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Friday, November 30, 2012

Review - Recipe for Treason

I reviewed the first book SWEET REVENGE (click here) and the second in the series THE COCOA CONSPIRACY (click here), as well as interviewed the author (click here).  Today I review the newest addition to the series and judge how well it is keeping up with the bar set in the first two books.

Author:   Andrea Penrose

Copyright:  December 2012 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Lady Arianna Regency Mysteries

Sensuality:  mild romance

Mystery Sub-genre:  Historical Intrigue

Main Character:  Lady Arianna Hadley

Setting:  England, 1814

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

Time-wise, this book picks up closely after the finish of the second in the series.  This book can stand on its own, but is richer if the prior two books have been read.  We join Lady Arianna and her new husband Sandro, the Earl of Saybrook, as they travel with their friend Henley to Scotland to follow up on their discovery of a traitorous plot against England.  They are ambushed on the road, and while in Scotland it is clear the adversary is one step ahead of them. Could their be a traitor among the English government?  Who can be trusted grows more murky as Arianna and the Earl of Saybrook race against the clock to keep explosive plans from striking a blow against England.  

To add to the personal stakes, the Earl's long standing friendship with a society lady, Miss Sophia Kirtland, is brought to the forefront since her assistance is needed.  Arianna's conflicted feelings are swirling amidst the cat-and-mouse game of intrigue, which notches up the tension overall.

Arianna is a smart action oriented character, perfect for intrigue and improvisation as she dons disguises and chases shadows. The marriage of convenience with the Earl is getting more difficult as her feelings become stronger for him.  In this addition to the series, the reader isn't as sure about the Earl's feelings as in the last book, which combines with the intrigue for an emotional ride.  The Earl is more of a forceful presence as he and Arianna risk their lives.  Their friend Hennley takes some emotional hits and his loyalties are even questioned.  The Earl's friendship with Sophia Kirtland brings a new, strong female to the mix.  She throws a few twists for Arianna, but adds to the overall story in her own right.  Sophia was the breakout character that the reader can't help but become invested in.

This series takes full advantage of the regency time period with the innovations to hot air balloon travel and the rumors of Napolean attempting to escape exile and make a power grab.  Scotland and London are wonderously portrayed taking the reader vividly to that time and place in the past.

The plot is an enjoyable romp with a few areas to catch your breath. The pacing is taut and finely balanced to create a page-turner.  Well done!  The climax has a well conceived and executed suspenseful chase.  The wrap-up answers some questions, but leaves others dangling to entice the reader with the next book. 

This book is on the verge of tipping over into a historical thriller with its breathless intrigue worthy of a regency-era Laura Croft-esque heroine and equally adventurous hero, yet with developed characters to contribute to the recipe.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.  It really is that good.  I am still surprised this isn't released in hard-cover. If you enjoy C.S. Harris or Tasha Alexander, you should love this book too.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Card Projects

Greeting cards are part of the holiday season. We make lists of who should get a card, but without fail you will receive a card from a person you did not expect to. Oh the shame.

But what if you made or bought holiday cards to inspire somebody going through a really tough time, somebody who needs a bright spot in their day? Heidi at deviantART has started the Holiday Card Project for just this purpose.

From the website (click here) "In past years, the Project has received more than 5,000 cards sent in by more than 1,000 deviants from 50 different countries/political regions. Cards were then divvied up and distributed in-person by deviantART members to local Los Angeles, CA hospitals, with additional cards given to various hospitals in the U.S. and abroad for hospital staff members to hand out to patients."

"The purpose of the Holiday Card Project is to have deviants create physical holiday cards for people who are hospitalized during the holiday season — helping to bring a little cheer to those who are undergoing a hospital stay."

You can hand make a card or two, or purchase them, write an encouraging note (share your favorite inspirational poem or quote etc.) to that hospitalized stranger, and send it to:
deviantART, Inc.
Holiday Card Project
7095 Hollywood Blvd., #788
Hollywood, CA 90028

They take care of distributing to hospitals.  One quality, heartfelt card is better than several lacking feeling - so quality over quantity please.  This could be a great family activity to get the kids involved with.  Remember, you will place your cards and envelopes inside a mailer.  You can easily remain anonymous by leaving the return address on the card envelope blank.   Deadline is December 15 for them to receive the cards so they can distribute them.

