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Monday, December 30, 2013

Author Interview - Laura Morrigan

Reminder to bloggers out there - please submit any mystery book reviews to the blog carnival (
Today we are honored to have Laura Morrigan, author of the Call of the Wilde mysteries joining us for an interview.  I reviewed her debut novel of this series, Woof at the Door in July (click here).  Please welcome Laura.

Why do you write? Do you love it or love having done it? What motivates you?
I usually say I write to give the people in my head something to do and that's true. Like a lot of writers my mind is full of ideas and characters, I'm afraid if I didn't write I'd go crazy (well, crazier). What motivates me? Other writers, great stories and my deadline.

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 depends. For Woof at the Door I started with the concept. An animal psychic who ends up with the only witness to a crime but can't tell anyone because the witness is an animal. For A Tigers Tale I started with the victim, Brooke, a 16-year-old girl who is kidnapped.

For me, plotting and writing is all about questions. "What happened to her? Who took her? Why? How does Grace learn about it? What animals are involved?" And it kind of grows from there.

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?
Lord knows I try! I'm very hyper and ADD so keeping focused is an issue for me. Typically, I try to use note cards and label them, "Grace and Moss in Woods – Discover… Whatever" if there's a clue I circle or highlight it. Often, these scenes can be moved around to correct pacing issues or other problems with structure before I really dig in and start writing.
I want to emphasize that I try to do this. But as Yoda said, there is no try. So…

What do you and Grace have in common? How are you different?
We both love animals, obviously. Like Grace my patience with my fellow man can be limited and I'm often baffled by people.  We're both tenacious and loyal but unlike Grace I love to dance, get dressed up and talk to people.

Grace Wilde is likeble and interesting, and the rest of the crew is great as well.  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?
 My characters tend to develop over time. I do trying to keep character sheets with info just for clarity and reference. It can be easy to forget little details- people's last names or eye color. Once in a Blue Moon, I'll meet someone and I'll be inspired to create a character.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?   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?
  Forever. It takes me forever to write a book. Okay, seriously, and I'm being honest here, it takes me as long as my deadline allows – usually nine months. That's not to say I write for nine months, I'd be lying if I told you I did. In truth, there's a lot of thinking, procrastinating, researching etc... until panic sets in and I pretty much vomit out a novel while weeping and pulling at my hair.
I do not recommend this method.

How much research goes into your work and do you complete that up front or "just enough" as you go?
 Research, for me, is like walking a tightrope over the ocean. If I don't focus and balance I'll fall into the abyss of information and drown. There have been times when I blink and say, "Why am I reading about ancient Assyrian goddesses?"
Does that answer your question?

What in your background prepared you to write mysteries?
 Well, being crazy helps! Okay, really, I believe the only background you need to write in any genre is writing. Reading, too, but mostly, if you want to be able to write- you've got to start, well, writing.

In literature (not your own) who is your favorite mystery/suspense character?

I love Win from the Myron Bolitar books by Harlan Coben and Einstein from the Watchers by Koontz. Hannibal Lecter is also a fav. (what does that say about me??) 

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?
 Truly, I'm inspired by every author I meet. I encourage other writers to go to conferences and festivals and meet other writers. Otherwise, I have to say Edgar Allan Poe. When I was 12 I found out we share a birthday and said, "I'm going to be a writer, too!" (this is a true story.)

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?
 I signed with my agent via a query letter. The process took forever. I would say most writers would have far better chance attending a conference (or three) sign up for a pitch session, socialize! Face to face is so much better than the slush pile.

What's the one thing a reader has said that you've never forgotten and perhaps found startling?
At Bouchercon I had a reader tell me she cried (no spoilers!) I was very moved– especially since my books are pretty lighthearted. I've also had people tell me after reading my book they look at animals differently... wonder what they're thinking or how they feel, which is awesome!

If your Call of the Wilde mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?  I have no idea!  Though, I've always pictured Kai as a bit like Keanu Reeves in Point Break.

Tell us about your next book in the series - or next

project?  What is your biggest challenge with it?
 The next book is A Tigers Tale.  Grace is called to an animal rescue facility when a tiger goes on the attack. It turns out he's upset because his best (human) friend has been kidnapped. I just turned in my copy edits so, Yippeee!

