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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review - A Potion to Die For

This is a brand new series from the author of the The Wishcraft Mysteries.  We were fortunate to interview the author, Heather Black (click here.)  This new series is centered around a potion making witch in the small southern town that caters to weddings as an industry. 

Author: Heather Blake

Copyright: November 2013 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 1st in Magic Potion Mysteries

Sensuality: mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Carly Bell Hartwell, owner of Little Shop of Potions

Setting: Modern day, Hitching Post, Alabama

Obtained Through: publisher for an honest review

Carly finds a local lawyer, Nelson Winston, dead in her potion shop, clutching one of her potion bottles.  Then Coach Floyd Butts runs his truck into her house clutching one of her potion bottles, declares loudly she poisoned him and then passes out. These incidents put a serious crimp on her business.  

Then she has the man she nearly married, twice, back in town investigating the incidents.  To add to her personal life is her rival, cousin Delia, who tends towards hexes where Carly specializes in love potions hounding her for the family secret potion ingredient.  Carly has her "witchy sense" to guide her as she begins asking a few questions to help the investigation along while she still has a potion business left.  This has the standard cutesy small town with mostly a tourist industry set in the south for a standard cozy mystery.  Carly lives in a family house that should be condemned thinking she can renovate the entire house herself. 

Carly is conflicted and stubborn, but ethical. Ainsley, BFF and mother to three hellion children is too preoccupied  to add to the story much.  Sergeant Dylan Jackson is the man Carly almost married twice and is the standard policeman romantic interest. He is her biggest weakness and her biggest fear since she is still healing on that subject.  The "Odd Ducks" consist of Carly's Mother - the flamboyant Veronica Fowl - who runs a chapel, Aunt Eulalie, Aunt Hazel, and Aunt Marjie who all three run boarding houses.  Because what one of the three sisters does, they all must do whether they all want to our not.  They are eccentric with a capital "E."  Deceased Grammy Adelaide has left a secret potion ingredient and the family grimoire that is passed down through the generations to only one family member.  This is why Carly and cousin Delia are more competitors than typical family.  Carly has the secret ingredient and grimoire and Delia desperately wants them.  Delia is perhaps the most layered of the characters and is the breakout star.

Hitching Post is a town that survives on weddings as their industry.  It was an average small southern town.  The plot is average for a debut and cozy.  There is the annoying typical chastising of the sleuth to stay out of everything.  The pacing significantly picks up in the second half.  The climax was eventful and tense, so that was satisfying.

This debut for a new series has many typical and standard elements, from the small touristy southern town to the romantic interest being a policeman.  The paranormal elements are soft touches and the book was roughly 65% lite romance, 45% cozy mystery for an enjoyable, albeit predictable, diversion.

Ratings: Good - A fun read with standard cozy elements.

Dracula cake

Here are some Halloween party treat ideas
Please pardon the company pitch at the end of both videos.

Easy outdoor decorating ideas

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Author Interview - Victoria Abbott

Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between the always very funny and creative artist, photographer, and short story author, Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini, award-winning author of three mystery series and two dozen short stories.  Mary Jane Maffini's latest series, the Charlotte Adams mysteries, has five books featuring this professional organizer from New York State. Book five, The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder won the Romantic Times 2012 award for Best Amateur Sleuth.  Please welcome the mother/duaghter writing duo of Victoria and Mary Jane Maffini (aka Victoria Abbott.)  

I reviewed the first book, The Christie Curse, in this new series (click here.)

P.S.  If you are looking for the Spooktacular Blog Hop, that is two posts down.

Why do you write? Do you love it or love having done it? What motivates you?
Yes to both. We love to write when it’s going well, ahem, but always love having written. We want to write the kind of books we have fun reading and we enjoy being part of the book world, meeting readers, booksellers and other authors. There’s no life like it!

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?
We usually start with one of the authors from the Golden Age of Detection as each book in the book collector mysteries will focus on one of them and their body of work. We began with the great Agatha Christie in The Christie Curse, moved on to Dorothy L. Sayers in The Sayers Swindle (December 2013) and now are having fun with Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books for The Wolfe Widow. Once we have the series, we brainstorm a plot or situation that can link that body of work with our characters, preferably in a perilous way.

