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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review - The Crocodile's Last Embrace

We continue to get closer the Blog Anniversary Celebration - note the sidebar for more details about the giveaways on Sept 15-16th.

I received this book from the publisher and realized this was the latest in a series I have been meaning to read - so I jumped at the chance to review this.  Today we travel to Africa in the 1920's for an adventure.

Author: Suzanne Arruda

Copyright:  September, 2010 (NAL Trade) 377 pgs

Series: # 6 in the Jade del Cameron Mysteries
Sensuality: Some innuendo
Mystery sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth
Main Character: Jade del Cameron (aka Simba Jike), an independent women, former WWI ambulance driver now a motorcycle-riding, knife-throwing photojournalist with her pet Cheetah, Biscuit
Setting: 1921 Nairobi, Kenya (Eastern Central Africa)
Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review

This book apparently picks up where the last one left off plus a few months.  But I was able to pick up the storyline fine without reading the previous books.

The love of Jade's life is a pilot and an amateur film maker named Sam Featherstone.  He had left 4 months prior to go back to the States and try to sell his film footage of Africa and his idea for a movie.  Jade apparently spent the time in France visiting old battlefields and friends from during the war.  While there she had a momentary vision of her dead fiancee, David, who was a casualty of the war and had died in her arms.  The story picks up with her staying at Lord and Lady Dunbury's when she receives a letter with her deceased fiancee's clipped obituary notice and the words "Why did you let me die?" written in David's handwriting.

That evening after she seeks some solitude she witnesses a car pushed off a bridge by another car and she finds the man inside the partially sunk vehicle dead.  This sets up two separate plots moving simultaneously as Jade continues to get packages etc from the deceased David and there are strange "accidents" happening in the surrounding area that hint at a murderer loose who is leveraging a voracious crocodile to dispose of the bodies of investors in a gold mine. Can it be David's mother who despises Jade and blames her for her son's death who is behind the letters?  But what about those visions of David she seems to be having?  Then there is the suspicious deaths.  What a time for Sam to be in the States chasing his dream!
From his hidden vantage point, the man watched the young American woman called Simba Jike.  The name fit not only because she moved with the unconscious fluidity and grace of a lioness but because she held herself with a lion's assurance as well.  Only once had he ever seen her truly vulnerable, the day she stood in the deluge of rain at the train depot, watching the American leave her behind.  He'd watched, too, recognizing that his opportunity had come.

A slight sound escaped his lips, half-sigh, half groan, born of desire and sorrow.

He'd heard about her and her exploits before he'd ever met her.  All the colony talked about her unconventional behavior and attire, and she might have been sunned by Nairobi society but for the approval she'd received from old Lord Colridge and Lord and Lady Dunbury.

Simba Jike in her dusty tan trousers, scuffed boots, khaki shirt, and that worn-out old slouch ranch hat seemed to embody Africa more than the British women in their Paris frocks and flowered straw hats.  He'd also heard of her from his lover, who told a different tale.  No grudging admiration there, and that was the source of his sorrow.

He could almost feel the strength radiating out of this American, see the pent-up passion.  It smoldered inside here, flaring and flashing like green fire from eyes that could be as hard as emeralds or as soft as spring moss.  Eyes that inspired desire...

When he first met this Jade del Cameron he'd expected most of the stories to be exaggerations, embellished tales told by needy people longing to draw everyone's attention.  Instead, he found the tales fell short of the reality, and he'd come to admire her.

That made his job all the more difficult.

He'd been ordered to break her.

I plunged into this book and found it a great read.  The descriptions of Africa on the brink of becoming populated and no longer untouched are expertly portrayed.  The plot is solid and, I thought, believable with some nice twists.  The characters are perhaps the best part of the book.  Jade is brought to life to the extent you expect to find the articles in some archive that she has written for her magazine.  Jade is flawed just enough that you become her cheering squad without even realizing it.  I have seen Jade compared to a female Indiana Jones, but I can also see her as a female version of Allan Quartermain. The other characters are just as vivid to make the whole a finely woven tapestry. The indigenous people are realistically and carefully drawn which I found refreshing.  You get a sense for the undercurrent of tension between the original inhabitants and the British colonial rule which does play its own role in this tale.