Do you have a newsletter or blog for readers to stay informed of your news?
 I'm getting a newsletter together soon, I swear! In the meantime, people can like my Call of the Wilde Mysteries page on Facebook or e-mail me.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK YOU Laura for that great interview.  Love the Yoda reference and your work schedule!

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review - Cry in the Night

This is another stand alone novel from the author of the Death on Demand mystery Series and the Ruth Bailey Ghost mysteries.  I reviewed her prior novel "What the Cat Saw" (click here for review) and interviewed the author (click here.)  This is written in the style of the old Gothic suspense novels like Mary Stewart's "Moonspiners" and "Airs Above the Ground", and reminded me of Agatha Christie's "They Came to Baghdad" - only portraying a modern woman.

Author: Carolyn Hart

Copyright: Dec 2013 (Berkley) 256 pgs

Series: Stand-alone Novel

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Gothic suspense

Main Characters:
Sheila Ramsay, Egyptologist at  NYC museum

Setting: 1982, New York but primarily Mexico City

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

Sheila attends a conference at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and sits in on a lecture by Jerry Elliot, visiting curator at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. After the lecture Sheila and Jerry strike up a conversation and spend the day together.  That short time of fast friendship makes an impression on Sheila well after the conference is over and she returns to New York and her Egyptology department.

Some time passes and her museum needs to return an old manuscript they were studying to the family that lent it.  Sheila puts her name in the hat to return the manuscript to the Ortega family in Mexico city with the hope of getting some sightseeing in and visiting Jerry Elliot again.  Sheila is picked to make the trip to return the manuscript to the Ortega Family.  As soon as the plane lands she is in somebody's cross-hairs with a note handed to her in the airport threatening death if she doesn't return to New York.  Her first night at the Ortega's mansion she awakes in the night from a sharp cry...thus begins the danger she will face without knowing how she has been injected into a deadly hunt for ancient treasure. 

Sheila is a level headed, smart gal who takes a step outside her comfort zone only to be thrown into a dangerous situation out of her control.  She handles what is dealt her with reason and appropriate fear.  Jerry Elliot proves to have a one-track mind on antiquities above Sheila's situation.  He does provide key information but is not what Sheila remembered nor expected. In true gothic fashion, the man who captures Sheila's imagination, Tony Ortega, is an enigma through most of the novel.  Other members of the Ortega family are involved, but Rita and Francesca, ten year old twin sisters of Tony are memorable.

The setting is divided between the Ortega's mansion in Mexico City and sights in Mexico. 
Sheila is just being a tourist when a suspenseful drama unfolds at Teotihuacan (City of the Gods), an archaeological site with famous Mesoamerican pyramids.  Incorporating such distinctive sights helps to transport the readers into the exotic locale.
This is a shorter book of only 256 pages, which results in a fast paced story overall.  Surprisingly there were still a few spots that seemed a bit slow.  The plot is a slight stretch, but believable enough for an entertaining novel.  There are plenty of suspects and information is slowly revealed, which keeps the reader in the dark along with Sheila.  It has a good suspenseful killer reveal and climax that brings the story threads crashing to a finale.  There is one little question left unanswered at the end, purposefully left hanging.  The wrap-up provides a feel good ending despite the fall out.

If you miss the gothic suspense novels and yearn for a similar story, you will enjoy this exotic race amid Mexican ruins.

Rating: Good, not great - A fun read with fast pace for a light adventure.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Review - The Vanishing Thief

Kate Parker has been a published author of Romantic Suspense and Historical Romance, but this is her debut into the Historical Mystery genre.  Since I am not a romance reader, let's see how it stands up to my scrutiny.

Author: Kate Parker

Copyright: December 2013 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Victorian Bookshop Mystery

Sensuality: mild romance

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Sleuth

Main Characters: Georgia Fenchurch, antiquarian bookseller and member of the Archivist Society

Setting: Victorian era - after 1851, London

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

One day in Georgia's bookstore, a frantic woman comes in and insists the Archivist Society help her.  Georgia must deal with her quickly, since the society is supposed to be a secret group of private investigators led by the mysterious Sir Broderick.  Edith Carter insists that her neighbor, Nicholas Drake, has been abducted by the Duke of Blackford.  Nicholas apparently left behind a pool of blood in his home entryway, indicating he was injured.