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?
We don’t really outline but are starting to do story lines in order to make it easier to have the same vision.  MJ has 13 books in three series and never outlines, but writing together makes it more important to have a shared concept.  Working together, we leave the detail until the writing stage and lots of it to the rewriting stage.  We do try to have an unexpected plot turn one quarter through and another one three quarters through. We have to keep the readers surprised, and sometimes ourselves too.

What do either of you and Jordan Bingham have in common? How are you different?
Victoria and Jordan have lots in common, including a fondness for pugs, antiques, vintage clothing, second hand stores and some crazy relatives. They share a sense of humor as well.  Victoria is an artist but she would give anything to have that job of Jordan’s!  MJ shares Jordan’s love of collecting and lying around reading stacks of books.  Like Jordan, we both value our friends.

Jordan Bingham is a fun, strong character, and the rest of the crew with the uncles 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?
We are pretty organic with the characters. They seem to take shape themselves. We don’t use pictures, although we should as sometimes we have different ideas of what they look like. Compromises ensue. We do discuss them a lot and find ourselves laughing out loud. We maintain a bit of a bio on each of the main characters as a good back story can add a lot of texture to a book and it’s good to keep your facts straight.

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?
MJ needs quiet uninterrupted time in her office.  She hopes her dogs are reading this and getting the message about not barking to go outside and then immediately barking to come back in. Baroque music can help her with concentrating when the going gets tough.  Victoria needs a vat of coffee and a pug snuggled up beside her.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
Each book is in the hopper for quite a while before we start to write. There’s a lot of background reading, discussion and research in a series like this.  Once we start we have to move fast. Where does the time go? It takes about six months to finish a book.  We try to write every day, although there’s lots of competition from the research and promotion side of the business.  We like to blog and to visit book clubs, do signings and attend conferences and that takes time.

How does the collaboration work, do you somehow split the writing?  How do you get the final work to be cohesive?
Much of the collaboration is in conversation. We have to brainstorm plot and scenes. We are best on the phone as we don’t distract each other.  We will identify scenes that need to be written to advance the plot and decide who will write them.  Victoria does all the dream sequences, the texts and the phone calls. MJ likes that kitchen stuff and the meals. We flip a coin for scenes with the uncles.  Having a unified voice is important and we have to add at least an extra draft to make sure that the book reads as though it was written by one person.

How did you pick your setting and how do you like to interject a sense of place?  Do you use places that you know well for your settings?
Our editor wanted New York State for the series. We found a location that seemed perfect and invented a fictional version of it.  We do a lot of research on the real place and its history. Google earth is great and so are websites.  We try to have detail in the houses, streetscapes, businesses and landscape. We worked hard on the detail for the Van Alst mansion even down to the interior floor plan.

What in your background prepared you to write mysteries?
Victoria claims to have been raised by a mystery writer. In turn, MJ claims to have been a librarian. Both Victoria and MJ were part of Prime Crime Mystery Bookstore in Ottawa, Ontario and that involved total immersion in the wonderful world of crime fiction.  But they both believe that reading and loving mysteries is the best preparation for writing them.

In literature (not your own) who is your favorite mystery/suspense character?
Victoria has a fondness for Grandma Mazur and Lula, while MJ in currently madly in love with Archie Goodwin and, although this will sound strange, Chet the Dog from the Chet and Bernie mysteries. She’s not kidding about this. Probably therapy will help.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?
Victoria finds David Sedaris inspiring because he breaks all the rules so amusingly.  MJ has a lot of trouble narrowing it down. She finds the genre inspiring and important and also believes that mysteries appeal to our need for justice and also that cozy mysteries celebrate relationships and the ability of women to step up and do what needs to be done in tough situations. What’s not to love?

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?
MJ sold Speak ill of the Dead: a Camilla MacPhee mystery, her first Canadian book back in 1998.  After many a query and contest, she met a lovely publisher at a conference. The publisher had just started RendezVous Press, a Canadian mystery line and agreed to read the manuscript. She went on to buy eight of MJ’s books in two series.  Victoria got her start in the short story anthology Fit to Die with her story ‘Down in the Plumps’.  Did you know a Walmart changing room could be such a dangerous place?

