swearing—it just means they’re a jerk, or a “thorn in our side.” There are websites and dictionaries explaining Pittsburghese to non-natives. I actually bought my editor a Pittsburghese dictionary for Christmas.

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city. It’s gone from being a smoky, dirty place in the early twentieth century to a clear and bright high-tech oasis. It’s home to Google and Uber. It’s the first city where Uber is testing self-driving cars. (Frankly, if they can navigate here, they can drive anywhere. We have streets that aren’t even streets—they’re tiny alleys, or sometimes just concrete steps on a hillside.) Our hospitals and medical centers are always on the cutting edge of the next important breakthrough. The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University are leaders in research in neuroscience and robotics. There’s a vibrant downtown and cultural district. And one of my characters, Candy Sczypinski, would be highly upset if I didn’t mention the sports teams—the Pirates, the Penguins, and Candy’s beloved Steelers.

I can’t forget to mention the food. We Pittsburghers like to eat! Part of the fun of writing this series has been figuring out what my characters are eating or cooking in certain scenes and developing the recipes. Around here, we love Buffalo Chicken Dip and pierogis, so I invented a recipe in To Brew or Not to Brew (book 1) that combined the two—Buffalo Chicken Pierogis. And what goes better together than caramel and chocolate? Not much, so I came up with Caramel Pecan Brownies in Tangled Up in Brew (book 2). They are to die for, by the way. I had a great time planning the recipes in A Room With a Brew (book 3). Since it takes place around the time of Oktoberfest, I included some German recipes along with some distinctly Pittsburgh recipes like Ham Barbecues and that picnic staple, Pretzel Salad. Never heard of it? I guess you’ll need to read the book. It’s delicious!

We like to have a good beverage or two to wash down all that tasty food. Craft breweries are abundant in the Pittsburgh area. In the real Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville where the fictional Allegheny Brew House is located, there are now four craft breweries. Max O’Hara would feel right at home. Pittsburgh also has some top-notch restaurants that rival any you’d find in New York City. You can even find a winery or two not far outside city limits.

It’s also a friendly city. Residents are always quick to help out anyone in trouble. You can often find a fire hall or church hall hosting a spaghetti dinner to raise funds for someone with a medical issue, or for a family who lost their home in a fire. If a stranger asks someone for directions, we’re always happy to show them the way—as long as we don’t have to use north, south, east, or west. We’re more likely to say, “Turn where the Isaly’s used to be.” We might be the only city where the natives give directions on what used to be in certain locations.

So you see, Pittsburgh really does have everything. Maybe in the future when readers ask me why I chose Pittsburgh, my answer should be, “Why not?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you Joyce!   Fascinating how the city is very unique and has it's own personality.

Here is a recipe for all my readers.

Harvest Walnut Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin puree (from 15 oz. can; not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup canola oil
1/3 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons orange peel

Directions

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Step 2
Place muffin liners in muffin tins.
Step 3
In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
Step 4
In a mixer, cream together pumpkin puree, oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla extract. Slowly mix in flour mixture. With spatula, scrape sides of the bowl while mixing. Stir in walnuts. Pour about ⅓ cup muffin mixture into each muffin liner. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool.
Step 5
In small bowl, place powdered sugar and orange peel; add fresh orange juice, one teaspoon at a time, and mix until the mixture reaches a consistency to be drizzled.
Step 6

Drizzle glaze on muffins. Let set completely.
                   Recipe from Kings Soopers website



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