As a bonus, you will receive one month of premium deviantART membership, so sign up for free and include a note with your username along with any cards you send them.  It is an amazing site with quality artwork touching on a wide range of tastes.

If you would like to remember our hospitalized or deployed military men and women, the Red Cross has a Holiday Mail for Heros drive (click here for details.)  Each year the Red Cross collects cards between October and early December and then distributes them at military installations, veterans hospitals, and in other locations.  Holiday Mail for Heroes, P.O. Box 5456, Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456.  The deadline for having cards to the P.O. Box is Friday, December 7th.

In addition to sending cards on your own, you may want to host card signing parties or card making parties.

I think this is a great way to keep the idea of giving from our hearts alive in the holiday hype.  Better than getting stressed over the commercial aspect.  I scrapbook and have been getting into card making - so I am making at least one for each of these groups to send in.  I am looking forward to it.   


Just a reminder note to please submit your mystery/suspense book blog reviews or author interviews for the Blog Carnival.  Last month there weren't enough submissions, so we did not have a carnival.  

Please submit links to recent articles (within the last 3 months) to keep the information fresh.  Submit at this link:

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Review - The Anatomist's Wife

This is a brand new historical mystery, or is it a historical suspense?  Whatever the case, here is an author to keep an eye on as the Lady Darby Mystery series debuts.

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: November 2012 (Berkley) 368 pgs

Series: 1st in Lady Darby Mysteries

Sensuality: Mild period references to promiscuity

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Suspense

Main Characters: Lady Kiera Darby, an accomplished artist and widow, society outcast

Setting: 1830, Scotland - isolated Gairloch Castle

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Kiera's husband died unexpectedly a year and a half ago.  Sir Anthony Darby married her for one reason only, to use her artistic ability to illustrate his book.  He was an anatomist and surgeon, one of the men who dissected scores bodies to document how the human body functioned back when medicine was getting more scientific.  Kiera was forced to do the illustrations of internal organs etc. during the dissections.  When her husband suddenly died, the truth was revealed about her husband's work and her part.  She is considered unnatural and evil by the majority of people and thus is an outcast. She has been treated very badly by society and has taken refuge, for most of the past eighteen months, at her sisters home in Scotland healing from the many emotional scars.

Kiera's sister and her husband, Alana and Philip, decide to host a grand house party and have several people stay for a few days.  The book opens with the screams of one guest as the body of Lady Godwin is found in the popular shrubbery maze.  The son of a London investigator, Sebastian Gage, is in attendance and begins the investigation while everyone awaits the nearest official to arrive, in about six days.  Since Lady Darby is the closest thing to a medical examiner they have (after all her illustrations of bodies and internal medicine), she is pressed into lending a hand.  

Kiera's past comes back to haunt her when the consensus is that she must be the murderer and she is plagued, even in her sanctuary, by slander and vile gossip.  Kiera can't be sure that Gage isn't just keeping an eye on his number one suspect rather than really needing her assistance.  Upon Kiera's examining the body, it is clear Lady Godwin died from a slit throat, but the surprise is how she had been pregnant - obviously due to an affair since her husband has long been out of the country.

Kiera is a phenomenal character.  She is deeply wounded from being blatantly and coldly used during her marriage, then nearly terrorized after his death.  She trusts only her sister and is fiercely loyal to her.  Her assistance in the investigation shows that no matter how wounded and tormented, she has an inner strength that sees her through it all.  She has her vulnerable moments, which are completely realistic, yet she steels herself and rises to strike down the killer amongst them. Sebastian Gage is a capable enough investigator, but he is also a ladies-man.  His character transforms from a shallow flirt to a serious investigator that shrewdly eyes all the guests.  He also shows he can have compassion.  I liked his character and feel there is far more to him yet to be discovered. There is a tentative attraction between them that is so precarious it could crumble easily, which adds to the complexity and layers of this story.  Alana is the paragon of a loyal sister and devoted mother with a surprising sharp tongue and fighting spirit.  Her husband Philip is a good guy who loves his wife and clearly cares about Kiera and her rough life.  His character was a careful balance of brotherly concern and Lordly authority.  Lady Stratford was the surprising breakout character, but I can't share any more without some spoilers - so enough said.