What's the one thing a reader has said that you've never forgotten and perhaps found startling?
Yes: Have you ever killed anyone? We answered ‘no’. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

If your Book Collector mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?
Well as they say, go big or go home.  We think Jennifer Lawrence has the right combo of edge and appeal to play Jordan.  And since we’re thinking big, Cloris Leachman as Vera and Jason Segel as Officer Tyler “Smiley” Dekker.   Then Dean Norris from Breaking Bad (add ginger hair) as Uncle Mick.  We could go on …

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

project?  What is your biggest challenge with it?
We are beavering away on the third in the book collector’s series. The Wolfe Widow will come out in September 2014.  After Christie and Sayers, we have moved back ‘across the pond’ and are exploring the works of Rex Stout in this adventure. Vera Van Alst, the crotchety collector, has a fascination with the eccentric detective Nero Wolfe, while Jordan (and MJ too) has a crush on Archie Goodwin.  Rex Stout wrote more than 80 books, and although we read many of the Nero Wolfe books years back, it’s a challenge to reread enough of them to get a good feel for the series. The good news is that the series stands the test of time and the books are still fast-paced and witty. The big challenge with a series is keeping it fresh and not telling the same story over again. You have to keep what readers like about your characters and yet let them grow and change. Good thing it’s fun.

Do you have a newsletter or blog for readers to stay informed of your news?
We do have a free e-newsletter with news, contests and more. Send us an email detect(at)rogers(dot)com or follow the link on our websites and and we’ll add you to the list.  We blog the second and fourth Saturdays of each month over at the very delicious and one of our characters blogs on the 30th of each month on That’s a great place to get a taste of an author’s work.

Thanks so much for interviewing us. It was lots of fun to be here.

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THANK YOU M.J. and Victoria for a great interview.  I enjoyed getting an idea of how a collaboration works.  I love the answer to what author inspires you and I agree about the genre's portrayal of women. 
Readers, what struck you in the interview?

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Review - Bled and Breakfast

If you are looking for the Spooktacular Blog Hop, it is the previous entry, so scroll down and join the fun.  Today is a review of the second book in a paranormal mystery series.  I reviewed the first book in the series, Blood Bath, and Beyond (click here) and also interviewed the author (click here.)  So let's see how the second book compares to the debut.

Author: Michelle Rowen

Copyright: June 2013 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 2nd in Immortality Bite Mystery series

Sensuality: Adult themes

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Sarah Dearly, Newbie vampire and recently married to a master vampire

Setting: Modern day, Salem Massachusetts

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

The Ring cut their honeymoon short and send Sarah and master vampire husband, Thierry to Salem, Massachusetts to investigate several master vampires disappearing.  Sarah has barely been in Salem a half hour before she, and she alone, sees the ghost of a famed old Salem witch hunter. Thierry meets another vampire in town, Owen, to begin his investigation.  But, it isn't until Owen is struck "dead" before their eyes by an invisible hand, leaving only a stain on the sidewalk, that they realize they are facing a dangerous master witch who can kill remotely.  Then things get personal when Thierry faces the ultimate count down himself. 

Sarah Dearly might get labelled impulsive, but she is tenacious and sees good in people.  This book she finds out not all people deserve her trust.  Thierry de Bennicoeur -- ever secretive about his past, divulges he doesn't feel comfortable with Sarah knowing his uglier self from the past.  I think he is slowly opening up, but change comes slowly after a few centuries.  Owen, the vampire Casanova, is slightly charming but mostly a sleazy opportunistic womanizer.  He is a central player in this story.  Heather, the young owner of the B&B is a cast out witch because she doesn't seem to have much power, is either a great actress and liar, or an innocent.  Her familiar is a frog called Hoppy.  Hoppy even has some surprises of his own. 

Salem shines in the scenes of the past that are sprinkled into the mix, playing up its history to give a real sense of the town.  The plot was better than I expected from the cover blurb.  The ticking clock ratchets up the suspense for a page-turner and several twists keep the reader guessing. The killer confrontation was superb and tense.  The wrap-up completes the book nicely, clearing the deck for the next adventure.

