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Monday, February 20, 2017

Guest Author Post - Fran Stewart

Please welcome Fran Stewart to our blog.  This is her third visit with us (click here and here).  When she's not mowing or writing, Fran Stewart enjoys singing, knitting, reading (of course), and volunteering in her grandchildren’s school library. 

Author of fourteen books, including the Biscuit McKee mystery series and the ScotShop mysteries, as well as A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT and FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: a workbook for writers, she lives quietly beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, after having moved repeatedly from her birth through her fourth decade. The small fictional towns she writes about embody the hometown she always wanted—except for the murders.

“Moving Slowly Through Life”

One of the advantages of a cozy mystery is the sure-footed pace, compared to a thriller’s almost non-stop suspense. Oh, there’s still room for plenty of suspenseful moments in a cozy, but they’re couched differently than the more robust action of thrillers.

Rather like the different types of lawnmowers.

One of the loveliest sounds from my childhood was the snip, snip, snip of the lawnmower as my dad tooled around the yard on a Sunday afternoon behind our reel lawnmower. The kind you push. The kind you don’t have to turn on. The kind that doesn’t take gas or electricity. The kind I have sitting in my garage. A reel lawnmower is a cozy kind of mower. Today’s power mowers, riding mowers, and even robotic mowers lean more heavily toward the other type.

There’s a “reel” adventure to mowing my yard. I don’t have to wear earplugs, which means I can hear the squirrels scolding me for getting near "their" birdseed at the bottom of the feeder. I can easily pause to say hello when neighbors out for a walk circle around to the bottom of my cul-de-sac.

I don’t ever have to worry about chopping my foot off if I stumble, just as with a cozy mystery I don’t have to worry about nightmares involving blood and gore.

I can hear the rustling as a neighbor’s cat bursts from underneath the Vinca (which is in danger of taking over the whole yard) and heads over toward one of the oak leaf hydrangeas to hide underneath its massive leaves until I leave the vicinity. I never have to worry that my mower will throw a rock against a neighbor’s child (or car, or cat).

I can hear the wind blowing through the trees above me. I can hear the birds who have learned over the years that mowing time does not mean the end of feeding time. They keep right on zooming in to snatch seed from the many feeders.

Of course, I stop frequently to unstick pines cones that get
wedged in the reel. If I’d take the time to rake the yard free of pinecones before I start mowing, I wouldn’t have to do the un-wedging so often, but that’s okay. When I’m bending down for a cone, I get to look closer at the native red clover to see if any bumblebees have found it yet.

Raking the yard would, now that I think about it, be rather like editing a manuscript. Getting rid of the sticky words, phrases, scenes so the mystery will flow more smoothly. I do that with my writing. I just don’t ever think about it when it comes around to mowing time.

Have you ever had the pleasure of pushing a reel mower? No? Would you like to try? Drop by my house sometime this summer and give it a whirl. I’ll sit on my front porch with a glass of lemonade and watch you have fun.
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THANK You Ms. Stewart for a glimpse into your yard and old school smell-the-flowers mowing style.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review - Blown Away

It is already the middle of February!!  Time is flying.  Trying to keep up with my reviews...and catch up a little even.  

This is the first book in a new series featuring a kite shop in a beach town.  The author provided a teaser (click here.)  Check out my review and see if this grabs to interest.

Author: Clover Tate

Copyright: Feb 2016 (Berkley) 298 pgs

Series: 1st in Kite Shop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character: Emmy Adler owner of Strings Attached kite shop

Setting: Modern day, Rock Point Oregon

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the cover: "Emmy is finally living her dream. She’s moved to the coastal town of Rock Point, Oregon, and is starting a kite business. Strings Attached features her own unique designs, inspired by everything from Picasso to Matisse’s colorful cutouts. Her spirits are soaring sky-high the morning of the grand opening—until she stumbles upon a dead man washed up on the beach. 

The body belongs to local chef Miles Logan, and the gash across his chest indicates he’s been murdered. The sheriff suspects Emmy’s best friend, Avery, who used to date the chef.  Emmy is sure Avery would never hurt anyone, but her pal doesn’t have an alibi for the night of the murder. With Avery’s freedom and the fate of her kite shop up in the air, Emmy takes it upon herself to follow the string of clues and solve the murder before the real killer takes flight."

Emmy Adler is stubborn and bit reckless in seeking to clear Avery's name.  She manages to get it wrong a few times too.  Avery Cook, the best friend suspected of murder is so depressed or something that not much can be said about her.  I hope the next book will have the character come alive.  Sherriff Nick Koppen is all kinds of patient with Emmy.  Jack Sullivan, owns the only other kite shop in town clearly likes Emmy and wants to find out who killed his friend Miles too.  Stella Hart is a retired school teacher and new part time employee of Emmy's.  She is the breakout character that I really will be seeking out the next book.

Rock Point seems like the idyllic beach town with a fantastic uncrowded beach, yet plenty of paying visitors and residents to support two kite shops.  Rock Point, with its restaurant Tidal Basin, Brew House, mushroom harvesters, and a gossip loving post office employee all add depth to the town.  

The muder is pretty straight forward, who ever killer Miles also framed Avery.  But who and why is the elusive part.  Miles was a bit difficult as a chef at times, but finding a real reason to kill the man is harder than you might think.  The pacing is steady with only a few times when it started to lag, but quickly recovered.  

The killer reveal is nicely tense and dramatic like I like them.  The wrap up was short and left me with a smile.

This is a solid debut novel with many elements hitting a delightful chord.  I would like to see Emmy learn to think before running head-long in the fray would be my only suggestion for improvement.

