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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review - A Fatal Fleece

I am a fan of this series and have reviewed the last few releases before this one: Holiday Yarn (click here) and The Wedding Shawl (click here).  I was also fortunate to have interviewed the author as well (click here.)  This is the perfect book to get us into a summer, sand, and surf mindset.

Author:  Sally Goldenbaum

Copyright:  May 2012 (NAL) 336 pgs

Series:  6th in Seaside Knitters Mysteries

Sensuality:  mild references

Mystery Sub-genre:  Cozy

Main Character:  Nell Endicott

Setting:  Modern day, Sea Harbor, Massachusetts

Obtained Through:  publisher for an honest review

Let me introduce you to the seaside knitters:
Nell Endicott: the motherly spirit of the group.
Birdie Favazza: the spirited elder who is hard to keep up with.
Cass(andra) Halloran: the lobster-woman with a gentle heart - truly a rough diamond.
Izzy Perry: Nell's niece who owns the knit shop.

The town eccentric is a curmudgeonly old geezer, Finnegan, whose prime waterfront land has vultures circling in the form of developers, city council members, and an estranged daughter.  Finnegan does have some steadfast friends, such as seaside knitter and lobster woman extraordinaire Cass and Birdie's recently revealed "lovechild" granddaughter who is visiting.  Cass is bringing her cranky old friend a meal, when she stumbles upon his murdered body and becomes a suspect.

There are a few subplots going on as well as the main mystery of who murdered Finnegan.  There is Birdie's granddaughter Gabriel, or Gabby as the whole town calls her.  This precocious ten year old quickly works her way into the seaside knitter's hearts.  There is also Gabby's uncle, Birdie's deceased husband's brother, who is definitely hiding something and has lied to the gals.  Then there is Cassandra, whose lobster business is slowly drowning while she seems to be sabotaging her relationship with her beau, a popular author.  Finally, there is the thread of Finnegan's long estranged daughter who has returned to the area and seems to be conducting a clandestine affair.  All these are woven together for a tightly knit tableau.

This series always delivers and this time around is another great seaside murder mystery.  The Sea Harbor location is vividly and lovingly animated with people, places and history that envelope the reader.  This mountain born-and-raised gal loves Sea Harbor. 

The Seaside knitters are finely characterized, along with their relationships to each other and spouses.  This is not just for women necessarily, because the relationships with their men are wonderfully portrayed as well.  It is the interweaving of friendships, male and female, that is faithfully rendered in these books. 

The plot has its layers and red herrings, as Nell peels away the deceptions, looking into what happened to Finnegan.  There are subtle clues dropped that, like any good mystery, if you look back, you put them together.  As I have noted before, if there were a real life amateur sleuth, this is how it would look.  Nell talks to people in a natural neighborly way, like a curious person concerned about her neighbors and town.  That dynamic flows easily and works with the entire feel of the Sea Harbor experience.  There is no drama over her talking to neighbors, there is no conflict with the local police when she asks around, there is no conflict with her husband over investigating.  I LOVE THAT.  The conflict in the stories is about what murder does to the town and the people, and the dynamics of personal interactions.

This is a classic cozy, no rushing through the story, but actually experiencing the town and people over a few weeks, as the seaside knitter's investigation progresses.  That is why the first pages are a guide to the town's people that are regulars, so you can jump right into this sea side world.  Take a true break and spend some time in these well crafted mysteries.  Yes, I am a fan - I warned you.

Here is a recipe for a quick and easy Crab Bisque.

1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 quart prepared creamy tomato soup
cayenne to taste
8-oz tub lump crab-meat
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.  

War-time military service isn't glamorous, it is emotionally stressing and physically dangerous.  I thank those who have served, from World War II veterans that still live, through the Vietnam and Korean actions, up to recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  There are many bases around the world and service members who may not be seeing "action," but I thank them still.  The families who have lost loved ones are in my thoughts today, as well.  Today is not about whether a war is right or wrong, it is about those who served their nation when the nation asked.