The mystery is revealed over time as the story unfolds and just when you think there are no real surprises - BAM you get a twist that got you good.  The reveal and climax are nicely intense and get your full attention. If you want to be swept away and enjoy pure escapism, this book will do the trick.  I am now craving to read the five that came before this one. If you enjoy historical mysteries or a strong layered heroine, then I think you will enjoy this book as much as I did. 

Nairobi in the novel grows up to be a metropolis as you will see in this video.  In this story, read about it in its youth when it was less commercial and more the home of the animals and the adventurous explorer.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Crime and Punishment Museum

I am on business travel yet again.  Fortunately I actually got to do the tourist thing for a few hours one day.  So what to do in those precious hours.  Naturally I picked the Crime and Punishment Museum in Washington D.C. and want to share the experience with all of you.   Enjoy this write up and if you have visited this museum, please share what your favorite part was.

You know this will be a different experience when the traffic ropes are handcuff chains.  Immediately inside there is the VW bug that belonged to Ted Bundy which he used in several of his murders. Yes, the actual vehicle - it was creepy to say the least.  A mock murder and crime scene are presented in one display that in conjuction with the $5 pamplet allow you to you move through several subsequent displays learning how the evidence is collected and processed to solve the crime.

It is laid out somewhat chronologically so you start with Medieval times, through marine crime and pirates - includes two women pirates (Anne Bonny and Mary Read), colonialism, the frontier and wild west, then the mobster 20's and 30's (Chicago and NY primarily), prison gangs and history of the Crips/Bloods and Nortenos and Surenos, gang tattoo display and finally computer hackers and identity thieves, including Frank Abagnale (check counterfeiter made into the movie Catch Me If You Can).  Bonnie and Clyde display and even a "Tommy" Gun display.  I liked the "Untouchables"display and facts about Elliot Ness.

There is a brief review of punishment methods in centuries past including some unusual implements of pain.  If you're squeamish, skip on through the medieval part without the reading because that is rather gruesome with the torture explainations.    The wild west and the frontier section was a favorite- you see all the big names: Billy the Kid, Butch and Sundance, Wyatt Earp. I tended to like this area more than I expected.

There is a display of different apparatuses used for carrying out the death penalty, from a gas chamber to an electric chair which is good for a writer to get a feel for these without having to witness them actually being used.  There is a police line-up demonstration and a police booking room where you can get fingerprinted. They have a CSI interactive room that completes the murder you started to solve but I confess I didn't get much time in this room with the crowd.

Here are a few details of the many displays are in the various sections: salem witch trials, famous bank robbers, famous serial killers, a full-scale prison cell (complete with hole in the wall for your daring escape), a replica of Al Capone's jail cell (photo to the right - which compared to a regular cell was plush), the Bonnie and Clyde car used in the movie, a mock safe that you try to crack the lock before time runs out, an actual electric chair and gas chamber complete with sound effects, the actual studio set from America's Most Wanted (in the basement - with a greenscreen setup where you can be one of AMW's "most wanted."), some interactive sets for police officer training (interactive high speed chase,  and police shooting with lazer bullets using a real Glock, ride in the cop car, ride the motorcycle, listen to interview clips, demo a lie detector) and a tribute to our fallen heros.

There are artifacts galore like Ted Bundy's court documents, tiles from Al Capone's bathroom, John Dillinger's death mask, even artwork from killers (art work by John Wayne Gacy and a birthday card sent from prison by none other than David Berkowitz-Son Of Sam). 

Give yourself enough time (2-3 hours) and remember you can't buy a meal there - but next door at District Chophouse is where I ate and it was busy but a good meal.  Tickets are $19.95 but you can save $2 by purchasing the tickets online.  There is a LOT of reading involved in this museum.  Take the metro if you can (Chinatown stop) because it is only a half block away.  Try to plan out which exhibits you really want to spend time on and which ones (if any) you'd rather just gloss over because you may get tired and rush through last bits that you may have wanted to see. 