The setting of isolated Gairloch Castle in Scotland was used to its fullest advantage.  This setting gave some Gothic touches and helped to heighten the suspense.  Well done. There is less a focus on heavy Scottish brogues and plaids and more on taking advantage of the castle in the challenging landscape.  I think this strategy paid off well.

This is a traditional mystery in the sense that there are a limited number of suspects all staying at the castle, and figuring out the murder's timing and movements are almost as important as the motive to the solving the case.  The plot unfolds as more information about the victim is revealed during the investigation, providing many suspects.  I did pick up on the subtle clues and had fingered the killer, but the motivation was a surprise.  The climax was high suspense and got the blood pumping.  The wrap up promises a reunion of Kiera and Mr. Gage for the next book.

Great historical, great traditional mystery, and great suspense all woven together into an edge-of-your-seat story that leaves a lasting impression.  I LOVED this book, I keep thinking about it after finishing it!! 

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy several copies: one for you and one for each of your historical-mystery-loving friends for gifts this holiday season! :-)

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Mystery fill-in-the-Blank Game III

The winner of a copy of "It Takes a Witch" is Brenda.  Brenda, you should get an email from me asking for your mailing address.  Thank you to everyone who commented on the Heather Blake interview.

We have not had a game for a while, so it is time for one.

The idea is to try and fill in the blank of each of these mystery book titles. These are all books from the same series. 

In a few days I will provide the answers and you can share how well you did.  Okay, here are the answers - how did you do?  Kaye was correct that all these titles are from the Diane Mott Davidson's Goldie series.

Let's give this a try.

1)  Catering to Nobody

2)  Dying for Chocolate

3)  Killer Pancake

4)  The Cereal Murders

5)  The Main Corpse

6)  The Grilling Season

7)  Fatally Flaky

8)  Sweet Revenge

9)  Dark Tort

10)  Chopping Spree

I hope you enjoyed this mystery game.  Please leave a comment and let me know how well you did.  Are they too easy?

Here is a great dessert for you.

Caramel Apple-Cherry Pie


    1 9 inch deep dish Piecrust (or 2 for strips to lay over top)

    Cranberry Compote
    1 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 cup orange juice
    2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
    20 fresh sweet cherries, pitted or 1 cup frozen unsweetened pitted dark sweet cherries.

    *If using frozen cherries, place cherries on a paper towel lined baking sheet. Let stand for 1 hour or until thawed.

    Caramel Apple Filling
    8 tart baking apples (Granny Smith) (2 to 2 1/4 pounds)
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 cup packed dark brown sugar
    1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1/4 cup whipping cream
    1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (can substitute pure vanilla extract)
    1 egg
    2 - 3 tablespoons coarse sugar


1. Prepare Piecrust. 

2. For Cranberry Compote, in a small saucepan combine cranberries, granulated sugar, orange juice, orange peel, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat until the cranberries begin to burst and mixture begins to thicken, stirring occasionally. Carefully stir in cherries. Remove from heat; cool.

3. For Caramel Apple Filling, in a large bowl gently toss together apples, lemon juice, and lemon peel. In a small bowl stir together brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Sprinkle over apples; stir gently to coat.

4. In a large pot melt butter over medium heat. Add apple mixture. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add whipping cream and vanilla. Continue cooking, stirring often, until juices thicken and apples are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool completely.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

6. Line dough with parchment; fill to top with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 20 minutes. Remove parchment and weights; bake 2 to 3 minutes more or until lightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.

7. Using 1 1/2- to 2-inch leaf or acorn cookie cutters, stamp out shapes, or simply cut strips; transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan.

8. Using a slotted spoon, spoon one-third of the cranberry mixture into the bottom of the prebaked crust. Layer half the apple mixture on top of the cranberries. Spoon another third of the cranberry mixture on top of the apples in random dollops. Spoon over remaining apples. Spoon remaining cranberry mixture on top in random dollops, leaving pockets of apple visible on top (placing the cranberry mixture in little pockets keeps the apples from being dyed red). Leave the flat edge of the crust free from filling.