Georgia and the Archivist Society take the case and Georgia heads up the investigation. She finds out that Drake had been blackmailing many of London society and the list of suspects widens beyond the Duke of Blackford. The dark and dashing Duke of Blackford has motive because of his sister, who was suspected in his fiance's untimely death.  Georgia may have to expose Blackford even though they clearly have chemistry between them.  Lady Westover, a society friend of the Archivist Society, helps Georgia act as a relative so she can move among society and ask questions of Drake's victims. 

A subplot emerges as Georgia sees the murderer of her parents (who also rendered Sir Broderick to a wheelchair) walking along the street one day.  It had been twelve years ago, when Georgia was seventeen, and she is the only one to survive that saw the killer's face. She loses him in the crowd, but it spurs her to start looking for him again so she can see justice for her parents.

Georgia, a middle-class "old maid" is bright, brave, determined, and leading a double life. She loves her mundane bookstore and is passionate about her work with the archivist society, and she also has some baggage from the murder of her parents.  She has a methodical mind which works through the several suspects to find the kidnapper - and ultimately killer.  Emma works for Georgia in the bookstore, is her closest friend and is also a member of the society.  Phyllida is Georgia and Emma's honorary aunt and takes care of the two as they all live together over the bookstore.  Adam Fogarty, once a policeman but discharged for a injured bum leg, is the society's pipeline for police information.  Sir Broderick, former partner of Georgia's father, is the man who organized clerks, booksellers, and disabled police into an investigative society to fill his days since being wheelchair bound.  The Duke of Blackford is dangerous and influential, but the reader senses he has met his match in Georgia - but are his intentions toward her honorable? 

Victorian England is resurrected in this book with high society families and their skeletons.  The parties and the hidden agendas are all clues to what happened to Nicholas Drake. Victorian England valued privacy as a hallmark, thus the idea of upper class family's privacy being invaded would be a particularly big concern for the time.

The idea of the Archivist Society may not be completely probable, but the era saw a rise in social awareness and a growing middle class which could feasibly allow for such a rag tag company of concerned people investigating cases.  The romance elements were handled to deliver a hint of what might develop, providing some suspense and tension to keep the reader wondering and hoping.  The pace of this novel from the opening to the last page is quick, which keeps your attention riveted.  I have to give kudos for the setup to the climax and the revealing of the killer which were blood pumping.  The wrap-up had a few story twists yet to deliver on the main story and the sub-plot, leaving the reader gasping for the next book (The Counterfeit Lady due for publication August 2014.)

A fast paced historical mystery with a unique premise and enjoyable characters that promises to propel readers through pages and garner fans instantly.  Kate Parker is a notable addition to historical mystery writers.

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

Here is a recipe for a quick and easy treat.  This is simple, yet so decadent.

Monkey Bread


    3 (12 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit dough
    1 cup white sugar
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1/2 cup margarine
    1 cup packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
    1/2 cup raisins


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9 or 10 inch Bundt® pan.

    Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Cut biscuits into quarters. Shake 6 to 8 biscuit pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. Arrange pieces in the bottom of the prepared pan. Continue until all biscuits are coated and placed in pan. If using nuts and raisins, arrange them in and among the biscuit pieces as you go along.

    In a small saucepan, melt the margarine with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the biscuits.

    Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Do not cut! The bread just pulls apart.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday ideas

Today's post is more a hodge-podge of items I hope you enjoy.

I like to give and receive holiday cards.  But I still like to make my cards when time allows.  In this digital, e-book, email card era receiving an old school card in the mail is even more special.  If you enjoy giving cards, consider buying a few extra, write some encouragement, and delivering them to the hospital or a nursing home.  I remember being a child in the hospital over Christmas day and it can be rather sad.  The elderly can always use some extra cheering up as well.

If you enjoy baking, you might like this great idea called "Drop In And Decorate" (click here for website).  I shared about this in 2011, but I think it is worth mentioning again.  You pick a charity that is "serving basic human needs (food or shelter) in your community, without discrimination," enlist cookie bakers, invite friends over to decorate the cookies and then donate them to the charity.  If the shelter or food pantry can't take home made food, then sell those decorated cookies and give the proceeds. I thought this was a fantastic idea that even children can join in on the fun and it spreads the holiday giving theme and encourages a holiday tradition that brings people together.   The website provides a "How to Host," food safety, and even decorating guidelines.  Here is a short video about the Drop In & Decorate idea featuring three different events across America.