If you want to send the something to service members actively serving, then check out this informative site to find out how, but they specify letters or postcards now rather than care packages.  (click here for website.)  Or consider the Fisher House Project which provides housing for families of wounded service-members at VA facilities (click here for website.)   You could pick a Fisher House and send a care package to a family with a wounded soldier receiving treatment.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Burning Through the Pages

Somehow, somewhere, I stumbled upon this fantastic organization titled "Burning Through the Pages."  It is based in Denver, but I hope that this organization spreads to other cities.

From their website (click here):
"Burning Through Pages Inc. has one goal and one goal only: 
To inspire a love of reading in today's youth by recommending, donating, and discussing books. There are no quizzes, just conversations. If you don't like the book, you can give it back. If you do like the book, there'll be another one waiting for you, free of charge. The important thing is that an adoration of reading grows. It's not what you read that's important to us, it's that you enjoy whatever it is that keeps you burning through the pages.  Burning Through Pages relies solely on the donations from generous people all around Colorado. Your donations are important in order to help us make a difference in the lives of teens."

They have a book club and gatherings for kids to talk about what they liked in the book.  They just added a forum where kids anywhere can discuss books online.

They need people to:
  • Read and Recommend New Books
  • Schedule Events
  • Answer E-mails
  • Donations 
  • Spend Time with Participants
  • Update the Webpage
Spread the word about this amazing organization that is encouraging reading among teens.  Help them out if you have the opportunity and motivation.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review - The Big Kitty

This is a debut work from an author I am not familiar with.  I wanted to read a cozy for a break and grabbed this from the pile.  I was very pleasantly surprised by this new series.  

Author:  Claire Donally

Copyright:  May 2012 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series:  1st in Sunny and Shadow Mystery

Sensuality:  n/a

Mystery Sub-genre:  Amateur Sleuth, Cozy

Main Character:  Sunny Coolidge, former NY City reporter & Shadow the cat

Setting:  Modern Day, Kittery Harbor Maine

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

Sunny's father had a heart attack and she returned to her hometown to take care of him.  Unfortunately, her newspaper in NY fired her while she was on leave in a wave of cutbacks.  She couldn't get a job on the local newspaper, but got hired for miniscule pay at an internet town tourism site.  When she shows kindness to the town crazy cat lady, Ada Spruance, she succumbs to a desperate request to help search for a winning lottery ticket before it expires.  Sunny suspects that it may not be missing, but maybe stolen.  Sunny tips the newspaper off and after everybody in Kittery Harbor - and neighboring towns - know about the missing ticket, Sunny finds Ada dead.  Initially the local police chief wants to dismiss it as an accident, but Sunny gets to write a special piece for the newspaper highlighting the questions surrounding Ada's death.  The ink is barely dry on the story when attempts to permanently shut Sunny up begin. Somewhere along the way, one of the scores of cats at poor Ada's cat house attaches himself to Sunny.  His name is shadow and he has had a hard-luck life and is drawn to Sunny's kind nature.  He also witnessed the murder of Ada and wants to ensure Sunny is safe, in his own cat logic.  A few chapters are told from Shadow's point of view and they are very well done.

I liked Sunny a lot - more than I do most cozy characters.  I found her logical and a person I could spent time with. Her responses to events where believable and understandable.  The one drawback was that she was a bit naive for having been a NYC reporter when it came to the Meth drug connection.  She was unaware of signs for a Meth user etc, which seems contrary to being a big city reporter.  Her relationship with her ailing father and the distrustful Shadow are sincere and sealed the deal on my really liking the character.  The seemingly obligatory police love interest, Will, is also a great, level character. Sunny's dad, Mike, is cantankerous and plays tricks on the Shadow since he didn't agree to a pet, but in the end grudgly appreciates Shadow.  Shadow is perhaps the best characterization of a sidekick pet in any cozy I have read.  He is a hard-luck kitty who is skeptical he will find a gentle home where he isn't kicked or beaten, and when he finds Sunny, he will fight to keep this kind human safe.