This is a delightful mix of suspense, paranormal elements, and a murder mystery - with a thread of second chances woven throughout to give an exhilarating and satisfying novel.

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

Cemetery Chocolate Cake

Bloody Finger Cupcakes

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Spooktacular Giveaway Blog Hop

If you are joining us as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Blog hop, look around and stay for awhile.  We celebrate everything mystery and suspense here - no doubt you can find something of interest!


We are celebrating Halloween here at Mysteries and My Musings with a giveaway for the third year!  One prize to a winner, 9 winners!


Pall in the Family by Dawn Eastman

Bled and Breakfast by Michelle Rowen

A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry (review here)

The Good, the Bad, and the Witchy by Heather Blake

A Potion to Die For by Heather Blake

Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti by Bailey Cates
(review here)

Woof at the Door by Laura Morrigan
(review here)

Murder on the House by Juliette Blackwell
(review here)

Tarnished and Torn by Juliette Blackwell
(review here)

Entry for giveaway lasts until October 31 6:00 p.m. (MST).  U.S.  entries only please.

The publisher will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until 6:00 p.m (MST) on  Oct 31, 2013.    I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.

IF you are a member of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

BECOME a member of this blog if you aren't already and enjoy the celebration of all things mystery and suspense.

Other participating blogs:

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Author interview - Bailey Cates

Welcome author of the Magical Bakery Mystery series, Bailey Cates, to our blog!  She believes magic is all around us if we only look for it. She studied philosophy, English, and history and has held a variety of positions ranging from driver's license examiner to soap maker. She traveled the world as a localization program manager for Microsoft, but now sticks close to home where she writes two mystery series, tends to a dozen garden beds, bakes up a storm and plays the occasional round of golf. 

Her next Magical Bakery Mystery, Charms and Chocolate Chips, releases November 5, 2013--which I will be reviewing this month.  She is currently working on the fourth in the series, Some Enchanted Eclair.  I reviewed the second book in her series, Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti (click here.)

Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?

I pretty consistently start with a plot idea, and that idea often comes from a set of circumstances. For example, the Magical Bakery Mystery that I'm working on now revolves around a movie set. Then I put my characters in and play with what might happen. From that I can see the logical victim, and then I figure out whodunit. Sometimes those last two are switched.

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?

I used to plunge in as soon as I knew the beginning and the end. However, since we're talking about mysteries here, that often resulted in going back and fixing things, making them consistent or planting clues, after I'd written all the way through to the ending. I was concerned that if I outlined too much I'd lose some of the mojo of discovery. However, when I gave in and tried a (fairly rough) outline I was delighted to find the magic was still there -- both in the problem solving during the outlining process and during the actual writing. Now I outline all my books, though in a very informal way and rarely at a scene-by-scene level. Before I write a scene I write about it for about five minutes. That way I go in understanding the choreography, motivations, goals and tension for that scene.

Katie Lightfoot is an enjoyable character, 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?

Oh, I love playing with characters! While there are lots of ways I do this, timed free-writing is probably the method I use most. I start with a few interview questions and answer from the character's point of view. New characters always have to tell me what they really want and what they are afraid of. Those answers generally launch into a half dozen pages of information and backstory, some useful, some not. I also mind-map character reactions to strange situations -- whether the situation is in the book or not, their reactions tell me a lot about who they are. And finally, as I'm outlining and writing the story I watch for how characters will change from the beginning to the end of the book.

This is a bit more than the typical paranormal cozy with more accurate Wiccan portrayals.  What attracted you to writing such a witchy mystery series?

I chose to link a lot of the magic in my books to Wiccan practices for three reasons. One is simple respect for that belief system. I like that it's a gentle magic for the most part, and the Rule of Three -- the belief that anything you do will come back to you threefold -- strikes me as a good moral tenet no matter what you think about magic per se.

Another reason is that I'm very interested in traditional herbal craft, especially in terms of healing. The original herbalists were usually healers, and often considered witches.

And finally, I'm simply more interested in researching and conveying information with a basis in reality than completely building a new world -- and coming up with rules so that it makes sense to the reader. There are paranormal writers who are really great at doing that, and I admire them a lot.

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?

