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Monday, June 17, 2019

Author Guest Post - Kate Carlisle

Kate Carlisle is the New York Times bestselling author of two ongoing series: the Bibliophile Mysteries featuring San Francisco bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright, whose rare book restoration skills uncover old secrets, treachery and murder; and the Fixer-Upper Mysteries, featuring Shannon Hammer, a home contractor who discovers not only skeletons in her neighbors' closets, but murder victims, too. Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has brought the Fixer-Upper Mysteries to TV in a series of movies starring Jewel and Colin Ferguson. A native Californian, Kate worked in television production for many years before turning to writing.

9 Things You Definitely Don't Know about James Bond Author Ian Fleming

The Bibliophile Mysteries are modern-day murder mysteries that are motivated by a rare book in the care of bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright. Before writing each book, I do a lot of research and learn fascinating information about the rare book in question, its author, and the times in which the book was published. The most fun part for me is that the themes of the present-day story reflect those of that rare book. For example, while Brooklyn was working on a first-edition of Journey to the Center of the Earth, she found a body in a wine cave (Ripped from the Pages). When she found an 18th-century cookbook and journal, the murder victim was a celebrity chef (A Cookbook Conspiracy).

In my latest Bibliophile Mystery, The Book Supremacy, Brooklyn finds a signed first-edition James Bond novel in a book stall in Paris. She's on her honeymoon with her devilishly handsome British security expert husband, so of course the book she finds has to be The Spy Who Loved Me. Most of the action in the story takes place in a San Francisco spy shop, echoing the fun, fast-paced James Bond themes.

I include as many juicy details from my research as I can without bogging down the story, but invariably there are tidbits I just couldn't work in. Here are 9 things you definitely don't know about James Bond author Ian Fleming. (Unless you're a member of my mailing list, in which case you know a few of these because I like to share interesting research facts in my newsletters. You can join at KateCarlisle.com.)

1. The original M in his life was his Mum, whom he called M. (One senses a snotty teenager's sneer.)

2. John F. Kennedy became a superfan after meeting Ian Fleming at a party in Washington DC. Not long after, JFK listed From Russia with Love as one of his top 10 favorite books for a piece in Life magazine, propelling the James Bond books to the bestsellers lists in the US.

3. Fleming also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Clearly, he was always into unique cars loaded with gadgets.

4. The name of the character James Bond came from an American ornithologist because, Fleming said it was the dullest name he could think of. (Why he couldn't just make up a boring name, I don't know.) FYI, "dull" is not the criteria I used when naming Brooklyn Wainwright.

5. Fleming was 31 when he joined Naval Intelligence. His codename was 17F. Which does not possess quite the same cachet as double-0-7.

6. He started writing the first draft of Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel, in February 1952 and finished it in March. I confess, it takes me longer than a month to write a book, which is why I only release two per year. (One Bibliophile Mystery and one Fixer-Upper Mystery.)

7. A true bibliophile, Fleming founded a literary journal exclusively dedicated to book collecting, The Book Collector, which is still published today.

8. Fleming wrote a short story called "James Bond in New York," but instead of doing any top secret spy missions while in the Big Apple, Bond visits his favorite shops and restaurants. (Sounds exciting, doesn't it?) Fleming did this as a concession to American publishers who didn't want to publish his book of essays titled Thrilling Cities because Fleming was somewhat less than thrilled with NYC.

9. Fleming wrote all of his James Bond books at his home in Jamaica, which he named GoldenEye, after one of the operations he oversaw in British Naval intelligence during WWII.

And in case you knew all of those, here's an interesting Fleming-related fact about Sting, the rock-star frontman for The Police: Sting wrote 'Every Breath You Take' while vacationing at Fleming's estate in Jamaica—at the same desk. The lyrics certainly do sound like they're the soundtrack for a spy novel.

Every breath you take

Every move you make

Every bond you break

Every step you take

I'll be watching you

Did you catch "bond" in there? Do you think that's a coincidence? I don't.