The down sides are 1) a definite lack of "rest" benches and there are 2) several typos in the display texts.  Warning on taking young children - consider the level of maturity of your child and the sometimes graphic nature of the display topics (do you want your child seeing a gas chamber or an actual electric chair?)    The gift shop is not very extensive , but does have a few NCIS sweatshirts and hats and novelty items.  It has a lot of information if you are up for it.

Overall I enjoyed it, but if you are on a budget it could be pricey, particularly with a family.  I also went to the International Spy Museum, but that is for a later posting! 

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review - Royal Blood

We are on a count down to the Blog Anniversary celebration - 27 days to go!  In just 27 days we will have the highly anticipated Blog Anniversary Bash with giveaways.  As the excitement builds I have the latest "Royal Spyness" Mystery review right here!

Author: Rhys Bowen

Copyright:  September, 2010 (Berkley Hardcover) 320 pgs

Series: # 4 in Royal Spyness Mysteries
Sensuality: Some innuendo
Mystery sub-genre: Historical Cozy/Amateur Sleuth
Main Character: 22 year old Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England
Setting: 1932 England and Bran Castle, Transylvania
Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review

Lady Georgiana is in a tough spot.  She is of royal blood, but the family is broke.  She can't get a job because that just doesn't look right - it would be scandalous!  So she scraps by on meager food supplies - until the Queen asks her to represent the throne at a royal wedding in Romania.  The good news - she will get regular meals again.  There are a few catches though.  She must take her maid, which means she must find one on short notice who is willing to travel and hope she can pay her upon return.  Of course she no longer has the wide selection of gowns like she used to,but she will make due.  Then there is the small matter of the wedding being in an isolated castle. 

Georgiana manages to find a maid - Queenie Hepplewhite is a total incompetent and a clumsy walking disaster (who set her last employers dress on fire...while she was wearing it), but at least she has a maid.  Transylvania can't be all that bad, can it?  Upon arriving she suspects she has been set up since the prince she turned down for marriage is staying in the bedroom next to hers.  Could things get any worse?  Georgiana is usually very level headed but finds that she is willing to believe in vampires when she spies a man climbing the sheer castle walls at night and wakes her first night to a pale man creeping to her bed and leaning over her!  Then the wedding guests are snow bound from bad weather and a politically important guest keels over from poison at dinner.

The characters are spot on for this historical cozy.   Georgiana is a sheltered lesser royal who is trying to make it in the world and not marry for position without love.  She has her share of hard knocks with an occasional bone tossed her way, which has given her a heart for the common person.  Her innocence is becoming on her while she has the hutzpah to face life on her own terms making a charming character.  Her on-again-off-again romantic interest Darcy is a rascal and the reader quickly suspects he is far more than meets the eye (perhaps a government operative?)  Her best friend is a risque hoot.  The disastrous maid Queenie is worth her considerable weight in laughs.  Even the minor characters will live on in my memory as great portraits of British peoples.
A hunk of bread was dumped onto the plate and then I moved on to one of the great pots full of stew.  I could see pieces of meat and carrot floating in a rich brown gravy.  I watched the ladle come up and over my plate, then it froze there, in midair.

I looked up in annoyance and found myself staring into Darcy O'Mara's alarming  eyes...

"Georgie!"  He could not have sounded more shocked if I'd been standing there with no clothes on.  Actually, knowing Darcy, he might have enjoyed seeing me standing in Victoria Station naked.

I felt myself going beet red and tried to be breezy.  "What ho, Darcy.  Long time no see."

Georgie, what were you thinking of?"  He snatched the plate away from me as if it were red-hot.

"It's not how it looks, Darcy."  I attempted  a laugh that didn't come off well.  "I came down here to see if I could help out at the soup kitchen and one of the men in line thought I was coming for food and insisted I take his place.  He was being so kind I didn't like to disillusion him."

The plot is well thought out and wonderfully written, keeping the reader flipping pages. It isn't too lighthearted, maintaining a fine balance of plot and pacing with a good dash of suspense.  I dove in a rarely come up for air!  The setting could have become cliche but Miss Bowen excelled even there.  The gothic setting was played just right.  This is why Miss Bowen wins awards.

The climax and wrap up were nicely played out and felt right.  The only problem being that I didn't want to leave this wonderful world I had been introduced to.