One thing I always do is review what I'm going to be writing that day. I sketch out settings, think about what the characters will be doing and what their mental states are. Each morning I think this stuff through on my morning walk. Then, if I can manage it, I write at my desk with a cup of tea, a scented candle (lemon verbena, lavender or rosemary), some soft instrumental music on the stereo and my cat, Minerva, dozing in the basket at my feet.

That's ideal, but I've learned not to be precious about writing. There isn't time, and I strive to live a full, balanced life. I take a notebook or my iPad everywhere, so I can get in a little writing whenever the opportunity arises. I write in parks, coffee shops, when camping, on car trips, in hotels and restaurants and airports. But when I'm at home I have the tea-and-candle ritual so I'm not too tempted by distractions like the garden -- or the refrigerator. :)

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

I try to write four hours a day, six days a week. That's writing, revising or editing, not researching, not blogging, and in fact not online at all. Usually that four hours doesn't happen all in one block -- usually one two-hour block and two one-hour blocks. And that time might come at any time in the day, depending on what's going on. I aim to be done with the day's writing by noon, but that doesn't always happen.

As for how long it takes to write a book, I can generally finish in about six months. Eight is better, of course. But I'm done when the calendar and the editor tell me I am.

What in your background prepared you to write not just mysteries but a paranormal mystery?

My stepdaughter was interested in pagan and Wiccan practices, and I wanted to know more about that. That was several years ago, but I did a lot of reading. Add to that my interest in herbs from a natural healing standpoint. For a while I learned about the chemical constituents of plants from a master herbalist -- and it turned out he was also a practicing druid.
And mysteries have always been among my favorite things to read. I've never really wanted to write anything else.

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

I adore Mary Russell in Laurie R. King's mysteries about Sherlock Holmes and his new assistant after he retires from Baker Street. My favorite paranormal character is tougher. I really like Harper Blaine, who is the greywalker in Kat Richardson's Greywalker series. Those books are far more hard boiled than cozies, however. I do love Sookie Stackhouse, as well as most of Charlaine Harris' paranormal characters.

Which author has influenced or inspired you the most?

Oh, dear. I suppose I should be honest and admit that it's Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her series still sits on my bookshelf, right by my desk, and I read them every few years. They aren't mysteries -- I did read all the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Dana Girls, Trixie Belden, Robin Cane and the rest -- but the Little House books inspired me to try new things, buck up, be persistent, and learn pioneer skills. I still bake bread, make soap and have my own spinning wheel. My Home Crafting Mysteries, which I write as Cricket McRae, feature a different colonial craft in each one. I blame Ms. Wilder for that.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?

I think I mentioned persistence? I attended writer's conferences, but I managed to gain my agent's attention via query letter. That was, mind you, after getting a pile of rejections. She took me on as a client based on a mystery I'd written that wasn't a cozy. It was set in a small town in Montana, and she never did sell it. However, I'd also written the first of what became the Home Crafting Mysteries, and she sold that as a series. Recently I dumped everything about the Montana mystery except the setting and wrote a new one. That one came out in September -- Shotgun Moon, written as K.C. McRae.

What are you currently reading?

A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert. It's the story of the secret collaboration between Rose Wilder Lane and her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, on the Little House books I was just yammering about.

I'm also reading Cooked by Michael Pollan, which is nonfiction, and Peach Pies and Alibis by Ellery Adams -- I love Ella Mae!

If your Magical Bakery mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your top character's roles?

I'm afraid I just don't go there. I'm sure there are lots of writers who like to have an image of an actual person in mind while they write, but not me. It feels too definitive, too limited, and I want readers to have their own interpretation. Walt Longmire will always look like Robert Taylor in my mind when I read Craig Johnson's books now, and Sookie Stackhouse can't help but look like Anna Paquin. As a writer I enjoy the vision I have of my characters, and none of them look like a real person I could name. Of course, I wouldn't worry about that at all if the Magical Bakery Mysteries were actually made into a movie!

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?)

Paranormal mysteries are here to stay. For one thing, they are a delightful mix of two very popular genres, and readers obviously love them (including me). Magic has fascinated people pretty much forever. Adding magic of whatever kind to mysteries, especially lighter mysteries, ups the escape factor, affords new kinds of characters and plot twists. It's simply a very good marriage.