To help celebrate the release of The Book Supremacy and its spy shop setting, I'm giving away handy little Bibliophile Mystery magnifiers, with lights and styluses. (Styli?) The giveaway will start on June 13. Join my mailing list so I can email you a reminder when the contest starts or, if you're reading this after June 13, head over to the Secret Room at KateCarlisle.com to see if the contest is still running.

So tell me, was I right when I said you definitely wouldn't know these facts about Ian Fleming? What is your opinion of James Bond? Do you get that view from the books, the movies, or both?

ABOUT THE BOOK SUPREMACY:


In the latest in this New York Times bestselling series, San Francisco book-restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright investigates a mysterious spy novel linked to a string of murders...

Newlyweds Brooklyn and Derek are enjoying the final days of their honeymoon in Paris. As they're browsing the book stalls along the Seine, Brooklyn finds the perfect gift for Derek, a first edition James Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me. When they bump into Ned, an old friend from Derek’s spy days, Brooklyn shows him her latest treasure.

Once they're back home in San Francisco, they visit a spy shop Ned mentioned. The owner begs them to let him display the book Brooklyn found in Paris as part of the shop's first anniversary celebration. Before they agree, Derek makes sure the security is up to snuff—turns out, the unassuming book is worth a great deal more than sentimental value.

Soon after, Derek is dismayed when he receives a mysterious letter from Paris announcing Ned’s death. Then late one night, someone is killed inside the spy shop. Are the murders connected to Brooklyn's rare, pricey book? Is there something even more sinister afoot? Brooklyn and the spy who loves her will have to delve into the darkest parts of Derek's past to unmask an enemy who's been waiting for the chance to destroy everything they hold dear.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK You Ms. Carlisle for joining us today!  I loved the James Bond  tidbits. Can't wait to read the book.


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Saturday, June 1, 2019

Review - Lost Books and Old Bones

From the author of multiple mystery series, Country Cooking School, Farmer's Market, Dangerous Type series comes the third in a new series comes The Scottish Bookshop Mystery Series.  I reviewed the debut book in the series, The Cracked Spine (click here) and the second book, Of Books and Bagpipes (click here).  Here is a rundown of the third book in the series.


Author: Paige Shelton

Copyright: April 2018 (Minataur) 320 pgs

Series: 3rd in Scottish Bookshop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Delaney Nichols, Expat and new employee at The Cracked Spine specializing in hard-to-find books and artifacts

Setting: Modern day, Edinburgh Scottland

Obtained Through: Library

From the book cover:"Delaney Nichols, originally of Kansas but settling happily into her new life as a bookseller in Edinburgh, works at the Cracked Spine in the heart of town. The shop is a place filled with curiosities and surprises tucked into every shelf, and it’s Delaney’s job to research the rare tomes and obscure artifacts that people come to buy and sell. When her new friends, also students at the medical school, come to the shop to sell a collection of antique medical books, Delaney knows she’s stumbled across a rare and important find indeed. Her boss, Edwin MacAlister, agrees to buy the multi-volume set, perhaps even to keep for his own collection.

But not long after the sale, one of Delaney’s new friends is found murdered in the alley behind the Cracked Spine, and she wonders if there is some nefarious connection between the origin of these books and the people whose hands they fell into. Delaney takes it upon herself to help bring the murderer to justice. During her investigation, Delaney she finds some old scalpels in the bookshop’s warehouse— and discovers that they belonged to a long-dead doctor whose story and ties to the past crimes of Burke and Hare might be connected to the present-day murder. It’s all Delaney can do to race to solve this crime before time runs out and she ends up a victim on the slab herself."

Delaney Nichols, an American in Scotland is on the case when an acquaintance is murdered in the alley behind the bookstore.  Delaney's boss, Edwin MacAlister, remains just as secretive as before, and fellow bookstore employees Rosie and 19-year old Hamlet give the story warmth.  Tom is the bartender from across the street and the romantic interest who has to deal with an old girlfriend now a reporter dragging Delaney's name through the papers.  Elias is a cab-driver who is also Delaney's landlord who makes a good side kick. 

