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Monday, March 26, 2012

Agatha Christie Challenge

If you like the classics, here is an Agatha Christie Reading Challenge for 2012 (click here).  Still plenty of time to get in on this one.  This is a low pressure challenge. You can join by adding your name to the list.  Each participant reads at your own pace, either in publication order, or not, as you please.  Also, you agree to be a participant in the monthly Agatha Christie Challenge Blog Carnival. 
I recently have discovered her stand alone books, such as They Came to Baghdad, which I enjoyed despite of how dated it was.  How about you?  Do you enjoy Miss Marple, Hercules Poirot, or her stand alone books?

What is it you like the most about her mysteries?

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Designer Book Covers

Over at Sarah Enni's blog (click here), she has some very cool book covers, for those who still use the old-school non-electronic book.  

They all have a subtle message of "Go Away, I'm Reading."  These are very nicely designed, with three sets of awesome themes to choose from.  

You can download the PDF files free and get them printed at a print shop that has 11X17 paper (pretty common at print shops.)

Right around now, couldn't most of us use the cover that says, "In the Arena, BRB"

Which one is your favorite?

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review - A Lesson in Secrets

This book is nominated for an Agatha this year which prompted my reading it for our Agatha coverage.  The first book in the series won several awards and it is clear Jacqueline Winspear is a worthy author.

Author: Jacqueline Winspear

Copyright: March 2011 (Berkley) 336 pgs

Series: 8th in Maisie Dobbs Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: PI / Intrigue

Main Characters: Maisie Dobbs, psychologist, private investigator, and former WW1 nurse

Setting: 1932, London and Cambridge

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

This is my first Maisie Dobbs novel and I picked up the storyline easily.  In this addition to the series, Maisie gets an assignment from the British Secret Service.  Her mission is to go undercover at a Cambridge University, founded by pacifist author of children's books, to see if there is a threat from the growing Nazi party in England - lurking among the students.  Maisie has just settled into teaching Philosophy when the founder, Greville Liddicote, is murdered.  Maisie is told by Scotland Yard to stick to her undercover assignment and leave the murder to them.  But Maisie can't help putting together the clues in front of her.  A sideline story is Maisie helping a young widow, Sandra, get on her feet after her husband's death.

Maisie is a great character with depth, intelligence, and finely honed deductive skills.  She has her emotional issues from the first war, not to mention some relationship baggage. She is also a compassionate and generous character. Her strength is being able to understand people and their motivations.  A stellar supporting character is Billy Beale, her right-hand-man for her investigative business.  Even Maisie's romantic interest, wealthy businessman James Compton, seems a good match for Maisie.  He is complete in himself so he can accept her independence.

Cambridge and London are all brought effortlessly to life.  The climate of England between wars, with a growing fascist influence, is portrayed with a deft hand.  The historical details envelop the reader for a trip to the past.  I was fascinated by the information of women as spies in WWI.

The plot has some interesting twists between fascist influences at the college, the secret that Greville Liddicote had hidden for decades, and the story of Sandra and her husband's death, all keep the reader interested.  I understand that this book may not be as suspenseful as past books in the series, but that is probably the only area for improvement I can see.  The theme is around secrets and how they eventually spring out.

There is no real harrowing confrontation with the killer, just an arrest, which was realistic.  The wrap-up was satisfying and left the possibility of Maisie working with the Secret Service wide open.  Overall, I must say I have found a new series to devour!

Are there any Maisie fans out there who want to share if this book was less suspenseful as prior books in the series?

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge 2012

  If you enjoy reading challenges, here is one for you!
I figure this is an easy challenge for me, so I picked the 24 mysteries to be read throughout the year.
Timeline: 1st Jan 2012 ~ 31st Dec 2012
Rules: Read 12 or 24 Mystery Novels in 2011

For details and to sign up click HERE
Rules: There are TWO LEVELS you can choose from:
 - Read TWELVE (12) mystery & suspense novels in 2012 
 - Read TWENTY FOUR (24) mystery & suspense novels in 2012 

• You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go at the link where you sign up. Also, if you do list them upfront you can change them, nothing is set in stone! The books you choose can crossover into other challenges you have on the go.