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THANK YOU Ms. Cates for a great interview.  I remember the Dana Girls mysteries, and read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books too.  The image of tea, soft music, and a sleeping cat at your feet is the picture of perfection.

Readers, what struck you in the interview?  Any questions for Ms. Cates?

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review - Opal Fire

I found this "new-to-me" series at the Left Coast Crime Conference last spring.  I saved it for my October paranormal mystery marathon.  This series is being compared to Janet Evonovich's Stephanie Plum, so you may have heard of it.  I decided to start with the first book, although there are four in the series thus far.  See what you think.

Author: Barbra Annino

Copyright: December 2012 (Thomas & Mercer) 282 pgs

Series: 1st in Stacy Justice Mystery series

Sensuality: Some cursing

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal amateur sleuth

Main Characters: Stacy Justice, small town newspaper reporter and hereditary witch.

Setting: Modern day, small town Amethyst, Illinois

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

The book opens with Stacy and her cousin Cinnamon caught inside
Cinnamon's bar, the Black Opal, when a fire breaks out. they make it out just in time, along with Stacy's Great
Dane, Thor.  When it is uncovered the fire was intentionally set and that her cousin may have been targeted, Stacy goes gangbusters to investigate -- in-spite her boyfriend's insistence to stay out of it.  But then her boyfriend is the Chief of police.  She could not have foreseen a decades old murder behind the fire and the danger she would face.

Stacy is also in a family where most of the women are witches.  Stacy has been very resistant towards learning the craft, but wants her grandmother and aunts to work magic when she needs it. That seemed conflicted, or a little spoiled - I'm not sure which.

Stacy Justice is a mixed bag. She is stubborn, bossy, confrontational, wise-cracking, and an all around handful. I managed to find a middle ground of neutral feelings towards the her, (although the bossy aspect got on my nerves), but I doubt most readers will be neutral. 
She is one of those characters you either love or hate. Cinnamon, cousin and best friend, could easily be on Jersey Shore with her attitude. Leo, boyfriend and chief of police, is a character I vacillated between sympathizing with and then wanting to smack him. He was bit of a stock-character.  Derek, photographer for the paper, gets off to a rough start with Stacy.  This character has some potential that I hope is utilized in subsequent books.  The witches in the family are known as the Geraghty Girls:  Birdie is the matriarch and Stacy's grandmother, then aunts Lolly, and Fiona.  They are a colorful, eccentric trio and were shining stars.

Amethyst, Illinois doesn't have a unique feel or vibe that I could pick up on.  Perhaps that will develop in the next novels.  Threats to Stacy come in various forms and keep the pace moving along at a fair clip.  A good dramatic confrontation with the killer was particularly well done.  The wrap-up presented a great twist to leave the reader anticipating the next novel.

This mystery has plenty of danger and a varied cast of colorful characters around an old murder that is threatening to expose a dormant killer.

Rating: Good - A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.


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Monday, October 7, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - October 2013

It is the first Monday of the month - 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

Mysteries and My Musing reviewed A Serpent's Tooth by Craig Johnson 

The Crime Scene reviewed Detective Inspector Huss (Irene Huss #1) by Helene Tursten and shared "An enjoyable read from Sweden."

Booking Mama reviewed W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

Carstairs Considers reviewed Deadly Heat by Richard Castle (Nikki Heat #5) and shares "The latest tie in to the TV show Castle is another exciting read."

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber

A Date with a Book reviewed Diva Takes the Cake by Krista Davis

A Date with a Book reviewed Mai Tai One On by Jill Landis

Booking Mama reviewed Gilt Trip by Laura Childs

A Date with a Book reviewed Final Catcall by Sofie Kelly

A Date with a Book reviewed Designed to Death by Christina Freeburn

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton

A Date with a Book reviewed September Fair by Jess Lourey

Carstairs Considers reviewed A Spoonful of Murder by Connie Archer (Soup Lover's Mystery #1) and shares "A disappointing series debut"

A Date with a Book reviewed On the Slam by Honor Hartman

A Date with a Book reviewed The Double Wedding Ring by Clare O'Donohue

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Murder at Hatfield House by Amanda Carmack

Booking Mama reviewed Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda

Tea Time with Marce reviewed Creep by Jennifer Hillier and shares "It is dark, sexy and edgy suspense."