Royal Blood is like a fine wine, expertly crafted and full bodied with layers and rich notes that brings a sigh of satisfaction. I found this book a delight.  It is well plotted and deftly written with humor lurking at every corner.

Bran Castle is marketed as THE Dracula castle that Bram Stoker utilized in his classic book.  Although there is no evidence to that effect.  The castle in Royal Blood was indeed used as a royal residence in the 1920s when this book takes place.

This photo shows the sheer walls that Lady Georgiana witnesses a man climbing in the dark of night.

Here is a nice video showing the interior and giving the flavor of the setting for the book - just in case you want to book those travel plans.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Mystery Cookbooks!

There are many culinary mysteries on the market that have a wide appeal, and other mysteries that include recipes in the book.  It appears there is an ongoing fling between the mystery genre and "foodies".  There are the Diane Mott Davidson novels, Joanne Fluke, Josi Kilpack, Cecile Lamalle, Ellen Hart, Jerrilyn Farmer, Nancy Fairbanks, Alexander Campion, Julie Hyzy's White House Chef mysteries, even Al Roker's Chef Billy Blessing mysteries    But let's take it one step further.

The Italian police procedural novels by Donna Leon featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti have always been rich with scenes of the family at the dinner table.  The descriptions of the succulent meals captured readers imaginations as much as the investigations.

So Donna Leon has created a most unusual cookbook, introducing each recipe with scenes from her books.  It is a great concept and brings us the incredible recipes featured in the books but makes the entire collection a book to be read.  I checked this out from the library and fell in love with it.  I really must buy my own and soon.

I started to wonder if there were other cookbooks inspired by mysteries or mystery authors.  I found three more available (I really thought I would find more.)  But here are the ones I found.

A Taste of Murder (Agatha and Macavity Award finalist) and the follow-up, A Second Helping of Murder by Robert Weibezahl and Poison Pen Press.  They each feature 150 recipes from mystery authors (even Poe) or from mystery classics.  The cookbook is divided by clever headings such as The Set-Up, A Shot in the Dark, In the Soup, Crumby Situations, A Brunch of Crooks, The Quick and the Dead, A Criminal Past-a, Red Herrings, Murder Most Fowl, Meating Out Justice, No Bone to Pick, Accomplices, Tough Cookies, and The Proof is in the Pudding.  I found both available on Amazon, or try Poison Pen Press directly.

Then I found Appetite for Murder by Kathy Borich.  "Off to England for supper with Sherlock Holmes, morning tea with Miss Marple, or a pub crawl with Chief Inspector Morse.  Guaranteed to whet your Appetite for Murder, this tantalizing slant on cooking and crime is cooked up especially for mystery lovers.  Relive your favorite classic crime fiction and then whip up the food that helped solve the crime."

A reviewer said "bringing together food, interesting fictional detectives, novel and wonderfully attractive culinary sayings, and neatly crafted imaginary crime scenarios. For readers who want to have perfectly penned short vignettes of detectives as varied as Chief Inspector Morse, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Rumpole of the Bailey, Ellery Queen, Hercules Poirot and Chief Inspector Wexford (plus many more) this is a sparkling book."

I am planning on checking out all of these myself and just wanted to share them with my fellow mystery "foodies".  If you have one of these, please comment on how you like it, or if I missed a mystery related cookbook please tell us all about it.

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1 cup cooked butternut squash
1/2 cup mascarpone or cream cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 package round wonton skins
butter, garlic, and sage as needed

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review- Roast Mortem

The heat of summer continues as we go to New York to catch an arsonist.  The latest in the Coffee House Mysteries was just released and it delivers.

Author: Cleo Coyle

Copyright:  August 3, 2010 (Berkley Hardcover) 368 pgs

Series: # 9 in Coffee House Mysteries
Sensuality: Medium Heat - nothing explicit
Mystery sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth
Main Character: Clare Cosi, Manager of Village Blend coffeehouse
Setting: Modern day, New York's historic Greenwich Village
Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review
Clare and Madame are visiting Madame's old friend at his coffee house when a fire explodes through the after-hours caffe. Claire and Madame make it out okay, but Madame's dear old friend is in serious condition. Clare insists it was a bomb and starts investigating and passing along her intel to the fire investigator.

