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Friday, September 7, 2018

Review - This Side of Murder

From the author of the fantastic Lardy Darby Mysteries comes this new historical mystery series set just after WWI.  I admit I was drawn to the book because I love the Lady Darby books and wanted to find out if this new series was as engrossing.


Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Kensington) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Verity Kent Mystery series

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy / Amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Verity Kent, widow of WWI Officer 

Setting: 1919, Umbersea Island England

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

"England, 1919. Verity Kent’s grief over the loss of her husband pierces  anew when she receives a cryptic letter, suggesting her beloved Sidney may have committed treason before his untimely death. Determined to dull  her pain with revelry, Verity’s first impulse is to dismiss the derogatory claim. But the mystery sender knows too much—including the fact that during the war, Verity worked for the Secret Service, something not even Sidney knew.  

Lured to Umbersea Island to attend the engagement party of one of Sidney’s fellow officers, Verity mingles among the men her husband once fought beside, and discovers dark secrets—along with a murder clearly meant to conceal them. Relying on little more than a coded letter, the help of a dashing stranger, and her own sharp instincts, Verity is forced down a path she never imagined—and comes face to face with the shattering possibility that her husband may not have been the man she thought he was. It’s a truth that could set her free—or draw her ever deeper into his deception . . ."  It appears the surviving members of the suspiciously disastrous Thirtieth are being killed off during the weekend.

Verity starts out rather reserved and too timid but finally finds her spunk and voice amid the social pariahs of the engagement party.   Max Westfield, Earl of Ryde, was briefly Sidney's commanding officer and takes a shine to Verity.  But can she trust him to help her with the growing questions surrounding Sidney's death and the growing question of the unit having a traitor?  Sidney or his memory, ever present as Verity mingles with his fellow officers and her grieving is just below the  surface, seems rather bland and lacked much fire in their relationship before he shipped off to war.  Walter Ponsonby and Beatrice are the engaged couple throwing the party.  Walter wants to please Beatrice and is absent-minded and put out by the murders while Beatrice seems to want to throw a successful society party to show she can.  The rest of the guests range between prickly and blatantly hostile.  Thus the suspects are plentiful.

The island setting and time period are faithfully recreated and provide a delicious backdrop for a weekend of murder and mayhem.  The plot grows more twisted as the story progresses and there are only a few slow moments (the beginning seems slow, but warms up after a little while).  The climax was a mixture of daring action and tense moments.  The wrap-up answered all the questions and left a new beginning for Verity so readers want to read the next book.  

There is a significant twist towards the end that I honestly wasn't happy with.  It was a whooper, but changed the story in a way I didn't appreciate.  I can't say more without spoilers.  I have to say that there were a few instances that Verity as the main character lost my interest, but was regained after a few pages.  I hope the romantic direction will be corrected in the next book (Treacherous is the Night due Sept 25th).  .  

Rating: Between Good and Excellent - a solid mystery with suspense and a few minor flaws in my way of seeing things :-)

Here is a short video with 10 Remarkable Facts about WWI


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2CgUIrBHoo







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Monday, September 3, 2018

National Read a Book Day

Its September already!  Dang the year seems to be flying past.  For U.S. readers, have a fantastic Labor Day, honoring the American labor movement.  Are you ready for some Pumpkin Spice everything, cooler temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and the display of fall colors?  I love fall.  It also means its time for the National Read a Book Day.


National Read a Book Day Sept 6, 2018

Incredible, but a Pew Research study says that 1 in 4 Americans hasn't a read a book in the past year.  The study can be found here (click here.)  

"The share of Americans who report not reading any books in the past 12 months has bounced around a bit since 2011, when Pew Research Center first began conducting surveys about book-reading habits. That year, 19% of adults reported not reading any books. The share of non-book readers hit a high point of 27% in 2015.

The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library."

Which makes National Read a Book Day so very important to encourage reading, share the joy of reading, and overall do the nation a good dead.  A well read populace is a healthier, better educated populace.


Jimmy Kimmel does his own investigation asking people 
on the street to name a book... any book.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJdNrCeUdhc

ACTIVITIES to take part in the day

1. Read a book
"Maybe reading's not your thing. Maybe the last time you read a book was in school. (Maybe you didn't even read books in school.) But for National Read a Book Day, you can make an exception and thumb through a handbook about something that interests you. If you're a less reluctant reader, pick up that book you've been meaning to read and get to it! Whether you like print books you can hold in your hands or digital books you swipe across the screen, decide on something and read it. You'll be glad you did."