While we are on the topic of  cookies, remember making holiday cookies with grandma when you were young? You probably used Aunt Chick's cookie cutters. Aunt Chick's was the Martha Stewart of her time and her cutters were enjoyed by everyone from Prince Charles to housewives across America. Find out more at  Here is a short video that gives a history of these unique three-dimensional cookie cutters

Now to make your holidays even more decadent, here is a rich recipe :-)  This dessert pie, layered with chocolate, coconut, and pecans, tastes like a million dollars!

Millionaire's Pie (from

2/3  cup dark-colored corn syrup
1/2  cup sugar
1/2  cup butter or margarine
4  eggs
1/4  cup all-purpose flour
1   teaspoon vanilla
1   Pastry for Single-Crust Pie
1  6  ounce package (or 1 cup) semsiweet chocolate pieces
1 1/3  cups flaked coconut
1   cup pecan pieces (about 4 ounces)


1.  In a small saucepan, stir together corn syrup and sugar. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is melted and mixture boils; remove from heat. Stir in butter until melted; set aside to cool slightly (about 10 minutes).
2.  Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll Pastry for Single-Crust Pie to form a 12-inch circle. Ease into a 9-inch pie plate, being careful not to stretch pastry. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry. Crimp edge. Set aside.
3.  In a large bowl, beat eggs, flour, and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until mixture is blended and smooth. Add corn syrup mixture in a slow, steady stream, beating constantly.
4.  In pastry shell, layer coconut, semisweet chocolate pieces, and pecan pieces. Pour egg mixture over all, spreading evenly. Cover edge of pastry shell with foil.
5.  Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 1 hour. Remove foil; bake for 20 minutes more or until filling is set in center and slightly puffed. Cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream, if you like. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review - Death on the Greasy Grass

I have been following this series since the beginning.  I have reviews for book two "Death Where the Bad Rocks Live" (click here) and book one "Death Along the Spirit Road" (click here.)  This time we travel to Montana for parts of the story that brings old enemies, Lakota Sioux and Crow, together again. 

Author: C.M. Wendelboe

Copyright: June 2013 (Berkley Publishing) 384 pgs

Series: 3rd in Manny Tanno Mystery series

Sensuality: mild adult references

Mystery Sub-genre: police procedural

Main Characters: Manny Tanno, FBI agent

Setting: Modern day, Crow and Lakota reservations

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Manny and tribal-cop buddy Willie are on vacation and Manny insists on going to the re-enactment of The Battle of the Little Big Horn - known as Custer's Last Stand (or The Battle of Greasy Grass Creek.)  One of the re-enactors is killed with real bullets during the battle and the FBI ends up assigning Manny to investigate what looks like a cold blooded murder.  A secondary storyline unfolds with sections told in the past following Custer's Crow scout, Levi Star Dancer, who kept a journal of some shady moves during the Battle of the Little Big Horn that could be damaging to the living descendants.

Manny is middle-aged, a little overweight, recently diagnosed with diabetes, continually battling with his cigarette cravings, and is also a long-time bachelor now engaged and nervous about marrying.  In this outing, Manny faces tragedy and has to overcome a lot emotionally to solve the case and come out alive.  Willie's character is funny and bittersweet in this book, his character becoming further entrenched in the reader's hearts and minds with each book.  Stumper is a Crow agency cop helping Manny and Willie with the case.  He isn't very experienced and Manny does plenty of on-the-job training with him.  Manny's brother Reuben plays an active role in some key scenes.  Reuben's scenes are some of my favorites, since this character is like a treasure slowly doled out.  Levi Star Dancer from the 1876 sections is a simple man whose emotions run deep as he writes of events that he feels must be recorded for future generations.  I think he is the surprise standout character in this book.

The setting is split between the Crow reservation in Montana and the South Dakota reservations that both subtly envelope the reader and transport you. This is just one of the strengths of the author, in evoking the atmosphere and emotions of the land intertwined with the people.  The plot begins with the simple premise that Levi Star Dancer's journal is at the center of murder, but as the story progresses there is much more at stake than Levi's recorded thoughts and their modern fall-out.  The twists and revelations keep the pace going strong.   

The climax is another heart racing scene that packs tension and action.  The wrap-up of the story ties a bow on the adventure, wrapping everything up and makes you want the next book now so you don't miss a moment with the characters. 

This series has set a high standard and thus far continues to deliver nuanced, exciting, and compelling story-telling. 