To complicate things a good bit, her boyfriend Mike Quinn (police detective) has a vindictive cousin on the Fire Dept and tries to come between Clare and Mike. Apparently Mike is the only cop in a fireman dominant family and there is definitely bad blood between these two and Clare is smack in the middle. More coffee house fires break out around town and one of the firemen that saved Madame is tragically claimed in one of those fires. Clare even receives a threat to her dear coffee house. Can Clare figure out who the arsonist is before her place explodes next and can she stay out the cousin's ploys to break her and Mike up?
Pacing is a tad slow initially, but don't be fooled - valuable information is being gathered and you will need it as the story progresses. The last half of the book really picks up steam - rolling along through the nail biting confrontation with the killer (yes three people end up dead).
Clare is a heroine that most can relate to, even if there are still those moments the reader is yelling "don't do it!" Det. Mike Quinn is distant in this story since he is pretty closed lipped about the feud between him and his cousin. He is more closed off to Clare in this one. Clare's ex, Matteo, is there a good bit (although now married) to lend a helping hand and Clare's right hand guy in the coffee house, Dante, goes "under-cover" at one point with Clare. I like this minor character and he shines in this installment.  
First came the sound, a monumental whoosh followed by a hissing roar.  The the white-hot concussion rippled through the air, the caffe's front window exploded outward and the blast washed over me.

My eyes were at the heyhole level while I worked the stupid stubborn lock, and the force of the firebomb knocked me right through the doorway.

Sprawled on my back on the debris-strewn sidewalk, I turned my head, stared the the carpet of glass shards.  Blood started pumping through my system so fast I could barely recognize voices yelling, a car horn beeping.  I was unhurt.  Small scratches maybe, a few bruises, a little bleeding - big deal - I was okay otherwise, and I focused on throwing off the shock.

Smoke rolled out of the caffe, the noxious fog billowing upward in succession of black, misshapen balloons.  Wheezing and coughing, I got back on my feet and scanned the sidewalk for the beer-filled barista.

"Dante!" I shouted, rushing to the caffe entrance.  "Dante!"
The coffee house fires and the personal schemes of  the Detective's cousin are closely interwoven. There were only two times when I thought a scene was a tinsy bit contrived which flagged me that there must be something important revealed. Overall the plotting is handled well and strong with several red herrings to mix it up. One big Kudo to the author, so often the heroine in mystery stories ends up needing rescued (shades of Nancy Drew), but in a nice twist Clare is the one who comes to Det Mike Quinn's aid! Nice touch there. The novel wraps up nicely and the culprit is probably not who you are going to think it is!
I started with the first few in this series a little while back and have missed a few in between then and this newest addition.  I first thought of these as cozy mysteries, but I think they have evolved more into amateur sleuth territory while still retaining some of the comforting feel of the cozy.
The back material has a guide to coffee roasting and several wonderful recipes.
This story features the Fire Department of NY quite a bit and you will gain a new appreciation for what fire personel go through in the course of this novel.

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Now for a Special Coffee Treat:
Coffee Bars
Yield 2 - 3 dozen
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup milk
* 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules (alternate: decaf)
* 1/4 cup butter
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1 cup confectioners' sugar
* 1 egg
* 1 cup chopped almonds
* 3 cups confectioners' sugar
* 1/3 cup evaporated milk
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Combine flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt; set these dry ingredients aside.
2. Combine milk and instant coffee in saucepan, and heat at a medium low setting. Stir until coffee dissolves, and remove from the heat.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter or margarine with the white sugar and 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Beat in the egg, and then beat in the coffee mixture. Gradually blend in the mixture of dry ingredients, and fold in the almonds.
4. Spread dough evenly in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.
5. To Make Frosting: Put 1 cup of the confectioners' sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat in the evaporated milk and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in remaining 2 cups of confectioners' sugar. Continue beating until of desired consistency. If consistency is too thick, add a little more milk; if it is too thin, add more powdered sugar.
6. Frost the bars with the icing.
Cut into large or small bars.
Or if you REALLY love coffee, use this for the frosting:
Coffee Frosting
* 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (alternate: decaf)
* 1/4 cup milk
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 6 tablespoons butter
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 5 cups confectioners' sugar
Mix together; instant coffee or leftover coffee, milk, cocoa powder, butter or margarine, vanilla extract, and confectioners' sugar until of spreading consistency. Makes more than enough to frost a 13x9 inch sheet cake.
And now for a Video Treat...Coffee Art!