2. Donate books to your library
"Chances are you have a local public library, and chances are your library could use a helping hand. Though books have lost popularity of late, libraries do a lot of important work for their communities. Most libraries take donations and some will enlist volunteers to help with special events, community programs, and even daily library tasks. Donating books to your local library is a great way to share knowledge with your community, and book donations often help libraries flesh out their shelves."

3. Read to someone else
"As humans, we were meant to tell stories. Cultures around the world have storytelling traditions that date back centuries. When you get together with your friends, you likely share stories about what you've experienced since the last time you saw each other. We all use stories as our main method of communicating with the world. But whether you're telling a personal anecdote or you're reading a book aloud, sharing a story with someone else is known to reinforce bonds and strengthen relationships overall. For National Read a Book Day, you could read to your children, your parents, grandparents, or volunteer at a school, library, or senior center." 

4.  Post on FB, Twitter, Instagram, or do a Youtube video about the day and share what you are reading for the day.

5.  If you have a blog, do a post on the day and it's importance.

6.  Buy a book (whether print, ebook, or audio) and give it to a friend, or two - hopefully one you think they will enjoy and get hooked on reading.  

7.  Support literacy programs in your town.  You can often find one at your local library.

8.  Find out if your library or school system has a "Paws to Read" program where dogs (and in some cases cats) are used to listen to children read aloud.  It provides practice without the risk of ridicule or embarrassment for the child.  If so, see if you can bring a dog or support in another way.

WHY WE LOVE NATIONAL READ A BOOK DAY

A. Books are troves of knowledge
"Before the internet, books were the main means of storing, accessing, and spreading knowledge. And while the internet is amazing and efficient and better than books in a lot of ways, there are some compelling reasons to keep books around. First off, books don't require a battery and you can access their data during a power outage. There is no server providing books with their information, so it is always ready, right at your fingertips. Books travel without cords or adapters, and while storage of books requires a lot more space than digital storage, a lot of people still prefer to read books in print rather than ebooks on a screen."

B. Reading makes you healthier
"Studies show that people who read frequently show less signs of stress and higher problem solving abilities than people who don't. Reading also improves your language comprehension, critical thinking, and communication skills. Frequent readers tend to be more aware of cultural differences and social issues, and they also tend to be more compassionate and understanding. While reading a good book is no substitute for a trip to the doctor, National Read a Book Day promotes awareness for all the physical and mental benefits to reading."

C. It reminds us to keep reading
"We're not really a society of readers, but reading is important. In our high-speed era of video clips and SnapChat, books can start to seem kind of irrelevant. But National Read a Book Day is all about keeping that good thing going. Books are a great art form that we can enjoy now more than ever. We've got more access to books than past generations, and our technology makes text-based communications an intrinsic part of our lives. Why not keep reading?"

D. Reading Improves our Capacity for Empathy
Back in 2013 "Emanuele Castano, a social psychologist, along with PhD candidate David Kidd conducted five studies...The results suggest that reading fiction is a valuable socializing influence. The study data could inform debates over how much fiction should be included in educational curricula and whether reading programs should be implemented in prisons, where reading literary fiction might improve inmates’ social functioning and empathy. Castano also hopes the finding will encourage autistic people to engage in more literary fiction, in the hope it could improve their ability to empathize without the side effects of medication."  Julianne Chiaet, Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy, Scientific American, October 4, 2013

I am currently reading Daniel Silva's The Black Widow.  What are you reading for National Read a Book Day?

Please post any activities you are partaking in for the day or how you are honoring the day.  I'm doing 2, 4, and 5 so far.

Share your favorite place to read (I typically read in bed or on my couch, but a luxurious treat is reading in the bath.)







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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review - Single Malt Murder

I have had a particularly hard time in posting reviews.  I'm not sure what the deal is, but I have this one for you.  A new series based in Scotland (always fun) and based primarily at a whiskey distillery.  I can't remember where I heard about this one, but I came across it and purchased it.  