9. Whisk together egg and 2 Tbsp. water; gently brush on edge of crust. Place some of the cutouts on the edge, pressing gently to adhere. Place remaining cutouts on top of filling; brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

10. Place a foil-lined baking sheet on rack below pie in oven to catch any dripping. Bake 40 minutes. Cover edges with foil; bake 10 to 15 minutes more or until crust is deep golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on wire rack at least 3 hours before serving.

Make Ahead:

    The cranberry filling, apple filling and pastry can be made up to 1 day ahead. Let the two filling stand at room temperature about 1 hour before assembling the pie.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review - Bear Bait

I reviewed the debut of this series, the book Endangered (click here), and I interviewed the author (click here).  This is the second book in the series.  Let's see if it measures up to the first book.

Author: Pamela Beason

Copyright: October 2012 (Berkley) 320 pgs

Series: 2nd in Summer Westin Mysteries

Sensuality: sex scenes

Mystery Sub-genre: Suspense, amateur sleuth

Main Characters:
Wildlife biologist Summer Westin

Setting: Modern day,
Olympic National Park in the
Pacific Northwest
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Summer is on a twelve-week project for the National Park Service at Olympic National Park, writing a management report to join new land into the park.  She also helps out as a volunteer fire-watcher, which is how she hears an explosion and calls in a fire.  After the fire is put out, they discover a park trail crew member, a young woman named Lisa Glass, who is badly burned and hanging onto life by a thread.  They also discover a hole blown in the earth uncovering an old forgotten mine.  There is local resistance to the adding of land to the park service because hunting is stopped.  Signs pop up throughout the new park land defying the new park management rules, which hints at an underground resistance to the Park Service management and authority.  Summer is confronted by an armed camo-wearing man outside any hunting season, which doesn't look good for a newly introduced bear into the park.   

A parallel subplot is Summer's relationship with FBI Agent Chase Perez that is sporatic with their busy schedules, but is taken to the next level during this book.  Agent Perez and his partner are in the area traking down robbers which may cross over into the activities Summer is facing.  There is another subplot of Ranger Joe Choi asking Summer to help with his thirteen year old daughter Lili who may be getting in over her head with a teacher and a clique that share the same tattoos as the burned trail crew member.

Summer is a passionate wildlife biologist who is stubborn, has a hard time taking orders, is vulnerable, and yet tough.  We find out more about Summer's precarious relationship with her authoritarian father, and her fear that her vagabond wilderness lifestyle is not agreeable to a long-term relationship.

Olympic National Park in the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful setting and you understand Summer's love of the park through the moonlit lake and lookout sunsets.  The author makes the park an integral player in the story, not just a backdrop.  The realities of Park Service management, wildlife conservation, and good old boy hunters thrown together are realistically portrayed.

The plot builds suspense by revealing more to the reader to keep you a few steps ahead of Summer and Agent Perez.  But the full scope of the true motivations and ultimate goal is slowly revealed even with the reader being more "in-the-know."  This builds the suspense to an edge of the seat climax where Summer is specifically in the cross-hairs.  The wrap up leaves the reader anxious to read the next book in the series.

This is a great second book with a solid suspenseful plot and pacing that will likely keep the reader up all night turning pages.  I feel it tops the debut book, which is a challenge for every author.  It is hard to not compare this series to Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series because of the theme of wildlife and parks, but the character of Summer Westin and the unique writing style carves a niche out all its own.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Author Interview - Heather Blake

Today we have a fantastic interview with Heather Blake, popular author of several mystery series.  She grew up in a suburb of Boston, but currently, she lives in the Cincinnati area with her family.  She's a Dr Pepper enthusiast, is addicted to competitive Reality TV, and crochets.  Heather has also graciously offered to give away a copy of her debut book in the Wishcraft series, It Takes a Witch, (click here for review of second book) to a commenter of this post.  Please welcome Heather Blake (aka Heather Webber).

Why do you write? Do you love it or love having done it? What motivates you?

At first, I wrote because there was a specific story to tell. Then, it became a bit of passion. I love writing. I love my characters. I love seeing what happens to them. These days my motivation is still about telling their stories, but now it’s also about the readers who love to read my books as well.