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Year of the Children's Mystery Book

I know it is August, but there is plenty of time to jump into this wonderful program and get the children in your life reading mysteries.  Imagine sharing your love of a good mystery book!  Some worry that reading books is going by the wayside with video games and movies, Ipods and texting.  I think this program is a fantastic way to encourage reading in a genre that appeals to children.

The Mystery Challenge challenges all young readers to achieve Mystery Mastery by reading at least six mystery books during 2010. Books can be from any authors, reading level or length. The only requirement is that they be from the mystery genera. You can track your progress by using The Mystery Challenge bookmark. Simply send a self addressed stamped envelope to: Gallopade InternationalAttn: 2010 Year of the Children's MysteryP.O. Box 2779Peachtree City, GA 30269 or make your own by clicking the image and printing it off of this website's Freebie Page

Freebies page has a Mystery Party Kit, a Poster, Downloadable bookmarks and computer wallpaper.

Readers who achieve Mystery Mastery status will be rewarded with a Spooktacular Surprise consisting of a specialized certificate of accomplishment as well as their name posted on the Wall of Fame. Good luck and remember to have fun! Click HERE to submit your completed Mystery Master bookmark.

There is even a photo gallery. Take a picture of yourself, friend, family, student or whomever reading their favorite mystery book!  Email the photo to them under the "Get Caught Reading...a Mystery!" section and be included in the gallery.

Sign up for email updates as well. Check out their fun "links" page too.

At First Clues there is a "Mysteries for Kids" listing divided by age: New Sleuths (Ages 4-6), Future Sleuths (7-9), Sleuths in Training (10-12), and Apprentice Sleuths 13 and up) at .  This can help you get ideas on what mysteries would be appropriate for the young person in your life.


October 3-9th - Mystery Series Week

October 31st - Halloween

November 7-13th - National Young Reader Week and Children's Book Week

November 14-20th - American Education Week

December 1-31st - Read a New Book Month/Read a New Mystery Book

So join up - it isn't too late to get in on the fun and ignite a mystery reading passion!

How about starting a Mystery Book Club for Children? 

"Book clubs for children can be a wonderful way of fostering a lifelong love of reading and expanding their minds as well as providing a forum to build important skills such as public speaking, debate and viewing things from different perspectives. They are also a great opportunity for children to socialise and meet new friends."  What a great way to combine the socializing desires of youth with keeping reading alive.

The following is from The Reading Club on
Running Book Clubs for Children

"In many respects, book clubs for children mirror those for adults. They can be started just as simply, by getting together a group of children who like to read – either by asking through friends or putting up posters at school, library, or other community places that children frequent."

Here is info on book clubs for teens:
More info on starting a book club:

Now for a special of my favorite mysteries growing up was Scooby Doo!

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review - Silent Auction

Well here we are into the eighth month of the year.  Just one more month and it will be a year since this blog started!  So much has happened and I never expected how this blog would take off.  Time really does fly!  We are starting this hot August in New Hampshire with murder among antiques.

Author: Jane K Cleland

Copyright: April 2010 (Minotaur); 291 pgs

Series: # 5 in Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Josie Prescott, Antiques appraiser and dealer

Setting: Modern day Rocky Point, New Hampshire

Obtained book through: Library

Josie arrives at a lighthouse estate to begin an appraisal of the maritime collection when she stumbles over the dead body of Frankie, the lighthouse caretaker.  Frankie has been bludgeoned with a rolling pin.  Frankie was also her dear friend ZoĆ«'s nephew who had turned his life around and was working his dream job and finding happiness.  As the police start investigating Josie is asked to assist in her official capacity.  One of the antiques, a rare scrimshaw tooth, is missing from the collection.  When suspicion falls on Frankie, suggesting that he was involved Josie takes it as a personal mission to see that justice is done to the killer. 