Added Extra
NaNoWriMo "Pre-Game Kick-off" at The Write Shadow October blogging challenge (you can start any time in October) with a free manuscript evaluation as the grand prize (up to $1,000 value). (Click here)

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

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Review - A Skeleton in the Family

We begin October with a new paranormal cozy series featuring a walking, talking skeleton.  Leigh Perry is a pseudonym for Toni L.P. Kelner, of the former "Where are They Now?" series (review click here.)  We were fortunate to interview Ms. Kelner not long ago (click here.)

Author: Leigh Perry

Copyright: Sept 2013 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in A Family Skeleton mystery series

Sensuality: kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy with a touch of paranormal

Main Characters: Dr. Georgia Thackery, Adjunct English professor

Setting: Modern day, McQuaid Univeristy in Pennycross (Western) Massachusetts

Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review

Georgia is a single mother who shuffles between college adjunct teaching jobs since she hasn't been one of the fortunate to get a tenured position.  She is back in Pennycross staying at her parent's house and starting a new adjunct teaching job. Her life is busy, but average...except for the the "ambulatory skeleton" named Sid that she grew up with.  Since she was six years old and Sid came to her rescue, the Thackery family has had Sid "living" with them.  Sid is glad to have Georgia back home and resume their amigo relationship.  Georgia's teen girl, Madison, is into manga and is excited to attend a manga convention called Mangachusetts.  Sid devises a costume that will allow him to go to the convention as Lord Death and have a little fun.  

Everything works perfectly and nobody realizes that a ghostly skeleton was among them.  But Sid recognized a woman from his life before he awoke all bones.  Dr. Kirkland is the only clue to who Sid may have been when he was breathing.  So Georgia and Sid go about investigating who Sid had been, and find Dr. Kirkland murdered...and evidence that Sid was murdered too.  Now, they are trying to find the killer out of self-preservation.

Georgia is one of the few "mom" characters that I really enjoy.  She is smart, fun, responsible, and loyal. She isn't too chatty as a narrator either.  Sid, the family skeleton, is a unique and fresh character and a delightful side-kick.  He is a ghostly skeleton who loves puns and one-liners, reads voraciously, and loves The Nightmare Before Christmas. He is the best friend providing moral support to Georgia, like when she was facing being a single parent. I grew fond of the character quickly and wanted to see him happy.  That is an accomplishment with a skeleton!  Madison is an enjoyable child with a low drama factor and is reasonable.  Thank You! Dorothy, Georgia's sister, has a bad attitude that I didn't care for, but does speak to family dynamics in general. Fletcher Wildman is a Journalism adjunct and reporter who is the romantic interest in the story.  Fletcher gets mixed reviews for being a stereotypical reporter.  There is Dr. Kirkland's dog, an Akita named Byron, who joins the ragtag little family as well. Dr. Charles Peyton is a "dapper" history professor and old friend of Georgia's who I loved and hope he gets more than a bit part in the next novel.

The small college town of Pennycross is the setting, which has McQuaid Univeristy and also Joshua Tay University.  The colleges have room to be developed in subsequent novels since this book mainly utilized the prejudice against adjunct teachers and the pressure of doctoral  dissertations.

The plot is solid for a debut: find out how Sid became a skeleton with evidence of a head trauma and knife wound.  He has no memories of his life but recognizes a Joshua Tay University professor. That is the starting point and the avenues for investigation are logical.  The pacing remains steady and light with information revealed piece-meal. 

The climax was dramatic - my thanks. The killer was kept hidden until the very end, and while hints were given in a general sense, this isn't like a traditional mystery with a laundry list of suspects to eliminate.  The wrap-up provides closure for an important element of the story and sets up the next novel nicely.

This is a great paranormal cozy with plenty of humor, mystery, and a smidgen of romance culminating in a light, enjoyable, and quirky debut novel.

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

Here is a musical clip from the Corpse Bride featuring some singing and dancing skeletons.

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