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

If it is cold and snowing where you are, stay warm my friends.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Musing Mondays

Over at Should Be Reading blog they give suggested topics to write about.  The last suggestion for today was "maybe you just want to ramble about something else pertaining to books."  That is the one I picked. 

December 2011 I wrote about Holiday Themed mysteries (click here.)   November 2011 I wrote about giving books as gifts, something I love to do (click here.)  

This year I am wondering if reading helps you manage the stress of the hectic holiday season, or does it add to the it.  Reading is what helps me unwind and de-stress, which is why I read before bedtime usually.  If I go a day or two without getting much bedtime reading in, everything feels discombobulated.  When I have less time to read I feel a pressure to somehow get that reading time in so I can meet the deadline of posting a review.  Then I am not unwinding with the reading, but rather completing yet another task on my list.  

Does that happen to you?  Does this time of year impact your reading at all?  Or, does reading remain your mini-retreat and oasis through the season?

Reindeer Hot-Cocoa Cones

*Hot cocoa (powdered)
*Mini marshmallows
*Piping bags (can be purchased at your local craft store)
*Red Pom Poms (can be purchased at your local craft store)
*Brown Pipe Cleaners (can be purchased at your local craft store)
*Googoo eyes (can be purchased at your local craft store)

1. Fill your Piping bags with the hot cocoa mix (2 cups worth per bag)
2. Top with mini marshmallows.
3. Tie them off it a knot.
4. Wrap your pipe cleaner around the knot to make them look like antlers. 5. Using double-sided tape, tape the goo-goo eyes, and red pom poms to your bags 

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Throw a Cookie Swap Party

There were not enough submissions of book reviews to have a blog carnival this month.  Submissions will be held over for next month though.  

Take a fun break from the hectic shopping, decorating, and wrapping to spend some quality time with friends around the idea of sharing cookies.  This could be a new tradition that brings many memories to your holiday without adding to the stress level.

The idea is each person should have various cookies plus some new recipes for their own cookbook.

Part of the fun of a cookie swap is seeing what types of cookies people make and why.  Consider asking guests to share their story behind their exchange recipes.
Have they been making this recipe for years?  Is it a family recipe?  It can be just as fun to hear the meaning behind the different cookies as it is to gather and devour them.

From Bon Appetit website, here is "How to Throw a Holiday Cookie Swap Party:"

1. Determine the Guest List. Choose a group of 10-20 friends who you think would be interested in sharing their holiday workload (and baked goods!) with you. In the invitation, ask each guest or family to bring 6 dozen of his or her favorite holiday cookies, and to send you the recipe ahead of time. Obviously, this kind of invitation is best directed at your most  gifted baking buddies, but you may also choose to invite a few non-bakers, like your single uncle Maury with the sweet-tooth. After all, ’tis the season to be big-hearted.

2. Set the Date and Time. Choose a date that works best for you and your guests’ work and travel schedules. You will want to have the party close enough to the holidays so the cookies will last, but not so late that you get caught up in the last-minute rush–usually about a week to ten days in advance works well. A cookie swap party can be any time of day, depending on what works best for your schedule. Try to send invitations at least a few weeks in advance to allow people to plan. “I need you to bake six dozen cookies” isn’t the sort of thing you should spring on a friend at the last minute.

 3. Set the Rules. Be sure to include a list of clear instructions in the invitations. Let your guests know how many cookies to bring, when they should RSVP, and when to send in their recipes. Warn them to be flexible–you may have to ask a friend to make something different if you are sent six variations on chocolate chip cookies. Our suggested set of rules:

    a. Cookies should be homemade and seasonally appropriate
    b. Cookies should be imperishable enough to last several days after baking
    c. Cookies should be made from scratch by an adult
    d. No burnt cookies, please

4. Get Set. To prepare for the party, set your largest table with enough festive bowls and platters to hold each guest’s contributions. Mixing in a few footed cake stands will help maximize table space and visual appeal. You will also need enough tongs for each platter, so party guests can make their selections without touching the cookies with their hands. Once you receive the name of each participant’s selected cookie, print or write it on place cards and set them in front of the platters for easy identification and selection. Ask each guest to bring recipe cards for the other guests (or, for bonus points, gather all of the recipes in a computer file and print copies of them for each guest to take home). Provide inexpensive paper bakery boxes and festive twine for guests to package and take home their cookies–several smaller boxes per guest are better than one large one, as different cookies types should be kept separate to best retain their flavor. (Alternatively, for a greener spin on things, you can ask each guest to bring his or her own plastic containers or cookie tins).