Rating:  Good - A fun read with overall enjoyable story line and plotting with some enjoyable characters.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Guest Author Post - Clover Tate

Clover Tate (a.k.a. Angela Sanders) is the author of The Booster Club mysteries, the Vintage Clothing mysteries, and the new Kite Shop mysteries.  Please welcome Ms. Tate to our blog today.

A Day With Emmy

Last night as part of a mystery author panel, I was asked how I’d spend the day if I hung out with Blown Away’s protagonist, Emmy Adler. Even though I’ve spent months with Emmy on the page, I’d never thought about how she and I would pass time in real life. You know what? I realized we’d have a pretty good time.

I’d definitely want to walk on the beach with Emmy. She has an artist’s eye for blue sky reflecting on ocean-slicked sand or the row of fishermen’s cottages that stand in a tidy row above the surf. Blown Away takes place on Oregon’s wild and rocky coast in a small town called Rock Point. We might hike on the cliffs above the old bungalow Emmy shares with her best friend, Avery, and smell the pine needles that crunch under our feet, or walk Rock Point’s charming Main street.

I’d also like to stop by Avery’s café, the Brewhouse, to sip a latte and listen to Miles Davis on the café’s turntable. Emmy might point out to me some of Rock Point’s residents, like Jeanette, who lords over the post office and knows everyone’s business; Ace, the ex-Vietnam vet who takes care of the town’s plumbing and odd jobs when he isn’t hanging out in his boat with his cats Yin and Yang; or Stella, a retired school teacher turned artist who has become one of Stella’s best friends, despite their age difference.

I have a feeling conversation would turn to Emmy’s parents, from whom she escaped when she moved from Portland to Rock Point. She loves them, but their uninvited gifts of quinoa casseroles and herbal remedies and their constant drop-ins were beginning to smother her. Her father can’t stop talking about his composting club or his participation in the local Watergate reinactment group, while her mother has a steadfast devotion to astrological omens and her “croning circle.”

If you read Blown Away, you’ll spend time with Emmy, too, although under more dangerous circumstances than the day I just described. I hope you find her as good company as I do!

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Thank you Ms. Tate for this peek into the character of Emmy Adler.  I will be reviewing Blown Away shortly, so check back.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review - Assault and Beret

In addition to being the author of the Hat Shop Mysteries, Jenn Mckinlay also writes the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries and the Library Lover’s Mysteries.  Today I review the 5th entry in the Hat Shop Mystery series.  This is a first time read in this series for me, see what you think. 

Author: Jenn McKinlay

Copyright: Jan 2017 (Berkley) 299 pgs

Series: 5th in A Hat Shop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Scarlett Parker, American co-owner of a London Hat Shop

Setting: Modern day, Paris France

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the cover: "London milliner Vivian Tremont and her American cousin and partner, Scarlett Parker, tip their caps to their beloved shop on Portobello Road in Notting Hill and set off for Paris, where Viv can’t wait to teach a hat-making class. But she has another reason to travel to the City of Light: to find the man she impulsively eloped with years ago and have their marriage annulled.

William Graham is not only handsome and charming, but he also has a glamorous job as an insurance investigator who works with priceless pieces of art, most recently a small Renoir that has been discovered in a junk shop. But when both Will and the masterpiece suddenly disappear, it’s up to the ladies from London to follow the trail of clues. They’ll need to hold on to their chapeaux, however, because someone is a master in the art of deception."

Scarlett Parker, has a ban on dating (a challenge leveled by her mother for her own sake) with only a couple of months left and counting.  This was a bit contrived, but overall her character is enjoyable.  Cousin Vivian Tremont is conflicted in her mission for an annullment and proves hard to figure out, even for Scarlett.  Harrison, Scarlett's London boyfriend is a genuine good guy and incredibly patient with the dating ban.  William Graham is long lost charming husband who decides to win Vivian back.  Alistair, Vivian's boyfriend makes a surprise visit to help out no matter what Viv's ultimate decision will be.  Madame Suzette Leclaire is the French landlady where they are staying who frets over the girls.  Nick and Andre, friends from London even arrive to assist the girls.

Paris sights abound as Scarlett investigates, some are not the usual either.  I particularly enjoyed the places she visits in this book as a great touch.  The plot was not intricate but has enough going on to present a nice challenge and kept me turning the pages.  

I have to give kudos for a particularly good killer reveal with plenty of suspense.  The wrap up is pure perfection as well.

This was the first time I had read a book from this series, which is a shame because I enjoyed the characters thoroughly. 

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

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Who is Your Mystery Valentine?

Whether you think this holiday is too commercial or you revel in it, I wish you a great Valentines Day!  I will be volunteering at a fundraiser for the cat shelter, Look What the Cat Brought In.  Sharing the love of cats!

This may sound a little bit odd for a question to readers, but here goes.  I know we all have favorite characters in the books we read, but which character in a mystery or crime fiction novel would you want to go on a date with...if they were to spring out the pages of the book and be real???

Would it be Archie Goodwin from the Nero Wolfe novels or maybe boyish Ellery Queen?  Would it be Hamish Macbeth, Inspector Arthur St. Just or maybe Marco Salvare from the Flower Shop mysteries is your idea of a hot date?

I don't want to leave anybody out, so anybody our there think Stephanie Plum, Kinsey Millhone, Stieg Larson's Lisbeth or chef extraordinaire Goldy Korman would their idea of a great date?

There are some great characters in the thousands of crime fiction books around us that there must be somebody for everybody.  So, fess up and share who your mystery valentine would be!!

Let's get some lively comments flying back and forth - let your imagination go and have some fun with this ;-)

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