The local medical school in Edinburgh is used often as a setting and it works well for atmosphere.  There is no clear motive or any one suspect that stands out, so the investigation leads the reader along clue by clue and kept my interest.  A tense and suspenseful killer reveal topped it off and the wrap up was touching.

I consider this the best of series so far with a cleaver plot and interesting characters.  

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, May 27, 2019

Review - City of Secrets

This is the second novel in a new series by the bestselling author of the Gaslight mystery series with midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Frank Malloy.  The first in the series, City of Lies, I reviewed (click here).  I finally got to reading this second in the series and I wasn't disappointed.

Author: Victoria Thompson

Copyright: Nov 2018 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series: 2nd in Counterfeit Lady Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild with adult topics

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical cozy, historical amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Elizabeth Miles, smart and cunning con-artist using her skills to help people

Setting: 1917, Washington DC

Obtained Through: Library

From the cover: "Elizabeth Miles knows that honesty is not always the best policy when it comes to finding justice.

Elizabeth has discovered that navigating the rules of high society is the biggest con of all. She knows she can play the game, but so far, her only success is Priscilla Knight, a dedicated young suffragist recently widowed for the second time. Her beloved first husband died in a tragic accident and left her with two young daughters—and a sizable fortune. While she was lost in grief, Priscilla’s pastor convinced her she needed a man to look after her and engineered a whirlwind courtship and hasty marriage to fellow parishioner Endicott Knight. Now, about nine months later, Endicott is dead in what appears to be another terrible accident. 

Everyone is whispering, but that is the least of Priscilla’s troubles. She had believed Endicott was wealthy, too, but her banker tells her she has no money left and her house has been mortgaged. He also hints at a terrible scandal and refuses to help. 

Priscilla stands to lose everything, and Elizabeth is determined not to let that happen. But, as always, Elizabeth walks a fine line between using her unusual talents and revealing her own scandalous past. Elizabeth soon discovers that Endicott’s death was anything but accidental, and revealing the truth could threaten much more than Priscilla’s finances. To save her new friend’s future—and possibly her own—Elizabeth, along with her honest-to-a-fault beau, Gideon, delve into the sinister secrets someone would kill to keep."

Elizabeth Miles grew up in a family of con men and was taught how to grift and con so she would be able to take care of herself. Although she is reformed, she knows justice sometimes has to be dished out in unconventional ways.  Anna Vanderslice is a sweet and gentle lady who met Elizabeth when she was imprisoned with the suffragists demonstrating and looks up to her.  Mrs Bates is an older lady who takes Elizabeth under her wing and knows she isn't a legitimate society lady.  Gideon Bates, Mrs. Bates son and a lawyer, is Elizabeth's fiance.  His uptight lawyer side thought he could handle how Elizabeth grew-up and her shady past.  But, this outing forces him to face if his following the letter of the law and her bending of the law are compatible. These characters shine and draw you in.

Victoria Thompson always does an incredible job of bringing the early 1900s New York to vivid life.  She excels in this series at highlighting the social environment.  Such as referring to The Etiquette of Today by Mrs. Ordway that Elizabeth is studying to navigate the multitude of society rules.  Plus the lengths that are taken to keep any of the harsh realities of life from touching society women.

The initial plot quickly deepens and a ruthless, manipulative, and cold blooded killer is closer than Elizabeth could have imagined.  The story moves along at a quick pace I found it near impossible to put down.

There isn't a traditional killer reveal or killer confrontation.  Rather, once Elizabeth has figured out who is behind everything it becomes clear that it will be nearly impossible to turn person(s) responsible over without destroying the widow and her children in the process.  What results is a creative "Leverage" style climatic show down. The wrap up was heart warming and I loved it.

I appreciated the Leverage style climax.  Leverage was a TV Show where a band of cohorts act as modern-day Robin Hoods, pulling off elaborate scams  against the greedy and the corrupt.  It fits beautifully with Elizabeth and her particular talents.  Gideon and his personal growth were spot on for his character and I am very pleased with the chemistry between him and Elizabeth.  I can't think of a single improvement possible.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down and can't wait for the next. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend.