Author: Melinda Mullet

Copyright: March 21, 2017 (Alibi) 278 pgs

Series: 1st in Whisky Business Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Abigail Logan, photojournalist who inherited Abbey Glen distillery

Setting: Modern day, Scotland

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

Cover blurb: "When Abi inherits her uncle’s quaint and storied single malt distillery, she finds herself immersed in a competitive high-stakes business that elicits deep passions and prejudices. An award-winning photojournalist, Abi has no trouble capturing the perfect shot—but making the perfect shot is another matter. When she starts to receive disturbing, anonymous threats, it’s clear that someone wants her out of the picture. But Abi’s never been one to back down from a fight.

Arriving on the scene with her whisky-loving best friend, Patrick, and an oversized wheaten terrier named Liam, Abi seems to put everyone in the bucolic village on edge—especially her dour but disturbingly attractive head distiller. Acts of sabotage and increasingly personal threats against Abi make it clear that she is not welcome. When one of Abi’s new employees is found floating facedown in a vat of whisky, Abi is determined to use her skills as an investigative journalist to identify the cold-blooded killer and dispense a dram of justice before he strikes again. But distilling truth from lies is tricky, especially when everyone seems to have something to hide."

Abigail is a stubborn, gutsy character with lots of potential filled with regrets as she comes to town to check out the distillery her uncle left her.  Since she has received threats and there has been a murder, she doesn't trust anybody, even the long time employees.  Deceased Uncle Ben has a definite presence throughout the book and I love his character.  Best friend Patrick Cooke is great and the Terrier dog named Liam is perfection. 

This book is written by an American who clearly hasn't lived in Scotland from the various mistakes in details on Scottish life (crime scene tape isn't yellow but blue and white and village would have High Street rather than Main Street and such details from what I hear.) But, if that doesn't bother you, then consider the book further.  

I had one bone to pick regarding the threats that start immediately - before she has done anything but inherit the place, and continues getting threats seemingly without waiting to see if she will leave etc.  Otherwise, I enjoyed the book and found it a fun escape with an interesting mystery.  I am looking to getting the second in the series.

Rating: Good - A fun entertaining lite read 


Here is a short video about the Scotch Whiskey making process featuring Glen Fiddich distillery:




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlhzV0Vx7FM







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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Book Spotlight - A Stewed Observation

Please welcome Karen C. Whalen to the blog.  She is the author of a culinary cozy series, the “dinner club murder mysteries.” Her books are similar to those written by authors Jessica Beck, Joanne Fluke, Leslie Meier, Cindy Bell and Laura Childs. 

Fans of mysteries centering around food – donuts, cakes, cookies, coffee shops, bakeries, and gourmet cuisine - and add in a western setting in Denver, Colorado - will enjoy Everything Bundt the Truth, Not According to Flan, No Grater Evil, and A Stewed Observation.

Everything Bundt the Truth tied for FIRST PLACE in the Suspense Novel category of the 2017 IDA Contest. The IDA is sponsored by Oklahoma Romance Writers of America, but is open to all works of fiction in digital format. 

She worked for many years as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado and has been a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. She believes that it's never to late too try something new. She loves to host dinner clubs, entertain friends, ride bicycles, hike in the mountains, and read cozy murder mysteries.


A Stewed Observation A Dinner Club Murder Mysteries Book 4  Karen C Whalen

The Gourmet Dinner Club travels to Ireland to enjoy Irish cuisine while staying at a medieval, ivy-covered castle. Jane Marsh hopes Dale Capricorn will ask her to marry him at this romantic dream destination. But her plans are put on hold when the elderly castle owner becomes violent, a club member restrains him, and he collapses and dies. 

The police believe the mysterious death is murder and begin to suspect one of the club’s members. Dale leaves for home on a business emergency, and as the lone single gal in the club full of couples, Jane is thrown into the company of Griffin O’Doherty, the handsome Irishman who stands to inherit the castle.

Jane must prove her friend’s innocence by solving the crime. Which of the sweet-tempered Irish could be a callous killer?

The dinner club murder mystery series - a culinary cozy - is set in Denver, Colorado.

Amateur sleuth Jane Marsh is always game to try new things now that she’s in the empty nest stage of her life, including joining an exclusive dinner club. Stumbling across dead bodies has also developed into one of her hobbies. Using paralegal skills honed at her job in a downtown law firm, she knows how to conduct an investigation. But her suspicious mind collides with her trusting nature as she stirs up trouble while serving up one dinner party after another.