What is your routine when you're facing your next novel?  Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?
It sounds strange, but I usually start with a title, and the plot unfolds from there. I generally know who my killer and victim are when I start a novel, but that can (and has) changed from time to time during the writing of the book.

Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc.) before sitting down and writing?
Every book I write has its own notebook. All my ideas, character names, and story arc goes in that. I usually wing the first half of the book and plot the second half. When it’s done, I do extensive revisions to make sure it’s all cohesive.

Darcy Merriweather and Lucy Valentine are each interesting characters, and the rest of the crew in the books are great as well. What do you and Darcy or Lucy have in common? How are you different?
There’s a little bit of me in all my characters. Our loyalty, our quest for what’s right is a bit of what we have in common. They’re much braver than I am—and of course, I have no magical powers (bummer!).

What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?  How do you handle minor characters?
It’s a little bit of everything. Some pictures, some visualizing. I rarely do a character chart, because my characters never want to stick with it. My minor characters are treated the same way—because even though they’re minor they often play a big role.

You tend towards paranormal cozies with psychic Lucy, wishcrafter Darcy, and soon Carly with love potions.  What attracts you to writing mysteries with a playful touch of paranormal?
I grew up watching Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, and I have such a fascination for psychics. All that has influenced writing paranormal for me. It’s a fun twist to a murder plot, because even though there’s some magic going on, it doesn’t necessarily always solve the crime.

You had to do some world building for your wishcrafters etc., what was the good, bad, and ugly in the process?
Oh, the ugly. It’s HARD to build a world, especially when you write yourself into a corner. I’ve learned how to backtrack a lot. However, I adore the creativity it allows me. It’s really freeing.

Do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?
Nothing out of the ordinary. I do like background noise, so I’ll either have music on or the TV.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?  How is that schedule impacted writing multiple series simultaneously?
It usually takes me 4-6 months per book, sometimes less if I’ve really procrastinated (which happens often). I like to write five days a week for several hours a day, but there are times when my writing comes in fits and spurts. I’ve learned to go with the flow.

In literature (not your own) who is your favorite mystery/suspense character and your favorite paranormal character?
This is much too hard to answer. There are so many great characters out there that I can’t pick just one!

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?
Another tough question! One of my biggest influences was Janet Evanovich. Back when I started writing she was just hitting it big, and it was the first time I’d seen a funny mystery with a strong female lead. I loved the premise and it opened my mind to writing characters like that.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?
I’ve met with many agents and editors at conferences, but it was a blind submission to a small publishing house in 2001 that opened the publishing door for me. Seems like so long ago now!

What's the one thing a reader has said that you've never forgotten and perhaps found startling?
It’s not one thing, necessarily. It’s all the readers who take the time to write me to let me know how much they enjoy my books, or that my books helped them through a dark time. It’s very humbling, and as I mentioned earlier, it’s those readers that keep me writing.

If your Wishcraft mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?
I rarely cast my characters, simply for the fact that I love readers to visualize the characters themselves. But I’d love to hear who they think would be great in the roles!

Tell us your thoughts on the growing genre of paranormal mysteries and its popularity (i.e. is it here to stay or a fad, is it pushing the mystery genre envelope etc?)
I think the genre is here to stay! Paranormal offers a great escape from reality for a few hours, whether you like books with more mystery or more romance (or both as my case may be!).

Tell us about your next book in the series, THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WITCHY and the upcoming Love Potion Shop Mystery series?  What is your biggest challenge with both? 
The Good, the Bad, and the Witchy happens to be my favorite book in the Wishcraft series. When Darcy discovers the body of a young man, she’s soon “imprinted” with his ghost who won’t leave her until she solves his crime. It was such a fun—yet emotional—book to write. It delves deep into prejudices and wounds that aren’t always visible.

I’m currently working on the first potion book that doesn’t have an official title yet. It features Carly Hartwell, a magic potion shop owner who goes to work one day and finds a man dead in her break room—and he’s clutching one of her potion bottles. It’s set in Alabama, and I’m having a blast writing it.

Do you have a newsletter or blog for readers to stay informed of your news?
I send out an every-once-in-awhile newsletter a couple of times a year, usually when I have a new release. Readers can sign up via any of my websites. I’m also on Facebook as both Heather Blake and Heather Webber and on Twitter too, as @booksbyheather.