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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Review - The Hollow of Fear

I have been a fan of this new series that re-imagines the Sherlock mythos since the debut, A Study in Scarlet Women (click here) followed by the second book, A Conspiracy in Belgravia (click here).  Charlotte is presented with the highest stakes yet that challenge her considerable intellect as the murder strikes too close to her personal world.  

Author: Sherry Thomas

Copyright: October 2018 (Berkley) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Lady Sherlock Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild with innuendo and adult topics

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy, Historical suspense

Main Characters: Charlotte Holmes, disgraced upper class woman who creates the Sherlock Holmes identity

Setting: 1886 Stern Hollow England, Lord Ingram's Estate

Obtained Through: Library Find

From the book cover: "Under the cover of "Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective," Charlotte Holmes puts her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. Aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, Charlotte draws those in need to her and makes it her business to know what other people don't. 

Moriarty's shadow looms large. First, Charlotte's half brother disappears. Then, Lady Ingram, the estranged wife of Charlotte's close friend Lord Ingram, turns up dead on his estate. And all signs point to Lord Ingram as the murderer.

With Scotland Yard closing in, Charlotte goes under disguise to seek out the truth. But uncovering the truth could mean getting too close to Lord Ingram--and a number of malevolent forces..."

Charlotte Holmes is blond, pretty, very feminine, too fond of sweets, and far too intelligent for the time period. She considers how much dessert to eat based on how many chins she has at the moment.  Her sublimated feelings for Lord Ingram are tested as she must come to his rescue and keep him from a death sentence for a murder he didn't commit.  Her disguise is both brilliant and hilarious at times.

Lord Ingram Ashburton, a long time friend who accepts Charlotte for who she is, has been set up but good for murder.  His feelings for her plus any personal issues around his strained marriage may unintentionally get aired as she is undercover in his household.  Mrs. John Watson, a retired stage actress who has become her unique and talented sidekick aids as usual.  Inspector Robert Treadles even comes out from London with his superior to investigate and his loyalties and prejudices alike are tested. Mrs Watson's niece, Miss Redmayne, joins the team for a cameo performance.  Charlotte's sister, Olivia, is even in the thick of story as she ends up at a neighboring estate that has a problem causing all the guests to relocate to Ingram's estate.  Olivia's character is developed more than before and the reader becomes more invested in her and the rarely heard of third sister Bernadine.

Stern Hollow England, Lord Ingram's Estate, is a beautiful setting now tainted by murder.  The setting hints that all is not as the surface appearance makes you believe. Excellent use of the setting.

The plot has many twists and deceptions upon deceptions. Because of this and the character development, it is near impossible to put down.  I am a slow reader and read it in about 36 hours.  Once you get to the killer reveal, you are left with your mouth open and stunned.  Yes, stunned.  Excellent final twist.  The wrap up leaves you aching for the next installment.  

The attraction between Lord Ingram and Charlotte gets new complications in this novel. The writing style is superb and contains a sophisticated handling of the plot to prevent revealing too much too soon. I highly recommend this novel.

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


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Monday, May 20, 2019

Guest Author Post - Jenn McKinlay & Review: Dying for Devil’s Food

Please welcome Jenn McKinlay, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Happily Ever After romances, the Bluff Point romances, the Library Lover's mysteries, the Cupcake Bakery mysteries, and the Hat Shop mysteries.

Developing a Character Who is a Bully



Bullies. No one likes a bully. When I started writing Dying for Devil’s Food and I knew Melanie Cooper was going to be confronted with the opportunity to face down her old nemeses, I had to think for the first time about why her school tormentors were they way they were. What made them so vicious and mean? This is Character Development 101 – figure out your character’s motivations because no one is a jerk for no reason. At least, I hope not.