Kittery Harbor is a fictional town with a lot of elements to keep the series interesting.  It is a harbor with shipping activity - yet just big enough to have some crime and tourism - while keeping a small town feel.  The plot starts out simple but develops as the story goes along.  Although the likely suspect is identified  the suspense comes from not knowing where this person is, even though he appears to be following Sunny and making attempts to stop her. The pacing was steady throughout the book. 

The confrontation with the killer was well done, and even realistic in many aspects.  Shadow's role in the confrontation was well thought out and executed with a sure hand.  I have to say it has everything I could ask for in a cozy with smart writing and well portrayed characters.  This may have just become my favorite cozy series.  I am looking forward to the next book.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

You Are What You Read

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology they believe that what you read can impact your psyche.  The characters that you relate to in fiction can even shape your thinking.  Here is how it works (article "You are what you read, study suggests" - Click Here)
"[Geoff] Kaufman [a post-doctoral researcher at Tiltfactor Laboratories at Dartmouth College] and his co-author Lisa Libby of Ohio State University suspected that when people read a fictional story they vicariously experience their favorite character’s emotions, thoughts and beliefs in a process that’s been dubbed “experience-taking.”

Kaufman and Libby found that experience-taking can lead to real changes in the lives of readers. What the researchers can’t say yet is whether those changes are brief or long-lasting."

I identify with Kate Daniels, Katniss, and other strong characters.  But is it that they are having an effect on me, or that I am just drawn to certain characters in fiction?  The research does seem to point to how characters can influence a person. 

So who are some of your favorite characters?  What do you think of the idea that the characters you are "experience taking" with are influencing you?  What is you identify with Dexter?  Share, share, share please.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review - Wild Wild Death

I had reviewed #6 in the series (Tomb with a View - click here), and #7 (A Hard Day's Fright - click here).  I did not want to wait until October to read this paranormal, so bare with me.  I will have one or two more paranormal spread out in the next couple of months.  They are just a fun break. 

Author: Casey Daniels

Copyright: January 2012 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 8th in Pepper Martin Mysteries

Sensuality: adult references

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Pepper Martin, ghost whisperer

Setting: Modern day, New Mexico and Antonito Colorado

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

The ending of book number seven in the series had a significant development in Pepper's life that I don't want to spoil here.  I will purposefully not mention that aspect which may cause some to have questions.  The story opens at a Cleveland Indians game with Quinn.  Quinn and Pepper have a tenuous truce going, but he will not discuss her gift and she is frustrated.  At home, Pepper receives a postcard from an old scientist friend, Dan, that he will be visiting Cleveland and wants to see her.  But the very next letter is a ransom demand saying that Dan will die unless the bones of the infamous Indian who cursed Cleveland's baseball team,  Chester Goodshot Gomez, are dug up and delivered at a location in New Mexico.  So Pepper breaks into Goodshot's mausoleum and absconds with his bones.  Thus begins an adventure in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, full of dust and danger.  Naturally, Chester Goodshot Gomez's ghost is going where his bones go, and he becomes an unlikely sidekick.  The exchange of bones for Dan doesn't go well and Pepper is on the local Native American tribal cop's radar.  Which she doesn't mind since she finds Jesse mucho attractive. 

Pepper has some good and bad moments in this.  She comes across like a spoiled prima donna in some spots, which the character seemed to have grown out of that - until now.  Then there are other parts where she is sensitive and determined, not worried about her nails more than people.  Jesse is a great character.  His native beliefs allow him to understand Pepper and her gift, whether she wants him to or not.  Jesse affirms to Pepper that what she is doing with ghosts, walking with both worlds, is important and special.  I liked Jesse so much, I am hoping somehow he will be back again.  The relationship between them moves very quickly, and I felt if was so quick it cheapened it.  Chester Goodshot Gomez is a hoot and memorable in his own right.  

The setting is the great southwest, small towns, dusty, rugged, and the great unknown for Pepper.  The change of location was a good shake-up for the series.  At first, I wasn't sure how I would like the western location, but it worked well.  I liked it so much I hoped Pepper might extend her stay for another book or two, but no.  The Native American Pueblo culture was a great backdrop, and the native mysticism was icing on this cake.