Thank you so much for the great interview!  Okay readers, leave comments (include your email address please) about the interview to be eligible for a copy of It Takes a Witch.  Which actors do you see as the cast for her books to be immortalized on the big screen?  What do you think of a third series featuring
a magic potion shop owner?

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Winners and Recipe

The winners of the Spooktacular Blog Hop Giveaway are Tragedy6996, Lisa Walker, Brenna, Coreena, and Sebrina.  You should have received an email from me asking for your regular mailing address.

Thank you to everyone who participated.

There is no monthly blog carnival this month because there were not enough entries.  We will shoot for next month.  

I wanted to share a recipe for the upcoming holidays to add a little variety to your celebration.

Granny Kat's Pumpkin Roll


3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 cup pumpkin puree

3 eggs

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch jelly roll pan or cookie sheet.
    In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir in pumpkin puree, eggs, and lemon juice. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread the mixture evenly.
    Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 minutes.
    Lay a damp linen towel on the counter, sprinkle it with confectioner's sugar, and turn the cake onto the towel. Carefully roll the towel up (lengthwise) with the cake in it. Place the cake-in-towel on a cooling rack and let it cool for 20 minutes.
    Make the icing: In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and sugar with a wooden spoon or electric mixer.
    When the cake has cooled 20 minutes, unroll it and spread icing onto it. Cake should be completely cooled or the icing will be runny, refrigerating the icing for a few minutes is good as well.  You may even add some finely chopped walnuts.  Immediately re-roll (not in the towel this time), and wrap it with plastic wrap. Keep the cake refrigerated or freeze it for up to 2 weeks in aluminum foil. Cut the cake in slices just before serving.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review - A Witch Before Dying

This week I review my first Heather Blake book!  I know, how did it take me so long?  We also have an upcoming interview with her, so stay tuned for that.  Read on for a review of the recently released second book in the Wishcraft Mystery series.

Author: Heather Blake

Copyright: August 2012 (NAL) 320 pgs

Series: 2nd in Wishcraft Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Darcy Merriweather, A Wishcrafter (a witch who can grant wishes for others)

Setting: Modern day, Salem Massachusetts

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Darcy and her Aunt Ve run a personal concierge service called "As You Wish". Darcy is hired to clean out a hoarder's house by the daughter, Elodie.  Elodie has tried to care for the house ever since her mother disappeared 18 months ago, but it is time to clean out the hoards of stuff and try to move on.  Darcy manages to uncover the mother's body in the piles of stuff, and she was definitely murdered.  As if that weren't bad enough, Darcy's house is being watched by somebody in the woods, and even gets threatened.  All of this on top of Aunt Ve being sick and nothing is helping her get better.  With Aunt Ve sick, it falls to Darcy to finish the preparations for Ve and Sylar's wedding fast approaching.  But there is somebody who is trying to sabotage the wedding as well.  Darcy has plenty to keep her busy, but how will she stay safe?

I enjoyed Darcy, a thirty-something divorcĂ©e, and her interactions with the other magical people.  I enjoyed her Aunt Ve and younger sister Harper as well.  Her growing relationship with Nick moves naturally and without rush.  Of course, Nick is a policeman, driving a mini-cooper in a pastel yellow.  But he is also a dad, which I did not get to see him as a dad much.  Darcy seemed to spend more time with Mimi than Nick.  Some whimsical characters are Pepe, a mouse, and Archie, a scarlet macaw who loves movie trivia, who help Darcy.  I think a breakout character was Marcus Debrowski, a young Lawcrafter interested in Harper.  There were many characters populating the village and at times I wish there had been a cheat-sheet listing the townspeople. 

The Enchanted Village of Salem is just that.  The magical town has magic rules and an Elder that keeps the rules enforced.  This is an entertaining backdrop that adds to the enjoyment.  The plot had several things going on that kept the pace and interest up.  Everything does get sorted out and explained by the end. 

The confrontation with the killer had some great tense moments and was not who I expected.  Good job with misdirection.  The wrap up was touching and did a great job of making the reader want to return to Enchanted Village.

This is a delightful paranormal cozy with touches of whimsy for a light enjoyable mystery that will even put a smile on your face.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

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