• You can join at anytime. All books read in 2012 count towards the challenge regardless of when you sign up.
Are reading challenges something that interest you?  Share your feelings about reading challenges in the comments.
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review - Tempest in the Tea Leaves

This book is nominated for an Agatha Award under the Best New Novel category, so I took this opportunity to review it.  Check out the review and share your impressions with us.

Author:  Kari Lee Townsend

Copyright:  August 2011 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series:  1st in A Fortune Teller Mystery

Sensuality:  n/a

Mystery Sub-genre:  Amateur Sleuth, Cozy

Main Character:  Sunny Meadows, psychic

Setting:  Modern Day, Divinity NY

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

Sunny, at 29 years old, is just moving out from her smothering and controlling parents.  She moves from a Manhattan lifestyle to small town Divinity.  She got an old Victorian house incredibly cheap because it is reputed as haunted, but to Sunny it feels welcoming and like a sanctuary.  The ethereal white cat seems to have come with the house.  

Sunny gets her first customer, librarian Amanda Robbins, who in a matter of hours is murdered, making Sunny a prime suspect.  Detective Mitch Stone seems determined to lock Sunny up.  But Sunny surreptitiously reads his tea leaves, and sees the two of them together in a bad relationship. This causes Sunny to act unpredictably around Mitch, which thus adds to his impression that she is a flake and a hoax.

Sunny is a tough character, there are likeable parts and not-so-likable parts.  She is spunky and "sunny."  But she also overreacts around Mitch Stone as if she had never been around men before.  She is supposed to be "the real deal" with her psychic talents, but she has a chip on her shoulder about being accepted.  The paranormal cat, dubbed Monty, is great in spite of being a small supporting character.  Sunny's parents are condescending and I found them difficult to like at all.  Detective Mitch Stone is the grumpy token-cop-romantic-interest who is terrible, horrible, very bad match but the story still goes there.  Of all the characters, Mitch has the most potential for development and some depth.

The plot is loose and has some holes, such as the Mayor insisting that a psychic should be on the case, even though she is a suspect.  That Sunny, as a newcomer to a small town, quickly knows all the juicy gossip and intricacies.  Sunny manages to figure out some leads in the case when long term resident and cop Mitch didn't get those leads.  These are some significant issues with the book in my opinion. 

The Victorian house, nicknamed Vicky, is a great home for a psychic and adds a mischievous touch. The killer was a surprise until shortly before the actual climax, which was well done.  The wrap up sets up Sunny being an ongoing consultant for the local police, which promises some awkward moments with the Detective Mitch Stone.  For a debut novel, this has some rough spots in its plot logic and characterizations.  There is plenty of material for the next book in the series to recover and capitalize on the strong points and correct the issues.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - March 2012

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.  I am asking for you assistance to please help get the newsletter for the blog carnival with more subscribers of blogs.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers occasionally then I would like to feature them.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Lately there have been very few submissions.   I don't want to discontinue this blog carnival, so I am asking all of you to please help.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link and read the review.

February 18th, 2012 in Cape Charles, VA - author of the Dog Walker Mysteries, Judi McCoy, passed away due to complications from diabetes.  She will be greatly missed.  Here is a wonderful tribute to her (click here.)  Read the interview Ms. McCoy did for our little blog (click here). 

Police Procedural / PI Book Review

Booking Mama reviewed Gun Games by Faye Kellerman

Mystery Librarian reviewed Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

Socrates reviewed A Grande Murder by Stacy Verdick Case

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Affairs of Steak by Julie Hyzy

Booking Mama reviewed THE LOOK OF LOVE by Mary Jane Clark

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Endangered by Pamela Beason

The Mystery Librarian reviewed The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

S. Krishna reviewed A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Pleating for Mercy by Melissa Bourbon

Booking Mama reviewed The Bedlam Detective by Stephen Gallagher

Mystery Librarian reviewed Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James

Booking Mama reviewed So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts

Elizabeth White reviewed Boca Daze by Steven Forman

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen by Thomas Caplan

Mystery Librarian reviewed DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay

S. Krishna's Books reviewed The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

Booking Mama reviewed THE DARK ROSE by Erin Kelly

Author Interview

Mysteries and My Musings interviewed Pamela Beason

Printsasia interviewed Ellen Crosby, author of the Wine Country Mysteries

Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.