The plot seems thin at first, maybe even contrived.  But that quickly changes and the plot gets more complications and depth.  The pace was steady and avoided lagging.  The climax was nicely setup and well played out.  The wrap up had some surprises for Pepper, and ultimately the expected return to Cleveland was a little bit of a disappointment.

This was a good book in the series and the change of location allowed Pepper to see how she could be appreciated for her gift.  While still a fun book, it feels as though it was intended to setup the next chapter in Pepper's life rather than being fully in it's own moment.  Pepper fans will not want to miss this.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - May 2012

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.  Please help get the newsletter for the blog carnival more subscribers.  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.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.  Now on to this month's blog carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review

Tea Time with Marce reviewed The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen

A Date with a Book also reviewed The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen

Booking Mama reviewed I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review 

A Date with a Book reviewed  Spying in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

How Mysterious reviewed Broken English by P.L. Glaus

Mysteries and My Mysteries reviewed Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker

A Date with a Book reviewed Killer in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

The Book Nook reviewed Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie and shares it is Miss Marple's best and last mystery

A Date with a Book reviewed Undercover in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Tea Time with Marce reviewed Department Thirteen by James Houston Turner

Crime Writing Confidential reviewed Up Close and Personal by Harlan Coben

 Mysteries and My Mysteries reviewed The Last Spymaster by Gayle Lynds

Booking Mama reviewed Fifteen Digits by Nick Santora

A Date with a Book reviewed The Innocent by David Baldacci

The Book Nook reviewed The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins 


Writer's Advice

Terrifying Tales gives us How To Build Suspense

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.

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!!!

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review - When Maidens Mourn

I reviewed the book prior today's, Where Shadows Dance (click here).  We join Sebastian and his new wife just a few days into their marriage.   Nothing with Sebastian is simple, so his marriage, along with this latest case, are no exception.

 Author:  C.S. Harris

Copyright:  March 2012 (NAL) 352 pgs

Series:  7th in A Sebastian St. Cyr

Sensuality:  mild references

Mystery Sub-genre:  Historical amateur Sleuth

Main Character:  Sebastian St. Cyr and his new wife Hero

Setting:  1812, London and Camlot Moat England

Obtained Through:  Publisher for an honest review

A friend of Hero's, Gabrielle Tennyson, is found murdered where she was conducting research to prove the location of Camelot.  Her two young nephews, who were with her, are missing and a massive search for the boys begins.  Stumped by the murder, the local constable welcomes Sebastian St. Cyr's assistance with the investigation.  Hero and Sebastian are newly married and have not come to trust each other yet, so they are working on the murder separately.  Both struggle with a relationship that neither envisioned, nor for the blossoming feelings for each other.

Sebastian and Hero are stilted in several of their scenes together.  I understand the author is showing their difficult position, but at times the flow was bumpy.  This edition shows how Hero is trying to be a good daughter, even though her new husband and father are sworn enemies.  Hero is in a difficult spot because she knows her father will resort to murder if he thinks it is for Britain's best good, while she shares many of Sebastian's views on justice for all.  Both characters, and their relationship, are developed.  The victim, Gabrielle Tennyson, is a fascinating character even in death.  A deadly new character, apparently a smuggler, brings up suspicions, since he looks very much like Sebastian - including the yellow eyes.  There is a French  lieutenant prisoner of war that was a memorable portrayal.

The historical setting is vibrant and teaming with atmosphere while maintaining the blunt realities of the times. The investigating seems a little aimless, possibly because there were several differing clues to follow.  The mystery has a sense of urgency since the two boys are missing.  The solution to the murder was not expected and a little anti-climatic in honesty.  The reader is led by many red-herrings and the  real motive was...mundane.  The climax had some deadly turns that paid off well.  The finish was satisfying and a smooth setup for the next book.

Overall an enjoyable outing with Sebastian and Hero, with some poignant moments, although not as challenging of a mystery.  It introducing some complications and promises some surprises for the next book. 


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