This mystery manages to work Josie into the investigation as a consultant to the police rather than competing with the police as many go.  This adds a realistic touch to the story.  Josie is an interesting and intelligent main character with a lot of compassion and a playful side.  I enjoyed her and want to get to know her better.

The plotting revolves to a big extent around the missing antique scrimshaw tooth so readers get a good amount of information on it.  Scrimshaw is the name given to the artwork crafted by whalers at sea, using the ivory, bone and baleen of captured whales. The most familiar type of scrimshaw is a sperm whale tooth engraved with pictures.  You also learn a good deal about the antiques business and what is involved to authenticate items.  I think it was just enough to explain the plot with antiques fraud without giving you a full education in it.
All the shades were up.  A window was open on the ground floor to the left of the back door.  Ashley must be airing the place out, I thought, now that the Whitestones have returned to New York City.  There was no sign of Frankie.

I approached the back door and knocked.  The latch hadn't quite caught, and the door swung wide.  I stepped into the mudroom.  In front of me,  the inner door was ajar.  Little hairs on th eback of my neck rose as disquiet grew into fear...

I took a small step forward and entered the kitchen.  I ws standing on the ceramic tiles the Whitestones had imported from Italy .  It was was cold, too cold, much colder than outside.  It was quiet, too, the thick solitary sound of emptiness.  I took another step, then stopped short.

There, sprawled on the floor, partially hidden by the central island lay a body.
The new police chief is a pleasant surprise and promises to be a great new recurring character.  Josie's boyfriend Ty isn't in this novel much and I enjoyed what scenes he was in.  I had not read any of the prior novels and this stands alone well.

I really enjoyed this mystery and I think it is good for readers who like a sleuth who is a professional with her life in order who is legitimately helping to catch a killer.

 And now for a summer recipe:
Easy Cherry Cobler
* 1 (15 ounce) can pitted tart red cherries, drained with liquid reserved (can use mixed berries etc)
* 1/2 cup white sugar for fruit (Sugar substitute is possible)
* 1 cup buttermilk baking mix (light Bisquick is possible)
* 1/2 cup white sugar for batter (Sugar substitute is possible)
* 1/2 cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare a 9x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Stir the liquid from the cherries and 1/2 cup sugar together in a small glass bowl; heat in the microwave until the sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
3. Stir the baking mix, 1/2 cup sugar, and milk together in a separate small bowl; mix until you get a moist batter. Spread the mixture in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spread the cherries evenly over the batter. Slowly pour the cherry juice over the cherries.
4. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival August 2010

It is August already! Where has this year gone?  It is time for the blog carnival again, enjoy and remember to submit your mystery and crime fiction book reviews.

Police Procedural Book Review

Ashley's Bookshelf gives us Crucifying Angel by P.I. Barrington

Booking Moma gives us Ice Cold by Tess Gerritisen
Private Investigator Book Review
Mysteries and My Musings gives us Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Mysteries and My Musings gives us Last Illusion by Rhys Bowen
Amateur Sleuth book Review

Ashley's Bookshelf gives us Revenge Served Cold by Jackie Fullerton

Paperback Dolls gives us Last Writes by Sheila Lowe

Random Ramblings presents Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs This mystery is aimed at tweens, but it's wonderful for adults, too.
Cozy Mystery Book Review

Curling Up By the Fire gives us Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

 Confessions of a Psychotic Housewife gives us Hand of Fate: A Triple Threat Novel Lis Wiehl with April Henry

The Red Room gives us Book of Shadows by Alexandra Sokoloff

Stacy's Books gives us Inside Out by Barry Eisler

Author Interview
On YouTube Voices in Mystery - Parnell Hall

Writing Tips and Advice

Writers in Residence gives us Tried (and Sometimes True) Interview Techniques

The Write Type gives us The Challenge of the First Page

Time to Write gives us How to Kick-start Your Early Morning Writing Routine

#####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  (

I came across this somewhere in my blogoshere travels and thought you might enjoy this video:

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