5. Provide Snacks and Refreshments. While the cookies at a cookie swap are mostly meant to be taken home, of course, there is bound to be plenty of sampling during the party. Be sure to offset all those sweet treats with savory foods, like an egg casserole for a brunch-time party, or dips, cheeses and olives for an afternoon soiree (see our some one-bite appetizers here). You will also want to serve beverages that compliment the foods, like hot tea and coffee in the morning, or a festive punch and sparkling wine at cocktail hour. And a glass of either cold milk or hot chocolate is a cookie’s best friend at any time of day.

6. For the Kids. If you are planning to invite children to your party, a few special preparations, like a cookie-decorating station, will keep them happily entertained (and allow the grown-ups to talk without being terrorized by sugar-crazed youngsters). Set up a low table with undecorated sugar cookies in festive shapes and an assortment of icings, candies, and sprinkles. Provide the children with disposable paper aprons and chef’s hats and allow them to decorate the cookies as they choose.

Follow these steps and you’ll have a party with friends, food, festive cheer, and enough baked goods to last you the rest of the season. Sweet.

Party Supply Checklist
* 10-20 friends who bake
* Invitations with clear instructions
* Enough serving platters and tongs for each type of cookie
* Placecards to label cookies
* Festive decorations
* Disposable napkins, plates, cups and cutlery
* Savory party foods and beverages
* Cookie packaging
* 6 dozen of your own favorite holiday cookies
* Sugar cookies and cookie-decorating supplies

Now swap ‘til you drop!

I hope this idea adds to the enjoyment of your holidays!  Enjoy.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review - A Cookbook Conspiracy

I have been following this series for a while.  I have reviewed #6 Peril in Paperback (click here), #4 One Book in the Grave (click here), and #3 The Lies That Bind (click here).  This week we return to San Francisco and our brave book restorer in a celebrity chef murder.

Author: Kate Carlisle

Copyright: April 2013 (NAL/Signet) 320 pgs

Series: 7th in Bibliophile Mysteries series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Brooklyn Wainwright, expert book binder and restorer

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Savannah, Brooklyn’s sister, graduated from the prestigious Cordon Bleu school in Paris. Savannah and her old classmates have gone on to successful careers, particularly the superstar Baxter Cromwell -- Savannah’s ex-boyfriend.

Baxter invites the group of old friends to his new restaurant’s spectacular opening in San Francisco.  Savannah asks Brooklyn to restore a very old cookbook, once a gift from Baxter, for a present for Baxter. Brooklyn realizes the book is a rare find and probably valuable.  Derek notices strange notes and symbols scrawled in the margins of the book as being a code and his brother Dalton can’t resist coming to the States to see the code…and Brooklyn.

Shortly after Savannah presents Baxter with the gift, Baxter is dead, with Savannah found kneeling over him with the bloody knife.  The rare cookbook has disappeared as well. Of course Savannah didn’t kill Baxter.  So, Brooklyn is determined to figure out who the killer is and get the cookbook back. Fortunately, Brooklyn had made a copy of the cookbook and Dalton works on the code.

Brooklyn is becoming more secure in her relationship with Derek with this book.  Derek is right beside Brooklyn rather than nagging to not get involved, which makes the book enjoyable.  Gabriel is a no-show is this addition to the series, so Gabriel fans take note.  Savannah is developed far more than in past books and proves to be quite interesting.  Dalton, Derek's brother, adds some fun to the storyline, and some romance for Savannah.  I have to mention Brooklyn’s mom is getting to be caricature more and more, thus loosing the quirky charm and just being insulting.

San Francisco was not used much itself, mostly the posh restaurant.  The reader spends more time in Baxter's restaurant and Brooklyn's apartment with an outing to her parents place.  The plot is classic cozy with a handful of suspects and clues scattered throughout.  The killer confrontation had some twists and was emotional.

This is a classic cozy mystery with an interesting plot and varied characters that present an entertaining puzzle. This series is always a winner for an enjoyable mystery.

Ratings: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful For You!

Thank you dear readers!  I am amazed at how many people want to share the reading journey with me.  You warm my heart and remind me that, no matter what happens in life, I am never completely alone in my walk on this planet.  That is an amazing gift.  Reading is an adventure, but sharing books and thoughts crosses so many boundaries and borders. You guys ROCK.