Cassidy Havers and Dwight Pickard were the two students most responsible for Mel’s misery in high school. Cassidy nicknamed her “Melephant” and did everything she could to torture Mel about her weight, her looks, and her shyness. But why? Why would someone go out of their way to make another person so miserable?

I didn’t have much of a frame of reference for this because I was pretty lucky in school in that I can’t remember being bullied. Oh, sure, at six feet tall, I was teased just like the kid with the sticky out ears, the girl with the super thick glasses, and the boy who was so skinny he looked like he was made of string. But while I was teased for my height I never felt bullied, not like Mel did, so what made Cassidy so mean to her?

“Hurt people hurt people.” I read this sentence in a discussion about bullying awhile ago and it’s always stuck with me. It’s true, a person who is hurting will strike out and hurt other people. Knowing this, I thought long and hard about why Cassidy had wanted to hurt Mel so much back in high school. To my surprise, this added all new twists and turns to the plot that I hadn’t expected but was delighted to explore. I’d say more, but I don’t want to give away too much.

The other element of the story that surprised me was a surprise reconciliation with one of her former bullies. When one of her former tormentors grudgingly helps Mel track down the killer, it was an opportunity for the characters to discover each other beyond the persona of bully and victim. But after so much pain, could two people actually find friendship? Again, I can’t say too much but how does a person forgive someone for making them miserable during the most vulnerable years of their life? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Here’s a longer description of Dying for Devil’s Food to whet your appetite: Melanie Cooper has zero interest in catering her fifteen-year high school reunion, but Angie insists it's only right that they bask in the success of Fairy Tale Cupcakes--and Mel's engagement to the delicious Joe DeLaura is the cherry on top! Everything is going better than expected until Cassidy Havers, resident mean girl and Mel's high school nemesis, picks a fight. No longer willing to put up with Cassidy's bullying, Mel is ready to tell the former homecoming queen to shut her piehole and call it a night. But as Mel and Joe prepare to depart, Cassidy is found dead in the girl's bathroom, next to a note written in lipstick that points right to Mel--making her the prime suspect. Now, Mel must follow the clues to find the real killer and keep her reputation from being frosted for a crime she didn't commit.

My Review




Author: Jenn McKinlay

Copyright: May 2019 (Berkley) 297 pgs

Series: 11th in Cupcake Bakery Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Melanie Cooper, owner of the Fairy Tale Cupcakes bakery

Setting: Modern day, Scottsdale, Arizona

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review, NetGalley

Melanie Cooper faces the high school bullies of her nightmares, making her character stronger and a beacon for victims everywhere.  Angie, best friend and co-owner is a cheerleader type. Joe DeLaura, fiance and brother of Angie who is also the DA.  He escorts Mel to the reunion and makes a point of letting everyone know how lucky he is to be marrying her.  I loved him for that!  Tate Harper, Mel's other best friend and business partner who is married to Angie now stands by Mel as a fierce friend.  Uncle Stan is a police detective and provides the police connection to get information rather than the usual cop boyfriend.  I liked Stan and how it worked.  Marty Zelaznik, the spunky octogenarian counter-help, and Oz, the young tattooed pastry student that is her kitchen backup are gems for additional characters.

The plot was a basic cozy who-dunnit with a cast of suspects around the cupcake business theme.  The pacing had a little bit of a rough start for me with the drama filled reunion, but it picked up quickly. The investigation moved along smoothly and before I knew it we were at the end, so the pacing sped along.

The killer reveal wasn't necessarily a surprise, since many characters had solid motives to kill the mean girl.  But, I will say the killer wasn't obvious. The reveal was suspenseful and seemed natural-to a point. The wrap-up provided some character depth to the mean-girl victim and to another bully.  

I had not read any of the previous books in the series and had no problem picking up the book and enjoying it.  Dying for Devil's Food is a light read and addresses the bullying topic from Mel's tortured memories which keeps it both at arm's length while putting a face to it.  It shows how vicious just words can be and how it devastates the spirit while keeping the story overall still breezy. I liked the boyfriend being a DA rather than a cop, nice twist on that cliche.  


Rating: Good - A fun lite read.




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