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 (

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review - Who Do Voodoo

I have had this on my TBR shelf for a few months now.  I had thought I would save it for next Halloween.  Then I discovered it is nominated for an Agatha, so I had to read and review it as part of the Agatha Awards coverage!  In April we will compare the reviews of Agatha nominees and have a vote or elimination.  If you have read this book already, share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Author: Rochelle Staab

Copyright:  November 2011; Berkley; 304 pages

Series:  # 1 in A Mind for Murder Mystery  

Sensuality:  some kissing and adult references

Mystery sub-genre:  Cozy mystery, paranormal

Main Character:  Liz Cooper, Clinical psychologist

Setting:  Modern day Los Angeles, CA

Obtained book through:
  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Liz has been best friends since childhood with Robin.  Robin is just emerging from grieving about her husband's death in an accident when somebody begins leaving Tarot cards on her front door.  The specific tarot cards left match the ones that predicted her husband's death a year prior, but they have a voodoo theme.  Liz decides to try and help when a more sinister message is left on Robin's door.  Liz turns to her brother's old college buddy Nick, who has become an expert on the occult and teaches. Nick and Liz try to trace the unique Tarot cards for a lead.  They begin to make progress when Robin is accused of murder and the police are quite confident Robin is the killer. Now they must investigate quickly to clear Robin.

Liz is practical and has a hard time with the metaphysical aspects, even though her mother is the scattered and wacky "woowoo" stereotype.  Besides her mother, Liz has a manipulative, egocentric, sports star ex-husband that still plagues her.  I grew tired of the mother trying to get Liz and her ex back together repeatedly. I appreciated that Liz was rational and tended not to indulge the ex or her mother.  Liz even managed to stay open minded to the paranormal without going whole hog.  Nick provides some spice for Liz and challenges her paradigms.  He will make an interesting love interest, even though dear brother doesn't like mixing his best friend and sister.   

The plot of who really killed Sylvia is mixed up with voodoo, a spell book, and a curse.  Events unfold in a manner that are not overtly paranormal yet make you wonder. The pacing was steady.  The killer confrontation occurs because Liz stumbles upon the killer not because she deduced it.  This debut entry was a bit simplistic in style but managed an enjoyable tale with a sprinkling of romance. 

Here is a little magic:  3, 2, 1 CAKE
These individual little cakes are amazing and ready to eat in one minute! They are perfect for whenever you feel like a treat without all the fat and calories that cake can have. Genius idea!  Also perfect for when you have unexpected company and want to serve a little something.


1 box Angel Food Cake Mix

1 box Cake Mix - Any Flavor

2 Tbsp Water

Makes 1 serving.

In a ziploc bag, combine the two cake mixes together and mix well. For each individual cake serving, take out 3 Tablespoons of the cake mix combination and mix it with 2 Tablespoons of water in a small microwave-safe container. Microwave on high for 1 minute, and you have your own instant individual little cake!

KEEP remaining cake mixture stored in the ziploc bag and use whenever you feel like a treat! You can top each cake with a dollop of fat free whipped topping and/or some fresh fruit.

This recipe is called 3, 2, 1 Cake because all you need
to remember is

"3 tablespoons mix,
2 tablespoons water,
1 minute in the microwave!"

TRY various flavors of cake mix like chocolate, spice, carrot, red velvet, pineapple, lemon, orange, etc. Just remember that one of the mixes has to be the angel food mix; the other is your choice.  The flavor possibilities are endless!

The best thing is, you open both cake mixes into a gallon storage bag, one that 'zip locks' or 'self-seals', or a container that seals tightly, shake the two cake mixes to blend and then make the recipe. Storage of mix is simple, put it on a shelf. No need to refrigerate, since the mix is dry.

Always remember, that one of the cake mixes MUST be Angel Food. The other can be any flavor.  The Angel Food is the cake mix that has the eggs whites in it. So, if, anyone is allergic to egg whites, you can NOT serve this recipe. 

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