And just for the funny bone - these recipes could probably work for leftover turkey as well :-)

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Make Holidays Easier

We are just a few days from the U.S.'s Thanksgiving holiday where a big dinner is anticipated, and yes, expected.  Too often the cook(s) spend more of their time preparing the feast rather than enjoying family and friends.  This holiday season, consider preparing as much of your meal ahead of time as possible.  

Here is a handy webpage with many make ahead recipes ranging from appetizers and side dishes to breads and desserts (click here.)

I found this recipe years ago and lost it.  I finally found it again.  This is delicious.

              Pecan Pumpkin Pie Recipe


         Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
        2 eggs
         1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
         1/2 cup maple syrup
         1/4 cup sugar
         1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
         1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    2 Eggland's Best Eggs, lightly beaten
     1 cup chopped pecans
     1/2 cup sugar
     1/2 cup maple syrup
    Whipped topping, optional


    Line a 9-in. pie plate with pastry; trim and flute edges. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, pumpkin, syrup, sugar, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg until smooth; pour into pastry.
    For the topping, in a large bowl, combine the eggs, pecans, sugar and syrup; spoon over top.
    Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°. Bake 40-45 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and top of pie is set.
    Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight. Serve with whipped topping if desired.

Enjoy your holidays.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review - The Pumpkin Muffin Murder

I got into a muffin baking mood, and with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching this book seemed perfect.  The included recipes where mouth watering to just read.  Tired of jumping from Halloween right into Xmas?  Enjoy a little Harvest and Thanksgiving time with this book.

Author: Livia Washburn

Copyright: November 2010 (NAL) 272 pgs

Series: 5th in Fresh Baked Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Phyllis Newsom widowed retired school teacher

Setting: Modern day, small town Weatherford, Texas

Obtained Through: Library

The premise is simple for this cozy, it is the big fall festival and  Phyllis discovers one of the scarecrows scattering around the grounds for decoration is actually a dead man, realtor Logan Powell. To make matters worse, the victim has one of Phyllis' pumpkin muffins she was entering in the baking contest crammed in his mouth.  The police are looking solely at this wife, a teacher and acquaintance of Phyllis'.  Phyllis begins asking questions because she doesn't feel it is so simple.  A side story is Phyllis caring for her young grandson Bobby throughout the investigation.  Did Logan cheat on his wife, or was he involved in a lucrative but unethical real state deal that got him killed?

Phyllis lives with several other retired teachers in her large home, does community service, and bakes delicious goods like muffins. But I could not tell you about her inner struggles of feelings.  Carolyn seemed to be a live-wire and passionate about people.  Dana, the accused seemed too downtrodden to get a sense of anything else about the character.  Sam, who everyone in Weatherford considers Phyllis' boyfriend, was nice, kind, easygoing...and rather bland - in this book at least.

The setting is standard small town fare with the common festival/fair as the social event for the murder.  The plot is to prove the innocence of an accused, who really looks guilty from the circumstantial evidence. The plot remains uncomplicated and true to a cozy.  The pacing remained steady, although it was a bit tame for my taste (not enough sense of urgency or tension).  The climax had some good moments. 

If you want a light cozy to curl up with, this is a good standard cozy that will deliver the expected characters and small town drama.  No surprises for those who like a more wholesome mystery.

Rating: Good - A fun read without complications.

Here is a Pumpkin Muffin recipe video for your Thanksgiving dinner enjoyment.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - November 2013

It is the first Monday of the month...or a smidgen late - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival. 

Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers (even occasionally) then I would like to feature those reviews.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

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 / Legal

Back to Books reviewed Unseen by Karin Slaughter

Back to Books reviewed Joe Victim by Paul Cleave

Back to Books reviewed How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman saying, "This would be classified Psychological Thriller."

 The Crime Scene reviewed The Jewel That Was Ours by Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse #9) saying, "The Jewel That Was Ours is a classic Inspector Morse novel."

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Opal Fire by Barbra Annino

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Bled and Breakfast by Michelle Rowen

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Potion to Die For by Heather Blake

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Author Interview

The Crime Scene presents Author Interview: Michael J McCann  saying, "Michael J McCann is a Canadian author of crime fiction. He writes the Donaghue and Stainer series about two US cops."

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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: (

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