Visit her webpage at: http://www.karencwhalen.com/

Purchase Links:




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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Book Spotlight: Marquesa's Necklace

Please welcome author P.J. MacLayne as we feature her book.


The truth is, I didn't set out to write a cozy mystery series. This book was supposed to be a romance. My characters, especially Harmony Duprie, the main character, convinced me otherwise, but did allow me to keep the romance as a sub-plot.

By the end of the book, I'd fallen in love with Harmony, and knew what was intended to be a stand-alone story would be a series. I've written three books in the series so far, and am currently working on the fourth. But I have great fondness for the story that started it all.

Book Blurb

Harmony Duprie enjoyed her well-ordered life in the quiet little town of Oak Grove—until her arrest for drug trafficking. Cleared of all charges, she wants nothing more than to return to the uneventful lifestyle of a historical researcher she once savored.

But when her beloved old car “George” is stolen and explodes into a ball of flames, it sets off a series of events that throws her plans into turmoil. Toss in a police detective that may or may not be interested in her, an attractive but mysterious stranger on her trail, and an ex-boyfriend doing time, and Harmony’s life freefalls into a downward spiral of chaos.

Now she has to use her research skills to figure out who is behind the sinister incidents plaguing her, and why. And she better take it seriously, like her life depends upon finding the right answers.

     Because it might.

Excerpt:

By the time Janine and Sarah arrived in the morning, Luke, Joe and I had already wrestled the easy chair out to the curb. Joe was straightening up the kitchen while Luke and I restored order to the explosion of books and put them back on the shelves. Being an ex-librarian, I’m picky in how my books go, so the job was taking longer than Luke liked. When they knocked, Joe, who had self-appointed himself as my bodyguard, rushed to be the one to open it. I didn’t know what he had planned if it was an intruder—would an intruder knock? —but since he was a retired Marine, I wasn’t going to argue. Sarah and Janine stood there with their mouths hanging open, shocked by the scene. Janine gathered her wits and said, “What can we do to help?”

Joe answered for me. “One of you can tackle the bathroom. The other can haul a load of clothes to the basement and wash them.” The defiled lingerie already sat in the garbage can next to the garage.

An hour or so later Detective Thomason arrived. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor in the spots the mop didn’t reach, when we heard a knock on the door. Joe just glared at me when I started to get up, so I let him do the honors, and returned to my cleaning.

“What do you want?” Joe said, rather gruffly and I figured I better check it out for myself.

Detective Thomason held a vase with a bouquet of supermarket flowers. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt instead of a suit. Tight jeans, I might add, and the shirt did him favors that his suits never could. I thanked him and put the flowers in the middle of the kitchen table. Luke steered him towards the bedroom to figure out how to get the shredded mattress out of the apartment without knocking everything else over again. The bouquet proved to be a beacon of peace in the midst of the chaos that ruled for the rest of the day, and earned him back the name of Fred. He still didn’t rank being Freddie in my mind—not yet, anyhow.

I spent the night with Janine. I had to stay somewhere else because Luke, Joe, and I decided we would clean the carpet in the apartment before I replaced my furniture. The soil from the African Violets was ground into the rug. And there had been more foot-traffic through my place than normal for the past year.

The violets were wilted, but would survive. The footprints on the Grateful Dead tapestry vanished with a good beating and repeated vacuuming. Several of my books had their spines broken or their pages torn, but none of my first edition books were hurt. I had to go shopping for a new mattress, but Luke and Joe were going to give me an old loveseat they didn’t want anymore. Nothing seemed to have been taken. I got off lucky. Again.

A not-so-tiny voice in the back of my brain told me I’d better start worrying about my luck running out.

The Marquesa's Necklace is on sale for 99¢

Buy Links


Author Bio: Born and raised among the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, P.J. MacLayne still finds inspiration for her books in that landscape. She is a computer geek by day and a writer by night who currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. When she's not in front of a computer screen, she might be found exploring the back roads of the nearby national forests and parks. In addition to the Free Wolves’ stories, she is also the author of the Oak Grove series.

P.J. MacLayne can be reached on:  
Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Amazon | Blog | BookBub

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Thank you P.J. for joining us today!



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